Ramadan Roundup – 30 posts!

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There’s only a handful of days left before the most beautiful time of year returns for many around the world. All year, we wait for the blessed days and nights of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Alhamdulillah, I’ve been documenting and sharing what I’ve been doing with H for the past four years, and now, there is quite a list. As we think ahead to this Ramadan, I thought I’d generate a post with brief descriptions and direct links so that things are easier to find 🙂

  1. Thinking critically about our role as parents and educators re. Ramadan
  2. Encouraging Dua in Ramadan – provides suggestions on how to engage children with various learning styles to make dua
  3. Different styles of Ramadan Calendars – provides photos and ideas to help mark Ramadan with your children; see the follow-up posts in subsequent years
  4.  Journaling in Ramadan – why journaling can be beneficial and some ideas about what journaling can look like
  5. Welcoming Ramadan in simple ways (toddler edition) – why I chose to decorate and how we welcomed Ramadan on a budget in DIY style
  6. Functional and meaningful calendars for toddlers – includes photos of the calendar that my 2.5 year old used
  7. Sharing Ramadan with new refugees – extending efforts and outreach to vulnerable populations, in this case, a newly arrived Syrian family that we brought food and decorations for
  8. Eid Gift Drives – how to meaningfully involve your children in buying, packing and delivering gifts for others
  9. Reaching out to vulnerable non-Muslim populations – baking and packing food to give local volunteers who help the homeless
  10. Creating a sadaqah jar (toddler edition) – includes the process we used and extension ideas to make it more meaningful for older children
  11. It’s Ramadan, Curious George – our reaction to the book and an easy and related banana pop recipe for young children to make
  12. Easy and unconventional Eid Gift idea – we bought tickets for train rides and mailed them to H’s other toddler friends
  13. Thinking ahead to Ramadan with a newborn baby – what that means for how activities will look for H
  14.  Our learning and activity plan for Ramadan – includes my personal notes on activity ideas and is divided into categories
  15. Setting the mood– stained “glass” crafts, Ramadan youtube playlists and starting to gather books; why I’m shifting some emphasis from Eid to Ramadan
  16. Treasure hunt and Ramadan baskets – I created a treasure hunt (free download of clues in post) and show you what I purchased to put in Ramadan baskets for my kids, nieces and nephew. Look at #20 to see photos of the kids actually doing the Treasure Hunt.
  17. Ramadan visual scavenger hunt – free printable showcases ramadan related objects (words and pictures) to buy you some time; recommended ages 18m – 6 years
  18. Paper Chains – how my 3.5 made paper chains as a Ramadan decoration and how we used the process to strengthen numeracy and math skills and second language learning
  19. Welcoming Ramadan – child-led cupcake and photos of the children doing the treasure hunt
  20. Ramadan Goody-bags for pre-school class – how my 3.5 year old made goodybags, how I supported her 10 days post-partum, and the skills that were reinforced through this process
  21. Gift for neighbours – Soup Jars – To coincide with Calgary’s official Neighbour Day, we made soup jars for our neighbours. in lieu of baking or cooking (I had a baby just before Ramadan started). All the ingredients were included. They just had to add water and cook on the stove. Recipe in post.
  22. Planning for Ramadan – how I involved my 4.5 year old in planning for Ramadan.
  23. Ramadan storytelling event – I recap some of the stories I shared during a children’s Ramadan event I was invited to participate in. I developed a story based on the increasingly famous story about a girl who takes over her father’s drumming duties. I will be working on polishing this story this year so that I can share it with more audiences.
  24. Easy DIY decorations – we share our homemade decorations from last year (the kids were 4.5 and 1 year old)
  25. Ramadan basket ideas – Some photos and thoughts around what I put into baskets for last year
  26. Connecting with the community to start off Ramadan on a positive note – read about our first Ramadan-themed play date and a community initiative that aims to bring food staples to families in need and how to involve the kids
  27. Ramadan at Preschool– story and craft – You can read about what I did to share Ramadan with the young children in H’s preschool class (it was a French school so there are some French titles as well)
  28. Cute DIY learning resource/gift idea – see how to use rocks to make this easy way to review the Arabic alphabet. It makes a great gift and the rocks can be used in a number of ways.
  29. Ramadan Field Trip to a soap factory – There’s a famous soap made in Aleppo, Syria. As Syrian refugees made Calgary their home, a few founded this successful business where they make soap. H and I went there to buy gifts for a project and we got to see how the soaps were made. You have to check out the photos!
  30. No-cook Ramadan gift ideas for neighbours (or colleagues or teachers) – We featured two companies founded by Syrian refugees who have made Canada their home (Aleppo Savon and Peace by Chocolate). They have some great products and it was a functional gift because once again, I did not want to share cooked food.

