Coming soon to Istanbul…

Well, after a crazy few years we decided 2013 was going to be the year of No Big Changes. So glad we gave ourselves a break from international moving, having babies, changing jobs, changing homes, saying tearful goodbyes, and international flights. However, the Ranks are movers and shakers so we decided to shake things up for 2014. In May we’re expecting another baby! I’m 12 weeks now, and found a great doctor here in Istanbul. She assures me the baby is developing beautifully. I think I’m most excited for Ellie to have a sibling. She’s such a social butterfly that it will do her (and me) well for her to have a friend at home.

This pregnancy has been a tough one, much more difficult than with Ellie. I’ve done my fair share of vomiting, and Ellie learned a new phrase- “give Mommy some space” You know it’s your second when you cannot even vomit in privacy. Yuck! My gag reflex was out of this world, and nothing, nothing sounded good to eat. The fatigue was pretty special. Ellie would hit the sack around 7:30 and I wasn’t far behind. Thankfully around 11 weeks I turned a corner. I feel so much better and the fatigue is bearable. More and more things are sounding yummy to make and eat, and I’m finally able to invite friends over for dinner again. I so love hosting, and missed seeing people!

I had an inkling I was pregnant about a week and a half after the baby was conceived. It was 9:30 in the morning and I wanted nothing more on earth than a juicy, steak burrito (really a durum for those who know what that is). I tried to find one, but no one was open. Later that day, I had one and nothing was more satisfying on the planet. Women who’ve been pregnant know the thrill of having a craving met. It’s bliss. A few days later I had a positive pregnancy test and am still craving beef. Maybe it’s a boy? Guess we’ll all find out in May!

One embarrassing story was one evening I was headed to a girls’ night at our church. On the way I was riding a double decker bus and sat on top. There was a lot of stopping and starting and I had the feeling I was going to vomit. I walked down the stairs and stood by the door to get off at the next stop, but we were stopped at a light. I needed to get off immediately, but couldn’t open my mouth to speak or I would’ve had an accident. Not sure why, but the driver opened the door and I rushed off and vomited in the nearest tree. I looked up and two men were staring at men. I assured them I was pregnant, then vomited again. It was so embarrassing. I’m sure they thought I was drunk or something since I was only 7 weeks at that point and not visibly pregnant.

We’re delighted, thrilled, praising the Lord for this gift!

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One year in Turkey

While on vacation we celebrated 1 year in Turkey. 1 year! It’s been such a wonderful year, full of so much adventure and blessing. Thankfully, since we started off our overseas life living two years in Hungary, we got out most of our culture shock blues while living there. So even though most would consider Turkey a more challenging place to live, we have yet to experience culture shock. Rather, I adore living here! The people are incredibly warm, the language is super fun to learn, and our neighborhood has lots of parks and adventure to keep both Eleanor and I busy. It’s incredibly easy to make friends, at least compared to Hungary, so my extrovert heart is often overflowing with thanksgiving.

One of the biggest, if not the biggest, blessings has been our church. We wanted to be a part of a church where Scott could serve considering the language he’s already acquired and his gifts. But, to throw Ellie and I into a full on Turkish immersion experience early on would be a little much. Our church is an international church in Turkish. We have a lovely blend of people from all over the world, and many Turkish brothers and sisters as well. I’ve been so challenged and blessed by the people in our church. When I think of many of them the word Grace comes to mind. I can’t say I’ve never met such gracious people, but I don’t think I’ve ever been part of such a grace-filled church. Since I struggle understand grace and being a gracious person myself, I’m deeply humbled.

Scott continues to blow me away with his work-ethic and dedication to studies and his work. I don’t think I’ve ever met a hard worker in my life. No wonder he slept so much on vacation! He needed it! He’ll start a grant this fall, and we’re excited to see how this program helps him to finish his PHD. It’s no easy task, my friends.

In case you haven’t heard, I co-authored a book with Scott. You can check it out here!

Even though I helped with that book project, generally I am pretty strict about my time commitments in this season. Basically my three jobs are to support Scott, take care of Ellie and learn Turkish. I’ve not blogged much because I realize every spare moment helps when it comes to language learning. I’ve been waking up at 6am to have time with the Lord, check my email only twice daily, study language for two hours while Ellie naps, and spend the rest of the time hanging with Ellie and keeping up home. We also like to visit friends and I enjoy lessons with my teacher twice weekly. Life is simple in this season since I have so few goals, but that’s okay. I need to learn language, and it will never be easier than it is now.

One year later. Ellie gets the award for most changed.

One year later. Ellie gets the award for most changed.

One year ago!

One year ago!

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Summa, Summa, Summatime

Oh my word this summer has been delightful! There’s something magical about spending your days at the local parks, soaking up vitamin D, sipping tea late into the night with neighbors, and taking lovely family walks along the sea. I’ve never loved summer like I’ve loved this summer. Perhaps it’s also because spending time with an 18 now 19 month old is magical. Her thirst for adventure and learning all about the world around her is contagious. I get to be her tour guide to the world, and it’s so much fun!

This summer I turned 29. I’m not as excited about 29 as 28. 28 seemed to me to be the sophisticated number in the 20s, not too old, not too young, just right. Really the Goldilocks of the decade. We had a fun day of celebration nonetheless. I’m not one to argue when my husband gets up early to make me breakfast, lets me go to the cafe alone for a bit, and takes me out for Mexican food. And, he bought me Season 2 of Call the Midwife! Here I am with my favorite senor and senorita.

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This summer Ellie passed the 17 month, 18 month and 19 month mark. I can’t believe how much she’s learning daily and how excited she is about learning about the world around her. She wants to know the word for every item on the planet and will shout, “that, that, that!” until I tell her what it’s called. Then it’s, “plane, plane, plane” or “water, water, water”. She won’t move on until I acknowledge what she’s saying.

She’s starting to the get the hang of speaking in sentences. She combines words on her own for example she said, “pine cone tree” or “Mommy bag”. But this week she also said, “Mama, I want help please.” Life is so much easier now that I have a child who can communicate all of her needs. She also can walk up and down our 4 flights of stairs if I hold her hand. My back is saying, “Amen!” to that. She loves praying, giving cheers with her cup, having her daddy throw her in the air, and playing with other children. She’s the most delightful little thing I’ve ever laid eyes on, and she was such a fun little friend to spend my summer with. We had tons of fun and now are full of plenty of vitamin D to get us through the winter.

Scott was awarded an academic grant that will start this fall. Since we hadn’t done a proper vacation since coming to Turkey one year ago, we thought it time. The end of August seemed ideal because that’s when Istanbul is the hottest. We found a great deal for a cheap place to stay, so decided to go for two weeks. Boy am I glad we did! Both Scott and I slept, and slept and slept. We had a lot of catching up to do. We didn’t have internet at the place we stayed, so both of us read tons of new books. A dream come true for the Rank family. We also delighted at taking Ellie to the beach almost everyday and see her mixture of fear and adventure as she chased the waves. Scott taught her how to build sand castles which we dubbed Ft. Rank, Ft. Rank and Ft. Rank, of course. Here are more photos than you bargained for to give you a glimpse.

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Getting our feet wet

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Ellie singing “row, row, row your boat” to the Black Sea.

vacay3

Our Turkish girl. I caught her with this loaf of bread!

Entry way to our apartment

Entry way to our apartment

We bought E glasses for $1. She loved them and wanted to wear them all the time, even indoors.

We bought E glasses for $1. She loved them and wanted to wear them all the time, even indoors.

Working on Ft. Rank

Working on Ft. Rank

She had a blast!

She had a blast!

Running with daddy

Running with daddy

Trying to catch up

Trying to catch up

Simit seller walks around selling simit. What a perfect snack! We ate several daily.

Simit seller walks around selling simit. What a perfect snack! We ate several daily.

Me and my sweetie

Me and my sweetie

Ellie puts on the charm to make friends and to get their food.

Ellie puts on the charm to make friends and to get their food.

Her first hot chocolate. As  you can imagine, she liked it.

Her first hot chocolate. As you can imagine, she liked it.

We took a trip through a pond on a paddle boat. Here is Scott being a typical dad guide..."now Ellie, if you look of yonder in the East you'll spot...."

We took a trip through a pond on a paddle boat. Here is Scott being a typical dad guide…”now Ellie, if you look of yonder in the East you’ll spot….”

Scott is teaching Ellie about a proper duck face so she'll be ready for facebook someday.

Scott is teaching Ellie about a proper duck face so she’ll be ready for facebook someday.

She's showing me what she learned.

She’s showing me what she learned.

And, you never know when you'll see some cows out in the country. Ellie loved them.

And, you never know when you’ll see some cows out in the country. Ellie loved them.

She didn't like the water at first, but slowly she did and by the end was begging her dad to take her out into it.

She didn’t like the water at first, but slowly she did and by the end was begging her dad to take her out into it.

My summer buddy

My summer buddy

This is Ellie's smile when you tell her to smile for the camera. I found her in this basket. She helps with laundry.

This is Ellie’s smile when you tell her to smile for the camera. I found her in this basket. She helps with laundry.

And, cheese anyone?

And, cheese anyone?

