Travel Recap: NYC With Kids

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We hated, hated, hated New York City the first time we visited.

We spent the weekend of our second wedding anniversary in May 2007 in NYC. It was our first visit, and we did all the things you’re ‘supposed’ to do. We hired a limo to for our airport transfers and both nights we were out on the town for dinner. We made reservations at Tavern on the Green and the Four Seasons to sit in the iconic Pool Room. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt near Grand Central Terminal, we shopped all weekend, and we saw the sites. The 9-11 memorial made us cry. The top of the Empire State Building almost made me cry – omg, that was high.

We visited Times Square, Central Park, 5th Avenue, and all the places you’re ‘supposed’ to go when you’re in the city.

And we hated it.

Tavern on the Green is gorgeous, but I’ve yet to have a good meal there the 4 times we’ve had dinner. The Four Seasons was spectacular – and we’ve had probably a half-dozen diners there, but they moved out of their iconic 52nd street location, and it’s lost its luster as a result (sorry, Four Seasons…but my guess is you’re already aware of this). Times Square is dirty, packed, too commercial, too loud, and filled with nothing worthwhile.

We couldn’t navigate the city, and we just didn’t care for it. We said we’d never go back. In fact, we’d booked a 5-day trip to Orange County in California with a departure only 4 days after we came home from NYC, and we spent our entire trip in NYC wishing it would end so we could fly home and pack for our flight to California. We were never going back to NYC.

We just got home from our 23rd trip in New York City Sunday evening.

Obviously, we are liars.

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Since 2010 when we made our second trip to NYC with some of our best friends, we’ve been going back for date night and other reasons regularly. I spent a year working with the NFL, the CDC, and USA Football on the Heads Up Program as a parenting writer, and that required a trip to the NFL headquarters on Park Avenue every 3 months. My husband and I spent the second half of 2012 and the first half of 2013 visiting the city every three months for a few days, so I could attend my 2-hour luncheons with the NFL commissioner and everyone else involved in the program, and then we’d just have a few date days.

That time spent in the city gave us a chance to fall madly in love. We found our favorite hotel ever on 52nd between 5th Avenue and Park. We found our favorite little wine bar tucked along the side street by Rockefeller Center. We discovered brunch at the Boathouse in Central Park. We found the little café on the shoe floor at Saks with a gorgeous terrace overlooking 5th and Rockefeller. We found Salon De Ning, the rooftop bar at the top of the Peninsula Hotel with breathtaking views of 5th Ave. We developed a serious love of the Champagne Bar at the Plaza Hotel. And we discovered the most amazingly amazing Italian restaurant ever in the history of life – Il Tinello.

We learned how to navigate the city. We know where we’re going, which streets are one-way streets, and we developed a distinct taste for Uber Black anytime we need a ride anywhere. We love the city, and we spend at least 2 weekends a year in NYC for Fashion Week in February and September, and we fit in a 3rd weekend for just a date night if we have time between our other travels.

And this time – we took our two oldest daughters with us. Addison is turning 10 in July and Ava turns 7 in March. Our frequent trips to the city since they’ve been born have piqued their interest in visiting. Watching Kevin live his best life in the Plaza Hotel in Home Alone 2 over Christmas Break created an obsession in Ava.

So….we took the girls to NYC. And I’m going to share how we did the city with little kids in tow (which did not involve any stops at our favorite wine bar, no drinks at the Saks Café, and no after-dinner cocktails at the Plaza).

Where to Stay: The Omni Berkshire

The Omni Berkshire. This is our favorite hotel in the city. It’s located on 52nd between Park and Fifth, only steps from each. A 30-second stroll has you standing on the corner of Fifth Avenue between Ferragamo and Cartier, and only 2 blocks from Saks Fifth Avenue.

The staff is spectacular – particularly Lenny, the amazing @karaokedoorman – who manages to make everyone feel like a VIP when they arrive. The front desk staff is always quick to offer a fun upgrade, send up a bottle of champagne when they see it’s almost your birthday, and they were so fun to offer the girls gifts when we arrived. It’s a 4.5-star hotel with class and elegance, and we cannot get enough. It’s always busy, but you can never tell.

