Monday 24 November 2014

Picture of the Day: 24.11.14 - Gifts from Turkey

Kooky Little Sister has been on her honeymoon in Istanbul and brought us back some gorgeous gifts:

The kids got floral headbands, mini spiro-graph games and Turkish delight.  I got the gorgeous scarf above which I can't wait to wear, a very pretty journal (she knows I love stationary) and Turkish chocolate.

Some of her pictures from her trip are below: 

You can see more of her beautiful photography here on her blog full of pretty things, here on her blog full of smart and artistic things and on her instagram page.

Picture of the Day: 23.11.14 - If You Don't Like Someone...

...cover their face with your picnic blanket and pretend to have tea.

Darling has still not come round fully to the idea of a little sister usurping her place as the baby of the house.  We can't leave them alone for a second for fear of her poking the baby in the eye or putting a blanket over her head.  I turned my back for a minute and turned to find the scene above.

At the moment, Darling has banned Baby from using her nappy mat, her blanket, going in her cot or touching her "special dolly", a little red heart shaped pillow that I used to put under my arm when nursing Darling.

We are trying to counteract her occasional tantrums and anger with lots of love, cuddles and some firmness.  Mash'Allah these two are little stars in our home at the moment: hard work, but so much pleasure.

Monday 17 November 2014

Book Review: Hend Hegazi - Normal Calm

Nursing my little one means I have to sit still, something I am not good at and so I thought that this would be a good time to get reading again. Normal Calm by Hend Hegazi piqued my interest after a saw a review on Muslimah Media Watch, particularly as it broached themes that I hadn't seen touched on in Western literature before in this way.

A Normal Calm is the story of the young Arab American Muslimah Amina who finds herself the victim of rape by someone she trusts. The book follows her on her journey as she tries to come to terms with what has happened to her and the impact on those around her. It also explores the way in her wider community deal with what has happened to her, in particular potential spouses.

All of this is set in the context of Arab American life: the immigrant work ethic, the wish to see children succeed, the anxiety of parents at the prospect of letting their children go as they move forward in their lives. The book also addresses the problems someone who can clearly be identified as Muslim might face in America and the way Muslims integrate and interact with those around them.

The subject matter of this book is dealt with in a sensitive way and the attack on Amina which is fairly early in the book is not graphic or portrayed in a sensationalist way. Instead the book takes the time to follow Amina as she goes through the process of dealing with what has happened to her and how it impacts on her relationship with her parents, friends and potential partners.

The book is written in clear direct prose and moves between events at a fairly swift pace, which is enough to carry you through the book without losing interest so that you maintain a desire to find out how Amina fares. Alongside this the author makes use of dialogue between Amina and her non-Muslim best friend Kayla to try and explain why, as a Muslimah, Amina does things a certain way. This acts as a useful tool throughout the book to explain the role of faith in Amina’s life, the way it helps her in her hardest times and the role of particular elements of her faith (i.e. hijab). You can imagine many of these conversations happening between Muslims and curious non-Muslims in the real world.

I really loved the fact that the author gives a voice to a young Muslim woman – a demographic that is much stereotyped but sometimes not well understood. The book attempts to shine a light on the difficulties that these young women face in the West and also the lack of understanding that can come from their own communities and the reasons behind these.

The book left me with affection with Amina and some of the women around her and also some curiosity about the male characters in the book. I would definitely recommend this book, particularly to anyone trying to understand the role of faith in the lives of young Muslims and how this impacts the way they see and are seen by the world. A necessary and important book.

You can find out more at: Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook

Thursday 13 November 2014

Picture of the Day: 13.11.14 - Sweet Sisters

Some days my entire day revolves around my youngest two and I keep trying to find moments to get something else done apart from feed, change nappies and placate crying babies.  Today was one of these days and I just surrendered to it and decided to enjoy them.

I nursed throughout the day, played with them both and just enjoyed their baby talk ("No baby, why did you do that trouble my eye?" said Darling after being poked in the eye accidentally by Baby).

