Romantic Weekend at the Vinoy

Happy Tuesday, loves!

I had the best weekend.

My husband planned a getaway for us to celebrate our anniversary in a few days, and he knocked it out of the park. It was just one night away because we currently haven’t time for more than that – but our schedule opens up a bit in August (insert eye roll here). While we haven’t had any shortage of date nights this year – we prioritize that no matter what – and we haven’t had any shortage of travel this year, we haven’t been away overnight alone together since December.

Too many kids. Too many activities. Too much time.

Twelve travel weekends with the kids was fun, but it was with the kids and our friends, and that means no alone time happened.

This weekend, though, it was all about us. He booked a hotel we’ve never been to before – one that had a more adult vibe – and he booked a corner suite when he saw that it had two terraces decorated with fun furniture. He knew I’d love to sit outside with my coffee in the morning, and I love that he thought of that.  We left early. We checked in, walked around downtown St. Pete under the gorgeous flowers and beautiful trees along the bay. We had lunch on the water. We laid by the pool the entire afternoon. We had a couples’ massage. We had a romantic dinner. We had breakfast in bed. We got to go grocery shopping on our way home without any little people asking for a cookie or a balloon or this or that (parents, y’all know that is a magical feeling). The staff at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club was fabulous, and they made sure our stay was flawless from start to finish.

It was the most fun weekend, and we needed it. I know that we spend every day together. I’m aware that we share an office, but we are working – and our kids take a lot of our time. It was so nice to go to bed that night not feeling exhausted. We talked and laughed all day, and people kept asking us if we were on our honeymoon.

That is my favorite compliment – ever. It’s not the first time we’ve gotten it in fourteen years of marriage, either. It’s all the time, and I love that. I love that after nearly 18 years together, my husband and I still come across as happy as someone on their honeymoon even though we have four kids and all the things. I love that.

Fun fact – This month is our 14th wedding anniversary, and it’s also the 16th anniversary of the day Craig asked me to marry him. Isn’t that fun?!

Traveling has always been something we’ve loved to do since day one. We’ve been everywhere together, and we have some of the most beautiful memories in the most beautiful places. From Hawaii to San Francisco to Napa Valley to New York City to the Caribbean to Mexico to Vegas to the Carolinas to SoCal, there is not a place, a time, or a vacation we’ve been on that doesn’t make me smile. But, travel changes a bit over the years and as you add kids. I’m not comfortable leaving our kids for more than three nights at a time. For example, my husband has been begging me to book a trip for us back to Hawaii for years, but the kids can’t handle the 6-hour time difference just yet, and I can’t handle being that far away for that many days.

Maybe next year, honey!

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about getting away as a couple with kids, without, whatever, and I wanted to share those thoughts with you.

Go…and don’t invite anyone else

Listen, we love our friends. So much. They are our people. They are the people we’ve had by our side for decades, and we’ve been everywhere together. We’ve had our babies together. We’ve traveled extensively together. We seem them 2-3 times a week most weeks. But, sometimes, you have to get away with your spouse and make it about the two of you. As much as I love traveling with our friends – and we have the best time when we do – I love that quality time alone with my husband, and we need it. The feeling we have this week after coming home off of 36 hours alone together is second to none. Quality time is everything.

Go…and pick somewhere you’ve never been

Here’s the other thing – you have to go somewhere new together at least once a year. You cannot keep going to the same places over and over. We are super guilty of this. We have our favorite hotels in Orlando and Tampa when we want to stay local, and we always find ourselves on a plane to New York City for a quick date night. For a few years, we were spending date weekends in Orange County, California a few times a year (but that’s a little far to go now that we have kids waiting on us at home).

There is nothing wrong with having favorite places, but do remember to go somewhere new together. It’s so good. When we go to New York, for example, we always book our favorite restaurants, and we always book our favorite hotel, and we always stop and chat with our favorite doorman. We rarely venture outside of our favorite things there (and we certainly don’t want to), but there’s something a little bit exciting about going somewhere new together and seeing it for the first time. You have no expectations. You don’t feel rushed because you know you want to go to 89 different places in 24 hours because you love them all so much already. It’s so relaxing, and there is no pressure.

Going to your favorite places is amazing, but you have to pick somewhere new or what’s the point of traveling? You need to get on a plane together, get on the road together, and go somewhere new where you don’t have other memories. It makes it that much better.

Go…and don’t feel guilty

You love your kids. We love our kids. But, we also love each other, and we want to be alone together. We want to be adults together. We want to share our showers and sleep in and stay up late drinking wine and order breakfast when we are ready rather than when our little people tell us that they are starving to absolute death and have to call room service right this second.

And, guess what? Your kids don’t miss you anymore than ours miss us. They have their cousins and grandparents to spend time with, and that’s the most important thing to them. They’re having more fun than you, and that’s just a fact. Don’t feel guilty. They don’t.

Go…and have fun

Let your hair down, let loose, and have a good time. Don’t worry. Don’t stress about next week and the schedule you already know is going to kill you. Don’t worry about all that’s not getting done at home. Don’t. Have fun. Pretend you are on your honeymoon. In fact, make that your life goal. Make it your life goal to just have so much fun and be so in the moment that everyone you meet thinks you’re on your honeymoon. Then, go home and apply that to your everyday life.

Friends, just because you’re married and you have kids and it’s not brand-new and thrilling every second of the day doesn’t mean you have to fall into that ugly trap of being a boring old married couple. You can still be just as excited to spend time with your spouse as you were way back when it was new and exciting. It’s your choice.

Do you get away with your love regularly?

 

Helpful Links

blackened chicken tacos from Paul’s Landing 

room service and dinner from Marchands Bar and Grill

Couple’s Massage at the Vinoy Salon and Day Spa

sleeveless blue and white Lilly Pulizter Dress 

Lilly Pulitzer wrap dress

White Manolo Blahnik pumps

Black Givenchy Square Sunglasses

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Friday Favorites: Recent Lilly Pulitzer Purchases

Happy Friday, loves!

What a week! May is the busiest year in the world for all people with kids – and when you have four kids, it’s four times as busy. This is the month we basically give up any dreams of rest, relaxation, down time (and work, for me) and give our lives to our kids.

I haven’t been home one day this week. Every single day has been kid-related from pediatrician appointments to competitive cheer stuff to lunch with one of my favorite mom friends to yoga to tumble classes to dinner with new friends, to everything in between. It’s been a busy week. Yet I still managed to get everything written and done, and I feel super accomplished going into the weekend.

It was a fun week, but I’m ready for the weekend!

And, since it is weekend, and it’s going to be a gorgeous one here in the Sunshine State, I’m sharing a few of my favorite recent Lilly Pulitzer purchases. Anyone who knows me knows that I live in Lilly from March to September (and usually beyond that).

