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

Calm Yo’ Nerves, Mama – Part 2

Hey ya’ll!

When I posted the first part of Calm Yo’ Nerves, Mama, I shared it on my personal page and the Blog Fan Page, and one thing became clear, most of us mama’s are now modeling some of the characteristics that our moms used while raising us, and some of those are good and not so good. I read several comments and received lots of feedback with moms that are also struggling with how they react when their children make them angry, and more than we are all willing to admit – the yelling, verbal threats, and voice tones – get to be way out of control. If you’ve ever automatically lashed out by saying the following or any variations of it, its time to get that initial anger management under control!

  • You’re gonna get your face slapped!
  • I will pound your face in!
  • Do it again and see what happens! *what you gone do? lol*
  • Don’t let me come in there and find out that you didn’t do what I told you to do!! You’re gonna be sorry!
  • Or maybe your initial response is more action oriented by snatching your kid up by their collar  or jacking them up against the wall with angry bulging eyes.

Most of the time we recognize when its gone too far, but as discussed in the previous post, we know that we must STOP and take a “Take 5” and then DETOUR our thoughts and respond to our children in a healthier way, thus exemplifying the type of anger management and communication we can be proud for them to model.

I USED TO THREATEN MY SON THAT HE WOULD GET HIS FACE SLAPPED

Another shameful transparency moment: I used to threaten my son that he would get his face slapped when he did things that made me angry. One day I heard him utter that same threat to his little brother, and boy was I embarrassed that he learned that from me! Although I have never slapped him in his face, threatening to do so was very hurtful to him, and one time I caught him crying after I had already mentally moved on from the situation and thought OMG! why is he crying?!

You sa-aaa-aiiid, you were gah-gah-gonna slap me!” he expressed through sobs.

I had to put my big girl pants on, drop to his level, and apologize. “Mommy is so sorry! I said that because I was angry, and I didn’t think about what I was saying. Mommy would never slap you in your face and I am going to do my best not to say that again. Please forgive me. Can I have a hug?” And we hugged it out and I embraced him and reassured him that my love for him was unchanging and that I made a mistake. Even recapping that moment for you all makes me teary. I never want to cause my children emotional pain! But the truth is we are human, we regurgitate some of the fear tactics our parents used on us, and ultimately we are flawed and imperfect people who will do and say things we regret. Just as God extends His grace to us, we have to show that same grace to not only our children, but ourselves when we know we have made mistakes. Instead of telling ourselves over and over again, “you friggin suck as a mom!”, actually take the steps to STOP and DETOUR, practice it until healthy responses to our children become second nature!

WHY DO WE GET SO MAD?!

Now that we’ve learned the steps to take control of how we respond to anger, lets discuss WHY we become angry in the first place! And thanks to the study I’m taking taught by Dr. Kevin Leman in the workbook titled, “Raising Rock-Solid Kids in a Pleasure-Driven World”, I can share it with you all!  So what do you think the reason is? On page 26 of the workbook, Dr. Leman says “the underlying message of highly angry people is ‘things oughta go my way!'” GASP! Now that I think about it, that is nothing but the truth! Think about when you first brought your baby home from the hospital, and you monitored everything your husband did with and for the baby and harped when he didn’t do it your way.

  • “No, you have to put a clean diaper underneath the dirty one so you can hurry and put it on”
  • “did you test the water temperature with a stainless steel thermometer before putting MY baby in the tub first?!”
  • “that bib doesn’t match”
  • “why are you taking so long to put the baby’s clothes on?”
  • “no you have to feed him this way, not like that. Give him here let me show you”
  • “omg, if I pull out one more dry wipe because you forgot to close the top of it I am going to lose it!”

Ha! Whew, thank God for big sisters that warned me NOT to do that with my husband because I had to rebuke myself quite a few times when I wanted to *ok, I ain’t fooling nobody, I did it too*! But basically, we drove ourselves crazy with irritation and anger that things weren’t being done how we wanted them to be done, and as a result we snap and try to take back control out of fear that if it wasn’t done OUR way, then it wasn’t done right.

