Monday, September 22, 2014

What lies within us


One of my favorite quotes is this one by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'What lies behind us and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us'. We live in a world that places immense importance on outer appearances. We evaluate people by their outsides, by their jobs and their achievements, by the schools their children go to and their afterschool activities, by the clothes they wear and the brands they flaunt, by their homes and the areas they live in, and the list goes on and on. Good people lose their value and the strength of our characters loses its worth, because what we own, the image of ourselves that we show to the world, matters so much more.

When in fact, that is what we need to focus on, instead of striving for the next thing on our list, we need to spend at least as much time on our insides, on being better every single day, on learning from our mistakes, owning up our faults, and just improving our insides. The fact that none of this matters once we die, our worldly things and statuses. None of it. The only thing that will matter will be the kind of people we were. Not saying that our things and our achievements don’t mean anything, of course we all want a comfortable life but the problem is this never ending race that always shows us there is more to buy and more to achieve. It is just never ending. There is more to us than just our things and our achievements.

As Muslims also sometimes we are so focused on showing others how religious we are, on focusing on rituals and yet forgetting the core of our faith, which is to purify our hearts, to becoming better human beings, to learn from our mistakes and correcting them. Yet we are witnesses of the lies/corruption/fraud/injustice that happens in our own 'Muslim' country. I'll only talk of Pakistan as that is what I know. And this when our religion teaches us that Allah does not look at our outsides but at our heart and our intentions. That in front of Him we are all equal and only better than each other by our deeds.

As a start, let's look at ourselves past all the layers we show to the world, what our values are, what we believe in, what we've learned in life, the mistakes we’ve made. Let’s ask ourselves if we live our lives in a way that projects these values. And then everyday wake up with the promise to be better, better than your own self. Better than who you were yesterday. And make this your life long quest. As parents, each one of us has the added responsibility to give GOOD kids that will grow up to be GOOD adults, to the world. Let's give, if not more, as much importance to our kids insides as we give to their achievements.

Thanks for reading. Lots of love

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dear Baby: The journey has begun.


Dear little girl, It has begun, bit by bit, the beginning of your journey on your own in this world. All those years ahead of balancing the letting go and the holding on, the guiding and the letting you experience and learn on your own. You started school this week and it feels like the first time you started walking all over again. Letting go of your tiny fingers to encourage you to walk, and hovering nearby to catch you if you fall. Remember those days? It feels like that. But that is what parenting is about, in the end. We'll do this dance of letting go of you and then taking your hand again, as you slowly get used to this world until the day when you're ready to step on your own, to walk your own steps into the world. Saying a little prayer for you every time you walk through those doors and I drive away.


More letters to my baby here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Toddler Project: A Family Album


Good morning you guys. Here’s an easy project for your toddler. I had wanted to make this as a board book for Anya when she was much younger and loved looking at pictures, and pointing out names. Living so far from our family and not being able to see their faces throughout the year, I wanted Anya to know them from a young age and I loved the idea of this project, specially at the baby age where they are fascinated by faces.



All you need is a little premade or a DIY little album and some family photos. I selected photos of Anya with her loved ones from our various trips back home to see them, because I thought she would enjoy those more now. I stuck double sided tape to the photos and let her stick them to the album. And we found a little ‘family’ sticker from my craft box to add to the top. Here’s Anya trying to show her little album to you.

My parents had organized their photos in many many photo albums which to this day sit in my parents bookshelves. We have spent many an afternoons going through those albums, smiling at all those memories and I want Anya to experience the same. I am trying to make it a point to organize all these photos that keep filling up our hard drives and either print them and make albums or make annual photo books. There is absolutely nothing like an afternoon spent reminiscing over old photos.



Thanks for reading, lots of love.


Friday, September 12, 2014

On embracing your roots


When we’re raising a child in a country like America, having been raised in a developing country ourselves,  sometimes when we see the political and social turmoil going on in our birth country, we might feel like distancing ourselves and our children from there. Or at the least, we might feel embarrassed to be connected to a country which has such a negative media image. And if WE feel like that we will most probably pass this on to our kids. Even if most of our kids won’t consider Pakistan THEIR country, still, they will forever be connected to it through us. And I feel its important to develop a confidence and a sense of pride in them about their roots. Just like being from a well-knit and stable home gives you a strong base, so does knowing that the culture and country your family belongs to has so much good about it, even if others might think otherwise. And it actually is true, the best thing about being multicultural is being able to see the best of two worlds. No country/culture really is good or bad, some might have more challenges but there is good in each way of life. Whatever we might do or become, most of us will be connected to the lands we come from in more ways than one. And it would be awesome if our kids thought of their multicultural childhood as an advantage.


Some simple ideas for giving our kids a good connection to their roots are

- Teach them to appreciate the language, whether they speak it or only understand it. Expose them to it as much as you can and as they grow older explain to them what a great advantage it is to be bilingual1

- Telling them about the little things that you miss about back home and why.

- Telling them stories of your childhood and the places you lived.

- When you travel back to visit family, make sure you don’t just get busy shopping and eating and meeting your loved ones, make time to explore local sites around you.

- Introduce them to music, and don’t forget to include local/folk songs. I personally love music and there is such charm in those traditional tunes and dances. You Tube is a great resource for these. 

