Reflecting on the last Year and Planning ahead.

At ELMOMMA.com, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on this past year. First, we would like to thank you for being here. You being here means a lot to us and helps us support our growing family. Since founding ELMOMMA.com in 2008, we have all grown and changed so much. We had 27,000 views on the blog this month, with this post topping them all. We shared a video of Jimmie watching Momma dance that topped 100k views on Instagram. We published beautiful gift guides focused on our brand and viewers.

Personally, we have experienced a lot of change this year. In July, Rebekah went back to work full-time after not working full-time outside of the home for nearly 4 years. In July, we also learned that we were expecting what we believed to be our last Baby El. All of the Els were over the moon excited about the baby. Sadly, we miscarried at home at 8 weeks and 4 days on August 29 after finding the baby had no heartbeat the week prior.

Rebekah’s new job has been a wonderful blessing. She is now employed at the largest Episcopal Church in North America, where she plans the contemporary worship services each week. She even gets to lead worship and sing with one of her favorite CCM artists from growing up-Wayne Watson. If you know, you know this is pretty awesome.

Bakri is 17 and applying to attend Universities majoring in Music Composition. The pandemic opened up a creative side of Bakri. He is an incredibly talented composer. We still can’t believe that college is right around the corner. He is planning to minor in piano performance.

Maddux will turn 16 this week. He has his drivers permit and will be ready for his official license in two months. We are very excited for this development. Bakri attends school downtown and hasn’t shown interest in learning to drive just yet. We are looking forward to Maddux driving the other Els around safely!

Trinity is also busy applying for schools-HIGH SCHOOLS! We don’t know how this is going to work out, so we are casting the net nice and wide and looking for the right fit. She hopes to study theatre in high school and all of the schools we are considering have top theatre programs.

Leeland is in 7th grade and seems to be really coming into his own. He has participated in football and cross country this year. He plans to tryout for the middle school baseball team after the winter break. He’s also joining a new select baseball team.

Jimmie went to preschool for the first time this November. Check out our post about the first week here. He is loving school. We are very proud of how well he has transitioned. He’s singing songs he is learning at school and he’s already made so many friends.

Moustapha and me are doing well. It’s definitely a stressful time with all of the changes. I will have some time off at the end of this year and the beginning of the new year, so I’m starting to dream and plan that. Would love your suggestions on where we should travel to. We will most likely drive, because there are 7 of us and plane trips are expensive and we need a vehicle most places we would travel to. We like the idea of taking the Els to the mountains, but neither of us have been skiing with kids, so we don’t really know what to expect or how to manage that.

As we close this update post, let me remind you of a few important philosophies we hold tight to. Take the vacation. Dream the dream. Follow your heart. Be in the photo. Life is too short to stop now. Just keep going.

Our Rainbow Baby Goes to School

There are a million reasons why our fifth living child wasn’t in school already. He’s three years old. When the pandemic hit, he was attending a program where I was working at the time. He was in the baby class and doing quite well. At 9 months old, we all went home and Jimmie stayed home from that point on.

Fast forward to the Summer of 2022. All the Els are busy and out of school for the summer. Jimmie is enjoying the stay-at-home life with his siblings coming and going. Suddenly, and without much warning, Momma starts working full time outside of the home.

Jimmie did well during the remaining days of summer. He loved having his siblings take care of him and enjoyed all of the attention. By the end of the summer, we still didn’t have a school solidified for him.

After 8 seasons, Leeland has his last little league game

When they say the years fly by, they aren’t kidding. Hard to believe this young man is now in 7th grade. We are extremely proud of you, Leeland. We are proud of the way you try new things. We are proud of how you keep going, even when experiencing adversity. We love you and have enjoyed watching you grow as a baseball player and as a person. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for your life.

Congratulations on completing 8 years of Little League play!

Children’s Baptism including why we chose to baptize our babies and what to wear

Baptizing Jimmie on April 24, 2022

Jimmie is wearing a short set by Strasburg Children. Linked here.

Infant baptism in the Church

As is tradition in the Episcopal church, most families baptize their children when they are still babies. The sacrament of holy baptism is considered “full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the Church.” Furthermore, The Book of Common Prayer contains the liturgy for a baptismal service, and stipulates when and how an infant should receive this sacrament.

Significantly, when we choose to have our child baptized, we are demonstrating our intention to adhere to the Baptismal Covenant and raise our child as an active participant of our local church. We baptized our older children in the Presbyterian church when they were each less than one year old. (Leeland’s baptism and Trinity’s baptism)

Easter at home, April 2020

Delayed because of Co¥!d

Jimmie was 9 months old when the pandemic began. We were in between churches at the time. I served at an Anglican Church as the worship pastor up until we were expecting baby Jimmie.

