The Mom Next Door Series: Sania M

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I am happy to introduce you to Mom Sania; someone with whom I've become web friends over the past two years thanks to our common interests in blogging, raising energetic boys, and our dedication to kindness as a family goal. So much of her interview answers remind me of myself and I am grateful to have her voice included in the series.

Just last Wednesday, Sania gave birth to her second son (she answered my interview questions a few weeks prior).  Here in this interview,  she shares her life with her first boy, Ali, who fills her days with more superheroes, mess, and laughter than she ever imagined.  A New Jersey native transplanted to Florida, she is learning to make her family at home among DisneyWorld and beaches while still maintaining the traditions and connections to her family up north.

Please grab a cup of coffee and learn more about Sania's life that just now is taking another inescapable but wonderful change with the addition of her newborn; Adam.  I know if interviewed today, Sania's answers would vary and hold new perspective - but that's the story of all moms, isn't it? Constantly evolving and changing. (Please also send her a little well wish out into the universe for patience and energy for those first few weeks of a new baby)!

Who are you?  Sania,  27 years old Pakistani-Muslim mom from Tampa, Florida (moved down south 9 months ago, originally a Jersey Girl born and raised!)  I blog at 

Who is in your family?  My husband Wajih and 3 year old son Ali. We are also looking forward to the arrival of Ali's little brother coming up in the middle of June!

Family Disneyworld visits since moving to FL
What do you do for work?  Up until we moved to Florida in September 2013, I was a full time working mom as a CPA accountant. So my journey through SAHMhood is relatively new and mostly all of it has been while I was pregnant! Needless to say, its been amazing and also exhausting at times!
first big international vacation with a toddler!  Istanbul, Turkey
What has become (at least for now) you're parenting mantra or guiding principle? Listen to all the advice people dish out, read all the books you need to read to feel more confident. But in the end do what works best for you/your child and what works best will evolve over time. The only constant with kids is change, learn to accept this! You might finally have a great bed time routine down and then out of left field suddenly he starts waking up at night for no reason (could be teething, viral infection, nightmares, boredom, really at 4am does it matter WHY he's up). Be ready that this will be rough, but you will get through it; you both will. 

I feel like after 3.5 years of parenting my mantra has become that children work best on a routine, but the routine needs to be flexible. So go easy on yourself, you might make mistakes along the way but the best part is your kids are usually oblivious to them. Essentially, all children really want or need is your love and attention. So what if you make mistakes at first or if things don't go as planned all the time. They will eventually, and most importantly, he may not show it now, but I know he will grow up and cherish these memories we've made. 

Halloween festival in FL
What would your pre-mom self be surprised to know about motherhood?  There was so much lack of reality that my pre-mom self had about motherhood. I loved kids, I thought I wanted 4 maybe 5! I thought the moms who complained about how 'hard' everything is were lazy or unprepared. I had this naive impression that I would fall in love with motherhood immediately. And I totally assumed that hyper kids were a result of bad mothering, 'Puh, my kids would be way more disciplined!' 

In reality, I had a pretty tough time recovering from an unexpected C section and then my son was an awful sleeper for the first 2 years! I breastfed for 6 months before I went back to work and I struggled a lot with milk supply or wondering if he's getting enough. My first experience with a newborn was like a slap in the face. While I did love him, there was a lot of experiences I had never imagined and loving motherhood came to me gradually over time which is not how I pictured it happening. Being a perfectionist, a list maker and an organization freak, for me motherhood really was one of the toughest tasks I took on, mostly because at first I was full of self doubt, trying too hard to do everything perfectly and to raise a perfect kid. 

I think pre-mom Me would be surprised to learn that motherhood is a lot about accepting yourself, improving yourself, and loving yourself so that you can be the best mother possible for your child. As he grows older I still struggle, now more with the type of morals and values I want to instill, but I realize that the best way to teach him anything is leading by example. Our actions as parents speak volumes compared to our words. 

Mother's day breakfast in bed tradition
What would your pre-mom self be proud to know about you in motherhood? I was able to learn a lot about 'boy things' like superheros (DC Comics is totally different from Marvel). And I (mostly) got over my fear of dogs and lizards because of my animal obsessed child. I passed along some of my clean freak qualities to my child like running for a towel every time there is a spill, or having all his toys line up perfectly in height order. 

Also, it took some time but I was able to channel my organizational skills to successfully set up a weekly routine where we're able to do all the activities I had imagined doing with my kids. Things like story time and arts/crafts at the library, swimming classes, trips to every single park and playground in our area, ABC flashcards, counting games and bath time painting occupy most of our days. These activities may be Mom energy draining too but worth it when I see him learning, exploring and growing. (They also make me feel better about the days he watches 3,489,320 hours of cartoons!)

