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)

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:)

Our Mothers Day.

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After feeling guilty for spending most of my morning on the phone with my mom and my best friend, I told you I wanted to take you out for a little mothers day treat as I absolutely love being your mom. You immediately said theek hai (OK in Urdu) and told me you’d like your favorite McDonald’s strawberry milkshake as a treat. So we picked up the shake along with an ice team for myself and we found a hilly spot in a nearby park in the sun and sat there as we enjoyed our treats over random chatter and some silly selfies.

I remember what it was like to wait all those years for you, I remember what it was like to bear you, to experience the strength I never knew I had. I remember those sleepless nights, I remember the sleep struggles and the dramas of potty training. I struggle each day to be a better mom than I the one I was yesterday, to understand you more, to learn new ways to deal with the challenges of each stage. And I am so very grateful for the gift of motherhood, the frustrations/the love/the struggles, everything!

Today I celebrate myself and how far I have come. I celebrate my mom who I have come to appreciate only after becoming a mom myself and all that she has taught us and given us, I celebrate you the little girl that gives me this title, that looks up at me for understanding and guidance. 

To all the amazing moms around me that inspire me to be a better one. Happy Mothers Day!

And I got a bonus super amazing mothers-day dinner by my own personal chef husband, salmon topped with a yummy blueberry sauce.

Alhamdullilah.

Thanks for reading and much love.

The day you turned 2

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Dear baby, We had lots of plans for your day. I wanted it to be a perfect little mama-daughter day while your baba worked and then have a sweet little family celebration in the evening. But then we woke up to a red faced, sick baby and a bright sunny day as beautiful as the day you came into this world. We took you to your balloon filled room. Despite being sick you were so excited to see the balloons and spent a long time trying to get all the strings in your hand and then walking around the house with them. I changed your clothes because sick or not, you have to look pretty on your big day right? Totally! Then you skyped with your bari phupo, phupa and apas, and then your nani and khalas. You loved it when everyone sang Happy Birthday to you and had a big smile on your face. We had to run to the doctor’s office then, you all dressed up in your frilly little pink skirt and your red face. You hate doctor visits so as usual you were not happy when he had to check your ears and look inside your mouth, but the ‘Gora’ (Dora) sticker made it a bit better. On our way back, we thought what the heck if we cant do what we had planned to, at least we can grab some cake pops (and coffee for mama) sing aloud to our favorite songs and go for a drive in this gorgeous sunshine. So we did just that (you were more busy making a mess in your new car seat with your ‘cake cop’). We came home, tried to get you to eat something, but all you wanted was your dudu’, milk. The medicine started making you drowsy so we read books in bed till you dozed off. As soon as I would stop reading thinking you’re finally asleep, you would open your eyes and tell me to ‘just keep reading woman’, in your own little vocabulary that is. While you slept then, mama got to her cake and decorations because you know there are some things that you just have to do! I listened to all the loving phone calls and read the sweet messages on facebook for you. You are one super loved baby! You slept and you slept, which was good because mama was all ready for you when you woke up. Your Baba came home and as usual that was the best part of the day for you. You tried on your birthday hat for him and then sat and watched cartoons instead of running around and screaming with him like you normally do. We had our dinner and then cut the rainbow cake your mama was so excited about trying. You looked at the candle on the cake really hard and then said ‘ONE’. Haha. We’re confused what that really meant. Do you think 2 is the new 1 or were you counting the number of candles? Maybe you can solve that one for us when you get a little older? Anyways after telling me ‘Mama Happy Birthday cake’ for so many days, you wanted to have nothing to do with the cake, not cut it not eat it! It was then that I remembered, maybe you only like Chocolate cakes!! Well, for next time, I guess. You opened your gifts then, loved the wooden train we got for you along with the burlap teddy that we picked up at the last minute from Safeway:p. Your Nadia Aani and Ali uncle dropped by then and you were excited, specially with the gifts they got you. You almost tried on the dress and kept saying Kapare’, clothes. Your bari nani called and you talked to her on the phone, and when she sang happy birthday for you, you turned to your baba and said ‘keh ri hain happy birthday to you’ she’s saying happy birthday to you. Nadia aani tried to tell you the story of the day you were born, and how you almost shared a birthday with her. When they left, we gave you your medicine, disguised in chocolate, but you were too clever. We waited for it to start working while you were busy bringing all your toys in our bed and reading all the books we had ever got for you. Finally more than an hour later, you finally went to sleep.

So this is the story of your second birthday. Imperfect and totally not what we had planned, but sometimes not perfect is so so better than perfect. Right? Also, come to think of it, life is never perfect, even if it looks and feels like that sometimes:)

You have literally made our lives complete and there has never been any looking back since that beautiful day that you entered our world mA. May you always be a source of happiness for all those around you. I love you more than life itself.

Xoxo, Your Mama

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(FYI: phupo is for dad’s sister, phupa is phupo’s husband and apa is for elder sister/cousin. Nani is for maternal grandmother and Khala is mom’s sister. Bari nani is for mom’s grandmother. mA is for mashAllah, which literally means ‘as God has willed’ but is used routinely when we praise anything, in acknowledgement that all blessings and good things come from Allah)

Thanks for stopping by!

Celebrating You–Anya’s 1st Birthday celebration

Dear Little One, we had a little birthday party for you on Sunday. Despite everything, I decided that we wanted to share this momentous occasion with our closest friends and your friends to be. That even though the worst possible has happened to your mama this year, with that the best happened too. And without you in my life at this point i couldn’t have survived. So i wanted to celebrate you, the joy u are to us, the happiness you bring to our lives every single day. I wanted to say that sometimes the best things in life come along with the worst things and we have to survive, because this is life and this is what were meant to do, to keep living our lives when it absolutely feels like we couldn’t go on. I wanted to celebrate your presence in our lives disguised as a little birthday party and you loved it. Conversing with the babies who came, crawling around in the backyard, saying baba baba over and over again, hanging out with the older kids, walking around in your wobbly little way, you were the picture of a happy little baby, mA. Thank you for helping me move on, thank you for giving a reason to my days, thank you for everything. I love you always and forever. Your nana is smiling at you today, i can tell:)
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Update: Many of you asked about the fabric garland, so I thought I’ll share a little about it. It was made using cut up old tshirts tied over a piece of twine. I tied them up using this tutorial I found via pinterest. And I loved how it turned out. Hope that helps!

Another Update: We were so excited when this little party was featured on Apartment Therapy. Check it out.

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Thanks for stopping by!

AND ANOTHER UPDATE: This was the first post I published when I began my blogging journey and it was soon after my dad’s sudden death from brain cancer. Our little girl turned 1 one month after my dad’s death while we were still in Pakistan and a little after I returned I felt like celebrating her presence and all that she had meant for my family at such a difficult time.