Thursday, February 20, 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

As Salaamu Alaikum!  Please do watch and try my Brown Fried Rice recipe - it is incredibly simple and delish ma shaa Allah!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

'Chef Naima's' interview by 'Mariam Poppins'

As Salaamu Alaikum!  I was recently interviewed by 'Mariam Poppins', owner and founder of one of my very favorite blogs ma shaa Allah.  It was a fun interview to do - I had a great time!  Go and have a read!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Family Ties

This past July, I planned to visit my parents with my children in Montreal for a few weeks.  I always feel a strong sense of nostalgia in Montreal.  It is the city where I was raised and lived (on and off) until getting married 8 years ago.  During this last visit, I shared many childhood memories with my children as we drove around town and explored my old stomping grounds.  Most important to me, going back home meant spending time with my family; namely my parents and grandmother (my grandfather passed a few years ago).  This year was very different in many ways.  My grandmother, whose health had been declining over the recent years, was in a nursing home. She was also losing her memory at a rapid pace. Despite our, previously, strong relationship I was intensely nervous about seeing her.  It made me sad to think that the special bond that we once shared was most likely lost to memory loss.
When my grandmother was in her prime, she was a genuine renaissance woman. She was detail oriented, extremely practical, highly efficient and rarely forgot anything.  My grandmother was always such a strong, caring and loving woman.  She grew up on a farm in Western Canada during the Great Depression, and helped raise her 6 younger siblings after her mother died when she was 12 years old. As the oldest child she had to take on a great deal of responsibility very quickly. This is probably why she was able to do so many things so well. This was during a time when if you wanted something simple like hot water or butter it had to be heated over a fire or churned with milk from your cows! She could tailor pants and jackets like a professional, cook delicious elaborate meals and desserts, make delicious jams, jellies and other canned goods, upholster furniture (some of which remain in my family to this day), knit, crochet, garden and do countless other things with professional expertise. 

When I was growing up my grandmother taught me how to do many things and in many ways helped to prepare me for the most important job that I would ever have: Motherhood.  She made it seem as though it was possible to learn and master most skills.  During my early childhood, when my parents were my current age (early to mid 30’s), My parents and grandparents shared a two family duplex. I remember rushing downstairs to my grandparent’s place first thing on Saturday mornings so that I could spend time baking with my grandmother.  In my child mind, she seemed perfect.  We spent countless hours together cooking, talking (with me asking a constant stream of questions) and just simply being together side by side and enjoying each other’s company.   

This past July, a few days after arriving in Montreal, I gathered up the kids and we went to see my grandmother.  I was shocked at how tiny and frail she seemed. Of course, my children wasted no time in leaping onto her bed and surrounding her.  They immediately filled the stale silence in the air with their bustling and laughter.  I sat quietly in an armchair and occasionally snuck looks at my grandmother sitting on her bed. I felt very awkward that because of the memory loss I was now a stranger to her.  Before leaving, I looked at her one last time, sensing that our visit might be one of the last times that we would see each other.  We looked at each other earnestly.  I pushed back tears to embrace her and, somehow, managed a smile and waved; she slowly lifted her hand, smiled, and waved back.  A couple of days later, she fell and injured herself and was left paralyzed and clinging to life.  The children and I visited her daily, and it made her happy to be able to spend time with the children in particular.  Each day during our visit I was very aware of the possibility of our parting being final.  Two weeks later, she finally succumbed to her injuries, a few days after her 92nd birthday.
               We know that death should serve as a reminder, and my grandmother’s death certainly caused me to reflect upon the eventual meeting with my Lord.  Our beloved Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said to “live in this world as if you are a stranger or wayfarer”.  Indeed. The reality is that we are only briefly “stopping through”.  In this world, it is so easy to lose sight of this fact and of the fact that serving our Creator is our sole purpose in this life.  May Allah (highly exalted is He) make us all from those he is pleased with and glad to meet ...Ameen.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quality Play

