My Fall Essentials Shopping List (for the home)

Happy Wednesday, loves!

I know, I know….fall doesn’t officially begin until September 23. But, hear me out. You see, we don’t have fall in Florida. We get second summer, where it’s scorching hot all day, but sometimes it’s not deathly hot at night. So, since we don’t get a fall season around here, I feel it’s appropriate to begin fall on September 1. If we don’t get a real one, we should get an extended one, am I right?

Fall is my favorite time of year. The idea that any day, maybe, probably not but potentially, could be, maybe it will be, could it possibly be cool (read: not humid) one day is all I need to make my southern heart happy every morning. Pumpkins. Fall baking. Colored leaves (in other people’s photos, of course) and so many other beautiful things about this time of year bring joy to my simple heart. That’s why I’m so excited about this coming Sunday. It’s time to decorate my home and front porch for fall, crank down the air, and make everyone wear their fall favorites around the house while we light fall candles and pretend we live somewhere it’s not 113 degrees and there’s not a hurricane churning somewhere on one of our coasts.

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A girl can dream, right?

On that note, I’m prepping you with a fall essentials shopping list. These are the things I have showing up on my doorstep all week long the last week of August (I don’t have the willpower to buy them earlier and not use them, you guys). These things make me feel like fall is in the air, even though I know it’s never going to happen.

Candles

Bath and Body Works makes the best fall candles, and I don’t even care who wants to argue with me. Their fall fragrances are, hands down, the very best. I love to keep specifics around my house and light them every single day for some fall ambiance (caramel pumpkin swirl, warm apple pie, caramel apple are my personal favorites). I love how long they last, how good they smell, and how affordable they are. It’s only $24 for a very large 3-wick candle, and sometimes you can find them on sale for around $14 if you sign up for BBW emails.

Soaps

We go through a lot of hand soap in our house. Maybe it’s that we are a family of six with five sinks to keep soaped-up or because we are all a little bit OCD about cleanliness. It’s probably both. Either way, I like to stock up on some of my favorite fall soaps with, you guessed it, Bath and Body Works. I love their 5-packs of seasonal favorites. I bought five 5-packs to get me through until Thanksgiving. The best part is that they are only $23 per package for the foaming hand soap. Our kids love these, though they’re kind of gross in asking us to smell their hands every time they come out of the bathroom.

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Fall Coffee Mugs

I have a thing for coffee mugs. They make me happy, so I buy more than I need. More than most people need, if we are being honest. However, I love them. I love looking for the on Etsy, too. These are some of my favorites to stock up on for fall here and here.

Mums

Is it even fall yet if you don’t have at least a few different color mums outside your front door? I like to keep mine on either side of the entry way, and I like them in a variety of colors. Yellows, purples, and oranges are the best this time of year, and they are easy to find. You can get them at any home improvement store, nursery, and even the big box stores keep them in stock. They’re far better if you plant them….but, I can’t do that until after fall, so they die in my house.

Doormats

I love doormats, and keeping different ones outside our doors for different seasons is a fun way to decorate. I like these for fall, but you can look anywhere for them. Hobby Lobby is a personal favorite, but it’s Personalizationmall.com that makes them just for our home every year. We have one for the front door for every major season and holiday, and the rest we buy off the shelves or order from other places online to put at our other doors.

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Pumpkins

I love to decorate with pumpkins this time of year, and I love white ones more than anything. I use other colors, of course, but white pumpkins just bring me some sort of joy I cannot even explain. If you’re looking for the best ones, try shopping here and here.

This is just a small sample of what I do to prepare my home for fall. What do you do? What’s on your must-have fall list this year?

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Monday Motivation: Five Ways to Get Motivated Any Day of the Week

Happy Monday, loves!

It’s so hard to find motivation sometimes, right? I go through off and on periods where I’m super motivated to do all the things, and then there are days that I don’t want to do any of the things. But, there are a few things that I’ve come to notice about my own personal motivation. Let me back that up just a minute and explain.

