A Beautiful Smile Made Simple with Smile Brilliant

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Growing older is exciting, and I should know. I just turned 36, and I’ve never felt more confident, happier, or more beautiful in my life. Growing older doesn’t scare me, but that’s because my grandmother – who is as beautiful as ever even after a century of living – taught me that there are two things that make you beautiful no matter how old you get.

Your smile and your attitude.

Attitude is easy; be kind, be grateful, and seek the good in life.

My smile is just as easy; brush, floss, visit the dentist twice a year, and find the right toothbrush. Finally, after 36 years, I’ve finally found the perfect toothbrush to give me the most beautiful smile. It’s the cariPRO Ultrasonic electric toothbrush from Smile Brilliant, and it’s everything. What makes it different from all the other electric toothbrushes on the market is that I actually love it, it doesn’t make my sensitive gums hurt, and I didn’t bleed even once (you guys, I can make my own gums bleed brushing my own teeth with a regular toothbrush).

Why I love it

An electric toothbrush that throws 40,000 vibrations at you every minute is amazing. Not only that, but this is one electric toothbrush that works for you by pausing momentarily every 30 seconds to ensure you know it’s time to switch areas in your mouth. Every area gets the same time, attention, and fabulous cleaning with this helpful feature. Oh – and did I mention the battery lasts 30 days when it’s fully charged? This is great for someone like me who doesn’t like clutter on the bathroom counters and forgets to charge it every night (out of sight, out of mind, right?). It was also a relief when my husband and I spent four days in New York City this past weekend I realized I never put the charger in my carry-on!

My favorite thing, however, is the five brush modes. I’ve tried them all – several times – and my favorite is “White”. I promise you I can see a difference in the mornings after I’ve had three cups of coffee and brush my teeth before I walk out the door to take my littles to school. The other four modes include:

  • Clean
  • Massage
  • Gum care
  • Sensitive

I love all four, but what I really love is that I find I don’t need the sensitive mode as much as I thought I would. With such sensitive teeth and gums, I worried I wouldn’t use any of the other modes because I’d need the sensitive mode, but it’s not true for me. I can use all of them with the same great feeling, less stress, and no sensitivity. Every mode is amazing, and you might find yourself wanting to keep brushing just to use all of them at the same time!

It’s professional teeth cleaning from home (please continue to see your dentist every six months or sooner, if necessary, to ensure your teeth and gums are as healthy as possible). Even better, though, is that I can multitask by brushing in the shower when I’m running behind – I do have four little ones, you know – because the cariPRO is completely waterproof.

I’ve used a few electric toothbrushes in the past, but I’ve never been overly impressed. My teeth are sensitive, and the other electric brushes I’ve used caused bleeding and additional sensitivity. I never felt I was getting any more of a ‘clean’ feeling than I did with the brush my dentist gifts me at the end of every appointment, so I always used them, put them aside, and moved on from them. The cariPRO, however, has changed the game for me. I’m excited to brush my teeth every day, and I’m not worried about hurting myself or causing additional stress to my mouth. It’s such a refreshing change! And it’s affordable, too, starting at only $119 ($199 for a set of two if you and your spouse both want to have the best smile…it makes for great kissing!).

Oral Health Care is so Important

Now that I’ve shared with you the million and one things I love about my new cariPro, I wanted to make sure you know that your oral health is the most important thing you can pay attention to as you age. Now that I’m 36, I get what my grandmother was saying. Being happy and having a beautiful smile keeps my looking youthful, but it also keeps me healthy.

Good oral health care is directly related to good overall health. Using the cariPRO and visiting my dentist every six months helps me improve my chances of living a long, healthy, youthful life that extends far behind just having a beautiful smile thanks to my healthy, white teeth. Good oral health care decreases my risk of developing periodontal and gum disease. Did you know both of these oral health problems can cause an increased risk of developing certain health issues, such as cancer, endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, and pregnancy complications such as low birth weight and premature birth?

I don’t know about you, but having a beautiful smile and a decreased risk of developing serious health problems as I get older is all I need to know to keep me brushing, flossing, and visiting my dentist. It’s also why I am so excited to partner with Smile Brilliant to offer one of my readers/followers a chance to win your very own cariPRO Ultrasonic electric toothbrush! Here’s how to enter my giveaway to win your very own cariPRO Ultrasonic electric toothbrush.

