Ramadan 2017- Post #9: Happy Neighbour Day!

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We moved to our current neighbourhood almost four years ago, and we’ve met some incredible people since. We’ve been blessed with tremendous neighbours- the type I call upon when in a bind; who shower us with friendly smiles and kind gestures; who make us feel welcomed and loved. We’ve come to love our neighbours and are so fortunate to belong to such a friendly community.

As the years have passed, I’ve forced myself outside of my comfort zone (and taken H along for the ride). I want my children to feel like Ramadan is something they can share with the various communities they belong to, not just the Muslim ones.

This Ramadan I prepared soup jars that I thought might be appreciated as all one needs to do is add water! This was actually something I planned to do last year but ran out of time. This year I made it a priority and worked in increments (around everyone’s schedules).

To make these Moroccan Lentil Soup jars, I bought and washed a bunch of mason jars.

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Then I filled them with red lentils, layered with dehydrated onions and a spice mix as per the recipe.

 

Then added some more lentils and topped with a bay leaf.

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I spent a good deal of time looking online for pre-made labels (how I wish I was more graphically-tech savvy) before I gave up and decided to make my own with good old scrapbook paper, tags, a pen and a gold marker I happened upon while cleaning up. I wrote the cooking directions on the back of the tag.

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Originally, I wanted H to help me measure and prep but there was no time for that. She happily came out to deliver the jars.

A sense of community is very important to me. Taking care of neighbours is also a big part of our faith. In the Quran, God instructs us:

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I find it remarkable how it’s not just the neighbours we know that we are supposed to do good towards, but those who we don’t know either. Inshallah I plan to expand my efforts next year to include neighbours that I don’t know as well. It’s actually my dream to host an open iftaar for everyone in my complex!

I couldn’t believe how happy the elders I delivered the jars to were to receive them (and a visit from H)! They are honestly always so touched that they haven’t been forgotten about. I really love that my kids have access to these “next door nanas” in the absence of their biological grandparents.

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I am so grateful for our wonderful neighbours! And to a mayor who is cool enough to designate June 17 as “Neighbour Day” in my city to strengthen communities.

Happy Neighbour Day folks!

 

 

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Ramadan 2017 – Post #8: Sharing Ramadan with Classmates

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A few months after starting preschool in December, H expressed interest in wanting to invite all her school friends over, have a party, and celebrate with friends. I suspect that this desire was sparked by becoming more familiar with the idea of birthdays through cartoons and real-life experiences (attending other children’s birthday parties). Since her birthday falls in November and we have so far been pretty minimal about how we celebrate, I told her that we could do something for Ramadan. Now i knew that by the time Ramadan rolled around, I would be pretty freshly post-partum so I went from entertaining visions of healthy, beautifully-crafted fruit skewers, to rice krispy treats shaped like moon and stars to good-old-fashioned treat bags when the reality of post-partum life with two kids, my mom leaving and Ramadan hit.

While we still might get around to the first two ideas for another group of friends during Ramadan/for Eid, I realized they weren’t going to work for H’s school setting as the fruit wouldn’t preserve well and I think there’s a school policy around bringing in homemade food. So instead, we decided to make treat bags that included some store bought treats (granola bars and “fruit” snacks) and included some novelty items like bubbles and tattoos and dates of course. Since nature of goody bag didn’t scream “Ramadan” , I included a “Ramadan Fact Sheet for Parents” inside the bag as well as a simple message in English and French on the outside for the children (thanks to my dear friend Lynn for proofreading the French part!).

Creating and assembling the bags was a process for H. We divided it up into multiple steps and I heavily involved her (I believe that if my kids want to do something, they need to put in the effort!)
Step 1: We used dollar store paper treat bags left over from a past event and brown paper bags. We didn’t have enough of either type so we used both kinds. We decorated one side of the bags with stars and moons. To do this, we used a start-shaped cookie cutter and a sponge, roughly cut up in the shape of a moon, to stamp with using paint. H chose the paint colours. We let the bags dry overnight.
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Step 2: I typed up, printed and cut the message from H and she glued it to the back of each bag. This allowed her to practice using a glue stick.
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Step 3: We filled the bags one early morning while we slept over at her grandparent’s house. Since her cousins were still sleeping and I was trying to to discourage her from making noise (the whole house tends to sleep in during Ramadan). I held baby with one hand which meant it was up to H to really fill the bags.  H carefully chose a bag for each classmate and decided which colour of bubbles and which tattoos each friend should get. I was surprised at how quickly she memorized the quantity of items to put in each bag. We slipped each friend’s name tag inside their bag so that I could finish off the bags at a later time.
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Step 4: I finished off the bags and we transported them back to our house. H took the bags to school and proudly distributed them. We made a list of other friends we wanted to give Ramadan bags too. I explained it may not be possible to make bags for everyone right now but depending on how things were around Eid time, we may be able to share some more things with friends we have missed. Regardless, I was pleased to see how caring and inclusive H is!
This process, which spanned a week, not only gave H the opportunity to practice fine motor skills through stamping, gluing and filling, but also allowed her to work on numerical concepts such as collecting, sorting, sequencing and distributing and contribute to socioemotional development as she got to connect her home life to her school life. She was able to share an aspect of her life that is important to us in a setting where it isn’t discussed (public preschool). She had the chance to do something nice as she thoughtfully created the bags and selected the contents and share them with friends- this was her favourite part! I was actually not planning to add names to the bags (I figured it was more work for her teacher) and randomly select who got what, but H insisted she wanted each child’s name on a bag. This demonstrates the joy and pride children feel when something is made especially for them and the joy and pride they feel in being able to do that for others. I hope H is always this excited and secure to share her identity and experiences with others.