Monday 29 June 2009

Last of the First Generation

I got home from work yesterday to receive a phone call from my mum telling me that one of the elders of our community had passed away. As I, my mother-in-law and my husband met with my mum to head to see the man’s family, I reflected on the fact that this felt like the end of an era, the passing of the torch from one set of elders to the next generation.

The man who had passed away was one of the first of our community in East London to come to Britain from Pakistan in the 1950’s and the only one at the time to have bought his wife and young children with him. This was the generation of men who got into hock to get here, many of whom fought for the British and came over on B-vouchers. These were the people who made sacrifices like leaving their families behind to alive alone, sleeping on floors or many to one room, doing the jobs that no-one here wanted to do in 1950’s boom-time Britain and still facing racism for “stealing jobs”. They saved and scrimped every penny and were amongst the first immigrants to buy their own homes and bring their families to settle here.

When my grandfather first came here with a slip of paper with an address on, he wandered the streets looking for the gentleman who yesterday passed away. He finally saw a little Pakistani girl and asked her if she had heard so-and-so. She beckoned to follow and led him by the hand to the right house – it had been the man’s daughter. The little girl is a grandmother now, her daughter is my friend.

The elders who anchored our little community together have now all left us, this man was the last. Many like my grandfather went home of their own accord, ready to settle into village life and enjoy the prosperity bought by a lifetime of hard work (he was adamant he was not going home in a box and wanted to die in his own home). Some planned to go home when they got ill, but were overtaken by death suddenly. Others still, like my gran who died earlier this year, and the man who died yesterday, decided to finish their time here, yearning for “back home” but having realised that they couldn’t adapt to that life anymore.

These were the same elders who made a point to visit each other’s families at every birth, death and marriage, visit every time someone came from Pakistan or went back. They were the repositories of each other’s stories and memories – who hailed from which village, who was related to whom, who had been of service in the past. I remember my grandmother talking about the importance of keeping in touch with our people and pestering me to make sure I visit every time there was good or bad news.

As we paid our condolences and stopped to pray for a while, it felt yesterday, like the end of an era, like something valuable – memories, lessons, experience, perhaps connection were slipping forever away from us. I hope that the children and grand-children of that generation remember the sacrifices that were made for them and are capable of taking over the responsibility of holding a community together insh’Allah.

P.S. I heard today that this gentleman had handed £10,000 over to the local mosque for its new extension a few days before he died. I love that he made his preparations for the next world in good time – now isn’t that the way to go mash’Allah?

A Funny Kind of a Weekend

I had so many plans this weekend and ended up getting so little done, and already its Monday again.

I was hoping to spend some quality time with my better half, but its funny how your definition of quality time changes when you have children. My husband realised that I needed some time away from children, in-laws and housework and offered to take me to Southend-on-Sea – where he had a job picking up a sofa. I decided that ”beggars can’t be choosers” and went along, sleeping all the way there and giggling all the way back and feeding my soul on the vistas of greenery (fields, long winding country roads, blue skies, giant tanning studio’s – what? This is Essex we’re talking about – and yes I did see one, next to a country pub).

Anyway, that lightened my mood for the weekend (some people are so easily pleased) and I spent the rest of the weekend, planning to do lot’s of things – cleaning, crafting, studies with the kids, visiting, but didn’t actually end up doing very much. Oh, I did let the baby loose at the kitchen tap for a change, it was so hot, that I didn’t mind him getting soaked and he had a blast “washing up”. That was until I tried to drag him away and he threw a fit. He’s been pestering me to let him near the taps ever since, so maybe it wasn’t such a great idea after all.

Spent Sunday morning at a boot sale (this is starting to become a bad habit). A few of our friends with children have money-troubles, and one in particular, whose son we pick up from school with our children, commented to my mother-in-law a few days ago that she wished she could buy her boys some toy’s. Another has aspirations for her son to become a Doctor, but finds that all of her Doctor husband’s income goes on bills and rent. A third, a while back, was saying she felt terrible because when she took her boys out and they asked for things, she couldn’t provide them due to the fact that her income is nil right now. So I spent the morning looking for children’s dictionaries and encyclopaedia’s and educational toys. Didn’t find much, but I have a little booting mini-mission now.

