Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Belle of the Ball Candids

 My friend who attended the ball took these for me.
 I've been seeing this look on her face since she was about 2 years old.
 And I simply could not resist posting these. So so cute in every way.
 Give them some time, honey, they'll catch up.

I love it!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Belle of the Ball

Well, it's finally happened. A Campbellkid grew up enough to attend the Winter Ball. Back when her dad started to see the time was drawing near, he started hinting around that maybe it was time to separate the middle school from the high school for the annual dance. No, no, don't do that, I told him. I think having the younger kids there keeps it refreshingly innocent. Yes, you're right, he quickly agreed in a panic! And so the time came. I was all alone to send her off, to think my thoughts of how she could possibly have already reached this age. The big day was a flurry. She washed her hair in the morning, and I put in sponge curlers. Her hair is long, and thick. Hours later the curls still weren't dry. We used the blow dryer off and on all day. I took her across the street to the kuafor to get her hair pinned up. It seemed every old lady in our neighborhood was getting her hair 'set' that day. After we waited an hour, I got the bright idea to call Miss N. Miss N is so good at so many things. She was happy to help. She got the curl to stay (loads of hairspray) and pinned her right up. We're going to miss Miss N so much next year. I was glad we had this one more memory with her. We came home, got her make up done, she had a snack. It was time to put on her dress. She put it on and the lump in my throat came. Big Ben saw her and said, "You are a Pincess, I can dance with you!" Her sisters also told her how pretty she was. I kept thinking, "Her dad would fall over if he could see her." I always knew she'd be beautiful, but it's hard to picture exactly how that is going to look. She was stunning.

 Her dress was one that we had already. We took it to a seamstress and had it cut to tea length. She also added the little capped sleeves (it had been strapless). All for US$10! We went with a classic dress...not a short modern one. I told her she'd never go wrong with classic. (And I could hardly walk through the school to drop her off without an adult telling me how beautiful she was. We adults like classic!) I found the little clutch purse on a 70% off winter clearance. I gave it to her with a "Happy First Winter Ball" note. And of course, you see the flip flops. What can I say? Snow on the ground. But this is what they wear...glitzy flip flops, which promptly come off when it is time to dance.
The theme this year was a Venetian Masquerade Ball. Oh, these kids are amazing. They pull off amazing decorations, all on a shoestring budget. They transformed the atrium, it was amazing. The music is clean. The math teacher gave them all swing dance lessons, and told the boys to ask all the girls, and told the girls to accept all offers to dance. It's just the kind of dance that it used to be, back in the old days when dances were better.
She came home, she'd had a wonderful time. I was on email chat with CC late that night. I told him she'd danced with all the 7th grade boys and a few older ones. I hardly had the chat line sent before he typed back, "With whom?" The day is coming when she'll leave with her one chosen young man forever, just like CC took me away! But for now, we'll enjoy each year, each day, each minute.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Go Bananas!

Hi readers,

No pictures today. I have stashed my extra camera battery and the charger in some "special place," and I don't quite remember that place right now. I will find it before Saturday night when my little darling who can't be about to turn 13 attends her first Winter Ball.  But until then,  I wanted to pass along something.

It's rare that we have fruit go bad at our house. No matter how much I buy at my weekly grocery run, it usually disappears. However, this week, I had 2 bananas that had turned brown. Many times we throw them in the blender and make banana milk, but this morning I decided to make banana bread.

Unfortunately, all my recipes called for 3 bananas, and I only had 2. So, for the 3rd banana I substituted 2 large dollops of Turkish yogurt and hoped for the best.

Heaven, I tell you!! It's my new banana bread recipe.

Banana Bread with Yogurt:
1 stick butter
1 c sugar
2 c flour
2 eggs
2 ripe bananas
2 dollops of Turkish yogurt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c chopped nuts
1/2 tsp salt

I baked it around an hour. What have you substituted in a recipe that turned out better than the original?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


It is never easy when Papa makes his annual February journey to the US. But I will say that it is MUCH easier now, with 5 children ages 3-12 than it was with 3 children ages 0-3! This year he is gone for 2 1/2 weeks. To make things a little easier, I have greatly simplified our dinners. This is what we had Sunday night: popcorn, chips and salsa (made by a Mexican school mom and sold to benefit a service trip to Kenya by our teens...I HAD to buy some, it was for a good cause, afterall), cut fruit and chocolate dip, and cheese and crackers. Mmmm, I'm sure I hit all the major food groups. The chocolate covered dairy, didn't it? I did start to feel guilty yesterday that the meals have been so thrown together. To counteract my guilt, I make them salmon, salad, and mashed potatoes last night.

