Sunday, August 22, 2010

The first week

Beach walks with the dogs (we are dog sitting Violet).

This has gone by very fast, I can't even believe it has been over a week since Iris arrived. We probably have over done some activities to show off our home and surroundings but it is also that time of year. You know, you are realizing that summer is about over and the school year with its own kind of busy, is just around the corner so you try to pack in all those things you had not gotten around to yet.

We have had people over, visited many local sites, gone to the valley twice and been to the beach numerous times. Iris really loved the beach once she could actually see it, yes--the sun came out! We went back to a beach we visited on the first day and she couldn't believe there were rocks and tide pools, totally obscured by the fog on our previous visit. It is really gorgeous here when the sun is shining.

My best hit so far as a new AFS host was to invite a group of people over with teens of the same age within the first week, especially if you don't have child that age. It was great to see the local teens surround Iris with advice and friendship while the parents were busy socializing. We had almost 3 weeks before school starts when Iris arrived and living in a rural community, there just aren't that many places to meet up with other people so creating the 'event' was the answer.

After a visit to Cupcake Jones in Portland, the girls attempt their own cupcake creations.
Although that was good event, I think Iris liked getting to a big city just as much. I visited stores I would never have gone to (Love Culture, Love 21, etc.) which cater to older teens (we did go to Alexa's Justice but she has about outgrown that one herself). Shopping for back to school clothes was a lot of fun and brought back so many memories. My gal pals and I used to cruise the malls and put our back to school clothes on layaway fairly regularly. Even though this won't be a regular event with the city in question being 3 hours away from here, the trip certainly bridged a bit of the difference between her Finnish home town and her new home town.

Cartwheels on the beach...summer has finally arrived!
Then there is the younger daughter, she is loving having a big sister! She can't stop talking around her. Then there are those other benefits such as shopping in new stores and trying on makeup. Ooh-la-la!

Everyone is part of the experience and that's the point after all.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


She's here! In the end, it happened so fast (believe it or not). Ok, it is only day 2 but this has been easy and wonderful. AFS did a great job of bringing us together. Iris has an amazing amount of poise and energy after her long journey. I had no idea what a quick itinerary they have between arrival, long bus journey then right with their new families. Why is she not tired?

All the students must line up and introduce themselves before meeting their new families.
Must be still working off the initial excitement of the event. She did admit last evening that the translating is very tiring but I'm sure once she starts thinking and dreaming in English (they say it happens), she will not be affected by that.

Anticipating overwhelming her, what do you do at first!?!?! Go to the general store, in our case, Fred Meyers. What would a day be like without a visit to "Freddies" in our lives (one stop shopping). On the way we made a quick stop to our outdoor, Saturday Market where Alexa showed Iris around while I stood in the infamous bread line after they made their bread & pastry selections. Thank goodness for Pacific Sourdough, just wish we could get all the selection in the off season but they certainly must need a long vacation when you see the variety. When I finally made it to the front of the line I spotted "Finnish Cardamom Sweet Bread" amazing I thought. I kept with the multigrain bread Iris selected but before we left I had her take a look at the Finnish bread. She had never seen that in Finland....we'll have to learn more later but I suppose you shouldn't even judge bread by their labels.

At the store we all stocked up on shampoos and the like, a little food and then had to stop at Radio Shack to get a European to US electric converter. Iris's computer now has electricity (I'm sure her parents and friends are anxious to hear from her).
Back at home, a few of Alexa's friends were very anxious to come over. There was a slumber party in town so we agreed to drive them all. Those tweens were giddy about meeting Iris, she is a rock star already.

Iris's AFS liaison stopped by, "Aunt" Katy, and we all braved the fog for a beach walk with the dog. Perfect.

Yes, it has been close to perfect, still dream-like. Easing into a daily routine but knowing we won't be able to resist doing a bit more activities at first. We'll all be looking for our new balance points as the year stretches on. Exciting?, absolutely!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Iris arrives in 5 days.

I can't believe we are getting a daughter in just 5 days. It has been a whirlwind from the beginning. We had thought about hosting a student after attending the AFS fund raisers over the years but had just kept putting it off, waiting for that 'perfect' time. Then came Evelyn, our local AFS coordinator, into our daughters dance class with a flyer. "Who would like to host a student next year that likes to dance?", she announced to a roomful of teenage girls. She was surrounded by them all, asking to be the family while the parents' eyes opened wide. (Would you all like a cell phone and puppy too while you're at it?) Guess that perfect time was now!

I am trying to keep my eyes (heart & mind) opened wide as no matter what we expect, it will be different. Going from parenting a single girl at the beginning of becoming a teenager (I still know a few things and am ok to hang around with) to parenting 2 girls, the other already a teenager, on the edge of becoming an adult. Alexa has no experience with sharing on a daily basis but Iris has a younger brother. I haven't been tuned into the high school and now need to catch up with that crowd while worrying if Alexa's middle school will make it through budget cuts another year. Fast forward to the dating scene which was years away and now we have a beautiful, foreign senior...yikes! What will be different and what will be the same?

We (ok, Cliff) is very busy with last minute preparations, the renovations started almost last year on Alexa's new bedroom and bathroom. In the last 2 days we went from one working shower to 3 (the claw foot tub has been retrofitted with a shower head as well). Alexa's tiny bathroom still needs the sink installed but we thought having more showers and mirrors was going to be necessary with an upcoming teenager and now there will be 2. At this point I guess I'm almost glad not to have gotten the second dog I had wanted since I barely have time to brush Cory.

Now with only a few days left, I'm excited and worried, looking around the house and community. I hope Iris can make the adjustments smoothly. I want her to have good friends and experiences. Will the adjustment to a small town be hard? Will the school be challenging and fun? What kind of sisters will Alexa & Iris become? Will Cory get really spoiled? Will we be good parents? Guess worrying is a good sign, that's what parents do.

We are VERY excited and looking forward to all the changes that we all will experience this upcoming year. First, better finish up those projects.

In the middle of remodeling Alexa's room (with help from Uncle Todar!)

Just 3 of us at Newberry Crater.

Here comes Iris!