Adventures in Potty Training

It strikes me as ironic that I am beginning potty training Baby at the same time that my grandmother has lost this kind of bodily awareness. She no longer seems aware of when she has to go or even if her adult diaper is wet or dry. This is sad and tragic to me. But praise Allah: He tells us that “some are sent back to a feeble age, so that they know nothing after having known much; For Allah is all knowing, all powerful.” So clearly, I can see this cyclical nature of the human life.

Anyway, so far as potty training goes. Baby used to use the potty at 4 months. Then I rushed to get the potty when she started to pee in the bath (perhaps I bumped her or hurt her in some way) We also started using disposable diapers around that time. She hadn’t used the potty again since then until now. She was quite resistant to even sitting on the potty. I finally got her to sit on it for very short periods of time, but nothing else. Then I got her a new potty. This potty is made for a toddler rather than an infant, and she seems quite comfortable sitting on it. She will sit and listen to stories being read. She actually peed in it twice now

I wanted to try a bare bottom potty training in 3 days method, but my husband seems to object to the child not wearing pants. I’m not sure why. We bought her some training pants, but they don’t seem to prevent mess. I guess it depends how much she pees. We got six in Potty Patty because they were the only company that had extra small. Then we got six in Green Sprouts even though their 18 month size starts at 24 pounds and Baby is not yet 20 pounds. The Green sprouts ones have a plastic liner on the inside, and she actually peed once today that I didn’t even realize she peed because her pants didn’t get wet. Every other time we’ve had puddles on the floor. I did the bare bottom method as much as possible in the morning when my husband wasn’t around, but one issue I have is that Baby wants to be outside every waking moment, and even I am not really comfortable taking her outside naked. I’m also finding it difficult to avoid social engagements. Anyway it is quite exhausting and tedious to do nothing other than watch your child to catch them if they start to pee and take them to the potty every 20 minutes. Hopefully we can get good results even if I’m not following it 100 percent.


The Secret Book

A couple months ago I got a book out of the library. I was looking for books about Islam. When I first became Muslim, the entire library system had hardly any books about Islam. Now there are over 1,000, but most of them are either the same kind of informational text: “There are five pillars of Islam…” or they are political: Why Muslims are our enemies. There’s not a lot there actually written for Muslims.

So I selected a promising title: Standing Alone in Mecca. The description said that it was about a woman going on hajj with her infant son. The first day I brought it home, my husband said, “From where did you get this book.” I said, “The library. I haven’t started reading it yet. Don’t know if it’s any good.”

My husband said (and I quote), “She’s one of those numb-nuts who thinks that men and women should pray together.” I placidly replied that maybe it wasn’t very good then, but secretly I wanted to read the book even more because I wanted to know what she had to say. I didn’t just want to hear my husband’s opinion on her. Besides, maybe she was just “guilty by association.”

So what happened was I hid the book and read it at night in secret, and, I have to say, that I feel in some way that this secret book reading proves some of her points. I mean, why should I feel the need to read a book in secret?

So far as it goes, it seems like she probably does believe that men and woman should pray together, and maybe she has done other things since the book was published, but what she actually fought for? That was sunnah, that was women’s basic rights. It’s hard to believe it’s even controversial.She argued for the right of woman to attend the masjids, use the main sanctuary, etc. She made a lot of comments about Wahhabis and salafis, but even people I know of who other people consider to be in those categories wouldn’t say otherwise. I listened to a lecture given by Dr. Bilal Philips, in which he explained that having a separate woman’s section in the masjid was contrary to sunnah (in fact a bida), and that the women had to be able to see the prayer. One of the local masjids has actually built their facilities without a separate prayer hall for women, and they reserve space in the masjid for woman. It is a newer building, so this was intentional. At the same time, there are other masjids that won’t even allow women because they don’t have a separate prayer room for them.

I’m not saying everyone has to agree, but I think judging people before you even listen to them is a dangerous thing. We need to listen more, not just be ready to fight our position.




