Our Kids Aren’t Going Back to School: And We Couldn’t Be Happier

Happy Wednesday!

How is everyone on day 38 of the social distancing situation (in Florida, anyway)? Honestly speaking, I have to say I am impressed with my own handling of this situation. I thought for certain that by now I’d be a mess. I figured my patience would have exited the building weeks ago, I’d be overwhelmed and uptight, and my attitude would suck.

It doesn’t. I’m thriving. And, I think that it’s because our kids are thriving. All the things that I thought they’d miss aren’t having nearly the effect on them that I thought they’d have. We spend so much time running them from this activity to that activity to this practice from that practice to this and that and everything in between, and our kids haven’t asked once about their extracurricular activities or mentioned missing them; but, they have repeatedly said how much they love being home in the evenings and playing games, and having family dinners, and taking walks.

You know what else they comment about missing? Their friends. They miss their friends in class. They miss their teachers. They miss their grandparents. The twins miss giving their teacher a hug in the morning when they get to her class (she’s one of the loveliest people we’ve had the pleasure of meeting, so we get that). They all miss things like their art classes in school, and their media time, and their PE time. They miss connection. They don’t miss being busy. What a thing to process, right?

Governor DeSantis made the announcement Saturday afternoon that our schools would continue to remain closed the rest of the school year. What was initially a month-long closing turned into six weeks, and we were meant to go back at the beginning of May. Now we are out until August; and they will return to school going into seventh, fourth, and first grades. Some parents are really upset by this. I’ll be honest; there was a time when I would have been downright furious.

My husband and I both work from home – not because of COVID-19 but because I’ve worked for myself for 12 years and my husband has been working home for his company for almost four years now – and having the kids home on school breaks and summer is hard on our schedules. Mine a little less so since my schedule is my doing – not that I like it interrupted.

But, we’ve created a new schedule having them home, and we – sit down for this one – like it. The kids like it. We like it. We like having them home. They can be over-the-top and annoying at times – Monday was a rough day for us with the kids. But, I think they’ve been 95% pretty good about this (with the cute exception of the fact that Ava and Carter seem to butt heads more than ever right now). They’ve adapted well, and I’m glad they aren’t going back. Why? Well, for a few reasons.

The Transition Period

The worst thing about a schedule change is the transition period. When school was first closed, it wasn’t so bad because we were only a week away from spring break, and we were traveling the weekend it was announced, so we came home tired and exhausted and we had three little ones with birthdays. We welcomed the extra week. Then, it was spring break. That worked out for us, too. But, the week after was the first week of distance learning, and that’s a transition week. We had two free weeks and then we had to find a new schedule doing something we’ve never done before, and we all had to adapt. That was a stressful week. But, the following week was better. The third week was even better. Week four, which we are in now, is a seamless and organized machine.

The transition of going back to school at the beginning of May for all of three weeks would have been a mess, in my opinion. Transitioning back to a school schedule that involves a 6 am wakeup for our oldest, transitioning back to the classroom after more than six weeks away; I could see the mess from a mile away. Everyone would be tired and cranky, they’d have to learn to readjust – this wasn’t a week off for spring break, after all. They’d have to learn to readjust to a school schedule, and they’d all be cranky and tired for the week. For what? For three weeks? Then, we’d have to readjust to a new summer schedule? It’s a lot of change and adjustment in the span of two months, and kids – especially the Raiford kids – thrive on routine and structure. It’s too much to ask them to make so many confusing changes.

The Fear

Right now, our kids aren’t worried about the virus. Why should they be? They are safe at home with their mom and dad having fun. They are swimming every weekend, they are busy having fun, they are loving family walks and tending to their new little garden Craig helped them plant. They are having more takeout than ever from their favorite restaurants, they are getting so much time outside to play, and the weather is gorgeous. They have unlimited access to Amazon to order new games and toys and crafts, and they’ve been taking full advantage of that. They’re loving this, and they feel safe at home. But, imagine the fear of going back to school right now when part of the world is still shut down, and so many people have so many different opinions. Their friends would have things to say, they would be fearful, and it wouldn’t help. I’m glad they don’t have to face that fear and that they get to stay home with us and feel safe and comfortable.

