A Look At Hosting: FAMILY STORY



Family:  Phaneuf

“Ventana WHOOSH!” 

“No, no, no! Vennnnnnnnntana WHOOOOOOOSH!”

It’s 8:15 pm and there’s a chorus of what sounds like nonsense and giggles coming from another room. “Ventana” (if you don’t already know...we certainly didn’t)  is the Spanish word for window and there is a bunk bed right in front of the window in my son’s room. 6 days ago we brought our South American host son home after a long drive back from the Atlanta airport and he now occupies the bottom bunk. 

What does all that have to do with the Spanish word for window and high pitched squeals of “whoosh?” Everything actually.  It’s a game that was made up on accident, on the first night when our host son accidentally rolled into the curtains and light from the window and unexpectedly brightened the room. Our own son, struggling to communicate with this new friend who speaks exactly zero english, tried to tell the occupant of the bottom bunk to be careful or the window could open. 

Shyly, he had asked, “”Como se dice?” (How do you say?) and pointed to the window. Our host son told him “Ventana.” Armed with no other helpful words in this scenario, our son, with a grand gesture said “Ventana…...whoosh?” Both boys immediately erupted into laughter and began repeating the phrase over and over again until they were giggling so hard they couldn’t breathe. Thus, the ice was broken, the awkwardness of a 7 hour car ride with an 11 year old we couldn’t speak to without the aide of a translation app faded, and a new game was born. Every night, the boys get tucked in, have prayers said, good night hugs given and as soon as we walk out of the room the giggles and chants begin. “Ventana WHOOSH! WHOOSH! Whhhhhhoooooooosh!” 

This nightly scene makes me smile to myself all the more when I remember that 3 weeks ago I was on the phone to my contact person at P143 in an almost frantic panic. It had dawned on me that morning that in a matter of days we would have a third child in our home. However, our 2 older children would be in school! When we signed up for hosting, our children were still attending school remotely. It had made total sense then. I had grand visions of the 3 of them lined up at our little school from home station, working together, eating snacks together, taking breaks together and developing that easy bond that children can forge even in the face of a language barrier. 

But, my kids are in face to face school now! This is not how it was supposed to happen! How would we do this? We cannot bring this child all the way to Florida only to have him sit, surely bored out of his mind, with my husband and me in our offices all day! He would clearly hate it! It would most certainly make him nothing but homesick. He probably wouldn’t even like me! So, I did what any red blooded middle class mother that has a plan for all instances would do, I melted down! Thankfully, the staff of P143 is experienced, both with host children, and neurotic host parents! Traci not only gave me helpful hints but she also assured me that everything would be okay. She seemed so sure that we could handle this, even in the face of boring office days, that I was able to regroup and make a game plan. I rallied and the initial excitement we had been feeling since we applied to host started to return. 

That frantic conversation with Traci seems so ridiculous now! Was it awkward at the airport? It sure was! I don’t think I have ever felt less capable in my life than I did when I was trying to tell our host son he should probably use the bano before we got on the road! Did I ask my husband quietly in the car, “What have we done?” as we pulled out of the parking deck? You betcha! Would I change any of it now? Not on your life! It’s all part of the story.

Our home is full of laughter right now! Some of that laughter comes from playing games and sharing meals. Some of it comes from the hilarity that is inevitable translation errors. (My husband calls himself “The King” now because on day 2 there was a mix up in the translator app when our host son was telling my children what he had done while they were at school. Somehow it came out, “And the king brought me water while I was on the trampoline.”) A lot of the laughter comes from the jokes and pranks our host son likes to play on us. This experience has been absolutely a joy for our family! I am so grateful that 3 weeks ago Traci talked me off a ledge and assured me that everything would be okay. She was right, it’s more than okay, it’s wonderful! How could we have ever considered not doing this? We would have never known the sweetness of the phrase, “Ventana whoosh!”

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