Saturday, August 7, 2010


Cuddly kids, fuzzy cats, and a husband who heats up a bath for me. 'Nuff said.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Quiet Nights

Very often for me, not getting enough quiet time during the day translates into obsessive insomnia where I just eat up those quiet hours of the night and can't bear to sleep. This greatly decreases my functionality during the day. I need a solution. I did try hiding out in the car one evening when the kids were all screaming and refusing to sleep and fighting with each other. This was at the end of a loud, long day, and I was maxed out. My husband came and found me and tried to coax me back indoors. I told him he was lucky I was just in the driveway and hadn't actually left and gone to a hotel. He was kind enough to get the four wild ones to sleep (though it took over an hour) and then let me know when it was safe for my eardrums and I to come back in. He's a good man, that one.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rediscovering High Heeled Shoes

Yes, you read the title correctly. I have rediscovered the joy of wearing high heeled shoes. I remember getting my first pair when I was about 13 and tottering around until I got the hang of walking in them gracefully. Wearing heels was an unofficial entry into the world of adulthood. However at some point between having jobs where I had to be on my feet for long hours and then having kids to chase around and then eventually letting my love of fashion succumb to my affair with comfortable sneakers and yoga pants, I lost my habit of wearing heels.

Then a couple of years ago, I developed a shopping routine with one of my sister-in-laws living overseas. She has a huge shoe and purse obsession and couldn't easily get access to a lot of the fashion accessories I could purchase here in the US. We worked out a system where she would find things she liked online, we would both cast opinions for or against, then I would go shopping and get the items, and when a family member traveled through I would send our shopping bags to my sis-in-law with him/her. In the process of hunting down her items, I began coming across a few things I liked for myself. I remembered looking at pictures from a family wedding where we were all dressed up, and in examining my shoes, I was the only one wearing ugly flats while everyone else had on fabulous heels. I decided that maybe I should invest in one or two pairs of really good shoes for nice occasions. I bought a pair of super high, awesome purple heels and wore them for the next Eid. I spotted my husband's look of obvious approval while we were at a friend's house for dinner. I decided maybe the shoes were a good thing.

This week as I was sorting out the closet, I went through the shoes and piled up all the ones I didn't seem to be wearing so I could sell them on ebay or donate them to charity. As I tossed the purple heels and another blue suede pair onto the pile, my husband stopped and looked. He made a casual remark about not really having to get rid of all of the shoes. I remembered wearing the purple shoes on Eid, and the blue ones the next and really feeling dressed for the occasion. I fished them back out of the pile. I thought about the fact that I wear exceptionally conservative clothing, and I realized that one place where I could express my personality a little is through my shoes.

Then I did something unusual. I went shopping for myself. I left the kids at home, and hubby off running other errands, and I went to Macy's. I wanted shoes. Good shoes. And a bag to match. I finished my shopping with two new pairs of heels and a bag to die for.

Then I did another unusual thing. I started wearing them. When my friend Marissa called me for a long awaited girls' night out, I put on the new shoes and grabbed the bag, and off I went. When my youngest daughter and I went to Petco for a cat carrier the next day, I did the same thing again. And suddenly I realized that I felt different, better, when I was dressed up nicely. I felt like a million bucks cruising through Target in my great new shoes. I tried applying that to the rest of my wardrobe. My husband always compliments me on a red shirt that I have, and yet I don't wear it all that often. So I put it on the other day and actually applied some eye makeup as well. He noticed! And appreciated it. And I realized that even though I'm just around the house most days, maybe it's good for my self-esteem (and my husband's) if I can dress up a little like I used to back in the day.

I might mention that I am 35 years old- not 80, like I may sound. It's just that I am not a very materialistic person. Most of the time I don't worry about the unnecessaries. I don't drive the latest greatest car, and I couldn't care less. I keep my children clean and fed and happy, but I don't rush out to buy them the new must-have games just so that we're keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak. It's just not in my personality to obsess about those things, and I like to think that's mostly a good quality. On the flip side of that coin, though, sometimes I forget that presentation matters. If you cook a tasty meal, it's still tasty if you slop it onto plates from the cooking pot, but it looks so much better if you put it on a nice dish and garnish it with a little cilantro on top. I suppose the same thing goes for how we dress to an extent.

I will confess that yesterday when I had to take my four kids for vaccinations, drop off boxes of clothes and books at the masjid, and take the cat to the vet, I was back in my comfy flat sandals. But if you spot me at the park with my family tomorrow, check out my feet, because I may just be back in heels.

