Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Final Wrap Up

It has been more than a week since we dropped Penny off at the departure site and bid her farewell.  It has been interesting finding our new normal around here without her, just like it was interesting getting into the swing of things when she first arrived.  There have been a lot of moments of sadness, and it’s almost shocking how much free time I have now, but of course, I would much prefer to be busy still!

We have heard from Penny and from her mom.  We were debating what to send back to Thailand as a gift to the family, and finally we decided on a wind chime we found in the Lillian Vernon catalog.  I can’t find it in their online store, but I think it was meant more as a memorial thing after someone died than as a Bon Voyage.  However, we felt the sentiment worked well anyway.  The front of the hanging bit looks like this:

P1120980It reads:  “Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.  I will always remember you.”  The back was engrave-able, so  we decided to have our names and AFS engraved on it, which came out looking like this:

P1120979Penny posted a photo of it on Facebook a few days ago, as it is flying from their home:

263040_186111838110827_100001360375486_426388_2417632_n[1]And her mom sent along a note that read, “Thank you very much for your present.  We hanged it on the 2nd floor, very near to where I am writing this email.  The tinkle is thunderous when (Dad) holds it.  After hanging up, the sound is melodious. We had three small ones around the house, the sound is uncomparable to yours.”

I think this means they like it!

Otherwise, Penny reports that she is helping her brother learn some more English, as he is about to start at a private school in Kentucky for high school this year.  He is coming as just an international student, not an exchange student, and will attend for several years to earn an American high school diploma.  We have invited him to spend his Christmas vacation with us this year, but whether or not he will remains to be seen!  Penny’s younger sister also recently sat for the scholarship exam that Penny won to get a full scholarship for an AFS year abroad, but according to Penny did not do well at all.

Penny has a ton of free time until she goes back to school in November, so she plans to use it studying English and taking the TOEFL again, as well as enjoying time with her friends and family.  She says she really misses us, and we really miss her, so I have a feeling we’ll be in each other’s lives for a long time to come.

Meanwhile, I am so happy to report that a bunch of us host moms from this year are planning “AFS Host Moms Camp” for this fall!  Four or five us are planning on taking a long weekend together in Las Vegas!!!  I’m super excited about it—these ladies have been an awesome source of support to me all year and I hope I’ve supported them as well.  I’m also really excited that one of them is coming from halfway across the country to Virginia to visit family and we will be meeting up in August in person! 

Many thanks also to all my family and friends who listened to me all year as I struggled to parent a teenager for the first time.  It was a challenge for us and I know it was probably a challenge for you all after a while.  I’m sure it’s hard to believe when I say how worth it this whole experience was and how it grew and changed our family for the better, but it is true, and I would do it again in a heartbeat, even if the entire year remained the same.  But maybe next time I won’t need to rely on you all so much and your compassionate ears!  We’re experienced parents of a teen now, after all!

So thus endeth the blog, I do believe.  A new crop of students will arrive to new families and the stories will be theirs to tell next year.  I hope some of them do.  We so enjoyed our year as a host family—it was stressful at times, but like any family relationships, it was worth the effort.

AFS USA is still actively seeking host families for next year, so it’s not too late if you are interested in hosting!  Please visit http://www.afsusa.org/host-family for more information, to indicate your interest in hosting, to learn about the countries from which you can host, and read about other families who have hosted students.  As I’ve said before, there is no typical host family—black, white, gay, straight, one parent, two parents, children, no children, teens, young children, anyone can apply!  The benefits are numerous, but as one of my fellow host moms this year summed it up best in a Facebook status:  “Hosting makes your world smaller and your heart bigger.” 

I have nothing else I can possibly add to that statement, and so I bid you farewell and invite you to visit my other blog to keep up with our family’s adventures (http://katekosior.blogspot.com/)!