Where to Eat with Kids

We had a tough time with this one having never seen a child in a restaurant in NYC before – in fact, other than our kids, we’ve still never seen a child in a restaurant in NYC before. We ultimately decided to make reservations at the hotel’s restaurant the first night of our visit. It was 34 degrees, sleeting, and cold – and the girls were a little tired. Bob’s Steak and Chop House is the name, and they were spectacular with the girls.

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Ava was in total heaven when she realized the kids’ menu included a 4 oz. filet mignon, which is her favorite meal. We all had filet, and it was one of the best I’ve ever had. The carrot – OMG. The Bob’s famous carrot is everything it’s made out to be. The bottle of Chianti my husband ordered was spectacular, and the ambiance was fabulous. The staff was great with the kids, and we enjoyed ourselves fully.

Il Tinello is where we took the girls our second night in the city. I don’t even have words for the truly remarkable experience we have each time we visit Il Tinello. No matter what we order, it’s flawless. The staff is the same staff we’ve been dining with two or three times a year since our first visit to the restaurant in 2015. They are subtle, enjoyable, and always manage to keep our glasses filled, our table clean, and new treats on the table for us without us even noticing they’re there.

They carry a bottle of Sangiovese we’re obsessed with, the food is always perfection, and they were so delightful with the girls. Our wonderful waiter took it upon himself to cut Ava’s filet for her so we didn’t have to. He offered the girls anything on the menu they wanted even if they don’t make it or carry it – which is how they ended up with ice cream sundaes after dinner. Every single person who walked by our table – including the manager – stopped to tell the girls how beautiful they looked in their fancy dresses, and they served Ava her beverage in a fancy wine glass so she could “cheers” us every 30 second all night.

I cannot say enough about Il Tinello. It’s located on 56th street, it’s very subtle, exceptionally ambient, and utter perfection. I always heard Regis Philbin talk about it on his talk show with Kelly Ripa, which is how we found it the first time – and dined at the table right next to Regis and his wife Joy that night. My life was basically made. Seriously.

As for brunch on Saturday morning, our plan was to take the girls to the Boathouse for the spectacular food and the view of the park and lake. However, they’re currently closed for renovation, so we made reservations at the Plaza Hotel for brunch. Once again, the staff catered so amazingly to the girls, ensuring Ava had the largest bowl of strawberries and raspberries imaginable to go along with her bacon – her favorite meal.

We had lunch at the 2West at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park so we could see the Statue of Liberty. It was very good, and the girls enjoyed themselves. We ordered room service the rest of our trip because that’s the girls’ favorite way to eat – picking what they want to eat and someone else bringing it to them in bed.

Activities for Kids

To be honest, we aren’t very touristy – so this might not be the best guide for anyone who is. Our first order of business was a trip to the American Girl doll store near Rockefeller Center. The girls have wanted dolls for some time now, but they only wanted them if they came directly from the store in New York City. So that was the primary reason for our visit.

The store is amazing, the girls had the most wonderful time, and it was a super fun afternoon. We walked right over to the store after we checked in on Friday, and the girls spent some serious time designing their new dolls, choosing additional outfits, and wandering the store to check out all that’s there to see and do.

Following that, we walked around 5th Avenue, stopped for their favorite Starbucks drinks, shopped a bit more, and then we went back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner. We had an early dinner –and lingered – and the girls were ready to go up to our room and relax after dinner. They were tired from an early morning and our flight.

On Saturday, the girls wanted to see a bit more of the city. It was a beautiful 40 degrees and sunny, so we walked to the Boathouse (only to realize it was closed for renovation – oops). Our hotel is on 52nd and the Boathouse is just inside the park at 72nd and 5th. It’s a lovely 20-block walk, and the girls loved all the architecture and everything to see on the gorgeous walk.

