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

As Mother’s Day approaches, consider the heartbroken, the bereaved Mother, the woman who longs to be a Mother

It’s an innocent question.

Not meant to do anything other than start up or continue a conversation.

And, it’s a question we get a lot.

“How many kids do you have?”
“Oh, you just have one girl?”
“Just the one girl, huh?”
“Wow, all boys?”
“3 boys and one girl?”

A while ago, Trinity was standing with me at a checkout counter. The clerk noticed a couple of Trinity’s brothers and said “oh, you’re the only girl?!”
Trinity glanced toward me to see what I would say, if anything. I smiled and nodded to let her know that she could answer this question how she felt comfortable.
She answered quietly “yes.”

Recently, Leeland was a guest at a birthday party. I overheard another mom talking to him, sweetly asking about his siblings. How old is your brother? Oh, you have two brothers? How old is your sister? So, you’re the baby?
That’s when he looked over to me for approval. How should he answer this? He’s NOT the Baby of our family. Mary-Linda is the baby and she’s in heaven and that’s not something that we feel we need to tell everyone in every situation.

So, I gave him the same look I gave Trinity. The “whatever you feel comfortable sharing is okay” look.
He answered her sweetly by nodding “yes” he is the baby.

One morning a few weeks ago, I was at a breakfast meeting. I noticed another group of moms meeting. And one baby in a carrier. I don’t know how old the baby was, but I thought for a second, that could have been me, if Mary-Linda was still with me…the person we were meeting with started the conversation by asking us all how many kids we have.

One by one we answered. I felt the tension well up inside me. I said four. In this instance I had just met the woman and may have more encounters with her in the future. I just didn’t feel like sharing. 

Later that same morning, I was in a totally different setting and was asked how many kids I have by someone who I have just started getting to know over the last couple of months. So, this time I mentioned losing Mary-Linda in August. I said “We have four living children and well, you may have heard, but we lost our baby daughter in August- when I was 4.5 months pregnant.” The conversation continued. I cried. She cried. It was sweet and tender and appropriate for where our relationship is headed, as we become better friends. Mary-Linda is not a secret. She’s our daughter, who just happens to be in heaven. 
Please don’t misconstrue this post to mean we shouldn’t ask people about their kids. It’s just something to keep in mind, as you meet people and get to know others. There are so many things we don’t know about other’s lives. 
As a dear friend of mine often says “everybody has stuff.” It’s true. We can’t walk around on egg shells, worried that we might uncover their “stuff” and know them beyond the surface level. 
Would that be so bad? Of course not. But, I think it’s important to think about this as we approach Mother’s Day. This can be a very tough time for many. Those who long to have living children, those who are mothers to children in heaven, those who have lost their mothers, those who have found other ways to mother those they love. This can be a very painful day for many different reasons.

I meet with a loss support group once a month, organized by MEND- Mother’s Enduring Neonatal Death. MEND shared these 5 suggestions today on their facebook page. I would add- don’t assume that since you know someone a little that you know everything important there is to know about them. And most importantly, communicate. Talk. Ask your loved one what their boundaries are and respect them. For me personally, I want to talk about and think about my baby girl, Mary-Linda on Mother’s day and every day. So, if you happen to see me…you will make me smile to let me know that you have not forgotten our little angel girl. Our sweet Magnolia flower in heaven. Mary-Linda Elizabeth.

Happy Mother’s Day, friends. Sending much love and prayers for you all. May grace and peace be yours this May.

El Momma

Always Your Mother

Mother’s Day 2018

From before the moment I knew
you were mine
you were loved
perfect and tiny
beautiful little dancer
oh how you danced
fluttered like a butterfly
strong like no other
you were taken from us in a moment
in an instant
without warning
you were gone
and yet, you linger still
the love you shared with us all
your family
your siblings, your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins
we all miss you so
and thank God for you
your little life
goes on and on
Now, you are in the arms of Jesus
And, I’m here, joining you from my place on earth
I hope you hear me when I sing with you
I hope you know me and know how much I love you
Do you know your mother?
I long for the day I can hold you
to see your beautiful eyes open
our beautiful Magnolia flower in heaven
Our Mary-Linda Elizabeth
gone too soon

Sad Day

This morning we found out that our dear friend and teacher’s baby went to heaven today.

