Home with the Els for Easter!

I returned home from Nashville for the weekend on Good Friday. I had the best weekend with my sweet husband and lovely babies. I put a few pictures here. But, basically my relaxing weekend went like this:
Landed in Houston on Good Friday
Husband and 2 children picked me up from the airport
Met Grandmother (my momma) and 2 youngest children to pick them up
Went to Minute Maid Park for Opening Day of the Astros
Stayed for Friday Night Fireworks!
Put all the tired ones to bed…
Saturday morning I cooked a giant breakfast- homemade pancakes, eggs, bacon, the works
Then, oldest Els had a tee-ball game with their dad and I had Easter worship rehearsal with the youngest Els.
After rehearsal and the game, we had a family lunch at Pappadeaux.
Then, playtime and family time at home mixed in with all the laundry for the week…which kind of piles up for 6 people. And, my in-laws came by to see the kids for Easter with baskets of Easter presents.
That evening, we had a wedding celebration dinner for our friends who were in town from Hawaii
The next morning was EASTER morning! So, the Easter bunny visited Saturday night and Trinity and I headed off to church at 730am, while the other children slept a little more.
Our church service started at 845. It was a beautiful celebration of Easter. He is risen! He is risen indeed! My parents- grandfather and grandmother and my sister, Aunt Melinda, joined us for the service and celebration.
Afterwards, there was a church family brunch, butterfly release in the courtyard and an Easter egg hunt.
We’ve hosted Easter for both of our families for the last three years. This year, because of my recording schedule, we couldn’t host. I didn’t have time to roll grape leaves on Saturday or make my house presentable for our large family. But, I feel really passionately about having Lebanese Lamb and Rice filled Grape Leaves on Easter. I also feel really passionate about tradition. Grape leaves are a middle eastern dish. The vine is a very significant point of imagery in the bible. Jesus said “I am the vine and You are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” I just love this verse. Knowing that we are called to be the branches, bearing fruit, reaching out, making a difference.
So, while we were still with our church family, I started hearing this voice that said ,”Go to Phoencia and make grape leaves today.” I’m not sure who was speaking, but I answered. As we left church, I leaned over to Moustapha and said ,”I want to make grape leaves today.” So, we left church and he drove me to Phoenicia (which is now conveniently located downtown). I picked up everything I needed- ground lamb, lamb shanks, 2 16 oz. jars of grape leaves, lemons, green onion (I forgot mint), rice and I grabbed Labneh, fresh arabic bread and chick peas (to make fresh hummus for the week).
The kids had lunch at home and I spent the next 3 hours doing more laundry and rolling grape leaves. Our small family of 6 gathered around the table at 7pm that evening and we had the most amazing dinner. We celebrated, we prayed, we thanked God for Jesus and we loved on each other.  The truth is, I felt completely recharged when I returned to Nashville on Monday. Being with my husband and children and family and keeping busy all weekend didn’t leave me feeling drained, but rejuvenated and excited to sing my heart out this week. So, that is what I am doing now. I am singing my heart out. I am Praising God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all week. What a blessed way to celebrate Easter!

Baptism Day! Baby Leeland!

Sunday was a very special and memorable day for the Els. We celebrated the baptism of our fourth child and youngest son, Leeland. He was so thoughtful during the baptism, seeming to take in every word. He also was up really late that night after all of the excitement and extra stimuli from the day being surrounded by so many loved ones.
Infant baptism in Presbyterian Christian faith is a way for the parents to commit before God and our friends and family to raise our son intentionally to know and love Jesus. And, our congregation also committed in assisting in the raising of Leeland in “the way he should go, (so that) when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
One of the scriptures from this Sunday was
Genesis 12

The Call of Abram
1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

This blessing that the Lord promised Abram, was and is fulfilled through Jesus Christ. We are a part of that blessing. Read again the words “Go and I will go with you. I will bless those who bless you. And, all of the people of the earth will be blessed through you.” We are a part of this amazing blessing. Let the people of the earth be blessed through you today and always.

Leeland Thaddeus, 8 months, Baptism Day
(most of) Leeland’s family (wishing our California family were with us!)

