Of course, in general, parents are the major nurturers of their children and teach them in word and in deed.  I love the quote, “Teach your children everything you know.  If you must, use words.”  Kids soak in more than we realize, (as evidenced by some of the impatient or not-so-nice things my kids say that I realize mimic exactly what I have said…shoot!).  But some incredibly important things are learned when it’s NOT those pesky parents nagging and doing the repetitive teaching.  Sometimes some of the big things are taught by a teacher or a friend, and through the example of a peer, etc.

That’s why every time I think of Elle on her summer internship I get so overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude.  She is being taught by some of the most wonderful people.

And they are people I’ve never even met.

When I mentioned here on the blog that Dave and I were ready to embark on figuring out an international internship for Elle this summer (an idea inspired by Dave’s brother who did just that with his kids the summer after each of their junior years, and Max took the lead for our family last year in China), we were overwhelmed and humbled as we received emails from all over the world with offers and advice and encouragement.  (That post is back HERE with more explanation.)

As we sat down and started looking through all those emails together Elle looked at me with eyes as big as saucers and said, “I can’t believe how nice people are!”

I was right there with her in my awe.  So many kind and wonderful people offering to help this girl they hardly knew almost made me want to tear up.  Many had already spoken to human resource departments or had their own companies and were ready to let Elle join them.  It made me want to be like them and reach out with my heart more.  And it also may heart spill over with gratitude.  And it made me wish I had fifty children to go out and soak up so many awaiting adventures!  I sure hope some will still be available when it’s time for Grace to go on her own adventure in a few years.

Elle and I wrote a big list of the most viable options that extended from places like Ireland to Sri Lanka and everywhere in between.  We had to narrow them down to what interested her the most, what kind of experience would she could learn and grow the most from, where she could live, whether the time frame would match up with the time she had available, how much of a challenge she wanted to take on, etc.

We narrowed down the options (through lots of back and forth emails gathering information) to Germany, England, Ireland and France…(oh and one pretty sweet one in San Francisco too that was hard to turn down!).

There were some very compelling options where she would learn so much and the time-frame worked for us, but for some reason, ever since I got the very first email from the family moving to England who had offered to have Elle live with them, that idea planted pretty firmly in my heart.  Every time that option came up to talk about (this was a two or three week process) I just felt so calm and peaceful.  It was almost like a voice inside of me saying, “this is it! go with it!”

I didn’t say much to Elle about it, I wanted her to figure out what sounded best to her without blabbing about how I felt, and you know what?  She came up with the same answer.  England just fit like a glove.  (Poor Max never had a choice on all this, but we had the perfect situation for him in China and this is a process that we’re realizing will be refined each time we send a child out.)

It’s funny that England felt so right because the first “job” that was lined up there fell through because of the strict Visa requirements (which some blog readers had warned me of).  The family who offered to have her stay with them there had a pretty awesome internship rigged up for her in the Dad’s company and we were all (the family she was going to stay with and us in the desert) pretty sad when we found out it wasn’t going to work.

But the funny part is that even after that little let-down, London still felt exactly right.  I knew something else would work out and the host family offer was still there.

Right at that time we got another email from a blog reader right there near London who had a connection with a lady who works in fashion for Elle to interview with, and then a great friend who lives in London who we had been in contact with about all this had an idea:  He had a great connection for a woman who started an up and coming architecture firm there and put in a good word for Elle.  Both would not be paid internships because of the strict visa rules in England, but the value of the experiences she would gain at either place would be worth it’s weight in gold.  Luckily she has her photography to help her earn the money she needs.

She had Skype interviews with both companies and although both were pretty great options, she decided to go with the architecture firm.  And from there we got to work on all the other details.

The girls and I soaked Elle up in New York, and hugged her goodbye from there for her grand adventure.  My brother Eli and his wife Julie are actually the ones who sent her off and took such great care of her from NYC since we had to leave a day early to get Grace back to summer school.  Love you E&J!!

She lucked out on the red-eye flight.  This is the picture she sent with the comment “I’m good” as she took off:

We bought her a train ticket from Heathrow to Paddington Station before she left, and she found it and met up with this awesome family who she stayed with her first four days.  They are good friends with our friends who live there and have two of the cutest ever teenage daughters who took such great care of Elle!

They showed her all around London that first day.

…and went on some adventures the next few days too.

How is it that there can be certain people you’ve never even met that your heart just falls in love with?  This family and the next are some of those people.  Oh how I long to meet them and give them big hugs for taking such great care of my daughter!

