Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wearing Out Our Welcome!

I called home today to check in with Mike and see how things were going at home and my blood literally ran cold when he said, “Susan, I have some news”.  I really didn’t think I could take a whole lot more.  So I steeled myself and said, “Ok, what’s the news?” and he said, “Kristin moved out this afternoon.”

I’m not sure of the whole story, but Kristin has been staying with her liaison and it seems they jelled as a family together.  They are also hosting a student from Italy this year and the girls got along great, and so it was decided to make a go of it with both girls living together.  April brought Kristin by the house today and picked up the rest of her things and she has moved!

I am happy for her finding her new family and I think they will be a good match for her.  I hope she’s going to be very happy there.  I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to her and I haven’t heard from her since she left for school Wednesday morning, but hopefully I’ll get to see her in the coming months, as I am the Italian girl’s liaison and perhaps will be Kristin’s liaison as well. 

With that, we end our stint as a welcome family.  I am very proud of what we accomplished.  Our goal was to allow a kid to get to the US and start their exchange program, and we did that.  We never intended to host for a full year and while we were willing to do so upon meeting Kristin, there is a sense of relief that we won’t have to, mainly because after this latest blow, I am totally and completely mentally and emotionally worn out.  I learned a lot from Kristin in just a couple of short months, and I really am grateful for the experience of hosting her. 

I am looking forward to getting home in a week or two and getting back to our old routine, which we were just getting used to when I decided to be a welcome family!  This is the last picture I took of Kristin at our house—she and Leah were finally getting to be pals! 


Good luck, Kristin, we really hope you have a fantastic year!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


This has been a really rough two months, and Kristin has been such a trooper to stick with everything while our house seemingly fell apart.

This week was supposed to be our first road trip together.  We were heading up to NY for my dad’s 60th birthday, but Monday we got the call that my mom’s fiancé was on life support in the hospital.

“Papa Jim” has been a part of our lives for many years, and we love him so much.  So to hear that he had suffered a massive heart attack and wasn’t likely to survive was devastating.  His condition deteriorated, and my father called and demanded that I come to Florida instead to be with my mom.

This necessitated an emergency call to AFS, as we knew that Mike would not be able to care for Kristin adequately in my absence, primarily due to the fact that there would be no transportation available and the fact that he’s out of the house for work at 5AM and doesn’t get home till after 6PM. 

Our liaison was great, and got back in touch with us immediately.  By Tuesday night, we had a plan formulated, and I was able to leave Wednesday morning to start driving to Florida.  It was a long, long drive, and at about 1pm, we got word that Papa Jim had passed away.  We got word at dinner time that Kristin had been picked up and was now staying at our liaison’s house.

We didn’t get to my mom’s house until almost midnight.  Things have been chaos here.  Four adults and three toddlers packed into a two bedroom home with friends and neighbors stopping in at all hours to drop off food, express their condolences, and give hugs and support, as well as a phone ringing non-stop, and my dad’s 60th birthday coming and going, as well as all the details we are trying to get worked out from the logistics of Papa Jim passing, not to mention my school work for my class, it’s been a nightmare.

But we are so grateful to everyone who has been supportive and helped us in so many ways. 

So things with Kristin are pretty up in the air right now.  On top of the stress from the house and school, adding in the death of a loved one and the grieving process seems like in many ways more than I can bear, and more than she should have to bear with our family.  We are so lucky to have had a kid who didn’t add any stress to our family during any of this, who has not expressed any resentment over missed trips and lost vacations and stressed out parents and a crazy toddler.  If anyone in the Stafford High School catchment area wants an awesome kid to host, this would be the kid.

Mike is trucking along at home—friends and neighbors have generously given him rides, taken him shopping, and so forth.  Kristin is, I hope, happy at her liaison’s and doing fine with the new family and schedule.  I will probably be here with my mom for the better part of the next 2 weeks and then we’ll head home and see what’s what. 

This has been the most stressful two months of my life, and I won’t be sorry to say goodbye to 2011!!  I hope Kristin isn’t permanently scarred for life. Smile

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nearly October!?

I really, really can’t believe it is the end of September already.  While the first weeks Kristin were here did often seem to drag on a bit, now that she’s been in school, the time is flying by.

Kristin commenced school right after Labor Day and is doing fine.  She has typical exchange student problems of not really catching everything in class that’s being said, and often feels worried about her homework assignments, not being entirely sure what to do.  Fortunately, her teachers are very helpful and when I email them, they happily email us back with a more detailed explanation, which we find helpful.  We spend a couple of hours at night on homework—my task is to be the resident spelling bee.  I’ve spelled everything from “environment” to “collect”.  Kristin’s least favorite letters are E and I, as she finds it hard to remember which is which.

Sometimes she ties in the things we do to her homework and that cracks me up.  I have an obsession with the TV show Hoarders, so last night when she had to write a monologue for her drama class, she decided to write one about a hoarder.  She used the show as research for what a hoarder would talk about.  Pretty smart girl!

A couple of weeks ago, Kristin joined the cross country team.  Occasionally she comes home vowing to quit, but she always changes her mind the next day as she says, “I like my teammates!”  It is very physically demanding and she comes home sore and exhausted, and then has lots of homework today.  Often she feels that she doesn’t have much time to relax.  It has been good for her in terms of meeting people, however, and she had a genius way of getting to know people better by loudly announcing at practice, “I hate the activity bus!” so someone offered her a ride home.  I thought that was pretty ingenious, actually, so way to go Kristin!

She has been to a football game or two.  We were talking yesterday about it and she said she doesn’t understand the rules.  I, who have been watching the Patriots for 10 years now, also do not understand the rules, but gamely attempted to explain them to her.  My explanation in part was, “You get an extra point if you kick it through the Y shaped thingy at the end”…  Believe it or not, she knew what I was talking about.

this weekend, Kristin had her first AFS orientation.  I think she enjoyed it and immediately came home and added all her new pals on her Facebook.  We also got in a couple games of laser tag on Friday and a trip to Cold Stone, her favorite!

P1130670I guess the big excitement is that we asked Kristin to do some Icelandic cooking for us.  She settled on two dishes—Skyr and rice pudding.  Now, of course, you can get Skyr in the grocery store but I was informed that it’s not very good, even in Iceland, and needs to be dressed up to be edible.  She got the recipe from home and we had our friends Andy, Melissa, and Emily over as they are enthusiasts of international cooking.  The Skyr was done in an instant, she was an expert on that.  The rice pudding was more of a challenge and finally Kristin announced, “this is boring, I’m sick of cooking it!” and served it as is, which was nice and creamy, but the rice was rock solid.  We all found it hilarious.  We also got out the rest of the Icelandic chocolate and the Icelandic fish.  Kristin also made us apple sandwiches, so we had a real feast!