We’d Miss Them

Who are we?! In all seriousness, the person who will have the hardest time when they go back to school in August is myself. I like having them here. I like being able to leave my phone in the master bedroom and not look at it all day long if I don’t want to – I can’t do that when they’re at school because what if they call and something has happened? I like knowing that they are safe all day long and never worrying when I see the school’s name scroll across my screen. There are so many horrible things in the world that might happen, but our kids aren’t there, and I’m not worried anymore. I love having them home where I know they are safe. That’s everything to me. And, I can tell you that I’ll have anxiety and panic a bit when I no longer have them in my protective custody again.

We like distance learning. I’d even go out on a limb and tell you that homeschool wouldn’t be out of the question for us if the kids would be willing to do it. I think Ava would, and would excel at doing it. But, I know Addison, Charlotte, and Carter would never go for it being the social butterflies and school-lovers that they are. Ava, on the other hand, is me. She doesn’t care for people she doesn’t hand pick, and she only wants to socialize with those she loves and respects. She’d be a hermit if we let her – which is exactly how I am.

This Time is Really Nice

I know that this is not a nice time for so many people in the world right now, and my heart aches for those who aren’t able to work, who are ill, who have lost a loved one, who are struggling financially and who aren’t sure what tomorrow brings. My heart hurts. I don’t want to look past that or make it seem that I am ambivalent in any capacity. However, I am thoroughly enjoying this time. I love the slow days, the new schedule, the time that we are getting to spend with our kids. We are finally NOT busy, and we needed it. We needed more movie nights and more Friday night date nights in the to-go parking spots at our favorite restaurants versus Fridays spent packing to travel every single weekend for a month, stay home for a weekend, and repeat (But, OMG do I miss travel and the places and trips we are no longer taking because we just don’t know when we even can anymore). We needed more sleep until 8 am weekdays, more time to make creative pancakes, go for a run, and focus on school work for only a few hours versus all day. We needed less nights where we are out until 8 pm, tired, hungry, and cranky when we get home. We needed more time with people we love rather than people who drain us.

We needed more game nights. We needed more family dinners around the tables. One night a week wasn’t enough for that. We need to slow down, and we needed to continue this a little longer. The days are getting longer, the nights are still cool and beautiful, and we are finally living our best life free of all the things that stress us out and make us rigid and inflexible and tired. Our kids are doing so well, and so are we with having them home.

It’s simple. Simple, as it turns out, is quite nice. Don’t take that for granted. I hope you are all enjoying your time as much as we are. We’ve had five uninterrupted weeks with our kids, and we get another 16 weeks. That is, even if you’re struggling, a gift. Use it wisely.

Learning to Appreciate the Simple Life

Day 31 of social distancing.

It’s hard to believe it was only 32 days ago that our sweet twins turned 6 and we were waking up in one of our favorite hotels in Miami. We caught the sunrise over the ocean from our balcony before the babes woke up and made their way into our room. We played on the beach. We played in the pool. We drove home, bought a birthday cake, made them their favorite dinner, and we kissed them goodnight knowing that it was the last normal day any of us would have for a very long time.

It’s been four weeks, and travel is something we are all missing. I don’t think we’ve been home four weekends in years. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining about being home. We love our home, and we are never sad to be here. But, we miss the adventure of travel. It makes us restless to be home all the time, and we are – quite frankly – saddened by the cancellation of every trip we have coming up. Our spring break trip. Our 15th wedding anniversary trip to St. Kitts and Nevis. A voyage on the Independence of the Seas with the kids the first week of June. Our annual Memorial Day weekend trip. Two weekends away with our best friends to cheer them on in their fitness competitions. A trip to Texas to see my grandmother, to name a few.

We miss travel.

But you know what we miss the most? Our parents.

