About El Momma

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As 2014 comes to a close...

We have had a pretty wonderful year. Blessed beyond our expectations. God has been extremely good to us as we continue to learn to walk within His will. 
To follow Him. 
To listen when His answer is and isn't what we want to hear. 
I won't give you a synopsis of our whole year, but I'll give you a few highlights. 

I have to brag on my dear husband, because he doesn't publicize this type of thing. But, if you saw him, you would know. So, I can share here. He lost 60 pounds this year. Changed his eating habits and began exercising regularly. His healthy change has made a positive impact on him and all of us. Way to go, Moustapha! We are proud of you and so thankful for you.

He's continued to do well at work and his attention to detail serves him so well as an attorney. He's awesome.

Summer was incredible. We travelled a lot. We were invited to Escape to the Lake in Wisconsin, meeting and connecting with a lot of special people and artists through Under the Radar. I also helped cowrite and produce St. Andrew's vacation bible school with my dear friend, Kelly. That was amazing!
We took a family trip to Destin, Florida at the end of the Summer. It was definitely a highlight of the year. We traveled with my parents, sister, brother, sister-in-law and 3 of our nephews and 1 niece. The Els were in heaven with some of their favorite playmates on vacation with us! 

4th grade has been Bakri's best year yet. And, all of the Els love their classes and teachers. We feel very blessed.

I have definitely felt God's hand on my life unlike any other time I have experienced before. This fall, God led us to a new church home, Church of the Apostles  Houston. It was bittersweet to leave our St. Andrews family and follow God to this new church. I have truly felt surrounded by His love as I have begun to lead a new church community as the Worship Pastor. Late in November CCM Magazine asked me if I would contribute a song to their Christmas album. I was honored to be asked, but of my two original Christmas songs, neither was recorded. I won't go in to this whole story. But, I will share that Nashville studio musicians ended up recording the instrumentation of the song and I recorded the vocals here in Houston. Jonathan Camey mixed the vocals in Houston and now my song Noel, I know Jesus is on the 2014 Christmas album alongside artist like Francesca Battistelli, Sandi Patty, MercyMe, and Kari Jobe to name drop a few! 😃 I can't say "blessed" and "humbled" enough. I do not feel worthy of these many blessings, but I do not take them for granted. 
Thank you for being part of our lives. We appreciate our friends and family near and far. 

 A few of my hopes for 2015...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Good morning, Christmas!

As I head off to bed in the early hours of Christmas morning, I'm struck my an unusual sense of peace. This moment. Alone. Downstairs. The stockings are full. The presents are wrapped. There is a half-eaten cookie and partially empty glass of milk in the living room. "Santa" has made his delivery of one toy per El under the tree. And, the children are snug in their beds. Probably dreaming of the chaos that will surely touch us, if not overwhelm us in a few hours. 

It's peaceful.

It's quiet.

Thank you, Jesus for your peace that passes all understanding. 

I often get asked how I am so calm with four kids. (I'm not that calm, btw) But, if there is calmness, it's peace. The peace that can only come through Jesus. 

Happy birthday, Jesus! 

May the peace of Christ be with you and yours this Christmas and always. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Perfect Timing

On my way to church last Sunday, I took my husband's car and left my vehicle for him and the Els to meet me at church later. I meet with the worship team an hour before service. I headed out giving myself an extra 45 minutes to get there. It's about a 10 minute drive.

The car was uneasy starting and I checked the gas gauge. It was low. Not wanting to run out of gas, I went to a nearby gas station. I think at that point I had put out of my mind that the car had started slowly. I turned it off, got some gas and got back in the car to head off. But, the car would not start. I was panicked. I prayed. Tried again, but no luck. I called Moustapha and waited for him to pick me up. Meanwhile there was a buildup of cars waiting to get gas. I decided I would put the car in neutral and push it into a parking spot. (My knee still hurts!) I started moving it slowly and  before I knew it, others were helping me push the car. I pulled the emergency break and turned to thank the helpful people and looked right at my neighbor. He had helped me not even knowing it was me. And I had accepted his help not knowing it was someone I knew. 

To see his smiling face, his offer to run home and grab jumper cables, and just to know that I had a friend. It was just what I needed. I wasn't alone. 

I told him Moustapha was on his way. and I was ok. In the next moment Moustapha was there and I was on my way to church. I wasn't even late. Moustapha and his dad jumped the car and they even made it to church on time. It felt like a series of little miracles all gathered together to get us to where we were supposed to be at the exact moment we were supposed to be there. 

