Sunday 31 July 2011

Ramadan Kareem 1432/2011

Ramadan Kareem everyone,
May Allah (SWT) give each of us the opportunity to benefit from this blessed month, to increase our ibadah (worship), to seek forgiveness and to attain Allah (SWT)'s pleasure insh'Allah.

"Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and rightousness" (Qur'an, al-Baqarah, 2:183)

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” (Bukhari - 31:123)

Narrated Sahl: The Prophet said, “There is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Raiyan, and those who observe fasts will enter through it on the Day of Resurrection and none except them will enter through it. It will be said, ‘Where are those who used to observe fasts?’ They will get up, and none except them will enter through it. After their entry the gate will be closed and nobody will enter through it.” (Bukhari - 31:120)

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “Allah said, ‘All the deeds of Adam’s sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.’ Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarreling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.’ By Him in Whose Hands my soul is’ The unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.” (Bukhari - 31:128)

Mum and Muslim Re-launched as Aaila!!


I am very happy to announce the launch of Mum and Muslim's new website with their August/September Ramadan issue.  Now called Aaila, the magazine has changed name to reflect the diversity of its articles and readership.  The editor Umm Imran says:

"Assalamu alaikum all!

With Ramadan fast approaching, we have launched our latest issue of our magazine. However, there are several changes which we hope are bigger and better than before.

Firstly, we have changed the name of the magazine to 'Aaila', which is the Arabic for family (though this technically means 'extended family' i.e. includes everyone outside of father, mother & children - which is 'Usra'). We wanted to make this change to be more inclusive of dads but also because many of our writers have written about topics that affect more than just mums and their children.

As a result, we have a new logo and now have a new website - . Please visit the website and provide any comments that you may have.

Secondly, by moving to the new website, it has a new look and greater functionality than our existing website. For example, for those of you who want to read on-the-go, there is a function by which you can print the latest edition out as a magazine. It is also inshallah accessible by mobile phone and we are going to make this accessible on Blackberrys etc soon too.

Thirdly, we are in the process of finalising our newsletter that we also hope to send to you regularly. This is also from this new website and is an exciting change.

In the next month or so, Mum and Muslim will eventually just redirect you to the new site, as well as our contact details will be migrated to new Aaila ones.

We hope you enjoy the new magazine and thanks again for your support and duas in helping us get this far."

Insh'Allah, do visit the site and support the teams in their effort and hard work with your comments and feedback.  If you are interested in contributing an article, blog post, poetry, short story, recipe or how-to tutorial, please do get in touch with Umm Imran at .

Saturday 30 July 2011

Anything Wrong With This Picture?

Hmm...where to begin.

My children are not normally allowed any fizzy drinks (except for the sips sneaked by my mum, sisters, cousins...when I am not looking).  I was out shopping and these mini cans were being given away.  I couldn't say no to a freebie and they gave us one each - except they opened them first so we had to drink them.  Everyone dumped their empty cans onto the pram.  When we got to the supermarket, the lady at the checkout suggested four cans of coke might not be such a great idea for such a small child, it might make him hyper.  Little did she know how bonkers this child has become over the last week stuck at home and with enough energy accumulating for ten children.

The second thing that looks a bit off is the pram.  Four is way too big for a pram.  I am always very contemptuous of parents who bring children in school uniform to school in a pram.  But I needed something to put my shopping in and I haven't bought myself a granny shopping trolley yet, so have to turf him out and fill the pram with my groceries.  Plus its handy because he won't hold anyones hand and got lost in the supermarket about two weeks ago frightening the life out of me.  When you do hold his hand, he has this little habit where he digs his nail into the palm of your hand again and again until you are ready to go crazy.  Or he hangs off your hand so that you are half dragging him along until your arm is about to come off.

I think I am going to hold onto the pram for a while yet.  Maybe until he is twelve or so.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Writers Block

I have found myself with writers block recently, something that doesn’t bother me recently. After a month or two of not writing very much I am starting to realise that there might be a reason for the writers block.

On one hand, one of the reason’s I started blogging was that I needed a creative outlet because the job I was doing three years ago was extremely tedious and not keeping me very busy. After three years in my current job, dealing with a handful of very difficult people and being lumbered with work other people did not want to do, I have been given the opportunity to do something really exciting and which appeals to my strengths – i.e. putting messy things in order. My new job has given me the chance to develop project management skills and is much more high-profile than anything I have worked on before, last week I got to visit the Olympic Stadium, this week I am working to pilot a project reporting system for the Chief Executive. This means I am way busier than I have been in a long time and can be a bit brain dead by the time I get home.

