How is your kid’s spiritual health?

We let our kids believe in the tooth fairy, Easter bunny and Santa Claus without a peep, but the moment we try to get them God-conscious, all hell breaks loose.

If we care so much about our kids’ physical health, why aren’t we worried about their spiritual health? Is it because we fall victim to the propaganda that all religion is bad and pure and simple brainwashing?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen far worse brainwashing done by cable cartoon channels. So we don’t mind if our kids treat every movie like an obsession (Let it go?), but we are considered “extremists” if we try to remove the focus on material things.

I have heard this more than once from family and close friends – “You’re being too strict,” “They’re just kids,” and my all-time favorite, “If you are this hard on them, they will rebel.” I don’t think teaching my kids not to waste their time is considered “extreme parenting.”

I consider my children a trust from God. These gifts the Almighty has bestowed on me, are truly blessings. I read stories of parents losing children right after childbirth, or after an unfortunate accident, or a disease and it breaks me inside. It is right then and there that I am reminded of the beautiful blessings I have, and that I shouldn’t waste them.

Everything I am doing with my kids right now while they are still young is helping build their foundations. If I give them foam and fluff to build their foundations, their futures will be just as flimsy. But if I focus on the important things, then they will have success every step of the way.

Naturally I am not talking about sitting with my young kids and teaching them the beliefs of Tawheed (monotheism), or the philosophy behind Islam, but I do teach them that it is important to follow that which matters. I make sure they understand that the most important thing in their life is to be God-conscious. I teach them to fight the whispers of Shaitan (Satan), and to always follow those role models that have/had a vision, not a cool haircut.

This doesn’t mean I don’t let my kids be kids. They enjoy their weekends, they go out for ice cream (more often than I would like), they have friends, they run outside and get fresh air…. they’re kids, after all. But they have a purpose.

Too often I hear the sad stories of parents who were the best of the best. They provided everything to their kids – all their physical needs were met and they were loved greatly. But they lacked in spiritual grounding. Yes, you will find success in many spheres in your life, God is Just after all. But if you lack a spiritual foundation, you will see it in your life. In relationships, in your personal growth, etc.

Here are 5 ways to help connect your kids to God:

  1. Gentle reminders: We like hanging short verses/sayings around the house that remind us about being God-conscious. The kids help me make them, and we remind each other as needed.
  2. Giving importance to religious traditions: Whether it is the daily prayers, or an evening Bible recitation, it is important to treat this worship with respect. We try to pray together as a family so that we are all connected through worship.
  3. Practice what you preach: When we as parents are conscious about our words and actions, then our kids will follow suit.
  4. Keeping like-minded company: We all need friends, but when you surround yourself with friends who also share your beliefs and values, your kids will feel encouraged. Not to mention, those relationships also provide much needed support to parents.
  5. Open communication: Whether it is through stories or conversations in the car, use those moments to talk about questions and concerns regarding God and religion. Your kids should feel free to ask questions, and you should give short, simple answers. Anything you don’t know, just say you don’t know and try to find out. Never lie to your kids. (For example: Santa Claus lives on the North Pole).

Imam Jafar Sadiq, one of the great-grandsons of the Holy Prophet of Islam, likened belief in God to this situation: It is nighttime, and you are on a boat among turbulent waters. It is pitch black, your boat is rocking back and forth, and you have no earthly idea where you are or what to do. You have nothing – no phone, no GPS, no flares. But suddenly from the depths of your heart there is a yearning, a hope, a prayer for salvation…. this is God.

I am not talking about a religion, per se, but on finding a spiritual anchor in our lives. Aren’t we facing rocky waters everyday? Look at our society. We have leaders who say they believe in God, yet they are hypocritical, arrogant, and selfish. And the bigger problem is we as a society are accepting of this. If we follow a religion, we are apologetic for our “traditions.” We treat religion like a backwards concept. We are “progressive” if we are far from religion, and “mindless twits” if we live by a religion.

I certainly do not want this for my children.

If we live by the rules of a religion we are mocked, but if we live by the rules of today’s fashion, we are OK. Without rules there is anarchy – wouldn’t you rather be tethered to something that has value? And this is what I will continue to teach to my kids. Those that lived with purpose are still living today – their values hold true today. With love and compassion, and through God’s help, I will continue to guide my kids toward God and His Love and Mercy. While doing so, I pray that I will become the best mother to them. And to me, that is the best way to honor this gift of motherhood.

 

A letter to my daughter

Dear Fatima Zahra – 

Just a few days ago you turned 9 years old (according to the Islamic calendar). While you were excited planning your big birthday party, I would secretly wipe tears away. 

She’s going to be 9, I kept thinking to myself. According to Islamic law, you would now be considered old enough to carry out religious obligations, like praying, fasting, hijab, etc. 

