2012-11-23 Thanksgiving 2012- Good food + Good Family = Good Times

Wow, where to begin? Hurricane Sandy was rough on both the in-laws and parents. Mama Fufu and Giddo Saied's basement completely flooded and they didn't have electricity restored for over two weeks! Alhamdulillah Ahmed and Sharif were able to help Mama clean up and throw away all the mold infested furniture. Needless to say, there was a lot to be thankful for. Now, in terms of us celebrating Thanksgiving- we deeply regret what happened to the Native Americans and do not use this holiday in any way to commemorate Christopher Columbus and his minions. But, when there's a national holiday that gives you a three day work week and encourages family get-togetherness around food, it's hard for us to say no :) What's more interesting about this day is that it also is the anniversary of our engagement- this will mark the fourth year Ahmed and I have been together, alhamdulillah. In those four years, we've traveled to Egypt and Palestine, lived in Connecticut, NY, and New Jersey- Ahmed has found a passion in iOS development, we have an awesome two year old and one is on the way. Pretty jam packed, al hamd wal shukr lillah. This is a special Thanksgiving for me especially because it was the very first we had at our lovely apartment- usually Mama Fufu has a strong hold on Thanksgiving (but, remember mold infested basement....etc. etc.) AND it was POTLUCK style! Everyone got to take pride in their food, get major hasanat for contributing, and the exhaustion was not solely concentrated onto one person, but nicely distributed so everyone can enjoy herself. To be fair, Mama still made the turkey, leg of lamb, stuffing, lasagna, mashed potatoes, and gravy (so it was still sorta her Thanksgiving, just at our place, hehe). Sumaya was a little sick after our trip to Michigan, but she stuck it out like a real trooper. Zayd is turning out to be a handsome little man, and wonderfully caring as well. Here's to many more fun filled, family oriented, photo crazed moments- cheers!

 

What are you doing Ramy?

Lol, what am I doing- must have been adjusting the hijab pin, hehe.

Apparently, Zayd knows all the hand motions to the itsy bitsy spider

 

Sumaya is getting so big, masha'Allah.

Melissa and Doug Wooden Blocks- Melissa and Doug seem to own the children's market, at least in our apt. they do.

And this is what true love looks like <3.

 

Ahmed Eid, the architect!

Mama Fufu, the silent hero.

Happy Hijabis

Adding pomegranate seeds to the salad- can't go wrong with rumaan!

I got a couple of wicker baskets from HomeGoods to store Sumi's toys. I didn't know it would be used to store toddlers as well, hehe. Zayd also likes Sumaya's kitchen- may Allah solidify the compassion in his heart.

Mama's amazing leg of lamb. Come to think of it, I didn't have any turkey just so I can have a big piece of that glorious concoction. The yogurt-cucumber dip was the perfect accompaniment.  (Glad we got to keep the leftovers on this one, hehe).

Sumi with Big Bird and Zayd with Purple Dog. I can't wait till they start putting on some imaginative plays for us, insha'Allah.

Nada: Sharif I love you!

Sharif's inner voice: I love you too, Siri.

LOL!! They will kill me for this comment, haha.

We teach them while they're young- three generations of women in the kitchen, may Allah increase the barakah within our family.

I love this picture :)

The Giddos!

 

Silence is the greatest marker of a fantastic meal.

My inner voice: How can I strategically place ALL this food onto my plate without it seeping through, ruining my clothes, breaking the sturdy plate, umm....I'll just go for seconds if I can make it off the couch.

Amu Emad treating the lasagna with the care it deserves.

Ramy has always looked up to his older sister :)

I'm sure Sumaya was calling for Zayd here.

Just mama and me.

The women finally getting to taste what their splendid hands have created.

Sumi boomi bo fumi fanana bana bo boomi, SUMI!

Zayd, did you find anything good in there?

 

Tunt Menal coordinated well with the futon, masha'Allah :)

 

Zeez!

A moment of bliss and happiness- half a cup of soda- I don't even remember the last time I had some pepsi. And yes, it was sooo worth it.

 

Yay for the photographer finally getting in one of the pics!

 

Uh....make that two!

 

I see you!

Proudly enjoying my pumpkin cheesecake with cool whip topping. No regrets.

Awww!

Family pic time!

Zayd and Jiddu Galal

Alhamdulillah for family

Rice with almonds, pine nuts, raisins. Goodness.

 

Stuffed Turkey.

Mashed potatoes. The pictures don't do the food justice :)

La la la Sagna!

Nada's awesome salad

One of the best beet salads I've tasted in a long time. Will definitely start roasting my own beets from now on. Kudos to Nada for this one.

Jannah. Ummm, I meant leg of lamb...sorry, I tend to confuse the two :)

Roasted potatoes.

Fiteer Sabaanikh, Spanikopita, Spinach Pie. You get the idea. Happy Turkey with a whole bunch of sides day!

