It is April and spring has come here to Oregon. I have appreciated this season since moving to the Pacific Northwest. The buds burst open on the trees only weeks after Valentines Day and winter feels behind us by early March. Although there is still plenty rainy days, there are sunny and warmness mixed in the wetness.
I had meant to write more about the last four months, but new commitments as well as daily obligations did not allow it. Backing up to mid December…this is where we jumped on a roller coaster ride. Our friend asked us in mid December if we would be willing to host an exchange student from Korea. It was one of those moments where I immediately knew the answer was “yes” even though I asked for time to think and pray about it. The husband and I both talked about how we wanted our home to be a place for children to stay either for the day or a few months at a time. While we thought that meant becoming foster parents, God lead us in a different direction as a registered child care home and now an exchange student host family.
The exchange student process happened quickly. With the Christmas season at its peak and everyone wrapped in their own festivities, I hardly had a chance to tell anyone about it. We knew we were hosting an eleven year old from Korea for two months and that was about it. Then only two days before Christmas (and two days before we were leaving on a week long vacation to Virginia) we were asked to take two exchange students–the eleven year old as well as a nine year old.
On Christmas Day we flew out to Virginia where we spent a much needed and blessed time with family. We flew home New Years Day and our girls were in our house less than 48 hours later.
I would not say January and February were exactly easy but I would not say they were terrible either. Sometimes I think we write off things as “bad” just because they are hard. I believe there are situations when God wants us to embrace hard things. If I had to list the challenges I would say they are the following…
- Cooking and finding foods they like.
- Making school lunches was difficult at first. I think it took 45 minutes the first night. We could not figure out what food they would enjoy eating at school…and bringing lunch to school was something brand new to them. It did get easier.
- Helping them with homework especially math. Thankfully the husband picked up the slack on most of this.
- Enforcing rules and discipline although I got much more confident as time went on.
- Dealing with competitiveness. Our girls come from a very competitive culture and I am not very competitive at all. Playing board games & sometimes video games was hard for me.
- The day to day household challenges–way more laundry and extra cleaning. There were certain days especially at the beginning I felt like I was doing day care 24/7. Days off did not feel like days off.
- We loved showing the sights & activities of our town on Saturdays but it could get very exhausting. I felt like I was always playing catch up and never ready for Monday.
- Helping them feel secure as they adjust to being here. It was not easy for them. Both of them struggled in different ways. Knowing how to help them and when to take a step back was not always easy for me to figure out.
However there were plenty of joys and I don’t want to discount those.
- My kids impressed me how much they embraced it. It was not easy for them to share and make sacrifices. When asked if they wanted to do it again–I got a resounding “Yes.” I love how much they care for others and push through those social and cultural barriers.
- I took all five kids to the zoo in January and it was one of the best days I have had in a long time. I LOVED seeing our girls excited about all the animals and seeing the genuine joy on their faces.
- Learning about their culture and hearing them share about their lives back in Korea.
- Opportunities to share my faith and answer their “faith” questions. We had evangelism opportunities right under our roof.
- Eating Korean food. We still eat eggs and rice for breakfast!
- One of my favorite nights was a Friday night at home where we made Korean pancakes and then watched a movie together. I loved having them a part of our family time.
- Seeing the eleven year old form a special bond with my six year old. I loved the friendship they formed.
- Being able to do many activities together as a family we probably normally would not be able to do. And including our girls in them.
- Continuing to learn the art of hospitality and what that means for our family.
But that was only one of the big changes this winter. In February I passed my second home inspection and became a registered family child care home. Again I started the process at the peak of the Christmas season and had no idea all the time and effort it would entail. I am grateful I did not know or my anxiety would have been much higher than it already was. Paperwork, organizing the house, child proofing everything imaginable, buying a pile of smoke detectors, and taking several classes in a six week period was crazy. It was much needed because the first week of February I took on my first full time family. I am grateful for all my wonderful day care kids. I am blessed by them and grateful for some of the friendships formed because of my great clients.
February turned to March. I celebrated my 39th birthday…final year of the 30’s. I am struggling a bit with this one. I know 40 is not old. But I find myself talking about what life was like in the 80’s and 90’s to my middle schoolers. I used to roll my eyes when my youth leaders would always talk about what life was like in their day…so I am trying to be relevant to them. For my birthday we went out with another couple we are good friends with. On my actual birthday we went out as a family to a seafood restaurant.
Then I went to Tacoma, Washington for the weekend with my oldest in mid March. She played in a basketball tournament with her school. We are not a club sports family at all. Actually I am not sure I would even classify us a sports family. Her team was able to play in a tournament with other Lutheran schools. Although they struggled and have a disadvantage of having so few 7th and 8th grade players (they had to dip down into 3rd & 4th grade so they would have enough players), they gave it their all. It was fun to watch so many basketball games…even though I am not much of a basketball fan and even less of a basketball player. I was blessed to be a part of it. Mostly I loved spending a weekend with my daughter and her friends.
Then Spring Break came along. My hope was Spring Break would be a time of rest and reconnection as a family of five. I would say this happened. We enjoyed staying home and playing board games and watching Food Network. We also ate at local restaurants, walked around downtown, went to the Cherry Blossom festival, went geo caching, and worked on science projects. I enjoyed a three mile hike with my son at one of favorite state parks. We hiked to some amazing waterfalls. We also went to a local park and walked by the river later in the week.
We hit a couple of Easter egg hunts Easter weekend. We had a quiet Easter celebrating with one other couple and their child. We enjoyed the Easter service (although I was in the nursery with my son and TONS of kids) and the annual Easter brunch.
I would say I was not totally ready to go back to work…and I know the kids were not excited about going back to school…well except for the kindergartener. However, we were hit with warm amazing weather last week. So summer seems to be on everyone’s radar. Except as of today we have exactly 47 more days of school…but who is counting?
We are in spring mode. I am starting to get the garden ready for planting…although it looks embarrassingly weeded over right now…hence why I am not posting any photos of it.
And I did my first triathlon of the season last Saturday. The best part of it was I was way more confident on the bike. I did better on the transitions. The downside was I did not beat my original time and I struggled on the swim…though I heard the swim time was not as accurate as it could be so maybe I did beat my time. I love being active with running and biking outside…and running and riding with my kids too.
Our days are full and sometimes they feel long (especially when they start at 5 AM with a run!). But God is good and He is leading us on this roller coaster ride. I am striving to seek Him as I look forward to new opportunities and continue with old ones.