“Most studies reveal the basis of anger is fear, fear of being threatened or fear of losing control. When our kids aren’t living up to our expectations, we fear what others might think of us, or we react to fear of being a failure as a parent.” (page 26)

In closing, we get angry and lose control due to the fear that things are happening out of our control. The opposite of fear is faith!

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all demonstrated that we were rooted and established in God’s love in every area of our lives, even in our marital and parental relationships?  Will you join me in practicing that this week? I always admire the mom who responds to her child in that high-pitched loving tone lol. The one who says “oh no honey, lets not eat dirt ok?!” all chipper like. Let’s dig a little deeper, push ourselves and practice healthy communication for our kiddos!  Comment below some of your moments that you may not be so proud of and the steps you took to do better. Let’s be on the journey to be better together! Until next time <3

Fifty Shades of Love

 

***** THIS POST IS WRITTEN AND INTENDED FOR MARRIED WOMEN AND MEN ******


 

Today is February 13, 2015 – Valentine’s Day Weekend –  and for three years, millions of people across the globe have been anticipating the day that the widely read, social phenomena Fifty Shades of Grey novel would be adapted to the silver screen.  They’ve already read the books, the dog-eared pages have been flipped, finger licked and asterisked. And they want to see their favorite characters live and in all their true fantastical glory. That day has arrived.

According to comingsoon.net , the Fifty Shades movie has already broken several Fandango records; including the top seller of all Valentine’s Day (weekend) released films, #1 February Pre-seller (topping The LEGO Movie, an animated family film released in 2014), and the biggest R-rated ticket seller in the company’s 15 year history. Theater owners across the country are posting new showtimes to keep up with this frenzy-like demand. All I can say is “wow”, and that “I’m not surprised!”

Particularly since the spring of 2012, I can remember vividly just about every national and local news station had their female anchors holding up this book, reviewing it, and even visiting local libraries who reportedly had month-long waiting lists. Respected reporters in our communities sat in front of their camera-men- flushed and blushed- all because of a British woman who calls herself E.L. James, had the idea to re-create the Twilight series into something more adult-oriented and erotic. Women and moms all over could not get enough. They couldn’t put the book down, and if any were embarrassed to be seen reading it in public, they downloaded on their kindle along with the millions of others, or they simply made a new cover and excitedly delved back into fictional euphoria.

And now that this book is further infiltrating main stream America via its film adaptation, not everyone is excited about it. Many are very vocal in preaching against it and what they deem as a very immoral, dangerous and pornographic form of entertainment that cannot possibly do anyone entertaining this garbage any good. One of those people on that side of the argument is Christian radio Talk-Show host Bob Dutko of WMUZ-The Light, broadcasted out of Detroit, MI.   Dutko is widely known for his very conservative, traditional, religiously apologetic, no non-sense approach to Biblical truth. And yesterday, I was able to be a guest caller on his segment on Fifty Shades, in which he did a call to his female listeners asking them to shed some light on why on God’s green earth, are not only women going to see this film in droves, but Christian women included! What is the draw?

MARRIED CHRISTIAN SEX….BORING???

And this is what I had to say: Married Christian sex is deemed as BORING! Yawn-inducing, I-think-I-have-a-headache kinda boring. When his producer heard my theory, a burst of loud giggles escaped her mouth and she put me right through.

I went on to say what I’ve personally experienced. And this is where I get to the juicy medium-rare meat of it. Fifty Shades is not the issue we should be focused on when it comes to why some Christian women are reading and lining up to see the film. Some of them have simply never allowed themselves to go there with their husbands, and this book laid it out in full detail just how good sex could be. A stark contrast to their boring, “proper” sex life.

