Learning, searching, healing, growing

There are so many reasons I haven’t posted in almost a year. The main one being, I was really wrapped up in studying. The centre I was attending was quite serious, and I really enjoyed it at first. I passed 4 levels, each one 6 weeks with a lot of hard work and some tears. I really did learn a lot, about Arabic of course, among other things. I struggled with the early mornings, and 3 young children with a serious work load. When I reached the fourth level though, I really began to struggle. I changed many things, determined to continue, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. Before Ramadan, I gave in, realizing this pace was burning me out and took a time out. I didn’t want to give up, but I still felt after all this I wasn’t able to express myself easily in the language, or easily read Arabic texts. This, combined with my exhaustion at the pace required, forced me to decide to change centres after Eid, to find more balance, continue to study, but at a place which will better equip its students with tabeer, that is, more language, and less rules and grammar.

Another thing, to be honest, is that I have been under construction myself, in a manner of speaking, and every time I opened a page to write, I immediately shut it down again, thinking I shouldn’t write that in public, or that I simply didn’t want to open up to anyone. I’ve really closed myself off to people, as I’ve been struggling so deeply, and couldn’t find the support I thought I needed. I still find myself in that place, I guess but there are other issues which have compelled me to write again.

When I used to write and document my journey as a new wife, muhajirah, and muslimah struggling to make my way in this crazy city and life, coping with a strange culture and infertility, I found great strength and clarity in the writing process. I forced myself to see the positive side of things and not complain endlessly.. to find joy in the journey, so to speak. It helped me through difficult times, and also opened up the possibility for others to ask advice or support.

One thing that has been a dark shadow in my experiences is this disease I have called hashimoto’s thyroiditis. My body isn’t recognizing the thyroid as a part of me, and attacks it. After time, you require synthetic thyroid hormone to stabilize your symptoms and the vast majority of doctors will end their treatment there. They look at your numbers and adjust your dose but they never address the autoimmune condition. I have had this for over 15 years, and been relatively stable on medication but since before my youngest was born I cannot seem to get it under control. When I increase the meds, its too much. When I decrease it, it is not enough. I am fluctuating between hyper and hypo thyroid symptoms like a bloody yo yo. In this time, I started reading about what it actually means to have an autoimmune condition and a huge bell went off, let me tell you. I began to really understand – through facebook support groups and holistic health sites – so many things I have been feeling for the past decade. Mainly, the aches and pains, sensitivity to temperature, easily fatigued, muscle cramps and irritability or depressive and anxiety episodes. Anyhow, I still haven’t found a doctor who can really help other than increase or decrease the medicine according to my lab results, but the awareness has brought some ease as I no longer push myself to do more than I am capable and I allow myself – in fact, I push myself to be more easy going in all areas. For example, in studying, this means I cannot cope with a lot of extra stress.  So, I mold my life around routines and stability. I force myself to eat well, sleep early, and just let go of things I cannot control. It is not easy, but it is important to my ability to cope. There is so much more, but I suppose we will see how it unfolds and I find my way through it.

The last thing I wanted to mention was that I have also been struggling with what I once called a ” high needs child,” and have been avoiding seeking  a diagnosis if he may actually be a “special needs child”. Not because of shame, but because he is developmentally and intellectually normal as far as I can tell, and yet there are some red flags in his behavior that resemble more than someone with high needs. Secondly, because I believe psychological assessment is highly subjective, and that no matter what psychologists try to say, at the end of the day it is experience.and opinions that guide them to a certain diagnosis. I myself have been labelled with various things as a young adult, and it wasn’t clear really what was wrong with me. And yet, 75 per cent of what I used to feel has all but disappeared today. So that, combined with a bachelors in psychology have me a little wary of other so-called professional opinions. And yet, his behaviors have pushed me to a point where I wouldn’t mind some professional opinions that might aid us in seeking paths for our son that are beneficial to his future development. I’d like some input basically, even though I am never convinced of the diagnosis I feel it can still offer some insight I guess.  Perhaps, just an experience to add to our experiences that may or may not help. It is strange, I do believe that psychology is very important but I dislike very much what modern doctors and medicine has done to it. Very little in psychology is scientific I guess… most of it is personal, subjective and experimental. I do believe that things like autism and schizophrenia are real. But there is just so much that isn’t in your head, that can’t be measured and is treated with ineffective and dangerous drugs. And that is in the developed countries so one can only imagine how it is in the Middle East or Africa! 

