Monday, December 31, 2007

Around the house

The mourning period for Benazir Bhutto is officially over, and things are starting to get back to normal. Gas stations started opening up around midday yesterday and some store owners actually dared to open up their businesses. You could still tell that traffic was much lighter than usual. We were invited to Zakir's aunt's house for lunch, so we spent a lot of the day in Wah. There have been reports of riots in Sindh, the southern province of Pakistan, but things have been better since the army has been deployed to help restore law and order. Even Wah was affected by riots the day before we went, but it feels a lot more normal now. We hope to be able to venture out again today and take the kids to a few more places that we wanted to visit. I'm posting a slideshow of a few pics taken around the house in the past few days.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Japanese Gardens, Islamabad

We visited the playground on December 26, 2007.


Most stores are closed due to the 3 day mourning period in Pakistan, also gas stations are closed, so we have been trying to stay close to home. Luckily there are a lot of cool places to visit, almost within walking distance of our house, so we haven't been completely house bound. Yesterday we took the kids to the little Margala Zoo, and today they are headed to the natural history museum and an old village that has been set up for tourists to visit. Ironically because there are so few people on the streets, the places we have been visiting have be free of crowds; it seemed that we had the whole zoo to ourselves yesterday. Today I'm staying home to let Bilal catch up on some sleep, but Zakir has been given instructions to take lots of pictures, so that I can post another slideshow. We have heard that some gas stations were torched in Karachi, so most owners are trying to keep their businesses shut to avoid any property damage. It's unfortunate that there has been such a backlash, but not unexpected. Apparently Bilal's stroller has made it to the airport, but we haven't been able to retrieve it, since it's a bit of a drive to the airport, and it's important to preserve gas until the gas stations re-open, hopefully on Monday.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Attacks in Pakistan

By now many of my friends in the US may have heard about the politically driven incident in Pakistan, where a former Prime Minister just got assasinated. I just wanted to let everyone know that thank God we're fine, although geographically we're less than 30 miles from the place where the attack occured, and the death toll is probably over 20 people, due to a suicide bombing immediately following the shooting. There is concern about some reactionary riots in the next few days, but I don't know how daily life will be affected. The best we can do is be cautious where we travel over the next week or so that we are here, and pray for safety. My heart goes out to all the innocent people who suffered due to the attacks in two separate locations, both targeting prominent political figures who were involved in the upcoming elections. Pakistan is a beautiful country, that has been troubled almost since its inception in 1947. Please pray for peace in this country and the rest of the world.

The Heritage Museum, Islamabad

Our day at Daman E Koh

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Shopping and such

After a very early start to the day, we went shopping for clothes; Safa, Nadia, Tahira and myself. We got a few good bargains, I had to admit I didn't do too bad haggling, and managed to get the price reduced on several outfits, with some help from Nadia. Now I remember why shopping in Pakistan is so interesting. Very few items are actually sold at the initial asking price.

After a few hours shopping we went to Daman E Koh for a nice barbecue meal. Bilal had a minor meltdown, but aside from that we had a great time. Some nice photo ops, and views of the local flora and fauna. Monkeys come down from the hills in search of food, and they swarm the roads. It's quite tricky making hairpin curves up into Margala Hills, while trying to dodge monkeys! I'm so glad I'm not the one doing the driving.

While I'm typing my little vacation update, I'm feeling rather fuzzy. I think my sleep deprivation is catching up with me. Hopefully tonight will be less eventful, and we'll all get a few hours more sleep. It's time for our bodies to adjust to the time difference, then 2 weeks from now we'll be doing the reverse when we fly back home. But it's worth it, for our family to be together, and for the kids to be able to see their grandparents.


Safa and Hamza adore their grandparents anyway, but Bilal has also taken to them as if he has known them all his life. The kids are getting thoroughly spoiled, by the time we go back home Mama and Baba are going to be the mean Grinches, and the kids will be asking if they can go live with their grandparents!


