A Big Announcement Following a Difficult Decision

Happy Friday, loves!

This is one of those days that’s just so sweet. Who doesn’t love a Friday? I make sure I have all my deadlines met prior to Fridays so that I can sleep a little late, linger a little longer over my morning cup (cups…who am I trying to kid?) of coffee, and spend the day doing whatever makes me happy in the moment.

Today, that’s botox and shopping followed by a fab weekend filled with family, friends, and date night, and the ensuing progress on all the big things happening at home – I’ll come back to that in a week or two to share with everyone what’s happening in the Raiford house. For now, though, Friday means a morning to myself while the littles are home with my husband (definitely not interrupting him while he’s working) and my forehead is officially fixed (the judgement lines are worse than ever thanks to COVID cancelling my most recent appointment and, well, everything that’s going on in the world). It’s a good, good day.

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It’s also a day that I thought I’d share with you some big news from our house. We are actually filled to overflowing with big news these days, but I’ll start with this one and leave the rest for another day. After months of deliberation, uncertainty, and research, my husband and I have officially enrolled our three youngest kids in virtual school for the upcoming school year. Fourth and first grades will be learned from home, and we are feeling really good about our decision. Sweet Addison is uncertain what she’d like to do. She’s waiting as long as she can to make a decision as to whether she will go back to brick and mortar school for seventh grade or learn from home. It’s her decision, and we respect whichever decision she makes.

However, the three littles will not be returning. This was not a decision we made lightly, nor was it one that was easy for us to make, but it’s the best decision for us for many reasons. A culmination of things led to this decision, and it feels right. If you’re on the fence about what you’re doing during the upcoming school year, I hope that our thought process and the factors we took into consideration might help you make your own decision a little better.

*No one knows your child better than you, so please use your own judgement when making this decision.

The Uncertainty

Nothing makes me at all comfortable with little kids and the uncertainty of the upcoming school year. The fact that our twins ended their kindergarten year abruptly and without warning in March without so much as a goodbye to anyone was hard on them. Our two oldest have years of experience in school. They know that this is not what school looks like, or how it works, so they just went with the flow. The twins, though; they’re 6. They don’t know what elementary school looks like. They haven’t had a full year in school to compare it to.

The uncertainty of what it will bring next year with kids this age is a bit too much for us, as parents, to handle. For example, one of our twins is a boy. He’s not a child who sits still for long periods of time – as no little boy should be expected to do. He loves recess and PE and the physical aspect of playing outside and being active and rough and tumble with his friends. He likes to learn, but the idea of him sitting in a classroom without being able to leave for lunch or specials or outside time is hard for me to imagine.

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My fear is that he will spend all day in his classroom as they work hard to protect the kids through social distancing and lack of contact with as many people as possible, and he will foster a distaste for education. What 6-year-old wouldn’t develop a negative feeling for school if it doesn’t involve any sort of enjoyment to break up the educational aspect? I worry that being confined all day, being asked to wear a mask, being asked to stay in one room with one set of kids without being able to play up close and personal without books and toys and fun is going to ruin school for him.

The uncertainty is frustrating, and the fact that everything changes on a daily basis doesn’t leave us confident that what’s currently being touted as the plan for the new school year will, in fact, remain in place. Everything is changing every single day, and I worry that the uncertainty will cause too many upsetting changes.

The Disruption

My other main concern going into the 2020-2021 school year is the potential disruption. Let me preface this with a small statement that I have three educators in my immediate family who work at a total of two different schools in two different counties – and I’ve befriended many amazing admins and teachers over the years; and not one of them has a clue what the new school year will look like. Not one of them is confident that these kids will go back to school as scheduled on August 10. Every single one of them is leaning more toward a return after Labor Day, and every single one of them is worried they’ll return for a few weeks and be asked to cancel school again due to the pandemic.

When my own mother – a woman who has been teaching at the same school since I was in elementary school in the 80s – is recommending we keep our kids home for the year, well, that speaks volumes. When I mentioned it to all my educator friends and family members and not one of them came back with, “Oh, I don’t know that this is the best idea,” because they all said, “I don’t blame you,” instead, it speaks volumes.

The disruption was hard on our kids when school was cancelled initially. They did so well distance learning, but it was hard to help them understand why they were in school one day and never went back after that. It’s not easy.

It’s also not easy for my husband and I. My husband works from home, and he spends the vast majority of his day on the phone with his clients. I work from home running my content creation company, and I spend my time working with strict deadlines for numerous clients, and disruption in my everyday schedule is inconvenient, at best.

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Distance learning was quite the transition, but we really did make the most of it. We created a schedule that worked well for us and for the kids. I’ve learned that without the constant interruption of needing to leave for school and get backpacks and lunches and stuff ready all morning, I can sit down in my office at my typical 5 am and finish my work before the kids are even all awake (it really is amazing what happens when you don’t have to stop working after an hour, spend three hours doing all the things, work for an hour, spend another hour doing all the other things, work for a half hour, pick the kids up from school, go to sports, do all the things, etc.) because it all gets done with absolutely no interruption.

After that, I’m free to focus on their schooling. The transition was hard, but the disruption to our schedules was harder. Right now, we aren’t in a place where we necessarily want to bother with the potential disruption again. Why bother creating a new schedule and new routine only to have it changed on us again, forcing us to create yet another schedule and routine? It’s not worth it to us.