At first I kept hoping time would slow down. I still remember those days when our biggest worry was you sleeping through the night. Or giving up the paci. Or potty training.

Now when I see you washing dishes before I even get to the kitchen, or helping your siblings get juice, my heart beams with pride. How lucky we are to have you! What a beautiful blessing from Allah! We are so very proud of you. 

Sure, we have our rough days, those days we don’t agree, and your Baba and I are still trying to get a hang of it. You are, after all, our first baby. We told each other that not only did you start a new chapter  in your life on your 9th birthday, but so did we. We are grateful to Allah to have you in our lives, and we rely on Him to guide us as we raise you and your siblings the best way possible. 

I pray everyday for your success and happiness. I love your enthusiasm and eagerness to learn new things. You make me want to be a better mom. 

One day when you’re older and surfing the internet, you might come across this letter. Who knows where I’ll be and where you’ll be. But I pray you’ll be happy, fighting Shaitan and holding tight to Allah. 

My sweet child, always remember there is no power greater than Allah. He is always near to you. Remember Him in good times and bad, and be grateful to Him. There is nothing you can’t do with Him by your side. 

May you always aim to follow the footsteps of your namesake, Fatima Zahra (sa). And may the Almighty bless you with all the best of this world, and the next.

With love, 

Mama 

Breastfeeding is best, but formula is not poison

Parenthood needs flexibility. There needs to be room for error. And room to grow. There is no way to know everything about parenting. Ever.

Yes, you might get a good grasp of certain things. Especially after you have more than 1 kid. Essentially the more you have, the more your view of parenting will be expanded. (And, really, can you ever have enough kids? *crickets*) Parents will tell you that no two kids are exactly the same. But you still can’t know everything about raising kids.

Recently I came across this article that has been making its way around social media. You have probably already read the tragic story of a woman whose little boy died five years ago from hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation, cardiac arrest, and hypernatremic dehydration. Landon was solely breastfed at birth, had a great latch, yet never seemed satisfied, according to mom, Jillian.

She had given birth in a “baby friendly” hospital – a hospital aimed at promoting a good bond between mothers and baby, and encouraging exclusive breastfeeding.

According to Jillian, at that time a first-time mom, whenever she raised an issue about why her son was always crying and why he was losing weight, she would just be told to keep on nursing.

Now experienced moms who have breastfed will tell you how it is that first time. Oh, the questions! Oh, the pain! Oh, the frustration of latching! Now, add into the mix – a c-section, or a previous medical issue, like a hormone disorder. And it might get harder.

Andy Bernstein, spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said most pediatricians agree it is acceptable for newborns to lose up to 10 percent of their birth weight during this transition. But, he added, physicians must also consider any factors that could put mothers and babies at risk, such as being a first-time mother; having a long, complicated delivery or a C-section; or suffering from certain health issues, including some hormone disorders.

I remember my first time becoming a mom. I had an emergency c-section. FZ was born blue and had trouble taking her first breath. I hardly just glanced at my firstborn and she was whisked away. I didn’t see my daughter until a good 6-7 hours after being cut open. I was miserable, in pain and tired. I wanted a normal delivery. You know, the one we dream about and write in our birth plan. And I was really set on nursing her right away. But FZ was given formula.

When I finally saw her, I didn’t know what to do. But I had really good nurses helping me. I also have a really great supportive husband and family, who encouraged me and guided me.

Sure there is a push from hospitals to formula feed – I got the free bottles, coupons and diaper bag, too. But there is a similar push from pro-breastfeeders to not even glance at formula. While no one can deny that breastfeeding is best – heck, even the formula companies themselves say it – formula is not a poison. It’s OK to supplement. It’s OK to reach out during those trying days. I remember my nurse telling me – “You’re doing really well, and just remember to make her latch on first, but if you need formula, it’s OK.”

Those are really magical words to a first-time mom getting used to nursing.

Maybe if we reached out more to moms about the benefits of breastfeeding and the options they do have, like topping off or supplementation, instead of just scaring them from formula, more moms wouldn’t quit nursing so easily. Nursing isn’t easy. It takes willpower, practice and stamina. It’s like exercising – that first day of working out is hard, but you keep doing it, and it gets easier. And like exercise, it is so rewarding.

I remember one mom telling a friend who was about to have a baby – “Once your baby takes one sip of formula, they will NEVER nurse.”

Good grief. Scary, much? I personally supplemented with formula, and then within 2 weeks of progressively decreasing formula intake, my firstborn was solely nursing. Disaster averted.

Let’s help moms instead of hurting them. They already have so much on their plate, do they really need this fear factor, too? And it’s not just with breastfeeding. We cut a lot of parenting into black and white spheres – pacifiers? cloth diapers? crying it out?

