Master chef in the making?

Sometimes you think no one notices how much you slave away trying to make a house a “home.”

How many times you wash the dishes, how many times you break up the fights, how many times you wipe up juice from the floor, how many times you clean artwork from the walls, how many hours you spend cooking/baking, etc.

But then you get a moment. As the day winds down and you give the kids dinner before passing out, your middle one comes to you and says:

“Mama, your khana (food) is so yummy! I took a bite, put it in my mouth, and finished it! I love your khana!”

Oh man. Can I just say I was beaming with pride for a good 5 minutes? Then it was back to mom mode, but that was a nice 5 minutes.

Sure, my husband appreciates me, and so do my kids, but as a mother you will inevitably put in more work in the short term than you get out. Your rewards will come in the long term. Like, it’s nice to have other moms speak well of your child’s manners, but that grooming took 6 years!

So it really is a nice feeling to have your child say you are the best cook ever, and that you should open up a restaurant.

Who cares if I am not on the Food Network. My kids love my cooking, and that’s all that matters. One day when they grow up and remember my food, I hope they smile and crave my meals like I crave my mom’s.

Making motherhood work

We love moms. We love our moms. We love being moms. We have Mother’s Day, gosh darn it.

But we don’t love motherhood.

We don’t value the position of being a mother. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, a full-time working mom, a part-time working mom, or a working-from-home mom.

Why is that? Why don’t we treat motherhood as one of the most important jobs on the planet? Is it because of what society tells us? Is it because we aren’t paid to be moms?

Because surely if someone paid us to be moms, would we be texting our friends while our kids asked us for a snack? Would we demand our kids be quiet while we watched TV?

Now, some might say, well, hey, I deserve a little me time too! I agree. I agree wholeheartedly. But when you become a mom, you have pretty much signed up to take on a job where your boss is now a drooling baby. And then the drooling baby becomes a stubborn toddler. Then the stubborn toddler grows up to be a defiant preschooler.

Is it fair? Is that OK? I don’t know the answers to that. But that’s the way it is. It’s like saying, it’s raining outside but I want to start a fire. Uh, OK. That’s great. I wish you luck as you make that work.

For a lot of parents, we have yet to learn how to make motherhood work. It takes more than patience. It sometimes means reteaching ourselves. It means putting aside our needs to assist our children. Islam gives a nice rundown of some basic upbringing rules.

  • From birth to age 7: Let children be free.
  • From age 7-14: Give your children responsibilities. Let them serve you.
  • From age 14 and up: Treat them as your adviser and friend.

For some parents, the first rule is the hardest. While it doesn’t mean no discipline at all, and letting your kids run wild, according to Islamic scholars, it means letting them engage in what they like, while you create boundaries.

Example:

  • Fantasy: Having a 3-year-old sit quietly during a program or social event.
  • Problem: Expecting our 3-year-old to behave because it serves our purpose. When he wants to run, you get mad and make him sit. He cries and throws a fit. You are embarrassed, and drag him outside. Mom and kid both unhappy.
  • Reality: He’s 3. He wants to run and play. Bring toys or an activity to keep them engaged. Don’t stay longer than you need to. Or if you have to stay, take him outside for a little fresh air and running room, then bring him back in.

But that takes more work! How am I going to chat it up with my friends while I am playing servant to my toddler? Yes, yes it will take more work. Yes, it’s not fun at times to play servant to our children. But that’s just it. While we are letting them run “free” during these early years, we are actually creating a foundation of confidence and trust. Our children know that we love them so much we let them do what they want. They trust us to take care of their needs.

So when you follow these rules, you will get an 8-year-old who wants to please her mom and dad. Because they built and nurtured this foundation of trust and love, your child now wants to please you. They want to help set the table. They want to wash the dishes. They want to serve you. In turn you give them responsibilities to show them that they are big enough to contribute.

And this now obedient child will grow to become a confident, and helpful, adult. Start with the foundation of trust and love, add the responsibilities, and you end up with an adult who is not only independent, but confident. Now you treat them as a friend. You let them make choices, you ask them for advice.

It’s not easy. No, it’s probably the hardest thing parents have to do. This little dance of being calm under pressure.

You are an adult, you think you know how to do it, and here you are literally at the beck and call of a little, tiny, helpless dictator.

