$100 for Honesty

As a child I distinctly remember my parents emphasizing honesty.  I’m not just talking about ‘no lying-always tell the truth’ type of honesty, but the type that’ if you find money on the street to go and donate it’ type.

However, there was one particular time where I was especially tempted to fall into the trap of shaytaan.  This trap was highly appealing due to the monetary value involved.

I was a college student and my roommate was going to the mall.  I had asked her to return something for me at The Limited and in return I told her they would give me a $50 store credit.

Once she came home she handed me the receipt along with the gift card.  I read over the receipt and instead of a $50 credit, it said $150 on it.

Bare in mind I was a college student and $150 was considered a jackpot for me.  Actually, its still a jackpot.

So I called the number on back of the giftcard and yep it was true, I had a good  $150 to spend.

As I was surfing the Limited site, Jiminy Cricket (Pinnochio’s conscious) dropped by.  I forgot to mention it was the month of Ramadan therefore Jiminy Cricket was more like a Jiminy Hippopotamus.(Shaytaan is locked up in Ramadan therefore you think twice about what you do). The hippo lead me to calling my mother, and she said one thing that hit home.

You wear hijab, you represent Islam, if you go in that store and return this card then it’ll give a good impression of Muslims”.

I instantly realized that returning the extra $100 is the right thing to do.

The next day I drove to the mall, walked into The Limited and went up to the cashier and told her what happened, her response

So you’re telling me we gave you $100 extra on this gift card?”  said the clerk.

That’s right I replied.  “Well i’m gonna have to call my manager about this” said the clerk.

The manager came out and again I explained to her what happened.

So let me get this straight,” said the manager. “We made the error of giving you $150 instead of $50 and you came back to let us know so that we can give you the correct refund?”

I nodded enthusiastically.

“I apologize for this error ma’am, but I’m really sorry you are just going to have to keep this gift card at the value of $150!” said the manager with a big grin on her face.

So, basically I got $100 for being honest, and I’m sure a good few people went home that night thinking that Muslim people are honest (and kinda crazy).

Needless to say, I did some Eid shopping at the Limited that year.

Something to be conscious about….

Staying Strong after Boston Bombings

As we find out more about the Islamic connection that the suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing had, Muslims across the nation are going through an array of emotions.

The news pundits keep bringing up Islam and how that might have been the motivating factor for the two brothers actions. The American Muslim community is beginning to brace for the backlash. Already we’re hearing stories of kids in schools being taunted, mosques with armed guards and harassment of women wearing the hijab.

Muslims are feeling vulnerable, tired and frustrated. We are asking “Why do we have to constantly explain our religion, be unfairly targeted and treated in a way that that other Americans are not?”

But we often forget that we are not the first generation of Muslims to feel this way. Neither is it a new phenomenon that Islam or Muslims have been attacked. From the first time the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) preached till present day and till Allah wills, there will continue to be challenges for the Muslim Ummah. However what has changed is the way Muslims respond to these challenges.

The Prophet (SAW) and the Sahaba’s were physically, emotionally and financially tortured and yet were patient. They were so steadfast in their beliefs and trusted that Allah (SWT) would guide them through their hardship. One example is of Sommaya RA who was tortured to death (the first female martyr of Islam) for simply believing in Allah SWT. The Prophet(SAW) was powerless and the only thing he could say to her was to be patient and that her reward was waiting for her in Jannah.

Our tests are like cake compared to theirs. We’re bugging out because some dude is staring at us in a grocery store or the media is bashing Islam. Muslims living in America find it difficult to deal with issues such as profiling, defending our beliefs and dealing with the ludicrous comments thrown by the media.

When we feel angry about the way the media is portraying Muslims we should read about the challenges that the Prophet (SAW) and his companions went through. The Prophet’s (SAW) own family threw sticks and stones on him till he would bleed. His own neighbors and friends drove him and his followers out of the city of Mecca.They were physically attacked, their properties were seized and they were economically marginalized. But these hardships did not wear them down, their faith in Allah was only strengthened by the challenges. Their faith also helped them in remaining optimistic about their future.

