Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Park

We took the kids to Leeds park yesterday. The last time we were there we got caught in terrible weather, and my friend's daughter ended up having to go to the ER for stitches. Fortunately this trip was less eventful, and lots of fun. The weather was sunny and mild, in the low 60s, perfect for running around. Safa didn't want to go down the slides because she had just washed and straightened her hair, she didn't want spiky hair.

Some girls! But the boys took their turns and had a blast.

Look at how blue the sky is, not a single cloud. After all the fog and overcast weather we've been experiencing for days it was so refreshing.

And lastly, another look at Safa's perfectly straightened hair:

Happy New Year to all our friends and family. Hoping and praying for everyone to have a great 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Our weekend in Georgia

Here is a montage of some photos taken over the past weekend.

And I know someone, somewhere out there has been praying along with us for Bear's safe return, because we got the call from Atlanta today. Bear has been located, and is about to be shipped home via Fed Ex. Only a couple more bedtimes before Bilal and Bear are re-united. Yay!

This morning we heard a hissing sound coming from the wall where our water and sewer pipes come down from the upper story. We suspected a leak, so Zakir conjured up the courage to take a flashlight and get under the house into the crawl space, where he encountered a lot of water. This is the wall that was partially rebuilt when we built the expansion, so we called the same company. First the plumber came out, then he brought the carpenter a few hours later. It turns out that whoever nailed the baseboards onto the wall, hit a nail into one of the copper pipes. After a few months it eroded and started leaking. So now the pipe has been patched, but we can't say the same about the wall. We are waiting for the area to dry up, so it can be patched and repainted. Thankfully it it something that happened during the remodeling, so the construction company is taking care of it, otherwise we could have been looking at very costly repairs!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A difficult bedtime

The most traumatic thing possible has happen. Bear is missing, that's Bilal's very first stuffed toy, the one he has slept with since he was little. We couldn't find it last night at the hotel, but he didn't realize when he fell asleep in his little makeshift bed. Tonight he knows. We think the housekeeping staff may have accidentally wrapped Bear up in the linens when they were being changed yesterday, but so far they haven't found him. I left a note at the desk when we checked out and called again just a little while ago. No Bear. As I was tucking Bilal in he asked for some milk, so I went downstairs to get it. When I went back up his first words were, "Mama, can't find Bear". So of course I had to tell him that Bear got left at the hotel. After that his cries were heartbreaking. He kept wailing "Wanna go hotel!" I managed to console him by promising to make a phone call to the hotel, which I promptly did. Tomorrow I am going to have to tell him again that we can't find Bear. We originally got Bear when Hamza was 4 months old, in a toy store in London, almost 10 years ago. It's no consolation that Bilal has three other bears in his crib: Baby Blue, Boy and Champ, also a special pillow that Safa made him and of course, Blankie. Maybe we'll be take him shopping to pick out another bear, I hope that works. Any other suggestions, anyone?

Out of touch

I've been out of the loop for a couple of days, this darn hotel room has very dodgy internet service. It's a rainy day and, as Zakir says, perfect shopping weather so we're going to check out the malls. I'll be checking in on my blogger buddies over the next day or too, and I have loads of pics to post once I get back home tonight. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Special guests

We have very special visitors spending a few days with us. Farah, Adeel and Mobeen drove up from Mobile yesterday evening. It is wonderful to have a newborn in the house again, but no, it's not giving me any ideas! We've got our hands full with the three kids we have. Mobeen will be turning 2 months old in a couple of days, and we have missed out on seeing him for the past month. He has changed so much since then. He's basically a very happy baby, and has been giving us lots of smiles.

Tomorrow we all plan to go to Atlanta for a couple of days. We are working out the details of the trip, the only thing confirmed right now is the hotel. We are hoping that the weather will cooperate.
Merry Christmas to all my friends out in blogger-land.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Touching story

This is one of those stories that make you laugh and cry all at once. Click on this link to watch an inspiring video, perfect for the season.

And remember to hug your loved ones a little bit tighter tonight!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A bit of this, a bit of that

More pictures of my little construction worker I can't resist sharing, especially with that cute little firefighter's hat and his dump truck PJs. What a combination!

And the kids at Red Robin where we ate lunch on Saturday:

Safa's freckled lemonade, yum!

