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?

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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?

Struggling with Mom Guilt During the Summer

Happy Friday, loves!

Summer is officially here (last week, I think?), but it doesn’t feel any different to those of us in the Sunshine State. It’s hot. It’s humid. The heat is downright oppressive. It’s my least favorite time of the year (sweating isn’t my thing unless I’m working out) and my mom guilt is strong during the summer months.

I know I’m not the only one. I’ve been running my business from home for almost 11 years now. Back then, it just wasn’t that common. When I told people I owned my own business, they wanted to know where they could find my office. When I told people I work from home or wherever I happen to be in the moment (Starbucks? A hotel somewhere?), no one really knew what to say.

Most people always assume I do some sort of network marketing or direct sales job because those are big, and they were the only real ‘at-home’ careers for many people back in the day…I’m talking 2008-ish.

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I don’t network market (not that there’s anything wrong with it; I just don’t). I founded a content creation company, and I write and edit web content for my clients. I’m a writer, but more than a writer. I blog, I create the content on the websites you visit every day. Sometimes, even I’m surprised to log on to a website to read some information about a company or a situation, and I realize that I wrote the piece.

I’ve written and published more than 50,000 articles in the long history of my writing career. I’ve added editing to my platform, as well. The entire reason I began this business was 1 – to do something I love, and 2 – to make sure that while doing what I love, I get to create my own schedule and I get to be fully present and with my kids.

But…no situation is perfect. And that’s where the mom guilt comes into play. With that said, I’m delving a little deeper into something I think a lot of moms and dads deal with on a regular basis that they might not know how to describe.

What is mom guilt?

Or dad guilt. Or whatever guilt. I’m sure there are a half-dozen ways to describe it, but I’ll tell you what it feels like in my life. It’s the feeling when you have kids you want to spend quality time with, but you have a business you love almost as much as your kids, and you want to focus on that, too.

I’m a workaholic. I’d spend all day, every day at my desk in my home office if I could. I’d write all day long. I’d edit all day long. I’d take on dozens of additional clients and just work all the time. I love what I do. But, I love my kids more; and they need me.

The school year is easy for me. They’re in school, so I just have to take a quick break to drive them there and pick them up, occasionally volunteer at some event, and my husband and I share the duties taking them to and from their extracurricular activities. Weekends are date nights and family time and travel time, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have a schedule. I wake up at 5, work until I take them to school at 9, work out, home, work until it’s time to pick them up. I don’t like to work after pick-up. That’s when I like to help them unpack their lunchboxes, their backpacks, and help with homework. That’s when we spend some quality time together talking about our days and doing what we need to do.

I have a schedule.

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Summer kills my schedule.

Legitimately kills it dead and then backs right over it a few more times. There is no real schedule this time of year, and that is something I struggle with. I’m a planner. I’m a routine-oriented person. I like things done the same every single day with very little deviation. That deviation must be my idea, and it must be something I have thought-out and planned like it’s my job.

You might not consider me the most spontaneous person.

Summer is hard. The first week was a trip to D.C. this year with Addison’s safety patrol group. I worked my ass off for weeks before we left to pre-write and schedule more than 50 articles for that week (on top of the articles due the weeks leading up to the trip) so that I could take 6 days off of my business.

The second week was cheer camp week, which meant leaving the house at 7:20 am to drop the girls off and then again at 11:30 to pick the kids up. No flow there. Then it was a normal week, and we tried to get on a schedule.  The problem is that I want the kids to have fun, but I want and need to work.

Finding balance

It’s so easy sometimes, and it’s so hard other times. Summer is hard; for several reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that I want to be at my desk. I don’t like to leave things undone, but the kids are here and I want to spend time with them. I’m trying to relax about leaving my desk, but it’s difficult. I will stop to play a game of cards, take a golf cart ride, run out for ice cream, whatever.

But, taking the kids to see a movie or go somewhere else requires pre-planning for me. If it takes longer than an hour, it’s not something I’ll do last-minute. I need something like 48 hours of notice. That way, I can work ahead a little bit so I wake up the morning of the activity without feeling as if I’m going to be behind, working all night, or I can’t really enjoy myself. I’m Type-A all day long, y’all. I know I can come home and do the work later, but I don’t like to. I like to get it done in the morning and have my afternoons and evenings free and clear.

