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

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

Spring Break Fun!

Happy Resurrection Sunday loves! To think that God gave His only son, to save a wretch like me makes me so thankful! I know I couldn’t sacrifice my only son for a bunch of heathens, so that’s how I KNOW we serve a supernatural God!

 

My family on Resurrection Sunday (Easter) 2015!
My family on Resurrection Sunday (Easter) 2015!

Across the country, many of our school-aged children are on SPRING BREAK this coming week, whoo hoo! How about this: I’m excited just to have a break from the chaotic routine of waking up, figuring out what these kids are gonna eat for breakfast, depending on their mood having to borderline threaten them to get dressed, do the 3 second countdown for them to brush their teeth or else, all along frantically watching the clock to ensure we all get out of the house on time! And let me have not been too lazy the night before to make Jabin’s lunch and morning/afternoon snack or else that’s another 5 minutes of rush-filled regret. Once I hustle them outside, the baby boy Elijah does his daily dart across the lawn in the opposite direction of the truck as he takes quick looks behind him to see how much time he has before I long stride it over to him and scoop him in the air as he releases a giggling shriek. I have to admit, just thinking about it brings a smile to my face because he really thinks he is going somewhere, lol! After our morning drop offs the rest of my day is dictated by the clock and the schedule is planned to the minute most days. So their spring break represents just a chance to breathe for all of us! I’m excited because I am learning that rest is a gift from God!

SPRING BREAK WITH THE KIDS…. TERRIFIC OR TORTURE ?

Sadly, a “break” does not always represent a chance to relax because for many families, having the kids at home for a full week can be kind of scary! Ok lets be real, having the kids at home for a full week can mean torture is coming your way! But it doesn’t have to be:) Our children don’t need to go somewhere extravagant or have Martha Steward-esque arts and crafts set out before them everyday this week, but they DO need to be occupied and have some sort of entertainment!  Or else… you have bored kids on your hands that will find their own ways to fill up their space, and if your kids are anything like mine, that means fighting over the iPad mini that my husband won from work, my iPad with the cracked corner, who’s watching what on the TV, whatever toy is in demand at the moment, fighting, tattle telling, depleting the pantry from any and every snack there is, and informing you they are thirsty every 20 minutes.

So I’d like to help a mama out with this list of 10 ideas and things to do to help you keep your sanity and the kids enjoying their break!

FREE! Save your coin and take advantage of these 5 local attractions that are free!

  1. Take the kids to your local library for a few hours of fun that includes story time, make believe, dress up, and more! If you live in a city with a drab library that’s dark and depressing like me, then cross the city line and take advantage of one that’s more fun and kid-friendly! Many libraries these days partner with each other so you can even use your local library card to rent books and movies from the one you are visiting!
  2. Children’s Museums and art centers (example Detroit Institute of Arts) also offer free admission for certain counties or through your local library. So while you are at the library, ask what other local attractions they may have resources available for.
  3. Your local shopping center’s Children’s Play Area! Over the summer, my boys and I were at the mall weekly simply for them to run, shout, and play catch while I could sit back in peace and watch them within a safe distance. Here, you can pack a lunch for the kids or eat lunch at the food court!
  4. If you belong to a fitness center with a children’s center, don’t forget to take advantage! With it being spring break, they have more activities planned.
  5. Layer up the kids and take a walk to your local park. Don’t have a nearby park? Then jump in the car and drive to one:) Fresh air is so refreshing!

IF YOU HAVE A BUDGET TO WORK WITH, CHECK OUT THESE FUN IDEAS!

  1. Browse Groupon or LivingSocial to see what family activity deals are available! In Metro Detroit, Airtime Trampoline is offering a great deal here.
  2. Go to the zoo! According to ZooChat.com, spring is one of the best times of the year to visit the zoo; the animals are typically more visible and more active in addition to it not being as crowded. Put on your walking shoes, pack a lunch, and have at it!
  3. Family films like Disney’s Cinderella and Home by Dreamworks  are in theaters and receiving great reviews, so schedule a movie day!
  4. Look into Spring Break day camps at your local Boys & Girls Club, Salvation Army, and fitness centers like Lifetime Fitness. They offer fantastic fun-filled days for parents who aren’t able to take off of work for Spring Break or the parents that prefer to let someone else do the entertaining, lol.
  5. Take a road trip to an indoor water park like Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari Resorts, or simply find a local hotel that offers a kid friendly pool and create your own family fun Spring Break Staycation!

