Thursday, December 28, 2006

Holidays and Plans

I've been meaning to post a blog for a couple of weeks now, but have not been able to find the time! I thought I would try to update everyone on what we are doing now and what our plans for the next several couple of weeks will be.
Currently, we are in California visiting Brian's family. We will be here until January 2 and then will head back to Texas to pack up for Turkey. We don't have plane tickets yet, but will let you know as soon as we know our exact plans. The unofficial date is January 12. Needless to say we have a lot to do before we can head back to Turkey. I keep having dreams that we are sitting in our kitchen in Turkey and I am remembering things I forgot to bring with me. Namely food items! I had dreams about food before I came back to America and now I am dreaming about forgetting food when I go back. I think I must have a problem!
Well that is all I am posting for now. Stay tuned for pictures next time!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Life in the USA

Look at this yummy cake! Will's birthday was December 5, and this was the cake he requested. My thoughts...I could make this in Turkey sometime! Yea! Add this to my "American things I can do in Turkey" list!

Two 4packs of Bubba teeth and what a sight we are! I wonder what our host culture would think of these things!

Driving home from a Thanksgiving camping trip in my parent's RV. These things are incredible. You can do so much while you are driving down the road. I sat there and ate a snack then went to the bathroom and washed my hands. All while my dad was driving. Amazing!

Sitting around the campfire singing Christmas songs. It was a wonderful time with family.

I love America! We have been in the states for almost 6 months. I can't believe it! The time here has been really good. We have enjoyed spending time with family and friends and just being able to relax. These pictures are a glimpse of us relaxing in the good ole USofA!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


On November 2nd I asked my blog readers to help me come up with something to blog about by asking questions about things they wanted to know. Only 5 people responded and most of them with easy questions to answer. But, leave it to Mentanna to ask something that I really had to think about. So, after a few days of thought and a few weeks with not enough time to blog I am finally ready to answer. Here is her question and my answer.

Which American trait do you like least about yourself, and which Turkish trait would you most like to adopt?

I think the American trait I like least about myself is the feeling of entitlement I have. I have noticed that we as Americans want things our way and in our timing. We have rights, and we are good at making sure our demands are met. I have mentioned this before, but I think it is important enough to mention again. When I am in America and sometimes when I am overseas I find myself expecting people to do things my way and I get upset if they don't.

In restaurants we expect the cook to prepare the food the way we want because we are paying for it. We ask for substitutions and make changes to the items offered on the menu and expect the restaurants to accommodate us. In Turkey and I would venture to say in quite a few other places in the world, people go to restaurants and order the food the way it says on the menu. They expect it to come like is says on the menu. The restaurants tell you on the menu how they cook it and if you don't want it that way you don't order it. Now, there are some places that will make exceptions, but mostly they do it their way, not mine. One sidenote...most restaurants in America don't mind making substitutions to their menus. They are happy to accommodate their customers. I have taken advantage of this quite a bit since I have been here. I am not complaining about that. It is the customer who tells the cashier at McDonalds that the french fries better be fresh and hot or she will bring them back that I have a problem with.

I also have a great example of getting my haircut in Turkey. The first time I went to a kuafor...hair salon...to get my haircut I told them how I wanted it cut. They did an okay job at following my directions, but it wasn't exactly like I had in mind. Now there was probably something lost in translation so I didn't worry about it too much. The next time I went back to the same place and told them that I didn't want my hair to be the same as the first time. I wanted something different. What did I get? Exactly the same thing. The stylist figured that he must have done something right the first time or I wouldn't have come back. I learned then that if I wanted my hair to be cut differently I either needed to go to a different salon or have a different person from that salon cut my hair. So that I didn't offend the stylist by demanding that someone else cut my hair I went somewhere else the next time I wanted my haircut. I actually like that I can go to the same stylist in America and have her do my hair the way I want and that it can be different every time. Very easy!

I think that Americans feel like we have earned the right to complain, pass judgement, and basically demand that things go our way or else. It wasn't so much like this in the 1950's and before. People were used to hardship and things not going their way. I think that when we were dealing with progress and civil rights (both good things) in the late 60's and 70's we got off track and became demanding of our own rights. We do have rights. It's how we demand that they be met that I want to flee from.

And now...

The Turkish trait I would most like to adopt is their idea of hospitality. For example...

1. Turkish picnics - they are an all day affair. You bring most of the food in grocery sacks and prepare it at the picnic. Tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, onion, and pepper chopped up and mixed together with a little oil and lemon juice makes a shepherd's salad. Turkish bread, some grilled meatballs, chicken or lamb, grilled peppers or tomatoes, mixed nuts and seeds, and fresh fruit makes for some good eating.

2. Visiting in people's homes - When we first went to Turkey I had problems with this. We would go to someone's house for dinner at 5 and they wouldn't even serve dinner until 7:30 or so. By the time they served dessert, coffee or tea, and fruit (the final course) we had been at their house for 5 hours! It was amazing. There is no such thing as a short meal or a short visit.

3. Neighbors who bring food - I love this! When Turks bring food to their neighbors they bring a real dish not a disposable one. When the dish is returned it is returned with food on it. My problem is I never know what to put on the dish when I return it. My neighbors will bring stuffed peppers, bulgur pilaf or cheese pastries (not a sweet dish) and I always wonder what they do with the muffins or cookies I put on the plate when I return it. They bring real food and I return dessert. I'm sure it says something about me, but I don't think they will like most of the American food I cook and I can't cook Turkish food nearly as well as they can.

Sorry for such a long post. Mentanna must have been tired of my fluff blogs and wanted some substance. Most of Mentanna's posts are long and full of substance and I guess she wanted some company. You can click on the link to her blog on the right side of your screen (you may have to scroll down to find her name) and read some really good stuff if you are looking for more substance! Thanks, MLG, for the great question!

