Just slightly easier than doing a wreath.

Just slightly easier than doing a wreath.

Diamond, lace and pearl stringed garlands dripped from the walls. An ocean of aqua and teal coloured streamers accented the food station. Glitter. Flowers. Individualized costumes. Cartoon seaweed placards, fish-themed mats, and a gleaming pearl shell-of-hounour. It was the perfect decoration job for a mermaid-themed party.

While Arial serenaded Eryn and her school friends, a few of us mothers got together to chat and have our own little party. It didn’t take long before praising the hostess on her amazing decorations turned into questions on how each of us are creating Ramadan memories for our children — and how sometimes, the pressure to decorate is just one more thing added to the unrealistic expectations placed upon mothers and primary caregivers in this month. There’s just not enough time, and memories can be made with good food, asking children to pass out dates, festive music, Ramadan-themed crafts, and anything of significance to inspire family traditions.

Regardless of what you do, decorating for Ramadan can be easy. And even though we’re almost at the mid-way point, it’s not too late to decorate!

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quran5An oppressive humidity penetrates my abaya, making my jeans sticky and uncomfortable. It’s sweltering out in the mosque courtyard and the mist from cooling stations dousing the women’s section does little to relieve the situation. Despite the heat, I have moments when the reverberation from the Qur’anic recitation floats over my skin and penetrates my body — giving me chills and shaking my soul. I break out in goosebumps. I sway to the rhythm, lost in God’s words.

It’s the end of Ramadan 2013 and I’m chasing The Night of Power. I’m yearning for spiritual connection — desperate to inspire my heart in a rare moment free of family responsibilities.

While soaking in the atmosphere, breathing in contentment, my neighbour in the prayer line points out that I’m not crying — and that if I can’t cry, it’s better that I fake it until I feel real tears. Otherwise my heart will harden.

I’ve had many good cries. Nights where I’ve cried myself puffy in the face while asking God for forgiveness. Cries that have erupted unexpectedly, letting loose a purge of pent up emotions. I’ve had cries based on needs, on wants, and out of desperation. Now, it is true that over that past few years I have not cried during worship in the same way or with the same fervour that I did when I first entered Islam. But a lot has happened that has driven me away from that initial high — the one that enflamed my heart and made me love the deen without question.

Sadly for me, this random comment in the mosque held unknown power. The power to invalidate my religious experience. And so I spent the rest of the prayer not breathing in contentment, not enjoying the Qur’anic reverberations (even though that’s all I needed to find peace) — but instead contemplated all of the corrections, negative experiences and comments I have received over the past 15 years. Each one is cemented around my heart — and only because I give them power over me.

My heart is not heard because I can’t fake cry. It’s become hard because I’ve lost perspective.

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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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It’s certainly a busy time. So busy in fact, that my Monday moments have turned into a mid-week, lazy-photo-blogging update post.

Waited just long enough to take a picture before I started micromanaging.

Waited just long enough to take a picture before I started micromanaging.

We’re still in the process of moving.

In my perfect world moving just means picking up stuff from one place and taking it to another. In reality, we had to get rid of mold in the attic, fix up some water damage, paint, re-purpose a TV stand, replace floor boards and make a pantry out of some old crates before unpacking. So even though we’re two months into the new house, I still have plenty of boxes to go through.

Of course, while waiting for the big things to get done, I decided to work on the garden.

Can't imagine what the neighbours think.

Can’t imagine what the neighbours think.

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*drum roll* Please…

The winners of the Ms. Marvel giveaway are:

*confetti*

Congratulations!

The winners were chosen based on their comment number and were drawn by random.org.

I’ve contacted them via email and will be sending them their comic shortly.

Thanks to everyone who played along!

Don't grow so fast my dears.

Don’t grow so fast my dears.

Sometimes you can sense when a person is genuine.

Maybe it’s a gleam in the eye, a kind smile or welcoming body language — but for me, sensing a person’s sincerity is often linked to a feeling.

Genuine people have warmth and exude trust. Or, as is is fondly said, they have noor in their face — where the light of their goodness shines for all to see.

Last week we attended a birthday party, where a talented clown entertained and delighted most of the children. Eryn laughed at every pun and hasn’t stopped talking about the amazing unicycle trick. But Ivy was less impressed — and I eventually had to take her outside for a walk because she started crying inconsolably and wanted to go home. Which I can totally respect.

