How to Plan a Disney Vacation

Booking a Disney trip was so exciting for our family!! With every move I made I got that much more excited about going. Before I planned the Disney trip I read so much info. Anything and everything on the Disney tips + FAQs + Everything you need to know on Disney.com. I read several Disney blogs and mom blogs on what worked best for them. I was ready!! I complied my list of things I needed and was ready to start planning. I got everything I needed that would make my trip easier like the apps and notifications from Disney said to do and for more what you need to have for Disney read about it here.

I wanted to be well prepared and make sure I didn’t forget anything. But once I started scheduling and planning there wasn’t much out there to help with that. There wasn’t best rides for AM, or things to do before noon. Of course it’s not that easy bc there’s so much to do to keep you busy throughout the day. So ultimately it’s your choice.

However there were things that helped make our trip a breeze and quite simple. So I wanted to share them with you all to help when you plan a Disney trip. Hopefully it can make your scheduling hurdles a little easier. The five things below will help you when you book your trip, schedule your fast passes and help create you’re plan of action, and make your flying travels a little easier.

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1. Do everything through the app.My Disney Experience has everything you need + more. Yes you can go to Disneyworld.disney.go.com and make an account, register, and buy tickets there. Be set to go. But with the app you can do everything!! Book hotel, book reservations, link your hotel so you can see bus schedules, food menus, and even unlock and lock your hotel door. You know for those times you head out for ice and you forget to wear your magic band. All the parks schedules, character showings, times for shows, and maps are available through app. It even has map access to follow step by step to get you to attractions or restaurants you want to find. My favorite is it stores all your photos you take during your trip as well!! Plus you can link your flight times on there so you can get picked up with the Disney Magic Express! {Which I discuss later}

Hear it from me, it’s kind of a pain to do everything on Disneyworld.Disney.go and then have to link everything afterwards on the app. So just do it all there and make it easy for yourself so you don’t have to try and keep up with all the confirmation codes. {Trust me.}These are the times when you need to take advantage of technology. I promise the app came in handy sooo much for us. Plus once you get to the hotel they ask you to book a few reservations for food and spa times through the app anyways so you have to have it.

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2. Book your hotel early and it should be the first thing you book before everything else!!! I booked our Disney tickets first because i wanted to make sure I got those out of the way, then signed up on the app, and then was ready to make reservations and realized I couldnt. I made the mistake of doing it out of order. You may be asking does it matter and yes it does!!!! When you book your hotel first it allows you to make reservations and access to schedule fast passes and food reservations as early as 60 days before your trip! Which I promise you, is very important, taking us to the next point.

3. Get fast passes— these are crucial for maintaining sanity throughout Disney. I seriously cant stress this enough. They make it seem like it’s no big deal everywhere when you read about them, but guys, it’s a fast pass to the rides!! Let me say it again, it’s a fast pass. Meaning you quickly pass all the other people and the line to go ahead and get on the ride of your choice without a wait! You can schedule up to three a day but once you use the three you can schedule two more to use during that day. These made our Disney day a breeze. I can’t imagine waiting in the lines for over an hour for a 2-5 minute ride. The longest time we had to wait for a ride was 12 minutes. That was because there was a hiccup in the ride and they had to fix it putting wait times on both lines.below I discuss two reasons why fast passes are awesome and how to best utilize them:

-Spread out your fast passes – I mean this point in two different ways. Let’s dig in. When using your fast passes to select your adventures don’t cram them back to back. I did at first thinking; well we will use these up and then have access to book more and we can keep having a magical day. On Disney it says after you use the three you can keep booking for more. It sounds great! We were hooked. Then I started looking the following week after I scheduled ours and so many of the fast pass options were gone for several rides, character meetings, and light shows. I was bummed because I thought well we are going to miss out on so many adventures. Especially like the ones on Pandora and animal kingdom. Then something magical happened the next day. There was availability on two of the rides I wanted so I went ahead and canceled previous reservations and made those and decided well everyday I want to use a fast pass in am, then afternoon, and one at night. So I rescheduled everything. I wanted to make sure I utilized the fast pass access throughout the day since the access to reserve was dwindling away. Like I said I didnt book my hotel first so I had to wait until the 30 days before to start reserving with fast pass and a lot was not available. Food reservations had tight windows left, and on the busier parks like Magical Kingsom there was no ability to book fast pass for anything after the 25 day mark. Not to forget to mention we booked our trip during the busiest week at Disney out of the whole year. So we were fighting for access with a lot of people.

-Now my second grand idea that worked out beyond great!! If you have multiple members of your family like we do. Then use it to your advantage. Schedule a ride with the whole family in am. Because you do want to use up your three to get the access to book more. Keep in mind though every other fast pass holder is trying to do the same and a lot of things won’t be available past 12 but most of magical kingdom didn’t have anything available two weeks out so this is why I’m saying do it this way. After you scheduled a ride that is suitable for everyone then use momma and son for one fast pass access and if the ride allows other kids to ride then say “we will swap” or if y’all all can go then say “we are trying to add the other family members on all but it’s not letting us.” If your bands aren’t working but two family members are, they always let you in!!! Everytime! It was awesome!! So I was so happy that I took a chance and scheduled it that way because I was able to reserve up to 6 things prior that way. I booked greetings without waiting, rides for all of us, and while the girls went and napped I had rides reserved just for our big guy. Then when we all gathered back, he shows for us all to enjoy together without any waits. Guys I’m telling you it worked! Then, come to find out, you only get the chance to use fast passes two more times after you use your three so it’s not unlimited like I thought. So I was so glad I did it this way vs the original plan bc we would have had some uncomfortable wait times that no one was ready to have.

