Another Favorite- Lebanese Green Beans, Ground lamb & Rice

Add this green beans, lamb and rice to the list of our family favorites. We make this dish every 1-2 weeks. I usually use about 3 pounds of green beans and 1 – 2 pounds of ground lamb. 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.

7 Spices

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
Quick Video “How To Make Lebanese Green Beans, Lamb & Rice by El Momma”

How to make this awesome dish in 90 seconds!

Lebanese Green Beans, Ground Lamb and Rice

Makes approximately 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of fresh green beans, snapped and ends removed
  • [1] TB salt (for boiling green beans)
  • Your choice of cooked white rice
  • [1] TB extra virgin olive oil
  • [1] chopped white onion
  • [1] pound ground lamb
  • [1] TB 7 spices
  • [1] TB kosher salt
  • [1] tsp ground pepper
  • plain yogurt (optional) for garnish

Directions

Step 1: Rinse, drain, remove ends and snap the green beans. Prepare pot of water with 1 Tablespoon of salt. Add beans, bring to a boil and boil for 4-5 minutes. Prepare ice water bath. Drain cooked beans in colander. Submerge in ice bath. Drain and Pat dry.

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 lamb 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 green beans, cover and cook for an additional 20 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.

Grieving During the Holidays

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!

Nothing is Normal in 2020

The Birth of Jimmie Josiah, May 2019



A mother’s journey to find normal after losing a child, adding to our family and living through 2020

 

In August of 2017, our family was the happiest we had ever been. Our four big kids were finding their way and thriving. Our two oldest boys were 13 and 11 years old. Our daughter was 9 years old and our youngest son had just turned seven. And, we were nearly halfway through what seemed to be a normal, healthy pregnancy with a baby girl, Mary-Linda, who we were expecting to arrive near the end of the year. Life was good! Until, it wasn’t.

 

In one moment, everything changed. It was still summertime and I left the kids at home with their dad so I could run to my 18 week appointment. I had been unable to find the baby’s heartbeat on the fetal heartbeat Doppler the night before, but I shook it off as user error and tried to put it out of my mind. At my appointment, my greatest fears were realized and I learned that our daughter’s heart had stopped beating. The next few days, months and even years have been a struggle to find a new normal for us. Our life after losing our daughter, Mary-Linda is so different from our life before.

 

We are still trying to figure out what normal looks like. For a year, I continued to work in the same capacity I had worked in before Mary-Linda’s death. I loved being busy and I loved my job. It seemed right at the time. We spent that entire year going to therapy, doctor appointments, and visiting with specialists. I wanted so badly to pinpoint what happened to Mary-Linda, so we could move forward with as much information as possible. And, as it turned out, there was a diagnosis and a cause of death. Mary-Linda had suffered a Fetal Maternal Hemorrhage (blood loss/severe anemia) and her heart had stopped beating. The medical professionals missed alarming red flags in my bloodwork and did not follow protocol to refer me to a specialist. I learned all of this, as I researched this condition and found the blood results from early in pregnancy. These “problems” were never discussed with me, but the specialists I met with to prepare for another pregnancy, assured me that Fetal Maternal Hemorrhage was not something that happened to the same mother twice. I worried that something was not right after I delivered Mary-Linda silently and that was making it more difficult for us to get pregnant again. For thirteen months we prayed, we waited and we kept hunting for answers.

 

In September of 2018, after having a chemical pregnancy the month before, we found out we were expecting again. It was exciting and terrifying. We had a fertility doctor, a primary ob-gyn and high risk doctor all working with us. After the initial visits to confirm pregnancy, we would alternate seeing the ob-gyn and high risk doctor every couple of weeks. Each visit with the high risk doctor they would check for fetal anemia. I also stopped working outside the home around the same time I became pregnant. It wasn’t my intention to make this my new normal, but it sure was a huge blessing. I was surrounded with people, family and friends who loved me and supported me. I ended up really enjoying my pregnancy and soon found out we were pregnant with a boy. My father passed early in the spring and we named our baby boy after him. In May of 2019, baby Jimmie Josiah El-Hakam joined our family earth-side. 

