Friday, January 30, 2009


Before we moved to Turkey, Ross made a short trip here to see some potential school buildings and meet some parents who wanted to see a school open. It was sort of a 'scouting' trip. Only I didn't get to be a scout.
I waited anxiously for Ross to return and tell me all about it! He described the city as gray. Gray? Yes, gray. It was late in the winter. It has snowed. It had melted. It had re-frozen. It had gotten dirty from drivers. He said basically everything was gray. Hmmm. Singapore, and fuchsia, and aqua blue...and, you get the point. It's the tropics. "Well, never mind the color, what stood out to you?" I asked him.
He said, "Sara, I visited an apartment that we can rent for a year while the family is gone. All I could think is that our girls could slip through the bars on the stairs and fall." (referring to the stairs leading to each floor of the apartment building). "So, then, you are saying, 'It is gray. It is unsafe.' " That's right, he told me. Well, even if our initial impression was that it was gray and unsafe, we felt very much that God wanted us to move here. So we did. When I first saw the railings, I, too, was horrified. It was just so very different than Singapore. Everything was safe there. Ross began referring to Turkey as the "Plaintiff Lawyer's Dream" because everywhere we went was a potential hazard.
No, the kids never fell through. We did grab their fat little hands tightly every time we left our apartment. We also had this 'stand against the wall' rule while we locked the door to leave. And they never fell.
In our present apartment, we have 2 floors. The railing surrounding our staircase is wobbly, completely unsubstantial, and spaced too far apart. Ross bought some chicken wire type fencing and wired it on, so that if any little person were to slip, it would catch them. And we have a 'no holding onto the rail' sort of rule.
The other day, I noticed that our very unsafe guard rails had a new purpose, as you can see in the photo. I asked. I was told it was a huge mountain for the horses to climb. After they climbed the mountain, they would go down the waterfall (the stairs). I suspect they'll be safe on that mountain just like we've been.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Storm Before the Calm

Around 7am (or sometimes 6am, yawn), Benaiah wakes up to eat. I feed him, change him, then put him in the highchair. That is his sideline seat to watch the action. The next 45 minutes is a constant laughing, scurrying, cat-petting, hair-brushing, bed-making, toothpaste-squeezing, whizzing blond-haired frenzy. Lunches? Backpacks? Piano bags? Tae Kwon Do uniforms? Shoes? Coats? Hats? Mittens? Smiles? Kisses? They are out the door, then one last wave from the balcony. That's the storm.

Then I boil an egg, slice some feta cheese, toss a few black olives on my plate, prepare a pot of tea, and sit down to a silence that stands out in sharp contrast to the previous hour. Benaiah sits with me as I have breakfast and read my Bible. Then I pray for those blond-haired frenzies. That's the calm.

It's really too much for him. The storm he takes in each morning, then the quiet calm. It has this effect on him.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Welcome, Lydia Leigh

I am a thankful and proud Aunt today. My brother Tim and his wife Cassie had their 6th baby on Sunday. The events of the day were not what was expected, and actually turned into a trauma that could qualify for the line up of a new 911 series, however, our God saw fit to show His power that day. You can read about her story here I was just reading in God's Word about Lydia. In my study, the author says, "Take a good look at your map. After temporarily closing a door in the province of Asia, God strained their eyes to see a much wider vision and took them all the way to Philippi. The account we just read (Lydia's conversion) had a monumental impact! The gospel of Jesus when to Europe. Within a couple hundred years, Christians numbered ten thousands in Europe. And it all started with a business woman named Lydia."

Do you realize that we, in America, received the Gospel because of the believers in Europe? And it all began with Lydia. May this little Lydia impact the world, just as her fore mother did.

