Ivy


photo 2Hello Sweetie,

You blow my mind. Constantly.

Lot’s of babies and toddlers are cute — but you seriously epitomize what it means to be cute. And not because I give you Beatles-esque bangs or because your cheeks are squishable and love being squished. It’s not because you have a melodious voice or squint your eyes and tilt your head when saying, “huh?”

It’s because you care.

You are now two years old and you have an amazing capacity to empathize. If I give you two cookies, you give one to your sister. If Oma gets a hug, everyone else in the room gets a hug. When your sister hurts herself, you’re right there to stroke her back. You serve everyone tea, water and pretend cookies. I love it when you come into the house to ask a question, and then leave but come back to say, “Thank you mama” — and leave again, only to return a third time… slowly poking your head around the corner because you know repetition is hilarious. Hilarious.

And this quality of caring and attention you give to others is incredibly endearing.

You have a natural affinity toward living things. You might be wary of some insects, but you are incredibly curious and have no problems holding earthworms. Big dogs startle you, which is understandable considering they’re twice your size — but give you the leash of a small puppy and you’re happy to give commands. Cats are your favourite and you will sit patiently — gently calling until a cat allows you to pet her. You “shoo” lazy sap beetles and chase dragonflies. I can’t wait for the day a butterfly lands on you.

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In Oma's arms.

In Oma’s arms.

Play houses and train sets. Dress up clothes and books. Basket after basket of squeaking, rattling, sparkling, colourful baby toys line the walls of the weekly play group — begging to be claimed by tiny hands.

Several toddlers play with a box filled with dinosaurs and wooden blocks. An older boy runs around with a fireman’s helmet over his eyes and is quickly asked to sit down quietly for a circle time story, after he almost runs over a newly crawling baby.

Ivy swoops down the plastic slide for the eighth time. She smiles in quiet delight and claps proudly before climbing up again. Soon she points to the room set aside for snacks and gets ready for a water and Cheerio break.

Holding tight to her hand is Oma. An amazing woman who stresses over how much Ivy eats, who dutifully makes sure Ivy is warmly dressed, who beams with pride at how easily Ivy goes down for her afternoon nap. Oma. The wonderful non-Muslim grandparent who cooks halal food and mentions Allah’s name before Ivy takes a bite.

A superhero to both of my girls who makes sure they have a full week of fun activities and learning opportunities while I’m off at work. She loves them unconditionally, and claims she’s a better parent to them, than she was to me.

Suddenly, a hand reaches out and taps Oma on the shoulder.

“Where are you from?”

“Germany”

“Yes, you look like a German”

“And what exactly, is a German supposed to look like?” She asks sharply with fire and ice — in her German, sarcastic way.

“Oh. Haha. I suppose like you. Tall. Are you the babysitter?”

“No. I’m the grandmother.”

“What is her name?”

“Ivy.”

“Isn’t that a Muslim name?”

“Yes….”

“Is she Muslim?”

“She and her sister, my daughter, and son-in-law are all Muslim.”

“How do you feel about that?”

How do I feel? I LOVE my daughter and my son-in-law. They have beautiful and wonderful children. I LOVE my grandchildren is how I feel about that.”

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Blowing kisses to fishes.

Blowing kisses to fishes.

Hello sweetie,

You have a face that was made to smile.

For a year and a half now you’ve been content with just about everything. Smiles open so naturally and easily between your chubby cheeks — reaching up with so much expressive emotion to your shining eyes.

And you’ve created so many different and wonderful smiles.

There’s the happy-stamping-feet-mama-just-got-home smile. The cheeky, can-I-have-a-chocolate smile (with raised eyebrow). The laughing-eyes-closed-in-wild-abandon as I twirl you around around the room smile. The quiet, benevolent smile you reserve for when you sit on a bench and pat the empty space — inviting me to sit next to you.

But one of my most favourite smiles is the mouth-wide-open-eyes-glancing-to-the-right smile when I tickle your belly. The genuine laugh that comes with it melts my heart.

You’re cute, you know. And you play that cuteness well.

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Eryn is sick.

She very unfortunately brought back a couple of friends with her from Kuwait. A couple of very nasty friends. It started while we were boarding the plane home. Literally, just as our boarding passes were being scanned from Kuwait City to Washington, I looked down to see Eryn shaking all over — and I didn’t need a thermometer to know she was spiking a high fever. Luckily the explosion of bodily fluids didn’t happen until we were on the ground at Toronto.

sick Eryn

Sleeping while in the care of her gracious aunt.

It’s been a pretty hectic week-and-a-half with multiple trip to doctors’ offices, lab drop-offs, the constant laundering of soiled linens, emergency runs for medicine and gatorade and trying to entertain Ivy while quarantining Eryn in the bathroom. We don’t know where she contracted the bacteria — but I can’t wait until they leave. Alhamdulillah today she really started responding positively to her meds.

