My Pregnancy Style in the Land of the Fashionably Challenged

A few months ago I blogged about how much I loved game day because of all the fun I had picking out outfits and getting ready for the games. Well those days are gone and picking out anything to wear fills me with both a sense of dread and sadness. Dread knowing that anything I wear will only highlight my huge belly and/or make me look Oompa Loompa-ish, and sadness knowing that none of the cute clothes in my closet can save me from my fate.

The maternity clothes here are some of the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s a sea of ill fitting slacks and a plethora of shirts with strategically placed wording like “baby cooking” and “baby on board.” While some may find that cutesy stuff great, it makes me want to throw up a little. Those sad fashion choices have killed all the joy I used to derive from shopping. The best I could do was have my mom send an emergency shipment from Gap Maternity, which still makes me pretty sad because it ensures I will spend my months wearing a uniform of leggings and slightly roomier t-shirts.

This is pretty sad stuff

This is pretty sad stuff

In addition to my army of leggings, I only have a single pair of maternity jeans with the oh so flattering tummy band. The number of outfits I’ve come up with using just those items is impressive, although anyone of the project runway variety would say my style has become dreadfully dull. Stretch is most definitely my friend, and the few dresses I own with stretch in them will be worn until I am literally busting at the seams. There are just a few pre-pregnancy items I own that still fit. I know I only have a few more weeks with them so I wear them with love.

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Black is my friend!

Black is my friend!

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The only jeans that still zip up

My belly gets insanely big because I carry gigantic kids, so once I hit the 7th or 8th month I all but give up on putting together a decent outfit. With this being the 4th baby, gone are the days I can drop $200 on a single dress at Motherhood Maternity. The fashionista in me sheds a tear thinking about it. Since I’ll be the biggest in the summer I’ll be pretty much left with a loose skirt and a tank top, perhaps paired with a cute sandal and bag to attempt to deflect from the obvious. For now I’ll don the legging and t-shirt look and remember that I have a closet full of goodies waiting for me on the other end. And a beautiful baby of course.

Pretty much my uniform

My basic uniform

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The Hair Fiasco, Revisted

It’s been about 4 months now since I was forced to unceremoniously chop off all my hair. In the ensuing months I’ve done nothing to style my hair, just relying on the trusty wash and go. My mom and my best friend sent me packages filled with amazing and nourishing hair products so that I could at least attempt to nurse these locs back to health.

Many of my friends have commented that my short hair looks cute on me, but I can’t help but to think that they are just saying that, because who really tells someone that their new do is a total fail. My best friend was probably the only one to come out and say she didn’t like it, hence the quick rush of hair products to save the day. I do still feel that I resemble a porcupine at times, but the lack of social outlets and the new pregnancy has ensured that I get a bit of a pass in the upkeep department.

This is how I’ve been wearing it. Looks like I have wavy jheri curls, if that’s actually a thing.

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I had some time on my hands yesterday so I decided to blow my hair out and check on the progress. This is the blown out stage, before the flat iron. One of my friends used to call me a brown lion when I wore it like this, and I guess that’s fitting.

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This is after I’ve straightened it. I guess a shag would be the best way to describe it. It’s definitely not at a pretty stage. I resemble a young Dudley Moore, or one of the Beatles (I’m sure my mom would know which one). Either way, it’s not really a good look, but at least it’s longer than it was a few months ago. Perhaps when it’s time to go home I will have my old hair back, and maybe even a longer and stronger version if I’m lucky.

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If all else fails I’ll make a bee-line for my sister-in-law’s salon the minute I hit American soil and have her work her magic 🙂

The Trouble With School

My daughter Maliya is a smart little girl. She just turned 8 last week and I often have to remind myself that she is indeed a young child, despite her extensive vocabulary and insightful world view. We’ve been lucky in that she’s been educated well thus far and she’s now one grade ahead of where she should be. Her schools in Berlin and Izmir were both international schools and we were very pleased with the education she received.

Our problem now is that our city is too small for an international school so she’s had to be enrolled in a local Turkish school, taught entirely in Turkish, with the exception of English lessons. It’s a private school so they have great facilities and resources for the kids, but I’ve come to the realization that the fanciest looking building means nothing when my child is unable to learn anything of substance. It’s a very frustrating realization because in the 4 months she’s been enrolled all she has picked up is some understanding of the Turkish language. It’s wonderful that she’s learning Turkish, but what if we’re no longer in Turkey next year? Then it would have been a waste of a year, and money. While in Berlin, she learned a good amount of German, but now that we’ve been gone for two years she’s lost it. The difference is that German wasn’t all that she learned, so it wasn’t a squandered year as I fear this may be. My son is also at the school, but he’s only 3 so we aren’t as worried about him.