We mostly have good days. There are moments when I wonder how in the world a single parent does this day in and day out. Most years the biggest struggle for me is just managing everyone alone. That is getting easier. The Singapore girls manage themselves mostly now. What I have noticed this year is just that it's hard to be the only parent to get them where they need to be.

Sunday was a particularly good day. We came home from church and lunch. We worked on upcoming tests and piano practices. Then the older girls all wanted to bake. I made dough in the bread maker, then let Miss Middler make monkey bread out of it.

And these girls made an apple galette (here's a link for a recipe: Apple Galette). It was delicious. It said you can serve it with ice cream, but hey, in keeping with our meal themes this week, we served it for breakfast!
And these two did nothing to help except think how good it was all going to taste.
Here is their final product.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Snow Day, Take 2, Part II

One of the things the kids did on their snow day was to get out the play-doh. Before I knew it, all four younger kids were sitting at the table, with an assembly line formed, pretending to "bake." Everyone had a job, they pushed the cinnamon roll/cupcake/pizza down the line, and the next Campbell did his/her job. It was so cute. I was painting our entry way and enjoying quietly listening to their game. And then Big Ben discovered the brown play-doh could be rolled into a long snake. And then he put it on his face, turned to Sweet Cheeks, and said, "Hey baby (pronounced be-beh, in his best smooth-talking accent), you like my moustache?" And I had to take a picture so I won't ever forget how he said that to her.

Snow Day, Take 2!

I am certain this year we've had the most days of snow in my 9 winters here. We had yet another day of school called off for snow. I told the girls they needed to do their normal chores, give me one extra way of helping around the house, then they could have free time. Twinkle Toes, so thoughtful of her little siblings, offered to take them out to play in the snow as her extra helping chore. I took her up on it!
Last winter this big boy did not really take to the snow. He's changed his mind this year. He just wants to take his trucks out, fill them with snow, dump out the snow, pretend they are snow plows...(you see the theme here.)
This one doesn't last long in the snow. Why would anyone in their right mind let themselves get overly cold, she wonders? She does have a point.But I made her go out for a little bit anyway, and she had fun.

 There were icicles in the shape of fangs.
I am thankful for the snow. Not only do we get to enjoy its beauty and fun, it assures us we'll have no city water shortages next summer.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Happy birthday, Kosovo!

Once again, a few of us on staff were invited to celebrate Kosovo's birthday! It's a country that's only 4 years old and has won its independence through many difficulties. The Kosovan Ambassador's children attend our school.
 This is an especially wonderful reception because this is the one where my two little girls are invited. The Ambassador's daughters are the exact ages as, and big buds with, my little Sweet Cheeks and Miss Middler.

Here's my beautiful Miss Middler with her Kosovan friend, their Korean friend, and their precious teacher.
And here are the other little first grade darlings with their wonderful (I mean, you could not find a better first grade teacher-kind-of-teacher) teacher Miss B.
The thing about these receptions is that you shake hands with all the important people, then you mingle. Then you go through the buffet line and find amazing food. Then you...stand. No chairs. I knew the little 'uns would just plop down on the floor when it came time to eat. I never even saw my little first grader go through the food line, but I had a feeling, "She'll manage. Some Turk will pinch her cheeks and get her through." And then when I did find her, the drink waiter had cleared his drink table to make a spot for the little princess to eat. (And the mystery of it is, how did she, as an English speaker, get him, a Turkish speaker, to pull such strings for her?)Man, some people really discriminate and give all the special treatment to a select few.

 And to look at this picture, who could blame them?
Happy birthday, Kosovo! We are proud you are represented at our school!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The List

Right after CC flew to America, I went into work and wrote on the teacher workroom whiteboard "Ross made it off this morning." and then I added a note "What To Do While He's Gone" and wrote in some numbers just for fun. The boss is gone, afterall. I had to laugh when I saw what all had been written after just a couple of hours. We do have fun over here!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My New Kitchen

