Celebrating in Texas: A Weekend Recap

Happy Monday, Loves!

What. A. Weekend.

I cannot even begin to tell you how tired the Raiford family is this morning. We had the most amazing weekend – but it was tiring. We took the kids to Texas to visit my grandmother for her birthday, and it was such a wonderful trip. But, it wasn’t a trip that included a lot of sleep.

Let’s see…I think the most we slept was Thursday night in our hotel room in Amarillo. We went to bed around 10:30 and woke up at 7 am. Other than that, we are talking very little sleep. We had a late flight into Dallas on Wednesday night that put us in our hotel room at 11:30. We all needed showers and baths – I will not let anyone go to bed after being in an airport or on a plane, ever – and it was later than that when we went to bed. We woke up at 5:30 am so we could get on the road to my grandmother’s. It’s an almost 6 hour drive, which is a lot.

But, we were able to spend the entire afternoon and evening with her, then we took the kids to dinner. Then we checked into our hotel and my cousin, Lesly, and her daughter, Tamia, checked in after their flight from California. We got to spend a few hours visiting with them, and that was amazing! Despite living on opposite coasts our entire lives – Lesly in California and me in Florida – we spent a LOT of time together growing up. Our dad’s are brothers, and my grandmother lived near us in Florida until I was 18. So, they visited at least once a year, and we spent so much time together.

We hadn’t seen her in a few years, and it was SO good to spend some time with her this weekend, too! Friday was my grandmother’s birthday, so we went birthday shopping, picked out a cake, bought her favorite beer for her, and we had the best time with her. She is so much fun – and our kids are so fortunate to get to know her like they do.

She spent the weekend sharing her life with us, and it was so much fun. Our kids are so excited to go back to school and share some of the things she told them, and who can blame them? They had no idea that their grandmother had tea with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House many year ago (she was invited because of the work she did for the government following the terrible Pearl Harbor tragedy and all that came from that). They had no idea she’s been to the Super Bowl. They had no idea that following her work for the federal government in her early 20s, she decided to get into a car with three girlfriends and drive for 10 days clear across the country to live in California.

It took them 10 days. They had to get an oil change every 1,000 miles. They went through 8 new tires, and they slept during the day and drove at night when the reached the desert so they would not overheat the car. She then landed in LA, where she spent several more years of her life. She traveled by train to see her family – and my grandfather would visit her at the train station where she had a 2-hour stop in New Mexico – so they could spend time together every few months.

They had no idea that they have a very famous cousin – well, she’s my dad’s cousin. My grandmother’s sister Alice’s daughter. So, my dad’s first cousin, June Lindemann. Grandma showed them the book that June – who was not just my grandmother’s niece but also her godmother – wrote about her life as a beauty pageant queen. She was Miss California when she met and became engaged to the son of a wealthy South American Ambassador. She moved to Chile to live with them when they got married, and then they had a baby. Unfortunately, she had to flee the country on the very last plane that left before the Communist state took over and lives changed. Her husband decided that rather than go against the communists, he’d join them so that they would not target his famous, prominent family. And she took the very last flight authorized to leave Chile to escape with her newborn son.

Her story is in her book – Pageants, Politics, and Promises. And it’s unbelievable. Read it.

My kids had no idea that their great-grandmother had so many stores to tell, and they are in disbelief that their grandmother lived this life.

We had the most fantastic weekend. We met new people. We had a lot of cake. We painted rocks and hid them in my grandmother’s neighborhood for people to find. We had fun. We really, really, really had a great time.

We are tired, but our hearts are full.

Now that we are home and everyone is back to their normal routine, we are still exhausted, and that’s all right. It probably doesn’t help we were gone the entire weekend before and only home for two days before we took off for Texas, but we will get over being so tired.

We will never, ever get over how much fun we have with my grandmother. We will make that long ass trip several times a year to spend time with her. This was our 3rd weekend in Texas in the past six months, and we are so overwhelmingly fortunate and blessed to be able to make the trip so often to spend this time with her. I won’t lie – I strongly dislike where she lives, but she’s happy there and she’s got all the farmland in the world to look at every morning when she drinks her coffee. It might smell like cows and the entire place is orange – orange – and colorless, but I will tell you that those Northern Texas sunsets and sunrises are spectacular. In fact, they are unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some spectacular sunrises and sunsets in California and Hawaii – and even the sun setting between the buildings on Fifth Avenue in New York City. You can’t beat a Texas sunrise/sunset.

And you cannot hate a place where the world’s coolest woman lives.

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Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, loves!

This is a beautiful day! First, it’s Friday. And that’s always something I love, but it’s also my grandmother’s birthday, and I’m celebrating with her. In person. How many people get to say they’re hanging out with their grandmother on her birthday approximately a century after her birth. I have my husband with me. I have my four sweet babes with me.

My heart is FULL.

The only thing that would make this 5-day weekend better would be coming home to find out that our parents finished up the final details in the upstairs bathroom while we were away (they are so sweet to stay in our home for us when we travel…and they’re always doing little things for us…and since we are finishing up the remodel, I’m just throwing it out there…in case they’re reading. Just saying. No biggie.)

{These were taken when Craig and I visited in November without the kids…she is always making funny faces in photos and cracking up. Maybe that’s why she and our sweet Carter-man are the very best of friends!)

Really, though, what an amazing trip.

And it is a trip. The kids are here. It’s not a vacation with little people.

But, I won’t complain because they are excellent little travelers. They always fly well. We always receive so many compliments in the airport about their excellent behavior. We always know they’ll behave in hotels and restaurants. They’re a little judgmental about rental cars – but that’s probably my fault. I’m a neat freak and rental cars are never up to my standard of clean.

To be able to surprise my grandmother for her big birthday is something very special to me. We’ve been making it a point to come to Texas to see her every 2-3 months. It’s a quick flight from Florida, and she is my favorite person in the world. We alternate trips with the kids and just ourselves, but they would never be okay with missing out on cake.