Baking with Dextrose

So I went very enthusiastically into this low fructose diet, bought all the cookbooks and everything. Of course all the cookbooks are basically dessert cookbooks, as those are the main foods that would use a lot of sugar. Of course, I looked through them and was very eager to try out all the recipes, but I didn’t get a chance right away. I mean, especially I’m going on a low sugar diet, I’m not going to use it as an excuse to suddenly start eating more cakes and sweets!

So the first recipe I tried was the cinnamon tea cake. It was really lovely, one of those cakes that has sour cream in it, and the dominant flavor was the sour cream. The dextrose tastes just like regular sugar to me, so I might in the future even reduce the amount. In fact I think Gillespie is a little heavy on the dextrose. They claim it isn’t as sweet as regular sugar, so they use more.

It seems to me that if table sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose, that if you are using something that is all glucose, you should actually (from a health perspective) half the amount. I know they say the fructose is the bad stuff, but it still doesn’t seem like it would be a good idea to swamp your body with extraordinary amounts of pure glucose on a regular basis.

Actually, my body doesn’t seem to react well to it. I was a bit hungry, and I didn’t find these desserts so exceptionally filling as Gillespie claims either. I ate two slices. Not two exceptionally large slices, but still two slices.  Very shortly, perhaps within 15 minutes, I started feeling extremely sleepy and then rather crappy. I looked it up online. The best answer I could find is: orexin. Orexin is apparently a hormone that controls wakefulness, and it is shut off by high amounts of glucose in the blood, which suggests that perhaps that I am a bit insulin resistant. My sister thought it suggested more that I was giving my body more pure glucose than it was expecting.

Anyway, I was reluctant at first to eat more cake even though it tasted good because I didn’t want to feel bad, but after that I stuck to eating small slivers, and I was just fine.

The next recipes I tried were the rhubarb apple pie, and the rhubarb crumble ice cream. These were an absolutely perfect dessert. I usually choose chocolate chocolate chocolate everything, but give me more pies like that and I might change my mind. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. I halved the dextrose. I read the recipe and it told me to use 10 Granny Smith apples. I thought Granny Smith is very tart and you are pairing it with rhubarb? Then definitely you will have to use more dextrose. I chose to make a mixed apple rhubarb pie, which means that I just went down the bins at the local orchard and took one of each apple. In fact there were more varieties available, but I didn’t make it to all the bins. I was also skeptical about the 10 apples. That seemed like a lot for just one pie, so I only used 8, but I still had a lot of filling left. Apples must be really small in Australia. My reasoning with halving all the sugar in everything is that my family happens to like tart things like rhubarb and lemons to still taste tart. There are so many people who put so much sugar in their lemonade that it no longer tastes tart at all.

The desserts still tasted perfectly sweet to my guests and family, and I’m the only one doing this low sugar thing, so that tells you these recipes used way too much dextrose to begin with. I halved the amount of dextrose and no one could tell it wasn’t regular pie and ice cream (mind you of course you can make perfectly good sugar-free apple pie anyway).


Toddlers and Hijab

If you look that phrase up online, you find all kinds of things about people who are severely disturbed by the sight of a child wearing hijab. They think it sexualizes small children, etc.

I was thinking of buying my daughter a hijab. Certainly not because I think toddlers need to or even should wear hijab, but because she likes to play with mine, and I’m afraid she’ll trip on them. I also thought the weather had still been cold and maybe she could wear it sometimes instead of her hat or for dress-up, that kind of thing. I didn’t end up buying her a hijab. My husband and I found some small scarves for her to play with, and she does play with them, but she still takes the gauzy see- through ones from my three pieces and pulls those over her head and drags them all over the house, in imminent danger of tripping, so cute!

The other day, I was in the bathroom, and she took the long, wrist-length khimar that I use for salaat, and she had put it on perfectly, her face in the little hole and everything, never mind that it came down past her ankles. It was adorable!

