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Category Archives: Momma-ism

Are you my daughter-in-law?

Screenshot 2017-01-18 10.59.05

A young woman with Down’s Syndrome (who has been baking for a long ole time already) gets rejected from too many bakery jobs. So she opens her own bakery.

This video made me cry for so many reasons. I’m scared of what my son’s future will hold. I know that him being rejected over and over and over again is not a possibility, it’s a given because he has autism.

We’ve been taking the rejections for him and until now they’ve always been from schools. Who rejects a child from a KG or a Hifz program? Lots of people, apparently. It’s a given because he has autism.

A time will come when we can no longer protect him from rejection. Already he struggles with school and with friends. Soon he will struggle with employment and – this hurts my heart most – loneliness.

My son will want to get married. He’s barely 11, but he’s already told my husband and I as much. And why shouldn’t he? He’s kind, he adores babies, he’s super-intelligent, and would make an affectionate, doting husband and father. A time will come when he will work the courage up to ask some sweet young girl to spend her life with him- and he will be rejected because he has autism.

Not because he will be too mean, or too uneducated, or too poor, or too ugly, or too anything at all- even if he is financially supported and gainfully employed, and surrounded by a family and safety net that any young married couple would be grateful to have, no- he will be rejected because he has autism.

I would like to believe that somewhere out there, there is a little girl currently growing up into the woman who will be my son’s partner, protector, and friend. I want to believe that she’s the bubbly, confident, and to-hell-with-the-rest-of-yall type when it comes to what’s cool and what’s not. She can see the system well enough to buck it and marry a young man who has so much going for him even though the whole system may be against him.

Wherever you are sweetheart, may Allah introduce us soon.

Kids Ask: What’s the point of Jummah?

A few minutes before Jummah today, my son came and sat down next to me in a grumpy huff. “Momma, I just don’t understand…”

He furrowed his lil brow angrily and said, “What’s the point of Jummah!”

I told him I had the answer. But first, we needed candy…

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. ūüôā ¬†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 ūüėČ
  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. ūüėČ

Meh.

I am officially taking my blog back.

From whom, you may ask. From myself.  Because one part of me took my blog and claimed it in the name of Writing, while another part of me was like Hey, I was using that for catharsis! What gives!

So I’m taking my blog back and claiming it in the name of catharsis. ¬†Because I enjoy writing, but I also need catharsis.

Incidentally, there is a difference between complaining TO Allah and complaining ABOUT Him.  I have no complaints about Allah or what He has willed for me.  I am pleased with Allah as my Lord and Islam as my religion.  I am NOT pleased, however- with my own ability to manage my workload.

The kids have been homeschooling since… April? Or was it May? ¬†Has it really only been two months since we pulled them out of school? Because it feels like forever. ¬†I pushed for their removal, and I don’t regret pulling them out. ¬†I recognize though, that it’s going to take more than just good intentions to get the homeschool ball rolling. ¬†And let’s just say it’s a work in progress.

Work is complicated, irritating, and further exacerbated by my pain levels. ¬†My good knee is quickly becoming my less bad knee. ¬†My wrists have started to click and recently- pop. ¬†My left hand chronically hurts. ¬†We may, InshaAllah- finally be getting a housekeeper. ¬†We’ve been six months without one.

Can I just admit that I’m lonely? ¬†Is that allowed? Can I raise my hand- amidst the motion-blurred swirl of life, home, work, and three children- and say that I feel lonely even though I am never, ever left alone? Can I say that even an entire¬†hour¬†of my husband’s undivided attention is not enough to fill the void where¬†meaningful adult interaction is supposed to be? ¬†That socialising on a quarterly basis is watering a dying plant but doing nothing to tend the garden?

The more socially withdrawn I become, the less I feel like socialising. ¬†Finding the time to call people, line up schedules, get dressed, and of all things- clean the house- means having fun is too much work. ¬†And I don’t need any more work. ¬†If I try to meet people outside the house, then packing up my crew of beautiful savages, their backpacks, their water, their snacks, their books, and their whining- into the easy-bake oven known as The Car and travel through the life-leeching Dubai heat to… wander around yet another mall- well, that’s just too much work too. ¬†So it’s easier to stay home, stay cool, and stay sane. ¬†Even if that means staying lonely.

Please to refrain from posting supportive comments in the box. If you know me, just show up. If you don’t, make dua. ¬†But not here. In private, to Allah.

The End.

Inquiring minds want to know

Someone asked me about Musfira.  Here you go.

She’s almost three.

She has the tiniest, adorablest, most comically novelty-sized bottom.  MashaAllah.

Last week she painted her hair pink. ¬†That was… fun.

She got into some makeup and did a fairly decent job. ¬†I wasn’t even mad.

When she wakes up it’s morning o’clock. ¬†When she goes to bed it’s night o’clock.

She knows how to use google but she doesn’t know how to spell.

She argues with my phone. ¬†Navigation says, “In 100 meters turn left.” ¬†Musfira indignantly answers,¬†“No left! Straight!” ¬†Google maps insists¬†“Turn left.” ¬†Musfira shrieks- NO LEFT!

She sings.

Wo Wo Wo yo boat, gently downa stweam, if you see a woundabout, don’t forget to scweam. Aaah!

She always wants to push the button on the alligator.
She does not like kwakawoaches.  To be fair, neither does momma.

She taught Meow-Meow how to give people kisses.

Alhamdulillah.

Must… not… break… salah!

I’m trying to concentrate on prayer, and the following conversation transpires before me:

Musfira: Iman, canna have a cotton candy?

Iman: Musfira, these are cotton balls, not cotton candy.

Musfira: Notta candy?

Iman: No, it’s not candy. ¬†Do you know what this is made of?

Musfira: Cotton?

Iman: No, try again.

Musfira: Umm, cotton?

Iman: (rolls her eyes in big sister exasperation) Musfira, cotton balls are made out of sheep, ok?

And here we see a herd of sheep, grazing peacefully in their natural environment.

And here we see a herd of sheep, grazing peacefully in their natural environment.

Thankfully, I finish my prayer just before this insight into the wonders of nature.  Iman sees me smiling and loses some of her scientific confidence.

Iman: …what?

Me: Cotton balls are made out of cotton dear, not sheep. Sheep make wool, cotton makes cotton.

Iman: Right, hehe.. sorry Musfira.

Dare I say Iman looked… sheepish?

insert rimshot here.

I’m thinking of an animo…

Our lil family has a favorite ¬†game, and the way it’s won is by preserving momma’s sanity with three children and no volume control. ¬†We stick to animals to keep it simple, and a turn always starts with the phrase “I’m thinking of an animal,” followed by three clues.

We play the guessing game during long drives and boring waits, and I am working to slowly introduce concepts like animal families (Is it a primate? A reptile?) and habitats- does it live on land? Underwater? Underground?

Khalid, almost inevitably- is thinking of a dinosaur of some sort. ¬†This is useful- because that’s how we introduced the concept of extinction. ¬†¬†Now, some kids know five or six dinosaurs. ¬†Khalid, on the other hand, knows almost all of them. ¬†Really. ¬†MashaAllah- all of them. ¬†He has memorized almost three encyclopaedias of dinosaurs, so when he’s thinking of an animal with four legs, a tail, and a long neck- he’s not thinking of a giraffe. ¬†He’s thinking of a dipolodocus. ¬†Or a mamenchisaurus. ¬†Or an argentinosaurus. ¬†Or a camarosaurus, which is also known as a morosaurus. ¬†I believe there are HUNDREDS of -sauruses that serve no current purpose other than to confuse and bewilder anyone trying to guess Khalid’s animal. ¬†Such is the universe.

He takes pity on us, and tells us the first letter of the dinosaur’s name when we’ve gotten stumped. ¬†Then, he tells us the second. ¬†Then the third. ¬†Sometimes he will spell out the whole name and I will be no more clued in to what dinosaur he’s talking about- just because he can spell it doesn’t mean I can say it, or know what the heck it looks like. ¬†Case in point: Do you know what this dinosaur is called?

ParasaurolophusIt’s a parasaurolophus. I spent almost twenty minutes once, wracking my brain and trying to figure this dinosaur out before asking Khalid to finally spell it for me, and even then- I still didn’t know what he was talking about.

Iman’s MO for the guessing game is adorable. ¬†She doesn’t pick animals that are difficult, or get upset when her animal is discovered. ¬†For the most part she isn’t even picking animals, she’s actually picking people.

Iman is acutely aware of who hasn’t had a turn in a while, and when she successfully guesses an animal and gets her turn, she will tailor her choice of animal to the person that she feels needs one. ¬†She will direct her clues right to the person she has in mind. ¬†For HF, she will usually be thinking of a shark. ¬†For Khalid, she will be thinking of a dinosaur. ¬†For me, she will be thinking of a lion or giraffe, and for Musfira- she is always, ALWAYS thinking of a cat. ¬†Why? Because Musfira is always thinking of a cat too.

Musfira’s ability to participate in the guessing game has been increasing step by adorable step. ¬†In the beginning, she was struggling with the concept, and would just repeat the last clue that she heard. If Iman said, “I’m thinking of an animal with two legs,” then Musfira would ask, “Is it two legs?”

When she realized that we were looking for answers instead of echoes, she started guessing as well.

Iman: “Musfira, I’m thinking of an animal with four legs, with brown spots, that says moo.”

LightningMcQueen

Moo?

Musfira: “Izzit the sun?”

Momma: “No dear, the sun is not an animal. ¬†We’re only thinking about animals.”

Musfira: “Oh, ok! Izzit Lighting McKeen!”

Musfira had an epiphany one day, and she correctly guessed the lion that Iman was directing towards me.  That was her first chance for a real turn, and she started out pretty good:

“I’m thinking of a animo-”

(“Okay.”)

“It has four legs…”

(“Very good.”)

“Anna tail…”

(“Alright.”)

“And, it’s a cat!”

