Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Miguel: One Crazy Chihuahua;15 Crazy Years

Life is a series of dogs, or so it was once said by the late, great comedian, George Carlin. And it’s so true! Dogs are a unique expression of God’s handiwork for the sheer fact that they absorb our emotions. Whatever we are going through in our lives, these furry companions are empathetic, sympathetic (sometimes simply copasetic) to our plights as humans. For our Crazy little family, no one was a bigger cheerleader, comforter, confident and Yoda-esque mascot for FIFTEEN YEARS, than our faithful friend, Miguel. He’s seen our story from the very beginning, and a little over a month ago we had to say good-bye. I thought it would be only fitting to dedicate this post to our buddy, Migs, who gave 105 dog-years to master the art of patience with this family, and all that’s come with it.

He wasn’t one for manners when we met. In fact, he was sitting in his food bowl, staring out at us from his mall pet store cage because his teeny paws were too little to allow him to stand on the wire floor without falling through the grate. From his cage, he looked out and saw a couple of dorky 23-year olds who were already in love. Both with each other…and with him. Seeing this bug-eyed, tawny little muchacho in the pet store window did something in both of our hearts. We laughed about him. Made voices for him (don’t ask). And once I held the tawny tuft of fur with the Mexican accent in my arms…game over. We had a dog. WE had a puppy. We were engaged to be married at the time, and yet somehow that single act of buying a pet together bonded the Hubster and I in such a way, we knew we’d be together forever. We had a bug-eyed baby, and his name was Miguel.

Miguel was with us for our wedding (we toyed with the idea of having him be ring bearer (did not go over well….:)) And he was with us for the crazy first years of marriage, a move out west...

...and loved becoming an official Mountain Chihuahua. As our family changed, he changed too. From a strapping young dog with a shiny coat of blonde hair… a middle-aged dog who embraced the whole stay-at-home-mom look, complete with bags under his eyes, gray hairs, and extra rolls hanging off his little dog frame.

He weathered 8 homes in 15 years, and by the time Youngest Princess came along, he was a solid senior citizen. His nickname became Gramps or Pappy, as the Hubster and I adjusted to life with a new baby AND a geriatric dog.

This past year has been the hardest for our Crazy family, as we sorta knew his time was running out. Doggie senility was setting in. He’d get confused in the house. Became deaf, blind and rarely left his bed in the sun. As I’ve joked before, he pretty much became furniture that breathed. The news hit home hard though, after one of his last trips to the vet, upon discovering our little old dog had kidney disease, and chances for recovery with his age didn’t look promising. We knew Miguel was tired. We knew he was ready to go be with Jesus. But we weren’t ready. No one ever is.

We knew what we had to do and were determined to walk through this grieving process as a family Being Real, Being Love and Believing that God just has to have a special place picked out for these animals that seem to hold our hands through life. With Miggle’s life coming to the final chapter, we decided to have a Miguelebration the very next day. The day was filled with more hugs and holding than the old man could handle, special couch privileges, and a final ride in the wagon to his favorite park.

He couldn’t walk very well at that point, but he enjoyed the ride, and simply sniffing around checking his pee-mail a final time, and lounging in shade of his favorite tree. That night when the Hubster got home, we all had ice cream –special doggie ice cream for the Migs—and all lay together as a family in the backyard hammock with our loyal buddy, sharing our favorite Miguel stories. We stayed there up to the minute when we had to make the dreaded trip to the vet to say farewell.

The Hubster and I debated on how to handle the situation with our children. We toyed with the idea of lying, saying that we were going to take him to the vet to see what the vet could do to help him. …But I know my daughters too well. I knew if we did that, we’d only build up false hope in them. And that they’d be praying nonstop for their doggie to be healed—which was only going to end in them being bitter at God and wondering why God wouldn’t answer their prayers. We had to be Real. And we were. We all grieved openly and honestly. We let our children know it was OK to be sad. It was healthy to cry over losing a loved one. And it was good. Yes, that whole night was horrible in its substance…but at the same time, it was healing and comforting and good.

We all rode together to the vet that night, as a Family. Because that’s what we are. We all gave Miguel kisses and hugs and told him what a good dog he had been. The Hubster played the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the way to the vet (which, by the way, has ruined the song for me now. Thanks, Babe!), but it did help us dwell on the thoughts of our old, arthritic pooch being unleashed to run and roam as he did as a pup, perhaps with some of his doggie friends who have gone before him. Now I do know that none of this is Biblical. But I just have to believe that for as closely connected to the human spirit that dogs are, God will have a place that is just as good and lovely. The children clung to that hope, and laughed about the way Miguel would probably be so excited to see their grandparents’ deceased dog, and hoped maybe my Grandma who passed away last December might watch after him. The Hubster and I simply laughed over the thought of Miguel being so excited to…well…be “un-neutered”—(is that PG enough? lol!) :) Happy thoughts. Laughter. Tears. They all were a part of the grieving process. And I think it was all good.

Already the girls are planning our family’s next dog. For them it will be their first puppy. And I think I’m starting to look forward to that too. Because I know there will never ever be another Miguel. Just like none of you will have a dog ever exactly like the one you have now. Each dog is as unique as the people he/she belongs to. But if life is a series of dogs, Miguel was an opening chapter. He watched a young couple grow up … a little bit; got to stick around to see their children; and got to be put to rest with a peace that we’re all gonna be OK. He helped us through what he needed to help us through. And now…well, it’s time for a new chapter in life. And soon it will be time for a new dog.

We love you, and miss you, Miguel.
Shine on, Buddy.

