From Holidays

Celebrate the holidays!

Circle of Control: Disney with a Sensory Sensitive Child

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For the past 18 months I have been dreading the Christmas/ New Year’s of 2015-2016. Now I try to be a happy person so why you say was I dreading this past holiday? Control. I went with my extended family on a trip to Disney World. That sounds like the opportunity of a life time, but my dread came from realizing I could not control much for my special needs child. I expected the worst: insomnia, sensory meltdowns, family arguments and much more.

Circle of Control: Disney with a Sensory Sensitive Kid

Then one day before we left on the trip I took a long hard look at my attitude. I had predispositioned myself and others to have a miserable time. That did not sounds like what I wanted for any of us. So I took a little time out for me to recapture some of the joy. We were headed to the House of Mouse. I researched food we might like to try, rides we wanted to go on, shows to see and the weather. I was a one woman excitement factory! That joy and excitement spread to my family.

We used a Disability Access Pass. As soon as we arrived at Magic Kingdom we got our pass and the cast members asked what accommodations we needed and how they could help us to have an enjoyable time. I stated what we needed and were off!

I was the cheerleader for those tired of walking, the getter of snacks and souvenirs. We counted steps walked on my mother-in-laws fitbit and tried to best our steps each day. I chose to control what I could control and let go of what was out of my circle of control. I could control if we ate, or rested or tried a new ride, but I could not control how hot it was or the speed of an lines we waited in. Each time I felt myself get frustrated, mad or rushed I stepped back to see what could I control and what was beyond me.

My family had a marvelous vacation! I loved seeing Disney World through the eyes of my children and my nephews. This vacation taught me to look to what is in my circle of control and for the rest, I follow the words of Elsa: Let it GO!

Teaching our kids tolerance and respect for all people.

Holiday Notes From a Muslim Mom

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Muslim women are oftentimes easy to spot. We wear a scarf around our heads as an open declaration of faith. Based on cultural preference, this head-covering varies from vibrantly colored wraps to longer, flowing styles. Not all Muslim women choose to carry such an obvious banner of religious identity, but a lot do.

Teaching our kids tolerance and respect for all people.

This, fortunately and unfortunately, has put us in a sort of spotlight. Don’t worry though, if you spot us you can rest assured we’re generally harmless, sleep deprived and pretty approachable. We may seem a little grouchy in the morning before the coffee has kicked in and sometimes very disheveled trying to haul two or more squirmy toddlers into a quiet library for story-time. Feel free to stop us on our tracks to say hello. We love the holiday season as much as the next hot chocolate addict. There are worse things you can do (and have been done) to Muslim women in the recent months. Be a proactive element in strengthening the ties of community love and humanity. Let’s teach our children how to keep those bridges of harmony and love intact as these ideals are attacked on a daily basis.

News anchors, presidential candidates, and several other spokespeople with a platform from which to eject words to larger audiences have been feeding a very evil image of the average Muslim person. As false as it may be, the waves of fear mongering have swept across the globe and unsettled everyone’s sense of safety and security.

After a monstrous attack or fatal atrocity occurs, my phone begins buzzing. Fellow moms, Muslims and not, share information about the events as they are leaked by media sources. We exchange feelings of sorrow that the world is in such chaos. That there are people out there hurting others, individually or en mass. We weep for families who are waiting for news, we pray for survivors.

Our hearts squeeze together, wondering how we can raise children in such a scary world. A world that can hurt innocent people senselessly and create dangerous rifts between people who are of different faiths, cultures, and races.

We begin conversations with our children. There are some people who say some mean things about Muslims. You can always talk to us about it. There are other kids who may be going through the same thing. It can be a little hurtful and scary if you get teased about what you believe. Don’t worry, we continue to explain, they’re only confused. People who make judgement calls on large groups of people can do very dangerous things. The important thing is to continue to have a good and pure heart. Look for the people who have kind and open hearts, too. Always smile, and be positive. Don’t doubt who you are or be ashamed. Throughout history, even grown ups have made really big mistakes about other people. A time came when Native Americans were stripped of their land and dehumanized. There are African Americans to this day who are treated unjustly. From Catholics to Japanese Americans – there has always been a time when a group of people were seen as scary when they really weren’t. Don’t worry, we remind them again, there are still good people. Be a good person so when someone mean comes across you, your goodness can create a light that may draw them closer to knowing who you really are.

