Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chaand Raat

Literally translated as 'night of the moon', we use it to describe the night of the new moon, which determines the end of Ramadan and the eve of our Eid celebration. After a whole month of nothing to eat or drink from before sunrise until the sun sets it's time for some partying, and lots of yummy food.

I have fond memories of Chaand raat, growing up as a teen in Pakistan. Since the lunar calender months can have either 29 or 30 days, we would wait to hear that the moon has been sighted, then we'd pack into the car and go shopping for all sorts of fun stuff, such as glass bangles to fill our arms, costume jewelry, new clothes, shoes, snacks to eat, and often it included a stop to get henna applied on our hands. The stores would stay open till the wee hours of the night, and I remember how late night in the bazaars even looked as bright as day, with more people on the streets than you would see on an average afternoon in Pakistan.

It's not the same in the U.S., but we try to have our share of some of the fun. This year the Chaand Raat celebration was co-hosted by the Muslim Community of Birmingham Association and one of our local mosques. I try and make sure that Safa gets to go, because like Christmas, it's really all about the kids. This year we tucked Bilal in and I took the older two, while Zakir had a quiet evening at home, babysitting he calls it, actually sitting slumped in front of the TV until bedtime. We had a good time; lots of our friends were there, and Safa got henna on both of her hands. I even had a bit put on one of my hands, after many years of not having it done. Applying henna is just one of those skills, some people can do it so effortlessly, for others, like me, it turns out to be a sloppy mess! I think Safa's hands turned out quite pretty, Erum is really talented. She'll have something to show off to her friends at school, after missing a day of school tomorrow.

When she washes this off her hands there should be a deep red color which ought to last a few days before it fades.

We plan to go for prayers at 8am in the morning, then there's a carnival starting at 1pm, followed by a one-dish party at a friend's house in the evening. So much to do in one day!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Our yard got rolled

It was a half-hearted effort; I found only four empty toilet rolls in the yard, but still a bit of a nuisance to clean up. I'm just glad it didn't rain, now that would have been messy!

I guess this is what comes with being the end of homecoming week. Maybe next week things will be back to normal, less pep rallies and dress-up and more actual studying!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I don't want to jinx things but..........

...........Bilal has been off his reflux med, Prevacid and the appetite stimulant Periactin for 2 weeks. Thank God, so far so good! He has not had night time awakenings like he did the last time we tried to wean his Prevacid, and appetite still looks good. I think I can stop holding my breath now.

It's been a restful weekend so far, I actually took an afternoon nap myself today! While Mama, Baba and Bilal napped, Safa and Hamza exercised their singing talents with Sing Star. Well, there could be worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon!

We're starting to get a sense of fall, as the mornings are a bit cooler, in the mid 50s, although the daytime temps are still going up into the low 80s. There hasn't been much sign of the leaves changing color yet. Our confederate rose is starting to bloom. Last year we had a frost right after the first flower bloomed, so that was the end of flowers for the season. This time with the predictions of milder weather maybe we'll see more. I really wonder why it's called a rose at all, it's really a type of hibiscus.

On another note, the new pet fish Bubbles and Blaze are still alive and looking healthy. That's one week. Over the past week Safa would come home every day and wonder if Bubbles was still alive, maybe she can take it for granted now! They are supposed to have a life span of 2-3 years, so lets see. But what's a pet you can't cuddle or stroke? That's my own opinion.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Trussville's Homecoming

Can you tell Bilal got woken up from his nap? Bear had to come along.

Hamza in a much better mood than Bilal

And Safa in her Husky Pride colors

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Busy at the Middle School

Doesn't she make a cute Theodore?

"Enough pictures already, Mama!"

There's been a lot going on in the middle school this week, since it's homecoming week. Safa has dressed up every day of the week. Tacky day was Monday. I wish I'd taken a picture, no matter how hard she tries she still looks cute! Yesterday was celebrity day, and she dressed up as Theodore from Alvin and the Chipmunks. Today was camo day, and tomorrow they let out early for the homecoming parade. Every other week they have a pep rally, so a whole study period gets sacrificed to that. Makes you wonder how much studying they actually get in between all these activities.

Can you see the little camouflage butterflies on her top?

