Monday, January 31, 2011


.... we head to Birmingham to see Bilal's cardiologist. I've talked to him a little bit about what to expect, so that he's not as anxious this time around. He usually does very well with Dr. C, it's the EKG and chest x-ray that usually frazzle him. I think he'll be fine this time, snce he seems to understand better. I'm looking forward to having this visit behind us.

I'll update tomorrow as soon as I can.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Outside again at last!

Why is Bilal so happy?

Of course the weather this past week has finally been warm enough to play outdoors. And that will make anyone happy. But maybe there's something else too.

He looks really happy, in fact he's got the giggles!

Lookie here!

All by himself, with no pushes from anyone, not even Atlas!

He's such a big boy now, and so proud of himself!

And here's a little funny story. Two nights ago Bilal kept pointing to the right side of his forehead above his eye and complaining about his head hurting. I think it was a legitimate complaint, because he was very consistent about the spot that hurt. I reassured him, and tucked him in, figuring he could sleep off whatever it was. Yup, we don't do a lot of medications in our house! The next day I asked him if his head was feeling better. He grabbed the left side of his head and said in a pitiful little voice, "No, it's still hurting". And I said, "But it was hurting on the other side last night." His response was "Oh", and he quickly grabbed the right side of his head instead. Maybe he thought he'd get a little sympathy from me if he still complained. But there's no fooling Mama! Next time I won't ask him if anything hurts unless he brings it up himself, I've learned my lesson too!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fifteen years

Sweet little baby,

Pretty little girly,


Hula hoop champion,

Awesome babysitter,

Best big sister,



Debate award winner,

Black belt in karate,

And with her own unique sense of style,

Safa is fifteen years old today. Happy Birthday, hon!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Healthy Eating

I think I have found a new favorite cookbook.

Actually it will be my favorite after I get over the shock of how high the calorie, fat and sodium content is in some of my favorite restaurant foods, ugh! Right now I'm a bit in awe. For example (what used to be) my favorite Spinach and Mushroom Omelette from IHOP is a whopping 910 calories, with a 71g (*cough, cough, choke, choke*) total fat content (26g of it is saturated) and 1580mg of sodium. To my credit one omelet for me is usually three meals, but still, never more! The cookbook 'Cook this Not that' by authors David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding provides an alternative Black Bean omelette, that is only 330 calories and 6g of saturated fat. I think I might try that for brunch one day, maybe a day when I really feel like IHOP. And I'll bookmark IHOP's nutritional information page so that any time I have a desire to go to IHOP it will be a good deterrent. I am not promising never to go there, but I will think long and hard before I order something off the menu. Zakir suggested we buy the book when he saw it in Sam's. Good idea!

Anyway I tried one of the recipes for supper today. It was one of those rare days when I had all the five or so ingredients I needed to try out a new recipe, and we had just got a great deal on salmon fillets yesterday. It was one of the 10-minute meals featured in the book, called Chili-Glazed Salmon, a lighter alternative to Applebee's Orange Glazed Salmon. Ten minutes to a healthy, flavorful meal, blissful!

Serves 4
1/4 cup Asian-style sweet chili sauce (always stays in our fridge for stir fries, etc.)
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (So aromatic! I actually pounded mine with a pestle and mortar)
1 tsp sriracha or other spicy chili sauce (Zakir loves to cook with this, but I usually complain it's too hot!)
4 salmon fillets

- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Combine the sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and sriracha in a mixing bowl. Place the salmon fillets on a foil-lined baking sheet. Use a brush or spoon to lacquer the salmon with the chili glaze
- Bake the salmon until the glazehas begun to lightly caramelize and the salmon flakes with gentle pressure, about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

I served it with brown rice on the side (that, of course, took longer than 10 minutes to cook), which took the edge off the heat of the spicy glaze. I love the nutty taste of brown rice. The dish was very well received by everyone. Bilal did complain a bit about the spice, but he ate the lightly glazed portion of the salmon and rice very well.

And we finished off the meal with a not-so-healthy slice of turtle cheesecake in honor of Zakir's birthday. Does that defeat the purpose? Happy Birthday, Zakir!

I can't wait to make more recipes from my new cookbook!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ibrahim's party

We went to a six year old's birthday party on Sunday for a couple of hours after Sunday School. I didn't get many photos with my camera because I was taking some with the host's (uh, I hope they turned out OK), but there are a few to share.

