Saturday, December 27, 2008

Post from Ephesus

Well, guess what! I can post down here in Ephesus! The hotel lobby has a computer and I have 4 of my 5 kids upstairs in a hot soapy bath (with Papa in charge). Our drive down was great. I am continually amazed at how good my kids are at traveling. I guess God gave me that gift knowing how much traveling we'd need to do! We left out after breakfast and started the 11 hour trip. After reaching Afyon ( a good mid-point for many journeys from Ankara) and grabbing lunch to go, we headed not west to Izmir, then south to Kudadasi. Instead, we went south-west straight to Kusadasi. Certainly at this point, all this means nothing to you. Bear with me. We turned off the road to get on this smaller road to go the south-west route. Suddenly, we were in between 2 giant mountains on a narrow, hair-pin curvy road, covered with snow and ice. Evidently, they got the same snow we got on Christmas Eve. Only those roads didn't get enough sunlight to melt it. No guard rails. Just sheer drop off. The kids LOVED it (of course, the ones not driving always do) and kept yelling, "Wahoo! Look how far down it is!" Ross could not even turn around, so on we went. I can say in my 36 years, I've never been on a trek quite like it, even when we used to drive up the mountain to Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. After an hour of creeping in 1st or 2nd gears, we ended up looking down on this sleepy little town. All shacks, all covered in snow, no electricity. I must say I felt like I was in a movie set. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Then I realized, it's Christmas Day down there. A beautiful snow-covered village in the middle of nowhere on Christmas Day, only they don't know why it's Christmas. I so wanted to take a picture, but of course it was so gray it would never have worked. I'll have to save the picture only in my mind. We arrived at our hotel around 8pm. We are enjoying our down time. I am also enjoying that 3/5 of my kids are now old enough to get their own food at the buffet! Benaiah has been held and kissed by all the staff and it is assumed we are German here. Better get back to the bath frenzy, but just had to get that post off about the village. Wish you could have seen it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Traditions

When a couple becomes a couple, then they have their first holiday, certain decisions must be made. Traditions are such an important part of what makes the day special. Ross and I spent one Christmas in America before heading overseas. When we moved away, we had to figure out exactly what we would do on holidays. Some things we took from his making a birthday cake for Jesus with 3 candles representing the Trinity. Some things we took from my opening presents one at a time and watching others open. Some things we came up with on our own. When we had our first Christmas with our firstborn daughter Mary Erin, Ross grabbed his guitar, and we entered her room to wake her by singing Away In A Manger. It was so dear, so precious, that we have carried on with that tradition. Every year, the youngest one gets to be awoken to our singing. Mary Erin was awoken 1 year, Annika 2 years, then Esther and Eva both had it 3 years. Now little Benaiah was awoken to our song this morning (He had already been up for his first breakfast, this was before his second breakfast at 9:30am!) I told the girls, "I guess if he is our last baby, we'll be singing to him for 18 years!" Then we all had a good laugh about how he'd be big with muscles and a deep voice, and about how they'd all be coming to see us and bringing their babies who would call him Uncle Ben. I think after tolerating 4 big sisters all his life, he'll be used to things like being serenaded, don't you? I'd love to hear your unique holiday traditions! Post a comment for me.

With this, I am signing off for a week. We are heading to Ephesus, a place rich in Biblical history, and a few degrees warmer! We woke to our first big snow of the year. Jesus sent us a present on His birthday, it seemed. In the right photo, Esther is dressed in pj's and her snow boots. Ross took them down to the grocer on our bottom floor to get something for my stocking, which was empty as of 8am! The left photo is a picture of our breakfast table. We opted for Turkish breakfast this year. Have a very Merry Christmas in Jesus. No gift can compare to Him! (I realize we are on about 5 different keys in the video below. I didn't want to ruin the moment to stop and start over!)

Christmas Eve Eve Party!

