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The First Month…catching up

Tomorrow will be the one month anniversary of Jack’s arrival into the U.S. He has seen many changes and many “firsts” – he has begun high school, and begun a third language (French!), he has begun learning about doing chores (making his bed each day, doing his laundry, cleaning his bathroom each week, emptying the trash and the pool skimmer), and is learning a bit about being self-sufficient (making breakfast/lunch for himself from the abundant supplies of food we have on hand). We have had a few little “hiccups” along the way – he was apparently unused to closing doors behind him and both cats have escaped the house. We had to explain that the doors need to be kept closed at all times. We’ve also found the windows wide open on occasion. Unfortunately, our air conditioning was also running at the time. So that had to be explained as well. (I am a bit nervous about our next electric bill, as a side note!)

The biggest “hiccup” is one we’ve experienced previously as well, and has to do with the computer games the Chinese boys are so fond of. You see, when they play, they play on teams and for whatever reason, our internet (fastest speed (50 mgs!) is basically inaccessible to anyone else in the house while he is playing. And they do not tend to play for 30-60 minutes…but more like 3, 4….or even more hours at a stretch. And, well…no. Nope. Not happening. We all need the internet. That’s just not acceptable.

So, we’ve placed some very strict rules in place regarding these games, and the laptop, and we will see how it goes. I don’t think Jack is especially happy about these rules…but then we have not been especially happy about having our internet hijacked. It’s basically a deal breaker, so we will just have to see how this goes!

In other news, Jack began the year trying swim team, which he really enjoyed. Unfortunately, it was really much more of a commitment, both financially and time-wise than he is able to do at this time. He has begun taking tennis lessons after school a couple of times a week, which we drive him to. He is hoping to try out for the school tennis team in the spring. He is really enjoying the tennis lessons and his coach says he quite good!



The College Kid seems to settling into his new home quite nicely. He gets along really well with his new roommates; they cook “family dinners” together on the weekends and are planning to start “family movie night” soon.


I recently had to make the trek out to his college town to deliver a textbook to him which came (quite) late, and while his bedroom was still a bit of a mess, I was surprised that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. He was even doing laundry when I came by! And his roommate told me he cleans up his dishes! 😳 Apparently, some of my lectures sunk in.


(These are his roommates. There are actually only only 3 of them living there. They just have lots of friends!)

The Princess is just…busy. Senior year is a busy time! I feel as if I hardly ever see her – between cheer practice, dance team practice, and SAT prep she rarely gets home before 6. And then she either has to start on homework and studying right away or dash right out to dance class. This weekend she has the (hopefully final) ACT exam. We’ve been working on college applications, and I’ve been trying to schedule some final tours and interviews in November.







And finally, today is the Mid-Autumn Festival In China. We held a party here at our house yesterday afternoon to celebrate the zhong qiu Jie and for all the students from the three area high schools and the host families to get to know one another. We were a bit worried when we woke up yesterday and it was pouring, but thankfully the rain passed and the kids were able to swim. It was great fun, we had great food, and it was…well, GREAT, to get to meet everyone!









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The First Week

The high school kids have completed their first week of school and The College Kid is back at college.

The Princess has been busy with school and cheerleading and dance team practices and lots and lots of homework. She’s also busily researching colleges, trying to winnow down her list before beginning the exhausting application process. She cheered at her first game on Friday…and she was just slightly out of her element, at least until halftime when she, after her tumbling run with the cheerleaders, sprinted off the field to change into her dance team duds and then hot-footed it back onto the field to perform with the dance team. Then she changed again, and cheered the second half of the game. I’m sure it was because of her awesome cheering, but the Spartans won 30-20!











Jack, in addition to attending his first American football game, went on a two day overnight field trip for the entire 9th grade class. They did lots of “team building” activities, swam, went zip lining, and even had paintball contests – which he found just a tiny bit “crazy!” He had fun though. He’s been kept busy trying to get his ipad configured for school (ugh) and just trying to find his way around and understand the acronyms and nicknames the kids and teachers use at the school – the PAC, for example, is the performing arts center, or auditorium/theatre. It can be very confusing when you don’t know your way around to begin with! He’s also trying to understand everyone’s funny accents and speech patterns, plus all the “teen speak” that he is unused to like “hey bro!” Or “Dude! What’s up?” It can all be very confusing…and exhausting!


