a salve for my soul…

an aegean sunrise in november…winter in the air

summer was a time of sweet respite and great repose for us this year.  with the pandemic in full swing, we were unable to maintain our usual crazy travel schedule that often had us bouncing from one continent to another: an invigorating yet rather exhausting tradition. 

instead, we spent a lot of time at home, quietly, and the trips that we did take were much quieter and lowkey than previous years.  although most things were open here in turkey over the summer we still thought twice about going out to restaurants or visiting friends in their homes.  rather than take risks we chose to go out for dinner at off hours; made an effort to meet up in gardens or on balconies; and often made plans to take walks with friends or play in the park rather than getting together for drinks or an at-home playdate. 

we took long walks in nature; spent hours swimming, snorkeling and paddle boarding; and took advantage of the warm weather to hold a number of scaled down celebrations outdoors rather than needing to cancel them altogether.

the end of school vacation doesn’t necessarily mean the end of warm weather in turkey, so we took full advantage of online school, continuing to travel to the aegean coast at every opportunity.  whenever possible we would pack up the schoolbooks and laptops and escape the city… setting us a “mini-school” for each of the girls wherever we happened to land that week. although we knew that the coronavirus was still a force to be reckoned with the combination of being in the open air and having less people around us was a constant source of comfort.

it’s hard to believe that today is the last day of november and that turkey has been dealing with covid-19 on a full-time basis for just about 9 months.  the much anticipated second wave is here-full force-and istanbul, in particular, has become a true hotbed of virus transmission.  with numbers rising (and the government finally acknowledging the true extent of infection); new measures are being put into place and life is inevitably going to start slowing down again.

writing this blog and sharing snippets of our daily life was a salve for my soul during the first months of 2020 and i can’t think of a better way to end this difficult year than to return to it. our summer hiatus has been restful and inspiring, and i have much to share; stay tuned for more musings, new recipes, at home activity ideas, book recommendations and more…

ps. here are a bunch of our favorite 2020 summer moments. as strange as it was, this summer is sure to be unforgettable in its own way! 

so many celebrations this summer!

alara and alegra’s birthday- and mine and tunc dede’s too….

there was A LOT of outdoor time… hiking, biking, riding horses and seaside time too…

we learned a bunch of new games and new skills too…

school started…online…which meant exploring could continue 🙂

and with the blessing of good weather we were able to celebrate halloween outdoors in full costume!!!

“something spooky this way comes…”

it was a wonderful summer despite it all and we are so grateful to have been able to celebrate at all… these memories will certainly help sustain us in the coming months-

grilled artichokes…

spring is finally here!

yesterday we celebrated easter sunday with an afternoon egg hunt and leisurely family lunch of delicious springtime foods- lamb chops, asparagus, fresh corn and artichokes- one of my favorite vegetables!

grilling artichokes is actually very easy; we hadn’t tried it before, so we were pleasantly surprised to discover how simple it was.  i have a feeling we will be making this dish quite often in the upcoming weeks…

ingredients-

  • fresh artichokes complete with leaves
  • 1/2 cup olice oil (plus a little more for grilling)
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crush red pepper, if desired

instructions-

  • prepare grill to medium heat
    • we used a charcoal grill yesterday, but you can also use a grill pan
  • in a large pot, heat water until boiling
  • add artichokes and cook until slightly softened- about 15 minutes
  • slice artichokes in half and brush olive oil on both sides
  • place artichokes face down on center of grill
  • cook for approximately 5-6 minutes
    • you will notice that the artichokes seem to shrink- or wilt- once they are cooked; this means it is time to turn them
  • cook leaf side of artichokes for 4-5 minutes more
  • serve warm with dipping sauce

dipping sauce-

  • mix together olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper using a strong blender (or whisk by hand if preferred)

ps: we also had a lot of questions about the delicious lemon meringue pie that alara made. it was our first attempt at lemon meringue so we used martha stewart’s recipe- it was delicious and i highly recommend it!

you can find the recipes here:

birthday blog bonanza

life this year has been busy beyond belief. at least once a week erim and i seemed to sit down and wonder if this “way” is the “right way” or not. we seemed to be running in all directions without any real end in sight. as a family that used to eat dinner together at least five nights a week we suddenly found ourselves eating one at a time depending on the craziness of that night’s activities. needless to say the self-isolation requirements of the novel coronavirus took us all by surprise and threw us all for a serious loop. we each went from having four to five obligations a day to really, well actually, pretty much none.

within this time period life came full circle and it is asya’s birthday month again! (in the meantime i completely managed to miss writing anything for alara and alegra’s birthdays) so here comes a recap post par excellence 🙂

alara turned 15 on June 23, 2019….

