Tuesday 30 March 2010

Gentle Parenting

I have been trying to see things from my children’s point of view recently as I feel that sometimes I am telling them off too much. More yelling from me is only going to mean more noise and chaos not less, so I realised I had to do something different to get a different outcome.

With some synchronicity, I picked up Eckhart Tolle’s book recently, A New Earth. Reading randomly from the middle of the book I came across the chapter of the book which deals with ego, role-playing and parenting. Basically, this discusses the way we adopt different roles according to who we are dealing with – our boss, children, the janitor and friends and subtlety change out behaviour depending on who we are interacting with. In doing so we are no longer our self, but are adopting a role we play out. So when we become parents, we do not interact with our children as ourselves, but via the role we adopt as parents. We end up doing what we should do, rather than what the situations needs, because we are acting from pre-prescribed roles rather than from ourselves. When we give our children attention it is often a demanding type of attention: have you done your homework? Put your shoes on! When we are in a more present frame of mind we give a more undemanding form of attention to our children, just listening, being present and available and open to our children. I admit I am guilty of this, I find myself distracted far too often with my kids battering me and yelling Muuuuuuuuu-uuum! to get my attention.

I didn’t get as far as reading Tolle’s solution to this problem aside from encouraging us to be more present in our interactions, to spend more time “being” rather than rushing around “doing” all of the time. This concept of “being” and gentle parenting are two concepts I keep returning to, failing at and then having to try again.

I do think that giving your children attention, really turning your focus on them and absorbing what they are saying and doing is important if you want your children to feel valued and have a strong sense of self-esteem and self-worth. The effect of a parents gaze turned upon their child is extremely underestimated in terms of the power it has – to throw a spotlight on the child, to show they are being listened to and that they are worthy of our time and attention, to silence or warn.

I find with my kids, often I am trying to get something done and they will not let me concentrate because they need me to see something they have created, because they need to tell me something or because I am having to pull them apart and sort out the he-said’s she-said’s. I end up getting frustrated, the kids feel I am not listening, I feel guilty and nothing gets done. I have found that on those occasions when I stop what I am doing and give the children my full attention and am fully present without trying to judge, respond or get back to what I want to do, the children spend a short (and pleasurable) time to get what they need from me and then move away even if I feel like I could do with more of the interaction by this time. I am then left free to carry on with what I need to do.

But this takes being present and conscious about what you are doing and how you are interacting with people and this is something I am working on now: to be present in the moment, to not worry about later or what needs to be done or to look back and to really listen.

Monday 29 March 2010

Books in Neat Rows

When I first got my bookshelves I loved them because they could house all my beloved books and more. Over the years thought they have gotten messier and messier with everyone using them as a place to dump just about everything:

So I hankered to replace them, but never actually did anything about it. That was until on the way home from mum's yesterday, hubby told me he had brought home a bookshelf and that I might have to put up with it blocking the way until he decides what to do with it.

Of course, once I saw it I squealed with delight, it was just the kind I had wanted. I just love my husband's removal job. It was unused and free. So of course I wanted to keep it.

Only problem was it was Sunday night and I had planned an early night so that I could get up for work in the morning (after a very hectic long weekend). But I was too excited to be patient or sensible, so we put the kids to bed, took down all of the books, beads and toys, dismantled the shelves and dragged over the new one:

Everything fitted, the shelves take up less space and look neater and my anal side was in bliss. It was also a good opportunity to have a good clear out while the kids weren't looking, although I paid for it in the morning. Oh look there's even space beside it for another single unit for my craft supplies...

Saturday 27 March 2010

Night Before the Wedding

My boy cousins (my little brothers) have been helping us with getting things ready for my brothers wedding. From running around at the henna, serving food, preparing the hall, arranging transport for the wedding to anything else we have needed them for (mash'Allah one of them is training to be a scholar and will be doing the wedding-day speech on marriage).

Yesterday they turned up with packaged baskets for us four sisters saying we had worked so hard that we deserved gifts too. We opened them to find clothes pegs, fake moustaches, £-shop toiletries, pot noodles, arm warmers and even a plastic buddha. The boys were in hysterics when they saw our faces. They had raided the £-shop and then sat in the gift shop where they bought the baskets and packaged everything whilst they were laughing like crazy.

Being as sweet as they are, they then pulled out the real gifts they bought us, which were very expensive handbags and perfume which left us all a bit speechless.

One of Fashionista's friends came round to do our henna. It turned out a beautiful shade of burgundy when we washed the paste off.

Today is our only brother's wedding day, so you can imagine everyone is excited and emotional. Yesterday my brother kept saying "I'm not nervous, why do you think I am nervous?" and the bride was in tears of exhaustion and emotion. I can't wait to see them getting married today, they will make such a good-looking couple mash'Allah .
Please make dua for us that everything goes well insh'Allah.

