Friday, August 31, 2012

Not a lot to report

It seems like my blog posts are becoming farther and farther apart! Not a good thing, but there's not really been a lot to report. Another school week has come to an end; still uneventful, still good. although Safa has again started questioning the utility of Chemistry, especially since I, as a doctor can't seem to help her with the problems and equations she has had to solve. But in reality, it has been twenty four years since I did the same level of Chemistry, and I haven't really applied it much, so it has gone the way of the wind for me. Well, maybe she has a point! AP Chemistry is not an easy course, but I'm sure she'll get through it just fine. She has been doing very well in Anatomy so far (something I am actually able to help her with, hah!). She is not enjoying choir as she did the previous two years, because her favorite teacher is off on leave for the entire year. But at least it's sort of a 'gimme' grade, not too much to have to study.

Hamza is enjoying school immensely, and has been having a blast with his team mates designing a robot to enter into UAB's Robotics tournament. The final event is on October 6th, so they don't have a lot of time to built and test it. And he is also preparing for his first math tournament for the year. Next week he goes on an overnight retreat with other ninth graders.

And Bilal is still loving school. He had his first spelling test last week. His teacher is great, and seems to be very involved with the kids. He has started getting some reading assignments for homework, and we are still trying to read every day in addition to that. He still would rather play with toys or watch TV than read a book, but we are working on that.

I have been reading a new young adult series book called Divergent, by Veronica Roth. It is about a dystopian society, and anyone who has read The Hunger Games will know what I am talking about. I have just started the second book in the trilogy, Insurgent. It is an easy read and has a good plot, if anyone is interested in a new read, although the concept is far from a new one.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

'Toofless'!

Bilal's class celebrated Clifford the Big Red Dog's birthday on Friday with lots of yummy snacks and floppy Clifford ears for everyone. What a cute idea!

And finally, the elusive tooth, that has barely been attached to his gum for weeks, decided that it was time to come out. Bilal has been trying to tug it r days, but I thought it wasn't wiggly enough. Today I gave it two little tugs and it was out! He was so relieved, it has been driving him crazy!

So now he is missing two top incisors! The one that came out several weeks ago is still not showing any signs of being replaced. No top 'teef' as Bilal puts it.

Makes his cheesy smile even cuter!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We survived

The first week of school is coming to an end, with only one day left. So far no casualties. It's been busy, but uneventful. Hamza still looks a bit asleep when he gets up in the morning, but he has been getting up to his own alarm, so hopefully he should get used to it soon enough. Bilal is bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning, but by the evening becomes quite labile. You can see that he is tired, but he denies it, and doesn't want to go to bed until at least 8pm. Yesterday, after a meltdown, I coaxed him to bed by 7:30. So there is a bit of an adjustment there.

Hamza has classes until 4:40, so the earliest he gets home on Monday through Thursday is 5:10. Then there's homework, but not yet as much as Safa is used to getting. He still hopes to keep up karate, so it will be a bit of a juggle. Tuesday and today I picked him up even later, because he had to stay for a meeting and kick-off event for the robotics team. The UAB school engineering sponsors middle school and high school robotics events, and Hamza is eager to be a part of the ASFA team. It will be several late evenings at school, until the final event some time in October. It really is tiring driving so much, but I really want him to participate in something he is so interested in. It's a great opportunity for him.

And here are a couple of pics of day 1 of school. You can see that I have a hard time persuading all there of the kids to give me a nice smiley face all at the same time. Bilal really had to pull a crazy expression!

Hamza still looks a bit sleepy and Safa has her 'do we really have to do this?' expression. But that's my kids for you!

I took Bilal to the bus stop on Monday morning. It's usually something Hamza does while I am frantically trying to get ready so we can be out of the house just after 7. But I wanted to see him off myself on the first day of school.

And he got the same great bus driver as last year. We love Mr. G!

