Monday, June 30, 2008

The Father's Day photo shoot!

I'm so excited! Samantha Ferguson with His Hands Photographs finally managed to get us the proofs of the kids' portraits. I have so many beautiful portraits to share. We are definitely going to ask her to do more pictures of the family some time soon, she did a great job with the kids. I'm sharing a couple of my favorites today, and I'll be posting more soon. The Washington trip stories will have to wait for now.

A little pre-teen attitude

Quite a handsome fella

How precious does the baby look?

These kids have my heart

I thought this last one was really cute.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

We're home!

And quite relieved to be here. We had a rough last night in DC, with Safa throwing up several times, and generally feeling miserable. Left the hotel at 6am EST, and were home by about 10am CST. Everything started to revert back the minute we got here. I made french toast for breakfast and even Bilal got his appetite back. It's the best breakfast he's had in 5 days! Then after drinking a full sippy cup he happily agreed to take a nap, almost 4 hours. Yay! So far one load of laundry has been completed, with more to come. Safa is already feeling better; I think it was just something in last night's dinner that disagreed with her. Zakir, Bilal and I slept through lunch, so we had an early dinner, and the kids are playing superheroes upstairs as I type this. Despite a good trip it feels great to be home. I still have a lot to write about Friday and Saturday, but I'll post that with some photos later.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Another day in DC

This morning we took the kids to the Smithsonian Zoo, a 15 minute walk from our hotel. Inside the zoo there was a lot of walking, and not many animals to see, since there is major renovation going on. We did, however manage to see the giant pandas, and the elephants. And Bilal was in toddler heaven because he got to see the diggers at work. But he did like the pandas too!

It was such a relief when I finally got Bilal to fall asleep, lying on our bed watching Monster's Inc. His naps have been no more than 1/2 hour on the go, since the day we left Birmingham, and he has been running around in circles, typical behavior for him, especially when he is exhausted. I'm hoping he'll sleep a couple of hours, since we plan to take him to the alumni banquet tonight. I haven't even put him in his crib, he looks so peaceful lying on the bed. Let sleeping babies lie!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Where shall I start?

Hmmm, well........ we got into Baltimore Tuesday evening after a 3 hour flight delay in Birmingham. We rented a car and got into DC after several wrong turns. Let's just say that the driver (not me!) and the GPS just weren't quite in sync. Anyway, we checked in at 10:25pm, and Zakir asked for a crib and a rollaway bed as we had requested earlier on. The first shock: thirty-two dollars a day for parking, in a dungeon! I suppose that shows we should have done some research before we visited. We rolled our luggage through the narrow, dark hallways and entered the room we were given. As soon as we entered, Bilal let out a wail and started bawling "No crib here!!!" He woudn't get down off my lap. I called housekeeping 45 minutes after we checked in and they hadn't even received a call from the front desk regarding the crib. Another call to the front desk and manager, and still no progress. Anyway, we finally got the crib after midnight, just after Bilal was finally starting to fall asleep next to us. In comes the crib, with no sheets. The housekeeping staff member haughtily says, "Did you ask for sheets?" Well no, but we are about to put our child into a strange crib, we would have assumed the sheets would come with it! We didn't want to wait any longer so I just put a bedspread in the crib. After this whole mess Bilal finally fell asleep next to Zakir in bed, he just thrashed around awake in the little portable crib for half an hour before we picked him up. Moral of the story, we have learned what not to do in DC:

1. Rent a car; navigation is difficult and parking costs a fortune.

2. Stay at the Marriott Wardman Hotel; the staff's not very helpful, and there isn't even wireless internet access in the rooms. I'm using my handy dandy Verizon mobile access to type this. We've had better experience at mid-range hotels such as the Hampton Inn, where we generally prefer to stay.

We did manage to move to a more centrally located hotel room the next night, but overall since we've come here the baby's life has been turned upside down. Poor sleep, poor appetite, and all the woes associated with travel when you're a toddler.

Wednesday we drove to Baltimore and visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and rode the Ducks of Baltimore, a tour on amphibious vehicles, which was quite nice. We ate crabcakes at Camden Place. Phillip's Seafood is supposed to have the best crabcakes in the world. Well, have to admit, they were pretty tasty.

Quack quack!

This morning we rode an open top double decker bus down to the Mall, and visited the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and World War II memorial. We saw the Capitol and the White House as we rode the bus. Thai food for a late lunch and we came back to the hotel room where Bilal went crazy, running around in circles in the room and Safa and Hamza hung around the lobby with friends who also came here from Birmingham.

