Fourth of July Dresses You Can Wear Again and Again

 

Happy {almost} Fourth of July!

I love two things about this specific holiday. Number 1 – I can officially say that “the month after next is my favorite time of year,” because it’s almost September, which is my birth month and the official start of “Fall” in my house. Number 2 – Our besties throw the most fabulous Fourth of July party imaginable. Picture your favorite fireworks display at Disney or your local city and then cry sad tears because it’s nowhere near as good as the display at Casa Crouch. #sorrynotsorry

Like any other holiday, I love coordinating our ensembles to match the theme, and this year is no different. Well, except that half our kids hate dressing up for holidays, so I no longer push it. Craig and I, on the other hand, do dress for the holiday. Last year was one of my favorite Fourths for me and our girls in terms of what we wore. We all had the most fun matching Lilly Pulitzer print (I believe the name of the print is Star Stuck). It was a bright pink star with white and blue detail, and we received so many compliments.

This year we’re going a little different. The kids only wear their swimsuits, so it’s red, white and blue for that, and my husband will wear his own red white and blue, and I just ordered a fabulous red, tie-front cutout midi. I’ll pair it with white and blue accessories for the win.

I’m known for waiting until the last minute to figure out what I’m wearing, and I figure I’m not the only one. We officially have like four days to find something to wear, so I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite red, white, and blue dresses perfect for the holiday, but also perfect to wear after the holiday is over. Because I like things that serve more than one purpose!

 

Red and Ready for the Fourth 

1. This off the shoulder dress is on sale for $53 right now, and it’s perfect for a sultry summer day.

2. This gorgeous red maxi is on major sale for only $139, and it’s perfect for any summer gathering.

3. This cutout, off-the-shoulder, one-shoulder dress is not something I’d wear – too trendy and not my style – but I think it would look fabulous on so many women I know, so I had to share it. It’s also on sale for only $93!

4. This fun sundress had me at pompoms. 

5. I love this tie-front midi, which is super similar to mine.

6. For a super casual day of fun in the sun, this $70 tank dress is perfection. 

 

Summertime Blues 

1. This gorgeous blue and white midi with the tie front cutout is just like mine, but mine is red. If I’d noticed this one first, I’d have ordered it instead. 

2. J. Crew never fails, and this striped maxi is everything. 

3. It’s not big secret my closet is filled with Diane von Furstenberg dresses, and this one is absolutely stunning. 

4. Does this dress just scream summer on Nantucket, or is that just me? 

To help make each one a little more fourth-friendy, choose accessories that complement your dress. Red, white, and blue always look good together when you’re proud to be an American.

Happy Fourth!

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His & Hers Casual Date Night Look in the Caribbean

Happy Friday, Loves!

I am so excited about this weekend for no reason other than the fact that we get to catch up on some sleep and go to church on Sunday! Our cruise last weekend with our four favorite couples was amazing, and we are exhausted as a result. The kids are just as tired because the grandparents come over here to stay with them, and we’re almost positive they skip naptime, bedtime, and any downtime. They’re spent, and I think we have a small-ish tummy bug going around.

I picked the twins up early from school yesterday because of it, and I didn’t feel 100% last night, either. Don’t worry…I’m back today.

But, back to the cruise. We spent a long weekend cruising the through the Bahamas with our favorites, and it was amazing! I won’t lie to you, though; I don’t love cruises, and I especially dislike cruises to Nassau. It’s dirty, and I could do without ever going back. Actually, we all groan and complain about it, but it’s the only place we can go on a quick 3-night cruise, so we deal. No one wants to do more than three nights away from the kids, so Nassau it is.

We had the best time, though, and that’s not unusual. It’s a fun group, and the memories we make are priceless. I can’t even…

My favorite part of any trip is always date night. It’s not exactly a secret I love to put on a gorgeous dress and a pair of amazing shoes and live it up with a glass of champagne in hand – and that’s exactly what I did every night on the ship. I’m sharing my 3rd date night look today. On our last night, we decided to skip our dining room reservations in favor of the onboard steakhouse, Chops. It was a great choice since the food was actually edible (um, did I mention I am not a fan of cruise ship food? I drink my calories and eat very little…but that soft serve ice cream, though…). We had great food, great wine, and great company on this night.

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{ Tiffany’s Look: Lush dress, Christian Louboutin So Kate pumps, Prada bag }

{ Craig’s Look: Pants, Shirt, Shoes are old, but I found very similar here and here }

We were ravenous on this particular night of the cruise! We were also so red from spending the day in the sun! We woke early – because I always wake early – went down to breakfast in the main dining room with two of our other couple friends, drank copious amounts of coffee, and then two of my girlfriends and I grabbed the tender from the boat to Royal Caribbean’s private island (Cococay) and enjoyed a 45-minute yoga session on the beach.

