We are having a delightful summer! Of course it has been very busy, with lots
of people in and out. In June, my parents were here. July we will always
remember as the month that Alain, our French exchange student was here. One of
our church friends asked me, "Now just why are you hosting an
exchange student?" Iíve thought about it, and decided that I had been
feeling this big hole in my life when we learned that Daniel was going to be in
Baltimore for the summer, and so I decided to fill it with a replacement son!
The only problem with that plan is that Alain left last Friday, and I felt so
sad to see him go! He was a real sweetheart.
Daniel happened to be home for the weekend that he arrived. It was the usual
chaotic scene: the contractor was expected so David was strewing the contents of
the garage (as neatly as possible) throughout the back yard, Danielís friends
Michael and Sarah were here, and plans were afoot for various activities with
Danís high school friends. The bunny was ill, and we were assessing whether or
not she was eating and drinking. It was a bustling scene and I wonder what Alain
thought of it all. That night we served one of Danielís favorite menus, turkey
London broil. Alain had never had turkey before and loved it. He said,
"I will remember this meal for the rest of my life!" The following
week I asked what he would like me to make for Bastille Day, and he said turkey
London broil. [I did serve it again for one of his last meals here. He ended up
getting KFC chicken for Bastille Day, although I also made our traditional
rhubarb cake. Alain and another French student with us that night didnít seem
to know anything about the Marie Antoinette"Let them eat cake" story
that we so faithfully honor.]
It was nice to have scored a hit with my first meal. Alainís taste in food
was limited, pretty much a beef, potatoes, and French bread kind of guy.
In fact, he told us that he hated cheese and didnít care for wine. I told him
that I believed he must be a German in disguise! However, he worked hard to fit
in and didnít complain about anything, so once we adjusted our diet to exclude
spicy and cheesy foods, and tried to make the bedroom he shared with Peter
absolutely dark and quiet at night, we didnít have any problems. His English
was fairly good Ė my boys got zero practice with their French, though.
Daniel took him disc golfing on Sunday, a new sport to him. He had mentioned
in his initial letter to us that he was interested in learning about US sport.
For the first year in memory our church picnic did not include a softball game,
but we did fit in an number of sports over the time of his visit. We went
miniature golfing, bowling, did tennis, volleyball, swimming, and Aaron even
came over once and played some basketball. And Peter, along with some girls from
church, took him to Dorney Park (where he was completely intimidated by the
"Russian mountains", as they call roller coasters.) He got to watch
Peterís school soccer team in their final game of the summer season and
attended Peterís soccer camp for a couple of days.. One of my favorite
memories, though, was the night he went to the Rose Garden with David and Peter
for a soccer workout. He was always agreeable to doing anything we offered, but
apparently he had no idea what was involved in a workout. When they returned
home, I found Peter and David resting on the front steps, and Alain splayed out
prostrate on the sidewalk.
"Goodbye, Roos!" he said, clearly believing these would be his last
words on earth. "I was warned Americans are CRAZY!"
I replied, "Well, how did you think we were able to come and rescue you
French in WW II?"
"Thank you!" he said heartily.
The program he came over with scheduled a number of field trips which host
families were invited to join. One of the first was a day trip to New York City,
and Peter, Stephen, and I went along. (Christopher was a counselor at French
Creek that week.) Our first stop was supposed to be Ellis Island, but President
Bush happened to be there that same morning, so we ended up at the Statue of
Liberty instead. It was 93 degrees, mobbed with people and we inched along,
taking hours to get just to the pedestal (it was too hot inside for them to
allow us up to the crown). But we can say that we did it. Much more enjoyable
was our stop at the World Trade center. We took a simulated helicopter ride
through the city, and saw the wonderful panorama of NYC from the 107th
floor. The walls are floor to ceiling glass, so it is a palm-sweating experience
to stand or sit right at the edge at that height. We did go outside on the roof,
but it wasnít nearly so scary because there is such a large platform around to
discourage jumpers. Our final stop was Chinatown. Peter went off with the French
students, and Stephen and I went at a slightly slower pace. It was fascinating
to walk through the open market. Many, if not most, of the items I couldnít
even identify. Stephen loves Chinese food, but he is used to the China Buffet
chain food, so he nixed the first restaurant we stumbled into because we didnít
recognize any of it. We ended up at a dim sum place eating who knows what. It
was instructive to me to see how American our idea of Chinese food really is.
