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Monthly Archives: September 2014

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In a nutshell. In Chicago.

AssalamuAlaikum from Chicago! Did I mention I’m in Chicago? Right, sorry.

So, as part of the unexpected life changes in our lives we’re in Chicago at the moment.  Don’t worry, I still live in Dubai, but we’re here to see an Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome specialist, and by we I mean me, myself, and all three of my kids. ALL of them. On an airplane (are we there yet?) in those tiny seats (can we go home now?) with those tiny TV’s (issa iPad inna seat?) and those messy easily-spillable servings of kid-unfriendly food that were actually very tasty, thank you Turkish Airlines!

It was like the fight that wouldn’t end. We got onto a plane. We slept, we woke up, we were still on a plane. The kids cried to get off the plane, but we were still on the plane. Khalid asked where the bedrooms in the plane were.  I hadn’t the heart to tell him they were less than a hundred feet away physically but a million miles away financially, so I told him there weren’t any and everyone slept in their seats.

Iman had a proper sobbing meltdown and needed to be cradled to sleep like a 30 pound infant, so she and I napped together in my seat in one big heap on exhaustion and flannel blankets.

HF won the pillow of the flight award, for sleeping bolt upright with not one, but two people sleeping with heads in his lap. One of those heads was mine. The other was usually Musfira’s.

Khalid’s only rest came during the three hours Iman spent sleeping on top of me, when he was able to turn sideways across her chair and simply shut down from exhaustion. He woke up with a bruised shoulder.

So how was the flight? Alhamdulillah, very well considering how many things could have gone wrong but didn’t.  No one got hurt, sick, or lost. Everyone made it to the bathroom on time. Yes, there were LOTS of tears and sighing and yawning and requests to go home already, but it was a learning experience: we learned that we don’t like flying.

But we do like cousins. My kids have five cousins here in the US that they met for the first time yesterday, and they spent the day in gleeful somersaults, toy exploration, cereal-eating and exploring things like “grass” and “clouds” in the great suburban outdoors. My poor little desert-dwellers, they kicked their shoes off in glee expecting to be running on the soft, yellow sand that cushions the ground beneath play equipment in Dubai. Instead, they found piles of pokey, scratchy wood and ran gingerly back for their shoes.

“Momma, iss rocks?” Musfira asked, holding out piece of a wood-chip.

“No dear, it’s wood-chip.”


“Because it’s softer than the ground. It’s like what Marty has in the bottom of his cage.”

Musfira looked unconvinced. I pressed on.

“Hey, it’s like we’re giant hamsters and the park is a hamster cage… yay?”

Musfira blinks and the gears start turning. “HAMSTOS??” she squeals, and runs off to collect piles of woodchamp. “YAY!”

Khalid is slightly less impressed with America so far. I took him to use the bathroom in my elder brother’s house for the first time, and gave him an orientation on how to use the lota.

“See Khalid, this is called a lota. You need to fill it up before you use the bathroom, otherwise if you sit down to go pee first then you might find the lota empty and how will you wash yourself then?”

“Why is this here?” Khalid asks, with genuine concern, “Have water pipes not yet been invented in North America?”

“I was wondering the same thing dear, but most people don’t use water here, so they’re not usually installed in bathrooms.”


“That’s a discussion for another time dear.”

Speaking of bathroom culture shock, Iman had to use a porta-potty at the park yesterday, and it was a new and amazing and awful experience for her. “MOMMA!” She called out from across the park, “That tiny room has a little toilet in it! But it has no water, no sink, and nothing but hand sanitizer. So I cleaned myself with sanitizer, is that ok?”

“It’s good enough for now dear, let’s wash you when you get home.”

Oops, it’s almost six am now. Time to pray Fajr and start rousing my tired lil world travellers.


First Come, First Served; Rubina!

What is your schedule like? I have a 7 month old now, any suggestions on how to be a calm parent, how to give the right tarbiyat, how to incline them towards Islam and the spicy Desi food. – Rubina
AssalamuAlaikum Rubina. 🙂  Children are weird, sticky, lovely, quirky, fascinating miniatures of ourselves- doubly as complicated and while being only half as sensible.  I don’t think I can cover the whole gamut of good Islamic parenting for three reasons-
  1. I don’t know the whole gamut of good Islamic parenting.
  2. Seven month olds are still struggling with object permanence, maybe it’s a little early for tarbiyya 😉
  3. I have a good recipe for Nihari.

But I can talk about patience and staying calm.  So here I goes.

On no soul…

The ayah in the Qur’an that everyone refers to when they’re about to have a nervous breakdown- about how Allah never burdens a soul with more than they may bear? It includes children.

I know right. Seriously.

No matter how many times they throw up on your keyboard, break your phone, rub jelly onto your Eid clothes or pee on Dado’s silk carpet, it is within your capability to maintain sunnah-like calm.  So say this to yourself: I can do this. I can follow the Sunnah. I can teach my children with love.  I can even discipline them with love in my eyes even if there’s disappointment on my face. And when I mess up, I’m going to apologize to them with love and show them what a mature Muslim does when they make a mistake.