The Changes

Our kids go to an amazing elementary school, but it’s dealing with its own set of transitions for yet another year. Our daughter is going into the fourth grade this year, and she’s also going into her fourth principal at the same school. So many of the amazing faculty and teachers who we have grown to love and respect so much have left, leaving just a small handful of the amazing people we know to teach our kids. Honestly, almost every single one of them save for a small handful of amazing educators that we adore. Sadly, it’s not the educational leadership that is the problem over there.

Personal Preferences

At the end of the day, one thing that really helped us come to the conclusion to keep our kids home is that it’s what is best for our family right now. Our hope is that when everything goes back to normal, our kids can return to school and have a normal educational experience should they choose. If they want to continue to learn from home, we are fine with that, too. We love to travel (and cannot wait to be able to take real vacations again when this is all over) and we can work from anywhere. If the kids can learn from anywhere, we can really take our time exploring the world and living an adventure.

We chose this for our kids because keeping some consistency in their lives during these times is so important to us. It’s also been amazing for us to see them thrive at the distance learning game – though we know it will be significantly more structured and far better in the upcoming school year.

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We are not traditional people in our house. We don’t have traditional careers. We’ve never really followed any sort of ‘normal’ life guidelines. We’ve never really been much for conforming. We like doing life our way, and we like being in control of what we do, where we go, and how we live. We hope our kids will do the same, and we feel that the experience of learning from home will help them see that life is not meant to be lived in a box and that they don’t have to conform. We hope that it teaches them the discipline that they need to be productive and efficient so that they really, honestly learn the value of the phrase “work hard, play hard,” and I am looking forward to this new adventure in our lives.

This comes as a big surprise for many, I know. I recognize that so many people say year after year that they’re tired of the educational system and the schools and all the politics in schools and they’re making a change, yet they never do it. We just aren’t those people. When we say it, we do it. But, we also don’t say it until we’ve made a decision, which is probably why so many people are surprised we’ve made this decision. However, I know so many people seem to struggle with the decision-making process as it applies to their own families, and I wanted to share our story and our thoughts. I hope that it helps you make a decision that works for you, your family, and the little ones who should love learning and feel confident in their education.

How are you feeling as June comes to a close and the last full month of (the longest ever) summer vacation is upon us? Are you sending your kids back to school? Are you waiting until there is more information available so you can make the most informed decision? What are you worried about? What are you excited about? What is at the forefront of your mind?

Favorite 2020 Purchases So Far

Happy Tuesday!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post linking my outfits. I wasn’t sure it was the right tone during the Pandemic when no one was going anywhere, and no one needed to shop for things to wear nowhere, right? But, still, that didn’t stop the questions from rolling in on social media, so I’m going to round up a few of my favorite 2020 purchases so far and link them for you. Shopping is therapy, and therapy is great, and being great is good, and being good is amazing. An, honestly, the world could use some fun, light-hearted distraction right now.

We all know how I feel about Lilly this time of year, and that will never change. All Lilly, all the time. These are a few of my recent purchases, though I haven’t had a chance to wear all of them, yet. I’ve mostly been living in these Amazon jumpsuits…I bought them in every color.

 

Gratitude Prompts Days 15 to 31 (oops)

Sooo…I’m behind with my gratitude posts for the month. Honestly, I cannot believe I allowed two weeks to go by without a post! No excuses. I dropped the ball there, and today I’m catching up in a big way (with the remainder of the month). Can we just talk about how great I did the first week-and-a-half? It’s not an excuse, but I will share with you why I completely failed the second half (three quarters) of the month.

I was in a wedding planning haze! My husband and I had a beautiful trip to St. Kitts and Nevis planned for our 15th wedding anniversary. We booked a Nevis Peak Suite at the Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour. A beautiful suite with a massive private balcony with its own infinity pool overlooking the beach and the mountains across the way. We were excited…and then COVID-19 happened. Cancelled. Refunded. No trip.

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So, during one of our quarantine weekends with our favorite quarantine crew, we had the amazing idea to plan a vow renewal for our anniversary. It’s 15 years! We couldn’t go anywhere and celebrate, so we decided that we’d put the River House to good use and renew our vows on the dock using the river as our beautiful background. It was very last minute, very thrown together (have you ever tried to cater anything during a pandemic, even when things are opened back up and you can go out again, when there’s an apparent meat shortage, the florist can’t promise to have flowers here in time, and you have to just do it all yourself?). Needless to say, the week prior to our May 15th anniversary was hectic, and I was busy meeting my regular deadlines for my clients, helping my kids with their distance learning, celebrating with my husband, and planning our second wedding.

You guys…it was the most beautiful day! We were surrounded by the people we love the most, and we definitely had entirely too much fun! There is something so special about standing in front of the man you’ve loved for 18.5 years, to whom you’ve been married for 15, and stating new vows to grace your original vows. I can’t even describe the feeling, but it was more exciting than the first time we wed. To know that after all these years, I still love him – but better yet, I still like him – more than ever is an amazing feeling. It was a good, good day.

Once that was over, I was going to catch up on my blog posts…I was. But, I woke up that Monday morning sick. No, it’s not the coronavirus. I’ll leave this right here for anyone confused or slightly misinformed – but other illnesses do still exist. Not every sore throat, cough, and general feeling of malaise is the corona. Things like the common cold, the flu, bronchitis, and strep throat, and other things, well, they’re still here. They’re running rampant, as always, but it’s not newsworthy, so we’re ignoring that, right? Anyway, I spent the better part of the week sick and staying in bed to rest, so I wasn’t doing more than I needed to do.

