Route 66: 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Heart @The Paramount Theater, Denver 8/26/10

Tonight is Thursday 8/26/10.  We're seeing Heart at a great old theater in Denver, The Paramount.  The Paramount is basically on 16th Street Mall in Downtown Denver & has been around since about 1930.  This theater is one of my favorite small venues.  It's got a great vibe and is large enough to pull in national touring acts, but still considered small and intimate.  The capacity here is about 1500 people and nearly all the seats have an excellent view of the stage.

Heart is currently on tour promoting their new release Red Velvet Car which hits the streets on Tuesday 8/31.  Here's a touch of useless trivia for you, "Street Date" for new music is always on Tuesday.

Tonight they had a local Denver artist named Laura Brown (sp?), open the show.  We were somewhat surprised because there was nothing to indicate there was an opening act.  Laura was pretty good; she plays the 6 and 12 acoustic guitar and electric piano.  Her songs are OK.  I know that all sounds vague and perhaps it is.  She's pleasant enough, but really her songs lack a certain soul, as they say, IMO.  I also know this will sound odd, but she sounds like she sings in church and not like "gospel" type singers, just your everyday normal person singing.  She's now 20, I believe she said and has 2 cds out now, but I can't seem to locate them.  Anyway, big kudos to Heart for showcasing local talent.  Love to see more venues and artists do this.

Heart hit the stage around 9pm and rolled through 34 years of music; their first album Dreamboat Annie came out in 1976 and I've been a fan for at least 30 years.  I remember back in the day when I first heard my brother's 8 track of Dreamboat Annie & Little Queen.   For those of you wondering,  an 8 track was a funky thing that people used to have in their cars to listen music.  This was before cds and DO remember what a cassette was, right??  Ask your parents or grandparents about those things.  :)

The band started out with a revamped version of "Cook With Fire" and rolled with hits from nearly all of their albums.  They played "Magic Man", "Crazy On You", "What About Love", at least 4 new songs such as "Hey You", "Red Velvet Car" and a song by the title of  likely one of my favorite sayings, "WTF".  Of course, they also Rocked out "Barracuda".  I think "Barracuda" has one of the coolest guitar riffs ever and I knew this song WAY before Guitar Hero.  Their encores were Led Zep's "What is and What Should Never Be" and The Who's "Love, Reign o're Me."

All in All, an Excellent show.  I've been able to see Heart several times over the years.  My first time was back in 1981.  Here's a little story about how shy I really am; when I first saw Heart, of course the Ladies, (Ann & Nancy), were looking Amazing!  My brother Dave, who by the way, also saw this show with me, and I were hanging out in the hotel lobby in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  As we were standing there the band came in & sat down, hanging out.  I was literally standing shoulder to shoulder with Howard Leese, the former lead guitar player and just couldn't bring myself to say anything.  I'm here to tell you that being shy is a HUGE drag.  If a person has the opportunity to meet someone new; famous or not, they need to step up and do it.  You can never get anywhere being shy.  Of course, that being said, to this day, I still can't bring myself to talk to a pretty girl...just a big chicken, I guess.  :)

Peace, may the music rock your world.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Scorpions with Cinderella @ 1st Bank Center - Broomfield 8/17/10

Tonight is Tuesday & it's the second night this week we are rockin'!  Gotta love live music!!!

Tonight's show is Scorpions "Get Your Sting & Blackout" World (retirement) Tour with Cinderella opening up.  This was a night for a couple of firsts.  This was the first time I had been to the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield.  I'd been past it a few times before, on my way to Boulder on 36.  It's tucked back in a little neighborhood that is just starting to fill in with some businesses & condos.  Anyway, good close by parking, (we were there early enough to get Free parking).  We had a couple of beers at the nearby pizza place and then walked to the venue.  I gotta tell ya, I LOVE being able to walk to a venue after enjoying a beverage.  Kinda like Vegas, but WAY cheaper drinks.

We were a little bummed that it seemed to take forever to open up the doors.  Luckily, the weather was nice, so it wasn't all bad, but I have to wonder what it would be like in winter.  The show was to start at 8pm, so 7pm doors wasn't altogether out of line.  The venue is what you'd expect of a multi-use place and according to the website holds up to 7000.  It wasn't sold out, (too bad) for the Scorps, so we figured about 5k for the show.  They had the sound dialed in pretty well and security seemed to be doing a pretty good job; you know escourting out the knuckleheads that just got to a concert to drink, smoke & get stoopid.  It seems pretty crazy to spend a pretty good chunk of change on a ticket, $7+ on a beer and whatever on other substances only to get tossed out & not see the show...Duh!

