Tuesday 29 May 2012

The Beginnings of a New Relationship: Getting to Know My Unborn Baby

Alhamdulillah its strange how you can build a relationship based on intuition, conjecture and the guesses about a person you do not really know and have never met. Take my little ones. I have three children and I am expecting my fourth one insh’Allah in the autumn.

You would think the child is born, the personality emerges and you form a relationship. Yet I feel as if I know this unborn baby already. Each movement and kick, the changes in my taste buds and preferences, feels like part of the story and another piece of the puzzle in getting to know this little one.

With Little Lady, I had a baby that was hyper and kicked all the time, this is visible to me now in her energy. I remember looking at her scan photo and seeing a black thumb-print like mark on her chin and wondering what that could be. When she was born I realised that had been the dimple on her chin. Little Man was slower and stronger and gave me cravings for sweet foods. He was a bigger baby and still has his sweet tooth. I recognise now the perfect little nose and very full lips from his scan photo. Gorgeous had slow, languorous movements in my stomach. He gave me a taste for red meat and strong chill which I had never had much of a penchant for before. He was born a whopping 9.2 pounds, a real bruiser and is still a head taller than the rest of his classmates. He is also the only one of my children who can take his chilli.

This baby? He/she is full of energy, its movements are small and swift like Little Lady’s used to be and it is wide awake late at night and early in the morning when I am most rested. It also seems to wake up every day in the middle of the afternoon and have a good play, usually when I am in a meeting and trying to keep a straight face. Since I have become pregnant I cannot stand the slightest speck of spice or chilli as it burns my throat and stomach and I have lost all interest in anything sweet which is a bonus. I suspect this might set the tone for the little ones future preferences. From the scan photo’s I can see full lips and a pointy nose – more like Little Man than the other two I think.

I’m looking forward to my next scan in less than two weeks – it feels almost like visiting the baby! It’s a strange feeling to feel so protective and affectionate toward someone you have yet to meet.

"And God brought you out of your mother's insides while you knew nothing, and gave you hearing and eyesight and feelings, that you might be grateful." Qur'an (16:78)

"...then We made the drop a clot, then We made the clot a lump of flesh, then We made the flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We produced another creature from it. So blessed is God, the best of creators." Qur'an (23:14)

Picture of the Day: Mandeville and Wenlock

Came across these models of the Olympic Mascots today. Not crazy about the designs, like the names though - Mandeville is named after Stoke Mandeville, where the first Paralympic Games took place. Wenlock is named after Much Wenlock where the Wenlock Olympian Society Annual Games were held in 1850. I think I prefer the Team GB mascot Pride the L ion, but I might be a tad biased...

Monday 28 May 2012

InCulture Parent: Can You be Muslim and English?

My latest post is up at the wonderful InCulture Parent. It is called Can You be Muslim and English? and there is an excerpt below:

"We recently celebrated St. George’s Day here in England, the day of the country’s patron saint. My children dressed in red, white and blue for their schools’ St. George’s celebrations. For most people this is no longer a celebration tied to religion, but about celebrating all things English. I have always felt very conflicted about my identity—am I English, British, Pakistani, Punjabi or none of these? Can you be more than one?

Growing up, my parents made it very clear to me that we were Pakistani. However, I could relate to so many things English–literature, culture, the tolerance of difference, the beauty of the countryside. A part of me wanted to proudly say I was English. Another part of me had a very strong feeling that as a person with brown skin, who dressed and lived differently, I would be a laughing stock for saying so. I felt I would not be accepted as English, a British Pakistani perhaps as a stretch, but definitely not English.

When I had my children, I began to revisit my thinking around identity. Surely as the fourth generation of my family in this country, they wouldn’t have to question who they were? But who were they? I decided there had to be a cut-off point for immigrants—after four generations in this country I could say now that they were English?"

Please do take a look and leave a ccomment. I would love to hear other people's thoughts on this topic. It's certainly worth browsing the rest of the magazine also.

Breaking Coriander Seeds and Dealing with Border Disputes

After spending three hours on Sunday morning digging up the garden, organising pots, deciding what to grow and what to get hubby to pull out (a big old rose bush which has gotten gnarly and the grape vine from last year which yielded sour grapes), we finally got round to doing some planting this evening.

So far we have the garlic from last year, strawberry plants and the baby Braeburn apple tree. We planted tomato and gourd plants and I had the kids dig up Gorgeous’ patch to put some coriander and spinach seed in.

