Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Ankara Zoo

A few days before Clara was born we took a trip to the Ankara zoo. There were a few really good exhibits. The monkeys were great, and so were these bears.

They looked pretty content. This one is taking a bath.

He doesn't seem to mind me snapping a few photos.

Can I hug you? You're such a big fuzzy teddy bear!

This guy doesn't look quite so huggable. What is that crust hanging off of his matted fur?

And how do those skinny little legs hold up his enormous body? What kind of animal is he anyway? A yak? A water buffalo? A pointy horned shag carpet?

I've never seen zebras so close before. I was kind of sad... their pens were tiny, but then again it was fun finally seeing those stripes up close.
Hello pretty horsey!

But wait! What's this? A sign pointing to the cat exhibit... not the big cats and lions. We'd already seen them. The house cat exhibit. Am I the only one who didn't know domesticated cats could be a zoo exhibit? Oh, and the arrow also points toward the pigeons. To be fair, I think guvercin can also mean doves, but what kind of an exhibit is that?

Um..... let's skip that one, and instead see the...

Oh, hello there! What are you doing in the zoo? Don't you belong with a family?

And you too, little dalmatian!

Please take me home!

Definetly NOT what I was expecting in a zoo. Dalmatians, Irish Setters, Huskies, Golden Retrievers, cute little hound dogs, and so many more.

It was the best exhibit of domestic dogs I've ever seen....

But then again, it was the only exhibit of domestic dogs I've seen.

Friday, 25 September 2009

What Does Religion Have To Do With It?

We're swaddlers. Soon after our babies are born we wrap them up all warm and cozy. They seem to love it.

See Clara, sleeping away, peacefully dreaming her little baby dreams....

The anesthesiologist at the hospital and a nurse came to my hospital room to check on me shortly after Clara came into the world.

Clara was swaddled.

Doctor to nurse: Look! They wrapped the baby up just like we do!

They look surprised and smile at one another.

Doctor to me: So, you wrap up your babies too?

Me: Sleepy and out of it from that I-just-had-a-baby-and-I-can't-believe-it daze, Um, yeah.

Doctor: Wow! What religion are you?

Me: Um, Christian.

Doctor to nurse: I didn't think Christians wrapped their babies up!

She ponders it for a few seconds...

Doctor to me: So, you must be Catholic.

Me: No, we're Protestant.

This is when it finally dawned on me that this was a somewhat strange conversation.

Doctor: Wow! Protestants wrap their babies up? I never knew that.

She then went on to adjust that wonderful medicine going into my spine so I'd feel a little less pain.

I didn't think of asking her what she meant until after she had left the room, and so now I'm left confused and wondering.... what in the world was that all about?

Welcome New Baby!

We love you soooo much!!!

Clara James Ceylan
September 16, 2009
6 lb 10 oz

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Having another baby

I think every culture has certain ways of doing things that are just the right way. Here in Turkey, when it comes to home and family issues, it seems like old ladies are the ones to enforce the right way. Every time an old lady comes over to talk to me I know she's going to expel her life wisdom on me, usually by telling me something I'm doing wrong - my kids aren't dressed warm enough, or I need to get my baby out of the draft, or I shouldn't let my girls eat ice cream, or I'm holding the baby the wrong way, etc.

I think my friend Kristal has found the same thing in Albania. She hasn't had any kids yet and old ladies feel the need to stop her in the street and tell her to get busy.

I'm facing the opposite problem.

Turks in big cities love kids, but they are very concerned about providing absolutely everything for their kids - spoon feeding them until 3 or 4 years old (sometimes more), hovering under or over them at the park in fear that they'll fall when they slide or climb up steps, walking behind them with their arms extended until the toddler is no longer toddling. Raising small children in America is exhausting. For Turks it is even more exhausting. For this reason and others, it's more common to wait 5, 6, 7, or 8 years between siblings than it is to have them 1, 2, or 3 years apart like we do in the States. I'm about to pop a third baby out into the world before most of my neighbors with children Elise's age have even started thinking about number two.

A few of my neighbors have questioned why I got pregnant, some of them have expressed how sad they are for me that I accidently got pregnant so soon (they look shocked when I tell them I planned and wanted this baby), but it's the old ladies who really let me know what's up.

About a week ago I was at a playground with Elise and Marie. An older woman I'd never met before came and sat by me.

