Wednesday 28 April 2010

Not Getting the Job

I was invited to interview yesterday and found the same day that I did not get the job. The interview was for a position in Children’s Services and I was excited about the prospect. I felt like I had a good interview, but that afternoon I got the call saying I didn’t get the job. Despite this I felt good about the experience and gained some benefit from it:

  1. I got feedback that the interview went really well and that they had to go back to the applications to decide between me and another lady who had more experience.
  2. I enjoyed the interview – I got asked who would win the forthcoming election and what I thought that would mean for the service. I also got asked lots of questions about my degree subject, which had never happened before and surprised me considering I graduated ten years ago and thought I’d forgotten everything I studied.
  3. I was told that my details would be held in reserve as some other posts were emerging and I would be offered these without an interview at a later date.
  4. My manager clocked I was up to something because she saw me print off my application and asked me if everything was okay. I didn’t tell her about the interview or not getting the job, but since then all three (yes only three!) of my managers have been super nice to me, telling me that there should be some more interesting work coming my way and dropping hints about how lucky we are to have jobs in this recession. They are even saying thank you for my work (before they pass it off as their own).

So alhamdulillah, I didn’t get the job, but Allah (SWT) still blessed me with an easier situation than I was in before regarding how my manager was treating me. I better milk it while it lasts.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Painting In The Park

I'm trying hard to stop buying things for the kids all of the time and just give my time and attention instead, to revel in the ordinary things and and be grateful for the blessings that already exist alhamdulillah.

Sometimes it's the smallest things, like the kids excitement at going through the carwash.

Sometimes it's the anticipation of something. I promised to take them painting in the park on the weekend. We took a not-very-healthy, not-very-homemade, but very tasty picnic.

We savoured the beautiful colours of a lovely spring day.

I and Little Lady talked about painting techniques (with her explaining foreground and background to me and me trying to convince her to clean the brushes properly). The boys forgot about painting and were off like a shot with their dad to see the ducks and play football.

I wonder why I loved them climbing the tree so much, maybe because it's just such a quintessentially childish thing to do.

Little Miss kicking off her shoes and enjoying the swirl of her long dress.

Ice-cream on the way home and kids falling asleep in the car. Alhamdulillah.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Enjoying Your Children

I have been talking to other mum’s recently and it has been slowly helping me to work myself into a frenzy of anxiety regarding the kids. In comparison to some of the mum’s I have been speaking to, I don’t seem to do as much with them and we seem to have gotten quite far behind in our Quran studies. My first reaction was to panic and start listing all the things we will now be doing.

Talking to a good friend over lunch though, helped me to put things in perspective. She told me about how much her mum used to do with her when she was small that they both enjoyed: playing together, baking cakes together, going to museum’s, movies and trips. But also just hanging out together in the park, watching an old movie together or spending the day in each others company. As a young teen her mother fell ill and could no longer do those things, but the two of them had no regrets and my friend didn’t feel that she missed out because her mum had done so much with her as a child. It also means that she is a lovely, sweet-natured person today with a wonderful relationship with her mum.

Her descriptions of her childhood helped me to calm down as they felt a bit more like the kind of parenting I could manage. So one of my goals is to do something fun with my children each day. Yesterday they had the play-dough out in the garden, today was painting, I have promised to take them painting in the park this weekend insh’Allah which they loved the idea of (I can sit with them and read or write for my journal, or maybe even learn to draw). I am going to have fun trying to think of other ideas insh’Allah.

That still left the issue with the children learning Quran. I still was determined to get that sorted. On the way home from work with hubby, I started moaning and put down my ultimatum: I can’t cope with teaching the kids anymore, they have to be in madrassah/classes by next Monday! He waited till I had stopped venting, and calmly told me that some brothers that had been working to arrange a property to start Quran classes for local children should be getting the keys this Friday! That stopped me in my tracks alhamdulilah, the place they have found is a former surgery about five minutes walk from my home. It remains to be seen whether they will be organised by Monday (you know Muslim’s are just known for being well-organised…), but I am feeling much more positive and very, very grateful right now.

Kids with the rainbow painting bag (plastic bag containing water colours, jar, brushes and card offcuts for them to paint). They can carry the bag into the garden when I am not there and they need something to do and easily throw everything back into it again.

Hijab Therapy

How many months had I been putting that off? It took 15 minutes. Much better. And I even found the purple hijab I'd been looking for for ages.