P.S. So as not to end this post on a totally depressing note, update! As I said, I wrote this post nearly 2 months ago, and it has taken me this long to post it as it makes me cry every time. HOWEVER--A new chapter has opened in our crazy family. It's a chapter that sort of found us at the perfect time. There is a new joy in our household...and her name is Lady.

Lady joined our family 2 weeks ago. Story to follow! :)

Friday, September 3, 2010


(Don't ya just dig it when balloons fly sideways?! :))

Happy Friday, Friends! And Happy Labor Day Weekend, as well! As an update, sadly I did not win Donald Miller’s contest, but to rub it in, someone living in my city did—(she truly deserved it, though!) So…no Portland getaway- vaca for me and the Hubster. (Boo.) HOWEVER, we are squeezing every last ounce of summer from this weekend for the sake of Crazy Fun.

Yes, my Friends—don’t be jealous—this weekend my family is off to none other than the big Colorado Springs for…The Rocky Mountain Balloon Classic! Yes, it truly is as weird as it sounds. However, the Hubster and I have gone to a different hot air balloon festival every year of our 14 married years for the sheer mini-road trip of it all. That, and for having cool things to look at upon arrival. ;) Seriously. Where else can you see incredible sky art like?

Or this?!:

Yes, it is quite dorky. But it really makes for a Crazy Fun Memory. Last summer when this festival was going on, we were camping up in the Rocky Mountains. We remembered this was the last hot air balloon festival of the year coming up. So what did we do? Why, what any insane campers might do. Set our phone alarms for 4AM in order to make it 3 hours away to hit this crazy event! The best part, I think was the priceless look the night before on fellow campers’ faces as they asked about our plans for the next day. “Ohhhh…we’re getting up at 4 in the morning (to climb a fourteener?-No. To go fly-fishing? No.) to drive 3 hours away to look at hot air balloons…. Keep an eye on our tent, k?” And truly, it wasn’t about the destination. It was all about the journey. The Princesses still talk about how cool it was to drive down the mountain in the dark, and watch the sun rise along the way. To see the moon “follow” us, before it slowly disappeared into the distant mountain clouds rolling in. To experience the fun of traveling in pajamas. Stopping for breakfast (and coffee, of course!) along the way. Totally out of the ordinary. Totally Crazy. Totally fun.

Arriving there was a celebration in itself. Hot air artistry greeted us from a distance as they raised their groggy, colorful heads to stretch. As we drove closer, the sky began to fill with the look of inflatable crayons, and we all voted on our favorites. Once the car was parked, we were able to walk around among the many nylon rainbows, stretched across the ground, and talk to the owners who were getting their crafts ready for take-off. If you’ve never experienced the euphoria of walking in a meadow of hot air balloons blooming, and bursting their way up into the sky…you’ve never truly lived, in my opinion. ;)

So, I’ll keep you all posted on our hot air balloon adventures! Wish us safe travels! And ultra-cool balloon sightings!

Oh! And the Shiniest of 3-Day Weekends to you all!! Shine!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And the Story Continues....

FRIENDS!!! I've missed you!! :)

Thanks for bearing with my mini-virtual-vaca while I tried to restore some small fragments of sanity after 3 classes of summer semester. (Summer. Semester. The two words just don't go together!) Anyway, fall semester starts up next week, and homeschooling begins in 2 weeks (after Labor Day...when school should start! LoL)...sooo I figure I better get back to writing now to be back in practice once the school year starts.

I'm starting this first post back with a bit of reflection on the story my life is currently telling and figuring out how it lines up with the story I want it to tell. I've heard other people's take on my/my family's story. I've heard we definitely have a Fun Family! And we do. I've heard we're a Fly-by-the-seat-of-our pants Family. And we are. I've heard we're Crazy. Hardcore. Slightly Irresponsible. Perhaps immature. ...Guilty as charged. However, I do feel like I've come quite a ways in my outlook on life. I used to be obsessively career-driven with a tunnel-vision only for climbing up the corporate ladder in the publishing world. THAT, I discovered, for me, was not truly living. That was called "marking time in a cubicle waiting to retire to THEN live a couple years before I passed on to true LIFE!" I do feel like I am living a better story now. I'm all about trying to be the best mom and wife I can possibly be and trying to live my own dream of being a writer. Unfortunately, there are just too many "weeds" in my life right now, keeping me from fulling living out my story to its fullest potential. --Things that are trying to suck the very life right out of me, encrouching on my dreams, dragging me down. So obviousy some things in my life have to go--and some that need room to be allowed to bloom.

What often helps me in my life are using frameworks, or tools to examine and re-examine my goals, dreams and what I feel called to do. So I'm using Donald Miller's blog contest as a tool right now. (If you haven't read his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I HIGHLY suggest you stop reading this post and run to your local bookseller immediately!) Anyway, Donald Miller wants to know what I want the story of my life to be like--in a year...5 years...where's the plot going? Who's involved?

Firstly, I LOVE this whole concept of living a great story. To me, it elicits the thrill of adventure, hope and purpose a life is supposed to have. If I were to categorize MY Crazy story, I'd like for it to be an epic adventure/indie/romantic comedy. Never dull. Original and artsy. Full of love. And overflowing with fun and laughter. (Laughter "with"...not "at!" :)) It's a story about followng a calling. Fulfilling the purpose of a greater destiny. It's about living a life of passion. Living richly, fully, loudly, joyfully.

In my story, I want to be the heroine. Or at least the underdog who rises to the top. I would like to be the one people are rooting for; cheering on. Because I want to be cheering others on in the process. I have a gift of Encouragement. I just could use a little encouragement myself. And that is why I am HOPING to win this contest! Haha! :) The other characters I HAVE to have with me in my story are my family. Both my family--immediate and extended, as well as a tightly knit group of close friends. (If you're reading this, you are probably already part of this story--sorry!)

