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

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. 

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.

Music Your Kids will LOVE

This summer we’ve been traveling, a lot. Riding in the car, a lot. And, spending a lot of time together, a lot. We do pretty well together. So, I thought I would answer a question I get asked a lot by other parents.

I’ve been asked the question at least a hundred times: “How do you get your kids to like the same music you like?” And, “why don’t you listen to Kid’s music?”
First of all, you may need to expand what you like a little. Music that you loved in high school or even the mostly pop junk that gets played over and over again on the radio that you may like to bop along to in the car by yourself, may not be what you really want your kids to love.
So, I would expand what you like if you haven’t already. First, let’s look at faith music…or music written about faith or by a person of faith. Since music is a big part of my life and as a worship leader and songwriter, I am often looking at new and old worship music and hymns. Some of these songs are completely new to me and some of the best bands are bands that I and probably you have never heard of. It’s worth taking a listen to shows like the radio show  Under the Radar  which plays the best music you’ve never heard and stations like Elijah Streams that play worship music from known and lesser known artists and churches. These are places I find new and new to me music that is both worship and singer/songwriter.
You may be thinking, “I don’t like what gets played on the radio.” Well, you are not alone. In fact, most of what is played on Contemporary Christian Radio Stations comes from a very limited number of artists. Some of them are great. Some are just what the radio stations and the labels are feeding us. There is a lot more music out there and if you just do a little digging, you can find it!
One of my favorite things about faith music is that even if the subject isn’t God, I still don’t have to worry about answering the awkward question, ie. “Momma, what are “blurred lines?” or hearing my baby girl sing “So you want to play with magic?” My kids still hear those songs. They just don’t hear them from me.

We also love a lot of older classic tunes by The Beatles, Elvis, Electric Light Orchestra, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, James Taylor, Eva Cassidy,  and many many more. We have current bands that we love too like David Ramirez , Mat Kearney and John Mark McMillian. One of my favorite records is still Brooke Fraser’s Albertine, produced by my producer on my album Radiant You, Marshall Altman. I’ve also discovered more bands and music to love through Marshall. Before meeting Marshall, I didn’t know of Gabe Dixon, Audrey Assad or Matt Nathanson. So, I would say if you really love an album, find out who produced it and listen to more of their stuff. Chances are you will find more music you…and your kids will love.

So, now that you’ve expanded your music repertoire, how do you expand the mind and musical tastes of your children? Play them the songs you like. It’s that simple. I’m not promising your kids will give up asking for Veggie Tales or Katy Perry immediately, however I am saying that chances are high that your children will enjoy what you enjoy if you put some extra thought into it. So, plan a play list on your iPhone of music that you like and make it a good mix of high energy, classic, singer-songwriter, maybe even throw in a soundtrack song. We like the Muppet Movie soundtrack. The songs are hilarious and well done and when Maddux and Leeland break out into their rendition of “Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet,” I am on the floor. It is amazing and hilarious.

Happy listening and happy parenting, friends!

And We’re Off to a Running Start- First Week of Summer is Done!

I can’t help but sing “in Sum-merrrrrr” ala Olaf from Frozen. If you haven’t seen the movie, then the songs are probably not stuck in your head or being sung over and over again by your housemates. Great songs, but any song can get annoying after the hundredth time you hear it being belted out by your five year old daughter. Gotta love “Sum-merrrrrr!”
So, we’re off and the first week of summer is already behind us. I counted and I believe we have 93 days of summer. Meaning, we only have 81 days left! Aack! We better get to livin…
The first weekend of summer was filled with birthday fun. First, the hubs grilled burgers and hotdogs at his parents’ home on his birthday. 

We had cake, of course and the theme is one that will probably be with us all summer long: B-A-S-E-B-A-L-L! So long 38 and hello, 39. Happy happy birthday to Moustapha!

We decorated with Moustapha’s vintage pennants. Here’s his beautiful momma with one from 1984! “Mo-stapha!”

A little attention needed for our little guy and then…

Time for a song and cake!

We all put up our Longhorns and little Leeland sported his peace sign proudly.

With my dear parents and sister.

Moustapha’s sweet Aunt Mary Louise even joined in for the party. She was visiting from out of town!

Our newest family member was also part of the celebration. We love all of our nephews!

