It’s Not About Productivity

I used to thrive on business and productivity. That Puritanical work ethic. The saying,”Idle hands are the devil’s plaything.” I love checking things off my to do lists. There were too many things I wanted to do, and not enough time in the day for doing them.

Then I saw a different way. In Bangladesh (there’s no other way to say it) life was slower. We weren’t busy all the time. And strangely I had more time. I was able to say more dua, say more prayers, read more Quran. And we had time just to sit, for no other purpose than to sit. When we returned to the States, I wanted to preserve that, to slow down my life because it’s easy to see that you can do more and feel more relaxed when life passes slower.

Then along came Baby, and everything changed again. Regardless of what I may hope to accomplish in a day, I spend most of my time walking Baby around, singing the same monotonous songs, trying to keep Baby happy and quiet so my husband can sleep. Some days I can’t even get the dishes done. I often have no time to work on anything of studying or writing until after Baby is to bed, and even then, I have no guarantees that she will not need me, that I won’t be called away to tend to her. Nothing measurable is being accomplished, certainly nothing I can check off a to do list.

I’m investing in this child, but she won’t be an accomplishment. I cannot mold her. All I can do is pour my love into her, and watch her blossom, inshallah, into whatever it is that she will be.


Learning How to Learn

I started taking this course on Coursera a ways back called “Learning How to Learn, ” and I got the recommended book for it out of the library:  A Mind for Numbers. I don’t really just use these things for my own learning. When I read these kinds of books and articles that are about how the brain works and how we learn, I try to use the information to make myself a better teacher. One thing that can kind of surprise me is how little many of our traditional teaching methods are based on how people really learn.There is a saying: Study smart, not hard. Shouldn’t we be teaching smart, not hard?

Some of the ideas I got out of the book so far are the difference between useful practice and overlearning. So overlearning can be useful in a couple of occasions such as when playing a musical instrument, but in general, according to the book there has not been shown to be a benefit to continuing to practice something in the first session after the concept is understood, but the concept should be revisited and practiced frequently. So how should this inform my teaching? It would seem that I should introduce the concept, go through the example or problem, then move on to something else. I should perhaps assign something from it for homework, so that students revisit it, but not an excessive amount, as quantity is not the thing here. Then definitely the concept should be frequently revisited and practiced in the following days.

There is also the idea that we learn better when our brains shift between different modes of thinking.This means short, frequent study sessions, rather than cramming.

This is not all new to me. I had already encountered some of these concepts in a book I read several years ago about introducing humor into our teaching. We remember the beginning and the end of things better, so breaks in the middle of class are actually important for learning, shifting gears, changing activities (if only my former principal was more on board with this type of teaching).

Sometimes, I think it’s too bad I’m not still teaching, and I wonder if I’ll have the opportunity to put these ideas into use. I’m not saying I am an excellent teacher, but I feel I have potential. I’m willing to improve my teaching and whenever I learn something new, I try to implement it.

A little bit ago, I thought about applying for substitute teaching just to keep my foot in the door, so to speak, but my husband looked at me and the baby and seemed to ask who would be watching her. I’m not saying he really disapproved, but I couldn’t really resolve that question to my own satisfaction.  I guess I just have to trust Allah in this matter, that He will guide me to the best path.

Baby Wearing

Before my baby was born, I was very interested in baby wearing. I researched all the different types of baby carriers and decided that I wanted a Bali Breeze baby wrap. I pictured myself doing everything with baby happily nestled in the wrap. It turned out much to my disappointment that my baby didn’t like being in the wrap. She would scream when I put her in and then immediately fall asleep, so we tried this about 5 times. It definitely took some strain off of my shoulders, but by now I’ve just gotten used to carrying her everywhere, and it seems a hassle to get a wrap out and put it on and put her in it.

My husband never approved. He didn’t understand why we couldn’t just carry her in our arms for everything. He didn’t think that normal people carried newborn babies in that way and that it couldn’t support her head enough. He didn’t think she liked it and wasn’t willing to try it out to see if she just needed to get used to it. He had a similar attitude to her using the potty: More on that another time.