So what IS the story? It's about a heroine who loves her family so much, she thrives on caring for them creatively while having fun in the process. But she also has a dream of "making it" as a writer in an attempt to rescue Childhood and Childlike Spirits everywhere. This heroine wants, and has ALWAYS wanted to write children's picture books, and to simply make children smile. Laugh out loud. And she wants the adults reading the stories to smile along with their children as they read together and to remember what it felt like to be a kid. I want these books to be bonding for parents and their children, and to serve as an encouragement to both. I also want to write books for parents to encourage them in regaining their own lost childhood joy and how to encourage it in their own stories. I simply want to empower parents to give their children a childhood, not stuff. To help them restore the joy of childhood to their homes and their children's lives. I would like to create children's books to inspire that childlike magic in families, and books geared toward parents to equip parents with creative ideas that bring that "magic" home. I want to write books that allow kids to be kids. And books that encourage parents to actually be parents with childlike spirits. Love and Creativity, Baby!

So, what am I doing to propel the story forward, Friends? Well, with my grad school work in ECE, I've realized that I'm simply learning to speak the language of the people I'm trying to reach. I'm doing what any good missionary would do--studying the culture and learning the language/the details. My goal is to write through many means a message that focuses on the joy and preservation of Childhood. And that's why I'm writing this post. I truly want to go to Donald Miller's conference to fine-tune the path my story is on; get some ideas on structuring my life better around the theme; and get a swift kick in the butt from Don himself to be motivated to write what I SHOULD be writing. I'm living it!..Just not writing it, as of the moment!

That's me in a nutshell...or the nuthouse. Take your pick. But I wanna know YOUR story! I love nothing more than reading about the cool stories other people are living out! Share them with me, Friends! And if you feel so inclined, you can check out more details about Donald Miller's conference here:

Check out his video about the conference in the sidebar!

Thanks for reading my cover. Time to get some print on the pages!

As always, don't forget to SHINE!!!



Thursday, July 8, 2010


Sorry, Friends!

I promise I'm not trying to be a slacker, and truly even if you don't read my blog, just the fact that I have followers cheering me on keeps me motivated to pursue my passions. I love you all!! :)

Just wanted to give an update that I haven't abandoned this blog--i've just been caught up in homeschool conventions (which I HAVE to blog about later!! Haha!!), my stupid summer seminar at UCD, and then immediately following--family visits!! (which I love--visit longer!!!) Still--now we're beyond Normal Crazy. We're at Crazy crazy. So gotta get through these last couple weeks of my classes, then back to blogging, baby! :)

In the meantime, I'm off to make gingersnaps with my 2 Princesses. Perhaps a sugarcoma will numb the insanity?!?

Still Shinin'!



Monday, June 7, 2010


A friend of ours once said it best, that “parenting is a lot like building a house of cards on a waterbed.” Think about it! Sooo true! You get one layer of cards down to stand steady, and then a wave of the foundation sets everything off kilter—even the smallest ripple can leave you playing 52 Pick-Up. That’s been my experience with parenting thus far. You get one age or stage down pact, and suddenly a ripple or a wave comes along and BOOM! You’re back at ground zero. We’ve now entered a new one of those stages—pet ownership. (A cat this time—yes, Miguel the Chihuahua is still alive; don’t be alarmed. But let’s face it—after 15 years, he doesn’t really cause a whole lot of waves in our lives anymore. He’s basically furniture that breathes. Sorry Migs.)

So last time I left you, I was off on a nightmare adventure to help the Hubster in his attempts to track down a wild barn-kitten for our girls. Pretty crazy! Felt like we were on a stakeout. Or in a horror movie. Maybe both. I was armed with the flashlight, holding it over the place we could see the kittens were nestled, while the Hubster was all decked out in extra thick work gloves and holding the pet taxi. Felt like we were up to something illegal! And the kittens thought so too. They HATED the flashlight, and all I could think about was what it must seem like from their perspective—some sort of alien abduction or something. You know—bright light glaring in their eyes, some giant, claw-proof/gnaw-proof hand reaching out for them. I kept laughing, thinking they must be thinking, “So help me, if I get probed—somebody’s getting their face clawed off!!!” I did feel bad for the kittens, not having a clue what was going on. But it truly was quite comical.

The procedure went something like this—Hubster would slowly, slowly reach his hand down behind the feeding trough where the kittens were hiding. One would dart out instantly, and run around back behind the barn, only to do a lap, and reappear a few minutes later back at home base. The 2nd kitten was the protector of the lot. When it saw Hubster’s hand approaching, the 3rd kitten, who appeared to be a tad slow, ducked down with those big Puss in Boots’ eyes, while 2nd kitten pounced on Hubster’s hand and chomped down with all its 6 oz. strength, hangin’ on and shakin’ Hubster’s gloved hand with all the rage its scorned kitten jaws could muster. We ended up, of course with Kitten #3. Which has ended up being a good choice thus far.

To be honest—I can’t stand cats. (Please—no offense to all my cat-loving Friends!) But I would never even have one in our house (especially our house!) if I did not have daughters. How we got to this place, I have no idea. The Hubster and I always SWORE we would never have cats in our home. The Hubster caved first. (Thanks, Babe.—Sucker.) But somewhere between, “Mommy can we plleeeaaasssee get a new kitty?” and the thought of mice (which I do not like even MORE than cats) invading our home—that’s all I know. We have a kitten. And I must admit—it’s kinda growing on me. Stupid big kitten eyes. Stupid cute little fuzzy thing. Stupid tiny purring. (Oh yeah. Tractor beam [imitates beam noise] sucked me right in.—Lloyd; Dumb and Dumber) Man!! Why they gotta be so darn cute when they’re little?! They do grow up to be cats, you know? And in my opinion, and my opinion only, if I need someone to warm up to me all lovey-dovey one minute, and the next minute be taking a massive hunk out of my arm like a scene from Zombieland or something…I’ll visit some of my menopausal relatives or something, thank you very much! …But for now…it’s a kitten. We own a kitten. And it is cute.