We must remember we are all ambassadors to our deen, the only way to change anyone’s perception of Islam is through our own actions. So lets practice the patience and optimism that the Prophet (SAW) and the sahabas practiced. Put on that smile and lend a helping hand to your neighbor, be the first in community service, give a compliment to the cashier and don’t forget that extra cheerful thank you to the waiter, sales clerk or whoever. Our best akhlaq (virtues) and adab (manners) is most needed right now.

Changing one person’s outlook may lead to changing an entire household. In addition to educate the masses, exemplify what you speak. Justifying the violence or comparing other countries does nothing but harm. Lives are lost and our empathy and mercy should be in the forefront.

These are days of trials and tribulations. We must hold on to our ideals and principles. May Allah (SWT) preserve our community and bless our Nation.

-The Biscuits and Banarsi Staff-

Three Wives and the Diamond Set

More than a half-century ago when there was no border between Pakistan and India, My great grandfather, a charismatic man had three wives. He presented his first wife with a beautiful diamond necklace and bracelet set.

When my great grandmother first saw the grand set she was delighted and marveled at the size of the diamonds in the necklace. However she said to my great grandfather that although she loved the necklace she thought the diamonds in the bracelet were small in comparison. She suggested to her husband that she should keep the necklace and that he could give the bracelet to his other wife.

My great grandfather, a connoisseur of fine jewelry and real estate, did not want to break up the set. He told my great grandmother that he would order her a new set with the bigger diamonds. He then went to his second wife and offered her the diamond set, she loved the set and put on the necklace and the bracelet but her wrist was a little large and the bracelet didn’t fit.

Again, my great grandfather was insistent that he didn’t want to break up the set. He then went to his third wife and showed her the exquisite set. She loved it and everything fit her perfectly.

As promised he went again to the same jeweler who had made the original set to pick up the bigger set for my great grandmother. While the jeweler displayed the necklace and bracelet set to him a merchant who was also at the store caught a glimpse of the pieces being displayed and insisted that he wanted that set for his daughter.

The jeweler explained to the merchant that he could not sell it to him because it was a custom order made for Mr. Quraeshi. The merchant then turned to my great grandfather and pleaded with him to let him buy the set. He explained that it was for his daughters wedding and he would be proud adorning his daughter with such an dazzling set on her wedding day.

My great grandfather agreed and for the third time placed an order for the brilliant diamond set. Sadly, my great grandmother never did get her diamond set. My great grandfather was never able to return to the jeweler because of the historic Partition between India and Pakistan.

My great grandmother had expressed her disappointment in not receiving the diamond set that she had been waiting for. She regretted not keeping the first set that her husband had first brought to her. This has always been an important lesson and it is a reminder to always accept gifts graciously and don’t be too picky about your lot in life, because you never know what the future holds.

I am thankful to my family for these stories. Although I have never met my great grandparents these stories allow me to catch a glimpse of what their lives were like. To this day I feel the disappointment that my great grandmother must have felt.

May Alllah (SWT) grant my great grandmother a beautiful diamond set in Jannah  and reunite her and her children in Jannat-ul-Firdaus – Ameen

 

 

Real Men Cry

[Asma Ahmad is a Muslim American Social Worker who has been pursuing graduate studies in clinical Social Work and working with a state-certified batterer intervention program where she has had the opportunity to provide treatment and psycho-education to domestic violence offenders. Asma is also the Project Manager for Project Sakinah’s Northern Virginia chapter.]

Tears rolled down his face and drenched his beard as he cried. He cried in public and in private, setting an example for the men and women of his Ummah that the emotional manifestation of our internal states is a true sign of a connected soul. He cried from the fear of Allah, out of compassion for his followers, and in empathetic exchanges between his blessed companions. In studying the life of our Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam), we see countless examples of times when he cried without hesitation, and yet today, the perception of crying in our communities and societies has turned into one of weakness and inferiority.

