Monday, March 12, 2012

Planning for the future

Time is speeding by now.  We survived the winter humdrums and now realize that we have three short months left in this experience.  As we begin to plan our summer activities, we realize that we’ll have one less person in the household at that time.  We have just a few months left to plan a few more “firsts” for Max.  We’re taking him to his first major concert (who is Bruce Springsteen, he asked!!!).  We’ll take him on a tour of a local university and he’ll enjoy his first prom.  He wants to play golf with us sometime.  We’ll take him out to the driving range first before committing to play 9 holes.  It can be a very frustrating game on the first time out.
Max recently came home from school and proclaimed he had an emergency.  After clarifying what a true emergency really is, he informed me that he had a soccer banquet the next evening and had nothing to wear.  This gave me a glimpse of what it must be like to live with a teenage girl.  So, I arranged to have our younger son play at a neighbor’s house and Max and I headed to the mall.  I told him that we had 90 minutes to find something and that was it.  He informed me on the drive there that he wanted to buy a suit.  Hmmm…find a suit off the rack for a tall skinny boy in 90 minutes…I had my doubts.  Plus I was concerned that he hadn’t talked to his parents first about buying something so expensive.  We failed at the first two stores and I was trying to talk him into something simpler.  There was no chance to change his mind.  At the third store, we found a great salesman who found a suit that would fit Max right away and they even had an amazing tailor that did the alternations on the pants in less than 15 minutes!  When Max came out of the dressing room at the store, he looked like a college graduate going for his first job interview.  I wish his parents could have been there.  He had a little bit of sticker shock at the price of everything all put together, and I worked with the salesman to find a less expensive shirt (he did not need a $70 shirt!).  The next day, Max was the best dressed student at the banquet…just like he wanted to be.
We can sense the end of the year coming.  Before, Max had talked about not wanting to go home and trying to make plans to extend his stay.  Now he is working on the process to enroll in the International Bachelor program in Germany.  He has started to transcribe his school notes to the computer so that he doesn’t have to transport his binders and notebooks back home.  He is talking a lot about his future and wanting to attend a university in the US.  We’ve fielded a number of questions recently about how to become a US citizen and if it’s possible to have dual citizenship.  Mostly our answers are, “I don’t know” and “I’m not sure, but you can probably Google it to find out.”  As he talks about his dreams for the future, we reflect back to when we were that age and success was defined by what school you went to, a good job with good income, and your lifestyle.  As our parents did, we now talk of other factors of success – enjoying what you do for a living, providing a good quality of life for your family, good health, friends and family.  It’s funny to realize that our parents knew what they were talking about all along. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

6 months flies by

I can't believe that at the end of this week, Max will have been with us for 6 months!  Time flies!  We remember his first few days here and taking him to meet some neighbor boys that go to his school.  Max had a hard time keeping up with the conversation and looked to me to help summarize for him.  Now he has no trouble keeping up.  Max says that his family is really missing him.  I can imagine, he's a great kid.

Max took on a few challenging classes this semester.  He's in AP English and the books they are studying are advanced, even for those whose first language is English.  He's reading "The Scarlet Letter" and really struggled through the first few chapters.  He needed help translating about every fifth word.  I didn't know I'd end up reading the book again (I had read it in high school as well).  His teacher suggested buying an easier version of the book, which he did.  That helped, and now he only needs help on every 20th word.  :)

We celebrated his 17th birthday in January.  I attempted another German dessert.  It turned out a little better than the Christmas cookies, but not much.  Max said it was pretty good, but I noticed that he only ate one piece.  Knowing how much he eats otherwise, I figured it wasn't that good.  Max chose his favorite restaurant, Huey's, for his birthday dinner and ordered TWO bacon cheeseburgers.  And we surprised him with an introductory flight lesson as a gift.  Since Rob is a pilot and I also studied aviation in college, flying is a big part of our lives that we wanted to share with him.  We solicited approval from AFS and his parents.  AFS's insurance limited the experience a little by not allowing Max to take control of the aircraft.  We told him on his birthday that we had a special outdoor activity planned for him later that weekend.  We were rained out of the first attempt, so had to reschedule for the following weekend.  The next Sunday was a perfect day.  We took some back roads to the hangar at the airport and Max was completely surprised and excited.  He was able to help do the preflight, then sit up front in the cockpit with the instructor during the flight.  Rob and Dylan went along in the back seat.  Max thought it was a cool experience and they gave him a little logbook at the end of the flight.

