Monday, December 8, 2008

Gestating Caterpillars

I have been meaning to post an entertainingly witty synopsis of Birthday Week. It still hasn't happened and I am now staring down Christmas. So this is what you get =)

Here are a few of the Birthday pictures we took. I saved time (and my sanity) by combining all three boys' parties into one.

Bennett and Dallen quickly realized the advantages of a combined party. They had a blast sharing each other's toys.

Here is Hayden taking his turn blowing out the candles. We gave each of the boys his own turn, and after the third time of lighting the candles and singing "Happy Birthday" a few of the kids were giving us really strange looks.

The Bouncy Toys were the hit of the afternoon. Especially for the adults. We all busted a gut laughing while we watched the end of an over sized caterpillar dispel children like it was giving birth.
Next week I am planning on posting pictures of the kids' football games. If any of you have never seen football played by 5 and 6 year olds, I daresay it is one of the all time funniest things you will find. Especially when the teams are being cheered on by slightly off rhythm 5 year old cheerleaders. If I'm lucky, I'll get a video posted as well.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Out of Order

So the other day I was updating the blog and realized I was no longer connected to the internet. It had gone down. Again. So I saved my file and planned to update later. Well Linda beat me to it. And now my post makes less sense but I am unwilling to change it. Interestingly, though Linda updated the blog she did not talk about any of the things I talked about. So I can still post my update without saying the same stuff. Here goes.
Well I finally got tired of waiting for Linda to update the blog so I am doing it. My wife is such a slacker. I mean she only has 4 kids (4 of whom had birthdays in the last three weeks and three of whom she has to drag to football practice everyday now) as well as her base responsibilities (she has yet to learn how to say "NO!" when people ask her if she will be the chairwoman for the Medical Spouses club, etc).
So we have had a busy month. We did find the opportunity to go to some historical sights though. On Nov 11 we went to Antakya, which was the city of Antioch anciently. At the time of Christ it was the third largest city in the western world behind Rome and Constantinople. It was a trip put together for the families in the Medical Group here (my military unit) and I was made the unofficial tour guide. Of Antioch, not much of its history remains what with the earthquakes knocking things down every few hundred years and the intermittent raids and sieges by Crusaders, Moslems, Mongols, Turks, Armenians, Mamluks, and the French (yes even the French got a piece of the action during WW1). But there is a very nice museum, a famous spring at Harbiye, and a famous historical church.

Antioch was where the followers of Christ were first called "Christians". And Peter, Paul, and Barnabus all taught here. The Church is believed to be one of the places where Saint Peter taught. This was during the Roman persecutions so the "church" was really just a cave in a hillside. A wall was built across the cave by the Knights of the First Crusade. It was neat to stand in this historical place and think of the people who had been there before.
In Haribye (the ancient Greek/Roman city of Daphne), we saw the freshwater spring which drew settlers as early as 1000BC. It is the site where Daphne, a daughter of a river god, was pursued by Apollo and, despising his advances, had herself turned into a Laurel tree. Thus the Laurel tree is sacred to Apollo and was used to crown the heads of victors both in sports and on the battlefield. At Daphne were both a famous Oracle to Apollo and an underground temple to Hades. Neither of which have been discovered. Most of the mosaics in the local museum came from the excavations of wealthy roman villas at Daphne. Haribye was a lush oasis in the midst of the otherwise arid landscape and the kids loved getting wet in the springs and pools.
We also stopped at Payas, an ancient harbor on the Mediterranean sea. There was a castle and caravansari (fortified hotel where caravans loaded with goods could stay the night without fear of being robbed) built by the Armenians and Ottomans respectively. Being newer (built in the 1570's) they were in pretty good shape. The castle being built on the flatland, as opposed to a hill or mountain, it is the first castle we have seen here with a moat. It was a busy but fun day and we are planning to do it again with some friends who didn't get to go.

For those of you who have not yet heard the news, we have received our follow on assignment. We have been "penciled in" (the military's way of reminding you nothing is definite) to a slot at Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath in England. While Linda is a little leery of going back to a cold place with dark winters (We will be at the same latitude as central Quebec) we are both really excited to be able to remain foreign while going to a place where we already know the language. While I have really enjoyed Turkey, it has been so very frustrating not being able to communicate when out there on our own.

On Thanksgiving Maryn and Dallen and I visited another castle. This one did not have a road to it so we had to do a little hiking. It was a Byzantine and Armenian castle and defended a pass through the mountains south of here. The castle is called Gokvelioglu Castle. I've included pictures.

Well thats it from the Carpenter Clan. We are having a great time. The winter here is really mild and in my opinion the best time to go explore places. We look forward to hearing from the rest of ya'll and hope everyine had a good Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Hello again! Yippee! We are back on! Believe it or not, nothing really happened while we were away. I pretty much have the exact same life as I have always had. Except that now I am doing laundry, attending parent-teacher conferences, and wiping snotty noses in a country that considers goats an appetizing form of meat. But doesn't that make everything more exciting?

The kids did start flag football a few weeks ago. Those of you who remember my husband or any one of my brothers (except maybe Roch) playing any kind of organized sport will know how that is going. But they all seem to be having a great time with it. Even Maryn has really gotten into it. She played her last game in the pouring rain and came home covered in mud, but smiling. As I stood there under my umbrella, I wondered why they didn't cancel it. But when I voiced this question later, she looked shocked. "Mom! You don't cancel football because of rain!" I stand corrected.

Bennett is by far the most entertaining to watch. He will spend most of the start of the game, stomping on the chalk lines to make "smoke". Somewhere around halftime he figures out he is supposed to try and get the ball. Hopefully before the end of the game he will remember he is supposed to run with it when he gets it. Most of the other players have learned not to pass him the ball because he just hands it to whoever tries to take it. Not because he is afraid, he just honestly thinks, "Geez, if you want it bad enough to chase me, you can have it. I'll go find another one." And then he does. He has this kind of "Look guys, there are a bunch of balls in the coaches' bag, lets not fight over this one" attitude. It is hilarious to watch him try to convince the rest of the team. He even says "Excuse me" when he's has to rush the other players.

The coach is so great with him, and so patient. He is firm enough to (attempt to) keep him on track, but relaxed enough to see the humor in his youngest team member. It's a good thing they don't keep score for this age, or Bennett would have added two touchdowns to the opposite team last Saturday.