I am also a firm believer in letting my kids have downtime. They don’t get enough of it with our schedules, but they’re serious homebodies (just like Craig and I, even though I’m sure you find that hard to believe as often as we are out, busy, and traveling). They like to be home more than anything else, and they all get cranky when they don’t get some downtime. I also don’t believe in entertaining them nonstop.

I’m just not that mom, y’all. Kudos to those who are, but I’m not; and I really think that my kids are better for it. They have SUCH big imaginations. They play so well together, and we rarely hear them complain of boredom. They’re more likely to complain when we tell them we are going somewhere fun than they are to complain when we have nothing scheduled.

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For example, yesterday was a down day. We didn’t have anything scheduled until evening when Charlotte had her tumble class. The kids slept in, they got up, and they all went upstairs to play with Charlotte’s kitchen and set up and entire pizza restaurant. They spent 3 hours doing that until I took the twins with me to the YMCA to play in the Kid Zone while I worked out. The big girls didn’t want to go. They wanted to read their new books.

When I got home, they sat down together and played Candy Land. Then they went upstairs and built a killer fort. After that, they went outside for a bit when the sun wasn’t so brutal. They never once complained of being bored. They use their imaginations. They read. They played together. They have such a diverse way of living their lives, and they are happy doing almost anything – and nothing.

I struggle with too much

What does that mean? Well, I struggle when we have too many weekday plans. I’m fine being busy all weekend as long as we are relaxing on Sundays, but I struggle with too many things during the week. For one, I’m working and so is my husband. The fact that neither of us gets up in the morning and leaves the house to go to an office doesn’t make our jobs any less of a job. Working from home or for yourself still doesn’t make you free all the time. Sure, I create my own schedule, but I like my schedule, and I don’t want to interrupt it. It’s the way it is because that’s what works best for us, and that’s what I like.

This week was a busy one, and we have plans next week during the week. I’m struggling with that. Not because I don’t want to have fun with the kids, but because even they’re starting to complain about it. Monday we went bowling and then to Craig’s softball game. Tuesday the twins went to grandma’s and the big girls and I had a shopping, lunch, doctor day. Wednesday and Thursday were down days, but busy evenings, and Friday is a movie day. Tuesday is another day we will be out all day long having fun with our friends, and Wednesday night is one of our favorite events of the year with our best friends.

And I feel overwhelmed thinking of all the time I’ve missed and will miss in my office. Addison, our oldest, didn’t want to go with me to the Y today or yesterday because she wanted to “stay home and rest” because she hasn’t had time this week.

I’ve spent so much time away from my desk during the week this week, and that means I’ve been up earlier in the mornings working, and later at night work. And that makes me tired, because I’m not getting enough sleep trying to do it all.

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My mom guilt is strong

I struggle with the guilt I feel when I’m in my office, but I try to remind myself that the kids don’t mind. They like that time to spend on their own. They don’t complain. They don’t feel as if their lives are boring because we aren’t at a movie or the park or the beach or whatever 7 days a week. They like being home as much as I do, but the mom guilt is strong.

But, if I’m being honest, my mom guilt isn’t about our kids and their activities and lives. They lead good lives. No, they lead amazing lives. There’s nothing they’re missing out on. They have more airline miles each than most adults do. They get to travel often. They get to do things, go places, and have experiences that most people never get in their lives. They have built-in best friends. They have a group of friends they’ve known since birth, and they are loved, fortunate, and happy kids.

My guilt is that I’d rather be in my office than at the movies. That sounds terrible, but it’s true. I’d rather be at my desk, killing it, than I would doing things during the week. Honestly, I just don’t find as much enjoyment in taking the kids to do things when my husband isn’t with me. Our kids just aren’t accustomed to that. When we go to movies, to parties, to events, hotels, travel, etc., Craig is with us. But, summertime sometimes means going with other people. We love our other people, so much, but we all end up at home at the end of the day wishing that he was with us, because it’s just a little bit less fun without him. We hate leaving him out and making memories without him.

Work/life balance

Ninety percent of the time, I feel like I’m killing it with the work-life balance situation. Summer is the 10 percent I feel like I’m failing every single day. I’m not no good at being off our regularly scheduled programing. I don’t enjoy the constant activities. The kids are cranky when we have too much going on. I don’t like rearranging my own work schedule for other things.