We also took Max to a couple of Memphis Grizzlies NBA basketball games last month.  He had wanted to see the Bulls play, so we went to the Memphis v. Chicago game.  He wore the Bulls shirt that my parents had given him.  The rest of us went in Grizzlies gear.  The Grizzlies were up by 20 points at the half, so Max put his jacket on to cover his shirt for the rest of the game.  Grizzlies won!

Max has been asking to go to a good steakhouse since he arrived.  We told him about Texas de Brazil, an all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse in downtown Memphis.  It's pretty expensive, so we decided to take him as a thank you for some baby-sitting he did for us over the holiday break.  He was in heaven!  Prime cuts of meat, served on demand, as much as he could eat!  What teenage boy wouldn't love that.  I think he had about 5 or 6 filet mignons, several sirloins, and tastes of everything else.  We think he went through about 6 plates, until he was "150% full".  Then he had a slice of cheesecake for dessert!  He was in bad shape on the drive home, but said it was worth it.

We had a bit of a tough situation recently.  When Max arrived, people asked how long he was staying and we would say until June.  Max would answer until July.  He told us that his family would be coming at the end of the program to pick him up and they would go on vacation for a couple of weeks.  We figured they would pick him up at the end of June and vacation into July.  When we contacted his parents later in the fall to try to get a better idea of the dates for their visit for our planning purposes, we found out they weren't planning on coming until mid-July.  We tentatively agreed to the extension.  Then recently we heard him saying that he may be staying into August.  We knew we couldn't accommodate that long of an extension, needing time for our family to transition after he leaves and before school starts again in early August.  Plus, we had other plans we were trying to coordinate for July.  We worked a bit with the AFS liaison and then contacted his family to discuss their plans and our situation.  Their vacation time had been moved to the end of July and they decided that it wouldn't work out this time.  They broke the news to Max, and true to his character, he found the positive in the situation and said he wasn't disappointed because he knows he'll be back to visit us someday.  Yup...great kid!

Friday, December 30, 2011

New holiday traditions

I haven't written in a while, so this will be a long one.  The celebration of holidays has been in full swing since November.  Max was excited to have his first American Thanksgiving.  Normally my parents host 20 to 30 people for dinner, but since they moved to TN just before the holiday, my sister hosted a smaller affair at her house.  Max was just thrilled to be able to go to Chicago again.  We stopped in central Illinois to visit my mom and step-dad.  They live in a geodesic dome home and Max was fascinated by it.

He was interested to know about our traditions and I explained that Thanksgiving is mostly about family and food (oh, and being thankful for what you have).  And that's exactly what he experienced at Thanksgiving.  He met my step-sister and her family, my step-brother, and other extended family members for the first time.  We played games and ate lots of food.  I was surprised that he hadn't eaten roast turkey before.  We had quite a feast of food and he liked all of it, especially the lemon jello fluff.  Afterwards, he said Thanksgiving was exactly what I said it would be - relaxing with family and good food.

We went into downtown Chicago on Friday.  We went early and beat the traffic.  We were able to zip right through the queue at the Sears Tower ( now Willis Tower) and go up to the SkyDeck.  I haven't been up there since I was a kid and we've never taken our son there, so we all enjoyed the views.  Max and Dylan had a great time on The Ledge (all-glass enclosures that jut out from the building) and we took some fun pictures.  We walked around the city for the rest of the day. On our way to visit the Christmas tree at Daley Plaza, we stumbled upon a German Christmas Market.  Max was so excited to see it.  We walked through a few aisles, but it was so crowded that our 9-year-old was getting crushed.  We gave up and just observed from the outside.  We went to Garrett's Popcorn shop and I think the boys thought we were nuts for waiting in line for 20 minutes for popcorn, until they tasted it.  Yum!  We pushed our way to the Macy's holiday window displays on State Street.  At one point during our walk, Max said that Chicago feels like home since he had been there before.  He seems to have fallen in love with that city, as a lot of people do.  That night we ordered pizza from one of our favorite places, Nino's, and Max proclaimed it was the best pizza he's had.  Well, that's what Chicago is known for, right?  We hung out with my parents the next day and they suggested taking Max to Woodfield Mall and the Rainforest Cafe for lunch.  He enjoyed both places.