'Tis the Season

I just wanted to post some pictures of our neighbor's yard. They have decorated for every holiday since we have been back. They had several inflatables in their yard for 4th of July and halloween, but their Christmas decorations take the cake. They have 12 inflatable decorations in their yard. Six of them are quite large and the other six are smaller. One is a snow globe with actual white stuff blowing around in it. You can see it to the left of the archway over the sidewalk. They also have a blow-up carousel that actually turns...on the right of the archway. Not seen in this picture is a huge santa Mickey Mouse, and you can barely make out a Christmas tree, and a snowman on the far right. The smaller inflatables are Christmas ornaments and Winnie the Pooh characters. There are lights on their house, a candy cane lined sidewalk, a flag on the side of the fence, a santa hanging from their garage roof, and signs that say "Reindeer Crossing" and "Santa stops here." Incredible. These inflatable things must be fairly new; because, I don't remember them from before we went overseas. And they aren't cheap either. To decorate this yard this much must have cost a small fortune! I took these pictures at night so you could see the lights, but during the day the inflatables really show up.

I guess there is so much electricity going through their yard they had to put up the following sign!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Will's hair....

I'm not sure what all to say about Will's hair except that it is a far cry from the pictures of his hair posted here on May 4! He loved the long shaggy hair look when we arrived back in the states, and he had just gotten his haircut. He decided to grow it out then. That was June 12, and he hasn't had a haircut since! He wanted me to email these pictures to his friends, but I decided to just post them here instead. That way you can all enjoy goldilocks!

This picture looks a little distorted, but it was the only one I took with a view from the front!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The great outdoors!

Some friends and I went away for a girls' weekend this past weekend. It was so nice to get away from the kids and the responsibilities of home and just relax! We played dominoes, ate, talked about being godly wives, ate, talked about raising godly daughters, ate, talked about heart friends and accountability, and ate some more. I don't think I felt even a tiny hunger pain the whole weekend!

As you can see from this picture we took advantage of the campfire and moved the TV outside. We watched a video called Your Girl which gave us lots of advice on how to raise godly daughters.

The girls! This picture looks a little more feminine than some I took! At least we had our legs crossed! We decided after no showers and smoky campfires for two days we looked and smelled a little manly!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

I realize it is a couple of weeks early, but Anna Grace has gotten us thinking about what we are thankful for. She was given a piece of paper with the same title as this blog. There were 105 empty blanks for her to fill in with things she is thankful for. This is what she came up with. I won't subject you to the spelling mistakes she made...you should be thankful for that!

family, mom, dad, Will, Jacob, Erica, friends, me, Eric, Tyler, Harley, teacher, Mrs. Fisher, church, school, Mrs. Campbell, Mrs. Lundy, Mikah, Mary Erin, Andrew, Nicholas, animals, squirrels, dog, cat, hamster, chipmunk, zebra, giraffe, body, food, drink, clothes, God, Jesus, us, grapes, bananas, pears, apples, house, everyone, TV, shirts, pants, mittens, gloves, scarf, candles, couches, chairs, pictures, camera, coconut, windows, girls, boys, cup, mug, plate, play, toys, people, Turkey, New York, Texas, Egypt, monkey, gorilla, fireplaces, computers, bible, cheetah girls, High School Musical, Zac Ephron, The Little Princess, jewelry, water, books, pillows, movies, furniture, cars, trophies, music, showers, baths, stop signs, stop lights, rocks, spirits, flowers, moon, sun, stars, earth, electricity, toilets, Jupiter, planets, coats, snow, closets, rugs, carpets

Interesting list...I know! She was proud of herself for coming up with that many.
So what are you thankful for?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Some answers.

Here are the answers to some of the questions posted by my blog readers.

1. Am I going to the craft fair tomorrow? Well, I went to the craft fair with Amy...thanks for asking...and I bought soup and dip mixes. I looked at all of the other items, but couldn't bring myself to buy anything that I was going to have to figure out how to get it back to Turkey. I kept thinking about the weight limit my bags were going to have and it was a good shopping deterant. I did see some pretty jewelry that wouldn't have taken up too much room, but we are saving for a new laptop so I just looked longingly at it and walked away.

2. Crunchy or creamy peanut butter? I am a crunchy girl myself. We usually buy both because the kids prefer the creamy, but give me some peanut butter with a little substance to it so I can justify the fat and calories.

3. When do we go back to Turkey? Well now, that is a good question. Our plan is to go back mid-January...like maybe the 11 or 12. We are still waiting on medical clearance from our company, but shouldn't have any problems.

4. Are we excited about going back? Yes and no. Erica is loving junior high in America, but will be fine once we get going. The other kids are all saying that they are ready to go back to their friends. Brian is really ready to go back, and I can do whatever. I am okay being in the states right now, but when the time comes I will be okay going back. One confession though....I might cry. I have never cried leaving America...not the first time or any of the times I have visited. This time I think I might be emotional about it. We will see.

5. What kinds of things have the kids noticed written on the bathroom stalls? Will came out of the restroom at a restaurant the other day and told Erica that if she was looking for a good time she could call Hannah at 281-***-****. We just about died. He thought that if a girl was looking for a good time she should have written her number in the girls bathroom where potential friends could read it. Oh, the innocence of youth.

6. Which country do I like better, America or Turkey? Now Abby, you know my answer. "They are very different from each other. They both have great things about them that I love. I like them equally well." Never commit to one or the other. It isn't good to bad mouth your home country or your host country.

7. Do I still make library cards for my personal books and then check them out to people? Why? Are you interested in borrrowing one? No, of course not. That is so high school! But, we do have a lot of DVD's in Turkey that we check out to people. They have to write their name in a little book along with the titles of the DVD's they are "checking out". Does that count? Those things are expensive, and after losing a few we got smart! Now we know who has what! And we are popular too...lots of people check out our movies! If you would come visit us, Mentanna, you could see if you approve of the system.

There were a couple of other serious questions that will take serious answers so I am waiting until I am in a more serious state of mind to answer them. Seriously!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Are there any questions?

I need to write a blog. I feel it. But, I don't know what to say. I keep having these moments that cause me to comment, "I am going to write a blog about that." But, when I sit down to write about them no words will come. Or I will have forgotten what it was I wanted to write about. Like now. I am thinking that I need to write a blog about how I am getting old. I am taking 6 different pills every night. All but one of them is a supplement. All have been recommended by doctors. That's it. Nothing funny or enlightening about that. It sounds good when I think about it but typed up on the computer it doesn't seem like much.

