The 7 Best Texas Historic Landmarks That Your Kids Need To See ASAP

The 7 Best Texas Historic Landmarks That Your Kids Need To See ASAP

Having given birth to my first-born on Texas Independence Day, March 2nd, it’s only natural that I’d be somewhat of a Texas history buff.

But alas, I am not.

History buff? Yes. Texas history? Meh.

I really only know about these historic sites because my dad IS a history buff - all the history, and I grew up being dragged around the state to visit these places, and they were always accompanied by a long and mind-numbing lecture, which I only now can appreciate.

Can A 504 Plan Be Used In College?

Can A 504 Plan Be Used In College?

This is a question I often hear, and it’s one that I also hear and see answered incorrectly. The short answer is: yes. Colleges must provide accommodations through section 504.

In case you don’t know what a 504 Plan is or what it does, here’s the full definition, per the U.S. Department of Education.

In a nutshell, it is this: a written plan that ensures that a student who has a disability identified under the law receives accommodations to ensure the student receives the same access to academic success as everyone else. 

It levels the playing field for students who have a disability - no matter how large or small, and no matter if it’s permanent or temporary.

How To Install Sconce Lights Without Electricity

How To Install Sconce Lights Without Electricity

We just completed this fun tween boy’s bedroom update and I’m in love with how it turned out. We put in a shiplap accent wall, repainted some previously hodge-podge furniture, and got his room organized and grown-up looking.

But my most favorite part is these farmhouse sconce lights, which I installed without having to run electricity, and I’m currently in love with myself even more than normal.

I’m sharing a tutorial on how I did it, and I’ll warn you: there were moments when I thought it would have been easier to just call in a damn electrician, but then it became a quest to get this thing done by myself.

And I did it!

Here’s how to install sconce lighting without electricity:

How To Install Shiplap

How To Install Shiplap

We just finished an overhaul of our tween boy’s bedroom, taking it from hodge-podge to rustic-modern-almost-teenager-friendly.  

This is a pretty new house - just two years old - and we’re still trying to make it look warm and homey. The thing about newer homes is that the open concept - which makes things feel bigger and open and airy - also can feel cold and sterile.

To warm up my son’s bedroom without making it feel small and dark, we installed a shiplap wall, and it was so, so easy. 

Tween Boy's Bedroom Update

Tween Boy's Bedroom Update

We’ve only lived in this house for two years, but we’ve already ruined it. 

Am I the only mom who’s raised a bunch of filthy animals who shove things onto shelves and set things aside to “deal with later,” creating piles everywhere, until, before you know it, you’re surrounded by so much clutter, you can’t escape and your family’s had to carve their names into the sides of the cave that used to be their bedroom, just so that someone knows there are humans inside, if they’re ever rescued?

No? Just me?

I had a few projects planned to tackle this summer, to rein in the clutter, and I’ve finally completed the first one: my 11-year-old son’s room.

He had a hodge-podge of furniture from his Texas-themed room at our old house that didn’t match his new Texas Stars hockey theme here at the new house.

Also, he’s not into toys. So all the toys he’s gotten for Christmas and birthdays have just gotten shoved onto shelves, where they’ve sat collecting dust.

Why I Am Not Teaching My Kids To Be Color Blind

Why I Am Not Teaching My Kids To Be Color Blind

Scrolling through Instagram recently, I came across a post that bothered me so much, I have to address it here.

It was from a mom who said that her daughter told her, “Yesterday I played with a really nice black girl,” and the mom was mortified, and commented that she’d failed as a parent.

She replied to her daughter, “That’s not nice,” and then admitted that her daughter was confused by this comment from her mom.

Our Back Patio Makeover

Our Back Patio Makeover

Our back yard and patio have been a work in progress since we moved into our house two years ago, but we’re finally getting it all pulled together, and I love hanging out back there when it's not too hot.

We just had a built-in grill and countertop put in, which makes everything look finished out, but we had a hodge-podge of furniture that needed to be replaced so the producers of Junkyard Wars would stop reaching out to us for a feature.

This is the perfect time of year - mid- to late-summer - to shop for outdoor furniture and accessories, because prices are cut to start making room for fall stuff.

Our Family’s Favorite RV Camping Spots In Texas

Our Family’s Favorite RV Camping Spots In Texas

As a mom of two boys, I’ve had to get on board with the whole camping thing. But - as you know - I have a tee-tiny window of comfort, so tent camping is out for me.

I love the outdoors, but only if the temperature is just right. And if there are no bugs. And there has to be a breeze. But it can’t be windy.

Does Your Dog Have What It Takes To Be A Therapy Dog?

Does Your Dog Have What It Takes To Be A Therapy Dog?

If you’ve followed my blog for longer than 35 seconds, you’re keenly aware that our dogs are a huge part of my life. We have three: one is a mini goldendoodle - we call her “the baby,” which earns us giant eye-rolls from our other two, who are nine-year-old chocolate Lab mixes that we rescued from the shelter when they were just about eight weeks old.

One of those rescues, Lilly - who was at one time shy and nervous, and who would quiver when held, and hide under furniture if you walked straight toward her - is today a registered therapy dog. 

A sweet and confident girl who takes on the stress and fear of others and melts it away like butter off the top of a dinner roll.

