Monday, 13 October 2014

Baby at 40 Days: Prayer and Hard Work

Alhamdulillah, I think this has been one of the busiest times of my life. Fasionista’s baby, Kooky’s wedding, my little one being born making me a mum of five, with two Eid’s and Ramadan in between and Little Lady starting high school and then changing high school within half a term. It’s also our turn to host the local weekly ladies Islamic circle for a few weeks and now mum-in-law is preparing to go back to Pakistan. So of course I thought this was a good time to throw an Eid party.

I spent the first few days after having Baby feeling very overwhelmed and wondering how an earth I’m going to manage. I asked hubby for more help and mum-in-law pitched in and slowly I am starting to get a routine going. There are still days when I wonder what an earth I have been doing all day and where I make the best of intentions do something productive, but instead barely get through the day with everyone fed and the chores done.

Last week baby turned 40 days, which in South Asian culture is a milestone. Traditionally women rest for the first 40 days and take care to stay warm, eat special, nutritious foods and rest properly. In Pakistan this often means bed rest and daily massages by the local midwife for those that can afford them. Not getting the rest and nutrition is attributed by a lot of women to health problems later in life. I think I managed about three days of rest before I got super busy, with my mum telling me to rest or that I’ll face the consequences when I’m older (I have no idea if this attribution is accurate or not, but after worrying about it for a couple of days, decided there’s nothing I can do now).

Anyway, the 40 day milestone meant that I could end my bed rest (yeah right) and that I could start praying again (there is a really useful section in the book Heavenly Ornaments by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (RA) from page 69 which details when to start praying after having a baby). This has presented the challenge of trying to pray in between meals, guests, chores and constantly feeding a new born, particularly when the baby is crying and it’s prayer time. On the other hand the routine of prayer has helped to establish a routine once again for our family life – waking times, meal times, the times at which we go out and the babys nursing times. For instance one night I waited until the baby would go sleep so that I could pray esha (the night prayer). She sleeps with me and every time I got up she would cry, so it was 1am before I could pray and she still woke up and howled. So now I pray esha at the starting time when everyone is still up and someone can look after her while I pray, this means dinner is slightly later, but at least I am not going crazy.

Being able to pray again, has also given me a big boost and helped me to stay positive when it all feels too much. These conversations with Allah (SWT) are such a comfort and provide so much peace.

On the day I ended up praying at 1am, I got a little angry and upset, I was so exhausted I cried and asked Allah (SWT) to help me to be a good mother and wife. I found myself getting angry at my husband and feeling guilty at not behaving in a more grateful way. The conversation with Allah (SWT) helped to calm me and make me see my situation not just as hard work but as a massive opportunity. I reminded myself that each of my children are a chance to send people into the world that could change the world and serve and benefit everyone around them – each of them is born with a purpose to serve Allah (SWT) and do the work he commands and it fills me with awe to wonder what path Allah (SWT) has laid out for my children and what strengths and qualities he has sent them forth with to discover and grow.

When I take that attitude, parenting is still hard work, but instead of a chore or challenge it becomes an adventure and a privilege. Then the long days, late nights, early mornings and the hours spent caring for everyone become an investment in our future and akhirah (next life). Taking this attitude is making the days easier for me and helping bring the pleasure back into life. It’s also helping me to accept that I won’t be doing most of the other things I wanted to for now and that that is okay.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Thinking About How to Spend your Eidhi?

We just celebrated a wonderful Eid-al-Adha Alhamdulillah. But at the back of my mind was the suffering and hardship so many Muslims are going through. It was such a short time ago that we were incensed and upset at the bombardment of Gaza , so how can we put to the back of our mind that people are still suffering so much and enjoy our celebrations?

I felt guilty and selfish for all of the blessings I could enjoy whilst my brothers and sisters had to do without. In the end my kids showed me the way. All three of the older ones donated all of their Eid money to a collection for the rebuilding of Gaza. It would have ended up sitting in their money boxes, then getting lost when they insisted on counting it, or getting spent on sweets. This way it actually gets used for a positive purpose.

If you'd like to donate some of your Eid money, the following charities are a good place to start:

As well as those from Palestine, our brothers and sisters from around the world who are facing hardship including those in Pakistan, Burma, Iraq and Syria deserve to be remembered by us in our times of comfort and ease.

Eid-al-Adha 2014/1435: Day 2

After a quiet first day of Eid mostly spnt in the kitchen, day two was easy and boisterous.  We dressed up and headed to my mum's for Eid.  