But alas, I will try. I always try. Especially for my son, who very clearly is suffering and I would like some support from somewhere and pray I’m guided to some insight and support for his sake.

And these very personal issues are what I have been occupied with, but have come to a point where I no longer can stay up in my own mind and thoughts. I’m not sure if my experience can help anyone else… but I do believe it can help give me some clarity and peace of mind as well.

Until next time friends. Peace.

Study study study

So when you are feeling overwhelmed and bogged down what is a girl to do? Why go back to school and add more responsibilities of course!

Actually there are many things which led to my decision to go back to studying. The first thing of course was the children. They were losing the little they had gained in Nigeria. I also felt overwhelmed with the day to day grind and no break (ever) from the children. And when I had a break I didn’t know what to do with myself. Then a group I’m on had constant conversation about Arabic centres or places of study. And one thing led to another and I decided to try to find an Islamic centre for the kids. There are very few by the way and no matter how difficult things get I cannot send my kids to school. They learn so much better at home and I am very against the stressful system of studying (while being forced to socialize with often inappropriate people and incorrect methods) especially that which is prevalent here in the Middle East. So no. I also feel the kids are too young for a full time Quran school (of which there are few suitable anyway) and as we live in the Boonies of Cairo basically, it is also highly problematic to find suitable teachers to come and tutor in the home. I am not that comfortable teaching Quran and Arabic  (although I could and have but feel they would benefit from other teachers and role models)… so I was left with one possibility that seemed suitable. The old (really really difficult but religious) centre I had attended now offers a hadonna at a really small price. My first priority is them and when I thought  about it I realized how disappointed I feel when I consider all the language and memorization I have lost since having my little family. The centre also offers a baby room mashaa Allah. In fact I am now wondering why other centres don’t offer such things for students subhanAllah! What a superb idea to offer an Islamic environment or madrassah for children so that basically all the kiddies can study when mom studies! Orrrr  if mom just wants a break she can take her kids to a religious environment for a few hours…. why not!? They offer part time or full time and I HOPE and pray it works out for them because it is only a few hours a day but seems like a GREAT opportunity.

At first I was like…. how in the world am I going to study ? But subhanAllah I just couldn’t send them on their own, I felt so excited about the idea of us all going together even though I had no idea how I personally would manage… did I mention HOW DIIFFICULT the centre is?? But I prayed about it and went for the entrance exam. I was quite disappointed that 75 per cent actually put me back in the beginning class as I had issues with pronouns, numbers and sentence structure LOL! But after some thought I thought  alhumdullah I can really ease into it this way and perfect what I have already learned so inshaa Allah I won’t forget anymore. So here we are.

That is the other thing I am trying to change to make my life a little less complicated. Accepting less than perfect especially in myself. If I study I may not be able to keep things so organized and that’s okay! I may also fail my classes and that’s fine too. The goal is not to achieve high grades but simply to understand and grow! If it takes repeating the classes than so be it!

So.. inshaa Allah I am ready and hope this new perspective will take us to new heights. All of us inshaa Allah. My eldest is even excited to learn the local dialect so I really hope we find something that is suitable for him as well.

Return to studies

The thing about my twins is that we need to be on a schedule and they need to be on task. If I leave the room for any amount of time to do anything then fighting ensues. I don’t know if it is the age (please tell me yes!) Or the fact that there are two of them but it always feels impossible to have free time or let then “just play”. Of course they play, but every single activity needs proper supervision I feel and 90% of the day I am basically a referee. Now if you add in a sickness or my son needing to wear an eyepatch to “exercise” his eye, well, beware. Almost always chaos and drama. It is exhausting and hard to maintain patience 24/7 for real. This is why homeschooling works at their young age. However momma does feel at times that she is drowning which is why we tried the hadonna (daycare.) We found one suitable (clean and caring about the kids, not beating them for example). However they watched too much tv (please if I wanted the tv to babysit I could do that) and a lot more table work then I preferred. I wanted my son to PLAY but it seems that does not exist here. So …. off to find another solution.