We’ve had cake, and now let’s have some chocolate fudgecicles. Why not!?

Me and the birthday boy!

With his proud daddy.

And, then…we celebrated another very special birthday. Our sweet niece, Grace shares a birthday with Moustapha. She turned 3. Isn’t she lovely?

After the birthday celebrations, we had an adventure of our own at the El House. One afternoon, I went in to our daughter’s room only to discover the noise of a small critter coming from the wall. Something was stuck and not happy about it. That night, the oldest boys slept in a different room (they share a wall with their sister) in sleeping bags on the floor and our two youngest also slept in different beds then their usual spots. All to get away from whatever was nervous and clawing at the wall. The next day, Moustapha cut a hole in the wall, only to discover this little face looking back at him. A baby raccoon. We called the Texas Wildlife Center. They believed that the mom might come back for the baby. So, we placed the baby in this little bin and the baby stayed there all night. By the next morning, Moustapha was really worried about the baby, so he took the baby raccoon – the kids named him Racky- to the Wildlife Center. They said he was dehydrated, but otherwise doing well. We are allowed to check on Racky’s progress twice over the next 6 months. We will try to be patient!

Throughout the week, Maddux played in a tournament on a 7U select league team. His team, The Bellaire Bombers, won every game and they won the entire tournament on Saturday. Moustapha, Bakri and I enjoyed cheering them on to victory. Did I mention that baseball is going to be a big theme this summer? This is part of the reason for that. It’s our first time having anyone play select league. It could get interesting!

Maddux, getting his team first place trophy!

With me.

With Dad.

And, brothers celebrating at dinner!

I think that about sums up the first week of summer. It was a fun doozy! We’ve already celebrated another birthday this week- my father-in-law and we have more coming this week. I can’t complain. Summer, baseball, birthdays, family, music…these are a few of my favorite things….

Hope your summer is off to a great start too. The last few summers, we’ve had theme weeks at our house to give us purpose each week and to really help me stay organized and keep the Els active. Several of my friends shared this blog post from City Moms Blog with a bucket list of things to do with your kids this summer in Houston. Check it out here: http://citymomsblog.com/houston/summer-2014-bucket-list/ This is specific to Houston, but many of the activities would work in any town. I did have one child request the theme weeks again yesterday. I’m still contemplating that. I will update here if we decide to go that route or if we have our own bucket list this summer. I will definitely post our activities here. Keep busy, keep calm and keep cool!

– El Momma

Back in the swing

We’re two weeks in and I’m tired. Any other mommas and dads with me?
Summers and vacations are times when I find my rhythm. Who doesn’t love relaxing and taking a break from the norm to refresh. But, even so, I love structure. I love knowing what’s next, scheduling myself silly until I just fall over at the end of each day. It’s part of the reason we plan weekly themes in the summers. It helps me to make a plan. A plan that still allows all of us to sleep in on summer days.

And, that is the reason I’m so tired. Every school day I wake up by 6am. I am NOT an early riser. I’m a sleeper and a dreamer. I’m also a Momma, so I convince myself if I just get up now, I can take a nap once all of the Els are at school/work. That’s just me lying to myself. I’ll never stop to take a nap. But, the thought is nice.

So, we’re off. In the rhythm of school and work and practices and lessons and choirs and teaching and rehearsals and total chaos. We’re in our rhythm. We’re happy and good, but tired. How are you doing with the kids back in school? 

About El Momma: Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam is a worship leader and songwriter from Houston, Texas. Her debut album, Radiant You received 4.5 stars from NewReleaseTuesday and was produced by Marshall Altman. A 6 song sampler is available for free on Noisetrade Free Noisetrade Download and the entire album is available for purchase on iTunes

Summer Week 5 Theme Week- performance week

Our youngest turned 3 this summer. One month before his birthday he asked (completely unprompted) for a Willy Wonka birthday party. It was a perfect idea, so we got to work. We asked our family to join us for the fun and even dress as characters from the book…anyone, but Willy Wonka. Leeland, our birthday boy, would be the only Willy Wonka.

Last year the Els had a performance week and did a song from Aladdin at a family Disney night at our church. This year, the kids picked out their characters and we spent the week rehearsing and preparing for them to perform a few songs from the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie.

