Change Your Perspective, Change Your Outlook, Change Your Life

I’m tired.

There. I said it.

I have over-committed myself this year. I have taken on too many things. I have gone above and beyond the degree of what I’m comfortable doing. While I’m happy to go outside my comfort zone, I’m not so happy to admit that I’ve put myself in a situation in which I’m forced to make choices I don’t want to make, or to do things I don’t necessarily want to do.

No one – no one – likes to admit they cannot do it all, but there’s this saying that I’ve seen around (thanks, Pinterest) that speaks to my soul.

You can do anything, but you cannot do everything.

I relate so much to this.

When I began my business more than a decade ago, it was because I had the time, I had the desire, and I had a dream. I had no idea it would grow into what it’s grown into today, and I’m so darn proud of it. Who ever thought a little housewife and mom from Florida could take a passion for writing and turn it into a business that has provided services to some of the biggest companies and brands in the country? I didn’t – and I had a pretty big dream.

I didn’t see that happening, but I also had a dream. I was going to be mom of the year every year (yeeeeeaaaahhhhhhhh…that didn’t work out how I planned). I was going to bake all the things. I was going to keep the cleanest house on the planet (this I actually do…well, I don’t personally do it, but someone does it). I was going to be at every school event. I was going to be on every committee. I was going to do it all, and I was going to do it in a pair of designer shoes and a perfectly chosen outfit.

And guess what? I did it.

And I’m tired.

I’m on the PTA. I volunteer in the elementary school classrooms. I volunteer in the middle school. I volunteered to coach not one but two competitive cheer squads (a year-long commitment) so that two of my girls could continue their dreams of being competitive cheerleaders. I run a successful business and write hundreds of thousands of words every month. I date my husband. I raise four kids (team work on that one, baby). I have an active social life. I travel. I work out 5 to 6 days a week. I do a lot of things, and I’m tired.

I find myself struggling regularly to keep up with the demands of my schedule. I don’t want to leave any of it behind, but I cannot do it all. I’ve lost 21 hours of my week this year because of middle school pick up times and elementary school pick up times and cheer practices two nights a week. I’m overwhelmed trying to keep up with everything on my plate, and it’s making me an ugly person. Literally – my face will not stop breaking out.

In this season of my life, I’m giving things up that I don’t necessarily want to give up, but I need to for my own sanity, for the sake of my kids, and for the sake of my own well-being. I’m not afraid to say no to things that don’t sit well with my soul, but I dislike saying no to thinks I’ve committed myself to doing, things that make me feel like I’m making a difference. But…I love writing. I love what I do. I love my clients. I’ll never give that up.

So, where does that leave me? It leaves me tired. I spent 20 hours at the gym this weekend for choreography weekend for the two little squads I’m helping coach. It was hot. It was long days. It was hot, long days. I missed my family. I missed home. I missed the quality time I spend with my five favorite people over the weekend, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t feeling overly happy about how I was feeling. And that’s when it hit me – my perspective is all off. It’s not poor me. It’s not feel sorry for me. It’s not omg my weekend was long.

It’s “How fortunate am I that I played an integral role in ensuring these little girls (and boy) get to continue doing something they love after their coach retired from the position unexpectedly and there was no one to coach the squad?” It’s “How fortunate am I to get to hang out with these kids who get to do the thing they love as much as I loved it growing up, and how fortunate am I that I have experience as a cheerleader and coach to help me help make their little dreams come true?”

When I shifted my way of thinking, my heart was immediately lighter. My mind was clearer – well, as clear as it can be after 78 cups of coffee and not nearly enough sleep over the course of two days. Perspective is everything, and I’m challenging myself to take my biggest complaints as of late and turn them into positive thoughts. Here we go.

I’m tired.

  • How fortunate am I to share my life with five people who love me so much, and who I love so much? How fortunate am I that we are surrounded by friends and family who love us all so much that they want to spend their time with us so often? How fortunate am I that our cups are overflowing with so many amazing people?

I don’t have time.

  • How fortunate am I that I get to fill my days with things I love? So many people spend their time idly doing things that don’t fulfil them and don’t make them happy. So many people struggle to find things to do, and they struggle to find peace and happiness in their everyday lives. They struggle to fill their time with positive things, people, and activities. Their weekends are spent at home doing nothing with no one. How fortunate am I that I have so little time because I live a life so filled with beautiful things, people, and experiences?

I miss my family when I’m busy doing other things.

