Sunday 25 February 2018

Ameer turns 18 ❤️

Welcome lovely readers!

It's unreal that I have another kid turning 18! I cannot grasp this phase I have embarked upon, it's beyond challenging, it pushes me to new limits everyday, but also brings loads of laughs and fun. My second born turns 18, a mere 18 months after his older brother, and it seems that it snuck up on me in the blink of an eye. Once again, I find myself sentimental, and the image that's stuck in my head of Ameer is of this little wailing baby, who immediately latched, drank his fill and fell asleep! My labour experience with him was difficult, with the cord wrapped around his neck and him going into distress just before being born. It was a long delivery, spanning over Friday Jumuah, which was when the contractions started getting really intense. I requested an epidural and for some reason it only worked on the right side of the body, I could therefore feel everything on my left side throughout the birth! It was indeed an indication of life with Ameer, always something new around every corner.

I look at the young man he has grown into and my heart swells with love and pride; he is focused, responsible, loving and mischievous. He has presented us with challenges at every single turn, some of them forced us, as parents, out of our comfort zones. Over the years there have been emergency room trips, school meetings to discuss his inclination to challenge rules and boundaries, and during those same meetings we end up discussing your sterling academic achievements! We have realised, through him, how strong parents need to be in today's society, how we need to be a part of his life and contribute constructively to it. And through all of these experiences, we have developed a precious bond.

Everyday I see myself in you, 
And everyday your dad says the same. 
You have inherited the best of both of us, 
Your compassion, kindness and fun demeanour,
Is so much like Dad, 
Your singleminded focus, drive and easygoing nature,
Mirrors so much of me. 
From the moment you were placed in my arms,
I felt a peace, a connection so profound.
Your strong personality made itself known
in the first few moments you arrived in this world. 
Your fun and happy-go-lucky nature getting you out of scrapes,
Your charming smile melting hearts with ease.
As you grew into a young man, 
You made your needs known very clearly,
Unphased by obstacles in your path. 
Your adventurous streak has gotten you into hot water,
And your curiosity and zest for life brightens our home each day.
The unmistakable bond with your brothers is evident,
It's solid, and like an ever present security blanket.
I pray that you find your groove in a world, 
Fraught with distractions and trials.
I pray that life ahead is fulfilling, 
That you walk in the way of our faith, 
Proudly Muslim, 
Proudly Our Son.

My second born turning 18 has been another HUGE moment for me, and yet I feel that I am needed more than ever before. To guide, to protect, to love and launch into the world. 
I'll be sending a piece of my heart out there, to go and make a difference, and live purposefully. I pray for his life to be blessed with joy, happiness, peace, contentment and love. ♥️
Happy 18th birthday my Special Boy!

Mum & Dad

Only 18 months apart and like true brothers

You love all the little cousins and they adore you in return!

Always laughs when you're around! Your little brother looks up to you in so many ways

The always smiling little boy

Your first birthday party

Ciao for now,
RuBe x♥️x♥️

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Friday 23 February 2018

Dermalogica's new remedy for sensitive skin

Hi beauties!

About two weeks ago I attended the launch of the New UltraCalming duo, a welcome relief for sensitive skin. I was sent the UltraCalming Barrier Defense Booster (which is a serum) and the Calm Water Gel which is a soothing, hydrating moisturiser to test. 
I'm usually very wary of trying new things on my skin, but since it is targeted for sensitive skin, I thought I'd include these two products into my beauty routine. My skin experiences occasional flare ups, red or dry patches. However, since I have had the my first gentle peel two weeks ago, it has really been in a great condition. This two step routine promises to prevent flare ups and keep your skin looking good!

Step 1: The Barrier Defense Booster is a concentrated oil booster which nourishes and soothes to restore balance to sensitive skin. It is a light, non-greasy oil, which penetrates very easily without leaving the skin feeling 'heavy' or sticky. 

Step 2: Clear Water Gel which is a weightless water-gel moisturiser which hydrates dry sensitive skin. It has a unique formula which forms a weightless barrier to protect the skin against environmental assault. It is easily absorbed into the skin, with no residue.

It's been a few days since I started using the products, and my skin is still looking great, hydrated and glowing 😊
Remember, it is important to have a face mapping done at a Dermalogica salon, in order to ensure that you're using the appropriate products for your skin concerns.

These new additions will be available from 26 February 2018, retailing as follows:

UltraCalming Barrier Defense Booster R1220
UltraCalming Clear Water Gel R890

Caio for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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Friday 16 February 2018

Choosing a Hajj Operator #HajjSeries

Assalaamu Alaykum and welcome back Readers!