When we initially visited the school we were told by the administrator (one of the few English speaking people at the school) that they would obtain English language course books for her from Istanbul and that she would have people helping her to maneuver through her day. When a month went by and she still had no books we asked why and were told that they could not, in fact, get these books from Istanbul. So their solution was to call our daughter’s old school in Izmir, which taught exclusively in English, and ask if they could send copies of the Third grade curriculum. Of course they said no, and it was pretty laughable that they thought the school would say yes to such a request.

Their new solution was to add a Turkish lesson and wait until she had enough of a grasp of the language to understand the lessons, which they surmised would be sometime in the second semester. So until that point she would just sit in class, doodling, and staring into space as the other children actually learned, had homework, etc. So our options at that point were to take her out and home school her, leave her there and hope she learned something by osmosis, or put her in public school so we at least wouldn’t have to pay for her lack of education

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Homeschooling has never appealed to me because aside from the lack of socialization, she just might be better off learning very little at school than learning from an amateur like me, but looking at my options I figured it was worth a try. We signed up for a homeschooling program online and I started to spend some time after school and on the weekends going over the lessons with her. The problem is that I’m used to someone having already taught her the materials and learning strategies, with me just re-enforcing what she’s already learned. Now I was in a position to teach her myself, and when she didn’t understand it, the best I could do was say the same thing in a slightly different way. When she still didn’t understand, I would get frustrated and tell my husband it was his turn because I wasn’t getting through to her. While his math skills are far superior to mine, his teaching methods resemble mine and many sessions ended with me exhausted and him bewildered as to how it took so long for her to understand what we think is such a basic concept. It’s ultimately not her failure to understand, it’s my failure to teach her in a way that will enable her to understand.

So I’ve decided that the homeschooling thing is not for me. I do have patience, but not enough to teach multiple subjects with two other kids running around and still maintain my sanity. I’ve determined that I’m just too selfish to home school, and the whole ‘happy wife, happy life’ thing goes out of the window after a day in a classroom run by me. I’d rather a trained teacher with the patience of a saint teach my daughter, with me there to help with homework and supplement her studies with various flashcards and worksheets.

In the end I did what I do best, I went to the school to see the administrator and I nicely threatened her. I told her that her plan of waiting until Maliya understands enough Turkish to follow the lessons was a terrible plan. I let her know that if they didn’t find someone to teach her the material in English then we would be pulling the kids out of school, because we were just wasting our money sending her to school to learn Turkish. I suggested one of the English teachers since they are among the few that speak both English and Turkish, but she explained that they were too time constrained. She said that she could have the lessons translated and she could teach Maliya the material herself during the regularly scheduled class times.

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The positive in all of this is that my daughter has seem unaffected by all of this, happy to be at school, making friends and being her happy self. These kids are so resilient. I know so many international moms who are forced to put their kids in foreign language schools where the kids emerge as champs, with amazing language skills, on top of their general worldliness. So I’ll bank on that, while still giving a low key prayer that our travels bring us back to an International school next year.

Cinnamon rolls and other yummy goodness

I’ve always had a bit of a sweet tooth, as evidenced by the 15 or so fillings in my mouth. Lucky for me I’ve also been pretty active, running and gym-ing it for much of my life. I’ve never been one for diets, because diets are for people with major self control, something which I apparently lack. I’m more of a eat a plate of buffalo wings and then run at 10 instead of 8 on the treadmill kind-of-girl. If I throw in an apple crumble or peanut butter sundae then I may put a little incline on there as well.

My simple little system has worked pretty well, as I’ve never really gained or lost more than a few pounds. The exception being when I studied abroad in South Africa during college and ate and drank lots of bad food and alcohol. I also gained a bit when I lived in Italy and fell victim to all the delicious pasta and delectable wine, with no gym in sight. Otherwise, food and I get along fetchingly.

The problem I face now is that with so much time on my hands I seem to be cooking and baking all the time. In the past I rarely used recipes and made more basic things like grilled fish or baked chicken, and I barely baked. Now that I’m so bored I’ve been making all kinds of cookies, pies, and cakes, and I stumbled upon the best cinnamon roll recipe ever. Throw in the fact that I’m pregnant and I’ve thrown all caution to the wind. My husband is lucky he works out 5 hours a day and my kids are lucky they’re kids.

