The Last Dance

Of all the iconic American high school moments our kids have had the opportunity to experience over the years, perhaps one of the most defining is prom.

The dresses. The tuxes. The flowers. The dates. The plans. The hair. The nails. The pictures.

And, oh, the smiles. The memories.

I’ve never seen High School Musical, but I’m told that prom these days in the real world is impressively close to prom in movie world. I’m not that surprised, given the advent of promposals and party buses and the like. My senior prom was pretty much a dud – date was on crutches, took me to McD’s for dinner and nearly puked on my shoes at the post-dance party – so anything our kids have had the opportunity to do has been an awesome extra bonus for me to live vicariously through them.

And I love it. I really do.

Of the five years we’ve hosted foreign exchange students, we’ve done prom four times, and five of our kids have gone (plus both of our bonus kids). (Ragnar fell on prom the year M was with us, so he opted to run with our team rather than go to his dance. Luckily, we had stellar weather for that race.)

We’ve done it all: Play a partner in crime for a promposal. Give advice about dresses. Attend tux fittings. Help order flowers. Find solutions for transportation (and serve as a teen taxi on the important night). Offer suggestions about shoes (and provide comfort hugs when said advice was not heeded and feet were in pain). Braid hair. Paint nails. Provide slow dance lessons. Send off with rib-crushing hugs and wishes of a night to remember forever.

Take pictures. And more pictures. And more pictures.

The picture part is actually my favorite part. All the teenagers look so sharp when they dress up like they do for prom. And they’re so incredibly happy, laughing with their friends. This late in the year, they’re totally comfortable in their skin, and everything feels so completely natural. I literally take hundreds of photos for each kid on the big night (except for A, as you’ll see below), and as soon as we send them off, I go through and edit my favorites, save them to a jump drive and have them ready for the kids by the time they get home that night or the next morning.

A couple weekends ago, we celebrated our very last prom. B went to the dance with his friends, and even though the weather was absolutely miserable, it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. This may have been our last dance, but I’m so thankful to have been a witness to this authentically American experience. To celebrate, I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments from past proms.


The year A was with us, we did not take pictures of her and her friends, but this was the first year I ventured into prom hair perfection. I was pretty proud of my handy work. A host mom has to earn her title, after all, right?


Can we talk for a minute about how stinkin’ cute S and C are? We had so much fun the year they were here, and we were so proud to be their host parents.


And I can’t write about prom that year without posting a picture of the girls with L and N, our honorary FES kids. Pretty sure we don’t have a picture of the four of them just smiling at the camera, but that wouldn’t really be an accurate representation of who they are together. These four = hours and hours of laughter.


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A2 and her friends were total goofballs, but they were so fun to photograph. I loved, loved, loved their beautiful dresses.

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Rain be damned, B and his friends looked fab. A perfect end to a perfect run of proms.

Time to take a bow.

3 Responses to “The Last Dance”

  1. Amiee

    I love that you do this! You seriously had me googling “how to be a host family?”.

    • JoAnna

      Hey Amiee!

      You would be such a great host parent! To clear up any misconceptions for anyone who is interested, it’s important to know that host parents don’t have to be married or have kids or own a home or anything specific like that. There is always a shortage of host families, so if you’re at all interested, I’d encourage you to at least look into it. I’d be happy to answer any other questions you might have. I know that, for us, at least, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives.

  2. Penelope

    Looks like you had a lot of fun … my prom night was a great time as well!


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