Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Counting down the days

Well, we've got our vacation pretty much planned out! We had to scrap the idea of the beach this year, sad, I know. But we are going to use that same week and fly to Chicago. There is so much to do there with the kids, I'm sure we'll stay quite busy for the week. And I recently heard from a friend from Medical School whom we haven't seen since 1993. She will be visiting her brother in Chicago around the time we are there. And we hope to meet up while we're there. After seventeen years, wow! We were initially planning to drive one way to Chicago, and fly back, but when we started looking up rentals we decided it just made more sense to fly round trip. Got a good deal on a Southwest, non-stop flight into Midway. So very little travel time, hopefully.

Has anyone ever used one of these? We are planning to buy a 'Go Chicago' pass to save on the attractions we plan to visit. One pass gets you in to up to 30 different attractions, including museums, rides, cruises and tours. If we visit a couple of attractions each day we can really take advantage of it. There are actually similar passes available for several other big touristy cities. Something to think about if you plan to visit places such as Boston, Las Vegas, Orlando or New York City.

So we are counting down the days; as of tomorrow morning there will be nine bedtimes left before we leave on vacation. It's so much easier to count in 'bedtimes', it makes sense to the younger one.

We are still unsure about our Fourth of July plans. Thinking about going to Mobile, since it's a long weekend, but Farah will be working part of the weekend. On the other hand it would be great to see the nephews; hopefully they will recognize us this time, thanks to Skype. What did we ever do before webcams? Now I regularly Skype with my brother and his family in Australia, my parents in Wales, my in-laws in Pakistan, my sister in law in Mobile and my roommate from med school in Dubai. You feel so much more connected when you can actually see who you're having a conversation with.

Our heart friend Little Miss J came to visit today. All three of my kids treat her like the absolute doll that she is. Even Bilal is getting to be less possessive of his toys when she has them, although once in a while he'll demand his things back. We love it when she comes to play with us! Pardon the quality of the pics, Safa was trying to snap these while J was on the go. And boy, she had a lot of energy today!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Silly sleepy head

We drove back from the mosque this afternoon, and Bilal was nibbling on a chocolate chip cookie left over from lunch. When we were no more than ten minutes away from our house he started to get sleepy. So we tried to distract him to keep him awake because we wanted him to nap in his bed. Otherwise once you pick him up out of the car he's wide awake, and won't go back down for a nap. Our efforts didn't quite succeed, but I thought this video of the attempt was really cute. Bear with me, it's 3 minutes long but Bilal was soooo precious!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Big decisions

I just got a call from Hamza, he has landed in Dallas, so only one more leg of the trip left before he is home. I can't wait to have him back with us, this has been a looooong two weeks!

As I have mentioned before, Safa has been at the Alabama School of Fine Arts during eighth grade. Well it has been a grueling, but very productive year from her, and after some initial hiccups in the first semester she managed to get very good grades by the end of the year. But recently there has been some friction between the Executive Director/ Board of Trustees, and the faculty, students and parents, mostly of the Math and Science department. Certain AP courses are being eliminated, and although this itself would probably not adversely affect Safa in a really bad way, it made us think about other school options for a while. Now some decisions at the school are final, and personally I feel that the Math and Science department will remain pretty strong, although within the next couple of years some of ASFA's best know science faculty members are retiring. But who's to say they might not end up getting replaced with teachers that are even better for our kids? So I feel pretty confident about ASFA as a whole.

Now on to those 'other options' I just mentioned. We know that Safa does not want to go back to Hewitt for several different reasons. And I wouldn't be thrilled about putting her in private school; frankly I'd rather put that extra money towards her college education. Another option we have been looking at is one we didn't really consider until just now. Jefferson County (where we live) is home to one of the top public high schools in the country. Last year it's didn't make it to Newsweek's 'best high schools' list, not because it wasn't good enough, but it fell into another category above this list, as the 'elite' of all public high schools. Overall Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School has consistently ranked among the top four schools or better for the past several years. According to Newsweek's 2010 list of America's Best High Schools, JCIB is ranked number 2 in the country among public schools. The IB curriculum is quite different; more integrated that a conventional high school curriculum, and a lot of emphasis is placed on reading and writing, as well as a requirement of 150 hours of community service before you can graduate. Both ASFA and IB require a senior essay/research paper for graduation. Well, the more we discussed it, the more Safa felt that she was missing out on all the extra curricular activities she had been involved in before ASFA. So she applied, and got an acceptance letter in the mail within a few days. So after even more discussion of the pros and cons of each school, she has decided to switch and join the IB program from ninth grade onwards. So from one excellent school to another, very different, but just as good school. Let's hope she made the right decision!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Back to Square One..... or close

