We Made It…thankful for a new school year!

Last year was tough. Really, really tough. Our oldest son, who is on the Autism Spectrum, changed schools to be with two of our other children. It was a change to make things easier and smoother for the whole family. But, as you probably know, change can be very difficult for a person with autism. Honestly, change can be difficult for anyone. But, change is difficult for him and it was difficult. 
A new school. In third grade. In a team with three main-subject teachers in three different classrooms. All new (to Bakri) ancillary teachers. And, new kids (to Bakri) who have pretty solid friendships by third grade. That was the hardest part. Bakri had friends at his old school. We loved his old school. We loved the teachers he had. He had great ones. Really great ones. It turns out that the kids and the relationships your children have with them- that’s almost, if not more important than the teachers. I’m speaking, of course, about schools that we’ve gone to, where the teachers are, for the most part- top quality and the best of the best. So, when that is the case, the kids in the classroom and having friendships is the most important part of the school day. 
That was a struggle for Bakri last year. There were some super nice kids in his class. I think some of them really like(d) Bakri. But, when the bullying happened, the nice kids either didn’t see it or hear it, or they were afraid to stand up to the bully(ies). It’s tough. We are trying to teach our other children how to stand up for kids like Bakri. And, it is a tough line. When do they speak out to the bully and when do they tell the teacher? Or, do they always do both? 
After our crazy summer of fun and complete chaotic-24-hours-a-day togetherness, we (especially me!) were looking forward to school beginning. 
Some of us woke up extra early and willingly let our Momma fix our hair with a hairbow (that NEVER HAPPENS!) and even had time to cuddle on the couch, fully dressed with a robe on. That’s miss Kindergarten, Trinity. 
Some of us were pretty tired at breakfast. Leeland on his way to Pre-K 4!

We enjoyed picture time outside. The oldest two, Maddux and Bakri were all smiles. Excited for 2nd and 4th grade. 

How do we get all four to stand and smile at the same time? Who knows!? When it happens, it’s a small miracle. 

And, then Leeland woke up! Ready to go!

Leeland and his chauffeur! 

Big boy at a big school!
I took the other three kids to school to begin kindergarten, second and fourth grades. The first morning was the easiest of the week.
The rest of the week flew by and it was chaotic and exhausting. Mornings were tough. I’m pretty laid back in the summer. So, being at school at 7:30 on school days presents its challenges. Trinity already knew her teacher and seems to be adjusting well and enjoying kindergarten. Maddux has made a couple of new friends and knows most of his classmates. He has great teachers as well. Bakri had an easier transition this year. We met with his team of teachers- just two this year- the week before school began. I think that helped us to set some expectations. They also assured me that this would be an easier year for him in establishing friendships, now that he is in his second year at the school. We sure hope so. Leeland is in a montessori school and has the same lead teacher as last year. He loves her and she loves him. 
So, we’re in it. 2014-2015 school year. Ready to learn, love, and grow. I’m scared and excited and hopeful. How did your first week of school go?
Hope it was great.
El Momma

It’s the little things

We plan big and most of the time it’s great. We keep our kids busy or they keep us busy, rather. We work, we play, we laugh, we cry, we sing, we dance. Sometimes we forget to slow down. But, when we do slow down, that’s when the magic happens. 
It happened this summer.
Nearly every day. We have taken this summer slowly.
No theme weeks. (I know. Those were fun and really they weren’t super hard to pull together.)
No stressful activities or over-planned days. 
In fact, we’ve been on vacation twice this summer. The first one was less vacation-y for the adults -me and the hubs because we did a lot of driving and work was part of the trip. We ended up having several day-cations in that one vacation, but the second one- to Florida was definitely a vacation. We stayed in a huge house with my parents, sister, brother, sister-in-law and 8 kids (the 4 els and 4 of their cousins.) 
We cooked. We played. We ran. We swam. We played tag and watched movies. 
We made sandcastles on the beach and swam in the ocean. 
My favorite moments were the little ones. The moments when all 8 kids (4 of ours and 4 of our nephews and niece) sat in the sand building or digging together. 
When we laughed and played in the pool. 
When I had morning coffee and worked on song lyrics sitting in the kitchen by myself before anyone was awake.  (no photo of that!)
So much of what we are made to do is just about being in community. Being together. Enjoying each other and loving one another. I remember precious moments with my cousins when I was growing up. Learning to roller skate in my aunt’s driveway. Singing along as my mom played guitar for all of us. I adore my cousins. They are some of my favorite people in the world who I rarely get to see. But, I love them and cherish them all the same. I believe my sweet Els are growing up feeling the exact same way about their dear cousins. 
I am feeling pretty thankful as we head in to a new year of school. A new year of friends. A new year of memories, challenges, hopes, dreams, tears, love, laughter and promises. This summer has left my heart feeling full and ready for the year ahead. Let’s get out there and dream big. Love your kids and your teachers and enjoy the little things. 