Momma’s big brown eyed baby boy

enjoying the baptism

Baptism

really listening to Pastor Jeff, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Houston

Sleepy Sister

baptism

lots of cousins

family

Momma, Daddy, Bakri and Leeland

All six of the Els

Brunch!!!

Feeling great after a quick nap!

cake!

hungry!

El Momma with the Els and the Madduxs

happy boy

our family

love of brothers

Saturdays

I love Saturdays. It’s my favorite day of the week, if we don’t have any plans. I love making breakfast with the entire family running around at my feet and the occasional helper climbing on a chair to help me stir. I love making a fresh pot of coffee and smelling it in the entire house. I love “forcing” everyone to come downstairs to be near me. 🙂
This Sunday morning was even better than most Saturdays, because not only was I in a kitchen with one of my bffs, but we cooked together. It was so much fun! She made the coffee, the egg casserole and I made pancakes from scratch. It doesn’t get much better. Then, we sat down on her porch with all of our families and ate breakfast together. Now that is a great way to start a spring break and a fantastic way to start the day. Happy Spring Break, y’all!

A Love Letter to El Momma’s Love on our 7th Anniversary

Seven years ago today, as I made that long walk down the beautiful aisle, surrounded by family and many friends, I could have never imagined this.
Our life has exceeded all of my hopes and dreams. You continue to surprise me and, if I’m being honest, frustrate me. And, I know I frustrate you! But, isn’t our life fun!? Your love is amazing. I remember how it felt to fall in love with you. I thought about you and our future all of the time. I loved everything about you and even though I knew you weren’t perfect, you were perfect for me. You were and still are my very best friend. Even more so now. Seven years and four beautiful children. Our relationship has gone through a huge transformation in a relatively short amount of time.

We had a little over a year as a married couple before having our first son. During that first year we found and purchased our home, a home in the heart of Houston, built in 1928. We only had twenty months with our first child until we welcomed our second son. Around that time you finished law school, passed the Bar and began practicing law in Texas. Just after our fourth anniversary, where we returned to the Petroleum Club (the site of our wedding reception) and spent the night at Hotel ZAZA (where we spent our first night married when it was still the Warwick) our kitchen flooded and we began major house renovations and a complete rehaul on our kitchen. We lived through it all and welcomed our baby daughter that year. Shortly after she was born, we moved back home into our “new” old house.
And, we returned to Hawaii with our three children to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. That was insane! You’ve supported me as I’ve made time to write music and lead worship at our church. Your support of God’s calling in both of our lives has been instrumental in the spiritual growth we’ve experienced separately and together.
Our children continue to grow and amaze us. And, during our sixth year of marriage, we had our fourth child, a beautiful baby boy.
We spend our mornings telling children “shhhhh!” “Quiet,” so and so “is sleeping.” “Lay down.” “Good morning.” “How did you sleep?” “Go potty.” “I love you.” “Give me a kiss.” …and so on and so on. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am so tired and wish I could just sleep a little bit longer. And, then I imagine my life without all of this and it’s no life at all. These children, these precious blessings that we’ve been given for such a short amount of time, bring so much joy to our lives. I love that all six of us cuddle up in our queen size bed! You bring joy to my life. I am so thankful for you. You are my husband, my best friend, my love. I love you and wish you a very happy anniversary. Here’s to seven more years of wedded bliss!
love,
me
 present
us, January 9, 2004

Rodeo Houston 2010- A lot of Effort for a Day of Fun

Well, it turns out that going to the rodeo with three kids under the age of 5 is a challenge whether you venture out alone or with your husband.

Last year I went alone and nearly had a heart attack…walking, cleaning up a messy diaper just before boarding a tram, controlling 2 boys, orchestrating a pony ride for both of them and keeping the baby happy. It was tough! But, the kids had a great time. Me?- not so much. But, it’s not about me, right? So, this year, at the request of many family members and friends, I recruited my husband for El Rodeo Day! I figured this would be more enjoyable for all. It definitely was more enjoyable for the kids. But, at the end of it all, after being exhausted from all of the things we did last year and did again this year (minus the near heart attack- thankfully!) I looked at Moustapha and asked him “At what age do you think our kids have to be for the rodeo to be fun for us again?”

