May’s Personality

We bought a new chair this weekend. We’ve all been testing it out, but May in particular likes this new addition to our living room, because it’s a rocker. (A chair that you’re allowed to move is pretty exciting stuff to a three year old who is constantly being chastised to sit still!)

May discovered an even better way to play on the rocking chair this morning, while her daddy was sitting in it.

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On your marks…

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Get set…

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Go!

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Where’d May go?

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Could she be any happier?

I think that these pictures sum up May’s current personality so well. She is always happy. She is usually shrieking with laughter. She often takes physical risks. Sure, jumping into a blanket is pretty tame, but we can tell that she’s going to be the daredevil of our family.

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Random day

To test out hosting my photos externally, I took a few photos of a normal day around our house. There are no special events to write about, just a few “day in the life” moments captured for posterity. This isn’t really one day; there are pics here from a few days this past week, but they’re pretty indicative of what any random day is like for the Marshall family.

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Here we see Adele doing her homework at the dining room table. This was taken on Tuesday. She probably got home from school (on Tuesdays, she has Rainbows after school, so she gets home around 4:30), changed out of her uniform into play clothes, and went to play on the playground for a little bit. Then she’ll come home to practice reading or spelling while we prepare dinner.

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This picture was from Wednesday. Joy of joys, I found lice on May. We immediately treated it and the poor girl was such a trooper about it all. I let her watch Max & Ruby cartoons while the scalp cream murdered those nasty bugs! (We also laundered every single linen in the house, bagged up every other soft thing, and reported the outbreak to the university community.) It was such a late night for us all, but we have survived this childhood rite of passage.

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On Thursday afternoon after school, Jeff and the girls decided to make homemade bagels! Oftentimes, Jeff will be talking about a food and just spontaneously decide to make it! I am so not like that. I plan my cooking ahead by a week. Recently, he’s done this with summer sausage, banh mi, pretzels, and more.

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Oh yeah, I hit the husband jackpot.

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It turns out that Adele has a natural affinity for bagel making. She was better than any of us at forming the correct shape. But guess what May is really good at:

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Eating the bagels!

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Finally, some kid fashion to wrap up this experimental post. We generally let the girls decide what to wear, as long as it’s clean, it fits, and it’s appropriate for the weather and the situation. This is what they chose this morning to go to Ikea:

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Adele chose a pink and red color scheme, accented by Star Wars sweatpants and a Hello Kitty purse filled with tiny toy animals and princesses. May followed her color direction and opted for a ballet skirt over a chevron jumpsuit and a heart sweater that my mother originally bought for Adele when she was only six months old. It fit Adele when she was six months (with sleeves cuffed) and five years later, it fits May at 3 years old! We have gotten some serious wear out of that sweater!

Well, there you have it. Random pictures from random days.

Hello, it’s me

Welcome to my now-annual “I’m not dead; I just haven’t been blogging…but I really want to!” post. Last winter, I took a blogging hiatus, because we were busy with travel and holidays, etc. This year, I really tried to keep up with the posts, but every time I tried to upload photos, I got a generic “upload failed” error. I figured something was buggy on the site, so I ignored it and tried again later and later and later, but kept getting the same error. Finally I made Jeff look at it, and he determined that I had hit my maximum photo allowance for this free blog site. Then came a couple of weeks of thinking, what to do? Do I pay for a real blog site or go through and resize all my photos to buy a little extra wiggle room or host the photos off-site? That last one is the one I’m going to try first. I am soooo tech-illiterate, so I barely even know what it means, but I’ll make Jeff show me.

Thanksgiving 2015

I cheated and turned on Christmas music about a week before Thanksgiving. Now it’s the weekend after Thanksgiving and we already have a (fake) tree and Pandora is permanently set to its Christmas Radio station and Jeff and the girls are making gingerbread log cabins. Thanksgiving, what Thanksgiving?

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Okay, we did celebrate Thanksgiving, of course. And in no small way. We cohosted with our across-the-hall-neighbor Lisé, as we did last year. Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails in my apartment followed by the main meal in hers.

