With four school-age children, it’s a wonder I get anything accomplished outside of the Els activities and commitments. Yes, most of these commitments are things I willingly commited to, signed them up for and paid for. Most, not all. There’s weekly swim lessons for the three oldest. Leeland will get his turn, but for now there isn’t space for all four to take a class at the same time. Little League baseball. This was probably the most fun for the whole family this semester. Our oldest boys played on the same team and they were a really fun team to watch ending the year with a 17-2 record and winning the playoff championship. However, it’s a three time a week commitment. Sometimes we had call times an hour after school pickup. That’s barely enough time to have a snack and change clothes and leaves no time for homework. Trinity has pre-ballet class once a week. Then, there’s cub scouts and weekly church activities. Nearly every week we have at least one birthday party or family event. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, because that’s par for the course. I try and try and run around with two calendars, but I still forget things. So, on top of all of that there are class field trips. My “work” is flexible and so, I usually say “yes” to field trips when given the opportunity. With four kids, there are many many field trips, especially at the end of the year! Yesterday, I went with the first graders to see the play, “James and the Giant Peach.” Except for the fact that our buses took wrong turns, missed turns, basically got lost (in my neighborhood!) and took 45 minutes to travel 8 miles, it was a good time. I LOVE my babies and I love their friends and teachers. But, field trips are exhausting. Can I opt for one per kid next year? And, have no guilt? I’ll try!
This is the third entry in a series I call “El Real Momma”
The purpose is just to be completely “Real” with you all and real with myself. The internet can be a place of fear and sometimes I am afraid of the consequences and the negative results that could come from over-sharing.
Three field trips in the last three weeks. How in the world can anyone work, manage a house, take care of children well and get anything done for yourself with such a crazy schedule? Impossible. But, it must be done. So, I’ll try and in the meantime I will stop and attempt to do yoga in the middle of homework hour.
And, my littlest guy will crawl underneath my warrior two or downward dog and maybe, just maybe, these little ones will learn a little bit about determination. I don’t believe that I have to workout to feel good or do yoga to feel like I’ve had a successful day. But, for me, personally, reading scripture and having quiet time in the morning and finding time to do some kind of exercise during the day are two ways that make my days feel a whole lot more complete and happy no matter how little I may check off my list.
Perhaps there will be another field trip or two before the year is finished. Maybe I’ll be able to go or maybe I won’t. I’ll make every effort to not feel guilty either way. We do what we can.
This is the first entry in a series I call “El Real Momma”The purpose is just to be completely “Real” with you all and real with myself. The internet can be a place of fear and sometimes I am afraid of the consequences and the negative results that could come from over-sharing. Don’t worry, I am not going to intentionally over-share. But, I am going to share. So here goes:
It’s hard to believe in just a few days we will have a 3, 5, 7 and 9 year old in the house. Time feels faster and faster and all I can do is try to breathe and take it slow. All of the Els are in elementary school. There is a crazy rhythm in that. Tuesday folders full of information. Some of it very important, and some of it not important (to us) at all. Activities. One day a week, three of the Els swim. Three days a week, two of the Els play or practice baseball. One day a week, one of the Els attends dance class. Then, we have family activities, church activities and birthday parties for friends. Date nights (sometimes after my rehearsal we have dinner and actually talk to each other!) On top of all of that, there is an enormous amount of homework mainly for our 3rd grader. And, on top of all of that- making it work with four kids- one of our children has extra challenges. So, sometimes that means we need to meet with his teachers and administrators. Sometimes, I need to go to the school to check on him, bring him medicine, make sure he is happy at lunch, etc. It means that often times, I stop whatever I am doing, wherever I am and I put my child(ren) first. Completely and totally first. Oftentimes, lately, I feel off balance. Like I’m not myself. Writing music, having a cup of great coffee with lots of cream, reading scripture, sunshine in the mornings, laughter and late, lazy breakfasts just don’t make it into my day. They are some of my very favorite and most life-giving experiences, but when I’m lining up my priorities, putting on eye shadow falls pretty far behind making school lunches for 4 people, on my list of important things to do. Don’t get me wrong, I do try to make time for both. But, I will walk around with no makeup on if that’s how it has to be. And, sometimes, it just is what it is.
Friday, we were walking into school and I looked up to see this. Maddux and Trinity holding hands. Walking together. Happy. These are the moments that I would give up every perfect cup of coffee for.
