Friday, December 30, 2011

Road Trip: Rocky Beach

Our first day, we took the kids to swim in the hotel pool. It's an act of love, trust me. Turks believe making the pool warm will breed bacteria. Everytime we take them swimming, I have to remind myself someday I'll look back on this and laugh. It is so.very.cold. I get in, splash, laugh, hold my little boy who doesn't know how to swim. And just as soon as everyone has noted that Mom did indeed swim with them, I curl up in a towel on the side and begin the yearly thaw. We also walked across the street to the beach. Miss Middler picked me this flower and took my picture.
The beaches in Southern Turkey are mostly rocky with some coarse sand. I do love the rugged beauty of it. You can turn and see craggy mountains all around. It's gorgeous. The Mediterranean Sea is also cold. It's about 60 degrees out, so you can imagine the temperature of the sea water. But my girls dive right in. I tell myself there has to be some health benefit to this...perhaps so shocking their immune systems that it will ward off colds for months? I know we look odd.
After all, we do live
I never ever dreamed Big Ben would have any interest in getting in the water. He doesn't like to be cold or wet or both at the same time. But as soon as we got down to the water, he literally took ALL his clothes off and headed for the ocean. My eyes flew open, I told him we are NOT European, we are AMERICANS. I finally managed to get some underwear on him. And off he went again. My photo of this is so adorably cute, but alas, it's a public blog. He will thank me one day for not posting a picture of him in Scooby Doo hand-me-down underwear. He didn't stay in the water long, but I was impressed with my little Polar Bear Swimmer.
As for me, I happily stretched out and enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine, the smell of the ocean, and the laughter of my children.

Road Trip: A Snowy Drive

 On the day we celebrated Christmas (Christmas Eve), I woke early to put the breakfast in the oven and light the tree and candles before the kids woke up. I was so happy to look out the window and see that God had sent us snow. It really wasn't even cold the day before...just mild and rainy. It was like a little Christmas gift from God to us! The next day, Christmas Day, we loaded up our things, shut down the house, kissed the kitty goodbye, and left for a week out of our city. We have discovered that getting away from school and our home city periodically seems to help us survive here better. If we lived in America, we'd be visiting family. But this helps ease the blow of being so far from home. This is a view of the mountain surrounding our neighborhood.
 We headed South, but saw much much more snow on our drive down than we got in Ankara. We climbed in elevation and saw some beautiful snow-covered mountains. Thankfully, our roads were all clear.

 We got to Antalya just after the sunset. Just in time to wear our new pajamas from Mimi that night!
 And then the next day the girls all wore their new jackets from Grandma. The temps drop quite a bit during the latter part of the day, the jackets came in handy all week.
 And we certainly didn't miss dinner that first night. Most hotels down here are a set price for the room and 3 full meals per day. My kids love the idea of going to a buffet and getting whatever they want, as much as they want. I am certain we get our money's worth!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

And Finally....Christmas!

And finally....we made it to Christmas! The Campbell traditions were carried on this year. We began the morning with CC on his guitar, playing "Away in a Manger" to wake the youngest Campbell, something we've done since we just had 1 baby. The youngest Campbell complied by sleeping in late, after a big night of staying up late to party. Then we opened stockings, stuffed to the max and waiting in front of the fireplace.

We then spent some time praising God for this wonderful reason to celebrate, then began our Christmas brunch with a birthday cake for Jesus. Three candles represent the Trinity. We all sing, we all blow them out. Big Ben asked if God was getting presents. I told him the amazing thing is that on His own birthday, He gives the present: Himself.

 We received some wonderful gifts from our family back home. It brings such love and warmth to us, it's well worth the luggage space to bring it back in the summer.

My kids aren't perfect. But I can say that every Christmas and birthday, they impress me. They are so thankful for everything they receive. I pray that contentment and thankfulness stays in their hearts. This year I was impressed at how happy they were in receiving their Dollar Tree gifts from siblings. Due to the complexity of shopping in Turkey sometimes and the fact that none of them actually 'need' anything, we suggested they pick up gifts in the summer for each other from the Dollar Tree. They were thrilled to see what their sisters and brother picked out for them.
It was a fun day of surprises. These electric car tracks from the 70's are still alive and well in Turkeyl!
CC got me some winter snow boots and a new calendar. I got him his annual tradition of a bag of yummy trail mix from Walmart, as well as a t-shirt that says, "Papa's Pit Crew" with the names of all the kids on it. Hope ya'll had a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Countdown: Christmas Eve Eve Party

Our tradition in Turkey has always been to host a big party on December 23rd for any staff and staff kids who are staying in country for the holiday. We had such a great time with the 4 families and 2 singles who joined us. Here's the kids' table.

Big Ben had a big time roughhousing with all the boys at the party.
 I made 2 big lasagnas, and the guests brought the sides. Our yearly tradition is to play "The Name Game." Each person thinks of a name, fictional or real, but not their own. Everyone else has to remember the list of names and try to figure out who is who. It's fun, especially because adults and kids can all play. Miss Middler won third place with Andrew Johnson. Twinkle Toes won first place with Michael Card.
Then we all watch a Christmas movie. The kids get to stay up til the end, turning in late that night, anxiously awaiting our family Christmas celebration the next morning.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Countdown: Shopping?

