2017: The Year of Quality Over Quantity

2017 is over. Can you believe it? I swear the years go by faster every day. I’m still wrapping my mind around the fact that it was New Year 2017 just a minute ago and now we’re mere days away from ringing in 2018 with abandon. Anyone? Just me? No?

2017 was good to us. It had its up and downs of course. Life is far from perfect in the Raiford household, but it’s really good – we’ve worked really hard to build a life of freedom, and we are enjoying every second of it.

It’s been good to us, but we always have room for growth. And that’s what 2017 brought to us. It was a year of growth. We call it the year of quality over quantity. It’s difficult to explain, but we had a moment at the end of 2016 – somewhere before Christmas but definitely after Thanksgiving – when we realized we needed to make some changes in our lives.

We were getting ready to go somewhere and do something with our girls, who were 8 and 5 at the time, and they both sighed. “Can’t we just stay home for once? We always have to go places. We’re tired,” they whined.

Wait. What?

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Their lives are good. Were they really complaining about spending the evening with their friends? Were they really being ungrateful about all the fun we provide them? Weekend after weekend of traveling, of spending time with friends and family, of going to BBQs and pool parties and Christmas events and Disney World. Were they really complaining?

They were. And what made it even worse was that we knew what they were saying. We were also exhausted. We were never home. In 2016 we didn’t even take a trip for our wedding anniversary like we wanted because every weekend was pre-planned with some event, function, party, etc. We had no free time – we were actually scheduling free time in our calendars. We were tired. It wasn’t that we weren’t having a great time – we definitely were. But we were just worn out. Run down. Tired.

We have four kids. My husband has a career he loves, and it keeps him busy. I have my business to run, and it keeps me busier and busier everyday with new growth, projects, and clients. We have four kids. The twins were about to turn three (side note – I’m dying over here thinking they will be four in less than three months. I mean, I was just pregnant with them!), and that many kids doesn’t really provide a lot of opportunity for rest and relaxation.

We knew we had to make some changes. We wanted to be more deliberate with our time. We wanted to learn to say no to being overscheduled. We wanted to start planning things for our family to do together just us so we could really spend some quality time with the kids. The twins were more fun than ever, easier to travel with, easier to take out.

We wanted to be more deliberate, and we wanted to have more time at home. We bought our dream house in 2014, and we’d spent very little time in it – even though we both work from home – just enjoying it. Our kids were tired, we were tired. We needed some change.

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Que New Year’s 2016-2017. We decided we’d learn to say no to things that didn’t work with our schedule instead of saying yes to everything and killing ourselves trying to get everything done. Sundays were a no-no for plans. Sundays would become our day as a family. No plans other than church and relaxation. If we wanted to do something, we’d wake up and make that decision, but we agreed no making Sunday plans.

And I cannot even tell you how good this year was to us. We had more free time – though I am ashamed to say that more free time is still not nearly enough free time – and we were able to schedule so many of the things we were never able to find time for in the past. Sundays became very well spent in a slow, sweet manner. Mondays were so much nicer because we were prepared, organized, and rested because of those slow Sundays.

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The kids are so much happier. They love the quality family time we are spending together, and they love the ability to sometimes get to stay home and enjoy the many things they never got to enjoy before. We took more bike rides and golf cart rides. We took more walks. We played outside a lot. We baked cookies and had family movie nights and spent weekend after weekend at Disney World just enjoying what they wanted to do. We slept in, we made big breakfasts, we took day trips to our favorite places. We traveled.

My husband and I were able to find the time to schedule five long weekends and trips this year. Just the two of us. Just to spend to quality time together (we do have four kids….). From New York to Fort Lauderdale to California to South Carolina to Naples, we earned plenty of frequent flier miles this year. We had another three or four single nights away a little closer to home in Tampa in Orlando. We dated. We laughed. We focused on our marriage a lot more this year. It was good.

We also made it our goal to spend at least one weekend a month out of town with the kids. Tampa and Orlando are easy drives, and we wanted to really get some serious use out of our Disney passes this year. We made sure to schedule a few of those weekends away with just the big girls to spend a little quality time with them, but we made it a point to really enjoy this new stage the twins are in that makes life so much simpler.