We haven’t seen them since March 16; the day after social distancing began, our moms both came over to see the twins the day after their birthday and to see Ava the day before hers, and let me tell you how much these four babes miss their grandma and grandpa, their nana, and their far-away grandpa (because we can’t just book a flight and make our way to NC right now, either). They miss them SO MUCH, and it breaks my heart we cannot see them. This is the longest any of them has ever gone without seeing them in their lives, and that’s hard on them.

They ask every single day when they can see their grandparents again. And, every single day, we tell them we don’t know. They FaceTime, but it’s not the same. Carter is a big fan of his grandma and his nana, and all he wants is for grandma and nana to come over and give him a squeeze and stay the night because it’s more fun with them here than with us here (true story).

If there is one thing we’ve learned during social distancing, is that these kids are so fortunate to have grandparents who love them, and who they love so much in return. That’s been the hardest part.

Social distance learning is going well. The kids acclimated quickly to their new normal. Addison is amazing handling her own schedule and maintaining straight As. Ava is killing it with her work and her meetings. The twins are so excited about their zoom meeting every morning with their class, and they love their work. The hardest part was the first few days trying to teach them how to use zoom (what to touch, how to turn their camera and sound on when the meeting starts, how to avoid accidentally leaving the meeting). Now that they all know how to do this, they are on it every single day. We have no complaints there.

The kids have their moments. Charlotte and Addison are laid-back and happy all the time. Carter and Ava both have big opinions and big ideas, and they butt heads. They tend to get on one another’s nerves at least once a day, but we really can’t complain.

With their own work to do, it allows us to get our work done. I’m able to finish all my deadlines before lunch, and they’re able to have my attention in the afternoons. We are taking nightly family walks, swimming and playing all weekend, cooking fun meals, eating too many desserts (and going for VERY long runs to make up for those), jumping on the trampoline, playing cards, ordering a ton of Grubhub deliveries, watching movies, playing games, gardening, playing outside.

Ava’s teacher let her class know that their parents are probably struggling right now as they do their own jobs, take care of their kids, help their kids by becoming their new in-home teachers, and trying to keep everyone entertained, and asked that the kids help out a little more to make mom and dad’s lives easier, and I haven’t had to tell this kid to clean her dungeon since. She’s been doing dishes (I mean, we use the dishwasher, but this child is legit doing them by hand), helping make dinner, helping water flowers and keep things neat and orderly. She’s a dream come true.

The world shutting down has given us the chance to spend so much more time at home, and to spend so much more time together. It’s been sweet in that aspect. The world is filled with people who do too much, go too much, work themselves too hard, over-schedule themselves, and overcommit; and this has been an amazing way to get rid of the toxicity of ‘busy’ and of the things that don’t bring us joy, the people who drain us that we can’t avoid otherwise, and the things that simply aren’t enjoyable. I can’t speak for others, but I know that without all that ‘clutter’ in my own life, I feel so much more relaxed and so much happier. It’s good.

You don’t realize until you clear your schedule how much better life is without all the clutter that fills it. It’s easier to find the joy in life when the things that rob you of it are no longer part of your life. It’s easy to love life and to have it love you right back when time is standing almost still and there is no rush. “Busy” is no fun, and I sincerely hope that the world learns from this pandemic that a simple life is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something to embrace.

There’s no rush. Where there wasn’t time before, now we can sit on the lanai or the front porch rockers or the couch on the deck and drink our morning coffee and watch the day begin. Where there wasn’t time before, now we can sit at the table outside and eat dinner and linger. Where there wasn’t time before, now we can stay up a little later with the kids rather than rushing them to bed so they aren’t exhausted the following day. Where there wasn’t time before, we now get to slow down and actually enjoy the little things in life – and it is good.

How are you all doing in the midst of this? There’s a lot of unknown, but my advice is to step away from the media and the news and focus on home. We are thankful each day we have a beautiful home with plenty of space for our large family, a big piece of property the kids can run around in, and that everyone in our neighborhood has large properties so that we can walk and run without worrying about being close to anyone else. Be thankful for those little things in your own life. It helps.

