Wednesday, December 24, 2008

God Help Us, Everyone

It's all fun and games til they go and put you in some strange man's lap.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Little Bundy


His future in America is looking brighter every day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fame! I'm Gonna Live Forever...



The child will kill me if he ever sees the blog when he grows up.

I might as well take a picture of him on the potty and post that too.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Kurban Bayramı!

It's kind of sad for BE because he's here in the US with us. It must be a lot like Christmas in Turkey is for me, when I know it's Christmas but no one else does. It's a very empty feeling.

LE is in his new outfit looking dapper as ever. He's gotten two new toys which he's being very possessive of. In lieu of killing a sheep, we're having lamb chops for dinner and BE and my dad are drinking rakı.

It's a nice holiday.


Unless, of course, you happen to be a sheep.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Most Beautiful Blog Post In The World

Blame
by Shel Silverstein

I wrote such a beautiful book for you
'Bout rainbows and sunshine
And dreams that come true
But the goat went and ate it
(You knew that he would),
So I wrote you another one
Fast as I could.
Of course it could never be
Nearly as great
As that beautiful book
That the silly goat ate.
So if you don't like
This new book I just wrote--
Blame the goat.

That's right. Yesterday I wrote the most beautiful post in the world. I won't tell you what it was about because to do so might tarnish its absent splendor. It was almost finished except for the last paragraph. After LE went to sleep, I returned to wrap things up. I didn't notice Blogger's autosave wasn't working, which often means (if the Internet is working) that something has gone afoul with Blogger. I hit "Publish Post" and got a big fat error message. I went back and discovered that the last bit I'd just written was gone. Then I got mad and said a bad word. Then LE woke up. So earlier today I came back to re-write the forever-lost last paragraph, figuring it would only improve with a second go, and discovered that the whole post had disappeared from the "Drafts" list. Gone. Gone forever.

So at least I have an excuse this time for not posting. The Great Goat of the Universe (or maybe Blogger) was against me. And there's nothing I can do about that but throw my hands up in despair and assure you, dear Reader, that it was the most beautiful post ever.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

This Blog Is Dying

It's true. The blog is slowly dying. I just don't have anything to say. Nothing new, anyway. I'm trying to keep away from the full-on Mommy Blogger thing, not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just that there's plenty of that going on in the world already, and anything I would have to say has probably already been said 57 times by other people, and probably a more cleverly. And I honestly just don't find anything interesting enough about the minutiae of my daily existence to share that with the world. There's enough of that out there too. Some of it is funny. Most of it is mind-numbing. I just can't bring myself to join the ranks of the exhibitionists.

Plus, I'm not actually in Turkey right now. I'm just not paying attention to anything going on there. I don't pay attention to anything going on here either. I pay attention to my kid, and my family, and just try to get as much sleep as possible and not get too fat. I don't even know the date today. I usually know what day it is, but not the date. Which means November 17 came and went with nothing extraordinary happening. Or maybe it did, but I wasn't paying attention. That's the thing about superstitions, I suppose. You have to be looking out for them to be true. Either that, or I jinxed the reality of November 17 by mentioning it publicly. I kind of prefer thinking about it the second way, the jinx-y superstitious way. Superstition can be a nice way to negotiate seemingly cold and unfeeling chains of events in the world. It makes me feel like I have control, or something like it. Come to think of it, this probably goes a long way to explaining why religion continues to be so darned popular.

Don't get me started on religion.

In fact, it often seems best that I don't get started on anything. Since the baby was born, it seems I never have more than 20 minutes at a time to do anything, let alone complete a thought. Right now the baby is at school (he's doing better with it, by the way-- the crying and clinging stopped last week and now he struts around like a big kid when he's there), but BE is calling from downstairs for me, as he does. Turns out he was about to take a shower and discovered the towels were being washed. And he wasn't shouting up the stairs, he was calling softly, thus making it impossible for me to carry on the conversation from here. So I had to go all the way down to see what the hell he wanted, then all the way back up to fetch the towels, then all the way back down to deliver them. Apparently being dressed only in his undershorts prevented him not only from fetching the towels himself, but also from shouting loudly enough so I could hear him without going down the stairs.

Minutiae, right? Who cares? I'm definitely not the first woman to notice having a husband and a baby is a lot like having a small baby and a big baby. That thought is as tired as mother-in-law jokes.

Bri, who pays attention to things in the world, has alerted me to some ridiculous events involving a Motrin commercial and a host of upset babywearing attachment parents. I felt like having a rant about that, but then I changed my mind. A mini-rant will have to do. In a nutshell: mothering and martyring are not the same thing, though I admit the line between them gets blurry at times. Bully for everyone who doesn't want to take anything for the pain they have as a result of hauling a kid around. Bully for everyone who's really into babywearing like it's a defining characteristic of their identities as humans, and bully for their babies who will sit still for that. Is this really the first time a commercial has seemed condescending to or dismissive of its potential viewers? Legions of Women's Studies professors and students would surely have something to say about that. As long as so many people have all this enraged energy to spare, let's get them to pull this Suave commercial too, because it really pisses me off and there's just not enough injustice in the world for me to worry about now that Obama's been elected.

I don't want my blog to die. I just have to try harder. To anyone who still bothers to read me, thanks for bearing with me during this boring time.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Sigh Of Relief


It's been such a long time that America's done anything on the world stage that I can feel really, really proud of, I'd forgotten what it feels like, if I've ever felt it at all. In recent years, it's just been a matter of more cringe-worthy or less cringe-worthy.



Buh-bye, dear. You make me think of a scene from Fiddler On The Roof where Golde says, "May it fall into a river, may it sink into the earth, such a dark and horrible dream."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Censorship In Turkey: Because We Just Don't Have Enough Of It There



That's right. Not just me, but all of Blogspot. At first, the rumour was that Adnan Oktar had gone whining to the courts again that someone wasn't being very nice to him, but it later turned out that it was Digitürk (a Turkish cable provider) that brought the case to the court. I guess some people were posting links to illegal streams of soccer games that Digitürk had the rights to. Rather than punish those bad linkers, or the illegal sources themselves, a court in Diyarbakır ordered the whole of Blogspot blocked. All of it. That's millions of blogs. I'm starting to think someone doesn't quite get how this whole new-fangled Internet thing works.

Like everyone in Turkey hasn't already figured out a number of ways to get around these bans. The Wordpress ban was lifted a few months back, but Youtube continues to be blocked because of a few videos teasing Ataturk, and Adnan Oktar (aka Harun Yahya) also managed to get Richard Dawkins's (a respected biologist and noted atheist) website banned because Dawkins said of Oktar's book, "I am at a loss to reconcile the expensive and glossy production values of this book with the breathtaking inanity of the content." Have a look at Oktar's book, Atlas Of Creation. I think Dawkins was being rather kind.

There are many reasons why all this banning is so frustrating and stupid, too many for me to go into right now because it's LE's dinnertime and I don't think the Wiggles will hold him much longer. I'm sure you can come up with enough angry reasons of your own.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sarah Palin Sex Tapes?

Okay, not really. But it could be true, right? Just keep talking about it like it is true, and let's see how long it takes for the general public to start believing it. It's somehow believable. Just like this is somehow believable:



Here is my hope for Sarah Palin. One day maybe five years from now I'll be sitting in a bar with some friends talking about pop culture moments of the past and someone will go, "How about Sarah Palin?" and someone else will go, "Whoa, now that's a blast from the past. Remember that episode of Gilligan's Island where everyone was allergic to Gilligan?" and several other people at the table will go, "Who the hell is Sarah Palin?" And we'll round off this discussion with a friendly debate about Dick York versus Dick Sargent, or Hannah-Barbera "Jerry" versus Chuck Jones "Jerry."

That's the kind of trivial nonsense I hope Sarah Palin will have become in five years. She's one of those people that makes me embarrassed to be American.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting Old

An aging meme, courtesy of Siobhan. This took much longer to do than I thought it would!


At a certain age women should know who their real friends are, and make a commitment to only wear shoes that fit nicely.

At a certain age men should change their underpants regularly without being reminded, make themselves useful without being told, and stop considering video games a "hobby."

