Why We Need to Know Our Children’s Love Language

It was the summer of 2014, and one day, my mom dropped by my house unannounced, I wasn’t home, and through a pure fluke, the boys and I rushed out of the house with the door not only unlocked….but wide open…for hours while we were having fun in the sun at our local water park! EEEEK!

Hours later after our water park rush and leaving our home totally unprotected, I noticed back to back missed phone calls from my mother. As soon as I answered the phone, I get blasted with what I perceived as anger and judgement when I later realized it was an elevated sense of panic and worry. I’ve discussed my mother in law Ruthie before, and like her, my mom is also LOUD. Her tone of voice whether happy or sad, up or down,  stays on 10, its just who she is lol! During that phone call, she expressed how upset she was to pull up to my home, call/blow the horn and not to get a reply from me. She walked in and went all throughout the house looking for us because she could not believe that the house was wide open and no one was there! Not only were we not home, but the house was a mess. There weren’t just toys scattered about on every level, there was also the filling from a huge teddy bear one of my sons decided to decorate the house with. And for someone like my mom, who deep cleans weekly, she was abhorred! And she let me know very bluntly on level 10, that “SHE DID NOT RAISE ME LIKE THAT TO BE IN A DIRTY HOUSE!” LOLOL.

Now take me, super proud and super independent … in that moment I was livid! I thought and expressed that she was being extremely judgmental and her drop by discovery of my messy house was not a constant in our lives, but that with 3 small children, boys at that, that a messy house sometimes comes with the territory! That day, it was warm and muggy and quite possibly the last warm day of the summer, so I prioritized having some fun with my boys over cleaning up their messes…the mess would be there when I got back! Right? Right!

 

Look how much fun the kids were having! The dirty house could wait lol!
Look how much fun the kids were having! The dirty house could wait lol!

That conversation, that was full of high and loud tones from both parties, led us to a sit down heart to heart conversation that tackled the butt of our issue…we did not understand each others love language, and particularly as a child, 32 years of age or not, feeling like your parent doesn’t love you the way you need to be loved can lead you to feeling hurt and misunderstood.

After we got off that phone call that didn’t end very well, I found myself reveling in past regret and bitterness over how I wished she held just as high regard to order in the home and cleanliness to personal, quality time. I found myself misty with tears thinking “there she is so passionate about how I keep my home, I wish she was equally as passionate about being present at my events growing up!” I thought about homecomings when I became Princess of our court, the many band performances, and other little details of the odds and ends of my life that I thought she should have pressed to be there for. I had NEVER expressed this to her before, which was not fair. She had no idea I even felt like this!

 

We did not understand each other’s love language.

So here was the reality. My mother was and is an extremely hard worker. She is a successful business owner and has been for almost two decades. She has worked long and tireless hours…and what I didn’t know then, is that as she worked through some of my awards ceremonies and other events I was involved in … she did so with pangs of guilt & longing to be there. That in between doing hair as a stylist, she would put one person under the dryer and dash to pick us up from dance class and then rush back. She compensated not being able to be there by ensuring we had our hearts desires materialistically, that we had yearly fantastic family vacations (shout out to Disney World!), the best Christmas’s a child could dream of, and even our Easter mornings resembled that of a small Toys for Tots warehouse. I will FOREVER be grateful for those memories!

I knew that it wasn’t fair to hold what I felt from my mother, so I wrote her a letter and she scheduled a sit down. As my mother and I sat across the table from each other, and as I saw her light skin flush with redness and her eyes cloud with tears, she explained her love to me with a broken voice. We relented to the lumps in our throats and allowed our tears to flow. We hugged, we explained ourselves in love, and we acquired a newfound understanding of each other and a mutual respect of the kind of mom/wife/mother she wanted me to be based off of her own personal expectations and revealed that her own mother was emotionally unavailable. I was able to recognize the challenges she faced as a wife and working mother with five children, and likewise she learned from me that I was ok prioritizing memories over a spotless home because it was just a season that would quickly pass.

The point of this story that I want you all to receive, is to take a moment and evaluate your relationships with your spouses, parents, significant others, and particularly with your children. Your love acts as their foundation. With any strong foundation, when those challenges come knocking at their door – insecurity, self-doubt, bullying, depression, heartbreak and more – that foundation you’ve built will keep them strong! It will hold them steady no matter how hard the winds blow. Your love should mimic the love of Christ and resemble a canopy of grace, constance, and understanding.

