Thursday, March 28, 2013

Electronic Meltdown

This post has been updated: see postscript.

Despite my sensible decision a year or two ago to stop buying electronics "back home" -- the money saved was not worth the hassle of getting things repaired or replaced under warranty from here in Turkey -- I admit I've bought a couple of items in Canada since then, and have regretted it each time. 

Today my latest mistake arrived.  In what I can only explain as a sleep-deprived under-unusual-stress-induced impatient decision, I bought it online and found a way to get it here mid-year.  I'm embarrassed to say (but will do so in a minute anyway) how many people were roped into my obsessive plan and ended up contributing to this scheme in some way.

And then what did I do?  I plugged it and its 110V insides into my 220V sockets with a plug adapter forgetting that I also should have used a voltage adapter!!!  

What makes this really sting, though, is that the appliance was the "Tot Clock" I'd been looking forward to for months and that I'd gotten my 3-year-old all excited about.  I'd ordered it on Amazon because only they would take a non-American credit card, and therefore paid way too much for it, had it sent to a friend's house in Ohio, who had her husband bring it back to Istanbul, who in turn  had his assistant drop it off this afternoon.  I'd spent way too much time and energy on this silly thing, but so convinced was I that this would be the perfect solution for my son's too-early wake-up time, that I was blinded.    

There we were this evening -- my kids and I are on the floor, opening the box.  Everyone's grabbing at it, pushing the buttons, dropping it ... It's madness, and I'm acting just as crazy as the kids are.  B's grabbing the manual out of my hand and insisting on "reading" it, because that's just the 20-month-old phase he's in; K's pushing all the coloured buttons, trying to change the colour of the clock face, since he's colour-obsessed (always has been); and I'm trying to set the damn clocks while reading the instructions in the manual that keeps being moved, page-turned, flipped upside down.

And then the clock face goes dark and the digital clock on the back goes blank and it's game over.  I thought I'd smelled something funny a minute ago ... Turns out it was the insides frying.

And so once again, tomorrow morning at about 5:45, I'll be woken to the sweet lilting voice of my 3-year-old, calling from his bedroom across the hall: "Mommy?  Is it wake up time?"

"No, not yet," I'll softly call back.  But it'll be too late.  The baby will be standing at the crib railings and the dog will be stirring in her crate, and I'll have about two minutes until they start to noisily insist on being set free to start the day.

12 hours later: my older son did indeed wake up at 5:30am, and in his whole-house search for the clock, woke us all up.  But on the bright side, with the extra hour this morning, I decided to give the clock another try.  I dug up a screwdriver and popped four AA batteries into the battery compartment and ... it worked!  So as long as I keep those batteries charged, I should be able to forget this ugly incident ever happened.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Life Lessons (A Review)

This post has been updated.

Sometimes I can be a slow learner; I would have hoped that one aha! moment were enough, but today I clearly needed reminding that I can't control everything and everyone around me.

In my mind, it was the perfect plan: I would walk the dog for half an hour, and then take a shower.  If my husband could just get the kids dressed at some point during that hour, we'd all be ready to leave for the Şişli organic farmer's market at 9:30.  We'd all eaten breakfast and I'd even laid out the kids' clothes (--though, mind you, not for the sake of fashion, but rather because it was darn cold today and I wanted to make sure they were dressed warmly enough).

Traffic in Şişli can be a nightmare, and if one doesn't leave the market by noon, one will spend twice as long in traffic as one otherwise would.  Another incentive to leave the house early, get there, do our shopping, and head home is that it would decrease the likelihood of the kids falling asleep in the car on the way back, thereby increasing the likelihood that they'd have good long naps in their own beds.  (And perhaps I would too!)

Do I sound controlling yet?

As I should have/could have/probably subconsciously did predict, when I got home from my walk my husband and two kids were all in the exact same place I'd left them.  When I got out of the shower, they were still "playing."

But how can I possibly insist on schedules when it would mean putting an end to the beautiful moments of "flow" my three men seem to be very good at creating for themselves?  I reluctantly shape airplanes and butterflies out of play dough because the dirty dishes and the unrefrigerated leftovers and the laundry nag at me.  But today my husband took parenting to new heights, painstakingly making a two-dimensional tree and a rabbit for our son, and showing him (and me!) a whole new world of play dough possibilities.  No toddler art class could have done that!

Not an hour after posting this, I read a New York Times "Motherlode" review of a book on minimalist parenting, whose (male) author felt the book described his parenting style exactly!  

Thursday, January 31, 2013

My 'Stay-cation'

This post has been updated (photo).

For the first time in what seems like ages, I'm spending a holiday at home.  It would require too much mental effort to actually stop and think about what we did last year and the year before that during this two-week break between semesters in Turkey; but I'm sure we weren't here, at home in Istanbul.

And I am as happy as ... Well, you can supply your own simile.  Suffice to say, I'm love love loving being a stay-at-home mom with a full-time helper and one child in preschool half days!  At a nice, leisurely pace of approximately one errand per day, I'm crossing things off my to-do list that have been there for months: getting a second pair of Isofix hooks installed in my car so that both my kids can ride safely in their car seats; dentist; chiropractor; pediatrician; pedicure; a trip to IKEA.  I've even cleaned out and restocked my medicine cabinet.