OK, now on to the Fun!  Cinderella hit the stage at 8ish,  (that's rock n' roll for nearly on time).  The band from the 80's is back with all the original members, (as we know 'em) and put on a really good solid Rock & Bloos show.  They did all their hits, Night Songs, Shake Me, Gypsy Road, Shelter Me and of course,  Don't Know What You've Got, (til it's gone).   This was the second "first" this night as I hadn't seen Cinderella before.  I was suitably impressed.  Tom Keifer, lead vocals & "stuff'" plays 6 & 12 string & double neck guitars, piano & even sax.  Not bad, not bad at all.  The rest of the band put together a very solid show and they rocked out for about an hour.  I'd have to say, based on the show here, I'd definitely seem them again. 

After a relatively short stage reset, Scorpions hit the stage and man did they Rock the House!  From the first chords of Sting in the Tail, (I think...I'm Old, so I forget sometimes), throughout nearly ALL the hits you would expect, the Scorpions Kicked Major Butt!  The guys had a major huge video screen (or three) set up at the back of the stage that showed members of the band as well as video clips that went along with the particular song.  The show started with James Kottak's drum kit probably 20 feet or so in the air and the rest of the band running around the stage.  By the way, perhaps one of the coolest things about the stage was the section that jutted out into the crowd so that everyone was able to be out in the midst of the crowd during the show.  The band has been around for roughly 40 years and they know how to rock & roll. 

These guys rocked like guys in their 30's and didn't look at all like this was a "retirement" tour.  The Scorps brought all the tunes you would expect, The Zoo, Loving You Sunday Morning, Blackout, several tunes from the new (latest) album and for the encore, No One Like You, (Denvah....) and you got it, Rock You Like  Hurricane!  If you have the chance, you might want to pick up the new album; "Sting in the Tail".  All around very good tunage.

Each member of the band was showcased for a solo with James' being the longest.  While good, it might have been a touch too long.  Rudolph ran around the stage and looked like he was still back in the day when the Scorpions Ruled MTV and their videos were everywhere, (you DO remember when MTV actually played music, right??), Mattias played all over the stage and Truly looked like he was having the time of his life.  It's a Great feeling for the crowd when the band are enjoying themselves.  You know how it goes, when the band is having a good time, they feed off the audience and the audience feeds off them and so on.  I've been lucky enough to see the band on several occasions and I have to say that this was definitely one of the best and most energetic shows I've seen from them.  It's nice to see a band go out near the top of their game, unlike, (insert OLD /tired band name here).

Throughout the show, the lights and pyro played a integral part of things and on more than one occasion, the crowd was singing right along, not me of course, well, with the exception of Still Loving You...perhaps.  For me, I think one of the highlights was seeing the band rocking out together on the stage extension and shaking hands & bumping fists.  For a true music lover, it's the things like this that make the difference between a good show & a great show.

Besides a great show by a great band, having my brother there also made it special.  This was also Dave's first time to see the Scorps and likely the last, but he had a Great time & then it was time to close the show.  Sad for us, but great that we were there to see it.  In addition to watching the band, before the show, during intermission & a bit after the show, it's often entertaining to people watch as well.  Always interesting and fairly eye-opening.  It takes all kinds and really, I guess it doesn't matter what folks look like, it matters what's in the heart.

I must say that nearly everything about the night and the show was great, except for the pictures.  I was pretty disappointed in the pictures I took, (my fault or at least my Blackberry's fault).  Now I'm looking for both a small digital camera AND a video's at least one or two that came out OK.

Peace and may the music be guide for your soul!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rush @ Red Rocks 8/16/10

If I had to pick just one "perfect" outdoor concert venue, it would be Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado.
If I had to pick Only one, (as if I could choose Only one), band to showcase Red Rocks, it would be Rush.

Put these two together and you get August 16, 2010.  On this night, Rush played the first of 2 nights at Red Rocks on their Time Machine North American Tour.  The first night, (Our night) is sold out.  Rush brought well over 2 1/2 hours of rock and roll to this amazing natural amphitheater.  While there really isn't a bad seat in the house, of course, there are better seats.  Our seats were good, but as luck would have it, they couldn't have been a touch closer.  No worries, the band helped up out as I'll tell you later.

