Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Autumn at Yale

Autumn's my favorite time of the year. Here in New England, the leaves began to turn color in October - lime green, bright yellow, rich gold, auburn, crimson, burnt orange, rust and every shade in between these... Subhan Allah, it's so beautiful!

From green at the bottom to gold on top

Fall medley

My parents and sister came to visit for Eid while Mr. F went to Pakistan for three weeks. It was a peaceful, relaxing time towards the end but I couldn't really spend much time with Dad and sis as they were here for only a week because I was in the middle of midterms. I spent my 27th birthday in Harvard Square and met up with some Princeton peeps after a really long time. We had pancakes and waffles at IHOP... yumm!

Baby M and Nano bonded over the time she was here... Mashalah. The grandparent-grandchild relationship is so unique... you get to be a doting parent without having to deal with the meltdowns and tantrums :-P.

Mr. F got me flowers for my birthday and Mum got me some too so I put them together... Since this photograph, the other lilies have bloomed too!

Birthday flowers from Hubby and Mummy

Friday, September 13, 2013

Long Overdue Update - Hello America!

So, a lot has happened between today and my last post. It's breezy outside and I'm munching on honeymaid graham crackers dipped in creamy peanut butter as I type this. Mr. F, Baby M and I moved to New Haven, Connecticut at the end of July. I started a Masters program, Mr. F became a stay at home dad and Baby M continues to be our source of entertainment and joy...

It wasn't easy wrapping up our house and leaving our relatively comfortable, settled life in Karachi but I guess iss mein Allah ki koi behtari thi (God had something better for us). We spent the last month getting settled into our new place. We're back to IKEA for our household furnishing needs (*sigh* I miss my lovely, beautifully carved sheeshan furniture) and I'm wearing my clothes from my undergrad days at Princeton (luckily I still fit into them!). Khaadi kurtas, chooridars and dainty sandals and chappals have been replaced with t-shirts, jeans and sneakers. It's also taken a while to get used to the idea of becoming a student again, with no source of income except for my savings :-S. Princeton, you spoiled me with your love and care and overdose of study breaks with samosas, ice cream, brownies and pizza... I'm cooking full-time now although Mr. F chips in quite a bit and he is usually the more creative cook.

Baby M has started day care 2 days a week when I'v scheduled most of my classes. It used to cost us Rs. 8,000 per month at my old office (full-time, 5 days a week). Here, it costs Rs. 80,000 per month for 2 days a week... so we're paying Rs. 10,000/day for child care... Shabana, I miss thee! And obviously no one can replace the genuine love and affection of the grandparents so Ammi dear, I miss you too!

The move has probably wrought the greatest change in Mr. F. From the snobby, corporate executive who sneered at the very thought of getting his own water, he's become a very hands-on daddy (yes to diaper-changing)/household help (honey, let me do the dishes).


Monday, July 8, 2013

13 Months

So, some may remember that when I returned to Pakistan in July 2009, I was planning to go to Imperial College, UK for a Masters degree. Life happened, my visa got delayed, I started a new job, met Mr. F, got married and had a baby...

My priorities changed completely... all of a sudden, degrees and career aspirations took a backseat. I continued with work because I enjoyed the daily adult interaction, I enjoyed being financially independent and I was lucky to have family nearby in case of emergencies. I learned to appreciate the routine and predictability of the daily grind after the upheavals of pregnancy and new mommy-hood. When I switched to a part-time role, I used the free time to enjoy my baby... take him to the park, revel in his joy and excitement about everything from a tissue box to a set of teaspoons.

The first time I sat him on one of those automatic rides (the kind where you put in a coin and it starts to move with music), Baby M bawled his eyes out... lol. These days, he's learning to fetch and carry and follow commands, rather like a puppy =)

Potty training has been quite a challenge. It's hit or miss most mornings but the good part he knows what the potty's for :-p. Mashalah, he's been generally good about eating. He loves fruit and has relishes everything from apricots, peaches, guavas and grapes to mangoes, plums and cherries...  

Big changes expected in the coming weeks. I'm rather stressed, harried but hoping things work out for the best Inshalah.

Oh and Ramzan Mubarak!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Baby M turns One!

Mashalah, he's gone from being a bundle wrapped in blue with just his little face peeking out to an active and friendly chubby-cheeked boy running around in shorts and a t-shirt.