Yesterday Bilal started his second 2 week swimming lesson stint. After the success of the past two weeks we figured it was a good idea. New week, new instructor, same learning level, with a completely different approach towards teaching little kids how to swim. The current instructor didn't ease the three kids gently into the water, he basically had them plunge in. The first thing he did yesterday was have the kids jump into the water, and instead of catching them, let their heads bob under. Wrong approach, especially for my child! I had to drag Bilal to the pool again this morning, kicking and screaming, and running away from me. When I finally caught him he wouldn't let go of my leg. And he completely refused to get into the pool. Until his instructor from last week, who happened to be teaching a private lesson at that very moment, picked him up and gently put him in the water. After that he did fairly well through most of the lesson, but towards the end, the tears came streaming down (the jumps again) and to everything the instructor would suggest he do, he would answer a teary "No thank you". The mother of another little girl who has lessons with Bilal gave me a long list of promises and bribes she had had to make to persuade her to come back to the pool today also. Well, if it's some consolation at least it's not only my child!

Today Bilal practiced blowing bubbles in the bath tub, and as long as he had goggles on he was willing to hold his head under the water. Didn't even fuss when he inhaled a lot of water through his nose! So hopefully he'll be better prepared for tomorrow's lesson.

Hamza is on the last leg of his Australia trip. As I write this he should be boarding a plane from Sydney, headed to Los Angeles. And his estimated arrival time in Birmingham is 9pm tomorrow evening. Can't wait! Aside from overdrawing on his debit card (and not even realizing it), his trip seems to have gone pretty well. He has strict instructions to not make any more purchases, except in an emergency, and I deposited a little more money into his checking account. After all, if his parents don't bail him out from a fix like this, who will?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The newly remodeled bathroom

From this:

to this:

It took about 4 months, but I finally got the bathroom completed a few weeks ago, thought I'd share some pics. I am really happy with the end result; it ended up being a shade of blue called 'frosty', not the yellow or green I was initially thinking about. So a much cooler color, but it does look good. Once in a while I'll walk into the bathroom, look at the walls, smile and walk back out, just for the heck of it. We still might accessorize the walls a bit more, but that can wait. And some new towels to go on the newly mounted hardware:

But wait,

What's behind this door? Is it, could it be........

...........more of that ghastly black wallpaper?

How can it be???!!!

I didn't even try and attempt to strip wallpaper from the shower/ commode cubicle. Why would anyone even build a shower and toilet together in a tiny room behind one door? Beats me, but we inherited the house with this flaw. Then the wallpaper was obviously mounted before the cabinets were installed, so it extends into places a ladder could never reach. Unless you perched it on top of the toilet lid. Nu-uh! I value my safety a lot more than that. And this portion doesn't have those little birdies, just oversized flowers. So we will live with it. At least until we hire someone come in to paint over the magenta colored walls in the rest of the house.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Swimming lessons

Today was day 8 of Bilal's swimming lessons at the YMCA. He started off his lessons last week terrified of being in the water, terrified of getting water in his face and constantly complaining that "Water is getting in my pants!" Child, they're swimming trunks! He pretty much cried through the entire two 45 minute lessons. It was hard for me and Vicki to watch, but we just hoped that it would get better.

