Gratitude Prompt Day 7: Personality Traits

How’s everyone doing with their gratitude prompts? It’s hard to keep up with all that needs to be done each day. Some, in my opinion, require a little more thought and a little more time – there’s more to say. Others, still, are quick and easy. This is one of those for you.

What’s one of your personality traits that you’re grateful for?

This one is so easy for me, but I do have two that are right up there.

Number One: I am so grateful that I have an open mind and the ability to entertain thoughts that I don’t necessarily agree with. I find one of the least attractive personality traits in the known universe is a know-it-all. You know what I mean – the kind of person who is always right, whose opinion is always superior, who is never wrong, who becomes immediately defensive if your opinion or thoughts differ from their own. The type that makes you avoid certain topics of discussion at all costs. I love that I can have an opinion, I love that I can carry on a debate and still remain calm and respectful even when I disagree with others. I love that I can see things from other points of view not my own, and that I am generally not an asshole about things.

Number Two: I am so grateful that I don’t feel the need to compare myself to others. I feel a profound sense of sadness for people who compare themselves or try to one-up everyone. I imagine it’s an awful way to live, and it must suck so much happiness out of life to feel that way rather than to feel the desire to celebrate the victories of everyone around you. I am so grateful I feel happiness and pride when people accomplish things, or when good things happen, or when people are killing it. I also love being invited to the celebrations mainly as an excuse to get a babysitter, dress up, and have some champagne – so call me if y’all are celebrating anything. I mean, literally, anything – because I’m thrilled for you and ready to raise a glass!

What is something about your personality you’re grateful for?

Gratitude Prompt Day 6: My Proudest Accomplishments

As I sit here writing this, it’s still the weekend and it’s early. I have my coffee in my office where I’m watching my husband water the flowers around our front porch. Our hibiscus is growing vibrant pink flowers that make me smile every time I see them. Our gardenia is overflowing with fragrant white blooms that we can smell from the driveway on the far side of the house and along the walkway all the way from the driveway around the garage and to the front door.

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The French doors are open to the lanai. The picture windows along the front of the house downstairs are all open letting the cool air in, and the girls are playing quietly on their own. Our son is following daddy around ‘helping’ him with the watering. I’m reminded that these are the mornings I have always pictured in my mind when I thought about life as a grown-up. I feel an overwhelming sense of peace and of gratitude and of calm happiness. Life is messy and loud and chaotic and crazy most of the time, but it never fails that those moments are fleeting in the midst of the simple things that mean the most. Which brings me to today’s gratitude prompt – the sixth this month.

What’s an accomplishment you’re proud of?

That is the single most loaded question in the world, isn’t it? What are you most proud of that you’ve accomplished? What is an accomplishment? Are we talking personally or professionally or something different? I feel a great sense of accomplishment in knowing that I began a successful business doing something not even remotely related to the educational path I chose – something I love with a passion – when I was 25. Something that’s grown so much over the past 12 years that I never would have imagined happening.

I feel an amazing sense of accomplishment that I was able to birth four beautiful babies, but especially two at the same time, and that we have raised (mostly) well-behaved, polite, kind, funny, silly, intelligent little humans who are a lot of fun. I feel an amazing sense of accomplishment at the fact that we didn’t follow the ‘standards’ or the ‘norms’ when it came to our life in any capacity. We don’t have ‘traditional’ lives by any means. Growing up, our generation was always taught you go to college, you get a degree, you go to work for someone else Monday through Friday from 8 to 5 and you bring home a paycheck and you go on a vacation every year with your family somewhere okay, and you raise kids who play sports, you go to church, you donate both your time and your money to good causes, you buy a nice, normal house and you dream of ‘one day’ living in your dream house, and you sit around waiting on raises and retirement and ‘the golden’ years to show up.

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I feel a tremendous amount of accomplishment at the fact that the above scenario is not our life. I can’t imagine working for someone else. I can’t imagine being required to be somewhere and do for others what I do for myself. We both work from home. We share a home office. We were 29 and 30 when we bought our dream house in our dream neighborhood after already building our first home when we were only 20 and 21. We don’t wait around and think about ‘one day’ having what we want and doing what we want – we live that every day. We travel. We have fun. We enjoy our lives and our time, and we don’t fall into the norm. That’s an accomplishment to me.

