Youngest Child

Here is a sure sign of a parent at the tale-end of raising her last child:

Today is Picture Day at Ellie’s school. Last night we had this conversation:

Ellie: What should I wear for school pictures?

Me: I don’t care. Wear whatever you want.

Ellie leaves the room and comes back 20 seconds later holding two shirts on hangers.

Ellie: Which of these shirts should I wear?

Me: I don’t care. Wear either one.

Ellie: Just tell me which one to wear!

Me: OK, the one on the left.

Ellie: But I wore that one last year.

Me: Then wear the one on the right.

Ellie: Are you sure?

Me: Yes!!!

Ellie: Will it make the blue in my eyes pop?

Me: Yes. The blue in your eyes will pop right out of your head.

Ellie: Mom, I’m serious! What color shirt will make the color of my eyes pop the most?

Me: Just don’t wear red. You don’t want the bloodshot color of your eyes to pop.

Ellie: MOM!!!

Ellie again: What pants should I wear?

Me: I don’t care!!! Besides, no one is going to see your pants in the picture.

Ellie: MOM!!!

Ellie again: Should I wear my hair curly or straight?

Me: I don’t care.

Ellie: Just tell me!!!

Me: OK, straight.

Ellie: OK, I’ll wear it curly.

Me: Fine. I don’t care.

When she left this morning for Picture Day, I think her hair was curly, but I have no idea what shirt she wore.

When my oldest daughter was in school, I would to start thinking about what she would wear for Picture Day when we did her school clothes shopping in August. I would sometimes go shopping just to find the right shirt for Picture Day. But I’ve raised four kids and I really don’t care anymore. I have been through too many school picture days.

Before you start feeling terribly sorry for poor Ellie, I was also the youngest in my family and my mom didn’t care what I wore for school pictures either. And somehow I still graduated from high school AND college AND I have never spent a single day incarcerated.

So it all somehow works out, even for the youngest child.


Tulips: Not as Dutch as You Might Think

It’s a cold and drizzly day today in Istanbul. But notwithstanding the chill in the air, the tulips at Emirgan Park are breathtaking. I get to walk past these beauties every day on my morning walk.

Did you know that tulips are not originally Dutch? The Dutch took them to Holland in the 16th century from the Ottoman Empire. Tulips are as Turkish as Turkish delight, kebabs, and kaftans.

Best Holiday Quotes 2018

We had a wonderful holiday vacation. Two of our three adult kids came home to Istanbul. Sadly, our soldier son wasn’t able to come home. We missed him dearly.

The other five of our Six Abroad family enjoyed site seeing around Istanbul and southwestern Turkey. Here are a few of the highlights:

Süleymaniye Mosque

Hagia Sophia

Topkapi Palace



Another highlight was when a rug seller suckered us into purchasing this rug. Rug sellers in Istanbul are the world’s best at getting unsuspecting Americans to purchase rubbish they don’t need. Seriously, they’ve turned it into an art form.

Early this morning, my college kids headed back to the US. I’ll admit, the house is much more quiet without them. When they were here, there were lots of words in this apartment. Words everywhere. And in that vein, the following are my favorite quotes from the holiday (in order of greatness). I have chosen not to offer any context to the quotes, because honestly, their greatness needs no context. Their brilliance stands on their own:

#3: From 22 year old Cecily: “Don’t let Mom keep my shoes!”

#2: From 20 year old Ben: “Anything for big, wooly Ben?”

#1: And the winner of the best quote from Six Abroad Holiday Vacation 2018, goes to 14 year old Elizabeth: “It’s called sarcasm, Doof Wad!”

God bless them every one!

Because Moms Worry

Dear Grandma Hale and Grandma Parker,

We wanted to let you know that we arrived safely in Istanbul. The Turks greeted us warmly upon our arrival.

We arrived at our new apartment safe and sound.

And discovered that our complex has an amazing view of the Bosporus.

Yes, the Turks are feeding us well.

And yes, we’re eating our produce.

Your granddaughter has started school.

