Tag Archives: family

Back in America 385 Days Later

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385 days after saying good-bye to our German Exchange Student… we are welcoming her back to America! What a fast year plus 20 days it was! If you don’t already know the story, Lara came to us in August 2011 for the 2011-2012 school year at age 15 and in 10th grade. She left us June 2, 2012 at age 16.  She was home for a just couple days when she told her family she wanted to come back to America for her next summer break. Oh, how time flies! It went so fast that I figured the blog was still active so I’d start writing again. I initially started the blog to document my experience of being a Host Mother who was responsible for another woman’s daughter halfway around the world… and for a keepsake for Lara’s, and our, experience! Almost two years since the blog started and we have had more than 11,000 hits! A link for the blog is also on the website for the Exchange Company Lara used for her trip here so students can read about her experience. Lara also volunteers there by helping other students prepare for a similar journey to America. You can read the very first blog here: https://lifewithlara.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/the-exchange-experience-a-host-mothers-view/

1001176_10201421529129353_687189846_nSo…385 days later… we are back at the airport with most of the same friends who were there when she left,  We waited impatiently for 90 minutes until she came out of the International arrival doors. She was welcomed with a banner and everyone yelling, “LARA!!” We were definitely the largest group there to welcome someone at the airport!

385 days later… Lara’s room at the house remains intact. When we returned home from the airport, Lara quickly went to “her room.” It’s a little different than it was when she left but I made sure some items were left in place, like her Bible that she decoupage with the YoungLife kids still resting on a shelf, her old school notebooks on the desk and some of her pottery she made in Clay Class. In the closet were some clothes she decided to leave here, like her Homecoming dress!

20130622_194926385 days later… Lara’s friends are still giggling with her, telling old stories and ready for a night of swimming in the pool after a BBQ.  Some things never change! Brittany, Morgan, Gabby, Erin, Addy, Charlie and Jack were in and out of the pool for most of the evening, along with our son, Travis, and his girlfriend, Rubyann. Then they had to make the traditional trip to Ocean Blue, a yogurt shop around the corner, was a must-do, followed by a movie. It was certainly a late night and a long journey for Lara after 15 hours on planes and jet lag!

385 days later… I realize nothing has really changed since Lara left. Social Media helped us all keep in touch almost every day. I’ve been texting with Lara at least 3 to 4 times a week through WhatsApp, a phone application that’s free texting. We can send photos, videos or record our voices too.  Of course, we’ve Skyped about every other month and had fun sharing things on Facebook and Instagram. Brittany, and has kept in touch with Lara a lot through SnapChat, along with Morgan and Gabby.

SAM_0836385 days later… it’s like Lara never left. Everything is in the same place in the house… some furniture has moved around or is missing but it’s still “home” to her. As I write this, she’s back in the pool on the rafts and playing with the dogs! When she got to the house, she walked right in and checked out the pantry, some of the cabinets in the kitchen, the fridge. She’s just like anyone else in the house and knows I won’t do everything for her. She’s on her own and has to make herself at home again.

385 days later… I’m back to planning some trips with Lara. During her 10 month stay we visited Washington DC, New York City, went on a Baja Mexico Cruise and to Los Angeles and Disneyland. Somehow… we never made it to the Grand Canyon. I know… pretty sad on my part, right? So… a trip to the Grand Canyon is in order. I’m also taking her to “small town America” for the 4th of July. It’s just too hot in Phoenix to do anything so we’re headed up to cool country and Prescott, Arizona for a carnival, live music, fireworks and an Arts and Crafts Show. A trip to Las Vegas is in the works, staying at Mandalay Bay where there’s a beach and lazy river. Lara met her mother in Vegas for a couple days towards the end of her stay in America but I’d like to take her to see some other sights there with Brittany. And if we still have time…we might make it to the beaches of San Diego and Sea World.

385 days later… I can see it’s definitely going to be an action-packed and busy summer! And of course, I’ll document our reunion along the way right here!