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Guests start to arrive to our apartment

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Adele and Winston play in the gingerbread house (leftover from May’s Candy Land birthday party)

The most popular dish we made was the cranberry salsa. It always is. I’m so glad that my friends like it as much as I do. It’s Jeff’s mom’s recipe and she makes it for me whenever I come to visit, even though it’s most appropriate as a festive winter dish. My inclination is to keep the recipe secret, but I’m feeling generous.

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Ingredients:

1 12-oz bag of cranberries, fresh or frozen

1/4 cup green onions, finely minced

1/4 cup cilantro, finely minced

2 tablespoons ginger, grated or finely chopped

Juice of 1 small lime

2 jalapenos (mild) or thai chiles (medium to hot), seeded and minced

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 8-oz blocks of cream cheese

Wheat Thins

Instructions:

Toss first seven ingredients (through sugar) in a food processor and whiz it up until everything looks nicely mixed and the cranberries are minced but not soupy. Empty salsa into a bowl or Tupperware, cover, and refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to meld together.

Before serving, allow salsa to come to room temperature. Lay cream cheese blocks on a serving plate and heap salsa generously on top. Serve crackers on the side.

Note: This recipe is extremely forgiving. This time around, we couldn’t find green onions, so we used chives. We also couldn’t find cilantro, so we left it out completely. If you have a lemon, but not a lime, use that. And the amounts are just approximations: if you have cilantro, just grab a fistful and chop it up. And we like ginger, so we add a bit more (same with spicy chiles).

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I also made lemony kale chips, giardiniera marinated olives, Lebanese 7-spice cashews, sweet potato fries and sausage bites with two dipping sauces: dijon and sriracha. Oh, and a bag of microwave popcorn for May!

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Kate enjoys a tipple

To drink, I made a giant pot of a modern Wassail. Traditionally, there would be ale in a Wassail (hence, the name), but I built upon the base of apple and orange juices and sweet spices with Calvados and rye whiskey. I kept the alcohol separate so the kids could just drink the mulled cider.

After a good amount of mingling, we moved across the hall to Lisé and Ian’s. There were 19 of us in total, so we used both of our dining tables, all of the chairs in our apartments, some chairs stolen from the lounge downstairs, and every plate, fork, and glass we both own!

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Todd, Winston, Amber, Henry, Marcos, Sofia, Michelle, Adele, Jeff, and May

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Naomi, Alta, Guy, Ian, Elan, Lise, JC, Kate, and Luke

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Marcos, Jeff, and Todd

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May May

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The Smith men make funny faces

All the traditional Thanksgiving fixings were fixed: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, cheesy grits, cornbread, cranberries two ways, and deviled eggs.

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And there was pie upon pie upon pie! Lisé baked pumpkin pie, cranberry pie, and a chocolate bourbon pecan pie, and Michelle and Marcos brought pumpkin cheesecake and a traditional Brazilian doce de leite cake roll.

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Lise’s mother JC is in town visiting

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Michelle and Lise

I have no shortage of dessert photos, because I kinda like dessert. Kinda.

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Amber, moi, and Michelle

Here’s a good final dessert photo:

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Élan sneaks a bite from the gingerbread turkey he had made with his grandma.

Guests left and we cleaned up a little bit and then were completely ready for bed. I looked at my watch (my cell phone) and it was 8:30!

 

Star Wars Party Crafts

Here are a few how-tos from the Star Wars party I helped to throw for Adele (turning five) and her friend Winston (turning six). To see the creations in action, check out my party recap here.

The invitations

I had big plans for the party invitations, because there are so many good ideas for Star Wars parties on the internet. I loved the idea of using photos of the kids and real glow sticks like this Valentine:

But since this was a party for two kids, I thought I could do something like this Valentine:

However, I realized all of a sudden that there was a local school holiday starting in two days and the kids would be out of school for a week and wouldn’t be back to get their invitations until just a few days before when the party was scheduled. So I had to make all the invitations THAT NIGHT with what supplies I happened to already have on hand. I used this template for the front, downloaded a free Star Wars font (I used “Star Jedi” from fontspace.com) for the details, and mounted the print-outs on green Yoda-esque paper.

