How I imagine You

El Momma, big Sis Trinity and baby Mary-Linda

It’s always been hard for me to imagine how my babies will look and who they will look like, when I am pregnant. It was the same when we were expecting our second daughter in the summer of 2017. I knew she would look like an El. But, would her eyes be hazel like mine and Bakri’s? Would her hair be curly like Maddux and Leeland? Would she have olive skin like Trinity and Leeland? Or would her eyes be blue and her hair be blonde like Maddux?

When she died at 18 weeks gestation, I held her tiny little body in my arms. I remember that day so vividly. I never ever wanted to let her go and yet, I knew that her little body would not keep. And, I could not hold her like this forever. As the days passed, I would imagine her. I would have day dreams of her in heaven. I could see her. I could touch her. She wasn’t a baby at all. In my mind she was a little girl. She was three.

She was the age she would be now, had she not had an undetected fetal maternal when I was 4.5 months pregnant with her. She would have a sweet nature, because, well the Els all have sweet natures as babies. 💗 She would have had a distinct way of speaking. They all do. Each one had their own special way. She is so loved. I wish I knew more of her. But, I know there is someday. And, we are one day closer to that day.

Mary-Linda’s expected due date in 2018

Family Favorite: Lebanese Cauliflower, ground beef & Rice

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
  • [1] TB extra virgin olive oil
  • [1] chopped white onion
  • [1] pound ground beef
  • [1] TB 7 spices (recipe for seven spices included below)
  • [1] tsp kosher salt
  • [1] 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.

Directions

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.

7 Spices Ingredients

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

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.

Escaping to the Lake…one of our best escapes yet.

I dedicate this post to last summer.

To dreams coming true.
To Dave Trout and Under the Radar for playing unknown music on the radio.
To Christiaan Snedeker and Dave Trout for imagining a retreat where artists (and their families) can come together, break bread together, worship together and enjoy great music under the stars.
To Under the Radar for inviting me and my entire family to Williams Bay, WI to participate in such an amazing retreat and experience.
To Chicago.
Less than 24 hours and you became one of my favorite cities I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit, even if it was only for a few moments.
To my family.
Making music is a dream come true.
Making music with you is everything I was made to do and more.
I love your support.
I love that you would pile in a minivan and head up north on an adventure with me so that I can connect with more musicians who love Christ and who just want to make art and music for the Kingdom.
And, to all of you who are lucky enough to be at Escape to the Lake 15 right now (#ETTL15) , savor every moment.
Love your families.
Love your new friends.
Love the Church. (the Church is with you there!)
Love God.
Love being close to nature and close with each other.
Have great conversations.
Have hard conversations.
Have conversations.
And, make some amazing music and art together for the Glory of the one who made you.
Be blessed, y’all.
Hope to see you at the next one.
-Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam
and the Els

Surviving the Storms. Think on This.


Over Memorial Day weekend, Texas was hit hard with storms. There were families literally swept away inside river homes in Wimberley. Precious lives lost. 
Many Houston families’ homes were flooded with inches to 2 feet of water. Neighbors and friends of ours were awakened to rising waters inside their homes and they are still out of their houses.
Only five days later we were hit with another storm with less rainfall, but more lightning and a funnel cloud. We lost shingles on our roof and our ceiling leaked in our bedroom. We had trees on our street ripped up.  The transformer in our backyard went crazy, sparking and sounding like it was blowing. It was minor compared to all that others were going through and are still going through.
But, nonetheless, it was traumatic for our kids.
I saw that last night.
Huddled up on the kitchen floor during yesterday’s thunder and lightning storm and flash flood warning.
We prayed.
And prayed.
And we made butterflies with our legs and pretended to fly while singing a newly made up song:

“fly little butterfly fly
fly little butterfly fly
with your wings up and down
up and down
up and down
fly little butterfly fly”

We sang.
And we giggled. 

But, something has changed. 
I know that my kids are anxious.
I don’t believe that they are naturally anxious beings.
I believe these particular circumstances all within a short period of time have made them anxious.
My job as a parent is to not leave them in that anxious place.
That place that will shape them into someone who is anxious with every lightning strike, every thunder roar, every rain storm or flood watch.
It is okay to be cautious. To be aware. To know where there are dangers and to avoid them.
But, in Philippians 4:4-9 God’s Word tells us:  
<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29430G" data-link="(G)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29431H" data-link="(H)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29432J" data-link="(J)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>but in everything by prayer and supplication <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29432K" data-link="(K)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29433L" data-link="(L)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>the peace of God, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29433M" data-link="(M)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29435N" data-link="(N)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>received and heard and seen <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29435O" data-link="(O)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>in me—practice these things, and <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29435P" data-link="(P)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>the God of peace will be with you.”