Basically, what it comes down to is that I’m a spoiled rotten asshole. I like my schedule and routine, and I don’t like it being interrupted. But, I think I’m getting better at it. I’m saying yes to more things (Bowling and a movie date with friends in ONE week?!) and I’m having fun with my friends and my kids in the process. I’m tired, and I don’t love that, but I’m learning to be a little more spontaneous.

But…I will say that I’m still good about saying no when I’m already a little overscheduled and overwhelmed by it – though I don’t feel good turning people I love down. Balance is important to me, but I struggle with that – hard – this time of year.

A note to everyone

If you ask me to do something, and I cannot do it or say no, thank you, please don’t take offense. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with me. I run a business, and the fact that it’s from home doesn’t mean it’s any less a business than one that has office hours.

Sometimes, I just don’t have the time. For example, I had to say no to plans on Monday with someone I love dearly because we already have plans Tuesday (with her and her kids, so it wasn’t a heartbreaking no) and it’s a holiday week, and I know I need Monday to stay on track with my deadlines and my clients.

I also know that most of our evenings are already spoken for, and I draw a HARD line at putting my own health and mental health and sleep at risk by over-committing. If I say no to something, it’s not because I don’t want to join you (well, I mean, it might be, but it’s usually not). It’s because I really have no time. If I say yes to something I don’t have time for, it means I have to say no to something else. I can’t say no to work obligations, and I can’t say no to spending time with my family.

If you need me, I need at least 48 hours of notice, but most of the time – I need a solid week or two of notice. Our weeks get crazy busy, and I just don’t have much free time. Someone wise once said something beautiful.

I can do anything, but I cannot do everything.

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.

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.

National Clean Off Your Desk Day: Tips For Getting and Staying Organized

Happy Monday, loves!

Super fun fact: Did y’all know today is National Clean Off Your Desk Day? Well, it is; and I cannot think of a better Monday vibe. If you know me, you know I’m all about organization and cleanliness and all things OCD when it comes to being neat and clean and all that fun stuff.

Basically, this day speaks to me like no other.

I love organization. I live for cleanliness.

Isn’t that just ironic when I’m the mom of four? I’ve been instilling in my kids since day one that cleanliness is a real thing – not that Ava gets that, but she keeps her door shut and I avoid her room like the plague. Her idea of clean is too cluttered for my taste, so I just don’t go into her room. I want her to be independent and her own self, but she’s actually killing me.

Fortunately, the rest of my people are clean. And my desk is always clean. My office is always clean, to be quite honest. The kids aren’t allowed in our home office since we both work from home and we both have so many important items in our office.

It’s so important to understand the importance of an uncluttered, clean desk. Before I get to my clean desk tips, I want you to know what a clean desk can do for you.

  • Make you more motivated
  • Make you less stressed
  • Give you more time
  • Make your life easier

A clean desk means you’re not overwhelmed the moment you sit down.  You’re not spending valuable time searching for things, cleaning things out, or feeling like you cannot get organized. You’re more motivated to work at a clean desk. You’re less stressed when everything is neat and tidy.  Your life is easier because your mind is as uncluttered as your desk.  You’ll get more done, and you’ll get it done more efficiently.

How’s that for clean your desk of day motivation?

In honor of #nationalcleanoffyourdeskday I’m offering you a few tips that might help you keep things neat, clean, and as minimalistic as possible.

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Get Rid of It

You know you don’t need everything in your desk. Go through it with a trash bag on hand, and throw that junk away. Throw all of it away. What you cannot throw away, find a file or scan it or something. And that goes for everything on top of your desk, too.

Sign Up For Online Billing

If you’re looking for a simple way to keep your desk clean, try signing up for online billing. This keeps your desk clean and uncluttered because all of those bills you get each month go right to your inbox rather than your mailbox. Additionally, this is so much safer for your financial identity – keep that personal information out of your physical mailbox – and your desk cleanliness.

File It

I advocate for digital filing if you can make that a thing in your life. Scan it and create files on your computer in which you keep all your important stuff so it’s not in files around your office. Our home office is as uncluttered as you can imagine, and that’s because I keep everything digitally filed. We have our desks, we have one decorative table and lamp, and we have a sizable cabinet with a few shelves and a big cabinet. We keep as much on our computers as possible, and everything else gets filed into pretty files in the cabinet.

Make it A Habit

The best way to clean your desk is to keep it clean all the time. Put a trash can by your desk and put trash in it right away rather than shoving it in drawers. File things immediately rather than putting them in a ‘to do’ pile. You can make it a habit after a few weeks if you really dedicate your life to keeping your desk organized.

