Sunday, 22 October 2017

Product Review: Hidden Pearl Hijabs

I was asked recently by online modest fashion brand Hidden Pearl to review some hijabs for them.  They sent me six different hijabs to test out.

The first type was a plain crinkle hijab in army green and dusky pink.  I liked the colour selection on the website or this hijab, this pink in particular was easy to wear and went with lots of things.  The fabric is a soft viscose and the crimped effect means you can probably get away with wearing it without ironing it.  I thought this was a nice everyday hijab and good if you like a little shape and texture in the way you wrap your scarf.

The second type I tested were stretchy jersey hijabs.  I like jersey hijabs for a few reasons.  They tend to stay where you put them, you can achieve a nice draped effect with them and they are a nice weight.  They are also a bit warmer for colder days.  I tried the beige and mauve colours and everyone liked the latter.  The hijabs were 100% cotton and a nice quality.

The last two I tried out were the everyday chiffon hijab in dusky pink and the deluxe chiffon hijab in soft pink.  Both had a nice neat finish at the edges.  The everyday chiffon hijab has a slightly grainy effect which stops it from being so silky it slips off.  The deluxe version has a subtle crinkled effect which I really liked.

The hijabs all washed well and didn't lose colour or get damaged in an ordinary (40 degree) wash.  I thought the prices were reasonable, particularly for the everyday and jersey hijabs.

The items for this review were provided at no cost by the product supplier in return for a fair and honest review.  All opinions in this review are my own and in no way influenced Hidden Pearl Hijabs.

Ladies Lunch and Princess Party

My neighbour commented a few weeks ago that we had not had an Eid party this year and they were usually so much fun.  We'll it doesn't take much to convince me.  I messaged my family and neighbours, they happened to have the following weekend free and I invited them to a Ladies Lunch and Princess Party, with a dress code of princess dresses, pastels and pearls (tiara's optional).

Unfortunately in the intervening week my husband found some damp in the kitchen and pulled some of the flooring back to do some repairs.  He seemed to think we would be able to do the repair and put everything back in good time for the party.  Next thing I knew, he had ripped out the whole kitchen, moved everything into the garden, living room and front room and got builders in to replace the entire floor.  In the end I had to cancel the party and reschedule for a week later, hoping I would have a kitchen and most things back in their place.  Thankfully he got it all done in time alhamdulillah.

In preparation, I designed a banner and got Little Lady to assemble for me with the colour scheme:

I bought a princess castle piñata and barely got it home before Baby managed to punch the front in.  I had to find another and ended up with the unicorn one from Poundland of all places (although it was not £1, but £5, but still cheaper than the castle).

Little Lady and Harlequin Sister helped with setting out the decor, which included the banners, unicorn napkins, pink sweets and table diamonds which I found at Poundland too and which I thought were a bit big and blingy, but I knew the little girls would love them.

As always, FashionistaSister made us co-ordinating cupcakes.  They always taste amazing and the little kids pounce on them and love licking the icing off.  I don't know who filled a whole plate off them...wait that might have been me stashing them for later...

On the menu was chicken yakhni pilau rice, roast chicken, lamb curry, chicken sandwiches, chickpea and potato chat, sausage rolls (made by Harlequin), pakora's made by my neighbour and this colourful and filling salad from my sister-in-law.

Shutterbug Sister made up plates of fruit which got absolutely scoffed.

The gaggle of little girls in our family had a great time dressing up and my mum, mum-in-law and sister-in-law’s mum all dressed in pastels in keeping with the theme.

The boys stayed away from the party for most of the time, going to the masjid with their dad and then hanging out in their room with my laptop, but they insisted on coming down for the piñata, if only to beat the heck out of it with a stick whilst I held it.  In the end I ripped it open and pour it over the little girls.  As always there was a frantic grab and noisy mayhem.  In the past Darling complained that the big kids grabbed the sweets and the little ones don't get any, so this time, only the little girls took part and we managed to avoid tears.

The unicorn worst for wear:

We managed to keep the gang of princesses occupied on the trampoline, it was great fun watching them hold onto tiaras with pony tails flying and net skirts floating.

We save the favours till the end, pink for the little girls and lilac and silver for the ladies.  The bags were 10 for £1 from Poundland again and filled with multipack items from Primark, B&M and Barking market.