Wedding Preparation: Purple

The theme for our side of the family for my brothers wedding was purple:

This is the motif running through my abayah, mum's shalwar kameez, Long-Suffering Sisters jacket and Fashionista's Anarkali dress.

I bought this flower and ribbon to customise Little Lady's white dress, that way, it could be used again for a different wedding as a plain dress or customised to a different colour theme.

It's traditional in Pakistan to give out handfuls of nuts and sweets after the nikkah (wedding ceremony) is complete. Me and the baby couldn't stop eating this, so it had to be packed quick. (we used the same mixture to fill the favours.

These are the jewels dripping off the shoulders of Kooky Little Sisters dress, I think she out-blinged everyone!

My horrendous to-do list and some more purple. When hubby went to pick up my outfit, I asked him to get me something sweet too. He forgot, so went out again as everyone was getting to bed and came back with the chocolate.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Blogging Observations

I haven’t been blogging much recently partly due to my resolve to pay more attention to my family and home, partly because of the running around we have been doing for my brothers wedding and to be entirely honest because I have been less motivated at times to do so.

Looking around the blogosphere, I keep seeing blogs that have wound down or been deleted with people saying that their blogging career has run its course or that blogging was no longer the medium best suited to self-expression.

Many of the blogs I used to frequent have shut down (Umm Zaid’s Sunni Sisters particularly springs to mind and is missed). Many others have changed focus or lost their vibrancy and I feel that this is perhaps what is happening to my blog.

I wonder if I have said everything that I needed to say. I also have questions in my mind regarding using photo’s of my kids, particularly Little Lady, as they get older, although more and more the pictures I use are more obscured ones (I have to get a decent camera at some point as every photo on this blog is from my camera phone).

In all honesty, I don’t think I am ready to give up blogging yet. I have met so many amazing sisters through it – via the comments, e-mails and in person. It has brought new opportunities my way and definitely broadened my horizons. My original purpose is still there: acting as a counter to the false portrayals of Islam I see on the internet, trying to show that Muslim women are not the stereotypes created around us, dawah, sharing what I learn, learning from others and reaching out to other sisters.

So I may not post as often, but I will post when I can. I like the “blogging without obligation” idea that says that if you blog only when you want to and feel inspired to, then your blog will retain its integrity and you’ll carry on enjoying it. I think this works for me for now.

Things That Make Me Smile 7

source (halal tandoori pizza)

source (neatly folded pashmina's)

source (attar bottles)

source (Senate House Library, UCL, London)

source (painted stones)

source (blushing brides)

source (guava - the ones that are yellow inside)

Book Review: Alice Croggon – The Singing

The final instalment of the Pellinor Quartet, by the time I got to this book, I was looking forward to finding out what happened next.

Croggan has been accused of plagiarism and indeed here you often get the feeling that what is being played out in the book feels like a repetition of something that has happened before. Croggan has answered these accusations here and acknowledged that she owes a debt to the likes of Tolkien and even Hans Christian Anderson, but has used them only for inspiration and has not plagiarised their writing.

In this last quartet you find that the threat to the land of Edil-Amarandh by the evil king Sharma, or the Nameless One, has finally become real as he emerges from his kingdom in the South and begins to lay siege to one kingdom after another, laying waste to the great cities and destroying everything in his path.

Our heroine Maerad is searching for her brother Hem who is thought to be in one of the cities which has been destroyed. She also knows that time is running out for her to stop Sharma and that she must find the mysterious Treesong in order to do so. She soon finds her adopted city under siege and herself at the heart of battle.

One key difference I found between this book and Tolkien’s and other fantasy novels is the way the women characters are developed. Maerad is a complex, confused, flawed character. Many of the key players in this story are women – great bards (mages), elementals (nature spirits), warrior queens and hulls (bards who become evil). They are not just pretty girls who fall in love with heroes, but heroes in themselves. The other women fighting at the gates of the city alongside Maerad are portrayed as equals to the men.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the second and third which were very enjoyable. The ending was almost an anti-climax and the conclusion of Maerad’s relationship with Cadvan almost an afterthought. Croggan has still created a fascinating and rich world however, with its own history, languages, races and kingdoms which makes the series an enjoyable read and this last book a good-enough conclusion.

Book Review: Alison Croggon – The Gift
Book Review: Alice Croggon - The Riddle
Book Review: Alice Croggon – The Crow

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Mum and Muslim Meeting

Met with Sister Sumaiyah this week and some other lovely sisters (including Sister Lubna whose artiness I was very impressed by) who were getting together to set up an new online magazine for Muslimah mothers and those Muslimah’s who are interested in all issues pertaining to pregnancy and motherhood. I thought this was a wonderful concept and was super excited at the prospect of being involved.

