July 2008


I must be approximately the last person on earth to have discovered streaming online radio, but I finally did! I’ve been playing with jango.com for the past few weeks, and totally love getting to create my own “radio stations” to listen to during the day. In case anyone else out there actually hasn’t checked that site out yet, you pick an artist to start your new station, then you can either add a bunch of other artists that you like or let the site make recommendations for artists who have a similar sort of a vibe or a combination of both. I like it because I get to hear music from artists that I may not have known I liked without having to buy a new album that I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy. Since I’m too paranoid to do the bit torrent thing to download free music, this is a good way to test out new music for free!

Also, I know I said it a while back, but I don’t know how my parents lived overseas without the internet. Seriously, it rules. Last week I ordered us a new featherbed and feather comforter online. I got to customize the fill levels and such, and now in a week or so we will have a lovely fluffy cloud of a bed, all without me having to leave the house. It’s also pretty awesome that we can do Netflix here or rent movies on ITunes or whatever. Especially now that our awesome friends Liz and Josh are storing their extra flat screen TV here and letting us use it, so we’re not watching movies on the tiny tiny loaner TV screen that we have to sit 36 inches away from to see! We just upped our Netflix subscription from 3 to 6 movies at a time, and are really looking forward to having a steady stream of new movies coming in. We’ve even started adding some TV series to our list.

As a side note, I find that assembling our Netflix list is almost as entertaining as actually watching the movies. Our current list is something line 150 discs, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of anything other than the new releases and action adventure genres. Part of that is probably because for the past two years we’ve hardly seen any movies thanks to our remote previous post and Danny’s grad school work, but it’s paying off now because there are so many movies we’re excited to see. Also, not having had cable except for the few months we were home between posts means that almost any of the cable TV series are new to us. I really sort of love having the option to watch one episode of a one-hour show or three of them, depending on how much time we have and how into the series we are that day.

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One of the great things about living here with an infant is that Turks LOVE babies. We can’t go anywhere without hearing “Mashallah!” or “Çok Tatlı!” Mashallah literally means “God has willed it to be so,” but it’s basically the way to say something or someone is awesome without calling down the wrath of the evil eye on said object or person. (Çok tatlı means “very sweet.”) Men and women alike come up to us all the time and fuss over Stephen, kissing his feet and rubbing his fuzzy little head. Happily, he loves any and all attention so he doesn’t get upset when strangers get in his face making kissing noises and fussing over him. In fact, he usually smiles for them.

One of the funny things we’ve noticed is that Americans and Turks worry about very different things when it comes to babies. Turks, for instance, don’t usually let their babies stand up or even sit up much at all until they’re like a year old, for fear of hurting their backs or legs. They also seem to think that babies should be fully bundled even in the summer, or at the very least be wearing socks ALL THE TIME. The fact that we let Stephen stand up on our laps all the time in his naked feet has garnered us more than our fair share of dirty looks from concerned grandmothers.

Apparently, however, being mowed down by an oncoming vehicle is not an issue of great concern here. Not because it’s not a risk, mind you. There are no stop signs here, and a red light here is approximately equivalent to a flashing yellow light back home. Drivers might slow down for them, but stopping is certainly not mandatory (and will in fact get you honked at).

To get back to the issue of babies, the other day Danny and I were taking Stephen over to a friend’s house (incidentally, the temperature at the time was no less than 90 degrees Fahrenheit). Stephen was in his lovely new (bright red, very visible) stroller, and we were walking down Çankaya Bulvarı, which is a very large, very busy street. Of course, the sidewalk was under construction so we had to walk on the side of the road, between the parked cars and the cars that were careening down the road. We passed a group of middle-aged Turkish women.

I’m not kidding, they tried to stop the stroller. In the middle of the street. With buses whizzing by no less than six inches from his stroller. To fuss over his chubby little cheeks and tell him how sweet he looked. I paused just long enough to be polite, but refused to linger in the street any longer than was absolutely necessary. And the best part? When we moved past I heard them muttering to each other about his feet being bare. Danny and I had to bite our lips to keep from laughing about the fact that they apparently thought nothing of stopping his flimsy umbrella stroller in the middle of a busy road during rush hour, but were seriously concerned that he would catch his death of cold because he wasn’t wearing socks IN JULY.

We have now officially left Stephen with two different people who are not related to us, and both babysitters apparently survived unscathed. Stephen, of course, loved it as it meant he had their undivided attention and was being adored the whole time.

It’s weird to find oneself in a familiar situation but in a completely different role. This past week, for instance, was the first time we hired a babysitter. I used to babysit all the time in junior high and high school — overseas it was pretty much the only source of income other than bagging groceries at the commissary or doing the Summer Hire program. This was definitely the first time, however, that I had to choose, hire, and pay a babysitter.

It wasn’t the first time I had left Stephen with someone else — technically we had a babysitter watching him during Danny’s brother’s wedding ceremony as Danny and I were both in the wedding party, but the girl had been babysitting for Danny’s niece for three years so she was hardly an unknown quantity. Plus they were right downstairs and the ceremony lasted less than an hour. Danny and I also left Stephen with his parents for a couple of hours one night before we moved here so we could go to dinner, but we were a mile down the road and grandparents hardly count as babysitters in my mind.

