On having a slow year

As I lay in bed last night listening to the pop of fireworks I thought back to the year that was 2018. Of course, no New Year’s Eve is complete without a reflection back to the events of that year, and usually I write an entry in my diary, processing all that happened and looking forward to the new year with new perspectives and goals.

I didn’t do that this year. In fact, I don’t think I’ve done it for the past few years because… kids (a most convenient excuse for everything I “can’t” do anymore). Instead, my yearly reflection was spurred by watching other people’s IG stories sharing their “best moments” or achievements throughout the year. Welcome to the new age right?

What watching these stories did for me though was ponder on what I myself had achieved through the year. What were my “best moments”? I didn’t travel extensively as others did, I didn’t start a new job, I didn’t complete my degree. We started homeschooling but I struggled to establish a routine or any consistency due to my efforts of juggling three young children, one of whom was breastfeeding for most of the year.

This year, I felt like I was constantly on the cusp of something happening, but I couldn’t quite get there. It was endless days spent overwhelmingly alone at home navigating the world of motherhood and raising my young children. It was me, constantly grappling with myself, my frustrations of not being able to do all the things I wanted to do in the way I envisioned myself doing them and trying to come to terms with my sense of disappointment and ultimately, a sense of failure. It was the year of some hurts settling and easing and making their way out of my heart, to experiencing new griefs and losses. I turned 30 this year, entering a new decade of my life and wondering if I was the person I had envisioned myself to be at this age. It was the year that my children pushed me to question my perceptions of who I was, of what my character was made up of and what my values truly were. Was I a worthy example for my children to imitate? Were my actions reflective of the values I proclaimed I ascribed to? It was a year of constant mistakes… every single day was as full of mistakes as an egg is filled with yolk. I made mistakes up until the very last day of the year…

This year could be described with one word: slow. It was slow, but it dawned on me that it was not stagnant. I may have not taken great strides in a worldly (shareable) sense, but all the struggles I just described have set me on the path of progress. Progress in the form of self actualisation, of inward growth and for the first time in my life, a deep understanding of who I am.

Because staying at home with my three young children grounded me to one physical place which became our battleground, our haven, our fertile plain for growth. Sometimes it may have seemed like we were stagnating in the four walls of our home, unable to step out into the wider world, becoming too comfortable in our safe space, but on the contrary we were breaking comfort zones. Being forced to spend every single minute of every single day together ultimately resulted in a deeper understanding of each other, of our characters, of our weaknesses, of our faults, of our strengths and therefore, of how to love and nurture one another in a way that was sensitive of the other’s unique personality. It forced us (parents AND children) to learn how to put our self aside and prioritise the other.

When day by day I found the reality of life reshaping my former dreams of what life would look like, of what homeschooling would look like, of what I would look like as a parent, even as a person, I felt keenly the paradox of choice and destiny. Of not being the One who has ultimate control. I learnt to recognise signs, to respond to them and allow them to shift my perspectives. And that doing things differently to what I had envisioned was not failure, but a sign of growth, of being flexible and responsive to my reality.

I learnt that navigating loss and grief and hurt demands to be talked about. With the right people. With people who will listen without judgement and offer the right advice at the right time. I learnt that hurt is a prerequisite for growth. It takes time for the lessons after loss, anger and betrayal to be learnt, and therefore, we should afford ourselves that time. Sometimes though, some hurts are so great that we, in our limited capacity as human beings simply cannot understand the wisdom behind that hurt. Such as having a miscarriage, or witnessing practically your entire race be thrown into concentration camps, ahem “re-education camps”.  And sometimes we are not supposed to know the wisdom behind such things. They are beyond our capacity as humans to fathom. We leave it to God, and our faith in Him and His Wisdom carries us through the hurt. I was reminded that hurt is universal. That suffering a miscarriage for example is not unique to one person. Even witnessing the genocide of your people is not unique. And it helps in those times to remember that you are not alone in your suffering. It may not take the hurt away, but not feeling alone in your hurt helps.