My mum's delicious Eid lunch is my food highlight of the year and this year I was determined to enjoy it for a number of reasons. Mum isn't getting any younger and is finding it harder and harder to cook for up to 30 people each Eid, so we have decided in future I, my sisters and my lovely sister-in-law will split the cooking between us and all bring something to the table. 

Also, all of the running around after five children like a headless chicken means I seem to have lost a bit of weight (my Eid clothes didn't fit two weeks earlier), so I felt entitled to treat myself.

We spent the day playing with the babies (or in my case lots of time spent nursing the baby), taking pictures and keeping mum and mum-in-law company. The kids ate way too much sweets and were busy stashing their eidhi (eid money), mainly in different pockets of my handbag.

Everyone's outfits were gorgeous:

We spent the evening at my favourite Uncle's house, where we were well-fed again, with someone having the bright idea of serving chocolate cake for desert - a very nice way to end the day

Eid-al-Adha 2014/1435: Day 1

Usually we wait for the kids to go sleep before we put decorations up during the night, but being so sleep deprived I didn't fancy staying up so late and let the kids join in this time.  It turned out to be a great idea, they had a blast and we got our decorations up at a sensible time.

Darling was super-excited by all of the balloons:

We made this balloon arch together.  Good job I got this picture as it didn't stay up for long.  Hubby managed to secure it above the book shelf afterwards instead.

I didn't have the time or capacity to make colour-coordinated decorations this Eid, so was grateful for ones I had made in the past like this banner and the frame below:

While I and the boys blew up balloons for Darling to go crazy over, Little Lady went next door to get her henna done by my neighbour.

Eid morning started as always for me in with something sweet for everyone's breakfast.  Sweet, milky vermicelli (sevaiya) for the adults and fairy cakes for everyone.  I didn't make these last Eid because I was too pregnant and useless and the kids were adamant they had to have them this Eid.  It's a special Eid tradition for me and Little Lady to make these for everyone before the boys wake up.

Fashionista bought this cute vest for Baby:

Baby and Darling's Eid dresses were a gift from my mum, the one at the front is tiny.

This was my outfit which mum-in-law bought from Pakistan before Ramadan.  It didn't fit me last Eid, so came in handy this time round.

My parents were celebrating Eid a day later as their local masjid was doing so, so I invited them to mine for dinner.  It was nice and intimate and very laid back.  I made pilau rice, lamb korma, chicken curry, channa chaat, roast chicken and potatoes, raita, mint chutney and salad.

It was a nice, gentle Eid which was what I needed with such a little baby

Monday, 6 October 2014

Eid-al-Adha 2014/1435: Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak everyone.  Taqabbal Allahu Minna Wa Minkum (May Allah accept it from you and us).

I hope everyone had a happy, peaceful and blessed Eid insh'Allah.  

Hajj Mubarak to those lucky enough to be invited by Allah (SWT) to His sacred house this year.  I hope your dua's are accepted and that you attain a complete and accepted hajj.

I'm still trying to find a solution to my dead laptop, so will get back to eating yummy food and enjoying the company of loved ones, until I can work out where to blog from.  Pics to follow of the feasting, dressing up and posing (by the babies of course).

Friday, 3 October 2014

Hajj 2014/1435: The Day of Arafat and the Last Sermon

I have posted this before, but the last sermon of our beloved Prophet (Sallahu Alaihi Wassalam), delivered on the 9th day of Hajj at the plain of Arafat, never fails to move me to tears. Every time I read it, I find something new in it and every time I read it, I marvel at the beauty, justice and sheer goodness in it:

“O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore, listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.

O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. God has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. God has Judged that there shall be no interest, and that all the interest due to Abbas ibn Abd’al Muttalib shall henceforth be waived...

Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.

O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under a trust from God and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.

O People, listen to me in earnest, worship God, perform your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and offer Zakat. Perform Hajj if you have the means.

All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; white has no superiority over black, nor does a black have any superiority over white; [none have superiority over another] except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.

Remember, one day you will appear before God and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.

O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me, and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O people, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray.

All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and it may be that the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O God, that I have conveyed your message to your people.”

Thus the beloved Prophet completed his Final Sermon, and upon it, near the summit of Arafat, the revelation came down:

“…This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My Grace upon you, and have chosen Islam for you as your religion…” (Quran 5:3)

I make dua that these words enter the hearts of all Muslims and that we all are blessed with the desire to implement with them.

My thoughts today are with my brothers and sisters in Arafat who will have spent the day with their arms raised in dua (supplication) and with hopes of their sins being forgiven. May Allah (SWT) accept their deeds and their dua's insh'Allah. Ameen.

