Wednesday, August 26, 2015

“High Needs” Baby

(Note: I wrote this about a year ago, but never posted it. Reading it now, I think it might be helpful for some people. Moonpie is now 2 (!) and has turned into quite the sweet, smart, independent, sleeping-through-the-night, non-picky eating toddler. There is hope! Let’s see about baby #2...)

I thought this was so funny when I first read it on Dr. Sears. It sounded like a nice way to say “fussy and crying all the time.” Then, Moonpie turned out to have some pretty high needs, and I returned to Dr. Sears and read everything on hiswebsite about high needs babies. Being first time parents with a high needs baby is hard because I keep asking myself and my husband, “What am I doing wrong?” The bedtime routine we did last week doesn’t work anymore. She liked her bath yesterday but is screaming today. I’m doing everything “the books” suggest, but she’s still clinging to my leg and screaming bloody murder for much of the day. I’ve tried every combination of sleeping, feeding, nursing that I can, and she still wakes up every 2 hours at her first birthday, even after night weaning. She used to enjoy riding in her stroller, but today she’s screaming as I’m trying to walk through the mall.

I’m not writing this to get some advice. I think we’ve received every piece of advice that exists. I decided I’m going to start a list called “Things Marie is doing wrong with Moonpie”, and then I can just tell people “Add it to the list” instead of trying to defend myself:

When and how I nurse
When, where, what and how I feed solids
When and how I’m weaning
When, where and how I change diapers
What she wears
Where, when and how she sleeps
When she bathes
How I deal with night wakings

I’m writing this for other parents of high needs babies. I don’t know if it will get better, or when. I don’t know if you should nurse or formula or cry-it-out or co-sleep. I just really don’t know. That’s the point, no one but you knows, even if you think you don’t know. Whatever works for you is what you should do. I’m pretty sure none of these decisions will affect our baby’s chances of getting into MIT, although you’ll need to give me some time to get back to you on that one. And don’t worry if your high-needs baby is screaming at you and looking at you as if you have betrayed her in the worst way and emotionally abandoned her for all time when you dare to turn your attention from her to the tomato you are trying to chop. You are a great parent, and she will get over it. Now I need to print this out and post it on my kitchen cabinet.

Hmm..I took a long break there

Hello again everyone. I see that I took quite a break there...almost a year. I guess this happens in the world of blogging. To catch everyone up - in the past 7 months we bought a house, moved, traveled to the US and back, and, oh, we're expecting baby #2! Wow! I've had lots to write, but not a lot of time to write it. I'll try to check in more frequently!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sewing Project for Toddler: Fabric Alphabet

I saw this project on All About Learning Press, although I modified it a bit. I used their letter templates, but since I didn't know where to find quilt batting, I just backed the fabric with felt, and I'm pretty happy with the result.

So, first I printed the letters and cut them out. Honestly, this took a few days.

Then, I tried to find fabric scraps that matched the letter sounds. Honestly, this took a few weeks, and I only matched about half the letters to appropriate fabric, but that wasn't a big deal to me.

Next, I traced the letters onto the fabric and pinned them to a 5 inch square of felt. This whole process took a couple of weeks.

Finally, I sewed along the lines of the traced letters, then cut around the shape with my pinking shears, which I'm still extremely excited about.

To be honest, I'm not finished with this final step yet. When I'm all done I'll clean up the pencil marks, either with an eraser or gentle hand wash.

Why is this project taking forever? Because I'm doing it in 15-30 minute increments after work or on weekends, preferably while Moonpie is otherwise engaged, which is, well, never. I'm not in a rush, though, because she IS still only 14 months old.

I think I might try to finish today, though, because yesterday she brought me her animal alphabet book, which I read about 15 times a day and have memorized, turned to the back page where they list the whole alphabet, pointed at "A", and said "A B D E!" She's a genius, I tell you. A genius.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

English books in Turkey

I love books, but getting books in English here in Turkey is a bit of a challenge. In the US I bought a lot of used books. We do have a Kindle, but I still find it difficult to pay 10-15 bucks for an e-book. I know I can sign up to borrow books on the Kindle, but I'm such a slow reader that I would never finish the books in time. I takes me a good 6 months to read a book. Before you judge, let me say that I'm usually reading 3 books at a time. I don't know why I do this. I just do. Psychoanalyze me if you must.