Dallen's team is kicking butt and taking names. He is actually helping a little too. =) He might be afraid to catch the ball (he had a pretty nasty fat lip after one practice) but he sure can run when he finally gets it. Last game he got the ball and ran it almost the entire length of the field. He would have gotten a touch down, but someone yelled, "Stop! You lost a flag!" (he hadn't, but he stopped to check and got sacked) I told him next time don't stop until you hear a whistle. His team got the touchdown on the next play though. He had literally stopped a foot short of the goal line.

Dallen's other big news is that he no longer needs his glasses. (Listen for the Hallelujah Chorus) We went to the eye doc last week, and his vision has improved!!! Apparently if problems are caught early enough, they aren't too severe, and the child wears the glasses consistently, the eyes can be retrained. After going through 9 pairs of glasses with Dallen, I'm not sure about the 'consistent' part, but he apparently had the other requirements! We will have to make sure his eyes are checked each year of course. There is also a good chance that he might need them when he hits puberty (which is when most of the eyeglass wearers in my family needed them), but right now, we are celebrating!

Here is a picture we had taken in front of the Mosque in Adana. (The city about 20 miles from our village) See - I really AM working toward a Christmas letter. Lets see if it actually happens!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Go out and do some Black Friday shopping for me!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Don't blink

Some of you may have thought that the lapse in my writing is due to laziness - but not so! This time I have a good excuse (don't I always?) The fabulous Turkish Government suspended access to blogspot. Almost a year ago, they banned YouTube, and now apparently they are going after blogspot. I have been checking back every day for any changes and today - the suspension has been lifted. So I am writing before I blink and my access is blocked again. I was hopeful when I saw that it was a suspension and not an outright ban. Although - YouTube started out as a suspension too. If worse comes to worse, I will start a blog on a different site. Lets hope it doesn't come to that.

Things are back to our normal craziness here, as we are gearing up for "Operation Birthday Overload". I am sure you all remember that each one of my children has a birthday in the next week and a half. At least this year I have convinced the boys that having one big party will be FUN! Maryn wasn't fooled. Besides, she wants a girls only party. She knows she will win the arguement when she plays that card. I sympathize way too much with the "I'm out numbered by boys" plea. =)

Hey! This video I have been trying to post since May finally worked! Now you can see a little bit of our village =) Maybe I'll try to post the video of our house too.

YIPPEE! It worked! I apologize for the quality, but hey - at least it is posted! I try every time I write, and it usually fails!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Baptism Update

Okay, so you all remember that we had decided on baptising Dallen in the River Jordan in November. Well, plans have changed. After our impromptu trip to Germany, the family budget was a bit strained. We simply cannot turnaround and do another big trip in one months time. We broached the subject of location change with Dallen, and he was crushed. Admittedly, we all still want to make this happen, so we have made the decision to move his baptism date to March 24. What a way for Michael to celebrate his birthday!! The people I have been in touch with in Jerusalem, said that March shouldn't be any colder than November would have been. Besides, the Holy Land in Spring will be awesome, right? Once again, this will be once in a life time. And I promise, this will be the only time we change the date.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

To America and Back

Hello again to all the people we were able to see on our whirlwind trip. We are truly sorry we missed a few people. Believe me when I say, it was whirlwind! We arrived in Baltimore, drove to Danville, said some VERY quick hellos, drove to Philly, then back to Baltimore. There we hopped on a plane, landed in Salt Lake City, drove to Cedar City (saw my cute sisters - see below), gave quick hugs to my family, drove up to Provo, and jumped feet first into wedding stuff.

At this point I was grateful for the few days of chaos with the entire Carpenter crew. Because - hey- at least we were in one place! Robert's wedding was beautiful. He looked awesome in his uniform and Jenna of course was as stunning as usual. It was nice to be back in the temple again. That is one of the main things I miss being overseas.

The kids had a blast with all the cousins. (as you can see, nothing says "having a blast" like partying naked with a garden hose.) Although Bennett kept asking when we were going home. He is a bit of a homebody, and all the noise started to get to him. Thanks to Janet and Jerry's kind neighbors, we actually had a home-base. They let us use a house that is empty and up for sale. My awesome Mother-in-Law even drove all over tarnation to collect beds. So we even had real matresses!

After the wedding, our dear friends, the Nanis, joined us and we had a great time hanging out.
At the end of the trip, I didn't want to leave, and complained loudly about it. That was my first mistake. Because I think I offended the universe. =)
We left SLC Sept 24, landed in Baltimore, spent the night with Michael's sister, showed up at the airport the 25th as instructed to catch the military flight, only to find that they had decided to send it early. Without us. The day before. SO - at this point our options were to take the next military flight that would only get us as far as Germany, or wait till October 3rd for the next flight to Turkey. We took our chances on Germany. That was my second mistake. When we arrived in Germany, we were told that the October 3rd flight coming from Baltimore (they all go through Germany) was our only choice. So we needed to find a room in Lodging, and wait out the week. The punch line to this is, THERE ARE NO ROOMS AVAILABLE WITHIN 30 MILES OF THE BASE, AND WE DON'T HAVE A CAR. I take that back, they had one room, for that night, with one bed, but we weren't allowed to put our family in there. So I called back and pretended to be someone else with lots less children. We spent that night hiding from the hotel staff.

Okay, so now I am desperate. And guess who comes to the rescue? OUR CHURCH! You can say what you want about us Mormons, but we know how to come together and support eachother! Within hours of being forced out of our hotel room (like I said, they only had the one night) we had 4 offers of places to stay, a family had loaned us their van, we were being fed dinner, and Michael had members trying to force him to take cash. I just cried and cried. THIS is what the gospel of Christ is all about. Helping those in need. And boy, we fit that description!

Well, we called the airport Sunday night desperately hoping there would be a flight to Turkey. And Yippee! there was! A cargo plane! Sure, we'd have to sit on jump seats and wear ear plugs, but we would be headed home! So we pack ourselves up (keep in mind, I had just been in the states stocking up on all the American stuff we can't get in Turkey, so we had A LOT of crap) and we head to the flight line at 5 am. And we wait. And wait. And wait. Around 9 am they tell us, oops, that flight has been moved to tomorrow morning. SO, after some more tears and ranting on my part, we pack up our crap, leave the airport, and prepare to do this again the next day. 5am, we are there again. And we wait, and wait. Oh, sorry, that flight has been moved to tomorrow. (Is this Groundhogs Day?) At this point we make the difficult decision to separate. Michael must get back to work, and it looks likely that we will be stuck in Germany for a full week. So, he goes on ahead, and we hunker down at the hotel room that miraculously opened that morning. I think because the Lord knew I was on my last nerve.