I have only recently realised the overwhelm prospective pilgrims face when needing to decide on a travel operator with whom they will travel. Since we were accredited so late, we didn't have the opportunity to shop around and were given 24 hours to confirm our travel operator as well as our chosen package (which was kind of chosen for us, as is the case with a late accreditation). With the deadline looming for prospective pilgrims for this year to make a final decision, I have put together a few pointers on choosing the right operator for you

Even though I am a seasoned traveller, it was essential for me to have the right operator. For this trip, your operator, along with the Saudi government, manages your movements in and out of the city. They take ownership of your passport, book your accommodation, arrange your transfers and look after you during the days of Hajj. For this reason it is critical to be comfortable with your operator, and to trust that they will deliver on all the promises made.

I am not specifically advocating a particular travel operator in this post, however, I believe that an operator contributes greatly to your overall Hajj experience. If the operator takes care of logistics without you needing to be concerned, it would free you up to concentrate on having a most wondrous experience. My journey was a phenomenal one, completely fulfilling spiritually, while the usual logistical aspects were comfortably taken care of by my operator.

When deciding on your travel operator keep the following in mind:
  1. Do you trust the operator? This is someone who literally plans your entire trip, where you stay, the period you'll stay for 4-6 weeks. And all of this needs to be paid for upfront before you arrive in the kingdom.
  2. Reputation and track record of the operator: Chat to pilgrims who have travelled with the operator the year before, read reviews from previous travellers and research the various muslim  news platforms for any developments. 
  3. Even if you're travelled before, this journey is unlike any other trip, so ask as many questions as you need to, to feel comfortable making the final decision. Elderly travellers who have never been abroad will need some guidance as this simple exercise can prove to be extremely overwhelming. 
  4. On this note, check how big the group travelling with an operator will be, the bigger the group, the more you'd need to be independent and be able to manage on your own. The agent would have arranged what they can, but it is very difficult to attend to individual needs with a large group. My group was one of the smallest at 80 people, and our operator knew each Hujaaj, by face, name, our chosen package and what our individual requirements were. One cannot underestimate the importance of this!
  5. Carefully tabulate the costs, ask about hidden costs and specifically the proximity of the hotel as well as the length of stay at a specific hotel. It is crucial to note, that any hotel more than 300m from the Haram will mean 25min walk to get into the Haram during Hajj season. This is mainly due to large crowds, and the entrances being closed off randomly everyday to safely manage the large influx of people. Shuttles cannot get close to the Haram during this time as roads are closed, so it will still require a walk from your hotel. Aziziyah accommodation do not offer shuttles, instead one has to try and catch a SAPTCO bus on the main road. This too is a mission, as it includes a walk (often in the blazing sun) to the main road, and then waiting for a bus or taxi. It could take about an hour to get to the Haram, and then a 25 min walk from the bus terminus. 
  6. Don't forget to include any additional costs in your calculations, this would include food for 4-6 weeks (which is a very real cost and so expensive), travel costs for taxis /buses, any ziyarahs, spending money for gift buying, hosting your guests before you leave and ensuring the home and kids, even elderly parents, are taken care of financially.
  7. Before paying any deposit, ensure that you have a contract, in writing, with a detailed itinerary, and that it includes ALL costs. At this point in time the costs for airfares, tanazul and your days of hajj have not yet been finalised and will still need to be added onto any package quoted (if not stated).
I have tried to keep it as simple as possible, but cannot stress enough the importance this decision will be in your overall Hajj journey. While on pilgrimage I witnessed the dissatisfaction hujaaj expressed with their packages, it was either different to what they expected, a lesser hotel or just that the group was too big. It placed such a dampener on an experience which is meant to be amazing! I realise that cost is a HUGE factor, and it is therefore important to consult with a few agents (perhaps keep it to a minimum of 3/4 to prevent confusion) and ask if they are able to accommodate a certain budget. Or even if they are able to make exceptions on certain packages, by substituting one hotel for another or reducing length of stay; this could be a possibility for an agent with a smaller group. My opinion on a cost saving measure would be that one can compromise on a Madinah hotel, as most of them are pretty close to the Haram, and rather fork out for a good hotel in Makkah- where your ibadah is actually centered around.

Good luck making this decision and my thoughts are with all the prospective hujaaj. Furthermore, there has been an awesome development this week, Saudi has granted South Africa an additional 1,000 visas! This means people who thought they may not go this year stand a very real chance!

Allahu Akbar! ♥️

Taken one night before we left while greeting all our well wishers

Collecting our final documents at the agents offices
The morning we left
We chose to leave a day early and get some rest in Johannesburg before embarking on our journey the next morning

SAHUC and agents assisting with the checking in process

The first sight when you land in Madinah and enter the airport

Madinah airport

Our spiritual leader for our group hosted lessons in the Madhinah hotel prior to our performimg our first Umrah

Ghaalid & I spent a lot of time on our own, exploring and visiting landmarks
I hope this guide is useful, if you have any questions, please ask!