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{ Me, Peggy, and Corinna on the ferry to enjoy yoga on the beach }

I’m spoiled with a very intense, very fast-paced, very strenuous, very hardcore, uncommon yoga class, and I found this one beyond easy – but that view was spectacular! After yoga, we tendered back to the ship, changed into our bikinis, and met everyone else in the atrium and tendered back to the island for a day of fun in the sun.

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{ Crew, our yoga instructor, walking us over to the palm trees by the ocean for a quick yoga session }

We rented floating mats, and we literally spent the entire day floating in the clear blue water until my girlfriend and I decided to swim out to one of the floating docks in the middle of the ocean – that was a long swim – and our husbands followed us. Our inner 4-year-old boys came out and we ended up pushing one another off the dock and acting like children for an hour before swimming back to shore, and it was so much fun!

Once we were back on the ship, we showered, dressed, hit up the casino, shopped, and enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails in the Schooner Bar. It was a gorgeous day, and we all lived our best lives that day!

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This dress – which was my point to begin with – is one I bought months ago. My stylist sent it to me in my trunk club (if you’re not using the Nordstrom Trunk Club, you’re not living) and it’s one of the items I chose to keep. I’m really bad about buying things, hanging them in my closet, and not wearing them for months. I think I’ve had it since February, and I took the tags off of it on the ship! It’s flirty and fun, and it’s SO cheap!

Rompers and Jumpsuits in the Caribbean

Happy Wednesday, loves!

It was The. Most. Fun. Weekend. It was all fun in the sun with our amazing people, and I’m exhausted to a point I can’t even describe. We spent the weekend with our four favorite couples on a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas, and we laughed for four straight days. Oh, the memories!

I can only say that I am truly grateful that we have such an amazing tribe, and that in the decade we’ve been so close, we’ve done some of the most amazing things together, been to the most amazing places together, and created some of the most seriously amazing memories. Our kids have been best friends since birth, we’ve been all over the world together, and the dynamic is the best.

It’s not easy to plan a trip for five couples with a grand total of 12 kids between them. You have seven sets of grandparents who have the be available at the same time, on the same weekend, and it’s a lot of planning. But, shout out to those grandparents for taking the best care of our littles so we can make memories.

The first night of the cruise was the night I was finally able to wear one of my favorite purchases from last year, and I love it. My gorgeous friend Corinna and I have been planning our outfits for a while, and we wanted to grab a quick pic together before dinner in my romper and her jumpsuit – and we had a ton of compliments!

I want to take a moment to point out that you’re looking at mid-30s mamas with a total of seven kids between the two of us. We’ve both always been active and good about working out and eating well, but we made a commitment a few months ago – along with our husbands – to really focus on good health, building muscle and toning, and just live our best lives. And we, along with our husbands, have been killing it. I’m so proud of us.

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{My outfits details: Lilly Pulitzer Tiki Wrap Romper (I bought it last year, and I cannot find it in this color anymore, but there is a new version of it in new colors I linked for you) Christian Louboutin So Kate Pumps, SugarFix by BaubleBar Earrings}

{Corinna’s outfit details: By&By Jumpsuit, similar shoes here and here}

It was a rompers and jumpsuits kind of night for us, and we both received a ton of compliments on our choices. I asked Corinna if I could share her outfits along with mine because of that, and she was totally fine with it. And I will never, ever look at this picture of us without visualizing knives, Tito, and BJ being a married man while dying of laughter. #insidejokes

Social Media and You

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I try to share a happy marriage of the good and bad to keep it real. On one hand, I love social media because I love to see the happy moments in everyone’s lives. I love to see the babies and the vacations and the new homes. I love to see when you are doing well, living your best life, and making life your you-know-what. Social media is a highlight reel, and I love that. The world is ugly enough without seeing everyone’s personal drama. I – personally – don’t want to see your personal business, your problems, your drama online. I like the highlight thing. It’s happy. I don’t like the drama thing. It’s awkward.

I’m aware that social media is your personal platform to share what’s important to you, what’s on your mind, what’s happening in your life. I just prefer the good to the ugly. I know your life isn’t perfect because I know mine isn’t perfect. Do I love to hear your parenting horror stories? Yes, yes I do. Do I love to hear you chime in with the fact that your husband, too, cannot find anything that’s staring him right in the face like 60 percent of the time? Yes, I do. Because Craig is guilty, guilty, guilty! And I like to know I am not alone.