Of course, I’m out of excuses now. I felt good enough Friday to take my oldest to a birthday party at Hammer and Stain for her sweet twin friends while I went to lunch and shopping with two of my very favorite friends (whose kids were also at the party), and good enough to go on date night with my handsome husband and our best friends that night, and good enough to pool party it up on Saturday, and host Sunday Funday at home, and have a Memorial Day pool party with our favorites.

Soooooo…I just dropped the ball there. Sorry.

I’m catching up. Today. I promise. Here’s all the prompts for the rest of the month. It’s still possible to be filled with gratitude with me, even if it’s a bit late, right?

Day 15 What activities bring you joy?

Too many to count! But, I will say that reading is a favorite. Our customary Wednesday night dinner with our best friends brings me joy. Playing board games with my families on rainy evenings. Rainy day movie days. Traveling. A good cup of coffee on my back deck while the sun is rising. Working out. Yoga and running. It’s so many little things.

Day 16 How is your life more positive today than it was a year ago?

This is a tough one. A year ago we were celebrating the last week of school with our littles coming off of a long few months of traveling – so fun, but exhausting – and my husband and I were getting ready to travel to Washington D.C. with our oldest daughter and her friends and their awesome parents for a week of Safety Patrol tripping. That was…an experience.

This year? We are coming off a long few months of going nowhere, doing nothing, being forced to slow down. But, at the same time, it’s been the best few months. We’ve really bonded with the people we love the most as we quarantined together. We’ve learned to appreciate the simplest things. This time last year, I was fresh into an adventure I thought would be so much fun and so enjoyable, and it ended up being the most toxic situation that brought so much negativity into my life. This year, that’s done, gone, and in the past – thank goodness – and I’ve learned that not everything is worth my time. That’s a freeing feeling.

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Day 17 What did you accomplish today?

This is going to sound silly, I know. I’m such an early riser. I’ve always been a 5 am riser. I like the quiet and the solitude. I like to sit down with my husband when it’s still dark outside and enjoy a cup of coffee while everyone else sleeps, and I like to get into my office and start working before the kids wake up, but quarantine life has changed that. Today, however, I was out of bed at 7:30 and in my office by 7:40 and it felt really good. Not that sleeping until 8 every day isn’t good, though!

Day 18 When was the last time you felt lighthearted?

These days? It’s every day in those little moments. It’s still really early, though, and I haven’t had a conversation yet, so I’ll go back. Last night, during dinner with our best friends we were having one of our infamous inappropriate conversations and laughing so hard at the dumbest stuff, and I just felt so lighthearted. Not many people get to have friends like ours and a relationship like ours, and it’s so special to know that we can have the deepest conversations and the most motivating conversations and then turn around and literally laugh at the most asinine stuff a second later. It’s good times. That makes my heart feel light.

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Day 19 What Inspires you to keep going when it’s hard?

This is a good one. Life is hard sometimes. Sometimes, it’s just plain dumb and stupid and hard. But, what inspires me to keep going is my husband and my kids. My husband is strong, and very little affects him negatively. He’s just magic like that. Things always seem so effortless and easy to him, so he’s always the ‘strong’ one as I’m the over-reactor and the panicky one and the freak out in the moment before I have time to realize it’s not a big deal one. So, I’m inspired by him and his ability to see that things really are never as bad as they seem. Also, our kids. I’m always inspired to keep going on hard days because they’re watching. I don’t want them to be quitters or learn to give up.

Day 20 What sounds make you happy?

Easy – the sound of the twins laughing. I love to hear all the kids laughing, but Carter and Charlotte were blessed with the best laughs. Both of them. It is physically impossible not to smile, laugh, and feel elated when you hear their laughter.

Day 21 What makes you feel alive?

Running. I feel so strong and so alive when I run. It’s such a liberating feeling.

Day 22 What makes you unique?

This is tough. I don’t know what makes me unique. I think it might be my ability to find the right words for anything, and to see through the words of others to figure out what they really mean even though that’s not what they are saying. Does that even make sense? Probably not, but it’s just a thing. Someone can say something, but their eyes and their body language, and the words they choose to use, their inflections, their mannerisms, their tone…all of it says something, and it’s not always the same as their words. It might be why I’m so empathetic to people, even when I don’t particularly care for them.

Day 23 How do you show love to yourself on a daily basis?

I workout every single day. I also get myself ready each day. Makeup, hair, and a cute outfit; every day. It’s not for everyone, I know, but it’s for me. I find that being put together helps me feel more put together, which helps me have a better attitude, a better mood, and a more productive day. I can’t stand the idea of feeling lazy and un-put together. It’s not for me. So, I show myself love by appreciating my body each day.

Day 24 What are some things you are really good at?

Being efficient. I never fail to cross everything off my to-do list each day even when I don’t know how I’ll find the time. I’m also exceptionally good at letting go and enjoying when the time is appropriate. I’m very good at baseball. I’m a good mom and wife and friend. I’m really good at keeping a clean house and car (you guys, it’s not that hard or time-consuming, I swear).

Day 25 What are some things you’d like to be better at doing?

I would love to improve my patience. I find that it’s very easy for me to lose patience with people, and then literally blame them for every moment of it. For example, my patience is tested when I’m driving (or passenger-ing) because I cannot handle people who don’t know how to drive. I mean, how hard is it to use the left lane to pass the slow right lane drivers, merge over when you’re done, and let the rest of us continue to pass until we can merge into the right lane? How hard is it to at least drive the speed limit rather than 15 miles under the speed limit? How hard is it to walk off to the side of the aisles at the store so people can continue to drive down the aisle and find a parking spot? How hard is it to just keep driving to park a few spaces back rather than sit in the aisle blocking traffic for 898 hours while you wait on someone to finish loading their car, answering their text message, calling their mom for a chat, and buckling their kids in the car before they depart so you can park two spots closer to the door? Honestly, is the extra 10 foot walking distance going to kill you? I could have been in the store, purchased everything I need, back in my car and gone in the time it took you to sit there and save yourself 10 feet. Clearly, I have rage, right? So, I’d like to have more patience.