Came back and promptly fell asleep (seem to be doing that a lot at the moment), which completely threw my whole day out of wack. I managed to buy myself some time by sending the kids into the garden to hunt out ripe strawberries and peas.

Little Lady overheard me telling my mother-in-law that there was another bazaar this week and promptly started making sad eyes at her dad. Next thing I knew, they were trundling off in hubby’s truck and were back again 20 minutes later. I asked the kids where they went and they told me that their dad gave them £1 each and sent them off to the women’-only bazaar while he waited outside. They promptly spent their money on ice-cream, realised they had none left for the bouncy castle and came back home. This totally tickled me, if I had tried this with my dad, he would have told me to go and play in the garden or go read a math’s book.

By half-way through Sunday I had a list of tasks planned: make biscuits for tea, prepare a nice meal, clean the bathroom, tidy the house, visit my mum, post something on this blog, putting some new flowers I had bought in the garden. All that happened was that I found myself getting into a flap. So I decided to forget the list, make a nice meal and relax. I ended up making everyone’s favourite comfort meal of rice and chicken and chopping up some Galia melon and strawberries to chill in the fridge for desert.

The thing is, that once you relax, you actually end up doing things quicker than if you get into a flap and try to hurry, so I ended up having enough time to visit my mum in the end anyway.

BTW, for those of you who e-mailed, I did get your parcels out:

Hope you like what you get.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Craft Give-away

I mentioned a little while ago, that I needed to clear out my craft stash as it just seems to grow and grow. So a few weeks ago I had a clear-out and made up some packs.

The packs contain card blanks and envelopes, backing papers, stickers and embellishments. There are three and if you would like one please e-mail me at umm_salihah @ I will e-mail back the first three people to show interest and request details of where to send.

I will post out Saturday morning, Insh'Allah, otherwise the next opportunity to get anywhere near the Post Office will be the following Saturday. Look forward to hearing from you and Jummah Mubarak.

Oh Dear...

Usually when I give the kids something to eat, it does cross my mind, how much mess there will be to clear up afterwards (rice - not so good, apple - good, mango - not great, but can take the kids tops off).

Obviously dad's don't always have the same consideration...

Book Review: Shannon Hale - The Goose Girl

This was another book passed to me by Long-Suffering Sister, who contrary to expectation (especially considering her past penchant for Sweet Valley High books) has really been giving me some really good books to read (Zorro, Ines of My Soul).

I love a good old fashioned fairy-tale – anything with a princess, knights, three sisters, seven brothers or a step-mother is a step in the right direction for me. Indeed this book reads like a grown up fairy-tale in many places. The Goose Girl is the story of Crown Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee or “Ani” of Kilendree, daughter of a aloof queen and groomed from childhood to succeed to the throne. As a child Ani is drawn to nature and to the language of animals. “people-speak” as her wild and affectionate aunt call’s it, is not something that comes to her naturally, leaving her tongue-tied and awkward. Seeing her tendency to be drawn towards wildness a sshe see’s it, the Queen bears down on Ani ensuring that she is kept within the confines of the palace grounds and concentrates on becoming the future queen. This is until her sixteenth birthday, when unfortunate events reveal to her that she will not be Queen, but must travel to marry the prince of the neighbouring kingdom of Bayern to prevent war between the two nations. In her place, her younger brother is to become King.

We follow Ani on her journey to Bayern, attended to by her friend and lady-in-waiting Sierra, who sees strangely keen on the impending union, that Ani is resigned to. We find though, that matters are not as they seem, as the journey takes a dangerous turn and Ani has to fight for her, life, her identity and her country.