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Believe it or not, based on my social media presence, we are private people. We keep to ourselves, we spend time with a very small group of people we love very much, and we just live our lives. You see the pretty pictures. The highlights. The good stuff. But you don’t see the best stuff or the worst stuff. You didn’t see me crying and in bed for weeks the first time we lost a baby. You didn’t see me yelling, screaming, acting like a petulant child whose world was falling apart when our doctor told us Ava was a girl and handed us pamphlet after pamphlet of information about termination at the halfway mark. To give us “options”.  We waited three weeks to find out if the echogenic intracardiac focus on her heart was Down’s Syndrome, or if she was one of the 3 to 5 percent of babies with an EIF and no health issues.

You didn’t see me cry myself to sleep for 2 hour stretches of time every single night while my husband held me and cried with me when our twins were born early and very, very small. They lived in the NICU, and we lived in the NICU. The hospital staff let us keep our room for an entire week after we were discharged so we could be with them while they lived there. But that meant not living with our girls at home. We didn’t even get to see Ava on her third birthday because it was a rough day for the twins and for us, and our moms decided to give Ava a fun day she’d enjoy rather than bring her to see us in such rough spot. Those are the worst moments of our lives.

You also don’t see us on Wednesday nights every week for 10 years laughing so hard we can’t even finish telling a story. You don’t see us every night at bed time playing a game of football with our kids upstairs before we tuck them in. You don’t see us on weekends when the kids sneak downstairs and into our bed to wake us up. You don’t see us grab them and pull them into bed with us to cuddle. Those are some of the very best moments. Those very little, very simple, very insignificant moments – those are the moments that mean everything.

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It’s important to me to share a little of everything so that you see who I am as a person (reference “trainwreck” in the dictionary for further clarification), but I still prefer the good. And I want to share why. I want to share why I love to share the good so much. I want to share why I love to share how amazing my husband is (because, well, he is) or how sweet our kids are (most of the time…sometimes they are kind of assholes) or how much fun we have (we have a lot of fun).

When I scroll past your Instagram or Facebook – well, Instagram…I see mostly ads, time-suck articles that want me to check out the most unbelievable fill in the blank here I’ve ever seen, news updates, and political updates….I don’t see anyone I actually love on Facebook. Unless I’m tagged, of course. Whatever. Anyway, when I scroll past people living their best life on Instagram, it inspires me. Your happy words make me happy. Your fun photos make me smile. Your great outfit inspires some future outfit I might wear. Your cute kids make me smile. Your accomplishments make me feel proud, even if I don’t really know you! I love the feeling I get when I see people loving their lives.

It’s impossible not to feel happy when other people are also happy, which is why I love to share the good stuff. I want you to be happy, too. I know it’s hard for me not to smile when I see a couple on date night have the best night, kids at home, no care in the world. I hope that scrolling past my stuff lets you feel even a small moment of happiness. Or inspiration. Or motivation. Or whatever. I also hope that when I tell you my kids are being jerks and I’m ready to pull my hair out or that Starbucks K-cup boxes with only 10 are like a one-day joke, you also smile a little. Because you get it. And you’re not alone. Your worst day might also be someone else’s worst day. Your best day is someone else’s best day. Your happiness is everything important in the world, but your bad days are just a small blip in your personal radar compared to what else is going on.

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I like to share with you. The good. The Bad. Never the ugly. Sorry, y’all. I’m not posting any makeup-less selfies or anything I don’t feel I look good in. It’s not going to happen. But two out of three isn’t bad, guys!

In all seriousness, there’s a lot of sadness, a lot of comparison, and a lot of dark places most of us will never see you go through. I would encourage you to do one thing for yourself today. If you are following someone who makes you feel sad, who makes you feel you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not fucking amazing as hell every single day, click the unfollow button. Don’t do that to yourself. Follow people who make you feel good, who inspire you, who leave you with something that makes your life a little brighter or better.

There’s so much sadness in the world, and so many people are suffering by themselves. I know social media doesn’t help. No one should ever make you feel insecure about who you are. Be proud of yourself. Be proud of your successes, your kids, your spouse, your marriage. Shout all the good stuff right from the rooftop and don’t worry about anyone who tries to downplay your happy. They’re dealing with their own personal issues, and what you say obviously resonates with them negatively. You can’t worry about that. You can only worry about yourself and your own positive vibes. If you’re unable to find the positive in someone, just remove them. And always, always remember it’s a highlight reel. It’s the best of the best, and the bad days, the ugly hair days, the imperfections; they’re there. You are not the only person having a bad day.