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4. Buy the early bird tickets to Toy Story Land. Just do it. We had access to the Hollywood Studios an hour and half early!!!! We got there with an hour to spend but it was still worth it. When you buy the early bird tickets it comes with a complimentary breakfast that is only given to the early birders and it was probably one of the best breakfasts that we had the entire time. You have a choice between several hot meals choices and there is a smorgish board of fruits, pastries, and cereal options. They allow you to eat there all the way until 10 AM. If you really want to you can get there right at 7:30, eat, ride, then eat again. That was our original plan but like I said we didn’t get there until 8. After we ate, we had 30 mins to enjoy Toy Story Land, and it was worth every penny. Not only was it the park we all were really looking forward to because we have watched it on TV every commercial break, but it is an oversized Toy Story Land! Are you kidding me who wouldn’t love it! In all seriousness it was the only park we saw that had workers waiting with a 65 minute wait sign before the park even opened up. They knew that park would have the most visitors, and they were right, within 10 mins of opening the park the Slinky Dog Ride had a 75 minute wait. After we utilized the 30 mins of no waits, we were able to wait a short 10 mins for character experiences and boom we were done with that park just as soon as they opened. It still is one of our favorite experiences because while the bigs rode the Slinky Dog, we rode the Alien Ride. My youngest was able to ride it twice without waits and she had a blast on it. We rode all these and still had our reserved fast passes to use. It was an amazing day!

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5. Take advantage of the Disney Magic Express + all its perks. The express not only takes you to and from the airport which makes everything so much easier, but it also will take your checked luggage for you! I saw so many people trying to haul their kids, plus their suitcases through the airport, through the express line, and through the hotel and check in. Now if you want to be champs and keep it all with you go right ahead. But our children wonder around and want to see all the cool and magical things before their eyes if they aren’t in the stroller. With three kids theee suitcases, stroller, like 5 carry on bags it just wouldn’t have been easy for us. Plus all that in one small line, no thanks. It was such a breeze going through the line without all the luggage and check in was ice bc we didn’t have to manage all the extra items. Once we got to our hotel we went to eat, look at all the animals and when we got back tinkerbell made the delivery. It was only a 1.5 wait to get out things once we got there so it wasn’t that bad.

I hope these five tips help you in planning your magical trip. There is so much to think about, and things that no one tells you about, so I do hope these help a little. and know the hassle of traveling takes a toll on anyone especially a family with littles. So anything that makes your trip easier and more efficient I want to try and help. That way all you have to worry about, is the magic that awaits for you. If this helped you in your magical adventures then please comment below, thanks for your stopping by and have a magical day.

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Parenting Styles | Raising Healthy Kids

I read this article off of the bulletin at my church and I just thought it was such a good read I wanted to share. It discusses parenting techniques and brings up the question of what kind of parent you are. It seems straight to the point, but sometimes things just need to be so clear and straightforward for us to fully understand and just take it in. When I read this, it reminded me of some of the information we got when we went through our Parent/Child Dedication in May. It is great to keep feeding our minds and souls with knowledge that helps push us to be the parents we desire.

The following was written by Walt Mueller in an article called Prioritizing Faith:

Research identified three approaches to parenting.

Parenting by Default

This is the path of least resistance. In this approach, parents do whatever comes naturally as influenced by cultural norms and traditions. The objective is to keep everyone happy without allowing parenting to dominate other aspects of their parents life.

Trial and Error Parenting

Parents see themselves as amateurs, believe that there are no guidelines to follow, and you just set out to do your best. Atleast you gave it your best right? 😏

Revolutionary Parenting

This is the least common approach, and these parents take God’s word on life and family at face value, and apply those words faithfully and consistently. This results in deep and real faith-based transformation in the lives of children.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” Matthew 7:24

Parents how are you parenting?

Did that make you think of your parenting style? I have to admit I have caught myself living in trial and error parenting throughout my journey. Especially the first 4 months with every child I feel like it’s completely trial and error. With learning the babies schedule, moods, sleep patterns all for it to change every 3 months the first year.

My first year of parenting was with a special needs child with everything being strategically done. Heavily scheduled and hard core to do list. The list of medications and alarms for “services” to be done went on and on. So, with me each child that I’ve had I’ve had to tone it down a bit. Each child has taught me to be relaxed, take it easy, get loose with parenting. It took me three years to let go of the “schedule” concept. I lived strictly off of schedules then literally one day I woke up and realized who cares if they are late for their naps by 10 minutes. My husband and I got in so many little tidbits because the first two years I fought over following the schedule to a T, then I switched on him out of no where and he was like ughhhhh arent we supposed to be doing this, or this. Then he was like all these years I’ve been attacked almost instantly for this and now you’re completely flipping the script on me. Quite confusing right? {

I just realized though that I put my focus on all the wrong things. Yes I want structure, I want my kid to feel secured based off of routine, love, trust, stability, etc. but most importantly I do want my children to know and love God.

In a book I read over the summer, “A Mom after a God’s Own Heart: 10 ways to love your child by Elizabeth George, she speaks on this topic with such devotion and motovation that it inspires you to want to be better. To set up to be a parent that leads your child towards a life filled with love and devotion to God. If. you want to read further on ways I have been moved to motivate mothers to raise up her parenting skills. 