All Sorts of Mischief

I got home from work today to find that hubby had made dinner. I thought, how nice, a little bit of time to lie down and read before I get going again alhamdulillah. Twenty minutes. For twenty whole minutes, the house was so peaceful with Little Man napping and Little Lady reading. From experience I should have known this is when something is bound to happen. Who was missing from the above equation? I came down to the kitchen to see something sailing past the window, and then again. I rushed outside to find Gorgeous hard at work emptying the content's of the children's bedroom into the garden via the window.

This is what was on the kitchen roof:

The rest was in the garden including the doll's bed, the kids books and homework and all manners of small htings liable to get lost in gutters and dirt.

The worst thing is I can't even bring to tell him off with a straight face. I have had this problem since he was tiny, so now he is fearless in his mischief-making. I reckon it runs in the blood - from his dad's side of course. Hubby's grandad was famous for it. It's partly my fault, I had better lock that window.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Arabic Word Cards

I recently acquired this set of punches, so thought I would try them out:

If you are interested in buying these they will be on sale at the Action Algeria Charity Craft Fair on 31st May. Further details are here.

Monday 19 April 2010


I am currently reading Parenting Skills: Based on the Qur'an and Sunnah by Dr Ekram and Dr Mohamed Rida Beshir. Something that surprised me was that they did not start with childcare tips, or parenting advice but with the idea of self-review or “mohasabah”, or reviewing what you have done every day. Although this was highlighted as an important concept in Islam, it was not something that I heard or thought about before.

The Commander of the Faithful, 'Umar bin al-Khattab used to say: "Criticize and appraise yourselves before you are criticized and appraised on the Day of Judgment, and weigh out your deeds, before they are weighed out for you."

"On that Day will men proceed in groups, sorted out, to be shown their Deeds. Then shall anyone who has done an atom's weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil, shall see it." (Qur'an 99:6-8)

It strikes me that this is an essential concept if we are to strive to please Allah (SWT) and to be productive in our everyday lives both in our ourselves and as parents and spouses. The book encourages us to ask questions every day to see how we have used our time and resources. Although the book offers some sample questions, it also encourages us to think up some of our own.

I felt that this was a particularly good exercise to help with some of the things I worry the most about – what kind of a mother, wife, sister and daughter I am, the state of my iman (faith), how little I have done to please Allah (SWT), the extent to which I have taken steps to achieve my personal dreams and goals. Looking back over the day helps to pick out where you are going wrong, where you are wasting time and where you did something right. It helps you to gauge whether you are giving the right amount of time to your priorities – for instance I realised I spent too much time at work and not enough in the kitchen and that I would like to spend more with my children. Being clear on this helps you to then think about what steps you need to take to change the situation (so I am looking at options of working compressed hours or working from home one day a week for instance).

I listed the following question as being useful to me to review how I had spent my day:

  • Have I done anything today which could be considered as forbidden by Islam or disliked by Allah (SWT)?
  • Did I try to bring consciousness of Allah (SWT) to my prayers and did I take my time with them?
  • Have I tried to make time for worship over and above the fard prayers?
  • What effort have I made to be a good wife? What could I have done better/differently?
  • What effort have I made to be a good mother? What could I have done better/differently?
  • Have I made the time to really listen to my children?
  • Have I done anything today that could have hurt another person?
  • What steps have I taken today to achieve my personal goals or dreams?
  • How much time have I spent on the internet/computer? How much of this was productive?
  • Where have I wasted time or resources today?
  • Did I do something for myself today?

I have found writing these questions down on an index card and keeping them by my bedside helpful. If you are entirely honest with yourself, sometimes the answers to these questions are not very nice or easy to accept, but those unpleasant answers do act as a trigger to try and do things differently the next day.

I wonder if it might be useful to have a similar set of questions to ask myself in the morning that look forward instead and help me to prioritise. Will have a think and write down my thoughts.

Insh’Allah, when I finish the book a full review will be up on Mum and Muslim magazine.

Saturday 17 April 2010

An Easy-Peasy Kind of Saturday

It really felt like spring today, so wanted to go out for a wander-around with the kids. Decided to head for the library, which is usually a bit of an experience because my kids struggle with the concept of keeping quiet.

Was still returning my books (and paying off the fine as usual), when I turned around to find the kids exploring:

The library had an exhibition of photo's from Pakistan which I really wanted to see.

The pictures were fascinating. I have been to Pakistan a number of times, but so many of the pictures illustrated completely new faces of the country for me.

This lady smoking hookah reminded me of one of my husband's aunties (the kids just could not work out what she was doing).

I thought this scene was beautiful. The sand looks like snow and so the ladies look out of place.

This was probably my favourite, the angle looking straight into the the courtyard from above was wonderful. The scenes reminded me of the courtyards in my grandparents village in Jhelum.

