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It is mid-afternoon and we are gearing up for some quiet time. I start to gather blankets and pillows from the children’s closet upstairs to make a little nest for Amna, who insists that she rests better in a nest.

“Are you a baby bird?” I asked her last week.

“At quiet time,” was her response, as she flapped her ‘wings’.

Meanwhile, today, Ibrahim is dashing about, with his latest paper airplane, which he has accented with blue and green stripes and written, ‘international guard’ on the side. Apparently, he intends to fight globally against the black lizards.

“Baita, let’s put the airplane away for quiet time ok,” I say, telling more than asking.

“Ammi, it’s quiet,” Ibrahim asserts.

“Quiet but active. Please baita, go find your mushaf, and then, you can go back to Stuart Little.”

“What?” queries Ibrahim, acting surprised by my plan.

“Yes,” I say nodding for emphasis. “You remember what we discussed; and this was your proposal, not mine. You said that you would love to do tilawah at the beginning of quiet time each day, especially during Ramadan since this is the month it was sent down.”

“Ammi, I didn’t say ‘love’, I simply said I would do it,” responds Ibrahim.
“I did not record you, Ibrahim, but when we discussed the topic you were very enthusiastic about taking your mushaf up to your top bunk and reading independently. You may not have used the word ‘love’ but you showed it,” I say, not budging on this particular point.

“Ammi, it’s harder now, with the fast,” says Ibrahim.

“Is it baita? How about you simply try to read two new ayaat from Surah Al Baqarah and then read ayaat seven and eight in Ya Seen, and then the previous ones.”

“Ammi, what do you mean? That’s way too easy, except for the seven and eight part since, from what I heard this morning, they’re tough,” Ibrahim states.

“Well, then try to do as much as you can,” I say, gesturing him forward with my right hand. I am now on my knees, in the middle of the room and am almost done with Amna’s nest.

“Ammi, where’s cat?” asks Amna, who knows the routine, and is starting to get ready herself.

“I killed it,” says Ibrahim, without any emotion.

“Ammi, Ibrahim killed cat!” shrieks Amna, who has forgotten about quiet time and looks as though she is about to kill her brother.

“Baita, your cat is here,” I say holding up a stuffed tabby. Then add quite sternly, “Ibrahim, do not provoke your sister. Take your mushaf, and Stuart Little, climb up to your turret and please follow through with your side of the deal.”

“Ok, but I’ll only do it if you do it with me,” counters Ibrahim.
I sense I am losing ground.

“Ibrahim, baita, I will, later, during our afternoon lesson, but now it’s quiet time. And at quiet time, we are quiet.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” says Ibrahim, pushing me further.
I choose not to answer him and finally lie down on the carpet next to Amna’s nest.

“Ammi, read to me?” asks Amna, sitting down on one of the pillows.

“Sweetheart, it’s quiet time. You look through your books,” I say pointing at Mouse Paint, Let’s Go Dua Catching, and Donde esta la oveja verde which I have added to the nest. “And then, we’ll both lie down for a little while. I’ll read to you after quiet time insha’Allah.”

“But bhai jaan said you do Quran with him,” is Amna’s reply.

“Why won’t you Ammi? It’s Quran and you always want to work on Quran,” says Ibrahim, now on his upper bunk, looking down.

“Ibrahim and Amna,” I say slowly to the children, sitting up. “I love Quran. I will read it whenever I have the opportunity insha’Allah, but now it’s quiet time, and I am going to count to ten and then it is going to be quiet . . . one, two . . .”

“Ammi, please,” persists Ibrahim.

“Three,” I keep counting. “Four, five . . .”

Amna seems finally to understand, but Ibrahim shoots me a look of hurt and neglect. He does not, however, say anything else.

“Six, seven, eight, nine . . . and,” I waver on the last number, expecting another eruption somewhere.

“T . . . en,” I finally say slowly.

Earlier this morning, we managed 15 minutes of quiet when Ibrahim was outdoors hammering, which was not too quiet, and Amna was painting, but other than that, I don’t recall not hearing the children’s voices in the last five hours. I sigh, more to myself than anyone else, wondering how and when I will get back to assessing Bihar water supply systems, and when I will have time for my own tilawah. I close my eyes, more to block out the light than in anticipation of any real rest.YaSeenCvrF

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