We spent time getting to know each other, throwing out ideas, allocating areas to write about and eating the hostess’s delicious chocolate cream cake. I could only stay for an hour and a half which was over before I knew it. I enjoyed myself so much and just didn’t want to leave.

The sisters administrating the website are working so hard and have lots of fantastic ideas, so insh’Allah the site will be up soon and I will provide a link once it is.

Book Review: John Windham – Day of the Triffids

John Wyndham is one of my favourite writers (his Chrysalids is definitely one of my favourite books) so I fancied re-reading this book when I saw it in the library.

It’s odd how you remember one story and on re-reading a book you find something completely different. I originally remembered the book touching on its end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario and then focussing for most of the book on how the main character works to rebuild his life. This time round then I was surprised to find that much more of the book deals with the actual end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it bit than the rebuilding bit.

Bill is a biologist in 1950’s London, blinded by the sting of a poisonous plant called a Triffid and recuperating in hospital. He is frustrated that the whole world seems to be enjoying a mysterious display of green lights which have lit up the whole world’s skies and caused great excitement and which he cannot see. On the day his bandages are due to come off, he wakes to find London in chaos with everyone appearing to be blind apart from the few people who, like him, missed seeing the green lights.

In a very short period of time the city turns to savagery, with scores of people committing suicide and the rest grabbing and hoarding what they can and trying to hold sighted people prisoner to use as guides. The scene created is one of utter despair as people veer between despair and brutality as they face slow starvation and disease. At the same time, the Triffids, strange plants genetically modified by scientists to provide cheap fuel, turn on the blind population with a vengeance, with their poisoned sting and habit of absorbing dead bodies.
Bill’s natural inclination towards gentlemanliness is challenged as he realises he cannot help everyone and that most people are likely to die regardless of what he does. We then follow him on his journey as he attempts to track down other survivors and make a new life for himself.

Although the book was written in 1951, it does not feel particularly dated. The scenario created is mostly well-imagined and Windham takes the time to explore what the protagonists is going through and what is happening around him. That said, the only thing that does date the book slightly is the language some of the characters use. Every now and again, the characters fall into 1940’s black-and-white movie language:

“It’s silly, but I shall cry when we do go. I shall cry buckets. You mustn’t mind” p.261

This book, and especially its main character, reminded me very much of books like War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells; a very civilised old chap as the hero, a very neat suburban London where all hell is about to be let loose and lots of stereotypes – working class people who speak like Dick Van Dyke does in Mary Poppins and naive posh sorts who are good at getting themselves killed.

Nevertheless an enjoyable and absorbing enough read.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Wedding Invites and Giggly Girls

Less than three weeks to go to my brothers wedding and the invites finally turned up yesterday at the same moment my mum was on the phone to me having a meltdown. I headed over to mum’s after work, kids in tow to write up the cards so that she could start handing them out as soon as possible.

I did think, that ordering them from Pakistan (about £10 for 100 as opposed to the £180 it was costing here) we would be lucky if the printers managed to get the bride and groom’s names right, let alone anything else. In fact they did manage to get most of the contents right because we had typed it up and e-mailed it to them, they still managed to forget to leave somewhere on the cards to put the guest’s name and where we had headed the text up with “Wedding Invitation Wording” and “Henna Invitation Wording” to tell them where the text needed to go, they left the bit that said “Wording” on the card!!

So a lesson that sometimes taking a short cut to save money is not the way, also cousins and Uncles who say that they have a “friend” who can do something for you, are not to be relied on without a barrage of questions pinning them down on timescales, costs, and a step-by-step explanation on how exactly something is going to be done. Just watch the relative with the “friend” recoil when asked for specifics.

Anyway, it was too late to do anything and we ignored my Dad’s suggestion to Tip-ex the “wording” bit out (although he did start on a few) and just got on with filling them out, which was a whole further ridiculous evening in itself. We picked the moment that Mum was glued to her favourite Indian drama serial to barrage her with questions of:

“What’s Aunty Baby’s real name?” (Not even making that up and there is more than one with this problem)
“What are the people at No.18/16/14/13/11/6 called?” (That’s what comes from years of calling them next-door-people, No.18-people, Adil’s-Mum etc.)
"What's the Aunty's husband's name - or are we putting Mr and Mrs X?"

We even sent Kooky Little Sister down the road to look at what was written at the front of one of the neighbours houses to try and deduce the dad’s surname.

Then we had the whole discussion about people my parents felt obliged to invite, who us siblings can’t actually stand at all.