Our girls had a list of things they wanted to see and do:

  • American Girl Doll Store Shopping
  • Shoe Shopping at Saks
  • Times Square to see Toys R Us and the M&M store
  • Go to the Plaza Hotel to see if Kevin and/or Donald Trump might be there (from Home Alone 2)
  • See Central Park
  • Look at the horse and carriage rides, but not ride them because “ew, they stink”
  • See the Statue of Liberty
  • See where the Twin Towers once stood
  • Ride in a Limo
  • Eat a lot of dessert
  • Go shopping

So, we did all the above. They had the most spectacular time. Times Square, as I said before, is not a place we enjoy, but they did want to see it. I’d highly recommend you take the quick walk down to 7th to see it yourself and walk around, but you only need to see it once. To be very honest, the screens are cool, but you’ve seen McDonalds and Olive Garden and H&M a million times in cities across the country – so there’s little point in sticking around.

There were the creepiest, most awful Disney characters wandering the street getting a little too touchy-feely with the kids, who thought they were terrifying (They were….though we live an hour from Disney and have been annual passholders since our oldest was born a decade ago, so our kids know their real Disney characters quite well….kids who’ve never been might not know the Times Square Disney characters are creepy AF). And Ava thought the naked cowboy was hysterical and “Gross” and she’s not wrong.

How to Travel in NYC with Kids

You can try a cab, but it’s not how we prefer to travel. We always use a black car or limo to and from the airport – and this time for dinner with the girls Saturday night. Otherwise, we walk everywhere and love it. If we’re not walking or the weather isn’t great, we use Uber – but ONLY Uber Black. It’s all black car service within the Uber app. It’s more expensive than a regular Uber, but I feel so much safer and so much better in a black car. I’m terrified of the Subway, and I’m not a fan of being around so many people, but I hear other people say they love it.

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As for flying, all three airports take about the same amount of time in terms of travel – however, we’ve only every flown out of Newark and it was early on a Sunday morning when there was zero traffic to speak of in the city and in the tunnel. JFK and LaGuardia are both great, and the drive’s not bad even with traffic.

We always fly JetBlue into NYC since it’s a hub and the flights are always timed well throughout the day. Additionally, JetBlue is always good about taking the estimated 2.5 to 3-hour flight time and making it just over an hour and a half. Like I said, we love JetBlue. Additionally, the Even More Space seats in the front are affordable ($28 to $40) so we always have more room and get to sit in the front.

I, nor my kids, enjoy sitting in the first row. It’s where everyone in the front congregates to stand and wait around for the front restroom, and as Miss Ava said – loudly – “It’s so gross sitting in this row with everyone’s butts in my face and in front of the TV,” and she’s not wrong. I have always had a problem with the front row, but any of the other rows in the front are much better. JetBlue is also such a great airline for kids because they have televisions at every seat and the kids can watch DirectTV, not kill any tablet batteries, and they put their earbuds in and never acknowledge us.

If you’re looking to spend any time in the city with your kids, there are so many wonderful things to do, places to go, and things to see. We are admittedly very focused on our favorite places and our favorite area of Midtown, and we only venture out of that area when I’m there for Fashion Week and must attend shows and events. Otherwise, we pick our favorites and enjoy the actual hell out of them the entire time we are there.

The kids loved the city, the city loved the kids, and I’m positive they’re going to be furious the next time my husband and I have a date night in the city and they’re not invited.

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Life Update: Diagnosed with the Flu and 3 Little Ways to Get Out of A Funk

Happy Tuesday!

I’ve been away from the blog for over a week now, and I really do hate that. I have some amazing content prepared and ready to share, but it’s been a very rough 12 days in the Raiford household.

The Flu

the flu

It hit. And it hit hard. I woke up 12 days ago after a lovely date night feeling just fine only to suddenly feel overwhelmingly exhausted, tired, and unable to function within an hour. I went to bed and didn’t resurface for a solid 48 hours. As suddenly as I went down, I felt amazing again. I lived with said feeling of perfectly normal for 48 hours until I suddenly couldn’t breathe. I thought I’d developed awful allergies all of a sudden. My head was so foggy and congested, I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, and I couldn’t stop my eyes from watering.