Bonus post: To make some creative Eid gifts for the special children in your life, check this out

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A trip to the mountains

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It finally happened. After years of talking about how our small family should just take an overnight trip with the kids to get a break from our daily life, we finally did! This was a first for us- we typically travel with extended family. We had a budget in mind and planned accordingly.

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On the cusp of the Easter Long Weekend, we headed to the rockies. H did not have school on Thursday so we planned to leave Thursday morning (was closer to 11:30 am by the time we were actually on the road), making a stop at Troll Falls, in Kananaskis on the way.

Despite the spring-like conditions in Calgary, it was windy and cold as we headed towards the mountains. Fortunately, my over-preparedness came to the rescue. The kids were outfitted in splash pants, toques and mittens and so we all had an enjoyable walk. H was quick to find a walking stick and just couldn’t understand why the rest of us didn’t want one.

That hike up was my favourite part of the whole trip. It’s not often we all get to be outdoors together (my husband has very little tolerance for the cold). I loved watching Y trudge along the trail, seeing how passionate and excited H was to be among such beauty, and then hearing her passion turn to frustration as she got tired. I saw my first Canada Jay and we marvelled at what a social and curious creature it was. We happened upon some horses from the ranch next door. And as we neared the falls, we experienced firsthand the snowy and slippery conditions that spring is a work in progress. Watching my husband navigate those slippery sides while carrying Y reminded me of when we found ourselves in a somewhat similar predicament on some off-trail slopes in Niagara when he baby-wore a then 9-month H.

On the way down, we took the path less traveled (well actually, we took a wrong turn and took a rather long way back to the parking lot). It felt like it lasted forever with two tired children who were adamant they could no longer walk. But it was beautiful. Those blue skies. Those mountains. It reminded me of why I agreed to move out here almost a decade ago.

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We got to our hotel in Banff, just after 4 pm. The room was a great size for our family and the hotel in general, was a good fit for us. It had a swimming pool (H’s favourite part), gift shop and two-three restaurants on-site. And the fact that it was at the edge of town made for an exciting bus ride to travel into the heart of downtown (Y’s favourite part). I had packed a few activities for the kids that kept them engaged while we did things like pack or nap, because let’s face it- kids will start their days bright and early.

It was nice just strolling through downtown Banff. H picked out a pair of Moose binoculars and Y decided on a moose backpack. We found a park to stop at. It was overcast and drizzly but still so beautiful.

We were fortunate enough to pray jummah in the mountains with the local Muslim community and alongside other tourist families who were from other places in Alberta, and the United States.

The rest of the day was spent between our hotel room and a trip back to downtown (literally only a few kilometers from our hotel). The next morning, we packed up and got on the road. The scenic drive was my husband’s favourite part. Y finally fell asleep so we decided not to stop in Canmore (earlier options we had talked about included Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon, and Lake Minnewanka) but decided to keep on driving because Y had just fallen asleep. We opted for a detour to Cochrane (a small town west of Calgary) instead.