I am hyper-aware of my feelings. As an adult, I’ve become very mindful about how I’m feeling, what’s making me feel that way, and how I can channel those feelings into something more productive. I am very in tune with my body and my mind, and I’ve learned when to walk away, when to get busy, and when to shut it down and take a break. Trust me, it’s not always convenient, but there are a few things I know I can do to help me feel more motivated. And there are a few things I can do when I’m not feeling motivated to get out of that situation and fix the issues.

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Start on Sunday

The single most important thing I can do for myself is get started with a motivated week on Sunday. Church always motivates me and helps me feel invigorated, happy, and motivated. I feel so good when I leave there, and I feel so ready to tackle the week. I also like to get my calendar in order on Sundays. I prep the things I need to do workwise, and sometimes I get a little bit of a head start if everyone else is busy doing their own thing.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I go into Monday with things to do that I didn’t do on Sunday, I’m in for a stressful day. I will let that stress get to me and bring me down for the week, too, on occasion. So, I can almost guarantee that if my Sunday allows for me to go into Monday with nothing left on my checklist, I can have a productive, awesome week.

Work Out

I don’t have a lot of free time because of my business, kids, marriage, house, life, you name it. So, I tend to find myself sometimes looking for a way to give myself a little more time, and that often makes me feel unmotivated. I might assume I need to skip the gym to find the time to get things done, but that never works out for me.

I never regret time spent at the gym. I always regret skipping the gym. I find myself so much more motivated and energized when I leave the gym. So, I find time to work out. Even if I don’t have much time on a crazy day, I won’t spend my usual hour working out. I might give myself 30 minutes to run or do something that gets my blood going, and it’s always worthwhile.

Stop and Do Something Fun

You can’t force creativity. You just can’t. Sometimes, I have to stop and do something fun. I have to call a friend and tell her she’s got to get dressed and go get coffee or lunch with me. I might leave and go shopping. I might read a book or lay out in the sun or just do something that I’ve been thinking of doing. I always find that I’m more motivated after giving myself a much-needed break.

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Cry it Out

I’m emotional. I feel things really hard; especially when I’m unmotivated and feeling as if I can’t get things together. Overwhelmed is a good description. And, you guys, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when nothing seems to be going my way. Sometimes, the best thing I can do for myself is give in and take some time to cry it out. It’s like a refreshing way to clear out all the junk in my mind and on my heart, and it’s a good time to pray and to feel cleansed and renewed. It might be messy – hello mascara and makeup – but I always feel so much better after I cry. Always. There is no sometimes in that one. So, don’t be ashamed to cry. I’m not.

Go With the Flow

I like things routine. Scheduled. On my terms. My way or the highway, we might say. But, sometimes, I’m most motivated after I’ve just gone with the flow. After I’ve made an impromptu decision to do something not on my radar. Going with the flow sometimes reminds me that life is not all about getting things done and it’s more about enjoying the things I’m doing. So, if you need some motivation; stop. Go with the flow. Don’t force anything. It’s better that way.

What do you do on a Monday morning to motivate yourself for the day and the week ahead?

Finding Quality Time With Your Family In Busy Seasons

Happy Thursday, loves!

Anyone else have kids struggling to acclimate to the new routine of back-to-school? Hitting the kids with school schedules, sports schedules, activity schedules, and the rest of our lives schedules is hard on them this time of year, and it’s showing in the Raiford house. The twins are the most emotional little people on the planet right now. Even our oldest, who is a dream, is a little whiny sometimes. Our 8-year-old is the only child in this house who is not tired, whiny, or emotional (except for a few minor instances).

Honestly, I think the problem is they’re starving. It’s a hard knock life when you go from summer snacking every 5.6 seconds to breakfast at 8, lunch at 11:20, home at 4:30 (thanks pick-up line). After all the snack begging we deal with all summer, we are shocked – shocked – they haven’t wasted away yet.

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In all seriousness, though, the hardest part of this time of year is losing the unhurried life we grow so accustomed to all summer. It makes it difficult to find quality time together when everyone is on the go all the time. Don’t get me wrong – my husband and I are fortunate enough to have plenty of time with our family both working from home and being present every day, but let’s be honest. Quality time is not found around the bar over frozen waffles, tired eyes, and taking requests such as “My strawberries are only cut in half. I’d like them cut in quarters,” or “Carter STOP TALKING TO ME before my eyes are awake!” and “Can I bring toys to school today?”

