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! :)