Friday, February 28, 2014

On trying to raise a bilingual kid (and some Urdu specific links). Part 2


I shared some thoughts on encouraging your kid to learn and speak a second language earlier and this post is a continuation of that one. I believe that it is our job as parents to make the second language seem fun and exciting for our kids and that can be done through age appropriate material for them. It is a little hard sometimes to find time and resources for this but totally worth it in the end. And I also feel that to encourage our kids to be comfortable speaking Urdu, we ourselves have to own the language. Today, I wanted to share some Urdu specific resources that I particularly like. Hope these will help:)

If you haven’t already, read Part 1 here.



- ToffeeTV is great resource for stories,songs and poems. The beautiful hand-drawn illustrations are adorable and the slow-paced images make them perfect for younger kids. For older kids they also feature stories, activities etc. They also have apps for Apple and Android gadgets which is a huge plus. One of Anya’s earliest favorites was Baadal Garje by them.


- Sim Sim Hamara is the Urdu version of Sesame Street and I absolutely adore this series. Kids love Elmo so they will be attracted to this. The songs are so catchy and even I don’t mind listening to them over and over again.  Each episode focuses on a word which is explained in different ways. I was heartbroken that the series was discontinued. But thanks to YouTube, one is still able to enjoy the series. Some favorite songs are Meesha Shafi singing Ghar and Strings singing Hum but pretty much all of them are awesome.


- Once your kids are a little older, classic plays like Tanhaiyan, Ankahi and many others are also beautiful to watch as a family.



- You don’t have to stick to material aimed at children only. Anya loves a song that played on Coke Studio called Koi Labda (it is actually in Punjabi) and she will make me play it over and over again in the car. Some older songs specially those by Nazia and Zohaib Hassan are so catchy and I know a friend’s girls’ loved listening to them. I just try to make sure that the lyrics are kid-friendly, in other words steer clear of those popular Bollywood songs, :p

- Sohail Rana's songs are all on YouTube and I recently started putting them on in the evening while I cook and she colors or is busy with another activity. Anya just recently picked up Dosti aisa naata from it. I don’t know about others but my sister and I grew up listening to these songs thanks to my mom, and they have a big nostalgia value for me.

- I love humming songs in Urdu to Anya at bedtimes. If you’d be interested, Nindiya re by Kavish , and Soja Re by Uzair Jaswal make for perfect lullabies. 

- Some classic songs from old Indian movies are adorable and I have another playlist for Anya on YouTube of those, including lakri kee kaathi, rona kabhi nahi rona, chal mere ghore etc.

- Kassette Kahani is also available online if your kids would be interested in it. Anya is still too young for this, but this favorite of many from our generation that grew up in Pakistan might be interesting to older kids.



- On my recent visit, a relative told me about Oxford University Press and that they have a great collection of Urdu books. I was pleasantly surprised at the adorable little books we found. The illustrations as well as the stories are just so loveable (you can see a glimpse in this picture above). Even their Urdu qaidas are the best I have seen around. Oxford University Press has stores in many cities across Pakistan and you can find one close to you here.

- Another current favorite that was gifted to us, is a Beaconhouse School System Readers series of short simple story books. Anya loves 'Na gudda na gurya' from this series.

- BookGroup also has great little Urdu books with original stories. Their sets of books for different age groups can be bought online too. I have a few of their books but plan to order another set or two soon.

- I discovered this adorable board book on Amazon which would be awesome for brand new readers, Bulbul Ka Bacha, based on a popular Urdu poem.

- Biloongra is another exciting bilingual series I came across while writing this post. The stories and illustrations are adorable and you can read excerpts to your kids here. They are available in Karachi or you can email them for the PDFs. 


Because Anya is still young, we have only focused on the speaking part. I am trying to introduce her to the Urdu alphabets and I know my husband would love for her to be able to read and write Urdu. Because the alphabets and reading are similar to the Arabic for Quran that she will learn iA, I hope that that part wont be that hard if we decide to do that.