These are some of my favorites from the last month or so, some old and basic and some new and delicious goodies I found online.

These cinnamon rolls are by far the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had in my whole life. So soft and rich with a delicious cream cheese frosting and lots of cinnamon-y goodness. I made two batches and my  husband and I devoured them. The kids are lucky we shared. I found the recipe here if anyone is interested. http://picky-palate.com/2012/06/11/perfect-cinnamon-rolls/
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These Spinach and mushroom calzones seemed so simple but took probably 5 hours to make. With the limited ingredients to work with I’ve had to make almost everything from scratch these days and it takes forever. I had to make the dough, the marinara sauce, and even the ricotta cheese, three things that would have definitely been store bought had I been home.
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I used to love frying chicken and fish and we usually have a nice big deep fryer for me to use, but it seems like such a waste to spend so much money on something that we have to leave behind each year. So this year we decided to forgo the fryer altogether and as a result I’ve been frying much less. A few months ago I came across a recipe for baked fried chicken that was so delicious and so close to the real thing. The key is to use butter which gives it that nice crispness necessary for a good fried chicken.
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My husband’s favorite is probably some simple jerk chicken wings, which are way too hot for the kids so they always get something tame. This time it was cilantro lime chicken. We usually have a nice big salad to go with our meals.
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My mom used to make delicious lemon meringue pies when I was younger and I finally decided to try my luck with the fairly complicated recipe. My first attempt was pretty good, but not quite the perfection of mom’s.

Another delicious dessert is this recipe for brown butter and sea salt chocolate chip cookies. I’ve made them several times and they are a big hit with the family. It’s the brown butter and the sea salt that really makes a difference and distinguishes it from your average chocolate chip cookie. Here’s the recipe http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/2012/02/brown-butter-sea-salt-chocolate-chip-cookies/.

My other indulgence is my daily caramel macciato, made possible by my new Nespresso machine gifted by my husband. I had really been missing my Starbucks macciatos, but this has really eased much of that pain.

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My daughter celebrated her birthday this week and I told her she can have whatever she wants for dinner, whether I make it or we get take out. She’s the only 8 year old I know who would request baked macaroni and cheese, teriyaki salmon, and a chocolate cake. I was hoping her request wouldn’t be so labor intensive but the girl wants what she wants.
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So I’ve already gained 10 pounds at 16 weeks and all this food might have something to do with it, but at least I have a baby to blame.

Damn you, Yaz

I’ve always considered myself to be fiercely independent. I spent a good part of my youth unsupervised, held jobs since I was 14, went away for high school, and again for college, and then relocated to Boston immediately after. My independence has suited me, and I was comfortable being on my own and worrying only about myself and my needs. I always thought I wanted children, but knew I wanted to wait until my 30’s, once I had an established career. Life isn’t quite so neat however, and when I ‘fell pregnant’ in the middle of law school (love when old novels used that term), I welcomed motherhood.

7 years later I sit here cursing Bayer pharmaceuticals and the Turkish doctor who told me that Yaz (well Yazz over here) was just as good as Ortho Tricyclen, which I had been taking until arriving in Turkey. It is, in fact, NOT as good, as evidenced by this growing belly of mine.

My nemesis

My nemesis

I never imagined that I would ever have 3 children, especially since I grew up as an only child and was not used to the chaos that a big family brings. My husband is one of six so he’s used to the crazy, but I’ve had to slowly adjust to the high level of noise, constant bickering, constant mess, and lack of any time for myself unless I’m up until 2am (which happens quite often). I yell far too often, repeat myself like a broken record, and date nights now consist of quiet threats and apologies to strangers for the various things my kids might have done.

So the prospect of a 4th child was out of the question. Had it not been for a hectic summer and a nervous husband, we would have ensured the crazy ended at 3, but trying to convince a man to snip the goods is like trying to, well, convince a man to snip the goods.

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So here we are, 3 kids, a dog, and a baby on the way. My dreams of jet setting first class have been dashed. How we’ll even manage to secure 6 seats near each other on our many flights is daunting in itself. I’ve resigned myself to forever listening to jokes about starting our own basketball team, and if I wasn’t already used to the eye rolls when we walk into a restaurant, I surely will be by this time next year. Since we value education and will now have to put 4 through college, It’s pretty safe to say we won’t be owning that dream home in the tropics.

All I know is that my boys better be mama’s boys, and my girl (or girls) better love the shit out of me and skip all that teenage angst that I know is coming. I can also rest pretty easy knowing that out of 4 loving children, at least one will be willing to take care of us in old age and change an adult diaper or two. One can only dream.