When I was a kid I thought I would join the Marines, or be really famous, or figure out time travel, or run away to live with Peter Pan.

Now that I am older I wish that whole Peter Pan thing had worked out, though I guess in a way, it did.

You know you are too old to be cool when some freaking teenager calls you "Ma'am," or when your brother-in-law's university friends all sit up and try to pretend they aren't stoned when you walk into the room.


You know you are too young to be old when you realize you have no retirement whatsoever, no plans or means of acquiring one, and you just go "Oh, well. It'll sort itself out."


When I was in high school I listened to the music of ... Hmmm. A long answer, but I'll try to keep it short. In my early high school years, it was mostly along the lines of punk, both good and bad, like Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, Suicidal Tendencies, Misfits, Social Distortion, Fishbone, old pre-trendy Red Hot Chili Peppers, stuff like that. The middle high school years were all about being maudlin with the likes of Depeche Mode, New Order, Erasure, Love and Rockets, Sisters Of Mercy, and that was also when I got into late 60s-early 70s music: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, some Beatles and Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, the Doors, the Velvet Underground, and I even thought Simon and Garfunkel were great... This continued into the end of high school years, when I also got into Jane's Addiction, Primus, Pixies-- all that alternative music back when alternative was really alternative. I've also always listened to classical starting from when I was about ten, especially, Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi, Schubert, and Beethoven.

Nowadays I find I like the music of, oddly enough, the high school years. Except for Simon and Garfunkel and the Rolling Stones, I still love the late 60s and the 70s. Then I started really liking the 80s again. I've re-bought some of that stuff on CD and found I like it way better this time around, especially Social Distortion, Misfits, Duran Duran, OMD, Soft Cell, Tears For Fears, Abba... In recent years I've gotten into Johnny Cash, the White Stripes, Scissor Sisters, the Killers, Muse, Fatboy Slim, Crystal Method, and pretty much anything funk. The list doesn't end, actually, and there's probably a whole bunch of stuff I haven't thought of. I suddenly got into girl-punk while pregnant, which was an interesting twist in my life. For some reason I started to feel for Courtney Love. Vivaldi suddenly became less appealing in those months but I couldn't get enough of "Death and the Maiden" and the Trout Quintets by Schubert. Because I'm now too old to be cool, I'm enjoying being released from the responsibility of pretended coolness and I like not feeling the need to worry about my music tastes reflecting on me somehow. I no longer have to feel ashamed to admit, for example, my love of Barry White and Aerosmith and the creeping feeling that I may really like Bon Jovi again.

On my last birthday I almost forgot it was my birthday, but went out for dinner with BE, another couple, and our close-in-age babies. The year before that, I actually completely forgot it was my birthday due to LE's birth. Even my PARENTS forgot it was my birthday.

On my next birthday I want... out to dinner again would be nice, perhaps (gasp!) baby-less this time, though I do think it's fun having them along. It just means less drinking and grown-up talk.

The best birthday present I ever got was my son, born two days before my birthday, and who probably would have been born ON my birthday if I hadn't allowed myself to be bullied into that stupid induction. My second best birthday present was a trip to Europe.

The first time I felt grown up was when I announced to (rather than asked) my parents that I was moving to Turkey, and they seemed to think was how it should be.

The last time I felt like a kid was... I was going to describe a specific situation, but actually, most interactions with my parents-in-law leave me feeling like they think I'm a slightly feeble-minded ten-year-old.

When I read (I can't remember the title!) it changed my life. When I was about 4, I had this reader for children. The first story in there was the riveting "I see a bee, the bee sees me... (and so forth)." After years of being read to, and pretending to read books, then memorizing books and fooling people into thinking I could read them, after years of hearing words sounded out on Sesame Street and Electric Company, this was the book that made the reading penny drop for me. I think I asked my mom about the "ee" sound, then I read the story. For real. Then I read the one after it. Then I read the whole book. It didn't really stop after that, though the books got harder and often, more interesting.

Last year was hard, but the discovery process of life with LE has been almost astounding enough to make up for the other crap.

Next year I hope will not be so hard, and that I figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

Enough about me, as if this blog has ever been about anything else. To continue the meme, I tag bri, Melissa, and Steph. Have fun, ladies!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Trip To The Great American Southwest Pt. II


As I mentioned in Part I of our travels to the Great American Southwest, Cedar City in southern Utah was one of the most typically American places I've ever seen. Being there was the most American I've felt in a long time, in the sense that no one stared at me or asked me to justify George Bush. A non-foreign American, Americanning around doing American things. It was fun for awhile, but I wouldn't want to live there.

Following our day-long driving tour of the mountains, we needed something to do to entertain ourselves until dinner. So we decided to go bowling. It's not just because we're American that we decided this. It's also because bowling is probably one of the few activities available in Cedar City, and lucky for us, it wasn't league night. It was also the night of Homecoming for the university, so the bowling alley was nice and empty. A good thing, given that LE, in his Wiggles daze, had failed to take his afternoon nap. He didn't want to go bowling. He wanted more Wiggles. He was quite loud about this.

But we took him bowling anyway. Once LE discovered that bowling involves balls-- lots of big multi-colored shiny balls-- he realized he was okay with it. Not that he's strong enough to lift a bowling ball. But that didn't stop him from trying to lift every ball that lined the racks behind the lanes. It didn't take him long to figure out when it was his turn, or that hitting lots of pins was good, while hitting a just few pins was ho-hum and everyone clapping for him was just being patronizing. On his first try, he hit nine pins, and then tried to run down the lane, at which point he fell on his bottom.


I thought the best part of bowling was that we were able to rent little tiny bowling shoes.


So that was bowling. Sweet.


My aunt and her family live in Las Vegas, where my mother was also born and raised. Trips to Las Vegas have never been anything like the TV show for me. As a kid, Las Vegas was mostly about going fishing with my grandfather and getting spoiled rotten by everyone. We always wanted to go swimming, and my grandmother was happy to take us to the pool at her neighbor's house across the street on the condition that we attended church and Sunday school. We didn't like either one. The only Sunday school I remember is a lesson where the teacher held up pictures of different things that God had made. She held up a picture of a whale and said "The white whale," but she pronounced it "hwite hwale." I thought that was really funny because I was like five or something. Afterwards, when we were invited to mention other things God made, I may have said that God made butts (or something to that effect), but it's possible that's just a made-up memory of something I wish I had done.


Anyway, I just brought all this up so you don't go getting any crazy ideas about LE and I blowing it up on the Vegas strip. Vegas, to me, is about family time, though I admit someday I'd like to go there as a tourist and do the proper tacky, glitzy, over-the-top Vegas thing. They have lots of things to do there besides gambling, which is nice because, having grown up in Reno, gambling holds absolutely zero appeal for me. And nowadays they have these new-fangled slot machines that run on credit or something, so the sound of the casino, while still zany with exciting bells and music, was sadly lacking in the cheerful chink of coins falling into the slots' metal trays.

Speaking of gambling, growing up I was always told casino floors were the dirtiest, nastiest places on earth, after airport floors and public toilet floors. Here is a picture of LE throwing a fit on the floor of the Mirage. My mom was scandalized.


And just for fun, I'd like to take moment to scandalize both grandmothers equally by including a picture of LE outside with no shirt, wet hair, and surrounded by dogs.


Yes, yes, I know. Cutest.baby.ever.

Fortunately for LE, the Mirage also has dolphins which was the real reason we were there. Determined as he was to throw his fit for the rest of the day, the dolphins pretty much brought an end to that.


This was part of the Mirage known as Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden. It is definitely not what came to my mind when I thought about what Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden might contain. Since I was taking my little boy there, it's probably for the best.

Another attraction of the Secret Garden was a baby dolphin, just 17 days old. Dolphins are cute in any case, so naturally a tiny dolphin is unspeakably cute.





Awww.

And this concludes our adventures in the Great American Southwest. As you can see, I've pretty much given up my self-imposed restriction on writing too many squishy, dribbling posts about my wonderful kid. I hope to have something a little more substantive to write about in the future, but until then, this will have to do.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My New Nanny

Remember I once wrote something about not wanting to leave the boy in front of the TV too much? And how I was all against using the TV as a babysitter, except in small doses so I could eat breakfast?