Inside the Lincoln Memorial

Safa and Hamza, with the Capitol in the background

Riding the open top bus, it was fun in the beginning. I'm not posting an after picture of Bilal, for certain reasons, not to be disclosed, but let's just say we had run out of drinking water and it wasn't pretty

We'll be checking out some more of the local attractions tomorrow, and then in the evening there is a banquet for members of the AKU alumni association, so we're looking forward to meeting some friends. It will be interesting to see how they've changed after so many years.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Flight delays

Well, our flight was at 2:05pm, and we are still sitting in Birmingham, at 4:15pm. The flight we are supposed to take got delayed in Houston, so left late from New Orleans, and our new departure time is listed as 4:30pm. Somehow I doubt it. It hasn't even arrived yet. When we came to check in it was already delayed so we checked in and went back home to pick up Bilal's passport (we need verification of his age being under 2 since he is traveling in my lap). Oops! They let us check in at the Birmingham Airport with no problems, but we thought the staff at Baltimore may not be as kind on the return flight, so now we are traveling fully equipped. Bilal is bouncing around, energetic as ever, functioning on a very short nap in the car, and basically the rest of us are just ready to leave already!

The kids have just announced they see our plane landing on the runway, so I'll update more later.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Travel preparations

OK, so we're (nearly) packed and ready to go. Our flight to Baltimore leaves around 2pm tomorrow afternoon, but I am determined to have all the packing done by tonight, NOT tomorrow. I admit, I'm always the procrastinator! The kids are excited, their carry-on bags are packed, except for, in Hamza's case, his blankie of course, which he still carries around with him everywhere. Bilal's dump truck book can't get packed until tomorrow either, he sleeps with it every night. Aside from that we're close to being ready. We're headed back Sunday morning, and then Monday it will be back to work as usual. According to Safa we have to prepared for 92 degree temps in DC, well, that's just like being here, so no big deal. We are looking forward to meeting some of our friends we haven't seen since 1993 when Zakir and I graduated from medical school, and hopefully re-establish some ties.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Night out with the Jeff Galey Band

Last night I took Safa and Hamza to watch the Jeff Galey Band perform classic rock on an outdoor stage at Club Quincy. Jeff is Safa's guitar instructor, who until recently was a regular performer at a popular biker's resort in Alabama, 29 Dreams. We sat out on the steps and stayed for a couple of hours, while Zakir stayed home with the sleeping baby. I'm sure Zakir would have enjoyed the genre of music even more than we did, but he was the one who opted out. There were a lot of Jeff's other guitar students there too. We got back home around 11pm, the gig was supposed to last until midnight. We didn't get close enough to get good photos, but here's a little bit of video from the event:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More mommy moments

This morning I took the kids to the zoo. I usually work Wednesdays, but have tried to take some extra time off during the summer, so I had an extra day with them this week. It was a perfect day for the zoo, low 80s with clear blue skies, and a gentle breeze, a nice break from the humidity we've been experiencing lately. We started off with a trip to the reptile house, followed by the sea lion show. Then we made a stop to feed the lorikeets. Boy, those birds are greedy little things, they just sucked up the nectar in a matter of minutes. At one point in time there were three of them sitting on Hamza's right arm. I couldn't get a photo of that, because I had two birds on my arm, and obviously couldn't reach for the camera!

Bilal wanted to feed them too, but I was worried those sharp claws would dig into his little hands, so he had to watch from a distance.

We had to ride the choo-choo train, of course! That was short and sweet. After a visit with a few more animals we stopped for lunch.

On the way home Bilal feel asleep, but woke up as soon as we got home. So instead of his usual 3+ hour nap he only slept 15 minutes. Needless to say, by 7pm he didn't know if he was coming or going! I gave him a super quick bath and he tucked Hamza in as usual. Unfortunately Safa wasn't home from karate yet, so he cried and cried to see her before going to bed. His ritual involves tucking Hamza and Safa in bed, in that particular order, before he's ready to go into his crib. Eventually he agreed to sit in the rocker with me, and I rocked him to sleep, with his left arm wrapped around Bear and Blankie, and his right hand holding on tightly to my arm. It has been a very long time since he has actually fallen asleep in my arms. Usually he starts chanting "wib!" (crib) as soon as I sit down with him, and he goes down in his crib awake. Today it occured to me, we teach our kids to fall asleep by themselves, so that they can comfort themselves if they wake up, without mom and dad there. But we miss out on so many cuddles by making them so independent. There is something so endearing about feeling a little hand around your wrist, and feeling the grip loosen as the baby falls asleep. I sat in the rocker with Bilal for the longest time after he fell asleep, just holding him, and enjoying the peacefulness of the moment. Tomorrow we'll probably be back to the old routine, and some day the cuddles will become a thing of the past. We need to stop and savor these moments with our kids, before they grow up and move on.