You don’t have to work from home to have a clean desk. And you don’t have to stop at your desk. Organizing your life makes it that much sweeter, and we are big advocates of a sweeter life.

Subscription Boxes: The Christmas Gift that Keeps On Giving

Happy Monday, loves!

It is officially December, and that is officially exciting! We’ve been living our best lives over here the past few weeks, and I’ve been a little MIA. Last week was a crazy one. Thanksgiving was the week before last, and it was a beautiful week. Family, friends, food, and so much love. We have so much to be thankful for, and we certainly don’t take that for granted.

Last week was back to normal except not normal. Carter developed a viral infection that turned into a double ear infection that he shared with his twin sister. He was out of school 4.5 days (he left early Monday) and she was out the last two days of the week. It was a hectic week in general, but we made it work.

This week is just as crazy. I’m up even earlier than 5 am all week to get a few hours of work in before I have to be at the girls’ school to do my PTA board member duties with my PTA sister wives at the Gingerbread Shoppe all day, every day, and into the night Friday because of the Winter Festival with Santa. It’s the mom life, and I love it. It totally helps that my PTA sister wives are the most inappropriate, hilarious, completely insane, questionable, fabulous women imaginable – as am I – and we work very, very well together.

Because of that, I worked my behind off last week and over the weekend to get ahead on my deadlines so I don’t stress myself out this week, and I basically killed it. I also killed my second ever 5k this weekend – if you remember that I only began running the last week of April this year. I ran all 3.1 (except it was really 3.33) miles without stopping – in the pouring rain. I did 3 miles in 28:47 and finished overall in 30:58.14 – 99th place out of 206 runners. And I’m really, really proud of myself.

And then I shopped online for things. All the things. Because I love to shop, and I love to give gifts to the people I love, so Christmas is my jam. And while I was shopping online for all the things and my husband was going through his yearly tradition of wondering what kinds of gifts to get me since we buy what we want when we want it, I had a thought.

Subscriptions.

Subscription services are the best thing ever right now. Who doesn’t love to get new things all the time while paying a small fee for it? Boxes that show up on your doorstep filled with things that you love? It’s a win-win for everyone since these are typically the one gift that no one ever has.

That said, I’m going to share a few of the lesser-known subscription boxes that I think will become huge before much longer – and they’re not all boxes; some are just subscriptions – because I love them and have them at home. It literally is the gift that keeps on giving.

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photo from sephora.com

Play! By Sephora

It’s not like it’s a big secret that I’m totally obsessed with Sephora. It’s where I’ve done all my beauty and haircare shopping for the past 15 years of my life, and I was not about to pas sup this box when I saw it a few months ago. The box comes monthly, it’s small, and it has a few fun-size samples and larger sizes in the boxes. Every month is totally different, but you also get to fill out a questionnaire when you sign up for it that allows you to customize your personal needs (is your skin oily or dry? Do you prefer bright colors or muted colors?) so they always send you something you can use.

This box costs a grand total of $10.60 per month, and it’s so much fun. It always comes with 4-5 items all in the trial-size portions. Perfume, lip stick, mascara, moisturizer, and so much more. You even get a gift card that gives you 50 free Beauty Insider points to add to your next purchase if you enter it at check out. This box is my favorite because it allows me to try new things I might not otherwise try, and I can decide for 10 bucks if I love them, hate them, or have no feelings for them whatsoever.

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photo from art of organics 

Art of Organics

This box has become one of my favorites ever since the company reached out to me and asked me if I’d like to try it out. It’s all about clean beauty delivered monthly to your door. This box comes with two to four products every month, and they are beyond amazing. What’s even better – they are full-size products. No sample or trial sizes here, thank you very much.

Every box has a theme. It might be a hair care month. It might be a winter box. It might be a skin care box. It might anything, but it’s always amazing. You can choose to order one box at a time for $41.95 monthly, buy six boxes at a time for $39.95 a box ($239.70 one time payment) or buy a full year of boxes for $455.40 ($37.95 per box).

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photo from cosmobox

CosmoBox

Thank you, Cosmo, for sending this to our lives. It is the best. It’s a box with all of the latest and greatest in beauty, fashion, and lifestyle items. You get to try them out every months for a grand total of $29.99 per month. This box always contains more than $60 in goodies, so it’s a great deal. It is another on that lets you try new things for a great price – which is always a win!