The College Kid took the last load of his stuff to his new house. He’s been looking for a part-time job, and classes start Thursday. He did take the time to participate in, supposedly, the worlds largest ALS ice bucket challenge at Ripley’s Museum with one of his roommates.





It’s almost frightening how quickly our household has adjusted to being back on a schedule and living our lives dictated by the clock and the calendar.

I miss the lazy days of summer…


And just like that, summer is over.

Yesterday was the last day of summer vacation for Jack and The Princess (The College Kid still has another week before his classes begin) and so we decided to take Jack to the beach.

We drove out to Little Talbot Island. It was a beautiful day and the beach was practically empty. Jack told us that he had been to the beach in China once when he was about 10 years old, but it was very crowded.



We ate lunch on the beach, taught Jack how to bodysurf, dug for donaks, and built the “Great Wall of China” – which, sadly, perished into obscurity once the tide came in.




We looked for seashells and sharks teeth, and I tried to explain why we walk very slowly along the beach all hunched over looking so diligently for these tiny little treasures. As I tried to explain why to his blankly uncomprehending countenance, I realized that this just might be a cultural thing. I tried and tried…but finally I just said, “It’s a Florida thing.” He seemed to accept that, although I suspect he thinks it’s just a strange American custom to walk along the beach all hunched over! (Especially since I was unsuccessful at finding any sharks teeth, and he was less than impressed with my seashells!)








This morning I sent the kids off to their first day of school – the first day of high school for Jack and the first day of her senior year for The Princess!





Last Day of Summer Vacation

Jack has been in the United States for 8 days days now. He has, mostly, gotten over the jet lag…although he tells me he still sometimes wakes up and can’t remember if it is a.m. or p.m. or where he is! He is starting to figure out the routines of our household, just as everything is about to change again when they start back to school again tomorrow!

Jack is, basically, wonderful! We all just adore him! His English is very good, which helps a lot! He is very sweet, and kind, and helpful. He seems very interested in getting to know us. He has spent quite a lot of time just sitting with us – talking, laughing, and sharing stories. At first, he was a bit hesitant about the cats. I don’t think he has been around cats much before. But he is warming up to them quickly!






Since Jack arrived, he’s done a lot of sleeping – trying to catch up with the jet lag! We’ve also done a lot of “busy” work…we’ve gone grocery shopping to try to discover which types of foods he likes and dislikes (Oranges & carrots are yes. Bananas are no!)

We got sports physicals done for school and Jack began attending swim team practices. He’s never done anything like this before and it’s very hard work! He is using muscles he’s never used before and it is exhausting. But he really wants to do this. He has been to practice every day…and we are very proud of his hard work and perseverance!





(The Princess has also been attending practices daily for cheerleading and dance team, but alas – she is now a cool senior and doesn’t allow the mamarazzi to attend and take photos…)

We’ve also taken Jack to see his new school, he has attended orientation and met the other exchange students, and we’ve gotten all his school uniforms and school supplies together.







Since today is the last official day of summer vacation before the kids start back to school tomorrow, we thought we’d show Jack the beach. The last day of summer calls for a beach day, I think!

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Today is the big day…

The Princess and I have been running errands all morning – getting cheer shoes for her, and then running to the photography studio for (!!) senior pictures. Which, just as an aside, may I please note that I cannot believe that my baby girl IS A SENIOR!! Yikes!

Naturally, she took the opportunity to indulge in senior selfies…





Now, we are doing some last minute cleaning and prepping to get ready for our new Chinese exchange student, Jack. He arrives tonight and we are such a mix of emotions! We are excited and optimistic and nervous too!