But my mother did not know that my love language is Quality Time. I NEEDED to feel like my mom desired to be a part of my life expressed through the sacrifice of her time. When we sat down, she confessed and reassured me of her undying and lasting love, and I knew without a doubt that my mom had always loved me, but I wanted her to love me how I could best receive it. I would have gladly traded in my new Grant Hills for her to come and visit my classroom and have a mommy/daughter date. My brand new Minnie Mouse motion ring I got at Easter (anyone remember those?) was all the envy at school lol, but in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter because I wanted her time that I shared with 4 other siblings.

So what is your love language? Your spouse’s? What is your children’s love language? If you don’t know, click here to do a quick quiz by Dr. Gary Chapman with your loved ones so you know once and for all how to properly communicate your love according to their language.

 

The 5 Love Languages
The 5 Love Languages

For us parents, understanding your child’s love language helped my older sister, Tamika, and I create the Parent Love Review. She saw the transparency that our mother and I had, and it made her take a step back and wonder, “do my children feel loved by me? Are my children safe in my love? Do my children lack anything from me?” Please find below a helpful Parent Love Review guide that you can use to gage how you are doing as a parent in the eyes of your child.

Thank you for reading and I hope you walk away inspired to love more personally and more intentionally.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)

PARENT LOVE REVIEW GUIDE

Setting the tone

  •  Sit your children down and let them know that you would like to talk to them openly and transparently. If you have more than one child, set them aside one by one and allow this time to be personal and specifically about them as an individual and separate from their siblings.
  • When starting the conversation, take the lead by first letting them know that you love them unconditionally and that you want to be the best parent that you can be to them. State that this is your parental review and this is their time to let you know how you are doing as a parent and that nothing they say will land them in trouble or will be criticized. Compare it to a report card or employee review, make it fun!

Questions to Ask:

  • Do you feel loved by me? If yes, ask them to give you examples of what you do to make them feel special. If no, ask them to give you examples of times you did NOT make them feel special/loved. This would be a great time to stop the conversation and take the 5 Love Languages Quiz to help shed light to how your child interprets love.
  • What are some of your favorite things we do together? What are some things you would like to do together?
  • Do you enjoy time with just mommy/daddy or do you prefer to be with your siblings when we do things together?
  • Do I ever make you feel sad or angry? If so, please give me examples so I can try my best to stop making you feel that way.
  • How does mommy make you feel most of the time?
  • If you were to give me a grade on how I am as your mommy, would you give me an A (excellent), B (Good), C (OK), or D (Needs some work!)

Its important to note that it does not matter if your child is 5 or 55, it is NEVER too late to adjust the way you show your love and care for them. There are many adults walking around broken that can be directly linked to their relationship with their parents or guardians. God’s graces and mercies are new EVERY morning, don’t let another day go by if you are involved in a relationship that is not driven by love.

Happy Valentines Day! Cheers to loving intentionally!

Love,

Stephanie <3

Dear Faith, We Are Mourning With You

Dear Faith,

Today as I streamed the services of your 4 children, I heard agonizing cries of grief. I saw a sea of glistening faces amongst the pews, and a host of friends and loved ones alike, remembering their smiles, their laughs, and best friends remembering the hours of video game playing. I heard you give account via your letter to them, the times where your 19 year old son Chadney would squeeze you into a hug, scooping you off the ground. It made me think of my growing nephew doing the same to my sister. And how your younger daughter loved to dress up and get her hair done. I saw a flash of my nieces in their princess dresses, and I imagine that’s how your daughters were. I’ve seen photos of your daughter Kara and heard her voice through videos that have surfaced, and it was clear that she was not only physically beautiful but had a spirit to match.  Its evident that your children were loved and that they were happy in your care.

I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but I speak for many when I say, I cried out in pain with you. The tears won’t stop falling. We are mourning with you and you are not in this alone though it may feel that way. There are drones of people that you don’t even know that are calling your name in prayer, asking Jesus to keep you in spite of. I hope you know that we know that you would never do anything to put your children in harms way. That in no way shape or form did you cause this to happen. Evil spirits are expert connivers, and their goal is to ultimately kill, steal, and destroy. This is not your doing.

Please know that we know that if you could, you would give your life a thousand times in their stead. That you’re probably racking your brain to see what you could have done differently. That you may have an infinity of should haves, could haves, and would haves. That you probably want to go to sleep and never wake up on this side of heaven, and I don’t blame you. I know this because I am a mother, and I could be you in some way, shape, or form.

