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I have been meaning to write a sort of sketch for my family of all the different ways we have done Ramadan: from just me and the new hubby sharing cream puffs out of a paper bag in front of an Italian bakery in Brooklyn to enjoying a break of a solitary iftar while the husband took our bunch of kids to the masijd, and then onto Ramadans with extended family in Morocco. I should still do that, but today I am going to write about my worst two Ramadans ever and more importantly how I hope, insha Allah, to bury that habit quick this year.

The last two Ramadans I have spent half the month alone with my six kids. I mean really alone. I have neighbors, but no friends or family within several hours of driving/flying to my home. My lifestyle is… maybe unusual. We unschool, I work from home, and our home is located in a rural village in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, where life is very in touch with the land, clean-living and fairly hard work. Alhumdulillah, I am not out digging in the earth and tediously caring for farm animals, but I still do work (which can be long hours if I don’t watch myself), plus the homeschooling and lack of any help for half the month… you get the idea? Also, that forced ‘clean-living’ thing means no availability of processed foods, which I know you all are trying to avoid, but you do know how time consuming it can be to prepare suhoor and iftar with ZERO processed foods, except for roasted coffee beans and granulated sugar- thank God!

Anyway, where my last two Ramadans really fell apart was that I spent way too much of my already compromised time worry about and trying to get some cooperation from two of my six children. We’ve all missed a suhoor and know from experience how horrid that can be, right? Who would want that for their kids? Their hormone messed-up kids who sleep at odd intervals for unpredictable lengths? So with these two basically trying to sleep through Ramadan (and when they were awake bemoaning not having a dishwasher! Oh noes, they have to do dishes, but actually exert more energy fighting their mother about it than doing them!) that left me to deal with my other small children during the day, feeding them throughout and then maybe towards the end of the day I got some help with preparing iftar (fairly simple, but remember ALL from scratch except for our bread that I buy from my neighbor) or maybe not- it was just a mess, with my ibadah being heavily affected by my exhaustion and … anger. *Here is where you don’t bother to advise me about discipline measures and whatnot, because I have had enough of a headache with all of this and really thank you anyway, but I won’t bother with how you think I should maybe handle it, because I already tried many things and here is the conclusion I have come to:

This year I am bringing the focus back to ME (modeling behavior, they call this). Firstly, I am not going to bother myself with these manchildren who should know well enough how this Ramadan thing works. They are welcome to participate or not at their own paces. Don’t worry for them, they haven’t missed any fasts in years (or tarawih prayers) and I doubt they would start cheating now, but really let’s not bother directly with them. Secondly, I did FINALLY get some hired help, which I should have done long ago as I know logically I cannot do it all, but I guess I have some kind of glitch. So, alhumdulillah someone will be coming in for up to two hours a day to tidy the kitchen and help prep the food for me/us to cook later. I enjoy when hubby and kids come into the kitchen with me in that final hour of fasting to whip up a spontaneous iftar and again, all are welcome to join me, but no pressure, no extra exertion. RBP II

The most important thing I am doing is returning to making my ibadah come first, foremost and be nearly the only thing I seeduring Ramadan. I want to read the whole Quran and pray my tarawees everyday! Something I don’t remember doing at all the last two years. The main way I am doing this refocusing is that I got myself a copy of the Ramadan Battle Plan and am using it! Insha Allah.

Among some of the great getting-started things in the RBP is this goal setting and visualizing. Though I felt a bit cynical writing about my “Ideal Ramadan” after the last two, like the plan reminds: “And your Rabb says, “Call upon me; I will respond to you.” (Surah Al-Ghafir verse 60). And that’s it right there, that is my plan for Ramadan to call upon my Lord! Insha Allah.

I am doing The Plan along with a bunch of my cohorts from SISTERS Magazine, (the magazine for fabulous Muslim women) and you can read more about our experiences on the SISTER Family Blog or by following our SISTERS Team Does the Ramadan Battle Plan Facebook page.

Get your blessings! And me He accept our fasts, yours and mine, amen.