When I was little my mum would take coriander seed from the kitchen and put it on the garden tiles and then get us all to jump on it to break it down a little. She would then sweep it up and deposit it onto the soil and turn the soil over. Not sure if there is any point in doing this, or what her reasoning was, but whilst I got round to asking her, I thought I would get the kids to do the same (anyone heard the story about the women who trimmed her meat for years because her mother did and then found out her mother only did it because she had a very small pan) . The kids thought it was a great idea and enlisted the neighbours’ kids to help.

I also put the French beans seeds in along the walls and in some of the planters (just to see here they would grow well and where they wouldn’t).

Involving the kid’s sounds very nice, but it has been an exercise in patience to be honest. They fight over the watering can, they fight over the ornaments and today they even fought over which part of the patch belongs to who. I have heard of fence/border disputes with neighbours, but never inside the same garden. In the end I was relieved when their Arabic teacher turned up and they had to go in. I finished off and got a few moments to sit outside quietly and enjoy the cool evening after a hot day of long meetings, busy trains and sore feet.

It was lovely going outside this morning and watering the garden before work, a nice little routine for the next few months insh’Allah, and hopefully we can have the rest of the garden cleared of junk and the benches and chairs cleared and set out so we can enjoy the evenings outside. Mum-in-law will be here in a week to stay for the summer, so no doubt she will be spending lots of time out here too.

Pictire of the Day: Driving You Up the Wall

Its not every day you see a full size Mini Cooper on a wall high above your head. Obviously whoever is driving this has the same approah as my hubby who likes to scare the heck out of me with his driving every now and again (I'm sure he does it on purpose).

Sunday 20 May 2012

I Can Do Anything!

Pregnancy causes al sorts of reactions – congratulations, special treatment from friends, a few funny looks from people at work and most recently the belief that people know what is best for me.

I put up with some very rude comments from other Muslim women when my children were very small – about how I must be selfish and money hungry to be still at work when I have small children, how children need their mother with them all of the time. This caused years of guilt and anxiety on my part, in particular that my children would have all sorts of psychological issues. It was only as the kids got older and I started to see that actually they are good kids – messy and rowdy, but essentially good and very independent, that my fear and guilt started to alleviate.

The last two weeks I attended the sister’s circle I go to on Sundays I have had comments. Initially congratulations and lots of questions about how I was feeling. Then one sister asked me if I was going to stop working now – “I can’t manage being at home with three, how are you going to work with four?” I got a bit cross at her tone and answered “Same as I manage now – I can do anything”. I didn’t mean to be arrogant, but I am long past tolerating this kind of thing.

The second week, the sister that asked was a little gentler – “Are you going to stop working now?” I explained I hope to stay home for a year and then see what our situation was, but that depended on a lot of things.

I know a lot of sisters disagree with mothers working, both Muslim and non-Muslim, what I can’t understand is the attitude that they know best and their inability to respect the decisions of their sisters. I also can’t understand their inability to see that many women are not working because they love money more than their children but because they want to keep a roof over their children’s head and pay the bills (because like hell am I raising my children in state benefits if I can help it).

I know stay-at-home mothers whose kids are messed up because they are so messed up. I know stay-at-home mothers who are busier than I am with studies, Islamic studies, school activities and their social lives. I know working mothers who would love to give up work, even when their children are all at school or adults and don’t always feel they could afford to.

I have also learnt that a woman grows to meet a challenge. When I had one child it felt like hard work, when I had three and a busy job, I took it in my stride. Now that I am pregnant with a fourth, have a crazy job and three demanding children, with the in-laws due back soon, I am still going – albeit with the sense to slow down a little and with a yearning now and again to step back and take a break from it all.

Thankfully at this weeks study circle, no-one mentioned the topic – they must have got bored!

Friday 18 May 2012

Recipe: Spinach and Chicken Curry

My mum gave me some fresh spinach from her garden this week, so decided to add some chicken to it and make a very mild curry.

Ingredients:2 medium onions, diced
1 tablespoon garlic chopped or paste
1 tablespoon ginger chopped or paste
2 tomatoes, chopped
1-2 teaspoon chilli powder to suit taste (I used half a teaspoon because I can’t handle chill at the moment)
1 tablespoon salt
Half teaspoon coriander powder
Half teaspoon cumin powder
Half teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon yoghurt
Half a kilo chicken, (I used cubed chicken breast, but any type will do)

MethodCut spinach into then strips, wash and boil until soft. Drain and set aside.
At this stage you can leave it as it is or give it a very quick whizz in the chopper to make it smoother. I prefer to leave it as it is as it gives the curry a nice texture.

Separately, sauté the onions until gold, add ginger, garlic and spices and fry for 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes, yoghurt and salt and cook until fairly dry.
Add chicken and fry until cooked through. Add the spinach and cook for a little while.

