Sunday, April 28, 2013

Happy Birthday To E!

Two weekends ago we celebrated E-Man's 2nd Birthday.  Where those two years went are beyond me.  They seem to have flown by.  I mean, wasn't it just yesterday that we were taking him home from the hospital, me fussing at S to "drive slow!" as he swerved to avoid hitting the crater-sized potholes of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn?  Weren't we just yesterday trying to figure out the whole bathing thing, paranoid he would slip out of our hands?  Wasn't I just waking up multiple times a night to feed him and rock him and lull him back to sleep? 
It seems like yesterday, but yet it seems like a lifetime ago.   I know he is only two, but he has grown so much.  When people say cherish these years because they go by so quickly, they weren't kidding. 
Our sweet boy is no longer a baby.  He went from a helpless, cooing bundle of smooshiness who could barely hold his head up, to this precocious, curious and rambunctious little boy.  He can count to ten in two languages.  He can say water in three, yet he still prefers his first learned word for it, "Agua."  He loves to draw and paint, and will go to the ends of the earth for a chance to blow bubbles or play with a balloon.  He loves to "cook" with mommy and sit on daddy's lap to read books every night before bed.  He loves to run.  He dances with the enthusiasm of ten kids and will drag you out of your seat if you are not participating.  "Dance mommy!  Dance!"  He sings at the top of his lungs and is quickly getting over his shyness, as he gravitates towards everyone these days, including our doorman whom he shouts an enthusiastic "Merhaba!" (Hello) to every morning.  He loves the slides on the playground and listening to music in his stroller while S and I go running. He is quickly learning the rules of soccer and will jump at the chance to "kit da ball" down the hallway with daddy.  He is our little dude with a bright, vibrant and gentle personality.  And we love him.  Happy Birthday Easy E!
Photos from his birthday party. 

Monday, April 15, 2013


I am a runner.  S is a runner.  Between the two of us, we have completed 7 marathons and 18 half-marathons.  I say this because all totaled, there are at least 25 instances where S and I have stood at a finish line, sometimes with E, waiting for each other to complete a race.  Where we worried about things like, will her leg cramp up or will he run a new PR?  Will he want water when he crosses the finish, or would he prefer Gatorade?  Or beer?  Will she be sore?

Where we stood waving homemade signs of encouragement and support not only for each other, but for all the runners who were racing to the finish.  Where we shouted and clapped and cheered for everyone who had just completed what felt like a super-human feat of running 26.2 miles.
Where not once did we think we were risking our lives in fear of a bomb. 
For anyone who has ever run a marathon or even stood on the sideline in support, you know what it feels like.  The adrenaline is palpable and the energy electric.  The volume of support during a marathon is unrivaled.  In fact,  Katherine Switzer, the first woman to ever run the Boston marathon in 1967 once said, "if you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon."  Truer words were never spoken. Because it is at a marathon where the best of humanity comes out.  Where people stand for hours cheering, handing out water or candy or orange slices in an effort to not only boost a runner's energy, but their self-esteem.  To give them the mental and emotional lift needed to get over the wall and finish the race. 
I have never run Boston.  I am not that fast and would never qualify.  But S and I have both run the NYC marathon and just like Boston, I'm sure, the crowds who gather in support of the runners are amazing.  Whenever anyone asks me what it's like to run a marathon, I always say it's great because of the spectators.  You would be hard pressed to find a runner anywhere who doesn't smile at poster board signs that read, "You made it to the start, you WILL make it to the finish," or "Run like you stole something."  The old woman banging a cooking pot in her bathrobe and yelling, "y'all better run!" had me giggling for the last three miles out of Brooklyn.  And in fact, I am 100% certain that the gentleman handing out tootsie rolls on Fifth Avenue at mile 24 was the reason I finished in my personal best time.  I timidly took one, but  he  pushed the whole bowl at me saying, "take more.  Take as many as you need.  You can do this."  And that's all it took.  I shoved five more tootsie rolls into my mouth, and the candy's sugar combined with that stranger's words of support propelled me through Central Park and past the finish line.
What happened yesterday in Boston broke my heart.  To know that mothers, fathers, husbands and wives, and 8-year old boys were out there on a beautiful spring day supporting their loved ones, only to lose their lives or be severely injured because of it, just makes my stomach turn.  And to think that some of the injured were runners who had already completed the race, who had doubled back so they could watch their friends finish as they had probably done many times before, is truly gut-wrenching.  Limbs were lost in the explosions.  Those people may never run again. 
The finish line at a marathon is supposed to be one of celebration and joy.  It is a time to be proud.  But yesterday, that was stripped from innocent men, women and children, and the running community as a whole.  My heart goes out to those runners and their families. I hope the injured can heal and the running community can recover from such a tragic event. And I hope we can all work hard to erase the fear  by returning the finish line to a place of excitement and good cheer once again. 
My next run is for Boston.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Road Trip: Kiz Kalesi