There’s just something so refreshing about the fun colors, the bold prints, and the quality is always perfect. Fun fact: I have enough Lilly to wear a different dress or pair of shorts or romper or jumpsuit every single day of the summer and not wear the same piece twice. But…we all know that when you love a piece so much, you wear it twice. Or three times. Or more. Whatever. There’s no shame in my repeat game when it’s this good.

Of everything I wear, I get more compliments on my Lilly dresses than anything else )other than my fuchsia and gold Manolo Blahniks….those get more compliments than anything I’ve ever encountered in my life). Everyone asks about my Lilly dresses whether they want to know where I buy all my beautiful dresses or they want to know how I find such fun mommy and me dresses for my girls, or they want to me to know that they love seeing me all the time because I’m always so bright and colorful and it lifts them up.

In the past month or two, I’ve picked up some amazing pieces for spring and summer, and they might be my favorites, so I want to share them with you (and one romper that isn’t LP, but I love it too much to care).

Jumpsuit – $198 (far left)

Dress (center)(borrowed from my sweet friend and cannot find online, but this one is amazingly similar and will probably end up in my closet before much longer) – $138

Romper – $178 (far right)

Bell Sleeve Dress (top left) – $198

Dress (top right) – $98

Maxi Dress – $228 (but it’s currently at Nordstrom for only $124 on sale!)

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Cover-up no longer available online but this one is the same one in a different pattern – $118

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My Dress – $98

Girls Dresses – $58

Craig’s Shirt, Carter’s Shirt

I have all three of these, but I haven’t taken a photo in the first dress, and I’ve yet to wear the other two

Dress (far left) – $98

Maxi – $248

Dress (far right) – $218

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Show Me Your Mumu romper – $144

*this romper runs very large. I’m wearing an XS here and I had to tighten the straps as far as they would go and keep pulling it up throughout the afternoon.

 

Notes

  • All of my LP dresses are size XS for reference
  • Our youngest daughter’s dress is a size 2-3, middle daughter is 7-8, oldest is 10-12 (kids sizes run very small)
  • Cognac wedges I’m wearing in most photos are old (2015 Michael Kors from Nordstrom)
  • Tory Burch Millers I’m wearing with other dresses are Bleach and Makeup colors
  • White Pumps are Manolo Blahnik
  • Sunglasses pictured with Maxi dress are Ray Ban
  • All other sunglasses are Givenchy
  • crossbody handbag is Prada Saffiano
  • All earrings are BaubleBar for Target

Anything Can Happen, and Being Prepared is a Good Thing

Happy Thursday, loves!

 

A digital detox is sometimes what the doctor ordered, and the Raiford family has spent ample time with our fair share of doctors in the past two or three months! Since our son’s unprovoked grand mal seizure on Valentine’s weekend, it’s been necessary. We are already so busy with our kids and their schedules, our travel schedules, date nights, volunteer schedules, my business, our home, our marriage, and so much more that I needed the detox. I took a break from the blog. I turned down all the campaigns that came my way during this time, and we just focused on living our best life, which is just so easy to do when you appreciate how much good fortune and how much abundance our lives are filled with.

 

When I was offered a chance to work with the legal professionals at Trust & Will to create our trust, will, and appoint guardians, I couldn’t pass it up. Life is short, and you never know what can happen. We had no idea when we woke up the morning of our son’s seizure that a day of pool parties and fun with our favorites would turn into a three-day hospital stay and newfound fear that will last a lifetime. We had no idea our lives would change forever that day, and that’s the point of a trust, will, and guardianship. Life happens, and it’s rarely going to happen as planned.

 

We certainly don’t like to think of our mortality, but it’s inevitable. We need to make sure our sweet babies are cared for. We need to know that they will be taken care of, that our homes are taken care of, my business is managed, and that our bank accounts and life insurance policies and investments are cared for. We need to know these things, and our kids need us to be prepared in case of the worst.

 

Thanks to the amazing legal pros at Trust & Will, we have our newly updated will, our estate, and plan signed, sealed, and delivered right to our door. It took no time at all to complete the process. Our questions were quickly answered by legal professionals with valuable experience, and it was the most enjoyable experience (well, as enjoyable as thinking of your own mortality can be, anyway). And because I want you all to take the time to do some adulting (I know, I know…who wants to adult when the weekend is so close?), Trust & Will is offering all of my followers and readers a chance to save a little money (you can leave it to someone you love in your will) creating your own will. Just visit the site, create an account, and use promo code “ADULTING2019” at checkout for $10 off the cost of your will.

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{ Dress by Lilly Pulitzer } {Necklace and Bracelet by Tiffany & Co.} {Bracelet by David Yurman }

The past few months of detoxing from certain aspects of life have been so invigorating. It’s been so much fun to focus on the kids, on our health, on our travel schedules, and we’ve learned so much in this season of fear and uncertainty. It makes me feel so grateful to know that seasons like this are short-lived, and that they are few and far between. I’m also so grateful for the lessons I learn in trials, how much my faith grows, how much my marriage grows, and how much our kids grow. It’s not always pleasant, but looking back it’s obvious that we sometimes need to slow down, shut down, and learn a few life lessons. And we did.

Our Kids Really Are Best Friends

Carter’s seizure was hard on all of us. Combined with every little thing going wrong at home in the midst of all his appointments and our hectic travel schedule this year, we were prepared to have meltdowns. We were prepared to see the kids unravel. But what happened was the exact opposite. We saw them become closer than ever. They give more hugs. They extend more “I love you’s” to one another. They spend more time together. They watch out for one another. At no point since his seizure has Carter been alone anywhere. They want to be with him. They want to watch out for him, and they realized just how important they are to one another. They bicker less. They get along more. It’s been amazing for us to see them grow so much closer.

 

Everyone has an opinion, and it’s best to nod, smile, and move on

Trust me. Every single person has an opinion. Some of them are valid and welcome. Some are hurtful and unkind. Some are snarky and clearly come from a place of discontent and unhappiness. Don’t worry about it. Say thanks, smile, move on. It’s simple. Anyone who wants to tell you that what terrifies you and changes your life is not that big of a deal is dealing with their own life issues. Lacking sympathy and compassion for people is an ugly trait, but you don’t need to be ugly in return. Simply extend your sincerest wishes to them and feel thankful that they’ve never held their lifeless child in their arms and wondered if they would die. Their ignorance is bliss, and they are so fortunate to have that.

 

I need my husband, and he needs me

 

This is certainly not something we’ve questioned or doubted in the past, but it’s something we are so much more aware of at this point. One thing my husband said to me when we first got engaged was that we would never be the people who sat on separate couches when we watch television or relax at night; we’d sit together. He did not want the same kind of marriage his parents had – they ultimately divorced the year before we wed – after his dad was gone most of his childhood for work, and he did not want to miss out on our future children’s childhoods (he was so sure he’d talk me into having kids…but he probably didn’t think four was our number!). That’s one of the values I love most, but I love it even more knowing that we don’t go through hard things alone. We are right there for one another, and we have one another to hold onto. It’s everything to me.