  • How fortunate am I that I get to spend so much time with my kids, even when it’s not all together all the time, helping them do the things that they love? Taking them to the sports and activities that bring them such joy and happiness? How fortunate am I that I love my family so much that I miss them when I’m away from them, even if it’s only for a few hours? There are a lot of people who miss their loved ones all the time because they don’t get to spend time together. There are many people who don’t miss their family at all because they are so unhappy with their families. How fortunate am I to miss my people when I’m not with them for a few hours?

My kids are being special.

  • Kids will be kids, my friend, and there is little we can do about that. They get tired. They get overwhelmed. They are exhausted going back to school and activities. They are struggling to get themselves acclimated to this new schedule. They can be a little trying sometimes. But how fortunate am I that these moments are few and far between? How fortunate am I that our biggest struggle with our kids on a regular basis is how they dress? So what if they have like 3 favorite items of clothes they like to wear all the time and they have thousands of dollars in clothing in their closets with tags on them that they will probably never wear because they want to see me lose my mind? How fortunate am I that we have the means to provide them with these things even if they choose not to utilize them? So many people are not so fortunate.

My kids are expensive.

  • They really are so expensive. But, how fortunate are we that we are able to provide for them when they need something, when they want something, and even when they don’t want something but I just know they will love it so much for about 4 seconds before they’re over it? How fortunate are we that we can take them shopping when they remember that they have to dress up for AVID this week and suddenly have nothing to wear? How fortunate are we that we can send them all to school with filled out picture day forms and checks to pay for hundreds of dollars worth of pictures we won’t even frame or hand out because our kids instantly turn into Chandler when he and Monica were taking their engagement photos on FRIENDS? How fortunate are we that we can spend $600 a week at Publix on fruit because that’s what they love to eat the most?

I’m so busy.

  • How fortunate am I that I’ve been able to build a client list so extensive that I’m constantly asked to do more? How fortunate am I that I’ve been able to work with some of the coolest people in the world doing writing I never thought I’d do? How fortunate am I that they recommend me to other companies, and those companies reach out to me because they’ve heard such great things about working with me? How fortunate am I that our weekends are filled with pool days and river house days and date nights and football parties because we have friends who are the most amazing people on the planet? How fortunate are we that our kids have such amazing friends with amazing parents, and that many of their friends are kids they’ve known since the day they were all born? How fortunate am I to have a husband who wants to date me and spend time with me all the time? How fortunate to be so loved and to love so much.

Our house is always full of kids and it is never, ever quiet.

  • Okay, okay. Most of that is our fault (Raiford couldn’t keep his hands off me, and Dr. King didn’t get his hands on him soon enough) with our choice to have four kids (wait…was that our choice? We were going for a third….not a set of twins. How fortunate are we to have gotten a bonus baby we didn’t even know we needed in our lives until we had him/her?). But, how fortunate are we that my sister-aunt trusts us enough to care for her little boy for hours every morning before school so we can get him to school for her while she’s off at work guiding and counseling the youth of today? How fortunate are we that our kids’ friends love to be in our home so much? How fortunate are we that our kids’ friends’ parents trust us and love us enough to let their kid spend so much time with us? How fortunate are we that our kids have such amazing friends and sweet friendships? How fortunate are we that we have the space to accommodate a fifth child 3-4 days/nights a week most weeks without worrying it will disrupt bath time or bed time or dinner seating arrangements or whatever with our own kids? We’ve got it pretty good over here.

My husband has been working 16-20 hours days a lot lately.

  • He has been the past few weeks, and I hate it. But, how fortunate am I that he works from home, and he’s with us even when he’s in the office? How fortunate am I that he’s here to make breakfast for the kids and do the laundry and sit down with us for dinner and help with homework and pour me a glass of wine every single day? How fortunate am I that my husband’s career is one he loves, and that he is so good at what he does that everyone wants him to do their projects and they want him to work with them and they want him to handle their situations? How fortunate am I that he works for a company who recognizes his value and what he has to offer? And how fortunate am I that I get to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with the man I’ve loved for the past 18 years, and I miss him when he’s on the other side of the house?

I could go on and on with how overwhelmed I’ve become this year, but I’ll focus on how I’m learning to readjust my schedule, and how I’m learning to readjust my perspective. I might be tired and busy, but those things are so because my life is full.

My full life gives me a full heart, even when I can readily admit that I’m overcommitted and it’s time to start scaling back and saying no to things that don’t jive with my vibe this year. I’m good at that, and I’m not worried about it. But, really, if you take every complaint you have and you turn it around, you will see that your life is so full, and it’s so amazing.

Try it. I dare you.

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

Happy Monday, loves!