Musfira grins expectantly, anticipating all the exciting questions we should now be asking her. Iman raises an eyebrow and says, “Musfira, are you thinking of a cat?”

“Guj-job Iman!” Musfira cheers, “Your turn!”

We’ve played this game hundreds of times since, ¬†and Musfira’s ability to sort and label is getting better, and so her turns are getting more interesting. However, they have yet to move beyond cat.

Once Musfira said to me, “Momma, I’m thinking of a animo. It has four legs, two ears, and iss bigger than a cat.”

“How interesting!” I said, excited that Musfira could finally be breaking free from her cat-only streak. “Is it a dog?”

“Nope!”

“Is it a cow?”

“Nope!”

“Does it eat grass?”

“Nope.”

I tried a few angles and eventually I gave up.

“Alright Musfira, you were thinking of an animal with four legs and two ears that was bigger than a cat. ¬†What was it?”

Musfira beamed. “A bigger cat.”

We have since thought of smaller cats, as well as a pink cat, specifically Musfira’s long-time crib companion, Meow-Meow.The only time we’ve ever thought of anything¬†other¬†¬†than cat was on the way home from the Dubai Mall after we had surprised the children with a trip to see the dinosaur fossil being exhibited there. It was a diplodocus. ¬†Khalid knew this within seconds of seeing it, even before he was within range of the exhibit information. ¬†He looked at the fossil- suspended from the ceiling in all its fossilized awesomeness- and he smiled and said, “It’s a North-American dipolodocus.”

We oohed and aahed, marvelled at the hugeness of its legs and the tinyness of it’s really tiny head. ¬†Later, there was ice-cream, and on the way home Musfira suddenly announced, “I’m thinking of an animo!”

Iman interrupted, “It’s a cat.”

Musfira snarked back. “I didn’t finish my clues.” She has learned this phrase verbatim from Khalid and Iman and their tendency to start guessing before the clues are even given.

“I’m thinking of an animo, ” Musfira continued, “It has four legs, a long… long… long…. neck. And, a tiny, small head.”

“Is it a diplodocus?” Khalid piped up excitedly from the back of the van.

“Nope!”

I felt I should translate. “Musfira, Khalid is asking if it’s a dinosaur.”

“Nope!”

Iman tried again, “Musfira are you sure it’s not Meow-Meow?”

“Nope!”

“Is your animal pink?” Iman pushed.

“Yes!” Musfira said.

A few seconds of silence passed. ¬†“Musfira,” I said slowly, “Are you thinking of… a pink dinosaur?”

“Hooray Momma! You did it!”

Trex

Four legs, lives in desert. Gives milk. Rraawr.

The game has only gotten better and more interesting since Musfira has started participating actively. ¬†HF was playing with her at bath-time the other day, and as he pulled her pajamas off he said, “Musfira, I’m thinking of an animal with four legs, a long neck, and it lives in the desert.”

“Oh! Izzit a chicken?”

“Musfira,” HF said, “This animal gives milk!”

(Musfira- who has a bovine milk allergy- has been raised on camel milk.)

“Izzit a milk?”

“Milk is not an animal dear.”

“Izzit a tannasaurus!”

And so, the awesomeness continues. Alhamdulillah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Really Oughtta be a National Holiday…

Alhamdulillah, our office has finally been moved into the premises of the larger organisation that we are joining. ¬†It’s a real office. ¬†With real people. ¬†And when you’re me, every day is Take Your Toddler to Work Day!

I think Musfira likes it so far. ¬†We get up, have breakfast, get out of our pj’s, and pack our respective bags. ¬†Mine has a laptop, a company stamp, a check book, and various reports. ¬†Musfira’s has three diapers, powder, a box of cereal, and small LED flashlight from Daiso. ¬†It is pink.

We wake up in the morning and leave the untidy house- the cereal bowls crusting over in the sink, the pile of folded laundry that’s been on the coffee table for three days, and we drive. ¬†We listen to Qur’an or Nasheeds. ¬†We point out birds. Sometimes, Musfira likes to point out trees.

Momma, twee! oh, twee! twee! ¬†twee, twee, twee, twee…. ah twee!

We get to the new office and Musfira is immediately welcomed by any number of bouncy, energetic, ABA therapists with exactly the right sort of personality to be a toddler’s best friend. ¬†She sees who’ll be working with her today while I’m working with admin. ¬†She gets happy.

SHELL!  (Hanshell)

EYES! (Aiza)

JOY! (Joy)

She plays with puzzles, and climbs up and down the stairs, and when no one’s looking, she hides in a corner and poops in her diaper because she’s too afraid to use the toilet at the office. ¬†So then I close my reports and wash her little bottom in the bathroom without a changing table, and she runs back outside to climb the stairs again and all is right with her little world. Sometimes, we have impromptu teleconferences. ¬†I’ll be talking to one person on the phone. ¬†And Musfira will either talk to me, or start talking to them too. ¬†She comes with me on lunch meetings, and the day before yesterday, she demanded- and got- the Clinical Supervisor’s apple juice.

Today we’re going to be taking our lunch from home, because I cannot and will not eat out every day- it’s too expensive, too unhealthy, and too hectic trying to pack a two a half year old out to lunch and back again within any given timeframe. ¬†She likes to chase birds, linger over her chicken strips, and ask loud questions about other lunch-hour patrons.

Musfira: “momma, wha happinid to a lady’s nose?”

“It’s pierced dear. Some cultures wear earrings in their noses. Isn’t it lovely?”

Musfira is unconvinced. She continues to stare fixedly at the nice Indian lady in the power suit.

It’s 8:30 right now, and my company toddler has overslept, which is why I’m blogging instead of driving to work. ¬†But it’s time to wake her up now, change her into her best corporate diaper, and hand her to her adoring fans while I attempt to get some work done. ¬†Alhamdulillah. ¬†Off to work we go.

MAMA, I HEP YOOOO!

These days, there are four magic words from Musfira’s mouth that cause me to go into instant state of anxiousness.

“Mama, I hep yoo!”

Musfira had a dirty diaper.  We went into the bathroom to change her.  As I turned to move the garbage can closer to the toilet, I heard those magic words- mama, I hep yoo!  followed  by the crinkly zip of a diaper being unfastened.

Her diaper had been full of poop.  Had.  Now her pants were instead.

We were making eggs for breakfast, and a bowl of lemon-yellow omlette sat waiting to be poured into the pan.

mama, I hep yoo!

And that’s how Musfira had her first egg-wash for smooth and shiny hair.

Musfira wanted a cup of milk, and I asked her to bring me the bottle from the fridge.  Instead, she got both the milk and the cup as far as the hallway, where she Рimpressively- filled the cup, as well as emptied the bottle on the floor.

mama, I hep yoo!

She says it with such enthusiasm, such genuine love and a desire to please and help me that I feel guilty for dreading those words. ¬†There are many times where she follows my instructions perfectly, but those other times- where she doesn’t listen for instructions, or makes up her own instructions- those are the times that set my teeth on edge, and that’s when I end up dramatically sighing and cleaning raw eggs or poop off of things. ¬†And ¬†people.

But she’s tiny. ¬†Really. ¬†She has these teeny-tiny feet, and these skinny little legs, and when she comes pattering up the hallway at full-speed, both arms in the air and a face full of gleeful enthusiasm, then I HEP YOOOO! is perhaps, the cutest, sweetest, most earnest little expression of love that this momma has ever seen.

InshaAllah, we’ll both get better at this. ūüôā ¬†And we’ll hep each other.

 

IHEPYOO

 

 

 

Musfira’s Recipe for Homestyle Chocolate Cupcake

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams of Hersheys unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (that’s it, one plastic cup)
  • 1 flat, dry work surface. Preferably a coffee table.
  • 20 minutes of suspicious silence.

Fill one plastic cup with as much cocoa as makes it inside.

Once your cup has been filled, dump it onto your work surface and pat the cocoa into a smooth, even coat.

Between smoothing pats, wipe cocoa generously onto your shirt, pants, face and hair.  Repeat process until Cupcake is evenly coated in chocolate.

For best results, put the cocoa powder back in the kitchen and then walk past your mother as if nothing has happened.

Tales of Toddler Genius

The Inventor

Musfira asks Momma for a cookie.

Momma gives Musfira a cookie.

Musfira receives the cookie and folds it carefully into a tissue.

Then, she takes her tiny first and begins pounding it into crumbs.

Momma is taken aback.

“Musfira! ¬†What are you doing to your cookie?”

Musfira is reassuring.

“Iss okay momma. ¬†I making a puzzle. Hee you go!”

Momma accepts puzzle.

Glowing with pride, Momma eats it.

Masha’Allah ūüôā

Cuteness

 

 

 

 

The Stylist

bluemarkerMusfiraAlhamdulillah, we acquired a lovely new sister in law this weekend as HF’s younger brother got married. ¬†Family wedding preparations were a team effort, and Alhamdulillah, everyone did their part to ensure things went smoothly- even Musfira, who took the initiative to do her own hair and makeup with a pair of scissors and a blue marker. ¬†And she did it an entire day before the party, making her not only helpful, but also forward thinking.

A proper stylist was commissioned to neaten up the asymmetrical bangs Musfira cut for herself, and I followed that with a cleansing baby-oil and rubbing alcohol facial.

The Behavioural Analyst

Musfira likes to play limit-testing games- as toddlers often do- and they follow a pretty simple format.  Momma says to do something.  Musfira refuses to do it, and she smiles and waits to see what will happen.

One of these more recent games is a jolly round of “I’m not leaving the car.” ¬†This game takes two people to play and is usually initiated at the end of a long drive, after a long day, when Momma would much rather be bathing children and putting them to bed. ¬†Musfira’s car seat is unbuckled. ¬†Momma says let’s go inside. ¬†Musfira makes a run for the back of the van- a cramped space that Momma is not a fan of climbing in to chase a wiggly and wilful toddler.