Whatever it is you do this week, remember to have fun and allow this to be a time to create precious memories with your children! Join me in doing the best we can to be intentional of eliminating distractions like our phones and social media so that when we are participating in these fun activities, we are actually fully present. Trust, the kids are watching!

If you have anything fun planned, share in the comments below! Happy Breaking! :)

Frozen on Ice with Boys

Growing up, my parents ensured that we had yearly family vacations plus the opportunity to attend some of the local shows and attractions that visited our area, such as the UniverSOUL Circus, Disney on Ice, Harlem Globetrotters, and etc. So when thinking back on my childhood, not only did we not have a need for anything, but our parents were blessed to be able to provide some of the “extras”! So like most grandparents, they like to see their children’s children have fun experiences as well. So the decision to take my three sons to see Disney’s FROZEN on Ice, was partly pressured by my mother! It went kind of like this:


 

It was a chilly, cloudy day in Michigan where its known to be 50 degrees one day and an ice storm the next. I parked my truck, turned my head around to look at my youngest son, Elijah, and was greeted with those beautiful big eyes, green snotty nose (thanks to our wonderful weather), and happy wide grin. I smile in return, and that smile reached my eyes. Oh how I love him so! I unstrapped him from his car seat, propped him on my hip, kissed his cheeks approximately 4 times, nuzzled his neck, and fetched my black leather MK tote and balanced it on my wrist. As I opened the door to my mom’s hair salon, I was greeted by a basket of snacks that would completely destroy my morning workout within 30 seconds, waved to everyone I saw, and continued to the back of the salon where my mom sat in the cozy dimly lit waiting room, eating a snack and watching some TV.

“Hi mom! Can you cut Elijah’s hair today? I hope so, because we are NOT leaving without a haircut!” I say in a half-joking manner.

My mother laughed in return, responding “yep I have time! I just have a few clients to put under the dryer and then I can do it.”

Elijah sat in the styling chair, and looked very content as my mom put a towel and cape around his little shoulders and proceeded to cut about 2 inches of fluffy curly hair off of his head!

Haircut Time!
Haircut Time!

After he was done, I proceeded to put Elijah’s coat on and whisk him home for his nap, and I mentioned to my mom that I was thinking about surprising the boys with tickets to see Frozen on Ice! But she saw my hesitancy, and exclaimed, “that would be so nice!” and then her eyes slightly squinted, as she continued talking, reminding me “ya’ll went to stuff like that! Let them boys go!” So there it was! It was final, the Gonzo crew was going to see Disney on Ice!

Three days later, we found ourselves in bumper to bumper traffic as we made our way to The Palace of Auburn Hills.

“Are we really in traffic to see FROZEN?!” my husband asked with a hint of disbelief.

“Uh yeaaaahhh! Frozen is huge, you know this!” I said in return, giggling.

We slowly inched our way into the parking lot after handing over $10 to park, and our boy’s excitement continued to grow because we didn’t tell them where we were going! As we parked, our 6 year old Jabin took a guess.

“I know! We are going to see Spongebob Squarepants!” He yelled out with a big toothless grin.

“Nooo, but you’ll see soon!” I replied.

We all got out of the car, hand in hand and walked towards the entrance. I saw my husband looking at the droves of people walking alongside us, and he blurted out, “this don’t make no sense! We should be chanting ‘Deeeetroit Basketball‘ right now! Look at all these little girls in princess dresses! We got all boys taking them to see a Disney show!”

At this point, I’m full out laughing, but simultaneously scoured the crowd myself, singling out every little boy I saw. “There’s one! And there’s another one!’ I pointed out, somewhat satisfied. “Yeah, but they have sisters, it makes sense for them!” he says back, joining in on the laugh. Me, still laughing, I fought back with “oh whatever! Frozen is not just for little girls! The boys love Frozen!”

As we continued to walk, I turned and saw another family with not only just boys with them, but three boys like us! “YES! See, they have three boys just like us!” Red (did I mention that’s my husband’s nickname?) turned his neck then looked back at me, “they’re Asian, they don’t count! They probably helped produce the show!” Laughter erupted from my belly as I scolded him on his stereotypical “asians are smart” comment. *He was 100% joking, so I hope my inclusion of that in this story does not offend, because we sincerely love everybody!*

We finally stepped foot inside the Palace, and were bombarded with icy blue Frozen everything! Tshirt and toy stands, photo booths, $5 Frozen limited edition coloring books, and more! I looked to see how excited my boys must be, and they smiled a little but were definitely not over the moon lol.