At the time of Jimmie’s birth, we were basically without a church home. We went back to our church where we attended from 2008-2014 and where I had previously been employed as a worship leader. Our church family and pastor were welcoming, but it was strange and we didn’t feel like we belonged anymore. So, when the time came to baptize Jimmie, we talked with our pastor (at the time) about it and began to look for a date.

Easter 2021, Our first Sunday visiting The Church of St John the Divine as a family

Our new (post pandemic) church home

Once the pandemic hit, attending church moved completely away from in person and exclusively to online. Fast forward to early 2021 and I was hired by The Church of St John the Divine as a worship leader and keys player for the contemporary worship band. We officially joined the church after attending for seven months in November.

We wanted to baptize Jimmie before he turned three. Moustapha and I are eternally grateful for our church community at The Church of St John the Divine, as we commit to fully support Jimmie’s walk with Christ.

Easter Sunday 2022

Jimmie gets baptized

Jimmie was baptized during the Children’s 915am service which is called Awesome Worship. He was so nervous. This was a completely different experience compared to our other babies who were all much younger. Jimmie knew what was coming and he had some anxiety over it. We talked him through it and showed him videos, but he was still anxious.

Watch how Jimmie responds to being prayed over. We love him so much!
Jimmie’s baptism with a few tears
Jimmie’s baptism candle

Happy St Patrick’s Day with kids and easy Crafts

Jimmie enjoying St Paddy’s Day!

Okay parents. How many of you get a little frustrated with the whole Elf on the Shelf craze at Christmas time? Me too! And, with a toddler at home, I wanted to do something extra special. Last year, I decided to get help with our elf on the shelf and I bought a kit from an account I found on Instagram. (www.Instagram.com/craftyholidayhelper ) CraftyHolidayHelper, Jaime has a small business focused on holiday crafts for families. I am so thankful to have found Jaime! Her craft kits are amazing!

I love having holiday parties for our littles. Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Fourth of July are holidays we don’t miss celebrating! In addition to adding Mardi Gras, we also added St Patrick’s Day with a party box and scavenger hunt from CraftyHolidayHelper to kick us off!

St Patrick’s Day Party in a Box

Jimmie is in awe of everything. He loves the rainbow centerpiece and all of the tiny details. My older kids said it’s not a party if other people don’t come. I disagree! I think Jimmie does too. It’s a party if you say it’s a party! Happy St Patrick’s Day, everyone!

Table-scape View from above
St Patrick’s Day Party in a Box

El Momma, Rebekahmemusic and CraftyHolidayHelper collaborated on this post. Thank you for your support!

Best Gluten Free King Cake Recipe and Year Round Holiday Tree Decorations

Does anybody remember El theme weeks? Click here for a refresher if you weren’t with us then. Recap: We had a theme for every week during the summer when the kids were little. We had simple themes like WATER WEEK, ZOO ANIMAL WEEK, WEATHER WEEK and more. It was super fun and kept us all busy.

El Momma and Jimmie (2 years old) enjoying Mardi Gras

We haven’t had theme weeks since the Els got older and summers got much busier. But, I feel like our year round holiday tree is sort of moving us back in the theme week direction! And, I am here for it.

El Mardi Gras Tree

The Valentine tree was a super easy transition from the Christmas tree. We published our first Valentine’s Day Gift guide here, so it was great to be in the theme of Valentine’s Day from mid January through Valentine’s week. Next up, Mardi Gras.

Check out two Videos below highlighting our GF King cake and Mardi Gras tree!

Gluten Free King Cake

We transitioned the tree from reds and pinks to gold, green and purple and added Mardi Gras ornaments. On Shrove Tuesday, aka Fat Tuesday we celebrated with dinner and our first attempt at a Gluten Free King Cake. Click here for the recipe from Gluten Free Jules. This cake was so delicious!! And could easily be made as a gluten free coffee cake, using sugar in place of the green, gold and purple sugar.

We are having so much fun with our holiday tree. Comment below to let us know what you think. Any ideas for the St Patrick’s Day tree?

Gluten Free King Cake

Valentine’s to Mardi Gras TREE

Do you have suggestions on how we should decorate our tree next? We will likely decorate for St Patrick’s Day next, followed by Easter. Any ideas after that?

