#BackToBasics in 2018 (And Happy New Year!)

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Happy 2018!

It’s time to get #backtobasics in life.

I’ve already shared how 2017 was such a phenomenal year of growth for us prioritizing our family, being more intentional with our time, and slowing down a bit to enjoy the little things. 2017 was a sweet, sweet year for our family. It’s hard to top, but we say that every year (except 2010…that was a terrible year filled with loss and low points from two miscarriages – and we were done. Ready. Over it. You’ve never seen two people so excited to say farewell to a year as we were that year!) but we work hard to make our years count.

We’ve made goals, conquered goals, and moved so far beyond goals it’s amazing. We had a 10-year plan when we were first pregnant with our first daughter 10 years ago. We had this vision of where we wanted to be in our careers and in our lives a decade later, and we took that plan, smashed it into a million pieces and exceeded it before we hit the 5-year mark at that point. We made new goals and we conquered those.

It’s been sweet. We work so hard, we prioritize what’s important to us, and we make it happen. I’m proud of us. But we’ve also let excess and abundance become a little too much in the past few years – which we know we are fortunate to have – but we sometimes forget the simple things.

And that all came to light a little more than a week ago during date night with some of our favorites. In fact, I’m going to credit my brother from another mother, Geremy Crouch, for his brilliant insight on this one. It was a simple comment about how we still can’t believe that after almost 10 years we are still celebrating our Wednesday night dinner tradition. We sometimes have to cancel and sometimes life gets in the way, but we manage to celebrate Wednesday nights 90% of the time with our families.

And that led to Geremy’s #backtobasics. 10 years ago I was pregnant and there was no baby in the picture. Then it was one baby and one pregnancy. Then it was two babies for so long. Now it’s 7 babies, four major career changes and serious life changes that have been so amazing. It hit all of us at that table that you’ve probably never seen a group of people come so far as we did 10 years ago – but something is missing.

The basics. 10 years ago life was just as sweet in a simpler way. It was less scheduled and frenzied, yet we still managed to spend every weekend having the best time. But it was unstructured. Our calendars weren’t booked months in advance, we weren’t obligated to things every time we turned around. It was fun because it was what we wanted to do in the moment versus what we were expected to do, scheduled to do, on the calendar.

The basics were good. And this is the year we are getting back to that. Less is going on the calendar, and the Raiford family is getting back to the basics. Lazy nights at home with a spur of the moment BBQ. More fun in the moment. We have so much fun, but sometimes it’s less fun when everything is scheduled so far in advance. The most fun is the fun you don’t see coming.

This weekend, for example, we were working hard on a big project (more to come…) when our friends text and said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “We’re coming over and three and bringing dinner and hanging out,” and it was fun. Simple fun. That’s the kind of stuff we miss, because we never have time anymore with all that we have scheduled. Which, of course, is hard with four kids and their schedules, our schedules, and our travels.

But this year, it’s back to basics.

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  1. We’re setting hours

There’s something that has become a big problem over the years; and it’s easy to see why. For one, we let it. We want to help, and we want to accommodate people, and we’ve been very, very bad about telling people we can’t do it because we’re working. People assume working from home means we have all the free time in the world and we can stop what we are doing to chat when they want to stop by during the work day or whatever. It’s exactly like us asking you to take time off work to help us with our errands or to entertain us when we are off and want to hang out.

Craig works for someone else and has hours. I work for myself, but every time I’m volunteered for something or someone asks me to do them a favor or they just show up during the workday, that’s time I have to spend making up when I should be enjoying dinner with my family, helping put the kids to bed, or even sleeping. I have to make it up, and nothing is as frustrating as being up late at night catching up on work I couldn’t do because of interruptions. We love and want to be there for the people we love, but we simply can’t do it at the expense of our own peace or our own work.

We are also setting better hours for ourselves. We both love what we do – a lot – and that means we can’t really put it down. We are workaholics, and we aren’t ashamed of that…but we do know we need to stop, put it down, and disconnect a little better so we don’t wear ourselves out or lose too much of our time with our family.

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  1. We’re disconnecting

My phone is set to “Do Not Disturb,” from 8 pm to 7 am, yet I constantly check my phone when it’s in that mode. I take calls, respond to texts, social media…whatever. It’s a time suck. This year, that disconnect is happening. We’ve both agreed it’s time for us to put down our phones and focus more intentionally on one another. The kids are in bed, and we’d rather spend that time with one another without interruption.

So…if you need us after 8 pm, sorry! (If it’s an emergency, we do set our phones to ring out loud if it’s a repeated call).

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  1. We’re being more intentional

We just want to be more intentional, more present, more focused on what’s good and important in life. We want to be in the moment, and we want to enjoy it. And we’re going to practice. More patient, kinder, more in the moment. It’s what’s up this year.

  1. We’re being more positive

I like to think we are positive people, but I think there’s room for more. We take a lot for granted, and we can get a little caught up in our first world problems and make them bigger than they are. I mean, is it really such a big deal if I paid for overnight shipping and my package doesn’t arrive for over a week?

Yes, yes it is a big deal, and yes I’m going to make sure everyone knows how unhappy I am – but that’s my point. I have a hot temper, and I can let things like that really suck the positivity out of entirely too much of my time. This year, I vow to be more patient, more positive, and less reactive.

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  1. We’re enjoying the simple life

We love nice things, and we love traveling, and we love adventure, and we love a lot of things. We work hard, we play hard, and we surround ourselves with the things we want. And we’re not ashamed of that, but we also love life a lot – we love one another, we love our kids, and we love our people. And this year, we’re going to get back to the simple life of enjoying the love we have in our lives first and foremost.

We’re playing more. We’re traveling more. We’re dating more. We are very fortunate to have great parents who make it possible for us to plan date nights every other week and to plan weekends away 5 or 6 times a year. But this year, we’re dating more in between those things.

We are making it a point to take a night every week where we just make dinner for the kids, get them to bed at their bedtime, and then we’re going to get back into the kitchen and cook together for ourselves, sit on the deck and enjoy dinner and a great bottle of wine, and just enjoy our home and the simple life.

  1. We’re going to grow

The thing about goals is that once you achieve them, you want more. We’ve done that, and we have new goals, new things to achieve, and new expansions to make. So, this year we grow. We do that. We make it happen, and we learn every step of the way.

To grow, we are going to live more in the moment. Say no to what doesn’t work in the moment, yes to what does, and grow by learning to make decisions based on our wants and needs rather than the rest of the world.

  1. We’re going to focus more on our faith

Our faith is important to us, but I will admit we are quick to put it on the backburner when we have too much going on. Not this year. This year we are making it our priority again. We aren’t allowing ourselves to take it for granted just because we are too comfortable where we are. Amen.

2017 was amazing, and 2018 is off to a pretty sweet start. We spent the New Year at home with a gorgeous bottle of wine, some amazing filets, and a killer dinner. The kids went to bed, we relaxed, and we fell asleep around 10:30. We woke up at 8 am with the kids to a cold and rainy day (and a minor panic attack because our deck makeover was meant to be finished today but the rain is putting a major damper on that and I don’t like being off schedule and off kilter or living with things undone…but it’s a good lesson in patience, right?).

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you’re able to open your minds to allow this year to be everything you’ve dreamed it will be

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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.