They went to Cambridge and explored the area where they live and that Elle Belle learned so much!

Then it was on to the other family she has lived with the rest of the five weeks over there.  This awesome family from Texas who moved right to the heart of London with their four little girls and who were kind and good enough to take Elle right under their wing right from the start of their grand adventure over there.

Since then she has worked hard, learned all kinds of things about architecture, fallen in love with the London public transit system, fallen in love with her “family” there and new “sisters,” has learned so much from her co-workers from all over the world, and has fallen so in love with London that we’re crossing her fingers she’ll really come back to us tomorrow!  Ha!

Here’s an excerpt from one of her emails she sent (she was answering a bunch of my questions that were numbered…these are the ones that weren’t just housekeeping stuff).

2) favorite part of work is lunch with all the co workers.  we go get food at a take out place then either eat on the terrace, the dungeon (kitchen area), or we will go to the park and eat if its a nice day.  like me and 6-8 others depending on the day.  so that is good and at around 5 on friday we all went out for ice cream which was fun. sooo ya and i also like talking to marta (the main girl that directs me on what to do(italian)).
3) least fav part of work is the awkward time i have at the end of the day when i just want to leave but i still have stuff to do that i dont want to do ahhahah
4) i think i would love wimbledon but i will be gone and havent gotten tickets at all yet so i just dont think it will work.  
5) yes im going to paris and i have pretty much just about nailed every single thing on my bucket list which rocks (plus extra).  i do still want to go see the tate modern so i might just go quick after work once.
11) very favorite part is prob transportation.  idk why i love it. and the accents of course, and the architecture and how much history everything has
12) fav thing outside london is prob the cotswolds.  seriously the PRETTIEST EVER. buuut it will prob be paris by the end
13) learning……seriously mamma…….uuhhhhm how about we wait till i can look back on the experience.  i learned a LOT about how a real job in an office works. and a lot about the city and london culture
14) ive picked up on like 2 british phrases but me and the girls are really really workinf to say “lift”, “pushchair”, “lovely”, and other things more.  i have a list of all the phrases ive heard on my phone.

love you too and cant wait to move to london when i get married

And here are a few random pictures that I’ll have to have her comment on some day to tell the whole story:

A couple pictures from work:

…and more with her “family.”

My sister happened to be in England this summer for a little bit so it was so fun for her to meet up with them in one of the most gorgeous places in the world one of the weekends.

The dad of the family she is staying with is an amazing photographer and has taught her so much about photography.  Here are some of his pics.

Isn’t he amazing?  I hope Elle can give me a few lessons when she gets home.

They found this at church one Sunday:


It’s been quite an adventure and I can’t believe it’s over!  She spent her last weekend in Paris.

Poor girl.

To see some of her pictures and a little about what she says about them check out “elleinengland” on Instagram where she’s tried to put up some updates.

Love and gratitude to all of you wonderful people who gave Elle so many wonderful options and helped us figure all this out.  And extra thanks to you dear families who have made this experience so amazing for her.  We will be forever in your debt and we can’t wait to meet you some day!

Now Elle, come on home!

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  1. How awesome! I would love this kind of experience for my kids some day. And isn't it amazing just how many good people are out there in the world?! Very cool 😉

  2. This is pretty much the greatest thing ever. You've inspired me to do this with my kids! My son just graduated and did a solo NYC & Toronto trip (we live in Alaska so it was quite the adventure). My next kids are 16, 13, & 9 so I better start figuring things out for them!

  3. What an amazing opportunity! The summer after my junior year, I had an experience of living with a family for a couple of weeks and touring in Europe a couple of weeks. So thankful for that experience, and I am sure Elle is getting so much more out of it than I ever did.

  4. I have been curious to hear about her adventure and what she picked as an option. Thank you for giving us a peek inside her journey. It sounds like things turned out just like they were suppose to. I love it when thinks work out that way.

  5. Looks like Elle has had a brill time over here.:)

    I love the words that she was trying to use. I guess we do use the word lovely quite a lot. Like in the US most people would say something was cute, but we'd say it was lovely.

    Hope Elle got to enjoy some Hob Nobs & Cadbury's chocolate – & bring some home for you all.:)

    Maybe you could get Elle to do a guest post about her stay in the UK.

  6. I would love to hear details on how you chose, where you find internships and how you chose the family and knew it was safe? I would love to do something similar with our 6 the oldest is 17

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