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Monthly Archives: November 2010

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A Letter from HF

Assalamalaikum wa rahmatullahe wa barakatuhu everyone-
Alhamdulilah we have some very good news to share.  Allah (SWT) is  insha-Allah blessing us with another child. The current expected date is set 2nd/3rd week of June.
We are very happy about this, especially since we can now justify the minivan with flame stickers and an “R-type” sticker in the back. The kids will love another companion, and we’re pleased that our extensive collection of car seats will provide more value.
I would be grateful if you could keep us in your duas- duas for our children and for their Islamic character, duas that they may become a source of comfort to us and a sadaqa jaariya. May  Allah (SWT) give all our children a character that He loves. Ameen.
I know you may already be asking: Waleed, in all of this, how are you doing? I’m doing great, thanks for asking! And yes, so is Abez. She is a fantastic trooper and thanks  Allah (SWT) every day for this blessing.
Jazak Allah Khair,
Waleed

Randomly Random Ramblings -or- Anything but open my work email, hunh?

So we make plans, but Allah is the best of planners, so the visa for Joy’s replacement won’t be ready until Joy herself gets back. So Khalid will only start going to school once she’s back again, because as his Case Manager said, there was no point in him coming for snack + playground to drink his juice and play and then go home again, especially without a shadow, because we didn’t want him to be reinforced in negative behavior patterns that he would most likely develop in a trained shadow’s absence.

So we’ll stay home and play PBSkids.org and practice our handwriting in the mean time 🙂 Alhamdulillah, I know there’s a reason for everything so I don’t feel annoyed at the time lost. And the last thing I want is Khalid running amok in the class (and me hobbling behind him) while the teachers look on warily and then give him the boot after his three week trial is up.

Also, Iman is lately into negotiating. She asked me for a piece of cake after she had already had one, I told her no. So she asked if she could share a piece of cake. Then she asked if she could borrow a piece of cake. Then she asked if she could buy a piece of cake. When it all failed, she grinned at me and said, “Momma, chokit?”

No sweetie, no chocolate.

It’s strange being one hand short at home. On a daily basis, we’re usually a party of 5- Me, Cindy, Joy, Khalid, and Iman- and I remember once shopping in Lulu Al Barsha and turning to look at my entourage- it looked like I had one shopping cart and one nanny per child. And you know, here in Dubai, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen it. I saw a woman with triplets and matching nannies last night. I used to scoff at mothers with nannies but now that I have two kids and limited mobility, I figure as long as they’re happy, well-paid, and earning a halal income, good for them. If a woman who lives in an extended family is allowed to have the grandma and aunties and cousins all pitch in and help without that making her less of a mother, then there’s no reason why hiring help (instead of just being related to it) should make you less of a mother either.

(And besides, you don’t need a nanny to be a bad mother. There are lots of really bad mothers out there who do all the laundry and diapers and the emotional abuse themselves. Maybe if they had help they’d be less frazzled and more loving. AllahuAalim.)

Heh- can you tell I still have a wee bit of existential egalitarian typically American guilt about needing help at home? Once upon a time, I was adamant about doing everything myself. My own mother refused to get help, even when we lived in Pakistan as children, and we only hired our first housekeeper when I was 20- long after my mother would have needed help with diapers and hair-pulling. This too was because both parents, as well as every single one of us siblings was working. Daddy and lil’Bro were running Chez Daddy, Momma (mine) was teaching English, I was teaching American accents to diplomats and Owlie was running a news agency. So a sweet young lady named Najma did the sweeping, mopping, and dusting, and because our Momma raised us right, she was a member of the family that my father still checks in on when he returns to Pakistan on an annual basis.

But I digress. I used to feel guilty. Sometimes, I still do, but I’ve come to accept that help is a blessing from Allah as well as a test of my character as a Muslim, so I ask for help when I can’t get into the cabinets beneath the kitchen counter (you’d be amazed at how important a functioning knee is) but I don’t ask anyone to get me a glass of water. And my kids say please and thank you to Cindy and Joy and obey them- else suffer the Wrath of Momma.

I never planned to have a housekeeper and a therapist on staff, but then I never planned to wreck my right knee and have a child with autism. And Allah is the best of planners.

The enemy within

Rubaiyaat xx & xxi

i-xix here

He whispering, withdraws

To divert you from your cause

The snow-white lamb of ‘later’

Has strangely wolf-like claws.

****

He took the path of arrogance

And insists you follow suit

To plant the seed that grows the tree

That blossoms rotten fruit.

