Monday, February 28, 2011

Tips for Living Far From Home

Recently, a commenter on my blog asked if I had any tips for living far from home/family. Hmmm. I guess I can offer some, though I am certainly not a perfect role model. Here they are, in random order. (Some of this may apply to culture shock rather than living far from family.)

1. Find people who are like-minded where you live and begin to consider them 'family.' (Spend holidays with them, drive them to the hospital when they are sick, do everything for them and with them that you would for your real family.)

2. Search for the positives (this is hard at times). Desire to see how God has blessed you in this far-from-home place.

3. Vonage. We have a US phone line. I'll never forget the first time we plugged it in, and I heard a real US dial tone. It does help.

4. Talk to your kids about the relatives far away.

5. Realize the grass is not greener. (It's so easy to think if I just lived "there," all of this would be better. It's not true. Problems, heartache, stress are all "there," too.)

6. Remember God is here. This is perhaps the most important message I have sensed from God in my years in this country.

7. Find friends who are godly and who sharpen, understand, and encourage you.

8. Enjoy the occasional perk from home (like a care package with m-and-m's), but don't pine for those things all the time. It will only frustrate you.

9. Don't expect "here" to be like "there," but appreciate those little ways that God gives you reminders of home.

10. Go home when you can. It's worth the jetlag and the money.

11. Don't be jealous of those who do have family close by for all the big events (again, this can be hard). Just realize that is not what God has for you right now, and look forward to the time you will get to see them.

12. Allow yourself/spouse/kids to have an occasional day to just greatly dislike where they are. Listen, encourage, then help them move on. His mercies are new every morning.

13. Find a good church and be involved. We have two churches to choose from in our city of millions. When we came here, it wasn't about our church being a perfect fit for us, it was about finding family.

14. Make the most of your time with your family when you visit them or they visit you. I may drive my mama crazy in the summers at her house, but she never makes me feel like a burden. I always tell my family I love them, and I've determined not to waste the time I have with them with anything petty.

15. Realize you may always cry at the airport. I've said goodbye now for 14 years, and I've never not cried.

A Couple of Special Days

I don't always remember to give shout-outs on birthdays, etc., but I determined today was a day to do it...too many specials today!

Happy Anniversary to my great sister-and-brother-in-law! I am thankful for you both.
And tomorrow...a big happy birthday to my sweet niece (left).
And a big happy birthday today to my nephew (left).
And a big (shared) happy birthday to my sister-in-law. Though I did not invite you to my 9th grade sleepover, I have always regretted that, especially now that we are family. And may you get to eat all your Chinese food without sharing.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happily In My Bubble

Though we live in the Middle East, we do live in a sort of bubble, and I live in this bubble very happily. The school, by God's grace, has been protected all these years, and has given us such a good life. We are surrounded by people we love and who love us and we are safe (at least right now).

Just this past week, while CC was still in America, I realized I needed to get Sweet Cheeks after school, as her sisters were in an after-school activity and could not walk her home. I called the office and said, "Send her on home. I'll meet her." And so, my five-year-old began to walk home...down a city street, by herself. Prior to meeting up with her, as I watched her walk alone, I heard in the background the call to prayer at our local mosque. At that moment, it was as if God gave me a gentle reminder that I have it really, really good here. My daughter, at five years old, can walk home in this place safely.

And even our school is in sort of a bubble, and I like our bubble. An example of this was this past weekend. It was our "prom," which we call, "The Winter Ball." With the help of some teachers, the secondary kids plan a theme and decorate the atruim of our school (and the cafeteria becomes a little cafe) for a dance. This year's theme was "A Night At Times Square." The week before the dance, they all meet up to learn how to, wholesome dances like swing dances and line dances. And then they all dress up fancy and look adorable and dance with each other. The high school guys dance with their literature teacher. They ask all the girls, not just the one with whom they came. If a girl seems to have been waiting a little too long to be asked, she'll grab another girl and dance with her. They do ask friends from outside our school to attend, but it is well-known what kind of prom we have. The music is fun and lively, and not trashy. CC and I popped in to see the kids and how they had it decorated, and it just struck me again how nice it is to have this wholesome environment. How nice that the biggest worry is whether the slideshow will work, not whether someone has brought drugs. At our prom, parents come and hug the necks of the kids and tell them how wonderful they look, then of course leave! But they are still welcome to come.
It seems to me it is just the way it should be.