Anyway, the whole thing felt other-worldly. I was wandering around Chinatown in
New York with Stephen, and we didnít even have a map. By coincidence, we ran
into another of the American hosts, and they practically kissed us to death,
they were so happy to see a familiar face as they also were wandering around
lost. (We werenít lost, I want to make clear.)
In July, the Christian Education Committee of our church (composed of me and
Ken George) organizes a series of seminars on Wednesday evenings on a variety of
topics from a Christian perspective. This year our series led off with David
teaching on "Genetics, Ethics, and the Christian". Alain mentioned how
impressed he was. He thought it would be boring, but he was very interested. In
fact, he gave up a pizza and pool party the following week to attend Jim
Femisterís "Recreational Mathematics and the Mind of God". I think
it was a good witness to him to see our church discussing issues. He wanted to
make sure he understood that this was a group of church members meeting in a
home for this purpose. Let me insert here that David came home with the prize
for solving a math puzzle the fastest! The third week was hard for Alain to
follow, but probably interesting nevertheless. Two members of our church who are
Civil War buffs debated the issues surrounding that conflict from a Biblical
perspective. The last seminar was led by our pastor, a former national wrestling
champ, on maintaining a Christian spirit in competitive sports. Our boys really
like these seminars and have suggested we have more each summer. I didnít get
to attend any this year because I had babysitting detail but felt rewarded
anyway by their enthusiasm.
My summer study in Pilgrimís Progress has been going well, although
I am cramming each week to be prepared on time. The only reason I can pull it
off at all is because David rescues me by helping behind the scenes with the
Bible study portion. It has been a challenge to keep up with my TriBoro meetings
and MAFA staff meetings Ė not to mention the laundry! I must confess that some
of the pressure is because we have watched a good number of movies with Alain.
It was an inexpensive way to entertain him, and he was eager to see movies that
were new to him. Many of the DVDs come with subtitles, so we chose films that we
could watch in English with French subtitles, and were very grateful for Uncle
Daleís Christmas present of a DVD player. On Alainís very last night I
stayed up past midnight watching "Chariots of Fire"!
Meanwhile, David went off to western PA with the RUF leaders from Lehigh for
a planning weekend. They stayed at an Officerís Christian Fellowship retreat
center, and had a great time together. The father of our president came to
administer the Myers-Briggs personality test, which is always a popular
conversation stimulus. Another student, Leslie, learned on her way to our house
that one of her friends had just committed suicide, so it was a very difficult
weekend for her, but good that she was with these friends.
David alternates his time working on the office and in the office. It is
looking neater than it has in a long while! In particular, he is trying to make
sure that we donít run into the problems with the computer system which were
so difficult last winter. Donít ask me what heís up to; all I know is that
Jim Femister is giving him a lot of free consulting time. In addition to the
seminar and leadership retreat, he has prepared and given a world view seminar
for pastors in the presbytery, something he may adapt and offer to churches in
the coming year. Then he is also spending time helping with the garage
renovations. He and Peter dug a trench through the backyard to lay electrical
wire, which now needs to be filled in, and he was called in to help with pouring
the concrete. He has decided not to teach biology in NJ this coming school year.
The extra income was nice, but the commute was taking a toll on us, and with the
increasing number of students involved at Lehigh, he will be busy enough there.