Monday, June 16, 2008

From seed to sunflower

Once upon a time there was a little boy called Hamza, who planted four tiny sunflower seeds in a Dixie cup. He watered the cup to keep the soil moist, and within a few days, three seedlings had emerged. He was fascinated at how the seedlings kept turning towards the sun, even while growing in the cup on the kitchen window ledge.

When the seedlings started to outgrow the cup it was time to take his budding plants outside. Hamza dug three little holes in the veggie patch, and planted the seedlings. Sadly, one didn't survive the trip from the kitchen to the vegetable patch, but two were successfully planted.

With just the right amount of sun and rain his plants started to grow bigger, and bigger. He watched the progress from the kitchen window every day. Soon each plant had a single bud, close to the top. Finally the day arrived when his first sunflower plant bloomed. What a glorious site for all to see!

Hamza is so proud of his accomplishment. He already has plans for the sunfower seeds. This evening he researched online and learned that each flower has approximately two thousand seeds, wow! He plans to toast some, put some in his bird feeder for the birds that frequent our garden, and save some to re-plant next year.

This year we are growing tomatoes and cucumbers. So far we have started picking some ripe cherry tomatoes, and our roma plant is loaded with green tomatoes. Hopefully the cucumbers won't be far behind. At least we're not stressing about Salmonella when the salad is coming from our own back yard!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Osu Mountain Training

We had a great morning at Oak Mountain yesterday. It took us a while to get to the pavilion because we had to keep dodging the athletes participating in a major triathlon. There were runners and cyclists everywhere. The weather was better than it has been lately because of an early morning rain, so it was only in the low 70s, although it was a bit humid. Everyone joined in for some Tai Chi, followed by lots of junk food and drinks.

We separated from the party to take the kids to the man-made beach. I think the usual crowds were waiting for the sun to come out, so it was rather quiet. Safa and Hamza had a blast in the water. Makes me wonder why it took us nine years to make it to a beach that is only 18 miles away from our home! Bilal was rather nervous around the water initially, prefering to mooch another kid's dump truck and shovel in order to play in the sand (evidently we didn't come prepared and another parent was nice enough to let us share!) but eventually he ventured into the water and started to enjoy himself. We passed up on the pedal boats that only seat four, and headed home after spending some time at the beach. I think we might have to go back some day, because Bilal fell asleep on the way home, and as I was picking him out of the car he awoke briefly, and started crying "Beach!"

Oh, and while we were at Oak Mountain, Zakir totally let Bilal be a little boy, while Mama just stood there and watched in utter horror!

It's been a pleasant Father's Day. We went out to some local shops this morning, and after lunch Zakir took Safa and Hamza to the movie theater to watch Kung Fu Panda. Hamza came home and announced that it was the best movie he's ever watched. For someone who could watch Star Wars Episode III (I don't approve of it, but Baba says it's OK), and Transformers twenty times, that's a big deal. While they were gone I made some blackberry cobbler. It's a new recipe, and we haven't sampled it yet but it's dessert, duh! Zakir is making some homemade ice cream to go with it, as we speak. Gosh, it does sound like we eat heaps of sugar, doesn't it? I promise we do eat healthy (when we're not eating dessert!)

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to the wonderful dads in my life; my husband, my father and my father-in-law. My brother Tahir gets special mention too, he is the father of two beautiful girls. Today Zakir gets to sleep in (although I know he'll probably be up in a few minutes!), while Bilal and I sit and quietly play and watch Blue's Clues. I've seen the cool cards Safa and Hamza have made for Zakir, I'm sure he'll love them. We don't have any big plans today, so hopefully it will be a relaxing day. There has been mention of a cold front coming through, so we're hoping that's true. Ready for Fall already!

I'll be posting pics from our Oak Mountain visit a little later.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Splish splash

Bath time is so much fun!