Fast forward to 1 hour later when all of the kids are asleep in their beds at 6pm. The boys were so exhausted, they slept the entire night. Trinity will not miss a meal, so she woke up for that and quickly returned to a restful sleep. I would say that is the payoff for all of the work. We had a really quiet night. 🙂

Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to have fun!

Bakri with Tiki the pony
Bakri, Maddux & Miss Moo
Maddux and Tiki the pony

Moustapha and Baby Trinity
A little smile from Miss Trinity
Trinity and Linda the Pony (no, we didn’t plan that) 🙂 But, pretty cute that Little Linda is riding Linda the pony!
Trinity, not so sure about the Bunny

Happy Anniversary

Today is our 6th anniversary. 6 years! Wow! That sounds so few considering all that has happened. It has been a wild ride. And, it has been so wonderful. We’ve been blessed with 3 beautiful, healthy children. We live in a beautiful home in the best part of Houston. And we have amazing friends and family. And, we have even more to celebrate. The little Els will share the news with you here:

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!

The Happiest Day of My Life

Miss Trinity on her birthday in a sombrero!

Miss Trinity at her first birthday family dinner.

Our daughter turned one yesterday and I wrote on my facebook page that the day she was born was one of the “happiest days of my life.” And it was. That got me thinking,”what are the happiest days of my life?”

1. the day I asked Jesus to be Lord of my life

2. the day Moustapha asked me to marry him

3. our wedding day

4. the birth of each of our children

I remember thinking how important each day was when I was growing up and throughout high school. I worried about so many things and struggled with dealing with the heartache of having people not like me. As a teenager, I felt like that was always going to be life. It’s strange how quickly the present becomes a distant memory in the past. I can barely remember the insecurities of the past and I am very thankful for that.

The day I decided to give my life to the Lord set my life on a path that I am very thankful for. No, life is not perfect. I still have struggles with insecurities and bad decisions. But, when I lean on the Lord, He gives me strength and guides my life.

Every other day that qualifies as a “best day of my life,” occurred in adulthood. What does that say about me? I think it gives me some insight to pass along to my children. Although my best days include days with my husband and my children, the best days of my childrens’ lives are yet to come. My job is to prepare them for their best days. I get to be a part of all of the days in between now and then. What a responsibility and a blessing.

Embrace the Chaos

Well, she didn’t say it today. But, she said it last week and I am really trying to listen. Kelly Chapman, founder of Royal Purpose Ministries, Princess Prep School & Warrior Prince Academy spoke at the graduation ceremony this week. I was the music teacher for the school all week at the camp at First Presbyterian Church. Today the children performed and they were amazing! Seriously, they did a great job. Kelly said it was the best she had seen…and I don’t think she was just trying to be nice! We had so much fun and the girls and boys learned everything so quickly. They were great.

One of the things that Kelly talked about in the graduation ceremony last week was embracing the chaos. I think that should be my mantra for a while, “Embrace the chaos!” Embrace the moment when my 2 year old is saying “I don’t want milk….I do want milk” and I say “here you go” and he responds with “I DON’T WANT MILK!…..I DO WANT MILK” Okay, I’ll embrace that moment!

And, embrace the moment when we arrive to the pool and we’re just about to get in and I have to put my four year old in time out and he screams at me in front of lots of strangers. I say to myself “I am not embarrassed. I will be strong. I will be strong. I will be strong.” He screams again. I repeat “I am strong.” Again, he screams and tells me he doesn’t like me. Okay, that hurt. “Mommy knows you don’t mean that. Now, finish your timeout.” And, in four minutes, it is finally over. We all happily get in the pool to hear the whistle blow and the lifeguards yell “break, adult swim.” And, now we’re getting out of the pool. I’ll embrace this moment!

And, embrace the moment when all three of my children are playing happily together on the floor. And there is peace for a moment. Next thing I know, someone is crying, someone is running and someone is chasing. Embrace this moment!
And on another thought, take a moment to pause, and say a prayer. Pray for the child who can’t walk or run around the house. Pray for the child who is malnourished and has no milk to want or not want. And pray for the child who has no water to swim in or drink. When I have these “moments of chaos” and I pray for things that are outside of these moments, God really speaks to me.

So, embrace the chaos! I know I will. I promise, I will!