Everything was a big hit!

This week we will take our first roadtrip.  My dad is turning 60 and we are heading up to New York to celebrate.  It will be the longest trip Kristin’s ever taken in the car—10 hours at least—and we are preparing her by packing snacks, drinks, and a DVD player.  It’ll be nice to show her rural America and the people I grew up with.  I hope she enjoys herself!!  I’m looking forward to having a break and getting away for a couple days. 

Kristin is also “hosting” a Pampered Chef show in October, with a Cold Stone ice cream theme.  If she’s still here, we are going to go to a book signing with Diane Keaton, are in discussions with a  friend about a trip to Philadelphia to see Sara Bareilles, and are debating other fun and games as the year progresses.  We just have to find out what she wants to do!  Sooooo….

When we get back, it’ll be decision time.  We’ve asked Kristin what she thinks about staying here for the rest of the year and her answer is, “I don’t know”.  I think it’s possible in some ways she would be much happier with a family with older kids and pets, but she has settled in nicely here as well.  There have been times I’ve been convinced she’s going to give me trouble, and I’m glad to say I’ve been wrong—things have gone quite smoothly.  So we have offered her the chance to stay.  Whether or not she takes it, that’s up to her!  We won’t be upset either way.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print!!!  See you all from the other side of our NY trip!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mary Mom-A-Thon

A quick note to let you know that although I’d love to be leaving you comments, for some reason your Google Word Verification is not cooperating with my computer… I really have no idea why…  I’m still reading your every new update and all that good stuff!!!  I just can’t leave you a comment!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lessons Learned at Giant

Going to our local grocery store has provided some interesting lessons in our cultural differences. 

Kristin got out of the car as the person in the car next to her was getting in.  He said, “Oh, excuse me” as is pretty normal in our culture, but Kristin finds it hilarious that people say ‘excuse me’ as they go past each other.  I explained the concept of personal space and how Americans don’t really like to get too close to each other without excusing themselves, but apparently in Iceland it’s no big deal.

On a different visit, rather than visit self check out, I decided to let the lonely-looking clerk at the check out do our groceries.  He was a friendly enough guy and said, “Do you want to be a re-useable shopping bag?”  I said, “No, I enjoy destroying the environment for free” and the guy busted up laughing and we started chatting like old friends.  Pretty soon, another woman got on line behind us, looked at our purchases, and asked us what we were baking (peanut butter bars and cashew bars for an AFS picnic).  I told her and she asked how to make them, I explained it was our first try doing it and I wasn’t sure of the recipe, that kind of thing, and between the 3 of us, we had a very nice exchange.

When we got out to the car, Kristin said, “Americans will tell you their life story even if you don’t know them!”  She can’t get over how everyone talks to each other, even asking if I knew those people, which I didn’t.  I think it’s friendly, she thinks it’s crazy.  :) 

I think Iceland may be a very quiet place!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Everything Else

Well, I’ve written all the fun and games, and some of the not so much fun, that took up our 3 weeks welcoming Kristin.  Today marks 4 weeks since she arrived and Monday marks one month since we brought her home.  So what are some of the things we’ve learned about each other?

1.  Iceland and Icelanders are used to dealing with natural disaster.  Americans panic at the thought of a severe thunderstorm.  Unfortunately, with the way the media blows the threat of impending storms way out of proportion, it causes natural families in Iceland to panic at the thought of their beloved daughter being swept out to sea on the waves of a vicious killer hurricane, after the entire Eastern seaboard is broken off in a killer earthquake.  In contrast, a 12 hour loss of electricity doesn’t seem so bad.  There are currently cluster earthquakes happening in Iceland centered around a major volcano.  While it is worrying, Icelanders seem to be adopting a “wait and see” attitude.

2.  Halloween is getting so crazy here in the US that Kristin is powerfully excited for October 31 to roll around.  In Iceland it is customary that the children dress up, go to local shops and sing a song, for which they are given treats.  By contrast, Kristin has been taking picture of Halloween miniature villages in craft stores, debated costume choices, pondered Halloween parties, seen candy displays in stores, and enjoyed looking at inflatables for the yard.  She literally giggles every time we see something and last night confided, “I can’t wait for Halloween!”  I hope she’s not disappointed that she’ll spend the day in school and trick or treating is no big deal.  Fortunately, AFS is having a Halloween party if nothing else.

3.  Christmas has come up already as a time that she feels she will be very depressed and homesick.  She explained that in Iceland they have 13 Santa Clauses, and they get small presents every day for 13 days prior to Christmas.  On Christmas Eve, they open their gifts and have a big dinner and get all dressed up.  I explained our Christmas traditions, and was informed they are “stupid”.  I chose not to be insulted by this, mainly because Kristin’s favorite word is “stupid” and she uses it to describe everything from the fact that there are no sidewalks in our neighborhood to the fact that the color of a building doesn’t suit her.  I told her that provided she’s still with us, I would be happy to incorporate some of the things she is used to doing for the holidays into our celebration, but internally immediately panicked as this indicates a long-term view of this hosting experience with which I am not yet entirely comfortable!  However, I do believe that since it is not only Kristin’s exchange, but ours as well, that if she’ll let us, we would incorporate some of her traditions into our celebrations as a fun and new way of doing things.

4.  Teenagers share certain similarities the world over.  Where Penny would spend an hour curling her hair, Kristin will spend an hour straightening hers.  I am assured by friends with teen daughters here in the US that their girls behave similarly. 

5.  The weather we’ve had has been a challenge for Kristin.  She said last night that was so excited to come to Virginia because she was sure it was going to be sunny and warm and she’d get an awesome tan.  Unfortunately, it’s done a whole lot of raining since she arrived.  She says everyone at school is so nice and brown, and she was very proud of the tan she did managed to get until she saw all of them.  I pointed out they had an extra few months of sun and she was working inside all summer bagging fish.  Her response?  “Stupid fish”.

6.  Kristin really is pretty obsessed with big houses and fast cars.  I think she was under the impression that we all live like they do in Malibu or Beverly Hills, with flashy cars and fancy houses and tons of cash to throw around.  Sadly for her, that is not the case.  And of course, our house has been in a state of rebellion since she arrived.  Still, when we were up in Vienna for the pool party, she saw all the big houses and stated, “I’d like to live here!”  Whenever we’re out, she looks at all the cars she finds amazing when we pass and says, “Cool car!”  Sadly for her, she’s stuck in middle-suburbia with a host mom who drives a station wagon.