Friday, June 13, 2008

What's new

We just got back from doing some shopping, we got a couple of photo frames for Zakir's Father's Day gift. The kids always enjoy roaming around Michael's, there's so many cool projects you can check out. Since the start of the summer they have been making stuff with Vicki. They have painted little canvas backpacks to use at the pool, etc., they just finished making bird feeders out of clay pots and now they are working on painting T-shirts. After shopping we stopped at Subway to Eat Fresh and Bilal has just gone down for his nap. Despite the extensive hammering going on right outside his bedroom window he still manages to sleep at least 2 hours every afternoon, so he's still averaging about 14 hours of sleep a day. The remainder of the time he is wide open, running around like a maniac. This morning he obliged me with a lie-in, and didn't wake up until 8:15, about an hour later than usual. Since I didn't have to go to work, I took full advantage of that extra time in bed.

The builders are putting up shingles right now, I really must take some photos this weekend! They won't be knocking down any interior walls until we come back from vacation, so they are finishing off all the outside work until then.

Tomorrow the plan is to go to Oak Mountain for the Karate Dojo's annual Osu Mountain training. They train early before it gets too hot, then eat, swim and pedal boat. Hopefully we'll all go this year, and make a picnic of it.

Oh, and I did end up cutting Bilal's hair again, in the kitchen sink. He is so squirmy, it was hard to do, but I'm sure he should be feeling cooler with all that hair off his head!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bilal's haircut.......

...... that didn't materialize. This is as far as we got:

He sat in the chair on a stack of phonebooks, allowed the hairdresser to put a cape around him, and she started to spray his hair with water. That's when he freaked out, and wouldn't sit still for a haircut. You should have seen the determination with which he ripped that cape off himself! He wouldn't even sit in my lap to get his hair cut. Once again, the plan was abandoned. I guess it's back to the kitchen sink again!

On another note, he is really talking up a storm now, and making a little bit more sense every day. Today Safa bulit him a house for his favorite charcter of the moment, who happens to be Bob the Builder. Hamza, always in the mood to goof off, threw it on the ground and it broke. Well, Bilal came complaining to me, saying, "Amza bote Bob house!" For all of you who have been learning Bilal's lingo along with us, you can tell this translates into Hamza broke Bob's house. Wow, a four word sentence that makes perfect sense! I am excited to find out what he'll be saying next.

Safa and I had our eye exams today, and the boys had a bit of fun while they were waiting in the store.

Cool, dude!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Some random photos

Hamza, not wanting his picture taken

Cuddling, or rather, almost sitting on Tiny

Yummy cake!

Safa's perspective

Trapped in the mouth of a fish, aaargh!

I thought this one just looked rather neat

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A day full of Fun

This morning I left to go to the hospital at 6am, so that I was back by 9:30am. So I didn't miss too much of the day with the kids. I hate working on weekends!

Anyway, we did have a fun day. Zakir and Bilal started out working in the yard and watering the plants, while the older siblings were still asleep. I joined them on my way back from work. Of course, I had to get out the camera!

Let's say, Bilal got a little carried away with the hose:

Later we made a visit to Homestead Hollow, an arts and crafts fair in Springville. They have had it four times a year for many years, but this was our first visit there. Despite the fact that it was 90 degrees, we managed to have a good time, for the hour or so we spent there. Hamza and Bilal loved feeding the goats and calves at the little petting zoo.

There were a few craft demonstrations going on, but we didn't stop long at those. We did, however, make a much needed stop for ice cold fresh lemonade, yummy!

We also took advantage of the free babysitting services being provided!

This evening Safa and Hamza made dinner, with rice as their main ingredient. Their meals are getting a little more complex, which means I have to be standing by their side and helping them through the entire process of cooking, but it's still fun to do it together. Hamza made yummy and nutritious fried rice loaded with veggies like cabbage, onions, bell peppers and corn, and of course, his favorite ingredient: hot dogs. Have to admit, it sure was colorful. Safa made dessert this time. She made rainbow rice, a simplified version of a popular Pakistani dessert called Zarda and she also took store bought rice pudding and added strawberries to it, quite creative. Overall we really enjoyed dinner. Hamza won this time, by a very narrow margin. Even Bilal decided he liked the savory dish more then the dessert, and that's rare. Of course, he's inherited the old Khan 'sweet tooth'!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

UNO, anyone?

