Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Max the Mighty - Rodman Philbrick

I absolutely loved Freak the Mighty. So much so, that when I saw our library had Max the Mighty, I knew I needed to get it.

Max seems lonely, once again. He's still being teased for being tall and looking like his dad (the felon that killed his mother) and once again, he's not feeling smart.

One day, Max is just walking, minding his own business, when he hears a girl scream. This is when he meets Rachel, also known as Worm (named this for being a bookworm).

Later, Max meets Worm and her mother, and learns the "Undertaker" is her step-father. The Undertaker is a large, mean man, who drives a hearse and "threatens" people using the bible as his defence. Feeling uneasy about it all, Max finds his way to Worm's house where he sees her mom, crouched down, beaten, and he hears the screaming. Max bursts in, grabs Worms, and runs off.

Max believes he can take Worm home, and his grandparents will help, but when he gets there, he finds the Undertaker has called the police and have accused Max of hitting his wife and kidnapping his step-daughter.

Thus begins the adventures of Max the Mighty and Worm. Worm believes her father can help, and not wanting to leave her alone, Max accompanies her on their adventure, hitchhiking, riding a train, and meeting people, good and bad, along the way.

This is another one of those awesome, feel good, easy reads.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Freak the Mighty - Rodman Philbrick

I recently joined a book club. I'm terribly excited, as it's been years since I've been part of one. We shall meet the last Wednesday of every month, and the hostess gets to choose the book.

September's book is Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. It's a YA book, so I got a copy from our school library, but hadn't gotten a chance to read it. On Friday, I covered a G7 class, and students had 30 minutes of reading their assigned books. I figured, if the students were reading, so should I. And wouldn't you know it, there was a copy of the book in the classroom.

So I started reading. And then I was upset that the 30 minutes had gone by so quickly, as I was really enjoying it, so of course, I had to come home and finish it.

Freak the Mighty, is the story of best friends, Kevin and Max. Kevin walks with leg braces but is super intelligent. He reminded me a little of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. Max is on learning support, and a very large boy. He looks like his father, who is currently in jail for killing his mother. He's being raised by his grandparents, who seem to be a little afraid of him. These two boys are as opposite as they come. And yet, they become the best of friends. Max often carried Kevin on his shoulders, and together they are Freak the Mighty. Together they go on quests and fight dragons. As a team, they are unstoppable.

This is a book for every Middle Schooler. Just make sure you have tissue handy.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How to Eat a Cupcake

So how do you eat a cupcake?

Are you the kind that peels off the wrapper, and takes a huge bite? If you are, I hate to break it to you, but you're wrong!

Maybe you are a neat cupcake eater. You have a plate and cut it half and eat it with a fork or spoon. Yeah...I'd hate to say it, but that's really wrong!

You might be the kind who does not think they can eat a whole cupcake, so you portion it out, and then eat one piece. And then another. And then another. Well, despite the fact that you misleading yourself into believing you won't eat the whole cupcake, you're still eating it wrong!

You may be the kind that loves creamy frosting, so you choose to eat the bottom first, make your way up, and devour the frosting bit. Well, asides from sounding a little crazy, it's also not the right way to eat a cupcake.

So now you're probably wondering how does one eat a cupcake correctly? Well let me tell you. You sandwich it! Yup that's right. You twist off the bottom part, place it on top and smush it together!

Confused, well Ethan and my cousin are here to help;

Saturday, July 29, 2017

milk and honey - rupi kaur

During my first day at Project Zero, our study group looked at a poem for a text rendering protocol. Here's the poem we read;

For the protocol, the poem is read silently. Then, 3-4 people are asked to read it out loud. We are then split into 3 groups. One group creates a musical interpretation, one group a dramatic interpretation and one group a visual artistic interpretation. At the end of the study group, our fellow mentioned she chose this poem because most of her 8th graders carry around a copy of the book.

Needless to say, I had to look this girl up.

milk and honey is a collection of poems split into 4 sections/chapters;  the hurting, the loving, the breaking, the healing. Each poem deals with some aspect of love, femininity, abuse and violence. Some poems are sweet. Some are harsh. But they all connect in some way to what a lot of teenagers are going through.

