Sunday, February 27, 2011

Welcome to the 'Hood

In light of our recent move, and many requests for pictures of Turkey, I'm going to take you on a short tour of our neighborhood. Are you ready?

View Larger Map

See the park? And the little blue box to the right of it? The little blue box is this:

The Göztepe train station.

If you're standing where I was when taking this photo, turn around, with your back toward the train station, and you'll see this:

The train tracks, heading over to Erenköy.

While looking at the train tracks, glance to your left to see:

The golden arches of McDonald's. We haven't been here yet, but maybe when the weather gets nicer we'll take Lane to play on the play place.

We like the train. It's a much faster way to get to most of the places that we need to go. It's only three or four stops, a 10-15 minute ride, to the two stops we most often need to go. But often the train is running late, since Göztepe is the 20th (or so) stop on the line going in that direction. And sometimes we just miss the train and it's raining, so we opt for the other way we can get to Kadiköy:

Walk down this road (between the train station and the McDonald's),

Pass the natural foods store and the Chicco store and keep going until you come to...

Minibuses! This road is appropriately nicknamed "Minibusyolu" (Minibus Road). It's real name is Fahrettin Kerim Gökay Caddesi (and I have no idea what it means). How many minibuses can you find in this photo?

So we take a minibus a fair amount of the time. The ride usually takes between 20 and 45 minutes, depending on traffic. In the mornings traffic is sparse, so we're likely to take a minibus anywhere we need to go. On Saturday nights we avoid minibuses like the plague.

We're about a 10-15 minute walk away from Minibusyolu, or an 8-12 minute walk from the train station (depending on if we're walking alone or carrying a 20-pound toddler named Lane).

Our apartment building.

We like this apartment complex. Considering that the nearest park is a good 20-minute walk away, it's nice to have a few trees and some grass that Lane can run around on.

The road which our apartment building is on. Follow it up to the road that runs between the train station and the McDonald's and over to Minibusyolu.

Our neighborhood also has a few cool buildings.

This pink building has a "matching" blue building at the other end of the block. The pink building is a bank. The blue building is a dental office.

And the token mosque.

One of two mosques within a 10-minute walk from our apartment building.

And there are a lot of "bakkals," or little grocery stores, in our neighborhood.

The little store that's across from our apartment building.

The men who work here always give Lane treats (usually a mandarin but sometimes bubbles or other fruit). We buy milk and bananas here almost every day and most of our other fruit and vegetables as well. They seem to be a bit more expensive than other stores, but since it's so close it's really nice to not worry about my produce getting bruised or about hauling it very far. I can go each day and buy what I need for dinner, and I can bring Lane on the 10 to 15-minute excursion.

Migros, near the train station. I shop here mostly for more "specialty" things that I can't find at the smaller stores, like celery and couscous.

For most of my other shopping I go out once a month to stock up on things. I bring my granny cart and stock up on heavy stuff: canned goods, milk, pasta, flour, sugar, and so on. Then throughout the month I only have to buy a little of the heavy stuff, and meat, produce, and fresh milk for Lane on a semi-daily basis.

BIM. The discount store.

I buy cereal and cheese at Bim (pronounced "beam"), and sometimes I buy tortillas and crackers. They don't have a large selection, but there are certain things that I know we like that are much cheaper there.

And then we have a couple of other grocery stores around as well, one called Şok and one called Dia. We buy chicken and milk at Dia and canned tomatoes and butter at Şok. It's funny how certain things become the standard for where you'll buy certain products. We only buy milk at Dia because of two reasons. 1) It's a decent price, and 2) For that decent price you still get a pour spout on your box of milk that doesn't break every time you open the milk.

So there's your tour of a typical Istanbul neighborhood! Did I leave anything out?

Oh yes, I almost forgot: what tour of any Turkish neighborhood would be complete without a photo of local goods for sale?

Pumpkin, artichokes, and olives, all for sale out of a man's truck. This would so be illegal in America.

***If you enjoy my posts can you please come to the blog and click here to vote for me? Pretty please? Thanks!***

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sometimes living overseas stinks.

One of my good friends had a baby yesterday. She had a rough pregnancy and ended up being induced at 37 weeks to get that baby outta there and into the real world where she could start gaining some weight. My friend spent hours and hours each week at the hospital getting ultrasounds and non-stress tests done on her baby girl. She continued to work two jobs while her husband is in school. Now she'll be in the hospital for at least a week, most likely, and then she'll be going home with a preemie baby and a husband who still has two months left in the semester.