I like the title of this photo "Tan Man Neel o Neel" or "My body and soul are blue", a line taken from a famous poem about the Punjabi lovers Mirza and Sahiba.

This one with the big bloke and the film posters reminded me of Lahore, although I suspect it might be a smaller town in Punjab somewhere.

As I was leaving I found that the library was having a book sale. The kids got to pick a few each for 20p each. For the adult fiction, the price was £1 to fill a bag with books. I bagged the following for my £1:

I have heard lots about "Girls of Riyadh" and it's a fairly new book, so was surprised to find it there, Annie Proulx and Dean Koontz are writers I enjoy, I originally read Vikram Seth's "A Suitable Boy" years ago (boy was that a long book) and fancied trying another by him. The others were horror novels or short stories which I love or various titles that looked vaguely familiar for various reasons.

So now, while the kids are napping (enforced), I am catching up on e-mails and blogging. Still have some of this lovely sunny day to enjoy and have been invited to an aunt's house for dinner tonight (so can carry on pretending the kitchen is just somewhere you float through on your way to garden).

Our new sister in-law is well mash'Allah, I can see how much effort she is making to fit in with all of us and everyone adores her. My kids are in awe of her and I am really pleased she is my sis-in-law since I only have one brother. Who incidentally we have never seen so much of as since she has arrived!

She visited a few days ago and brought along every kind of cream cake you can think of. Girl knows the short cut to our hearts:

Friday 9 April 2010

Flights of Fancy in the Garden

It's that time of year again. After refusing to set foot in the garden since about last October, the last few days of sunshine encouraged me to take a peek out the back and see how things were faring. I have to admit, despite the bikes, pots, yellow buckets and various tools, the garden doesn't look nearly as bad as it has in previous years, so all that is needed is a quick tidy up, some weeding and some organising of garden furniture. I have some peppers, chilli's and tomato plants on my kitchen window cills and seeds for coriander (cilantro), lettuce, raddish and beans waiting to be sown insh'Allah. Oh and the strawberries are back with a vengeance with their mission to take over the garden. Mint usually does the same, but haven't been over to have a look yet.

This year I am thinking pretty lanterns, bright flowers, windchimes and pretty, bright ornaments to brighten up our little garden and make it a sanctuary. Mother-in-law should be here this summer insh'Allah and hubby is crazy about the barbeque since he bought it last year. Just a little inspiration:

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Doesn't hurt to daydream. Found that the rhododendron had flowered anyway, which is a nice little bit of encouragement and eye-candy for now:

Setting a Precedent

You know when the ice-cream van drives past your house with its mechanical tune blaring and it suddenly feels like summer? In my house the tune is accompanied by hysterical pleading and harrassment from my children begging for ice-cream before the van goes away.

There are two issues with this, I have become so used to using my bank card everywhere, that I often find myself without cash. The other is that if you cover, you can't just run down the road as you are (and the van always parks aaalll the way down the road). So as I grab my shoes, pashmina and purse the kids are going crazy because they think the van is about to go.

Usually I just say no and filter out the haranguing (my sister can't believe I can tune out all of that noise at will, but that's a whole different post). Today I felt like saying yes. So the kids enjoyed their ice-cream and I got the feeling that the ice-cream van tune was going to be associated with a lot of hounding by the end of this summer.

Things That Make Me Smile 8

The kids have finally outgrown the stickle-bricks I bought them 7 years ago and have made them look after every peice of and I have been waiting for years for them to be old enough to play with lego (which is now), just so I can play too. (image source)

Dhai-bhalle - chickpeas, potatoes, tomatoes, yoghurt and small fried balls of daal. Reminds me of my days as a newly-wed wandering around Lahore with the hubby. (image source)

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Like splashes of sunshine on grey days, it's a pleasure seeing these when they start coming out.
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Islamic Art - The Alhambra, Granada (image source)

Jujubes (Ber as they are called in Pakistan) (image source)

I like dictionaries, but in particularly the Oxford Illustrated Dictionary which my dad gave me when I was a teenager (the battered and cellotaped volume in the middle).

I hope you have a blessed Jummah day insh'Allah full of smiles.

Book Review: Frank Herbert – Dune Messiah

Warning – may contain some spoilers for the first book.

This is the second book in the rather extensive Dune series written by the above author and then his son with a collaborator.

The first book, Dune, is set some 20,000 years in the future and centres around the aristocratic House Atreides – one of many royal houses affiliated to the Imperial Emperor Shaddam. Fearing the growing popularity and power of the House Atreides, Shaddam gives the house responsibility for the hostile desert planet of Arakkis (the only known source of the spice melange that enables space travel and various religious rituals). Arrakis was previously the responsibility of House Harkonnen, the enemies of Atreides who use the inter-planetary move to plan an attack against the Atreides. The book follows the politics and intrigue of the great houses and the fate of the sole heir of the Atreides Duke Paul who following the fall of his family, hides amongst the fierce desert “Fremen” tribes, until the time he can exact revenge for his families downfall.