Barcelona baby

As sad as I am to never have a Christmas break overseas, there always seems to be a small break in January or February to make up for it. This year we had 6 days, which wasn’t quite enough time to head back to the states, but surely lent itself to a mini-vacation of some sort. We had planned on going back to Izmir, where we lived last year, but once we saw that it would be raining all week and only slightly warmer than Edirne, that plan was quickly nixed.

I’d always wanted to go to Spain and the beauty of living out here is that most places in Europe are just a short flight away. Last year I was able to take a trip back to Berlin when my husband was in the middle of a long stretch of away games. This time we pretty much just looked for the cheapest flights from Istanbul and Barcelona was it.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

Mercat de la Boqueria

Mercat de la Boqueria

Since I’m a city girl, Barcelona is a dream city for me. Big, with lots of neighborhoods to explore, tons of shopping, and of course a million restaurants on every corner. I’m a huge fan of Tapas and I love being able to try 5 or 6 different foods, instead of  one big meal, so we were in the perfect place for our food fantasies.

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The train system was nice and orderly and if you’re a walker like I am, it’s pretty simple to walk to where you need to be, stopping along the way for a a crepe or churro, or jumping on a train if you get tired. We were total tourists, taking in the Picasso museum, the famous architectural sites, and of course the kids couldn’t miss out on the zoo and the aquarium.

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We spent 5 days there and I wish it were longer, but I’ll take what I can get. My daughter said it was the best vacation ever, she wants to move to Barcelona, and we were the best parents ever, so I’d say the trip was a success. Now if only I could find a way to get hubby a job there I’d be an extra happy woman.

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The mean streets of Edirne

So we’ve just about reached the midpoint of our stay in Edirne and I’m happy to say that cabin fever has tried, but ultimately failed, to get me down. It’s cold, but nothing compared to back home, so I won’t complain too much. Here are some pictures I’ve compiled of our time thus far.

When it was still warm and grandma was still here.

Grandma's visit

The simit is a Turkish staple and I love it. It’s a round bagel-shaped bread with toasted sesame seeds, pretty basic, but reminds of my NY street pretzels. They are sold in supermarkets, but I think they’re the best when bought from the simit guys on the street.

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Got to love the random horse just strolling down the street.

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This restaurant, Leman Kultur Cafe, is pretty popular across Turkey. The food is just okay, but they do have a greater variety than most Turkish restaurants. They have a coloring book they give to the kids, and when I saw this I thought it was pretty racist.

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Stray dogs and cats are everywhere in Turkey and if you are an animal lover it can be heart wrenching at times. Many times the dogs travel in packs, which can be scary when I’m walking my little 10 pound dog, but if you catch one by themselves it’s hard not to think about taking it home. I had such a moment last week when a stray puppy was hanging around outside our door, looking so cute and so sad. I gave it food and water and then it refused to go, just sat outside our window staring at me. The hubby wouldn’t even contemplate having another dog, but we did agree that if it was still there the next morning we would take it to our vet and see if they could do anything. The next morning our little doggie was gone 😦

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The Bazaar is not unique to Edirne, but loved throughout Turkey. Every Wednesday and Saturday you go to what is otherwise an empty lot, and you can get practically anything you would want or need. The fresh fruits and vegetables are at the forefront, but they have cheese and dairy products, snacks and candy, clothing, household goods, toys, and other various knick knacks.

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The fish market is another sight to be seen. Fish is hard to come by and not sold in many supermarkets, so if you really want fresh fish you have to venture to the center of town, park your car and walk to the market. The presentation is so lovely. I should frequent the market more often, but my fish manipulation skills are suspect and I can only handle all the slicing and dicing from time to time. Those fish heads haunt me, it’s something about those sad little eyes when they see the knife coming their way.

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The rest of our time is spent at the games and in the house. My husband is almost always the last one out of the locker room so a lot of our time is spent looking like this in an empty gym.

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When he’s not sleeping, or having one of his famous tantrums, our littlest one is hard at work learning the game.

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Well that’s all folks. We’ll hopefully discover some new and interesting things in the next 5 months.

Merry Christmas!!!

So the day is half over and it was another great Christmas, albeit Turkish style. Our kids are so happy and so grateful for every thing Santa has blessed them with. I feel like a kid again just watching it all.

Before holiday night

Before holiday movie night

After movie night

After movie night

I was initially a bit down because since they don’t celebrate Christmas here, the kids have school all week and my husband has a game tonight, so we can’t have a big dinner and the day is cut short. But it’s a home game so I’m thankful that he was here at all. We were able to enjoy a Christmas Eve holiday movie night and spend some time playing with Santa’s goodies before we start getting ready for the game. We’re truly blessed and I’m very lucky.