And finally, I felt that this was the year that I learnt to stop falling back on excuses and to simply act. If I felt lonely and unable to find a community that I felt comfortable in, then instead of waiting for one to fall in my lap, I should go out and make my own community. Instead of railing at the lack of a village, I should form a village of people around me by making the effort to be in contact and be a support for them. Instead of constantly thinking “I can’t do this or that because of kids etc.” I should do what I can within my confines for my health, for my spirituality, and that ultimately, working on bettering myself as a person will naturally make me a better parent and result in healthy, happy children.

It’s impossible of course to fully explore all that I have learnt this year. And no doubt every year will serve to teach me more with new experiences, losses, hardships and hurts. Before I used to fear future challenges, uncertain of whether I could face them with strength. Now I am comfortable with the idea of meeting challenges, knowing that challenges and mistakes and failures are inevitable, that the lessons to come from them take time, but that ultimately, this is what growth looks like, that having the freedom to experience mistakes and lessons is a treasure in and of itself and that this is living…

If you are scrolling through Instagram watching other people’s highlights of their year and feeling inadequate because you have nothing to share, know that you are not alone. If you have had a great and successful year, hats off to you. I am truly happy for your success and achievements. But know that some years are slow, some years you feel stuck in the same place, seemingly unable to move forward. And that’s ok. It’s a long life (insha Allah) and there will be many many years ahead of you, all different to one another. And sometimes, those “slow” years (that actually whipped right on past and left you behind) are sometimes the years that sow the seeds of true growth and progress.

So that’s the recap of my year. Not exactly something I can share on an IG Stories Highlights Reel, but necessary for me to put on digital paper, so to speak. After all, we do live in the new age right?

 

Mother’s Day Art Prints

We’ve been working on setting up an Etsy shop over here, and the first thing we’ve stocked are some beautiful digital downloads for Mother’s Day, which is this Sunday. So without further ado, here they are!

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A third will be added later this evening, so keep an eye out for it. We were inspired to make these for Mother’s Day and wanted to incorporate quotes that we loved. The first is from J.Piers, and the second is a Hadith (a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad). We think these prints are a perfect accompaniment to a Mother’s Day present.

So head on over to our Etsy store and get downloading!

The List: Ethical kid’s clothing

Now that my kids are exiting the toddler years (well, two of them anyway), finding ethical kids clothing that is affordable is becoming somewhat of a task. Speaking to my cousin recently, she also expressed difficulty in finding ethically made clothing for children aged 5-15. It can be difficult to pass up the $5 t-shirt in Kmart, especially when kids seem to get through so many clothes because they grow 10 cm every three months or get grass stains on the knees of all jeans or food stains that just won’t come off. Is it worth spending a little more on ethically made clothing for kids?

I think it is.

Non-organic cotton fabrics, and other synthetically produced clothing contain toxins (given the chemicals they are treated with) that can seep into the wearer’s skin. I also think that if we teach our children to wear less but cherish and value their clothing from a young age, this will teach them good values that they can carry into adulthood.

I know, I know. These days it seems that, as parents, we already have SO MUCH to be concerned about, from GMO, pesticide sprayed food, to the dangers of screen time, and so on. But given the great ethical companies out there, that are online as well, purchasing ethical clothing for your kids is truly made that much easier.

So! Having scoured the internet for ethical kids wear, we present “The List: Ethical kid’s clothing.”

1.Hubble and Duke

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A West Australia based label, they make a beautiful collection of clothing ethically made in Portugal and Bali. I especially love their shoes, and the stunning prints and colour palette.

Ages: 0-8 years old, boys & girls

2. Nature baby

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Based in New Zealand, Nature Baby have the best basics for baby, up to four year olds. All ethically made, and with organic cotton, I just loved their soft track-pants, singlets, underwear and onesies for my own kids.

3. Boden

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Though I haven’t personally shopped from this store before, their clothing looks bright and suitable for children, and reasonably well-priced. I’m tempted to pick up some summer dresses for the girls. Importantly, they have joined the Ethical Trading Initiative and also outline their production processes in a detailed manner on their site.

4. Industrie Kids

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I was surprised when I saw Indie Kids with an “A” grading on the Shop Ethical consumer guide. They have a detailed outline of their commitment to responsible manufacture on their website. Although they mainly do boy’s clothing (from 0-14 years of age), I have seen them stock girl’s clothing in their stores.

5. Etiko

Etiko is a well-known ethical clothing manufacturer. Although their children’s clothes are limited, they do stock shoes, and ethically made trainers can be notoriously diff’icult to find, particularly for children.

