Friday, June 23, 2017

Packing Up, Moving Out

Firstborn steadily packed all semester. In fact, she sent some things she wouldn't be needing, but wanted to keep, with her Papa in February. But, as you know, when you move, there are just a lot of little odds and ends when the end of packing nears.

She drove out to see her guy-friend one last time. (Incidentally, I'm immensely proud that she actually learned to drive on a stick-shift, cargo, diesel van in Turkey!) She's technically legal to drive in Turkey now, as the legal age is 18. We began to let her venture beyond back country roads into traffic. 

She had worked and worked, but started to feel overwhelmed at the end. Would the items break in transport? How do I get it all in there? She'd been working for days, discovering new bedside table drawers that still needed sorting. I sent her on to hang with her friend, and told her to let me finish it. Fresh eyes and decisive packing to the rescue. I wrapped and taped and wedged. We got it all in. 

It's a different situation than most kids. She's not just packing for college. She was packing her life. She had to decide which parts of her 18 years she could let go of and which ones she would want to pull out of a box years later to show her children. 

I packed the diploma and transcripts in my carry on! 

Finally, her last morning at home came. I knew exactly how I would find her. This is how I've found her for the last six years, ever since her little surprise baby brother learned how to crawl out of his bed during the night to get to her. 

3AM came, we loaded up, drove to the airport, and began the journey. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Bookend in Her Life

Graduation was Tuesday night. Wednesday was teacher check-out. We were set to fly to the USA on Sunday night. So, that left me three days in which to close out my classroom, set the house up to be left all summer, and get us packed up for our trip. But there was one additional crucial component this year. Firstborn needed to say goodbye to Turkey. I knew closure would be important, so I wanted to make myself available to help her in any way I could with this placement of a "bookend" on her time in Turkey. Yes, she will be back. She's coming for Christmas. But, as you know, it's never the same. She will be a college girl. She will be visiting, not living, in this country.

She wanted to go to Ulus, the old town. So, we blocked off Friday and went. We walked up to the castle one last time and popped in our favorite shop. This old couple knew us right away. How many times have I gone in there and taken visiting friends? He immediately instructed his wife to bring us some apple tea. Firstborn spotted some patchwork pillowcases made from old Turkish rugs. She settled on three of them. 

He serves you apple tea; he seals the deal. You sip, then you begin to think there is something in that store you should pick up. 

Then we went in the oldest restaurant in our city. We shared a couple of plates of lamb chops and enjoyed looking down on a quiet street on a Friday. 

I asked if salad and bread came with the meal. I needn't have asked. 

We also each got a bowl of their homemade lentil soup. I can't even describe the creamy, nutty taste. So good! 

We were down there on the holy day, which we normally don't do, but our time was so limited. We drove past Friday prayers. 

The other major goal for pre-Firstborn-moving-away was one last Saturday morning Turkish breakfast. CC had voiced to all of us to save this Saturday morning. We would go one last time. This has been our tradition since 2003. Nowadays, we go about monthly, as our kids' schedules are fuller now that they are teens. We enjoyed our meal together, laughing about things. I was so happy to be there. So happy to have all my children around that table. I asked Firstborn if she could have any part time job while in college, her choice, what would it be. She began to answer that she would like to be an apprentice for a taxidermist. (There is no joke in this. She is serious thanks to learning to stuff roadkill in her Anatomy and Physiology class.) CC heard "taxi," and said, "You want to be a taxi driver?!" It was light and fun. Just being together. It's really not the big vacations, is it? It's all being around a table together. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Graduation for Firstborn, Final

After the ceremony, there were lots of hugs and congratulations given. Here are some shots I took of her with some of her friends

And teachers....(and by teachers, I mean, people who treat her like family)

And finally when it was all over, we got that family picture!

And then that moment when she realized she was no longer an Oasis student and no longer subject to the PDA (public display of affection) rule...

It truly was a memorable night. We are so proud of you, Firstborn! Now, off to America. Off to buy a car in America for the first time in 25 years. Off to introduce you actually living in your passport country. Off to get your dorm room ready. Off to launch you to university!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Graduation for Firstborn, Part 2

The ceremony was really special. It was the first time for us to have it in our new campus theater. It required some planning. The flag of each student was hung as a backdrop. We practiced with the graduates. Which hand takes the diploma? Which hand shakes the director's hand? CC is a pro these days. 

CC gave an amazing graduation message. The three most important decisions of your life are: What is your mission? Who will be your mate? Who will be your Master?