My wonderful Instagram-fam sent me dozens of allergy-relief recommendations, and my husband picked up a few for me (which did not help….probably because it wasn’t allergies!) but I only felt worse when I woke up the following morning. That was Thursday. By the time I came home from picking up our kids from school that day, I laid down on the couch and fell asleep before 5 pm, slept until 7 am, and finally had to admit I needed to see the doctor.

So….I FaceTimed a doctor using the most amazing thing ever (MDLive). I didn’t have the energy to even get up to use the bathroom (not a problem since I was so dehydrated at that point, anyway), let alone go to my doctor, so I did it online. Literally, the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

I had Tamiflu, two different steroids, and an inhaler in less than an hour thanks to the lovely doctor I spoke with. She didn’t like my deep cough, she diagnosed me with the flu though she didn’t test me based on the whole part where we were on the phone and all that, and within 24 hours of beginning my medications, I moved.

It was a big deal.

I’m still very, very tired. I can get up and function, but I’m slow and want to sit down and rest a lot. But each day is better than the one before. On that note, however, I’ve been spending a lot of time napping and resting – and I lost an entire week of my life. I actually slept through a hair appointment I forgot I had because I had no idea what time it was, what day it was or anything like that.

I missed over a week with my kids and my husband. They were here, of course, but I basically slept through their entire lives, and I really hate that. My sweet husband picked up my share of the parenting and life-doing without complaint (because that’s just the person he is) and held down the fort all by himself.

He is exhausted, and I’m looking forward to making this up to him even though he says there is nothing to make up. I literally could not do life without this man, and I’m so appreciative of him and all he does for us every day. I know how fortunate I am to know lunches are packed, kids are taken to and from school on time, homework is done, dinner is cooked, laundry is done, and the house is clean even when I’m unable to help at all – I know so many households fall apart when mom is sick and unable to help, and I’m so thankful to my husband for being sure that doesn’t happen here and that this mom does get sick days.

So, I’m working my way to being back in action. Today I woke up for the first time at my normal time (well, I laid in bed for an hour until 6, but I was awake, so that counts, right?) and we’re back to normal-ish. Carter is sick, so we’re headed to the doctor to make sure he’s not coming down with the flu, but otherwise, it’s back to real life as normal today despite the funk I’m in.

I finish one set of my medication today, one set of it tomorrow, and two more sets of it on Thursday, and I’m so happy. It’s got me in such a funk – well, that and just not being myself, in general, has me in a funk. I don’t love it, so I’ve been looking into a few things I can do to get rid of the funk I’m in and find my inner happiness again. It’s definitely not easy when you’re working on getting over the flu – which sucks – and on four different medications when you’re someone who never takes meds because you hate the way they make you feel – but these things do seem to be helping.

Read

While I laid in bed for more than a week, I did it with books. I read six books in the last week while I wasn’t napping. And that’s what makes my soul feel on fire and good. If you’re not a reader, I don’t even understand you. What’s more amazing than taking yourself into any world you want when you’re stuck in a less-than-desirable situation of your own thanks to the “F” word?

*Side Note: I’m not sure I’d have been able to read if it weren’t for my iPad Pro and its connecting keyboard because I can prop it up next to my face and read without using any energy to turn pages or hold a book.

Create New Goals

I may have felt a lot like I was dying for a good week, but that didn’t stop me from making new goals, creating new ideas, and taking ample notes regarding both on my phone when I had the energy to pick it up. I have a long list of really exciting new things to work on now that I’m back, and that’s thanks to focusing on new goals and exciting endeavors when I was lying in bed.

Appreciate the Little Things

As I began to feel better, this got a little easier. However, it’s not always fun to lie down and do nothing useful. All the things you’ve missed out on start to bother you, and it’s really easy to fall further into a funk because of it. I focused on the little things. Every time I felt myself feeling sorry for myself or upset that I wasn’t able to control life to the fullest for more than a week or that I wasn’t where I wanted to be at the moment, I forced myself to sit down and appreciate the little things.

