Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What I learn from 'our Bali retreat (just the two of us!)'.

It was the first time for both of us to leave the kids at home and had a quick retreat. It wasn't an easy decision (at my part) but we believe it's a good idea for us to have a quick getaway and share good quality time together .

And so, after 7 years of marriage, 3 kids and a PhD (and another one to go, insha Allah) <-- (sounds like the script in the Amazing Race finale!!! Hahah), we booked our tix and hotels, left the kids with my ever so wonderful parents, and took a plane to BALI!!

Well, I won't bother telling the details of our travel itinerary =p - but I'll gladly share the things we've learned from the quick getaway.

  • Getaways can help to refresh and revive relationships. It is like breathing fresh air into them, re-energizing them with greater intimacy and deeper love.This might sound kinky, but hey, as we're so absorbed in our responsibilities and roles at work and home, we could forget how we began as a unit. As vacation is time to devote ourselves to rest and relax from work or study, it's the best time to devote our quality time for each other! (Parents with small children without a helper will know that vacation with kids is not really a totally relaxing time, though it's important and special, too).
  • The Bali retreat allow us to focus on each other, share memorable life experiences together, and simply have fun, with no interference from work or home. It focused on what we love to do together - we simply shared the moment! (However, during one of my phone call home, I confessed that I cried after talking to the children!! It was a big distraction leaving the kids for the first time, but hey, it's only for 2 days!)
  • A couple's vacation is when you REALLY spend your quality time together. Hence it's important for both of you to talk about your relationship: where it had been, how did you go through the rough times, how do you plan to make it better - for yourselves and for the kids. When you communicate earnestly and discussed openly with your spouse, your objectives will be clearer and you'll work towards the same goals - and this will make you closer and happier with each other. And automatically, the kids will benefit from the healthy and loving relationship, too, insha Allah!
  • Taking a vacation is the healthy thing to do! It's healthy for your mind, body and relationship. A getaway is like hitting the reset button (after saving all the important files!). Taking a retreat, vacating my mind off my research (just for the shortest period of time =D), improved my motivation and concentration! I don't want to risk myself into serious burnout. (And the vacation was a 'present' for myself for completing my CoS report successfully!)
  • The retreat should be well within your budget. Hence, (budget and detail trip) planning is essential. Since we are the frequent flyer of AirAsia, we managed to grab the RM20 tickets to Bali, and booked the hotel through - and alhamdulillah, we managed to grab great bargains from both!
  • It's super fun going out on a halal date with your husband! Trust me!
Kuta Beach, Bali.

I hope that I don't have to wait another 7 years and 3 more kids for the next vacation!! A present for another PhD in the house would be nice... (hint.. hint...)

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. 
~Mignon McLaughlin

Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. By this I mean a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company.  ~John Gottman

A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers. 
~Ruth Bell Graham

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What I learn from 'a writer's mental block'.

A poem for myself (and other postgrads who are in the same boat). 
Please ignore the desperate monologue I'm having with myself, it's has not been an easy day...

'Untangle the mess with zikrullah'

Why and How must I write?
a (heavy) mental note.

Please do not wait till the last minute to write. 
Read, review, write, edit & rewrite.
A viscous cycle that I need to fight!
Unfortunately, what matters are the output part,
your dissertation, where you have to cite, cite and cite!
Oh and yes, academically you have to write,
a format that is hard to like.
So, hang on tight!

Write up, then leave it for a bit.
After a week, reread.
then, edit. 
Use this link.
Cut it, paste it.
Of course, I'm not teaching you how to cheat! 
It's only super cool phrases to help you critique.
And surely, your SV's heart will skip a beat,
for he has got his treat!

 Be responsible. 
Don't put yourself in a jumble,
by making your references unavailable.
Be systematic and manageable.

That's right!
So, let's write!!
and rewrite!

(Naahhhh... thanks but no thanks! =p 
Not for today, anyway... 
had enough dosage of you for the day. 
The kids are inviting me to play, 
they deserve my time, too, don't they?)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What I learn from 'hubster's Pinarello'

Last February, my husband announced discretely that he's planning to buy a new toy. Knowing his half (hidden) smile and 'I'm-not-going-to-show-that-I'm-excited' look, I knew that it's going to be his dream Pinarello that he's been talking about for ages - even when we were in Australia!
Alwani and Yusuf with Abi's new toy.

He has been discussing this with me and sharing his thoughts throughout this process - thinking out-loud and hoping for some other 'logical explanations' to support his purchase. It covered a range of topics to consider - the budget (hey, it's the same price of 2005 Kelisa!), the optimisation of the usage (at least 3 times weekly), the practicality (oversea purchase), the cycling schedule (to fit our family timetable) and many other related matters in regards to this rare purchase. 

One of the most important thing that I learned from the process is to be an attentive listenerIf we can patiently listen to others, they will appreciate our concern and attention (especially if the one who talks is your husband). Listening to others shows that we are interested in them as a person. and what they are talking about. When we talk we try to influence others, when we listen we appreciate others; it is important to get the right balance. To me, in this specific scenario, I learned to talk less, and listen more.