If you know nothing about Red Rocks, you are Missing Out!  Red Rocks is located in/at Morrison, Colorado, just west of Denver.  This is an outdoor venue with few, if any peers and has been hosting concerts on a regular basis since the 1940's and even had some before that time.  Many musicians have claimed over the years that Red Rocks is the greatest outdoor venue in America or even the world.  Having been to many concerts here & living in Colorado, I would heartily agree.

Tonight, I'm joined by two of my brothers.  Dave, my oldest brother out here in Colorado from Illinois and my brother Bobby LaRosa from here in the Springs & Denver.  Dave is out here for 2 weeks and while here, we'll be seeing several shows.  This is his second time at Red Rocks, but his first time hanging out with Rush.  He was suitably impressed.  This time out, Bobby is the photographer and a good one at that.  My Blackberry camera just didn't take care of bid'ness that night.  So, a Grande Grazie to Bobby!

Rush started off the show with some video footage of  what Rush "coulda" been...Rash.  it was kind a cool.  You'll have to see them to get the full effect, but imagine a young Rush before being "discovered" and playing polka's.  The band - Rash, that is, plays a couple of more times throughout the night and added some interesting chuckles.  Word has it that the guys from the movie "I Love You, Man", (sorry, I don't recall seeing the movie),  make an appearance at the end of the show, so don't duck out without seeing the last video footage.

OK, so on to the Real Deal.  Rush hit the stage after the video lead in and Rock for well over an hour. In fact, overall, the band played for nearly 3 hours. They played the classics, the more recent stuff AND added a couple new songs that will be on an upcoming record...yes, that's right, I said record.  I'm old enough that I always say record or album...just can't even get in the habit of saying "new CD", so there!  The band had no opening act, so it was All Rush, All of the Time.  Tonight's show was their Colorado stop on the Time Machine tour and we were definitely treated to a band that knows what they are doing.  This three piece band can rock the socks off most bands half their age and get more sound out of the show than bands with twice as many members.

Alex Lifeson is perhaps one of the best but most under rated guitarist in the world, Geddy Lee is the "voice" of the band and while perhaps not the most "out there" bass player, does a fine job and also plays keyboards & bass pedals while singing, last there's Neil Peart.any rock drummer, ( many other genres as well), can tell you that he is the Shizzle.  He IS amazing and plays two kits during the night with the second spinning around in front of him while he's playing.  Neil is the chief  lyricist in the band and for a biker like me, some of his lyrics really hit home.  If you ever get the chance, please read Ghost get a true feeling for a man who has been to hell and back &  it also gives you insights to some of their songs and the origination's  of those tunes.

I believe the first song of the night was Spirit of Radio...a Great way to rock the night off to a great start.  Rush doesn't necessarily yack to the crowd much, but that ain't all bad, as it just means you get more rock & roll for your buck.  Geddy did say, that when you get to be their age; all of the guys are in their 50's, they need to take a break, so, the band took about 15 minutes intermission.

When the band came back, it was time for Moving Pictures, in it's entirety.  It's pretty amazing when you hear the whole set of that classic album and realize you were just starting high school when it came out.  I have to admit, I wore out two or three cassette copies of Moving Pictures...I Loved that!  By the way, cassettes are what came before cd's, but after vinyl & 8 tracks...the band was pretty much flawless in delivery and you could have envisioned yourself back in your buddies basement listening to the album with the lights down, lava lamps & black lights going and a hint of a certain herb in the air...not ME of course, but I heard of folks that did that.  Oh yeah, and top off the fashion for the night with jeans and a Rush concert shirt with maybe a flannel shirt over it, ( hey, I grew up in Iowa, what do you want), oh, and don't forget the mullet~  " Business in the front, party in the back!"

The band took another short break after "Moving Pictures"and then came back for a couple more songs and of course more "Rash" videos.  The closed out the night with a song from their very first album;  "Working Man".  Excellent way to close the show!  Throughout the show the band was on the Huge screen behind Neil's drum kit that gave a up-close & personal look at the guys for everyone and included a split screen that at some times, showed all three band members at the same time and they also had a jumbo tron screen on the "Exit Stage Left" side of the stage.  Both help the enhance the view of some of the more vertically challenged individuals amongst us.  Yes, that would include me.