7.  Kristin didn’t know what Columbine was.  We watched a fake documentary about 2 boys who plotted to blow up their school and kill a bunch of people, and at the end, the scene in which they carry it out was taken directly from the video of the Columbine library.  She was shocked that something like that actually happened, and I showed her pictures of the real people involved and told her about the fact that Mike and I were on vacation when Columbine happened and 3 years later got married on the anniversary of it happening.  I find it interesting that it never entered her consciousness, but I guess kids of a certain age and kids who aren’t American have no frame of reference….

I really have enjoyed the past 4 weeks very much.  I feel far more mellow than when Penny was here, I suppose in part because I view this as a largely transitory experience, although I do have thoughts of it lasting all year from time to time.  Kristin implied on Monday that she is afraid to move somewhere else where she doesn’t know the people due to the largely positive experience she’s had thus far, and I admit there was a little lump in my throat when we thought we’d found her a permanent family.  We’ll see what happens!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day Weekend!

When I last wrote last week, I had an inkling that we’d be busy for Labor Day weekend, with something planned every day, but it went by in a heartbeat.  To be honest, looking back on these last 3 weeks, which at times seemed torturously slow, it’s hard to believe they’re gone and tomorrow our brave young lady will board the big yellow bus and roll off to meet her destiny at Stafford!  I remember last year, we watched Penny board the bus and I said to Mike, “That is the bravest thing I think I’ve ever seen”.  I know I’ll feel the same way tomorrow morning!

Anyway, to get back to our busy weekend and to quit rambling…

We had made plans for Thursday night to go out with our neighbors, Mark and Sherri and Sherri’s daughter Katie, who has been hanging around with Kristin a good little bit.  Mark and Sherri are good friends with the owners of a Thai restaurant in town and we got to know those folks through Penny’s being here, which was nice.  They are a really lovely family.  I was excited to take Kristin for Thai food, since I felt like it was kind of bringing her and Penny together. 

P1130608 I specifically made plans with Kristin and a girl from our neighborhood that Friday we would be going to Kings Dominion, a giant amusement park here in Virginia about 30 miles south of F’burg.  I told all contractors to hold it and off we went.  It was important to me that Kristin have someone her age to go with, as I knew I’d be taking Leah along and it was important that she be able to ride the rides with someone other than me.  Additionally, I wanted her to have some fun with someone who was willing to go on roller coasters and drop rides, and I am not.  I knew from talking with Taylor in June that she is a real daredevil, so I asked her and she accepted.  We were off!  We picked her up at around 10:00 and were at Kings Dominion before 11AM.  We were accosted in the parking lot by a lady who had an extra ticket to sell and so we got one ticket for only $28 and got a second for $29 since Taylor is a season pass holder and can get one person in at a reduced rate.  Leah was free!

We stopped to get some pictures with Snoopy and then walked over to the kids section to the Ghoster Coaster or something?  It used to be a Scooby Doo themed ride but then KD was taken over by a different company and no longer has the rights to Scooby so they renamed it.  It’s a children’s roller coaster—more than just for young kids, but not much more than 9-10 year olds would be too scared of it.  Leah was predictably too short, so we let Taylor and Kristin go on and we stood and waited to take a picture (they are in the very back car).

P1130612 When they got off, Kristin could barely walk, screaming that it was SO FAST!  They were laughing hysterically and I knew they were going to have a great day.  Their next stop was this crazy thing:

P1130614so I made sure to have Taylor’s phone number and Leah and I set off on our own adventure with plans to meet up with the girls at 1pm.

I tried to get Leah on a couple of rides, but we kept getting kicked off.  The people who work at KD informed me that unless Leah was willing to sit on the actual seat, not my lap, and not be screaming her head off while doing it, they could not allow us to continue to ride.  In the first 3 hours we were there, the only ride we managed to ride was the carousel, and only then because we could sit in the sleigh with her on my lap.  I also took her to the top of KD’s Eiffel Tower and we saw the park from up there, and it was a pretty cool vantage point!

P1130616  P1130618

The large tower in the second picture is a ride called “Drop Zone” I think.  The ring you see around the middle is actually chairs, and it rises up to the top and then plummets a couple of hundred feet to the ground.  Kristin loved that ride, although she was terrified of the roller coasters.  Taylor did manage to get her on 3 or 4 roller coasters while we were there, however!

After lunch at Chick Fil A, we got changed and headed to the water park.  Leah LOVED the tidal wave pool, while Kristin and Taylor hit all the big water slides and tubing adventures.  They came back as things were winding down and I was attempting to get Leah to take a nap, and offered to take Leah swimming, so I let them and curled up on a chaise lounge and snoozed for the better part of an hour.  When the girls brought her back, I took her to get changed and we met up with the girls again at 5:45, only to find out that in one of the tube rides, Kristin’s sunglasses fell off and she tipped out of the tube onto her head and had a pile of lifeguards rushing to her aid!  Thankfully she was fine, as were the sunglasses.  We were supposed to leave the park at 5:30, but wound up having pizza for dinner and then going over to the SpongeBob 4D movie (which Leah was not allowed to “ride”, so we sat in the motionless seats!).  As we were heading out, Kristin was all sad that we hadn’t done the log flume ride, but Taylor refused, saying she didn’t want to get wet again, so I took Kristin on it.  We had a nice time and at least I got to do one ride, but at the end, Taylor dropped a quarter into the water cannon and blasted us with water!  AUGH!

P1130624 Saturday was a well deserved morning of rest and then I announced my intention to catch up with school work for the entire afternoon, which I did.  I got a TON of work done and was so proud of myself for figuring out some XML!  Hooray :)  Afterwards, I decided we should all go out together and we headed to Chuck E. Cheese.  While probably not terribly appealing to a teenager, going there as a family of 4 is FAR cheaper than going to Funland.  You can see in her little face that Leah is not terribly sure about this big sister business, but Kristin is making an effort to win her over after a bit of initial resistance!  We played a ton of games together—got our pictures taken, fought fires, shot hoops, played Skee Ball, and more.  It was a ton of fun and we brought home one exhausted toddler, more importantly.  We got home around 8:30 and at 9:00, Kristin and I headed back out to go see “The Help” at the local movie theater.  It was an absolutely brilliant movie and on the way home, we discussed if things are getting better in race relations in America, what Leah’s future will look like as the adopted child of white parents, who the new minorities are, and a riveting discussion on the situation of the Portuguese in Iceland.  Apparently much like migrant workers in the US, the Portuguese flock to Iceland to work in the fishing industry and ship their money back to Portugal.  Many Icelanders don’t like the Portuguese for this reason.  I had no idea about that at all!  We discussed my time living in the deep south, we talked about OJ Simpson (who was apparently friends with the Kardashians, whom Kristin ADORES), and more.  It was a great movie, a riveting history lesson, and led to some frank and amazing discussion.