And it did. By day 3 he announced that he thought he would have a better day. And then he realized that the water was shallow enough for him to stand in (3 and 1/2 feet), and it got even better. By day 5 he was thrilled to be going to the pool, waking up before 6am demanding to get his swimming trunks on (lessons are at 9). And each subsequent day he has got more and more comfortable in the water. His instructor has been very patient with all the kids in the group (there are five children), encouraging them to do a little more every day, without forcing them too far out of their comfort level. That has certainly been a good thing. For the last couple of days I have been setting the timer in the kitchen to the time when we have to leave, to spare myself from the constant, "Is it time for my lesson yet??" Today was the eighth day, and he loves the water, but still admittedly is reluctant to put his head under, although he is willing to dip his face in the water a bit more. I finally got him some goggles, and realized that I should have done it days ago, although he still tends to put his hands over his eyes even when wearing them. I guess it's just habit. Overall the goggles have helped a lot though.

So today was the last class that he had been signed up for, but since he still has so much more confidence to build up and is having so much fun I have signed him up for another 8 lessons. Maybe after that he'll be seriously getting his hair wet!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Really missing my boy today

I spoke to Hamza earlier today, just a short while before he had to board the boat to leave the resort he has been staying at for the past 2 days. For the first time since this trip started he wasn't gushing with news about his day. Instead, his responses to my questions were mostly short and monosyllabic. I think he's just.......tired. Maybe the fast pace of his trip, and the fact that he is sleeping in a new bed every 2-3 nights is starting to take a toll on him. It was hard to listen to him like that. I'm sure he's still having a good time, but today in his own words, "The bus rides are getting longer and longer". And if you think of it, he must be exhausted; there hasn't really been any down time since his journey started a week ago. I am hoping he'll get some sleep on his long bus ride today, so that he arrives at his next destination more rested and ready to learn something new. His next couple of days will be spent at a farm; maybe the pace will be a little bit slower? I suppose we'll find out.

One more week until I get to see his smiling face again.........

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 7

Hamza has been in Australia for a week, and we have had a chance to speak with him about least every other day. T-Mobile hasn't been cooperating as well as we have wanted it to, but we have been able to text back and forth. So he just texts us his room number, and we can look up the hotel telephone number and call him directly in the room. We usually talk at the end of the day before lights out, and he tends to sound very tired, but full of excited details of the day that he loves to share. It's hard to hear his voice sounding so tired, knowing he's so far away, but I know he's having a great time. And the team leader has been updating us with some details about what is going on too, so that is helpful. Today we hope to be in touch in the morning (there is a 15 hour time difference), so that means 4pm where we live, and maybe we'll hear from a more rested boy.

He was nervous on the morning he left for his trip, but that anxiety all seemed to fade away after he got to the airport and met with all the other children who were going on the trip. I know this has been a wonderful educational opportunity for him. Of course that doesn't make it much easier to handle for Mama!

At the airport, ready to check in

A few of kids from the group Hamza is traveling with

With one of the team leaders

I can't wait until he is back next Wednesday, looking forward to hearing about all the exciting places he has visited.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fro Yo!

Self Serve yogurt bars are popping up all over the city! The one that started the local trend is Yogurt Mountain, and of course that is still the one most frequented. I took the kids out for ice cream a few days ago. You can see from their expressions how they felt about the outing:

Safa and her friend Danni


Saturday, June 12, 2010

A few seconds of your time can make a difference

Sandra Kay has created an online petition to raise awareness of congenital heart defects in the media. The premise of the petition is the following, taken directly from her website:

Congenital heart defects are America's #1 birth defect. Nearly one of every 85 babies is born with a CHD in the US.

Congenital heart defects are the Number 1 cause of birth defect related deaths.

This year almost 40,000 babies will be born with a congenital heart defect in the US. 4,000 of them will not live to see their first birthday.

91,000 life years are lost each year in this country due to congenital heart defects.

The cost for inpatient surgery to repair congenital heart defects exceeds $2.2 billion a year.

Congenital heart defects occur frequently and are often life threatening, yet research into them is grossly under funded.

Only one penny of every dollar donated to the American Heart Association goes towards congenital heart defect research.

Of every dollar the government spends on medical funding only a fraction of a penny is directed toward congenital heart defect research.

More than 50% of all children born with a congenital heart defect will require at least one invasive surgery in their lifetime.