The winner will be randomly chosen and notified shortly!

If you don’t win your own cariPRO Ultrasonic, don’t stress – you can get 20% off your own by visiting https://www.smilebrilliant.com#tiffanyraiford and entering promo code “20TIFFANYRAIFORD” at checkout.

For more information about my new favorite toothbrush, visit https://www.smilebrilliant.com/frequentlyaskedquestions#tiffanyraiford to learn more.

PS: I’ll be sending Santa my promo code so he can make sure everyone in my house gets their own cariPRO in their stocking on Christmas morning…what better gift than the gift of a beautiful smile and a healthy life?

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36 Things I’ve Learned to Celebrate Turning 36

Thirty-six.

I woke up Monday morning after a late night of fun with my husband and some friends, dining at my favorite restaurant in the world (Il Tinello) in my favorite hotel room at the Omni Berkshire in NYC. Room service had already delivered my coffee, my husband had gifts waiting for me, and it was glorious to sleep in, wake up at my own discretion, and spend the morning doing nothing in particular.

I took a walk down Fifth Avenue and picked up another birthday gift at Tiffany & Co. I watched the opening of the doors at FAO Schwartz so I could run in and grab my little loves a few gifts to bring home. I had breakfast with my people in the hotel restaurant, and I toasted my birthday with mimosas. It was 60 degrees, it felt so much like fall, and it was sheer perfection following three days of NYC fun.

It was such a good weekend, but I was so excited to board our late flight and get home to my babies for some birthday love. And rest. I needed some rest. I mean, guys, I’m 36 now. Even if I did stay up late all weekend like I was only 21, I was feeling it at that point. As I sat on my flight listening to the pilot ask us to remain seated as we flew off and on through some storms for a marginally shaky ride home, I realized a few things I wanted to share in honor of my 36th birthday. Thirty-six things I’ve learned in the past year.

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  1. Every year is such a good year in my life, and I’m so fortunate. I get to end every year of my life with the realization that it really was better than the year before, which was already amazing, and that gets to be my every day. I love that.
  2. My son asks a ton of questions about every single thing, and it might be the most obnoxious thing in the world.
  3. I could never work for someone else. I love the freedom of working for myself. I love being able to get up and go, pick up and leave, and travel when I want. I would lose my mind if I had to ask permission to take a day off or travel, or if I had to arrange my schedule around other people (my kids don’t count). I like being my own boss, and I’ll never work for another person and lose my freedom.
  4. I lost a lot of my ‘free time’ this year, and I’ve realized it was not ‘free time’ and I do need that time to get things done. I’ve lost 21 hours a week because I have to pick my middle school daughter up much earlier than the little kids in elementary school. I’m leaving my house a full hour and 45 minutes a day earlier than I did when they were all in elementary school, and I’m losing a lot of time. I’ve also given about 5.5 hours a week to my kids’ cheer teams as a coach this year, and I’m also losing about 3 hours a week in the after school car line because it’s so long this year, and I’m losing valuable work time in the morning because my husband takes our daughter to middle school and I’m spending that time breaking up arguments between my kids and my nephew – who I take to school every morning. I’m really struggling without that time.
  5. I really dislike being hot. (is summer EVER GOING TO END?????)

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  1. I love school vacations. There was a time I detested them, but now that all the kids are a little older, they’re so much more respectful of my time in my office, and they know how to behave and handle themselves so I can get my work done before we can have some fun.
  2. I don’t want my kids growing up faster than they need to. I’m seeing a lot of girls who are a little too mature for their age, and it makes me sad, scared, and worried for them. Let them be little. Let them be immature. Let them have a few more years before they’re worried about the things some of these girls are worried about.
  3. Kind people are my kind of people.
  4. People who have to say it repeatedly are doing it to convince everyone else.
  5. I like people who keep their social media pages positive. It’s not fake, it’s just better than the depressing shit that’s everywhere else. Keep up the positivity people! And for the love of all things, stop vague-booking like you’re 16 again.
  6. Working out is really important to me.
  7. I’m much nicer when I’ve had 9 hours of sleep and a good work out.
  8. My husband is really hot (I mean, I knew that, but it’s like he just gets better every year).