The cake:

And Bill, the Funny Face clown.

Interestingly I recognized him as the clown we hired to entertain the kids at Bilal's first birthday party. Yes, 3 and half years ago. Small world, but time sure flies!

Some of my girlfriends:

And Safa, who didn't really have anyone her age to hang out with, so she just sat around. Unfortunately that happens to her a lot on some of these parties; she has got used to bringing her homework with her, since there's always plenty of that!

Speaking of birthdays, this is a big week that comes around every January. Last week (19th) was Farah's birthday, and tomorrow is Zakir's younger brother Zamir's. The day after (Thursday) is Zakir's and then on Friday my baby girl Safa turns fifteen. So we have close family member birthdays on January 19th, 26th, 27th and 28th! Unfortunately the siblings haven't been together on anyone's birthday for years, but still it is a reason to celebrate.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Safa's latest project

A pair of canvas shoes, a few colored markers and a love of doodling. What do you get? Some very colorful, creative and unique artwork! This is a pair of shoes Safa made for her friend as a birthday present:

And here is another pair that she made for herself to wear. Evident she loves colorful, silly little monsters!

She has got many, many compliments since she started wearing these, and people have even requested that she make them a pair. So she is thinking of making and selling some if there is an interest. Anyone interested in buying a one of a kind pair of hand-designed canvas shoes? Leave me a comment, I'm sure she'll be happy to oblige!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

No more night light

Approximately one year after Bigfoot decided to make a nice, comfy home in our attic, then got captured, only to return to the warmth of our attic and then finally get re-captured, Bilal has decided that he is no longer afraid of things that go 'bump' in the night. Or maybe, it's just that there's nothing left in our house to go 'bump'. During the opossum, a.k.a. Bigfoot (I allowed Safa to name it, but only after it had been banished for good. We all know that once it's name it becomes a pet), incident Bilal started freaking out many nights. Initially we had though it was just his imagination, until we realized there was an actual reason why he didn't want to stay in his room. So we introduced a night light. He had been sleeping in the dark ever since he was a baby before that. In fact he would complain if there was even a crack of light from the hallway coming into his room from under the door. The night light solved his problem. That, and the reassurance that Bigfoot was gone for good. The night light worked well for quite a while, until the shadows of objects in his room became an issue. He would insist that everything be removed from his floor, and certain objects be relocated from his bookshelf because in the shadow of the night light they looked scary. Finally three nights ago the shadows got too much and too scary. Ah, the imagination of a four year old! So I suggested that we unplug the light, and he actually liked the idea.

Two nights went by peacefully, and I thought we were done with the night light for good, but yesterday he came downstairs at midnight, obviously anxious about something in his room. I took him potty, carried him upstairs, cuddled for a bit and tucked him back in. A few minutes later he was back downstairs in our room. So I let him sack out on a sleeping bag on the floor in our room. If we let him lie with us in bed, nobody gets sleep, neither Bilal nor either of us. Not long after that he announced that he was headed upstairs to bed. He went up by himself, and slept till morning. I'm thinking it might make sense to keep the sleeping bag in our room for a few days as he adjusts. But I think we're just about done with another chapter in our little four year old's life.

And incidentally if you are interested in reading more about Bigfoot and his escapades, check out any of the links in this post. I promise you they will be enlightening! You can click this, this, or this link, or all of them, if you want the whole story, complete with some pretty close-up pics. The story has a happy ending though, no more intruders in the attic!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Two weeks from today

It's fourteen days until Bilal goes back to his cardiologist for his routine check-up, and I feel a teeny bit of anxiety creeping back in. I'm not totally freaked out or a nervous wreck, but this evening I realized that his appointment has crossed my mind several times today. It's Tuesday, so I have been home with Bilal, and it's hard not to be reminded that he will be seeing his PC on a Tuesday too. So that's exactly two weeks.

I have faith, I have confidence that there will be no surprises at this visit. That Bilal will undergo the usual; vital signs, EKG, possibly a chest x-ray and his echocardiogram. Dr. Colvin will discuss the echo as he is performing it, and tell me that everything looks good. And he will tell me not to worry about him, and that he'll see us again in another 18-24 months. Meanwhile, no restrictions.

