Last-Minute Valentine Gift Ideas For Your Sweet Littles

Happy Wednesday, loves!

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

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

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

Wrapper PDF from Etsy – $4

Printing 100 Wrappers at Office Max – $25

100 full-size Hershey Bars – $60

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

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

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

Valentine’s Shirts

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

Valentine Pajamas

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

Hersheys and M&Ms

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

Donuts for Breakfast

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

Flowers

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

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

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Formal and Fabulous in Gold Sequins on Date Night

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Happy Monday, Loves.

Can I let you all in on a little secret? Well, it’s probably not much of a secret, to be quite honest. I was born in the wrong era. I mean, so wrong. I would have lived large and well in the 20s or 30s. I was born to dress for dinner. I was born to live my best life in fancy dresses sipping champagne and listening to beautiful jazz music.

One of my favorite things to do when we are out of town is dine. I love amazing food, and Craig and I seek out the most amazing restaurants in the world when we travel – I can’t tell you how spectacular some of the places we’ve been really are. On the downside, eating anywhere around our home is such a letdown. I want all things fancy. But, that’s why we travel…to find good food and so I don’t waste all these expensive shoes on school pick up and drop off.

When the Jamaica 10 decided to book a cruise for our kid-free trip this year, I knew that I wouldn’t get amazing food (cruise ship food is the worst), but I did know I’d get a spectacular chance to dress up on formal night. And I was not missing a moment to dress up like I was on my way to the Oscars.

Gold.

Sequins.

Boujee.

And I loved Every. Single. Second. of it.

In addition to dressing up like it’s my job, I was in my happiest place right inside my husband’s arms on the dance floor. He is so dapper, and such a beautiful dancer. He also sings to me while we dance, and he couldn’t stop telling me how amazing I looked. Vain Tiffany didn’t hate the moment, at all. In fact, I was reluctant to even leave the dance floor to go to dinner. I could have stayed there all night.

My dress was my favorite dress of all time – and guess what? I rented it! Yep! I rented this gorgeous Badgley Mischka gown from Rent the Runway, and I was so beyond happy with my rental and experience. I have zero need for a formal gown in my life other than on the cruise, and we all know I won’t wear it again anyway, so investing in one seemed pointless. Renting one, however, seemed perfect. And it was.

So here are all the outfit details (including a few you can purchase if you’re not into renting).

Badgley Mischka gold sequin gown – I rented it from Rent the Runway, but you can find the same gown here. Earrings are from Target here, and my white shoes are Manolo Blahnik found here

I also found three more similar gold sequin gowns in a much more affordable price range here, here, and here.

Craig’s Outfit Details Here – Ralph Lauren jacket here, similar here and here. Ted Baker dress pants here and similar here and here. John Varvatos dress shirt here, and similar here and here. Magnanni Gerardo shoes here, more affordable version here and here

 

 

 

 

His & Hers Casual Date Night Look in the Caribbean

Happy Friday, Loves!

I am so excited about this weekend for no reason other than the fact that we get to catch up on some sleep and go to church on Sunday! Our cruise last weekend with our four favorite couples was amazing, and we are exhausted as a result. The kids are just as tired because the grandparents come over here to stay with them, and we’re almost positive they skip naptime, bedtime, and any downtime. They’re spent, and I think we have a small-ish tummy bug going around.

I picked the twins up early from school yesterday because of it, and I didn’t feel 100% last night, either. Don’t worry…I’m back today.

But, back to the cruise. We spent a long weekend cruising the through the Bahamas with our favorites, and it was amazing! I won’t lie to you, though; I don’t love cruises, and I especially dislike cruises to Nassau. It’s dirty, and I could do without ever going back. Actually, we all groan and complain about it, but it’s the only place we can go on a quick 3-night cruise, so we deal. No one wants to do more than three nights away from the kids, so Nassau it is.

We had the best time, though, and that’s not unusual. It’s a fun group, and the memories we make are priceless. I can’t even…

My favorite part of any trip is always date night. It’s not exactly a secret I love to put on a gorgeous dress and a pair of amazing shoes and live it up with a glass of champagne in hand – and that’s exactly what I did every night on the ship. I’m sharing my 3rd date night look today. On our last night, we decided to skip our dining room reservations in favor of the onboard steakhouse, Chops. It was a great choice since the food was actually edible (um, did I mention I am not a fan of cruise ship food? I drink my calories and eat very little…but that soft serve ice cream, though…). We had great food, great wine, and great company on this night.

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{ Tiffany’s Look: Lush dress, Christian Louboutin So Kate pumps, Prada bag }

{ Craig’s Look: Pants, Shirt, Shoes are old, but I found very similar here and here }

We were ravenous on this particular night of the cruise! We were also so red from spending the day in the sun! We woke early – because I always wake early – went down to breakfast in the main dining room with two of our other couple friends, drank copious amounts of coffee, and then two of my girlfriends and I grabbed the tender from the boat to Royal Caribbean’s private island (Cococay) and enjoyed a 45-minute yoga session on the beach.

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{ Me, Peggy, and Corinna on the ferry to enjoy yoga on the beach }

I’m spoiled with a very intense, very fast-paced, very strenuous, very hardcore, uncommon yoga class, and I found this one beyond easy – but that view was spectacular! After yoga, we tendered back to the ship, changed into our bikinis, and met everyone else in the atrium and tendered back to the island for a day of fun in the sun.

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{ Crew, our yoga instructor, walking us over to the palm trees by the ocean for a quick yoga session }

We rented floating mats, and we literally spent the entire day floating in the clear blue water until my girlfriend and I decided to swim out to one of the floating docks in the middle of the ocean – that was a long swim – and our husbands followed us. Our inner 4-year-old boys came out and we ended up pushing one another off the dock and acting like children for an hour before swimming back to shore, and it was so much fun!

Once we were back on the ship, we showered, dressed, hit up the casino, shopped, and enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails in the Schooner Bar. It was a gorgeous day, and we all lived our best lives that day!

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This dress – which was my point to begin with – is one I bought months ago. My stylist sent it to me in my trunk club (if you’re not using the Nordstrom Trunk Club, you’re not living) and it’s one of the items I chose to keep. I’m really bad about buying things, hanging them in my closet, and not wearing them for months. I think I’ve had it since February, and I took the tags off of it on the ship! It’s flirty and fun, and it’s SO cheap!

13 Things I’ve Learned About Marriage On Our 13th Wedding Anniversary

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{At our favorite hotel in NYC with our oldest girls…it was their first time visiting our favorite city with us}

Lucky Number 13.

It was 13 years ago that I stood in the beautiful courtyard in Haile Plantation with the most handsome, most generous, kindest, funniest, most amazing human I know and said I do. We were just babies. Babies who’d been together three and-a-half years. Babies who’d been engaged for two of those years. Babies who were only 21 and 22 at the time. We were babies.

Sometimes we still are. Well, by “We” I mean me. But who’s counting?

It’s been 13 really, really, really fun years filled with so much love. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to grasp the fact that it’s been thirteen years since we were married! We’ve grown so much since May 15, 2005. We’ve also learned so much in the course of our marriage – and what we’ve learned has helped us continue to grow, become better, and to embrace everything that life throws at us – good or bad – as a team. Because that’s what we are. We are a team. Every. Single. Day.

We have many more years to learn, to grow, and to love even harder. I can’t wait to see what life continues to have in store for us. It’s been so sweet so far that it’s hard not to look forward to what’s to come. But for now, I’ll just embrace the moment, celebrate my love, and share 13 things I’ve learned in the past 13 years.