El Momma's Valentine's Day Gift Guide

LOVE THESE BEST VALENTINE GIFTS FOR HER, HIM, TEACHERS AND ALL

We are thrilled to present the 2022 Valentine’s Day gift guide. Please note that, although we have loosely categorized “who” the gift is for, many of the gift ideas we share can work for multiple recipients. We love giving more than receiving and know that your loved ones will feel loved, if you put that extra thought and effort into their gift.

Happy Valentine’s Day! May you give and receive love this year.

Love,

Rebekah, El Momma

For Her

At FindItGirl, she has gifts for every occasion. FIND IT GIRL We especially love the curated items for the home with the love theme. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t need a little more reminders of love around the home throughout every season? The velvet hearts and heart dough bowls are just a few of our favorite finds from FindItGirl this Valentine’s season.

FindItGirl

Glow Like A Mother set of 3 beauty items for mom. https://gorgeousconfidence.com/ Momma deserves to be pampered! The GLAM set includes Cleanse, Hydralux Serum and rich Hydration cream. This has become my go to beauty routine day and night. My husband says I already look younger.

The Pink Enamel Heart Twist Cuff in gold by Isabelle Grace is one of my favorite gifts. https://www.isabellegracejewelry.com/products/enamel-heart-twist-cuff A portion of the proceeds from this cuff are donated to the fight against breast cancer. PS. everything from this line is handmade in the USA. Order soon for Valentine’s Day delivery. Click here to see more options “for her” this Valentine’s.

If your girl (or your guy) is a chocolate lover, let me introduce you to Blissfully Better. Made in small batches and handcrafted in copper kettles, Blissfully Better’s Almond Toffee, Crunchy Quinoa Toffee, Caramel, Coconut, and Mint Thins are the perfect indulgence. (I am gluten free and although not certified gluten free, there is no gluten used) Certified Organic and sweetened only with low glycemic coconut nectar, Blissfully Better is better for you and you will definitely taste the difference!

I love LOVE and I especially love ♥️ 💗 💕. These jewelry pieces are of good quality and are reasonably priced. I’m also pretty loyal to Nordstrom as they accept returns with no cost to the customer and no questions asked. If there ever is an issue, as long as they can find a record of your purchase, they will stand by the products they sell. I love that!

Click here to shop at Nordstrom online

For Him

Awaken his senses with the feeling of a hot towel shave. The Art of Shaving Heated Razor Starter Kit includes: Heated Razor, 2x GilletteLabs blades, and charging station. And the reviews are top notch!

Barrel and Oak Hair Thickening Shampoo. Does your guy worry about the appearance of hair loss? I got this product for my husband. According to Barrel and Oak’s website “Coffee is nutrient & antioxidant-rich, which is good for scalp & hair health. Our Caffeinated Thickening Shampoo helps rebalance pH levels, which reduces dry damaged hair & breakage. Invigorating for all hair types.” He loves it so far!

Barrel and Oak Caffeinated Thickening Shampoo

For the Pet Owner

For anyone concerned with leaving the house covered in lint, the De Novo Deluxe Self Cleaning Lint Brush is the gift for them! The De Novo™ Deluxe Self-Cleaning Lint Brush is a revolutionary way to keep your clothes lint-free and in tip-top condition. The magical bristles on this brush attract the pet hair and lint directly to it, making it so much easier for you to clean.

Unlike any other lint brush on the market, the De Novo™ Deluxe Self-Cleaning Lint Brush comes completely apart, designed to make it easier for you to rinse the inside bristles so that the self-cleaning component lasts longer. Did I mention they offer a 100% money back guarantee?

For Family (kids-adults-anyone)

Send a stuffed animal package! https://sendafriend.co/ Through Send a Friend, you can send a care package with an adorable stuffed animal. Not only will you spread smiles and joy, but when you send a friend, they donate 10% of your total purchase to nonprofit organizations. See a list of recent donations here made through SendAFriend.co

You can customize a gift on collage.com. We chose to create a custom family calendar at https://collage.com In 10 minutes, I uploaded pictures from last year and placed them in the design in the appropriate month. We love how it turned out. Plus, we now have wonderful memories to look back on and hope for in the future.

Customize Products for Everyone at collage.com

We recently discovered QUOTEBOOK. https://quotebookjournal.com/ Quotebook is a notebook for recording the things people say to each other. When I read about Quotebook, we had to try it. Our kids, especially, and sometimes Mom and Dad are always saying the funniest things that I hope we remember, but we sometimes forget. This is a great way to keep the whole family involved, as we say those funny things that we never want to forget. Our very first quote written in this book was by baby Jimmie and it’s the cutest memory ever. We can’t wait to fill this QUOTEBOOK!

