Summertime!

Okay. I know I’ve been stangely quiet here lately. But, it’s just because life is seriously always C R A Z Y! Can I say that again!? Life is so crazy. And, now that we are in a pretty good rhythm of both parents working outside the home, it’s still totally crazy. Seriously. I need an assistant just to manage the kids.¬†

But, We do it. And, We do it with a smile (usually) ūüė鬆
Now that we are in the full swing of summer I just want to say that I do have more to say. I am writing (music) like crazy and trying to process that and look at what I want to create next. Album? Yes! Full? Probably. Nashville? Most likely. ¬† When? No idea. I have to work through all of the songs I’ve written over the last couple of years and figure out which ones will ever (or never) be heard.¬†

Hope summer is treating you well. Vacations are my fave…probably yours too!¬†
Xoxo, 
El Momma 

Summer is over and I’m a bit confused (a mix of nostalgia, relief, stress, happiness, anticipation and anxiety)

I am feeling a little sad this morning. A mix of nostalgia, relief, stress, happiness, anticipation and anxiety.

I am nostalgic as I look upon my babies and think of all of the wonderful memories we have shared over the last 10+ years. So many firsts and this week we will have our first and only year all in the same school.

First day of school, 2014

I am relieved to be here. 5 years ago, when we were anticipating the arrival of our fourth baby and preparing to send our first born baby to kindergarten, I anticipated this time. The only time they will all be in school together. One drop off. One pick up. One school. Oh boy! What will I do with all of the (extra) time!? Ha!

Holding Trinity, expecting Leeland, summer 2010

I am stressed. We love summer. Sleeping in (sort of). Having no where to be (sometimes). Vacations (definitely!). School is exciting. It’s growing up and learning and making new friends. But, I worry. I worry about each of my kids. Will they be respectful? Will they say “yes, ma’am?” Will they adjust okay? How can I help? Will they make friends? Will they keep friends? Will they eat their lunches? Oh my goodness! Lunches. I’m back to making four lunches. Yes, they should help. Yes, I should teach them responsibility. But, at this point, four kids in the kitchen making lunches is a lot more stressful for me than 1 momma in the kitchen making four lunches. At least, that’s how we will start. I bought new lunch boxes in June. So, that’s a start. But, I am still stressed.

New lunch boxes for 2015-2016 school year

I’m happy. We have a wonderful school that is a great fit for all four of our children. We are excited about their teachers. And, we are just ending a magical summer. Work at Church of the Apostles has been so rewarding. We are growing in numbers and growing as a community in Christ. I am so blessed to be the worship pastor of this wonderful church. The Els have experienced wonderful camps: dance, baseball, fine arts, vacation bible schools and more. Vacations. We needed some breaks and we got them: Texas Hill Country, Carlsbad, CA, Disneyland California, Legoland California, San Diego beaches and Miramar Beach, Florida. We LOVE baseball and LOVE the Astros. Last night we were at the Astros Game (vs. the LA Dodgers) and we witnessed the first ever No-Hitter in Minute Maid Park. The Astros are having an amazing season and to be there to see this (by pitcher Mike Fiers) it was quite a treat!

Disneyland, 2015
Destin, 2015
#MikeFiers #NoNo #NoHitter2015 #Astros

As great as this summer has been, I have great anticipation for what is to come. Even with the hard times mixed in, there are always great rewards. We are going to keep moving. Keep saying “yes” when we mean “yes” and “no” when we mean “no.” I am going to keep committing to help at my children’s school. I am not going to overcommit, but I am going to commit. And, if I say “no” it is because I am saying “yes” to something else- my children, my family, my husband, work, my parents, my extended family, my friends, my children’s teachers, my church family, my neighborhood, etc.

Our pretty little church “home” in the Heights, Houston cotahouston.org

I am anxious.

6 days ago, we were on our way to Destin, Florida on I-10 in Alabama. It was around 9pm when we were forced to turn off the main interstate because of a huge fatal accident ahead. It was dark. All we knew at the time was fire trucks and officials were forcing all traffic to exit and turn. My “google map” app rerouted and we were about 2 hours from our hotel. Anticipating arrival around 11pm. My brother and his family and my parents had traveled ahead of us. We left later because we attended worship that morning at our home church (see above).