When we arrived home from Thanksgiving, Max started peppering us about when we were going to get our Xmas tree and our holiday traditions.  Later in the week, we went to get a tree.  In our area, there aren't places to cut down your own tree (I miss living in WI and MI for that), so we went down to Lowes and picked out an acceptable specimen.  That weekend, we hauled boxes out of the attic and the decorating commenced.  Dylan and Max hung the ornaments.  Max hoisted Dylan onto his shoulders so he could place the star on the tree.

Max wanted to do a little Christmas shopping, so I took him to Barnes & Noble and Target.  It was fun watching him pick out thoughtful gifts for Rob and Dylan.  Since their birthdays are right before Christmas, he also ordered some items from their Amazon wish lists.  We enjoyed dinner with other local AFSers at a Japanese hibachi place.  This was the students' first experience at such a place.  Everyone enjoyed the show and the food.

Since we had read about exchange students getting homesick this time of year, we were watching Max closely.  We tried to incorporate some of his traditions into ours.  He told us about the tradition of candy in the shoes on Dec. 6.  He was surprised that morning that we had remembered.  He had his mom e-mail us his favorite holiday cookie recipes.  Imagine a 16-year-old boy who doesn't cook trying to translate a recipe from German and metric measurements to English with American measurements.  We had a friend who speaks German and bakes a lot come over and help with the translations.  Then Max called his mom to get more instructions.  We attempted one recipe that called for ground almonds.  My friend and I brainstormed where to find ground almonds, but Max insisted that they be freshly ground.  Finding that I had nothing to grind almonds with (I tried old-fashioned elbow grease, but couldn't get a consistent finish), I called my friend over with her Magic Bullet and we ground a pound of almonds, by the handful.  Max and I followed the recipe and had quite the time rolling out and cutting the sticky dough.  The cookies smelled great cooking.  Max's mom said we needed to store them in a container for a few days to allow them to soften.  We waited with anticipation for a few days, opened the container and tried our first cookie...which was rock hard!  It was so disappointing and funny at the same time.  We're not sure what we did wrong.  We have another recipe using ground hazelnuts (quite an adventure to find those around here) that we may try soon.

A couple weeks ago, Rob decided he wanted to start looking for a new truck.  His 10-year-old SUV runs fine, but the truck he wanted to replace it with had been discontinued last year.  I found an option within driving distance, so we went to look while Max was at an away soccer tournament.  We ended up buying the truck a couple days later and I think Max was more excited than my husband was.  He even wanted to skip a soccer game so he could come pick it up with us.  We said we didn't think that was a good idea, but it was up to him and his coach.  He decided to go to the game, since he was skipping the one before it to go to a friend's birthday party.  He was so excited when we brought it home, he even asked to sleep in it that evening.  He has been bugging us to try driving it, but we reminded him about the AFS rule.

Since we were spending Christmas in Iowa with Rob's family, we decided to do our little family gift exchange and dinner the weekend before.  Max couldn't believe that we would open gifts before Christmas.  I explained that for us, we celebrate Christmas whenever the family can get together.  And with our family being in different states, that often means multiple celebrations.  So, we went through our traditions of a big breakfast, gift opening and a big dinner on the Sunday prior.  Max's family had sent us gifts from Germany - candies, wine, some lovely figurines, and Legos for Dylan.  We had fun picking out gifts for Max, even though he told us we didn't need to get him anything.  My son and I wear fuzzy socks around the house in the winter.  Max had wanted a pair, but I couldn't find them in men's sizes.  I finally found a pair of LL Bean fleece socks.  He wore them for a week straight after opening them!  Dylan gave Max a T-shirt from his favorite burger joint and he was thrilled.  At one point, Max commented that we had the most organized gift opening he had ever seen.  He said his family rips open their packages quickly and all at the same time.  Our family tradition is to take turns.  He thought that it was funny that we even had scissors and a trash bag at the ready.

The next week, we dropped the dog off at the kennel and drove up to Iowa.  Max met Rob's sister, brother-in-law and their three boys.  We all stayed in his parent's new home.  Thankfully it's a very large home, so it didn't feel like we were on top of one another.  Max said it felt like his house in Germany with all of the boys (he has 3 younger brothers).  We didn't find out until Christmas Eve that Germany celebrates Christmas on the 24th.  Max tried to convince my in-laws to open gifts on the 24th, but they wouldn't budge.  Max was very anxious to Skype with his family for their gift opening.  He tried to reach them by phone, but the call wouldn't go through.  And they weren't connected to Skype.  He was finally able to message one of his brothers and we set up the Skype call.  What wonderful technology that enabled us to have his family, his grandparents and our family in Iowa see and talk to each other on Christmas!  He was relieved to be able to "participate" in their gift opening.  My in-laws did a wonderful job making Max feel included in the family.