So in a recent round of the game, I unbuckled Musfira and she made a successful break for the back of the minivan. ¬†Rather than engage in a Tom & Jerry style chase, I stood outside and said, “Musfira, it’s time to go home. You need to come out of the van now.”

In response to which, she did her best imitation of a stern face and said, “No momma. ¬†I stay inna van. ¬†One… Two… Three… I hit you!”

Now, I would like to make three things clear:

  1. Iman does get a count to three, but when three comes, it isn’t with a smack, it’s with a physical prompt. ¬†If, by the count of three she’s not walking to the bath I will take her by the arm and walk her there myself.
  2. I may not be the best mother in the world, but I don’t threaten my children with “I hit you!” anymore than “I will cut you.”
  3. Musfira is a squeaky two-foot nothing and has all the authoritative presence as a rubber duck.

I was so impressed that she had made, and then used her own assumptions about what would happen when 3 came that my toughest battle was suppressing a laugh.

Besides, in accordance with the cardinal parenting rule of No-No-Prompt, the thing to do when Musfira had disregarded my instructions twice already was to climb in and just take her inside the house, not argue with a grumpy two and a half year old.

The Photographer

At the end of the valima of same said family wedding, Musfira kept trying to steal the limelight from the bride & groom’s photos by dancing on stage with no shoes and only half of her party ensemble on. ¬†When I went and physically removed her from the stage, she wailed and pleaded, “Momma wait! I wanna photo!”

I put her down and handed her my phone with the camera open. ¬†“Alright then. ¬†Go take photos.”

I don’t think she quite caught the grammatical trickery that got her from the front of the camera to behind it, but it worked. ¬†She took my phone and stood behind the other amateur photographer. ¬†She returned with around 30 fuzzy, poorly composed pictures of the stage- with and without bride and groom- and proudly showed me her work. ¬†Alhamdulillah.

The Dreamer

We were driving home on E311 after a long day in Ajman, and the children were riding in tired silence. ¬†Suddenly, Musfira sat straight up in her seat and squeaked “Momma! Look! ¬†Issa crown! Issa crown!”

“A crown? I don’t see any crown…” I scanned the traffic and tried to figure out what Musfira was getting all excited about.

“A crown! A magic crown! Iss fwying away!”

“Musfira, do you mean the light on top of that car?”

“Notta car!” she angrily insisted, “A crown! Iss going!”

I sped the car up and chased down Musfira’s magic flying crown. ¬†I matched its speed and pointed, “Musfira, is that your magic flying crown?”

“Oooh! Iss bootiful! A crown!”

“That’s called a taxi dear.”

“A kaksi! Iss so pretty!”

SubhanAllah ūüôā

Dubai Taxi

Dubai kaksi. With a magic flying crown.

Cue Motivational Music… now.

So HF made me write a list of affirmations.  Cheesy, I know- but surprisingly effective.  Everyone needs an anchor sometimes, and right now, mine is affirmation number one: I am an overachiever.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the affirmations, but that’s the one I’m leaning on right now because gosh darnit I am having a bit of a challenging week. Our staff have been on stand-by for a move to our exciting new office, and due to bureaucracy and an unsigned MOU, the move has been postponed until AllahuAalim.

My kids are home from school on winter break, and while they’re in the process of rediscovering things like creativity, imagination, and the ability to entertain themselves without maternal intervention every five minutes- I’m not getting much work done.

On top of that, someone, somewhere must have sneezed in my general direction, because now I am incubating an exciting new infection.  I’m hoping it decides to stay in my throat instead of bunkering down into my lungs where- historically speaking- it declares the Free Lungs of Bronchitistan to be independent from the oppressive forces of The Body, and a civil war ensues.

(I cough. My lungs try escape. I try to keep them in.  It’s very ladylike.)

So yes. I am an overachiever.  And you know what I’m going to do with that? I’m going to take my work setback, and the inevitable disappointment to the staff, and the pair of lungs that are trying to fight their way to freedom and I am GOING TO HAVE A GOOD DAY.  Or else.

Or else?

Or else I’ll have another cappuccino and another cup of chicken and mushroom soup.  And that’s a threat.  I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now, trying to derive warmth and can-do attitude from one small, sad cappuccino with steam and sugar.  I’m hoping to combine its forces with the cup of soup I just had from Chili’s, because the problem with being sick and a mom is that you’re supposed to make your own soup.  And if you don’t feel well enough to make yourself soup, then you don’t get soup.

(Unless you sneak out for soup when no one’s looking, in which case you might end up in the mall, feeling kind of sick and alone but at least well caffeinated with a belly full of warm soup.)

I am not a dementor.  I am not a negative, pessimistic person with a mopey sulk on my face that drains positivity and energy from other people.  And that’s one of my affirmations too. So even if I am feeling down or negative, I refuse to pull other people down with it.  Yes, I may feed my negativity soup, but I will not turn around and feed my negativity to other people.  So where was I?

You know how when you’re sitting in a coffee shop alone, and people walk right up to you (because your table is blocking the cream and sugar) and you’re half afraid it’s someone you know, but half hoping that someone will sit down and cheer you up?  Yeah- that’s pathetic.

I’m that pathetic right now, but not for long. ¬†Within the last year alone, three people have independently referred to me as Mary Poppins, and I‚Äôve been hearing this throughout my adult life.¬† You know what it means to be Mary Poppins? It means you have freakishly unsinkable cheerfulness- not all of the time- but at least for enough time so that people think unsinkable cheerfulness is your default.¬† I am a friggin Mary Poppins.¬† So I‚Äôm going to take my pre-bronchitis sulk back home to where there‚Äôs wifi- because this coffee shop‚Äôs wifi won‚Äôt connect- and I‚Äôm going to open a can of directorial whoopa$$ on my inbox.

And then, I’m going to bake a chicken.

And then, I’m making soup.

Because I’m an overachiever.  Alhamdulillah.

By Abez, The End.

(PS- HF, I love you.)

Iman’s first blog

GOT THE BIGGEST ICE CREAM

iman ice cream LOVE IMAN

Note from Momma: Iman typed this blog by herself, and I had no intention of making any changes, but when autocorrect underlined her spelling of “bigist,” she had to ask why the computer was putting red lines under her words. So we had an impromptu spelling lesson for superlatives (big, bigger, biggest) and one other correction was made for the spelling of “crem.”

The inspiration for this blog is that today is the big day- after ten days of nightly antihistamines (‘skusting!) Iman will be going back to the ENT to figure out of the pressure in her ears has normalized. ¬†If it hasn’t, she’ll have the world’s biggest three-scoop sundae and perhaps an ear surgery- though not in the same day. ¬†If the pressure has normalized, then she’ll just have the world’s biggest three-scoop ice cream. ¬†One way or another, it’s going to be a good day, InshaAllah. ¬†

Apart from that, the Photoshop work is entirely Iman’s, as is the image choice. And this is Iman’s first blog. By Momma, the end. ūüôā

Got caught

I woke up this morning, and I noticed that Musfira was already awake and singing in her crib.  I wanted to use the bathroom before picking her up and activating Mommy Mode for the day, so I stood up quickly when she was looking the other way, starting tiptoeing and then-

“Momma! git back in yo bed. iss not morning time. I haff work to do!”

I turned around and saw Musfira giving me the no-nonsense stare of a toddler that means business, though I’m not pretending to know what business she wanted me to stay in bed for so she could finish. ¬†But then, she cracked a smile, and I was off the hook.

Phew!

The Mother of All Mommaisms

So I went into the bathroom yesterday.  I picked up a kids toothbrush and I squirted some pink, raspberry flavored, fluoride-free toothpaste on it.  Then, I opened my own mouth, popped it in, and got halfway through brushing and humming the toothbrush song before I realized I was on autopilot.

I laughed so hard my face hurt.

It’s been an awesome and funny week. ¬†Awesome, and amazing, and exciting because the AutismUAE GoFundMe campaign has made the 10K we needed for license renewal, and people still keep tipping coins into the hat. ¬†Funny because my children have been more amusing than usual.

Khalid declared that Musfira could play with his trains only after she learned how to speak English.

I taught the children how to play I-Spy in the car.

Khalid: I spy, with my little eye, something that is that orange car.

-blink blink-

Iman: I spy, with my little eye, something that is yellow!

Musfira: SUN!

(it’s 8 pm)

Iman in patronizing big sister voice: No Musifra, it’s not the sun. Can you see the sun? It’s not in the sky right now.

Khalid: Its light is reflecting off the moon. The sun is in the sky.

Iman: Wha?

Khalid: It’s day time in the Western pole.

Khalid is recently into directions, and so last week when we heard a neighbor’s dog barking, Iman said, “Oh, I hear a dog!” And Khalid said, “Yes, it’s north-west.”

 

And Musfira, upon opening her eyes after nap-time and seeing Aunt Owlie for the first time after her two weeks in the US said,

Aunty, your cat food is spicy.

It’s also been a bit of a rough week, with all three kids sick with something or the other- Musfira’s nose threw up. Khalid’s had a three-day stomach ache. ¬†I took Iman and her ears to see an ENT and he very politely informed us that both of her ears were full of fluid and that they both had negative pressure. ¬†I don’t know enough about ears to know what negative pressure is, but by golly, I will google it.

So Iman has to take “‘skusting medicine” for the next ten days to see if the fluid can be cleared up. ¬†If not, then we X-ray to see what kind of mechanical problem there could be. ¬†I’ve told Iman not to worry, because it’s a win-win. ¬†If Iman takes all of her medicine for all ten days, she is going to get the BIGGEST ICE CREAM SUNDAE IN THE WORLD.

Three whole scoops to be precise.

Then, if she has taken all of her medicine but the fluid hasn’t cleared, then she and I will have a special sleepover in the hospital and she will get to pick out a much-coveted, often longed-for, overpriced mylar balloon from the hospital gift shop. ¬†Either way, we both get ice-cream, and one of us gets a balloon. Alhamdulillah.