That’s not being weak, that’s being a grieving mother of your children in this season. I’m not writing this to preach, and I’m not here to offer “they are in a better place” because they shouldn’t be anywhere but with you right now. But here we are- grieving, mourning, crying- with you, and calling out the name of Jesus on your behalf.  Please remember that you are not alone. I pray that you feel the sweet spirit of our heavenly father around you each and every day. I pray that you’ll experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. I pray that through you, we’ll be able to see the joy for mourning and the beauty for ashes. I pray that God gives you EVERYTHING you need, and that your cup will truly run over in excess.

Thank you for allowing us to pay our respects to your children and to share in your mourning.

To my fellow believers, mothers, and fathers and all those who’s hearts are grieving, add her to your prayer lists. Remember Faith tomorrow and the day after, next month and next year. Remember her at Christmas, Easter, and during the summer months where the sun is shining and hot.

Remember her when the seasons change and your flowers find their bloom again. Faith, may grace and mercy follow you all the days of your life, and that during this time of painful change, that you too will bloom again, not in the way that you have before, but in a new way.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Rm 12:15

With love,

Stephanie <3

Living in a Jungle

Sometimes as a stay at home mom to three young boys (four if you include my husband hehe), it can literally feel like I live in a jungle. I can mop the floor one second, and 1 hour later its food all over the floor. I can wash one load of clothes and fold another, and there sprouts 4 more loads before I can even put away the others! Toys seem to multiply before my eyes, and magically appear in places they shouldn’t be which just so happens to be on a stair step that pierces the heel of my foot at 11:39PM.  And why does the basement look like an actual tornado touched down?! Some days I literally feel like I can never catch up!

Similarly, a jungle can be described as a dense population of plants and vegetation that makes it extremely difficult to navigate. Yep! Some days my life definitely resemble that of a jungle! And I know my fellow moms and dads out there can relate, which is why I am elated to have partnered up with the local representatives of Disney and can offer you and your family an evening of escape as we watch a masterpiece on the big screen, The Jungle Book!

 

There is a metro Detroit screening taking place on Wednesday, April 13th in Royal Oak, Michigan at 7pm! For your chance to win, do one of the following:

  1. Comment on this post one way your #lifewiththesekids sometimes resembles a jungle!
  2. Find this giveaway post on our Facebook Page  , share it with your friends and tell us again, one way your life sometimes resembles a jungle!

5 entries will be randomly chosen and notified by email with your electronic pass on Monday, April 11th by 12pm EST. Good luck!

 

*Disclaimer: If you are a winner to this advance screening, know that the theater is intentionally overbooked to ensure capacity. Entry is granted on a first come first served bases and you are encouraged to arrive early. Seating is not guaranteed. More details will be included on your actual screening pass.

They Still Need Our Kisses

When our children are newborn all the way up to toddler years, they really have no control over how much we kiss them. So I personally take FULL unapologetic advantage of this.

I remember one day when one of these kids (can’t remember which) was maybe 5/6 months, I tried to actually keep a tally of how many times I kissed him. I could literally plant 50 kisses on one fluffy cheek within a minute! So I just chalked myself up to #stalkermom cray cray, threw away the score card and kept on a’kissin.

My three sons are currently 7, 4 (soon to be 5 in May), and 2.5! So just this morning it hit me that I don’t kiss my oldest son, Jabin, nearly as much as I kiss my 4 yr old, Caleb, whom in turn I don’t kiss nearly as much as I do the baby, Elijah! And yes, I know as our children get older, they go off to school, eventually start after school sports and other activities, etc, so the stalker mom kissing window gets smaller and smaller *stifling a wail just thinking about it*.

 

Most recent family photo! Easter 2016 :)
Most recent family photo! Easter 2016 :)

 

So just this morning, Elijah came downstairs after he woke up, and I greeted him, like I do the others, with a big hug and excitement. “ELIJAHHH! You’re up! How’s my NuNu man! Give mommy a hug!” lol, you know, just being extra. I sat him up on the bar stool and made him some cereal. If I can be honest, babies and toddlers are just cuteness overload! They are still learning and growing, still widely dependent on the parent for every area of life, their heads are still the biggest part of their body, and they light up when they see you and for the most part, don’t mind your lips all over their face all day everyday.

 

Ok, maybe he cares just a little bit.
Ok, maybe he cares just a little bit.