Death Of The Photo Album & How It's Killing Our Connections

Death Of The Photo Album & How It's Killing Our Connections

As a little girl, I remember spending the summers on my great-grandmother’s farm with my cousin, who’s only five months older than me.  

Most of our childhood was spent far, far away from each other because of her dad’s career in the oil business. His job had him living all around the world, in fancy places like France, Africa, and Switzerland.

But we would spend much of our summers together there on my great-grandma’s farm in southern Oklahoma, just right on the other side of the Red River from my childhood town.

We would play outside in the early mornings, when there was still dew on the grass. We would walk out to the hen house and collect eggs, and walk down the lonely red dirt road, telling each other spooky stories about what might be hiding in those tall rows of corn on either side of the road.

A Father's Day Wish For My Sons

A Father's Day Wish For My Sons

A version of this post first published June 9, 2016, when my oldest - now 20 - was still a teenager.

My teenager was forced to emerge yesterday from his dark hole of a bedroom because it was the first day of summer break, and we had to go get his passport renewed.  

Just a few days before, I'd stood on the front porch, bantering with him as he walked out to his car, watching him pull out and waving goodbye to him as he left for one of his last few days of his junior year.  

He hates when I do this.  

"Why do you do that?  It's so weird," he'll say in a tone that makes it clear he's disgusted by the whole thing.

Best Books To Inspire Travel In Teens And Tweens

Best Books To Inspire Travel In Teens And Tweens

Years ago, when we first started working with our financial planner - which sounds very fancy, but I assure you it’s not like that.

Our decision to work with a financial planner came about when we were living paycheck to paycheck, and Mark and I finally acknowledged that we are children when it comes to being financially responsible, because we like shiny stuff, and we needed a non-biased person - who’s also smart with money - to tell us what we should spend and what we should save.

In the beginning of our working relationship with him, we were tasked with writing out our family’s priorities so we could finagle a budget that would work for us.

How To Capture A Family Story Your Kids Want To Read

How To Capture A Family Story Your Kids Want To Read

My dad and I had the almost unbelievable luxury of traveling to England last year for a family research trip for my upcoming book, and we came away with some of the most meaningful stories our family’s ever shared.

Not just because of the memories we created by traveling together and getting good, solid quality time visiting my dad’s brother and his family, who live an ocean away from us, but the stories we pieced together of our ancestors based on the research we did.

What To Do When You Don't Like Your Kid's Friends

What To Do When You Don't Like Your Kid's Friends

Both my boys have all different types of friends - they don’t tend to run in just one circle. They both make friends very easily, and get along with pretty much anybody. Which is a great quality, I realize.

But the truth is, sometimes I just don’t like the kids they’re hanging out with.

How To Avoid Enabling A Child With Anxieties

How To Avoid Enabling A Child With Anxieties

If only I knew 14 or 15 years ago what I know now about raising a child with anxieties.

Our first-born, now 20, had bouts of anxiety from as early as I can remember - infancy, really - and they grew more and more paralyzing as he grew into elementary-school age.

When he was in kindergarten, there was a light bulb flickering in the school gym during PE for over a month, and he would freak the freak out so hard they’d have to send him to the counselor’s office during PE time until they could get maintenance down there to change that damn bulb.

What To Do In Orlando Besides Disney

What To Do In Orlando Besides Disney

We’re lucky to have visited Orlando - Disney World, in particular - a few different times as our boys have grown up, and I know I don’t need to tell you this: everything Disney is magical and amazing.

But the parks themselves is not all there is to do in Orlando, Florida.

This city has so much to offer for travelers of all types: friend trips, couples, families with little kids, and families with older kids. And families with kids of widely different ages, like mine.

Best And Worst Teacher Appreciation Gifts

Best And Worst Teacher Appreciation Gifts

You don’t want to be the a-hole parent who gives your kid’s teacher a cute plaque, personalized with the wrong spelling of their name, do you? (Ack! Been there, done that.)

Here’s a list of what teachers want, and a collection of funny things they’ve received that they don’t want.

Public Bathroom Safety For Your Child

Public Bathroom Safety For Your Child

Something happened recently that has me freaked out a bit over what could have happened.  I want to share it with you, not to be exploitative, but to bring awareness. 

And because writing about things is how I “deal.” 

Not that this is about me.

My 8-year-old son and I went to my favorite place in the whole wide world (Target, of course) to buy materials we needed for a school project.  My child had to, of course, use the bathroom, because using bathrooms in every store we visit is his most passionate hobby, so I waited by the registers for him to come out.

He came out of the bathroom and told me that something weird had happened.

9 Musts To Carry With You On Your Flight

9 Musts To Carry With You On Your Flight

With the temperatures edging up, we’re starting to get antsy around here at the Braziel household, ready and just itching to get our next trip on the books. 

It’s travel season! 

Mark and I have an Orlando trip coming up in a few weeks, but that’s just for us - no kids on that one.

We’re meeting up with my cousin and her husband, who are flying in from England and I’m so excited to get to spend the weekend with them and to share our adventures with you!

Mothers Day Gift Ideas For The Impossible Mom

Mothers Day Gift Ideas For The Impossible Mom

Say whatever you want about how hard your mom is to buy for, but don’t think you’re going to bow up to me with a challenge on it, unless you’re willing to take that conversation straight to a level 10, because I will win that one every single time.

Honestly. Try me.