Saturday, November 23, 2013

Madrasa big girl

Nooriya starts madrasa today. Another milestone. She is so excited and I am excited for her. I am also sad that my baby is already 4! 


Friday, November 15, 2013

Morning Routine

Our morning routine is constantly evolving as the kids get older and able to do more things independently. 
I was thinking about that this morning as I told Yusuf to get ready for school. When he was a tiny infant, I used to dread mornings. Taher would leave and I would be nursing Yusuf and mentally willing Taher not to leave me alone with this colicky, demanding baby. He would start the day by wailing and would continue the wailing all day long.
As he grew out of the colic, the wailing stopped but mornings were still plenty demanding. He needed changing and feeding and entertaining and often getting myself fed and changed was low on the list of priorities. I hit the ground running every single day. Of course, all of it was lovely and I cherished- and I still do - my time with Yusuf. 
Nowadays, mornings are very different. Both kids come into my bed for some cuddling and I love that. So much. And then as I begin helping Nooriya through her morning routine I simply tell Yusuf, "Get ready, Janoo" and he proceeds to use the bathroom, change into the clothes I've laid out, fold his pjs, make his bed, brush his teeth, and eat his breakfast. All on his own. I step in to wet comb his cowlick and he is done. It's a far cry from the crying of 6 years ago. 
And by now I'm smart enough to wish the days would go by more slowly. 


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

ISFM volume 4!

"A woman's destiny, they say, is not fulfilled until she holds in her arms her own little book." 

The ISFM series welcomes it's 4th book! I am proud of what we have accomplished and hope to see the dialogue continue. We are putting it out there and encouraging others to do the same :)


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Speaking gigs

Since the first ISFM book came out, I have been asked to do speaking events around the country. Usually at universities but sometimes other venues as well. Lately I have been doing more of these- including the ones during last year's State Department trip, I have done maybe 20 in the last couple of years. 
I am really enjoying these trips. They do unfortunately take me away from my family for a night, but they are so rewarding that I do not mind. Especially since Taher has everything taken care of on the home front :)
The audiences at these events vary- sometimes there are more non-Muslims, sometimes less, sometimes mostly college students, other times more adults from the local community.
But every time, I am met with open minds, challenging questions, and a feeling of gratitude that I get to connect with people and learn from them and give my perspective and affect change on this small grassroots level. 
Sometimes people are encouraging. Sometimes they are contentious. But they are always there because they want to be part of a conversation, and I am thrilled that I get to use my brain and answer questions and think on my feet. I remain informal and make sure the audience knows they can approach me. And when they do indeed approach me after the event and tell me their own stories, I am struck by how unique and wonderful it is that in a room full of strangers, I am having genuine moments with people and walking away feeling supported, thankful... and successful. 


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Yusuf's big week

This week Yusuf has had a lot of cool moments. He got a trophy in taekwondo for Most Dedicated Student, he graduated from Minnow to Turtle 1 in swim class and got a ribbon, and he lost his first tooth on Lalitul Qadr! His milestones keep coming and now that he is older, he shares in the excitement with us. We are proud of our little man. 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book quote

"Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in."  

(from "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore")

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Nooriya, wiping her nose with a wipe: "I need wipes to get my body all strong and clean so I can have much less energy!"

Me: "What does energy have to do with being clean?"

Nooriya: "Shhh, Mummy. I'll teach you everything you need to know, ok? Don't worry."


Thursday, May 16, 2013


In three months, Yusuf behind KG. I can't fathom that he will be away from 8:45am until 3:20pm every day. It's so strange. And he is such a pleasure to be around that I know I will miss him. It feels like the beginning of a new stage- it is, I know - and I feel a little nostalgic.
When he was a colicky baby I bet I would have been mighty pleased if someone had just taken him off my hands until 3:20pm every day. But as I realize more and more every day, he is not a colicky little baby anymore. Far, far from it. 
Yusuf of the fancy vocabulary ("I certainly prefer the aquarium to the museum", "If you have no teeth, chewing would be problematic") and the lengthy explanations ("Mummy let me tell you all about invertebrates/hurricanes/condensation") and the inquisitive mind and the responsible instincts and the noble-mindedness- he is growing up. 
So when he does have a cranky moment, even in the midst of my exasperation, I am pleased. Because he is still my little boy. Don't grow up too quickly.


Thursday, March 14, 2013


We went to a Leonard Cohen concert last night. Taher came home and surprised me - he basically told me we had a sitter and we would be leaving shortly, and I didn't know where we were going.
And when we got to the city, I still had no idea what we were doing- and in fact I was busy staring at this huge new Walgreens on the corner and how it was big enough to have a deli inside when suddenly I saw the marquee- Leonard Cohen!
Leonard is such an amazing poet and artist and his lyrics - to his older songs - they affect me deeply. They move me.
I got to watch him sing Suzanne and Hallejulah and I'm Your Man and a couple dozen others. It was FUN.
Thank you Taher :)

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

No more chemicals!