So now it’s time for bed, my day started at six am and involved a two hour meeting, two good friends, and both HF’s and my parents unexpectedly showing up for dinner at the same time, without prior planning. ¬†Alhamdulillah, its finally time for bed. Alhamdulillah. ūüôā

 

 

Woulda Coulda Shoulda

I shoulda seen it coming.¬† I felt Musfira make a tiny little gagging sound as I held her over my shoulder.¬† After all, I have three children.¬† I know how ominous one tiny *herp?* from a child‚Äôs mouth can be. ¬†Sometimes that’s the only warning you get before herp turns into full-out hurl.

I could’ve acted faster.

Instead, I waited half a second and, just as I was turning Musfira around to check if she was ok, she threw up- and the motion of being turned created a beautiful, semi-circular arc of vomit that spread outwards from her mouth to the far reaches of the bathroom.

I nodded to myself in acknowledgement of my folly, sour milk dripping from my clothes.¬† She threw up again, and then tearfully turned to me and asked, ‚Äúmomma, my nose throw up?‚ÄĚ

Yes dear, it did.

Everything was hosed down.¬† This morning, it was hosed down again.¬† And as I took stock of the dried (and curdled) milk on my shoes, I remembered something funny.¬† A friend of mine once posted a list, ‚ÄúYou know you‚Äôre a mother when‚Ķ‚ÄĚ and one of those entries went something along the lines of:

You know you’re a mother when catching vomit in your hands is a cause for celebration, not disgust.

Musfira was recently sick, and HF and I were sitting with her in bed trying to soothe her.  Suddenly, she herped, and because HF and I were both on guard for these things, he quickly picked her up and turned her face away from the bed, and I leaned forward and held my hands out.  Then, she threw up in them.

This is me catching vomit.

This is my vomit catching face.

It was beautiful-  the timing, the execution, the flawless teamwork  in orchestrating such an advanced parenting maneuver.  No vomit on the bed, the floor, or HF.  We would have high-fived if my hands weren’t otherwise occupied.

There‚Äôs a little something catching in Dubai right now- when the seasons change and the blistering summer winds turn to the toasty winter winds, germs get all excited about being able to use the sidewalks for once, and they come out to play.¬† So Khalid and Iman both have low-grade fevers, and Iman is complaining of an ear that ‚Äúgoes boom boom‚ÄĚ when she swallows or drinks.¬† Musfira‚Äôs stomach is upset and her nose threw up.¬† And HF isn‚Äôt feeling too well either.

Hey, for a change, I feel fine!  True, I did follow my breakfast with a 9am nap that last until 11:30, and maybe that’s why I’m feeling all peppy and energetic- even about being vomited on!

Really though, I’m just so excited by what’s happening with the GoFundMe campaign- one amazing person- just one- added 2,000 dollars.  Another one person added 450.  I feel almost giddy with excitement and relief.  AllahuAkbar.  Alhamdulillah.

May Allah bless everyone last person and every last cent donated, anonymously and not- and give me the chance to thank each of them personally in Jannah. Ameen.

This is NOT complaining

This is an elaborate status update that you didn’t ask for. ¬†But it’s not complaining.

PrettyI’ve been cat-sitting for my sister’s cats for a week or so now, and they follow me from room to room mewling expectantly. ¬† Whenever I sit down to work they loll all over the keyboard, chew the wires, yowl at me, and play with my mouse. ¬†This would be cute if I didn’t have children who already follow me from room to room mewling expectantly.

And they loll all over my keyboard.

And they play with my mouse.

I’m behind in work and there’s a mom who’s mad at me. ¬†She has every right to be- she asked for an urgent invoice copy (granted, it was an urgent request) and I said I would try to get back to her asap. ¬†But Khalid recovering from Sunday’s dental surgery has been a two-day teetering on the verge of meltdown and dental sabotage. ¬†If he is not kept distracted, he either rages about the new hardware installed in his mouth, or goes somewhere private to try and pull it out. ¬†Were he to succeed, it would be the third time he has removed supposedly “unremovable” dental work- crowns, spacers, bridges… you name it and he’s ripped it out. ¬†With the exception of fillings, anything that we pay a dentist to put into Khalid’s mouth is in perpetual danger of being removed.

Khalid OROh right- I didn’t update: Khalid broke a tooth on Saturday night. On Sunday morning he had dental surgery under general anaesthesia to remove an abscessed molar, fix the broken canine with a root canal, fill four cavities, and then install a lingual arch to maintain the spacing and position of Khalid’s teeth. ¬†Since so many teeth have been removed at one point or another, they’re starting to shift around, and unless we keep them in place, his permanent teeth will be affected.

Coming out of anaesthesia is hard enough for adults- I’ve done it many times and it’s always horrible- but for Khalid, it makes him fighting mad. ¬†Literally. ¬†He actually hit me, and it’s been years since he did. ¬†He was raging, kicking, screaming, fighting mad for around an hour, and no one from the clinic staff could so much as look at him without setting him off again. ¬†He and I laid in the recovery room together, me holding his hands to the iPhone I wanted him to focus on, and him crying and periodically fighting to reach into his mouth and start pulling on whatever he could find.

We spent the rest of the day just watching him and trying to keep Iman and Musfira from getting too close to Khalid. ¬†He was angry and irritable for two days- and today is Wednesday and he went off to school happily Alhamdulillah. ¬†He remembers his teeth when he’s eating, but it’s gotten easier to redirect him or distract him. ¬†The trick is to NOT talk about teeth. ¬†At all. ¬†ever.

We used to joke that Khalid’s teeth were worth a used Corolla. MashaAllah, they are now worth a used Lexus. ūüėČ ¬†Our insurance does not cover dental work, and on top of that, Khalid gets his dental work done in an operating theatre under general anaesthesia. ¬†So that means we never just pay for fillings or a cleaning or a crown- we pay for the anaesthesiologist, his nurse, the operating theater, and THEN we pay for the dental work.

(And then, Khalid tears it out.)

Khalid Post OpIn parallel, HF is out of the country. ¬†He’ll be back by Sunday, and when he returns, I will greet him with our traditional family salutation upon return from travels: ¬†Welcome home. I’m burning your passport.

I’ve been sick. It’s nothing too terrible- a small bug going around from the change of weather here in the UAE. ¬†Musfira had it and threw up. ¬†I got it and was nauseated but still functional. ¬†I’ve been operating solo for the past week and running on fumes, a whole lot of forgetfulness, and the stubborn determination to keep things afloat just until HF gets home and not a moment longer than that. ¬†Then, once I’ve burned his passport, I’m going to collapse into a blubbering heap of housewife and demand cuddles and catering until it all feels better.

Do I sound tired? I am. ¬†I’m not complaining though- because even in this there is a reward for patience as well as the opportunity for growth. ¬†I have this crazy stress response sometimes- when I’m overwhelmed with work, the kids are whining, and my phone is buzzing with unreturned calls- I get domestic. ¬†The last time I got put on steroids to recover from bronchitis it gave me a serious case of the Irrational Angries. ¬†I couldn’t talk to my children without snapping at them. ¬†Their tiny, sweet hands felt like grabby little claws, and their innocent requests sounded like the shrieking of baby banshees. ¬†So what did I do?

I sewed a princess hat.

Really.  Iman and Musfira and I went into my office, dusted off my sewing machine, and started sewing.  We made a pointy princess hat with a veil and a strap, and it was a pink satin masterpiece.  And no one got yelled at and no one died.  Alhamdulillah.

BouganvilleaYesterday, when the kid/cat/work combination had me wanting to run away and hide in my bathroom until HF got home, I went and got the hedge clippers, a bucket of water, and some sponges. ¬†We went outside where the weather¬†was lovely- and in the cool winter breeze with warm late-afternoon sun, I enjoyed the simple, uncomplicated snip snip snip of the clippers as I trimmed back yards of thorny pink blossoms from our front entrance. ¬†The girls giggled and threw soapy water at each other and sometimes even at the car. ¬†Khalid chased the cats around inside the house, and I recited Qur’an and gardened until I felt better. ¬†And really, I did. ¬†Alhamdulillah.

So here I am with a mountain of work pending, groceries need to be bought, and some very hugely important excel files need to be created- and here I am writing.  Because it makes me feel better.

photo 2 (1)Also, I’ve decided that if Sleeping Beauty’s castle had been surrounded by bougainvillaea instead of plain ole enchanted thorns, Prince Charming would have given up before making it past the drawbridge. ¬†Bougainvillaea is vicious, and the only reason why it has such pretty flowers is to lull you into a state of flowery pink security before tearing your skin off.

And now the cats have woken up and discovered this blog, even as I am typing it.  See?

Sometime between now and Saturday I need to de-fur the house before HF returns- he’s allergic to cats- and hand them over into the care of another person.

But here’s why this is not complaining. ¬†I sent the mom the invoice and I apologized. ¬†I didn’t say “I’m so sorry, I’m sick and my son had emergency dental surgery and my sisters cats are bothering me because she’s in the US looking for a neurosurgeon because HER BRAIN IS GOING TO EXPLODE and my husband is out of town and I am chronically ill and we don’t have groceries right now” because you know what? It sounds so… prima donna. ¬†I’m sure she has her own problems, and she has her own stresses- her own work and her own son with autism, so what difference does it make if I’m sick or my sister’s sick or my husband’s out of town? ¬†It isn’t about oneupmanship. ¬†It’s about taking responsibility. ¬†So the invoice is late, and I’m sorry.

By Abez, the end. 

 

Be careful what you wish for, sweetheart.

Musfira, staring into bedroom mirror: Momma, whez my beeowd?

Me: Your beard? Musfira, you don’t have a beard.

Musfira: Why naht?

Me: You’re a little girl. Beards are for babas.

Musfira: *pouts* I wan sum beeowd!

Me: You can’t have a beard!