Ultimately, it was a beautiful night for awesome Rock & Roll.  Often, what puts a good show over the top and makes it a Great show is the people you see it with.  While I'm not opposed to seeing a show by myself, (hey, it's not like I can get a date anyway...), it IS more fun to see it with someone who enjoys it as much as you.  

That's All Folks!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Foreign Exchange Adventures School Year 2008-09

This time we're looking at the 2008-09 school year.

Our group out here in Colorado is continuing to grow a little bit at a time.  We had more students here in our part of the Western Kansas group and I supervised 3 girls this year.  Jenny was here in Colorado Springs, (from Sweden), Marie stayed in Denver & was from Austria and Dani was from Venezuela and stayed in Conifer.  All the girls, as well as the rest of the kids here had a good year.

We started off our school year with our annual Kansas/Colorado rafting trip.  We average about 50 people per year on this trip and have a great time is had by all.  This is a great time for our students to get to know each other, (if they haven't already met); often, these kids were at language camp, so it's a great time to hang out and compare great host families.  This trip is a full day on the water in the Brown's Canyon area near Buena Vista, Colorado...that's pronounced Bue Na Vista, LOOONG U there.  The story is that the person who named it didn't like the Spanish...or something like that.

For my part, I decided not to host this year.  The biggest reason I didn't host was because I had the pleasure of spending 3 weeks in Europe in September.  This is one of the Greatest things about being a host family or in my case, a host Dad.  Since I hosted David & Mattia last school year, I had an opportunity to spend 1 1/2 weeks in Spain to start off.  David and family live a bit outside of Madrid. Luckily, the flight to Madrid was uneventful, if a bit on the long side.  It was great to see David again, as well as Juan and Chus.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to meet Natalia, David's sister, but that was because she was in North Dakota for a semester.  I had great tour guides and I spent several days doing a bit of shopping and taking in El Prado Museo.  It was pretty amazing.  I think it's been a long time since I've been in a museum and was very impressed.  Of course, I got the biggest chuckle out of Juan, when he explained why the portraits of the "royal men" looked a touch less "manly" it was because of (a tiny little bit of) inbreeding...reminds me of an old Robin Williams bit about Prince Charles' ears...anyway.  As fun as the museum was, the highlight of the Spain leg of the trip was the 2 days we spent in Rioja.  That ROCKED!!!  We did wine tastings, had amazing food, visited some of the coolest old castles and bodegas and wineries in the area.

I also spent 1 1/2 weeks in Italy with Mattia & his famiglia; his parents Anna & Paolo and his brother Jacopo.  Of course, it was great to see Mattia again & meet everyone else.  Mattia's family lives outside of Rome in a cool quiet little neighborhood.  I got a chance to see SO much history.  It was pretty amazing to stand in one place and see actual layers of history.  I went to the Colosseum,  the Pantheon & the Vatican Museo.  I have to admit, I was slightly apprehensive about hanging out near the Vatican, but the Museo was unbelievable.  The sheer amount of historic pieces was mind boggling.  The final "exhibit" was the Sistine Chapel.  I was actually speechless.  I thought, "Oh My God" and then thought that was a little odd...The pictures and stories and what you may have heard just don't prepare you for the real thing.  It was so much more than I expected.  I should step back for a second and admit that I'm a dork, (I know...anyone who knows me already knew that), after spending over a week with David's family & listening to lots and lots of Spanish, apparently, some of it sunk in.  Mattia asked me a question and I thought I'd be "cool" and answer him in Italian.  Nice thought, however, I answered in Spanish.  He was so disappointed...  I guess, if there's a good thing here, it was that after spending a week and a half listening to and learning Italian, I did the exact same thing, (in opposite), when I answered David in Italian.  Double Duh.

While I was in Spain, I received an interesting email from my counterpart/sister Lori.  I think her words were "EF is going to ask you something when you get back...Please say yes."  Well, they did & so did I.  I accepted the position as RC in Colorado.  Also, as things tend to happen, there was a meltdown for a host family & student I was supervising.  I HATE when that happens.  Don't worry, things worked out.  It was a learned experience for all and I have definitely gotten some insights from the ordeal.