For men and boys in particular, our collective culture views crying as something incompatible with the idea of masculinity. The effects of this mindset are not only contrary to the practice of our Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam), but they can have drastically negative impacts when it comes to the issue of family relationships, empathy, and anger. For Muslim parents, there is a need now more than ever to think critically about the values and perceptions children are developing in regards to what masculinity entails and what it means.

“Crying is for girls,” and “Real men don’t cry” are not uncommon messages we hear through today’s media outlets. Our children hear these messages in schools and from friends, but these skewed perceptions can be corrected if we take it upon ourselves to show them a different example, a real and humanistic example of our Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam). Among the negative ramifications of these ideas is that children do not develop proper emotion regulation skills and instead find other, often destructive means of expressing any pain or hurt they experience. They may feel that bottling their emotions and presenting an invincible image of themselves is a way to truly feel that they are worthy, valuable, and powerful. Over time, this can cripple any ability to relate to others compassionately, because all they have seen and heard has convinced them that hiding emotions is a sign of being masculine. Here, we must ask ourselves and our children to ponder deeply on the example of the man who was the strongest on the battlefield, the strongest in his iman, and highest in ranks before Allah, yet demonstrated compassion through his tears, his actions, and his words. We need to remind ourselves of the examples of our Messenger’s empathy towards people and his openness in expressing what he felt.

Building the muscles for compassion and emotional sensitivity should be at the forefront of any goals a parent has for teaching interpersonal skills to their children. When asked about the definition of compassion, most people say something along the lines of caring for another person and feeling what they are feeling. Teaching this concept to children can start at a very basic level where parents can help to instill in them a value of open communication and understanding their own emotions as they experience them, whether it’s joy, sadness, anger, irritation, etc. For younger children, this is a critical time when parents must decide between encouraging appropriate expression or limiting it depending on their response to the child’s emotions. The next level of developing compassion could include helping children to think about how and why the other person felt the way they did in the same situation, otherwise known as perspective-taking. In heated moments, children and adults alike can be blinded to the idea of what another person is feeling. Developing this skill is always going to be a work in progress, but at the earliest stage possible, children should be encouraged to consider what others are going through before following through with any reaction. One of reasons our Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) was incredibly effective in problem-solving and conflict resolution is because he had an incredible capacity to think about others’ with respect to their situations and circumstances. Teaching children the next stage of problem-solving in difficult situations can be made easy by constantly reminding them to empathize with others before speaking and acting.

With the unfortunately increasing rates of bullying, violence, and abuse of all kinds in our society, there is no better option for parents seeking to raise compassionate children, than to return to the example of our Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam). He was the strongest in his faith and his actions for this deen, but this strength was coupled with humility. We cannot study the seerah without reading and learning about the Prophet’s crying, yet this sunnah is in constant need of revival, and it is upon the parents to be the primary educators and trainers in this regard.

Toddler First World Problems

1. Hot water not running long enough for steam bath. 

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2. Forgetting to set the DVR to Super Why!

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3. Getting stuck with dad’s old iPhone.

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4. Mom restricting T.V time.

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5. Having to drink low-fat milk to avoid the risk of obesity.

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6. Not having enough space for all the toys.

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7. Getting wiped instead of washed.

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8. Being forced to sleep in their own fancy toddler bed

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9. Having to sit in the car seat. 

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10. Only being able to use rain boots twice and then outgrowing them.

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11. Not having enough breakfast choices. 

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12. Having to eat beef twice in one day.

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13. Not being able to wear shorts in the house due to high AC-cooling.

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14. Not having netflix in the car.

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15. Not having a kids menu or crayons at a restaurant. 

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Armed Guards Don’t Belong in School

After the senseless tragedy that occurred in Newton, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary the entire nation has been engulfed in a conversation about gun control, school safety and mental illness. In my own Islamic school community, parents have  debated and had heated conversations about our kids safety. The school our kids attend is in the basement of a Mosque. It was decided that an armed guard would be the best short term solution in beefing up our schools security.

