Today - we felt like taking a road trip. Without our car. And without a road. Instead, we hit the tracks. Not only a first for the kids - but for Aaron and I as well. Figuring out our routes was complicated at first, until I found a very helpful phone number, where the woman on the other line actually plotted my route for me. A tourist in our own city, the kids, Aaron and I rode the DART all the way to Union Station, before jumping on the Trinity Railway Express for an hour long ride to Ft. Worth.
When we arrived into our new city, we needed to take a bus to head over to the arts district. Waiting didn't take very long - one Premium pass for $5 paid for both the train and bus rides all day. There were a lot of interesting faces and conversations around us. I wondered how much of it the kids absorbed - And am crossing my fingers-hopeful not much - as one passenger spouted off obscenities before getting off. The kids are so amazing in how they can distract themselves - with themselves.
Like when she belted out her "Do Re Mi" lyrics, and after finishing, realized she had an audience. He was nice enough to smile and pick up her notebook when she dropped it.. a few times...
Or Noah, our serious travelor, who occupied himself by tracing the lines on the bus map... and pointing out the various colors of cars, trucks, and construction vehicles in view...
When we got off the bus, we were dropped off in front of the arts district, and the quietness of the Friday afternoon made us feel a little like gypsies wandering in the city. Hot, tired, and hungry - and we haven't even gotten to the museum. 30 minutes later, we arrived for an hour long play, before turning back around so that we could make it back home in time to share Iftar with family. We ran to our bus stop, caught our bus back to the TRE station, and waited with the commuters traveling back to Dallas. Ava and Noah, unphased by the massiveness of the double-decker train, were acting like traveling pros by now. The 4 hours spent traveling was long and exhausting - but evenso, it was an experience that can't be missed.
We hosted Sunday's Iftar at our house, and prepared meals from online recipes -- I especially love the sites that feature Ramadan foods from all over the world. Tonight, we tried the pomegranate stew with chicken served with basmati rice [cooked with cumin, peas, and pomegranate broth], and after dinner, spiced pears with pomegranates [pictured above].
After dinner, it was all about the kids. I especially loved this moment where both my daughter and niece were in the arms of our parents, laughing at Grandpa... and as my sister pointed out - that's probably what it was like for her and I with Mom and Dad 30 years ago...
For my sister and I - this is one of those treasured moments that has us spilling over with emotion. We're both little girls in complete adoration of our parents - unbeknownst to us, time has aged us. And in its place, gifted us with little girls of our own to experience Mom and Dad all over again with. When I tell Ava a story about my childhood, starting out with, "when I was your age, Grandma use to...," her eyes would glaze over and I could actually sense her connecting the dots with her Grandma... and my Mom.
Connecting the two generations is as spellbinding for our children as it is for our parents. For Ava, each family gathering has her confidence glowing - as she can feel the strong roots from where she stems... and blooms...
As the evening slowed down, and the dessert and tea cups were half emptied, we suddenly found ourselves in the center of a free concert, with Mom as lead harmonica player...
Our Family Hosting Dinner Tips:
Unfortunately, we don't get to host family dinners in our home very much - because truth be told, the best meals come from Mom's kitchen. But evenso, we like to give her a break every once in awhile and serve nontraditional foods she hasn't tried making herself.
1. New recipes are daring, but it's worth doing for such occasions because family will honestly tell you whether or not you need to tear this recipe out of your collection.
2. Traditionally, fruit is served after dinner while preparations for the "sweets" and hot tea are being made. Rather than peeling those traditional fruits, I tried this fall fruit medley to spice things up - and could prepare in advance. Use what's in season and coat it with a blend of light brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. To cool some of that spice, serve with a dollop of cool whip on the side.
3. Our musical program was spontaneous - but I'm sure the open basket of musical instruments we keep accessible near the media center in the family room had a big hand in it. It seems to me like the natural place for it - so rather than reaching for the remote control after dinner, we have the opportunity to create live entertainment instead.
