Happy birthday to Me (trigger warning)

Our lives and my birthday changed forever in 2017. In 2017, I was the happiest I had ever been in my 40 years on earth. I wasn’t the least bit upset to be turning forty. I was pregnant with our second daughter and fifth child. Life for us was in the highest of highs.

My 40th birthday, our first home Dec 2004-July 2019

The following month, at my 18 week appointment I learned that our daughter had unexpectedly suffered a fetal maternal hemorrhage and her heart had stopped beating. We would go on to deliver her and hold her and deeply grieve and be changed F O R E V E R.

I’ve heard people make comments and say “she should be over it.” “At least she has living children.” “She didn’t even know that baby.” And there are people who are so uncomfortable with me sharing about our walk through grief that they question my mental health. Do you really think that I share everything on social media? No. No, I don’t. But, by me sharing my heart and my experience, I have helped a lot of women who have lost their babies in pregnancy through miscarriage and stillbirth and others who have experienced early infant loss. And, by God’s Grace we have a safe space for all, no matter where you may be in your grief journey, your fertility or infertility journey or your mental health condition. This is and always will be a safe space for you. I am here to listen, to share and to be there for other mommas and hopeful mommas.

That brings me to this year. This year, I am turning 44. There is a different level of joy from my 40th birthday, as we have waded the depths of grief and celebrated on the highest mountain tops since that day. One of our greatest joys came in May of 2019, when God blessed us earth side with our son, Jimmie.

This year, at my birthday dinner, Jimmie was so much fun. He’s learning to keep his cup down when he is drinking from a straw. And in between sips and telling me how he’s supposed to hold his cup, he would remind me of why we were at dinner, sweetly saying “happy birthday, momma.”

44TH birthday dinner at The Gristmill

I cried. Our lives look so different than what we would have anticipated them looking like just four years ago. We’ve experienced the loss of our daughter, who would be 3 years old right now. We’ve experienced the joy of having our precious Jimmie (age 2). Expecting him, being together for his birth and being home together for much of his first year and second year of life. We are incredibly blessed and thankful. Our big Els wanted to know why I was crying and Moustapha said this “God didn’t have to give us Jimmie.”

That is so true. Jimmie doesn’t replace our baby who died. But, we know we would be in a very different place right now, if we were still waiting on baby Jimmie. Thankfully, God made a way where we did not see the way. It was not easy and we are incredibly thankful.

My birthday will always be a reminder that we are missing Mary-Linda and that we are blessed with our Jimmie, Leeland, Trinity, Maddux and Bakri. A reminder that we are not promised tomorrow and to be grateful for our blessings today.

July is Bereaved Parents Awareness month.

What a day. What a month. What a year!

It’s only February of 2021 and it’s already been a doozy.

But, who can keep track at this point? In the latest crazy events, we got snow, sleet, ice and deep freeze temps across Texas that lasted for a few days. That, in and of itself was unusual as it occurred across ALL of TEXAS. It was very cold here on Monday, February 15 and while we were experiencing record breaking low temps across Texas approximately 60percent of us were without power. No electricity. No heat. A lot of our friends and family were without power the entire first day. We lost power in the evening around 5pm and were powerless for the following 39 hours. Around 7pm that first night, we also lost water. Not water pressure, but more like someone turned off the water for our entire block and much of the city at the same time. Yesterday morning, power was restored for 6 hours and then off again for 8.

So, here’s a few things we did and what we are continuing to do to try to weather this very strange time and storm. Please comment with somethings that you forgot or that you did that helped you weather this storm!

No water. No heat. No electricity. No problem.

