Wednesday 7 January 2015

Word of the Year 2015 – Shukr

We don’t celebrate New Years in our home, except for the fireworks with the kids from their bedroom window and seeing if there is a good kids film on the TV on New Y ears Day at my mums. However the changing of the year is as good a time as any to reflect on how the previous 12 months passed and make intentions for the year ahead.

In recent years I have been picking a word for the year to motivate and guide me with some turning out more appropriate than others:

In 2011 my word was courage as I was keen to try new things and new directions in my life.

In 2012 I didn't pick a word but as I was expecting Darling that year and struggling to stay sane through a busy time at work and severe nausea, so in hindsight thought patience would have been a good one.

In 2013 the word was discipline - in my eating habits, spending and family routines – and how spectacularly bad I was at that one. I had promised myself when I turned 30 that I would be disciplined, particularly in my eating, so in 2013 at 34 I thought I had better keep my promise to myself. I think I will come back to this one and try much harder insh’Allah

In 2014 the word was focus – I had so many plans and felt so clear about how I would achieve them. But:

But they plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners. ~ Quran 8:30

I found myself pregnant with Baby very soon after I chose that word and every plan went out the window, first because my body felt like it was breaking down under the pressure of a fifth pregnancy and then because my mind could barely keep up with the demands of five children and extended family. I have no idea what the word should have been - maybe acceptance would have been a good one.

My word for 2015 will be Shukr – gratefulness. I realise that we can’t do everything we want, our plans don’t always work out and sometimes the rug is pulled out from under us so hard that we have no idea whether we are coming or going. However in every situation, we can practise gratitude – for all that Allah (SWT) has blessed us with – the things we remember and those we don’t.

I hope to establish a daily practice of gratitude and through this I want to thoroughly take pleasure in the good things that He has bestowed us with – the small things, the everyday things. I want to enjoy the scent of nice soap and oils in my burner, the taste of fresh fruit and simple food, the colours of my garden, the sound of childish laughter and Gorgeous reciting his Quran lesson at the top of his lungs every evening and the feel of Darlings soft hair and chubby cheeks.

I know we are encouraged to think big, dream big, make big plans, but realistically I know that this year with the babies so little and the older children going through transitional stages, I have to set my focus on them and forget about big ambitions for now.

So with great pleasure, a shucking of anxiety, utter relief at not trying to achieve something and a deep breathing outwards my word for 2015 is shukr.

“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.” ~ Quran 2:152

“Why should Allah punish you if you have thanked (Him) and have believed in Him. And Allah is Ever All-Appreciative (of good), All-Knowing” ~ Quran 3:147

“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: ‘If you give thanks (by accepting Faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My Blessings); but if you are thankless, verily, My punishment is indeed severe’” ~ Quran 14:14

“And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” ~ Quran 14: 34

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: Look at those who stand at a lower level than you but don’t look at those who stand at a higher level than you, for this would make the favours (conferred upon you by Allah) insignificant (in your eyes). (Sahih Muslim, Book:42, Chapter: Kitab Al-Zuhd wa Al-Raqai’q, Hadith:7070)

There is no man who sees Allah’s favors upon him and says: “All praise is due to Allah with whose favours all good can be accomplished” except that Allah will make him needless of others and will increase His favours upon him.” - al-Hasan al-Basri

Gratitude helps us make the shift. Consequently, we are able to attract more good, more love, more joy, more money, as well as better health and blissful relationships in your life. Gratitude is one of the easiest and most frequently used methods to alter the signals one is emitting. What we need to master is the attitude of gratitude – the attitude of appreciating everything in life. - Bela Khan for Productive Muslim (Source)

Being grateful to Allah (SWT) does wonders. When you acknowledge His Hand in your life, miracles happen. You may be in the middle of a problem and not have the least bit of knowledge about what would happen next, then suddenly the solution will dawn upon you. It is like when someone would return you an old loan that you completely forgot about, when you are in dire need of money; or when you are thinking about your loved ones and they give you a call right then. And when something you are longing to happen, finally happens.- Bela Khan for Productive Muslim (Source)

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Treats from Pakistan

My mum and dad recently spent a month in Pakistan catching up with family and old friends and enjoying a change from every day life.  Mum has lovely taste and loves shopping and came back with a stylish new wardrobe for herself.  She also made the effort to find or have made a  gift for everybody including my sisters, sis-in-law and all of our children (seven kids in total).

