A New Experience

Hey, there.  Been a while, eh?  Let’s just say that a LOT has changed.  Danielle only stayed with us until Halloween and so we moved up our timeline about moving back east to be closer to home… so we put our house on the market, I quit my job, and we’ve been back in Vermont for a year and a few days.

Of course we wondered if we should host again.  We still talk to Naomi and Tom regularly — Tom was actually going to come see us this summer but was offered an amazing opportunity to teach in China so we encouraged him going (we’ll miss seeing him!).  And while we thought about looking for an organization here (we’re done with EF) we also assessed what we were looking for now that we had the opportunity to make some changes.

Here are were some considerations:

  1. Time: While we would never change anything about our first two hosting experiences 10 1/2 months is a long time.  We’d like to get back to Europe at some point but it’s tough when you have a kid for that long.  And summer can be an awful time to travel.
  2. Money: While you don’t have to spend as much as we do when hosting, we like to travel with our kids.  But we’re down to Kris’ income and what I make… which is nowhere near what I used to make.
  3. Motivation: Kids here for their American year are awesome and fun and usually up for anything.  That said, while helping them out we weren’t sure if it was meeting a certain need in us to help others.

Hosting an exchange student for a semester was an option but still didn’t quite fit.  When I taught in Brooklyn I had students who were Fresh Air kids so I pitched the idea to Kris who, of course, was game.

If you’re not familiar with it, the Fresh Air Fund (now in its 140th year!) is a program for children living in poverty in NYC.  They can join anywhere between ages 6-12 and are sent to live with a family in the country for one week the first year and, if invited back, two weeks every subsequent summer.  A week?!  We can do that.  In spades!

We contacted the fund and set up an interview, etc.  We’re used to the process so it was no big deal for us and the women who came to check out the house were awesome.  We requested a boy and were up for pretty much anything except that our home and vehicles are not handicapped accessible (the Fund is always looking for families equipped for hosting special needs kids if you can help!).  We started talking about the types of things we would want to do with our child and learning about what to expect.

Kris and I have never had anyone under the age of 16 in the home, so that will be interesting.  But we’re excited — especially since we’ll head to the bus stop THIS AFTERNOON to meet our guest for the week, Ryan.

Here are the things we’ve come up with to introduce our city mouse to the country:

  • tubing down the Battenkill River
  • GeoCaching
  • picnicking in some of our gorgeous, local spots
  • swimming (many Fresh Air kids don’t know how to swim when they first arrive!)
  • Eating outdoors on the deck
  • Catching fireflies
  • a trip to the drive-in movie theatre
  • nighttime fires

The idea is to give the child a sense of life outside New York City.  This can be really strange at first!  NYC has a constant hum and bustle and there’s so much light.  And people.  And cars.  Here it gets VERY dark and VERY quiet at night.  It may be the first time Ryan can see lots of stars!  I dowloaded the star map app on the iPad for some pre-bedtime stargazing and storytelling.  And if we are feeling really bold we’ll set up the tent in the backyard one night for a campout (Kris and I still haven’t camped so the idea of heading to the wilderness with an 8-year-old the first time is beyond daunting).

We know very little about our guest — his mom speaks Mandarin so we had a quick talk through an interpreter.  It should be a an adventure.  We’ll head to the bus today armed with a sign, snacks and have a small gift waiting at home and hopefully learn a little about Ryan and what he anticipates for his week in Vermont.

We’ll post pictures and updates as the week goes on and hope you’ll join us on this new and exciting adventure!

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Big News!

A few years back Kris & I saw this version Nemesis on YouTube. It’s been a favorite song of ours for years but this version? Brilliant.

Being Kris & I, travel junkies who need only the flimsiest of excuses to plan a trip, we immediately decided that we had to get to Sundance. Because it seemed cool musical acts played awesome versions of good songs there. Yes, one video on YouTube caused this.