She asks almost the same thought provoking question:

What do you consider to be the target of all that you do for your kids? What is the purpose and aim of your parenting? Take a look at your life and your priorities. What are you intent on teaching your children? How to tie their shoelaces? Tehchniques in brishing and flossing? Good manners? How to catch, kick, or hit a ball? How to make an A? How to play an instrument? Respect for others and for property? The most could go on and on. But as good and as necessary as these issues and activities are in your kids’ lives, what you must be asking your heart is, Am I making sure I tell them about Jesus?

The good news is, if this isn’t our thinking, we can change it!!! We always have time to influence our child, the sooner the better. More good news—> it’s never too late!! Start now, commit and succeed at it!! That’s what I’m always saying. I loved reading this book over the summer because Elizabeth explains it in a way that even if you haven’t done this and your kids are grown, we always have time and a chance to start. There’s always time to find ways to lead your children.

I have begun to be that mom that doesn’t take success in all the things I’ve checked off of my list. Okay wait I said that wrong, of course I do!! I wrote achieved by the things I do, what I’m trying to say is that I don’t get bummed out and beat myself up anymore over the things that I didn’t get done that day. If my house is dirty, I’m not losing sleep over it anymore. If the dishes didn’t get done and I fell asleep upstairs with the kids when I was putting them to bed, I’m not jumping out of bed anymore to rush and get them done. I’m starting to beat my anxieties of mommy guilt and I know you can too!! With one simple thought concept that just brings everything into perspective:

“Today, if I don’t get anything else done, I must teach my children about my Lord Jesus.” – Elizabeth George.

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I wrote this down to remind me of it every day. So I don’t fret over all those other parent worries and concerns. Don’t get me wrong I’ll alway worrry about my kids; Are they handling situations correctly, being kind, putting others above themselves, making good choices, thinking first, do they feel loved enough, am I setting them up for success etc etc etc etc. You know that list that tends to go on and on.

Lately, I have been reading statements from moms who recently had a child pass due to the teen suicide epidemic. Moms that believed they were doing everything right. They are 100% relatable woman, with every word being something I understand and completely agree with. It sends me into the “over-thinker Mommy abyss”. Thinking of ways to teach them coping strategies, working through obstacles, and raising resilient kids.

Truth is, it doesn’t matter how much I pour into them if they don’t know God, they are going to have all kinds of vices, people and other places to try and find their acceptance, and love from. I can’t control their choices they want to make, but I can pray that God stays present and help them learn how to listen for His voice, and to trust the Holy Spirits guidance.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

I hope this brings motivation and some peace in knowing that it’s okay if you have a long list of to dos. If you have said one thing today about God/ Jesus to your child today that helps them grow in their relationship, well done good and faithful servant! WELL DONE!

Now, let’s ignore all those negative voices, distractions, and unimportant objectives. Take a new AIM that points your children towards God and give yourself a pat on the back. Everything else will fall in place at the right time.

Faithful parenting is challenging work, but it is truly a “labor of love” and certainly a choice that reaps the greatest blessings of all to a parents heart.

How to Make Fig Preserve | Organic Eats

Being from the south I can’t believe this is the first time I have ever made my own preserves, but I have to admit I feel so clean, healthy, amazing, and excited for making this I just had to share with y’all. It’s so easy and takes about five minutes of work from you.

Before I go into details of how to make some awesome Fig Jam, I wanted to share the fun we all had!!!

The kids enjoyed being with their new friend and riding around on the gator! Farm life is the life!! I can’t wait until we get our own land! This is such an amazing experience, I never had this opportunity as a kid so I just feel beyond blessed to experience this with my children. It was the first time as a family we were able use our pickings that we got off the “farm” into something else to eat. We have picked peaches off our neighbors tree before and have ate them but never created something out of our pickings. Well we picked pomegranates and figs at our friends family “vineyard” and learned all about how to pull figs and pomegranates off the vines.

The girls were running back and forth looking through the fig trees to find the best ones to eat! The taste of the fig when they come off are seriously the sweetest!! Soooooo sweet!! Honestly everything straight off the tree taste amazing but I have never even seen a fig straight off the tree before so I felt like a kid trick or treating putting my treats in my basket. Do you know what a fig looks like? Because I didn’t until this week!

Enjoying the organic breakfast has been the most amazing experience of it all because we can’t wait to eat what we worked so hard gathering and creating. This experience just tugged at my heart because I hope my littles remember this experience with us. The picking, the outdoor adventure side of it. Then the coming home and cleaning of the fruit, and pulling the seeds out of the pomegranates was so fun!! The texture of the seeds not only gives he kiddos a great tactile experience but the joys of sneaking a few seeds feels like you’re licking a spoon clean after making the cake mixing. The smiles, laughter, and happiness I will remember forever.

Health Benefits of Figs

Sugar, fiber, and rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. On top of all those minerals they have antioxidants Vitamin A, E, and K. All of these contribute to overall health and wellness and is a great substitute if your children are missing out on these vitamins and minerals from not eating certain foods.

Figs also have prebiotics which nourish and tone the intestines by supporting the good bacteria in your gut which improves digestion. Again they are high in fiber so they are a great snack that gives you that fullness feeling and reduces hunger and cravings.

Ingredients:

1lb of figs

1.5 cups granulated sugar

1.5 water

5 thinly sliced lemons

How to make it:

1. Rinse figs, pull stems off and then put figs in a bowl of cool water.

2. Put water and sugar in a pot and boil. Wait ten minutes.

3. Cut figs in half while waiting.

3.At about the ten minute mark the water becomes clear and thicker. This is when you add the rinsed off and cut up figs + lemon slices.

