What a day. What a month. What a year!

It’s only February of 2021 and it’s already been a doozy.

But, who can keep track at this point? In the latest crazy events, we got snow, sleet, ice and deep freeze temps across Texas that lasted for a few days. That, in and of itself was unusual as it occurred across ALL of TEXAS. It was very cold here on Monday, February 15 and while we were experiencing record breaking low temps across Texas approximately 60percent of us were without power. No electricity. No heat. A lot of our friends and family were without power the entire first day. We lost power in the evening around 5pm and were powerless for the following 39 hours. Around 7pm that first night, we also lost water. Not water pressure, but more like someone turned off the water for our entire block and much of the city at the same time. Yesterday morning, power was restored for 6 hours and then off again for 8.

So, here’s a few things we did and what we are continuing to do to try to weather this very strange time and storm. Please comment with somethings that you forgot or that you did that helped you weather this storm!

No water. No heat. No electricity. No problem.

  • Check and replace batteries. Charge everything while you can. Use your laptop or car to charge your cell phone. (Don’t run your vehicle inside your garage for risk of carbon monoxide poisoning)
  • Keep bottled water, beverages and snacks handy
  • Love coffee? Have coffee grounds set aside, if you don’t have a hand-grinder. Make French press coffee. It’s better anyway!
  • Have physical copies of your favorite inspirational books to read. My current faves: the Bible, Scripture and the Skeptic by Eric Huffman and Night Night, Little One by Stacey Donovan. When the internet is down, what will you consume?
  • Play family games that you create yourself!
    • We play a game where everyone thinks of 3-5 celebrities, historic figures or famous characters and writes them down on small pieces of paper
    • we split into two teams. Momma and Dad are team captains and we rotate Els on our teams
    • Each team gets one minute to try to get their teammates to guess as many celebrities as possible
    • Round 1: you can say anything (except for the name) and make any motions
    • Round 2: you can say one word and make any motions
    • Round 3: you can’t make any sounds. You can make any motions
    • Remember momma keeps score in her head and it’s always a tie
  • Finally, blankets and cuddles are required to keep warm and cozy

Hope you are all safe and able to get any damage repaired soon. We had one pipe burst in our garage and are working to have that repaired now, so we can take showers! Cleaning with baby wipes is just not acceptable for 3 days straight! Also, I won’t even begin to share about how bonded we are as a family, because of our new knowledge of everyone’s bathroom schedule and potty habits. The things you learn and go through when you don’t have running water!

Cuddles with baby Jimmie, 20 months old
Enjoying day one, before the electricity and water were no more

How To Make Yummy Goodness (macaroni, mixed veggies and ground beef in Alfredo sauce)

Using only 4 main ingredients, this is easily the favorite and simplest meal we created over this last year.

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • Chopped white onion
  • Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to preference
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • cooked pasta of choice (I used gluten free macaroni)
  • Cooked veggies (I use mixed frozen veggies)
  • Alfredo sauce

I am so excited to share this recipe with you all.

How to Make the easiest and best dinner for your family in 30 minutes or less Using ONLY 4 MAIN INGREDIENTS!

How I imagine You

El Momma, big Sis Trinity and baby Mary-Linda

It’s always been hard for me to imagine how my babies will look and who they will look like, when I am pregnant. It was the same when we were expecting our second daughter in the summer of 2017. I knew she would look like an El. But, would her eyes be hazel like mine and Bakri’s? Would her hair be curly like Maddux and Leeland? Would she have olive skin like Trinity and Leeland? Or would her eyes be blue and her hair be blonde like Maddux?

When she died at 18 weeks gestation, I held her tiny little body in my arms. I remember that day so vividly. I never ever wanted to let her go and yet, I knew that her little body would not keep. And, I could not hold her like this forever. As the days passed, I would imagine her. I would have day dreams of her in heaven. I could see her. I could touch her. She wasn’t a baby at all. In my mind she was a little girl. She was three.

She was the age she would be now, had she not had an undetected fetal maternal when I was 4.5 months pregnant with her. She would have a sweet nature, because, well the Els all have sweet natures as babies. 💗 She would have had a distinct way of speaking. They all do. Each one had their own special way. She is so loved. I wish I knew more of her. But, I know there is someday. And, we are one day closer to that day.