The next morning, I again arrive at the flight line with all my crap and four children, to be told that yes, the flight is leaving. I am still not convinced, so I keep the hotel just in case. But as the morning wears on, it looks promising. Our bags our checked, we have boarding passes, we make it through security, we are about to be loaded on a shuttle out to the plane. So now it is safe to cancel the last hotel room available to me, right? WRONG!!

In my ignorance of the military, I give the borrowed van back and send the angel who loaned it to us on her way, and I cancel the hotel room. Surely I'll be on that plane. HA HA HA HA HA HA (that was the insane laughter of a woman about to crack in case you missed it.) As we are on the shuttle, heading to the plane, a little voice comes over the radio (I am pretty sure it was Satan's) saying the flight has been moved to tomorrow. Yes, I was crying at this point. I spent the next 5 hours in the airport trying to get a hold of all the wonderful people who helped us, and who now thought we were on a flight to Turkey. By the way, when I called the hotel, they were full. And, as a funny little extra, during this five hour hell, when I ran to make my umpteenth phone call, one of the other moms in the USO family room thought it would be a great time to steal all the cash out of my wallet. YES, I KNOW I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN MY PURSE, but I was about to crack, and honestly, I thought I was safe in the family lounge of a military base's airport with two other moms. I am now more wise.

I finally got a hold of the amazing woman who lent us her van. She was able to arrange for a place for us to stay. She literally kept me from losing my mind, and she is one of the only good things to come out of this week.

Then we finally got settled in with a wonderful woman to whom I now owe a kidney. (She had beds for everyone, she bought food for the kids, she had toys, blankets, you name it) By this time it is Wednesday night, and I have no desire to repeat this nightmare on Thursday. So I call the flight line to tell them that I will not be showing for the cargo flight the next day. That I am going to just wait for the passenger flight to Turkey on Friday morning. The response I get is, "What cargo flight? We have no record of a cargo flight, I think it was cancelled permanently". I am very proud of myself that I didn't kill anyone. I think I know now how the terrorists convince people to become suicide bombers. They lock them in airports with four jet lagged children and sixteen tons of crap and keep them waiting for imaginary flights.

The happy end to this sordid tale, is that yes, we made it home on Friday's passenger flight. All of us collapsed in a heap and didn't emerge till Monday morning. I had it reconfirmed to me how important it is to help others. A little gesture to you is the world to someone else.

We are all settling in. I have never been so grateful to be in Turkey. I should never have complained about having to go back!

Oh, and on a completely different note, we are getting a new phone number. Our Vonage hasn't been working right, so we are trying a different company. I am not going to put it on this blog of course, but I will send out an e-mail this week. Write me if you don't get it and you want it. It will still be a Utah number, but will most likely be a 435 area code this time. Ah the wonders of the internet! You can call me and it is only the price of a call to Utah. Just don't forget the time change! =)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

From Michael's Perspective

I always find it amazing that Linda can talk about going to a really incredible place without actually talking about the place. She talks about parks and hotels and magical chickens found in gas stations but not the actual place. So as usual the job of informing ya'll about where we went falls to me.

Mt. Nemrut is a burial tumulus (fancy name for a big pile of rocks) that was raised over the body of King Antiochos I of Kommagene, who ruled from 69 to 36 B.C. The Kommagene Kingdom was founded by King Mithridates at the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in about 80 BC. It had arisen out of the ashes of the Seleucid Empire (which had been founded by Seleucus I Nicator in 312 BC out of the ashes of the Greek Empire following the death of Alexander the Great who had carved his Empire out of the Persian Empire which...... As I have said before- we live in a place rich in history. Interestingly it appears in the maps in the LDS edition of the KJV Bible- maps 13 (grid E3), Map 20 (grid F2) and Map 21 (Grid F2)).

King Mithridates and his son King Antiochus I created a small empire in south central Turkey under a state religion that mixed Greek and Persian Gods to unite a mixed people. King Antiochus claimed descent from both Greece and Persian through his father Mithridates from Darius I (522-486 B.C.) and, through his mother Laodike, from Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.). The height of the Kommagene Empire occurred under Antiochus with the Kingdom becoming rich as a buffer state between the Kingdom of Rome and the Parthian Empire on the east.

The site at Mt. Nemrut (elevation 2,134 m/7,001 ft) includes the burial mound (a giant heap of limestone moved to the peak of the mountain by hand), 2 ceremonial platforms- the east (public area) with a dias for the sunrise ceremony where a sacred fire would have burned and west (for the Nobles only). At each platform were statues- 5 giant seated statues of the king and the Gods (from left to right in the following order: King Antiochos, the fertility goddess Kommagene, Zeus-Oromasdes- the god of the sky (the central and largest statue), Apollo-Mithras, and Herakles-Ares). On the flanks are 4 smaller statues of guardian eagles and lions. On the north was also a series of stellae representing the royal genealogy. In a cult inscription, King Antiochos declares that he had the site built for the ages and generations that were to follow him "as a debt of thanks to the gods and to his deified ancestors for their manifest assistance."

The kingdom's independence came to an end in 72 AD with its defeat by Roman legions in the last of the Kommagene wars and it became part of the Roman province of Syria. The Roman Legions at that time destroyed many of the cultural accomplishments of the Kingdom and the site at Mount Nemrut was no exception. The heads were toppled and many of the stellae destroyed. No reference is made to it in ancient sources and it essentially disappeared from history until Karl Sester, a German road engineer, rediscovered it in 1881. Mount Nemrut has been declared as World Culture heritage by UNESCO is one of the important National Parks of Turkey.

The east platform is where we watched the sun rise and it really was a neat experience. We sat next to the fire altar (which was too crowded) and waited for the sun to come up over the horizon. The haze sitting low to the ground blocks a lot of the suns light and you can literally look straight at it as it climbs. It was a far more interesting experience than I was expecting. We didn't get many pictures on the east terrace as it was swarming with people and any picture of the statues would have included a bunch of strangers milling about. We had better luck with the west platform due to the smaller and more polite crowds. The heads are better preserved on the west side as well. Here are some pictures.