15 is big! i totally remember being 15. no longer a freshmen in high school you will soon be a full high schooler. things become more serious, you have more responsibilities (but not quite as many as you will soon as the end of high school approaches), but along with all of these you now have the skills, knowledge, and ability to start to make your own path. very cool.

between your birthday and today you have really made the most of your time. beyond working as hard as ever at school you also spent an amazing summer term at georgetown (proud mama’s alma mater) and started a fantastic community service program teaching art to a group of underpriviledged children in istanbul. you are amazing kiddo and i am so proud of all the amazing things you have already accomplished this year… the end of 15 is looking to be a bit tricky thanks to the coronavirus but here’s to keeping your chin up and your spirits high. we love you beautiful girl.

alegra turned 9 on June 23, 2019…

last year of the single digits little one. there has been so much change this year for you! fourth grade means the first year of proper exams at school; piano lessons, math lessons, russian lesson- you are full to the brim; a new pony, benjamin button, means even more riding and even more training; and now we have shifted to complete online learning due to Co-Vid 19. And you, my sweet girl, have taken all this in stride- still smiling and still bringing joy to us all every time life throws us a curve ball. thank you for that my lovie! i can’t wait to watch you continue to bring your amazing energy to this world as you get closer and closer to double digits- we love you my littlest love.

asiko, where to start… the day you turned 17 was really as stressful a day as they come. it can’t have been easy handling the changing reality of our world as you navigate these last few months of eleventh grade. i am sorry that this all seemed to happen at once for you, and i hope that things will calm down sooner rather than later.

16 to 17 has been pretty cool. over the past year you have seen a lot and lived a lot too. pretty much a whole summer in europe riding horses and seeing the dressage life upclose; an amazing trip to south africa where we experienced our first taste of game drives and lodge life; learning photography on the fly; and IB classes for the first time and the first chance to really pursue your own interests…there has been a great deal of newness. Co-Vid 19 is as new as it comes and it has sent us all reeling. i cannot in any way forsee what is yet to come this spring and summer, but this i know, your big heart and gentle ways will help you through whatever gets you down. we love you so much asiko.

sweet sixteen asiko

this week asya, my first born, my first baby, is turning 16.

such a milestone age, sixteen is! sweet sixteen parties…debutante balls…being able to drink legally (in parts of the world)…driving licenses (in parts of the us)…the ability to marry without special parental consent (again, in parts of the world)…there are so many new things that become available to a child of 16.  as i sit and think about all these milestone moments it makes me more and more aware of how my mature, intelligent, beautiful child is truly on the cusp of fully leaving childhood behind and moving onto young adulthood.

this past year, almost from the day she turned 15, in fact, seems to me to have been a series of steps on this journey toward adulthood.  the beginning of ninth grade, when asya was still 14, was a truly trying time.  asya and i butted heads over so many things.  some were mundane and really unnecessary, on my part as much as on hers.  and some were really important.  i needed to put my foot down in order to reinforce the values and ideas that we have worked to teach the girls from the get go.  some of the situations and environments that asya wanted to see for herself and experience firsthand were really not appropriate and to allow her access to these places too early would, had i said yes, gone against the very grain of my ideas of parenting.  making and enforcing rules, taking deep breaths during arguments and tears, and trying to keep reminding asya of just how special and precious she, as a daughter, is to me, was remarkably hard and tiring.

