April 30, 2013


  • I went to the doctor about my ear pain yesterday. Let me rephrase that - I went to my work's Wellness Center. I'm not really sure if they're qualified doctors and am kind of suspect about their true qualifications. Anyhow, she told me there is definitely inflammation in there, but no bulging ear drum. So she gave me Flonase and said she suspects it's allergies. Argh. Back to the chiropractor I go, because at least that takes the pain away temporarily.
  • C-man has a baseball scrimmage tomorrow. I have been so uninvolved in baseball this year, I don't even know any of the new kids! At least there are 16 games to learn them.
  • I have an eye appointment tonight. I'm so glad I'll be able to get new glasses, because I'm so overdue and know my astigmatism has changed. I'm already thinking of my excuse why I can't get my eyes dilated though. I hate when they do that, and because my prescription is so awful, they always insist.
  • C-man finished The One and Only Ivan, and I'm about halfway through. He keeps wanting to discuss the book, and excitedly told me the ending when I picked him up from school. Beerman has decided he does not get the idea of a book club. I love that he's so excited though.
  • My rheumatologist still hasn't called me back about the Orencia. I'm guessing it's an insurance block thing. Annoying, because I'm getting more and more crippled. I'm really hoping this thing works out.
  • Speaking of working out, now that the weather is improving, I am moving more, but need to do a better job at it. Must.Move.More.
  • First Communion is this weekend. While in church on Sunday, C-man was so excited it was his last time not being able to go. Tonight, we pick up his suit. He's thrilled.
  • Last night C-man got his giant Twix bar from Beerman for eating half of an avocado. This was a multi-day event until he finally got the courage to eat it. The way this child psychs himself out of trying new foods amazes me.
  • I have Friday off to clean the house and get ready for the weekend. I cannot wait.

April 29, 2013

Tips for traveling with a kid

While other families went on their merry ways to Disneyworld, we went to Paris and Western Turkey with an 8 year old. And I can't tell you how many people said, "You're doing wh-AT? Do you think he'll like it?" We thankfully have a great kid. And yes, he did like it. Loved it, actually. And while this was only our first trip, we definitely learned a few things along the way about what it means to travel with a kid.
  • Let him do some research and choose some of the itinerary. For us, we suggested Paris as an option, and he latched on to it. So it became "his" leg of the trip. Which was amazing, because he wanted us to see the Louvre and the Musee D'Orsay, which we would never have done with an 8 year old if we'd done all of the planning.
  • Rules, schmules. You're on vacation. Would you want to have to follow every rule you do at home? Neither does he. Of course, there's within reason. But relax.
  • The food is different. If you have a picky kid like we do, then look for ways to make the food more "normal". He doesn't like sauce? Order it without. While a waiter may stick his nose up in the air at the Picky American if you ordered something in a special way, we never found this the case when it was being done for a child. Children are tough eaters the world over, and everyone understands. So help the kid out and ask for it the way he likes it.
  • Changing time zones can throw the toughest iron stomach off. Have some apples or protein bars in your bag so you can feed him when he's hungry. It's also a nice way to introduce him to street food.
  • Force vitamins on everyone. I am convinced this helped with the transition, but also for everyone to stay healthy and happy.
  • Milk is not typically drunk as a beverage by itself outside of the US. You can ask for it, and will get it. But often, it'll be room temperature whole milk. We found Fanta was a less nutritious but much easier beverage to order. Too much sugar? Go back to bullet point 2.
  • See the sites through the eyes of a child. We went to lots of ruins and old churches and mosques and "boring" things. But it was the stories of things he could relate to that made it facinating. See this sword? King David chopped off heads with it. See that door? Gladiators came through it. Look at that temple - It was to worshp Percy Jackson's dad!
  • Allow enough time to run and play and be 8. Whether it is on a beach or in a pool or through ruins, let him jump around and burn off energy. And if that means lugging a feral cat from time to time, so be it.
  • Let him ask his own questions about places in his own way. If he's interested, encourage him find out more.
  • Know that if you're going to different places, they may talk about different places and occurrences in the world than he's used to hearing about. What's a harem? What's a brothel? Why is Syria fighting? Why can't those women talk to men? You can't plan for all of these things, but take the time to answer in an age-appropriate way. It pays dividends in what he'll be able to understand about his surroundings.
  • Give him his own money to spend on souvenirs. He knew he wanted an Eiffel Tower, so got one, But we waited until the end to really buy things, and by then, he had figured out exactly what he wanted. It was a smart choice, and he was really happy with his purchases.
  • Let him have his own camera. The things he will choose to take photos of are priceless.
  • Give him any change you get. Small coins are amazing treasures, and well worth the pocket change.
  • Allow for down time. Not every second can be over-planned. Let him play a video game or read a book. You can't overload him all the time. An iPad to TV adapter would be a smart item to bring along (we didn't - note for future) so you can watch English movies at night and not just Turkish soccer.
  • Have fun. If you want your kid to enjoy what you're doing and do more of it, make sure it is a good time.