Debate team has started up, and yesterday Safa had to be at 2 places at the same time. After school she was supposed to be at the yearbook committee meeting, and the debate meeting. So of course she had to split her time between the two meetings. I hope this doesn't happen too often. Then her math teacher, whom we met at the Math night yesterday was asking why Safa didn't want to be part of the math team. Her luck, it would be on a Tuesday too! We agree that Safa has her hands full right now.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Community Math Night

Hamza and I went to Community Math Night today in Trussville. The event is sponsored by the Greater Birmingham Mathematics Partnership which promotes interest in Math through community programs, summer sessions and focused group discussions. The topic of today's discussion was Algebra. Hamza basically wanted to go because his teacher promised extra math credit for the students that went, and there was going to be pizza. But we're glad we went. At the start of the program there were probably 200 parents and students crammed into a room that definitely wasn't designed to accomodate as many. Basically the lecturer explained how to create algebraic expressions to figure out the next number in a sequence. I was amazed to see how quickly Hamza caught on to the concept. In fact he actually volunteered to show how he created an expression in front of everyone in the room. At first he was tongue tied, but when the teacher asked him to write down on the projector how he solved the problem it was a piece of cake for him. He got a lot of applause for it, of course. I wish I could have persuaded Safa to go too, but she still hasn't developed that interest. Now if it were a Young Author's conference, she'd be dragging me there! That's her focus.

I think we'll be going back at the next opportunity, and maybe we can coax Safa too!

Monday, September 22, 2008


For the first time since I can remember, my work organizer shows NO tasks pending. I am so excited to finally be caught up! Of course another week is about to start, I can just imagine how much more work will be piled on to me, but I am going to savor these two hours before I start getting backed up again. Two whole hours of an empty organizer!! That is definitely a record.

Now I'll sit down and cram in some continuing medical education hours. I still need 70+ hours before December 31st. I had 3 years to get 150 hours and am about to squeeze almost half of those into the last 3 months. I think I notice a trend here! Better start studying!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Bilal got his much needed haircut, and not in the kitchen sink. Baba needed a haircut, so he went first. It took about 10 minutes to coax Bilal up into the booster and another 5 or 10 for me to put a cape on him. Of course we had to bribe him with a lollipop, which he wanted before the haircut. We compromised by letting him hold it under the cape. The stylist evidently had a lot of experience with squirmy, reluctant toddlers; I have never seen anyone cut hair so fast! Granted it's not the neatest haircut he could have got, but under the circumstances I think it's OK. As long as he has gotten over the inhibition of someone cutting his hair maybe it will be easier (and neater) next time. Here are some pictures of the process, you can see from his expression how he seems to relax a bit more with time.

Still not quite sure

Starting to use the clippers

A lot more comfortable now

After getting a haircut we all went to the pet store, just for a look. The cat the kids had wanted is still there, poor thing. I was hoping she'd have found a home by now. Anyway, now they want fish! Granted, much lower maintenance than another cat, but still requiring some care. Zakir instantly started looking at the huge tanks, nu uh! I can see myself solely responsible for cleaning a fish tank and changing filters. Plus where would we put one? So now they've decided they each want a betta, which you can keep in a bowl, and they don't need a filter. Hmm, I'm still not keen on another pet, especially one you can't pet or cuddle. But Zakir is now also interested. So I threw my hands up in the air and told them they can each get one in a small container, as long as my responsibility is 0%. Not only do they have to clean the bowl, change the water and feed them, they also have to protect them from two cats. Yup, that's going to last long! At least there's not a huge up front expense, and they will be buying their own. It's worked with the cameras, they are taking good care of those (since they paid for them). So they have done their research, and by tomorrow we might actually be the proud owners of two cats and two fish. What a combination!

Zakir's just been called to the hospital for a critically ill patient, so we won't be going to the mosque after all. I'll probably just take the kids somewhere nearby for supper. Safa and Hamza have both been fasting all day, so they deserve it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Playing outside, and a visit to the clinic

Yesterday the kids were playing outside while I was cooking supper. I heard the doorbell ring so I opened the door, figuring that it was Hamza goofing off as usual. This is what I saw:

Bilal had brought an old step stool all the way from the back of the house, carried it up several steps and stood on it to reach the bell, while Safa and Hamza played hula hoop on the driveway nearby. He's really getting very resourceful!

