Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Product Review: Crinkled Scarves by Modest Be

I was asked by Modestrove London if I was interested in trying out their newest line of scarves for a review.  I was open to trying them out and was sent two of their Modest Be line of crinkles scarves.

The scarves I was sent are made of a crepe fabric and measure 180cm by 70cm, in shades of grey and dusty pink (they are also available in black, baby blue and tint green - I like the look of the black one). 

The grey is a soft oyster grey shade, slightly warm for a grey.  I wore this scarf with a peach outfit for a party and it co-ordinated quite well.  The pink was difficult to pick up in these pictures and made me think of a vintage tea pink shade.

The scarves have a sheen to them and a textured look.  I wear my scarves quite flat (i.e. no high bun at the back), so these were quite nice to add a little shape.

The scarves are machine washable at 40 degrees and were easy to iron.  They did wrinkle quite easily, so I had to lay them flat after ironing until I was ready to wear them.

The scarves are quite nice for a special occasion, because the shine is quite subtle, I would probably feel comfortable wearing these to work also.   I tend to wear print scarves with plain abaya's, but subtle colours like these are quite handy to help co-ordinate party outfits.  

The scarves also remind me of the kind of outfit's my younger sister wears and would look great with the softer shades she favours:

Most likely I will be keeping one for myself and gifting one to someone as they look better than ordinary everyday cotton or viscose scarves and would make a nice present.

Palestine Expo 2017

I attended the Palestine Expo, an event organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, this year with Shutterbug SisterHarlequin Sister and Little Lady.  The situation in Palestine is something that affects Muslims across the Ummah (global Muslim community).  My first memory of what has happened there, as a seven or eight year old, was a news report with an accompanying video of a young Palestinian boy with curly dark hair flanked by soldiers and with blood pouring down his face.  The image haunted me and for years after and I used to wonder what happened to him.  Did he go to jail?  Did he get married and have a family? Was he still alive? 

Over the years, we have followed what has happened in Palestine (1 , 2 and 3), with the siege of Gaza leaving us feeling helpless, ineffective and devastated.  So when the opportunity came to learn more about the situation and also about the culture and heritage of Palestine, we were keen to take the opportunity.

The event took place over five floors of the Queen Elizabeth II Centre close to Parliament and included lectures, film and documentary viewings and a market place celebrating Palestinian culture.

The first lecture was from Dr Inas Abbad, a political science researcher, lecturer and a political activist from Jerusalem.  She described how the education system of the Palestinians had been dismantled following the Ottoman period during British and then Israeli rule, with decreased number of schools, changed curriculum and children coming through checkpoints to cramped and unsuitable classrooms.  Something that really stood out for me was how she described the way a rich and beautiful Palestinian culture and heritage was being wiped from history and school books to support a narrative that said that there was nothing before the Israeli’s came and that they had turned the barren and empty desert land green.

The second talk was from Ronnie Barkan, an Israeli human rights activist and conscientious objector (he refused to complete his compulsory military service in Israel).  He spoke about the political element of the struggle, with even "liberal" Israeli politicians begrudging Palestinians their rights.  

The third talk we managed to listen to was from Soheir Asad, a Palestinian activist and Human Rights lawyer.  She broke down the way the Palestinian had been discriminated against using the law, in particularly how land laws had been used in different ways to confiscate the lands they owned.

We made a few trips through the floor with stalls selling ceramics, embroidered outfits, shawls, dates and oil, perfume, calligraphy, books, charities and about half a dozen stalls laden with halal sweets.

There was an area for children's activities including storytelling on the theme of Prophets of Palestine by well-known storytellers Hassen Rasool and Elizabeth Lymer

We took a break for lunch, with the girls queuing up for ages for a falafel wrap, I didn't want to wait around, so went for the shortest queue which was for a chicken biryani.  Then we went to listen to a lecture by John Pilger, a journalist whose work I have admired since I first came across his writings online and in book form.  I didn't expect how full the lecture hall would be and he received a standing ovation.  He spoke about his experiences reporting on Palestine, moving, devastating and infuriating by turn. He also spoke about the change he was seeing with people unwilling to ignore the injustices in the world whether Palestine, Grenfell Tower or the Occupy Wall Street movement.

It was a day well spent learning and trying to understand what we can do to help.  I am very glad I took my daughter along and I would take my two sons along in future, particularly as they were so moved by what was happening during the seize of Gaza.

Picture of the Day 17.07.17 - Mrs Fix-It

What do you do when the kitchen tap falls apart and hubby isn't hope to sort it out?
You call the plumber...except it gets to 10.30 and the plumber still hasn't turned up and there are piles of dishes and the kitchen needs a good clean - with water

Women being resourceful creatures, we have to make do.  We ended up taking it apart, screwing it back together, and taping it with layers and layers of nylon tape with a butter knife along the back to stop it dropping into the sink.  It still dropped somewhat, so we tied it to the window with yellow ribbon to hold it up:

It worked!!