Soon after the turn off, we turned left heading toward Pensacola, but still in Alabama. Not long after that turn on what was a dark, two lane highway, our “overheated” warning light came on the dashboard. We pulled over immediately on a side road and turned the car around to face the street we had turned off of. We were to the right of a large stop sign. Almost immediately, a large pick up truck pulled up behind us and we waved them to go around. As they pulled up to the side of us, they rolled down the window. I saw a small, blonde young (probably in her 20s) female sitting in the passenger seat and I could see the driver was a male. They asked if everything was ok. We replied “no.” Moustapha then told them what had happened. They pulled over and got out of the truck. They all looked at the engine under the hood and after a few minutes the couple drove away.

Moustapha returned to our car and asked me to send our location to my brother so he would know where we were…”somewhere in Alabama.” We were terrified. Our children seemed fine then. But, it would be a trying couple of hours. About 10-15 minutes passed and the man returned with his brother in law. They brought water and oil and came to help cool the car down, hoping we could make it up the road to a station. They helped us so much and told us there was a Tom Thumb just up the road (toward Florida) about 8miles. The car had cooled down and they believed we could make it that far. We headed off praying, praying and praying. The temperature began to rise and we kept driving. We were still in a safe zone when we had passed 10 miles, never seeing a gas station of any kind. After traveling just over 13 miles, the car overheated and the warning light came on. At that moment, we arrived to a convenient store (not Tom Thumb and not a gas station) parking lot on our left. We pulled in. Thanking the Lord. It was now some time after 10pm. The convenient store was still open. Thank God. But, what next?

We sat in the parking lot as the rain began to fall. Our children were hot and crying. We kept waiting and some of the children fell asleep. My phone wouldn’t work. Thanks, T-Mobile. There was internet access, but the convenient store employee couldn’t remember the exact password. We tried them all. Then, a cab driver pulled up next to us. He offered to call a cab for us. He did. He was on his way to the airport with a passenger. After 20 minutes or so, I called him and let him know that no one had arrived. We continued to wait and soon it was 11pm. The convenience store closed and turned off their lights. Another man that worked there offered to drive in front of us to lead us to a safe area of Pensacola, Florida where we could rent a room to stay the night. We followed him and ended up in a McDonald’s parking lot next to another cab. This cab driver offered to lead us to a Fairfield Inn. He did that and we were treated so kindly by the woman working there. She gave us a great rate for a room that slept all 6 of us comfortably and included breakfast. We checked in, some time after midnight and went right to sleep. They next morning, we started early with picking up a rental car and dropping off our car at a mechanic nearby. Let me just say, there was another angel at the rental car place in Pensacola. I won’t say the company name here, but I will say that they upgraded us from an SUV to a minivan to accommodate all of us safely. We were extremely blessed. (**I don’t think we chose the right mechanic. In the future, I would go with the mechanic with the best yelp reviews. Because, I think it shows that they care about customers and care about positive PR.) We did finally make it to Destin (safely). And, we did have a wonderful time, relaxing. But, the truth is, this experience shook me to the core. I feel changed and anxious because of it. I need prayers. And, to spend time praying over this. I feel the tears welling up, just writing this. It’s terrifying to be in a situation like this (especially with your children).

Life is not at all what it looks like in pictures. If it was, you would have seen us stranded on a dark highway somewhere in a place far from home recently. Scared. With our four children. Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us in the dark, desolate place. He uses others. Grace. His kingdom and lifts us up out of that place and leads us to the light. Thankful to be in the light today. Life is a lot better in the light.¬†#elmomma¬†#thankful

So, I’ll move forward in “momma-like” form, (because as a momma, moving forward is the only option) with my mix of nostalgia, relief, stress, happiness, anticipation and anxiety.

I’ll close with this.