But that very notion of having an armed guard at school makes me extremely anxious and I don’t think he will keep our kids any safer. To invite a stranger with a gun into such close proximity of our children seems counterintuitive on every level.

My feeling on having an armed guard align closely with Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy who said:

“Let me say this: more guns are not the answer. Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom…”

In my head the math just doesn’t add up: Gun+Gun= safer school!

Having an armed guard at school introduces a whole new dimension of problems that we must be aware of. First  and foremost, the armed guard can be a potential threat to our kids and the staff. I understand that the guard would be trained and there would be a background check, but what guarantee do we have that he would not in fact use the weapon against us? We do not know what his intentions are and neither can we judge how he may feel on a given day. Why are we willing to take such a big risk?

The second problem that can potentially arise is the higher risk of accidents. If the armed guard  had a judgement lapse and mistakenly identifies someone as a threat he could potentially injure or kill an innocent person. That is also something that we can’t control and we are putting a lot of faith in a person who our community knows virtually nothing about.

The third problem is that we may become satisfied with the armed guard and not feel the need to consider other security options. The security issue is an ongoing dilemma that needs to be consistently improved by long term solutions such as adding video surveillance and bulletproof windows.

The hiring of an armed guard may make us feel more secure, but we are working under a lot of assumptions.The first assumption being that the armed guard is in fact a good and sane person who will not ever misuse his power. The second assumption is that he will never have an accident in regards to his weapon. The third assumption is that in the event of an emergency he will in fact put himself in harm’s way.

Our childrens security is paramount and an armed guard is great in theory “if” he performs as we would like to imagine him to be. But lets be honest he is a guy working a 9-5 job like the rest of us and we cannot put our childrens lives at risk because we are under the false pretense that the guard will put our kids first and will become a hero if an emergency type situation occurs.

The truth of the matter is that the Newton was an isolated event. Yes we should be proactive about our students safety, but we shouldn’t do that by bringing a gun into a gun free place. We should as a community seriously think about the potential problems and consequences that can occur by  bringing an armed guard to our schools.

In Sickness and in Health

 

Does perfect health make a marriage?

I recently heard of a gentleman who is mighty fine looking, highly educated and not to mention living a well to do lifestyle (in other words ‘well-set’). Who would think such a brother is  having a difficult time in getting married?

Well….he is.

The reason is he limps when he walks.

Does this disqualify him from being a suitable match? He has everything going for him, his looks, fun personality, education and financial success.  So should something like that get in the way?

I know of others (both men and women) who are also good looking, highly educated and successful people who have certain ongoing health problems which are becoming a hindrance in their marriage search.

These individuals are loving and living life to the fullest on a daily basis, but because of medications or treatments prospects get scared and immediately turn them down.  It breaks my heart when I hear of such cases and can’t stop thinking about it.  Can I blame the potential prospects for turning them away? Or are they too quick to say no?  For the brother who limps, I cannot imagine why he would get rejected unless his prospects are embarrassed of him.

I can understand people being reluctant when it comes to proposals with health issues.  People worry about fertility and the concern of having to ‘take care’ of their ‘ill’ spouse.  It is human nature to be afraid of the ‘unknown’.

However, if there is a spark and an instant connection between the guy and girl, then there should be no concern. Many Islamic books have mentioned that a good marriage can overcome any hurdle, but a bad marriage would be a life-long hurdle in itself.

For the married couples, we all know marriage is not just a matter of two people playing house.  Looks can only take you so far, and we know that money does not fill a void.  Marriage is a commitment that should be tied with love, trust and mutual understanding.  Often times we know of couples who are living dull and loveless lives. The only thing tying them together is their children.