But this hard work you put in, the years you will slave over making your kids happy, are all totally worth it. Because in the end you will be churning out an adult who, we hope and pray, will serve his community well. We must treat motherhood with value, because we are raising the next generation.

And that also feeds into the issue that only a stay-at-home mom can raise the best kids. Not necessarily. If a SAHM doesn’t value what she is doing, then she won’t really care to create a nurturing environment. She won’t bother to help her child learn and explore. And sure it will be harder for a working mom to give her child his/her due time, so that mom should really ask herself: Do I need to be working? Is it worth it? Is the money I bring in worth not having enough time with my child?

Bottom line is once we have children, we have a responsibility bigger than any degree, job or project. Our standards should change. Our routines should change. Our lives should change. But for the betterment of our children and families, as God wants. If we are honored to be mothers, we must realize that God has put in our trust these little humans and to treat them as wrongly, would be showing ungratefulness.

Parents: Our own best friends, and our own worst enemies

Parenting is a cutthroat world. Just ask any old mom or dad.

“Your little one is still not potty trained? What are you waiting for?”

Uh, believe it not, I actually enjoy changing diapers!

“You have to sleep train your toddler. You can’t have him waking up every 2 hours!”

No, you don’t know how much fun it is to fall into a deep sleep and be awoken by a toddler slapping your stomach. It’s fantastic!

Bottom line: Your kid is exactly that. Your kid. And you know what is better for her/him.

I made it my mantra after having children. That I wouldn’t tell anyone how to raise their children, even if I knew the secret. Because after having one, I thought every subsequent one would be the same. Man, that did not happen to me.

That being said, offering advice about certain parenting topics is totally fine. Just don’t claim to know everything about everything. Because you don’t and you won’t.

Unfortunately there are still those parents out there who insist on telling you how horribly wrong you are raising your kids. And what’s worse is that they are usually the parents who are new to the game. That’s because experienced parents know how the parenting game works, and how every kid really is different. Plus they are probably living on only a few hours of sleep and are too drained to even care about how you raise your kids.

I once had someone tell my kid that she couldn’t have juice because she was coughing. I meekly smiled and quietly told my daughter she could have some later. But it burned me inside. I’m not dead yet, so leave the parenting of my kids to me. You know, the one who actually gave birth to and raised this child from the beginning.

I’ve also heard new parents shrug off the concept that a child changes your life. God forbid you try to help young couples understand the reality of children. The reality of your now shortened social life. The reality of your now nonexistent free time. The reality of managing a routine. I literally heard a parent say, “My kid will do as I say. I won’t change my life for my kid.” Let me know how that works when you’re at a friend’s house enjoying yourself and your kid starts screaming because she’s sleepy. Because it’s her bedtime. I’m sure she’ll understand if you say, “Honey, just chill. OK?”

But put that all aside, and parents know that you can only talk to another parent when you are having a sleepless night, or weaning a kid from a pacifier. Parents are the only ones who get parents. They can make all those horrible moments feel better with just a reassuring smile that says, “Hey, don’t worry. I get you.” And this is what parents need from each other – to be there to offer support and encouragement when the going gets tough. Be helpful. Offer an ear or a shoulder to cry on.

What many of us don’t realize is those cutting remarks actually do hurt parents inside. Even if it’s an experienced parent. You think a parent who has to change a 4-year-old’s diaper actually enjoys it? No, I certainly don’t think so. What parent doesn’t cringe when they are dealing with a tantrum in public? It makes you feel like the worst parent in the world. How can I, as an adult, not be able to control this 2-year-old anklebiter?? It’s frustrating. And judgmental remarks and disapproving looks don’t help at all. Most of parenting is literally learning as-you-go. Even if you’ve done it before, some kids can still throw you a curveball. Patience and prayer, is your best bet as you navigate the rough waters.

And I truly believe what goes around comes around. So unless you enjoy waking up at all hours of the night, or watching your child writhe on the floor for a lollipop, please don’t attack other parents for things they cannot control. I have seen the universe be quite unkind to those who forget this.

Even if you think that 3-year-old in front of you should not be sucking on a pacifier, just smile and worry about your own kid eating dirt from the sandbox. It’ll put everything in the right perspective.