That was funny. Hahahahahaha. See how I laugh?



That was before we discovered these fellows:




For the kid-less or otherwise uninitiated, these are the Wiggles, a kids' musical act from Australia. My aunt brought LE his first Wiggles video a couple months ago (along with Old School Sesame Street, which, as it turned out, I liked WAY more than the boy). When I watched it, I thought, "Okay, it's just nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes are okay, and he should learn them. And anyway, the boy likes songs. And dancing. And men. And men dancing." So even though the smiling sincerity of these guys freaked me out a little, and even though their antics made me feel a little embarrassed for them, and even though I knew it'd take years to get the songs out of my head, I let LE watch the Wiggles.


And watch it he did. Then he watched it again. And again. And again. And again. And again. You see where this is going. The more he watched the Wiggles, the more he liked it. Sometimes he dances along. Sometimes he just stares, frozen, with his mouth gaping open. I can actually leave the room to go to the bathroom, or do something that is very enticing for LE, like open the dishwasher or the snacks cupboard and he doesn't even glance away.


Now, you cannot even utter "The Wiggles" in his presence unless you plan to watch it shortly thereafter-- LE hears that and screeches with joy and jumps up and down and starts running in circles, waving his hands frantically. The kid can't talk, but he can sing, or at least hum, Wiggles songs more or less recognizably. And as it turns out, he can eat from his own bowl with his own spoon without being strapped into a high chair to keep him from racing around, and without throwing anything or spilling the slightest drop if he gets to watch the Wiggles.


Seriously, I think these guys are slipping some kind of baby subliminal messages in there because there is nothing, not even nursing, that holds my kid's attention like this show. The DVD conveniently restarts itself from the main menu without my doing anything. LE's record is 6 times through, on the DVD in my aunt's SUV during an all-day tour of Southern Utah. Not once did he lose interest, though I'm pretty sure my cousins were getting ready to kill someone.

Maybe he's learning something. Or maybe it's turning his brain to mush. I'm going slightly insane with having "This Old Man" and "See Saw Margery Daw" stuck in my head for days on end.

But I have to say, I'm kind of liking my new nanny.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Most Evil Mommy In the World

Every Tuesday, my parents' dog, Pippin, goes to doggy daycare. It's like my vision of dog heaven: a large covered area full of dogs romping around, dog toys, and a wading pool. Pippin enjoys doggy daycare, I think, and comes home in a bounding frenzy, stinking of dog spit and dank with the water from the wading pool. Plus it's good for her, getting to hang out and play with other dogs.

Some people send their dogs to daycare because they work all day and don't like leaving their dogs home alone. While my mom is teaching most of the day, my dad's office is quite close to home and he's more free to come home and visit Pippin and take her for walks and stuff. Doggy daycare is more to break up her routine and give her some proper dog time with her dog colleagues.

LE would absolutely love going to doggy daycare. Dogs, toys, balls, a wading pool full of nasty dog water... it would be like LE's vision heaven. Plus, they have a live webcam on site, so I could tune in from home and watch the dogs and my baby frolicking together. But I think they probably have some sort of policy about letting babies go there, and I would guess there are some people in the world who wouldn't think too highly of such a thing. So I got to thinking, wouldn't it be nice if there were something like doggy daycare, but for LE? A large covered area with babies running around and toys and perhaps a wading pool? Turns out I'm an idiot and there is such a thing. It's just called regular daycare. In fact, it's just called daycare, no need to specify 'regular.'

So we found one nearby that takes kids his age part-time, and LE officially started daycare last week, for two half-days a week. He gets some Big Boy independent time to play with other kids his age, and I get a bit of a break from chasing him up and down the stairs. This might help to explain why I've been managing to post here more than twice a month. We've been calling daycare Baby School to help LE feel big. Sometimes, when he's really in a pique, we call it Baby University.

Big, however, is not really what LE needs to feel. Unlike Pippin, LE doesn't start jumping around and squealing when it's time to go to Baby School. Quite the opposite. He realizes that the Mommy Appendage he thought was attached to him at all times in fact isn't attached to him, and he howls. A lot. Today he howled as soon as we walked into the room full of babies, where the toddlers hang out until their minder comes to take them into the toddler room. Then all the babies started howling. I'm pretty sure the baby minder hates me because she's the one who has to get all the small babies settled back down.

In addition to red-faced howling, LE clings to me. He clings with all his might. He buries his snotty, tear-stained face into my neck. He goes, "Mamamamamamaaaaa" which is something he says all the time-- to me, to his grandparents, to the dog, to passing strangers, to his oatmeal-- but when he says it crying it's almost too much to bear. Nothing will distract LE from his howling, not even the things he loves most, like balls or crawling babies. Any attempt to distract him by pointing out one of these things just upsets him more.

Looking at it from his perspective, I can see why being left at daycare is upsetting for him. Today marks the ninth time in his little life that LE has been without me for more than an hour or two. Who can blame him for thinking I'm not coming back? After I prise him from my neck and get out of Baby School as fast as I can (like ripping off a bandage) I feel just awful. I feel like the most evil Mommy in the world. I feel a small sense of relief at having a few free hours ahead of me, and then I feel even worse for feeling a little bit good. I think about how LE probably feels about a thousand times sadder and more bereft than I do, and it's all I can do not to go back and scoop him up him right then.

On his first day of Baby School, I started getting antsy about picking him up two hours before it was time to go. I had visions of him there crying the whole time, but kept trying to reassure myself that after I left he'd started having such a good time with the toys and other kids that he wouldn't even remember me when I got there, much less want to go home. When I arrived, the kids in his class were playing outside. LE was off by himself pushing a car around. I called him a few times and he didn't respond, and I thought "Whew! He's okay after all!" but then he turned and saw me and, both squealing with joy and crying, ran up to hug me. This just made me feel worse and I almost cried. Actually, I did a little bit, but sucked it up and tried to act cool while his minder recounted his day's activities to me. LE cried all the way out to the car, alternately clinging to my neck and patting my hair and face, as though making sure I was really there. I cuddled him and wiped at his grubby face and smelled that weird many-little-kids-smell of kindergartens and pre-schools that lingered in his hair.

The second day of Baby School was even worse. The classroom has windows to the hallway so you can look in and spy on your kid in action. I went straight for the door but my dad stopped me and said, "Look!" There was LE, sitting all alone at a tiny little table in a tiny little chair, finishing up his lunch while the other kids were settling themselves for their naps (and how the hell anyone gets them to do this is one mystery I'll never fathom). I wasn't going to cry but there was music playing in the room that must have been calculated to make me lose it-- Kermit singing The Rainbow Connection. So not only was I all upset all over again that Jim Henson died, there was my little boy sitting in a little chair politely poking his peas with a spoon. Upon seeing me, his reaction was much the same as the first day.

As it was the third day. On the third day, his minder said he'd cried for a full 35 minutes, until they served breakfast and he calmed down. She said it was the first day they'd seen him smile. While playing dress-up, LE put on a purple fake-fur hat that he wouldn't take off until lunchtime. The only other hat he's ever voluntarily worn (since his hands have been coordinated enough to remove a hat, I mean) was a pink two-pointed ballerina fairy princess hat with sparkly feathers and long netting veils. So it would seem my boy has a taste for the, uh, flamboyant shall we say?

The voluntary wearing of a hat isn't the only growing up LE's done since starting Baby School. Sitting un-tethered in a chair to eat is a new development, plus he's been amazing all and sundry by suddenly learning how to feed himself with a spoon. From his own plate. Without throwing the plate full of food on the floor. So perhaps it really is Big Boy school after all.

I'm sort of handling it. The separation, I mean. While it's nice having some time to myself that won't end at any second because of the baby waking up, I'm still a bit of a wreck while he's gone, and it usually takes me about thirty minutes to figure out what to do with myself. All the time I'm missing the little fellow and feeling fragile, I berate myself for being such a wuss. Most mothers, after all, go back to work and have to leave their babies all day. My dear friend Bri is struggling with this, and my heart goes out to her. I don't know how these mommies do it. The only way I'm managing is that LE is at home most of the time, giving me a chance to get a little sick of him and forget the awful silence his absence makes.