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  1. No one is perfect….and no one is a mind-reader

It turns out Raiford is not – I repeat not a mind-reader. I know. This is unfortunate as it means I have to actually say what I want and what I don’t when I want it. Sigh. Listen, life would be a lot easier if my sweet husband could read my mind. Alas, he cannot. So therefore, he is not perfect. Thankfully, I, too, am imperfect. Match made in heaven, am I right? We are not perfect, and we cannot anticipate every single need of the other. We just have to communicate and talk it out. Trust me…just speak up. It makes life a lot easier.

  1. You are a team…and this is most important when you have kids

If you and your spouse aren’t a team, it’s time for a team meeting. Y’all need to draft one another or something. You must be a team with your spouse, where there is no “I”. You are a team, and this is always important in every situation. It’s you and him (or her) against the problems. And by problems, I obviously mean the kids. We are outnumbered in the Raiford household, and we like it that way. Mostly because we are a great team, and it’s our biggest asset. When we don’t work together as a team, the kids…well….they know. And they use it. So we are a team. Even when we don’t wan to be a team because we disagree, we are a team. They can never see otherwise. They’re too smart.

  1. Fail Together

Failure is nothing more than an opportunity to learn and to grow, and that’s what you do in marriage. We fail all the time, take that lesson, and apply it to the rest of our marriage. And guess what? It totally works!

  1. Pick your battles

I always use this example, so you’ve probably heard it. I always complained to my husband that it drives me crazy when he hangs my clothes in the wrong place in my closet. In my mind, it’s blatantly obvious that all things are ordered by season, by style, and then by color. So why he continues to hang a black dress that hits above the knees with my black maxi dresses is beyond my level of comprehension. And the number of times I complained about it should have given him a hint to actually put it in the right place (it did not).

But I once complained about it to a group of girlfriends….and they were not amused. One of them said, “I can’t get on board with this. You’re complaining that your husband washes, dries or hangs up, and puts away laundry regularly in your house. Mine has never done a load of laundry in his life,” and that’s when I realized it’s time to pick my battles. Sometimes you cannot change things. And my simple “It’s short, not long,” explanation is way over his head. He sees black, he sees dresses, he feels confident – and I didn’t have to wash anything.

{The day I went into labor with the twins and we met our littlest loves for the first time. They spent a week in the NICU because they were so small and had some respiratory issues.}

  1. It’s all about perspective

There was a time in our marriage when we let things get to us. If we had a bad day, it got to us. If things didn’t go our way, it got to us. But then we lost two babies we wanted so badly. That’s when life changed for us. We realized in those moments following each loss that everything we thought was a problem really wasn’t a problem. Our problems are so small, and we realized we were just wasting time allowing them to get to us. The loss of a baby is a real problem, and it in that moment we became very grateful for the other ‘problems’ we thought we had. Perspective is important – so change it if it needs changing.

  1. Humor is all the good stuff

Hands down, the best thing about Craig is he is funny. We laugh so hard so much. I cannot even tell you how good it feels to know that I get to spend my days with someone who makes me laugh even when I don’t want to. It’s so much better.

{From Hawaii to Napa Valley to San Fran to Orange County to the Keys to Chicago to a million weekends in New York City to Las Vegas to Jamaica to the Carolinasto the Caribbean and so many places in between…we’ve traveled, and we’ve traveled well}

  1. Time Out is N.E.C.E.S.S.A.R.Y.

I’m not even going to specify who you need to send to time out. Send the kids. Send yourselves. Just take some time outs. Travel without the kids sometimes. Go out without the kids as often as you can. Put them to bed early and don’t feel guilty about it. Spending time together is so important. When we have date nights and trips without the kids, we reconnect in the best way. Do it.

{We built our first little home in 2004…and we bought our dream home in 2014}

  1. Life is better when you want the same things

I don’t care who you are, if you don’t want the same things out of your life together, you’re not going to be happy in your marriage. Listen, Craig and I are total – total – opposites. He’s the calm to my storm, the reason to my crazy, the patience to my temper, the kind one to my less-than-always-kind one. He’s the good one. But despite the fact we are total opposites in just about every which way, we want the same things in life, and we always have. It’s what makes this marriage work. Our goals, our morals, and our vision for the future is the same.

  1. Just do it

As often as possible, too. Daily is good.

  1. Respect your spouse – always

Aretha Franklin sings it, but we do it. Respect is so important. Even when we don’t agree with one another, we try hard to make sure the respect is still there. Well, I try hard. Craig is naturally kind and respectful and it doesn’t occur to him to yell or scream or harp on things. Me, on the other hand, I’m a raging B.I.T.C.H. with a hot temper. But I will always – always – respect Craig. I will never speak ill of him. I will never do more than good-naturedly complain about him to anyone else. Respect is the most important thing you can have in a marriage, and it’s the most important thing you have for your spouse.

  1. Have fun

I mean, this is obvious. But sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the mundane day-to-day stuff and forget to have fun. Even if we can’t do anything other than laugh at the fact the kids are literally insane sometimes, we have fun. I think it’s so important your spouse is the person you have the most fun with of anyone else. Craig is that for me. He said it best once. “At the end of every day, I just want to go to bed with you,” and that’s everything. We have fun, and he’s my person.

  1. It does get better over time

Like a wonderful bottle of wine or my personal fashion choices or kids over the age of 2 (or sometimes like four or whatever) marriage does get better with time. When I married Craig, I did not think I could love him more. I did not think that it was possible for it to get better, but it does. Every day in all the small moments, it gets better. It’s better when you hold your baby for the very first time. It’s better when you celebrate life’s little victories together. It’s better when your dreams come true because you both worked so hard to make sure of it. It’s better every day, but sometimes it takes paying attention to see it. It’s not always obvious.

{From our babymoon in Mexico bumpin’ with Addison in my belly on the beach to date night with Ava on the way to family photos of our family of 6 in the park…we have fun}

  1. Faith is so important

One of the most important parts of our marriage is our faith. I love that I’m married to a Godly man who prays for me and with me. I’m proud to be married to a man who has so much faith in God, someone who looks forward to going to church every week and growing in his faith. I love that he shares his faith with our kids. And I love that he is such a good role model.

Craig’s faith has made him one of the most amazing men I’ve ever met. He’s kind. He’s patient. And he is the best role model for our kids. Our girls will never settle for just anyone when they’re older. They’re going to look for a man who treats them well and with respect. And our sweet son will one day make a young lady’s father feel relieved because he is learning the best manners, and he is learning how to treat a lady like a lady.

You know that old saying about once praying for everything you have now? Keep that in mind. It’s not only a good reminder how far you’ve come together. I remember when my husband and I first got engaged, we were driving around looking at property for sale. We were building our first house while we planned our wedding, and we were driving around the neighborhood in which we currently live.

It was the neighborhood we went out of our way to drive through, to stop and dream about one day in the beautiful model homes. It was so far beyond our means to buy property and build a house in this neighborhood. But we said we’d one day live here with our family. We were 19 and 20. We bought property in another neighborhood, we built a small house that was just perfect for us, and we began our lives.

We brought all four of our beautiful babies home to the house we built when we were 19 and 20. We locked that house up regularly and traveled the world together both before and after we had kids. That was the house we wanted to come home to and fall asleep for days when we returned from Hawaii after we made the decision to try to have our first baby. It was the house I began my business in that house. I wrote for some of my biggest clients sitting at my dining room table in that 1,200-square-foot house.

And when I was 30 and the twins were born, it was time for us to leave that house behind (but not too far behind, because my mother-in-law now lives there) and move on. Our first house was finished the day before our wedding. We moved in the day we came home from our honeymoon. Nine years and four small babies later, we found our dream home in our dream neighborhood. And we’ve been happily every aftering here ever since.