4. Bring to a high boil.

5. Hard boil for one minute

6. Simmer for 30 minutes.

7. Remove from heat

8. Blend and put in mason jars.

These ingredients created two small jars so we didn’t have to hard boil the jars and lids because we weren’t preserving them for an extended period of time. However if you’re tripling the amount due to the amount of figs you have then after you put them in jar make sure you boil jars and hope you enjoy it later!!! 🍁🍐🍁

Law of Pure Potentiality | Healthy Minds | Fitness 4 All

Image by Ashly Williams of our Late Rupert Gossett on one of his last adventures before Cancer took him from us.

Law of Unity

I am revisiting, “>The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by the infamous, Deepak Chopra. I mentioned previously that this book has helped me before, however I have abandoned some  of the techniques. I love the timing that this has come up for me because after all Spring is in the air. I feel as if this time is the season of “regrowth” with a combination of “new growth” to help my mental stability. So, this is actually pretty exciting for me as I am too in this season of “regrowth” with myself personally. I want to readminister these habits back into my schedule so my mental state and stability continue to stay on the positive side. Anytime anyone experiences depression, or a devasting time and event, such as our miscarriage, the mind goes through a chemical reaction. I realized that I was slipping because I became angry faster, agitated, and the moment I realized that I was constantly apologizing to my family for being grumpy, I knew I needed to focus on my mental state again.

I’m focusing on one law at a time for 30 days so I can ensure that they each properly get placed into my life and schedule with the right amount of focus and clarity vs cramming all seven in my brain at once.

  • side note, I feel like anything new that you are trying out should be handled with the same mindset. Take baby steps, don’t try and do it all at once, you’re only setting yourself up for failure and possibly self destruction. Focus on it for 30 days and measure where it is that you stand with the new habit.

The fun thing about revisiting this specific law is that it is Intellectual Growth that connects you with endless opportunities and the chance to connect with the world in a spiritual way. So it’s a two-fer deal. It blends mentality with your spirituality to allow you to become completely one with your core you-ness. To me tactics like these are the most beautiful, because they allow you to learn how to work different facets of yourself as one. I feel like I need to practice this more often which is why I am re reading this book to begin with.

My goal is to rebuild my zen within and make sure that it is connected to God, and nature so I can be re awakened. For I feel like I have been spiritually napping. I am picking up my daily habits of connection with my Father, however I’m not encompassing his beauty around me as much as I used to so I have been dramatically focusing on this other side of his beauty that allows me to open up in a way that refuels my heart, my spirit, and my inner strength. Therefor rebuilding my inner core into yet again this strong, mystic, free being.

Now to put your Chopraness in full effect start by making a commitment by taking these  three steps:

  1. I will get in touch with the field of pure potentiality by taking time each day to be silent, to just BE. I will also sit alone in silent meditation atleast twice a day for approximately 30 minutes in am and 30 minutes in the evening.

Soaking up the views, smells, and sounds of freedom.

 

 

 

When you learn to experience the field of pure silence + pure awareness it leads to infinite correlation, infinite organizing power and you realize everything is inseparably connected to everything else.

– Deepak Chopra

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2. I will take time each day to commune with nature and to silently witness the intelligence within every living thing.

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I will sit silently and watch a sunset, sunrise etc. For in the ecstasy of my own silence, I will enjoy the life throb of ages. The field of pure potentiality and unbounded creativity.

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Stillness– is the first requirement for manifesting your desires because in the stillness lies your connection to the field of pure potentiality that which then orchestrates an infinite amount of details for you.

-Deepak Chopra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. I will practice non judgement. I will begin each day with the statement “Today I shall judge nothing that occurs.” Throughout the day I will remind myself of this for this creates silence and clarity in my mind.

Again, I feel as if this couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for my family and myself. I have been drawn to nature lately and have brought my children down this path of appreciation with me. It’s kind of a coincidence as well that in there at home curriculum right now we’ve been talking about how God talks to us by whispering in our hearts, not in our ears. So we must learn to quiet the world long enough to allow his words to imprint on their hearts. You see, this is another lesson that you can do with the whole family. Take them outside, sit in silence together.

I will reconnect in comments below to describe any hiccups, problems, or breakthroughs for the next thirty days while I go through this process. I hope you can join me and sit in silence just for a moment. If all you can do is five minutes then take a family time out, start there and eventually see if it’s enjoyable enough to lead you to more moments of silence. If this does indeed move you to try and sit outside, in front of a garden, or even in your own backyard, or just a silent room, filled with darkness. Take a photo, put in the comments below or let me know on overallfitness4all’s facebook page. I’d love to see people try to connect to who they are meant to be.

If you are curious to know more about the book or want to further deepen your Chopraness check out his site here.

All pictures courtesy of Ashly Williams

I Did Not Lose My Son, He Died.

Having a Miscarriage at 16 Weeks

Yesterday was one month since our sweet Atticus Jaxon passed. The beginning of the year of course had started out like most, well kind of. I was actually very sick with the flu. Yet, I had scheduled post to publish, pics to share, and ideas a brewing about starting out the year with the right mindset, I had wedding anniversary post scheduled to write about all the little details of our wedding. Especially since the pictures and videos came in finally which I had been waiting for what seemed like forever. Instead life threw a curve ball. A huge one- that sent me down a path I never even could have imagined.