Certain people are indeed given tests and trials that are clearly beyond their control. Do these people who have exceptional circumstances or cases have no hope of getting married?
People with health challenges may end up having a better perspective on life due to the various tests and trials they had to go through.  Such tests may humble a person, thus making them better spouses.

Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why prospects or their parents may not want to consider individuals with health conditions. However, for those who accept these people for the way they are, then in my book they are pious people.  Such people have a strong eman and know that whatever test they may be put through, with the help of Allah SWT they will get through it.

So on the notion of marriage searching for people with health conditions, how should they go about it? Should they mention their conditions prior to even meeting their prospects? or should they first create an impression so people can look past their health challenges?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, hence the blog post! 🙂

Something to think and respond about…

The Day I Met the Tiger Mother

I came across Amy Chua’s book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” during a time of my own parenting crisis. I had gone into the library on a mission to find some parenting book which would help me navigate the world of toddler boys. My boys were fighting each other, me and the boundaries that I had erected.

I needed a strong tool. Destiny…kismat…karma… took  me straight to Chua’s book. The tiger mom was my answer, war had been declared.

I had been struggling with my two boys. Everything lately seemed like a fight and I was beginning to lose the connection and joy I used to get with them.  Instead I was frustrated, unhappy and was going through the motions of being a parent while constantly looking at the clock counting the hours they were going to be in bed.

I first heard about the Tiger Mother a year ago. This is when Chua, the petite Asian professor, wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal titled   “ Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” It seemed like overnight people were rushing to attack or defend her parenting style. Hailing from a South Asian family and having parents that were quite strict (my mom would give me a look that would stop me in my tracks) I felt like I could already relate to the Tiger Mom model.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is Chua’s journey of Chinese parenting in the West. Chua made a decision to follow the chinese model of parenting in which she had been raised in. To her the regimented parenting style meant that her daughters were never allowed to: Attend a sleepover, have a playdate, be in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, get any grade less than an A, not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama, play any instrument other than the piano or violin.

She was committed to following through on her rigid  parenting style and expected her daughters to work hard, excel at academics and to not take anything for granted. Chua wanted her daughters to have a strong work ethic and believed that childhood is a training period for the rest of their lives.  She summed up the Western and Chinese parenting by saying:

“Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions,  supporting their choices and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

Chua talks in detail about the challenges of this type of rigid parenting. Her husband who had  been raised in the Western style was often not supportive of her parenting method. That isolated her during the periods when her daughters hated her.

Chua made her daughters practice their respective instruments, the piano and the violin for hours each day and did not let them take any breaks even when they were traveling or on vacation. Chua was headstrong, arrogant and relentless but what I admire about her is her persistence and patience. She actively was involved in every step of her daughters lives and pushed them because she believed they could do better.

It is that dicipline that I want to cultivate in my own parenting style. It is easy to let our kids be average and to let them just rot away in front of the television but to take that time and spend hours with them to help them master a skill is certainly commendable. After spending a half-hour of one on one time with my kids I feel so drained. One lesson that the Tiger Mom has taught me is that until the mother doesn’t put the time and commitment into her kids than it will be very hard for them to reach their potential.

Another story that Chua tells us in the book is when she rejected her daughters handmade birthday cards for her birthday.

“I don’t want this, I want a better one – one that you’ve put some thought and effort into. I have a special box, where I keep all my cards from you and your sister, and this one can’t go in there…So I reject this.”

This story has resonated with me because of recent  research that shows that over praising children can do more harm than good. I have in the past lavishly praised my kids for scribbling on a piece of paper, but now I take time to actually examine their art, give them some pointers and set some goals (like color inside the lines, lets try to make a square, can you draw a spoon) The results were fantastic. My three year old was more enagaged more excited and was actually learning the praise that he deserved for being creative instead of just scribbling!

Although Chua believes in the Chinese parenting style, she doesn’t particularly advocate for it. Through her journey as a parent we see the successes and failures of her extreme parenting. We see the good, the bad and the ugly.