It might not change the world, but it might change your world. And that’s pretty darn important.

PS: You are a badass.

PS

Chic and Sophisticated: Which Silhouettes Create This Look

Happy Friday, loves!

I hope y’all are as excited about this weekend as I. Today is our daughter’s cheer camp performance to round out the week. It’s Donuts with Dad day at the twins’ school, and that means lots of family time and enjoyment…and a very laid-back Friday night. The rest of the weekend is booked solid with a lot of friends, family, and fun for Father’s Day, and this week was filled with sleepovers at our house. Actually, the last two weeks have been nothing but endless sleepovers at our house, and our kids love that!

My #momlife doesn’t give me as much time as I’d like to dress up and be fancy. Full disclosure – I do get dressed every single day, but I strip down and put my robe back on when I get home from drop off every morning. I’m only dressed to leave the house. I love to dress up, but I also have to plan a lot of my clothes around what we’re doing with the kids and how easy it is for me to carry them and bend down to help them. I always dress up for church. Mostly because I feel very disrespectful walking into church with anything less than my #SundayBest. However, I also dress for church because I love to dress up. Otherwise, it’s date nights and travel that allows me to really dress up!

There’s just something about putting on something feminine and beautiful that makes me feel like a million bucks. So, here are some of my favorite silhouettes when I want to feel very ladylike and elegant. It’s helpful to know how certain shapes lend to a specific look when you’re going for ladylike and elegant.

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{Michael Kors wedges, RayBan aviators}

The Classic Wrap Dress

You can’t go wrong with a classic wrap. I recently picked up this Lilly Pulitzer Marvista to wear to dinner on my wedding anniversary, and I love it. It’s such a fun twist on a classic wrap with a Lilly Print. It’s so much fun when I want to feel feminine and chic, but also have a little more fun with color and pattern. I also love this fun wrap.

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{Kate Spade clutch, SugarFix by Baublebar earrings, YSL sunglasses, Christian Louboutin bow pumps}

The Classic LBD

This Diane von Furstenberg is one of my favorite LBDs, but it’s also a wrap dress. That means it wins everything in my book. You cannot go wrong with an LBD, but you have to choose one that fits your shape. It’s also wise to choose a classic cut rather than one that’s trendier. I also love this one if you want to add a little flair to an otherwise classic LBD.

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{YSL sunglasses, Christian Louboutin So Kate pumps}

The Classic Sheath 

I love a sheath, and I think I have one version or another in almost every color imaginable. It’s simple and elegant, and its timelessness makes it everything. This one is my current favorite with its simple cut. And I can’t beat the fact that I picked it up at TJ Maxx for like $40. I also love this one and this one. 

Mixing High and Low on Vacation

Happy Monday, loves!

It’s an exciting week in the Raiford house. Addison, our oldest, has her favorite week of summer – cheer camp. She’s been going since she was 5, and she’s been with the same group of girls since. This means my schedule is crazy, but she loves it, and her performance at the end of the week is always so much fun! It’s also Father’s Day, and we have so much to celebrate with Craig. He’s the best dad in the world -and we all know it.

It’s also a week for the books, because, you guys…I’ve started packing for our Caribbean vacation. Which isn’t until next week! Anyone who knows me knows I’m in panic mode the night before we leave on vacation because I’ve packed nothing. This time, however, I’ve started packing. Perhaps it’s because my husband and I spent time Saturday coordinating our dinner outfits, or perhaps it’s because things we’ve ordered for vacay have started to arrive, or perhaps it was the post-dinner parking lot fashion show Friday night. Whatever it is, I’ve started packing – and it feels really good to have things crossed off my checklist already (you guys, I’ve created my vacay checklist already, too!).

Caribbean packing is easy for me. Swimsuits, coverups, and dinner attire. And 78 other outfits I don’t need, of course.

My style has always been a good mixture of low and high-end pieces. I prefer certain items high-end (shoes, bags, glasses, jeans, dresses etc.) and some items I don’t care as much about. If they’re trendy and on-style for the current season, they aren’t investment pieces for me. I’m sharing how I mix high and low pieces for a tropical vacay by sharing a few of my favorite new purchases for vacation.

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Shoe Obsession

I’ve been on the fence about a great pair of white pumps for a few months now. I’ve been weighing the idea of white shoes with four kids who love to step on my toes, the rainy Florida weather, and whether I’ll actually wear them. Last week, I decided I’d been thinking about them so much, I needed to have them to wear with the gorgeous gown I ordered for dinner one night. My favorite shoes are always, always, always Manolo Blahnik, so I went with these. They arrived Thursday – and I’ve already worn them to date night Friday night and church on Sunday. Oh, the compliments! I also like to pretend they make my pasty legs look tan. A girl can dream, right?