The heads behind me are (from L to R) Zeus, Kommagene (a local fertility goddess), Apollo (behind my head), Ares, and a guardian Eagle.

Dallen with (L to R) Guardian Eagle, King Antiochos, and Kommagene.

Bennett with Zeus.

Maryn had by this time boycotted all pictures so she is not seen.

There is a lot of good information on this at .

After watching the sun rise at Mount Nemrut we went to old Kahta village there stands the remains of the ancient site of Arsameia, which was a capitol city of Commagene's nobility. Here are a few hand cut tombs as well as a really well preserved relief of King Antiochus shaking hands with Herculese as well as a long inscription in Greek describing the founding of the kingdom.

Yes of course it was all Greek to me. HA HA HA

After that we traveled to the Caydere river and the single arched Candere Bridge built where the river exits a narrow gully and spreads out onto the flood plain. The bridge was built to the honour of the Roman Empire Septimus Severius(193-211 AD) and was built between A.D. 198 and 200 by the 16th Legion "Flavia firma". There were originally 4 dedicatory columns (to Septimus Severus, his wife Lulia Domna and their sons Caracalla and Geta) but the one to Geta was taken down in A.D. 212, part of an attempt by Caracalla to obliterate any references to his brother whom he had removed from power.

Yes of course those are my children throwing rocks into the water. They also played with a mangy dog. Not sure if they noticed the bridge. 2 of the dedicatory pillars can be seen on the left.
Then we went to Karakus Tepesi (Black Eagle Hill), a second tumulus where the women of the royal family had been interred. I toured this site alone as all the kids and Linda were pretty tired and refusing to exit the air conditioning of the tour bus into the afternoon heat.

Then we went back to the hotel, took a little nap, had lunch, gathered up our things, and started home.

Of course the kids were grumpy as they had not slept well due to the heat of the hotel and having awoke at 0200 to go to the mountain. And though we were surrounded by amazing historical artifacts the kids were more interested in other things. Maryn took it upon herself to save all the ladybugs on the mountain and Dallen and Bennet took turns throwing rocks (which had been moved into position by hand over 2000 years ago) down the mountain. Oh- and Dallen had to pee and took a wizz on the UNESCO world heritage site. (He has now peed on 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sights as he also wizzed at Cappadocia) They all got tired of me telling them to go stand at one place or another for pictures and eventually Maryn revolted and refused to pose for any more pictures. I have numerous pictures of her sitting with her back to me and refusing to smile. On the way home thankfully everyone fell asleep except me.

The only real gripe I have about the trip was the Hotel. Linda has discussed the difficulties the Turks seem to have in getting Hotels done right and the farther east you go in Turkey the more poor and removed from the luxuries of the west you get. For me it is the details. Yes the buildings are safe (aside from the death trap stairwell), the rooms spacious, and the beds OK but the little things are never right. It is like they got the room 90% done then gave up and just threw the rest together. In our Hotel room there were bare wires protruding from the ceiling where I assume a light fixture was going to be installed, the shower in the bathroom would fall off the wall, the toilet paper roll holder would fall off the wall if you pulled on the toilet paper, and the bathroom vent in the roof was for show (a vent cover mounted in a hole in the roofing tile with no fan behind it).

Turks all over the country seem to have the biggest problem with bathrooms. Most bathrooms are "squatty potties" where you just squat over a depression in the ground and then turn on a little water spout, wash your butt with your hand, and wash your poo down the hole. Most of them stink to high heaven due to a lack of sanitation (cleaning a bathroom is considered low work so many people wont do it) and (I have been told) by a lack of J-traps (a little plumbing piece that keeps the sewer smell from coming up into your house through the pipes).

And Linda mentioned the lack of air conditioning. Its not that there wasn't any air conditioning- it was just inadequate. The room was on the top (and hottest) floor since the sun was shinning on the concrete roof of our room and all the rest of the heat in the building had come up the open center of the building and, it seemed, come into our room. To save money the rooms AC is only turned on once the room is occupied so when we got there it was like walking into an oven. We turned the AC on and took turns sitting under the glorious cold air pouring from its vent. The kids literally had to sleep with wet towels from the bathroom over them to fall asleep. Of course by the time we left the AC had been on for about 24 hours and it was actually starting to get comfortable- the naps on day 2 were great.

Well that was our trip to Mount Nemrut. A "glad we did it but probably wont do it again" trip. Our next trip will be back to the states for Roberts Wedding. See many of you in about 2 weeks.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back in the saddle

Okay, I realize that it has been over a month since we last updated. But hear me out! The main reason is that we had a base-wide internet crash. Since that also interfered with our phone, we really haven't been in touch with anyone in quite awhile. Everything is back on now, and I will attempt to fill you in on the last few weeks.

Everything went relatively smoothly with the workers strike. In fact it really wasn't a strike after all, so we didn't have to worry at all.

For my birthday Michael planned a trip to Mount Nemrut. The fact that it consisted of waking up at 2 am to take a 1 mile hike up a very steep mountain with four grumpy children to watch the sun rise made me wonder if he has ever actually met me. When I pointed out this was more appropriate for HIS birthday, he just said, "Come on! It will be FUN!" Hmmmm..... I think for his next birthday I am going to take him shoe shopping.

In all fairness, he did give me a ultra-fabulous new Sony a300 with a kick-butt lens. This camera can do everything but your dishes. Now I can record the misery of hiking a mountain at 2am with stunning clarity.

No really, besides the fact that Hayden cured boredom by attempting to leap from the sheer cliff face, it really was fun. (And hey, watching to see if I'd catch him every time he bolted for the edge was nothing short of hilarious....for him)

Our first stop on the way there was at a small rest stop that we now affectionately call the "Death Trap Playground" If you look closely at this picture you will see that the slide is metal in the 115 degree heat, making it more conducive to burns. It is also tilted at such an angle as to cause the rider to reach speeds close to warp 9. I am assuming the thinking was that if they could propel the children into orbit, they wouldn't feel their flesh melting off. But the real crowing glory of this whole set up is the landing. The end of the slide dropped off at about two feet high, and placed there to cushion the blow was a lumpy, cracked wad of concrete. This was to ensure that if the children escaped third degree burns, they would at least have fractures severe enough to land them in traction. I would post the pictures Michael took of me frantically chasing and catching Hayden while he scrambled up over and over again and howled with delight. But I look close to losing my mind, and they are a little embarrassing.