I believe this to be true. 
So, as we were praying and flapping our butterfly leg-wings and making up silly songs, we were living out Philippians 4. 
Focusing on loveliness, goodness, truth…and God gave us His peace.


#elmomma31



Preparing for School

We’ve enjoyed summer and are in the crazy last days of complete insanity. I am moving from room to room cleaning up legos, beads, making beds, putting away clothes to turn around and it’s like the opposite of Mary Poppins. Everything I just put away magically ends up on the floor in worse condition than before. I’m in la la land. Help! If you are wondering why I don’t have my children do these chores- the answer is “I do.” And, we are still in some crazy place of stuff every where. I am really really looking forward to the normal life of kids in school. It means I will actually clean something and my little els won’t destroy it (at least until they get home) and they will probably have so much homework and be so exhausted that they will only have enough energy to eat and go to bed for the first week. A girl can dream.

To prepare for this year’s intense workload in 4th grade, we met with Bakri’s teachers yesterday. It was amazing and hopeful and wonderful. We are really excited about this year for him and praying every single day that he will make a close friend at school. In having conversation with his teachers they wanted to learn more about him. His interests, likes, learning style, etc. He sang part of a song and we told them how much he loves playing the piano, writing music and about a project he did in second grade. His project was to tell about his family in any creative way that he wanted to. He wrote a song and we recorded it and recorded a music video to go along with it. It is called “Our Family Song.” We watched it a few times yesterday. The Els commented that there are a few things that are incorrect in the song, like when it says “we don’t fight in our family!” Um, ok, people, these are goals and hopes. It also has very accurate things like “we run around in our family!” So there!

So, in honor of school starting, here is Our Family Song by Bakri El-Hakam, written at age 7.

Doing What I Can

This is the third entry in a series I call “El Real Momma”

The purpose is just to be completely “Real” with you all and real with myself. The internet can be a place of fear and sometimes I am afraid of the consequences and the negative results that could come from over-sharing.

Three field trips in the last three weeks. How in the world can anyone work, manage a house, take care of children well and get anything done for yourself with such a crazy schedule? Impossible. But, it must be done. So, I’ll try and in the meantime I will stop and attempt to do yoga in the middle of homework hour. 

And, my littlest guy will crawl underneath my warrior two or downward dog and maybe, just maybe, these little ones will learn a little bit about determination. I don’t believe that I have to workout to feel good or do yoga to feel like I’ve had a successful day. But, for me, personally, reading scripture and having quiet time in the morning and finding time to do some kind of exercise during the day are two ways that make my days feel a whole lot more complete and happy no matter how little I may check off my list.

Perhaps there will be another field trip or two before the year is finished. Maybe I’ll be able to go or maybe I won’t. I’ll make every effort to not feel guilty either way. We do what we can.

Finding our Rhythm, Season by Season, Day by Day

This is the first entry in a series I call “El Real Momma”The purpose is just to be completely “Real” with you all and real with myself. The internet can be a place of fear and sometimes I am afraid of the consequences and the negative results that could come from over-sharing. Don’t worry, I am not going to intentionally over-share. But, I am going to share. So here goes:

It’s hard to believe in just a few days we will have a 3, 5, 7 and 9 year old in the house. Time feels faster and faster and all I can do is try to breathe and take it slow. All of the Els are in elementary school. There is a crazy rhythm in that. Tuesday folders full of information. Some of it very important, and some of it not important (to us) at all. Activities. One day a week, three of the Els swim. Three days a week, two of the Els play or practice baseball. One day a week, one of the Els attends dance class. Then, we have family activities, church activities and birthday parties for friends. Date nights (sometimes after my rehearsal we have dinner and actually talk to each other!) On top of all of that, there is an enormous amount of homework mainly for our 3rd grader. And, on top of all of that- making it work with four kids- one of our children has extra challenges. So, sometimes that means we need to meet with his teachers and administrators. Sometimes, I need to go to the school to check on him, bring him medicine, make sure he is happy at lunch, etc. It means that often times, I stop whatever I am doing, wherever I am and I put my child(ren) first. Completely and totally first. Oftentimes, lately, I feel off balance. Like I’m not myself. Writing music, having a cup of great coffee with lots of cream, reading scripture, sunshine in the mornings, laughter and late, lazy breakfasts just don’t make it into my day. They are some of my very favorite and most life-giving experiences, but when I’m lining up my priorities, putting on eye shadow falls pretty far behind making school lunches for 4 people, on my list of important things to do. Don’t get me wrong, I do try to make time for both. But, I will walk around with no makeup on if that’s how it has to be. And, sometimes, it just is what it is. 