And my feeble attempt at making festive gingerbread-shaped buttermilk pancakes for supper this evening. This is the only one that survived being eaten long enough to take a picture

I got a letter a couple of days ago that Bilal's pediatrician is leaving the practice to go to work at the Health Department. This means we're going to have to find him a new doctor. I trained with this pediatrician during my residency, and she took care of Hamza when he was a baby. It is going to be so sad to see her go. I really trust her with my kids' care and she has always been so accomodating, getting them in at a moment's notice if they were sick. She has recommended a couple of other pediatricians she knows, and sadly they aren't accepting new patients right now. So the hunt will continue. We take care of Safa and Hamza's medical needs at home now, but since Bilal sees a cardiologist as well I want there to be somewhere his records can be sent to, also for his annual check-ups until he is about six. It's good not to be doctor to your kids (well, not all the time!)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Have a little fun at George Bush's expense

Want to waste a little time? Check out one of the most popular links on the web right now. I scored 8. Can you beat that? Click here to have some fun.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Aches and pains

I met with the orthopedic surgeon today. I've been having problems with my shoulders, mostly the left one. I saw him a year ago and he told me that I could benefit from surgery, but I told him I wanted to wait until Bilal went to Kindergarten. Well, one year later I think I'm ready to have something done, of course Bilal's not in Kindergarten yet, but waiting another three years? Maybe not. I'm the sort of person who'd rather have a problem fixed than keep taking medications for it. Anyway, my last MRI scan is over 4 years old, so he has recommended another one. The thing that made me anxious was that based on my present symptoms he is more concerned about my neck than my shoulder. Whoa! I don't mind considering an arthroscopic procedure on my shoulder but no one, I mean no one is fooling with my neck! He did make me promise that if my shoulder MRI was stone cold normal (he doubts it), I'd let him evaluate my neck in more detail, but I'm praying that it's all shoulder related.

So I have get an MRI scan on my shoulder, and we'll take things from there. I have had so many MRIs in the past that I can almost fall asleep in the noisy tunnel.

Safa and Hamza are wrapping up school for the holidays. Safa has not had a structured class since her midterm exams on Tuesday. Lockers have been cleared out since the entire school is moving in January, and there is a last minute frenzy for the teachers to pack up their belongings. So no studies are going on. But off to school Safa goes tomorrow too; otherwise it will be an unexcused absence which really doesn't look good on her report card. Hamza had his Christmas party today, and tomorrow there is a dance, but he also has a test, so at least it's worth his while to be in school. We don't have any big vacation plans until the day after Christmas, so the kids will be hanging out with Vicki while Zakir and I work.

Saturday we have our staff and their families coming over for dinner; we decided to get it catered this year so all we have to worry about is making sure the house is clean. With spouses and kids it will be just over 25 people. No other weekend plans, except I'll be working at the hospital too. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Too funny!

Yesterday when I took Bilal shopping in town we drove past several lamp posts with snowflake Christmas lights. Bilal pointed to one of and said "Look Mama! Frosted flakes!" I thought it was so funny he was confusing them with the cereal. I made the mistake of telling him they were actually snowflakes, so today he pointed and said "Snowflakes". When I asked him why they weren't frosted flakes, he said, "Silly Mama, eat frosted flakes!" He learns so fast, sometimes I don't want to correct him. His version is so much cuter!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We're ready for some sunshine

This is what Bilal and I encountered not long before noon today:


Can you tell that there's a gas station only a couple of hundred feet away? You can probably make out the outline, bottom line, it was dull and very, very foggy. Later in the afternoon the fog lifted a bit and temperatures went as high as the upper sixties, but it has still been several days since we've seen a single ray of sunshine. It's so depressing.

What's never depressing, in fact quite the opposite, is the sight and sound of a toddler having fun at bath time:

What a cutie pie!

Monday, December 15, 2008

So I spoke too soon

I've got to admit, after a rough Saturday Bilal is back to his adorable, funny, rather energetic self. You're right Megan, it is such a blessing that they have the health to do all that. I feel rather guilty about complaining, but it was just one of those crazy days. Sunday turned out to be a wonderful day, and even today Bilal so far has been nothing more than hugable, kissable, and lovable. But I admit, he's still got to take that nap! It makes all the difference in the world.