And I'm busy at home, too:  you'd think I were pregnant again, the way I've suddenly found huge reserves of energy for domestic chores.  I finally attempted the New York Times no-knead bread recipe I've been saving for about five years; and I'm baking several batches of bran muffins so that I can finally use up the supply of All-Bran (not available in Turkey) an American friend who was leaving Istanbul gave me two years ago.  (Yes, the cereal is well past its expiry date, but I'm choosing not to be bothered by that.)  And a few days ago I made several jars of quince jam, one of my favourites.

I have a sneaking suspicion I promised photos in a recent blog; and here I am again, photo-less.  I won't promise, but hereby declare my best intention to snap a few shots of my handiwork and post them soon.

This morning, my youngest and I practiced saying a few more words (he's currently got either about ten words or zero words, depending on whether it counts that his mother is the only human being able to understand him); and in an hour, I'll take my oldest to the Thursday farmer's market, where he'll be given homemade string cheese by the cheese man, and a cucumber by the vegetable seller.

So here's the question I'm deliberating as I take our 10-week puppy out every other hour and wait for her to pee not-in-the-house:  would I make this good use of my time, were I indeed a full-time stay-at-home-mother?  Or am I making the most of these preciously long days precisely because I know I only have fifteen of them?

My first attempt at bread!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Year's Miscellanea

New Year's is more than a week behind me, but I still wanted to put together a few random thoughts.

Even though this was my seventh Christmas/New Year's in Turkey, I'm still surprised each year by the way so much of western/Christian Christmas symbolism is used by Turks to celebrate New Year's!  For me, it means I get more Christmas spirit in December, as malls erect beautifully decorated trees, and stores sell wrapping paper and ribbons.

We were in Adana, and although, when we lived there I always longed for cold, snowy Christmases, this year, the blue skies and warm sun (16 degrees Celsius during the day!) was therapeutic for me.

The coal-smoke air from dusk until dawn was not!  Although I remember being mildly bothered by the smokiness of the winter air in Adana, as many people heated their homes with wood-burning ovens, this year, my throat was actually burning by 6pm, and I'd wake up coughing in the middle of the night.  It seems most households have switched to coal, which the current government is greatly subsidizing and sometimes even handing out free, to gain popularity.  What this does long-term for the health of people and the environment, seems to be a worry for another day.

On New Year's day we went to friends for brunch, and shared our resolutions for 2013 -- just the kind of meaningful conversation I love.  We also shared our new tradition, something I've gotten from a colleague, who in turn got it from a student: throughout the year, we will write down 'happy moments' and put them in a box, to be read on New Year's Eve twelve months from now.  Should be a great way to capture and relive the best parts of the year and be thankful.

Sorry no photos ... Still haven't gotten them off my camera!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sweeping Snow

Istanbul has been covered in what looks to me like a good foot of snow, and it's still coming down, which means tomorrow is the third snow day in a row!  Schools are closed, and I'm enjoying romping in the soft fluffy stuff with the kids.

One thing I do miss, oddly, are the chores that come with winter -- shoveling the driveway, deicing the car.  Now that I have the opportunity, though, I lack the equipment!  I felt like a fool, clearing snow off my car with my mitts; and was glad there was no ice to scrape off underneath that snow!

And this evening, I cleared the snow off our front steps ... with a broom!  Not as satisfying as with a snow shovel, but it worked surprisingly well.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

2 Educational Apps for Toddlers

I subscribe to an excellent newsletter from Common Sense Media and just received their "Essential Apps for Kids and Teens."  I've downloaded two of the recommended apps for toddlers to my Kobo.

Kids ABC Phonics is recommended for three-year-olds under the Android category, and should feed my son's interest in identifying letters.  I'm hoping my 17-month-old will enjoy imitating animal sounds on Peekaboo Barn; a friend who's a speech therapist specializing in babies said that encouraging him to make even animal sounds is a step towards helping him form words.

Further to my recent post on kids and iPads, I think these apps will be a worthwhile way for my sons to spend some time playing with technology -- becoming comfortable figuring things out instead of being intimidated by something they don't know.

An early Christmas present; I'll see what my boys think of these two apps tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Family Photo Shoot Co-op

Since my husband or I are always the ones taking photos of our family, we have very few pictures of the four of us together.  And the ones we do have were taken spontaneously by a friend on their phone ... and while great, don't lend themselves well to printing.

A few weeks ago, while chatting with friends at one of our kids' birthday parties, this issue came up; it turns out we aren't the only ones with this problem!  As we talked, someone had the idea of getting together one weekend to photograph each other's families.  The idea grew, and this past weekend two of my colleagues and I got together with our families for an hour on Sunday afternoon to take family portraits of each other.

It helped that one of my colleagues is our school's photography teacher, and the other an avid amateur photographer.  But with today's great digital cameras and user-friendly photo editing programs, there's no reason you can't organize a family photo shoot "co-op" too.  I hope that this will be just the first of such projects, and that in the future, I'll have developed my own photography skills enough to be able to get on the other side of the lens myself!

Note: my friend used Adobe Photoshop Elements to touch-up our photos, and his mini-lesson made me want to buy the software myself!