Friday, February 28, 2014

Times have changed

There are still many times when you'll see (and hear) these little cousins running around the house like maniacs, chasing each other, or sometimes playing hide and seek. But we often see this too, especially in the evenings, when they've run out of steam.

They may be sitting on the couch, playing on their own devices, but they are actually playing with each other! I suppose that's another way technology has brought people closer together. Even as they look at individual screens, they are actually interacting! It may not be a bad idea, but I am glad that most of the interaction actually is in person, and much less often on an electronic device!

Farah and Adeel brought the boys over this evening, and we went out for Mexican. It's kind of a Friday ritual that is great for all of us. And after his begging and pleading, we let Bilal go with them to spend the night. Hopefully this will be a more successful sleepover than the last one! Tomorrow Safa has a full day of studying and then socializing with friends, and Hamza will spend much of the day at a math tournament. Zakir and I have some work to do at our old house. A busy weekend planned by all!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Second grade open house and the future of our schools

This evening we were invited to Bilal's classroom to meet his teacher and have the opportunity to view some of his work. His classroom is a happy, colorful place, and I can see why he loves school so much. His teacher, Mrs. E, talked about how smart Bilal is, and told us that she was learning a lot from him. We did also talk about the fact that his handwriting leaves a lot to be desired. Neat work is just not his priority! Such a difference from when Hamza was in secind grade. It was all about neat work for him!

Bilal with his teacher, Mrs. E
Bilal with some of his art work
Today there was a much debated referendum about raising property taxes in our city. The 7 mil proposed property tax rate would provide revenue to open two new elementary schools for our expanding city. One would be a brand new construction, and the other would involve renovation of a pre-existing school, which is currently not occupied. The current elementary school had to add modular classrooms the year after it was built, due to the increase in population, and new schools would mean brick and mortar classrooms for all students, as well as an opportunity to keep the student to teacher ratio low. There has been heated discussion on both sides of the issue, and the city has really been divided. Although the turnout at the polling booth wasn't great, the vote went in favor of the property tax increase. Zakir and I made sure to exercise our civic duty. Participating in elections was one of the reasons that I was so eager to pursue my citizenship in the United States, and I am glad that I can finally do that.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Home Construction, part VII, and a little weekend update too!

Two home construction posts in a row! Wow, we are really making some progress!

September 10, 2013: There has been so much change, both within, and outside of the house. Quite a transformation! This is the completed deck, as seen from the back yard. 

And here is the view from above:

The brick has been completed on the front of the house:

September 12, 2013: A lot of progress has been made on the sheet rock on the main, and also on the upper level. This is the family room:



Grading the back yard:

September 14, 2013: I love the master bathroom window. This is just over the bath tub (which we will probably never use, but apparently, is a must to install in the house!)

This is the beadboard on the covered porch ceiling. It will be painted a pale blue, which is supposed to repel insects.
And the back of the house, with the deck and stairs completed:

And on a side note, it has been a pleasantly eventful weekend so far. After some debate back and forth, we ended up trading in Safa's car, Boomer, for a new (well, almost new) car, that is yet to be named. Her dad took her down to the dealership yesterday and they checked out a couple of cars they had previewed online. And she fell in love with a pretty little red, yes red, Honda Civic. Talk about a cop magnet! I just hope she remains as sensible on the road as she has been since she started driving. So while Safa was at a debate tournament today, and Hamza was at a math tournament, we went back down to sign the papers and exchange cars. Zakir called driving it back home, so I got stuck with the minivan again, but Safa has promised me that she will let me have a turn! This is actually her (very) early graduation present.

Tomorrow is the Quran recitation competition at Sunday School for Bilal and he has been practicing very hard. Sometimes that little competitive streak really shows itself in my little guy.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Home Construction, part VI

By the beginning of September we are starting to get a great feel for the new house. Of course, without the sheet rock in place it is still hard to gauge the inside of the house, but at every visit you can see how much progress has been made. The subcontractors obviously have deadlines to meet, because we have even found folks working on Sundays.

September 2, 2013: Concrete on the lower patio has been poured and set.

The second garage door is up:

The foyer, from the upstairs hallway:


September 5, 2013: More brick is up in the front of the house.

The main level deck is under construction:

The deck, as seen from the hearth room/ keeping room. Part of it will be screened, and the remainder will stay uncovered for grilling:


The sheet rock has been delivered:

September 7, 2013: Before the sheet rock can be installed, the insulation is put in place.