Top 10 baby buys that you won’t regret

So, you’re having a baby, or just had one. Congratulations! Welcome to the wonderful world of parenting! And the sort-of-confusing world of what to buy for your little one. Whether you are looking at pacifiers, bottles, cups, diapers, wipes, strollers, high chairs, potties, etc., there are just so many options out there, with all kinds of pros and cons. Researching is good, asking friends is good, reading reviews is good.

But wait, your little one just pooped all over you.

Is reality settling in yet?

“Ok, so what do I really need?

Since I have three kids, I get asked this question a lot. And mostly by moms who don’t want to fall for the fluff, and want the real deal. And not to mention, a good deal. Most of us don’t have money to throw away on big fancy names. $300 on a rocker that my baby will grow out of after 4 months? No, thank you.

And if we plan on having more than one child, we would like to repurpose our things. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t claim to know what every mom needs. But living with three children means I have tried a bunch of things, and even fallen for some of the fluff. But through the fluff, I picked up a few things that didn’t cost an arm and a leg, and have lasted a long time.

Here is a list of the top 10 baby buys that I have not regretted. Not only are they awesome, but they have lasted through at least 2 kids. Which says a lot about baby items.

1. OXO Tot spoon and fork – I love these utensils. Doesn’t hurt that I snagged them at a clearance sale at a local grocery store, but they are seriously the best. Strong, durable. My toddler easily is able to put food in his mouth without dropping half of the spoonful. Plus they have a nice rubber backing that helps them stand against the plate and not fall in. oxo

2. Tommee Tippee straw/sippy cups – They might be a bit pricier than the Nuby and Munchkin brands, but these are great cups. Spill-proof and easy to clean. No more gunk getting stuck inside the straw or 2 million parts to remove before being able to actually clean the spout/straw.

3. Fisher-Price booster seat – Love this chair. It’s reasonably priced, saves space, and not only is it easy to clean, but it can be adjusted for height, which helps when the little one is getting bigger. Plus it snaps together making it perfect for travel. One downside: It doesn’t recline.

boosterseat

4. IKEA KALAS children’s tableware – When it comes to kids’ stuff, cheap isn’t the only factor. It’s gotta work. Experienced parents will tell you that quality matters. So if that means spending $200 on a stroller, parents will do that. But when the stars align and you get the perfect combo of price and quality, it is truly a wonderful feeling. That is what I feel with these plates, cups and bowls. You get 6 for $2, plus they are kid-friendly and strong. I am not a big fan of the utensils. I also like that when guests with kids come over, I can color code plate and cup so we know whose is whose.

5. Boppy nursing pillow – This is a great pillow. It’s the pillow that keeps on coming in handy. Not only did it save my back during pregnancy, but it helped me nurse my littles ones. My kids also used it for tummy time and naps. Not to mention, it was awesome when I was flying with my almost 12-month-old and couldn’t use the bassinet. I just used the Boppy on my lap. Plus, the whole thing is machine washable. Enough said.

boppy

6. Baby Jogger City Mini stroller – I know what you might say. Baby Jogger is not a cheap brand. The newer single stroller models cost around $250. But I can’t rave enough about the patented one-hand fold. It’s a strap in the middle of the seat that you pull and the stroller collapses down flat. Plus the wheels pop off with the touch of a button, making it a breeze to stuff it in a tight place. And it is durable. The suspension of this stroller is unbelievable. It just rolls off curbs, and up onto the sidewalk easily. If the price is scaring you, you can be happy knowing that this is a stroller that you can find for a great deal, if you just look around. Older season’s models drop down to about $150, and with free shipping offered at most sites, you can’t beat it. I would even recommend searching around on Craigslist or eBay. The quality of the City Mini is so great, that even at secondhand, it’s a great buy. One downside: It is heavier than an umbrella stroller, but I ccityminian easily have my toddler at my hip, and fold it down with one hand. Can’t beat that.

7. Stroller hooks – I am in love with my stroller hooks. I have the Mommy Hook and the OXO Tot hooks. It makes shopping with a stroller so easy. Plus the OXO hooks double as a handle grip for older kids to hang onto so they don’t get lost. Both of these hooks are metal so they are durable. Beware of plastic hooks, which can break or snap off during travel or when folding up the stroller.