Has anyone ever played UNO Attack? It is a version of UNO that uses a device that shoots out cards. So if you don't have a card to play, instead of drawing one from the deck you have to hit a button, and randomly you will get either none, or many cards thrown at you from this device.

Anyway, Safa, Hamza and I played today, after Bilal was tucked in for the night. Since it was almost nine o'clock when we started, I promised them only one game. But Hamza won the first in a couple of minutes, so we played a second, and then a third. That's when the real fun started! The third game went on until after 10pm, lasting at least 45 minutes. In the middle of the game we were all rolling on the floor with laughter; it's been a while since any board game has been that much fun!

If you've never played it, I highly recommend it. I know we'll be playing again soon!

Friday, June 6, 2008

I've been tagged.....too!

OK, Vanessa, this one's for you......

What was I doing 10 years ago today?
Packing our belongings in our condo in Connecticut, with a pregnant belly, soon to be en route to a blissful year in Hawaii

Five things on my to-do list today
1.See patients in my clinic (ugh, it's my Friday to work!): check
2. Go out to eat this evening with the kids (our Friday ritual)
3. Do a load of laundry (there's always a load of laundry to do!)
4. Take an afternoon nap (let's see if it actually happens this time!)
5. Get some continuing medical education credits, by taking a self-study course

Five Snacks I enjoy (I can't let my kids see this one!)
1. Chocolate
2. Cake
3. Ice cream
4. Bread, I love bread! I guess I'm just a carb junkie.
5. Edamame (yup, me too! My husband got me hooked about 2 months ago. If I can't find anything sweet to snack on, that's what I go for. Delicious with a pinch of salt).

Five things I'd do if I was a millionaire
1. Pay off my house
2. Contribute more to my kids' college education
3. Go on a world tour (including, of course, my Bread Tour of Europe)
4. Contribute to CHD research (that's a no-brainer)
5. Take my kids to Disney world twice a year

Five places I've lived
That's the easiest one to answer, I'm a citizen of the world. I moved 7 times in 9 years!
1. Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland
2. Islamabad, Pakistan
3. Farmington, Connecticut
4. Honolulu, Hawaii
5. Trussville, Alabama

If you're reading this and haven't already joined in the fun, consider yourself tagged, and share the answers to these questions about yourself too!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lessons in Etiquette

Lately Bilal's every other sentence starts or ends in "Wannit!" (translated as want it). We have been working hard to teach him a more polite way of asking for something and our persistence is finally starting to pay off:

He sure loves pudding!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

McWane Center's always fun

As promised, the kids and I headed to McWane Center early this morning. That gave us plenty of time to get everything in before Bilal's nap time. Here are some pictures from our trip:

Safa intent on shooting foam balls at Hamza

Bilal taking a break in the telephone booth of the new exhibit, Itty Bitty Magic City

Playing with beads on an abacus

Holding up a stack of pebbles, heavy!

Digging for dinosaur bones


.......and musicians

We stopped by Zoe's Kitchen for lunch on the way home, they have delicious salads and sandwiches, and even in Downtown Birmingham during a busy lunch hour we were able to find parking immediately opposite the restaurant, amazing!

We also picked up Zakir's Father's Day present today. Of course Father's Day isn't until June 15th, but Safa begged and begged me to let Baba have his gift today, and I caved in. So Zakir was presented with his gift today, 12 days early. The kids have promised to give him cards on Father's Day. I think we might have to come up with something else! The gift is a set of portraits of the kids taken at the Botanical Gardens, by the most awesome photographer we were fortunate enough to find. Luckily she was able to fit us in in time to get our photos back in good time for Father's Day. Her website, His Hands Photographs is definitely worth a look-see. Click here to see some of her work if you're interested. She has agreed to give me the proofs of our photos, so hopefully I'll be able to share some pics on our blog too.

Monday, June 2, 2008

On the Cahaba

The kids and I drove over to a park where the Cahaba River flows through our city. We walked along the river bank for a while, but the gnats were a nuisance, so we didn't stay too long. Anyway, it was great to see how much water was flowing through what the kids thought would only be a tiny creek, thanks to the rain this year, which has helped reduce the rainfall deficit from last year. Last summer through winter we were in a zone of exceptional drought with mandatory water restrictions; now in most areas water restrictions such as use of sprinkler systems are voluntary.

We plan to visit McWane Center tomorrow morning, so I'm sure I'll have new photos to share!

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