April 27, 2013


C-man had his second judo tournament today. The first round was a bye. The second, he won by the ref's decision in overtime. And the third, he won with a 25 second hold.

Two wins with three kids in the bracket means he's still undefeated. And very, very happy.

April 26, 2013

Weekend time

It is finally the weekend, in what felt like one of the longest weeks ever, and the weather is supposed to be lovely. It doesn't seem possible that all that can FINALLY come together in one package, and I'm really thrilled.

But that doesn't mean it's going to be carefree and unscheduled, of course. C-man is far too busy for that - he has a judo tournament tomorrow afternoon and a birthday party at the museum on Sunday. Despite this, he's been working the crowd at school and already had several calls for him to come over and play. My social child clearly did not get my hermit tendencies.

In the meantime, I have a half-day of work today because C-man has a half-day at school. After a chiropractic appointment to try to shake this ear infection (I'm going into the doctor this wekeend if this visit doesn't help - I just can't take the pain any longer!), I'm going to get C-man from school, finish some errands, and maybe eat some froyo.

And then, let the weekend begin!

April 25, 2013

This, that, and the other

Central dome in the Sultan Ahmet Mosque - More well known as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
  • I am supposed to have my desperately needed eye appointment tonight. Except I can't go because I have to go all the way to the south side of the county to work on a farm located directly across from the prison. "Volunteering" they call it. Except it doesn't much feel like volunteering when your employer tells you where and when to volunteer, and then runs a report on who is and who is not "volunteering". So I have my sweatshirt and my rain boots and my rock picking hands at the ready. (HA! That last one is funny. My hands hurt so bad, I can barely move them today.)
  • Speaking of hands, my engagement ring prong broke the other day. I took it in to get fixed, and they're going to rebuild all 4 prongs just in case. It feels weird to not be wearing it. I guess that's a good thing.
  • But I'm supposed to have it back before our 12th wedding anniversary. Wow, it doesn't feel like we've been married that long!
  • The weather has been so terrible lately, I think we are going to have to ditch the backyard heated party tent with an outdoor movie idea for C-man's first communion and move things to a restaurant. He isn't very happy about that, but when I told him we could go to the hotel and swim after, it softened the blow a bit.
  • My rheumatologist is going to try me on a new medication - Orencia this time. Funny, because that was my suggestion to him. (Maybe I should get my MD?) Well, as soon as the insurance says they'll cover it.
  • This ear issue is still a problem. Argh. I'm going to the chiropractor tomorrow to see if he can't do something. I really don't want to go on antibiotics, because they always cause such problems.
  • Aren't I just a bowl full of fun today? Holy complaints! Okay, so here's something fun - C-man is reading the book The One and Only Ivan. It got great reviews, and when I picked it up from the library, the guy who checked me out said, "Oooh, that one is fantastic!" C-man is so thoroughly enjoying it so far, he wants Beerman and me to read it, and then have a family book club talk about it along with snacks and hot chocolate. This is the same child who we BEGGED to read earlier in the year who is now organizing house book clubs. I love it.

April 24, 2013

Tolerating one another

While going through the Hagia Sophia, our Turkish guide (to whom English was a 2nd language) explained to us that the hand gesture Jesus is displaying in this mosaic, and many others of its time, was the early sign one Christian would use to signal to another s/he was Christian. The gesture symbolizes the Holy Trinity, or as the guide explained it, "You know, Father, God, and Holy Sprite". I don't think we'll ever hear the mention of the soda or trinity again without smiling.