this year, as we celebrate asya’s birthday, and enter into the home stretch of tenth grade, so much has shifted.  asya and i have reached a point where communication is so much easier, first of all, we are able to actually listen to one another and move forward from a point of understanding (most of the time). second, despite her frustrations with me and my rules last year, she managed to continue to excel in her schoolwork and her riding.  the maturity she was able to demonstrate on these fronts served her well and proved to me that she is growing more and more capable of handling difficult and stressful situations.  this in turns, leads me to be more open to her plans and programs.  socially, i have watched proudly as asya worked hard to cultivate and maintain good, healthy relationships with lovely young girls.  some of this has required making sacrifices, and also has required setting healthy and firm boundaries.  i am impressed that at only 16 she is able to do both so skillfully.

dear asya, as you enter the last quarter of school, there are so many exciting things to look forward to! your school trip to nepal is going to be amazing. i feel certain that you will never forget the experiences you have there and the people that you meet. you are already such an open-minded worldly young lady; spending time in the mountains of nepal is sure to only reinforce your love of travel and different cultures.  this summer is going to be busy, busy, busy.  bunches of riding competitions, tons of travel to get there, and probably a whole lot of hard work with donovan… it’s going to be a lot but i know that you are going to do a wonderful job, as you always do, of balancing the work and the fun and keeping up with all your friends along the way! as you and your sisters grow, i am slowly starting to accept the fact that really no amount of planning or predicting on my part seems to work 🙂 so… here’s to just living things as they come, loving the special moments along the way, and enjoying all the time we get to spend together.  i love you my sweet girl, happy birthday.

how asya has changed over the years… but always with the same big heart and beautiful eyes….

a month of light…and welcome 2019

anyone who knows me, even just a little bit, knows that i really, really love the holiday season! the sparkly lights, the food, the champagne, the gatherings… they all feed my soul in the most marvelous way; making me feel so alive, connected and so inspired by the inherent possibilities and excitement of the coming year.

celebrating christmas in istanbul is always a tiny bit strange (even after having lived here for twenty years!).  the turks don’t generally celebrate christmas and there is much more excitement surrounding new year’s eve, which means that the real excitement doesn’t get going until after actual christmas has passed.

thanksgiving, being an american tradition, is, of course, not celebrated either so the act of getting into the holiday season really ends up being self-driven most years.  normally we have the arrival of my family to look forward to and to get us cheery, but this year they are staying in the states so that teddy can celebrate his first christmas at home.  thanks to face time we have gotten to watch him “decorate” the tree (i.e. pull off all the ornaments), pay his first visit to santa, go to the annual christmas light show at the asheville arboretum, and open his first gifts!!

for many years we took a family trip at christmas time.  what started out as an effort to move away from spending money on unnecessary gifts quickly became a wonderful way to spend time together exploring new places and seeing the lights and beauty of european christmas celebrations, something which we had never experienced before.  vienna and berlin, in particular were fantastic places to visit during the holidays.  having the chance to have our christmas in two cities famous for their markets, traditional treats, and seasonal music was truly amazing; i am grateful we had the time to visit both before asya and alara entered high school.  their high school schedules exams for the week just after the new year so travelling right before exams really doesn’t make sense, nor is it really fair to the girls, they really need to be home to study as much as possible during christmas week.

so, this year, with all these small adjustments to make, with no christmas trip to plan, and no specific family gathering to attend, we were left to our own devices when it came to christmas and thanksgiving!!! from the start, as soon as i knew my parents and sister wouldn’t be in istanbul, i decided that we might as well take advantage of the situation to plan a different type of celebration. my plan was that there would be significantly less entertaining- no big parties, in fact, quite possibly no parties at all (this didn’t go quite as expected :))! a big christmas was definitely also not going to happen (on this front i have to admit i was quite pleased with myself; alara tells me that she was so happy with her gifts because she only got things that she really wanted or that she would really use).  and my own personal focus was going to be on experiencing new places or things and, if possible, exploring the city altogether as a family (on this front i was also rather successful and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves).

on the party front, i was not quite as successful, but i am happy to admit that for this i am glad.  coming together with friends and family that we love is just such an integral aspect of the holiday season.  although there have been days, and even weeks, where it felt as though things were just moving too fast, and the days were flying by, it was nice to know that on those evenings we would soon find ourselves sitting comfortably around a table sharing a meal and a bit of the holiday spirit with people we love.