(The shoes I want next but haven't quite talked myself into buying)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Time. Consuming.

I spent 4 hours yesterday sorting out one box of memorabilia from the basement.

Four hours.

One box.

And there are other boxes down there. This may get ugly before all the sorting is done.

On the upside of this experience, I really enjoyed going through all that stuff. I tossed a bunch of redundant pictures. Why did I have them developed in quadruplet?? I threw out odds and ends of paper that no longer have value, such as insurance records for a car that I haven't owned in 6 years. But there were a lot of keepers in there. I found letters, notes, and cards from friends and family. I found my first ever hijab picture- a photo of me acting the part of the Virgin Mary in the Christmas program at church when I was 11. I found my band and choir pictures from junior high and high school. I found my old journals. I found my high school and university diplomas. I found tons of my kids' baby pictures. I found the notes from my "branding" exercise done at a regional meeting when I was a tutoring center manager (apparently my brand is "encouraging" but also "disorganized"). I loved reminiscing through all that old stuff.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Time for the Great Summer Clean Out

No more excuses.

School is over and summer is upon us. I am not teaching, not testing, not chasing the kids all over the house to get them to do their schoolwork.

I am free. And the house must be sorted. With the school year finished and thoughts of a move ahead of us, I am getting rid of everything but the essentials. I am already relishing the thought of less clutter. Ahhh....

Let me wallow in that for a moment.
Less clutter.

To do:
* Sorting clothes and donating what we don't wear or what the kids have grown out of
* Shoes!! I'm listing this separately from clothes because it is a project in and of itself. We have a ridiculous amount of shoes.
* Selling furniture (already in the process- thank you craigslist)
* Get rid of blankets/towels/linens except the ones we use on a regular basis
* Books
* Memorables... what to keep and what to toss? Old soccer jerseys, my childhood scrapbook...
* Kitchen
* Toys- that's a hard one. The kids want to keep everything. Some must go.
* Decorations
* Garage stuff- bikes, camping equipment, tools

I should hold a "free sale" for my friends. I can just send out invitations that say "You are invited Tuesday night at 6pm. Please come look through my house, and if you see anything you can use, just take it away." It's a thought.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Inner distractions and solutions

Apparently it's not just the surroundings adding "noise" to my life, but all this clattering inside my head. The brain has no off switch and no remote for changing the channel. When I get it stuck on one useless yet distracting item, there seems to be no means of moving it along to something else. For instance, this week I'm on a self-esteem crisis. The brain has decided to give me a constant onslaught of listing my flaws. Repeated in sequence over and over. I have too, too, too many other things to focus on than this, but here I am, sleepless, mulling over the imperfect me.

I'll go back to the tried and true... memories that take me somewhere happy.

* Meme's house
* My first puppy
* The births of my children
* Sitting underground in a cave
* Praying in Madinah

* My 3-year-old's giggle
* Ocean waves
* Singing with my sister
* The birds at fajr

* Right after a rain
* Wild roses
* Ma's homemade chocolate chip cookies
* Fallen leaves

* The sheets on my bed
* Baby hair
* Lying on moss
* My back snuggled against my Great-grandma Sue's back when I used to sleep by her
* Sitting on a horse

* Hootie balls made by my Ma
* Snow
* Yeast-and-butter popcorn like Phoebe makes it
* Boba tea

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Remoteness is a big plus when seeking solitude

A couple of friends have invited us up to Canada to spend a few days in a cabin on an island out in the middle of a lake a few miles from nowhere. Granted, they've got a toddler and we've got our four little people, but it's a big wide wilderness and hopefully the lake and the trees will swallow up any extra noise and leave us with some blessed silence. And there's always the night time. Oh, the beautiful, quiet night!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Beach camping... ahhh