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  1. I’ll probably always have at least one sick kid at a time.
  2. I’ve got some severe anxiety at times.
  3. I love Botox.
  4. I worry for my kids and the things they’re exposed to sometimes. I see the way other people live their lives – and while I don’t care how other people live their lives – I hurt for their own children. They’re seeing their parents make horrible choices, and they’re teaching their kids horrible habits and those are the kids my kids are growing up with. Destructive parents raising the future of our world scares me to no end…
  5. I’ll never be the wake up and go type. I need to do my hair. I need to put make up on. I need to get dressed in something I love. I feel more confident, it’s polite, and I enjoy it.
  6. My biggest pet peeve is when people complain about their lives (their weight, their appearance, their marriage, their finances, their whatever) yet they do NOTHING to change it. Don’t complain about it if you’re not willing to get off your ass and make a change. Otherwise, you’re just complaining, and it’s unattractive.

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  1. I really have the best people in my world.
  2. Monday evenings are my favorite. They’re the only weekday evening we are home without any of the kids needing to be somewhere for sports or activities (or our beloved Wednesday night dinner tradition) and we spend that evening cooking dinner together and sitting in the formal dining room, we take a family walk, and we just spend time together. I really, really love it.
  3. My kids are all so different, and that’s what is so amazing about them.
  4. Anything can happen at any time, and everyday should be lived to its fullest potential.
  5. Fall is still my favorite.
  6. I will never get over my cleanliness OCD. I thought I might over time, but it doesn’t seem to be happening for me. My car must be spotlessly clean inside at all times. My house must be spotless at all times. I can’t stop. I just can’t.

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  1. I think messy houses are lazy. I know that’s not a popular opinion and that will offend some, but I cannot see how it’s even possible. I just can’t. I have four kids, a business, a husband, and we host people in our home at least once or twice a week, and it’s always clean. I mean, the kids bring things out of their rooms to play with and stuff, but they always put them back when they’re done, dishes are either washed or put in the dishwasher as soon as they are finished being used, and everything is easily wiped down, cleaned off, vacuumed, or mopped at the end of the day. It takes us like 15 minutes a day to keep a clean house even with all that, so I literally just cannot and do not understand how it’s possible for people to have messy houses.
  2. I hate lovebugs. I mean HATE them.\
  3. I really love the traditions in our lives.
  4. I don’t really love Amazon that much. It’s okay when I need something I can’t find locally, but otherwise, I don’t get the fuss that much.
  5. I like Target, but I don’t love Target. There, I said it.
  6. I’ve been into an Ulta one time, and I hated it. What a mess. Give me Sephora any day.

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  1. I’m a minivan mom, and I never thought I would be, and I never thought I’d want to be, but I’m so in love with it, and I’m loving it.
  2. I love rainy days so much more than sunny days – and I’m not a fan of summer.
  3. I do try so hard to hear people when they speak to me, I really do. However, I so often find myself wondering about people’s priorities when I hear them speaking. There are so many things that are just so much more important in life, and I don’t get why people don’t realize that.
  4. Nothing is more important than a strong family foundation and a family base. A strong marriage, strong parenting, faith, and a strong home are the most important things in our lives.
  5. I’m happy. The simplest days and the littlest things bring me so much joy and happiness, and I love those things. It’s the little things like knowing my husband and I have been going to be at the same time, together, every night for 18 years and neither of us would have it any other way, or the fact that our kids know he will always get up in the mornings, make my coffee, and make them chocolate chip pancakes from scratch before he does anything else, or that he will always be fine with them going to his side of the bed to wake him up first because they all know I’m the one who needs her sleep most, or the fact that we will always decorate our home for holidays as a family and it will make them the happiest little people in the world while we’re doing it, but that my husband will always help me take it all apart when they go to bed and do it my way so that I’m happy, too. I love the big things. The travel, the adventure, the fun. I love that, but I love the little things so much more. Those things make me so happy, and they bring me so much fulfillment and so much pleasure, and I’m so happy.

Change Your Perspective, Change Your Outlook, Change Your Life

I’m tired.

There. I said it.

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

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

You can do anything, but you cannot do everything.