Her middle name is Leigh. She's named for an aunt who's trying very hard not to brag.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Urgent Prayer Request

Please pray for my sister-in-law, Cassie. She had her 6th baby yesterday. She was set to deliver at home with a midwife (after 5 quick deliveries with the other kids). The baby was delivered, but Cassie lost too much blood and went by ambulance to the hospital. She is in stable condition now, but will be checked in the morning again. The sweet baby is just fine. I'll refrain from telling you gender or name until she makes her announcement. But I will say I am one proud aunt. Will you please pray for her today?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Things I've Learned from Teens

I never really saw myself as a youth worker type person. I suppose there is a little too much teacher in me to just cut loose and stay up all night at lock-ins. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of working with the teens in our schools in Singapore and Turkey. I have learned so much from them. Once in Singapore, I determined that my wardrobe needed a little updating, particularly in the area of jeans. I looked around at the sweet girls in our high school, who dressed sharp (Megan, Tracy, all know who you are). I realized they were wearing a new kind of that had a little lower waistband. So, the next time we went to Memphis, I determined to buy a new pair of jeans. I went to Old Navy on my mission and bought some good looking jeans. That afternoon, after putting on my brand new jeans, I bent over to tie my toddler's shoes and felt "air." Back there. I drove straight back to Old Navy and had the following conversation...

Me: Excuse me, ma'am? I have a problem.

Store Clerk: What's da problem?

Me: Well, I want to be hip. I want the trendy new jeans that don't come up as high, but I have toddlers. And those toddlers need their shoes tied. When I tied their shoes today, I felt air. Back there.

Store Clerk: GIRL! You know what da matta! Look what you done did. You went and bought ULTRA low rise, girl. You gotta get LO RISE.

Me: Ok, (glancing at her tag) Taneesha, show me to the low rise because I do have shoes to tie.

So began the switch to low rise jeans. I have since learned the term (from the teens) for the little bit of flab (that some of us, a-hem, have) just above said low rise jeans. It must go somewhere, you see, and the jeans leave no spot for it. It is called a "muffin top."

Today I dressed Benaiah and noticed he had a serious muffin top. I took this picture for you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

All about the sound

When I got chosen to be on the high school softball team, I was only in the 8th grade. Impressed? (Not enough people signed up, so they went digging into junior high. My future sister-in-law Cassie was dug up as well!) We went to the first practice and were told to go buy cleats so we could slide into bases. At that point, we were confident we would actually be sliding into bases and not just sitting the bench, so we went to buy cleats. My mom sent my big brother Tim to help me pick out my cleats. Tim pulled several off the shelf and told me to try them on. I did. I shyly began suggesting others until he was onto my scheme. He said, "Sara, you just want shoes that make a lot of noise when you walk!!!" He was right. I wanted to be heard when I walked to practice, after all I was an 8th grader on the varsity team! Well, the point of this is that my girls all signed up for clogging club. They were bouncing off the walls when they came home and told me it was being offered...I said, "Oh wow! You get to learn to dance! I've seen clogging on America's Got Talent last summer!" They responded, "Yea! And we get to get clickers on our shoes!" and "You can only wear your taps on tile!" and "You should hear how loud they are!" and suddenly I remembered my cleats! I have thought from the beginning that it was all about the sound, but after seeing their stellar performance on Monday afternoon, I think they also learned a thing or two. Thanks to Miss Newcomer who gave of her time to teach them. I confess I once googled Miss Newcomer. She's all over the internet...seems she was the 4H queen. I am yet to find something she can't do. I've included a video clip of Mary Erin, and Miss Newcomer, clogging.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hey, buddy, scoot over!

Eva was recently given a nativity finger-puppet set from Peru (thanks, Auntie Brenda!). One day last week she was driving Benaiah's cars on the floor when I reminded her our downstairs neighbor doesn't appreciate that too much. She then set them up on the entry rug. The cars were going 'round the outside designs of the rug like a road. Big cars on big designs, little cars on little designs.Then she added a park bench and the figures of the nativity set.

Then I heard, "Hey, get outta my seat! I'm Mary and I have a baby!" Yes, Mary shoved a wiseman from the park bench. We certainly don't appoint Mary as divine in our house.

Monday, January 19, 2009

January 18

Sunday was my little Singapore surprise's birthday! Esther turned 7, and my mom, a year older. It seems like yesterday that I went in to see Dr. Tan, one day past my due date. He saw a few concerns and said he'd feel better if he induced me. I agreed to be induced and walked over to the hospital. The nurse brought me a gown and then it hit me...this baby will be born on my mom's birthday! I started to cry and the nurse said, "Oooohhh, mummy don't cry. It will be alright, you'll see..." I said, "I am not crying because I am scared. This baby will have his or her grandma's birthday!" 3 hours later I had a beautiful little girl in my arms with the prettiest lips I'd ever seen!