If you have any other interesting Urdu specific resources to share, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

Thanks and much love.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

LITTLE STYLE: As cozy as a handmade sweater



Sweater: Lovingly hand-knitted by my friend’s mom, Skinny Jeans: Osh Kosh, Boots: Old Navy, Hair Bow: Janie and Jack



Thanks for stopping by. Much love and be back tomorrow.


Monday, February 24, 2014

On trying to raise a bilingual kid. Part 1

Many around me have commented on Anya's Urdu (our native language from Pakistan) and I wanted to share my thoughts on raising a bilingual child. We are still in the beginning of this journey but I hope that she continues to learn Urdu alongside English. And for that will continue to find ways to encourage her. This post is a collection of ideas that we have tried to incorporate.


Even before Anya was born, my husband and I knew that we wanted Anya to be comfortable in understanding and also speaking Urdu. I think I didn't really value our first language till I got married and moved away from Pakistan. Most of urban Pakistan speaks a mix of Urdu and English and English is pretty much the language in school and offices. As a result Urdu seems to lose its importance. Only when I married my husband (Almost all of his immediate family speaks and writes beautiful Urdu) and moved away from Pakistan, did I start to value it and realize how a language contains in itself the essence of a culture.

Growing up in Pakistan you take it for granted but when raising kids abroad you realize how easily kids can get disconnected from their parents language and in extension, their parents/grandparents culture and even their extended family (many grandparents are not as comfortable in English as in their mother language) etc. Because Anya is always going to be connected to Pakistan because of us and her extended family, it is important for us that she understands and speaks the language. I was also inspired by the many families around us whose kids speak beautiful Urdu alongside their American English. And besides all of it, it is a great skill, to know more than one language and our kids are lucky to be growing up in multilingual households. Only when we consider this an advantage and focus on it will we be able to pass on this gift to our kids.

Here are some things I am trying to do to encourage her to learn our native tongue alongside English.


- If you are passionate about keeping your kids connected to your native language, I would recommend reading these two books. The Bilingual Edge and The Bilingual Family are both really useful resources for bilingual families. Both these books address important topics like understanding early language learning, age appropriate tips for teaching a second language, and also addresses common misconceptions that discourage parents (like not wanting to ‘confuse kids’ with two languages, which apparently is a myth).

- Ever since she was a baby, we tried to talk to Anya mostly in Urdu so it was the first language she heard. And as she started speaking words, we tried to teach her Urdu words for as many things as possible. I knew that she would eventually learn English whether we focused on that or not but she would have a hard time learning Urdu at a later stage. Babies and young toddlers listen so intently and if they're exposed to a language from the start, I think it helps a lot. This does not mean that we avoided all English, we just tried to expose her to Urdu as much as English I'd say. I am so glad I did that because I'd say around 2.5 years even though she doesn't go to preschool, just through cartoons and noticing that English is the main language of interaction outside the house, she started switching to mostly English. I usually encourage her to say the same thing in Urdu by repeating it for her. Right now she knows the Urdu and English words for most items and I don’t see her getting confused because of that at all.

- Songs/Stories/Music. Young kids learn best through music so you can start playing poems and songs in the language from an early age. Thanks to the universality of YouTube, these are more and more accessible now. I have a playlist with poems/songs in Urdu that she enjoys and play them for her at random times. Most popular poems have translations in local languages and kids will particularly enjoy them. At bedtimes sometimes I hum my favorite Urdu songs for her as well as some lullabies in Urdu that my mom used to sing to us. You can also tell stories in the second language, and even make your own. Include their favorite characters and friends names to capture interest. The aim is to make the language fun for them so they will pick up the words easily.

- Many families suggest making a family rule that everyone speaks the native language at home. And as Anya grows and starts school, I think we will move towards that too with Urdu becoming our main home language.

