Monday, February 28, 2011

Plans for this week

So neither Safa nor Hamza placed in their respective tournaments this weekend, but you can't say they didn't enjoy competing. Another of Safa's teammates placed fourth so that was good news for the team. Today we are back to school/ work, and wondering, where did the weekend go??

Yesterday we had friends over for lunch and we grilled for the first time this year. It actually went up into the upper 70s! But how long could it last? After all, it's still only February (at least for a few more hours). Today the temperature hit 81 degrees, but the clouds rolled in too. We had a tornado watch for most of the day, also severe thunderstorm warnings; the usual for this time of the year in Alabama. When a thunderstorm did come through it dumped rain on us and left in a hurry. Left the back yard looking like a lake, but also dropped the temperature almost twenty degrees. Maybe tomorrow it will be dry enough to play outside again.

Bilal starts soccer practice tomorrow evening. His siblings are involved in so much, we though it would be nice for him to have some structured activity too. Right now he's not quite sure what to expect. I hope he enjoys himself! Tomorrow evening it is course selection night at the Middle school. Each subject and each extra curricular activity will have it's own station for the rising sixth and seventh graders to learn about what is being offered in the upcoming school year. Hamza will go for a while and hang out to represent the math team. And then on Wednesday he will be headed to ASFA for his math/science audition. He will return to school in the afternoon for his final band practice before the HTMS concert the following evening.

Can you believe I didn't take any pictures this weekend?? Well, except for a couple at the math tournament, that are still on my phone. So I decided to share a pic of Hamza when he was part of the U-4 soccer league years ago.

I love that determined look on his chubby little face!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Brothers dancing

This is Bilal's depiction of him and Hamza dancing. He told me , "Hamza is the bigger one, with his socks on, and I'm the shorter one".

Makes sense to me :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Debate, Math and education in general

It's 10pm and Safa is still at Vestavia High School. She is at a debate tournament that might continue until 11 or later. And then she goes back tomorrow for another grueling day that may last as late as 10 or 11 if she qualifies. Otherwise she should be home by about 5pm. Sunday she'll probably be playing catch up with sleep and her regular homework load. So not much of a weekend for her this time.

Tomorrow Hamza also has a big math tournament to go to. His team has been practising hard, several times a week either before or after school, for the past few weeks. I hope their effort pays off; they will be up against some excellent schools. If he didn't have a math tournament to go to he'd be auditioning for ASFA tomorrow. He is applying for the same Math and Science program Safa went to in eighth grade. They were nice enough to give him an alternative audition date so that he can attend the math tournament he had already committed to. But that means he'll be missing a day of school next week. I really hope he is accepted to the program, because he is passionate about math and science. And he can get an excellent education there, while remaining in a public school. If he doesn't, well, that's fine, because we are quite optimistic about the direction Hewitt Trussville is headed in too. Next year the high school will join the ranks of the Alabama schools participating in the National Math and Science Initiative's A+ college ready program. That will mean more opportunities to take AP courses in Math, Science and English. And hence potentially being able to get more college credit while still in high school. We don't want our kids to get a watered down education, rather we are willing to drag them kicking and screaming into programs where they are challenged to their full potential. Fortunately our kids are quite self motivated, and only need the occasional nudge in the right direction. Still, as parents we should teach them not to take the easy way out if they want to one day excel in whichever field/ career they choose.

And just because I can't write two posts in a row without at least one photo (that would be boring!), here's a cute one:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One...... two...... three!

I am in the kitchen when I hear Bilal squealing at the top of the stairs, "Whoa! No!" Then I hear his older two siblings giggling very loudly.

Me: What are you doing to my little boy?

Safa: (shouts back down the stairs): There's a difference between what we are doing and what he thinks he's doing!

Then I hear Safa and Hamza's voices: One....... two......... three!

Another squeal from Bilal.

Me: Are you pretending to throw Bilal down the stairs?

Safa (between giggles): Yes. But we gently set him down on the count of three.

Apparently Safa held his arms, Hamza held his legs and they were just swinging him. The older two are ganging up on the baby! Poor little guy! Well, I suppose he's probably just getting a dose of his own medicine. Honestly, he is the one constantly harassing them.

It's crazy what goes on in our house!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Got it!

And she's ready to learn to drive!