Since Marie was only here for 1 semester, we took the girls shopping in December.  OK, they shopped, I wondered around, I guess kinda like a Dad...trying to keep up with a bunch of teenage girls is pointless, so I threw in the towel early.  By all accounts, the girls had a good time & they did their part to try to help the US economy.  Also, just before Marie left, I was able to meet she & her Mother for lunch here in Colorado Springs.  Again, very cool stuff.

After accepting the RC (that's Regional Coordinator) position things got very busy, very quickly.  Luckily, we were able to "hang on to" Tim, Nikki, Mike and Deb and they have been tremendous assets.  One of the things we did was to rename our team.  I'm not a big fan of naming the group out here, Team Finkbeiner or Team Joey for that matter, so we went with United Colorado.

This year was the beginning of our United Colorado team meetings.  This year, we had a Spring meeting in Breckenridge.  It was rather small, but very informative for all and the first shot at creating a good team that works together!

We wrapped up another year and were working on placing students for the next school year.  When the system works, we are working nearly year round to find great host families for our nearly 3000 students. In fact, during this time, I had already decided on the students I would host.  I will gladly recount that on the next blog.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ottmar Liebert @ The Soiled Dove 8/6/10

Tonight, we're enjoying some great live music!

Let's tell you about it a little.  The Soiled Dove is a very cool, intimate, small club in Denver.  They're located near 1st Ave & Quebec on the old Lowry Airforce Base site.  Above the Soiled Dove is Tavern Lowry.  Our crew, Mizz Vick, Sunny, Sue, Bobby & I, decided to eat at Tavern Lowry this night.  I must say, I was quite impressed.  This is no ordinary bar food, this is reasonably priced, good food.  What a pleasant surprise.  Each of the five of us had a very nice meal AND it was reasonably priced.  Go figure...  After our meal we walked downstairs to the Soiled Dove.  I SO love being able to walk to a venue after a good meal.

OK, so let's talk about the venue a bit.  The stage is a bit of a semi circle with seats right against the stage, higher tables a little farther out and then a set of seats right along the rail/bar.  The capacity for this club is right around 350.  There is really no bad seat in the house.  This is now the fourth time I've been here and I always have a great time.

As there were five of us this time, we got seats on the rail/bar table instead of a table, (those only hold 4), so we were nearly center stage and about 20 feet or so from Ottmar, his bass player and drummer.  Ottmar and he band Luna Negra, play what is referred to as "Nuevo Flamenco"  That may sound rather New Age-ish and that may conjure up thoughts of "elevator".  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Ottmar is very laid back and treats you to a show that makes you feel like you are in your living room with an old friend.  Along those lines, there's a large lava lamp on stage and Ottmar's "uniform" for the show is jeans, t-shirt and bare feet.  That is what gives it a very comfortable feel.  Ottmar and Luna Negra give you a stripped down show that is just about the music.  He gives you a very full sound and only plays an acoustic guitar with a mic stuck in front of it.  The bass & drums simply add to the sound and never over power it.  Ottmar doesn't sing, so it was a night filled with amazing guitar music.  He is very intense and as you watch, you can see the pure joy in his face and that he is lucky enjoy to do something he truly enjoys AND wants to share that with you.  He makes the guitar sing and talk for him. 

Long ago, my brother Vinny and I had the opportunity to meet Ottmar and we found him to be very generous, honest and personable.  I've not had the opportunity to see him  4 times and he never disappoints.  If you have the chance to see him, please do it.  It will be a great, relaxing time and you'll get to someone, in a very intimate setting and you will not be disappointed.   Sorry for the picture quality, it from my cell phone.

If Ottmar might not be to your taste, no worries, check out The Soiled Dove online and look through their concert schedule. Lots of great artists play here.  By the way, should I ever have a date again, this just might be the place to take her...yeah, you're right, I should just plan on going anyway, instead of waiting for a date.  ;)


Monday, August 9, 2010

In The Machine @ The Black Sheep 8/7/10

Tonight Colorado Springs originals In The Machine headlined at The Black Sheep.  Let's take a minute to give you the rundown of Who the heck In The Machine is.  You WILL need to know this because you'll be hearing great things about them.

In The Machine:
Corey Brown - master vocalist.  Corey has that type of voice that really gets in your head and makes you go, Yeah!  He's got the pipes to make anyone with ears to stand up and take notice.  Corey can easily rock the house and makes you believe you are in the presence of a world class lead singer.

