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 

Mothering through the Unexpected and the Tragic

The most difficult year of mothering yet.

This time last year, Moustapha and I just found out we were expecting. It was too early to have an ultrasound and to know if everything was going okay. But we knew we were pregnant. We’d been trying for a few months and tbh we were praying for a little girl. At our 9 week appointment, we got to see our little gummy bear, a strong heartbeat and all signs that he or she was doing great and growing as expected. 

At 10 weeks, I could listen to the baby’s heartbeat at home. I did this most evenings. We had some blood work done around 10 weeks and got the results at our 13 week ultrasound. 

We were told that our baby was a girl and she was growing perfectly. I loved that ultrasound so much. Our baby girl was dancing! Putting her hands to her mouth and gave me all the feels of a happy little baby! 

We told the Els around this time but waited to tell them our baby’s sex until my 40th birthday. The kids were so excited to know either way and delighted to learn she was a she. 💗💗 

After this, we treated the next three weeks as normal. We enjoyed family time and my baby bump continued to grow. 

At just over 17 weeks, I couldn’t find her heartbeat at home. I was headed for my regular appointment the next morning and I didn’t let myself believe that she could be gone. But, the next day, my worst nightmare was confirmed. Our baby girl had passed, her heart had stopped beating. I now had to mother all of my children through a situation I never imagined for any of us. I had made promises to them- promises that they would hold their sister. Promises that we would be a family of seven. Promises of a life together. 

This was not what I promised. But, I leaned on God and kept going. Should we let the Els see Mary-Linda? Hold her? We decided to let them decide. We had photos and when the Els arrived to the hospital the day Mary-Linda was born sleeping, we let the Els look at the photos first. We gave them the option to look and then if they wanted to see her after that, they could. And, if they wanted to hold her after that, they could. One by one, they made the decision. And we kept the promise that they would all be able to hold their sister. 

It doesn’t stop there. I don’t get to mother Mary-Linda here on earth, the way I want to. But, losing her has changed the way I mother my other children. I don’t know if I’m doing it right. Is there even a right way to move through this? But, I haven’t stopped. I’m trying to love my children through it. I can’t say I’m looking forward to Mother’s Day this year. I can say I thank God for every single one of the precious souls who made me a mother. 

Please know that I’m thinking of and praying for all of the mothers out there who’ve lost, who’ve longed for a baby on earth, who have loved ones in heaven. I’m thinking of you. 

Much love,

El Momma

Such a beautiful name…

Warning. This post discusses loss. 

We had a list of possible names for our baby daughter. Fifty or more different combinations. We knew we wanted to give her a name that paid homage to both our mothers’.

I remember a day a couple of months ago. My husband texted me one name idea. I replied back with my very large list (which I started working on right after finding out we were pregnant). The list was full of girl names. So many names. All of which connected with our mothers. He replied to my text with:
“Goodness me. This is going to be more difficult that I initially thought.”

We thought we had time to know for sure. The kids would often tell us of their name ideas.

Here are just a few:

We told them, “God knows her name and when we need to know we will know.”

On August 15th, 2017 we knew. I remember laying there in the hospital bed, in labor with our daughter and I just knew.

Mary-Linda Elizabeth

Just say it and it sounds so beautiful. So meant to be. Our precious baby.

We named her “Mary” for my husband’s mother. Mary means “wished-for child.” She is our wished-for child in every way.

We named her “Linda” for my mother. Linda means “beautiful.” She is beautiful and perfect in every way.

We named her “Elizabeth” because Elizabeth means oath or promise of God. We hold tight to God’s promises. Especially that He never leaves us or forsakes us. Knowing I was giving birth to our daughter who was already in heaven was only something I could go through knowing I was not going through it alone. The Lord was with us. His presence was felt and known in so many ways in that hospital bed.

I often think back to that experience- the worst of my life. But, I can’t help but remember so much peace in the deep heartache and suffering. That’s only possible through God. There really is no other explanation.

We love you forever, our baby daughter in heaven, Mary-Linda Elizabeth. 

When "stuff" is happening

…I find myself less likely to share. Less likely to want to write. At least, lately.