I forgot to add the yoghurt this time round, but this definitely tastes better with the yoghurt

Tuesday 15 May 2012

I Don’t Think So!

There has been anticipation in our house since news of a baby possibly coming to stay in October. Little Lady insists it has to be a girl and Little Man says he will help look after it. Not everyone is excited though. Gorgeous has spent about two weeks giving me cross lectures on hearing the news:

You can’t look after four children! (cheek!)
Babies are smelly; it will fill the whole house with poo!
Daddy will be angry, it will eat all of his food!
Where will it sleep?
It won’t be my friend, babies aren’t anyone’s friend.
It can’t play with me, babies just cry all the time, they don’t know how to play
Babies are too stinky and do poo in their nappy and do farts!
Babies are so rubbish.

I got a complaint from his teacher that he was misbehaving in school. He had been soaking children waiting at the water fountain and refusing to listen in class. I explained to his teacher that there had been a lack of routine at home recently and that we were working to set this right.

I spoke to Gorgeous, who was super-embarrassed (and had been trying to talk me out of talking to his teacher). He agreed to try his best to listen and be kind. I agreed that we wouldn’t bring home a baby if he didn’t want one…

…then the emotional blackmail and guilt-tripping began. I explained that so and so were going to have a baby, they were going to love it and play with it. Lots of people would come to visit them. We wouldn’t be having one. Never mind. A few days of this and he softened up:

Gorgeous: “okay mum, you can have one then”
Me: “No, it’s too late, you have to really want one”
Gorgeous: “I do, I do want one”
Me: “Well it’s not up to me, you have to ask Allah”
Gorgeous: “Please Allah can we get a baby”
Me: “You have to mean it”
Gorgeous: “I do mean it, please Allah can we really, really, get one”
Me: “We’ll just have to wait and see if we get lucky enough” ;)

I realised he had changed his mind when we packed up his baby books to get rid of them and gave him some of Little Lady’s Oxford Reading Tree books. He previously hadn’t let anyone touch them. Not only did he hand then over, he agreed to keep a small one for the baby and hid it in a toy box for when the baby comes.

Picture of the Day: Sunny Days

Today we have had rain showers, sunshine, hailstones, thunder and lightening, the last three on the way home from work. Hubby opened the car window and caught some hail for the kids. What was rather a scary drive, turned into fun thanks to his playfulness.

I got home to find my plant pots still full of lumps of ice. Never mind, May is not over yet and I plan to take the kids to a May fair this weekend, hopefully it will be brighter.

Monday 14 May 2012

Garden of Delights...Hopefully

I set everything else aside to start work on the garden today after work. It is already May and we haven’t started planting yet. I really wanted to involve the kids and give them their own areas to look after. Our garden is little so we pored over gardening books and tried to find ideas for small gardens – plants that grow upwards rather than spread, using pots creatively, being selective and making choices about what you want to grow.

The garden was a bit of a mess, I took this picture back in February before I started feeling too sick to do anything about the mess.

We spent today clearing out rubbish and weeding. We managed to fill four trash bags together. There is already lots of good stuff to work with alhamdulillah. The garlic mum-in-law planted before she went back to Pakistan late last year has grown. Little Man managed to pull some of the leaves out in his eagerness and the smell was amazing, very strong.

Little Man is in charge of taking care of our baby apple tree which we planted last year and has blossomed this year.

We cleared this little plant of weeds and I will ask hubby to pull out the grape vine (grapes were super sour, had lots of seeds and the plant spread like crazy) and the rose bush (too big for the bed and not many flowers). This bed is for Gorgeous to look after. It gets the most sun, so I might reserve for my vegetables.

Little lady will help me with organising the pots and the remaining blank bit of bed we cleared. Most likely to grow coriander and spinach in the beds, flowers in the pots and beans or some trailing flower/veg in the planters with trellis' at the back that hubby bought home during winter.

The garden looks cleaner, so next steps will be ask the better half to please take all of the spare furniture and "stuff" to the dump, to start picking seeds and plants and to try and stop the children from drowning every plant in sight. In the meantime, the boys were handy for piking the million slugs and snails that have converged in our garden.

Picture of the Day: Dino Battle

I just love it when I check my phone and find all sorts of random, blurry photo’s that I didn’t take. Despite being told to stay away from my phone, my kids seem to have a magnetic attraction to it. This time round I found a series of posed dinosaur battles with this lot on one side and a big scary T-rex on the other.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Recipe: Chicken Sandwich Filling

Now that I am making the kids packed lunches again and taking my own lunch into work, I am trying to experiment with different foods that are easy to prepare and taste good. I have tried a few variations of chicken filling, but this one I experimented with today has been the best I have tried so far.