We had the amazing opportunity to have the former president of Somalia, who is the father of two of the graduates, give a charge to the students as well. It was all terribly exciting. He was late, and even though I am a mom of a graduate, I'm pretty much always needed! By someone! I like that though. So I ran to the children of the president and asked if they knew when he would arrive. They told me, "Oh, he's coming. He's just waiting on his body guards." Oh ok. Body guards. Of course. I was absolutely giddy and trying not to smile too big as I strolled back to the front row, whispering the news to all my friends, answering their questioning looks along the way. Body guards. Sure, we'll wait. He and his family entered, and I showed them to their seats. He flashed me a huge grin as I welcomed him, and I thought, "Here's my chance." He held out his hand to shake mine, and I told him how grateful we were to have him as part of our ceremony. Hey, if given the opportunity to shake a man's hand who was listed in Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People, I'm going to do it! His speech was wonderful. He told the story of his village and how there was no school. He began a school there, but the children would not come because they felt they needed food more than education. So, the team began providing lunch for the kids. Soon, they had more students than they ever expected. Those kids grew up to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers. He was first a teacher before moving into politics. He really spoke highly of Oasis. It was pretty cool. One thing that was particularly sweet, and I am certain cultural, is that when the graduates spoke, if they began to choke up when mentioning their families, the president would begin to clap, which the audience followed. It seemed to highlight the tenderness of the moment and offer support. That I had never seen, but I liked it. So, if you get choked up talking to me, I might just start clapping for you.

Any graduate that wished to could give a speech. Firstborn delivered a beautiful speech in which she was thankful and quite clear that it is God that is to be thanked the most. I simply could not be more proud. She graduated with High Honors (and just found out the night before!), but her heart for God, so clearly presented, makes me more proud than anything else. And yes, she got choked up a bit, and the president clapped for her. 

It was a long ceremony and a hot one! But soon, all the graduates were done. They exited to "The Call," a song that holds deep meaning for our family. They threw their caps and were graduated! 
Well done, Firstborn! We are proud of you!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Graduation for Firstborn, Part 1

Last summer, it was hard for me to imagine, as we boarded that plane, that Firstborn's graduation year  2017 had come. When they are born and you think about what year they will graduate, it seems so far away! But I did buy a few things before coming back to Turkey. I bought a Christmas ornament for her with her graduation date. I bought a few signs and banners (so they would be in English!). We already had her party, but I saved this fun door hanger for the actual day. She woke up, and I couldn't seem to get her moving downstairs. I finally said, "Come see the boiled eggs I made!" ha. She knew something was up.

Here she is just before we left for her graduation.

It's funny, isn't it, that you imagine how it will be, but it's not what you imagine? And what you never imagined becomes the most special part. I envisioned a long time for a family picture after she got her gown on (before the mascara would run). That didn't happen. She was whisked away to get her gown on, while I put the finishing touches on her senior display table. Sweet little Sweet Cheeks went from table to table giving each the small gift CC and I always purchase for the seniors. Big Ben wondered when the food would be served and he could take his tie off. Twinkle and Middler laughed with friends. And I wondered where my baby was. I came down the stairs looking for the videographer who I had contracted for all the seniors for that night. And there she was. Right at the bottom of the stairs, looking up into the skylight above. Looking bright. Looking beautiful. Looking accomplished. Looking tall. Looking mature. And she smiled such a smile at me. I imagined a family photo shoot. But what I got was this picture which I will never forget.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Last Day of School 2017

The last day came with graduation to be that night. It was a full day, even though it was only a half day. We had awards ceremonies and programs. My kiddos were rewarded for their hard work all year. The girls all earned the Aslan Award which requires 15 hours of community service and teacher recommendations. Twinkle was given the Turkish II award. Firstborn was given the Yearbook award and was part of a several student tie for the 11th and 12th grade student-of-the-year. They are all smart kiddos, but they also try hard to do their best on their school work. I'm proud of them. 

Sweet Cheeks got an Honor Roll certificate. 

As did Big Ben! 

I had blocked off Tuesday afternoon. No responsibilities were mine except for getting this family of 7 ready to see Firstborn graduate. She and I took off to the mall to get some shoes for her graduation dress. I got my hair done. After getting her through 14 years of school, yes, I got my hair done! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Catching You Up

Tonight is graduation, my first child ever. I've got four more down the pike! It's been interesting to figure out how we do all this and to sort of set a precedent for how we celebrate this milestone in our family. There's still such a flurry of activity in spite of tonight being the main event. So, here's a quick catch up! And here's to being caught up on my blog before summer begins!

Today we will give away our last little baby kitten. What joy they've brought us. I've decided to go out with a bang. I am taking that kitten to school on the last day. And I'm going to carry it around the entire day. This one sleeps all the time. She can sleep through the awards program and the talent show and the hallways and the yearbook signing. And at 12noon, I'll put her in the welcoming arms of the cutest little 6th grade Korean gal you've ever seen. 