My dad has been in the hospital or in rehab for various reasons (including congestive heart failure, 2 hip surgeries, septic shock, a cracked femur) since before Thanksgiving. It’s been really hard on my mom and my sister, especially. But, also hard on my brother and his family and my family. We are all trying to help my mom and dad as much as possible and it turns out that “the system” stinks and just when we think we have it figured out, we are battling again. And, I’m exhausted. Like, mother of four, who works full time exhausted. Plus more. Remember when I did the whole30 in February? That was a pretty great month for me after day 11. But, what occurred around mid March (15 days post whole30) has us (my doctor(s) included) perplexed and worried about the answer. Around that time my hands (fingers, mostly) began to swell and I had to remove my rings. I’ve noticed since then that my feet were also swollen. I’ve now experienced this inflammation for over six weeks. It’s (hopefully) not that big of a deal. But, I can’t shake the feeling (and the reality) that it is something. This is not normal and I’m frustrated, tired and scared.
So, I share all this to say that I am feeling weak right now. Afraid to ask for help. But, I need it. I need your prayers. My family needs your prayers. Can I ask you to pray for me over the next week as I am taking steroids in the hopes that my Rheumatologist can find the answer? I pray for answers and I pray for healing. 
I appreciate you. As a mom of four elementary school kids in May, there’s just no time to slow down and certainly no time for me to be sick…or down. 
Thanks and I promise to update when we find the answer!

The Whole 30 Day-El-Day

Day one: What am I doing? I need to print this shopping list
Day two: cooked 2 great Whole30 dinners so far. Can I keep this up for 28 more days?
Day three: coffee and clarified butter. yum. oops, I forgot to eat breakfast
Day four: I think I’m allergic to pistachios! Too bad I’ve been snacking on them pretty much non stop for the last three days. Good thing it’s only bumps and skin itching and not anaphylactic! 😳

Day five: my back hurts so bad today. I can barely stand up. Should I blame this on the whole30 and quit now while I can still walk?
Day six: okay. I remembered what caused my back injury. It was a child and not the whole30. Now, let’s do this Super Bowl Sunday whole30 style!
Day seven: success! I made chicken and mushrooms over mashed cauliflower, fresh guacamole and bacon wrapped date stuffed jalapeños yesterday! Can’t wait for today’s leftovers 
Day eight: Houstonian coffee blended with clarified unsalted butter. yum.

Day nine: I miss cheese. 
Day ten: I can’t believe I’m 1/3 of the way through. More than cheese, I miss thoughtless snacking. Okay, so maybe this is a really good thing. I’m starting to change the way I think. Hmmm 
Day eleven: I’m still not feeling great. I was thinking by this time, I would be over the cravings and withdrawals. Not so much. But, I won’t give up. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.
Day twelve: This is better. Maybe I am over the hump. PS. took my eldest child to Whataburger on our way to middle school auditions. I ordered a side of avocado for 75 cents. 🙂 
Day thirteen: oh, Valentine’s Day. How I love thee. I love thee so much that I am making whole30 compliant steak, asparagus, thick cut roasted potatoes and Brussel sprouts for dinner. I’m also freezing one of every gluten free homemade dessert my sister in law brings over 
Day fourteen: I may give up coffee. Altogether. Forever. That’s it. Because, today it really tasted like garbage and if it tastes bad, what’s the point, right?
Day fifteen: self discipline. I’ve got this.  Half way there, momma! 
Day sixteen: Larabar bars. I’ve tried one Whole30 Compliant Larabar bar: Cashew Cookie. It was delish. Here’s a list of Whole30 Compliant Larabar Bars from the Whole30 blog:
Day seventeen: one of my bffs shared with me her secrets for a successful whole30. One of them: a spanx tank top. I ordered one (or two) right away and boy am I skinny now!? Ha! But, things are held together a little better. So, I’m happy. 💗
Day eighteen: I worked out today AND I’m about to take my post-workout self on a mini-vacation (aka grocery shopping by myself!) woohoo! Here’s my post workout face…
Day nineteen: oh my back! This pain feels like day five. My back has been feeling better and worse and better and worse. I think yesterday’s spinning workout sent me over the edge. I can’t sit today and standing isn’t much better. In other news, I am getting a little bored of eggs (con no queso.) Today, I made a delicious “kitchen sink egg scramble” for me and the hubs. (The Els had their usual scrambled eggs with cheese) It was our best breakfast of the #whole30. Coconut oil, chopped onions and peppers. Cooked. Then, adding chopped kale, then eggs and cooked bacon and topped with avocado chunks. Yum!
Day twenty: I thought last night was going to be a bit of a challenge. We had a school fundraiser at a bar/restaurant with a preordered menu with absolutely nothing I could eat. And, no sparking water at the bar. But, I pushed through by ordering soda water with lime all night. And, all I can say is that I wasn’t tempted to eat anything or drink anything (alcohol or soda with sugar etc) and boy do I feel great today! 
So great that here is what we had for lunch after church. 
Whole30 Oven roasted Brussels sprouts and squash 

