My baby is turning 9

It’s come up way too fast. God willing in just a couple months, my eldest will be 9 years old.

Where did the time go? I still remember those funny conversations and fears of balloons popping. But when I open my eyes, I see a beautiful girl who loves to read, who always wants to help me in the kitchen and asks thoughtful questions.

With the coming of age, comes responsibilities. In Islam at the age of 9, a girl becomes baligh, or capable to undertake religious duties, like praying and fasting. We have been preparing FZ for this day for a while now. Slowly we started her praying once a day, and fasting for a half a day. While it was hard at the beginning, now she has approached these responsibilities with maturity and grace.

My husband and I are keen on communicating the importance of these obligations first and foremost. Instead of talking about all the “rules,” we talk about why and what these duties mean to us as Muslims. Sure there are times I just don’t have the answer, but I am grateful to God for helping us ease our way through this transition. I have found that if I keep it real, instead of dodging the question, my kids understand.

I am proud of being Muslim and while many things in life are difficult, I try to show my daughter that there is a certain beauty to working hard for God’s pleasure. Because our existence is owed to Him, these acts of worship bring us closer to Him, especially when we undertake these obligations purely for Him.

We are looking forward to celebrating this big day with our daughter, and we will definitely be doing it up big. When you take time to care about the things that matter, then your child will also give it priority above everything else.

Watching our children grow up is hard. With growth comes independence, and for parents, that means learning to let go. Learning to let our children make their own decisions and mistakes. It means standing on the sidelines and secretly cheering them on, and if they fall, it means lovingly giving them guidance to continue on. But through it all, we must stand firm and communicate with love and understanding. Sometimes tough love is necessary for helping mold our children into successful adults. But if we don’t keep the doors of communication open, we only stand to create barriers between ourselves.

Here’s to a new milestone, and praying for many more wonderful memories, under God’s protection and mercy.

My dear daughter, it has been a pleasure watching you blossom into a beautiful, mature young woman. May He protect you always, and guide you.

Yummy buttermilk pancakes with a healthy twist

Kids love pancakes, and sometimes I feel pancakes are just empty calories. A whole bunch of flour, some eggs, milk and sugar.

But the best thing about pancakes is that you can hide lots of healthy stuff inside and voila, pancakes are now healthier.

I make a standard buttermilk pancake but I add mashed bananas, applesauce, and even ground oatmeal to my batter. You get a nice, moist pancake that is filling and delicious!

 

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Ingredients:

(This recipe makes about 8-10 pancakes)

1 cup flour

1/2 cup oat flour (you can grind some oatmeal)

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can easily make your own: add 1 tbsp of vinegar to 1 cup milk, let sit for 5 minutes)

2 tbsp sugar/honey

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp baking powder

1 mashed banana

1/2 cup applesauce

1/4 tsp vanilla (optional)

*You can thin the batter with additional water or milk

Note: You can swirl in some Nutella, add chocolate chips, nuts…the possibilities are endless! 

Directions: 

  1. Whisk all the dry ingredients together, and then add the liquid ingredients.
  2. Whisk batter until everything is incorporated.
  3. Heat a pan and add a few drops of oil.
  4. Spoon 2 tbsp of batter per pancake. You can make them smaller or larger, as you wish.
  5. Wait until bubbles form, flip, wait 1-2 minutes then take them out.
  6. Finish with the rest of the batter.
  7. Serve with warm cream and maple syrup!

5 tips for a successful road trip

Since buying a car here in Iran, we have traveled to the north and south of the country, and it’s been a great experience.

But we never thought about driving to Mashhad, which is about 10 hours away from Qom by car. For one my kids love the train ride experience. We always rent a koopa, or a cabin, so the kids get to climb up and sleep on their own bunk. It kind of looks like a slumber party, except we don’t have the freedom to leave.

This year, however, for the days of Arbaeen, (the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, grandson of the Holy Prophet) both my husband and I were off from school so we thought why not drive to Mashhad?

I was a bit hesitant of the 10+ hour car ride with 3 kids, my mom and us. But praise God, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be.

Here are a few tips I thought of for anyone gathering the strength to make a road trip with the littles:

  1. Leave early: We made it a point to leave right after morning prayers. We let the kids stay up a bit later at night, and dressed them in casual clothes. So when it came time to leave, we just took them to the bathroom, and put them in the car. They slept until our first gas stop break, where we stretched and ate breakfast.
  2. Combine rest stops with food/gas/bathroom breaks: We stopped a few extra times on our way to Mashhad, turning our 10 hour trip to a 14 hour one. But on the way back home, we were strict to combine our stops for prayer, food and bathroom all at one time. It helped save time, and frustration. *Important note: Make sure kids get out of the car during your breaks: Sometimes it’s easier to just keep everyone in during a rest stop, but it actually helps to get kids out to release some energy before being stuck in the car again. We would park our car in a more open place to let the kids run around a bit before heading back in.
  3. Entertainment: This summer I bought a new 2-screen DVD player for the car. I only pull it out for road trips, and then put it back in storage when we come back. It helped keep the kids entertained, and after 1 movie, we would turn it off, then use it again later. If you can, try to invest in something like this for your car, but be sure to only pull it out during special trips. Otherwise it will lose its value.
  4. Get a couple of new things for the trip: The night before we left I bought the kids small magnet kits that they could use on their steel snack tray for the car. They played together and it kept them occupied. A small new game or toy works wonders for taking the edge off.
  5. Keep lots of snacks: We kept lots of healthy snacks on hand for the kids to munch on during the trip. Fruits that are easy to peel and eat are best. Small, simple sandwiches also help ease their appetites if you are out looking for a place to eat. I also packed a few small lollipops and fruit snacks for those stressful moments.