Friday, we were walking into school and I looked up to see this. Maddux and Trinity holding hands. Walking together. Happy. These are the moments that I would give up every perfect cup of coffee for.

We’re different. They are different. I am different. I feel completely changed from the day I gave birth to our oldest. Almost like I am a different person, but not quite. These experiences, every one of them. The good, the bad, the amazing: they have shaped me, molded me and at times, forced me into who I am today. I love making friends. I love connecting with people. I love being a momma. I do not love conflict or feeling like I am bothering someone or imposing or asking for help. That list of things I do not love has become more a part of my life than I would have ever hoped. But, it’s okay. I am okay. I am better than okay. I sat in a meeting on Friday about one of my children who needs me to be strong for him and I was. I didn’t cry one tear. Not that crying would have been a bad thing, but I just think that it wasn’t the right thing for me, that day, in that meeting. And, God gave me strength, patience, peace and wisdom to know when to speak, when to listen and when to give praise.

And, today, our three year old Batman went for his first solo drive. Always something to look forward to, even in the darkest of storms.

Peace be with you.
Love,
Rebekah
(El Momma)

Summer Week 7- Theme Weeks- Game Week

Our theme this week was Games! The Els are ages 3, 4 (almost 5), 6 1/2 and 8. Between the six of us, we have 4 that are mature enough to sit through family game night and enjoy it. I won’t tell you which four. 🙂 Seriously, even the two youngest enjoyed most of our games. Here are a few highlights from our week:
We had a couple of gift cards to Toys R Us, which is why we headed there to pick out some new games for the week.

 We decided on kid-friendly scrabble, StarWars R2-D2 Trouble, a couple of new family Wii games, a 500 piece puzzle and Classic Monopoly. We already had a set of dominoes.

 First up, Monopoly! This was fun. We played in teams. Me & T vs. Dad & Leeland vs. Bakri & Maddux
 Momma selfie

 Next up…Scrabble! This worked really well with our readers and Trinity had a great time finding letters and trying to put words together. Some of my favorites “jeepers, pew, ew, sliders, elf and brat!”
 We started our 500 piece puzzle on day one and kept it out ALL WEEK. This was a huge challenge for El Momma. I’m not sure I would do this again. But, perhaps the end product is worth it. The Els were certainly excited when we finished it together!

Summer Week 4- Theme Weeks- Water Week

Last week, while the Nation celebrated our Freedom on the 4th of July, we prepared for a week long celebration with Water as our theme. The first objective of water week: learn to swim!
 Swim lessons
 With a bird’s eye view

Swimmers must be hydrated and fed well. Here is a photo of us at lunch at the Kolache Factory.

 For the 4th of July, we celebrated with family at the Els’ Aunt and Uncle’s pool party! The Els practiced swimming.

Ate yummy dinner by the pool!

 Leeland even sported his Willy Wonka top hat in his swim trunks. Can you guess what next week’s theme is? (I’ll give you a hint, it’s performance, birthday and chocolate related)

After the family pool party, we headed home to watch the fireworks! Leeland asked nervously “Are they coming closer?” 

 Me and Miss T- July 4th 2013

 And, for the weekend, we made a waterpark in the backyard…just dad and the water hose is pretty much all it takes!

 After all of the water park fun in the backyard, we had a picnic. – Leeland
 -Maddux
 -Daddy and Trinity
 -Maddux and Bakri
 -El Momma and Trinity
-The Els
 -The Els
Daddy’s hat on Trinity

Hope you are enjoying your summer. What do you do with your little ones to keep them cool, happy, occupied and engaged in the summer months? Comment below.

El Momma is a blog chronicling the adventures of El Momma (singer/songwriter Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam), her husband and 4 children- the Els. To download a free 6 song sampler from Rebekah’s critically acclaimed debut album, Radiant You, visit www.noisetrade.com/rebekahme/radiant-you