 

I have to let go

 

I have learned so much lately, and this is such a good thing. If it’s not serving you, let it go. If something isn’t bring you joy or happiness, let it go. Don’t dwell on things. Let them go. Those who live in the past are so unhappy, and they are living such small lives. I can’t sit here and think “What if we’d done XYZ, would it have stopped this from happening?” Or “Why our sweet boy?” Or the many other things that aren’t helpful that are in the past, out of our control, etc. Let it go and let God. If you don’t learn to let it go, you’re going never going to live your best life…which leads me to the following.

 

It’s okay to live your best life

 

I’m a big fan of living my best life, but I found myself saying I wasn’t living my best life following our son’s seizure. I just wasn’t. That’s not who I am. Life wasn’t perfect for me, and I was suddenly not living my best life. Something terrible happened, and suddenly my best life was not easy to see even though I was still living it. When your son is totally fine and his tests are perfect and the doctors tell you he’s a perfectly healthy little love, what about that is not my best life? What about having a healthy son is not best life stuff?

 

My best life is my reality, and I love that about it. My best life is being with my family. My best life is date night. My best life occurs when one of my busy little ones wants to sit down and cuddle with me for even one minute. My best life is lived drinking coffee in my favorite room of my house while my husband sits next to me drinking his and the kids are way too loud. My best life is lived in a five-star resort with a beautiful view and people we love. My best life is lived on Wednesday nights when we get to enjoy our long-standing tradition with our besties. My best life is spending weekends surrounded by the people we love the most laughing and having fun with one another and our kids. My best life is lived being present with my kids. My best life is what makes me happy. It’s not an indication of perfect. It’s my definition of my best life – and I never know where my best life takes me.

 

It’s okay for me to live my best life even when things aren’t perfect. The truth is that no one has a perfect life. My husband irritates me sometimes. He breathes loud when he sleeps sometimes, and it drives me nuts. I have excessive road rage. I am just not a people person. I’m impatient. I’m expensive. I worry, and I have fears, and I have nightmares, and things scare me. I take my 6-year-old nephew to school and pick him up most days, and he drives me beyond crazy because he’s never in a hurry and he’s always in his own world, and I’m annoyed with him more often than no. But that’s me living my best life because I am so fortunate I can do that for my aunt so that her son can go to the school she’s chosen and she can teach at the school where she’s been for decades. Everything that’s imperfect has a good side, and that’s my best life.

 

Life is only as good as you make it, which is why I like to make mine a good one. So, go, create your will. Make a plan. Fix your life. Get rid of things that don’t serve you. Wear big dark glasses and get botox so people can’t see your thoughts on your face. Pray for those who seem sad and lost in their own lives. If you can’t do that, send a prayer of thanks you’re not those people. Focus on the good. Be present. Take a break and spend time doing what you love. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the things that happen to you and around you. Learn. Apply. Move on. Be a good person, always.

Life Update

Happy Wednesday, loves!

I’ve been a little (okay, a lot) MIA lately. Our life has been CRAZY since Valentine’s weekend, and we’ve just been focused on our little family and what has turned into appointment after appointment after appointment after appointment.

You know that saying, “When it rains, it pours?”

(I wish it would literally pour because the only rain we’ve been getting is drizzly and it’s doing nothing to clean the 89 layers of pollen off our deck.)

It’s been metaphorically pouring around here.

Life has some curveballs, and I’m good with that. I expect most of them, and I know that they’re not uncommon, but sometimes it’s a little overwhelming when everything happens at the same time and you can’t live your actual life doing anything you actually need to do or want to do because of it.

To quickly run it down for you, we haven’t been home in six weeks. I mean, we’ve been home, but only Monday through Thursday. Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday has been filled with travel – and one hospital stay.

  • Cheer competition in Tampa
  • Texas for five days
  • Cheer competition in Orlando
  • Hospital for three days
  • Cheer competition in Daytona
  • Cheer competition in Naples

We finally get to stay home for the weekend this weekend, and you’ve never met people more excited than us. It’s been a while since we haven’t had to wake up at the crack of down to put pounds of makeup on our 10-year-old daughter’s face (don’t even get me started on that one…it kills me every single time I have to make her up for a competition. Makeup on children should be illegal).

As if we were not tired enough from the first three weeks of travel, early flights, and lots of long rides in the car, our son suffered a grand mal seizure almost three weeks ago. We were having dinner at our best friend’s house. We’d been at our nephew’s birthday party all day, and we went over there to grill filets and have surf and turf while the kids enjoyed their first pool day of the season.

It was a gorgeous day, and I was having the most fantastic glass of sauvignon blanc on the pool deck with my husband, our best friends, and our best friend’s brother (and our awesome friend) BJ when the kids decided to leave the pool and go out onto the driveway and ride power wheels.

That’s when our 10-year-old daughter began screaming that our 4-year-old son was lying on the ground throwing up, foaming, and shaking “ready bad” and we all ran. Time stopped.

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I don’t remember much other than seeing our sweet boy on the ground, a massive bloody mess on his head, foam coming out of his mouth, vomit running down his cheek, his left side totally still as his right side seized uncontrollably.

I don’t remember anything other than Geremy grabbing Carter and running to his truck while I yelled for BJ to call 9-1-1 as he had his phone in his hand. Craig began running to the truck with Geremy and Carter, and I remember running to it as it was backing down the driveway to head to the gate. I do remember the truck was moving when I opened the back door and jumped in. I think that I thought we were going to the hospital, but Geremy was amazing enough to realize that he had to run down to the end of their property (and it’s big) and open the gate for the ambulance, and the fire station is only a mile or so away.

He took us there. Laid on the horn while we beat on the doors screaming for help. They opened the doors, grabbed our son, and then I remember being in the back of the ambulance with three EMT/Firefighters, my husband, and our baby boy.

Corinna had our three girls, her own three kids, and our niece, who was having a sleepover with us. I don’t remember much else. I know I called Bridget, my niece’s mother, to let her know since we had her daughter. I think she called our moms? I don’t remember.

I just remember the tests.

I remember the moment our son stopped seizing in the truck while my husband held him and screamed for him to wake up and breathe. I remember Geremy yelling that he was breathing just before we got to the fire station. I remember his lifeless body and the fact that he spent almost a half hour unresponsive and out of it. I remember so many little things, and so few other things.

I remember my mom coming to the hospital with my handbag that I left at Geremy and Corinna’s. I remember Geremy and BJ coming to get my car keys from Craig and then coming back with my car and a bag of essentials. Carter was only wearing his wet swimsuit when it happened, and we left everything behind. I remember my mom telling me that my mother-in-law was with the girls and she was taking them back to our house to stay with them for the night.

