Monday, October 31, 2011

Hell-o-ween

I tried my best to explain to the kids why we should not celebrate Halloween. Last year, I was caught off guard when Medina's kindy celebrated Halloween. My girl saw it as a harmless celebration where kids got loads of candies and she got to wear fairy costume. Somehow, along the way of me trying to explain to her about hell fire she figured out hell fire = hell-o-ween. Since then halloween is hell-o-ween in my house. This year, her kindy didn't celebrate. So yippeeeee ;)

Tonight, as she was watching the TV, all the cartoon shows revolve around halloween. Despite her trying to tell me that she got the point...yes ummi, we don't celebrate hell-o-ween, coz it's all about the momoks...the shaitan...the papa shaitan, the mama shaitan, and don't forget all the brother and sister shaitan ummi...all those spooky shows get her spooky creative juice flowing. So she started drawing. Non stop.
Complete with her official sign off
Then another one
 With a more spookier sign off
Another spooky drawing.
With a very creative sign off. I love this one most. Ahakssss...don't u think her sign off is so spookily cute?? hahahaha...yeah...I am bias :)
The Picasso in her can't stop. Still drawing.

And the last one. Last because I managed to convince her to stop...before I run out of A4 paper for printing...hahaha
 Eventually the sign off get spookier than the drawing.....ahaksss ;)
Are u spooked yet?? ;)

Inspiring the teenager

If u have a teenager in the house, once in a while u will silently wish they are a baby again. Sweet and cuddly and pleasing mommy and daddy is their ultimate motivation. And u will realize all those tantrums from the toddlers are nothing compared to the teenager's mood swing and arrays of complex unthinkable issues you need to face. And you will wish their rooms has no door so there is no door to be banged during tiffs and u know what's going on.

Raising a teenager is a new territory for me. I have one in the house. And another one on the way. And it hasn't been easy.

But I have learned a few things.
#1. It takes more than Mr O and me to raise them well. It takes a village to raise a child.
#2. Whether they are teenager or baby or toddler, the kids need to know the parent IS the BOSS. Not the other way round. It's easy to fall into this trap especially when we try our very best to fulfill their every need.

Luqman is a good boy. Smart and talented. Has a great potential BUT he needs to put more effort. I hear this often. Again and again. From his teachers, and people that work with him. But that's partly where the problem lies. It makes him very complacent. Coz he knows he has enough to get away with it most of the time. Which naturally drives the over analyzing mommy nuts. I used to go bananas thinking what will inspire him. How to inspire him. When will he be inspired. What does it take to push him out of the comfort zone....blablablabla....
Okay...so now u know why I have more white hairs than Mr O....hahahaha

But I also know he is not an isolated case. It's probably one of the down side of growing up as a privileged city kids. I came across this article in The Star yesterday which articulates some of my worries. Luckily the dude found what ticks him. What if he doesn't?

Recently I have learned a new thing.
#3. Wait and be patient. Sometimes you need to let nature take it's own course. So breatheeeee ummi...;P

Last week he reluctantly agreed to sacrifice his Deepavali Holiday and go to the YAWA camping trip in Pulau Banding. Given choice, he would rather laze around at home and sleep ;)

YAWA (Yayasan Anak Warisan Alam) is an NGO who work closely with the youth to save the environment. The biggest fan for this kind of stuffs is Hajar. Emily just tag along. Luqman has no choice not to tag along. The kids have been to a few of YAWA's events. But last week's camping is meant for bigger kids, 15-17yo. But YAWA was very kind to invite Luqman too. Since it only cost me $50 for a 3days 2night adventure, I happily said yes on behalf of him...sorry, can't resist :)

We picked him up yesterday. The fact that he cannot stop talking about the trip tells me he had a blast. They stayed in a "tree house" (that's what he called the chalet) next to a waterfall. Hajar was green with envy listening to the big brother raving about the trip. Poor girl ;)
Wake up time was 6 am and waterfall water is freezing cold. Which means he definitely skipped the morning bath.
Some of the photos on the activities they did throughout the trip. Lots of trekking. Lots of education on biodiversity. Luqman loves the trekking part, hates the lectures part. Can't have everything right? :)
The highlight of the trip for him...got bitten by a leech. So jakun kan??? He went on and on about it ;)
Tok Ayah getting himself updated with the grand son adventure during dinner. I was listening to Luqman struggling to talk in Malay to update the grandparents about the trip. This was the first time I heard him really enjoying the trip. Usually he will be so indifferent. "No comment". Okay"lah". "So So only lah". "I don't know". With a very blank poker face ;P
So I guess the $50 trip was really worth it. He gave me a bear hug for sending him to the trip :)