 

This last year has been anything but normal. We had a baby. We moved to a different home. I started a new job, was laid off from that job because of COVID-19. Our oldest son, who is on the autism spectrum, started high school. We spent most of the last year experiencing firsts with our new baby. And, we spent another year missing our Mary-Linda. 

 

By the time March came around, we were in a pretty good rhythm. And then, the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe and we went into strict lockdown with my mom, who is 78 years old and has some health problems. My older sister, Melinda had Down Syndrome and lived with my parents her entire life. She passed away suddenly on Valentine’s Day this year at the age of 50. 

 

Our new normal really isn’t normal at all. My mom has lived with us for the last several months. Our kids are home- which the baby loves, by the way! My husband and I are both working from home. It’s intense.

 

For now, there’s no getting back to “normal.” We’ve lost so much. If we focus on that, it becomes too overwhelming. So, instead we just try to focus on finding some joy and happiness in each day. My big kids are older, so chores have become a part of our new normal. We also eat so many meals together. We enjoy that. But, honestly, I am very nervous about our potential to be successful in distance learning this Fall. Creating space for school work and work at home and space for baby to flourish is proving to be very difficult. 

 

As a practice, we pray together and attend online church as a family each Sunday. But, even that has begun to feel difficult to engage in as a family. We talk about our Mary-Linda. And, we recently celebrated 3 years since she was with us. We mixed that celebration in with happy, socially-distanced birthday parties for myself, my husband and 2 of our other living children. She’s a part of our family. She’s just not on earth with us. In our new house, her ashes sit on a shelf in my closet. It’s actually a very pretty place. I have a Mary-Linda bear sitting nearby and I look at it every single day. Sometimes, I hold the urn and completely lose it. Because, sometimes I just miss her so much that I can’t catch my breath. Having other loved ones in heaven with her does give me peace. Her Aunt Melinda. Her grandfather. Her great-grandparents. I know she’s well cared for and she’s in heaven. It doesn’t make us miss her any less. 

 

As I close, I want to encourage others who are feeling stressed by grief, depression and the heartaches of being lonely in this pandemic: Please, do not put too much pressure on yourselves to “get back to” anything that you are not ready for. Losing a child is a devastating, often traumatic experience. Being in a pandemic and isolated from your family and your friends is challenging on so many levels. We are not going to come out of this unscathed and unchanged. But, you are not alone. Allow yourself time. Give yourself grace to be okay doing things differently. 

 

For me, personally, I find comfort in knowing that we will see our Mary-Linda again when we all get to heaven. I also find comfort in knowing that we will get through this moment in time. Things will get better again. We have to believe. Until then, we will keep on remembering and keep on living our (not so) normal lives.



 I just published Nothing is Normal in 2020 on medium link.medium.com/PhDyKxLZg9 #infantloss #medium #stillbirth #mommaof6 #nonewnormal #elmomma

Life After Loss. 3 years in.

I recently read a description of grief. It illustrated grief in the beginning as a giant ball bouncing around in a very small square. Something we can’t get away from. Every time we move or even breathe, the grief hits us. I’ve also read grief described like furniture in the middle of a dark room, where you can’t see anything, but everywhere you move, you bump into it and you can’t get around it. In both scenarios, the grief changes. In the first, the ball eventually becomes very small, but it is always in the room. It still hurts deeply when it hits you, but it isn’t a constant. In the second scenario, the furniture eventually moves to where you can see it and get around it, finally settling as a painting on the wall- always there, but not something you are constantly bumping into. 