No, not all Christian women need help freeing themselves in the bedroom,  so allow me to explain how it was for me! Growing up in the church, your parents try and teach you all the fundamentals of being a “good Christian girl”, and NO SEX before marriage is at the top of the list. As a result, negative connotations associated with sex was unconsciously ingrained in my head, and if you read my introductory blog post “In The Beginning”, you know that my husband and I are elementary sweethearts. We dated and liked each other throughout junior high, high school, and college, and a good chunk of that time included the “raging teen hormone” phase. So what did I tell my “good Christian girl” self? SEX IS BAD! DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT! GROSS! NASTY! Anything to try and talk myself out of that fornicating temptation.

So a few years after college we got married. All was good right? Well yeah sorta, but I found myself facing a mental barrier that it took me years to get over. I had to become consciously liberated to consistently enjoy and desire making love with my husband. And it took me realizing with a newfound revelation that God created sex FOR man and woman within the confines of marriage.

After God created Eve from Adam’s rib, the bible says:

“The man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:25

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh*.” Ephesians 5:31

*flesh representing sexual union

And the Song of Solomon itself is filled with love-making!

“How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights! Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit. Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine. It goes down smoothly for my beloved, gliding over lips and teeth. I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me. … ” Song of Solomon 7:6-12

Some of us Christian women are too reserved to let our husbands lay hold of the fruit of our clusters! There are some sexual acts that some Christian women gasp at and “would NEVER!” But guess what, the world is having sex, writing about it, and ENJOYING IT and what’s more, INFLUENCING THE REST OF THE WORLD ON WHAT SEX SHOULD BE LIKE, particularly our young and impressionable youth! So, some of these reserved women who have had the “good Christian girl” tagline following them their whole lives, haven’t yet embraced the fact that we are sexual beings. They are picking up these books and discovering that their libido has a pulse again.  Making love with your husband should never be “nasty”, should never hurt you (unlike what’s initially presented in Fifty Shades), and should be a place of sweet intimacy that continues to bring you back in union with each other. Check out Christian Marriage Today for more insight on sexual purity within the marriage.

So to be perfectly transparent, here are some of the issues I have faced at different stages in my marriage, and more challenging after it became a life with these kids:

  • Once we were married, I found myself at times really enjoying it and excited to be of one flesh with my husband as God ordained it… some of us call it “legal booty”. But there were other times that I found myself stiff, mentally not there, and even having negative thoughts like “this is nasty, that feels nasty, ugggghhhh gross”. LOL *keep reading husband, I no longer have those thoughts hehe*
  • I remember we had a phase where my husband and I felt disconnected from each other, and the lack of sex had something to do with it. I was pregnant with our 2nd child, we were not as financially stable as we would have liked, I never wanted to have sex and my husband had issues expressing his affection. As a result, we had trouble! My husband felt like he had to go so extra above and beyond to be “deserving” of me wanting to intimately be with him. As if it was a sexual favor. Ladies, mommies, your husband DOES NOT want to feel like its a chore for you to have sex with him. They want to feel just as desirable as we do. They want us to initiate it and physically show that we love them and that we like the way they make us feel! I had to learn that valuable lesson that it is hurtful for your husband to have to semi beg for sex from his WIFE!
  • Yes, having a baby or multiple little ones running around all day definitely takes a toll on you. You are running the house all day, may be a working mom while STILL having to run the house, and by the time 10pm rolls around, the kids are bathed, lunches are made, and bed-time stories are read. You are settled in bed absolutely exhausted. Then your husband does the infamous shoulder tap, and your first inclination is to take that finger and break it.  You may even say “really, after I’ve been rippin and runnin with these kids all day while you sat in front of the TV, and now you wanna wait until I’m good and sleepy to want to do it?!” Then he just defeatedly turns back over, unfulfilled, and tries his best to go to sleep. Yeah…lets try not to do that lol! It’s in those tired exhausted moments that we have to try and remember that our FIRST love is lying next to us. They are the person that helped us create our little babies. Allow your love to help soothe the stresses of this world that he faces every single day making provisions for his family.
  • Particularly for nursing moms, it is definitely a struggle for your breasts to be used by both your little one and your husband. And if you were like me, there were periods where your “girls” were simply off limits. *do not pass go, do not collect $200* And if you have a loving husband they should understand that its a temporary state that will be over as soon as your nipples are no longer cracked, bleeding, and sore from the death-grip latch of your baby.
  • I learned that despite being tired and worn down from the demands of little people, I had to be intentional about initiating sex with my husband. For me its making a plan in my head in advance and getting excited about it. Take off that nasty spit up tshirt and those yoga pants with dried up spaghetti sauce, and put on something thin and lacy! Make your man’s heart thump at the sheer sight of you <3