Preventing Low Iman

It’s sneaking up on me again- low Iman.  And I don’t mean my novelty-sized daughter.  I mean my levels of faith, how alive my heart feels, how easily I wake up for Fajr and how hard I work to keep my mental jukebox clean and my thoughts of other people charitable.  It’s predictable, really.  In my case the smooth, downhill path takes some routine turns.

First, I stop making dua consciously.  I figure I need to be quick and so I make it short, sweet, and mentally absent.

Rabbana aatina fiddunia hasanatuawn wa fil aakhirati hasanatauwn wa aqina ‘azhaban-naar.  Ameen.

Our Lord, grant for us in this world Good and in the next world Good, and protect us from the fire of hell.  Ameen.   I make dua on auto-pilot and rush off to do something “more urgent” and soon, the loss of concentration in my prayers follows.  It starts with a bit of mental wandering and gets so bad that I raise my hands for takbeer and greet the angels for tasleem and wander off knowing I’ve prayed only because my head is covered and I left my chair in the middle of the floor.

And then the time-wasting starts-  crappy internet sites with top ten lists of information that add zero value to my existence as a human being. (Seventy years of TV catch-phrases, anyone?)

And then the video games sneak in and I turn my eyeballs to glue pitting the tiny forces of my massive army against the pathetic forces of some other tiny army waging epic battles that lead to nothing gained and hours lost.

And if you ask me when I find the time to do this, it’s now- when the kids and even HF are sleeping- when I should be asleep too, or at least working to clear the backlog of email that’s threatening me with a virtual avalanche.  I stay up late for no reason, delay my salah until I no longer feel like skirmishing, pray late, wake up groggy, and every day find myself an few inches deeper into mental muck and a few inches farther away from wanting to get out of it.  Because the farther I let myself wander from Ihsan and Taqwa, the harder my heart becomes and the harder it is to come back to it.

Other things follow too – hate.

Yep.  Hate.  I could be soft on myself and call it negative sentiment override, which is defined as seeing what someone else does in a primarily negative light even when it is neutral or even positive.  But whatever you call it, it’s the jaundiced, shaitaan-powered frame of mind that tells you when a person doesn’t call, it’s not because they forgot to, but because they don’t care to because the entire history of your relationship is all take and no give.  If they seem busy it’s because they don’t care to make time for you even when they have time for everyone else in the entire world.  If they stepped on your toes and said sorry, they would only be apologizing because they were rubbing it in.  That’s negative sentiment override, and it’s pure poison.  The only way to get rid of it is to beg Allah for help, because allowing it to remain kills your heart.

I think it was Marx who called religion an opiate for the masses- an addictive drug to stifle the brain and drowse your way through the harsh realities of life without having to open your eyes to see them through.  Other people have called religion a crutch for those too weak to handle reality.  I tell you- religion is an antibiotic, a vaccine, a super-vitamin, and the only way to ensure good heart health.  Without Islam on my compass, I would be wandering hell-bent on time wasting, hating my fellow man, playing video games all night and snapping at my children all day.  You don’t want to see me without Islam.  I never even want to be me without Islam.  I go off course pretty regularly, but I still have a compass and Islam is still true North and Allah is my destination, whether I go to Him willingly or not.  I just need a bit of help getting back on track.

So here, dear everybodies, for me moreso than you- is my list of things to help soften my heart and put my Iman back on track.

NOT SURFING THE INTERNET– This is in caps.  This is important.  Using the internet is one thing, but surfing is a matter of aimlessly clicking from one stupid black hole of time-loss to another.  Surfing is the devil.  You know what I mean.

Making dua with my eyes open and my brain on- I always thought it was funny how the major phone service provider in the UAE was called Etisalat- it shares the same root word as Salah- prayer- why?  Because they are both words that imply connection.   I need to make my dua a connection, a one-on-one conversation with God where I call upon Him in humility, hope, fear, and sincerity enough to say what I mean and mean what I say.  That’s always a powerful heart-softener for me, because once I get started, it’s like the levy breaks and all the pent-up fear, frustration and need just pours out.  It’s hard to describe how wonderful it feels to really pray- to break down before your Lord and ask to be built again.  It’s humbling and calming and exhilarating and it makes me feel alive after having a half-dead heart for so long.

Paying attention to Salah: The wonderful thing about actually paying attention to Salah is that it becomes some sort of… religious experience.  Irony intended.  How many of us could call our Salah a religious experience, and how many other things do we call religious experiences instead?  One thing that helps for me is not using the short surahs from the very end of the Qur’an that we’re all taught as kids.  I know that Surah Ikhlas represents something as immense as the Oneness of Allah and His right to be worshipped, but I start from the first Qul and stop at the last Ahad without ever feeling the weight of those verses.  For me, the verses that have the most meaning and hold my attention best are those I learned as an adult because my understanding and appreciation of their message is more mature.  I recite lines that are close to my heart, that I learned during times of difficulty and stress, that bring me relief and when I repeat them, I remember what a comfort and what a blessing it was just to read them.