I remember Geremy bringing with him a bag with dry clothes for Carter, water, his favorite snacks, toothbrushes and toothpaste and even a phone charger. Things we would need for an overnight stay that we didn’t have. I cried because we have the best friends you could ever ask for in the entire world. They took care of our girls, got the entire story about how he made a funny noise, began seizing, and then fell off the power wheel John Deere he was on. They talked to the girls. They cared for them. Geremy was back in the hospital by 7 am the following morning just to check on us and to see Carter. Brian and Bridget were there shortly after with coffee and some of Carter’s favorite things. Corinna and the kids were there right after that. Our moms brought the girls after that. My aunt was there with my nephew after that.

Our room was filled for three solid days with visitor after visitor while Carter went through test after test. A CT scan, an EKG, blood tests, urine tests, drug tests, and he did a 24-hour EEG test. Everything came back clear and perfect. Now he goes to Shands for an MRI to look deeper into his brain.

He was a champ.

And thank God for social media alleviating the need to respond to every single text and call that came through by posting updates there. And thank God for everyone who reached out to check on us, to ask us what we needed, to offer their prayers. Finding out our sweet boy was on the prayer chain not only at our church but at the churches of so many of our friends and family at the same time was powerful.

We are blessed.

Right now, he’s fine. He’s himself. We are not okay a lot of the time. Night is hard. The first week was really hard. Our daughters witnessed it and have been very emotional. Our oldest daughter doesn’t like to be away from him. Our middle daughter is acting out at school in a major way, and she’s overwhelmed when she has to say goodbye to her baby brother in the mornings. Sweet Charlotte is Carter’s twin, and she’s been quiet about the entire thing.

She’s been very close to him, and she doesn’t let him out of her sight. None of us are sleeping well. But we get better each day. It’s hard not knowing what caused it. All we know is that it was not a febrile seizure, it was not caused by trauma to the head, and it was not caused by dehydration or blood sugar issues. At this point, it’s simply unprovoked.

Yesterday, driving to school, he fell asleep in his car seat before it was his turn to pick a song. When I asked him what he wanted, he didn’t respond. In the rearview mirror, his head was down on his chest and he wasn’t responding. I panicked and started yelling his name, and that caused the girls to panic. A few days prior, he was outside playing while we were cleaning out the car after a trip, and he walked around the house. I called his name and when he did not immediately answer, the girls began to panic calling his name and screaming for him. Ava cried. He was fine, but it’s hard to realize that your own panic and fear is causing the same kind of panic and fear in your kids.

It’s a process.

And then there is everything else. We still have cheer, so that means we still have to travel every weekend or every other weekend depending on the week.

We now have a million and 12 follow-up appointments with our pediatrician and our pediatric neurologist. We have a pre-op appointment at Shands this week on top of a meeting at our daughter’s school with the counselor to discuss how we can help her cope with this better when she’s away from her brother, a hair appointment, a pediatric appointment, and an appointment with the plumber (more on that in a minute) on top of my husband working away from home yesterday. It’s been a lot of appointments. I can’t remember the last time I had a normal day when we didn’t have an appointment or I didn’t spend the day packing.

Just to make the month more fun, our AC decided to stop blowing cold air when we got home from the hospital – and it was almost 90 degrees every day. It was a slow stop we didn’t notice right away. It definitely felt warm at home when we got home, but our moms had been staying here with our girls, and they always crank it way up and like it so hot in here. Then it was a little cool, and then it was hot the day we left for Daytona – but we had to leave and we had to kick the AC guy out before he was done…which meant it was hot all weekend while we were gone, hot when we came home Sunday evening, and wasn’t fixed until Monday morning. That was a long day.

Fast forward to this weekend when we were in Naples, and we came home to find our toilets won’t flush but stuff keeps coming up the shower drains when we try to flush them or use the plunger. My husband called the plumber – no, septic people, since they are apparently not the same people – and they came out this morning while he was gone and I had to be home to let them do their job – and informed us that it needed to be pumped – fine – and that our drain field is totally shot to hell and back and needs to be replaced ASAP. So now we are getting a new one of those…whatever those are.

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And I haven’t even begun to work on my taxes yet, which means this month will only get that much more expensive when I turn all that in and find out how much we owe this year #selfemployedproblems. Fortunately, we are blessed and able to handle everything going on in our lives right now without worrying about it. It still doesn’t make it fun, but we are going to have what might as well be a brand-new house after all this! I’ll take it.

And that, my friends, is why I’ve been MIA. I’m currently finishing up a collaboration with an amazing company I should have posted the week Carter was in the hospital but did not, and a few other things. It’s been a heck of a time around here, and we’ve been so tired. Hopefully, this weekend at home will let us get some much-needed rest so we can rejuvenate and spend time with our loved ones….and hope our drain field lasts until they get out here to replace it.

On that note, you won’t get much more from me this month. I need a little more time to catch up and try to get back to normal, but I’ll let you know anytime there’s something new on the site.

Friday Five: Ways to Change Your Life

Happy Friday, loves!

I did something recently that took me so far outside my comfort zone.

I opened my new laptop and committed myself to it.

I know. I know. That’s like, nothing, really, to some people.

To me, it is a big deal. I don’t love technology. I really don’t. I’ve driven vehicles I can control from an app on my phone for like six years now, and I only really began allowing myself to use that app to turn the car on from inside the kids’ school to cool it off on a hot day or warm it up on a cool day, or to lock the doors with my keys inside so I can go run without carrying them, or whatever, about a year ago. I knew I had this app. I just couldn’t commit.

We’ve had a Nest thermostat and Google Home for years, and I’ve had an app to control the Nest since we installed it – and I’ve never used it. I still get up and manually turn the air on or off or up or down. Well, just last week I actually asked Google if she would do it for me. I’ve never used the app.

I have an app for our ADT alarm system, and I’ve never used the app.

I don’t love technology. It confuses me. I’m a 75-year-old woman in a 35-year-old body.

So, every year or 18 months or so…I have to replace my laptop. I write millions of words a year on my laptop for my clients – and I usually end up rubbing the letters off my keys inside of six months. By a year, some of my keys are stuck. By 18 months, I’m banging on the screen because it flickers when it’s not in the exact right position, and I can no longer use at a laptop because it must remain stationery and immobile to ensure it works the next time I need it.

But, you guys, I don’t love change.

I’ve had my new laptop in my office for four months.

I just opened it.

Okay, okay. I opened it a month ago. And I didn’t turn it on. I put it on a shelf in my office. But, I opened it. So, that was a total win.

A week and-a-half ago, I turned it on. I let my husband install all the stuff I need. And then I began the tedious, awful, horrible, no-good, very bad process of logging into things. Except I don’t know my passwords. Or my logins. I know nothing.

