At ELMOMMA.com, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on this past year. First, we would like to thank you for being here. You being here means a lot to us and helps us support our growing family. Since founding ELMOMMA.com in 2008, we have all grown and changed so much. We had 27,000 views on the blog this month, with this post topping them all. We shared a video of Jimmie watching Momma dance that topped 100k views on Instagram. We published beautiful gift guides focused on our brand and viewers.
Personally, we have experienced a lot of change this year. In July, Rebekah went back to work full-time after not working full-time outside of the home for nearly 4 years. In July, we also learned that we were expecting what we believed to be our last Baby El. All of the Els were over the moon excited about the baby. Sadly, we miscarried at home at 8 weeks and 4 days on August 29 after finding the baby had no heartbeat the week prior.
Rebekah’s new job has been a wonderful blessing. She is now employed at the largest Episcopal Church in North America, where she plans the contemporary worship services each week. She even gets to lead worship and sing with one of her favorite CCM artists from growing up-Wayne Watson. If you know, you know this is pretty awesome.
Bakri is 17 and applying to attend Universities majoring in Music Composition. The pandemic opened up a creative side of Bakri. He is an incredibly talented composer. We still can’t believe that college is right around the corner. He is planning to minor in piano performance.
Maddux will turn 16 this week. He has his drivers permit and will be ready for his official license in two months. We are very excited for this development. Bakri attends school downtown and hasn’t shown interest in learning to drive just yet. We are looking forward to Maddux driving the other Els around safely!
Trinity is also busy applying for schools-HIGH SCHOOLS! We don’t know how this is going to work out, so we are casting the net nice and wide and looking for the right fit. She hopes to study theatre in high school and all of the schools we are considering have top theatre programs.
Leeland is in 7th grade and seems to be really coming into his own. He has participated in football and cross country this year. He plans to tryout for the middle school baseball team after the winter break. He’s also joining a new select baseball team.
Jimmie went to preschool for the first time this November. Check out our post about the first week here. He is loving school. We are very proud of how well he has transitioned. He’s singing songs he is learning at school and he’s already made so many friends.
Moustapha and me are doing well. It’s definitely a stressful time with all of the changes. I will have some time off at the end of this year and the beginning of the new year, so I’m starting to dream and plan that. Would love your suggestions on where we should travel to. We will most likely drive, because there are 7 of us and plane trips are expensive and we need a vehicle most places we would travel to. We like the idea of taking the Els to the mountains, but neither of us have been skiing with kids, so we don’t really know what to expect or how to manage that.
As we close this update post, let me remind you of a few important philosophies we hold tight to. Take the vacation. Dream the dream. Follow your heart. Be in the photo. Life is too short to stop now. Just keep going.
We are so excited to publish another gift guide on elmomma.com. I honestly didn’t know how the first one would go, (click here to see our Valentine’s Day gift guide) but it was amazing thanks to the support of so many of you. Wondering what to get the mommas in your life? Stay tuned!!
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.
When we started out on this grief journey, it was unexpected, as grief and pain often are. We were, in many ways, unprepared. You know how people say “I can’t imagine” what you are going through? What they mean is they don’t have any life experiences that relate directly to what you are going through. Because, of course we can imagine. We don’t want to imagine.
But, today I want to focus on how we unknowingly prepared for this and what I believe we did that has helped us as we process and heal.
Number 1- we prayed and planned for our baby girl. We heard God very clearly and we knew it was the right decision for our family to try for one more baby. We continued to pray and seek the Lord throughout our pregnancy and loss.
In Matthew 6:33-34 the Bible says “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
We also cling to the scriptures and knowledge that God is near to us. Psalm 34 says the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Number 2- we celebrated every milestone. We had never done a gender reveal for our older babies, but wanted to do a gender reveal this time for our four older kids. It was absolutely the right decision for our family. The moment we learned, as a family that our baby was a girl will be a memory we all can take with us always. We don’t have a lot of memories with Mary-Linda, so this one stands out as one of the most joyful moments of our time together as a family.
Number 3- we created memories. Did we know that our time with her was going to be short? No. We had no idea. But, we enjoyed the time when we were expecting her. We went on vacation, celebrated birthdays, spent time with family and friends and soaked up those precious moments.
Grief is not easy, nor is there a formula to move through it. My advice for you whether you are grieving or not, is to live your life to the fullest. Love on your family and friends a little extra. We can all use a little more love.