We found our section where an usher politely directed us to the nosebleed section. “Ummm, these tickets were $49.50 a piece, why are we way up here?!” I asked, getting upset. “You just don’t know how to spend a little money, why is my nose bleeding!” My husband jokesd. I marched back down to the usher, because clearly this was a mistake!

“Yes, this is the correct section. These tickets are more expensive because they face the middle of the ice”, she said. I let out a very dry, side eye-ish “Oh”, and went back up to our seats, providing my husband with the explanation. I found myself feeling disappointed we weren’t closer and silently blaming the phone operator for telling me we had great seats, but noticed my boys didn’t have a care in the world. They were happy and that’s what mattered! *In retrospect I should have looked at a seating chart, so yeah….slaps to me*

The show began, and our 3yo son Caleb exclaimed, “yay, Mickey Mouse is out there!” We turned our full attention to the ice rink, where the traditional Disney characters skated around, waved, and welcomed us to get up and dance and sing along to the show!

“Mom, cotton candy!” My boys yelled out, pointing at the usher on the other side of the aisle heralding a balloon of cotton candy with customized Olaf hats on top. I ran over to get his attention.

“How much?”

“Fifteen dollars.”

My eyes bulged. “FIFTEEN DOLLARS?!” He smiled his understanding as he probably got the same reaction a thousand times over the weekend. “Uhhhh lemme get uhhhh, hmmm. One!” I decided, eliciting more giggles from the usher.

I went back to our seats, my husband saw me carrying one bag of cotton candy, and immediately began to shake his head. “Steph, did you really come back with one and we have three boys?! You have to expect to spend money out here!” He knows I’m cheap, and he is constantly teasing me about it. So after they devoured that in 5 minutes, my husband got up to go and get another one in addition to a $12 bag of popcorn. So this was what robbery felt like huh?

Yummy cotton candy!
Yummy cotton candy!

About 20 minutes into the show, Elijah became restless and was planning his escape, so I pulled out my golden weapon….the boob! Yes, he’s still nursing. I have half way attempted to wean, but the way my patience is set up…I always give in. So here we are at 19 months still nursing! He is asleep within 5 minutes and stayed that way throughout the intermission and the duration of the show.

“Yeah, I bet you are glad I’m still nursing now huh?” I asked my husband who makes it a weekly point to badger me on when I’m getting him off and jokes about it to mostly everyone he knows. “That boy 15 years old and still on the nipple!” he’s been known to say…out loud. “I am soooo happy you’re still nursing!” he says in agreement since that meant he did not have to wrestle down a curious restless toddler for another hour and a half.

Now on to the actual show. It was good, entertaining, and the voices and songs were exactly like the movie of course. So it felt like I was watching the movie on ice, but in slower motion. I found myself dozing off at times. My husband looked around and pointed out all the other fathers with their necks weighted down by their droopy heads and heavy eyes,  and the one just a few seats over looked utterly glazed over and confused as to why he was there. And then the infamous “Let it Go” came on and the Palace came alive, including myself, and I joined in, belting out “the past is in the PAAHASSSSTTTT! LET IT GOOOO, LET IT GOOOOO!” Yeah! LOL

When the show was over, Elijah awakened and clapped as if he saw the whole thing, and Jabin and Caleb happily clapped and smiled as well!

The Boys at Disney on Ice!
The Boys at Disney on Ice!

THE REVIEW

Jabin, the analytical smarty pants one: “It was ok I guess, but it was just like the movie! It was kinda boring!”

Caleb, the touchy feely, easy to please one: “I loved it! Yeah, I liked it so much! Can we come back again tomorrow?”

Elijah, the one that slept on my breast the entire time: “Yay!”

Me: “Very well done and translated well to the ice! But since the movie is still so popular and relevant, I found myself bored at times.”

My husband, a man’s man who often says he’s happy he doesn’t have to deal with emotional daughters (a lie, he wants one): “Pure torture!”

He even remixed “Let it Go” for me:

 

If you’re a parent and you took your kid(s) to see Disney’s FROZEN on Ice, comment below and let me know how they liked it! Was your husband or your children’s father more cooperative than mine? LOL!

Thanks for reading!