We’re different. They are different. I am different. I feel completely changed from the day I gave birth to our oldest. Almost like I am a different person, but not quite. These experiences, every one of them. The good, the bad, the amazing: they have shaped me, molded me and at times, forced me into who I am today. I love making friends. I love connecting with people. I love being a momma. I do not love conflict or feeling like I am bothering someone or imposing or asking for help. That list of things I do not love has become more a part of my life than I would have ever hoped. But, it’s okay. I am okay. I am better than okay. I sat in a meeting on Friday about one of my children who needs me to be strong for him and I was. I didn’t cry one tear. Not that crying would have been a bad thing, but I just think that it wasn’t the right thing for me, that day, in that meeting. And, God gave me strength, patience, peace and wisdom to know when to speak, when to listen and when to give praise.
And, today, our three year old Batman went for his first solo drive. Always something to look forward to, even in the darkest of storms.
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
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. 🙂 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
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!
Our youngest turned 3 this summer. One month before his birthday he asked (completely unprompted) for a Willy Wonka birthday party. It was a perfect idea, so we got to work. We asked our family to join us for the fun and even dress as characters from the book…anyone, but Willy Wonka. Leeland, our birthday boy, would be the only Willy Wonka.
Last year the Els had a performance week and did a song from Aladdin at a family Disney night at our church. This year, the kids picked out their characters and we spent the week rehearsing and preparing for them to perform a few songs from the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie.
He already had a blue velvet jacket (hand-me-down originally purchased by his grandmother for his oldest brother) I found this hat on ebay. And ordered him a size small.
Pajamas, velvet jacket and top hat…normal for rehearsals!
Practicing for the big performance. Our stage.
Tickets…I purchased a set of Willy Wonka graphics from Etsy. Everything was customized.
The party table. Cake, candy, chocolate and more candy. We’ve never served so much sugar at a party!
Our handsome birthday boy. We found the vest material online. It is the same fabric print as the Gene Wilder vest. Our little Leeland, Willy Wonka was so very happy!
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!
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. – Leeland
-Daddy and Trinity
-Maddux and Bakri
-El Momma and Trinity
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
Last year we went to the big recycling center in West U for Recycle week. This year we decided to do things a little differently. We have 2 bins of recycling that get picked up bi-weekly at our house. We are really good at recycling. However, we needed to go through clothes we can’t wear and have a few things fixed so we can reuse them. We also decided to stop (or at least cut down- I’m not sure how to stop because of bacon in the microwave) using paper towels. We are going to use cloth instead. I will let you know how that goes. We do throw a lot of paper towels away. So, hopefully not using paper towels will make a positive difference.
We took donations here. Clothes, toys, shoes, etc.
We filled the back of the truck with donations. Bakri and Maddux were excited.
We took special clothes to our baby niece (she’s 2) and ready for everything Trinity picked out for her!
We even took El Momma’s last year’s summer shoes to the Shoe Hospital for repair. I spent $12 on repairing them instead of $45+ on new ones. 🙂 Win Win!
We studied about weather. We learned about weather events and visited the Weather Museum right here in Houston. It’s basically an old house (very large house) that has been restored and is now the Weather Museum. It is small in comparison to other museums in the Museum District. However, for what we were looking for and need (simple, no line, interesting, fun and not crowded) it was perfect. The Els even did weather reports in front of a green screen. 2 blizzards and 1 hurricane. Leeland, our 2 year old was terrified of the tornado machine, which was harmless, but very loud. Other than that, weather week was a huge success.
We started summer. We continued a tradition from last summer- theme weeks and we started a new tradition- summer jobs. First: summer jobs: there are 4. one for each El. Line leader- to keep them from fighting when they are getting out of the car Kitchen helper- helping El Momma in the kitchen Tablesetter- sets the table at every meal Bathroom monitor- main job is to help with teeth brushing, putting toothpaste on each tooth brush and calling kids in when ready
Pictured are the jobs on the wall posted below our family mission which I love so very much… starting with “we love God and each other! We follow family rules. We’re a happy family. We stay healthy. We don’t fight. We vacation together every year”
When thinking about Theme Weeks this year, I had my ideas…
Mine basically involved cleaning and organizing. So, we compromised and came up with themes that made El Momma and the Els happy. First up, Arts and Crafts week!
Four canvases in solid colors, four paints, one paint brush and four handprints.
The end result now hanging in our den. Makes me happy. Thankful for theme week 1: Arts and Crafts week. Up next, weather week!