Party Planning Without Sweating The Small Stuff

Party Planning Without Sweating The Small Stuff

My Big Birthday is just one month from now and there’s a fancy party in the works, courtesy of Mark and my girlfriends, to help me celebrate.

When I say “fancy,” I mean that it’s going to look to the outsider like we had a party planner involved, and that we spent half the year having “our people” call “their people.”

But - in case you are new here: that’s not how this works. (I’m doing my hands up and down the length of my body when I say, “this.”)

When Your Kid Is A Perfectly Fine Loser

When Your Kid Is A Perfectly Fine Loser

As my son came off the ice yesterday following his hockey game, he looked at Mark and me, shrugged up one shoulder a bit and gave a, “meh, what are you gonna do?” expression.

They’d lost another game - they've had plenty of experience losing this season, which has been hard on the team’s morale.  

Except for my child’s.

He still comes off the ice with a smile.

It drives Mark insane.  

“It would be nice if he was just a little more competitive,” he’ll say.

How To Write A Book In 30 Days

How To Write A Book In 30 Days

Throughout my life, I’ve always wanted to be a published author. It’s just always been a goal of mine, for as early as I can remember, and I think that as a young girl, I didn’t even really know why, I just knew it to be something I was meant to do.

I was a bookworm from a very young age, too, collecting books and pouring over them, not just obsessing over the stories inside, but also finding peculiar pleasure even in the tactile element of holding a book itself in my hands.

No, no. You don’t understand the level.

When To Start Decorating For Fall In Texas

When To Start Decorating For Fall In Texas

It’s starting to feel like fall! 

Oh wait. No it isn’t.

Even if you doused the scorching earth with iced pumpkin spice lattes pumped straight from gushing firehoses across the entire God-forsaken state of Texas, it wouldn't cool down here until late October and sometimes well into November.*

But these vibes ain’t gonna change themselves, so the time is NOW to get some fall feelin’ up in herr (not a typo).

How To Elevate 4 Meals From Dreary To Dreamy In A Flash

How To Elevate 4 Meals From Dreary To Dreamy In A Flash

You know I’m all about cutting corners, right? But I also want to present my family with meals so delicious, I’ll forever be one step above whoever my boys marry someday. 

That my boys will always show gratitude for their sweetheart making them a meal, but that they’ll also give an invisible-to-the-naked-eye shake of the head while thinking - deep inside - “My mother would be horrified if she could see this.”

That, no matter how much butter or sugar is involved, every recipe is sub-optimal in comparison to what they grew up with.

Of course, I know the likelihood of this is close to nil, considering that - to this day - I still have to make an alternate meal for my youngest, just like most people do for their toddlers, despite my sweet baby angel closing in on 143 months old.

Putting Yourself Out There & Finding Your People

Putting Yourself Out There & Finding Your People

Do you ever wonder what you’re here for?

Not like when you walk to your pantry, fling open the door and think, “Wait, what did I come over here for?” then you have to retrace your steps and go aaallll the way back to the couch, sit down, and get comfy, and THAT’s when it comes back to you, so you sigh really hard, heave yourself back up off the couch, schlep back to the pantry, muttering curse words at yourself about how this is happening more and more frequently, and then - because alzheimer’s runs in your family, you convince yourself this is a sign of early onset dementia, then you launch immediately into a panic attack (because naturally anxiety also runs in your family).

No, I’m talking about: do you wonder bigger picture what you’re here for?

I do.

Best Classroom Craft: How To Make A Scrapbook For Each Student

Best Classroom Craft: How To Make A Scrapbook For Each Student

When my youngest was in elementary school, I got a wild hair and started doing a class scrapbook each year. 

Here’s what that looked like: going into his classroom twice each month of the school year - once to take pictures of each student doing a certain activity, then - after having the photos printed - going back a second time to hand out the photos, along with a scrapbook page for them to decorate.

At the end of the school year, I assembled the loose pages into books for each student to take home, and they absolutely loved it.

It wasn’t technically my idea.

My sister-in-law was doing it for her daughter’s class, and - not to ever be outdone by her - I immediately stole the idea and took it to my son’s school, claiming all the credit for my own, WHICH IS HOW I ROLL.

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.