5 Reasons You Should Keep Fresh Blooms At Home

Happy Wednesday, loves!

When we got home from Texas this weekend, we had to hit the supermarket. Ordinarily, we might order groceries to have delivered when we land so that we can come home to what we need and focus on unpacking, but I needed flowers. I always keep fresh flowers in our home – and the Good Lord knows I cannot grow them without killing them – so I pick them up at Publix and display them throughout my home. However, I never trust someone else to pick out the right flowers – I have to look, touch, smell, and think about where I want them and what I’m trying to say.

So, I went to Publix to shop. While there, one of the gentlemen in the produce department said hello. I see him there a few times a week, and we always exchange pleasantries. This time he said to me, “I hope you’re not buying yourself flowers every time you’re in here. Someone else should be buying you flowers,” to which I responded that my husband both sends and brings me flowers regularly, so we’re all good.

At the register, the woman checking me out commented on them and asked who they were for (I should mention I had four or five dozen, so it probably did seem like a lot of flowers). When I told her they were to display at home, she gave me a look.

You know the look. The look. She was appalled that I’d buy that many flowers to put out at home. She called it a wasteful expense (first, I don’t recall asking for her opinion on how I choose to shop, and second, I mean, I was gone for basically two weeks and home for two days between trips – all of my flowers were dead and gone. I wasn’t replenishing a few here and there – I was replenishing all of them in the entire house).

It made me think.

I might be the only person I know who always has fresh flowers at home. Maybe it is a wasted and continuous expense. But, then again, they’re only $15 a dozen. That’s nothing, right?

And then I thought, you know what? I don’t give an actual you-know-what. I love flowers. What does it matter if anyone else approves of them? It does not. And, for that matter, they’re actually beneficial to have at home.

So, if you’re on the fence about whether you want to spring for flowers to keep at home, let me share some of the benefits of them with you.

cropped-43.jpg

They Make You Happy

Do you really need another reason to keep fresh blooms at home? You do not, but I’ll elaborate because I’m chatty and all that. Fresh blooms make you smile. Smiling releases endorphins. Endorphins minimize stress. Smiling is pretty. Happy people are pretty people. Need I go on?

Fresh Flowers Create Fresh Air

Okay, okay…not all of them. But, did you know that some of my own personal favorites (Gerbers and lilies) clean the air? That’s right. They do something plant-y and magical that somehow removes toxins from the air. Clean air is the best air, and who doesn’t love the smell of fresh flowers?

Fresh Flowers Help You Sleep Better

Do you remember that one time I told you that fresh flowers clean the air by removing toxins? Right, well, those same flowers also allow you to get a better night of sleep because you’re breathing better while you get a little shut-eye. We talked about happy people being pretty people, but what about well-rested people without all the bags and the moodiness?

21

Color Brightens Your Mood

It goes without saying that a little color goes a long way. Why do you think those of us who basically live in Lilly Pulitzer are so positive all the time? It’s all that color! It makes us happy! So, get some flowers, be happy, be beautiful, and be all the things you want to be. Who knew it was that easy?

Bye-Bye Anxiety

Here’s a deep thought for a Wednesday. Did you ever wonder why giving flowers to those who are ill or suffering or who recently lost someone is a thing? Someone passed? Send flowers. Someone is ill? Send flowers. Someone is having a birthday? Send flowers.

It’s because flowers create a physiological effect on your brain. It helps you feel less anxious. When you’re able to reduce your feelings of anxiety, you’re just a better, happier, more positive person. And all because of flowers. That’s why you send them to the ill. It helps them feel better because they lose some of that anxiety that’s got them even further down than their illness.

Basically, if you’re not living with fresh flowers at home, you’re a tired, cranky, moody, mean, anxious, stressed-out, fatigued, toxin-breathing mess. *insert shrug emoji here*

Well, maybe you’re not that bad. Maybe you are. What do I know? But, it can’t hurt to have a little color and a little freshness in the house, right?

And may I add one additional perk? If you know me at all, you know my thumb is brown. Y’all, I kill succulents. Fake succulents. I know, I know…but what I’m saying is that when you purchase fresh flowers to keep at home, there’s no let down. It’s like you buy them and you are both in agreement – they know their time on earth is short, and you know their time on earth is short. No one is worried that their time on earth is dependent solely on you remembering to do things like water them or whatever. It’s a mutual fling with zero expectation.

