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 

When homework is a gift

Well, today’s kindergarten homework sure was a welcome surprise. Thanks, awesome Kindergarten team teachers!

It said “help mom sort the laundry or…” Something else. I didn’t read the rest. 
Not important.
Don’t get caught up on the fact that it said “help mom.” Obviously our child could help “dad” or a sibling or a grandparent or another caregiver. 
But, I’m just thanking these wonderful teachers for this unexpected gift. 
Me, supervising my five year old sorting laundry was truly a gift today. 
He’s happy and I’m happy. 
We took our instructions a little further and we started a load of “darks” together. Now he’s watching the machine. I think we will be here for a while. 

Don’t you just love it when we receive the gift of time?

Slow down.
Do a load of laundry with your child.
You might find, like I did, that it’s actually pretty relaxing and fun when you do it together. 

Our Baby Girl is Seven

Day one
Whale watching in Maui 
Standing in California 
Enjoying your brothers 🙂

Walking in Valencia 
Cutie pie dancer 
California Beach girl

Florida beach girl 

Turning six 

Turning seven 

Through the years, you’ve brought so much joy and love into our hearts and lives. We thank God every single day that we have you, our daughter, Trinity! We love you. Happy seventh birthday, sweetheart. 

Summer is over and I’m a bit confused (a mix of nostalgia, relief, stress, happiness, anticipation and anxiety)

I am feeling a little sad this morning. A mix of nostalgia, relief, stress, happiness, anticipation and anxiety.

I am nostalgic as I look upon my babies and think of all of the wonderful memories we have shared over the last 10+ years. So many firsts and this week we will have our first and only year all in the same school.

First day of school, 2014

I am relieved to be here. 5 years ago, when we were anticipating the arrival of our fourth baby and preparing to send our first born baby to kindergarten, I anticipated this time. The only time they will all be in school together. One drop off. One pick up. One school. Oh boy! What will I do with all of the (extra) time!? Ha!

Holding Trinity, expecting Leeland, summer 2010

I am stressed. We love summer. Sleeping in (sort of). Having no where to be (sometimes). Vacations (definitely!). School is exciting. It’s growing up and learning and making new friends. But, I worry. I worry about each of my kids. Will they be respectful? Will they say “yes, ma’am?” Will they adjust okay? How can I help? Will they make friends? Will they keep friends? Will they eat their lunches? Oh my goodness! Lunches. I’m back to making four lunches. Yes, they should help. Yes, I should teach them responsibility. But, at this point, four kids in the kitchen making lunches is a lot more stressful for me than 1 momma in the kitchen making four lunches. At least, that’s how we will start. I bought new lunch boxes in June. So, that’s a start. But, I am still stressed.

New lunch boxes for 2015-2016 school year

I’m happy. We have a wonderful school that is a great fit for all four of our children. We are excited about their teachers. And, we are just ending a magical summer. Work at Church of the Apostles has been so rewarding. We are growing in numbers and growing as a community in Christ. I am so blessed to be the worship pastor of this wonderful church. The Els have experienced wonderful camps: dance, baseball, fine arts, vacation bible schools and more. Vacations. We needed some breaks and we got them: Texas Hill Country, Carlsbad, CA, Disneyland California, Legoland California, San Diego beaches and Miramar Beach, Florida. We LOVE baseball and LOVE the Astros. Last night we were at the Astros Game (vs. the LA Dodgers) and we witnessed the first ever No-Hitter in Minute Maid Park. The Astros are having an amazing season and to be there to see this (by pitcher Mike Fiers) it was quite a treat!

Disneyland, 2015
Destin, 2015
#MikeFiers #NoNo #NoHitter2015 #Astros

As great as this summer has been, I have great anticipation for what is to come. Even with the hard times mixed in, there are always great rewards. We are going to keep moving. Keep saying “yes” when we mean “yes” and “no” when we mean “no.” I am going to keep committing to help at my children’s school. I am not going to overcommit, but I am going to commit. And, if I say “no” it is because I am saying “yes” to something else- my children, my family, my husband, work, my parents, my extended family, my friends, my children’s teachers, my church family, my neighborhood, etc.

Our pretty little church “home” in the Heights, Houston cotahouston.org

I am anxious.

6 days ago, we were on our way to Destin, Florida on I-10 in Alabama. It was around 9pm when we were forced to turn off the main interstate because of a huge fatal accident ahead. It was dark. All we knew at the time was fire trucks and officials were forcing all traffic to exit and turn. My “google map” app rerouted and we were about 2 hours from our hotel. Anticipating arrival around 11pm. My brother and his family and my parents had traveled ahead of us. We left later because we attended worship that morning at our home church (see above).

Soon after the turn off, we turned left heading toward Pensacola, but still in Alabama. Not long after that turn on what was a dark, two lane highway, our “overheated” warning light came on the dashboard. We pulled over immediately on a side road and turned the car around to face the street we had turned off of. We were to the right of a large stop sign. Almost immediately, a large pick up truck pulled up behind us and we waved them to go around. As they pulled up to the side of us, they rolled down the window. I saw a small, blonde young (probably in her 20s) female sitting in the passenger seat and I could see the driver was a male. They asked if everything was ok. We replied “no.” Moustapha then told them what had happened. They pulled over and got out of the truck. They all looked at the engine under the hood and after a few minutes the couple drove away.