In between all of our cavorting around, we have taken care of many of the
mundane requirements of family life. We have had dental appointments,
orthodontist appointments, and school physicals. I managed to file my home
schooling affidavit by the deadline, but still need to order some school
materials. Iíve been rather glad that we didnít have a vegetable garden this
year (because the debris from the garage has been piled there) but sorry that
digging the trench may mean that some of my bulb plants are lost for good.
Several of the French field trips we sent Alain on without us because the
boys were committed to other things. The day he went to Philadelphia both
Christopher and Stephen were taking classes at the vo tech school. This was
Stephenís first year there, and since the rest of us have done it so many
times before, we neglected to give him full instructions about finding the bus,
etc., and he nearly didnít make it home the first day. Iím glad Nana and
Poppa are moving next door because we need some more storage space for the
various bird houses, tile platters, and so on that they make there. On another
day that week the French students toured Allentown, including sitting in on a
murder trial (a bizarre one in which the defendant was serving as his own
lawyer) and taking a tour of the Allentown jail. This was a sobering event for
them and prompted a continuing discussion I had with Alain about capital
punishment, the extradition of Einhorn, etc., which led to conversation about
the European evaluation of President Bush, Chiracís scandals compared to
Clintonís, and so on. Too bad I didnít have Uncle Peterís zinging
assessment (that Europe is acting like a teenager) to test on him!
The whole family was invited to Andrew MacDonaldís high school graduation
party, after which I took Alain to another party at the home of another host
family. These people live in a gorgeous home in Lower Saucon, on 11 Ĺ acres. I
wouldnít be surprised if the property is worth close to a million dollars. It
made me wonder if Alain would feel that he got gypped staying with us, but on
the way home he told me that the French girl who was staying there was rather
bored. The place is so isolated that she wasnít getting to do much. I
suggested that I wouldnít mind going there for a three week exchange next
Iíll skip over the church picnic (always a major food fest) and go right to
our second New York City trip. This time Chris went with me, and we started out
at the Rose Planetarium of the Museum of Natural History. We watched a
spectacular (but too brief) program at the planetarium, and then wandered
through one floor of the museum for a few hours. We got to see "Lucy",
the bones of the oldest human Ė or do I mean the oldest bones of a human? Then
we went on a tour of the United Nations. After that, we were dropped off at
Rockefeller Plaza for a few hours of free time. Chris and I went to Tiffanyís
(where I saw a ring I liked, if anyone needs birthday ideas), then to F.A.O.
Schwartz toy store, and finally over to Carnegie Deli for some New York Jewish
deli food. That left just enough time for wandering through Brookstoneís and
Dean & Delucaís. Once again it was a very hot and humid day, but the
excitement of the French students at being in New York was contagious. Alain
comes from a village of 5000 residents in Brittany, so being in a city like New
York was a life dream for him.
The group had a farewell party the night before departure, and the students
were each supposed to make a French dessert. Alain had been talking for several
days about this wonderful cake he was going to bake. When we actually went to
the store to purchase the ingredients, we couldnít find several of them, and
the cake took much longer to bake than he expected so we were a half hour late
to the party. Nevertheless, it was fun to watch him cook. He put on my chefís
hat, and he wanted me to take his picture with him wearing his new tee shirt
from soccer camp, stirring away and looking very French while all of us (and
half the neighborhood) looked on in admiration. The shirt said "Sarcozi
Soccer Camp" and he told us that Sarcozi is the name of a very bad French
politician, so he thought it was perfectly funny that he now owns this shirt.
The party was bittersweet. The array of French desserts was stunning, and each
of the students made a little thank you speech to their hosts and presented us
with a rose. Alain said that he had been afraid to come in the first place, but
that we had welcomed him as our sixth son, and now he didnít want to return to
France. The only problem was that every morning he was woken up by a little
rooster that didnít say "Cock-a-doodle-doo", but rather "Mommy!
Mommy!" I am kicking myself that I didnít videotape this speech.