Our next stop on the way to Mt. Nemrut was a beautiful town called Kahramanmaras. We had a wonderful time touring the market place. When we passed a man selling spices, Bennett exclaimed loudly, "Yuck!! I am NOT eating leaves!" Of course I couldn't resist a picture.

Further on in the market, Dallen met a blacksmith that helped him make a knife. Everyone kept swarming our kids. Turks really adore children. I always joke that when we head back to the states, Hayden is going to have a shock when he isn't adored every time he sets foot out his front door. In fact yesterday, we were walking to the park and we passed a man doing some repair work on an electric box. He was facing away from us and (understandably) absorbed in his work. When we passed him, Bennett looked at me, completely puzzled and said,"Mom, why didn't he say Hello to me?" When I tried to explain that he was busy, Bennett looked unimpressed and merely stated with disgust, "Well he's supposed to say Hello to Hayden at least."

Here are more shots of the market place, these men were pounding copper pots. They did it in time, so it was almost like a song.

Next we found a man making Turkish ice cream. He would spin and toss the sticks in the air. He'd yell, "Huppa" and dance and all the while keep the sticks moving. The kids were transfixed!

The whole day was fun, but long. When we arrived at our hotel after a bus ride of Hayden loudly voicing his disapproval of car seats, Bennett removing the entire contents of the diaper bag onto the dirty floor because he was searching for the blue car that he swore he put in there, and Dallen rhythmically kicking the back of the driver's seat, I had about one nerve left. Understandably, I was a little upset when I found that the "four star Hotel" didn't have air conditioning. Remind me to never stay in a Turkish two star. Once again, I decided to find everything funny. It keeps me from committing homicide. Below you will find a close up picture of the stair railing outside our room on the fourth floor. Yes, the bars are 18 and 3/4 inches apart. I measured. By the way, that is wide enough for Hayden to run straight through, as he enthusiastically demonstrated for me. Really, is there a death wish? Am I that hard to live with?

The next morning, we all rolled out of bed while muttering insults at Michael, because it was his stupid idea. Hayden and Dallen actually fell back asleep while I was getting Bennett dressed. It was strangely cold for July, and I bundled the kids up for the hike. The view from the top was amazing and we got some nice pictures. By this time Hayden and Dallen had gotten a second wind and were busy thrown rocks from the highest point they could find. Hayden soon tired of this and began throwing himself, which is why you see the harness below. If anyone is judging me for putting it on him, I defy you to come and spend a day with this boy here in the country of no guard rails.

Now apparently the ancients believed that this was the birthplace of the sun each day. What they didn't realize, is that it is also the birthplace of ladybugs. Below are just a few of the ones we saw. My children were in heaven. Maryn almost drove herself crazy trying to round them up and place them where they wouldn't be stepped on.

On the way home we stopped at a gas station for snacks and a potty break. They had a few shelves stocked with toys that I found so funny, I just had to post them.

The name of the doll is "Amused Baby" The yellow banner says "My new store. There is a lot and new clothes here" The bottom says "style, fashion, nobleness" I don't know about you, but I have always put those qualities together in the same sentence.

Dear Santa, this year all I want for Christmas is a magical hen...... Especially one described as "New Addition! Many color a lot, selected freely by your!" and make sure it has "included three eggs"

I think the shopkeeper thought we were crazy. We were laughing so hard and snapping pictures. There were also a few food items I would have loved to get pictures of, (like pizza flavored cola) but the bus was ready to leave and we ran out of time.

We made it back safe and sound with a whole lot more memories to laugh about.

Jump ahead now three weeks - Missoula Children's Theatre came and held tryouts for a play. Dallen and Maryn both got parts. Maryn's was even a speaking part. The show was a loose (and I mean LOOSE) adaptation of Robinson Crusoe. Dallen was a chameleon and Maryn was Will the Goat.

That was about it as far as news. Hopefully our internet will stay online and we won't have another long silence.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Istanbul, Markets and Other Such Nonsense

To all those of you who have called us in a mild panic - we are safe! You have to remember that Istanbul is on the complete other side of the country. We were concerned, we have had a few travel advisories put in place, but really - the bombing hasn't effected us very much.

Actually at the moment our little base is more concerned about a labor dispute/union strike. It is really between the Turkish government and the union, but because so many of them work for Americans, we got caught in the cross-fire. The deadline for compliance is today, so we will see what tomorrow moring brings. I have friends that have hoarded food and water, completely convinced that there will be large-scale riots. And I have friends that are still planning thier weekly market trip without a blip on their radar. So we will see.....

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Holy Land

Okay, as many of you know, Dallen will be turning 8 this November. So, for the past 4 months I have been trying to work out the details of his Baptism. After much back and forth, advice, and general hand-holding from the leaders of our church in Galilee, we have finally nailed it down. Dallen will be baptised in the River Jordan on November 5.

We would love to have anyone come and join us. We had originally planned to do this closer to Christmas, but on the advice of the leaders in the area we moved it to his birthday. Apparently Christmas time in the Holy Land is cold, twice as expensive, crowded, and slightly more dangerous (more?!) So as cool as that would have been - this make more sense.

I realize that this would be a HUGE trip for most of you, so don't think that we expect anyone to be there. But if you just so happen to have a bunch of time on your hands and a couple of thousand dollars laying around....(stay home and just send me a check) HA HA HA! No seriously, please feel welcome to share in this with us. November 5 is a Wednesday and we plan on staying through the week-end. Think about it! Calvary, the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ's Tomb! It is going to be awesome! Totally once in a life-time. Which is why we are telling you all now, so plans can be made.

