El Momma's Lebanese Grape Leaves

How To Make the Best Lebanese Grape Leaves Ever!

RECIPE and VIDEO BLOG INCLUDED
I make this recipe several times a year, including Easter lunch for the last 10 years ! They are so delicious. (Dare I say that they are even better reheated the second day?!) This remains my most viewed blogpost. I know exactly why- these are the most amazing to eat and well worth all the work, love and effort to make them.
Watch this youtube video for detailed instructions.
And, Scroll down for directions on how to make the BEST LEBANESE GRAPE LEAVES IN THE WORLD! Seriously, they are so good.

I recorded this on Facebook Live in 2016 in our home we lived in for 15 years. Enjoy! love, El Momma

<<El Momma Tip>> If you don’t want the history behind this recipe, or you’ve read this before, please scroll on down to The “INGREDIENTS List.” The ingredients are separated by what we need for the rice lamb mix, boiling the lamb shanks and the final touches for cooking the grape leaves and serving.

After the ingredients list, I’ve included photos of all the items you will need to shop for. You will also need a large pot for boiling the shanks and cooking the rolled, stuffed grape leaves. Be sure to clean out the pot in between. You will also need small plates to place on top of the pot of grape leaves. This will hold them down in the water, while letting them cook fully.

Let me give you a little history as to why you won’t regret making this recipe and consider this a recipe from an expert. After 10 years making these several times a year, I now am officially a Lebanese Grape Leaf making expert!

My husband’s father’s family is from Lebanon. My father-in-law moved to the United States in the 70’s to attend a university and met my mother-in-law. She is a fifth generation Texan. She was an adventurer and loved to travel abroad. So, while dating my father-in-law, she took off on a great adventure to meet his parents and learn about the Lebanese culture. While in Lebanon, she embraced the culture and his family. His family loved her, taught her many things and she was a bright shining star (and a blonde -aired beauty) who they enjoyed having in Lebanon very much!

Luckily, for all of us, she married my father-in-law and is an amazing cook! Many years later, she continues to be an expert in cooking Middle Eastern faire. I asked her to teach me and this is the result. I continue to look back at this recipe each and every time I make Grape Leaves. 

Please note, if you have ever had grape leaves that were cold at a restaurant- you probably did not have grape leaves like this. These are served hot and they have lamb and rice in them- they are not vegetarian.

If you decide to try this, please reply to this post, comment here or on pinterest. I’d love to hear how it goes!

The first challenge: What to buy and where to shop. If you are in the Houston area- there are many grocers that specialize in Middle Eastern foods. A great one is Phoenicia. It is like a Sam’s Club for Middle Eastern food. It is huge. Their westheimer location even has fresh pita bread that comes down from a conveyer belt in the middle of the store. It’s entertaining for adults and kids alike.

INGREDIENTS list for 2 lbs of ground lamb mixture:

  • 2 lbs of high quality ground lamb
  • 2 Tablespoons of 7 spices for lamb/rice mixture 1T per lb of ground lamb)
  • 2 Tablespoons of salt (1T per lb of ground lamb)
  • 3 cups of Calrose Rice (Riz Masri)
  • 2 jars of Orlando California Grape Leaves, 16 oz. each (rinsed thoroughly with stems removed)

INGREDIENTS list for boiling lamb shanks

  • 4 pounds of lamb shank (approximately 4 shanks will fill the bottom of a large boiling pot or dutch oven)
  • 1 Tablespoon 7 spices
  • 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt

Remaining INGREDIENTS to prepare for serving

  • Juice of several lemons to make 1 cup of lemon juice to pour over pot just before serving
  • 1 bunch of mint leaves for garnish
  • 1 or 2 bunches of green onions for garnish
  • optional to serve with Labne (A Lebanese Yogurt spread) (top with olive oil and sliced tomatoes)
  • arabic bread
  • fresh lebanese hummus (recipe and How to Video HERE)

Grave leaves. Buy 2 jars of Orlando California Grape leaves. They are stored in a jar so that they will remain preserved. I used 2 jars of grape leaves to roll approximately 150 grape leaves. Remember the grape leaves must be washed thoroughly before you cook with them, or your result will be REALLY SALTY grape leaves!
7 spices. We will use this to season the lamb and the rice. I have made this in the past. Search up “Lebanese 7 spices” for recipes.