There are a number of holidays that are being celebrated around this time of year. A nice list that my children learned about in school and a few they didn’t. For those which weren’t included, I’ll make a polite note to their teachers to become even more inclusive in the coming years to expose children to an even wider array of religions and cultures that are coexisting on this earth. That’s the least we can do to counter a lot of the rhetoric out there causing divisions between races, cultures, religions, and ways of life.

We had the opportunity to watch a few live-streamed sessions from the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah this year. It was an immensely pleasurable experience to see people of all different faiths and belief systems come together and celebrate the unity of humanity, spirituality, and love. There was a notable session in which women came together and shared their experiences of celebrating life by highlighting their own roles as mothers and caregivers.

As nurturers, we play such a crucial role in how our children grow up to partake in society and evolve into open minded and caring adults. Let’s begin today by learning about someone who is different from those living inside our four walls and begin a proactive journey to combat the violence and prejudice that exists today.

So from this Muslim mom to all the other parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, little tykes, more – Merry Milad-un-Nabi, Khwanzaa, Bodhi Day, Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Omisoka, Festivus and many more holiday celebrations to you and a Happy New Year!

Practical ideas for traveling with kids!

Road Trip: Tips for Traveling with Kids

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The holidays are approaching and we definitely have a road trip or two planned. Here are some tips and tricks that have worked for us (alongside those things that definitely failed). These may help as you cross state lines and try not to fall off your sanity radar. I’m sure things on the list will change as children become older and more independent. For now, the toddlers and and tykes have given us these golden pieces of guidance.

Practical ideas for traveling with kids!

Snacks

Fail – cinnamon toast crunch, chocolates, and similar items that leave sticky residue over hands, clothes, and car seats
Score – froot loops, trail mix, and other easily vacuum-able dry finger foods

Fail – water bottles or juice boxes which result in inevitable spills, half empty leftovers, and excess trash in the car
Score – reusable water bottles that are both environmentally friendly & convenient

Entertainment

Fail – puzzles, legos, craft beads that fall and cause drama because butter fingered kid NEEDS to unbuckle from their car-seat or else…
Score – car DVD players, audio books, individual coloring books/kits to maintain a semblance of collective productivity

Fail – play doh. ugh. UGH!
Score – books and educational electronics

Clothes

Fail – cute outfits that will get spilled on and won’t be comfortable to snooze in
Score – PJs. Comfy cozy cotton lounge style easy to sleep in snuggle gear

Fail – anything NEW or anything with buttons
Score – older clothes that you can toss in a gas station trash can after ultimate diaper explosions (without struggling with buttons)

Maintenance

Fail – paper towel rolls
Score – baby wipes. they clean EVERYTHING under the sun. EVERYTHING

Fail – trash bag because it’ll inevitably get mixed up with non-trash bags so you’re stuck digging out the useful things amidst junk
Score – trash container, sealed to contain smells and easily disposed and re-used after a quick wipe-down (see maintenance score item above).

Backpacks

Fail – asking children to pack their own
Score – filling individual backpacks with quick emergency essentials (diapers, extra clothes, emergency undergarments, a soothing stuffed animal or surprise)

Fail – packing bandages and emergency supplies in someone’s backpack (the number of fake emergencies we’ve had to address…)
Score – hiding away the actual first aid kit and replacing child’s backpack with toy bandages and medical equipment to diagnose and treat themselves

Happy Holiday Road Trip, Folks!

A simple craft project to teach gratefulness and thanksgiving. The Shukr Tree

The Shukr Tree

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As autumn kicks into gear, we are marveling at the vibrant shades of orange, yellow, and red that adorn the trees, treating us to a magnificent display of nature’s beauty…

Just kidding! We’re in Houston and that whole leaves changing colors thing doesn’t happen here. Bummer. As we more accurately reminisce about the beautiful changing colors on trees – a special playgroup project sticks out in our mind.

The Shukr Tree.

A simple craft project to teach gratefulness and thanksgiving. The Shukr Tree

Shukr is an Arabic word for gratitude and thankfulness. The feeling of being sincerely appreciative is something we as adults struggle with on a daily basis. Likewise, our children require a constant dialogue of finding contentment and recognition that what we have is very valuable and special – and so many people in the world aren’t as lucky as we are.