Distance Learning Week One: Helping Four Kids Relearn Learning

Happy Friday, and happy end of the first week of distance learning.

For most of us, anyway. We just began distance learning in Florida this week. This week marked the end of the kids’ 3rd week out of school since the state cancelled schools. It also marks the week that President Trump announced that the 15-day flatten the curve plan needed to be extended through at least April 30. Schools for our kids were initially closed through the 15th, but they are not closed through May 1. Honestly, I’m working on the assumption that schools will soon be cancelled for the rest of the school year.

This is a crushing blow for our kids for many reasons. Our oldest, Addison, is in 6th grade. She’s a new middle school student, and she enjoys her schedule and her friends and her teachers. Our 3rd-grader, Ava, has been waiting since Kindergarten to have her 3rd grade teacher this year. Mrs. S, as we will call her here, is the same teacher Addison had in 3rd grade – and she remains Addison’s favorite teacher of all time (which is HUGE because her fourth and fifth grade teachers were pretty amazing!). Ava has been looking forward every single year of her life (her words) to have Mrs. S., and she is crushed that she’s no longer going back to her class.

Carter and Charlotte are in kindergarten, and they have the most spectacular teacher imaginable. Mrs. B. is phenomenal, and we adore her. I cannot convey how highly we think of her, especially watching her work with the twins and their class via Zoom this week. She has the most confident, most powerful, yet sweetest voice when she teaches. She’s engaging and kind, and you cannot miss her love when she speaks to these kids. She’s using morning Zoom meetings each day to conduct her morning meetings, sight words, calendars, and so much more – and she’s killing it. The twins look forward to her ‘class’ every single morning. The fact that they don’t get to go back to her class is very difficult for them, and my heart hurts.

On that note, we are done with our first week of distance learning. I’m not a homeschool teacher. I’m not homeschooling. I’m moderating their distance learning – alongside my husband. Their teachers are doing the work – and they are doing a fabulous job of it. So far, it’s going really well. We’ve had our hiccups, but I thought I’d share how it’s going for us, what’s working, what’s not working, and how we’ve adjusted our schedules so that it works for our family in the hopes that our situation might help someone else.

1

Four Kids Learning at Home is a Lot

I’ll start out by saying that the most challenging aspect of distance learning is simply doing it with four kids. It’s a lot. They all have somewhere to ‘be’ on their iPads, all at different times, and all on their own schedule. Factor in my schedule and my husband’s, and we are a little frantic a few times a day.

3

Middle School Distance Learning – 6th grade

I’ll also point out that we are exceptionally thrilled our oldest, Addison, is so self-sufficient and good at what she does. She has an agenda she’s using to track her meetings, her due dates, work to be done, etc. She’s using her desk in her bedroom upstairs to do all of her work, and we honestly have no idea what’s up with her every day. She’s a straight A student, a self-starter, and she’s highly motivated. We don’t micromanage her. She tells us about her day over dinner, and she outlines her day at breakfast. She’s so organized and efficient – she is my child.

Addison’s schedule is time-consuming and difficult. She has six classes, and she zoom meets in each one almost every day. Some of them require a once a week zoom, some a daily zoom. Her 7th grade advanced math class meets daily on Zoom for an hour and 10 minutes (which, by the way, is longer than her actual math class when she’s at school) for a full lesson. She’s spending the bulk of her day at ‘school’ upstairs, and she’s handling it like a pro.

2

Third Grade Distance Learning

Ava is able to do things on her own, which is great. She needs us for things on occasion when her iPad mutes or does something that she cannot figure out during a meeting, but she’s good otherwise. She’s not yet started the full distance learning curriculum. That’s next week. She’ll have daily assignments to turn into her teacher, and they have a morning Zoom meeting to connect with one another. This week, she’s only required to do iReady for 90 minutes each day. Forty-five minutes for reading and the other 45 is math. She’s doing an awesome job!