So, in an effort to make sure we are getting at least a little quality time with the kids during the week, we’ve been implementing a few new things into our routine, and the kids are loving it. Quality time with your family isn’t going to happen every moment of the day. It’s not even going to happen every day if you have kids, sports, homework, and the like. But, there are ways you can make sure you’re family is still a priority even when you’re all focused on other things.

*Just being there with your family on a daily basis is amazing. Your kids are going to grow up remembering that their parents were there to help with homework, that they were there to take them to the movies on the weekends, that they were there to play cards or board games or play outside or go get ice cream. It’s truly the little things that make the biggest difference.

Family Dinner

Weeknights are difficult in our house. Two nights a week, we are at cheer practice, and three of us miss dinner with the other three. One night a week, we have dinner with our best friends and their kids, which is such an amazing time for all, but it’s not like the kids want anything to do with the adults on those nights. They shovel their food in their mouths, pause for dessert, and quickly jump back in the pool or head outside to play. Dance parties are also big.

Monday night is our only at-home night during the week where no one has any activities, so we make it a family dinner night. We cook together; kids included. We sit down in the formal dining room together. We eat together. The kids tell us about their days, they ask us about our days, and we’ve found that we linger for a while after everyone’s plates are cleared. After dinner, we take a family walk around our neighborhood (every child gets to take turns choosing the route we take….walk by the Loud House this night. By the Fish Mailbox one night. By the Rooster mailbox another night…).

Our kids live for Monday nights right now, and we are loving every second of it. No electronics on Monday nights. Just good old-fashioned family fun, and we all need that. And, if life is running busy for you, don’t discount those nights you sit around a table in a restaurant with your family on the go. That counts. A dinner table is a dinner table if you’re all focused on one another.

Family Movie Night

There is nothing we love more than a family movie night. Ideally, it’s on a rainy evening where we want to curl up and watch movies from the couch. The kids love family movie night. We try to do it as often as possible on Friday nights, but it’s not always a weekly occurrence. However, when we do have a free Friday evening, that’s the plan. We take the kids to dinner somewhere (usually somewhere with really good pizza, plain pasta, and wine) and then we come home, take showers and baths, put on our favorite pajamas, and curl up. The kids love old-school comedies like “Beethoven” and “Cheaper by the Dozen,” which makes it more fun for us as adults, too. It’s simple, but it’s so effective.

The kids get to pick their treat for the night (ice cream, cookies, whatever) and popcorn, and they look forward to it almost as much as we do. They think they’re just having fun, but they have no idea they’re actually making memories. One day, though, we know they’ll look back and say to their own spouse, “I want to do family movie night like our parents did for us when we were kids.”

Game Night

Not my favorite way to spend quality time as a family, but the kids love it. We are all competitive, and some of us (Carter and Ava) are learning how not to be sore losers. Family game night takes some serious patience, but it’s fun. Cards. Board games. Trampoline games. Whatever they want to do. Our favorite, though, is the basketball game we bought and put on the lanai. I’m sure it has a real name, but I don’t know it. I’ll link it here for you, though. The kids love it, and we have so much fun with it. Our friends have fun with it. Our families have fun with it. It’s all the things, and it’s good.

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A Bonus…

I don’t want to discount quality time spent without the entire family. My husband and I are both home all day since we both work from home, so we don’t miss anything in their lives. Our kids will always remember us being here for them even when our time wasn’t necessarily spent with them. They’ll always remember having two parents home together for dinner and to help them with their homework, and to run errands, and to do the everyday things that must get done.

But, we need our alone time, which is where date nights are the best. Lunch dates are also great. Even grocery shopping dates are so much fun when the kids are not present. Additionally, one-on-one time with the kids is also amazing. We try to schedule time as often as we can to spend quality time with just the big girls while the twins are with the grandparents and vice versa. Those are things they also remember, because they’re getting more individual time with us where they can talk and no one interrupts us or distracts them. It’s really, really important to spend time with your kids on an individual basis.