Friday afternoon we loaded up the girls and 6 of Esther's first grade friends in the van for a night of bowling, pizza, and cake. We had a great time, and I learned the following things:
1. Mary Erin, my almost 10 year old, seemed EXTREMELY mature in contrast to the 1st graders. Almost adult like.
2. I quickly lapse into teacher mode when riding an escalator with seven-year-olds.
3. I love underdogs who win. One friend was a Dutch girl who is new to our school and just learning English. She had never bowled, but won the game.
4. Ross is good at driving a van full of kids who are laughing, eating candy found on the floor, adjusting window curtains constantly, and tickling each other all at the same time.

Happy Birthday, Mom and Esther!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Life and Death

It seems God has given me a lot to ponder this weekend. Life and Death. God grants them both. On Friday night, God granted life to little Harper, but she presently hangs in the balance. Last night, God granted death to my friend Kristi's sister. These two biggest events of our lives rest wholly on his timing. I find great comfort in that. I don't have to rely on stars lining up or on the whim of a powerless god. The only true God has His timing down perfectly. Please do pray for these 2 friends of mine. and

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kelly, Scott, and Harper

Today I'd like to dedicate my post to asking you all to pray for my friend Kelly. After 5 plus years of waiting and hoping for a little one, she miraculously became pregnant this year. She delivered her sweet baby girl Harper last night at 7:30pm at over 9 lbs (full term). However, Harper's breathing was not good. They have taken her via air to Tulsa, OK (from Arkansas). The latest report is that the doctor called Kelly at 4am to tell her Harper is stabilized. Would you join me in praying for my dear friend and her newborn? This must be very hard for her to be in a separate state from her new baby. Her blog is listed in my blog list at the bottom of my page. I know she would appreciate your prayers. She is fully trusting in God's hand and giving praise to Him. I'd expect nothing less from Kelly.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Two Blogworthy Topics

Sunday is Esther's 7th birthday! We are celebrating tonight by taking 6 of her little friends bowling and for pizza and cake. (It's not really a birthday to Ross without cake AND ice cream, but I think the ice cream might melt while we bowl, don't you?) We opted not to take Benaiah for 3 reasons:

1. He can't walk.
2. He can't bowl.
3. Due to his round body and bald head, he might be mistaken for a bowling ball.

Therefore, he is staying with Haybat, our sweet Iraqi babysitter we consider part of the family! This is the first time I have left Benaiah for longer than 3 hours, so I am leaving formula and a bottle just in case we don't make it back and he is squalling. I have never actually given him a bottle before,, hope it goes well, Haybat! I ran out to the grocery last night to buy this little box of formula and it was $15! I did a little mental math (ok, I used a calculator) and figured out that if Benaiah drank formula exclusively, this box would last him about 2 days. So that is about $7.50 a day to feed him. So, if I didn't nurse Benaiah he would cost us about $2,737.50 per year. I have 5 kids. So basically, I have saved us $13,687.50 in the last 10 years by lactating. Wow. I think I'll submit my claim form to Ross later, maybe after they are all out of college.

On another note, today we must go visit the Emniyet. This is where we fill out lots of forms, go to lots of windows, get lots of stamps, answer lots of questions, get lots of questioning looks, pay lots of money, and get our visas to live here. We have a Turkish gal on staff who helps keep us all here legally. She accidentally forgot to submit Benaiah's paperwork, so he is technically here as an illegal alien. I got a call from our grandpa on staff who said he'd been to the post office and seen a picture of Benaiah on a WANTED sign. ha ha! Ross has been singing the Dukes of Hazard theme song to Benaiah, "Just a good ol' boy, never meanin' no harm, been in trouble with the law since the day he was born..." We'll have to pay a small fine UNLESS Benaiah can weasel his way out of it. I dressed him up and took the pictures above of him this morning. Do you think he can do it?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Benaiah's Big Day Part II

Today was Benaiah's follow up visit. The good doctor (seen above) actually comes to his patient's house the next day. Benaiah checked out fine and was a happy baby all day. (It must have been that Beshiktash ribbon he got.) Just before he left, the doctor asked if I would take his picture with Benaiah. I wondered if I was perhaps the first client to forget ask for a photo session on this biggest day of my son's life! So I chirped, "Oh yes, of course, please, by all means!" The good doctor is a Turk, but is originally from Bulgaria. He was very proud that he had fixed our son. Just before he left he asked if I'd be willing to let Benaiah (along with his "black brother" as we call Judah) be in a picture with him to advertise his clinic. He said he wanted Bush and Obama in his advertisement. Ross says, "Fine, as long as we are Bush!" I say, "Fine, as long as Benaiah is clothed!"