Anyway, I’m just so excited to be here with my amazing, beautiful, special, wonderful, spectacular grandmother on her birthday with all the people I love most in the world – and I’m still bringing you my Friday favorites. As always, I promise they are super random, but still my favorites.

{How blessed are we that my own grandmother gets to spend so much time with our sweet littles even though we live 1,500 miles apart? How blessed are we that they love her so much, and that she gets to see them grow up? And how blessed are we to be able to make this trip so often throughout the year so she doesn’t have to miss out on this time?}

Mornings

My favorite part of the day. I just love the new start, the quiet time with a cup of coffee. Coffee as a whole. A little quiet time alone with my husband to start the day. I love it. It’s my favorite part of the day. Followed very closely by bedtime. Perhaps it’s just the whole thing about quiet that gets to me?! Oh, and I like my coffee black.

The Open Sunroof

Before I was a mom, I always drove a convertible – and then I had a hundred kids. So, the next best thing is a great big sunroof, and it always has to be open. I love the fresh air and the sunshine when I’m driving. Seriously, it’s my favorite.

The Phrase “I love you for no reason”

I have no idea how or when it started, but our sweet Charlotte and our sweet Carter – the twins – like to tell us this. “Mommy, I love you for no reason!” “Daddy, I love you for no reason!” and it melts my heart. Every single time. I cannot even with that saying, especially when it comes with a darling little hug and those sweet little voices.

People Rocking Their Lives

I just have this thing for people who are living their best life and making the most of what they’re doing. I love it. I love to hear the smile in people’s voices when they’re so happy with where they are in life and what they are doing and how things are going. It’s such a beautiful change from all the complaints and the pessimism of the world – and it makes me smile.

Spending Time With My Grandmother 

How truly blessed and fortunate are we that we get to spend this kind of time with a woman who has lived a century? How blessed are with that she is with us – and sharper, wittier, and funnier than ever – to get to know her great-grandchildren. Our kids get to spend time with the woman who has been my favorite person on earth since the day I was born, and the twins are like 95 years younger than she is. That’s amazing. It’s so amazing.

One of the things that make my heart so happy since she moved herself off the farm and into an assisted living facility last summer the staff and their kindness. Anytime we visit, they are always so good about remembering us, and they are always so kind to tell us how lucky our grandmother is to have so many visitors despite how far we all live. She never goes more than six to eight weeks without someone making the trip from California or Florida to see her between myself and my brother, my cousins, my parents, and my uncles.

What breaks my heart is when they also share that some of their residents haven’t had that many visitors all year and their families live in the area. Some have no visitors at all. I am grateful every single day that we are able to book a flight and see her anytime we want.

You guys…if you are so fortunate to have a living grandparent – get up and visit. Don’t make excuses. I cannot tell you how amazing it is. How many stories my grandmother tells us from her own youth and from her own days as a young woman. She’s so hilarious, and she’s such a wonderful storyteller. There is nothing quite like listening to her tell us the stories of her childhood and her life, and to hear her sharing those stories with the kids – or to go into her room and find her watching baseball – she is a huge Orioles fan – or watching Tiger play golf (she’s so disappointed in his performance in recent years) or catching up on football with Craig. She’s an amazing lady – and I wouldn’t trade this time with her for anything.

This is a woman who is so gracious, so elegant, so classy, so beautiful, and so funny. She’s active and loves to be outside, in the garden, on the farm, taking classes, volunteering in her church, leading prayer, taking care of animals, reading a book while she drinks her coffee on her porch – she likes John Grisham novels and such. She’s a woman who calls us to ask if we can bring her some beer when we visit so she can have one in the evening, and who is so impatient with “old people” as she calls them – even though they are probably 20-30 years younger than her. She cannot handle that they don’t take care of themselves.

She’s spectacular. I only wish you could all spend a little time with my grandmother. I promise you that you will never meet a more beautiful person inside or out. And that is my Friday favorite every day.

 

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, loves!

Before the turkey goes in the oven, before the formal dining room table is set, before our guests arrive, I like to wake early and sit outside with a hot cup of coffee and my thoughts. I love the back deck this time of day (or the front porch or lanai if it rains) when the sun is rising behind our home. The sky is pink, and everything is quiet. The kids are still asleep, my husband may or may not rise to join me depending on whether I can get out of bed without waking him – which he doesn’t mind, but it always makes me feel bad.

Today is one of my favorite days of the year. Nothing is a problem on this day. All the things that bother me leading up to it are gone. The fact that there is an additional guest coming that no one bothered to mention to us, or the fact that everyone loves to gather in the kitchen and basically get in our way nonstop, or the fact that everyone wants to help us and all we want is for them to get out of the kitchen and leave things alone…they disappear. They aren’t a big deal (I mean, I’m fully aware they aren’t a big deal – ever – but I’m a petty kind of Type-A, so give me a little slack, mmmkay?). Everything is right in my world.

Growing up, all I ever wanted was a big, beautiful house in which my husband and I could host holidays, and the realization that the one thing I wanted more than anything in the world is my reality is my favorite feeling.

I also love today because our kids like to wake up and cuddle us before we prep our big breakfast and then dinner. They like to sit down and ask us what we are grateful and thankful for this year. Of course, we are always thankful for their sweet faces and for one another, but hearing them tell us that they are thankful for God or for us or for playing outside or for cookies or something else equally sweet and adorable makes us feel so good. We’ve raised four beautiful babes into polite, kind, loving little people – with enough sarcasm and dry humor to make them awesome. Pat on the back to us, please.

I always feel that I have so much to be thankful for, and this year is no exception. This year, my gratitude is just overwhelming (I know I say that every year). However, I really feel it so much more this year. So many beautiful things have happened this year that remind me of that and make me feel thankful every single day.

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There’s Beauty in Simplicity

Ask my husband or anyone who knows me well, and they’ll tell you I’m anything but simple. And they’ll tell you my taste is as far from simple as it gets. However, it’s the simplicity we’ve worked so hard to find this year that has brought me so much joy, and for that I’m thankful. Getting #backtobasics has been everything. While I’d like to say our calendar isn’t full all the time, that’s not true. We have for kids, careers, and a life that don’t allow for us to go unscheduled, but we have made it a point to avoid putting too much on the calendar. If we don’t really want to do it, we don’t do it.