I have had a couple of experiences recently in which I've watched extreme opinions collide. And instead of looking for a common ground or civil, peaceful middle, they met like oil and water, spewed their contentious rhetoric, and then separated, seemingly forever. I've been questioning why that is. Are people getting so rigid that they cannot interact with someone different then they are? Is it the spawn of the likes of Fox News and MSNBC that makes people feel more comfortable in their ignorance to one extreme or the other? Is it how people respond to the ideas of everyday terrorism? Is it our lack of education about people and places in the world that makes us fear differences?

The real question is, why are things getting so much more extreme? Why are people more willing to repeat something out of an extremist shock jock (who gets paid to make wild accusations) than think for themselves? Or worse, admit they were wrong? It really worries me. I've always felt like extremes of anything were more alike each other than different, because I find them equally scary. Because any time you're unwilling to bend or listen or take in a new idea, to me, you become incredibly dangerous.

But it also worries me because I am trying to figure out how to teach my own son how to balance an educated opinion with tolerance and understanding. Seeing different religions, and different aspects of those religions, collide while in Turkey was a really great entrance into that topic for us. He asked why the women acted differently or wore different dress. He asked why people think the way they do. And he questioned the basis of our own religion and the role of women in the Catholic church.

All are excellent questions I was proud to begin discussing with him, but were interactions that have left me with more questions than answers when it comes to how I should respond to him as a parent. Maybe because I have my own questions about it, and need to be better educated. Or maybe it is because I need to learn to be more tolerant in areas.

It's something I keep thinking about, and keep coming up with more questions than I have answers for. What I do know is that I feel so incredibly fortunate to have begun having these conversations with my son at such a young age. And while I am sure I didn't need any more convincing of this, it made my convictions even stronger that seeing and knowing and understanding the people in the world is one of the most important gifts a child can receive. Because I think in the end, it's all about education and understanding so we can learn to tolerate each other, likenesses and differences.

Maybe C-man is right. Maybe we don't need a kitchen next year and should just take another trip!

April 23, 2013

Time to read

I need to read more. I've been watching too much TV. This weather has been so awful, and I've been feeling so crummy, that I've used it as an excuse to just completely zone out into the abyss of television and iPad. And I need to cut it out because I can almost feel my brain turn to mush as I'm doing it. (Which says nothing of what is happening to my ass!) It's also kind of hard to push your kid to read when you're doing absolutely nothing.

Finding my joy task 1 - read more, move more.

April 22, 2013

Glowing again

Someone on my team just came back from vacation. And she's glowing. It struck me because I know the feeling so well from only recently having come back. It's that bubble of happiness and serenity that makes you feel as if nothing can touch you. But alas, then real life happens, and like a pinprick to a balloon, it's gone in an instant.

But why is that? Why is daily life such a soul suck? And how can it be more fun? More relaxed? More, well, more vacation-esque? Yes, there is daily life. But it doesn't all have to be the daily grind, does it?

April 20, 2013


C-man had his first judo tournament today. We had absolutely no idea what to expect with how the tournament would go. So we got there, he weighed in, and was then put in a bracket. Fortunately or unfortunately, there was only one other boy in his age and weight category. So it would be the best out of 3 with at least 10 minutes in between each one.

Being his first tournament, he really only had a few go-to moves. But after he was told mid-match to take his t-shirt off (apparently that's not okay?) at least this weekend, his few moves seemed to work for him because he scored an Ippon during both matches. An Ippon is the score that ends the match, so that meant he won them both before the 3 minutes was up, (One was with a pretty great throw to the ground.) and there was no need for a third match.

It also meant he won. So he got a blue ribbon attached to his medal, and he became one of the happiest boys around. And now, judo might be the most fun thing ever. Thank goodness.

April 19, 2013

At least it's not yesterday

  • Yesterday's sewer pipe backup into our basement was indeed a village malfunction. In the afternoon, I answered a knock at my door expecting to see the Village DPW workers, but saw a local ABC reporter instead. He wanted an interview of me on camera. I was in sweats, and looked like I'd been in my wet, filthy basement while fighting a cold. I declined, but gave him some information they used on the broadcast. Patch is keeping us updated on the complete lack of progress HERE.
  • We laughed at how prepared we are for flooding now. We've been doing laundry of the clothes that were dirty and thrown down the chute to the basement, and will need to do more cleanup and bleaching. But overall, we've protected things enough that they were generally unharmed.
  • C-man has his first judo tournament tomorrow. I really hope he does well - meaning, doesn't take last.
  • I can hear a bit more out of my right ear now, so I think it's improving. Although I'm still putting the drops in it because it hurts. Just not as bad as two days ago, which is progress. But my left one is starting to hurt now.
  • C-man is line leader this week and Star Student next week. When did these things stop becoming such fun?
  • Tonight, I am planning dinner in front of the TV and watching this week's Psych, and I can't wait. I can make it. I can.