The Shukr Tree was something one of my dear friends planned as a playgroup activity for our preschoolers during the Islamic month of Ramadan. Traditionally, this month signifies 30 individual days of fasting, self-reflection, and charity. Since children didn’t have to participate in the actual fasts or supplemental worship – we playgroup moms concentrated our efforts on helping them learn how to be grateful.

Thanksgiving is coming up and we’re really excited to re-visit this project and utilize it again to continue our reminders of appreciation and thanks. Shukr is an internal state with an external expression. Dialogue can only encompass so much in terms of a child’s comprehension. Their innate ability to internalize and express can be so much more profound with a visual, hands on activity. Having a child verbalize what they’re appreciative about, writing it down, adding it to a growing list of other items that generate thanks was an eye opening experience for all of us.

The first year we did this project, our leaves generously included belly buttons, grandparents, and umbrellas. After a nudge, mom was added, followed closely by lollipops.

A simple project for reminding us (and our kids) about thankfulness.How to create your own Shukr Tree:

1 – Trace and cut the outline of a large tree with ample branches – best done on a poster board. Allow children to color or paint (parents & guardians may assist)
2 – Use different colored construction paper and cut out leaves large enough to write a word or two legibly but small enough to fit on the branches comfortably as they fill up
3 – Use glitter glue or glitter pens (those are a doozy, aren’t they?) and encourage your child to write down or help them write down something special they’re grateful about
4 – Adorn with leaves all at once or once a day for a countdown to a special occasion
5 – Display proudly

We tend to cultivate our habits and nurture our spiritual psyches based on our surroundings. Having a giant reminder of our blessings is a wonderful sight. Even when it’s not Thanksgiving, a religious occasion, or a child’s birthday, spending a few weeks growing your own Shukr Tree can make hearts blossom with goodness. Supplementing this activity with something more tangible to include helping others (volunteering at nursing homes, soup kitchens, other community based organizations) may result in more leaves – just a fair warning.

My personal goals from the Shukr Tree include developing more inner peace & empathy. My kids goals? Gluing on as many leaves as possible before the tree is hanging by a corner, overloaded with happy reminders.

See 9 Best Books on Gratitude

Pinterest Activities on Teaching Thankfulness

Halloween image with text

Halloween Ideas Round-Up

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There are so many ideas for Halloween costumes and decorating! Here is a small selection for people ranging from the “I-don’t-know-how-to-use-a-needle-and-thread” non-crafter to the Super Crafter.

Halloween image with text

Costumes

Face it, Star Wars is hot. With episodes VII, VIII, and IX starting release later this year (not to mention the stand alone movies), it’s going to be hot for a while. If you or your little ones want to celebrate Halloween with a nod to the force, here are some ideas for you:

Looking for a variety of cute ideas that aren’t DIY?

Want to DIY your child’s costume, but don’t sew?

Waited until the last minute to put something together? Need some ideas?

For the Ambitious DIYer

Decorations

Socially Conscious Halloween Ideas

What Are You Doing?

Do you have any favorite tips or links to share? Did you find anything here that you’re going to try? We’d love to hear about it!

 

This is a great, quick primer on the Jewish High Holy Days!

High Holy Days in 1000 Words or Less

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It’s September. School has FINALLY started. We’re about to get back into a groove. When — wait — what’s this? Why do we have two days off one week and another day off the following? Rosh Hashanah? Yom Kippur? What kind of holidays are those, anyway?

This is a great, quick primer on the Jewish High Holy Days!

Whether you’re the unsuspecting non-Jewish parent in a school district that accommodates major Jewish holidays, you simply notice a higher rate of absenteeism in school right after school starts, or you just noticed those strange sounding holidays on the calendar and wondered what they were about, this post is for you.  I will attempt to provide a very succinct summary of these holidays, complete with links to more details. (Please remember I’m not a Judaic studies scholar, so this is most certainly a layman’s description!)

Apples and honey are a staple during the High Holy Days! We like going apple picking before Rosh Hoshanah and serving different kinds of apples to taste test.
Apples and honey are a staple during the High Holy Days! We like going apple picking before Rosh Hoshanah and serving different kinds of apples to taste test.

