"I'm a princess! I'm a princess!"

“Okay, I’m the boy now!” Eryn cheerfully drops to one knee and raises her hands, ready to catch me as I twirl towards her. I suppose in her imagination when her little hands grasp my leg, she’s gracefully lifting me up into a delightful twirl. Soon it’s my turn to be the boy and she giggles incessantly when I throw her into the air.

Recently, Eryn has become more and more interested in role play – and it’s interesting to see how she assigns gender roles to her various make-believe characters.

Boy ballerinas lift twirling girl ballerinas; girl farmers climb trees and drive the tractor while boy farmers remain untouched in the box; mamas have babies (sigh); babas have meetings (double sigh); and doctors, nurses, and faeries apparently have no gender.

Overall, we’re trying to be fluid about gender stereotypes in order to emphasise that she’s capable of doing and being anything she chooses. Especially since living in a community with strong cultural and religious ideas of women’s “divinely ordained” roles will one day impact her in ways I can’t yet imagine.

Sometimes I worry she’s going to start feeling that boys have all the fun.

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There is a mosque on a popular downtown street corner. A nondescript red brick building with blueish trim on the windows. Upon closer inspection, you might see Islamic calligraphy in the form of “Allah,” “Bismillah,” or the mosque’s name etched into glass frosting — giving just a hint that this former bank property is now a place of worship for Muslims.

I am not a part of this community — in more ways than one.

I have never attended a Jummah, a lecture or an event here. I’ve never been to their fundraisers, BBQs, bake sales or open houses. I’ve never been to their sessions for converts, Arabic lessons, or Qur’anic recitation 101 for women. I don’t even know if they hold these types of events or services. I cannot, with any certainty, speak to the experience of women who see this mosque as central to their community and faith.

Yet I pray here all the time.

In convert years, I am older than this mosque — but we grew up together. For 10 years this mosque has been a resource for Muslims in the downtown core, travelers, and people like myself who just need a place to pray.

Whether because it’s conveniently located to my place of work, or because it’s right next to the Toronto bus terminal — I’m here with surprising frequency.

But I could never make it my home.

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It’s nearly midnight on the first day of ‘Eid here in Kuwait and I haven’t slept in over 24 hours. So enjoy some of this lazy photoblogging!

'Eid started with an announcement at the mosque and a round of balloons, music, dancing and henna at home.

I decided to stay up all night, since the morning prayer is at 4am and the ‘Eid prayer starts at 5:39. It’s so not like Canada or the US where you have the option of attending the 7am, 8am, 9am or 11am ‘Eid prayers.

We decided to pray outside as it’s a prophetic practice that many mosques here follow. It’s absolutely lovely weather at 5am. But the second the sun breaks, temperatures soar right up to the high 40’s.

Naturally, the men's section is open. The woman's section is hidden by a tarp barrier. We came early and had the front row... which doesn't really make for an interesting view.

There’s no “field” to pray in per se. Kuwait is a desert. So we prayed on tarp and carpet that was put down over a gravel clearing in a residential area.

Here’s a short video of the takbirat with a lovely view of Eryn and the tarp:

There were thousands of people all coming together to join in this special prayer. Honestly, it was amazing praying outside in the morning heat, watching flocks of birds take advantage of the dawn and just a wonderful feeling being so close to so many people who were all in a celebratory mood. Unifying.

Women greet each other with hugs, kisses and a happy 'Eid Mubarak after the end of prayers.

This ‘Eid is a little toned down due to some family concerns — so after prayers we had breakfast with family and literally just hung out all day visiting a few close friends. It was simple and wonderful and definitely has advantages over going back to the office and spending ‘Eid commuting to and from work.

Eryn's lovely 'Eid outfit that I picked up at this year's Muslimfest!

While I’m going to miss the sweetness and joys of Ramadan, it’s also my pleasure to say Happy ‘Eid everyone!

I have a terrible secret: I stuff my hijab.

After I gave birth to Eryn, and my luxuriously thick, hormone-infused locks gave way to clumps and clumps of shower drain clogging wisps, I decided to chop it all off. I got a delightful pixie cut to match Eryn’s tiny mop.

But without the ponytail to anchor my signature hijab bun, how was I going to style my hijab? I played with different manners of tying, but couldn’t settle on one that suited me. I didn’t want to wear the traditional hijab. So I decided to fashion some fake hair out of an old pair of gym socks.

Talk about false advertising.

If you notice, many hijabs are filled out by some kind of tell-tale bump or ponytail. Then there are those who prefer large hair clips, giving the tops of their hijabs an alien crown — or those who sport a large poof capable of supporting cotton-candy-like layers, typical of the Gulf hijab style. Some even wear two or three headscarves. Underscarves help support gravity defying and very stylish headwraps. Some simply use a bandana braided at the forehead to give an added hijab flaire. But you can always tell when a hijabi has short hair, or prefers to keep her hair styled with braids, or even shaved. The suggestive draping, full-body, volumizing caused by a hijab accent is missing from the woman who has short hair and who doesn’t stuff her hijab. The result: flat hijab head.