Our fellow mentioned all her eighth graders loved this book. While I did too, I'm not sure all those poems are appropriate for 13 year olds. But then again, am I trying to shelter them?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

TLOS6 Worlds Collide - Chris Colfer

Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories has come to an end. And while it's sad, the conclusion was fabulous.

When we last saw our beloved twins, Alex had been placed under an evil spell and was wrecking havoc. So now it's time for Connor and his army to try to save Alex, fight the witches AND beat the Grand Army. Phew!

Chris Colfer does an amazing job of tying up all, and any loose ends. All our characters are revisited. Any questions you may have had are answered. Characters you may have wondered about, or forgotten about, are back. And we even get a glimpse into the future.

The Land of Stories has been amazing for a couple reasons.
1) I absolutely loved the series. I would mark down the date for the next books' release and anxiously wait for it.
2) Ethan discovered the series last summer. We spent many days discussing it, making predictions and sharing our favourite moments. This time around, we argued over who got to read it first, and then shared our favourite moments.

What will we do now?

Blood Betrayal - Tessa Dawn

I love the Blood Curse Series. Every book has been wonderful. I dive into them, and gobble them up.

But Blood Betrayal was the first book I cautiously read. Not because it wasn't any good, cos it was awesome, but it also made my heart race and my palms sweaty. Yes, it was that good!

This is the story of the Sentinel Warrior, Saxon Olaru. He finally gets his Blood Moon, but as all other books, things don't go smoothly. Kiera is his Destiny. However, unbeknown, to her, her twin sister, Kyla,  is a vampire hunter who knows all about the curse and the Blood Moon.

When the Blood Moon appears, Kyla realizes that her sister is the new Destiny, and this is also her chance to take out the clan. She arranges for Kiera to be kidnapped, and had the celestial constellation tattooed on her arm.

So, while Kyla tries to infiltrate the house of Jadon, Kiera is being tortured by the vampire hunters. you get why I had to read cautiously?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Spelled - Betsy Schow

"Girl of Emerald, no man can tame. Burn down the world, consumed by flames."

This is the curse placed on Dorthea's family. And because of this curse, our dear princess has never left her castle. And this has also probably been the reason she's turned into an incredibly self-centred brat!!!!

Like all fairytales, Dorothea's parents would like to see her married. They arrange a marriage between her and a prince, she's met once and thought he was the gardener. Needless to say, she's furious!

Wanting to escape this nightmare, Dorothea makes a wish from some orb thingy that was given to her by the Grey-Witch-disguised-as-a-child. Have you ever heard, "be careful what you wish for?" Yeah well, that's an understatement. The wish causes her parents to disappear, protective barriers to be broken and her would-be-husband into a chimera. 

So now Dorothea, Kato (the dog-groom) and Rexi (think she was the cook) are on a quest to fight the evil witch.

For a YA book, it was ok. The best parts were the cute references to modern day things (flitter for twitter, Hans Christian Louboutin shoes instead of Christian Louboutins). Each chapter also starts with a quote from another (made up) book which was quite amusing. 

But Dorothea was a brat. And I really struggled to find any redeeming qualities in her. Yes, she does grow up, but it comes really late, and suddenly. Even as fun as Rexi was, she irritated me. Actually, come to think of it, when Dorothea got on my good side, Rexi not so much. Hmmm.....

Sunday, July 2, 2017

30-Day Fitness Challenge

I'm part of a fun Facebook group, which is about fitness and fun. This month we have a lovely challenge to share some stories. Day 1 is a little long, so I've decided to blog about it. I may even decide to blog the whole month. We shall see.....

Day 1 - Your Fitness Story
So this is a long one.

I was always a skinny child. But I don't think I was ever overly active. I preferred to be inside with my book. As a child, this wasn't a big deal. As a teen, I was still skinny. And even as an adult, I was thin. Then one day, I noticed I was not.

Over the years, I've been to the gym, gotten myself a collection of DVD's and gotten trainers.