THIS IS MY PRAYER FOR YOU (AND FOR US):

Dear God, 
I thank you for your protection. 
I thank you for watching over me and my family. 
I thank you for loving me enough that you sent your son to die for me.
Thank you for sending your holy spirit to dwell among us.
I praise you for your faithfulness, your kindness, your loving ways and for never leaving us or forsaking us in our time of need. 
I pray for this new school year. 
I pray for all of the children starting new classes 
I pray that the nostalgia, relief, happiness and anticipation will overcome the stress and anxiety. 
That your peace will rule. 
That your grace will cover us all. 
Be with us.
Guide us.
Walk with us.
We love you. 
Amen.

No AC…a Houston Summer gone wrong

Does my hydrangea look hot and droopy?
Well, that’s because she is hot and droopy.
I am also hot and droopy because at this point we have been without AC for one night, going on two. 
In Houston.
In the middle of July.
What in the world!
Count your blessings, Rebekah.
You can afford to have a hot and droopy hydrangea. (Although there is often a debate on whether or not you buy yourself too many flowers)
You have a house. (A hot house, but a house)
You have a house full of children. (hot children, but children that aren’t even cranky)
You have a room with a wall unit with floor space for 4-5 people. (that’s almost your whole family!)
Tonight, I will sleep on the floor and that is a blessing.
I have a floor in a cool room to sleep on and I will go to sleep praying that the AC repairman will return tomorrow (Saturday) able to fix my AC.
Until then, I will count my blessings and get out of this (blessed) house as early as possible tomorrow.

Working full time with kids…it’s a whole new summer

What a difference!

We are 5+ weeks in with a few weeks to go and this summer has been very different from the last 10 “summers with kids.”
10 years ago, we were “in the throws” with a newborn baby boy- our Bakri. A very sweet time, really. Rocking chairs, cradles, cuddles, nursing and sleep deprived.
As we were blessed with more babies, a lot of things became a lot easier.
For example, with more children I had less time to focus on one child.
For me, that meant I was a lot less neurotic with the addition of more children. (Sorry, Bakri!)
But, that has just been my personal experience.

I am sure there are parents of single children that have it all figured out. I, however, believe that I’ve improved with each child. ūüôā Thankfully, for them. ¬†I’m pretty chill with them.
So, El summers have been pretty low-key. And, we have been blessed to travel a little: to California, Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Illinois and also places within Texas.
I began working part time before Maddux, our second son was born.
As the kids got old enough, we would fill our summers with VBS at various churches where we either visited or knew people well and lots of YMCA time. I even had a couple of ‘theme week’ summers which the kids really loved. For an example of a theme week, click here http://elmomma.blogspot.com/2013/08/su-mmerweek-5-theme-week-performance.html?m=1¬†I loved theme weeks too. I especially loved it when we had guest camp leaders and extra campers. That always made it extra fun for all.
Now that I am working full time, albeit with a very flexible family-friendly schedule, I worked hard to plan out our summer a couple of months before it began. I looked at all the fliers that were sent home from school, considered the VBS camps we had done in the past and asked other parents what they were doing with their children. We also did swim team for the first time. More about that later, but I’ll just say we loved swim team! So far, our summer rhythm feels really good. The ELs seem really happy too. Some things they are doing together and some things are based on their own interests.¬†
How do you and your kids spend your summer?
Hope it’s a happy summer, friends! Enjoy your loved ones.
Xoxo,
El Momma 

Ninjago camp 

Swim team finals 

Disney Musical Theater Camp

Waiting for the other ELs at swim practice

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.
Day
by
day
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.¬†
xoxo,
Rebekah

And We’re Off to a Running Start- First Week of Summer is Done!

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!

With me.

With Dad.

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!

– El Momma

Back in the swing

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

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. ūüôā 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 6- Theme Weeks- Science Week

This week’s theme was science! Luckily, my dear friend, Tracy was a science teacher and she offered to do Science week with us. We even had a few extra “campers” this week. It was really fun. She planned several experiments, we watched Sid the Science kid for downtime and the Els had a blast making things explode with their friends.¬†

 Shaking the ice cream!
 Diet coke and mintos

Volcano…
 Up it goes!
 We even had extra helpers! We needed them with 9 kids!
El Momma, the amazing scientist- Tracy and our happy science campers!

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. РLeeland
 -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¬†