(Verily, We have created man in toil. Surah Balad 90:4)

(There is no soul but that it has over it a protector. Surah At-Tariq 86:4)

Reading Quran: It’s sad, but when my Iman is low I find this the hardest thing to do.  Why?  Because I still struggle with reading the Arabic, but I recognize that much of the experience is lost if I only read the English.  So doing the right thing is too hard but doing the next best thing is no fun, so I end up doing nothing.  What I ought to do is recognize that one of shaitaan’s most powerful tool is laziness, and hit myself over the head with the Qur’an (reverently, of course) and then just start reading.  Once I start, I love it.  It’s getting started that’s hard.

Using YouTube: There are some people for whom YouTube is a huge Fitna.  Alhamdulillah, I’m not one of them.  It is a relief and blessing and an immense kindness from Allah that I, who can get addicted to anything and distracted by reading about bacon-flavored mouthwash- find no such allure in YouTube, and my playlist is filled with things that comfort and inspire me, my ultimate favorite being this beautiful recitation of Surah Mutaffifin by Mishary Rashid Al Afasy:

And then this one,

Because I love the last part of the Surah that describes how, when the call is sounded on the Day of Judgment, man will flee from his brother, and his father and his mother, and his wife and children out of fear of his own account. It gives me the God-fearing goosebumps, it does. What can I say, Haq ka khauf ajab ghum hay. I don’t know much in Urdu, but I know this line from my Arabic teacher, who taught Owl and I years ago one sentence to separate the Letters of the Sun (Haroof Shams) from the Letters of the Moon (Haruf Qamar), and it’s composed of only Letters of the Moon. Loosely (and badly) translated, it means that Fear of Truth/God/Justice is an amazing/wonderful sadness.  So yeah, YouTube, heh.

Write Something: It’s fairly obvious that I use my blog for catharsis, but I also really need it for reinforcing my Iman.  It’s said that the best way to learn something is to try and teach it to someone else, and in my case, the best way of remembering something is for me to tell someone else about it.  Plus, I like to write/do/create/color/sew/Photoshop- arts and crafts was my favorite activity in summer camp and when Khalid and Iman and I sit down to color, I’m looking forward to 96 crayons and some glitter as much as they are.  I just like to make things.  So when I feel down and dead, I like doing things that are creative.   And blogging is easier than writing a poem, so hence, this blog entry. :p

See? I’m sounding more positive already. 🙂  Alhamdulillah.  My Iman may be low (and my daughter is short, too) but I have control over which direction I let it go in.  And recognizing that shaitaan has tons of seemingly harmless distractions can help me avoid them.  I don’t really ever *need* video games.  If my head is full of steam then I need to vent to Allah or work on solving my problems instead of inflicting destruction upon fake civilizations.  No one really needs to know about bacon flavored mouthwash or seventy years of TV tag lines, and if I’m stressed out and need to unwind, I have a thousand ways of doing so that don’t look like banana peels on the gravelly path to perdition.  So take that, Sid Meyer. :p

Eid Mubarak!

🙂

Out of the noses of babes

Iman: momma, wook!   issa booger.

Me: Yes dear, let’s get a tissue.

Iman: I eat it?

Me: No! Do not eat that!

[Iman is startled by my reaction, and then understanding dawns on her]

Iman: [nodding sagely] Iss berry spicy.

Sigh.

Today is the end of day three without Khalid’s caregiver and therapist Joy, insert witty jokes about the lack of Joy in our lives here.

Also, I don’t like email any more.  Or my phone.  Or the internet.  It all represents the constant inflow of work/requests/obligations that I am simply not equipped to handle without Joy on staff, and I am beginning to realize that in order to cope I may have to go partially AWOL from work.  Every time I open my inbox I see letters that needed urgent replies yesterday, work that’s overdue, follow-ups that I couldn’t make.  My RTM is an itemized list of so many pending tasks that the red flags are meaningless now.  I am frustrated, and the problem with being frustrated is that even if you do have five minutes to answer an email, you’re too frustrated to try.  It’s cyclical.

And I’m tired.  And frustrated.

And in the course of all this, my love, prayers, and admiration to all the autism mothers out there who DON’T have the benefit of trained caregivers, because you are braver, stronger, more patient women than I am.  You are also smarter than I am, because you’re probably not trying to launch a business and do consulting on the side.  You probably have your priorities straighter, and you might sleep better too.