Last night we hosted a party for any staff remaining in Ankara who wanted to get together! 30 folks came over. We had a super time! Everyone brought food, and we made pancakes to 'fill the kids up.' Even so, the food was GONE. As a Southern woman, that should just not happen in my home, and all I can do is hope everyone got their tummies full! For me, it is just a great way to remember that I have family far away, but I have family here, too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Long Enough

Ok, so I've let Benaiah suffer the embarrassment of the Gremlin photo long enough. Here is the 'other' shot. Although in this one, Eva looks like she is checking out her eyebrows. We are really excited about Christmas around here! Today we are making a run to the Embassy to get Benaiah his Social Security card (will he get benefits by 2072?) and to renew Mary Erin's passport. It is hard to believe she is about to turn 10! All of their baby passports look alike...extremely fat baby with squinty Campbell eyes! But then they are renewed at 5 years old, 10 years old, and 15 years old. I am not quite ready to think about the next renewal. Ross has invited Esther for a lunch date with Dad today, as well. We are also preparing for a party for the staff who remained in Ankara. Christmas week is here! Enjoy!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I have heard that some very unusual things are determined by detached/attached earlobes and baldness and when babies cut their teeth. Genetics have always fascinated me. I have a friend here who has 4 children, 3 of which have different eye color from the others. That's amazing to me. Ross and I never knew (until this last go-around) if we were having a boy or girl, but we always said, "We don't know what we're having, but we do know he/she will have blue eyes." and each did. The other night, I was standing behind Ross (a common place to find me) as he worked at the computer (a common place to find him) and I noticed the little swirl of hair at the base of his head is EXACTLY like Benaiah's little swirl. Is that genetic? Who knows? But, he tolerated my picture taking so the my blog readers could wonder as well. Incidentally, last summer I learned how to cut Ross' hair from my sister in law. Since this photo, Ross has had a good haircut and neck shave! He trusts me with a razor!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dress Up in the Middle East

My girls have a BIG dress up box. We have all kinds of things in there, mostly thanks to folks who give us good hand-me-downs. Inside you can find a Madeline costume, circus performer attire, cheerleader get-up, even a Disney princess dress. But no matter what I put in that box...they usually create a costume like the one in this picture. I don't dress in traditional Turkish ware nor do I wear a head covering, but perhaps I should. They look good, no?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bulldog or Green Gremlin?

We took the kids for a photo shoot one Saturday morning. The pictures turned out great, but the picture here made me laugh so hard I cried. Finally everyone was looking, smiling, but what in the world is that boy doing?! I managed to eek out between laughs, "Ross, he...he...looks like a bulldog...." Ross said, "No, I think he is the Green Gremlin." I'll post the others later, but this had to be the first!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Blessing For Me

One of the things I love about Turkey is there is always something interesting to may be scary, dangerous, exotic, happy, beautiful, sad...but there is always something to see when we go places. (This is a great place to live for blog ideas!) The day I took Eva to the mall, we noticed as we were about to exit, that a Turkish children's dance troupe was about to perform. I thought it would be fun to stop and let Eva watch it...sort of (but not really) like Christmas carollers in the malls this time of year. Out came these adorable kids dressed in traditional costumes, dancing like the Ottomans. The boys even crossed their arms and kicked like the Russian dance! It was fun to watch, but even more meaningful to me was the audience. A school for Down's Syndrome children had come to see the performance. It is so very rare to see a child with Down's Syndrome here in Turkey, as abortions are only legal through the 10th week of pregnancy, but exception is made for a child with Down's Syndrome. The rate at which these sweet kids are aborted is staggering. In this country, to work with children with special needs is not glamorized. The life the typical special needs child must lead here is awful. Many of my friends volunteer in an orphanage here. The stories they tell break my heart. So, when I saw these dear ladies, pursuing a career of loving and educating these kids, my heart just swelled in admiration for them. I wanted to pin a gold star on all of them! Here we can't go anywhere without someone snatching a kid, so I gladly passed Benaiah around and let the ladies love on him. The children were so excited to see and touch a baby. Is it possible they are denied that privilege at times? During the dance, Starbucks came around and handed out free hot chocolate to the kids. Eva told them she did not want hot chocolate, she wanted warm chocolate. I certainly left the mall "warmed." The blessing of that day was all mine.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hand print Tree skirt

Three years ago, when Eva was a 6 month old, I came up with the idea to make a tree skirt with the kids' hand prints added each year. I used a basic beige fabric and added a subtle plaid trim. Each year I have chosen subtle hand print colors that align with the trim...sage green, maroon, gold. But this year we went all out! To honor a new boy added to our family in 2008, we used hot pink for the girls and blue for our boy! He just kept making little fists, so we finally decided to paint his feet blue instead of his hands. Every year it makes me a little sad to do it because I realize I am one year closer to filling it up, one year closer to not having little people with little hand prints. I'll never get tired of little ones, I am expecting a lot of grandchildren one day from my 5 kids!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Recently I took Eva to the mall with me to look for a blouse for Mary Erin to wear to her piano recital. She enjoyed roaming a little in the store while I was looking. Then she came to me and said, "Mama, dat dirl has no head. I sink we need to buy her one for Christmas." I snapped the photo to share the laugh with you. I didn't explain why she was headless (because I am actually not sure why mannequins are headless), but I did tell her I thought it was a lovely idea.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cappedocia Part II

