Challenges of being a host mom

I have been a host mom to a foreign exchange student for the past 5 months. Let me put my disclaimer out there first so here it is ……

*****Disclaimer- not all host family experiences are positive and not all experiences are negative. This is my experience and is not a reflection of a positive or negative feeling toward the idea of having an exchange student. This is just simply MY thoughts about MY experience. No negativity and no offense noted toward anyone or anything. Thank you.******

I have been asked after the past worst five months of my life if I would do it again and my resounding answer is NO. Without going in to specifics, it’s time to move on.

The whole idea of hosting a foreign exchange student is about chemistry. Do they fit in with you and you with them? Do you have the same interests? In our case… initially yes and now… not so much. The chemistry that was once there is gone. Unlike your own children, they come to you already set in who they are and you either are a good match or you are not.  In this case our work ethics, spiritual upbringings and so many other things are NOT the same. And without naming specific names… the company we are working with is by FAR one of the worst I have ever dealt with. Dishonest, terrible at communication, and not to mention disrespectful to host families.

For us, the common threads we had in the beginning are unravelling. We have no common thread anymore. It is time to move on.

We have assisted with finding another host family for our student second semester. He is not enjoying attending wrestling meets and basketball games. Was not enjoying the time we spend cheering our two sons on. Was no longer having fun.

He asked us if we could take him to museums and historical places and unfortunately we cannot do that because of our own kids busy and demanding schedules. Our weekends are spent being their biggest fans and I do NOT regret that. That is simply our life now, and it does not mesh with what he is wanting to accomplish.

We are beginning the process this week of getting him moved on to his next stop. We were his second host family in a year and he now moves on to his third. We wish him well, thank him for the experiences he has given us and hope he sees how proud we are to represent this beautiful country we call home.

He will finish out his year in our same small community in a home with children who are not involved in as much as our kids are. With us he was able to attend the Iowa State Fair, experience playing American football, experience Christmas in an American home, experience Thanksgiving and Halloween cultures and experience harvest and the fun of combining on a farm in the great state of Iowa.

We wish him well on his next step of his journey, and we look forward to having our life fall back into its “normal” again.

I am sharing this only because “all that glitters sometimes is not gold” as the saying goes, and if you have ever thought about hosting, just know that while there is some beautiful and wonderful things that can come from the experience, there is also some negative in some cases. There are different cultures, backgrounds and expectations at play and sometimes you have to recognize when it is time to move on.

We wish him our best!



Taiwanese Treats

It’s been a busy summer… to say the least. Between basketball and the day to day rush of herding my own 3 kids, we acquired a Taiwanese foreign exchange student who arrived in the US and had nowhere to stay. This was unplanned. BUT like all things in a busy household even the best laid plans fail. So we go with it. And we expect to roll with the punches.

So Leo, our foreign exchange student arrived at our home at the end of August. One week after the start of school. He is easy to have. appreciative of what we do for him, follows the rules etc. Really I cannot complain.

Since his arrival we have experienced so much!  The biggest and best fair in the whole United States… the Iowa State Fair, the Iowa vs. Iowa State game (unfortunately Iowa State lost) .. and everything from fireworks on the farm to deer calls, playing football, and a bonfire. We will share more on that later….

So Leo arrived and we started our new “routine” and fortunately the greatest issue we have had thus far is his extreme overeating tendencies. We have since discovered that our diet is so flavorful that he just cannot get enough… and he is not full because our diet is missing the tea and rice he is used to filling up on.

We continue to adjust and we continue to see changes little by little. He has learned he can stop, there will be more food for him later. He has learned he likes EVERYTHING we offer so he has to limit himself. But he is very considerate and makes every attempt to follow the rules.

One of the unexpected surprises of having a foreign exchange student was the arrival of a treat box from his mother in Taiwan. She speaks no English, so our opportunity to visit with him about it came from visiting with Leo. His mother was kind enough to send the expensive pastries and desserts that the Taiwanese enjoy in their country for their celebration. I can briefly describe these, although not a big favorite at our house, my children were kind enough to sample them and give feedback. Let me say though- I can see why our “American food” is so delicious to him, as the Taiwanese desserts are very bland in flavor, and not too exciting. 🙂

The first thing we tried was a expensive white cake with a red dot in the middle. This was a flaky layered type snowball shaped cake and tasted like sugar cookie dough unbaked would taste. It was so-so.

We also tried “moon cake” which was a brown squared shaped heavier cake with a date baked in the middle. This cake is consumed in conjunction with the festival in Taiwan. Interesting, but not very good.

Lastly we tried a “pineapple cake” again a square cake similar to a fig newton in consistancy. The newton part was pineapple flavored and very chewy. I guess if I had to have a favorite this would be it?

Even if the desserts were not our favorite, we loved the opportunity to try something from his culture. He also had a package of what appeared to be ramen type noodles that teenagers eat uncooked with seasoning on them. Similar to chips, they carry the bag and eat the noodles as a snack. The bag has a wizard on the front and is a child favorite.

We continue to learn from this experience and apprecitae the opportunity y to teach about this beautiul country we call home …. will keep updates as I can!


Boxed treats from Taiwan, moon cake, pineapple cake and desserts