The Prophet (Sallahu Alaihi Wassalam) said: "There is no day on which Allah frees more of His slaves from Fire than the Day of Arafat, and He verily draws near, then boasts of them before the angels, saying: ‘What do they seek?’” [ Hadith Muslim].

Picture of the Day: 01.10.14 - Eid Prep

This year I reconciled myself to the fact that I wouldn't have any time to do lots of extra crafts for Eid or think up special activities, so I pulled out the most colourful things I had made in previous years.

Hopefully will be able to get my better half to work his magic and do something with the balloons and banners and I'll see if I have time in between trying to get over-excited kids to bed and nursing Baby to make the house look nice.  Baby currently sleeps all day and wakes up just as the kids go asleep and wants to be fed for the next three hours so might just be hubby and the balloons.

I think Eid this year will be simple and quiet.  My parents and siblings are doing Eid a day later as their local masjid celebrates on Sunday so they will be joining us on Saturday night, so I am planning a big cook up tomorrow.

(Eid stickers, badges and balloons are from

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Reactions to Baby Number Five: Anxiety, Curiosity and Joy

I was a bit wary of the way people would react to news of a fifth baby so I was fairly discreet about my pregnancy. I knew though that the people around me can’t resist a newborn, so I was looking forward to my family welcoming my youngest daughter and seeing what their reactions would be like.

My mum wasn't very impressed when she found out I was pregnant (at about six months), in fact I expected a big telling off. Instead she just told me that I had ruined a perfect family (two boys and two girls) and left it at that. Now that the baby is here, every time she is nearby she will take her from whoever has her and sit with her in her lap for simply ages. She keeps remarking “I think this one is going to be pretty”. Plus she has another grand-daughter to shop for pretty dresses for.

My mother-in-law had 14 grandchildren at the last count, so was more than happy to welcome number fifteen (and number sixteen next year insh’Allah – my sister in law not me!!). She has been enjoying watching the baby snooze in the sunlight that falls on her bed as she makes dhikr and showing her off to guests.

My husband is besotted with his tiny new daughter. I complained to him once that he adores his youngest child until the next one comes along and then he adores the new one. He is very close to Darling who is not quite two yet and I knew she would be anxious and need reassurance once the baby was here. So I have asked him to pay extra attention to Darling and she is ready with her coat and shoes every time he heads for the door. He takes her with him if he is popping to the shops or picking up the children from school.

Little Lady went from having no sisters to having two little ones. She was pretty astonished when she realised I was having another one and asked me a couple of times why I was getting another one so quickly after Darling. After the initial awe at getting Darling she would irritated with the babies if I had less time for us to do things together or couldn’t go out as much. She also found the crying annoying or when Darling gets her hands o her big sisters stuff. Despite that she has been a star and has helped with nappies, bath time, distracting Darling when I need to take care of the baby and cuddling the baby when she cries.

Little Man found out very late in the day that we were having another baby. When I called him from the hospital to tell him it was a girl, he said he didn’t mind and was happy. He is fast friends with Darling and is great with all of the little ones in our family.

Gorgeous disliked Darling for a long, long time, begrudging the fact that she stole his place as our “baby” and calling her names or bothering her. Slowly he has started to get used to her and either play with her or ignore her. In contrast he likes the new baby and he loves being asked to watch her. I think he is finally coming round to the idea of being a big brother, even if she is another girl and he is not very impressed that the boys are outnumbered.

Around the end of my pregnancy, the normally very placid and sweet-natured Darling started to play up a little. I’m convinced that small children feel something different when a new baby is on the way, because mine always seemed to start playing up around that time. Darling initially was very happy when we brought the baby home and greeted her with happiness thinking it was my sister’s baby. By the end of the day she started to be a lot less happy when she realised this baby wasn't going back home. Ever since she has been throwing little tantrums, getting upset and angry over little things and refusing to listen to anyone apart from her dad. She was very clingy with me for a few weeks and wouldn't let anyone else take care of her. She still won’t let the baby use her nappy mat, blanket or bed and takes any opportunity to give her an overly-physical hug or kiss which turns into a headbutt or squeeze. So we have to watch them like a hawk and make sure someone is always with the baby. I’m trying to make sure that this sweet little girl of mine gets lots of hugs, love, reassurance and some firm boundaries.

My sisters and sister-in-law's reaction was easy to predict: tons of cute outfits, lots of praise and cuddles and photo-shoots for the baby and lots of encouragement for me.