Today started off with a trip to our local walk-in/urgent care clinic. Yesterday evening Safa fell on to her outstretched hand while jumping on a neighbor's trampoline. Personally I think trampolines cause way too many injuries. Well, her right thumb instantly swelled up and turned a ghastly shade of blue. She was reluctant to move it so, being a bit concerned about the possibility of a fracture I took her to the urgent care clinic. We got there yesterday about 20 minutes after the clinic had closed. So on to Plan B. We drove to CVS and picked up a thumb immobilizing splint which, along with some Motrin, helped her sleep comfortably through the night. This morning it still looked a bit funky, so we went back to the urgent care to get it x-rayed. Thankfully it's not broken, just a bad sprain. so she'll be wearing the splint for most of the time this week, then take it off and start some range of motion exercises. I checked her back in to school during second period so she could complete the rest of her day.

Bilal and I had a relatively quiet day; for a start we went to Sam's to buy gas, since the car was pretty much running on fumes. Well, that gas station was out of both regular and premium, so we tried another one. The second one was out of premium (all three cars take premium, darn it), so I started to panic a bit. Finally I found a gas station across the street that still had a supply, and spent an obnoxious amount of money filling the tank, I think the most I've ever paid. Ouch for price gouging!

With a fuller tank and a lighter wallet, Bilal and I went home and played with letters. I have bought a tub of magnetic letters, and with Vicki's help, he is starting to learn to identify some. He loves to play with them. Today we worked a bit on the letter 'A'. Then we played outside, thankfully it isn't intolerably hot around midday any more, so we were able to swing and play on the slide until lunchtime.

Sammy pretending to be a tiger in the jungle

In the evening we went to the Home and Garden show, and got some interesting ideas for next year's project, building a patio in the back yard. We ate out and after we got back Safa went to a friend's birthday party. It's actually a 'spend the night' party, but Safa will be spending the night at home, we'll just let her stay until late.

Zakir's working tomorrow, so we won't be straying far from home, we'll probably do some shopping at the nearby mall. Not much else planned for the weekend, except dinner at the mosque again tomorrow night.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two Years!!

Today is exactly two years since Bilal had his open heart surgery. Wow, time sure flies!! Looking at him today you'd never think of what he went through when he wasn't quite 2 months old.

Happy heart day, my baby boy!

In honor of Bilal's special day, how about we all click on this link and do our share to spread awareness for congenital heart disease? All it takes is a minute or two of our time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Catching up

Ouch, it's been several days since I've posted on the blog, I've been trying to catch up on some much needed sleep and work, a bit unsuccessfully for thr former, a little better for the latter. Getting up early to start our fast is taking a bit of a toll on me, it's virtually impossible to fall asleep after 4:30am. but it's just for another 13 days, we're more than half way through the month.

Monday was a long work day, I had to stay back for a meeting and didn't get home until 9pm. Zakir came home early to be with the kids. when I came home Bilal had been in his crib for about 45 moniutes, but was still awake, evidently waiting for me. On goes the mommy hat. I went upstairs, took him out of the crib, rocked with him for a few minutes, kissed him goodnight and down he went. Gotta admit it feels good for him to need me like that, but it is rather inconvenient at times. That night he was up at 2am, and then again at 3am. That's what the slightest change in routine does to my little (otherwise) sleeping champ.

Tuesday was spent running errands as usual, but Bilal and I managed to get some good quality time in between everything that needed to be done. I also bought him a new pair of shoes. He has been wearing the same pair of sandals almost all summer, and has the tan lines on his feet to show it. He was wearing a size 6 pair of sneakers at the start of the summer. Well, you couldn't force them on to his feet now. His feet have grown a whopping 2 and 1/2 sizes in the past 2-3 months. He is now wearing a cute pair of size 8.5 sneakers. When we came home he test drove them on the driveway for a while.

Can you hear what he's saying at the end of the video? Some day he'll hate me for this one. He's actually saying "My nappy (diaper) falling off!" Well, we had to run and fix it in a hurry, them came back outside to play again.