But why the anxiety?? What is it about cardiology appointments that make us heart parents worry? Maybe it's that teeny bit of uncertainty about the future, after all, we are often reminded that a repaired heart is a repaired heart, not a cured one. The anatomy will never be quite that of a heart that was born healthy, although in our case we are fortunate that Bilal's heart after repair is as close to anatomically 'normal' as we could hope for. Maybe it's that little fear of the unknown. I think for me it also brings back memories of when these follow up appointments were not so routine. Each subsequent appointment meant Bilal was closer to needing open heart surgery. Particularly when the time frame became shorter with each visit. At birth, his surgery was anticipated to be at 4-6 months of age, next visit: 4 months, the next visit 3 months of age. And two weeks after that we were told he needed surgery within a couple of weeks. Not even two months old.

I am glad that we are not anticipating any more procedures for him in the near future. If it comes to needing a pulmonary valve replacement, we don't expect it any sooner than early adulthood. By then we hope that transcatheter valve replacements will be the norm.

Until that time we will continue to live our lives as any other (slightly crazy, freaky) family, and I suppose I'll continue to stress every time there is another appointment on the books. But I know that after seeing the cardiologist on February 1st, the relief I'll experience will be truly worth the pre-appointment stress.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Where will the baby sleep?

I got Bilal ready for bed, took him upstairs, and this is what I found in his room:

Between all the stuffed toys, pillows and sleeping kitty cats there was no space for him to lie! So I had to shoo out the cats before he could get tucked in for the night. The rest, he's used to. There's his tiger pillow, Bear, Boy, Baby Blue, Elephant, Eeyore, Big Bear and Panda Bear. His favorite one, Fuzzy goes wherever Bilal does, so you can't see him on the bed. There's probably a couple more in there that I haven't named (Sticky the Giraffe usually hides under the covers). But it's true, I know the names of all his stuffed toys. All 20+ of them. And I often find myself talking to them as if they were alive. Crazy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Another award!

So proud of my baby girl! She was a semi-finalist this weekend in the Novice group of University of Alabama's debate tournament, and won fourth place among the group based on speaker points. It is a lot of work to write these speeches, and the team wasn't able to meet a single day before the tournament since school was closed four out of five days last week for bad weather. But they still managed to pull it off! Fortunately for Safa, she loves debate but even then it was pretty grueling to write this time.

Three of the teammates before day #2 of the tournament

There will be another tournament in either February or March and then the team will be wrapping up for the year. I have a feeling that Safa will be keeping this up next year though!

I have been busy trying to clean and organize today. The pantry is much cleaner, and somewhat more organized, and the hall closet looks better than it did. I haven't been able to work on the master bedroom yet, it is still quite cluttered, but today I took out the iron (gasp!) to iron some clothes. That is absolutely my least favorite household task, but it had to be done. I rarely ever iron clothes, the ones that need ironing often sit in the clean hamper for weeks before I get to them. And Zakir's dress shirts usually just go to the laundry. So for me to actually bring out the ironing board from the laundry room is a huge deal.

The kids are off tomorrow for Martin Luther King, Jr, day, and for Zakir and myself it's work as usual. Last week's weather and light schedule has made me lazy, I am NOT thrilled to be headed back to work!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tuscaloosa debate weekend

Safa and I drove in to Tuscaloosa (home of the University Alabama and the Crimson Tide) earlier this afternoon, and after an early check in to the hotel I dropped her off at the University for day #1 of her debate tournament. The topic for January and February is 'Resolved: In the United States, juveniles charged with violent felonies ought to be treated as adults in the criminal justice system.' That's a tricky one to defend!

After roaming around town for a while and getting a car wash I headed back to the hotel and took the longest tub bath I have in months (or maybe years), with no-one knocking on the door asking for something. I love motherhood, but sometimes it is nice to have some guilt-free me time during daylight hours. I'm not worried about the boys; I know they're having fun. The last time we talked they had just come back from the mall, where they had dinner, dessert, hit all the toy stores and checked out the game store where you can play air hockey. Baba is extra cool when Mama's not around!