All of this is to say, this is what happens when I try to get organized. I began making my charts. I was creating a schedule. Our week was flowing smoothly. Life was moving forward! Progress was being made! And now we have a kitten. The house of cards has tumbled with the wave of a new responsibility being thrown into the mix. And children fighting over whose turn it is to hold said new responsibility. My day has become devoted to 5 minute increments of setting the timer for each Princess to take a turn holding kitten. Awesome! Let’s see what this week brings, my Friends. Next post, hopefully I will have good news on the progress of getting my crap together. Until then…I will be working on litter-training a kitten, potty-training a 2 ½ year-old, and slow-and-steady laying a new foundation for this house of cards again.
Keep shining, my Friends!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


To all my Crazy Readers out there, I just want to shout out a big fat Thank You for your patience with me as my blog takes shape. Just like giving birth to anything, it’s a process and it takes time—thanks for bearing with me as I get my writing muscles back in shape. (Lately, I’ve seriously felt like I need a Jillian Michaels for writers to come kick my groove back on!) You all are awesome, and this summer’s gonna be almost as awesome, I just know it! …If I survive that is….
Whoever wrote Ella Fitzgerald’s line, “Summertime and the livin’ is easy…” obviously never had children. Crazy fun? Yes!! Easy? Heck No!! As parents, I think we build up this utopia fairytale of summer all school year long, thinking—Man! I can’t wait ‘til summer when we don’t have to rush 3 or 4 (or more!) people all out the door at the same time! When summer comes we can breeeeaaathe! It will be so niiiiice to just let the kids play…read that book you’ve been dying to get to all school year--the one that you eventually bit the bullet and bought because the library wouldn’t let you renew it for 6 mos. at a time. Even as a homeschooling mom—I COULD NOT WAIT for summer to come this year!! Until last week.

Oldest Princess: “Mom! B’s copying me!”
Youngest Princess: “Mom! B’s copying me!”
OP: “Mom!”
YP: “Mom!”
Me: Girls!! Separate! Now!!
OP: Come on, Sis. Let’s play in the dollhouse.
(YP crosses arms and stomps off.)
OP: (in tears) "Mom!! She won’t play with me!!"
Me: Sweetheart, she’s 2. She has a short attention span. Use your great imagination!
OP: (Bursts into tears)
And thus, the first day of our summer began. Ummmm…can we do year-round school?

Being Real, I was quite burnt out this past school year, just from the massive amount of Crazy on my plate—trying to run a household, raise a toddler, keep things flowing for my hubster while he’s in school, homeschool, babysit, oh…yesss—and then add on my brilliant idea of online graduate studies—yeah…burnt out. So, the latter half of May, quite honestly, we’d already been easing ourselves into summer. Lots of library books. Lots of math games. Field trips. And anything fun/easy that I could turn educational to count toward our required days—we were on it! But as we finished up first grade for Oldest Princess last week, and celebrated with friends at Casa Bonita (it’s like a Mexican Chuck E. Cheese on a really bad acid trip),

I realized summertime this year needed a plan. And fast!

You see, last year, we were babysitting all summer, so our days were pretty laid out for us. We transitioned into summer with minimal casualties, as it looked drastically different from our school year. This year, however, we are not babysitting (praise the Lord!) But I did decide to take a couple online classes.
(Thanks all my readers and friends who gave me a sympathetic ear in my dilemma—I think it’s gonna be good. FYI—as a side note, I’m taking summer classes in Early Childhood Education, as they seemed helpful/interesting, but I’m switching to pursue my MFA in Creative Writing for Children in the spring! Whoo-hoo! –I know you were all hanging on to the seat of your pants there, right? ;))
Sooo… I figured somebody ought to start benefiting from my crapload of learning… So, I’ve decided I’m actually going to apply some of my own experiences as a preschool teacher (6 years, baby!) and all these classes to my home-life this summer. The days as a teacher where you just have to wing it are always the worst. I REFUSE to live life as the substitute who got called in to referee a classroom at 6AM the morning of…and the teacher left no lesson plans! I am officially dubbing this: Shiny’s Summer of Organization (or as I am fondly referring to it, The Summer I Get My Crap Together :D) So for the next few posts, I thought I’d share some things I’m going to be applying this summer, and I hope you’ll share some of your ideas with all of us as well! So stay tuned and enjoy the ride! I’m hoping you’ll either have fun trying out some cool ideas with your family as well…or at least be mildly entertained watching me try to get organized. –Like in a watching-Kate-Gosselin-on-Dancing-with-the-Stars kind of way, where you’re all “What the...?”

Innnn the meantime…the hubster is currently outside in our barn at 10 o’clock at night trying to snag a wild barn kitten to become a pet for the girls and needs my help Wish us luck!! And don't forget to shine! …What the heck is wrong with us???

Friday, May 28, 2010


I just want to take a moment to apologize for not keeping up with my posts this week, Friends! As the school year winds to an end, (and my princesses seem to be wound up with the energy of a perpetual Red Bull with a Mt. Dew chaser!), this Crazy Mama seemed to have let an entire week slip away. Sorry! But just like with every other teacher in America this week, the students are running the asylum here, too!