So both of us are learning something. And neither of us likes it very much. We'll press on though, and hope it improves.

New things suck.

A Trip To The Great American Southwest: Pt. I

It seems like we've done a lot of travelling on this trip home. LE's been to San Francisco, Seattle, and most recently, Las Vegas and Utah, where we spent a week with my aunt and her family. This was, for me, my first time in Utah. I honestly never had any desire to go there before. My parents and brother once drove through Utah on a road trip from Oregon to Colorado. They said they stopped at a McDonald's for coffee, which, Utah being Mormon country, they of course didn't have. Apparently the cashier said in surprise, "You know, you're the second people who've asked for that today." So based on that, I decided Utah was not for me.


Utah is also funny about alcohol. We stopped at a Nevada border town to pick up a stash for my cousin who goes to college in Cedar City, Utah. Technically, we smuggled to alcohol into Utah, since all alcohol in Utah is supposed to have some special stamp to make it legal. They do have alcohol in Utah, though I guess it's expensive and perhaps hard to find. All the beer, I'm told, is 3% alcohol. And supposedly it's forbidden to have alcohol, even in your own house, within 70 miles of a Mormon temple.


Cedar City, Utah is like the prototype I have in my mind of "An American City." An old-fashioned Main Street. Wide, tree-lined residential streets. Brick houses and tidy lawns. A big open park. A town hall with columns in front. People who are just as gosh-darned nice as can be. Out at my cousin's house, which is in a new development, there was a dead end at the end of her street. Beyond the dead end was nothing. The end of the world. Just yellow dirt and stones and sagebrush and flat ground until the blue mountains beyond. Very beautiful but very eerie, the sudden shift from manicured green lawns to nothingness. And stupid me for not taking a picture.

They had coffee in Cedar City. Folger's, I'm pretty sure. And I'm pretty sure they slipped us decaf. I remembered how, growing up in Reno, we used to always make fun of the Mormon kids who had to drink caffeine-free Coke. Honestly, I just don't get religions that go out of their way to ban a bunch of stuff. Usually fun stuff. Or good-tasting stuff. Or sublime stuff like wine and coffee. You'd think God would have better things to worry about. But maybe not.


Near Cedar City, up in the mountains in an aspen forest was my aunt and uncle's family cabin. They've been working on it for years, and it's a wonderful, cozy place to escape the world. I took LE out our first night there to see the stars. I'm pretty sure it was the first time he's properly seen stars, and I think he was impressed. The cabin, however, had one of the most terrifying things I've yet to be confronted with as the mother of a toddler-- a wood stove, which was the heat source for the house. Now, I know that many generations of children somehow survived the presence of wood stoves in even more cramped quarters than this (hell, many children in Turkey are still not being killed or maimed by them), but I swear that thing took about twenty years off my life. We got LE turned off the idea of touching the wood stove with a combination of telling him it was dangerous and yucky (he hates yucky more than dangerous, and still won't go down a slide that had a big bird poop on it one morning three weeks ago because I mentioned the poop was yucky), but there were several times he almost fell into the thing when it was lit.


LE's first nature walk was less than stellar. We left the path and had a good look at stuff under some tree bark and that was okay. But we continued off the path into grass that was about as tall as LE. A spear of grass poked him right in the eye and that was the end of that.


Our second day there, we went on a long drive through the mountains. I grew up in mountain desert country so when I go back to it, I'm often either unimpressed or filled with some sort of nostalgic longing. But this part of Southern Utah was like nothing I've ever seen before.





I'll leave you with those. More on the Great American Southwest in a later post.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sir Mix-A-Lot

Saw him live in concert the other night.


That's right, Sir Mix-A-Lot. He likes big butts and he doesn't lie.

Sweet.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rock 'n' Roll

A few days ago, we took LE to see Jack Johnson, his first rock concert. It was way past his bedtime, but he seemed to enjoy it in a somewhat zombie-like state.


My cousin Adam is the drummer for Jack Johnson, so we got the Super VIP Nowhere Is Off-Limits Backstage Passes. This meant we not only got to go backstage with the sound guys and roadies and huge crates and lots of wires, but that we actually got to hang out onstage, in the wings. We all took turns with this, with me spending part of the time sitting on the grass outside the stage on a blanket with an increasingly fussy baby. As the show was starting, LE was getting a diaper change. The crowd roared when the band went on, and LE started clapping too, certain, no doubt, that the applause was for him and his tiny bottom winking under the stars. A mere wooden fence separated this particular diaper change from several thousand people.

There once was a day when I envied the people who got to go backstage and hang out with the band. I imagined it must be the greatest thing ever to get to be onstage in the wings while they played. So glamorous! When I finally got my chance, however, I was too greatly occupied with LE to even feel nervous about being in front of thousands of people, with hair that needed to be brushed and a grubby old sweatshirt. I was busy keeping the earphones on LE in order to protect what I'm sure is his Super Hearing, given his ability to hear an airplane overhead when there's a lawnmower next to us. He didn't much care for the earphones offstage, but onstage he was too fascinated with the musicians and flashing lights to worry about his ears much, especially once he discovered the video screens behind the band. Take a kid onstage at a rock concert and what he wants to do is watch TV. I was holding him tightly lest he struggle out of my arms and make an escape across the stage while the band was playing. I had visions of him finding buttons to push and cords to pull up there. He has a way of pushing the one button (or combination of buttons) on my computer-- a button I didn't even know existed-- that causes everything I was doing to disappear. If there were such a cord or button on Jack Johnson's stage, LE surely would have found it. I don't imagine that would go over very well.

But I can't imagine Jack Johnson being too angry about such a thing. He has his own kids, and he seems pretty easygoing, so I would guess such a kid-antic could maybe be amusing for him. LE's favorite part of the show was when they sang Upside Down, the theme-song from Curious George, and dedicated the song to the band members' families who'd showed up. LE can't sit through all of Curious George yet (I tried to get him to watch it on the airplane on a portable DVD player, but he was mostly interested in whacking the DVD player with his sippy cup), but he certainly likes that song, which plays on repeat through the menu on the DVD, and which is LE's favorite part of the movie. He looked awfully surprised when they played that song.

And I was so pleased to introduce LE to Adam. I've always had such a soft spot for him and to me, he was the coolest guy ever even before he became a rock star. Whenever we come to his shows, he's so pleased, like a kid in a school play who can't believe anyone's bothered to show up, and he always makes a fuss over us even though he's busy. When I was in boarding school, Adam (who'd attended the same school and got it what it was like there) was my cool older cousin who would come and get me off campus every so often, causing great envy amongst my peers because he was so handsome. He acted like it was no big thing, but at the time, it was huge. Now here he is getting us Super VIP Nowhere Is Off-Limits Backstage Passes and acting like it's no big thing, even making sure my baby has a set of earphones that fit his little head and fresh water in his sippy cup. But it's a very big thing.



Too bad LE won't remember. But I'll be sure and tell him many times about his very first rock concert. May it be the first of many.

**Special thanks to our friend Lisa for the photos, as I was too dumb to remember to bring my camera...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Partial Monty

In the interest of keeping the blog alive in the face of not much to say, I give you LE.




He's started stripping in his bed if I don't wake up as soon as he starts huffling around in there. Diaper and all. One night, I went to comfort him in the dark and he handed me something plastic and wet. Of course it was his diaper, only pee fortunately. I turned on the light and there he was, blinking and naked with his jammies down around his ankles.

Yesterday morning it was considerably less cute. He was going "Shooo!" as he does when something is stinky, and I dragged my sorry ass out of bed to change him. I turned on the light and he went "Shooo!" again. Shooo indeed. There was poop all over the boy and all over the bed. He was plopped into the bath before Mommy was even awake all the way.

The troubling part about this (besides the fact that he did it again this morning, fortunately just with a pee diaper) is that I'm not sure he makes the connection between his busyness with the zipper on his jammies and the enticing diaper tabs and the result of being shivering cold and covered in poo.

And very, very stinky.

Potty training freaks me out, but I do look forward to a time when I have less daily involvement with someone else's poop.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nostalji

It's been forever since I've posted anything, because there's nothing of note really going on for me here.