But, at the end of the day, are those the accomplishments I’m most proud of? I don’t know. I can say that I feel a profound sense of accomplishment in things that are a lot smaller…simpler might be a more appropriate phrase.

I feel so much accomplishment being almost 37-years-old and surrounding myself with the same core group of friends I’ve had my entire adult life – almost all of whom are living life on their own terms working for themselves and running successful businesses and have made their dreams come true. People who are so like-minded that there is no negativity. It feels like an accomplishment to find people to do life with who are always interested in what’s going on with you, and who always cheer for you and celebrate successes with you, and want to be part of every detail of your life. People who just want to see you succeed and aren’t worried about comparison or keeping up with anyone else or trying to outdo one another. For many years, I thought this was normal – but it turns out, after being exposed to some other groups of adults, this is apparently not the ‘norm’ and it’s rare to find people like that.

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To have a group of people who are so close that our kids were born together, have known one another since before they were born, and whose successes and accomplishments I feel I’m part of. When they succeed, I feel like I succeed, too. Watching them grow from the time we were young adults through now and seeing them killing it makes me so proud and so happy, and it’s because I love these people so much. We love them so much. Between my family and my friends, I am surrounded by the greatest people in the world, and that is the most amazing accomplishment. The kind of friendship where you spend multiple days/evenings together every week and always look forward to it because there’s nothing better than being with people you love making memories with your family, with them, with the kids…that’s what life is all about.

I feel a tremendous amount of accomplishment in the fact that I get to live my life according to my own terms. It’s a powerful feeling to embrace a Monday while the rest of the world detests it. It’s a powerful feeling to know that I’ll never have to dream of the weekend or live for Fridays (I mean, they’re great and definitely the best days, but I don’t have anything to escape from, and that is a big feeling). It’s such an accomplishment to know that if I think it, I make it happen. So many people spend their lives talking about what they’re going to do, discussing ‘one day’ and how they’re ‘going to’ year after year until they one day wake up and realize that one day was that day and talking about it isn’t the same thing as acting on it. I feel a great sense of accomplishment knowing that I didn’t settle for anything.

I feel a great sense of accomplishment at being comfortable with myself. In knowing that no one else’s opinion matters nor does it bother me. In knowing that if you love life, it loves you right back. In knowing that I can honestly say I’m living my best life every day, even when the day isn’t the best one.

So, what’s my biggest accomplishment? It’s living a life I love in every aspect. Balance is hard, but we make it work, and that’s a gift.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Gratitude Prompt Day One: What I’m Most Grateful for In My Life

Happy first day of May!

And, happy first day of our 31 days of gratitude journaling! I’ve been working on this for a month now. I began working on it when we were somewhere in the first few weeks of our quarantine, and I wanted to get it just right. (Fun fact: I use social media to post things all the time, but I rarely take the time to scroll through. I know, I know…) But, I did notice that when I did take the time to scroll through social media, when I received texts from my loved ones, when I paid attention to the articles I was reading online so many people are unhappy.

I get it. I do. I’m not always happy. Sometimes I’m downright cranky. Sometimes, I’m a raging bitch. But, at the end of the day, I don’t have many reasons not to feel good about my life and where I am, and those are the things that bring me back to my reality when I’m in a cranky mood (didn’t get enough sleep, I’m hangry, my monthly visitor is making me bloated, which automatically makes me cranky…etc.).

This whole life situation we are all living right now is weird, and that’s all right. It just took me a moment to realize that not everyone was happy to be home, and not everyone has spent their entire adult life working from home, and not everyone has spent the past four years sharing a home office with their spouse, so this is an extreme change for many. It just wasn’t for us, so we don’t relate to everyone whose entire lives have changed.

However, I’ve always found that gratitude is the answer. When I make the decision to appreciate life, it appreciates me back so much more so than I ever could have imagined. However, many people forget to be grateful. So, I wanted to take the time to create a challenge for all of us – 31 days of gratitude. I’m beginning with our day one prompt – and I hope you take note, write it down, and join me.

Gratitude Day One: What are you most grateful for in your life? (Choose just one thing)

Health. First and foremost above all else, I am grateful for good health in our lives. Above all else, I am so thankful that when we go to bed at night, it’s with healthy minds, bodies, and hearts. We are both healthy and vibrant, our kids are healthy and vibrant, and that’s all there is to it. I cannot tell you enough how incredibly thankful and grateful I am for this because I know all too well how it feels when good health is not part of your life.