and so, our holiday season celebrations started off on the right foot with a thanksgiving dinner party at home with close family friends…  the next couple of weeks were just a whirlwind of entertaining and celebrating! we had a cocktail party at home for erim and ekin’s birthday; we were invited to a beautiful dinner at a new friend’s house; alegra and i attended a plethora of her friends’ kind of crazy, but always fun, birthday parties; we went to one friend’s now traditional fondue birthday celebration; erim and i attended a blowout of a 70th birthday party replete with live music and song and dance; a close girlfriend, with whom i have celebrated every christmas season for fifteen years, hosted yet another of her glamourous christmas bashes; erim and i travelled out of town for a weekend to celebrate one of his childhood friend’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary; and erim and i each had office parties to enjoy throughout the month!  to say it was busy is a bit of an understatement; there were times when i honestly felt like we were running from one thing to the next!

without the stress of trip planning and overdone christmas shopping hanging over me i was able to be so much more present at and truly, deeply enjoy each of these events.  rather than spending half of each evening making lists in my head while activity swirled around me, i was able to fully hear the music, taste the food, listen to friends while they spoke, and feel the energy surrounding me.  it was a real gift and made the whole holiday season more magical than i ever could have anticipated.  travelling out of town the weekend before christmas was the ultimate test in being present and enjoying the moment.  but, since there is only so much letting go, i can actually manage i have to confess that i had finished all the wrapping, planning and list making i would need for christmas before we boarded our plane to bodrum.

christmas eve and christmas day were the perfect ending to a perfect month (there is still new year’s eve to celebrate, i know, but to be honest, once christmas is successfully behind me enjoying nye is always just an easy end to the season).

christmas eve we left the house early and went exploring in the beyoglu area of istanbul.  it was perfect.  the streets were crowded, there was a feeling of celebration in the air…we visited the st. anthony of padua church, which always has a large christmas mass and had a full manger, decorations, and a huge tree in its courtyard; we went to the soho house istanbul that was decorated to the nines and had christmas music playing for drinks; and then we ended up at our favorite pizza joint, miss pizza which, i was thrilled to see, was also fully decorated! on our way home asya convinced us to stop at this tiny bakery that only sells cheesecake and brownies- it was so cool! by 10pm santa’s cookies were by the fireplace, the christmas lights were lit, and we were all ready for bed! christmas day itself was just as lovely and each of us was ready to take our time relishing the giving and receiving that is so integral to the holiday.  as the girls grow, i am so impressed with how they have managed to grasp the true concepts of sharing, compassion, and togetherness that for me, make the holiday season as special as it is.

as this special season draws to an end it is exiting to start looking forward to 2019.  this year i have decided that rather than making a long list of new year’s goals i am going to take some sage advice and set just a few intentions, and work to carry them through the coming months.  first, i hope to keep in mind this feeling of being present that i had throughout the holiday season and try to come back to it throughout the year.  and second, i want to try to remember that so often the the unexpected turns out so much better than anticipated.  finally, this upcoming year i am going to try to be open hearted; to let light in and to trust as i let my own light shine out, worrying less about the outcome and focusing more on the moment at hand.  if this season of light has shown me nothing else, then it is that the more light we can let shine the better.

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on our way to a christmas party

halloween 2018…another year, another fantastic Halloween party!

i am not sure why it is exactly that hosting halloween parties, and in particular hosting them at our house, has become such a tradition for our family.  it may very well be my own doing; when i first moved to turkey halloween was barely known and certainly not very celebrated.  turks, in general, can have trouble letting lose and often worry about appearances, so the concept of dressing up and acting silly, funny, or spooky is not necessarily an easy one to feel fully comfortable with.  but as the popularity of halloween has grown, and as children have come to love it more and more, adults have gotten on the halloween train too! (after alegra’s friends had all gone home erim and i actually went to a grown-up party where costumes were required! i have to say, it was the perfect ending to day…)

the party at our house in the afternoon was a ton of fun!  most of the girls came home with alegra so they were all able to get into costume together and even that was a lot of fun.  we had a wonderful lady come to do makeup so we ended up with seriously spooky vampires, zombies, witches and ghosts… scary and spooky is very in with the third grade crowd although i am happy to say we also had a very cute cat, a bright orange pumpkin, and our very own youtuber (who by the way stayed in costume throughout the entire party- speaking and reacting the way the youtuber she was portraying might- i was very impressed).

