Abez sez Assalamualaikum!

Monthly Archives: July 2013

You are browsing the site archives by month.

Some milestones are funnier than others

And Khalid hit a new one this week, all by himself.  He wrote, directed, and narrated his first independent documentary film.  And he did it on my phone without telling me, and it almost got deleted because I had no idea what it was.  But here it is.  Khalid’s first documentary ever.  Transcript available in youtube description.

You have been warned

If you’re here from my article on Muslim Matters and are looking for further maternal wisdom, then please take note: this update has no purpose other than the documentation of the intolerable cuteness that is my 2.1 year old Musfira.  You have been duly warned.

As expected of a third child, Musfira is louder, faster, and more intense than the siblings who came before her.  You’d think that having raised two adorable savages before her that I would be harder to surprise and awe, but I can’t help it- Musfira surprises me and then I go awwww.

Today, as we were pulling in to the gas station, Musfira piped up from the back seat, “Momma, can I have e-plus full please?”  Well, that’s what I know what she meant, but it actually sounds like, “momma, kinna haff e-pwuss foo peez?”

And then there was the time she tattled on Iman, who was saturating her bath with bubbles straight from the bottle- “momma, eeman pudda bubbos too much inna baff!”  I had to go in and look stern and tell Iman to put the bubble bath away while inwardly giggling at the squeaky little accusation that brought me there.

Musfira doesn’t sound like a baby.  She sounds like someone pretending to sound like a baby- she has a comically high-pitched little voice, and all the typical substitutions for consonants.  Please isn’t please, it’s pweez.  Khalid isn’t yet Khalid, he’s ka-lee.  Musfira is… wait for it… moos-fwa.

It’s cuteness overload, and it disarms me when Musfira does things like say… draw on her self, the walls, floor, desk, and my computer with permanent marker, and then explain her work to me in her proudest little squeak: momma wook! happee buffday face!

Then there was the time when HF walked in on Musfira industriously scribbling on a wall.  “Musfira, what is this??” HF asked angrily.

Musfira pointed to the scribble and said:

“Issa ‘asfoor, Baba. Tweet tweet?”

‘Asfoor is bird in Arabic. Obviously Baba.  Tweet tweet.

Moos-fwa.  She’s Baba’s little pwincess.  She fights and bites and swings like a monkey from the rails of her elder sister’s bunk bed.  She crawls around the house meowing and uses her devious little fingers to open purses, poke food in the refrigerator, and last week- accidentally lock herself into my bedroom.

She was supposed to be sleeping, but at roughly 9:30 last Thursday she was banging on the other side of my bedroom door with her tiny fists, begging to be let out.  Having successfully climbed out of her crib, she turned the key- instead of the handle- in the door and began what would be twenty minutes of panicking in the dark while HF and I tried to figure out how to break into our own bedroom.

HF was contemplating smashing the window when Musfira accidentally unlocked the door- Alhamdulillah.  She ran out -tear-stained, pink-faced, her eyes puffy- and  into my arms, then HF’s arms, and then the arms of a friend of HF’s who had been with him when I called HF home from the masjid to help rescue Musfira… She was properly traumatised.

You would think she’d have learned her lesson, but two days later, I heard her little voice crying from the other side of the door.  It wasn’t locked (we no longer keep the key in it) and as I pushed it open carefully, I saw Musfira blinking in the light- wearing HF’s shoes on her feet and HF’s socks on her arms.  I’m not sure what she had been planning, but it must have been an interesting idea.

In a nutshell, that’s Musfira.  She hasn’t gotten much attention on the blog because for the majority of her life to date, she’s been a squishy pink blob of adorable baby fat without much to report.  However, as she’s growing out of her diapers and into her shoes as a fully-fledged toddlersaurus rex, she’s making our little home crazier, cuter, exponentially louder, and way more wonderful than I could have ever imagined.  Yes, having three children under the age of seven is difficult, but it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever done with my life, and I adore it- and her for it.  Alhamdulillah. 🙂

Planning a Fail-Proof Iftar with ABA!