These are the matching outfits she bought for Little Lady and Darling, they are summer outfits, but I would get the girls to wear them in colder weather with tights and a warm top underneath if a nice occasion to wear them presents itself in colder weather.  I really like the pleating and the pretty coloured borders.

This little outfit was for Darling too and a bit better in the colder weather.  I was planning to put it on her on a Friday (which is our Sabbath).  The little bells on the front are a really nice detail for a little girl.

The boys got these shalwar kameez outfits.  Mum always goes for quality over style and last trip bought the boys white salwar kameezes before which were such good quality they were a pleasure to see the boys wear them.  These were the same - no bling or bright colours but really nice quality warm fabric, really solid thread embroidery and some nice details like the velvety collar and buttons on the grey suit and the design round the armholes on the beige.

She also came back with these bangles for the three girls and these black bracelets for Baby which are supposed to be to ward off evil eye.

I got these two outfits.  The black one looks fancy but is super comfortable.  Its quite fitted so doesn't suit for nursing, but I intend to wear it more in the summer.

The second outfit was the one that mum picked to have stitched.  It's in the Kashmiri wrap style "Anghrakha" and I like that there is no bling on it.  After the trend of the last few years for everything to be covered with diamant√©, pearls and every other kids of itchy, shiny thing that catches on the rest of the suit and ruins it, the last two years or so have seen a move back to thread embroidery which this suit has.  It also has roses which is a motif I love on my clothes.

Other than clothing, she brought us back food including these roasted gram which tasted better than the ones you get in shops here:

These are the pine nuts (or chilgozay or nezay as we call them) which Shutterbug paid for and mum shared out to the rest of the family.  These are really expensive in Pakistan at the moment at about £25-£30 a kilo and most people can't afford them.  They seem like a lot of effort for a very small nut that you get and if you don't open it carefully you manage to obliterate half the nut inside.  I used to see my mum sitting and opening them and handing a handful to my dad to eat while they watched TV.  The other day I sat down to read with hubby only for him to pass me a shelled handful.

I knew they would come back with peanuts as they always do when they go in winter.  It is one of the winter harvests in my grandparents village and everyone seems to have at least one field devoted to them if not more.  So as mum explained, everyone who came to say good bye handed them a bag of peanuts to take back with them.

They are fresh and lightly roasted and I can't tell you how good they are.  We have been scoffing away.

I really enjoyed the gifts but most of all it's a real pleasure having them home and I can see the good their break has done them alhamdulillah.

Monday 5 January 2015

The Bliss of the Moment

I have had to make a change in the way I approach life recently. I have tried and tried and tried to manage my life, my home and my kids. I have tried to be organised and make time for everything and everyone. I have tried not to drop my standards whether with my cooking, housekeeping, taking care of my children or my desire to write, create and plan for the future. When I see someone with one child who gets full attention and care I am adamant that I will endeavour to make sure all five of mine will get the same care and won’t be disadvantaged because I have five children.

But the reality is that no matter how much you do, it is never enough – the house, children and life will never be perfect and at that one moment you get on top of things, something will happen to cause chaos again – like guests, or illness. Recent months have led to a realisation on my part that the more you try to be everything, do everything and have everything, the less you are actually likely to have real control over your life.

So after weeks of running headlong from kitchen, to nappy mat, to washing machine to prayer mat, I decided that life was starting to feel too much like gruelling hard work with no end in sight. I also realised that in the quest for completion, for perfection and of getting things done, I was missing out on the real pleasure: the journey. All very well trying to help your kids to do well, but where is the joy of their achievements if you missed out on all of the fun on the way because you didn't slow down to savour it. The kids are growing so very quick, Little Lady is testament to that at a very grown up eleven. I want them to look back and remember a mum who invested the most precious and irreplaceable thing she had in them – her time and attention.