In all it was a lovely day, the food got eaten, the boys didn't mutiny at being left out as we had expected and everyone looked lovely masha'Allah.  My girls have fulfilled their dream at being princesses for the day and I am still finding princess stickers and bit of that unicorn in strange places.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Picture of the Day 18.10.17: Nature Notes - Autumn

Autumn feels as it has come late this year, the trees have started to turn to beautiful shades of red and gold, but I can still see lots of green.  There are still flowers in my garden and in front gardens in my neighbourhood, if not as vibrant as a few weeks ago.  It's getting colder, but not so cold yet that you can't face getting out of bed, I'm hoping to make the most of these warmer than expected days and get out with the kids insha'Allah.

Picture of the Day 16.10.17: Yellow Sky

This week we saw a very surreal and quite unsettling deep yellow sky.  I was leaving to pick the children up from school and saw it change quickly from its usual blue grey to a strong yellow-orange colour.  It also got very windy and dark.

The children at school were a bit disturbed by it, with Gorgeous' class stopping lessons to look out the window.  It didn't help that Gorgeous left school telling all his friends that the end was here and we were all going to die!!!! 

Apparently it was caused by dust flying over from the Sahara desert carried this far by storm Ophelia which had hit Ireland (the boys were impressed by this).

It stayed like that for some time, like an old sepia photo (or the sepia filter on my phone camera as the kids explained to me). 

Picture of the Day 14.10.17: Unicorns, Cupcakes and Tiaras

Because sometimes you don't need a reason for a party, except that it feels like a last time since the last one and you can't resist all the pretty colours and sugary things...

Monday, 9 October 2017

The Challenges and Benefits of a Large Family

I have never considered mine to be a large family. I was one of five children and I have five of my own and see them as five individuals rather than a large group. Over time, I have come to realise that we are often seen as a large family. Including my mum-in-law there are eight of us. As a mum of five and as part of a busy household I have learnt so much over the years, we have also had to make some sacrifices. There are so many benefits to being part of a big family and there are also some challenges.

The Challenges

Time and Attention
The most obvious thing is that your time and attention is split between multiple children. You have to balance the needs, demands and behaviour of lots of people, sometimes at once. Often when children have a problem or something is bothering them they don’t have the words to tell you, or it takes time for them to screw up the courage to tell you what is wrong. You have to spend time with them and hold your tongue until they are ready to share. This is harder when there are more of them. I make sure that I spend alone time with each of them, even if it’s shopping together or doing laundry with one of them. It gives us time and space. Of course sometimes it’s not time that is needed. Most days I come home from work and find all five need to vent or complain or ask for what they need. Then it becomes a process of trying to get them to take turns to complain, tell me they are hungry or excitedly tell me about their day before someone gets upset at not being listened to and the opportunity is lost.

Clubs and Activities
I have also felt sensitive in the past to the fact that I can’t invest as intensively in my kids. I know parents who will take their children to multiple clubs, activities and after school classes. I just don’t have the budget and capacity to do this times five, especially as a wokring mother. I have often felt guilty that my children are missing out or will not reach their full potential because of this. As they get older and are starting to do well at school, I realise that the time not spent in structured activities and classes has been spent in them enjoying their children and letting their character develop. The younger ones also learn so much from the older ones. My youngest two both surprised their nursery and reception teachers with how articulate they are – mostly because they spend so much time with their gobby older siblings (I won’t mention the language they pick up from older brothers that they shouldn’t, like the time a two-year old Darling exclaimed “Buddy hell guys!” in a moment of frustration).

Silence, quiet time, peace….hahahahaha
One day I popped out of my house to buy milk and bread. I live off of a noisy main road. It felt sooo peaceful and quiet outside by comparison, I was just stunned that it was noisier in my house that day than outside with the traffic and people. My sisters often wonder if I am just deaf to all of the noise, but I have learnt to filter everyone out when I am in the middle of something. You become selectively deaf.  But every now and again I have to beg for a few minutes of quiet.

This might seem like an obvious one, but it isn’t at the top of my list for problems with a large family. As a Muslim I believe that Allah (SWT) provides for each of us and that our sustenance is decreed the day we are born. I have heard time and again that a new baby brings an increase in pay or income. I also find that a lot of the things that people spend money on with children can be avoided with a bit of planning and thought – think more hand me downs and less designer prams that are too heavy to get onto the bus.