But sometimes I wonder. As you can see, she doesn't always act like a fifteen year old:

I guess there's a child in all of us!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Headed out for the weekend

We're invited out to lunch later today and after that we plan to head to Atlanta for the rest of the weekend. We figured it's been a while since we were there; it would be nice to make another trip to Ikea, and scope out some things for the home. Maybe even a desk for Hamza. Our primary motive, however, is to get to enjoy some delicious Pakistani food. It's always different when you eat out, although we cook Pakistani at home fairly often. So Atlas will be headed to the vet's for a couple of days.

We've been spending a lot of time outdoors these past few days. With the temperature at 68-75 degrees, why would anyone stay indoors??

 Zakir and Bilal enjoying a picnic lunch last Friday

Bilal actually wore shorts yesterday! And it's supposed to be a lovely weekend, although the prediction is cooler temperatures later next week.

Yesterday I took Safa to the courthouse to get her driver's permit. Yes, it is time. She took the test and got all the answers correct, but couldn't get the permit because she didn't bring a school enrollment form that she needed as proof that she is in school. So she'll get that from the school on Monday and I'll run her by again on Tuesday so that she can get her picture taken and the permit issued. Whoa, that's quite a milestone! And Zakir will be the one to teach her drive, I don't think I could do it. So far he's had her pull in and out of the garage a couple of times. Let's see how the lessons go.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


After two weeks of ups and downs with our internet service and a few days of disrupted phone service it seems we might be back in business. I am able to complete office work at home again, without each connection timing out. Our phone/ DSL company still couldn't quite figure out what, or where the problem was, but they changed some lines at random and it appears to be better. Now I wonder if they'll give us credit for the time we wasted on the phone with customer service and the techs, also the days when we intermittently has no access to the web. I guess we'll find out tomorrow!

It's interesting how much we have started taking the internet for granted, mostly now because we do almost 100% of patient record documentation online, with access to a remote server. What would we do without it? I don't want to find out!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Day

How appropriate for it to be on the same date as Valentine's Day. After all, it is all about hearts!

We have been having crazy internet issues at our house which has been disrupting our work significantly. So I have been backed up at work and haven't had an opportunity to take the time to post some of the things I've wanted to this past week. But I found an old post on Bilal's carepage that I thought would be nice to share today:

As I was driving to work this morning, one of the local radio stations was airing a St. Jude's Hospital 'radiothon', a fundraiser for the Memphis based cancer research hospital that has provided free medical care to many patients suffering from childhood cancers. A worthy cause, no doubt, one that I support myself. Cancer causes death and disease, not only affecting the patients, but their family members too.
Now think about congenital heart disease. The number one birth defect related killer of children, and causing almost twice as many deaths in kids compared to all childhood cancers combined. But it gets nowhere near the same support for research into causes and treatment as cancer. These are facts that I was not aware of until CHD affected our family personally. It is definitely a cause worth supporting. The Children's Heart Foundation is one organization that funds CHD research. ( You can also help with CHD in general by supporting the numerous non-profit groups that have been established to provide support, both financial and emotional to the families affected by congenital heart disease.

I have the links to many of those resources in the right sidebar of my blog. It is definitely not all inclusive, but I continue to add to it as I become aware of additional sites.

If you need an idea of the actual incidence of CHD, just think that almost one in every 100 children is born with a heart defect. Some will fortunately not require surgery, others may need one, or many open heart surgeries plus possibly many other invasive cardiac procedures.

If you say that you haven't ever heard of anyone who was born with a heart defect, that will change after reading this. My son is living with tetralogy of fallot. He is 1 in 100.

We are fortunate that he has been blessed with an excellent repair and his prognosis for the future is very bright. With research into new and innovative procedures this may some day become the norm for many of those born with CHD. Research can also help find causes for these defects, and who knows, maybe some day some of these will be preventable. That is why funding these organizations is so critical.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Birthday Party

I shared a post about Safa's fifteenth birthday here, but here are a couple of pics from her party, which was about a week later. She had about ten friends over for the party.  It is so easy when they are teenagers; you don't have to plan elaborate ways to keep the kids occupied and out of trouble. The girls spent most of the afternoon either gathered around the dining table, or watching a movie. and trust me, large amounts of snacks and cake were consumed!

I got her a caramel cake from Edgar's Bakery. Yum!

The girls and the food

Safa blew out the candles,

And then the obligatory 'cake smashed in her face' event. Unfortunately I missed the part when the cake was actually being rubbed into her face!

But you can see the end result!