Another idea I had...when is it that your kids go from thinking you know everything to thinking you know nothing. With 4 kids in different stages of that thinking I just was wondering. And it isn't like Erica, the 13 year old, thinks I don't know what I am talking about. Deep down she realizes that I am almost always right. It's Anna Grace, the 7 year old, that seems to think that I don't have a clue. The boys don't seem to have a problem in this area. Jacob questions when he thinks I might possibly be wrong about something but usually takes my word for it. And Will, well who knows what he thinks! He seems to be pretty sure of what he thinks and doesn't ask for our opinion or advice much. Okay...so that is it for that topic.

I have also thought about writing about how while in America I am expecting more of people than I do in Turkey. I ask more of waiters...sauce on the side, no eggs even though the meal comes with them, substitutions. I don't know if it is because I know that they are used to it and expect to serve me or if it is because I can speak their language. In Turkey I might ask for sauce on the side except that would mean I would need to know how to say it in Turkish. And then I would wonder if they would be happy to get it for me or just think I am a demanding American.

All of these and many more thoughts have been floating around in my head. I just don't know how to write about them. I think I am in a slump. I was speaking to a group about our experiences overseas, and when I was done with what I had to say I took questions. Maybe that is what I need to do now. While I am in this slump....not able to come up with much to say myself...what do you want want me to write about? What do you want to know? Please...I am taking questions!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

South Carolina

Brian and I were priviledged to spend several days last week in Lexington, South Carolina. We went to a conference at Lexington Baptist Church and ended up getting much more than we ever anticipated. Our host family, Bryan and Cindy Herring, was great! They are big Clemson Tiger fans as the following pictures will show. A fellow conference attendee told me that when she moved to SC she was told she had to decide if she was going to be a South Carolina fan or a Clemson fan. It was true! We were only there 5 days, and we, too, had to make that choice! Of course it was much easier because of who we were living with!
. I had to take a picture the second day we were with the Herrings because for the second day in a row they were dressed in Clemson clothing! Notice the paw prints on the pants! That night we went to a family member's television store and watched the Clemson game on a big screen TV. They won 63-9! At least we chose a winning team! The chairs, plates, and cups were all orange! Their great niece was also there dressed as a Clemson cheerleader!

The next night I took a picture of the Herrings and Brian who was wearing as close to orange as he wanted. Being a Baylor alumni it was a major step to wear burnt orange, but he figured it was closer to Clemson's colors than green and gold.

Not satisfied with the burnt orange, Bryan Herring bought Brian a Clemson shirt and cap to wear the next day! It only took three days to win him over!

While we were driving around on Saturday afternoon we saw a stand that sold boiled peanuts. I mentioned to Cindy that one of the guys on our team in Turkey loves boiled peanuts and even got some in a package that he shared with us. That night for a snack she made some for us to try...fresh, hot, boiled peanuts anyone? These pictures are for you, Patrick!

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I keep thinking about needing to write a new blog, but the problem is I am not in town. I can write a blog from out of town obviously, but we have been really busy so I haven't had the time to do it. We actually go home tomorrow, Oct. 15, and I have plans for a blog. It will have pictures. So for now I leave you with what we call an OOB in Turkey. An OOB is what we send in to our supervisors when we go out of town. OOB stands for Out of Bed.

Who - Brian and Natalie
Where - Lexington, South Carolina
Dates - October 11-15
Why - M conference
How can I be reached? (insert telephone number here) I don't want everyone in cyberspace to know my phone number so I won't insert it myself!

Stay tuned for pictures from Lexington!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I was reading the newspaper this morning and saw a picture of this yummy fruit basket. I looked them up online and was really impressed with how pretty these baskets look. They even had a veggie version. I guess this is the health conscience person's version of the cookie bouquet! One could do this himself if one wanted...Abby, next time someone tells you to bring the fruit this is what I expect to see! No fruit on toothpicks allowed! And so I don't get in trouble for taking these pictures from someone else's website I'll tell you where I found them! www.fruitflowers.com and www.gourmet-cookie-bouquets.com. I don't know anyone who works at these places...I'm just impressed with their artistic abilities!
I think they almost look too good to eat! I said almost....

Monday, October 02, 2006

Did you know...

Did you know...

CSI is currently filming in 15 different cities including Las Vegas, New York, and Miami. CSI:Waco coming to a television near you!

Everything really is bigger in Texas. The mosquitos look like small birds!

You seldom get asked to read your bible in church if all you carry is a Turkish bible.

The restaurant service industry expects you to complain so they replace foods that look too well done or are not substantial enough, and bring refills on drinks before you can even drink 1/3 of them. e.g. "Here are some more pancakes. The others I brought looked too done." "This bloomin' onion is too small. I ordered another one for you."

Watching poker on TV is much more exciting than playing it in real life.

American products such as nacho cheese, bacon bits, peanut butter, crunchy cheetos, and shredded wheat taste better when someone brings them to us in Turkey than they do when we buy them ourselves from the stores here.

You can email your digital photos to Walmart and they will print them in an hour!

Being able to choose from 8 different college football games on TV is not as exciting as Brian thought it would be, and trying to watch all of them at the same time gives his thumb a workout!

A 24 count box of crayola crayons only costs a quarter during back to school sales!

When you have nothing to do and lots of time to do it in going fire ant hunting is a noteworthy event!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ask me!