Other People’s Issues
This is one of the ones that can really set me off: people’s bad attitude and offensive opinions:
“Oh my God, how many do you have?”
“Are you going to stop now?”
“You are going to stop now aren’t’ you?”
“How do you manage”

What if I turned that on it’s head and asked nasty questions back?
“So can’t you have children then?”
“Can’t you manage more than two?”
“Isn’t your child lonely on it’s own?”
“Your not getting any younger you know”

I would never say such hurtful things and frankly it’s no one else’s business. But when it's the other way round it seems to be open season for anyone to take aim and say thoughtless things.

The Missing Invitations
This is probably the one I found the most painful in the past. As my family grew I realised we stopped getting invited to things: weddings, parties, even family dinners or days out. I love to socialise, party and be around people, so this was tough for me. I understand that it costs more and that sometimes people want a quieter time. Most of the time I will say no or send only one or two people, but it used to hurt not to even get asked. I thought it was something that I was overthinking until I asked the question in a large family forum, I got an overwhelming response from people who had found their invitations dwindling or disappearing. It used to hurt, especially the idea of my children being left out of things and especially as they got older and noticed more. But in recent times I have gotten round it by inviting everyone to mine for big occasions or planning alternatives around the same time.

One lady on the forum had a beautiful response – that as the kids get older, there are enough of us for a party any time and everyone else will want to be apart of it.
Another lady had an awesome idea – every holiday season they would head to a cabin or holiday for just them and create their own memories.  That is something that would be just heaven for us.

When you have so many others to attend to, the time and energy left for yourself can be very little. Quiet time is a mystery and down time is when you fall over on your bed, out for the count. Self-care is less about a relaxing bath or lie-in and more about trying to drink your morning coffee while it is still hot. If you are not careful you can end up resentful and exhausted from giving so much that you feel burned out and as if you have little left to give. For this reason I have always advocated prioritising and making time for self-care, even if it means something else has to be sacrificed or pushed further down your list. If you don’t care for yourself first as a mother, you end up with very little to give those that rely on you. For these reasons I have got the kids to do chore and enforced earlier bedtimes so that I can find small slots of time for myself to do yoga, exercise or have some coffee and chocolate in peace. I set boundaries and ask for them to be respected: every Friday 9-10am after the kids have been dropped to school and before my work for the day begins is golden time. No-one is allowed to disturb me and everyone gets to know it.

The Good Stuff

Being Organised and Efficient
You have to up your game – whether it’s better routines, a family schedule or weekly planning. To manage a bigger family, you have to get organised and efficient at everything you do. We have weekly meal planning, chore schedules and regular routines for the day and week so that everyone knows what to expect. When I had baby number five, a friend commented I would surely leave work now? She said that she couldn’t manage three as a stay at home mother, how would I manage five as a working mother? I told her I was strong enough and I just would. That’s no offence to stay at home mothers, they are the backbones and foundations of our society. But when you have more children and more to do, you have to just get on with things and get good at managing your time.

Being Strong
As a parent in a big family, you have so much on your shoulders and often so many challenges. You find yourself stressed, anxious and sometimes you think you can’t cope and feel like a complete failure. Slowly you come to realise you are battered and bruised but still standing. You are getting on and doing it. Sometimes you have done more in one day than people do in a week. The challenges and the hard work lead you to grow more than you would have expected. You become stronger, more decisive and put up with less bull from people.

Discipline becomes a different ballgame when you have more children. One child throwing a tantrum or misbehaving is challenging, five or more doing it is anarchy and bedlam. It can’t happen. Plus you are probably too frazzled dealing with one of the others and the tantrum-thrower most likely realises no one has even noticed or can hear above the noise anyway. I often find that my five are better behaved or easier to manage than other people’s one or two children. With five you just don’t put up with nonsense and you have enough experience that you nip it in the bud or plan ahead – for example taking food and activities with us when we go out to keep the kids fed and occupied. Of course there are always exceptions, Gorgeous is in a league of his own when it comes to forgetting where he is…

You Learn to Budget
Whether it is re-using things, passing things down from one child to another or working out what is really essential, you get good at it. You get better at meal planning and shopping – pasta, lentils, rice and frozen veg are a yes, processed food is an expensive no. Every new trend on the television is a no, getting your children to choose one thing over another and decide what is really worth buying is a must. You accept you can afford less and you find free days out and take picnics. By now I am a master thrifter and my trips to the charity shop wind my children up but they get everything they need and more alhamdulillah. I am mindful that my husband works hard for his money and although I am not the best at managing my income, I make sure I never waste a penny of his wages.