Day 26 What is something money can’t buy that makes you happy?

Let’s be honest here – I’m a material girl living in a material world. That will never end, but what brings me the most joy in my life are the things that money can’t buy. Like the feeling of peace knowing that at only 36, I’ve already accomplished more in life than younger me thought I’d accomplish in my whole life – and I still have all these years ahead of me! My family brings me so much happiness. Our friends. Our freedom. Our love. The feeling of knowing that the little things are the ones that matter the most. Something that money can’t buy is this amazing feeling that I’m not defined by things. I don’t feel the need to compare myself to others or to care if mine is bigger or better or more expensive or more whatever. I love that feeling of knowing that what I have is what I want, not what society or other people make me feel that I need. That, my friends, is a powerful feeling.

Day 27 What is something in nature I’m grateful for?

Okay, so when we bought our dream house five and-a-half years ago, it had everything we wanted. The space, the number of bedrooms, the character, a massive covered front porch and a beautiful back deck and all this outdoor living space, and a corner lot, and did I mention all the character? But, honestly…the magnolia tree in our front yard was the kicker for me. I’ve always wanted one, but I was too afraid to buy one and plant it at our other house because I do not have a green thumb. This one is already established and mature, and I literally fell in love.

And then that motherf*cker never, ever bloomed. Okay, that’s a lie. It had three magnolia blooms on it one year, three years ago. Three flowers. My magnolia was a dud. But, guess what? Not anymore! I don’t know what changed, what happened, whatever. But, my beautiful baby has been showing out like a champion for weeks now! She’s got a minimum of 10 blooms open and fragrant at a time, and always 10-20 more buds ready to bloom at the same time. She’s a beauty, and I walk outside every single day now to watch her in action. I’m in love, and I know that I’m a dork, but this tree brings me all the feelings of joy and happiness and excitement. Am I showing my age yet?

Day 28 What is something that comforts me that I’m grateful for?

Aside from the obvious, my family, a good book. Beautiful words put on paper bring me so much comfort. I’m guilty of downloading most of my books on my iPad and reading them in that light, but I keep a collection of my favorite literature in actual book form in my office. The weight of the book. The smell of the paper. The feel of the pages on my fingers. I find so much comfort in words, but especially in book form.

Day 29 (that’s today, you guys) What is something you are grateful for today?

Today, I’m grateful for adventure. I am beyond excited to be headed off on an exciting adventure this weekend with my sweet family and our best friends.

Day 30 Where is your favorite place to go?

I can’t pick just one. So, here we go. Home. Our home is my favorite place in the world. I’ve never felt happier than I do here. The way the light pours in our family room doors and windows when the sun is rising. The way the sky turns the most beautiful shades of pink in the evenings while we sit on our front porch. The attention to detail, the character. It’s so light and bright and filled with windows and natural light. I always feel so sad and down when I walk into a home that’s dark and dim and has solid doors and few windows. It’s my favorite place.

My second favorite place – New York City. Over the past 13 years, my husband and I have made it a point to have at least two date weekends a year in the city. We have our favorite hotel (the Omni Berkshire on 52nd between Park and Fifth Avenunes), our favorite restaurant with our favorite bottle of Sangiovese (Il Tinello), our favorite place to watch the sunset over the city (Salon de Ning rooftop at the Peninsula) and our favorite place to have brunch and enjoy the view (the BoatHouse in Central Park) and our favorite place to have the best glass of champagne and the best service (the Champagne Bar at the Plaza Hotel). I could go on, but the city is my home away from home, and I love to be there. I love that our hotel doorman is always excited to see us when we arrive because we’ve become friendly over the years. I love that the staff at Il Tinello has never changed, and they always remember us. I love so many things about the city.

And then there’s SoCal. Orange County is another of our favorite places. Some of our very favorite people live there, and we love to visit. We have our favorite hotels (the Montage in Laguna Beach and the Surf and Sand) and our favorite restaurants (I’m looking at you Javiers in Crystal Cove) and the views and the smell of bougainvillea and so many other things.

Hawaii – We haven’t been in years (because I’m not willing to be that far away from our kids, but we also weren’t willing to take on a 12-hour flight day with the twins being so little, either) but we think the twins are finally at an age they can handle the flight with us, so we’ll be back soon. I mean, hopefully. Right now, we don’t even know what’s open and what’s not. But, we loved everything about it here, and we cannot wait to go back. Some of my fondest memories are from here.

North Carolina – it’s just the simplest, friendliest, most beautiful place, and we always feel so at home here.

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Day 31 What is the best gift you have ever received?

Hmmmm….I love all the gifts I’ve ever received, honestly. Okay, well, most of them. I love the things the kids make for me. I love everything my husband has ever given me. It’s hard to pick a favorite. Nope, let me stop myself right there. I have two favorites.

When I was pregnant with Addison Grace, my husband gifted me the most beautiful Tiffany & Co. Necklace with a small circular charm on it with a simple “A” engraved on it at our baby shower. Then, on my first Mother’s Day, he gave me a matching Tiffany & Co. bracelet with a charm on it that says “Mom”. Since that day, he’s filled that bracelet with the most beautiful charms, all meaningful in some way.

