Sunday, June 29, 2008


Momotombo Volcano, Nicaragua

B is a volcanologist (among other things), so we're all big fans of volcanoes at our house.

The Middle East doesn't have a lot in the way of active volcanoes, but Al Ain still had a shop called Volcano Pastries and Cafeteria, so of course we had to try it out!

Idaho has a lot of volcanic history. (In fact, we're living on an extinct volcano right now.) There's no Volcano Pastries shop, but we found something else to make up for it. The Volcanic Farms stand! (The strawberries were really good.)

Studying Arabic

I like Amira's list of 5 other reasons to study Arabic.

For me, Arabic doesn't have much practical value anymore--right now I don't have Arabic-speaking neighbors or Arabic street signs and documents to read--but I enjoy languages and learning about different cultures so there's still value in it to me. Also, you never know when a situation will come up where you can use even very basic language skills you've acquired.

This is a silly example, but we recently had a chance to visit the Museum of Idaho's new World of the Pharaohs exhibit. While there I noticed that some of the artwork (modern papyrus paintings), on display along with the ancient artifacts, had been signed by the artists in Arabic, and it was fun reading the artists' names and getting the kids to come read along with me. Before we moved to the UAE, Arabic was so far off my radar I never would have thought about reading anything in Arabic script. I still don't know much Arabic vocabulary-wise, but even being able to read it phonetically is really fun.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


One place we visited this month before swimming lessons was the zoo. It's a small zoo, especially compared to the Al Ain Zoo, but it is nice and seems well-cared-for.


We've tried to fit in as many family excursions as we could this month in anticipation of staying home a lot after the baby arrives. The kids have been taking swimming lessons out of town for a few weeks, since the local swim classes filled up too quickly or didn't fit our schedule. This has actually been good for us because it has given us a chance to do some fun things in the other town before or after lessons.

Swimming has gone really well--we only wish we could go more often! Now that lessons are done we just swim at the university when we can, usually on weekends.

S swimming to her teacher

C practicing his back float

Monday, June 23, 2008

Rowan blossoms

We were happy to find that our Rowan trees are beautiful in spring, too.

Looking back after a year

A year ago this week we left the UAE, and I'm feeling just a bit nostalgic...

Camels near Al Ain

Desert storm

I still want to know what these road surprises are (stray camels?)

Finding geckos in our house occasionally was always fun

Snorkeling at "Rainbow Lagoon," our favorite beach, near Dubai

Climbing sand dunes in Liwa

Relaxing majlis-style

Walking along Abu Dhabi corniche

Visiting the east coast of the UAE

In Buraimi, Oman, our neighbor city

I hope we can go back someday, to visit at least. And I hope it doesn't change too much, but of course it will change. (Just please don't put an indoor ski slope on Jebel Hafeet!)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Al Ain Birds

Because I'm missing Al Ain...

In Al Ain we had a flock of green parrots that visited our neighborhood every morning, perching under our roof tiles and making a lot of noise. (Alas, we took no photos of them.) We had a lot of unwanted pigeons behind our villa until B hung some green mesh from the garden souk down the back walls where they liked to perch.

Being an oasis, Al Ain has lots of interesting birds. (According to this website, "The United Arab Emirates has been acknowledged as one of the top four destinations in the whole of the Middle East for bird-watching tours." Here is a checklist of common species.) We never really tried to look for birds--we didn't have time for that--but we did see some beautiful (unknown) birds around town occasionally. Of course, there were lots of trained falcons too:

Preschoolers meeting a falcon in Al Ain, Jan. 2007

Another trained falcon on display in Al Ain, Jan. 2007

They didn't give me any protection for my arm--I guess the owner/trainer knew I wouldn't get scratched or clawed? (He was wearing a gauntlet, though.)

Backyard birding

We hung a bird feeder in our backyard last fall after we moved in, but it wasn't until this spring that we've actually seen a variety of birds coming to it. These photos are nowhere near as good as the bird photos from the Mental multivitamin blog, but they might give you just a small idea of our first attempts at backyard birding.

Western Tanager

Another Western Tanager

Lazuli Buntings (These have been so hard to photograph--I just can't get close to them)

More Lazuli Buntings

Black-capped Chickadee

K found this old nest on the ground, blown from a tree during the winter probably, when we were cleaning up the yard a few weeks ago.

After one of our rain/snow storms last week, B noticed this little egg on the ground in our front yard. We couldn't find a nest nearby and left it where it was until it was obvious it had been abandoned and was too cold to survive.

We've seen some other birds that we haven't been able to identify yet, and some we just don't have photos of (robins, crows, mourning doves, house finches, etc.).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another school year finished

K's biographical report for her school Learning Fair in May

So, after 3 years of private British/Arabic schooling in the UAE, K and C were put back into the U.S. public school system last August. Luckily, both were very enthusiastic about coming back to the U.S. and going to school here. They have both done well, but they both had adjustments to make, too. School is now different in some ways, and there are some things I could definitely do without, but there are also some things that are better now, so I think it balances out in the end. I'm really proud of K and C for making the adjustment and having a good year.

S is working with me to get ready for kindergarten in the fall. She'll be 5 in August--her birthday is on the first day of school. She can independently write her name in all caps now (with 9 letters in her name, this is a big accomplishment!), and we're still working on some of the letter names, but things are moving in the right direction. She is very excited to go to school like her brother and sister do. And said brother and sister love to help her by reading to her and "teaching" her--it's great.

I'm glad school is out because now we'll have time to work on things I want to do. Besides swimming and riding bikes (which we still need to buy), we'll be doing some academic stuff. Just a little. For one thing, Arabic. I don't want K and C to forget the little bit of Arabic they were able to learn. K in particular is quite good at reading and writing (they were never taught much conversational Arabic in school, unfortunately--and English is spoken more than Arabic in most public places in the UAE). C never cared for Arabic and stubbornly resisted putting any effort into Arabic class at school but he can write his name and knows some limited vocabulary. I studied basic Arabic while we were there for a while, so we're going to continue on with our beginning Arabic studies for a while. (I enjoy languages, so why not?) We're also doing some Latin, which C absolutely loves, and is new and fun to me. K and C are still doing piano, and I try to make sure they have plenty of reading time and good books available. The last thing I wanted to include in our formal schedule is a nature journal. (My friend K uses these in her homeschool curriculum, and I loved the idea.) What we're doing with the nature journals is taking some time each week to observe something in nature, which we then draw and write about. Our first entry was last week and the kids had fun with it.

Of course, the kids have their own plans for summer and I'm giving them plenty of free time to do their own things as well. K loves arts and crafts, gardening, and reading, so she'll be doing plenty of those; C loves games, toys, reading, and science experiments; S loves to do everything her brother and sister do and often follows their lead.

We won't be doing much of the hiking/exploring/camping I thought we would this summer because... we have a surprise addition coming to our family this summer! (The baby is due in 3 weeks!) So, we're excited, and we'll just have to postpone some of the outdoor adventures we'd like to have for later.

Now, the only thing I'm waiting for is warmer weather. Idaho is beautiful and green right now, but it has been chilly and rainy. It was even snowing a little this morning. I'd like some summer weather please!

A cold, rainy Memorial Day

Indoor picnic because of the weather