The lack of planning every single weekend with events months in advance has been the most valuable experience. Even though none of our free weekends have been free at all, the ability to get up and say, “Let’s go to the Omni and take the kids to Disney for the evening,” or “Let’s book that weekend to go to Texas and see my grandmother,” or “What? Date night? We’d love to!” has been everything. We are more relaxed, we are happier, and we are enjoying the quality of our lives. If the past two weekends have been an example, it’s the simplest, most basic things that have the most profound impact and make for the most amazing memories. We are just so fortunate.

Laugher is the Best Medicine

I don’t care who you are, if you aren’t laughing as much as we’ve been laughing this year, you aren’t doing life right. There have been a lot of date nights and Wednesday night dinners and dinner parties this year that have been so much fun, so hilarious, and filled with so much laughter that every single one of us has forgotten we have a phone. No pictures. No tags. Nothing. Best nights ever. We’re doing life with some super fantastic people, and that’s what it’s about.

There’s No Time For Negativity

We all have bad days, annoyances, and stuff. Like, for example, I spent a few hours on Friday on the phone with Under Armour asking why the gifts I ordered on October 20th hadn’t arrived yet on November 16, only to find out that what I ordered was out of stock – no notification, but they did charge me. Then I hung up, called UPS and asked them why the Nordstrom package I was expecting that day went from being on the truck for delivery to being in Miami only for them to tell me someone messed up (um, obviously?) to then being on the phone with FedEx to ask if I can possibly reschedule the delivery of 51 boxes of fundraiser items because even though I told the fundraiser lady that this week is Thanksgiving and there is no one at my daughter’s school to accept the shipment, she shipped it for delivery this week anyway.

We all have our stuff. And it’s okay to complain about it. But it’s not okay to blame everyone else for your life problems. Most of the time, it’s your own fault you’re not enjoying life. You put yourself into situations that are just stupid, pointless, and take away from your life. It’s not anyone’s fault but your own, but many people don’t see that. They are always right, their opinion is always the correct one, and they know everything about everything all the time.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

This year has been so good for me minimizing that kind of interaction, and it’s been good for me to learn to put that kind of negativity away when I’m feeling it, too. That’s made me so much happier. When you just realize your own issues, work on them, and move on, your life is much happier. Listen, you can take a sandwich bag filled with pennies from a 6-year-old and count out $4 for them to buy a book at a book fair all while inhaling the overwhelming scent of marijuana straight from that baggie and complain about the fact that you’re just a volunteer and this is not your job, or you can laugh about it, pass it around for everyone to smell and then laugh harder when they realize what you just gave them. #lifechoices #truestory

You Do You, Boo

You know what? Do you, sister. Be yourself. Do what you love, what makes you happy, what brings joy to your heart. And love everyone else who does the same. What makes life so much sweeter is worrying about you. Don’t worry about anyone else, who they are, what they are, or that their preferences are different than yours. Worry about you, boo. If you’re like me and you won’t leave the house without some form of bold red lipstick just to drop off your kids, that’s amazing.

If you’re like two of my favorite ladies in the world who roll out of bed in the morning and have all the natural beauty and need none, that’s amazing. Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks about you. And, hey, try to find some good people in your life who love you and your weird stuff. Remember this – people focus on things about you that bother them because they are insecure about themselves in the same manner. But, the truth is that most of us don’t care how you live, what you look like, or what’s up in your life – unless it’s funny. I love the funny stuff.

If this year has taught me anything, it’s that my own approval is all I need. And the fact that my people get that and embrace that is like finding an extra cookie in the bakery box when you thought they were all gone. #delicious

Focus on Quality Over Quantity

My husband and I have spent a great deal of time this year focusing on quality over quantity with our time and with our kids. We want our time with them to be present, focused, and engaging. And that’s what we love the most. It’s been good.

Early Bedtimes Are Everything

The kids. Us. Me. Listen, if you can be asleep before 8:30 p.m., do it. You won’t ever regret any of that. That’s my life goal nightly. And that’s why our kids have always had early bedtimes. Because I like to sleep. I like to wake up early, and that means I have to go to sleep early so I can get a full night of great sleep and be my best self. It’s how I live my best life.

Get Away Every Month

We’ve always been frequent travelers, but this year we made a deal that we would get away for at least a weekend every month, with or without the kids depending on the situation – and so far we’ve managed to exceed that goal. We’ve had 14 weekends away or trips this year, everywhere from the Bahamas to New York City to two trips to Texas to West Palm Beach to Tampa and Orlando. We’ve taken the kids, we’ve not taken the kids. And we still have a few more trips in the books before the year is over.

That time away has been priceless for both us and our kids, and we’ve loved it. There is nothing like knowing that at least once a month, someone else is going to uncork your bottle of champs and deliver coffee to you in bed in the morning. I consider that living my best life.

Get to Church and Spend Time With God

Do I need to add anything to that?

Smile

There might be a long list of annoyances in the everyday, but life is too good to complain about. So, stop complaining, look for the good in every day, and smile. You have a good life, you just have to stop focusing on the negative, make changes where you’re unhappy, and make everyday a good one. Trust me, you can do it. It’s a hell of a lot easier than you think.

So, that’s what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for life lessons, for laughter, for the people in my life, for my faith, for the good fortune we work so hard for, and for our sweet family and the abundance of love that we have in our lives. We are overflowing with love and with people who make our hearts feel so full – and that’s what’s so important to us.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Remember, your irritating in-laws (or your own family) will be gone at the end of the day. So, if you’re currently struggling to find something to be thankful for as your mother tells you that you’re not doing this right or your in-laws make comments about this, go ahead and just be thankful that you don’t have to have these dinners every night, give them a hug, and tell them you love them even if they make you crazier than you want to be. The good news is that they probably already know they make you crazy, and they’re never going to stop. It’s called family, and they’re the best.