P1130639 I had decided that on Sunday we would have a welcome party for Kristin.  I sent out invitations but neglected to tell my husband about the party (oops!  Sorry honey!).  I had asked everyone to bring potluck but also decided to provide meat, drinks, and a couple of sides, so I sat and debated what to do.  I finally hit on grilled chicken, hot dogs (we have one friend who resolutely refuses to eat chicken, and since I got chicken with bones my hubby wasn’t eating it either!), fiesta corn salad, fruit salad, and ramen salad.  I got a cake for dessert and let the chips fall where they may.  And people were so generous.  We had an amazing collection of friends arrive—about 20—and they all brought many amazing things, including peach pineapple casserole, green bean casserole, fruit, cheese logs, cookies, pound cake, cobbler and more! 

Kristin spent the morning on Skype with her family and then as I started preparing the food, for the first time ever, she asked me if I wanted some help.  I was so excited that she wanted to help me out, so I put her in charge of the fruit salad and I was blown away at how beautiful it looked when she was done.  It was like a work of art!

P1130629All I did was hollow out the melon, she did the rest.  And let me tell you, there was a LOT of fruit and there when the party started and there was literally none left when it was over.

It was a nice day, very very hot, but everyone had a great time and it lasted till nearly 6:30.

P1130638  P1130632 P1130633

In the first picture, the girl to the left in the Abercrombie shirt is an AFSer from Italy—I am her liaison this year.  It was my first chance to meet her, so that was amazing!  And for my part, I was pleased that some of my new friends I’d never had over before had come!  It was great to hang out with new friends and old. 

One of the families who came to visit mentioned an interest in hosting and even volunteered on the spot to be Kristin’s family for the year!  I introduced her to our local rep and they were going to get things going, and Kristin was pretty excited.  Unfortunately just a few hours later, they emailed me to say they didn’t think they could do it this year.  I dreaded telling Kristin that news, as while we’d been making all the food, the AFS pool party had been canceled.  After the party was over, I checked my email and learned that the pool party was back on, so I steeled myself and went up to Kristin’s room and said, “There’s good news and bad news, which do you want?”  She asked for the bad news first and I told her and she actually took it quite well.  I gave her the good news that the party was back on and then invited her downstairs to watch a movie, so we watched Matthew Broderick and Meg Ryan plot against their exes in Addicted to Love and then turned in for the night.

Yesterday morning, we left about 11:30 and drove up to Vienna for the AFS pool party.  We stopped en route to pick up a fruit tray and fruit dip to bring with us and then arrived at the party just as it was kicking off.  There was a really good crowd of kids—not everyone made it but there were still about 15 AFSers in attendance. Most of them had their parents drop them off, but I stuck around since it was an hour’s drive there, and there were a couple of other host moms to chat with and two members of our area team were there.  It was nice to connect and we got to talking about things and I wound up volunteering to launch an AFS Virginia Facebook page, which I did last night.  The kids took all the food to the other side of the pool, ate, swam, and chatted for a long time, and then a downpour began so we went inside the community center.  The kids all started playing cards and soon a hot game of “Spoons” started, which resulted in a pile of AFS kids killing each other to get their hands on a spoon.  It was pretty hilarious.

P1130642 P1130644

We drove back to the Burg and stopped at the grocery store to get our food for the week.  Kristin wanted to stock up on goodies for her lunch, and decided to make herself tuna salad as well as a regular salad and bottle of water.  We brought home frozen pizzas and had that for dinner last night and then she started her laundry and getting ready for school.  We chatted about setting her alarm and I showed her how to do that, gave her some school supplies she needed, and at 10:00, we enforced bedtime for the first time.  Things have been pretty loosey goosey around here since it’s been summer, but now it’s time to tow the line, so in addition to helping put all the groceries away and doing her laundry, Kristin also helped take out the trash last night. 

We had a lovely chat on the way home from the BBQ about her confusion over why the other family backed out after only a couple of hours, and Kristin said she really had mixed feelings about leaving.  She had just talked herself into it, that it’d be fun to have a sister the same age and at the same school, and then the plug got pulled and she started to think about being a welcome student.  She said, “I’m so scared AFS is just going to put me somewhere just to put me somewhere. You are so nice and I don’t want to go somewhere with a family who is not so nice as you.”  Darn it if that didn’t just make me want to cry!  So I re-assured her that they wouldn’t put her anywhere that she couldn’t give her input on and that if she really, really desperately wanted to stay with us, then we’d consider that possibility.  I hope that puts her mind at ease.  She’s a lovely girl and deserves to not have to stress about these things!

P1130647 So that was our Labor Day weekend.  Kristin left this morning at 6:45AM for school—she declined to let me take a picture of her getting on the bus, so I grabbed one as she was walking out the door.  I know she’ll have a great day—she is worried about the strange schedule and about lunch and who to sit with, but I told her to just find someone who looks friendly as she is leaving to go to lunch and to attach herself to them.  I know she’ll do well, the first few days will be a challenge and then we’ll probably just see the back end of her from there out!

Hope everyone else’s kids have a great school year!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Trip to the Mountains

So last Wednesday, my friend Melissa was free and we decided to take Kristin and Leah up into the mountains in the western part of the state to visit Luray Caverns and the Skyline Drive.  Last time I took Leah to the caverns, she went crazy, running around, screaming, ducking under ropes, etc. so I was glad that I had back up with Melissa to help me keep her safe and quiet!


We met up around 9:30 and hopped in Melissa’s car and took off.  We drove up and over a big mountain on a twisty road to get out there, so I wound up getting out a map to show Kristin the route, and I think she was happy to have a concrete idea as to where we were going.  We made it no trouble by 11:15 and stopped off at a Pizza Hut to eat lunch before going over to the caverns for the tour.  Our timing was impeccable, as the tour was just getting ready to go down, so we didn’t have to wait very long.  There were a lot of people on the tour, and they tell you when you go in that you cannot touch anything, the reason being that salts and bacteria on our hands can cause the rocks to quit growing, become brittle, and break.  The other 2 times I’ve been on the tour, people have obeyed this command.  Not this time.  Seriously, my two year old obeyed better than several adults on the tour.  One lady actually sat on the rocks to get her picture taken.  The tour guide was apoplectic. 

