Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Way to a Man's Heart is Through His Stomach

This adorable little girl next to Big Ben is, I believe, the human form of Cindy Lu Who (from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas). She is so cute with her enormous eyes and blonde locks. She and Big Ben are in Sunday School together. The SS worker came down and said, "Sara, I HAVE to show you these pictures from today. Benaiah was in his harem today, just sitting around the whole time letting women feed him." I died laughing. I said, "Send them to me. I have to put them on my blog." Enjoy!

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Friday, December 25, 2009


At one point, we weren't sure if she was singing "Glo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ria" or yawning. You watch the video and decide.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Meaning of Christmas

Recently Firstborn was at a 5th grade birthday party. The girls got a little wound up with some acting, and the mom got to laughing. She told Mary Erin, "You are really good at acting. Would you do a drama for our church for Christmas?" So Mary Erin and her friend wrote the entire skit, assigned roles, schedule rehearsals, and presented in church. The mom supervised it all. I had no idea what to expect. They did a SUPER job. My little girl who used to be afraid to stand up in the front of the church to be dismissed to Sunday School has come a long way. She was Mary in the skit. I asked her why she wasn't Joseph, considering her little Asian Joseph (a girl) is a good 1.5 ft. shorter than her. She said, "Oh, I was Mary because my name is Mary." Oh. Good 5th grade logic. They wanted Benaiah to be Jesus, but I convinced them he might ruin their play. Can't you see him tipping the manger and taking them all down with him?
Little sis Esther was a shepherd, along with her Korean friend Esther Kim. I think they rather enjoyed seeing my shock when I showed up at church and saw her with a goatee. It was very cute, very accurate, and very touching.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Most Poignant Moment in 6 Years

There has definetely been a resounding theme from God in my life these last 6 years I've lived in Turkey. Over and over again I've heard it. I realize the theme might not be understood by others; most likely they wouldn't even recognize it if they stumbled over it.

But here it is: God is here.

Over and over again, I sense Him saying that to me. Of course, this example would mean nothing to anyone else, but here is one instance...last Spring, I was ready to go 'home' (meaning America). I had an 8 month old baby neither of our families had ever met. The end of the school year was near. I was ready to check out of this country for awhile. I accompanied Firstborn on her field trip to the mausoleum. On the tomb of the hero of this country, there was one enormous wreath, only one. It was from Singapore, of all the places in the world. It was from Singapore. It's the place where I first lived away from "home" and had to trust God in that. My first three daughters were born there. There we saw our school, near to shutting down, be saved in the nick of time. I whispered to Firstborn, "Go stand beside it, I want to take a picture. I want to remember this. I feel like God is reminding me He is here, Mary Erin. God sent us to Singapore, and He sent us here. He's been with us all the time."

Friday night, it happened again. But it was by far the most poignant example of all to me. I just looked up "poignant." It is the perfect word.

Etymology: Middle English poynaunt, from Anglo-French poinant, poignant: to prick, sting, from Latin pungere —Date: 14th century
(1) : painfully affecting the feelings : piercing (2) : deeply affecting : touching b : designed to make an impression : cutting

Yes, it's exactly what I want to say.

So, Thursday afternoon, Campbell Clansman got an email saying the Turkish American Association was hosting a Christmas Concert. He called to make a reservation for us for Friday night. When we arrived, he went up to pay for our tickets. The lady said, "There is no charge for you, sir." We have no idea why. It was a little strange, and I assumed that they assumed we were some type of dignitary. Later I realized it was part of God's message to me that night. We entered, then we heard a man speak to introduce the concert. He was Turkish, but had lived his formative years in America. He returned to Turkey for a short 6-month stay, but met his wife (the soloist at the concert). So, he stayed. He has written books and one of the goals of his life is to help Turks understand how they have misunderstood America and Americans, specifically in regards to religion. He mentioned that Turkey has one of the highest anti-American sentiments in the world. He said, "After all, Turkey is where all religions met. Why is it so difficult for us to open ourselves to others?" My mouth was on the floor. I've never heard a Turk, especially a non-Christian, say anything like this. So, one of his goals was being accomplished Friday night. He organized a group of very talented musicians, along with his wife (who is a famous singer on the Turkish public media system) to play and sing Christian Christmas carols, with a Turkish musical interpretation.