On Saturday of last week, however, we had a real live babysitter. I was introduced to her through a friend here, and hired her to watch Stephen while we went to a birthday party a few miles away. It worked out great — Stephen loved her for the half hour or so he was awake while she was here, she and I put him to bed in sort of tag team fashion (I swaddled him, she gave him a bottle, then I sang to him and put him down in bed), and he slept the whole time we were gone. I actually think she was a little disappointed she didn’t get to have more time with him awake, although I assured her that after about 7:30 his awake time is not fun time for anyone involved.

It was really strange, though, trying to figure out how to find a babysitter, how much to pay them, how to get her home, meeting her parents, the whole thing. I mean, it’s been four months since Stephen was born but part of me still can’t quite fathom that Danny and I are parents who can expect to be taken seriously when doing adult things like hiring a babysitter.

Today I left him with one of my friends for almost two hours in the middle of the day, during which time I got my hair cut (a whole ‘nother adventure that, trying to explain what you want to a hairdresser with no mutually intelligible language to utilize). It was great to be able to relax and enjoy being pampered, especially since I had really been itching for a way to update my ‘do. He had a great time and even laughed for her, which even Danny and I only get to hear once or twice a day as it’s a pretty recent development.

I realize that there are lots of different opinions on when it’s okay to leave your child with someone other than a family member, but I have to say that having a brief little respite was really nice. I’m thankful every day that I am able to stay home with Stephen, but this really made me understand why my mom used to say that she felt like getting a break every now and then made her a better mother to my sister and me!

I figured I should document this periodically, because it’s cute and also so that I can look back and remember what Stephen loved at four months versus six months (I can’t think much further ahead than a couple of months from now…it’s too weird to imagine him being a toddler, let alone a little kid). Here are a few things that Stephen loves right now:

– Ring Sling: Stephen has loved being carried in a sling since the very beginning, and I still use one or both of my two beautiful slings (one is red and yellow, the other blue and white, both made by Stephen’s Auntie Margo) every single day. Right now I mostly use the vertical carry (with his legs tucked in or hanging out, depending on how hot it is and which he seems to prefer) and the front facing carry (aka Buddha carry, aka kangaroo carry).

– Swaddling: I tried letting him sleep unswaddled for two days again this week after I found him scooted all the way to the bottom of the crib and got scared that he was going to flip himself over in the middle of the night, but after the 48-hour trial period decided to go back to swaddling. It was definitely better than when I tried it a month ago, but got progressively worse over the two days instead of better and we were all exhausted by the end of of it.

– Pacifier: He mostly just has it for sleeping, but it also helps calm him down when he’s a little tired. We tried the Avent and the Soothies, and he prefers the Avent hands down (gagged on the Soothies every time I tried to give it to him).

– Singing: He LOVES for us to sing to him. Danny makes up songs all the time about whatever he’s doing (especially if Stephen is crabby and needs distracting), and I usually end up singing them later. Stephen especially loves when Danny bobs his head along with the song as he sings. He also has a special game he plays with Stephen in the mornings called “Diggery Do” after the Australian aboriginal instrument, in which Danny sings in a deep voice while Stephen rests his head on Danny’s chest to feel the vibrations. I also sing to Stephen all the time — for naps and bedtime I usually sing one of the following worship choruses: “Here I am to Worship,” “Blessed Be Your Name,” “Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior,” or “How Great is Our God.” During the day, I sing him a lot of folk music; he particularly likes Joan Baez (“Where Have All the Flowers Gone”), Simon & Garfunkel, Peter, Paul & Mary (he really likes “Leaving On a Jet Plane”), and the Beatles (especially “Penny Lane”).

– Sitting: He can’t sit unsupported, but he loves to sit up with one of us behind him for support. I’m kicking myself for not putting his Bumbo chair into our air freight shipment, because I think he would really like sitting up in it now, but chances are when it gets here next month he’ll still like it.

– Toys: Up until about two weeks ago he didn’t really pay much attention to his toys, but now when I’m burping him he’ll see his little play mat with the toys on it and freak out talking to them and trying to get over there. He especially loves the abacus his Grandpa Bogie made him, as he can sit up to play with it. He also loves this little four-inch plastic ring rattle, and flutterbug teether that one of my friends gave him. He likes to listen to the wooden rattle his Grandpa Bogie made him (with black-eyed peas inside to remind him of his southern heritage!), but he can’t quite get the hang of holding it himself just yet.

– Mirrors: He loves watching himself and us in the mirror. He has a free-standing (unbreakable) mirror that his Grandma Tene gave him, which lives on his play mat and is a constant source of entertainment.

– Fabric: He loves biting on fabric right now — burp rags, shirts, whatever. He also loves to look at interesting fabric, like the beautiful quilt that his Auntie Margo made him (currently serving as his play mat) and the cloth block she made to match it.