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I’ve erased the party address

If I could do it over, I would make it say, “Invited You Are” instead.

The cakes

I started by finding a jack-o-lantern stencil of Darth Vader online. I just printed it as-is and kept my fingers crossed that it would fit the cake (it just did!).

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I carefully cut out the gray shapes with an x-acto knife. (I simplified some of the more intricate parts of the design.)

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I positioned the paper as I wanted it on the cake, pressed down gently so the frosting would keep the paper from moving, and then sifted on powered sugar. I carefully lifted the paper off and tossed it in the garbage, revealing the menacingly beautiful visage of Darth Vader!

I decided upon a devil’s food cake recipe as that seemed fitting for the character. I followed this recipe by Martha Stewart and opted for the “more dense and fudgy cake” version. We don’t have very comprehensive baking sections in our grocery stores here in Abu Dhabi, so I didn’t have much baking chocolate to choose from. I chose to buy Lindt chocolate bars instead, because they weren’t any more expensive than the chocolate chips, and so much more decadent! (Perhaps too decadent for a child’s palate, but there were no complaints.)

A spiced apple cake with maple frosting and raisin roll buns!

A spiced apple cake with maple frosting and raisin roll buns!

The Leia cake is very straight-forward. I wanted to use cream cheese frosting as a light skin color, so I chose the same apple spice cake I had made for Rosh Hashanah a few weeks back (yeah, it was that delicious, but I left out all nuts this time, in case any kids were allergic), though a lemon cake or red velvet or carrot cake would also have been a good pairing. This particular frosting was flavored with maple syrup, so it took on its own warm color, otherwise I would have tinted it with food coloring. I added a little bit of chocolate frosting from the Darth Vader cake to the cream cheese frosting to make a brown hair color and just painted it on. I added a little extra on top of two store-bought raisin rolls (I couldn’t find cinnamon rolls) and stuck them on top, though you could also use a toothpick to adhere them vertically to the sides of the cake. I found a gummy fruit slice candy that resembled a mouth and I happened to have brought a box of candy eyes home from our visit to the States this summer.

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This wasn’t for Adele and Winston’s party, but for a previous Star Wars-themed party I threw for Jeff’s birthday (since it falls so close to May 4th). It’s a rocky road Wookie “cake”. If you aren’t familiar with the British iteration of rocky road – in particular, the Hummingbird Bakery recipe – you are seriously missing out. It’s a mass of melted chocolate with all sorts of amazing fillings (Rice Krispies, raisins, marshmallows, chopped up candy bars, etc). I poured it onto a cookie sheet roughly in the shape of Chewbacca’s head. Then I drizzled lighter milk chocolate on top to look like hair/fur and used thin black licorice, blanched almonds, m&ms, and sour rope to make the facial features.

Crafts

I always like to make a few photo booth props for each party.

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They’re absurdly simple. I either print out funny quotes or free-hand paint whatever designs I need on the back of recycled cereal boxes. Then I securely tape chopsticks to the back as a handle.

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For the kids to play with at the party and then take home as favors, I made pool noodle lightsabers.

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I bought as many pool noodles as I could carry and cut them in half. I used a serrated knife and it cut like butter. I wrapped a piece of string around to measure the circumference and then used the string to measure out pieces of duct tape. I used three lengths of duct tape per noodle to get the right height. Then I used the string again to measure black tape to ring the top and bottom of the handle and short pieces to make “on” and “off” buttons (not strictly authentic, but fine for kids this age).

For Jeff’s Star Wars party, since there were fewer kids coming, I did more detailed tape-work on bubble wand lightsabers. You can find such intricate descriptions of the designs on the internet!

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Inside the party favor bags (which had Star Wars Pez dispensers and space-themed candy, like Mars bars, Milky Way, and Galaxy chocolates), I included these little constellation books.

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I got the idea here and chose to make Adele’s birth constellation Leo, Winston’s Libra, and the Big Dipper, just because it’s so popular. At least, it’s popular back home in the States. I’m not actually sure if it’s even viewable here in this part of the world. And I know the Brits call it by another name completely, but whatevs.