 

So as I walked over to Elijah while he was minding his own business, eating his cereal, I planted yet another kiss on his cheek. I then looked over at my oldest son who was quietly eating his cereal, seemingly lost in his own thoughts. And it hit me, besides bedtime, I hardly ever kiss him! So I decided then and there he was about to get a big wet one, and a small part of me was nervous that he would reject me because he’s such a big boy now and is too old for kisses blah blah blah, I did it anyways. The smile he gave me literally warmed my heart and made me a little misty.

REVELATION: HE STILL NEEDS MY KISSES! HE STILL NEEDS MY AFFECTION! It doesn’t matter how old he gets or how much his independence grows and his dependence on me decreases, he will always need and desire the physical display of my love, because I’m his mommy. Now he won’t always ask and demand it and will undoubtedly resist it one day, but its up to me to freely show them just how much I love them, and that sometimes starts with a simple kiss. <3

Our mommy/son date to the movies last month! He frowned up when I told him we were going on a date, ha!
My oldest and I on our mommy/son date to the movies last month! He frowned up when I told him we were going on a date, ha!

 

I believe the Lord guides us each and everyday in our parenting if we allow Him too, and today I am thankful for that reminder that my son still needs my kisses.  Now I’d like to hear from you! Could your relationship with your children use a boost in affection? If so, I encourage you to make the first move! Hug them, plant a kiss on their face, and tell them you love them.

Tomorrow I invite you back to see how you and your family can win FREE advance screening passes (Metro Detroit location) to see the highly anticipated film, The Jungle Book!

Flash Back Friday: That Time A Target Diaper Saved My Life

My husband and I are huge Lecrae fans! I remember when my husband gave his life to Christ (for real that time lol), he swapped out the JayZ music for Christian rappers like DaTruth, Flame, Trip Lee, and Lecrae. Later on he discovered Bizzle, who is like that guy who ministers the Gospel to the streets through lyric. He’s very controversial, but sold out for Christ!

I remember my husband picked up some of my friends from the airport back in 2008 as they came in town for my first born baby shower, and it was just Jesus music banging in the car with a sick beat and somebody rapping. And they were like “WHAT is this dude listening to?!” Not what one would expect out of a mid-20 something African American male! Jesus Freak and I love it!

So lets fast forward to Thursday, November 6, 2014. Lecrae had recently released a new record, Anomaly, and he came to Detroit as part of his tour dates. I knew how much my husband loved this album, so I booked us tickets, got us a sitter, and off we went! I was geeked because I loved a good beat and I loved how “free” these concerts were. People of all ethnicities, races, and even people who aren’t Christians are fans of Lecrae, and it was liberating to come together and glorify God in this downtown Detroit venue. Gazing the crowd, one would have no idea what genre we were there supporting. I saw parents with their adolescent kids, teens getting dropped off, couples in their mid 50’s and 20’s, Indians, Hispanics, Asians, Blacks, any and everything! I saw this grey-haired white man sitting with his older kids, reciting lyrics word for word as Lecrae performed with a very subtle head nod. I was like “OKAYYYY! Oh you betta know this song!”

And then we heard the beat drop to this song, which was the single of his album, and we all jumped up, hands in the air, lips perched up, head banging, “Say I won’t!”

 

Next thing I know, I’m feeling kinda crampy. As a woman, one is ALWAYS prepared when “that time of the month” is around. So I excuse myself and go to the restroom because I just knew I had my feminine products tucked away in my coat pocket where I put it as I rushed out of the house just hours earlier. To my panic, I couldn’t find it! I searched my junky purse, eager to get back to the concert, and searched my pockets for the 3rd time. Where in the heck was my pad! *yes, some people still use these – no judgement remember?*

And then it was like a light beamed down on me in that tiny, 2-stall bathroom and shined right on a Target diaper I had stashed in my purse. It was folded and wrinkled up, proof it had been there for some time. I’m that mom with the purse that you can find any and everything in – including a diaper for a child who wasn’t even with her. Oh but won’t God do it!

I slightly waddled out of that bathroom, enjoyed the rest of the concert, hugged and took selfies with my husband, and when it was all over, we bought music, t-shirts, laughed and conversed with people we knew, and then started our trek back to the car. And guess what I saw – clear as day-  sitting right under a bush just feet away from the venue, my maxi pad – and the wrapper even slightly blew from the wind. It was like it was saying, “hey boo!” It took everything I had in me not to go and grab it with a grin, exclaiming THERE YOU ARE! Instead, I stood there and cracked up all by myself while my husband and a friend talked and looked at me like I was crazy.

 

Our concert Selfie!
Our concert Selfie!

And that is how a Target diaper saved my life. True Story. You’re welcome.