In case I haven’t mentioned this before, I love ABA.  Seriously.  I’m not referring to  table-top flashcard activities, I’m referring to the analysis of behaviour hence- Applied Behavior Analysis.

ramadan-kareemAs part of behaviour analysis, behaviours are broken down into chains of A,B,C- Antecedent, Behaviour, and Consequence.  Basically, the antecedent is what precedes a behaviour, the behaviour is the err… behavior, and the consequence is what follows.  What does this have to do with Ramadan? Well, here’s a Ramadan case study for your analysis.

Subject X has been fasting all day.  As Maghrib approaches, he/she sits down in front of a heavily laden iftar table with a beautiful, aromatic variety of foods and proceeds to drool at them until the azhan is called.  Once the first “Allahu Akbar” wafts melodiously through the window, Subject X proceeds to over-eat.  Unsurprisingly, Subject X is you.

The scenario varies from one fast to another, but the outcome remains the same: you reach over-fullness in record time, going from light and spiritually connected to engorged and close to reflux if you go into sajda too fast. The consequences of your behaviour are weight gain, self-loathing, disappointment, and regret.

You’re dismayed about the weight gain, so you google things like “Losing Weight in Ramadan.”  You find information about clear soups, fruit smoothies, insulin spikes, and lots of information finding fault with your food.  Turn’s out though, it’s not your food’s fault.  It’s your behaviour about food’s fault.

Every day you tell yourself that tomorrow will be different, but every tomorrow you make the same mistakes because guess what- you haven’t had a chance to analyse your behaviour and try to figure out how you can make changes to the repeating cycle of behaviour.  To the ABA!

First, we’re going to define the behaviour.  The behaviour (B) in this scenario is overeating; ie- consuming too many calories- whether through food quantity or caloric density, than your body requires.

Next, we need to identify the  antecedent, or even antecedents, plural. A single behaviour can have multiple antecedents. Different things can lead you to the same outcome- in this case, eating too much.  There’s more than one antecedent to the behaviour of overeating at Iftar, and sometimes at an Iftar party, a half dozen of them can be applicable at the same time.

  • At-Home Buffet: Someone’s been slaving over the pot all day, and the result is sixteen different things to taste, and curiosity dictates that you have some of every single dish.
  • You’re a Texan at Heart: Your portion sizes are more suitable for hard-working farmhand than a desk-jockey. And we all know you’re a desk jockey.
  • You Go to the Source:You eat directly from the serving dish, ie- pakoras or samosas eaten directly from a tray so there’s no portion awareness, let alone portion control.
  • You’ve given yourself Carte Blanche: You figure that since you’re fasting you can eat whatever you want, even if it’s deep fried, chocolate dipped, and encrusted with flaming hot cheetos.
  • Instant Gratification: Following how long you’ve been delaying the gratification of food all day, you make up for your good behaviour by making up for lost time and eating iftar plus a full meal once the azhan is called.

Overeating as a behaviour (B) are preceded by an antedent (A), and modifying the antecedent (A) is a good way of preventing the behaviour (B), and therefore avoiding the consequence (C) of bloating and regret.

If you’ve ever heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then you  understand the strength of antecedent modification when it comes to changing behaviours.   How does antecedent modifications differ from behavior modification? Behavior modification relies on simply stopping yourself from committing a behaviour, or having someone else stop you.  If you haven’t been able to stop yourself so far, and the people you eat with are just as bad as you are, then good luck relying on that.

So,  let’s go back to our listed antecedents and see how we can modify each scenario to reduce the chances of you overeating.