no eksioglu party would be complete without some art activities, of course.  treat bags decorated with sharpies for our trick-or-treating treasure hunt; pipe cleaner and plastic spider rings decorated with beads as a spooky accessory; and finally, tinker tray mini pumpkins.  the girls loved the pumpkin decorating; especially when i told them they could use as much glitter glue as they wanted! luckily the weather was beautiful, so we were able to the arts and crafts outdoors, making me even more relaxed about the copious use of sticky glitter products!

after a quick meal of hot dog “fingers”, “pumpkin” tangerines, “ghost” bananas, and delicious cupcakes we were finally ready for the most exciting part of the party- the trick-or-treating treasure hunt!! erim, asya and alara came home just in time to help with this part which was lovely as the girls split up into four groups, witches, pumpkins, ghosts and zombies, and took off running to all corners of our compound.  along with a good amount of candy, of course, the clues led them to some different themed treats like googly eye glasses, witches’ fingers and light-up skull yoyos! the final clue led the whole gang back to the house for some more trampoline time and a little bit of halloweeny tv.

as always, the moms who were able to join were a big part of the fun too.  some came in costume, lots helped with the spooking, and those that could helped with the activities too.  one mother’s costume was so complete that we hardly recognized her when she walked in the door!

although the girls and i are often sad to not have the chance to go trick-or-treating “american style”; i have to say that we have been lucky to find, at each stage, a community of friends who have been willing to go along with our shenanigans, get dressed up, act silly and spooky, and get into the carefree spirit of the day.  even though every year i think this might be the last halloween party, each year the beginning of october finds me sitting down with a pen and paper and starting my halloween party planning.  i think that if alegra ever feels as though she is too old for a party, i am likely to just go right ahead with an adult party…maybe even complete with adult appropriate arts and crafts activities! but for now, i am thrilled to have all the little ghosts and ghouls and cats and bats to entertain 🙂

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what a summer!!

i saw a backdated post about a child’s birthday on a blog that i follow and absolutely adore called somewhere slower and i thought it was one of the most tasteful, and genius, ways of dealing with the inevitable lapses in time and organization that comes with the territory of raising young children.

last summer was one of the busiest we have ever had! alara had a huge exam to mark the end of middle school, asya’s whole summer program suddenly shifted from attending riding competitions in europe to attending a summer program at georgetown university in dc, we had planned a number of family trips to the boat and to the states, alegra went to sleepaway camp for the first time, my sister had a baby…and in the midst of all this, we had birthdays and  important graduations to celebrate! and so, despite my best intentions consistent bloggin was just simply not in the cards!

so rather than trying to go back and remember exactly what was going on, i’ve decided to share a whole range of photos from our very busy and very exciting summer…each has a caption and a date in case you are wondering exactly where in the world we were at that moment or which celebration is featured in each shot. while i can’t say that i hope things aren’t this exciting next summer, i do hope that i can make a bit more time to document all our adventures a bit better next time around.

so there is a recap of all the celebrating…. and now for a quick round up of our travels…

happy halloween!!!!

we pretty much adore all things holiday related at our house! halloween, thanksgiving, christmas, new years, valentines, st. patrick’s day, easter…we really do love them all! but halloween is definitely one of our all time favorites. every year we have a kid-focused, art-based costume party that ends with a scavenger hunt all around our compound.

the first party we hosted was HUGE! thirty kids and at least that many parents. at the time we had two wonderful helpers from the states and together we came up with a whole slew of themed foods, drinks, games and activities. after that first big party our halloween parties have become a tradition. some years have been calmer, some have had a whole range of ages (one year we had two year olds and ten year olds all sitting at the same table- it was fantastic!), some years have had more candy, one year we even had a dance teacher who taught the girls the moves to “thriller”! we have had kids come dressed as princesses, zombies, indians, pirates, tigers, butterflies, and geishas…and we’ve had moms dressed up too. this year i really got into the spirit and dressed up as the evil queen!

part of me wants to say that this year’s party was one of the best yet, but to be fair pretty much every year i have felt the same! we have certainly got better and better and more organized each year though.  and it is such a great treat for me too to be able to have a fun halloween tradition even here in istanbul. i always looked forward to going trick-or-treating and i think that from the start i have felt sad that the girls have not had the same opportunity. but i think, especially based on this year’s enthusiastic response from both the parents and the kids we invited, that we have managed to create an equally enjoyable tradition in our own turkish-american way!

happy birthday my beautiful babies!!