The weather has finally taken a turn for the better. These past two days we have had temperatures in the low 60s in the morning, and not quite hitting 80 degrees during the day. Plus it's less humid. Signs that fall may soon be coming. Hmm, about time.

Safa and Hamza are sniffly. I think it's allergies. Everything itches these days........ throats, ears, eyes and noses. With milder weather come allergies. Ragweed is usually the culprit here in Alabama. But as Zakir astutely put it yesterday, it's good for business (if you're a doctor). all of a sudden we've had s urge of people wit respiratory infections, sinus infections and bronchitis. I just hope we don't bring it home to the kids.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

This weekend

It's been a pretty busy weekend so far, we just got back from a trip to buy groceries. I've been working on cleaning out the fridge, (what fun!), also am about to start on my third load of laundry today. I thought I'd pause for a minute and put my feet up. I just tucked in a kicking and pinching baby for his nap. He goes down so willingly when it's just the two of us, but when his siblings are around he doesn't want to nap, obviously afraid he'll miss out on something fun. He doesn't have to worry about that today! Between helping me out here and there, Safa and Hamza are just vegging out. Anyway, as soon as I coaxed him upstairs he was happy to go into his crib.

Last night we, along with 3 other families, hosted dinner at the mosque. We had food for about 200 people. The food was catered, but there was plenty of other stuff to do. We will be eating at the mosque again today. Tomorrow we're having some close friends come over for dinner. The menu is going to be Chinese, so we had to buy all those ingredients that we don't use on a daily basis. Here is what I have planned for tomorrow:

1. Fried rice
2. Coconut shrimp curry (well, it's really more Thai than Chinese, but it should work)
3. Orange chicken (haven't made that in a while!)
4. Pad Thai

One my friends is bringing soup. Zakir is going to make homemade strawberry ice cream for dessert, and we'll wash it down with a yummy rasberry spritzer with fresh lime. Dinner, anyone?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Whazzat, mama?"

Bilal asked me this question while I was preparing the sauce for my homemade chicken wings. The answer was, "Mustard". Bilal, of course wanted to try some, so I let him taste a bit off my finger. He made a funny face and ran away. Surprisingly, he came back within a couple of minutes and asked for more, so I let him lick the measuring spoons before I popped them in the sink. Who would have thought Bilal would like mustard, of all things?

This evening he went with us to Safa's guitar lesson. Last time he was there I couldn't him away from Jeff's expensive musical instruments. But Zakir came home late so I had to take the risk and take Bilal. Surprisingly he was very well-behaved; he spent most of the time petting Jeff's very tolerant dog Lela.

I really wish he was this cooperative all of the time, or even most of the time!

So it's been decided. I'll be traveling with Safa to Philadelphia on her school field trip next Spring, while Zakir keeps Bilal and Hamza at home. I just mailed off the registration forms today. We are looking forward to what hopefully will be an educational trip, with a little bit of girly time squeezed in if possible.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What a fun day!

This morning I got Bilal dressed, planning to take him for a walk around the neighborhood. He, on the other hand wanted to see an excavator. Since there isn't any construction going on in our area I took him for a drive instead.

I knew it was going to be a cool trip when we got stuck behind a garbage truck. Well, we didn't really get stuck behind it, we could have easily passed it, but it was more fun watching the claws of the truck pick up and dump out the trash. We stayed behind the truck all the way down the street. Bilal had a blast!

The Truck

The happy baby

After being entertained by the garbage truck we went to Books a Million to browse and buy some books. How can that store not be fun? On the way there we had passed a construction site, so on the way back we stopped there for a closer look. Those excavators, cement mixers, backhoes and bulldozers were cool. Bilal waved at all the construction workers, and was so excited when some of them actually waved back. He calls them 'wottin men' (working men).

We stopped off at a moms and babies group for a little while to say hi to some of our friends, and I had to chase Bilal around the parking lot to coax him back into the car. He saw a playground in the distance, so obviously he wanted to go to the park. Hey, why not? We drove to the park where he had to go down each slide at least once, and swing on each swing too.

Walking across the bridge rather cautiously

A little more confident now, and having fun


Rocking on the bouncy car

We came back home, tanked up on fish sticks, and Bilal gave me a lesson in applying makeup.

(Actually he just had fun tickling me and himself with the make-up brush he sneaked out from the bathroom.)