Greetings from Islamabad




Our flight got us into Islamabad a little before 2pm yesterday, just about 15 minutes late, which isn't too bad. Trouble is, we've now lost our new stroller, or shall we say, it got detained somewhere en route. We were supposed to get it at Abu Dhabi, but no-one at the airport had any clue where it should be. We kept getting shuttled further towards our boarding gate, being told to ask the next person at the next desk. Bottom line, our flight to Islamabad was already boarding by the time we got to the gate, with less then 40 minutes between connecting flights. So we just boarded, and hoped we'd find it in Islamabad, but we didn't. We've filed a missing baggage report, so let's see what happens next. If we don't find it, Bilal will be walking, traveling on Zakir's shoulders, and possibly be carried in my new Mei Tai, which I think is great, but Bilal's not too sure about. We do NOT plan to buy another one. Luckily our Maclaren is at home, safe and sound.
Well, Zakir, Bilal and I are up at 2 something in the morning, bacause the baby is thoroughly jet lagged. We're hanging out in the bedroom so we don't disturb the rest of the household. Hopefully by tomorrow everyone should be adjusted to Pakistan Standard Time. The plan is for the gals to get a head start on a bit of shopping and the guys to just hang out. We are all enjoying a day off for the Quaid's birthday in Pakistan, which happens to coincide with Christmas, so Season's greetings to all, and belated Eid Mubarak.



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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hello from New York


OK, so we made it to New York, and we're at the Hampton Inn as we speak. I admit things could have gone a wee bit smoother today, though. We made it to the airport this morning on time, and were able to use curbside check-in. When the cases were getting weighed one weighed 55lb, with a maximum allowed weight of 5o pounds per case. So I had to remove and redistribute some things in the other cases. Security check is quite a hassle; we even had to take poor little Bilal's sneakers off at the check point. I have to admit the whole process took less time than I expected, despite the fact that Zakir and Bilal kept beeping and had to have a body search done.

Bilal didn't really like being in the plane, so it was quite a relief when he fell asleep for the last 45 minutes of the flight. The plane made it to New York more than 1/2 hour early, so we were stuck in a hold pattern above La Guardia for a while, then spent a longer time on the runway waiting for a place for the little commuter jet to park. We decided to take a bus instead of a cab to JFK....... big mistake. We accidentally left the stroller on the bus, (luckily it was one of those freebies from Toys R Us) so there we were, stranded at International Departures, with two luggage carts full of suitcases, and a baby on my hip. We called Hampton and were told to go to 'Area D'. We fumbled our way there and proceeded to wait for the shuttle. About 40 minutes into the wait I called the hotel again and was told that we had and I quote: "fallen through the cracks", and the driver would be right there. Well, the entire wait was about an hour. So we were finally at the hotel, more than an hour later than we could have been, and minus one stroller. A cab would have been a much better proposition. That was a lesson in 'How not to travel from La Guardia to JFK'.

After a quick break to freshen up we hired a cab and made a trip to a local mall to buy a stroller. We ran into Target and came out with the cheapest one we could find, and stood outside the store, trying to assemble it, just as it was starting to drizzle a tiny bit. Well after the stroller came out of the box we realized that there was absolutely no way we could remove all the packing without a sharp object. But as most people know, you can't travel with sharp objects due to airline security! So Zakir ran back into Target and bought a pair of kid's scissors to remove the plastic tags. Bilal was starting to get hungry so I opened a jar of baby mac and cheese to feed him, only to find I had left the spoons at the hotel. I tried to feed him with my finger but he just wanted to bite, so I gave up. We ate at the Food Court, and headed back, but the cabbie who was supposed to pick us up was stuck with another customer, so we had to call someone else. It took another hour to get out of the mall, flooded with Christmas shoppers, and here we are, finally back at the hotel and determined to have a less eventful evening. The kids are Wi Fi-ing on their Nintendos, and Bilal is ripping up the Yellow Pages to shreds as we speak, but who cares? Praying for a good flight tomorrow!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Counting the hours down

Well, we're leaving in about 12 hours, and we're finally just about packed. There's always something to pack at the last minute. I have to keep reminding myself that we're not going to the Boondocks, it's just Islamabad, a bustling cosmopolitan city, where we could buy anything that got left at home, but still there is this urge to pack more things, just in case...... Zakir is more worried about us not being able to come back home.