Caio for now, 
RuBe xoxo 

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Friday 9 February 2018

Teen Parenting Woes

Hi lovelies!

It's been a crazy two weeks, parenting teens and young adults gets really tricky! They want independence, they need to make their own decisions and navigate their way in the world, in their own way. Being a blogger means I document life and struggles, however, my parenting woes with these young men cannot always be shared. They need their privacy and I usually obtain their consent for any images I share on my social media platforms or topics I'd like to raise on this forum. The teen suicide (read that post here) was one which was approved as well the post regarding cyberbullying (read that post here). Each day this parenting journey teaches me something new, makes me see myself differently and even though it pushes me to be better, makes me pull my hair out at times.

I read most mommy blogs, and can relate to all those issues faced by new moms, moms of toddlers and moms with young children. There are very few mommy bloggers, parenting teens or young adults, who are able to share their parenting stories or tips. This niche is practically non-existent and I understand why, because these young individuals need to develop and grow without added pressure. Social media and society today already place such ridiculous expectations on teens and young adults, that they really need a safe space where none of these pressures exist. They need to know that their home is a haven away from prying eyes, cyberbullies, peer pressure, school pressure and so many other concerns they are faced with today. Our young adults should feel safe enough to talk through their struggles and seek advice without judgement from parents. 
This is where parenting gets real! Our youth are faced with such grown up problems, that when I talk to my kids I have to consciously remember to be judgement free, I have to listen without the need to retort in shock or offend them. I have to practice empathy. I have learnt so many lessons from my kids about being the best I can be; as the saying goes "Kids do as you do and not what you say". So I have to constantly be aware that they are watching my behaviour, my reactions, how I solve problems and deal with conflict. They will instinctively model my behaviour.
So when I'm faced with having to discipline for an offence, and the offence is serious enough, I cannot jump into judgement mode or become confrontational. 
It's important to me to take heed of the following: 
  1. I preach respect for your fellow human, so I need to address them with respect, even when I am beyond angry.
  2. They are young individuals setting out in a very different world to the one I grew up in.
  3. I was young, with challenges too, and vulnerable to bad decision making.
  4. Honesty goes a long way, so if I expect honesty, I need to be honest with them in return.
  5. These young men need some space to find themselves, and at times a bad decision is made- this in no way reflects on them as individuals. Mistakes are made, but they can be assured that there will be consequences to every action and decision. Growing up means understanding the concept of consequences.
  6. Maturity comes with life experience, and what I know now, I certainly didn't know back then. 
Walking the line between being a responsible parent, being an understanding parent and holding myself in check is hard work! I listen to parents lamenting on how hard parenting is with younger kids, and I cannot help but look back and reflect on how simple parenting was for us back then. We'll never know what lay ahead, or how difficult society will be when our kids reach adulthood, so as cliche as it may sound: enjoy your little people when they are young, things become so complicated as they get older!

"In my world there are no bad kids,
just impressionable, conflicted young people
wrestling with emotions & impulses,
trying to communicate
their feelings& needs,
the only way they know how." -
Janet Lansbury

Today's outfit was one taken on one of those working days where I needed some space to get my thoughts in order. I tend to do this often when faced with parenting woes, mainly so that I do not burden them with my emotion in an attempt to keep our communication channels open and clear.
All these pieces are from previous seasons, remember: shop smartly!

Outfit details:
Dress, gilet and leggings from H&M (abroad)
Shutz shoes
Louis Vuitton handbag
RayBan sunglasses
Sass Scarf
Old Earrings
Swarovski suede bracelet

Caio for now, 
ruBe xoxo

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Friday 2 February 2018

#HajjSeries Madinah (Part III)

Assalaamu Alaykum Readers,

This past two weeks have brought back so many memories of my #HajjJourney, seeing the list of accredited names and spending the morning at the SAHUC Roadshow was really uplifting. Being able to share my Hajj experience and share in the joy of the potential pilgrims was phenomenal!
It prompted me to get going with the next instalment in my HajjSeries... Madinah continues.

My last post on the journey featured a lot of the Madinah history, and some of the places we visited which was impactful for me, especially areas of the mosque which every pilgrim traverses every day on their way to and from prayers. It was significant to me to know that every step I took was in the shadow of a place where our Prophet (PBUH) or other great scholar had made his mark, or left his footprint. 

There were a few other historical sites which we visited while in Madinah, which all travel agents will assist pilgrims with visiting. I can only urge potential visitors to Madinah to embrace these opportunities, despite the stifling heat, to go out and get stuck in the history. (Some of my images of these sites below)
Today, I'd like to focus on the practical aspects of Madinah...