When you love life, it loves you right back. It’s given us everything we ever wanted from our beautiful babies to one another to my business to a job my husband adores that allows him to work from home every single day. He gets to be here for everything. The days of him leaving before the babies are awake only to get home just in time to put them to bed are over. He’s here, he’s present, and we love it. We have a beautiful family, friends we love, a home we want to be more than anywhere else – and I don’t mean that just because we love this house. We have a home. The four walls don’t matter so much as the people inside of it, and the way we feel when we are here. It’s a feeling in our hearts, and that feeling is not even remotely possible without Craig. He’s every good thing that ever happened.

Babe, I’m thankful for you each and every day. Happy Anniversary. 13 years seems like so long, but I know we have so many more years to celebrate. Thank you. For everything. Thank you for loving me and our sweet babies. Thank you for taking care of us. Thank you for giving us all of yourself, and then continuing to give more even when you don’t think there’s anything left to give. You are the best thing in our lives. I love you.

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{My favorite picture of us. This was taken on November 17, 2007. We found out that morning we were expecting our very first baby. I was 3 weeks and 2 days pregnant and it killed me to wait that long to test. We bought these shirts at the Florida Gator game we went to that day and had someone take this picture of us. It was the start of our greatest adventure.}

Bad Days: Sometimes You Just Can’t Change Them (and that’s all right)

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What. A. Weekend.

Happy Tuesday, loves! Well, I’m hoping for a lovely, happy Tuesday. As I write this on Monday afternoon, I’m not very happy. Honestly, I had a whole different blog post in mind for today, but I’m inspired by my own bad attitude and moodiness.

Nothing makes me happy today.

We had the most amazing weekend. My husband and I got away for three days to Tampa, which is only about an hour away but still one of our favorite local cities. We stayed at one of our favorite Tampa hotels so we could wake up everyday to water views, gorgeous sunsets over the water, and coffee brought right to us in bed.

We had amazing dinners. We had middle-of-the-night room service. We spent an evening with Thomas Rhett and Kenny Chesney. We got to see friends – old and new – and we even got to get up in the mornings and run along the shore. We got to spend three solid days focusing on one another, and loving it. It was amazing.

We came home Sunday afternoon to all four of our kids in delightful, sweet, beautiful moods. They were dolls – all night long. We found some serious motivation to paint our master bedroom after we unpacked and did all the laundry, and we even worked a bit before ending up on the couch at 8:30 for some downtime. It was a stellar weekend.

And today, I hate everything.

  • I didn’t want to get out of bed
  • I (myself and no one else) put us running a million years behind this morning
  • I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to accomplish work-wise before I left to take the kids to school
  • My husband was setting up his new wireless earbuds and didn’t hear me when I was talking to him, and apparently today he gets no second chances in my mean eyes
  • Ava was pissed all morning and refused to tell me she loves me when I dropped her off because I snapped at her when she took her tablet into the twins’ school and 1 – bumped into someone else’s stuff and knocked it all over because she wasn’t paying attention and then 2 – bumped right into someone’s kid and knocked him down because she wasn’t paying attention
  • Addison has gymnastics and tumbling on Monday nights. An hour away. I hate that stupid drive and cannot wait for her to finish these classes when cheer starts again in June – yet I don’t want to send Craig tonight because the other option is spending the evening alone with the other three kids who were all whiny and annoying this morning…so…
  • My monthly visitor is only a few days away
  • I’m annoyed that I can’t find a real reason to be annoyed
  • It wasn’t the rainy day that it started out as. In fact, it’s mostly been sunny and I wanted a rainy day
  • Every time my husband tries to put me in a better mood today, I find myself side-eyeing him
  • I feel bad that I snapped at Ava and the mom-guilt is real

Honestly, I’m in a terrible mood today. And I’ve done all my usual things to try and alleviate it.

  • I worked outside on the deck
  • I drank lots of water and a cup of tea
  • We went to the gym and I ran hard on the treadmill and then did weights
  • I did deep breathing
  • I tried to replace my thoughts with happy ones
  • I tried to calm the eff down
  • I tried to shop online
  • I took another shower and tried to wash off the bad mood
  • I tried to remind myself that I have no reason t be a raging b*tch today or that I should be thankful this monthly mood doesn’t typically hit me this bad.

NOTHING IS WORKING.

So, I’m embracing my inner asshole, minimizing my contact with all humans, and trying to suck it up, buttercup. So far, no good.

But…there’s always Tuesday morning. I’ve made the executive decision to just let this roll today and focus on not allowing tomorrow to be the same kind of blah day as today.

I’m grateful my days aren’t usually like this, and I realize wholeheartedly I sound like an entitled, whiny, obnoxious brat today. I do. I can’t seem to change it, but y’all…I get it. I do. And I’m sorry to all the people I side-eyed today. Honey, I’m sorry I wasn’t nice when you didn’t know I was talking to you because you had music playing in your earbuds and  you weren’t facing my direction to know I was talking to and I decided that was not a valid or sufficient reason to not subconsciously know that I was speaking to you and that you should be a mind-reader.

To the people who smiled at me in the gym and received the RBF, I apologize. To anyone on the road today, I apologize for the names I called you in my mind. Anyone I missed, I’m probably sorry.

Lesson Learned

As someone who typically works my way out of a bad mood quickly, this kind of day is rough on me. I’d like to think it would be easier if I could blame it on something tangible, but the truth is I’m just in a funky bad mood and I just can’t work my way out of it no matter what I do today. So, I’m turning it into a lesson learned, I’m letting it be, and I’m just trying not to take it out on anyone else. And then I’m putting it away and starting over in the morning.

Days like today don’t come around often, and I’m eternally thankful for that!

Traveling Without Your Kids: A Must Do For Your Marriage

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I’m going to be late picking the girls up from school if I don’t leave here in approximately 10 minutes, but I’m sitting here at my desk in my bathrobe eating a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter with tiny chocolate chips. And I don’t feel bad. Technically, the line doesn’t even begin moving until 3:40, which is what I’m telling myself even though I’m going inside today so I can give my oldest her gymnastics bag and grabbing my middle before we go get the twins.

I’m distracted this week, and I’m working my behind off trying to get a lot more done in a lot less time. I’m taking Friday off…which means I need to get all my normal Friday work done by Thursday. That’s easier said than done when you consider it’s around 15,000 words. I’m 100 percent so excited about the upcoming weekend!

Three glorious days at one of our favorite hotels in one of our favorite cities to celebrate our anniversary 3 weeks early! No kids. Just us. Date nights, and sleeping in, and getting some sun, and getting my husband all to myself for a few days. What else could a girl want?!

As I’m multitasking (working and making packing notes), I’m thinking about all the conversations we’ve had with people over the years anytime we plan a trip without the kids. “It must be so nice to get time away so often,” (It is). “How can you leave your kids?” (With a cheerful wave and some sweet hugs and kisses). “I’ve never understood people who leave their kids. I could never do it. More power to you,” (PSA: this is not a great veiled attempt at insinuating people who take time to focus on their marriage or not losing their ever-loving minds with their kids are less than amazing parents).

We miss our kids when we aren’t with them, but man-oh-man do we appreciate that time away! We get to come home on Sunday morning rested, fulfilled, happy, and as much better parents. I can’t parent when I’m stressed, on empty, and without some personal space.

Ladies and gentlemen – My husband and I have four kids. Free time is not something we have. We have to schedule free time – and it sometimes takes weeks to get time to do that – and we don’t get much down time. If we don’t take a break from the constant snack-making, lunch-packing, butt-wiping, booger-wiping, bath-giving, boo-boo bandaging, this food touched that food and I need all my food remade-handling, chauffeuring, homeworking-doing, sports-practicing, exhausting, beautiful moments that kind of wipe us out from time to time, things get really ugly, really quickly.