Another important trait that I learned was to hinder negative thoughts. Our mind gets drawn to the negativity of a judgment (i.e. why doesn't he buy a gold bracelet for me using that money rather than the light Pinarello frameset? At least gold is sunnah!), and criticising the judgment selfishly. However, I learned that to be non-judgemental and accepting of others (and their opinions) are very powerful traits to develop. Gaining control of your own thought is essential to keep a healthy relationship. Stay positive. (Hey, avid cyclists' wives out there! The bike is used for recreational and health activities, not for self-destruction or seduction ;p!!)

Respecting others' interests is crucial. Pinarello is not even close to be enlisted in my 'wish list', and a nice collection of intricate 'bling-blings' is soo not in his! Thus, learning to learn one's likes and dislikes is important - and to respect and not hamper one's fascination on something is an art that's important to be mastered as a couple. 

Last but not least, share his joy. It's priceless.

Yusuf was the second official rider!

A part of the bike.
Another part of the bike.

The whole bike.. (sorry for the lack of cycling knowledge!)
Concentration, fascination, satisfaction.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What I learn from 'Parents Mag'.

Your child's rude 'tude isn't always intentional. Sometimes kids just don't realize it's impolite to interrupt, pick their nose, or loudly observe that the lady walking in front of them has a large behind. And in the hustle and bustle of daily life, busy moms and dads don't always have the time to focus on etiquette. But if you reinforce these 25 must-do manners, you'll raise a polite, kind, well-liked child, insha Allah.

Manner #1
When asking for something, say "Please."

Manner #2
When receiving something, say "Thank you."
And keep on smiling, Yusuf, though the hostess forgot to give you one!

Manner #3
Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.

Manner #4
If you do need to get somebody's attention right away, the phrase "excuse me" is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation.

Manner #5
When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later.

Manner #6
The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.

Manner #7
Do not comment on other people's physical characteristics unless, of course, it's to compliment them, which is always welcome.

Manner #8
When people ask you how you are, answer them and then ask them how they are.

Manner #9
When you have spent time at your friend's house, remember to thank his or her parents for having you over and for the good time you had.

Manner #10
Knock on closed doors -- and wait to see if there's a response -- before entering.

Manner #11
When you make a phone call, introduce yourself first and then ask if you can speak with the person you are calling.

Manner #12
Be appreciative and say "thank you" for any gift you receive. In the age of e-mail, a handwritten thank-you note can have a powerful effect.

Related: Thank you notes and more

Manner #13
Never use foul language. Nobody finds them funny.

Manner #14
Don't call people mean names. Do you like people to call you other names than yours?

Manner #15
Do not make fun of anyone for any reason. Teasing shows others you are weak, and ganging up on someone else is cruel.

Manner #16
Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best.
And try to avoid obvious yawns! Cover your mouth, Yusuf!

Manner #17
If you bump into somebody, immediately say "Excuse me."

Manner #18
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and don't pick your nose in public.

Manner #19
As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.

Manner #20
If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor working on something, ask if you can help. If they say "yes," do so -- you may learn something new.

Manner #21
When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile.
Smile, though it's actually a smile of refusal to do something!

Manner #22
When someone helps you, say "thank you." That person will likely want to help you again. This is especially true with teachers!

Manner #23
Use eating utensils properly. If you are unsure how to do so, ask your parents to teach you or watch what adults do.

Related: 13 Basic Table Manners for kids.

And yes, do recite your du'as before and after meal.

Manner #24
Keep a napkin (or a Kleenex) on your lap; use it to wipe your mouth when necessary.
This particular boy, we're still working on his eating habits...

Manner #25
Don't reach for things at the table; ask politely to have them passed.

Originally published in the March 2011 issue of Parents magazine.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What I learn from 'my veggie patch'.

I started my small veggie patch late last year when I felt the need to divert my attention from my research. Yes, that's how bad it was. Using the hoe as my weapon to break the hard brown soil, I felt a sense of relieve. I felt good. 

From planting the basic lemon grass and pandan plants, I advanced to veggies and everyday herbs. And today, after sowing the seeds of my kangkung in mid March, I ate my own grown veggie for the first time (in Terengganu) (and this also excludes eating taugeh, which was the experiments of Al Fateh and Alwani)!

My skinny kangkung.

Looking at the photos captured, I praise to Allah for His power to make things grow.

I learn that the kids enjoyed looking at the different phases of the growth. My wee veggie patch allows me to introduce to the kids the idea of caring of our surroundings, how to treat plants. Even Yusuf loves to take part by practically standing by the hose to 'book' his turn to water the plants. Alhamdulillah for this opportunity.

And of course, the best part is.....
eating them!

Delish in hubster's Yong-Tau-Foo dish.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What I learn from 'the calls'.

Have you experienced calling someone and their answer is 'Hold on, sec!' ('Kejap ya!')

How would you feel? 

Do you feel what I feel?

I get easily annoyed when I called the bigger children and received answers such as either of the above. What is more important than attending to my call? I'm the Ummi for heaven's sake!

And then, it triggered (while chopping some veggies, with a super sharp knife in my right hand). Why should they answer my calls quickly when I, myself didn't answer Allah's calls of prayers on the dot? He's the CREATOR for heaven's sake!

Do I answer the call for prayers promptly? Photo credit.

Hence, I learned that if I want my children to answer me promptly, I need to answer His calls promptly, too.  May He gives me strengths in doing so, and the same to my husband and children, too. Aamin.

Alwani gets ready for jamaah prayers. She still recites (very) loudly all verses during prayers.

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