I listened to my husband help our oldest with her homework, and I realized just how smart they both are and how well they work together. I listened to him make dinner for all four kids while also answering math problems, putting band-aids on booboos, and telling really bad knock-knock jokes with our six-year-old without missing a beat. I watched the sun come up over our back deck from the couch, and I really just appreciated the way the morning light hits the back of our house of glass and windows. I’ve always loved the morning light in this house, but I was really reminded just how spectacular it is when I take the time to watch it.

Once I was feeling better, I also really enjoyed listening to the day start when my husband opens the doors and windows on a beautiful morning. I swear, as materialistic as I am, the little things like this are really just my favorite.

The little things made me happy, and I’m definitely working my way out of my funk.

It sucks – for lack of a better term – to be sick and feel like this, and it’s difficult to get out of a medication-induced, flu-induced, feeling-sorry-for-myself-induced funk. But it’s getting easier every day.

Being able to stomach a cup of coffee for the first time in a while helped the funk a bit, too. Not gonna lie.

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3 Perfectly Pink Valentine’s Day Cocktails with Santa Margherita and Bruce Cost Ginger Ale

Happy Friday!

It’s weekend, it’s time for some fun, and it’s definitely only 5 days before Valentine’s Day. If you’re anything like my husband and I, you might just call Valentine’s Day another day and go about life as usual (by giving chocolate hearts to the kids and then telling them they’re gross and they don’t want them so you can binge eat them all yourself…because love).

We do a card exchange. He sends me flowers. We buy little gifts for the kids. But we don’t celebrate. We went out to dinner once on Valentine’s Day – what a disaster. Oh my goodness. We went to one of our favorite restaurants with the intention of lingering over our favorite meal and a bottle of wine only to realize the menu was Prix Fixe with approximately zero of our favorite items. The staff practically shoved our food down our throats, asked us three times if we wanted to box up our food and cork our bottle to take home, and brought the check before we even took a bite of dinner.

Romantic, right?

I guess turnover is a big deal on such a ‘romantic’ evening.

Never. Ever. Again.

Since then, we’ve stayed home, made our own delicious meal, drank too much wine, and added four kids to the mix.

Romantic, right?

Forced romance and love isn’t our jam, but these amazing cocktails are my jam. I’ve teamed up with Bruce Cost Ginger Ale and Santa Margherita to bring you some of the prettiest – and tastiest – Valentine’s Day cocktail recipes. If you’re not feeling romantic, you will be when you’re done with these.

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Sparkling Hibiscus

Ingredients – Santa Margherita Prosecco Superiore DOCG, whole hibiscus flowers packed in 8 tsp. hibiscus syrup

Using a tall glass, place one entire hibiscus flower in the bottom of the glass and cover it with Santa Margherita  Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Leave enough room to add 2 tsp. of hibiscus syrup into the glass, mix, garnish, and serve.

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Rose Petal Rose Flor

Ingredients – 1 bottle Santa Margherita Sparkling Rose, pink rose petals

Fill your favorite champagne glass with Santa Margherita Sparkling Rose and add a few rose petals to the top. It’s delish, it’s simple, and it’s oh-so elegant.

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Flor Adora 

Ingredients – 3/4 oz. lemon juice, 3/4 oz. raspberry gum syrup, 1.5 oz. plymouth gin, 4 oz. Bruce Cost Ginger Ale Original

This recipe might still be pink, but it’s a little more masculine than the others on this list. It’s also so simple to make you just mix everything in a glass and mix it. Garnish with a fresh raspberry and enjoy.

Pick one, pick three – you can’t go wrong with any of them. Maybe try them all each night leading up to Valentine’s Day and pick your favorite for your big celebration at home. Seems like a win, right?