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

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

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Start on Sunday

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

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

Work Out

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

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

Stop and Do Something Fun

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

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Cry it Out

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

Go With the Flow

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

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

Finding Quality Time With Your Family In Busy Seasons

Happy Thursday, loves!

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

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

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

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

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

Family Dinner

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

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

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

Family Movie Night

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

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

Game Night

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

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A Bonus…

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Wednesday, loves!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Create A Power List

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

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

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

Workout

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

Change it Up

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

Reward Yourself

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

Bid Adieu to What No Longer Serves You

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

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

Shut Off Distractions

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

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

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

Happy Tuesday, and happy August, loves!

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

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

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

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

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

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The Size

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

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

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

The Sunroof

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

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

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The USB Ports

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

The Vacuum

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

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

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

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

Botox: Answers to the Questions I’m Asked the Most

Happy Monday, loves!

Is anyone else as tired as I am going into this Monday? What was meant to be a laid back weekend ended up being jampacked with fun, and I’m not complaining! I spent Friday shopping with my mom and my four littles. Saturday I got the house to myself – and I stayed in my office working – while my husband took the kids shopping and out to lunch so that I could have a little peace and quiet to get things done (the one thing about owning your business and working for yourself is you don’t get ‘vacation time’…you get to work ahead and do things so you can take time off). After that, we had the most fun Filet Saturday dinner at home with our best friends, we spent Sunday with them on the boat, and then we came home so my husband could spend the evening tiling our oldest daughter’s bathroom.

The weekend before, we spent Saturday moving her upstairs. We have a second master suite upstairs, and she’s been eyeing it for a while, and we don’t blame her. Sweet Ava likes to drive her crazy by running down their hall and knocking on Addison’s door, slipping things under it, and overall driving her crazy, and Addy’s been looking for move privacy. Ava’s all the way downstairs, the twins, are all the way downstairs, and she’s got her massive bedroom and an en suite bathroom. We decided to gut it, and totally renovate it. The tile is almost done – just the grout and sealing it and all that, and then the new toilet, new vanity, new lighting, new fixtures, and new mirror can go in, and it’s going to be the most feminine, sweet bathroom. I cannot wait!

Anyway, it was a fun weekend – but I wanted to touch on something I’ve been getting so many questions about. Botox.

I’m a little vain, and I’m not ashamed of that. I feel that most of us are all a little vain, and I also feel that no one should be ashamed of that. It doesn’t hurt anyone to look nice and feel good about yourself, or to care about how you look. I care. The last thing I want is to look sloppy and messy and like I don’t care about my appearance.

I feel that dressing well and looking nice is a form of good manners, which is a beautiful quote by the spectacular Tom Ford. How so? Well, I believe that putting effort into looking nice shows tha you respect those around you. You would not show up to a meeting looking like you just rolled out of bed (I mean, I would assume you would not, but I’ve seen the way some people go out in public, so I could be so very wrong about that), would you? I wouldn’t. I would never want a potential client to walk away with the assumption that I don’t care enough about them to want to bother with my appearance.

My husband would dress me in jeans and a tee shirt, a ponytail, and no makeup every single day of the year if he could. But, he also loves it when I dress up. He likes me simple, but I would never not put any effort into what I wear and how I look for him. He might not mind, but I know that somewhere deep down in there is a man who loves to have an attractive, put-together wife who makes an effort. On the flip side, I think he’s handsome no matter what he wears or how he looks, but he would never let himself go, and I appreciate that about him.

It’s not what’s on the outside that counts. It’s a kind heart, humor, a good personality, and intelligence that matters, but it’s also helpful to find your partner physically attractive. I will not apologize for that. And that, my friends, brings me to the reason for this post.

I shared on Instastories a little over a week ago that I was on my way – late, as usual – to my Botox appointment. It was my second time getting Botox, but I wasn’t trying to hide it the first time I got it back in February. In fact, I was planning a blog post about it to share with those of you who might want to do it yourselves, but our son suffered a grand mal seizure three days after I had it done, and our lives changed that instant.

Better late that never, right?

After I shared my appointment on Insta, I had so many questions! I’m not surprised by how many people get it done (once you have it done, you can tell exactly who else has it done by looking at their faces), but I was surprised by how many people who want to do it but are afraid to do it. I thought I’d share my journey with you all so that you know what to expect.

first photo was taken from a screenshot of an instastory before I had botox the first time. Second photo was taken yesterday, 9 days after my second botox injection appointment (five months after my first botox appointment) after spending all day on the boat in the Gulf – eyebrows raised completely. 

Does it hurt?