This year Safa got contact lenses for her birthday. She will have to come up with a way to help with the recurring costs, I hope. It took her a whole week, but she finally mastered inserting them into her eyes. For the first several days she would spend about half an hour putting her right lens in, and then I'd pop in the left one for her, after she had become frustrated to no end. Now she's on auto-pilot, and doesn't have to come to Mama to help because she's running late for school in the morning.

She's also eager to get her driver's permit, so hopefully we'll be working on that within the next week or two. So much happening all at once. It just keeps reminding me how my baby is growing up so fast!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Playdate with our heart friend

On Tuesday little Miss J came to visit us while her mommy and daddy went out for lunch. She is so much fun to have over, always delightful and sweet. She is one of our little heart friends, and is scheduled for cardiac cath in May, followed by her third open heart surgery, her Fontan, not much longer after that.

I have known this sweetie since she wasn't quite 2 months old; it has been a delight to watch her grow into the adorable little toddler she is!

We had fun playing outside, even though it was a bit chilly.

Bilal is already asking me when she will come over to play again!

Friday, February 11, 2011


Why is this picture so funny?

When Hamza was little, before he learned to read, we'd go to a Chinese restaurant, and of course, at the end of the meal we'd be presented with fortune cookies. He would eat the cookie and beg us to read him the fortune that was inside it. Regardless of what the fortune actually said I would read, "Hamza needs to listen to his parents and eat his veggies", or "Hamza needs to be a good boy and behave in school". He would protest, "Mama, that's not what it says!" So I would hand the slip of paper to Zakir, and he would repeat exactly what I said. We'd trick him each time, it was so cute!

So when this fortune actually came out of his cookie when we went out for Japanese this evening it brought back fond memories of when the kids were little and they could be tricked into believing anything (Hamza was particularly gullible). This time we didn't even have to pretend! Granted, Hamza is much better about eating his veggies now than he was when he was little, but a friendly reminder now and then doesn't hurt!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


There's really no other way to describe the weather! It has been labile and dissociated, even as Alabama standards go. Overnight we had a couple of inches of snow again.

Granted it does look pretty after it has snowed, but it messes things up. Safa's school opened late again today. But at least it got counted as a full school day, so that means no extra days of school in June..... so far. For Hamza it was a regular school day.

The roads were actually dry when I drove to work, and our patient load was good, so at least it didn't affect our business this time. But I haven't seen it ever snow like this in Alabama, and we've been living here since 1999. And by the afternoon it was sunny enough for the small amount of accumulation to melt away, even though it barely hit 32 degrees.

Bilal and I still managed to go out and play for a little while. Actually play for him was gathering snow into small balls and pelting me with them while I stood on the patio huddled up in my jacket with my hands stuck in my pockets. Still, the sun was lovely.

Atlas, of course, loved it. He thrives in cold weather.

Nineteen degrees tonight, and it is predicted to go back up into the 60s this weekend. Bizarre!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

One minute to stardom :)

Have you seen this ad? It is definitely one of the cutest I've ever seen. It aired on Superbowl Sunday a couple of days ago, and has got almost 22 million hits on Youtube since.

The little Darth Vader in this ad is 6 year old Max Page, who has also starred in a daytime soap opera and some other ads. He has become famous virtually overnight due to this ad.

An interesting fact about Max, he was born with a complex congenital heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot, which is the same defect as Bilal has, although Max also has a pacemaker implanted. It has been refreshing to see that in all the articles and features about him, his diagnosis has been talked about, which is different from what has been seen in the past. It's important for the world to know that congenital heart defects are not an uncommon finding, in fact they are the most common birth defect as a group. Tetralogy of Fallot is the most common form of cyanotic heart defect. In cyanotic defects before repair there is a significant circulation of deoxygenated blood which leads to blueness in the lips and nail beds of patients.

Max is just one of the many faces of CHD we hope to see in the media over time. And I give the ad a 10/10 on the cuteness scale!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Living life to the fullest

I wanted to share the link to our heart friend Lauren's most recent blog post. She has collaborated with sixteen other adult survivors of Congenital Heart Defects and written a very inspiring post, a worthwhile read. I was impressed to read how many adults affected with CHD have become affiliated with the health care profession in one form or another. The post gives a lot of hope to parents of children with heart defects. They can accomplish what they strive for.

Lauren's Heart: Hope~Love~Faith

So if you want to read an inspirational post, click on the button above and head on over to Lauren's blog, or you can click on this link which will take you straight to the post.