And I'm stuck over here just having to sit by and let it all happen. I can't make her dinner. I couldn't offer to come over and wash dishes and give her a pedicure when her feet hurt. I can't come wash laundry, bring her groceries, or hold a screaming baby so she can take a shower. I couldn't let her borrow my maternity clothes (not that she'd have wanted them anyways since mine are boring and she's got style). I can't lend a listening ear or a helping hand. I can't. do. anything.

And it's killing me. My heart aches. I didn't realize it until today when I called her at the hospital via skype to say "Congratulations" and burst into tears upon hearing her voice, knowing that it was almost like I was right there. Except I wasn't. I was so, so far away.

I don't have a plethora of friends, at least not good friends. I can count my good friends on my fingers, and probably on the fingers of just one hand. Most of these women I know from my three years in Poland, when we we all single and free-spirited and would spend holidays together, vacation together, and spend hours cooking, watching movies, and digging deep into each others' hearts. I was blessed to attend graduate school in the same city with two of these friends, and our friendships went even deeper. And now all of my good friends (not to mention my only sister) have either had babies while I've been in Turkey, or they will in the very near future. And I'm stuck longingly looking at photos on facebook, anxiously awaiting secondhand information about the babies' stats and the birth stories, and just in general unable to do anything to help.

I want to help my friend. I want to be a blessing to her, to relieve some of the burden of a rough pregnancy and a preemie who will need extra attention. I want to show that I care and that I love her. But I can't.

And it stinks.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mommy Raves

It's been awhile since I've posted a Mommy Rave. This is partly due to the fact that while I have a lot of baby/toddler things that I like, I don't feel like I love them, and that therefore they are not worthy of the Mommy Rave title, since those are things I love.

Well, I've found another thing I love. It's not a baby product, but it could be. Or it should be. Take your pick.

Without further ado, Mommy Rave #5 is:

Dove Body Silk lotion.

A few months ago, Lane started to develop some dry skin on her back. I didn't think anything about it since it was the first dry skin she'd ever had. But gradually it spread to her front, and then to her arms, and then to her legs. We started putting lotion on her, just Johnson's pink baby lotion, and cut some things out of her diet to see if she was allergic to any of them. After three weeks of no wheat or eggs, we determined that she wasn't allergic to those things, so I started lotioning her like crazy. Morning and evening, every day for a month, I put Johnson's lotion on her. And at the end of the month her skin was starting to kind of feel a bit like normal. Kind of.

Enter Dove Body Silk. Last month I bought Shannon and myself some of this lotion because we've had really dry skin. I started occasionally putting it on some dry patches on Lane's legs as well. I noticed a slight improvement. Last week I bought a new tub of this lotion and started putting it on Lane every morning and evening. And today her skin is completely like normal for the first time since early November. One week of regular application of this and the dry patches on her legs disappeared. I love it.

I also feel like I should mention that my legs also are usually quite dry but I don't put lotion on them, because when I shave my legs it makes my skin super sensitive and all lotions just irritate my skin. But not this stuff...this stuff is great. I have soft legs for the first time in years. And Lane's skin is soft. It's not cheap lotion, but it's worth it. Our Johnson's pink baby lotion will not be being used any longer in favor of Dove Body Silk.

So, if you have a difficult time with your baby's dry skin or eczema, or if you have dry skin yourself, try Dove Body Silk out. It's fantastic.

***I feel that it is necessary to make it known that I am not receiving any monetary compensation for these reviews: I'm simply doing them for my fellow moms and moms-to-be out there.***

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

13 Months Old

Well, I've decided not to continue my Letters to Lane each month. But I am going to continue to do a monthly post with the fun and new things that she's doing so that I can remember years down the road. I may even include a few pictures. :-)

So, at 13 months, Lane:

*says "mama," "dada," and "ne-ow, ne-ow" (meow, meow) anytime she sees a cat.
*sometimes says "nite nite" or "nana" (banana).
*uses sign language for "more" and "all done."
*still just has the five teeth. Another one should be popping through any day though.
*walks backwards.
*walks backwards in order to squat and sit in your lap.
*waves bye-bye regularly (again, after a few-months hiatus).
*loves to play peek-a-boo and to hide behind curtains, the couch, a blanket, whatever.
*does some of the motions to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." She loves me to "do the piggies" too (This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home...).
*can use a hairbrush and toothbrush, although not well.
*likes to give kisses through the shower door, her lips on one side and mine or Shannon's on the other.
*drinks from a regular cup pretty well.
*can get a fork or spoon into her mouth often.
*still likes to upturn her plate or bowl and throw food on the floor, but we're working on it.
*can walk up and down stairs if holding onto someone's hand or a handrail.
*sleeps 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. most days and takes one two-hour nap (most days...some days it's two one-hour naps).
*is still nursing once a day and drinking lots of milk and water throughout the day. She actually has a preference as to what she drinks from and which drink she wants, too.
*can correctly identify her tongue, teeth, head, and belly.
*can sometimes identify her ears and my nose.
*does hand motions for the monkey and the seal in Eric Carle's From Head to Toe.
*eats anything and everything, although she doesn't prefer meat. She also prefers to eat anything that is not given to her, so we usually don't serve her her own food anymore, instead making her "ask" for our food. After she's eaten a few bites we'll dish her up her own.
*wearing mostly 12-month clothes, but still wearing some 9-month tops.
*has gained a kilo (we think...according to the grocer across the street's vegetable scale) since her last doctor's appointment (when she was down in weight due to being sick for a week).
*can climb onto a bed or couch without help if she has a step-stool, and can get herself off of the bed or couch by rolling onto her tummy and sliding her legs off (most of the time).

And there you have it. Lane at 13 months. I still can't believe she's 13 months old! I'll probably be in amazement her entire life that she's as old as she is!

***If you enjoy my blog can you take a minute to go vote for me? Please? Just come to the blog and click here. That's all! Thanks!***

Friday, February 18, 2011

Packages Galore!

This has been a crazy week even without all the packages we received! We went to the European side of Istanbul to spend the night with some friends who we don't get to see that often because we live so far away from each other. We attended a meeting. Shannon had business meetings all. day. long. yesterday. Today was gorgeous and I hauled Lane out to the grocery stores with me to stock up on things like milk, cheese (we splurged on mozzarella for pizza tonight...over $4 for less than 1/2 pound...yikes!), cereal, toothbrushes and dental floss (floss was $3.65. Is it just me or is that crazy expensive for floss?), and of course the regular things like bananas. And in the midst of all the craziness, FIVE packages came for us!

On Wednesday we received two packages.

From our good friends Greg and Diana. Di made me an apron (blue fabric), Lane a pillowcase dress and legwarmers (aka: BabyLegs), and they sent us a couple of movies and a book of toddler activities.

From Shannon's mom and stepdad: magazines featuring Auburn and a t-shirt for Shannon.

Then yesterday we received three more packages! One contained birthday cards for me and Lane (quite late, but fun nonetheless!).

Birthday cards from Aunt Teresa and Uncle Tommy.

And the other packages contained Valentine's Day gifts from Shannon's dad's side of the family.

From Shannon's brother Christopher, his wife Shannon, and Lane's cousin Alexandra. A new dress, a book/dvd/cd combo, a valentine, and a bag.

Lane loves the bag.

From Lane's great-grandmother (Shannon's stepmom's mom), Meme, and her hubby Charlie: a valentine, a new outfit, and new socks.

Stuff for us from Shannon's dad and stepmom: more Auburn stuff in the news and a Valentine's card (with money deposited into our checking account for a DATE!).

And stuff for Lane for Valentine's Day: touch 'n feel first word cards, a valentine, and stickers.

Lane loves the cards too. She's been feeling them and practicing putting them back into their boxes all day long!

So a great big THANKS to everyone who sent us stuff! What unexpected funness! (and yes I just made up a word. I don't care.) We appreciate everything and it will all get used/worn/watched/played with/spent! Thanks for showing us the love in practical and fun ways!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Bit of This and a Bit of That

*Our vacation is over. So sad.

*A couple of weeks ago I saw a man carrying a REFRIGERATOR on his back. No joke. And he was probably at least 50 or 60 years old.

*Shannon bought Lane this vest the other day for 5 lira:

Hilarious, no?

*I finished Shepherding a Child's Heart (finally)! Any suggestions on a good (Christian) parenting book for those with small children?

*My daughter is so smart. Last night as we were going to bed she dropped her fish (the one Aunt Rachel sent). I said, "Lane, go get fish," and she did. Also, when Shannon put up her blocks the other day (before she was finished, apparently), she cried/whined, pointed and the blocks, and went, "Uh!" Caught in the act, daddy, caught in the act.

*It's Valentine's Day! We don't really celebrate V-Day around here, but I did make heart-shaped pancakes for Lane and myself this morning, and I made these for Shannon:

Nothin' says love like Auburn-shaped pancakes!

*Last night I planned our menu for the next four weeks. (Go me. And I'm going to attempt Eggplant Parmesan for the first time. Go me again.) Next up is the grocery list.