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I think the highlight of my year – and I’m so serious – was when we were flying home from a fun vacation in North Carolina and two total strangers came up to us at two separate times in the airport and on our flights and told us what well-behaved, delightful kids we have and how well they travel.

If that’s not a mom’s dream come true…

Quality.

It was all about quality this year. We are getting older. The kids are getting older. We were changing. Maturing a bit, growing up a bit, and our wants and needs were evolving. It was time for us to focus our priority on doing what makes us happy and what makes us feel good rather than making sure every day in our calendar was filled.

As a result of focusing on quality, so much of our life has changed for the better. The kids are less exhausted, and they’re so much easier. We can load them up, take them out, sit down at a nice restaurant, and we don’t have to worry they’re too tired or cranky to behave. We are less exhausted, so we aren’t as grouchy or as impatient as we were in the past.

We are more focused on our work, and it’s shown in both of the advancements we’ve made this year. Craig has never been more ebullient. I’ve been able to find the energy to expand my company and take on some major new clients, as well as focus on a change of direction in some of the services I offer.

It’s hard to explain, but slowing down has really made a change in our lives. It feels good to be in control, and it feels really, really good to spend so much quality time as a family. I didn’t even realize how much I like spending time with these little animals until this year because I’ve been on autopilot for so long.

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Now that I’ve written a small novel, I want to share with you how we made the change to focus more on quality than on quantity in 2017 if it’s something you want to do, too. I’m also working on a post about how we’re getting #backtobasics in 2018 for later.

Be Deliberate with Your Time

Learn to say no. It’s not easy, but sometimes you just have to say no when you’re tired, not feeling well, not up for it, not in the mood, when you have other plans, when you just want to relax. Sometimes you just have to say no. It gets easier each time, and it’s going to change your life. Remember – your time is valuable. It’s too expensive to dish out so frequently on things that aren’t as valuable to you.

Focus on Your Health

Get some sleep. If there’s one thing I’ve always believed, it’s that sleep is too important to miss out. A few late nights here and there are fun, but nothing beats a good night of sleep followed by feeling good the next morning. There just isn’t enough time to waste not felling well or being too tired to function all the time.

Work out and eat good food. Nothing feels as good as being healthy, and nothing feels as good as moving your body and fueling it with things that are good for you. I don’t feel well when I don’t work out. I don’t have energy, I’m crabby, and my body gets really angry with me when I don’t feed it well. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my favorite unhealthy things; I do. I just do it in moderation (mostly…we all have our moments).

Take a Rest Day

For us, leaving Sundays open and unplanned has been the best decision we’ve ever made. It doesn’t always work out, of course, but doing this most weekends has been amazing. Nothing makes the week more exciting, more productive, and better than being well rested and prepared.

Get Organized

Life is better when it’s organized. I can’t sleep if my house isn’t clean. I can’t leave the house if it’s not clean. I can’t function if things are out of place or order or ignored. It’s not who I am. I know not everyone is such an obsessive neat freak, but it really is easier to get through life when you’re organized and on top of things.

Do What You Want

If there is something you want to do, do it. It’s better to do it now than keep waiting on it. Find the time. Make the time. Do the things.

Thank you, 2017

Thank you for helping us grow, for changing our hearts, and for allowing us to prosper. Our life is so filled with abundance, and we are so grateful and thankful for the opportunities we’ve found, created, and been given this year and the years before. It’s been more than a little exciting to exceed our goals, to surpass our dreams, and to have the opportunity to spend so much time together. Here’s to 2018 and all the blessings, lessons, and new beginnings in store.

 

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Stocking Stuffers for Him Under $100

I shared a few of my own personal favorite stocking stuffers for the beloved ladies in your life on Monday, but what about the men in your life? Husbands, fathers, boyfriends, best friends, brothers, the mailman…hey, I don’t know what you do in your personal time.