Doesn't he look excited? So far so good!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eid al Fitr 2012

We celebrated Eid today, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. We started the morning by having a traditional dessert for breakfast, and then headed downtown for the Eid prayers. It is a large gathering, even larger than many previous years, probably because this year Eid fell on a weekend.

After Eid prayers we headed home for a short period of time. Then, armed with a freshly baked blueberry cobbler, we went to visit a friend's house for brunch. We spent an hour or two catching up with friends and family, then drove to the Hoover Crescent mosque for the Eid festival. Afterwards we split up and Zakir brought Safa and Bilal home, while I took Hamza to his school for the Math/Science departmental meeting. Why oh why on a Sunday afternoon?! But is wasn't all that bad, and then we drove home, only to leave again less than an hour later, for dinner with friends. Instead of the pot luck style dinner that one person or the other has been hosting at their house for the past 3 years, today about 25 families met at an Indian restaurant for a delicious buffet style dinner. Since who really wants to have to cook on Eid anyway?! We had a great time, with great company, but had to leave relatively early, to get the kids (particularly Bilal) home at a decent hour. Tomorrow is the first day of school and we wanted to make sure that all the kids wake up well rested and ready for a busy week. Looking forward to having the kids back in a good routine. and no more deep dents in the sofa (at least until the weekend!).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tossed Salad

I have been living in the United States since 1995. That's seventeen years, quite a long time. I've had many addresses during those years; I've lived in Connecticut and Hawaii, and we finally made our home in Alabama. We've lived at our current address for over nine years, which is longer than I've lived at any address in my entire life. My status as a non-citizen has changed as my visas have changed, initially as a dependent of a visa holder, then myself a primary visa holder as a medical resident, and then I had a work visa. Through my employer I finally was sponsored to be a permanent resident, which has been my status in the country for the past 5 or so years.

During these years it became more evident to us that living in the United States is our future. Our kids are growing up here, thriving and going to excellent schools. Over five years ago Zakir and I opened up our own medical practice, which has been steadily growing. We see ourselves running our business until we retire, if that's what God has destined for us. This country has been good to us.

So it was finally time to apply for naturalization. Zakir's green card preceded mine by a little over a year, so he was granted citizenship almost 2 years ago. And this year it was my turn. After the application process, the test and the interview. I waited impatiently for a few months until July when I received my letter with a date for my oath ceremony. And that date was today.

I went to the courthouse in Birmingham this morning with the family, and along with 52 other applicants representing 26 different countries, I took the oath of naturalization in front of the Chief Justice of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Sharon Lovelace Blackburn. It was quite an emotional experience, pledging allegiance to this country that has already given us so much.

During her address to the newly naturalized citizens, Chief Justice Blackburn spoke of the United States not as a melting pot, as it is often known (referring to the intermixing of many cultures), but rather, as a tossed salad, where the citizens maintain some of their original identity, as they blend into American Society. I thought that analogy was perfect. Considering yesterday, I was celebrating Pakistan's Independence Day. I was born in the United Kingdom. And now, across the Atlantic, I have come to call the USA as my home.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A new school year!

School doesn't officially start for students until Monday, the 20th, but this evening Bilal and I went to Paine to meet his new teacher and check out his first grade classroom. I remember how nervous he was last year when we entered the colorful halls of his school for the first time. This year? He was so excited, grinning from ear to ear. Especially when he saw so many familiar faces from last year.

The classroom looks like a perfect place to start an exciting school year. Bilal checked out his desk and had a chance to munch on some yummy goldfish crackers that his teacher had left for him

We went through all his papers, put labels on his supplies, and made sure that Bilal had his 'bus rider' name tag ready to go.

When I introduced Bilal to his new teacher, Mrs. G, she said, "I hear you're a great reader." Made me proud!

We are looking forward to another great school year!

And happy birthday to Pakistan! It is the 65th Independence Day of our beautiful country today. I continue to pray for peace and prosperity in this wonderful nation that has been facing more than its share of problems; political, military, social and in many other aspects too.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

A portrait session!