Seven Year Old, Bakri’s First Song

Our oldest son, Bakri had an assignment to do a family culture project for his second grade Fall project. He wrote a song about our family. He sang the lyrics. I jotted them down quickly. We made our way to the piano and he continued to sing. He wrote several verses and a really cute chorus. I worked on recording the music and then Bakri sang his part. We recorded it with garageband. Once Bakri’s lead vocals were recorded, the kids and I recorded our parts. Once the song was done, we recorded video for the music video. I am very proud of my Bakri and his brothers and sisters. What a fun project!

Leeland’s Birthday Painting, the Third Painting in the series

When I began painting the first of what would eventually be three paintings, I had no idea that I would be painting variations of the same painting more than once. The first painting was for our first son, Bakri, when he turned one. We planned  a baseball themed birthday party. I made him a cake shaped like a baseball and decorated like a baseball and I painted a baseball jersey on canvas for his wall in his room. I used the painting as part of the decoration for the party and I made a cake that matched the jersey. That was all for the first birthday of the first child. Little did I know, God would bless us with 2 more little boys with first birthdays! So, this week, I began the fun job of painting Leeland’s first birthday painting to go with the paintings for Bakri  and Maddux. Here’s how it went:

And, here they are all together….Leeland’s is nearly complete. My blue paint was old and didn’t offer much coverage. It was the day of his party when I made this discovery. So, we just went with it. I’ll finish it soon. I promise. As for the significance of these paintings, well they are very important to my babies. I realized that this week when working on Leeland’s. It was so cute to watch the other children light up as his painting became more and more finished. In fact, Bakri (our 6 year old) now wants me to find a way to make real jerseys…hmmm…I’ll have to think about that one for a bit. Maybe when they stick with one size for a while.
Leeland’s painting with a cake ordered from H.E.B. They do a good job with the jersey, don’t they?!
The famous baseball cake by El Momma. I really do enjoy making this cake!
The Happy Birthday side of Leeland’s baseball cake.
Pictures from Leeland’s first birthday party and day to come soon! We had a great time celebrating our little Leeland!

Trips to the ER with boys

Our little primate with his buddy the orangutan!

What a day. What a week. What a life!

Is this what I am to “expect” with boys?

That is what I keep hearing. Everytime I tell someone about our 2 year old’s experiences with falling and needing stitches over the last 3 weeks- someone tells me their horror story. I’ve heard numerous stories of 12 ER visits or 15 ER visits or stitches every year. All of these stories were boys, by the way. But, none of them were comforting or encouraging in the least.

I guess I should be comforted to know that it all works out ok in the end. But, that’s hard. When you are going through it, it is traumatic. Our sweet little boy was screaming, crying and foaming at the mouth when the doctor failed at her attempt to glue him back together with dermabond. It was one of the most awful experiences we’ve had as parents.

Did I just say “failed at her attempt to glue him back together with dermabond?” Yes, I did. After having the glue on the skin for a few days, it begins to flake off and then you can actually see the success or unsuccess of the glue. In this case, it was unsuccessful. His laceration is just as open as it was when we arrived to the ER Saturday night. And what do we have to show for it? Well, we’ve tortured him by strapping his arms down, caused him extreme pain while attempting to apply dermabond while he was crying and sweating profusely with no numbing medication and we still have to get stitches tomorrow.

Oh, I am not looking forward to this. please pray for our Maddux. May he be brave and strong and trust in the Lord. 



Our Trip to the plastic surgeon

Here is a picture of our sweet little boy, Maddux on Labor day. So, technically, this is his “before the slide accident” photo.

On the following day, Maddux went to Mother’s Day Out. It was his third day. I got a call 25 minutes after leaving him as school. The voice on the other line said “Maddux hit…” Right then, I was afraid Maddux had hit someone. And for a moment I was mortified. Not that my child would hit someone. Obviously, I don’t want him hitting other children. But, I know that happens. But, I pray I never get a call that my child has injured another. So, let’s go back to that phone call “Maddux hit his eye on the edge of the slide and we thought you should come look at it.” I was out the door so fast. It was the longest 5 minute car ride ever. I was just nervous about knowing the right thing to do. I began praying that God would give me wisdom to know what to do.

Maddux wasn’t even crying when I went to pick him up. The bleeding had stopped, but he did not look good. The cut was on the bone below his eyebrow and it was very open. I took him to the pediatrician so I could get a recommendation from his doctor. He recommended we take him to a plastic surgeon. He feared that the ER doctors would want to stitch him up and that he would have a larger scar than necessary.
I was at the pediatrician’s office waiting as Nurse Kimberly made calls to try and find a plastic surgeon that could see Maddux and stitch him up. Suddenly, I remembered visiting a plastic surgeon’s office in the same building just before Trinity was born, when Moustapha had his accident with his finger. I called Moustapha and asked him to call. Luckily, he was available to see Maddux.