It only took my two boys and three women: me, mum-in-law and my lovely neighbour’s daughter whose idea it was.  It was 11am by the time I got dishes done and the kitchen clean, but we have a working tap alhamdulillah.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Product Review: T-Shirt by Muslim Child

I was recently approached by Muslim Child to do a review of their products.  Muslim Child is a Canadian brand run by a passionate entrepreneur with the motto to be: sincere in spreading the love of Islam starting from the root – our children: Yours. Mine. Ours (It's worth reading the story behind her business here)

I had a browse through their site and asked them to choose for me as I was happy to go with any of their products.  They sent me one of their new designs to review.

It came nicely packaged:

We had a good laugh at the cheeky design on the T-shirt, "adab" means behaviour, particularly good behaviour or manners:

The design suits Gorgeous down to the ground, he is quite proud of how incorrigible he is.

He also enjoyed modelling it for pictures, much to his older brother's eye-rolling

The shirt is 99% cotton and 1% polyester, easy to wash and iron.  I put it into the normal wash (Gorgeous gets his tops really dirty) and it washed clean without any bubbling and minimal need for ironing.  Best of all he has pulled it out of his wardrobe to wear it again.

You can check out the Muslim Child website here and keep up with them on Facebook here.

Picture of the Day 14.07.17 - My Cheeky Bookworm

When Gorgeous picked up this big book, I had my doubts. I know he loves reading, but my boys can be lazy and go for easier books sometimes. Three days later he presented it back to me bleary eyed saying he loved it. I was impressed and really very proud, although I have told him I don’t want him staying up late to read. I remember my mum telling me the same thing, to no effect at all.

He is so boisterous and full of life and mischief alhamdulilah, that it is both endearing and exhausting, so books have been an absolute gift. In between the noise, annoying his sisters and creating mess, he will disappear for hours into his room to just read and read and we all wonder how it got so quiet in the house.

Picture of the Day 13.07.17 - Mini Plums

My mum popped by with a big bag of these tiny plums earlier this week that a family friend had grown in her garden. They are very small, but so pretty with their blush pink and gold colour and they are quite sweet. Alhamdulillah for Allah’s (SWT) blessings, for sweets gifts and the beauty that surrounds us.

Looking Inwards, Sadness, Anger and Reflection

The last few weeks have been the hardest weeks of my life.
Trouble with the children, bad habits they have picked up, bad behaviour I am trying desperately to manage and counteract
Doubts about myself as a mother and my approach to parenting.
Misunderstandings with my better half
Long soul baring talks with him
Finding my feet again with my health and self-care
Exhaustion that lead me to drop into bed and fall into a stupor of immediate sleep at the end of the day

I have found myself doubting every decision I have made and questioning the foundations that we have built our life on.

I have veered between wondering if Allah (SWT) is angry with me and punishing me or if in His love he is testing me.

It has made me lose interest in my work and in the good things in life.
I have had weeks of anxiety and sadness and just utter misery.

I have wanted to blog, to journal and vent.
But I have just not been able to.
I thought I could not find the words.
But in reality I had lost not the words, but the heart and my courage.
Some things cut too deep and are too private to share.

So after weeks of trying to set things straight, cajole and keep people calm, I have gotten very angry. The anger has led me to make some strong decisions

I have decided to take Little Lady out of Islamic school. She has hated it almost from the beginning and has begged us to let her change to a different school. She dropped out of her Alimah (scholar's) course at the end of her second year which was pretty painful for us and railroaded our plans for how we wanted to raise our children: as pople of knowledge and people of the Quran insh'Allah (hafiz and alim).

Instead, I have found her change into a rude, grumpy child (yes I know she is a teen now), but also one that isn't as close to her faith as she was before, which is very hard for me to accept. Almost every girl in her class apart from her has a smart phone and access to Snapchat and Instagram. They are heavily influenced by the "kardashian culture" and the fake rubbish they see everywhere: mansions, parties, haram(i) fashion, enough make up to cover ten faces, pouting and singing along to songs on their Snapchat, flirting with boys, being out at night. Hell - I saw one girl her age on her Snapchat driving a car at night with her boy cousins.

All Little Lady saw was that everyone else was doing this stuff and she was missing out because her parents were too strict. So despite our best efforts to show her beautiful a clean, Islamic life can be, other influences have seeped in. Her friends at school have been letting her use their phones to create a Snapchat account, which gives her a window onto this world.