I have been slowing down and trying to be present in each moment. I have made a decision to let the mess be, to leave the dishes for a bit, to let the laundry pile up more often. To spend more time cuddling with Darling and playing with Baby, enjoying her smiles and cooing. To mess around with the boys more and have more brunches with Little Lady. Really it goes deeper than that though. I am trying to immerse myself in each moment and enjoy the little things, the feel of warm water on my hands as I wash the dishes, the pleasure of a clean kitchen before you switch the lights off for the night or the enjoyment of throwing yourself into cooking a wholesome meal for your family; all things that feel like chores to be over and done with. Yet we spend so much of our life doing them, that it seems to me that I am better off finding some pleasure in them.

So I have been telling myself the following: I am enough, I do enough and I have enough. I have been slowing down and getting used to a different pace of life that doesn't involve keeping up with anyone or getting to the bottom of a to-do list. I'm not convinced I can maintain this forever, but every time I feel harried for time or stressed or as if I am not doing enough, I stop and sink into the moment: how it looks, how it feels, how my senses can revel in it. I stop constantly looking forward and thinking about the next thing to do and instead take my time with what I am doing right now.

Friday 2 January 2015

Motherhood and Anxieties: A Comment on Hitting

I try my best to steer or discipline my children when necessary using reasoning or by displaying my anger in a non-violent manner, rather than by hitting. I believe that hitting is not the most constructive way to parent and can lead to children expressing their own anger in inappropriate ways such as hitting others and not knowing how to express their frustration appropriately as adults. I also note that gentleness with children is part of the sunnah (tradition) of our beloved Prophet (pbuh).

I recently wrote about Gorgeous getting into trouble at school – as part of this post I wrote:

"I told him he should still not have been pulling the door or try and open it. I also told him if I ever heard about him being inside the toilet cubicle with another boy I would take a slipper to him (the first thing that the teacher mentioned when she spoke to us had been that two boys had been caught in a cubicle together and this freaked me out at the time). He looked at me as if I was crazy – “no way mum!!”)"

In response a reader commented as follows:

"In the article that brought me to your blog you said you were trying a form of parenting that didn't involve physical punishment and involved being open minded.

But here you tell your son that you'll hit him if he's in a stall with another boy.

I know Gorgeous is still a child, and I'm VERY likely being paranoid, but it sounds like you WOULD hit your child if it was possible he was homosexual?

Could I just have some context to that paragraph please, I just want to see how your parenting plan fits into making those kinds of ultimatums"

The interaction with Gorgeous was not based on a fear of homosexuality. It was based on my terror as a parent of abuse and inappropriately sexual behaviours, even in school and even amongst small children. The news media channels a continuous stream of stories about abuse; the latest research from the government indicates that the development of children is being impacted by an increasingly sexualised environment. Children are increasingly involved in sexting, viewing online pornography and it is suggested as a result increasingly sexualised behaviour.

I wrote some time ago that:

I’ve grown through my parenting years assailed with a steady stream of stories about child abuse and molestation and have witnessed the sexualisation of our society and of children in recent years. It absolutely terrifies me and has made me very protective of my children. A physical injury can heal with care, but how do you nurse your child through an injury to the soul? If someone harms a child and takes away their innocence in that way, can you ever take them to a safe place and return their childhood to them?

I don’t think the best way to deal with this is by burying your head in the sand but by setting clear boundaries. So I have discussed with my children in age appropriate ways that only mum can see them naked when I am giving them a bath etc, that they mustn’t allow anyone else to do so and that they must always tell me if someone has tried to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable. I have explained that they will never be in trouble but that I will make sure that they are safe.

So my reaction to Gorgeous on this occasion was due to fear for him. I freaked a little when the teacher had said that two boys had been in the toilet together and was utterly relieved when Gorgeous wasn't one of them (he was busy trying to break the door down from outside). My reaction may seem over the top, but my sister is a teacher of small children and has come across situations where the lines between play or mischief and inappropriate behaviour starts to seem blurred.

So although I threatened I would whack him with my slipper (which he has no fear of anyway) most likely in such a situation I would be scared, worried and fearful for him.  I would want to hold him and reassure him and give him the space to be honest with me. I would much rather that we never find ourselves in that situation.