Baby M took his first steps a couple of weeks before his first birthday. In the beginning, he took tentative steps holding on to my hand or pieces of furniture and in a few days he was running everywhere with lots of trips, bumps and falls. I've started keeping an ice-pack in the freezer ready for his next "accident" :-S

We celebrated his first birthday in Harvard Square with breakfast at IHOP (strawberry waffles!) and had a mini celebration in New Haven the following day when Mr. F's friend Essa Uncle took us to an Italian diner for dinner. Baby M was probably the youngest in the restaurant but he was on his best behavior and had all the waitresses cooing over him. We ordered a brownie with whipped cream and put a candle on it and everyone sang happy birthday :)

Birthday party number 2 was on 26th May in Karachi. We invited Baby M's grandparents and great grandparents and all our friends with young children. I ended up doing a Winnie the Pooh themed party even though I'd had my heart set on Lion King but I couldn't find Lion King-themed decorations and it was too short a notice to place custom orders... so Pooh it was. We had lots of balloons, a jumping castle and Winnie the Pooh themed goody bags (hand-made by moi!). I did the goody bags in two batches: one batch for kids aged 0 to 2 (squeeze toys, board books and soft candy) and another for kids aged 3 to 6 (magic painting book with paintbrushes and mini storybooks and playdoh). Sadly, I was so busy greeting and entertaining our guests that I forgot to take many pictures. My sister took a few snaps but they were rather blurred. Anyway, we only had time for one game (passing the pillow) because most people showed up right around 7pm even though the original invitation was for 5:30 pm :-P. Baby M spent most of the party dancing to the music by himself even though we tried to make him play with the other kids but I think he enjoys his own company too which is good... We cut the Pooh cake at 7:10, people ate and then called it a day. He got lots of presents the best one being an ELC magnetic car set with an elevator, bridge and race track... Mashalah, he loves it (as do I!)

Since most of his Daycare friends didn't show up to his party, we decided to cut another cake at the Daycare center. The aunties decorated the dining area with banners and hangings and I made a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I was rather short on time, so I just made a "1" with smarties :). I also got pizza and munchkins for the kids...

And finally, Baby M's first year was celebrated in Lahore this past weekend (15th June 2013) with the paternal side of the family. Thanks to the downpour the night before, we had to change the venue from the garden to an indoor hall at the last minute.. The party was themed Angry Birds and organized by Baby M's meticulous aunt. All the cousins had a blast and the girls looked very pretty in their princessy outfits :). The cake was Angry Birds (don't have a picture yet) and again Baby M got lots of pwesents... A big thank you to Aunty T for organizing the party!

And so, on to the toddler years... Please pray for Baby M's good health and safety. Ameen.

Friday, May 31, 2013


Bright and early on Thursday morning (9th May 2013), Mr. F, Baby M and I took a day trip to Princeton. Luckily, there were two of us to manage Baby M's stroller, otherwise, I would have been in deep soup... The NYC subway isn't really designed to accommodate people traveling with small children in pushchairs or wheelchairs (Europe is so much more kid-friendly that way!).

It was pouring when we left New York. As we passed each station on the NJ Transit, Newark Penn Station, Elizabeth, Hamilton Station, Metropark, New Brunswick, Princeton Junction, my heart did a little jump. I was praying really really hard that the weather would get better and God answered my prayer :). When we disembarked at Princeton Junction, the sun had came out, stormy grey rainclouds had been replaced by fluffy cotton balls against the clear blue sky and a slight breeze made it just perfect. We took the Dinky to Princeton and I was literally jumping with excitement when it finally arrived at Princeton. It was exactly the same as I'd left 5 years ago... I went to Forbes College first and took a picture under the famous Forbes tree, the leaves were a deep, summery green and memories came flooding back...

We then went to the Wa and I bought a BLT sandwich without the B for old times sake :). We had brunch at Panera Bread followed by chocolate sorbet at Bent Spoon. I bought a few gifts from the new U-Store and spent the rest of the day walking around and taking pictures. I also ran into Alison Cook, the Forbes College coordinator outside West College and she actually remembered my name!

I dipped Baby M's toes in the Woody Woo fountain and he enjoyed splashing around... Good times!

Waisay, I didn't actually feel that old or out of touch... I know if I wasn't a mommy, I could quite easily slip back into college mode, put on a baggy sweatshirt and happily go back to school :-P (but, Baby M, worry not, you multiply my "happy factor" by 110% and I feel so blessed to be your momzy...)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Birthday Trip to the USA

Baby M turned 1 on 13th May 2013! Mashalah... the year has flown by :)

On his actual birthday, we had a mini-celebration in Boston and New Haven. After a quick breakfast at IHOP in Harvard Square, we drove to Connecticut and the following evening (15th May), Essa Uncle and his wife Leila took us out to a restaurant in the suburbs of Fairfield. They ordered a brownie with whipped cream and caramel sauce topped with a candle and all the other restaurant patrons (mostly white-haired suburban couples out for dinner) came around to sing "Happy Birthday" to Baby M. A lady old enough to be my grandmother came and said, "Thank you for sharing your baby with us" and I felt a little twinge... People in the US value kids so much and in Pakistan we've got so many that they're just another statistic...

