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.
At the end of the summer in 2012, I wrote this post. I never finished it. I never shared it. I don’t think I had the courage or the strength. But, now, I’m ready. Our school knows. Many of our friends know. Our family knows. Now, I’ll share it with you: ADMITTING THE TRUTH by El Momma August, 2012. We’ve continued our Summer theme weeks. Since we left off, we had Tradition and History week (the week of July 4th), Vacation Bible School week, and Family Vacation week. The last two were the hardest. You see, no matter how hard we try not to admit it, we have a child on the autism spectrum. Anytime we break in the routine or do something new, it takes him a while to adjust. Usually after a week he’s fine, but activities like VBS that only last for a week or family vacations that last for less than a week are really difficult on him. Yes, him. We have three boys and one daughter. Autism is found in 1 in every 62 children in the US and is more likely in boys. 1 in 42 boys are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASD. We’re in that statistic. Hard to believe. And, hard to admit. We don’t want any of our children labeled, especially negatively. We want them to grow. Be the best they can be. Have a bright future. Be themselves. Autism is a scary diagnosis for a parent, not because it is the worst, but because there are so many unknowns. In our case, it was mostly a shock. I grew up around people with special needs. My sister has downs syndrome and she had people who were labeled “autistic” in her classes. They didn’t speak. They rocked constantly. There was no way to accurately measure their intelligence. This is not our son. When he was little he communicated well. He never rocked. He looked perfectly normal. He was intelligent. But, slowly we began to notice that things weren’t ok. He had difficulty adjusting to new situations. He cried uncontrollably when being forced to leave a park. We could not console him for hours. He resisted making eye contact. He would get “stuck.” He became obsessed with topics. He loves vacations and he loves his family. So, off we went to a resort in Texas last week. As much as we knew we would be blessed, we prepared that we may have tough times. It’s hard. Our son doesn’t look any different. But, he is. We get the “looks,” even when It’s not that bad. At one point he kept jumping in the pool yelling “Canonball” and jumping straight in. No Canonball. This was the last day after he had mostly adjusted. He was happy. It was a kidfriendly place. But, still, we got looks from others around the pool. Maybe they found his happiness annoying or they thought his parents were too lacking in discipline. On the last day, I noticed another family with a special needs. Nobody seemed to look at them. A child who is more obviously special needs.When people know your situation, or at least think they know your situation, they tend to be more understanding. We left and headed home. He cried. And cried. And, said he didn’t want to go home. Adjusting. It’s hard. I cried too. He’s getting older. Who do we tell? Should we have him labeled at school to get him extra help? Or, will that hold.him back and change who he can be? How can we help him? Is it enough to love him unconditionally?
Yesterday was a big day for us. Our oldest child is on the spectrum. The Autism Spectrum. He’s somewhat reserved most of the time, quiet, emotional and very sweet. He changed schools at the start of this year so we could have 3 children at one school and so that I could help him more and be more invested in the school. Changing schools in 3rd grade would be challenging for most kids and for our child, it is especially challenging. He doesn’t seem to cause many problems in social settings. He is just an easy target at times. If another child makes fun of him, he may not notice. He processes things a little more slowly and carefully and therefore other children may perceive this as he’s not as smart as them or doesn’t know what is going on. It’s not true. But, these are real challenges that we face. And, we face them as a family.
He loves kickball. They play it at recess and he especially loves his chance to be team captain. So, earlier in the year, I had the idea to sponsor a 3rd grade kickball game. I proposed this idea to the committee working on donations for an upcoming school event and there was nothing like this booked at the time for 3rd grade. So, I began working the details out with the school. We set a date- after STARR testing which took place earlier this week and we coordinated with the Little League who uses the fields later in the day. Everything was set. As the date approached, we even recruited a few more players. Settling at 14 total. Which is $280 for the school. Yay!