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Saying Good Bye

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It’s been 2 weeks exactly since Lara went back to Germany…and it’s time for me to complete a couple of final posts. I’ve been putting off re-living the day she left… for obvious reasons…. but here goes….

Lara’s last 24 hours in Arizona were filled with laughter and tears… and more laughter and more tears. We all knew this time was going to come but I’m not sure if we knew how difficult it was going to be. On Friday, June 1, Lara spent the day packing. She came with 1 suitcase and left with 2! We got her a suitcase for her birthday because shipping her extra things home was going to cost more than taking an extra suitcase on the airplane for $60. She had to decide if some things were actually going to make the trip home, like a couple of books. And she left a few things here… like her homecoming dance dress. She said she would get it next time she comes back. I don’t think she would be wearing it much in Germany anyway. 🙂

We were able to take a break mid-afternoon so we could bring Lara’s mom, Ana, and her friend, Gisela, to Lara’s favorite place to east… WENDY’S! From the first time Lara went there, she was hooked. And I don’t think it was so much for the food as it was for the soda machine. Yep… the $1-million dollar soda machine that offers 103 different kinds of soda! The Wendy’s closest to our home has one and it’s a hit with everyone! Of course, we had to get a picture of Lara by her favorite machine! Her favorite things to eat there… chicken nuggets or a Caesar Chicken Go Wrap, the fries of course and a chocolate Frosty. She even liked what we call an “American Teen thing”…. dipping french fries into a Frosty! I don’t care for it but for some reason, it’s liked by many teenagers!!!

That night, Lara and Brittany gathered with friends at Jack’s house. It was the last time their group of friends could hang out and be silly. At first they were planning an all-nighter and wanted to camp out in Jack’s backyard. But both Ana, Lara’s mom, and I advised her that the next day was going to be very long and emotional and she should get some sleep. After several hours at Jack’s house, they decided to go to iHop (International House of Pancakes) for a very late meal. The funny thing was they went dressed up in costumes! Jack’s mom, Becky, pulled out Halloween costumes and they put on the strangest combinations of clothes! When they got to the Restaurant, the server said, “Should I even ask what you are doing?” They told her that Lara was leaving for Germany the next day. The Server said, “Is this a German tradition?” and they all laughed. Lara’s reaction was, “No, this is only something crazy Americans do!” She’s kind of right, isn’t she? Especially with this group of kids! They’ve really learned how to think outside-the-box with all the antics they do with YoungLife!

We all got up early the next morning so we’d have plenty of time at the airport. I was doing fine getting ready in my room… up until I walked downstairs. It hit me at that moment that it was going to be time to say good-bye. Our son Travis had to go to work and couldn’t ride along to the airport so Lara and Travis had to say good-bye here. That was my first jolt of tears… and it was’t easy to stop. I didn’t want Lara to see me cry just yet so I walked to the other side of the house. A few minutes later, two carloads of her friends arrived at the house. Morgan’s mother came along to drive one of the cars because she was worried the kids would be too upset to drive home after Lara left.

When we got to the terminal, all the kids were sitting together. Lara, Ana and I went to the ticket counter to check-in. We also wanted to request a pass for Ana to be able to walk Lara to the gate. For days, I was worried about everyone saying goodbye to her and then her having to sit at the gate, waiting for her plane, by herself. when we walked back to the kids, there they were standing off in the distance holding a bright yellow banner that read, “Goodbye” (with the Goodbye scratched out)… and then “See you Soon, Lara”. Ana, Lara and I just burst into tears… and then the kids did too. I knew that was the end of trying to hold in the tears. You can see our red eyes in the pictures Ana took right after that.

We gathered our emotions and decided to move further into the terminal. We took up an entire section of seats. That’s when the kids started writing messages to Lara on the banner so she could take it back with her. I couldn’t tell you what the messages were, because I couldn’t bring myself to read them. After the banner was signed, Ana folded it several times to fit it in her suitcase. A memory forever for Lara.