Here we found another beautiful park. I love the return to more natural looking playscapes. I’ve seen them popping up around Calgary and during my visits to Ontario. We did a short walk since H was ready to go get ice cream and then we drove to MacKay’s Ice Cream Shop. We had the chance to enjoy our ice cream in the sun while a senior played the piano. The kids danced and H got a brief piano lesson.

It was a lovely weekend and we hope we can do more trips (day and overnight) as a family together this year.

Jumping into Spring

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In Calgary, we are blessed with chinooks, essentially warm winds that we receive courtesy of our locations in between the rocky mountains and the plains. These winds help give us bursts of mild weather and surprise us with warmer than average temperatures, helping us get through the long winters. I really have come to expect snow at anytime between October and April.

Last week we had such temperatures and so the great thaw began. Snow started melting and the “little rivers” that start flowing under and around surface ice appeared. The sudden onset of water resulted in…

MUD!

And so after some mild splashing this past week, we took to our community park on Monday. The combination of sand and thawed snow resulted in some very impressive muddy puddles.

So H had a big hurrah. And I quickly learned that Y enjoys his puddles on a smaller scale.

And through books.

I bought this book (Split Splat) for H a few years ago and can’t help but sing it (no seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever actually read it). It’s so delightfully written and the kids and I just love it.

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There’s this book that Y really enjoys because it stars Peppa Pig.

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And this one because it features a dog, who is aptly named “Muddypaws” along with farm animals.

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And these ones that I ordered last month, but have yet to give to the kids. I think we will look at them soon.

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Mud and puddles bring H so much joy. The above picture shows her at 2.5 years old. I’m glad to see that three years later, her passion persists.

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Seriously, the grin on her face as she pushed her feet through the water, her boots filling, and mud flying all over me, and into her own mouth – priceless!

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We actually had to empty out her tall rainboots 3 times during this outing. And 30 hours after we came in, the faux fur lining still wasn’t dry.

During my almost 9 years living in this city, I’ve quickly learned that when you have weather that you like, take advantage of it! It will almost always change the next day (if not a few times that same day).

I woke up to my backyard and car covered in snow this morning. Good thing we haven’t put away those winter boots yet.

This year, spring has become my favourite season.

Fall Musings

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Things have been more quiet over here as we adjust to our new normal. After spending summer with both kids full-time, it is very different to have H in full-day school and to have Y in the throes of toddlerhood.

Routine has become a huge part of getting through each day and through the week. It makes me a little sad because there isn’t as much time for spontaneous play (we still do what we can). But we aren’t able to delve as deeply or as entirely as we once did.

Y’s foray into loose parts continues. Whether it’s playing with random loose parts after dinner …

Or playing with a jar of pom poms …

There is something so novel, yet so familiar about watching him work.

His love for books and being read to and his natural desire to connect lead us to be away from home every day, except for the days when the hermit in me says I just want to be alone. And then my house implodes. Because keeping a toddler home (almost) all day is just asking for trouble…

So far, this fall has not witnessed any pie making, or leaf collecting, although we do play outside nearly every day after school.

Instead, laughter and yelling, shrieks of joy and hot tears, the pitter patter of little feet running across the hard floor and crunching leaves (or snow) seem to fill my days.

And the only pumpkin we’ve seen or touched was just for H during her field trip.

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The increasingly normal blurring of summer, fall and winter here in Calgary, provide us with sun, leaves and snow and calm starlit nights.

They play dynamic between H and Y shifts. Here, H creates “Lost” posters in case Y ever loses his beloved Dinosaur.

The last leaf has almost fallen from the tree in our backyard.

This time always passes too quickly.

But not without H turning the big 5.

 

Ramadan 2018: Post 7- Learning Arabic Rocks!

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I had an idea a while ago that I was hoping to do sometime in Ramadan to surprise H with. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’ve been dabbling with the Arabic alphabet for the past few years, but this year, I’m trying to reinforce what she already knows through various different games so that she can move on to start formally learning how to read the Quran.