Weekend Recap & Great Hair Days with Sexy Hair’s New Control Me Thermal Heat Protection Formula

Happy Monday, loves!

I don’t know about you, but I am so excited for the beginning of a new week. I feel so refreshed and relaxed after such a great weekend with my loves. Friday night was all about relaxing and unwinding at home. We were all tired after a busy weekend before and a beyond crazy week, so we put the kids to bed early (at their request) and Craig and I sat down together to watch a movie (Ocean’s Eight, and it was great!).

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Saturday we woke up to Florida Fall weather. It was 64 degrees, and you know our doors and windows were open! We drank our coffee on the lanai and it rained a little. We took the kids to the Pickin Patch with family, our oldest went home with her cousin for the day, and we partied all night at the annual Boo Bash. We all wore costumes and had so much fun. It was a long day, but Sunday was a much more relaxing situation.

We missed church because we overslept by accident. I think we needed it, though, so I don’t feel bad about it. Craig spent the day outside with Carter – that boy would live outside if we allowed it – and I took sweet Charlotte shopping for the day. The big girls requested that they not do anything, and we were fine that they wanted to spend the day in their bedrooms savoring their time alone, their books, and their tablets.

It was such a sweet weekend. I know I say that a lot, but I believe in appreciating how much good we have in our lives. We are blessed to have lives filled with wonderful friends, family, and good fortune, and we don’t take that for granted.

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And, I just have to say that part of my great weekend had everything to do with my hair.

Seriously.

No, really.

I had the best hair weekend, and it’s all because of Sexy Hair.

Sexy Hair sent me their brand new “Control Me” thermal protection working hairspray, and it’s beyond amazing. Now, I will say that I am a hairspray snob. I either straighten or curl my hair every day, and I live in the Florida humidity (and on the Gulf Coast, so that means that gorgeous breeze is ever-present). My hair needs the spray, but it also needs a little protection from all the heat.

This is amazing.

Not only does it smell SO much better than hairspray, the Control Me hairspray gave me the most fantastic hold, even though it’s a medium hold. My straight hair was perfect until I curled it, and then my curls stayed put the rest of the weekend – even in the sunshine, the wind, and the rain!

Sexy Hair’s Control Me hairspray defends the cuticle up to 450-degrees, and it gives the most natural hold. My hair wasn’t stiff nor did it feel gross at all – and it does that for 72 hours. I love knowing that I can heat style my hair while still protecting it and keeping it amazing simultaneously.

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Because I love the product so much, I’m partnering with Sexy Hair to offer all my readers a 15% discount on your purchase at sexyhair.com using promo code ‘SEXYHAIRCONTROLME’. I promise you will love it, so go buy it!

And don’t forget to have the best week ever. I know I will.

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

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

It is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017: The Year of Quality Over Quantity

2017 is over. Can you believe it? I swear the years go by faster every day. I’m still wrapping my mind around the fact that it was New Year 2017 just a minute ago and now we’re mere days away from ringing in 2018 with abandon. Anyone? Just me? No?

2017 was good to us. It had its up and downs of course. Life is far from perfect in the Raiford household, but it’s really good – we’ve worked really hard to build a life of freedom, and we are enjoying every second of it.

It’s been good to us, but we always have room for growth. And that’s what 2017 brought to us. It was a year of growth. We call it the year of quality over quantity. It’s difficult to explain, but we had a moment at the end of 2016 – somewhere before Christmas but definitely after Thanksgiving – when we realized we needed to make some changes in our lives.

We were getting ready to go somewhere and do something with our girls, who were 8 and 5 at the time, and they both sighed. “Can’t we just stay home for once? We always have to go places. We’re tired,” they whined.

Wait. What?

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Their lives are good. Were they really complaining about spending the evening with their friends? Were they really being ungrateful about all the fun we provide them? Weekend after weekend of traveling, of spending time with friends and family, of going to BBQs and pool parties and Christmas events and Disney World. Were they really complaining?

They were. And what made it even worse was that we knew what they were saying. We were also exhausted. We were never home. In 2016 we didn’t even take a trip for our wedding anniversary like we wanted because every weekend was pre-planned with some event, function, party, etc. We had no free time – we were actually scheduling free time in our calendars. We were tired. It wasn’t that we weren’t having a great time – we definitely were. But we were just worn out. Run down. Tired.

We have four kids. My husband has a career he loves, and it keeps him busy. I have my business to run, and it keeps me busier and busier everyday with new growth, projects, and clients. We have four kids. The twins were about to turn three (side note – I’m dying over here thinking they will be four in less than three months. I mean, I was just pregnant with them!), and that many kids doesn’t really provide a lot of opportunity for rest and relaxation.

We knew we had to make some changes. We wanted to be more deliberate with our time. We wanted to learn to say no to being overscheduled. We wanted to start planning things for our family to do together just us so we could really spend some quality time with the kids. The twins were more fun than ever, easier to travel with, easier to take out.

We wanted to be more deliberate, and we wanted to have more time at home. We bought our dream house in 2014, and we’d spent very little time in it – even though we both work from home – just enjoying it. Our kids were tired, we were tired. We needed some change.

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Que New Year’s 2016-2017. We decided we’d learn to say no to things that didn’t work with our schedule instead of saying yes to everything and killing ourselves trying to get everything done. Sundays were a no-no for plans. Sundays would become our day as a family. No plans other than church and relaxation. If we wanted to do something, we’d wake up and make that decision, but we agreed no making Sunday plans.

And I cannot even tell you how good this year was to us. We had more free time – though I am ashamed to say that more free time is still not nearly enough free time – and we were able to schedule so many of the things we were never able to find time for in the past. Sundays became very well spent in a slow, sweet manner. Mondays were so much nicer because we were prepared, organized, and rested because of those slow Sundays.

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The kids are so much happier. They love the quality family time we are spending together, and they love the ability to sometimes get to stay home and enjoy the many things they never got to enjoy before. We took more bike rides and golf cart rides. We took more walks. We played outside a lot. We baked cookies and had family movie nights and spent weekend after weekend at Disney World just enjoying what they wanted to do. We slept in, we made big breakfasts, we took day trips to our favorite places. We traveled.