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photo from the bouqs company 

The Bouqs Company

If you’re anything like me, you love fresh flowers. I cannot go without them in my home, and you will never find us without fresh flowers in most rooms. This is a perfect subscription for anyone who loves beautiful flowers. For $32 per month, you get to have a fresh floral arrangement delivered to your front door. It’s always different, always seasonal, and always makes you feel so much happier when you see it arrive. It’s your personal best, and you will love it.

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photo from target

Cat & Jack Outfit Box from Target

So…new moms. Here you go. You’re welcome, and you’re going to love this. If you know a new mom, this will cost you $40 per month. It’s all kinds of adorable Cat & Jack (you know the brand from Target) clothing that is delivered monthly – and they even send the next size up as your baby grows. They keep track of all of it for you, and it might be the best idea since, well, anything else.

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Rent the Runway Update

If you have someone in your life who loves designer clothing and accessories, you want to spend the $80 per month on this shipment. It’s four items that come to your door. You get to keep them for one month. You get to choose what you want so you always have four gorgeous news items in your closet to wear for one month. If they don’t fit, send them back and they will ship you new ones. Hate something? Send it back and you’ll get a new one. You get to choose what you want, how you want it, and you get to have it all sent to your door. It’s hundreds to thousands of dollars worth of designer clothes shipped to you every month.

The best part is that you can customize the shipment every month to meet your needs. Going on vacation? Get all the Lilly Pulitzer. Is it the holiday season? Order all the beautiful red dresses. You can update your wardrobe monthly without any commitment, and that’s what makes this the best box on the market.

Fall Favorites for the Home

Happy fall, y’all!

I know, I know. It’s not officially fall until September 22 (right?), but it’s officially official in my house effective September 1. If there’s college football on television, it’s fall. I mean, it’s never actually fall in Florida, but there are faux pumpkins on my mantel, so it’s fall.

I can justify just about anything in my life, for real. It’s amazing how I can magically believe that any day now  – as of September 1 – I can look at my weather app and the 15-day forecast and expect that at any not fall, and that’s what the weather says for the next 15 days every single day that I check it. But, really, any day now. I just know it.

It’s officially September, which is the first official month of the most exciting and wonderful time of the year for me. This is the time of year I live for, and I cannot even hide my excitement. There’s so much excitement in our house this time of year, and I love it. It’s my birthday month (hey, 35). It’s college football (Go Gators). It’s fall (I know, I know). It’s everything I love the most about the year.

We just spent the weekend on a little vacation to a place we’ve never been. We’ve been Floridians our entire lives, but we always prefer to spend our vacation time out of the state seeing the world rather than traveling our own state, but we tried West Palm Beach for the weekend. Let me tell you about the love I have for Palm Beach right now. The moment we drove over the bridge onto Palm Beach Island, I fell in love. The amazingly gorgeous homes with so much character and all the flowers growing up the walls. The beautiful Breakers resort. Worth Avenue. I felt right at home driving along the coast without any touristy stuff blocking our view of the ocean or high-rise buildings in the way of the gorgeous landscape. And all my favorite stores on one street is one way to put a smile on my face.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Palm Beach, and we’re already thinking about another trip – because I am dying to stay at the Brazilian Court Hotel now – but the entire time we were there spending the weekend with our littles, I was kind of sad about missing my annual fall decorating on September 1. Putting it off until the third made me a little sad. Like, I lost two whole days of fall.

Thankfully, the time passed, we came home, and my house now looks like fall. I’m just waiting on my weather app to get with the program.

On that note, I want to share my fall must-haves with you. There are certain things I cannot go without every year in my home, and I know you’ll love them as much as I do.

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Fall Scents

I love Bath & Body Works candles. I am a sucker for their fall fragrances. The one, this one, and this one are my favorites. I prefer the single-wick candles for smaller rooms such as bathrooms and hallways, and the 3-wick versions for the kitchen and living areas of the house. There is a good reason for this; the single-wick candles don’t put off nearly as much scent as the 3-wick candles, and our main area needs a 3-wick or we just don’t smell it. The space is too large for one small candle, so I highly recommend you get the 3-wicks if you have a large space to freshen.

