Happy 6th my girl

Every year for the past 4-5 years, I have shared a photo story of Anya’s birthday. This one is for her 6th birthday with an excerpt from the letter I wrote to her the night before her big day.

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Good Morning baby girl. It’s finally here, the day you have been waiting for.. You are 6! Alhamdullilah. This birthday is extra-special because this year you can read and I’m so excited I can give you this letter instead of saving it for you like I’ve done every year.

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On this special day, I just wanted to tell you that your baba  and I are so proud we get to be mom and dad to a smart, loving & kind-hearted girl like you. You amaze us each and every day. I know that you love looking ahead towards growing bigger and another year older, but you know its so much fun to look back at times like birthdays also, to see just how far you have come.

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You were only just starting to read at your 5th birthday & look at you now, reading everything. You’ve started Kindergarten, lost 6 teeth & grown 4. You had to move from the only home you ever knew; though you didn’t want to and even after missing it all the time, you still are settling down here and already making so many new memories. You got to learn many little life lessons about adapting and learning and stepping out of your comfort zone and courage . This year you grew in so many different ways my babe!

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Every day these past 6 years with you has been a special one my love. You love us like no other, you test us and teach us and make us want to be better parents, better people, every day.

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I love your loving and your cuddling especially when you walk into our room at night.. I love your always on-the-go mind as you keep asking me all those questions after dark. I love the way you’re so sure of yourself and know just what you want or not. I love your excitement and laughing like crazy when you play those pretend games with your dad. I love your sensitive, kind heart when you worry about animals, trees and the earth. I love everything about you and hope you always remember how special you are and that even if we miss your baby days and how adorable they were, we love watching you grow and turn into our own little friend.

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I know you will continue to push me and test me and drive me crazy but never for a second will all of this be not worth it. Stay yourself, my girl. Love you forever, your mama.

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Behind-the-photos :  After I was done setting up the birthday decorations + balloons the night before // Anya checking out her room in the morning and reading mama’s letter // Skype with her nani (grandma) and khalas (mom’s sisters) khalu (khala’s husband<-) after breakfast and opening gifts from them // blowing out the candles on her donut tower-cake which she asked for // Running all around the house on her treasure hunt till she finally found the gift from her mama-baba, her own grown-up camera // staying in for dinner instead of going out as she wanted to ‘spend time with family’ and eat ‘daal and roti’ // (not photographed) Skype with her Taya and Phupo / Dressing up in her puppy costume and spending the afternoon like that / A movie night followed by me reading out all her messages to her to end the evening

Thank you for following along all this while you guys. Remember her in your prayers.

ALSO: Stories of her previous birthdays ( 2nd / 3rd  / 4th / 5th)

A friendship story + a birthday wish.

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Happy Birthday to my best friend of almost two decades and one of the most positive inspirations around me. Any day that involves our ‘5 minute'(or not) phone call is almost certain to go much better than the ones when we don’t get to talk. From being our awkward teenager selves (mostly me, since she has been pretty much the same since day one) when the only things occupying our minds were how to get my mom to give permission for our next get together (+ possibly our Matric and FSc board exams too) and through decisions like ‘which university to apply to’ & ‘where to work’ & ‘who to marry’. Through adjusting to married life & new countries. Through the various seasons of motherhood and trying to figure out how to do it all and being content with what we have. Our friendship truly has been a summation of all those hours and hours of conversations through these 19 years on anything and everything that has been in our thoughts or hearts. What began in E-9 Islamabad in 1998 when she chose to sit next to ‘the new girl’ in class (me) and ultimately change her classroom for her (me again) and the phone calls that started soon after. The long non-stop conversations about who-knows-what back then but which continued undeterred by our PAF phone line which would auto- disconnect and drop our call every 8 minutes or so (we would keep our finger on redial and continue for hours:p).

Through the next decade and getting married and moving countries, Riyadh/Bahrain for her and Seattle for me, luck stayed with us because we always had a way to be just a phone call away thanks to the Vonage number she had and later on thanks to our smartphones. Through the very many different phases of our lives and through happy and sad moments, we’ve been in touch and been there, without actually ‘being there’! I love that she is the kind of person who will always push me to be a better person. She won’t just listen and let me vent, but give me just the angle I need to come back to my center and think things from another perspective. Seriously if everyone had a friend like her, we would all be so much sane-er. (Not trying to say I am always sane but it can help you know) Lol. It’s amazing to me how we have never run out of things to talk about in all of these years.. and our conversations, some serious + deep and others not very much like our eternal obsession with finding the perfect solution to organize ourselves and our lives ;).