We went to Christmas Eve church services.  Rob's father is a minister and they had a candlelight service that evening.  His current church is very small, and it was standing room only that evening.  I always enjoy his sermons because he pulls the lessons from everywhere - books, movies, music, everyday life.  In the sermon, he told the story from World War I about the Christmas Truce.  He told of the German soldier singing "Silent Night" on Christmas Eve, and the English soldiers joining in.  When he recited the opening lines of the song in German, Max just about jumped out of his seat and whispered "Hey, that's German!"  Max laughed when my father-in-law described the soldiers coming out and exchanging photos and playing soccer.  He had never heard this story before.  After the service, my father-in-law gave Max a hug and told him they were glad he was here.

Our Christmas morning was filled with anticipation.  Since Rob's dad had another church service that morning, we didn't open gifts until after lunch.  We had explained to Max that Rob's dad likes to give gag gifts and they are just for fun.  The family follows our same tradition of taking turns to open gifts, and Max requested to go last in the rotation.  When he got his first package, he opened it carefully, the exclaimed, "Pig poop?!!"  He had opened one of the gag gifts first.  He had a great sense of humor about it and it became a running joke that he brought up the rest of the weekend.  He was surprised and pleased when one of the gifts was a gift card to his favorite burger joint.  The gift opening was long since there were 11 people and a lot of gifts.  But it was a lot of fun and Max seemed to really enjoy it.  That evening, Max asked if he could take a family picture.  He set up his camera and we took a couple of formal shots, then came up with silly themes for a number of the pictures.  He said that was one of his favorite parts of Christmas.

We decided to go ice skating the day after Christmas.  I haven't put on skates in about 15 years and my son has never been skating.  Max tried to convince Rob to put on skates, but he didn't.  So, it was me and the five boys.  Dylan and I made it around twice holding on to the wall.  Max and our oldest nephew Mason took to racing around the rink.  That evening, Max started not feeling well.  By the time we left the next day, he was sick.  Max has been lucky not to be sick yet.  He says he usually doesn't get sick, and he's very particular about not taking any medicine.  He said he just rests through it.  So for the next couple of days, he slept a lot.  And sure enough, seemed to feel better quickly.  Maybe I need to try that the next time I have a cold.

We gave the boys tickets to Memphis Tigers basketball game as a stocking stuffer.  The stadium is near the famous Beale Street in downtown Memphis.  The city was busy getting ready for the New Year's Eve festivities.  When we explained that to Max, he begged that we go down there that night.  Now we're not big New Year's Eve party people, and you couldn't pay me enough to go down to Beale Street that night.  Hanging out with 40,000 drunk people crammed into four blocks is not my idea of fun.  Getting out of there would be a nightmare.  So, he asked if he could find some friends to go, would we let him.  Not only is 40,000 drunk people in four blocks not fun, it's not safe.  The police do a good job keeping things under control on Beale that night, but it's the journey leaving the area that is not safe.  So, I guess we have to put on our parent hats and set the boundaries.

Max has said that he had a memorable Christmas.  He's looking forward of taking the tradition of gag gifts back to his family. We still have one more holiday celebration with my family next week.  He still thinks that's strange, but he's not going to argue with more gifts and food.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

The teenager has finally arrived!

For the first several weeks after Max arrived, we thought to ourselves, this "raising a teenager" thing is a breeze!  He wanted to eat healthy, go to bed early, didn't want to get into texting, preferred to spend time with the family, and was up early on the weekends.

Fast forward a couple of months, and the typical teenager has finally arrived! :)  Now instead of fruit for breakfast, he eats the boxed toaster pastries that our youngest son favors (waffles, pancakes, french toast sticks, etc.) and "muffins" (which are really cupcakes).  We can easily go through a 2-liter of coke in less than 2 days (although I made a comment recently about how I think he's drinking too much pop, so he's decided to go cold-turkey for a week to prove that there are no side effects - um, yeah). 

Bedtime has gotten a bit later.  I claim it's the caffeine from the 3 glasses of Coke consumed after school.  He disagrees.  Wake-up time has gotten later and later as he's been able to negotiate a ride with a neighbor to school, rather than ride the bus (although he does have an early-morning soccer practice once a week before school). 