10

Kindergarten Distance Learning

The twins’ schedule is similar to Ava’s. They have a morning zoom meeting every day that lasts approximately 45 minutes to an hour, and they love it. Their teacher is so, so good. They read sight words like they do in class, they talk about their day, they do so many things. Otherwise, their expectations this week are 90 minutes per day on iReady. Just like Ava, they’re doing 45 reading and 45 math each day. Their teacher is working on lessons that she can teach beginning soon, as well as additional work for them to complete soon. She’s also reading and posting stories for the kids.

***fun fact: Our elementary school’s SRO is doing fun videos on Facebook teaching them fun things like how to make and fly paper airplanes, and his wife -who teaches at a different elementary school – is reading stories on a daily basis on Facebook for the kids to listen to. It’s amazing.

Making it Work

To make this work in our household, we ended up buying the three little ones their own iPads. Addison has her own already, and they use their tablets for Zoom, but iReady does not support their Kindle Fire tablets. So, they each got a new iPad Pro (IMPORTANT: They got these iPads because iReady does not support the iPad minis because it only supports screens that are at least 9.7-inches diagonal, and the iPad 10.2 wasn’t available when we ordered, though it will work if you can find one that’s available soon enough).

***also important to note: If you do order an iPad pro, it must be the 11-inch. My 12.9-inch iPad Pro is not the brand-new model. It’s the one before this new 12.9 inch, and iReady works on it. However, iReady does NOT support the brand-new iPad Pro 12.9-inch. Be sure to order the 11-inch!

While we waited on new iPads to arrive, I had to adjust my schedule accordingly to let the kids use my iPad and my laptop – both items I need to work myself. I’ve worked from home for 12 years for myself, and I have a killer schedule, but giving up my electronics makes it impossible – especially when it’s for a total of 4.5 hours a day. That was a struggle, but we are much happier now!

3

Our New Schedule

I’ll preface this by saying that I work for myself, so I have a much more flexible schedule than my husband. He works for a company that requires him to work 8-5 each day. He’s been working from home for four years, but he’s not always available during the day when and if we need his help.

So, our new schedule had to be made to easily accommodate both of our schedules, four kids, and the desire to keep evenings free so we can have family time. Walks, dinner, movie night, card games, etc. Here’s how we are doing things.

  • Craig and I set our alarm for 6 am (this is actually sleeping in for us, so it’s nice) and get up. He makes coffee and brings me my laptop in bed so I can work until 7. I move to the lanai at 7 so that I can sit out and watch the sunset while I work until 7:30 when I go for a run.
  • 7:00 is breakfast for the kids
  • 7:30 I run and my husband sets up the first round of iReady for the three little ones. They do 30 minutes at this time
  • 8:00 free time for the kids, shower for me, work for Craig
  • 8:30 – second half hour of iReady for the little kids while I blow dry my hair and get ready
  • 9:30 – 10:15/10:30 – Kindergarten zoom meeting
  • 10-10:30ish – 3rd grade zoom meeting

I set up the twins in the main living area of the house so they both have a quiet place to do their meetings without their iPads conflicting with one another on the same meeting, but also so I can keep an eye/ear on them from my office. One is in the dining room, one is in the kitchen at the bar. Ava works on her meetings in her bedroom across the house.

  • 10:30 – snack and free time
  • 11 – 3rd and final half hour of iReady for the little ones (this one is the last 15 minutes of their math and the last 15 of their reading combined)
  • 11:30 – recess outside (this is a requirement because I like them to get fresh air and sunshine)
  • 12 – lunch
  • 12:30 play time/art time (we usually set up a folding table and tablecloths on the lanai and let them paint canvases or whatever they want to do, or they can play outside)
  • 1:30 – 3:00 – quiet time. We don’t care what they do, but they have to do it in their own rooms. They can read, play on their tablets, play with one another in whomever’s bedroom they want as long as the pocket door that separates the 3 little ones’ bedrooms downstairs from the main area of the house is closed and stays closed.
  • 3 pm – snack and play time
  • 5 pm – we shut down our office, make dinner, go for a walk, whatever
  • 7 pm – bath and bedtime

4

Little Helpful Things

Now that we are back in school, even if it is virtually, everyone has to get up and get dressed and ready for school in our house. It helps ALL of us to get up and get dressed and ready for the day. We had two weeks of sleeping late and wearing pajamas all day, but it was time to brush our hair and wear real clothes and makeup before noon (for me, anyway).