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Swim Suits

I typically don’t splurge on swimwear. However, I’m very particular about my bottoms. Cheap, trendy bottoms tend to snag and look bad after one or two wears, so I always buy Victoria’s Secret bottoms. I’ve learned they are the ones that last a long time and hold up quite well no matter what I sit on (the dock, the boat, the pool deck, etc.). Tops, however, I don’t care about. I mix and match my tops and bottoms, anyway. These VS cheekie ruffle bottoms are my favorite – I have them in every color ever made over the years, and I wear them season after season after season.

I also recently bought this scalloped suit for a trip we took earlier this month. To be very honest, I hate the bottoms. The scallops don’t hold up, so they end up needing adjustments every 30 seconds. I skipped out wearing them, but I love the top. You can go with this one or this much more affordable version.

I also bought this pink top from Express. Full disclosure – it hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m super excited about it! For only $20, it doesn’t matter too much if I don’t love it.

Swim Coverups

This has been the worst year – ever – for swim coverups. I haven’t found anything I love, anywhere. I always love a good Lilly Pulitzer coverup, but the one I bought is no longer on the website, so I’m linking this one since it’s the same style just a different design. Furthermore, I just ordered a few coverups from….wait for it…Amazon! I found them on Pinterest (looooove Pinterest) and was dying when I realized they were only $16-$17 on Amazon. Naturally, I ordered multiple colors, and I really like them! You can find them here.

I’m not done shopping, yet. But I’m proud of myself for already ordering all my dinner attire, swimwear, and shoes. Now I just need a new beach bag and earrings. We’re going to shop this weekend, so hopefully, I find everything I still need. Because next week, we’re out!

Friday Fix: Add A Knot to A Too Big Dress for A Better Fit

Happy Friday, loves!

We are 6 kids deep in the Raiford household this week, and we are so ready for the weekend. We have a lot of fun planned, but we’ve also had a lot of fun this week. We have our 5-year-old nephew because his mom is out of town, so we have him until Sunday. We’ve also had our daughter’s best friend since Wednesday. They’re inseparable, and their one night-sleepover at her house turned into two nights at our house afterward – and they’d go on for another tonight if it weren’t for the fact that Addison has another sleepover in the morning!

They’re having too much fun, and it’s been easy for us. The three little ones are in school, and the three big kids have played so well together we’ve actually not had to ask them even once to use their inside voices or calm down, and not one of them has interrupted us in our office. She’s right at home here, and that makes it easy for us on weekdays when we’re in our office working.

I posted a photo of a fun, inexpensive dress the other day to Instagram, and I’ve had a million and five questions about it. I wanted to address them here and hopefully answer the questions everyone has been asking by linking the dress and explaining how I styled it.

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I love this Old Navy dress I picked up a few weeks ago but in true Old Navy fashion, it’s too big. I’m wearing the XS, but it’s still too long and too wide (I’ve always had that problem with Old Navy). The problem is that it’s hard for me to find a tee shirt dress that’s not too short, but this one was too long. Instead of sending it back, I decided to see about adding a fun knot to one side. I pulled the additional fabric that was making it a bit wide to the front, added a low knot, and completely transformed the dress.

It was a huge win, and I received numerous compliments on it throughout the day and via your DMs on Insta. I styled it with an old pair of snakeskin Tory Burch flip-flops, but it would be so much fun with a pair of Adidas Superstars or some espadrilles. It’s versatile, light, and so much fun for summer. I’ll also add my YSL sunglasses are old and sold out, but you can find some fun ones here, here, and here.

I hope you all have a gorgeous weekend! I’m super excited about ours!

Five Summer Staples Under $100

Summer is HERE! Y’all already know this is my least favorite season, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love certain things about summer. I really love not being 100% pasty. That 5% color I manage to hold onto throughout the summer is everything.

Summer means we’re all spending more time outside (wishing the humidity wasn’t a million percent and the mosquitoes didn’t exist), and I have a few things I just cannot live without this season. We are headed to the Caribbean in two weeks, and you can bet you’ll find all five of these UNDER $100 items in my luggage. They’re my favorite affordable summer staples, and I want to share them with you.

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The Lilly Pulitzer Essie dress is hands-down my favorite style. I have this dress in almost every color/pattern, and I’m in love with it from start to finish. I bought the navy Essie two years ago for our best friends’ Fourth of July party, and I quickly began buying it each time a new style was introduced. The best part – it’s only $98!

