Creating beautiful memories for our kids doesn’t have to cost a lot

With the constant pressure to throw the our children the best parties, shower our kids with the most awesome of gifts, and literally try to “make each moment count,” are we missing the point?

In all the frenzy to create wonderful memories for our kids, are we just breaking our backs, and the bank?

Of course this doesn’t mean we should not give our kids nice things or take them to nice places. But it should be from a standard we set for ourselves.

What matters is setting a proper example for our children. We are the adults. Our job is to help our kids navigate the world. What good are we if we just show them that throwing money is the best way to enjoy anything?

It doesn’t mean I love my kid less if I don’t hire a clown or rent a bouncy house. It also doesn’t mean you love your kid more if you do.

It also doesn’t mean you can’t rent one. But if the bouncy house is used for a whole 5 minutes, then I’m sorry, it was a waste.

I think all parents (in some ways) live vicariously through their children. We want them to have the best, because they’ll be happy. And we love our kids.

But this definition of happiness should not be based on simply the best material things. We all know material things come and go. Money comes and goes. But the memories are what remain. The emotions. The feelings.

So when my child just wants pizza for their party, I shouldn’t want to throw money on a gourmet pie that he won’t touch. He just likes a simple cheese pizza.

I have found my kids love certain things about celebrating – the dessert and the goody bags. So I try to make those things extra special. They don’t care about their outfits or decor, so I keep it simple. I don’t spend an arm or a leg on cake plates or napkins.

Just recently we celebrated my second child’s baligha party. She is turning 9 soon, and Islamically it is the age of assuming responsibilities for Muslim girls. We were talking about ordering a special cake for her party, when she insisted I make my chocolate cupcakes.

I was a little petrified. About 60 cupcakes? Myself? Where would I put them? How would I decorate them? What all would I need?

But that’s what she wanted. So with the help of my awesome neighbor, we planned it out. She baked three trays. I baked three trays. And we had a beautiful turnout.

And my daughter enjoyed the homemade cupcakes. I’m so grateful that my kids love what I bake for them.

I hope they always remember their special days, with memories of things they love and being surrounded by family and friends who love them.


To my last baby…

My dear daughter Asiya,

Today as I saw you taking your first steps, and running toward independence, I felt my heart break a little.

Your firsts – foods, teeth, steps – also are my lasts. The last time I’ll experience these “firsts.”

You are my last “baby.” I’ve had four. And each time I considered them a baby, until the newest baby came along and bumped them up the sibling pole.

Now, I spend mornings alone with you and wonder how fast these days will fly by. Now you will forever be my baby. Will I spoil you more? Will I cuddle you more? Will I cry more when you leave for kindergarten?

It’s a beautiful, bittersweet thing becoming a parent. One of those blessings that take your breath away while also sometimes leaving you with a feeling of wanting to escape.

A parent, in my opinion, is often left just questioning their instincts and decisions. That’s not all bad, I guess. A good parent thinks, revises and contemplates. A good parent tries and doesn’t just give in. A good parent is strict, yet loving. Firm, yet kind. Consistent, yet generous.

And a good parent never stops parenting. Now that my littles are getting bigger, I sometimes feel like throwing in the towel. But these four lovely, wonderful beings given to me by the Almighty are gifts I cannot waste.

So that means even when the going gets tough, when the fights are making my blood boil, when the constant whining and nagging are like a pick in my ear… I will rise.

I will remind myself that these days are numbered. These years will fly by. And before I know it, God willing, these little beings will outgrow my hugs and grips, and become the newest members of society.

So, my dear child, you are now my baby. The last little one I will raise to leave my nest. When I witness your milestones, I am ever grateful that God allowed me to live to see these beautiful moments.

I pray, through God’s Mercy, you and your siblings grow to become productive and kind human beings, who will always do what makes God happy.

Fly, my little one. Even as you leave my grasp, or from my constant supervision, you will never leave my heart.

Love always,


Fresh basil makes this tomato soup perfect

The cool days of fall are slowly approaching, and that means pulling out the light jackets, long sleeves, and soup recipes! 

I love a nice, piping hot bowl of soup! Complete with croutons or garlic bread. Or a BLT. 

My kids love soup, too. And I’ve found a few recipes that offer plenty of taste and nutrition. 

This cream of tomato soup I adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten. 

And the best thing about this soup is the fresh basil. Go to the store and get some. You cannot substitute the flavor with some dried basil from a jar.


5 medium sized tomatoes (chopped)

1 small onion (chopped)

1 small carrot (chopped) 

1 small potato (chopped)

1 clove garlic minced

2 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp tomato paste 

1 1/2 tsp of sugar 

3 cups of broth or just water 

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil 

2 tsp heavy cream 

Ground black pepper and salt to taste

1. Heat up oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add garlic, onion, carrot and potato. Let cook until translucent. 

2. Add tomatoes, paste, basil, broth/water, sugar, and salt/pepper. 

3. Let boil once and simmer until soft. 

4. Puree soup with immersion blender 

5. Put back in pan, add cream and let heat through.

6. Serve with croutons or garlic bread

The more you give, the more they whine

Wait. What?

It’s true. You think you are being a stellar parent. You think up all these great ideas for taking them out. You get them the perfect toys. You set up the most awesome plans.