Craig works until 5 and helps when he can. He makes the kids breakfast every morning – they like his chocolate chip pancakes – and he also makes their lunch most days. Occasionally, he might be in the middle of a conference call and I do it, but he does it most days.

While the kids are doing their iReady and their conference calls, I make myself available to them, but I sit and work. I also work anytime I can during their play time, and their quiet time is my chance to finish things up so we can get a few things done around the house and spend the evenings together.

I’ve also made checklists. Each of the little kids has a folder with their daily schedule on it. They check off completed items as they go. It helps them see where they are and what they are doing, and it helps them feel more accomplished.

So far, so good. The kids’ teachers are making this as easy on us as possible. Attempting to accommodate a classroom filled with kids who have parents who have different careers and schedules is no easy task, but they are making it work. Now that we are all becoming  more familiar with zoom and everyone has their own new iPad, things are getting a bit easier around here. It’s been good.

How has distance learning been going for you?

10 Quotes and Verses to Help You When You Feel Out of Control

Day 12

Honestly, I have no idea what day we are on quarantine-wise. The official timeline for us was on March 16, so we are just sitting here 12 days in and really trying to make the most of a horrible situation. Family walks. Long runs. Lots of power yoga at home. Lots of FaceTime conversations and virtual happy hours. Happy hours on walks with the family. Lots of books, lots of work, lots of arts and crafts, lots of card games. Lots of take out. Lots of baking. Lots of swimming. Lots of playing outdoors. Lots of online shopping.

It’s day 12. This situation is one that’s still going to get worse before it gets better – and that’s just how it is. We are making the most of our time at home, but our new normal isn’t quite normal yet. Week one was all about being lazy and relaxing and embracing it because real life really does make us tired and we welcomed that ability to rest). Week two has all us rested and basically antsy. We are bored. We are such an active family that it’s hard for us not to have a trip to go on or a place to visit or the ability to go to the gym or have fun or do anything.

We are handling it all right, but we have our moments.

That said, I’m not here to share with you any hints or tips or sales or tricks or whatever (though Lilly Pulitzer is offering 30 percent of certain items through today – and that never happens outside of the APS twice a year…so get on that).

I just wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes and verses that might help. I know that I go back and forth appreciating this time with our babies and my handsome husband and worrying about every single thing. Our sweet Ava was diagnosed with asthma when she was 15 months. She hasn’t had an episode in which she’s needed her inhaler in so long that we almost forgot she had it until about six months ago when she had an asthma attack. I lay awake at night wondering if she’s immunocompromised and at risk. Same for Carter, our sweet little man with his one and done grand mal seizure 13 months ago. Does that make him immunocompromised? I don’t know, but I worry.

And when I worry, there are few things that make me feel calm. Number one, always, is my husband. He always knows when I’m stressed or upset, and he always knows how to make it right. The kiddos help, too. And so does reading a few of my favorite quotes and verses for strength and hard times. So, in case you need them.

  1. When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you are responding to what’s happening. That’s where the power is.
  2. God sometimes takes us into troubled waters not to drown us, but to cleanse us.
  3. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to control something that isn’t yours to control. Let go. Free yourself. Allow your mind and energy to focus on something positive…to build something beautiful. – Steve Maraboli
  4. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
  5. The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming. – Romans 8:18
  6. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. – Isaiah 43:2
  7. Do not grieve. For the joy of the Lord is your strength. – Nehemiah 8:10
  8. May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. – Nelson Mandela
  9. Be still and know that I am with you. – Psalm 46:10
  10. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27

This, too, shall pass. Let’s allow it to pass with grace.