Today I got a copy of Bilal's cardiology visit note in the mail. It was such a blessing to read. It was so positive, and I was thrilled to read that Dr. C used the word 'possible' and not 'probable' when referring to the need for further surgery, as he had in the past. That is extremely encouraging; no more surgery sounds like a good possibility. And of course, no physical restrictions at this time, and no antibiotic prophylaxis needed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

There's an app for that!

This is a one minute clip of our blue tabby Tiny having some fun with an iPad app for cats. Worth watching for a smile :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Loving the new patio

We've had some work done in the back yard with the intent to improve drainage and reduce the amount of dirt that tracks into the house. It's still a work in progress; come spring we will need to sod some areas, and there is still some addition of gravel and cleaning up that's needed to be done. But the small area of paving is pretty much complete, and at least Atlas loves it.

He's been crashed in the same spot all morning!

There were no 'before' pics to share because with all the rain, ice and snow we've had our entire back yard has basically been a huge patch of mud. Not very pretty. I am looking forward to the spring for more reasons than one; it sure will be nice to see some green grass and a drier lawn!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A never ending winter, and some heart news

Ice, snow and cold temperatures. Today it barely hit 32 degrees, and early afternoon it started to snow. Followed by ice and then freezing rain. The schools let out half and hour early and all after school activities were canceled. On my way to and from picking up Safa we encountered three cars lying in the ditch in what I would consider non-anatomical positions, one of those completely upside down. People here just don't know how to drive in icy conditions; they should stay off the roads! So glad I don't have to go to work tomorrow, and hoping that there aren't any more school cancellations. I refuse to let my kids go to school in June; we are supposed to be leaving for Pakistan on June 6th! On the positive side, at least we don't live in Chicago!

Next week, February 7 through 14 is Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week. The purpose is to make people aware that approximately 1 in every 100 children is born with a congenital heart defect. The cause for most of these is unknown, and the treatment often involves complex procedures and open heart surgery, sometimes multiple. Without knowledge of these defects very little can be done in the endeavor to prevent and better treat them. More funding is necessary, so we all need to get the word out about how common CHD is. Tomorrow is the American Heart Association's national 'Wear Red' day. This is considered to be for the knowledge and support of acquired heart disease in women, by why not do the same for those with congenital heart defects too? So I'll be wearing red tomorrow, for all those women with acquired heart disease, plus those who are born with congenital heart defects. Our babies need representation too!

On February 15th, fellow heart mom Stefenie will be hosting another blog linking event on her blog, this one titled 'Every Heart has a Story ~ How CHD Affects Your Relationships'. The last one that I also participated in was a huge success, with this post as my contribution. Seventy-six contributions were made to that blog event. What a great way to make connections within the heart community and read some heartwarming stories! I can't wait to read the posts this time! I still have to think about what I'm going to write too.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Good day

I wanted to share how things went at the PC's office this morning. We left bright and early in the morning to go to UAB for Bilal's check-up

We had a little wait in the office before it was his turn, but no big deal, Bilal got to watch the Disney Channel for a while.
After getting his height and weight it was time for the EKG. Bilal climbed on to the table like a big boy, and did not protest a single time.

He even smiled for the camera!

The chest x-ray was a piece of cake. No problems there!

Then we had a little wait before going into the echo room, so he played games on my phone.

And then to the echo room for blood pressure and oxygen saturation.

His oxygen saturation was 98%, great! The blood pressure machine did not cooperate, but we got all the other stats needed.

Dr. Colvin listened to Bilal's chest and said that he has a soft murmur. This is to be expected after repair with his mild pulmonary stenosis and pulmonary insufficiency. And lastly, the echo.

He did very well with it, but after a while did start to ask when we'd be done.

So as we already know he has pulmonary insufficiency, but his heart is tolerating it with no problems at present; there is no evidence of the right ventricle being enlarged. He is allowed to play any sports he wants to (we already signed him up for soccer this weekend, before his appointment!), and there is no need for prophylactic antibiotics which is in line with the AHA guidelines. I'm glad our PC chooses to follow the current recommendations because they are based on recent research. Bilal also has very mild pulmonary valve narrowing which shouldn't be a problem for him. So no burning issues, hopefully at least into young adulthood.

Bilal enjoyed a lollipop on the way out, I think he deserved it!

And we don't have to go back for another 18-24 months, yay!

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