So, those are just a few of the issues that I faced and overcame as a  woman and mother and at times, continue to do so! #thestruggle is real. Some of you may wonder, “well did you read the books?” and if so, “What did you think?!”.  In short, I was initially disgusted at the thought of reading it, then a friend of mine, also Christian, convinced me to give them a try because she considered it to be a genuine good love story. So I read them, and like all the other women, got excited and to our shock, 9 months later here comes another big head boy! (lololol) While I don’t go around suggesting everyone  grab a copy, I don’t regret reading them because it was what I needed at that time in my life to make me realize that there I was as a married woman to the man of my dreams, not fully enjoying and embracing what God Himself ordained for marriage!

But to be clear, I absolutely do not recommend to single women because it stirs up stuff that one shouldn’t be feeling without a husband! It should be, however, a wake up call to all the Christian women who are judging and wagging their finger at the other Christian women who are sitting in a theater watching the film as I currently type. Yes, we are held accountable for our own actions and everyone has their own convictions about what they consume, but dear Christian woman, what young wife have you invested in and mentored lately? The Bible instructs  wise women to teach the young. We need wives and mothers to disciple the young and newly married on what it is to be a Godly wife and mother  (Titus 2:3-5) If someone were discipling Christian women on even the subject of sex which is a MAJOR factor in successful marriages, maybe a secular, sinful book wouldn’t have had the chance to fill that void. Maybe we gift new brides with books like Under the Sheets: The Secrets of Hot Sex in Your Marriage by renowned Christian pyschologist Dr. Leman.

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So, while I did not intend for this post to be this long, I hope it somewhat kept your attention and that what I’m trying to express is understood. This Valentine’s weekend, whatever it is you plan to do or watch, let it be a time to express your love to your spouse. If you are a woman and have had trouble enjoying relations with your husband, I encourage you to firstly pray about it! The Lord wants you to enjoy this gift! Secondly, talk to your husband and allow him to be the partner he was created to be for you. Relax, enjoy, and practice creating your own 50 Shades of Love for each other. Have fun with that :)

*I am giving away a copy of Under the Sheets: The Secrets of Hot Sex in Your Marriage! If you’d like to be in on the random selection, comment below or send me an email to stephanie@mylifewiththesekids.com with “Married Loving” as the title with a little blurb of one way you show your spouse you love them! All emails must be received by Friday, February 20th, 12pm EST.

Whooooo is Wearing That?!

First off let me say that being a mother is the biggest honor and gift. I remember when I was expecting my first son, a good friend described my impending birth experience as an opportunity to assist God in a miracle. And boy was that statement accurate.

Despite morning sickness , oops let me scratch that because that is the biggest lie ever! Yes its normal for nausea to hit a prego first thing in the morning as she wakes up, but can we strike a petition for doctors and all the “What To Expects” and “Having a Baby” books to officially change the term “morning sickness” to “spontaneous and sporadic vomit reflexes all day er’day until who knows when?” Now I would vote for that! Anyways, despite the all day er’day vomit reflexes while I carried my first-born, Jabin, I thoroughly enjoyed being pregnant! My heart thumped a little bit faster whenever I felt him move, and my eyes widened with sheer amazement whenever my belly did a big involuntary jump or became lopsided or if I looked down and saw what looked to be an indentation of an elbow or foot or something through my stomach. Oh and don’t let me have pushed or poked whatever limb it was trying to burst through my flesh only to feel a little push or poke in return. HEART BURSTING EXCITEMENT AND LOVE RIGHT THERE!!! Like to feel a little human respond to their mommy’s touch en utero is just amazing. Ok, writing this I might just be having a little pregnancy nostalgia! #fixitJesus #uterusonlockmode