I relate so much to this.

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

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

And guess what? I did it.

And I’m tired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m tired.

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

I don’t have time.

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

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

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

My kids are being special.

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

My kids are expensive.

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

I’m so busy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try it. I dare you.

My Fall Essentials Shopping List (for the home)

Happy Wednesday, loves!

I know, I know….fall doesn’t officially begin until September 23. But, hear me out. You see, we don’t have fall in Florida. We get second summer, where it’s scorching hot all day, but sometimes it’s not deathly hot at night. So, since we don’t get a fall season around here, I feel it’s appropriate to begin fall on September 1. If we don’t get a real one, we should get an extended one, am I right?

Fall is my favorite time of year. The idea that any day, maybe, probably not but potentially, could be, maybe it will be, could it possibly be cool (read: not humid) one day is all I need to make my southern heart happy every morning. Pumpkins. Fall baking. Colored leaves (in other people’s photos, of course) and so many other beautiful things about this time of year bring joy to my simple heart. That’s why I’m so excited about this coming Sunday. It’s time to decorate my home and front porch for fall, crank down the air, and make everyone wear their fall favorites around the house while we light fall candles and pretend we live somewhere it’s not 113 degrees and there’s not a hurricane churning somewhere on one of our coasts.

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A girl can dream, right?

On that note, I’m prepping you with a fall essentials shopping list. These are the things I have showing up on my doorstep all week long the last week of August (I don’t have the willpower to buy them earlier and not use them, you guys). These things make me feel like fall is in the air, even though I know it’s never going to happen.

Candles

Bath and Body Works makes the best fall candles, and I don’t even care who wants to argue with me. Their fall fragrances are, hands down, the very best. I love to keep specifics around my house and light them every single day for some fall ambiance (caramel pumpkin swirl, warm apple pie, caramel apple are my personal favorites). I love how long they last, how good they smell, and how affordable they are. It’s only $24 for a very large 3-wick candle, and sometimes you can find them on sale for around $14 if you sign up for BBW emails.

Soaps

We go through a lot of hand soap in our house. Maybe it’s that we are a family of six with five sinks to keep soaped-up or because we are all a little bit OCD about cleanliness. It’s probably both. Either way, I like to stock up on some of my favorite fall soaps with, you guessed it, Bath and Body Works. I love their 5-packs of seasonal favorites. I bought five 5-packs to get me through until Thanksgiving. The best part is that they are only $23 per package for the foaming hand soap. Our kids love these, though they’re kind of gross in asking us to smell their hands every time they come out of the bathroom.

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Fall Coffee Mugs

I have a thing for coffee mugs. They make me happy, so I buy more than I need. More than most people need, if we are being honest. However, I love them. I love looking for the on Etsy, too. These are some of my favorites to stock up on for fall here and here.

Mums

Is it even fall yet if you don’t have at least a few different color mums outside your front door? I like to keep mine on either side of the entry way, and I like them in a variety of colors. Yellows, purples, and oranges are the best this time of year, and they are easy to find. You can get them at any home improvement store, nursery, and even the big box stores keep them in stock. They’re far better if you plant them….but, I can’t do that until after fall, so they die in my house.

Doormats

I love doormats, and keeping different ones outside our doors for different seasons is a fun way to decorate. I like these for fall, but you can look anywhere for them. Hobby Lobby is a personal favorite, but it’s Personalizationmall.com that makes them just for our home every year. We have one for the front door for every major season and holiday, and the rest we buy off the shelves or order from other places online to put at our other doors.

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Pumpkins

I love to decorate with pumpkins this time of year, and I love white ones more than anything. I use other colors, of course, but white pumpkins just bring me some sort of joy I cannot even explain. If you’re looking for the best ones, try shopping here and here.

This is just a small sample of what I do to prepare my home for fall. What do you do? What’s on your must-have fall list this year?

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

Happy Tuesday, and happy August, loves!

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

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

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

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

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

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The Size

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

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

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

The Sunroof

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

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

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The USB Ports

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

The Vacuum

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Monday, loves!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better late that never, right?

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

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

Does it hurt?

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

What do you get done?

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

How long does it last?

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

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

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

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

How many units do you need?

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

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

How much does it cost?