Did I mention this is once in a life-time? But really, no pressure!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Memiors of a Turkish Resort

This past week-end we went to a beach resort in the little town of Silifke. We went with a bus load of people from the base. We were able to go for 3 days and enjoy the ocean. I am trying to be very diplomatic while I describe my experience there, lest anyone think I am a snotty American. It was very eye-opening. What I would have expected and considered a "resort" was a little different from what we found. The facilities were lovely, but once again, the Turks have a very interesting way of looking at things. For instance, the drain in our shower stopped working and water was pouring out onto the bathroom floor - literally inches deep. When I called the front desk, they assured me they would send someone to look at it. Someone did, and he said, yes the drain was plugged, and yes, water was everywhere, then he left and came back with towels to place around the shower. The housekeepers did us a favor and changed them out each day. This is the way this culture thinks. When the window air conditioner leaks on the bed - you move your bed. Someone in our group complained about the garbage on the beach. When we went out the next day, it was in the water instead. I have decided to think this is all very amusing. Because it doesnt help to get irritated. My friend Ruby and I just kept shaking our heads and laughing. A place that touts thier working hen houses as "a children's petting zoo" would have lasted about 30 seconds in the US. All I am saying is that it sounded very different in the brochure! =)
We did have a fun time. The kids loved the pools and every day at 3pm you could walk down to the beach and get ice cream. (Because, like the brochure said, this was "a all included resorting vacation") I think Hayden actually kept himself alive on ice cream for three days. Luckily, our villa had a kitchenette. Granted it had no pots, pans, plates, utensils, cups, etc. And when I asked why the staff told me it was because food wasn't allowed in there. Upon closer inspection I noticed the stove was basically for decoration. I had brought food, so I decided to pretend I didn't understand Turkish very well and used the "Barbie Dream kitchen" as best I could anyway. It was either that or watch my kids fast for 3 days. We had three meals a day provided, but have any of you tried to get a 19 month old and a four year old to eat goat cheese and olives for breakfast? Mmmm...wake up and smell the goat cheese. By day three, even Michael was digging into the cereal I brought.

So, my family thoroughly enjoyed the week-end, my neat freak self survived it, and we all have some funny stories to tell the grandkids. Hey - and the kids found a turtle. What more do you need out of life?

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Hello again everyone! I really do have a good excuse for my absence this time! =) I was ---(drum roll please) IN AMERICA! Yes, that is right! Completely last minute and very hush-hush, Maryn and I were able to get a seat on a "Space Available" (read: free) military flight. We kept it a secret because we weren't sure it was going to happen. Oh- But it did!!! It was SO wonderful to see some family and friends. The trip was a little crazy, because I had to operate on the Air Force's time table, and we definitely didn't see everyone near as much as we would have wanted to. But I am NOT complaining! The food was even better than I remember it! =) In fact, if I was being truthful, I would have to admit that food is the real reason I went to America. =) I even told my sister-in-law that I embarked on the trip to eat. If I happened to see family while I was eating - then that was a bonus, but really, I came to eat. =)

The surprise of the whole thing was a lot of fun too. Thanks to some sneaky maneuvering on the part of my sisters' husbands, I was able to totally shock them. I was even able to film it! There was a lot of screaming and crying going on. As you can see below! =)

I really wish I could have surprised Abby, my Mom and my In-Laws, BUT there are a lot of blabby people in this world. =) You know who you are!

All in all, the trip was SO awesome! It was so rejuvenating to just hug people and talk, even if it was a little rushed. Everyone kept asking me what I noticed the most about coming back. I think it was the fact that I could actually understand everything that was going on around me. Being able to hear all the "white noise" conversations and actually understand them. Reading street signs and billboards. You really don't notice those things until they are gone. I have gotten so used to just tuning everything here out because none of it makes sense to me. Being in the States was a little bit of sensory overload. =)

The boys did alright with out me, although Bennett told me on the phone a few times that I was "taking too long and long". And Hayden glued himself to my leg upon my return. He was taking NO chances. Michael also did fine. I left him in the capable hands of our Housekeeper/Nanny, and she made sure everything ran smoothly.

I feel refreshed, renewed, and ready to tackle this adventure again!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Castles, Conference, and Corn In Cup

Yippee! More pictures! By the way - while you are browsing, if you click on a picture a larger (and easier to see) image will appear.

Here are a few pictures of my trip to the Mall. I went with Angie (on the left) and Juliana (on the right) my two dearest friends in this great adventure. Funny how something so simple in the states was like a pilgrimage to Mecca here. We had to take a tour bus on a miserable 4 hour ride in the hopes of getting some remotely Western food. (We had a friend tell us that there was a Popeye's Fried Chicken) On our way inside the building we just had to stop and get our picture next to the uber-hip decor of metal hearts covered in glitter.

No Popeye's Chicken yet, but we did find Fisho. Look closely, yes that man is holding up an entire fish -head and all- that you can buy at his fast food restaurant in the food court at the mall. Mmmmm... Does Juliana look grossed out? I should think so.

Look over there! Is that an Orange Julius? A Cinnabon? NO! Its "Corn in Cup" Just in case you were out shopping and you got a sudden urge for corn. Where or where can you find some!? Relax, we've got you covered.
Yes, we found Popeyes'. Yes it was delicious. Still, unbelievably Turkish, but delicious. A happy ending to our story.

Here is a top view of Snake Castle. If you have some extra time, you can play "Where's Waldo" I mean, "Where's Dallen"
Juliana's husband Karl took this picture. You can see us in various stages of ascending the mountain to the castle. That is me toward the back in the orange shirt, and my kids are even farther ahead. Oh, and lest anyone think my husband is a cad - he offered to take the baby from me, and I refused. After all I AM a liberated woman. (at least until the path gets too steep) =)

On our way down the mountain, a farmer let his sheep out. It was neat to see them scrambling down the hill. It looked like the ground was alive because they sort-of blended in.

Here is our branch at Branch Conference on the balcony of the Hilton. I had to speak and Michael was on call (meaning he can't leave the base) so I took Maryn with me and he kept the boys. The man next to me with the red tie is our Branch President and the lady in the khaki jacket is the Relief Society president. We have a really great group of people.

Here is a better picture of the mosque we are standing in front of. It is quite a lovely building.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A few musings (or ramblings)

Well, Michael left me again! This time he went to America (Texas to be exact) for training in allergies and immunizations. That has always been one of the issues close to his heart, so he was excited for this conference. We have a neighbor here that won't vaccinate her kids and they have had a few "discussions" about it. My favorite was when this lady was harassing him for not recycling and he said, "Well, I help keep horrible diseases out of America, and vaccinate my kids so you don't have to. And you recycle and buy organic and reduce your footprint, so I don't have to. We cancel each other out, really."

