Saturday, May 31, 2008


The terrible twos really are in full swing in our house. Bilal's favorite phrases are "Mine!", "want it!" and "my turn!" Where are all those cute little Urdu phrases I've been trying to teach him? He's always been a headstrong little guy. Add that to his age and expanding vocabulary, and you've got a brat! He's also trying to play one parent against another. If I scold him he goes running to his Dad, and vice versa. For the first time ever today I heard Zakir say "you listen to Baba otherwise I'll smack you!" For the record, Zakir never has and never will lay a finger on one of the kids, and he has a lot more patience than I do, so you can imagine how aggravating Bilal must have been. I used to be able to take his little chin in my hand, look him directly in the eye and talk to him, and he would calm down immediately. Well, that's not very effective anymore. But we've been through toddlerhood with two other kids before, this will pass also. Every day I count my blessings and thank God for how healthy and happy our kids are. What's a tantrum in the grand scheme of things?

He is learning new rhymes, and mixing them all up, it's so cute. For example, he knows a bit of rain, rain, go away, (it's obviously been raining a lot here lately) and it's raining and pouring, the old man is snoring (is that even politically correct?) and he sings "rain, rain go way, morning!" The ABC song is "now I know my e, f, g", in the correct tune.

This morning Zakir got up with Bilal at about 7am, and I had a lazy lie-in in bed. Of course Zakir was in the sitting room and Bilal was actually jumping around in our bedroom and wreaking havoc with the DVDs in the drawer, so I didn't actually sleep, but it was nice not to have to physically get out of bed for a couple of hours. They took his trike around the block. Bilal's new thing is that he tries to steer the trike himself, which he is not quite capable of doing, so it's harder to push him, but it's one step towards him becoming more independent.

Safa and Hamza got up late today. We played Scrabble until after 10pm last night, and by the end of the game I was making all of Hamza's words for him. I think next time we'll play Pictionary instead. We can't take out any board game until after Bilal goes to bed, because of the tiny pieces he tends to scatter around the room. Lately his waking hours are mostly spent playing swords and light sabers with Hamza, with scrapes and boo-boos thrown in for good measure.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer has started

I've been trying to catch up on some much needed sleep, so have no idea what's been going on in blogger-land, or carepage-land, or caringbridge-land. It's going to take a while to get caught up. Anyway, I've stopped all those crazy meds, and hopefully will get some answers to my symptoms tomorrow after my tests. Anyone who has taken steroids may know how irritable they can make you feel. Zakir has been an angel through it all!

Summer holidays are in full swing, and the kids aren't bored yet. The weather's been dreary and dull, so they haven't been outdoors much, but are so far able to find enough to keep them busy. Today Vicki took them over to her house and they painted cute canvas bags, and had junk food for lunch. That's always fun! Tomorrow Zakir has them in the morning while I go to work. We don't have any big pans this weekend yet, but I'm sure we'll find something to do, maybe go to a park or the zoo, if it doesn't rain.

Construction-wise the base of our sunroom has been bricked-up to match the rest of the house, and the orders should be in for the windows, so that the builders can start working on the real meat of the project. So far no hiccups, so that's good news. I'll post some photos this weekend.

I haven't had the camera out much lately, but will post new photos of the kids as soon as I take some more.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Still not quite sure......

So after 10 days of facial pain, several sleepless nights due to the steroids, and daily heartburn due to the antibiotics we're not quite sure what the cause of my symptoms is. Today I went to get a CT of the sinuses done, so see if they were occluded and causing the pain, although you'd think I'd have other symptoms too, or some improvement with the antibiotics I've been taking! Anyway, the good news is, the sinuses are clear. The ENT worked me in with a neurologist, and I'm scheduled for some more tests on Friday. Anyway, at least it means I can stop the steroids and antibiotics. Maybe we'll have some answers by Friday. Meanwhile, I'm dealing with it. Send some positive vibes my way, please!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day weekend

After our trip to Chattanooga on Friday Saturday was more low key. I took the kids to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens while Zakir caught up on some paperwork, and we got Hamza's eye exam done on the way back. Got quite a hiccup at the gas pump, buying premium gas for the MDX at $3.979 a gallon. Just one day earlier we had filled the tank for $3.889. When are gas prices going to peak??

Sunday started off pretty quiet, Zakir got up with Bilal and took him for a walk, while Safa, Hamza and I had a lie in. We were invited out to dinner in the evening, so that was one less meal to cook! Our friends have a lovely home at the lakeside and there was a big gathering out in their beautiful backyard. The kids had a great time running around in the grass and the food was delicious.