The last week of school is always a big fat joke, isn’t it? It really is the equivalent to hell for public school teachers, I think. They have to come up with new and creative ways to basically just maintain peace and ensure that no one gets hurt in a classroom of 50 kids…while the students’ sole mission that last week of school is to cause as much chaos as possible, pull destructive pranks to school property, and throw all concern for personal safety out the window. It’s a war, really.

I come from a loooooong line of public school teachers, and my cousin teaches in a small, rural school in Ohio, very similar to the school that I attended. She totally made my week by posting on Facebook the classic excuse one of her students gave this week for being tardy: “My sister’s tractor wouldn’t go any faster!” …because it was Drive Your Tractor to school day. I love it!! Brought back memories of my own high school days.

When you grow up in the country, it’s a little (scratch that—a LOT!) different than growing up in suburbia or the big city. I remember crazy nights running around with my friends that last week of school, tee-pee-ing the school; climbing over the school building to get inside the courtyard and soap all the windows; kidnapping the school secretary’s stupid cement goose from her front porch to put it into said courtyard…good clean fun. Just enough to drive the teachers a little more crazy than they already were. One teacher in particular, was our band teacher, a one Ms. Janet Azalion.
Yeah, yeah…I was a band geek. I’ll admit it. (But a cool one, k?! :P) My husband and I were both in every band our school had to offer, and had a blast. Not so much, our instructor. This woman, God bless her, was approximately 4 feet tall, but had all the spunk and spirit of a Chihuahua on crack. Week after week, that highly talented woman did her best to become the next Mr. Holland, as we the students basically shattered her dreams by running our own show. I don’t know how we ever pulled off a performance, but somehow we always came through at the last minute. Must’ve given that poor woman a heart attack several times over.

The most classic one I remember is that of Memorial Day one year. Every year our band marched in a parade down the only street in town (!) and then ended up in the town cemetery where a reading of all the soldiers’ names were read. This being a town of approximately 1,000 people (maybe), this parade was like one of the only events of the year and quite the crowd-gatherer! So, anyway, the big deal for the band was that 2 trumpet players every year were chosen as an honor to play “Taps” at this event. One played the lead line, one played an echo. One year in particular, I remember my now-husband was chosen. Why our instructor decided to do this to herself, I have no idea. Highly talented musician? Absolutely! My husband is a musical genius. On time EVER? Absolutely NOT! My husband is infamously late. Always.
So there the crowd of Milford Center, Ohio was in the town cemetery that Memorial Day…waiting. And waiting. I see Ms. A’s heart pounding out through her chest like you see in those old Donald Duck cartoons. We all were sweating it out. But then as always, I heard the squeal of tires on my future hubster’s Honda come tearing into the cemetery,…and the beginning line of “Taps” blaring a-slam-of-the- car door later. Never on time, but always comes through. My husband is one to make you sweat. Sorry, Ms. A!

And to all you other teachers who are fighting the good fight day after day in this nation’s public schools for America’s children—thank you! This Memorial Day weekend, I DO remember the many soldiers who have served, and are currently serving, or who will serve some day this great nation we live in. Thank you, Dear Soldiers for protecting our freedoms. I know I am allowed to homeschool only because of you. But I also want to remember the unsung heroes of this nation: the teachers of our school systems. Especially as they brave this last week of school!

God bless you all! And may God bless America! –Land of the Free. Home of the Brave. Home of the Crazy. :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Since it is technically the weekend, and I figure not a ton of people will be reading this…OK maybe 1 (Hi, Mom!), I thought it’d be OK if I backtracked a couple weeks and wrote about my Mother’s Day. Cuz guess what? I officially did not have a blog up and functioning on Mother’s Day. And Mother’s Day is my new favorite holiday. Here’s why!

See, in my past life, I was an editor for SRA/McGraw-Hill Publishing Co. (remember Reading Labs in elementary school?...anyone?...yah, me neither.) But anyway, that was my job. In OTH (outside the home) work, you get rewarded for jobs well done. You get raises when you do everything you’re supposed to do well. You get feedback as to how well of a job you’re doing. And after you put in enough years proving that you can do a good job at your work, you can go after bigger and better jobs. (Kind of a neat little system, eh?) Well, I followed the OTH plan, and I did get the bigger better job at a publishing company that I LOVED! But not more than my family. I left my job as an editor to try to learn how to become a good wife and homemaker (HAHAHAHA!) before I had kids, and to establish myself a bit as a freelance writer. That was pretty cool! I had my 2 little Princesses, and kept right on writing. …And somehow in these past 7 years of becoming mother to Princesses, I seriously had begun to feel… beat down.

I was working around the clock, it seemed, to focus on the job of Bringing Up Girls (Dr. Dobson, be proud!) And believe me; the rewards of being a parent are countless. I do not regret for one SECOND leaving the OTH workforce to focus on work at home. It’s just lately I had begun to miss The System. I worked hard! I felt like some days I did it well… (Don’t ask about the others….) But somehow promotions seemed to be bigger messes to clean up. More and more and MORE clothes to wash, dry, fold away (where are you, Folding/Putting Away Machine!?!) Feedback was a belch or demands for more. Yippee. Selfish of me? Probably. Childish? Perhaps. But it’s Crazy Truth #1: Be Real—and I had truly begun to feel unappreciated around my home. I still LOVED taking care of my family, don’t get me wrong. I just felt that nobody really cared about what I did, and the Tooth Fairy could be doing all my work, for all the rest of the family knew.