Not at all. Of course, I also have a high pain tolerance. I think it pinches a bit, but it doesn’t hurt. There are two places on my face where it’s more uncomfortable than others. The far right and far left of my forehead. It seems like the further it gets from the fatty center of your head and closer to the thin sides, the pinch is more pronounced and uncomfortable.

What do you get done?

Okay, so, I only do my forehead and my glabella (the eleven lines on your upper nose/between your eyebrows). I don’t do my laugh lines around my eyes. Those, I love. I love, love, love those. They are, in my opinion, evidence of a happy life. They show that I laugh, have fun, and that I enjoy myself.

How long does it last?

Here’s where things are a little trickier to explain. Everyone is different. I just had Botox for the second time, and I only have one round to talk about in terms of how long it lasts. Additionally, I’m not the same as my girlfriends who do it, and we all have different answers. I’ll give you the medical answer I was given, however.

It depends. It lasts approximately 3 months the first few times you do it, but you should get longer lasting results after a year or more of consistent Botox. Your muscles naturally relax once you’ve been doing it a while, so your results are longer.

I, personally, found that mine lasted a good four months. I went on February 14th for my first round, and I didn’t start noticing my forehead moving again until mid-May, but my wrinkles didn’t start coming back until the end of June. When I went in this morning to have it done for the second time, the awesome woman who injects me was surprised just how little movement I had at the 4.5 month mark. She explained that most people don’t go this long the first time, but it does happen.

It has to do with your age, the appearance of your lines and wrinkles, the health of your skin, and the amount of sun damage you have, among other things. I have healthy skin, I’m almost 36, and I have no sun damage (pros of being a Norwegian who has to cover up). However, I am very expressive, and she was shocked that my massive lines and wrinkles are taking so long to come back.

How many units do you need?

Again, this is a personal situation. The first time I went, they used 30 units. I needed 20 in my elevens, and 10 in my forehead. This time, she only used 14 units. I had four in my glabella and another 10 in my forehead. That was kind of awesome.

I have one friend who is only two years older than me, and she needed 50 units the first time she went, and almost as many the next time and the time after. Another friend who is actually 15 years older than was told she only needed 28 units total, and that included doing her crow’s feet. So, it all depends on your face, your skin, and what you want done.

How much does it cost?

This was the number one question people had, and I’m okay with that. I go to Ideal Image, and I happened to plan my first visit when they were having a sale on units. They were $10 per unit if you bought 50 units, or they were $13 per unit if you bought them individually. I decided to buy the 50 units and bank what I didn’t use the first time.

I decided after that to plan my visits around their sales at their advice. So, I bought another 50 units for $500 at $10/unit. I can bank them forever, and the cost savings is worthwhile. The woman who handles the financial aspect of buying and banking Botox at Ideal Image told me sometimes women will come in with a friend or family member and split the cost of 50 units so they can get what they want without paying for or banking extra. So, there’s an option if $500 is not in the budget.

How long did it take for you to notice results?

The first time I had Botox, I noticed less movement in the first 24 hours. But the time I hit 48 hours, I could barely move my head at all. By 72 hours, I had no more evidence of any lines on my face. Of course, it all depends. My girlfriend was panicking the first time she did it because she didn’t notice any change after a solid week, but they do say it can take as many as 10 days to 2 weeks for results. She just took longer than I did, and that’s how she is versus how I am. This time around, it took the same amount of time.

Don’t panic if there is not a big change right away. Again, I’m shocked by how quickly I noticed results and how long they last. My girlfriend gets hers done every three months, and she has full movement in her face each time. It’s all about you and your skin.

Did you have any side effects?

I had no side effects at all either time. The first time, I followed the rules precisely – no drinking, working out, makeup, etc. This time, we had date night with our best friends six hours after my injections, so I did put makeup on at that point. I also had two glasses of wine at dinner. I was totally fine, and I did not swell or bruise at all.

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The first time, I did not drink alcohol the night before or for a week after (they really say 24 hours, to be honest). I didn’t work out or wear makeup for 48 hours, and I slept upright the first night. I was terrified that I would mess it up, and it would migrate down my face and I’d end up looking like a freak for months. I also had it done at 6 pm last time, and I had it done at 11:30 am this time. So, there’s that.

I did not notice any swelling, any bruising, and I did not develop any headaches. Quite the opposite, in fact. I actually stopped getting headaches. I typically get them 3-4 days a week, probably because I sit in front of my computer and write 20,000 words per day and I’m so expressive. My headaches ceased completely following my Botox the first time, and they came back with a vengeance when I began noticing movement in my forehead after about four months.

What’s the recovery period?

There is no recovery. They only ask that you avoid a few things.