Except for things like this:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Road Trip! A Journey Into America's Rural Underbelly And Also San Francisco

This past week we loaded the baby into the car and drove off to San Francisco. It's about a ten hour trip, so we broke it up into two days, stopping halfway through in Yreka where my mother's aunt lives. My great aunt. LE's great-great aunt. It astounds me that there's a great-great aunt in his life. Despite a serious stroke a couple years back, our aunt is surprisingly spry.







Yreka is, well, a little frightening. One thing that was frightening was the smoke from the nearby California wildfires that everyone there just seemed to be ignoring. The name 'Yreka' (pronounced 'why-reeka') is a little frightening too, as though the poor town got stuck with an unfortunate misspelling, then had to change to an unfortunate mispronunciation as well, in order to differentiate itself from the more accurately spelled Eureka, California. Yreka is little more than a depressed burg full of under-employed rednecks, old people, and Christians (of the variety who like threatening billboards and bumper stickers like "Jesus Christ: He's our Lord, not a swear word"). Some people seem to be all three of those.



On the way back from San Francisco, we had breakfast in Yreka at a place called Grandma's House. The outside of the restaurant was decorated like a gingerbread house, I suppose in a misdirected attempt to be cute, where the decorators forgot that inside the original fairytale gingerbread house dwelt a witch who lured children inside so she could kill them and eat them. If there was a witch inside Grandma's House, she was clearly mad. It looked like someone squeezed a chintz monster until he vomited several layers of floral prints, lace, and wide-eyed kittens onto every surface. Everything was for sale, including an entire shelf of clocks shaped like fat little animals whose tails wagged with the ticking, paintings of a fair-haired, flowing robed Jesus looking up at the sky with dewy spaniel eyes, and embroidered tapestries with inspirational messages. A bookshelf was loaded with titles like Emergency Prayers and Learning to Fly: One Girl's Inspirational Journey With God. I won't even tell you what the bathroom was like.


I do love it though, that there are towns in America with places like Grandma's House, and how the locals seem to be completely unconscious of how bizarre it is. The locals seemed to find the restaurant charming, well-decorated, and not at all out of place in reality. And in Grandma's defense, they served up a lovely breakfast and everyone there was just as nice and cheerful as could be.


And Yreka also sports this place, which I found just priceless.


One thing I love to do while riding in the car is play with the radio. There are very few people I know who will put up with this crap, and my mom is one of them. BE hates it. He lets me change the station maybe two times, then it lands on a song he likes which I usually hate and he won't let me play with it anymore. He's one of those guys who claims to despise Ibrahim Tatlises and his ilk, yet can't pass up the chance to hear one of those songs and he sings along, waving one arm lovingly with the music. BE's car has a feature which prevents me from playing much with the radio-- the power to control the station with the same stick that controls the windshield wipers. In any case, playing with the radio in Turkey is unrewarding because of the lack of variety. It's gotten worse since Radyo Nostalji sold out to some stupid company that changed it from foreign classics to Turkish "classics," as though anyone misses Turkish Pop from five years ago. It is this same company, I'm told, that infused MTV with Turkish videos, as though there weren't already enough Turkish video stations on TV.


But enough with the asides. My mom lets me play with the radio, and in America I hardly even have to play with it very much before I find a Classic Rock station I'm happy to camp on for awhile. This was all well and good until we got near Grant's Pass, Oregon, in the mountains near the border. The signal got so bad that even I wasn't willing to put up with it long enough for one more Led Zeppelin song, so I hit the seek button. At that point, only four stations were available: two Country/Western stations (one that billed itself as "Not your parents' country music" and I thought, "Dang, no Willie Nelson?") and two Christian stations. Not the kind like in Portland where they play Christian music that's just second-rate rock or pop with Christian-ish lyrics. They were the kind where they let some lunatic rant on about Hell and fornication and the Sodomites. Before my mom got mad and switched off the radio (her Baptist upbringing gives her a short tolerance for these screeds), a guy was going on about the Antichrist. He was using a lot of words I knew, interspersed with quotes from scripture, but what he was saying made no sense. It was about the Middle East and the West and the coming of the Antichrist as foretold in the Book of Revelation. I figured because we're in America in these post-9/11 times (American shorthand for "We're wary of Muslims and the Terrorists are out to get us all"), the Antichrist this man was talking about must have been in the shadowy Middle East. But since I've been in Turkey for so long I'm also used to hearing the idea that the Antichrist is from the decadent West. From what the guy on the radio was saying, I really couldn't be sure which from direction I should be watching for the Antichrist. He used lots of words and phrases that didn't exactly go together and one would have to be very well versed in cipherin' (as opposed to literate) to figure it all out. In the end, I asked my mom what the Antichrist is because I'm pretty sure it's not the devil, and she said she didn't know because the Baptists didn't talk about that so much in her day.



As for the wildfires in California, the smoke was unbelievable. Twenty minutes into the smoke, we had headaches and our eyes and noses were burning. For two days, LE looked like he'd just been crying. It was like sitting downwind from a campfire and no amount of hating white rabbits would make it go away. I felt so sorry for the people who live in that, especially the high school kids in Redding out running around and doing push-ups for summer football training. Any sane, responsible educator of kids would, I should think, cancel the training or at least move it to the gym. But I guess in Redding (which is like a larger version of Yreka), high school football is just too damned important to alter the training schedule just because of a little smoke. I'll bet in Redding there's a lot of gambling on high school football just out of a lack of anything better to do. And who knows? Maybe training in the smoke gives the team some kind of advantage, like their lungs will be that much more powerful in smoke-free air.


There are a lot of things I've missed out on being away from America for so long. For example, I've never seen Arnold Schwarzenegger behaving in his capacity as governor of California. But there he was on the news, old Arnie the Terminator (a joke I'm sure has been done to death here, but I haven't been around for that either), talking about the wildfires. I can't believe anyone voted for him in seriousness. It's surreal. At least Jesse Ventura had a nice down-home way about him. With Arnold, I just kept thinking, "Nice night for a walk, eh?"


San Francisco was San Francisco. Exactly the same and sort of different from when I lived there about fifteen years ago. We were only there for a short time-- enough for two wonderful Italian meals at one restaurant that has changed and one that's exactly the same, plus some shopping where we bought very little because even though the stores in downtown are way more fabulous than the ones in Oregon, they have more or less the same stuff, but Oregon has no sales tax. Still, LE came out of it with some very dapper things, and I got a pair of shoes on sale. Then we had lunch with my uncle. My uncle is a little intense but I haven't seen him in awhile and it was nice seeing someone who was in my childhood. He gave LE a beautiful handmade print he'd done himself that I think will be a great thing for LE to have in his pre-verbal, pre-memory consciousness.


Then it was back on the road for the same endless drive through the same places. LE was again quite the little travel-trooper. When we got home my dad made Manhattans and I remembered, like I've done so many times since I've been here, why it's so very, very good to be at home.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hee!

So there I was, kind of upset with myself for not being able to think of anything to blog about, here in America where things aren't as funny and I'm trying to resist the urge to post really cute pictures of LE doing really cute things here, and I find this comment on an old post. Guess which post it was:

this is so pathetic its not gay and not all turkish people do the wrestling.... its like saying spain messing around with bulls is gay but its not because its the way they have fun and if you can't except that then thats your problem.....AND TARKAN IS NOT GAY AND NEVER WAS.....just because someone told you he's gay doesn't mean he is everyone wants to with him how do you know maybe there is some gay man that wants to be with him......you cant just accuse people of being gay.......this article is pathetic and anyone who believes tarkan is gay is pathetic to.......



Sigh.



I often wonder if this so-called 'anonymous' is one angry Turk, or several.



All I can say is this: When we start sentences, we use capital letters. Proper nouns like 'Turkish' and 'Spain' also begin with capital letters. When we end sentences, we use periods. Ellipses might have dramatic effect when used occasionally, but not when they're used to end EVERY SENTENCE. I can't stress this enough. Overuse of ellipses is incredibly annoying. I'm sure there are other EFL teachers out there who will confirm this.



And I'm not trying to be mean by engaging in ad hominem attacks on someone's English. I applaud our dear Anonymous (or all of you) for ranting on my blog in your second language. I think it's quite brave of you. But these very basic rules of punctuation are the same in Turkish. Learn them. It might make you seem a little more clever.