Me? I am in love all over again. Long tiny fingers, sleepy smiles, that sweet baby smell and all those daydreams about what she will be like. It’s hard work and thoroughly exhausting, but I feel like the luckiest women in the world. Also I finally have a baby that looks like me, after four that looked like my husband, I kind of thought it was my turn.

“If you were to count Allah's favors, you would not be able to number them; most surely humanity is very unjust, very ungrateful.” ~ Quran (14: 34)

 So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny? ~ Quran (55:34)

Picture of the Day: 30.09.14 - Sweet Smiles and Henna

Darling is the girliest girl ever and loves nail polish and henna.  My neighbour did this design for her ans she sat there posing for the photo.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Hajj 2014/1435: The Blessed Days of Hajj

Alhamdulillah, we are blessed to have seen the days of hajj again, these special days of which it is said that:

By the dawn; By the ten nights, And by the even and the odd. And by the night when it departs. - Al Quran 89:1-4

Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days." The people asked, "Not even jihad for the sake of Allah?" He said, "Not even jihad for the sake of Allah, except in the case of a man who went out to fight, giving himself and his wealth up for the cause, and came back with nothing." (Al-Bukhari)

Rasulullah (Sallahu Alaihi Wassalam) said: “On no days is the worship of Allah desired more than in the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah. The fast of each of these days is equal to the fast of a whole year, and the ibaadat (worship) of each of these nights is equal to the ibaadat of laylatul qadr.” [Hadith Tirmidhi and Ibn Maajah]

The Prophet (Sallahu Alaihi Wassalam) explained how, “There are no days that are greater before Allah or in which good deeds are more beloved to Him, than these ten days, so recite a great deal of tahleel, takbeer and tahmeed during them.” [Hadith Ahmad, 7/224].

Please see the link to my post last year which describes some beneficial deeds during these days and the act of sacrifice (udhiya) during these days.

You might also find my Ramadan and Eid Planner useful for recording your plans and thoughts for these special days of worship and to plan for Eid-ul-Adha as well as some resources about this month:

My dua’s and thoughts are with the haji’s who are truly blessed to be guests of Allah’s sacred house, may Allah (SWT) accept their efforts and with the Muslim’s suffering in difficult circumstances around the world as the rest of look forward to Eid-al-Adha, may Allah (SWT) bless them with more and better than He has us in this world and the next insh’Allah.

Offline – My Alternative Universe

Despite my best intentions to write, blog and tackle some projects close to my heart, I have been offline for the last few days as my poor laptop died. It survived missing keys, a built-in mouse that stopped working, the kids dropping food on the keyboard (okay that was me) and Darling trying to wrestle it off me at every opportunity. The final straw came when the charger exploded and I replaced it with a universal one that kept switching off and then I managed to drop it.

I did try and re-boot it but I think I might have managed to wipe the hard drive in the process. I thought I would have been heart-broken at losing about five years of work and thousands of images of my family and crafts and places I have been going back a few years. But I wasn’t. It was my own fault for buying an expensive external drive AFTER I had killed the laptop not before. Also, luckily lots, although not all, of the pictures and documents are in my e-mail account and I can spend some time downloading and sorting it all.

Hubby has asked a friend to replace the hard drive and try and retrieve the data, but the new version of my laptop is very slow and there is no Word, Excel etc so it is as good as unusable at the moment.

I am writing this on our family computer which looks fine but when you type, the letters appear a few second after you type them, so it's anyone’s guess where the typo’s are going to appear. That should be enough to tell you about the state of the computer. I avoided it for days until I realised that the laptop isn't going to be much use anytime soon. So I have steeled myself against how annoyingly slow it is and decided to use it for now. Probably this is a good time to take up doodling in between waiting after each click of the mouse for something to happen.

It’s not all bad. Although I am still online via my phone, meaning I can use the internet and check my e-mails, I spend much less time on the phone and don’t answer e-mail as it feels very unwieldy and cumbersome (I often have to paste links or send attachments). That means I am filling my time up with housework, cooking big meals (which still all seems to disappear in one day) and trying to get firm routines down for the kids.

It made me think how my life would be if there was no internet – would I spend all my time running an immaculate house and have clean kids and cook amazing food? Somehow I don’t think so. I’d probably spend every minute reading and pay even less attention to the world around me.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Looking for my Happy as a Mum of Five.

I have been dying to get writing again for days. This post was going to be called “Getting Back into the Swing of Things – or Trying” but as I opened up a fresh word document I wrote the above realising that getting back into the groove of everyday life for me is not just about creating routine, being organised, gaining some control and being productive, although those things are important. It is also about finding the right state of mind to face the world, my workload and the people around me.