Maddux had to get 6 stitches. To say they were beautiful stitches is putting it mildly. They were gorgeous stitches! Maddux had a hard time during the numbing shot, but he was great when the stitches went in. What a trooper!

Here he is feeling a little tired from such a big day! I’ll take a picture of him soon and add it as well. You can’t even tell he had any stitches. Yeah for Maddux and for his great doctor!

Tee-Ball, Art Car Parade and Michael’s 45th

I can’t believe it has been 2 weeks since I’ve posted anything. I guess I have some catching up to do. So, here goes.

Bakri’s tee-ball season ended last week. He played tee-ball with his cousin James again. They were the youngest on their team and they really improved throughout the season. They will stay in tee-ball until they turn 7. So, they really have a long way to go. It’s exciting and Bakri has so much fun. He says, “I love baseball so much.” Maddux, James and Bakri after the final tee-ball game of the season.

We celebrated Michael’s 45th birthday at his house after Saturday’s game. We couldn’t help but reflect on how much God has blessed all of us over the last 5 years. When my brother turned 40, it was a happy time, but also kind of sad. Just because he and Patricia really wanted to have a family. But, look at us now. They now have 3 boys and my parents have 6 grandchildren. It is so fun!

Christian, Michael and Patricia’s 2 year old- riding the pony.

I think this was a dance move James was trying out…Christian fell asleep at the table…so tired.

Bakri sprinting to third base! Go Bakri! Go!

Bakri actually stays in his position now. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a tee-ball game, you know that is an accomplishment for the youngest players. We are super proud!

I love this picture of Trinity looking through the fence at the baseball game.

The same day as our Saturday tee-ball game, we also went to the annual Art Car Parade and saw some pretty cool cars!

And, we got a surprise visit from Cousin Shawne. Melinda was totally shocked…but, eventually she figured it out.

Miss T with Shawne.

Maddux meeting Cousin Shawne for the first time. She ended up down in the dirt with him.

Keeping up with the El-Hakams is so much fun!!!- and so exhausting!

So, keeping up with these three kiddos is pretty tiring. I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me. I love being a mom and having this opportunity to nourish and teach my children. And I’ve learned that in order to make the most of our days, I have to have a plan and stick to it.
Since Bakri has been staying home with us, the four of us have been busy nearly every morning. We either have a play date, bible study, zoo visit, rodeo day, music class or concert to go to. There is literally always something to do. It is super fun. But, I am completely exhausted. Last week we had a birthday party to attend at the zoo and a concert at our local Pottery Barn Kids. We had never been to a concert there before. We did go to a free Chick fil A concert which KSBJ puts on once a month back when we were expecting trinity and the boys both still talk about it. So, I try to take them to things (particularly music things) that I think will interest them.

This is Bakri with the “Non-Toxic Band” performing in the background. Joe- the guitar player, writes music for Sesame Street.
Check out Maddux sitting in the front. 🙂
One of our recent zoo visits included an orangutan with an attitude. See him up next to the window??? When his 6 year old son would come over to him he would slap him away. The zookeeper said he was playing. But, Bakri said “he hit him. that’s not nice.” I told him that wasn’t nice, but remember he’s an orangutan, not a human. It’s kind of hard to explain away the misbehavior of a daddy animal. Anyway, I tried!
Maddux enjoys playing with all of the kids at the children’s zoo playground.

And Trinity, of course, can sleep anywhere. Here she is sleeping in the double stroller. I’ve finally gained enough control of the kids that I can let Bakri walk around and he doesn’t run away from me. I’m very thankful for that. It has made traveling with 3 kids a lot easier for me to handle on my own.

Bakri really loves the California Sea Lions. We can not leave the zoo without seeing them and telling “Cali” the sea lion “goodbye.”

Maddux loves the sea lions too. I think that is Cali in the background…

I can find inspiration in all of my friends and they way they mother, how they interact with their husbands, how they balance work and family, their relationships with God, etc. One of my friends I met since returning to Texas just had her fourth child. That, in and of itself is inspiring. But, she not only has 4 children, she is an amazing mother that devotes her life to raising her children with a love of Christ. And no matter what, she’s always doing things with her children. And they are super smart and well-mannered because of it. Her son that is Bakri’s age, just turned four last week. We celebrated his birthday at the Zoo on a cold and rainy day.
Every kid loves to get in this tunnel with the fish!
Here’s an alligator, the birthday boy, the birthday boy’s little sister and Maddux. They had a great time together.
This was in the reptile building. I try not to look at anything too close. I totally get freaked out at the sight of snakes. But, my boys love to get up close to the windows and peer in at these very large scary snakes. EEEK!
So, on our way out, we had to visit our favorite animals- the sea lions. And guess what?? They were doing their daily show and this was our first time to see it. It was really impressive. These sea lions can do some great tricks for fish!

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