This is insulation in the loft. You can get a perspective of the vaulted ceiling in the keeping room from here:

The master bathroom window:

And within a matter of a couple of days, the deck at the back of the house is already nearing completion:

And if you haven't had a change to browse through the blog lately, you can click on the links below for Home Construction, parts I through V.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

Monday, February 17, 2014

Final Campus tour

After making the decision that she wants to go to school at Auburn, today Safa and I finally made the trip down there for a campus tour. She made the decision based on the fact that it is an in-state school for us, that offers great courses for the major she is interested in. Two hours away from home; far enough away, but not too far. The school is not small, but the entire Auburn area plus the campus still exudes a nice, small town aura. It is very pedestrian and cyclist friendly, which is always a positive aspect.

In front of Jordan-Hare Stadium
After an informational session at the Quad Center, we made a trip around the campus, taking some time to learn about the history of the school.

The Honors College
Safa is interested in possibly declaring a double major, in addition to applying to the Honors College. That would mean a lot of work for her, but after four years at JCIB, she is more than up to the task, I'm sure. If she didn't have a heavy course load she probably would have no idea what to do with herself! We talked to one of the advisers at the Honor College at the end of the tour, and she felt that it could definitely be completed in four years, as long as she puts the effort in.

Safa loved the campus, and is very excited about the prospect of going to school there. The next step is to look for housing, preferably on campus, but if not, there are many apartment complexes off campus but within walking distance too.

War Eagle!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Karate

Last Saturday I took Bilal to the Hirano Cup karate tournament. He competed in sparring and kata.

There was a long wait before it was time for him to compete, but he kept himself busy.

I didn't get any decent photos of him competing, I suppose that's what you get for trying to use a little camera phone in low light from quite a distance.

This is the kids in his division lined up at the end of the tournament. Bilal did not win a medal, and I have to admit he was very disappointed. But I'm sure that will just make him train harder for next time.  I did cheer him up by buying a Happy Meal on the way home, something I admit I cringe whenever I do! But at least he doesn't have the option to eat fast food too often!

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Day for Hearts

Conventionally, today is Valentine's Day. A day to be celebrated with loved ones. And that is very sweet, of course. But it is also a reminder that February 14 marks the end of Congenital Heart Defects awareness week. I admit that this year I have been amiss, not writing about it on the blog. But in my defense, it has been a very eventful week in other ways.

So a reminder to all, approximately 1 in 100 children are born with a heart defect. Not all will require surgery during their lifetime, but most will. Last year I shared a list of various interesting statistics and websites that provide great information on this common, but underrepresented medical problem. If you are interested in learning more, you can click here.

A while back I received a beautiful gift from a stranger.

A pin, with one of my favorite graphics on it. You have probably see this on my blog at some time or the other, and it is also my blogger profile photo. The person who sent me the pin is someone whom I have never met, and probably never will. Yet, we have one thing in common. She too, is a heart mom like I am. I really appreciate my lovely pin.

This evening we took the kids out to dinner. We were smart, and went early, because by the time we were leaving the restaurant there was a long wait to get in. We thoroughly enjoyed our Red Robin burgers and appetizers. Zakir and I had Safa take a photo of us at dinner, and guess who photo bombed us?!

My little stinker manged to squeeze his face in too! This morning I got a lovely bouquet and a beautiful heart necklace from Zakir. Personally I have always said that Valentine's Day isn't really a celebration we need to have, it's just another day. But I love my gift, and am proudly wearing it around my neck. Thanks, hon!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

After the Snow

We had a slightly late start this morning, waiting for the roads to dry and the snow to melt before we ventured out to work. Since we were planning to keep it a short day today too, Zakir and I drove in together. I could really get used to this! Our neighborhood looked very pretty this morning, in the early sun.

The sky was a gorgeous clear blue, after grey skies for so many days. Our drive to work was lovely too, the pictures taken from my phone, from inside the minivan really don't do it justice.

And by the time we headed back home, just a few hours later, the temperature had hit the mid forties, and there wasn't much left of the winter wonderland we had encountered in the morning.

You can see there were more cars on the road by the afternoon too. The weekend is supposed to be mild and sunny. It will be a great change after the past few days. Snow does look lovely, but it sure puts a damper on things!

It will be great to have the kids back in school tomorrow too!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The meteorologists got it right!