We starting researching how to get tickets. It seemed impossible. Registration, lottery, half an hour to make selections. We ended up missing the registration for a few years. Then we decided that this was going to be the year. Daniëlle’s a celebrity follower like no one we’ve ever met, Kris and I love documentaries and shorts but aren’t so much into celebs. Daniëlle also skis, and the really good friend she’s made at school, Ava, is a snow boarder. Park City sounds like the perfect trip for this exchange year.

We put the info in my calendar, registered, and put the date when we’d get the email with our time slot in my calendar. That we were given Thursday and that Thursday was the first day blew our minds. We realized how quickly we would need to know all of our info so we texted Daniëlle to call and ask Ava about going. She could. Somehow we were able to get the packages we wanted.

We let Danielle know and have been very excited since. Sundance 2015 – we’ll see you there!

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Braids

When Naomi was with us I became an expert braider. I braided her hair this morning for old times’ sake. Might need to start taking pics of Daniëlle’s hair, too, since she’s started asking me to braid it quite a bit.

My Pinterest is chock full of braids. God, I love having girls in the house!

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Overjoyed

This morning Daniëlle and I got our nails done. Good thing, because it kept my mind off the fact that Naomi was arriving. I probably would have been climbing the walls of we’d just hung out at home. After nails I showed her around the area a little and then watched her grin when she saw the limo pull up at noon. The twins’ flight was a little late which was okay since the driver took the weirdest way to Newark ever.

I cannot put into words the feeling when I saw Naomi come through the doors from Customs. But I’m tearing up again just thinking about it. After lots of hugs and meeting Lizzy we were on our way back to MamaCz’s. We had a nice dinner before walking Lizzy over to The Holiday House and the twins are already in bed – very long day for them. We’ll play a few games before heading to bed. Big day tomorrow – introducing Lizzy to NYC!!

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Hi From New York

I’ve been really bad about updating. Really bad. But we’re in New York so how can I not update??

We arrived yesterday and surprised Daniëlle with tickets to a show. We all had a blast at Avenue Q and we’re lucky to have Melanie join us, too!

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P.S. Our new addition? That’s Joetta America!

Catch Up

If I said the last few weeks have been crazy it would be a serious understatement. Here’s a catch up post… I hope to post more regularly soon.

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IMG_3597.JPG I learned how to use one of those spongy doughnuts to make a bun, we saw a huge motorcycle, got into a car accident, and celebrated our friends’ marriage.

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IMG_3628.JPG We explored Chicago, visited the renaissance festival and had the first day of school.

Ten Things Every Host Family Should Know About Medical Emergencies

Because it had been three weeks since our last trip to the emergency (morbid humor) we spent Friday at Mott Children’s Hospital with Danielle. If your student is under 18 go to a pediatric hospital – they are so much better for kids and families. She is fine now and has a diagnosis that is far less scary than what it appeared to be, so everyone is settling back into a routine. Here are ten things you should know if faced with a medical crisis:

1. Contact the natural parents when your exchange student will be able to speak to them. The reason for this is that medical terms are often the toughest to understand and the student can do a much better job. We send a Facebook message first to let them know hey will hear from us and our organization and that everything is okay first – it helps ease the anxiety when they see who is calling.

2. Make sure you have access to your student’s insurance card, immunization record and passport/identification card. You should never keep possession of these things but know where they are. You will need them. Most hospitals will allow you to call the information in after the fact.

3. Make copies of the paperwork giving you custodial or any other guardianship rights and keep it in each car. Some hospitals will not speak to you without this. That can be scary for everyone involved.

4. Brace yourself for the visit from the social worker. Your exchange student is going to have to do an interview. You will be kicked out of the room at a larger, more established hospital. Smaller hospitals will do it with you in the room. You will feel judged and angry. Understand that this interview (which, for your student’s safety and to protect his rights you should NOT be present for) is a necessary, important one. It gives a child a chance to disclose things that the hospital needs to know ranging from fear to drug use to abuse. Get over yourself and add it to all the reasons you need to have a drink later tonight.