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Life these days

As I write this, Scott is at Toast Masters. It’s all in Turkish. My husband is giving professional speeches, or at least working at it, in Turkish. I have some catching up to do, which explains what I’ve been up to.

I’ve laid down the full throttle assault on Turkish. These days I’m devoting every spare minute to study, and I’m deciding to go at it as many ways as I can. So, I’m meeting with a private language teacher to go over grammar. I was in a course, but it fell through, so the private teacher works well for me and for our family’s schedule. I have a book I do on my own at home in addition to the homework I receive from my teacher. If I’m not doing homework or working on said books during Ellie’s nap, then I’m listening to podcasts. There is a new website for Turkish language learning, Turkish Tea Time, and it’s really great. It helps with listening, grammar, vocabulary, and everyday language. In addition to these methods, I also watch a Turkish television program online for about 5 hours per week. I do this in the evenings after the munchkin is in bed. This helps me to hear authentic Turkish, and to learn a lot of idiomatic expressions. Recently, I learned “gotcha!” and have had a lot of fun using it. And, yes, using it is the key to any language learning. I’m inspired by Ellie as I hear her practice different words. It’s usually not perfect the first time, but that doesn’t stop her! I’m pretty much the same in Turkish. In the streets, in the stores, at the parks… If I can find someone who will chat with me, I’m game. (Well, I do have some boundaries, and I bet you can guess what they are.) But, there are plenty of friendly neighborhood folks who know our family and are happy to see how we are doing.

Yay for learning!

Yay for learning!

Besides that, I’ve been reading a lot in the evenings. I just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Bossypants by Tina Fey, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and a simple biography on Mark Twain. I recommend all of them! Currently I’m reading Elsie Dinsmore, another sweet classic that I was prompted to read after enjoying Little Women, Heidi and Anne of Green Gables in the past few months. My days are filled with happiness and Ellie. We attend a bible study on Friday mornings with sweet ladies from my church. On Thursday we go to a fun kid’s club that’s held in English but attracts lots of people from around the world. I meet interesting expats from Russia, England and many other places! Ellie has been singing lots of songs that she’s learned there, so one big reason I go is because she so enjoys being with other people and hearing the songs. Other days we do our shopping, cleaning, hosting, park exploring and more.

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Ellie mostly speaks English, but also says about 8 Turkish words. I joke that here she is working on her Turkish vowels.

Life is full, and happy. It’s peaceful but filled with interesting challenges.

If Ellie marries a Turk, I want her to marry this very sweet little boy. He already adores her, can you tell?

If Ellie marries a Turk, I want her to marry this very sweet little boy. He already adores her, can you tell?

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You can’t have the crop without the ox

Today I was reading in Proverbs 14. I’ve felt thirsty for fresh wisdom from the Proverbs as of late, so that’s where I try to park every morning with freshly brewed coffee in hand and an open heart.

This morning proved a struggle. I was up for 2 hours in the wee hours of the night with a teething little one. After I put her down for her morning nap, all the chores that I really hadn’t the heart to attend to at the time were calling my name, as usual. But, I decided I needed to get my heart in check first. So, I sat down on the couch and tried to ignore the toys scattered everywhere, tried to not think about the dishes in the sink or the laundry in the washer waiting to be put in the dryer.

keepingitreal

Keeping it real

As I was reading I stumbled upon a humbling verse.

Proverbs 14:4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

My take away today: Where there are no children, the house is clean, but abundant JOY comes by the delight of children.

#childrenareablessing

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Living the Dream

Okay, maybe we’re not living the dream, but we’re living our dream, and it’s such a sweet season for us. I’m so thankful that 8 months ago we moved to Istanbul. I feel like our family belongs here. I adore the challenge of living life in a place where I have to learn a new language, culture and way of living. I like making discoveries such as finding the freshest eggs in town, learning to use local ingredients in cooking, and figuring out how to manage conversations in a tongue that is foreign to me but enchanting nonetheless. Have you heard Turkish? It’s a harmonic language, so it sounds lovely to the ear.

scottbookWe’ve been keeping busy as usual. Scott is currently writing a dissertation that requires him to research material in several foreign languages. Imagine that?! Not only does the poor guy have to write a book, but he only can write it after reading tomes and tomes of material, old material, mind you, in Turkish, Ottoman Turkish, Persian and Arabic, with a side of French to boot! In addition to this, he teaches English to Japanese people on the internet, is involved in translation projects for a local university, and has written several e-books that have been released in the past fews months. My personal favorite is his book on Insane Rulers which you should definitely check-out!