So my take on toddlers in hijab is that children like to play dress up, and they like to imitate their parents, and what’s so wrong with that?

Not One of Those Bangladeshi Moms

Before Baby was born, I always swore that I was not going to be one of those Bangladeshi moms who was always chasing my children around with food in my hand trying to feed them. I had seen numerous Bangladeshi moms (and older sisters) trying to feed children, even as old as six from their hand while the child ran around playing. I thought to myself, children should sit while they are eating; it’s safer and a better habit.

Yeah. And now I’m one of those moms.

Cutting Sugar and Portion Size

Well so far, we are in day four of the cutting added fructose out of our diet, and I have to say that maybe I wasn’t chemically addicted to sugar after all. It seems that most of my attachment to it is social and associations of that sort. I am not experiencing any withdrawal symptoms. When asked in the Sweet Poison Quit Plan, to list habits related to sugar (especially daily ones) I couldn’t really think of any really definite ones. I like to have a snack with my tea in the evening after Baby goes to bed, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be sweet, in fact it probably usually isn’t. I like eating tea biscuits or toast biscuits, but I think actually more for the way they dissolve in the tea than any sweet taste (my solution was to replace them with crackers). I like sugar in coffee if the coffee is very strong, but not if it is not. And I put sugar in when I made chai (but I don’t do that that often), but I tried it the last two mornings without the sugar and liked it just fine( (On a totally unrelated tangent, I am looking for a more energy efficient way to make my chai that will still taste the same. Basically, I cut off a slice of ginger, give it a few good wacks with the meat tenderizer and throw it into my pot of water. Since I’m making it just for me I measure the water by filling 3/4 of the mug I plan to use. Once the water with the ginger is boiling, I add a scoop of my looseleaf Bangladeshi tea which looks more like coffee grounds than typical American looseleaf tea. Once the water has turned to a proper tea color I add a nice amount of milk (so the color looks good, maybe even a little light) and I reduce the heat a little. Then I leave it all simmering on the stove a good while. Altogether, it probably takes about 30 to 40 minutes for the tea to properly cook. Once I pour it into my mug (through a strainer) the liquid has reduced so much that it only gives me half a cup)).

I realized basically that I don’t really eat a lot of sugar. I feel like I eat more than I should, mostly because it’s just in the food, but I’m not eating or even wanting to eat sweets constantly like is being described in the book. Even as a child, I never cared to have sweets when I was very hungry. I then wanted real food. So sweets were basically a treat. I also don’t want them if I am very full (My mom says there’s always room for ice cream, but I disagree). I was never much of a snacker until I started breastfeeding, and even so I’m not eating sweets all the time because I’m breastfeeding and I’m trying to be healthy. My sister and I did notice people when we were in college used to snack like that, constantly buying candy bars and sweets out of the  vending machines, and my sister speculated that maybe that was why they were so fat because they didn’t even seem aware of their snacking. I don’t like soda. I stopped drinking it sometime around middle school (before that I drank it because it was the only option offered to me in many situations). The book described things starting to taste too sweet to you after you are off of sugar, and they already did. I didn’t care for regular candy bars or chocolates (hadn’t eaten them in years). I likewise didn’t eat flavored yogurts because they were too sweet. There are sweets that I like, but I mostly prefer my sweets less sweet, and I prefer homemade things where my sister and I reduce the sugar by a third to a half. I want to see the recipes and cookbook, and I’m excited about trying the powdered dextrose because I think I might actually like it more than regular sugar if it is less sweet. This isn’t to say I don’t like sweets. Sometimes I get a sweet tooth. I’m just a little particular about them.

