Thursday, 26 July 2012

Journal Your Ramadan Challenge: Day 3-6 – Learning the Hard Way

Some people use their common sense, others learn things the hard way, guess which category I fall into?  I have been struggling for a while with this pregnancy, but thought I would try and fast.  I managed to fast through three previous pregnancies when the day was much shorter.  I was desperate not to miss out this time and decided to try it one day at a time and if I become uncomfortable or thinking the baby was exhibiting less movement would stop.

This wasn’t particularly bright, because I have never been good at listening to my body, gauging when to stop and rest or seeing the signs when I am about to faint.  The baby’s movement also didn’t turn out to be a good measure, because the child is nuts and won’t sit still for five minutes under any circumstances (I fully expect to give birth, only for this baby to jump up and run off down the hospital corridor shouting “you can’t catch me!” like the ginger bread man).  I lasted three days fairly easily but on the fourth found myself woozy and severely fatigued.  I decided not to fast the next day.

On day five of Ramadan I had a doctor’s appointment due to the painful joints, debilitating bloating and sever exhaustion I have been suffering from recently.  She asked me if I was fasting and I denied rather indignantly.  She put the symptoms down to me not resting enough, working too much, being a mum of three and going through my fourth pregnancy.  She recommended eating well and getting some rest, something I am going to have to learn how to do properly.

The point is not to show off my stubbornness or my lack of sense, but to share my thoughts on fasting, pregnancy and spirituality.  It says in the Quran:

"Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain taqwa." Quran (2:183).

I have come to realise that if you are so exhausted and light-headed that you cannot concentrate in your prayers and on your relationship with Allah (SWT) properly, that then you are defeating the purpose of fasting.  If fasting is making me ill, then I have to find another way to increase my iman during this blessed month.

I also had to remind myself that Allah (SWT) is merciful and does not place a burden on us greater than we can bear.  The exemption from fasting is there for pregnant women out of kindness and mercy and out of concern for a woman’s wellbeing:

“Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity”. Quran (2:286)

So I have stopped fasting.  It has taken me a day or two to build up my strength.  I feel better, apart from the permanent tiredness.  At the same time, I feel like my concentration in my prayers is not the same.  I am not reading as much Quran and I feel rather down and as if I am missing out on something.

Insh’Allah I would love to hear from sisters who have suggestions on how I can increase my iman and make the most of this Ramadan when I cannot fast.

The themes for the Journal Your Ramadan Challenge for days 3 to 6 were:
3 – Food
4 – Write
5 - Yearning For
6 - 4pm

Food I have been taking pictures of and will post pictures and recipes over the next few days insh’Allah.
Write and Yearning for are covered above
4pm is when I get home from work at the moment – tired, swarmed by overexcited kids on summer holidays and pleased to see their mum and wondering what to cook for iftar.

Picture of the Day: 25.07.12 - The Torch

You're probably thinking, enough with the Olympics already, its Ramadan!  We seem to be surrounded by the Games and there is no getting away from them.

One of the torch bearers brought his torch into my workplace today, so had to get a picture with it.  Its very shiny and bigger than I expected.

Picture of the Day: 23.07.12 - Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsals

I managed to get tickets for the Olympic Opening Ceremony rehearsals on Monday.  I felt too unwell to go, so sent my sisters along with the kids.  They had an absolute blast, even if they did all come utterly exhausted.  They brought back a few pics but mostly encouraged me to wait till Friday to see the full thing on TV as they didn't want to spoil the surprise.  The director Danny Boyle had asked people attending to save the surprise, and it seems most people have complied.  Two of my colleagues at work are also in the ceremony and have been telling me the little bits they are allowed to.  Pics below are mostly of elements which had already been released in the newspapers.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Picture of the Day: 22.07.12 - Olympic Torch

The Olympic Torch came to my neighbourhood on Sunday.  There was  a good turnout for the torch relay and plenty of excitement.  In the end it turned out to be somewhat anticlimactic, with the sponsors parading buses ahead of the torch, masses of security people in grey and the torch going fast quite quickly.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Journal Your Ramadan Challenge: Day 2

I spent the morning working and came home at midday to find the kids rowdy and excitable at having mum home earlier than expected.  I have been struggling with the kids recently.  As I am unable to chase them as much, they have been taking liberties a little.  I think I have been a lot less patient also recently, so their normal noise and mess irritates me more quickly.

Last year Ramadan fell during school holidays and it meant that I could do very little with the children.  Cooped up all day they were bored and spent the day annoying their grandmother who is at home with them.  I decided to take steps this time round and try and get organised so that they have sensible things to keep them occupied until I come home.