*We're considering buying Lane a new car seat. We don't use a car seat on a regular basis, but the bottom line is that we'll need one at some point when we return to the U.S. We'd like to have one for airplane travel. And it'd be nice to have one for those few times that we are actually in a car. We're planning on keeping Lane rear-facing until she outgrows the weight limit (35-40 pounds, I think, for most of them). Any suggestions on good car seats? Or ones to avoid?

*I wrote 117 blog posts last year. Wow.

*Winter here is weird. It doesn't feel like winter. At all. But it's still too chilly to spend much time outside. I can't wait for warmer weather so we can go to the park or just stay outside for a long time.

Lane, wishing to go outside.

*Shannon's mom and stepdad are coming to visit in April/May! We are SO excited!

*Lane is fully recovered from her sickness. We went back to the doctor last week for her first MMR shot and she didn't even cry. She had also gained 1/4 of a pound since her appointment the week before. And her appetite is back in full force!

*Looking at our next three months totally stresses me out. Totally.

*I have made some really yummy stuff lately! This soup is yummy and healthy. I also made banana pudding last night (not healthy, but definitely yummy). I keep forgetting how much I love some of my recipes! I need to make a "favorites" section over on our recipe blog.

*I realized the other day that I seriously need new socks and underwear. Must. go. shopping.

*I love this girl.

Oh, at the cuteness.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I've Been Found Out

After posting about Lane's birthday package from my sister, my mom left me a facebook message asking me why everyone else's packages get blog posts except for hers.

Umm, because I'm lazy and I know she'll still love me and send us packages anyways?

Well, that's not actually the answer. The answer is that her packages came right when we had company and were moving, and we had to pack stuff up to move, and all surfaces were so dirty/messy that I couldn't find a clean place to take a picture, and so on.

BUT. Lest anyone think that my momma doesn't love me (her fear), or my mom think that we don't love her or appreciate what she's sent us (my fear), I hereby present to you:

The goodies from my mom minus a couple of things that I used for Lane's birthday cake.

Mom sent us two packages that got here right around New Year's. They contained: two 2-pound bags of powdered sugar (here the sugar comes from beets and is a totally different texture than cane sugar and just not very good in frosting), candy melts (what I used to make the "1" on Lane's cake and all the polka dots, stripes, and letters for her name), nine different gel food colorings, vanilla and maple extracts, frosting tips, a white cake mix, pecans, marshmallows, a pair of shoes for Lane, a pair of white tights for Lane, Pert Plus (Shannon's favorite shampoo), my facial moisturizer (you can buy it here but it's nearly $20 compared to $10ish in the States), Karo syrup, a 2010 Baby's First Christmas ornament (just in case something happens to Lane's other one), and a set of Rudolph board books for Lane. Oh, and all the little ladybugs that were on Lane's cake, which my mom made.

Let me say that the only things that I asked her to send were vanilla/maple extract, a pair of white tights and shoes for Lane, the frosting tips, the ladybugs, and some red food coloring. All the other stuff was a surprise, and was what enabled me to make Lane such an awesome cake (if I do say so myself).

This cake would not have happened without the stuff my mom sent.

So, a big shout out to my mom and a big THANKS! for all the stuff! We appreciate it so much and are very grateful, even when I'm too lazy to give you your own blog post!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Vacation Excursion

I mentioned before that we are taking vacation this week but not really going anywhere. It's been really, really nice. We have done a few things that haven't been the most relaxing (I worked on our taxes and Shannon worked on a brochure for work, as well as a long process of trying to figure out how our international health insurance works), but altogether it's been great. Movies and popcorn and naps and walks and lots of playing together and relaxing. Fun times.

Today we decided that since we're saving so much money by staying home for vacation that we should go and do something that we wouldn't normally do (at least not often). I was out last week and stumbled upon something I didn't know existed in Istanbul: a Ben & Jerry's. So out we went!

Using the stroller for maybe the 2nd time since we moved here. (In general the sidewalks here and public transportation are not stroller-friendly, but our new neighborhood has wider sidewalks than our old neighborhood.) Lane's chowing down on some apples and cheese.

Look at all that yummy goodness!

If it's not fun, why do it?

Love the chef timer. I think he's for timing the waffle iron.

Mmm. We got a large and shared: 3 flavors (Phish Food, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, and Vanilla [so Lane could have a taste]). Shannon was WAY disappointed that 1/3 of our selection was vanilla, as he is officially a chocoholic! The cookie/cracker is Lane's.

Family photo op!

The only real bummer was that we had to sit outside and it wasn't exactly a warm day (maybe it was 45-50°), especially when you're eating ice cream! So we went to the Starbucks next door and got a Venti Chai Tea Latte (since Lane can't drink coffee it tends to be our drink of choice these days so that she can have a drink too) to help warm us up.

