Remembering Our Baby Girl this Christmas

As I sit in my living room, under the beautiful glow of our Christmas tree, it hits me like a giant wave. An overwhelming sense of loss. Sadness. For a moment, I see her face. Tiny. 17 weeks and 3 days old. Beautiful. 

Suddenly my mind moves forward to the age she should be now. I would have been full term pregnant on NYE 2017. Our daughter would be nearly a year old now. I would be nursing her to sleep or watching her play under the Christmas tree before putting her down to bed. 

I miss the baby I never held alive. I miss her sweet face. I miss all the wonderful memories we didn’t get to have with her this last year. Life has continued to move forward. This year has not been easy. I am more thankful than ever for our friends and family who continue to love us unconditionally and never forget our daughter. 
I miss my Mary-Linda. Happy Christmas in heaven, baby girl. Momma loves you so. 

Good morning, Christmas!

As I head off to bed in the early hours of Christmas morning, I’m struck my an unusual sense of peace. This moment. Alone. Downstairs. The stockings are full. The presents are wrapped. There is a half-eaten cookie and partially empty glass of milk in the living room. “Santa” has made his delivery of one toy per El under the tree. And, the children are snug in their beds. Probably dreaming of the chaos that will surely touch us, if not overwhelm us in a few hours. 
It’s peaceful.
It’s quiet.
Thank you, Jesus for your peace that passes all understanding. 
I often get asked how I am so calm with four kids. (I’m not that calm, btw) But, if there is calmness, it’s peace. The peace that can only come through Jesus. 
Happy birthday, Jesus! 
May the peace of Christ be with you and yours this Christmas and always. 

A Blessed Christmas Day by El Momma

We hope you had a wonderful Christmas day. We definitely did. It was one of those days where it could have been a complete chaotic mess and that would have been okay. Because, what can you really expect from a family with four kids, age five and under!? But, by the end of the day when my husband and I were sitting alone in our living room by the soft glowing lights of the Christmas tree reflecting on the day, we knew our Christmas day was just as it should be. Perfect.

Our day started with 3 very excited little Els. They were anxious to get downstairs and see if Santa left them a present under the Christmas tree. I think this picture captures them in the middle of saying “happy birthday, Jesus!”

Santa was good to all of the Els. He brought an engraved rocking horse snow globe for the baby, a collector’s baby doll for Trinity, an electric guitar for Maddux and Magic School Bus science kits for Bakri. They were very very excited!

Our day continued with the arrival of my parents to celebrate Christmas with my mom and dad, sister, brother, sister-in-law and three of our nephews. Not leaving our house on Christmas day was such a blessing. I can’t even begin to explain how amazing this made our Christmas. My parents arrived with lots of food and I made a couple of really simple dishes- baked brie, a turducken, and green bean casserole. We just relaxed and prepared the table for food and the kids played with some of their new toys.
My brother and his family arrived and the fun really began! They have 3 boys and another baby on the way. So, we will soon have 8 grandchildren at all of our gatherings. It is a lot of fun. After a casual lunch, we had a birthday party for Jesus.

We gathered at the table for the birthday party!



 We sang the “happy birthday” song three times. One time the candle went out on its own. Then my sister blew it out the second time. Finally, the third time (the charm) the grands blew out the birthday candle. Whew!

Soon it was time to open presents. We gathered in areas of the living room…separated in to family groups! And, actually, it wasn’t that crazy after all. The wildest time was when the boys opened their “pillow pets,” a gift from their Aunt Melinda. It was hilarious. They all screamed and cheered about their pillow pets. So fun!
Leeland got a new blanket with his name and birthday monogrammed on it. He loves it.

 Maddux is a sharp dresser. So, he really loved his new winter sweater and wanted to put it on right away. He did. No big deal that it is on backwards!

 Leeland, Trinity and Anthony got rocking chairs from Grandmother and Grandfather. The older boys got rocking chairs for Christmas a few years ago. These rocking chairs are so nice. They are solid cherry and have their names and birthdays on them. I hope they will keep them forever and someday their children will rock in them.