I have been looking for summer activities for the children, but am struggling to find anything within walking distance as I do not drive and mum-in-law cannot walk far.   Most things locally are also very expensive.  Football coaching for three kids would come to approximately £135 a week, so I am trying to find less expensive activities.  One thing I did was organise their books and toys so that they could get better use out of them during the holidays.  They now have a tray each of their activity books and I have told them I want to see at least two pages of activities a day when I come back from work and a good report from their grandmother, rather than the usual reports of endless fighting and a trail of destruction around the house. 

I also moved all of the reading books out of their room except for their Islamic books, which Little Lady has been reading to them at bedtime.  She has been a star and has been helping me with keeping the boys occupied, herding them upstairs before iftar (fast breaking time) and reading to them to keep them quiet.

Fashionista has also been great.  As she is a teacher, she is on holiday from school now and has offered to whip them into shape.  I am mindful though that she is also fasting and it is her last Ramadan at home, so I don’t want to take advantage too much.

I am still super uncomfortable with a sore back and joints that seem to be rebelling and trying to do their own thing.  By night time I am so exhausted and bloated I can hardly move and feel like I have a sack of bricks hanging from my ribs.  This is so frustrating and upsetting, but I keep telling myself that nothing good comes for free and this baby is a blessing beyond measure and more than I deserve alhamdulillah.

“Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. Allah will grant after hardship, ease.” Al- Quran (at-Talaaq, 65:7)

“Surely with every difficulty there is relief. Surely with every difficulty there is relief.” Al- Quran (Shrah, 94:5-6)

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “How amazing is the case of the believer; there is good for him in everything, and this is only so for the believer. If he experiences something pleasant, he is thankful, and that is good for him; and if he comes across adversity, he is patient, and that is good for him.” (Muslim)

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Whatever befalls a Muslim of exhaustion, illness, worry, grief, nuisance or trouble, even though it may be no more than a prick of a thorn, earns him forgiveness by Allah of some of his sins.” (Sahīh al-Bukhārī)

Subhan’Allah, our faith is such that even the hardest times can be a blessing.

The prompt for day two of the Journal Your Ramadan challenge was “forgiveness”, which seemed rather apt for me right now.  I have been struggling with my temper in the last few weeks.  More than once it has exploded in the most frightening way, terrifying both me and anyone near me.  Each time it has left me numb and somewhat ashamed.  My best friend has been a star and keeps reminding me that it is a matter of pregnancy hormones and time and all will be well after the baby is born.  I worry though, that I am at risk of causing so much damage to the relationships I have with family and friends nearest to me, so I make dua that I don’t hurt anyone and that I can leave the room when I feel the heat rising.

Am off to have one more midnight plate of  fruit chaat (fruit salad with spice) before bed, can’t seem to stop eating the stuff.

Olympic Torch Comes to East London

I had to work today as part of my organisations 2012 teams duties, the first time I have worked on a Saturday since Little Lady was born.  I didn't object because I had Friday off and because I knew it would be an interesting experience.  I spent the day telling people how they could buy or win tickets to the Games with the response ranging from enthusiasm to sarcasm.

I saw the torch come to East London, I couldn't see much from where I was sitting, but as I finished my shift caught the carnival of school children following it on their way out.

The original  torch from the 1948 London Olympics was also on display

I enjoyed the sights, but it was not the same without the kids there to share it.  I have tomorrow off and the torch passes by close to my house, so will be out with the kids to watch.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Journal Your Ramadan Challenge: Day 1

Sister Neelu of Creating Memories encouraged me to join in her Journal Your Ramadan challenge.  I don’t think I will be able to stick to all of her prompts (listed here), but I thought it was a good idea anyway as a way to reflect back on each day and try and improve and learn insh’Allah.

By good chance, I happened to have the first day of Ramadan off of work.  It turned out to be one of the most productive days I have had in a long time.  I managed to do the school run on the children’s last day before the summer holidays and thank their teachers.  I had a long to-do list consisting of making various appointments for family members, sorting out the children’s passports, banking, shopping and organising various paperwork.

In between I managed to sort through the freezer and the cupboards and make lots of space and do a kind of audit.  I had Little Lady follow me around and write a list of items we needed.  I spent the next few hours in the kitchen cooking.  I made a big pot of chicken and potato filling for spring rolls which I hope to make tomorrow.

Dates stuffed with nuts

Fruit salad or chaat (recipe here),my favourite Ramadan food of all I think.

Pakoras (hubby loves these, recipe here)

In all it was a very productive day. I would love to have the whole of Ramadan off of work and just cook, organise the house and keep the kids busy, but that's not likely to happen.

Its midnight almost as I write this and I am more shattered than I have words to describe. I think I will try to do smaller chunks each day now, starting with trying to organise the kids summer activities so that we all stay sane and plan ahead a little food-wise.  Yesterday I fell asleep whilst I was trying to set the alarm clock and woke up with it under me, late.   So I had better get some sleep.