After two miscarriages and a difficult pregnancy with our middle daughter, she was born with a hemangioma on her face that was thought – initially – to be cancerous. A biopsy showed otherwise, thank the Good Lord. She was thought to have Downs Syndrome when I was 20 weeks pregnant because of the echogenic intracardiac focus on her heart. Thankfully, our Good, Good Father had other plans for her. After a week in the NICU with one 3-pound twin who had respiratory issues at birth and her twin brother who ended up failing his hearing tests and being diagnosed as partially deaf in both ears at 6 weeks old, I get it. That same little man suffered a grand mal seizure when he was just shy of his 5th birthday for no reason at all – we still don’t know what caused it even after every test in the world and four days in the hospital.

I am so, so thankful and grateful each day for good health. It’s the one thing I thank God for each and every single day. Without good health, I wouldn’t have this sweet family to love. I am so grateful for this.

Mediterranean Couscous: Simple but Flavorful 30-minute Recipe

Happy Thursday!

Hands in the air if you’re doing a lot more cooking than usual?

You can’t see my hand, but it’s in the air. Typically, my husband cooks or we go out. I cook very rarely because I’m just not good in the kitchen unless I’m baking. I don’t know what it is, but I suspect it has everything to do with my innate in ability to multitask. I’m a goal-oriented person, but I cross things off my list one at a time. You will rarely find me doing more than one thing at a time, and that’s because I like to place all my focus in one area and give it my all rather than spread it around to too many things at once. You might say I don’t half-ass anything I enjoy doing.

That said, baking is my jam. Seriously. I bake very well. Sometimes, I even enjoy it.

Cooking? Too many things going on at one time. This ingredient needs this, and that one needs this, and this meat needs this and this vegetable needs that. I can’t handle all of that at one time. Cooking times, different readiness factors, and trying to coordinate too many things cooked and ready at the same time is beyond my level of comprehension.

To be honest, though, I do have a small handful of dishes at which I excel when I’m in the kitchen. They’re the simplest of simple dishes. Honestly, most of them don’t even require any meat or chicken or poultry. I’m not a vegetarian, but I also don’t need meat, chicken, or fish at every meal, either. I love all of them, but I’m not mad about a dinner that doesn’t include them, if that makes sense. And, if I’m cooking, the fewer ingredients and dishes, the better.

Today, I’m sharing our favorite ‘new’ dish. It’s a recipe we tried a few months ago and loved, and it’s one I can whip up in under half an hour, and everyone adores it. It has so much flavor, so many healthy ingredients, and it’s so simple.

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Mediterranean Couscous

Ingredients:

  • Couscous
  • Zucchini
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Thyme
  • Scallions
  • Butter
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Chicken stock
  • S&P
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Feta cheese

Prep

Before you do anything else, go ahead and prep what you need. This is so helpful to me because it allows me to free up my hands and my time while I’m working on other aspects of the dish.

  1. Slice your entire zucchini into thin slices or small chunks (I prefer to quarter mine and then chop it into small chunks, but my husband prefers his sliced).
  2. Cut cherry tomatoes in half (I probably use 12-15 tomatoes)
  3. Remove the root end from your scallions and discard. Slice scallions into small pieces, but do separate the white pieces from the green top pieces – keep them separate.
  4. Prep thyme by chopping it into tiny, tiny pieces (I’m sure there is a proper term for that, but I don’t know it, nor do I care to look it up).
  5. Cut lemon in half, and then half one of your halves. You should end up with three pieces. A half and two quarters.
  6. Chop a whole (large) clove of garlic into small pieces

Prep Your Veggies

The first thing you’ll do is start your veggies in the oven.

dinner

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Line baking pan with foil or parchment paper
  3. Place all zucchini and tomatoes on the pan
  4. Season veggies with half the thyme
  5. Drizzle EVOO over veggies
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste
  7. Place baking sheet in the oven for approximately 20 minutes

Couscous

Forgive me for not being big on measuring things, but I promise it will work out for you.

  1. Add a tablespoon of butter, your garlic, and your scallion WHITES to a pot and bring the heat to high. Mix occasionally while the butter melts, and wait for the garlic and onions to become fragrant. Add couscous – dry – along with the remaining thyme, to the mix. This helps you brown the couscous. Stir every minute or so while the couscous browns. This entire process should take fewer than five minutes.
  2. Add a splash of chicken stock.
  3. Cover the couscous with water. I don’t measure any couscous or water. I just add until it looks like enough, but you are always welcome to follow the instructions on the couscous package if you are more comfortable with that level of cooking.
  4. Wait for the couscous to come to a boil before you turn down the heat to medium and cover with a lid. Let it cook for 7-8 minutes. If there is excess liquid, drain it and return the mixture to your pot.