Trust me. When our kids are grown, they’re going to remember the family movie nights. The dinners around the table talking about our days. The fact that mommy and daddy were at all their games, competitions, school events, etc. They’re already past caring about the trips to Disney and the vacations and the toys and the stuff they have. It’s those little moments that fill their buckets with love, attention, and the knowledge that they are loved by people who think they’re cool and want to spend time listening to them.

As a very wise man once said, “At the end of the day, all you have is family,” and he’s not wrong.

Wednesday Wisdom: Tips to Adjusting Your Schedule When the Kids Go Back to School

Happy Wednesday, loves!

It’s the first full week of school for all four of our littles, which means it’s the first full week of back-to-normal for my husband and me. Our situation is a little different than most considering our normal everyday commute to work is a staggering 12 feet into our office out of our master bedroom. I’ve been working for myself, from home, for 11 years now. My sweet husband has been working solely from home for just over three years.

It’s a lot more common these days for people to work from home than it was in the past. When I was growing up, there was no ‘work from home’ job available unless you chose network marketing (which is a total dream for some people, but it’s not for me). Instead, I chose the route of starting my own business writing. I started small, built an impressive client list, and I’ve grown tremendously over the years. I’m proud of my company and the work I put into it, but let’s face it; building and running a business from the ground up means you don’t get a day off. You don’t have sick time, and you don’t get vacation time.

It also means it’s struggle bus time when the kids are home for summer vacation. The constant interruptions, the noise, the change of pace; it’s a lot. Especially for my sweet husband. He’s just not accustomed to it, even after three years. He didn’t start working from home with little kids around to need his time and attention first and foremost, like I did. He began working from home long after we had four kids, and he went from the office setting where he wasn’t interrupted all day to a home office setting where I struggle to keep the kids from interrupting him all day.

If I may say so myself, I do a damn good job. But, it does require a lot more flexibility for me during the summer. Whereas before my husband and I shared a home office, I didn’t mind the noise or the interruptions so much. I’m not often on the phone, so I’m not bothered. However, my husband is on the phone a lot and that means I find myself jumping up from my desk mid-sentence to hush kids having a fight upstairs, across the house, down the hall, outside, on Mars…(they’re very noisy sometimes).

Back to school means back to a normal routine for us, though this year is a lot different for us. We now have three elementary school kids and one middle school child, and that means two different start times and end times. He’s now leaving early to take our middle schooler to school to drop her off, coming home and going to work. I’m trying to work while he’s gone and the little kids are eating, and then it’s time to get them ready and take them to school.

But, I’m having to leave our house an hour and a half earlier than usual to get our 6th grader from school, run home, drop her off, figure out what to do with a grand total of 20 minutes, and then go get our little ones from school. Add to that the fact that I volunteered to coach our youngest and oldest daughter’s cheer squads this year means two times a week we literally fly to cheer practice right after school where I spend 3 hours coaching, and we are hectic.

Any moment of free time I ever had before is now a thing of the past, and that means we are adjusting. Fortunately, we are good at that. I know so many people have a difficult time adapting to change – I’m one of them – so I’m going to share the key points I use in my life to stay on track, on my A-game, and focused when I’m anything but ready to make a change.

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Create A Power List

I read this term somewhere a long time ago, and it stuck. It’s better than a to-do list. It’s like a list of things you need to get done to actually accomplish your day, and everything else on your list is less important, but still doable. My power list always includes three items I must do before I take the kids to school in the morning or else my day will not flow.

  • Write 6,000 words
  • Edit one major article
  • Update to-do list

Each of these things, when done prior to leaving for school drop off in the mornings, sets the tone for the rest of my day. They are a big chunk of what I need to get done, and they are what need attention first. Anything after that is slightly less important, but still important.