The Brightest and Best

One of the things I love about my church home, Brightmoor Christian Church, is one of our missions: “the bigger we get the smaller we must get”, which translates to mean that the more people attend and join the church, there must be an active initiative to remain small so that everyone feels a sense of intimacy, belonging, and brother/sisterhood. They accomplish this through tons of events for every age group, small group outings, gatherings, studies, Mom 2 Mom playdates, men and women’s retreats, and more! It has been an absolute pleasure so far meeting other women and families in the small group studies I’ve been able to attend.

Currently, I’m taking a “Mom 2 Mom” class with other Stay at Home moms, which has been a literal breath of fresh air to be surrounded by moms and women of faith and hear them share the same concerns, struggles, and prayers for their children and families! When I hear other moms wearing similar shoes exasperate that they are struggling to get their kids to eat healthy, or stop fighting, or pray that their spouse can be on the same parenting page, or for their kids to simply listen without making them lose their mind, there’s me mentally doing a high jump-on a trampoline- shouting YES! ITS NOT JUST MEEEE! *insert borderline psychotic mix of laughing and crying*

The title of the class is called “Making Children Mind without Losing Yours” by internationally known and NY Best Times seller Christian psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman. During the course of our study, which is moderated by great moms and leaders within our church, we watch the video series as we follow along in a workbook, and afterwards share our experiences and pray together about our own hopes, triumphs, failures, or personal issues in relation to this parenting journey!

During one of our recent weekly meetings, I heard something profound from Dr. Leman that I want to share with you regarding our children’s academic progression and development:

WHEN IN DOUBT, HOLD THEM BACK.

Wait what? Hold our kids back?! GASP! And I thought wow, that’s the advice coming from a highly respected, thoroughly trained and practiced psychologist of over 30 books and a dozen or more audio and DVD titles. Then I thought about my first two sons, Jabin and Caleb, who are proof in the pudding that children learn at different rates and at different capacities! For example, Jabin knew his ABC’s by the time he was 18months…Caleb didn’t know it well until he was 3! Jabin has a natural zest and love for learning, Caleb prefers to run, crack up, tell jokes and say BOOTY HEAD mid-counting sequences. Jabin is ok sitting at the dining room table knocking out his homework, while Caleb you have to make a game out of learning, let him run around a little bit, and borderline bribe him with suckers and popsicles to get him to accomplish a learning session. #exhausting

It also made me think about the pressure that sometimes society and some parents put on their children regarding academic achievement:

  • They are in Pre-K but they are forced and tutored to death to be reading at a 3rd grade level. Fa whet? So they can get to kindergarten and first grade and be bored because they are 2 grade levels ahead?
  • “My child is 3 and he is taking Chinese, French, and Spanish!” while flipping their hair.
  • “Your child is 5 and doesn’t know his time tables yet?! OMG!”
  • If your child is 2 and not “in school yet”, you are doing them a disservice!

You get my drift. While there are plenty of children that are naturally gifted and learn easily and do require to be challenged beyond their traditional expectations, most of our children are simply normal. Yes, its exciting to have OUR child be their class’s Brightest and Best, the valedictorian, the full-ride academic scholarship recipient to the test-in only 20K a year middle school… you know, the kid that just continues to make us drop our jaws at what they’re doing next and give us cause to brag how smart they are to any listening ear.

But then, you have the majority of our children who are just like everyone else. And its nothing wrong with that!

Pushing your children to the next academic level before they are ready can cause life-long crippling effects. Picture the young boy who was moved to the first grade but didn’t quite nail down phonics. He struggles continuously with reading & comprehension, and begins to cover up his ignorance with a nonchalant attitude and disdain for school. There are teachers and counselors reaching out to the parents that his reading is way behind and its suggested that he be held back a grade and be enrolled in aggressive tutoring to help him. But thats your precious child, and you allow the enemy to convince you that your son will look dumb and think he’s dumb if he’s held behind, that he would be embarrassed, that he will be ok and HE DOESN’T NEED TO BE HELD BACK, HE’LL CATCH UP, YOU WATCH! As a result, you push him along, ignoring all the warning signs that he needs help, and he goes through school mentally lost & absent- consequently left behind, confused. He grows up to be consciously embarrassed and ashamed that he cannot confidently perform basic abilities from primary school.

Then you have my very own sister, TresBien Gonzales, who also noticed that when her son was in kindergarten, he was just not catching on as fast as expected. Towards the end of the school year, Joshua’s teacher suggested that he do kindergarten again just to ensure he had a strong foundation on the fundamentals before moving on, but ultimately left the decision up to TresBien.

