HAPPY THIRD BIRTHDAY, BABY!

Happy Birthday, Trinity!
I know I’ve said it many times before, but time really does fly.
Today, our baby girl, our one girl in the midst of 3 boys turns three! She is amazing. I know, I’m her momma and I am supposed to think that. But, it’s true. She is.
From the moment she entered this world, she has been lighting it up, bright! Oh so, bright. She shines. She really does.
I’m thankful for her. I’m thankful for the way she wakes when hearing¬†just the slightest little sound. For the fact that I can convince her to do almost anything if I’ll promise to paint her nails, pink and purple, of course. For her smile. For her love of life and the way she connects with people her age and mine. For the conversations she starts and finishes. For the questions she asks. For her amazing mind. Her understanding of relationships and caring about how we are all connected. I am thankful for my daughter, my sweet little girl. My Trinity. Happy birthday, Baby Girl!
The birth of Trinity was one of the most profound and amazing experiences of my entire life. To read about my birth experience with Trinity, click here:

The Birth story of Trinity

Little Fingerprints on the Door

fingerprints on the door….prior to cleaning ūüôā

As I made my way up the stairs and into the hallway, I noticed them. They were on the door at three distinct levels. One set representing the oldest el, a first grader. Most likely, his are from the dirt outside, last night’s dinner or a special dessert. Then, there are the middle set, belonging to our second oldest el. His are probably from tooth paste, which he wastes as he tries to apply some to everybody’s brush. And, from peanut butter on his favorite lunch sandwich. And, then there are the ones belonging to tiny t. Hers are probably a mixture of food, markers, paint and anything she can get her little hands on. As I look at them, I contemplate whether or not to wipe them away.

As I head back downstairs to grab my magic eraser, wet it, and head back upstairs, I’m still trying to decide if it’s okay to leave them there. They definitely make the door look dirty. It is the door to the boys’ room that they share along with Baby L. But, I don’t want to forget what those little fingerprints¬†represent. I know there will come a day when I will wipe the¬† last little fingerprint off of the door and they will be too big to return. I want to appreciate the fingerprints, the children that leave their mark everywhere in our house and the season of life we are in. I know I’m going to miss this.

I decided to clean the door. It only took a few seconds to wipe away the fingerprints. I know they will be back soon, this time.

The baby Els go to school!

It has been a busy week at the El house! On Friday, Miss T. and Little L went to visit their school and El Momma went to orientation. The Big Els were both in Elementary School at the time. So, I was able to give the event and my little ones, all the attention they needed. It was good. T loved her class. She is pictured (top, below) with the pink star balloon they gave her, which happened to match her outfit. She was super happy. On Monday morning, Trinity was still excited about school. The other picture below¬†is just after she’s happily entered her room, and just as she’s decided that she would rather go with me. ūüôā

L. was totally chilling at his orientation. He acted like he had been there a million times before. He had been there several times before. So, I’m glad he is comfortable.
And, here he is (below) at drop off. He was just chillin…again. He pretty much chills most of the time. They said he was a star student the first day. He ate, he played, he napped, he pooped. Success!

I am excited for L and T to be in school. I pray they will be blessed this year and that the time I have, I can use it wisely. I don’t know how I’ve gotten anything done for the past 7 years. Perhaps, I will hit a new found stride with my kids at this age and I will get my house organized! I am hopeful!

Our afternoon experiment with HUMMUS!

Whipped Hummus- a delicious and nutritious snack! Made with garbanzo beans (low in fat) and fat free greek yogurt. So tasty!

So, I pretty much make Hummus all the time. My husband would say I don’t make it enough. He would like fresh hummus in the house daily. However, I think he appreciates the fact that I make it about once a week. Considering, all of my other responsibilities, that’s a lot. Well, I’ve been making hummus basically the same way for the last couple of years. I found a blog that I like http://www.dedemed.com/¬†and I pretty much follow her recipe to the t, except I don’t really measure anything. But, recently, I decided to try making hummus using a bag of garbanzo beans instead of a can. It required overnight soaking, changing of the water and boiling the beans. I really didn’t like the flavor. I later read that it is a good idea to change the water when you are boiling them as well and if you don’t you get a weird after taste. Considering it was more of a pain to make hummus this way, I probably won’t try that again. I really like the drained canned garbanzo beans just fine. However, we have been to a couple of local restaurants that serve a very smooth almost whipped hummus. I’ve tried putting the hummus in the mixer to see if that would “whip” it, but that didn’t seem to do anything. Then, my husband, because of his love of hummus, read online that some people boil the canned beans and peel the skin. And, that makes really smooth “whipped” hummus. So, me and Miss Trinity tried that this afternoon.

Garbanzo beans after being boiled, drained, washed, and peeled

First, I drained the beans- 2 cans. And, rinsed them a few times. Then, I placed them in a pot with water and brought them to a boil for a few minutes, stirring occassionally. Some of the skins came right off and floated to the top. Others, were not so easy. So, I drained them again and washed them removing as much of the extra skin as possible. I basically did this until I got tired of doing it, feeling that I had removed a substantial amount, so it had to make a difference.

