Look, look, and look…

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The other day was grey and unremarkable, and suddenly at sunset, the sun finally made an appearance and the sky got painted so beautifully and so quickly, I couldn’t help but look, look. and look.

Sometimes days can blend together and you need to look, look, and look for the good because it can happen so quickly and beautifully before quickly and quietly disappearing in the foreground!

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“Do you not consider how God has created seven heavens in layers?” (Quran 71:15)

Making the “Un-Special” Special

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“Don’t just count your years, make your years count.” – George Meredith

“Did you do anything special today?” the voice over the phone asks.

I’ve been asked this question a couple of times already. You’re-supposed-to-do-something-special is the vibe I’m getting.

As each birthday comes and passes, the bubbly exciting feeling lessens, but I am grateful for the ebb and flow of life.

Did I do anything special today? Not in the ordinary sense. I didn’t want to go out to a restaurant in the evening or order in food. Putting Z and A to sleep early seemed more appealing and getting an extra hour of peace was too precious to give up. I specifically avoided telling Z it was my birthday until late, because I didn’t want to be tied to the kitchen, mixing and stirring cake mix for a ‘Supposed-to-be-Special’ birthday cake. So when I got the repeated question of whether I did anything special, no not in the ordinary sense of ‘special’ but un-special things can be made special.

To sit in pajamas
To crochet beautiful things
To watch Call The Midwives
To just sit
To sit in peace is the best gift of all.

IMG_8397.JPGdiscarded treasures

 

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matching paint swatches

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picking up Z earlier from school

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Bakery Crayons

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Grandmothers who take granddaughters to parks in good weather!IMG_8282.JPGSisterly hats

 

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yarnIMG_8304.JPG

 

yarn in action!IMG_8259.JPG

 

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Friendlyish CatsIMG_8229.JPGGrandfather walks!

IMG_8225.JPGNeon strolled feet

(I finally made some space on my iPhone, so enjoying the iPhone snaps lately!)

Livia’s Family Photoshoot

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I’ve been meaning to share these fall family photos of Livia’s family for a while now. This fall photosession felt more like winter so we all wore jackets for this session and Livia was lamenting over the fact that the boy’s outfits were covered up, but being warm and cozy put us in good spirits!

It was fun to capture these 2 boys who are the same ages as my 2 girls. It was like spending a morning with the boy versions of my children.

These photos are taken at Piedmont Park and we had some friendly and inquisitive geese who are great posers below!
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He loved his Darth Vaider hat below…IMG_3883-2 IMG_3880-2 IMG_3847-4 IMG_3845-3 IMG_3828-2 IMG_3794-4 IMG_3789-2 IMG_3783-5

“There has never been, nor will there ever be, anything quite so special as the love between mother and son.” – AnonymousIMG_3918-2 IMG_3775-2

“To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”
~ Barbara Bush IMG_3741-3 IMG_3735-4

“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”
Alex Haley

Grey

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“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” ~ Hal Borland

I am always surprised by how swiftly winter strikes. Almost without warning and warmth and empathy, it strikes. Suddenly the flowers that once bloomed happily outside are yellowed and flailing, unable to handle the sudden cold and lack of care.

In such times like this, when I look outside my deck window, it as if everything is grey. Blue skies are grey. Green plants are yellow. Trees green leaves quickly turned yellow and red, but then even quicker than that, the leaves were harshly blown away during a storm, leaving awkward spaces of grey.  Grey. Grey. Grey.

Grateful for color inside the home:

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Grateful for newly turned 2 year old toddlers diligently counting out colorful plastic cutlery.

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Grateful for a quick photo of a once red blooming tree, now turned grey and brown.IMG_8147.JPG

Grateful for pink pompoms and crochet season!

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Couldn’t resist taking a quick photo of this puzzle piece that was happily and incorrectly put together. Grateful for the minds of 2 year olds.

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So grateful for siblings!

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Grateful for paint brushes and paintsIMG_7979.JPG

Grateful for more warm woolly hats!

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Grateful for very temporarily clean kitchens

 

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Grateful for fleeting summer sunsets

How Big is Allah? – Children’s Book Review

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I recently reviewed the book How Big is Allah? by Emma Apple. (Allah is simply the Arabic name for God!). Below are a few questions behind Emma’s thoughts. I’m always fascinated by the author’s thought process and she illustrated the book as well so her illustration process as well.