  • Check and replace batteries. Charge everything while you can. Use your laptop or car to charge your cell phone. (Don’t run your vehicle inside your garage for risk of carbon monoxide poisoning)
  • Keep bottled water, beverages and snacks handy
  • Love coffee? Have coffee grounds set aside, if you don’t have a hand-grinder. Make French press coffee. It’s better anyway!
  • Have physical copies of your favorite inspirational books to read. My current faves: the Bible, Scripture and the Skeptic by Eric Huffman and Night Night, Little One by Stacey Donovan. When the internet is down, what will you consume?
  • Play family games that you create yourself!
    • We play a game where everyone thinks of 3-5 celebrities, historic figures or famous characters and writes them down on small pieces of paper
    • we split into two teams. Momma and Dad are team captains and we rotate Els on our teams
    • Each team gets one minute to try to get their teammates to guess as many celebrities as possible
    • Round 1: you can say anything (except for the name) and make any motions
    • Round 2: you can say one word and make any motions
    • Round 3: you can’t make any sounds. You can make any motions
    • Remember momma keeps score in her head and it’s always a tie
  • Finally, blankets and cuddles are required to keep warm and cozy

Hope you are all safe and able to get any damage repaired soon. We had one pipe burst in our garage and are working to have that repaired now, so we can take showers! Cleaning with baby wipes is just not acceptable for 3 days straight! Also, I won’t even begin to share about how bonded we are as a family, because of our new knowledge of everyone’s bathroom schedule and potty habits. The things you learn and go through when you don’t have running water!

Cuddles with baby Jimmie, 20 months old
Enjoying day one, before the electricity and water were no more

How To Make Yummy Goodness (macaroni, mixed veggies and ground beef in Alfredo sauce)

Using only 4 main ingredients, this is easily the favorite and simplest meal we created over this last year.

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • Chopped white onion
  • Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to preference
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • cooked pasta of choice (I used gluten free macaroni)
  • Cooked veggies (I use mixed frozen veggies)
  • Alfredo sauce

I am so excited to share this recipe with you all.

How to Make the easiest and best dinner for your family in 30 minutes or less Using ONLY 4 MAIN INGREDIENTS!

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

Grieving During the Holidays

I posted these reminders in 2017, after our daughter died of a fetal maternal hemorrhage at 18 weeks gestation. Now, in 2020, there are so many grieving across our nation. They are grieving the loss of their livelihoods, their jobs, a family member, a loved one, the loss of so many experiences over the last 9 months, and many who will not be able to be with their families this Holiday season.

So, for all of those in our lives who may be grieving this Holiday season, a few kind reminders:

1. Lower your expectations.Your grieving family member might not be able to do things they “normally” do at the holidays. (Baking, cooking, gathering around the kitchen just to visit, or showing up etc.) Whatever they are able to do, should be okay. Let that be okay.

2. Be willing to change or alter traditions.In our family we usually take turns around the dinner table saying what we are thankful for. For someone who is grieving a loss, this can be especially difficult. We altered this tradition to have each family member have a spokesperson to “highlight” things the family was thankful for. This should also be mentioned in advance, so people are not caught off guard and can prepare.

3. Try to listen without offering a solution.It’s hard to see our loved ones sad. But, sometimes it can’t be helped and it is part of the grieving process. It’s better to just be there and say “I love you” and “I hurt for you” than to say the wrong thing.

Psalm 118 says “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;for his steadfast love endures forever!” I wrote and recorded this little tune of Thanksgiving, based on Psalm 118, a few years ago. Still giving thanks!

It has to be said, because it’s true

Every single time a friend of mine shares about their child starting middle school or ending elementary school, I bite my tongue. Every. Single. Time. 

Why? Because, I don’t want to break her heart. Usually, she’s emotional about her baby starting middle school and ending an era- If your child starts elementary at pre-k 4, that’s 7 years in elementary before moving on up. 
That’s also half way through your child’s primary and secondary education. 
What!? You haven’t thought about that? I can understand why. I didn’t either. Until, I felt slapped in the face with the end of middle school for our oldest son. And. now he’s starting his sophomore year in high school.
 In our school district, we have school choice, magnet schools, zoned schools, boundary schools, and more. Because your child doesn’t just automatically move up to the next neighborhood school- they can, but most people (at least) look into other options, at the beginning of fifth grade and again at the beginning of eighth grade, you apply for the next year/school.
 I think that process really speeds things up. Because, like when your child applies for college, they do that at the beginning of the year BEFORE they go. So, this year, for my eighth grader, we will choose his high school in the next couple of months. For my high schooler, we will be applying to college in two years. Aaaaaaaah!
Time, please slow down. 
My fifth grader will be applying to middle schools this fall. And, I guess my point is that we were just doing this for my now 10th grader. It has gone by so fast. Faster than any other period of his life. Those 3 years before prek. Slow. PreK 3? PreK 4? Kinder? Slow. Slow. Slow. 
Fifth grade? Lightning fast. For every single one of my fifth graders. I have had three so far. The fourth one starts tomorrow. Feels like yesterday that the second one was choosing his middle school. Btw, haven’t had a repeat middle school yet. We let the Els be their own people around here and try to make the best choice, based on their individual needs. 
So, I guess I’m feeling like I am about to blink and all of the Els, except for Jimmie, will be in and out of college. 
I’m going to take a breath and try to enjoy this year. It’s clear that this one is a bit different. Maybe that will help us all slow down a little?

