A year later…

One year later and it seems as though she never left. She fit right back into our lives as though she has always been there. This missing link that we never knew we were missing. She returned home yesterday. Through the tears and heartache I know that we’ll see each other again. Love you my dear Finny.

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Life moves forward. Ever forward. In 24 days we welcome a new chapter in life as our beloved Julia joins our family for her exchange year. She is quirky, funny, kind and such a lovely young woman. Her family is wonderful. I adore her sweet mother to pieces and I look forward to another adventure equally as amazing as our last ones. So I will resume this blog and try to update it with all the adventures we take together…welcome dear Julia!

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The kind of mom I hope to be(come)…

Someone posted this link on Facebook today and I took a moment to read through it. It hit home in so many ways. Not so much about the part of putting on my swimsuit, because honestly I’m super insecure about any article of clothing I put on. If you replace the word “swimsuit” with everyday clothing insecurities and you have me. I keep reading and re-reading the following parts:

 

I refuse to miss my children’s high-pitched, pool-induced giggles because of my insecurities…

I refuse to let my self-image influence my children’s…

Because at the end of the day, it is not just about me.

It is about my kids.

 

I realized how much my negative self image may be affecting the girls as they grow up. I think back to Enna being here and how little she cared about what others thought about how she dressed. She would wear whatever she liked. Onsies. Pink fuzzy slippers to school. Crocs. I would tease her a little now and then but honestly she didn’t give two hoots about what anyone thought, including me. I want to become that. I want to look at the world and not be concerned about what others are thinking of me.

 

Because I honestly care entirely too much about what others think. 

 

I want my girls to grow up knowing they are beautiful.  I want them to know that no matter what size they end up being that we are all different and that’s a great thing. There is (probably) not a single person in this world that doesn’t wish they could change at least one thing about themselves.

 

So from now on when I look in the mirror to see a maze of stretch marks, boobs that used to be perky and thighs that used to be toned and tanned, what I am going to try to see instead is not who I used to be, but who I want to become.

 

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Broken <3 ‘d

So last Monday was it.

 

D(eparture)-Day.

 

It was so much harder than I thought it was going to be. We had spent the weekend camping as a family. Just the 7 of us. Yes you read that right. 7. Our little family consisted of the hubs, E, P, A, Enna, her friend Ale (a fellow exchange student from Mexico) and myself. Over the past several months Ale has spent a lot of time in our home so it was only natural for us to include her in our farewell weekend with Enna. We spent the weekend swimming, going to a water park, camping, eating too much food and visiting the capitol in Madison.

 

Monday came way too fast. I wasn’t ready. The kids weren’t ready. I don’t think Enna was completely ready. I literally cried the entire way home from camping–safely behind my big ol’ designer sunglasses. I cried going to sleep Sunday  night. I cried when I woke up to get everyone ready for the car ride to the airport. I cried at the airport and I’ve cried countless times since leaving her behind.

 

I have tried to put into words how much this crazy Finn has brought to our lives and I can’t. It comes across as sappy and cliche. We have been asked a lot since she went home if we will host again. I honestly don’t know. We had signed up to host again for the 2014-2015 school year, but both J and I are VERY unimpressed with the organization that we partnered with for Enna’s exchange year (ICES). We didn’t have any issues, but it seems to me like the families in our area who did have issues were not having them dealt with at all. So no, I’m not completely ruling out hosting again. I will have to get stellar reviews from another organization to want to try it out again in the future.

 

Then again the way my heart has been a little brokened from Enna’s departure it will be hard for me to want to expose it to that kind of heartbreak again. Let alone exposing the kidlets to that much heartache. They have had it pretty rough this last week with Enna and Ale both going home. Those girls became family to us. We miss them something fierce and are counting the days until they are with us again.

 

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Love you girlies.

To those considering hosting…

I  have a word of advice for those considering hosting an exchange student.

 

Don’t!

 

Don’t host an exchange student! Life will never be the same if you do. You will have a piece of your heart that you will inevitably give away to this crazy foreign stranger. A piece of your heart that cannot grow back. You will worry and stress about this student for (probably) the rest of your life.  Plus, they will worm their way into your family, your extended family and your friends’ hearts. Oh and they won’t stop there. They will charm their way into the hearts of the teachers and secretaries at the school. Their American high school friends’ families will adore them.

I’m telling you. Hosting an exchange student probably seems like a fun, harmless activity that will help you pass the time during the long, cold winter months. It’s not harmless. It is however, kinda-sorta fun.

I’m finding out too late that my life has been changed.

Changed for the better. I have this crazy, sassy, opinionated, kind, amazing girl that has become such a large part of my life. Having her in my family has opened my eyes to so many things. I know it sounds very cliche, but it’s true. I look at how simply I could be living. How much we, as Americans, focus too much on things that shouldn’t matter as much as they do.

Family.

That’s what matters.

Time….it be flying by!!