Then, I placed the beans in the food processor and added the remaining ingredients- yogurt, garlic, salt, citric acid, lemon juice, tahini

I just throw all of the ingredients in together before processing

ÔĽŅ

ÔĽŅ To say it was worth the extra work is a little bit of an understatement. It did take an extra 20 minutes, but it was well worth it.
ÔĽŅ

the result- whipped hummus!

ÔĽŅ

Happy First Birthday to our son, Leeland Thaddeus! We hit a grand slam with you, kid!

Last week our youngest El turned 1. It was a really exciting time for all of us. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we had baseball themed parties for our other boys when they turned one. But, this was the first time we had a birthday during baseball season. We decided that we would celebrate with immediate family-only, that’s 28 people, with 24 that¬†live in town and 4 that live out of town. So, we had a small party for 24 people! WHEW! It was tons of fun. Here are pictures from our afternoon/evening.¬†We served hotdogs, chili dogs (I¬†found a¬†really great chili recipe online for chili dogs, which I normally don’t eat. But, I ate 2 cause they were delicious!) chips, fruit and fresh homemade lemonade. After dinner, we¬†sang to the birthday boy. Notice how he covered his ears when we¬†sang to him! It was hilarious. I think it was just too loud, but¬†he never stopped smiling. Then, we had cake and headed over to the Ballpark to watch the Astros play. After the game, they have a fireworks show on Friday nights. So, we stayed and watched that. It was a Queen inspired show and it was¬†probably the best fireworks show we have seen there. It was really impressive and ended with Bohemian Rhapsody. Awesomeness.
So, everything was great. We had a wonderful time. And,¬†Leeland managed to stay awake and didn’t go to bed until 1130 that evening. Waking at nearly noon the next day. He’s pretty cool.
So, we want to say happy birthday to our little Leeland, lovebug, little boy. You are amazing. We are so proud of you. We love you, we love being your parents and we love watching you grow. You rock, kid!

Me with my 1 year old son, Leeland. LOVE!
Grandmother giving him cereal before the party

LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cutie on his new ride

New present from Grandmother and Grandfather

Birthday boy with El Momma

The food was delicious if I do say so myself.

Happy boy with his Jiddy

with my Jiddy

Playing cars with my cousin

Look at my two teeth!

the crowd gathers for the birthday song

almost ready to sing

the song begins

covering his ears

covering his ears for the birthday song

the crowd waits

ready to blow out the candles

Big boy!

Cake!

Grandma love

You’re one!

bitter cake?

Princess T and the birthday boy ready for the game!

daddy’s little boy

the party at Minute Maid Park

our view

can you say “cotton candy?”

pretty

Fireworks with Momma

Ready for Birthday Fireworks!

Rockin  out with Christian to Queen during the fireworks show!

Leeland’s Birthday Painting, the Third Painting in the series

When I began painting the first of what would eventually be three paintings, I had no idea that I would be painting variations of the same painting more than once. The first painting was for our first son, Bakri, when he turned one. We planned¬† a baseball themed birthday party. I made him a cake shaped like a baseball and decorated like a baseball and I painted a baseball jersey on canvas for his wall in his room. I used the painting as part of the decoration for the party and I made a cake that matched the jersey. That was all for the first birthday of the first child. Little did I know, God would bless us with 2 more little boys with first birthdays! So, this week, I began the fun job of painting Leeland’s first birthday painting to go with the paintings for Bakri¬† and Maddux. Here’s how it went:

And, here they are all together….Leeland’s is nearly complete. My blue paint was old and didn’t offer much coverage. It was the day of his party when I made this discovery. So, we just went with it. I’ll finish it soon. I promise. As for the significance of these paintings, well they are very important to my babies. I realized that this week when working on Leeland’s. It was so cute to watch the other children light up as his painting became more and more finished. In fact, Bakri (our 6 year old) now wants me to find a way to make real jerseys…hmmm…I’ll have to think about that one for a bit. Maybe when they stick with one size for a while.
Leeland’s painting with a cake ordered from H.E.B. They do a good job with the jersey, don’t they?!
The famous baseball cake by El Momma. I really do enjoy making this cake!
The Happy Birthday side of Leeland’s baseball cake.ÔĽŅ
Pictures from Leeland’s first birthday party and day to come soon! We had a great time celebrating our little Leeland!

El Momma- the political/ civic duty side

If you know me very well, you probably are familiar with most of my sides.

There is the mother of four side. A little bit quirky, allowing a drum set to be played regularly in my living room. A little bit of a rule follower, believing a nap is the key to a happy life. And, a little bit of a mess, believing that if I spend too much time cleaning, we’ll never have as much fun as we are meant to!

Then, there is the wife side. That one goes hand in hand with my mother side. She is loving, patient, and sometimes driven crazy by her husband. The wife side of me is very happy and in love and grateful to my very loving and supportive husband.

Next, there is the art/music/creative side. She bakes, she decorates, she paints, she sings, she writes music, she leads worship, she plays the piano and sometimes does nearly all of these at once.

