one praying mama

Dear God, thank you for my children. They make me complete. A complete, and happy, nutcase.

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.

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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.

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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.

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That understanding nod

Recently we were traveling by plane and had the wonderful experience of waiting at the airport (our flight was delayed), while one kid was sleeping in the double stroller, one had a diaper leak, and one was hungry/tired/bored.

Finally as time comes to board the aircraft, we lug past business class with our bulging backpack, a diaper bag hitting every seat, plus a sleepy-now-awake-and-angry-and-also-throwing-a-tantrum toddler. Did I mention another kid was now also sleepy/cranky/screaming?

And as I plop into my seat, I couldn’t help but think about the faces those business class passengers were making at us. Definitely not like the understanding nods that fellow parents give you as you tote around your kids and their seemingly never-ending necessities.

Ahh, business class. Sharp dressed men and women with no toys or huge bags around them, maybe a laptop propped comfortably in front of them. Or swiping on a tablet they don’t have to share. Or reading a newspaper. A newspaper!! I remember those… I used to work at a newspaper and have an unexplainable love for flipping through the pages and getting ink on my fingers.

You want to know the last time I read a newspaper? When I spread them out on the floor so my kids could paint and not get the floor messy. Yes, it was an old edition and yet, I still kept reading…..

The last time I looked at a tablet? I only get a minute of tablet time anyway, just enough time to scroll through the news headlines on the lock screen before a kid comes to me grabbing it and wanting to play some game involving making a pizza or feeding a cat.

While we sat squished in coach, I told my husband to let’s travel business class when the kids get older and we are able to enjoy having our tray table down without a kid banging on it. He gave me a weary smile.

And I think flight attendants never have children. Or it seems that way. Because they will always give you anti-kid friendly directions, like, “Please put away that LeapPad until after the plane takes off,” (cue crazy child screaming).

Or the best one is when your toddler is trying to run down the aisle and you are trying to contain him, and the flight attendant comes by with those wonderfully attractive child seat belts. Yes, I can see my child will now certainly calm down for this.

As I wrangle with my son to get the belt on him, the lady next to me sees my son flailing about, she brushes off the flight attendant and says, “Just put it around him so it looks like it’s on.”

I smile at her and do exactly that. (Disclaimer: Yeah, I know it isn’t safe. But I had my son with me under my belt.)

It felt nice to finally have someone understand me and what I was going through. This nice lady didn’t grunt when I accidentally dropped my shawl onto her seat, or groan when I bent down for the 10 millionth time to pick up a pacifier from around her feet.

Even as we departed the aircraft and made our way onto a bus to get to the terminal, the odds were still against us. I had a toddler now sleeping on my shoulder and no stroller. My husband had a 3-year-old sleeping on his shoulder, and he was practically dragging our 6-year-old who was also sleepy. With my bag hanging in the crook of my elbow, I just leaned against the side of the bus and prayed to get home NOW.

God must have heard my prayer, because all of a sudden a woman traveling with her mother motioned to me and gave me her seat. I thanked her with my words and my eyes, and every fiber of my being. Her mother asked me how many kids I had, and she smiled this smile that said, “Oh yes, I’ve been there.”

It really makes a difference when you sympathize with people. We all have been in different life situations. Whether it is dealing with children, spouses, parents, neighbors, coworkers, certain health issues, etc., we have all been there. It just takes a smile and an understanding act of kindness to show that yes, I am also human. I understand where you are coming from.

Isn’t this why God put us all on this Earth together? To learn from each other. To learn to live with each other. And more importantly, to become selfless people who care for one another.

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Going yum-yum for Mum-Mums

Why do all baby snacks taste dreadful? Like cardboard or really tasteless Cheetos? I used to care but then I figured, who cares? As long as my kid eats it, I am good.

When I had my first child, I wanted her to have only the good stuff. So I bought a box of Baby Mum-Mums. Organic rice rusks, said the box. She never cared for them. So I tried one. I ended up throwing away the whole box. Yeah, definitely didn’t make the midnight snack cut.