The day started off with me going to work for a few hours. Not long after I got a frantic call from Zakir, telling me to hurry back, because Hamza threw up in the middle of Walmart, and the day was just not going well. Bilal wouldn't eat breakfast from Zakir, so he got him dressed an went outside, where he proceeded to chase him around with a bowl of cereal and bananas. I think Bilal is sensing the pre-travel tension, and reacting to it. Zakir also had to stop to get a leak in one of the MDX's tires patched too. All in all it's been a pretty full day. My resolution for tonight is to actually go to bed at a decent hour, rather than around midnight, as it has been lately.

We are thinking of things to do for the few daylight hours we're in New York. It's probably going to be a museum of some sort, something age appropriate for the kids. High temp is predicted to be 42 degrees, with a low of 39. Hopefully no rain! Our flight from JFK is around 10am on Sunday morning, and we've booked a Hampton Inn as close to the airport as possible. Hoping and praying for no glitches. I'll keep my updates coming whenever possible.

A couple of recent pics:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Chocolate!

A funny baby story, it's a pity we didn't get to take photos of the incident....... This evening I was upstairs with Safa and Bilal, trying to get through more packing, which is hard with a little toddler running around between four open suitcases. Anyway, I came down to the kitchen, soon followed by Safa, and, I thought, Bilal. A few minutes later Zakir walked into the kitchen from the sitting room, where I presumed Bilal was playing. I did think it was odd that I didn't hear his usual jabbering, so I asked Zakir what Bilal was up to. When he said he wasn't in the sitting room I freaked. Zakir headed upstairs to find him, and lo and behold, he was sitting on the stairs, going through several miniature bars of chocolate that he had sneaked out from a bag upstairs. His face was smothered, and mouth was full. No wonder he was so quiet! And this was after he had been bathed, and had his teeth brushed. Zakir took him back into the bathroom to brush his teeth and wash him up, but couldn't get him to open his mouth, still full of chocolate. We had to wait until all the chocolate had been swallowed, before brushing his teeth. Then he came out of the bathroom with Zakir and proudly showed off his newly brushed pearly whites. Gosh, you can't keep your eyes off that little guy for even a moment!

He is also getting more vocal; this evening he pooped in his diaper, ran to me, patted his bottom and said, "poop poop!". It's so funny how a mom can be proud of her child saying poop! Later on after the older siblings were tucked in he pointed upstairs and said "nee nee", our word for sleep. So I took him to his room and he lay down in his crib without a peep, and went to sleep. Now that nights are getting easier, it's a bummer that his routine is about to get messed up with us traveling. We are about to encounter an 11 hour time difference in Pakistan; we may have to re-train Bilal for nights when we get back to the States after 2 and 1/2 weeks. But we really are looking forward to our vacation.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A salad for the seasons

I have received many requests for this recipe, so I've decided to share. It's a great summertime salad as prepared below. For Thanksgiving dinner I replaced the strawberries with 2 cans mandarin oranges, a cup of sweetened dried cranberries and half a cup of walnuts toasted with butter and brown sugar, to make a more seasonal salad. It's been a hit either way. I've also prepared it with mixed greens instead of spinach, still tastes great! You can add more or reduce the sugar in the dressing according to taste. The key is to add the dressing to the greens and toss just before serving.

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS
1 packet baby spinach
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, toss together the spinach and strawberries.
In another bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, sugar, paprika, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds. Pour over the spinach and strawberries, and toss to coat.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Five Minute Fudge

A quick and simple recipe for delicious fudge. You can substitute the milk chocolate chips with peanut butter chips, white chips or semi-sweet, depending on your own taste. Safa made this recipe for her class for 10 extra bonus points in math. For her version we swirled white and milk chocolate fudge.