We realize that we have a lot of work ahead of us…there is the usual school stuff, and we also have to get to know him. We have to figure out, with a language barrier and cultural barriers as well, what foods he likes and dislikes, what type of person he is – whether he is more outgoing or more introspective. We have to introduce him, not only to our odd and quirky little family, but to our own idiosyncrasies and habits. We will need to introduce him to doing chores, which he has most likely not done before, and possibly teach him how to do them…how to make a bed, how to clean a bathtub, how to make a sandwich, etc.

All of these things are a lot of work, it is true. But…somehow, it is sort of rewarding. When it works, it’s a two way street. The student learns from you and you learn from them. It’s fun. It’s rewarding.

We truly hope that is our experience with Jack. We know that this will most likely be our last experience hosting an exchange student. We have had some wonderful experiences in the past and have such wonderful memories. We still keep in touch with many of the kids we have hosted. Our family has learned so much. We’ve learned about France and Spain and China. The kids have learned to make quiche and crepes and lots of other fun French and even Italian dishes. They are quite good cooks now. I’m hoping Jack will be able to teach us to make a Chinese dish this year – his mother told me that he can cook some simple Chinese dishes.

Mostly, though, we just hope he is nice. We hope he is a nice boy who wants to soak up everything he can from this experience. We hope he is kind, and courteous, and generous. Basically, I hope that he is the kind of child that I hope my own children are. As long as he is, all the rest of it is fine.

So…we are excited and we are nervous. We are hopeful and we are cautious. But, so far at least, in our emails and phone conversations, we’ve gotten the feeling that we have more reason to be hopeful than cautious. And so we are very excited and happy to greet Jack this evening when his plane arrives. We are looking forward to finally getting to meet him and getting to know who this boy is.


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I got that summertime, summertime sadness…🎢

When the kids got out of school for the summer, back at the end of May, I had so many plans for the summer. We were planning on a road trip to Virginia and North Carolina to soak up some mountain air and maybe visit a few more colleges. We were planning a family trip down to Key West. We planned on lots of lazy days at the beach.

We haven’t done any of those things. Instead, we’ve basically spent the summer packing boxes, moving boxes, and unpacking boxes. We’ve also gotten a kitten neutered, and had a total of 8 wisdom teeth extracted from 2 kids throughout the summer. The College Kid has been working almost every single day (who knew that he had such a work ethic!!) and getting ready for next semester. The Princess has also been getting ready for her senior year – researching colleges and whittling down the list of schools she plans to apply to, planning her schedule for next year, reading books on her summer reading list, etc.

A couple of days ago The Princess had 4 wisdom teeth extracted. She had a rough time of it. Apparently, she had a reaction to the anesthesia and was sick all day. Because she couldn’t keep anything down, she also couldn’t keep the pain medicine down…hence, she was in a lot of pain. The doctor finally phoned in an anti-nausea medication late that afternoon which seems to have worked, but since it’s rather difficult to keep an icebag in place while you are being sick…she swelled up quite a bit. Actually, really a lot. I mean, like a balloon.




Her brother keeps telling her that she looks like Honey Boo Boo.

He’s not very nice, is he?

Anyway. I woke up this morning and realized that it is AUGUST 2ND!! Jack arrives in one week. Orientation for school is one week after that. For all intents and purposes (those intents and purposes being our summer travel plans), the summer is over!! How did we lose an entire summer in the blink of an eye?! Oh yeah…we moved.



More Change on the Way…

I’m finally starting to feel like things are settling down around here; most of the boxes are unpacked, the pictures are hung, the cars are actually in the garage (instead of piles of…stuff), and I’m even starting to remember which drawers have the silverware and which cabinets hold the coffee cups. It’s starting to feel like “home.”

And now, in less than two weeks, we will have another big change.

As many of you know, we have hosted many exchange students in the past. We hosted kids from France and Spain over the past several summers and this past year we hosted a boy from China for an entire school year. After Steve went home for the summer, we talked as a family about whether we wanted to host another student. With our family facing so many changes (a move!) and it being The Princess’s senior year of high school, we thought about just focusing on our family. While we were debating the issue, and while we were moving…we found out that we had been matched with another Chinese boy! After another family discussion, we all decided that we did want to host one more student. We all feel that our family has a lot to offer…and to learn! It can be such a great experience and we’d really like to have one more great hosting experience before we “retire” from hosting!