My husband and I were able to find the time to schedule five long weekends and trips this year. Just the two of us. Just to spend to quality time together (we do have four kids….). From New York to Fort Lauderdale to California to South Carolina to Naples, we earned plenty of frequent flier miles this year. We had another three or four single nights away a little closer to home in Tampa in Orlando. We dated. We laughed. We focused on our marriage a lot more this year. It was good.

We also made it our goal to spend at least one weekend a month out of town with the kids. Tampa and Orlando are easy drives, and we wanted to really get some serious use out of our Disney passes this year. We made sure to schedule a few of those weekends away with just the big girls to spend a little quality time with them, but we made it a point to really enjoy this new stage the twins are in that makes life so much simpler.

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I think the highlight of my year – and I’m so serious – was when we were flying home from a fun vacation in North Carolina and two total strangers came up to us at two separate times in the airport and on our flights and told us what well-behaved, delightful kids we have and how well they travel.

If that’s not a mom’s dream come true…

Quality.

It was all about quality this year. We are getting older. The kids are getting older. We were changing. Maturing a bit, growing up a bit, and our wants and needs were evolving. It was time for us to focus our priority on doing what makes us happy and what makes us feel good rather than making sure every day in our calendar was filled.

As a result of focusing on quality, so much of our life has changed for the better. The kids are less exhausted, and they’re so much easier. We can load them up, take them out, sit down at a nice restaurant, and we don’t have to worry they’re too tired or cranky to behave. We are less exhausted, so we aren’t as grouchy or as impatient as we were in the past.

We are more focused on our work, and it’s shown in both of the advancements we’ve made this year. Craig has never been more ebullient. I’ve been able to find the energy to expand my company and take on some major new clients, as well as focus on a change of direction in some of the services I offer.

It’s hard to explain, but slowing down has really made a change in our lives. It feels good to be in control, and it feels really, really good to spend so much quality time as a family. I didn’t even realize how much I like spending time with these little animals until this year because I’ve been on autopilot for so long.

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Now that I’ve written a small novel, I want to share with you how we made the change to focus more on quality than on quantity in 2017 if it’s something you want to do, too. I’m also working on a post about how we’re getting #backtobasics in 2018 for later.

Be Deliberate with Your Time

Learn to say no. It’s not easy, but sometimes you just have to say no when you’re tired, not feeling well, not up for it, not in the mood, when you have other plans, when you just want to relax. Sometimes you just have to say no. It gets easier each time, and it’s going to change your life. Remember – your time is valuable. It’s too expensive to dish out so frequently on things that aren’t as valuable to you.

Focus on Your Health

Get some sleep. If there’s one thing I’ve always believed, it’s that sleep is too important to miss out. A few late nights here and there are fun, but nothing beats a good night of sleep followed by feeling good the next morning. There just isn’t enough time to waste not felling well or being too tired to function all the time.

Work out and eat good food. Nothing feels as good as being healthy, and nothing feels as good as moving your body and fueling it with things that are good for you. I don’t feel well when I don’t work out. I don’t have energy, I’m crabby, and my body gets really angry with me when I don’t feed it well. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my favorite unhealthy things; I do. I just do it in moderation (mostly…we all have our moments).

Take a Rest Day

For us, leaving Sundays open and unplanned has been the best decision we’ve ever made. It doesn’t always work out, of course, but doing this most weekends has been amazing. Nothing makes the week more exciting, more productive, and better than being well rested and prepared.

Get Organized

Life is better when it’s organized. I can’t sleep if my house isn’t clean. I can’t leave the house if it’s not clean. I can’t function if things are out of place or order or ignored. It’s not who I am. I know not everyone is such an obsessive neat freak, but it really is easier to get through life when you’re organized and on top of things.

Do What You Want

If there is something you want to do, do it. It’s better to do it now than keep waiting on it. Find the time. Make the time. Do the things.

Thank you, 2017

Thank you for helping us grow, for changing our hearts, and for allowing us to prosper. Our life is so filled with abundance, and we are so grateful and thankful for the opportunities we’ve found, created, and been given this year and the years before. It’s been more than a little exciting to exceed our goals, to surpass our dreams, and to have the opportunity to spend so much time together. Here’s to 2018 and all the blessings, lessons, and new beginnings in store.

 

Thank You: Giving Thanks to the Men Who Helped Our Daughter When Our Worst Fear Came True

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It’s Thanksgiving week, and that means it’s going to be a week filled with very grateful, thankful people – and there is nothing wrong with that. I do wish more people would focus more regularly on being thankful for all they don’t have rather than being upset by all they don’t; but that’s not really my problem. Today, my plan was to share a post about holiday hosting. Tips, tricks, and a few of my favorites.

Instead, I’m pushing it back to later in the week, and I’m going to share some thanks. Not your typical thanks. But I’m going to give thanks to two men whom I’ve never met before, whose names I don’t know. Two men who protected my baby. Two men who kept her safe, calm, and helped her when she needed help more than ever.

This weekend was like any other. We decided it was the perfect weekend to spend in Orlando hanging out at Disney with the kids. We’ve got four – kids, that is. And we’ve been annual passholders for about 8 years, since our oldest child was almost 1. We don’t live far from the parks, it’s easy for us to spend a couple of hours on a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon, or even a weekend having fun.

The kids are familiar with the park. They know their way around like the back of their hands. They know where everything is, how fast passes work, where to go for the best this or that, and the best places to go when it’s raining, when it’s hot, when it’s cold, or to see the parades or shows. They’ve only been a couple million times, that’s all.

But this weekend was not like any other weekend. This weekend was our worst nightmare come true. We had all four kids (Addison is 9, Ava is 6, and Carter and Charlotte are 3) Saturday at the park. It was meant to be a weekend of fun in the sun, relaxation, and some great meals at a few of our favorite places. We slept in on Saturday morning, relaxed over some delicious Starbucks, and ended up at Disney before noon.