April 18, 2013

I've had better days

Last night, I was beating my head against the wall because my ear hurt so bad. This morning, we woke up to discover storm water quickly bubbling into our basement through our drain. It got up to about 5" throughout before it started to drain away. After I called to report it, the Village sent a Police Officer to check on it. I am not totally sure the logic in that, but this is also the same village that sent me my $0.83 tax overpayment in coins. (It cost $0.66 to mail). But there were trucks pumping water into the reservoirs, so my gut tells me something went wrong, because we have never experienced this before and the Village Manager hasn't returned our calls. As Beerman said, just one more thing to be paranoid about.

So now, we are trying to dry things out before we throw things out. Luckily, since we are pros, most things were protected. But it's still a mess. And I am feeling like a cat crawled down my throat and dizzy.

It's safe to say I've had better days.

April 17, 2013


  • C-man told me I need to pack more in his lunch. I told him we need a bigger lunch bag. This child just cannot get full right now. I feel like I need to guard my plate.
  • This non-stop rain is killing my morale. I really need the sun.
  • 2 years ago, I fell in love with beets. This past year, I learned to love avocados and tomatoes. Now, I suddenly like hummus. What the heck is going on with me? I am 36, and finally growing up? Will I actually like kale at some point?
  • C-man has a judo tournament this weekend. I sure hope he doesn't get last.
  • My right ear has been hearing intermittently and started hurting today. Drag.
  • I went to a dentist appointment today that I didn't have. Apparently it is August, not April. Oops.
  • My birthday is coming up. I used to get so excited about my birthday. Now it just sits in the middle of opening baseball weekend and First Communion.

April 16, 2013

More and more randomness

  • What a blessing that is to need sunglasses! The rain is really getting me down.
  • Literally. All this rain has put me in quite a crippled disposition that I can barely function. I really need a solution to this pain nonsense soon, because Viocidin cannot be it.
  • C-man is star student next week. We are going to either use his picture in front of the Eiffel Tower or the Ephesus Theater. Maybe then his teacher will let him talk about his trip.
  • Being star student means your mom has to come in and read something and bring treats. Deciding on which treat I should bring in has been a pretty big discussion. I think we're talking whoopie pies right now.
  • I went to the store last night and got some bread. It was still warm. It was everything I could do to not snarfle the entire thing down with some honey in one gulp.
  • I think C-man may be right. We may need another big vacation next year.

April 15, 2013

Transformation point

I feel my vacation bubble slipping away. Almost as if each day that has passed and I integrated better into this timezone, my ozone layer of vacation happiness started to dissolve too. But normal life is, well, normal. So instead of fighting it, I'm trying really hard to maintain the calm. Because I simply cannot go back to where I was prior to vacation - working nonstop, stressed out beyond belief, not eating right, not sleeping, and not being very human.

So I've decided I need to take this little reminder and make it a transofrmation point. I'm trying to sleep (the best I can considering this crippling rainy weather). I'm eating my vegetables. (Beerman thinks my cucumber and tomato obsession is entertaining.) And I'm pounding vitamins. At work, I'm trying to be calmer, slower, and more methodical. At home, I'm trying really hard to keep things less cluttered, in better order, and the home just less full of stuff I don't want or need. If the weather would cooperate a bit more, I want to get outside and do some exercise. I guess we can't have it all.

But I can have my sanity. Vacation was a really nice reminder of what that feels like. And so, I ordered some Dead Sea mud. After all, it can't hurt, right?

April 14, 2013

Making it back to normal

I feel like I have finally got myself straight on the time zone stuff. It really is an hour a day. I think I could have pushed it faster without having to work, but alas, we have to pay for our vacation.

But the weekend has been good - wine club with friends, a Cub Scout awards banquet complete with a sparkly-coated magician, errands upon errands, refilling our geocache, laundry, judo taxi-ing, a first communion meeting, putting away our trip souvenirs, and catching up on a little TV. Overall, a decent weekend.