As the kids get older I am trying to be present and attentive to them and as they grow older I find that they are becoming more demanding and need more support and guidance. The youngest in particular is a handful – not sitting still for a minute, playing football in the house, wrestling with his brother, making animal noises, jumping up and down and shouting when he gets annoyed, refusing to stay in bed, wandering off during dinner, continuously pulling faces and generally acting like a very crazy four-year-old. Hubby recently gently reminded me that the kids need to be our priority and we need to be more conscious about their diet and habits – I am easily distracted and very much a day-dreamer, so his reminder was needed ad appreciated and I have been spending lots of time in the kitchen trying to be more conscious about what we all eat (plus he keeps volunteering me for meals for the masjid, so that is keeping me in the kitchen too).

Apart from general busy-ness Alhamdulillah and trying to be more conscious about how I spend my time (i.e. limiting my time on the internet to an hour and making time for my mum-in-law who is stuck at home with the kids all day), there is another reason I haven’t felt inclined to write for some time. I tend to write from the heart – whatever I am thinking and feeling. I have found myself recently trying to write about what I thought I SHOULD write about and not what I WANTED or needed to write about. This meant I lost the inclination to write and blog almost completely . Once I realised that, the enthusiasm to get the word down onto paper (or screen) started to flow back. Hopefully this will mean I will make time to blog more often that I have been recently.

P.S. Thank you to all of the kind Sisters who have encouraged me to blog and write, your words have made a real difference to me.

Mum-in-Law is Back!

Mum-in-law has returned from Pakistan to stay with us for a few months much to the children's excitement and my and hubby's relief.  She is currently with the children through the day whilst I am at work (summer holidays) and she is my walking partner whilst the children are at madrassah in the evening.

Her being here means there is another feminine presence in the house.  I come home and the house is not only in order but cleaner than before.

The day after she came to us, my mum came around to see her and asked after my garden.  I tried to convince them there was nothing outside to see, but they were not having it and went outside to take a look.  Within 15 minutes the two of them had filled three big bags with weeds and clippings from my overgrown garden.  Yesterday it was the turn of the kitchen.

The best thing is how very happy the children are the roses that are appearing in their cheeks - mum-in-law loves spending all day trying to feed them.

Mum-in-law also came bearing gifts.  I had planned to geet everyone's new clothes for Eid before Ramadan, but she pipped me to the post.

This pretty pink outfit with the diamante stones and pearls was for Little Lady: 

Both of the boys were given embroidered shalwar kameez outfits.

I received a beutiful white dress with a very wide skirt made up of (quite heavy) embroidered panels.

The other outfit I received was rather serendipitous.  I saw someone wearing something similar and thought how lovely, but where hvae I got the time and money to get something like that made.  Alhamdulillah, I and one of my sister-in-law, Umm Hamza, have similar tastes and she is the one that went shopping for me.  The pictures don't so this outfit justice, its very pretty and very feminine.   I can't wait to wear them and I am rather releived I don't have to o Eid shopping at the moment.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Finding A Love for Learning

As the school year ends and my children’s days of learning turn into a final week of parties and play-days at school, my attention has been turned back to their learning and education.

Two weeks ago I had school reports for all three of my children and the difference in them surprised me and has given me real food for thought for many days now.

Gorgeous got the usual nursery report which generally summed up said “Good start, behaving better, learning to share and take turns, keep practising with the numbers and sounds”. Nothing unexpected at all. Little Man has always loved school, his friends and his teachers. His report made my day describing him as the most serious boy in the class, trying his best every day and a model student. His teacher picked up on something that I had noticed too; that he tries very hard to please. A sweet trait, but one which I am trying to discourage in my children, telling them that they need to please Allah (SWT) first and foremost and then do what they believe is the right thing, not what will make others like them or approve of them.

It was Little Ladies report that worried me. It indicated that she had fallen to barely an acceptable level of achievement in all of her subject areas and was spending time in her class daydreaming, completing work slowly, forgetting her glasses and generally lacking in enthusiasm, often “engrossed in her deep thoughts and needs reminding to stay alert and participate”.

I am aware of the stereotype of the mother who cannot accept that her child is anything less than THE brightest child on earth. I don’t think that about my kids, they are ordinary kids with, like all children, their own individual gifts and endless potential if we help them to tap into it. Little ladies teachers description worried me and does not describe the busy, engaged girl she is at home.

I can excuse the daydreaming, it has also been my favourite pastime for my entire life and I can hardly begrudge her having the same habit, but not speaking in class? Last year her teacher told me that she was good at science as she understood the ideas, her reading is above average (she demolishes every book I buy her so I know this is true) and her maths needs work. She also described her as confident and engaged, always with something to say in class discussion.