- Hanging out with people that speak the same language can give kids the feeling of community and helps them use the language with people outside their family. We are so lucky to have Urdu-speaking friends and because we meet with them on a regular basis, the kids get to see us interacting in Urdu. We also Skype with family in Pakistan who interact with her in Urdu and I specially noticed a push in her Urdu after our trip to Pakistan when she was a little short of 2. America is so multicultural and more often than not you will find at least some people that speak the same language as you and meeting with such families from time to time can help your kids too. Even attending concerts/plays or any events where that language will be spoken will also help.

- TV. Look for TV programs for kids in the language. I found two resources (more on that later) that I really liked and introduced to Anya from the time that she was a year old. They’re two of her favorite things to watch now. Many times she will say a word she has picked up and take me by surprise. Other than making them familiar with the language, watching these shows will also help them connect with and later on understand the culture of their parents. Even programs not necessarily targeted for kids but family friendly enough to watch with kids around can be helpful. I watch a lot of Pakistani dramas and look forward to the day when my daughter is old enough to watch some of them with me. A family friend enjoys watching them with her 19 year old daughter and it has been great for her Urdu while at the same time reconnects her to the culture of her parents and understands some of the things better.

- Books. Kids enjoy books and I think it would help immensely if you’re able to find attractive books in the language that they enjoy as much as the English ones. Anya loves her books so I have been on the lookout for books in Urdu from the beginning. I have to admit, it has been hard finding quality Urdu books and some of the best we have today have been passed on by her cousins or gifted from sweet people. We do have a growing little collection by now though and quite enjoy reading them over and over again.


Check back later for another post with some Urdu specific resources.

Thanks so much for reading and much love. If you are raising a bilingual kid and have some tips to share, I would to hear them in the comments :)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

THREE. and an early birthday party in Islamabad


It IS cliché to say this but so crazy how fast time goes by. Our little girl just turned 3 yesterday. THREE. I can hardly believe that. But then at the same time I have forgotten what life was like before her, so yeah time has flown by but it has also stood still :)

This year Anya understands more what a birthday means so we are busy making memories with the birthday girl and will share more from our celebrations later. But today I thought I’d share the little early birthday party she got in Islamabad at her Nani’s house with some of her favorite people.


Balloons, candles, a favorite song, some sweet gifts, a yummy chocolate cake, and everyone singing Happy Birthday to her - what more would a toddler want! :) There is just something so amazing about celebrating these little and big occasions with family and loved ones. Living so far from them, we tend to miss out on it and that is a bit sad. Sigh. But so thankful to be able to make that up by spending a couple months with them every year.


Sorry for the absence from the blog. Between being sick and Anya’s big day, it got a bit hard to manage time. But I promise to make up.

Thanks for reading and much love.


Most of the pictures above by my sister, Waliya. Check out her work here.


Nani is the word for maternal grandmother in Urdu.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Best of both worlds.


My husband and I come from families with very similar values on the important things but in some ways very different family lifestyles. Even though, we were both born and raised in Pakistan, on some levels we grew up in complete different cultures. In some ways the adjustment becomes a little harder if you let it but after spending time with each others' families, we have seen the beauty that exists in how things work at each home. And we have grown to love and respect both ways of life.

One usually thinks of difference as a bad thing. In our relationships, we look for similarities and think we bond more with those that are our type. I have always believed the same, that it is easier for us to relate to those that are more like us and as a result we bond better with them. But lately I am realizing that we have so much to learn from each other, and what we think of as difference, is just another chance for us to learn from each other. No one way is the best way and being around people a little different from us shows that to us.

For instance,I would love our home to be a place of open discussions on religion/politics/history, the way I have seen at my husband’s parents’ home, and I would love it to be a place where love is showered and expressed frequently like at my parents’ home. I would love it to be a place where faith plays such a big part in your daily routine the way I see my mother-in-law doing and I would love it to be a place where traditions and celebrations are important and making time for your family is the biggest priority like I have learned from my mom.  