Perfect timing. What is perfect timing? It's His timing. When things happen that we don't plan and we know that we're not alone. God is with us. It's in His time. I'm thankful for these clear reminders of who is in control. Would I have planned Sunday morning like this? No. But, when my plans failed, His plans took over. I was where I was supposed to be in the exact moment I was supposed to be there. 
Perfect timing. 
Planning. Serving. Praying. Studying.

Friday, November 28, 2014

We Change, but He doesn't. Thankful for that...

It's happening. Change. Lots of change. And, transition. I'm transitioning. My family is transitioning. We are all in a state of transition. And, it's not the change that really bothers me. It's the leaving. The "leaving" part of this change is the hard part.

The going. The arriving. The being. The working. Being welcomed in ALL of that. It is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. It's encouraging. It's affirming. It's right.

You see, I'm changing jobs. And, by changing jobs, we're changing churches. It's a BIG change. I've been working as a full time mom for the last six years. Meanwhile, I've been a part time worship leader at our church (2 weeks on 2 weeks off) also for six years. I've been the Youth Praise Band leader, also part time. Currently, I am the preschool music teacher, part time. And, volunteer lots at my kiddos' schools. I also put out my first album during this stretch of time and spend a little time promoting that where I can. It may sound like a hodgepodge of jobs that don't amount to much, but to me it's been my life. I've been happy, but perhaps a little overworked. And then, I get offered this amazing FULL TIME job at a church plant in the heights. What is a church plant? It's basically a brand new church that is being planted. Planted means that it isn't affiliated by another church, but starting from the ground up. Ours is an Anglican Church called Church of the Apostles. We became  involved just as the church launch team was ready to officially launch the church- meaning "invite people to visit" last Sunday. We're off and running and it's a beautiful thing. There is hardly a moment of rest to take in the meaning of leaving and how that feels, because we are so busy with the planting.

As part of our transition, we were able to take part in a special "Ten Years of Service" church service honoring the pastor of St. Andrew's and his family. That was our last Sunday with St. Andrew's and during that service our family was commissioned and prayed over alongside new members. It was beautiful to see the church welcoming in and sending out at the same time. We have been truly blessed to be part of this church family and we are blessed to be sent out and welcomed in to another church family.

So, as we transition, we feel thankful. Thankful for the last few years and thankful for how God is providing for our family. It is hard to leave, but our hearts know that we are part of the big Church. God's people. It's not restricted to a building or a denomination. We are God's people and we are part of His Church. Thank you, God, that although we experience change, You Never Change! You are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A glimpse

So, this happened this morning. It's more of a picture, a glimpse into what my life is like every single day. I try not to get discouraged because I realize this is just the lifestage that we are in. And, it's not going to be like this forever. And, one day I will look back on this and miss these days. At least that's what I hear. 
I do believe that I will miss these days, but not this part. 

Me: "Trinity, turn off the TV, get your dance bag and wait for me at the door"
Me: "Trinity, please get your dance bag and wait for me at the door"
Me: "if you would get your dance bag and wait for me at the door, perhaps your brother would follow you and also put his shoes on" 
Me: "Why is your dance bag still sitting there? We are going to be late. Get your dance bag and get in the car"
Into the car we go-
Off we go-
Park at dance class-
Me: "Get your dance bag. Put the book down. Let's get out of the car. Dance class has already started"
Blank stare-
Me: "where is your dance bag???"
 Yep, you guessed it. We got to dance class with no dance bag. 

Had to drive home and pick it up. 
It's still exactly where it was all morning.

It's the story of my life today in September 2014. I realize it won't be the story of my life forever but goodness is it frustrating to not be able to get things done and feel as though I can't teach my children to do for themselves. I know this too shall pass, but until then pray for me and others that have preschool and elementary age children. I don't know what it's like for parents of Middleschoolers and highschoolers, because I'm not there yet. But I know what it's like for me and sometimes it's just so overwhelming.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

UPDATE! Snow Day- Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original post from February 4, 2011
Update: September 6, 2014 THIS RECIPE MAKES 5 DOZEN COOKIES. Just made them today- and forgot just how good they are and how big this recipe is. It sure is delicious and now I have fresh cookies to put in lunches all week. Yum! Yum!

Well, our snow day turned out to be a bit of a bust. No school, lots of movies and momma baking in the kitchen to keep warm. I thought I'd share our favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies, known elsewhere as the best chocolate chip cookies in the whole entire world!