Benaiah's Big Day

As many of you know from this post, our circumstances surrounding Benaiah's circumcision were not ideal. The hospital refused to circumcise him after birth, so we sought out a private doctor to do it. From the beginning, we (especially Ross) did not feel it was done well. As time as passed, we have continued to have concerns. Yesterday, I took Benaiah in to see a second doctor. He confirmed our fears, it wasn't done well. I asked what we should do and he suggested bringing Benaiah in at 6 or 7 years old to have it redone. Do you have a son who is 7 or used to be 7? Or do you know a 7 year old kid? I could not imagine it. I asked if there was any advantage to waiting and he said there was not, that he could fix it now if I wanted. Yes, I wanted. So, my sweet baby boy underwent yet another circumcision yesterday. The doctor was super and Benaiah is perfect. He came home and slept 5.5 hours and woke up his usual happy self. Having said all that, this event immersed me in some new Turkish cultural customs, which I felt would be interesting blog reading.

My friend and I arrived in the clinic yesterday (we both have baby boys). On the front wall behind the receptionist were hundreds of cards and photos. This clinic is only for circumcisions. You've seen the hospital delivery wards where there are photos of newborns and thank you cards to the staff. These cards were from families of boys who had been circumcised. That was my first hint that this is a BIG deal here. There was also a large flat screen tv in the waiting room. Knowing that most circumcisions here are performed when boys are in grade school (in line with the fact that Ishmael was older when Abraham was given the command), I assumed it was placed there to perhaps keep their minds off of the procedure to come moments later. My friend informed me that the tv was there so that the extended family accompanying them would be able to watch the procedure from the waiting room, so as not to crowd the doctor during his work. You know in America, it is just sort of done. The newborn is wheeled out and returned to his mama sleeping. Here it is a sort of coming out for the boy. The boy becomes a man. And all the extended family come to see it.

After Benaiah was anesthetized (though I did natural childbirth the first 4 times, I was quite thankful for anesthetic for my son!), the attendant turned on a tv screen for him. On the screen came one of these punch-kick-knock down animated-but-looked-like-real-guys computer games. Usually the boy is older, so he actually gets to play this game while he is being circumcised. Benaiah wasn't quite ready to manipulate the controls, so he just watched. And watched he did. He didn't take his eyes off of it. I kept telling myself, "It's really not the rock star kickboxing the judo guy on the Arctic terrain he is interested's the color and movement." Right, that's it. So as I dutifully held Benaiah's little legs, I had a choice of what to watch...kickboxing/punching/World Wresting Federation moves on the tv, Benaiah's enthralled face, or the doctor cutting my son. I sort of moved from interesting sight to interesting sight. At the end, the doctor told me in Turkish that my son was perfect and he could now win a "Peepee Beauty Contest." He really told me that. Then he asked me Benaiah's favorite professional Turkish soccer team. I answered "Beshiktash" because that is the only one whose name I could remember. He then taped a black and white ribbon to my son's "peepee" in honor of the team's colors. He really did. Am I immersed in culture this week, or what? As we left, we had the two babies side by side on the waiting room couch and the doctor called them Bush and Obama (see photo above).