My husband came home with a big box of little girls toys from a house clearance and Darling immediately took control of the whole lot yelling "Mine!"  There was a little Doctor's kit that she used today to check the baby over with, including making sure her blood pressure was okay:

The afternoon was spent at the local clinic getting the baby's vaccinations done.  Poor Darling got the shock of her life when the baby got her injection and let out a screech.  Good job she has that big hat that Shutterbug Sister bought her last winter to hide in.

Advice to the Breastfeeding Mother: Be Happy

With baby number five I felt confident about nursing and fully expected to get on with it and have a healthy, satisfied baby on my hands, so when I went in to get her routinely weighed at the local baby clinic, I was surprised to find she hadn't been gaining enough weight.

On answering some pointed questions from the health visitor I realised that I had been doing everything right for the baby: feeding her on demand and topping up with the bottle. What I hadn't been doing was the right things for myself which impacted on her.

I lost a lot of weight in a short time and was keen not to overeat and most of the time I was too busy running around to eat properly. I was also stressed at trying to keep the house in order and keep up with the kids (this coming from someone who was working with four kids and complementing a Masters degree). I suddenly seem to be slower, more forgetful and a lot more confused. I think I might be suffering from baby brain.

Anyway, I had to admit my diet was terrible, I was not remembering to take my vitamins, I couldn't stop feeling sleepy and I was not doing my little one any favours.

The health visitor instructed me on diet and agreed a plan for feeding the baby and I will be going back in two weeks to see if her weight gain has picked up. She also mentioned that breastfeeding is affected by a mothers mood and stress levels and that the hormones that encourage milk production are called the “Happy Hormones” – so a happy mum is better placed to nurse her child when she is happy and relaxed.

So I have been making an effort to sit down and eat properly including having a proper breakfast. The other thing I am doing is let go of my need for order. The mess and clutter in the house distracts me and makes me less productive, but I am dealing with it a little at a time instead of trying to tame the whole beast every day. I am also accepting that a house with five kids can be less than perfect (it has always been a matter of pride for me to keep the house tidy and I feel like a failure when it is not). Hubby has been supportive mash’Allah and the one thing we agree on is that if we have less possessions we could free up time for more important things, so that is something I am working on.

Picture of the Day: 12.11.14 - Grey Skies and Beautiful Rainbows

November means long nights, short days, lots of rain and very grey skies at the moment.  I've been grateful for the mild weather so far although the plants seem confused and are full of blossoms again.

I was walking back from the baby clinic with my youngest two and saw this stretched across the sky:

I had to take a picture people walking towards me kept stopping to look back at what I was taking pictures of and stare at the rainbow too.

It was such an intense double rainbow that it was reflected into the pavement.  Brightened my day so much alhamdulillah.

Friday 7 November 2014

Super Quick Baby Boy Cards

I got a message from a cousin yesterday asking for some baby boy cards.  I've been meaning to make some wedding, thank you and baby cards as these are the ones that get used the most, but I just haven't had the chance.  As she asked so nicely and as her dad, my favourite uncle, was coming to pick them up, I rushed to put some together.

For both of these cards I had already created the backgrounds and never got round to finishing them, so just had to add the embellishments and sentiments.

The card stock was from the DCWV Sweet Stack (which is my favourite ever card stack) plus some textured paper I had some small pieces of.  The baby boy ribbon in the second picture was from my friend in the US who sent me a bundle of really nice quality (American Crafts brand I think) grosgrain ribbon that I have been using on numerous projects over the years.

She liked the cards and she also inspired me to make some more.  Little Lady has a half day on Friday afternoons and I have agreed that we can try and save this is our craft time together, so I am hoping to make some more new baby cards with her insh'Allah.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Pleasurable Parenting: Flexible Reward Chart

Considering that my children are going to be the focus of my life and parenting them in the best way I can is going to take up most of my time and focus, I want to try and bring as much pleasure into the process as possible.

I believe that my children are blessings and a gift from Allah (SWT); an opportunity for reward in this world and especially the next but also a source of pleasure and fun.  As parents we spend a lot of time worrying, stressed out, feeling guilty and feeling as if we are getting it all wrong.