Our oldest El, in sixth grade (4 years ago!) at Meyerland Middle School HISD 

LOVE NEVER FAILS

Our year was full of JOY as we anticipated the arrival of our daughter, Mary-Linda Elizabeth (expected in January 2018)

and as we were able to celebrate our favorite team, the Houston Astros, winning their first World Series.

Moustapha even became the Most Famous Fan in the process. (87 MILLION views on his GIF & an awesome acting performance on the MLB Network!)

However, in mid-August, at 4.5 months gestation, our Mary-Linda went to be with Jesus.

We are deeply saddened that she is no longer here with us on earth. We have great hope that we will be reunited with her one day.

And, we thank God for the joy her life brought to our family. Thank you to each of you who have expressed your sympathies. We do not walk this road alone. May the joy and peace of Christ Jesus be with you and yours this Christmas and always. Wishing you hope and peace in 2018.

HOPE REMAINS

Such a beautiful name…

Warning. This post discusses loss. 

We had a list of possible names for our baby daughter. Fifty or more different combinations. We knew we wanted to give her a name that paid homage to both our mothers’.

I remember a day a couple of months ago. My husband texted me one name idea. I replied back with my very large list (which I started working on right after finding out we were pregnant). The list was full of girl names. So many names. All of which connected with our mothers. He replied to my text with:
“Goodness me. This is going to be more difficult that I initially thought.”

We thought we had time to know for sure. The kids would often tell us of their name ideas.

Here are just a few:
Caroline
Evelyn
Oreo

We told them, “God knows her name and when we need to know we will know.”

On August 15th, 2017 we knew. I remember laying there in the hospital bed, in labor with our daughter and I just knew.

Mary-Linda Elizabeth

Just say it and it sounds so beautiful. So meant to be. Our precious baby.

We named her “Mary” for my husband’s mother. Mary means “wished-for child.” She is our wished-for child in every way.

We named her “Linda” for my mother. Linda means “beautiful.” She is beautiful and perfect in every way.

We named her “Elizabeth” because Elizabeth means oath or promise of God. We hold tight to God’s promises. Especially that He never leaves us or forsakes us. Knowing I was giving birth to our daughter who was already in heaven was only something I could go through knowing I was not going through it alone. The Lord was with us. His presence was felt and known in so many ways in that hospital bed.

I often think back to that experience- the worst of my life. But, I can’t help but remember so much peace in the deep heartache and suffering. That’s only possible through God. There really is no other explanation.

We love you forever, our baby daughter in heaven, Mary-Linda Elizabeth. 

A Birthday Surprise for the Els

Turning forty was the icing on the cake…

But, the C-A-K-E (aka the best part of yesterday) was sharing with our four children whether or not they are getting a baby brother or baby sister in January.
We’ve never done a “gender reveal.” I don’t think they were super popular 7 plus years ago. And, definitely not 13 years ago. Plus, Dad and I like to know and the gender reveal part would be for our kids and not for us. 
Since they are older, we wanted to make it really fun for them. So, we ordered a ballon with confetti to reveal the sex of the baby. We incorporated this into my family birthday party so that many cousins, grandparents, aunt and uncles could enjoy and share in our excitement. We currently have 3 boys and 1 girl. The Els are over the moon to know who we are expecting!

Popped the balloon!

Hooray!

Already in LOVE

The Els finding out on El Momma’s 40th birthday! 💗💗💗💗💗

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) 😎 
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