Mary-Linda’s expected due date in 2018

Family Favorite: Lebanese Cauliflower, ground beef & Rice

Here’s another Lebanese inspired dish that we make once every week or so. My kids request this one. They absolutely love it. We all do. They literally want this dish at least once a week.

At this point, you may be wondering, “how do you get your kids to eat these amazing meals with vegetables?” The answer is pretty simple. I never made separate meals. From the time the older Els were little and currently with our toddler, we make a family meal and eat it together. Of course we have nights where people make their own dinner and eat whatever they want. But, as a practice, I make a meal for the family and offer it to everyone. I don’t like to make an issue out of food. So, we’ve never told our kids they had to clean their plates. We do encourage them to try new foods and at this point we’ve built up a good level of trust- I ((mostly)) serve them delicious dishes. There was that one time I made chick pea noodles in 2020. (Gross!) See below for the Lebanese Cauliflower, ground beef and rice directions and quick video. Please comment and let me know if you make this delicious dish!

Quick Video “How to make Lebanese cauliflower, ground beef and rice by El Momma”

Video: How to make this awesome dish in 90 seconds!

Lebanese Cauliflower & ground beef Ingredients

Makes approximately 8 servings

  • 2-3 large whole cauliflowers. Cut to florets
  • Your choice of cooked white rice
  • [1] TB extra virgin olive oil
  • [1] chopped white onion
  • [1] pound ground beef
  • [1] TB 7 spices (recipe for seven spices included below)
  • [1] tsp kosher salt
  • [1] tsp ground pepper
  • 1 jar 24 Oz of diced tomatoes (I prefer roasted garlic)
  • 14 Oz crushed Tomatoes (I use Italian variety)
  • plain yogurt (optional) for garnish

*A very important ingredient of many lebanese dishes is 7 spices. 7 Spices are made with a mix of the following spices: all spice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander, caraway and nutmeg. I buy this through our local grocer, Phoenicia. I’ve also purchased on Amazon. * Recipe for my homemade seven spices blend is included at the bottom of this post.

Directions

Step 1: Rinse and cut the cauliflower into florets. Set aside.

Step 2: In a separate pot, cook the rice per directions on rice bag/box.

Step 3: Using a 2 1/2 – 3 inch deep skillet that has a fitted glass lid, cook the chopped onion and ground beef at medium heat in the olive oil. Add the 7 spices, pepper and salt and mix well. Careful not to over cook the meat.

Step 4: fold in the cauliflower, crushed and diced tomatoes. Mix well. Cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes with lid on, stirring occasionally at medium low to medium heat.

Step 5: serve hot over a bed of rice. Add a dollop of plain yogurt when serving.

7 Spices Ingredients

7 Spices

Makes approximately 3 1/2 tablespoons of 7 spices

  • 1T allspice,
  • 1T cinnamon,
  • 1t ground cloves,
  • 1t cumin,
  • 1t coriander,
  • 1/2 t caraway
  • 1/2 t nutmeg

A 2020 Trend that should Stay…the Charcuterie Board

If you’ve been at home like most of us, you (likely) have tried new dishes, cleaned out closets, looked through and shared old photographs and gotten into Instagram inspired redecorating projects!

One of my favorite trends of this year is the Charcuterie Board. I actually started making Charcuterie Boards on the regular during the 2019 holiday season.

Charcuterie is a French word that means cut meats. First of all, let’s say it together. “Charr-coot-irree.” When we talk about a charcuterie board, we are talking about a display of Meats, cheeses and other finger foods.

Some of our best friends, who hosted my 40th birthday and (later) baby shower for Baby Jimmie at their home, make the best charcuterie boards. Literally if they ever ask me what I want to eat at their home- my answer is simple. Charcuterie! They are really good at knowing the best cheeses. I have another friend who WON a Charcuterie board contest. If you are serious Charcuterie connoisseur, this post is ((probably)) not for you!

Instead, if you are intimidated by all of the perfectly Insta-styled charcuterie boards across Pinterest and Instagram, I am here to tell you that you can create an amazing Charcuterie board that you and your guests will enjoy! Don’t be scared!