And, since it is for 7th-12th grades, CC had a big dose of reality when Firstborn said, "Next year it will be me, Papa!" (He's thought of changing it to 9th-12th grade only at that point!)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Things That Say "You Are Loved"

When Papa comes back, there are always goodies to be found in the luggage. I sent him a Wal-Mart list...bacon, cheddar cheese, mascara, sea monkeys (yes, you read that right), Nyquil, and all the other random things I feel like I can't live without until mid-June. But also, there are always some surprises. This year, the Campbell Clan-grands sent back a Valentine for each Campbell Clanskid with a $5 bill inside. I think that quadrupled Sweet Cheeks' money supply. They also sent the "SS Benaiah," a handcrafted- really-floats-and-propels tugboat for Big Ben. It's amazing, a treasure he can always say his Grandad made for him. Aunts Boo always sends the latest-whatever-the-kids-in-America-have-that-we-know-nothing-about stuff. Last year it was Silly Bandz. This year we got rubber watches. It tends to propel us to celebrity status here at school!

Aunt C and cousins sent us all Valentines and notes, a fun box for planning a Christmas party next year, and of course, candy. (The candy canes are even flavors like Nerds and Tootsie Roll.) The Fish grands sent CC and me sweaters and the kids these oh-so-soft jammies.

We also got sweet packages from Home Office folks...candy, perfume, all kinds of goodies!
We feel loved!
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Friday, February 25, 2011

Back To a Two Parent Home

I haven't blogged much this week. My husband returned yesterday afternoon. With God's help, the two weeks he was gone went well. I felt like I was able to take good care of the kids. Meltdowns were avoided, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were consumed, and routines were maintained. Still, I am so happy he is home. But suddenly, about 4 hours after he stepped off that airplane, I feel like my tour of duty ended, and it is time for some sleep. It's only 8PM here, and I can hardly keep my eyes open!

Monday, February 21, 2011


Happy Birthday, Kosovo! It is that time of year again! The Embassy of Kosovo invited CC and me to their independence day celebration party at the Hilton Hotel. CC is still in the USA, so I planned to go to represent our family. Then we got a note from the Ambassador's wife asking if Miss Middler and Sweet Cheeks could go, too, as guests of their daughters. Dress in a fancy dress? Stay up past bedtime? Eat fancy food and drink out of fancy cups? Sure, they'll go! Here is a picture of the four-some.
The minute my girls came in and hooked up with their buddies, the cameras started flashing. In a fancy hotel adult party, these four cuties stood out! Soon, they had filled their plates with delicious foods.

For the hour we were there, they hid from the paparazzi, examined and ohhed/ahhed over each others' necklaces and dresses, filled their plates with foods, tried on a Kosovo Army Captain's hat while he wasn't watching, took who knows how many juices from the roving drink servers, and played toilet tag. (This is a new game to me, but I've recently been introduced. It seems when you are tagged, you freeze. When you are un-tagged by someone pressing your flush button, you have to swirl down, then you are free to go.) We made quite a show of ourselves, for sure. But hey, when you are four kids in a room full of adults, and they all think you are wonderful, you may as well live it out to the fullest! It's still shocking to me, sometimes, where I am and what I get to do. I really thought I'd be living in a hut in the mountains of Mexico when I grew up...
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Flashback to the 1920's

Our high school is doing the play "Cheaper By The Dozen," set in the 1920's. This year the drama teacher opened two roles to elementary students, and my girls wanted to try out. We had all the "talks." You know the ones...there are MANY kids trying out, not everyone gets a part. It will be a good experience to try out, but please don't be too disappointed if you don't make the play. All those. But I was very proud of them for the initiative to sign up, practice, stand in front of peers and (horrors!) high school students, and try out. The best part was that the drama teacher encouraged them to rummage through their own clothes and come up with some type of 1920's interpretive costume. Oh, we had fun! Aren't they adorable? I really think we hit the 1940's mostly, but we were supposed to use only what we had at home. This picture makes me think of my grandparents and how proud they would be of my kids.
The Turks of course did not try out, but pranced right up the fireplace to have their photo made, too. What could I say? In spite of not auditioning, Big Ben got a role! (The teacher called and asked if he could be the littlest one of the dozen, just in one scene. I said, "Sure, you'll just need food, and he'll do anything you want.") Won't he look cute in knickers?
The morning of the cast list posting, I drove them to school and sat in the car with arms ready to hug...both those that got a part and those that didn't. They were given strict instructions to go check the list and come straight back to me, no matter what it said. At the audition, the drama teacher suggested Firstborn read for an older role, as she is clearing about 5'4" now. She got a role as a school girl in a soda shop. ("MOM! I have to FLIRT with boys in the scene, what am I going to do?!") And Twinkle Toes landed the role of the second-to-last of the dozen children. Miss Middler did not get a role, but received a big hug and a promise that I was very proud of her and this just meant lots of extra alone time at home for the two of us. She handled it beautifully.