Baby M enjoyed every moment of our trip to the US... I think it was a good age to travel. He was walking (but not running, yet), he could watch and observe and walk up to people/things that interested him but couldn't throw tantrums (I want xyz... waaaaaahhhh!!!) and he slept during our long drives between states :)

I saw a lot of changing rooms during our trip and I also learned to change diapers on the passenger seat and bonnet of a car, on a single chair in a restaurant aided by Emma Aunty (God bless her!) and in the minuscule bathroom on the plane. We spent 5 days in Los Angeles and while we enjoyed our stay thanks to our lovely hosts, I think the city is highly over-rated! When we went to Hollywood, I was thinking, "this is it??!", a typical upper-class Pakistani wedding is way more glamorous :-P. Emma got me a cream puff filled with fresh vanilla cream from Beard Papa (we share our love for sweets) and we also went to the beach in Santa Monica where Mustafa built his first sand castle and got his diaper wet when his daddy submerged him in the water. Emma (a Chinese American Muslim convert is engaged to My F's friend and they're getting married in August Inshalah... wishing them happiness!).

We took a red-eye flight to NYC and it was pouring for two days straight. Mr. F went straight to sleep but I decided I'd rather do a little sight-seeing so I put Baby M in his stroller, covered him with the weathershield and walked to Central Park.

I was overcome with nostalgia... My first time in NYC was with Aparna, Sonya, Selena and Ery, four fresh-faced girls in our Princeton sweatshirts, exploring the big apple for the first time... We'd taken the NJ Transit from Princeton to New York Penn Station, we'd visited Ground 0, Chinatown and Macy's and had lunch at Central Park. We'd also bought I heart NYC shirts from a Pakistani hawker and I'd bargained in Urdu, Sonya had bargained for Chinese souvenirs in Chinatown, Aparna had got us discounts at an Indian store and Ery had managed to get us free bubble tea :).

And here I was, nine years later with a one-year old in a stroller :-).

I also visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art (for old times sake). The Met has a "suggested" ticket price so basically you can pay whatever you want :-P The museum was full of students and after a quick tour, I took a taxi to the shopping area to browse the Banana Republic, Gap and Zara stores. Baby M enjoyed walking up to the lower shelves and throwing down the neatly folded clothes on the floor :-P

By afternoon, I was exhausted and returned to the apartment to find Mr. F snoring away...  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Father's Struggling to "have it all"

According to a certain someone, I'm not the sweet, generous, accepting Gaia that I used to be... And I think he's mostly right. I've grown a backbone and I've started to take a stand and not meekly give in to whatever capricious whim I'm subjected to.

I do believe in "keeping the peace" and I'm (usually) more than willing to listen to the other person but yes, I am a lot more "aggressive" now :-P. I'm not 100% happy about it... I've grown up in a very civilized home, my parents hardly ever raised their voices when speaking to us or to one another and I rarely remember them fighting. I had an idyllic childhood filled with laughter, good food, lots of books and family that was always there for me and while I would love to provide Baby M with the same comfort and security that I had as a kid, the father's got to play his role too.

Sadly, the scene below is all too common:

"A senior television executive is reading a bedtime story to his eight-year-old daughter. It is 10pm and he has just returned home from work. His phone rings – a work call – and he answers it, leaving the story unfinished.

Perhaps, however, executives struggling with the issue should reflect on the old aphorism: “Work, no matter how stimulating and rewarding, will never love you back.”

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What's Gonna Work?

Teeaam work!

I'm addicted to this:

Can't post youtube videos because sadly, youtube is blocked in Pakistan :-P

11 Months

Although Baby M is a lot more independent now and only waking up a couple of times at night, I'm still perpetually exhausted :-(. I've accepted a part-time position at work (starting next month Inshalah) and I technically have a lot more time than I used to... I just don't get where the day goes!

Baby M wakes up at around 6:30/7:00 am and we usually play and cuddle for a little while. Then, I plop him on his potty and wait for him to do his business :-P (maybe I should put "potty-trainer" on my resume). Mashalah, he's growing up so fast, I wish I could capture each day and relive it over and over again... He's standing up on his own now and can walk holding on to furniture or my hand. He also makes a LOT of noise, specially when he's excited or frustrated. It's funny and I'm not usually that sentimental but I feel like I fall in love all over again when he smiles... and when I'm angry/sad/stressed, I just focus on my baby and my mood clears immediately. Alhamdulilah, I feel so blessed to have him in my life... 