Safa and I spent a couple of hours last night going over her math and science for her mid-term exams. I'll be relieved when this week is over. I know that she will too! Friday is the last day of the second nine weeks, then the kids don't go back until January 8th. We're making some plans for the five days we have off too, probably a trip to Georgia, although we haven't smoothed out the details. We're hoping that Farah, Adeel and Baby Mobeen will meet us in Birmingham and come with us too. Tonight I'll be booking the hotel and making an itinerary. Other options that we explored were Gatlinburg (too cold), Tampa (too far), and Disney World (too far AND too expensive). I think we'll hold off on the Disney trip until Bilal can stay awake all day without degenerating into a monster.

This morning Zakir's alarm clock went off at 6am as usual. He turned it off and we both fell back asleep. Hamza's alarm went off at 6:20am. He turned it off and went back to sleep. Safa's went off at about 6:40am. She turned it off and fell back asleep. What a morning! Zakir woke up with a start, just in time to wake up Hamza so he could make it to the bus stop on time. One disaster averted. Bilal woke up at 7:20am, and when I went upstairs to pick him out of his crib I realized that Safa was still sleeping. So I woke her up, and she hurried to get dressed. She tried to print some work for school but the printer froze up and refused to cooperate. Grrrrr! So I had to write a note for her to take to school, proof that she had made every attempt to print out her essay checklist and get it signed by a parent. Maybe she'll learn to not leave things for the last minute. Or maybe she'll join the procrastinator's club. Tomorrow.

At least the rest of the day went smoother. I blame our tardiness on the dreary, cold, dull, wet weather we have had today, while the North is enjoying temperatures in the 60s. No fair! I don't know what the forecast is for tomorrow, but we could sure do with a bit of sun. It's been overcast for days.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Bilal is taking a nap. I've been waiting for this moment for quite a while! Actually this morning's been pretty nice. He woke up at 7am, and I was the early riser with him (7 is really not all that bad), while Zakir slept in. We read some books, watched a bit of TV, had breakfast and took the older siblings to Sunday School. On the way back I made a quick stop at Kohl's to pick up a gift, and we went through Petsmart to have a look at the fish, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, parakeets, lizards, doves, etc. After an episode of Blue's Clues and a quesadilla for lunch Bilal went into his crib without much of a protest. Yesterday was a different story.

Wow, it was a wild and crazy day! After several fights with Safa and Hamza, several spills in the kitchen, a couple of time outs and a crazy morning in general, I tried to get Bilal to take his usual nap. Well, after calling out for Mama several times over a half hour period I didn't have the heart to leave him in the crib. Big mistake! As soon as he came downstairs he got into another fight with Hamza. He would keep turning off the TV while Safa and Hamza were watching Horton Hears a Who, and of course that rubbed them the wrong way too. He basically spent most of the afternoon running around the house like a little madman, and attacking anyone and everyone in sight. I was the victim of his attacks several times too.

"Let's change your diaper"

"No!" (kick)

"Let's put your shoes on"

"No!" (punch)

"TV off"

"No!" (thrashing around)

I know it's a bit late now, but I think I'm too old to be the mom of a two year old. He had me pulling my hair out at times. Well, I managed to tuck Bilal in for the night at about 7:15pm, at which time the sleep deprived toddler was still running around as if he were pumped up on caffeine. Trust me, he NEVER gets caffeine! A couple of minutes later he was fast asleep.

Caught in the act by Safa. See? He's not always the sweet little guy everyone thinks he is

I think I still hear Bilal talking in his crib. But this time I will not be suckered. He WILL take that nap, otherwise Mama will go nuts!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Junior Senpai

Hamza has officially completed the junior instructor training for the JIKF karate program. He even memorized the pledge, which was a pre-requisite for completing the training. At the beginning of today's Black Belt class he was awarded with a ceetificate, and cool black baggy pants he'll be wearing when he helps teach a class. Go Hamza!

Hamza with the Senseis

Friday, December 12, 2008

Another Heart Baby

Thanks, Tina for introducing us to another heart family that could do with some prayers. I just visited Baby David's website. I'm sure his wonderful family could really do with some support with his upcoming birth. He has been diagnosed prenatally with tetralogy of fallot among other potential problems. I'm going to add their blog as a link on the sidebar, please drop by and check it out.

Oh, and there is another little kiddo Grace who just had her surgery in Georgia. I heard about her through a local heart mom, and her family is chronicalling her journey on this site.