You Become Generous
I grew up with my grandparents running an open home, with guests coming and going all day. My parents were a lot more private and once my grandparents went back to Pakistan, the open house ended and things got quieter. I missed it and promised myself I would run my home as my grandparents did. And I have: children, neighbours and extended family and friends dropping by at all hours, always welcome and always offered tea and biscuits or dinner. There are people from the masjid knocking on our door looking for my husband or people stopping to ask if he could do a job for them. We have the philosophy that where you can feed eight you can feed ten or twelve, make a few more chapatti’s and open the circle wider to let in a few more guests (we eat sitting on a cloth on the floor). I bulk cook most things so that we end up eating most things for two days in a row, there is usually enough to send some to the neighbours or my parents and hubby will take some to the masjid.

You let go of Perfectionism
You have to lower your standards, the kids won’t do the chores as good as you would, but they are learning. Your home gets messy, but it is full of play and laughter. Your party doesn’t have an exact seating plan or perfect decor, but you can bet it will be fun and people won’t forget it in a hurry. You let go of perfect but embrace productivity. You get so much more done in this way.

Everyone learns to do their bit
The kids do their chores, grandparents offer respite, the neighbours help out. You humble yourself and say yes to any offers of help.
The older children help out with the younger ones. One of my friends runs parenting classes and somethings she hears often from South Asian and African students is that it is so much harder here to raise children alone. Back home the whole community contribute to the raising of the child, here parents and especially stay at home mums are coping with everything alone. Bigger families often know that this is not realistic and rope in anyone they can.

Serving Others 
A friend of ours was in hospital for an operation and had a stream of family coming to visit. An elderly gentleman in the adjoining bed complained that no-one ever visited him. Our friend got his family to sit with some of the elderly people in the ward that didn’t receive visitors whenever they came in to see him. I am raising my children with the spirit of service.  Whatever they do in life needs to be with the intention to please Allah (SWT) and serve others. When we are out I get them to give up seats, help others with bags and hold open doors. As they get older I expect them to look out for their grandparents and undertake voluntary work in their community insh’Allah.

Life is a Party – You are Never Lonely
As my children get older, the conversations we have are pure pleasure, whether it is Little Lady telling me about her latest life hack or Little Man’s interest in world news. I am never bored. Tired, fed-up sometimes, but never lonely or bored. There is always a little one who wants a cuddle or someone that needs to vent or is in the mood for conversation. The kids band together to make dens, throw the babies a picnic on the trampoline or join the neighbours kids to spend all day playing in the garden. I learn something from them every day and they continue to surprise me as they grown and mature.

As time goes by, I am more and more grateful for the blessing of my children and my big family. Even with the noise, the stress they sometimes bring me, the criticism of others, the things I have had to give up (like my sanity, hot coffee or sometimes my peace of mind), I know I am one lucky mama alhamdulillah. I feel surrounded with love, I feel strong and competent, I feel like Allah (SWT) trusted me with this because he knew I could handle it and because He loves me.

This blog post is dedicated to my lovely mama who raised us five siblings with limited income, no help and minimal English in a strange country far from her own family. I am just in awe of her xxx

Friday, 29 September 2017

Ageing Parents, Self-Care and Acceptance of Where I am.

I have been yearning for a holiday, a break or an opportunity to travel for some time now but have not had the money or opportunity. Instead I have been coming to terms with where my life is right now.  I am no longer 21, although I have always felt about 17 in my head.  Recent troubles with my children, a difficult summer and being made redundant recently have taken their toll leaving me feeling exhausted and de-motivated.  I have aged ten years in one summer.  Hubby spent the summer in Pakistan doing dawah work and looking after his dad who has been unwell.  I fully support him, but at the same time I have been left with an underlying sense of unfairness that just won’t go away – when do I get to leave this little chunk of East London and see what is outside?  When do I get a day that isn’t about meeting the needs of everyone around me?

It’s unfair to blame him, because other things have changed too.  Both my mum and mum-in-law have been diagnosed with arthritis and have been recommended knee surgery, both are avoiding it.  I go with them to hospital and doctors appointments and try and support them where I can.  I spent one long evening with my mum-in-law in hospital due to her high blood pressure scaring her doctor and hubby spent another night there because she had a trapped nerve (sciatica) which has left her in agony and unable to do much.