The basics-

  • A board- I purchased a couple off of Amazon. This marble one Fox Run 3827 Marble Pastry Board https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0036AQ0IC?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share AND this large, double sided wood cutting board Large Wood Cutting Board with… https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07XRTHJDH?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share
  • Meats- I typically use whatever I have on hand. Salami and prosciutto work fine.
  • Cheese- this is where I pay a little more focus. I love cheeses. I have baked Brie in the past, although that’s not what I do for a quick board. I usually have a Brie, goat cheese, assortment of Gouda, sharp cheddar, and cheese logs that many times involve honey. You can basically do whatever you like with cheeses, but most people like a variety.
  • Crackers- everything I buy is gluten free. My favorites are these Absolutely Gluten Free Crackers, Original 4.4-Ounce https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0078DQ3DU/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glc_fabc_7j24Fb0F8NKGW But, I always put out an assortment of crackers. Gluten free pretzel sticks are a must!
  • Fruit: blueberries, raspberries, seedless grapes and strawberries
  • Most of what gets placed on the tray doesn’t need to be in a container. But, if you have some items that you want to contain or don’t want touching, you can use muffin papers. I buy muffin papers in bulk to use when I make breakfast ahead on the weekends. So, I have a lot of them laying around. Perfect to put a handful of m&ms in.
  • Some items that most charcuteries have are nuts (the Els don’t care for them and we have a nephew who is allergic) I also added Brazi Bites, Empanadas Black Bean Cheddar Gluten-Free, 10 Ounce https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083X741Y6/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glc_fabc_Xp24FbWRN1J8G These are so good! I baked them for 20 minutes and just put them across in the middle of the board. Dips are great too. We make the creamiest, best hummus. Recipe here- https://pin.it/Yhvu5Jd If you are going to buy hummus- Grandma’s Hummus out of Austin, Texas is the best store bought hummus around. Guacamole is also a great addition to the board. Don’t forget to include corn tortilla chips!

All you need to do now is make your display. Think of it like a work of art where you want to have balance and symmetry- not all of the bright colors or same colors together. I usually place the meats first, then cheeses and then add the fruits throughout the board.

That’s it! As you can see, my (throw it together in 20 minutes) charcuterie board is not difficult, but it was devoured and makes our nights feel a little less blah and a little more voila!

Another Favorite- Lebanese Green Beans, Ground lamb & Rice

Add this green beans, lamb and rice to the list of our family favorites. We make this dish every 1-2 weeks. I usually use about 3 pounds of green beans and 1 – 2 pounds of ground lamb. A very important ingredient of many lebanese dishes is 7 spices. 7 Spices are made with a mix of the following spices: all spice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander, caraway and nutmeg. I buy this through our local grocer, Phoenicia. I’ve also purchased on Amazon.

7 Spices

Makes approximately 3 1/2 tablespoons of 7 spices

  • 1T allspice,
  • 1T cinnamon,
  • 1t ground cloves,
  • 1t cumin,
  • 1t coriander,
  • 1/2 t caraway
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
Quick Video “How To Make Lebanese Green Beans, Lamb & Rice by El Momma”

How to make this awesome dish in 90 seconds!

Lebanese Green Beans, Ground Lamb and Rice

Makes approximately 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of fresh green beans, snapped and ends removed
  • [1] TB salt (for boiling green beans)
  • Your choice of cooked white rice
  • [1] TB extra virgin olive oil
  • [1] chopped white onion
  • [1] pound ground lamb
  • [1] TB 7 spices
  • [1] TB kosher salt
  • [1] tsp ground pepper
  • plain yogurt (optional) for garnish

Directions

Step 1: Rinse, drain, remove ends and snap the green beans. Prepare pot of water with 1 Tablespoon of salt. Add beans, bring to a boil and boil for 4-5 minutes. Prepare ice water bath. Drain cooked beans in colander. Submerge in ice bath. Drain and Pat dry.

Step 2: In a separate pot, cook the rice per directions on rice bag/box.

Step 3: Using a 2 1/2 – 3 inch deep skillet that has a fitted glass lid, cook the chopped onion and ground lamb at medium heat in the olive oil. Add the 7 spices, pepper and salt and mix well. Careful not to over cook the meat.