Now – we aren’t going to let me be the only one who admits to using baby products in unconventional ways right? Share your Flash Back Friday stories below! <3

 

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of MyLifeWithTheseKids friends! This has been a very busy year for my family and I, and we are extremely thankful for God’s faithfulness, provision, grace and mercy through it all!! We were reminded this year that God opens doors that no man can shut, and that He will be your defender when you make conscious decisions to put your faith in Him and to always operate with integrity! So thank you Lord for those faithful reminders!

As far as this Christmas season goes, we have been blessed to give gifts  to Feed The Hungry ministry/organization from their catalog where you could choose gifts that are literally  life saving- chickens, goats, green houses, mosquito nets, etc! We had fun choosing 2 chickens and a Chubby Cheek nutrition package for some babies! Amongst other things, it gives a parent so much joy to be able to grant the desires of your children’s hearts. Check out the video below of Jabin getting what has been on the top of his list!

Caleb, on the other hand, has been obsessed with motorcycles since early Spring. He even went to school this fall creating stories to his teachers of how he rode to school on his motorcycle, and he put so much detail into those stories that his teachers even asked me, “Mrs Gonzales, did Caleb ride to school on a motorcycle today?” LOL LOL #myboy

 

IMG_0844
My husband hadn’t yet taken it out the box yet, so Caleb’s initial reaction was one of slow shock! LOL
IMG_0849
Here we have it out the box and put together! Lord help us!

Elijah, being the youngest boy, really just wants what his older brothers have! We thought we had a hit on our hands with the Paw Patrol Mission Chase toy, but as you can see below, he had his eyes on Caleb’s motorcycle. He doesn’t look that excited huh? Ah well!

Thans mom, but uh can I get on Caleb's motorcycle?
Thans mom, but uh can I get on Caleb’s motorcycle?

I did attempt at being a responsible parent by giving the boys books. Jabin ripped open the wrapping paper, revealing “The Big Book of Bernstein Bears Beginner Books”. I’m looking over his shoulder, corners of my mouth all turned up, proud of the big interest in reading that’s been developing, expecting atleast a smile in return from him. But what do I get? He gave it all of 1.5 seconds of a glance over and dropped it on the floor, with a bang on our hardwood floors and moved right on to the next gift. Sniffle. My husband, who has never been a fan of reading, burst into laughter with a “I told you that was a mud gift!” SMH!  My dream is that one day books will be exciting for Christmas!

So, I pray everyone else is having a Merry Christmas! But the reality is I know everyone is not. I know some of you are struggling with sadness, loss, depression, anxiety, and more. It makes me sad to know that this season prompts such emotional distress. Jesus really is the ONLY reason for the season! How God wrapped himself in flesh because He knew that the world needed a savior in His son Jesus, will always be the focal point for our Christmas’ and I hope this in some way penetrates however you may be feeling in this season, and pray that you get a sense of joy that Jesus truly did give you the best gift ever when He gave His life for you and I! Many blessings to you and yours <3

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

 

Why We Have to Stop Praising Our Kids

I’ve mentioned before how I’ve been a part of Mom 2 Mom classes at church, and how we’ve studied numerous books by highly proclaimed childhood behavior expert, Dr. Kevin Leman. It was during one of these studies that I heard for the first time, that we should NOT praise our children with the typical “yay, Good Job!”, and instead,  encourage them.

This topic was brought up again today during a Parent Cafe at my son’s preschool. Parent Cafe is designed to support families and encourage healthy familial dynamics by discussing important topics like trust, role models, relationships, and more. The moderator informed a parent who was engaged in a discussion about disciplining children, or the lack thereof, and how as a result, she’s told her young nephew time and time again that “he’s bad” due to his behavior.

“Oh, but I praise the good behavior more though! I tell him good job and when he’s being a good boy!” the parent defended.

“But you never want to praise a child, always encourage!” Explained the moderator. That statement was met with a confused silence. What do you mean? I could feel some of the parents thinking.

Well what’s the difference between praising and encouraging? Why is it a big deal?

Think about when you praise your child. I personally have done it plenty of times. When Jabin, my oldest son comes to me and shows me his homework has been completed, or that he successfully completed his sentences, I would say “Good job!”

But what does “Good Job!” really mean? 