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Fall Soaps

Okay, I know – but I really don’t love the soaps in any of our bathrooms or our kitchen to smell like the wrong time of year. I change out the soaps every season, and I always use the B&BW foaming hand soap. It’s my favorite, and these are our favorite scents here, here, and here.

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Flameless Glitter Candles

These flameless candles are my favorite. I haven’t bought them in silver yet, but I think I’m going to for Christmas this year. I bought gold ones and green ones years ago, and I love them this time of year. They really do make a statement that’s still elegant enough to not feel tacky during the fall season. They make great accents on the table where you might not want an open flame because of little hands or the passing of plates.

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White Pumpkins

Over the past four years, I’ve gradually found myself falling more and more in love with all things white. Perhaps it’s this house. It’s so farmhouse-like, and I love how white, bright, and open it is. It’s a dream, and I recently realized that I’ve removed all the colored pumpkins and other décor from my life in favor of white pumpkins. These are some of my favorite, and I know you’ll love them. They’re sophisticated and fun, but they’re still seasonally appropriate.

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Thankful Wood Sign

This is probably my favorite piece. I have it on the mantel in our family room. It’s where we spend the most time in our house since it’s right off the kitchen, and it’s where we have the most beautiful natural light come through from all the doors and windows. It’s my favorite room in the house, and I love that we have this constant reminder to be thankful. To quote Pinterest, “There are so many beautiful reasons to be grateful,” and I cannot agree more. We live a life filled with abundance; we have the most spectacularly beautiful people in our lives, a house filled with laughter (and some yelling…but a lot more laughter), and happy hearts. We are thankful for this life we lead with our God leading the way for us, and we love the reminder.

Transitioning Back to A School Routine and Schedule for the Whole Family

familllly

Happy Monday, loves!

It’s the first day of school, and we have the most excited kids you’ve ever met! Addison begins her first day of 5th grade, Ava begins her first year as a 2nd grader, and the twins begin VPK. We are all so excited about today, and we can’t hide it! Addy can’t wait to get her Safety Patrol Belt and find out where she’s positioned – and it’s been really hard keeping that a secret from her the past few days!

Ava can’t wait to see if her teacher is wearing the special necklace she made her, which is another secret I’ve been keeping for a few days! The twins are so excited to be ‘big kids’ and carry their new lunch boxes (by the way, if I haven’t raved about Pottery Barn Kids products before, can I take a moment to do so right now? We’ve been ordering the kids their lunch boxes and backpacks from PBK since they began school, and every year their items last all year, they stay clean, and they don’t break. They look as good at the end of the year they do at the beginning. The only reason we buy new ones is because it’s so ‘boring’ to carry the same back pack and lunch box for more than a year).

Unfortunately, I’ve been battling what I think is a severe sinus infection since Wednesday. It’s either that or a cold, but I can’t catch a break. I have intense pressure in my sinuses, and that results in a terrible headache. My throat hurt for the first three days – just a little, though – and didn’t really hurt over the weekend, so I’m not sure where I stand. Addison began to feel poorly on Friday, and she was ready to go home from the school and rest. Carter has been pretty lethargic, and Ava’s had some sore throat issues off and on since Thursday.

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Our weekend was spent in bed. Literally, we were all asleep before 7 Friday night. We all slept late (well, late for us) Saturday, and we spent the day on the couch relaxing. Sunday was a repeat of Saturday, and we are all feeling much better this morning.  Except for this awful sinus pressure (recommendations? I can’t take allergy meds. I feel so loopy, sick, and terrible when I take them, so if anyone has any suggestions, that would be amazing!). I slept for 15 hours Saturday night and into Sunday, we skipped church, and we spent two solid days in our pajamas reading, watching movies, napping, and just being the laziest and germiest family you’ve ever met.

I knew this would happen, though. We had the roughest (it was so much fun, but it was tiring) weekend last weekend. Two midnight or later nights in a row, no time at home at all during the days, two parties, a date night, and a family gathering. We slept and showered at home, and definitely not enough of the sleep part. This week meant I needed to be up earlier to get more work done since I was gone from the house almost every day and evening for PTA duties, school functions, cheer practices, and appointments in between meeting deadlines. I overdid it, the kids overdid it, and we needed a weekend off.

Now it’s Monday, it’s back to school day, and the excitement is palpable!

With that, I wanted to share a few quick ways to make the start of the school year a little more manageable and easier. The transition is always a little difficult. No schedule all summer to a normal schedule takes a little time to grow accustomed to.