We had fast passes, we did our favorite rides, we bought new toys and new hats, and we stopped for massive ice cream cones, bowls, cookies, and dishes at the Ice Cream Shoppe on Mainstreet for a break. Just before we were leaving Magic Kingdom to go to dinner, Addison decided she finally knew which toy she wanted, so I took her into the shop on Main Street and the restroom while Craig took the twins in the double stroller and Ava to the Christmas tree to wait for us.

We weren’t separated 3 minutes when my watch began vibrating on my wrist and I saw it was Craig calling. He wouldn’t call me from the same street at Disney 3 minute after we separated and 3 minutes before we’d be back together unless it was urgent – a text is so much easier.

I knew. I knew the second I saw his name something was wrong, and I couldn’t find my phone in my bag fast enough. I answered, and the fear, panic, and terror in his voice made my heart stop.

“I can’t find Ava. She’s gone,” is all he said.

I grabbed Addison by the arm and ran out of the store without a word – I didn’t even know if she had anything in her hands or if I had all our belongings or what. I just needed to get out of the store. We ran down Mainstreet looking for her. Black leggings. Back and grey Minnie mouse shirt. Black and silver Michael Kors flip flops. Bright pink Hello Kitty fedora.

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Nothing. No sign of her. Mainstreet was packed. I had Addison by the arm, and we were running. I was pushing people, breaking up their groups, crying. Terrified. I spotted Craig by the tree running around with the double stroller calling Ava’s name.

He’d told her they were going to stop by the tree to wait for mommy when the twins started bickering, and he bent down to talk to them. Ava – we later learned – was so distracted by the tree that she said “Okay,” to Craig without hearing anything he said and she kept watching. Craig, taking her “Okay” for confirmation she knew the plan, didn’t even notice she kept walking when he was breaking up the fight between the babies.

She was gone. We were both hysterical.

We separated as he stayed by the tree to look in case she came back and I went to find a cast member. Find a cast member. Find a Disney cast member and tell them she’s missing. Describe her. Give her name. They have a system, they have protocol. They know what to do. They know how to handle this. Find a cast member.

As I’m running frantically trying to find a cast member, which is usually the easiest thing you can do at Disney, I realize that it was some sort of big club weekend in which thousands of people were all dressed in Disney ensembles similar to the dancers, the cast members, and other Disney employees. It was near impossible to find someone who actually worked there rather than someone who merely looked like a cast member.

That’s when I ran into a store to get a cast member from behind a counter. And that’s when my phone rang. My darling husband Craig Raiford on the screen. I answered. “I have her,” is all he said, and I took off running.

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By the tree, I saw my husband in his orange and blue Florida Gator polo shirt on the ground with Ava in his arms. They were both crying. I have never hugged a child that hard in my life. She said she was so scared. Based on how scared I was, I can’t even imagine how scared she was.

According to Ava, our sweet six-year-old, she just kept looking at the tree on Mainstreet and didn’t know daddy stopped. By the time she realized he wasn’t with her anymore, she said there were so many people and she’s so small she couldn’t see anything, so she stopped a man and told him she was lost.

We’ve always told our kids – a million and one times – what to do if they are ever separated from us. Find an employee of wherever we are, find a person with a lot of kids who seem happy. Find a police officer, or a medic, or a fireman, or a security guard. Tell them you’re lost, and tell them what we look like, where we were, and our names.

And she did. She found a man in a Florida State Seminoles shirt – she recognized the logo from the games we watched – and she asked him for help. And then he told us the rest. He told us that Ava was so impressive and brave. She was crying, but she told him she couldn’t find her daddy, and then she told him that he’s wearing an orange and blue Gator shirt, and that he had her twin babies with him in their red stroller. And then he took her to find the nearest cast member for help.

We are so proud of our girl. Six-years-old, and aside from some tears, she was calm, stoic, and handled herself like a champ. She handled herself so well, in fact, two grown men were impressed and couldn’t resist telling us we should be proud of her.

The grace of God was with us on Saturday, because another man saw the entire thing unfold when Ava stopped FSU to ask for help. He, wearing a Bama shirt, decided to follow to find a cast member. He didn’t say it out loud, but my take is that he followed because a little girl was lost from her family and asked a strange man for help and he wanted to be sure that strange man would, in fact, help her. That’s when FSU spotted a cast member, explained the story, and left Ava with the cast member to go to Guest Services. It’s also the moment he decided to look around and spotted a man with an orange and blue Gator polo and twins in a red stroller looking a little worse for the wear. He approached Craig and asked him if he was missing his little girl and when Craig said he was, he pointed to the cast member and to Ava.

And that’s when FSU told Craig he had one smart, brave little girl. She told him exactly was Craig was wearing, what color the stroller was, what the babies were wearing; everything. And that’s when Bama came up and told Craig he witnessed the entire thing, and Ava did everything right. She did it all right.

She did everything right. And because of that, we had her back in under 7 minutes. It was the longest 7 minutes of our lives, and I cannot even begin to describe the kind of fear we felt in that moment. Terror doesn’t even begin to cover it.

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare come to life.

But our girl remembered all the conversations we had with her about handling a situation just like this. Conversations I was certain she never listened to. Conversations I had to pry a response out of her following. Conversations she seemed to be more interested in her coloring, the scenery, the floor, the sky, being anywhere else but talking to us. She heard every word.

And that’s why I want to take a moment to tell you to talk to your kids. Talk to them about how to handle situations you never think you might experience. We are darn good parents. Our eyes are on our kids – and we would have put money on the fact we’d never lose a child in public. But we did. We did.

And I want to take another moment to thank the two men who helped our Ava. The two men who proved there are good people in the world even when the media wants us to believe otherwise. Two men in college football shirts who weren’t at home watching the game but at Disney with their families making memories and probably wishing there was a TV or two anywhere in the Magic Kingdom.

Thank you. I don’t know your names. I don’t know who you are. I never even saw your faces. You spoke to my husband while I was running around looking for our daughter, and you kept her safe. You are good people, and I am forever thankful to you both. Thank you for being at Disney. Thank you for helping our girl. Thank you for seeing a little girl with tears in her eyes and doing whatever it took to help her find her family.