Final Steps

Just a few more minutes until you get to enjoy this decadence.

  1. Remove veggies from oven, and add half of them to the pot with the couscous that’s finished cooking.
  2. Add a generous helping of feta cheese to the couscous mixture, add more salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze juice from your lemon half into the mixture.
  3. Mix well until most of the cheese is melted.
  4. Divide couscous into bowls, garnish with the remainder of the roasted veggies, more feta cheese, and top with the green scallion slices. Add a slice of your remaining lemon to the side of your couscous for décor – or to squeeze more juice atop your final serving.

My husband and I prefer our Mediterranean couscous with a glass of our favorite Sangiovese to bring out the flavor, but I imagine any dry red or white would have the same delicious effect.

Enjoy! And, don’t forget to let me know if you try it!

Learning to Appreciate the Simple Life

Day 31 of social distancing.

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

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

We miss travel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Distance Learning Week One: Helping Four Kids Relearn Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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Four Kids Learning at Home is a Lot

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

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Middle School Distance Learning – 6th grade

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

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

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Third Grade Distance Learning

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

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Kindergarten Distance Learning

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

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

Making it Work

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

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

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

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Our New Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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Little Helpful Things

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

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

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

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

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

How has distance learning been going for you?

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

Day 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings in Disguise Amid A Global Pandemic: Find the Good

Day 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you need help, I’ve got you.

Rest

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

Time

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

Say Goodbye to Toxicity

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

Getting Back to Basics

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

Learning With and About Our Kids

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

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

More Adult Time

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

Healthier Living

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

Appreciation

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

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

Talking to Your Kids About COVID-19

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I won’t start with my typical Happy Tuesday because I’m aware this is not a happy time for most. In fact, it’s a terrifying time for many. For those who are susceptible to COVID-19 – or the Corona Virus – such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. For parents who fear the concept of homeschooling their kids (because the good Lord knows I’m not qualified at ALL to homeschool kids), small business owners unsure of the future, hourly employees who work for tips whose jobs are shut down, kids who don’t fully understand the fear and panic around them.

Especially kids.

I’m going to avoid discussing adults as a whole because we all already know how I feel about the general population, but I’m happy to talk kids. I have four of my own. I was once one. I have a bevy of kids in and out my front door on a regular basis. I know kids. I listen when they talk to me. I listen when they’re talking to one another or my husband. I observe their body language, and I hear the fears they might not have the bravery to speak out loud.

Kids don’t know what’s going on. Sure, right now, they’re all happy that they have an extra bit of time off school, but we all know that this little bit of time might become months. It might become distance learning and virtual schooling and homeschooling. Soon, they’ll be bored of being home. They’ll want to know why vacation was cancelled. They’ll want to know why we can’t go to their favorite resort for the weekend, or their favorite restaurants for dinners and lunches, or why we can’t go to Hobby Lobby on Tuesday for art supplies, or why we can’t go to the movies or Hammer & Stain, or why we can’t go to church anymore.

If they’re not already asking questions, they will. The excitement of cancelled school and events and extracurriculars that result in late nights doing homework and early mornings and long weekends of travel to places they have no desire to visit and finally having some free time will lessen, and they’ll want to know what’s up. I won’t lie and pretend I’m not excited for all the free time right now. I won’t act like I’m upset that things have been cancelled and we have the opportunity to get back our time and control of our schedules, and that I no longer have to stress about how I’m going to accomplish my work with so many interruptions on any given day. I won’t pretend I’m sad that I actually had the time to sit down and write a blog post for the first time in months because my work day isn’t chopped up by getting kids ready, taking them to school, going to practices, traveling for events, picking them up from school, working on homework, etc.

Social distancing isn’t something I’m unhappy about. The reason behind it, well, that’s less than ideal. But, it’s reality right now. We are fresh off a weekend trip to Miami to celebrate the twins’ sixth birthday and Ava’s 9th birthday – and it was exactly what we needed. Of course, we were a day into our trip when we got word of school closings and Disney closings, two days before social distancing was introduced and cruises were cancelled, and home before cities and towns began shutting down their restaurants and bars and clubs and movie theaters.