We’re in the midst of them now: Rosh Hoshanah has ended; Yom Kippur is looming around the corner. They are one of the major sets of Jewish holidays. These are the holidays that, even if you are generally not an observant Jew, you are likely to observe these two.  Like all Jewish holidays, there’s a little bit of happy, a little bit of sad, and a whole lot of food.

Rosh Hashanah comes first and is the joyous part of this holiday duo.  It celebrates the Jewish New Year; the birthday of the world. It’s celebrated for two days, largely in the synagogue. It has it’s origins in agriculture and is associated with a time of sowing seeds and beginning a cycle that will end with a harvest.  

Shofars may come in all sizes, but they are ALL very difficult to blow!
Shofars may come in all sizes, but they are ALL very difficult to blow!

Religiously, it’s known as the day everyone’s fate for the next year is inscribed in the book of life. (No worries, though – we have ten days to repent and seek forgiveness before our fate is sealed!)  Synagogue services during Rosh Hashanah (and Yom Kippur) are lengthy, but beautiful; the culmination of months of preparation by the clergy.  During the service, a shofar (ram’s horn) is blown at certain times in a specific cadence. One of my favorite Rosh Hashanah customs is Tashlikh. On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we pray near a flowing body of water, throwing bread or pebbles into the water to symbolize the casting off of our sins.

My own round challah from this year. I usually make one plain and one with raisins.
My own round challah from this year. I usually make one plain and one with raisins.

Like all Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah begins the night before. Many have a large meal on Erev (Eve of) Rosh Hashanah and again the following evening.   The menu varies, but the Jewish standards can usually be found: brisket, roast chicken, potatoes, tsimmes, kugel.  We usually have a roast chicken the first night and fish the second. Apples dipped in honey are the key traditional foods, as are apple cake and honey cake. Challah is a must, but is braided in a circle to represent the cycle of the year.  Before the dinner begins, blessings are said in honor of the holiday.   If you know someone who observes Rosh Hashanah, a common greeting is “Shana Tova”, or “have a good year”. After Rosh Hashanah and before Yom Kippur, the greeting is “G’mar chatimah Tova”, or “A good final sealing”.

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, begins ten days after Rosh Hashanah. It definitely has a more somber air, as it’s the time at which our judgement is sealed by God.  Yom Kippur is considered the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, and as such has a few additional observances: no eating or drinking, no wearing of leather shoes, no bathing, no use of perfumes, and no marital relations.  The purpose of these rules is to make yourself feel uncomfortable and, therefore, feel empathy towards others who are in pain.  While not a rule, a common custom is to wear white clothing on Yom Kippur as a symbol of purity.  The services are just as beautiful – if not more so – as those on Rosh Hoshanah and also a bit longer. They contain an additional service and elements to allow for repentance and confession.

Bagels: a staple of so many Jewish holidays! Photo courtsey of http://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/yom-kippur-break-fast-menu.
Bagels: a staple of so many Jewish holidays! Photo courtsey of http://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/yom-kippur-break-fast-menu.

Fasting on Yom Kippur begins on sundown and ends after sundown on the following day.  To support a full day of fasting, a large meal is eaten before the evening services on Erev Yom Kippur.  After the last service has ended and the sun has set, Jews break the fast by having a light dairy meal.  Bagels and cream cheese, salads, fruits, desserts, and drinks compose a typical menu.

Now, for a couple of my favorite children’s books for the high holy days:

The PJ Library has a great, more comprehensive list, as well.

And a few links to High Holy Days children’s activities:

True to my promise, this description is wrapping up at just over 800 words.  I hope it demystifies these holidays a bit for those of you who are curious.   

G’mar chatimah tovah to you all!

Summer Shabbat Traditions

Friday Night Sand: Our Summer Shabbat Tradition

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Friday night traditions: pizza and movies; coveted approval to stay up past bedtime; going out – maybe even with a sitter watching the kids. We all have them. They help us unwind from the week, placing a marker that separates our work from the play that awaits us in the weekend.