Workout

If there is one thing I cannot give up, even when I’m struggling to find time, it’s my workout. I might modify it to fit the day, but I will not give it up. First of all, I’m not one for shortcuts to good health. I’m not taking diet pills or making myself crazy on some sort of fad diet we all know won’t be effective if you ever stop doing it, and I’m not going to put my body or my health in danger. And, well, I like to look good. I don’t give up a workout. It helps give me energy, it puts me in a good mood, it centers me.

Change it Up

Adapting to a change in your routine or schedule is not always easy or welcome, but it’s necessary for personal growth. I like to change it up a bit at first. What works best? Does this work best? Am I more productive this way or that way? If something isn’t working seamlessly, I’ll change it up.

Reward Yourself

Making it through a season of change is never a simple task, so you deserve a reward. My reward is lazy Fridays. I work hard all way to ensure I don’t *have* to work on Fridays, so I always get a three-day weekend. Of course, I almost always work on Fridays (and off and on throughout the weekend because #proudworkaholic) but I still like that luxury in my life. Sometimes, I still work, but I work on my book. I might bang out 15,000 words on a Friday to get some headway. I might do things around the house I’ve been thinking about (throwing old toys away? Sign me UP!). I might schedule coffee or lunch with one of my friends, or I might workout even longer than usual just for fun. Who knows?

Bid Adieu to What No Longer Serves You

We glorify busy, do we not? But busy sucks. I get that we are all busy because it’s impossible not to be with careers and kids and marriage and a house and travel and a social life, etc. I get it. I truly do, but being so busy you don’t have time to breathe or enjoy your life is not an ideal way to live. And, yes, I understand the irony of this from a woman who has no free weekends on her calendar until next summer. I get it; I do.

But, sometimes we get so busy doing things we don’t love. I love the things I’m doing, and that’s why my version of busy is okay with me. But, there are things in my life I’ve had to eliminate because they no longer serve me. The moment I no longer find joy or pleasure in anything I’m doing, I’m done. I have very little time, and I like to reserve my time for the things that mean the most to me, that involve spending time with amazing people I adore, and that bring me happiness and fulfillment. So, here’s what you do when you find you have something going on that no longer serves you – get rid of it. Say goodbye. Take it off the calendar, and enjoy that newfound free time or replace it with something that brings a smile to your face.

Shut Off Distractions

Distractions are the number one killer of all things productive. Get rid of them. I set my email to update only once per hour so I’m not inundated with alerts all day. I put my social media icons on the second page of my phone so I don’t see notifications throughout the day unless I have time to purposefully look. I turn my do not disturb on my phone, so I only get messages when I want to get them. We make sure we go to bed with a spotless house so that we get up to one. No laundry or dishes or mess to distract us during the day. When nothing distracts you, it’s easier to make sure you’re more productive.

Do you have to re-adjust your schedule when the kids go back to school? How do you find time to do all the things you need to get done in a day?

I Got Rid of My SUV for a Minivan: Here’s Why

Happy Tuesday, and happy August, loves!

I have been getting so many messages about my new ride, and I thought I’d answer the FAQs about it right here. So, last week when we returned from our two-week trip to the Carolinas, I bought a 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Limited. I traded my GMC Acadia Denali for it, and I don’t regret it in the least – for several reasons I will get into.

First and foremost, I’ve been trying to convince my husband to get the minivan since February. We had one as a rental when we landed in Dallas to surprise my grandmother for her birthday, and the kids and I fell in love with it. It had so much more space than my SUV, but it also felt more like driving a car.

  • I’ve always had a coupe or a convertible (until kids) so that felt good to me
  • I’ve never been a fan of the full-size SUV and their truck-like build
  • I can’t drive a full-size SUV with four kids unless it’s the XL version, and I’m really uncomfortable driving that (honestly, the Acadia had 25 cubic feet in the trunk to the regular size Yukon’s 14 feet…explain to me how that is even possible?)

Honestly, I would have purchased a new Acadia Denali, but GMC changed the body style the model year after I bought mine and shrunk the new ones – a lot. I was left without many options. I never considered the minivan in the past because I’d been in several, and I just didn’t like them. Until the Pacifica. It’s so not minivan-like. I love it! It has every single thing that my Denali had, and it feels like I’m not downgrading or giving anything up. But, I’ll get back to that.

