Worth Every Moment

So, I suppose y'all have been wondering where I went.

There's no easy way (and believe me, I have been pondering it for days)
to just jump right back into blogging after NOT sharing regularly for months.
It's like my brain and heart and fingers forgot how to communicate with one another.

But, I have much to say, and much to share, and I need to start somewhere,
so here it is: this post, which semi-loosely chronologically gives you a glimpse into my life
this past school year. It truly was one of the best years of our family's life.
You'll see why I wasn't into slipcovering or painting or organizing.
I just didn't have the time.
I was busy being mom, one of my favorite things to do!

  • As many of you know, last August 2011, we welcomed an exchange student into our lives and hearts. Her name is Hyojin and she is from Seoul, South Korea. We made her room ready HERE.
(Hyojin and our rising high school Senior girl, Miss A.)

(Hyojin, college Junior daughter Miss S, and Miss A.)

  • We got her settled in, registered at school, and then the fun began! We took her lots of places she's NEVER seen: Wal-Mart, Chick-fil-A, Target, TJMaxx, New York City, Pennsylvania for Christmas.

  • The poor girl had NEVER decorated a gingerbread house, so of course, we had to make a HUGE party in early December, so she could do just that. In our basement cafe'.

  •  For a Christmas present, we gave her a guitar, and she took lessons every Thursday night.

  • What you may not have known, is that in January, we also invited another exchange student from Bangkok, Thailand, to be part of our family, as well. His name is Khomchan. We had to move a few beds and rooms around and Miss A and Hyojin shared Miss A's room the rest of the year, but they didn't mind. Too much.
(The girls obviously loved him!)
  • A third exchange student, Jeep, from China, also became part of our family, when my Mom #2 and Dad #2 (parents in the Lord) took him into their home the same week Khomchan came. Jeep was very much part of our lives, too! In fact, we saw him every day, too. My hubby, Mark, took all three of our new kids to (thankfully) the same school each morning, and I (or Miss S) picked them up after school.
(Miss A, Khomchan, Jeep, and Hyojin playing.)

  • Hyojin was a soprano in the school chorus, and we enjoyed several of her performances! Jeep (a pianist) and Khomchan (a cellist) also shared the same High School music teacher as Hyojin. 
(After a performance: Miss S, Miss A, Hyojin, Khomchan, Mom #2, Jeep, me, hubby, Mark.)

  • Don't be jealous, but we enjoyed many dinners that consisted of Korean and Thai food! Kimbap (Korean Sushi), Kimchi, Ddukbokki, Pad Thai, Pad Prik Pao, and other dishes I can't pronounce, much less spell. I COULD eat them, though. Boy, could I eat them!

  • We took a trip to IKEA in Atlanta. (I wanted them to see it, you know. It was simply for their benefit. Really, I was concerned that they have a true cultural experience. I may or may not have shopped.)

(Teenagers, always drawn to computers.)

  • We celebrated Khomchan's 17th Birthday March 10th, with a picnic and scavenger hunt. 

  • Then Jeep celebrated his 17th birthday on April 17th, also in our basement cafe'.

  • Some time during mid-Spring and her mid-semester in college, Miss S had an accident while walking, sprained her foot severely, and needed crutches for about 8 weeks. We had been sharing the driving errands, but now I was the only one doing the pick-ups, drop-offs, appointments, impromptu trips to McDonald's for ice cream cones and Chick-fil-A for chicken nuggets. I didn't mind. In fact, I realized that these awesome kids would only be here with us for a limited time, and so I said "yes" to almost every request to "go out". In fact, one night around 1 A.M., we all went to Wal-Mart (it was pretty empty) and we each got (with permission from the door greeter) an electric riding cart and trekked around the store a while.
  • Then came prom for Miss A's charter school. She had three "dates". The pre-prom activities were nice for them, so was the dinner. However, things have sure changed since I was a teen. There were a few "goings-on" during the prom itself that could have been better chaperoned. Still, I think they enjoyed getting all dressed-up, and I certainly enjoyed spending all that money on Miss A's gown and her hairdo. Cuz she looked bee-yoo-tee-ful. They all did.

(Miss S with her crutches.)