He lived to be 5 months old. He was born full term at a healthy weight.
Looking perfect in every way. 
But, he couldn’t move.
He was later diagnosed with type 0 SMA. SMA is the number one killer of infants. 
How do I know that?
I know it because of super Cooper!
Because of his little life, we can make a difference by spreading awareness and stopping SMA.
His type of SMA is the worst kind and the hope to be able to take him home from the hospital one day was small. But, there was hope. And prayers. Lots of prayers.
And, he did go home.
In fact, he went many places: a bbq benefit, walks with mommy and daddy. He even went for a swim last week with mommy.
His little life is an inspiration. We now know more about SMA and we can spread awareness to stop SMA. 
More about SMA From

About SMA

SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) is a disease that robs people of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to walk, eat, or breathe. It is the number one genetic cause of death for infants. 
SMA is caused by a mutation in the survival motor neuron gene 1 (SMN1). In a healthy person, this gene produces a protein that is critical to the function of the nerves that control our muscles. Without it, those nerve cells cannot properly function and eventually die, leading to debilitating and often fatal muscle weakness. 
SMA affects approximately 1 in 10,000 babies, and about 1 in every 50 Americans is a genetic carrier. SMA can affect any race or gender.
There are four primary types of SMA—I, II, III, and IV—based on age of onset and highest physical milestone achieved.
Individuals with SMA have difficulty performing the basic functions of life, like breathing and swallowing. However, SMA does not affect a person’s ability to think, learn, and build relationships with others.
Though there is currently no approved treatment for SMA, there’s great reason for hope. We know what causes SMA and what we need to do to develop effective therapies, and we’re on the verge of major breakthroughs that will strengthen our children’s bodies, extend life, and eventually lead to a cure.

More about Cooper and more info on how to donate:

How does a Momma grocery shop for her Els in the Summer?

This is a question that has me a bit perplexed this afternoon. Most of the Els are finished with school and out for the Summer. The oldest has his last day of kindergarten tomorrow.

What I am wondering about is: how I will manage to get any grocery shopping done this Summer? Yes, I know I always have the option of bringing four children with me to the grocery store. And, I exercise this option when I “have” to. With this option comes a lot of work, a lot of evil looks, many “are you nuts?” looks and the occasional “I’ve been there” smile. I don’t mind any of the responses, really, I don’t. But, it is SO MUCH HARDER to take four kids to the grocery store with me than say, three kids or two kids or miracle of all miracles, I get to go A-L-O-N-E! That’s a vacation. And, it’s fun. If, you get to go grocery shopping alone, appreciate it. You can have a really great time talking to strangers, sampling food and buying things you don’t need. Enjoy every second!
Back to my original question: How will I grocery shop this Summer?
First of all, I must realize that there are times I may head out to the grocery store and not ever get there. And, that’s okay. I spend a lot of energy planning things and then even more energy being super flexible. It’s a necessity of being a momma who doesn’t want to be stressed all of the time. Today, in fact, I was in the car headed to the grocery store twice and twice we didn’t make it there. Once, because my oldest was asleep when we picked him up from school. He’s not feeling well. So, I was not going to drag him to the store when he obviously needed to be home in bed. When I planned to go earlier, we were also in the car on our way there and pulled into a parking space only to realize the car next to us was parked to close. So, I went to move the car, so I could get the kids out, nearly getting hit by another mom travelling way too fast through the parking lot in her large SUV. I looked back and Baby Leeland was asleep. So, I decided to take him home and let him nap in his crib. By the time we got home, two of my other children had woken him up. But, it was too late to go back.
Second, I may not go to the grocery store any of the weeks when I have all of my kids with me 24-7. I’ll try. But, it just may not happen. I will have to plan ahead when I have the older ones in camps or VBS. So, I can have a pleasant quick trip to the grocery store with only 2 Els.

Finally, I am going to ask for help. It’s the only way! My husband is amazing about shopping for me. I prefer to do it, because, honestly, I don’t get as distracted and only buy what’s on the list. But, he is always happy to help me and so he is probably going to have to do more of the shopping this Summer. And, I may end up with a few surprises in the pantry!

Here’s to a successful Summer of cooking and eating well with the Els! And, to many happy, tantrum-free trips to the grocery store!

El Momma

It’s still hard to believe how it flies

Time. Isn’t it the craziest thing? Sometimes it seems to move so slowly, when we’re waiting for a big event. But, most of the time, it flies by so quickly that it’s gone before we know it. It’s hard for me to believe that my little baby Bakri, will be six years old tomorrow. Six years!? That’s amazing. In six more years he’ll be 12! That’s seems so far away! But, I know, if history repeats itself, the next six years will fly by even faster than the last six. And, before I know it, my baby boy will be in high school. Happy birthday to our big six year old boy, Bakri. May we celebrate in ways that stay with you always and remind you constantly of how much you are enjoyed and loved.

