Monday, March 30, 2015

Around Islamabad: SOS Village



On our last trip, we finally made a visit to SOS Children’s Village in Islamabad. Many of the children here are those that were left with no home and no family after the devastating earthquake in 2005. The children attend school on the premises as well as attend after-school educational and recreational activities. It was such a beautiful and humbling experience for all of us, to meet all those sweet children and just spend some time getting to know them over a game of passing the parcel and some quick snacks. I really wanted Anya to experience this and she loved going around with me asking the children their names and just making chit chat with them.

Here are some pictures my sister Waliya and I took of the beautiful children and just our experience there. Take a look.













SOS Children's Villages of Pakistan is a private social welfare organization affiliated with the world's largest orphan and abandoned children charity SOS Kinderdorf International. SOS Pakistan is one of a large family of SOS Children Villages active in 132 counteries and territories worldwide. It was established in 1975, with the first village in Lahore established through the support of SOS Kinderdorf International. Since then , they have been on their own. Outside Europe, SOS Pakistan is the only SOS that is able to finance itself from donations generated within the country. The special feature of SOS Children's Villages is that they are not traditional orphanages. They provide children with a home and family. Every effort is made to enrich children with strong moral values, a good education and skills that will enable them to become productive citizens.


The SOS Children’s Village in Islamabad is still under construction and needs all the help it can get. And here are some ways we can contribute. If you are in Islamabad, you can also call them for volunteer opportunities.




While we were there we also decided to include them in our joy and have a little birthday party to celebrate Anya turning 4, with cake, goodie bags, snacks, birthday songs and a silly game of passing-the-parcel with the sweet kids. It made for one truly memorable birthday celebration, Alhamdullilah.

Thanks for reading. Lots of love.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Handmade Stuffies Craft for Anya’s Birthday Playdate


Last week, we had a little Birthday Playdate to celebrate Anya turning 4 with her closest friends and their mommies (More on that later). For a kids activity for the party I decided to have them do a little painting project they could take home with them. I had been wanting to try this via A Beautiful Mess, for the longest time ever and finally did it for this little celebration.




SUPPLIES Some Cotton Fabric (You could even use old T Shirts I’m guessing but I bought mine at Joann), Fabric Marker or Pen (I got this one), Polyester Filling (I already had this one sold at Joann and Michaels). Fabric or Acrylic Paints.

PROCESS I drew the illustrations freehand, some inspired by Elsie and some inspired by images I found online. I ended up hand-stitching them, I KNOW, even though I own a sewing machine because well :p It worked okay though because I didn’t have to make too many (Incase you’d like to know I used the Overcast Stitch to make it a little more secure).

(Once the kids are done, it also helps to draw over the black lines once the stuffies have dried to redefine them as they might have painted all over them!) 




Pictures above from the party by my talented photographer friend Sumera. 

I spread a plastic table cloth on the floor in the living room and the kids looked so adorable working on their little painting projects. We did the project at the start as kids arrived so by the time they had to leave, the stuffies were mostly dry and they were able to take them home in their goody bags :)

Here is a glimpse into what Anya’s butterfly looked like!


More from her party to follow:)

Thanks for reading. Lots of love.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Conversations with Anya

A bilingual household means a bilingual kid! I'll try to translate most of the conversations but sometimes its not that easy. Hope you’ll excuse that :)


After we got back from Pakistan and after trying to explain to her where we speak in English and where we speak in Urdu, my poor girl got too confused and would keep asking me: 

Kya mein Urdu bol rahi hoon ya English? (Am I talking in Urdu or English?)

First day to school after we got back from Pakistan, I was walking her to school and explaining to her that her friends understand English so she should talk to them in English. As she said something, I asked her to try to repeat it in English.

Anya: Lekin ap ko to english nahi aati na. (But you don’t know English)

Me: !!


Me scolding Anya for standing on her piano: We won't get you a new one if it breaks.

Anya, walking away to her room and singing to herself: My dad gives me everything..

Me: ?!

Bilal and I discussing something and day-dreaming different career paths that we could take. As we talked about what we should become,  Anya, panicking: But phir mere baba mama kaun hoenge?! (But then who will be my baba and mama?)

At bedtime one night.

Anya: Walu keh pass jana hai mama. Pakistan jana hai. (I want to go to Walu, Mama. I want to go to Pakistan.)

Anya: I miss everyone that was in Pakistan. I was having fun in both countries.

Leaving me, heartbroken! 

After bedtime another night, after I had left her room.