I know this entry is uncharacteristically depressing for me, but it’s been a tough three days.  Unless I put everything else on hold, I can’t give Khalid the attention he deserves.  But because business moves whether or not you do, I can’t.  But at the end of the day, I might as well, because I’m so far behind that things are becoming irrelevant.

Sabr and Shukr.  Owl reminded me of Sabr and Shukr.  So I’ll take two of those.  And maybe, if I don’t hate my phone too much, you can call me in the morning.

Flying Solo: Khalid’s first day of school and other adventures

So Joy- Khalid’s full-time caregiver and ABA therapist- is on vacation for a month as of yesterday, which was also Khalid’s first day of school, which was also the day that Iman fell down in the hallway and knocked loose and fractured one of her front teeth.

This morning was our first day without Joy, as well as the first day that I attempted to run Khalid through his ABA program, as well as have a three-hour instructional design meeting for my ‘real’ job and then take Iman for an emergency dental appointment.

The morning program was educational, in that I learned that it will take a whole lot more than her whiteboard markers to give me Joy’s superpowers.  The laminator chewed up my flash cards and spat them back out in a smelly, melted mess.  The kids got bored when I took too long to find the next program materials and Khalid knocked a cup of tea into a box of 96 crayons.  Why was the teacher drinking tea in class?  Because the teacher was a sleepy amateur, that’s why.

The subsequent meeting was interesting, in that Iman sat in with the Business Development Manager and I to color and contribute her professional opinion on the course development- which was generally about butterflies, the beach, and where her marker went.  Also, she told the BDM that she was snotty.  And she was.

The dental appointment went well in that there was little dentistry involved- Iman’s mouth needs three weeks to heal so that the tooth is no longer wobbly before they perform a root canal and remove the lower-half that is no longer viable.  (It cracked straight across)

And now, Khalid’s first day of school.

I think he may have had fun, but Joy and I were quite nervous, especially since Khalid is not really enrolled- he’s being observed for an hour a day, two to three times a week in the KG class to determine whether he can be there without causing massive disruption to the ‘normal’ kids.  I don’t remember kindergarten being that tense when I was a kid, but then the principal and school counselor probably weren’t both in the class to observe me.  And the teachers probably didn’t have the wary, anxious look of two women with 28 three and a half year olds who have just been handed the Unknown Special Needs Quantity X.  Khalid is a year older and a head taller than the other children.  His academic scores put him in second grade, but his verbal and social scores place him in nursery, so KG-1  is somewhere in the middle and our goal is to help bring his social and verbal scores up while maintaining his academic scores at home.

He had to be interviewed to be let in.  We had to submit his psychological assessment, sign a legal disclaimer, take official responsibility to protect other students from him and answer questions about how loud, how often, how intensely and for what reasons he could freak out.  We spent three hours on the first day with the school counselor and the principal and the registrar, and while I am grateful, Alhamdulillah, and relieved that he’s being given a chance to go to a ‘normal’ school, my maternal hackles have been raised in indignation for Khalid.

(He pinched Joy, will he pinch other children?)

(The assessment mentions self-injury, can you tell us about that?)

(Why are his academics so far ahead?  Why haven’t you been pushing his social and verbal instead?)

[Gee, maybe he’s a classical case of autism?]

(If you even think that he might be about to make noise, just take him out of the class.)

I’m sure Khalid wasn’t offended, at least not by anything the staff said.  Instead, he was upset when he walked into the class and noticed that the letter C was missing from the alphabet lineup on the wall.  He asked where it was, noticed it on the center of the board, and attempted to put it back where it belonged.  We spent a few minutes gently distracting him away from the missing C (and some noise was involved) but then he noticed that the word Sunday was out of place in the days of the week lineup.  It was on another wall because it had a special schedule.  He tried to pull that down too.

Other children were drinking juice, so he asked for one by writing out J- U- I- C- E with his finger in air-letters a foot tall.  You should have seen how fast Joy and I rushed to get him some.  He sat during snack-time eating his apple and drinking, reading every written word and chart on the wall from his seat at the Brown Bears table while other children chatted and fussed with their food and had the kind of conversations that kids in kindergarten do.  One little girl peed in her chair and was taken away crying.  One little boy got scolded by the teacher, and in turn, Khalid scolded the teacher.  I don’t think that went over well.