Dear Baby M,

I pray for your health and happiness. As you grow up, I hope you develop strong faith and the ability to do the right thing. I pray that you will be compassionate, generous, trustworthy, respectful, intelligent and humble. I hope you will experience life to the fullest and enjoy each and every moment. And I hope you will continue to light up my life with your infectious joy.

Love you loads,


Thursday, March 21, 2013

We did it! we did it!

These days, our mornings begin with Dora the Explorer, Boots the monkey and Dora's cousin Diego as they go around the world helping people/animals in distress... I've learned about spectacle bears, river dolphins and rainbows and it takes me back 20 odd years when my brother and I would eagerly wait for Saturday mornings so we could watch Ninja Turtles, Manimal and Flash at our grandparents house.

Before satellite tv and cable came along, cartoons were one of the luxuries of toddler life. Thundercats, Pound Puppies and Denver the Last Dinosaur were much loved and eagerly awaited at 7:30 pm on weekdays on STN.

I guess Baby M is lucky to be able to watch a myriad of channels any time he wants... Nickelodeon, Disney, CBeebies etc. but he will miss out on the novelty/excitement about the little things that was so much a part of our childhood.... With all the options now available, it's no wonder that even one year olds are turning into jaded cynics :-O 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

On Croup and Baby Doctors

I hope your child never becomes seriously ill in Karachi because medical services here are pretty awful. My siblings and I were lucky growing up. Mom being a doctor used to treat us and for anything mildly serious, her network of med-school friends would make themselves available at a moment's notice.

Baby M had mild fever for almost a week. The doctor prescribed ponstan and tylenol and it went away but came back again after a couple of days. His cough worsened and one night, the poor kid couldn't sleep as he coughed, coughed and coughed until he almost choked. We'd taken him to the paediatrician earlier that evening but she put it down to allergies... Turns out it was croup!

The doctor prescribed clenil compositum (I didn't know it was a steroid until I googled it later). I continued giving him steam and in the end, the illness ran its course. After many sleepless nights, Baby M is much better now Mashalah.

Sometimes, I question my decision to return to work.. It's tough juggling work and baby. I know family will always come first but it's going to affect my appraisal and at the end of the day, I know I'm going to feel pretty awful when my colleagues are getting promoted and receiving bonuses and I'm not :s

Should I continue working knowing I'm not going to be able to put in late nights and weekends, knowing I'll have to take time off to take my baby to the doctor or stay home with him when he's unwell and still feel guilty at the end of the day for not spending enough time with him?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Love your children, cherish your children, kiss your children

Last week, my cousin's baby daughter passed away after a minor fall. Cousin K and I had plans for our children, we hoped they would grow up to become good friends just as Cousin K and I have always been close despite having grown up in two different continents. She's still got the letters that I used to write and post to Saudi Arabia (this is in the days before yahoo and hotmail) and I've got all of her hand-me-down toys.

Cousin K was always one of those happy, exuberant people... the life of every party; the kind of girl every guy wishes he could date. It's hard to accept that God would put someone through such a difficult test. Praying God gives her patience and brings back her laughter.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fatburger at Dolmen Mall

The burger chefs, waiters and cash counter staff kept chanting "Fatburgers skinny fries! fatburgers skinny fries!". I waited a good ten minutes for my burger to be delivered to my table.

It was a total letdown...

Dry bun, cold meat, store-bought pickle (even McDonalds has a more original pickle!) and too much shredded lettuce. I like my burgers juicy, cheese oozing out, bursting with flavor. I'm definitely not paying Rs. 390 for a Fatburger ever again!

Friday, January 11, 2013

In Sickness and in Health

Too bad Pakistanis don't have wedding vows :-P because a lot (not all) of desi men I know would dump their wives and children at the first sign of illness. Mothers are by nature compassionate and caring. They'll stay up 3 nights in a row watching over a sick child, giving medicine amid bouts of coughing and crying and being thrashed by little arms and legs. Dads are more likely to move to another room so they can sleep in peace :-P

Poor baby M was sick all of last week. He had congestion, a cough and a runny nose and he was wheezing. The doctor told me to nebulize him and put nasal drops in his nostrils thrice a day... Baby M could probably sense what was coming because each time I'd approach him with the dropper, he'd start bawling and trying to get away and I had to physically hold him down, hold his head still and put the drops in his nose... most of the liquid would dribble down his cheeks :-P. Mr. F would them show up as the calm, caring parent and soothe Baby M... poor Mommy :(

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Life's Simple Pleasures

can be as unassuming as a vanilla ice cream waffle cone on a cold wintry day. In fact, I'm beaming at random strangers in the elevator...

Life is good AH :)