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There were still more ideas that I had pinned that I decided not to do in the name of sanity, but hey, I’ve already thrown two Star Wars parties in the last year, I’ll probably throw another soon!

Adele’s 5th Birthday Party (Star Wars)

Our precious, precocious Adele turned five in August, and, while there are many advantages to having a summer birthday, it’s disappointing not to be able to celebrate with school friends, especially now that Adele has made really good friends of her own for the first time. I suppose if we lived anywhere else, we could invite classmates to a summer birthday party, but here in Abu Dhabi, everyone gets the heck out of dodge for those unbearably hot summer months. So we threw her a family birthday party with NW friends on her real birthday and then waited until school resumed and even added a little extra time for Adele to make friends with the new children in her class. (Side note: the school kept groups of six children together from the previous year, so there would be a fair number of familiar faces in the new grade, and they paid particular attention to which children got along well and which needed to be separated. I am extremely pleased with the way it was sorted.)

Along the way, I decided to pair up with a friend whose son was in Mrs. Peripoli’s class last year and is in Mrs. McGrory’s class this year as well and whose birthday is in September AND who happens to be from the Seattle area, which I still find so ridiculously serendipitous. Adele and Winston were also “boyfriend-girlfriend” last year, whatever that means to four and five year olds. We proposed the same space-theme that I organized for Adele’s 5th family birthday party this summer, and then it morphed into a Star Wars-theme, which made Adele perfectly happy, because she’s a big fan (of humoring her father).

I am not good at working with other people, but Amber (Winston’s mother) was a pleasure to party plan with. She did a very good job of reminding me to avoid taking on too much responsibility and, even more importantly, she would take the initiative to go out and do stuff herself without me having to ask, which I hate doing and so don’t. Amber contributed more than me to this party, which is something I am not used to!

We decided to host the party at Amber’s villa, because it had plenty of space, including a backyard, which is a rarity around here. She has a giant trampoline, rented a bouncy castle, and we moved tables outside to take advantage of the dropping temperatures. However, it’s important to note that when I say the “dropping temperatures,” I mean that it was 98 degrees instead of 104, like it had been two days prior.

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Winston as Anakin and Adele as Princess Leia

Adele and May having a bouncy lightsaber duel

Adele and May having a bouncy lightsaber duel

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Eshal

Omar

Omar

The absolutely hilarious thing was that it was so hot, the kids naturally started to play more indoors (after running around outside until they were beet-red and dripping in sweat) and pulled out old fashioned board games like Life, which is not what I would have assumed of a bunch of five and six year olds!

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Jamie, Walter, Olly, and Winston

Jamie, Walter, Olly, and Winston

The adults were either brave or lazy enough to stay outdoors on the veranda:

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We had a couple of activities organized outdoors. First of all, I made lightsabers out of pool noodles and the kids went wild whacking each other…and some parents even reveled in being able to give their kids a good beating:

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Adele’s Leia costume was just one of her daddy’s collared shirts on backwards and belted

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Winston’s dad Todd gets in on the fun

I also wrapped little trinkets in tin foil, hid them around the perimeter of the house, and then announced an “asteroid hunt.”

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Can you spot the asteroid hidden in the palm?

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Riya, Laila, and Adele unwrap their finds

Amber filled up a bucket full of water balloons and let the kids run wild. No one complained about getting wet when it was 100 degrees! It helped that they dried instantly.

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This is one of my favorite pictures that I’ve ever taken of Adele

My good friend Nikki, mother of Adele’s two-time classmate Olivia and her little sister Sophie, generously offered to paint faces:

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Avalon as Amidala

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Sarika as Padme Amidala with a Stormtrooper face

And these are Nikki’s own stunning daughters, who would have won the costume contest hands down, if we had organized such a thing:

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Practically twins, but over a year apart! (And Sophie, the younger sister, is taller than Olivia)

Here are some of the other kids at the party:

Big brother Henry

Big brother Henry

Little sister May and her strikingly handsome green-gray eyed daddy

Little sister May and her strikingly handsome green-gray eyed daddy

Jamie as a Superman Vader combo

Jamie as Super Vaderman

May's friend Bella as a little Leia

May’s friend Bella as a little Leia

Muhamed, one of our only Emirati friends

Muhamed, one of our only Emirati friends

Nacha

Nacha

And our celebrity guest, Mrs. Peripoli (on the left) hugging Anna, Lucy's mom

And our celebrity guest, Mrs. Peripoli (on the left), Adele and Winston’s teacher from last year, getting a big hug from Anna and Lucy, who was also in their FS2 class

For inside fun, I made photo booth props:

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Says the fetus to her big brother

And then, of course, there was the food!

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Green grape and red grape lightsabers

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Star and moon cupcakes by Amber

We also had a variety of green vegetables and green goddess dip that I was going to arrange into a Yoda face until I decided that was a ridiculous thing to do, and Amber ordered TWENTY pizzas to be delivered to the house. She accidentally ordered them the night before while we were setting up the house and then had to frantically call around to cancel the order before a car-full of pizzas arrived at midnight.

But the best part of a birthday party is the cake, right? I made one for each birthday child; a Leia cake for Adele and a Darth Vader cake for Winston:

A spiced apple cake with maple frosting and raisin roll buns!

A spiced apple cake with maple frosting and raisin roll buns!

Devil's food cake with a Lindt ganache frosting and powdered sugar dusting

Devil’s food cake with a Lindt ganache frosting and powdered sugar dusting

Frustratingly, by the time Winston went to cut his cake, much of the powdered sugar had melted, so it wasn’t nearly as impressive, but that’s why we take pictures of things.

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Happy 6th birthday, Winston!

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Happy 5th birthday, Adele!

Slicing into Leia's face

Slicing into Leia’s face

Amber, the gorgeous Jennifer Connelly look-alike hostess

Amber, my gorgeous Jennifer Connelly look-alike co-hostess

All together, we had two classrooms’ worth of kids at the party. Aside from the unavoidable heat, everything went very well! No real tears, the kids were happy to take home their favor bags, asteroid hunt prizes and lightsabers, and Adele and Winston each scored a fortune in birthday presents (one major upside of inviting 30 friends to your party). I’m not being figurative when I say a fortune, as it is Emirati tradition to give cash as a birthday present.

Guarding the favor bags until the end of the party

Guarding the favor bags until the end of the party

Saying goodbye to our guests

Saying goodbye to our guests

Edited to add: I’ve followed up this post with a second post with more information and how-tos for a few of the ideas featured above. Read it here.

May Starts Montessori

We just finished hosting Adele’s birthday party. There are a lot of photos that I would like to share from that event, but I wanted to be sure to get May’s big day squeezed in first.

I have a lot to say on the subject of May going to preschool, but I don’t want to be controversial. Basically, I don’t believe in preschool. I think that young children should stay at home with their parents. There, I said it! Start stoning me, modern professional women!!! And yet, for reasons, well, actually kinda for no reason, we decided to try out two days of preschool a week. It’s an experiment!

The daycare on NYUAD’s campus (just downstairs in our building) is full, so we chose a Montessori nursery just next door to Adele’s school; it is still quite convenient.

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May’s first day was a couple of weeks ago. She was very excited, as she has taken her sister to school everyday for a year and always asks when she can go to school too. Adele was excited for May as well and offered to read her a book in the morning.

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It’s a constant love fest between these two sisters.

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After running down the hallway to the elevator, Adele stops to whisper some great secret into May’s ear. Giggles, giggles, giggles.

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Once off the elevator, we stopped to take some “First Day of Preschool” pictures, because I knew the camera would fog up once we stepped outside.

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And just as we were snapping her portrait…

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…the weight of her backpack knocked her off her feet. Haha, classic.

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This was not a bad picture, considering how hot and humid it was outside.

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But here is my favorite portrait. Look at that face. Look at those eyes!!!

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At home, May has not shown much interest in puzzles (whereas Adele was doing them at a younger age). At her preschool, they seem to be her favorite thing to do! They were the first thing that she gravitated towards on her very first day and that pattern has held true with each subsequent morning.