5 pound bag of Calrose Rice (Riz Masri)

Lamb Shanks
Ground lamb

Lemons for garnish and lemon juice (which we will use for the last few minutes while cooking the grape leaves.)

We also need salt. That’s all we need for our ingredients. Now, it’s time to get to work!

First, we must rinse the grape leaves. As I mentioned above, this is a crucial step. Without rinsing the leaves, they will be very salty and not taste good at all.
Now, let’s boil the lamb shanks. Get a large pot of water.
Add one tablespoon of 7 spices

And add one table spoon of kosher salt. Place the lamb shanks in the pot and bring water to a boil. Cover and simmer for half an hour. (if the shanks are frozen simmer for 1 hour) The shanks do not need to be completely cooked at this point, because they will cook more with the grape leaves.

In a separate bowl, we will make the rice/ground lamb mixture. We will start with rinsing the rice. Use 1.5 cups of rice per pound of ground lamb.  Add water to the rice and rinse. This will make the rice easier to work with. I usually rinse the rice in a very fine colander.
Add the ground lamb and a 1 tablespoon 7 spices per pound of ground lamb to the drained rinsed rice. Add 1 tablespoon of salt per pound of ground lamb. Mix this together well.

Lay the grape leaf (shiny side down) on a plate with the stem at the top. Cut the stem off the top. (To simplify this step, I pull off the stem as I wash each leaf individually)
Pinch a small amount of the ground lamb/rice mixture, as pictured and place in the middle of one grape leaf

Wrap the grape leaf, like a present, bringing up the sides first and then loosely rolling the entire thing together. The shiny part of the leaf should be down so that it is the outside of the roll, once the grape leaf is rolled around the ground lamb and rice. Make sure to roll loosely. This will give the rice room to expand as it cooks in the grape leaf. If you roll too tightly, the grape leaves will not be able to stay together and they will pop open as they cook.Always remove the stem. Also, if the grape leaves are too large they can be cut in half.
Carefully place the rolled grape leaves in a container.

Once the lamb shanks are finished with their first stage of cooking. Remove them from the pot.

Cut some of the meat off of the lamb shanks. The goal is to place the shanks and meat evenly at the bottom of a clean pot to make a nice even layer to place the rolled grape leaves. You can use the same pot where you boiled the shanks, just be sure to clean it before this next step. I usually just wipe it clean. 
This photo demonstrates the lamb shanks and meat in an even layer at the bottom of the pot.
Ready to add the grape leaves.
Take the rolled grape leaves and place them as evenly as possible in the pot on top of the lamb and lamb shanks. Make sure to place the rolled grape leaves down on the point of the leaf so they will not come unrolled while cooking.

The result is a beautiful pot full of grape leaves ready to cook! Add water to the pot until the grape leaves are completely covered. Place the pot on the stove top until bubbly. Simmer on medium to medium low for 2.5-3 hours. While cooking, place small plates (instead of a pot lid) directly on the grape leaves. This keeps them under the water, allows them to breathe and cook perfectly. The grape leaves must remain covered with water while cooking. I use a tea kettle on a separate burner to boil water on the stove top. and add this to the grape leaves pot as needed.
Once the grape leaves are finished cooking turn off the stove (approximately 2.5 – 3 hours). Pour fresh lemon juice over the entire pot. Use a liberal amount of lemon juice- at least one half cup or one cup if cooking in a large pot. When the grape leaves are finished cooking, tender, delicious, easy to cut them with a fork, turn off the burner and pour the lemon juice over the top of the grape leaves.

To serve, slice lemons and wash and cut green onions. Grape leaves taste great with a sqeeze of lemon juice and a green onion.