  • At-Home Buffet: If you have a tendency to overeat out of curiosity at home due to the buffet effect, then modify your antecedent by reducing the  number of foods that you put in front of yourself at Iftar.  Have one thing for iftar, and one thing for dinner.  If you’re hungry before bed, have fruit.
  • Texan:  If your eyes are bigger than your stomach and your plate is even bigger than your eyes, then change your plate.  Downsize your plate or bowl and allow yourself only one refill. That way your portion is controlled by your plate size even if you’re not able to control it through willpower.
  • Eating from the Source:  In the same way we can reach the bottom of a bag of chips without knowing how we even got there, it is possible to be eating samosas and suddenly notice there’s nothing left but a greasy paper towel.  Serve yourself a respectable amount of food and leave the rest in the kitchen. Better yet, put the food back into the refrigerator once you’ve filled your plate. When your plate is empty go pray.  Go directly to pray. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
  • Carte Blanche:  Correcting a carte blanche mentality is a simple matter of math.  A single pound of human fat has 3500 calories in it.   A single slice of cheesecake can have around 1,000.  Just because you haven’t eaten anything since Fajr doesn’t mean that the calories you eat don’t count after Maghrib.   Your body doesn’t care what time it is, food is food and too much makes fat.   Modifying the antecedent of a carte blanche mentality means correcting the misinformation that justifies bad eating habits. Learn more about the calories and nutritional content of your food options to help deter you from making the spectacularly bad food choices that one can really only make while fasting.
  • Instant Gratification:  In our rush to compensate for 15 hours of hunger, we eat way too fast, and unless we’ve served ourselves in the kitchen first- we eat faster than our stomachs can think.  It takes around 20 minutes to register that you’ve eaten enough, so slow down and pace yourself.  One way to do this is to break your fast with a glass of water and a handful of dates ONLY- and then go pray Maghrib.  It may only take you five to seven minutes, but it will be more than enough to tame the wild-eyed beast.

Now, if we were to combine all the antecedent modifications to Iftar, a nearly Fail-Proof Iftar could be constructed as such:

Five minutes before Iftar, you take two noticeably smaller plates and head to your kitchen.  On one plate, you put a few dates- maybe a fig and a cracker.  On the other plate, you put a regular size serving of dinner.  You take the dates to the table and leave the dinner in the microwave.

As you’re waiting for the azhan, you focus on dua (and not the food, since all the food is in another room anyway).  Once the azhan is called, you drink a glass of nice cold water, you savour your dates (and fig and cracker) and then you LEAVE THE TABLE.

You do wudu or rinse your mouth.  You pray maghrib.  You make dua.  Then, you come back to the kitchen and microwave your single, normal-sized portion of dinner.  You bring it back to the table and eat.  Then you leave the table again, ideally taking your dishes with you.  The end.

It’s seems almost insultingly simple, but the jist of the matter is that you can’t overeat if you’re not given the opportunity to, and preventing yourself from the opportunity can be the next best thing ig you haven’t been able to overcome the behavior.

Yes, there will be times when you eat out at other peoples’ houses and there will probably be way too much food- but every time you manage to control your stomach at home, you build more control and more discipline.  If you reach a point where you become unaccustomed to overeating at home, there’s a good chance it won’t be such an easy backslide when you’re out, InshaAllah.

So that’s it.  As long as you stick to the system or portion control, single serving, and healthy choices made AWAY from the serving dish, there’s really no way you can mess up as long as you don’t sneak into the refrigerator later.

May Allah give us all the strength- not to lose weight- but to gain discipline over ourselves in Ramadan that begins with the stomach and continues to the other parts of our bodies that need it too.  Ameen.



Sometimes, when my arms feel especially weak and the bread for dinner seems especially chewy, I feel kind of deflated and end up googling for things like “myopathy experts,” and “where to find help for myopathy.”

Due to things like location and financial constraints, nothing seems useful.  And then I get sad.  Just once, I wish Google’s top result would show “Allah,” because then I would remember that I don’t have to feel sad.  Even though sometimes I want to.

Hasbun Allahu Wa Ni’mal Wakeel

A happy dance

Coming home, coming home! HF is coming home!

After roughly two weeks abroad for work, HF is coming home in three hours.  I told Khalid that Baba would be home by the next morning.  Khalid’s response was:

“Oh, I think I will jump all day at school!”

“Does that mean you’re excited?”


Me too kid, me too. 🙂