Blessings in Disguise Amid A Global Pandemic: Find the Good

Day 5

Today marks the fifth day we’ve been in the midst of our social distancing operation. No school, no cheer practice, no gym.

Those are the big changes during the week. Otherwise, not much has changed. My husband and I both work from home and always have, so we aren’t adjusting to any new schedules or interruptions. The kids being home is not an interruption. We do this every summer, thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, and long weekend. All six of us are familiar with that change.

In actuality, our kids are at good ages. They entertain themselves with books, playing outside, playing with one another, playing with their tablets, and snacking every 8 to 9 minutes so they don’t starve to death. They play well together without too many disagreements. They don’t make too much of a mess, and they don’t interrupt us during our ‘scheduled’ hours. My day is flexible since I work for me. Craig’s is not since he works for someone else. He’s in our office from 8 am to 5 pm.

I like to be in the office before anyone is awake, coffee in hand, creativity at full force. It’s actually a lot easier for me to work when the kids are home because they get to sleep in, our nephew isn’t here to go to school with us, and we don’ have to get dressed and get out of the house by a certain time. Rather than putting my morning on hold at 8 am, I’m able to get up at 5, work until 9 or 10, and pretty much call it a day after that. I work out, hang with the kids, manage the household, etc.

I’m still in my office working off and on throughout the day, but only when I have the time and only because I want to get ahead and not because I need to be in here. It’s a really laid-back, relaxed, chill sort of vibe. That’s what I like about it. So, not much has changed during the day in our house. This is what we do during summer, Christmas, etc. The only difference is that we aren’t going out to lunch. We aren’t running out for breakfast. We aren’t going to the gym. We aren’t gong out to dinner.

The big problem is going to show up tonight when it’s Friday night and the kids want to know where we are going for dinner. We will still order something out and enjoy it at home (because we are doing every single thing to support our community and local businesses) but we won’t be going out. It’ll be even crazier tomorrow morning when they wake up and want to know if we are going to a party, or if we are going shopping, or if we can go away for the weekend, or why we aren’t going on our spring break trip. That’s what will rock their world in the least positive manner.

They have no problem at all being home during the weekend because we keep jam-packed weekends, and they love the rest and the relaxation the week brings. But, when the weekends are just as relaxed and laid back and no one leaves the house except to go outside or take a family walk around our neighborhood, what is there? The kids are going to lose it. I know this. They know this. We know this.

But, even in light of all the craziness that is going on, I am a firm believer that all things are a gift. All things, as bad and heartbreaking and horrible and life shattering as they may be, bring a gift of some sort to our lives. Even the darkest days and the most horrible losses bring with them the most beautiful gifts. Maybe not right now. Maybe not in the foreseeable future. Maybe not this weekend. But, eventually. Eventually, we see the gift. The positive change. The better outlook. The lesson. It’s all going to make us stronger and better – eventually.

So, while it’s hard to see that the COVID-19 social distancing world shut down pandemic from hell is going to one day show so many of us the gifts it brings amongst the chaos, I dare you to look for the good in this.

If you need help, I’ve got you.

Rest

We are overworked, overscheduled, over committed, over everything. Literally, we are so over everything in our house that we’ve all been counting down the days until it’s all done and over with. Now, we aren’t. We are all getting good nights of sleep. We are all rested and relaxed beause we are unhurried and we aren’t rushed. It’s nice.

Time

The gift of time is perhaps the most beautiful of all. It’s something you can’t get easily, and you never get it back when you lose it. We have it now. We have the time to get into the kitchen and create a new recipe with the kids. To take a family walk. To sit down and eat family dinners together. To watch that movie. To sleep in a bit. To read that book. To start writing that book. To call that friend. To organize things. We have time. Time with our family and our kids and our spouses. Time is the most precious gift.