This means I am entering another phase in my life, that of both our parents ageing, becoming more dependent and also more anxious about the future.  I fully intend to step up to my responsibilities.  I know that one day I will be in their place and my kids are watching how I treat them.

At the same time, it feels as if I am mourning my independence and shutting the door on many of my dreams to travel and explore the world.  This is something that has been incredibly hard for me to accept and to write about.  I wanted to show my children the world, to open their minds and horizons and to help them feel braver about going out into the world.  I wanted them to understand and respect people that were different to them and also to see the world through their eyes.

The promise of “maybe next year” has been there for so long that it has become meaningless and I am always loathe to leave something to a next year that no one is promised, and you need a break and some inspiration when you need it, not next year.

Of course I must be grateful for what I have, I thank Allah SWT every day for all that he has given me and that others only dream of.  But I don’t believe in lying to myself. I feel disappointed, sad and a little angry sometimes.  I believe that life must be a balance of worship, work and play:

It was narrated that 'Abdullah (RA) said: "The Messenger of Allah entered my apartment and said: "I have been told that you stand all night (in prayer) and fast all day.' I said: 'Yes (I do).' He said: 'Do not do that. Sleep and stand (in prayer); fast and break your fast. For your eyes have a right over you, your body has a right over you, your body has a right over you, your wife has a right over you, your guest has a right over you, and your friend has a right over you. I hope that you will have a long life and that it will be sufficient for you to fast three days of each month. That is fasting for a lifetime, because a good deed is equal to ten like it.' (Sunan an-Nasa'i 2391)

When there is no play, you start to feel like a beast of burden.  Instead of enjoying your achievements you start to feel a sense of relief as each one is ticked off – your child has a place in a good school, you somehow got a Dr’s appointment (like gold dust at our GP), you managed to get through another day.

This is why the need for self-care and rest feels more important than ever to me.  For those of us who cannot run off on a holiday to the beach, or mountains or mysterious cities (because of you know – kids and getting dinner on and stuff), I have always advocated finding small pockets of time for yourself.  Treating myself when I can, trying to set limits when no-one is allowed to bother me. Trying to find spontaneous opportunities with my children to enjoy our day or do something fun.

I will get past this, my happy nature always pushes its way back up to the top.  But I will give myself the chance to work through this, to mourn my old identity of a young women, a young mother and someone who had her whole life in front of them.  As I come close to my 40’s, I have to embrace my  new identity as a mature woman, a mother of teens as well as little ones, as a carer and as someone who has already left the strongest, healthiest years of her life behind her, spending them in caring for her family and working hard.  Each day feels more precious than ever and life so very short to achieve all that you hope for:

”It will be, on the Day they see it, as though they had not remained [in the world] except for an afternoon or a morning thereof.” ~ Quran (79:46)

Of course, the answer is to keep the long and most important goal in front of you.  For us as Muslims that is Jannah.  The promise of a life after this short one that will make us forget every disappointment, challenge and hardship we face in this one.  I see the beauty in this world and remind myself it is less than a shadow of what we have been promised.  For all the dreams in this world, I have to keep sight of the real, big goal.  At the same time I want to find pleasure and joy in each day so that when I am grateful to Allah (SWT), it is genuine and from my heart and soul.

“Other faces that day will be happy; pleased on account of the effort they had put in earlier (in the dunya)”. ~ Quran (88: 8-9)

“O you who believe, do not let your wealth or children divert you away from the remembrance of Allah, And whoever does that are indeed the losers” ~ Quran (63:9)

Monday, 25 September 2017

Internet Free Parenting in the Holidays and Beyond

At the beginning of the children’s school holidays I came to the conclusion that the internet was having a negative affect on my children.  I could see it in the Kardashian culture seeping into my daughters thinking.  I could hear it in the language they were using.  It was becoming visible through their behaviour when I did not allow them on the internet and their behaviour when I asked them to get off of the computer. 

I think that your childhood, particularly your free time as a child, helps you to explore what you like and enjoy, informing the paths you want to take as adults.  If you spend lots of time on the computer, you are spending less time trying out sports, books, games and creative endeavours.  You are spending more time sitting down, being a passive recipient of whatever you are looking at.  I found that my boys drifted towards YouTube and watching silly challenges and pranks.  Little Lady kept trying to get onto Snapchat and Instagram using my phone or her friends phones and was being exposed to a very materialistic lifestyle.  I could see her picking up a very negative attitude and lots of ungratefulness seeping into the things she said and did.

