Too much sugar for a nickel…

a little blog about family, friends, teenagers, drama…life!

It’s summer, y’all

School has been out now for a couple of weeks already and the time is flying by. We have been busy. The College Kid has been working, and both kids have had friends over quite a bit – swimming in the pool, going out in the boat, watching movies…just hanging out. I’ve missed having all the kids’ friends around. It’s nice having a house full of teenagers again!










The Princess has also been busy taking the SAT (last week) and the ACT (today) as well as getting ready for her dance recital, which was this past Thursday.








It’s that time of year when we have daily afternoon thunderstorms here. I have to confess – I don’t hate it. I kind of like the storms. I love watching them roll in and watching the drama unfold (thunder and lightning!) I love the excuse to take a break from whatever I’ve been doing and curl up with a book and a cuddly kitten.







It’s hard to believe that June is already halfway over!

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Throwback Thursday

Steve has begun packing to return to China; his flight leaves in just a few days. I’m sure he is getting excited to see his parents and I am SURE they are overjoyed at the prospect of having their son home soon!

I’ve been reflecting on the past several months and on Steve’s time with our family. He has come a long way. When he arrived, he really could barely speak any English. He could not understand us. We could not understand him. We all relied a lot on Google Translate! He couldn’t make a bed, clean the bathtub, wash dishes, make food for himself, or many other things that we assume teenagers in America are quite capable of by the time they are his age.


He has learned so much. His English has improved drastically! There is still a long way to go – he still has a lot of trouble following a conversation at the dinner table, and rarely participates in it. I think he “bluffs” his way through a lot when he doesn’t understand, instead of just asking someone to explain. But he has made a lot of progress!

He has learned to make simple dishes for himself (heating something in the microwave, making a bowl of cereal) when he is hungry, instead of waiting for someone to prepare something for him. He makes his bed, cleans his bathroom, empties the dishwasher, takes the trash out. Doing chores was completely new territory for Steve. I can’t say that it has been his favorite part of America – in fact, I think he detests chores and thinks doing them is beneath him (but don’t most teenagers?). But he does them.

He has learned social skills…he says “please” and “thank you” and inquires about your day when he arrives home from school now. He has even learned the most valuable Southern skill of saying “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am!”

When Steve arrived, we had high hopes of him becoming an extended member of our family.


It turned out that that was not really what Steve wanted.

While Steve is planning on returning to the U.S. next year to continue his education, it has been decided that he will probably be happier with another host family. I think living with a strong, sassy, opinionated “older” sister has been quite difficult for Steve. I think, perhaps, that was just a bit too much culture shock for him. He will also probably be happier in a home without pets. He never really warmed up to our menagerie!

We really do hope that Steve finds the perfect host family for him next year. And we hope to host another exchange student in the future. It’s been a great experience for our family. I think it’s taught us all many valuable lessons – patience, empathy, and we’ve all learned so much about China and their culture. I hope Steve has enjoyed his stay with our family and his year in America. I hope he has good memories…


Of orientation and the first few days of school…


Of making new friends…


Of Homecoming…

Of celebrating the Moon Festival…

And gazing at the moon from the other side of the world…



Of carving pumpkins…


Of celebrating an American Thanksgiving…

And going to the Riverside Arts Market…


And learning to throw a castnet…


Of cooking (and eating) with Lulu…





Of an American Christmas, and Christmas party, and of baking Christmas cookies…


Of having an American style birthday party…


And celebrating Chinese New Year…


And learning to make quiche…

Of going to North Carolina…

And St. Augustine…

And of meeting pirates…

And even though he had to do a few chores and help out around the house…







I hope he remembers all the fun times too!

Good Luck, Steve! Thanks for the memories!



It was a big week for The Princess – she had her AP USHistory exam on Wednesday (and is quite relieved to be done with it) and yesterday was her Prom. We had a group of P’s friends over beforehand so all the parents could get pictures before the limo arrived to whisk the kids away…

I know I’m slightly biased, but The Princess looked like, well…a Princess!






















Things have been a bit hectic around here, and I guess I forgot to post anything. For a few weeks. Oops.

We’ve had quite a few showings on the house, which required us being gone from the house, on the weekend. We decided to make lemonade out of lemons and turn that time into beach days! Also, The College Kid is home for the summer, looking for a job, hanging out with friends, and just had his wisdom teeth removed today – poor kid!