Whole30 Mexican tuna boats

Double Yum!
Day twenty-one: Woohoo! I feel extra excited today. I guess it’s that another weekend has gone by and I’m still moving forward. We had dinner out with family last night and I’ve never been a super complicated “orderer.” Not last night. I was very complicated and high maintenance- for me. 🙂 I wasn’t even tempted to eat the steak nachos dripping in cheese that were placed right in front of me. We were at a Mexican restaurant (Tex-Mex) that we go to pretty regularly. I ordered a filet mignon with salt and pepper as the seasoning. And shrimp cooked in spices (no butter- no soy) I passed on the queso, the chips and salsa. Salsa was probably fresh and Whole30 compliant, but I wasn’t going to drink it. (so, no salsa) I also drank sparking water. I requested my absolute favorite sparkling water- Topo Chico (and although they had a huge Topo Chico sign hanging on the wall behind me), but they didn’t have any. Oh well. Today’s breakfast was also fun. I made a egg and tomato frittata with kale (hubs is allergic to spinach). I actually used the broiler for breakfast. First time for that! I think the lesson that I’m learning is that meals are so much easier when I take the time to plan a menu ahead. There is some extra work on the front end, but boy is the result rewarding! Cheers! 
Day twenty-two: awake just before 5am with severe back pain. So much so, that I (person who can fall asleep the second her head hits the pillow-a gift I inherited from my momma) couldn’t sleep anymore. I tried and tried and finally gave up at 545. I normally get up at 6am each day. So, today, I promise to continue to rest my back and perhaps, make an appointment with a chiropractor! Ouch! 
Day twenty-three: I like black coffee. Hard to imagine. I was a cream and sugar kind of girl. Then, a “Bullet proof coffee with sugar sprinkled on top” kind of lady. And now I’m a “I’ll take my coffee black” woman with a more sophisticated palate. I can actually taste the beans, people. The coffee beans. It’s true. 
And, I still miss cheese. Not in a “I’m craving cheese. I can’t live without cheese” kind of way. More of a “hmmm, this would be good with a little cheese on top” kind of way. 
Day twenty-four: bragging momma moment. The Els ate this:
Not too surprising since it’s chicken. But, it is cooked a little differently than how they are used to. 
And…drum roll….they ate this:
And, they liked it. Cabbage! I’m a happy momma today. Now, where’s my coffee? 

Day twenty-five: I was tempted by a cookie today. The cookie did not win. That is all.

Day twenty-six: what a beautiful weekend! Still feeling good. Can’t believe I only have four days to go! 
Day twenty-seven: Sunday Funday! Banana and coffee for breakfast. Taco truck for lunch (with no tortillas). Oranges and more coffee for snack. Cold Topo Chico in the afternoon sun. It’s a great day to be alive.

Day twenty-eight: it’s leap day and day 28 of my whole30! Honestly, I’m ready for some results and a break from being so strict. Gosh, I really am such a nerdy rule follower. 😉

Day twenty-nine: I’ve seen the light. At least a little light. Food. Health. Choices. Planning. Cooking. Trying. Asking. This has been a positive journey for me. I’ve changed. I’ll wait to share more once I’ve completed the Whole30 tomorrow, but  really looking forward to being more thoughtful about food and my health from now on. 

Day thirty: I can’t believe it! 30 days. Almost no exercise. (unfortunately, since I threw out my back!) But, just a change in what I cook and eat and I lost 8 pounds. More changed than just that. I now have a different way of thinking and a new way of planning meals. I’m excited about implementing these changes and lessons as I add some of my favorite ingredients back into my life. Hummus anyone?

Happy Valentine’s Day – Old School Style

Four kids and only one room mom.
Room mom for one kid.
One classroom.
That’s it.
And, that feels good.
It feels like enough.
I trust my room mom friends who take such good care of my other kids in their classrooms and I do my best with the one classroom I get to be mom in.
Valentines is one of my favorite “extra” holidays.
I love the colors.
Red. Pink.
I love the feelings of nostalgia that Valentine’s day brings.
When I was a kid, my mom used to make the biggest heart shaped valentine sugar cookies with pink icing.
She made them for my classroom.
She made them for kids in my grade who were no longer in my classroom.
She was known for these cookies.
She still makes them.
And, they are so good.
Because, they are good.  And, because she makes them with lots and lots of love.
I also remember really cute bags and boxes to put our class valentines in.
So, when we found out that we were going to have a classroom party for Valentine’s day…I knew I wanted the kids in Trinity’s first grade class to make Valentine Bags as their party craft.
The kids (pretty much) did everything for themselves.