As far as new books go, there's always Amazon UK or even Ebay UK, although they usually end up costing an arm and a leg because of shipping. A few bookstores here also sell new English books, but, still, the price is pretty steep. Still, it's a nice option to have. For those in Turkey, Remzi Kitabevi seems to have the best selection, and they have stores in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

On to used bookstores, called "sahaf" in Turkish. There are actually used bookstores with a decent selection of English books here in Izmir, and if I'm just looking for some casual reading, that is the place I go. The books there are usually 3-5 bucks. If you live in Izmir or Ankara, here is a website that lists the used bookstores for those cities: Used bookstores

Now with Moonpie in the picture I'm thinking more about building a children's book library since she won't have access to a real library in English like I did when I was a kid. There is a library of leftover books from the old NATO library in Izmir. It's called Kent Kütüphanesi, and it's located across from the Alsancak train station. However, most of the books there are older (from the 70s and 80s). Still, it's a nice resource to have. Here's a website where you can search their catalog (it's in Turkish).

Enter resource #1 - Better World Books. This is a website that sells new and used books, usually for a slightly higher price than Amazon, but they offer free shipping to anywhere in the world. This is amazing for me. The books take a good month to arrive, but Moonpie usually isn't in a rush, so we've placed a few orders now. To me the slightly higher prices are worth not having to lug suitcases full of books around the world. And as a bonus, they are a "social enterprise", which means your purchase with them also supports literacy initiatives around the world.

And my new favorite resource #2 - This is a Turkish website, so if you don't live in Turkey you'll probably not be very interested. Basically, used bookstores all over Turkey have put their inventory online, and you can order through this website. There are also quite a few English books, and you can use the advanced search option to find them. Not an amazing selection, although I did find five books that I had on my wishlist. Most of the children's books were 3-5 lira, which is about 1-2 dollars, and you'll pay another 5 lira or so on shipping, so it's a pretty good deal all things considered. And again, these are books I now won't have to lug (or ask someone else to lug) from the other side of the world.

If you know of another resource for English books outside of the US or UK, please leave it in the comments! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014


The Muslim Sacrifice Holiday was at the beginning of this month, so we got a 5 day weekend and tons of family togetherness. I'm pretty impressed by how much we maximized our time. The big highlight for me was our picnic on Monday. There is a picnic grounds out by the zoo, and we had never been there, so we decided to check it out, keeping in mind that it could be a great place or fairly creepy place, but there was no way of finding out without going ourselves.

It turned out to be full of families and pretty fun, although I'm thankful we didn't have to use the "facilities" there. That may have been not so fun.

Moonpie had a great time discovering her independence with her new walking skills and exploring nature, which were mostly eucalyptus leaves and sticks on the ground.

She even made a little friend names "Asia" who came over to steal some of her toys, but ended up staying to play. They were talking back and forth in some really expressive baby language and seemed to understand each other perfectly. So, so cute. I even did a really Turkish thing and gave someone else's child a cookie. The parents didn't seem to mind since they were happily swinging in their hammock and paying us no mind at all.

After lunch we took a walk and found a grove of these trees. They are "oleaster" or silverberry, or wild olive trees, but are being cultivated as agricultural research next to this picnic grounds. They look like olives and taste kind of similar to dates, but not as good. They are common in the Mediterranean region, and through my research I learned that they are probably the trees mentioned in the Bible when Paul talks about wild olive trees in Romans 11. I still have lots to learn about Turkey!


And that was our picnic!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Raising a baby in Turkey - Part 2: Baby love

My last post about an American raising a baby in Turkey was about a diametrically opposed culture clash between Turkish and American ideas of what's best for a baby, so I thought I'd look at a more positive difference this time.

Turks love babies. I mean, pretty much almost every Turk goes gaga over every baby. It's amazing. They don't seem to lose their enthusiasm. When I go out with Moonpie I get stopped probably at least 10 times by people who just want to oodle over her. I can't just run into the grocery store "real quick" because the cashier will literally stand up, walk around the register and kneel down by Moonpie's stroller to play with her and try to get her to smile for a few minutes before checking me out. I am not even kidding, people.