First, we had two 'non-event' days. Alabama and many other parts were expecting to get a wintry mix of sleet, snow and ice. As predicted, some areas did get snow, and a lot of it. Schools were closed on Tuesday in anticipation of icy conditions, but in Birmingham we had nothing but rain, and temperatures that never dropped below freezing. Due to the expectation of the weather being worse to the north-east of us (i.e., close to where we work), we also closed the office on Wednesday. That turned out to be unnecessary, but then, hindsight is 20-20. Today Zakir and I went to work together, and worked a solid half day, scheduling as many patients as we could, between 8:30-12:30. Great move, because a lot of patients really needed to be seen. The kids were at home again. We didn't have any precipitation in the morning, and into late afternoon, and the temperature still hovered around 33-34.

Around 6pm, the deck outside the bedroom started to look like this:



Not long after, this:



And then, this:


As of 8pm, we had about 3 inches of snow. And it is still snowing. In the front of our house it is impossible to discriminate between the driveway and the lawn.



And we know that these small roads will not get a chance to be sanded or salted, so tomorrow we might just get another snow day for work! You have to live in Alabama to understand how devastating even a couple of inches of snow can be for the road conditions. The schools have already been cancelled for tomorrow, and a state of Civil emergency has been declared. So this means there will be no make-up school days or e-learning activities scheduled. Not good for the older two, who will be having orals and AP exams soon. Somehow or the other, the teachers are going to have to squeeze in all those missed days of instruction, without actually having the hours to add.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Home Construction, part V

August 28th, 2013: Brick on the side of the house, around the garage doors, and over the garage.

And the back of the house is also starting to look 'done'. This is under the deck:

The lower door is where the basement opens out into the back yard, and the upper one (white) will open from the hearth room into the screened porch.

Of course, there is work going on simultaneously inside the house. This is where the master bathroom shower will be. Don't want any leaks!


And more from the inside, these are the French doors in the master bedroom, that open on to the open potion of our deck. It will be lovely to have the privacy of the woods while still a pretty view from the bedroom:


And electrical work has started upstairs:

August 31st, 2013: The garage door is up.

And here is Safa standing in her future bedroom. Picture orange walls. Behind her is the recess we designed for her desk. Since her room is the smallest bedroom, we wanted to give her a little more space, while being able to accommodate the full size bed she wants.




Monday, February 10, 2014

French Convention

I chaperoned Safa's school trip to her third French Convention in Tuscaloosa last Monday. She lead the choral and there were several students participating in several other events.

There was a lot of down time while waiting for events to occur, but I think it was good for all the students to get a break out of class and enjoy some different activities.

The students won several awards, including second place in choral. Not the coveted first place position, but I thought they were very entertaining to listen to. This was Safa's last year at French convention, so she was a bit disappointed that they weren't awarded first.

Next Monday we finally visit Auburn. Even though Safa is pretty much committed to going there, she hasn't set eyes on the campus yet. Hoping for a great experience, though.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What a difference a few days makes!

We already got a glimpse of what Tuesday of this past week looked like. Wednesday was a bit of an ice over too. In fact, there was probably an inch thick layer of ice on the road in our neighborhood.

 
The schools were closed and there was no way that Zakir and I would be able to get out to go to work. So we called and rescheduled all our patients and decided to stay in. Except for venturing out in the snow for a little while, of course.

Bilal stayed out long enough to watch some of the neighborhood kids fly down out street on makeshift sleds, on anything from boogie boards, to trash can lids, to cardboard sheets.

And one of the neighbors let Bilal have a turn too. Atlas watched, not quite sure what to make of the ice.

But they both didn't last out there for very long. Not long after, Atlas slid on the ice and decided he was done, and Bilal announced that he couldn't feel his hands. So they both headed back to the house. I stayed outside and made a 'snow ghoul'. The fluffy, powdery snow would not cooperate for much else!

 And where were the older siblings while we were outside? Curled up inside, in their pajamas, of course!

Thursday wasn't much of a thaw either, but the roads had cleared enough for us to venture out to work.

So we had a short clinic day, and were back home before 3pm. Still no school for the kids. Friday was a scheduled day off for me and Zakir, but the schools stayed shut for yet another day. There were still some stranded cars on the road, and the school officials decided, that after such an emotionally stressful week, the kids and teachers needed to take another day off. And because the Governor had declared a state of emergency in Alabama, these weather days are not going to have to be made up. It has made for a lazy couple of kids. We did have a few people come over for dinner Friday evening, so at least that didn't have to be re-scheduled!

Yesterday was a lot more pleasant, with temperatures pushing the mid to upper fifties, and actually some sun. But today was really gorgeous. After Sunday School the boys played out in the back yard in their T-shirts. It was 68 degrees! Talk about a complete turn around!


This evening has been wet, but mild. Not sure what next week will bring, and honestly, I don't even want to predict. Here, in Alabama, we just need to take it day by day....

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