With Jabin, I gained a whopping 12lbs, and he was 8lbs 3oz of it. I was literally all belly and bounced back to a weight that was even smaller than before I conceived. Then came my second son Caleb. I guess I assumed that it would be the same? NEGATIVE! There was Kerby’s Coney Island…every day during lunch break….ok and breakfast on the way to work… #durp. And I craved cheeseburgers. Not just any old cheeseburger. But chili cheeseburgers. The servers knew me by name. That’s probably not a good thing. With Caleb I gained about 30lbs which was still in the normal range, but I remember being thoroughly panicked that day I stood on the nurse’s scale and saw I had crossed the 200lb mark. That was definitely a momentary pause for internal tears. Caleb screamed into the world weighing 9lbs on the nose. Sadly, no #teambounceback occurred after him. It wasn’t until he was over a year old that I made a decision to get back in the gym and start back running. As soon as I started losing a little weight and my cardiovascular endurance started to strengthen,  I gasped one day that Aunt Flow had not yet made her usual monthly visit! And I know I sound really dumb for saying this, but despite not being on any real birth control, we were really shocked that I was pregnant! LOL I was like where did this little bean come from?!!! But praise God for my sweet little man, who was born 5 days late at 9lbs 6oz! But I carried very big, I was constantly asked if I was having twins pretty much with all three of them but especially with Elijah, the last one. You don’t believe me? See below for a Flash Back Friday!

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Me at 36 weeks, and didn’t deliver for almost 5 more weeks!

I am describing my pregnancy weight gains and baby’s birth weights and showing you a photo to paint the picture that my body stretched far and wide three different times. And as I write this today, my body is a physical representation of those big beautiful babies that I carried. Stretch marks, saggy boobs, stretch marks, umbilical hernia, stretch marks, stomach muscles never closing which will eventually require surgery to repair, weaker bladder, bigger feet (anyone wear size 8’s?), stretch marks. Need I go on?  As women, for the most part the pregnancy weight comes on very slowly. And when the baby comes out, there is a big relief, but yet when we look in the mirror, we still look pregnant, everything is droopy, and we think breastfeeding will make us skinny in 6 weeks. And when that doesn’t happen, its not unusual to feel a little pang of depression for how our body looks, and when taking photos there is that “lurking durp” in our eyes…you know, that thing that shows we don’t feel that good about ourselves because we are FAT and WANT OUR BODIES BACK!

Let me reassure you and I as well, because I still look in the mirror sometimes and cringe at the sagging skin on my belly. Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made by the ultimate Creator Himself! Our soft bellies have the capacity to stretch to hold and incubate life. Our hips have the ability to open wide, receiving and delivering the precious seeds that were planted. Those wider than we like hips are home to our babies, and those marks on our bellies and thighs represent the breath of life that we were able to bring into this world. Our now saggy breasts were once swollen with the richest source of nutrition designed especially for our little ones. Even the sound of their cries could cause a milk let down reflex something serious! The bags under our eyes and the stiff backs are signs that we loved and nurtured our blessings back to sleep during the wee hours of the morning.

So when my husband came home one evening and greeted me with a pat on the butt and some “gifts” in a bag, I opened it up to find little articles of clothing, well you can’t even call it that, it resembled things that my 9yo niece might wear during a dance recital.  I first dissected it and questioned the sizing. “Ummm did you know this says an XL on the package?! I am NOT an XL! WHAAAHHHHH”, and when I got to the 2nd package all I could say was “WHOOOO is wearing THAT?!” But, I obliged, and tried on the little naughty wear, and with great hesitance I let him see me. I saw an ugly flabby saggy stomach and soft thighs, and he saw his beautiful, desirable bride that bore his children.