Serves 16 (generously)

INGREDIENTS
3 cups milk chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Place all ingredients in large microwaveable bowl. Zap in microwave on medium until chips are melted, about 3-5 minute, stirring once or twice during cooking. Stir in nuts, if desired. Pour into well-greased 8x8-inch glass baking dish. Refrigerate until set.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Negotiations

video

Friday, December 14, 2007

Summer 2007 in San Destin

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Working hard, playing hard



Safa has done really well in middle school debate. As of now she is ranking first overall among all the schools in Alabama that have been participating in the meets at Samford. First, by one point, but first nonetheless. HTMS (Hewitt) is the number one school overall. I hope that all the years of us reading out loud together has also something to do with her performance. This is something she really is passionate about. She still needs to put a little more effort into her guitar playing, but I admit she has been working harder on it this past week. She'll put very little effort into practicing for several weeks, then one day she'll just wow us when she goes to lessons. The question remains, why doesn't she do so well every week? Mr. Jeff her teacher keeps remarking on talented she is, but she doesn't try hard enough. But then, he is hoping that some day one of his students will win something on 'America's got Talent'.


I took a picture a picture to prove how hard Hamza has been working in the front yard. One day he disappeared before lunch. Safa was convinced that he was upstairs playing PS-2 on the sly, but he was actually in the yard raking leaves, trying hard to earn the dollar Zakir had promised him. We felt rather guilty after that accusation!


Eight more days until our trip to Pakistan. Haven't started packing yet, I guess it will all boil down to the last minute. The kids also have their Sunday School mid-terms this weekends, so they'll be studying on Saturday; I hope. We also have some last minute shopping to do, so it's going to be another busy weekend.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mid-December

OK, so it's the middle of December, right? and that is pretty much winter. Then how come it was 79 degrees yesterday, and pretty close to the same temperature today too? I suppose the beauty of Alabama weather is its variability. The temps can fluctuate up to 40-50 degrees over a period of two days. Bilal and I were back at the park this morning, in T-shirts. We can't decide how to dress anymore! Who knows what kind of day it will be tomorrow?

Now for another update on the antics of the mischievous one. We had baby proofed some of the cabinets in the kitchen, particularly the ones with cleaning products. Well, one cabinet doesn't have a partition, so my little Houdini has figured out how to climb into it all the way, to get to the bottles in the cabinet next door. Needless to say, all the cleaners and spray bottles are going way up on the shelf in the laundry; even I have difficulty reaching those shelves! He turns on the DVD player in our bedroom to watch Classical Baby, whenever he wants to. Now if I could only get him to program the video recorder........

Monday, December 10, 2007

Yummy Oven Baked Chicken

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
5 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons prepared mustard

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a small saucepan, melt butter. Add garlic salt, chili powder, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and mustard; mix well. Dilute ketchup with water and add to saucepan mixture. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
Place chicken pieces in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Pour saucepan mixture over chicken. Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Finger lickin' good!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

First year montage



I finally put together a montage of Bilal, from birth to his first birthday. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Fourth grade field trip

Hamza and I went to the Birmingham Museum of Art and McWane science center for his GATE (gifted and talented education) field trip today. He has been studying volcanoes in school as part of the GATE curriculum, so we went to see the Pompeii exhibit at the museum, and attended a program called 'Volcanology' at McWane center. We had a great time, and took heaps of pictures; luckily I'm only posting a few for now. Once I resolve the problems I'm facing posting slideshows to the blog you might get to see some more. I'm still enjoying the fact that Hamza likes me to come on school trips with him, I know that some day soon mama will be 'uncool', so I'm trying to make the most of this while I can.On the way back we had 15 minutes before we could pick Safa up, so we made a quick trip to the park. Bilal loves the park. Hamza's sort of outgrown the things there, so he spent time climbing trees, while Bilal had a go on the slide and swing. Of course I had to take him to the car kicking and screaming when it was time to go, you can never have enough time at the park!