I suck at parenting when I’m exhausted. We all do. It’s why kids have naptimes and bedtimes. So we can recharge overnight and face the next day with a happy heart. And that works…but sometimes I just need to get my husband very naked and very much to myself for a few days. And I’m not even remotely ashamed of that situation.

If you are one of the many people who feels guilt at the thought of leaving your kids, I feel you, sister. I always feel guilty leaving them. But I go. They love their time with their grandparents and their cousins. They sometimes need a break from our faces, too. And that’s the pretty thing about time off. If you can find time to take off and get away from the kids, do it. The benefits are astounding.

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You Get to Have a Real Conversation

I don’t know about your household, but sometimes my husband and I try to carry on the same conversation for an hour before we finally get to the point. “So, I was thinking we could (MOMMY! Can I have some water?) Sure, honey, give me a second. Anyway, I was thinking this weekend we could take the kids down to Dis – (Daddy! Can you help me with my math homework? Oh, sorry. I didn’t know you were talking to mommy, but when you’re done can you help me with my math homework?) (Husband nods) What was I saying? Oh right, I was thinking this weekend we could…” and sometime an hour later, I might get that sentence out.

When we take a weekend without the kids, we get to talk. A lot. And we have meaningful conversation about how amazing it is to have meaningful conversation without being interrupted 87592641614 times. And the sad part is our kids know not to interrupt blatantly….but they’re constant “Excuse me’s” aren’t fun.

You Are Relaxed

What’s more relaxing than knowing you get to go to bed on your own time, you get to sleep all night, and you get to wake up on your own time? Oh, nothing. You’re also relaxed going to dinner because you don’t care if there is a small delay in your reservation. You aren’t eating on the kid timer. When you’re told it will be a few moments, you probably do what we do and say, “No rush! We’ll be at the bar!” You’re relaxed, and relaxed people are happy people.

You’re A Lot More Naked

TMI, I know. But let’s be honest. You are. And he is. And you both are. And that’s always, always, always the best. And I’ll leave it at that.

You’re Focused On One Another

I love nothing more than when my husband is fully focused on me and our time together, and it’s hard to manage that with the kids. I love being able to focus on him, listen to his stories and really hear what he’s saying. I love the focus, and that focus is good for the soul.

You Feel Closer Together

I cannot get enough of my husband when we travel. I feel so close to him when it’s just the two of us. It takes me back a decade before we had kids and we were just newlyweds jetting off to New York City one weekend, California the next weekend, and Hawaii three weeks later. That was our life, and it was so, so good. It’s a million times better now, but it does take me back to that time when we were young and carefree.

You’re A Better Parent

At the end of the day, you’re a much better parent when you have a few days away. I can always tell when my patience is waning, and I know when a timeout is necessary. Sometimes we just need to get away for a few days and recharge. We need to just be us and be reminded how much fun we have. We need to be reminded that we actually do miss our little monsters when we’re away, and we need to be reminded of the little moments so we get to go home and be much better parents to four much better kids (Kidding…the grandparents come stay with our kids when we travel and they don’t know how to pronounce “NO” so our kids are basically evil when we return).

For example, when we wake up in a hotel and room service delivers our coffee, we get to sit on our balcony and overlook the city or the ocean or wherever we are, talk, drink in silence, read the news, savor the sweetness. But we also realize that those sweet little faces that usually climb up next to us on the couch to cuddle when we drink our coffee at home are really sweet moments (because Lord knows in the moment we’re just like “Omg. Could you take up any more of my space?).

You’re A Better Couple

I don’t know about y’all, but I really like my husband – a lot. And I’m pretty sure he mostly likes me, too. Save for about a week every month, but what’s a girl to do about attitude problems when her hormones are like whoa and she has four kids and all that? Anyway, I really like Craig. And I like spending time with him. We are a better couple when we have a few days to ourselves. He makes me laugh. My cheeks always hurt by the end of our trip from laughing so much. He’s always so thoughtful in making reservations at my favorite restaurants, taking my Insta photos, shopping with me, and he always defers to me when it’s time to choose the bottle of wine we order – and I never have to compromise on that. It’s nice.

We are a much better couple when we have time alone, and that makes our marriage that much better. We might be together 24 hours a day save for pick up and drop off at school during the week, but we still need that quality time to focus on our marriage and nothing but one another. And we are so much better for it.

Did I mention all the nakedness?

Friday Favorite: Working Out to Feel Oh-So Good

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Happy Friday, babes!

Isn’t April just gorgeous? I love this time of year in Florida when the temperature is warm during the day but cool in the mornings and evenings…the open doors and windows, the late nights outside, and the fun we have with the people we love the most. Halfway through the month and the Raiford household is in a good mood. It’s been a busy but productive month, and everyone has been in such a good mood the past few weeks.

I think it has something to do with the fact that we’ve been so active, and my husband and I have been making a major effort to work out together most days. We’ve been focused a lot on working out this month just to make some healthier changes in my husband’s life. I find the time every day to exercise, but he often finds himself deep in a project with work and doesn’t move from his desk all day long.

He’s been making an effort to go running during lunch, and I’ve been joining him even on days I go to yoga first! On days I don’t have yoga, he’s been making it a point to ask me to wait to go to the gym so he can go with and work out during his lunch break. It’s been amazing challenging one another and seeing him working so hard on his health – I like it a lot.

Because I’ve been talking about it lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions in my inbox about my workouts, our workouts, and things of that nature. I thought I’d take some time to share why I love working out, what I do, and answer some of your questions.

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How often do you work out?

5-6 days a week almost every week, but never fewer than 4 days a week. I do two days a week at yoga for an hour, and the other days I spend at the gym doing a variety of things to keep my body in shape. I don’t feel good if I workout fewer than 4 days a week, and I really don’t love only getting in a four-day workout if our schedules are hectic. I love to workout daily. If I have 10 extra minutes, I will run or go to the gym and literally workout hardcore for 10 minutes – because it makes me feel better.

What do you do?

Again, two days of yoga – but it’s not regularly yoga. My instructor is hardcore, and she pushes us. Our yoga class usually involves 20-30 minutes of challenging stretches and core workouts on the floor and another 30 minutes of sun salutations made exceptionally challenging. Most of us are sweating, panting, and in LOVE with her classes. I’m challenged hardcore each and every class, and I love it.

The rest of the week I hit the gym. I use the weight machines for 10-15 minutes, and I always do a half hour on either the treadmill or the elliptical to go with it. Lately, I’ve been running with Craig. I’m not a runner, so I’m learning, but it’s been surprisingly easy. I guess I’m in shape because I don’t feel like I’m dying. Yesterday I did 2 miles in 20 minutes without stopping or slowing down. I’m slow, but I literally just started running a week ago!

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How do you find the motivation?

Listen, I’m not motivated to get up and add something else to my schedule every day. Our kids have hectic schedules, I have a business to run, and my husband and I can’t always get our schedules to line up. However, I always find the motivation to feel good. I motivate myself by reminding myself how good I feel and how much I love the energy I have when I exercise. That’s my motivation. Additionally, I’m vain enough to realize that I’ve been pregnant three times and given birth to four kids and I have a great body – and I like that.

How do you make exercise more fun?

I don’t do things I don’t like. It’s pretty simple. If I try something and I don’t like it, I don’t do it. For example, I *HATE* Bodypump, so I don’t go to that class. I also find that I don’t care much for Spin – though I think I could change my mind about that one. Exercise is fun when it’s something I enjoy. Yoga, for instance, is my favorite. I also love to work out on machines that allow me to challenge myself. I always want to go further, faster, and better than I did the last time.