If u are interested, the next trip organized by YAWA is on 21st-23rd November. Check it out on their FB page.
I love sending the kids to YAWA trips. It toughen up the kids. Besides, the staffs are very helpful, committed and passionate. The kind of youth I want to connect my kids to. The cost is reasonable too. Honestly I don't know how all these trips are going to exactly inspire my kids. But I am taking my chances. Hopefully, 10,20 years down the road, we will be able to connect the dot. On how all these experiences make them a great person. Hopefully.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Story of a girl

One Saturday morning, she drew the picture. And told me the story. "Ummi, do u see the golden flower?"
ME:  "Yes"
HER; "It's not just any golden flower u know.."
ME; "Hmm..OK. So what is it?"
HER; "It's a special flower ummi. You can only see it in heaven"
ME; "Ooohhh.."
HER; "So do u know what u need to do to see the flower?
ME; "Err..??
HER; You need to be good ummi. Then u can go to heaven. And Allah will let u see the special golden flower"
ME: OK ;-)

From time to time I will have similar spiritual conversation with her. On where's god. Where's Allah? Why can't I see Allah? Allah is here, and everywhere. Watching u all the time. Why can't I see Allah? Not yet. Coz only good people can see Allah. So u have to be good and strive for heaven. Then u can see Allah. Only the best people can see Allah.

Today after the rain, there were so many "kelkatu" flying in the house. And she found one on the floor. And accidentally squashed the poor bug. So she came to me with a sad face.
HER; "Ummi, do u think this bug will go to heaven?'
Of course ummi said yes ;)
HER; "Okayyyy...bye2 buggy" (with a happier face)

I love how she relates spirituality with happenings around her. I had no idea how much she really understand it. And how much she means what she says. But to see my 4yo keep on reminding herself about god and life and death and heaven is heavenly enough for me ;)

She has grown up. Her confidence has increased so much. Which was so obvious during her year end concert few weeks ago.I have finally managed to upload all her performances. SIGHH :P

This is her 1st performance. The Pearly Shell Dance. She was so reluctant to put on the revealing costume. "I look like a dork" She only relented once she saw her friends in the same costume. But the fact that my 4yo was making fuss of the revealing costume made me a very proud momma ;)
Her 2nd performance was the play. Zelda the Zebra. Personally, this was my favorite. She was Zelda. And the unofficial co-director too ;) Teacher Annie was full of praise for her. She not only memorized her lines. She memorized her friends' lines too. And she would diligently correct Teacher Annie whenever she missed any part during practise.
Her last performance was impersonating Saloma. She had no idea who Saloma was....hahahahaha. And the fact that she cannot speak in BM and had no idea what the lyrics mean made the whole thing more hilarious. The only thing that excite her was the big flower hair clip she got to wear. But the kids were such a good sport. They were hilarious impersonating MJ, Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Bruce Lee...kudos to all the teachers who worked so hard with the kids ;)

Last year she was very timid and shy and took a long time to warm up to strangers. In fact, a tad too long. She spend her whole 1 year in the kindergarten in mute mode. The teachers could hardly hear her talking. And she would pretend stupid in front of her teachers. Pretending to read the alphabet when she's already reading fluently at home. And she seldom talk about what happen in school. Which makes me & Mr O really wonder whether those hefty kindy fees are worth it.

This year she just bloom. Like a butterfly. And the teachers are full of praise for her. And she will continue writing her life story. A great story insyaAllah. And I will keep reminding her the great stories she has written. One day, when life is hard on her, and her friends say mean things to her, and she think she is not up to the mark, she ain't worth it, I will show her all these videos, and remind her all the great stories. Great stories of a great girl. Rock the world baby!! ;)


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Connecting the dot between art and spirituality

I love art. And anything creative. Not to say I am so artsy fartsy and talented. But I just love the freedom of expression. However, the boundless possibilities of how u can express your thoughts and ideas can be troubling to me. Like nudity. Or anything sexual. Or woman as the central object of art. Or violence. Which probably make one argues that those limitations will then defeat the purpose of art in the first place. Oh well, if life has no limitation, no boundary, wouldn't that put us at par with the animals? No??