I didn’t have a chance to photograph Z reading the story, but you can see the Amazon LookInside! feature here or Middle Way Mom’s review with more in-depth photos here.

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My quick thoughts: It’s a simple, but engaging read, and does answer the basic questions in a child-friendly way as well as has a great science feel to the book. Z is learning about planets in school so was excited to see the planets and hear words such as ‘Milky Way’ that she had recently heard at school. It’s a book for more Z’s age 4 and up, rather than toddler A who is almost 2.

The book is illustrated in B&W. It has a Shel Silverstein feel from the Giving Tree, and you can really focus on the concepts. I’m a huge fan of color, but I like the story in this style and the illustrations really make a point.

Interview below!

1. How did you get the idea to turn this concept into a children’s book?

The idea for the book actually came from helping my son to understand Allah. He’s autistic and can find some less concrete and literal concepts difficult at times. He’s also insatiably curious, he and his older sister are very much into science and he has always has a special love of space. When he started asking questions about Allah, some of his questions related to Allah’s size and how Allah looks (which will be answered in the next book in the series, due out in a few months inshaAllah). My husband and I found that a really great way to explain Allah’s size, is to explain how small we are in relation to the universe, which Allah created. Of course, there is no concrete answer to how big Allah is, that’s something we can’t know, but we found talking about relative size within creation helped both our children to understand the greatness of Allah. I come from a long line of teachers, poets and playwrites, so putting the concept down in writing for other children to learn from, was only natural and my husband encouraged me to turn it into a children’s book. The ayah we’ve used to reinforce our approach to teaching this concept is in the book as well, Surah 39 Ayah 67 where Allah talks about the universe being rolled up in His Right Hand: “They made not a just estimate of Allah such as is due to Him. And on the Day of Resurrection the whole of the earth will be grasped by His Hand and the heavens will be rolled up in His Right Hand. Glorified is He, and High is He above all that they associate as partners with Him!”

How did your love for illustration develop?
Ever since I could hold a pencil I’ve being drawing, it’s always just been something I had to do. I’ve always loved the visual arts and for most of us, our first real experience with visual arts are the illustrations in the books we read or are read to as children. I’ve always been drawn to the effortless style of Mercer Mayer (Little Critter) and the bold and simple coloring of Dr Seuss, I adore the minimalism of of Robert Lawson (Ferdinand) and E. H. Shepard (Winnie The Pooh) and have drawn on the latter two for inspiration when illustrating my books, which contain black and white pen and ink illustrations. I can’t say I always aspired to be a children’s illustrator, but I always knew I wanted to pursue art as a career, I just hadn’t figured out exactly what my options were. In my 20’s, when my kids (who are 9 and 7) were little, I spent a lot of time reading to them, picture books I grew up with and books I’d never seen before, I admired and studied the illustration styles in the books as I read them night after night and finally realized children’s illustration was what I wanted to do. As a self taught artist, it’s a skill that I’ve been working quietly at for many, many years. I probably started seriously working at my drawing skills in my early teens.
Do you live in New Zealand? What’s the Muslim population like ?
I don’t live in New Zealand anymore, I left after I got married in the early 00’s. I was a new convert when I left, so I hadn’t had much to do with the Muslim community, but the people I did meet were extremely diverse, friendly and welcoming.
Is your real name Emma Apple?
 Emma Apple is a childhood nickname (well, the Apple part anyway), most people know me by only that name these days though (even my husband of 12 years first knew me as Emma Apple), so I consider it almost as much my real name as my family name is.
Do you have more plans for more books?
I have lots of plans for future books! InshaAllah! I’m almost finished the second book in this series (the Children’s First Questions series) which is tentatively titled What Does Allah Look Like? (of course, all the books are researched and written in accordance with Qur’an and sunnah, How Big Is Allah? is loved and endorsed by Salafi families all the way to non Muslim families alhamdolillah). I’ve also begun researching and drafting the third book in the series and initial planning for an educational activity book to accompany the series, inshaAllah. I have long term plans for other series’ but those are the books I’m currently working on. I’m really excited for everyone to see the next book! I’ve had a lot of fun working on it alhamdolillah.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to interview Emma and do check out her book!
Emma’s info: Best Selling Islamic Children’s Author-Illustrator EmmaApple.com
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Debut Islamic Children’s Book ‘How Big Is Allah?’ (Arabic Edition
كَم اللَّه كَبيرا؟ now available) emmaapple.com/howbigisallah