Musfira, dramatically wailing and clutching face: I WAN SUM BEEEEEEEOOOOOOOWD!

You can’t make this stuff up, folks. ¬†You just can’t.

 

 

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. ūüôā

This one’s a keeper

photo (3)Iman drew me a kimono-wearing cat, complete with fan, princess crown, and parasol. ¬†AWESOMENESS! MashaAllah ūüôā

Marty is our new hamster

Iman: “Momma, if we don’t feed Marty, he’ll die. ¬†Then, he’ll turn into grass and antelope will eat him. ¬†That’s the circle of life.”

ūüėÄ

Sometimes I forget she’s five

Iman: Momma, all birds lay eggs-

Me: That‚Äôs right, very good…

Iman: -except for tigers.

Me: Iman, tigers are not birds.

Iman: What about bats?

Me: No, they’re not birds even though they fly.  They don’t have feathers.  They’re kind of like flying mice.

Iman: But they’re not alive, right?

Me: Of course bats are alive!

Iman: Oh yes, in the rainforest.

Musfira’s Great Nap Escape

Musfira will be turning two next week, and the older she gets, the more creative and amazing her attempts to escape from nap-time become.

I put her down for a nap at 12:00. ¬†At 12:15, she desperately cried out “Momma, Ow!” I rushed to the room wondering how she could have gotten hurt while in her crib, and found her holding up a¬†paper-cut that she had gotten over a month ago. I kissed her Ow and left her to sleep.

A few minutes later, Musfira called out with “Momma, help!” In an act of maternal goodwill, I went back up the hall to see what the problem was. ¬†She had a dirty diaper, which was legitimate. ¬†After being changed and allowed a ten-minute reprieve from napping, I put her back down again.

A few more minutes passed quietly, and I was under the assumption that she had fallen asleep until I heard Musfira properly crying. I went back up the hall again and when I opened the bedroom door, I found Musfira standing in her crib and holding out her beloved pink cat, Meow-Meow. ¬†Her teary eyes met mine and she said, “Look Momma, Meow-Meow wet.”

I took Meow-Meow, and he was in fact thoroughly soggy. ¬†I looked at Musfira. ¬†She looked blankly back at me. ¬†I looked into her crib, and saw the cause for Meow-Meow’s current state of distress- Musfira someone had been using her sippy cup to slowly soak him in milk, one drop at a time.

Meow-Meow was taken and unceremoniously crammed into the washing machine, and when Musfira objected, I said to her, “Look, this¬†machine¬†is for washing. Meow-Meow is dirty, we’re going to wash him.”

“Iss for washing?” Musfira asked.

“Yes.” I nodded.

Musfira began pulling her shirt off. “Washing me?”

“No dear,” I said, escorting her from the washing machine before she tried to climb inside of it. “Not for washing you.”

meowmeow4inchIt’s 1:30 right now, and I’ve decided to let her skip her nap in favor of washing the crib and bedding. ¬†It’s sloshing around in the machine along with Meow-Meow, and considering how hot it is today, should all be dry in roughly five minutes.

Musfira is currently walking around backwards and “singing” a nameless tune of her own invention update: it’s the UAE National Anthem. ¬†The longer she stays up, the crazier she will become, until she finally goes down in a fiery ball of toddler exhaustion. ¬†Alhamdulillah, she’s awesome. ūüôā

Take THAT racial inferiority complex, HA!

A few days ago, Iman was sitting at the dining table next to me coloring when she put down her crayons and pouted.

“Momma, which crayon is my skin? It’s not this one,” she said, holding up the¬†Caucasian¬†“skin-tone” crayon.

“And it’s not this one,” she said, holding up the brown crayon.¬†“Which crayon is my skin?”

I leaned over and started poking around in the plastic tupperware that holds Iman’s treasure trove of crayons.

“Hmm, I don’t see any crayons in here that are the same color as you dear. Sorry sweetheart, we don’t have any caramel colored crayons.”

“Caramel?” Iman said, still pouting.

“Caramel is a beautiful warm golden color. Caramel is a kind of candy.”

Iman’s eyes practically popped. “I’m the color of… candy?”

“Yes dear, but we don’t have any crayons that color. Sorry. Looks like we need to buy you more crayons.”

Later that day, HF came home and Iman ran excitedly to him. “Baba baba!” she said, jumping up and down, “Did you know, I’m caramel colored??”

“Are you?” HF said, looking to me suspiciously.

(HF, I’ve decided, is dulche de leche.)

“Yes!” Iman¬†squealed, “It’s a kind of a candy!”

Icecream“Well then,” HF said, picking her up and hugging her, “I guess that makes you my Caramel Princess.”

That was last week, and since then, we’ve changed the yardstick of skintone from lightness to ice cream. ¬†Chacha is milk chocolate. I’m butter pecan. ¬†Musfira is toasted coconut.

Because all skin colors are good skin colors, the same way that all ice cream is good ice cream.

So, what flavor are you? :p

 

How to melt momma with happiness

Khalid: Momma, what does the word “hang out” mean?

Me: To hang out? That means to spend time together talking and enjoying someone’s company.

Khalid: Okay, right. Can we hang out?

Me: I’d love to. ūüôā

Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah.

And I quote

Khalid: Momma, when I die…?

Me: (putting my drink down slowly) Yes Khalid?

Khalid: And my body goes into the earth…?

Me: Yes?

Khalid: Will people remove my fossils and put them in a museum?

Me: No dear, they won’t.

Khalid: Why not?

Me: Because you’re not a dinosaur dear.

_____

Iman: (is looking through rows of flavored vitamins as we’re waiting in line at a pharmacy) Momma, why does this have a picture of icecream?

Me: Hmm? Because those vitamins supposedly taste like icecream.

Iman: Why?

Me: So that kids will like taking them.

Iman: This one has cherries.

Me: It’s probably cherry flavored.

Iman: This one has fairies on it. Is it fairy-flavored?

Me: I don’t think so, I’m not sure what fairies would taste like.

Iman: I know. Meat.

Me: Meat?

Iman: Yeah, because that’s what bodies are made out of. Meat.

Me: You’re a very sensible girl.

Iman: I know.

Iman’s Dua

Oh Allah, thank you for aaaaaaallll the gifts.

Oh Allah, thank you for paradise.

Oh Allah, thank you for aaaaaaallll the children in this life.

Oh Allah, thank you for the nice clothes.

Oh Allah, thank you for aaaaaaallll the buildings

Oh Allah, thank you for aaaaaaallllthe grandmas and nanas.

Oh Allah, thank you for me.

Ameen.

Well, at least she’s honest.

Me, Holding out a pile of hair that Iman has just cut right off the top of her head: Iman, why did you cut your hair?

Iman: Because I want you to take me to the beauty salon?

Alhamdulillah for ABA

One of the reasons why I am so grateful for Khalid’s autism is ABA- Applied Behavior Analysis.  In the context of teaching a child with autism, ABA can be broken down in to two core concepts:

1)      The teaching of tasks from simple to complex

2)      The reinforcement of correct behavior and extinction of incorrect (or maladaptive) behavior

This seems simple enough, but let’s talk about what happened yesterday at Jummah.

A three year old boy was entertaining himself during the Jummah khutba by loudly and aggressively kicking a box of drinking water. The noise (as well as the imminent danger of being hit by a fast-moving box of water bottles) was tremendously distracting to the ladies in masjid.   Because no one was asking the boy to stop, I am going to assume that either his mother was too embarrassed or frustrated to do anything about it, or that he was an orphan who drove himself to the masjid expressly to kick the box around.

I didn’t get to see whether anyone asked him to stop, because Khalid- being overwhelmed by khateeb’s voice over the loudspeaker- actually ran out of the masjid in a panic- barefoot onto the hot tiles, and I had to run after him with Musfira tucked under my arm like a football.  I got him to come back and come into the masjid as far as the foyer, since it was only 114 degrees outside, and we waited there together for the prayer to be over.  I held Musfira, Khalid held his ears closed.

The khutba ended, the jamaat was prayed, and as soon as the salah was finished- the door burst open and that same little boy emerged whining and yelling as his mother dragged him angrily through the doors.

She turned to him, as soon as the door was closed and slapped him across the face- five times, very hard. ‚ÄúWhy do you make so much noise! What‚Äôs wrong with you!‚ÄĚ

Khalid was horrified, he grabbed my arm and said ‚ÄúMomma, why is she hitting him? That‚Äôs bad! It‚Äôs not good to hit!‚ÄĚ

And the little boy bawled and the mother continued to scold him as she searched for him shoes and tried to cram his feet into them.¬† The little boy‚Äôs wailing was echoing off the marble walls in the close, high-ceiling foyer and Khalid was becoming distressed.¬† The mother was obviously embarrassed and wanted the noise to stop, so she suddenly hugged and kissed the boy and said ‚ÄúThere there- good boy- don‚Äôt cry- shhh shh…‚ÄĚ

And what did the boy do?  He smacked her face.  Several times, and he was swatting at her with both hands, so she hugged him more- and other ladies came into the foyer and tried to soothe him- it’s ok, good boy- don’t cry- there there-

Khalid and I were less than three feet away from the situation the entire time, and I think he and I shared the same sort of confusion.¬† Wait- I thought he was in trouble for making noise? So she smacked him, but then she said he was a good boy, so he smacked her? But he‚Äôs still a good boy? But actually- he‚Äôs making even more noise now…

I feel very sorry for that mother- she was embarrassed, frustrated, guilty, and I’m pretty sure she was doing the best she knew how to.  I wished I could have sat down with her and shared what little I’ve picked up about ABA, because from a behavioral point of view, her intervention was a disaster.

First, the boy’s bad behavior is ignored, and since the mother said nothing, kicking the box must’ve been perfectly acceptable masjid behavior, right? All of a sudden, the boy is jerked out of the mosque and given quite a smacking.  So he’s in trouble, but does he know why? Then, his mother apologizes for disciplining him, and in return, he smacks her.  So she hugs him more, and other ladies tell him he’s a good boy for crying loudly and smacking his mother’s face.