I realised that we can go down the route of getting angry, shouting, smacking, constantly finding fault and trying to correct what we see in our children or we could accept that we are not perfect and we have no right to expect them to be either.  We can understand that they will have their faults and weaknesses and that is how Allah (SWT) made them.  At the same time we can celebrate their strengths, be gentle in the way we guide them and recognise when the right way to discipline requires a loving approach that tries to identify why a child might be rebelling rather than punishment.

In the end whichever route we take, I have come to think it's a reflection on us more than on our children.  I also love the acknowledging and appreciating when they are good.

My kids have been asking for a reward chart for the last few days.  They know I call on them quite a bit to help me, especially since we have Darling who has just turned two and a newborn who is now two months and they liked the idea of getting something out of it for themselves.

I have used reward charts on and off over the last few years, mainly to get Gorgeous to brush his teeth.  The ones I have bought from the shops haven't always catered to more than one child and often cover a defined daily routine (reward for brushing teeth, getting changed for bed, putting toys away etc.) which three of my children are too old for and Darling is too young for.  Also there are clear things in my mind which I would like to see more of (Arabic practice -the boys) or less of (the sheer volume of mess Little Lady still manages to generate for me to clear up) that I could incorporate into my own chart.

The chart I came up with isn't too complicated, it had nine broad categories of activity that could generate a reward (or merit) and each child had a different coloured dot to identify who did something good.  The bar across the top shows weeks from now to the end of the year.

The categories I chose above were:

  1. Tidying away all clothes (including uniforms and night clothes) - this one is mainly geared at Little Lady who manages to create piles of clothes on her bed and also the boys beds.
  2. Brush teeth twice daily (aimed at Gorgeous who tries all sorts to get out of this)
  3. Pray five daily salaat - Mash'Allah LL does so, but sometimes has to be reminded, we are now working on Little Man to get into the habit of ensuring he prays all of his prayers.
  4. Keeping your bedroom tidy - mostly LL and her clothes, books and stationary again, although it was her brothers that rushed to tidy up and then asked for a merit.
  5. Helping with housework - I do ask them a lot to help and try to give them daily chores to help with, but this way they do it happily instead of moaning that they do "everything around here" (Gorgeous again).
  6. School - good school reports or grades, good feedback from teachers or an exceptional piece of school work or homework.  LL loved this one, she really does put a lot of effort and time into her studies mash'Allah and I try to acknowledge this, I think she would love it to be more tangible though.
  7. Helping care for the babies - mainly watching the baby when I have to leave the room so that Darling doesn't try to poke her in the eye, but also helping to distract Darling
  8. Excellent Quran recitation or Arabic lesson.

The kids favourite bit that really motivated them is the bit about rewards.  I let them choose what they would like as reward and we will be adding on new things we think of.

Mash'Allah, they were so excited about the reward chart and the rewards they could earn.  The boys have been trying to get merits for everything they do and I have tried to explain that they are not going to get a merit for every time they put something in the bin or pick a toy up but for exceptional good behaviour or actions.

I'd love feedback or suggestions from people who have used reward charts in the past.  I might try and create a PDF version in A4 or A3 for readers to print off, what kind of things would you like to see in a reward chart?

Picture of the Day: 3.11.14 - Go Smash an Egg

My husband was given this little spoon by a friend that collects things like this.  It says "Go smash and egg" and when he gave it to Gorgeous, who breaks things without even trying, I knew it was a bad idea.  So after carrying it around for a day or two and laughing to himself every time he tapped his head with it, I found an opportunity to sneak it away and hide it.

He clearly found it:

When I found the tray of eggs like this, I wondered if someone had put something heavy on them and broken them all by mistake, but they were all clearly tapped from the top.  So I asked the kids if they all knew anything about it.  They all denied it, including Gorgeous.  One of the things I love about him is how transparent he is.  He cannot look you in the eye and lie and he cannot lie with a straight face.  Which is handy because I always catch him out when he makes any mischief and if it isn't him and he looks me in the eye and says so,  I catch his brother out by default.

So I asked him if he broke the eggs and he burst out laughing.  He said he wasn't laughing because he broke the eggs, but because it was so funny.

Someone is going to be eating a lot of eggs for the next few days.