Me: Hello, how are you?

Old lady: Good, good. Are those two blond girls yours?

Me: Yes.

Old lady: They are so cute! Mashallah (that's something you always say after giving a compliment.. it's something like a charm to keep the evil eye away in spite of the fact that you've brought good attention to something).

Me: Thank you.

Old lady: Looking at my giant belly, When are you having your next baby?

Me: I only have about two more weeks. Not long.

Old lady: suddenly very serious. What are you thinking? You can't take care of all three of these children. Let me tell you what you need to do. You need to go to the doctor and get your tubes tied.

Me: sitting in silent surprise.

Old lady: Listen to me. You are losing your youth. You will age too quickly and become old and ugly. These children are way too close together. You have to put a stop to it.

Me: trying to hold in my surprise and laughter and really not sure how to respond to this well intentioned advice (coming from a complete stranger!), Well, I'll have to think about that.

Old lady: No, don't think about it. Just go and do it.

I just sat there for 30 seconds or so, trying to think about what to say. I've learned by now that it does absolutely no good to try to explain different cultures to old ladies. They could really care less that this is the way we do things in America. Their way is the right way, period.

Old lady: in the same natural way she told me to get my tubes tied, Don't forget to wash your kids hands when you go inside. The playground is full of germs.

Me: Thanks, I will.

We sat a little longer then she got up and moved on, probably to find another poor young mother who desperately needed her advice.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Bubble Gum Yogurt

I took the girls grocery shopping with me this morning. They have a love/hate relationship with the grocery store.

At first it's pure love. I think the colors, the smells, the sights, and all the possibilities of things we may bring home are really exciting. Plus, as two little blond girls they get a lot of attention. Every time I turn around someone is tickling them, or pinching their cheeks, or telling them how beautiful they are. When Elise was first born this kind of attention from strangers really freaked me out I mean Americans pretty much ignore stranger's children, they certainly wouldn't come up and tickle them... but now I'm used to it and as long as the girls like the attention I do too.

Somewhere around halfway through the store it turns to the hate part of the relationship. Mom has said no a few too many times, a few too many strangers have touched them, and they're just about overwhelmed. It's about this time that I look for something cheap and with at least a tiny bit of nutritional value for them to pick out and bring home. Somehow having that little perk carries them through the rest of the trip.

Today it was yogurt. I was examining the cheeses, trying to decide which one might taste close to Jack or Mozerella, and the girls were getting fussy. I noticed the colorful yogurt containers on the lower shelves and told them to pick one out to bring home. After much deliberation they chose little pink containers that had extra little compartments on the lids, full of something to stir into the yogurt. I didn't look too closely, but noticed that the front said something about being a good source of calcium and vitamin D. Perfect, I thought, probably full of sugar, but it's not like I'm giving them lollipops.

We went through the check out with the girls holding tightly to their pink yogurt cups. I strolled the cart home and left it in front of my building. Yes, you read that right... I live just down the street from the market in a 10 story building and just bring the cart right home with me, then when someone else goes to the market they bring it back... very convenient! I LOVE IT!

The girls could hardly wait to eat their yogurt so before I even put away the groceries, I sat them down at the table and started peeling back the aluminum lids. It was at this point that I noticed that the pink containers weren't full of raspberry, strawberry, or cherry flavor yogurt like I had assumed. They were bubble gum flavor. Bubble Gum. What kind of twisted person would even consider that to be an okay yogurt flavor?

Next I opened the little lid compartments and found that they contained what looked like colorful sugar crystals. Resigned to the fact that this was not the healthy treat I'd been hoping for, I handed them over to the girls.

Elise, my little direction follower, stirred hers into her yogurt. Marie smiled and greedily grabbed the "nandy" (her word for candy) and popped it in her mouth.

Then I heard the sound. I don't think I've heard it since I was sitting in the back of a friends car at the age of eleven, but it's one of those sounds you never forget.

Marie's smile turned to a look of surprise while her nandy fizzled and popped around in her mouth. Pop rocks! I bought bubble gum yogurt with stir-in pop rocks!

Yes way.

I'm still cringing when I think about it. Seriously, I just got a gross-out quiver up my spine.

But at least it was a "good source of calcium and vitamin D." (eye roll)

To my relief, neither of my kids were big fans of the disgusting mixture in front of them and said that next time they just want some peach yogurt without those twirly swirly candies.