The next day we saw them off on the bus (but not before I had given Alain a
last-minute tour of Lehigh University and Peterís high school), and as I
mentioned before, I was sorry to see them go. Alain told me that he had gone out
on our porch at midnight for the past several nights after the rest of us were
in bed, just to sit because he was sad about leaving. We told him he is welcome
to come back any time.
The very next day we had a visit from Joel Ė another "sixth son"
Ė who graduated from Lehigh in June and is now working in Annapolis. He wanted
to show us pictures from the choir trip to Russia and Germany. It was good to
see him, and his visit served as a reminder that goings are often matched by
comings, and farewells are rarely permanent! In fact, after we said goodbye to him,
he ended up returning because his car broke down. This was a big inconvenience,
as it was a Saturday and he is not old enough to rent a car. Fortunately, AAA
towed his car to an open garage, and we gave him our Escort to use for the rest
of the weekend until his car was repaired. Then we left ourselves to pick up Ben
and carry on to the farm.
Ben was at a birthday party for a nursery school chum, who happens to be our
doctorís son. Their party had a farm theme, very cleverly done, and included
two ponies who came to the house and gave the children rides. Ben went on 8 pony
rides! They said he didnít want to stop and kept on going around when all the
others had gotten bored.
We knew our stay at the real farm would have to be brief, as Peter was to be
dropped off at French Creek on Monday, but we were very glad to be able to see
everyone down there. Ida Ruth was looking wonderful, in spite of having
undergone major surgery for cancer less than two weeks before. Allan and Amy
served us our first sweet corn of the summer, and Cory was there, too. Peter
paid for his meal by fixing something on Allanís computer. David had a chance
to talk a bit with his dad and his brother Dale. Things are very dry down there,
especially compared to here, but at least it rained some that weekend.
With Peter, Daniel, and Alain gone it is very quiet around home now. My plan
is to get some housecleaning done. I took Ben to see a surprisingly talented
ventriloquist/magician at the library, and weíve also been to our last summer
storytime. Chris has been working at the library as a computer assistant, as
well as babysitting for the Kricksí study. He squeezed in an afternoon with
his friend Christopher. Stephen has begun thrice weekly soccer practices, but
manages to get over to the Plowmans as often as possible because they have
purchased an archery set for Joe and Stephen to share.
I should mention that our bunny, Cinderella, died the week Christopher was at
French Creek. Last year two guinea pigs died when he was away, so now we are
feeling superstitious. I told Don Houck, who was visiting at the time and is a
child psychologist, that it was good he was on hand to advise us and render
professional services Ė free, of course. We knew we would have to answer to
Chris for this tragedy, so we were very conscientious about taking her to the
vet and even placing her in the animal hospital overnight and specially
delivering fresh greens to entice her to eat.. (David is hoping that none of the
Maryland farmers learns about this.) Sadly, she had some kind of renal failure
and died in the night. We even got a sympathy card from the vet. The unexpected
punch line, though, was that the vet told us that Cinderella was a male!
As a nice surprise, David bought me a cell phone. I was eagerly anticipating
my first call, which ended up being a wrong number! If you need to reach me, and
I am not at home, you can try 610-417-5678.
The work on the garage is nearly completed, but has been halted by the fact
that our contractor was in an accident on the way home last week. No one was
hurt, but his custom-designed truck was badly damaged and will have to be fixed
before he can return. The garage looks so nice that Peter wants to move in
there! Iím afraid it may be an example of making a silk purse out of a sowís
ear, as several people (including my brother David) just recommended tearing the
old one down, but hopefully this will work out fine.
Daniel got an A- on his first course, and today is taking his second course
final. He intends to stay in Baltimore and work full-time at a warehouse in
order to stash some cash. He was not affected by the Hcl train accident spill,
for those of you who might have worried. He has moved into another apartment in
the same complex. His address is 108 39th St. Apt. 25, Baltimore, MD
21210. He expects to stay there until graduation, so you donít have to write
that in disappearing ink in your address book!
Well, itís late now and I should wrap this up. Remembering everyone fondly,