QUOTEBOOK
Click here to shop these Valentine Finds at Nordstrom

Here we have curated several Valentine’s Day themed items for most of our family members. The heart print lounge set for our teen daughter plus the grey heart sleep pants or shorts with a scrunchy are her favorites. We also have a couple of pajama options for Mom. My top choice right now are the navy pajamas. They are incredibly soft. Moustapha picked out these leopard print pajama pants for him. I must say, he looks so hot in them! In addition, we found this super soft Little Giraffe Luxe baby blanket also available in pink and so many adorable outfits for your little girl.

For Kids

Feltman Brothers makes clothes for little ones that you will never want to give away.  This Scalloped Contrast Trim Knit set is perfect for your baby girl on Valentine’s Day.

We also love this color block knit set in baby blue for our Jimmie. It comes in blue shades (pictured) and pink shades. We have always loved Feltman Brothers and have many keepsake outfits our children can hand down to their children one day. I love getting gifts that last for years and generations to come.

Mabel’s Labels are perfect to label all of your kids items. Mabel’s Labels are laundry and dishwasher safe. We got heart shaped labels with the kid’s names on them. I also got some personalized for me too.

For Teachers

Mabel’s Labels are also a great teacher gift. Mabel’s Labels are custom made and a thoughtful gift for that teacher that seems to have everything, but loves to be organized. Plus, they are super cute.

One month subscription to MyYogaTeacher yoga platform as a wellness gift for teachers. MyYogaTeacher provides LIVE (not pre-recorded) yoga lessons (private and group) with expert Indian yoga teachers. I’ve really enjoyed the two-way interaction which has helped me practice safely and stay motivated.

MyYogaTeacher

We would love to hear from you!

Email me at rebekah@elmomma.com

Please join me on Instagram here

DISCLOSURE: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we receive a commission at no additional cost to you-- 

Holding the Space Between

Tw: blog post discusses loss
Christmas Day with the El-Hakam family

This is our fifth Christmas without our daughter, Mary-Linda. This reality shocks my system. I can’t believe it. Five Christmases. How? We actually never had a Christmas with her alive on earth. We were pregnant with her in April of 2017, she passed in Mid August and was due to be born at the end of December, beginning of January 2018.

As a grieving person, I’ve learned that we can be both- we can be thankful for what and who we have in our lives and grieve those who are no longer with us. That’s okay. And, as far as I know, it’s normal. The happy and joy-filled times come a little easier for me now. But, I’m still sad. I’m happy and I’m sad. I’m thankful for all I have and devastated that I don’t have two daughters on earth.

I am also very aware that there are people who long to be mothers and don’t have any living children with them. I promise you, I do not take my living children for granted. But, just as each person has unique characteristics and DNA, so do our children. Our living children are not replacement children for our baby in heaven.

Our living children are not replacement children for our baby in heaven.

El Momma
Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam

Years ago, in the space between losing Mary-Linda and expecting Jimmie, I would attend a support group with a non profit org called MEND. There I met mothers who had also experienced the loss of their babies in pregnancy, through stillbirth or in the first year of life. These women became dear friends who I love very much. One thing that was always said before the start of each meeting was that we don’t compare our losses. We look at every loss as devastating for that precious momma and daddy. And each baby matters, whether or not they were an early loss or late term loss. They matter. That has impacted me so much as we have faced more grief in the following years.

Our grief is unique to our story and our experiences. We can share our grief and our burdens with others without comparing our grief.

El Momma
Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam

The space between is different for me now. I am constantly in the space between celebrating the wins and accomplishments of my living children and wishing Mary-Linda was here sharing a room with Trinity and loving on Baby Jimmie. I am also in the space between the struggles with raising three teenagers and a tween and trying not to compare them to a daughter in heaven, who can do no wrong.

And then there come the holidays in the middle of the crazy of the last several years. As author, Ashley LeMieux stated last week, I find myself using the word AND a lot. For example, I am incredible grateful to spend the holidays with my husband and five living children AND I’m deeply saddened and heartbroken to have our fifth Christmas without Mary-Linda on earth!

I honestly don’t know any other way to be. I believe it’s acceptable and should be encouraged that we feel all of our feelings. It’s valid to be happy AND sad. Angry AND grateful. Depressed AND hopeful.

As a grieving mother AND a celebrating mother, I wanted to share with you that it’s okay. I am comforted knowing that the Lord meets me exactly where I am and gives me comfort and strength that is not my own. I pray you find comfort and peace this year, friends. Time just seems to move faster and faster. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Our Mary-Linda Angel topper