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 

When homework is a gift

Well, today’s kindergarten homework sure was a welcome surprise. Thanks, awesome Kindergarten team teachers!

It said “help mom sort the laundry or…” Something else. I didn’t read the rest. 
Not important.
Don’t get caught up on the fact that it said “help mom.” Obviously our child could help “dad” or a sibling or a grandparent or another caregiver. 
But, I’m just thanking these wonderful teachers for this unexpected gift. 
Me, supervising my five year old sorting laundry was truly a gift today. 
He’s happy and I’m happy. 
We took our instructions a little further and we started a load of “darks” together. Now he’s watching the machine. I think we will be here for a while. 

Don’t you just love it when we receive the gift of time?

Slow down.
Do a load of laundry with your child.
You might find, like I did, that it’s actually pretty relaxing and fun when you do it together. 

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.

The beginning

Day 30 of blogging for 31 days in July is my birthday and I’d like to share a story.
My story begins a little something like this:
Once upon a time there was a family of four living in the outskirts of Houston, Texas in the late 70s. Momma, Dad, Michael (age 12) and Melinda (age 7). They were a happy little family of four. Michael played baseball and basketball. Melinda was an active runner, involved in the Glenn Doman method and attending the Institutes with her family as well as she was a poster child for the March of Dimes. Momma stayed home with Melinda and Dad worked two jobs.
It must have been just after Christmas one year when Mom found out she was expecting a baby.
What a surprise. Nearly eight years had gone by since Melinda’s birth. And, although they had hoped and prayed for more children, enough time passed to where they just didn’t think it would happen.
Momma saw many doctors. One story she told me stuck out in particular. This doctor, who did not know Momma well, but knew of her family situation and that she had one child with Down’s Syndrome gave her unsolicited advice. 
First of all, he told her that there was an increased likelihood that the baby she was carrying would have Down’s because she already had a child with Down’s and because she was older. He then proceeded to tell her that it would be too much to handle. 
She didn’t believe that. She believed that if she was given (blessed) with another child with special needs, it would be part of God’s plan for her as a mother. And, if God gave her another special needs child, He would give her the strength to handle it just fine.
The next few months were an exciting time for this soon-to-be-family of five as they anticipated the birth of their little baby boy, Matthew.
Yes, Matthew. A baby boy.  I’m not sure as to why they were so sure that the baby was a boy. But, they were. Matthew had blue clothes and even a beautiful baby blue handmade blanket. Matthew was due to be born on his dad’s birthday. Five days later, Matthew still hadn’t arrived and Michael needed school clothes. So, momma took him school clothes shopping at  Wieners Department Store. He was thirteen at the time and shopping for jeans. Probably not that exciting…until his Mom asked him to time her contractions. She was in labor! I’m not sure if they made a purchase or not. I will have to follow up on that part. But, I know they went to the hospital and baby Matthew was born that evening. Except, Baby Matthew was a girl and they named her “Rebekah Anne.” Surprise! It’s a Rebekah!
Thank the Lord they never thought for a second that I would be too much to handle. I’m sure I was too much to handle at times, but that’s called being a growing human. Happy birthday to me!
Melinda, Michael and Baby Rebekah
Rebekah and Momma

Beautiful Sunday

It’s the last Sunday of July.

The last Sunday of my self-imposed “31 days of blogging in July” challenge. 
Five more posts and then it’s “so long, July! hello, August!”
Yikes.
August means:
Back to school.
Back to a more normal work schedule because the Els are back to school.
Football season.
Dance classes.
Hot. Very Hot days.
And Time?
More time?
Maybe not. 
But, I can hope for more time.
More time to write.
More time to play. 
More time to read.
More time to pray. 
More time to listen.
More time with family.
More time with friends. 
More time to love. 
More time to give.
It’s a new season for us: four kids at one school! 
Can I get an Amen!? Woohoo! I have high hopes for all the amazing things I’m going to make time for now. Because, let’s be honest. We already have time for what we make time for. We prioritize and I’m going to prioritize that big MORE list I made up there. 
Oh, happy Sunday and near end of summer 2015!
Xoxo,
El Momma 

Just a summ summ summer day

What a day!

About five months ago I co-chaired the Gala fundraiser for our school. #horngala15 It was a huge success, a ton of work, but also incredibly rewarding. More about the top picture later…

So, at our school Gala, we auctioned off socials. Socials have a limited number of spots available at a set price. We have socials with teachers: bowling and pizza and we have socials that are just for parents: dinner and quiz night. And, we have socials that are organized by parents for kids. This was one of those. 104KRBE gave us an exclusive all access pass to their morning show for up to 10 kids. So, we arrived early this morning and were given a tour of the studio, a ton of juice and donuts and these kiddos got to say “hello” on the radio. It was super fun!

Trin was in dance camp all week. Today she had a recital. She had a blast!
All four of the kids were enrolled in at least one week of Power camp this summer. Today was the last day of power camp and it ended with a balloon release with messages of hope tied to them. 
And this guy not feeling well. Unexplained fever and sadness. So, we picked him up from power camp a little early and headed to the doctor for a quick check before the weekend. 
Finally, we ended the night with an amazing dinner with friends old and new. This was a celebration of the Gala we did in May to support our Little League. I definitely felt appreciated and loved. What a treat!

Delicious Cheese plate.

So, what’s the first pic about? That’s my friend, Tricia. She’s awesome. Seriously, she loves to photobomb pictures I’m in or pictures I am taking. This time she photobombed the cheese and I just had to share.

Love these summ summ summer days!

xoxo,
El Momma

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. 🙂 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

Almost Five

Every day for the last week, he wakes up and asks, “How Many days until my birthday?” The answer today was “3 days!” He is so very excited to turn five. 
Can you imagine waking up this happy nearly every day and to top it off, you are wearing a top hat on your head? What a character!

We have lots of names for this child. 

Our fourth.
His name is Leeland. 
Lee for my dad, Jimmie Lee, and it was close to Leo, a family name on my mother-in-law’s side. After we named him, we found out that Leland was also a family name on her side too. 
We call him Leeland.
Lee.
Lee Lee.
Leebug 
Big baby (he was over 10 lbs at birth!)
😉
And, this week Big Baby turns five years old. He’s not a baby anymore.
Happy almost birthday, Leebug! Next time you awake, the answer will be “2 days!”
Love you forever.
-Momma 

Sad Day

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

About SMA

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.

More about Cooper and more info on how to donate: