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This is the time to remember
Cause it will not last forever.
These are the days to hold onto
Cause we won’t although we’ll want to.

Once again the kids are with grandma, and I am sitting in my living room waiting for three different security companies to come by for their appointments.  The house is quiet.  And I can think, unlike most of the time when I write.

I was fully prepared to write about an episode that happened yesterday with my kids, when something else caught my eye.. (and made me think about my old friend Billy :))

http://imjustwalkin.com/

There’s a man who quit his job and has started walking across the country.  Nuts right?  I thought so, and wasn’t even going to spend too much time thinking about it.. But the more I read, the more something about what he was doing really appealed to me.

For those who don’t know me, a couple of years ago my husband and I worked as expats (Expatriots – Americans living abroad) in Pakistan.  Whenever anyone asked me what I miss most about living overseas, I usually give the same answer:  life is just slower there.  I miss that.  A LOT.  When you go outside the US it’s like life slows down and everyone has time to ‘smell the roses’.  Sometimes, in our high-speed internet filled, drive thru world, where gratification is instant, we don’t really have time to process.  We’re just rushing to the next, forgetting about the present.

THAT’s what stuck out to me about this guy.  It’s almost like he found the ONLY way to ‘check out’ in America.  The only way to slow down.  The only way to smell the roses.  He decided to just start walking.  And it was the walking that appealed to me.  It’s slow.  You can look around and notice things.  You can talk to people.  (…is this all just because I feel guilty about not keeping up with my walking?)

When I look at his picture and see the cart he pushed, it’s like a reminder to me of just how little we really need in this world.  The Prophet (peace be upon him) told Abdullah ibn Umar, “Live in this world as though you are a stranger or a wayfarer.

Anyways, this is just something to think about on this Friday as we recite surah Kahf, a surah that always reminds me of the past, and of the future, and somehow helps me put the present into focus.

“Whoever recites Surah al Kahf will have a light emanating from himself to the House of Allah (Subhanahu wata’ala).” This means that you will be receiving Divine Guidance and will see what others cannot because Allah will show it to you [Taken from notes from Shaikh AbdulBary Yahya’s class, Echoes of a Cave].

I think I’m going to spend more time figuring out how to ‘slow life down’ and enjoy my kids more.  Enjoy life more.

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Get ready ladies…this is going to be one of those posts that you will want to forward to your husbands, your friends’ husbands, your husbands’ friends, your married male cousins, your brothers, maybe even your dads or your sons…(did I miss anyone there??)

Usually when we talk about what a guy can do to help improve his marriage, we focus on how he can meet his wife’s emotional needs.  And while I can’t say enough about this important aspect of marriage (and trust me it’s a topic I’ll be bringing up in abundance 😉 Insha’Allah), a recent study makes mention of another important need a man should fulfill:  his responsibilities at home.

It seems that there’s a new study that proves that the more a husband is doing at home with respect to chores, helping with the kids or shopping, the less likely it is that his marriage will end in divorce.  In fact, the numbers in this study are staggering.  (That’s all I will say about the specifics in this article.  If you want details you’re just going to have to read it for yourself HERE.  And trust me ladies, the details are pretty juicy).

So what does this tell us?  That when we hear stories of our Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa salam) helping out around the house it’s not just because he was ‘nice’.  Men who play a significant role in the running of the home aren’t just ‘helping out from time to time’ because they are being ‘nice’.  There is something much more significant going on.  They are taking on a fundamental role in the house and because of that role, as the article stated, they are ‘stabilizing’ their household.  It is an important role that will literally serve as a root in their family tree.

So for all the men out there who think their job is just to ‘bring home the bacon’ while the woman’s job is to ‘fry it up’, they might want to take another look at exactly how that bacon’s getting fried – ’cause if they don’t learn how to fry it up now to help out their wife, they might have to fry it up alone later because there’s no wife left to do it for him!