Moustapha returned to our car and asked me to send our location to my brother so he would know where we were…”somewhere in Alabama.” We were terrified. Our children seemed fine then. But, it would be a trying couple of hours. About 10-15 minutes passed and the man returned with his brother in law. They brought water and oil and came to help cool the car down, hoping we could make it up the road to a station. They helped us so much and told us there was a Tom Thumb just up the road (toward Florida) about 8miles. The car had cooled down and they believed we could make it that far. We headed off praying, praying and praying. The temperature began to rise and we kept driving. We were still in a safe zone when we had passed 10 miles, never seeing a gas station of any kind. After traveling just over 13 miles, the car overheated and the warning light came on. At that moment, we arrived to a convenient store (not Tom Thumb and not a gas station) parking lot on our left. We pulled in. Thanking the Lord. It was now some time after 10pm. The convenient store was still open. Thank God. But, what next?

We sat in the parking lot as the rain began to fall. Our children were hot and crying. We kept waiting and some of the children fell asleep. My phone wouldn’t work. Thanks, T-Mobile. There was internet access, but the convenient store employee couldn’t remember the exact password. We tried them all. Then, a cab driver pulled up next to us. He offered to call a cab for us. He did. He was on his way to the airport with a passenger. After 20 minutes or so, I called him and let him know that no one had arrived. We continued to wait and soon it was 11pm. The convenience store closed and turned off their lights. Another man that worked there offered to drive in front of us to lead us to a safe area of Pensacola, Florida where we could rent a room to stay the night. We followed him and ended up in a McDonald’s parking lot next to another cab. This cab driver offered to lead us to a Fairfield Inn. He did that and we were treated so kindly by the woman working there. She gave us a great rate for a room that slept all 6 of us comfortably and included breakfast. We checked in, some time after midnight and went right to sleep. They next morning, we started early with picking up a rental car and dropping off our car at a mechanic nearby. Let me just say, there was another angel at the rental car place in Pensacola. I won’t say the company name here, but I will say that they upgraded us from an SUV to a minivan to accommodate all of us safely. We were extremely blessed. (**I don’t think we chose the right mechanic. In the future, I would go with the mechanic with the best yelp reviews. Because, I think it shows that they care about customers and care about positive PR.) We did finally make it to Destin (safely). And, we did have a wonderful time, relaxing. But, the truth is, this experience shook me to the core. I feel changed and anxious because of it. I need prayers. And, to spend time praying over this. I feel the tears welling up, just writing this. It’s terrifying to be in a situation like this (especially with your children).

Life is not at all what it looks like in pictures. If it was, you would have seen us stranded on a dark highway somewhere in a place far from home recently. Scared. With our four children. Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us in the dark, desolate place. He uses others. Grace. His kingdom and lifts us up out of that place and leads us to the light. Thankful to be in the light today. Life is a lot better in the light. #elmomma #thankful

So, I’ll move forward in “momma-like” form, (because as a momma, moving forward is the only option) with my mix of nostalgia, relief, stress, happiness, anticipation and anxiety.

I’ll close with this.

THIS IS MY PRAYER FOR YOU (AND FOR US):

Dear God, 
I thank you for your protection. 
I thank you for watching over me and my family. 
I thank you for loving me enough that you sent your son to die for me.
Thank you for sending your holy spirit to dwell among us.
I praise you for your faithfulness, your kindness, your loving ways and for never leaving us or forsaking us in our time of need. 
I pray for this new school year. 
I pray for all of the children starting new classes 
I pray that the nostalgia, relief, happiness and anticipation will overcome the stress and anxiety. 
That your peace will rule. 
That your grace will cover us all. 
Be with us.
Guide us.
Walk with us.
We love you. 
Amen.

Why I buy myself flowers

When I was a little girl, my momma’s dear friend’s son bought me yellow roses. They were like family. He passed away when I was three years old in a tragic gun accident. For years, his mom sent me yellow roses on my birthday. Eventually, my parents picked up the tradition. And, every birthday since I can remember, I’ve had a dozen yellow roses. This year was no different. My momma even had them delivered a day early so I could enjoy them a day longer.
These particular flowers remind me of childhood, growing up, beauty, dreams, tradition and I am reminded just how much I am loved. 
When I grocery shop and stop to admire a 3 stem bunch of blue hydrangeas and decide to take them home…it’s because I love flowers. I love having fresh flowers nearby. I love a home with fresh flowers. I am reminded of the love in the home, the life in the home, the beauty in the home, tradition in the home and the beauty our creator has given us! Having fresh flowers in my home feels good, so I buy them. 

Family

I’ve realized my favorite part of summer.
Yes, there are vacations.
Yes, there is time off.
Yes, there is time to recharge (hopefully!)
But, my very favorite part is F A M I L Y time!
The last two summers we’ve vacationed with my brother, sister in law and their four kids. Last summer, my parents and sister joined us.

This summer we celebrated Moustapha ‘s dad’s 70th birthday with a family vacation to the hill country. All of his sisters, their spouses, kids and his parents. I know people often say they need a vacation from their vacation.
But, I love the relaxed vacations with our extended family. 
It’s a real, blessed treat. 
My hope is for a long lifetime of family time!

Dad

This guy is turning another year older today.

Thank you, Lord!
It has been a tough few months, but today we celebrate Jimmie (my dad) ‘s birthday.
Thankful that he gets to celebrate at home. And, so thankful for my mom, caring for him so well these last few months.
Happy 76th birthday, Grandfather! We love you so!

July birthday boys!
First #selfie Father’s Day 2015