We've been encouraging him to do things with his friends outside of school.  He finally went out this past weekend and had a great time.  So great that he tried to negotiate a later curfew on Friday and Saturday night.  We allowed Friday night since it was a late-night movie, but didn't allow the Saturday spur-of-the-moment sleepover at someone's house we didn't know.

And last week he said that he thinks he needs to get a texting plan on his phone.  We even got text messages when he was out this weekend, letting us know when he changed locations and what he was doing.  

He still struggles with some of the rules at school.  Our school is quite a bit more strict that his school in Germany.  Last week he was written up for socializing in class.  He was annoyed by it, but now knows the limits.  However, it was a good lesson for our youngest son, who in 4th grade struggles with talking in class.  He was shocked that Max got written up for that. 

Overall, he's still the respectful teen that joined our family, and is still such a joy to have with us. Yes, I think he is integrating nicely into an Americanized teenager!  Although I'm still dreading when he starts dating - yikes!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lessons in Economics

When Max first arrived, we commented on how little luggage he had - just one suitcase, a camera bag and a backpack.  He explained how his parents had agreed that he would leave some things at home and buy new when he arrived, "because things are cheaper in the US."  His parents sent along a debit and credit card for his use.  He mentioned that he had a monthly budget as well.

Max has learned some valuable lessons about money already.  In the first month, he blew through his monthly budget in just a couple of weeks.  He went a little nuts on buying "school spirit" clothes.  Then the yearbook fee was due.  Then he needed soccer shoes for the school soccer team, and then running shoes because the team runs often.  We've also made a couple of clothes shopping trips since many of the items he brought didn't comply with the school dress code.

He's commented a number of times of how quickly the money goes, but is always prepared to justify the expenses to his parents.  He's also looking at purchasing some electronics while he's here.  We've found that the process of getting funds transferred inexpensively has been a bit of a hurdle.

We track all of our accounts and expenses in Quicken and Max has been interested in that whole process.  We had an interesting discussion about investments and the difference in risk tolerance between Americans and Germans.  He said it seems like Americans have a much higher tolerance for financial risk than Germans.  I pointed out the importance of diversifying and balancing a portfolio to withstand the ups and downs of the market.  And how to enjoy things in the short term while making long term plans.

We had a couple of "money talks" recently.  We struggle with how much to guide him on the finances issue, since it's his parents' money.  We started teaching our son about good money management when he was 5.  He's now nearly 10 and knows a lot about budgeting his money for the things he wants.  So, we're supposed to treat Max like our son, which means at least talking through these decisions and letting him decide how to use "his money."  He recently decided to scale back on an order for some optional school soccer team clothes in order to stay more within his budget.  

We'll see how this continues to play out during the year.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Max in the Big City

Labor Day weekend gave us an opportunity to visit my family in the Chicago area.  We had mentioned this trip to Max a couple weeks ago and he’s been excited to see Chicago.  I was a little worried about the long drive (about 10 hours) when Max said he hadn’t been in a car for more than 6 hours.
We picked up Max and our son early from school on Friday and left around 1:00.  It was a very long drive, especially since I took a wrong turn in the middle of Illinois and added about 50 minutes to our drive.  We arrived at my parents’ house just before midnight. 
Saturday morning was spent hanging around the house.  My dad, husband, son (Dylan) and Max played a couple of games of Ladder-ball.  Then we headed off to Arlington Park Racecourse for an afternoon of horse racing.  My dad explained how to read the race program and horse stats to Max and Dylan.   We had agreed we would give each boy $2 per race to put on their horse, and they would keep the winnings at the end of the day.  Max started out with the strategy of picking a horse to Win.  Dylan started with the strategy of betting on the long-shots.  The both quickly changed their strategies to picking horses with good odds to Place or Show.  Max tried cheese fries for the first time during lunch at the track.
Before the last race, we cashed in their winnings and gave them the option to use those winnings to bet more on the last race or walk away.  Max decided to add another $5 to his bet.  Dylan decided to use $2 to bet on a second horse.  During the post parade, Max saw that his horse was gray.  My husband teased him that a gray color meant the horse was old.  During the last stretch of the race, Max was yelling that his horse was winning and went nuts when a gray horse crossed the finish line first.  But, alas, it was a different gray horse.  Easy come, easy go, right?!  In the end, Max came out with a loss overall, and Dylan had a few bucks “profit”.  Max’s lesson learned: The best way to earn money is to work hard for it.  Dylan’s (9-year-old) lesson learned: I can come out ahead if I bed Mom and Dad’s money.  Hmmm….we need to work on that one.
That evening we took Max out for some Chicago-style hot dogs.  He was surprised at the HUGE serving of fries that came with them.  Somehow he managed to finish two fully-loaded dogs, the big bag of fries, and some of the cheese off of Dylan’s pizza.  He even tried Mountain Dew for the first time.
On Sunday we drove up to Milwaukee, WI to visit my sister in her new house.  We had lunch at Cracker Barrel and talked Max into eating breakfast food for lunch.  Dylan also taught him how to play checkers there.  We then drove to the subway station to take the train to downtown Chicago.  When we walked up the stairs to street level in the city, Max’s eyes turned huge.  He started snapping photos of the buildings around us.  He said he had never been in a city with skyscrapers.  Our plan was to take him to the top of the Sears Tower, but it was a 2-1/2 hour wait, so we opted to skip it.  Then we took a cab over to Navy Pier, during which Pete, our cab driver from Greece, gave Max and Dylan all kinds of advice about life.
Navy Pier was extremely crowded and it was difficult to get around.  We planned to go on the big ferris wheel so Max could get some pictures of the city skyline, but the line was long and Max preferred not to wait.  My husband suggested we walk along the lakeshore so Max could take pictures.  That turned out to be the perfect suggestion.  We walked back to Millenium Park and found the Cloud structure, which was pretty neat as it reflects the skyline from all angles.  Even though we spent only a few hours in the city, Max absolutely loved it.  That evening we enjoyed some Chicago pizza at Gino’s East.