Step 4: fold in the green beans, cover and cook for an additional 20 minutes with lid on, stirring occasionally at medium low to medium heat.

Step 5: serve hot over a bed of rice. Add a dollop of plain yogurt when serving.

Grieving During the Holidays

I posted these reminders in 2017, after our daughter died of a fetal maternal hemorrhage at 18 weeks gestation. Now, in 2020, there are so many grieving across our nation. They are grieving the loss of their livelihoods, their jobs, a family member, a loved one, the loss of so many experiences over the last 9 months, and many who will not be able to be with their families this Holiday season.

So, for all of those in our lives who may be grieving this Holiday season, a few kind reminders:

1. Lower your expectations.Your grieving family member might not be able to do things they “normally” do at the holidays. (Baking, cooking, gathering around the kitchen just to visit, or showing up etc.) Whatever they are able to do, should be okay. Let that be okay.

2. Be willing to change or alter traditions.In our family we usually take turns around the dinner table saying what we are thankful for. For someone who is grieving a loss, this can be especially difficult. We altered this tradition to have each family member have a spokesperson to “highlight” things the family was thankful for. This should also be mentioned in advance, so people are not caught off guard and can prepare.

3. Try to listen without offering a solution.It’s hard to see our loved ones sad. But, sometimes it can’t be helped and it is part of the grieving process. It’s better to just be there and say “I love you” and “I hurt for you” than to say the wrong thing.

Psalm 118 says “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;for his steadfast love endures forever!” I wrote and recorded this little tune of Thanksgiving, based on Psalm 118, a few years ago. Still giving thanks!

El Momma on the WhinyPaluza Podcast with Rebecca Greene plus 4 Parenting Tips

El Momma talking about The WhinyPaluza Podcast new episode out on November 6th!
Baby Jimmie and I made this reel on Instagram this afternoon and in two hours it already had over 1500 views! (I had to change the music to one I have the rights to in order to share it over here. The song featured in this video is my song, Only In You from my album, Radiant You and available on iTunes) but, Whoa! I wanted to do a cute little reel that highlighted 4 Parenting Tips that I talked with Rebecca Greene about on the WhinyPaluza Podcast today! I will summarize below. But, check this out. Check out the WhinyPaluza Podcast- like, comment and subscribe! We really want to hear from you !

El Momma

4 Parenting Tips that Work for Us

  • 1. Keep a schedule, but let it go when it’s just not working
  • 2. Tell the truth. Teach the value of honesty to your children.
  • 3. SLOW DOWN. Enjoy today. You and your kids will only be this age at this moment in time. Don’t move too fast. You will miss it!
  • 4. Let them eat cake! The Els all giggled when they read this. Listen to my interview with Rebecca Green’s on The WhinyPaluza Podcast for the full story. But, the short version is there was a night in September when the big 4 Els were down in the kitchen eating leftover birthday cake with their grandmother at 10:30pm at night. Our response was probably not what you would think.
  • In summary, you do you. These tips work for us and the Els right now and I think they are good things to try, if you are looking for parenting suggestions and help. Or, just looking to expand your parenting management and skills.

I am so excited to share with you that I was recently interviewed by Rebecca Greene on The Whinypaluza Podcast. It was a great experience! We talked about juggling being a mom, a blogger, and a singer/songwriter.
The Whinypaluza Podcast features bloggers, parenting experts, and marriage experts as they shed light on tips and tricks to make life with your family better than ever!
I was fortunate enough to be a guest on the show. I found the experience to be both insightful and enriching. Rebecca is passionate about what she does! She was a true joy to talk to.
Here are just a few of the topics we covered:
●Why it’s important to both go with the flow and
make a schedule.
●How it can be difficult to cater to your child’s eating needs.
●How virtual learning has changed many things during COVID-19.
●Why all the parents are talking about school right now.
●How the pandemic has allowed many families to eat together more often.
You can listen and watch the interview below on Youtube:


You can also listen to the interview on: iTunes  Spotify Stitcher TuneIn iHeartRadio C-Suite Radio Amazon Music Google Podcasts and YouTube 
If you enjoyed it, please do us a favor and leave a review and let us know what part made the biggest impact!
Also, while you are there, please make sure and subscribe to The Whinypaluza Podcast to get access to all of the new and informative interviews!
Talk soon,
Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam
El Momma

3 Reminders that will help our grieving hearts this Holiday season

Thanksgiving 2019
I posted these reminders in 2017, after our daughter died of a fetal maternal hemorrhage at 18 weeks gestation. Now, in 2020, there are so many grieving across our nation. Grieving the loss of their livelihoods, their jobs, a family member, a loved one, the loss of so many experiences over the last 9 months, and many who will not be able to be with their families this Holiday season.  So, for all of those in our lives who may be grieving this Holiday season, a few kind reminders:
1. Lower your expectations.
Your grieving family member might not be able to do things they “normally” do at the holidays. (Baking, cooking, gathering around the kitchen just to visit, or showing up etc.) Whatever they are able to do, should be okay. Let that be okay.
2. Be willing to change or alter traditions.
In our family we usually take turns around the dinner table saying what we are thankful for. For someone who is grieving a loss, this can be especially difficult. We altered this tradition to have each family member have a spokesperson to “highlight” things the family was thankful for. This should also be mentioned in advance, so people are not caught off guard and can prepare.
3. Try to listen without offering a solution.
It’s hard to see our loved ones sad. But, sometimes it can’t be helped and it is part of the grieving process. It’s better to just be there and say “I love you” and “I hurt for you” than to say the wrong thing.
Psalm 118 says 
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, 
for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!” 
I wrote and recorded this little tune of Thanksgiving, based on Psalm 118, a few years ago. Still giving thanks!
Below, is the original post, written 3 months after Mary-Linda passed away.
 

It’s personal, y’all.

We know this in our hearts. Deep down. And, yet, when we see a friend grieving we want to tell them it will be okay.
Life will go on.

The earth will keep turning.

But, for your grieving friend, it will never be “OKAY” again.
The deep loss can’t be replaced. In my personal experience, the loss is a child. But, I have many friends who lost their homes and sense of safety and security in the floods during and after Hurricane Harvey. Their “loss” is also one that can’t be replaced.
Life is such an emotional rollercoaster.

The highs so high and the lows, very deep and low.

Several weeks ago, one of my childhood friends (who knows the deep loss of losing a child) texted me that a friend of hers had lost a baby at 39 weeks. The next day, another dear friend of mine was in labor with her seventh baby. I spent the day deeply invested in the outcome of her labor and delivery and in prayer. Her baby was safely delivered in her own hands Tuesday evening.
I received two hope boxes when we lost Mary-Linda. What would I do with two hope boxes?

Hope boxes are a ministry of “Hope Mommies

I soon knew that my extra Hope box was meant for this other mommy who I didn’t know, but I now grieve with. I added a couple of CDs of hope and mailed it right away.
I went to bed that week bawling. I’m sad for my friend’s friend. And, I’m joyful for my friend who just gave birth to her seventh child. (Her rainbow baby)

And, so, I grieved.

Heavily.

It makes me so sad when a family loses a child. When a mommy loses her baby.

I’m also sad as I experienced the joy of my friend’s birth and later grieved that I’ll never experience that joyous birth with our Mary-Linda.
Please don’t tell me that I should be okay because I have four living children.

Please don’t tell those who have lost their homes, that it’s just stuff. It isn’t just stuff.

I know you love us and you want us to be okay.

But, Sometimes we are not okay.

I believe that I am way better than I would be without my four living children, but that doesn’t mean I’m okay with losing a child.

I held my daughter’s lifeless, tiny body in my arms for hours. I couldn’t let her go. She was nine and a half inches long. She was beautiful. She was lean and seemed strong. She was born with her legs crossed and her eyes closed and her head turned to one side. She looked at peace. But, she’s not alive on earth. She’s gone. And, I’m devastated.

I don’t know how I will grieve through the holidays. Or through Mary-Linda’s expected due date.

All I know is that whatever I feel is what I feel.