The weird thing is that in all of these 19 years, we were only in the same school for a little over a year, in the same city for probably another 1-2 years. And between my wedding in Sep 2006 and June 2016 we couldn’t meet even once. Our trips to Pakistan somehow never coincided and the only in-person memories we had of each other were from before we were married! We’ve sifted through old photos on birthdays trying to find a good one to share with our birthday messages and even took the Skype photo at the top of this post just so we could be in the same frame! And then this summer, it finally happened! We met, and each others’ not-so-little ones for the first time! We got updated photos and made in-person memories and it was even better than we could’ve imagined it to be! Between Iftari at my mama’s place and Sehri at her parents’ place, we squeezed in time with each others’ families + bonded with each others’ babies. And even managed some deep heart-to-hearts before we fell asleep as the sky turned into morning outside. So much has changed in all these years and sitting at my Mama’s house with Papa not there it was a reminder of that but yet so much is still the same, and being at her parents’ house with reminders of all those memories we have made there, it felt like that. And that’s all we got, a little short of one whole day together but it felt like we made the most of it. So thankful for that!

I know this has turned into quite a love letter, but sorry what could I do! It was somehow harder than I realized to summarize a whole friendship into words! Here’s wishing her the happiest of birthdays and for all of us to be blessed with friendships like these.

And because I love her and you guys alot, here is a blast from our past 😉

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Have a fabulous week and Happy Valentines Day!

 

The day you turned 5

As per tradition now, a photo story of the day you turned 5.

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Your baba and I stayed up the night before to blow up these balloons for you to wake up to on your big day.

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Waking up the next day, super excited to be turning 5. A little post-breakfast celebration in the form of a mini donut tower.

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I made you a little treasure hunt for your birthday gift and you were so excited as you tried to find each little clue leading up to your present.

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Exploring your brand new little robot. // And later helping me make our birthday cake.

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Talking to your nani on the phone and telling her about your gift // More robot exploring with your daddy. (This is the one Bilal got)

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I told you I wanted to take some birthday photos + do a video-interview of you and you excitedly decorated the space for me. (Here is an example for you guys.)

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You chose Cheesecake Factory for your birthday dinner because of the Happy Birthday song they sing for you and it made me reminiscent of your 3rd birthday dinner there. How time flies!

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I had been feeling bad that I hadn’t baked your birthday cake after your 1st and 2nd birthdays when you were too young even to enjoy them and wanted to make the rainbow one that you wanted. Sadly it was an absolute disaster (Please don’t ask why). So sorry baby girl. Thank God for the tiny extra cake we had made that we were able to decorate instead!

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Hanging out with us as we couldn’t stop remembering the day you walked into our lives. 5 years of being your parents Alhamdullilah!

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All day we got messages from all over and we tried to read as many out to you as we could. Ending the day with some Skype with some of your favorite people.

PHOTO STORIES FROM EACH OF HER PREVIOUS BIRTHDAYS HERE.

Thanks for stopping by! Lots of love!

Looking back. Looking ahead.

Found this in my letters to Anya from two years ago, “It is 2.30 am, 19th Feb 2014, you’re 3 years old. I want to stop time, I want to go back. That baby smell, those chubby rolls. I want time to go on, see you grow and discover and learn, see the world through your eyes, re-live my life through yours. And I can’t decide what I want more. “

Last Friday Anya turned 5 mashaAllah, and I feel the feelings again so for today just some looking back and remembering!

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TURNING ONE: Photos taken by A’s Waliya khala in Islamabad as she turned 1 // This is how we celebrated her after we came back home.

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TURNING TWO: The day she turned 2 // Here is a photo story of her day.

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TURNING THREE: The story of the day she turned 3 // Photos from our Birthday Tea Party

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TURNING FOUR: The story of the day she turned 4 // Birthday Playdate with her friends.

More from her big day soon.

Thanks for stopping by. Lots of love.

Life Remembered – A Memory Book

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On January 19th, it was 4 years since the death of my dad and the first time when I was not with my mom and sisters on the date.  I had bought this journal a few years ago and sat down this month to finally print out all of the messages and memories that have been left for him on Facebook and email and adding them to this. It was so bittersweet, going through all of them, I couldn’t stop tears as some reminded me of so many painful days but in the end it felt so good to do this. My dad was so blessed Alhamdullilah, it is unbelievable the kind of love he received while in hospital and since his passing, we have received messages from countless people, some that we didn’t even know, who told us how he touched their lives. That is such an honor. And adding all those messages in one place felt so good to me!

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For those who’s hearts ache with a loss, it helps to be able to do something like this that reminds you of them and their life (Also helps to give some sadqa in their memory). In January as I silently grieved, it helped to do a few of these things that made me feel so much better!