Thank you. And thank God for putting those two men where they were that day so that our girl would be all right. Thank you. And talk to your kids. And by the witness who follows in a situation like this to be sure that help is really what’s being offered.

And Happy Thanksgiving week. Hug a little tighter this week. It’s good for your soul.

Difficult Decisions in Difficult Situations: Family First Always

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It turns out being a grown-up is entirely too overrated. I mean, honestly.

You guys…we are facing some serious problems here in Florida. Serious problems – and this is a serious post. I know you want fashion and lifestyle tips and things like that, but this week things these seem a little less important than what’s happening. Or perhaps that’s what I’m telling myself as I cross off one flight, two flights, hotels, limos, and dinner reservations as cancelled/refunded/rescheduled one at a time. You see, I’m leaving tonight for NYFW. This is my third year going – and it’s my all-time favorite part about what I do for a living.

Except that I’m not leaving. For the first time in three years, I’m missing Fashion Week in New York City. Am I disappointed? Oh, I’m crushed. I love NYFW. I love NYC. It’s my home away from home. My husband and I spend several weekends a year in NYC, and I was certainly looking forward to a weekend of quality time with him. But…our kids, our home, our family. Those things are more important.

Fashion Week happens again in February. I’ll be there. This weekend is all about being safe. It’s about praying and being with my family and hoping Hurricane Irma doesn’t devastate us and our sweet Coastal Florida community. Could we make it Friday and come home Saturday first thing so we don’t miss my most important day of shows and presentations on Friday? Yes, we probably could.

Do we want to take the chance this beast changes track at the last minute, speeds up, or anything else changes and we can’t get home even on a 6 am flight Saturday morning? No. Absolutely not. There’s not a chance in HELL we want to be away from our kids if that happens. We don’t even know about being here as it stands right now. We’re fortunate we both work from home and have the option to pick up and go anytime we want/need. We are also very fortunate my father-in-law lives in North Carolina and has always made it very clear to us his door is always open (I mean, we totally know it’s because we bring all these cute grandkids of his with us, but we’ll take it).

So, we make grown-up decisions this week; all kinds of grown-up decisions. Does it suck? Yep. Absolutely. But, I’ve officially managed to get FULL REFUNDs on every single thing we booked this weekend. I’ve been refunded our flight costs, our hotel costs, our limo costs – all of it. Everyone has been so accommodating and amazing and wonderful and kind and sweet, and I love that. And our parents have been so gracious to offer to keep the kids so we can rebook our trip for the end of the month to celebrate my birthday. No NYFW, but we still get to spend a long weekend away with one another focusing on us and our marriage – and my 34th birthday.

On that note, I want to address a few very serious things.

Be Kind – If you’re not being kind right now in the midst of this storm, change your attitude. Don’t be a miserable bitch at the gas pump because the lines are long. Don’t be an ass because someone else got the last bit of water before you. We ae all scared. We are all worried. We have a Cat 5 hurricane breaking records left and right barreling down on us – some of us worse than others – and we are all terrified. Be kind. The world needs more of that. Offer a helping hand rather than a snide eye-roll. Know there will be more gas. Know there will be more water. Work together to help your neighbors with their window covers. Work with them to communicate when you’re evacuating or staying behind. Be kind, people. Please.

Be Respectful – This is a great time of need for many people. The storm is taking a more Easterly track at the moment (and that’s very good for me and my West Coast Florida address) but it’s not great for any of us. There will be rain. There will be flooding. There will be power outages. Stay home once it begins. Don’t be the jerk driving through flood waters if you aren’t on your way to check on your family, home, or business. Every time you drive through those waters – even slowly – you push the water into homes and businesses more than it’s already in those homes and businesses. The devastation is going to be everywhere – and we must all be respectful.

Be Safe – Have a plan, have a system, and have some common sense. This is not the time to worry about increasing your Instagram following by posting a crazy video of you driving your Golf Cart through the backyard in hurricane-force winds. This storm is a killer. It’s a beast. It’s not a joke, and you’re not doing yourself any favors by treating it as such. If you’re ordered to evacuate, get out. Don’t play games. The governor doesn’t require you do this because he loves to see traffic backed up all over the place. He does this to keep you alive.

Be Welcoming – Do you have an elderly neighbor without a spouse or family? Do you have a single mom living next door with her small baby? Do you know someone who has no one? If you do, consider opening up your home if you’re staying behind. Think about how terrified you are, and now think about how terrified that single mom/child/elderly person is all by him or herself without anyone in the dark, the heat, the damp, the storm. Open your door by opening your heart.

Be Prepared – I know this is tough. Supplies are low (but the wine aisle is FULL, so that’s something to consider). It’s a mess out there. But be prepared. Know where you’ll go in your home if there is a tornado. Have a safe place. For example, my husband’s closet has a door on the back wall that opens up into a room beneath our staircase. We keep blankets, pillows, non-perishable items, shoes, and other things in here for us and our kids if ever there is a tornado or other dangerous situation. We want to be safe – and you should know where you will go in your home if something happens. There is no time in the moment to think about this. Think now. It might save your life.

Be Prepared…Again – Be prepared for what might occur. This is not a Cat 1 or even a Cat 2. This is a Cat 5. Even if this storm loses some of its power, it’s still going to be a strong storm. This storm has 185 mph winds. Even if it loses significant strength, it can still be a powerful storm. Be prepared for what might happen.

Friends, I don’t love this situation. I hate it. I don’t hate, because hate is such a wasted emotion. But I hate thinking of what might happen, but it’s time to for us to do that. Understand and be prepared for the worst. You might lose your home. You might lose your belongings. You might come home after evacuating to a mess unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. You might come home to nothing wrong. You don’t know. But you must prepare yourself. Know how to get in touch with your insurance agency. Take photos and videos of the interior of your home before you go. Take photos and videos of all your belongings. Do this for you and your family.