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

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

How long did it take for you to notice results?

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

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

Did you have any side effects?

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

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

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

What’s the recovery period?

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

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

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

Am I happy with the results?

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

Do I recommend it?

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

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

Struggling with Mom Guilt During the Summer

Happy Friday, loves!

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is mom guilt?

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

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

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

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

I have a schedule.

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Summer kills my schedule.

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

You might not consider me the most spontaneous person.

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

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

Finding balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

I struggle with too much

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

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

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

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

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My mom guilt is strong

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

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

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

Work/life balance

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

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

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

A note to everyone

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

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

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

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

I can do anything, but I cannot do everything.

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

Happy Friday, loves!

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

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

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

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

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

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

2

My phone gives me anxiety

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

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

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

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

Disconnecting is beautiful

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

Distractions are my problem

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

Try it.

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

I get it.

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

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

3 Summer Masks Your Skin Needs, Stat

Summer is here, and we are all spending more time than ever outdoors. From beach days to pool parties to boat days, the sunshine is making us all feel good. But, it’s also taking a toll on our skin. With the changing of the seasons comes a change in our skincare routine. Right now, you’re sweating more than ever. Your makeup is clogging your pores more than ever. You’re getting sun, your skin is being dried out by the sun, and everything is changing.

Summer is a time for change, and it’s not just about later nights, later mornings, and more carefree fun. It’s also about changing your skincare routine, and I highly recommend you incorporate one – or more – of these amazing masks into your skincare routine. I have, and love, all three, and I typically alternate what I’m using throughout the week. I use them once or twice a week this time of year, and I alternate what I’m using based on what I feel my skin needs.

Your skin will thank you for these.

1

Laneige Water Sleeping Mask – $25

I’m starting with my favorite. I actually got this mask as a sample in one of my beauty boxes from Sephora, and I fell in love. It’s so refreshing and hydrating for my skin that I ended up ordering the full-size product almost immediately. I use this mask one to two times a week after my shower. My face is clean, I put this one, go to bed, and wake up with brighter, more refreshed skin.

2

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask – $45

Can you tell I have a thing for sleeping masks? It’s got hyaluronic acid, which is exactly what my skin needs in my mid-30s. It’s also got a gentle exfoliator in it that helps my keep my skin healthy, and it makes my pores shrink. I have larger pores, so this is a great option during the summer. I use this mask once a week – I don’t want to overwhelm my pores, nor do I want to exfoliate my skin too much. No thanks to that kind of redness.

3

GlamGlow FlashMud Brightening Treatment – $59

If there is one mistake women make during the summer, it’s assuming the sun automatically brightens their skin and makes it glow. It’s true that it does make your skin look glowing and gorgeous, but it’s not enough. You need to try for this mask once a week to help your skin look as radiant as possible. Your skin is dealing with a lot of stuff this time of year, and it needs a little help to keep it bright and beautiful. You won’t regret this one, even if you use it once every two weeks.

What’s your go-to beauty mask this time of year?

Maintaining Patience During Summer Vacation

Patience and summer might not mix if you’re a parent.

But, that’s part of the job.

Our kids are home for the summer, and by that I mean they are totally and completely home. We are not big on summer camps around here. I’m not knocking those who are big into them, but we simply are not. For one, there’s not many around here that interest our kids (or exist, if we are being honest). Additionally, one of the biggest caveats of beginning my business 11 years ago when our sweet girl was born was that I wanted to be a present mom.

I work from home, and so does my husband. That can make summer difficult. Being that my husband does not work for himself, he does need the house to be relatively quiet, which is not always easy with four kids. I don’t need the quiet so much as I just need uninterrupted time to work.

In the past, I woke up early and worked before the kids got up so that I could finish most of my work in the mornings. I write a lot of words each weekday for my clients, but I write quickly and have ample experience writing, editing, and submitting my work in an efficient manner. I need around 3 hours per day to get my work done.

These days, sleeping later is more important to me than getting up earlier. I like being up before the kids, but I’m tired. The last few months of the school year do me in, and I’m exhausted. Our lives are non-stop go, go, go the first 5 months of the year, and I just want to sleep in.

So, I work when they’re awake, and it’s often in small spurts throughout the day. I’m growing accustomed to it, and it works.