I sort of walked around telling myself I did my dues in this life already, and that I have been down my paths of torment and struggles. I literally thought what else would God need from me. I am no one of that much importance or someone who has made that much of an impact. I didn’t think God would want me to speak about all my grief and sorrows all over again. Especially after having three healthy kids in a row with just a simple glance being made in my direction. Seriously, no effort was needed, yet I know people today who struggle to still have their first baby. I never could imagine that I would become a part of this whole other community.

I have known and witnessed many people who have had miscarriages before and I remember thinking how sad, I can’t even imagine, but I will admit, because I lost my first son at 8 and half months I thought losing a child once they were in your arms and time spent with them was worse. How wrong I was.

At 16 weeks pregnant my water broke and I spent three horrible days of traumatic events that we will never be able to forget. I will spare all those details for they have passed. However what still lingers, is the obvious – dealing with all the emotions, sadness, confusion, fear, and grief. I guess I could just simply say, healing is what is left. There are all the same feelings; anger, pain, feeling that life stole something that was supposed to be yours, pity, shame, doubt, and depression. All the feelings that you feel when your child passes no matter how old they are, are all there.

We didn’t get to know Atticus, we will never know the sounds he would have made, the smile he would give, or the smirk if he was anything like his father. The temper he may or may not have gotten, or if he would have been a genius like both his parents. However we know what it was like to hold him…for one night, for as long as we wanted, before we never could hug, coddle, and kiss on him again. We rocked with him out of habit, knowing it wasn’t doing anything but we just wanted to share some moments with him before he was no longer with us. We stared at him wondering what color his eyes were and were fascinated how he looked so much like his siblings. He was a cutie! Although we never shared “life” with him, we will always ache and mourn over his death. I honestly almost feel as if miscarriages are worse only because you never felt their warm breath, literally every little moment that should have been yall’s to share, has become an unknown moment for you. Our lives will always be wrapped up in the unknown somehow, someway.

People say I’m sorry for your loss, but it’s not a loss. I didn’t lose my baby. He died. In my womb! We didn’t walk away without looking at him never knowing anything, I didn’t wake up with him just miraculously gone. I delivered my still born child and we spent time with an angel. There is no “loss”. What we lost was the time that we could have spent with him. That my friends, will never be able to be recovered from.

I always wonder what my first born, Valek would be up to now if he was still with us, he would be in 3rd or 4th grade hopefully doing what every little boy should be doing. Would he still need wires, or would he have a life without them? Would he have recovered from his traumatic injuries and we all could have witnessed a miracle or would he be a vegetable like they predicted? There will always be unknowns with him, I remember when his fifth birthday came and thinking about how he would be learning to tie his shoes and ride bikes. I know 100% all the same thoughts and unknowns will be there with Atticus as well. However, I knew Valek’s sounds, and sweet smiles, and witnessed his bravery. I knew who he was, and he knew me!!! Miscarriage is so hard because every moment is something you never had with your child.

At Atticus’ burial we met our minister, we talked and prayed before we went out and buried him as a family. In that moment God showed up to do his good works. The minister began to share his story with us; just two months earlier his oldest daughter had a miscarriage at 21 weeks. I thought he simply started out sharing because he wanted us to know we weren’t alone but then he continued to tell us about how he called her that morning and checked up on her to see how she was. Her response, “Dad, I lost my baby, he’s as real as you and I. I need to stop thinking I’m supposed to get over it easier than I would anyone else I knew but the reality of it is, my baby is gone. So now, I have to learn to live with that reality.”

For her and I it was a reality moment, I shared with him about my previous son passing away, and that for the past two and half weeks I’ve had every same thought and pain as I did with Valek’s passing. Nothing was different. It did not matter how long you held your angel, or how long you knew them, the cut still was just as deep as before. In that moment we all found comfort in the midst of pain. That minister stayed with our family all the way until we left the site and even helped us bury our son. God had his hands on all of us that day.

And Our son was buried by our own hands by his own family, that day.

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I feel compelled to explain- Joshua has always buried his loved ones and he has taught us all the importance of spending the time to do that. The respect and honor it gives to the deceased is beautiful to me. At first I was taken back by it, but to see the sweat and hard work it takes to cover a grave breaks my heart in a way I never knew it could. Yet, at the same time watching my husband and kids cover our son, was admirable. To see the minister stay, to pray with us in the end, and to remind us of Gods promise, made the worst day ever into quite a beautiful service.

IMG_2630The one constant thing that has hit me after this is the reality that not only am I reminded that nothing is for certain, and I am owed nothing, but all of this brings me down to my knees where I belong, and back to my center. That I am less than God therefore I need him. No matter what, all the time!

Another thing God has shown me, is no ones story means more than others. Shame me for thinking differently. Honestly! Who was I to think so wrongfully. I’m sorry for that, to all I didn’t comfort in those times because I was too prideful thinking your pain didn’t compare to mine. I think people like me, don’t know how to face miscarriages because of the mere fact it was someone you didn’t spend life with. I’m here to tell you, It does not matter! I knew you experienced loss, pain, and sorrow, I just measured my first sons death as if it was more because of his life he lived. Again, it does not matter! I have learned for it’s not the life you live, it’s the impact of your life you’ve lived that matters! I saw Valek bless so many people with his life. One month ago, I experienced a little boy, who never took a breath, change people in the hospital, I saw him impact everyone at the burial service, and I have experienced change because of him, for in his death he already left a legacy behind for the goodness of God!

I can only pray in my death I can accomplish the same as both my boys in heaven did.