Each family has strengths of its own that it takes pride in, and we get married we bring a subset of these values to our own homes. If we each brought the best of our parents' homes into our own homes, wouldn't our houses be so much richer? It is also a way to continue their legacy and to give our kids more respect for their loved ones and to give them the best of two worlds.

What pieces of life at your and your husband’s parents’ homes would you love to bring into your own home?

Monday, February 10, 2014

A family picture wall, finally!


I love pictures and specially family pictures. I have always found little ways to display pictures of loved ones around the house but I had still been dreaming of a photo wall to display these for the longest time. And I finally made one last week. Here is a peek.


It is straight down our hallway and visible from pretty much our whole little house. And that is pretty much my favorite part. To be able to look at these loving faces and happy memories, makes the house feel that much brighter :)


I wanted to keep the eclectic feel of varying sizes and colors of frames so I used up all the frames I had around the house. But to join it all together I tried to fit it in a rectangular margin to keep it from looking too disconnected. I have to admit, I have no patience (or talent) for making gallery walls the recommended way so I just made the arrangement of the frames on my bed and then just went on to hanging them with my trusted trial-and-error method (!). I think I like the end result and Bilal approved it too so I guess all is good. Now off to plan the other two gallery walls I am dreaming of ;)


Thanks for reading and stopping by.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

BEHIND THE NAME with Popinjay

Hey there you guys. So excited to have the girls from Popinjay here today. I fell in love with their beautiful, one-of-a-kind handcrafted bags as soon I saw them so its an honor that they’re here to share a bit about Popinjay and how it all began.

Iznik Scarlet 1SabaWithArtisanWomen2

ABOUT POPINJAY Popinjay is a label that has the grand vision of providing equal opportunity to everyone on the planet. Popinjay products are individually handmade in Pakistan, with the love and care of a master of her work. They represent a revival of ancient craft techniques, bringing you a little bit of history and old-world class. We spent months finding some of the world’s most skilled artisans, embroiderers, pattern-makers and seamstresses to bring you the finest workmanship—and it shows in every product we make. When you buy a Popinjay product, trust that it will be handmade, high-quality, and yours alone. Our pieces are timeless, and an antithesis to the modern pandemic of producing and consuming faster.

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THE PEOPLE BEHIND POPINJAY  We are a team of four - I (Saba) started the label and have a background in engineering with degrees from MIT and a working stint in Silicon Valley. I always felt inspired by the marvelous beauty and immense talent in Pakistan, where I grew up until 18 and it is the potential of connecting this talent to global markets that compelled me to quit my 6-figure salary in the US and move back to take on Popinjay full-time. Adil Iqbal, a Scottish Pakistani is our Creative Director. He has previously worked with labels like Hugo Boss and TakaNaka and has done multiple cross-cultural collaborations to push the boundaries of arts and crafts in places like Pakistan. Much of the inspiration for his work has come from cities in northern Pakistan like Chitral. Alina Jiwani heads our Sales and Marketing. She has an MBA and has previously worked in fashion PR and digital marketing for labels like Bebe. She has a passion for travel and loves that Popinjay brings the crafts and stories of our artisan women to a global audience. Nida Naseem is our Production Manager in Pakistan. She is a young graduate of the Pakistan School of Fashion Design. She handles all our production, vendor relations, and shipping timelines.

1502620_597701900298404_283645778_oAnfa Envelope Pumpkin 1

HOW IT ALL BEGAN In 2009, when I was a graduate student at MIT, I heard the story of Azaada Khan, a teenage girl growing up in Afghanistan in the 1990s under the Taliban when girls were prohibited by law to attend school. Azaada masked herself as a boy for 12 years to be allowed an education. She changed her name, cut her hair, the way she walked, talked and dressed to take on this new identity. When she turned 13 and her parents wanted to marry her off to a man, she was confused and distressed about her real gender and identity. Azaada's struggles were so raw and moving to me. I was born and raised in neighboring Pakistan, where girls went through similar struggles as Afghan girls to get access to basic rights. But here I was, getting my second degree at MIT. I felt moved to visit the communities in Pakistan that were being helped by the same organization that had built the school where Azaada got an education. That community, in Attock, Pakistan became the pilot for my work.