Friday, September 2, 2011

American English doesn't make sense

Wow!  Max has been with us now for three weeks!  Where did the time go?!  Because he arrived just after school started, he's had a lot of adjusting to do all at once - with our family, making new friends and going to school.  After the first weekend, my husband and I agreed that Max fit in so well with our family.  It seems like he's already been with us for months.  He's a great kid, easy-going and easy to please.  Our 9-year-old son had very high expectations for his new big brother, and Max has lived up to those expectations (mainly being willing to play basketball and board games).

Max started school on the Monday after he arrived.  He's taking some challenging courses - chemistry, calculus, law-related education.  The first few days, he came home exhausted and went to bed early.  While he speaks English well, there are still many written words that aren't in his vocabulary.  And, a couple of his teachers have thick southern accents, so that probably makes it even more challenging.  We try to help him understand his homework, and I've issued many apologies that it's been 18 years since I took calculus and don't remember a lot of it!

Max seems to really enjoy the social aspects of school.  The concept of extracurricular activities and school spirit is new to him, and he's really embracing it.  We're glad he's been able to make friends pretty easily.  He even seems to have his eye on a girl on the dance team, and "she's pretty AND smart!"  He's joining the Science & Math Club and he tried out for the soccer team.  The try-outs didn't go as well as he wanted because it was about 100 degrees and humid.  He hasn't acclimated to the extreme summer temps we have yet.

He has commented numerous times at how nice and helpful everyone is.  Yup, that's Southern Hospitality at its finest.  The first couple days of school were filled with funny adventures.  He got off the bus at the middle school instead of the high school, so a teacher had her daughter drive Max over to the right school.  He missed the bus home one day.  He had trouble with his locker and was given his first tardy to class.  But a teacher helped him get it excused.  He started his Spanish II class, and surprised the teacher with his fluency in Spanish (he already had 6 years of it).  The things he doesn't seem to like about school are the dress code, all of the rules, and how long the day is.

We've had fun showing him different things around the community.  We took him to his first baseball game, and enjoyed the fireworks at the end of the game.  We took him to our favorite hamburger joint and he declared that America has the best hamburgers.  We went bowling with another host family and their exchange daughter from France.  We attended his first high school football game and he said "it was amazing!"  Max made his first batch of potatoes gratin for an AFS pool party event.  He claims it wasn't as good as what his mom makes.  We have always enjoyed showing our son different experiences, so now we have double the joy.

We had no idea how silly and difficult that American language can be until trying to teach it to a foreigner.  I told our dog to "back up" and Max looked at me strangely and said "Back. Up?"  No, it really doesn't make sense when you stop and think about it.  We've been playing word board games on some evenings to help Max expand his vocabulary.  And try explaining our government and some of our laws to a foreigner.  Forget about it!

Overall we're off to a great start to the year!