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?

Wrong.

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.

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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.

Chocolate chip cookie cake

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Fresh out of the oven. Let the slicing begin!

It’s one of my best go-to dessert recipes for potlucks and get-togethers. And not only is it easy to put together, but it is oh-so flexible! On my best days this cake is loaded with peanut butter chips, mini M&Ms and chocolate chips. But since my kids don’t like peanut butter (don’t ask; I get teary-eyed just thinking of all the desserts I don’t make), I usually make this cake with plain ol’ chocolate chips or chunks.

This recipe is adapted from the one on Brown Eyed Baker and it makes a nice thick, chewy cake of chocolate chippy goodness. Mine is baked in a 9×13-inch pan so there is plenty to go around.

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Melty chocolate chips!

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 tablespoons canola/vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2-3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, M&Ms, etc, or leave it plain! Whatever your heart desires!

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9×13-inch pan; set aside.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed (or your hand if you don’t have a mixer), beat the butter and sugars together until blended. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Turn the dough out into the prepared pan and press the dough into an even layer. Bake until the cookie cake is light golden brown and the outer edges have started to harden, 20 to 25 minutes.

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?

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!