½ kilo boneless chicken (small pieces)
5 tablespoons mayonaise
1 tablespoon relish (I used Branson’s tomato and red pepper)
1 teaspoon ketchup
Salt to taste (approx 1 teaspoon)

Boil the chicken, drain when cooked through and mash to a grainy texture.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir. If the filling is still too thick, add a little more mayo until it is smooth and creamy.

This makes enough for about 12-15 sandwiches depending on how think you spread it onto the bread.


I have been meaning to catch up with blogging and my blogging and blog-reading sisters for ages. After three months of feeling exhausted and so nauseous, I have been spending most of my time lying down, last Monday I woke up feeling...normal.

I was both amazed and extremely grateful. I remember when I suffered nausea with my molar pregnancy. I was so sick that on recovering, I spent every day for a year putting my health and lack of nausea at the top of my daily gratitude list, before I became complacent and took being normal and healthy for granted again.

I feel that way again, immensely grateful, very happy and so hopeful. For three months I have been letting the house turn into a jungle, letting the kids go wild and slowly letting all of the things I take pleasure in fall away – corresponding with sisters, blogging and writing, crafts, jewellery, even reading.

Now that I feel like I have come back to life, I want to bring some sanity, order and fun back into my world insh’Allah. The kids were my first port of call; they had no idea what hit them! Despite their dad’s best efforts they had been sleeping at ridiculous times, spending too much time on the computer and eating all sorts of rubbish. I marched them in and out of the bath and into bed early for the next few days, took charge of packed lunches again, re-introduce time-outs and distract them from the computer.

Next, I tried to mange my diet a bit better. I have been surviving on 7UP instead of water, takeaways which I am heartily sick of and lattes, no home cooked food at all. Now that I am being less controlled by my nausea and my miserable, emotional reaction to it, I am overdosing on salads, sandwiches, wraps and very simple curries without any chilli. I still can’t eat any trace of chilli at all as it burns my gullet and stomach. It turns out rather to have been a blessing, now that I have to find alternatives to our usual spicy foods; it has opened up a whole world of flavours other than sweet and burn-your-face off hot. I am not attracted to sweet foods either – this from a life- long chocoholic. It’s funny how my children have taken me over taste buds during pregnancy - Little Lady and Little Man made me eat sweet foods, Gorgeous made me crave red meat and chilli and this baby bland food. They have retained these same tastes as they grow up.

Finally, I am trying to take charge of the house. I have been taking one small area at a time – book shelf, cutlery draw, kid’s shoes and clear things out – I have lots of ideas for the house this summer and there is lots to refurbish and repair. I want to reduce our belongings so that this is easier to manage. Last night I spent hours filling bags with about half of the kid’s books and about a hundred of mine. I am trying to be sensible about this as I still get exhausted and my back gets very sore very quickly.

Sister Sumaiyah Umm Imran encouraged me to visit the wonderful Hakimah Midwifery website recently. One of the things that Sister Shannon Staloch, who manages the site, mentions that one of her teachers insisted that the more out of touch a woman is with her body, the worse the nausea is. This got me thinking as it felt intuitively to make sense. I have always been bloody-minded and felt a sense of pride in ignoring my body and carrying on like a machine. Maybe this came back to bite me in the behind with the nausea?

I have been trying to read about how I might get in touch with my body, suggestions I have come across include eating healthily, eating raw foods, breathing and meditating. I am certainly being kinder to my body and resting when I am tired instead of pushing myself - something new to me.

Other reading and research I have been doing has been around having a better birth experience. All I have felt during labour in the past is pain and terror. This time round I felt frightened at the thought of what was to come and then tried not to think about it. Now, instead I am trying to learn more about making myself stronger, making childbirth gentler and the whole experience less traumatic (or barbaric as I have called it in the past).

Subhan’Allah, this baby is lively and I feel like we are bonding already – is that strange? I am only just over four months along, but have been feeling strong movements, even more so that Gorgeous, who was a big strong baby. One morning I fell asleep on my side, I woke and stood up only to receive a volley of sharp kicks. Did you have your foot stuck all night? I wondered, laughing at what seemed like a mini temper tantrum.

Alhamdlillah, I feel like I have the prayers of so many good people with me. I feel like I am connecting to myself, my body, my family and my home again and revisiting my priorities insh’Allah.

Monday 7 May 2012

Picture of the Day: Serious About Fun

Next time the kids tell me grown ups get to have all of the fun, I'm going to pull this picture out. I mean, how often do I get to ride around on giant Panda's?