But then it happened. Mother’s Day came. And this year my oldest Princess is 7—she planned the whole thing, with the help of Dad. I am still smiling inside from this day! Well, first of all, I had always wanted breakfast in bed, but never had received that for a gift. Tah-dah! I was given strict orders to stay in my bed that morning, and commanded to sleep in. (Twist my arm!!) Not as easy as it sounds at my house. As I tried my hardest to sleep in, Youngest Princess kept coming up to my face, “Mom? Mommy?” Poor kid was so confused! What the crap was wrong with Mommy? She began to look petrified. “Mommy?!? I need my sippy cup!!” And then the crying began. She tried to console me, but I just couldn’t stop—I NEVER get to sleep in! NEVER!

Things got better when the Hubster carried down my tray of favorite breakfast foods, with Oldest Princess proudly carrying a vase of sunflowers. The Hubster and OP went back upstairs to eat their breakfast while YP climbed up onto the bed with me and helped eat all my food. :) After a few minutes of enjoying the royal treatment, a thought hit me. Yah no…it’s really not all that fun to eat breakfast all by oneself, when you could be all together laughing and having fun over a meal. YP and I hauled the tray upstairs and joined in all the Crazy Fun.

–And there was more!! I got a necklace and some bracelets the girls had picked out for me; roses from the Hubster; homemade cards from all. I made out like a bandit!!! All of these were wonderful…but then the BEST PRESENT ever happened. The fam all had me sit on the sofa and close my eyes. I heard noises I couldn’t distinguish… but they sounded fun. The noises grew louder and I was told to open my eyes—THEY GAVE ME A PARADE!! :) They had all worked together and built the coolest FLOAT I have ever seen out of our wagon, some crepe paper streamers, and some new hanging flower baskets!! I think I laughed/cried/laughed nonstop for a solid hour. Giddy! The breakfast, the jewelry, the flowers…all wonderful. The parade and homemade float…priceless! It was Crazy Rule #3—Be Love. This Mother’s Day, The King of the Castle and the 2 Dancing Princesses made Crazy Mama feel like a Queen. :) Love you!!

If someone you love is having a b-day or special day soon—parade and a float, Friends. Parade and a float!! Shine!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Mixed-Up Mind-Making

My husband and I are officially THE world’s WORST decision makers. Ever. Not that I mean we always make bad decisions. It is simply a matter of IF we will ever make one! It’s the small decisions, like choosing a restaurant to eat out at for breakfast… will end up becoming a brunch, then lunch…perhaps an early supper, because we drove around in circles all day—sometimes changing geographic locations by 50 miles or more, from Downtown to somewhere in the mountains. But it can also be major life-changing decisions, like laboring for 6 months or longer over the decision to move out West…from Ohio. (Now how is that even a decision?!? …yes, yes, Mom—I know, I know—4 seasons. Apparently we only have one season out here—it’s called GORGEOUS! ;D) I drive myself Crazy! Somehow, by the grace of God, my husband and I did eventually make the decision to move out West, and it was probably the 2nd best decision I think we’ve ever made.

How can it be so incredibly difficult for 2 people to make decisions? We are absolutely no help whatsoever to the other, as we are both equally decision-making challenged. How the 2 of us ever ended up getting married at all is proof enough for me that there is absolutely Somebody for Everybody! :) From the looks of both of our track records, we should technically both be on the dating scene (scary thought!) or divorced 10 times by now, still waiting to make a decision. That is how my husband and I both know we were a match made in heaven—I do believe he was probably the only decision in my life I never stressed about—I just always knew. Weird, eh?

And speaking of weird, more details on our Crazy Life as of late. Many of you already knew my husband, from September—June, both works Full-time and is a Full-time student. I hold down the fort at home, homeschool, and until recently was also part-time babysitting a couple afternoons a week AND working on my Masters in Early Childhood Education. Sooo…not only has our life been just plain ol’ Crazy, it’s been freakin’ Crazy Busy!

Right now I have been enjoying a 2 week pause…neither of us in school…no more babysitting…just me at home, finishing up homeschool for the year, and the hubster being able to relax after dinner when he gets home from work—and breeeeeeaaaaathe. It’s been beautiful! Simply beautiful! The problem that has come up now is the looking ahead to next month. My dilemma is to decide whether or not to continue pursuing the MA. Am I to remain the free-spirited mama, with minor debt, who blogs, writes for a living and homeschools her girls…or do I become a highly educated, free-spirited mama, with a $50k debt…who blogs, writes for a living and homeschools her girls? I know, I know—the answer should be a big fat “duh.” But it is slightly more complicated. My original purpose for going after the degree in the first place was to gain some credentials for myself to tack onto my crazy creative ideas I love to do with kids. But all that to say—it’s tough. And I’m looking for advice, Friends! How on earth do sane people make decisions? I can’t even decide on a hair color!!!

I’ll have you know, I already do the whole Pros and Cons thing. (I’m a Type A personality trapped in an artist’s body—it’s complicated.) I pray daily. And I am the Queen of lists and all things Post-it. What I really want to know is how other people make decisions they can stand on. Somehow I made the decision to homeschool, and we’re sticking with it for as long as it works for our family. However, another reason I am asking is that one of the biggest pitfalls of homeschooling is that you see your own flaws magnified in your children on a regular basis.

Today, I took the girls to the library and we were going to go to the gym right after. Well, after the library, I decided that Youngest Princess was coughing too much with her allergies, so I didn’t want to leave her in the Kid’s Club. We changed our mind to go to the park instead. Oldest Princess made the call actually. I agreed to it, provided we walk along the creek to get to the park. Halfway there, Oldest Princess changed her mind."Nooo…we really should go to the gym. It would be more fun." Ummm…no. Sorry, Chuck—we’re halfway to the park. We’re sticking with the decision. She does this all the time, too! But that’s when it hit me—dang! She’s learned this from me! See, it is in moments like these when it would actually be NICE to have your kids in public school. At least you’d have someone to blame for areas in your kids that need some work! "It’s the schools! The horrible curriculum!", I could say. "The bad influences they’re around all day!" ...Pretty much sucks when you’re the bad influence in your child’s life.