That has always been his complaint, especially now that we are in a third-world country (Editor's note - those of you that told me I would not be going to a third-world country have obviously not been to THIS part of this country) He sees kids dying of these diseases. America is one of the only countries where the citizens have the choice not to vaccinate. Most everywhere else - if you don't, you die. I guess it just shows how great the vaccinations have worked. People in my generation don't remember having friends and neighbors dying of these diseases. So I guess now they think it isn't important. Maybe that is what the Bible means about the "love of men waxing cold" in the last days. (One meaning anyway) People start deciding that vaccinations are a choice or a conspiracy and they stop remembering that it protects all of society. Then these diseases can come back full force (they aren't extinct -come to Turkey if you don't believe me) and voila, we have another epidemic.

Well, that turned into a rant! You can tell I have been without adult conversation for awhile! - for the record, we would recycle if I didn't have to drive 2 hours to do it. In our little village, you are considered progressive and "earth friendly" if you burn your trash instead of throw it on the ground. The men that gather the base's trash think they have a racket going. "You mean we get paid to take your garbage away?" They think we Americans are crazy to pay when we could just drop it on the ground for free. I am not kidding. I will post some pictures.

On a sad note, we've had a real upheaval in our little Branch here. (Our congregation) A woman in our Relief Society (Women's Group) has decided to leave her husband and family and run away with a Turkish gardener. Putting aside how much this grosses me out (if any of you had ever smelled a Turkish man, you'd know why) I am trying to grasp how a person gets to this point. How do you become so selfish, stubborn, and far from Christ's light that you can completely convince yourself that something so glaringly wrong, is right. She thinks she is living a some sort of "higher law". To see the pain that her family is going through, it breaks my heart. But nothing matters to her, but herself. She actually brought home flowers the gardener gave her, and danced and tittered around the kitchen arranging them. All this in front of her husband. When he asked her why she was rubbing it in, she shot back with, "What is your problem!? They are just flowers!" No sense of reality.

I am taking this so much harder than I should. Those of you who know me, know that I have an overwhelming sense of fairness. This just seems so unfair to her husband and her kids. To have no respect for commitments you made, and to just cast people you love to the side. It is evil. Be an adult, have some maturity and decency.

Sorry to vent, I just can't discuss it with anyone here, we are trying to spare the family gossip on top of heartbreak. Sometimes I wonder if my calling is going to be too hard on me. I take everything to heart and I want to fix everything. (Well, what I really want to do is take this woman by the shoulders and shake her, - but that isn't Christ-like either)

One thing this has taught me, is to appreciate my wonderful husband and kids. These last few weeks have been pretty stressful and they have been so patient with me. In addition to this church issue, I have taught two classes (scrapbooking), worked a full schedule of nail clients, attending Installation (base) meetings to lobby for a preschool, met with the school Superintendent on an advisory board for the same reason, planned the Relief Society Birthday Celebration, and saved the world from nuclear annihilation. (Okay, not the last one. Although we did have a bomb threat in our post office and they caught and stopped a suicide bomber two streets over - although neither of those directly involved me, nor were they nuclear. But really, that is just splitting hairs.)

All in all, I don't have much to complain about (although after reading the last few paragraphs, I am sure you could beg to differ) Leave it to me to find a way! =) Michael will be home in two weeks, and he was sent with a shopping list. When he called me yesterday he said he had already been to Target. I said, "Oh, how is Target? Does it miss me?" He said Target misses me but our checking account doesn't miss Target. =)

I have babbled on enough. Love you all!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Video - FINALLY!

Okay everyone, I think I have FINALLY solved the "uploading videos" problem. (Nothing a little downloaded software can't fix, eh?) The quality isn't that great, and the first time I tried this, the audio and video weren't in sync. But, at this point, I am ecstatic that you can actually see Hayden's face! Hopefully, I will get better at this! Anyway - here is my cute boy. This was actually taken in December, (see- I really have been struggling to post for awhile!) Next I will post some recent pics. By the way - his shirt says "I do all my own stunts"

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tamam, Tamam- I'll write something

OK- (Tamam in Turkish) Michael here. I realize that we have not updated the blog in 8 weeks or so (technically it is Linda's job to update the blog but she has been busy.) but I finally got something put together to post. A while ago some of you (friends from residency and others) asked about my job. What is my job like? How is being a military doc different from a civilian doc? Having never been a civilian doc I am not entirely sure but there are few things I am pretty sure of. (this probably doesn't apply to all Military docs but just to those of us "fortunate" enough to be in a forward location (that means close to the fighting to you civilians. And while we are not very close to the war we count as a forward location).

Some of the differences include:

1) we have men armed with machine guns at the doors of the clinic.

2) You cannot enter the building if you don't have proper clearance.

3) I am authorized to carry a sidearm (9mm pistol) during patient care (I don't but maybe someday).

4) when I have a critical case it gets airlifted out of the country.

5) I wear camouflage and combat boots to work.

6) I am usually addressed by the parents of my patients (and often by the patients themselves) as "Sir".

7) If a parent "No Shows" on an appointment I can call his Commander and have him punished (have not had to do this yet. I have very few "No Shows" as you might imagine).

8) There is a bomb shelter in the basement capable of withstanding a nearby nuclear blast.

9) When we have mock codes the "patient" has frequently been the victim of chemical, biological, radioactive/nuclear, or explosive attacks (CBRNE is the acronym for this). Making sure the scene is safe takes on a whole new meaning when your patient is covered with nerve agent.

10) I have a chemical protection suit in my office just in case of a chemical attack.

11) Our afternoon conferences frequently involve topics like "Using the Pralidoxime-2 (PAM-2)injector to counter nerve agents." or " The importance of screening returning soldiers for occult closed head injuries." or "Dangers on the flight line." (that's runway to you civilians). Being the solo pediatrician most of the lectures are (unfortunately) for the Family Practitioners and their adult patients.

12) I'm on call each Wednesday and the first weekend of the month.

13) The vaccinations we give include Typhus and Small-pox (only for those soldiers going downrange (into the war zone for you civilians)).

14) My contract requires I go running three times a week to be able to pass a physical fitness test which includes running 1.5 miles. (that may not be much to you runners but it was a long way to me).

15) must wear a dog tag at all times while at work

Anyway... Those are some of the differences. Otherwise my job is not that different from yours (speaking to my pediatric associates). I see the kids, diagnose their problem, reassure the parents, chart, refer, etc.