  • Its judgmental. Throwing out “good job” is empty and can just as easily be equated with “bad job”. Its expressing if they met up to your standard of quality work and can cause your child to fear failure if they don’t get that “good job!”. What makes it a good job? Focus on what they did and how they did it vs the fact that they simply did it.
  • Its dismissive and a very shallow compliment. Think if you, as an adult, just completed an assignment at work. You put your all into it and you go over with a fine-toothed comb to ensure its as perfect as it can get. You show your boss, and they reply “Good Job!” And thats it. Wouldn’t you feel that they didn’t REALLY look at your report? Would’t you feel kinda put off and dismissed? Wouldn’t you want to know what made your report “good”? Same concept with our children.
  • It can create a praise-a-holic. If all you throw out are praises, treats, and good jobs/way to go’s, then eventually your child will just crave the praise. Imagine when they go to school and their “good job” writing that the parents have thrown at them is now being critiqued and challenged? It can even cause the child to lose interest all together in that activity if the praise ceases.

Praising can translate that its about you, not your child.

One time, Caleb, was learning to write his name. He was struggling. So in school the teacher told me she was going to focus on him learning to master circles and lines first, and then once that was accomplished, they would move on to his name.

So when he came home with a paper scribbled with tons of circles and o’s, I resisted my natural instinct to say “oh my goodness Caleb, good job!” Instead, I said “wow, your circle’s are perfect! And I can tell you were very careful on making your lines straight!” He was beaming! It showed him that I actually looked at his work, and I took the time to point out and acknowledge elements of his assignment that he could be proud of. Likewise, its a time to also offer feedback. Example, “I see you tried really hard with your circles! Let’s practice some more so I can see how mommy can help you.”

Had I simply said, “Caleb! That makes mommy so happy that you drew your circles and lines!” or “Mommy is so proud of you!”,  that praise is actually telling him how what he did made ME feel. And that’s what I learned praising does. It turns something they did and highlights your feelings in response to what they did. Does that make sense? Our feelings should have nothing to do with it. Instead of saying “I am so proud”, say, “You should be so proud of yourself, you worked really hard!”

TheKidCounselor.com created a table to show the effects of praise vs encouragement.

Praise Encouragement
stimulates rivalry and competition stimulates cooperation and contribution for the good of all
focuses on quality of performance focuses on amount of effort and joy
evaluative and judgmental; person feels “judged” little or no evaluation of person or act; person feels “accepted”
fosters selfishness at the expense of others fosters self-interest, which does not hurt others
emphasis on global evaluation of the person-“You are better than others.” emphasis on specific contributions -“You have helped in this way.”
creates quitters creates triers
fosters fear of failure fosters acceptance of being imperfect
fosters dependence fosters self-sufficiency and independence

And here are specific examples that shows how to encourage vs praise!

Praise Encouragement
You are the best student. Any teacher would appreciate you.
You are always on time. You tried very hard to be on time.
You did great! You did it!
I am so proud of you. You should be proud of yourself.
You’re a good helper. You straightened all the bookshelves.
Your picture is so pretty. You used all those different colors.

Now I’d like to hear from YOU! Is the concept of praise vs encouragement new to you? Or is this something you’ve already been warned against and have implemented into your parenting? What are specific ways that you encourage your child, and how have you noticed your child’s response vs if you had praised them instead? What are areas of “praise improvement” that you now are noticing?

Thanks for reading! Until next time <3

Born Still

In honor of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. Dedicated to my amazing sister Tresbien. I loveth you <3


 

It was May 9th, 2011, an evening that was filled with anticipation and jittery excitement. My sister was on her way to the hospital to have my nephew Isiah!!!

She told me that the doctor sent her to the hospital to maybe get induced, but that if not she would have to go back to the doctor the following week. At 39 weeks and 4 days, most pregnant women want their baby out by any means necessary! My sister was no different, she had a hospital bag packed, had already dropped her older children off to me, and set out with her husband to the hospital to bring her baby home. Little did we know she was on her way to receive jolting information that would forever change their lives.

“Hello?!” I answer happily when I saw my sisters name light up on my iPhone. I was expecting her to say “I’m at an 8!” because she always has THE fastest deliveries ever and NEVER needs medication!

“They tryna tell me my baby dead.” She manages to say.

The chaos of watching 3 little children that included a sassy 5 year old little girl and two 2-year old toddler boys all instantly faded. It felt as if someone palmed my heart and clenched it with their fingers.

“Wait WHAT?! What did you just say?” I rushed over to the window away from the children so I could make sure I heard her correctly.

“They tryna tell me my baby is dead! He don’t have a heart beat.”