Leah was a good bit more subdued this time, thanks to the fact that it was really pretty much naptime and she’d had lunch.  Note to self to repeat this next time we go somewhere!  There’s not much to say other than that the caves are gorgeous and Kristin lingered a lot to take pictures!  The light is not good down there (haha) so we had a hard time getting pictures of her, but got at least one decent one!  She spent a lot of time learning to use her camera, which was good, and we just saw some beautiful formations.

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After the tour was over, we went through the gift shop and I found magnets which said Leah and Kristin, so I bought each girl their name as a souvenir.  Leah immediately attempted to eat hers, so we decided it was time to hop in the car and hit Skyline Drive to go to Big Meadows visitor center.  The drive was beautiful and we pulled over several times to get pictures in the various overlooks.  We had absolutely amazing weather.

317846_10150355965012498_733927497_9708779_6994441_n 301446_10150355967882498_733927497_9708802_3135308_n A perfect day on the Blue Ridge

We got to big meadows and hit the concessions stand.  They are apparently famous there for their blackberry ice cream, and Melissa had taken Penny up there last spring to do some hiking and Penny came home raving about the ice cream, so I decided to try some for myself.  YUM!  It was really, really good.  Kristin tried a sundae and Leah got some plain Jane vanilla, but she loved it!


Afterwards, we went to the Big Meadows visitor center and looked at their exhibit and saw deer, which Kristin had been asking about.  It was a really great day, we had a beautiful ride and a nice visit.  Sadly, Leah refused to nap, so she got really cranky on the ride home, but we played her some Lady Gaga in the car, which made her happy.  I asked her who it was singing and she said, “Gaga!” and Kristin thought that was the cutest thing, so I’m glad she got some entertainment out of that and hopefully it helped her like Leah a bit more!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Can’t Make it Up!

Hello fans and friends…

Well, I’m convinced we must have been puppy killers in our past life—the hits just keep on coming!!!  But before I get ahead of myself, let me say this:  We survived Hurricane Irene, no problem.  I really wasn’t too worried about it, I figured we would lose power and we did.  It went out at 4:30pm on Saturday afternoon and came back on around 11:30pm.  The worst challenge of it all was that I put my back out on Friday and have been trying to keep my back in check with a heating pad, which I couldn’t use with no electricity. 

It was a bit of a challenge to keep both Kristin and Leah entertained for the 2 1/2 hours prior to Leah’s bedtime.  It was pouring rain and no electronics meant we were somewhat forced to spend quality time together (gasp)!  But it went off fine.  When it went out, we grabbed what we thought we’d need from the freezer and fridge and fixed ourselves cold suppers—Leah and I had Chef Boyardee ravioli from the can with salad (Chef B is just as gross as I remembered!), Kristin made a salad with leftover cold chicken from when I roasted a chicken a couple days before, and Mike had a bologna and cheese sandwich.  I had optimistically predicted that I’d be able to grill, going so far as to buy a separate set of pans to cook with on the grill, but alas, it was raining sideways and the wind was blowing like crazy.

We had tons of candles lit, and as it got dark and Leah went to bed, we turned on the emergency flashlights i had bought and we had been charging for a couple of days.  We played a quick round of Yahtzee, and Kristin was delighted to discover in my shopping expeditions I had bought the board game Clue.  We broke it out, but were having a good bit of trouble seeing, so Kristin decided she would rig up a chandelier from flashlights.  Our first issue was digging up supplies.  We finally settled on dental floss to tie the lights together.

kristinlightflash Lest you think this was easy and look at all the light we had, here’s the same picture taken without the flash:

kristinlightnoflashWe were in virtual darkness.

Once we got the lights tied together, we decided to string them to the overhead light in our dining room.  Unfortunately, they hung sideways and  cast a perfect spotlight on our refrigerator.  So Kristin decided to try using her ponytail holder to see if that would work, but it really didn’t do much.  So I hit on the solution of bungee cords.  Which was an awesome idea, but they were in the car.  So being the amazing hostmom that I am, I headed for the driveway and sprinted through the wind and rain to come up with bungee cords, which we managed to use successfully to string up the lights, prompting an enthusiastic thumbs up from Kristin!

kristinhanginglightWe got through quite 3 games of Clue, all of which she won, and by the 4th, which was a couple hours later, the lights were dimming.  Since the only flashlights available in all of stupid Fredericksburg were rechargeables (read: no batteries), there wasn’t much I could do, other than that I did find one other flashlight with an LED bulb that we stuck up there and moved the candles closer.

I decided thus that Kristin needed to be inducted into the great American game of Monopoly.  I told her we’d see how bloodthirsty she was, and explained the game.  She caught on quickly, but unfortunately is not terribly ruthless.  Every time she built a house, she’d say how badly she felt about it.  Thus, for probably the first time ever, I won a game of Monopoly!  And I couldn’t even really feel good about it.  But the important thing was that mid-game, we broke out the marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers and made s’mores over the candles.

smoreWe even got gourmet—we used peanut butter cups, caramel Hershey kisses, and Snickers bars in the creation of our s’mores.  Kristin was concerned that they were going to be disgusting, but the minute she took a bite, she said, “Oh my, that’s so good!” 

Around 11:30, the lights came back on, and we were able to finish our game in the light.  The game lasted till almost 1:00AM, and then we both decided to go to sleep!  This morning, I woke up around 6:00 and the power was back out.  We have an alarm on our internet provider’s battery back up system and it was beeping like crazy because the battery back up was dying.  I came to the conclusion that it was basically likely that the power had gone out 2 or so hours before.  I think it woke Leah up too, because by 7AM, she was ready to go.  I got her up and let Mike and Kristin sleep and we took a walk around the block and then hopped in the car to see what we could see in town.  It was quite disappointing—not much damage or anything, and the power was on in most of the city, just not on our block.  We stopped off at Dunkin Donuts and got a dozen to take home and then headed back.

This afternoon, our A/C started making a weird noise and so we called our A/C company to come out and have a look and it appears that we have to have a new furnace, since the motor in the furnace burned out, and that’s what blows the cold air around.  On top of everything else going on, I had something of a nervous breakdown and just took some time to go for a walk and try to collect my thoughts. 

Kristin decided to distract me tonight with Free Willy 2 (which made me a little weepy, damnit!) and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  She likes fantasy and fairy tale movies, and judging by the fact that I view my part of the exchange experience to be that I try new things that my students are interested in, I’m going to be well versed in this stuff by the time our time with Kristin is over.  Penny liked screwball comedy and teeny bopper stuff, so I became a great watcher of iCarly, Diary of  Wimpy Kid, and the Hangover.  I am hopefully becoming a more well-rounded mom and person as a result of my interactions with these kids! :)

I swear I have good things to post besides the gloom and doom of our house seemingly collapsing around our ears, so keep checking back and when I’m not exhausted from chasing a toddler and a teen, taking care of Mike, running a household, studying for my master’s, and crying my eyes out, I’ll be back! :) 

And just a reminder—AFS USA has another week to find homes for 275 great kids who still need host families.  Even if you can’t commit for a full year, and yet are willing to give a kid a month to get in and get settled, please, please, please contact AFS USA today and sign up!  Seriously, if they haven’t pulled the plug on us yet, they will find out a great host family, I know it!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Meteorological Week from Hell!