My husband tried so hard to drive home in a Yukon XL Denali or a Suburban, but ultimately, the decision was mine and it was alllll minivan! My Denali just turned three and a half, and I put over 150,000 miles on it in that time (I think the final reading was 153k when we pulled into the dealership). I drive a LOT with four kids and their activities and our activities and such. I’ve had two SUVs since the twins were born, and I put 120k on the first and 150k on the second. And the check engine light came on the day I got rid of it. Call me crazy, but I’m down for oil changes, tire rotations, new lights or wipers, and new tires, but I draw the line at keeping a vehicle when it needs actual work. So, here are the reasons I chose the minivan over the SUV.

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The Size

We have four kids, and two of them are five and very, very tiny. They struggle hard to get out of the Denali, and it’s not the full-size. One of us has to help them every single time, and I knew that would be a problem going into kindergarten and dropping them off and picking them up in the car line. The full-size XL SUVs my husband tried so hard (and so diligently) to get me to buy are just too tall. The twins couldn’t get in and out of them to save their lives.

Additionally, I just have so much more room in the seats in the minivan. Even in the Suburban, we cannot put a car seat in the third row. There’s no room for little feet to come off the end. They’d both have to go in the middle row, and that doesn’t work with a bench seat (which was a must for me if we went full-size. I’m not driving a full-size car and only having 7 seats like a regular size car) that needs to be put down on one side for access to the third row.

One more thing about that, too, is the console. It’s huge in the SUVs, and I feel like I’m cramped in the front. The minivan has a big, open console that leaves so much extra space – and all those arm rests. I’m legit a convert. I don’t know if I  can drive anything else at this point.

The Sunroof

Listen, I’m a snob. I know it, I’m not ashamed of it. I’m good. But there is one thing that I just cannot do, and that is downgrade to a basic sunroof. I’ve had a panoramic sunroof in my cars since November 2007 when I found out I was pregnant with our first and immediately decided to buy the 2008 Lincoln MKX and become an SUV driving mom. I haven’t had a regular size sunroof since, and I feel almost claustrophobic when I get into a car with a small one. And, yes, I know that it’s not a necessity, but it is for me. I need to have it at least popped open a little when I drive. Always.

The full-size SUVs don’t have them. The minivan has three sunroofs. A giant one in front, an even bigger one in the middle, and a big one in the back. Decision made.

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The USB Ports

While the full-size XL SUVs are great, they also don’t have a USB port in all the seats for each child. With four kids, I need that. Tablets, phones, etc. The USB ports in the SUVs are all in the front, which means more work for us when we are driving and in the passenger seat. No thanks.

The Vacuum

If I’m being completely honest here, this is the main reason I chose the minivan over the bigger Denali. It has a built in vacuum (with attachments!!!!!!!!) in the third row. If you know me, you know that I have a small shop vacuum that sits on the seat of our golf cart in our garage (when we are using the golf cart, of course) and I grab it every single time we get out of my car and run it over the floors and seats. It takes me all of 30 seconds, and I always have a spotless car. I cannot drive if there is a mess. I cannot drive if there is food, dirt, mud, a leaf – whatever – on the floor. I feel dirty and gross, and I cannot do it. So, having a built-in vacuum was a game-changing winner for me. And the primary reason I chose the minivan.

Other factors include the shades on the back windows, the fact that the third-row seat reclines almost all the way down, which the kids love, and the fact that I don’t have to do spend 5 minutes warning the kids that I will open their doors when we park. They can’t hit another car with sliding doors, which is a HUGE win for me.

My husband isn’t 100 percent into the minivan. Actually, he’s basically 40 percent. He knows that it’s what I want, and while he might try to persuade me to get something else, he would never tell me no or encourage me not to get what I want. So, he’s happy that I’m happy, and we are both happy that the kids love it.

Will I ever go back to driving an SUV? I don’t know. Probably not at this point. But, as someone wise said, an SUV is a stuff mover and a minivan is a people mover. Right now, I have a lot of people I need to move. And that is a win.