The many faces of Ali
What keeps you up at night? I'm 38 weeks pregnant, what doesn't keep me up at night? I've come to terms with the fact that sleep and I will not be buddies for a few years.

What big projects, worries, or events have you busy right now? Besides the fact that I have a baby due in three weeks and have yet to get the crib ready, Ramadan is coming up at the end of June. It's the month for Muslims where we fast from dawn til dusk for 30 days. It's like an intense detox of the body/spirit, and personally, I love it. This year since I will be recovering from childbirth I won't be fasting (women do not fast while menstruating or breastfeeding if it's putting a strain on them) and I'm kind of bummed out about missing the experience. 

Also, every year my husband and I like to prepare baskets full of dates (it's tradition to break your fast with a date as it's packed with vitamins) to gift to all our family and friends. This year we have no family nearby but I still want to get the baskets done for the few friends we've made. I also want to do some charity projects where Ali can get involved too. Just hoping I'll find the time for it all!

last family trip before baby#2 arrives!  NYC
How do you unwind or re-charge? Blog reading, putting items in my online shopping cart to feel the rush of impulse shopping but then never checking out, warm tea and a good book.

What do you feel like you wish you were better at being a mom? Worrying less. I think its an innate mom thing, because I haven't met a mother yet who hasn't shown concern about something her kid is doing/not doing. We measure our children against other kids or ourselves against other moms. I try to focus on channeling the worrying toward positive improvement instead of letting it spiral into 'Mom Guilt'.

face painting and balloon figures at the local mall
Who are the moms you look up to? My own mom. She raised 5 kids while working full time. My grandparents lived with us so they helped watch us, but she did all the cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, waking up for night feeding and somehow didn't lose her sanity. I'm constantly searching for her level of patience and superpowers (my sisters and I refer to her as a Spartan Warrior, because none of us can figure out how she does it). 

Sania and her Mom
The main thing I always admire about my mom is how she does not let life get her overwhelmed. She is constantly making herself available to others no matter how hectic her own schedule is. She would always tell us not to hesitate when given the opportunity to help someone no matter how big or small the gesture, that the blessings in opening your heart and doors to someone else are worth all the effort. She strongly believes being a kind friend isn't confined to just those within your community or culture. I saw her pull up a chair and share tea with our Jewish neighbor or babysit for someone at work who was going through a rough time. 

Another trait I admire is how she made time for herself despite all the craziness at home (for many years we were 9 people living under one roof and she took care of us all!). She loves gardening, sewing and painting and with everything on her plate I am honestly baffled at how good she was about keeping up with her talents and hobbies! 

Sania's entire family
Also, other blogger moms definitely encourage me. Tabitha with her 12 months of kindness project has inspired me to implement it in our own family along with a (failed) attempt at Screen Free Week. I love being inspired by all moms around me, I feel like there are opportunities to improve yourself and learn from others everywhere - its just a matter of seeking them out! (Editors Note:  Thank you, Sania!  You inspire me as well, I am so glad the internet brought us together!)

What are the small joys of being a Mom that you treasure most right now? I really am so happy to have the opportunity as a SAHM to teach my son things he would've otherwise learned from someone else. Over the past month I've been working on teaching Ali new prayers in Arabic. Getting a kid who loves to run around to sit and recite words in a language neither of us speaks or understand isn't easy. Sometimes it takes bribing (so wrong I know, I like to call it 'negotiating') or turning it into a game/song. And nearly always when I ask him to recite in front of someone else he doesn't want to. Yesterday when he saw his dad and me praying he sat down without being asked to and recited the two prayers I taught him. It was a really proud moment for me because I could say I taught my son that myself. I know he would've learned them anyway once he goes to Sunday school or from anyone else and I would've still been proud, but it was something special that he and I worked on and I was so happy to see my efforts become reality! Its moments like these I hold close and remind myself of when I'm having a case of 'whyyy did I leave a well paying career to chase after this monster?!'

FL beach days
What do you miss most from Mom days already gone by? Honestly everything! I think as moms we get so future focused at times, anticipating when our little one will reach the next milestone, we sometimes forget to enjoy the now. I remember when he was a few months old he wanted to be held all the time and I was desperately trying to get him to sleep in his crib not my arms, but now I miss how I could cuddle him up close to smell that newborn scent hiding in those adorable neck rolls! Every moment is fleeting, even the ones that drive you nuts. I've learned the hard way to enjoy the crazy moments, because just like the sweet ones those too are short lived.