I was spellbound. I have never been so enraptured at a concert. Ok, I'll just be honest here. I choked down tears all night. To hear my precious carols (MINE!), with truth in the words, sung in my language, by Turks, with their style of music? It almost seemed surreal to me.

The soloist did not speak English, so she had to memorize all the lyrics in a foreign (to her) language. I thought of the verse, (Mt. 19:20) "And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." I remember our first year in Singapore wandering through a night market with a booming "Jesus Christ is born today..." above us as we walked. CC and I looked at each other and said, "He will be praised. Everywhere." At one point Friday night, the soloist was singing, "A King Is Born" and turned to the instrumentalists behind her and they called out, "Hallelujah." I've never heard that said here before. I drank it in like water to a thirsty soul.

And once again, I heard the message. "I am here." I hear you, Lord.

I have uploaded 2 videos of the night. One I included because it is such a perfect example of Turkish culture. It just sounds SO Turkish. It could be one of the street weddings I've seen. Even the way the soloist dances... it is so Turkish. The other I included so you can hear her sing Silent Night.

I realize there is no way I can communicate in this blog what this night meant to me. It was like I was in prison, and then got to spend the day out, just to remember there was a real world outside with beauty and light. It was important to me to write it down, which is why I attempted to share this in my blog. It did my soul good, and it was something I won't forget. I hear you, Lord.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

House Fire

I interrupt this blog...normally one about my kids and their antics, the interesting culture in which I live, the school in which we work, or any other topic that pops into my head, to tell you that last night we had a house fire.

But God is good all the time.

Our power went out just as I finished the dough for some homemade pizza. I kept on working with one daughter holding a flashlight over me while I grated cheese and spread pizza sauce. Finally at 6:30pm we gave up hope that the power would come back on in time to cook the pizzas and left to try a new kebab place just in the next neighborhood. We had a lovely meal, made a new friend with the owner and his son, then had an extra cup of tea with them by the fire they had built in the restaurant.

When Campbell Clansman opened the door for us to go in our house, smoke billowed out. We quickly ushered the kids down the hall, and he ran back in to find the cause of the smoke. I ran to the electric box and switched off the main switch (after all, I am my father's daughter...he was an insurance investigator for many years and prepared me for the many emergencies he had witnessed). So, CC continued to search in the dark. He found the fire in our office, blazing on top of our wardrobe. He ran back out, grabbed the hallway fire extinguisher and put out the fire. I ran to the neighbor, asked her husband to come, and asked her to keep the kids in her house.

The fire department came and checked to be sure it was properly put out. They asked us our names, they asked us our landlord's name, but did not solve the cause of the fire. There was a halogen lamp there, but the bulb was intact and the wall socket was not burned, so it must not have exploded from a power surge. After an hour or so, the smoke had cleared enough that we decided to sleep in our own home, so I put the kids to bed. Then it hit me. I knew the cause of the fire. There was a box on top of that wardrobe. Perhaps when the electricity came back on, it had gotten shoved onto the halogen lamp next to the wardrobe and caught fire. Did Phaselis the Great (kitty) move it? We'll never know. I asked him, and he is not talking. The box must have lit up, which caused the ceiling to smolder, the wall to char, and the wardrobe to start burning. Then when the box got light enough, it must have fallen to the floor and burned there, which left the big black hole in the hardwood.