Summer Shabbat Traditions

Our family holds Friday evenings, the beginning of Shabbat in Judaism, very close.  It’s our time to take stock of the crazy, hectic week and celebrate the beginning of a time of rest.  I usually make dinner a little more special than usual. We bring out ritual objects: candlesticks, fancy silver cups, and a special plate for the Challah. The kids get grape juice with dinner (a real treat); my husband and I get to slowly finish the bottle of wine we started. Special blessings and prayers are said.  We all linger over the dinner table…or around it, as the 2.5 year old starts to run in circles to amuse us and keep her energy up, and her 5.5 year old brother practices delivering his latest knock knock jokes.  Finally, we clear the table.  The kids take a bath & are put to bed.  My husband and I finally have a moment alone together. So begins our weekend, with a beloved celebration of Shabbat.

Dinner on the beach -- it's not fancy, but ambiance is superb.
Dinner on the beach — it’s not fancy, but ambiance is superb.

But in the summer, we all look forward to a variation on this theme. During the day on Friday, I take a few minutes in between meetings to round up some fruit, cheese, veggies, crackers, dips, and a little dessert.  Nothing elaborate; just enough to satisfy.  I pack it into a cooler, along with some juice boxes, a bottle of wine, and a bottle opener. I quickly load the car up with the bare necessities for a quick trip to the beach.  You see, in the summer we take advantage of the late summer evenings and warm air to welcome in Shabbat on the beach.

Leaving my home office as soon as possible, I pick up the kids early from their summer camp/day care programs. Another treat, especially for my oldest, who wants nothing more than to spend precious time with me.  Twenty minutes later, we arrive at our favorite beach. Usually reserved for locals, no one checks our car in the parking lot so late in the day.

The beach is intimate, protected by boulders that are the perfect size for climbing.  The sand is soft and warm, singing to us as our feet quickly pass through it.  The other people there are like us – looking for a quiet, uncrowded place to unwind and eat a bit of dinner.  We pull our small load of food, chairs, and towels to a spot that marks the edge of high tide. We won’t stay long enough for the ocean to reach us, but we’ll see the gentle waves draw nearer and nearer as the sun sets.

She could do this for hours.
She could do this for hours.

The kids get their swimsuits on first, help me set up, then play with their sand toys.  While we wait for their dad to join us, we wade in the surf and climb on the boulders. As we do so, the weight of the week falls away.  Decisions made (or avoided) don’t seem terribly relevant. Meetings looming first thing on Monday haven’t made a dent in my consciousness. Parenting struggles fade away. The kids are happy – no, ecstatic – to be free. Free to play, to roam, to laugh & yell.  There is something about this way – this place – of ushering in our respite that is so very different from our usual Friday nights.

My husband arrives and what constitutes dinner is pulled out. Juice and wine are opened.  No ritual objects are placed or blessings said on these evenings.  Just our family’s ritual of enjoying such a wonderful spot on this earth with each other. It is blessing enough to be where we are, mindful of all we are thankful for.  The kids are too busy playing to eat much, but (for once) I don’t worry.  While we nibble, buckets of water are brought up from the ocean to make sand soup.  The kids see how far up they can climb on the boulders. Cell service is blissfully unavailable, reducing our phones to cameras. We stay as late as possible – later than we should, pushing the kids to a state that threatens the tranquility we’ve been enjoying. No one wants to leave.

Eventually we do leave, of course. Everything is packed up again. Sand is brushed from our feet with baby powder (pro tip for sand removal), if I happen to remember it.  We leave with windblown hair, a little sand in our teeth and between our toes, and baby powder sprinkled in my car.  We leave with reluctance, but also with a fresh attitude.  We leave ready to embrace the weekend.

This is the only father's day gift guide you'll ever need!

The Only Father’s Day Gift Guide You’ll Need

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This is the only father's day gift guide you'll ever need!This is not a sponsored post, but I do want to thank Groupon for getting me started thinking. I received their email, “What Dads Really Want for Father’s Day” and started thinking. Have I been going the wrong way all these years with thoughtfully handcrafted gifts, making notes throughout the year of little things that my husband might like or find meaningful? According to Groupon, yes.I decided to compile this list for people out there, like me, who might need help in finding a product that the Dad in your life “really wants” for Father’s Day (as opposed to the sentimental clap-trap that we usually get/make him.) Let’s start with a suggestion from Groupon, who got this whole thing started.


I find that men spend an inexplicable amount of time on the toilet. In the past, they had newpapers, magazines, and books to help them pass the time, and now it’s cell phones. Evidently, this bathroom time is a missed opportunity for activity, and this is just the product to help him out.