  • Spicy food
  • Sugary food
  • Alcohol
  • Lying flat on your back for four hours
  • Wearing makeup
  • Exercise
  • Taking any blood thinners like ibuprofen

They want you to avoid all of this for 24 to 48 hours (except lying on your back, which they only want you to avoid doing for four hours following your injections). Exercise and lying down, touching your face, and applying pressure to your face can cause the Botox to move into other areas of your face. So, don’t do that.

Am I happy with the results?

Very! I love it. I didn’t have much in the way of expectation the first time I went in, but I love how it looks and feels. I don’t feel that I look unnatural, but that’s probably because I don’t do my crow’s feet. Additionally, I love how I feel. I have poor eyesight, and I’ve been in glasses since I was like 10, and I’ve always had headaches from straining my eyes so much. They’re so sensitive to light, and I’m so happy that my Botox has alleviated my headaches, and I literally cannot strain my face. It’s great. I love that feeling!

Do I recommend it?

Yes, I do. But I also had such good results. It took faster than I thought it would and it lasted longer than I thought it would. I feel like both are a win, and I’m not mad about it. I would recommend it every single day, even if you’re still young.

I’ll be 36 in September, and I swore I’d never do anything cosmetic to my body until I was at least 40. I convinced myself I wanted to get through my 30s fabulously, but I love my Botox. Now, I won’t do any plastic surgery of any type – ever – because I’d like to age gracefully and naturally. Well, as naturally as Botox allows.

Comfortable and Stylish Travel Outfit Favorites

Happy Thursday, loves!

Anyone else like to procrastinate on occasion? I’m such a planner, but sometimes I’m just better under pressure. This feels like one of those times. I should be making packing lists, ordering new items, and planning for our upcoming vacation. Instead, I’m doing anything but. Honestly, I’m not even remotely motivated to start packing or making lists, and it’s probably because I’m so busy working ahead to meet deadlines to turn in prior to our departure.

But, there is one thing I’m thinking about – travel comfort. If there is one thing that I love more than anything when I travel, it’s a comfortable outfit – for so many reasons.

  1. I cannot stand the idea of any of my body parts touching the seat of a plane, the seats in the terminal, the seats of our rental car (until I wash them), etc.
  2. I cannot sit for long periods of time without putting at least one leg under me in a kind of half crisscross (applesauce…I know my fellow mamas couldn’t leave that last part out) and I need for my bits and pieces to remain unseen.
  3. I shower and change as soon as we land/arrive, anyway, because I feel so dirty when I travel – no matter what we have planned that day.
  4. I don’t like to wear anything overly nice on a plane because I know the chances of me spilling a drink, my kids spilling something, coloring on me, or touching me with sticky, dirty fingers are high. Why ruin a good outfit on that?

That said, I travel for comfort. I already know what I’m wearing when we depart on this trip. We are headed to one of our favorite places for a few weeks, and we have every intention of doing nothing but relaxing, unwinding, and spending quality time making memories.

Which totally reminds me that I also need to make a shopping list because our parents stay at our home when we travel – to care for our plants, etc. – and that’s part of the deal. They stay here, we stock the fridge with all their favorite things (because why would we want to go on vacation and not spend $350 at the supermarket prior to our departure on food we won’t be home to eat, right? All the eye rolls here).

Anyway, I’m here to share some of my favorite – favorite, favorite – comfort purchases for travel. The best of the best, as they say. If you have any long flights ahead of you, I highly recommend you pick up some of these pieces.

APL Sneaks (Athletic Propulsion Labs)

Y’all, I am obsessed. I am not a fan of tennis shoes unless I’m at the gym, but these changed the game for me. I love them, and I cannot stop ordering them. It all started with these gorgeous soft pink APLs. Then the rose gold came alone. Then I switched over to these slip-ons in white and navy blue…and now I find myself ordering all the colors all the time. They are the most comfortable shoe – ever – and they are highly functional as well as stylish. I get more compliments on these than anything.

High-Waist Yoga Pants

Because comfort, that’s why. Need I say more? Zella makes my favorites, and you can pick those up at Nordstrom. 

Joggers

These became a favorite recently, and I’m a huge fan. I love them with a long-sleeve tee shirt and my APLs when I’m ready to relax on a long flight. I love these, but I’m also learning quickly that Carrie Underwood makes some of the best joggers, and I find those at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Sweatshirts

I’m always cold when I travel, and that never changes with the season. So, these Topshop sweatshirts are my go-to for travel. Not only are they super comfortable, they are also super affordable. You can’t beat them.

What is your favorite way to travel?

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.