Been doing a lot of reading about the chemicals in our daily body and household products, decided to purge the toxic chemicals throughout the house. Here are my new recipes:

all ingredients i am using get a low (good) rating on the EWG's skin deep website and a good rating on as well. which means they are not toxic, not cancerous, safe for humans, etc.

toothpaste: dr bronner's castile liquid soap in peppermint, mixed with baking soda to create a paste. this tastes soapy though so i need to add xylitol in next time. otherwise it feels good and leaves my teeth feeling clean and smooth.
***UPDATE: this toothpaste was not a hit with the kids, plus it was expensive to add in enough xylitol to make it taste less soapy. So now using Nature's Gate toothpaste in aniseed flavor. Harmless, ewg rating of 1. 

hand soap: 1 part dr bronner's to 10 parts water. this has replaced all hand soap in the house.
***UPDATE: also using diluted alaffia African black soap for hand soap, same ratio. Seems less drying than the Bronner's. 

body lotion: we are using straight up cold pressed organic coconut oil all over our bodies after a bath or shower. for all 4 of us.

When I want something that smells lovely I use a Shea Moisture brand body lotion. The coconut hibiscus one with the orange label smells amazing. Very good ewg rating. 

face wash: oil cleansing method using jojoba oil, castor oil, and a few drops of rosehip seed oil and sea buckthorn berry oil. For full instructions on the Oil Cleansing Method, getting started, benefits, etc, see this link:
***UPDATE: using benzonite clay as a spot treatment for a potential zit also works very well. 

For my daily facial moisturizing and sunblock in one, I LOVE the suntegrity 5-in-1. It's SPF 30, awesome ewg rating, and feels like a tinted bb cream. It's pricey but lasts easily 5 months. 

body wash in shower: none needed. no soap to dry out my skin, and water is more cleansing than people realize, once you break the cycle of removing natural oils and then replacing with synthetic ones, which dry you out, causing you to replace with synthetic ins again, etc.

for washing the kids in the bath: using a solution of dr bronners diluted with water.

hair care: putting coconut oil on kids and my own hair once a week. after the oiling, we use dr Bronner's (diluted with water) to wash it out, for two days. other 5 days a week, NO shampoo on the hair. i have been doing the no-shampoo method for days and my scalp has adjusted now so not getting greasy, and water making my hair feel clean. my curls are bouncy, not weighed down.
***UPDATE: I wasn't enjoying the experience of not having shampoo in the shower. So I'm now using a DIY shampoo of Dr Bronner's plus coconut milk. About 1:1. It lathers and smells good. 
***UPDATE 2: the coconut milk had a very short shelf life in the shower and then kept going bad. Now using diluted alaffia African black soap and I like the feel and smell and it keeps my curls defined. No need for conditioner. I use the alaffia about 2-3 times a week. 
***UPDATE 3: I found a brand called hugo naturals which gets a good rating on EWG. I use the shampoo and conditioner together about 1-2 times a week. Rest of the week just water. Hair is behaving nicely. Curls look fluffy and defined. Also it's nice to use the hugo bc it has a scent!

I have been using the Shea Moisture brand for their curl & style milk for my hair when I want a little more definition. The coconut hibiscus one smells like heaven. Very good ewg rating. 

also using apple cider vinegar to rinse hair every week or so, but not more than that because very acidic, don't want to do this too much.
***UPDATE: I don't need the acv rinse anymore since using the diluted alaffia African black soap. My hair has no buildup with the alaffia. 
***UPDATE 2: see above- I'm just using the hugo products on my hair. 

some say baking soda works for them but it can be drying, so if your hair is oily, try this, but if dry, maybe not.

face scrub: sugar mixed with coconut oil makes a nice face scrub. not too often though for me because my skin is dry, not oily.

household cleaning:

countertops, etc using 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water. if dirty and soap is needed, using 1 part bronners to 10 parts water.

for scrubbing in sinks and tubs, using baking soda mixed with bronners.

for toilets, baking soda.

for spraying on fruits and veggies (the ones where the skin is consumed), using 1 part bronner to 10 parts water.

for dishwasher, using a paste made of equal parts bronner's and baking soda. using vinegar in the rinse-aid box of the dishwasher. this is working well- just unloaded the dishwasher and no residue, no dirty dishes. everything is nice and clean.
***UPDATE: the paste was really difficult to get out of the container. Very hard after a few days. So now I'm using the recipe below after much research and trial and error. It is wonderful:

for laundry, instead of dryer sheets (respiratory impairment and also sometimes gelatin), using two pieces of cloth that each have a safety pin in them, using these two cloths in every dryer cycle to eradicate static. Using science, not chemicals!
***UPDATE: I am now making my own laundry detergent also. See the recipe below. It works beautifully:

Candles are as polluting to the air as air fresheners, so use essential oil on cotton balls in the house, or potpourri.

i think that's it for now! in the next few months as certain foods and cosmetics run out, i will think hard about what i replace them with, and eventually i can be more comfortable with what we eat, now that i am happy with what products we use on our bodies!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Not a Kindle

"The owners of the book were born and died; what remained was the physical book itself. It needed to be handled with increasing delicacy and care as the binding grew loose with age, but you knew that it was the exact same book that others had read before you, and that you had read in the years before. Would the words have inspired Mom the same way if they had been flashing on a screen? She didn't think so."

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Time! stop passing so quickly!
Nooriya tells me everyday that I'm her best friend. Yusuf cuddles me everyday and tells me he will hug me every day forever. I took a video of that as evidence :)
I have been feeling so sad lately that time has to pass. I want them to stay little for a while longer. A lot longer!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Happy New Year

We are coming off a two-week holiday season in which we got to hang out with our extended families and good friends, and it was so fun and heartwarming. The kids have so much fun with their cousins, and watching them makes me happy, and happy for them.
The end of the year brings two resolutions for me- one, to be healthier in terms of nutrition and exercise (a resolution that most people make, I'm sure). The second is to focus on who and what is important in my life, and to live in a way that sets an example to my kids about figuring out what you love, who supports you, who your true friends are, and that nothing is more important than family and our Deen.
We continually tell the kids to be nice to everyone, even to those who treat them poorly. I try - and succeed, I believe- in living this advice. Of course, it is not easy.
There are a few individuals I know who do not behave as good friends should- when I am around them, I have to put effort into reacting with aimiability rather than annoyance. I have to remind myself that I am responsible for my own actions only and, truly, that is all I can control.
So I turn my focus towards the example I am setting for my children. And although it's only January 7th, I think both my resolutions will go well, inshallah :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

my State Dept trip

Hi everyone, I returned yesterday from my State Dept trip to Thailand and Cambodia. Over the course of 12 days, I spoke to varied audiences consisting of college students, community members, NGO workers, professors, and local government officials; people at the poverty level, people from the upper class, and everyone in between.
A large part of the discussions focused on breaking down stereotypes about being a Muslim in the US. I was often asked if there are mosques in the US, and whether Muslims are able to practice Islam freely, wear hijab, hold any type of job, etc. I explained that being a Muslim does not interfere with one’s ability to get an education or a job in the US, and that the US protects every individual’s right to practice his/her religion freely. In America there are Muslims in every aspect of US life- doctors, lawyers, artists, even government. And that in the US, achieving one’s goals is done via education and on the basis of merit.
I also spoke to the audiences about the fact that Western and Islamic values are not at odds, as some might think. I also spoke about the misunderstandings that happen when people confuse Middle Eastern culture with Islam- Islam is a religion that does not subjugate women, but rather empowers them and affords them equal rights.
When speaking to poorer communities in Cambodia, I focused on the importance of education and stressed that education is key to establishing oneself and can better not only that individual’s situation but can in fact uplift the entire community. The villagers in Battambang told me that it costs $2 a day for their children to commute to the nearest public school, and that this is out of budget for them. They said that unless the government can offer a scholarship, they prefer to have their children work on the farm and earn an income, rather than spend money on education. The purpose of my visit was to let them air their concerns about the cost of education, but to also give them needed inspiration and motivation to prioritize schooling for their children and to help them find a few practical solutions to get their kids to school. Waiting for a handout from the government is not an option- and in the long run, will not lead to the kind of upliftment education can bring.
In all the events, I asked audiences to feel free to ask me questions- I allotted much time to let people speak their minds to me and I feel that this was instrumental in resolving misunderstandings. It was only by allowing individuals to challenge me with questions and by letting them bring up the issues and questions important to them that we could make progress and truly learn from each other. Sometimes people became passionate about their views and this always led to very interesting, lively discussion.
At one event in Chiang Mai in Thailand, one of the audience members- a middle-aged Muslim Thai man – began to get upset because he felt that Americans – as a group- are unrepentant about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and that, unequivocally, we support our government’s actions and motivations. I addressed his comments by first telling him to please realize that America is a multi-faceted society with people who have a variety of political leanings. People protest every day outside the White House to show their displeasure with the actions of their government, and to simply assume that all Americans are smug and self-serving is as unfair as assuming that all Muslim men are terrorists.
Some audience members wanted to talk about hijab. Are women able to wear hijab freely in the US? Do all women in the US wear it the same way? Others had questions about gay rights and Islam in America. Still others wanted me to talk about Muslim holidays in the US; violence against Muslims; arranged marriage; etc.
People were happy to have a chance to speak and interested in my answers to their questions. After each event, people approached me and told me that I had given them a different perspective. Many people thanked me for giving them the chance to participate and I was overwhelmed by the positive response.
 I knew, before leaving for this trip, that although I was officially the one who would be offering perspective and a glimpse into the lives of others, that I would gain these things multifold. People told me they were glad I had come to speak to them, but I am grateful to each of the almost 900 people who assembled and listened and spoke to me. I say or think “alhamdolillah” dozens of times every day, and this trip has only reinforced my belief that dozens is not nearly enough. I am grateful that I never had to choose between education and food. I am grateful that as an American I can practice my religion freely, that I can speak my mind, that I have been given the chance to affect positive change. I am grateful to the people I met on this trip who welcomed me and gave me perspective and fed me and entertained me and, especially, challenged me. Alhamdolillah :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