I'll be updating more later, I noticed I haven't added many pictures in a while. Got to get that camera snapping!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Where is the snow??!!

I distinctly heard the weather forecast last night, then this morning, and this afternoon again. By now it should be snowing in Birmingham. Temperatures have dropped, but no snow, not even a flurry! We were looking forward to a flake or two to make the weather a bit more interesting, but except the horrendous downpour this morning, nothing.

Safa has weatherbug, a weather program, on her iPod. Yesterday she told me there was a flash flood watch as well as a non-precipitation advisory, both in effect at the same time. Only in Alabama! Although it has been pouring these past 2 days we are still in an area that is experiencing exceptional drought. So I suppose we should take the rain in stride, since it might mean that we'll actually be able to water our lawn, come next spring. For the past 2 summers we have not used the lawn sprinklers a single time, so you can imagine the weed to grass ratio is pretty bad.

Safa is stressing out about her end of semester exams, this is the first year she is taking them, and her whole class is freaked out. On top of that the teachers are stressing because of the upcoming school move. Effective January 8th the middle school will be officially housed in the former High school, which got a new home in October. You can imagine most of these teachers have taught in the same classrooms for many many years, so the move will be quite an adjustment. Plus Safa will probably riding the bus next semester, and she's dreading having to get up 30 minutes earlier in the morning. No more leaving the house at 7:50am and still making it to school by 7:50am (well, a couple of minutes later).

Hamza brought home his STAR test results today. His reading level is up to 12.9. This means that he is reading at the same level a 12th grade student is expected to, right before graduating from high school. The second child in the family to reach this level. Safa was 13.0 in 5th grade, and somehow that was easier to believe, considering the way she plows through books. Hamza just surprised us. Zakir congratulated him, them demanded a recount!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another busy Tuesday

Our morning conversation:

Mama: What would you like for breakfast? (except I asked this in Urdu)

Bilal: Make me hot dod pwease (obviously in English)

Mama: Hot dog isn't breakfast food, what else would you like? (In Urdu)

Bilal: Beans?

Mama: Um, how about we do that for lunch and I give you something else now? (Urdu again)

Bilal: Otay.

He ended up having milk and a scrambled egg.

We've had a full morning. First I had to call the Express Oil change folks. Thursday I had my oil changed and through Friday the oil pressure indicator light kept intermittently going on. So I took the car back, they looked it over, checked the level and couldn't find anything wrong. Anyway, they replaced the oil filter again and I drove it home. That had seemed to do the trick, or so I thought. I didn't drive it over the weekend and Monday it wouldn't start. Zakir felt confident it wasn't the battery (he didn't try to jump it, but some indicator thingy was on green, so that was good). So this morning they came out to see if they had disconnected or loosened some wire while servicing the car last week. Turns out, it WAS the battery. So the nice guy who came to check out the car at our house, left his truck here, went and bought a battery and returned the car after replacing it. What great service!

Well Bilal and I hung out in the yard, it was in the mid 60s, so we didn't even need jackets. After the car was taken care of I took him to the library, and renewed our missing DVD for yet another week. That's 4 weeks we've had the DVD checked out, and 2 weeks for it to be MIA. Every time I try to pay the fine the librarian offers to renew it for another week, and I accept the offer. She really doesn't want to take my $25 that I will owe the library next Tuesday again, by which time I am convinced we still won't be able to find it. Our little toddler has hidden it in some very obscure place! We even went through the trash before taking it out (stinky!), and it wasn't there.

Later we went for Bilal's way overdue haircut. Amidst many tears, getting up from the booster seat a few times and refusing to sit still we managed to get his hair cut. Now we can't tie it in a ponytail anymore, so Safa won't be able to play 'baby sister' with him. The sad thing was that they were out of lollipops, which was the one lure that made the haircut possible. And my emergency stash in the diaper bag was finished too, so I promised to take him to Walmart to get a 'yoyyipop'. We walked across to the other end of the mall to visit the pet store, made a trip next door to Kohl's to buy Bilal some 'big boy underwear' and ran into Walmart to pick up the candy and some Pediasure. After a quick lunch he was very happy to take a nap, and I must have really worn him out, because he is still asleep, more than 3 hours later! I wonder if the Bob the Builder underwear will be a good enough incetive for potty training?