Ready to serve. I’ve removed everything from the pot and placed the lamb in the center of the serving dish and the grape leaves around. It makes for a “wow” presentation. Save the juices from the pot. My husband likes to pour these over his grape leaves. You can also save the pot juices for later (leftovers) in the fridge and the oils will harden, so you can easily scrape them off the top.
Grape leaves are also served with mint leaves. I’ve placed them in a small vase, so they double as decoration and as a garnish.
I am so happy with the way my grape leaves turned out. They are so amazing. Thank you, to my dear Mother-in-Love, Mary for giving me this wonderful gift. I’m so thankful to carry on this tradition with my family for years to come. Love, 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.

THE BEST HUMMUS EVER! El Momma’s Classic Lebanese hummus recipe

El Momma’s Best Hummus Ever

Traditional Lebanese Hummus

Ingredients

  • 2 (15-oz.) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained (save the juice from the can for later)
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • [1] tsp salt 
  • [1/2] cup fresh lemon juice
  • [1/2] tsp Citric acid (optional)
  • [1] cup tahini paste
  • 4 TB. extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Rinse, drain and remove some of the skins of the chickpeas by boiling them in water for 10 minutes. See video here for how to reduce your amount of chickpea skin in a couple of easy steps!

In a food processor fitted with a chopping blade, blend chickpeas, garlic, salt, lemon juice, (and optional citric acid), tahini and extra virgin olive oil for 2 minutes or until smooth. 

If not creamy enough, you can add some of the reserved juice from the chick pea can. Blend for 1 minute or until creamy and well combined.

I know how annoying it can be, when you just want a recipe and the blogger goes on and on….so, I was super nice and gave you the recipe at the top.

Now, for the video…..where I talk a lot. And, Baby Jimmie screams.

Easy Steps : How To Make the Best Hummus Ever!

Best Ever ! Gluten Free Sausage Balls using only 3 Ingredients.

So good. No one will ever guess they are gluten free. 

 *Update! December 25, 2020

Sub gluten free pancake mix for a perfect sweet and savory breakfast! Follow the recipe exactly as listed below, except use pancake mix instead of biscuit mix. (I used krusteaz gluten free pancake mix today and they were the perfect Christmas morning breakfast.) One of the Els ate 9 of them before we stopped him! Lol

El Momma’s Gluten Free Sausage Balls

By El Momma, Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam

Prep time: 15 minutes 

Cook time: 20 minutes 

Makes: approximately 2 dozen sausage balls

Several years ago, my momma called me and asked if I could bring her famous sausage balls to our family thanksgiving lunch. I decided to make these and didn’t tell anyone they were gluten free. They were a huge hit. And, less tummies were aching after this experiment. Truthfully, these are so good. I would never make them any other way. We do have a very large family and I make a double batch. Remember, the ratio is 1-1-1. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup grated cheese blend 
  • 1 cup baking mix (suggest Gluten Free Bisquick)
  • 1 lb of ground pork sausage

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper.

Slowly add in the bisquick with 1 lb of sausage in a standing mixing bowl. Mix until combined (about 30 seconds)

 

*TIP You may want to have the shield on your mixer to start, as it can be a little messy when first mixing in the bisquick. Once the bisquick and sausage are blended, add half of the cheese, mix for a few seconds, followed by the remaining cheese. Mix until well combined. 

We like this balance of meat, cheese and bread. However, you could always add more cheese! I am sure your family/guests would not complain! 

Next, use a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon to form the balls. These will be heaping scoops measuring about 2 tablespoons in all.

 Form into balls as you scoop and place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving space in between the balls. I can safely fit 15 balls on each baking sheet. 

 

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown. When using parchment paper, I do not move the sausage balls during baking. I will check them at 18 minutes and leave for an additional 2 minutes, if needed. 

 

We serve them with mustard, jam, or maple syrup. Your family will love them! 

 

El Momma’s Gluten Free Sausage Balls

How Do You Get Your Kids to do that?

If I’ve been asked once, I have been asked a thousand times. How do you get your kids to …fill in the blank? Examples are: eat vegetables, eat a variety of foods, try new things, sleep in, talk early, be so verbal, perform in front of people, participate in activities they don’t want to do (at first), stay in an activity that they asked to sign up for, but now want to quit and so on?

Nearly ALL of the answers involve presenting options to our kids, being an example and talking, talking, talking. Many times the ultimate choice is theirs. For example, I will never force them to eat something which they have decided not to eat. However, I won’t let them quit an activity we have already committed to. 