Lastly, I may be the only person to say this who’s experienced “baby loss” as they call it. But I highly recommend we stop using that term. I know it cushions the blow, but I feel as if it’s too soft, as if it’s easily to turn away from, to not face it with that term. So as far as I go, please stop saying you’re sorry for me losing my baby, he’s not lost…time was lost….he on the other hand is in heaven.

 

A Gentleman’s Suit

Today marks one month that I have been married!!!! I can’t believe it!!! To think it felt like just yesterday I was running around doing all the last minute planning and picking up all the groomsmen, and my dad’s suits. Speaking of suits, one of those suits was a little five year old ring bearer’s suit.

I never could have imagined a suit holding so much power. Now, as a parent I should have known better, but as a little boys mother, it shouldn’t have come as such a shock to me. After all the kid has an armoire full of “different suits” that make him be anything he wants for the day!! I’ve raised an astronaut, a robot, a fireman, an army ranger, a doctor, a police officer, countless super heroes and have even had to feed my very own burglar while he was in jail. The boys imagination has always ran wild and has always fascinated me. The sounds alone a little boy can make at the age of 2 astonishes me. It’s like they take some hidden class for that at some point!!

In raising a little boy, you try to enhance their imagination, it’s food for their soul, and their little brains. All the meanwhile, trying to make sure that your raising a little gentleman with manners, respect, honesty, compassion, bravery, and back bone to stand up for what he believes in. This literally keeps me up at night sometimes when we experience a day of time outs , fits, and “Mommy, you make me sad!” moments. I worry am I doing the right things, am I too hard on him, should I try something different, should I have taken more/less away from him?

However on our big day, every worry, every fear of what kind of man my son is going to be, every doubt of selflessness, or kindness that he may not show or give…were all gone.

It’s all in the power of a suit, the moment a little boy took his astronaut pajamas off, and put on a mans suit, and became a gentleman. It was a moment I realized, I no longer have a little boy, but a little gentleman.

It all started off when it was time to get ready. I showed him his suit that he has been waiting for for three weeks. He had been asking about it ever since we went for his fittings. He was excited to pick it up, he was overjoyed I think that it was time! He said he wanted to put it all on himself, I asked politely, “well can I just help you?” His response, “I’ve got this Mom”. I watched the boy for ten minutes try to figure out his shirt cuff buttons, looking back at me one time. He tried and tried! Finally he said, “Mom, can you help me please? But with just one button okay?! So that way I can watch you and do the other one.” I laughed inside, smiled at him, and responded, “I’d love to help you, but honey there’s only one button to use.” I went into further explanation of the two cuff buttons per sleeve, did his second sleeve, and continued to his shirt buttons only to get a, “NO MOM! I can do these!!!”

I’ve got this Mom- Ayden

I watched him with pure adoration. It was a beautiful sight to see on a beautiful day. He went on to put his bow tie on by himself and his coat jacket, not tucking his shirt in but it was okay with me. I was proud of all he did. Now to the final touches, his shoes! He couldn’t wait to wear those because he knew they matched daddy’s! He was so handsome! He got dressed and went straight down stairs to line up.

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When we went down the isle, apparently little sister saw too many peeps and froze up, he was a gentleman then, and patiently tried to motivate and coach his little sister in continuing the mission. I missed the whole show because I was waiting with my daddy for my turn. When I finally got down there, the moment I reached the spot where we all rehearsed to be, Ayden says to me, ” Mom, I walked down the isle!! Is there anything else you need me to do?” My son, a five year old, asking me if there’s anything else he can do for me during our ceremony!!! 😩❤❤😂😂 Joshua and I exchanged looks and we both knew we were so proud of him in that moment.

He stood there the whole time, not playing with leaves, sticks, or making noise. Just holding his sign and my ring. He was not going to mess up his duties in any way. Not even when his sister tried to give him a leaf to play with. That’s devotion!! I’ve never seen this kid pass up a rock, stick, or leaf.

Then he just continued being a little gentleman, he did great during photos, always smiled, never complained. When it was finally time to eat, one of my bridesmaids set him up at the end of the table where all the guys were sitting. I look over at him and he grabs his napkin, flops or open, folds it in half, and lays it in his lap like we sometimes practice at home! Son my heart was full of proudness, love, emotion. I called out to him asking if he wanted to sit next to mommy and daddy and he said, “I’m fine down here Mom.” Never asked for anything while he ate, ate all his food, and just remained being this little gentleman that I could not stop watching.

Don’t get me wrong, it was all beautiful, and the day was filled with many beautiful moments. This one however was something that could only make any parent proud. To top it off a pregnant bride who wanted to cry. He was def one of my top five favorite things of the day. I never knew a suit could hold so much power, for it was literally the moment he put it on, he became this person that eased my soul. That calmed my fears. For it was on that day, I knew my little boy was going to have good character, show others he had a kind heart, show selflessness, respect, and above all that he was already Mommy’s little gentleman.

A Mother’s Blessing, a Man’s Miracle

I don’t talk much about my journey or for the fact of matter, our journey’s. When you experience loss, it’s something you rarely want to discuss. However, Joshua and I didn’t just experience losses, we experienced tragedies.

Seven years ago I lost my first born due to nurse’s not listening to me while my son was recovering from a surgery that was supposed to give him a higher chance of survival. He was severely dehydrated and needed a blood transfusion asap and it sent him into cardiac arrest, for 45 minutes, while I sat there and watched my son fight for his life. That put him on life support for three weeks where we believed he was going to make it and was making plans to go to Pittsburg for more medical support. Only to find out he had extensive brain damage with three huge brain hemorrhages that shifted his brain. With much medical advice and opinions, it was damage that meant my son had low chances of ever having a normal life. Pittsburgh got cancelled because they wouldn’t give a baby in his condition a new liver or kidneys knowing he most likely didn’t have a chance to live a “valuable” life. So I had to make a decision. To push through it all and find out if he would be normal only to watch him slowly die due to his bad liver and kidney, or to pull his support then.

