Thursday, May 29, 2014

Congrats, Grad!

Today was The Big Day for Safa. The day that officially marks the end of High School for the rest of her life, and changes her status to that of a college bound student. The event has been held for several years, at the Church of the Highlands, in a huge auditorium. With only sixty-four students in the graduating class, there was plenty of room for any guest that the seniors wanted to invite. Along with our immediate family, Safa had invited Farah's family, and of course, Christina and her girls.

Just before leaving home:

 At the church:

We had time to take a couple of photos before the ceremony.

After being seated in the auditorium, we listened to some opening remarks, followed by a performance by the Valley Singers choir. And then some students, and members of the Jefferson County Board of Education had an opportunity to share some words, before the diplomas were handed out.

Each student was introduced as they walked across the stage to accept their diploma from the school principal. Some of their awards were announced, along with their university of choice. It is wonderful to see that she is graduating from a school where the college entrance rate is 100%.

After the ceremony, the students stepped out on to the lawn to perform the tradition of throwing their hats. We missed the excitement, as we battled the crowds leaving the auditorium. But wwe did mingle a while with fellow students and families.

As you can see, the weather cooperated, but just barely. It rained just before and after the ceremony.

 After graduation we all went out to celebrate with dinner.

Followed by dessert, at Steel City Pops.

That was probably the highlight of the day for these little guys!

Congrats, Safa! Headed to Auburn in the fall. Praying for success and happiness for our first born in her future endeavors.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Busy Memorial Day Weekend

It was one of those weekends where we weren't quite sure what we wanted to do with the kids. We had the dog's space reserved at the kennel, in case we decided to go out of town, but it just wasn't coming together, so we cancelled his reservation, and settled on a couple of day trips instead.

On Saturday we took the kids to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. We haven't been in several years; as far as I recall, the last time we went Bilal was still in a stroller. So he obviously didn't remember anything about the trip.

We started out by watching an IMAX movie about the Galapagos Islands. Very informative, with beautiful photography. Then we stopped for lunch, followed by a visit to the main Aquarium. It is actually divided into two buildings; one is the Ocean Journey, and the other, the River Journey.

And a little tip for a family with teen children: We actually saved on our admission for the day, by purchasing an annual membership pass. Children age 12 and up typically pay the adult fee for a one day ticket, whereas for the purposes of a family membership, all kids 18 and under are part of the family. So we can ahead by around $15! Plus, we can go back an unlimited number of times for the whole year (and won't feel like we've lost anything if we don't make it back). Plus as members we are also eligible for discounts in the gift shops, and reciprocity at several other parks, including the Atlanta and Nashville zoo. A win-win! Oh, and we were able to skip the long lines and go straight to the membership desk too!
Zakir tried to lure some butterflies to his hand, but without much luck. There were elusive for sure!

These Hyacinth macaws were a gorgeous shade of blue:

The view of the Tennessee River from inside the aquarium:

Bilal, in the shark cage:

On Sunday we took the kids to Atlanta, mostly to shop at Ikea. We bought Bilal a small desk which, as of this morning, has been assembled and placed in his room. We also bought a few items with Safa's transition to college in mind. We ate dinner at a tried and tested Mediterranean place, and stopped off to buy groceries from an Indian supermarket. Now we're all stocked up for Ramadan, and possibly beyond!

Today, after assembling Bilal's desk, we took the kids to the mall for lunch, and for some general shopping. I splurged and bought three pairs of shoes. After not having bought any in a couple of years, I was informed that my feet needed them!

Now the grill has been fired up, and we are going to carry on the Memorial Day tradition of grilling for dinner. I can already smell the hamburgers cooking. Dinner beckons!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Watch out world!

This is a teenager with a Driver's Permit:

Hamza finally decided that he wants to learn to drive. I took him up for his written test a couple of weeks ago. He passed his test, but, unfortunately the computers were down. So that prompted another trip to the DL office. And finally, he actually has something of value to keep in his wallet! Lessons will start this weekend, and guess who will not be teaching him? That would be me! Yes, I leave the driving lessons to Baba; I just wouldn't have the patience for it myself!

In other news, Safa had her last final today, so she is officially done with High School! Graduation is six days from today. And Bilal came home with an award:

The tiny print on the certificate actually says "Most Respectful", awarded by his second grade teacher. Academically he has done very well this year too, and by the end of second grade is reading at a 5.3 level, which means that he can read at a level a fifth grader can, in the third month of school. We're going to have to keep that reading up over the summer for sure. He is just as strong in math. But his writing, on the other hand, is barely better than chicken scratch! Another summer activity to work on!

Monday, May 19, 2014

A great school year

Sunday School parallels the entire regular school year, so as school is coming to an end, it's also time for Sunday School graduation. We already knew that Bilal's grades have been very good this year, since that had been emailed to us, but we were pleasantly surprised that he also received one of only a couple of 'outstanding achievement' awards for his grade level. This is awarded based on not only academic performance, but also behavior and effort demonstrated in class. He has accomplished a lot this year; he has memorized four verses, or Surahs of the Quran, and also placed third in the Surah competition in his grade level, held earlier this year.

This year we decided that Bilal's effort deserved an extra treat, so we surprised him with a trip to Toys R Us. I'm one of those moms who gives their children gifts on their birthdays, and our Eid celebration, and not many other times of the year, so this is kind of a big deal!