2012-09-02 Vacation Week: Baltimore Aquarium + Sesame Place + Maryland

  We had a week off before I got to go back to work again, so we decided to travel a little. Marwa is pregnant with baby #2 so we really couldn't fly anywhere, so instead we drove through Philly, Baltimore, and stayed a few nights with our brother and his wife in Maryland. This trip reminded me how I never want to be bound to a location (although I understand I will probably need to for the kids' school…) Being free and having the ability to travel makes you feel alive.

Before we get to the vacation pictures/reflections, here is a quick video of the amazing jellyfish from the Baltimore Aquarium.

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Sesame place was the epitome of commercialization. For some reason we thought it was going to be an open park, with lots of tress, swings, etc, and a hundred Elmo's running around and prancing in the fields. What we found waiting for us were extremely long lines (which kids do not understand the point of..and neither do we), super unhealthy food, and that the owners of the park chose to commercialize everything, including taking a picture of Elmo, which takes about enough time as running a 10k thanks to the enormous line, and costs as much as 3 Chipotle Burrito bowls. All in all we learned many things about ourselves. First of all, Amazon Prime has spoiled us forever with its "free" 2/1 day shipping on almost everything we ever need in life. So we hate waiting in lines. After 2 painfully long waits in lines for 2 rides, we had way more fun just walking around the park and laughing at the people waiting in lines. Secondly, we learned that the "Healthy Option" is the Cheese Pizza. Seriously, I would have never thought to ever read that anywhere, but there it was, blinding every kid that walked into the cafeteria. We ended up eating at a place called SaladWorks, which was awesome. Huge portions of healthy salads. Then, there were many, many obese people walking around, one of them on a wheelchair because of an amputated leg. While we knew that there were many obese people in the USA, this trip put it in perspective. Prophet Muhammed SAWS used to exercise everyday. Everyday. Not when his body would tell him through sicknesses and fatigue that he needed to…but everyday. This is a sunnah many of us forget or just put to the side because it is too much work. (Although praying 5 times/day is more time than you probably would spend exercising).

One great thing about the Sesame Place adventure was the hotel we stayed in- The Marriot. We only chose it as opposed to the Sheraton because it was about forty dollars cheaper, but found out that we really had made the right decision once we got there. Because the sun was so strong and the lines so incredibly long, we decided to take a break in the middle of the day and check out our hotel room and generally recuperate. Our room was great, there was a small wall that separated where Sumaya slept and where we slept, so she was able to go down easily and the concierge provided us with a huge pack n' play crib so we didn't have to worry about Sumi falling off the queen sized bed. However, the best part of all, was the complimentary breakfast in the morning....with TURKEY BACON!!! We made our own waffles, had english muffins, turkey bacon, yogurt, cereal, milk, juice, coffee- it was great....we didn't want to leave if it hadn't been for the fact that we still had a long trip ahead of us to Baltimore and Gaithersburg :)

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Our next trip was the Baltimore Aquarium. Sumaya had waaaaaay more fun here than she did at Sesame Place. Running around, she would point at every little fish and say "Baba, Look at dis! Look at dis baba!" The aquarium is one of a few perfect vacation spots, because it serves many purposes. First of all, it is extremely entertaining. There are like 400 different kinds of fish, each with a little description of what it is, etc. All the exhibits are kid height, so you don't have to worry about picking up your kids every 2 1/2 seconds to see the fish. More importantly. the aquarium is an awesome reminder of the power of our Creator, Allah. It was so humbling to see all these different types of fish, each with their own idiosyncrasies and purpose, and was a punch in your face reminder of how awesome Allah's power is, how beautiful our planet is, and how we are just another one of Allah''s creation, but we have choice, and that we need to worship Allah through our speech, actions, etc, just like these fish do in their own way. Every step was a subhanallah moment. Baltimore Aquarium, highly recommended. Next, we want to see the largest aquarium in the world, somewhere in Atlanta Georgia.

We highly recommend seeing the dolphin show and the jellyfish exhibit! Next time we're in the area, we would love to explore more of Baltimore- there's something special about those port cities.

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And of course, what is a vacation without eating Chipotle 3 times? Lol. I mean, Chipotle has pretty much ruined our other choices. Knowing we can go to an expensive restaurant is much less appealing because we know the food won't be THAT much better than Chipotle's and we'll feel the same at the end- full. Then, fast food chains have completely lost their appeal because we wouldn't be spending any less there and the food is a lot less fresh. CHIPOTLE is where it's at!!!

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We stopped at our brother's house and stayed there for a few days, where Sumaya and Zayd instantly got comfortable (wink wink) with each other. Haha.