Soon Ana said it was time for Lara to go through security and head towards the gate. We walked her as far as we could go and then the hugs and tears started. Travelers all around us were watching as about 14 people were just hugging and crying. The third to the last person to say goodbye was Brittany. The second to last person was Terry. I was the last one. And as we held each other and cried, I think everyone else cried even more. We let her leave and watched her walk down the lane for the security checkpoint. As she walked around the final corner, we knew it was time to go home… with one less friend and family member by our side.

There’s really only one more Blog post to write… the final words from me to close this chapter of our lives. I started the Blog to share the experience of being a Host Mother to an Exchange Student living half way around the world, away from her family and friends. The last post is a time for me to express my feelings after this 10-month adventure. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures!

Travel creates a Family Bond

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Turn around and SMILE!!!

9 days of traveling together, visiting new places and dealing with what life throws at you… it’s what makes a family bond with each other….especially when a German Exchange Student is with you!

Pictures are worth a thousand words… so I thought I’d let photos explain how much we bonded with each other while traveling to Washington DC and New York City! We had so many moments of silliness…and closeness! Enjoy… and be sure to Laugh Out Loud with us!

FIRST STOP… SILLY PICTURES AT THE AMERICAN HISTORY MUSEUM!

Lara and the National Anthem!
Lara for President!
Brittany for President!
This is an “inside joke” to us!!
Pet a Buffalo!
Kiss a Buffalo!

LARA AND I GOT SEPARATED FROM TERRY AND BRITTANY IN THE MUSEUM SO LARA DECIDED TO POSE FOR SOME OF THE DISPLAYS!!!

Cool Dude!

At the Market!

Subway ride

Don’t get hit by the train!

Bus ride?
Waiting for the bus

GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN!!!

Taking Brittany’s picture!
Planning the next day!
Cheesy smiles in Central Park!
NYC store named after Lara!!!
Britt trying to stay dry!
Mother-Daughter/Central Park
Soaking up sun at Ellis Island
Tired girls at Ellis Island
Subway fun
Kicking it up!
Take THAT!
Are they in pain or making a funny face?
Kiss me!
YIKES!!!!!!!
Taking Lara’s picture!
Crazy Host Mom!
Stop it, MOM!!!
Aren’t we cute!


TAKING TIME TO BE SILLY!!! We did this at Great Falls National Park and laughed the hardest here than we did anywhere! The captions under each picture explain what kind of face Brittany was calling out for us to make! HYSTERICAL!!!

WINK, WINK, WINK!

EEEEEWWWWW!

THINK HARD!

MAKE A GUN!

SCRUNCHED UP FACE

STICK YOUR TONGUE OUT!

WHAT'S UP THERE?

CRYING

OH NO!!!

SCARED FACE

NICE PICTURE
LARA,LOOK HERE!
SILLY!
SILLY!
AAAAWWWW….HOW CUTE!
PEEK-A-BOO!
SOMETHING WAS REALLY FUNNY, I GUESS!
SHE’S SO GOOD AT THAT CAMERA PHONE THING!
FERRY RIDE-COOL SUNGLASSES!

ENOUGH OF THE SILLY GIRLS! TERRY WAS IN A FEW PICTURES TOO… INCLUDING THE FAMILY SHOTS OF ALL 4 OF US!

DADDY-DAUGHTER

WWII MEMORIAL

PROUD DADDY

HAPPY LIFE, SASSY WIFE

ARE WE DONE YET?

POUTY FACE

HAPPY BOY

JEFFERSON MEMORIAL

DADDY EXPLAINS

THE FARMER IN HIM

TIMES SQUARE

REST STOP

CHILLIN'

ALWAYS WORKING

LOOSENING UP

CENTRAL PARK

NBC STUDIOS


Hello Mr. President!

Lincoln Memorial

Brittany's Birthday Dinner

The Capital

Great Falls National Park

Times Square

Times Square

Liberty Island

State of Liberty