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So Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all from Turkey and the Francis family!

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The coveted care package

It’s Christmas in the Francis household! Not because it’s literally Christmas, but because I just received a coveted care package from my amazing mom. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this package for weeks and I just cannot contain the joy.

I’m brought back to my sleep-away camp days where they would call out campers receiving care packages and it felt as though you hit the jackpot if your name was called. Even in my old age that excitement hasn’t wavered. I’m like a kid in a candy store, rifling through the hair products, snacks, magazines, and spices. I know exactly what’s in there because it’s mostly stuff I asked for, but it doesn’t take away from the joy I feel to smell the trufle oil I’ve so yearned for and to hold in my hand a real deodorant AND antiperspirant. This package was that much more special because it had our Christmas stockings, so it came just in the nick of time to save Christmas, as if Santa brought it himself.

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One of the biggest things I’ve learned from my travels is to import all the necessary and loved American products. I love my spices, especially Adobo, Lawrey’s seasoned salt, and Red hot. Unless you’re lucky to live near an American Army base and have befriended someone there, you are out of luck for finding most American products. Where we are now, there is nothing. Not even the occasional Pop Tart or Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, which we were able to find in Berlin, as well as last year in Izmir. The funny thing is, when I’m at home I don’t  snack on much junk food, but over here I flip out if I find a bag of M&M’s or Sour Patch Kids. A few weeks ago my husband brought home a pack of After Eight mints he had randomly found at the gas station and it was like he had showered me with diamonds!

Who gets this excited over body wash? Me!

Who gets this excited over body wash? Me!

I know it seems silly in the grand scheme of things, but it really is the little things in life. People often ask if I ever get homesick being out of the country for 9 months out of the year, and I do. But sometimes just a bite of my coveted Peanut Chews or the whiff of a Downey dryer sheet can remind me of the comforts of home, and for that, care packages rule in this household.

The away game blues

Day one: Made breakfast. Played with my son’s train tracks. Watched in horror as my 15 month old sat on and broke said train tracks. Dealt with the tantrum that followed. Worked on spelling and math with my daughter. Walked the dog. Made lunch. Talked to hubby. Listened to the kids ask when daddy’s coming back for the 10th time. Took the kids to the track across the street to get out some of their energy. Made dinner. Gave baths. Put the kids to bed. Talked to hubby. Watched tv and surfed the net. Sent hubby a bunch of random links to read. Cursed to myself for not knowing how to drive, therefore limiting my options. Eventually came to the realization that there’s nowhere to go anyway.

Day two: Repeat just about everything, except instead of the track we did the big house clean, sweeping, mopping, and cleaning 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and the million toys that end up everywhere. I ended the night chasing a pretty bold stray cat out of my kitchen. Good times.

Away games blow. Especially on the weekends. Only positive is that it was 2, and not 3, days away. (edit:  the guys had random drug testing by the league after the game, causing them to miss their flight and stay another night, so it ended up being 3 days after all).

 

Watching daddy if we're lucky enough to catch the game on TV

Watching daddy if we’re lucky enough to catch the game on TV

 

I’ll always remember a conversation I had with two of my friends and fellow WAGs when I was living in Berlin. The guys had been gone for a few days and my friend and I were going crazy by ourselves. We both had two kids at the time and I was pregnant with my third. We were complaining about just about everything and were literally counting down the hours until they came back. Our other friend, who didn’t have kids yet, was also wishing her man would hurry up and get back. But her reasons were in stark contrast to ours. She just missed him so much, wanted his companionship, missed talking to him, snuggling with him. It was unreal how cute and mushy it all was. It was also pretty hilarious that we were like “aww we used to be like that but now we just miss their help!” Sad but true.

Of course we missed our men and all the pillow talk, but the reality was that the day to day is just harder without them. It’s not nearly as difficult as when we were long distance full time, and I do enjoy a little me time as much as the next girl, but the problem is that me alone with 3 kids involves far less me time than I would like.  We have a pretty good system set up which allows us to relax and enjoy some grown up time after all the parental duties have been fulfilled. Granted that grown up time often has us up until 2am because there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but I’ll take that over my sad little away game activities any day.

 

Got so bored that I tried on a jacket we just bought and had already determined was too big for her. She was not pleased.

Got so bored that I tried on a jacket we just bought and had already determined was too big for her. She was not pleased.