Today has also been less hectic than an average Monday; with a trip to the stores in the morning. I had the chance to take Bilal to meet a new heart mom in our local city. Her daughter has had one OHS, and will undergo two more within the next couple of years. We share a common surgeon at UAB. Seeing a first time mom adjusting to motherhood remind me of how things were when Safa was a baby. Add CHD into the equation and I can imagine it must be hard for her at times. I hope to get to know Amanda and her little one more over time.

This evening Safa and Hamza used eggs as their secret ingredient. Safa found a recipe for curry and Hamza made a spinach scramble thingamajig. Both recipes weren't too bad, but Hamza wouldn't even sample his own meal, and when we tried to get him to eat it he started to gag, so basically this weekend's contest was void. What kind of chef won't even try his own food? Have to admit, Zakir's homemade raspberry ice cream topped the meal off perfectly, yummy!!

Here's a little video of Bilal hitching a ride with a shopping cart at Target. I thought it was so cute!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rock City Gardens

Here's the first slideshow of yesterday's trip to Chattanooga. More to follow soon!

Friday, May 23, 2008


I wanted to share a few pics of our trip to Chattanooga today. A montage will hopefully follow soon. We had a great day, it was really muggy but the rain stayed away until the trip back home. We hadn't visited in several years, and the aquarium has expanded a lot since then.

First stop, Cracker Barrel for breakfast.

Next, it was on to Rock City Gardens, where Bilal loved to run around but was rather intimidated by the narrow spaces of Needle's eye and fat man squeeze.

Safa took a break and got her photo snapped in her princess pose.

Isn't this picture just precious? By this time the kids were really warming up to the camera, even elusive Hamza and little wildman Bilal!

Hamza got to do some rock climbing. He finished the easier wall with little difficulty, so got to try out the intermediate wall, he nearly reached the bell to ring it, but couldn't complete the last 12 or so inches. good try though!

We hung out a little while at Lover's Leap, and got a view of seven states (Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia)

After a quick lunch at McDonald's (for the record, Zakir ate a salad), we headed to the Tenessee Aquarium. They have added on a new ocean gallery since our last trip there several years ago, so we ended up spending a good deal of time there.

We made a quick stop at Ben and Jerry's on the way out from the aquarium, who can resist ice cream when the store is virtually starting you in the face?

Safa and I took tons of photos, the ones in this post are basically just a few.

On the way back home, like father, like son, both were tuckered.

Don't they look adorable?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Work has commenced

We are officially deckless. The builders have torn down the deck and dug up the footers most of the way. Tomorrow they plan to pour the concrete and hopefully the bricks will be delivered. We are hoping for quick progress, maybe it really won't take 6-8 weeks?

I have been having bizzare facial pain constantly for the past week, thought it might be a sinus infection, so started taking antibiotics, although I've never had a sinus infection without a scratchy throat or stuffy nose, or this severe facial pain! Anyway, since it wasn't getting better I went to see an ENT today who, after examining me still couldn't tell if I really had a sinus infection, but started me on some stronger antibiotics and steroids to see if it got better. Otherwise he's going to order a CT scan for next week. It has to be bad when even an ENT can't tell if you have a sinus infection or not (after sticking a fiberoptic scope up your nose, yuck!) I am hoping that it's just sinusitis; there have been very few times in my life when I've had pain that wouldn't improve with two extra strength Tylenol. The last time I did, it turned out to be a disc herniation in my lower back. Well, I'll just see how it feels by next week. I really don't want to spend Memorial Day with a throbbing, achy jaw!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Is there a doctor in the house?

This evening Safa sprayed insect repellent on herself and Bilal before going outside in the yard. Of course Bilal insisted he wanted the can, so Safa put it out of reach on the island and went outside, while I was in my bedroom, just a few feet away. Well, a moment later I heard an imminent silence, then a loud scream. Bilal had dragged the kitchen stool to the island and had, I thought, bumped his eye against the edge. I took him outside to console him, and as we walked back in, Bilal still screaming, it dawned on me that he must have sprayed the bug repellent in his eyes. He confirmed this with a wailing "yeah!!!" So I washed his eyes the best I could and asked Zakir what else to do. Well, he said, "read the back of the can", which said 'wash eyes out with water and consult a physician'. But we are the physicians! It's so hard to play doctor with our own kids, but it happens more often than I like. Anyway. after rinsing Bilal's eyes out he settled down, and of now has a teeny bit of redness, which should hopefully be gone by the morning, no real harm done. The moral of the story is, no longer is anything out of reach of our toddler. He can climb, and isn't afraid to do it, so it's up to us to move things one shelf higher every day!