I found her book to be extremely honest and it was an entertaining and interesting read. Chua’s book motivated me to be a more involved parent who spends quality time with their kids. Although I don’t agree with everything she did with her daughters I feel that Chua’s book is a breath of fresh air with insight into a  parenting style that we often don’t get to read about.

Jannah: Quick E #1

It is easy to get sucked up into this fast paced world. Due to our schedules, families, house chores and work we often keep deen for last (or at least that is the case for me!). I try my hardest to read or catch a lecture but I often lose focus due to exhaustion, a screaming toddler or suddenly remembering the pile of wet clothes in the washing machine.

I end up benefiting from small things such as quick gems, lecture blurbs and of course the cool creative stuff like poems, posters and face book statuses.

I started to save these Quick Eman bits and pieces and figured it might be of some benefit to other people as well insha’Allah.

Here is Quick-E #1, it is a poem on Jannah! The artist of this poem was also the cupid behind my marriage!

Halal Pumpkins…What?!?

As the holiday season is in full swing with glittering christmas trees, cooler weather and festive holiday lattes at starbucks I am reminded why I love this time of the year. As adults we enjoy the atmosphere but kids may not understand why we don’t have a christmas tree, or why Santa didn’t visit us this year. This may be  a challenge for families who have young kids and who are trying to build their Muslim Identities.

As a first generation American Muslim with a South Asian heritage, defining our family’s Identity has been an interesting process. As a mother of a curious three year old I am now faced with hard questions about traditions that I have grown up around but never thought as my own. This becomes particularly tricky as the children go to school and learn about different holidays. Although going to an Islamic preschool has made things easier it also means that I have to decide how to frame things for my curious toddlers.

A few months ago I was pushed into a sort of an identity crisis when Humza went to the fall festival with his school and came back with a grin and a pumpkin which would cause more trouble than I could have ever imagined As Humza excitedly jumped out of the mini-bus that had transported him from the Farm back to the school, I could see that he was clutching this little pumpkin like a shiny new toy, “Momma, see pumpkin.” He proudly raised it  to show me.

I nodded excitedly and wrestled the pumpkin from his hands to get him into the carseat, which caused the pumpkin to roll underneath of a parked mini van. The tears were streaming down Humza’s face and Hassan his younger brother joined in also now wanting that same orange pumpkin which was now somewhere underneath of that van. I quickly strapped the kids in and told the lady who was speaking in Arabic on her cell phone that I was going to go under her van since my kid had dropped his pumpkin. She nodded enthusiastically and I hoped she was nodding to me and not just agreeing with the person whom she was speaking on the phone with. Saying a quick Bismallah I got down on my hands and knees (ahh this reminds me why all my jeans have rips in them) and grabbed the pumpkin.

Tired kids, worn out mother and a little pumpkin in tow, we finally headed home. After the novelty of a little orange pumpkin wore off I had to decide what to do with that thing. Would I display it proudly outside my front door? Put it on my mantle on top of the fireplace? Make a Jack-O-Lantern? What do I do with a pumpkin??

I eventually put it on the fireplace it was so odd but I figured it would be out of the kids reach, I wrestled with the idea of putting it outside my door like other people do as part of the of their fall decorations. But then I didn’t because I was hesitant that I would be acting to “white.”  “Desi people don’t put pumpkins outside of their house,” I thought to myself. After some time when the pumpkin craze died down and the kids forgot to fight over the poor little pumpkin who was probably very thankful for the decision I had made to put him on the fireplace, I approached the subject of the final resting place for the pumpkin again.

After a few strong chai’s and some moments of clarity  I’ve finally made peace with the pumpkin. It is finally at rest on my dining table with some other fall folliage decor and my  little glittering rickshaw.

I haven’t figured out all the answers to how I want to balance and incorporate traditions from Pakistan as well as our American culture but I have a feeling that i’ll figure it out. Now I just need to break the news to the kiddos that the lights my neighbors have put up are in fact not Eid lights. One baby…step at a time.