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May was doing perfectly well with her own puzzle when over toddles this little boy to MANSPLAIN it to her. Haha, oh, thaaaat’s where the turtle shell goes?

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Isabella, the girl on the right, is the little sister of Adele’s friend Julius, who was in her class last year at Cranleigh. So Bella was a familiar face on May’s first day. It also helps that she is AMAZINGLY outgoing and loving and has taken May under her wing. The two on the left are twins Kayan and Ayesha. They’re a little bit older and will give me the 411 on how May was during the day at school. Julia is in the middle. I don’t know her so well yet, but she’s caught my attention, because she was wearing red lipstick yesterday morning! My kinda gal!

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Here are May, Isabella, and Julia with the two teachers, Ms. Nisreen and Ms. Beejal. They are both native Arabic speakers and speak in both languages to all the children. It’s possible that May is currently learning more Arabic than Adele is.

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And here is one of the things I love about a Montessori education. They make the practical life fun. Kayan has chosen to wash the windows, because the squeegee is fun! And May has come home more enthusiastic about cleaning up, so I certainly am not going to argue with that.

I am, however, going to argue with a lot of things. This school is perfectly lovely. The teachers are great and I really like the other children in May’s class. I certainly love the free time it affords me, BUT…I just don’t “get” preschool. BIG SIGH. Like I said above, I don’t want to go into it. I know that I am in the vast minority with my parenting philosophy. Well, probably not in the global minority, but among my peer group, yes, the vast minority. So it’s not an argument I’m going to win.

I will say this: despite whatever misgivings I have about the idea of daycare, if May is happy, I will make my peace with it. So far, she has been heart-breakingly sad at drop-off and deliriously happy at pick-up (not in the sense that she’s so happy that I’ve finally returned, but happy that she’s had a really great day of play learning and doesn’t want to leave). So it’s a bit confusing and I know I have to give it more time.

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Frustration

I am feeling so frustrated. I feel like I am a week behind everything, like I am constantly playing catch-up.

I haven’t missed any appointments or events, but I also haven’t managed to accomplish any of the things I was hoping to do at the start of the academic year. Adele and May have started school (I keep meaning to write a post on May going to preschool!) and Jeff is hard at work in a new capacity at the university, but I haven’t accomplished any of the things I intended to do with this fresh start:

Going to the gym

Pre-making lunches for Jeff

Organizing an art class for kids on campus

Starting a kid’s travel business

Getting outside more

Decorating the apartment (hanging art on these oppressively white walls!) and taking pictures for Design Mom

Of course, there are reasons. May has been sick with a double ear infection and congestion for the past week, and she was sick one time before that as well. Miraculously, she is the only one who has been sick and so far, Adele, Jeff and I have been spared (knock on wood). I have, however, been having insanely bad allergies and all that sneezing is actually tiring! (I also like to think of it as an ab workout.) Instead of using her nap time to clean the apartment or to prepare activities, I’ve been napping as well.

I’m feeling extra frustrated today, because the last half week was a vacation here in the UAE. Many of our friends were able to take the week to travel with their families, and we barely left the apartment.

Le sigh.

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Happy New Year, everyone!

Here are some photographs from this evening’s potluck celebration and links to the recipes I used.

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It all starts with the challah. Thanks to this blog, I was able to check back and see which recipe I used last year (Smitten Kitchen with Tori Avey braiding instructions).

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Turned out great and I have plenty left over for making french toast for breakfast tomorrow.

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One of the few precious food items I brought back from the States this summer was Streit’s matzo ball mix. You sure can’t find that here. I made my own broth and plunked these babies in.

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I made the same tzimmes that I made for Pesach in the spring. It is made with carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, dates, and cranberries. The recipe comes from Food52, but it’s not the most well composed recipe, so you’re forced to improvise (which works very well for this dish – it can handle a lot of variations).

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For the kids, I made “apple” Rice Krispie treats. Just the plain old Kellogg’s recipe with LOTS of red food coloring added to the melted marshmallow before you add the cereal in and a pretzel stem and fruit roll-up leaf.