Brian went to the eye doctor today to see what could be done about his hazy PRK eye. He has one eye that sees fine up close and at a distance, but the other eye can't see very well at a distance. The doctor told him that he could get glasses if he wanted but that it really wasn't necessary. He opted to get them and just use them for driving and other activities when clarity is nice...golf, baseball games, etc. This isn't what I want you to ask me about or why I am writing; however, the visit reminded me of a funny story about Anna Grace getting her eyes checked in January. The problem is the story is only funny if I tell it to you. I can't describe it well enough on this blog to do it justice. Then I was at church tonight and a friend reminded me of a story about Jacob questioning our job. Again, not something I can share on this blog. So I thought I would write a blog to tell you that I have these funny stories to tell. If you see me and want to hear funny kid stories ask. There is also one about Will learning how to spell words in English....only funny if you hear it. I'm sure I can probably come up with something funny that Erica has done as well, but I need to think about it! And....she is 13 so she might die of humiliation if I share stories about her!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Other Discoveries

I was at the grocery store yesterday and noticed more new items I hadn't seen before. First of all I saw brown marshmallows. They weren't a yummy looking chocolate brown...kind of a dirty brown. They were called Toasted marshmallows and they were covered with toasted coconut. They actually looked pretty gross but would probably taste great in a s'more. I didn't buy them...maybe next time.

There was also an item called Cottonelle for Kids. I had seen a coupon for it and couldn't imagine why they would make a special toilet paper for kids. The package said that it helps kids learn how much to use. Evidently kids follow paw prints printed on the paper to a puppy and then tear it off there. It looks like about 5 squares. I thought this sounded silly, but wonder if I should buy some for Jacob! That boy uses more toilet paper than anyone I know!

Until next time...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What's new?

I have watched a lot of TV over the last few weeks, and I have been to the grocery store quite a bit since we have been in the states. I can't believe how many different food choices we have! It is amazing! I noticed on a commercial for TGI Fridays they have a couple of new appetizers. Fried macaroni and cheese bites...what?!? How do you make macaroni and cheese more fattening...fry it! It actually sounds interesting to me, and I wouldn't mind tasting it. I just can't imagine it. They also have green bean fries. They must not have liked the fact that green beans were so healthy. I guess it would be similar to fried zuchini. Sounds kinda yummy to me.

We have also noticed that almost every kind of candy bar has an ice cream with the same name. They also come in super size, regular size, miniatures, and bite size. You can have your chocolate in any size or shape you want!

Another thing I found interesting is how all of the snack items come in the old package sizes and new 100 calorie packages. I guess they are trying to control our portion sizes for us since we haven't been too good at it ourselves. They have cookies, crackers, gummy snacks, and other fun things in the new 100 calorie packs.

Lastly, we are somewhat concerned about Olive Garden's never-ending pasta bowl. You can create as many pasta and sauce combinations as you want. Those people who only had a 100 calorie snack pack at snack time must be starving when dinnertime comes! Olive Garden knows this and is coming through for them! I think the commercial said there were 42 different combinations!

So what do you think? Have you heard of any new food items that I might have missed? Let me know!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Football...Texas Style!

Will's one request when we came back to the states was to be able to play American football. We signed him up for the local team and he started practicing. Practices are three evenings a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday and the games are on Saturdays! Who knew we were making such a time committment? Then last week they had a pep rally on Friday night. This week they have to go on Tuesday evening for team pictures! I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! Right after football started they had a parent meeting to let us know what all we could expect. One thing that the coach said really shocked us. He said that the kids would be weighed every week before the game to make sure they "made weight". He said that he did not want kids starving themselves before the games to be able to make weight. Then he said the limit was 145 lbs! For a 10 year old! I could not believe that some kids would have to starve themselves to be under 145 lbs! So after a couple of weeks of practices they did their first weigh-in. This wasn't for a game but just to let the kids know where they stood. After weighing Will there was much discussion about him being too light to play. He weighed 62 pounds in full pads! The coaches decided to move him to the 9 year old team...I have no idea what their weight limit is! He was a little disappointed but he is no longer the smallest on the team and as a mom, I am thankful that 145 lbs kids won't have the opportunity to tackle him! These pictures are from his first game. During the first quarter Will recovered a fumble by the other team while being surrounded by their guys. The announcer said..."Fumble recovered by the panthers number 87 Willlllll Dixonnnnnnnnnnnn. He heard it and loved it! We cheered like crazy people!

Number 87, Willlllllllll Dixonnnnnnnnnn

Will went in and out every other play to deliver the play to the huddle. It was so fun to watch the coach interact with him. The coach told him "stay with me" then would tell him the play and he would run in to deliver it.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Just as good as we remember!

As most of you know we were really looking forward to the food in America. Now don't get me wrong, the food in Turkey is really good but they are missing some of our favorites. We love seafood, and their seafood pretty much consists of fresh fish and mussels. You can get some other seafood dishes, but they aren't prepared the same as in America. We were especially looking forward to eating at one of our favorite restaurants, Pappadeaux's. Many people warned us that it probably wouldn't be as good as we remembered it to be. They said that they were disappointed in their favorite places when they came back for a visit because they had built them up so much in their minds, and then they didn't taste as good as they remembered. We didn't believe that we could be disappointed. We had already been back to the states for visits twice, and both times we ate at Pappadeaux's and it was still good! Soon after arriving in America, Brian and I went to Pappadeaux's for lunch. It was still yummy! Here are our favorite dishes!

Brian loves the crawfish platter! On the right you see fried crawfish tails. On the left is crawfish ettouffe, and in the middle is dirty rice. He always eats the fried crawfish first and then mixes the rice with the ettouffe and eats that. He says he eats it this way because if he can't finish his meal the fried crawfish doesn't taste very good reheated but the ettouffe does! Planning ahead so as not to waste good food...good thinking!

This is a shrimp po-boy...my favorite...basically a fried shrimp sandwich. According to my brother-in-law the pickles are the best part! The other day we went to lunch at Pappadeaux's and I decided to branch out a little. The meals always come with french bread so I decided to get the fried seafood platter. That is basically 3 fried shrimp, a decent portion of fried crawfish tails, and a piece of fried catfish. I had the great idea of making three different small sandwiches by using the bread that came with the meal. It was missing the lettuce and pickles, but that wasn't a big deal to me. I made a little sandwich with the shrimp first and ate that then could barely eat anything else! I had to have the server pack up the rest of the meal so I could take it home to eat later. My mistake had been eating a piece of bread with butter while we were waiting for our food to come. I had filled up on bread! I don't know how many times I have heard Brian say, "Don't fill up on bread." The waitress asked if I liked my meal when I asked her to pack it up, and I told her that I was really full because I had eaten too much bread. I don't know if she believed me or not! I had left the whole piece of catfish, all of the french fries, and almost all of the crawfish on my plate! If she only knew how much I love Pappadeaux's! Before coming back to America I had dreams about it, and this is the second blog I've written about it! The only disappointment in the whole experience was that my stomach couldn't hold all the food on my plate so I had to eat the rest later. Oh, and I agree with Brian. The fried crawfish didn't taste as good when I reheated it for lunch the next day. He is so smart!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Straight up...or almost!