Well, this has been the craziest week ever…  Tuesday was my birthday and I got Kristin over to the school to meet her counselor.  It took a while to have our appointment, and we wound up just leaving the counselor’s office when I heard what sounded like a freight train rumbling towards us.  Then all of a sudden picture frames and stuff started clanking and it hit me that it was an earthquake!  I grabbed Leah and ducked under the reception desk, but the counselors started screaming that we should all go outside.  So we raced outside, and I turned back to see Kristin sauntering towards the back of the crowd, cool as a cucumber!  We got outside and stood around waiting, and she said that in Iceland it is quite common to have earthquakes and she regarded it as no big deal.  Well, it’s not the first one I’ve ever been in, but it is the first one I’ve ever experienced (slept through my first and didn’t notice my second!), so I was really, really excited about it.  We decided to get in the car and drive home, and when we got here, all the cabinet doors in the kitchen were open, a picture had fallen off the mantle and smashed on the fireplace, and some of our good china had been shifted around.

Some hours later, we felt a good sized aftershock, and then that was it until the next night when we all got shaken awake at 1AM by another aftershock.  It was great excitement all around.  Many friends and family were terrified, but I suppose in a way having an old pro in the house helped me to feel not so scared.  The one that woke me up in the wee small hours of the morning scared me much more than the original quake.

Yesterday, we had a massive thunderstorm.  My husband’s radio antenna blew over, our outdoor furniture got blown around, trash strewn everywhere, etc.  The power went out at 4:30, just as Kristin was getting involved in a game of Titanic on the Wii, and stayed out for 7 hours.  Kristin asked if it was Hurricane Irene, but I had to tell her that sadly, no, it’s just a storm, the hurricane is still to come!

We went out to dinner and had a family meeting when we got back, just to see how she was feeling about things and talk about some things we were concerned about.  She then took some candles up to her room to work on her journal and whatnot.  A drive this morning shows LOTS of broken trees and tree limbs, so I hope that the damage is done if Irene arrives.  Although I am secretly praying that our POS shed collapses in the storm and we can claim it on our insurance and get a new one!

Current predictions are that Irene will hit F’burg as a tropical storm this weekend.  I went out this morning and picked up bread, water, shelf stable milk, non-perishable food items, ice for the cooler, and cookware I can use on the grill without damaging my good stuff.  I picked up 3 rechargeable flashlight/emergency light things that should last and a bunch more candles.  To keep us busy and happy, I got Clue and Monopoly as well.  Laptop is charged, cell phone is charged, iPod is charged—we should manage to keep entertained with those things for a while, even if we can’t get online.  I hope it won’t come to the point we need to use any of it!

We won’t be going up to New England as I’d hoped because the storm is due to go up that way and everyone is nervous.  I need to start looking into what we can do for Kristin’s final week before school starts!!!  I have a few ideas.  I will write about the positives of this week soon, and yes there are some!!!!  This poor kid—she has had the worst welcome ever…  But it’s one she’ll never forget, I can guarantee it!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fun Weekend

So the weekend is over!  I had something planned for each day and it felt good to get out of the house and away from all the crazy. 

I had found out a while ago that the band Barenaked Ladies was coming to Fredericksburg August 19 (Friday), and since they are pretty much my favorite band ever, I was definitely going to go.  I had seen them once before up in Fairfax with my sister and my friend Heather and so I asked them if they’d like to go and they said yes, so we got tickets!  When I found out Kristin was coming, I asked her if she wanted to go.  She had never heard of BNL, but also said she’d never been to a concert before, so she thought it would be fun.  We had paid for “premium seats”.  I had thought we should go early since the seating is first come first served in the “premium” section, but then I just decided to relax and as my sister got stuck in traffic, it was just as well—she didn’t make it till 4 and she left Alexandria at noon.

We decided to have dinner first, and went over to Buffalo Wild Wings so Kristin could experience buffalo wings for the first time.  So she opted for a burger! hahaha  But she did try corn dogs too. :-)  Through that dinner, I learned she does not like onions or honey mustard, important information!


P1130467 At around 5:30, we drove over to Celebrate Virginia Live—it turns out it’s just a field next to Wegman’s and when they’re having a concert, they put up a stage and call it a pavilion!  Go figure.  We got our tickets, no problem, and then went into the seating area, which was pretty much empty!  Yahoo!  We got seats in the third row, dead center.  I was in HEAVEN!  I’ve been pretty close in other concerts before (5th row for Eric Idle, 7th row for Meatloaf), but this was TOPS!  There was time before the opening act, Jukebox the Ghost, came on, so we just sorta sat around and didn’t do much. 

The opening act was pretty decent, I must say, and I have a history of seeing crappy opening acts for bands, so it’s a serious plus for me that I didn’t dislike those guys.  It started to rain a bit, which kind of sucked, but also gave a kind of Woodstock-esque atmosphere to the whole thing.  I walked around a bit and found some friends in the back, slogged through the mud, and Heather bought Kristin cotton candy.  Then it was finally time!

BNL took the stage pretty much right on time, and they were great.  Despite losing one of their lead singers a couple years ago, I really think they sounded amazing and the concert was great.  We were on our feet the whole time, dancing and singing, and I got tons of pictures and videos, and just LOVED it. 

P1130478 P1130496 By the time it was done, Judy couldn’t even talk.  Kristin declared us “a little” nerdy.  Hahaha

Saturday, was party night.  At Penny’s goodbye party in June, I had a few of my friends over with whom she had gotten close, and I said when our exchange was over, I needed to go out with my peeps and get a drink.  So we got to planning and decided to have a slumber party the weekend before my birthday, which is tomorrow.  Well, surprise!  Kristin arrived, so sleeping over was not an option due to space, but we decided to party at my friend, Melissa’s house.  We went up there at 6pm and had a really nice chat the whole way up.  We got up there in time to see the end of Shaun of the Dead, eat pizza, and discuss our plans for the night, and decided to go play laser tag, something that Kristin really enjoys and the one time I’ve played, I hate.  (I’m too much of a pacifist to hide in dark places and pretend to shoot people.)