As I first stepped off the plane onto the tarmac, the overwhelming heat hit me like a brick wall, be prepared for stifling heat, the likes of which is very hard to describe. As a result it is essential to remain hydrated at all times. Even the short walk from the air-conditioned hotel to the mosque, will dehydrate you, and the zam-zam water does not fulfil this purpose. One of my lifesavers on my trip was Rehidrate, which I purchased here and packed in my suitcase. There were so many fellow travellers who required an IV to hydrate them, as dehydration occurs so quickly, you don't even realise it has happened. 
After a few days in Madinah and exploring my immediate vicinity, I was ready to see the more regular, everyday side of Madinah. Hubby & I discovered that Uber works in Saudi, so we used it to visit one of the malls. I also needed to shop for a few pieces I couldn't find at the local markets. We decided to visit Al Noor Mall, which was approximately 6km from our hotel, where one can find international brands and some local Saudi brands. I chose to purchase abayahs from a local boutique, to wear for my time in and around Saudi. I packed very light and I really needed to shop for abayahs for the 6 week stay!

Some things to keep in mind whilst in Madinah:
  1. If you're travelling on a 6/7 week package, Madinah is relatively empty for the first week. Take full advantage of this, visit the Sacred Chamber as often as you can as it only gets fuller by the second week.
  2. Since I chose to purchase abayahs from a local boutique in the mall (these can be a bit pricey), as opposed to the usual abayahs from the market traders (of which I bought two), I was commonly mistaken for a local Saudi and this afforded many liberties. One of them being easier access to the Sacred Chamber (Rawdah).
  3. On this note, I found it easier to navigate my way into the Rawdah on my own, this may not suit everybody as it gets exceptionally fuller day by day. In addition to the crowds, and long waiting periods, the women tend to become frenzied, pushing and shoving and literally stepping on you as you perform your salaah. If you struggle with crowds or even worse, a hysterical crowd, it may be best to visit the Rawdah as part of a group or with a companion for support.
  4. In order to maintain energy levels, be consistent with taking your supplements (our travel agent supplied us with these) and daily Rehidrate solutions. I even started taking it a few days prior to departure for Saudi.
  5. This is particularly important as one gets very few hours of sleep, some nights you may find yourself at the Sacred Chamber until late (it closes at 11pm for women) or in quiet contemplation in the mosque. An early morning afterward (for Tahajud salaah) therefore means, 2/3 hours sleep and a rundown system.
  6. We explored Madinah on our own, however this was always with my personal plan of ibadah I wanted to perform in mind. I had set myself some 'goals' or activities I wanted to complete in Madinah, so these were my priority, and then visits to the mall or shopping.
  7. Most of my shopping for my kids, and gifts for family was done in Madinah, since I was hoping not to spend too much time in Makkah shopping. 
  8. Be prepared for the crowds to increase significantly during the second week, and this means you would have to arrive at the mosque some time before prayer time to ensure a good spot (inside the mosque if that's what you want).
  9. I am not used to eating Indian food too frequently, nor am I keen on regular fast food and these seem to be the most common food choices in Saudi. We chose Turkish food very often, or chose to eat at internationally branded hotels for their wide range of cuisine. Alternatively, I managed very well on fruit, nuts, yoghurt, dates and water.
  10. Bin Dawood, the local supermarket is a haven and stocks everything you may need, however some things are extremely pricey! But if there are specific foods/snacks you cannot do without, pack it in! Nuts are expensive, and it was difficult to find raw nuts, and vegetables are literally non-existent in meals. They're sold at the supermarkets raw, but with nowhere to prepare them it's not much help!
As I finish my #HajjSeries, there will be more tips which I will share, these are specifically for day-to-day in Madinah. These will assist even if you're departing for Umrah, however the weather conditions will vary.
Leaving the Rawdah on a relatively quiet morning

Inside the Rawdah, the Sacred Chamber is situated behind the white screen.
The area before you  enter the Rawdah, most times you will find women sitting in country groups and they will be
allowed in at certain intervals. The green dome in the background indicates clearly where the Sacred Chamber is situated
The frenzy starts before reaching the Rawdah, this was taken on a day I chose to sit with the Indoneisan ladies.
I was rather taken aback by the hysterics which set in with some nationalities.
The oldest mosque in the world, Masjid Quba, built by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the first stones of this mosque is said to be laid by the Prophet (PBUH) himself.
The plaque on the wall at Masjid Quba
Entrance to the women's section of Masjid Qiblatayn "The Mosque of two Qiblah's"

The Archers hill on the pains of Uhud, where the muslims were defeated, the burial place of many martyrs
Mount Uhud and the mosque built on the plains of Uhud

Atop the infamous Archers hill, with Mount Uhud in the background

I hope these tips help!

Ciao for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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