I’m going to spend the next few posts diving in to our family culture and telling stories. These are not meant to be formulas for you to follow in order to get your kids to behave a certain way. Believe me when I say, I do not have this parenting thing figured out. I don’t think I ever will. But, I do have a lot of kids (ages 16 months all the way to 15 years), with one special needs child and a lot of experience. I’m going to share more about our family and how our family experiences have shaped our kids. Right or wrong, we all have cultures in our families. It’s good to reflect on what those are and see where we can change or further explore the cultures we have developed as a family. 
Brussel Sprouts

It has to be said, because it’s true

Every single time a friend of mine shares about their child starting middle school or ending elementary school, I bite my tongue. Every. Single. Time. 

Why? Because, I don’t want to break her heart. Usually, she’s emotional about her baby starting middle school and ending an era- If your child starts elementary at pre-k 4, that’s 7 years in elementary before moving on up. 
That’s also half way through your child’s primary and secondary education. 
What!? You haven’t thought about that? I can understand why. I didn’t either. Until, I felt slapped in the face with the end of middle school for our oldest son. And. now he’s starting his sophomore year in high school.
 In our school district, we have school choice, magnet schools, zoned schools, boundary schools, and more. Because your child doesn’t just automatically move up to the next neighborhood school- they can, but most people (at least) look into other options, at the beginning of fifth grade and again at the beginning of eighth grade, you apply for the next year/school.
 I think that process really speeds things up. Because, like when your child applies for college, they do that at the beginning of the year BEFORE they go. So, this year, for my eighth grader, we will choose his high school in the next couple of months. For my high schooler, we will be applying to college in two years. Aaaaaaaah!
Time, please slow down. 
My fifth grader will be applying to middle schools this fall. And, I guess my point is that we were just doing this for my now 10th grader. It has gone by so fast. Faster than any other period of his life. Those 3 years before prek. Slow. PreK 3? PreK 4? Kinder? Slow. Slow. Slow. 
Fifth grade? Lightning fast. For every single one of my fifth graders. I have had three so far. The fourth one starts tomorrow. Feels like yesterday that the second one was choosing his middle school. Btw, haven’t had a repeat middle school yet. We let the Els be their own people around here and try to make the best choice, based on their individual needs. 
So, I guess I’m feeling like I am about to blink and all of the Els, except for Jimmie, will be in and out of college. 
I’m going to take a breath and try to enjoy this year. It’s clear that this one is a bit different. Maybe that will help us all slow down a little?

Our oldest El, in sixth grade (4 years ago!) at Meyerland Middle School HISD 

CARRYING ON

Remember that time 2 years ago…I was in the middle of a chemical pregnancy loss (where the baby doesn’t implant in the uterus, but I had a positive pregnancy test), I was bleeding a lot, in Santa Fe on an already planned vacation, processing losing my job, celebrating a dear friend’s birthday and hoping to get pregnant again soon (it would happen with baby jimmie the very next month) and carrying on?

 🙏🏼🙏🏼 CARRYING. ON. YALL. 
Not like nothing was happening. But, more like, everything was happening at once. It was. Good things. Bad things. Amazing things. Hard things. All the things. 
A good lesson: we don’t know what other people are going through in their lives. Most people had NO IDEA what we were experiencing then. But, we are now on the other side of that time. Still experiencing stuff. Still hard. Still good. Still great. Still CARRYING ON! 
Let’s go, y’all. Keep carrying on and keep supporting your loved ones. Keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep going. And, if you need a listening ear or you have a specific prayer request, I will intercede for you. I will listen. I’ve learned to listen more than I speak. My inbox and DMs are always open. Sending you love.
Always, 
El Momma 
 #behindthescenes #reality #beingreal #elmomma #iamelmomma #realmoms #reallife #carryon 

Nothing is Normal in 2020

The Birth of Jimmie Josiah, May 2019



A mother’s journey to find normal after losing a child, adding to our family and living through 2020

 

In August of 2017, our family was the happiest we had ever been. Our four big kids were finding their way and thriving. Our two oldest boys were 13 and 11 years old. Our daughter was 9 years old and our youngest son had just turned seven. And, we were nearly halfway through what seemed to be a normal, healthy pregnancy with a baby girl, Mary-Linda, who we were expecting to arrive near the end of the year. Life was good! Until, it wasn’t.