Then I bought some for my second daughter. Same story. So I gave up on Baby Mum-Mums. Although they seemed like a great snack. Easy to carry. Easy to chew on. And simple flavors like banana or apple.

When my son came along I gave him the tried and true baby snacks. You know the puffs and melts, etc. But one day we were outside and a friend gave her daughter a Mum-Mum rusk and my son swiped it. He LOVED them. In fact he loved them so much my friend ended up giving me extras.

He liked the Baby Mum-Mums so much, that I decided to try the Toddler Mum-Mums, too. And he just inhaled those. Especially the apple version.

I was so happy that he liked them because they seemed healthier and better than chips and cookies. But to my dismay, my happiness was short lived. I ended up finding out (from Alexandra over at the Mum-Mums company) that the Toddler Mum-Mums contain beef-derived gelatin and that’s a big no-no for our diet as Muslims.

But for the while it lasted, I was happy with the Mum-Mums. I do hope they find an alternative to beef gelatin, considering they are an organic snack.

Of course now that I have three little ones, snack time takes on a more creative turn… we make our own potato chips, pizza pockets, etc. What do you all do for snack time?

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The little creatures in our home

We are moms. And we know how to do a lot of things. It can be hard to not let all that power go to our heads.

But a big part of being a good mom is exerting patience and letting our little ones learn the right way.

My teacher said it best: “We have to remember that we have been given these kids from God. We can’t exercise power over them simply because we have the power. We have to take care of them and remember that they are creatures of God.”

I know for myself it can be really hard to remember that even though I am mom, I am also responsible for my kids’ upbringing. Through my actions and words, my kids learn how to navigate through this world. Am I setting the best example? Or do I just tell them what to do because I can? Because they have no power over me?

It can be nice to end the argument with, “No. Because I said so. Because I am mom.” But I am trying to explain better, and especially with my eldest daughter, I am trying to include her opinions and suggestions in our daily routine so she feels involved.

Sometimes it all feels like too much. Sometimes I think – can’t kids just eat, sleep and play? Sure, it would be easier. But when you really, really think about it, these kids are the next generation. Think of all the power we have in creating a better generation. I pray we put that power to good use and raise humble, kind and generous children, who will hopefully make our world a much better place.

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Mac n’ cheese with a secret

Ever since moving to the IRI, I have found myself searching high and low for different ways of preparing meals and snacks for the kids. Sure, I miss the convenience of just running to a local Kroger and picking up a meal-in-a-box or fish sticks. But now that I have been forced into cooking and baking from scratch, I have to tell you it’s quite rewarding.

So the other day FZ was craving mac n’ cheese – the “orange” kind. Yeah, which kid doesn’t love the “orange” kid. Unfortunately for me and many other cheddar lovers, there is no cheddar cheese readily available here. I know, I know. My jaw dropped the first time, too. There is a nice alternative – gouda cheese slices. And most of us moms use that here to make the “orange” mac n’ cheese.

But I realized through my own experimentation, that adding carrot or butternut squash puree to the final mixture makes your mac n’ cheese, not only delicious, but nutritious. And in the words of my 6-year-old: “awesome.”

When I told FZ what was in her pasta, she looked at me funny and my husband told me now she wouldn’t eat it again. But she actually was surprised that a veggie could taste so yummy!

Mac n’ cheese with a secret
Serves: approximately 4 kids, or 2 kids and 1 hungry mom/dad

1. Boil 2 cups of your favorite pasta – usually shells or fusilli work best

2. Have a cup of carrot or butternut squash puree ready.

3. In a small pot, melt 2 tbsp. of butter. Once melted, add 3/4 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, 1 tbsp. of heavy cream, 2 tsp. of garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.

4. Let cook on low heat until mixed thoroughly. Then add carrot or butternut squash puree and heat through.

5. Add cooked pasta to the sauce mixture.

6. Done! Goes great with homemade chicken or fish nuggets.

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Sticking it to nasty colds and congestion

When it’s cold season I dread congested noses. Poor sniffling kids who can’t sleep, can’t nurse, can’t breathe. It is just horrible.