And like a good Mormon girl, she’s enrolled in seminary.

And she seems to be thriving in her new environment.

So you can rest assured that your children are doing well in Turkey. And just in case you’re wondering, THIS PLACE IS COMPLETELY AWESOME AND WE CAN’T BELIEVE WE GET TO LIVE HERE!!!

Love always,

Jason, Erin, and Ellie




Goodbye South Africa

Tomorrow I leave South Africa.  It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to this amazing country.  It has been such a privilege to have spent three years of my life in Africa.  A portion of my heart will remain behind when I board the plane tomorrow.

Thank you, South Africa, for your kindness, hospitality and beauty.  You will be dearly missed.

Photo credit: Amy Bennett

Here, There & Everywhere 2018

We have a crazy summer ahead of us.  So far, this is how it’s shaping up:

We’ll start the summer here (though it’s actually winter here):

Pretoria, South Africa

On July 1, Ellie and I will fly here:

London, England

A week later, we will meet Jason and together we will fly here:

Washington, DC

After another week, the three of us will head here:

New York City

One week later, the three of us will fly here:

Salt Lake City, Utah

Using Utah as our home base, we’ll take a short trip for Cecily’s university graduation here:

Rexburg, Idaho

And a short trip for Noah’s graduation from Basic Training here:

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

And I will spend a couple of days at a work conference here:

Boise, Idaho

In late August, after many hugs and a few tears, Jason, Ellie and I will head here:

Amsterdam, Holland

After which we will finally arrive at our new home here:

Istanbul, Turkey

Things Missed and Things Gained

This is a recent picture of Ellie:

She’s 13 years old. Like a typical American teenager, she took this selfie on her iPhone.

When we moved overseas in 2010, Ellie was 6 years old:

Ellie has lived over half of her life outside of the U.S.  As a result, she has missed out on some things.  She has rarely ridden a bike, she has never snow skied, and she doesn’t remember American trick-or-treating.

Thanks to the proliferation of American media and the Internet, she gets a fair amount of American pop culture; however, she misses some of the nuances that are second nature to most American teens.

Someone recently gave her a Tootsie Pop that they had ordered from the U.S. on Amazon.  Ellie showed it to me and asked me what it was.  What American kid doesn’t know what a Tootsie Pop is?  I explained to her that it is a sucker with a Tootsie Roll in the middle.  She wasn’t exactly sure what a Tootsie Roll was and by my description, assumed it was regular milk chocolate.

When she was 12 years old, and we were back in the U.S. for a few weeks in the summer, Ellie showed me a dime and asked me what it was called.  I told her it was a dime and she asked me how much it was.  When I told her that a dime is 10 cents, she asked how much 10 cents is in Rand (South African currency).  Imagine, a 12 year-old American kid not knowing what a dime is!  But if a kid has had very little exposure to U.S. currency, it makes sense that she wouldn’t understand terms like quarter, dime and nickel.

So yes, Ellie has missed some things growing up overseas; but she has gained other things.  And I was reminded of one those things on Saturday.

Ellie had been wanting to have her whole grade over to our house for a pool and waterslide party.  We finally got around to planning it and about 20 middle schoolers swam, slid and ate at our house for four hours on Saturday.  As I was making food that morning before the party began, Ellie saw me slicing some salami and asked me what I was going to do with it.  I told her I was planning to put it in the pasta salad.

I loved her reply, “Mom!  You can’t put it in the pasta!  There are going to be Jewish and Muslim kids at the party!  You can’t put pork in the salad!”

Ellie has a world-view and sensitivity that she would never have gained had she stayed in Utah her whole life.  She has grown up around Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims; Asians, Indians, Africans and Europeans.  She has often been the only American or the only Christian in a group.  And she’s comfortable in that kind of setting.

For all of the times I have been shocked at her lack of understanding of little American nuances, more often I am in awe of her global understanding. And I think it’s fair to assume that moving to Turkey 6 months from now will broaden her understanding even further.

It will be fun to watch!