 

In one moment, everything changed. It was still summertime and I left the kids at home with their dad so I could run to my 18 week appointment. I had been unable to find the baby’s heartbeat on the fetal heartbeat Doppler the night before, but I shook it off as user error and tried to put it out of my mind. At my appointment, my greatest fears were realized and I learned that our daughter’s heart had stopped beating. The next few days, months and even years have been a struggle to find a new normal for us. Our life after losing our daughter, Mary-Linda is so different from our life before.

 

We are still trying to figure out what normal looks like. For a year, I continued to work in the same capacity I had worked in before Mary-Linda’s death. I loved being busy and I loved my job. It seemed right at the time. We spent that entire year going to therapy, doctor appointments, and visiting with specialists. I wanted so badly to pinpoint what happened to Mary-Linda, so we could move forward with as much information as possible. And, as it turned out, there was a diagnosis and a cause of death. Mary-Linda had suffered a Fetal Maternal Hemorrhage (blood loss/severe anemia) and her heart had stopped beating. The medical professionals missed alarming red flags in my bloodwork and did not follow protocol to refer me to a specialist. I learned all of this, as I researched this condition and found the blood results from early in pregnancy. These “problems” were never discussed with me, but the specialists I met with to prepare for another pregnancy, assured me that Fetal Maternal Hemorrhage was not something that happened to the same mother twice. I worried that something was not right after I delivered Mary-Linda silently and that was making it more difficult for us to get pregnant again. For thirteen months we prayed, we waited and we kept hunting for answers.

 

In September of 2018, after having a chemical pregnancy the month before, we found out we were expecting again. It was exciting and terrifying. We had a fertility doctor, a primary ob-gyn and high risk doctor all working with us. After the initial visits to confirm pregnancy, we would alternate seeing the ob-gyn and high risk doctor every couple of weeks. Each visit with the high risk doctor they would check for fetal anemia. I also stopped working outside the home around the same time I became pregnant. It wasn’t my intention to make this my new normal, but it sure was a huge blessing. I was surrounded with people, family and friends who loved me and supported me. I ended up really enjoying my pregnancy and soon found out we were pregnant with a boy. My father passed early in the spring and we named our baby boy after him. In May of 2019, baby Jimmie Josiah El-Hakam joined our family earth-side. 

 

This last year has been anything but normal. We had a baby. We moved to a different home. I started a new job, was laid off from that job because of COVID-19. Our oldest son, who is on the autism spectrum, started high school. We spent most of the last year experiencing firsts with our new baby. And, we spent another year missing our Mary-Linda. 

 

By the time March came around, we were in a pretty good rhythm. And then, the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe and we went into strict lockdown with my mom, who is 78 years old and has some health problems. My older sister, Melinda had Down Syndrome and lived with my parents her entire life. She passed away suddenly on Valentine’s Day this year at the age of 50. 

 

Our new normal really isn’t normal at all. My mom has lived with us for the last several months. Our kids are home- which the baby loves, by the way! My husband and I are both working from home. It’s intense.

 

For now, there’s no getting back to “normal.” We’ve lost so much. If we focus on that, it becomes too overwhelming. So, instead we just try to focus on finding some joy and happiness in each day. My big kids are older, so chores have become a part of our new normal. We also eat so many meals together. We enjoy that. But, honestly, I am very nervous about our potential to be successful in distance learning this Fall. Creating space for school work and work at home and space for baby to flourish is proving to be very difficult. 