{All photos courtesy of Santa Margherita and Bruce Cost Ginger Ale}

Instagram Roundup: What I’m Wearing Lately

I have to share a secret you might have noticed; I have such a uniform depending on the season. Also, seasons are impossible in Florida. We had a kind-of winter for a few weeks. Just enough to realize we have nothing appropriate or anything below 60-degrees, and now we’re back to 50s in the mornings and 80s during the day.

It’s so difficult to get dressed in the morning in that situation. Layers are a serious thing right now, which is why you’re seeing me in my ‘this time of year’ uniform. Jeans – or faux leather leggings – and tees with a sweater or blazer over it.

And we can all agree I cannot get enough of these suede BB pumps. I feel no shame.

I’m trying to be a little better about IG roundups on the blog so you can have faster access to all the details you want without yelling at me about it via DM or email (I’m sorry!), and I’m going to try and post one every two weeks or so.

You’re welcome!

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{ Jeans, Pumps, Tee, Bag }

{Sweater is Old Navy and a few years old, so similar here, here, and here | Sunglasses are Yves Saint Laurent I purchased years ago in Hawaii and are currently sold out so similar here and here}

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{ Jeans, pumps, tunic }

{see first photo for sunglasses | I just ordered this scarf from Amazon for $15 but I can’t get the link to work. There’s a similar one here, but you can search grey and blue blanket scarf on Amazon and have it in two days for so much less }

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{ Faux-leather leggings, pumps }

{ Tunic is TopShop from Nordstrom but it’s sold out, so similar here and here | see first photo for sunglasses | Blazer is Forever 21 from like 12 years ago – I know – so similar here and here }

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{ Jeans, ballet flats }

{see first photo for sunglasses | Hogwarts tee is from Target, but it’s sold out. Similar here and here }

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{ Jeans, pumps, bag, bralette }

{ These RayBan oversize Aviators are sold out from what I can find, but there are similar here | Lush tee is sold out at Nordstrom, but similar here and here | see previous photo for blazer}

Also – to clarify a question I’ve gotten a lot recently, my Neverfull is the GM and it’s too big. I love it because I have four kids and 700-pounds of stuff to carry around between the six of us. If I bothered with the diaper bag, I wouldn’t carry it. However, I’m entirely too lazy and rushed to change out my bag regularly to be quite honest. I’d recommend the MM if you want a Neverfull.

 

Weekend Recap: A Spontaneous Family Getaway at the Gaylord Palms

Monday, Monday, Monday…a new week with some new goals and some new things to conquer. Always welcome, but this weekend did seem to go by a little too fast. We had the best weekend this weekend. We woke up Friday morning at 5 am per usual, we showered, sat down with our coffee, and went about our morning as usual. I read my First 5 app, and my husband browses the news.

Except Friday morning we somehow went from sipping our coffee together while trying to wake up to deciding to book a room at one of our favorite Orlando hotels to surprise the kids with a weekend of fun. The Gaylord was booked, lists were made, secrets were kept. We didn’t want the kids to know, so I was texting our 4th grader’s teacher at 5:30 am to find out what time they were taking their Friday tests (because she’d be horrified to miss them….trust me) and getting into my office to get some work done.

I ended up checking all four kids out of school early, and we came home to finish packing so we could go when Craig was finished with work. The kids were so surprised, and they were even more excited.

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We checked into the Gaylord, and the kids were super excited to find out our rooms were in the Everglades. They love being in the Everglades so we can run down and see the baby alligators and snakes and turtles anytime. It was a super simple night. Dinner. A walk around the atrium to check out the bigger gators, the baby gators, the snakes, the boat, the fort. We finished out with a trip to the ice cream shoppe for “make your own ice cream” creations. Any flavor, any topping, and as much of all of it as you want. You pay based on weight.

And no, you don’t want to know how much it costs when you have four kids heaping piles of ice cream and toppings into those giant bowls.

By 8 pm, the kids were about done after school and an exciting evening, so we retired. The kids got into their beds to watch a movie and Craig and I had a mini date-night on the balcony while we watched them watch their movie. They fell asleep fast, and we were able enjoy ourselves with a bottle of wine and some quiet time before going to bed.