What with it being the long Memorial Day weekend, we gathered up the kids, the camping gear, and a couple of friends and took off to Rhode Island. We put up camp in the rain, cooked in the wind, and finally crawled into our sleeping bags for a good night's rest. Friends had one tent, hubby and the boys had the second tent, and the girls and I took the third. I woke up to birds chirping in the trees overhead at fajr then prayed and went back to sleep. I gave myself permission (with the consent of my family) to sleep long after hubby and the kids were all up. I love tent sleeping. Or rather tent dozing-and-waking, listening to the sounds of leaves crunching while other people walk around outside, the sound of logs popping in the campfire, the whisper of wind against the tent, the tap-tap-tap of a little bug who keeps flying in the the tent in some disoriented way. After we all officially got up, we made tea on the open fire (hot cocoa for the kids), and had watermelon, oranges, danishes, chicken kabobs, roasted potatoes, and hot dogs for brunch. :) I love the way you can conglomerate camping meals and it all tastes good together. Then we packed up the tents and camping gear and drove 5 minutes to the beach, where we proceeded to spend the rest of the day. I got the kids suited up in swim gear and they all hit the waves. Z, my younger daughter, yelled and giggled and squealed until her throat was hoarse. AR, my older son, is usually pretty moody, but even he was happy all afternoon playing in the waves, his only complaint being when a crab pinched his finger. S, my baby boy, followed our friend Misbah around like a little puppy in and out of the water and exploring some big rocks covered in snails and barnacles. A, my teenage daughter, and I went hunting for sea glass and collected a dozen pieces in clear and green colors. Sitting on the sand in the sun and listening to the waves washing in and out on the shore does my psyche a lot of good.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finding quiet in odd places

We had to take our cat to the vet for an emergency c-section at 10pm Monday night. Hubby stayed home with the three little kids, and the teenager and I loaded up the cat and the three kittens she had already managed to deliver and drove 30 minutes through the dark of night to get to Tufts vet clinic, the only one open 24 hours a day. The only sounds in the car were of Nunu mewing her pain and the teen and I murmuring comforting reassurances to her. Once at the vet, we turned our beloved furball over to the doctors and sat in the waiting room, speaking very little. The teenager patted my arm and held my hand and laid her head on my shoulder. We met with the doctor three different times, and then finally at about 1:30am it was decided that Nunu had to have surgery. It was life or death. We agreed, and were sent home. We drove silently back through the night, my teenager and me. We spoke a little about our relief, how it was fortunate we decided to take her in to be seen, about how grateful we were that Hubby has a tender heart for animals and agreed to pay a small fortune to keep Nunu alive because he knows how we all love her. Then we arrived at the house, dragged ourselves in the door, prayed, and slept. It wasn't a great night, but it ended well. It was quiet. It was peaceful. I will accept that with gratitude.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Secret Garden

One of my favorite books as a child was "The Secret Garden," by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It's the story of a young girl who is orphaned and sent to live with an elderly uncle in England. She spends most of her days alone and her main joy is in discovering an abandoned garden and bringing it back to life. She spots some tiny plants struggling up through the weeds and fallen leaves and clears the way for them to find the sun again so that they can bloom and grow.

I felt like that little girl today. This past January we moved into a home with a decent sized front lawn and a big back yard, and the only problem was that it apparently hasn't been tended to for several years. To be honest, it is a completely overgrown wilderness. Or it was. Until I started digging into it. I realized after looking around that someone had once lived here who had done a lot of gardening and planting. We found that the stick pile outside the back door was actually covering a raised garden bed, so last week hubby helped me clear that off, and I planted a vegetable garden. I then noticed that the area on the opposite side of our garage, facing our neighbor's house, was a huge weedy mess that I needed to clean up, but that it had peonies and hostas growing around it- it was another garden spot! I climbed in and began pulling down tree seedlings that were sprouting up in the middle of it. I rooted out grass and started getting out the weeds, and then I found under all that there was not just an area where something had been previously planted, but a full, bordered and arranged garden bed hidden under the grass and weeds. There were iris beginning to bloom, and under all the weeds I pulled away, I even found a fully grown, bright red strawberry! I showed our neighbor who told me that it had been at least four years since the strawberry planting woman had lived here. Imagine, that these untended little plants had struggled and grown all this time under there. As I pressed further back through the climbing and creeping vines, I found an old grapevine, all set to produce a big crop of grapes for this summer! Amazing. What a wonderful afternoon!

Friday, May 21, 2010

In search of the quiet

I'm trying to figure out which things in my life are keepers, which are unnecessary, and which must absolutely be rooted out.

Some of the unnecessaries:
* Spending too much time on the computer
* Cell phone that leaves me constantly accessible

Got to stop:
* Over-committing
* Thinking I only get time to myself when there is leftover "extra" time (which there never is)

I'm still working on this list.

On the flip side, I also need to figure out what I need- that I'm not getting- in order to be peaceful. This includes:
* Time to devote to my hobbies (even late night will work)
* A day off every week from homeschooling, housework, and cooking
* Time to enjoy my kids, when we are just having fun and not trying to get something done
* Date nights with my husband (we've had one since we got married, and that was our 7th anniversary, the first anniversary we remembered to celebrate)
* The freedom to dream about possibilities without being laughed down or "reasoned" with

It's a start.