How is this connected to the two main principles of ABA?  Point two: The reinforcement of correct behavior and extinction of incorrect (or maladaptive) behavior. Reinforcement is a reward- it’s a thumbs up or a nod or a gold star- it is a response that contributes to an increase of behavior.  It’s not always positive- if a child is bugging you for attention, and you turn and yell at them- then you attended to them in response to being bugged.  You reinforced their behavior.

If a child is screaming for a cookie, and you give them a cookie, then the cookie is reinforcing the cookie.  If a child screams and slaps you, and you give them a hug, then you are reinforcing being slapped and screamed at.

There are, in a nutshell, really only four reasons why people do things.  Seriously- I love this about ABA- only four major ones anyway- and they work for kids, adults, and children with autism as well.  They are:

Escape: I don’t wanna ______________, so I’m gonna _________________. 

Kid: I don’t want to do my homework, so I’m going to cry.

Adult: I don’t want to go to pay taxes, so I’m going to cheat on my forms.

Child with autism: I don’t want to do my flashcards, so I’m going to bang my head on the table.

Access to tangible: I want ________________, so I’m going to _______________ until I get it.

Kid: I want a new toy, so I’m going to whine until I get it.

Adult: I want a new car, so I’m going to steal one off the lot.

Child with autism: I want to go to the park, so I’m going to kick the door until you let me out.

Attention: You’re not looking at me, so I’m going to _______________________ until you do.

Kid: You’re not listening to me, so I’m going to talk incessantly until you do.

Adult: You’re not noticing me, so I’m going to dye my hair green, pierce both nostrils and wear a feather boa to work.

Child with autism: You’re not laughing with me, so if you laugh with someone else, I will cry until you stop laughing and come cheer me up instead.

(True story- Khalid used to sob and bang his head on the floor if we laughed.  So we stopped laughing and would soothe him until his Case Manager told us it was likely to be attention seeking behavior, and instead of not laughing, we should laugh harder.  It worked, Alhamdulillah.)

Automatic: I don’t care what’s going on, I just gotta ____________________.

Kid: It doesn’t matter whether or not anyone can see me, I just gotta pick my nose!

Adult: I don’t care whether you mind, my butt itches.

Child with autism: I don’t care whether or not anyone is watching, I just need to spin in circles.

The appropriate way to respond to behavior is based entirely on its function- or purpose.  Attention seeking behavior is ignored or stopped with as minimal reinforcement possible, and then the child is taught to seek attention in more appropriate ways, and you make sure that child receives all the attention for good behavior and none of the attention for inappropriate attention-seeking behavior.

Escape-motivated behavior is ignored or blocked, and the child is made to follow through with the task that they were initially trying to escape from, and then rewarded for completion and moved on to a more reinforcing task.  You can shorten the demand, but never give up on the demand.

Inappropriate access-oriented behavior is met with blocking access to the desired item, redirecting to calm the child if necessary, modeling of appropriate manding technique (if you want a cookie, say “May I have a cookie please?) and then reinforcement of appropriate manding.  (Good asking, here’s your cookie!)

Automatic behaviors are more complicated to address, and how you respond depends on whether or not the behavior is harmful, destructive, or disruptive- whether it fulfills a vital sensory need, or whether it may be a response to pain or some other internal stimulus.  It also depends on the frequency and intensity, and whether it can be reshaped, replaced, or even successfully eliminated.  This depends on the individual behavior as well as the individual child.

But yeah.  That’s ABA 101- and sometimes I wish all parents were taught ABA, because knowing it has made me a far, far better parent to Khalid (as well as Iman and Musfira) as well as a less frustrated person in general.  I would also like to think that it makes my childrens’ lives easier as well, because the lines are clearly drawn.  If it’s bad, you will know it’s bad- if it’s good, you’ll gets hugs and cookies and hearts and rainbows.  The rest of the world may be confusing and ambiguous and complicated, but Momma is simple.  She doesn’t ignore you for being bad, give you a slap ambush, apologize for punishing you, and then kiss you for smacking her back.

So yeah, I’m not a parenting genius, but I am grateful to Allah that people have sat down and put their big heads together to make a flowchart that any person can understand, and I am grateful to Allah for making me have to understand it.

Please make dua for all parents and all frustrated mothers everywhere.  May that lady’s son grow to be a righteous, well-mannered, loving man who is a comfort to his parents, and coolness to their eyes and a sadqa jaariya for them after their deaths.  Ameen.

Bi Khair, Alhamdulillah!

Khalid came running to my room this morning, “Momma, I need a tissue.”

(I’ve heard this one before.)

“Khalid, what happened?”

“In the kitchen.”

In the kitchen Khalid had poured himself a glass of juice all over the floor and Musfira seized the opportunity to crawl into it and have a seat.  So not only was her diaper dirty, but now it was high in Vitamin C.

So we cleaned up the floor, cleaned up the baby, set out breakfasts, and I embarked on the¬†never ending¬†quest to keep the house within regulation standards for HSE. ¬†Somewhere in the middle of laundry my Supervisor called needing to vent about what was happening at today’s staff meeting, and then Musfira needed a nap, so I put her down for one and went back to the dishes.

But then I remembered that Khalid’s blanket had been hanging in the sun since yesterday, so I went out to retrieve it and hung out some more sheets, since last night Khalid snuck out of his bed and into mine, which he then wet. ¬†So I have two blankets and two sheet sets in the process of being de-pee-peed.

And I’m selling off some baby items and a large carpet, so I needed to take a picture of the carpet, but it was halfway obscured with the kids’ bunk bed, so I rearranged the children’s bedroom so the carpet could be accessible completely if the guy interested came to see it. ¬†And then I hung more laundry, and vaccumed the carpet, which Khalid then poured a bucket of legos on top of.

Then we made milkshakes, and Khalid- for some mysterious reason- decided to fill his cheeks with it and then smoosh- spraying chocolate banana camel milk milkshake onto the floor. ¬†I think Khalid was as surprised about it as I was, since he’s never done that before and seem genuinely shocked when it went spraying forth into the great, recently mopped yonder.

And we haven’t had lunch yet.

So what have I done today?

Oh, nothing.

Nap time for Cupcake and Robot

20120521-002543.jpg

We interrupt this normally mundane blog…

To ask an important question: What in the hibbity dibbity is wrong with people? Why is the world in love with- of all things- zombies? ¬†I understand – zombies are ¬†staple fare of¬†apocalypse/horror games, movies, books, etc- but when did we fall in love with zombies to the extent that we have zombie weddings, zombie walks, zombie games, zombie sitcoms, zombie doorstops, USB’s, and plush cuddly zombies to sleep with at night?

At what point did we, as human beans, become so desensitized to the idea of what is, to be blunt- an indescribable horror that Allah, in His Mercy, has not allowed to exist in real life? Imagine a mother devouring her screaming baby. ¬†Really. ¬†Let your stomach twist itself into a revolted little knot over that one. ¬†Compare that to the plush and cuddly om-nom of one human being munching another and think about it- it’s not funny. ¬†It’s not entertaining. ¬†It’s a further desensitization of people to violence which, in turn, spurns further violence.

Human life loses its value because zombification gives us carte blanche to kill, main, decapitate, run over, and maul men women children old people and pets in a variety of exciting and entertaining venues.   And our kids play games to pass the time using other humans for target practice while we head off to zombie camp for the weekend so we can get our jollies from massacring actors with grape-jelly in their mouths.

I wonder what it is that people find attractive about the whole ‘end of the world and everyone’s dead but us’ scenario- is it the fantasy that you’re only alive because you’re such a badass? Or the human craving to find a)belonging and b) purpose that is forced into realization that you’re the only five single attractive grownups with unlimited ammo left in the city, and you and your adorable clever dog need to band together to ride into the sunset over a mountain of zombie corpses?

Right....nothing at all...

I have wasted hundred of hours– I’m not joking, hundreds- battling zombies in one form or the other courtesy of the Resident Evil series way back in the highschool day, but even then I saw no allure in immersing myself in any more zombitude than I had to. ¬†Zombies were something you ran away from and avoided on pain of death (or worse-waste of ammo!) ¬†I know I’ve blogged about zombies before- sometimes I wonder whether too many hours of zombie gaming in the dark basement of my parents’ house did not give me a touch of PSTD- certain sounds, specific creaks, the caw of a raven or the click of an ominous-sounding doorknob used to give me flashbacks to the dark, close quarters of the Raccoon City police station where I was alone, out of ammo, and¬†standing¬†in front of that horrible hallway where the zombies would reach in from the windows and claw at you.

The self-inflicted brain damage persists even to this day, to the extent that I wasn’t able to watch King of Thorns- ye typical ‘confused survivors trappy in gory research facility’ anime- without having nightmares and developing honest to goodness fear of the dark for a good week afterwards. ¬†I wasn’t scared of the dark the same way that four year olds are- it was worse, because a four year old can’t (or shouldn’t be able to) imagine what I can in the shadows of my house. ¬†Not even I would be able to imagine in the shadows what I find myself imagining- and I am not imagining as much as I am remembering the time that the skeleton-faced dog thing stepped out from behind that angry but helpful police officer and picked him up by the head and squeezed it until his skull popped.

Stop me if you’re feeling sick. ¬†I am already.

I don’t think zombies are cute or funny or entertaining any more than cannibalism. ¬†God forbid someone come out with a plush toy for that next… Auzubillah.

-End of Rant Here-

 

Jeremy Clarkson can quit now

Iman: Momma look! Do you see that car? It’s white!

Me: Yes, I do, it’s a convertible.

Iman: It has two eyes, and a mouth! It’s like a happy face! It’s like a toy! I like it!

Ode to Musfira, which is like joy, but sweeter. And with sprinkles.