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This story has been all over the news the past couple of days.  Although I, personally, don’t have my kids in childcare, I have thought about it from time to time, whenever I let the idea of going back to work linger in my mind.  The study basically shows how ‘quality’ child care at a very young age is linked with ‘smarter teens’.

Hmmm….so what difference does this make to those of us whose kids aren’t in child care?

I started thinking about my own feelings about child care.. In my mind, it didn’t matter what this study showed.  Kids are always better off with me right?  I mean, I’m their mom.  It doesn’t matter what this study ‘proved’….I KNOW my kids are better off with me…

Or are they?

If we think back 1400 years ago (give or take), wasn’t there another human being who was also in ‘child care’ who grew up to become the most amazing human being that was ever created?  Actually, he (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) didn’t even have child care, it was more like boarding school….until the age of FOUR!  Can we even imagine such a thing?!

I’m not saying that there are not benefits to time spent with mothers…I’m simply saying that perhaps, before we pass judgment or form our own opinions, we open our minds a little more and reflect….

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A friend recently posted an article on Facebook that was just too cool for me to not pass along.  It is included below in its entirety.  It really makes me stop and look at my own expectations for my kids.

I remember once Muhammad AlShareef taught a tafseer class in Houston and the issue of memorizing Qur’an came up, for us, as well as for kids.  He was kind of baffled as to why we all didn’t set our intentions on memorizing the WHOLE qur’an.  Why did we limit our ability by setting our expectation lower?  If I tell myself I’m just going to memorize the last juz, chances are I might do that, or probably less, but most likely not more than that.  Whereas if I tell myself I want to memorize the WHOLE qur’an, I might not, but most likely I will memorize more than the 30th juz.  Why set ourselves up for less?

I sometimes hear myself and other moms saying, “It’s so good masha’Allah that she does such and such with her kids, but I can’t do that.  I’m ok with my kids learning this later and only doing this much.  I JUST WANT TO LET MY KIDS BE KIDS.”  (Actually this is the nicer version…more likely we hear, “OMG did you see what she’s doing with her kids?  She needs to chill out and relax.  Her poor kids!”)

But whose to say that having high expectations is depriving our children of their childhood.  As long as our expectations are ‘realistic’ and in tuned with the developmental level of their age group, why NOT shoot for the stars?

I say that I want to raise extraordinary kids, but sometimes I wonder if I’m putting my own fatigue ahead of my children’s ‘great expectations’.  Am I limiting their potential because “mommy was tired”?

http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2010/05/biology_student_becomes_fifth.html

Biology student becomes fifth sibling to graduate from the University of Michigan-Flint as a Maize and Blue scholar

By Beata Mostafavi | Flint Journal

May 01, 2010, 4:00PM

grads.jpg

Ryan Garza| The Flint Journal

Rana Al-Dabagh (left), of Flushing, is the fifth sibling from the same family to receive a Maize and Blue Award from the University of Michigan Flint that is given out every commencement as the highest undergraduate degree at college to the 12 top students. Her four other siblings (center to right) Bishr, Ola, Safa and Amir received the award in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009.

CLAYTON TOWNSHIP, Michigan — It’s not easy being the youngest in the Al-Dabagh family.

Not when academic excellence is tradition.

So when Rana Al-Dabagh was named a recipient of the University of Michigan-Flint’s highest undergraduate award this year, her reaction wasn’t a typical one.

“I was relieved,” said Rana, 20, a biology and Spanish honors student who graduates this year with a 3.98 GPA. “I didn’t want to be the one who broke the streak.”

That’s because she’s the fifth in the chain of four older siblings who all received the prestigious Maize and Blue Distinguished Scholar Award before her at commencements in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009.

And today, it’s Rana’s turn.

“It’s almost like tradition,” she said with a smile, lounging on a couch by her two sisters and two brothers at her Clayton Township home a couple of days before walking the stage in her cap and gown.

“It’s the culmination of all of your hard work in school and service to the community that supported you.”

Only 13 graduates are selected for the competitive Maize and Blue honor every commencement, which is based on grades, nomination letters and resumes.