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Thanks for reading. Lots of love.

ALSO: Shadow Frame to honor my dad’s memory // Memory Table at my sister’s wedding

Reminiscing, of road trip memories

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Road trips always take me back to childhood memories. My parents were very adventurous and both of them loved travelling specially when we were very young. I have so many happy memories of those times with my sisters in the backseat as we travelled to one place or another with our parents. Luckily being from the air force, we kept moving cities and each city brought opportunities for new adventures. On the night before the trip, my mom would dress us up in the clothes for the next day and we’d go to sleep all dressed up. The next day we would be carried to car half asleep, and the journey would begin. My mom would pack a meal for the way, sandwiches, her tasty pulao or something else.

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I remember eating our breakfast by a little river in Hyderabad one time and I remember the many many lunches or dinners where we’d stop by at a roadside hotel (or dhaba in Urdu which is a small roadside hotel typically for truck drivers serving very low cost and tasty food). My dad would give them our karahi(wok) or our pot to warm up, order naans and we’d enjoy the meal either in our car or sometimes even inside if they had a ‘room for families’. I remember my dad used to jokingly call them ‘greenu hotel’ because of the garish color of green most of these use to be painted in. Our whole family loved the truck hotel daal and we used to love trying that out during our drives.

I remember the excitement we felt as kids, especially if we were travelling at night. It just felt so adventurous to be up past our bedtimes and just sitting cozy and safe in our cars as we anticipated the arrival of an exciting destination or our home. Nadiya and I had endless games that we loved to play in our car. Of course there were many fights too. The lines in the upholstery of the backseat marked our areas and no one dare even inch a toe into the other’s area. When Waliya came we happily gave her the tiny area between the middle of the two seats and she had to stay in that. (With no rules for booster seats or seat belts, actually few cars even had seat belts in those days, we could move around freely).

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A special favorite were trips to our grandparents house in Lahore and once our parents gave us a surprise. We thought we were going to Rawalpindi, from Sargodha. Suddenly we saw some of the famous Lahore monuments but they quickly distracted us telling us they had probably built replicas where we were passing through. We even believed them. In our defense it was night time so in the dark and night lights, many cities look similar, TILL we saw some WALLS billboards and we knew. WALLS ice cream had just arrived to Lahore and another reason we loved coming to the city! Anyways our excitement was beyond imagination:)

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We had games we would play in the car. Nadiya and I had one where you had to count the number of VW Beetle cars you found (We called them foxy) and the person finding more would win. The rule was, you had to see it the window on your side or it didn’t count. We even had our version of a computer game that we played with our finger being the figure and us having to jump over the obstacles we found on our side! Good old days really. I feel kind of sad when kids today have to be entertained with DVD players and phones and tablets in the car. Because seriously the creativity that came out of boredom lead to amazing memories for us!

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All photos above from my parents photo collections taken on various trips through the years. A white Corolla has been a part of our whole childhood. Except for a few in recent years, most of the cars in my dad’s life were White Corollas:)

Today whenever we make our own road trips, it always reminds me of these memories. Our family is different with my husband and I coming with different expectations so its definitely not the same. My husband’s and my idea of travel are different in many ways too. I like to explore more and of course take lots of pictures. My husband wants to relax mostly and it becomes kind of a challenge if I push him too much or if we end up not doing much. (You know how it feels when there’s a super crabby person in the car when you’re stuck with each other on a long drive?) Ten years down the road, we still haven’t mastered the balance but in between our cracks we are slowly building our own road trip memories repertoire.

Do you have any special road trip memories from when you were growing up?

Would love to hear.

Thanks for reading. Lots of love.

Guest Book for N+H wedding

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I mentioned earlier about the photo guest book I got printed for my sister’s wedding and just wanted to share a little more about it today. I ordered the photo book via Shutterfly, and used this design with some changes. I loved the simple modern look and the bold typography of this template. Thanks to my baby sister Waliya, this lucky couple had lots of beautiful photos from their year or so of being engaged and I used all those photos in the book with empty space for messages from loved ones. A few weeks before the wedding, all of us family members started writing messages for the couple because we knew it won’t be possible on the big day with everything going on.

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All the above photos thanks to Jahanzeb Khan Photography

On the big day, we left the book out with a permanent marker to write on at the memory table we set up (More about that here) and reminded friends and extended family to leave messages/advice for the couple.

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And here is the couple, day after the wedding, reading all the messages, heartfelt, funny and full of love. Loved watching them read them out to each other mashaAllah!

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These photos above by Waliya 🙂

Thanks for stopping by. Lots of love.