 

As a practice, we pray together and attend online church as a family each Sunday. But, even that has begun to feel difficult to engage in as a family. We talk about our Mary-Linda. And, we recently celebrated 3 years since she was with us. We mixed that celebration in with happy, socially-distanced birthday parties for myself, my husband and 2 of our other living children. She’s a part of our family. She’s just not on earth with us. In our new house, her ashes sit on a shelf in my closet. It’s actually a very pretty place. I have a Mary-Linda bear sitting nearby and I look at it every single day. Sometimes, I hold the urn and completely lose it. Because, sometimes I just miss her so much that I can’t catch my breath. Having other loved ones in heaven with her does give me peace. Her Aunt Melinda. Her grandfather. Her great-grandparents. I know she’s well cared for and she’s in heaven. It doesn’t make us miss her any less. 

 

As I close, I want to encourage others who are feeling stressed by grief, depression and the heartaches of being lonely in this pandemic: Please, do not put too much pressure on yourselves to “get back to” anything that you are not ready for. Losing a child is a devastating, often traumatic experience. Being in a pandemic and isolated from your family and your friends is challenging on so many levels. We are not going to come out of this unscathed and unchanged. But, you are not alone. Allow yourself time. Give yourself grace to be okay doing things differently. 

 

For me, personally, I find comfort in knowing that we will see our Mary-Linda again when we all get to heaven. I also find comfort in knowing that we will get through this moment in time. Things will get better again. We have to believe. Until then, we will keep on remembering and keep on living our (not so) normal lives.



 I just published Nothing is Normal in 2020 on medium link.medium.com/PhDyKxLZg9 #infantloss #medium #stillbirth #mommaof6 #nonewnormal #elmomma

Life After Loss. 3 years in.

I recently read a description of grief. It illustrated grief in the beginning as a giant ball bouncing around in a very small square. Something we can’t get away from. Every time we move or even breathe, the grief hits us. I’ve also read grief described like furniture in the middle of a dark room, where you can’t see anything, but everywhere you move, you bump into it and you can’t get around it. In both scenarios, the grief changes. In the first, the ball eventually becomes very small, but it is always in the room. It still hurts deeply when it hits you, but it isn’t a constant. In the second scenario, the furniture eventually moves to where you can see it and get around it, finally settling as a painting on the wall- always there, but not something you are constantly bumping into. 

I can relate with both of these descriptions. I know they aren’t meant to be that simple. Grief is complex. But, I think it can give others imagery to relate to and understand our grief. Grief is always there. In our case, as is the case for many, we don’t get over losing a child. It’s not that simple. But, we learn to move forward, and find a way to live while being in the room with the grief. We still bump into it all the time, but it’s not all consuming everything we do. But, it’s there, like that huge painting on the wall. And, maybe it’s beautiful now. Maybe, it’s like our Mary-Linda, bringing light and hope to others in their time of grief. Maybe, just maybe? 

On August 16th, 2020, we marked 3 years since our Mary-Linda was with us. It feels so surreal. These last 3 years have been brutal and beautiful. I don’t know how to explain it any other way. So much heartache. But, again, I know that God was with us and is with us. So, we will keep on keeping on. 

much love, 

El Momma

Below are photos from our celebration of Mary-Linda’s life, 3 years in. And, photos from the day we all got to hold her. We will all forever hold her in our hearts until we can hold her in our arms again. 

Celebrating my sister in heaven

On Wednesday night we celebrated my older sister’s 51st birthday. It was her first birthday since she went to heaven. My momma, brother, and all of our families gathered in the front yard and had a “socially distanced” gathering with 🎈,🍕 and 🎂 as we talked about our Melinda. It’s really hard to lose a sibling. We talked about this with our families that night. Your sister/ whom you’ve known and loved your entire life. Your family. Your first best friend. Your biggest fan. Your everything. Your comedic relief. Your demanding sidekick. Your love.  It’s hard. We know she’s happy and she’s with so many loved ones. I never met another soul who would tell you they wanted to go to heaven more than Melinda. She had some of her favorite people go before her. I sometimes wonder about the effects of losing my dad 11 months before she died. They were so close. And her grief was deep. It took her a long time to admit that my dad had gone to heaven. But, she finally did and I know she wanted to go and be with him. On Valentine’s Day, after having a stroke, Melinda went to heaven 💗💗 she was literally surrounded by some of the people on earth that she loved most 💗💗 And, she went to be with Jesus. It was Incredibly peaceful. We know know know that she is in a better place. BUT, it sure is hard to be without her here.