Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy Birthday!

We celebrated Iris's birthday today!

I wonder how this day would have compared to her birthdays back in Finland. Seemed to me that cake and candles are universally recognized. We were treated to a number of birthday songs from various other countries as many of the exchange students at her school were able to come. Spain, Chile, Ukraine, Belgium and of course, the good ol' USA students wished her well. (What a gift for us to be part of this).

We are so fortunate in our small community to have such a strong commitment to exchange students from AFS and Rotary. I don't remember a single, exchange student from my high school days in San Diego and the school had 3x's the number of students than this one in Newport. Credit must be given to those who have organized and promoted these exchanges for many years! Kudos to you Evelyn & company.

It is also a very good thing to have a great liaison and friends as this party may not have even happened without their help. Even though I think I'm fairly organized, this is still new and I planned a party that I could only attend for an hour due to a meeting...oops. Fortunately liaison and friend (Katy & Julie) to the rescue to help supervise and provide some transportation. Of course, not to be content with just that task, the kitchen was sparkling when I tiredly walked in the door. WOW.

Didn't someone once say it takes a village? It surely helps and this village rocks! Guess I shouldn't worry as much about Iris being in a small, rural town because it is a GREAT community to be a part of. I hope Iris takes this impression back home about the USA. It is not all Hollywood, SUVs, hamburgers, etc.

The gifts are sure mutual during this adventure and we are so very lucky to be able to have celebrated with Iris and her 'new' friends. Happy Birthday and thank you!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

School activities have begun

First school, then the after-school activities. It has been an easy transition from summer's endless possibilities, to the definite boundaries created by school hours and now the beginning of the seemingly chaos of the after-school life. The reason our household has had it fairly easy considering that dance hasn't begun yet which definitely will be the monkey wrench in schedules.

For now we are just adjusting to 2 different pickup times after school which conveniently coincides with when Andra then Cliff leave work. Iris has been dabbling into participating on the cross country team. Dabble is due to the actual events occurring on the weekend, early on the weekend...Iris and early on weekends are fairly incompatible so far. (Throw in a chance to go to the big city and 5:30AM doesn't sound so impossible after all!). Doesn't it make you remember being a teenager?!?

Remembering high school has been the biggest learning event at this stage of our experience. That happy-go-lucky, spontaneous, last-minute combination of homework, school and sure takes me back a few (!!!) years. Hopefully I haven't been as annoying as I remember parents wanting to know about schedules, events and friends. You do want to know but primarily to make sure they are happy. You always want your children to be happy but it all seems so condensed with having a daughter for only a year to make sure they are doing well and enjoying the experience. I also don't want to personally relive high school but so far I've enjoyed all the memories this has been bringing forth and now all the new memories being created.

This is really fun! I sure hope someone reads this who is sitting on the fence about hosting and sees the possibilities for remembering, learning and laughing at the past (and the present!) and decides to take the plunge after all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

School has begun!

Not quite like one of those office supply commercials with the mom dancing in the aisles but I was glad school started. I've been so worried that it must be incredibly boring for a teenager, especially one that we didn't have a lot of years to get to know/annoy, to just hang out with their family for weeks on end. I wanted a school-full of friend possibilities to start beyond the few gatherings we have had.

So we loaded up the station wagon and dropped the girls off in front of school and kept our fingers crossed. Success! Both of our girls are very glad to be back at school to be surrounded by other students. Not so happy to have to get up at a set time in the morning, do homework and then go to bed at a reasonable hour but a good trade in any event. Now weekends are special once again where you can revert back to a more relaxed sleep schedule.

As an added bonus the weather has changed to sunny and even waves of warmth (Oregon coast kind of warmth, not most people's idea but still warm). This might have seemed like a cruel twist to have such nice weather right when school begins but after such a lousy summer we are not going to complain one bit.

Iris has already come back from school with stories of other AFS students, new friends and the teacher who speaks Finnish. Unbelievable! I'm beginning to think this guy is Superman at night as he not only teaches the honors physics and math classes, he's involved in all kinds of volunteer activities and is a big family man and now he speaks Finnish!?!?!. (Ok, you should meat Wonder Woman, aka his wife.) Iris will be heralded all year with random Finnish in school so she definitely won't be able to just start thinking in English. Iris has also been experiencing a new kind of football (why does it take an hour when there is only 15 minutes on the clock?) and starting to plan for homecoming (shopping for a new outfit will certainly be a must).

This has been a great month and so far all is going well thanks to AFS opening this world of opportunity. Having coordinators that are knowledgeable, a liaison that has a wealth of experience and common sense (not to mention a place in town for an alternative home near the school!) and a student who is open to new experiences is making all of this a highly recommended experience. Who knows, we're already thinking about doing this again, and again...

For now its homework, football and dancing through this first part of school.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Vacation already

We made it! Well, just to the top of Tumalo Butte but it was a gorgeous view. At about 7700 feet, even Iris was a bit winded and amazingly, Alexa made it with A LOT of coaching.

Going with the Flow

With 2 weeks since our student's arrival, it was time for a vacation. We hadn't made it up to our place on the east side of the Cascades for a week-long visit and summer was ending. I have to admit I had some concerns that we were just getting into the routine of our new household, Iris's new community, and off we go to somewhere else with a different dynamic. Even our dismal weather started to improve on the coast to lure us to stay put but we were off.

Fortunately we are still on the upside of the infamous AFS emotion curve for all of us so we all were going with the flow. Plus there were rivers to paddle, mountains to climb,

The climb around Smith Rocks State Park was gorgeous. The rock climbers looked like bugs on the rock walls. Here the girls are holding up the massive boulder.

bikes to ride and hopefully some swimming. We also were accompanied by another teenager and mom for the first weekend which worked out great. Never a dull moment here but that is our normal mode as much as we can arrange it. I never think we are all that busy since we are surrounded by type-A people from work who make us look like the slackers some days. Then I look at our calendar and wonder how to fit everything in, hence our planned week in the mountains was the last week of school vacation.

Keeping busy is working for our new family configuration and maybe it is our daughter's personality but I think when you are in a new environment you want to see as much of your surroundings as possible. Just staying home would get old quick in a small town with weeks before school begins.

Easy paddling down the Deschutes River from La Pine State Park to our neighborhood.
If school had started right away this would be an entirely different situation since school would provide all the excitement as exploring does. Assessing the situation, trying to remember being a high school teenager and then hoping your plans provide a smooth transition seem to be the key to success with AFS. Going with the flow certainly helps as well, so far smooth sailing down river!