We watched a bit of the Curious George movie, and mama decided it was time for Bilal to take a nap. There was a two minute protest, but as soon as he made up his mind which toy construction truck he wanted to take into the crib, he was a happy camper. Today he picked the orange Tonka bulldozer.

I've promised him that we'll play more once he has a tiny nap (ahem, hopefully his usual 2.5-3 hours), so I'd better get up and clean the kitchen, to free up the rest of my day for the kids. No nap for me!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

In front of the camera

It's rare that I get pictures taken, even more rare that I post any on the blog, it's all about my family. This time, on request, I decided to go ahead and post some.

Me and my baby boy

Bilal's new toy...... my bob

After we came back from grocery shopping this morning we were unloading the car. Bilal ran under the deck and wouldn't come out. Guess what he was doing? If you're the mom of a toddler you probably guessed it, he was pooping! Then of course he was in complete denial, and ran off saying, "No poop! no poop!" Why do kids hide in the most obscure places to poop? Maybe it's their version of privacy. Man, I really need to start working harder on the whole potty training thing.


Now I know I shouldn't brag so much, but aw, I will anyway! Safa has been invited to participate in the Duke University 7th grade Talent Search. She got invited based on scoring at least the 95th percentile on either her math, verbal or composite score SATs in 6th grade. She in fact made 98, 99 and 98. What does this mean? She'll be taking either the college entrance SATs or ACTs in February. After some research she has decided on the ACTs. We're so proud of her and excited to see how she will do. If she obtains a qualifying score she will have the opportunity to participate in some of the national or international programs that the university offers. Of course even if she doesn't make a qualifying grade it will be such a good opportunity to get a head start on learning what applying for college will be like. Plus it's always a good thing to put it on your resume.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Playing hooky

Today was quite productive. I took the day off work to accomplish as many tasks as I could while Bilal was home with Vicki. I spent a couple of hours volunteering at Hamza's school, then headed to the Mall for a long awaited haircut. OK, I was really brave, and had more than 8 inches of hair chopped off. I'm happy with the end results, for now at least. Maybe I'll ask the kids to take a picture so I can save it for posterity.

Vicki walked Bilal down to the library today for story-time, it's every Thursday. Bummer that's something I probably won't get to do with him. Also the playgroup they have joined meets on Mondays and Thursdays, both are days that I usually work. Hamza needed to check out a book for the library's 'Chips and Chapters' book club which will be meeting once a month, so we went back in the evening. The children's librarian said that they get to eat all the chips and cookies they want during the book club, so of course Hamza's all for it!
School is in full swing, so far Hamza has got through 3 weeks with no conduct checks, woohoo! He has joined the drama club so he'll stay late once a week starting October. The drama club takes a trip to NYC every year, and among other things the kids get to watch Broadway, on Broadway. I don't know if he'll get to go though, it depends on what field trip GaTE (the Gifted and Talented Education Program) has planned this year. Two big trips in one school year would be impossible. Safa is busy with homework and the yearbook committee, so as usual she's got her hands full.

It is getting a bit cooler in the evenings, well it's all relative. Today it was a balmy 86 degress at 5:30pm, so I took Bilal out on his trike while Hamza rode his bike. He can almost pedal his trike by himself now, he has the concept, he just has to push a bit harder on the pedals.
I guess Bilal was tired by the time we came in, he just laid down on Sammy's bed and wanted to veg out while watching Bob the Builder.

I decided I'd cooked enough this week, so we had Chinese take-out for dinner. There's something about that food, I'm starting to feel sleepy already. The kids are tucked in so it's time for an early night.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

He did it again!

Bilal got a lipstick out of the bathroom drawer. You've got to admit, he's getting more precise in applying the stuff!

Can you tell how proud he is of himself?

Yesterday he hid behind the sofa while I was cooking supper. Zakir asked "Bilal, are you OK?" His response was a whispered "Yes". I knew that couldn't be good, so I came out of the kitchen, and leaned over the sofa, to find him squirting hand soap out of a pump bottle, and using an entire travel size box of baby wipes to 'clean the sofa'. When he's quiet, and not in his crib you have to know that's trouble. He is getting too dextrous with those doorknobs!

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