I just wanted to write a quick little post to let everyone know that I am doing well. The surgery went fine and I am recovering. The doctor said that during surgery they removed 12 pounds of skin and fat. I am really fascinated by the whole thing. They removed all the skin from my belly button to just below my c-section scar. The c-section scar may gone but now I will have one from hipbone to hipbone. Brian says it looks like a magic trick gone wrong...like someone tried to cut me in half or something. Then they used the existing belly button but cut a new opening for it. I can't really tell a difference yet because I am pretty swollen and I am wearing bandages, a piece of foam for support and a really tight girdle like thing to help hold things in. When I got home I couldn't even tell by getting on the scale. I weighed the same as I did the morning of my surgery. Now it looks like I have dropped a few pounds but certainly not 12. I am getting tired of sleeping on my back, and it is still too uncomfortable to sleep on my side. I haven't even tried my stomach yet! I can stand up pretty straight but the muscles are really tight and sore if I stretch them too much. They say that it takes a couple of weeks to be able to walk upright again. The doctor said that I had quite a gap between the muscles in my stomach. He basically sewed the right side back to the left side. Again. I am fascinated. I know that diet and exercise would not have been able to rid me of the flap but would it have made the muscles move back together? I can't imagine how.

Thanks for praying for me and for the encouraging notes!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

To tell or not to tell...

I have been contemplating for a while now sharing a secret with you. Actually most of my really close friends already know this secret so I guess it really isn't a secret. Just something that I am not sure how to share because I don't know what kinds of reactions I will get. But then I thought people will soon begin to guess the secret so rather than having gossip go around about me I should be the one to spill the beans. So here goes...

I am having surgery...an elective procedure. Many of you know that I have been working on losing weight. The grand total at one point was 44 pounds over a 2 1/2 year period. I must admit I have gained back 8-10 pounds just since I have been in the states though! Too much TexMex and ice cream! Anyway...after losing the weight I have been plagued by excess skin...maybe too much information for some folks! So after meeting with a plastic surgeon I have decided to undergo a tummy tuck. This will remove the extra skin from my stomach plus they will repair the stomach muscles and do some liposuction to even things out. This surgery does NOT shrink my stomach or involve any gastic bypass whatsoever. It is not designed to help me eat less. I am not doing this to lose weight but that will be a benefit. I am doing it so that the pants that fit around my stomach also fit around my waist without having to be taken in. I am doing this because after 4 c-sections no amount of dieting was going to rid me of "the flap" as we so affectionally call it. I am doing this because I want to, not because anyone else thinks I should. I am not ashamed to tell anyone, just worried that people will judge my motives or think less of me. I don't want people to be disappointed in me. I am telling you this so you can be comfortable and so I will be comfortable. I have been really open in small circles and think that people deserve to know and not wonder. If you have any questions feel free to ask. I would be happy to talk about it. And pray for me! My surgery is scheduled for August 14, at 7:30am central time. The recovery period is supposed to be about 8 weeks, but I will still have nerve damage and some slight swelling for up to 6 months! The first two weeks will be the hardest and most painful according to my doctor so I probably won't be online or out much if any. When you see me don't be shy. If you want to know something...ask!

Friday, August 04, 2006

It ain't so easy!

Okay...did I say living in America is easy? I think after the last couple of days I have changed my mind! I have been trying to register the kids for school but it hasn't happened yet! We went to Erica's new school the other day and started the process. We got to the form that said something about "proof of residency" and that is where we had to stop. I can't prove that I live in this house! The address on my driver's license is my parent's address since we consider that our permanent stateside address. I don't want to change it and then have to change it back in 3 months. There are no bills in my name. I don't have a lease agreement. I just am. How does this work? On one form I thought about checking the box that said we were living in a temporary shelter. That could include a car or an abandoned building according to the paper. I thought I could say we are living in this abandoned house...that my parents happen to own. Or we are living in our car which is parked in the driveway of a house my parents happen to own. I thought that might cause more problems so instead we went today to get approval from the head honcho on admissions and he said we could go to school. Yea! I was starting to sweat thinking about homeschooling the kids. Instead of going back to finish Erica's school registration we decided to go to the the other kids' school first. We got all of our copies made and then got stuck on the shot records. The nurse did seem a little puzzled when she saw that all of our kids have had rabies shots. She must have been envisioning a pack of rabid dogs attacking us. I explained our situation and we now need to have approval for all of the shots we had before we left. I compiled all of our records onto these nice yellow cards we got from our company but we never had any nurse or doctor sign it. The records aren't valid until I have a doctor sign them. This actually makes sense to me so we went to the old pediatrician office where we discovered that in our 4 1/2 year absence from America our records have been put in storage. Well, all but Will's, but I think we just got lucky there! So we now have to pay $35 per child to have the records pulled so we can get a copy of the shot records in them. We are supposed to go back next week and pick them up and hopefully at that point be able to complete the registration process. One thing I am figuring out is that we are weird. I guess I already knew that, but I never thought so much about it. We don't fit anyone's criteria or into anyone's box. People hear that we are in the states for a few months and don't know what to do with us. Who knew that we would cause such problems just trying to go to school?