1511374_582079265194001_505527921_n (1)Anfa Envelope Pearl 2

PROUD MOMENTS Our Iznik Scarlet Box Clutch was carried at the 2013 Emmys. Recently our Anfa Envelope Clutch was featured in Grazia as their Friday Fashion Style Pick. We will also be announcing some exciting partnerships beginning with Anthropologie starting March 2014.

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INSPIRATIONS LA MEZQUITA was originally inspired by the city of Lahore, where our female artisans are based, and where I (Saba) spent my childhood. Lahore is a mecca of history, and home to masterpieces of Islamic Architecture, such as the majestic Badshahi Mosque with its red sandstone and marble inlay work, the Wazir Khan Mosque with its stunning colored frescos, and the Lahore Fort with its mesmerizing Sheesh Mahal or Mirror Palace. The cultural capital of Pakistan, Lahore has captivated the hearts and minds of poets, musicians, sculptors and artists through the ages. The city's old quarters transport you to a storied age of decorative art and ancient craft techniques. This artwork adorns not just mosques but also homes, gardens, forts, palaces, baths and mausoleums.

While LA MEZQUITA began as a collection focused on the architecture of Lahore, as our design progressed, inspiration took root in decorative motifs from places as far as Spain and as early as the 8th century. It became an artistic representation of the rich culture, heritage and craft techniques manifest in Islamic Architecture. LA MEZQUITA is inspired by the stunning masterpieces of Islamic architecture – from Spain to Pakistan, and is a tribute to a time when the focus on techniques in intricate, decorative art done by hand was at its peak.

Mughal Ivory 1

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Thank you so much for sharing your story Popinjay. You make us proud.

Go here to buy the bags. Also the girls were kind enough to offer 20% off all products for my lovely readers. Use code LGW at checkout. :)


If you’d like your business to be featured, email me at nataliyanajibAThotmailDOTcom

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

World Cancer Day

Today I think of my father and Bilal’s eldest sister, and the disease that took them away from us. I think of all the men, women and little kids that get diagnosed with this terrible disease every single day. I think of the families that get affected, that watch their loved ones go through the heartbreaking treatments, and the ones that have lost a loved one to it. I think of all the people that live in fear of it, and I hope. I hope for a cure. I pray and I hope.

Papa - 2010 10 15

For the ones that are fighting cancer, or have a loved one fighting it. For the ones that have lost family or a friend to it. You are not alone. And for the ones that have gone through the journey and are cancer-free now, you are truly brave and an inspiration to us all. May Allah bless us and our loved ones and keep us safe from life-altering diseases. Ameen


Please consider donating to Cancer research today. Let us all contribute in finding a cure and in helping save lives of those affected.

Thanks for reading and Much Love.

If you’re not sure where to donate, here are two links,

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington, is one of the leading cancer research institutes where scientists research the prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer.

The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Lahore, Pakistan, is a state-of-the-art non-profit cancer research center and hospital.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Back in this brand new year


Hello you guys:) A very Happy New Year to all of my lovely readers. Hope your year is off to a grand start. I am back after an amazing time with family, the perfect way to start this brand new year and just excited for another new start. How have you all been? I’m so excited to catch up.

I know its February already (where does the time go, seriously!) but its still the start of the year, and I have to say this. I like how a new year is a great time to look back and look forward at the same time. I love going through the last year in my head, reliving all the good times and also realizing where there is room to grow and adjust. I love that a new year is a great time to reevaluate things, to realize what is working for you and what is not, to figure out your priorities and to try to change yourself for the better.

At the end of the day, we are all humans and we all err, and its good to stop sometimes, give ourselves a little check before we start moving again. There is always room to grow and corners of ourselves to improve. Lets be a better person this year.


Pictures by my amazing sister, Waliya Najib.

It is good to be back.

Thanks for stopping by. Much love.