About 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!