We’ve had amazing support from family and friends. The fantastic Shireen Ahmed, who blogs about all things football and badass muslimah, came over WITH COFFEE, presents, and read books to Ivy while I bathed a miserable Eryn. And my fabulous sister-in-law has been nothing but amazing — entertaining the girls so I can disinfect the house, and took over for a few hours on Thursday for me to take a breather.

Uncle Alice Cooper and my billion dollar baby.

Uncle Alice and my billion dollar baby.

Isn’t this just the most fantastic family portrait you’ve ever seen?

You might be aware that I am a massive fan of Alice Cooper. I had the upmost pleasure in meeting him at FanExpoCanada during my breather, grabbing a signature, and of course, memorializing the event at a planned photo opportunity. He went absolutely mushy over Ivy and spent some time playing with her feet, gushing over her cookies, and giving me the ultimate fan experience by just being his classy, normal and friendly self. I’m still in a bit of shock.

And then again on the weekend, the spectacular Oma and Opa took over care of Eryn so that the Hubby and I could celebrate our anniversary by doing a little Steampunk cosplay and spending a short afternoon at the Expo trying to catch a glimpse of Hulk Hogan, Carrie Fisher, and of course, Colin Baker, the sixth doctor.

And among all the Stormtroopers, Daleks, anime characters, and Batmans, I found this fabulady:

Oh hai. I’m just a super fabulous niqab-wearing fan because I’m AWESOME.

After a quick introduction I asked what the eyepatch was all about and she explained that while she was dressed as herself, the patch was to pay hommage to her favourite anime character, Hatake Kakashi. It’s so much fun when one’s hijab easily turns into a bit of cosplay. Such a cool lady and a pleasure to meet.

Baby steampunk!

Baby steampunks!

I didn’t go all out this year with the costume — but it was impressive enough to get more than a few photo requests. And Ivy became fast friends with a couple of really sweet steampunk girls who made their costumes. Made. Their. Own. Costumes.

Phenomenal.

The rest of the weekend was spent holed up in bed, reading and singing to Eryn. Hopefully she’ll be well enough to attend Muslimfest next weekend — she deserves a little fun on a bouncy castle.

For the second year now, the awesome writers over at Muslimah Media Watch take a break during Ramadan to lay off the media analysis and instead share some Ramadan Reflections. I’ve added my voice to this collection of personal stories, memories and experiences, and am cross-posting here as well. Enjoy!


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Eryn and Ivy’s Ramadan lanterns, treat bags, and advent calendar.

Thick tendrils of white smoke curl around my fingers as I add more bukhoor to the incense burner. Nasheed music wafts softly from the living room, creating a calm, somber atmosphere. My children have just come back from the balcony, certain that the new moon made her appearance despite heavy storm clouds. We smile at each other and lovingly embrace in a group hug — the girls wishing me a good fast before heading off to bed.

At least, that’s how I imagined we would welcome the blessed month of Ramadan.

Instead, we shattered the quiet, reflective time of maghrib by shaking glow sticks in the dusk, blowing noise makers and jumping up and down. We got high off too many dates — the natural sugars making sure my children bounced off the walls until three hours past their bedtime.

Unconventional for some, but amazing to usher in Ramadan with true abandon and joy.

This is the first year that I’m fasting with my daughters Eryn and Ivy — and I’m doing it solo. The Hubby is currently working in the UK, my Muslim family has returned to Kuwait for the summer, I’m unmosqued from the closest community in my area, and while I’ve previously adjusted to the isolation caused by not fasting due to pregnancy or breastfeeding, I’ve never had to fast alone on top of experiencing a little single parenting.

Caring for two young children is all-consuming. Every moment of their day is meticulously planned, so I can hopefully get them into bed in time for me to break my fast and find an hour to work on my own spiritual goals. Sure, we normally have a schedule, but I rely a lot on the respite gained from passing off the kids to their father. There is barely enough time for me to perform the bare minimum requirements of prayer — let alone engage in the extra acts of devotion normally associated with Ramadan. Literally every second of my day is dedicated to talking, singing, and moving for the benefit of the kids.

Breakfast, dress-up, laundry, park, picnic, nap, splash pad, craft time, cooking, dinner, clean-up, bath, play and bed — doesn’t leave much time for extra worship, Qur’an, or blogging for that matter.

So since I’m outnumbered, I’m learning to experience Ramadan like a child. And that means creating Ramadan spiritual activities that suit the three of us. In doing so, I’m honing and reframing my worship into small, manageable, mind-blastingly fun snippets — in the hopes of encouraging the Ramadan spirit and nourishing my soul in the process. Something that’s a complete departure from the usual austere attitudes and seriousness that I usually apply to increasing my imaan.

