Monday, April 25, 2016

Spring Break antics

Hamza's Science Fair performance was definitely the highlight of spring Break 2016, but there was a lot more that we did during the week. Part of our 'staycation' involved a trip to our local adventure park, for a go at the very challenging rock course.

Probably a little too challenging for Bilal, he finally gave up when he was more than 1/2 way through the course. Hamza completed the course, which ended in a zip line. Bilal still wants to go back some time, but perhaps he will start with the junior course until he has some practice.

We also took another walk/ride down to the Cahaba River.

Another fun activity was a trip to Pine Mountain, GA, to visit the Wild Animal Safari. We last visited several years ago, before Bilal was born. It was certainly worth a trip back.

We drove through the park, stopping to feed a variety of animals on the way. As you'll see, they were very comfortable sticking their heads into the car and beg for food, although some were more eager than others.

One our way back home we stopped for a couple of hours in Auburn to visit Safa, and to enjoy a delicious dinner.

Safa will stay in Auburn until after her finals in May, so it was nice to be able to visit her, even if just for a short time.

The school year is winding down; Bilal has standardized testing next week, and Hamza has started studying for his finals/ AP exams. Then we are looking forward to a long summer break. It will be great to have Safa back home, and I'm sure Hamza is looking forward to catching up on sleep!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Another year flies by!

Zakir and I celebrated twenty two years of marriage on April 22nd. The two of us enjoyed an indulgent meal at Ocean, in Southside, Birmingham. I was 23 and Zakir 25, when we got married. We have been married almost half our lives! It has been twenty two amazing years, with some crazy ups and downs, but we have grown so much closer over the years. It is hard to even think of not ever being married... I'd say that's a good thing!

This is still one of my favorite photos of our wedding reception (Valima) in Islamabad, Pakistan, April 1994.

And a much more recent one, from our 2015 trip to Universal Studios, Orlando:

So blessed to be married to this guy!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pop of color

Our yard has been a work in progress for the past two and a half years. We have a beautiful home, but the landscaping done for us before we moved in was, let's just say, lacking. We have spent many, many, hours adding sod, planting more shrubs and flowering bushes, and even transplanting certain plants, on both the front and the back of the house. I have enjoyed working in the yard more than I ever thought I would, and even my terribly brown thumb is learning a thing or two. Zakir puts in even more time than I do, but I am proud to say that the end result is, for the most part, a result of hours of teamwork.

Our young, small azaleas are filling up with colorful blooms.

Am I allowed to play favorites with the plants in the garden? Because I think this one is my favorite:

Pretty pink streaks on gorgeous white blooms. And on the same plant:

Gorgeous hot pink flowers!

Our Japanese maple makes my heart smile:

After a shaky start, the little tree has found its roots, and seems to be so happy in its present location.

The roses are budding, although they don't have many blooms yet.

Even with the young spring blooms of the roses and azaleas, what is left of the winter flowers is still holding on. The pots at our doorstep are as bright and colorful as ever!

And we have a blissful space in the back yard, perfect for relaxing during a still slightly cool, but sunny Spring afternoon:
In a few weeks, the area behind our little bench with be full of colorful lantanas, some recently planted, and others salvaged from last year. What I love about these plants are the number of butterflies they attracted last year. Can't wait to see them this year too!

A couple of weeks ago we prepped our veggie patch, and have planted some tomatoes and peppers. We will be adding cucumbers to the mix soon, and look forward to enjoying the fruits from our own garden. Will have photos to share soon!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Alabama Science and Engineering Fair 2016

We are so proud of Hamza qualifying for the Alabama State Science Fair with his senior research project, but knew that competition would heat up at the State level. We weren't quite sure how he would perform, but had no doubts that he had a sound, well prepared presentation for his rather unique topic. Ten students from ASFA qualified, and they all rode the bus up this Thursday to Huntsville, to compete in the junior and senior divisions. Thursday evening was set up, and Friday was the actual science fair. The students stood by their posters and presented to the judges during the morning hours, and there was a break during the middle of day, followed by an afternoon where the posters were available for public viewing. We did not go up for this event, but were planning to go up on Saturday (today) instead.

Friday evening was the banquet, and special awards were presented by various sponsors. This is where I can proudly say that Hamza outdid himself! He was confident that his presentations went well, but I'm not sure if he was expecting to receive these awards! From Boeing, he received a best in category certificate for Embedded Systems.

Honorable mention:

In addition, he received this, which included a $100 Visa gift card:

Awarded from Intel, a certificate and a $200 cash award:

From IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), a certificate and a $100 check

From AIAA, this certificate came with a $50 check:

All of these were awarded on Friday, so sadly, we weren't there to watch him receive the awards. But Saturday wasn't a disappointment either! He received second prize in his category in the Senior division, and this was accompanied by a $75 cash award.

The one I was particularly proud of, interestingly, is one that he won't actually be able to take advantage of. He was one of four seniors to be awarded the University of Alabama at Hunstville's Director's scholarship, which is four years of half scholarship if he enrolled in the university there.

He obviously will not cash in on this one, since he is going to be starting school at Auburn University in the fall. But to me, this is a huge honor. He didn't even apply to UAH, and is confident in his decision to go to Auburn.

And here is my young man, back at home, obliging me with a photograph.

My heart is filled with joy, and we all feel so blessed that he is able to enjoy the fruits of many, many hours of hard work. He plans to put his cash awards towards the purchase of a new computer, a very wise decision!

Congrats to all his classmates who performed great too! One of them will also be representing Alabama at ISEF, the International Science Fair, which will take place in Phoenix, in mid May.

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