Anya, from her room: Mama jab mujhe koi problem hogii to mei apko batayungi (Mama when I have a problem I will tell you)

Me: Okay

Anya: Lets pretend mujhe vomitting aarahi hai.(Let’s pretend I’m about to vomit)

Me: !! 
Before bedtime when she doesn’t want to go to her room, Anya to Bilal: But, I want to live with you!

My mom has always wanted Anya to call her something other than Nani, but somehow the word has stuck. I guess Anya remembered this because, one day she says:

Mama nani ne kaha tha keh meine apna name koi aur rakhna hai, nani nahi rakhna.Mama, nani said she wants me to call her something else, not nani)

Me: Yes she did say that.

Anya: Ap unhein call karo aur unko kaho keh aisa karte hain hum ap ka naam rakh dete hain cuckoo bird. (Let’s do this, call her and tell her that we’re going to call you cuckoo bird from now on)

Anya at bedtime: Mama! I don’t like you if you're mad and angry!

During a morning of crafting, Anya: Mama aisa karte hain sab logon keh liye crowns bana lete hain. Humans keh liye bhi aur toys keh liye bhi. (Mama let’s make crowns for everyone, for humans and for toys)

So Anya keeps insisting that Waliya, our youngest sister, is older than Nadiya, our middle sister, and as she was skype-ing with both of them one day, Anya: Dekho walu ka sar kitna bara hai.(Look how big Walu’s head is)

And another time as Nadiya was pretending to lecture Waliya on something, Anya to Nadiya: Choto bachon koi sikhaate hain cheezain!! (Do little kids ever teach others things!!)

At bedtime another time: Mama I'm so so untired.
If you live in the US you have probably seen the advertisement for this hair removal gadget, Anya gets so intrigued by it every time she sees it asking questions which I try to dodge around. Yesterday after I brought the mail in, she found the advertisement for it and brought it to Bilal telling him,
Anya: Baba you need this if you don’t want your skin.
Bilal: LOL
Thanks for reading. Lots of love:)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Of hugs on Skype and this long distant love


This morning as we were Skype-ing with Waliya, my sister, Anya suddenly grabbed the laptop and ‘hugged’ her Walu, and as she did it she had the biggest smile on her face! It left me and my sister both teary eyed and quiet for a second. I thought of this road we have ended up upon, a lifetime of living so far away from the ones we grew up around.

On our last visit to Pakistan, even though she was having the most fun with everyone all day every day, at night when I would lie down with her she would tell me how much she missed her home, her room and her baba and that she needed to go back. And once we got back home, she was so excited. As I was drowning in nostalgia and missing my family, Anya was all happy! And yet now though, almost a month later, at random times she will tell me that she had so much fun with her khalas, or that she misses her nani, or wants to go her phupo’s or apa’s1 house, and sometimes with such a sad tinge to her voice that my heart aches, knowing specially that that cannot happen in the near future.

It broke my heart a little as I tried to explain the bittersweet reality of our life and how it feels like our heart is always being pulled in two directions. When we’re in Pakistan we keep thinking of our home and our life as a family, but when we’re here back home, it aches so much many times for simple every day moments with loved ones. For a 4 year old, the concept is probably hard to grasp but it seems she’s already begun to understand this reality of our life.

Some days each of us living the expat life wake up thinking of our families and questioning our choices. It does become a part of our life, of who we are. And we learn to make the most of whatever time we get with our loved ones. I always tell myself, I would rather have them happy and healthy even if I don’t get to see them for months or even years at a time. Hopefully Anya will grow up to realize that sometimes near at heart is what matters more in the end.


So thankful that we have been able to visit every year since she was born Alhamdullilah2 and that she already has so many memories of our families.

If you live away from family, how do you deal with it? Would love to know.

Thanks for reading. Lots of love.


Photos from our visit to Pakistan in Winters of ‘13-‘14

Also if you missed it before: Sharing ideas for keeping your baby/toddler connected to your families when you live away from them and how to celebrate big days the long distance way.


1. Urdu is a beautiful language in the sense that it has specific words for each relation on the mom’s side and the dad’s side. Khala is for mom’s sister, Nani is for maternal grandmother, Phupo is for dad’s sister, Apa is for elder sister which Anya calls her cousins.

2 Alhamdullilah is an Arabic word that is commonly used by Muslims and means thanks be to God.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The day she turned 4

Can you imagine Anya just turned 4? It’s crazy really, how fast time seems to go by once you have a kid! Well, if you have been reading my blog for a while you must know that I have a thing for silly birthday morning surprises! ;)! So keeping up the tradition, after she went to bed the night before, I sneaked into her room and added some decorations to make it a little festive; twinkly lights, birthday banner, balloons and all. We got Anya a little bicycle as a surprise gift and left it in her room to find in the morning before we got to bed reminiscing of the night she was born.1


Anya walked out the next morning drowsy eyed and wearing a birthday hat I had put out in her room. Haha. I guess my girl is getting the hang of my need for silly birthday traditions!  We were going to be travelling most of the day for our road trip to the bay area. But she got to share some cupcakes with her friends at school and wear the birthday hat while they made her feel special before we left.