Earlier Bilal had a playdate with Aliyah. Actually, Mehreen and I met at the Summit, we roamed around, did some shopping and ate lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. The food was good but the service was very, very, very slow. The kids are only two months apart, and do rather well together. They look so cute, interacting with each other. I see the same twinkles in their eyes, although I have never actually seen Aliyah get into trouble the way Bilal does, every waking moment. Maybe it's a boy thing!

Waiting for lunch to arrive

Baby Aliyah, isn't she precious?

Mehreen and Aliyah, still waiting for lunch

Mama and Bilal, a fuzzy self portrait, but I still think it's cute

Monday, May 19, 2008

At the dentist's office

Today Safa and Hamza went to the dentist to get their teeth cleaned. Normally they go back by themselves and I meet with the dentist at the end, but I thought Bilal should be exposed to the whole experience, so we all went back to the exam room. After Hamza was done Bilal sat in the exam chair and wouldn't get up, insisting he wanted his teeth cleaned too! He'll have his first appointment in six months, I have him scheduled with his siblings, he'll have turned 2 by then.

The builders won't be able to start work tomorrow after all, but we're still hoping they'll start before the end of the week. I am so ready for them to get going, we've already been talking about furniture for the new room. Something a bit outdoorsy, but not too much so, since we want to make it our primary living room. Any suggestions, anyone?

School officially ends on Thursday, and the kids have been begging not to go that day. As if 81 days of summer vacation weren't enough, they want 82! I can picture them sitting around over the summer, whining that it's too hot to play outside and that they're bored. They'll be ready to go back to school in no time (I think!)

Well, the kids are tucked in for the night and I have to finish off my charts, so off I go, after sharing these two photos taken this evening:

The nice thing about a self-propelled lawn mower- you can even put a nine year old to work!

Me too!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another room completed, and other news

Safa's room is just about completed, all we have to do is hang the drapes, and it will be time to move on to Hamza's room. I think I'll wait a few weeks before starting on it, plus I'll have to take out the masking tape again, since I'll be painting in his room. I dread the taping part. It amazes me how I got round to taping an entire wall in Bilal's room to paint stripes. I don't think I'd do it again in a hurry!

Friday we were invited to a graduation party, and Saturday a birthday party, so it's been quite busy. Today the kids had their Sunday School graduation and awards, no more Sunday School until August, we pretty much go by the regular school schedule. Maybe that means a couple of late mornings over the summer (if Bilal cooperates, that is).

Safa and Myra hanging out at Maryam's graduation party

I also thought I'd go ahead and post the 'before' picture since our builder is scheduled to start work on our house on Tuesday. The deck will be torn down, and a room constructed, which will communicate with the main house after the wall is knocked down. Basically it should add a lot of square footage to our existing sunroom, hopefully without compromising the light. We plan to have lots of windows and a couple of skylights with a gable roof. Hopefully the 6-8 weeks of disruption in the home will be worth it. The second story window you can see right above the deck is Bilal's room, so I'm thinking I might have to move him in order to preserve those long naps I (er, I mean he) can't do without!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Anatomy 101

That's my bilingual baby, at least he understands two languages even if he won't use them!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

School Update

The school year is coming to an end. Yesterday Hamza went to Montgomery for a field trip; fourth graders go every year. He visited several state buildings and the Governor's Mansion, and the coaches didn't get back to school until 5:20 pm. Last Friday was Hamza's 'fun run', a fundraising event at the school. Instead of selling gift wrap and candy this year the school decided to participate in this health promoting event. Students got pledges based on how many laps they would run, and Hamza's class raised over $1300, pretty impressive. Safa's Friday was spent at Spring Fling, a full day of games and carnival rides at the school. I suppose they've worked hard all year, they deserve to have some fun too! School officially ends next Thursday, so most school courses are winding down, with only a couple of tests left and nothing but review work going on. I think many people have gone on vacation already!

Tug of war at Spring Fling

I usually spend most of my Tuesdays with Bilal catching up on housework. Fortunately Vicki and Bilal usually manage to get out of the house and go on a 'field trip' very often. So I decided I didn't want to miss out the fun either. Leaving the house in a certain state of disarray we drove around Trussville yesterday morning and found a couple of construction sites with some digging going on. These days Bilal is all about diggers. We parked at a distance and watched the construction equipment at work. Later we drove to Oneonta to surprise visit Baba at work. All in all a good day, but Bilal only napped 20 minutes in the car. That's the second time he's missed his nap in 2 days, and he was cranky most of the evening. I am NOT ready for Bilal to give up his 3 hour naps. They give me so much time to catch up on things I can't do when he's up. Today he's been asleep for nearly 3 hours, so I'm hoping he'll fall back into his usual routine. It's going to be enough of a disruption in schedule when construction work starts in our house in the next week or two and when his older siblings are out of school.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How I spent Mother's Day