Because, you know. Clowns.

While we were taking a quick turn around the block in the lovely spring weather, a gentleman sauntered up next to us.

Hey! That’s my baby!”

I glanced to the side to see he was carrying a broken tree branch in one hand and a plastic bag in the other. As I looked up, I saw his rheumy black eyes, tinged with blue, ripening cataracts sparkling in the sun. He had a gap between his front teeth when he smiled. My girls have the same gap.

Normally, I suppose that if anyone would say, “Hey that’s my baby!” to me, I’d become excessively protective, avoid conversation and possibly eye contact. But I wouldn’t really know how I would act, since no one has ever said that to me before.

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We're all superheroes!

We can all be superheroes!

When I first heard the news that a Muslim woman was the new face of Ms. Marvel, I was beyond excited. For the first time in years, I finally had a great excuse to walk into a comic book store, breathe in the ink and paper, and look at more than just the Doctor Who action figures. Finally, a comic about self discovery, super powers and fighting injustice that not only deal with issues of religion, race and identity — but celebrated the first Muslim heroine to headline her own major series!

What’s not to love?

The first issue opens with Kamala Khan, a teenage Pakistani-Muslim American, complaining about how everyone else around her gets to be “normal” — which in Kamala’s mind means being able to go to parties, be free from dietary restrictions, cultural expectations, and traditional gender roles.

Like many teens (and adults!), the poor girl doesn’t know who she wants to be, or how to become that person — and soon realizes that rejecting her morals and being something she’s not is horribly exhausting.

Kamala’s story is similar to many superhero narratives where an unpopular kid is suddenly granted an empowering and amazing transformative ability — literally. After disobeying her parents in order to attend a party, she’s exposed to a strange and mystical fog that grants her the power to change her body into anything she wants.

She wakes from the experience to find that she’s transformed into a stereotypical, blond bombshell superhero — complete with a revealing, sexy spandex costume. And while she painfully fluctuates between her true self and the stereotype, she wonders why she still doesn’t feel strong or beautiful — even though she’s become exactly what she thinks is strong and beautiful.

When her intimidating popular classmates show up, she feels incredibly uncomfortable – like she has to become someone else to be accepted by those around her. And to escape the feeling that she’s now trapped in a body that she doesn’t identify with, she shrinks to the size of an insect. Then, when a classmate is in danger of drowning, she embraces her new powers and saves the day.

Kamala quickly learns that looking the way female super heroes are normally portrayed in comic books and in movies (with epic wedgie-inducing leotards), doesn’t actually make her more confident. What’s meaningful to her and her sense of Self is having the ability to rush to someone’s aid. It’s not the costume that makes someone a hero, but the desire to help others: To save one life is to save all humanity.

In the second issue, Kamala embraces more of her internal superhero without compromising her morals (cue modest costume). But what I really love about the writing and issues of representation, exclusion and identity, is that it’s not coming off as inauthentic. This iteration of Ms. Marvel is creating characters that move beyond the overrepresented, negative stereotypes of Muslim women in a new and exciting way.

Kamala is geeky. She loves the Avengers. She’s short. She’s so much more than a Muslim stereotype.

test

And in the third issue, when she’s not taking on super villains, she’s taking challenging barriers.

The fact that she’s dealing with issues like Muslim-American identity, mosque inclusion, and struggling with her faith is important – and not because Muslims should be airing their dirty laundry for mainstream community discussion. But because when it comes to representation, we’re frequently told that Muslim women are oppressed.

Kamala Khan shows us otherwise — and by doing so, sets the scene that there is no reason Ms. Marvel can’t be Pakistani or Muslim (or short and geeky too).


THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

Winners to be announced shortly.

Thank you to everyone for participating.

It took me WEEKS to find a comic store who’s still ordering the first issue. And I’m happy to say that for this giveaway we’ll have two lucky winners!

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a valid email address (either in the comment itself or in the email field when you fill out the comment form).

The two winners will receive one copy of the first issue (third printing) for FREE!

I’ll announce the winners picked at random after the contest closes.

You have until midnight GMT on Friday June 6, 2014 to enter.

Good Luck!

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