Or maybe not.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bookworms

We readers of books are few and far between, not just in Turkey, but increasingly in the US. A look in a Borders or a Barnes & Noble will tell you this. For Christmas I got a gift certificate for one of these (I can't remember which, as I can't tell them apart except for perhaps their color schemes), and I had a terrible time finding anything I might want to read, or that I hadn't already read. Books with pictures are big there, and coffee table books, how-to books, self help books, and spiritual books, but there is very little by way of literary fiction or meaningful non-fiction. Plenty of spy novels and bodice rippers though. At the moment (I'm back in America now), we have a particularly difficult relative visiting. She's a lot of baggage and we deal with her as best as we can, for my mother's sake. After a particularly trying evening, I whispered to my dad the rather cruel fact that this woman doesn't really have any redeeming qualities. Then, despite everything, I had to take this statement back. This relative is in the minority of Americans who reads books, proper books. She's reading one right now. It's not Faulkner or anything, but it's not a bodice-ripper either.



In Turkish films, foreigners are often (somewhat comically) portrayed alone in a cafe reading, as though no one can quite figure out this bizarre foreign behavior (though is it reading or being alone they can't figure out? Turks don't seem big on either one). Illiteracy in Turkey is high (I'm too lazy to look up the numbers and it varies wildly by region and gender, according to this), and in general, it's not really a 'reading' culture. This isn't meant exactly negatively. Turkey is just more of an oral culture, where the written word doesn't play as big of a big role as it does in Western countries. As a small example, I think I've only seen a fellow shopper with a list in the grocery store once. I think it's interesting though, to see where one skill is less used, another is more emphasized. In general, Turks are way better at memorizing things than Americans are. Students impressed me with their memorized oral presentations. Sometimes the presentations were pretty good, where it was obvious the student knew what he or she was talking about. Other times, a student would have memorized an entire ten-minute presentation of text cut-pasted from the Internet of which he or she understood next to nothing. This didn't bode well for learning English or for their grades, but it absolutely astounded me how these kids could memorize this much of something which amounted to nonsense for them. I suppose this came in handy for them in reciting the Koran in Arabic. Finding a clever way to use these memorization skills to actually help them learn English was something I never quite got around to while I was teaching, but there must be a way.



Memorization is a skill that Americans are losing. Those of my parents' generation had to memorize poetry or Shakespeare, which they can still recite to this day. Even my high school still relied on somewhat old-fashioned and traditional approaches to teaching literature, so I also memorized bits here and there, though nothing like what my predecessors had to do. In America though, people are reading less and less without having other skills to make up for it. One thing that never fails to surprise me here (and something I manage to conveniently forget while I'm away) is many Americans' seeming pride in their ignorance, and their fierce determination to avoid having knowledge of any kind foisted upon them. It's like some people actually get personally offended by people who know things, or who read more in the newspaper besides the sports stats and celebrity gossip. In Turkey, uneducated people often strike me as a little ashamed of their ignorance, and are somewhat deferent towards people they perceive as learned. In America a lot of people are, as a friend of mine once said, "Ign'ant and lovin' it." This same friend was recently confronted with an adult American student who got belligerent about his name (an easily pronounceable Norwegian variation of a common English name). When he told her where his family and name come from, she huffily responded, "That means nothing to me."



And remember, people like this vote, though Americans are notoriously lackluster in that department as well. But I'd say the Bush administration is a symptom of Americans' willful ignorance, rather than the cause.



I have this really cool friend who passes through Turkey a few times a year, and has been doing so since the early 90s. He's of my father's generation, and like me, he's a reader. When you live in a foreign country and you read a lot, books in English become one of the most valuable things you can find. Sure, they can be had in Istanbul, but they're expensive. It's an extravagant cost I'm always willing to eat, but my appetite for books exceeds some people's monthly incomes, and shrinking weight limits for baggage make it hard to haul enough books to tide me over until my next trip home. My friend has the same problem, so whenever we meet up, we swap a pile of books. I'm always happy to let a book go once I've read it. They don't serve any decorative purpose in my house. The shelves get so full they just start to be a hazard for the little one, and the books are in danger of getting abused and nibbled at.



It always feels a little funny, handing our sacks of books across the table once our coffee is finished and we're waiting for the bill. I feel a little like a secret agent or a drug dealer. I last met my friend a couple of weeks ago in Sultanahmet. When we swapped the books, the restaurant manager, still bleary-eyed from being up the night before for the European cup quarter-finals, came up and said in jolly Sultanahmet English, "School!" My friend and I must have looked a little confused because the waiter clarified. "Books! Books! School!" He then asked in Turkish what we could possibly be doing with so many books, as though that much reading material was somehow suspicious.


I look forward to these books swaps every few months (though admittedly it's been longer than that with the birth of LE). I like that my friend, on his way from Saudi Arabia to Bulgaria, takes the trouble during his 24-hour Istanbul stop to meet up, discuss teaching and politics and whatever else under the sun, and trade books.


We bookworms of the world are few and far between, and we have to stick together.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Uh-Oh

One thing in Turkey that annoys me terribly is people's inability to queue. Sometimes the line is merely a crowded free-for-all with lots of pushing, while other times there is clearly a line and some woman just saunters to the front of it as though she's so much cleverer than everyone else. People always let this happen, which I find especially galling.

I like to think that I've not adopted these kinds of behaviors myself, but there was an incident this past Wednesday when I arrived in Portland airport after 16 hours of travelling alone with LE who was, in his defense, stunningly good for all but three hours of the flight.

We whipped through passport control, which meant, according to Murphy's Law or something, that our bags would lost or, at best, the last ones out. They were the last ones out and LE wasn't happy after the hour-long wait. Plus, another large flight landed shortly after ours, so it was very crowded. Plus, we had a lot of bags-- three large suitcases on a cart with a carseat teetering at the top.

By the time I'd hefted all our bags onto the cart, a long line had formed to get to the exit. As I was muscle-ing the cart along with one hand and the stroller with the other (pushing a stroller with one hand is unnecessarily challenging, as it tends to veer wildly from side to side for no reason), I looked at the line which snaked all the way back to passport control, surrounded on both sides with an obstacle course of suitcases, people, children, and carts that would have been challenging to navigate even without my own enormously laden and unwieldy cart and the veering stroller. It's not like I could have left one thing in order to get the other thing. Plus, at the front of the line was another line of Indians and Germans merging in because they were so much cleverer than everyone who'd joined the line at the back.

So I made a command decision. I used the Turkish principle of queuing up, pretended I was invisible and just started merging into middle of the line from where I stood. It was hardly as seamless as I might have liked, given all that I was pushing and the stroller taking off at whatever angles suited it.

And of course, because it's America, I got busted. A man asked me where I was going. "I'm going to the exit," I responded cheerfully, not looking at him as I patted LE's fussing head. "Are you going to customs?" he asked. "Yes," I replied. "There's a sign there that says 'Customs' on it." I was trying to pretend I was either very stupid or very clever. It just made him mad. "There is a line, you know. It starts back there." I then regretted that I hadn't just started yammering at him in Turkish, pretending I didn't speak English, though in retrospect, it probably would have just caused him to start saying everything louder-- he seemed like that sort of fellow. So I opted for snappishness. It was all I could do after not having slept for 24 hours. And I do expect people to at least have a modicum of sympathy for someone who's just done a trans-Atlantic flight alone with a 16-month old child. "I know. It's just that I have cart and a stroller and I really don't feel like trying to push them through all that stuff." "I have two bags too," he replied, motioning to the two small bags he was wheeling behind himself. I stared at him until he looked away. "It's hardly the same thing," I told him. He started to say something else, so I opted for sarcastic shaming. "Look, if it's so important for you to go first, please just go ahead. It'll save you lots of time." It worked. "Oh no," he said with false solicitousness,"You're already halfway in the line anyway." "Yes, I am." I said. And that was the end of it. "Some people," I said softly to LE as I patted his head, "Aren't very nice." Meaning I'd even managed to justify my own rudeness to myself as correct behavior.