Well, the morning started off with an extra hour and a half in bed........ with my kids, all three of them jumping around on the bed, accompanied by a 'Bob the Builder' marathon, four episodes to be precise. I know the theme song by heart now. Safa and Hamza gave me hand made Mother's Day cards, I always love those. Hamza's pretty much summed up his priorities, he's all about eating. It said:

Happy Mother's Day to the best cook (tied with Baba) in the universe.
Love, Hamza

Safa's was a little more sentimental and said:

I am so lucky to have you as my mother
Because you are like a flower
Never perfect
But always the best in the world

Ooooo, I love my kids!

Bilal had already given me a card earlier in the week. After lounging around the house for a couple of hours we went to a local park recommended by our mechanic, stopping by Sonic on the way to tank up on greasy food for lunch. During the whole car ride Bilal kept clapping his hands and chanting "part, yay!" (translated as park, yay!). We spent about half an hour at the park; our trip got cut short when we had a little leaky diaper incident, and since I had forgotten to pack a spare outfit for Bilal, we came home with Bilal buckled into his car seat wearing nothing but a diaper. He fell asleep right before we got home and when I put him in his crib he was wide awake again. After almost an hour in the crib he was still talking to himself and periodically calling for me, so I brought him downstairs and the kids and I watched Alvin and the Chipmunks on TV.

The afternoon was spent working on Safa's room, sticking up Wall-pops, which weren't too bad once I got the hang of it, but I'm not quite done yet. Here's an idea of the progress we've made so far:

Safa and Hamza made us supper (that's the fourth week in a row). OK, food's not always great, and there's quite a bit of prep and cleanup, but it's still quite fun. And the highlight of the day had to be bathtime for Bilal. I ran the tub and undressed him, and he started saying "pee, pee". so I asked him if he wanted to sit on the potty and he did, and then peed and pooped in the potty! Whoo hoo!!!! Then he wanted to get back on after his bath, and peed in the potty again! I think for now I won't be pushing it, but if he wants to try, I'm all for it.

How did you spend Mother's Day?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all moms out there. These three are the best kids in the world (OK, I'm just a little bit biased!)

Mother's Day is just one more day to be thankful for the three wonderful children I have been blessed with. It is also just one more day that I think about my own mother, gone too soon. These poems do a good job of expressing some of the emotions I often experience.

I miss you so much, your laugh, your smile, your touch,
You always brightened my days with all the smiles you sent my way,
I need you as my angel to always be at my side.
I need you as my angel to give me peace of mind.
I like to think you near to me to know that you are there.
Even though I can not see you, I feel that you are near.
Please do not forget me mom,
for you are always in my heart, my thoughts and prayers.
I love you.

~~By Shari M. Blom.~~

Your mother is always with you...

She's the whisper of the leaves
as you walk down the street.

She's the smell of bleach
in your freshly laundered socks.

She's the cool hand on your brow
when you're not well.

Your mother lives inside your laughter.
She's crystallized in every tear drop.

She's the place you came from,
your first home...
She's the map you follow
with every step that you take.

She's your first love
and your first heart break...
and nothing on earth can separate you.

Not time, Not space...
Not even death...
will ever separate you
from your mother...

You carry her inside of you...

~Author Unknown~

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Another life lost

It was sad to read one of the latest posts on the Yahoo tetralogy group I follow. One of the adult ToFers on the group died suddenly on Thursday, probably due to an arrythmia. He was 36 years old and had gone through several open heart surgeries, but had been doing very well recently. His death of course was very unfortunate, my heart goes out to his family. But it affected me personally in a different way as well. We continue to rejoice on the way Bilal has healed after heart surgery, and continues to do well, with good follow up reports from the cardiologist. And the reality again sinks in, he has a congenital heart defect. Risks of arrythmias and sudden cardiac death are higher, even in repaired hearts. I'm sure that the life expectancy of a child with tetralogy born in 2006, must be higher than that of a child born in 1972, even after being repaired; surgical techniques have been refined and re-refined, to the point that some repairs lead to a 'near-normal' heart, anatomically. But how can we predict how well our children will do in the years to come? All we can do is try to raise our children, both heart healthy and broken hearted, the best we can, and leave the rest to God. Life is fragile.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I love being mom!