We did laugh though, as we always do when the four of us sisters are anywhere near each other. We pointed out the evil mother-in-law in the drama Mum was watching and told her to take lessons. She very seriously and indignantly told us “I only have one son, why would I do that to his wife”. We were in hysterics.

We made fun of all the songs we are planning to sing at my brothers henna (we are throwing the men out after dinner so we can get silly). Very silly I know, but we were laughing till we could barely breathe.

Saturday 6 March 2010

Dealing with Resistance

Something that sometimes stresses me out a little is the long to-do lists I manage to rack up for myself. What doesn’t help is when these things go round and round in my head getting me into a flap. What also doesn’t help is writing them down in my diary and then ignoring them.

Every now and again though, I just get fed up and decide to single-mindedly and ruthlessly work through the whole list. Today is one of those days. I got up at fajr (dawn prayer) and decided to stay up. This is one of the things which usually leads to the most productive days for me. If I get things done early in the day, I can enjoy the rest of the day and it just seems conducive to getting even more done as the day goes by.

The last few days have found me fretting and then trying to sit down and get some things done, instead I have been wasting time with surfing random internet sites, watching TV at my mum’s and daydreaming (okay so maybe the last one I don’t really consider such a waste of time, it gets me through the day anyway). I knew what needed to be done, but just kept avoiding doing it.

So this morning, whilst everyone was still asleep, I finished a banner I had been working on (and enjoyed doing it), wrote out a card, packed baby clothes for my sister-in-laws new baby (another one! I swear there are pregnant women and newborn babies everywhere I look mash’Allah) and got my things ready for the day.

Funnily enough, the resistance to getting things done has been everywhere – I haven’t been writing much, I haven’t been blogging despite all the encouragement from kind sisters, I haven’t been creating much in terms of cards or jewellery, I haven’t even read that much which is quite shocking to me. Perhaps it’s a case of changing focus, I have been VERY busy with my brothers wedding this month, mum’s hand is still not fully healed so she still can’t do lots of things and work has been challenging and very quiet in turns. I have also found myself doing lots of journaling and looking inwards and questioning what I want to do with my life. I have spent the entire decade of my 20’s procrastinating on this and as I turn 30 seem to have found some answers - I just need the courage to go for them. I have also been trying hard to focus better on my children – to learn to stop everything else when they need my attention, which doesn’t come naturally to me and has been a steep learning curve for me.

So my encouragement for today to my sisters is that whatever you are avoiding – just get it done. Don’t think about it – don’t give yourself the chance to procrastinate and let it get complicated or allow yourself to delay it for another day and then spend time being anxious about it. Take a deep breath and plunge in, start ticking that list off one by one. Before you know it, it’s done and you still have most of the day to do the thing you love insh’Allah.

Now I am off to post those packages, pick up two more (I have no idea what I ordered), find Little Lady a bridesmaids dress (which I an determined to find on discount), find gift bags and packaging for gifts to take the bride (that reminds me – have to get baskets!!, get my shopping done and get back in time for lunch. Then it’s off to Green Street to pick up my wedding outfit which needed alterations (I asked for a loose-fit abaya and got a ball gown with a plunging neckline!). Then I meet with my boy cousins at my mum’s house to see they have bought to wear for the wedding (so lots of laughing and joking as my little brothers are very close to me). So hopefully intend to get lots done insh’Allah and then make time in between to treat the kids, read, create and play with my new toy – more news of which soon.

Always make dua for yourself to get things done and get them done effectively. Last week I made dua in the morning that I don’t overspend on my clothes for my wedding, when I got to the shop, Mum and Long-Suffering Sister (I must change that title) paid for the dress as a gift.

I and Little Lady recently listened to a wonderful lecture by Muhammad AlShareef which I would definitely encourage people to make time for if they find themselves struggling to try and make time for everything they want to do.

Experiments with Lettering

I recently agreed to make a banner for a sister as I enjoy doing these. Little did I know it would be such a learning process.

My first attempt didn't turn out so great:

I usually glitter the letters in this way (with glitter glue pens) and it looks okay, but it didn't work on white lettering. I tried using regulr glitter and glue on top and that didn't work either.

My next idea was to create the letters with gems. Great in theory, but didn't look too great in practise:

My third idea was to print the letters onto thin card (Arial black font in 100+ font size in white with a black background/highlighter behind to see where the edges of the white letters are). I cut these out and got hubby to spray paint them silver:

These were easy and turned out as cleanly shaped and coloured letters in the size I wanted.

(Banner photoshoot on baby blanket on top of sleeping baby)

A card to go with banner - with apologies for taking forever to make this and thanks to the Sister for giving me a creativity kick-start right when I needed it.