We had the best weekend on the beach and by the pool. There were plenty of people out and about, but the sunshine and fresh ocean air and al fresco dining all weekend was exactly what we needed before heading home to a completely different reality. Instead of spending the evening of our return passed out .2 seconds after our heads hit the pillow at bedtime, we spent that time talking about how we will answer our kids’ questions and how we will handle things as they change and as we approach the unknown.

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How will we answer the kids’ questions?

Honestly, but without inciting panic or fear. There’s no reason to hoard toilet paper or eggs, and we refuse to teach our children to approach life with a panicked mindset. We will be honest and open, but hopeful and concise. We will also answer them on a case by case basis. The twins’ questions will not be answered in the same manner as we’d answer them if it were Addison who asked. We will use common sense, but we will also maintain a level of honesty.

  • Talk honestly
  • Make sure they know the facts and the dangers
  • Remind them – again – of the importance of good hygiene
  • Encourage them to ask questions if they’re confused
  • Don’t let them watch media reports

How will we explain how life is changing?

Thankfully, there’s not much changing in the lives of the Raiford kids. I’ve worked from home their entire lives, so they don’t know any different there. Craig is approaching four years of working from home, so it’s their everyday life. Our everyday routine Monday-Friday will not change because of this, because I have my business to run and my husband has his job to do.

Weekends and evenings will be where the change is most noticeable. There won’t be any dinners out or any trips while we social distance for however long this is necessary. But, we will make life as sweet and comforting and familiar as possible by sticking to bedtime routines and everyday schedules. Kids love structure and routine – the Raiford kids LOVE structure and routine.

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How will we make life less scary for the kids?

Easy – we will have fun. These are uncertain times, but we will certainly spend a lot more time outdoors playing games. Baseball and football in the yard. Bike rides. Family walks. Dinner on the deck. Sunsets on the front porch rocking chairs. Breakfast on the lanai. Roasting marshmallows around the fire pit. Playing on the kids’ playground equipment. Ava asked if we could pick some summer nights to lie on a blanket on the deck and watch the stars, so we’ll do that. Family movie nights. Family game nights. Family dinners around the table outside. Setting up their art station on the deck. Playing card games. Read books. Write stories. Write great-grandma letters and draw her pictures. Laugh a lot.

We may not be able to travel – and that might be hard on our kids who are accustomed to it and love it on a regular basis – but we can have our regularly scheduled fun. We’ve got this.

How will we get through this?

For one, we pray. Second, we stay home. Honestly, we don’t get nearly enough time home, and our kids often ask us if we can plan time to stay home and be lazy. Well, now we can. We can sleep later. Nap if we want. Relax a bit. Go unhurried. We can get creative in the kitchen trying new recipes for once since we usually don’t even have time to cook the ones we already know. We just spend quality time together, and we keep our attitudes in check.

What can I teach my kids during this time?

I’m not worried about math or science or ELA or whatever. I’m worried about the important life lessons our kids will get out of this. Such as learning to stay calm and cool in a scary situation. Learning to spread kindness instead of ugliness. Learning to give back. Want to teach your kids something important? Teach them to give to others.

  • Buy a gift card for the grocery store in which you’re shopping and give it to the person in line behind you
  • Buy gas for someone at the gas station
  • Send flowers so that someone’s day is brightened and so that a small business owner gets some revenue
  • Buy some gift cards to use late
  • Wipe down your shopping cart before you use it and again after you use it
  • Share your resources if you have them (I’m talking to you TP hoarders)
  • Buy dinner for another family who is picking up their to-go meal at your favorite restaurant
  • Way over-tip (I’m a fan of 50% or more)
  • Be kind
  • Keep your opinions to yourself
  • Be quiet if you can’t be helpful or nice – this also applies to pre-and-post social distancing, y’all.
  • Ask an elderly friend or neighbor if you can pick up their groceries and deliver them safely to their doorstep
  • Do what you can, even when you think you can’t

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What if I’m scared?

Anyone who is not a little scared right now is a liar. It’s all right to be afraid. This is nothing we have ever encountered in our lives. It’s terrifying, and it’s uncertain, and many people are left fearful and desperate and feeling as if nothing will be okay.

