Tag Archives: Mother

Back in America 385 Days Later



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!


20130622_184330-1 (1)A


NYC Day 3-Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Broadway


On our last day in New York City we had to squeeze in the MUST-DO sites on our list… Rockefeller Plaza, Central Park, Broadway and…weather permitting…the Empire State Building.


Our first stop was Rockefeller Center. We were surprised at how busy it was! It has 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres. Built by the Rockefeller family, it is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan. Construction of the first 14 buildings in Art Deco style began in 1930 and were completed in 1939. Rockefeller Center is among the last major building projects in the United States to incorporate a program of public art. just one of the pieces is Paul Manship’s highly recognizable bronze gilded statue of the Greek legend Titan Prometheus. It rests in the sunken plaza at the front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

When we were there, they were preparing the ice rink on the same area… a popular public attraction in the winter months. The girls liked seeing how they fill the rink. The Center was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. http://www.rockefellercenter.com/

The plaza has about 200 flagpoles. At varying times, the flags of United Nations member countries, the flags of United States states and territories, or various decorative and seasonal flags are flown. During U.S. holidays, every flagpole carries the Flag of the United States. As windy as it was…the flags were pretty but, as you can see from pictures below, it didn’t make for the best “hair day”!

As a former Producer of an NBC-Affiliate TV Station, KPNX-TV12 in Phoenix… I’ve always wanted to visit Rockefellar Center to see where The Today Show is broadcast. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/ I’m a huge fan of the morning show and other NBC programs so the NBC Studio Store there was fun. We even got to take our picture with the show’s host, Matt Lauer. He was such a good sport posing with all of us!

The LEGO Store was a fun stop in the Plaza. It has the tallest Pick-A-Brick wall featuring LEGO elements in a variety of colors & shapes in bulk. Everyone could play with the small pieces and build something. The large dragon and miniature city were highlights!


Radio City Music Hall, just around the corner, was completed in December, 1932. At the time it was promoted as the largest and most opulent theater in the world. Its original intended name was the “International Music Hall” but was changed to reflect the name of its neighbor, “Radio City,” as the new NBC Studios in the RCA Building became known. RCA was one of the complex’s first and most important tenants and the entire Center itself was sometimes referred to as “Radio City.” http://www.radiocity.com/


 Just a few blocks away was Central Park. What an amazing site of 250 acres of lawns, 24,000 trees, 150 acres of lakes and streams and 130 acres of woodlands…along with 9,000 benches, 36 bridges, 26 ballfields, 21 playgrounds, 55 sculptures and monuments! It is massive! We walked through the south portion of the park for a couple hours… realizing afterwards that we could have spent an entire day here biking and walking and exploring. The girls LOVED the horse drawn carriages riding through the park and the many bridges and wide open grass areas! We all agreed…. Central Park looked exactly as it does in the movies! As we left, we took time to snap some pictures at one of the main entrances to the park, at the north tip of Broadway.


Broadway refers to the famous street in Manhattan that has become the worldwide leader in stage entertainment. It was fun to see all the billboards advertising the many shows available to see. At $100 a show, and a tight budget, we had to pass on seeing a show.  But it’s interesting to learn that the history of Broadway dates all the way back to the 1700’s. Then, in the late-1800’s and early 1900’s, the rise in train transportation  a drop in poverty created a demand for evening entertainment in New York. Soon, the bright lights of Broadway became known as “The Great White Way,” giving birth to a new New York City landmark. http://www.broadway.com/


From there, we ventured into Times Square during the day for the first time. To be honest…it wasn’t much different than at night…and we kind of laughed about it. The lights are almost as bright at night as if it were daytime…just without all the sparkle! And it was just as busy on a Saturday afternoon as it was on a Thursday night, when we went the first time. Part of the crowd was due to the “Occupy Wall Street” Protestors who had planned a march that day from Wall Street to Times Square. Police presence was heavy but they marched peacefully right by a restaurant we had stopped at for dinner.


When we woke up hearing there were going to be 20-to-40-mile-per-hour wind gusts, we weren’t real excited about going to the top of the Empire State Building. After all…the thought of the being on the top of a building that sways with the wind is a little intimidating. Terry and I were definitely chicken but Brittany and Lara were questioning the wind as well! For teenagers, that’s pretty funny! So we decided to wait and see if the weather changed by nightfall. It did. Winds died down. But apparently, everyone had the same thought we did. Wait till nightfall. So, there was a 2-hour wait to go up… and it was 7:30pm …and we had to get up at 5am to catch a plane… and still had a 30-minute trip back to the hotel. Needless to say…the girls decided against going up.


Instead we back to the hotel and walked around back to get pictures of the New York City skyline at night!


Overall… this was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had! The girls never complained once about being tired or missing out on something or all the ups and downs we faced on the trip! Some of those are in another Blog Post to come that will be titled “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. I told the girls at the very star that it was “all about the adventure.” And it really was!!!