– Fans and chandeliers: He’s totally obsessed with the chandelier in our living room, and will practically fall over backwards arching his back to try to see it if he’s on one of our shoulders.

– Talking: In addition to the “ooh” and “ah-ooo” noises he’s been making for a couple of months now, Stephen has recently discovered how much fun it is to squeal, and experiments with different tones and volume levels. He can now also make a “gh” sound, complete with rattly sound thanks to all of the extra drool that he’s making lately.

If you had asked me yesterday which music video I was most obsessed with, without hesitation I would have told you it was the video for “Beautiful Liar,” with Shakira and Beyonce. Seriously, it’s just a freaking cool video. I will admit that I have a total girl crush on Shakira, because between her voice and her awesome belly dancing moves I just think she’s the bees knees. And I personally think it was a stroke of brilliance the way the video for “Beautiful Liar” was put together, it’s just a beautiful video.

Now, however, thanks to my beloved friend Shannon, I have a new obsession — the “Summertime” video by NKOTB. Not for the same reasons AT ALL, mind you. “Beautiful Liar” is a piece of music video genius. The fascination with “Summertime” the video is really more like trying to avert one’s eyes from an intoxicated co-worker making a fool of themselves at the office Christmas party. You know you should, but at the same time you just can’t resist observing the bizarre behaviour. I mean, I loved NKOTB as much as anyone in 1991 — in fact, other than one Oak Ridge Boys concert at Busch Gardens, theirs was the first concert I remember going to. I had the nightshirt, the tapes, and would have had the set of action figures if my parents hadn’t put their collective feet down about shelling money for such ludicrousness. But a boy band full of teenagers (I think Jon may have been in his early twenties maybe, but as I recall when they started Joey was only like 13 or 14) is a very different thing than a boy band full of men in their thirties.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that I actually paid money to watch the video, that’s how badly I wanted to see it. I tried to find it online, but thanks to the court order banning YouTube in Turkey (click here for more information) and to VH1 disallowing users outside the U.S. watching videos on their site, I had no choice. So I am now the proud owner of the video through ITunes. Any time I start thinking that I’m still young and cool, this video will be a useful tool to remind me that I am in fact getting perilously close to 30.

When I decided to use cloth diapers, I did it for a mixture of reasons: environmental, financial, and because I figured it would be better for Stephen. Almost four months in, I still love using them and am really happy I decided to go this route. I feel better about not throwing away hundreds of disposable diapers, and other than a few days when he was about two weeks old, Stephen has never had diaper rash to speak of. The financial part of my motivation, though, has been severely tested by the sheer number of options for different kinds of diapers that I’d love to try out (pockets (with hemp or microfiber inserts), prefolds (cotton or hemp, with or without liners), fitteds (cotton, hemp, fleece, wool, bamboo), covers, etc.). I know it sounds stupid since we’re still talking about diapers here, but seriously, there are some really cute ones and it’s very difficult not to want to keep trying all the different options out there.

I had just made a resolution not to buy any more diapers for Stephen after I got all excited about testing out the pocket diapers I bought last month, when I discovered this website: http://www.greenacredesigns.com/. I mean, who doesn’t want a diaper with a truck or a lizard embroidered across the tushie? Especially now that it’s so hot and half the time Stephen just wears a T-shirt and his diaper, think how adorable it would be! For now, I’m restraining myself. The triple frog pattern, however, is so tempting.

When people made comments about Danny and I being crazy for moving to Turkey, one of our most common responses was to point out that I had not only lived overseas for a good portion of my life (11 out of 29 years) overseas, but that I had actually lived in Turkey before. After having been here for a month now, I would like to officially admit that although we lived in Turkey for two years, living on an American military base and living “on the economy” out in town are two very different animals. As families on our base went, we were very proactive about getting out — my mom was one of the very few spouses I knew who actually went shopping in the local produce market, for instance, and we travelled all over the country by bus and automobile. That said, our day-to-day lives were spent surrounded by other Americans, and even though we learned a bit of Turkish we got through two years just fine without really ever becoming conversant.

That thought occurred to me today, as I was in the middle of exaggerated sign language with our landlord’s handymen. They had come over to fix our shower, which leaks water all over the bathroom floor every time we use it. When they showed up at the door, I immediately busted out the sign language as well as two of the Turkish words I do know, “baby” and “please” to warn them that the baby was sleeping and request that they please speak quietly so as not to wake him. I then used more sign language to demonstrate that when we turn the shower on, water goes all over the floor, and we suspected it was due to one of the doors having come unhinged. The workmen then discussed among themselves, and very respectfully reported their findings back to me, none of which I understood at all. More sign language, and one other Turkish word that I know (Monday), led me to believe that they are going to replace the shower doors on Monday in order to stem the flow of water onto our floor. I nodded, repeated “Monday,” thanked them and wished them a good day. Of course, for all I know they may have been saying that since the office hasn’t paid our rent for this month, on Monday they will be selling Stephen and me into indentured servitude…

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