Sania, Wajih, and Ali snuggled up like most evenings

The Love Wedding

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My little sis, Kayla got married the last weekend in April and it was absolutely wonderful.   They got married in Pittsburgh, PA in the strip district.  She married Ryan Love which means the wedding was for Mr. & Mrs. Love.

We made our way to Pittsburgh on Friday afternoon and after a smooth rehearsal at the church, we all headed over to Bado's Pizza Grill & Ale house for a delicious rehearsal dinner.  Afterwards, the kids were anxious to get back to the hotel to get some swimming in before bed and then it was off to sleep before the big day!

The day was fantastic.  We had great weather, despite a forecast of possible rain.  My two kids were enlisted as the ring bearer and flower girl while Tasha and I acted as co maid & matron of honor.  The girls spent the morning getting glam'ed up while the amazing photographer:  Shell Bailey Photography and videographer:  Nathan Hamblin caught all the best moments from start to finish.  And the boys, well, they did what they do - sh*t, shower, and shave basically.  (Grey jumped on the hotel bed for approximately 4 hours straight).

Let me just preface this by saying that this post is photo heavy.  But because it needs to be.  Kayla and Ryan did an amazing job planning everything with beautiful and meaningful details.  So much of the ease of the day is credited to Kayla's amazing planning and the support and help of the day-of wedding planner, Shayne of Soiree by Souleret.

My beautiful sister.  -Shell Bailey Photography
The Bride and her maids in Etsy robes; a gift from the Bride.  -Shell Bailey Photography
Abba & Gemmi.  -Shell Bailey Photography
Booboo helping Aunt Uch get ready.

Gemmi in her cupcake style flower girl dress from Etsy.  -Shell Bailey Photography

My heart.  -Shell Bailey Photography

the Bride.  -Shell Bailey Photography

After the morning swim and all of the bed-jumping, by the time we were getting ready to head over to the church, our no-nap kids seemed a little cranky and whiny.  Grey bailed on his dress shoes and wore his sneakers instead.  And it was a long while before Gem refused to take off her Bubble Guppy jammies to wear her flower girl dress.  Brandon and I were feeling a little anxious about whether or not they'd make it down the aisle.

Shoe change and unbuttoning of the top button needed to make this kid happy.

on the busride to the church.  Cranky/Sleepy Gemmi Girl
But, in a miracle of miracles, both kids walked perfectly down the aisle while I choked down a lump in my throat to see my two impossibly grown babies walk the length of the church aisle with grace and proud composure.  

photo credit:  Taryn :)

My big boy.  -Shell Bailey Photography
My sweet girl.  -Shell Bailey Photography

The ceremony was beautiful and touching.  My three younger cousins sang a gorgeous rendition of Hail Mary in honor of our late grandmother and both of our kids fell asleep only a few minutes into mass; which meant they were quiet and well behaved through the whole thing!

Brandon and Kevin walked my Mom down the aisle. - Shell Bailey Photography

Dad & Kayla.  cryfest.  -Shell Bailey Photography

Mr. & Mrs. Charles Ryan Love.  -Shell Bailey Photography

Adams Family photo with two sleeping grandkids!  -Shell Bailey Photography
The Bridal party headed out to take pictures while Brandon and my inlaws (Gigi & Pappy) took the sleeping kids to walk around the Strip District before the reception at the Pittsburgh Opera House.

The wedding party.  -Shell Bailey Photography

SCF.  Sisters come first.  -Shell Bailey Photography

Studerbaby#3 in the photo with the Bride!  hehhe.  -Shell Bailey Photography

The newlyweds.  -Shell Bailey Photography
The reception began on time and after entrances, the first dance, and the cake cutting; Tasha and I sat looking at each other in nervous tension as we had two big hurdles yet to jump.  Our speech and our big secret surprise that included half of the guests at the wedding!

"You are the best thing" sung by the talented bridesmaid; Stacey Resavage.
Cutting the cake.  -Shell Bailey Photography
Tash and I made our speech which included a bit about Kayla & Ryan's shared love of running.  They have trained and ran together in multiple 5Ks, a Tough Mudder, and the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.  In our speech, we talked about how Kayla once mentioned that to encourage her and Ryan to train on a day they hadn't felt like it - she reminded him how much easier it was to run on the day of the race when all the spectators were out there cheering for them.  And just like it's easier when people are watching and cheering during a race, we reminded them that everyone there at the wedding were those people - the cheerleaders encouraging and supporting them through the marathon of marriage.  At that, we had folks wave their napkins, cheer, and hold up banners.  It was seriously awesome and we want to thank everyone who helped make our speech finish strong.  