My husband loves when the items in his stocking are useful and enjoyable, and Santa works hard to ensure that happens. He loves when there are new socks in there. He’s obsessed with Lacoste underpants, too – and that’s something he’s going to love me sharing with all of you, I’m sure. Some Hershey kisses, a few lottery tickets he can scratch off, new toothbrushes….maybe even a new beard trimmer. He likes useful, and I like him.

So he’s gone through my Sephora app to find his favorite stocking stuffers for the practical – and amazing-smelling – man in your life. Each one is under $100 to make it easy for you to stuff his stocking. And with free two-day shipping for only $10 a year, you have plenty of time to get it in time for Santa’s arrival.

Givenchy: Gentlemen Only Cologne

This is by far my favorite cologne. It’s masculine and light, but also just so subtle. When he walks by in this, I just want to be close to him….if that’s not incentive, what is?

YSL L’Homme Deodorant

It’s not always easy to find deodorant that works well and smells good, but this one takes it all the way. It’s strong enough to last all day, but light enough it doesn’t leave him feeling as if he has too much on or not enough on.

The Art of Shaving: Shaving Cream 

Sandalwood is so subtle and masculine, and that’s what makes this shaving cream so amazing. My husband doesn’t shave often because he only trims his facial hair but when he does, he uses this and it smells so good.

Peter Thomas Roth Shampoo and Conditioner

If the man in your life doesn’t want to smell like your shampoo and conditioner, try this. It’s very light, and it leaves his hair soft and clean. It’s not frilly, and that’s what makes it perfect for his everyday grooming needs.

{All Photos Courtesy of Sephora.com}

 

Stocking Stuffers from Sephora Every Woman Will Love

One. Week.

And it’s the most wonderful time of the year; I love everything about this time of year, but I have one small complaint.

I despise stockings. Nothing makes me crazier than “stuff,” and it seems everyone just fills stocking with “stuff,” just to fill them.

You won’t find “stuff” in our stockings. You’ll find useful, necessary items everyone loves, needs, and will actually use.

And some Christmas candy. Because sugar.

The kids get DVDs, and new toothbrushes, and underpants, and socks, and headbands and bows, and any little item they’ve been asking for (fidget cubes seem to be super important to our big kids this Christmas).

My husband is a stocking-stuffer genius. There’s always a little blue box, my favorite chocolate, a pretty bottle of perfume, or spa gift cards in my stocking. He’s good – and he always includes things he knows I’ll use and want.

And he’s always sure to pick them up from Sephora. He steals my phone, goes through my app, and he always gets it right. I thought since it’s the season for giving, I might give you a few ideas for the ladies in your life. Wives, moms, daughters, best friends, etc. – all from Sephora and ALL under $100.

Perfume

Who doesn’t love a scent that’s light and subtle, but oh-so elegant? To be 100% honest, I love to wear men’s cologne. I love Victor & Rolf’s Spice Bomb, Givenchy’s Gentleman Only…but I also know my husband isn’t a huge fan of me wearing his cologne and smelling like a man.

I just prefer the way he smells, and it’s so hard for me to find perfume that’s not too feminine and floral. That’s what I looooove about these three. They’re elegant, lovely, and feminine without being girly…and I love finding them in my stocking!

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Moisturizer

Let’s face it – this time of year is hard on our skin. A perfect moisturizer is difficult to find. Until now. You’re welcome.

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Blackhead Removers

Gross; I know. But trust me when I say these will forever change your life. Your face. Your confidence level. Get one for you and one for your favorite friend.

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Face Mask

Masks are so helpful this time of year, especially when they help you find a little of moisture you lose in the cold air.

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Airbrush Makeup

2017 was the year I realized my 34-year old skin no longer looks quite so good in my Bare Escentuals mineral powder. I’ve been using it for over a decade, and my skin no longer responds.

I had to find something new that lasts all day, doesn’t sweat off in the Florida sun, and doesn’t feel so heavy.

Thank you, Sephora. This airbrush makeup is everything. Someone on your list is going to love finding this in her stocking.

Photos from Sephora.com