This is what Vicki and Bilal made me for Mother's Day. It's a little ducky, with Bilal's own paw print (his left foot to be exact), and it sums up little boys perfectly. How precious is that? Thanks, Vicki!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Peaceful moments

Doesn't Bilal look so content? Another moment of utter peace with his big sister, after spending the first hour or so after she came home, spitting at her and pulling her hair. This is what brought about the change in mood:

Safa would do anything for her baby brother. Unfortunately his jealous streak still shows itself more often than not. Hers's another photo taken earlier today, this one made me think that they do look a good bit alike.

Safa cuddling Bilal, can you tell he was pulling away from her?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sounds like a day in my life

With Mother's Day coming up this weekend I thought I'd share this video. I can so relate to the song, with three kids, including a pre-teen and a toddler. I have a link to this in the sidebar below, but in case you didn't get a chance to see it, enjoy this. It's about 3 minutes long, and hilarious (particularly if you have kids of various ages, or it might just remind you of your mom).

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Busy Weekend

We've had a lot going on this weekend. Yesterday we had four families over for a barbecue dinner, it's nice to have the weather perfect for grilling. It poured early into mid-morning and we were worried that we'd have to move the cars out and grill in the garage. Luckily it dried up in time, and the little kids actually got to play outside. Before our guests started coming Bilal obliged me with a nice long nap (nearly 4 hours!), so I was able to tie up all loose ends in the kitchen without the little guy tugging at my shirt, begging to be picked up. I actually had to wake him up, thinking he'd never go to sleep at night!

Farah and Adeel dropped by on their way from South Carolina to Mobile, quite unexpectedly. They didn't get in until about 11:30 pm and left after lunch today, but it was still good to see them. Farah is moving this weekend, so her cat Janice was in the car. She wasn't very happy to be stopping over in a house with strange cat smells, and spent the night and morning hissing and growling at anyone who came near her, including Farah. It was a nightmare trying to get her back in her pet carrier to load her back in the car, but it was finally accomplished without casualties, except for poor Janice's bruised ego. Drive safely folks!

The kids are about to start working on this week's round of Iron Chef, so I'd better go help them out in the kitchen.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Self sufficient

OK, here's Bilal's funny story of the day. We had just come home from the grocery store with a slice of cake in a paper plate they had been giving out by the door. I placed the cake on the island and went outside to unload the rest of the groceries. Bilal was running in and out of the garage and kitchen shouting "Tate!" (cake) and "Poom" (spoon), so I figured he needed a spoon (or fork) to eat some cake. I told him it would be a minute, so he went back in. When I walked into the kitchen, this is what I saw:

And then,

Bilal had dragged the dining chair over to the island, and since I hadn't given him a spoon, he climbed on to the chair and just dug in! If you ask me, I think he's got pretty good survival skills, I don't think I'm going to have to worry about him taking care of himself. His philosophy: "If I want it, I'll get it."

The Woes of Toddlerhood

It's not easy being a toddler! The last couple of weeks have been especially trying both for baby and mama. Bilal has always been a headstrong little guy, but with the upcoming 'terrible twos' things are harder than ever. I suppose it was the same with Safa and Hamza when they were little, but my selective memory must have blanked that part out. Bilal just wants to be contrary. At home he constantly begs to be picked up, and outside of the home he wants to get down and run. He wants Baba to bathe him and Mama to put his pyjamas on, or the other way around. If he doesn't get his way, out comes the screech and the tears start flowing. We strike many compromises except when it comes to safety. Who said parenting was easy? When the tantrum is over and Bilal is just being a baby he will do things that melt your heart. How can you even be mad at him? With his expanding vocabulary have come more words that we don't understand. Oh, the frustrations of knowing exactly what you are saying and not being able to get others to understand! The one thing that gives me patience with him is putting myself at his level. Imagine this:

You are smallest in the family, and everyone else is using cool gadgets that you aren't allowed to touch. Big brother opens the fridge whenever he wants something and you are restricted by a fridge lock because Mama doesn't want you pouring maple syrup all over the floor. You point to something on the counter you can't reach and Mama says "Wait a minute". So you go into the dining room and retrieve a chair, drag it all the way into the kitchen and get the bottle of water yourself, manage to open the lid and then cough and splutter when too much comes pouring into your mouth. To take matters further, the chair gets taken back into the dining room so next time you need something you have to start the process all over again! You see an open laptop and run to it shouting "Email! email!". Somebody else gets there first and puts it out of reach because they don't want a repeat of what happened to the last laptop (the system crashed, and the computer has yet to be repaired). Baba works at the kitchen counter with a large shiny knife, and when you ask for a "nice" you get handed a bright red item that won't even cut through butter. You are constantly chased around the house by parents and siblings shouting "No, Bilal! no Bilal!" And you thought being a parent was tough!

Here's a little clip showing Bilal's new accomplishments:

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