Lane getting a taste of vanilla ice cream for the first time. She wasn't sure what to think!

After we were finished with our ice cream we decided to let Lane wander around a bit. She is quite taken with motorized vehicles, always wanting to touch the tires. (Notice her carrying around the white plastic spoon from our ice cream?)

So, 13 lira (about $8.65) on ice cream and 5.50 lira (almost $4.00) and two 30-minute walks to and from Ben & Jerry's makes for a pretty cheap date, don't you think?

Goodbye, Ben & Jerry's! We'll hopefully see you again one day!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Birthday Package!

Today we got a package! This one is from my sister and her hubby and Lane's cousin, Maddox. It's Lane's birthday loot, albeit a bit late, but they were all in Mexico (rough life, I know) on Lane's birthday, so we're just getting it now. Look at all the fun stuff!

Socks in the next size up, cute shoes, more Angel Baby Bottom Balm, bath squirties, a coat hanger with Lane's name, and tarragon and nutmeg.

Lane's feet just continue to grow, so when Rachel asked me what she should get for Lane for her birthday, I suggested new socks and some more bath toys, since the only bath toys Lane had were the letter-link crabs they gave her for Christmas and of course the usual rubber duckie. And I just asked her to send me more Angel Baby Bottom Balm (since our first and only tub so far is nearly gone) and more nutmeg and tarragon (I usually end up using a mixture of cloves, allspice, and nutmeg in recipes instead of cinnamon since Lane is allergic to it, and I've been on a tarragon kick lately and had used up almost all of mine).

The shoes and the coat hanger (which I love) were fun surprises! Back in July when we were at my sister's and she was showing me Maddox's nursery, she showed me coat hangers that a friend had made for her. One had "Maddox" on it and one had "Brody": they were undecided as to which name they would choose for him until he was born, so her friend had made her one of each. I loved them and told her so, and look what we got! One for Lane. I'm so excited. (And, on a side note, if any of you also love the hanger and would like one made for you or someone else, let me know because I can get you in contact with the gal who makes them.)

So yay! for sisters who send awesome packages! Thanks so much, Rachel, Lucas, and Maddox! Lane has already been playing with the bath toys (out of the bath) today and loves them, and we're so grateful for the rest of the stuff! Packages are so fun!

Monday, February 7, 2011


Well, now that February is 1/4 of the way over, I figure that I should post these, huh? I also figure that you're all probably tired of reading the ones that I've decided to keep each month, like making our bed every day, or offering Shannon a back massage every night. But, these are for me, and I do better if I write them down. So, too bad. :-)

In relation to God:
1) Memorize Psalm 1:2. Review memory verses from the past 6 months.
2) Read my Bible daily in order to finish it by the end of this year.
3) Listen to 2 online sermons.
4) Make a monthly prayer calendar. Ha! I already got this one done. Yay!
5) Finish "Shepherding a Child's Heart."
6) Choose another book to begin reading when finished with "Shepherding a Child's Heart."

In relation to my family:
1) Have a date night without Lane.
2) Take Lane outside every day for at least 15-20 minutes unless it's raining or too cold..
3) Have an "at home" date night once per week after Lane is asleep.
4) Be in bed, lights out, by 10:30.

Personal goals:
1) Make our bed every day.
2) Get my pajama pants and tank top fixed.
3) Offer Shannon a back massage every night.
4) Try 2 new recipes.
5) By the end of the month, be getting out of bed by 6:30 consistently.
6) Start reading the owner's manual for our new camera.
7) Turn my computer off by 9:00.
8) Develop a general schedule (chores, class, studying, Bible time, computer time, etc).

All that being said, we're on vacation for the week. It's a staycation, as we're not going anywhere, but we're also not studying, not having class, not going to any meetings, and Shannon is going to be easing it up on the business front. We're going to watch movies and eat popcorn and read books, and possibly stay up later than 10:30. We may even go to Ben & Jerry's, since I stumbled upon one the other day. But most importantly we're just going to spend some time together as a family. And quite frankly, I'm excited.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

So Cute

Sometimes she's just so cute that I think I'm going to cry...

"What's up there, Daddy?"

Getting into the spices.

Posing with daddy. Love those overalls.

Being chased by daddy.

Concentrating hard.

Yakking up a storm after eating (or picking at) spaghetti.

Playing in the sink after a very messy snack involving peanut butter.

Fascinated with the water.

Strike a pose. (Modeling one of the hats my mom made her, flipped around backwards since the bill still usually covers her eyes.)

So cute.