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

GI Update

We're just back from the GI clinic this morning. Bilal has made a little more progress with weight gain, and is now finally 21 pounds, that's a teeny bit over 1/2 a pound gain in one month. Still on the 5th percentile, at the bottom of the growth curve, but following his own curve. We're just going to accept it. His appetite fluctuates so much, he still often coughs in his sleep, but he's holding his own. And as always, he's so active! Our gastro predicts Bilal may need to stay on the Prevacid until 2 years of age, that's when the reflux should subside. If it means taking one dose of Prevacid every day we can handle that. We are also going to start him on Periactin to stimulate his appetite, and we'll be going back in 2 months for follow up, mostly to check his weight.

We have two laptop computers in the shop, getting repaired, both damaged by the Li'l Stinker, who has dropped them both one too many times. This little guy is getting to be expensive! Both computers have a problem with the power supply at the least, and my home computer won't even boot up. This morning I was holding him, I reached into the fridge to get the milk and he deftly grabbed the box of baking soda and poured it all over the kitchen floor. After I wiped it up he got hold of the cereal box, and there was another mess on the floor. The fridge has a lock, and I think we're going to have to get one for the oven too. I don't remember ever having to baby proof the house this much when Safa or Hamza were little. Bilal can reach places you could never imagine he could get into! If he wants something, he finds a way to get it, he is so determined and stubborn!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Christmas Parade

The kids had a great time on Saturday. They walked in the Christmas parade with other members of the Dojo, and threw out candy to the onlookers. We all walked down to the mall with Bilal in the stroller; the weather was perfect, probably the warmest it has ever been since we've been going to the parades. It wasn't dreary and dull like last year; the sun was out and it was a balmy day with temps in the upper 60s. Bilal got to eat his first ever lollipop while he was watching the activity going on. Why should he miss out on the sugar all the time?

The kids have been spending a little more time outdoors. Yesterday Hamza and Bilal helped Zakir rake the leaves in the front yard. Well, Bilal got bored pretty soon, but Hamza earned a dollar! Safa's trying to make some money by doing the laundry for me, since when should you get paid for chores you should be helping with anyway??!!


We go to the GI clinic for Bilal's follow up tomorrow. His reflux is still an issue; we're just waiting for him to finally outgrow it. That said, tonight he had pancakes for supper, and ate pretty well, actually he seemed to like the maple syrup more than the pancakes, he's inherited the sweet tooth from both sides of the family!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Another Busy Weekend

There's always so much going on, I can't remember the last time we had a couple of days when we just sat around and did nothing. Our family probably wouldn't know what to do with free time on our hands! Safa and Hamza have been at the Dojo since 9am; after 2 hours of class they have their Christmas party, lots of food, and plenty of hyped up kids running around in a confined space. That's why Bilal and I are at home. After the party they plan to walk in Trussville's annual Christmas parade, which ends with the lighting of the tree on the mall. Tonight Safa and I are invited to a Dholki, a pre-wedding party for just girls and women, arranged for two young ladies in the community that are getting married at the end of this month. We won't be here for the weddings, we hope to be in Pakistan visiting our family. Tomorrow I'm working at an urgent care clinic from 12noon to 8pm, so the kids will be doing their own thing with Zakir.

Speaking of our trip to Pakistan, we've only got 3 weeks to go before we leave. We're flying to LaGuardia on Dec 22nd, then from JFK to Islabamad on the 23rd. It's a long time to be on a plane with a toddler. We have a 5 hour layover in the middle. I'm rather nervous about traveling with Bilal, he's just such a restless little guy, but we're just hoping for the best. There is an 11 hour time difference in Pakistan, so we should be pretty jet lagged there for a day or two. Considering we are only going for 2 weeks, that doesn't give us much time! But Safa and I plan to shop, and shop. The boys can spend their days sleeping if they want to!

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