I am so happy with how my kitchen turned out! This is perhaps the most important room in my house.  My friend T offered some advice when I asked her. Also, CC has a good eye for things like this. This red wall looks VERY red in this picture, but it is more like a subdued brick color in the natural lighting. I had the urge to hang three pictures from Singapore on that red wall. They are the black and white charcoal type, signed with a chop block by the Asian artist, in black frames. But eventually, CC and I both decided that we have so many Asian accents in our home (silk hanging of 100 children; bamboo; etc.) that we should devote this spot to Turkey. We put back up the two Turkish plates, the quilted block of Turkish teacups with a cay spoon, and the ottoman style hand-painted eggs. We also included the cross (which tricks the eye and looks like a key) from Cameroon (Africa), the little bowl/chopstick set from Japan, and my lemon tray. All of these items except the lemon tray were given to me. They were gifts from dear people here and far away. I tend to light my candle lamp at night AFTER the kitchen is cleaned up. The cinnamon smell reminds me of the warmth of the kitchen and the end of the day. It's the hub for our family. Which room is your hub?

Valentine's Day/100th Day at School

Tuesday was not only Valentine's Day, it was the 100th day of school, due to our snow day last week. I know at least our first grade teacher was happy it all fell at once. Fill them up with candy and parties all in one day, then send them home! Here are our Pre-K kids with their 100th day glasses.

We had a little party that afternoon. This year's class is super small. Opening juice boxes, pouring a little popcorn, and passing out muffins was easy! As most of them are just learning English, I helped them read their valentines. They all wanted to know which one was from me. So sweet! They are Gambian, Dutch/Hungarian, Romanian, American, and British/Serbian. Wonderful! All thrown into together learning their English alphabet. 
After our party, we watched Charlie Brown's Valentine special. It brought me much pleasure to see them laughing hilariously at a cartoon from 1975 that I watched when I was little.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

It was 15 years ago today, that my newly-wedded husband said to me that he thought we should accept the jobs we'd been offered to serve in Singapore. I was hosting a Valentine's couples party that night, and I'm not sure I said a word all evening. I remember that as I anticipated telling our parents we were leaving that I did not sleep a wink that Valentine's night. But when he turned to me that day and said, "Will you go with me?" I replied, "I'll go. I'm going wherever you are going." And I don't regret it. 

Today is a snowy day, and frankly, it's a hard day. My heart is heavy with a situation I can't discuss on a public blog. But I'd rather be here, married to this man that I love so much, than with any other man, even living in a condo in the Bahamas with fresh juice poured for me and servants waving palm branches over me.

Happy Valentine's Day to you all! 

When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dedicated To My Two Little Turks

You know, crossing into 40 was a little shocking to me. I had thought about it for awhile, so it wasn't like I suddenly couldn't believe that this was the "40 birthday." But I guess I just don't feel that old. I feel like I blinked and my little 21 inch firstborn baby grew into a basketball player. I think another reason why I don't feel like a middle-ager yet is that I still have little kids. I am loving having older kids now. Everything is certainly easier (Well, almost everything. There is the new thing of 7th grade!). I love that I get to see them play sports. I love being a silent witness as they begin to make their own choices to follow God's voice. But it is so nice that I still have little hands to hold, too. I suspect that one day I'll look back and realize this was the absolute best time of my life. Big kids and little kids. All at once. A house full of kids. I am so blessed. When I had been away for my 40th birthday weekend, then reconnected with the family to head to church Sunday morning, Big Ben and Sweet Cheeks could not get enough of me. We always sit on the front row. They were like little balls of silly puddy stuck to me all during church! I took these pictures of them recently and decided to write a blog post with them.

As you can see from the picture above and below, we've found a fun little place at the mall to play in these harsh winter months. We head there with special friends. The mommies drink coffee and ask how we can pray for each other. The little ones dive in to play. This is an interesting play area. It's a big cushioned bowl with pillows inside. You can run around the outside. You can fall in and not get hurt. You can zoom little cars down into the pit. Evidently Big Ben thought it was like a swimming pool. Every picture I took of him that day, his cheeks were blown up with air.
Here's Sweet Cheeks right after I got back from my weekend away. (Well, actually, this is not how she looked. I forgot to take a picture of her hair that morning which her father did. This is after I pulled it into a ponytail during one of the hymns.) We always eat at this place. She always orders chicken drumsticks. She eats them to the bone. They look like magpies have gotten ahold of them.
My little guy was a little full of himself. What's new?
I thought he looked so handsome that day in his Campbell tartan. I even let him have a cup of tea.
And then here is one of Sweet Cheeks practicing her spelling words. On the fridge. Why? Because she can, I guess.
I love you, little Turks. Thanks for keeping  me young! Leave me a comment. What keeps you young?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Memorable 40th!