Around this time I read an article from a mother who had given her son free access to the internet and found that over time he lost interest and spent more time doing other things, like playing outside.  I did discuss with Little Man, who seems to be most addicted to the internet, how he would react to something like that.  He agreed that he would be online all day and would not want to stop at all.

So the day their dad travelled to Pakistan, I instigated an internet ban.  It didn’t go down very well.  There were a few days of crying and moaning about boredom.  Once again I was reminded that it “wasn’t fair”, Gorgeous tried all sorts of flattery and cajoling to get me to take the password off.  Little Man on the other hand spent a good few days angry and complaining he had nothing to do, hated the holidays and would have been better off at school.  I let him vent, reminding him I didn’t care and that it was not my job to entertain him.

I actually think it is good to let them be bored. On the one hand I don’t think it is a parents job to entertain their child for every single minute of the day.  On the other, I think they need to rise to the challenge and find themselves things to do.  And did they just.  The levels of fighting, mischief and mess went up in the house.  It was exhausting and infuriating at times.  But the level of creativity also went up. 

Little Man has been baking cupcakes and sending them to the neighbours.  Little Lady has been pouring through my cook books for pasta recipes and smoothies and giving me shopping lists of ingredients.  Gorgeous has gotten as far as experimenting with lemonade as an excuse to taste his grandmothers cans of Seven-Up (with a LOT of fresh lemon and lime added).

They have been building all manners of dens.  They started by hanging a blanket from the front of the boys bunk bed and getting inside with their toys.

Then they moved to fixing a blanket between the top of the bunk bed and the top of their wardrobe, turning the whole room into a kind of tent.  They laid their blankets on the floor underneath and threw in all of their pillows and soft toys.  My younger four spent the day reading and eating in their tent-room.  Little Lady was just happy they left her alone for a while.  They then graduated to building hammocks.  They made a complete mess of their room, they woke their grandmother up in the middle of the night sneaking downstairs to get cellotape to tape a blanket to the bed and create a hammock.  I would never have thought it would stay up except I found Little Man fast asleep in it the next morning.

They have spent hours on the trampoline, when not jumping on it, they take a picnic outside and sit on it to eat.  Once the boys manage to convince me to get on and then proceeded to jump so hard that I got thrown around and couldn’t get off. 

They have been making things with craft materials – I left Gorgeous in tears at home one day because I refused to leave the internet on.  He was upset because he would be bored and have nothing to do.  I felt guilty, but came home to a big map on a piece cardboard with 3D trees, buildings and beaches.  He had forgotten about the internet.

I caught Little Man drawing cartoons, something he has never liked or had the patience for.  I praised his drawings and he ended up drawing a different figure for each of us – both of my little girls loved the cats he drew them, I have my panda stuck inside my wardrobe.

I got them to help out with the gardening, digging holes so that we could finally plant the trees we have had in pots and planning where things should go.

And they have been reading.  They read everything they could get their hands on.  Little Lady and Gorgeous have always been big readers, but Little Man’s English teacher had asked him to try slightly more challenging books which he had been avoiding.  Currently they are spending  whole days reading, with Little Lady raiding my book pile and telling me about the books I have been looking forward to read.  Even Little Man has been trying the type of books his teacher recommended.

Another positive side affect was that they suddenly all seemed to get their hearing back.  The internet seemed to make them deaf and mute, so engrossed in what they were doing that they wouldn’t hear me until I had my finger on the off button and they were having apoplectic fits at the computer being turned off.

It has not been effortless and there are draw backs.  Little Man tried to do a back flip on the trampoline despite me asking him not to and managed to knee himself in the nose, we spent one morning at a walk-in centre and another morning at the doctors to make sure it wasn’t broken.  In between finding things to do they fight like crazy.  I spend way too much time for my liking acting as judge, mediator and coach in disputes over the most ridiculous things (“he laughed at me”, “he farted”, “he touched my food, I’m not eating it now”).  The house is never silent as it is when the computer is on.  Silence is like a magic, special thing that is just not meant for me. 