And honestly that’s all I remember. I rushed out the house, called my older sister, texted my #sisterskeeper and started a prayer chain. I prayed in the spirit the entire way. I was numb. This was NOT happening. I left my husband with eyes wide in disbelief to continue caring for the kids and I promised to update him as soon as possible.

I was the first in my family to get there. The drive there was a constant pleading with the Lord. “No Lord. This is not happening! Isiah shall live and not die!” and I tried to muster every bit of faith that I had and focus it on the healing of whatever was happening with my sister and her unborn child. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! was the only name I could call on behalf of my family. Jesus HELP! WE NEED YOU!

The hospital felt cold, empty, and scarce. There seemed to be no life there. No groups of family with pastel colored balloons and carefully placed ribbons on boxes. No waiting room filled with nervous energy, rosy cheeks and twinkling eyes. Just appropriately empty.

I found my way to my sister. I watched as she sat in the hospital bed with a bulging belly that would eventually have to release her sleeping baby. Little by little the room became filled with family. And we prayed, pleaded, and prayed some more. But the Lord had other plans, and Isiah James Gonzales was born still on May 9, 2011 where he was welcomed by his loving mommy & daddy.  He was a healthy 7 lbs 11oz baby boy with a head full of hair and big hands with long fingers! He was BEAUTIFUL! And we could not begin to fathom why he didn’t make it out with breath in his lungs. There was nothing wrong during her pregnancy. Every check up went seamlessly. Every test and ultrasound was perfect. Turns out, it was a cord accident. But there are so many moms who experience miscarriage, still borns, and infant loss with no answers. Nothing to “blame” for the pain that’s in their hearts, or the reason they can’t sleep, or the reason there is an empty bassinet in their room. No reason to give the many questions and sympathetic eyes that comes their way. The fact is 1 in 4 women experience this loss. Its unfortunately common. It happens to more of our family and friends than we can sometimes count. And here lately on social media particularly, more women are finding a renewed sense of healing and hope through breaking the silence. Its nothing to be ashamed of. Its nothing you were somehow punished for. Nothing you did wrong. And nothing you could have prevented.

 

Baby Isiah getting some lovin' by his mommy!
Baby Isiah getting some lovin’ by his mommy!

For too long, women have had a sense of shame surrounding pregnancy and infant loss. One thing I watched my sister so passionately do was include her son in their family discussions. She sought counseling to help her heal. She talked about him every chance she got. She carried his photos with him and she shared them every chance she got. She wasn’t afraid to talk about him. He was not here on earth with them, but he was here, he existed, and he was loved and had purpose. He is still her son and still her children’s brother. They celebrate him during annual memorials in October. They, along with countless other families, release balloons in their children’s honor. Never forgotten. Always in their hearts.

If you or someone you know has experienced the pain of pregnancy and or infant loss, I pray continued love and healing over you and your family. That in the end, God will still be glorified in your lives in spite of. That He is still good and that He is taking care of your precious children until you meet again. I look at my sister and I know that she is living proof that God is indeed a healer, sustainer, and finisher of our faith. She was blessed with another baby, this time a girl, where she was able to see and hear her heartbeat on May 9, 2012, the same day exactly one year after her son went to be with the Lord! Isn’t that chilling how God gave her some joy on a day that she had no idea how she would feel? Although we didn’t get a chance to know Isiah, God knew him before he was ever in my sister’s womb! I don’t know who will read this, but I love you dearly, and may the Lord’s blessings be upon you. Hugs!

“Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you ….” Jeremiah 1:5

 

 

10 Reasons You Need a Kid-Free Vacation

When’s the last time you took an out of state trip or even a stay-cation with just your spouse? Other than our awesome honeymoon in June of 2007, we really hadn’t been on a REAL vacation together. Last year, my husband was awarded a trip to the Bahamas for being an awesome salesman, but our youngest son Elijah was only 6 months at the time, and there was just no way I could leave him that early! I know, I have been accused of being a stalker mom a time or three, but I confess and wear it proudly! Not to mention he was still  exclusively breastfeeding and wasn’t yet on solid foods, refused pacifiers AND bottles, so who was watching that kid without going nuts?!  If anything other than sweet human milk from a warm soft bosom hit his palette, he would gag and shake his head profusely.

So, off to the Bahamas we went, towing along a stroller with his infant car seat attached, an infant carrier for the times he didn’t want to be in the stroller, a big overly filled diaper bag that had my shoulder begging for mercy, and an infant who had stomach pains due to being overly gassy for the first time in his life, go figure. He cried hysterically for the first 10 minutes straight on our flight, and I was met with the most evil are-you-serious glares to the point I wanted to burst into tears myself. And then I drugged him with benadryl and forced my boob in his mouth for the 3rd attempt because, I was just panicked. Overwhelmed. And it was a safe dosage. And it worked. Non-judgement zone, k?