Say Goodbye to Toxicity

Unfortunately, we all have a toxic person or two in our lives, and now is the perfect time for us to bid adieu to that asshole. We have to stay home. We have to distance ourselves. We have to do our part, and that means avoiding people. The more time that negative Nancy is out of our lives, the more peaceful they become. And, guess what? The world is not going to be close to the same on the other side of this, and that might make you feel good about making that a permanent change.

Getting Back to Basics

We are five days in, y’all; we haven’t even touched the surface of back to basics yet but life is about to get really, really basic. If it’s not already, it’s about to be. You’re back to cooking for yourself. You’re back to sending the kids outside to play and make up games and use their imagination. You’re about to be your own parent.

Learning With and About Our Kids

Listen, we can all be very honest here and admit that being homeschool teachers is not for all of us. I don’t want to teach. If I wanted to teach, I’d be an educator. I’m not. It’s not my jam. It’s not how I want to live my life, though I do have the utmost respect for those who do make education their life. Educators are very special people with very special gifts that I simply don’t have (like patience and people skills and really strong immune systems and patience. Did I say patience?).

But, the thing here is that we are all about to learn more about (and with) our kids. We are all about to see how our kids learn. What works for them. What doesn’t. How they respond, what the teacher was talking about. What frustrates and confuses, what motivates and inspires, what bores them to tears, and just how very little of what we learned growing up actually stuck with us as adults, and just how absolutely unintelligent we actually are as adults. But, the good news is that we get to know our kids better, and guess what? That’s about to make us all better people. We will come out of this better able to help our kids and help our kids’ teachers. We are about to become educated, and I’m not just talking about our kids.

More Adult Time

Oh yes. So our lunch time bedroom dates might be a little more difficult to mange with four kids home, but now we aren’t out late every night, so we get to go to bed earlier and enjoy that time. The kids aren’t waking up early, so we get to enjoy that time. You guys, we are all going to have a much better attitude about all the things by the time this is said and done – and maybe some people who are struggling will find their groove again. This is good, good news.

Healthier Living

That’s largely hypocritical to point out as we all shove our social distancing snacks down our throats in rapid stress-eating force, but you know what I mean. We are now cooking most meals from home, so we are automatically healthier. We are taking more family walks, playing more games outside with the kids, getting more sun, benefiting from those walks and baseball games in the yard. We are all going to be healthier and more energized before much longer.

Appreciation

You know those small things we all take for granted every single day? Date night? A quick trip to Nordstrom? Birthday parties? Family vacations? Packing up and heading to a favorite resort for the weekend? Yeah, those things we can’t do anymore? Guess what? We are all about to learn to appreciate the little things. And the big things. And the things in between. We are all about to appreciate every single little thing in lives a lot more than we did before.

I have a long list of a million more ways that I’ve seen this social distancing/quarantine situation become a blessing in disguise, but not all of the things I’ve seen are my stories to tell. So, I’ll leave it at that. This is a tragedy, and it’s terrifying, and it’s just unknown and uncertain, and it’s fostering a lot of fear. But it doesn’t mean there is not good. Look for it. Be it.

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.

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.

Romantic Weekend at the Vinoy

Happy Tuesday, loves!

I had the best weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe next year, honey!

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

Go…and don’t invite anyone else

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

Go…and pick somewhere you’ve never been

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

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

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

Go…and don’t feel guilty

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

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

Go…and have fun

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

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

Do you get away with your love regularly?

 

Helpful Links

blackened chicken tacos from Paul’s Landing 

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sleeveless blue and white Lilly Pulizter Dress 

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Anything Can Happen, and Being Prepared is a Good Thing

Happy Thursday, loves!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Our Kids Really Are Best Friends

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

 

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

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

 

I need my husband, and he needs me

 

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

 

I have to let go

 

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

 

It’s okay to live your best life

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Life Update

Happy Wednesday, loves!

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

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

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

It’s been metaphorically pouring around here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just remember the tests.

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

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

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

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

He was a champ.

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

We are blessed.

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

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

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

It’s a process.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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