Scholars represent the university’s creme de le creme. They are the highest achievers. They’ve somehow bettered the community. And they will hopefully go out into the world with accomplishments that earn the college bragging rights.

And the Al-Dabagh family’s awardees Rana, Ola, 25 Amir, 21, Safa, 23 and Bishr, 25 are living up to the honor.

Together they’ve donated almost 9,000 hours of community service, three of them attended medical school and there is just one ‘B’ in their whole family’s college career.

“It is very unusual to have five Maize and Blue scholars from the same family because there are so few of them,” said Maureen Thum, UM-Flint’s honors program director. “I don’t think we’ve ever had that happen in the history of the UM-Flint.”

“All of them have a very strong dedication to education, dedication to their goals and have a strong work ethic. They all take initiative and don’t wait for things to happen to them. They represent and stand for the Maize and Blue values.”

But each one’s achievements — from medical school to teaching to student leadership — shine on its own, Thum said.

“It’s a family that feels service is a lifelong commitment,” she said. “They’re five very different people even though they share these wonderful goals.”

Over their family’s favorite snacks of meat pies and baklava, the five siblings — who were born in Middle Eastern countries Iraq, Jordan and Yemen —spent a recent afternoon joking about the pressures of keeping up with each other’s achievements.

Humbly, they all repeatedly credit their two greatest influences  — parents Ahmad and Samar.

The Syrian-born couple, both of whom were physicians in the Middle East, worked hard to get to where they are.

After moving to Chicago for better opportunities in 1991, their mom gave up her medical career to raise her five children. And while completing his hospital residency here, their father worked as a grocery store cashier to help pay bills before starting his own local practice in internal medicine.

“They sacrificed a lot for us,” Rana said. “They didn’t preach or put pressure on us but they had great work ethic. They were role models.”

And their competitive edge could be a little genetic.

Father Ahmad Al-Dabagh apparently made Syrian history when he became the first ninth grader in the country to get 100 percent marks on a rigorous standardized test before entering high school.

It’s one of his children’s favorite stories.

“They debated it and re-graded it several times because they couldn’t fathom someone could get a perfect score on that test. It’s a really hard test,” said Safa, a 2007 UM-Flint graduate “It made national news.”

“Even at a young age, they always made us value education,” she added. “Not just doing it, but excelling at it.”

And they’re meeting expectations.

Eldest Bishr, who is completing his residency at an Ohio hospital after earning a full ride scholarship at Case Western Reserve University School in Cleveland, once traveled to Alaska to study obesity and diabetes in native populations.

Amir, now attending Case Western and who graduated from UM-Flint with a 4.0 GPA in 2009 stood out after an off campus study with a Harvard University professor.

Safa attended the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and Rana is headed to UM’s school of dentistry in Ann Arbor.

Ola — who is teased as “the black sheep” for her non-science path — spent several years teaching in different schools.

But when it comes to the family’s reputation as serial Maize and Blue scholars, the four youngest siblings blame the first in line.

If only Bishr hadn’t set the bar so high, they joke.

“I didn’t even know what it was,” the doctor hopeful said of first getting nominated in 2005 when he was also the student commencement speaker. “When I got it, I realized it was a big deal. It’s a big honor.

“I knew they all would get it too,” he added of his younger sisters and brother. “They all worked hard and got good grades.”

Bishr, who majored in molecular biology and communication, has also become one of UM-Flint’s favorite poster children. His face and story still sometimes appears on UM-Flint advertisements.

His siblings can still remember when former Chancellor Juan Mestas introduced Bishr at commencement five years ago.

Mestas recognized him for all of his activties, from soccer club captain to student government president, but quipped of his 3.97 GPA that he was disappointed and “where’s the other .03?”

“I think you always look up to the oldest,” Rana said, noting that the tight-knit family never competed with each other.

Mother Samar cited an Arabic proverb whose literal translation is “the crooked line is from the biggest bull” — meaning if the front bull strays in the fields all others attached must follow.

Luckily “Bishr was a nerd,” and very studious Samar said as her children laughed.