Kristin’s first pack didn’t work very well, but she still did quite well, much better than I did!  We played a second game and she killed me a ton of times!  It was crazy.  My friend Emily and I tried to form a team and get each other’s backs, and it worked pretty well in the second game, so that was good.  It was fun and Kristin laughed a lot, so that made me happy!

We went back to Melissa’s and sang karaoke, although Kristin staunchly refused, saying she doesn’t sing (she must not have been listening—none of us do!).  Afterwards, we decided to play a game called “paper telephone”.  It’s a lot like the game telephone in which you whisper things around the circle and see what comes back, only in paper telephone, you start by writing something down on a piece of paper, the next person draws a picture of what you’ve written, the next person writes down what they see in the drawing, and so on.  We played that probably 8-10 times and it was hilarious.  Culture only played into it once when Kristin got “sloppy joes” and didn’t know what they were.  But let me tell you, drawing what Andy deemed “A cowboy wrestling a gingerbread man” was a real challenge!

P1130508We got home around 3AM and while we were gone, the toilet that caused the destruction in the house had coughed up a “hairball”—basically a giant brick of sludge, so I wound up cleaning that until 3:30 and for some reason, couldn’t sleep past 7:30 that morning.  We left at 10AM on Sunday to go up to Judy’s.  There is a local water park for kids called the SprayGround—basically a pile of fountains and water tables that you can run through.  It is closing this week, so I wanted to go one more time, although frankly I like it much more than Leah does.  We got in a bit of a splash war with Kristin, which was fun and afterwards went to Fuddruckers for dinner.

We got home and Kristin went on Skype with her parents and even got Leah on camera and showed her her dogs, and then I put Leah to bed.  Kristin came down and said she was going to go up to her room and watch a movie.  Then she kind of looked at me sideways and said, “Unless you wanna watch it with me?”  Of course I did!  So I made some popcorn and we watched Kung Fu Panda, which is one of her favorite movies, apparently and was cute!!!  I took a shower and got to thinking about the fact that this week is pretty busy but next week is EMPTY and how I really didn’t want to sit around and do nothing for another week, so we all talked and we are thinking about going up to Mike's family’s house in Rhode Island.  It will depend on if his parents will have us and if he can get the time off work, but since we really don’t know what will happen, it’ll be nice to go and take at least one trip with Kristin before she possibly moves out.  NY and Philadelphia are quick and easy day trips that I can make in September or October, but it’ll be a good thing to see New England a bit as well.

So that’s it for our big weekend!  Today Kristin is going to lunch and shopping with our neighbor’s daughter, Katie.  Tomorrow is my birthday and since I”m kind of depressed about it, I’m just going to do normal things like take Leah to Toddlin’ Time and take Kristin to her school registration appointment.  Wednesday we are going out to Luray Caverns and Friday I am putting together a little party to welcome Kristin to the area with some kids from the high school.  Not sure what we’ll do next weekend, although my sister and I have to get together to make invitations for my dad’s 60th at the end of September.

So that’s all the news that’s fit to print!  Progress is being made in transforming us into a family, not just a host family.  It makes me happy, each baby step.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Monuments, Yahtzee, Alphabets, and Rock

This has been the longest week of my life—none of which has really anything to do with Kristin.  Monday, the clean up crew arrived to begin work on our basement and since then, we’ve affectionately dubbed our basement “The Wind Tunnel” owing to the number of fans and dehumidifiers going down there, and I’ve been calling my house “The Pit of Despair” owing to the fact that I want to just cry whenever I think about the job ahead of us.

So I decided to put all my cards on the table and do my nighttime tour of DC early.  One of the few things Kristin was able to communicate prior to her arrival was that she really wanted to see famous tourist sites while she was in the US.  She specifically mentioned the White House and the Capitol, so Monday night, I bundled her up and off we went.  Of course, we got stuck in traffic on 395 which prompted a disgusted, “URGH!” from her and with which I most vehemently concurred.

We left around 8:30 and made it to DC just before 10, a new low.  We had a really nice chat all the way up—talking about her brother, about disability services in Iceland, about all kinds of really interesting topics.  But all was forgotten when we got there and she started seeing things and her camera refused to work.  It staunchly refused to take pictures at night that weren’t black!  I offered her mine, but she continued to play with hers and just told me what she wanted pictures of if she couldnt’ get hers to cooperate.

Our first stop was the Capitol building.  Some nice passersby came and offered to take her a picture on her memory card, but she declined in favor of me taking one on my little camera, so this is what I got for her:

P1130376I was really stoked about the moon Monday night—I thought it was a cool addition the pictures we were taking! :)

After that, we drove past the park in front of the White House, as close as we could get to it and I pulled over and she tried to get pictures, but again, nothing came out.  Consequently, we used mine, and my zoom isn’t that great and there were signs in the way, so our sole picture was rather disappointing, but I had to move along as the cops didn’t take kindly to me blocking the road they’d blocked already with traffic cones!

P1130377P1130382 That accomplished, we drove over to the WWII Memorial to park.  Seeing it from the car prompted an “Ooooh!” from Kristin and she loved it, as I think most people do when they see it.  We worked hard on getting her a decent picture with the fountains and were finally somewhat successful!  We walked all over the memorial and I told her that now that she is a Virginian, we had to get her picture with the Virginia pillar, which she happily obliged me with.  I think I shall take all my exchange students there forever, it’s a fun way to really concretely (pardon the pun) put a sense of their own history into their minds.  P1130389

Afterwards, we began our trek down to the Lincoln Memorial.  I’m very glad that the lighting has improved a great deal down the path.  Several years ago, my AFS brother Franc from Ecuador came to visit and we did the night time DC tour and walked in utter pitch blackness down the same path.  I’m pleased that at least there are some improvements in the lighting so it’s not quite so scary to be out there now!  Along the way, I pointed out the WWI Memorial, a modest little memorial off to one side of the mall.  Compared with the grandeur of the WWII Memorial, it’s quite sad, but it was a nice study in contrasts for Kristin.

Before hitting the Lincoln, I told Kristin we would go visit the creepiest memorial on the mall, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and she concurred with my assessment that it IS rather creepy!  We didn’t linger there for very long, as I think she was a little weirded out by the haunting statues that are there.

P1130412 With that, we set off to the Lincoln Memorial and I met Kristin upstairs as I had to make a quick potty break.  We got some photos for her and she enjoyed the view.  There were some other tourists there (not that I consider myself a tourist, but whatever! haha) taking a photo and their picture taker was laying on the ground to get the shot.  Kristin informed me it would be a beautiful picture, so I willingly obliged and did the same for her.  The things I do for my kids!