The fun isn't quite over. After we got the girls in bed, Benaiah woke up and I fed him and comforted him. Then I decided it would be a perfect time to visit my neighbor. She comes over almost every evening to kidnap either Benaiah or Eva to come to her house. They go over for awhile (Eva usually eating chocolate and drinking tea before bed) and she brings them back home later. I thought to myself, "Well, this would be a good night to go see her. I can talk about Benaiah's big day with a few Turkish words I've learned today." So, I went over and she was having tea with the neighbor on the first floor and was happy to see me. I told her it had been a hard day and what we had done. Immediately, I looked up and standing over me was Ayla, her husband, her son, her daughter, the neighbor, and the neighbor's daughter...all eagerly anticipating their chance to see Benaiah's 'procedure.' I thought, "Ok, this is different." So considering this is the norm here, I showed them. They oooohed and aaaahhhed and clapped for him. They told him he was a 'man' now. They wanted to know every detail about the entire thing. The boy (about 10 years old) told me all about his circumcision. The mom told me all about her son's circumcision again. We all talked about Benaiah's circumcisions. Again. It is a BIG deal here. Then Ayla ran upstairs to get her son's special costume that he wore for his circumcision. In Turkey, the boy is dressed in a special costume (that reminds me of a parade's Grand Marshall gear). A huge party is thrown for his big day of circumcision with all the family and friends bringing gifts to him and coming to visit him. She then put the costume on Benaiah and insisted that we bring him to show Ross. Ross is the dad, Benaiah is the son, this is a big deal for Ross, she said. So Ross, amid his time-intensive school accreditation work on the computer, broke away for the very special photo you see above. I think his expression sort of says, "Make this quick, Sara." I think Benaiah's expression sort of says, "Why am I wearing this big hat?" And so as a result of it all, Benaiah is 'just right' now and we've had one more day in this interesting country.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's That Time of Year Again!

Well, it is that time of year again. Time for "ashure." This time of year, every year, the Turks begin making a special homemade dessert called ashure. The other name for it is "Noah's pudding," as legend has it that when Noah landed (which is suspected to be here on Mt. Ararat), the supplies were exhausted, so they used what they little they had left to create this dessert. Here is a link to explain more:
Neighbors make the dessert, then distribute it to everyone else in the building. We like this dessert, though it is very different from desserts in America. Isn't is interesting, though, that whatever you grow up on, you love. My Turkish friend Hicran can not talk about ashure without closing her eyes and smacking her lips and saying, "Oh, is it that time of year again?!" It's like me with mom's peach cobbler. Ashure contains beans and grains, but also has a sweet taste from some sugar and toppings like cinnamon. This bowl was made for me by my neighbor on the first floor. One way I really like ashure is with pomegranate seeds on top, as seen in the wikipedia link. They make a ready-made packet of this in the grocery stores here, but is not as good as homemade. I sent one to my sister in law Cassie last year to try. She said they liked it! If anyone who reads my blog would like to try it with your family, leave me a comment and I'll send some back with Ross in February and he can pop it in the mail to you. It is very light and not a problem to mail! I loved all the comments you all left me yesterday!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Couple of Cute Things

Last Sunday, as we returned from church, Eva was asked to hold the door to our building open for everyone. After we all crossed the threshold, she called out, "Jesus, come in!" I waited to hear what she would say next. Then, "Oh, you can't come in. You have to stay in heaven now." (This is a photo of Eva playing with one of Esther's prized possessions...some fake teeth from her Uncle David the dentist.)

Well, it is official. My son Benaiah is 3 1/2 months old and he is weighing in at 2o lbs. I have always had fat babies, but they generally hit that weight sometime after their first 1/2 year of life. Ross says it is pure muscle. The comments here abound..."Hey, buddy, ever heard of" and "How is he ever going to walk?" and "Goodness, Sara, what are you putting in that milk?" But hey, he is named for a man who killed a lion in a snowy pit. He's got to have some bulk to be a good namesake, right?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ephesus Part IV

Ross took the girls up the mountain by our hotel. It was a long trek up and Annika led the way in her crocs! There they found old carved stones and an ancient dividing wall running down the mountain. They sure slept well that night. I discovered my children CAN sleep in...if I just have them hike a mountain and then swim for 3 hours prior to bedtime.

We visited a church built in honor of John, the disciple. It was built about 300 years after Christ. There we were hounded by men who wanted to sell us things and give us tours (gladly accepting..expecting... donations at the end). We refused over and over. Finally, Ross felt sorry for this guy and bought some 'Old Turkish Money' from him. We knew it wasn't authentic, of course, but viewed it as a way to help a man out in the cold trying to earn some money. We have been told they feed the coins to a goat, who then digests them, and produces the weathered-look coin. Gross. Now they sit in my house. Coins that have gone through a goat, all in the name of charity.