On a side note...Will went to the doctor today because he has a cough and hasn't been feeling well. He has a bronchial infection and was given a prescription for an antibiotic. When I took it to the pharmacy the pharmacist asked when I would like to come back to pick up the prescription. I asked her how long it would take to fill it and she said if I wanted to wait it would only be about 15 minutes. I waited. All I could think was I am not coming back later! I haven't accomplished anything at all because I keep having to come back later. I wanted to be able to say that I had at least finished something!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

New Orleans

We have just recently driven from Texas to Virginia. We drove through Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Six states in 3 days. It was really interesting to see so many different sights along the way. We drove on interstate 10 through New Orleans and were really shocked at the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. Whole neighborhoods empty. I had seen pictures of the really poor neighborhoods on the news, but what surprised me was the amount of what seemed to be middle class homes destroyed. It seemed like the media had really highlighted the poorer areas and overlooked other neighborhoods. Maybe it was because these folks made it out of the area before Katrina hit. Maybe it was because there weren't any deaths in these areas. Maybe these people didn't lose everything and were able to start over somewhere else with relative ease. Maybe living overseas I had just missed these pictures. Looking out at subdivisions with every house having broken or boarded up windows really was indescribable. All of the fences surrounding the houses had disappeared in the flooding so we could see straight into some of the homes. We could see two or three temporary mobile campers set up in front yards where some families were staying. Other than those few campers the area was like a ghost town. Nobody was home. As I thought about all of the displaced people and then contemplated the few who chose to stay in a small camper close to their damaged home I couldn't imagine what they must feel like. If my home was damaged as badly as these homes were what would I do? I don't think I would choose to stay. In a neighborhood of 100 homes I have to wonder how do you start the process of cleaning up and starting over. If one family decides to work on getting their home in livable condition but no other family on that street chooses to do the same thing what is the value of the one repaired home? I can't imagine being the first one to make repairs hoping that others will follow in my footsteps. I would imagine at this point that many banks own these homes, but even then, how do you start to clean up? I think it would be a much easier process if only one or two neighborhoods needed repair. The thousands of damaged or destroyed homes that we saw seemed like a overwhelming task. I know those devastated by the storm probably feel that way.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Reflections or simple answers made complicated!

So, I have been thinking lately. Not a shocking thing if you know me. I often go into reflection mode when I am asked a good question by someone. I can give a simple answer at the time of the question asking, but then I think about it for a long while and my answer ends up being way more complicated and indepth than the question asker ever wanted to hear. Then I usually reflect out loud or by email to Brian, Abby, Mentanna, or a few other friends, and we work through the thought together. I thought that this time I would open up my thoughts to my blog readers...not sure how many of the people that know I have a blog actually read it so that could still just be Abby and Mentanna. Brian doesn't even read it!

Here goes...
Since we have been back we have been asked how we are getting along here, if we are settling in okay, how the kids are adjusting, and other similar questions. My first answers have been something like fine, yes, pretty well, and we are having fun. After deeper questions...usually from the friends I've mentioned above...I have really thought hard about how we are really doing and what we are really thinking. My initial thoughts on the issue usually have something to do with how much easier it is to live in America and how simple life is here. I have said this to a few people and I don't think they liked it much. The more I think about it the more I think that it sounds somewhat offensive...like I think everyone has such an easy life and that my life in Turkey is so much harder than anyone else's. That isn't what I am meaning. I don't want to offend. How can I answer the question without offending people? Here is what I mean by life here in America is easier.

1. In Turkey life outside our house takes place in Turkish. I know some Turkish, but I am in no way even close to being fluent in it nor can I conduct the majority of my life in Turkish. When I go to the grocery store, the post office, the doctor's office, or anywhere outside of my house I have to be able to speak at least enough Turkish to be understood. That means I have to have a plan. I have to think about what I am doing or what I might want to say to someone ahead of time. Now those places I have mentioned are pretty easy for me. I do them often so I have memorized the script. Hopefully the Turks I come across know the script and don't ask me something that I'm not expecting. Because I am so used to thinking about what I want to say before I say it I start planning my words as soon as I know that I might need them. I will never forget the first time we came back to the states for a visit. I was taking Erica to the eye doctor, and I remember driving to his office and thinking about what I wanted to tell him and how I should say it. About halfway there I realized that I didn't have to worry about it. He speaks English. I know English! The same thing happened when I came back to the states by myself. I learned on the airplane that my flight from Chicago to Houston had been canceled so I was going to have to get another flight. I started to panic because I hadn't memorized the script about needing a new flight when mine had been canceled. A few mintutes later I realized that they speak English in Chicago. I should be fine. So, for me, life is automatically more complicated in Turkey because of the language barrier and the amount of planning normal living takes. I don't usually stress about it or avoid going places where I might need words that I don't know. I just plan my thoughts ahead of time or trudge through if I am unprepared. It works...most of the time!

2. The culture in Turkey is completely different from our culture in America. If you go for a visit you might not notice a huge difference. In our city people seem to be fairly westernized. But, under that western facade is a culture that has deep roots in Islam and superstitions. People may look similar to us or to western Europeans but they don't think the same way. Turks are a very passionate people. We tend to be go with the flow type people. We don't get worked up too much over things. Things are big deals to them. One of my American friends said that everything is either a drama or a trauma in Turk's lives. I felt like we lived from one crisis to the next while we were there. I love the passion though. Because things are a big deal to Turks, people are also a big deal to them. I think they live life deeper than we do. That can be a good thing, but it is tiring when you aren't used to it. They invest in people. The problem with that is that when people make mistakes or let them down they get deeply offended. They have a hard time with forgiveness. That makes for more drama and trauma! Just getting off the phone with a Turk is an adventure. We say something like "talk to you later, bye". They say "it was good talking to you, talk to you later, take care of yourself, tell everyone I say hi, kisses, bye". Even saying goodbye can be tiring because it takes so long!

I have a lot more floating around in my head, but I don't want this blog to be too long. I will add some more reasons later so just chew on this for a while. What do you think?

Just Pictures

This blog is mainly for the enjoyment of my Turkey friends. I thought it would be easier to post pictures of where we live on here instead of emailing them to everyone for them to download themselves. You don't have to be a Turkey to look at these pictures so feel free to look and comment if you are interested.