So, guess we both have some work to do! Maybe…? I think. No, actually we’re both fine. Or not. I don’t know? Any thoughts on decision-making, Friends?! Whatever you do--do it well. And...

Shine! :)


Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Crazy Secret

So, I have a little secret. “Hello, my name is Shiny, and I am a Closet Homeschooler.” Wait! Wait! Before you go tipping off Children’s Services —no. I do not homeschool my children in a closet. (Just setting the record straight!) I, however, consider myself to be a new breed of homeschoolers I am branding myself. :) We are, despite popular opinion, somewhat sane. Perhaps a little cool. Crazy? Absolutely! But in our own quirky/artsy sorta Crazy. Good Crazy! :) I call myself a Closet Homeschooler because I learned the hard way what a damper it quickly puts upon meeting people when it inevitably comes up. Here’s how the conversation normally goes upon meeting someone. We’ll be chatting it up nicely-- light, friendly banter; share some laughs over stupid stuff other parents' kids are doing; complement shoes; etc. Then it never fails:
Stranger: “Wow! Your girls are both so creative! Your oldest is such an artist! And the youngest is so sweet! Look how well they play together! They’re being so nice to my Jr. We should really get them together for a play date, ya know? It must be so nice to have your children be so close. And they have such nice manners, too!”
Me: “Yeah…that’s not always how it goes. And you should show up for some of the belching contests at the dinner table—Dad always wins. But they do get along for the most part. I am thankful for that! They’re having a blast with your Jr. How old is he?
Stranger: 5 ½. Yeah, he’s quite the lady’s man! (Insert annoying mom-laugh here) He’s in soccer M,W, F…then we have swimming back-to-back with soccer M and F—games on Sat. We’ve got karate T/Thurs. and of course violin and harpsichord lessons after karate. (Pause—I think the list keeps going on, but I checkout sometime around here.) Oh! And there’s a great summer camp I signed him up for—Astronaut Camp before Kindergarten! You should sign up your youngest! You do have her waitlisted for Smarty Pampers Academy for Pre-k, right?! They have the best test scores.
Me: Er…uh…. (It’s coming…wait for it…and….)
Stranger: (Blam!) By the way, where’s your oldest go to school?
Me: (Muffle,muffle, muffle.)
Stranger: What’s that?
Me: Um…we do homeschool.
Stranger: (wide-eyed, half-sympathetic look) Wow! You’re sure brave. Whelp. NicemeetingyougottagoJR!!!!

And that, my Friends is why I am a Closet Homeschooler. The minute the word “homeschool” flies out of your mouth, you are immediately labeled a Crazy Homeschooler. And while this is true to some extent (as I said—Good Crazy! Good Crazy! :D), we are not the typical stand-ins-from-Deliverance kind of family. Oh, and it’s not just strangers who expect you to head out to the parking lot and fasten your kids into the horse-drawn buggy and ride off to the Lego Engineering Convention. Let’s just say it would’ve been easier to tell my 3rd generation, Teacher of the Year mother (Love you, Mom! ;D) that I had a fatal disease than to explain that we had decided to homeschool our children. Apparently her oldest daughter is crazy (surprise!) and her grandchildren are destined to grow up and become disgruntled carnies.

Some people choose to homeschool because they want a simpler life for their kids; some people choose for religious reasons; some because they just like spending time with their kids and have fun teaching them—for me, it’s a little of all of those reasons, yes; but mostly, simply because it just suits us! My husband and I made a decision a long time ago that we wanted to be a close-knit family, and I LOVED the tremendous cool-factor as a parent that you get to literally help CREATE a childhood for your children…and homeschooling just sort of fell into play with that. It certainly is NOT for everybody—for us, it works!

But whenever people ask me that ever popular question: But what about the SOCIALIZATION?—I need to tell people I’m working on it! :) Because my kids are the most social butterflies I’ve ever met—my oldest can take charge of a room of 6 year-olds in 2 seconds flat and have the game explained/roles divvied/rules laid out, with my youngest close in tow. You see, for kids—there are no social problems! It’s the homeschooling parents who end up with them, because all the other moms run for the hills (I don’t know why they’d run for the hills, because apparently that’s where they think we just crawled from!), the moment the “hs” word comes up.

No more, people! Today Shiny is Homeschooling Mom Extraordinaire! Or as my friend, Trisha says, “I homeschool my kids! What’s your superpower?!?” As I said, part of Livin’ Crazy is Bein’ Real—so this Closet Homeschooler is coming out, Friends! That’s right—loud and proud, Baby! So just thought I’d warn you. :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


So…here is Edvard Munch’s portrait of me this afternoon. Yes, as I stated in my intro post, we do try in our crazy life to make everyday feel like Christmas. By stating that, I am in NO MEANS trying to say everyday turns out picture perfect!! I simply mean, we intentionally try to make each day memorable in its own right. And just like Christmas morning, some days it’s like you opened up a Tiffany bracelet, the latest Jimmy Choos and a box of 20 minutes to yourself! Other days…well, other days you opened up a fruitcake wrapped in an embroidered patriotic snowman sweatshirt—with a collar, mind you, and…and…a pair of your child’s pants in the toilet. Yeah that’s right. That’s how I woke up this morning. As I groggily sat trying to pry my eyes open with the steam from my coffee this gloomy, snowy May morning (yup. Snow. May.), my oldest Princess greeted me nonchalantly with a, “So, Mom. What are Sis’ pants doin’ in the toilet?” I knew this day was going to be a spunky one.