If we all agree that as parents, all we really want are happy, healthy children who have good moral values, then why can’t we help each other reach that goal together? Don’t forget happy, healthy kids are raised by happy, healthy parents. Let’s reach out to each other and stop being each other’s worst enemies.

Parents can’t be running on empty

Those days when you have to be Mama before even putting your glasses on and brushing your teeth. Who goes to work right out of bed? Parents. 

So, you start the day – serve breakfast, bathroom runs, break up fights, clean up, laundry, get lunch started…. But wait, did you have breakfast yet?

This happened the other day. I just Mom-ed around until I noticed myself getting easily irritated at every little “normal” kid thing. At one point I got loud and brash – “NO MORE SNACKS! THE KITCHEN IS CLOSED!”

 

My kids froze. I froze. What the heck is wrong with me? Here, the day has just started and the monster within is already unleashed….

I was embarrassed at my behavior. But at that moment when I took a deep breath, I realized. I didn’t even have a bite of food or a sip of water. Why? Because in between taking care of my kids, I also checked my e-mail, my group chats, my book work, etc. etc. I didn’t think about fueling myself. I just kept running on empty.

Priorities, people. We must be smarter in how we utilize our time. Because once the kids are up, it’s go time. Our kids will need us, and we will need to be there. Sure, we can have breaks, but we realistically cannot expect our kids to give us a break. We have to make it happen.

If I have given the kids breakfast, and you have older kids who eat on their own, you have a good 5-10 minute window to brush/wash your face/use the potty. Then you can assess how they’re doing. If you’re lucky, you can get another 10 minutes and wolf down a slice a bread with peanut butter. Or if you can manage to get a good cartoon on, then you might even be able to drink a cup of milk or tea. Now, once Mama Bear is functioning, she can deal with the next hour? Wishful thinking?

The point is at least you aren’t letting yourself go. You need food, too. Don’t be a martyr while raising your kids. It’s OK to have time to yourself. But, yes, you should be realistic. You aren’t going to be able to pull off hours of free time, until the kids are older, or you have some help, etc.

Here are a few easy tips to help yourself not go crazy:

  1. Designate a time for doing your personal work: Make it an established time that the whole family knows about. Give the kids some busy work, ask an older child/parent for help, etc.
  2. Multi-task: We are already great multi-taskers, why not use it for our benefit? When the kids are eating/playing/watching TV, make your breakfast, check your e-mail, enjoy your coffee/tea, etc.
  3. Get a hobby: No, parenting is not a hobby. It’s a job. Take time to figure out something (aside from laundry/dishes/writing about parenting) that gets you excited. When your babies nap and/or when the older kids are down for the night, finish that painting, write that story, knit that blanket, etc.

Yes, you might have to be flexible at times to manage some of the things on the list. Unfortunately, kids get sick, and homework takes more time, but the point is that once you’ve made a point to give yourself importance, then you won’t feel stuck in a rut.

I’ve made a pact with myself not to let the monster out again. I am an adult, and I should know how to take care of myself. My kids are depending on this! If I can’t take care of myself, and if I let myself wear out, then how can I take the best care of my kids?

This is one GOOD pasta/pizza sauce

When you are a mom, recipes with too many steps don’t cut it. You need recipes that are easy, quick and uncomplicated.

After a bit of tinkering I mastered a sauce recipe that is wonderful on pizza and delightful on pasta! It’s easy, and chock full of veggies.

Have I gotten your full attention yet?

Save this recipe, and memorize it. It will come in quite handy for those weekday nights! And it can be easily frozen in 1 cup servings for those busy days when all you have time for is boiling the pasta!

The BEST pasta/pizza sauce:

Ingredients:

1/2 a large bell pepper (chopped)

1 large carrot (chopped)

1/2 a large onion (in chunks)

2 medium tomatoes chopped (optional)

1 cup tomato paste

Fresh basil leaves

Italian seasonings

2 cloves garlic (minced)

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp sugar

Salt/pepper to taste

*1/2 cup cauliflower florets optional

*1/2 cup butternut squash chunks optional

Directions:

  1. Start by boiling the bell pepper, carrot and onion. (And if you have some cauliflower or butternut squash, you can add that too). Don’t put too much water. You want just enough to boil the veggies and to puree.
  2. In a separate pot add the tomato paste (and tomatoes, if you are using them), butter, salt/pepper, basil, Italian seasonings, and sugar. And enough water to cook. Put on low heat.
  3. Once the veggies boiling are tender, puree the veggies and water with the garlic.
  4. Then add the puree to the tomato mixture and turn the heat up to medium-high. Watch for splattering. Add a little more water, if needed.
  5. Let boil for about 5-7 minutes, then let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add or boil off water for desired consistency. A pizza sauce should be more thick, and some like a thinner pasta sauce.

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!