My other favorite gift is the one he just gave me for our 15th wedding anniversary. It’s the crystal anniversary, so he gave me a beautiful crystal vase. It might not seem special to some, but I’m obsessed with fresh flowers. I always have a fresh bouquet on the fireplace, on the island in the kitchen, on the dining room table, on the breakfast nook table, on the formal living rooms tables, and in our master bedroom. I refresh them weekly so we always have fresh flowers. So, to go along with my beautiful vase, he bought me a flower subscription. I’ll get fresh flowers delivered weekly for the rest of my life (well, year, I think, but he’ll renew it every year knowing him) to put in that vase so it’s never empty. I thought that was the most thoughtful, most beautiful gift.

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What’s important as we round out this month with gratitude is that we are thankful and appreciative of the beauty in our lives. Every day may not be the best day, but every day is a good day.

Gratitude Prompts: Days 12, 13, and 14

I know, I know…I missed a few days of gratitude this week, didn’t I? Oops! Well, let’s be honest. I’m not perfect, and sometimes things slip through the cracks, and this was just one of those weeks…and it hasn’t even reached crazy capacity just yet! I can’t wait to share more with you guys next week, but I will tell you that right now, this is one crazy, hectic, amazing week!

So, to catch up on day 14…I owe you days 12 and 13, too!

Today, my husband and I should be on a plane. We should be on our way to St. Kitts and Nevis to spend 4 days in a Nevis Peak Suite at the Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbor Resort. We were so looking forward to it, but the Coronavirus said no. We are disappointed, but trying not to let it get us down too much. So, that said…here are my gratitude prompts for the past few days and today.

Day 12: What keeps you grounded?

My husband, for sure. He is the exact opposite of me. He’s calm and cool and collected to my very temperamental hotheaded kind of crazy. He is always reasonable when I’m emotional. He doesn’t panic. He is calm, and there is always a logical answer to any situation. He keeps me grounded in every manner of speaking. When I’m mad, he reminds me that things aren’t that big of a deal. When I’m sad, he reminds me I have so many more things to be happy about. When I’m overwhelmed, he reminds me that it’s my choice to be overwhelmed and I should let go of my obsessive compulsive need to do everything myself and ask for help (well, he’s nicer about it than that, but you see what I’m saying). He’s my rock, and I love that about him.

Day 13: What is the biggest miracle of your life?

Honestly? Once again, I’d say my husband. How I managed to find someone who is so good to me and so kind and such a good father and such a strong person is beyond me. Especially at such a young age! We found one another when we were only 18. That was more than half our lives ago. The biggest miracle, to me, is that even after almost 19 years together, it’s not boring. We share an office. We have four kids. We are together like 98% of our lives, and we aren’t tired of one another. I’m still so attracted to him. I still love him so much. I still need him and want him even more after so many years together. I can’t explain it, but it feels like such a miracle to not only get to spend every day with someone I love so much, but someone I just plain like a lot, too. I don’t take that for granted.

Day 14: What does it mean to be free and fulfilled?

Can I just stop for a moment and tell you how much I love this question? It’s such a good question! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: for me, freedom and fulfillment go hand in hand. For me, being free means living life on my terms. It means not answering to someone else every day of my life. It means making my own schedule and my own choices and my own opportunities. It means not being on someone else’s terms every single day. It means going to the store and never worrying about price tags. It means being free of fear and the mundane.

Fulfillment is so similar to me. It’s that feeling of going to bed at night with a full, happy heart knowing that I don’t dread the following day. There is something so fulfilling about knowing each day, each season, is my own choice. It’s knowing that I can create all I want in life, and that I can do it around the things that are most important to me, like being present for my kids. It means knowing that I have everything I’ve ever wanted, and so much more is just an added bonus. It means loving where I am, and being excited about where I am going.

Gratitude Prompt Days 9, 10, and 11

I love when I get to go into a long weekend worth of gratitude…though I wish I had the time to do them all one day at a time! No, that’s not true. I love that I don’t worry about things on the weekend. I focus on having fun, making memories, and living my best life. That brings me to days 9, 10, and 11 of gratitude.

What’s a moment in your life that was pure joy and light?

The first night both of the twins were home from the NICU and we were able to put them into their sweet little bed in our bedroom, together, for the first time. Carter was discharged a day before Charlotte, and we had to leave her behind. They were in the NICU for a week after they were born, and we lived in the hospital with them – even after I was discharged, they let us keep our room.  We were in the NICU every three hours, 24 hours a day, to feed them, cuddle them, and spend time with them. When Carter was discharged, we made the decision to stay as late as possible, go home and be with our older girls, take them to school in the morning, and then come back. I cried all the way home with a broken heart. I never imagined being in a position where we’d take one baby home but not the other.

My heart was broken all night long, and I couldn’t wait to get to the hospital to be with our girl the following morning. When we got there, they were so excited to tell us that they were sending her home with us. She had a very rough night – as did Carter – which wasn’t something they’d ever had. They were both so upset and inconsolable for the first time since they’d been born, but when they were together again…they both relaxed, calmed down, and were happy and content once again.

The moment we got home and had all four of our babies together, the twins together, was the sweetest moment of pure joy. It was the first time the girls got to hold Charlotte (they held Carter the night before when we got home) and see the babies in person because of NICU rules. It was the most magical moment.

What season are you grateful for?