Friday Favorites: Disconnecting is Amazing (and so is this fab Bandolier phone case)

Happy Friday, loves!

What a great week this has been…for so many reasons. Not only was it such a sweet and relaxed week in terms of finally having nowhere to be and nothing to do after months of sports, activities, end-of-school year awards, programs, parties, cheer camp, Safety Patrol DC trip, and our normal travel schedule, we also just had fun.

I was able to sleep in and be a little bit leisurely over my morning coffee. I got to linger, and then go into my office in my robe and work for a few hours. The kids are so easy in the mornings. They aren’t tired of one another yet, so it’s the best time for me to be in my office meeting deadlines. It was also a rainy week, which I love.

It was a low-key week, and I love that. Our regularly scheduled Wednesday night dinner with our best friends extended hours longer than usual (sweet, sweet summertime…no reason to rush home and get anyone to bed at a decent time when they were having so much fun). It was #backtobasics all the way, and I think all our cheeks hurt this morning from laughing so much….mostly at our husbands!

As fun as this week has been (ask me again in an hour or so how I feel about that when I’m awake and getting ready to drive an hour to work out at a hardcore gym with my brother from another mother at 5 am), I’m crediting most of that to one simple thing – being offline, disconnected, and not attached to my phone.

I always have my phone on me, even if we are out on date night. I hate that feeling, but I cannot relax if I feel like I might miss a call from whoever has our kids. Whether it’s date night and they are safe and sound in their own bedrooms in our home while our parents ae here watching them or they are at school, I can’t risk missing a call if something were to happen.

But, this week the kids are home. It’s our first official summer week, and I’ve been able to leave my phone in the master bedroom and leave it. The kids are here with us, and I don’t feel that I need my phone. I set my iPad and laptop to update my emails once an hour, and I don’t care if I miss and calls or texts otherwise. I get to them when I have a chance. Believe it or not, I’ve learned a lot this week just by leaving my phone in our bedroom when I’m working or spending time with my husband and the kids.

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My phone gives me anxiety

Not all the time, but I noticed that I was so much more relaxed this week. My phone, it turns out, stresses me out a bit. I am not the kind of person who can get a text or email that requires a response and not respond immediately. It’s my ‘leave nothing to later’ mentality. So, I get anxiety when I see texts come in when I’m in the middle of a client call or an article or editing, and I don’t have time to respond. I can’t stop thinking about it, and then I do.

If the text turns into a long situation, or it’s a group text, I lose all track of my situation, I’m distracted, and I accomplish so much less. I’m not efficient, but I feel anxious if I don’t respond right away. Guilty, like I’m sending the message that someone else and their needs are not important to me.

They are important to me, but they’re not the most important to me. My business and my clients and my kids and my husband are the most important to me, and I have got to get accustomed to leaving this feeling of guilt behind. I can’t sacrifice my work and my integrity.

Leaving my phone in our bedroom takes away that anxiety. Out of sight, out of mind. I don’t know if someone is texting or calling or whatever, and I don’t feel an ounce of guilt about that. I mean, I get that my thought process is beyond insane, I do. I don’t pretend to try and understand myself. I really don’t.

Disconnecting is beautiful

I am so present! And efficient! And on top of things! It’s beautiful. I’m able to work without interruption, and my workday is shorter than ever because of it. I’m engaged when I’m with the kids, and I’m focused solely on my husband when we’re together. It’s a feeling that’s second to nothing else.

Distractions are my problem

I don’t handle distraction well. I’m a writer. It’s what I do. I create content for my clients, and I need to concentrate to make that happen. I write quickly and well after so many years of providing this service, but my phone is a major distraction, and it slows me down. I can bang out 3,000 words in under 20 minutes without my phone here (with fewer than 5 typos each time…years and years of practice on that one), and I’m more efficient than ever.

Try it.

If you haven’t tried disconnecting like this, you should. Life is a lot easier, more efficient, and well-lived when the phone is not in hand all the time. Of course, know that I will never judge you – ever – if I see you at dinner with your spouse, phone on the table next to you, because I feel you. I see you. I know you. I relate. You can’t relax with kids at home if you’re worried something will happen and you’ll miss the call or the text.

I get it.

But, if you have the chance to disconnect entirely, you should try it. It’s a beautiful feeling, and it makes life so sweet.

Oh, and on that note, I also got a fabulous new phone case this week. I’ve been looking for it for months. My girlfriend has one, and she found it at Nordstrom, but they never had one in my size. I should probably be embarrassed how long it took me to realize I could just go to the Bandolier website to find it rather than stalking my Nordstrom app waiting for one to pop up that fits the XS Max. It just arrived, and I’m in love! The best part is that it’s only $100! Check it out here.