“You will rarely regret celebrating life too much, but will likely regret celebrating life too little.”
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.
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.
This morning we found out that our dear friend and teacher’s baby went to heaven today.
He lived to be 5 months old. He was born full term at a healthy weight.
Looking perfect in every way.
But, he couldn’t move.
He was later diagnosed with type 0 SMA. SMA is the number one killer of infants.
How do I know that?
I know it because of super Cooper! Because of his little life, we can make a difference by spreading awareness and stopping SMA. His type of SMA is the worst kind and the hope to be able to take him home from the hospital one day was small. But, there was hope. And prayers. Lots of prayers. And, he did go home.
In fact, he went many places: a bbq benefit, walks with mommy and daddy. He even went for a swim last week with mommy.
His little life is an inspiration. We now know more about SMA and we can spread awareness to stop SMA.
More about SMA From CureSMA.org
SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) is a disease that robs people of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to walk, eat, or breathe. It is the number one genetic cause of death for infants.
SMA is caused by a mutation in the survival motor neuron gene 1 (SMN1). In a healthy person, this gene produces a protein that is critical to the function of the nerves that control our muscles. Without it, those nerve cells cannot properly function and eventually die, leading to debilitating and often fatal muscle weakness.
SMA affects approximately 1 in 10,000 babies, and about 1 in every 50 Americans is a genetic carrier. SMA can affect any race or gender.
There are four primary types of SMA—I, II, III, and IV—based on age of onset and highest physical milestone achieved.
Individuals with SMA have difficulty performing the basic functions of life, like breathing and swallowing. However, SMA does not affect a person’s ability to think, learn, and build relationships with others.
Though there is currently no approved treatment for SMA, there’s great reason for hope. We know what causes SMA and what we need to do to develop effective therapies, and we’re on the verge of major breakthroughs that will strengthen our children’s bodies, extend life, and eventually lead to a cure.
As I head off to bed in the early hours of Christmas morning, I’m struck my an unusual sense of peace. This moment. Alone. Downstairs. The stockings are full. The presents are wrapped. There is a half-eaten cookie and partially empty glass of milk in the living room. “Santa” has made his delivery of one toy per El under the tree. And, the children are snug in their beds. Probably dreaming of the chaos that will surely touch us, if not overwhelm us in a few hours.
Thank you, Jesus for your peace that passes all understanding.
I often get asked how I am so calm with four kids. (I’m not that calm, btw) But, if there is calmness, it’s peace. The peace that can only come through Jesus.
Happy birthday, Jesus!
May the peace of Christ be with you and yours this Christmas and always.
I will begin this post with an apology to my dear husband who I am certain would rather me never write it. Mainly because he would never want something like this to upset me. So, Moustapha, I am sorry. But, I am also inspired to share my not so lovely experience with friends and other parents out there who have ever taken a child or children to the grocery store. This is for you.
The following is an open letter to the admittedly “not nice” lady my four children and I encountered at our local grocery store on December 30, 2013. I’ve written about grocery shopping with kids before. See How does Momma grocery shop for her Els? from 2011 This is a little different:
Dear Not Nice,
I am not sure what it is exactly that my four children and I did to offend you so. However, your aggressive “know-it-all” behavior wasn’t received well by us or any of the human-beings who had the misfortune of being in your path today. To say that I was shocked by you, is putting it mildly. It was astonishing.
Let me tell you about the events before you approached me and my four children to tell me how horrible they were and that they were my responsibility- a fact I am pretty much constantly aware of every moment of every day.
This morning, my fever broke around 10am. I began running fever around 530pm two days prior, during the visitation for my husband’s uncle who passed away on Christmas day. We drove 3 hours to attend the services and not long after our arrival, I became sick. A few hours before encountering you, was the first time I felt well enough to venture out by myself with my children in several days. My husband went to work earlier and I was left to care for our four children alone and sick. We wanted to make the best of it. I offered to take them to a special brunch at our local diner. They were so excited. As is my normal practice, I let them know what to expect while we were out. “First, we will go to the Diner and have brunch together. If we all make good choices at lunch you can each have a quarter to play one video game before we leave. After brunch, we will make a quick trip to the store to get everything we need to make chicken spaghetti and then we will can go home.” We agreed. Got dressed and eventually made it out of the house for our brunch.
We had a delightful brunch.