We were invited to Ethiopia's Republic Day, as I have taught the Ambassador's son. He's a delight to teach, attended my Bible class, and is basically Michael Jackson junior. It was a fun event. And the Ambassador told us that he was honored that we respected his country enough to attend, even when school events are so full right now. He also told me his son is on Facebook too much! We were glad we went. 

Firstborn went on her five day senior trip to Marmaris, Turkey, (Aegean coast) and a short trip over to Rhodes, Greece. It was everything we prayed it would be. Good conversations, relationships deepened, and a fun way to end her years at Oasis. 

Apparently Jack Sparrow captained their ship. 

And the goodbyes have started. It's really hard to describe the last few days of school at Oasis. The depth of friendship these kids find is staggering. So many of them are in and out of countries and positions in the world. So, they all seem to bypass the surface and really offer themselves as friends. But then, those friends leave. It's the hardest part about being here. All my kids have experienced loss on this level, but it seems Miss Middler's class has had it the worst. All these kids were crying and hugging. I said, "Let me get one last picture of you." Aren't they beautiful? I count 12 countries represented from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. 

CC and I stay pretty busy during upcoming graduations, but this year we've got our own kiddo walking the stage and taking a hard-earned diploma. This is the first year in our theater, so we did a little to fix it up. He and I went up Sunday afternoon to turn an old salvaged (giant) curtain into a banner that stretched across the stage. 

And yesterday was the day the kids get yearbooks and sign them. Then we watched a fun video from the senior trip, and they read their Last Will and Testament. Miss V read a letter to them that she wrote, "If we had one more day..." 

By the end, she was in tears. The kids stormed the stage to hug her. 

And now you're caught up! And I'm going to go apply some waterproof mascara for the big day! 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Firstborn's Graduation Party: Our Blessings

Rather than try to get a group picture, I took individuals of Firstborn with the people who came. These people represent so much more than friendship. Many of them are like our family here, so far from our own. I simply could not exist here without them.

Her Korean auntie. She's our school nurse. She is so dear, I always want to get sick when she is working. This family is such an encouragement to us.

The sweet 7th grade friend who Firstborn tutored this year.

Her coaches. They've encouraged her, made her team captain to build leadership in her, judged the intensity of practice work-outs on her panting level. We love them!

One of her senior class sponsors. She's been here a year. I feel like I've known her 10. We are kindred spirits.

Sweet Missy. A teacher, yes, but also our hometown girl and friend. Firstborn will get to attend her wedding in September in America.

Getting hard to type this...her Turkish teacher, who has believed in her from day 1. She once used Firstborn's high Turkish test score to get a museum discount for the entire class. She announced last week that Firstborn and a few other needed to come to the principal's office. They walked in to find Turkish breakfast prepared for them.

Two families that we love and have invested deeply in our family.

Our Southern fix family. Just here one year, but Southern sisters at heart. They've told her, as they are moving back to Mississippi, they are just a phone call away.

Sigh. And this one. He has led her youth group all these years. Took her on the retreats that served to take her relationship with the Lord as her own, not just her parents' faith. Took her to Wales on her first mission trip and first time to be out of the country without us. He's not Mr. So-and-So. He's Uncle Mike.

Our school receptionist, who gives her a smile and so much love each day. She teases Firstborn, who is serving as a teacher's aide this year, that we are all using her to be a coffee and tea barista. There is some truth in it.

This sweet family and this sweet guy. They've been here 10 years. They are like family. She's known this boy next to her since she was about 2 feet taller than him. He'll be a friend for life.

Sweet teacher who has invested in her in youth group. It meant so much that she came to celebrate her.

This gal has bought many of Firstborn's paintings and commissioned her to create some. She was the one who first told her that her art was amazing, and it was her gift.

Oh goodness. This is a tough post to write. This sweet Tennessee gal came and took this school by storm with her leadership ability and talent. She has invested so much in Firstborn. L cries when she thinks of her leaving, but has decided there's no goodbye. They're meeting up in Tennessee.

She's her aunt. Through and through. She's known Firstborn since she was 5. Prayed for her, encouraged her, taken her on trips, treated her to surprise doughnuts, helped her survive math. She's more than a friend. I simply won't do Turkey without her, and I've told her that.

The post must be written! I can get through it. This family we have known since we got here. They've been our best friends. Holidays, vacations, thick-and-thin. We've done it all. They are moving in a few days. It's going to be a tough goodbye, but we have a forever friend in them. She already looked up how far it would be for her to drive down to Mississippi from North Carolina if Firstborn needs anything.

 I made it to the end! There are others, but these are the photos I took that day. I can not even begin to explain the depth of love I have for these folks and the others who have invested in us. It's going to be a big week. Graduation is Tuesday. Y'all pray. I'm going out to buy waterproof mascara today. I'm so humbled and grateful!

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