Before we left this morning I took Bilal to the library to pick up some books. We usually go at least every Tuesday, but we hadn't been in over two weeks. Wow, that has to be a record for us! So we spent an extra long time there, since Bilal loves to make the puzzles. And we read some before bringing a great assortment of books home. He is finally starting to trust my choice in books when I pick them out for him; he is willing to read more than just books about fire trucks and Star Wars. So we had a blast picking out the books today.

 Bilal insisted he could make the puzzles with his eyes closed

But he cheated a little bit

 And he cheered for himself every time he put a piece in the right place. So silly!

More puzzles

It didn't faze him that I wasn't going to be there for his bedtime. He just gave me a kiss and a hug when I left, and said, "See you tomorrow." I'm glad he doesn't have to have Mama with him all the time, but it was a little bittersweet. It feels great to be needed too!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Here we go again!

Another weather day has been called for Jefferson County schools. So Safa will stay home tomorrow also. That's day 4. Do we need any proof that everything grinds to a halt in Alabama when the weather turns wintry? And we've barely had a few flurries today. It's the residual ice and snow on the roads that is causing all the trouble. With the temperature barely reaching up to 29 degrees by day and as low as the teens overnight it just keeps refreezing. The interstates and other major roadways are clear. But the smaller neighborhood roads are still icy. People are still unable to go up or down their steep driveways. Fortunately for us we have a level driveway, and have been able to clear most of the ice on it.

Yesterday we rescheduled all but a few afternoon patients for Zakir. We went in with the boys and shoveled the parking lot at work, also put down some de-icing stuff, to make it safer for our patients.

Today we had only a handful of patients in clinic. And I think tomorrow's schedule is pretty light too. So many of our patients live in the heart of rural Blount county, and simply cannot make it out safely in icy conditions.

Trussville schools have not announced another weather day yet. They try and wait as late as possible to avoid unnecessary closings. Having driven around Trussville over the past two days I think the roads are in fairly good shape, but the major concern is running the school buses.

I am supposed to be driving Safa to Tuscaloosa this Friday for a two day debate tournament at the University of Alabama. This is a big one. Problem is, we don't know if it will still be held. I have a hotel room booked for the night, not sure if I should try to cancel that, before it is too late to get a refund. Decisions, decisions.

On the positive side, we're not in Connecticut right now. Two feet of snow and still falling!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Something other than the weather

Safa was reading my blog last night and remarked that I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent; my last three posts were all about the weather! Well I suppose when you get iced in and can't go anywhere then there's nothing else to write about! I suppose the winter weather is the only newsworthy topic right now.

So instead of more ice news, I am sharing some pics of the kids playing indoors.

And the baby dressed in his PJs, ready for bed.

And last but not least, one irresistible photo of the cutest little ten month old baby I have seen since my babies (and this little guy's big brother) were ten months old:

I love the latest version of Picasa. You can edit and enhance photos from within the software into the online editing software Picnik. And then download back into Picasa. What a novel idea!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ice, ice, everywhere!

From a snow point of view this has been a bit of a non-event, we have received about 2-3 inches of snow in Trussville. But everything is covered with ice! I am so glad the schools are closed today because getting out on those roads would be treacherous. The ground is white, but you can't really make a snowman unless you want to make it with slabs of ice. Because that's all we've got. The temperature rose to just above freezing today, so there was some melting going on for sure, but when it drops into the low twenties or teens again as predicted I can only imagine how bad the roads will become. I wonder if the schools will even be able to open tomorrow?

Zakir took the dog out for a walk this morning and then the boys went out to play up the hill with some other children in our neighborhood. We had the perfect road for sledding. I followed the kids out a little later to watch the activities, and it was even hard to walk up the hill without slipping everywhere. Our neighbors were out using everything from snow sleds to plastic lids to boogie boards to their own bums to slide down the hill.

Everything looks very white and pretty.

The cats, on the other hand, want nothing to do with the ice. Sammy went out for a few minutes this morning, didn't know what to do with all the white stuff and came back in. Tiny, on the other hand, didn't even bother to leave the house. She's been asleep in the same spot all day.

You can tell that Sammy would be outdoors if weather permitted, because he has basically been by the window most of the day, staring out into the whiteness of the neighborhood.

Maybe in a day or two things will be back to normal and the ice will be gone. We are so thankful that we have electricity and heat, because we had heard that there was a serious threat of losing power.

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