What is even more a mystery than solving the cause of the fire (living my 7 year old dream of being a firefighter..back when they were just called firemen), is the supernatural peace that God gave both of us. Our voices and our reactions would have reminded you of how we might have interacted when taking our children to the park. This can only be explained by God. Immediately we recognized how much God had protected us. We discovered the power came back on only about 20 minutes before we returned home, which meant it only blazed for 20 mintues rather than the full 1.5 hours we were gone. It happened on a Monday night, not last Friday night when my children were home alone. Each paper or fabric that might have caught flame was not near enough to the fire. Fire extinguishers were mounted in our building. There is so so much for which we can be thankful. All I could think was to tell my neighbors how thankful I was. I told them over and over, and I pray they saw something in us that might set us apart.

Now, to the cultural tidbits. After all, I want you to laugh sometimes when you read my blog. All my neighbors came. They stood and comforted us and kept saying, in Turkish, "Gecmis Olsen" which means, "May it pass quickly for you." I thanked them all, even my meany neighbor who lives below. He came and told us about why we should not be using halogen lamps. Thanks. I was struck that the firemen really made no diagnosis of how the fire started. They were really nice and said nice things to us, but basically just came and watched and chatted just like our neighbors were doing. Our good friend Serdar came and helped Ross start the clean up. My neighbor across the hall just kept insisting that I just stay with her, not go in, not look. That was SO contrary to my nature. I wanted to help. I wanted to figure out how the thing started. But before I knew it, she had a big tray with tea service and snacks laid out and just told me, "Come, rest yourself. Drink tea." Precious. It was what she knew might calm her, I guess. She also fed Big Ben sugar cubes to keep him happy. He sat and watched a German gameshow on tv and stuffed himself with her sugar cubes.

So, I just interrupt this blog to give you a slice of my yesterday and to tell those that read this that I am so thankful God forces every calamity to be sifted through His hands first. As I put on my facebook status, I have my husband, I have my babies, I have God. Nothing else matters to me! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Date Night Part I (the first amazing thing)

Campbell Clansman and I go out on Friday nights. We eat, we dream, we talk, we map out the week. We unload stresses. And when there is something else going on, we don't go on our date. It seems this time of year there is always something on a Friday night...piano concerts, parties. So it had been several weeks since we'd had our date. I told CC that we really needed to finish our Christmas shopping. He told me we really needed to go on a date like we used to 15 years ago. When he told me he'd let me go by myself to the stores later to finish shopping, I said, "You're on."
We needed to get a quick, simple dinner. We decided to 1. get out of our neck of the woods, 2. eat Turkish, 3. try a new place. So we ended up at Kebabistan. We'd passed it several times, but never eaten there. I'd always wanted to. It's brightly lit with a wall of windows overlooking a busy street downtown. CC parked the car (after hearing "yasak" a couple of parking spots). I went inside and ordered 2 bowls of soup, 1 salad plate, and one grilled meat plate for us to split. Little did I know what was to come...first came a plate of pide bread. Then came a plate of a bulgar, then came ezme (salsa), then came yogurt with spices. Whew. Then came an enormous salad. When CC arrived, they served us our hot lentil soup. The mixed grill plate was HUGE. Then as if that might not be enough, they brought out lahmucun (see the 3rd photo). There was no way we could eat it all. Then out came another big bread. We packed up the salad and 1/2 the grilled meat to bring home. Actually, no, THEY packed it. It would be considered rude to ask us to pack our own doggy bag. We ended our meal with 2 cups of hot Turkish tea and a bill that reflected only our grilled meat, salad, and soup. Yes, I am sure that the motive for generosity is partially so we will come back. But I also think it is a reflection of the Turks' wonderful gift of hospitality. They WANTED to fill us up. They WANTED us to enjoy their food. And we did.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Goodbye, Missy!