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I find challenges make me love working out. Lately, I’ve been running with my husband. I’m not as fast as he is, but I find that I’m more willing to run longer and without stopping when he’s there. I mean, I don’t want to be the first one to stop, so I push myself to keep going when I don’t want to just so I ‘win’ because I love a good, healthy competition. We have fun together, so that makes it fun.

I also wear fun workout gear. One of my favorite things to do is find the most outrageous yoga pants possible because they make me happy. Bright colors and fun patterns certainly put me in a good mood. It’s impossible to put on a pair of bold and bright yoga pants and not feel excited about my workout. It’s simple, really.

Do you only exercise?

No. We also eat well and healthy. I’d say 90 percent of what we eat is good, but we aren’t above a great cocktail or dessert – or bacon. We just don’t eat poorly often. A typical day in our house is healthy. I, for example, eat the same thing almost every day.

Breakfast/Lunch (I cannot eat early in the morning. I’m not hungry, it gives me a stomachache, and it makes me ravenous the rest of the day if I do eat breakfast) is at 11 am: 1 orange, half cup of Greek yogurt with fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and a quarter cup Publix granola from the produce section (omg, it’s so good), 2 scrambled eggs.

Snack is at 2ish: A tablespoon of creamy peanut butter with a teaspoon of tiny chocolate chips.

Dinner is around 5:30 pm: Always a baked chicken, fresh salmon, or filet Friday with double veggies and no starches. We find a way to make our favorite unhealthy foods healthier, too. Craig makes a killer homemade pizza on a thin crust, we love healthy chicken piccata, and any wheat pasta with roasted veggies on top is my favorite.

I find that eating later in the morning means I’m actually hungry, and it curbs my appetite the rest of the day. I also drink like 89 cups of water a day – and black coffee all morning.

{We ran a 5k with our 9-year-old daughter last weekend. The first picture is us with her after we finished. She walked and ran the mile, we both ran the 5k. It was my first time running a 5k (I’ve walked plenty of them…) and I finished in 35 minutes. The second picture is my husband and I before the run….and right after I put my arm around him and asked him to take a photo only to realize I put my arm around a teenage boy and got awfully comfortable with him because Craig had walked away! It was hilarous, and now he’s our new friend, and he snapped this picture!}

At the end of the day…

I am not an expert or a health professional or a coach or whatever. However, I do love to work out and I do get a lot of questions, so I’m just answering them and hopefully motivating someone to get up and get moving.

My main goal is to stay healthy and look great. I love to feel great, and I want to be sure my husband is as healthy as possible so I can keep him longer. We’re celebrating 13 years of marriage next month and 17 years together this year….and I want to multiply the amazing years we’ve had already by a million. If I can’t get him healthier and I can’t stay healthy, that might be a challenge.

I love to exercise because I love how I feel. I love being in a good mood. I love being stress-free, and I love feeling more relaxed and energized. I also love that I like how I feel in my clothes, and I love never being ashamed of putting on a two-piece and going in public. I just like feeling good.

 

**When I don’t want to work out or stop my work-flow, I remind myself that I’m going to be furious with myself later if I don’t work out. I’m always right, and I always feel amazing after a workout. Being strong is so important. 

***One of the best things about working out with your spouse, too, is how good it feels to challenge one another. It’s good for you. 

FAQs: Answering a Few of the Most Commonly Asked Questions I Get On Instagram

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Hey, y’all! Happy Wednesday…and happy cooler weather, Floridians! I’m so happy to have this gorgeous 70-degree high situation back in my life. This weekend was spectacular – and in more ways that one. We had a house full of kids and family all weekend, and we got to spend a child-free night being treated like VIPs with 10 of our very best friends all night long. It included a party bus (with a bathroom on board, which is always perfection), a suite at an Orlando Magic Game, and entirely too much fun.

Did you know flossing is more than just what you do after you brush?! #funfact

I don’t know if it’s because I’m trying to use Instagram Stories more often these days or what, but I’m getting so many more questions that I usually get via DM on Insta, and I thought I might take a moment to answer a few of them. When I start to notice a few of the same questions come through over and over, I try to just address them publicly so it’s a little easier than sending dozens of the same replies.

So….here we go.

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  1. Are all four of your kids yours?

Yes! I don’t really know why I get this question so many times, but I’ve had a few “you look too young to have four kids,” “do you have a blended family,” and even once or twice, “it’s just so uncommon to see a couple with four kids who all belong to the same two parents,” in the DMs lately. Yes, all four kids belong to me and to my husband – together. We will celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary in two months, and we will have a 10-year-old as of July. Our Ava turns 7 this month, and our twins turn 4 this month. They’re all ours.

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  1. What would you say is your personal style definition?

Lazy chic. Honestly. I’m lazy. I have four kids. I have a business to run. I have a husband and a house and the kids have about 7679377 extracurricular activities, and I still like sleep. So I like to go for lazy, but I’ll call it classic simplicity. I love fashion, but I like to spend as little time in the morning as possible figuring out what to wear. I’m a uniform kind of girl. Give me a Lilly Pulitzer shift and a pair of Tory Burch sandals and I’m dressed for the summer. Give me skinny jeans and a tunic with a pair of heels, and I’m dressed the rest of the year. I have a uniform – and I’m okay with that.

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  1. A lot of what you link is really expensive. How do you decide what to splurge on and what to save on?

Style is very personal, and that’s what makes it so amazing. I like a good mixture of high and low-end pieces. I’m not a very trendy person – and that’s all right – but I do love classics. I spend a lot on the basics: jeans, LBDs, shoes, and handbags – and sunglasses. Anything not designed to last a lifetime, I don’t spend a lot on. Maxi dresses, rompers, tee shirts, tunics, and things like that don’t get much of my money.

I do spend a lot on certain pieces, but they are pieces that last a lifetime. Much of what I wear are things I’ve had 3, 5, 10, 12 years and still wear/carry like it’s brand-new because quality is ALWAYS better than quantity. I don’t consider the staples or classics a waste. It’s personal.

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  1. What’s your workout routine?

Simple – I move my body. I belong to my local YMCA, and I stop by three mornings a week after I drop the kids off at school. Those days I do a mixture of cardio and weights. I prefer machines like the elliptical or treadmill, and I always look up different challenging 30-minute routines on Pinterest to make each work out different and challenging.

Two days a week I go home for a few hours to work and then I head back to the Y for an hour-long yoga class. I love and adore my yoga classes – they are amazing. I feel so good, so strong, and so amazing afterward! If I can’t make it to the gym one day, I just run a mile through our neighborhood. I hate to run, so that’s always my motivation to get to the gym when I don’t feel like it!

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  1. How are you so thin even though you have four kids?

Honestly, I think it’s a combination of good genes and my diet. I don’t ‘diet’ per say. I just like to eat healthy. I have an occasional sweet tooth I don’t deny, but 90% of the time we just eat healthy. We like our meals very simple, very filled with fresh ingredients, and very healthy. We season and bake those small chicken breast cutlets (maybe tenders? Publix, what do you call them?) we buy in the meat department and then roast some broccoli and add a salad or something for most meals. We do different variations of things like that most nights.

During the day, I love Greek yogurt with a lot of fruit and a little granola, oranges are my go-to snack (Well, cuties…I can’t eat an entire orange because it’s too big!) and I will have a spoonful of peanut butter with a few little chocolate chips on them if I need some energy or just want something sweet. We don’t eat a lot of red meat – just filet – and I can probably count on one hand how many times a year we have a starch or bread side with dinner at home. We double up on our veggies.

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  1. What size are you and how tall are you?

I am *almost* 5’3, but that really surprises people. I wear heels 90% of the time, so I always seem taller to people until they see me in flats for the first time – and then they’re shocked. My size depends on what I wear as well as the designer.