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This Peter Thomas Roth moisturizing lotion is my go-to summer lotion. I cannot tell you enough how much I’ve fallen in love with PTR products over the past year, and this is one that I cannot live without! It’s only $52, and it lasts forever.

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I have been a lover of my Yeti cups for years now. I know the company is in the middle of a total political situation right now – but I don’t care. I have my own beliefs that don’t always align with those of the brands I shop, but I also love that living in America means we have freedom of speech. To me, this means we get to believe in what we want to believe in and respectfully disagree when our opinions don’t line up with those of others. So – I love my Yetis. We have like 20 Yeti cups in our house, and my most recent purchase was this coral 20 oz. customized with my name. Did I need another 20 oz. tumbler? No. Did I want the coral color? Yes. Prices vary.

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The Tory Burch Mini Miller Jellies are the BEST flip-flops for beach days and pool days. I can get them as wet as I want, and they wipe right off. I love my regular Millers, but they were not meant to get wet. These jellies can be worn in the rain, the sun, the beach, the pool, on the boat, and anywhere in between. And they’re only $98.

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The Tarte BB cream/primer is a recent favorite for summer. I always wear a primer and a BB cream under my foundation, but I’ve found that this amazing creation does both – and it’s SPF 30. We recently took our parents and our kids away for a long weekend, and I forgot to reapply my own sunblock throughout the day. I ended up super-burnt all over my body – except my face. This Tarte cream was all the magic for me. The best part is it’s only $37!

Dealing with an Incorrect Definition of “Normal” and Negativity

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Happy Monday, loves!

It’s okay to be non-traditional. I like to say that my husband and I are the most traditionally non-traditional people ever. We are your typical high-school sweethearts who got married, traveled, built a house, built a life, started having babies, advanced our careers, and made dreams come true – we are very traditional in that aspect.

We are very non-traditional in that we spend literally every waking moment together because we share an office. We both work from home. He has his dream job with a company he loves, and he works from our home office every day. I started my business a decade ago (I’m a writer – I create web content, landing pages, service pages, blog posts, etc. for my clients) and I’ve worked from home ever since. We don’t do the “See you tonight, have a good day,” kiss at the door in the mornings thing.

We work out together at lunch. We date one another. We still really like one another and spending time together. We are both workaholics. We aren’t traditional. I’m not traditional. And that’s all right.

But if there is one thing you learn about living life in a way so few other people live it is that there is a lot of negativity. It’s “Normal” to wake up in the morning and go to work for someone else for 8 hours a day making a few dollars an hour. It’s “normal” to hate Mondays and look forward to the weekend like it’s your life-line. It’s “normal” to come home from work in the evenings and literally say you’re not on the clock, so you’re not doing a damn thing for anyone at work.

But that’s not our normal. Our normal is always thinking about work – it’s how we maintain our success and how we’ve managed to surpass every goal we make for ourselves so much earlier than we imagined we’d be able to meet said goals. Our normal is freedom and control. Our normal is no pants, no problem (sorry FedEx and UPS men…I know y’all don’t appreciate that as much as we do).

Normal is whatever you want it to be, and that’s what’s so amazing about life. What it doesn’t mean, though, is we are exempt from negativity. There are always people in life who want to bring others down to their level. Negativity comes from two places – negative people try to bring you down and downplay your successes because they are disappointed in themselves for not working harder to create their own dream, or their negativity comes from fear based off a lack of understanding.

For example, it’s easy to grow up believing that once you’ve been married 13 years, you don’t have sex as often. You argue. You don’t find your partner so attractive. You don’t date because you have kids. You’ve let yourselves go a bit, and you don’t spend much time together. We’re taught that marriage falls a little bit into a ‘comfort zone’ and the ‘honeymoon’ phase wears off after a while. So that’s what many people believe.

But that’s not our reality, and it doesn’t have to be yours. My husband and I are closer than ever. We work out together, we date, we find one another attractive, and our private life is very, very good. That’s our reality because we realize we get to create that for ourselves and do whatever we want – we aren’t required to fall into what’s considered ‘normal’ in the world. You get what you want by working for it.

Another example: I hear moms all the time complaining that they want to lose some of their baby weight or that they don’t have time to do their hair or makeup or bother with real clothes during the day, and that it’s not ‘normal’ for a mom to dress up daily or work out regularly. They let their idea of ‘normal’ become an excuse for not reaching their dreams.