Advertisements

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.

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.

2

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.

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

5

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

Lucky Number 13.

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

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

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

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

25

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

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

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

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

  1. Fail Together

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

  1. Pick your battles

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

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

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

  1. It’s all about perspective

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

  1. Humor is all the good stuff

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Life is better when you want the same things

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

  1. Just do it

As often as possible, too. Daily is good.

  1. Respect your spouse – always

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

  1. Have fun

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

  1. It does get better over time

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

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

  1. Faith is so important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7

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

28 Little Ways to Celebrate Your Love Everyday – Not Just On Valentine’s Day

travel 4

February is the month in which everyone celebrates love, but we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day in our household. It’s not that we have a problem with it – we don’t. It’s just not in our nature to feel the need to celebrate our love for one another on a very specific day because someone told us to do it that way. We’re more of a celebrate our love everyday kind of couple, and Valentine’s Day is a fun way to celebrate something sweet with our little ones.

In our house, Valentine’s Day means celebrating the kids. Craig always sends me flowers – even though we have 3-4 bouquets of fresh flower in our home at all times – and we exchange cute cards (and I like chocolate, and I will never turn that down, Raiford…hint, hint). But our day is mostly about being sweet to the kids. Celebrating love with them.

What I love is the little things that happen everyday in our marriage. Those are the moments I like to celebrate every day. It’s the little things my husband does that make me feel the most loved. It’s that he gets all four kids out of bed, makes their breakfast, packs their lunches, and gets them ready for school every morning. He knows that when I’m most productive and motivated and creative, and he wants me to have the chance to utilize that time in my office.

It’s that he is right there next to me at bedtime every night to read to the kids, tuck them in, kiss them goodnight, and all that. It’s that he does 90% of the laundry in our house, and that he cooks dinner. It’s that he loves to spend time with the kids and he’s 100% involved in their lives. It’s that he never tries to take the hot water from me when we’re in the shower – he waits for me to decide I don’t need all the hot water and space and share with him. It’s that he tells me he loves me like 87 times a day both verbally and through his actions.

It’s the little things. And I have 28 little things you can do every day this month to show your love through your own actions. It’s simple, it’s amazing, and it has the potential to change your life if you make acts of service like this a habit every day.

vday6

  1. Say thank you for the little things rather than taking them for granted. Thank your spouse for taking out the trash or changing the baby’s diaper. Thank him for standing when you excuse yourself from the table, or thank her for always making sure you have your favorite breakfast item in the house.
  2. Turn off your phones and spend time together every night.
  3. Go to bed at the same time every night.
  4. Take a family walk and really pay attention when your spouse talks to you.
  5. Surprise him or her with their favorite treat the next time you’re out.

nyc5

  1. Let him or her sleep in while you get up with the kids one morning.
  2. Offer to do something he or she usually does so they can relax or at least have a little less on their plate.
  3. Cook dinner.
  4. Plan a date night.
  5. Bring home grocery store flowers (I don’t know what it is about grocery store flowers picked up in a moment of, “Those are pretty, and my wife would love those,” that I love so much more than a flower delivery, but it’s special).

vday4

  1. Pick up a card and write a sweet note in it for your spouse.
  2. Make the bed for your spouse if he or she is usually the one who does that.
  3. Make a donation in your spouse’s name to a cause that’s important to him or her.
  4. Get away for the weekend.
  5. Make breakfast together on the weekends.

vday3

  1. Do that one thing he or she mentioned they’d love to do or wish they had more time to do and surprise them.
  2. Offer a massage to your spouse.
  3. Don’t have a headache (the more you say yes, the more you want to say yes and the more intimate time you spend together, and the closer you become).
  4. Give him or her a break when you’re in a bad mood instead of snapping or being short.
  5. Come up with something fun that’s not typical and do it together.

24

 

  1. Clean out his or her car.
  2. Tag team things one of you usually does alone to make it faster and easier.
  3. Choose to laugh more often than you choose to have any other response.
  4. Send the kids to the grandparent’s for a night alone in your very own home, where you sleep the best, where you enjoy your coffee the most, and where you can both relax and really enjoy one another.
  5. Make your spouse’s coffee in the morning.