The side you may not know, is the civic duty/ political side. I’m not talking about Republican, Democrat, Independent or whether my daughter’s tea party was a political statement. No, I’m talking about local politics in Houston. I’m interested in it. I love to work with my neighborhood and have been active in my civic association since we moved here at the end of 2004. This year, after thinking I would take a break, I am serving as President of the Civic Association. I have really enjoyed it. Last week, in particular was a big week for me and for our neighborhood. I spent a lot of time with my stomach in knots, but in the end, it was worth it.

Here’s what happened in a brief synopsis:

The City of Houston offers neighborhoods inside the loop the option to protect their blocks with the Minimum Lot Size Protection. City of Houston Planning Our neighborhood is fairly small. We are approximately 8 residential blocks. We are now nearly all protected by the minimum lot size. It sets a lot size minimum for the next 20 years and restricts development to single family residential on the lots that are currently undeveloped or were being used as single family at the time the application was put forward. Being that our neighborhood includes some non-deed restricted properties, this protection is huge for the residents. It protects them and gives them certainty for the next 20 years.

In September, we had an application denied by the Planning Commission. It was heartbreaking. My husband and I had spent countless hours on the application for this one block and in just a few minutes, we were denied. It was hard. Thus, began the process to get a new application in and approved. So, I continued having conversations with the neighbors on the block who helped with the first application. I met with our district councilmember. She met with the director of planning. I wrote letters and received a direct response from the mayor of Houston. After the dust settled, it was clear, our only option was to complete and submit a brand new application.

What does that mean? It means that we had to contact every supporter on the block to get an updated signature of support and we would need to increase our support by adding more support signatures. It seemed a bit daunting. There are 45 properties on the block. But, we believed we could do it and we did. One of the active supporters on the block started us off with a signature from a recently sold property. This was a new signature. So we started off strong. And, we went after every signature. We got them. and we did it fast. We gained more support and ended up with 62% of the entire block supporting the application. But, this was not enough. I continued to have conversations with our District Councilmember, the planning department and I reached out to the Mayor, asking neighbors to join in. I even attended a fundraiser for the Mayor knowing I would have her attention for 2 minutes and used this time to talk to her about this application. The Mayor was a part of the drafting of this original ordinance when she was a Councilmember. I believed strongly that she would support our application. I then met with the neighbors and we organized a presentation to use our time wisely before the Planning Commission. We presented very well. And, the Planning Department did a great job explaining our application to the Commission. We had 6 speakers in total speak in support of the application. We presented pictures, evidence of complete compliance with the standards of the ordinance and testimony by neighbors. You can click here:
http://houstontx.city.swagit.com/Council_Commissions/ Select July 7. Item IV. to view.

In the end, the hard work paid off. We were rewarded with the minimum lot size protection which is in addition to the setback already on the block. I am thankful to all of the support we received from the city of Houston, from the neighbors on the block and in the neighborhood. We are going to benefit greatly from the protection for the next 20 years. Congratulations, everyone!

And, so, there it is. A little taste of my political/ civic duty side.

There are many more sides to this El Momma. But, for now, I will give in to my calm side, take a  break and rest before doing my daily routine of Yoga. Namaste.

Bakri and Maddux are "DYNAMITE!"

After taking the older boys- the six and four year old, to see the Newsboys a few weeks ago, their interest in being a “rock band” has intensified. The Newsboys opened the concert with a song by Taio Cruz called “Dynamite.” The boys loved it and immediately got hooked on the song. We found it when we got home and I started teaching them the piano part. Then, I was asked to contribute a song for a concert at our church where the music would be from Musicals or popular music. I asked the boys if they wanted to perform “Dynamite” and they of course wanted to. And, so it began. Here is the video of the boys performing last night. Maddux (four and a half) starts the song off with the piano part. He very cutely shakes his head to tell me he’s not going to sing that part. And, when the song gets going, it is amazing. And, yes, that is their dad excitedly recording and singing along. Way to go “Capital Els!” El momma is so proud of you. We had a great time.

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!

love,
El Momma

Happy birthday to the Daddy El or El Daddy or El Husband! We love you!

Happy birthday to my husband, Moustapha today!

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Our family, May 30, 2011

ÔĽŅ Moustapha’s parents took us to Maggiano’s last night on Post¬†Oak.¬†One of Moustapha’s 3 sisters joined us with her family. We had a great time celebrating Moustapha’s birthday. We ended the night with an impromptu dance session. It was fun.¬†We are so¬†thankful for Moustapha. He is¬†a wonderful daddy, husband, friend, attorney and¬†person.¬†He is a genuinely good man with a heart of gold. Today and every day we are thankful¬†for him and love him very much.

El Momma and Leeland

Miss Trinity telling us how to dance

Leeland and Jiddy enjoying the music

more dancing

The “kids” dancing

we came to “dance dance dance”

look at that smile! so happy!

Candles and singing!

Maddux sporting a tie for the occasion

Birthday boy, Maddux, Jiddy, our nephew and Trinity