I did think that the book was written rather simply, more for teenagers than an adult fairy-tale in the vein of say Juliet Marillier’s “Daughter of the Forest” which is a Celtic fantasy woven from a fairy-tale (involving swans not geese though) and very grown up in many of it’s themes. The Goose Girl touches on themes such as the relationship between mothers and daughters, betrayal, duty and the treatment of those without power, yet in never visits these too deeply, never really explores them in any real depth.

Having said this, I could not put this book down. One flaw in many books, is that despite good writing and a good plot, the one factor that keeps us drawn in is missing – a protagonist we can care about. Ani is deeply flawed in many ways – na├»ve, overly-trusting, lacking in confidence and self-belief, but she is essentially good. She cares for others and she cares for the plight of others, we never find her assuming she is better than another because of her royal blood. Her flaws make her much more real to us and her struggle to overcome her horrendous situation is something that anyone can relate to. I do think in retrospect though, that perhaps the good and bad characters were too clearly drawn out – black and white and nothing in between as in real life. Another factor that made this book feel it was appropriate for a slightly younger audience.

All of the above being the case, we care what happens to her, we long for a good ending. At the same time the story moves at a fast pace – from one dangerous situation to the next terrifying one and onto its slightly disappointingly predictable ending ( I knew what would happen, I just couldn’t think how).

In all this was an enjoyable, easy to digest read, with some lovely dialogue, but not much depth.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Variation On A Theme: Oriental Colours

Love Notes

Little Lady loves bringing me her little stories, pictures and notes at every opportunity.

They truly cheer me up, so I thought I would make her one back:

She hasn't put it down since I sneaked it on to her bed as she was looking the other way. She keeps reading it to her gran and anyone else who will listen and has a big grin on her face. If only everyone was so easy to please.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Was That The Weekend That Just Flew Past?

Getting cross-eyed from exhaustion as I write this, after a very busy, but satisfying, weekend. No guests this weekend was supposed to be mean rest, but as per usual, that doesn't seemed to have happened.

Spent Saturday visiting one of my closest friends who now lives in Mauritius, but was here with her beautiful little boy for a few weeks. Our planned quick half-hour turned into an hour and a half whilst we caught up and reminisced about our time working together as the two giggly hijabi's of our office. Of course, she bought us lovely gifts from Mauritius which the kids went ape over (Strawberry Shortcake, Ben-10 and Spider Man T-shirts for the kids and a cute hand-made hold-all for me to take my killer-heels and latest read to work in).

Today was spent "booting" in the morning where I picked up some specialist cake-decorating pens that I had never seen before and some supplies for my brother's wedding in October insh'Allah. I also found some Enid Blyton books (ten for two pound which Little Lady dived right into).

In the afternoon we visited a local charity bazaar in aid of a small Islamic school which began as a home-schooling group and just grew. I, Little Lady and my mother-in-law got our hands henna'ed (the first pic is Little Lady and I thought her henna looked the best):

Little Lady and Little Man also got face painting done and then washed it as soon as they got to my mum's (I thought it looked terrible too):

We spent the afternoon at my mum's watching the Cricket World Cup final with everyone on tenterhooks. My mum has a pathological aversion to all sports and even she was hooked. Pakistan won and within minutes the main road near our houses had erupted into chaos with someone playing drums (the Punjabi dhol), music blaring and people on the road celebrating and causing traffic jams.

The evening was spent having dinner at my mum's and watching my wedding video and laughing ourselves silly, which is usually what happens when the four of us sisters are in one room. So now I am home, the kids are in bed (although the baby keeps sneaking out), hubby and the brother-in-laws are still out celebrating somewhere, I have just sorted through the kids toys and my books (I am having a big clear-out of the whole house, a small chunk a day) and I am off to pray and then get into bed with my current read (New Moon, the second book in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series) in the hope that I can wind down a little.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Late Bloomers

I finally got some time and motivation (okay, so I've been very lazy) to go and have a look at what's been happening in the garden. For the last couple of weeks, I have left it to it's own devices, with the results that what has or hasn't survived is quite random.