  • I wear size 25 jeans
  • I wear an XS top
  • I wear size 37.5 or 38 shoe (it depends heavily on the designer and the style)
  • Dresses are either size 2 or XS

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  1. Are your kids active?

Yes! Well, Addison is. She keeps us busy. Ava tried some sports, didn’t like any of them, and prefers to read and write and create art. Charlotte and Carter aren’t four yet (next week!) so we’ve missed being able to sign them up for anything, though they will start playing tee ball in the fall. Addison, however, needs to be active all the time.

She’s in running club two mornings a week before school. She takes a gymnastics class, two advanced tumbling classes, three dance classes (lyrical, hip hop, and ballet), and she’s a competitive cheerleader. Her gym closed last year when the season was over, but a new gym is beginning a competitive squad this summer, so she’ll take that back up in a few months.

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  1. You’re always saying your husband is super hands-on, but is he really?

Yes! I always say he’s the best mom I know! He is SUPER hands-on, and I kind of hate to even call it that. He does 99% of the laundry, he packs the kids’ lunches, he makes their breakfast and gets them dressed for school, and he cleans up any messes along the way throughout the day. He cooks, he cleans, he gives baths, he does homework. He just does whatever needs doing when it needs doing. He’s a dream, and we make a really good team!

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  1. You have a lot of date nights. How do you get away with that?

We have my parents and my mother-in-law all very close to us, and we just ask. They love the kids, and they know having four kids is a handful, so they’re always happy to help. If they’re not free, they’ll offer an alternative night instead. It’s a great situation, the kids get to spend time with their grandparents all the time, and everyone is super happy. We try for date night every other week, and we mostly succeed.

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  1. How do you travel with your kids?

It takes about a day of packing to pack for a family of 6 and get it all right – and that’s the worst part. We’ve never not traveled with them. They’ve been flying, staying in hotels, and traveling since they were all born, so they just know how it’s done. They are well-behaved, too. They might have their moments at home or whatever, but they know the expectation in public, and they know how to behave at dinner, on a plane, in the airport, whatever. I think it’s just so second-nature to them. We also make sure they have plenty of snacks, coloring books, books, and other activities to keep them occupied in their own carry-ons so they’re never bored.

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  1. You don’t share a lot of photos of your kids on IG. Why not?

I use Instagram primarily for business purposes. It’s where I post collaborations, outfit of the day photos, and where I share my blog. I share pictures of the kids on occasion, but it’s a very public platform so you won’t see much about them. I use Facebook for my family. It’s private, and it’s where I share stories and pictures of the kids. Although, I’m a little bad about that because I don’t really use Facebook unless I remember I have some photos I want to share with my family or I’m with friends and everyone is tagging me in photos – then I remember!

  1. Where do you shop?

Online. Believe it or not, I don’t love shopping in person. I really don’t have much time to shop in a store, and most of the stores I like aren’t anywhere near me. I also find I become easily annoyed going navigating the layout in any store when I could literally just filter my search online and have all of exactly what I’m looking for in under 3 seconds – and without needing to put on pants or a bra.

As for where I shop, I’m simple. It’s either from Lily Pulizter, or it’s from Nordstrom. I rarely shop elsewhere, mostly because I don’t know how things will fit, or I’ve had to return one too many things because it’s just not what I wanted when it arrived. Nordstrom and Lily keep my game strong, though I do love Bloomingdales and Saks, too.

35 Things You Don’t Know About My Husband (The Man Behind the Scenes of Every Instagram Photo and Blog Post) in Honor of His 35th Birthday

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A Thursday blog post must mean something special is going on.

It is.

It’s the eve of the very handsome Mr. Raiford’s 35th birthday, and I love celebrating his birthday. He’s the best person I know, and I have no shame celebrating him daily. He’s the kind of man you can’t help but love, and everyone does. I’m almost positive they tolerate me only because they want more of him!

Tomorrow Craig turns 35, and this will be the 17th birthday I’ve had the good fortune to celebrate with him. We met on a kind-of blind date when we were 18. He was a freshman in college, and I was a senior in high school. I went home and broke up with my boyfriend that night because I knew this guy was The One.

And if you ask Raiford, I’m always right. Except when I’m not.

Turns out, I was right. We were engaged a year and-a-half later, married two years after that, planned our wedding, went to school, and built our first house all at the same time. We got married in 2005, and we’re going to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary this year. We have four beautiful but sometimes annoying kids, some bad days, a lot of really good days, and some serious magic. And I wouldn’t trade a second.

Craig is the man behind our family, the man who will do anything for anyone, and he is the man behind the camera and my blog. I talk about him a lot (well, we have fun together so why not?) and I thought I’d share 35 things you didn’t know about the man who is always happy to stand behind the scenes of not just me but our four kids and cheer us on, support us, and take care of us. But be careful because you’ll end up falling just a little bit in love with him, too.

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  1. He is an amazing cook, and he really loves to spend time in the kitchen. He loves to try new recipes and make new things – and he’s really, really good in the kitchen.
  2. He’s cuddly. When the alarm goes off at 5 am, he grabs me and pulls me as close as he can to him and won’t let me up until he’s had a few moments like that. It’s my favorite part of the day.
  3. He’s the one who wanted kids. I wasn’t sure. I like them, but I wasn’t sure I really wanted them. To be mostly honest, I still feel that way four deep! (Jokes, people, jokes)
  4. He went to every single doctor appointment I had during all three of my pregnancies. He never missed one and refused to miss one even when I told him he didn’t have to go. He wanted to.
  5. He never left my side in the hospital when any of our four kids were born unless I sent him out for something to eat when our visitors were gone for the night

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  1. He will do anyone for anything. Whatever you need, he’s going to help you no matter what. Sometimes this makes me a little crazy because he’s so bad at saying no, but it’s just who he is at the core of things.
  2. He’s funny. This man makes me laugh regularly.
  3. He’s the best daddy. I can talk about this forever and ever. He is the bath-giver, the diaper changer, the boo-boo fixer, the homework helper, the best hugger. The kids love him so much more than they love me, but I can’t even be mad about it because he’s just so good with them.
  4. Nothing irritates him as much as hearing another father call it “babysitting” when his wife goes somewhere and leaves him home with the kids. He believes that’s called parenting. And he’s right.
  5. He might hear half of what I say. But I’m long-winded, and only about half of what I have to say is even remotely interesting or halfway intelligent the way I ramble – so he’s good.

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  1. He always brings me flowers. Even though I buy three or four dozen flowers a week to keep in our house, he still brings me flowers every time he goes out, and he still sends me flowers periodically even though we have so many all the time.
  2. He dates me regularly. He plans a sitter, makes dinner reservations, and he takes me out. He even makes sure the kids don’t come into the bathroom and interrupt me while I get ready so it feels like a real date.
  3. He always opens the door for me and any other woman or child.
  4. He’s a serious gentleman.
  5. He doesn’t yell. Like…ever. He talks loudly when he gets excited or when we’re watching football, but I can’t get this man to engage with me when I’m in a total bitch mode no matter how hard I try. He just doesn’t yell.

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  1. He hates to read. His one flaw.
  2. He doesn’t snore, but he breathes loudly when he sleeps. So I guess that’s two flaws.
  3. He cleans his ears every single day. I think this is weird. Is this weird? Or am I weird? Anyone?
  4. I think he might think I’m a little bit crazy with my obsessive need for total cleanliness in our home and in my car all the time, but he never says a word about it. He just grabs the vacuum every night and runs it over all the rugs, and he grabs the ShopVac and vacuums out my car anytime we take the kids anywhere.
  5. He loves to stick Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the freezer and share them with me when they freeze.
  1. He doesn’t love it when I use too many tomatoes in any recipe.
  2. The twins love the go upstairs at bedtime and hide from daddy every single night in the exact same places. He waits patiently downstairs until they’ve had time to hide, walks up, pretends he can’t see them, and feigns sheer terror when they jump out and scream boo. They giggle like crazy every single time, and he never lets them down.
  3. He packs all the school lunches.
  4. He is the calm, cool, collected person in our marriage.
  5. He drives slow, he’s not aggressive, and 90% of our arguments start in the car when he won’t pass someone or tailgate them or he stops me from leaning over him to lay on the horn and make obscene gestures at them.