Saturday night we said goodbye to Missy. She came and spent one semester here serving the school and our family. I am not sure how I would have survived being back in the classroom had she not come to tag-team with me taking care of Big Ben in the mornings. She stopped by to say goodbye and bring us these beautiful hats she knitted the girls. She also gave Benaiah a little McDonald's toy that plays, "Heeeyyyy, baby, I want to knoooooow, will ya be my girl?" Hey Missy, thanks for being our girl these last several months. We wish you God's very best!
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pazar Day

On Thursday, I walked home from work and greeted my baby boy. After I got settled back in at home, I suddenly realized and said, "It's Thursday! Let's do something we haven't had time to do in awhile...have some fun!" On Thursday, there is a big outdoor market in the next neighborhood. It is also open on Sundays, but Thursday is the day with the most textiles. I had been wanting to go, but sometimes forget on the day or I am too tired from work. So, I bundled Big Ben up and, most importantly, packed a whole package of crackers for him. I'll shop. He'll eat. We'll both be happy.

I arrived, and we dashed through the rain to join the crowds searching, sorting, and hoping for a bargain. On my facebook status, I mentioned I had been and what I had bought. One of my old friends mentioned, "Is that like the Turkish Walmart?" She may have heard me talk about a pazar before, so she may have been setting me up for a good punchline, but when my friends (who live here) saw her comment, they LOVED it! I have one Turkish friend who now lives in Texas. She's seen Walmart now. She said, "Pazar equals Walmart, I love it!" Here's what my pazar looks's loud, it's crowded, it's wet and muddy, it's disorganized, it's FUN!

I managed to find a stall (if you could call it that) of underwear. If you dig, you find Gap, Old Navy, Victoria's Secret. I am not sure how they end up here. Are they made here? Are the extras in stock? Are they fakes? They look like the real thing. I dug and dug in the piles (while Big Ben stuffed and stuffed into his mouth) and I managed to find him an Old Navy hockey-design pajama shirt which I plan to use as an undershirt. It's a size 4, but it will fit! Now that clothing companies make their pj's non-flammable, my kids look like sausages in their casings in them!

He ate all the crackers, so I bought a bag of oranges, peeled one, and he started into those. He ate 3 before he decided his hands were cold, tummy full, and was ready to go home.

You can buy all kinds of things there. I ended up finding a pair of hand-knitted baby booties for about US$5. When I asked the old teyze (auntie) if she made it, she proudly told me she made it herself. I had to buy them. I just fell in love with her sweet smile and proud answer. I told her I wasn't having any more babies, I had 5, but maybe a friend would. Meeting her and the conversation was worth the money to me. I also bought Big Ben some socks that have leather moccasin houseshoes on the bottom. Maybe that will help him learn to walk, I reasoned. I can't wait to hear Campbell Clansman's laugh when I tell him my logic. I also got one daughter some of those fingerless gloves with the little 'lid' to pull over your fingers if they are cold. All good stocking stuffers! And then just as I was leaving, I happened upon a fish stall. It had been awhile since we had fish. The weather was cold enough so I didn't have to worry about it being trucked in from the coast in the heat and going bad. I asked the man how much. He told me. Then he proceeded to say, "Big sister! You MUST buy this. It's good fish. It's so tasty." I said, "Ok, but you clean it." He laughed. Well, he cleaned it. But I didn't know how to ask him to do all I wanted him to do. So it appeared in my kitchen like this...

UGH. And to think I used to be Miss Fish. Anyway, yes the spine was out, but I had to cut off heads and tails. When I cut my finger on his fin, I decided he could keep those and I'd just bake them. My New England co-worker told me how to cook it and we had delicious coastal fish for dinner. Come on and see me, we'll hit the pazar too!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

7th Grade Christmas Party

Monday night we hosted the 7th grade class in our home for a Christmas party. We played games and exchanged gifts. Then I made them spaghetti while Campbell Clansman read them the Christmas story (the real one, with the baby...not the one with the jolly man in the red suit).
They had a great time. I noticed at one point, all the girls congregated to my dining room table and were intent on getting my little spinning nativity going by lighting the candles and getting the heat to rise and move it. The boys? On the floor wrestling.
Here we are all. What a great group. They were thankful and polite. Big Ben cried when the left.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ghosts of the Past