  • You still here? Whew. Next, we took us all (4 teenagers, Miss S, Mark and me) to Universal Studios and Walt Disney World in Orlando. That was a lot of planning! We rented a house, a HUGE car/SUV, removed a few of them from their classes, packed food to cook, etc. But, we had a blast. Their favorite? Universal Studios HULK roller coaster. Other fave? Cinderella's castle.

  • Also, somewhere during this time, I became the official cupcake decorator (Mom #2 was the cupcake baker) for Jeep's economy class project (he had to come up with a product, sell it, and make a profit within a time period.) For one month, Mr. Cupcake sold 24 cupcakes at $1.50 each, each day until he earned enough money to get a good grade. That's 516 cupcakes, folks!

  • In addition to frequent Skype sessions with their familes, we received several surprise boxes from their families that were filled with gifts, fabric (honey, lemme tell you the Thai fabric is luscious. I plan to sew a few things out of it.), food, handbags, clothing! Their families were showing their appreciation to us for taking care of their loved ones.
($1,600 Thai baht = $50 U.S. Dollars.)

(A note from Hyojin's mom, telling us thank you for keeping Hyojin safe and an invite 
to come to Korea to visit them. She also wrote: Saranghae. Which means, "I Love you.")

  • Jeep and Khomchan didn't have a Thanksgiving Dinner in the first host home they lived in. Instead, they happened to be in Washington, D.C., exploring the sites. So, we celebrated Thanksgiving on June 3rd. It came complete with pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce and all the decorations! Their favorites were the turkey (we are mostly vegetarians) and the corn casserole.
(Mom #2 and a hungry thief.)

  • Jeep left a few days later (and we miss him, but he will be moving back to North Carolina in July), and "my" kids could have gone back to their countries at the end of May, but instead, they chose to stay here with me for my birthday on June 15th. So, what did we do for my birthday week? We went to my favorite two cities: Charleston, SC (Folly Beach) and Savannah, GA (Tybee Island). 

  • Then June 18th came. Going Home Day. They both left on the same plane and split up later when they landed in Detroit. My Facebook post the moment their plane took off read: "Parts of our hearts just flew away." Because what pictures don't show, are the spontaneous hugs (simply because we needed or wanted one), uproarious laughter (especially when we were trying to pronounce Thai or Korean words or they were  trying to pronounce "umbrella" or "vocabulary"), caring for each other's hurts, the joy in our hearts knowing that we got to share in something so life-changing for them and us, the bewildered looks in the eyes of any of us when we shared with each other something about our own traditions or culture that the other had never known before. Which was what this cultural exchange was all about. Miss A said it so perfectly a few days ago. "You know what I learned from our time with them, mom? I learned compassion for everyone." 
    And that made the whole exhausting, fulfilling year worth every moment.

    (At the airport saying goodbye. If you look closely, you'll see that they all have on the same matching necklaces (Khomchan's is hard to see), gifts to each other to remind them of their sisterhood and brotherhood!)
  • As I continue to process more of what happened this past year, the way I view homemaking has changed considerably, because I have learned the power that hope and love has over the people changing and growing within these four walls. I now understand, that when strangers enter our country, city, neighborhood, house, that we have the privilege to give them the best we have to offer. Grace, tenderness, a listening ear (and more importantly, a listening heart). Even if we are tired. Or inconvenienced. The way I treat my immediate family was directly affected by their soujourn here. I am even more profoundly aware that I have the privilege to give my family the best I have to offer. Grace, tenderness, a listening ear (and more importantly, a listening heart). Even if I am tired. Or inconvenienced. I am part of a bigger plan that God has to show His compassion to every. single. soul. You have that same privilege in your four walls.
  • If you have questions about any or all of this, please leave it in the comments. I realize that I may have to make a future Q and A or FAQ post, as I was asked 100s of questions all year long about hosting. If you think you'd ever like to host here's the place we got started: Pacific Intercultural Exchange.
  • P.S. I lost 17 pounds this year, without trying. I called this the Exchange Student Diet Plan.

Thank goodness for Skype, Facetime (iPhone), and FaceBook,
because missing them is healed by being able to see or chat with them often.

(Khomchan on the iPhone, Hyojin on the laptop.)

This post was healing for me to write, so thank you to those of you still reading it.
They've only been gone a week and it feels like forever.

Hyojin, Jeep, and Khomchan, if you are reading this,
I pray that you know that you will always have a home wherever we are and in our hearts.
With love, mom


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