CC decided to load all the kids up in the car and take them Christmas shopping for me. They were so excited. Everyone got dressed quickly, loaded up purses, whispered secrets. I was given several hours all to myself, it was heavenly! I had CC drop me at a mall, and I did last minute stocking stuffers and treated myself to lunch out. I really hardly knew what to do with myself. I found myself commenting in Turkish to other shoppers about clothing or prices.I think I told 6 different Turks that I have 5 children.  I even called a friend to say, "This is so weird! I'm all alone!" and had a good laugh. I was SO curious about the kids' day with their dad, that I sent a camera with Twinkle Toes and said, "Get me some pictures of all the fun things you do and see!" I was envisioning some shots taken in front of a big lit-up Christmas tree at a mall. Or maybe in a clothing store. THIS is what turned up on the camera!!
Where exactly did you take them shopping, CC? Comments, anyone?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Countdown: Family Christmas Meal

We had several parties and events leading up to Christmas, as we try to recreate many family get-togethers with our 'family' here. But there was one night that we had nothing to do and would all be home. I decided to fix a fun meal and try all new recipes. Above was bruschetta...mushroom and cheese; pesto, apple, and cheese; and cream cheese with dried cranberries. It was so easy and yummy, I plan to make it again.

I also made new crab dip and a salad with mushrooms, brussels sprouts, and tomatoes.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Countdown: Cousins' Christmas Party

This was our 9th year to have a Cousins' Christmas Party. My sweet friend who has been here with me since Day 1 invites my kids over each year to "pretend" to be cousins with her kids. Now her kids, as you can see, are grown. They are both back from college, but still blessed us with time with them. They always make a craft, eat goodies, and play. And this year... Big Ben got to go! (The rule is you have to be 3 and potty trained!)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Countdown: Rewards

 Awhile back, I made a chore chart for each of the girls. I told them that when they got to 150 checkmarks for all of the things I expect them to do each morning and night, I'd reward them. They all filled it up quickly. I told them we'd do the rewards over Christmas break when they are out of school, and I can give them more individual time. I gave them several choices: a day at the hamam (Turkish bath house), ice skating, an afternoon in Kizilay (downtown), an afternoon in Ulus (old town), a Starbucks drink and time to walk around a mall. Wouldn't you know they all 4 chose different things?! So, I've been busy! Twinkle Toes wanted to try a hamam for the first time. Of course, I can't take pictures, but it was oh, so wonderful. I was oh, so glad she chose it! We also took a couple of the new teachers. For about US13, we got scrubbed from head to toe (no dead skin cells in sight after that!), were soaped up and massaged on a hot, marble slab, given a fresh squeezed orange juice, and given time in a sauna and a steam room with eucalyptus. It's the closest I'll ever get to a spa day over here, and I love it! I also love the pampering from all the little old Turkish ladies there. I must move on! Come see me, I'll take you!

The next reward day was Sweet Cheeks' day. She chose a hot chocolate and mall time. We sipped a drink, while she sat on the big, comfy chair at Starbucks. Then we walked through a toy store, not to buy, but to browse. It was fun! And added bonus for us was that this toy store routinely plays English kids' music, though they do not necessarily  know what the songs say. Guess what we heard? This Little Light of Mine! (Remember the rocks and trees will even cry out to praise Him?) I have to believe the timing of that was a special gift from God to us.
After the New Year begins, I'll treat Miss Middler to ice skating with Mom (Yikes!) and Firstborn to an afternoon in Kizilay. (No doubt, in craft stores!) It's hard to have special times alone with each kid when you have 5, but I'm thankful this Christmas season allowed it!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Countdown: How things have changed in Turkey

This is our 9th Christmas to live in Turkey. When we first moved here, so many things were different than they are now. We were just laughing with some friends the other night who have been here as long as we have, about the "old airport." I'll never forget flying straight from Singapore (which won "Airport of the Year" almost yearly...with its hanging bougainvillea and water fountains) to the Ankara airport. It was so basic and so old, I turned to CC upon our arrival and said, "What happened? Are we in Mexico?" But there's a new airport now, and as beautiful as it is, there are times I miss the old. Another big change is that when we moved here, there was NO Christmas anywhere. We had to buy our Christmas tree at the end of December, as the Turks use it to celebrate New Year's Day. (I secretly suspect they all want to celebrate Christmas, but just can't bring themselves to admit it!) But year after year, we have seen more and more trees shining through apartment windows early in December, more and more decorations at malls, more and more Santas selling lottery tickets. And then the other day, CC looked out our window and saw this... a Santa trying to crawl into an apartment balcony! Hang on, Santa, it's been windy this week! And this year, I decided rather than wishing Turks a "Happy New Year!," I am saying, "Happy Christmas!" (in Turkish) in hopes they'll want to know more about why we celebrate.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Countdown: A Christmas Carol

 Firstborn's English class presented Dickens' A Christmas Carol. She was the Ghost of Christmas Present, and had to come up with her own costume. I thought she did a great job and was an adorable little ghost.
 Well done, 7th grade!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Countdown: Ice Skating

I had the joy this week of going on an ice skating field trip with Sweet Cheeks. You remember her name used to be Perma-Baby? She lived up to her name. She did NOT want to let go of the railing, even with me...skating champ of the 70' skating backwards while holding both her hands.
I kept encouraging her, and she kept begging for me to hold her. I turned around, and then she just let go. I will never forget the proud look on her face! I did it, Mom!