The Princess has been busy studying for her AP US History Exam, which is tomorrow and preparing for Prom, which is Saturday (I’ll be taking LOTS of photos!)








We’ve had beautiful weather here and it has been warm, so the kids have been hitting the pool after P gets home from school every afternoon. I think P kind of likes having her big brother around to toss her in the pool and tease her…no matter what she says to the contrary!









That’s about all the news from here…for now. I’m hoping we will have more news – big news – to share very, very soon. In the meantime, the high school kids are getting ready for Prom (P) and for final exams next week and summer vacation! I think Steve is quite excited to see his parents again after not seeing them since the middle of August!

Here are a few more photos from the past few weeks…









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Happy Easter

The high school kids have been enjoying a long, much needed, four day weekend for the Easter Break but sadly, The College Kid had just a regular weekend. With everything gearing up for final exams in another week, it was decided that we would drive down to St. Augustine and spend the day with him. We were planning to drive down and spend Easter with him, but when we got a call about a showing on the house on Saturday we decided to head down Saturday instead!

Steve has never been to the oldest city, except when we moved C into the dorm back in August – and he really didn’t get to see much of it then. Things were much too hectic! I told him to bring some money along with him, hoping that he’d be able to get some souvenirs for his parents. Not only did he find some pretty awesome souvenir gifts for his parents (a gorgeous sterling silver sea glass necklace for his mother and a shark’s jaw for his dad) but he also found unique and unusual (and relatively inexpensive) gifts for his grandparents, cousins, other family members, and all of his friends in China too!

We had lunch at The College Kid’s favorite taco shack and then wandered around St. George Street, the Castillo de San Marcos, and the waterfront. Steve met pirates and we saw a Civil War reenactment at the fort for National Parks Week.










After all that walking around and shopping and dodging scurvy pirates, we stopped off for a milkshake – where Steve ordered, of course, the “Stevesie.” He declared it a winner.



The kids all seemed to enjoy their yummy ice cream concoctions. My Diet Coke was…the bomb. Really.

On Easter, when Steve and The Princess FINALLY WOKE UP, they discovered that the Easter Bunny didn’t forget them just because they’re teenagers…


Happy Easter!

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But, Wait…There’s More!

Today’s post is all about the stuff I forgot to put in yesterday’s post. And there’s a LOT!

* In yesterday’s post I mentioned that the best moment of the evening was when the kids took a selfie on stage. But I forgot to tell you about the second best moment of the evening…

The girls all had to fill out a questionnaire with answers to silly questions like, “if you could have any superpower what would it be, and why?” And “Who would play you in a movie?” And “describe yourself in 3 words” and “What has been your biggest challenge in life” and “What do you most admire about your mother?”

The Princess left a lot of the answers blank – she just…couldn’t. She tried, she really did! But…she left some of the answers blank. And, well, apparently someone in charge filled in some answers for her!

When she walked out for her casual wear thing, the emcees said, “The thing P most admires about her mother is her patience. She says her mother is always kind and willing to help others.” Sadly, my entire family guffawed at this point. The Princess was grinning and her shoulders were shaking as she walked across the stage. I think I even saw tears rolling down her face! I mean, OKay, I might have snorted out loud in disbelief and cried tears of mirth too…and we may have garnered a few odd looks from the rest of the audience. But I don’t think that’s why P didn’t win, do you? I mean, really…we weren’t all THAT disruptive.



* It’s definitely spring here in Florida. The College Kid found a snake. And then, later, we found a baby one curled up behind our front door.


As a result, we are now enjoying the delightful aroma of mothballs outside our home. #floridaproblems

* and, finally…WE GOT A KITTEN! A baby! Someone dumped a box of kittens last week…

..which, really? You just dumped them? You couldn’t even TRY to find them homes on craigslist?

But I digress. I took the cutest one. The biggest, fluffiest, most fearless one. Don’t worry – the others are being looked after and someone is finding homes for them.

But this little guy…is awesome. He and Jack are still at the ignoring each other stage. Dixie thinks he is a toy and wants to shake him and love him to pieces. But the rest of us are gaga. His name is Khan.