So if you are like me at times and find yourselves being way too critical of your post baby bodies, I urge you to remind yourselves of what your body did to give you that baby. Get up and move, take a walk or a swift jog, crack open that bottle of tinted moisturizer and apply some eyeliner and a little lip gloss. Ultimately, we have the power to make small changes every day that will help us be healthier and feel better about ourselves. Now pick up your phone, take a selfie, and give yourself a smile. You da’ bomb :)

How Dr Myles Munroe Influenced My Marriage

On Sunday November 9, 2014,  the earth lost a great man, husband, father, teacher, and preacher to the masses, and heaven gained a faithful servant. It was reported that Dr Myles Munroe along with his wife, Ruth, and other ministry leaders were involved in a fatal airplane crash. All who were blessed with his teachings and infamous quotes are mourning this great loss. Prayers of comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding go out to his family, friends, and the entire Bahamian and Christian community.

Early on in my marriage, my husband and I got a hold of a 5-part marriage series taught by Dr Munroe, and God used that to open the eyes of our understanding on what it was to truly love unselfishly, give freely, and willingly compromise in order to have a fruitful and long lasting marriage. The best gift you can give your children is a happy marriage! I’d like to share with you 10 of those teachings & quotes that have stayed with us and have positively impacted our marriage. Dr. Myles Munroe, thank you for your obedience to your calling, for teaching us unabashedly about love, intimacy, and fulfilling the needs of your spouse. Heaven is celebrating!

HOW DR MYLES MUNROE IMPACTED MY MARRIAGE: 10 LESSONS & QUOTES THAT CHANGED OUR LIVES

  1. “God did not create woman from man’s head, that he should command her, nor from his feet, that she should be his slave, but rather from his side, that she should be near his heart.”
    ― The Purpose and Power of Love & Marriage
  2. “Marital faithfulness involves more than just sexual fidelity. Being faithful to your wife also means defending her and affirming her beauty, intelligence, and integrity at all times, particularly before other people. Faithfulness to your husband means sticking up for him, always building him up and never tearing him down. Marital fidelity means that your spouse’s health, happiness, security, and welfare take a higher place in your life than anything else except your own relationship with the Lord.”
    ―  The Purpose and Power of Love & Marriage
  3. “The number one need of a woman is affection. A woman doesn’t want affection, she needs it! Just like a car needs gasoline, a female needs affection. Affection is fuel to a woman’s tank.”  ―Understanding Men and Women’s Needs Pt 1 of 5                                                                                                                           
  4. “A man is stimulated by what he sees. A woman is stimulated by what she hears. When a man sees a woman, it impacts him. When a woman hears a man, it impacts her. We are different creatures. Because of that a male has a natural desire to look for beauty. And he has a natural desire to want to protect what is his. Thus a desire to want something that is beautiful and worth protecting. He doesn’t want an attractive wife… He needs it! A man wants to be proud of his wife!” ―  Understanding Men and Women’s Needs Pt 3 of 5
  5. “If you want a woman to function for you, be honest with her all the time and be open. Tell her everything that you need to tell her. Don’t ever tell any other woman something you didn’t tell your wife. Be honest with her. If you have a plan for business, tell your wife. She doesn’t want this,  she needs this.” ―  Understanding Men and Women’s Needs Pt 3 of 5                                                                      
  6. “Jesus is the man. The church is the woman. The woman should be able to cast all her cares upon her husband.” ―  Understanding Men and Women’s Needs Pt 3 of 5
  7. “Home is supposed to be a refuge for a man. A hiding place. Study your home. Is it a place your husband wants to stay and hide from the world? Do not make it a war zone! When he runs away from the world, home should be a hiding place.”  ― Understanding Men and Women’s Needs Pt 4 of 5
  8. “A woman that is like a dripping faucet makes a man sleep on the roof. How does a woman destroy a man the bible says? With her own tongue.”   ― Understanding Men and Women’s Needs Pt 4 of 5
  9. “A marriage and a family is like a business. A business operates on partnership and each spouse should give equal share to deposit into the general account. It doesn’t matter who makes more money.” ―Understanding Men and Women’s Needs Pt 4 of 5
  10. “Your wife should never have to be under pressure to supply (provide). She needs financial stability.”  ― Understanding Men and Women’s Needs Pt 5 of 5