Yes, I’m a Co-Sleeper

I don’t remember when exactly I first became aware of co-sleeping or when I had definitively made up my mind to do it. Before I had even married my husband, my sister, following her interest in midwifery, was sharing with me information about how the baby’s heart rate  and breathing regulate with the mother’s and no one else’s. She told me how the mother has a unique awareness of the baby that not even the father or any other caregiver has. She told me how the baby should be placed at the side of the mother and not between the parents as there were cases of fathers rolling over on babies but never mothers. Shortly after I went to Bangladesh for the first time, my sister-in-law had her 2nd baby. This is very different in Bangladesh than in the US. There is no special baby furniture or even diapers. People in Bangladesh raise babies without any of the special baby products that people here think they need. The baby breastfeeds and sleeps in the bed of the mother out of necessity. So when we thought we would be raising our children in Bangladesh, it of course, never occurred to me that I would not be co-sleeping. What other option would we have had? During my pregnancy, I became very convinced by the research around co-sleeping. I read books and articles by Dr. McKenna and Dr. Sears. I felt it was better, healthier, safer for my baby to be close and that it would facilitate breastfeeding. Shortly before Baby was born, we were living in my mom’s house with a full size bed. Needless to say that full size bed seemed like it might be a little small for 3. I also felt the social pressure to have a separate bed for Baby. I had made up my mind quite some time ago on side car crib, but we didn’t have room in the bedroom for a crib, so we ended up getting an Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper Bassinet. We never used this, at least not as a co-sleeper. Baby still uses it in the family room. We bought a Queen sized bed with the idea that we would all be able to use it, but we unfortunately ended up with a memory foam mattress (my husband wanted something firm, and it isn’t even firm) without realizing until after the fact that it was not ideal for a baby. The new mattress off-gassed something crazy the first couple of weeks while I was still pregnant, so I was going crazy filling the house with air purifying houseplants, and sleeping on the full sized bed in another room. When we brought Baby home she slept in the full size bed with me. I’ve still never slept on that new mattress. The Co-Sleeper bassinet looked so pretty and inviting next to the bed there. I tried laying Baby in it once, while I lay next to her, but she quickly rolled and squirmed her way across the bassinet until she had pressed herself firmly to the lip of the bassinet. Her little face was pressed right into the mattress essentially. I had read all these articles about how mattress off-gassing causes SIDS, so I was quite horrified to see that little face pressed up against the side of the mattress (looking for her Mommy), so I never tried to use it again. Anyway, it would have been hard to give up snuggling with my babe. I didn’t really understand what co-sleeping would be like when we first brought her home. I thought she would sleep on her side of the bed as an adult bed sharer would. My husband observed that if you sat her at a distance from you, she, even as a little newborn, would slowly wiggle until she had pressed herself firmly against you. She stretched out her little hands looking for us, and she almost always woke up within 10 minutes if she didn’t find an adult body to snuggle into. Within a couple nights of bringing her home, I was sleeping with her on my chest for most of the night. She would curl up into a little baby ball there. We continued like that for about 10 weeks, with her sleeping perhaps a third of the night snuggled against my side with her head cradled on my upper arm. After 10 weeks, we reversed that ratio. She seemed to like sleeping in her usual place on the bed right next to me, but towards the morning she would sleep on my chest after nursing. Abruptly around 4 months she started sleeping on her own and sprawling out. Now she hardly snuggles with Mommy at all. However she often sleeps the latter part of the night or early morning sprawled across my stomach after breastfeeding. I prop my arm up with her teddy bear, so that I can support her head better at breast level, and we often both fall asleep like that and pick up right where we left off.

On Softening the Heart

They will tell you it is hormones after your baby is born that affect your emotions. That hard shell that’s up all the time, keeping us from being touched by the world around us, that hardening of the heart, it slips a little. You are more vulnerable. You feel. Because you have the most precious thing, and you feel gratitude and fear.

When we brought her home from the hospital, I gazed into that beautiful, perfect face, and for the first time in my life I wept in awe and gratitude. I thanked Allah for this tiny, perfect being. I made dua for her protection. Oh Allah, give her every good. Oh Allah, don’t take her away from me.

I felt the pain and horror of things in the world that I didn’t let touch me before. Our Prophet (s) wept for Ibrahim. For the first time, I read this and felt more than just the lesson that it is okay to weep for the dead. I realized for the first time, that Allah has taken the most precious thing in the world from him, and look at his patience! Oh Allah, don’t try me like that. I don’t know if I could bear it.

I’ve never loved so much in my life. I didn’t know it was possible to love so much. Every other love I’ve felt was like an ant hill compared to this mountain. But we are supposed to love Allah and His Messenger (s) more, so don’t let me forget that. Allah gave me this precious baby, and he could take her away. But Oh, Allah, please don’t take her from me. Let her grow into your righteous servant.