Road trips can never be pulled off without a hitch. And even on ours, we were bombarded with the “Are we there yet?” a billion times, but the more prepared you are helps you maintain patience for those moments 🙂

Do you have any more tips to add to this list? Would love to hear about things that worked for your family during road trips!

Don’t take a break from your kids

I’m not going to deny it. Some days being a parent can feel like someone drilling a jackhammer into your skull. With no off switch.

But it is some days. There are those nice moments, too.

Often you won’t get a break from your kids. And, I say this with a big sigh, you really shouldn’t want one.

I don’t mean one of those 10-30 minute “me time” breaks. We all need those. And by need, I mean like a how fish needs water.

When I say break, I mean turning off the “parent” switch and being “you” again. Once you are a parent, and blessed with a little one, you are always a parent. You can switch gears, change the topic, enjoy a new hobby, but you will always be Mom. Or Dad. Or Mama. Or Baba. (Fill in with your name of choosing).

Should one really want to turn off the “parent” switch? Some might argue, but I was “me” first. I should be able to enjoy those simple things and hobbies without a diaper falling out of my purse or finding play-doh in my shoe.

Yes, I see your point. But once you had a child, this new duty fell into your lap and to embrace it with dignity is your responsibility. To complain and run from it, is really quite immature.

I know that for my kids I am the person (along with their father, of course) responsible for turning them into healthy, well adjusted adults. Do you really want to throw that away?

I see some parents who have to work and when they finally come home, they want nothing to do with their children. In essence they want a “break.” That’s fair enough.

But what about your kids? Isn’t it fair for them to want their mom or dad to play with them? To love them? To snuggle with them? To be there for them?

Instead of taking a break from our kids we need to start considering children our priority and putting our hobbies/work/leisure activities on break.

When tired moms and dads come home from work, each should give the other a 5-10 minute space to regroup before resuming parental duties. There should not be a “blame game” or “who worked the most hardest today?” competition.

These kids are ours and a gift from God. Today they are 2, tomorrow they will be 12 – do you really want to think back to their toddler years and only remember how you stuffed food down their throats so you could send them to bed so they could wake up early for daycare?

It might seem like you have no options, but there is almost always an option. It might take some sacrificing on your end, but there is always an option. It takes some real meditation and prayer but more than anything, it takes honesty. Be honest with yourself/your spouse and your family.

Yes, we have been ignoring each other. We have been ignoring the kids. We have been ignoring our home. To build a successful society we need to realize that our future generations are here ready to be groomed. Where are we? Why are we lost behind making money and making appearances?

The children we have are in the here and now. What they will become is how we raised them while they were young. How much attention we gave them, how much love we showed them, how much time we spent with them. I know I have been guilty of not slowing down for my children, but I realize now that if I don’t make it a priority, I will lose this time in an instant and regret it for the rest of my life.

Please take a moment and really think – what matters to me? What would I do if it was all gone?

Nothing beats Nano

Mothers are such a blessing. You never really think about it growing up, and you certainly don’t think about it when you are busy in your life. It’s sad, really, how sometimes we only think about our parents and how they raised us, when we become parents, or when we, unfortunately, lose them.

Through God’s mercy and love, my mom was recently able to come and visit me. We are really enjoying her company, and my kids, of course, are over the moon. My eldest, especially, is quite close to her Nano. While I worked (full time, and then part time) during the first two years of FZ’s life, my mom was the one who took care of her.

Once I moved away from home, away from the constant pop-ins, and caretaking… it really hit me how much my parents bring so many blessings into my life and home.

Where something simple as a “dropping by to see how you are” can be (at one time) taken as: “Again? I am really busy,” to “I really, really wish I could see my mom and dad. I miss them.”

I can safely say that moving away was the wake-up call I needed to appreciate my wonderful parents. Now I don’t take anything for granted. Every minute I can speak to them or see them (thank you FaceTime), I cherish it. I really, really miss those pop-ins and casual evenings.

Now that my mom is here, though, even my kids know Nano means business. She only has to say something once. And I am learning so much more about how to be a good mom. How to approach this issue differently with this kid, because she’s more sensitive. How to organize this part of my life so I am not so burdened. Plus, she takes them out on walks. My mom is the bomb.

Dear Allah, you are so truly merciful for giving me another chance to serve my mother, learn from her, and to have her presence in my home and with my kids. I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity. But I am so grateful.