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Getting last cuddles in after we took Valek off life support

How did he end up there? He was born with a birth defect called gastroschesis, a term that means your intestines are on the outside of your body when your born. My son at just one week endured three surgeries, a total of 7 major surgeries and several mini procedures, and he passed away at just 8 months. We lived in the NICU the first three and a half months of his life. Not ever knowing what was outside of a hallway, a tree or even what grass was. Not knowing the feeling of fresh air, Sun rays, or what dirt was. My son lived a tough life but you would have never known it because he had a very beautiful spirit and a great smile. Sick kids always seem to have that gift don’t they?!

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Valek right before his last surgery. ALL SMILES!

Joshua had a tough upbringing and didn’t see a flash of light until he met his first wife. They spent seven beautiful years together where she showered him with love, compassion, and gave him meaning and purpose to his life. She was tragically ripped away from him one ordinary morning, spent like every other day, when a young girl ran a red light and had a head on collision with his wife just one light away from the where they worked. It killed her on impact. Just imagine you are blindly in love, and you have so much love being poured on you and you’re pouring all of that same kind of love back onto them and then, BAM! You not only stop receiving it, but you also no longer have anyone to shower.

Nothing can, nor nothing will ever take away the pain, anger, or holes we have from our tragedies. People tend to think you can get over things, but you don’t ever get over losses, no one does. You only learn to live with it. You learn to manage, you learn all over again who you are going to be with half of you gone. Time does indeed heal you only because in time you heal yourself. It’s a constant battle, it’s not an easy one, it’s a struggle of your life.

God has a funny way however of making miracles happen, even to the most unfortunate, and undeserving. Our past had sent me to being a single mother at 23, struggling to be on my own, working in nightclubs downtown and him moving to Austin to run away from the pain and drink his sorrows away. We weren’t proud of who we were. How could we be? We were still very angry with the world. I questioned God everyday and for Josh, he had no desire to make it to his forties. The thing that people don’t realize, is when you have significant losses like this, meaningful people taken from you, life and people lose all flavor and all your patience. When I say meaningful, I’m not talking about a mother, a father, or grandparent. Now, let me say, yes those are hard, they ache the heart body and soul. Statistically speaking though, losing your spouse is the highest ranking life changing event that sends you to depression. When you take stress test they ask you questions and then they rank them by points, losing your spouse is the highest amount of points. A child is right below. Losing your parent or a grandparent allows you to keep doing the same daily things in your personal life, losing your wife or a child alters your daily events immediately. You are hit with a harsh reality very fast. Your purpose…no longer exists. You wake up in the morning and go to bed constantly being reminded your alone.

Our lives changed when we met one another. We saw something amazing the first night we met, we talked for hours about our losses and we knew we understood each other. For the first time, we met someone who thought like ourselves. This world around us was meaningless, yet somehow with each other we had meaning. Then we discussed further and found out we had experienced some same things in our upbringing. To top it all off I fell in love with Josh that night because I asked him if he had children, his answer,  was, “Nope, no trophies.”

My heart just skipped a beat.

Did he just call kids trophies, and he never even had one!?!?!

My soulmate had been found! Within four months he met my son, and fell in love with him. He treated him like his little friend from the moment he saw him. Their friendship blossomed into something I thoroughly enjoyed watching. Ayden learned to trust Josh, rely on him, and love him. It was truly beautiful, even if that meant he picked him occasionally over me for rides, cuddles and bedtime stories.

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Ayden and Josh on his Second Birthday

In the four years we have been together we have had two more trophies added to our trophy shelf and we currently have one in the making. We got married on 11-11 of this year and enjoyed a happily ever after themed wedding.

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We had Mickey and Minnie and gang come from Anamaria’s mascots for a visit  on our special day! It was amazing for all guests and was so special for our little trophies

It seems like the perfect ending to a horrible story, well two horrible stories, but honestly it took work. It took both of us a many of days of reminding ourselves to count our blessings, to remind us that we aren’t just lucky, but that what we have are little lessons living around us everyday. The main lesson I think we both can agree on, is that it’s natural to want to shut everything and everyone out after you lose your world. We both pushed God away at times, and both had moments of giving up. It sounds cliche but you really never know what God has in store for you when you finally push through and finally fight through the darkness. For me, I honestly felt like I had God pulling me out of the darkness. My image I have always had is me laying face down on the ground and God literally dragging me by my arm, telling me I’m not done with you yet.

When I was at my lowest, I went to go see my pastor, I needed help. This was at a time I got tired of everyone telling me how I should be feeling and what I should be doing. He was different. He looked at me and said I have one question for you, “Are you still hurting?” I laughed sarcastically, how could he ask such a question?! Of course I am! Angrily I answered, “Yes!” His response is one I hold dear to this day, “Then hurt, let it hurt, I know you feel like you’re in mud and you can’t move. Stay stuck in the mud. Feel sad, trudge through all that pain and let it weigh you down. Remember every feeling of it. Just know though, you can’t always stay there. At some point you eventually have to get out of the mud.”