If you would like to focus your gift more on what’s going in, rather than what’s coming out, perhaps this classy drink accessory is more your speed.

Bacon Wallet
Or are you thinking more along the lines of food? Have you explored every opportunity to incorporate bacon into his wardrobe?

Superman Caped Logo Adult Blue Boxer Brief
Letting the Father in your life know that you see him for the super-hero he is can also be a good choice. But why get him a boring old t-shirt, like everyone else?

Finally, maybe your shopping for the perfect accessory that screams says, “I’ve totally got this!”

No matter the gift you end up choosing, we at Up Parenting Creek are wishing all the father’s out there a very Happy Father’s Day!

For everyone facing Father's Day without their Dad

My First Father’s Day Without Dad

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Father’s Day is approaching, and it’s a first for me.  The first one without my dad.  I know many of you reading this are in the same boat due to many different storms.  Mine was a surprise attack.  Literally.  A heart attack that no one suspected.  It swooped in, off the radar, no alert or warning, and left me floating here in this sea of life without the man who for many years redirected my sails when they got off course.

For everyone facing Father's Day without their Dad

I’m a teacher, and encountering the fatherless is a daily occurrence for me.  Recently one of my students wrote of his experience adrift in the Dadless Sea.  He told of floating along making frequent stops on islands where he would meet a new man, hoping he and his mom could drop anchor and stay, only to find out that they had only tied temporarily to that shore.  He painted an image he had seen many times as a younger kid of other boys walking to their cars after a football game, dads holding their sweaty shoulder pads, laughing and joking together as they relived the victories and defeats of the game.  There was a visceral yearning coursing through the veins of his essay.  I mourned his loss as I mourned my own.

A couple of days ago my oldest daughter and I were talking about my dad as we drove down the highway to pick up the younger one from cheerleading camp.  I spoke of Father’s Day and wishing there was a way to ship a gift across space and time to heaven.  I chuckled at the thought of all these heavenly dads and granddads receiving ties, coffee mugs, and fishing gear from their earthly kids.  You know how the owls deliver mail in the Harry Potter books?  Well, in my mind’s eye, I could envision doves swooping in on the heavenly host, dropping the gifts, little parachutes deploying, and all those clichéd items finding their recipients.  We laughed.

But in all seriousness, I told her that I was sorry that she had only had a grandfather for a short time in her life.  I think back to hammering, sanding, and sawing in the garage, memories I built with my granddad. I’m sorry she won’t have more of those moments.

This is what she says in response. “Be that as it may, Mom, things are still pretty good.”

And, you know?  She’s right.   This boat I’m floating in isn’t leaky; it was built to withstand the storms.  I had a great sailing instructor.  And, these are some friendly waters.

Thanks to my daughter, I’ve now got a killer idea for a Father’s Day present, or at least, a pretty darn good way to honor Dad.  While I’ve still got time on earth here with my family, we’re not running from life’s harsh realities. We’re not hunkering down in a storm shelter, hands over our heads, ducking the forces of nature. Instead, we’re thanking God for all the grace we’re given and choosing to see and share the good.

My dad had the foresight to write his own obituary about 10 years before his actual death, so we weren’t saddled with that daunting task.  In it, he eschewed the notion of head stones, grave markers, and things of that ilk.  They were fine for others, just not for him.  He hoped that we, his survivors, would be the markers. Listening to the words of my daughter, I think I get it.

So for all of you who are sailing towards this Father’s Day without a dad, my hope for you is that you’re able to say, “Be that as it may, things are still pretty good.”  And for all of you dad-type guys out there, look for the kid walking off the football field with his mom.  Walk over to him, punch him in the shoulder, carry his sweaty shoulder pads and say, “Good game, son.

A great overview of Ramadan - perfect for explaining it to your kids.

Ramadan Primer: What is Ramadan Anyway?

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Ramadan is one of the most spiritual times of year for Muslims. If you or your child have a Muslim friend, you may have heard of Ramadan, but not know much about it. Here are some quick facts about Ramadan to help!

A great overview of Ramadan - perfect for explaining it to your kids.

When is Ramadan?

Ramadan is one of the months in the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, where months coincide with moon cycles. Ramadan is the 9th month in the lunar calendar. This year it is expected to start June 18th, 2015 and end July 17th, 2015. Because it’s a lunar calendar, the dates are approximate. The lunar calendar means that the days will move back 10 days each year. Last year, Ramadan began on June 28th. Next year, it will start around June 8th.