And so, this week we start rehearsals!
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Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Birthday Gift from CC

My birthday gift this year was the result of a thoughtful friend and a giving husband. My friend T knew I had talked about wanting a bread maker for some time. She has one and uses it daily for their "daily bread." There's plenty of bread in Turkey, but to eat any type of whole grain or wheat, you basically feel like you are eating unflavored croutons in big slice form. I had checked into bread makers, and they were pricey, so I just held off. As my birthday approached, T found out about a family who was moving away, had a bread maker to sell, and had only used it a couple of times. T called CC. CC was happy....a gift I wanted, and he didn't have to shop!
We have used it at least daily since February 9. A fresh hot loaf of wheat bread (with butter and honey, of course) takes the place of cereal many days for breakfast. Cinnamon rolls are a snap. I even found a recipe for a bread like the Pepperidge Farms cinnamon swirl raisin bread. It was delicious, and Sweet Cheeks cried loudly, "Grandma makes this!!!" (We'll just let her keep thinking that.) I plan to try new things. Anyone have suggestions?
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Gift I Really Like

For Christmas, my friend B gave me a gift I really like. I've been meaning to show them to you. So, Sunday morning, I asked Sweet Cheeks to set the table with them, and I took a picture.

B gave me the traditional Turkish teacups, but with multi-colored and hand-painted saucers.
There are eight different colors. I let Sweet Cheeks decide who got what color.
In the center is the hand-painted Ottoman motiff.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hearing the Sea

We found a seashell in Antalya at some point with a little hole already in it. CC made it into a necklace for Sweet Cheeks. I caught her one Sunday morning helping her little brother hear the sea.
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Flooded City

Twinkle Toes was assigned to choose and research a major storm that can damage the earth. She chose flooding. We researched the cause of floods and the effects of floods, and she wrote a great report to turn in. Then, the fun part...she got to design a scene from a flood. I thought she did a great job with her rescue helicopter in the air, her buildings covered with flood muck, and even the cars that are falling into the swirling water.
Then her dad came up with the best idea of all...a little person drowning.
If you look closely, she seems happy about it.

It was also a neat time to share with her about the Great Flood of Fort Wayne, Indiana, from my childhood. I remember the sandbags, the floating cars in the K-Mart parking lot, and the friend who lived with me because her house was destroyed.
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Monday, February 14, 2011


I am not ashamed to admit that I still sometimes require my family to all match.
When my first two girls were little, they almost always matched. Then I still pulled it off some when my third daughter was born.
These days they don't match too often, but I sure think they are cute when they do!
Please note my skirt is an attempt to carry the red-Valentine-February theme.
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Go go go, I'm Goin' in for the Hostages!

This past week, I was on a mission to get Big Ben some shoes that fit. He outgrew the ones his Grandma sent last year and was down to just the little pair of Sperry Dockers that I found at Goodwill last summer. Even those were getting hard to strap. If I couldn't find anything for his wide foot, CC was going to pick him up a pair at Walmart while in the US. So, off we We got in the store, and I found shoes in the range of 30TL. I just wasn't sold on them, though. Then as we left, I found a pair for 10TL (US$7). I asked the clerk, "Why are they so cheap?" He said, "They are all the same size." You got it, BB's size exactly! So we left that store with some really zooty black and yellow striped tennis shoes that my son is very proud of (as they look like race car tires).

On the way out, he spotted a toy gun. I've never bought a toy gun. I had 4 girls! But goodness, I guess the little guy needs a gun. (After all, didn't my friend Barb with the three sons tell me she was anti-guns with her boys, then they started chewing their bread sticks into guns and shooting each other at the dinner table, so she gave up on that?) And really, I am not anti-guns. Some of the guns really looked like handguns, though, so I hesitated. Then BB found this space gun. Oh, he started jumping up and down, clapping his hands. I think he was telling me he wanted it. I gave it to the guy behind the desk. He was so enthused that my son was enthused, he actually opened the package and popped off a part and started putting batteries in. It uses batteries? I had no idea.