Thanks for the super photo naming ideas!!! I laughed out loud when I read them! I am certain Ross' personal favorite will be the birthright one! I have so many post ideas, but I am trying to stay in chronological order. So, here is another story from my recent trip to Cappedocia.
As I said earlier, I go to this Women's Conference each year. Nursing babies are allowed to attend, so Benaiah and I went together. I didn't sign up for the tours or the hiking because it just seemed a little overwhelming to me with a 1 month old. But when the speaker mentioned several of us going to an authentic Turkish hamam, I signed up! Here is a link explaining the history of the Turkish hamam
The hamam existed as a means of someone without indoor plumbing being able to bathe. They are still used today and you can find them usually in the old part of town. 5 star hotels in Turkey have re-created them with more luxury, but this hamam was the real deal. I wasn't sure how far away it was or how involved it would be, so at the last minute, I decided to take Benaiah with me. One of the ladies said, "But how will you manage him in a hamam?" I said, "I bet there will be a teyze there who will hold him." (A teyze is the Turkish word for an auntie.) We took a dolmus (public transportation mini-bus), then walked and walked and walked to the center of town. The first picture shows the outside of the hamam. The sign out front denoted that it was the "Women Only" day (the hotel hamams tend to be co-ed and I don't frequent those!). We walked in to the dome-topped, circular structure. The floor was solid marble, the walls were all wood. In the center (last photo) was an enormous marble fountain, as well as a wood-burning stove to keep the building and water hot. I am told many of these are heated by natural springs. I ascended the very narrow circular staircase to undress and put on the towel they gave me. Now, if I were really authentic (and several of the ladies in our group were), I would just strip right down for this, but I opted for my swimsuit. We came back down and walked through the hamam into the inner heated room. Inside was a huge heated marble slab, as well as marble ledges all around the outside on which to sit. We sat, took the metal basins, put them under the continuously running hot water, and poured them over our bodies. After a time of relaxing and seeing WAY too many topless teyzes, I was escorted into another room. In this room, a very robust woman scrubbed me from head to toe with a loofah sponge. Then she took me to another very robust Turkish woman for the next step. She took an enormous pillow case filled with some type of slippery soap and spun it around until it billowed out like a cloud. Then she eased it onto me and let the soap solution run all over me. It was one of the softest things I've ever felt. Then she began to massage the soap all into my body. Hot water poured all over me cleansed away the soap, and out I walked feeling like a jelly fish. The next step would be to jump into the ice cold pool, but I preferred to keep my core body temperature up at that point.
All this while, Benaiah was passed from Turkish lady to Turkish lady out in the lobby. I love that I can trust people here. Kidnapping and other crimes against children are rare (for Allah does not forgive that). I went back up to change and as I descended, I slipped on the marble staircase. If you are a mother, you will understand this, but I welcomed the pain of falling because as it was happening, all I could think was, "Thank you, God, I am not holding Benaiah." (I was fine, just a little sore on one side!) The sweet little girl in the picture offered me apple tea. I asked to take her picture. She wanted her picture made, but asked me to wait. I assumed she was running to brush her hair, but no, she needed to cover her head for the picture. She asked me to email her the picture I took of her with Benaiah. The little old lady in the other photo just couldn't get enough of Benaiah. He was sound asleep, yet she continued to bounce him and say, "Shh shh shh." So sweet! When I see women like her, I always think, "They are just like us...sweet little old Granny's in the family." Going to the Turkish hamam is an adventure, will get your body softer than any spa treatment, and is a bargain at only about US$10. If you come visit me, I'll take you.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Name That Photo

I recently took this great photo. Now it's your turn to name it! You can post a comment at the end if you have a submission.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tae Kwan Do

This year our 'middlers' (as we call them) signed up for the Tae Kwan Do classes at school. We were thrilled! This class would give them exercise and discipline, as long as they don't walk in on ballerina tip toes. Esther's class (first photo) is for the little kids. Their performance in hopes of a belt change won't be until late Spring. Annika is in the older class, and she proudly received her yellow belt this week (as seen in the third photo). Their instructor is Mr. Ibo Park (seated next to Ross in the group photo, with Annika and Esther in front of them). The video link on the bottom shows Esther's class performing (she's the blonde in the middle).

