Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Fair

Saturday was our Annual Christmas Fair, the culmination of a year's worth of crafting and planning. My friend Karyn was in charge, she's the 3rd from the left. Pictured above is the morning work crew.

And here below are the early shoppers! (We did let them come inside the school to wait prior to opening the Fair. It was just so cold outside!)
My job was (and always is) primarily to organize people. I am not really that crafty, but I can create sign up sheets for workers, smile and greet, and make sure stations are filled. I finally sat down for a much needed rest and lunch break.
And here was my favorite little shopper. Isn't she a doll? I bet the Turks pinch those cheeks!
We had all kinds of fun activities, like a Secret Room for little shoppers to buy a gift for parents. KIDZ ONLY the sign said! We also had a craft corner where kids could pay a small fee to make a craft. And perhaps the biggest draw of all was Santa himself who appeared with his two elves for some photo shoots. I have been a very good girl, I told him!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fun Thanksgiving!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday! We had such a great time with our "family" here. I made my pecan pies (a rare treat here) early, so I posted the above sign for my kids.

Here's the crowd that gathered at our house.

It didn't take Sweet Cheeks long at all to find the laps of a couple of sweet girls.
Big Ben perhaps had the most fun of all. He really liked the big tall guy who played with him all night...swords, guns, etc. Big Ben got so wound up, he started doing a hula dance. I have no idea where he learned it.
The long and short of it...(had to say that, Bo is 6' 5" or so!)
And after much eating, we settled into a game of Clue: Secrets and Spies. Miss Scarlet never even got on the board, but we had a great time!
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I'll give you a break from Istanbul and voice some thoughts and feelings I've had over the last few days. We were married in 1996 and had Thanksgiving in America as 1-week newlyweds. By the next year, we were gone, and we've never been "home" for Thanksgiving since. The first year in Singapore, I wondered what we would do for Thanksgiving. I thought maybe I could try to pull the meal off by myself, invite some folks over. And then a precious Indonesian/Chinese-American mom (named Esther) (of one of my students) invited CC and me to the Singapore American Club. That was a ritzy place that required an expensive membership. We'd never land a meal there without an invite from someone with a very nice overseas "package."

And so we went. In front of us was a buffet with better foods and more selections than I'd ever seen in my life, all classic American Thanksgiving foods with a gourmet twist. I could never have imagined what the Lord had in store for me that first year. And the real kick is that Esther reminded me from the first time I met her of an Asian version of my mom.

Each year since, we've opened our home for staff members who might like to come into a real "home" and be family for the day. It's been a blessing to us every year. God has always made it special. And yet, as these holidays creep up on me, even after 14 years, I still get homesick sometimes. Logically, I know I am the Mama now. And it's my job to create the traditions and memories for my own children, and I do that. But it doesn't take away the part of me that misses home. Sometimes I wonder if I am even missing childhood at the same time.

My sweet friend J blessed me with some dark Karo syrup and B gave me the pecans her mom just brought in the luggage when she visited. Pecan pie is, oh so easy, with all the right stuff ready to go in it. But as I made it, I couldn't help but think about when I was a little girl and my dad would take us to Hall's Diner on Sunday nights for a meal. He used to let me choose any piece of pie to order after the meal. I always chose pecan, it was my favorite. And I remember my dad enjoying me always choosing the same kind of pie. My girls had never had it until last Thanksgiving. They liked it! Their memories and experiences are so very different from mine, but I pray they are as good as mine were.

And after much prayer and discussion with my husband, I've decided this past week to take the third grade teaching position for next year. Big Ben will start school in the Fall (I'm hoping his maturity will catch up with his 35lb frame!), and so I decided I'm ready to go back to teaching. It's been 13 years since I've taught full-time. Overwhelming, yes. But I feel like that is the ministry for which God has equipped me. One thing that made the whole decision a lot easier is thinking of my mom. She was a working mom back in the 70's, 80's, 90's and beyond. She worked so that we could attend a Christian school. Knowing that she was able to give her heart to her students each day, but still come home at night and love us so well, makes me think I'll be ok too.

And so, this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for many things, but today I voice my thankfulness to my parents.

Istanbul Instances: Favorite Pictures

I had fun with my Picasa program on these two pictures, turning them black-and-white, then only lifting the color for one part.

I love this picture of Firstborn.

Conservative family having lunch.

My darlings.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Istanbul Instances: Topkapi

We were all tired after the boat ride, but wanted to do one last thing before heading out the next day. We took the kids to see the Sultan's palace, called Topkapi. We were not allowed to take photos inside, but we got to see the immense collection of jewels (girls loved) and swords (boy loved). We even got to go inside the bed chamber for the Sultan himself, from the 1800's. No one was in the room except the security guard and our family. After such a long day of boat rides and walking, Big Ben just slipped right under the rope and kicked back on the Sultan's bed. (Horrified is an understatement.) Thankfully, he obeyed quickly when, with bugged-out eyes and mouths on the floor, we said, "COME. NOW." Looking back, it is a little funny. Big comfy king bed. Tired little boy. It makes perfect sense.