4

  1. Bring home donuts.
  2. Ask if there is any way you can help him or her make their live easier on a daily basis.
  3. Never miss a moment to smack one another on the ass when you walk by (that is what marriage is for, right?)

And the bonus – just be a nicer person in general. Everyone loves a nice person, and what better way to celebrate your love for someone than just being a nice person? I like it.

What do you do to celebrate your love for one another on a daily basis?

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

5

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.

11

  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

2

  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.

4

  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.

8

  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.

us 4

  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.

12 Fun Facts About My Marriage on Our 12th Wedding Anniversary

us

May 15, 2005 is the day my husband and I exchanged vows in front of God and 130 of our closest friends and family members. May 15, 2005 was 12 years ago. Twelve. I can’t even believe it’s been that long. In all honesty, I feel as though it was just yesterday. Cliché. I know, but it’s true. I can’t believe we’ve gone from newlyweds to long-time married people with four kids who’ve been together almost half our lives at this point. It’s amazing, but time flies when you’re having fun.

I know I talk a lot about my husband, but there are just so many amazing things to say about him. Everyone who knows Craig will tell you he is the kindest, most selfless, most beautiful person on the inside and the out. He is the kind of person who makes everyone around him just a little better. He’s a gentleman to the core. I am so proud to call him my husband, and I am so proud our little boy gets to grow up with such a lovely example of what a real man looks like. I am just as proud our three girls get to grow up with such a shining example of what to look for and expect in the men they’ll one day marry and begin their own families with.

I could talk about Craig all day. He truly inspires me to be a better person, and he inspires everyone around him to be better. He’s just a gentle soul with a beautiful heart. So kind and thoughtful, always looking out for us first, and he’s always thinking of others long before he ever thinks of himself.

travel 4

Let me share an example with you. Last year, he left the bank he’d been with for more than 15 years to make a major, exciting, and wonderful career move. When he left, several weeks of his vacation was still unused. The bank cashes out unused vacation time and pays the employee the cash value of it, but my husband made a request that they not do that. Rather than taking thousands of dollars in cash, he wanted to know if there was a way he could gift his remaining vacation time to a woman he’d worked with many years. Her husband had been recently diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and he thought giving her his paid vacation time to use so she could spend more time with her husband was a far more valuable use of that money.

When her husband passed recently, she sent my husband a lovely note thanking him for that thoughtful gift; she said that because of him, she was able to spend the last several weeks of his life by his side without worrying about work or money. What he did was selfless, kind, and beautiful; and it’s just Craig.

All the sweet mushy stuff aside, today is our twelfth wedding anniversary, and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to share with you all 12 things about our marriage you didn’t know…which I know seems impossible given how much of our life I share on social media.

us 5

  1. We are kind-of high school sweethearts

I say kind-of, because I’m not his! We met on a blind date on November 2, 2001. He was a freshman in college, and I was a senior in high school. We met that night, and we’ve been together ever since. I consider us high school sweethearts, because we were both 18 and he was mine.

  1. We both knew right away

The night I met Craig, I knew I’d marry him. He said the same thing, but that he was terrified I didn’t feel the same…and it’s all my pesky little brother’s fault. This was back in the day of cell phones being relatively new, and my parents weren’t on board with that yet. I was probably the only high school student without one at the time! Craig called me the morning after we met and my brother answered the phone. He’s 3 years younger than me, has a mission in life to make me miserable, and he’s nowhere near as funny as he thinks (love you, jerk-face!). Anyway, he told Craig he’d tell me he called, and he didn’t. So he called again the next day, and my brother told him he told me he called – he did not – and made Craig think I wasn’t interested. Fortunately, when he didn’t call after a few days, I decided to call him and ask him what was up with that. We exchanged stories, I confronted my brother (who thought it was hilarious) and that was that.

  1. We got engaged at 19

Actually, I believe Craig was 20 when he proposed. He asked me to marry him on May 25, 2003. We were on a date weekend in Jacksonville, and we had dinner at the Chart House. I was 19, he was 20, and we’d been together about a year and-a-half. After dinner, we decided to walk along the river when we saw a fountain and thought it would make a great photo background. I handed another couple my camera and asked them to take a photo. They said yes, and I posed. I just remember thinking, “What is Craig doing tying his shoe right now? He can’t wait until we are done with our photo since these people are just standing here waiting to take one?!” It never even occurred to me he was wearing dress shoes that don’t tie, and I didn’t realize what was happening until the woman holding my camera started to scream.