It took me four days to go through the process of logging into everything, asking it to send me my login information, and asking to reset my password, and then saving my new information to the computer so I never, ever, ever, ever have to login by myself again.

And then I went through the process of resetting all my passwords again – because I don’t remember them even though I just set them up – when nothing on my phone or iPad opened up for me because it changed it all and the passwords were wrong. Again.

There’s a small chance I cried.

There’s a large chance I yelled the “f” word a lot.

There’s a larger chance I swore up and down I despise technology and will never use it again.

Then I put it back down on my shelf and continued to use my sad shell of an 18-month-old laptop again.

But, you guys, today I am three solid days into exclusively using my new laptop. I am officially one day into not yelling at it for not being my safe place, my comfortable place, my familiar place. Today is the first day I’ve felt “comfortable” with it.

I’m growing up.

Where are the tissues?

So, I did something scary this week. And that lead me into my Friday post.

I get a lot of questions about doing scary things about being comfortable and confident with change.

I don’t like change. I appreciate change in the end, but I never like it in the moment. Change is scary, but guys, scary is good. Scary means you’re doing things with your life (even if it’s just using a new laptop or giving birth to twins – I’ve done both and I personally recommend having twins. It’s easier than using a new laptop. A lot less stressful). If you want to change your life, you have to be okay with making change. And you have to remind yourself that change is always good when you look back. Is it terrifying? Hell yes. Is it comfortable? Hell no. Is it always something you look back on and thank God for because it was the best thing that ever happened to you? YES! And guess what…I have some advice for you! You’re welcome.

Learn Self-Care

If you want to change your life for the better this year, learn to take care of yourself. Say no, put down the phone and pick up a book. Spend time with people you love. Get outside. Take a break. Do something you enjoy. Get rid of toxic people. If you care about yourself and practice that, your life will care about you a lot more.

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Stop Glorifying the Word Busy

What does this even accomplish? We brag about how busy we are like it’s a trophy or something to be polished and placed next to an Oscar. What? WHY?

Busy is not glamorous. Y’all, busy sucks. I get that we all are. I’m not saying that I’m not. But I’m saying that I know being busy is a pain in the ass, and it’s nothing to be proud of. When we’re so busy we can’t do what we want to do, we aren’t living our lives. My husband and I have a business, he has a career, we have four kids, church, friends, family, volunteer activities, exercise, date nights, extracurricular activities. We get ONE freaking weekend at home to sleep in our own beds between January and March because of our daughter’s competitive cheer schedule, and then we get one more weekend at home in March before we’re gone through April.

Busy. Sucks. A. Lot.

I love my home. I love my bed. I love my family. I love my stuff. I love my home. I want to be here. I don’t want to be so busy I can’t even enjoy sitting down on my own lanai with a cup of coffee on a gorgeous morning.

If you’re glorifying busy and trying to keep yourself so busy you have no space on your social calendar and spend no time at home, ask yourself what it is about your home, your life, and your situation that’s worth running from. Then fix it. And then slow the hell down. Life is not fun when you’re exhausted and you can’t remember the color of your own walls.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Be Yourself

If you’re going to make some positive changes in your life, start by being yourself. Who cares what anyone else thinks of you? Are you a Girl Scout Cookie? No? Then guess what? Not everyone likes you.

Now, be yourself at least find people who don’t like you for real.

Geez. If you can’t be yourself and stop worrying about how people feel, you’re not living your best life. Be you, boo. You’re a badass motherfucker.

Move Your Ass

You’re not getting anywhere in life sitting still. Get up and make things happen. Take action. As a matter of fact, stop talking about all that you’re going to do, and just do it. You’re wasting time talking about it that you could be using to just do it. Make like Nike. Even if you’re mad at them for supporting that one guy with the bad hair who sits down for the national anthem. They still make great stuff.

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Embrace Change

The best you can, anyway. No one likes change until we see how it’s paid off for us. Pray about it. Work on it. Pray about it again. And learn to embrace it. Every season is different, and they can’t all be the best season (for example, summer in Florida is the worst season ever, but gimme all the fall, spring, and winter vibes. Which are basically like mini-summer vibes. Or summer everywhere but Florida vibes. Normal summer for everyone else, perhaps, rather than our die a slow death by melting summer? What am I even talking about at this point?)

My point is this. If you’re going to make your life the best life ever, you have to do some things you don’t want to do. You never regret those decisions. You always regret being lazy and insecure, though, don’t you?

Good luck my loves. Enjoy your weekend, have fun, and kick ass. You have three whole days to do it.

Last-Minute Valentine Gift Ideas For Your Sweet Littles

Happy Wednesday, loves!

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, but doesn’t it feel like it snuck right up on us? I can’t even believe it’s here already, yet here it is in all its glory. I mean, we have a whole year’s notice, and here I am the day before scrambling to put together class gifts and cheer sister gifts for 100 kids – and kicking myself for waiting until the last minute.

Okay, so I remembered on Sunday, ordered a quick Hershey Bar Valentine’s Wrapper for $4 on Etsy to personalize, and thought I was winning at life. Until yesterday, when I remembered that PDF has to have all the kids’ names added to the wrappers so I can send them to Office Max to have them printed. And then I promptly forgot to have them cut for me. So I’m looking forward to a late night of all that with my husband tonight – because hot dates and who has time for that stuff?

We get to cut 100 wrappers, and then we get to affix them to 100 Hershey bars.

Wrapper PDF from Etsy – $4

Printing 100 Wrappers at Office Max – $25

100 full-size Hershey Bars – $60

Mom-failing until the last minute – priceless. Or maybe like $6,000 in therapy costs that I’ll eventually need one day. It could go either way.

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In the Raiford household, we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s a romantic holiday. My husband and I use any excuse to be romantic – which means celebrating our romance on Tuesday, or Friday, or Sunday afternoon. Whatever – we really like each other, so we are all about romance on the daily, and we have been the past 17 years.

Now that we have kids, it seems like Valentine’s is all about them and their lives. Their class parties and something sweet for them, and we kind of love that. We love celebrating our love for them on a day that’s special to them, and that’s what it’s all about for us. And that brings me to the point of this post – a couple of cute, last-minute Valentine gift ideas for your littlest loves if you didn’t think to celebrate them or you simply didn’t realize tomorrow is the big day.

Valentine’s Shirts

Our kids love a cute Valentine’s shirt, and we always make sure we have one for them when they wake up. It’s a fun idea for them to wear to school for the day – not that they will all wear them in the morning. Some will wait until Friday. Or never. Or Christmas. But, the point is that they love them.

Valentine Pajamas

Our kids also love some cute Valentine Pajamas, which always make them happy. They are weirdly obsessed with pajamas, and I dig it. It’s a total bonus if you can find coordinating jammies for all the kids. They especially love that in our house.