So not to be a downer on your own day, and definitely not to use this blog as a b-tching spot, by any means—I’m just Bein’ Real. We all have crappy days. However, it’s what you do with them that matters. For me, today was definitely that Christmas package consisting of an opened bag of kitty litter (I actually have a good friend who received this gift.) And in keeping with the authenticity of this blog, I’m tellin’ you all about it! :) Pants in the toilet. Children fighting ALLLLLL morning due to tiredness and, well...being siblings. (Duh.) Lost my temper and joined in all the yelling. (Childish.) And as we all hurried out the door (late) to get to a fieldtrip with oldest Princess’ school group: Tah-Dah!! Our lovely outdoor creatures had thrown us a party! --Apparently using our trashbag filled with coffee grinds and other fabulous fridge finds as their piƱata. Ole! That was my morning. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details. Simply one of those day where if you touch it, you’re either going to break it, drop it alllllll over the floor (thank you, Blueberries), or spill it all over yourself (thank you, Green Tea for the 5th degree burns.)The rest of the day was simply a calming down process. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Breeeaaaathe!

As an art major in college, I always was fascinated by Munch’s image of The Scream. Today that image came to mind as I tried to let go some of my frustration. And as I read over some of my other friend’s blogs and Facebook posts today, I found it kind of funny, (well not really FUNNY, but you know…), that we all shared such a crappy day in our own Disgruntled-Family- Christmas kind of way. I especially found it amusing when I read Munch’s diary entry (Shhh…don’t tell!), regarding this famous painting:
I was walking along a path with two friends — the sun was setting — suddenly the sky turned blood red — I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence — there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city — my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety — and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.
I’m kinda sensing that same scream must’ve been passing through the blogosphere today!

Like I said, it’s what you Do with the lemons that matters. Here’s what I did with mine: First, I said “I’m Sorry.” One of the hardest things as humans, I think, is to take time to admit when we don’t handle life’s lemons properly. When we don’t model good coping skills for our children, or how to channel our frustrations elsewhere, like in a good run or hour of kickboxing. (The gym was closed today FYI. SURPRISE!) So first, I apologized to my children for the way I dealt with today. The second thing I did was to be thankful. You know, there are MANY people out there who want to punch me in the face right now for my description of a bad day. People who are going through divorce. Losing a loved one. Losing their home. Trying to figure out where their next meal will come from. I need to be thankful for the problems I did have today. So today I am Crazy Thankful that I am alive and able to have a “bad” day. Because tomorrow is a new day. And tonight is a date with sitcoms and a big fatty bowl of Ben & Jerry’s. (And the hubster, of course!) --And my children are going to bed tonight at 7:30PM.

So tell me about YOUR day today, Friends! A big part of Livin’ Crazy is that we’re all in this together! Be Real! And if it happened to be a Lemon of a Day—whadya do with it? Here’s a cool pic of what my brother, the world famous photographer Andy Spessard ( did with lemons once:

Dude made a freegin' battery! Now that boy knows how to shine! :)

Seriously! So for any of you who shared my virtual Scream today—let’s jumpstart tomorrow with some Positive Energy! Next post we return to my Happy Place! I promise.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Welcome to my Happy Place! Yes, this is me, “Shiny,” as my niece calls me—“Mom!”as my kiddos call me—“HeyBabe” as my hubby calls me—“Crazy” as the rest of the world calls me. This is my blog! It’s taken me forever trying to figure out how to begin this crazy thing, as I wanted to be able to post something perhaps someone might want to read someday. Seriously, I’ve been turned on to so many AMAZING blogs as of late, written by sooo many AMAZING writers…I was kind of intimidated to be honest. Really—what is left to add to the blogosphere? I mean seriously,…does the world truly need another Mommy Blogger?!? And my answer: “Why not?” (Sorry, just having sitcom flashbacks to one of my favorite Scrubs episodes where J.D. asks out Sarah Chalke and he’s in sheer bliss reliving the moment—“ ‘Why not?’—That’s what she said! ‘Why not?:)”) And I say ‘Why not?’ because you just have not seen the everyday crazy of my life that I love! And it’s just too fun to keep to myself!

Our family of four consists of me, “Shiny” (that’s what I’m goin’ with :))the hubs (well, technically there’s just one—guess he’s “the hub”), and my 2 little girls (7- year old, aka “The Princess” and 2 ¾- year old, aka “Princess-in Training”)—these 2 little ones crack me up, make me smile; make me laugh; make me crazy…and they are the light of my life. I will also mention we have a 14-year old Chihuahua—Miguel. We love him, but that’s really all there is to say about him. As I said—he’s a 14- year old Chihuahua; there’s a debate he may have died 5 years ago, but he still seems to enjoy holding down the doggie bed in the family room. He puts up with our craziness and seems to somewhat enjoy our 2-year old’s Extreme Hugs. And to be honest—he’s seen it all. My husband and I got Miguel when we were engaged, and he’s been with us on this wild ride from Day 1. (God bless his furry soul!)

What began as the story of a couple high school sweethearts falling in love, getting married and living a colorful, free-spirited, artsy/eccentric life now has developed into a richer plot as a family of four—still living a colorful, free-spirited, artsy/eccentric life—with purpose, passion and a celebration of life that (in the words of my husband) makes everyday feel like Christmas! Our family motto is to: Be Real. Believe. Be Love. And my new addition: Begin! (And hey! I finally did ‘Begin’ this crazy thing! Yay!) That’s what I hope will keep you coming back to read more—share some laughs, be encouraged, get some cool and creative ideas to try @ home. …And maybe this will become your happy place, too! :)