Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A boy and his buddy

Yesterday, in the back yard...

Look, he really does have ears hidden under all that fur!

And a friendly game of soccer

But he tired out too soon. It's just too hot!

But the boys wouldn't leave him alone

So he just decided to play dead. Maybe then he'd get some rest.

Photography by Safa.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eid Mubarak...

... from the Khan family. I hope everyone's day is full of blessings and celebration.

Tomorrow it's back to the grind as usual :(

Monday, August 29, 2011

The end of Ramadan

Another blessed month of Ramadan is drawing to a close. It has been a good month of fasting and prayer, visits to the mosque for Iftaar and dinner. The new moon has been sighted in Saudi Arabia, so our mosque has announced that tomorrow will be the first day of Shawal, or Eid-al-Fitr.

Last night we went for dinner and our Chaand Raat celebration. Safa took her friend Anna with her, and they both got a chance to have henna applied on their hands. It's a very popular Eid tradition, and the girls love it. It ended up being a late night for them, but was worth it.


Tomorrow the kids will stay out of school. We'll start the day of festivities with a trip to the Sheraton for Eid prayers, followed by a carnival, and a pot luck dinner with friends.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A quick school update

Another school week is nearly drawing to an end. So far, so good. Thankfully no sickies yet, which is often a concern when school starts back after the summer. Hamza is still enjoying being in a new school, and has actually made a lot of friends too. He has decided which teachers he loves (his math teacher, his English teacher), and which ones not so much (his Science teacher). Most of all I'm thrilled that he is enjoying his English class, because that has not historically been his strength. There is hope! He has had a couple of quizzes and tests, and done quite well, and has more scheduled for next week.

Safa is taking two AP classes; her required Modern European History, and AP psychology. A lot of work, but so far so good there too! As usual she is being inundated with homework. But coping. Her 'easy' electives are photography and choir. Makes for a more balanced year.

And Bilal is still having fun in kindergarten. Learning to understand directions. Until now I think that his attitude towards learning to read (starting with learning the sounds of letters) has been the same as any other new thing he is faced with, less than eager; the fear of the unknown. I know it's still very early in the year, but I am waiting for that little light bulb to go on in his very intelligent head when he realizes that letters make sounds, and letters strung together make words, typically using those sounds. For now we continue to enjoy reading together every night, and while we read we hunt for the few sight words that he's been learning. That's a start!

A few more days left in this very hot Ramadan. Eid will be either next Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the sighting of the new moon. We'll keep the kids out of school that day, so they can enjoy the festivities. And speaking of hot, the thermometer in my car registered 103 degrees when I was driving down the interstate today. Phew! Considering this morning it was a very pleasant 68 degrees, that's quite a jump!

And while I'm on the subject of driving, I am now putting over 120 miles on my car on an average day. I leave with the kids at about 6:50am, reach clinic around 8:15-8:30 depending on the traffic, work in clinic and leave around 2:15 to pick the kids up from three different schools. By the time we get back home it's close to 4:30pm. It gets quite tiring, but thank goodness I love the car I drive; traveling 120 miles in the minivan every day would make me go crazy!

Monday, August 22, 2011


This morning we were up for our early Ramadan breakfast at 4:30am. Our conversation as we sat down to eat went something like this:

Me: I just realized we are almost out of eggs.
Safa: Did you know that Americans eat an average of 238 eggs per year?

The remainder of our meal was devoted to figuring out how people manage to get that many eggs in their diet and what a closer estimate for our own household's consumption would be. Including a fairly comprehensive list of all sorts of prepared foods that might contain eggs.

Just an ordinary breakfast time chat in our ordinary household!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wet dog!

Atlas really doesn't care for being bathed. He has to be on a leash so that he doesn't run off, so he kind of just stands there, resigned, with his tail between his legs. He doesn't have to be bathed that often, but lately he's been digging in the mud a lot, trying to stay cool, so he was starting to look rather mucky.

If he gets water on his ears he'll give himself a good shake. So you have to keep your distance unless you want to get rather wet.

Rather pitiful looking?