It’s okay to be afraid. Look – approximately a week ago, we were planning our March Madness brackets and shopping for our spring break trips. A lot changed in that week. A lot can change this week. Keep that in mind. Anything can happen on any day – and that means there is always, always, always hope. It’s all right to be afraid, but don’t let that talk you out of also being hopeful.

I am SO happy to finally have the time to sit down and blog again, and I’m going to share a few posts a week. I’d like to keep them helpful and informative, but without being your news source. I just want to share what I know, what I’m familiar with a what applies. So, here’s to social distancing (or as I call it, my life because I like a handful of people and find the rest absolutely ridiculous) for the coming weeks, doing our best to help when possible, and staying safe.

 

Intentional Living: Making 2020 A More Intentional Year

Happy Tuesday, loves!

Today marks the first day back to school for the kiddos after a two-week Christmas break, and I’m all mixed feelings and sad about it. On one hand, it’s so nice to get back to our really amazing routine, which includes no one coming into our office all day long asking for snacks or telling on a brother or a sister or wanting help with something innocuous.

On the other hand, it means that our house is empty save for the two of us all day. The quiet is nice because we do both work from home, and I’ve taken on a few new projects and clients that are taking up a significant chunk of my time (time I already do not have).

But, I already miss the slow days of Christmas break. We were very intentional this Christmas break, and that included cancelling all of our plans the last week of the break and staying home (okay, okay…we cancelled because I’ve had a headache since the 29th. It’s been off and on a migraine, and it’s been aggravated by four nights of absolutely not one minute of sleep, terrible allergies thanks to the fourteen inches of pollen we got that week, and also by the strep throat I was so lucky to catch. I spent the entire week in bed or on the couch with a blanket, a pillow, and my heating pad. I wrapped it around my neck hoping for some relief from the tension and the pain.

I’m happy to say that today I’m much better. My throat is 80 percent better. My allergies are better. And my headache has dulled to a constant throb that’s really only unbearable in the evenings and the early mornings. I’m trying to figure out when I have time to see my doctor about it, because I’m sure it’s not a good sign. I’m not ignoring it; I literally just didn’t have the energy to get up off the couch for nine days. I tried taking the kids bowling with friends one day, and that didn’t work out too well. I did a date night with my husband and our friends another night, but I was so low-energy and didn’t feel really present.

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But, I digress. I really did enjoy the slow, intentional, beautiful time we spent doing nothing. I’m actually glad that I ended up sick and our travel plans were cancelled because my body obviously needed that time to rest. I needed unhurried days and lazy evenings. The kids needed it. My husband needed it. We all needed it. It was good for our souls, and I tried holding on to that as long as I could.

For the first time since the kids began going to school and we’ve been parents, I actually didn’t want to go back to the real world. I didn’t look forward to the kids going back to school (I always look forward to that). I don’t want to go back to waking up at 5 and working in bed to ease a bit of my stress and keep the day flowing. I don’t want to go back to Craig needing to have Addy to school so early, and to having an extra child in the house for two hours before I take the little ones to school at 9 every day. I don’t want to go back to only having one free night a week at home – and even that night is not free because that’s the night we have to get everyone’s homework done ahead of time since there just isn’t another night we can do it.

The late nights, the over-scheduled calendar, the early mornings; it’s killing us, and that’s not how we want to live 2020. 2019 was too much for us, and we aren’t doing that again. Here’s to a slower year, a more manageable schedule, and more time to simply be. When the kids are tired and asking to cancel plans and lay low, you know that it’s too much (don’t even get me started on my stress level). Here’s what I’d like to accomplish in 2020.

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Get to A Place Where One Schedule Change Doesn’t Cause an Anxiety Attack

Anxiety. Have we talked about that? As a Type-A personality, I have a lot of it when I’m not in control of the schedule and how things are going in my life and the lives of my family. But, it’s been aggravated in the past few months to a point where my anxiety is often through the roof and more frequent than ever. Between the girls’ cheer schedule, Addison’s new school start and end times, and having all four kids in school with homework and excessive event schedules for the first time, I’m a wreck. I write more than 20,000 words a day for my clients, and I edit dozens of articles per day. My deadlines are daily, they are tight, and I have never missed one in more than 12 years of running my business.