This pretty flowers look like velvet and sprung up themselves.

The coriander seems to be growing well, but most of it seems to be have been totally trampled by... of my little helpers.

The spinach popped very quickly only to start sprouting seeds. My mum took a look and advised us to pull up the lot and not use the seed as it must be poor quality (it usually takes a very long for the seed to start sprouting).

But at least the peas are coming along beautifully - I'm sure these will all get eaten before they get to the cooking pot.

The strawberries too are growing quickly. Little Man has taken charge of the patch and is watching the straws like a hawk.

The grape vines seem to be doing well. I haven't tied them to the wall yet as husband is again this year intending/threatening to replace the old wooden fence with a wall.

Aside from this all the cucumber and the various varieties of pepper plant don't seem to have done well (a few in pots) because the kids have trampled them into the mud, although a few potato seem to have appeared as leftovers from last year.
At least the tomotoes seem to be doing well though:

Earth Week

Today was Earth Week in Little Lady's school, so the children had to dress in natural colours - brown, green, blue or yellow. In a rush to get to school on time, Little Lady went waering her pink bathroom slippers - this is what happens when I am not around in the morning.

I like the idea that they are being taught about the environment so early, being careful with our resources is something that I htink should become intrinsic in all we do. They will also be litter-picking on surrounding roads this week and learning about recycling. LL's teacher explained to the class about saving electricity and now she is following us around switching off lights.

The class made necklaces like these from rolled up recycled paper and watched a video about pollution from cars and saving water.

"It is He who has appointed you guardians in the earth" - Al-Quran 6:165

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Book Review: Amit Ghosh – The Glass Palace

I was sure I had heard the name of this writer before and in a positive context, so I decided to give this book a go. The tagline at the front of the book “A magnificent, fascinating, poignant novel of three generations that starts in Mandalay… “ made me think of Rani Manicka’s “The Rice Mother”, one of my favourite books, which was also a factor.

The book is set in India, Malaya and Burma, a country I am curious about (my grandfather was stationed there in WW2 and often mentioned it) but know little about. The story opens with war erupting in Burma against the British over the valued commodity of teak and leading to the deposition of the Burmese royal family.

These events are viewed through the eyes of the 11 year old Rajkumar, a resourceful Bengali orphan stranded in Burma whose own story becomes central to this novel. We follow him as he uses his wit and intuition to become wealthy and find the love of his life, Dolly, a lady in the Burmese court.

At the same time, Ghosh manipulates various strands of the story – the positions of Indians in Burma, the recruitment of Indian officers for the first time by the British, the rise of the Indian independence movement, the invasion of Malaya and Burma by the Japanese and the various political movements in Burma.

This makes for an exciting and engrossing book. The subjects of the book mean that the potential for a boring history lesson abounds, yet Ghosh manages to make the above events interesting and moving by setting Rujkumar’s story, and that of three generations of his family, against this upheaval. In doing so he helps to bring historical events down to a personal level.

Despite this, the novel was not without its flaws. The characters are fascinating and yet I yearned to get under their skin a little more – although we see how events shape them, I never felt that I gained real understanding or insight into any of the intriguing cast of characters. Each is enough on his or her own for a novel and you are left with scores of unsatisfied questions throughout the book (Dolly’s origins, the Collector Sahib’s experiences of racism in Britain, the forgotten Indian’s that died in the Somme and Paschendale, the brutality of Queen Supayalat, the briefly mentioned Aung San and so much more)

Also, the themes and events in this book are wide-ranging and varied, perhaps too much so. A number of stories are woven together, with Rajkumar acting loosely as a common thread through most, but not necessarily all of them. So much is touched on, but none of it explored far enough for my curiosity to be satisfied.

Ghosh clearly writes with confidence and knowledge, but despite this, The Glass Palace is a good novel rather than the great epic it showed promise of becoming at the beginning.