This is the front and back view of our house. Our front door is in the middle of the house. You have to walk up some stairs to get to it and when you get inside you are on the landing between floors. The upstairs floor has the main living area, kitchen, and kids bedrooms on it. The downstairs has another living area and our bedroom. It seems a little strange to go upstairs to get to the kitchen and carrying the groceries up can be a pain, but I can't complain. I only have to go up one floor...not 3! Brian is enjoying mowing the yard! He has also gone out and weeded the flower beds. Anna Grace commented that she thought our backyard wasn't very big. I told her it is bigger than her personal backyard in Turkey! The sliding door you see under the balcony goes into our bedroom

Here is our kitchen. I wish our kitchen in Turkey was this big! It seems huge!

This is the upstairs living room. There is a small table over to the right of the living area so we have called it the salon just to keep things simple.

Downstairs living room. Brian decided to call it the den to make it easier. Our computer is over in the back corner. Our bedroom is also downstairs off to the left of this picture.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

You're not from around here, are you?

We are having fun in America! The other day we stopped at an Exxon to get gas in the car. Brian asked if I would run into the convenience store and buy him a cup of coffee while he pumped the gas. He used to love to get coffee at the gas station so I was excited that he could have some. They don't have coffee in gas stations in Turkey so it was a treat. I thought to ask him what kind of coffee he wanted since I expected a couple of different choices. He said he just wanted the regular kind. I walked into the store and just stopped. They had a complete coffee bar! There were about 10 different flavors of coffee...house blend, dark magic, special roast, mountain berry, caramel vanilla, irish creme, and several other flavors. And then the creamers...probably 15 different choices there. Then, of course, I had to decide which size cup Brian would want from the 5 choices. I wasn't sure what to do. I finally chose the dark magic since it sounded like dark roasted coffee and decided on a medium large cup. I went out where Brian was paying at the pump for the gas (something we can't do in Turkey) and told him that next time he wanted coffee from the gas station he had to go get it himself. It was too overwhelming for me!

Yesterday, we spent some time at my parents' house visiting with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Erica and two of my cousins were making brownies in the kitchen. My mom reminded them to grease the pan and asked if they wanted to use Pam or shortening to grease it. I looked at Erica and I could tell she was confused. I asked her if she knew what Pam was. She said no. I asked her if she knew what shortening was. Again, she said no. I started laughing! We use oil or margarine in Turkey because they don't have Pam or shortening there! New vocabulary!

Anna Grace has also learned some new vocabulary since she has been here. One of her new words is pantry. She had no idea what that was! When I asked her to get something out of the pantry she just looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. In Turkey we have some food in the normal kitchen cabinets and some food in another cabinet unit that we refer to as a dolap (dole-ahp) which is the Turkish word for cabinet. If I had asked her to get something out of the dolap she would have known exactly what I meant. Also, Walmart is a new word for her. We left Anna Grace at my parents' one evening while we ran to Walmart to pick up a few things. My uncle asked her where we went, and he said she just tapped her head and said, "what was the name of that place again". He said any kid raised in America would have had no problem coming up with Walmart. He could tell she wasn't from around here.

I'm sure there will be more things to share with you as we live the adventure here in the states. Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 19, 2006

More stuff in Turkey

Water! It is so cheap in Turkey. A 20 oz. bottle of good water costs about a quarter...even Aquafina. I tried to buy a bottle of Aquafina water from Target today and it was $1.19! I was shocked. I decided to go thirsty. Then changed my mind and went through the drive-thru at McDonalds and got a bottle of Dansani for a dollar. Wow. We have large bottles of water delivered in Turkey...usually 3 at a time for about $12. And as you can tell from the picture they are the big Ozarka like bottles. And one of my favorite things about the big bottles there is Mr. Pumpy! It is a pump you put on the bottles to pump the water out into your glass. I meant to buy one and bring it here to put on the bottles here but forgot. I guess that is okay because I don't think I could afford the bottles of water!

Our freezer. I love this upright freezer that Brian bought me for my 2nd mother's day in Turkey. The top two compartments have a plastic door that opens and the bottom four compartments are drawers that pull out. It is very handy!

Our balcony! Sitting on the deck off the back of our house in Texas just isn't the same. I was excited to be able to sit outside like we are used to doing but staring down into the backyard just doesn't compare to being able to look up and down the street outside our building. There are usually people walking around, wild dogs in the field across the street, numerous cars, buses and dolmuses driving by as well as many other activities. The weather is also really nice...no humidity to speak of...so we even eat out there sometimes. I will miss the good summer weather for sitting on the balcony. By the time we get back to Turkey it will be winter and too cold to sit out there.

I was going to post some pictures of foods that we will miss while we are in the states but I decided to wait until we actually miss them. So far we have enjoyed all the yummy things we have been able to eat and not really missed any Turkish food items. I'm sure it will come though!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Things we will miss

The next few posts will feature some of the fine Turkish products or services we will miss while we are in the states. These are in no particular order!

1. Public Transportation!
It is everywhere you need to be. The small blue bus pictured below is called a dolmus (dole-moosh) in Ankara. In Istanbul these are called mini buses but no matter what they are called they are wonderful! To take a dolmus you stand on the side of the road and wait for one to come by that has a sign indicating it will pass by where you want to go. Then you just wave at the driver...he stops and you get on. You do have to pay to use them and the fare depends on where you want to go. Almost all places in Ankara cost 1.20 lira which is equal to about 77 cents. Then when you are ready to get off you just have to tell the driver to stop. It's that simple. This dolmus is passing right in front of my apartment.

The Taxi! Taxi's here can be flagged down or you can call the local taxi stand and have one pick you up from your apartment. The drivers at our stand know us and are always very friendly. When we call for a taxi we need to already be walking out the door because the taxi will be pulling up in front of our building in about the time it takes us to get out there...2 minutes! They are more expensive of course but when we are in a hurry well worth it.