Hamza's participating in the Dojo's leadership training program. On completion he will be certified as a junior instructor and officially be able to help teach karate classes. Safa wanted to do it too, but then she decided she had a bit too much going on to add another activity. I agree wholeheartedly with her decision not to participate this time. Right now the biggest challenge is to get Hamza to memorize the pledge he is supposed to know by Friday. Not much progress yet!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Making friends

It was great to meet my email buddy Karen today, after 'knowing' each other for about 2 years, but not having met. She was visiting from South Carolina with her mom and daughter, our little heart buddy Abby. She is a tet baby like Bilal. What a precious little girl! And such a contrast from Bilal the 'Wildman'. That is, until he got her warmed up a bit. Here is a little clip of Karen trying to sit the two little toddlers together for a picture:

And these are the photos Zakir managed to get:

Gotta admit, it was fun watching them interact (or not). And Bilal actually shared his toys although it was mostly 'parallel play'. They are less than three months apart in age. Karen and Abby didn't get to stay long, but we managed to have lunch together before they had to leave. Maybe next time we'll plan a longer visit.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hamza's back

But he left his voice at camp. All he can get out is a croaky little whisper. My guess is he had way too much fun. Despite the fact that he can barely talk he has been having a great time comparing notes with Safa (she went 2 years ago, and apparently the structure of camp hasn't changed much). They played the same games and learned about the same things. Apparently the furnace went out the first night they were in the cabins (it was 30 degrees outside), so that sleeping bag (and the three pairs of socks he wore) sure came in handy. And you know what? I feel so relaxed now that he is home. I think I'll sleep better tonight.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's all about the tools

Bilal modeling his tool belt........

Complete with a hammer........

And his 'working man' hat and saw.

We have play tools strewn all over the house. Hamza had a drill and screwdriver that came with a take-apart truck, and Vicki bought Bilal a little tool bench for his birthday. Then Tahir came and got him a 42 piece play Black and Decker tool set, complete with a tool belt and hat. If that wasn't enough to put Bilal in little boy heaven, Farah got him a peg bench with a wooden hammer. So it's 'bang, bang, bang' all day long. When he's at the dinner table we have to stop him from drumming the fork like a hammer. Is this a phase, or does Bilal really have a future in the construction industry? This morning I took Bilal to the library, and he picked out six books, all about diggers, earth movers and construction sites. Next time I'll try and steer him away from the kids' non-fiction section in an attempt to widen his horizons a bit.

After the library we went to Walmart to pick up some groceries and of course we had to see the toys. However no trip to Walmart is complete without spending a little time in the real tools section. I think he enjoys this even more that looking at the actual colorful toys!

Safa didn't make it back home until after 7pm because of the debate meet at Samford, and aside from a brief pause for dinner she was working on her homework until 9pm. She still has some work left that she plans to complete during lunch study tomorrow. Just one of those days when she had more work than hours in the day. Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit less busy for her.

Hamza is still at Camp McDowell, and I am still missing him terribly. The house is just not the same without him. We'll be picking him up from school tomorrow about 4:30pm. I can't wait to hear about the trip.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Missing my boy

I wonder what Hamza is doing around about now. Probably not wondering what is going on at home. It was down to 39 degrees at 5:30pm and I'm sure temperatures will get even cooler tonight. He's camping in a cabin, but I still wonder if he'll be warm enough in the sleeping bag he took with him. Maybe we should have got him thermal underwear after all. At least he has a fleece sweatshirt and sweatpants which should keep him warmer than his regular pyjamas. It was snowing a bit this morning, probably around the time he was riding the charter bus to Camp McDowell, and again this evening, which then changed to sleet. It might get icy tonight. Hopefully he's having too much fun to think about getting cold. I'm glad he packed his blankie, he has never slept without it since he was a newborn.

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be a bit warmer, and maybe sunny. Hopefully a perfect day for camp.

The house has been eerily quiet this evening. I didn't realize how much more noise there is with the two brothers playing with and sometimes fighting with each other. Bilal asked about Hamza several times today, but now if anyone asks where Hamza is, he just says "Tamp". He seems to understand that his brother will be gone for a couple of days. Anyway, I wish Hamza was allowed to call home, just to tell us that he's fine and he's enjoying himself. But we won't hear from him until he comes back on Wednesday. He was so excited this morning when he left, but he did stop to give me an extra long and tight hug, and that felt great. Will it make up for missing two bed times? Not for Mama.

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