When we had Addison, we knew immediately we wanted all the babies. When we decided to have number two, we were shocked, crushed, heartbroken, and horrified when I suffered two miscarriages before our sweet Ava joined us. That season was the single worst thing we’d ever been through in our lives separately, together, and in our marriage. Losing babies is debilitating – even when you never got to hold them.

I would never wish that season on anyone, ever. But, it is the season I think that I am most grateful for in hindsight. We’d never been through anything difficult in our marriage or life until then. To go through that was a moment that hurt more than anything in the world, but to see how much stronger it made us, how much closer it brought us, and how much we leaned on one another during that time…that’s strength, and I cannot tell you how much more we appreciate one another, love one another, and how much less we taken for granted in life as a result.

I hated that season, but I’ll never forget our sweet Ava the day she asked us a question that made me realize that God’s timing is flawless.

“Do you think Carter and Charlotte are our angel babies we never got to meet that went to Heaven? Because I think they are. God decided we needed them,” and that’s when I realized that our season was awful, but she’s right. We did need them. If we’d had them before, we never would have known Ava, and what would life be like without her? God knew what we needed, and He provided.

What was the best thing that happened today?

Well, I’m writing this in advance, but I’ll go ahead and tell you what the best thing is that happened to me on the day that I’m writing, so it’s not specific for the day this blog is going live (full disclosure and stuff).

It’s still early in the day, but this is the moment that delighted me beyond measure already today. Per usual, I was awake and enjoying a cup of coffee while working in our bed. Charlotte woke up, woke Carter up, and went into the kitchen to ask Craig to make their breakfast. I could hear Charlotte telling daddy all about her dreams from the night before, and Carter came into the master to say good morning. He never misses a morning of coming to see me when he wakes up before I have a chance to put things down and come out to hang out. He walked over to me, he reached his hand out for mine, and I put my hand in his. He then pulled my hand up to his sweet little face and kissed the back of my hand very gently and said, “I love you, mommy,” before he told me he had a dream about chocolate muffins the night before.

That little moment just melted my heart. What could be better than that?!

Gratitude Prompt Day 8: What You Love Most

You guys…it’s Thursday. That might not mean much, but it means that we are coming up on the most exciting night ever – our first date night outside of the CAR! We’ve been having our regularly scheduled date nights almost weekly during the pandemic, but they’ve been in the car. Like, put the second and third-row seats down and have a picnic in the car kind of date nights. It’s been a lot of fun, we have some photos that will literally bring us so much laughter the rest of our lives, and we made some seriously good memories, but we get to have date INSIDE A RESTAURANT. I get to dress up. I get to wear heels. I get to DRESS UP. You guys…nothing else matters right now. I cannot wait.

What do you love most about life?

The people I share it with.

Cliché? Probably. Cheesy? I’m sure. But, the people I share my life with are, without a doubt, the absolute best thing in my world. They’re what I love most about life. My husband, who makes me smile with his kindness and his sweet demeanor, his handsome smile, and his desire to be with me 24/7 even after almost 20 years together…that’s everything to me.

Our kids, who make us laugh like crazy when they’re not making us literally crazy. They are so perfectly imperfect that I cannot even stand it. Just look at them. They are amazing! To get to be their mom is such a gift. To know that they’re cool, and funny, and that they are witty and just sarcastic enough to be funny without being impolite or rude, and that they are loving and kind and happy and generous and selfless and that somehow that’s primarily because of us is the coolest feeling in the world.

Our friends and family, with whom we live our best lives. They are always there for us. They’d do anything for us. To know that no one is ever going to go to the front door let alone ring the doorbell or knock, to know that they’re going to bring me the very special laundry detergent we use for Sweet Charlotte because of her sensitive skin after I made – and promptly forgot – a comment about how it’s getting harder and harder to find it with all the pandemic stuff going on because they saw it in the store and knew I needed it, or that I’m going to grab them toilet paper because I know they’ve not seen any lately, or to know that it’s always filet Friday/Sunday/Wednesday or that their bar is always stocked with our favorites and vice versa, to know that our kids all feel at home in one another’s homes and everyone just helps themselves, and that there is literally nothing off-limits in conversation…ever.

The people I share my life with – they are everything. They’re amazing. I don’t even know what I did to deserve them.

What do you love most in life?

Gratitude Prompt Day 7: Personality Traits

How’s everyone doing with their gratitude prompts? It’s hard to keep up with all that needs to be done each day. Some, in my opinion, require a little more thought and a little more time – there’s more to say. Others, still, are quick and easy. This is one of those for you.

What’s one of your personality traits that you’re grateful for?

This one is so easy for me, but I do have two that are right up there.

Number One: I am so grateful that I have an open mind and the ability to entertain thoughts that I don’t necessarily agree with. I find one of the least attractive personality traits in the known universe is a know-it-all. You know what I mean – the kind of person who is always right, whose opinion is always superior, who is never wrong, who becomes immediately defensive if your opinion or thoughts differ from their own. The type that makes you avoid certain topics of discussion at all costs. I love that I can have an opinion, I love that I can carry on a debate and still remain calm and respectful even when I disagree with others. I love that I can see things from other points of view not my own, and that I am generally not an asshole about things.

Number Two: I am so grateful that I don’t feel the need to compare myself to others. I feel a profound sense of sadness for people who compare themselves or try to one-up everyone. I imagine it’s an awful way to live, and it must suck so much happiness out of life to feel that way rather than to feel the desire to celebrate the victories of everyone around you. I am so grateful I feel happiness and pride when people accomplish things, or when good things happen, or when people are killing it. I also love being invited to the celebrations mainly as an excuse to get a babysitter, dress up, and have some champagne – so call me if y’all are celebrating anything. I mean, literally, anything – because I’m thrilled for you and ready to raise a glass!