Obviously, he was very excited.

We made many trips up and down the aisles, while he shortlisted some toys and games.

Finally, he settled on a Spy Gear microphone toy (apparently he wants to spy on his brother), and a Nerf gun. I didn't even veto that second choice, which is really big deal! But we believed it was well deserved for sure.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Unseasonably mild

We started off the weekend with a heavy downpour this morning... just as it was time for Zakir to take Atlas for his morning walk. So, that had to be cut short, only for the sun to come out less than an hour later! And it was a beautiful day after that! It went up to a balmy 68 degrees, perfect weather for being outdoors.

Bilal joined a group of kids from our neighborhood, for a ride in our neighbor's trailer.

Look at that glorious blue sky!

I even managed to drag Hamza out from his little hole for a few minutes too, although those few minutes were basically spent on the lawn, using Atlas as a soft, comfy pillow. The pup really doesn't mind at all. He will put up with any kind of abuse from Hamza. Sammy wasn't feeling very adventurous, with the dog in the yard, so he chose to remain on the steps, and not venture much farther.

While the boys rode in trailers, lay on the grass, and basically just vegged, Zakir and I got down to some serious yard work. I feel that the garden is really starting to take form now, though some of the plants have yet to establish well. Today was mostly weeding, feeding, and planting some more flowers. Zakir goes to Lowe's, just to 'browse', and comes back with a van full of plants, almost every weekend! No such thing as browsing, when it comes to Lowe's!

Tomorrow is Sunday School graduation. Bilal worked hard this year, and it shows; we got his grades via email today; he got all 'A's! We are very proud of him, because his curriculum was not easy. He will be off for the summer, and back in Sunday School when his regular school starts in the Fall.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Productive day

Lately my evening discussions with Safa have been less about what is going on in school, and more about what will soon be going on in college. We have been talking about new checking accounts, school expenses, and how to manage money in general. It's a new dynamic that will take some getting used to. Today, after clinic, Safa and I went out to shop, and for lunch. She still has two final exams scheduled for next week, but she was off today. We went to several stores, looking for decorating ideas for her graduation party.

We ate lunch outdoors at Maki Fresh. Aside from the fact that we had to hold on tightly to our napkins (it was very gusty), we had a good time, and a great chat. It reminded me about how much an adjustment it will be for me when she goes to college. Not that the two of us go out to lunch together very often (in fact, it is very rare), but we still try to take out some quality time together. I'm just glad that she will close enough that we should be able to see her on most long weekends.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day

I am so blessed to have three wonderful children, and of course, a great husband, without whom I wouldn't have been the mom of those kids! Mother's Day is just one day that we celebrate our moms, and ourselves being moms too! The weekend started with great gifts from my kids; a floppy sun hat for our upcoming cruise, and a large fluffy pillow to relax on. Can't wait to have an opportunity to use them! And Bilal gave me a hand made card and a cute clay plaque in art, presented to me beautifully gift wrapped (pics to follow). I have to find the perfect spot in the house to display it now.

I woke up with the desire to eat stuffed French toast. I actually think I dreamed about it too! Funny, since I've never made it before. But I got up, and looked up some ideas online. Then I made French toast stuffed with cream cheese and raspberry preserves for the family. They were delicious! I don't see why I shouldn't make breakfast for the kids on Mother's Day, because it is they who make me mom.

I worked at our Mosque's free clinic this afternoon, so it really wasn't quite a relaxing day, but it was a fulfilling one for sure. And I came home to Zakir's delicious grilled cheese and shrimp sandwiches for dinner, and watermelon for dessert. Yum!

I made sure to take time out for extra snuggles with Bilal at bedtime tonight, my one child who really still enjoys his snuggles. I know that as he grows, he won't need extra hugs and kisses at bedtime, so I need to savor these times with him while I can.

Happy Mother's Day to all!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

More Senior activities... Prom 2014

Yesterday it hit me. When I saw my baby girl dressed up for her senior prom, the reality set in. She really is growing up. With all the senior year events that have been going on over the past few weeks, this one has been the hardest on me. I am going to have to come to terms with the fact that she will be moving away in a couple of months. And even though she will be attending a university that is only two hours drive away, she will no longer be living at home. It's not going to easy for me; we are very close, and I will miss her terribly.

We stepped out of the house for some photographs, before heading down to Samford to meet more of her classmates.

Samford University is a very popular portrait location, because of the beautiful buildings that are part of the campus, and the lovely landscaping.

 Everyone looked lovely, and you could see the joy on their faces, knowing that graduation is not too far away!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

IB Senior Banquet, 2014

This evening Zakir and I went with Safa to her senior banquet. It had been rescheduled from earlier in the week, due to inclement weather. The venue was Pine Tree Country Club. We enjoyed a buffet style meal, great conversations with some other parents and students, and took a step back in time, while listening to excerpts from the students' essays, written during the application process. Four years later, many students could still relate to what they had written, while others learned how much they had changed.

The kids have forged some amazing friendships, as have the parents.

Zakir and I, with our baby girl:

Safa with her mentor and IB Coordinator:

And with one of her favorite teachers, Mr. G:

The students were presented with pins.

We are so proud of everything Safa has accomplished over the past four years.

This Saturday is prom, and then she will be preparing for an intense couple of weeks of exams. But the end is in sight!

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