Then we went back down the steps.  There is a new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial opening at the end of the month, so there are a lot of fences up around the place, but we found a place to go through and went around to the Vietnam Wall, which always is a sobering place to visit.  She was blown away by the sheer number of names occupying the wall and the significance of it and it was a quiet moment for us both.

On the way back to the car, we stopped off at the small island they built to commemorate the signers of the Declaration of Independence and then made our way back to WWII in a swarm of little insects, of which I have no idea what they are, but which annoy me half to death every time I go down there at night and get attacked by a swarm of them.  Kristin is quite squeamish of bugs, so it was a real trial to her!

We got back to the WWII and I messed around a bit with the black and white setting on my camera and got a couple of interesting pictures and then it was off to the FDR Memorial.

P1130396 Much of the time when I bring people down at night, the FDR fountains are shut off, which really, really ruins it for me.  The FDR is probably my favorite memorial just due to the beauty of the waterfalls—the WWII is my other favorite because my grandfather was a WWII veteran!  I wanted Kristin to be able to see it fully lit and working, and as we walked up to it, I didn’t hear anything and expressed my aggravation.  But as we got inside, she said, “I hear water!” and sure enough, the fountains were on.  AMEN!  She saw the first one and said, “WOW!”, Kristinspeak for “This is awesome!”  She put her feet in and then read the sign, “No wading” and giggled “Oops!” 

P1130432We walked through and I encouraged her to climb out onto the rocks of another fountain—it used to be OK to do so when it first opened, but I’m sure some idiot fell off and that was the end of that.  However, I have many pictures of myself on those rocks and got one of Kristin as well.

P1130438Afterwards, we went down the short path to the Tidal Basin and she loved the view of Washington from the water.  She snapped quite a few pictures, and I just sat and relaxed and took in the view myself.  As we went back up to the memorial, the timer must have clicked off or whatever, because all the fountains stopped.  I was so pleased we had made it in time and she got to see it—she was my good luck charm!

I asked her how she was holding up and if she was tired, and she said she was quite hungry. I told her we had one more stop and then I’d get her something to eat, and we went over the river to the US Marine Corps Memorial.  She couldn’t believe how big it was—she thought it was much, much smaller.  She walked all around it and took lots of pictures.

P1130453Then we hopped into the car and went over the a local McDonald’s that was just closing, so that was a bust.  We then went to a 24 hour CVS and grabbed some food.  Kristin grabbed a chicken sandwich, half of which I found on the counter the next morning and she declared it, “not very good”.  So that kind of sucked for her!   I resolved to make a big meal for her Tuesday night and made a big pot of spaghetti sauce and pasta, of which she ate 3 helpings, plus 3 slices of Texas toast, so I’ve hit on a winner there, far more than pork chops :)

Wednesday night, her liaison came over to see her when I sounded the alarm about everything going on.  They had a very nice time, making pizza and playing with April’s dogs and I had asked April to try and find out how Kristin was really feeling about the situation with our house, but really she had no complaints apparently and April asked us to just relax a bit and let things happen.  But she also did talk to Kristin about the importance of coming out of her room a bit!

So yesterday (Thursday) was supposed to be her school registration appointment, but that got cancelled.  I feel bad for this poor kid—we were supposed to go up to Skyline Drive Wednesday, but that got cancelled because my friend got sick.  I was hoping she’d get to go hang out with this girl from the high school that I met via one of Penny’s friends, but that is postponed till next week because that girl’s mom is out of town.  We’ve spent a lot of time sitting around waiting for clean up crews and insurance adjustors and whatnot, and yesterday came home to wait for the clean up crew only to have them call and cancel at 4pm! 

So I was really feeling pretty grim, but it was then that Kristin decided to spend the day hanging out with us.  We went over to my friend Jacalyn’s house for a little while and then we came home and had lunch and I put Leah down for a nap.  Kristin and I sat and looked over the school website for a few minutes, and I had asked her several times if she wanted to check her email or her Facebook, but she always said no.  She was just kind of playing with the school website, so I said, “You know what, I’m going to go sit in the living room and read my book.  If you need anything, holler.”  And she said, “Can I upload my pictures?”  I told her to go ahead and go crazy, and she spent several hours online, I think emailing and Facebooking and whatever else.  During that time, my neighbor’s daughter called and asked her if she wanted to spend Monday going to lunch and doing some shopping, and she was so happy and decided to take her up on it.  So she has that to look forward to.  She watched Tangled twice with Leah, and even let me leave Leah here when I went to pick Mike up from the train.

Mike decided on the way home that we would play Yahtzee after dinner, and so we introduced her to the wonderful world of Yahtzee, which she lost, but which was a lot of fun and broke the ice in many ways.  Last year, I became very friendly with many host moms, as I’ve said, and one of them said to me yesterday, “Ask her what she needs to be comfortable.”  So as we sat down to play, I said, “Well, Kristin, it’s been a week now, and it’s been a hard week.  To be honest, all I’ve done this week is cry and I know it hasn’t been easy on you either.  So what can we do to make you more comfortable here?”  She said, “Nothing really, I am just fine.”  So again we thanked her for her patience, which she kind of shushed off.  Then all of a sudden, she jumped up and ran to her room and came back and said, “I forgot!  I brought you volcanic rock.” and gave us a pretty awesome rock.  She said, “I hiked all the way to the top of the volcano to get this for you” and my eyes must have gotten big because she started laughing and said, “No, not really, I drove up and got it!”  She started joking around with us a lot after that and it turns out she has a pretty wicked sense of humor!  Then she asked if I’d like to see the Icelandic alphabet, which I did, and she wrote it out.  I got her a copy of the Braille alphabet and some writing that she and Mike had worked on together and wrote out what it said for her so she had that, and we had fun making Mike and me pronounce words in Icelandic and her laughing about it, as well as us laughing about Icelandic names like “Brinhyldur” which is really not even close to anything common here in the US. 

It was a really lovely evening, a major icebreaker for us all, and really a balm to the soul after what we’ve been through.  I’m very excited to have done it and excited for the weekend.  Tonight I’m taking her to see Barenaked Ladies at Celebrate Virginia live, and being that she has never been to a concert before, I’m pretty excited about that one as I think it’ll be an awesome experience for her.  Tomorrow we will go to a “slumber party” without sleeping over at my friend Melissa’s house, which will be a lot of fun.  Sunday she wants to Skype with her family, which is fine, and Monday she will go out with Katie.  Tuesday is my birthday and we will FINALLY get to go to her school appointment!  And then we’ll see what the rest of next week brings.  I am very optimistic that this is going to work out just fine. :)