We planned snacks, drinks, chick-fil-A and ice cream. My dear husband even designed tshirts for the event. The design was printed in all navy blue. They turned out so great. We found a local Houston artist, Randy at Donkey Paw designs who did all the screen printing for us. He is amazing and the turnaround was super fast.
The challenge: there was some kind of miscommunication in planning another event- social- fundraiser for the same grade at the same time. I don’t know how it happened. We received our date confirmation on February 7. But, somehow, 2 events were scheduled on the same day and this other game was sponsored by teachers. One of which is a teacher of my son. So, the classmates, the ones that we really want our child to have better relationships with, to socialize with, to be true friends with, guess where they wanted to be? They wanted to be at the kickball game across the field with their teacher. It makes sense. Their teacher is fun and she actually plays kickball with them during recess. And, they know her and love her. Why would they want to go with a couple of awesome parents who they don’t really know? So, I’m upset. I donated a lot of time and money for the school and this double-scheduling error has been extremely upsetting.
My sweet boy just looked over my shoulder. I quickly scrolled down to show him the picture of him and his dad. He smiled and then he said. “I just don’t understand why they had another game with players that were supposed to be on our team. We need another kickball game.” I’m not sure what can be done about it now. It was unfortunate and unfair. But, it happened. Maybe we can help to make sure nothing like this happens to another family in the future. It certainly doesn’t leave you wanting to work so hard on an event to support the school. However, I won’t give up and I won’t give in. I’ll keep fighting to give my child and other children really great, enriching experiences, even with unexpected challenges.
We still had a great time. My husband was the umpire and coach and our first grader played the entire time. He loved it too!
Our five year old even joined in the fun. The kids looked so great playing in their “team” jerseys!
What matters most is the smile on his face. His dad and I are so proud of him. He loved the kickball game and calls it a “practice game for the next one.” I don’t know when the next one is, but I hope he’ll be there with a smile!
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
As I made my way up the stairs and into the hallway, I noticed them. They were on the door at three distinct levels. One set representing the oldest el, a first grader. Most likely, his are from the dirt outside, last night’s dinner or a special dessert. Then, there are the middle set, belonging to our second oldest el. His are probably from tooth paste, which he wastes as he tries to apply some to everybody’s brush. And, from peanut butter on his favorite lunch sandwich. And, then there are the ones belonging to tiny t. Hers are probably a mixture of food, markers, paint and anything she can get her little hands on. As I look at them, I contemplate whether or not to wipe them away.
As I head back downstairs to grab my magic eraser, wet it, and head back upstairs, I’m still trying to decide if it’s okay to leave them there. They definitely make the door look dirty. It is the door to the boys’ room that they share along with Baby L. But, I don’t want to forget what those little fingerprints represent. I know there will come a day when I will wipe the last little fingerprint off of the door and they will be too big to return. I want to appreciate the fingerprints, the children that leave their mark everywhere in our house and the season of life we are in. I know I’m going to miss this.
I decided to clean the door. It only took a few seconds to wipe away the fingerprints. I know they will be back soon, this time.
At 20 weeks we found out that we were expecting a boy. It took us the next 18 weeks to decide on a name.
We have a little bit of a pattern going on with our children’s names. They all have one name that is either biblical or has a very strong meaning or both. And one name that is a family name.
First, there is Bakri Moustapha. Bakri and Moustapha are both family names. He shares his name with his Jiddy- grandfather and his great great grandfather and has the reverse name of his father and great grandfather. Bakri is an arabic name and means “founder.” Moustapha is an arabic name and means “chosen one of God.” Not too bad when it comes to meaning.
Next, we have Maddux Elijah. His first name is a family name, mommy’s maiden name. Maddux means “son of the Lord.” And, Elijah is a biblical name of hebrew origin and it means “the Lord is my God.”
Our third child, our daughter is named Trinity Rebekah. The name Trinity is of latin origin and means “triad” referring to the Holy Trinity in the Christian Faith. She is our third child so we felt that three was a very special meaning for her name. Her initials are TRE which also means “three.” Her middle name is Rebekah which is her mommy’s first name and is of hebrew origin and means “to bind.”