I would challenge any parents to ask their child to share their smart phone and let them into all of the apps if they have nothing to hide. Work out how to view Snapchat snaps, streaks and messages. If you don't know what a streak is, find out. Take a look at their Instagram messages and their Instagram feed. I think these will be an eye-opener and for some Muslim parents devastating that their little Asiya or Khadija could be looking at or doing these things. People think their kids are not on Facebook or Twitter so they are safe from the worries that social media can bring. But kids are not interested in Facebook or Twitter, but apps that are far more transient with everything disappearing as they view it.

In any case, Little Lady felt that all these girls looked beautiful with their stylish (I would say skanky) clothes and with their hair down, while she was wearing hijab and modest clothes. It really made me question the work I had put in to teach her to be modest and love the hijab. It also made me very angry that my work could be undone by this pernicious culture.

So at the end of the year I am taking her out of school and sending her to a regular school with her brother if she gets a place insh’Allah, at least he is happy and achieving well alhamdulillah.

The anger has seeped wider, I am putting my foot down with the kids and have decided to give them minimal or no access to the internet this summer. They need to find useful things to do and they need to help me a lot more. Much more. I am finding five children, a household to look after, work and everyone at my doorstep with things for me to do quite exhausting. As my sister says, I need to learn to start saying no to people. I love to help people, I am aware of the blessing of hosting guests – but it has to be done with happiness rather than in a state of frantic stress.

I am also in a place of questioning this peaceful parenting business. I always thought that our parent’s physical discipline of us made us angry and less able to deal with things in a mature way. But it also seems that constantly negotiating, persuading and explaining to our children has made them a bit lazy and entitled. So sod that. I may come back to peaceful parenting when I am in better space, but at this time, I will be introducing some old fashioned authoritarianism – people will do what they are told, people will do chores and then more chores. Some people who thought they could be grumpy and not listen will be respectful and super, extra respectful to their grandmother (my mother in law, my mum brooks no nonsense from anyone alhamdulillah). I may even introduce daily leg massages for their gran to teach them a little care of elders. Certainly they all need to take turns to help me clean, cook and launder.

Children coming to my house will have to leave their smart devices at home or and them in to me. I will take them out places during summer holidays, but not more than I can afford. I have long given into moaning, guilt tripping and all out harassment. Little Man can spend days haranguing me to get what he wants. My kindness and easy going nature has been taken advantage of for quite some time.

Hubby has travelled to Pakistan for two months for dawah work (with Tablighi Jamaat) and to see his family. I spent about two days feeling lost and weak and wondering if it was sadness from him being gone, until I almost fell over twice and realised it was low blood pressure. I am absolutely terrible at listening to my body and understanding what is happening until I faint or fall over or the Doctor tells me I need treatment for something I thought was just me being not tough enough.

These weeks of self-doubt, revelations about my children and missing hubby have been tough. It is not in my nature to stay down, but to take action and do what it takes to rectify the situation. But there are some things you can’t just fix and that take time, patience and reflection and so you just have to persevere through the anxiety and tears.

Then there is anger, there is something delicious and empowering about righteous anger that washes away the anxiety and assuages some of the pain. It gives you the strength to do the things you need to do and take the steps you might have felt are too big for you to take alone. It also puts the fire in your words that makes people sit up and listen and think – “I better do as I am told”. I think I will hold onto it a little longer until I have my home and life back in order and I no longer feel taken advantage of insh'Allah

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Book Review: Beautifully Different by Dana Salim

Beautifully Different is the second book in the Yousuf’s Everyday Adventures series, written by Dana Salim and illustrated by Pavel Goldaev. The book is based on the premise of a question that Yusuf asks his father: “Why are we all different? Especially when it leads to some people being treated unfairly?” for instance by being made fun of).

Yusuf’s father responds to his question by taking him on an imaginary journey to an island in the sea where he meets interesting animals and colourful birds. The island is being overtaken by weeds that are choking out the flowers. The flowers are all different but with Yusuf’s encouragement they come together to push back the weeds. This helps Yusuf to understand that it’s ok to be different and that when we come together our differences can be a strength.

I read the book to my two year old and my four year old. The four year old had lots of questions and wanted to discuss what was happening, she picked up the messages of the book quite clearly. The two year old was engrossed in the bold and colourful illustrations.

This is a lively and accessible book with an important message for the times we live in. The two messages around celebrating and accepting our differences and coming together in difficult times despite our differences resonated with me and are very apt for the circumstances we find ourselves in whether Muslim or not. I hope this is a message that reaches the hearts of all of our children.

Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Eid-ul-Fitr 2017/1438 - Eid Mubarak!

A belated Eid Mubarak everyone.  Taqabbal Allahu Minna Wa Minkum (May Allah accept it from you and us).

I hope that all of my brothers and sisters have a blessed Eid full of happiness, joy, good deeds, Allah (SWT)'s mercy and the companionship of people they care about insh'Allah, ameen.