I saw the stories of others who had lost their babies. I remembered my mother. I remembered a child I had loved who died of cancer. How, oh how, did her mother and grandparents, continue on?

A brother claims to hate Jews. He is offended by the atrocities he sees Israel committing. I say, judge as individuals. Not all Jews are Zionists anyway. I can’t stand all this talk of hate. Racism is racism in any form.

Somehow I’ve been reading all these books about the Holocaust, and the true horror of it has hit me as never before. They didn’t shy away from it then. They called it racism back then, but they believed in it. Oh, I know a lot of Muslims who are Holocaust deniers or they say, “Stop making a fuss, there are other bad things in the world.” But I’m telling you, there are many bad things, injustices, things that hurt to hear about, but there’s something about this that’s especially chilling. It’s not just the number of deaths, it’s not the deaths. For the first time, I felt physically ill. Somehow I managed not to feel it before. And as I read, I kiss my baby and think, those mothers loved their babies, as I love mine, and they could not protect them.

This brother, in a particularly offensive comment, says too bad that Hitler didn’t kill them all. I know he’s angry, but can’t he see that it’s hatred that got us there? Two wrongs don’t make a right. I have relatives who are Jewish, one of whom is a baby. The idea that that innocent, lovable baby should not live because of who her ancestors are, how can you justify it? They killed children; they did; systematically; intentionally. How could anyone love as I have loved and justify that? That’s true hardness of heart.

I heard a lecture last year about the sweetness of Iman. To taste the sweetness of iman we must do three things:

1. Love Allah and His Messenger.

2. Love all of humanity.

3. And hate to revert to disbelief and you would hate to be thrown into the fire.

It’s the middle one we are speaking of now. Love all of humanity. We need more love, not hatred. You can have iman, but your iman lacks sweetness without the love. You can hate the evil deeds. But love the humanity. How do you know whom Allah will guide and favor? How do you know where you will be in the end? Your guidance is not guaranteed. It could be that your hatred will lead you astray.

I’ll borrow an idea from my Christian background here. Forgive as you should like to be forgiven. Allah does not show Mercy on those who have no mercy in their hearts.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we tolerate oppression. But our motivation should be mercy and love. We want to help the suffering and give them justice. Our motivation shouldn’t be destruction and hatred. Intention is everything.

From what is good, comes good fruit. From evil, comes evil fruits. Look at the world around you. Yes, good and evil are mixed. But if people claim to stand for Islam, there should be goodness coming from them. If you see cruelty, oppression and hatred, and people are not safe from them, then beware. Because the fruits of goodness are goodness, and the fruits of evil are evil.

Already, my heart is not as soft. There’s something about this life that leaves you jaded. It’s only the remembrance of Allah that can truly soften our hearts.

Making Jams

The other day, I came across some wild black raspberries, and I picked about 3 cups worth. Yesterday I turned them into jam. When I was child, we would pick them and my grandmother would make jam for us. The first time I saw black raspberries for sale in the grocery store, I thought to myself Who buy those? My whole childhood, they were something you picked in your yard.

Today, I decided I wanted to make lemon curd. I had actually been thinking about it for a while. I made some last year, but the recipe I used told me to use a double boiler, and my mom’s happened to be made from aluminum (yuck!). So I was thinking to get a double boiler made from a better metal. I was looking it up online, seeing what I could maybe get at Walmart, and then yesterday, I just happened into a thrift shop and got one for $7.50. So today I bought some lemons, and made lemon curd. I didn’t remember from last time though, so I didn’t cook it to a high enough temperature then worried it would not thicken properly, so I took it and reheated it after adding the butter. Still seems to come out good. That was the stuff I hadn’t put in jars, the stuff I put in jars looks like it really cooked. One of the jars didn’t seal and I found a nice eggy piece at the top.

Next step is to go to the farm to pick strawberries and get some sour cherries. We don’t actually use very much jam, though, so I suppose I’ll have to be giving most of this away. It is fun though.

Getting My 8-A-Day

Sometimes it can be hard to get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, especially say when you are living with and dependent on someone else. But this Ramadan, it has been easy to get my recommended 8-a-day. Even though I’m eating less overall, I’m eating more fruits and veggies.

Last night for example, I broke my fast with a date, a peach, banana milk (a whole banana), 2 chunks of watermelon, and salad of cucumber, tomato, and cilantro. I then had lentils cooked with asparagus, onion, and green peas. And a little later I had chick peas cooked with onion and tomato. For suhoor, I had more of the lentils. Now that’s probably how I should eat every day.