So I was very excited to listen to Peter Gould talking about spirituality and art yesterday. How do you connect the dot. Very relevant. To me. And the kids too.
To avoid the bad traffic on Friday night, we went to Central Market early. I love this place. Tourists tend to agree with me too :)
Since it was still early, kids spent some time wandering around while waiting for Maghrib.
 And we watched the sunset from Dataran Merdeka. The kids literally had the whole field for themselves. There were not many people around. Suprisingly on Friday night. But I had not been to Dataran Merdeka for more than 20 years. And the weather was good. So it was pretty nice to chill out.
And enjoyed some pretty awesome sight. Aaahhhh...don't u just love life small pleasures?? ;)
The event started at 8pm in Annexe Gallery, Central Market. Annexe Gallery provides a platform and space for contemporary art. From time to time, there are interesting events lined up for everybody. 
Last night, it was another full house event by Young Muslims Project. Kudos guys ;)
The 2 artists. Daniel Zain is the founder of Young Muslim Project. He is a photographer. Peter Gould is an Australian graphic designer. A Muslim revert.
Some of the creative artworks by Peter Gould. He shared how he connects the dot between spirituality and art. By making a difference. Using art to open up hearts and minds. And staying relevant.
One of the projects he's involved in. The development of myQuran app for I-pad.
I found the talk really inspiring. And enlightening. I hope it inspired the kids too. Especially Luqman. There are lots of great advice. Ways to use art to inspire people and spread the message. In whatever form. Comic, graphic design, painting, branding, music etc etc etc.

They shared how they stick to their principle in their course of work. Which is not easy especially when you first started. As a struggling artist, it takes lots of faith to stick to your principle. One closed door will lead to opening of another door. Usually a BIGGER door. If u believe all the rezeki comes from the Almighty.

Kiddos are at the stage where they start to explore and dabble into bits of everything. Comic, doodles, anime, music, graphic, fashion, craft, game design etc etc. Most of the time it's just random meaningless bits and pieces. And fleeting interest. But I hope over time, those interest and works will grow into something serious and meaningful.

In one of the lectures by Imam Suhaib Webb, I had the privilege to ask him a question. From his experience, and from the history of Rasulullah saw inspiring the youngsters and transforming them into great people, what can I do to inspire a teenager? His answer was it takes a village to inspire young people. Invest to be in the fabric of community. An institution that is relevant to the young people is crucial. And surround them with a community that can supports their interest. Whatever their interest is. Which is why I believe organization like YMP & YAWA are so important in developing the youth. He also believes it's important to create a culture that support young Muslim psychologically. Something that gives value to them and make them feel valued.

One of the mistakes in handling teenagers is we tend to incubate them instead of preparing them. Sometimes we entrusted the wrong person to handle them. And sometimes there's a mismatch in expectation. We try to fit a size 12 on a size 9 feet.

But Imam Suhaib did mention, if we have done all the above, and they are still not inspired, maybe it's just not time yet. Inspiration is acquired. It will come over time. He joked...u had no idea how hard it is to be a teenager. God knows how much stuffs are going in their mind. Well, I guess pretty a LOT. Especially my dearest Luqman ;)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Death

Today, Mr O's uncle, Dato' Wan Mansor Dato' Wan Abdullah, fondly called Nana by all of us, passed away. He was 77 years old.

My late mother in law has a big family. There were 16 of them. Nana was the eldest. The only thing that make it easier for u to recognize them (if u are an outsider or just got into the family) is they all look almost the same. The "Siamese Chinese" look. So u will most likely able to identify who's who ;)

I was not close to him. In my 15 years in the family, there were few nods, few smiles and few words exchanged between us. But most of the time when I saw him in family events, I always see him as a very sweet, jovial, calm person. Which probably explain why he look years younger than his actual age. He has this charismatic presence that command respect and yet very approachable. I hardly knew him too. I was told he was the secretary to the late Tunku Abdul Rahman. My late mother in law spoke very highly of her siblings. Especially the older siblings. So the bits and pieces that I knew were mostly from my conversation with my late mother in law.

So it was very ironic to me when I found myself getting very emotional when Mr O told me the news this morning. I was very overwhelmed with emotion. I cannot help noticing there were many people praying for him in the mosque. At least few hundreds. The funeral was very smooth. And despite the hot scorching sun during the burial, I can feel the cool breeze blowing throughout the burial. I believe these are signs. Signs that he was a good man. Rest in peace Nana. May Allah bless your soul and put you in jannah. You will be greatly missed. Al-fatihah.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Imam Suhaib Webb is in town.