They need internet access now they are back at school to help with school assignments and homework, but I am so glad I shut down internet use for the holidays.  They got to try some of the things we did as children, they were pushed into being creative and use their imagination and they had a break from exposure to some of the toxic effects of the internet, pop culture and gadgets. 

If you want to know more about the effects of these things you can read Toxic Childhood by Sue Palmer (my review here).

Coming Home and Touching Base

I had a hectic day today: Little Lady's secondary school appeal, Baby’s first morning at nursery, Darling’s first full day at reception and a meeting with Gorgeous’ teacher to discuss the process of applying for secondary schools and Year 6 SAT tests, all before 10am.  Hubby and I split the meetings and drop-offs between us then met up again for him to take me to work.  Work was varied, interesting and full-on: a new mobile working project, a request for some analysis, information requests, meeting invites and a lunch date with friends.

So of course coming home means some rest at last: taking off your shoes and hijab, sitting down for a bit before you have to make dinner, perhaps even a nap.  Or not.  When you are the lady of a busy household, you don’t belong to yourself.  You are the centre of everyone.  You are their solace, their refuge, their therapy.  You are a welcoming pair of arms, a warm lap and sometimes even a punch bag for grumpy little people that need to vent.  You are the answer to everyone’s problems: “I’m hungry”, “I’m tired”, “I hate x”, “I need help with my homework”, “I can’t find my swimming kit”.

You have had a long day and they have had a long day too, you make theirs so much better.  I usually find a scrum as I get through the door:

Darling: “Mama I’m soooo tired”
Little Man: “Guess what, I’m going to audition for the school play, it’s Aladdin.  I want to be the monkey and I get to miss two days of classes”
Mum-in-Law: “You’re mum and dad were here, you just missed them, they brought me lunch”
Baby: “Mamaaaaa” – arm’s outstretched
Husband: “Can you kids take the noise in the other room, we can’t hear each other”
Guest: “There you are, good to see you.”
Little Lady: “I feel sick mum, I’m going to bed, wake me up in a little while, I have homework”
Gorgeous: “I’m starving mum, did you get us anything?”

Pretty much all at the same time.  It takes about 20 minutes for everyone to get heard and acknowledged and for me to get to hear a little about how their day has been.

But this is one of the most important parts of my day.  It sets the tone for the evening.  I can make sure the babies get lots of hugs and cuddles, which brings me comfort too.  I check what everyone has had for lunch, or as often is the case with hubby and mum-in-law if they even got round to having lunch.  I check who has prayed and who still needs to and we work out who gets to use the computer for homework first.

Then I get to take my hijab and abaya off, freshen up, take stock of the state of the house and start dinner, with everyone knowing what they have to do next.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Sister Spotlight: Deaf Not Stupid

My youngest sister wrote recently about the hearing impairment she has had since birth and the way it has impacted her life.  I loved the article:

I learned from an early age that if you don’t make a fuss about something, neither will other people. Because I didn’t make a big deal about my deafness or draw much attention to it, other people didn’t either, and assumed it wasn’t a big thing, nor did they treat me differently. In hindsight, this had its blessings but also its drawbacks too. It meant that I didn’t feel too much of an outsider or felt too different, but it also meant that I wasn’t always able to talk about my disability with some people when I needed to. In one way, I normalised the issue, but in other ways I blended in a little too much, so people couldn’t see that sometimes I had to try harder, or I would struggle to make up for my deafness.

One of the reasons I wrote this post was because I wanted to articulate how important it is for me – as a woman of colour, as a Muslim woman,  as a deaf woman – that these things do not limit us or stop us from being like everyone else, or doing our best. As a child I was very conscious of my disability because I was surrounded by it – fellow deaf students, support teachers who shadowed me, speech therapists, and even the equipments we had to use to aid our hearings, and it made it harder for me to make friends quickly, nor did I have a lot of confidence. But I will also say that this didn’t stop me in my achievements either – I continuously got the highest grades and awards for my years through most of high school, and left with the highest GCSEs and A Levels in my year because I was determined to not be held back.

The thing is, I have never seen her as disabled in any way.  In fact she made me understand very clearly that having a disability does not mean you have to be dis-abled in your life.  There are those who don’t have an impairment, but disable themselves through their laziness, lack of confidence or procrastination – having avenues to do so much, but never really getting anywhere in life.  Then there are people like my youngest sister who is bright, competent and sociable and has achieved and continues to achieve so much mash'Allah.  This article illustrates just that to me.