Orlando’s Best Kept Secret: The Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate

Happy Wednesday, loves!

I have a secret. Well, it’s not a secret. No, it’s kind of a secret. Maybe. Who knows?

We are waking up at home this morning for the first time since the kids got out of school three weeks ago without feeling completely exhausted, without traveling, and without anywhere to be. I got to get up, come into my office, sit down, and actually have a normal day writing and editing. It’s a good feeling.

Here’s my secret – I love nothing more than normal days. I love being at home. I love my house. It’s my favorite place in the world, and it brings me more joy to be here with my family than anywhere else in the world. And that’s coming from someone who lives at home and works from home. I really, really love my home.

But, I also love to travel.

I can’t imagine life without travel or without the feeling of content I feel when I’m at home. I feel really lucky to love the place I call home so much, but I also feel so fortunate to live a life that allows us to travel often, and to travel well.

And, after the trip that was our daughter’s Safety Patrol week in D.C., I can say with complete honesty that my travel snobbery is for sure something I’m not ashamed of. Count me out of anything with less than four stars, but it should have at least 4.5 stars to make me happy.

Sorry, not sorry, but I like my coffee delivered to my room every morning by someone who isn’t married to me. I like my breakfast served to me in bed. I like finding a bottle of bubbles on ice already waiting for me with a personalized note from the hotel manager when I walk into my room. I like someone else carrying my luggage. I like someone else bringing my car to me. I like certain things, and that’s just who I am.

That’s why I’m sharing my other secret with you. It’s not so much a secret as it is just something so many people don’t know about because it’s a little bit off the beaten path. And by off the beaten path, I mean it’s like 7 minutes further down the road than Disney, and that makes people look elsewhere.

It’s the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate. My husband and I have been spending several weekends a year here since we got married in 2005, and it remains one of our favorite places in the world. It’s just over an hour from home, so it’s a perfect weekend getaway for us, and we make sure we spend 3 or 4 weekends a year here.

It’s changed a lot in the past 14 or so years, but only for the better. When we were trying to decide where to spend Father’s Day celebrating my husband – the world’s most amazing father – the Omni was everyone’s immediate choice. So, we booked it, we packed, and we loved it. As usual.

It’s never busy

Even when the Omni is sold out of rooms, it never feels busy. The resort is sprawling. You can check the deets on the link to the hotel to see for yourself. But, there’s never a feeling of so many people there that you cannot find a great chair by the pool, a server, or a reservation at dinner.

You never have to leave the resort

When we go to the Omni, we don’t leave the resort. Well, that’s not true. We’ve been Disney annual passholders for over a decade, so we sometimes make the quick 10-minute drive to Disney in the evenings to spend a few hours at the park after the sun goes down. But, we don’t leave otherwise. We order room service or check out Trevi’s for breakfast. We love lunch at the pool bar, Croc’s, and we love dinner at David’s Club, a lot. When we are in the mood for sushi, Zen is the perfect choice.

The pools are the best in Orlando

You won’t find a better pool area in all of Orlando. Trust us, we’ve been to all of them. The Gaylord comes in second, but the Omni takes first. And, they’ve had our hearts for best pool area for almost 15 years, and they recently added a lot more to the pool…but they were the best before that. Now it’s even more amazing.

The main pool is a zero-entry pool that’s massive. It has a water splash pad on one side, a major waterslide, tons of space, a basketball hoop, etc.. The lazy river is 850-feet of greatness. The adult pool is elegant and pristine. The new wave pool is our kids’ favorite. The new kids’ area is perfect for little kids. The water is two-feet deep at most, and there are three fun slides for small kids. The resort features Cabanas at the kid’s pool, the wave pool, and the adult pool.

Cabanas are worth it, always. It’s a little more expensive on the weekends, and it’s more expensive during the summer as whole, but worth it. You get a cabana with chairs, a television, a fridge, a fresh fruit platter, 10 beverages, and a ceiling fan. You have cover if it begins to rain, personalized bar service, and so much more. This weekend, the price was the highest it typically goes for a cabana at the wave pool or kiddie pool, which is $275 for all of that. You get it all day long – from 8 am to 10 pm.

The restaurants are amazing

Fun fact – I hate buffets. Hate them. Ew. But, I really enjoy the breakfast buffet at Trevi’s at the Omni. It’s one of the best around. The fruit is always the freshest, and that’s one of my primary reasons for hating buffets (other than being totally and completely grossed out to touch food other people have been near or touched before me). The fruit is always so fresh, and it’s so abundant.