                As parents, we all know the value of spending quality time with our children.  It is important for us all to find different ways to interact with our children and to play with them.  To play with them, not just direct them while they play.  Experts say that play is an important part of learning, and I also firmly believe that playing with our children enables us to build a strong bond with them and opens the lines of communication.  How can we expect children to be able to come and talk to us when they are feeling sad or when they are having trouble at school or with a friend if we do not foster a comfortable relationship with them.  When children are young, they are definitely very eager to communicate with their parents, and at this stage they like spending time with us.  Let us make this time count!  Here are some of the fun things that my three youngest children and I do together:

Cook Together:  I am a huge advocate of cooking with children!  Many say that children are more likely to eat meals and snacks that they have taken part in preparing, and I agree completely.  Also, it is a great time to teach young children about safety in the kitchen and nutrition.

Tell Stories:  When my mother visits, she usually tells the girls stories that she makes up as she goes along.  As soon as they see her, they expect to get a story out of her.  I followed her lead, and began to make up stories of my own some nights during story time. The stories always include characters that are basically my own children.  I just slightly alter their names (Yasmine becomes Jasmine for example); I use these stories to teach them lessons or to address topics that are of concern to our family.  My stories are usually pretty corny, and lack any real flow or story line but the kids are hooked.  Now, during story time they always ask me to tell a story rather than read one!

Have a Dance Party!:  It is great exercise and the kids love it!  Dancing allows them to express themselves and let off some steam.  In the end everybody feels great!  I have many priceless home movies of our dance parties which they love to send to their grandparents and watch at home!

Sing!:  I make up silly songs all the time!  Pretty soon the kids join in and we all have a great time.  Some of those songs stick with our family for months!  Most times, singing can even gently nudge a grumpy child out of a bad mood.  They can never keep a straight face for long once I make up a song about a mean face turning into a happy face!

Have a Jam Session!:  My daughters love playing their drum and my eldest daughter often composes her own little songs on her kalimba.  She is very proud of her songs and plays them for my husband and I all the time.  It allows her to use her mind creatively and build her inventive skills.

Go ‘Camping’:  We dress up in our hiking gear, pack our backpacks, get our flashlights out and walk through the make believe forest (actually the hallway) to the camp site (actually the living room) and get in to our tent (we make our own tent out of blankets but a real tent works out great too!).  Once in our tent, we tell stories, read our pre-drawn ‘maps’, and do whatever else comes to our imaginations (usually at some point, my children want me to be a dangerous bear who tries to tear down the tent and drag kids into the forest lol!). 

Decorate the Windows and Doors:  Recently, after I ran out of space on the fridge, I began to display the kids’ art work from school and home on the doors and windows.  They love it!  As soon as we finish an art project at home, they immediately ask me to hang it up.  They like being able to look at their work hung up all around the kitchen.  It makes them feel as though what is important to them is also important to me.  The art adds color and vibrancy to my kitchen!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Winter Warmth

     Winter is a wonderful season!  We often spend time complaining about the cold, when in fact it is the perfect opportunity to spend lots of quality time with the kids & family.  What better way to spend time with those you love than being snowed in with them?  As a child growing up in Canada, wintertime was a time to partake in countless activities, indoor and outdoor.  I have many fond memories of ice skating with my Grandpapa, Papa and brother.  Others of baking with my Grandmaman while listening to a record of ‘Peter and the Wolf’, one of my very favorite stories!  And of course, I can never forget roasting chestnuts at the fireplace with my parents during power outages.  As a parent, I strive hard to capture just a fraction of the warm, fuzzy feelings that I used to experience with my family during bonding time.  I appreciate it all so much more now that I have kids of my own. 
     For me, trying to capture those wonderful feelings of emotional warmth and love means just embracing each moment.  Snowed in?  No problem!  Playing outside after dark is one of my favorite things to do with the kids.  Last night we were out there, blizzard and all!  Running, jumping, making snow angels, throwing snowballs, making a snowman, making a snow fort, making ‘snow ice cream’ and ‘pies’, sliding down the front steps.  The kids even squealed in delight and cheered through my failed attempt at making maple syrup snow candy (another thing my Grandmaman used to do!)…I tell you, we had a blast!  I felt like a kid again, and it was so much more fun than it would be to complain about the weather.
     Once we were back indoors, we got cozy with some hot chocolate and a warm bath.  The kids and I were worn out, and bedtime was peaceful…
     Last night was cold, windy and snowy, but in my heart, I felt warmth!  Slow down, take time out, and enjoying the moment feels absolutely magnificent!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Count Your Blessings