I wanted to take a family picture with the sea behind us. For some reason, one of our little Turks decided to pretend she was a hot air balloon when the man clicked it.

This was outside the sultan's bedroom and was taken right before the awful toddler-in-the-sultan's-bed incident. Sigh.
And so our vacation came to an end. It was a whirlwind, and we did and saw a lot in three days. It was not relaxing in the slightest (well, except when we fed the kids grilled cheese sandwiches, put them to bed, left Firstborn in charge, and went out for that nice quiet Indian dinner!) but it was well worth the effort to go. I believe the kids learned much. And I hope things like this make their history books come alive.

I have one more post of our trip tomorrow, but couldn't end this one without showing you the Ottoman style bed the kids slept in. They reminded me of tootsie rolls! 

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Istanbul Instances: Fish Sandwiches

When we finished our boat tour, we stopped at the harbor and ate a fish sandwich like everyone else we could see for miles around.

Below you can see that they cook it right on a raft in the water. The raft rocks with the waves, but the guys just keep grilling and cranking out the sandwiches.

The sandwich was simple, but tasted good. Just thick bread with grilled fish and some lettuce and onion and salt.

To finish it off, I bought us a Turkish dessert to share. They remind me of funnel cakes.
When they are fully fried, they are coated in a sweet syrup. Mmmm.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Istanbul Instances: Scenes

These are all pictures I took while on our two hour boat ride. I enjoyed using the panorama setting on my camera. Above is a picture of the Sultan's palace.

Below are pictures of the castle I mentioned yesterday. It was built by an Ottoman Sultan in 1451. Built with slave labor, it was finished in 4 months.  I read that many years ago, one Venetian boat refused to stop when commanded to halt by the fortress commander, and all surviving crewman were impaled as a warning to others. I was prepared to make sure our Captain understood the rules if necessary.

This palace was built in 1874.

And then we passed many modern homes, which I enjoyed looking at as well....I was wondering where these properties might be on a game of Monopoly...near Boardwalk, I suspect.

By this time, Big Ben had curled up in my lap for a nap, so Sweet Cheeks and I played a game of "Pick your favorite house." This was hers.

This little island in the Sea was called Maiden's Tower. It was originally built in 408BC! It was restored and renovated by both the Byzantine emperor in 1110AD and then by the Ottoman Turks in 1509 and 1763.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Istanbul Instances: Riding

As I mentioned yesterday, our boat ride was fun. Since it was two hours long and very cold, I got to snuggle up to each of my kids at some point.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Istanbul Instances: Friends

While in Istanbul, we ran into three other school families, as well as a staff couple, all using the little holiday to see the great city that spans Asia and Europe. One thing which was high on our list of to-do's was to let the kids take a boat tour of the Bosphorus. On this little two hour tour, one can see so many of the highlights of the city. In addition to that, even our three-year-old son would appreciate a boat ride! We boarded the boat and discovered two Korean families from our school on our same boat. We warmly greeted each other, then found some seats. But soon, they came and asked us to take photos with them. After we waited 45 minutes to start our tour, the boat cranked up, then made an awful sound and died. The captain herded us to his buddy's boat. We sat down and saved our Korean friends some seats with us. Then, they insisted we have Turkish tea together. I appreciate our Korean families so much. Their high degree of respect for teachers and administrators and warmth toward us is very touching. And besides all that, the Korean teens pulled out their I-touch's and taught Big Ben and Sweet Cheeks how to play all the games on them.

I did manage to pull them away from the I-touch as we sailed past a castle built before Christopher Columbus sailed to the new land.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Istanbul Instances: Underground Cisterns

After touring the Hagia Sophia, we walked across the street to the Underground Cisterns. Built in the 6th century by Justinian, it is the largest surviving cistern from the Byzantine times.
What I find interesting is that it wasn't really discovered until around 1545. There was 'rumor' that people could access water through the basements of their homes, even fishing from them. Then the cistern, capable of holding 100,000 tons of water, was uncovered. At that point, they began throwing garbage and corpses there (a mental picture I can't seem to shake!) The columns are beautiful, and perhaps the weirdest is this upside down view of Medusa. They're not 100% sure why she is upside down, but perhaps due to superstition and her gaze at them!
Another Medusa is sideways.
Firstborn had already seen it, so to save money I just took in the two middle girls, complete with our printed-off-the-internet-at-home school id's, which worked to give them discounted entrance! How can I not let my children see a 6th century cistern that we'd been walking on top of all day?! I love this place. It is dimly lit, with little drips of water every so often on your head. It was a location used in the 1963 James Bond movie From Russia With Love.

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