Just like any parent, its initially disappointing and disturbing to hear that your child isn’t comprehending as fast as the other kids. And I didn’t want him to be embarrassed or be made fun of for taking Kindergarten over”, says TresBien when asked how she felt during that time. “But I realized I was making my son’s long term interests a priority and I had to get out of my feelings about what was a temporary situation.  I made the decision to set him up for success.”

She talked it over with her husband and family, where she received conflicting advice: “NO! That boy don’t need to stay behind, move him up!” and “You don’t want to push him on if he’s not confident, that will continue to affect him!”  But she prayed, looked at her son for who he was without comparison, and quieted all the other voices in her head and followed the peace of God.

She had doubt that he was ready to move on, so she held him back!

Fast forward a year later, and he is FLOURISHING, reading and writing like a champ as a 2nd time kindergartner! And guess what? There is a demand for 2 year kindergarten programs in our schools all across the country because parents are recognizing that their child is individually unique and learns at their own pace, thus giving their child the necessary time, resources, and freedom to learn in a way that they can properly retain it while building a strong academic foundation.

SO, WHAT’S NEXT?

If you notice that your child is not being challenged enough, reach out to the teacher and discuss your concerns. Work together to create a plan that works for your child. And if your child is struggling in a subject, recognize that everything does not come easy! Reach out to the teacher and ask how you can help them at home, ask about tutoring opportunities, jump on care.com and look for a tutor in your area that can help! And its ok to recognize that teaching your kid may not be your strength, because I look at some of these homework assignments that my niece gets and I have a blank confused stare and have no idea how to help her. God gave us these children to teach and mold them into the best men and women they can grow to be. We are ultimately held responsible for their successes and failures and what we did and did not do in those critical moments where our children need our help. So, lets take this time to assess our kids and really pay attention to the areas that they need more attention in. We all are raising the greats of the next generation, we all have our own miniature versions of  The Brightest and Best. Now lets make sure they know it and produce accordingly. #boom #theend #offmysoapbox

Now I want to hear from YOU! Are there any readers who made the decision to hold their child back and struggled with the decision? Or are there any readers who take the drill sergeant approach to their kid’s academic success and see their children thriving? Share your stories and own advice below so we all can learn! <3

My Three Sons

I’d like to introduce some of you to these kids, my boys, my three sons. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my 3rd son that I became aware that there was a TV show called My Three Sons that aired from1960-1972. I would be walking around with two toddler boys and a big bulging belly, and I would get approached by women in their 50s and 60s and wonder if I’m finally getting my girl, and when I say no its another boy, they squeal and say “oh! My Three Sons!” and I politely smile and nod in confused agreement, and in my head I’m like huh? Ok! And then it kept happening and someone finally said oh there was a sitcom in the 60’s! My Three Sons!  Photo below, funny!

Image of My Three Sons I found on google images.
Image of My Three Sons I found on google images.

So let me tell you about MY three sons. First there is Jabin (Jay-bin). He has always had a very mature, responsible nature. He can definitely get silly and make us roar with laughter, but for the most part, I describe Jabin as my intelligent know it all. He reminds me of myself! He loves learning new things and is so proud to display his knowledge when quizzed. He gets frustrated when he doesn’t pick things up quickly, but then there are also times when he just rolls with being silly and wants no part in doing homework, and his neck cranes for the den, itching to watch an episode of Power Rangers, but it has to be Power Rangers Megaforce. Or else, we gotta problem Houston! He is the best big brother a mommy could ask for… well most of the time. Sometimes I catch him strategically planting his leg in front of his little brother’s walking path and giggling with delight when they don’t see his trap he set out to trip them and make them fall flat on their faces. He thinks its funny… and I threaten to beat him each time. He stopped. LOL Jabin is also uber dramatic. He can cry in .5 seconds flat. And not just any ol’ tears. Fat, crocodile tears.  See exhibit A. *this will be deleted as soon as he is old enough to read this blog on his own*

 

He was smiling one second, and crying the next. Record-time cryer here!
Exhibit A: He was smiling one second, and crying the next. Record-time cryer here!
Couldn't do my boy like that, here's a happy photo too! HA!
Couldn’t do my boy like that, here’s a happy photo too! HA!