April 13, 2013

Vacation through the eyes of an 8 year old

The awards, as determined by C-man

Gold: Eiffel Tower
Silver: Louvre and Musee D'Orsay
Bronze: Food (Nutella crepes, chocolate croissants, and steak with frites)
Honorable mention: Riding the metro

Gold: Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (and wearing a Fenerbahce soccer jersey)
Silver: Troy (and Mr. Fuzzballs the feral cat)
Bronze: Hagia Sophia (and the Turkish ice cream outside it)
Honorable mention: Swimming in a thermal pool in Bursa

Overall, Turkey wins the big award for being the best vacation place ever.

And now, the photos I found on C-man's camera.
Walking to the Eiffel Tower in front of the armory

Posing at the Louvre

Dead Bishop in Notre Dame

Notre Dame altar

Entertaining himself while waiting for Mom to go to the bathroom outside Notre Dame (A filthy, filthy 45 minute wait)

Cheese wheels


Nuts in the Spice Market

Hairy cheese - Oh, the hairy cheese was a week-long joke


A fort from the Bosphorous cruise


A video narrated in Gallipoli. Warning: You may need Dramamine to watch, but the narration is entertaining.

April 12, 2013

I made it through the week

Somehow, I made it through the week. If I'm being honest, I certainly haven't kicked the jetlag. But I'm close - maybe only an hour or two off-kilter now.

I went to the rheumatologist again today. He claims I'm the first person he's ever seen lose weight while on Prednisone. I told him it was the Humira making me fat, and now I'm losing all the puffy weight that gave me. He just shook his head. Apparently that's not normal either. Figures.

C-man has his Cub Scout Blue and Gold dinner tomorrow. He's getting his Wolf badge. He's thrilled.

I have wine club tonight. I'm just hoping I make it through a full glass of wine before falling asleep. Thank goodness for 3 p.m. double espressos.