A lot of us are deeply ungrateful.  We live in a society where “more is less” and “enough is never enough.”  I am guilty of opening up my fridge and thinking “gee, I sure wish that I could have…(fill in the blank here)”  instead of appreciating all of the wonderful foods that are in my fridge.  How ungrateful is that given that of us are guaranteed food, water, shelter, clothing or any of the countless blessings bestowed upon us?
            Parents' negative attributes and attitudes tend to trickle down to their children.  Many times when I see my kids displaying negative behaviors, I try and think "now where did that come from?"  So when I cook a lovely dinner for my kids, then place it on the table in front of them, and I hear “Aw Mommy, I don’t feel like eating chick peas a-gain!”, I know that some personal adjustments need to be made.  To a large extent, children are products of their environments.  And I don’t just mean the world, country, city and neighborhood that a child lives in.  Most importantly, I mean the household they are raised in.  It may be painful to the ego and embarrassing to admit, but this ungratefulness usually starts at home.  Though never intentional, sometimes as parents, we contribute to a general sense of ungratefulness in our children.  Then we turn around and wonder why their behaviors don't match our expectations of them!  I am trying to instill a sense of gratitude in my children.  It is an ongoing process, and I continue to fine-tune the details, but the following what my family continues to work on:

Practice saying “Thank You” – Really!  Saying “Thank you” never gets old!  Thank the mailman for handing you your mail.  Thank your child for cleaning up his or her room.  Thank Grandma for babysitting.  Thank the grocery store cashier for ringing up your order.  Since parents are the first and most influential examples for children, we must always make sure that they see us being thankful and grateful.

You Can’t Have Everything That You Want There is a saying that goes something like this: “People who are content don’t have everything, they just make the best of everything they have”.  Ummmm, hello!  So true!  In today’s world we are taught to acquire many possessions and still want more.  Many times this leads to us not being able to even see the numerous blessings that are right in our hands.  This can lead to our wants and desires resembling a bottomless pit.  Not good.  So not good…I used to buy little treats for my kids while we were at the store.  Small things that cost a dollar or less.  While we were at the store (usually Target), we would roll our cart through the dollar section just to look around.  Then my kids would ask “Mommy can I have…Please!!  Please?!”.  So I would think: “Hey, you know what it only costs a dollar”, and I would buy it.  Then a couple of days later when we would find ourselves back at the store stocking up on diapers, they would ask for another “little treat.”  Then the next time they would ask me for the “little treat” ahead of time, like say in the parking lot.  Than after a while they began to feel like they were entitled to the “little treat” every time we were at the store.  The painful and embarrassing truth is that I was contributing to their sense of entitlement.

Reward System – I stumbled upon the sticker reward system after consulting with my childrens’ teachers about how to use positive reinforcement to discipline children.   Basically, they get a sticker (or sometimes two depending on what they are being rewarded for doing) as a reward for completing a task or displaying positive behavior.  So being thoughtful towards your sibling could earn you one.  Cleaning up your room without Mommy and Daddy having to ask again and again can earn you another, and so on.  After earning 15 stickers, Mommy will give you a dollar.  You can buy an item of your choice with that dollar.  So in short, I have them earn their dollar.  The other day my 5 year-old earned her first dollar.  She was so happy!  She earned that dollar through blood, sweat and tears.  So when I finally placed that dollar in her little hand, she felt a sense of accomplishment.  I took her to Target, and she bought her very own package of Trident gum.  And you know what?   Without my prompting, she shared it with her grandmother, sisters, father and myself.  I was so proud of her!