8. OXO Tot straw and sippy cup cleaning set – This is a great item to have around the house. Not only does it help clean the nooks and crannies of your sippy cup collection, but they are together on one handy clip that easily hangs onto a hook in your kitchen. You get a straw brush, lid/pump parts brush, and a sippy spout cleaner. You don’t have to worry about stashing multiple cleaning attachments and then losing them.

9. Stride Rite shoes – Any parent knows that shoes and clothing can become an expensive part of raising a child. They outgrow clothing so fast, that before you know it you are buying a new wardrobe for your 5-year-old. Pants are good at the waist, but too short. Shirts are too tight. Some kids jump sizes. And with shoes the bigger problem is, if they aren’t comfy, your kid will not wear them. Would you? Since having my first born, I have been buying Stride Rite shoes. And they have been worth it. I passed on almost every pair to my second daughter, and even after she outgrew them, I was still able to pass them down. They are that great. But I must say that the price tag on most of their shoes has me doing a double take. So I go to the outlet stores for a look, and I stock up on their coupons that are printed at the bottom of every receipt. $5 off a pair of shoes can be a big help for families on a budget.

10. Diaper bags – The essential baby item for a mom. It’s got to be durable, but nice, too. The straps can’t be cutting into your shoulders. It must hold every thing needed for an emergency, and still be light enough to tote around town. It’s a tough purchase. After having bought multiple diaper bags over 7 years, I have to say I like Storksak and Petunia Pickle Bottom for their line of good quality, yet sensible bags. Yes, they are pricey, but again, if you look around, you can find really great deals for older models. I got my Storksak on Amazon.com, and Petunia Pickle Bottom has regular outlet sales where you can save 60% off their bags. My diaper bag must be durable to withstand spills and scratches, easy to maintain, multiple pockets, and look like a nice bag. I have found all these qualities with my Storksak Olivia bag, and my Petunia Pickle Bottom weekender.

This list isn’t complete, but if you think of something to add, please comment!

The power of prayer

Sometimes you forget as a parent that there are many things out of your control. You just kind of get used to being the one feeding, cleaning and comforting, that when other issues come up and you can’t solve them, it just breaks you.

I thought I would have the handle on parenting now. I mean I have three, so it should just come naturally, no?

My last two have a 2-year gap between them – exactly two years. And they have been a handful, to say the least. My eldest always wanted to please and had an easygoing nature. Meanwhile, my second daughter is sassy and stubborn, and my son is clingy and well, a boy.

At one point I was dealing with changing two in diapers, two having tantrums, two wanting to be fed, two who needed naps, etc. Sigh. I was exhausted and always losing my temper. (Well I still lose my temper, but I am working on it.)

And when the going got tough, when I felt like just hanging it up and calling it a day, I never thought about God. I consider myself a person of faith, but I am sad to say that at times I lost hope. Sometimes we really underestimate the power of prayer. My husband would see me during these trials of mommyhood and say, “Why don’t you pray?” And I would respond, “I’ve tried. It’s not working.” But that was because I wasn’t really praying. I was complaining.

So then I prayed. I prayed like my life depended on it. I prayed not for potty training success, but rather, patience during potty training. I prayed not for an easy weaning, but for calm in my heart during the difficult days/nights ahead.

It worked. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I know God has power over all things, but I just couldn’t stop thanking Him. In two weeks I potty trained my stubborn daughter and weaned my clingy son. Sure, there were accidents and rough nights, but the monster within had disappeared. It’s as if God knew my weaknesses and therefore made the process somewhat easier so that I wouldn’t lose my patience or be as frustrated.

Thank you God. Thanks for helping me up when I felt like a lousy mom. Thanks for giving me those little wonderful moments to remind me that mothering isn’t all about discipline, dirty diapers, and tantrums. Most of all, thanks for giving me hope that things will get easier if I just be patient and calm.

Now, excuse me while I break up a fight with a smile.

With or without kids?

Sometimes as a parent you find yourself searching for that little sliver of peace. That small moment where you can drink a cup of coffee without wondering what your little one is doing in the kitchen. Or type up a blog post without being interrupted by someone having to use the potty.

I would get desperate for that moment. In fact, some days I would get more frustrated searching for that peace, instead of just being satisfied with my situation.