Hersheys and M&Ms

What’s sweet about being someone’s Valentine is getting something sweet to eat. Our kids love Hershey kisses and M&Ms, so we always make sure they have some in their Valentine bag. It might just be their favorite treat.

Donuts for Breakfast

Who doesn’t love to go out and get heart-shaped donuts on Valentine’s? My husband runs out and grabs those in the morning so the kids can have them for breakfast. It’s another favorite tradition from us to them.

Flowers

No matter what we say or do – my sweet husband always sends me flowers on Valentine’s Day, and he always sends the girls their own flowers, too. It’s a sweet treat for them to get their own bouquet of flowers, and he always sends them from both himself and our son.

He’s the absolute sweetest, and that’s why everyday is Valentine’s Day in our house.

This Doesn’t Happen to Families Like Ours: Except When it Does

“Don’t panic. Everyone is fine.”

Cold, hard fear gripped my heart. I’m fairly certain I stopped in my tracks walking out of the restaurant where we just had lunch with our oldest daughter and some of our cheer family. My heart stopped; of that, I am certain.

It was Saturday morning, and it was a cheer weekend. Cheer weekends are long, fun, tiring, and always memorable. We typically do not bring the twins with us because they aren’t down with the early mornings, late nights, and the hours upon hours of sitting on stadium seating watching what feels like a million cheerleaders compete. It’s loud, it’s overwhelming, and they prefer to stay at home. My parents and my mother-in-law, and sometimes our niece and nephew, come to our home those weekends to stay with the twins.

This week, Ava, our beautiful, feisty, sassy 7-year-old wanted to stay with them instead of coming with us for the weekend.

“There was an incident.”

I couldn’t breathe if I wanted to. Things like this don’t happen to us. We aren’t those people. We are a good family. We are happy, and healthy, and we are busy and have fun and we surround ourselves with amazing people we’ve known our entire lives. We aren’t the kind of people who have incidents.

Except, we are those people. Those things do happen to us.

Let me just rewind a moment, so I can preface this with a story that may play into this.

Last weekend, we were in Dallas, Texas for the night because we had to catch a very early flight home after visiting my grandmother for her birthday. It was late when we arrived at our favorite airport hotel – the Hyatt – and I had my husband drop myself and our four kids, and our luggage, off at valet with the bellman so I could check us into our room and get everyone bathed and to bed while he returned our rental car and made his way back to the hotel.

It was well after 10 pm when we checked in. We were tired, we were ready for showers and bed – and we were ready to go home.

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While I stood at the front desk with my four small children to check into our room – looking every bit the harried single mom – the concierge asked if he could give the kids a little gift. I told him that would be lovely. He proceeded to give the kids each an inflatable airplane in the color of their choice (which, while so sweet, is not the best gift to give kids about to get on a plane. Just imagine our family of six walking through security while the twins are using their best outside voices to ask if we “can blow up the plane now,” while we basically screaming, “INFLATE. INFLATE! You want to INFLATE the plane!”}.

He handed the kids each their planes and proceeded to tell me I have a beautiful family. I thanked him. Then he told me I was beautiful. I thanked him again. Then he proceeded to call out my four-year-old daughter about being exceptionally beautiful, and followed that up with, “You want to be careful with your kids in this hotel. It’s a dangerous place.”

The twins ignored him.

I did not. Neither did my 7 and 10-year-old daughters.

My husband could not make it to our room fast enough that night.

Ava did not sleep. Every noise she heard all night long caused instant fear and panic, because someone told her that she’s in danger where she is. It was a long night. It also required us to have a conversation with her that we’ve had more than once.

We see all the Facebook posts from moms and dads walking through the store when they notice people paying too much attention to their kids. We know all about the growing epidemic of child sex trafficking. It’s already got us on high alert when we are with our kids at home, in the yard, traveling, anywhere.

And we always encourage our kids to stay close to us. It’s not a requirement. It’s a must. They must have their hands on us at all times in public. Holding our hands, our arms, our legs, whatever. When we are unloading carts at the store, we make them count so we can hear them in case we have to glance away for a split second.

Because a split second is all it takes.

We usher them into our vehicles before we do anything else when we are out – and we immediately lock the doors behind them while we unload our shopping bags into the back. We are careful. Bad things don’t happen to us.

I notified the hotel after going back and forth about it.

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I hate ‘telling’ on people in public because I prefer to share the amazing service we have to the negative. I love to tell a manager or whomever is in charge when someone is exceptional. I hate telling them when they are not – I don’t want anything free. I don’t want anything comped. But, I feel that this is always what people think when complaints are issued.

I went back and forth but ultimately decided that it was the right thing to do.

The hotel was exceptionally gracious in their response, reaching out to me personally to apologize and to give me a step-by-step notice of their plan of action, what they’d already done, and the new training requirements they’re implementing to ensure that their guests are treated with kindness and respect, but to also make sure everyone is aware what is kind and respectful and what strikes fear. The assistant manager also asked me to please notify him personally the next time we are in the hotel – I’d mentioned to him we are frequent guests since we do travel to Texas several times a year to visit my grandmother – so he can treat my family. I will not notify him. I don’t want anything but to feel comfortable and to have my kids feel safe.

“We took the kids to the park, and then we took them to McDonalds for lunch and ice cream per their request.”

I still could not breathe. Or move. At this point, everyone with me noticed I wasn’t moving, and they recognized the panic in my voice.

“What happened?” My husband grabbed my hand.

“While sitting down eating her lunch, Ava called me closer to where she was seated at the table, and she told me that the man sitting behind me facing her was creeping her out because he kept taking photos of her with his phone,” said my mother.

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“But everyone is fine. When she said it, we turned around and noticed him holding his phone out around me sitting at the table to get a clear view of her and he was just snapping photo after photo, but Liz jumped up and stood right in front of Ava so he no longer had any view of her. He put his phone away. We notified the manager and called the police, but he got up and ran out of the restaurant when he noticed me talking to the manager and she began pointing in his direction. He picked up his phone, made a call, and quickly ran outside. A white GMC Yukon – older – came racing into the parking lot and he jumped into the passenger side and they took off. I took photos of the tag and the vehicle. I have them. The police have them. Ava is fine,” she said.

This doesn’t happen to people like us.

But it did.

And our girl knew it was wrong.

Someone creeped her out. Someone made her feel uncomfortable. And she spoke up. Loudly. She wasn’t afraid, but she wasn’t standing for it, either. And my 12-year-old nephew took note of his outfit, too.

He was wearing a Dunkin Donuts staff shirt and grabbed a Dunkin Donuts visor from his pocket and put it on while he was running from the restaurant.

They waited and waited with the kids in the restaurant, lingering over dessert, until they felt that he was gone for good and he wasn’t watching their cars or following them back to our home.