* Other kid news: The College Kid had a phone interview for a job for this summer. He will be going in for the personal interview soon. The good news is – yay, it’s a job. The bad news is it’s on the other side of town. Still, keep your fingers crossed for him, please!

The Princess skyped with Marine, a French girl, on Sunday. There will be an exchange this summer although, because Marine has the Bac de Francaise this summer, it’s likely that only one of them will travel this year. We are still working out details. Paige really liked her though and they talked for almost an hour!



A Busy Weekend!

We are heading into the craziest and busiest time of the year. The College Kid has about two weeks left of school before he comes home for the summer, and the high school kids have 28 days of school left – not that they’re counting or anything! This weekend was no exception and seemed to kick off the mad dash until the end of the school year.

Steve’s busy weekend started out with a bowling night with all of the area Chinese exchange students and the residential coordinator. After that, he and the other St. Johns boys spent the weekend at the Wonderful Courtney’s…and they even came out to support The Princess Saturday evening – but more about that later!



The Princess asked her brother to be her escort for her event on Saturday, so he came home for the weekend…and brought his friend Megan. I’ve heard a lot about Megan this year…she was one of the first friends he met the first day of orientation, she’s got a great sense of humor, etc.




Megan is great. She does have a great sense of humor (a necessary trait when dealing with our family) and just fit right in. Anytime I asked C to do a chore – wash the dog, wash the car, run an errand…Megan jumped right in and helped. Personally, I LOVE that! 😊

(Yes…he WAS drying Dixie with a leaf blower. doesn’t everyone?)

And finally, The Princess. She had to wake up early Saturday morning to take the ACT exam and she spent the entire day at the school rehearsing for the Miss St. Johns contest that evening. There were 17 girls competing. P’s good friend “A” from school was her backstage guru – she brought her dinner, did her hair and makeup, got her water between numbers, and ran back and forth backstage to deliver messages between C and P before the formal wear competition. Her other good friend “C” also came to help out, lend moral support and jewelry, and help with hair and makeup.


The girls all had individual interviews with the judges between 4-6 and then the show/contest/pageant began at 7. P’s oldest and best friend came with us to help cheer P on.

The Princess was WAY outside her comfort zone with this pageant-y stuff. We call her “Princess” but she is definitely more comfortable in sweats or yoga pants than in heels and makeup. She is also very uncomfortable with all the fakey, artificial stuff that goes on. P is more “what you see is what you get.” She doesn’t DO fake. So this was a challenge for her.

But, apparently, she did OK. Naturally, WE thought she was fabulous – but we are a bit biased. Still, she made it into the finals, although she didn’t win. She’s totally fine with that.

The best moment of the night was when C was escorting her onstage for the formalwear. They both entered from opposite sides of the stage and were supposed to walk down the stairs in unison. C however, knowing that his sister is a bit of a klutz and unused to walking in heels, ran down the stairs and over to her side and helped her down. My mama’s heart was smiling. And then, because all the other dads, uncles, brothers, etc. had done cool handshakes or fist bumps or dance moves and they didn’t really have anything like that…my boy stopped on stage, turned around, and took a selfie of him and his sister. It got a big laugh and is, apparently, now almost as famous as the Oscars selfie – at least around their little school!


It was a fun evening and we are very proud of The Princess!

The Princess is thrilled that it is over and she can get some sleep!





(Friends since 5th grade…and all made it to finals!)


Spring Break: The End

The Princess and I left Fredericksburg and drove to another little college town Thursday evening. Friday morning we woke up and toured yet another college, which we both fell in love with! We started with a tour of the Dance Department which was very impressive. The head of the department met us and talked to us for over an hour, gave us a tour and let us sit in on a class. After that we had lunch on campus, spoke with an admissions director, and then had a tour of the campus. I think we must have saved the best for last. Or maybe we were just exhausted. Either way, we both loved it!


The next morning we woke up early and started the long drive home. We drove, and drove, and drove. And by “we” I mean “me.” Apparently P became bored on the drive and started taking “selfies” because I discovered oodles of pictures like this on my cell phone when we, finally, arrived home. >


We had a great trip, and it was fun to be with my daughter for the week…but it’s good to be home!