The change in a year worried me. I know that each of my children has a different learning style. Gorgeous is very physical and likes to try things out. Little Man likes to be guided through things with lots of praise. Little Lady likes to take things away and think about them, she also needs to be motivated by making learning fun, interesting and relevant.

Her report made her sad and so we discussed over the days what worked for her and what didn’t – her current teachers very traditional approach (i.e. rote learning of times tables) didn’t, practical application of subjects did. She gave me an example where a maths lesson had been about working out the costs of building materials for the three houses in the Three Little Pigs. I suggested I create some fairy tale maths pages of this kind for her and we see if she enjoys them.

The other thing we have been doing is small projects every day of her choosing. These have included:
  • Reseraching Amazon rainforests
  • Researching Ancient Egypt
  • An essay on Islam with Q&A
  • A 100 word story (she decide to write about the conversion of Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA))
  • A 50 word “flash story” (which I liked – she gave me role in it)
She enjoys these and they are gratifying for me to see. It also means she is empowered and taking the initiative regarding her learning and during the holidays is in a position to guide me towards an understanding of how to support her learning.

Two things that helped me in coming to a conclusion about how I should respond to Little Lady’s report. One was this article in Sisters magazine called “For the Love of Learning: Don’t Mind the Grades” by Juli Herman:

Don’t allow grades to define your child’s sense of success and failure. Treat them not as a determinant of your child’s present and future success but simply as one of the requirements your child has to fulfill to get through the system, that is, if your child is in the system. Instead of asking your child, “So how did you do in your math test?” ask, “So what was the most interesting thing you did in math today?” Ask questions like, “What did you learn in history today?” and “What do you think about the English-French wars?” There’s no one right answer to questions like these.

The objective is to emphasize the thought process in the various stages of learning instead of on the results of a performance. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about how the child does in school (if this becomes a problems with the teachers), but it just shows that you care more about him engaging in learning. After all, learning is a life process. Any performance that is demanded of something that is still in progress will always be lacking. If it is not, then something has gone awry. This kind of thinking requires stepping out of the box, zooming out, and looking at the bigger picture. It’s not going to be easy, because grades are such a dominant part of the school’s culture.”

The second was this talk by Sir Ken Robinson entitled “Why schools kill creativity”

 I don’t want to denigrate teachers as a whole (for starters Fashionista Sister is a teacher and a very good one at that) and my children have had some fabulous teachers, but having one whose approach was at odds with Little Ladies learning style has caused her to stop enjoying school (I recall on parents day, the teacher giving another parent a lecture about school not being a place for her daughter to come to socialise). I hope during the holidays Little Lady gets to find the fun in learning and next year at school is more positive for her insh’Allah.

P.S – This week is the last week at school before summer holidays for many children. I always think it is a nice way if making Dawah, and also good manners, to take a gift or card for your child’s teacher to thank them for their hard work throughout the year

Monday 11 July 2011

2011 Trip to Hewitts Farm

We have visited Hewitt's Farm most summers since I was a little girl.  This is a pick your own fruit and veg farm and usually we go in early summer during Strawberry season or late summer/early Autumn when the orchards are ready (apples, pears and plums).  This year we managed to miss strawberry season, but had lots of fun anyway:

After visiting a boot fair early in the morning, then spending a few hours at the farm we were shattered, so headed to Orpington Park which is beautiful.  This is the meadow carpeted with daisies where we had our picnic lunch (chicken sandwiches, fajita's, lamb burgers and melon and watermelon fruit salad)

Little Man loves taking pictures and went off with my mobile phone to take lots of pictures of ducks (this is turning out to be a very convenient way to keep him occupied - give him photo assignments!)

We came home exhausted and everyone needed a nap, but managed to bring home some delicious fresh fruit.  I made cauliflower and potato curry the next day and cut and froze some of the cauli's, the fine beans I will cook with chicken and Gorgeous decimated the raw peas - he has a way of eating them where he half opens them an scrapes the pea's into his mouth - I wonder if he has eaten any bugs...of course the raspberries we picked didn't quite make it home.

Spotting Wildflowers in Kent

We spent last weekend in the beauitful Kent countryside.  Whilst Little Man held ladybirds and Gorgeous chased butterflies, I tasked Little Lady with spotting as many wildflowers as possible.  Her next task is to try and find the names for the following:

I recognised daisies, dandelions, buttercups (easy!), Queen Anne's lace, will have to try and find the names of the others - which ones did you recognise?