Okay parents. How many of you get a little frustrated with the whole Elf on the Shelf craze at Christmas time? Me too! And, with a toddler at home, I wanted to do something extra special. Last year, I decided to get help with our elf on the shelf and I bought a kit from an account I found on Instagram. (www.Instagram.com/craftyholidayhelper) CraftyHolidayHelper, Jaime has a small business focused on holiday crafts for families. I am so thankful to have found Jaime! Her craft kits are amazing!
I love having holiday parties for our littles. Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Fourth of July are holidays we don’t miss celebrating! In addition to adding Mardi Gras, we also added St Patrick’s Day with a party box and scavenger hunt from CraftyHolidayHelper to kick us off!
Jimmie is in awe of everything. He loves the rainbow centerpiece and all of the tiny details. My older kids said it’s not a party if other people don’t come. I disagree! I think Jimmie does too. It’s a party if you say it’s a party! Happy St Patrick’s Day, everyone!
El Momma, Rebekahmemusic and CraftyHolidayHelper collaborated on this post. Thank you for your support!
Love is in the air. We are thrilled to be publishing our first ever gift guide, just in time for Valentine’s Day. We are focusing on gifts for him, gifts for her, gifts for kids, babies and teachers. We can’t wait to share our finds for Valentine’s Day.
Here’s another Lebanese inspired dish that we make once every week or so. My kids request this one. They absolutely love it. We all do. They literally want this dish at least once a week.
At this point, you may be wondering, “how do you get your kids to eat these amazing meals with vegetables?” The answer is pretty simple. I never made separate meals. From the time the older Els were little and currently with our toddler, we make a family meal and eat it together. Of course we have nights where people make their own dinner and eat whatever they want. But, as a practice, I make a meal for the family and offer it to everyone. I don’t like to make an issue out of food. So, we’ve never told our kids they had to clean their plates. We do encourage them to try new foods and at this point we’ve built up a good level of trust- I ((mostly)) serve them delicious dishes. There was that one time I made chick pea noodles in 2020. (Gross!) See below for the Lebanese Cauliflower, ground beef and rice directions and quick video. Please comment and let me know if you make this delicious dish!
Quick Video “How to make Lebanese cauliflower, ground beef and rice by El Momma”
Video: How to make this awesome dish in 90 seconds!
Lebanese Cauliflower & ground beef Ingredients
Makes approximately 8 servings
2-3 large whole cauliflowers. Cut to florets
Your choice of cooked white rice
 TB extra virgin olive oil
 chopped white onion
 pound ground beef
 TB 7 spices (recipe for seven spices included below)
 tsp kosher salt
 tsp ground pepper
1 jar 24 Oz of diced tomatoes (I prefer roasted garlic)
14 Oz crushed Tomatoes (I use Italian variety)
plain yogurt (optional) for garnish
*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. * Recipe for my homemade seven spices blend is included at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: Rinse and cut the cauliflower into florets. Set aside.
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 beef 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 cauliflower, crushed and diced tomatoes. Mix well. Cover and cook for an additional 30 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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