A very strange thing has happened. Just today, my 7th graders and I read a story that was rather, "Twilight Zonish." Then I walked home, played with Big Ben, fed him lunch (a hot dog wiener, a kiwi, an orange, a package of crackers, 3 cookies, and a small bowl of noodles and spaghetti sauce...I'm serious.) Then I decided I wanted to blog about last Monday night's 7th grade Christmas party in our home. I got my camera and began to upload pictures from that party. But instead of crazy pre-teens shoved together on a couch for a posed photo, I found these. The one above is clearly summertime, hence the dark skin, but I don't even know where it is in America. (Note: Firstborn clearly got her papa's skin tone.)
Here's Perma-Baby from 2.5 years ago. No hair, pacy clipped on, pudgy tummy, and wedding shoes from Kathleen's wedding?
Not potty trained. She was definetely 2.
And isn't this just the sweetest thing ever? My babies with Grandaddy. And this one below...handsome, tan...wait, that's my husband. With our baby. Where is this? Does anyone know? I never took these. On this same download, there was a short video clip of YESTERDAY at the girls' Tae Kwon Do demonstration. Kicking, punching, yes that was yesterday. So how did this happen? I have to admit, I was a little weirded out. Then suddenly I figured it out. At Monday's party we took out the memory card and let the kids make a crazy video to play backwards on our wii. It must not have ever been put back in. So the video we took of Annika yesterday at TKD was on the original camera memory card, as were these mysterious, but adorable photos. What a find. I'm not in the Twilight Zone after all. Attending a piano recital, hosting a 7th grade Christmas party, dutifully watching the breaking of boards at a TKD demonstration, viewing a clogging recital, decorating for the Senior's Christmas Coffeehouse Cafe, baking goodies for 4 kids' class parties, teaching 2 classes a day, and being mom/wife...all in 1 week's time... does not qualify me for the Twilight Zone, does it?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Recital

Friday night our Singapore girls had their Christmas recital. If only I'd taken a picture of the bathroom before we left...nail polish, nail polish remover, hot curlers, pins, sparkly stuff, clips. You couldn't even see the countertop. I glanced back at it, as I walked down the hall in my own bling, and thought, "Ahh. Girls!"

The girls did super. Their Papa told them this morning that he read the number one thing people fear is not death, but performing in front of a crowd. We said, "Hey! You did that already!"

Here's Annika. Believe it or not, her dress was a gift from Grandma last year. Her doll's dress was a gift from Mimi this year. And they didn't even talk about it!
Here's Essie with her friend Anny. Anny is a voice major and dear to our family. She sings beautifully. You'd never know she can take a grown man down with a Tae Kwon Do chop and kick. I've seen her do it. Esther and Anny performed a duet together which you can watch on the video link below.
Here's all the piano girls and their precious teacher Mrs. Park, along with Eva who just had to pose, too.
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Candy From Strangers

Last week Annika came home from school and told me that on her walk home, a lady yelled out of her first floor window and asked her to come. She went. The lady then asked her, "Where is your mother? How is your mother? Are you in the family with all the kids? How is the baby boy?" I have an idea of who it might have been, but I am not sure. This was all in Turkish, but thankfully she caught words like anne (mother), bebek (baby), etc. and got the jist of it. Annika smiled and told her I was fine. She said, "Then take this candy home." Annika came home with the mother lode...chocolates, hard candy, fruit candy. I just didn't have the heart to tell her...don't take candy from strangers. And of course, here it doesn't apply. But then I began to wonder...what about if she ever moves to the other side of the Earth? What about when she is in college? Then I decided, ok if she ever happens to be in America for Halloween, I'll burst her bubble and tell her all candy has to be checked from people we don't know. But for now, I just said, "Hurrah! Yum!" and let her eat a piece.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My 7th Graders