Listen, I get it. Reaching your dreams and getting what you want out of life takes a lot of work. You have to be willing to go a lot of extra miles, to do what other people aren’t willing to do, and to put in the werk to get it done. Getting started is hard; I know. But allowing your empty goals to seem all right by calling them ‘normal’ is not all right unless you’re totally fine with that and still cool with the success of other people in their lives.

I’m off on a tangent here, aren’t I? I’m just bothered so much by negativity. This weekend was one of the most spectacular weekends. We spent all day Saturday – and I mean all. Damn. Day. from wake-up to bedtime – at our best friend’s river house with them, our four kids, and their three kids. We missed the first party there because our daughter had her dance recital a few weekends ago, which was a huge disappointment because it’s been months since they told us they were buying it and we’ve been excited to see it for so long.

As we spent the day lying on the dock while the kids swam and kayaked and dove and did gymnastics and caught tiny fish and played together like they’ve been doing their entire lives, we were just talking about how we were living the dream. Getting to do what we want and love each day, having all the freedom we’ve ever wanted, and #livingourbestlives every day.

Yet there are still people in the world who want to bring their own negativity into all our lives, and sometimes you can’t get rid of every single toxic person. We like to surround ourselves with the best people, and we’ve always done it. But there are times when negativity does find its way in, and you have to deal with it. Without getting into the details, some people just can’t be happy for you no matter how many dreams you reach, how much success you have, how much you do for them, how much you give…and that’s all right.

Normal isn’t the same to everyone.

I think it’s “normal” to be happy for the people I love when they succeed. I think it’s “normal” for people to say they want to do something in their life and then do it, succeed, and love life. I think it’s “normal” to have everything I’ve ever wanted.

The problem is people are taught that normal is one thing, and so many people are afraid to go outside that comfort zone of ‘normal’ and go after what they want. There’s room for everyone to succeed. There is room for everyone to get what they want in life, and there is plenty of room to love your own life and what you’ve accomplished while still also being happy for those who’ve done the same in their own lives. Normal is everything you want it to be, but negativity is still negativity.

Whether you are living with negative people in your life or you are the negative person in your life, it’s not too late to learn to create your own normal and get rid of negativity as much as possible. Trust me, it’s a work in progress. I’m like a million percent imperfect, but I try to remind myself of these things each morning. I get up, shower, take my coffee to the couch so I can read my First 5 and spend some time with God, and then I read these quotes I have saved in my phone to remind myself of who I am and what my normal looks like before I start my day.

Each one is a helpful tool, and maybe once you change how you approach normal and negativity in your life, you’ll inspire those around you to take a cue from your positive attitude and do the same.

10

  1. Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.

As long as you’re happy with your life, it doesn’t matter if anyone else is happy. If you aren’t happy, fix it.

14

  1. Don’t gossip.

This one is hard because it’s so easy to discuss other people, but it’s also small and unattractive. It’s not easy to forgo partaking in idle gossip, “Did you hear so-and-so did XYZ?” might not seem like gossip when someone is relaying a story to you about someone else, but it is. I can assure you as I’ve gotten older, it’s become more obvious to me it’s pointless. There should be about 10 million important things in your own life that deserve the attention. Besides, it’s ugly.

8

  1. Don’t take it personally.

You will never be the best at everything. Not everyone will love you. Not everyone will understand you. Not everyone will want to see you happy or successful. It’s cool, though. Don’t take it personally. Most people only dislike you because you represent something they are not or something they want to be. Or else you are just totally out of your mind crazy…but that’s all right, too.

5

  1. Be kind.

Honestly, there’s nothing cooler than someone who is a good person. It’s nice.

3

  1. Enjoy your life.

If you love it and enjoy it, love it and enjoy it. Happiness is fun, and your idea of happiness is your own. Embrace it, live it, love it, and enjoy every second. You aren’t meant to be just like everyone else. Just because your life doesn’t match up with what someone else feels your life should match up to doesn’t mean it’s not your reality. Your marriage doesn’t have to be like everyone else’s. Your parenting skills don’t have to be like everyone else’s. Your level of happiness doesn’t have to be like everyone else’s. You get to create your own happiness, and that’s what life is all about.

I like to say I’m living my best life, and I mean that. It’s not always perfect, but it’s always good. Even on the bad days, I’m taking something with me that makes the good days that much better – and my attitude helps me keep things from being that bad. If you’re not living your best life, figure out what you need to do to make it happen. You can take control of your life, live your way, and you can change what you don’t like about yourself. Choose to be happy, choose to be positive, and choose to respect that about others as well.