Doug Brown is the man behind the drums AND vocals.  Doug has the skills of a madman back behind the kit.  You may not see much of him, but there is no doubt that he lays the foundation that keeps the band rocking and keeps your head bopping.  Doug also adds the perfect harmony & layer to Corey's lead vocals.

Next up is Jsin Elliott on guitar.  Jsin is a presence on stage.  He's an amazing fluid player that is very well at home on stage and makes things look effortless.  Things you notice about Jsin are the smile that let's you know he's having fun, an intense playing style and of course, the big guns that make the guitars look like toys.

Now it's time for Ian Ringler.  Ian is the second half of a simply amazing rhythm section that Screams, "We are gonna ROCK YOU!"  Ian plays an unbelievable 12 string bass.  Yes, that's right, I said 12 string.  The bottom end that Ian lays down is the kind of thing that will make you feel the music all the way to your soul.  It IS that cool.  Anybody can play a 4 string or even a 5 string, (well, anyone with talent), but it takes someone on a Mission to play the 12 string Hamer.

Lastly, simply because I went left to right as the guitars are lined up on stage, is Eric Madrid.  Eric is a true guitar animal.  Eric can do it all.  He's the consummate rock star with an Amazing attitude that goes with it.  I mean that in the BEST sense of the word.  Eric gives it 110% every time out and makes sure the audience gets more than their money's worth.  He plays with style, grace and what can I say, he has FUN!  And really, isn't fun what music is supposed to be all about?

OK, now down to bid'ness.  In The Machine is a band that comes together and is so much more than just the sum of its parts.  Here's a group of guys that has all the qualities of a multi-platinum rock n roll band that could easily put some of the so-called "Rock Stars" to shame.  Each guy has talent that could carry any band, but playing together makes a great combination.

The band took the stage at The Black Sheep as the headliners.  The Boys were Ready to Rock the House!  The guys all have absolutely amazingly humble attitudes.  I've heard it said that it doesn't matter if there are 12 people or 12,000 people facing the stage.  It's up to the band to give the best they've got and they absolutely did that.  Have you ever been to a show by a band you really liked and they seem to be just up there going through the motions or worse give you the feeling that they think you are there to worship them  In The Machine make it very clear that they enjoy what they do and they are truly there to entertain YOU!

This show featured songs from their upcoming debut album that is currently being recorded at Enharmonic Studies, right here in Colorado Springs.  These songs are tight, solid and could easily be heard anywhere on the radio, that is, if only radio stations and record labels would actually listen for talent and not what's "popular".  The songs played on Saturday night were flawless.  The combination of intricate drums, thundering bass line with the twin guitars flowing in, out and over the foundation gives a perfect spot for soaring vocals.  This is history in the making.  If you haven't yet seen this band, you are missing out.  Next time they play, do yourself a favor and get to the show.  You'll be able to tell your friends, "Dude, I saw these guys before they got big.  They were frickin' Awesome!!!!"

In the meantime, check out these websites to find out what's happening with the band.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Foreign Exchange Adventures School Year 2007-08

This posting will be for the 2007-08 school year.

The placement season for the 07-08 school year actually started in February or so, but we'll jump ahead to about June 2007.  The previous year's students have returned home and we're working on things for the upcoming school year.

Our group out here continues to grow a little bit at a time and we ended up placing 6 students in the Colorado portion of Team Wade.  Of those 6, I hosted 2 young men and another IEC in Manitou Springs; Melissa hosted a young lady.

Melissa hosted Isabella from Sweden.  By all accounts, these two ladies had a wonderful year together.  Melissa was nice enough to open her home to this young lady and I think they both learned a tremendous amount about one another and about themselves too.  During this year I supervised Melissa & Isabella and she supervised my boys and I.  We got to hang out from time to time and shared a few dinners over the course of the year and I consider Melissa to be a very good friend, unfortunately, with schedules being what they are, we just don't get to see each other much.

For my part, I hosted two amazing young men.  Mattia is from Italy, (Roma) and David is from Spain (Madrid).  As this was my first real opportunity to be a parent, on my own, I had HUGE amounts to learn.  Oh sure, I was somewhat of a Dad for awhile, when I was married, but that was for a short time & when things got tough, well things just got taken care of I guess.