I can relate with both of these descriptions. I know they aren’t meant to be that simple. Grief is complex. But, I think it can give others imagery to relate to and understand our grief. Grief is always there. In our case, as is the case for many, we don’t get over losing a child. It’s not that simple. But, we learn to move forward, and find a way to live while being in the room with the grief. We still bump into it all the time, but it’s not all consuming everything we do. But, it’s there, like that huge painting on the wall. And, maybe it’s beautiful now. Maybe, it’s like our Mary-Linda, bringing light and hope to others in their time of grief. Maybe, just maybe? 

On August 16th, 2020, we marked 3 years since our Mary-Linda was with us. It feels so surreal. These last 3 years have been brutal and beautiful. I don’t know how to explain it any other way. So much heartache. But, again, I know that God was with us and is with us. So, we will keep on keeping on. 

much love, 

El Momma

Below are photos from our celebration of Mary-Linda’s life, 3 years in. And, photos from the day we all got to hold her. We will all forever hold her in our hearts until we can hold her in our arms again. 

Celebrating my sister in heaven

On Wednesday night we celebrated my older sister’s 51st birthday. It was her first birthday since she went to heaven. My momma, brother, and all of our families gathered in the front yard and had a “socially distanced” gathering with 🎈,🍕 and 🎂 as we talked about our Melinda. It’s really hard to lose a sibling. We talked about this with our families that night. Your sister/ whom you’ve known and loved your entire life. Your family. Your first best friend. Your biggest fan. Your everything. Your comedic relief. Your demanding sidekick. Your love.  It’s hard. We know she’s happy and she’s with so many loved ones. I never met another soul who would tell you they wanted to go to heaven more than Melinda. She had some of her favorite people go before her. I sometimes wonder about the effects of losing my dad 11 months before she died. They were so close. And her grief was deep. It took her a long time to admit that my dad had gone to heaven. But, she finally did and I know she wanted to go and be with him. On Valentine’s Day, after having a stroke, Melinda went to heaven 💗💗 she was literally surrounded by some of the people on earth that she loved most 💗💗 And, she went to be with Jesus. It was Incredibly peaceful. We know know know that she is in a better place. BUT, it sure is hard to be without her here.

Letter I sent to the Houston Astros today…let’s get our favorite Astros’ fan out on the field to throw out the first pitch this season!

Update: On March 19, 2018, I sent this letter to the Astros. After I shared this letter on social media, Many friends and others across the web shared this letter. On July 10. 2018 my husband threw out the first pitch at Minute Maid Park. People from near and far joined us at that game. PS It was a strike down the middle! 

 



March 19, 2018

Dear Houston Astros,

First of all, a huge congratulations from our family to yours on the 2017 World Series Championship! We couldn’t be happier for our favorite team!

I wanted to reach out to tell you a little bit of our story. My husband, Moustapha and I both grew up Astros fans and returned to Houston after getting married in early 2004. Attending Astros games with my brother and his wife, quickly became part of our regular routine. In 2005, we welcomed our first son, Bakri (now, almost thirteen years old) and started off his journey to become a lifelong Astros fan. Even taking him to a World Series game dressed as a bumble bee!

Over the next five years, we would add three more Astros’ fans to our family- Maddux-11, Trinity-9 and Leeland-7. Each of our children loves the Astros, but especially our Bakri, who can hardly wait for the season to begin again each November. Bakri was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at five years old, when we had four children under the age of 6. It has been a challenge for our family and especially for Bakri. However, he’s met the challenges head on and has already excelled beyond many of our hopes and dreams. He’s a seventh grader at the Meyerland School for the Performing and Visual Arts concentrating on Vocal Performance and Piano. He’s a member of the Houston BoyChoir Chamber Choir and has been absolutely delighted to sing the National Anthem for two Astros games!