We also toured one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World (not an amusement park, the real thing). It was the ruins of the Temple to Artemis. All that is left is this big pillar of stacked stones. The false gods all crumble, we told the kids.

The drive back was breathtaking. We saw multiple shepherds with their flocks. I snapped this one photo of the sheep while I was hanging out the car window, they were so close.

You remember my entry that I just HAD to post when we got there? About our dangerous drive down? I took this larger picture on the way home. The snow had melted and it was daylight, so it was safer this time. See the sheer drop off? Look Mom, no hands!

And below I have included a video clip. At one point we came around a bend to find an entire sheep flock in the middle of our road. I found it to be very funny. Ross rolled his eyes and said, "I suppose you want a picture of that, too?" while I giggled.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ephesus Part III

After we finished touring the rug school, we rode in a van up to the top of Ephesus to see the famous ruins. We did not take a single photo of Benaiah the entire time. Why? He stayed bundled up in a front pack. I had a scarf totally around his face, not a square inch of skin showing. It was about 40 degrees (F), but the day's tour included a whipping wind. These ruins are by far the best preserved and most extensive. We enjoyed the ruins, but also are a bit partial to the ones we have discovered which are hardly mentioned in the guidebooks. I have a friend who has been here over 15 years. When she came, even Ephesus was undeveloped for tourism. You can hardly go anywhere in this beautiful country without finding some ancient carved rock or stone wall.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rug Making Field Trip (Ephesus Part II)

Once the rain stopped, we decided to visit the famous ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. We drove to the base of the site and a friendly gentleman loaded us in his 'free' bus to take us to the top so we could walk down instead of up. The only catch was that we had to stop at a rug-making school and see a demonstration of how Turkish rugs are made. It proved to be very educational. We were told by every person who worked there that we were NOT under compulsion to buy anything. That's nice. We usually get offers to buy rugs, but this really was a rug school run by the Turkish government. We watched the weavers tie knots of thread, all by hand, one at a time, until a row was complete. Then they use a metal tool to push all the ties in that section down as tight as possible. They also clip the excess thread after each time of tying a knot. There are hundreds of knots per square inch. The rugs can be made from wool, cotton, or silk. Persian rugs are all made from silk. You could easily spot them, for there are thousands of knots per square inch when silk is used. The silk for the rugs is gathered from the silk worm. Each cocoon can provide 5 miles of silk. The lady pictured above was part of a family who had done this for a living for several generations. She would take the cocoons and boil them in a huge vat (see photo), which would kill the worm and loosen the silk. She then pulled the strings of several cocoons and hooked them together to make the nice thick silk thread they use. She pumped the machine with her foot that gathered the silk strings into one and created the thread. Each of the girls got to keep a cocoon. Eva told me there was a 'bean' inside as she could hear it when she shook it. Realizing she got absolutely nothing from our little field trip, I said, "Eva! Remember, it's a silk worm inside." (Strange look.) "There's a bug in there, Eva." She dropped her little cocoon and didn't want to have anything else to do with it, even though I told her it was dead. I think that spooked her even more. The rugs are beautiful and after seeing how they are made, I think they deserve every penny they get for them!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Turkish Home and Customs

Last night we were invited to our neighbor's home for dinner. We have been invited into various homes for tea and have, of course, dined with Turkish friends who are connected to the school, but this was a first for us and was an invitation we happily accepted.
Just before we walked out the door, we endured (caused) a big commotion about house shoes. The neighbor lives right across the hall, so we had several options regarding footwear:
a)wear outdoor shoes to walk across the hall and wear our socks in the house (which would make the host feel obligated to provide house shoes for all 6 of us)
b)run across the hall in socks (which would cause them to worry that we might all get sick because we didn't have outdoor shoes in the hallway)
c)wear outdoor shoes and take a big pile of our own house shoes to put on after we got there (which might make them think we didn't expect them to be good hosts and provide enough house shoes)
d)wear our house shoes across the hall (which would make them be considered 'dirty' when we entered the house)