It's been a busy weekend. We had a blast yesterday morning, when we met our photographer, Samantha for an early (at least by our standards) session at Avondale Park. I was fortunate enough to have won the session in a contest. Typically we look for a special occasion for portraits, but a free session with our favorite photographer was occasion enough this time! Hopefully we'll have the proofs to share in a few weeks, but for now, I 'borrowed' a couple of pics off facebook to share on my blog. Credits to His Hands Photographs, of course. You should check out their website, and if you decide to book a session, tell Samantha I sent you. You won't be disappointed!

This one was Safa's idea! The wi-fi family!

This one is one of my favorites:

The family:

And my babies!

I can't wait to see the rest and order our prints. I love how the first few turned out!

After the photos we made a quick trip to the outlets to pick up some necessary items. After dropping the kids home, Zakir and I went mattress shopping. Just two days ago, out of the blue, something went 'clunk' on our bed, and now we have a huge divot in our mattress! It was probably due to be replaced soon anyway, but I didn't expect it to just die! Maybe it just couldn't keep up with a certain six year old jumping on the bed a little too often. Anyway, we went to a local mattress store and checked out several mattresses, several times each, and narrowed it down to two choices. Then we eventually settled on a medium density Tempurpedic memory foam mattress, and it is going to be delivered this coming Saturday.

In the evening we were invited to a birthday/ Iftaar party. So we basically spent very little time at home. Today we didn't have as much going on, but Zakir and I did get out for some major grocery shopping that was long overdue. Our fridge was really starting to look bare. And in the evening we cooked; Zakir make some delicious Filet Mignon while I sauteed some asparagus. And I also made meringues for dessert. My first ever attempt! I used the recipe I found here. They did not look anywhere as good as the ones on the originating blog, but they definitely tasted delicious! The recipe itself is a keeper. Perhaps I just need more practice.

Tomorrow is work as usual. And this is the last week of summer vacation for the kids. Safa is scrambling to get all her summer homework completed. The ultimate procrastinator. She must take after her Mama, hah! And this is also the final week of the month of Ramadan. It has been a great month, but reserves tend to run lower by the end of the month. None of us have the energy we did when we starting fasting earlier on. And there is big news to share about something going on later in the week, but I'll reveal it when the time comes. All in all, we are geared up for quite a busy week!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

More karate news

After Hamza's successful black belt test on Friday it was Bilal's turn on Saturday morning. Hamza changed into his gi to help out with the students and Safa played photographer. I also snapped some photos with my little camera.

During the test the students had to demonstrate all the skills they had learned over the past 2 months, in addition to all their basic skills.






After the testing for all colors was completed they waited for their results.

And then,

Promoted to orange belt!


And a group photo of all those who successfully tested, with their instructors:


Sunday, August 5, 2012

He hardly ever slows down...

..... but when he finally crashes he looks like an angel!


I love my precious little guy!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Promoted!

Today was Hamza's black belt exam at the Dojo. He has been training for this over the past 3-4 months and was eager to take the test.

He performed well throughout the test.

And it paid off when he got promoted to 4th kyu Nidan, which is another rank in his second degree belt belt.



Proud of him and all the other students who tested. We have three new black belts in the Dojo now.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

And day 3 of our vacation

It is finally time to share the rest of our vacation photos, taken by Safa. On day 3 we drove to Anna Ruby Falls, just outside of Helen. There is an easy hike that takes you from the Visitor's Center up to the waterfalls. It's actually more of a paved walkway, but it great to walk up and enjoy some of the sights and sounds of nature.









And at the waterfall another tourist was kind enough to take a picture of the five of us together. I think it's the only family photo taken throughout the vacation!

On the way back home we drove through Atlanta and had the chance to meet friends of ours for lunch at a nice Iranian restaurant. We were back home just in time to pick up the pup from the vet.

Definitely a laid back few days, the sort of vacation we hadn't had in a long time. It is nice to escape from the craziness of life once in a while.

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