My last trainer was the best. I miss her. She knew how to motivate me, show faith in me, get me eating right, scold me when I messed up, but never made me feel like a looser. She moved last summer to Dubai and I was sure that was the end of it. Without her, how could I go on? I'm one of those people that need to be help accountable. Having a personal trainer kept me accountable. If I missed a session, she knew, and she was on top of it.

Then a Facebook friend introduced me to Beachbody. She had lost a lot of weight, and while I
 didn't ask her her secret, I did comment on how inspired she made me. She reached out and we chatted a bit. She got me to try 21-Day Fix. I loved it! It fit me perfectly. It was 30 minutes. Seven different workouts, so everyday it was something new. I loved it.

Since then I've tried a few other Beachbody programs. I'm hooked. I love them. I look better and I feel better.

And everyday, I text my trainer in Dubai. She still holds me accountable.

Day 2 - Your Fitness Goals This Month
I'm on vacation. I always have grandiose plans to workout everyday. But I'll be honest, it's not that easy. You're sightseeing, or visiting friends/relatives, or taking E to camp or traveling to Ottawa or Boston or something or another. I know it sounds like excuses, but I know me. So the solution I have is to keep active.

I bought myself a FitBit, and can I say I love it. My goal this month, really, is to keep active. Get my steps in. The days that are quieter, I don't want to spend the whole day with my coffee and book. Just half the day. The other half, I need to be out and about. Enjoying the weather. Enjoying the neighbourhood. Getting myself moving.

Thanks Nicole for this month's challenge. #hustleandheartchallenge  

Happy Birthday Ethan

My little munchkin turned 11 today. 
I can't believe how fast the years have gone.
I'm enjoying the moments,
because before I know it,
he'll become a young man.

Happy birthday Ethan.
Love you bunches. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Lost in a Book - Jennifer Donnelly

What's the opposite of Death? Think life? Nope, it's Love.

So I'm a huge Belle fan. Love her! My biggest disappointment last week in Disney was not being able to meet her. And yes I'm totally serious.

Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book begins with Love and Death. They are sisters and the total opposites of each other. (In case you didn't get that with their names.) They have been watching Belle and the Beast and Love is confident the spell will be broken. Death, as you can imagine, would prefer not. They wager, and Death decides to cheat.

Meanwhile, Beast tries to make Belle more comfortable in the castle and gives her his library. We all know how much she likes books. But Death has a plan. She plants the book Nevermore in the library.

Nevermore is an enchanted book. You don't just read the book, you enter it. Belle enters the book and meets wonderful characters who treasure her, value her, make her feel like she has friends. But it's a trap that Death has set, in order to capture Belle and keep her there, preventing her from returning to the Beast, and possibly breaking the spell.

While we all know the story of Beauty and the Beast, we know that the spell eventually breaks, but what's wonderful here is watching Belle struggle with her two realities. Are her friends in Nevermore real, or her friends in the castle?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Chosen - JR Ward

Ok, let me start by saying that I love the WARDen and I love the Brothers. However, I do not like Layla, nor did this book get me to like her, so understandably, this was not my favourite of the series, cos I do not like her!

So now you know, The Chosen focuses on Layla and Xcor. And their "forbidden love". Cos you know, Xcor is the badass that tried to kill Wrath. And Layla, well, she's one of the Chosen. Blah.

But, I have to give it to her. She goes from weakling to a strong woman who takes shit from no one. Not even a Brother.

However, I did have some issues here. First off. Xcor tried to kill Wrath, and not only is he forgiven, but his Band of Bastards get to move into the house while Tohr who has ALWAYS been loyal gets put on probation! WTF???

But you know, Lassiter does bring some laughter to the whole scene, so all's forgiven. Sorta. Kinda. Let me think about that one.

The Playbook - Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander has become one of my newest favourite YA authors. I truly believe all Middle Schools should not only have his books in their library, but that his books should be added to the curriculum.