Thursday 11 June 2009

New Prayer Room at Work

I finally got round to using the new prayer/quiet room at work today. I have been rushing home to pray, but wanted to pray at the starting time and be able to relax on the way home instead of panicking that I might be late and miss the end of the period for Zoher (the midday prayer).

So I toodled down and I found the room quite nice and relaxing:

But as usual, things are never as straightforward as you expect. The room is starting to get quite busy and has been taken over by the brothers (sound familiar?), so that the women are praying in the mother’s room (yes we have one of those too!) which is occasionally in use. Alternatively, we wait till the guys are done and then go pray later in the day. At the moment this is not a problem, but as the day shortens dramatically here in the UK in mid-winter, we have very short time-periods within which each prayer falls (Zoher, Asr and Maghrib fall between 12pm and 4pm in December), so we will have to consider our options.

It helps that our new office is enormous and there are meeting, utility and storage rooms all over the gaffe that we can use if the prayer room is busy. One example of this is every Wednesday when the Christian women’s group meets for an hour and so the brother’s pray their Zoher prayer together in a larger meeting room elsewhere.

Fortunately a very eloquent brother, who is also a manager here, has taken up some of the issues with the people that manage facilities and we will see if there is a useful response.

Alhamdulillah, I am grateful for this facility and even more so for the fact it is so busy. Already there are over twenty brothers vying for space in the small room to pray Jummah together on Fridays and I have already met some new sisters. The hijab-wearing sisters here number in their many dozens (I’m telling you the hijab-fashion sites would have a field day here) and there are many sisters who don’t wear hijab but still pray, so I can imagine by Ramadan and as more people get to know of this facility, it will get very busy insh’Allah.

In my experience, a prayer room ends up being the hub of a small but vibrant community of Muslims in the workplace, meaning that we get to recognise each other and are there for each other when necessary. It also becomes a place to get to meet any new sisters and welcome them. Alhamdulillah, I remember at a previous workplace where this was the case, our group of Pakistani, Bengali, Eritrean, English, Jamaican, Indian, Arab and Nigerian Muslims had such goodwill for each other, and I am sure that this contributed to the conversion of at least one or two people in that office (I think there were approximately four or five Muslims converts in total who came to use the facility from various backgrounds, including a brother from a Jewish family).

Alhamdulilah, I look forward to our little community coming together isnh’Allah.

Book Review: Shoba Narayan – Monsoon Diaries

I was sent this book by Umm Nassim (over at the excellent Islamic Unit Studies) as part of a book swap earlier this year. She picked up on my desire for some light reading and thought this might fit the bill.

Monsoon Diaries is Narayan’s account of her childhood and teenage years amongst a large family in South India and later America. What is different about this book is that it reads part autobiography and part cookbook. Narayan describes her loving and eccentric family with affection in the various settings of journeys, celebrations and holidays. She colours her account with the descriptions of food that her memory has linked to each occasion and each recollection is interspersed with a traditional South Indian recipe.

Narayan describes her idyllic childhood and the love she receives from her extended family as well as the chaos and joy of family weddings and holidays. The cast of characters she recalls, from servants and neighbours, to family and friends are full of life, eccentricity and

As a Punjabi (north India and Pakistan), some of what she describes – the role of family and food is very recognisable to me, others aspects were more novel: the tropical nature of South India, the religious practises and the role of women (South Indian women seem to be stronger and to command more respect).

Narayan takes us through college life and onto her scholarship in an American college. This part of the book reminded me of Nahid Rachlin’s Persian Girls (review here), where the protagonist goes to America and finds herself alienated and misunderstood, struggling to create any kind of identity. The author of Monsoon Diaries in contrast, approaches America with a sense of delight and adventure. Keen to try everything, meet everyone and learn all that she can, Narayan also struggles with identity and questions of belonging, but doesn’t dwell on these issues long enough to dampen her enthusiasm for her adopted country.