Gabriel & Mason’s First Birthday Party in California

To end our amazing California vacation, we celebrated the first birthday of our twin nephews- Mason & Gabriel. The party was on the patio of a Mexican restaurant. We all had a great time. And it was a perfect party for the kids. There was even an appearance by Spiderman (who sounded a bit like Gilbert Gottfried at times.) Which is really funny because our kids know his voice from the movie Aladdin- he is the voice of the bird.

It was wonderful to be able to celebrate their birthday. We were able to be in California for their birth, and to be able to come back for their first birthday, was such a special time for us. We are especially thankful to Moustapha’s mom and dad for including our family in this trip. We had a great time!

Our Love of the Pacific Ocean & It’s Beaches

We really love the Pacific Ocean and the Californian/ Hawaiian beaches. We’ve lived in Texas (this time around) for nearly 6 years now and we have never been to the beach here. Our kids LOVE the beach and LOVE the water, but the only beaches they have ever been exposed to were in California and Hawaii. I’m totally not complaining. I just hope we can keep this up.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I would spend a lot of time at the beach. When I was single, I would head out to the beach on Sunday’s right after church and be back home by sundown. And when Moustapha and I started dating we spent many weekends at the beach and found a special beach in Malibu- El Matador- that was our favorite place to hang out together.

On this day, we went to Manhattan Beach with our kids and 2 of Moustapha’s sisters and their families. Had we remembered things a little better, we would have been better to choose Hermosa Beach (just one mile away from Manhattan Beach) It’s a little easier to get to and has lots of restaurants and shops right off the beach. But, it was still a really fun day. I long for the day when we can head to the California beach on a Sunday afternoon and be back home by sundown….

Miss Trinity checking out the sand. We went to the beach a lot in Maui. So, this was her second beach trip. She loved it and didn’t really eat the sand, which was great!
Me and my three on the beach.
Maddux, Bakri and Trinity

Bakri LOVES to run on the beach and play in the water. Nothing has changed since our trip to Coronado 3 years ago. Of course he can talk now! Back then, he would just run along the sand yelling “wawa, wawa, wawa!”
Maddux is a little more reserved on the beach. He ended up loving playing in the water too, but he just takes a lot longer to warm up to the idea.
While Bakri was running around having the time of his life, Moustapha was on Daddy Guard!

Here we are attempting to take a picture of all of the cousins together. We were obviously facing the wrong direction. 🙂 Oh well, I think 3 out of the 4 babies ended up crying. Should make for a classic photo.
Our friend Dawn, came to meet us on the beach after she got off work. She rode her bike to see us. Yes, I am a little jealous!
So, our beach day was a huge success. Hope to have more beach visits soon!

Potty Training

We had two different approaches when potty training the boys.

The first one was the “wait until he is ready” approach. We decided to wait until he gave us the signs that he was ready. We were also inching toward a date certain (age 3) at which he needed to be potty trained for school.
Honestly he seemed more interested in letting me know that he wasn’t going to use the potty than actually using the potty. So, as age 3 approached, I became ready and we moved forward. At 2 months prior to his 3rd birthday, we kicked potty training into high gear. He definitely was resistent. I remember one time knowing that he needed to go potty and sitting in the floor of the bathroom while he sat on the potty (resisting going) for an hour and a half. Eventually, he gave in. And boy, did I cheer.
We used the “sticker method” with Bakri. I hung a ribbon vertically in the bathroom with a sign at the top that said “Bakri goes to the Potty.” Everytime Bakri used the potty, he got a sticker and I added one to the ribbon. He loved watching the stickers increase.
With our second son we tried the “teach him early” approach. We definitely didn’t force it, but it was a natural fit since we were training our older child.
Our younger son was 14 months old when we started this and so he got a sign and a sticker ribbon on the wall too. I also started sitting Maddux on the potty when he was really young, because I could tell he needed to go. This made him very comfortable on the potty. By 17 months, Maddux was mostly potty-trained and by his second birthday he was completely potty trained. He really responded well to the “sticker method.” But, most of all, I think for Maddux, it worked because it’s all he really knew and it was presented to him at an early age.
Sitting or standing?- We chose to train the boys to sit. However, they both quickly changed to standing once they were comfortable using the potty regularly.

Pullups or no pullups at night?- at first, we put Maddux in a “protector” at night until he went several days with a dry “protector” aka pullup in the morning. I’ve found that calling something by a different name can sometimes make all the difference.
Most things are easier with the second child, because you have the first child as the example and you’ve been through it once. This was the case with potty-training for us. We’re definitely going to start early with Trinity. Having just one child in diapers is awesome!