A while back I discovered a recipe by Debbie Koenig. I've since altered it to what works best in my kitchen.


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
½  pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cup tightly packed light brown sugar
3 t. vanilla extract

2 large eggs, cold, lightly beaten

12 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Adjust racks to lower and upper thirds of the oven.

1) Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

2) Using a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on low speed until it is smooth and lump free, about 3 minutes.

3) Add the vanilla and egg and beat on low speed for 15 seconds, or until fully incorporated. Do not overbeat.

4) On low speed, add the flour mixture. Beat until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the chocolate chunks and mix until they are just incorporated. If using a hand mixer, use a wooden spoon to stir them in.

The recipe I use calls to "Refrigerate dough for at least an hour, and preferably 24-36 hours." I just make the cookies immediately- with cold butter and cold eggs, it works for me.

5) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Spoon the dough using a cookie scooper 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. (makes about 4 dozen 3-inch round cookies)

6) Bake for approximately 8 minutes [it’s more in other ovens] or until golden brown around the edges but still soft, almost underdone-looking, in the center. Turn the sheets front to back and switch racks halfway through.

Remove the sheet from the oven and carefully slide the parchment or Silpats directly onto a work surface. When cookies are set, remove them to a cooling rack. Wait at least 5 minutes before serving or 20 minutes before storing in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature.

These cookies are amazing! We are enjoying lots of them on this icey winter day!

We Made It...thankful for a new school year!

Last year was tough. Really, really tough. Our oldest son, who is on the Autism Spectrum, changed schools to be with two of our other children. It was a change to make things easier and smoother for the whole family. But, as you probably know, change can be very difficult for a person with autism. Honestly, change can be difficult for anyone. But, change is difficult for him and it was difficult. 

A new school. In third grade. In a team with three main-subject teachers in three different classrooms. All new (to Bakri) ancillary teachers. And, new kids (to Bakri) who have pretty solid friendships by third grade. That was the hardest part. Bakri had friends at his old school. We loved his old school. We loved the teachers he had. He had great ones. Really great ones. It turns out that the kids and the relationships your children have with them- that's almost, if not more important than the teachers. I'm speaking, of course, about schools that we've gone to, where the teachers are, for the most part- top quality and the best of the best. So, when that is the case, the kids in the classroom and having friendships is the most important part of the school day. 

That was a struggle for Bakri last year. There were some super nice kids in his class. I think some of them really like(d) Bakri. But, when the bullying happened, the nice kids either didn't see it or hear it, or they were afraid to stand up to the bully(ies). It's tough. We are trying to teach our other children how to stand up for kids like Bakri. And, it is a tough line. When do they speak out to the bully and when do they tell the teacher? Or, do they always do both? 

After our crazy summer of fun and complete chaotic-24-hours-a-day togetherness, we (especially me!) were looking forward to school beginning. 
Some of us woke up extra early and willingly let our Momma fix our hair with a hairbow (that NEVER HAPPENS!) and even had time to cuddle on the couch, fully dressed with a robe on. That's miss Kindergarten, Trinity. 
Some of us were pretty tired at breakfast. Leeland on his way to Pre-K 4!

We enjoyed picture time outside. The oldest two, Maddux and Bakri were all smiles. Excited for 2nd and 4th grade. 

How do we get all four to stand and smile at the same time? Who knows!? When it happens, it's a small miracle. 

And, then Leeland woke up! Ready to go!

Leeland and his chauffeur! 

Big boy at a big school!

I took the other three kids to school to begin kindergarten, second and fourth grades. The first morning was the easiest of the week.

The rest of the week flew by and it was chaotic and exhausting. Mornings were tough. I'm pretty laid back in the summer. So, being at school at 7:30 on school days presents its challenges. Trinity already knew her teacher and seems to be adjusting well and enjoying kindergarten. Maddux has made a couple of new friends and knows most of his classmates. He has great teachers as well. Bakri had an easier transition this year. We met with his team of teachers- just two this year- the week before school began. I think that helped us to set some expectations. They also assured me that this would be an easier year for him in establishing friendships, now that he is in his second year at the school. We sure hope so. Leeland is in a montessori school and has the same lead teacher as last year. He loves her and she loves him. 

