Romantic Weekend at the Vinoy

Happy Tuesday, loves!

I had the best weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe next year, honey!

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

Go…and don’t invite anyone else

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

Go…and pick somewhere you’ve never been

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

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

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

Go…and don’t feel guilty

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

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

Go…and have fun

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

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

Do you get away with your love regularly?

 

Helpful Links

blackened chicken tacos from Paul’s Landing 

room service and dinner from Marchands Bar and Grill

Couple’s Massage at the Vinoy Salon and Day Spa

sleeveless blue and white Lilly Pulizter Dress 

Lilly Pulitzer wrap dress

White Manolo Blahnik pumps

Black Givenchy Square Sunglasses

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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.

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.

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.

1

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!

2

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.

6

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.