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The final dish I made (and the final dish we ate) was this applesauce cake from Dieter’s Downfall (which I always, ALWAYS read as if it were the German name Dieter and I’m like, poor Dieter and his downfall!). This recipe takes a long time to make, because you have to make the chunky applesauce first, but it is worth it! My apartment smelled just like autumn. I think if I keep making this cake, I’m going to rename it the mulled apple cider cake, because that’s what it smelled like. Instead of making the caramel frosting that Dieter recommends, I made Ottolenghi’s maple frosting. The whole thing is very sweet (so I might add a little less sugar to the applesauce, cake batter, and frosting recipes next time I make it), but it’s so much better than of the dry honey cakes that you normally find on Rosh Hashanah.

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Here I am dipping the challah in honey, wishing for a sweet year to come. As I said to the girls as I tucked them into bed tonight, “May we have our best year ever this coming year, and that is really saying something, because all our years together have been incredibly sweet.”

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We had two other NYU families join us for dinner. Here Maya, Director and Chief Curator of the NYUAD Art Gallery, shares the honey bowl and apple slices with the children.

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Maya’s husband Mark, a History professor, takes his seat at the kid’s table for dinner. Funny coincidence, Mark and Maya are both Reedies. We’re a three person alumni chapter.

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Libby (with honey dribbling down her chin) gives everything an enthusiastic thumbs up.

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And here she oh-so-sneakily steals an extra Rice Krispie treat. Apples are healthy, right?

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An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but maybe not the dentist.

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As our guests got ready to go, I asked the kids to line up for one last photo. This was my attempt at getting them each to hold up a digit of the new year. Ehhh, according to them, it looks like it is now the year 1677? (It’s actually 5776.)

Rosh Hashanah Prep

Rosh Hashanah is one of my favorite holidays of the Jewish year. It is a happy holiday, it signals the start of fall, it’s customary to eat a sweet meal of apples and pomegranates and honey symbolizing hopes for a sweet new year, and you get to listen to the shofar blow, which I think must bring out the excited child in everyone. Who doesn’t love that ear piercing, awkward, yet awe-inspiring sound?

But it is also a sneaky holiday. One day you’re on the beach, it’s August, you’re hot, school is not in session, and then, BAM. High Holy Days. I’m not ready!!!

Since moving to Abu Dhabi, the onus is on me and me alone to educate my children about their Jewish heritage. There’s no JCC or Chabad event to bring them to, no library with Rosh Hashanah stories to check out and read together, no kosher bakery from which to order a round raisin challah, no synagogue services to bring them to and therefore, no shofar to listen to.

Last year, NYUAD did have a lovely Rosh Hashanah service and I wrote about it here and here is a link to Mark Cohen’s piece on Forward.com. But it seems as though I’m not the only one who was caught off-guard for the holidays this fall, so the closest organized Jewish gathering is in Dubai, and it sounds fantastic, but I am just not up for the schlep.

Because I’m feeling unprepared for this major holiday, I feel like I am failing my children! What I should have done was gathered books from the children’s library here on campus about apples and autumn, and maybe even had a Rosh Hashanah book shipped from Amazon (which takes about three weeks if you’re lucky, so that would have required supreme fore-thought). I should have made New Years cards to send out to friends and family and planned out arts projects for the girls to work on like:

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and

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or any of the great May-age appropriate activities that I found on Our Jewish Homeschool Blog. And we should have watched videos and songs on YouTube like Shalom Sesame (the Israeli Sesame Street) and Jumpin’ Jerusalem.

But it’s two days away and we haven’t. Is there still time? Maybe. I mean, there certainly is time to do a craft or two and read a book and watch a video clip, but is there enough time to instill a love of Rosh Hashanah in my children? I know those feelings are nurtured and grow over many years and that one missed opportunity will not make a huge difference, but I don’t want to fall into the habit of celebrating a holiday on that one day and then forgetting about it the rest of the year. That’s not going to make my kids feel Jewish.

Perhaps I should simply invest in a wall calendar next year. Hey, maybe that will be my Jewish New Year’s resolution.