Early during the 2017 season, we found out we were expecting our fifth child! We even had an opportunity to do a photo shoot at Minute Maid Park- on the field and in the dugout, as a surprise for Father’s Day for Moustapha. In July, we learned that our fifth child was a baby girl. We celebrated and our four other children were beside themselves happy. In mid-August, our daughter, Mary-Linda, was stillborn in a Houston hospital. We were and are devastated. It has been the most difficult thing we’ve been through as a family. Within a few weeks, Harvey hit and our friends and family were hit hard. We continued to mourn and look to our Astros for an outlet. They were struggling and we just wanted them home. Going into the playoffs strong, meant the world to us. Moustapha made sure that he and the older boys were at MMP when we clinched the pennant. A dream come true.

We made it to every home playoff game and as the ALCS series was returning to Houston after being in NY, we were nervous. So Dad, aka Moustapha, called a family meeting and we decided that as fans, it was our job to help the Astros get their bats going. So, that is how the clapping batting helmet fan (87 million views on his GIF) was born. All six of us attended game 6 and we were so excited to get that win! Moustapha would wear his batting helmet and gloves every time the Astros batted and take it off when we were fielding. We felt like, as fans, we were part of the Astros success.

For game 7 of the ALCS, we only had four tickets and Bakri had a Houston BoyChoir concert in midtown at game time. We decided to split up- Dad would take Maddux and I would bring Bakri later. During the Houston BoyChoir concert break, I went out to check my phone to see a ton of messages alerting me that Moustapha had been on National television. I thought it was cool, texted him, but didn’t think it would be as major as it was. Memes, and tweets, Instagram posts, and articles popped up during the game, all talking about this amazing, intense, clapping, Astros fan. By the time Bakri and I arrived to the game, the internet had exploded. Over 70 million views on the MLB gif before we left the game. And, the Astros won! Off to the World Series we go! Our family needed this so much and now Moustapha was experiencing another piece of it, with this sudden Astros Fan fame.

It couldn’t have happened to a better guy at a better time. What happened after, was a storybook tale. News story features, articles, and a Law and Order type scene for MLB Network! And, after attending home games of the World Series, the ending was the best of all.

It’s easy for outsiders to empathize with a mother’s loss of a child. Even so, It’s difficult for some to understand, because they feel as though we didn’t know her or we should be happy because we have four other children. Not understanding that losing her and holding her little body in our arms, forever sleeping, is one of the few experiences we got with her. We mourn that she’s not on earth with us. We mourn that she’s not going to grow up with her brothers and sister. We mourn. People understand that more easily for a mother. But, our sweet Moustapha has mourned very deeply. He lost his dear baby girl and this has been a very sad time for him. This experience with the Astros, gave joy back to our family, when we needed it most.

I respectfully request that the Astros organization honor this special Astros fan during the 2018 season. Specifically, by calling on him to be recognized as an amazing Astros fan by having the honor of throwing out the first pitch at a regular season home game. Our son, Bakri, will be singing the National Anthem again with the Houston BoyChoir when the Astros take on the New York Yankees on April 30th. Wouldn’t that be a perfect game? But any will do and your consideration is deeply appreciated.

So, again, on behalf of the El-Hakam family, thank you Houston Astros! You are our favorite team and your win came at a perfect and much needed time for our family. We love you.

Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam

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 

A rhythm that’s not my own. A season I will probably miss…one day

I’ve looked forward to this year of having all of my babies in elementary school. The one year. 
The golden year. 
I’ve looked forward to it so much that perhaps I’m discovering that my expectations were too high.
We are three weeks in and I’m overwhelmed.
I’m so overwhelmed that when I first wrote that sentence it said “We are two weeks in and I’m overwhelmed.”  
Nothing has changed in one week. 
I’m still overwhelmed.
I still have the same daily routines I’m trying to establish.
The same lunches to make.
The same time to get out of the house in the mornings.
The same clothes to wash.
Uniforms to lay out.
Children to remind.
The same thing.
Over and over again until I’m tired of hearing my own voice.
The same tears of frustration.
The disappointment that I can’t get it all done and I don’t know how to do it better.
I feel lost.
And alone.
But,
I’m not.
Just down the street, across town, around the corner, a state away, across the country (almost anywhere there is a parent) someone is feeling what I am feeling.
I know because she/he told me.
So, I’m telling you, so you’ll know too. It’s going to be okay.  You are not alone.
You will get through this. 
And, the good news is: it will get better! I promise. 
Maybe not yet.
Maybe you’ll still have to wait a few weeks to catch your breath and for your family to find their rhythm. 
But, you will find it. It may not be the rhythm you feel like you are forcing upon your family now. 
It might be slightly slower or completely different. 
But, you will find a rhythm that works for you and yours. 
Don’t give up.
Until you find your rhythm, keep doing what you are doing, Momma (and Dad).  
It will get better.