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Happy Ramadan everyone! Whether you’re observing through fasting, prayer, good deeds, reading, unplugging from social media, charity, yummy food, mosque hopping, all of the above, or none — may the month bring you joy, fulfillment, knowledge and self discovery.

I wish the path to self discovery was as effortless as holding hands in rainbow pin-stripped dresses.

I wish the path to self discovery was as effortless and whimsical as holding hands in rainbow pin-striped dresses.

I am woefully, woefully behind on my Ramadan prep. The Hubby took off early last week for more business in Reading — so I’ve been busy with the girls and somehow things just got away from me.

Now it’s the day before the first fast of Ramadan and nothing is ready. (Hubby starts Wednesday, in-laws are already fasting — but I made my intention to follow ISNA well before I found out the rest of Toronto is fasting on Wednesday too. Oops.)

A new calendar filled with clues to treats... that I don't have yet.

I did manage to make a new calendar filled with clues to treats… that I don’t have.

I don’t really have any decorations up and all of the treats, games and events I’ve promised the girls in their daily Ramadan Advent Calendar have yet to be organized. Big time #mommyfail. My plan was to decorate the apartment tonight, but unfortunately, Toronto and surrounding areas were hit with several flash floods and power outages.

So while I intended to come home in time for maghrib and welcome Ramadan with dates, prayer and some incense — I instead wished Eryn and Ivy a Happy Ramadan in the stairwell while climbing 23 floors. Twice. Alhamdulillah, we’re safe and the power is back on, but for a while the only water we had in the house was a small jug of zamzam.

And thank God for that. There’s definitely blessings in small miracles — and a huge lesson in emergency preparedness.

Meh. It's a rite of passage.

Craft time casualty. It’s a rite of passage.

Actually, taking care of the girls at this age by myself has taught me so very much. They miss their Baba terribly — even Ivy gets excited to hear his voice over the phone and she “speaks” to him emphatically about the location of her nose and belly, and the sounds made by elephants and monkeys. But despite missing him, I think they’re enjoying the non-stop girl party. They’re at a really good age where they can both interact and play with each other constructively. Tantrums are down to a minimum and I’ve actually managed to get them into bed at decent times.

We have a really good rhythm going that involves lots of outdoor time and craft activities — and I think it’s the only way I’ll be able to handle them while fasting on my own.

It’s been a whirlwind month with family visits, end-of-school assemblies, speaking engagements and stopping to enjoy the sunshine. The local splashpads are now open and we’ve been frequenting parks instead of being cooped up inside after dinner.

I love that the sun sets around 9pm — though, try to explain daylight bedtime to an almost four-year-old who insists she doesn’t need to sleep while the sun is still up. Now that school is out, and Ramadan is around the corner, I’m sure both kids will get to stay up later and later until I just let them pass out on their own.

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Happy Canada Day!

Today we took advantage of all things free to celebrate Canada’s birthday. Second Cup was giving away free Italian Sodas, and we couldn’t pass up free bouncy castles, face painting and entertainment at Queen’s Park.

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Colour coordinating hijab to a natural phenomenon is key.

In the past week we’ve played the tourist to squeeze in as much fun as we can before my in-laws wrap up their time here and return to Kuwait. I love that Ivy is at the age where she’s recognizing and reacting to new sights. The mist from the falls tickled her nose and she pointed wildly at the tour boat in the distance. She’s a great people watcher too and is quite happy just to sit in her stroller and watch people stride by.

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Leave the city to take a picture of… the city.

We also took the family out to see the Toronto beaches for a relaxing afternoon. But I think I have to cut back on the Zombie films. I couldn’t help but imagine an emergency escape and survival plan when boarding the ferry-boat. While we were surrounded by hundreds of people slowly shuffling into the boat, I marked the quickest route to the top deck and tried to spot a fire axe. Then I stopped and realized that it just wasn’t worth it unless I knew all the variables — like whether or not they were fast or slow-moving zombies, or if they could swim.

Don’t worry, I don’t do this often.

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Teaching the girls how to eat white clover.

In other news, Ivy no longer has to worry about gumming her food. Masha’allah, she’s popped out four teeth at once! And Eryn has turned into quite the storyteller and conversationalist. She held a symposium last week and invited everyone to take turns to speak about their favourite colours, seasons and what makes them feel frustrated. She then formed an all-girl rock band called, “TARDIS-girl and the Superheroes.” Honestly, where does she get this stuff? Now all that’s left to do is make sure she takes up letter writing, cursive and knitting and my brainwashing training will be complete.

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