And finally the bus. This bus stop is in front of the building next door to us so again we can catch it on our street. This bus uses a bus card which is purchased from a terminal downtown. When you get on the bus you slide your card in a machine and it subtracts the price of your ride. The price depends on if you are a student, elderly, or if you bought a multi-ride card. 20 rides costs 20 lira but one ride costs 1.20 lira. There are also pay buses that have a little man sitting at a desk about halfway down the isle who takes your money. This bus takes me downtown where I can catch another bus, a dolmus, or the subway if I need a second ride to get me where I am going.
I mentioned the subway above which is another form of public tranportation provided. It uses the same cards as the bus and the fares are the same. If I transfer from a card bus to another card bus or the subway within 45 minutes of my first ride the second ride is free! There are two subway lines in Ankara but in order for me to take one I have to take another form of transportation to get me to a subway stop.

The last thing I thought I would highlight is the service vans that most grocery stores have. After you shop you can take a free service van home. You usually have to wait a few minutes for them to fill up and then you have to give them directions to your house. A few of them will do pick-ups as well at scheduled times on certain days.

Oh, I can't forget to say my feet! I walk to a lot of places I never would have even thought to walk to in the states. Everyone here walks a lot! I will miss being able to walk to the grocery store, the tailor, the outdoor food market, and friends' houses.

So you can see I have not needed to drive a car for the last four years of my life which is a good thing because all the cars here are standards, and I don't know how to drive one. I plan on learning when I get back to the states though. But, my dad has assured me that a dolmus will drive down our street in Texas and take me wherever I need to go. And I'm sure the nice Kroger people will take me home if I spend enough money in their store. But it shouldn't be too much of a problem. I will have a car, and it's not a standard. The only problem is I have to share it with Brian!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Go, Go Jonah

Saturday Will, Jacob, and Anna Grace participated in the musical Go, Go Jonah at church. Will had a main character part which he was very nervous about. He had to be sarcastic and not very nice to another kid. It was fun to see him actually be able to do that convincingly. Anna Grace and Jacob were in the choir as Yeoman of Joppa...basically pirates.

Anna Grace and her friend Mikah pose for the camera.

Jacob and his friend Jacob looking not so ruthless!

Will, Sam and Josh are really good friends. Sam played the bully and Will had to act like he couldn't stand him. It was lots of fun because they really love each other!

Soccer 2006

Soccer...what can I say about soccer. The local military base here sponsors sports for the kids. Will and Jacob both played this spring. Will scored two goals and I missed both of them! That's what happens when there are other kids to watch as well. Here is a team picture. Will is bottom, 2nd from right. Brian is top, right.

Here is Will trying to score a goal on his dad. Mr. Greg, a good friend and one of the coaches, tried to stop him.

Mr. Greg giving Will his trophy! They both were making goofy faces at the camera.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tea and Yogurt

I was making cheese toast in my oven this morning and I realized that there were a few things about ovens in Turkey that are different. So I thought I would share.

The cay danlik. That is the pot you see on the stovetop in this picture. Cay means tea in Turkish. Everyone has one and they are usually sitting on their stoves since they are used all the time. How to make Turkish cay... Fill the bottom part of the pot, or the kettle, with cold water and put loose tea leaves into the teapot on top...about 1 tsp of leaves for each glass of tea you want to make. I usually throw in a little extra as well. Put the kettle, with the teapot on top, on the heat to boil. When the water boils, pour it into the teapot until full and put it on the kettle, which should still contain plenty of boiling water. Lower the heat to medium while the tea brews for about 10 minutes. When the tea is ready pour it into your glass. Only pour a little...anywhere from a fourth to half a glass. They have tea strainers you pour the tea through so you don't get tea leaves in your cup but many people don't use them and just know how to pour it so very few leaves come out. Then use the hot water in the bottom pot to fill your glass. You can adjust the strength of your tea by putting more or less of the tea in your glass. Most people here drink their tea at medium strength. You can also order it acik which means light or kamyonculu which means like a trucker or really dark! And of course you can sweeten your tea to taste. The tea here is generally served with a couple of sugar cubes on the side or with a bowl of sugar cubes. When we are in the states please come by and we will make you a cup of Turkish tea! It is really yummy!

I got this picture off of a website just so you could see what the finished product looks like. These glasses are the normal tea glasses here. The ones we bought aren't quite this fancy...no gold!

Another interesting thing about Turkish ovens is the yogurt setting you can find on them. I have never actually made my own yogurt since you can find it everywhere here and it is very inexpensive. I know that you use about 2 tablespoons of yogurt mixed with about several cups of milk. After that I don't know what to do. The setting is less than 100 degrees celsius but I don't know what the exact temperature is. I have found a recipe for making your own yogurt at home by boiling milk and adding the yogurt to it at www.turkishcookbook.com but it says nothing about the oven.

So there you have it. Cultural lessons from an experienced cay maker and an inexperienced yogurt maker.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pictures from Esenboga

I had to take a trip to the airport the other day to pick up a volunteer team. I decided to take my camera and get some pictures of the waiting room I blogged about in March. Here they are!

I am standing in the doorway to the outside. I don't know if there are actual doors that can close or if it is just a doorway. They are never closed if there are doors. Anyway... off to the right there are doors that lead outside as well. To the left are a few benches and a small booth selling things to eat and drink. Straight ahead is the sliding door that leads into the airport. In this picture it had just opened because someone walked by on the inside. My friend, Abby, is the girl on the left in the pink shirt.

Notice the people right next to the glass. They are trying to see through it which is next to impossible! The plane we were meeting was the only one coming in for a couple of hours so the room wasn't too crowded.

This is after the plane landed. All of a sudden people came from who knows where to meet the passengers. I am still standing in the doorway to the outside. There is still quite a bit of empty space in front of these guys. When more than one plane is coming in you can't even move in this room!

Just thought I would share!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lunch Time

I just had to post this picture of one of our coworkers. He was over for a meeting and it ran into lunch time. He, being the timely organized guy he is, had packed a lunch for the day. He took it out and I just about died. It was the lunch you hear about. The one you are supposed to eat. His sandwich was peanut butter and jelly. Both the bread and the peanut butter were homemade! The cookies were also homemade...not the slice and bake kind of homemade but the real thing...chocolate chip. The pretzels and the apple finished it off. I told him I could pour him a glass of milk if he needed it to feel complete. He opted for water. Anyway...just thought it was funny. Who knew a packed lunch could look so good!