Just a small bit of advice: Please, please don’t ignore your parents’ presence. If they are near you, you are blessed. Look at them with kindness, and you will be reap the benefits. Treat them with gentleness, and you will be rewarded. Sure, parents get old, it gets hard, but tuck a small reminder in the back of your mind of those days when you were just a small, ball of flesh and bones, and your parents did everything so you could live. Just think about their lives; they aren’t getting younger. Try to help them, ease their problems. You won’t regret it. 

 

Life lessons from Imam Hussain (as)

Far away from the turmoil in Yemen, the sectarian killings in Pakistan, and from the new questions arising in North America regarding Imam Hussain’s mission, I am trying to keep Imam Hussain and Karbala alive for my children.

It really bothers me when I read about youth in the West now raising questions about whether Imam Hussain “failed” or “succeeded.” Did it ever occur to those same youth that the only reason you are able to talk about him at all is because he succeeded.

But my children are young, and I try to teach them the basic life lessons that Imam Hussain taught us while fighting Yazeed and his army in Karbala 1,400 years ago.

  1. Importance of prayer – While Imam Hussain and his army were fighting, time came for the noon prayers. Imam and his followers asked for a break in fighting to pray to Allah. Yazeed’s army did not pay heed and continued fighting. A few of Imam’s comrades guarded him and the others while the rest prayed. No matter when the going got tough, Imam Hussain taught us that remembering to show Allah gratitude is of utmost importance.
  2. Importance of faith/Tawheed (oneness of Allah) – Imam Hussain taught us to do everything purely for the sake of Allah. His mission, his stand against Yazeed, his inviting others towards good deeds and telling them to refrain from bad deeds, his traveling to Karbala – it was for Allah and all to save Islam. For this faith, he and his companions were rewarded with shahadat.
  3. Loyalty – It is said that Imam Hussain had the best companions. There is hadith that he claimed “I have the best followers, even better than the ones my grandfather, the Holy Prophet, and my father, Imam Ali, had.” The night before Ashura Imam Hussain sat with his camp and told them that by coming this far and intending to fight with him they had already been assured Paradise. But since Yazeed’s army was really after him, they could leave now and save their lives. He blew out the lanterns so as to save anyone from embarrassment. But when the lanterns were lighted again, everyone remained.
  4. Sacrifice – In their own ways, each member of the camp of Imam Hussain (as), even the women and children, sacrificed something near and dear, with the understanding that this was all for a higher purpose. If not their lives, then their peace and comfort, children, were sacrificed to keep Islam alive.
  5. Standing up for what is right, no matter what – When Qasim, nephew of Imam Hussain (as), was asked how he saw shahadat, he replied “I find it sweeter than honey.” When Hazrat Zainab (sa) faced the enemies of Imam Hussain and was asked “What do you see in how Allah treated your brother and your family?” She replied: “I saw nothing but beauty.”

I don’t have to indulge my kids in the horrific details of the Battle of Karbala. Unfortunately most of the time we mostly dwell in these issues – how Imam Hussain was killed, how Imam Hussain’s brother Hazrat Abbas was slaughtered, how the enemies shot an arrow through the 6-month-old Ali Asghar’s neck, how the tents were burned after the battle, etc.

While it is important to know about these tragic details, I like to focus more on the lessons. I like to reiterate important concepts with my children, like the importance of living with dignity and not selling away our beliefs for material gain. Or the importance of sacrifice, be it small even. Learning how to live for the higher purpose. I want them to see how the actions of those in Karbala saved Islam.

In the end, I want my children to see the same beauty that Hazrat Zainab (sa) saw on that fateful day, and be confident in their beliefs.

 

Who wants a spoiled brat?

I admit I may have been late to the “doling out chores” game. 

You might wonder why. Do you actually enjoy doing all the work? 

No, I don’t. But I have a problem. And that problem is that I like my things done in a certain way. Kids, and my husband, don’t understand this (itty bitty) problem. 

So, I just have been folding, picking, cleaning, arranging… and now I can’t take it. 

While I may be late (my eldest is 8 now), at least I’m trying to right my wrong. And I feel bad because to tell you the truth, FZ has been begging to help me out in the kitchen and with dusting, etc. 

I complied and put on my patience pants (is that a thing?), and let her do small tasks and make the mistakes that come with learning, and it’s actually been a great experience. I’ve had to step back, let go of my crazy OCD tendencies, and let my daughter blossom into a helpful, hard-working child. And also I get to relax a bit now!

Was it so bad? What was I really worried about? 

I really have had to stop and take into account my priorities when it comes to parenting. Before it used to be good food and bedtime. But now that I look back, those things pale in comparison to what it really takes to raise well-balanced, emotionally healthy kids.

It takes parents who take time to understand the needs of their child/ren. Sure we all need food, water, and shelter, but that isn’t it. In my quest for the clean and organized home, I ignored my daughter’s need to grow up. 

It’s interesting how God has instilled these traits in our children. Just a year ago this girl had no interest in the kitchen or any chores, and now she’s happily dusting away.

And to think if I kept on I wouldn’t have just raised a girl who would lack proper housekeeping skills, more importantly I would have raised a spoiled brat who would think she was entitled to having everything done for her. 

Such a beautiful relationship this is between parent and child. Parenting really is about becoming the person we want our kids to be.