Now, on to portion sizes. The book says that dried fruit is unhealthy. The reasoning seems to be that we would eat significantly more of it than we would of the equivalent fruit. I just don’t find that to be true, but the serving sizes suggest at least that other people do. Take prunes for example. I have never when snacking on prunes been tempted to eat more than 2 or 3 at most and that is a lot less than the serving size suggests.  I also would never eat a whole pack of raisins. I don’t think I would eat any more raisins than I would grapes.
This isn’t related to dried fruit, but I bought a bar of dark chocolate a little bit ago, and when I was reading the label it suggested that there were two servings in the package. I was a little shocked, who could eat half the bar in one sitting? To me there were at least 6 servings in the bar, maybe more.

Whether I was chemically addicted to fructose or not, I still think that I’m going to stick to this no sugar thing because I want to be healthier, and I want to be starting good habits with my daughter.

Less Sugar

A little less than two weeks ago I started reading A Year Without Sugar by Eve Schaub. Of course I found it inspiring. Basic premise: Sugar is Poison. Fructose is bad for you because your body can’t use it, and it goes directly to your liver where your liver turns it into fatty acids, which then enter your bloodstream and prevent your cells from accessing glucose, which they need for energy. Then of course the book tells the story of how the family goes a year without sugar. Now I’m reading Sweet Poison by David Gillespie, but I didn’t like that his website is by subscription. It just seems like all the no sugar promoting books  direct you to websites that you have to pay for, which makes me feel like the book is just to promote the website. Still I want to read all of his books and maybe even buy the cookbook, although maybe I should subscribe to the website. I just don’t like things that renew automatically either because I’m not living that high that I never have to watch the balance in my bank account.

Anyway, for awhile now I’ve been wanting to do my own low sugar (not necessarily no sugar) plan, but I keep falling back on it. I finally have to admit that maybe I am addicted to sugar (although I don’t like it nearly as much as most other people). I also noticed that I’m eating for emotional reasons. I associate certain things with socializing, snacks and coffee and such. So maybe I’m lonely, and my quick fix is a cup of coffee. I’m exaggerating a little. Then of course there is the emotional associations just with something special or exciting or childhood memories. Or even though I know this stuff is bad for me, there’s still kind of an association with it being wholesome because you can read about the light house keepers and loggers and farmers back in the day being served up slabs of cake and pie (not as dessert) as part or their meals.

I also realized today that other people are not helpful. They will parrot the information, talk about it, but they aren’t really interested in making the lifestyle changes themselves. Some people aren’t interested period. Like: Don’t even talk about it! But for example my dad last week brought us a package of Girl Scout cookies when he came to visit. I didn’t even open them, but I don’t quite know what to do with them. My aunt brought us cupcakes, and even though I don’t really like her cupcakes (they are box mix and I don’t feel well after eating them) I ended up eating one anyway, and Baby helped herself to one. This week my dad and his wife brought brownies (now who isn’t tempted by brownies?) Actually, I was most tempted when I saw those nice big pieces of walnuts in them (can I just pick the walnuts out, and will it count if they have just a little brownie stuck on them?). The thing is, my dad knows that I’m trying to eat less sugar, and he’s still bringing me these things. People don’t understand. I feel guilty to throw it out (plus it looks good), but if I keep it I’ll probably end up eating it, and how many exceptions can you make?


Toddlers Require A Lot of Time and Attention

The parenting veterans will tell you, once you get used to your baby’s schedule, that’s when they will suddenly up and change it on you. Prior to our trip to Bangladesh, Baby and I had a pretty good thing going. She  would go to bed relatively early, and I would drag out my sewing machine for a couple hours of work, pretty much every single evening. I was kind of looking forward to our trip to Bangladesh, so that I could have a bit of a vacation. But now I haven’t worked on my business  pretty much at all in over a month, and I don’t see that I will be resuming it in the foreseeable future.