Unlike the other two books of his that I read, The Playbook  isn't a novel written in prose/poems. Instead, each page contains one rule. While it seems these would be rules on basketball, they are in fact amazing life rules. Each rule is an inspiration for life. Each rule is accompanied by an amazing photograph as well as some inspiring words from athletes and role models. There are some great biographical stories to inspire students to never give up, including one autobiographical snippet.

It's one of those books you want to give to teachers and coaches. It's one of those books to give your child when s/he's feeling down and defeated. It's one of those books your students will love and gain some inspiration and motivation from.

It's one of those books you'll want to read again and again.

Secret Lies Dirty Little Alibis - Jamie Blair & Dawn Rae Miller

There is nothing that Dawn Rae Miller writes that I do not like. And thanks to her, I've discovered another great author in Jamie Blair.

Secret Lies Dirty Little Alibis is the final instalment in the Kiss Kill Love Him Still trilogy.

This one picks up where book 2 ended. With the psycho Chloe causing havoc on our 4 beloved....friends??????

It continues to shift POV between the four ladies. Ladies! Yes, that's the word....cause really....were they....are they friends????

Anyways, I digress...

Each girl shares her thoughts about Chloe and who killed Jackson. Every time you think you know, another twist comes around the corner. We learn more about Haddie's dad and Livie's mum. We even get some insight into Val's parents. And it gets all wrapped together with a pretty bow that laughs at you when you reach the end and yell "But wait!!!! What about....."

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight - Darynda Jones

I use to be great at blogging about all the books I read. But this year, I seem to be lacking. Time to catch up!

I have been a huge Charley fan from Day 1. What's not to like about her? She's a spunky Grim Reaper/Private Investigator who learns she's also a God and is married to the Devil's son. Follow that?

This time around, Charley helps out Amber who is being stalked. She also gets hired by Reyes' adoptive brother..... is he considered a brother when the people who kidnapped Reyes then gave him away then go and kidnap another child? SMH It sounds hard to understand, but it's really easy to follow. :)

Charley also learns some new bad-ass powers she possesses. Told ya she was cool.

Often with series, after awhile, you can get bored of them, or you can start predicting the events. Not here. The book was exciting from start to finish.

Father's Day Interview

For the last few years, I've interviewed Ethan, about his dad, before Father's Day, and it's been fun to see how his responses have changed and evolved. You can see last year's responses here. Now I know Father's Day was last week. I was actually semi-organized. I interviewed Ethan before we left for the summer, but then realized I did not have a recent picture of the two of them. And while I did get some great ones of them in Disney, I was utterly too knackered to upload them. So, sorry for the delay, but here's this year's interview....

What is something Daddy always says to you?
Go to bed!
What makes Daddy happy?
People doing their jobs.
What makes him sad?
People not doing their jobs.
What does he do that makes you laugh?
He tells funny jokes.
What was he like as a child?
I don’t know…..funny, I guess
How old is Daddy?
I know this…I know this… 49!
How tall is he?
Ummmmm……daddy…..oh no, he’s not here….ummmmm, 5 foot 4, I know that’s short, but…..
What is his favourite thing to do?
Let’s think…..He liked being with his family.
What does he do when you're not around?
(That hasn’t changed!)
If Daddy was famous, what would it be for?
His amazing swimming.
What is he really good at?
What is he not really good at?
What does he do for his job?
He does something about trucks.
What is Daddy's favourite food?
Ahhhhh…..ummmmm…pizza….I think…I don’t know….pizza….
What makes you proud of him?
He works hard
If Daddy was a cartoon character, who would he be?
Baby Robin……no it’s Robin from Teen Titans go!
What do you and Daddy do together?
How are you and Daddy the same?
We’re both part of the Nisbet family, we both like swimming, we both like pizza… yes, lots of things, do I have to name them all?
How are you different?
He’s older, he’s taller, he has a job, he’s better at swimming than me.
How do you know he loves you?
He says so
Where is Daddy's favourite place to go?
I don’t know…I really don’t know… I should probably ask him…

 Happy Father's Day Scott

Monday, May 22, 2017

Happy Birthday Dad

You came into this world,
so many years ago, 
bringing with you
your ever special glow.