So sometimes the modes of our adopted cultures come in handy. If he'd continued to make a problem, I suppose I would have had to go for the next line of Turkish defence, which is loudly declaring him to be impolite and what a shame it all is.

And I have to say, I was ever so pleased that he got pulled out for a customs search anyway. Even with that, and even though he must have been on the shuttle after mine, he was still out of the gate before I was, because that's how hard it was to push all that stuff. I noticed as he passed me that he was helping a very frail old man, which was probably why he had two bags to wheel, and I couldn't help but think what a jerk he was to make that poor old man go and stand from the back of the line.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Too girly?

This past week, I went to the Yeşilköy pazar, one of my favorites. Even using LE's stroller as a battering ram through crowds and up and down the gutters that run down the middle of the aisles didn't ruin the experience. One stall was selling onesies, three for 10YTL (about $8). I couldn't resist this polka-dot one:



I recognize this isn't a style that's usual for a boy, but I found it somehow on the cutting-edge of baby boy fashion. Very brave and metro. And LE seemed to think it was just the thing for a sweaty, humid afternoon.



BE, however (who is, by the way, convinced I'm trying to make LE gay) says it's too girly.



What do you think?

A Plug, and a Conundrum

First, the plug. For a fantastic description of what traffic is like in Istanbul, read Siobhan's post about driving here. I'm terribly impressed with her for getting a licence and braving the morons on the road. Hats off to her and my other foreign friends brave enough to drive in Istanbul.

Next, the conundrum. I've written in the past about my cleaner. A couple months ago, despite having been told by doctors she couldn't get pregnant, a wee surprise appeared. When she told me, it was one of those awful moments of hearing someone is pregnant and not being sure if it's good or bad news. Fortunately she took my hesitation as a linguistic misunderstanding.

But the poor woman wasn't in the best of health in any case, and this pregnancy is really giving her a beating. She's been hospitalized three times already, once for heavy bleeding and twice for intense morning sickness and fainting spells. I feel so sorry for her, I really do. Plus, I'm not sure the heavy work of cleaning along with the exposure to the huge amounts of bleach and detergents she uses are really the best thing for her. But she's an adult and it's not my decision. And of course she needs the work now more than ever.

The upshot of all of this is that she hasn't been able to come for the last couple of weeks. I'm a shoddy housekeeper in the best of cases, but during these two weeks LE came down with
sixth disease, during which time he was mostly fine except that he went off his food for several days resulting in a whole lot of thrown and spit out food. I cleaned the floor a few times, but decided it was a stupid waste of time because an hour later it was a sticky, chewed raisin-y mess again. That, plus the dust from the open windows plus the amount of hair I'm still losing post-partum and post-solid foods, it was getting pretty dodgy around here. A lot of 'What's this stuck to my foot?' LE has started picking up bits from the floor and, after determining they're not yummy, throwing them into the trash.

The cleaner was supposed to come yesterday, but she wound up in the hospital again from fainting. So we went for emergency back-up, and got the kapıcı's sister to come today. Right now she and another woman are whirlwinding around undoing the filth we have wrought over the last couple of weeks.

So here's my conundrum. Shall I fire my cleaner? I like her and she does a good job, and it's possible she will feel better after the first trimester. Plus I feel an obligation towards her as I know she needs the money. I was even planning on giving her an un-asked for raise, partly because I really appreciate her, and partly because everything has gotten so damned expensive over the last year but salaries have stayed the same. On the other hand, she could still end up having a hard pregnancy, and with the bleeding, probably shouldn't be doing hard work and I'd feel guilty contributing to any crisis with the baby whether it was my decision or not. Plus, hard work won't really be possible in the last trimester, and by the end of the year, she'll be busy with a new baby anyway.

There's a middle ground, of keeping her on but keeping this other woman as a backup. It doesn't quite solve the problem though.

So, keep the cleaner or fire her ass?

How very privileged and posh I feel to be having this particular problem! It would feel better if more martinis were involved.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wow!

I looked in my mailbox yesterday looking for my credit card bill, and instead, much to my surprise, there was a check for $600 from the US Government!

Holy shit!

I received a notice about this economic stimulus package a while back. I read it over and decided I wouldn't be getting any money. That's what government handouts are like. You read them and come to understand them as best as you can, then move on. I don't remember why I decided I wouldn't get money. Maybe because I don't live in the US? Or maybe because I don't actually pay any taxes? I haven't paid taxes in about 15 years. In America, it was because I was too poor for taxes, and they always gave me back everything my work had taken over the year. In Turkey, I take the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, which means as long as I don't earn over $80,000 a year, I don't owe them anything. At this rate, it looks like I will NEVER have to pay any taxes, which is fine with me. But I still dutifully file. Tax returns are the best way to reassure the American government of your continuing existence.

Aside from the miracle of Free Money, the other miracle is that the check was actually in my mailbox. Not disappeared forever. Not sitting in some office for eight weeks waiting for someone to figure out what to do with this foreign missive. In my mailbox, and not a single tea stain on it. Foreign mail is tricky here. Once my grandmother sent me a letter. I kept getting these notices on my door saying I had foreign mail, and they would attempt delivery again at such and such a time. Usually, you have to sign for foreign mail, and provide ID, and sometimes you have to go to some office and stand in line and fill out a few forms only to receive a bit of junk mail from Publishers' Clearinghouse or whatever. But for this letter from my grandmother, I was never home at the times they wanted to deliver it, and there was no phone number or office or anything for me to try to contact them and tell them this. Finally, I was out sick one day and a very harried delivery guy came with my letter. He was actually angry at me for not having been home all the other times he tried to deliver it. After telling me off, he really wanted to know what the letter was, because the address had been scrawled on the envelope by my uncle with Down's Syndrome and it looked interesting. I told him and he felt gratified and left.

The letter was about three months old. My grandmother had died the previous month.

Now that I'm home most of the time, I'm there to get my foreign mail. Usually it's absentee ballot stuff. Not that I got anything in time to vote in the primaries, but I've gotten every single local election and referendum that I neither know about nor care about. It's sweet of them to send them, and I try to vote sometimes as a way of saying 'thank you,' but I also think it's not right to vote on something you're uninformed about, even if it is just the fire chief or the superintendent of some school board. And it could be that I didn't get anything for the primaries because I'm still registered in the Greens party. I'm pretty sure, though, that I registered Republican to make sure I'd get my absentee stuff. I figured I'd be like a Republican mole. Infiltrate their ranks and mess with their statistics, make them think they've got me on their side and then bam!, vote something else and really mess with their heads.

Here's another thing: I pretty much got paid just for being an American. In a way I think I deserve this because of how often I have to make the snap decision about whether to tell the truth when asked where I'm from, and risk hearing about how evil we all are for supporting Israel and blowing up Iraqi children and trying to take everyone's stuff and putting AKP into power and making all these movies and music everyone has to go to the trouble of pirating and secretly making plans with Europe to sabotage Turkey so we can divide it up amongst ourselves and every one of us is responsible for George Bush and then there's Paris Hilton on top of it all, and by the way, can you help me/my son/my cousin get a green card? I'm tired of being told, as though it's comforting, that even though LE is half American, he can be all Turkish and we can just forget about that whole American thing. Sometimes it's just easier to pretend I'm from Canada. That way I might only get in trouble for clubbing baby seals.

But really, I don't deserve it. Aren't Americans privileged enough for doing nothing more than having the dumb luck of being born there?

Still, I'll be in America in a couple of weeks, with $600 of Free Money burning a hole in my pocket. What shall I buy? How shall I stimulate the economy? It's my duty as an American citizen to do so.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Stupidest Thing I've Ever Had To Do, Plus Some Other Stuff

First, the stupid thing...
Earlier this week, LE had some vaccinations. Despite the warnings from the doctors, he's never had any reactions to the vaccinations, except sometimes he's cranky a day or two after, and they make his poop extra stinky. But this time, he started running a fever the evening after his shots. He was up and down most of the night, and continued to have a fever the next day. Nonetheless, he remained in high spirits though perhaps a bit listless, like he'd climb up on the forbidden part of the sofa (forbidden because he can climb onto a high shelf from there) and screech and giggle and wait for me to tackle him as usual, but as soon as I'd get there he'd lay down and roll over for a cuddle. He became a nipple fiend. That night, his fever got worryingly high (103), so he got a warm sponging which he found intensely amusing. He also got to spend the night with Mommy and he enjoys that too. The next day and night he still had the fever, plus another sponging (he didn't care for this one as much), and it continued into the next day. LE went off his food, sort of, which just isn't like him at all. He got so he'd hold still and tip his head up so we could stick the ear thermometer in. BE became familiar with the Fahrenheit scale because the thermometer is American. We both told LE how lucky he was, because when we were babies all we had were anal thermometers. Yuck. Anyway.