So, we're in it. 2014-2015 school year. Ready to learn, love, and grow. I'm scared and excited and hopeful. How did your first week of school go?
Hope it was great.
El Momma

Saturday, August 23, 2014

It's not always all smiles

Our kids learned to swim this year. Really swim. We should join a swim team. They are that good. I'm not just saying that because I'm their mom. They really are strong swimmers. If and when we ever live in the suburbs or a neighborhood with a swim team that we can walk to (That's my requirement for summer), we will join. Until then, we are going to keep up regular lessons to improve strokes and not forget what we've learned. That's IF we don't get kicked out first. 
That brings me to yesterday. This beautiful, smiling little swimmer was in her lesson. She was doing great. She was showing 'most' of what she can do and she appeared to be listening some...and then, from the observation deck I saw it. She finished her turn, filled her mouth with pool water and began spewing it out like a fountain. Eeeew. I prayed. "Please, God, let her look up at me. She will see my face, my mean eyes, and she'll be reminded that this is gross and she'll stop." Unfortunately, she never looked up and her fountain-making continued and became more elaborate. Her teacher had other students in the water and couldn't see what she was doing. The lifeguard was right behind her, facing her back. It was up to me to deliver the message. I moved quickly down the stairs into the pool area, approached her carefully and gave her a quiet reminder. "Trinity, do not put pool water in your mouth. You will get sick." It was quick, quiet and within 20 seconds I was back upstairs and she was done. I ruined the remainder of her lesson. No more smiles. No more taking turns. 
Apparently, I discovered after talking to her later, she was scared. She thought I was the lifeguard. And, I guess she's pretty scared of lifeguards!

By the end of class she wouldn't even get out of the pool. It was embarrassing. Probably more so for me than her. We left and had a talk while the older boys had their lesson. It was good. I'm trying to be a better parent. Should I have warned her about pool water in her mouth? In hindsight, no. I should have taken the time to walk her through the lesson and what's expected of her, what the rewards  and consequences are of her choices BEFORE her lesson. Yes, she's been in this weekly lesson for a year. But, she's six (almost) and needs reminders, clear expectations and boundaries. I'm still learning with this one, folks. Love her and   love how she challenges me to grow and admit when I'm wrong. It happens:)

So, at the end of Bakri and Maddux's lesson, a member of the staff approaches me outside, "Rebekah?" "Yes." "The office manager would like to speak with you." 

Oh, dear God. This is it. We are getting kicked out. If Trinity goes, we are all going to have to go. How can we come back here if Trinity is not allowed to swim? Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.

Thankfully, the office manager just wanted to inform me that she has a spot for Trin at the same time as Bakri and Maddux, making it easier for me to have three kids in class at the same time. And, she is working on finding a spot for Leeland. Whew!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Preparing for School

We've enjoyed summer and are in the crazy last days of complete insanity. I am moving from room to room cleaning up legos, beads, making beds, putting away clothes to turn around and it's like the opposite of Mary Poppins. Everything I just put away magically ends up on the floor in worse condition than before. I'm in la la land. Help! If you are wondering why I don't have my children do these chores- the answer is "I do." And, we are still in some crazy place of stuff every where. I am really really looking forward to the normal life of kids in school. It means I will actually clean something and my little els won't destroy it (at least until they get home) and they will probably have so much homework and be so exhausted that they will only have enough energy to eat and go to bed for the first week. A girl can dream.

To prepare for this year's intense workload in 4th grade, we met with Bakri's teachers yesterday. It was amazing and hopeful and wonderful. We are really excited about this year for him and praying every single day that he will make a close friend at school. In having conversation with his teachers they wanted to learn more about him. His interests, likes, learning style, etc. He sang part of a song and we told them how much he loves playing the piano, writing music and about a project he did in second grade. His project was to tell about his family in any creative way that he wanted to. He wrote a song and we recorded it and recorded a music video to go along with it. It is called "Our Family Song." We watched it a few times yesterday. The Els commented that there are a few things that are incorrect in the song, like when it says "we don't fight in our family!" Um, ok, people, these are goals and hopes. It also has very accurate things like "we run around in our family!" So there!

So, in honor of school starting, here is Our Family Song by Bakri El-Hakam, written at age 7.

Monday, August 18, 2014

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.
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. 


Saturday, August 16, 2014


We just returned from a week in Miramar Beach, Florida (Destin, Fl) with my parents, sister, brother, sister-in-law and their four children. My favorite moments from the trip were moments when we could just "be." 
Be silly.
Be cool. 
Be ridiculous.

Be adorable.
Be cute.
Be funny.
Be weird.
Be happy. 
Be sad.
Be together. 