6. Elves in the Wardrobe

This multi-brand online site stocks a range of ethically made, organic cotton children’s clothing, up to 12 years of age.

7. G.Nancy

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A recent find, G.Nancy are an Australian company who make beautiful sleepwear in distinctly Australian prints.

8. Minouche 

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Another Australian brand, Minouche make some lovely pieces (mainly for girls, but they just released a unisex collection). I love their soft, beautiful dresses for girls. They are ethically made in Australia and go up to size 10.

9. Everlane

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Everlane makes incredible clothing for adults, but also make a limited range of great basics for the little ones too. And they ship to Australia now!

10. Numero 74

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This company makes the most beautiful but simple clothing for women and young girls. More importantly though, the brand is the love child of two cousins who have set up a Thai Women’s Self managed Cooperative employing over 400 women each of whom are able to work at home whilst caring for family.

11. Love it love it love it 

Actually affordable, ethically made, organic cotton, cute, practical kids wear… basically sums up this brand. They do children’s wear from 0-10 years old, and they also do clothing for adults, and homewares too. So something for everyone!

That’s it for now… There are so many more beautiful labels out there. If you know any ethical children’s clothing stores that are not on this list, please do add them below in the comments section.

A generous baby shower

I’ve always had two thoughts and emotions about baby showers. I’ve felt somewhat uneasy about them, what with the fanfare, extravagance that seems to be the trend these days and potentially lots of unwanted gifts, but I’ve also loved the concept of gathering a budding mother’s closest female friends and family to initiate her into motherhood- or if it’s not for a first baby, having them around to share wisdoms, celebrate the start of new life and simply to shower her with love. 

Our dear friend Sana was expecting her first baby (she’s since given birth) and asked me to aid her in running a flower crown workshop for her baby shower. The day focussed on giving, generosity and creating beauty- a perfect focus for celebrating a woman on the cusp of motherhood, methinks. 

Read on to be inspired by Sana’s baby shower with a difference…

What was the inspiration behind organising this event?

Once pregnant, a few of my friends expressed interest in assisting to host a baby shower for me. I don’t mind attending baby showers and participating in the usual activities that go along with them, but I personally felt like doing something different. I wanted the focus of the gathering to be on bonding with my friends in a final farewell to child-free life. I also didn’t want the focus to be on collecting gifts. Although this is a well-intentioned tradition with much generosity expressed, I felt like channeling this generosity to those more in need than me. I decided to ask for a gift of donations towards maternity charity causes by the CARE charity which would benefit pregnant women, infants and new mothers in regions facing poverty and instability. This was a great success and we managed to raise a significant amount of funds towards this cause.

What was organised for the day?

I chose to make the event an afternoon tea, and to centre it on a creative activity where you get to go home having learned new skills and something to show for it. Keeping within the “baby” theme of growth and new life, I was inspired to hold a flower crown workshop.

I researched professionals who offer the service of running workshops for your events and found them to be quite costly. After speaking with some kind friends, they offered to run the workshop as a DIY exercise. How had can making flower crowns be, right?

After following a few online tutorials and guides, I ordered the materials we’d need (floral tape, floral wire etc.) and my friends went to the flower markets on the morning of the event to purchase a selection of flowers which would light up our home and be used for the crowns. The activity was a grand success. Saltanat (my friend who ran the workshop) did an excellent job of engaging the guests and getting their creative juices flowing. Everybody appreciated the opportunity to make a beautiful crown with their friends.

We also prepared DIY seed packets as party favours. We created hanging leaf garlands to decorate the space with, as well. I also got an old cork board, painted the base of a tree on it and asked guests to pin on a leaf with their pre-baby well wishes and words of advice for me and my husband.

I don’t believe baby showers need to be an exhaustive and extravagant affair. As in my case, it can be simplified by harnessing the skills and generosity of friends and family. I had friends prepare sweets for me on the day, run the flower crown workshop and assist in creating the decorations. Unless you use a registry, collecting gifts in an unstructured manner can lead to excess and wastage, which I wanted to avoid.

Sana, thank you so much for sharing your lovely baby shower with us! It truly was a beautiful day and I was honoured to play a small part in it… 

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