You are my Cupcake with cupcake sprinkles
Sprinkle stars in my eyes
Your tiny laugh twinkles
And if, Cupcake
(with cupcake sprinkles)
You should ever feel lost
You should know that you’ll find me
Begging the Baker
who made you to let me
See you in Jannah
Where stars in your eyes
Will reflect diamond skies
My Cupcake with cupcake sprinkles
With the light of your laugh that twinkles

Water and Oil. Autism and Iron.

So it’s been a little over two month’s since I’ve updated, which may be the longest I’ve ever gone in the history of this blog. ¬†Ever. ¬†I have an excuse. Well, I have a whole bunch of excuses, so let’s throw some at the wall and see if any of them stick.

The dog ate my blog?

-SPLAT-

Yep, that one looks credible.  Next!

I was scaling a mountain of work when I fell into the crevasse of mommy-related responsibilities and my backpack of bloggingness fell into the bottomless abyss of nonpriority?

Ooh, that was dramatic.  Next!

I haven’t had a housekeeper/nanny for the last month.

Hmmm, that one doesn’t actually sound very credible. ¬†The thing is though- and I know that it’s hard to believe- this is the closest thing I have to a real reason. ¬†It sounds like such a Diva-esque complaint- a great majority of womankind copes without housekeepers- but I have three kids- one with autism, one with a Napoleon complex, and one with only three teeth and cruising- related deathwish. ¬†I have ten employees, a CSR proposal underway, page 31 in Iman’s math book to work her through, and an intake for new parents this Saturday. ¬†But that sounds like whining, so let’s go back to my other excuse.

You should have seen the size of its teeth. ¬†I was running, but then it caught up with me, and I was all like- “Oh no dog, don’t eat my blog!” but the dog was all like “Woof woof. Om nom nom.” And then HF jumped in with his cape and tie blowing dramatically in a gust of hero-related breeze, but then he remembered that he’s weirded out by dogs, so he leapt off-camera and cleaned the house and put the kids to sleep instead. ¬†And that’s been amazing and surprising and lovely and the catalyst for falling in love with him all over again, but it hasn’t been enough to save the blog.

Sorry blog.

But enough with excuses. ¬†I could go on making… err… recounting completely true and valid excuses until the cows came home, but then I would have to stop typing to go milk them because cows don’t milk themselves any more than Musfira changes her own diapers.

The funny thing about being stretched thin is that you become easier to tear- more fragile than usual. ¬†I’m cheerful and productive and maybe only half-frazzled to the point of insanity (see, only half!) but this video made me cry. ¬†And then this video made me laugh out loud with with joy. Wait until they show planets crashing in to each other- that was perfect, amazing- and just¬†mind blowing. ¬†SubhanAllah!

I think these two videos kind of form the bookends of my life right now: Islam and autism. ¬†Being mom fits somewhere in the middle and is an extension of both sides. ¬†You know, like a sort of… spectrum? *rimshot* ¬†I feel rubbed raw on both ends- my own son is doing well by the Grace and Kindness and Greatness of God, but then every new parent I meet renews a sense of desperation, urgency, panic, and fear for the future of a child and I don’t think I ever get very far from the despair of a new diagnosis. ¬†On the other side, I am so, so, so, so, overwhelmingly grateful to be Muslim, to have the small amount of faith I can hold in my heart, and to be able to put the burden of autism and fear down on the floor and whisper Subhana Rabbi Al-Aa’la- Glory to my Lord, Most High. ¬†Allah created autism, He created despair so we could have hope, and darkness so that light could be apparent. ¬†If there is imbalance in this life, it is only allowed to exist for us to learn, and then it will be¬†re-balanced¬†as soon as we die. ¬†I’d happily live without a thumb if I knew I would get both of them back plus a cosmos of eternal gold stars for it in paradise.

I haven’t been feeling very well lately, and being sick while being stressed, over-worked, and overwhelmed has been an additional challenge, but as strange as this is- I’m liking it. ¬†I’m loving it. ¬†I think I may be losing my mind, but there is a sweetness and a closeness in prayer that I have never been able to find or taste except when I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown. ¬†Like how water tastes like life itself- only when you’re dying.

Take a mayonnaise jar. Add oil. ¬†Add water. ¬†Add autism, Islam, Iron, motherhood, diapers, school lunches, and human responsibilities and shake the living daylights out of it. You’ll get a jar of disoriented salad dressing- that label will say: ¬†Abez.

Tadaa!

That’s my update and I’m sticking to it.

By Abez, The End.

 

 

 

Sugar and spice and everything nice, *that’s* what momma is made of

Iman comes inside the house crying, having just fallen down.  I pick her up and calm her down and try to figure out what happened.

Me: Iman, what happened?

Iman: I was climbing the stairs, like a cat-

Me: And then what happened?

Iman: And then I fell, like an ant!

Me: Like an ant?

Iman: Yeah, like when momma hits it wish a shoe- BAM!

 

Some milestones come earlier than others…

Thanks to her adoring elder siblings, Musfira is ahead of the curve when it comes to what solids other five month olds have been introduced to.  Like chips, peanut butter, heart-shaped lollipops, apples (uncut, unpeeled), mango juice, and fruit-shaped erasers. Erasers.

SubhanAllah!

Bronchitis, Business Licensing, Separation Anxiety, etcetera

So I’ve been sick, the kids have been sick, the business license renewal has been held up for the last two months and two of the therapists who were ready to fly down have now withdrawn. ¬†Everything happens for a good reason. ¬†I remind myself of this not only because it’s true, but because that’s the only way to stay sane in a dramatically insane world. ¬†And now, back to our regularly scheduled program. ¬†

So Khalid pinched Iman today, as he does roughly ten times a day or more. ¬†And it was quite hard, and it was unwarranted given that Iman was trying to show him how a party hat could also look like an ice-cream cone and was being insistent but not offensive and definitely not deserving of a pinch. ¬†I saw it happen from the living room window- she was holding a party hat in his face and try to show him- “Khalid look, it’s like an icecream! ¬†See! ¬†Look! ¬†Like icecream!” and he had already had enough of Iman for the day, so he got off his bike, chased her (shrieking) to the front door, and then grabbed both of her arms in what we call a pinch, but actually involves his whole hand grabbing her arm and then digging in. ¬†Iman’s arms are covered with nail marks, scratches, and bruises. ¬†It doesn’t help that most of the time, she’s the instigator of the fight and will try something insane- like whacking Khalid on the head with a wooden fishing pole just because he’s not paying attention to her- and then running screaming in the other direction while he chases her down and pinches in retaliation.

It’s frustrating, really. ¬†I feel guilty because Khalid resorts too easily to serious pinching and scratching that usually draws blood and Iman is on the receiving end of the pain. ¬†I feel annoyed with Iman, because she deliberately provokes Khalid to get a reaction out of him, but she’s usually trying to play with him, and when it doesn’t work, she then opts to fight with him. ¬†She doesn’t like to be ignored. ¬†Khalid doesn’t like to interact. ¬†She’s demanding. ¬†He’s autistic. ¬†Now what?

So Khalid pinched Iman, and I took him inside and put him on time-out. ¬†And then, because we had accidentally left the kids’ new Leapter toys (thank you Aunty Owlie!) in the car outside, I put on a scarf and walked out to the van to retrieve them. ¬†The automatic doors on the van aren’t working, so it was taking me a few minutes to get inside. ¬†I was pulling ineffectually on the handle when I suddenly heard the loudest, most anguished screaming from inside the house. ¬†I ran back inside to find Khalid shaking, in tears, mashing his face in his hands and crying so hard he could barely breathe. ¬†This from a boy who busted his head open on the wall last month and didn’t shed a tear- and I realized- he thought I was leaving. ¬†Because Iman had followed me outside of the house, Khalid was left alone on time-out, and he thought he was being walked away from. ¬† He couldn’t see Musfira in her baby-gym from where he was sitting, and he did wait for a minute or so (as I struggled with the car door) before going into panic. ¬†But he thought I was gone. ¬†And he was terrified.

So Iman and I hugged him, and hugged him and hugged him and hugged him, and when Musfira started crying and I went to pick her up, Khalid followed behind me with his arms around my leg and wouldn’t not allow any distance to come in between us. ¬†So I fed Musfira and Khalid hugged the parts of me that Musfira wasn’t taking up, and we talked. ¬†I told him I was NOT leaving, that I was sorry he had gotten scared, that I would never leave him alone, that I loved him, that I would stay with him, that I would never abandon him- anything I could think of that he could understand. ¬†Eventually he calmed down and wandered off to play his Leapster. ¬†And then I remembered that he’d reacted similarly when we dropped HF off at the airport when he was leaving for Umrah. ¬†And then I remembered that once upon a time, Khalid was my shadow, and the hardest thing (apart from closing the bathroom door, ever) was leaving him by himself in a room without me. ¬†It was always a meltdown. ¬†Khalid has, and has always had, separation anxiety. ¬†Some children with autism are indifferent to the presence or proximity of other people. ¬†Khalid was in panic without it. ¬†And I forgot- I walked out of the house without him and gave him the scare of his life.

Guys, my mother of the year trophy is so big I’m going to put it next to the house and rent it out as a studio.

I’m not done feeling guilty yet, but I do have other things to blog about. ¬†Like Iman- who is lovely in addition to her aforementioned deviousness.

“Momma, you have three babies! Khalid, Iman, and Musfira!”

“Yes, and Khalid got bigger and now he’s a little boy. ¬†Iman got bigger and now she’s a little girl, and every day Musfira gets a little bigger but right now she’s still a small baby.”

“Yes, a gift from Allah! ¬†Inna gift box!”

ūüôā

Makes sense.  Gifts do come in gift boxes, do they not?  :p And then a few weeks ago I was driving Iman to the beauty salon to have her bangs trimmed, and I said:

“Iman, thank you for coming with me to the beauty salon. ¬†I love it when come for a drive with me.”

