Family Re [defined]

Look at this group, what a posse. Kevin and I have had the pleasure to be a host family for an ESL (English as a Second Language) program for the last several years, we started hosting students in 2005 while Kevin and I were still in college and broke with a Capital B. We figured I was going to school every day, the student could ride with me and we would make an easy 400.00 for three weeks of hanging out with a Japanese student. What we didn’t realize is that this decision would affect us…or is it effect? I can never remember 🙂 Anyway I digress.

In years previous we have had girls which I love because I get to have grown-up girls living with me, we cook, we shop, we do mani/pedi days, I just soak in the estrogen and enjoy each moment with them. So this last summer 2009 we were given our placements for our summer students, and it was for two boys, one from China and one from Japan. Honestly I was a little bummed, because I on a daily basis am SURROUNDED by boys, the testosterone level in this house is almost at a dangerous level. I also found out that my students were going to be here for an entire school year, and that they had high English proficiency. Wha-hooo, a whole year with them, that should be fun, we would be able to show them American holidays, and they would get the entire American experience.

When our family does things, we do it in groups….My mom and dad, sister, brother-in-law, niece, my in-laws and sister-in-law, grand parents (both sides) there are also some straggler friends that don’t have family here in town, so they join in at every festivity we have. That makes for usually 20-25 people at our holidays, baseball games and BBQ’s that in itself is very overwhelming for an outsider joining in. So when our ESL boys got here, they were in for a rude awakening….

They have had the quite the American experience, let’s start in August and I’ll hit the high points of their adventure with the Hanson Family and their ESL class: Yellowstone Park, Crow Fair, Mustang Baseball, Pig Roast, hitting a deer with our Van (my ultimate favorite story of all time.)Keep reading and I’ll tell you about it. We decided to head to Jordan, MT for a weekend at Ft. Peck lake with my good buddy and her family, so we piled into our van: Kevin and I our boys and the ESL boys….along with luggage and enough food to choke a horse….

So about half-way through our trip it is starting to get dark, and up from the borrow pit jumps a deer, we swerve……but…we creamed her out. It was honestly like something out of The Matrix, the poor Bambi tumbled and spun and landed in the middle of the highway. Kev was driving and so he pulled over, and I got out to survey the damage. The van was drivable, no radiator damage (thank you Jesus) and mostly it just made a mess of our front-end…here’s the funny part, out of the van pop out two very scared and wide-eyed Asain students (bear in mind that we’re in the middle of Cowboy Town USA) So they jump out and proceed to start taking pictures in the middle of the highway, of the deer, and of our car.

Behind them pops out Cooper, with tears streaming down his face, he proceeds to tell me that I am going to go to jail, because I didn’t have a hunting license and we killed the deer. So now in the middle of the road, we have me (smoking a cigarette) yes I smoked, and yes I know it’s bad, but it was one of those moments…ya know? One Japanese guy, one Chinese guy, one 6-year old that is in hysterics and over the hill comes a guy in a truck…..he stops and looks us up and down like we were the strangest site that his eyes have ever seen. He grabs the deer by the leg and pulls her off the side of the road, while our Chinese student is asking, “Why don’t you put the deer on the van, and use it for our dinner?” I told him that it wasn’t a good idea, and that the meat might taste a little funny after being creamed by our car. We went on to have one of the greatest weekends ever, boating, tubing, waterskiing and just enjoying the company of good friends.

We spent Thanksgiving, and Christmas together. They were here when we found out we were having a baby and when we found out that our baby bean was a girl (both boys were stuck going through boxes of pink clothes that a friend gave me.) They were with us when we said good-bye to our sweet Ireland, and they saw that our regardless of culture and language we all grieve the same. They have been here now for Easter and the times we have with them are slowly coming to an end. What I failed to see last summer, when our journey was beginning, was how incredibly attached to them we would become. I LOVE those boys and my kids consider them brothers, they have brought life and spirit and laughter to our house, especially in these last weeks.

I am convinced that we the Hanson family, have personally re-defined the definition of family. I have learned that family isn’t necessarily biological and that bonds of family can be forged anywhere.

I love you boys, so much. Thank you for letting me be your “mama” these last 9 months, and for loving us in return, we are so lucky to have you!


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  1. I remember the deer story and I remember your concern about the one (I can't remember from which country) who had the thyroid problems. It is hard to believe it has been almost a year! So will you do it again?

    I'm glad they had a chance to be part of your family and got to experience the highs and lows of it. I'm sure it is an experience they will never forget and you have lifetime friends with them should you ever decide to visit China or Japan!


  2. people who give of their time to better the lives of strangers are the best kind!

  3. Wow! What a story!

  4. Oh, wow – this is so neat! What a blessing to share your life with those boys!

    I just wanted to remind you that Momentous Monday starts tomorrow on my blog!

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