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.

How To Make Custom T-Shirts

How To Make Custom T-Shirts

When my group of girlfriends get together for any kind of trip or special event, we have to have matching t-shirts because our seventh-grade selves are desperate for a do-over, now that we have the confidence and sense of belonging that comes way after junior high, AND we have the matching shirts to prove it.

Our husbands are not on board with this matching shirt business, but we force them into it.

I’m sharing how you can make these fun custom t-shirts so you and your girls will be matchy-matchy when you go out in public, giving you that great sense of belonging you never knew you were missing.

9 Steps To No More Tears At Homework Time

9 Steps To No More Tears At Homework Time

Let me start by saying that this is by no means a fool-proof or perfect plan.

In fact, it’s been literally less than 24 hours since there were tears shed over homework at this very table where I currently type these words.

My timing for writing this “how-to” type post is, as usual, (im)perfectly timed with a life occurrence that makes me think the universe is keeping me from getting all cocky by thinking I have all the answers.

This is just a guideline that works as a general rule.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

It requires that everyone do their own part.

What To Do In Waco Besides Magnolia Market

What To Do In Waco Besides Magnolia Market

A few weeks ago, I joined my sis-in-law and another girlfriend of ours for a girls’ weekend in Waco. Our friend, Sunday, and I live outside of Austin, and my sis, Jill, lives in Fort Worth, so Waco is the perfect meet-in-the-middle spot.

We’ve all been to the Silos before, and since the weekend we went was the annual Spring at the Silos event, we had no intention of going there and battling lines and crowds of crazy Chip and JoJo-seekers.

We were more interested in finding Waco’s hidden gems and places that locals call their favorite.

Tour Austin's Most Popular Murals

Tour Austin's Most Popular Murals

We finally have some gorgeous sunshine here in the Austin area and I’m in love!

If you ever get a chance to visit Texas, plan your trip for March/April or October, when the temps are mild and the breeze is yummy and cool, and you will have absolutely no regrets in your life.

What Happened When I Decided To Give Up Coffee

What Happened When I Decided To Give Up Coffee

You know how much I love coffee, right?

There was a time when my coffee order would be the most candybar-licious drink, with about five different squirts of various syrups, a big fluff of whipped cream, and a sprinkling of salted-but-slightly-sweetened magic dust that made my heart beat really fast all morning - all due to equal parts caffeine, sugar, and deep affection.

And I would order it this way every. single. day.

A few years ago, I knew that the long-term damage of drinking all my calories would be worse than dry shaving the bikini area, so I started changing up my order until the life was sucked right out of my cup of coffee, and - although I made-do for a while - I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Are You Screwing Up At This Mom Thing?

Are You Screwing Up At This Mom Thing?

Hey, you.

I’m looking at you, momma. I see you smiling that plastered-on smile to make everyone around you think you’re alright.

That you’ve got it all together.

That you’re feeling all “tight-and-right” about your momming skills.

But I know that look. And I know that your smile is a lie.

Simple Ways To Connect With Your Kids

Simple Ways To Connect With Your Kids

One of my favorite memories growing up is of my mom baking homemade Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip cookies. She would mix up the dough and put the bowl in the freezer and bake small batches at a time during the next few weeks.

Her cookie-baking time meant I could be in the kitchen with her.

To this day, warm Nestle Toll House cookies are irresistible to me.

So much so that a bowl of dough doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell hanging out in the freezer.

Full transparency: there isn’t a “bowl of dough” happening, anyway.

In my house we do Nestle’s “break-n-bake” because - while I do think there’s something slightly missing from the taste by taking this time-saving route, you know that my claim to fame is cutting corners.

How To Deal With A Teacher You Or Your Child Can't Stand

How To Deal With A Teacher You Or Your Child Can't Stand

When our oldest son, who turns 20 in a few weeks, was in elementary school, we were asked to fill out a form at the end of each year, indicating which teacher we wanted him to have for the next school year.

There were other questions on the form, too, where you could give more information about your kid’s personality and their learning style, which the committee would take into consideration when setting class rosters.

They might still do this. I’m not sure.

It’s a nice gesture toward the parents, and I’m sure the school administrators found it helpful when they were putting the classes together.  

I remember that early each school year, there would be rumblings from parents who didn’t get the teacher they put as their first choice. And sometimes they wouldn’t get their second or third choice, either.

Aah, the things we get riled up about. 🤷‍

When You Start Believing Lies Of Self Deprecating Humor

When You Start Believing Lies Of Self Deprecating Humor

One of my favorite things about myself is my sense of humor. Not to be braggy, but I’m one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.

Nothing makes me want to smother a cigar under my heel and strut off like Kate Moss down the runway more than laying out a funny one-liner that makes people throw their head back laughing.

I’ve always taken great pride in being able to laugh things off, even in times of sadness and stress.

Even during the cycles of depression I’ve experienced in my life, humor was there, although it wasn’t as accessible to me as it is when I’m out of the funk.