What is something about your personality you’re grateful for?

Gratitude Prompt Day 6: My Proudest Accomplishments

As I sit here writing this, it’s still the weekend and it’s early. I have my coffee in my office where I’m watching my husband water the flowers around our front porch. Our hibiscus is growing vibrant pink flowers that make me smile every time I see them. Our gardenia is overflowing with fragrant white blooms that we can smell from the driveway on the far side of the house and along the walkway all the way from the driveway around the garage and to the front door.

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The French doors are open to the lanai. The picture windows along the front of the house downstairs are all open letting the cool air in, and the girls are playing quietly on their own. Our son is following daddy around ‘helping’ him with the watering. I’m reminded that these are the mornings I have always pictured in my mind when I thought about life as a grown-up. I feel an overwhelming sense of peace and of gratitude and of calm happiness. Life is messy and loud and chaotic and crazy most of the time, but it never fails that those moments are fleeting in the midst of the simple things that mean the most. Which brings me to today’s gratitude prompt – the sixth this month.

What’s an accomplishment you’re proud of?

That is the single most loaded question in the world, isn’t it? What are you most proud of that you’ve accomplished? What is an accomplishment? Are we talking personally or professionally or something different? I feel a great sense of accomplishment in knowing that I began a successful business doing something not even remotely related to the educational path I chose – something I love with a passion – when I was 25. Something that’s grown so much over the past 12 years that I never would have imagined happening.

I feel an amazing sense of accomplishment that I was able to birth four beautiful babies, but especially two at the same time, and that we have raised (mostly) well-behaved, polite, kind, funny, silly, intelligent little humans who are a lot of fun. I feel an amazing sense of accomplishment at the fact that we didn’t follow the ‘standards’ or the ‘norms’ when it came to our life in any capacity. We don’t have ‘traditional’ lives by any means. Growing up, our generation was always taught you go to college, you get a degree, you go to work for someone else Monday through Friday from 8 to 5 and you bring home a paycheck and you go on a vacation every year with your family somewhere okay, and you raise kids who play sports, you go to church, you donate both your time and your money to good causes, you buy a nice, normal house and you dream of ‘one day’ living in your dream house, and you sit around waiting on raises and retirement and ‘the golden’ years to show up.

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I feel a tremendous amount of accomplishment at the fact that the above scenario is not our life. I can’t imagine working for someone else. I can’t imagine being required to be somewhere and do for others what I do for myself. We both work from home. We share a home office. We were 29 and 30 when we bought our dream house in our dream neighborhood after already building our first home when we were only 20 and 21. We don’t wait around and think about ‘one day’ having what we want and doing what we want – we live that every day. We travel. We have fun. We enjoy our lives and our time, and we don’t fall into the norm. That’s an accomplishment to me.

But, at the end of the day, are those the accomplishments I’m most proud of? I don’t know. I can say that I feel a profound sense of accomplishment in things that are a lot smaller…simpler might be a more appropriate phrase.

I feel so much accomplishment being almost 37-years-old and surrounding myself with the same core group of friends I’ve had my entire adult life – almost all of whom are living life on their own terms working for themselves and running successful businesses and have made their dreams come true. People who are so like-minded that there is no negativity. It feels like an accomplishment to find people to do life with who are always interested in what’s going on with you, and who always cheer for you and celebrate successes with you, and want to be part of every detail of your life. People who just want to see you succeed and aren’t worried about comparison or keeping up with anyone else or trying to outdo one another. For many years, I thought this was normal – but it turns out, after being exposed to some other groups of adults, this is apparently not the ‘norm’ and it’s rare to find people like that.

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To have a group of people who are so close that our kids were born together, have known one another since before they were born, and whose successes and accomplishments I feel I’m part of. When they succeed, I feel like I succeed, too. Watching them grow from the time we were young adults through now and seeing them killing it makes me so proud and so happy, and it’s because I love these people so much. We love them so much. Between my family and my friends, I am surrounded by the greatest people in the world, and that is the most amazing accomplishment. The kind of friendship where you spend multiple days/evenings together every week and always look forward to it because there’s nothing better than being with people you love making memories with your family, with them, with the kids…that’s what life is all about.

I feel a tremendous amount of accomplishment in the fact that I get to live my life according to my own terms. It’s a powerful feeling to embrace a Monday while the rest of the world detests it. It’s a powerful feeling to know that I’ll never have to dream of the weekend or live for Fridays (I mean, they’re great and definitely the best days, but I don’t have anything to escape from, and that is a big feeling). It’s such an accomplishment to know that if I think it, I make it happen. So many people spend their lives talking about what they’re going to do, discussing ‘one day’ and how they’re ‘going to’ year after year until they one day wake up and realize that one day was that day and talking about it isn’t the same thing as acting on it. I feel a great sense of accomplishment knowing that I didn’t settle for anything.

I feel a great sense of accomplishment at being comfortable with myself. In knowing that no one else’s opinion matters nor does it bother me. In knowing that if you love life, it loves you right back. In knowing that I can honestly say I’m living my best life every day, even when the day isn’t the best one.

So, what’s my biggest accomplishment? It’s living a life I love in every aspect. Balance is hard, but we make it work, and that’s a gift.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Gratitude Day Five: Do I Actively Practice Gratitude?

Happy Tuesday!