This is certainly a birthday I will never forget. Friend K brought in delicious cinnamon rolls and let us each blow out a "match." I think I am laughing here because CC's died out before he could blow it out. That morning, I told the kids I'd drive them to school since I would need to be there by 8:15 for the birthday singing. We got down to the van and the side door was iced shut. So, in they all went into the front door and over the bench seat (all 5). CC got in, started the car, and the tires just spun on the ice. "Out!" he said. "Everyone walks." So, over the bench seat we all flew, out the door, and down the snowy sidewalk to school. We looked very much like a circus act. It was a good day with many birthday wishes. It snowed all day. Right after school, I was to take all my kids to the basketball game to see Firstborn play. (CC was waiting on our car to be returned to us after its yearly inspection by the government and would join us later.)  I took Twinkle Toes and Sweet Cheeks out to catch a taxi. We waited and waited. There was so much snow on the ground, they were all booked. So, I decided to walk to a taxi stand. SC's big cheeks were getting redder and redder, so I took her back into the school and told her to come later with her Papa when the van came. Twinkle and I trudged through the snow, met up with Teyze who brought us Big Ben (all bundled up), and hopped in a taxi to the game. It became apparent that the streets were getting bad. When we arrived, we discovered the game had just been canceled. Now, all of that leads up to the exciting part of my birthday. We hopped back on the school bus with all of the basketball players from our school. What would normally take us ten minutes took over an hour. Cars were sliding all over the road. We got into a round-a-bout and became gridlocked. The drivers were all inching forward to go their own way, and it led to no one being able to move. Our driver was just as sweet as could be. He'd lean over and pinch Big Ben's cheeks and offer him a cupcake, then he'd hop out of the bus and start fighting with the other drivers. We'd inch forward a little, then he'd realize we could go nowhere, so he'd hop out and smoke a cigarette.
And just when we thought it could get no worse, he went up a big hill (and made it up!) but had to stop at the top. At the crest of the hill were cars spinning and crashing all over. He tried to start back up, but the tires just spun. He got out to put something behind his back wheels. The unthinkable happened. Another school bus came up the same hill and went around us, got stopped at the top just like us, could not get its tires to stop spinning, then slid down and slammed into us. I saw it coming. There are no seat belts on these buses. I just yelled to the kids, "Brace! We're about to be hit!" and then BAM the bus came right down on us.
At that point, I went into teacher mode. I told the kids to treat this like an emergency and follow my directions. All twenty of us had to crawl to the front of the bus (as the entire passenger side was pinned shut), climb over the front bench seat, and get out of the driver's side door. I said, "Do NOT hit the gear shift. Do NOT hit the emergency brake."  I appointed one boy to get out first and get everyone safely out of the bus. I passed Big Ben to him first. The next challenge after getting out was not getting hit in this street. Cars were sliding everywhere.
We tried to be positive, at least most of us.
 We hiked back home to our neighborhood. I just thanked the Lord over and over for how the night turned out. I was so thankful I ended up being there, as there were so many kids and only the coach and me to help them. I was so thankful that no one was hurt. The accident happened near my old apartment, so I knew which back roads to take the kids up so we could avoid the busy street. I was so thankful that I let Miss Middler go to her after school club and let herself in the house. I was so thankful I directed Sweet Cheeks to stay with her Papa and come later. I was so thankful I had Twinkle Toes and Firstborn with me, as I have stitches in my back and could not carry Big Ben the whole way.
My plan was to get pizza for our birthday dinner while at the basketball game. But in light of the events, we decided to just walk to the local kebab place for our dinner! I took my ninja, Twinkle Toes.
 We got there and ordered. They bring this hot, freshly oven-baked bread. This bread was designated for Big Ben. They think he is king here.
 CC ordered a claypot chicken dish.
 I had the meatball and eggplant kebab. (I took these to show you how good we have it here!)
 CC gave me this beautiful ring, purple for my birthstone, a tulip to represent Turkey. (Tulips originated in Turkey, who sent them to Holland!)
 We didn't have a birthday cake after all that, but we ordered kunefe. How can I describe it? Hot melted cheese inside of a fried shredded wheat, with a sweet syrup poured all over it. It's amazing.
 Happy shared birthday, my love! I'm not likely to forget my 40th anytime soon!

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