Last weekend we took a trip to Turkey's Mediterranean coast to see a castle that is very popular in this part of the country.  The castle, Kiz Kalesi, is located in the Province of Mersin about 30km from the city of Mersin, and about 70km from Adana.  Mersin is a large port town where our HHE and car traveled through before arriving in Adana.  Because we were a bit pressed for time, we did not actually stop in Mersin, but instead drove through to our final destination at Kiz Kalesi.
Kiz Kalesi, literally translated to Girl Castle, is also known here as the "Floating Castle" because it is located 200 meters off shore and completely surrounded by water.  Legend has it that the castle was built by an ancient king around 72 A.D. for his daughter.  Apparently, a fortune teller predicted that the king's daughter would die from a snake bite at a young age, and in an effort to prevent this, the king built a castle for his daughter in the middle of the water.  Surely, the king believed, no snakes can get to her there.  But one day, a snake snuck into a fruit basket that was delivered to the king's daughter and it bit her.  She died and the fortune teller's predictions came true. 
What remains of the castle is surprisingly well-preserved.  Because of it's location in the middle of the water, it has remained virtually untouched by pillagers and the like.  Today, you can rent a paddle boat or ask a local fisherman to take you to the castle.  We did not do this because the paddle boats did not have life jackets, and well, I just don't trust my 2-year old not to attempt a nose dive into the water.  Of course, the disappointment of not having a life jacket prompted me to order him one from last week, so we will be going back. 
There is a second, less-preserved castle on the shore facing Kiz Kalesi.  According to the guide books,  residents of the shore castle extended a chain to Kiz Kalesi  that was yanked up to deter pirates from entering the harbor.  I don't know how effective that chain actually was, but moats were also built for a little more added protection.  You can explore the ruins of the shore castle for the cost of 5TL.  Not a bad price and the views are spectacular. 
After exploring and strolling the beach, we stopped at a beach side restaurant and spoiled ourselves with kebabs, salads, tea and ice cream.  The ice cream was a treat for E for being such a good boy all day.  I think he's beginning to like it here. 

E is distracted by all the sand he wants to throw.

S and E...castle in the distance.

the castle on shore

Me with E...some of the ruins

Our view from the restaurant

Kiz Kalesi

Local fisherman happy to pose for a pic

Beautiful view

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Justin Bieber and His Monkey. Or, How NOT To Bring Your Pet Into Another Country

I don't know all the details, but the celebrity gossip world is all abuzz over the confiscation of J Bieb's monkey in Munich, Germany.  What little I do know, is this: He flew from L.A. to Munich on a private jet with his monkey, Mally.  When the plane landed, Mally was promptly confiscated  by German officials and quarantined at the airport because The Biebs could not present the proper paperwork for his pet to enter the country. 
Now, I don't know if Biebs forgot the paperwork on his nightstand at home, or just failed to get the paperwork done in the first place, but if it's the latter, then, whoever thinks they can just hop on a plane and fly to ANOTHER COUNTRY with their pet without going through the proper protocol (i.e. jumping through a million hoops while trying to stay sane) is either very (very) naïve or just plain dumb.  I would like to think that Biebs is somewhat smart, so I will just pretend that he DID get the proper paperwork and just left it at home on the kitchen counter. Or something.
We do not live in Germany.  We live in Turkey, obviously, but we flew through Germany to get to Turkey, so therefore the EU and German rules applied when moving our pets here.  Our vet back in Virginia told us Turkey's rules are a bit more lax than the EU's when it comes to importing pets, but since we were going through Germany first, we had to follow EU standards.
Anyway, getting all our paperwork in order was a nightmare.  Because vet visits can't be conducted more than 15 days prior to your departure, and because our 15 days fell during two federally observed holidays when offices are closed (Christmas and New Year's), we were left with a very narrow window to get everything done. 
Those things included:
Purchasing FAA approved pet carriers, but not before going online to determine the proper measurements needed for said pet carriers.  Since we were checking our cat and dog as "excess baggage" on two different airlines (United and Turkish Air) we had to check the requirements for both.  And then we had to check that the plane going from Istanbul to Adana was large enough to accept our dog's carrier because it was so big and the plane was so small.  Once all that was worked out, we had to make sure we had enough "LIVE ANIMAL" stickers posted on all four sides.  Then we had to call the airline for the thousandth time to verify that our pets would in fact be on the same flights as us, and not traveling separately.
And while we were doing all that, we were scheduling vet visits.  I took both pets to the vet (two separate trips because I physically can't take a hissing, angry cat and a hyper, jumping dog at the same time) where they each had their micro chips scanned and checked, received an update on their vaccines and got proper "pet physicals."   S and I then returned to the vet for a third time to pick up the documents/completed forms for each pet.  I could have waited around for two hours while they filled everything out, but I chose to run five other necessary, pre-move errands instead.  So all totaled: three vet visits
After that, we drove the two hours to Richmond to get the stamps/paper/approval from the official government office for the final a-ok.  I blogged a bit about what a horrible experience this was, so I won't go into too much detail except to say we drove a total of 8 hours back and forth to Richmond on two separate occasions before we were given the all clear on both our pets.
All of this took place over a 10 day period during the holidays while family was visiting, holiday shopping was being conducted, E was out of daycare and therefore needed to be entertained, S was in consultations, we were preparing to ship our car, in the middle of packing our apartment, visiting the storage facility in Hagerstown and pretty much losing our minds.  But it got done.  Albeit at the last minute and with about 1,000 more grey hairs to show for it, but it got done.  We shipped our pets legally and they didn't get confiscated and quarantined.
So all that is to say this: Whatever Justin Bieber's reasons for not having the proper paperwork for his beloved pet, I hope he gets it figured out for next time.  Because our pets are our family and they deserve to be taken care of too.  They deserve the hoop-jumping and the grey-hair stressing and all the frustrations that come with doing what's right for them. 
At the end of the day, a snuggle from M-dog and even a purring head butt from B-cat make all those frustrations worth it.  And it gives me and S peace of mind to know that we did something right if they're at home with us and not in quarantine. 
I hope The Biebs gets his monkey back and that she is okay.  But next time, have the proper paperwork no matter how difficult it is to obtain.