I Speak for Myself Volume 2

I know it's been a while since I posted, but I decided to come out of hiding to announce that my 2nd book, "All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim", the 2nd volume in the I Speak for Myself series, is being released June 1st!

Check out to order the book :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

caught up

lately i have been working on my 2nd book, doing PR for my 1st book, and figuring out the legal and contractual stuff to establish I Speak for Myself, Inc. as a franchise and a book series.. not to mention my most important job of all- taking care of yusuf and nooriya.

both of them have noticed that i am a bit busier than usual, and that my laptop is often in the basement with us. i still manage to get a lot of playtime in with them, but i am a little distracted, especially on days when i have deadlines to meet, calls to make, etc.

the result is that they have both become extremely clingy, wanting me to stay in sight at all times, wanting me to do things for them that they are capable to doing themselves. but it's ok. i actually prefer their super-stickiness to the aloof teenaged behavior that i know will come one day.

anyway, it's an exciting time for me. i hope that it's the beginning of a wonderful career in the publishing industry. it's the career i dreamt of when i first decided to major in English Lit in college, so hopefully i can see it all work out for my partner and me. inshallah.


Friday, May 13, 2011

she juggles

the last several weeks/months have been a blast for me. i have seen what was, five years ago, just an idea become an actual book. that i can hold in my hands. and this experience has been wonderful.

of course, i have had help in managing the kids alongside the added work/travel/phone calls that come with a book launch. and for this i am very grateful. i don't feel, really, that any aspects of my life have fallen off the priority list. i seem to be juggling it well, and i think, alhamdolillah, that i'm making it work.

the one thing i haven't been doing, though, is blogging or journalling about this experience. i know that at some point i will want to read what i was experiencing as my first book came into the world, but although i have started a few drafts on this blog, i haven't posted much.

so i will take this moment to say that i am feeling grateful and supported, excited and thrilled, a little tired, a little wiser. i am proud of the family and friends who are taking this book effort seriously and seeing the real mission at hand- it goes way beyond me and is indeed a message i hope everyone hears. regarding the (very few) negative people, this book is beyond them also.

so. alhamdolillah for my people, for the opportunities, for the lining-up of elements that have led to this book in this moment. i feel happy and i look forward to more books.


Monday, April 25, 2011

It's Real!

my book just arrived in the mail. i am actually holding it, and finally it seems real.


i want to go to the bookstore and see it on a shelf. i want to hug everyone.

this is a fun moment :)


Friday, March 11, 2011

American Women on Being Muslim

I have been writing articles and marketing materials and mini-features and emails about why we thought this book was necessary in the current dialogue. And now that it's time to post it to my own blog, I want to use as few words as possible. I would rather just say that everyone needs to experience this book. Beyond that, I will let the women within it speak for themselves.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

small now

i haven't blogged in a while. i need to do it more often, so here goes!

every now and then i suddenly realize that my tiny children will one day be teenagers, and that, according to everyone who has older children, this will happen "before i know it" and "in the blink of an eye" and "so quickly". and in response to this realization i quickly scoop up the nearest one and plant kisses all over him/her and relish in how easy it is to make them laugh.

i know there are great things to come, inshallah, but i hear older kids don't cuddle freely and smile with their entire bodies and their skin doesn't look luminous even in harsh direct sunlight.

and if you tell them something super cheesy like, "hey, you know what? i loved you before i even met you!" their response is closer to the eye-rolling end of the spectrum than the nod-enthusiastically-and-offer-hugs end of the spectrum.

not that i can blame them. i say some super-cheesy things. and if karma exists, i will be the recipient of much eye-rolling in the years to come.

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