Above is my 7th grade English Literature class. When Campbell Clansman asked me to teach it unexpectedly (when you are married to the boss, you pretty much know you have to say yes!), I was unsure how it would be. How could I possibly teach 7th graders literature for a full 1.5 hours a day? Couldn't we do 1/2 grammar, 1/2 literature? No, that wasn't in the course schedule. But I showed up. Told them I realized they all thought they were grown up now, but I knew the truth. You're just big kids, I told them. Kids who really want to do your best. Kids who like to earn marbles to get a class party, just like my 3rd graders used to. Kids who like to play games to learn new things. They began to thaw. They began to laugh at my jokes. They began to beg me to read to them more often. They began to hang around after class. They began to not be inhibited by their peers. And you know what happened to me? I fell in love with them. Wouldn't trade them for any other class at the school. This week we performed the play A Christmas Carol for some of the other students. I was so very proud of them.
They created their own costumes.
They interpreted the lines, emotions, and expressions of the play to make them their own.
They showed up on the day of the play with white face powder and stuffed bellies. (I glanced up as the director and couldn't stop laughing.)
They are from America, Ethiopia, Turkey, France, England, Korea, and South Africa. What a great bunch!
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Que Pasa?

Well, today was a new day for me. As you may recall, we had a small fruit-basket-toss-up earlier in the year, which landed me my job of teaching 7th grade English Literature. I. Have. Loved. It. At that time, we also needed our Spanish classes to be taken by someone. Campbell Clansman hired a Spanish-speaking school parent to be the permanent sub. That worked well, until she decided recently to go back to the US to get married. (How dare she fall in love when there are still 9th graders needing to learn Spanish?) So, Campbell Clansman came to me and asked if I'd take the Spanish I class.

Long ago, I knew Spanish. I was Sarita. I took 3 years from a fabulous teacher (shout out to you Sra. B!), then took a college level test which gave me credit for the class without taking it. ( I told you, she was good.) So, technically I have not had a Spanish class since 1989. But those words are still in there somewhere. Occasionally they pop out. At weird times. Like when Campbell Clansman does not leave the double l silent in the word tortilla. Also, I taught Spanish to my elementary students way back when I was just getting married, before we headed overseas.

But then last summer, my mom asked me to speak Spanish to someone. There was something she could not communicate, and she just knew I would solve it with my linguistic ability. Turkish came out. Over and over again. Nope, only Turkish now. There is evidently only room for one foreign language at a time in my brain.

Nevertheless, I am going to study my Spanish. And I am going to teach those kids to the best of my ability. Yesterday, Campbell Clansman went to them to announce the change, to encourage them to say goodbye to their permanent Spanish-speaking sub. And he then said, "And be nice to her replacement. It's my wife." As he entered the room, he said, "Hola. Que Pasa?" That is his favorite (only) Spanish phrase (other than taco and burrito). The class sat still. Not a word. Not a response. Blink, blink went their eyes. Then one lone boy raised his hand and said, "Um, hi." Campbell Clansman (their principal) reported it to me with a sigh and said, "You've got your work cut out for you."

Know what their homework was tonight? Go to the Principal's office, give him a big smile, and say, "Que Pasa?!" like you mean it! I have a feeling this is going to be fun.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Party

We had an absolutely wonderful party at our house Saturday night. All of our staff came, we ate, we ate, we ate, we played games, we exchanged gifts.
Campbell Clansman and I used this opportunity to thank Missy, our morning nanny who came and volunteered here for the semester. This has given me an opportunity to teach a class this year.
Mm. Mm. I won't even list wings...sausage from Vienna...fried chicken...I said I wasn't going to list it...
Lots of fun. Good memories. Great friends.
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Monday, December 7, 2009

They're Coming...

They're coming.
They're coming?!
They're coming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(Maybe not with the tractor, but they're coming!)

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