 After all of the partying, opening of presents, eating, singing and laughing, the kids napped and then watched a movie and I folded clothes and made dinner. Yes, folded clothes. It was glorious! Seriously, with a family of six and all of the rehearsals, preparing for church services, Christmas parties and family events, I managed to keep our clothes clean, but not put away. It took me nearly two hours to complete this task! But, I did it and I felt amazing when it was done! For dinner, I asked the Els what they wanted and the answer was “pancakes.” So, I whipped up a fresh batch of homemade pancakes and they each ate at least three. I think Bakri had five. And then, with full tummies, we put them all to bed, with their pillow pets, of course!

There was still plenty of work to be done in the house, but instead we decided to sit together in the quiet, downstairs. The Christmas tree was lit and we just talked. We talked about Christmas. We talked about our children. We talked about how special the  day turned out to be. We talked about the blessing of Christmas. How do we make it about Jesus when the world says it’s about presents? I don’t know the answer to that. But, I do know that we showed our children a lot of love on Christmas. We didn’t give them a lot of presents, but I know they felt the love and hopefully they will learn that is the most precious gift you can give and receive.

May your days be Merry and Bright.

Lots of love,
El Momma

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!

Christmas Eve with the Els! What a day! It turned out great, but it was one busy, hectic day, especially for El Momma!
When you are the momma you are expected to do certain things. At least, in this house. And, I’m okay with that. I am considered a “stay at home” momma. And, I’m good with that title too. In addition to the many jobs that title brings with it, I am blessed to have another job as a worship leader at a loving church in West U and with that job comes a lot of work around the holidays. Great work! But, work, none-the-less. Leading up to the days before Christmas, I led worship the first 2 Sundays of Advent, participated in two  Lessons and Carols Services on the 4th Sunday of Advent, led worship Christmas Eve during our 5pm Family Service, led worship the first Sunday after Christmas AND my husband sang a song “Manger Throne” as part of the sermon series throughout all of Advent. And, we had a sit-down dinner party for the band at our house plus a ton of rehearsals to prepare for all of the services. The Els were amazing through it all. They almost always have to come early with me to services. And, for the most part, they were great! So, back one of the things I am “expected” to do: shopping, that’s the big one for Christmas. I think a lot about gifts. I like to get people things they will really like and use. I don’t know if I’m totally successful with that. But, my heart is in the right place. Somehow, some way, we managed to get all of the gifts for family in time for Christmas, except for one that was guaranteed for Christmas Eve delivery to Sugar Land and is still floating around somewhere in Stafford. But, other than that, I did my job! I don’t even know how I did it. In fact at 1:40pm Christmas Eve, just 1 hour and 20 minutes before I was supposed to arrive with my entire family to church for sound check and rehearsal, I was still inside Mega Marshalls. This was right when they announced over the load speaker that they were “probably going to lose power at 2pm for about 30 minutes.” Aaaaah! That is one way to cause panic and make everyone in the store rush to the front. What a nightmare. And, really, I was just trying to grab a new dress or something that would actually fit my “I have a 5 month old baby” body. So, after that, I managed to get home, help get everyone dressed for church and get myself dressed and then we made it to church only 15 minutes after sound check was supposed to begin. Luckily, the Youth Band (which I am lucky enough to direct) started their sound check without me. The service was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. And, it was nearly perfect. I was a little stressed during Silent Night when no one came to light the candles of the band members and the lights didn’t go out in the sanctuary. But, in the great scheme of things, that really is not a big deal. And, I believe that wasn’t important to God at the time, or it would have happened. So, I’ve had to let that little imperfection go and know that our praises to Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit were perfect on Christmas Eve, even without candles in the dark!
After the service, we made our way to Moustapha’s parents’ house to have Christmas Eve dinner and a celebration with the family. We didn’t make it in time for dinner. We probably would have been closer to dinner time, if it wasn’t for the horrific rain storm we traveled through. We’re lucky to have made it at all. And, after we finally made it inside, somehow I didn’t burst into tears. But, I promise, I came very close!
Moustapha and I enjoyed dinner and soon everyone gathered in the living room to open presents: Moustapha’s parents, all three of his sisters, their families including five more children and all of us found a place to sit. Two of our nephews had ear infections and were running fever. Thankfully, they are all better now. But, that was really hard on them and their parents. We spent the rest of the night opening gifts, relaxing and talking with family.

 The Els in front of the Christmas tree.

 Leeland and his new froggy!

 Aunt Leila with Leeland at dinner.

 Maddux with Toy Story toys!

 Oooooooooooooooooh, a tricycle!