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This photo was taken at 630 am. Yep. My kids wake up verrrry early and always have. They love playdoh… but ya. Fight over every thing. Who has the bigger piece who has the red one or the blue one blah blah blah.

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It was quite hot for a month or two but we did manage a few days outside to ride bikes and color with sidewalk chalk. My daughter loves all kinds of creative projects. My son, not so much. So it is nice to divide and Conquer sometimes.

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This is our homeschool room. Since putting my son into daycare I decided I will not study with them at the same time. I just can’t take the competition and arguments. One can do a useful activity and the other studies for 20 min and then switch. I hope one day it will get better but truth is they are so different and at different levels anyway so it may work better this way.

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Sigh. Arabic. It has been so hard to get any help.in this regard. They were learning so much in Nigeria and I wanted to keep up but there is only so much they can do and I can do with them. I don’t want to push them at this age, merely make it something fun and entertaining. We had a teacher that kept delaying and then not showing up and I decided we needed to find a proper program. I’ve decided we will all go for classes part time. The old arabic school I attended now has a baby room and children’s classes in the same facility and I’m really excited to try. The kids are at such an influential age I do not want to miss this chance to make arabic an easy second language and for Quran to be second nature to them.

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My daughter loves when I color with her and do puzzles. She amazes me at her skills. Perhaps it is normal but I feel she is advanced for her age Allahu alim. I’m proud and blessed to have all my kids. I can’t even believe I now have my 4 children in this house. 5 years ago I remember how often I felt childless and empty. It is really a dream come true to be where I am now mashaa allah. I always tell people about my story because Allah only knows the future and what is best in all regards. Never give up hope. Never.

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We will continue to homeschool and take lessons part time outside as well. The kids are currently also taking swim lessons. It is busy and crazy and about to get more so! But that is how we roll.

Until next time. …

Making it work

One of the biggest struggles for me is trying to have patience in dealing with the twins. My son especially is a handful and at times I’ve wondered if he is normal because I’ve never seen such an emotional child before. Even when he was a baby he cried almost all the time. It wasn’t until I read an article by Dr Sears on high needs children that I began to see that he was probably “normal” and that it was ME who needed to adapt to his needs, emotions and behaviors. At least once a week I lose my patience with him and I tell my husband I’m tired, I don’t know what to do or how to help him or myself.  Many days I feel in over my head because of his outbursts OR the fighting between the twins. I have known for a long time that I need to separate them but I haven’t been successful in this at all. Both of then are always competing and vying for my attention and affection then having a melt down when I’m trying to mediate. The difficulty with my son is that he is just so much louder and dramatic. He also gets anxious, likes order and routine and to know what to expect at all times. It’s simply exhausting.  We have tried hiring help but it also isn’t that successful. I’m reminded over and over again that I am the ONLY one capable of finding the solution for them and implementing it. I’ve tried “letting go” and it is almost always a disaster. The madrassah was some benefit but my son was lost in the chaos there and again I was reminded that he needs someone special to guide him and keep him interested and focused. My daughter did well there but picked up a few bad behaviors we are still trying to eliminate. Any time I hand over the reins to others, I feel in the end it is ME who needs to do the effort and work which in some ways is exhausting because I am educated enough to do so but being the mother, would really appreciate some help and support. I have even tried changing diet and many other things to help him feel relaxed but I truly haven’t seen any difference until recently when I had enough and put him in the nursery