And that’s why when one thing goes wrong or changes, it throws me totally off balance. I’m down to having approximately 4 hours a day to get all of this done. If someone gets sick or something comes up that requires my attention, I have fewer than that, and it’s killing me. This year, I’m looking to gain back my time and make it so that when something goes wrong or comes up at the last minute, I don’t have a literal anxiety attack wondering how I can rearrange things, get things done, not miss a deadline, and still be where I need to be. That’s my goal.

I also think that will put an end to my headaches (well, that and continuing to get my Botox injections) and ease some very heavy burdens. I must remember that I can do anything, but I cannot do everything. I forget that sometimes, and it’s caused my to put myself in a situation that I cannot control, and it’s had an ugly effect on my attitude, my patience, and my anxiety.

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Travel Less

Honestly, you guys, I love to travel more than anything in the world, but we are just tired of packing and unpacking and repacking and doing it all over again. Significantly more than half our weekends last year were spent in hotels, which means more than half the weeks of last year, I spent an entire day packing. If you don’t have a family of six, I envy you (and my husband packs for himself, so I really only pack for five). It takes a solid day to organize outfits for all of us, to pack them, to check lists, to launder the twins’ and Ava’s blankets they sleep with, to remember the travel pillows, and the chargers, to get tablets all the way charged, to pack snacks for planes, and snacks for car rides, and to pack activities such as crayons and coloring books to take to restaurants.

It takes a full day – even when we are leaving for just a night or two. And this means I spend one day every travel week packing. That means I lose a full day of work. I’m already working ahead to make sure I get all my weekend deadlines handled before we leave, but it also means I’m spending Monday-Thursday also working ahead to get Friday’s work done and the following Monday’s work done on top of all the weekend stuff and my everyday stuff. It’s stressful. Those are the weeks that hurt me the most.

That’s why I’d like to travel a little less this year. I’d like to plan more intentional trips with a lot of meaning, extra time, and fewer quick weekends away. They are always fun, but they often bring me more stress than they do pleasure. It’s a lot.

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Be More Present

If I learned one thing during Christmas break, it was that I love not having my phone on me. It’s hard for me to do that when the kids are at school.  I need it where I can see if a teacher is calling or texting me. I need it in case something happens to one of the kids and someone is trying to contact me. But, I also did a thing. I moved my social media apps to the last page on my phone, and I took all the other apps off that page. They are now by themselves. I cannot see if I have a notification, and it’s been glorious. I often use Instagram for work-related things, so I won’t get rid of that app, but I’m probably going to say farewell to Facebook this year. I just have to get into the habit of emailing/texting my grandmother and my father-in-law photos of the kids more frequently since I basically let Facebook do that for me. I’ve found myself only using it for months now to post things. I rarely scroll through and check anything out. I can’t even see most of my ‘friends’ stuff anymore since it’s turned into one giant add, a long list of ‘read this article,’ and all that jazz. There’s no point.

I like being disconnected. I like being out of the loop. I like being focused on my kids and my family. It’s good stuff, and it brings actual joy to my heart. My does not. It brings me frustration because I don’t get why people can’t spell or use proper grammar or avoid tying in all caps. It brings me annoyance when I actually see an article I want to read and it’s nothing but popups. It brings me aggravation when someone says something about something they posted on Facebook and I didn’t see it because I don’t see anything other than adds and long, long, long lists of posts from the last 2-3 people whose friend requests I accepted. What’s the actual point?

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Unschedule

I’m not filling my calendar this year. I dislike looking at it and dreading the weekend because it’s so busy we don’t have time to relax or chill. I dislike always being busy. I want to be able to accept last minute invitations. I want to be able to have spontaneous fun. I want to be more in control and less obligated. I’m unscheduling us, so don’t be offended if I say no to your requests or invitations. I genuinely need more down time in my life, and saying no is the only way I’m getting it.

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Be More Positive

So, maybe, potentially, possibly, I’m a little cranky when I’m tired and feeling unfulfilled. So, on that note, I’m working on being more positive. It’s not easy for me to be in a good mood when I’m overwhelmed, but I’m working on it. I’m going to seek the positivity in all things rather than see the negatives. I’m going to try and be as positive as I can, and I’m going to shower that shit onto everyone around me as often as possible.

Basically, in 2020, I’m taking back my life. I’ve given far too much of it to too many people, activities, events, things, stuff, whatever. I’m minimizing this year, and since I’ve never been a fan of ‘stuff,’ my new minimalist approach is not about stuff.

2020, I’m ready for you and all the beautiful, glorious more intentional moments you have to offer.