 Grandma and Jiddy

 Christopher and Aunt Amira

 My first Christmas


By the time we arrived home, Trinity was asleep and Bakri and Maddux stayed up to put cookies and milk out for Santa. It wasn’t long before they were dreaming too. Mommy and Daddy’s work was still not done. We had to really get ready for Santa! But, soon, we were fast asleep and before we knew it, the Els were waking us up ready to start Christmas Day!

10 Holiday Survival Tips

So, I took my monthly trip to Sam’s Club this week. I typically head there once or twice a month to stock up on all the staple items we need each month for our family of six. I buy the same things every month. And, usually everything I pick up will last us about three weeks. It’s a pretty standard list and I take only the four month old with me. This week, we found Sam’s Club to be in the holiday swing of things. The Christmas music was playing and all of the toys and Christmas trees were prominently displayed. It got me thinking about how much time we spend preparing for Christmas. It is over a month away, which should make us all feel like we have plenty of time to prepare, but often it gives us a sense of anxiety.
I’d like focus my “Holiday Survival Tips” on preparing for Christmas through the Advent season.
First of all, what is Advent? According to wikipedia, Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming“) is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.
Growing up, I was raised in a Christian home and we attended a large Baptist Church. My family did a lot together to prepare for Christmas. And, really, we did a lot of activities during the Advent season. However, I don’t remember learning about or focusing on Advent in our church community. In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing of Advent until I became an adult.
As an adult, we’ve found our church home in the Presbyterian denomination. One of the things I have treasured the most and learned from our churches is the importance of Advent. Christmas doesn’t just come upon us. We have time and can be very thoughtful about preparing for Christmas. I love being able to make Advent a focus in our home with our children. It is a wonderful gift to give them.
For me, personally, the best way to survive the Holidays is to focus on the true the meaning of Christmas. What does Christmas mean to you? How can you make that the focus this Christmas and Advent?
1. Celebrate Advent.
Take the time to prepare for Christmas. Slow down and enjoy the little moments that make the holidays such a special and memorable time for you and your children. Create special memories. It’s the little details that will stay with you and your children for a lifetime.  
2. Have a nightly activity you do with your children throughout Advent.
Advent begins Sunday, November 28th this year. So, you have nearly a month of preparation time. We have an Advent Calendar made out of felt and shaped like a Christmas tree. Each night we gather at the dinner table and our children take turns taking a gift out of a pocket on the Christmas tree calendar. The children really look forward to their turn and they are filled with anticipation wondering what gift will be in the pocket. We build on this anticipation. And, we also read a scripture or scriptures. We choose verses from the gospels that are leading to the story of Jesus’ birth.
3. Set up a nativity scene in your home and use it daily as a teaching tool.
We have several nativity scenes. One is the Little People version from fisher price and one is a fancier one. Let Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wisemen travel throughout your home during Advent. You can coordinate this with the scriptures you are reading together nightly with your family. And have the baby Jesus appear on Christmas morning. Our children LOVED this last Christmas!
4. Bake cookies together as a family for your neighbors and friends.
Last year we bought cute Christmas boxes at Tuesday morning and filled them with homemade chocolate chip cookies. We delivered them to the doorsteps of neighbors on our street and throughout our neighborhood. We included notes wishing them a Merry Christmas. It is a wonderful way to show the Love of Christ to our neighbors and to get to know them a little better.
5. Make a list of the gifts you need to buy for your family and friends and stick to it.
It can be overwhelming to shop at this time of year. And, it is so much easier when we keep it simple and know what we are looking for. Don’t get distracted!
6. Decorate early.
Our children find the Christmas tree to be magical. They love it and look forward to it’s return every year. I find that having Christmas decorations up soon after Thanksgiving makes for a very relaxing Advent season. I love the way my house feels and smells and looks when it is decorated for Christmas. It is just a really special time. And, the sooner I get to enjoy it with my family, the better!
7. It’s okay to say “no.”
Our pastor said something this week that really stuck with me. He said that we have true freedom in life when we have the ability to say “no.” It’s the saying “yes” to too many things, often unhealthy things that can lead to a life of bondage. We can’t do everything we are asked to do. During this holiday season, think about what is best for your family. And, say “no.” You can’t attend every party, bake cookies for every event, or sing in every Christmas production in your city! Seriously, say “no!” It’s okay!
8. Take the time to gather precious photos for your Christmas Cards.
We have had a new baby four out of the last six years. So, with a newborn, we’ve taken newborn pictures and included the whole family. These make for great family photos for our Christmas Cards. Sometimes we’ve included only one photo and as you’ll see below, sometimes we’ve included multiple photos in our cards.
9. Share your love of the season with your friends and family by sending holiday cards.
This is the easiest and most treasured way we get to share our faith with so many people that we come in contact with throughout the year. We share a little bit of what we’ve been up to throughout the year and we get to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