As always, the Gaylord was fabulous. The staff is incredible. The kids love them because they all go out of their way to make sure they feel like royalty. They get down on the floor and play with the kids, they love Carter’s hugs (he actually hugs every single person who delivers room service to our room when we travel – like, “Hey, you bring me bacon, you get my love.”), and they always have something wonderful to say.

For example, we were once there with just the big girls and they were crushed when we arrived and the pool was closed for a few hours because of something I can’t even remember. When we walked back into our room after wandering around a bit, there were two gift bags on their bed. Both bags contained baby dolls, accessories, and cookies from the manager to make their day a little brighter. They really are amazing.

Back to my story.

Saturday looked a lot like room service in bed – an extra-large pot of coffee included. Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, more treats than these kids know what to do with, shopping, dinner, and another movie night.

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Carter’s entire life was made when we went to Hollywood Studios and he got to hug Olaf. He never disappoints. He is never unexcited. He is always so excited to see Olaf you’d think it was the first time. He gives him the biggest squeeze, tells him all his favorite secrets, and basically makes every other kid at Disney wait much longer than necessary to meet their favorite character. He’s a charmer, and all the characters want him to stick around anytime we visit. Maybe it’s the fact that he and Charlotte are twins and they’re so stinking cute, or that they are so open and loving. I don’t know – but they love those babies at Disney.

We rounded out our weekend Sunday getting back to real life before enjoying a fun afternoon celebrating our favorite 1-year-old’s birthday. The kids played in the rain, ate too many cupcakes, and only lasted a few hours before asking if we could go home and rest. They were tired. They passed out in the car, and it was a quiet ride home.

What I Learned This Weekend

I’m not usually big on spontaneity. I don’t like things not on my schedule. I prefer to pre-plan things, to have a plan going into them, and to have ample time to get my life together to make a fun weekend happen. And this weekend was not like that at all. It was so last-minute. It was so unplanned. And it was amazing.

  1. Our kids are awesome – I know this. We never have issues with them when we travel. But I always think it’s because they have weeks’ notice with us constantly reminding them what kind of behavior is expected on our flights, in our hotels, at restaurants, etc. Turns out, it’s not me. It’s them. They are just really well-behaved kids. Who knew?
  2. Going with the flow isn’t so bad – I like plans. I like reservations made in advance. I like to know what I’m going to do. I don’t like not knowing, but it was so much fun. We thought we might go to Disney on Friday night and then just Hollywood on Saturday, but we decided we didn’t feel like going back out after we checked in (you don’t even want to know how congested valet was). And we really enjoyed not having a real plan and only doing what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it.
  3. The babies aren’t babies anymore – I hate this. They just aren’t. They’re going to be four next month, but they are our babies. And they are growing up fast. As soon as we got to our rooms, they immediately chose their beds. Carter wanted to share a bed with Ava (I am positive he thought he might be able to steal her favorite stuffed animal from her while she slept. He’s always after that thing) and Charlotte and Addy wanted to share their bed. They played well, had their own movie night without incident, and fell asleep early. It was like having four big kids.
  4. Our kids only like the idea of ice cream – They didn’t eat a bite of the $2,948,487 ice cream at the Gaylord. Their pleasure came from picking stuff to go into it. They don’t eat their ice cream at Disney – ever – but they ask for it All. Day. Long.
  5. Family time is really good – We spend so much time getting through the day from one activity to the next with four kids, and sometimes it’s hard to focus on how enjoyable our family is. But let me just tell you how crazy it is to have a family of six is nothing compared to how much love there is with four kids. Someone is always offering a hug or a kiss. There is so much laughter – they are so funny – and there is always something sweet going on. As crazy as they might make us every day, they really are amazing.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes it’s the most random, most unexpected things that make you look at things a little differently? We have weekends away with the kids all the time, but they usually include other people, or a packed schedule, and ample notice. Just going with the flow, creating a schedule as we saw fit, and hanging out with just our little family with no distractions was really, really fun. I loved it. And I love starting my week with that feeling.