This week has been different though. Spent Monday and Tuesday teaching ACLS. My students included 2 Turkish physicians- one is a General Surgeon and the other a family practitioner. (we have a bit of a personnel shortage here- not everyone is willing to come to Turkey so we use some local providers) and then on Wednesday we had an "exercise". It was a pretend disaster drill complete with- you guessed it- a simulated chemical weapon attack. And with a simulated chemical attack comes the joy of wearing the flaming hot chemical protection suit with helmet and gasmask. (I do realize that anyone involved in actual combat in the big sandbox especially in the summer who wore their chem suit in that environment are laughing at me- "he's complaining about wearing his suit in an air conditioned building. I wore it in the sun in 120 degree heat!!) It was not just the heat and breathing difficulty but trying to treat our simulated patients through our gasmasks while wearing our big clumsy rubber gloves. It was an absolute lesson in futility. But now that is done and I wont have to do it again for another month.

Well it is late and I'm gonna go to bed. Eat some Mexican food for me because I cant get any here.

I've included some pictures by popular request.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Videos and Other frustrations

I am still trying to figure out how to post videos on my blog. At the moment, I am messing with a you-tube clip of one of my favorite comedians. If everything goes well, and you actually see it, I will post my darling children next. I chose this video to practice on, so I can laugh a little instead of screaming and trying to throw my computer. (Did I mention that I have been trying to post videos since AUGUST!!??)

If anyone can help me with this, I'd love it. I know there is a way to do it, but I just keep getting error messages!

There is not much in the way of news this week. I am holding our Relief Society meeting at my house. That has taken some getting used to. Because I am the only councilor in the RS, I am in charge of the activities. And because we have no actual church to meet in, we meet in my living room. As a tiny branch, we improvise a lot! =)

Oh, and I wanted to mention to all of you who have posted comments- Thank You! We do read them and appreciate them, even if we don't answer. I'll be the first to admit I am terrible about staying in touch. Thus the reason we began this blog....

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Shout it from the rooftops!

I am sure you all remember that Michael went back to the states in October to take his Board Certification Exam. You know, the one that cost us 2,000$ for him to take and was the culmination of 11 years of school? Well.....HE PASSED!!!!!!!

Of course, I never had a doubt. Though it sure is nice to see the weight lifted from my husband's shoulders. We thought the results wouldn't be available until February, so I had quite a surprise waiting for me when I checked my e-mail yesterday. Unfortunately, they only sent a note stating the results were available on the Pediatric Board Website. What that means is, from 4pm till 11pm I was frantically trying to access his results along with every other newly graduated Pediatrician in the entire United States. The site literally crashed eight times! I almost ripped out my hair! When I did get through, we screamed and cried and tried not to wake our kids. =) Thanks to all those who fasted for him.

Oops- gotta go, Hayden is quietly giggling to himself.....he probably figured out donuts fit in the VCR.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year!

Wow! This month has just been one big blur. I will not fill you in completely right now, seeing as it is midnight here. I did however want to make sure you all know that we are alive and well. I realize I have let too much time pass since I last wrote. And my dear friend Jon reminded me that because there was a bombing relatively close to our home, I should probably assure all my loved ones of our safety.

We have spent the better part of this month traveling. Michael's brother Robert came to spend Christmas with us, and we wanted to show him a good time. We definitely kept him hopping, if nothing else. We will all need a vacation after this vacation! =) We spent time in Cappidocia - a series of ancient cities carved out of rock. In fact the hotel we stayed in was a bunch of modified caves. I have numerous pictures to upload and share. It was amazing to see halls, churches, caverns, homes - all carved into mountains. The family had a bit more fun than me, because I spent two days in the hotel room throwing up. Good thing it is close enough for me to go back.

I also had a run-in with a Turk at a gas station on the way home. Apparently, my being American, gave him the right to grab my butt. I think he figured I didn't know his language and so who could I tell? He seemed a little shocked when I kicked him and swore at him in Turkish. Then I whipped out my cell phone and called a Turkish friend to give me more words to chew him with. When my friend Sefer heard what this guy had done, he didn't need any prompting. I made such a scene that his buddies came over to find out what had happened. When I told them, the guy denied it (of course) but his burning face and stammering gave him away. He picked the wrong tourist to mess with. Hopefully he will never do it again.

Our travels this month also took us to Istanbul. It was amazing! It reminded me so much of the cities in Europe I visited with my brother and sister-in-law. It was nice to see a completely different side of Turkey. Istanbul is light-years away from where I live. It was like going from Hurricane, UT to Manhattan. (To give you an idea what Hurricane is like, there are only like, 3 people that live there - and a horse) Now I see how Turkey could possibly want to join the EU. Before I was just confused. This side of the country is more Middle Eastern.

We saw so many sites and walked till I thought Dallen's legs would fall off. I think he did too. We had wisely left the two youngest home with a babysitter. The big kids had a great time, riding on the ferry and touring palaces. We also saw an unbelievable Roman Aqueduct. (Okay - admit it - how many of you just now said "The Aqueduct??" with a squeaky Monty Python type British accent?)

We were treated to a dinner show the first night we were there. It ran a little late though and Dallen really got restless. At one point he loudly complained, "How many more Belly Dancers are we gonna have to watch!!??" We laughed as someone pointed out that in about 7 to 8 years, he would be riveted to the stage. Maryn's favorite part of the trip was the pottery store. A man there was using a kick wheel and he let her throw her own pot. We even got to bring it home for free! We took a video of it that I will try to upload. So far, I have hit and miss luck with that.

The history and energy of the city were breathtaking. And I found out the answer to one of life's burning questions: "Istanbul not Constantinople, been a long time gone Constantinople, Why did Constantinople get the works?" Well - apparently the name of the city was changed when the Ottomans defeated the Byzantines. The Ottomans were muslim, and they named the city "Istanbul" which means "City of Islam". Also they didn't want to call it "Constantinople" when it was no longer Constantine's city. So now you know. And now you all have a catchy song in your head.

Another little tid-bit that some of you might find interesting. We had Condalezza Rice stay next door a while ago. Do you remember her surprise visit to Iraq? She stopped here on her way. And our house is next to the VIP house. We didn't get to meet her because it was very hush-hush, but Dallen made friends with one of her Secret Service Agents. He even gave him an honorary badge. Dallen has carried it around telling everyone he is a special agent.

Sorry for the nutshell version of our trip. I promise to write more and post some pictures when I am not falling asleep at the keyboard. Till next time....