In about a week and a half we will be welcoming a 15 year old boy from China who has chosen the American name of Jack – which may get slightly confusing since we already have one “Jack” living in our house (the cat)! We’ve exchanged several emails with Jack and are very optimistic and excited to meet him. He seems very enthusiastic about this new experience and about living in America and with our family. He asked many questions in his emails…and even wished The College Kid Happy Birthday! We know that he likes to swim and play tennis and also plays the guitar.


We have been spending the last few days of summer vacation relaxing in the pool. The College Kid has been working A LOT and The Princess has been taking some tumbling classes and hanging out with friends. She is having her wisdom teeth, all four of them, removed on Thursday. Ouch! She’s not looking forward to that!







The College Kid will be living off campus this year, in a house with two friends, so we’ve been trying to get everything that he will need organized for him…furniture, household items, etc., in addition to the usual school supplies.

I’m also trying to get school supplies together for P and Jack – notebook paper, binders, pencils, locks…whenever I find stuff on sale. I’m trying to get organized, in spite of my house (and my life?) being a disorganized, chaotic mess right now!

I can’t believe how quickly this summer has gone by. I guess when you have a move thrown into the middle of the summer, that will happen!


20 years!

20 years ago today The College Kid was born.

Of course, in the beginning he wasn’t The College Kid…he was just my baby boy…



As the years passed, my baby turned into a big brother…



He became fascinated with dinosaurs, and sharks, and turtles, and birds of prey, and Star Wars,and TaeKwonDo, and knights, and World War Two, and fishing, and soccer, and archery, and cars, and animals, and the environment.















My baby boy has grown up into an amazing man – smart, funny, handsome, with integrity and morals. I’m proud of him.

Happy Birthday, kid.



A lot has changed!

I have a tale to tell…a LOT has changed since I last posted! But first, I’ll share the “prequel” to my story…

About a month and a half ago, we had an offer – a very nice offer – on our house. On day 9 of the 10 day inspection period, the buyer changed his mind. No reason was given, other than the age of our home (40 years old) and some potential, possible repairs that might come up in the future. We offered to lower the price to reflect these possible, potential repairs…the buyer still walked.

Three weeks ago, this same buyer came back and decided to accept the offer we had made before (lowered price)…. It was a cash offer, no contingencies…and we had to find a place to live and be ready to close in just over two weeks.

Obviously, no one – not us, nor either of the realtors – wanted to take a chance that the buyer would change his mind yet again…so we hustled. And by “we” I mean mostly me. We looked at about a gazillion disgusting, mildewy, moldy dumps before finally finding a place to rent for the next year. The past few weeks have been a blur of cardboard boxes and plastic storage bins and gasps of dismay as we uncovered more hidden caches of stored “stuff” from the past 13 1/2 years. I’ll just say that the old house was larger and had more storage than I ever realized. This process started out in a rather organized manner that resembled a move…but ended up looking more like the fall of Saigon!


The good news is that it’s done; we have closed, and we have moved. The bad news is that I’m STILL surrounded by cardboard boxes and still have lots of “purging” of stuff to do (Remember that analogy of the fall of Saigon? We “evacuated” all the last minute stuff into our garage. It’s still there…)

In some ways, I think it was a blessing that we were so rushed and frantic about getting packed and moved in such a short amount of time. We didn’t have time to really feel sad about leaving. The kids grew up in that house and there are a lot of memories associated with it. We will miss it. We will miss A LOT about it…but we won’t miss the constant upkeep. And, honestly, it was time to move on.

I have more news to share…but I’m going to save that for another day πŸ˜‰. I’ll give a tiny hint, though. We are going to need to come up with some sort of nickname for our cat, Jack….any ideas?






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Live Life Loved.

College life without limits.

Covered in Beer

by Thomas Cochran, Known Moron

A Year in America

Host on the coast - a year with our Chinese exchange student

One crazy woman's journey through life...

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Too much sugar for a nickel...

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