You laugh, but we stood in our entry for a full 5 minutes trying to figure out what to do. This is a BIG deal here. Cleanliness is part of the religion prevalent in this country. Not wearing outdoor shoes in the house is a BIG deal. But also, making sure your feet are in shoes is a big deal because many believe illnesses are caused by being in socks only (or worse, bare feet...little do they know what a hillbilly I really am in secret). Everyone was throwing out suggestions. Mary Erin had an enormous armful of house shoes to carry over, convinced she had the right idea. Eva had her crocs and her puffy princess shoes in her hands and was planning to carry both. Annika had her house shoes already on. Ross was saying to me, "Are THOSE our house shoes? Where did we get those? I thought you said we shouldn't take all those shoes, why are you telling us to bring our own house shoes now?" I finally halted everyone and said, "Look! Just trust me. I don't have time to explain..Ross, wear outdoor shoes and take no house shoes. Wear socks in the house or take the house shoes they offer you. Girls, wear outdoor shoes and take your own house shoes. That way they can provide shoes for the adults but don't have to outfit all of you kids." Then Esther panicked, "But I don't HAVE house shoes, they are at school!" (Yes, the kids wear house shoes in the school when it is wet outside and they come in from recess.) So I said, "Ok, Esther, just wear outdoor shoes and then your socks unless they give you shoes." Mary Erin said, "Mom, my feet are big enough for adult house shoes, can I just wear my outdoor shoes?" "YES! Now GET OUT the door!" We also quickly discussed how to handle the prayer and decided that since it was their home, we'd each bow and have our own silent prayer. 3 seconds later we had crossed the hall, all smiles, pretending we had no stress, and accepting house shoes for anyone who didn't come with their own. Can you believe all that?

Ayla Hanim had made a beautiful meal of manti and sarma. Both are extremely time-consuming to prepare. She poured drinks...Coke...and the kids smirked at me, knowing that because we were the guests, I would never say no to the caffeinated drink she offered them. Ayla stood as we ate. I do remember somewhere learning that the hostess would not eat with us. Her job is to make sure everyone has full plates and everything they could possibly need. I still felt compelled to offer her a seat and ask her to eat. Another cultural thing is to never let the portion be too small. Eva's bowl of manti was as large as Ross'. And she just kept shoving it in! There was no way we could possibly eat all she served us, so I asked her if we could finish what was already on our plates for lunch tomorrow. My friend, who is much more involved in the culture here, told me I did well on that! Whew! I kept whispering to the kids, "Just keep eating." but they were starting to blow up like balloons.

After the meal, they took us to their terrace for tea and dessert and roasted chestnuts (see photo). Cemal Bey cranked up his wood burning stove and roasted chestnuts for us. How you ever actually had them? We sing the song at Christmas, but I don't recall ever eating them. They were delicious!

We had a wonderful time. I asked God for favor with understanding the language and felt He really helped us. The kids did super. They ate, gave lots of thank-you's and hugs/kisses, then played hide and seek with their kids in the house. I have already begun thinking what I might serve when we have them to our house. I'll need to buy more house shoes for them before then, though...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Christmas Gifts

How can I proceed to posting about our after-Christmas trip before I finish Christmas? We received so many nice gifts for Christmas! The girls got adorable Christmas pajamas from my mom. Last summer, she and I had also picked out some cute animal t-shirts and they wore them layered with long-sleeved shirts underneath. The girls get as excited about clothes as toys. I must clear my conscience and say that one year my Granny called my mom around Christmas time. I picked up the phone to answer and they had already begun discussing our 'sizes' for clothing. Before I thought, I blurted out, "No! Toys!" Sometimes I think of the things I did as a kid and am horrified! Ross' parents got the girls Webkinz (see the photo above...Esther allowed Phaselis to hold her new toy). Webkinz are a package get a cute stuffed animal along with a code that gives you access to the website. There they can buy and decorate rooms for the pet, play games, do jobs to earn money (ok, they beg and I do the jobs for them because they are so hard!). Kathleen (Ross' sister) and Cassie (my brother Tim's wife) sent them art supplies...personalized pencils, fat pens with fun pen toppers, squeeze paint, etc. My kids were thrilled. If they have free time, I most often see them doing art work. Our Sunday School class bought and mailed us a Wii. We feel a 'wii' bit spoiled. When I told a friend what they sent us, her mouth dropped open and said, "You are kidding! A Wii?" We are anxiously awaiting Ross to get the electricity converter and get us going on it! This year the girls bought for each other. We ended up with some, what I call, "sweet little tackies". I have only myself to blame, for they were all items I made to sell in the craft fair. Yes, I was preying on little children with coins to buy my little tackies and raise money for the school. What I didn't realize is that I'd end up with about 12 of them (since they all bought for each other and themselves!) But the most important thing is that they are learning to give! Esther bought one little tacky for me...3 inch long bejeweled dangle earrings. Yes, I will wear them. I'll be sure to get a photo for you. Esther and Annika also secretly collected used light bulbs, hid one afternoon in their rooms, and made me the wintry scene you see above. The light bulbs are snowmen and the candy tube is a log. They are warming by a fire, they told me. Hmmm. Snowmen warming by the fire. Perhaps next year I'll get Scene 2...Snowmen Melted By the Fire. We did get a beautiful snow that day, enough to make this jolly snowman. His nose is a green bean, as I had purged the fridge in order to go out of town. Now I feel I have sufficiently informed you of our Christmas and I'll soon move on!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Extreme Resorts (also known as Ephesus Part I)

