We just wrapped up Lilly and Finn’s first week (!) of school: Lilly in Pre-K and Finn in a 2’s program. I had been anxious in the lead-up to this but by the time it rolled around, change and routine felt very welcome. Both kids are embracing this new phase as well, although thankfully still hugging us tight at drop-off.
Now it’s my turn to regroup. I’m channeling the back-to-school energy to take more control of my work life, starting with my physical working environment. For the past 18 months, Rob and I have been working elbow-to-elbow, playing musical chairs for calls and dodging the kids when they are home. It’s no wonder I’ve felt manic and scattered.
I finally put a desk in my bedroom and having my own space has made a huge difference. I’m also taking some of my own advice and carving out time for ikigai exercises to figure out the difference between what I can do and what I want to do, and how that translates into consulting projects. And, instead of putting pressure on myself to “figure things out,” I’m approaching it all like a continuum and just progressing along that.
Here are some of the things I’m doing, buying, and cooking as we enter fall:
Reflection and remembrance: The 9/11 anniversary is always a somber milestone but it carried extra weight this year, in part because of the 20 year anniversary and in part because of the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal. I spent a lot of time reading the retrospectives and thinking about the far-reaching ramifications of that day — beyond all the people who perished, the survivors who are getting sick, the heroes who have been erased, and the impact on Muslim Americans. I can’t help but also think about the trauma that our city has experienced this past 18 months.
If you are inclined, I highly recommend 9/11: One Day in America, an incredible documentary created by Hulu and National Geographic in partnership with the 9/11 Museum & Memorial. It’s visceral, horrifying, and heartbreaking but it feels like one small way to remember. I also loved this Radiolab episode (first aired in 2014) about the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the 60 words that fueled our country’s 20-year War on Terror.
Grandparent gift wins: On a lighter note, we celebrated Finn’s 2nd birthday a few weeks ago. He was showered with presents, many in his preferred genre of trucks, tractors, and trains. Grandpa Jay was especially proud of his Bruder Toys discovery, which makes exact replicas of CAT, John Deere, and other vehicles. Both he and Finn are obsessed with the specificity and sturdiness of the CAT Track Loader and the John Deere Tractor. “They’re the toys that grandparents couldn’t afford for their kids but are perfectly happy to splurge on for their grandkids,” says Grandpa Jay. Finn also got the cutest space-themed Hanna Anderson (our go-to for both kids) jammies from Grammy and Grandad, as well as a pair of new See Kai Run high-tops for school.
Masks, masks, fun and safe for all ages: As part of our back to school shopping, we restocked our mask supply. I ordered another round of evolvetogether masks: the navy ones for me and Rob (simple, timeless) and colorful kid ones for Lilly and Finn (decals, genius). My friend Allidah was also kind enough to sew the kids a batch of masks from Star Wars and train fabric that I got on Etsy.
Functional and design-y lunches: After two years, we retired Lilly’s much-loved Bentgo and decided to get her something that would work for hot lunches. Her new OmieBox is a far cry from the blue plastic thermos that my dad would pack me soup in — it’s a bento-style box with a fun, color-blocked design and an insulated thermos to keep things toasty.
All things Hawa Hassan: We have been loving cooking from Hawa Hassan‘s In Bibi’s Kitchen, a gorgeous, immersive book with recipes and stories from grandmothers across eight East African countries. One of the first things we made was her Digaag Qumbe, a super easy and flavorful chicken and yogurt stew that the entire family loved. We paired it with her Kachumbari salad, which is a great reminder of the magic of citrus and quick-pickled vegetables. In addition to the cookbook, we’ve gotten addicted to Basbaas, Hassan’s line of African sauces — the Date Tamarind goes with basically everything and is also a great chicken or tofu marinade, and I love the Coconut Cilantro Chutney on grain bowls or mixed with yogurt for dipping.
Actually easy homemade chicken nuggets: Now that we’re packing two lunchboxes each day, Rob and I are getting more strategic about things we can make in bulk and freeze for quick reheating. He recently made chicken nuggets using this Claire Saffitz recipe (he just cut the chicken into small pieces) and not only were they delicious but they also freeze perfectly. I also rediscovered these Ottolenghi turkey-zucchini meatballs, which are super tasty and also the only way the kids will eat zucchini.
Zippy novels from people who know: Trust Books are Magic owner and author extraordinaire Emma Straub to know the perfect summer read. I picked up The Plot, Jean Hanff Korelitz’s deliciously twisted novel about a failed author who stumbles on a can’t-fail story idea, on her recommendation and sped through it in a matter of days. I wanted another thriller to follow it up and Grace and Becca of Bad on Paper podcast suggested Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s Ace of Spades which has been described as Get Out meets Gossip Girl. It is dark and unsettling and very, very good (also Àbíké-Íyímídé wrote it as a college student, which blows my mind).
Disney, but make it tasteful: Finn has been climbing out of his crib for months now (fun!) so we are transitioning him to Lilly’s bed and she’s getting part one of a bunk bed (we bought this Babyletto version but will only use the bottom portion for now). Our friend and pediatric sleep guru Brittany Sheehan suggested getting Lilly excited by having her pick out new sheets. Disney, obviously, but luckily Pottery Barn makes relatively subdued and chic versions of Star Wars and Princesses — plus these Solar System ones because they glow in the dark!
Inclusive eyewear: My cousin Nani introduced me to Ashley Johnson, founder of Mohala Eyewear, a Hawaii-based inclusive eyewear company. When Johnson first started out, she used the standard industry nose bridge and her clientele, predominately Asian or mixed-race, immediately complained that the glasses slid down their faces or gave them headaches. She dug deeper and found the reason: 90% of eyewear companies are started by white men, and traditional frames are designed for Caucasian faces. She started creating different nose bridges to suit different face types and is helping educated customers about how they can fit their ideal fit. I’m a huge fan of what she’s doing and also love my Pikake glasses (I’m a “universal nose bridge”). Plus, every purchase funds a week of school through the Room to Read girls’ education program.
Perfect boxy tee: When the Outdoor Voices bag showed up at our house, Rob said, “Ohhh going old-school, huh?” Funny to think of a DTC company being old-school but he’s right; I hadn’t bought OV in awhile. However, after an unscientific survey of t-shirt options, I have concluded that their Everyday Shortsleeve is my ultimate t-shirt. Slightly boxy and cropped, it’s cute with athletic gear or jeans and comes in fun colors.
That’s it for me! Thanks for making it to the end and see you soon – hopefully before Halloween!
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P.P.S. If you found this newsletter helpful, consider making a donation to one of the many organizations supporting Afghan women. I am supporting Women for Women International, which is actively working to ensure they can provide safety and support to women under Taliban rule.