4. And speaking of TV, I'll be the first to admit that recording videos is a forgotten pastime for me. But when the opportunity does present itself - I am very grateful. Having a digital camera that does double-duty is helpful - although picture quality of action shots can get frustrating. [Sigh] Here's a quick clip of tonight's live concert home video!
Our latest addition to the table is a minature Kaba box. Using what we already had, "God's house" was completed in less than 20 minutes. The process was very spiritual for me, as I explained a little bit of background history and heard Ava ask, "How does God fit in there?"
Ava cut the fabric while I held it for her - she's getting soo good with scissors! I tought her how to "measure" the ribbon around the box so that she'd know how much to cut, and she also glued and reglued the ribbons until they were Ava-perfectly aligned.
Since the gift box we used had a lid, I decided to also make it into our zakat box - which means it'll also house our children's giving to charity for Ramadan. Ava has grasped the concept of money and what it's used for - but the numbers and president faces have no value to her yet. [She still charges me 50 cents for everything I buy in our play store]. But evenso, it's never too early to introduce giving as a way of life... And now we have just the perfect box to help us do so...
When Aaron came home, she showed off her new project. He praised her work and handed her a few dollar bills. When I asked her again what the money was being saved for she said, "to keep God warm."
Oh, yes... She understands the concept - even more than me - just beautifully....
At 8:07, sundown, the clutter of noise lifted from the room -- our palms open infront of us, our hearts praising God in our own words - we prayed. We shared dates and ice cold water - as millions around the world did too -- officially marking the first Iftar of this Ramadan...
We set our table on the floor - which traditionally for Ramadan - and any special large gathering of family and friends - is done, so that we could all dine next to each other, and feast not only with our eyes and tummies, but with conversation and loving kinship.
Aaron cut out our strips of construction paper and the kids got busy...
It was fun to see them work together, choosing which colors should go next, and even helping to shape the loops while I stapled them. The idea is to remove one loop for each day of Ramadan - to let the kids visually anticipate and feel the last day of Ramadan nearing, when we will celebrate our Eid festivities.
For more creative Ramadan craft ideas, visit these sites:
eHow - How to Plan For Ramadan Activities For Family and Kids
Crayola - Coloring pages and crafts
Holiday Arts & Crafts - Ramadan Coloring Pictures
Our Seeds - Fun list of activities
Ramadan Joy - Cards, banners and more
It's a time for reflection -- nurturing our bodies and spirits.
A time for family -- respecting young and old alike, at home, in our communities, and around the world.
A time for clarity, purity, humility, love and grace -- to God.
A beautiful time indeed. From our family to yours - we wish you all a blessed month of peace, joy, good health and prosperity!
[Traditional Afghan clothes "Grandpa" bought back for us from one of his trips to Afghanistan]
And just like that, our very own grocery store was open for business!
Our shop sold pizza - by the slice, so I ordered one with mushrooms... I needed a cake for the birthday party I was having... pretzels for Aaron... and of course, a large chocolate chip cookie for Noah...
Paper money from lost gameboards finally found life again, and were shuffled in and out of a ringing register... Ava bagged my groceries in small brown paper bags with handles. I loved how a cleaning spree turned quickly into a themed play activity, and we added items to our store as we went along... My most favorite part was when it was my turn to play shopkeeper, and I told Ava that her credit card didn't work.
Me: Your card isn't working.
Me: Because there's no money on it.
Ava: Oh [takes the teapot and taps it on the card] Now there is money on it!
Oh, how I love to play store....
Opening Your Own Store - Our Tips:
1. You don't need much space to buy and sell. We actually dedicated one cabinet from our kitchen hutch, suitable to her height, to store her groceries, and then placed baskets on the shelf to help her sort and display. Plus, it's a lot easier to see what we do have so that when I'm out thrifting, I won't buy the same pieces again.