Keep in mind I am aware the problem isn’t him exactly; If he were a singleton then I believe he might be a handful sure, but not a difficulty as it is now. The issue is unique in that he is an emotional and sensitive child coupled with being a twin. His sister is always annoying him and he is 3 and half so hasn’t really been able to respond appropriately to such annoyances. I am alone a lot and dealing with this while I am also tired from having a baby and breastfeeding and well – being a human. So it has been so very hard to accomplish what I dream of with my kiddies and since we arrived here in Cairo I feel like we are all drowning in drama. Putting him in the daycare was the last thing I wanted to do, but I cried and prayed a lot and it had to be at least tried. And subhanAllah we found one which seems somehow appropriate. At least they have the CCTV so I feel connected to him. The main thing is to have some stimulation and a chance to interact with others and maybe pick up some aameyah. Also it gives me a chance to work with his sister and do all the cooking and chores that need doing that I haven’t been able to do easily before because of all the stress. The children also have swimming 3 times a week and once that ends we will look into another active sport for after Asr time. I’ve recently also implemented a Quran class on the days there isn’t swimming since the teacher we were waiting for didn’t work out. Again, another reminder that I am fully capable and the best one to teach them; I really have tried so many options and always it comes back down to me. As much as it seems I’m being controlling I have tried other options numerous times and Allah always shows me it is unsuitable. But for now I feel we are making it work. I feel we are 75 per cent there…. which is a heck of a lot more than before. I still have to tweak the schedule to add in one on one time for my boy. But he is happier and so am I. It is not permanent but who knows… I’m all about finding the right answers from month to month or season to season. I have seen how much my kiddies are growing and learning and it isn’t perfect but then, parenting never is. I do think we are doing what’s right for us for right now and that is all that counts.

Until next time…

A new journey

SubhanAllah life and change can happen quickly. It is hard to believe it has been 2 months since I updated this blog.  Some days I wonder why I bother and who am I really writing for? But when I read over things to remind me it really is a nice feeling to help understand the path I am on. What’s truly amazing is what I wrote in my last post regarding the time I left Canada and then years later when I revisited my son with the children and felt this overwhelming sadness for the first time at being so divided….

I pushed him to come visit us even for a week. I told him one week was better than nothing because we dont know what will happen anyway.  So he did come for a week and stayed just the week but what blew me away was that days before travelling he asked me “so what kind of work is there for a foreigner?” Needless to say I was absolutely shocked he was considering it. We used to try to convince him to come here, but he seemed dead set against it so I never pushed him and sometimes I wondered how in the world we would have a closer relationship. I feel so tied down now with the small children as it isn’t easy to get anywhere or do anything !

And here I am, in Cairo, a place I truly feel is home. I don’t know the how or why and although I love my birth country for its many beauties, and enjoy my travels and reunions, it doesn’t feel like home. I am even surprised by how little I think about or miss our time and conveniences in Nigeria. And now, finally, after more than 10 years feeling separated from my eldest, he is coming home. I am sure it is not what either of us expected, and yet he has decided on his own to join us here. SubhanAllah this is another great miracle that after many tears and prayers, and finally just simple acceptance at what was beyond my control; Allah has ordained that my son would inshaa Allah be with me again.

Friends, let me remind you there was a time when I was struggling between the paths set out before me. There was a time when I felt my son was lost to me and even having more children was an impossibility. And now inshaa Allah, I will have FOUR children under my roof. What is that, if not a miracle?

I can testify that Allah is most assuredly the All Hearer and All Seerer. And when I felt lost and my child was lost, I asked HIM to be his guardian and guide him. And inshaa Allah this new journey will be beautiful and complicated and wonderful and messy and crowded and simply fantastic inshaa allah… I can’t wait!

Until next time….

Looking back

When I decided almost 10 years ago to sell all my stuff and buy a ticket to Dubai, I was ready for adventure. I wasn’t worried, just extremely excited to finally GET OUT. To see the world, to really DO SOMETHING. I was ready to learn and grow and be a part of something ELSE for a while. My 11 year old son at the time had just adjusted to life with his father a couple hours away, and being really alone for the first time made me feel… lonely. Working 3 jobs I loved, meeting new people, being free all the time was too much. I decided I needed to ROAM. So I left Canada, and never really looked back. I felt such a strong pull and sense of purpose, and was at peace with it. I had my son when I was 16, and this, I believe was my chance to finally grow up. Find out who I was in this world, outside of the rat race. I wasn’t scared, even though this really was a risky adventure, leaving everything I was comfortable with, and entering a world that was so unknown. But that’s what I wanted. Needed. Different.

10 years later, I’ve never felt sad leaving a place. Doing things different. I don’t look back. I just move. Except one time last year in Canada. That was the first time I got onto a plane with my two small children, and it took all my energy not to cry in front of them when we left my eldest in Toronto. I started to feel more and more disconnected. My grown son and my babies and the baby inside. I wanted them all. I wanted to be here and there. I didn’t want to go. But go I had to.

There are many issues for us here in Nigeria. I feel like I am always battling unknown illnesses. We stay inside a lot because the weather is always very hot and uncomfortable for me. Plus there is very few places to go. Not even a REAL mall, just plazas really. When you do shopping you have to trek all over… bread from one shop, dairy from another, meat yet another and the market for fruits and veggies. All entertainment is generally inappropriate for us.. a few times we will go to a pool or sports club but it is very expensive. So, we found ourselves inside a lot. The kids went to an Islamic school but again very costly and not always good. My boy isn’t a group learner it seems. He didn’t seem to pick up as much as he learned bad words in Hausa. Khair inshaa allah…

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This is a park at the Hilton hotel. One of my favorite places I found about 6 mths ago. But, it’s still not easy to get out with the 3 kids to be honest. Always drama🙂 hot and tired and harmattan season was harsh this year.

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This is the beautiful view from our flat. I believe we have one of the best flats in all of Abuja. This will be the HARDEST part to leave, except maybe for the rainy season as well. And the two combined… divine. I loved sitting by the window with the rain pounding outside and thunder cracking that makes you jump out of your seat.

From the photo you can see the dusty smog we get to inhale all harmattan (winter season). It gave me severe allergies this year and layers of dust entered thru my closed doors every morning, I’m not even sure how! It lasts months without rain or blue sky and sometimes severe dry heat. I will not miss THAT. Unfortunately the rainy season is delayed this year and I’m afraid we won’t get any rain before leaving in 2 weeks!

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One of my greatest (almost missed) discoveries here in Nigeria. Eating pure coconuts! And local made coconut oil. I always thought it was too hard to open or eat so I didn’t try it till a couple of weeks ago.

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Pure raw shea butter straight from the source (almost). I love putting all natural things in or on my body now. I feel like I’m treating and protecting a valuable asset rather than seeing it deteriorate with harmful chemicals.

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A more clear view from my balcony. So mesmerizingly beautiful subhanAllah. Really really gorgeous. It was such a blessing to inhale this view daily for the past year and half. Even with the dust!

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I am in awe of the strength these women have. Mashaa Allah. But I love that women keep their children close and that natural birth and breastfeeding are highly promoted here. I love finding my inner African. There are many aspects of the culture I highly respect and cherish.

Is that shea butter she is carrying?!?!?!

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Another great treasure here is the Ankara batik fabric. It’s generally cheap and colorful and very useful. I could kick myself for not exploring it earlier. I was also shy to enter the market and to buy things “Nigerian”. But once I got past my initial awkwardness when I wanted to purchase material for a sling for my baby girl, I immediately became addicted to the various patterns and styles. Then I found a tailor and I was hopeless. I’ve had a couple skirts made and the work is impeccable. I love Nigerian fashion. I’m not a fan of wearing all this stuff out in public of course, many women dress like they are going to a party all the time. But flipping through pages and pages of Nigerian designs, I will definitely miss that too.

I am trying to be brave and accept Allah’s decree. There are many benefits to returning to Egypt. And there are many reasons we are better off leaving Nigeria as well. But it does have a pull of some kind. A magic, a mystery. It is a beautiful place I would love to have explored more (if it were safe) and it is very hard to leave. I hate to admit it, as I generally love change and adventure. But I will be looking back at our time in Nigeria. I will be feeling sadness when the plane takes off for the final time. There is a part of me that will definitely miss it, and our magical adventure here as a family, a new mother, a girl, becoming who she was meant to be…

Until next time. …