The first half of the book was an enjoyable read. I found pleasure in reading about the colour, culture, costumes, traditions and people of India, but most of all the culinary heritage of this diverse and amazing country. Narayan really does make her country and childhood come alive.

In contrast the latter half of the book was less absorbing and I was less interested in her various financial and academic problems. The book does end on a note reminiscent of its beginning though – we find that the author and her family have imported much of their culture, family values, eccentricity and chaos into America proving the point that you can take the Indian out of India, but not the India out of the Indian I suppose.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Sunday Night Mischief

After a rather fraught and emotional weekend, I finally saw a happy ending when my husband offered to take me out for a meal and a long walk. We got to Sunday evening and thinking about putting the kids to bed before we go, and my mother-in-law announced we should all go to see her friend who has just come from Pakistan. I wanted to say no, I wanted to propose an alternative day, but somehow we ended up at the friends.

The family we were visiting were good friends and their son is Little Man’s best friend. So I went along muttering under my breath to the other half’s consternation and spent the evening trying to keep my kids in line.

The lady we had gone to visit was suffering from depression, so sat through most of our visit looking blank while I tried to keep the conversation going (I’m getting good at this). Her daughter-in-law is my friend, so we had plenty to talk about.

The highlight of the evening came when Little Man turned around to our host (my friend) and declared “khana banao” - “go and make dinner”. I could have died. This isn’t the first time either. My husband had warned Little Man not to ask for food at people’s houses, to no effect. A little while later he reiterated “bhook lagi hai” and then translated for us as well: “I’m hungry!”

Gorgeous thought he would improve the situation by wondering into the kitchen and helping himself to a banana and then leaving bits of it all over the place. Little Lady and the host’s son both careered through the house making good use of their lungs. Of course all of this whilst the men had gone to the masjid. I waited till I thought the prayer was over and then dialled my husband’s number and held the phone up to the noise – you can imagine he was back rather quick.

Still didn’t get home in time to get the kids in bed and then go out and still had to get home and get everyone dinner, so the kids were in bed for about 11pm. Still, we’ve invited them over for dinner next Sunday, so we can have all of this fun all over again (I think I might be tying all three into their car seats).

I’m also going to have a good think about making time for myself and my husband in amongst all of the people and chaos here at the moment.

Sunday 7 June 2009

Patterned Cards for June

Now that I have my paper trimmer (well two - neither of which will cut a clean straight line) and an assortment of papers I thought I would play around with using the papers as my starting point for focus and colour rather than the embellishments as I usually do.

Two ways with one print:

I have more designs in this colour range, but I am wondering what other colours apart from green and pink I might use with them.

I really enjoyed making this card, layering on the flowers, ribbon and gems:

This is my first "commission" of sorts, for a lady at work whose birthday it was. I knew she was quite arty and didn't really like florals or pastels (i.e. girly stuff), so came up with the above. I got great feedback from my colleagues at work including someone saying they would buy Eid cards from me.

I loved how easy both of these cards were - the magic is in the gems!

Book Review: Mark Zusak – The Book Thief

For some reason I had picked up this book a few times and put it down again despite it’s rather dramatic opening. At some point Sister Washi of Crafty Muslimah recommended it and I picked it up again.

The book is set in Nazi Germany and opens with the main character, 10-year old Liesel, on a harrowing train journey with her mother and younger brother. The brother dies en route and is buried on the way traumatising the young girl who steals the grave-digger’s manual to remember her brother by, so beginning her career as a book thief.

She is deposited in Munich with the soft-hearted Hans Hubermann and his violent, foul-mouthed wife Rosa in one of the cities poorest, roughest neighbourhoods where she proceeds to run wild with the local children.

Her foster father’s gentle attempts to teach her to read and help her grieve are rendered beautifully by the author and Liesel’s foster mother’s tumultuous relationship with her neighbours and employers and her friendship with Rudy, the neighbourhood scallywag, are full of humour and mischief (and liberally sprinkled with German expletives).