April 11, 2013

A few things I learned in Turkey

We're home and all, but I am still in the vacation bubble, and have no immediate intentions of leave it. So here is my recap of what you should know about Turkey should you ever get the chance to go:
  • Turkish coffee is best drunk after it has been left to sit and settle a few minutes, lest you get hairy teeth. (You'll still get hairy teeth, but at least you won't be chewing your coffee.) And I suggest you get at least 2 sugars in it. (Then you can really enjoy your next several hours in hyperdrive.)
  • But people in Turkey actually drink a black tea or apple tea - pronounced like we would say chai.
  • Don't drink the water - it isn't safe for tourists. Buy and drink the bottled water. It's cheap ( .50 Lira) and you can find it everywhere, even the hotel minibars.
  • The Turkish Lira is used in Turkey. But if you find yourself short, Euro and Dollar are exchanged quite readily.
  • But there isn't any reason to carry a lot of cash on you. There are ATMs absolutely everywhere, even in the country, and everyone except a few small bazaar shops takes credit cards. Just be sure to make sure your bank knows you're there to not be shut down when you're using it regularly or to buy a Turkish carpet.
  • Don't exchange money in the hotel. You get a crappy rate, and chances are there is an exchange house on the block. But see the points above to avoid needing any of that.
  • Almost every meal comes with cucumbers and tomatoes and a side of fresh feta. You'll occassionally find butter if the place caters to tourists. But if it is a truly Turkish place, there is no butter for the bread. Eat the bread anyway. It's fresh and delicious.
  • People in Turkey are very open people. They hug, they double kiss regardless of gender, they talk openly to you, and they like to rub blonde heads.
  • They also love their children. A lot.
  • But they love children in their home field soccer jerseys most of all. If you happen to have the fortune of having a child with you, dress him in a local soccer jersey. People will come out from their shops and workplaces to hug him and high five him and teach them the local soccer songs.
  • While most people in Turkey are Muslim, as their country's flag demonstrates, they are quite quick to tell you that they are a secular country. Many will even openly espouse to not being religious at all. This, and that they can openly say it, seems to be a source of pride for many.
  • When driving or walking by something that looks rather old, it is. Usually really old.
  • When you travel to Western Europe and see Notre Dame celebrating it's impending 850th birthday, feel free to laugh at how it is just a baby that is 850 years younger than the Hagia Sophia. After all, the Roman Empire was the third Empire here.
  • Most hotels have windows that open for fresh air, and many have balconies.
  • The first prayer time (Fajr) happens well before sunrise (actual time varies depending on the time of year). If you want to sleep through it, be sure to keep those windows closed, because you will be staying close to a mosque. Mosques in Turkey are as close as a bar is to you in Milwaukee. They're everywhere.
  • However, if you want to capture the prayer time call from the muzzein, the one prior to sunrise is the quietest time in the city without much background noise to muck things up.
  • In Istanbul, almost everyone speaks some form of English, and they are happy to do so.
  • Despite this, it is greatly appreciated for you to say 'sag ol' (Which actually sounded similar to the name "Saul" to me when said out loud) when someone goes out of his way to do something unexpected or nice for you.
  • It's also very appreciated to greet everyone you meet with a Good Morning, which is gunaydin (gew-nahy-DUHN)
  • A mosque that allows visitors will most likely provide you with a shawl to cover your bare arms (not just tank tops, but even short sleeves) or skirts that are knee-length. Of course, knowing that those in Turkey don't wear junky clothes to begin with helps.
  • You will need to take off your shoes inside the mosque, so it is smart to pack some socks in your bag if you are wearing shoes without socks.
  • Wireless is available in the hotels, but you need to ask for the password from the front desk. And each password is usually good for one device only.  So multiple devices means you need multiple passwords. However, even in really nice hotels the actual speed of the wireless is highly variable.
  • Sometimes you have to pay for bathrooms (Usually 1 Lira for women, 50 cents - 1 Lira for men), but usually they're free, clean, sensor-equipped, well-stocked with toilet paper and paper towel, and marked by a "WC".
  • Most areas of Turkey are exceptionally clean, and you can watch the washing of shops start early in the morning.
  • Garbage cans are located throughout the streets, and are usually easy to find.
  • However, there may only be one itty bitty trash can in the bathroom in your hotel room, and nowhere else in the room. Keep a bag from your day's purchases if you want to keep all your trash together.
  • Turkish ice cream is totally a tourist thing, but well worth a stop if you see a stand. In Istanbul, there are several in the airport, and one by the Blue Mosque. Waiting in line is optional if you have enough Lira on you. There is also another ice cream shop south of the Grand Bazaar left of the bridge.
  • Seeing Istanbul requires a lot of walking. It is flatter than the rest of Turkey, but you still need decent shoes.
  • The Grand Bazaar is an amazing place and shouldn't be missed. Know that it is much higher priced and overall has lesser quality goods than the much smaller but fully stocked Spice Market, about a 20 minute walk away. For lots of purchases and good deals, go to the Spice Market. For the overall experience, go to the Grand Bazaar.
  • Kebabs are readily available and tasty. If the menu just says 'meat kebabs', ask what they are, because they could be either beef or lamb, depending on what's available.
  • You cannot miss tasting the baklava from the local bakeries. Or the local honey inside the honecomb. Local shops are fresh and delicious, and almost always spotless, so quite safe.
  • Take advantage of a hotel's Turkish bath. Just be sure to leave your modesty at the door. After 10 minutes of lying on that warm marble slab with bowlfuls of water being poured over you, you won't care about anything, let alone modesty.
  • Just be ready for the line of people waiting for their tip at the end of the bath.
  • Tipping in Turkey is minimal - 5-10%. Although Americans who overtip has become something some people in tourist areas have come to expect of other Americans. So it is a bit of a vicious cycle.
  • You can find alcohol in almost all restaurants. It's a secular country. Efes beer seems to be the most popular, although MGD is readily available. As is wine.
  • You can find fresh squeezed juice stands all over. Take advantage of one. I highly recommend pomegranate.
  • When in a restaurant, you need to ask for the check or they won't bring it to you.
  • Tipping cannot be done with a credit card, so have small change on you to leave for the service.
  • Turkish carpets are beautiful. And not cheap. So be careful that you get it from a place that is a real handmade place, and not a machine made carpet ripoff in the bazaar.
  • When in a bazaar or walking by a restaurant, people will come out of their shops to try to coax you in. But you only need one "No, thank you," and they'll leave you alone.
  • Have a local explain the sites to you if possible, because you will often hear a very different explanation of things than your guidebook will tell you. It's a facinating comparison.
  • Be on the lookout for crosses and columns in the "narthex" of old mosques. Chances are, they were churches before they ever became mosques, and it can be a facinating treasure hunt to find the remnants.
  • Everything runs on time. Do not be late.
  • Tour guides get a cut of everything you spend in a shop they take you to. Don't be offended or pressured by this, it's just how the tourism industry is arranged. If you want to buy, do so. If not, that's your choice, too. Just know when you're haggling that you may not get a lot of haggling help from your guide because he'd be haggling down his commission.
  • Overall, outside of a few notorious carpet salesmen, Turkish people are quite honest and trustworthy. Enjoy this. And enjoy Turkey.