Many of you have heard of "Extreme Sports." My subject today is "Extreme Resorts" (all the clever titles are thought up by Ross). Those of you who have known me for awhile and read our newsletter know that we once ventured to a thermal resort here in Turkey as our winter family vacation spot. For those of you who don't remember, it was new and had been advertised well. Great winter rate. Indoor pool heated by the natural springs here. We drove up, all the while commenting on how rural it was..."Hey, this is cool. It's in a village." "This is off the beaten path." "Wow, is this even on the map?" We soon discovered just how rural it was. We had only been there about a 1/2 hour when we realized that the swimming in this little resort was segregated. So, that would put me on the side with 3 little girls and a baby girl. And that would put Ross on the other side. By himself. Swimming quietly. None of the girls knew how to swim at this point. Just envision it....a baby in a car seat fussing off and on...2 girls clinging to the side, "Can it be my turn soon?"...and one girl on my hip splashing, clinging to my swimsuit, with me dutifully watching the clock to see when her turn was up. It was really fun. So we learned if we want to swim in the winter, we need to head to coastal areas which are European tourist spots. There we can all swim together. And we also got the girls in swim lessons the next summer.

This year we headed to Ephesus. Of all things for me to post about regarding this city rich in Biblical history and full of artifacts, I am going to post about swimming instead and save the rest for later. We went down to the hotel pool and it was almost warm (they are all like this, we are used to it). After a time of swimming, we went as a family into the hotel's hamam. Mmmm. Wonderful. Ross and I lay on the heated marble slab, Benaiah was snug in his car seat enjoying the steamy room, all our 4 daughters were pouring hot water all over us. We felt very spoiled. The next day, Ross sent Mary Erin to check the hamam to see if it was empty. We wanted to have our private family hamam experience again. She came back and said, "Just one man in there. I peeked through the steamed up door. It looks like he has a skin colored swimsuit on." hmm. I had seen lots of speedos (not a big fan of those). Must be a beige speedo. Out of the pool we marched, all my shivering little ducks behind me. I peered in the hamam. No, it wasn't skin colored, it was skin!!! Yes. He was nude. I marched all my shivering little ducks right back out and asked the attendant to ask him to clothe himself! She said, "I can't. He is German. This is what they do." I said, "But I have children here!!!" She asked the male attendant (who had impressed me all week), who quickly handed him a towel and shooed him out of there. We couldn't get over it, nude?!

Then Ross, one of the purist men on the earth, went into the sauna. There were 10 nude men already there. He took a deep breath and said, "Ok, we are guys, I can be cool. I am just going to sit down here and be cool." He did, by the way, keep on his swimsuit. Then in walked a lady in a towel. Surely she is not... surely so. He exited as soon as possible. Later I ventured to ask him, "Ummm. Well was know...old? or young?" He said, "Honey, I don't know. I stared at her toenails, which were red, by the way." I love that man!

From here on out my Ephesus posts will be cultured, for the most part. But I did have to tell you about our Extreme Resort experience first. No pictures will be posted. None were taken. :)

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