Love is in the air. We are thrilled to be publishing our first ever gift guide, just in time for Valentine’s Day. We are focusing on gifts for him, gifts for her, gifts for kids, babies and teachers. We can’t wait to share our finds for Valentine’s Day.
Our lives and my birthday changed forever in 2017. In 2017, I was the happiest I had ever been in my 40 years on earth. I wasn’t the least bit upset to be turning forty. I was pregnant with our second daughter and fifth child. Life for us was in the highest of highs.
The following month, at my 18 week appointment I learned that our daughter had unexpectedly suffered a fetal maternal hemorrhage and her heart had stopped beating. We would go on to deliver her and hold her and deeply grieve and be changed F O R E V E R.
I’ve heard people make comments and say “she should be over it.” “At least she has living children.” “She didn’t even know that baby.” And there are people who are so uncomfortable with me sharing about our walk through grief that they question my mental health. Do you really think that I share everything on social media? No. No, I don’t. But, by me sharing my heart and my experience, I have helped a lot of women who have lost their babies in pregnancy through miscarriage and stillbirth and others who have experienced early infant loss. And, by God’s Grace we have a safe space for all, no matter where you may be in your grief journey, your fertility or infertility journey or your mental health condition. This is and always will be a safe space for you. I am here to listen, to share and to be there for other mommas and hopeful mommas.
That brings me to this year. This year, I am turning 44. There is a different level of joy from my 40th birthday, as we have waded the depths of grief and celebrated on the highest mountain tops since that day. One of our greatest joys came in May of 2019, when God blessed us earth side with our son, Jimmie.
This year, at my birthday dinner, Jimmie was so much fun. He’s learning to keep his cup down when he is drinking from a straw. And in between sips and telling me how he’s supposed to hold his cup, he would remind me of why we were at dinner, sweetly saying “happy birthday, momma.”
I cried. Our lives look so different than what we would have anticipated them looking like just four years ago. We’ve experienced the loss of our daughter, who would be 3 years old right now. We’ve experienced the joy of having our precious Jimmie (age 2). Expecting him, being together for his birth and being home together for much of his first year and second year of life. We are incredibly blessed and thankful. Our big Els wanted to know why I was crying and Moustapha said this “God didn’t have to give us Jimmie.”
That is so true. Jimmie doesn’t replace our baby who died. But, we know we would be in a very different place right now, if we were still waiting on baby Jimmie. Thankfully, God made a way where we did not see the way. It was not easy and we are incredibly thankful.
My birthday will always be a reminder that we are missing Mary-Linda and that we are blessed with our Jimmie, Leeland, Trinity, Maddux and Bakri. A reminder that we are not promised tomorrow and to be grateful for our blessings today.
July is Bereaved Parents Awareness month.
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!
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.
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
-  TB extra virgin olive oil
-  chopped white onion
-  pound ground beef
-  TB 7 spices (recipe for seven spices included below)
-  tsp kosher salt
-  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.
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.
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
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!
What a difference!
10 years ago, we were “in the throws” with a newborn baby boy- our Bakri. A very sweet time, really. Rocking chairs, cradles, cuddles, nursing and sleep deprived.
As we were blessed with more babies, a lot of things became a lot easier.
For example, with more children I had less time to focus on one child.
For me, that meant I was a lot less neurotic with the addition of more children. (Sorry, Bakri!)
But, that has just been my personal experience.
Sometimes I wonder about the “people online.”
You know the ones.
The ones that are often referred to as “trolls” because they troll websites looking to cause a fight.
They aren’t “us,” right?
I wouldn’t be friends with someone like that, would I? Or, would I?
I don’t spend a lot of time reading comments on articles or youtube videos.
Just as a small example, the below is a screenshot of a YouTube of my second oldest son talking at 11 months. I’ve deleted the comments that call him the “r-word” or generally make a derogatory comment about a baby. But, I leave most. I often wonder who took the time to give a video of a baby (my baby) a thumbs down? But, I digress…
Does this mean there are a lot of mean people out there?
Or, are we creating online caricatures of ourselves that can say and be our worst selves?
If we really aren’t that mean and these are just caricatures we are hiding behind, then it seems to be more of a sign of our brokenness than anything else.
We are so broken that we want to break others.
We want to see that they are more broken than we are.
Break them down.
Put them in a box.
I read both sides.
I’m sure you do too.
I know people who blame our current president for every problem. I know others who blame our most recent past president for every problem or the president before him. And so on.
It’s often “us” vs. “them.”
It’s rarely a “we.”
We don’t see ourselves as the bad guys.
Because, frankly we are just not as bad as the other guy.
At least we don’t believe we are.
We certainly don’t have the power of our elected officials to make change, so when they don’t or they do, they are definitely worse than us.
We don’t physically hurt people.
We aren’t murderers.
We don’t leave guns out in our homes for our young children or their friends to stumble upon.
We’re not racist.
We’re not sexist.
We’re not that religion or that one or that one.
We’re not like “them.”
Or, are we?
Just a thought.
But, it seems to me that if we are all broken, then we are all broken. Broken more? Or, broken less? Does it even matter? Broken is broken. And, by His grace we are forgiven.
Today’s “think on this” comes from Romans 3:21. “AE)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>has been manifested apart from the law, although <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-27997AF" data-link="( the righteousness of God <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-27997AE" data-link="(AF)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-27998AH" data-link="(AH)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>For there is no distinction: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-28000AK" data-link="(AK)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>by his grace as a gift, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-28000AL" data-link="(AL)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, put forward as <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-28001AN" data-link="(AN)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>a propitiation <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-28001AO" data-link="(AO)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-28001AP" data-link="(AP)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>his divine forbearance he had passed over <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-28001AQ" data-link="(AQ)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>former sins.
We’re two weeks in and I’m tired. Any other mommas and dads with me?
Summers and vacations are times when I find my rhythm. Who doesn’t love relaxing and taking a break from the norm to refresh. But, even so, I love structure. I love knowing what’s next, scheduling myself silly until I just fall over at the end of each day. It’s part of the reason we plan weekly themes in the summers. It helps me to make a plan. A plan that still allows all of us to sleep in on summer days.
And, that is the reason I’m so tired. Every school day I wake up by 6am. I am NOT an early riser. I’m a sleeper and a dreamer. I’m also a Momma, so I convince myself if I just get up now, I can take a nap once all of the Els are at school/work. That’s just me lying to myself. I’ll never stop to take a nap. But, the thought is nice.
So, we’re off. In the rhythm of school and work and practices and lessons and choirs and teaching and rehearsals and total chaos. We’re in our rhythm. We’re happy and good, but tired. How are you doing with the kids back in school?
About El Momma: Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam is a worship leader and songwriter from Houston, Texas. Her debut album, Radiant You received 4.5 stars from NewReleaseTuesday and was produced by Marshall Altman. A 6 song sampler is available for free on Noisetrade Free Noisetrade Download and the entire album is available for purchase on iTunes