They all did the exact right thing.

Addison’s competition could not end quickly enough for me. I could not get home fast enough to give my girl a hug.

A man took photos of my child, and he did not even try to be slick about it. He clearly had a ride that could show up seconds after making a call, and nothing about this is right. NOTHING about this is right. The entire situation is terrifying.

I still couldn’t breathe.

“What did the police say? Can I talk to Ava? Send me the description of the car and the tag number, and I’m sending it to Officer L. He will find out what is going on and who this person is. Are you home? What did the police say?”

By now, our party of 9 was all stopped, looks of concern and fear on their faces.

Ava is all right. Everyone is all right.

She did the right thing.

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And she did the right thing because we talk to her about things that are scary and uncomfortable. As much as we’d like to shelter and shield her from things that are hard and scary, we didn’t – and it may have saved her or another child from something awful.

Was this man working for a child trafficking ring? Was he a pedophile trying to take kids or even just their pictures for his own perverse, disgusting, horrifying pleasure? Was he going to kidnap my baby and take her somewhere and hurt her?

We don’t know. We will probably never know.

But we do know we will never feel comfortable letting our kids go anywhere without us right thing watching them ourselves. We will forever worry when they go anywhere with someone other than us. Cheer weekends will now bring a hint of fear and panic, and I know we will never be entirely comfortable again unless our kids are close enough to touch.

This is no way to live.

Our parents should be able to take their grandchildren to the park and to get ice cream and not worry about things like this. They should be worried about who is spilling ice cream on their shirts or who is behaving in public. They shouldn’t be worried about trafficking and kidnapping and pedophiles.

But now they are.

This is the world we live in, and it sucks. It fucking sucks. There’s just not another word for it.

I cried myself to sleep that night. I will probably cry myself to sleep a lot of nights. It’s over, and she’s fine, but the kind of fear that gripped my heart when I picked up my mom’s call coming out of lunch that day will never let go of my heart. It’s like a hand, holding onto my heart, ready to squeeze it until it stops unexpectedly. It will never go away.

It’s scary, but you must speak with your children. You must tell them that they have to speak up. They should listen to their little bodies when something feels wrong. When someone ‘creeps them out’ and when someone makes them feel uncomfortable. They should speak up. No one will EVER be mad at them for speaking up when they don’t feel right.

I don’t care that my daughter yelled out that another person is creepy for others to her. I don’t find that embarrassing – I don’t give an actual you-know-what how another person feels. If you make my child feel ‘creepy,’ I don’t care how you feel. Sorry, not sorry.

Talk to your children. Let them know it’s okay to speak up. Let them know that it’s okay to talk to you.

Talk to your kids. It’s the difference between a phone call that begins with, “Don’t panic, everyone is okay,” and “I’m so sorry.”

Valentine Cocktails With Icelandic Glacial

Happy Friday, loves!

I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I love more than the weekend. We love laidback weekends at home, hosting friends and family the most. My husband loves to cook, and I love to come up with fun new drink ideas on occasion to mix it up a bit. When the awesome team at Icelandic Glacial asked if I’d like to try their sparkling water, I was instantly intrigued. I love sparkling water in my favorite cocktails, and they were kind enough to send me some amazing recipes to share with you.

Since Valentine’s Day is next week, I’m sharing with you a few of my favorite pretty pink drinks that are perfect for your upcoming Valentine or Galentine celebrations. They’re fun, fabulous, and they are delicious. The best part is that you now have three new sparkling water flavors to choose from when you’re mixing your favorite cocktails. Icelandic Glacial now includes Elderflower, Sicilian Lemon, and Tahitian Lime – and if those don’t sound like the perfect segue flavors for summer, what does?

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Midnight Sun

1.5 oz. brennivin

1 oz. fresh grapefruit juice

2 dashes aromatic bitters

1 sprig rosemary

1 slice grapefruit

Icelandic Glacial Sparkling Water

Put your ingredients into a shaker, shake, pour into your favorite highball glass, top it off with your Icelandic Glacial Sparkling Water, and garnish with your sprig of rosemary. Taste, and enjoy.

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The Perfect Aperol Spritz

3 oz. prosecco

2 oz. aperol

1 oz. Icelandic Glacial Sparkling Water

1 orange slice

Pour all your ingredients in a wine glass with a bit of ice, stir, and add your orange.

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Garden Party

2 oz. gin

2 tbs. fresh lemon juice

half ounce crème de violette

half ounce elderflower liqueur

3 cucumber slices

Icelandic Glacial Sparkling Elderflower

Edible flowers

Start by muddling cucumber with lemon juice in a shaker, and add your gin, crème, and elderflower liqueur to the mix. Shake it up with some ice, and then pour it into a glass. Use your edible flowers to garnish this gorgeous cocktail.

What’s your favorite go-to cocktail this time of year?

5 Reasons You Should Keep Fresh Blooms At Home

Happy Wednesday, loves!

When we got home from Texas this weekend, we had to hit the supermarket. Ordinarily, we might order groceries to have delivered when we land so that we can come home to what we need and focus on unpacking, but I needed flowers. I always keep fresh flowers in our home – and the Good Lord knows I cannot grow them without killing them – so I pick them up at Publix and display them throughout my home. However, I never trust someone else to pick out the right flowers – I have to look, touch, smell, and think about where I want them and what I’m trying to say.

So, I went to Publix to shop. While there, one of the gentlemen in the produce department said hello. I see him there a few times a week, and we always exchange pleasantries. This time he said to me, “I hope you’re not buying yourself flowers every time you’re in here. Someone else should be buying you flowers,” to which I responded that my husband both sends and brings me flowers regularly, so we’re all good.

At the register, the woman checking me out commented on them and asked who they were for (I should mention I had four or five dozen, so it probably did seem like a lot of flowers). When I told her they were to display at home, she gave me a look.

You know the look. The look. She was appalled that I’d buy that many flowers to put out at home. She called it a wasteful expense (first, I don’t recall asking for her opinion on how I choose to shop, and second, I mean, I was gone for basically two weeks and home for two days between trips – all of my flowers were dead and gone. I wasn’t replenishing a few here and there – I was replenishing all of them in the entire house).

It made me think.

I might be the only person I know who always has fresh flowers at home. Maybe it is a wasted and continuous expense. But, then again, they’re only $15 a dozen. That’s nothing, right?

And then I thought, you know what? I don’t give an actual you-know-what. I love flowers. What does it matter if anyone else approves of them? It does not. And, for that matter, they’re actually beneficial to have at home.

So, if you’re on the fence about whether you want to spring for flowers to keep at home, let me share some of the benefits of them with you.

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They Make You Happy

Do you really need another reason to keep fresh blooms at home? You do not, but I’ll elaborate because I’m chatty and all that. Fresh blooms make you smile. Smiling releases endorphins. Endorphins minimize stress. Smiling is pretty. Happy people are pretty people. Need I go on?