Cast yourself as the leader, not the victim:

Compare: & contrast

  1. Everything was so much easier before I had kids- I could wake up for Fajr, I even prayed tahajjud sometimes. I read more Qur’an, I attended more lectures.  I was in better shape. My butt was perkier. They’ve made my life so hard, and I know motherhood isn’t easy but sometimes I really wish I could be left alone sometimes.  Nutshell: Children ruined your life.
  2. SubhanAllah- I know I’m struggling right now and boy does my butt look flabby, but InshaAllah once the baby starts sleeping through the night I’m going to start easing back into Ibadah. Maybe bebeface and I can start learning some Qur’an together.  Nutshell: Children are part of your life.

There’s a difference between Nutshell 1 and Nutshell 2- even though the story is the same, it’s how you perceive your role.  Are you an unwilling victim of procreation? Or are you going to be a Muslim Momma Warrior? A messy, damp, tired, wild-eyed Ummi on a Mission to do the best you can with what you have and thank Allah for what you don’t?

Your words affect your thoughts as much as your thoughts affect your words. The mental story you tell yourself about being a young mother determines how it all plays out.

The Pro-Tip: No-No-Prompt

One of the best tools any parent can have in their behavior modification belt is the simple rule of No-No-Prompt.  Let’s say, for example, you tell your 1 year old not to bang his cup on the floor.

You make sure you have his attention and you say, “Gimme the cup please!’

He stares at your blankly. He has such chubby cheeks.

You repeat yourself in the same tone- firm, straightforward. Not sing-songy, not scary, not begging, you just say it. “Gimme the cup please!”

When he ignores you the second time with the glint in his eye that says he just wants to see which cracks first- you or the cup- that’s the second No.  You told him once, No response. You told him twice, no response.  Now here comes the prompt. The third time around, you just say, Gimme the cup. Then, you take the cup and say thanks! and put the cup out of his reach.

He might fuss and wiggle and whine and cry until he blows snot bubbles, so you have two options. You can take the short way or the long way, depending on what your goal for that teaching moment is.

The short way is to maintain consistency, to distract him away from the cup because you don’t want him to have it for whatever reason. He’s not thirsty, he’s just experimenting with the limits of your patience and the durability of BPA-free plastic. You said no cup, so no cup. Do not cave. Do not give him the cup. Life will go on.

The long way might be a case where he might want a drink and you’re ok with him having the cup, you’re just not ok with him banging it.  So when he calms down, you can give him the cup again and if he bangs again- lather, rinse, repeat. Use no-no-prompt to teach that drinking is ok but banging is not. It will take more than few tries. It may even take days, but if you succeed in being consistent, he will learn that if he bangs he’ll lose the cup.

Remember, no kid ever died of crying. And no parent can teach a child that does not listen. Babies get off easy because they look like their faces are made of buttercream, but they’re cheeky and smart.  Cheeky babies that get away with snatching toys, hitting, and screaming to get what they want inevitably grow up into cheeky toddlers that snatch toys, hit others, and scream to get what they want.

There is no magical age at which your children will suddenly start behaving properly, so you have to set the standard for compliance without fear, yelling, or hitting from early on simply through being consistent in your requests (No-No-Prompt) and not caving to crying when you’re following through.

And now, Not Your Nano’s Nihari:

Find some big ole beef cubes and trim the fat off (a kilo?)

Sautee’ them in the bottom of a pressure cooker with half a cup of oil and half a pack of Shan Nihari Masala. You can use a whole pack if you plan to serve dinner with a fire extinguisher.

Once the beef is brown and the oil in the pan begins to separate from the spicy, meaty, juiciness- pour in a litre and a half of boiling hot water.

Then, close the pressure cooker and try not to blow up the kitchen for around 30 mins.

Still, without blowing up your kitchen, open the pan and find a piece of beef to poke. It should be soft but not breaking into pieces. If it’s already too soft, you can actually take the beef out and put it to the side while we finish up the sauce so it doesn’t disintegrate further.

Do you have friend onions? Well you need them. Take a whole cup and throw them into your blender with just enough water to make a paste. This is not cheating, this is food science. Put this paste into your Nihari. It is yummy.

Now, to your bubbling pot of spicy brown broth- add the juice of a whole lemon, salt to taste and a handful of chopped coriander. If you’re happy with the taste, thicken it with some flour- dissolve 1/2 cup flour in a cup of cold water separately. Mix well because nobody likes lumpy Nihari.

Ok, so you should now have a hot, salty, sour, beefy pot of beefy goodness. And here’s what your Nano doesn’t know:

Serve it on french fries. Take a huge heaping scoop of Nihari, pour it over fries and garnish with yogurt, chaat masala, fried onions, fresh coriander and lemon juice. It is amazing.

And when you do, send me a picture so we can post it on twitter and see if Nihari fries go viral. 😉

Ask me something. Please.

So, until I can get my head around the new and exciting challenges in my life and blog about it, let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting!

I’m not very good at writing sometimes, but I can answer questions like a boss.  Seeing as how I’m the director, technically even the most poorly worded question will be answered like a boss.  Cuz I am a boss, albeit a poorly-worded one, hehe.

So, who’s got a question? And would you like to address it to me, or my acute asthmatic bronchitis?

Best Regards,

The Boss, Applesauce.