He is also a great husband and father, and is quite involved in our local church. He helps lead a weekly small group and once a month translates the sermon for guests that don’t understand Turkish. Did I mention he’s really a great husband and father?

I should have started with an update about me because it’s hard to come after that! At any rate, I’m also doing well. My big life endeavors continue to be raising Ellie and learning Turkish. I’ve been trying my hand at several Montesorri ideas with Ellie, and it’s been fun to see how well she responds. For example, I decided to see what would happen if I let her run around naked and point her to the potty when she goes. As it turns out, at her own will, she’s gone in the potty 4 times and told me, I’ll spare you the specific details on this one, but has told me that she has gone #2 twice.

In addition, she’s speaking a lot. She even likes to sing “Row, row, row your boat”- row, row, row, boat…so sweet. Also, E, I, E, I, O  is a big hit around here! Some of her favorite things to say are “apple, no, brown bear, book,  mama, daddy, bye bye, olive, bible, doggy, and gel (Turkish for come). Yesterday she conquered the stairs and the slide at the park on her own. Prior to that I’d help her, but yesterday she was ready to show me how independent she can be. However, I suppose she’s still not ready to leave the nest just yet as she’s nursing several times a day and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Women here aim to nurse for 2 years, so no one is rolling their eyes at me just yet.

Learning Turkish is so much fun! So far, I’ve only been able to actually take one course with lack of childcare available to us, but I’ve done a lot of self-study and study with a friend. Scott helps me untangle a lot of the grammar, and I practice everyday while I’m out and about. In fact, I’ll speak with anyone who will let me! Ellie adores going to the grocery store because she ends up getting several free bananas and pickles, but I like to go because I get in good practice! Also, I continue to watch a Turkish drama as many times a week as I can. Each episode is about an hour and a half, and I try to get in at least 3 a week. I learn a lot of vocabulary and situational Turkish. It’s really great! Also, truth be told, I’m totally addicted to the program and secretly (well, not anymore) hope to bump into the actors on the street. I’m sure if they stumbled upon Ellie’s big blue eyes and dimples they’d insist for her to be in their next show!

Ellie and Scott and two peas in a pod

Ellie and Scott are two peas in a pod

What? You don't read books while out on a walk with your mom?

What? You don’t read books while out on a walk with your mom?

Ellie's favorite cashier.

Ellie’s favorite cashier.

One of my favorite study on your own Turkish books.

One of my favorite study on your own Turkish books.

Our park on 9am Monday morning. We had it all to ourselves!

Our park on 9am Monday morning. We had it all to ourselves!

There are some really fun parks around here. Ellie approved!

There are some really fun parks around here. Ellie approved!

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What Parenting has Taught me about God

There’s nothing quite like becoming a parent. People tell you about the unexplainable love they have for their children, but it’s a little surreal  until you are holding a kid in your arms that’s yours. And something I didn’t expect, but I’m supremely thankful for, is how much I’ve learned about God in these past 13 months.Godslove

My friend Keri is full of wisdom and I have remembered many wise things she’s said over the past 10 years that I’ve known her. One that sticks out now and I’ve added to is this: “When you are single you get to do things for God, when you are married you get to know God.” I think I’ll add: and when you have kids you really, really, really get to know God.

You see, in theory I have always known God loves me. I’ve always known He desires and wills my good. But until I became a mom I didn’t know what unconditional love was. Now I do, and now I truly understand a little bit more about the character of God.

One specific way I’ve always failed to trust God’s love is when it comes to His provision. This is pretty silly considering He has always provided well for me. I reflected recently with my husband on how we’ve never gone hungry, never couldn’t pay our electricity bill, always made rent. Moreover, we usually have a few extra dollars/liras/forints in our budget for me to have a latte or two with friends. But the abundant love a parent has for their child isn’t about simply meeting their base needs. If so, the market for children’s toys wouldn’t claim billions of dollars a year! Remember the tickle me Elmo riots a few Christmases back? We love our children and we desire to bless them immensely! So why don’t I always believe God wants to bless me immensely?

My friend Kim and I were reflecting on this reality of unconditional love recently, and framing it in the context of our children approaching us how we approach God. She remarked, “If Evan  walked up to me timidly and asked, “Mom, will you feed me today?” my heart would absolutely break. I’d respond, “Of course I’ll feed you baby! I’d starve before letting you go hungry.” So why can’t we believe that God feels exactly the same way about us??!

Walking this journey with Eleanor has helped me to understand the depths of God’s love for me a little bit more, and for that I’m so grateful. And, how beautiful that He loves all his children like this! He made all of us, knit us together in our mother’s womb! godslove2

If we fully do embrace this truth, how does it change us and impact us daily? What does this truth mean to you?

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