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 charming. And 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.
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.
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.
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!