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The only sounds breaking the silence were of their feet grinding against the rough sand, an occasional gurgle from the baby at her breast, and the faint tinkling of her leisso. As her husband led them deep into the Paran wilderness, she removed her girdle — a colourful, woven cloth secured tightly to support her core as she recovered from the birth of her son. But tied loosely around her waist, dragging behind her, the leisso’s decorative beads bounced and chimed against the ground, covering their footprints. “If that barren woman wants me out of her home, then I’m surely not showing her where we’ve gone.”

After some time crossing a plain between two rocky hills, her husband stopped near a gathering of shrubbery and a lonely sarha tree. He unloaded a sack of dates from his back and untied her leather skin water jug from his waist. He set them down neatly at the tree’s base and turned to kiss her forehead. Before she could say anything he walked away.

At first she thought he was going to go meditate and wanted her to rest. So she removed the baby from his sling and held him while she sat down on the rough ground, took a sip of water and surveyed her surroundings. A tree. The two rocky hills. No people. No settlements. Nothing. There was nothing here.

The nothing stretched out in every direction meeting the horizon wherever she looked. In the distance two dust devils danced in a light wind — their dance made languid by shimmering heat waves rising from the ground. The oppressive silence surrounded her. Panic settled in when she glanced back at her husband disappearing in the distance and realized he was walking home. She untied the leisso and made a quick nest for the baby.

Running after her husband she shouted frantically, “where are you going? There is nothing in this forsaken valley! Stop!” Then, as realization of her situation set in, “To whom are you leaving us?” He slowed, and then stopped. His shoulders were slumped as if in pain. When he turned his head to reply, she thought she heard his voice break. “To God.”

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Here’s a hat tip to blue milk, who clued me into a great discussion regarding the nuances of husbands “helping” with the housework, versus just plain owning it.  My Hubby owns a few chores around the house, because there is no way I’m touching: his bathroom, the vacuuming, ironing, cleaning the outside windows. They are his.  He can keep them.  Go ahead, have fun and do them whenever you feel like it.

When I ask for help though with the ambiguous chores  (not the ones that I own like laundry, dusting or cooking, or baby related chores, because he’s really good at that bit), we both get grumpy and argue until we’re blue in the face.   Said chore is FINALLY done with some tantrumming thrown in for good measure.

But I’ve been thinking recently about housework as a source of power.

My ire goes straight through the roof when Hubby touches the laundry.  It’s mine.  You’re going to mess it up.  You’re going to ruin my clothes or shrink the baby’s clothes.  Please… put the detergent down.

But what does that say about my role in the gender politics of housework?  We’re equal partners in this, and yet I have difficulty letting go of my control and feel like I’ve lost power within our dynamic as a working couple when Hubby does the bloody laundry.

I’ve learned to let go of the same power struggle when my mom comes over to care for Eryn.  At first I’d hover over each diaper change and bath.  She was doing it wrong, too slow, without gusto, too much gusto, too much overstimulation, not enough Vaseline.  But once when I budged her out of the way to finish a change when Eryn was having a complete meltdown, I recognized that I was being an overprotective, controlling mom and that I should let Omi have her share of poopy.

Recently, my family’s house maid has asked me to stop helping her.

At first I thought she was just being all, “oh K, you’re on vaccation.  Relax. I can do that for you.”  But now I realize it’s more, “no really. Stop it. This is MY JOB and I own it. I actually enjoy doing it.  I like the family I’m with and don’t want to mess that up.  You might do it wrong, which will be noticed and blammed on me.  Your help might illustrate that I’m really not needed, which will screw me out of a job, and I NEED to send this money home to my mother and my 9 year old son. Your help is not helping.  Leave it.”

She didn’t quite say that, as there’s a language barrier.  It was more like, “K! No.  I do.  Leave it.”  Said again, and again.  Once intensely with a hushed voice and piercing eyes.

I got the message.

I’m just not used to being waited upon hand and foot, and now that Eryn is here with us, tearing the house apart that wouldn’t normally be destroyed and throwing food that wouldn’t normally be thrown and peeing on beds that aren’t normally peed upon, I just thought it was nice for me to clean up a bit after my 10 month old.

It’s no big deal for me to make the bed (it actually makes me feel complete in the morning. Like brushing teeth.  Teeth are clean, bed is made, all is well in the world even if Cheerios exploded in the kitchen), it’s no big deal to rinse out Eryn’s jammies, it’s no big deal to wipe the floor after a meal.

Perhaps in some first world misappropriation of a third world reality, she doesn’t need my help and my help hinders.   This is a paid task.  She has been hired to own the housework.  Her duties have been laid out by the family and according to their tastes and expectations.

But at the same time, her power and territory is IN the housework.  It’s knowing the dirty laundry of the family (literally).  If there were something going on, she’d be the first to know about it.  Her power is in preparring the food and sir’s tea, perhaps better than madam can prepare it.  Her power is expressed by how she has organized the house and in anticipating the needs of her family.  Her power is in knowing that she is needed by this family and when she goes home for a month, it all falls apart.  Her power is illustrated when madam cannot run the house without her.  Her power has made her a valued member of this family, even if she is simply hired to do the housework.