And yet, they find a way to ruin it all by whining about the one unpleasant part, or the flaw in one of the toys. And then it takes all the energy in you to not explode like an active volcano. Or they still resort to whining and flailing about when they don’t get what they want.

So how does that work? Giving kids a wonderful afternoon or a toy they really want – how does that backfire? Why does it backfire?

Because then kids start connecting happiness with things and places. So, for example, happiness is associated with gifts and things. And we all know it’s not possible to always give, give, give to your kids. But that’s what kids think. And that’s when you see the tantrums and the total submission as soon as you give in.

Kids should be OK without getting what they want, when they want it. It teaches them patience, control and real life.

We expect that once a child having a tantrum is given solace with the bribe of a gift, they will change that behavior, correct?


Now we have just created monsters who always seek that gift, and they know they will get it once they act up. So technically we have set up this vicious cycle of a child who throws a tantrum solely to get attention and gifts. Once this child gets older, it doesn’t get better – it gets worse. And if they continue this behavior until adulthood and into marriage, then there will be plenty of obstacles ahead.

Kids should be OK without getting what they want, when they want it. It teaches them patience, control and real life.

It serves our children well to have parents who set proper limits for their kids. Give kids a heads-up before leaving somewhere. Give them a timer for watching TV or using electronics. Spell out the rules in clear words so they know what to expect. Let them be prepared and somewhat in control of the situation. This will go a long way in diffusing explosions.

One-bowl chocolate chip scones

You need to save this recipe under the “pressed-for-time-and-have-guests-coming-over” file. Or under the “I’m-hungry-and-need-a-snack-pronto” file. It works both ways.

I have made these scones many times and cannot get over how easy it is to make these! I especially love that you only need one bowl to mix the ingredients, and the recipe has room for flexibility – which wins me over every time. Because we all have those days when we are out of chocolate chips, or only have 1 cup of cream. Or need to use up some raspberry jam.

This recipe, originally from Brown Eyed Baker, has been adapted just a bit, but yields the same wonderful, delicious results. (You can also halve the recipe, if you don’t want to make too many scones, or don’t have enough cream.)

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  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (or to your liking) chocolate chips (semisweet or dark)
  • 1.5 cups heavy cream, cold
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Optional: You can sub the chocolate chips and add cranberries, raisins, cinnamon, toffee bits, chocolate chunks, raspberry jam, etc.


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Granulated sugar, for sprinkling


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or use a silicone baking mat. (If you don’t have one and regularly bake cookies, scones, etc – GO OUT AND BUY ONE NOW!)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips. (Or cranberries, raisins, toffee bits…)
  3. Using a spoon, stir the heavy cream into the flour mixture, stirring just until ingredients are moistened. (You can add a bit of more milk if it seems to not pull together easily)
  4. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until a soft dough forms (about 2 minutes). Divide the dough into two equal balls. Working with one at a time, pat each one into an 8-inch circle and cut into triangles. Place the triangles to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  6. Optional: You can also drizzle with caramel sauce after they come out of the oven – IT’S THE BEST.

Ramadan through the eyes of a child

This year is FZ’s first Ramadan of fasting as a newly-minted baligha, or one who has reached the age of responsibility, according to Islam.

Even though we had her try some half-day fasts, and even full-day practice fasts, the month of Ramadan was a whole new thing altogether. Can someone ever really be prepared for the daily fasting, change in routine and lack of sleep? How could we help our daughter get ready for the holy month, full of its spiritual benefits, while not letting her get dragged down physically?

Fortunately my husband and I surrounded FZ with positive messages about the holy month of Ramadan. The days she fasted we treated her with her favorite iftaar, or meal to break the fast. And as a mother, I prepped myself with plans and activities for the month — things to keep her busy, occupied and not focusing on food.

Plus, there are lots of great resources out there for daily activities to keep kids entertained during the holy month. Here are just a few.

Tips on helping young ones reap the rewards of Shahr Ramadan

Too often as adults we let ourselves get caught up in the physical aspects of Ramadan – i.e. the hunger, thirst, fatigue, lack of energy, etc. But in reality we are actually doing a disservice to our young ones.

There are some ways on helping our young fasters turn the physical drain into spiritual growth, and thus redirecting our attention to the positive versus solely focusing on the negative.

  1. Plan a special daily activity: It doesn’t have to be big or grand. Even something as simple as going to the library, or taking a walk outside to discover a new flower or bird can recharge a fasting child. Even take your child’s help to prepare an iftaar snack or meal.
  2. Encouraging naps: Young kids who are fasting don’t usually understand the physical limitations of fasting and often get overtired doing their regular activities. Help them wind down and relax to not burn out.
  3. Getting closer to the Holy Qur’an: There are plenty of ways to help kids get more acquainted with the Holy Qur’an. See how many animals you can find mentioned among the names of chapters? Or learn about a new prophet.
  4. Focusing on prayer and dua: We can make prayers a little sweeter during the holy month of Ramadan. Help your child remember the poor, orphans, homeless, and oppressed.
  5. Volunteering and helping others: If there are any food banks or soup kitchens near you, try to spend a few hours a week and help out. Or even at the local masjid or center, have your child get involved with serving or clean up. This will help link the holy month to worthwhile activities.