Sure humidifiers, Vicks, and steam baths help, but it just takes time. And you really can’t explain that to your kid.

So you have a cranky kid who can’t breathe and therefore cannot fall asleep, and you have your fingers constantly dipping into the Vicks. But there is a light.

Enter the Babyganics Cold Relief Chest Rub in stick form! That’s right! Perfect for post-bath smearing and pre-bedtime touchups.

I have to admit it was a bit pricey (I got it for $6.99 from Babies R Us), but it is worth it. At least to have one ready for the bedside so even a kid can apply a little to their chests to feel better at night. I also buy the tubs of Vicks (Love Target’s Up and Up version of the baby rub) for massive application.

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Talking death

Since the Islamic new year just started with the month of Moharram, FZ always has questions regarding the story of Karbala and Imam Hussain.

I try to give her small doses of the events of that time without overdosing her with too many tangents. I talk to her in simple terms about simple issues that she can relate with. And when she asks about something too philosophical, I just say, “We will talk about that when you are older.” There is only so much young kids can chew on, and you don’t want them glazing over with information overload.

A big concern she has these days is death, and why people have to die, especially those we love.

“I am really sad for Nano, because she doesn’t have a Mama or a Baba anymore.”

And, this: “I don’t want you or Baba to die. I would be really sad.”

Sigh. I know, kid. It’s a tough one.

I’ve read to just approach death matter-of-factly without too many details. So when she gets sad, I just tell her she doesn’t have to worry about that right now.

But it does hit me straight in the heart.

And I think about Imam Hussain and the Battle of Karbala, and his 4-year-old daughter weeping over the death of her father, uncle and brothers.

And I think what is that beautiful love for God that would make Qasim ibne Hasan call death “sweeter than honey”?

———–
Do you hear the cries of Hussain?
Do you hear him calling you?

When he brings his family to face hardships in the lonely desert,
Feeling their hunger and pain
He is calling you toward sacrifice

When he embraces the dust mixed with the blood of his kin,
Prostrating to God for the last time
He is calling you toward prayer

When he offers a second chance to his enemies,
Knowing they are ready to slaughter him mercilessly
He is calling you toward kindness

And when he stands alone –
Fighting for truth over falsehood,
Fighting for justice over oppression,
Fighting for humanity –
He is calling you toward Allah

Are you ready to say Labbaik ya Hussain (I am here Hussain)?
Are you ready to live with honor?
Are you ready to die with dignity?

If you are ready, then the Imam is waiting –
Labbaik ya Hussain, we are ready
Labbaik ya Mahdi, we are here

-S.B. Zaidi

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So, so hard

Some days seem so hard. You know those days when you pound the dough just a little bit harder and mutter more under your breath.

But it’s because you don’t want to lose your cool. Because as a mother there is nothing worse than letting out a barrage of anger-filled words only to regret it later.

Does that mean that a good mother never gets angry? I doubt it. I doubt that mother exists. Just like the mother who never lets her kid watch TV doesn’t exist.

Sure we get angry. We get frustrated. We lash out. And then we cry. Well, I do anyway.

I wonder when it will get easier. I wonder when M will get potty trained. I wonder when Moose will stop throwing things at my head. And I know those of you with older kids will all tell me – “Oh but it will get easier! Don’t worry!”

But you see, right now I just see the hard things. Not the easy things. And this, I know, must change.

I must see beyond the toy throwing and see my boy with two hands.

I must see beyond the relentless questions and see the girl who is able to communicate.

I must see beyond the potty accidents and see the toddler who can put on her own pants and shoes.

Then I no longer see problems, but instead I see the many beautiful faces of my children. Their soft smiles, the way they share, and the way they call on me.

Once I see past the hard stuff, I become grateful for the many blessings I do have, and this makes it easier.

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