“We struggled in the beginning,” she added of moving to the United States. “They didn’t know their ABC’s when we came.

“This (success) is from God. We are so happy that they are all getting what they want.”

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http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/05/05/new.york.bomb.suspect/?hpt=T2

Like many of you I’ve been watching for days as this story of the foiled Times Square bomber unfolded.  Up until now I think I’ve kind of gotten immune to this sort of thing.  It goes without saying that we abhor things like this and it’s just shameful that these horrific acts are connected with Muslims.  But the fact of the matter is my mind was usually preoccupied with what this meant for me and ‘my own’.

A few days ago all I kept telling my husband how sad it is that this is the world our kids will grow up in; one where the “enemy” looks like them, talks like them, etc.  This “home-grown” twist makes me think first of my kids, who have not yet built up all the defenses they will need to stand up straight in a world so quick to judge them.  When I was growing up, people didn’t know what the heck I was.  I remember half my childhood was spent hearing “Pakistan?!  Where’s that?” to which I would quickly reply, “Oh it’s right next to India.”  Not knowing what to think of me is surely better than thinking something negative, right?

But today these thoughts are the furthest from my mind, and for the first time I’ve really begun to think, “what is going ON with our community??”  This guy, Shahzad Faisal, seemed just like us.  He was a thirty year old Pakistani guy with American citizenship, married with two kids.  He just bought a house in the suburbs.  Um…sounds familiar.  It’s like something clicked today.  I ‘snapped out of it’.  And I’m just appalled.  How can a MUSLIM do these things?  It’s one thing to think of “Muslims” out there who are really ‘out there’ doing these things.  But how can people who seem to get their knowledge from the places we get knowledge…how can THEY get to this point?

It’s like Umar Farouk Abdul Muttallab, the guy who tried to create an explosion on his Christmas day flight.  He attended Ilm Summit.  He sat with my shayookh.  How in the world did he think that what he was doing was ok?  It doesn’t make any sense to me.  May Allah save me and all of the Muslims from straying from the Straight Path.  Ameen.

I am reminding myself that this is our test.  That Allah doesn’t give us more than we can bear.   And that we bring this upon ourselves.  What are we doing to remedy this problem?  I never even thought about that, or felt a need for it before.  I mean, its like common sense right?  But apparently, not anymore.  If we want Islam to spread and flourish we’re going to have to actively fight against these atrocious acts.

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An article came out today on Yahoo about the negative effects kids watching too much tv at the age of 2.  http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/watchingtvatage2linkedtoahostofproblemsat10

Here’s just a glimpse at what it said:

The average time spent watching TV at 29 months was 8.82 hours per week, or about 1.2 hours per day. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 watch no TV, and children over age 2 watch no more than 2 hours per day).

Every extra hour beyond average was associated with:

  • A 10-percent increase in likelihood of being picked on by classmates
  • A 13-percent decrease in physical activity on weekends
  • A 9-percent increase in soft drink consumption
  • A 5-percent increase in body mass index (a ratio of a person’s height and weight that is considered to be an indicator of body fat percentage).

In our house, our daily ‘tv time’ has long been a guilty pleasure.  But maybe now I won’t have so much guilt! Don’t get me wrong, my kids don’t exactly spend hours in front of the tv.  At this point they really only manage to sit through about 30 minutes of Sesame Street and about another 30 minutes of YouTube videos (which is basically like television in my book).  But according to the American Academy of Pediatrics that’s well below the recommended maximum of 2 hours daily.  So why do I have to feel so guilty all the time?

The biggest concern, it seems, is that television viewing is a ‘passive intellectual and physical activity’.  I wonder if its enough that we talk about what they’re watching, and whenever they see characters dancing they get up and jump around?

You have to wonder, though, is this really such a big deal?  If my kids started watching 2 hours a day, is it really inevitable that they would turn into these lazy, overweight kids that were constantly picked on?  I’m not so convinced about that.

Anyways, it was good food for thought…

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