So, back to the school year.  Originally, I had only planned to host Mattia, since he was a 1/2 year student.  You know, I thought it would be a good way of "trying out" the program.  Mattia's Momma actually emailed me and asked me some really great questions; the best one was if I would consider hosting
2  students instead of just one.  After considering everything, (for about 34 seconds), I decided it would be a good thing to host 2 boys.  It was a Wonderful thing! 

Mattia & David actually arrived within an hour of each other.  We stuffed their bags into the little bitty Saturn and ran them home to drop off the bags and then we went for some grub.  During dinner, we went through  the house rules and began getting our family in order. Since the guys got here about a week and a half before school started, we got them registered and then head out for a few days to "discover" Colorado.

The boys and I took part in the annual Kansas/Colorado rafting trip along with Franzie and Dani F.  This trip is always a blast because we share it with our friends from Kansas.  On average we have about 50 students, family members and IECs that attend.  It's great because we pretty much get the whole river to ourselves.  When we go we do a full day rafting with lunch on the beach.  Great pictures, too.  Very Cool stuff!

We decided to start a new family tradition this year and we decide to get our photos "professionally" done.  All in all they turned out well, but it's tough to pay a pretty good amount of money & then think "I could have done that or better".  The guys look great and I, well, I look kinda like a Dad.  ;)

In October, the boys and I took a trip to California.  Since this was after both boys had acquired their driver's permits we decided to rent a Mustang convertible!  As far as you know, the boys did not drive the car... ;)   We took time out to spend a few days on the coast, visited a wine tasting room - that would be Bonny Doon, we hung out at the beach, had great food, spent some time in San Francisco, rented a H3, took in some sun and relaxed...

Our next big thing was a visit from David's parents- Juan Luis & Chus.  It was great to meet them and they had a good time doing the touristy stuff in Colorado.  While they were here they cooked for us, we cooked for them and we had dinner out.  What a Great visit! Of course, the adults found a common ground in wine appreciation. 

The boys took a ski trip to Winter Park.  I've heard the skiing was pretty good, however since I don't ski, I was just the driver.  As luck would have it, the snow started and snowed and snowed and snowed.  I SO hate driving in a blizzard, it's just No fun.

We also took a ski trip to Breckenridge in December with Melissa, Isabella and a few other girls in the area.  Again, the boys had fun, but of course, the snow started up and made travel rather unpleasant.  Yes, yes, I know, I's Colorado, you're in the mountains at a ski area...DUH!  Of Course there's a snow storm!

I did something that I shouldn't have allowed, but I was able to plead ignorance, (that time), I let David go home for the holidays and didn't have his paperwork signed correctly.  See, it's not really that EF wants to be the bad guy, but it's IS the state department rule that since the students are here on a student visa, they can leave the country when ever they like, but coming back into the country is the issue.  The DS2019 needs to be updated.  Anyway, lesson learned.  Luckily David got back into the country with no issues.

Since David was in Spain for the Holidays and Mattia was only here for the first semester, the Holidays were set to be rather boring, but I got a surprise.  Mattia decided he would wait to go back to Italy until after the first of the year.  What a very cool and mature thing to do.  As he said, he wanted to spend the time with his friends, but didn't want me to be alone.  Very nice.  Mattia left on his way back to Italy the day before David got back from Spain.

It was hard to say good bye to Mattia, but as he said, "It's OK, I'll see  you in September"  That my friends is another benefit of being involved in this program, but we'll talk about that later.  Big hugs to my Italian Son.

As I said, David returned  from Spain just after Mattia left and we were off and running for the second semester.  My work was extremely busy and David was working on his Spanish school work as well as classes here at Wasson High.  Luckily, I suppose, school here in the US is generally easier than elsewhere.

Time really flew by and then all of a sudden, it was time for our regional meeting in San Antonio.  David & I got a chance to spend some good quality time together and while I was in meetings, David hung out with other students that came along and had a good time there as well.

The rest of the school year went by very quickly.  David finished up the year with flying colors and then it was over... ;(  It was tough to let David head off as well, but again, with reassurances the I would see David in September, & a hug, I let him go.

I learned a tremendous amount from both boys and learned even more about myself.  Grazie & Gracias to Mattia & David for allowing me to learn so much and to become Totally hooked on foreign exchange and being a host Dad!