The best part of the day was probably that evening, when we stopped over at a motel in Oregon for the night. I had kept a mini chocolate cake in our icebox for a surprise birthday party of our own to end the day, and so before she entered the room, Bilal and I turned out the lights in the motel room, lighted the candles on the cake and sang HAPPY BIRTHDAY as she walked in. Her face absolutely lit up and she was so excited, making us almost teary as we watched her joy. ‘Hain, mera birthday idhar kaise agaya’ How did my birthday (party) come here and ‘I LOVE MY BIRTHDAY’, she told us.


We might forget the other things that made up the day, but that look on her face in the candlelight, I think both of us will remember for a long time. It made us realize what little things make up joy for kids. She didn’t care that we had been driving all day on her big day, that we were cutting a silly little sloppy cake, in a motel room we were disappointed with. To her, this silly little celebration of ours was special. Most of us adults could learn a thing or two from these little people in our life. Here’s to another year of growth, for her and us mashaAllah :)


Thanks so much for following along through this journey of ours. Do remember our girl in your prayers!

Thanks for reading and lots of love.

And if you’d like to read, stories of the day she turned 2 and the day she turned 3.


1 Do you remember this birthday tradition from Gilmore Girls? Absolutely love it. When Anya grows up, I think I will start doing it too. She was born at 12:30 am which makes for a perfect time to wake her up for a ‘The day you were born story’. Sigh;)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

MOM STORIES: Kanwal Anjum



Kanwal Anjum / Karachi, Pakistan


I am a work-from-home mom. Being a photo-graphic designer gives me the leverage to work from home. I am a creative director at an advertising agency. So basically, I go for meetings but work from home.


We are an immediate family of four. And a close knit family of 7. I have two daughters. Zoey will be six next month inshaaAllah and Noor is 21 months old.


My favorite part about being a mom is that I am constantly learning & evolving. First, I was learning how to love without spoiling, then I was learning how to divide the attention between two. Then I learnt how to not let one feel ignored while the other is being loved. I wish motherhood had a manual to follow! But Alhumdulillah its been a wonderfully challenging journey so far.

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When I was growing up, I had promised myself I would never be a mom like my mom. Little did I know I would be chewing on my own words. And chewing hard. I want all that my parents taught me to be passed on to my kids. The courage that they encouraged to believe in my dreams, the faith they instilled in me to choose the right path, the scoldings that molded my personality, the confidence to walk the path I chose, the passion that ignites fire. I want to pour it all out for my kids to follow.


Between being a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister and a friend, sometimes I forget about myself. And find it a struggle to take time out. But I believe time outs are important. My favorite me time activity would be writing and doing photography. Somehow both these activates always make me end up either writing about my kids. Or photographing them. Basically, I don’t have a life! Oh, and dreaming, day dreaming!



Faith, is a very important tool for me. If it was not for faith, I can easily vouch that I wouldn’t be here writing this. Faith has helped me move on in life and make decisions that would not have been possible otherwise. I think, what has also played an important role in our parenting is the fact that my husband has stronger faith than me. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that we are fanatics, but the belief system has to be a very very strong one. One needs to have something to believe in. Only then you can have hope.


Karachi is home. I love the fact that my kids are being brought up in the same city where I was. Showing them places where we grew up and sharing the smells that transport me back into time, is a pleasure. However, these are hard times for us, in Pakistan. Security is a constant threat. Explaining to them why there is a policeman in the school premises is not so easy. Neither is telling them why a certain student has 6 guards in his car. But we learn to live.


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I dream for one girl to be a doctor and the other to be a pilot so almost all our old age issues are taken care off! Haha. But honestly, I just dream for them to be good people. We are here to guide them and direct them, but they need to choose their own paths not forgetting the values that they will hopefully grow up with..


Believe in yourself. And enjoy motherhood. These kids grow up way too quickly.

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Thank you so much Kanwal for sharing a piece of your life with us. I have enjoyed reading your blog for a few years now and love your courage,honesty and specially your sense of humor. So glad to have you here today.

You can visit her website here and don’t forget to check out her blog too.

For previous posts in this series go here.

Thanks for reading and lots of love.