What is the significance of Ramadan?

Ramadan is a very spiritual month for Muslims. It is thought that the Quran, Muslims’ holy book, was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during this month in 610 AD. During this time, Muslims take this opportunity to step back from their usual routines and focus on spiritual growth and charitable works.   This includes fasting, spending more time reading the Quran, and charity.

What is fasting in Islam?

Fasting is one of the five pillars, or foundational elements, of Islam. While Muslims, Jews and Catholics all have aspects of fasting in their faiths, they are all defined differently. In Islam, fasting includes abstaining from food, drink, smoking, sexual relations, and negative actions. This is a method of self-purification by cutting oneself off from worldly comforts and gaining true sympathy for those less fortunate.  It is important to note that fasting is not just refraining from food and drink but also striving to be a better person. Muhammad (peace be upon him) reportedly said, “He who does not abandon falsehood in word and action in accordance with fasting, God has no need that he should abandon his food and drink.”

Who is fasting for?

Muslim adults who are healthy are obligated to fast from dawn (just before Fajr, the morning prayer) to sunset (at Maghrib, the evening prayer). Traditionally, Muslims wake up before dawn to eat and then eat again at sunset.  Children are not expected to fast, though some may be excited about seeing those around them fasting and join in! Many kids start with half-day fasts on the weekend. This allows them to feel the spirit of Ramadan without compromising their development.

Similarly, those who are elderly and frail, or ill, pregnant, breastfeeding and children are not obligated to fast. When a woman is on her menses, she is not to fast. People who miss fasts either make up the fasts at another time in the year or pay to feed a poor person for each day they missed.

What else happens during Ramadan?

The last ten days of Ramadan are especially pious. Some people spend extra time in the mosque (Islamic house of worship) for prayers during this time, even spending the night. The night of power (Lailat-ul-Qadr) is believed to be the night when the Quran was revealed and Muslims will take special care to perform extra prayers and do good deeds that night. Because it is believed that good deeds are magnified during this time, some people choose to give charity at this time. Sometime during the month, each Muslim who is able gives a food donation to the poor, known as zakat-ul-fitr.

When is Ramadan over?

Ramadan lasts either 29 or 30 days, depending on moon cycles. At the end of the month of Ramadan, a new month, the month of Shawwal, begins. The holiday associated with this is Eid-ul-Fitr. On this day, Muslims congregate to pray. The services consist of a short sermon and congregational prayer. After this, people visit family and friends and celebrate the completion of a month of blessings. Children are traditionally given gifts as well. In Muslim countries, the first three days of the month are official holidays. In the US, most people take off the day of Eid-ul-Fitr itself. Eid greetings are Happy Eid, Eid Mubarak, or Eid Kareem.

Ramadan is a time for Muslims to take a step back from everyday life and focus on spiritual aspects. While fasting is the most well-known part of Ramadan, that is just one aspect of this blessed month. Ramadan Mubarak!


For more information:

If you’re interested in learning more about Islam and about Ramadan, here are some resources:

http://www.isna.net/ramadan.html

http://islam.about.com/od/ramadan/f/ramadanintro.htm

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-Issues/2013/0709/Ramadan-101-Ten-facts-about-the-holy-month-of-Ramadan/What-is-Ramadan

http://www.raleighmasjid.org/imam/fiqh-ramadan.html

Some books for kids about Ramadan:

http://www.amazon.com/Night-Moon-Muslim-Holiday-Story/dp/0811860620

http://www.amazon.com/Rashads-Ramadan-Al-Fitr-Cloverleaf-Books/dp/0761385835/ref=pd_sim_14_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1R4MXC6T3QYS7XA21WMX

http://www.amazon.com/My-First-Ramadan-Holiday/dp/0805078940/ref=pd_sim_14_6?ie=UTF8&refRID=1R4MXC6T3QYS7XA21WMX

http://www.amazon.com/Ramadan-Moon-Naima-Robert/dp/1845079221/ref=pd_sim_14_8?ie=UTF8&refRID=1R4MXC6T3QYS7XA21WMX

http://www.amazon.com/Under-Ramadan-Moon-Sylvia-Whitman/dp/0807583057/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_y