April 9, 2013

Miscellany and Other Stuff

  • I'm heading back to the right timezone, but still not there. 3 p.m. was brutal yesterday. Today, I at least sort of slept until the alarm.
  • The laundry is done and put away. Now I just need to give the house a good scrubdown. We left it in pretty good shape, but it just seems dusty now.
  • Harry seems to have aged since we left him. Either that, or after 2 weeks of living with retirees, he's decided the slow life is the good life. Hard to tell.
  • C-man took his 2700 year old pottery and some other items to share with the class yesterday about his trip. He didn't get a chance to talk about them because the class was too busy listening to a kid talk about a drunk driver who hit some mailboxes on his street. He was so sad. So was I. I get not letting a kid go on forever about a trip, but come on - it's not like he went to Disneyworld. Let the kid talk!
  • C-man is signed up for summer camp. It's hard to believe it's that time already! But he likes this camp a ton, so I'm really thankful he is in again.
  • Fehenerbahce beat Orduspor 2 - 0 yesterday, in case you were wondering.

April 7, 2013

And then it was over

Our last morning in Istanbul, we walked to the airport shuttle bus just as the first prayer call of the day began. It was fitting for so many reasons - A peaceful end to a lovely trip.

And then we flew over the Alps to make a stop in Switzerland.

Another stamp in the passport before making the long trek back.

And now, it is unpacking and laundry and trying to figure out what the heck we are doing in this timezone!

April 5, 2013

The making of a Fenerbahce fan

Today, we woke up in Bursa. The sun was shining again, and we made our way toward the Green Mosque.

It was first thing in the morning, so completely quiet, which was really nice to be able to explore the mosque without feeling as if we were intruding.

Like many mosques, this was originally a Christian church. It's really interesting to see the columns and narthexes of the churches that were then converted that Indy pointed out to us along the way.

Then we saw the Green Tomb. Interesting as a building, but I didn't care much about the tomb piece.

Bursa seems to be a really lovely, walkable city.

We walked a little, shopped a little, and enjoyed ourselves a lot.

Filled with thermal pools, this is one of the city's pools available for use. (We didn't, since our hotel had one already)

From Bursa, we made our way to Istanbul. While waiting for the ferry to cross back into Europe, C-man spotted a McDonalds. He has been such a trooper with the food all week, we indulged him.

We finally made our way back to Istanbul. We checked into the hotel, and said goodbye to our guide. C-man was very sad about leaving him behind, but it was time.

So after checking in, we headed to Istanbul's Grand Bazaar.

This is the Grand Bazaar from Skyfall, so C-man was on the lookout for James Bond around each corner.

Until we found the soccer jerseys he had been hoping to get. Istanbul has two teams, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce. He bought one of each. During lunch, he went into the bathroom to change into his Fenerbahce jersey. And oh boy, did our experience turn into a hilarious one after that!

Everywhere we walked (and there are a LOT of shops), he got cheers and high fives and people singing the Fenerbahce songs. People were banging on windows from their shops and giving him thumbs up. People were coming out of their shops to tell him he was a smart boy. And he absolutely loved it. A few told him he needed to learn new colors, but even that was awesome.

So many colors and shops. It was definitely a tourist trap, and the original Spice Bazaar we went to was better for purchases, but it was still absolutely amazing.

Haggle in a Turkish Bazaar - check!

After we had our fill, we took a walk through the streets to see a bit of Istanbul, have another Turkish ice cream, and enjoy the rest of our day.

We're absolutely exhausted, and I am getting a little sick, so know it's time to go home. But even C-man has declared this has been a fantastic time and he wishes we could stay forever. I feel so incredibly great about what we've introduced him to these past two weeks. It's opened up his world in so many ways. Maybe even too much, since he's already planning our trip to Spain next year.

Next stop, Milwaukee. (After Zurich and Chicago, of course.)