Baby Jimmie Josiah

A story of our rainbow baby’s birth in 2019

*warning*this post does discuss loss and contains photos of birth

On the evening of May 21st, 2019, we headed to the hospital to begin the induction of labor for our 6th baby- our rainbow baby boy, Jimmie. I was 38 weeks pregnant.This is Jimmie’s birth story.

After we experienced a second trimester stillbirth with our fifth baby- our daughter, Mary-Linda less than 2 years earlier, I was considered high risk. On top of that, I was already 41 years old (which is seriously old lady time aka geriatric for a pregnant mama!). We decided with both of our doctors, that we would induce labor, if necessary and deliver Jimmie at 38 weeks. What should have been a quick labor- since I had already birthed 4 full term babies, and 2 of them without an epidural, was not a quick labor at all. But, (SPOILER ALERT) this birth story does end well!

Almost a year after Mary-Linda died, we learned that I had an antibody in my blood that was detected early in my pregnancy with her and could cause harm to a baby. Since the cause of Mary-Linda’s death was determined to be fetal maternal hemorrhage, we had something to watch for throughout our entire pregnancy with Jimmie. Every ultrasound was always completed with a check for any sign of anemia in the baby. M-L’s anemia went undetected and therefore untreated. We were going to do everything we could do to get this baby here and in our arms, alive. We started the induction shortly after arriving to the hospital on that May Tuesday evening. Our village of friends and family caring for our older Els and making sure they would be at the hospital the next day.

We were told that it was possible I could have the baby very quickly OR we would add induction methods in the morning. We wanted our older children to be present, so I was hopeful that we wouldn’t have Jimmie until the next morning. I labored ALL NIGHT LONG. It was impossible to sleep. I thought I must have made some progress and by morning time, my cervix had changed and opened a little. We were hopeful that starting pitocin would mean that baby Jimmie would be here before lunch time. My doctor even said “the baby will be here around lunchtime.” I remember, because my other children kept reciting this quote as the day continued on into the night!

But, Jimmie wasn’t here by lunchtime and by lunchtime there wasn’t much progress. In fact, we began increasing pitocin and things were getting unbearable. I bounced on the ball. I walked the halls. I moved around. But, it was so painful and not enough was happening. After more than 24 hours of labor, with the last few being extremely intense, I asked for an epidural. I felt broken. Defeated. I had experienced two full-term labors with no epidurals. I knew my body could do this. Neither of those labors needed pitocin. Why couldn’t I relax and allow my body to progress and birth this baby? I was a failure. After more than thirty minutes, (and likely a transition to the next stage of labor) the anesthesiologist arrived. It felt like forever. My contractions were INTENSE at this time and were coming 3 minutes apart with little break in between. But, again, the work without progress feels futile. My mom and children and husband left the room for the epidural to be administered. The rest of the labor story felt familiar. Things began to progress and my pain was gone. I also couldn’t feel my legs, but that was okay! My children became so comfortable as the day went on. Fighting over what we were watching on the television. As the baby’s heartrate began to show signs of distress and I needed to change positions, my older children seemed focused on other things. They seemed honestly shocked when my doctor announced it was time for Jimmie to be born.
And, with one push, Jimmie was out. As my doctor turned him to face me, he immediately began to pee as he cried loudly. The kids were over the moon and the rest of us were completely overwhelmed and grateful that this miracle baby was here, earthside. 
This birth experience, although not perfect, ended in the most perfect way imaginable. 
May 23, 2019 I wrote this: “Yesterday we experienced a glimpse of heaven on earth. Our miracle, prayed for, hoped for, dreamed of, little boy joined our family in dramatic style. He came when he was ready. Momma and baby are both doing well. And all the Els are over the moon for their baby brother. I know Mary-Linda and grandfather are together in heaven rejoicing for us.
 Introducing Jimmie Josiah El-Hakam. Born May 22, 2019. 9:33pm. 7 lbs 5 oz 20 1/4 in long  We love you so much, Jimmie 💙💙”

For Mary-Linda’s birth story, click here (Mary-Linda was born sleeping in 2017)
For Leeland’s birth story, click here (Leeland was born in 2010)

For Trinity’s birth story, click here (Trinity was born in 2008)
For Bakri and Maddux’s birth story, click ….just kidding. I started blogging in 2008. Some day I will sit down and transfer their stories from their baby books.