***BONUS TIPS BY DR. MUNROE THAT WE LIVE BY!***

  • “A man doesn’t want respect. He needs it! A man does not need love. No where in the bible does it say a woman should love a man. Why? Because a man needs respect. A man interprets respect as love. Ephesians Chapt 5 says husbands love your wife. It never tells the woman to love the man. But it does say wives respect your husbands! How do you respect a man? Respect means to speak highly of. To hold in high regard. To praise. Here’s whats hurting in the church. Wives respect their pastor more than they respect their husbands. You are not married to your pastor.”                                          ― Understanding Men and Women’s Needs Pt 5 of 5
  • “If your car needs gas, you go to a gas station and the station is closed. What do you do? You go to another station. Women, put a sign up that says “always open”. A man doesn’t want to fight for sex with his wife!”                                                                                                                  ― Understanding Men and Women’s Needs Pt 5 of 5

Which tips do you identify with the most? For my husband and I, its definitely the issue of properly expressing love, affection, and respect.

I pray that these profound and biblical marriage principles taught by Dr Myles Munroe will be the tools needed to reignite the fire, reestablish the principles of love, affection, and intimacy, and ultimately help you sustain joy and marital bliss. In Jesus Name!

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 25-33 (NIV)

In The Beginning

Before there was My Life With These Kids, there was just us… Red & Steph, Steph & Red, our little version of Love & Basketball, except football is more appropriate.

Red, the little boy from Mrs. Timney’s 5th grade class, quietly reserved, popular without trying, naturally athletic, and graceful. Strange to describe an 11 year old boy as graceful, but he just was. He was polite, never used bad language like the rest of the little bad boys, he displayed manners, he never acted out in class for the sake of a laugh or a “class clown” title. He just was.  Quiet, attentive, observant, cool with confidence, and charmingAnd the boy they called Red, whom his mom named Jermaine (yes, after Jermaine Jackson – blank stare), had a crush on me! I never would have known had it not been for his mom visiting our classroom one spring afternoon in 1992. The sun was glaring through the classroom windows, and us students were jittery with the excitement that warm weather and spring and almost summer time brings! His mother chatted with Mrs. Timney, and then her eyes scanned the room as she asked, “which one of you is Stephanie?”

Let me describe Ruthie for you. My now mother in law. She is LOUD. LOL super nice, vibrant, and LOUD. To say she has a big personality is an understatement. Her personality is huge. So picture a shy 5th grade little girl, getting singled out by the loud vibrant mother of the cute, big brown-eyed, coolly confident boy in class who has never even talked to you. I was kinda scared! But I slowly raised my hand, and watched her eyes land on me. She gave me a big smile and proclaimed, “oh! That’s who my son likes. Cute little girl!” I’m sure Red would have liked to melt in the wooden floor at that very moment, but he remained silent, and the only indication that he was embarrassed was seen through him biting his lower lip.

And that’s how Red & Steph, the story of “us”, began! We took 5th grade graduation photos together, he chased me around on the playground during recess, we went to Washington Jr High School together, and it was in the 6th grade that my father first learned of some boy named Red. He knew because I shared a room with my older sister, Tres, and we had the privilege of having our own phone line way back in 1992! Now that was high class! But anyways, our family was eating dinner, and for some reason, my little irritating brother, Solomon, heard our room phone ring, answered it, and came bouncing down the stairs with excitement yelling “oooohhhh daddddyyy! Its a boy on the phone for Stephhhhhhh!!!”

