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.

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.

On living far from your family and finding little connections.

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Living so far from our families is at the back of my mind a lot and since Anya was little, I have tried to find little ways to bring their presence into the routine of our daily lives. It is a tiny little way to say that even though we don’t get to see them here, they are an important part of us and our lives.

The other day as soon as we entered Trader Joe’s, I saw tuberoses (not usually found here) and instantly they reminded me of Pakistan and then my mom. So I put them in my cart as I told A about the connection I felt with them. I told her that every time we smell their beautiful fragrance in our house they’ll remind us of her and she got it! After we got home, she would happily snif at them, saying ‘ooh I love nani’.

And it made me wonder about what our kids will take from this; from a lifetime of seeing us miss our families. In us finding little ways to connect to our parents and families, through the recipes we make, through the flowers we bring in our houses, the books that lie on our shelves, the songs we listen to on the loneliest of evenings and the values we try to pass on to our kids. For me, all these little things are a bittersweet way to feel the presence of my family on a daily basis. Maybe that’s why Bilal and I love telling stories to A about our families.

If you are homesick, or if your heart is aching from being so far from your parents or your loved ones today (specially more so during the holiday season), try this. Share an advice or a story about them to your kids, bring your mom’s favorite fruit and tell your friends about it as you give it to them (like my friend did recently), watch your sister’s favorite movie, print out some family photos to put on your fridge or on your nightstand.. it helps to have little ways to feel their presence.

Near or far, hoping our kids (and ourselves) are surrounded by the love of our parents, siblings and loved ones for all of our lives.

How do you make the pain of living far from your family a little bearable for yourself? Would love to hear ideas.

Thanks for stopping by. Lots of love.

ALSO: On missing our families // Celebrating together when you’re far // Keeping your kids connected to your families the long distance way

With car troubles came perspective.

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Last week on the way back from your gymnastics class, while you were upset at me for eating the last pizza slice, I realized something was wrong with the car. After stopping the car on the side of the road, I called roadside assistance as you nagged me from the backseat to unbuckle you. When I was finally done talking, I turned around to see you unbuckled and all comfy with your shoes off, reading a picture book you found in the car (there to be returned to someone). ‘I’m trying to have fun mama’, you told me! As we waited for Bilal to come rescue us, we sat all cozy with our car running, eating oranges from our groceries that we had bought earlier in the day. You explored my car’s music player and heating system and as you figured things out, said oohhhh yeh aise work karta hai (Oh, so that is how it works). Time slowed down for a bit as I watched you sitting in the passenger seat with nothing else to do or take us away from the moment. I watched you sing your songs and dance and just chatter away. And we talked about how sweet your daddy was to come all the way for us, despite the terrible traffic congestion because of the storm of the previous day. And then we felt the headlights on us and turned to find he was there! We shifted cars as he gave us his to drive back home while he figured out the flat tyre. It took us an hour to drive back home from there what is usually a 15 minute portion. And it took Bilal two more hours!

Sitting there in the car while we waited, I was reminded so much of my childhood and my dad. I remembered all the times we would be stuck in the middle of some city because of car troubles and how my dad would come to rescue us. We always knew that no matter our problem and location, we just had to figure out a way to get in touch with him and he would be there to get us out of that. And I felt so thankful that even now I have someone to call for help. I thought of my mom and my sister. That they no longer have ‘their’ person to call when they suddenly have car trouble, which happens a lot for them . Allah HAS been especially kind and He truly brings us help from all around when we need it. I said a little prayer for them, that Allah always makes things easy for them, and always provides them with help whenever they need it. While it is true that being the strong women and girls we have been raised like, we know that if needed we inshaAllah have the ability to handle all that comes our way, it does feel good knowing we have someone to count on. It is truly a blessing when Allah gives you someone that makes our daily issues easier for us to deal with. Sometimes we need a little perspective to appreciate what we have:)