Picture of the Day: Stuffed Dates

I spent ten minutes slitting these dates, taking the stones out and stuffing them with almonds, walnut halves and cashews.  They weren't the most expensive dates, but the nuts made them taste so yummy.  I plan to try a few different recipes with dates this Ramadan, packaged nicely, something like this would make a nice gift also.

Ramadan 1433/2012: Ramadan Kareem

Assalam-alaikam and Ramadan Kareem everyone.

May Allah (SWT) give each of us the opportunity to benefit fully  from this blessed month, to increase our ibadah (worship) and our iman (faith), to seek and attain forgiveness from Allah (SWT) and from anyone we have hurt and to attain Allah (SWT)'s pleasure insh'Allah.

Please remember me and my family in your dua’s insh’Allah and please forgive me if I have ever said or written anything that hurt or upset you.

 "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 (pbuh) 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 (pbuh) 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 (pbuh) 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)

Thank You Cards for Teachers

Today is the children's last day at school before the summer holidays start.  I made the cards below to thank the teachers for all of the hard work they have put into teaching my children this year and also because they take care of them all day every day for us and keep them safe and occupied.

We have been lucky this year to get teachers that my children have settled well with and who I genuinely felt cared about my children and wanted them to do well.  Sister Zohra Sarwari said at a conference I attended earlier this year that the effects of a good teacher lasts a lifetime, something which really stayed with me and with which I agree.

The children helped me pick the paper for the backgrounds of their own designs and also the stickers. They also wrote their own messages inside.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Cards for Ramadan 2012/1433

I wanted to make some cards for Ramadan and found inspiration at the wonderful Ramadan Joy website, with some easy to make cards (here).

I tried to stamp the wording directly onto the card, but couldn't get the stamp right  - either the letters wouldn't align perfectly or the edges of the stamp would get printed around the word, so despite various attempts and variations (including trying to create my own stamp using a block of wood, some glue and tiny letters), when nothing worked, I resorted to printing the wording onto white card.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Picture of the Day: Try Something New

I like the idea of trying something new or different every day, just to explore the world an also to get out of our comfort zones.  Today I decided I was fed up of eating the same things in rotation through the week, so looked for something different.  

I found the Paki Recipes site which had the kind of thing I was looking for and decided to try two new dishes.  Below are the final product: Aaloo Chutney (potatoes with sauce) and Chatpati Tindey (Spicy Gourd or baby Pumpkin).

The gamble paid off.  Both dishes were polished off - the potatoes gone completely ad very little of the gourd left.  I think I will be making my way through this site.

David Bailey's East End Exhibition

I want to see a photography exhibition by David Bailey yesterday, organised as part of the Create 2012 Festival of art in London.  The photo's covered a number of periods where the photographer had returned to East London where he grew up.

The photo's were a treat and my reaction to some of them surprised me.  I originally  thought the picture below used in promotional material was of two women at a local party.  It was only when I saw it in the context of the other pictures that a more complex picture began to form: gambling dens and the Kray twins (famous gangsters in East London in the 1960's), I realised there was more to these ladies than met the eye.

The era was also made more interesting by the number of people of colour captured in the photo's, part of the life of the nightclubs and dens.

This picture made me feel very uncomfortable, not sure why.  Maybe because you can't see his eyes, maybe its the booze.  But where as I didn't see anything untoward in the first picture above, for some reason this one felt a little sinister, although I don't think its meant to be.

Certainly, despite having grown up in East London, Bailey's photo's captured an East End that I did not recognise at all.

Pictures from the last era showed how much this part of the world had changed.  These included pictures of women in hijab and Green Street (below), certainly, places much more recognisable to me.

Certainly an exhibition that I enjoyed and which made me think.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Thank You Cards

After all the effort my sisters put into my surprise baby shower last weekend and all of the lovely gifts I received, I wanted to send thank you notes to everyone.  As I have just started to make cards again after a very long time, I decided to cheat and customise some printed cards.  These small cards are from

I used lettering to add the names of guests.

I used pearls, gems and bindi's to add some sparkle to the cards.

Lazy, Rainy Sunday

It being the middle of summer here, it is absolutely chucking it down this morning with a pouring shower rain -  a months worth of train has been predicted for today.  Happily I have managed to get all of the housework and cooking out of the way by 10am, the kids are breakfasted, the bottom of the laundry basket has been sighted (a rare occurrence in this house) and the house is vaguely clean.

(A glass lamp in our garden, which seems to have turned into a rain catcher).

Which leaves me wondering what I can do with this lovely day.  Much as I love the rain, I am not tempted to venture out in it.  I am going to have a leisurely breakfast whilst I listen to the rain tapping on the window, get the kids homework out of the way  (a superhero story, some number bonds and a model of the globe theatre) and then go and play with my cards making stuff.

What would you do on a lazy rainy day like this one?