They cut out hearts, glued on eyes, folded the accordion arms and legs. And, kept really busy and focused making their very own valentine bags.
And, I think, us parents, had a good time too.
And kind of old school.
Just my style.
Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!
El Momma 

Oh the Momma Drama

I wrote this in December, just before Christmas. I’m sharing it now as the drama (always) continues. 
xoxo, El Momma

It’s been an interesting few weeks (months) around the El House. One up followed by a down followed by an up and on and on. You get the picture.

The biggest weight that we have been carrying is my dad’s health. He’s been in and out of the hospital for the last few months. It’s been hard. Thankfully, he seems to have turned a corner, he’s in a rehab facility and we are hopeful he will be strong enough to go home soon.

So, that brings me to my “Momma Drama” and breakdown of the day.

Let’s set the scene.

First, our school district sends out a district wide phone message notifying all the parents of a “threat of violence” (that appears to be uncredible) last night. Our school responds swiftly with closing the campus to all visitors. At this point, I feel sad that we’ve come to this, but I am okay.
We make it to school fine and all of our children are in the building safely. We decide to have breakfast nearby, just in case we are needed quickly. All is calm and well. My husband goes to work and I begin working from home. I decide I am going to exercise today “no matter what” and I pick out a power yoga class that I will absolutely attend. (I promise myself again!) I head to the back of my vehicle to put something in it and run a quick errand on my way to yoga. I see my kindergartner’s lunch box in the back and start driving to the school, since it’s already his lunchtime by then. (they have lunch super early in the day) I am about to turn on the road to our school when my phone rings and it is the school calling. I hear an automated recording which identifies itself as the “attendance office” and notifies me that “your student, Trinity…El…is absent today….” My heart sinks. “Don’t panic,” I tell myself. I end the call and find the school on my phone and call the front office. I calmly identify myself and tell them what happened. They ask me to hold as I pull up to the school. She returns to the phone to apologize and inform me that it was just an error. “Trinity is here.” The thoughts that ran through my head (in what was only a few seconds) were terrifying. All I wanted was to hold my sweet girl. To tell her I love her. To cherish her. I walked into the school and left Leeland’s lunch with a note. I got a quick hug from one of my babies’ teachers and I left to run the errand I still had to run, on my way to yoga.

So, I get to the monogram shop (the errand). I’m picking up our Christmas pajamas. They were being monogrammed and I had all of them ready, except for Moustapha’s (dad). I tried with him. I even ordered a pair of “men’s pajamas” from zulily to match the kids. And, the men’s pajamas I ordered were actually a child size medium. UGH! So, I finally resolve to just have a red tshirt monogrammed to match our pajamas. I had dropped off all of the other pajamas the week prior and I was given a firm timeline to return with Moustapha’s pjs or no monogram by Christmas. This was, of course, that final day. The sign on the door read “no more monogram orders before Christmas. All orders from this point forward will be ready after Christmas.” I totally ignored that and went in, picked up my 5 items and laid out Moustapha’s shirt and told the sweet lady behind the counter what I needed. She, very sweetly told me that it would be ready after Christmas. I replied with the information she gave me last week. She said she was sorry, but there was nothing she could do. That’s when I began to cry.

All the “stuff” that had been brewing and bubbling the last few weeks, came pouring out…all over the monogram lady. She stood there and listened to me…then she began to share her story and her “stuff” that had been brewing and bubbling began to come out. We were a sight. And, in the middle of it all, without talking about it, she filled out a new order form for me and promised me a monogrammed pajama top for my hubby before Christmas.

This is the stuff, people. This is real life. It’s sometimes messy and confusing and sad. And, sometimes it’s really really great.  PS. Yes, I made it to yoga. 

A year of Crazy Good El Life

Wow! 2015 flew by! It was fun. Some sad times. Some amazing times. We are very very grateful for another year! All in all -we have so much to be thankful for and much to look forward to- most of all : our families, another year of birthdays, good health, friends who are like family, our church home, jobs, vacation(s), surviving the “stranded somewhere in Alabama” adventure and so much more. 
Wishing you a happy and healthy 2016!
Much love,
El Momma