After his bath, off comes his leash and he's free to run. He takes off at lightning speed and gives himself another good shake.

But for a thorough dry off, he rolls around in the grass.

And another shake

Oops, missed a spot!

Happy pup!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Settling into school

Bilal is really enjoying school, although he has a tendency to forget specifics about what he did during the day. Thank goodness his teacher sends home a folder with his worksheets, plus draws a face (smiley, straight, frown, etc.) in his agenda book so we would know if he had a bad day. So far all smiley faces! He does once in a while tell me if someone else got an 'oops' note, or if they had their pin moved in class for not doing what is expected of them.

But yesterday I realized how much of an adjustment it really is, for my chatterbox, energetic little guy to follow all the rules in kindergarten. He told me, "You have to stay quiet all the time, like when you walk to after school care, and when you walk to the lunch room. It's hard, it makes my cheeks hurt!" No wonder he lets it all out when he comes home!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Where are we now?

Logan's mommy, Stefenie is hosting another blog linking event for heart families who would like to share their stories and connect with other families. The previous one, hosted about a year ago was a huge successful. we all had the opportunity to read about our heroes, both kids and adults who are living with CHD and overcoming great challenges every day. To contribute this year I would like to start where I left off last year. If you would like to read about Bilal's CHD journey from the beginning you can click on this link. This will take you to my contribution from last year.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Bilal has Tetralogy of Fallot, which typically comprises four separate defects:
1. Pulmonary stenosis
2. Ventricular septal defect (Bilal also had an atrial septal defect)
3. Right ventricular hypertrophy
4. Overriding of the aorta.

I have shared a some diagrams before, but these are particularly useful in describing the complex CHD.

Bilal's complete repair was on September 18, 2006, nearly 5 years ago.

Since the last time I posted we have been back to see the cardiologist once, in February of this year. The news we received this year was the most encouraging we have so far since his repair. During our follow-ups we have been hearing the fact that Bilal will probably/likely need a valve replacement some time during adulthood. As with most repairs of Tetralogy of Fallot the pulmonary valve is often sacrificed to some degree to relieve the stenosis, so patients are left with residual pulmonary insufficiency, or a leaky valve. The backflow of blood into the ventricle can put a strain on the heart, and may warrant a valve replacement. Depending on how the repair as initially done this may require another open heart surgery, or possibly a cardiac catheterization.

When we saw our PC in February he was very happy with how Bilal's heart anatomy had developed. He actually told us that a valve replacement in the future is possible, not probable. To us that is a huge difference. What a blessing it would be to not require any future heart surgery! And for now we will continue to see Dr. C every 18-24 months for his regular check ups, during which he typically gets a height and weight check, oxygen saturation (99% at last visit, woohoo!), chest x-ray, EKG and echocardiogram. I am determined to push it to 24 months this time!

Meanwhile we have a happy, well-adjusted five year old, who just started kindergarten last week (and is loving it), and is about to start his second season of soccer. He can keep up with the most energetic heart healthy child, and drives his older siblings absolutely crazy. Still into his apparently never-ending Star Wars phase, which drives Mama crazy, and is on the go from six in the morning until almost eight at night. We couldn't have been more blessed!

From his most recent cardiology check-up. Such a big boy!

I hope my son's amazing post-op outcome is a source of inspiration for those parents who may be dealing with the uncertainty of a new diagnosis. I am always happy to talk to or email with anyone who needs a chat and a bit of support, just let me know ♥

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Another change

What is this?

Imagine this color, a lot of this color, on the walls, all over your house. The sitting room, the master bedroom, and the vast expanse of the upstairs hallway and the foyer and stairway. That's a lot of pink. In fact, the color matched a paint on the color wheel called 'cherries jubilee'. This is what we've been living with for over eight years. When we bought the house in 2003 we refused to be turned off by the wall color, figuring that we could change it any time we wanted to. Well, eight years later, after building a new sunroom, a patio, repainting all three kids' bedrooms, redoing the kitchen floors and walls, and changing the bathroom from this to this, it was finally time to tackle the delightfully pink walls.