When we moved to Turkey in 2003, we were the first to arrive associated with our company. There were people who helped us, but no team already on the ground to officially orient us. As we muddled through those first days, the following incident became all the more important to us. During our first week here, we were riding the elevator in our apartment, and the door opened to reveal Mr. Park and his wife. They smiled at us, we smiled at them. We began to communicate in broken English and Turkish. It is hard for me to describe this (and some details I am forced to leave out as this is a public blog), but it was a very clear confirmation to me that God had directed us to Turkey. We had just left Asia, and our hearts were still sore from that. The first family we met was Asian with smiles and dispositions that showed us that we love the same God. We have since become very good friends. Their daughter graduated from Oasis, and Mr. Park has faithfully taught our students Tae Kwan Do for years now. Sometimes we feel a closeness to others because we share the same cultural backgrounds and are from the same country. But there is a much deeper closeness that can be found when we share the same God.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Perk of the Business

Yes, there are sacrifices involved in living away from my home country. The top 5 things I miss are: family, friends, my church, owning a home, and conveniences. But there ARE perks to working in this job. One perk is that by running an international school with 35 nationalities, many of the students being Ambassadors' kids, military attache kids, and international business kids, we get invited to the parties thrown by the Embassies. I, of course, tell Ross it is only for the sake of maintaining connections that we MUST go, but getting to dress up, go to posh hotel ballrooms, and eat delicious food from other countries ain't too bad, either. This week we got invited to 2, only 1 of which we attended. Monday night we went to the Romanian National Day reception. Typically, we stroll through security, approach the Ambassador and his entourage to shake hands and exchange pleasantries, then we enter the ballroom. We try to chat with any school parents there, thank them for entrusting their children to our school, and allow them to share a bit of their culture with us. This week I wondered how I would manage this with a 2 month old baby. He hasn't had a bottle (I don't own one of those yet), would he take one? Could I just sort of tuck him in a corner and take him with me? Ross told me to leave him at home, that he would be FINE. (I wasn't so worried about Benaiah, as I was the babysitter who would be hearing him wail, but would have no bottle for him.) Ross calculated that if it took 30 minutes to get there, if we stayed an hour, and it took 30 minutes to get home, we'd be back in plenty of time for his next meal. So, I filled him up at 6:15 and off we went. So many times when I follow Ross' direction, I am happy. This was one such time. It would have been difficult to lug Benaiah around there. I was glad I left him. The funny part, though, was that when the 1 hour mark hit, Ross rounded us up like cattle and marched us right out of there. We could hardly keep up with him. We got in the van to return home and he commented on the way home, something like, "Poor kid...leaving him at home with no milk..." Ross has been making me laugh for 14 years now. Benaiah did great with his sweet babysitter China. She had gotten the girls to bed and he was sitting in his favorite vibrating chair at her feet, content as could be. In the photos above: China with Benaiah (who looks a bit shocked to see me, but just before had been all smiles); one of our students and her mother Mrs. Ivanov (a military attache wife who I think looks very much like a Romanian Sarah Palin) and me; Ross and me

Monday, December 1, 2008

Friends are Family

You know that we just hosted a Thanksgiving party. Just three days later we hosted the whole staff for our annual Christmas party! (The schedule is such this year that it all has to be packed into a week!) We had SO much fun. After a beautiful singing of "O Come All Ye Faithful," we dug into the appetizer and dessert tables. The punch (recipe here http://http// ) and wassail were gone within minutes, in spite of both recipes serving 30-40. After eating, we read the Christmas story and prayed. (Each year the Scripture is read by one of the leaving staff.) Then we had a gift exchange (the one where you can steal gifts). Some of the hilarious parts were the following: Esmer Hanim (our Turkish teacher) received the ham (which is not eaten in this part of the world) (It was quickly stolen from her anyway.); Serdar Bey (our Turkish caretaker) chose a set of teacher smiley-face stamps (we enjoyed joking that he would be stamping our invoices with them); married ladies stole food so they wouldn't have to cook; roommates devised strategies to steal for each other in hopes of getting back what they really wanted; and things that were held on to for almost the whole game were lost in the end. It was just plain fun! Friends become family when you are far from home. In the photos: our family of 7; Benaiah and me with my friend Hicran and her adorable boy Judah (3 months older than Benaiah); Ross opening his gift which was wrapped first in about 7 grocery bags; Ross and Troy Lundy (our business administrator who Ross has known since high school); Bev and Barry Birmingham (from our home church in Memphis) with Judah and Haybat (our Iraqi babysitter/adopted daughter/lunch lady at school)

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