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  1. He has such amazing work ethic. He is dedicated to his job, and he loves what he does. He spent 15 years with a bank, and he fell out of love with his job when the bank merged with another. He was offered a new job almost 2 years ago allowing him to work 100% from home from a company he had business dealings with for many years, and he took it. I’ve never seen this man as happy as he’s been since he began working with this company. He is so good at what he does, and he never lets a problem go until he’s able to fix it for his customers.
  2. He’s so book smart. Sometimes his common sense takes a quick vacation, though. Don’t worry – I utilize every possible opportunity to give him a hard time and make fun of him when he does things like wonder why we are standing in a long line of people to take the stairs from the 11th floor of a hotel rather than the empty elevator when the fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night. 😊
  3. He’d prefer to be outside 100% of the time whenever possible, especially if it’s with the kids.
  4. He and I have the exact same travel taste, and he’s the best person to travel with.
  5. He is the man behind the phrase, “Never marry a man unless you’d be proud to have a son just like him,”. He is the most amazing example to our son, and to our daughters. He’s kind, loving, patient, generous, respectful. He’s such a good role model.
  1. He rarely gets dressed. He wore a shirt and tie for 15 years with the bank. Now he’s in an Under Armour shirt and shorts all day everyday unless we leave the house. It’s his favorite part of life.
  2. He does all the laundry in our house.
  3. He makes the best filet mignon ever. We have filet Friday in our house (unless we have plans Friday and it’s Filet Sunday) and he does the most spectacular job. I can’t even order filet when we go anywhere anymore because it’s always a disappointment in comparison.
  4. He is a diehard Florida Gator. He’s never missed a game, win, lose, out of the continental United States 6 hours behind in Hawaii watching a 3 pm game at 9 am…when we’re good, when we are bad, he’s a diehard.
  5. He has to buy all of his own shoes. His feet are like 8 different sizes depending on what brand, what type, and what style shoe he’s wearing. Even he can’t figure out size he wears without trying things on.

Now you know my sweet husband a little better. If you’re still not sure who he is, just know he is the nicest person you’ll ever meet. He’s the guy who stands outside in the freezing cold in shorts and a tee shirt and no shoes to get the perfect OOTD picture for my Instagram feed. He’s the guy who never misses an opportunity to throw the football with our son and our daughters or sit down and watch Wheel of Fortune with our two oldest while letting them solve the puzzles first because they get so excited.

That’s the guy I married – and I love every sweet, kind, annoying, frustrating, funny, strange, amazing thing about him. Happy Birthday, love. Thank you for picking me to be the girl you spend all your birthdays with.

Working from Home: Answering FAQs About the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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{Photo: Her Creative Studio)

If you follow me on Instastories, you may have noticed I posted a story last week of me sitting in my dining room with my laptop, iPad, and notes working away after being forced out of my home office in annoyance. In fact, I know you noticed because I receive so many DMs about it. Rather than try and answer all of them individually (especially since so many of them were the same questions) I thought I’d rearrange my blog schedule and add a little work from home FAQ in here today.

I hope you’re all enjoying your last day of a long three-day weekend! Our weekend was gorgeous. Lots of quality time at home on Saturday before date night Saturday night, and we spent yesterday with the kids at Disney. They had a blast, the weather was cool and gorgeous, and it was a pretty sweet day.

Today, we’re back in our office working hard while the kids run rampant around the house like animals. Actually, they mostly play quietly together aside from the “Can I have a snack?” break they take every 30 seconds or so. I’ll cut my day short in my office this morning around 10, which gives me a solid four hours or so to work and the rest of the day to keep the kids happy. I have some errands to run, we have dinner with friends tonight, and prep for the kids to go back to school tomorrow to handle, so short day for mama.

And now that I’m completely off topic, you’re bored. It’s cool. No one thinks the mundane life of Publix runs and gym time and kid stuff is as interesting as the actual person handling it – and honestly, I’m not super entertained by it myself right now. So back to the work-from-home stuff. You have questions, I have answers.

  1. What do you do and what does your husband do?

I’ll start with me, since I’m the writer and, well, ladies first. I’m a writer. No, not a book author. I have the blog, but what I do is web content creation. I’ve been doing it almost 10 years now, and I’ve been building a client list that’s extensive over the course of that time.

I write a little of everything. There were a few years I wrote parenting articles for What to Expect. There were a few years I worked with the NFL traveling to NYC to their offices every few months to work with a panel of other creators on the Heads Up Program. However, most of my clients are either website owners looking for me to create their content.

Most of my clients are automobile dealers, insurance companies, law firms, dental offices, rehab facilities, limo companies, television spoilers, plumbing and HVAC companies, and even a few landscape design companies. They’re located all over the country. I write their landing pages, their blog posts, and anything else they contract me to write. My blog is my creative outlet, and I really enjoy my clients.

What does my husband do? That is a good question. I honestly don’t have a damn clue. His official title is Senior Systems Engineer. He works for a company based out of Tampa, and he sits quietly at his desk all day long working away doing God-knows-what and talking on the phone using language I don’t understand. I understand so very little of what he actually does I can say, “Sounds like a rough day,” and he’ll be like, “What? No, it’s been a great day. So productive,” and I’m over here thinking if his day was my day, I’d have scratched my eyes out by now. But he loves it, he’s super smart, and he’s a total geek.

He’s been doing this since 2016. Before that, he was IT for a bank for 16 years. He’s loyal. He works hard, and he’s smart. He’s also never been happier than he has been working from home, interrupting me constantly with his loud phone calls, and occasionally glaring at me when the doorbell rings again because another package has been delivered.

If you asked me what’s hard about him being home working with me, it’s that. He is unimpressed our UPS and Fed Ex guys know my name, and how many times a week they’re here. But, he doesn’t ask questions. And I’m totally off topic again.

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  1. How do you work together in the same office all day?

Most days we work really well together and there’s no problem. Occasionally, however, I find myself kicking myself out of our office (um, sometimes I like to point out that I’m self-exiling myself from MY home office that he crashed considering I’ve been working from home almost ten years and he’s been here like 2, but only when I’m really annoyed and potentially a little petty) to work elsewhere.

Sometimes it’s just because I’m a creative person, and a change of scene is good for me. I might work on the front porch, on the lanai, in bed, in the family room, the dining room, the back deck. I might even take my computer and go work out of the house if I’m really feeling distracted or in a rut. Other times I just have to get out of the office because there are a few clients my husband speaks to on the phone that must speak very loudly, because suddenly his indoor voice disappears and his conversations are loud. I can shoot him the same, “Shhh,” warning look I use on the kids, and it works just as well; sheepishly quiet for a second and then back to decibels that make my ears bleed. He can’t help it, though.

He feeds off whomever it is he’s speaking to. If he’s speaking to his dad on the weekends or at night, he develops his dad’s North Carolina accent. If he’s speaking to a client with a naturally loud and boisterous voice, he’s also loud and boisterous. And sometimes that drives me nuts, but most of the time I’m cool with it.

To get back to actually providing a useful answer to the question; we work well together. He works for someone else, I work for myself, so we don’t do the same thing. I work. He works. We are both workaholics, and we both focus hard on our work.