5. Prepare your student that as a minor the doctors will mostly talk to you about decisions. We included Danielle in all decisions but at the end of the day, the students have to understand that you are going to make the call. When she asked for morphine we were scouring the hall for someone who could give it to her – your student knows best her pain level. Honor her need for pain meds.

6. Be mindful of your student’s spiritual needs when in the ER. The child’s beliefs are first and foremost, not yours. If they are atheist, Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, or any other religion you need to say that and not your own religion when asked by the registration specialist. It can be hard because you probably need spiritual relief as much as your student. Speaking of which…

7. Your student comes first. Shut off your phone except for the one you’re using to talk to home. Keep quiet and allow for rest. Don’t complain about the temperature or light level or anything else. Do not show your anxiety and fear in front of your student, it will make him feel even worse. Take cues from your student about what he needs. Don’t pace.

8. Be the hand to squeeze. Pokes and prods and other painful things happen at the ER; offer your hand for squeezing when things hurt.

9. Ask permission. Some kids want to be touched and doted on and others are like the me’s of this world. I don’t want to worry about you and what you’re doing to annoy me when I’m in the hospital in pain. If your student wants you to shut the hell up and leave her alone, shut the hell up and leave her alone!

10. Remember your team. If you have a spouse or partner you should deal with this together. Both of you should be at the ER if at all possible – you need each other’s support.

Everybody Loves Her Now

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I’ll find any excuse to add Billy Joel to what I’m doing.  Especially one that talks about my ol’ stomping grounds.  But, onward… there is a post to be written, updates to be given.

Today marks three weeks since Danielle arrived and she has been kept VERY busy.  Between my mom being here when she arrived and TWO houseguests since, it’s been hard to find a free minute to post.  She’s also been at school EVERY DAY this week and has to go again tomorrow – phew!

After MamaCz left, Melanie, came to visit.

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Melanie and Danielle had fun hanging out while Kris and I worked and we were able to do some cool stuff like make a day trip to Grand Rapids to visit Vander Veen’s, The Frederik Meijer Sculpture Gardens and Founder’s.

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We also went out to dinner a bunch of times, and got their first sandwiches at Zingerman’s.  Toward the end of Mel’s visit, Neil came out for a long weekend.  We picked him up at the airport before heading to The Henry Ford.  It was awesome to visit with Mel, who has an amazing knowledge of America’s history of Civil Rights – it was like having a private tour.  After the museum Danielle got to go to her first Major League Baseball game where we had kick ass seats right behind home plate.  Sadly, I had to leave to go work (on a vacation day… my dedication is unfaltering) but then we met up at Slow’s for a delicious, filling dinner of bbq.  And mac ‘n’ cheese.  After our time in Detroit we headed back to Ann Arbor for a truly awesome night playing “Last Word” around the fire – lots of laughs for all of us.

This week has been all about school… enrolling, Link Crew Orientation, registering, dealing with Skyline (biting my tongue).  Kris and I have both been working a ton but we’re still finding time to enjoy time with Danielle, who has been making a ton of American friends be it in their 30’s or her own age.  Another exchange student, who will be living in our neighborhood, arrived yesterday and they have plans to get together next week.  Also, Danielle made a friend at Orientation who is also a senior.  So she’s been busy on her own settling into life here.

In addition to American stuff we’ve continued the tradition of incorporating Dutch culture into our daily lives, from eet smakelijk and slaap lekker to having her teach us to make Kip Kerrie last night for dinner (yum!).  Three weeks and already so much going on… can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Day Trip!

On Saturday we headed west to visit Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids and the surrounding area have a large Dutch population. Daniëlle was able to stick up on some Dutch goodies at Vander Veen’s before taking in The Meijer Sculpture Gardens. We ended the day with sandwiches and Skip Bo at Founder’s, Michigan’s best brewery.

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