Today’s gratitude prompt is such a good one, because it’s more of a question than it is a prompt. It’s a little bit more in-depth, and I love that about it. That said, I’d like to go ahead and dive right into this one today.

Gratitude Prompt Day 5: Do you actively practice gratitude?

YES! Every single day. Not only is the beginning of every prayer I pray one of gratitude throughout the day, I also keep a journal. I picked it up at my local Home Goods store months ago, and it’s been so good to me. It’s called the “Intentions and Reflections Daily Journal” and it allows me to get up every morning and not only write down my goals, what I’m thankful and grateful for and how I feel, but also how I want to feel, what made me feel that way, and how I can keep that up. It’s like a diary I can go back and look at because it prompts me to use it first thing in the morning as well as before bed. It’s a bookend to my day.

I love it because it forces me to sit down at my desk first thing in the morning and outline my gratitude and my goals for the day. Those are two things that are so important to me. I’m immediately required to think of things I am so grateful for each morning, and that begins my day on such a good note. It also gives me a chance to sit down a few moments before I go to bed and write down all the things that I am thankful for that occurred that day.

Essentially, I’m waking up thinking of what makes me grateful, and then I’m going to bed thinking of what made me grateful each day. That’s a powerful tool, and it’s one that I highly recommend to anyone who is struggling to find reasons to be grateful.

Trust me – not every day has the same thing list. Many of them do, of course, but some are a lot heavier than others. Some are a lot lighter than others. Some days are a struggle. Some days I am just grateful that our kids go to bed without arguing because one more minute of them that day would have pushed me over the edge. But, being able to focus on that calms me, reminds me of how fortunate I am, and it helps me focus on the things that are important.

For example, there’s something that I’ve been focused on so much lately, and it’s been getting to me. My husband is so distracted with his clients and his work and with the kids home, and with their new school schedules, and with all the extra things we are now required to do for them throughout the day, and there have been a handful of occasions lately where we’ve had a conversation and he has no recollection of it. That enrages me (I mean, everything I say is obviously more important than anything else in the world, right? Right? I mean, riveting…) because I dislike repeating myself (we have four kids. I repeat myself a lot…and I don’t want to do it to a fifth person).

But, one thing that my journal has helped me to realize is that every single time he was thinking of something else when I was speaking and he totally forgot or didn’t hear or comprehend me, he’s quickly apologized and then gone above and beyond to make that up to me – every single time. And being forced to look past my frustration and to see that he’s going above and beyond to make sure I know that I am more important than the occasional distraction has been so good for me. He’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. We make mistakes, but being forced to look for reasons to be grateful when you’re not feeling it is a good thing – it helps me see past my own anger and hurt and see that it’s not intentional and it’s not from an ugly place.

If you’re not doing something like this, I recommend you start. It doesn’t take long to make finding your gratitude morning and night a habit. And it doesn’t take long to make your attitude change, either.

Gratitude Prompts: Days 2, 3, and 4

Happy Monday!

I figured I’d add a quick disclaimer on here; I’m not blog posting my gratitude on weekends…I save those for my family. But, I’ll be adding my additional gratitude for those days on Mondays or maybe Fridays so we don’t miss throughout the month. Does that sound fair? Here we go…

Gratitude Prompt Day Two: Describe your happiest memory.

This one is so easy. November 17, 2007. My husband and I had been married a few years at that point, we’d been traveling the world, living our very best lives, and enjoying our time together immensely. I didn’t think that we could be any happier than we already were. We had all we ever wanted, plus so much more, too.

But, that morning was the morning I was officially six days away from starting my period for the month. When we were in Hawaii for my birthday just a month before, my sweet husband asked me to have a baby. I wasn’t sure I was ready, but I gave it some thought. Ultimately, he was born to be a father, and I knew that. So, we decided to go for it. I didn’t think I’d be pregnant, or even that I’d get a positive test result with one of the ‘try this test six days early and find out,’ tests. But, I had to try it out because I could not wait any longer.

I’d bought the test the day before. We both work up at 6 am on a Saturday morning to take the test because we could NOT wait. We had plans to go to Gainesville that afternoon and attend the Gator football game, and I was so excited. I took the test. We sat on our bed, and we waited two minutes. We prayed together. Then, we got up and we went to the bathroom to read the results. I couldn’t do it at the last second. I just couldn’t look at it if it didn’t say what I wanted it to say, so my husband did it for me. His smile told me everything before his words formed, and I knew the test said, “Pregnant,” and we were having a baby. His face. His excitement. The absolute happiness in his smile, his eyes, and his voice; that was the best day of my entire life.

Gratitude Prompt Day Three: What makes you happy to be alive?

My family. What else? That I get to live the life I love with the people I love is everything to me. It’s literally everything. Sometimes, I find myself ready to complain about a bad day or a bad moment, and I am reminded that I get to live this life. I look back and remember when every single thing I have and get to do right now was just a dream in the minds of my husband and I when we were planning our wedding. We wanted to live in a big house in this beautiful neighborhood. We wanted to have a family to make memories with. We wanted to both have the freedom and ability to work from home and create our lives together. We wanted to make our own rules and our own paths, and we get to do that every day. This family of mine. This life of mine. It makes me happy to be alive.

Gratitude Prompt Day Four: List the treasures around your life.

Happy kids. Faith. A husband who still compliments me and calls me pretty and sexy and wants me every single day, who makes me laugh, who is always on my team even when we don’t see eye-to-eye. Friends who love us and who we love so much. Extended families who are so amazing.

I have a lot of treasures, many of them materialistic, but these will always be the ones that meant the most to me.