28 Little Ways to Celebrate Your Love Everyday – Not Just On Valentine’s Day

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February is the month in which everyone celebrates love, but we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day in our household. It’s not that we have a problem with it – we don’t. It’s just not in our nature to feel the need to celebrate our love for one another on a very specific day because someone told us to do it that way. We’re more of a celebrate our love everyday kind of couple, and Valentine’s Day is a fun way to celebrate something sweet with our little ones.

In our house, Valentine’s Day means celebrating the kids. Craig always sends me flowers – even though we have 3-4 bouquets of fresh flower in our home at all times – and we exchange cute cards (and I like chocolate, and I will never turn that down, Raiford…hint, hint). But our day is mostly about being sweet to the kids. Celebrating love with them.

What I love is the little things that happen everyday in our marriage. Those are the moments I like to celebrate every day. It’s the little things my husband does that make me feel the most loved. It’s that he gets all four kids out of bed, makes their breakfast, packs their lunches, and gets them ready for school every morning. He knows that when I’m most productive and motivated and creative, and he wants me to have the chance to utilize that time in my office.

It’s that he is right there next to me at bedtime every night to read to the kids, tuck them in, kiss them goodnight, and all that. It’s that he does 90% of the laundry in our house, and that he cooks dinner. It’s that he loves to spend time with the kids and he’s 100% involved in their lives. It’s that he never tries to take the hot water from me when we’re in the shower – he waits for me to decide I don’t need all the hot water and space and share with him. It’s that he tells me he loves me like 87 times a day both verbally and through his actions.

It’s the little things. And I have 28 little things you can do every day this month to show your love through your own actions. It’s simple, it’s amazing, and it has the potential to change your life if you make acts of service like this a habit every day.

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  1. Say thank you for the little things rather than taking them for granted. Thank your spouse for taking out the trash or changing the baby’s diaper. Thank him for standing when you excuse yourself from the table, or thank her for always making sure you have your favorite breakfast item in the house.
  2. Turn off your phones and spend time together every night.
  3. Go to bed at the same time every night.
  4. Take a family walk and really pay attention when your spouse talks to you.
  5. Surprise him or her with their favorite treat the next time you’re out.

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  1. Let him or her sleep in while you get up with the kids one morning.
  2. Offer to do something he or she usually does so they can relax or at least have a little less on their plate.
  3. Cook dinner.
  4. Plan a date night.
  5. Bring home grocery store flowers (I don’t know what it is about grocery store flowers picked up in a moment of, “Those are pretty, and my wife would love those,” that I love so much more than a flower delivery, but it’s special).

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  1. Pick up a card and write a sweet note in it for your spouse.
  2. Make the bed for your spouse if he or she is usually the one who does that.
  3. Make a donation in your spouse’s name to a cause that’s important to him or her.
  4. Get away for the weekend.
  5. Make breakfast together on the weekends.

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  1. Do that one thing he or she mentioned they’d love to do or wish they had more time to do and surprise them.
  2. Offer a massage to your spouse.
  3. Don’t have a headache (the more you say yes, the more you want to say yes and the more intimate time you spend together, and the closer you become).
  4. Give him or her a break when you’re in a bad mood instead of snapping or being short.
  5. Come up with something fun that’s not typical and do it together.

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  1. Clean out his or her car.
  2. Tag team things one of you usually does alone to make it faster and easier.
  3. Choose to laugh more often than you choose to have any other response.
  4. Send the kids to the grandparent’s for a night alone in your very own home, where you sleep the best, where you enjoy your coffee the most, and where you can both relax and really enjoy one another.
  5. Make your spouse’s coffee in the morning.

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  1. Bring home donuts.
  2. Ask if there is any way you can help him or her make their live easier on a daily basis.
  3. Never miss a moment to smack one another on the ass when you walk by (that is what marriage is for, right?)

And the bonus – just be a nicer person in general. Everyone loves a nice person, and what better way to celebrate your love for someone than just being a nice person? I like it.

What do you do to celebrate your love for one another on a daily basis?