Then there’s Caleb, my middle child who was born with the fireworks on Memorial Day in 2011. This kid is downright cluelessly hilarious. He doesn’t try to be funny, he just is. He is wild, has selective hearing, boyishly curious, and so so sweet. He’s the kid that looks at his older brother with puppy dog eyes and says “I luv you JayJay!” and when Jabin in turn just looks at him and turns his head, he patiently repeats, “JayJay, I luv you.” And I’m watching them in my rearview mirror, heart swelling at the loving exchange between my two oldest boys, and then when I notice Caleb’s cheeks drooping and bottom lip poking out because Jabin didn’t return an “I love you” back, I meet Jabin’s eyes and stergently (a mix between stern and gentle…basically you better do as I say) say “Jabin! Tell your brother you love him!” and Jabin tries to hide his smile and finally says it back through tight lips and older brother nonchalance…you know that air that says “you are little and annoying but I tolerate you”.

But Caleb is not always my sweet, loving, middle child. He calls everybody Booty Heads and Butt Heads…and I mean everybody. I remember a time he called a complete stranger at Target a booty head, but he did so in that way where he smiled at her as he said it, as if he was giving her the best compliment his little mind could come up with. Thankfully, she was older and couldn’t quite make out what he said. And I’m that mom that was chastising out loud but my inner self was rolling with laughter. Please tell me I’m not alone…. you know, when it takes everything within you to not bust out laughing at your children’s badness. Oh, and lets not forget about the time when he stared at an older African American lady, who admittedly had very hard features. We were in the check out line, and he stared and stared, as if trying to figure her out. He finally said, “are you a boy?” and I almost choked on my Starbucks coffee. “Caleb, come here honey! Caleb!!!”  I call out. But he stood and stared. The older hard looking lady leans in and says “what you say babaaayy?” in a perfect old lady shaky voice. Caleb remained planted in his staring stance, and started to repeat “are you a boy?” but i finished my red card Target swipe and made it in time to save myself! But the 20-something-year-old male cashier we had got an earful, and his eyes were sparkly with humor and the ends of his mouth twitched with the threat that there was a deep bubble of laughter lodged in his belly that desperately wanted out. We exchanged guilty smirks, and I hustled them kids out of there as fast as I possibly could!

Caleb aka CayCayBoy!
Caleb aka CayCayBoy!

Now on to my sweet baby boy Elijah! He’s only 14 months now, so he’s still sweet…most of the time. He’s in that stage where he loves to kiss, and he gives the cutest little pucker upper you’d ever see! No one can deny kissing him! At family gatherings you may even see a line or two of all the little cousins lined up just to see Eli pucker up for them.

He’s also a mommas boy, who can’t quite talk and who’s tantrums are still minimal. This is my boyyyyy right now! When the other two are at each others throats and crying over who’s kicked who in the throat (true story), this little gooey toddler just holds fast to my leg, looks up at me with those big surprised like pretty eyes, and reaches out with a “mum!” And I smile, ignore the other two, and pick him up and cuddle. See Exhibit B taken on his 1 year birthday!

Sweet baby Eli
Exhibit B: My sweet boy!

But I’m afraid that life with brothers has already started to plant seeds of mischief in his little spirit. He will walk up to Jabin and Caleb when they are quiet and peaceful, and open hand slap them right on the head and await their reaction with absolutely no expression on his face. Or pinch them on their belly while their shirts are off, and even pinch their “wee-wee” when they are preparing to get in the tub. Or stare right at my husband, swipe him upside his head and reach back for me. I secretly like when he does that though, shhhh (stalker moms unite!). But raising three boys, Elijah has surprised us with being the first one to scare the living daylights out of me at such a young age. I expect toddlers to swipe all of the DVD’s out of the cabinets multiple times a day, and I even expect to see them climb on top of a chair or even a table here and there. But never did I expect to see him strategically unlock the oven door, stand on top of it, and play with the burners! OOOOOMG! My heart stopped! But why is he so cute?! See Exhibit C. Its probably not a good idea to get him out of the oven and then kiss him huh? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Elijah standing on the oven and scaring mommy!
Exhibit C: Elijah standing on the oven and scaring mommy!

These are small little descriptions of my little knuckle head boys, my three sons. They keep me on my toes, they make me laugh, they bring me to my knees in prayer, and I worship the Lord even deeper because of their being. ..most of the time its with a soul cry of “Lord help meeeeee!” but….whatever it takes right? hahaah

What are some of your funny stories of or with your kiddies? Post below I’d love to chuckle with you!