The only thing that stand between my kids and a trip to US is me. My SIL stays in Santa Clara, California and we are the only people in the family who have not been there. And kids have been bugging me and Mr O for ages. I have a long list of petty excuses why we shouldn't. The long trip, the immigration hassle, the jet lag, my hesitation to entertain my kid's fascination with everything American......not to mention it will cost me a bomb to bring the whole clan there.....bla bla bla....the list goes on and on.

But the real truth is I am just not a fan. The only thing that excites me about Santa Clara is Imam Suhaib Webb is based there. Since it will make me sound like a dork telling my kids this, so I do what I do best. Diversion. And brainwashing....hahaha...but seriously, kids should stop idolizing everything American. Not everything is bad. But not everything is good either. And probably there are more bad than good. The grass always look greener on the other side of the world kiddos....they call it optical illusion ;P

Anyway, last night I finally managed to listen to the man "live" for the first time. Imam Suhaib Webb is in town. So I dragged the whole family to KGPA. And I am so glad I did.
Did u see the man standing up? Well, the room was so packed with people that there were people sitting on the stage, sitting in between the chairs, at every corner, and many more who were outside the room and couldn't get in. I was told, this is common. For his lecture. Oh well, maybe next time the organizer need to find a stadium?? ;) But kudos to Young Muslim Project (YMP) for organizing the lecture.

One of the things that I like most about YMP events is the diverse crowd that they are able to attract. I remember a lady who attended one of the lecture organized by YMP few months back. She must have come straight from work. And she was sitting right in front of me. Wearing a tight "Herve Leger bandage top look alike", a mini skirt, a designer handbag, and a 5" stilettos. Definitely not the typical people u see in a religious talk. To me, that is the real da'wah. For YMP to be able to reach people from different backgrounds is a commendable feat. You can check out their FB page for more info and updates on events.

Last night lecture, ISW was talking about Akhirah Deficit Disorder.
The first thing that he talked about is the "soul food" pyramid. Remember the food pyramid? We were told that the biggest portion at the bottom of the pyramid are the stuffs that we should eat most daily to keep our body healthy. Right? So he emphasized the need for us to put "Quran tafseer" at the bottom of our soul food pyramid. Tafseer goes beyond explanation. We should seek meaning. Making it relevant to our life. From contemporary scholars. Who understand your culture. He believes strongly that it's very important to seek meaning and understanding of the Quran from contemporary scholars than classical scholars. 

Only 2-5% of the Quran are about "nas". Undisputable rules. Crystal clear regulations. Definite meaning. Stuffs like prayer, haj, fasting etc. The rest of the Quran needs interpretation. And Quran is made to be relevant till the end of time. Hence u can't rely on an interpretation from a classical scholars who lives in different environment with different culture at different time thinking it will be relevant to us now. He also discussed the inability of Islamic scholars to convey relevant message being one of the fundamental reason leading to the widespread ADD phenomena nowadays. Learn Islam from scholars that empower u to live FOR Islam. NOT die for it. Which I couldn't agree more. There were so many times I listened to lectures and wonder whether the "scholars" live in a different time period. They can sound so detached and outdated that it makes u wonder no more why most people that attend the lecture are the oldies. Not the young ones who are the targeted audience.

He also discussed the difference between the means and the objectives. Means to an end. Means are the resources that we have. eg. marriage, kids, wealth etc etc. Objective is your goal. The end. Nothing in this world is a pure objective. Our ultimate objective should be success in the here after.  Just in case u might wonder why some people are filthy rich, and some are not (although they work as hard), different people has different means to achieve their objective. Which explains why some people have good life and some don't. Some people has bigger means. Some people has smaller means. Means can be a boon (blessing) or a bane (curse or istidraj). It really depends on how u react to it. Irrespective of the means, the only thing that matters is whether we ultimately achieve the objective of achieving success in the here after. And he discussed the tafseer of Al-Lail to elaborate the matter. 

In verse 7, humans are told if they strive their utmost towards Allah, that He will provide every help and satisfaction to a “state of ease” (li-l-yusrā). He cautioned us, in reality it's going to be hard. If it's hard keep your eyes on the ultimate prize. In his American street lingo, he joked; the verse means, if we work hard to attain success in akhirah, Allah promises us " I got your back" ;-)