Everything I've read about fevers, even the Tylenol bottle, says that if the fever lasts more than three days you should go to the doctor. So we decided to take LE to the doctor just to make sure he was all right, even though aside from the fever, nothing else was wrong with him. BE's parents had the car, so we packed LE into the stroller and walked to a fancy new hotel-like hospital that's just opened near our house. Somewhere between deciding to go the doctor and getting LE into the stroller, his fever dropped to almost normal. Kind of like when your car stops pinging as soon as you get it to the mechanic. We got to the hospital and were told that the pediatrician had gone home for the day. Wonderful. So we decided to go to another hospital with a pediatrician rather than risk the insane amount of tests an emergency room doctor might order for a baby. This involved taking LE in a five-minute taxi ride without his carseat. I found a lot of things to curse at this time.

At the other hospital, LE decided he was scared of doctors after all (he loves his usual doctor, and even doesn't mind the lady who gives him his shots). As soon as she pulled out the ear-light thingie, his face crumpled into a pout, then he did one of those sad howls that goes until his air runs out and continues silently until he takes a breath, then continues for several repeats. It would be funny if it weren't so heartbreaking. The doctor couldn't find anything wrong with him either, but decided to do a pee test just to be sure. A pee test for a baby isn't what I feared, which was chasing him around with a cup. Instead it involved a little bag stuck onto his crotch and closed in his diaper. He was scared of the pee test lady too.

So baggied up and ready to go, we gave him some water and said, 'Okay, pee!' It didn't work. Thus we embarked on the stupidest thing I've ever had to do, which was wait for a baby to pee. We kept giving him water and tickling him, but after 20 minutes, the water was all down his front and he was sick of being tickled. In fact, he was sick of the hospital in general, and he was sick of having his diaper opened and closed. BE then had to go across town to his parents' to fetch the car, leaving me alone with LE for what we thought would be a relatively short wait. Hah. An hour later, he still hadn't peed. By then, all the hospital staff-- security guards, receptionists, cleaners, nurses-- all knew what we were doing there, with LE getting increasingly angrier and me trying to amuse him by giving him peanut halves to eat, and as they passed by to pinch his cheeks, they were saying, 'Come on, LE-- pee already!' LE started doing the thing where he wants to see how loud and piercingly he can scream, so I took him outside for a walk. We passed a market and I figured he must be hungry by then so I got him some fruit and raisins. We went back to the hospital and he still hadn't peed. By this time, BE was on his way back from his parents', had stopped to get me some coffee, I'd had some coffee from a vending machine which, typical of hospital vending machines around the world, was very particular about which of my coins it wanted, and LE still hadn't peed.

He finally peed after two hours, some thrown apricots, some serious displeasure with his stuffed horse that jiggles when you pull the string, and half a sippy cup of water spit out down his shirt. The whole second hour I was explaining to him that this was the stupidest thing I'd ever had to do. He was seriously saving up his pee. He not only filled the bag, but almost soaked through his diaper in the ten-minute trip home. By the time he peed, the nurses' shift had changed so I had to struggle through trying to explain to the new nurse that I wanted her to do whatever had to be done with the pee-filled bag attached to this angry boy with a soaked, peanut- and apricot-stained shirt. Somehow we managed, though LE was very afraid of this nurse as well, and began The Howling as soon as she looked at him.

In Other Completely Unrelated News...
In today's Hürriyet, there's a column about a sick baby seal everyone's turned out to save. The writer couldn't help pointing out how, in Canada, all they do is club their baby seals while here in Turkey, Home Of Very Humane Treatment For All Animals, they go all-out to save this poor, sick seal. Trouble is, the little fellow isn't interested in going back out to sea. He knows which side his bread is buttered on. Local residents bring him trays of börek and fish they've cooked for him. Aww.

And Some Sad News...
BE's father's cousin just died a couple of hours ago. He was in a coma after being beaten by some guys. What happened was, the cousin and his friend were on their way to a türkü evi (a bar that features live folk music), and a woman almost crashed into their car or somehow nearly caused an accident. So they got mad and cursed at her. So she followed them to see where they went and called her husband who turned up with a bunch of his buddies to beat these two guys up. Beat them they did. Even if he hadn't died, he would have been severely brain damaged.

Stupid. Stupid stupid stupid stupid.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Privilege

This is a meme I found via yaramaz, a fellow Istanbul blogger. I found it interesting because of that quirk of growing up as a middle-class American which makes it uncomfortable for me to admit exactly how privileged we were, my brothers and I. But clearly we were. I still maintain, however, that we weren't spoiled, at least not in the sense of being taught to be bratty or undisciplined, and I don't think we have a sense of entitlement or of being better than others.

It's just that because of this meme I came out clearly privileged, so I feel I have to qualify or justify myself somehow. Sad.

Here it is:

The list is based on an exercise developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. The exercise developers ask that if you participate in this blog game, you acknowledge their copyright. Highlight in bold the sentences that are true for you:

Father went to college
Father finished college
Mother went to college
Mother finished college
Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
Were read children’s books by a parent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18

Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp
Had a private tutor before you turned 18
Family vacations involved staying at hotels
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18

Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
There was original art in your house when you were a child
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18
You and your family lived in a single family house
Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
You had your own room as a child

Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
Went on a cruise with your family
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family


So that's me. Then I got to thinking about privilege and what it means here in Turkey, since social class is much more rigid here, development has been rapid since 1973 (when I was born), and having access to a lot of things that are considered by Americans to be 'normal' (for example, having a computer/Internet in your home or having more than one car per family) is, even now, available to relatively few people, either because of geography or economic status.

So, finding myself with a bit of spare time, I whipped up this little list of questions about privilege in Turkey as I've come to understand it. I'm probably looking at privilege in two ways: one, from my perspective as an American and what we have there now, or had there 20 years ago compared to what there is and was here; and two, from what I've seen living here in terms of increasing development, the huge rift between the upper and lower class, and the differences in how people live depending on where they live. I'm also imagining the questions directed at someone more or less from my generation, anywhere from ten years older to ten years younger than I am. I don't intend this as a meme-- it's just something I'm putting out there because I was thinking about it:

Does your house have electricity and indoor plumbing?
If so, do you also have access to a backup source for when these utilities fail?
Did you have these utilities when you were growing up?
Does your house have telephone and/or Internet service?
Are you literate and numerate?
Are both of your parents literate and numerate?
Did you finish elementary school/high school?
Did your father finish elementary school/high school?
Did your mother finish elementary school/high school?
Were you allowed/encouraged to to finish high school?
Were your parents allowed/encouraged to finish high school?
Did you go to university?
Did your parents go to university?
Can you type well?
Does your family own a computer? If so, is it used by everyone in the home?
Did/does your mother work outside the home?
If your mother works outside the home, would there be enough money for the family to get by if she couldn't or didn't want to work?
Do you have private medical insurance?
Do you have a choice of which doctors or hospitals you can/are financially able to use?
Do the males in your family have life-or-death power over the females?
Do you have access to birth control?
If you have access to birth control, are you allowed to use it?
Do you have regular access to meat and milk?
Did you have regular access to meat and milk when you were growing up?
Did your family migrate to a big city for work?
Did your grandparents migrate to a big city for work?
Does your family own more a car? More than one car?
If so, is your family's car less than ten years old?
Are you in the same social class as your parents? As your grandparents?
Do you think your children will be in the same social class as you?
Do you have a passport?
Have you ever travelled abroad?

So that's it. I'm sure this list in is no way comprehensive, and there are probably things here that are inaccurate or of debatable importance in relation to privilege. But it was an interesting exercise nonetheless.