My newest little one is 17 days old and the days seem to have flown by at a crazy pace and in a whirl. In that time my youngest sister got married, we carried out the aqeeqah for our baby, the boys went back to school and Little Lady started high school.

In between all of this the baby went for a check up and seemed to have lost weight which along with the jaundice she developed (which all of my children had) meant we had to spend two days in the hospital with her while she underwent light therapy for the jaundice and I expressed bottles of milk to see if perhaps I just wasn't producing enough for her. In the end I agreed to supplement with formula in the short term and the hospital wondered if the original weight recorded for her had been wrong.

The aqeeqah was a simple affair which brought together family which had been estranged for a long time. I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to with the baby and me just out of hospital, so in the end decided family, good friends and good food was enough.

My youngest sister’s wedding was stressful, bitter-sweet, beautiful and in the end everything went well. I have lots of pics to share of all of the days, but I think I’ll let her blog it first before I accidentally post any “big reveals” of outfits.

After all the busyness, we spent the last weekend finding our feet, trying to get some rest and with mum-in-law and the kids recovering from coughs and colds. Today has been the first day I could cook, plan ahead for packed lunches, start putting the house back in order slowly and start thinking about how I can order my days so that everything gets done and everyone is taken care of (including me).

I have found the last few days frustrating, with a constant cycle of feeds, nappies, guests, functions and various aches and pains interspersed with housework, children’s homework, re-establishing bedtimes and morning routines now that school has started and a grumpy toddler who needs lots of attention and reassurance. Over the days it got to me and I started to wonder if I could ever stop feeling tired, sleep deprived, put upon and as if I was not getting anywhere or achieving very much.

I realised that it was not so much the sheer volume of things to do, but my mental state that needed attention. Alhamdulillah I have a capacity for hard work and enduring long days. If Allah (SWT) has blessed me with many responsibilities it is not without the strength to fulfil them. But to find that strength I have to be positive, upbeat and at peace with myself and those around me. The last few days that felt easier said than done with my temper and sadness getting the better of me. This led me to think about why I was feeling this way and what I could do about it.

These are the things that are helping me to lift my mood and feel stronger and happier:

1. Dhikr (Remembrance of Allah) – The postnatal period means that I won’t be praying my daily salah for the first 40 days or so. I think this has a massive impact on the way you feel. Losing the five daily conversations with Allah (SWT), using the time to ask for his help and for your needs to be fulfilled and the general peace of prayer which is an oasis of peace in the craziness of everyday life:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “the coolness of my eyes is in prayer.” (Ahmad, An-Nasa'i)
Although I can’t pray, something that can be done in almost every situation and at all times is dhikr: “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest (Quran 13:28)”

2. Writing – I find writing and blogging therapeutic, an outlet for my thoughts and an opportunity to be creative. I always feel happier and more willing to do things for everyone else when I have had the chance to do something for myself. I’m hoping eight months of maternity leave will give me lots of opportunities to write and blog, but with five children of different ages, we’ll have to see.

3. Exercise – I have been craving the chance to walk or do some kind of exercise that helps get my energy levels up and helps me to lose the weight I gained following the last two pregnancies. I have found a walking partner in my neighbour and hope to do a couple of miles each day insh’Allah. Should be do-able because I love walking in any weather, but

4. Get out – With two babies and a pram for one, I have been housebound unless I leave the new baby with my mum–in-law and grab what I need and rush home again. This week I am researching prams for two children and also looking at booking driving lessons.

5. Treats – I don’t believe in retail therapy and trying to buy happiness and with five children I am rethinking my finances and will have to learn to budget a lot better than I currently do. Instead I will look at treats that involve relaxation, trips out, time spent with friends and my sisters, special things I can do with my children and time to read. Although I suspect buying chocolate and gorgeous stationary might also sneak in under treats.

6. Life is Short – The local sisters circle is hosted at our house at the moment and was well-attended today. These weekly sessions always leave me refreshed and with food for thought. Today it was mentioned that one day in the next life is like a thousand years in this world. The point was that this world is transitory and when we look back over our lives this time will feel so short. It reminded me not to fill this short life with complaints, dissatisfaction, arguments and ungratefulness. Also when you look at things from this perspective it helps you to be patient as its only regarding pain or sadness for such a short time.

Alhamdulillah, I have had so many kind comments and e-mails and insh’Allah I will answer them over the next few days as I find my feet in between feeds, nappies and still feeling quite sleepy.