- Tell them stories of inspiring people from the country. (It will be a great reason for you to collect these stories, because unfortunately most of the news out from Pakistan at least is negative. This is one of the reasons why I have a board on Pinterest where I collect them. Link is below2)

- And as they grow older, you can also talk to them about the challenges the country faces, and why. And the things some of the people are doing to help their country. 


Do you have any other ideas on giving your children an appreciation of their roots? Would love to know.

Thanks for reading and lots of love.


The photos are from August 14th, Pakistan’s Independence day, when I put out reminders of our roots around our house to celebrate.

1 A previous post on raising a bilingual kid and here’s another one with Urdu specific resources.

2 Here’s a link to my Pinterest board where I collect positive stories out of Pakistan.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014



Many an afternoons spent painting and gluing with the craft kits she got gifted for Eid.


Enjoying an afternoon of reading in our homemade canopy. Love that she reads the Hans Christian book my grandparents had gifted me when I was a kid.


Celebrating a friend’s birthday with a sweet picnic she threw for her friends. Loved the idea. Also tried out some glitter shots inspired by my sister’s famous photography but realized its SO NOT easy.


Saw this beautiful scene in a park and had to take a photo. What a beautiful Quran and what dedication.


Tea in the backyard with the husband on the last of these summer evenings.


My kitchen helper doing what she does best and dinner experiments.


Nothing like getting a package from Pakistan, specially one from home:)


Enjoying the last of summer with lazy backyard mornings.


Celebrating Bilal’s birthday. More here.


Enjoying a day at Sunrise, Mt Rainier National Park.

More in this series, here.

Thanks for reading, lots of love.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Reading Nook and Art wall

Last year, to open up the space in our little house, we converted our dining area into a little nook for reading and conversations. Here is a glimpse of what this area looked like earlier. It was also the perfect time to make the art wall I had been dreaming of for all these years. We have quite a growing collection of art thanks to our artist and art-loving family and there isn’t enough room in our little house for all of it but now this art wall boasts some of our collection.

After months of planning, this wall randomly happened a night before Anya’s birthday party and so we used the art that was ready to be put up right away. The other pieces we wanted to add that were not framed, are still lying around, that’s how these things go. But well here’s a peek.


The Art, Clockwise from top most: (1) Islamabad at dusk by my mom, Shireen Najib1 (2) By a local artist from Rawalpindi, brought back from our recent trip (3) A gift from my brother-in-law, my husband’s brother, bought for us on one of his trips to Europe(4) Bougainvilleas by my mom, Shireen Najib. This painting was one of my favorites and used to hang in my room before I got married. (5) A pen and ink landscape, made by my husband (6) A sketch by my sister-in-law, Shafaq-us-Sahar, who’s art hangs in Anya’s room too. (7) Mixed media art by Ayesha Masood, my husband’s niece, brought back on our last Pakistan trip. She was busy giving out stuff in her room as she packed to move to Canada for school and was sweet enough to offer us this (8) An oil pastels art from my husband’s sketch book (9) A watercolor painting from one of our airforce bases we lived at, by my mother, Shireen Najib (Frames from IKEA and other randomly found ones, and one custom framed at Michaels.)


Orange pillow from Land of Nod. Ampersand pillow from Crate and Barrel,Truck art pillow cover from Society6. Cream printed pillow cover made from a fabric my mom’s best friend from Bangladesh had given to her decades ago. DIY pillow cover shared earlier here.

Crochet Throw made by my mom. Caricature of our family from our trip to Universal Studios. End table from Target’s Threshold line, Curtains from Ikea. Futon from Overstock.


I had been wanting to share this room after we replace the light fixture but that was just taking too long to happen, so well. I did have the urge to Photoshop it out, in these pictures above, but for the sake of being real, here is our pretty art wall, with the not so pretty light fixture :)


Thanks for reading, lots of love.

1 My mom sells her art too incase you were interested in buying something from her. Here’s a link to her Facebook page.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

His Birthday!

Even though my husband would rather we forget his birthday, but since that’s not going to help us not get older, we erm just cant do that :). In fact with Anya growing up, it is so much fun getting her excited for such occasions, involving her in the planning and the gift buying, its probably one of my favorite things about being a mom. Here are glimpses from his birthday from a couple weeks ago.


Anya chose the shiniest card, full of cupcakes, for her daddy on our visit to the party store almost a month ago. She went on to draw balloons inside and as she sat on the table in our kitchen, she asked me, ‘Batao baba kaise likhte hain’ How do you write baba(daddy)? I spelled it out to her and turned to find her writing it ON TOP of the card. Haha


We did our birthday morning routine of surprising him with balloons and a gift before he left for work as we played some funny birthday songs on YouTube in the kitchen. Here is our playlist incase you’d like to use it ;) 


Anya had chosen chocolate for our cake flavor but as we set out to make our cake was totally disappointed that we weren’t making a pink cake for daddy! (Also letting her eat the cake batter, reminded me so much of our childhood. My sisters used to love our ‘kacha cake’ uncooked cake, and my mom used to keep the bowls for us to lick every time she baked a cake.)


And here is what our cake looked like, decorated with some macaroons thanks to Trader Joes. I have to admit it did look better than it tasted :\ but hopefully we’ll forget that because of these pictures as the years go by? I hope so!

Here is how we celebrated last year.

Thanks for reading and lots of love.