The narrator of this novel is death, and not the stern, sombre death you would imagine. Rather death appears confused and full of emotion, seemingly half besotted with Liesel himself (it feels like a him) and jumping backwards and forwards through the story – rather like a distracted old woman, who keeps saying “so where was I?”

The novel begins as the Nazi party are already in power and the Second World War is approaching. Nationalist fervour is taking hold of the country and people’s fear of the party and what it could do is becoming apparent as Kristallnacht erupts and people begin to censor what they do and say.

At the same time Leisel, Rudy and their coterie of street urchins are uncontrollable and run riot through the town fighting, stealing and swearing. These scenes and those with Rosa taking slight at her various employers and neighbours are full of life and humour. Leisel’s growing love affair with books as repositories of memory, rebellion, connection and hope was also a pleasure for me to read about (see also The Olive Readers for this theme).

The story takes a darker turn as a stranger appears on the Hubermann’s doorstep asking for help, putting the family in danger and the war begins to draw in the men of the neighbourhood. We see how Leisel’s grief at her brother’s death surfaces and colours the rest of her life.

It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did, I was drawn in by the humour and the humanity of Han’s and Liesel’s struggles with their selves and the anti-Semitism and fascism around them. Zusak also manages to pique the readers curiosity in various, rather clever ways: sometime Death lets slip something yet to happen, sometimes the chapters are interspersed with rather odd headings – somewhat like cryptic crossword clues and sometimes we are just left with a longing to know what happened next.

Thursday 4 June 2009

A Mum That Says YES…sometimes

I caught myself recently repeatedly trying to get rid of the children – to the garden, downstairs, upstairs, to their dad, to their gran, to pester their uncles. I stopped to reflect what I was doing that could be so important that I was avoiding their perfectly good-natured chatter and the things they keep bringing to show me (Little Man picks up beads and sequins from all over the house and brings them to me at intervals).

Another thing I’m finding is that the kids are constantly fighting, and Little Lady tends to use her hands despite my warnings and explanations.

So I am trying to make an effort at being a bit more gentle and a lot more thoughtful insh’Allah. I feel strongly that children are a reflection of their parents to a large extent, so that gentle and calm parents are more likely to have gentle and kind children and of course happy parents have happier children – of course, this is why we should all look after the mum’s around us.

I love Sandra Dodd’s site and her exhortations to listen to your children and try the gentler approach. So with inspiration from her I decided to try and get through a whole evening without saying “NO!!” to anything my children asked me. Any mum knows that NO is a staple of our armoury, especially with my children’s requests for ice-cream, chocolate, crisps, to go to their nans, to visit their cousins or for playdough, which go on throughout the evening. This method involves not giving up all boundaries or letting them have anything they ask for, but asks us to find a kind compromise so “Ok you can have ice-cream after dinner if you clear your plate” or “ok we can go nan’s house, but tomorrow when we have a day off”. I also found that just saying “yes” sometimes was a lot of fun. So giving in against habit and breaking our routine and just dropping everything and going to their nan’s was actually very nice for all of us.

This didn’t help the fighting much, but it has kept everyone in a good mood and brings out the gentler side of the children and made me feel very good, which always rubs off on to my little ones. For the fighting, I am trying to keep reasonably calm and ask them what made them argue, invariably it is Little Man annoying Little Lady and then getting a swat from her. So the lesson at the moment is “KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF” through gritted teeth and asking “what can we do to make things better again”. I suspect I will be working on this for a long time, an as both my mum and my mum-in-law remind me, both sets of the kids grandfathers were always up for a fight and their dad and uncle’s exploits as teenagers are famous. Top this with the fact that Gorgeous is turning into a neck-less little bruiser and I can see myself stopping a lot of punch-ups.

As always (especially with such a big family) I am struggling to keep in place a routine for the children, but the last thing I want is to become a serious disciplinarian. I’d love my kids to look back and look at their childhood and their relationship with me with pleasure and as an inspiration for their adult lives, so that whatever situation they are in, they can find pleasure and a positive perspective.