The next thing I knew, it made some really amazing shoot-em-up sounds and then a guy (in English) yelled, "Go go go! I'm goin' in for the hostages!" It was a keeper. Big Ben smiled and shot everyone he saw. What else could I do but drive straight to the school? After all, we'd just bought our first gun. He proceeded to run (literally) into the office and shoot his Papa, his papa's business administrator, his papa's guidance counselor, and his papa's assistant administrator. He took 'em all out. At one point, he was chasing the guidance counselor (a Vietnam Vet, who I suspect had just as much fun as BB) through the hallways. Soon, our fun was over, and I announced we had to go home for nap.
He slept with his gun. And I knew he'd finished his nap when I heard, once again, "I'm going in for the hostages!" He also waited ready to shoot his sisters when they got home.
I love this photo. So many things that say "Our Life" to me. A spelling list hanging on the door to be called out just before school. Sweet Cheek's hair (yes, it is vertical). Firstborn's exaggerated expression. Phaselis the Great hiding in the background from the gun.

I think it was a good buy!
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Birthday Night

On Tuesday night, I discovered all of my cookbooks missing. I called up to the one girl I felt was most likely to have some knowledge of the situation, Firstborn. "Giggle giggle...Mama, I WANTED to make you breakfast for your birthday. PLEASE let me." (And then, I must admit, I had visions of her in the first grade, having studied about Santa Lucia, coming in at 5AM with toast in her hands and a crown on her head, gentling nudging me awake. Oh, I was gracious. I squinted, then oohhed and ahhhed, then sat up and crunched my way through the toast. Then after she left, I suggested to CC we take that unit out of the first grade curriculum!)
Though I felt it was so sweet to want to make us breakfast on our birthday, I told Firstborn there was just no way we'd be out the door by 8AM on a school day if we tried it. So then she asked if she could make my cake. That we could do! I told her I'd pick a recipe, then I came downstairs and when I put up the cookbooks, one lone recipe fell out. (I had recently organized all my loose ones so I was surprised to see it not put in the binder.)
Guess what? Red Velvet Cupcakes with cream cheese icing. I ran back up the steps and said, "I know what I want. This." She beamed. Call me crazy, but I felt like God just did that. Mama always made or bought me a red velvet cake for my birthday and CC would rather eat cream cheese icing than anything in the world.

As soon as she got home from school, she got started. It wasn't easy. She had to separate eggs, beat the whites to a stiff peak, etc.
But they were fabulous! She put broken candy canes on top. I couldn't have gotten a better dessert in any fine bakery.
We had a nice family dinner and enjoyed celebrating. Miss Middler made me a concotion of various hotel lotions and shampoos as my gift. Twinkle Toes gave me a beautiful ceramic dish for jewelry. Sweet Cheeks drew me a picture, not quite finished, and suggested I add some more people to it. CC got me a ...oh, that's tomorrow's post.
And this little guy thought it was totally about him. He wanted to blow our candles out. He wanted to unwrap our gifts. And everytime I pulled the camera out, he did this...
I love family!
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Birthday Lunch

Though CC and I share a birthday, most years we are unable to celebrate it together, since he travels to the US for administrative meetings this time every year. This year was different, he was here! In honor of our special day, he invited me to lunch. We shared some Turkish rice (mmmm, try it and you'll never go back!), lentil soup, and kirimitte tavuk (a chicken dish made in a clay pot).
Our dear waiter friend Omer seemed surprised to see us, as we normally go to this place only on Sundays after church. We told him it was our joint birthday. After our meal, he presented us with this precious raspberry mini-cake.
Big Ben's been around long enough to 'get it' on the candles, cake, presents, etc. The minute the cake was put down with a candle and sparkler, he did his best to blow it out. Soon, 10 waiters were gathered to watch his futile effort. He could not get close enough to blow because of the sparkler. We helped him a bit, then he helped us down the cake a bit!
And then CC gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. And yes, he patronized the flower shop Miss Middler visited earlier this week. We felt that made it fair in the end.
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Friday, February 11, 2011

Birthday Morning

On Wednesday morning, I got a small taste of what it might be like if I went back to teaching full-time when Big Ben starts school in a couple of years. We were all 7 out of the door, on our way to school, by 7:45AM. CC said we looked like gangbusters. But this time I wasn't heading to school to teach a full day, just to go hear "Happy Birthday!" from my many friends here who sing to the birthday boy or girl before school starts.

This precious friend baked us not one cake, but two. She also made me a handmade cross-stitched card which I plan to frame.
There were all the usually stops when we got there, Auntie's office being the first. (She has the most toys.)
And then the staff sang to us. (Are they not the cutest Turkish and Mexican girls you've ever seen?)
Here's a lot of people I love!
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