I told Josh that same thing in our second month of dating when he didn’t answer my phone calls for two days. He finally called me and explained it was rough for him. He couldn’t stop thinking of his wife and knew we were growing together fast in our relationship and he didn’t know how to handle it. The response I gave was one he wasn’t expecting, but it was one he needed to hear. It was a moment that we built our friendship upon. Again, our relationship was one that was not always easy, healing is hard! We just want you to know don’t give up!

Don’t ever give up!

Life is hard, it sucks! Royally! You never know though when it’s time to step out of the mud and watch miracles happen in your life. You never know when God is wanting you to step up and speak your story.

“And we know that in all things God works for the Good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

That verse was read coincidently twice at my sons funeral, I knew it meant something then. Five years later I found a sign while Josh and I were house decorating and I knew it was perfect for our home. It’s perfect now for this blog. Good faithful servants, times may suck now, but even in the darkest of stories when you are at the rock bottom, God has not forgotten you, nor forsaken you, he has plans for you. Don’t give up! You never know, you may end up with a story like ours, one we both never expected for ourselves, one full of many, many, many, little blessings…and lots of trophies!

Push on and believe in miracles.- The Williams family

A Leap of Faith

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Two years ago I was constantly asking when I should move my children to having a closer relationship with God. My mentor told me, “Ashly, just exercise it in your life and they will pick it up along the way”. Not only was it the best advice I ever heard, but it made the whole topic lighter for me. I didn’t fear making the wrong moves, I no longer had the fear of destroying them by forcing something on them. I no longer worried if what I was doing was right. In the end, what I’m doing was more than what I had as a child. It reminded me to just keep on growing my faith and my relationship with God and to allow them to be bystanders watching from the front row and hopefully falling in love with the show as much as I have.

As a parent I’ve always just wanted them to love as God has loved us. To never feel empty inside, and to just believe in something more than just themselves. I have never forced my beliefs on them, I have only tried to create activities and prayers that allow them to begin to know who God is. To share stories from the bible so they can begin to understand how mighty our God is.

A few sites that I have found in my search are easy, fun, and convenient. I only use two of these still but have enjoyed several apps, and websites that have added value in one way or another. The top five websites/ apps that I have tried and enjoy are:

With those being said, we have thoroughly enjoyed three years of ABCJesusLovesMe activities and daily school work. My oldest has completed three years of it, my middle has done two years and now the youngest has enjoyed a handful of activities I have chosen for her. The activities are great because umm….are you ready for this, THEY’RE FREE!!! Let me repeat that, for starters, they’re free! Secondly, ABCJesusLovesMe has weekly activities for each age group for the whole year that you get to hand pick for your child. The best, it isn’t just about God, they have activities that teach personal hygiene, manners, sign language, and of course letters, numbers, and words. It’s great for homeschooling parents with many resources.

I’ve loved it for having amazing activities that my children have loved throughout the years. One that has introduced my children to God in a fun, easy, no pressure way. There are several that have been forever imprinted in my heart because they made lasting impressions in my children’s minds and hearts as well. For instance the apple activity. You cut up an apple and discuss faith with your children, is a lot like a seed in an apple. You can’t see it at first, but when you cut the apple up, and look closely, you can see a seed surrounded by a beautiful star. Just like God, you can’t see him, but because we have faith in him, we knows he’s there, around us, and within us.

A new activity that I have recently begun is an app that I found from my church that I have attended for seven years, HCBC. My kids go to Sunday school there, and my oldest has recently begun the process to get enrolled into the school. I’m constantly roaming their site to find resources for parents and came across an app. Now, I will wholeheartedly admit that I hate using apps for everything, because for me its clutter. This however is an app that adds value to my children’s life. It’s called Parent Cues. It gives you cues on when to discuss God with your children in your everyday lives with your children. It’s great! It has many features that I love.

To begin with the Countdown:

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“There are approximately 936 weeks from the time a child is born until they grow up, graduate, and move on to whatever is next. Since your time with your kids is limited, consider counting down the weeks. Why?”

When you see how much time you have left, you tend to do more with the time you have now. 

Then there are the Cues:

Parent cue app cue

Not only because it has cues during normal routines that make it easy and not forced to talk about God with your children, but it has cute videos, and the best…it coincides with what they discuss in Sunday school. I have been told by many people, and read in articles and other blogs to find ways to have your children involved with people with your same mindset, that speaks of God in the same way. This app works along with what they discuss in the youth church groups. No matter how involved you get or where you join your child in, the same topics are discussed.

I have to admit, it was the most amazing thing to see my son light up when I discussed with  him the cues that were given to me during the week, that were already discussed during that week at Sunday school.  He was so proud that I knew it, and that he could show me, and most importantly that we could go over that topic together and further in depth. It is a little saying now that has been used thoroughly in our household now for three weeks. It’s not only a simple statement that he learned at Sunday school, reinforced by me, but one that is meaningful, useful, and purposeful. One that helps build his character and one that deepens his understanding of God.

I gained affirmation from him the day I saw his face light up. Affirmation that I was not only doing the right thing, but that I was on the right path to leading him in his own journey. Parenting is tough, and mentoring your child is even tougher. I took a leap of faith when I started pointing them to God, and take one everyday when I use little activities and apps to help me along the way. I pray to God to lead me to guide them to be closer to him, so they can serve him, so they can feel him, and so they can learn to quite the world and hear him, and above all so they can love like him.

3 Things I have learned from all this:

  1. Just take the Leap of faith- Don’t wait for signs.
  2. Pray about it, but seek it out as well. Do research, and more research.
  3. Join a community that shares your beliefs, for yourself and your children.