The second book sees Paul Atreides as a great ruler having exiled Shaddam, married his daughter the princess Irulan (as well as his Fremen childhood sweetheart Chani) and conquered vast planetary systems. His use of the spice melange has led to him having visions of the future. Combined with his victory over Shaddam, this has led to the people of the various planets under his rule almost deifying him and viewing him as a messiah of sorts – a great religious and spiritual leader.

Paul however has become cynical of the people’s beliefs and wary of the things he has had to do to retain power. His visions plague him as he sees violent images of the future which include the suffering of his family.

At the same time, various enemies are lining up against him, working together to create an intricate plot in the hope it will be complicated enough to get past his abilities as a seer. These include Princess Irulan, the Bene Gesserit witches who undergo rigorous mental and physical training in order to influence the houses they marry to help preserve the royal bloodlines, the Bene Tleilaxu face-changers who can change image at will and bring back versions of the dead by placing their bodies in cryo-tanks.

Where the first book was fast-paced and exciting with protagonists that you come to care about although in my review of the original novel I did say that occasionally I felt that the novel went off into la-la land (talking about prana-nervature, awareness spectrum narcotics, the panoplia prophetica and hypno-ligation of the psyche amongst other things). In this book this was particularly the case. Pages and pages of the book are devoted to pseudo-psycho-philosophical ramblings which barely made sense. The characters have become extremely self-involved and spend the book skulking and moping.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first, although the ending was curious and got me thinking about what might happen next. This books continues the story of Paul Atreides to its conclusion and leaves you angling to find out if this really is the end and what will become of Paul’s children.

Book Review: Frank Herbert - Dune


Alhamdulillah my brothers wedding last weekend was wonderful (pics and proper write-up in due course insh’Allah). There was one thing though that stopped me in my tracks though.

The imam presiding did a great job and made a lovely speech. What caught my attention though were his daughters; four little girls ranging from about six to twelve or so. Simply dressed, heads covered and very shy looking amongst all the glamour and noise, they were like a powerful flashback to my childhood.

My dad was a religious man alhamdulillah and insisted we cover our heads from our early teens. My parents were simple and despite my mum’s love of good clothing, she had no idea of fashion or the latest styles. They were also on a tight budget with the recession in the 80’s leaving them in a tight spot for some time.

I distinctly remember going to weddings and seeing all the girls looking super-stylish (to my then young eyes) and feeling out of place and wanting to hide under the table. At this wedding the tables were turned, we sisters and cousins were the show-stoppers (Kooky Little Sister with her blingy Oscar-dress getting ripped to shreds in various places!) and these little girls looked shy and modest.

Mash’Allah their humility and naivety touched something in me; it reminded me that a person should not forget their roots or origins. It made me think that they were better than us because they were still humble and gentle and Allah (SWT) loves both those things. I know those girls will one day be strong, confident, stylish Muslimah’s insh’Allah, but it’s nice that their simple, pious start in life will keep them grounded insh’Allah and one day perhaps remind them what is important in life.

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Saturday 3 April 2010

Mum and Muslim Magazine Launched!

Mum and Muslim Magazine has now been launched. The first issue has articles on every topic of interest to Muslim parents and I suspect will be a useful eye-opener and source of information for non-Muslim parents too. They also have a Facebook page.

Please do head over and show your support by leaving a comment as the Sisters behind this are so passionate and have worked soooo very hard (for no pay but to serve others and please Allah SWT insh'Allah).

They are also looking for contributors including writers, photographers and people with web-editing experience. Please do get in touch with them via the Contact Us page if you can help.

Afghan Style

As Friday is our special family night, we are always on the lookout for somewhere new to eat. Brother-in-law suggested a new Pukhtoon-style place called the Khyber Pass. I thought the decor and food were fascinating:

Menu's covered in traditionally embroidered cloth

There were a row of these little teapots hanging from the roof

This was the rather pretty, but not very bright, light in the loo.

This ceiling was decorated with bangles, the posters I assume are from Pushto films (or is that man with the mouche Sultan Rai? I couldn't be sure).

I didn't manage to take a picture of the clay oven or the holster hanging from the ceiling. If you had read Khalid Hosseini's The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns you might recognise the food: chicken pilau with shredded carrot and raisins, chappli kebab's and Peshawari nan bread.