At first I thought that Baby was just having a hard time adjusting to the time change from here to Bangladesh (that measly hour for daylight savings hardly signifies). But well, now she just doesn’t want to go to bed. Tonight for example, I spent two hours singing, rocking, bouncing, and nursing her. I assumed she was tired. She seemed cranky. It hardly matters. I don’t feel like I get anything accomplished pretty much the whole day while she’s awake. She pretty much spends her day plunking books in my lap for me to read (repeatedly) and screaming at me if I don’t start reading them immediately. My husband was awoken this afternoon by baby screams because I was trying to toast popped rice on the stove, and, well, babies and stoves don’t mix too well. I didn’t want to burn the popped rice while I was reading her a book, nor did I want to burn the baby, so well, there you go, screaming. I also take her out for playgroups and walks and visiting people pretty much every day just so she doesn’t drive me crazy, but I really don’t feel like I’m accomplishing anything. I suppose that’s motherhood.

I started the business up again in 2015 as a way that I could stay home with her. Unfortunately, I didn’t anticipate that being home with her would also mean that I would be her caretaker 24/7 and therefore not really be able to work. Although my husband was encouraging me to get a part time job since before Baby was born, a few days ago when I suggested doing so (because I thought perhaps she’s old enough to be away from me a bit and the baby-free time might be good for me too) he said, “I don’t think that would be a good idea. That would be chaos with Baby.” Tacit appreciation for my role as stay-at-home mom. It doesn’t look like staying home with her will be a problem, so I guess I just have to embrace my role as mother.

The Satisfaction Factor

I don’t like to say too much about it because there are people who so strongly disapprove, but it is probably obvious to at least some people due to the ingredients in some of my recipes that we are WIC recipients. I started receiving a food package during the late stages of my pregnancy due to a lot of encouragement from a social worker that helped get us medical insurance. My mom had been a WIC recipient after unexpectedly having twins, and the general consensus is that it is a help. I received a very generous food package as a breastfeeding mother up until my baby turned one. Starting at 6 months, Baby started receiving her own package. I happen to think there are a lot of politics involved in what they give you, and many of the foods are from highly subsidized industries. Far from us ripping off the government, I happen to think that someone is benefiting economically because they tend to push foods on you that you don’t even want (and what’s with that rule that you have to take everything on your check or you can’t get any of it?).

As a pregnant and breastfeeding mother, I received a lot of milk, way more than we could ever use, and if you tell them that, they offer you tofu and cheese and yogurt, but you still get way more milk than you can use. I was only allowed to get low fat 1% or less. A while before this, our family had made the switch back to whole milk after learning about how the body uses saturated fat to regulate blood sugar, how fat slows the sugar from entering the blood stream, how most of the nutrients in milk our fat soluble. I brought this up at my first WIC appointment even though I knew it was useless to argue with the policy, and beggars can’t be choosers and all (although I don’t personally believe that, I think that we all should have at least some right to exercise choices about our health and diet). I was told that the government recommends low fat milk even to diabetics because they are at higher risk for heart disease (which also ignores the more recent  evidence that sugar, not fat is the bigger cause of heart disease). I was then (as if I hadn’t just expressed concern about the sugar in the milk) told that if I didn’t like the taste I could add chocolate syrup to it. Apparently, they are trained to tell people that. Do you know how much sugar is in chocolate syrup? I think it is more than is recommended to have in a day.

Anyway, I don’t actually dislike the taste of lowfat milk. It just doesn’t do anything for me. And that’s a big thing the “doesn’t do anything for me” because I think a lot of health ideas and recommendations are ignoring the “satisfaction factor.”  My sister and I observed the phenomenon some years back that when people eat something they find disappointing in some way or simply doesn’t satisfy them, they eat more of it, not less (For example: Gee that pastry wasn’t very good. I think I’ll have a 2nd slice. Nope still not good. What about a donut? The donuts are worse than the pastry. How about chips? I don’t even like chips. Why did I eat those?).