 

We had a great dinner with them on Thursday night and our friend Mohamed Abutaleb stopped by for a visit. On Friday, we went to this nice place called Rio which reminded us a lot of Blue Back Square- but with water. There, the kids fed the geese, played in the playground, took a train ride, and ate some super sugary frozen yogurt :)

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On our way back home we stopped by Philadelphia and entered the "Please Touch Museum", an incredible children's museum for kids where they are encouraged to touch everything they can. Sumaya went into fake Shoprite and could have seriously spent all day packing her shopping cart with stuff (although I did spend like 30 minutes putting everything back…lol)

All in all, we have firmly decided that creating experiences is far far better than buying stuff. Insha'Allah our next adventure will be soon- stay tuned :)

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2011-09-14 Our Morning Walk

It was such a beautiful morning and I wanted Sumi to breathe in the nice air, most especially because our garbage has been stinking up the whole place (blame it on Sumi's sticky poo), so we decided to go on a little walk around the neighborhood. West Hartford is a town known for its perfectly manicured lawns. People are mostly nice here too, offering a wave or a pleasant, "good morning." It was awesome though to see something quite out of the ordinary this morning featured right on someone's front lawn:

I have no idea what type of mushroom this is, but thought it would be cool to take a picture of it. It's so rare to find someone who allows such things to grow (in the front mind you). There is also a deeper lesson to all of this...Behind those perfectly manicured lawns and white picket fences, people have problems. It may not be seen (facebook profiles are like perfectly manicured lawns), but they are definitely there. So, it was a breath of fresh air to find this fungus, declaring its existence to the world.

Sumaya seemed to enjoy it as well (or, maybe we have an IPhone addict in our midst)!

2011-09-12 "Dear Sumaya", letter from Marwa to Sumaya

Salaam dear Sumi,Today, you are 15 months old. With mama and baba both working, you have been spending quality time with both us but on separate occasions...and you still cry when we leave you with the babysitter for two hours on Friday. Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of Sept.11, 2001- a day in which extremists attacked America in the name of Islam. I worry about the ramifications this will have on you. I want you to love Islam with all of your heart, to love Allah and His messengers and to spread that love. I don't want you to be bullied, and I hope by the time you go to school, Muslims will have made a more positive impact on our society. The past tens years have been fraught with attacks against Muslims, but have also given us the opportunity to engage with non-Muslims about the proper teachings of Islam. It's what made me decide to become a chaplain. I hope you understand one day that every time mama leaves you for work, it's with the intention that others may see a Muslim just trying her very best. America needs to see us out there, working, engaging, and smiling. Please always smile. You have a beautiful smile and I love how your eyes half moon every time your cheeks rise. By the way, just so you know, you love to give your mama and baba kisses. You love pointing and saying baaaybeee to anyone in close proximity. You say keekee for giddo and foo-huuu for mama fufu. You also like to whine when we don't let you play with our cell phones. You're learning and growing everyday and I pray that Allah keeps you on the straight path my beautiful Sumi. Love, Mama

2011-09-11 Apple picking Reflection

One cannot really take advantage of living in Connecticut without visiting the various farms in close proximity. Today was a beautiful day to go apple picking. I have never went apple picking before and was very excited to visit Rose Berry Farm in South Glastonbury. I went there once before with Sumi and picked up some raspberries, but Ahmed had yet to see the beautiful acres of tilled land. When he saw the view, all he could say was, "Wow, subhanAllah!" We ended up getting 8 lbs of gala apples while munching away as we picked. Such small things in life can really be a great catalyst for reflection and enjoyment. I really hope we get to visit and support our local farmers more frequently. Here are some pictures Ahmed took with his Iphone since his SLR would be too bulky to carry around while picking apples.

And of course, there are two tiny teeth marks on almost all the apples we picked ;) A Sumi trademark, if you will.

2011-05-02 Walk Against Hunger and New Park!

On May 1, 2011, we participated in the annual Foodshare "Walk Against Hunger," to raise money for various organizations that help the needy in Connecticut. Alhamdulillah, there were over 100 Muslim participants this year, the largest of any faith based group attending. This was also Sumaya's first walk. The sun was a bit stronger than we thought, but Sumi was drenched in sunscreen and mama was the one who ended up getting some sunburn. We walked three miles while Sumi took a nice nap in her stroller. Afterwards, we discovered a new park very close to us with swings and slides and a sand pit where kids leave their shovels. It was nice talking to some parents with their kids and Sumi LOVES swinging.
 Sumi does love Rebecca, she's just making sure that I'm not going anywhere :)
 Muslims against Hunger!
 Sumaya's double x-small shirt. Maybe it will fit next year.
 Sumi eating apples with her baba.
 It was such a nice day, alhamdulillah.
 Sumi and mama dancing to the music
 Epic Pure Joy
 Safe Landings.
 Ready to start.
and Finish! (Do you see the red sunburned cheeks?)
 Mmm...ice cream mustache
 Sumaya loves black beans
 ...and swings
Epic Pure Joy Part II