Iman replies: “And Momma, I love it when you drive, and when you sit with me, and also, when you talk to me, and go shopping, and when you hug me, and when you laugh, and when we go to the beauty salon, and also? ¬†The park!”

And then yesterday: “Momma, I love you. *happy smile* Can I have gummy bears?”

Oh, and Musfira. ¬†She’s developing the grab-and-cram reflex. ¬†She’s still kind of slow about it, because she looks like someone trying to operate their arms underwater and through beer-goggles, but if you try to drink tea anywhere near her, her little arms will stretch out and she exerts the most adorable, wobbly sort of concentration to grab the cup and ideally cram as much of it into her mouth as possible. ¬†Obviously, this does not work for tea cups. ¬†This does work for toys though, and her blanket, and my scarf, and often, the corner of my skirt if I’ve been standing in her vicinity long enough. ¬†¬†Yesterday she grabbed two big handfuls of my face and -plop!- landed her open mouth on it and attempted to chew my cheek, chin, and jaw in a surprisingly high-speed attack. ¬†It’s the cutest sort of ambush, and the only downside is that at any given time, most corners of whatever I am wearing will be damp and lovingly chewed. ¬†I feel like a walking¬†hors¬†d’oeuvres. ¬†It’s very validating. I may not be yummy mummy, but I am a tasty one. ūüėÄ

Oh, and on Thursday Khalid’s shadow teacher was unable to make it to school, so I shadowed Khalid in school for the first time ever. ¬†But that’s another post for another day, and it’s 5am right now. Alhamdulillah ūüôā

 

Om-Nom!

Well, Khalid is back at his old school and Iman is happy to be going along with him. I’ve yet to visit the old school and formalize their removal, but I’ll definitely be doing so- especially since we paid half the fees in advance!

Khalid was immediately happier back in familiar settings- the first day on the playground was a mini-reunion. His KG-1 friends who were now spread through various KG-2’s found him and welcomed him back, even telling their parents about his return. Khalid is a bit of a celebrity in the school, not because he’s famous in any respect, but because he will greet every person he sees warmly. The janitors, the school nurse, the lunch room guy- they all love him and I feel like I’m walking in Khalid’s shadow when I pass through the halls with him. Everyone knows Khalid, almost no one knows me to be his mother. ūüôā Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah. Of course, it’s a completely different issue that Khalid’s class hasn’t had an English teacher for the entire week, but for the moment, Khalid is happy. ¬†And, as is to be expected- SubhanAllah- his spontaneous verbal skills are taking off again. ¬†He was becoming less talkative over the summer with no one but the immediate family around, but now that he’s back in school there’s an immediate difference. ¬†Take, for example, this overhead conversation.

Khalid: Musfira, look! It’s the cut the rope. ¬†I will show you.

Musfira: Pbbbbt?

Khalid: You feed the frog the candy. ¬†It’s Om-Nom. Collect the stars.

Musfira: Eeeee!

Khalid: I’ll show you. ¬†Oops, two stars. You need three stars. ¬†Not four stars. ¬†Like this.

Compare this to conversations that I have with Khalid where he gives me one-word replies for the most part. ¬†Khalid isn’t interested in talking to adults, but he’ll give a 4-month baby an iPhone game tutorial.

Speaking of 4-month old babies, Alhamdulillah, Musfira rolled over about two days ago. ¬†Soon she’ll be crawling. ¬†Shortly thereafter, driving. ¬†Where does the time go? And where did she learn to generate such ear-piercing shrieks of joy? It was my hope that her personality as a child would be an extension of her personality as a baby. ¬†Iman is an intense little girl, and she was an intense baby as well. ¬†Musfira has, so far, been a happy and social baby, and I was hoping that would continue indefinitely. ¬†She’s turning up the volume though lately, and twisting mini-teddy into half-nelsons while chomping his mini-teddy head, and squealing so loud, so long, and so non-stop that a staff meeting had to be put on hold yesterday- three therapists, one senior, one driver, and HF and I- because no one could hear each other over Musfira’s personal opera.

SubhanAllah.

(Too cool for school)

The hunt continues to find Khalid a suitable English-speaking school that is autism-friendly, uses sound behavior¬†reinforcement principles (rather than education through intimidation) and doesn’t cost an arm, a leg, two kidneys and your left earlobe. ¬†I’ve been to three schools just today, dragging Khalid and Joy along for the ride and leaving a trail of bemused registrars in our wake.

“Does he know his colors?’

“Yes.”

“Can he recognize letters?”

“Khalid, what does this bag say?”

“Best Salted Cashews.”

People are generally confused by Khalid. ¬†When we go into visually exciting new places, like schools, his attention is all over the place taking in the new surroundings, and the outsider’s first assumption is that the lights are on but no one’s home. ¬†He has to read every written word on every wall and visually digest every shape lovingly cut and unsteadily decorated in glitter glue. ¬† The various registrars and social workers who try to probe him ask him questions without first getting his attention, and as the seconds tick by in silence, I can see exasperation come over their faces as they assume I am exaggerating Khalid’s cognitive abilities just to get him into school.

“So Khalid, how are you?”

-tick-

-tock-

-tick-

“Big, big giant school.”

(The social worker looks amused)

“Stairs going up.”

(The school has an impressive staircase leading from the reception to the second floor.)

“Do you have any friends?”

(I want to kick her for asking this)

-tick-

-tock-

-tick-

“Boys.”

(Now she looks confused.)

I earnestly explain that he’s telling her about his friends- that they’re boys.

“And girls.” Khalid adds after another second. ¬†“And kids.”

“Khalid,” I say nervously, “Can you tell me about your friend Omar?”

“He’s not here.”

“Omar transferred from the school,” I explain again. ¬†“None of the children in his current school speak English, so he hasn’t made any new friends yet.”

“Khalid,” the social worker continues, “What shape is this?”

Khalid looks down at the iPad that she’s pointing to. He’s been using it to play Cut the Rope, and also, to search for walk-throughs on YouTube when he’s stuck on a certain level.

-tick-

-tock-

-tick-

“Rectangle.”

“Very good!” the social worker says, genuinely surprised. “And this?”

Khalid looks to the coffee table.

“It’s a circle. ¬†Like the sun.” He uses his finger to squiggle, in the air, what he means to be the rays of the sun. The he goes back to his own world, reading the walls. ¬†Do not enter. ¬†Push. ¬†Pull. ¬†In case of fire. ¬†I remember- once we were driving back home from Ajman, and the sun was setting in an electric orange ball to the west of Emirates Road.

“Look Khalid, Iman- the sun is going down! SubhanAllah, it’s so big and round!”

Iman says: “Ooooh!” ¬†Khalid says: “Sun is a planet?”

-blinkblink-

Owlie and I took the kids to the children’s museum once, where watched a half an hour presentation on the solar system- once. ¬† This was before Musfira was born, and she’s almost four months old now.

“Actually, the sun is a star.”

“Not a planet?”

“No, because planets don’t give off light. The sun is a star, I think.”

Khalid disagrees.

“Not a star, planet.”

In Khalid’s big-city world view, stars are shapes with five points that exist primarily to be colored yellow. ¬†Dubai has way too much light pollution to see anything other than the moon and the air traffic. ¬†I can see his point of view. ¬†So I offer a compromise.

“Ok Khalid, maybe it’s a little bit like both.”

The social worker says she’ll get back to us.

We pack up and drive off to the next school. ¬†The principal, who I met last Thursday to appeal for Khalid’s admission, is out sick.

“I’ll leave a message please,” I say to the front-desk secretary. ¬†As I’m scribbling what I hope is a friendly, optimistic, and not too desperate-sounding request for a call back, Khalid is taking in the student-made exhibits on traffic safety week. ¬†I borrow the receptionist’s stapler and use it to make sure my business card makes it along with the message. ¬†Khalid’s last school admitted him on the strength of my position in exchange for training their KG department, and I’m willing to make whatever sort of bargains I have to and pull whatever strings I can reach to get him into a school. ¬†I’ve spent hours camped outside of school offices waiting to hound, guilt, impress, and emotionally blackmail whoever I need to in order to get Khalid a fair chance. ¬†I think I’m getting used to it now. ¬†I think I need to order more business cards.

“Khalid, it’s time to go now.”

“I need to fix.”

He’s trying to put the hat back onto the lego victim of a car crash who’s laying on lego street waiting for the lego ambulance to come to his aid.

“It’s alright, I think that’s how they meant the exhibit to look.”

“I like legos.”

Iman goes to school every day and Khalid gets left behind, asking me when we’re going to pick her back up. ¬†Iman’s teacher is delighted that she’s the youngest child in the class and the only one who can already write her own name. ¬†Khalid’s teacher, on the other hand, was openly angry about having to deal with “these kinds of children” when she already has twenty six other children in class she’s supposed to be teaching instead. ¬†The atmosphere on the first day of teacher training for that school was bordering on mutinous, and what was intended to be a workshop on using reinforcement within the framework of ABA quickly deteriorated into an angry argument between the pro-inclusion principal and Khalid’s anti-inclusion (and openly anti-Khalid) teacher. ¬†She walked out of the workshop, returned to argue with the principal in Arabic, and then walked out again.

To her credit, she did come on the second day and exhibited much less eye-rolling.  Today was the third day, and she looked almost civil.  Of course, she has no reason to be mad anymore, because Khalid is no longer attending her class.

He’s been home from school for three days now. ¬†He owns uniforms from two different schools, and when Iman came home in her PE uniform yesterday, Khalid walked silently to his bedroom and came back dressed in his. ¬†¬†He’s honest to a fault, and so sensitive to the world around him but so limited in expressing how much it affects him. ¬†I look at him, with his enormous beautiful eyes and his profoundly hidden profound intelligence, and my heart aches.

“You like legos my Jaan?”

“Yeah. I like it.”

He smiles at me.

“Then I think it’s time to buy you some.”