When Baby turned one, I lost my food package and she started getting the milk instead (and yes the people at WIC know that she is still being breastfed, so presumably they realize that she isn’t really the one drinking the milk). Babies between the age of one and two receive whole milk. Once they turn two, they also have to get low fat. When I was a child, we weren’t even allowed low fat milk in Kindergarten. My how the times have changed.  She also has to get whole milk yogurt. I wanted whole milk yogurt for years and couldn’t find it in the grocery stores. Now they have to carry it because it is a WIC item (offering yogurt is relatively new). Out of all the many many yogurts available in the grocery store, there is exactly one brand and one type of whole milk yogurt. The first time I ate this whole milk yogurt, my reaction was “Wow! This is good!” The first time I ate Cheerios with the whole milk, I had the same reaction. Now I think that’s a healthy reaction to have to food, a lot better than “that didn’t really do anything for me.”



Resistance to Change

Shortly before our trip to Bangladesh, my husband suggested moving the wall mounted TV to another place on the wall, a couple of feet away. I was rather resistant to the idea. I couldn’t see the point or going through the trouble.

At least in terms of our surroundings, my husband really seems to embrace change for change’s sake. I think I’m one of those people who’s stuck in her ways. I find something that seems to work, and I pretty much stick to it. Once the furniture is set in a comfortable way, it doesn’t even really occur to me to move it. My husband, on the other hand, wants to move the furniture just about every month. I used to get anxious about this, but I’ve pretty much learned to go with the flow, after all, it’s not as if it’s going to stay that way.

When we arrived at our home in Bangladesh, my father-in-law had made some “improvements” to the house. To me they weren’t all necessarily improvements, but just accept the change. They installed another Western style toilet in our “Bangladeshi” bathroom. There was already one in the “master suite” because of my mother-in-law’s arthritis, but she never used the other bathroom, and I liked the squat style toilet. A western toilet in a Bangladeshi style bathroom doesn’t really feel that great to me, but this is because I don’t like to get wet. When you squat on a squat toilet, it doesn’t matter that the whole bathroom is wet from the shower. When you sit on a Western style toilet that is already wet because,… well, everything’s wet, you get wet.  The 2nd change was that they replaced plain white tiles in the kitchen with tiles that were made to look like bamboo and big pictures of fruit, and a sign over the door that said “Bismillah.” Ok. I can’t complain about bismillah, and whatever they like, it’s their house. They also replaced a stone railing with a metal one. The 3rd change, they built a balcony off the kitchen where the stairs used to go straight down to the garden. In a way I have to be grateful for this 3rd change because it made it safer for Baby as the door to the stairs could be closed to keep her away. But I had so many happy memories of sitting on those stairs, looking down at the garden! The balcony doesn’t have the same view, it doesn’t feel the same. Sitting in a chair there doesn’t feel the same as sitting in the kitchen doorway, with my legs down the stairs. At least 3 or 4 times during our stay, I walked around the corner of the kitchen and went to sit down  only to abruptly realize the stairs were no longer there. All the same, glad I didn’t have to worry about Baby on the stairs.

My parents have told a story about a woman who was so resistant to change she got upset when her son replaced a mattress that was so old that anyone who slept/sat on it ended up in a big lump in the middle. Part of me understands. When people make changes, sometimes they are for the better, but they are still changes, still not the place of your memories.

Family friends made many improvements to a summer cottage. It’s nice. I’m sure it’s more comfortable for them. But it isn’t really the same as the cottage I used to be invited to as a child.

When we returned from Bangladesh, I looked at my Baby, growing up on me. I thought she won’t be a baby forever. She won’t want my hugs and kisses and snuggles forever. Someday, far too soon for me, she’s going to be a grown woman, inshallah. And that’s what I want for her, and yet… I love her just as she is, and I’ll miss that.

I can’t hold onto the memories and the feelings. I think this resistance to change, this desire to preserve things as they are, to hold onto the past, is all an insecurity. Fear of losing the present happiness. Fear of change is fear of the unknown, ultimately fear of death because we cannot hold life still.