There are 35 different types of congenital heart defects. Little is known about the cause of most them. There is not yet a cure for any of them.

In the U.S., twice as many children die from congenital heart defects each year than from all forms of childhood cancer combined, yet funding for pediatric cancer research is five times higher than funding for CHD.

Statistics today show that due to misdiagnosis, lack of knowledge and awareness, & complications of surgery…about 51% of deaths caused by CHD are children under the age of 1 year.

Early diagnosis is the key to survival!

For nearly 40 years, newborn screening programs have provided an important public health service by identifying newborns with metabolic, hematologic and endocrine disorders as well as hearing loss. But did you know there is also tests that could identify a congenital heart defect immediately? The painless, non-invasive tests are called echocardiogram and pulse oximeter and they could dramatically increase the survival rate for children born with CHD.

Due to these alarming facts, we the undersigned urge the Media to start helping in raising Awareness whether it will be my magazine and newspaper articles, books, info shows and commercials.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this petition and care so much to sign it. It it truly being appreciated.


If you would like to learn more about CHD, please visit the following great pages :


God bless you :)*

Sandra Kay,

- Founder of "Matters of the Heart", and "Angelina's -Warriors of CHD Awareness"

The petition is very simple, and worded as this:

Due to these alarming facts listed above, we the undersigned urge the Media to start helping in raising Awareness about CHD. We need to educate the public and demand mandatory heart screenings for all babies in utero!

Media Awareness should come in all ways, whether it will be by radio, magazine and newspaper articles, books, movies, info shows and commercials.

More ATTENTION and AWARENESS has to be given to CHD by the Media NOW !

We need to step in and step up to the plate for the health and future of our little ones.

Thank you very much !

 Please take just a few seconds and sign this online petition; the more signatures, the better.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hamza's big day

So tomorrow is the day. Hamza is headed to Australia for fifteen days, without his Mama or Baba there. I know he's excited, but nervous too. I'm feeling kind of down about it. Of course it's a great educational opportunity for him, and I have been the one pushing him to go all the way, but the thought of him being away from home is rather unnerving. We have packed, and repacked, and I think he's finally realized how to get his clothes sorted, with plenty of room to spare in the suitcase. Camera, handheld video game, iPod, and good book to read, all in his backpack. And blankie has been washed and will be packed first thing in the morning. The same tattered blanket he has slept with since the day he was born, is going to to Australia with him. Eleven years old, but the kid loves his blankie!

He will be flying to Houston, TX, Los Angeles and then on to Brisbane. Quite a long journey! Praying for a good trip and for God to keep him safe and secure. We'll miss him for sure!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A comedy of errors

Yesterday we were planning a trip to the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center to check out the rockets and visit the Star Wars exhibit. But it turns out that the Star Wars exhibit doesn't open until the end of June, so we decided, on the spur of the moment, to go to Atlanta for the day instead.

Good intentions, but things didn't start out as smoothly as planned. First of all it took us a lot longer than we wanted just to get everyone mobilized. Then as the kids were sitting in the car I ran upstairs to get something from Bilal's room. I just happened to glance into Safa and Hamza's rooms and saw a mess that looked like a post-hurricane disaster. Now I have put up with this one time too many, so I shooed them upstairs to clean up before we left. Then as Safa was putting her shoes on she realized that the puppy had chewed up her shoelaces on one of her shoes, so we had to improvise so that she could actually tie her shoes. Zakir had checked the weather forecast, and realized that there were some thunderstorms on the way. That, of course, meant that Atlas would have to stay in the garage again. With his history of destroying every shoe that he can get his jaws on, Zakir decided to tie him with a long leash to the tire of my car, far away from the shoe rack, but close enough to where he could comfortably lounge on the rug. That's right. Tied to my brand new (barely 1 day old) MINI. I wasn't thrilled about that, but I lost the argument. But it can get quite warm in the garage at times so all the windows had to be opened and the ceiling fan left running.