So far, she has seen the Arabic letters in print (books and posters), on screens (often accompanied by a song) and on these cute wooden blocks I used to sell. (Note: I still have them in a variety of languages, other than Arabic so please contact me if you’re interested- the Farsi and Hindi ones are especially beautiful!)

I love the idea of a tactile resource so a few weeks ago, I finally decided to print the Arabic alphabet on rocks! I used paint pens I had previously purchased from Michaels.

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How cute would these be to make as a gift for someone? Slip them into a canvas bag and give a child in your life a unique and functional play resource.

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And because I like open-ended items and play things that can be used in multiple ways, I decided to paint moons and stars on the back of some of the rocks. I did this so that H could play a variation of Tic-Tac-Toe, a game she discovered a few months ago and loves playing on a dry-erase board.

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Someone could just as easily paint or draw whatever might capture the interest of their child: animals, geometric designs or just leave them in their beautiful, natural state. I love the variety of colour, shape and size!

H found these photos on my phone last week (before I had a chance to add them into her Ramadan Calendar) so we decided to play with them. She was so excited!

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And she went about ordering the alphabet (though as you can see, she doesn’t yet know that Arabic is written and read from right to left).

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Y loves playing with them too. He turned ONE 10 days ago and loves filling and dumping things.

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P.S. I hope you appreciated my carefully crafted pun!

P.P.S. I confess that I ran out of rocks! I still need to complete the other half of the alphabet.

 

Ramadan 2018: Post #2 – Ramadan Ready with the Community

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When I started Discovery Dome, it was my dream to offer activities and storytelling to the larger community. Having children and managing all of the logistics that went hand in hand with that, made me put that dream on pause, but about once a year, someone reaches out to me to do some sort of storytelling or children’s program.

This year, it was my pleasure to do some creative storytelling for the ICNA Sisters Wing  – Calgary branch at their Welcome Ramadan event.

I read one of my favourite Ramadan stories, written by Na’ima B Roberts called Ramadan Moon. The story is a piece of lyrical beauty that is wonderfully complimented by the mixed media illustrations.

 

I told the Famous Donkey Story through flannel board which I’ve done a few times in the past. This short story is always a hit with children and has a beautiful moral.

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The last story I told was something new I created. I learned about the tradition of the mosaharati (drummers who would walk through traditional villages to awaken fasters for their early morning meal) two years ago when I bought this book: The Little Green Drum.

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I wanted to have a more interactive element to my storytelling session. Initially, I wanted a gross motor experience but given the number of children (there were roughly 40), I knew that would get tricky. Instead, I added a musical component and invited the children to become a part of the story and help me narrate repetitive parts. I adapted this story to better suit the needs of this audience (many Muslims believe only in the permissibly of percussion drums) so I adapted the story to include only percussion type drums instead of the range of instruments used in the book. I also weaved in my love for natural elements like rocks and twigs to and re-purposing household items.

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The story went over really well with the children and adults who were present. Y who was eleven months at the time loved the rhythm as I practiced with him and some of the children who attended the session were repeating the chant I created when they got back home. I can’t wait to do this story again for another group!

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It was a pleasure to not only use my creative and story-telling skills at a time when I don’t get to as regularly as I would like,  but to also help energize a whole group of children (including my own) about Ramadan.

I look forward to developing more stories to share with my community!

“The World is Not a Rectangle”

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I found this book in the library last night. We read it before bed today. Quite timely, wouldn’t you say?

I picked it up because I was intrigued: a Muslim woman architect inspired by nature who lived during our time.

What I didn’t anticipate was reading it today, coincidentally on International Women’s Day, and then rereading it tonight with my daughter.

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It led to so many questions and discussions, google searches and connections to the other work we are doing around art and geography and what is beautiful.

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It was an honour to have found and share this book. I am mesmerized.

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