The principal came in and asked Khalid how he was doing.  He answered ‘Fine!’ and Joy and I gave each other looks of desperate encouragement and relief.  When it was time to go out and play, he did a reasonable job of staying in line with the other kids as long as Joy and I were flanking him on both sides.  Khalid climbed and ran and went down the slides, Joy and I got a chance to relax.  But then it was time to go inside again, and Khalid has a hard time with transitions, so he sprinted down the hall out of protest and I had to chase him.

When I finally caught him, we bumped into one of the staff members from the center that is managing his case, and to be honest, it was a breath of fresh air.  That lady, like other therapists and case managers, looked at Khalid like a miracle, a prodigy, a best-case scenario and the child that every mother is jealous of.  In the world of autism, this may be true- Khalid is making amazing progress, has manageable behavioural issues, and little to no aggression.  The director of the autism center calls him a star and a poster boy for ABA, but here in the world of normal kids, Khalid is a disruption, an anomaly, a little boy who can’t follow simple instructions and screams at adults if they press him for social interaction.   The teachers don’t beam at him and hug him and tickle him and engage with him, they sigh and keep a few feet back.

This morning Khalid had a cough, so I texted the school counselor to let her know we would stay home.  She texted back saying let him stay home for the rest of week, and she would see him after the weekend.   I know she meant well.  I know there’s no law saying they have to take Khalid.  I know their teachers don’t get paid extra for having a unpredictable, neurologically challenged little boy in the midst of their crying, peeing, nose-picking kindergarteners.  They have enough to handle without throwing Khalid into the mix.  But they could, at least, smile.  Just a little.  And watch with patient kindness instead of stern observation, clipboards in hand.  And say things like ‘Don’t worry if he makes a little noise, the normal kids make quite a fuss too…’ instead of  ‘If you even think he’s going to make noise…’

Even Joy, who’s  been doing school shadowing and ABA therapy for ten years, was put off by the attitude.  Or lack of warmth, rather.  There’s willingness, but not much warmth.  And I feel like saying ‘take your stupid school, Khalid doesn’t need it!’ but the truth is, he does.  And there are only a handful of schools in the entire country that are willing to consider letting him in, and I should be grateful that there’s one so close to our house and already working with his therapy center to help facilitate inclusion.  And plus, when the kids were supposed to be putting their heads down for some quiet time, and Khalid was doing some worksheets on his own to bide the time, one little boy raised his head, peeked over at Khalid’s work (Write the number twelve, then find which groups of pictures have twelve items in them, and circle them) and exclaimed, “How did you do that!?”  And Joy and I beamed with pride, but then it was time for the kids to go to their Arabic class and it was time for us to go home.  Because the management believes that Khalid would not be prepared to learn one Arabic letter and one color in Arabic per week, even though I told them he already knows the alphabet in Arabic.

(And he can count to one hundred)

(And he knows his shapes and colors)

(And he can add numbers from 1 to 10)

(And he can read using phonics)

(And he is computer literate, knows how to type, operate a DVD player, use Google Chrome, YouTube, Starfall.com, and PBSkids.org)

It took me some time to accept Khalid’s autism, so I should cut other people slack too.  I know.  I need to remind myself that they don’t know where he’s been to appreciate how far he’s come.  And there’s nothing amazing about a him defending himself from interacting with the teachers or not yet speaking in full sentences.   And yelling at anyone who raises their voice in his vicinity is rather disruptive to class.  I’ll admit that too.  But he’s my son- my amazing, unusual, awkward, shy, silly, academically brilliant but socially disabled son and I think he’s the most miraculous child in the world- and anyone who thinks poorly of him because of his disability is going to have a very hard time getting out of my bad books.

But I’m a grown up, so I can’t be defensive, I have to be the most outgoing, outspoken, cheerful, useful, special-needs shadow mom that KG has ever seen, and I have to support these two overworked young ladies and help teach them how to manage my ABA poster-boy.

(And if the thumb tacks should go missing and unexpectedly end up on someone’s chair, I’ll try to keep Khalid from reacting to the noise of their satisfyingly shrill surprise.)

By Momma, the end.

An Abaya Built for Two

So Iman has this routine that’s specific to us praying at home, which generally involves getting on all fours, crawling between my feet and then standing up inside of my Abaya.  Because I use a chair for half of my salah (for sajda, specifically) the space between my feet exists for the entire prayer, although previously, Iman has thought of better things to do halfway through salah and crawled out from underneath of my clothes and then run away to do something really worthwhile, like pinch her brother.

Today though, she almost made it through all four rakat of Isha.

Because she brought a book with her.

About dinosaurs.

And she read it.

From beneath my Abaya.

Alhamdulillillahi Rabbil ‘Alameen….

Momma, di-no-sho!