I like to surround myself with people who are like me. I like people who are happy for other people. I like people who support one another, and I like people who make me laugh and really enjoy life. I choose people who love their marriages and spouses. I choose people who sometimes think their kids are assholes. I choose people who have the same values and morals as myself. I have the best people – and I’ve had them for a very, very long time (and I cannot wait for our getaway in less than three weeks!)…and they know who they are!

I hope you’re doing the same. You can’t always avoid the people who are toxic and negative. You might be forced to spend time with them on occasion, but you aren’t required to let their issues become your issues. And always remember this – I’m happy for you. I support you. I applaud your successes, and I encourage you to try again when you fail. Failure, after all, is the best learning tool and educational asset.

Summer Bucket List: Per My Kids

family

Summer is here.

Oh, who am I kidding…we are Floridians. It’s always summer. But it’s really summer now that the humidity is back in full force and the kids are out of school for another 10 weeks (yes, I’m counting).

I don’t love summer. I don’t love saying that, but it’s true. I’m not a fan of sweating, humidity, frizzy hair, choking while trying to breathe outside…and mosquitoes. I’m also not a big fan of the beach, believe it or not. I’m a 35-year Floridian, and it pains me to go to the beach. I don’t like the feel of sand or the feel of salt water.

Don’t get me wrong…I love to look at the beach. I’m a big fan of sitting on the balcony at the Loft at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach and looking at it. I once spent 10 glorious days overlooking the crashing waves of the Pacific from our suite balcony at the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu – and never once touched the beach.

I could sit at the indoor/outdoor bar at the Ritz-Carlton Ft. Lauderdale with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc watching the ocean all day long. But don’t ask me to touch it. The problem is having kids who love the beach. And they love it from up close and personal. Oh the sacrifices we make for our kids.

Summer isn’t my favorite season for so many reasons, but perhaps the biggest reason is all my mom guilt. I have a serious case of mom guilt in the summer. My husband and I both work from home. He works set hours for his company, and I work for myself. While I do get to choose my hours and when I work because I am the owner of my company, I still have to get the work done – and I’m not a fan of working late nights or afternoons. I like to work early in the morning and get all my deadlines met by noon each day so I have free afternoons.

However, this means boring mornings for the kids, and I don’t love that. Don’t get me wrong; they don’t mind it. They like to read, they like to play outside, and they love to create art and play games. But I always feel like I’m not giving them enough. I like for them to be bored…it gives them creativity and teaches them to use their imagination. My job is not to provide them with endless entertainment every moment of every day. That’s not good for any of us. But…I can’t shake that guilt from time to time.

That’s why we create a bucket list every summer. I let the kids choose what they want to do, and it never fails to warm my heart. My kids want the simplest things in life, and I love that. They get to do so much and experience so many of the ‘big’ things in life, and I secretly love that they really love the little things. I do feel guilty about that, too, however. Are we doing too much with them and sacrificing the littlest things? I don’t know…but I wanted to share their bucket list with you for our summer.

  • Have our cousins over for sleepovers so much
  • Have sleepovers at grandma and grandpa’s house
  • Swim
  • Go to the beach
  • Have ice create dates
  • Make cookies
  • Do more art
  • Read more books outside
  • Play hide and seek
  • Go somewhere we’ve never been
  • Visit great-grandma’s farm in Texas
  • Go to our favorite hotels for the weekends
  • Have more movie nights
  • Make s’mores (after the twins’ go to bed because they are dangerous little people)
  • Get a sprinkler to play in
  • Go bowling
  • Play cards
  • Ride our bikes
  • Stay home more often

How can you not love something so simple? I love it.

You’ll note our bucket list is not filled with things like “Go to Disney,” or a lot of other outdoor activities that don’t involve water. We’re annual passholders, and the last thing we will ever do during the summer months is go to Disney. You’ll see us there all the time between September and April, but May through August is like pure torture for all of us.

We are already making a lot of fun summer memories a week into it. We’ve had card games every night after the twins are in bed, and we spent four days out of town last weekend swimming every single day. We also had the entire weekend to have a sleepover with the cousins as they came with us – the grandmas, too. We’ve made a ton of art, and we are going bowling with our friends this morning. We fly to Texas next month to see my grandmother, and the kids are excited to visit the farm. They love it, but probably because our niece and nephew are going with my parents and they just get more time with them there.

We’re off to a good start. What are some of the things you do with your kids during the summer? Do you feel the same mom guilt as I do? I try to remind myself that it’s fine for my kids to feel bored, and that we don’t need to go do something exciting and amazing every single day. Fortunately, we do a lot and our kids beg for time home. They like to be relaxed, and that helps when I’m feeling the guilt!