You guys, this is going to be a very long road for so many of us. I’m praying that this thing doesn’t affect us nearly as much as it could. I’m praying that this storm goes out to the Atlantic and misses the states. I’m praying for all the people in the islands. I’m praying for us. I’m praying.

I’m praying.

Night. Day. I’m praying. Our strength at this time lies in Him. Pray. And be prepared. And be nice. Because honestly, mean people suck. Don’t suck.

Good luck. Stay safe. And may the odds be ever in OUR favor. We are in this together, and we will get through this.

Friday Favorites: The 5 Things I Do For Myself When I Need to Recharge My Soul

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Four kids + one business + a husband + a house + social life + children’s activities = One busy mama.

I’m (hashtag) blessed, you guys. I married a man who doesn’t have a traditional view of “men and women” in the home. He’s the kind of guy who goes above and beyond for us – every single day. He does 95% of the laundry, he vacuums the carpets in our house every night, he cooks, he cleans, he gets the kids dressed for school, and he changes most of the diapers. He respects my business and does whatever he needs to do to support me so I succeed.

He also has a career that keeps him very busy. He’s a senior systems engineer, and he works from home. Hard. He works hard, but the man never stops. What I’m trying to say is I’m really nowhere near as tired as much as I could be or would be if it weren’t for him.

But even with all he does, I’m still tired. I started my business almost 9 years ago, and I’m adding to it each and every day. This year I decided to learn to say yes to new opportunities, and that’s what I’ve done. In addition to my already long list of clients, I’ve started my own blog and decided to expand my business. I work every waking moment of every day. And I wouldn’t change a thing. My success is important to me, as is the freedom it provides me.

When people ask me why I work so hard as a business owner and my own boss, I have a simple answer. I want to. I want to work hard. I thrive on hard work and dedication. I love being in my office at home, and I love creating and developing and making my clients happy. I love it. I don’t feel like it’s work. It’s my passion, and I’d spend even more time in my office if I could. I’m such a big believer in working hard and playing hard; and that’s precisely what I do.

That said – I do get burnt out from time to time. I put in 16-18 hour days most days. It’s not all work; it’s kids, activities, social life, date nights, and all things related to being all the things I am. But I’m tired sometimes. Obviously by sometimes I mean every moment of every day. Tired, though, is my way of life. It’s the burnt out part that bothers me. That’s why today’s Friday Faves focuses on the things that help me de-stress, relax, and unwind. They’re what make me feel better and stronger – and just maybe they’ll help you do the same.

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I Exercise Daily 

For real, guys. I hit the gym every day. I need to exercise. It gives me energy, makes me feel strong, and it motivates me. I like all kinds of exercise, and recently began trying new classes. Yoga, spin, whatever. I’m down with anything that makes me sweat and pushes me beyond my comfort zone.

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I Keep A Peaceful, Happy Home 

I need, need, need order in my life, and a peaceful home is one of my favorite things. By peaceful, I mean I need to feel good when I’m home. I need a clean home. I need it to smell nice, and I need a lot of bright light. Fresh flowers, decadent candles, and order create a perfect marriage of a peaceful home for me. I work from home, and I need to feel relaxed when I’m there.

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I Focus On Self-Development

Some people prefer a day at the spa or a night out – both of which I adore – but it’s time to practice self-development that I love. It’s listening to an inspirational podcast (the Becoming Fearless Style Collective Podcast by Annie Spano is EVERYTHING, you guys) in the car on the way to drop my kids off at school, or reading a book that motivates me to push myself further than I’m currently pushing. I’m all about being better, doing better, and always learning.

I love to hear the stories of others, to find inspiration in their words, and motivation to help me grow. I live by the knowledge that I certainly don’t know everything – and I never will. I want to learn something new each day, and I want to push myself to do more. I am a sucker for self-development. It’s my favorite way to unwind. Journaling, praying, podcast-listening, and reading are my jam.

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I Hang With My Family

I won’t lie – I’m never relaxed when I’m hanging out with my kids. Our oldest will be 9 next month, our “middle” daughter is 6, and our twins are 3. There’s no such thing as relaxing with them, but I do feel recharged and really good when I get to spend time with them. And it’s not just being in the same room or the same house or at the same party – I crave actual family time. As much as I enjoy spending time with others, I need my family to myself sometimes. I need to be able to play with my kids and my husband without interference or distractions.

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I love being present while they play with their friends and we spend quality time with ours – but I need to have time in my life where there are no other people around and we get to be a family of six who spends real, quality, good time together. I’m exhausted, and usually annoyed, and probably over it by the end of the day, but oh my goodness do I feel good that we had that time. So, restful? No. But I’m recharged.

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Date nights and weekends away – yes, please. I can’t get enough. My sweet best friend recently pointed out how much time Craig and I get to spend together, and I told her we just need it. We work from home together all day, but we don’t speak. He’s doing his job, I’m doing mine, and we don’t socialize during the day. Half the kids are home all summer, we’re constantly busy, and we need time to spend alone.

He is my favorite person, and our date nights every other week and our weekends away every few months are everything. I come home feeling so rested and relaxed – but my cheeks always hurt. We spend a lot of time laughing, and I can’t stop smiling when we have time alone. I love it.

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I Relish the Quiet Moments

I can’t get enough of them. Probably because I don’t get enough of them. Like I said, I have a family of six. My house is noise and chaos from 7 am to 7 pm every single day. Unless they’re not home or asleep, we don’t even know what quiet sounds like.

But I do live for the quiet moments. I love to steal 10 minutes sitting outside on our deck with the appropriate beverage (coffee, wine) and listening to absolutely nothing. I love it even more when it’s raining because I can sit on my front porch in my red rocking chairs and listen to the rain. I love the moments when my husband is in the shower in the morning and the kids are asleep and the whole house is quiet while I have my coffee.

Basically, I need a little bit of quiet, a lot of noise and tiny kisses and laughs, my husband, and cleanliness to recharge. We all need that time – and since Friday is my favorite day, and these are my favorite things to do when I’m in need of a de-stress, I wanted to share.

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How do you unwind?

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