My dad and I simultaneously jumped from the table, my dad racing up the stairs toward our bedroom, with me close behind, already dreading the impending doom I was facing.  He reached the phone, and spoke with disdainful authority “who is this! how did you get my daughter’s  phone number! She does not receive boy phone calls, do not call back!” Me, heart pounding and ready to choke the living daylights out of Solomon who I named “Man” as a 17 month old toddler because I couldn’t pronounce his name. And Man in return looking back at me and giggling his little annoying little brother laugh.

But, that was the beginning. We snuck and talked on the phone over the course of 4 years until my dad realized he could not not let me talk to Red on the phone. There were times I wrote Red letters, three to be exact, and broke up with him because he was still too shy to talk to me, but then we always found our way back “going together” somehow. We had our first, disgusting kiss right by my locker in the 6th grade (btw, reflecting on my 11 year old self kissing is really making me shake my head). In my head it was supposed to be a scene from The Young & The Restless (a soap opera I was forbidden to watch…but no one was home after school to stop me lol), but instead, after it was over I raced outside and spit in the grass, scraping my tongue with my finger nails, hoping to erase what had just happened. But….that was just the beginning. We’ve had plenty of practice over the years, hehe.

Red & Steph at 8th grade prom, in my Gantos dress.
Red & Steph at 8th grade prom, in my Gantos dress.

Today, I am sitting here thinking about our beginning, and I have flashes of memories in my mind that include the many football games and glorious days as Red as the most highly recruited HS football player in the midwest, him attending the prestigious all-boys catholic school while I’m at one of the city’s 2 high schools (Go Chiefs!), sharing our first “I love you” during our senior year, going to college together at the University of Michigan (he could have went anywhere…but HE followed ME to Michigan … what a stalker :0 ), the days we hung out on campus with his fellow football buddies, us taking catechism together at the church I grew up in (Straight Gate in the house!), him taking me back to Webster Elementary where we began and asking for my hand in marriage. I said “yes” on Saturday, August 9th, 2006, and we said “I Do” on Saturday, June 16th, 2007.  Our first dance was to “I Gotta Be” by Jagged Edge, and we’ve been doing our best to be that and more ever since.

After we said "I Do!"
After we said “I Do!”

Jermaine Maurice Gonzales, better known as Red, has been my everything. He is my first and only love, the one I can share my insecurities and fears with, the one that has taught me to give compassionately, the one who outside of my family, has given me unconditional love. He is hardworking, and so charming that once one is in his presence and engaged with him, they leave feeling like they just found their new BFF.  He loves the Lord, and you will hear him banging out to Christian rappers like Lecrae, Da Truth, and Bizzle on any given day. The one that picked up where my parents left off and enjoyed making me happy and giving me some of my heart’s desires. Three of those heart’s desires are little versions of him. Jabin Jermaine, Caleb Jermaine, and Elijah David Jermaine Gonzales. Our sons.  All two years apart.

And that’s how I am blessed to be before you today, and share with you the heart bursting love, joy, ups and downs, victories and frustrations, spiritual journey, of My Life With These Kids. I am so excited that this will be a place for me to share, encourage, uplift, and inspire like so many of you have done for me. Sure I will share the funny stories, the Caleb-isms (my Facebook family knows about these), but I will also delve a little deeper into topics and issues that God has laid on my heart regarding raising a Christian family, having all boys, finances, maintaining a prosperous marriage, health & wellness, and so much more.

Me with my first born, Jabin!
Me with my first born, Jabin!
Me with my 2nd born-Caleb!
Me with my 2nd born-Caleb!
Me with my 3rd son, Elijah aka Eli!
Me with my 3rd son, Elijah aka Eli!

I have to admit, I was so fearful to start a blog, because there are so many genius blogs out there, blogs that have made me ugly cry, gut laugh, and hold my head higher with inspiration. But there is always room for one more. Because I know that my desire and gift to write will make room for me (Proverbs 18:16). Until next time! Muah!