Today is both Alara and Alegra’s birthdays! Amazingly, and in a completely unplanned manner, they were born exactly six years apart and on the same day! When I was pregnant with Alegra and the doctor told her due date was the beginning of July it really never crossed my mind that she might arrive on the same day as her big sister. Toward the middle of June though I have to say we all got a bit worried that in fact Alegra might arrive before Alara.  For some reason we were all so focused on Alegra’s birthday not being before Alara’s that we weren’t really concerned with the possibility of them being born on the SAME day! I guess we just thought that was impossible!

I have such a vivid picture in my mind of the day that Alara was born.  I woke up, had some breakfast, and I just knew that she would be born that day.  I told Erim to go to work and get things organized and called my parents.  Asya was still a baby herself so the rest of the morning went by in a flash…around 1pm we checked into the hotel and about five hours later Alara had made her appearance.  Thinking back on it now, everything about her birth seems very calm.  Asya was still so small that she sort of stopped in, took a look around, and then was happy to go home and go to bed.  Istanbul was hosting a large NATO conference and most people we knew had actually left for the week to avoid the expected chaos.  Alara was my second baby in 18 months so I felt calm and confident; diapering, nursing, bathing…. I’d been doing these things non-stop anyway for the past year and a half.  I had that part all under control 🙂 So after a calm couple of days in the hospital (so calm that I got bored in fact by our last night there and was begging Erim to take me out for dinner!!) we went home and just got on with it all.  We were ready for two kids both mentally and physically.

Alegra’s arrival was completely the opposite! On the night of the 22nd Erim and the girls arrived home from a long weekend in the south of Turkey.  I had spent the weekend at home trying desperately to recover from a massive sinus infection while putting the finishing touches on both Alegra’s nursery and the room Alara and Asya were going to share. There was a terrible thunderstorm that continued to rage outside our window after we arrived at the hospital around 11:30pm.  Erim was exhausted from his trip, and I was so nervous about how Alara was going to feel about this new baby’s arrival on her birthday!  Luckily, physically, everything went perfectly and Alegra was born without us even having to think about it too much!  The next morning Alara, Asya and Erim came with their cousins to the hospital and we blew out some candles for Alara… as a preliminary celebration.

While I was pregnant I had promised Alara that no matter what we would have our traditional family dinner celebration on her actual birthday day! So we did!! Thanks to the joint efforts of my mom, my sister Derin, and a close family friend (whose husband runs the hospital) we were fortunate enough to have a FULL birthday party in the lobby of the hospital.  Per Alara’s instructions we had balloons, themed plates and cups, enough pizza to feed 20 people, and a birthday cake! Alara got presents from everyone and even though it wasn’t the party she was expecting; I was so happy we were able to celebrate for her.  Since then we have always had a family birthday on the girls’ birthday but I have made a real effort to have separate parties with friends, and always focused on having Alara’s birthday party before Alegra’s.  As special as it is to share a birthday the way that they do, it is so important for me that they realize they are each different and special in their own way.

This year, due to time constraints, we actually ended up having the girls’ “friend parties” on the same day! Alara’s was a Mexican themed party at home with a bunch of her girlfriends, hanging out in the garden and making tie-dye t-shirts.  Alegra’s was a watermelon themed pool party at my parent’s house… we had a water gun fight, pool games, and a piñata! Erim and I successfully made it to the cutting of both cakes and although the girls might disagree I loved getting to celebrate them back to back.  Here are some pictures from both parties that day….