Kids barely older than Moonpie come over to look at the "baby". Yeah, I don't like it when two-year-olds are touching her face, but hey. At the park last week a pair of 10-year-old twin girls wanted to slide with her down the slide and push her around the park by themselves (I said no, for the record). It's just hard to explain the universality of the baby love in Turkey. 20 year old men go crazy for babies. Moonpie's sock once fell off in an Adidas store and once one staff member realized what we were looking for we had 5 guys looking through the whole store. We couldn't find it, so we left, but then one of the guys came running out after us waving the pink sock and put it back on Moonpie's foot, all the while raving about how cute she was. True story.

We went to a restaurant with my parents and I wish I had taken a picture of the three waiters hovering around Moonpie's highchair, occasionally reaching in to give her a spoonful of food if I was otherwise occupied for a second. I think my parents were both mystified and horrified. People (friends and strangers) have given her chicken, cookies, pudding and ice cream without my permission, and a woman on the metro tried to give her a chocolate bar when she was like 5 months old. In America people would hesitate due to the possibly presence of allergies, or, I don't know, respect for the parents, maybe, or common sense? I digress.

I'm not even going to mention the over 50 female crowd. There is a word in Turkish - "Mashallah" - that basically is meant to protect the person spoken to from evil powers and such, and it's said to babies and kids (and me, not sure why, usually seems to be because I'm tall). Anyway, Turkish women say that word often and go absolutely nuts for my baby, even when they have their own grandkids. They just can't get enough. I think it's so sweet. I love it when people oodle over my baby.

The hard part about this for me is that strangers try to hold her, as in try to rip her out of my arms. Random woman at the bank, random woman in the checkout line, cleaning lady at the hospital, just people everywhere. This is the hardest part about this cultural difference. I know they aren't trying to be creepy, but it still creeps the heck out of me. I just say, "No, baby doesn't want you to hold her. She'll cry." They usually back off.

I'm not saying Americans don't love babies, but it's a different kind of love. Americans definitely don't go as crazy over strangers' kids. There's not really a concept of "stranger danger" for kids in Turkey, for better or worse. Americans admire kids from afar, with words like "cute baby" or "oh, look at the baby". There isn't a lot of reaching into the stroller, touching the face, giving of chocolate bars or grabbing out of the mother's arms going on in America. 

Sure, I feel protective about people touching her face (germs!) and giving her food, and we decided as a general rule not to let strangers hold her, but it feels great to have people making such a fuss. She looooooves the attention, too. She's such a flirt. Even at three months she was flashing her toothless grin around seeing what kind of reaction she could get. I just chalk it up as part of our multi-cultural life!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

DIY Toddler Sleep Sack

This is going to seem a bit contradictory after my previous post about the struggle to keep my baby from becoming a hot, sweaty mess here in Turkey, but believe it or not, this American does try to keep her baby warm in the winter. Moonpie is now 13 months old, wearing size 24 months/2T clothing. She had a size 18 months sleep sack from last winter that I thought I could squeeze her into, but no, it wasn't working out.

So, I went back to the baby stores to find a size 2T sleep sack. The problem is that they don't seem to sell many of them. My hypothesis is that most children wearing size 2T use those handy little things called "blankets" when they sleep. Interestingly, my little Moonpie hates the things. I have tried covering her with a blanket after she falls into a deep sleep, but this child will throw off the blanket even in deep sleep, and usually wake up as well. 

As I was wondering around IKEA (my last stop, and where I get many of my good ideas), I stumbled upon a huge pile of cheapo fleece blankets, and I got an idea. Instead of buying 2 yards of fleece, which would probably also be cheapo quality, why not buy a 6 dollar IKEA blanket and sew my own sleep sack? Yes, why not indeed? So, that's what I did.

Here is the blanket. 

I laid out her old sleep sack and drew new pattern pieces on baking paper. I didn't measure, but made them a generous two inches wider and 8 inches longer than the old sleep sack.

It also didn't occur to me to take pictures until after I was done, so I don't have many process pictures. I basically cut out the pieces leaving a roughly half inch seam allowance, sewed in my zipper, then sewed it all up. 

I added the flower and reinforced the arm holes and neck hole with a baste stitch, then used my new pinking shears (which I am disproportionately excited about) to give the edges a nice finish. No need to hem fleece. I also added a flap over the top of the zipper to keep it out of Moonpie's sight since she's just discovered that she can open zippers. She can also open velcro, but she doesn't know that it's there, so don't tell her, ok?

She likes this sleep sack, and it's nice and big so she can roll all around in bed without getting stuck or cold and waking up, so I figure this 8 dollar project has bought me hours of sleep. Hooray!