Fast forward to this past April. My husband again made the Presidential Elite trip from being awesome, this time with the destination being Orlando, Florida! With our sons now being ages 6, 4, and almost 2, me being the over-concerned stalker mom ceased (ever so slightly) and I was determined to go on that trip kid-free! We did, and it was amazing, and here’s why:

  1. Traveling to and from the airport alone without children felt like a vacation in itself. We seriously could have hung out at the airport and turned around and went right back home and been legitimately refreshed. Being able to just carry your one carry-on, sit down, have some coffee and drink it while its still hot, and peacefully wait to board the plane without shushing, threatening, and reassuring overly excited kiddos while hauling an arsenal of tablets, coloring books, snacks, drinks, diapers, wipes, kleenex, and Benadryl, was just simply heavenly! Speaking of Benadryl, last year when we went to Florida with the kids, Caleb, the one who needs to be sedated the most, was the one who REFUSED the “medicine”. He knew it was a conspiracy! What a smart kid lol.
  2. Packing is a breeze and provides a renewed sense of excitement! When I packed for our trip, it wasn’t as daunting knowing that I didn’t have to write out and check off a super long list to ensure the boys had plenty of clothes and back up clothes. We only needed one large bag, and it was exciting to pack cute little outfits, heels, and dream of holding hands and walking along the beach in your cute little cover up and then surprising him with new “night wear”.  Even if none of that actually happened, its fun to imagine it while you pack lol!
  3. We could hang out as long as we wanted and sleep in as late as we wanted. On previous trips with the kids, we had to be conscious of nap times and bedtimes to prevent overly tired and cranky children. Being on vacation with children means you need a vacation from the vacation. But not when its just you two!  In Orlando, we hung out at the Universal City Walk and sang Karaoke til the wee hours in the morning. We felt like teens again!
  4. You don’t have to worry about car seats and car seat safety.  Our last vacation with the kids we had to decide between taking car seats and checking them in at the gate or renting them when we got there. We discovered renting them is ridiculously expensive and towing them along in the airport is just…annoying.
  5. Uninterrupted Quality Time with your Spouse. Its wonderful to be able to channel all of your focus and attention on your love. We were able to have a spa day together, soak in the jacuzzi, hang out at the pool, and just be “us”, which provided awesome opportunities for us to simply bond, laugh, and intimately converse and interact with one another without the demands of our little ones.
  6. Opportunity to Socialize and Commune With Other Adults. Our last real solo vacation happened on our honeymoon before we even had kids. I remember meeting and hanging out with other couples, hooking up, having dinner, and just being our social selves. We got to do that again.
  7. No toddlers squeezing in the middle of you between the hours of midnight and 3am and your husband resorting to the couch. No explanation needed.
  8. You can Read a Fictional Book Again of Your Choice. Who has time to read books other than large-print kiddy books with multiple small children at home? You do when you’re on vacation and they aren’t with you! LOL I read a book from begin-ting to end-ting and it was beautiful. *In my Madea voice*
  9. Opportunity to Do Excursions! We were able to carelessly jump on shuttles and take an airboat adventure ride in the Florida swamps whilst looking for alligators! We fed gators, marveled at how they growled at us when we threw them food, and overall had a great time participating in fun activities together.
  10. It Shows Your Children that You WANT to be together. My boys have become accustomed to us going on date nights, and just recently we took a night away and got a nice hotel room to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary. Our boys see that we genuinely love each other and want to make time to just be “husband and wife”.  Although they can’t fully articulate it now, it provides a great sense of comfort and security for them knowing that they have parents who love them enough to recognize that a loving marriage is one of the best gifts we can give them and actually work at it to have it<3

So, if you and your spouse have been overwhelmed by the demands of life, really sit down and carve out some time away. Jump on Expedia.com and find a reasonably priced overnight hotel stay or browse Groupon.com for some local getaways at a steal! Even if your marriage may be going through a rocky phase, please be intentional in MAKING the time to just be with each other. Make deals with other friends or family with children and take turns babysitting! Whatever you do, make the plan and make it happen!

“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”- Mark 10:9

I’d love to hear from my fellow married friends! What do you do to get away? What are your favorite get away spots? Any tips for couples struggling to find time to reconnect?

Until Next Time,

Stephanie <3