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Today, we are flying to Greece for a family (and friends) vacation.  Alara was a bit worried about being in transit on her birthday but I think that she is actually having a pretty good time so far.  Ever since the day that Alegra was born and it rained cats and dogs it seems that June 23 is always a beautiful sunny day.  Maybe the joy that I feel on this day is somehow reflected for me in nature 🙂

Every year I am consistently surprised by how much the girls grow and change over the course of 12 months.  This year has been especially interesting…

Alara:

This year has been a true “middle” year for you!  Asya was dealing with her TEOG exams all year and Alegra started first grade; but you were in 7th grade.  The middle of middle school. A year where not much seems to change but in fact, a lot does happen.  I have watched you find and cultivate an amazing group of girl friends.  Each of them are so strong in their own ways and you have managed to find your niche with them.  I have watched you prepare yourself mentally, and academically, for the tough eighth grade year that you have coming up. As the year progressed you have found, and developed, your own rhythm.  Despite the chaos that our house can be at times you have created space for yourself.  I love that we have our time after Alegra is asleep and Asya is in her “cave” for our Madam Secretary viewing and our late night chats with Baba.  My dear sweet princess, you have become a wonderful, intelligent, insightful and principled young lady.  I am so excited to see what the “teenage” years hold for you! We are so lucky to have a soul like you in our midst.

Alegra:

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What a year you have had! Starting first grade, learning to read and write, making new friends- I feel like you have done it all this year! Your energy and enthusiasm have been catching; I’m not sure how we would have made it through the homework if you had not been so cute while you did it! You have a huge heart and make sure that everyone knows how much you care about them all the time.  Next year you will need to work a little bit on listening, waiting patiently, and chatting a little bit less during school.  I am excited to see how you do it! You are my all time bedtime buddy- what would Baba and I do without your “sneaky” nighttime visits? Even though your teenager sisters might get frustrated with you at times, know that they love you too! Keep on keeping us all on our toes, your loving energy helps sustain us all.

And the end of a wonderful day…we have arrived on the boat for a wonderful and very happy birthday celebration. 😊 as they say in Turkey- “may our worst days be like this”….
 

my fearless first child

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Happy, happy birthday to my brilliant, beautiful, confident first child today!
Asya, you never cease to amaze me with your bravery and determination…At the age of 14 you have already managed to surprise me so many times with your decisiveness, courage, and strength! Whether it was the (many) times I ended up having to put you in the shower fully clothed because you had decided NO BATH that night, or the way you pretty much signed yourself up for a full session of summer camp at Rockbrook at age 9, or the way that you have conquered the (very scary to me) strenuous sport of show jumping, I am constantly in awe of your ability to decide what it is you want- and do your best to make it happen!

This year has been a tough and busy one. Preparing for the TEOG exams while juggling the demands of eighth grade and an ever busier riding schedule has not been easy. The serious pressure of eighth grade in Istanbul can be overwhelming all on it’s own; yet you have, as always, managed to take it stride! Your social life has been almost as busy as your school life and while we have sometimes argued over how to balance the two, I am proud to see you coming to understand the importance of creating and maintaining good friendships.

Your love of animals is endless. There isn’t a dog that we pass that doesn’t get a loving look or a horse that doesn’t get a tongue click and a long pat. Anyone who knows you knows that a membership to the Worldwide Wildlife Foundation or PETA is always the perfect gift. Although as a teenager right now showing your feelings isn’t always “the thing to do”, I know that your love for people runs just as deep. You have a giant heart and so much compassion for anyone who needs it. Your friends are lucky to have you in their lives, and I am so impressed that you constantly find different ways to make sure they know that you care.

At home you have been a fabulous older sister to both Alara and Alegra. I think that in Alegra’s eyes you can do no wrong and all she wants is for you to think that she could EVER be as “cool” as you! Things with Alara are always a bit more complicated, as you know, but know also that she has always, always, got your back; and I can’t think of a better ally to have if you are ever in a jam.

For me, and for your baba, it has been the most amazing pleasure to get to watch you grown and mature this year. We couldn’t be more proud of all your hardwork and your amazing maturity and calmness over the past couple of months.  Your quick mind and big heart will get you very far in this world and I am so lucky to be along for the ride and get to watch it all unfold. I love you so much my wonderful, sweet girl.  Happy, happy birthday.