But, patience is not always easy during the summer. We are Floridians. It rains a lot, and we have kids who want to be outside more than anything in the world. Inside is like the devil in their eyes. I’m also not the kind of mom who has any desire to entertain my kids 24/7. I am not about to find a fun activity to take them to 7 days a week.

Thankfully, my kids don’t need constant entertainment or stimulation to have fun. I think that’s because we let them have times of boredom so that they’re able to use their imaginations and entertain themselves, and I’m so appreciative we’ve done that for them. We know kids who will come up to us and tell us they are bored when there’s a swimming pool, bikes, balls, toys, games, and a million other things to do, and we refuse to let our kids become the kind of kids who need constant stimulation.

We lead exceptionally active lives on the weekend, and our weeks are a lot more laidback. We stay home most days. We don’t make plans. I’m not into taking four kids out and about on my own throughout the week if I don’t have to. The kids aren’t as happy when it’s just me as it is when it’s both of us, anyway. They’re also homebodies like we are. They like to be home. Perhaps our summers are our time to actually stay home more often than not and relax and enjoy. I don’t know.

My mind is all over the place right now, sorry. My point is that it’s sometimes hard to maintain patience in the summer with kids, things to do, and a life to live. I am, however, always happy to share some of my own personal tips for getting through the 11 weeks of summer relatively unscathed and better for it.

Make Plans

I just said we don’t make many weekday plans during the summer, and I do stand by that. We may go see a movie, go swimming, go bowling, or something like that once or twice a week, but I’m not an entertainer. They’re going to read, play games, play outside and have fun at home the rest of the week. But, we do make a lot of summer plans that they have to look forward to. This helps keep them patient, and it gives us all something to look forward to.

For example, we are officially two weeks into summer, and we’ve already spent a week in D.C., this week is cheer camp, we have parties, events, and several trips to look forward to. There is always something to look forward to, and we love that. It helps us all stay patient with one another.

Keep it Simple

Maybe our kids are a bit spoiled. Okay, okay; there’s no maybe about it. They are spoiled rotten. They have more than they could ever want, they don’t go without, and they’ve traveled more of the world in their young lives than most adults will in their entire lives. Don’t feel sorry for the Raiford kids.

However, do keep in mind that our kids love simple things, and that helps us stay patient with one another all summer. Sometimes, they just want the little things that they don’t get to experience so often. What does that mean? Well, our kids might moan and roll their eyes when we go to birthday parties with bounce houses because they’re tired of the same bounce houses all the time. They might complain when we go to Disney because they dislike standing in lines and being hot and they go all the time. They might be frustrated that we’re going to the Omni instead of the Gaylord because they like the pool at the Gaylord better.

But, there is one thing our kids never complain about. The simple things. Ask them if they want to go into the kitchen and bake cookies, and they’re the most excited kids in the world. Sit down and play a game of cards with them, and they’re in heaven. Go outside and play ball in the yard, and they’re thrilled. Get on the trampoline with them, and their dreams come true. Keep it simple this summer. Kids like simple stuff. Trust me.

Take A Break

When you’re with the kids all summer, you all need a break – from one another. Call grandma, and ask her to keep them for the night. They want a break from you as much as you want one from them. Plan date nights. Plan a weekend away in which the kids are not invited. Do something without them. Plan a spa day. Plan a night out with friends. Go to the beach without the kids. Do whatever you can to take a break when you feel the overwhelming need to get away. They need it, too.

Create a Tradition

Kids love tradition, trust me. We have a few of them with the kids, and they always look forward to it. They know, for example, that every Wednesday night is dinner with our best friends. It has been since before the kids were even born, and they never get tired of it. No matter how many times we go to their house or they come to our house, it’s one of the kids’ favorite traditions.

On Sunday nights after bath time, we sit down and we watch America’s Funniest Videos with the kids. They LOVE that tradition. On Friday mornings, I have a standing donut date with the kids. They love it. These are things that make our kids happy, and it helps with patience. When you have traditions and fun planned for the summer, you and your kids appreciate those days when you’re all at home without a plan. Those days are the downtime days, and they know there are busier days ahead.

What do you do during the summer with your little ones to stay busy while also relaxing and maintaining your patience?