We have less than three months left with Enna and I find myself dreading the days flying by. There isn’t enough time in the days or the weeks ahead to do everything that we want to do. When we started this journey a year ago by e-mailing/skyping/facebooking each other I never imagined the depth of love I would feel for this crazy Finnish girl. I committed myself completely to this experience and I am so happy that I did. When I get to the end of this life I want to look back to see a mountain of experiences and memories that make up an amazing life.

So far so good I’d say. Life may throw some curveballs my way, but that’s what makes this journey worthwhile.

We surprised Enna with an early birthday gift. Horseback riding lessons at the local riding stable. She is sharing the package with our oldest daughter, E. Last week they had their first lesson. I think they enjoyed themselves. (Just a little bit. 😀 )  E shares a pony with her younger sisters, but after a few instances last summer with her pony bucking her off she had lost some of her confidence in riding. To see her blossom last week getting back in the saddle made my heart sing. She shares my love of horses which I hope continues throughout her life. My most treasured memories of my youth include many miles on horseback riding along side my grandma. I hope to share that with all my girls when they are older.

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Vegas….meh

Enna and I returned from Vegas early Tuesday morning. We spent Friday night through midnight Tuesday morning in Vegas with my girlfriends from high school. It was a very fun and relaxing trip. I miss my friends from my youth. We have all went our separate directions so we don’t get to spend time together as much as we used to.

A few things about Vegas (and these are just my humble opinions)

1: It was dirty. Our hotel room at the Stratosphere had mold in the bathroom. The restaurants were dirty. We all had bouts of sickness after eating the 4 days we were there. Then again we had A LOT of Mexican food…which never helps anyone.

2: It was crazy busy. People were almost shoulder to shoulder walking down the sidewalk at night. I’ve never seen so many people in such a small area before. It was nuts and seriously fascinating since I love to people watch.

3: The hotels were amazing. I cannot imagine the money that floods through those places in a day. My favorite was the Venetian. It was beautiful and amazing. I wish we could have stayed in a room there just for the night. It was so amazing. Caesars was a very close second. The fountains and sculptures. Utterly amazing. (Word of the day folks is AMAZING)

4: There were a lot of crazy people. From the street performers to the homeless people. It was not at all what I’ve ever experienced before. The most depressing part was on Freemont street where we saw several homeless families with small children. It broke my heart and I cannot get the images out of my head. Children my daughters ages holding signs begging for money. It makes me truly grateful for the life I’ve been given.

5: The Vegas airport isn’t a horrible place to hang out in for 8+ hours. Although if you fly Allegiant you are on the ghetto side of the airport. Traveling to gate C was so much nicer…according to Enna and my girlfriend Sarah. They went on search of food after our side of the airport shut down the meal places at 7:00 p.m.

6: There were entirely too many kids walking the strip and in the casinos with their parents. Kids from newborns…yes fresh baby newborns to tweens were walking the strip at 2 a.m. I don’t think that Vegas is such a family oriented place. From the scantily clad women and men that are “performing” on the streets to the cage dancers at Caesars there were things that I don’t think any young child needs to see.

7: Max Brenner Chocolate. OMG. Go. Seriously. Go and eat your weight in chocolate desserts. It was so good. We had a s’more crepe and chocolate cake with strawberries. The coffee was the best we had while we were there. I may still be dreaming of this place. AMAZING!

8: Even women who stand with their boobs hanging out have standards. They won’t let you touch them. I asked. HA!

It was a crazy, fun and amazing experience, but I highly doubt I will ever go back. Once was enough. Although I did win $30 (which I then lost + some), I got to show Enna a little American tradition, and I got to spend 4 days with girls whom I love dearly.

It was a good weekend.

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One crazy busy month…

It has almost been a month since my last post. I honestly cannot tell you what we’ve been doing the last month. I cannot for the life of me remember anything significant. Day trips here and there. Sunday night bowling. Snow storms. School cancellations. Life has been happening and it’s been wonderful.

We are nearing the end of our time with Enna. She returns to Finland the middle of June. We are literally jamming everything we can into our last few moments together. This weekend her and I are headed to Vegas with my girlfriends from high school. I envision lots of sightseeing, lounging and people watching. Next weekend we are going to an indoor water park in Wisconsin Dells for the weekend as a family. Then she is off to California for a week with other exchange students. It will be a little test of wills seeing my house a little emptier. Not seeing her each evening across from me at the dinner table. Not hearing her voice each afternoon after school. I’m not going to lie. I’m going to miss that girl like crazy while she is gone. It also makes me dread the day she returns home.

I admire her mother so much for being able to let her go for the 10 months that she is here. To not see her each day. To hear her voice. To know that she is just a room away. I’ve come to rely on this crazy Finn so much in the few months she has been with us. She has fit so seamlessly into our lives. I can’t explain how easy it has been to have her with us. She pitches in without being asked. She can tell when I need my space or when I need some girl time. It is mind-blowing to me that this girl that I didn’t know existed a year ago has already become such a huge part of my life. I know that she will forever hold a spot in my heart and a place in my life. I can’t wait for the day until we visit her in Finland and get to meet all those aunts and cousins she tells me about.

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What better way to end this post than the birthday card my crazy Finn gave me yesterday.

 

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