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It’s All Right to Struggle

You are not alone. If the first week or two with the new schedules and routines kind of throws you off after a summer of sleeping in, lounging around, doing what you want to do, and not being accountable for anything or anyone, it’s all right. Don’t add to the stress by being hard on yourself. Give yourself grace, and understand you will get through this. And, know you are not alone. We all feel the struggle. It’s real.

Prep Ahead of Time

I always make my kids pick out their outfit the night before school. This week, I’ve made them choose their outfits, accessories, and shoes for the entire week, and line them up in their closets so each morning is easier than the one before. We like to get as much done the night before as possible, and that includes packing all the non-perishable lunch items, organizing back packs, and loading what we can load ahead of time into the car.

Organize Lunches

Our kids won’t eat school lunch. I’m okay with that because I never ate it, either. But we have four of them, and that means packing lunches is a thing. The twins are in VPK, and that means they have to have a morning snack, an afternoon snack, and lunch. And everything must be labeled with their first and last names, and it must be separated into the correct area every morning before school begins.

And all four kids like different things. What we did is buy several bins, and we designated the fourth shelf in the pantry as the school lunches shelf. Their water bottles and Gatorades for the week are lined up. Their snacks are in one bin. Their chips in another bin. Their non-cold fruit in another bin. Their main food is in another (i.e. Addison likes a deli sandwich every day, so the bread we like from the deli is in this bin, and so are the English Muffins that Charlotte likes for lunch, and so are the miniature club crackers Carter likes as the “main” dish to his fruit).

The rest of the fruit is in the fridge, but we cut it up and put it in the correct containers the evening before to keep it as fresh as possible. Everything is clearly labeled in the bins and on the containers, and Craig just has to throw it in their lunch boxes along with their ice packs every morning.

This also helps us realize when we are running low on one thing or another so we can put it on the grocery list and make sure we don’t have any early morning panic attacks if so and so is out of their favorite whatever.

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Create A Morning Schedule

Our kids know they get out of bed, sit down at the bar while Craig makes their breakfast, and then they get dressed once they put their plates in the sink and clean up after themselves. They brush their teeth, put their shoes on, and they wait for me to call them for hair time when I’m doing working for the morning. Once hair is done, they give Craig hugs and kisses and head straight for the car. They load themselves into the car, and we go. They know the routine.

Consider A Reward

We also make sure each morning runs smoothly by bribing them with a Friday morning donut date. The stipulation is that all four of them must follow every morning instruction in a timely manner without being asked repeatedly, and they must do it with a positive attitude. If just one of them falls apart and can’t handle it, none of them get to go on a pre-school donut date on Fridays. Trust me when I say this encourages teamwork and a lot fewer hectic, crazy, upsetting situations in the mornings for all six of us.

Have Fun

Our kids love to pick their favorite songs or their favorite movie to watch in the car. We let everyone have a turn, and it keeps them excited to get into the car. We might choose a new movie they’ve never seen to put in the DVD player for the first week or so of school, and then they go back to wanting to listen to their favorite music. We all sing, dance, and make the ride to school fun. It really does help.

Take A Deep Breath

New schedules and routines are a little difficult, so give yourself some time to grow accustomed to it. Our schedule is all off this year, and we won’t even really start our new one until next week, and I know I’m a little stressed about it.

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But we will get through it. Our nephew’s mother is building her new house by the girls’ school – which is an amazing school – and he’ll be zoned to go there once it’s done in a few months. However, she is the guidance counselor at another school, which starts two hours earlier than the kids’ school. Her son is going into kindergarten this year. She will be dropping him off at our house every morning to have breakfast and get ready for school. I’ll now take him, too.

But the good news is that she will pick up the twins from school every afternoon so I don’t have to go to two schools in two different towns every afternoon. She’ll come to our house and drop them off, pick up our nephew, and it will all be fine. Addy does have to be at school early and stay late for her Safety duties, but we will definitely manage. We can do this.

See, I’m already stressed! But in a few weeks, I’ll be fine. Now, say a prayer for me as I’m headed to school to drop my babies off on their first day of VPK and then handle all the parents as they want to walk their kids to class for the first day at the girl’s school. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing yet, but I know that it’s going to involve something like 850 kids and their parents – and it’ll be stressful, but it’s what I love. Being present in the kids’ lives and in their schools makes me happy because it makes them happy. I wouldn’t trade it.