That’s when I realized he was down on one knee with a diamond ring asking me to marry him. I have no idea what he said, but I do have a photo of the exact moment it happened.

us 4

  1. We waited to get married

We decided to wait two years after we got engaged to get married. We wanted to get life in order, which meant school and our first house. We began building our first house in 2004, and we wanted to be able to furnish every room with brand new furniture, and make it our own. We decided to use those two years to do a lot of saving for all those expensive things…and a super honeymoon!

  1. We don’t do time apart

We moved in together six months into our relationship when I graduated high school, and we’ve spent a grand total of 4 nights apart in our almost 16 years. Three of those were in the past year when Craig had a work trip in Phoenix and I had Fashion Week events in NYC (and I took his mom and my aunt with me!). To quote Craig, “At the end of the day, I just want to get into bed with my wife. If you aren’t with me, I don’t want to be there,” which should tell you how we felt about those nights apart.

  1. We are total opposites

I’m an irrational, anxious, perfectionist. Craig is a calm, wise, thoughtful soul. I need him. A lot. Otherwise, I’m sure I’d be in prison for something entirely ridiculous, like road rage or running someone over with my cart for not answering my 739359 excuse me’s in the supermarket when they park in the middle of the aisle and walk away from their cart.

us 3

  1. Craig is a much better parent than I

He has more patience. He’s the primary diaper changer, the get up at night when someone needs something (which is maybe five or six times a year, so don’t feel too sorry for him). He is the boo-boo fixer, the bath giver (I have a thing about grout and bathtubs that freaks me out and makes me gag), and the lunchbox-packer. I’m the reading teacher, the game school clothes picker-outer and their personal chauffeur when it’s time for school in the morning.

  1. We are super competitive

Like, super competitive. We compete with one another about everything from who has the longest golf drive (me) to who can come up with the most facts about our marriage to who can get undressed and into the shower fastest. We compete to see who can throw a baseball faster, who drives better, who is funnier. We’ve been known to race through the house to get to the bathroom faster than the other so we don’t have to use the girls’ bathroom downstairs or the twin’s bathroom upstairs(have I mentioned our 6-year-old is a huge fan of “Shaking it off” when she goes potty, and then sliding across the seat to stand and wipe? Yeah…no one wants to use her bathroom). We are competitive…and we love it.

  1. We are food snobs (and wine snobs)

Big time. Like super snobby snobs. And we are totally okay with that. Unless we are with other people, it’s highly unusual for us to have a dinner bill that’s less than $300. We love good food and good bottles of wine.

vday3

  1. We never go to bed separately

In almost 16 years, we have never once gone to bed at different times. We get into bed at the same time every night. After we fall asleep on the couch for about an hour, and finally drag ourselves to bed – because we are never more comfortable than we are at that moment in time.

  1. We really do have the most fun together

I love hearing other people tell us we look like we are on our honeymoon. That makes me feel so good, and I’m convinced it’s because we spend so much time laughing and talking when we are out. Our conversation flows so nicely, and let’s face it – we are both hilarious. I’m sure we are the only people who think so, but we’re pretty amused by us.

  1. We ignore one another pretty much all day

Seriously. He sits 3 feet away from me in our shared home office, and he has for almost a year now. We spend every minute (save for when we pick the kids up and take them to school or practice) together of every day, every week, every month, but we don’t really speak to one another all day. He’s working. I’m working. Other than a kiss when we walk by or a coffee refill and the once or twice a week we find time to tear away from our desks to have lunch together, we don’t really speak until after 5 pm. We might be workaholics.

We aren’t perfect. We have our moments, but we’ve learned a lot in our 12 years of marriage. We’ve learned that our problems are so first world. We’ve learned that we have it good, and we have no real legit complaints. We’ve learned that the honeymoon feeling doesn’t go away as your relationship gets longer. We’ve learned to grow together. We’ve learned to appreciate one another, to cheer one another on, and to be each other’s biggest supporter and best friend. We’ve learned a lot and we aren’t done yet.