After brunch, we headed to store. When we arrived, we went straight to the restrooms. We washed hands and I loaded the 2 youngest children in the cart. My two oldest, 7 and 8 yrs old were walking with the cart and me as is our normal practice at this store. The largest cart they have at this location is for 2 children. My two youngest, ages 3 and 5 buckled in to their seats in the cart.
We made our way through the store. Fruits first. Vegetables next. Chicken for the Chicken spaghetti, etc. We were on our way. At one point, one of the boys who happens to have special needs) began to remove his jacket. We stopped everything and waited for him to put it back on. I was afraid he would put it down and lose it and I let him know that I expected him to keep his jacket on and that we were almost done.
Taking four children to the grocery store is never high on my list of things I love to do. It’s work and frankly I am really good at it. I am pretty strict on them. They can’t touch anything. They can only help when I ask and they can’t overwhelm me with a million “i want this and i want thats.” If they are really good, sometimes I will treat them at the end of our trip with a donut of their choice or a favorite snack.
When we made it to the front of the store to check out, we saw a classmate of my 3 year old in the line next to ours. It was extremely crowded as to be expected on the day before New Year’s Eve. We waited patiently. Finally, it was time to check out. I lifted my five year old daughter out of the cart, so she could help her older brothers unload the groceries. We were doing great until she reached into the cart with one hand and lifted the blueberries from the cart. The container opened up and blueberries fell to the floor. We started trying to clean up. I immediately asked our checkout attendant if he could call for help. He called and let me know that someone was on their way to help us. I was continuing to talk to them about being careful not to make more of a mess and step on any blueberries.
That’s when you approached me to tell me “Your children are making a huge mess. This is your responsibility.” Or, something to that effect. I think I handled you well at that point, letting you know that we had called for help and were cleaning up the blueberries. I thought that would be it. But, that wasn’t enough for you. You huffed around and got very close to us continuing to tell me how awful we were. I again let you know that it was an accident and asked you if you had four children. I don’t know why I asked that. I guess in the moment I felt like you had no compassion for a woman in my shoes and were just ready to judge and pounce. You looked bewildered. I then let you know that you were not being nice and that is when I thought something was terribly wrong. You looked at me and said “I am not nice. I am not nice.” What impacted me and my dear children the most was not your poor behavior, but the kind responses of others. The gentle way the lady helping us sweep up the blueberries told my dear daughter not to worry and that accidents happen. The clerk helping us who reached his hand out to me and told me everything would be alright. The neighboring customers who told you to leave us alone and gently told me that everything was fine and not to worry about you.
We celebrate Christmas through the entire Christmas season, which goes through Epiphany. December 30th is right in the middle of Christmas time. I am doing everything I can to teach my children well. We teach them about patience, which we often lack. We teach them about love, loving our neighbors and our enemies, which is often one of the hardest challenges. We teach them about compassion for others, to live outside of our red brick home and make a positive difference in our world. We teach them that God is good and that His desire is for good and not for evil. We face challenges. They wonder about death and why there is so much pain the world. They wonder why bad things happen. Sometimes we can answer their questions and sometimes we join them in the wondering. And, then there is you. The lesson of you. We’ve been back to our neighborhood grocery store twice since our encounter with you. You are now a lesson we have been forced to learn. I have a feeling you thought you were teaching us some other lesson. But, what you taught us was to have faith in the good of humanity. You reminded us that we need to keep our eyes open, be prepared for an attack, but look closer to see the good that surrounds us.
I am so very thankful for every person that surrounded us in that store on that day. Their support was amazing. One last thing. Families need groceries too. I would advise you to shop when children are in bed or in school, if you have such a problem with them. Children do have a right to be in grocery stores.
Sincerely, El Momma
A picture of Us (minus me, the photographer) at brunch just before our grocery store trip
Loved last week so very much…leading and teaching Children an expression of worship through music, movement and fist pumping was a true joy at my home church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. I remember learning these same lessons as a young girl in musicals at my church growing up, Champion Forest Baptist Church. My hope and prayer is that, like me, this is just the beginning for our VBS campers. Worshiping the One true God can become a lifestyle and change your everything always. This is my prayer for you, children of God. That you will take the music and the movements and the scriptures and the songs and all of the God messages and that they will find their way deep into your soul becoming a part of you. Becoming your everything. #thisismyprayer#worship