Just be. 
I wrote a song for our Vacation Bible School this year. I'll leave you with the  lyrics:

Wake up
It's a brand new day
He doesn't want you feeling this way
His heart is breaking 
when life is breaking you
He's got a plan for every day of your life
Plans for good and not for strife 
No matter what
He's here with you

He made you perfect in His image
Perfect in His image
He made you
He made you perfect in His image
Perfect in His image
He made you

Be who He made you to be
and so much more 
Rise up
His hands and feet
Who He made you to BE 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Music Your Kids will LOVE

This summer we've been traveling, a lot. Riding in the car, a lot. And, spending a lot of time together, a lot. We do pretty well together. So, I thought I would answer a question I get asked a lot by other parents.

I've been asked the question at least a hundred times: "How do you get your kids to like the same music you like?" And, "why don't you listen to Kid's music?"
First of all, you may need to expand what you like a little. Music that you loved in high school or even the mostly pop junk that gets played over and over again on the radio that you may like to bop along to in the car by yourself, may not be what you really want your kids to love.
So, I would expand what you like if you haven't already. First, let's look at faith music...or music written about faith or by a person of faith. Since music is a big part of my life and as a worship leader and songwriter, I am often looking at new and old worship music and hymns. Some of these songs are completely new to me and some of the best bands are bands that I and probably you have never heard of. It's worth taking a listen to shows like the radio show  Under the Radar  which plays the best music you've never heard and stations like Elijah Streams that play worship music from known and lesser known artists and churches. These are places I find new and new to me music that is both worship and singer/songwriter.
You may be thinking, "I don't like what gets played on the radio." Well, you are not alone. In fact, most of what is played on Contemporary Christian Radio Stations comes from a very limited number of artists. Some of them are great. Some are just what the radio stations and the labels are feeding us. There is a lot more music out there and if you just do a little digging, you can find it!
One of my favorite things about faith music is that even if the subject isn't God, I still don't have to worry about answering the awkward question, ie. "Momma, what are "blurred lines?" or hearing my baby girl sing "So you want to play with magic?" My kids still hear those songs. They just don't hear them from me.

We also love a lot of older classic tunes by The Beatles, Elvis, Electric Light Orchestra, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, James Taylor, Eva Cassidy,  and many many more. We have current bands that we love too like David Ramirez , Mat Kearney and John Mark McMillian. One of my favorite records is still Brooke Fraser's Albertine, produced by my producer on my album Radiant You, Marshall Altman. I've also discovered more bands and music to love through Marshall. Before meeting Marshall, I didn't know of Gabe Dixon, Audrey Assad or Matt Nathanson. So, I would say if you really love an album, find out who produced it and listen to more of their stuff. Chances are you will find more music you...and your kids will love.

So, now that you've expanded your music repertoire, how do you expand the mind and musical tastes of your children? Play them the songs you like. It's that simple. I'm not promising your kids will give up asking for Veggie Tales or Katy Perry immediately, however I am saying that chances are high that your children will enjoy what you enjoy if you put some extra thought into it. So, plan a play list on your iPhone of music that you like and make it a good mix of high energy, classic, singer-songwriter, maybe even throw in a soundtrack song. We like the Muppet Movie soundtrack. The songs are hilarious and well done and when Maddux and Leeland break out into their rendition of "Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet," I am on the floor. It is amazing and hilarious.

Happy listening and happy parenting, friends!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Chicago Day-Cation

We departed Williams Bay, Wisconsin in the late morning hours and began our drive to Chicago. It took less than two hours and we arrived to a city that was huge. Much bigger than I imagined. It seemed to be at least four times the size of our Houston Downtown skyline. I loved every bit of it. The buildings, the architecture, the sky, the history, it was all so beautiful. We headed straight to Lincoln Park. Our first challenge: parking. The zoo is free, but parking is not. The zoo lot was very expensive and full. We ended up in a beautiful nearby neighborhood finding street parking. I think we had to leave by 6pm when it became permit parking only. We walked a few steps straight into Gamekeepers for some drinks and lots of Chicago sports. The Cubs and White Sox were playing on all of the tvs!

We left Gamekeepers and started walking toward the zoo. About a ten minute walk.

The zoo was lovely and did I mention, free?
The zoo was nice. It's under construction, so perhaps that made it feel small. The Houston Zoo is a good size and we've visited the San Diego Zoo and it just felt huge comparatively. 
But, we still enjoyed everything we were able to see.

The Els loved it. 
Lincoln park sight-seeing.

After, we headed for....what else? Chicago Pizza!

A quick review on Yelp and we found Giordano's to be one of the best rated pizza restaurants somewhat near where we were. So, we headed over...

We all loved it.