So full of love
and with a big heart.
We're thinking of you today
even though we are apart.

I know you're watching us, 
even though you're not around.
Today we will celebrate,
and try our best not to frown.

You are always in our thoughts,
you are always in our prayers,
Happy birthday to my dearest dad,
my angel upstairs.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Birthday Tradition

I know you've all been wondering whatever happened to the birthday tradition of matching shirts! lol No I have not forgotten. In fact, Ethan choose the shirts this summer, that he actually forgot what they were.

But how could we celebrate Scott's birthday without the whole matching t-shirt tradition? Well of course we couldn't.

This year's theme is inspired by our plans to head to Disney this summer, and Ethan's newfound respect for the "evils".

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Accepting Compliments

I have this wonderful friend named Hilary. She has no idea I'm writing this about her. Bur recently she taught me an important and valuable lesson.

So Hilary is funny, talented and ever-so helpful. She's Ethan's voice teacher, and while I've seen Ethan sing in shows before, I was blown away with his performance in Aladdin. And yes, I think the directors/teachers deserve credit, but so does Hilary. When you first meet her, she's there. You can't help but notice her. But she's also extremely humble.

A few months back, I saw her, and she had this awesome glittery makeup. It was so cool. She sparkled. And I let her know. She started telling me about it, but stopped. "I'm trying to accept compliments" she said. So, she said thank you, and then told me about her makeup.

I really didn't think much about it.

A couple weeks ago, she had the coolest red lipstick. It really made her pop. I rarely see her in lipstick, so a red really stood out. I told her so. She started to speak, but stopped herself. She shook her head, and said thank you. She said how it's still something she's working on, accepting compliments.

This week, I saw her at school. Her hair was shiny and gorgeous. I recently cut my hair, so think I was a little envious of her long locks. She started telling my friend and I what she's been doing. She suddenly looked at me. "Nope, thank you. Need to take the compliment!" and then she shared her secret.

Now, I'm not trying to embarrass her. But to share the lesson she taught me.

The same day I saw her at school, and admired her long hair, another friend saw me, and complimented me on my haircut. I started telling her about the style I was thinking, and what I did, and what I might do next time. When she left, it hit me. I never said thank you. I didn't accept the compliment, but instead gave the credit away.

Today my trainer sent me a message telling me how proud of me she was for my weight loss and how good I look. I texted back, "Am almost at my goal". But before I hit send, I realized I didn't accept the compliment. I didn't say thank you. So I made a point of saying thank you.

Why is it that Hilary and I have difficulty accepting compliments? I know I'm not the only one to give her one. And I know I've received them before. Is it us? Or women in general? Do we not know how to take a compliment? Do we feel the need to explain ourselves?

Thank you Hilary for teaching me a great lesson. I will make sure I accept compliments from now on. I never realized how hard that was before.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah

So I need to say a huge thank you to my dear friend, Hamidah, for telling me to read this book. She didn't just recommend it, she harassed me for a good 2 weeks. Each time I saw her, she'd ask if I'd gotten the book yet. Even though many people have recommended this book, as my other mate Louise said, "there aren't any vampires, are you sure you read it?", it's not one I would've read on my own. And to quote another friend, Juliet this time, "We are too far removed from war to really know the horrors it brings. It's so important that we read these books both as a remembrance and as a warning." So thank you dear friends. I loved this book. Despite it having broken my heart and had me in ugly sobs.

In The Nightingale, we meet sisters Vivianne and Isabelle. They are as different as sisters can be. Vivianne married her love and lives in the French countryside with her husband and daughter. Isabelle has been kicked out of, gosh I cannot recall how many, boarding schools. She's a true rebel.

During World War II, their father sends Isabelle off to live with her sister. Unlike Vivianne, Isabelle cannot sit quietly and watch her country being destroyed. She feels she must do something, and soon she becomes The Nightingale. She helps fallen soldiers make their way from France to Spain.