Fresh Flowers Create Fresh Air

Okay, okay…not all of them. But, did you know that some of my own personal favorites (Gerbers and lilies) clean the air? That’s right. They do something plant-y and magical that somehow removes toxins from the air. Clean air is the best air, and who doesn’t love the smell of fresh flowers?

Fresh Flowers Help You Sleep Better

Do you remember that one time I told you that fresh flowers clean the air by removing toxins? Right, well, those same flowers also allow you to get a better night of sleep because you’re breathing better while you get a little shut-eye. We talked about happy people being pretty people, but what about well-rested people without all the bags and the moodiness?

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Color Brightens Your Mood

It goes without saying that a little color goes a long way. Why do you think those of us who basically live in Lilly Pulitzer are so positive all the time? It’s all that color! It makes us happy! So, get some flowers, be happy, be beautiful, and be all the things you want to be. Who knew it was that easy?

Bye-Bye Anxiety

Here’s a deep thought for a Wednesday. Did you ever wonder why giving flowers to those who are ill or suffering or who recently lost someone is a thing? Someone passed? Send flowers. Someone is ill? Send flowers. Someone is having a birthday? Send flowers.

It’s because flowers create a physiological effect on your brain. It helps you feel less anxious. When you’re able to reduce your feelings of anxiety, you’re just a better, happier, more positive person. And all because of flowers. That’s why you send them to the ill. It helps them feel better because they lose some of that anxiety that’s got them even further down than their illness.

Basically, if you’re not living with fresh flowers at home, you’re a tired, cranky, moody, mean, anxious, stressed-out, fatigued, toxin-breathing mess. *insert shrug emoji here*

Well, maybe you’re not that bad. Maybe you are. What do I know? But, it can’t hurt to have a little color and a little freshness in the house, right?

And may I add one additional perk? If you know me at all, you know my thumb is brown. Y’all, I kill succulents. Fake succulents. I know, I know…but what I’m saying is that when you purchase fresh flowers to keep at home, there’s no let down. It’s like you buy them and you are both in agreement – they know their time on earth is short, and you know their time on earth is short. No one is worried that their time on earth is dependent solely on you remembering to do things like water them or whatever. It’s a mutual fling with zero expectation.

Celebrating in Texas: A Weekend Recap

Happy Monday, Loves!

What. A. Weekend.

I cannot even begin to tell you how tired the Raiford family is this morning. We had the most amazing weekend – but it was tiring. We took the kids to Texas to visit my grandmother for her birthday, and it was such a wonderful trip. But, it wasn’t a trip that included a lot of sleep.

Let’s see…I think the most we slept was Thursday night in our hotel room in Amarillo. We went to bed around 10:30 and woke up at 7 am. Other than that, we are talking very little sleep. We had a late flight into Dallas on Wednesday night that put us in our hotel room at 11:30. We all needed showers and baths – I will not let anyone go to bed after being in an airport or on a plane, ever – and it was later than that when we went to bed. We woke up at 5:30 am so we could get on the road to my grandmother’s. It’s an almost 6 hour drive, which is a lot.

But, we were able to spend the entire afternoon and evening with her, then we took the kids to dinner. Then we checked into our hotel and my cousin, Lesly, and her daughter, Tamia, checked in after their flight from California. We got to spend a few hours visiting with them, and that was amazing! Despite living on opposite coasts our entire lives – Lesly in California and me in Florida – we spent a LOT of time together growing up. Our dad’s are brothers, and my grandmother lived near us in Florida until I was 18. So, they visited at least once a year, and we spent so much time together.

We hadn’t seen her in a few years, and it was SO good to spend some time with her this weekend, too! Friday was my grandmother’s birthday, so we went birthday shopping, picked out a cake, bought her favorite beer for her, and we had the best time with her. She is so much fun – and our kids are so fortunate to get to know her like they do.

She spent the weekend sharing her life with us, and it was so much fun. Our kids are so excited to go back to school and share some of the things she told them, and who can blame them? They had no idea that their grandmother had tea with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House many year ago (she was invited because of the work she did for the government following the terrible Pearl Harbor tragedy and all that came from that). They had no idea she’s been to the Super Bowl. They had no idea that following her work for the federal government in her early 20s, she decided to get into a car with three girlfriends and drive for 10 days clear across the country to live in California.

It took them 10 days. They had to get an oil change every 1,000 miles. They went through 8 new tires, and they slept during the day and drove at night when the reached the desert so they would not overheat the car. She then landed in LA, where she spent several more years of her life. She traveled by train to see her family – and my grandfather would visit her at the train station where she had a 2-hour stop in New Mexico – so they could spend time together every few months.

They had no idea that they have a very famous cousin – well, she’s my dad’s cousin. My grandmother’s sister Alice’s daughter. So, my dad’s first cousin, June Lindemann. Grandma showed them the book that June – who was not just my grandmother’s niece but also her godmother – wrote about her life as a beauty pageant queen. She was Miss California when she met and became engaged to the son of a wealthy South American Ambassador. She moved to Chile to live with them when they got married, and then they had a baby. Unfortunately, she had to flee the country on the very last plane that left before the Communist state took over and lives changed. Her husband decided that rather than go against the communists, he’d join them so that they would not target his famous, prominent family. And she took the very last flight authorized to leave Chile to escape with her newborn son.

Her story is in her book – Pageants, Politics, and Promises. And it’s unbelievable. Read it.

My kids had no idea that their great-grandmother had so many stores to tell, and they are in disbelief that their grandmother lived this life.

We had the most fantastic weekend. We met new people. We had a lot of cake. We painted rocks and hid them in my grandmother’s neighborhood for people to find. We had fun. We really, really, really had a great time.

We are tired, but our hearts are full.

Now that we are home and everyone is back to their normal routine, we are still exhausted, and that’s all right. It probably doesn’t help we were gone the entire weekend before and only home for two days before we took off for Texas, but we will get over being so tired.

We will never, ever get over how much fun we have with my grandmother. We will make that long ass trip several times a year to spend time with her. This was our 3rd weekend in Texas in the past six months, and we are so overwhelmingly fortunate and blessed to be able to make the trip so often to spend this time with her. I won’t lie – I strongly dislike where she lives, but she’s happy there and she’s got all the farmland in the world to look at every morning when she drinks her coffee. It might smell like cows and the entire place is orange – orange – and colorless, but I will tell you that those Northern Texas sunsets and sunrises are spectacular. In fact, they are unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some spectacular sunrises and sunsets in California and Hawaii – and even the sun setting between the buildings on Fifth Avenue in New York City. You can’t beat a Texas sunrise/sunset.

And you cannot hate a place where the world’s coolest woman lives.