Make Good Use of What You Have My grandmother was and still is the ultimate Queen of Frugal.  She is able to find ways to use things that many would consider useless.  When I was growing up she would use small scraps of fabric left over from her sewing to make clothing for my favorite doll.  She would even knit my doll, Orange Blossom, her own sweater sets!  And yes, my dolls were stylin’, thank you very much!  She used what she had to make those around her happy.  I absolutely loved those doll clothes.  They were creative and absolutely one-of-a-kind.  I still have some of them, and my own children use them on my old dolls!  You see, my mother is also quite frugal and saved my old dolls.  She always thought that maybe someday her future grandchildren would want to use them.  I did not have her vision.  I would tell her “Mom, I so do not ever want those, please throw them away.  I will buy my kids new dolls”.  In spite of the fact that my kids have other dolls, my old ones are among their favorites!

Keep Your Eyes on Your Blessings – Sometimes we can be oblivious to numerous blessings because we are busy counting our sister’s/brother’s/cousin’s/neighbor’s/friend’s/co-worker’s blessings.  It can start off small like “Aw gee, you are so lucky because you have…(fill in the blank)”.  If we continue to count the blessings of those around us, we begin to spend less time taking note of our own.  This leads to ungratefulness, envy and dissatisfaction.  And of course, your own blessings go unnoticed! 

Take Time to Appreciate the Smaller Things in Life – Fall foliage, a beautiful sunset, stars in the night sky, jumping in puddles on a rainy day, throwing snowballs, making snow angels, walks through nature, splashing in the local wading pool, going hiking!!!  Take time…Breathe…Relax…Enjoy!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Kicking the Chaos

           As a wife and mother of 5 young children aged 5, 4, 2, and 2 month old twins, I often find myself thinking, “there has to be a way to get everything organized and under control”.  Between nursing my twin boys, dropping off/picking up kids at two different schools, homework help, field trips, keeping up with an active two year old, doctor/dental appointments, epic piles of laundry, cleaning, playdates, grocery shopping (the list goes on and on and on!), keeping everybody happy and healthy often seems daunting.  Needless to say, nearly doubling the number of children that I had by having twins has required some major adjustments. 

           I am still working on getting things all the way under control, but here are some steps that I continue to take to keep it all running as smoothly as possible:

Evaluation:  What is most important today?  What must get done today?  What will keep my family and myself happy on this day?  When my children are grown up ISA, they will remember the time I spent with them: arts and crafts projects, building pillow forts, running around in the backyard, planting flowers with them, cooking with them…Less important will be memories of me always staying on top of the laundry!

Set a Realistic Amount of Goals for the Day:  How much can I really expect to do today?  I mean without completely stressing myself out and burning out?  Here is where the evaluation comes in to play.  Some things seem important, and some things are important. 

Write, Write, Write!: I used to be able to remember appointments, classes, playdates, events, etc without recording any of it on paper.  Now I can’t, so I write, write, write it all down.  I choose to challenge myself in other areas instead.  Hmmm, I think I’ll try sewing a skirt today, ISA!

Let Go!:  This one is often a difficult one for me.  Letting go! Realizing that as mothers, we cannot be perfect.  Really!  It is so freeing.  My true friends do not care if they come over and find kiddie shoes & coats strewn about near the front door.  Or, if they find peanut butter and jelly hand prints that my two year old has left lining the walls of my stairwell.  They just don’t.  Period.

Ask for Help!:  Getting things under control often involves asking others for help.  Not trying to take the twins and my two year old to a dental appointment.  Dropping the kids off on some days while I pick my two older girls up from school.  Help with the big things.  Help with the little things.

Plan Ahead:  Spontaneity is mostly a thing of the past.  My new life requires me to plan ahead.  And that is the simple truth!

Stay Active:  Walking, Running, Zumba class, Step Class, Hiking.  It doesn’t really matter, I just keep it moving!  It promotes stress relief, plus I’m working on getting back pre-five kids-in-6-years body!

Staying Centered Through Prayer and Supplication:  This one is self-explanatory.  It is the most important step that links all of the latter steps together.  Praying and asking God to help me make it through the day.  For the strength to get through the day.  For my children to behave.  For the insight to be able to instill the proper values in the right ways.  For my homemade pizza to turn out great.  Anything and Everything.