2. My Dad actually scored this register from curbside! in perfect condition. We saw the exact same model at Lakeshore for over $20. It has a built-in calculator, so counting is made easy. If you don't want to splurge right now, jewelry boxes with pull out drawers and a large-faced calculator will also do the trick.
3. Reuse small paper gift bags and stash these in a drawer close by. Or better yet, craft a small fabric tote they can use for shopping "trips" over and over again...
4. We love playing with wooden food - the texture and size make playtime fun and the nostalgic and lasting quality for parents - are comforting. If you're looking to start a new collection, Melissa & Doug make fun wooden pantry goods to play with and perishable foods to practice cutting. Oh, and don't forget the pizza! Since these products have been around a long time, you may luck out and find sets also at a second-hand store.
5. Make some signs! Bring some creativity into your shop time by hanging a chalkboard announcing today's sales.
Playing "store" didn't require us to buy anything - just a unique storage space and open imagination. We love how we can just open/close the store without having to dismantle anything - and cleaning up is part of the store play, where we unbag our groceries and display them neatly for our next customers. We're looking forward to getting more ideas and creating things for it as we go along.
Good luck with your new business!
Mom & Ava - Owners
Aaron took the kids out today, first to the zoo and then the bookstore, so that I could knock out some deadlines for work with uninterrupted time, and returned this evening with a particular book that I have been curious about for many months. Apparently the book will be publicly available tomorrow, but he somehow managed to convince the sales clerk to give him a copy tonight so that we both could unwind with a "good book" - something I've been wanting to do for a long time...
And here, Ava snaps this photo of me in my office, completely enthralled with Aaron's thoughtfulness and the anticipation of curling up with Handmade Home by one of my favorite mama bloggers out there, Amanda Blake Soule.
Soule's first book, The Creative Family, was a huge hit with mothers around the world, with her ideas and artistic photos for crafting a more creative way of life - together. Handmade Home is an extension of her inspiration, focusing more on the goodness filling our homes with things that are handmade can bring. I've started going through the book, and I love how she echoes how so many of us already live - appreciating the day-to-day little things we experience - that enrich our lives and how the beauty of creating with your hands for your home bring us full circle as a family.
As you've heard me say many times before, I cherish handmade... The process is priceless -your time, thoughts, conversations, and loved ones around you, creating with you - give its value.
And so... it really is the little things in life... and what we do at home, that Aaron gives me daily and spontaneously - like picking up this book for me... that I will cherish even more so. In fact, I'm pretty sure the moon out tonight is even a bit jealous...
We're evaporating in this August heat - but that didn't stop me when my "little" cousin invited me to play tennis on Sunday. Spending time with my cousin is very surreal at times as he was Ava's age when we first met. The expression "I remember like it was yesterday" isn't exaggerated here - as I do - Emil and I playing hide n' seek, telling stories, and lining up cars... on my first babysitting adventures. Now in medical school, he's taking a break to come spend time with me, and my kids - and I am humbled by the time passed, our extended family, and having such wonderful cousins so close by...
Emil teaches Ava her very first "practice swing 1, 2, 3" and an onlooker said, "is that the future Wimbledon?" - and it dawned on me - the future - in a flash, she'll be Emil's age oh too soon.
From where I'm standing, the Wimbledon championships are won every day. Half of the success comes from just showing up. Like being present in body and mind with our children... and having the support of family and friends - to play with - and cheer you on.... Investing their time to be a part of our lives every day. The other half, is how well we play - what we do, improving on what we've learned about ourselves, and about the world... and always, giving it our best.
After we sketched the traveling path, we flipped through old issues of Parent magazines and started clipping. I worked with the scissors while Ava glued them on...
So even though we didn't have an agenda when starting this art project - the time together, and process working on it, was the artful beauty in itself.
Create your own storyboard
1. We go through our recycle bins for inspiration - because when packages are repurposed, they are a whole lot more interesting. Last night's pizza did double duty here... Shoe boxes are another idea...
Bye, Bye Big Bad Bullybug
Go Away Big Green Monster
Looking for a Moose