10. Most importantly for us as parents during this Advent season, is to teach our children that the focus shouldn’t be inward on ourselves but outward- on what has been done for us- the gift of Jesus. And on what we can do for others. How can we show the love of Christmas this season?

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful Advent season.

For the past several years we’ve used for our family Christmas Card. The card examples from 2008 and 2009 are pictured above.

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Advent 2009

Since becoming Presbyterian, I’ve learned to celebrate aspects of my faith that I was unfamiliar with growing up. Advent, in particular, has become a very special time for me and for our family.
Meaning of Advent: (from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming”) a season observed in many Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Throughout the Advent season, we read scriptures each night at the dinner table. And, we used an Advent Calendar for children. It’s made out of felt and has little characters that are pulled out of the pockets each night and placed on the felt calendar (shaped like a tree.) The children took turns pulling the characters out of the pockets and had no trouble remembering each night whose turn it was.
We also put out a nativity scene at the beginning of Advent. It was empty and as Christmas approached, we added the pieces of the nativity scene. On Christmas morning, Baby Jesus arrived. The children were estatic. It was more exciting for them than the fact that the cookies and milk we’d left out for Santa on Christmas Eve were eaten.
Here are a few photos from Advent at home and a few from some of the celebrations we had at church.

The Christmas Eve Carriage Ride

After the Christmas Eve service and Christmas Eve dinner we headed home. On our way there, we decided to take the children to look at Christmas lights a few blocks from our home. We had made our way all the way down one boulevard and back down the other, when we saw 2 Clydesdale horses pulling a carriage covered in Christmas decorations and lights. We were amused and pointed it out to the els. Next thing we knew, a woman was approaching the car asking us if we would like to ride. She said they would wait for us. We hurriedly put on the kids jackets (it was really cold) and climbed aboard.
Here are some of the family members we met. The mom’s name is Mary. She has 6 children: 4 boys (the oldest) and 2 girls. They had just returned from church and were going out for a ride while dinner was warming up.
Moustapha and Baby Trinity
Bakri, Rebekah & Maddux having so much fun!

Here is our whole family! What a blessing this was. And such a fun way to end our Christmas Eve. Mary (the woman who invited us to ride) was truly an example of God’s love. She wanted to share her experience and family with us and she did. His love isn’t just for some…it is for all. Thank you, Mary, for your generosity and loving heart.

And, Bakri was so cute on the ride. He asked her if she was an elf. Then he asked if we were on our way to the North Pole. She told him that only reindeer went there and we were being pulled by horses. Later he asked the entire carriage “Are you guys ALL ELVES?” It was so cute!

Merry Christmas!

Our Visit with Santa Claus

Maddux loved his visit with Santa Claus. Seriously, that is what he says. He talks about sitting on Santa’s lap and how he wants Santa to read to him. We haven’t said anything to him about crying. I am guessing he remembers that part, but is just choosing to block it out and pretend like it was a great visit. At least we have these soon to be classic photos of him that we can share for years to come and all get a little giggle!

Bakri, on the other hand, really did love his visit with Santa! He asked Santa for a bicycle. I did my best to lead him into wanting a tricycle first. Moustapha and I figured he’d enjoy a bike after he rides a trike for a little while. Since our house was either under construction or we were out of the house over the last year, we didn’t have driveway access for the kids to ride tricycles. So, now is the time!

Trinity was precious during her visit with Santa. She was unphased by Maddux’s crying and then she really lit up when it was her turn to sit with Santa by herself. My mom got her this beautiful outfit from Janie and Jack which I put her in over and over again during Christmas, because I just thought she looked so beautiful. She is such a sweet baby. I can’t believe she is already 3 months old. It is unbelievable how fast time goes the older you get and the more children you have. Or maybe its both. Or the fact that I am older and have more children. Either way, it is super fast. I just want to hold on to every precious moment!