And our precious student Lin, recently diagnosed with cancer, went with us and stood on the sidelines, watching her classmates skate. And then I got an idea. I asked the ice rink "helper" if he would take her for a spin. He was more than happy to do it. I think there were more than a couple of us with a tear to wipe away.
Here are the Oasis 1st and 2nd grade classes, doing a "silly pose." I do believe that is my daughter down front licking imaginary snowflakes!
I loved going, and it didn't hurt a bit that there was a Starbucks right next to the rink. I'm just sayin'....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Countdown: Recitals and Goodbyes

This has been an eventful week for the Campbell Clan. Tuesday was our Christmas piano recital. Twinkle Toes, Miss Middler, and Sweet Cheeks all did a great job on their songs. I felt like I was running them through some sort of factory machine...Get home from school. Eat. Quick. Wash your hair. Dry your hair. Get on a fancy Christmas dress. Fix your hair. Get your piano book. Out the door.

Here's Sweet Cheeks getting set up on the bench encased in her dress poof.
 She just missed the last note, but recovered. Worried she might be upset, I leaned up and said, "Honey, you did GREAT! Don't worry." She replied, "Oh, I know!!" No self esteem issues there.
 Twinkle Toes and Miss Middler sang a duet of Holly, Jolly Christmas. They made up all the motions, complete with giving each other a kiss on the cheek under mistletoe. It was so cute!
 And then Wednesday, we had a combined clogging and ballet recital at the school. This was Sweet Cheeks' first time to perform. And oh were they ever cute! Our third grade teacher's mom came to visit, complete with 23 homemade little tutus for the girls packed in her suitcase. Now, that's spreading Christmas cheer!
 I was told there was no need to buy them ballet shoes, they'd just use socks. Evidently those in socks were told to put on some little house shoes to keep the dirt in the cafeteria off their socks. It never occurred to me that Sweet Cheeks would choose these! (Nothing like a good pair of 4 times handed down house shoes to wear to your first ever recital.)
 In addition to the fun recitals, we've had some sad days too. Firstborn is losing two very dear friends this time of year, Danielle (Jeannie's daughter) and Seong Ah, who is moving back to Korea. When I glanced back the other night at the piano recital, I saw them holding hands. Whether they were holding hands to warm Seong Ah's hands before her performance or not, I thought it was a bit symbolic. Maybe if I hold your hand, you won't leave? These are hard times for my girls. There have been lots of tears.
And then the biggest shock of all is that Twinkle Toes' best friend since Kindergarten found out they were being transferred to Istanbul before the New Year. Through this friendship, my daughter's faith in what God can do has increased. And Twinkle realized, even at her young age, that she'd found a true friend, one that is happy for you when you get a part in the play and she doesn't. One that doesn't tell your secrets when she promises not to. This family has become special to us for many many reasons. I'll go and have brunch and coffee with her mom, my good friend, one last time on Monday. I guess I never dreamed I'd one day have an Iranian friend who would leave such a hole in my heart when she leaves.
God is in control. Please pray for my girls who say goodbye this week.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Countdown: Staff Party

 One of our favorite times of the year is Christmas because we get to have the whole staff over for a party! We've grown a little since our first year, when we had 8 on staff. (CC in the back middle looks like he's growing some wings this Christmas!) Amazingly, CC is able to set up the den and bring in balcony chairs so that everyone in this group has a seat! We always eat a great potluck meal, listen to the Biblical Christmas story, sing carols, and then have a gift exchange game.  
 Here is the youngest attendee, just 2 1/2 months old. I waited about 4 seconds for them to get her out of her blanket bundles and in the door before I got my hands on her. Turns out she doesn't mind listening to English, I got lots of grins!

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Christmas Countdown: Concerts

We have had 2 concerts in the last week. The first was a school-wide Christmas concert. The little Turks dutifully came and watched their sisters perform.

There's nothing cuter than a 4th grader, in my opinion!
I have a feeling she knew I was taking her picture.
Firstborn cut a deal with her little brother. If he would wear his tie, he could come to school and see her saxophone. (She hasn't brought it home to practice, she's afraid Mrs. Grumpy downstairs will start banging. Poor girl!)
And, I'll shamefully admit, I had not heard her play until that night. She has music class daily, so she gets all her practicing in at school. She has a great music teacher. She was given a small part to play alone in the piece and she ROCKED!!! Way to go, girls, I was proud of all of you! (And even you, little Turks, for sitting still!)
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