Of course, we arrived home and got right back to work. The Princess has been choreographing a contemporary solo for herself for the Miss St. John’s contest which she is participating in next weekend, and we have been busy cleaning the house because we decided to try to sell it, once again. Supposedly the real estate market has picked up here in Florida, so we thought we’d try. Mr. Wonderful is tired of the constant upkeep on the house – he says he didn’t realize how much The College Kid did around here! Ha!


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Spring Break (Part 1)

Spring Break for the younger kids is more than halfway over, and we’ve been busy!

The College Kid’s break was spent mostly in bed, hacking and coughing and whining…with me threatening bodily injury if he coughed on any of us and got us sick! The poor kid finally started feeling a bit better right before he headed back to school…

Steve has been having a grand time experiencing the mountains of North Carolina with another exchange student and his host family. A huge thank you to the fabulous Courtney Family for inviting Steve along, which allowed The Princess and I to take our own little “mother/daughter Roadtrip” to tour a few colleges!


We’ve been exploring all over Virginia. We loved Jamestown (we found a plaque with an ancestor whom The College Kid is named after and we saw deer and toured the Archaology Museum) and Charlottesville (where I finally was able to experience the joys of Trader Joes. I’m jealous! We also saw LOTS of snow!) and Fredericksburg, where we are currently. We LOVE Fredericksburg. We had lunch in a pink tearoom! And we toured an old apothecary museum which was really gross and really cool (leeches!)

We are heading out in a little while to tour another (beautiful) college before driving to our final college town tonight. We will tour that college and dance department tomorrow before driving home, apparently (according to The Weather Channel), in the rain.
















Life Lesson with a Side of Crepes

The week flew by and the kids (all three of them) have only a couple of more days before Spring Break begins. The College Kid has more of a “spring blink” as his break begins Wednesday and he has classes again next Monday. The younger kids’ break begins Thursday and they are out until April!

The Princess began the weekend by visiting her old school for a dance concert and to catch up with her friends. She hung out with them backstage and even took the warmup class with everyone before the performance. She had a great time visiting everyone.


Saturday was spent doing laundry and cleaning (me) and washing the car and studying (P). I made crepes for dinner Saturday night, which I haven’t made in ages for some reason, and they were a huge hit! Steve loved them! This is important to note because in the entire time he has been with us, there are only a handful of things which I KNOW he likes. I’ve tried to prepare Chinese-y type foods – no reaction. He eats it…but never says he likes it, or it is good, or could you make this again? Usually, the only barometer I have as to whether he likes something or not is if he goes back for seconds. This usually only happens for “junk” type foods – tacos, hotdogs, hamburgers, spaghetti, pizza – and we don’t eat like that very often. He does like quiche too. Anyway, he had three ham and cheese crepes. And then I showed him how to make a peanut butter and banana crepe and he liked that. Then I remembered I found peanut butter with cinnamon, honey, and chocolate chips at Whole Foods so I grabbed that and he made another crepe with that. He really liked crepes!

Sunday, The Princess and I did more cleaning and a lot of yard work. It was a gorgeous day here, so we planted flowers and I tried to get the yucky Spanish Moss down from the trees and do some weeding. We were tired and itchy (the moss) and sweaty messes when we were done – and Steve learned a little lesson about how life works in an American family! When he finally emerged from his room later that afternoon to ask if he could take a shower, I told him that he would have to wait until last because P and I were out working in the yard so we got to go first. He looked a bit taken aback. Sorry Steve – I’d tell my kids the same thing; if you don’t do anything all day while everyone else is working, then you are last in line for the hot water.

Because The College Kid has such a short spring break, we are just hanging around the house and doing some spring cleaning and possibly going out on the boat or to the beach if the weather is nice. Then The Princess and I are off on a mother/daughter road trip to tour colleges! We are pretty excited about getting away for a bit, although we are hoping the weather where we are headed is a bit nicer than it is right now! Steve has been invited to go with another Chinese exchange student and his host family on a road trip to the mountains of North Carolina, so I’m sure that will be fun and exciting for him!


Basic Crepe Recipe:

1 1/2 cup milk
2 T canola oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 t salt

I prepare the batter in a blender, and make the crepes in a basic non-stick frying pan, lightly greasing the pan with vegetable oil between each crepe and heating at about medium high.


Live Life Loved.

College life without limits.

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by Thomas Cochran, Known Moron

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

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Life is short. Eat cake. Or make me a cake. I'll eat it for you.

Too much sugar for a nickel...

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