The beginning

Day 30 of blogging for 31 days in July is my birthday and I’d like to share a story.
My story begins a little something like this:
Once upon a time there was a family of four living in the outskirts of Houston, Texas in the late 70s. Momma, Dad, Michael (age 12) and Melinda (age 7). They were a happy little family of four. Michael played baseball and basketball. Melinda was an active runner, involved in the Glenn Doman method and attending the Institutes with her family as well as she was a poster child for the March of Dimes. Momma stayed home with Melinda and Dad worked two jobs.
It must have been just after Christmas one year when Mom found out she was expecting a baby.
What a surprise. Nearly eight years had gone by since Melinda’s birth. And, although they had hoped and prayed for more children, enough time passed to where they just didn’t think it would happen.
Momma saw many doctors. One story she told me stuck out in particular. This doctor, who did not know Momma well, but knew of her family situation and that she had one child with Down’s Syndrome gave her unsolicited advice. 
First of all, he told her that there was an increased likelihood that the baby she was carrying would have Down’s because she already had a child with Down’s and because she was older. He then proceeded to tell her that it would be too much to handle. 
She didn’t believe that. She believed that if she was given (blessed) with another child with special needs, it would be part of God’s plan for her as a mother. And, if God gave her another special needs child, He would give her the strength to handle it just fine.
The next few months were an exciting time for this soon-to-be-family of five as they anticipated the birth of their little baby boy, Matthew.
Yes, Matthew. A baby boy.  I’m not sure as to why they were so sure that the baby was a boy. But, they were. Matthew had blue clothes and even a beautiful baby blue handmade blanket. Matthew was due to be born on his dad’s birthday. Five days later, Matthew still hadn’t arrived and Michael needed school clothes. So, momma took him school clothes shopping at  Wieners Department Store. He was thirteen at the time and shopping for jeans. Probably not that exciting…until his Mom asked him to time her contractions. She was in labor! I’m not sure if they made a purchase or not. I will have to follow up on that part. But, I know they went to the hospital and baby Matthew was born that evening. Except, Baby Matthew was a girl and they named her “Rebekah Anne.” Surprise! It’s a Rebekah!
Thank the Lord they never thought for a second that I would be too much to handle. I’m sure I was too much to handle at times, but that’s called being a growing human. Happy birthday to me!
Melinda, Michael and Baby Rebekah
Rebekah and Momma

Beautiful Sunday

It’s the last Sunday of July.

The last Sunday of my self-imposed “31 days of blogging in July” challenge. 
Five more posts and then it’s “so long, July! hello, August!”
Yikes.
August means:
Back to school.
Back to a more normal work schedule because the Els are back to school.
Football season.
Dance classes.
Hot. Very Hot days.
And Time?
More time?
Maybe not. 
But, I can hope for more time.
More time to write.
More time to play. 
More time to read.
More time to pray. 
More time to listen.
More time with family.
More time with friends. 
More time to love. 
More time to give.
It’s a new season for us: four kids at one school! 
Can I get an Amen!? Woohoo! I have high hopes for all the amazing things I’m going to make time for now. Because, let’s be honest. We already have time for what we make time for. We prioritize and I’m going to prioritize that big MORE list I made up there. 
Oh, happy Sunday and near end of summer 2015!
Xoxo,
El Momma