And then, there is Leeland Thaddeus- our third son and fourth child. Lee is my dad’s middle name. Leeland is of old english origin and means “one who lives by unseeded land” or “meadow land.” We loved the sound of the name Leeland and the uniqueness of it and that it incorporates Lee- part of my father’s name. “Leo” is also a very common name on my mother-in-law’s side of the family. And, Moustapha has a sister with a name that sounds very similar- Leila. We just absolutely love the name. After 18 weeks of talking about it, it was the one name that we always came back to. When he was born, there was never a doubt- he is Leeland. Leeland’s middle name is Thaddeus. It is of aramaic origin and means “heart.” Thaddeus was one of Jesus’s twelve disciples.
Our boys’ first names all ended up being two syllables and their middle names are all three syllables. I think they go really nicely together.
We believe they all ended up with the name they were meant to have. I’m so thankful that God gave us all of their names.
I’ve always heard the saying “they grow up so fast.” It is usually spoken when someone hasn’t seen you or a child in a while. Often times, we hardly notice the growth that is taking place right in front of our eyes. I remember being in high school and having people tell me that this time was just going to fly by. At that time, I really didn’t think so. I felt like time moved really slowly. Year to year was such a huge difference. And, the days at school seemed really long.
However, as soon as I hit my senior year in high school and from that time on, time has really flown by. College was a wonderful time. But, it really went by too fast. As soon as it was over, and I had graduated, I was ready to do it again. (no, not grad school, just repeat college with all my friends and professors.)
Luckily, it doesn’t work like that. Although, if I could relive any day of my life, it would be my wedding day. It’s the one day where there were so many special people surrounding us and I wish I could go back and take it really really slow. That day flew by!
Now, that we have our children, time seems to have sped up. Possibly it’s still moving slowly for my little ones. But, for us, we are on the fast track. One moment, I am diapering a bottom and the next moment that child is getting ready to start kindergarten. Unbelievable! I hope I can look back and know that I enjoyed these moments while I had them. I know there is plenty to look forward to. But, I don’t want to miss the now.
I don’t know which is worse: the fact that my child throws himself on the ground and spits at me because I refused to carry him in the sprinkling rain or the fact that I completely lost my patience with him when he did it?
Clearly, it’s my response. I am the adult here. Yes, my child seems to have issues adjusting to change at times. He doesn’t like getting wet in the rain or getting his feet dirty in the mud or fire alarms. These are just a few of the things that seem to really bother him. He’s only four. So, my fear is there is more to come. But, I digress. At the end of the day, I am the one that needs to change. I am the one that needs to have better responses, better interactions and better direction for him. He is just a little boy. But, as a parent I can learn better ways to deal with him and help him to be a better boy.
There is no manual that comes with parenting. We just have to figure it out. Thank God we have some tools and resources to make our jobs a little easier along the way. Have you read “The New Strong-Willed Child” by James Dobson? I haven’t. And, I’m not sure I will. I’ve heard some positive and some very negative things about his philosophy on raising children.
I also saw a book in the church library today with the title “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Kurcinka. Do you have any experiences with this book? I read a little in the library and liked what I saw. First, the term “spirited” which seems to conjure up better thoughts about your child than the term “strong-willed” or even “difficult.” And the brief descriptions I read about the “spirited child” seemed to perfectly describe mine. Here is what Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s website says we can expect from her book.
Raising Your Spirited Child can help you:
plan for success with a simple, four-step program;
discover the power of positive, rather than negative, labels;
understand your child’s and your own temperamental traits;
cope with tantrums and blowups when they do occur;
develop strategies for handling mealtimes, bedtimes, holidays, school, and many other situations.
Do you have any suggestions for something else we should be focusing on or reading. I believe what God’s word says in psalm 139:14. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
I know my child is fearfully and wonderfully made. I praise God for his wonderful work in our son.