Then we finally made it about 2 miles up the room when Zakir announced he'd left his wallet at home. So we made a U-turn and headed back towards our house. Another half a mile down he realized that he actually did have his wallet, it was just in the other pocket. Aaargh! But by then we realized that he was wearing a pair of pants that was coated with black dirt from the tires (probably messed up when he was tying Atlas up in the garage). So we decided to stop at home anyway, where everyone had to get off and get water, etc. for the trip while Zakir changed his pants.

We stopped at an IHOP for brunch on the way, during which time Bilal decided to act like a total brat. But we survived the meal and finally made it to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. That part was definitely fun, but Bilal was tired, since he never took the nap during the entire drive. Since we have quit carrying the stroller (we just don't use it any more) his options were to either walk or get carried on Zakir's shoulders. He did the latter much more than he should have. At the penguin exhibit Bilal announced that he was not interested in going through the penguin crawl-through, so Safa, Hamza and I stood in line for several minutes while Zakir took a different route with B and skipped the crawl-through tunnel. Well, after the three of us came out Bilal had a major meltdown, because all of a sudden he wanted to go through the tunnel. But no-one else wanted to stand in line again, so we let him fuss a lot a bit, and moved on. We reached the sea anemone touch tank just as the critters were starting their fifteen minute break. So no touching the marine life for us!

Anyway, after spending a couple of hours at the Aquarium and a quick trip around Downtown Atlanta we stopped for dinner, then headed home. Photos haven't made it to the computer yet, so they will have to wait, but I'll leave you with a couple of pics of our lake back yard. Man, it's been raining a lot lately! We definitely need better drainage.

Atlas' playground

We are seriously thinking about a new project in the back yard, that will include a patio, replacing the old playset and hopefully much better drainage. Interestingly, a wet yard never bothered us until we got a dog. We've been living in this house for 10 years (there was an exceptional drought for 3 of those 7 years ). We'd just wait until it was dry enough, and then go outside. Now it is a constant issue because it simply crimps the puppy's style.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Need some help, in a fun way

As long as things go according to schedule, within the next couple of weeks we will be welcoming another new baby into the household. My new MINI is on its way soon. As of the most recent update from the dealership it has been born and is waiting for the stork to bring it across the Atlantic Ocean.

So here's where I could do with some feedback. I know that I have more blog readers than I have commenters; and for this particular issue I need as much input as possible. So feel free to leave a comment on this post, you can post as 'anonymous' if you like, I promise I won't hold it against you :)

I am trying to decide on a name for my MINI. If you know anything about MINI owners you probably know that they have to name their car. My previous Chili Red Cooper was 'The Baby', and that's how I always referred to it (although the kids did affectionately call it The Sandwich at times because they claimed everything inside was smushed). But the Baby has been gone for more than I month, and I have to get over it and move on :'(

I already have some suggestions for names:

Baby Too (see above)
Zap (since it is metallic laser blue). An argument against this is that single syllable names just don't carry! Two or more syllables tend to sound better.
Scooter (just because it's a cute name)
Blue Too (since Zakir's Audi is blue). I suppose this would be redundant if Zakir traded in his A3 for a non-blue car. But then by this argument Baby Too might also be a bit redundant. What a dilemma!
Pegasus (not quite sure why I'd choose this, though, just sounds kind of cool)
Hefty (that's a smurf, seems fitting)
Humphrey (after all, he's a Brit)
Mickey (he's a MINI after all, and that's a Disney reference, of course)
Bruiser (bit of an oxymoron!)

Well, what do you think? Do any of these sound like a good name? Or do you have any other suggestions? It would be great if I can have the perfect name nailed by the time we are united. So please get those creative juices flowing and help me out!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A baby girl on the way!

Saema hosted a baby shower for our cousin Sameena this past weekend. Ooo, I love shopping for baby girls, I had so much fun picking out a gift for her.

 The mom to be and her sister. Pity the picture is a bit blurry!

 Yum, cake!

 The dessert table

 And the adorable cupcakes Alina (Sameena's little niece) made

 Sameena looks pretty in the one. You can barely even tell she is more than half way through her pregnancy!

And Sameena giving her blessings to Eima. We hope that hers will be the next baby shower we celebrate!

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