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{Photo: Her Creative Studio}

  1. Don’t you get sick of one another being together all day every day?

Nope. It’s kind of hard to get sick of someone you don’t actually speak to all day long. Again, we do different things. I need to concentrate because I’m writing, and my train of thought is going at a rapid pace. He’s on the phone, he’s on the computer, on conference calls, whatever. Believe it or not, we communicate less now that our desks are in the same room only 10 feet apart than we did when he worked at the bank 45 minutes away from our home.

In those days, he’d text me throughout the day to tell me he loved me, to see how my day is going, to check in, whatever. I’d respond. We’d chat. Now we can see how one another’s day is going, we’re 10 feet apart all day long, and we don’t text throughout the day anymore. We keep strict schedules and we both love what we do, so we’re working.

“I love you, be safe,” “I love you back,” “Do you need anything from Publix?” “Can I get you another cup of coffee while I’m up?” “Oh, look, Fedex/UPS is here. Again,”

Those are kind of the only words we speak to one another throughout the day. We do try to make time to take a walk and have lunch together most days for a little fresh air and quality time, and we’re good about it most days. It’s nice, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the day.

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{Photo: Her Creative Studio}

  1. Do you work the same hours?

Kind of and not really. We do, but we don’t. Again, he does not work for himself, so he technically works certain hours throughout the day from 8 to 5 where I work when my creative juices are flowing most freely. I’m exceptionally motivated and most creative in the morning. I’m a morning person, so I’m up at five working while he and the kids sleep. My husband is amazing handling the lunch packing, school-readying, and the kids in the mornings so I can work uninterrupted until it’s time to leave the house at 8 to get all four of them to school.

One of my biggest complaints as a work-from-home mom for the 8 years I did this before he started working from home was missing out on my most creative work time to get everyone fed and dressed and take to school. When he began working from home, he offered to take that over so I could have that time to work in the mornings. It’s been amazing, and he so appreciates everything I’ve ever done handling that part of the day on his own. Mornings with four kids are exhausting. More accurately, they’re a bitch.

While he works all day, I’m in and out. I handle anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 words per day, though I try not to schedule myself more than 15,000 words per day most days. I only need five to six hours a day to work to meet my deadlines, get my life in order, and answer emails, and update my checklists and calendars. So my day looks a little different.

I leave at 8:15ish to take the kids to school. Three days a week I’m home around 10 because I go to the YMCA to work out in the gym after dropping them off at their respective schools and I work the rest of the day. Two days a week I’m home by 9:10, back at my desk until 10:50 and then I leave for yoga. I’m back by 12:10, and we have lunch, I’m back to my desk by 1, and I work nonstop until it’s time to leave at 3:20 to pick the kids up. He’s at his desk all day unless we take lunch together and walk. I’m in and out.

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{Photo: Her Creative Studio}

  1. Do you really work all day or do you find yourself doing other things because I’d never get anything done if I worked from home?

Let me be clear; working from home is not for everyone. You must be disciplined. Craig works for someone else, so he has hours he needs to work – and he does not leave his desk unless he needs another cup of coffee or he is getting something to eat or we are taking lunch together. I work for myself, so my schedule is definitely flexible, but I also have a rigid schedule working around the kids and working out. We aren’t distracted.

We are surprisingly good at not allowing things to distract us. We’re in our office, so we can’t see the rest of the house to be distracted. We have no television in our office. We are tidy people, so there’s nothing that needs our attention throughout the house. We keep the laundry done every day, dishes are washed as they’re used or put in the dishwasher, the kids pick up their things before they go to school. Everything is always clean, so there’s nothing to distract us.

I don’t have to be in my office all day long, but I have contracts with my clients. I’m paid not only by word, but also by the quality of my content as well as my ability to meet all my deadlines. If I take time off during the day, I’m making it up that night. I don’t love that, so I don’t do that often. I don’t get vacation or sick days. We love to travel and do so often, but I’m working double, nights, weekends, skipping my workouts, and even cancelling other plans to get work done so we can travel, and I don’t have to take my computer with.

Running a business is a 24/7 job, but I love it. I’m disciplined like you would not believe, and so is Craig. It takes serious work ethic to get up at 5 am every morning and get into your office even when you don’t ‘have’ to. I try so hard not to work at night or on the weekends so I can spend that time with my family and keep a healthy work/life balance, but it’s almost always impossible. I love what I do, so it’s hard for me to put it down.

  1. What’s the worst thing about working from home?

Um…I want to eat all day. That’s a struggle. The biggest struggle is other people. I think it’s hard for some people to understand that our jobs are no different than theirs other than we’re doing it from home rather than from someone else’s office, so we are not free all day long. We can’t just stop what we are doing to answer the door for people and let them kill an hour because they’re between appointments and have nothing else to do, or help them with their errands, or whatever. I get it, but it’s an interruption of our workday. We both have calls, we both have deadlines, we both have things we need to have done at a certain time during the day; and we can’t just stop. It’s hard to explain that to people (and I’m sitting here waiting on a call from my mom asking me if it’s her…it is).

The other problem is days off of school. When the kids don’t have school on a day like today and they’re all home – struggle. It’s hard when it’s two kids, but it’s impossible when it’s all four. I usually have to find a creative way to get things done all day while they’re home, and it’s a problem. Love them, but omg.

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  1. Why do you get dressed every day if you don’t have to?

All right – so, yes, I do get dressed every day. Craig – nope. He’s gone from suit and tie for 16 years to basically wearing nothing but basketball shorts and tees all day long unless we’re going somewhere and he puts on real clothes. I get dressed every morning. Even on mornings I work out right after dropping the kids off, I still put on real clothes when I go pick the kids up. I just don’t feel comfortable leaving the house without dressing. I love fashion, I love to look nice, and I never leave the house without hair and makeup. I don’t love the way I feel when my hair and makeup are not done, and I find it puts me in a bad mood if I feel sloppy or lazy.

But in the interest of being transparent, I don’t leave my clothes on all day. If you see me on Instagram in the morning with a pair of five-inch Manolos on my feet, it’s because that’s what I’m wearing that day. I’m not dishonest about my OOTD posts, but I’m not in it all day. I’m literally naked about three seconds after I walk in the door until I can get to the bathroom to get my robe. I’m in my robe all day long working. Clothes on the leave the house, robe the rest of the day. It’s my jam, and I’m not ashamed of that.

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  1. Are you totally crazy in the house all the time?

No! Are you kidding me? I would literally never leave my house if I didn’t have to leave my house. I’m a total recluse. The real struggle for me is making myself leave. I get to so comfortable at home, and I never want to leave. I love our home so much, and I just want to stay home and enjoy it. But…I force myself to leave the house so we can keep a healthy balance for the kids and for ourselves.

  1. Does your marriage struggle because you work together, you live together, you spend all your time together?

Not at all! Do you know how hard it is to be unhappy when you both love what you do and when your husband is so happy? He loves his job so much, and he is so happy not missing out on all the things he missed out on before. He spent 15 years driving an hour to work, an hour home from work, not seeing the kids before he left in the morning and seeing them for less than an hour at night when he got home.

We passed one another in the night three or four nights a week because of the kids and their practice schedules, and date nights weren’t so frequent because while we loved them, Craig had so little time with the kids and it was so hard for me to expect him to spend more time away from them. He was stressed about it, I was stressed about it; that’s gone now. No commute means signing off at 5 pm and getting to go outside with the kids and ride bikes, talk the golf cart out, play in the yard, and just spend time together. It’s so much better living this life without those stresses. He’s happier, I’m happier, the kids LOVE it. It’s good.

There you have it. For us, it’s what’s good. It’s not something that will work for everyone, and that’s what makes us all so cool. We can do what works for us and live the lives we want. Working from home is a challenge, but I can’t imagine living any other way.