Now some might think – how can a mom be satisfied by always running around tending to others without tending to her own needs? It’s not that easy, but true satisfaction as a mother comes when you finally accept your situation and let it fall naturally around you.

After I had my third child, I had a good friend who I would talk to about parenting and making time for myself. She told me something that I had never heard before: That I couldn’t expect a free moment to be carved into my day when I was fulfilling my job as a mom. It was truly an “aha” moment for me. But it got me thinking to all those times I would be trying to deperately check my e-mail over breakfast, only to have a 1-year-old swiping at my phone. Instead of accepting that I had a child who wanted my attention, I would get upset at the fact that I couldn’t check my e-mail in peace.

I never realized that as long as I am being needed as a mother, I had to accept that position and make my own time. It wasn’t going to be handed to me on a silver platter.

So finally after three kids I found out the secret to parental bliss: Making “me” time work. My friend also said something else important. I had to literally make time for myself. Bathroom visits, showers, going outside to dump the garbage, couldn’t count. It had to be specifically labeled as such. So I started weekly classes, which were at a walking distance. These weekly trips allowed me a chance to clear my head while walking, and in class I was in an adult setting. I would talk and discuss things with other adults, think with other adults. It felt good!

While I am still navigating these waters of creating a satisfied life as a mother, I am learning that I need to stop feeling frustrated when I don’t get my way. I have to make it work because my kids need me in different ways right now, and they don’t understand what I need. I can’t expect them to understand either. It just isn’t fair.

So here I am trying to savor the moments with them while building them into smart, kind people. If I don’t get to pray with the long, deep prostrations of before, it’s OK. Even with the 2 minutes I do get, I will pray for patience and peace in my soul.

We only have these few precious moments with our children when we can tend to their characters so let’s make the best of that time. Later when I finally get my peaceful coffee break, it will be all the more sweeter.

The best chocolate mug cake for a family

My husband says I give in to my children’s sweet tooth way too often. I admit I’m guilty. Because I have a ginormous sweet tooth myself. And I hate waiting until the kids go to bed to satisfy my cravings for chocolate or baked goods.

If I could, I would be baking cookies and cakes every day. But I don’t – for the sake of our waistlines. Yet all my daughter has to say is, “Can you bake cookies today?” and before she finishes her sentence I am already pulling out the flour container. What can I say, sweets are my weakness. And I enjoy baking for my kids, too.

That being said, we all know that sweets contain way too much stuff that our bodies don’t really need. So I try to bake as healthy as possible.

While looking for a quick fix for my chocolate cake craving, I came across this awesome recipe for a chocolate mug cake that you – get this – bake in the microwave. A little bit of flour? 2 tbsp cocoa powder? No eggs? Only 60 seconds in the microwave? I was sold.

The recipe I saw on the Table for Two blog was for only one cake. Now I don’t know about you, but since having kids I never bake for one anymore. More like one army. So I adapted this recipe for a family serving of mug cakes. This recipe makes 4 mug cakes. The mug sizes I used hold about 3/4 cup liquid, and I filled them to about halfway and they came out perfect. I also added applesauce to sub for oil and a little date syrup for the granulated sugar. Just to make things a little bit healthier.

Chocolate mug cake for a family

(Adapted from Table for Two blog recipe for The Moistest Chocolate Mug Cake)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour

3 tbsp. cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. baking powder

3 tbsp. granulated sugar PLUS 2 tbsp. date syrup

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. of milk

4 tbsp. applesauce

Optional

1 tsp. of Nutella or any hazelnut chocolate spread, dropped in the middle

1 Hershey’s Kiss dropped in the middle

Sprinkling of chocolate chips on top

Directions:

1. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, cocoa powder

2. Then whisk in milk, applesauce, vanilla extract and date syrup.

3. Batter should be smooth, not lumpy

4. Evenly distribute batter among cups. You can even distribute among 2 large mugs. Just make sure there is room for the cake to rise without spilling over.

5. Add any optional ingredients.

6. Microwave for 60 seconds. (90 seconds for a larger mug) Of course this all depends on the wattage of your microwave, so if you are unsure, start with 60 seconds and see how it sets. Cake should not be liquidy or jiggly. But be careful not to overbake.

7. Top with caramel sauce, whipped cream, or more chocolate! The possibilities are endless…and dangerous.