This cute pic taken from here :)
So where do we start?
1. Start with baby steps. Slowly but surely. Everybody has their own demon. Their own sin. Work it.
2. Surround yourself with good friends.
Islam is to inspire us to be inspirational. That is the reason kids need to go to school. The reason we need to do our job. The most influential American Muslim is Muhammad Ali. Simply because he's inspirational. Rasulullah saw was so successful because he's inspirational. ISW was hilarious when he chided the conspiration theory. He doesn't believe in any of the theories. The Jews, Illuminatis, Americans etc etc etc...whatever theories out there thinking somebody is out there to sabotage the Muslims. Muslim is always the victim. Well, u r what u think. So wonder no more why we are so behind. His challenge is "Look at the state of our self". Muslim is weak because of their own doing. NOT somebody's else. So stop the paranoia and work on ourselves to inspire others. In whatever capacities that we can. He actually reminds me to the similar paranoia...the "Malay" paranoia :(
3. Attend study circle. At least once a week. Not just from the internet, youtube or our own reading.
4. Be good to your parents.
He shared his personal story with his mother who is a non Muslim. In his early days as a Muslim, he was struggling memorizing the Quran. And when he related this to his teacher the syeikh response to him was "How have u been treating your mother?" This perplexed him but he started putting some efforts. Buy flowers. Do house chores. Make his momma happy. And gradually his memorization got better. And better. 
It tickles me coz Luqman is struggling with the same issues at the moment. He keeps forgetting all the surah. So dude, start being nice to me. Make me happy ;) ahaksssss...
5. Be good to people in general. If u don't, your knowledge is useless. It will put u away from jannah.

I definitely did not capture everything. Bits and pieces. Ms Medina was not on her best behaviour last night. It was late, plus she got annoyed when the audience kept laughing to the Imam's jokes and she didn't get the jokes. But Luq & Hajar were raving about ISW, and that pleased me greatly. And we met some familiar faces. Some of the cuzzies were there too. So we had a good time last night ;)









Monday, October 3, 2011

38

I turned 38 yesterday. Woke up with a headache and feeling slightly feverish & "flu"ish...good excuse to continue curling under my blanket and sleep the whole day. How I wish lah kaaannnn ?? ;)

This morning Ustaz Zahazan was talking about true love on telly. True everlasting love is love to the Creator. How ironic. I was thinking about it quite a lot lately. At 38, I have heard many stories from friends, and friend of friends, of woman being betrayed by their husband for another woman. I have concluded that middle aged men who have established themselves tend to have "mid life crisis" IF they have very little faith. Life become stagnant and boring and too routine. Then they will start acting like a dickhead trying to challenge themselves. It can be a sweet young bimbo, or just a plain another woman who is more refreshing to their eyes, or a new hobby, or whatever....

Don't get me wrong. I love Mr O to bits. (He probably cringe reading this in public...wakakakaka). But I also strongly feel a woman should define herself as a servant of God. Not by your husband, or your job, or your handbag, or your car, or your circle of friends, or your address, or your kids' academic achievements. I will never know how strong I am to detach myself from all these superficial temporary attachments but thankfully at 38, I am slowly becoming more comfortable with myself. I honestly don't give a hoot of what people says nowadays. And I make it a point to brainwash my kids everyday on how important it is to be themselves, and to ensure everything u do is for Allah first. Then everything else will fall in place..

Anyway I had a good day. Went to Lai Po Heen for lunch. Catching up with brothers.

This is one of the few non western food places where kiddos enjoy the food.

Then we headed to Klang for tea. Still stuffed with lunch and yet we continue stuffing ourselves with tea. As always, the happiest girl blowing the candles is not the birthday girl.

Beautiful sunset at our condo. Thank u Allah for another 
blessed day. (Though the real truth is I was testing my Lumix...hahahaha)
I made cupcakes for Emily to celebrate her birthday today with her classmates. She requested a violin cake. But today will probably be a long day for me in the lab. And the fridge is still full with left over cakes from yesterday. And I am not feeling too good today. The fever + the flu + the lack of sleep (Medina had terrible nightmares last night)....so the cuppies will be sufficient for her for the moment.  I might make the violin cake much later. If it ever materialize ;)

Thank u friends and families for the well wishes. I do hope I live for many more years. I have a long list of things I want to do.

Memorize the Quran. Learn Arabic. Mandarin. French. Spanish. Play the guitar. Learn diving (okay...maybe learn swimming first...hahaha). Open a boutique cafe. Travel the world. Morocco. Spain. Europe. Go back to Tasmania. Perform Haj. Write a children book. Picture Book. Paint. Finish my PhD (though I will probably be the only person on earth who do a phd and still want to continue be a housewife). Volunteer. Batik. Work with kids and youth. Stop thinking about money by the time I'm 50. A  beach house. Meet Brad Pitt...ooopsss....wakakakaka :D

Okayyyy....well...I am a dreamer...and a late bloomer. So u never knows. Have a good week ;)