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You get all of it, not just a few pieces of random fruit. They always, always have strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, melon, cantaloupe, watermelon, apples, bananas, and kiwi, and it always looks and tastes amazing.

David’s Club is our favorite for dinner for so many reasons. Not only is it beyond impossible to find something you don’t love, but they legit cater to us like it’s the most important thing they’ve ever done in their lives. Even when we have our kids with us, they make it special. For example, they’re quick to give the kids their own table and their own waiter next to us so we can have a little downtime, and the waiter keeps them happy. Whatever they need, he or she is on it. We don’t have to do a thing, and it’s beautiful.

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(Lilly Pulitzer romper, Tory Burch  Millers, Louis Vuitton Neverfull GM, Givenchy Sunglasses)

Croc’s is amazing because they have the best pool food. They have the most fantastic buffalo chicken quesadillas. They aren’t on the menu anymore, but all you need to do is ask for them and they’re yours. You won’t regret it. Zen has fab sushi, and you will enjoy every second of it.

You’re always VIP at the Omni

From the moment we arrive at valet, we are always treated like the most important people in the hotel. For example, my husband and I have been coming here so long and so often that one of the amazing valets who has been there since we started coming knows our family well (Hi, Kenny!). He’s been helping us from day one, and he’s watched us go from newlyweds to having Addison, to welcoming Ava, to having the twins. He’s parked our 2-seater convertible and our Lincoln SUV and our BMW sedan, and our Denali (and I’m pushing for him to park a minivan the next time we visit…but my husband and I cannot agree on our next “family” vehicle. He loves the Denali and wants me to drive the Yukon XL Denali next, but I don’t want anything XL…I want the Chrysler Pacifica. We had one as a rental in Texas recently, and me and the kids fell in love. You guys…it has a vacuum in the third row. And I’m a neat freak who vacuums my car every single day with my handy dandy shop vac I keep in the garage. Don’t you feel like I NEED a minivan with a built-in vacuum? Please let Craig Raiford know this…he doesn’t think I’ll be truly happy in it after a few months, but I’m obsessed and ready to rock a mom van like it’s my job).

That was a bit off topic, but you know how it goes with me. The Omni staff treats you like VIP, always. Kenny at valet is amazing. He knows our names, he knows what we’ve been up to, and he’s always quick to come over and grab us to help with the kindest words and a “Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Raiford!” as he opens our doors. We love him.

The front desk is always so friendly. Kids are presented with a super cute backpack filled with toys, goodies, and candy when we check in. Because we are Omni Select Guest members, we have bottled water waiting on us in our room every single day, we have warm chocolate chip cookies, milk, and more water delivered to us every night during turndown service (one for each of the kids and us).

If it’s one of our birthdays, the kids’ birthdays, or our anniversary, or even if we are just there for a quick date night for no other reason than just to get away for a night, we have champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, or even a full cake with a special message on it.

Select Guest members also get coffee delivered to the room in the morning – or tea or water or juice or whatever you prefer, as long as you specify what you want. Additionally, we are always upgraded to a suite if there is one available. If there isn’t, they always make sure we at least have a balcony that overlooks the pool area and the grounds of the golf course. They’re so good to us.

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Kids Club

So, we just tried this for the first time, but we sent the kids to Camp Omni this weekend. Friday night, we had a family dinner. Saturday, we spent the entire day by the pool. By the time Saturday night rolled around, we were ready for a break from the kids, and they were ready for a break from us. Insert Camp Omni here.

We took the kids for a few hours, and they LOVED it! They asked if they can go every time we visit, and we are down for that! The camp is highly secure, and it’s available by reservation only. For a small fee ($12 per hour, per child), the kids get to go in and participate in an evening of fun from 5 pm to 10 pm. They played video games, did arts and crafts, went to the connected, fenced in, locked playground to play. They also had dinner in there, and they got to choose what they ate, including dessert. They loved it.

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Meanwhile, we were able to go to dinner at David’s, sip wine on the balcony, and enjoy the sunset. It was a perfect ending to a beautiful day. We highly recommend it.

Activities Galore

Glow golf, hair beads, a DJ, tie dye shirt making, hat decorating, hula hoop contests, a hot dog station, staff walking around with popsicles and ice cream to hand out to the kids just because, and Dive-In Movies at night round out the kind of fun that kids have at the Omni. It’s a great time for everyone, and there is always something to do.

And now you know. Now you know that we are always happy to visit the Omni. It’s always a great time whether we are with the kids, by ourselves, or spending the weekend with our friends. Are you ready to join us next time?