While Isabelle felt her sister "gave in" and accepted the war, women like Vivianne were left behind by their husbands, who went to fight. Vivianne, like many other women at this time, was forced to house two Nazi soldiers and was manipulated into betraying her friends. She then went on to save many children.

The Nightingale is a moving story of two completely different sisters who did what many women had to do. They survived and fought back in their own way.

"If I have learnt anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are."

- Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Crank - Ellen Hopkins

Life was good
I met
the monster. 
was great
At least
for a little while.

It seems I have a thing for books written in poetry. Although this one is not meant for your middle schooler. 

Written in prose, Crank tells the story of Ellen Hopkins' daughter. At age 16, Kristina starts her downward spiral into the life of drugs. She discovers the "monster" and develops an alter ego named Bree, who is sexy, confident, everything Kristina is not. 

This is one of those books that has mixed reviews on Goodreads. It's also one of those books that I was unsure what rating to give it. Finally, I decided, if a book can have this kind of effect on me, it's a darn good book.

I read Crank in a day and a half. It's poetic nature makes it easy to read. It also makes you feel. You feel sick. You feel frustrated. You feel scared. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Booked - Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander
has done it again.
He brings a heartfelt story
written in prose.

Twelve-year old Nick
is a book-hating,
soccer loving boy.
He has an immense
Thanks to his dad's requirement
that he read the dictionary,
from A-Z. 

While soccer may be his life,
Nick does attend
Etiquette classes. 
Here the focus is on
good manners,
proper etiquette
and dancing. 
And it allows Nick to get closer
to his crush.

But things are not always rosey.
He has a difficult teacher.
He has an annoying classmate.
And his bike gets stolen
by bullies!
And then...
Mom moves to Kentucky
to take a job as a horse trainer.
And Nick has feelings
of abandonment
he must face.

Soon Nick discovers
that language can help him
charm a teacher,
impress a girl,
deal with menacing bullies
and help him express his emotions
when his parents' marriage
falls apart. 

"The poems 
were cool.

The best ones were
like bombs,
and when all the right words

came together
it was like an explosion."

Monday, January 2, 2017

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

I'm so sorry I did not post last month. It was not because I don't think of you, cos I do. Often. But I had a hard time writing it, and it never seemed right, and I wasn't happy with how it looked or sounded. And well, as we all know, when I'm stuck, I give up. But, mum always use to say, "The way you start your year, influences how the year will go." So I'm stating off the year right, with my letter to you.

Better late than never, I suppose.

I don't want you to think I don't miss you. Because I do. Everyday. And while I'm not quite as angry as I was last year, I'm a lot sadder. Mainly I'm sad because you have two amazing grandchildren growing up into amazing human beings, and you're missing it.

Ethan is in the fifth grade. Which means in May he will graduate from primary school. Next year he starts middle school, so he will be on the secondary campus. Can you believe it? I can't.

Ethan still loves drama. This past year, he has been in three shows. He was in Kids Rock at the Little Theatre, he played Captain Hook at theatre camp and he was in the Christmas show at the Little Theatre. He's also currently in rehearsals for the school musical. He plays the lead character in Aladdin. He's really into the whole drama/acting/theatre thing. He's continuing with guitar lessons, has joined the school band and choir and wants to start voice lessons this year.

But asides from the acting thing, he's doing well in school too. His teacher says he's got a lot of empathy in him. This year, he helped another student with her reading and fluency and wrote a script for his class assembly. He's also doing well in Maths. Scott says he gets that from him, but I think he gets that from you. Ethan's also taken a leadership role at school. During the first semester, he lead an after school activity, Rock Climbing Club. He was really good. You'd be proud. Ethan's been gobbling books this past year, like they're going out of style. This Christmas, 80% of his gifts were books.

Speaking of Christmas, we went to London this year. We got to spend some time with Shireen. She ended up spoiling Ethan. It's quite possible she bought him more gifts than we did. 

Not sure if you know, but Minaz works for Parks Ontario, or Toronto, or something along those lines. Yup, she's not going to be impressed I've messed that up. But my point is, this summer, while in Toronto, she, Karim and Kahzmir took Ethan to some wonderful events in different parks. One of the things Kahzmir and Ethan did was join an outdoor workshop on game designs. Ethan loved it, that we made sure to go back into the city the following weekend so he could continue. The children invented new games, refined them, came up with rules and tried them out. If you have wifi, please check them out here.  ('s these things that break my heart that you're missing.)

Speaking of the Kanji's. Karim had a podcast. I'll admit I haven't listened to them all (he's not going to be impressed that I just admitted to that), but the ones I've heard are fantastic. I can honestly say I've learnt a lot from them. You always believed we should keep up with the ages. Karim embodies that. And he uses it for good. (I'm making him sound like a super hero.) If you can, please take a listen to it here

Faiza is another one who I see a little of you in. She organized a cousins' get-together over Christmas. For Qayam's first birthday, she asked friends and family to write him a letter, and the plan is to give it to him on his 18th birthday. The idea reminded me of the letter you wrote me on my 1st birthday that I got on my 21st. I know if you were here, you'd write Qayam a five page letter, filled with history and advice and love. I can only hope I've represented you well in my letter to him. Faiza also has this incredible ability to see the good in everyone and everything. I definitely need to spend more time with her when am home. She makes me want to be a better person, and not such a negative ninny. She is most certainly a reminder of what you held near and dear, and of your greatest qualities. She's an amazing mother. You would love Qayam. And guess what, she's expecting another bundle of joy this summer.

Speaking of babies, I'm incredibly upset that you're missing out on an amazing opportunity. Rehanna is about to become a mum. Yes, your great niece is having a baby. That means you could've been a great great uncle! We don't know the sex of the baby yet (well at least she hasn't shared with me), but if you have any pull, we could use some more girls in this family. There are an awful lot of boys! 

Keeping with the Manek family, Haseena is in Wales this year, finishing her Masters. This summer, the Manek family took Ethan to the aquarium for his birthday. Ethan bought a stuffed animal which later that evening went missing. Haseena went back to the aquarium to buy him a new one.  She is incredible. But you already knew that. Nabeel is beyond amazing. Ethan had a rough time at the beginning of the school year. And he really wouldn't open up to Scott or I. But he and Nabeel email each other constantly. He's the big brother Ethan doesn't have. And I know as long as Nabeel is an email, or text message away, Ethan will never be alone. He's found himself someone trustworthy to rely on, to give him advice and help him through the tough times. And I cannot be more grateful for that. He may be the quietest one in the family, but he is a true gem. Shelina and Akhter continue to be the rocks we need. When Ethan and I are in the city, they check on us, and their door is always open. It reminds me of growing up, where that house was always open and the fridge could always be raided. It's nice to know Ethan can walk in there, hang out, eat and relax. And when mum's in town, Shelina always checks in on her too.

Shelina could use you to watch over. The last few months have been rough. I know Papa is there with you. His passing was hard on her (and mum). She then lost her grandmother. She's always been there for me, and I feel like I need to be there for her, but am so far away. 

Rasool continues to amaze me. He is so you. I know I've said that before, but it's true. I always thought I took after you and he after mum. But I am most definitely mum, while he is you. He is calm, rational, prioritizes family and does not hold a grudge. I really could learn a lot from him!!! Hayley is the cutest. She's funny and has developed a unique personality. I cannot wait to see what trouble she causes Rasool! She has him wrapped around her finger, and it makes me giggle when he tells me how he's given her a time out. Like you did when I was young, he sits with her at breakfast. Like mum, he encourages her to help him cook, and she is not a picky eater. Think Ethan needs to spend more time with her. Not only are you missing out on seeing your granddaughter grow up, but you are also missing seeing your son grow. I know you constantly worried about him. But there was no need. He is a mature, incredible young man. He knows that family is the measure of a man's wealth. 

I still do not understand why you had to leave us. There's so much you're missing out on, and I cannot believe you would willingly want to leave us. But I know you were there for Papa, and that brings me some comfort. Maybe I'm finally growing up?

Love you lots. Miss you loads,