He already had a blue velvet jacket (hand-me-down originally purchased by his grandmother for his oldest brother) I found this hat on ebay. And ordered him a size small.

Pajamas, velvet jacket and top hat…normal for rehearsals!

 Practicing for the big performance. Our stage.

 Tickets…I purchased a set of Willy Wonka graphics from Etsy. Everything was customized.

 The party table. Cake, candy, chocolate and more candy. We’ve never served so much sugar at a party!

Our handsome birthday boy. We found the vest material online. It is the same fabric print as the Gene Wilder vest. Our little Leeland, Willy Wonka was so very happy!

the Start of summer… theme weeks second year

 We started summer. We continued a tradition from last summer- theme weeks and we started a new tradition- summer jobs.
First:
summer jobs:
there are 4.
one for each El.
Line leader- to keep them from fighting when they are getting out of the car
Kitchen helper- helping El Momma in the kitchen
Tablesetter- sets the table at every meal
Bathroom monitor- main job is to help with teeth brushing, putting toothpaste on each tooth brush and calling kids in when ready

 Pictured are the jobs on the wall posted below our family mission which I love so very much… starting with “we love God and each other! We follow family rules. We’re a happy family. We stay healthy. We don’t fight. We vacation together every year”

When thinking about Theme Weeks this year, I had my ideas…
Mine basically involved cleaning and organizing. So, we compromised and came up with themes that made El Momma and the Els happy. First up, Arts and Crafts week!

Four canvases in solid colors, four paints, one paint brush and four handprints. 

 The end result now hanging in our den. Makes me happy. Thankful for theme week 1: Arts and Crafts week. Up next, weather week!

the start of summer and a plan

Summer is a crazy, wonderful time for us. The kids are getting older and have more specialized interests. My hope and goal for the summer is typically to keep them happy, busy and friendly with others and especially each other. I also want/need to get work done, have time for myself, spend lots of time with them and have a plan. I am so not a type-A personality. My co-workers may disagree. But, it’s true. I’ve found my type-A side through work, because it allows me to be more creative, more free, and more fun. So, type-A, “Miss Organized Self” emerges to plan worship services, direct bands, manage children, etc. I think “Miss Organized Self” is a good persona to have for the summer as well. She’ll keep my kids in line, give them fun things to do and also give me free time to not go crazy. 🙂

So, we have jobs. These will be weekly jobs to keep us from fighting about who brings plates to the table or who gets out of the car first (that’s a big one). We’ve already ventured out of the house and had breakfast since giving out the jobs for the first week and not one fight broke out. Whew! I’ll let you know if it works past day one. 

It’s Fall…here’s our EL Update

It’s (a little) cooler this morning in Houston, Texas. Almost feels like it could be October, but not quite. We’re doing great. 
Leeland is two and happier than ever. 

Maddux started Kindergarten and Bakri is in second grade. I am spending more time at both of their schools. So far, we are having a great school year. 

My debut album was released on September 18. 

It’s really exciting and stressful just to try to get the music out there. But, when people hear it, they are moved and they tell me about it. I am very blessed. 

If you know what to search (ie. my name), you can find me almost anywhere….iTunes, amazon, cdbaby, zune, bandcamp, noisetrade, etc. And, even next to Sandi Patty, at times. 🙂

This was my look of shock and relief the day the album was released….ah

And, now, me and the family are headed to churches and events on my off weeks to spread the music to more churches and communities. Last week, we went to Crosspoint Church in Bellaire and I had the joy of leading along side of my friend and amazing talent, Aaron Senseman and the great worship team at Crosspoint. I am very grateful to be able to share the music in this way. Could I come to your church? Contact rebekahmemusic@gmail.com for booking information. 
Trinity turned four and we celebrated with a family party at our church. We made homemade pizzas, danced and enjoyed celebrating Miss Trinity. She is becoming quite the little lady. 

Leeland had his first haircut. Momma cut off the longest curls in the back, but I’m not ready to go short yet. He still has some baby curls.

Grandma (Moustapha’s mom) loves to buy the kids halloween costumes. This year the Els had requests: Mario themed costumes! Toad! Princess Peach! Luigi! and Mario! We are waiting until Halloween to put on the mustaches. 
Happy October, y’all!
love,
El Momma and the Els