We went back and forth on what colors to do our walls, but one thing was for sure that we want a relatively neutral color. So at long last we wouldn't have to keep buying neutral bedding, furniture, drapes and such, to tone down the walls.

We also had a dull green on the dining room walls, and a very pretty gold-ish color on the guest room/ computer room walls, but were getting sick of the jungle mural that had been painted prior to us moving into this house. So we decided to tackle it all at once. So far I have done all the painting myself, but this project was far too big for me, especially with the two story foyer. This time we hired a team of painters who took care of everything in two days. Definitely worth the expense, not to have to risk my safety climbing up on ladders.

What we settled on was a subtle green in the sitting room and dining room, a shade called 'wheat grass' and a deep cream (called 'compatible cream') in the rest of the house. I'll share pics of the new colors tomorrow, but I have to say, after the painting was complete it felt like we'd moved into a brand new house! Now we are working on picking out new drapes for the bedroom and valances for the sitting room. All our paintings and framed photos still have to go back up on the walls too. So the house is pretty cluttered right now.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just for Safa...

... and her friends.

I took the girls to a concert at a great venue called Workplay on Saturday night. Since it is Ramadan, and the concert was at a most inopportune time, just a few minutes after we are scheduled to break our fast, I had to sneak in some snacks for the girls to eat. Workplay has a bar but they don't offer any kind of food. Anyway, Safa loves one of the headliner bands that were performing, and had been talking about wanting to go to this concert for a long time, so I agreed to take her. The opening act was a group from North Carolina called Delta Rae. I'm still not quite sure what genre of music they performed (some cross between rock and country, maybe?), but they were quite good.

The first headliner was Matthew Mayfield who is actually originally from Birmingham. Again, not someone I am personally familiar with, but I can't say I didn't enjoy the music. I sat in a booth in the corner while the girls stood where they could touch the stage, and enjoyed the music up close and personal.

Next was a group called Carbon Leaf. I had previously heard perhaps one or two of the songs they performed, but I am surprised to admit I really enjoyed the music. Quite a versatile group, with some very good guitarists too. They played everything from Irish Folk, to rock, to softer acoustic music. I also like the fact that Safa has such a diverse taste in music. I admit it does sometimes make me feel rather old, since I know the names of very few of the artists she listens to.

 The only downside if the evening was that the concert ran until almost midnight. By the time we made it to bed it was after 1am. And considering I was up at 3:45am making breakfast to start the next day's fast, let's just say I was more than a little sleep deprived! All to make my little girl happy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Nephews

I admit I haven't been blogging in chronological order, but I've just now got back into the groove, and would love to keep this momentum going. So I present to you, the nephews:

I know, I know, fuzzy picture again, but when this little guy is on the go I take what I can get!

Mobeen and Mohsin came in with their parents late Thursday night, and stayed until Sunday midday. I kept these little monkeys for most of Friday while their parents took care of some business. The sound of the two of them, and Bilal, playing together was delightful. so much squealing and laughter! I wish I got a decent picture of them together!

They have become very interactive, and love running around together. And when one of them gets tired, he just snuggled up against Safa Baji, and:

Gotta get energized for the next round of play!

I wish they lived closer so we could see them more often. At least we have Labor Day weekend to look forward too. I love my nephew fix!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

First Days

Yesterday was Hamza's first day of school at ASFA. He was a little nervous, that's to be expected, since he is going to a brand new school for the first time since kindergarten. He's grown up around the same kids in Trussville, and now he will have unfamiliar teachers, and new friends to be made.

But when I picked him up in the afternoon he was happy, and eager to tell me about his day. Phew! His favorite class so far? Algebra, of course!

This morning was Bilal's turn. No nerves there, all excitement.

In fact, he was so excited that he could barely contain himself!

Hamza walked Bilal to the bus stop, which is very close to our house, while I brought the car around.

He waited impatiently for the bus.


Here it comes!

So we exchanged a couple of quick hugs, and he was eager to hop on board. Not even the slightest moment of hesitation!

*Sniff*, he's ready to start his first day of school.

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