After our speech, we wildly transitioned into the big, super secret surprise:  a flash mob!  Tasha choreographed the whole thing to Bruno Mars "Treasure," and even created a step-by-step dance video that we sent to guests and family members weeks before the wedding.  The bridesmaid started first which wasn't all that surprising for the newlyweds as we're a bunch of dancing weirdos anyway (hah!) but by the second verse, the groomsman got up too.  And then loads of guests made their way onto the dance floor to join us.  It was awesome and Kayla & Ryan were so surprised and cracking up.  We are so grateful that we had people happy to join us in the big surprise - thank you!!

Flash Mob!  -Shell Bailey Photography

The rest of the reception went off beautifully.  So much dancing, laughing, and great times.  The kids really loved dancing and showing up their moves for everyone.  It was such a wonderful day for my little sis and her new husband.  

Team Studer

In case you need a little more loveliness from the Love wedding, check out some pinspiration from her wedding here, or watch their wedding trailer:

Love Wedding from Nathan Hamblin on Vimeo.

Congratulations to my little sis and brother in law, Ryan.  What a wonderful day for such a wonderful couple.  We love you guys so much.

The Mom Next Door Series: Shellie M

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I am happy to introduce you to Mom Shellie; one half of the musical couple; We Are the Monks.  She's still somewhat new to the Mom scene; she has a 5 1/2 month old son, Oliver - which makes her perspective fresh and wonderful.  Shellie's voice is positive, sweet, and full of gratitude.  As a traveling Mom, she has learned quick that sometimes, especially on the road, you just have to roll with it; which I greatly admire and am still trying to learn how to do four years later.

Please grab a cup of coffee and take a minute to let Shellie's cheerful outlook and Oliver's sweet smile bring some sunlight to your morning.


Who are you?  My name is Shellie Monk and I am 34 years young.  I'm originally from Texas but now live in Nashville, TN with my little fam.  I blog at

Who is in your family? I live in a cozy (i.e. tiny) one bedroom apartment with my husband Trent and our 5 1/2 month old, Oliver.  No pets yet =)  

What do you do for work? My husband and I travel full time as musicians:  We Are The Monks, hence the move to Nashville and we travel with our little guy.  We hit the road when he was 7 weeks old and he's been to 14 states so far!  We are all together 24/7.  When we're not on the road, we work from home, so we're a little bit of both…paycheck and SAHPs (stay at home parents).

What would your pre-mom self be surprised to know about motherhood?  My pre-mom self would be surprised to know that I've driven with our boy a total of only 3 times by myself and 2 of those times were less than 5 miles.  What can I say?  My husband's the driver.  

What would your pre-mom self be proud to know about you in motherhood? I'm not going to say that my pre-mom self was selfish but she would be proud to know just how selfless I've become and how easily it happened.

What has become (at least for now) your parenting mantra or guiding principle? I try to not flood my brain with lots of Google searches and tips and advice on mothering.  I do some, but I've found that trusting my gut and my heart leaves us all happier.

What big projects, worries, or events have you busy right now? My husband and I recently released our debut record and we are touring in support of it.  The booking process is non-stop and sometimes there's dry spells.  Dry spells are scary and that leads to worry.  But we trust the Lord has us right where we're supposed to be.

How do you unwind or re-charge? I like to dabble in crafts when I have time and painting my nails.  Listening to music, reading, a glass of wine, getting caught up on our favorite shows (binge watching our favorite shows!).  One day we will have a fancy bathtub and then that will happen.  And my husband gives great back rubs! =)

Which chore is your least favorite? Other than toilets and kitchen sinks (Oh, and putting laundry away.  Hate it.), booking our shows is not my favorite.  It's not my husband's either but we have to do it in order to eat!  And working from home is proving to be quite challenging with a little one, but we knew that going in. 

What do you feel like you wish you were better at being a mom?  Even though Oliver isn't eating "real" food right now, I wish I was a better cook.  His daddy is the cook and that's great!  I just wish my children will grow up with a mommy whose a good cook.  Who knows, maybe it can still happen. 

What do you feel like you are really good at as a mom? I feel like I am really good at being flexible on the road.  Sometimes, we just have to roll with it and I hope we are teaching our son that as well.

Who are the moms you look up to?  My mom and my two older sisters.

What are the small joys of being a Mom that you treasure most right now?  I absolutely love rocking my boy.  I know I probably shouldn't and he should go to sleep by himself and one day we'll have to train him in that, and blah, blah, blah...but right now I adore it.  And his laugh can heal, I swear.