The MIAness Explained. Mostly.

I've been all sorts of MIA here lately. I've said so many times in the past 8 months, and it continues to hold true, but this year has been crazy interesting to watch unfold. There are so many changes in our lives, and each one comes with a whole "huh, interesting" factor. The candle business we started in January spurred a series of craft festivals for the year, with nearly every weekend booked from June to December. I've not hated it. and it has opened new opportunities in the "huh, that's interesting" category as well.

Midsummer, the nephew decided to go to college this fall, and I talked about how we dropped him off a few weeks ago on a weekend trip to Missouri. I have learned so much already, such as how much parents learn when they have kids in school far away. It's a growing experience for all involved. The kids are all getting older, and the hole in our family that Q left is not sad, but noticed nonetheless.

After 9 years of making shirts for kids, I have made the decision to close The Rocking Pony on Etsy. I'm not sure whether my focus shifted so much that it was evident in the store, or if that style of shirt isn't as trendy anymore, but I do know that the dog collars I'm making on Etsy have been phenomenally received. I spend hours in the sewing room, and love every minute of it.

But because that's not enough, with festivals every weekend and Etsy orders to constantly fill, I started a new job. This one is outside the home. It just kind of happened, because this is definitely the year of "huh, that's interesting." One morning I woke up, scrolled through a jobs available posting (which I never do EVER) and ended up employed. Kind of just like that. I will be working with adults with developmental delays a few days weekly, which still leaves me with a few days to get collars made. I was in training for a few weeks, and will start actual work after vacation.

And there's that, too. Vacation. In two days, Sam and I are headed to Europe for 3 weeks. The MIA will continue, I'm afraid. We're anticipating no WiFi, and if I do gain it at some point (which I'm sure I will) I'm not sure updating anything is going to be top priority. This year has also been the year that I've learned to utilize every single minute of every single day. I almost feel guilty if I take time to just sit and watch the kittens play with each other for a few minutes. It's good for productivity but it can't be that healthy for the soul. I have even learned to love being this busy, and look forward to each day and the crazy that it brings. Life is good. I have no complaints. I'm incredibly happy.

I have worked extra hard the past few weeks to set things up so that I have absolutely no work to do while on vacation. Nothing. At all. I plan to unplug and relax. I'm hoping I figure out how to do that before we get home. The Swiss Alps and the Amalfi Coast are bound to be helpful in teaching me this new concept, right?

Stay tuned for pictures. Relaxing ones.

Why I Love All Natural Cleaning Products

I absolutely adore PL360Pet. This is a line of products that are all natural. Most of their products are in the cleaning line, which is pretty much why Louie isn't as big a fan as I am.

PL360Pet's tagline is "Caring For The Pets You Love. Naturally." I love this. In recent years I have become more and more crunchy in my approach to life. If I can do something naturally, I will. Natural cleaners, however, are not something you can really find in abundance on retail shelves.

I raised puppies here for 15 years. While I absolutely love puppies, my kids do not so much. I've broken them. They are very over the smell that puppies create when an entire litter are living in your kitchen. Waking up in the morning to find an overnight's accumulation of puppy doo is really not the best way to start a day. Before breakfast or getting kids off to school, or even showering, I clean the puppy pen. I transfer puppies to a box, roll up the soiled newspapers in their pen, and spray everything down with chemical cleaners to kill germs, eliminate smells and keep things healthy.

And then I wait until the horrific smells of the chemical cleaner goes away so that the puppies don't get tiny headaches or wee buzzes, and pray as I put them back in their pen that they don't lick something and get ill.

Note: We've never actually  had a puppy suffer side effects from chemical cleaners.

So now that you've got a background of what I do at home, you can understand my elation over finding all natural, pet-safe cleaners. While you may not raise puppies in your kitchen, you do have messes at home. (I know this because we all live a real life, not because I'm judging your home.) Who doesn't want a product that is safe around small children or pets? With PL360, you don't have to worry about what you're adding to your home that shouldn't be there. There is nothing harsh or harmful in their products; in fact, they're soy based. And yet, they clean very well.

PL360 sent us a box of products to test, and we've taken quite a while to test them extensively before we gave this review. I want honesty in all things, and how products work over the long run. I'm just as impressed with the natural cleaners now as I was the day we opened that fabulous box that arrived in our mail. Every time I clean up a mess, I feel as though I should do a mini commercial about the cleaning products.

A dog peed on the floor? Break out the Multi Surface Cleaner and get that sanitized!

The dog crates need wiped down? Multi Surface Cleaner will clean that safely and naturally!


Louie's paws are muddy after a hike at the state park? Grooming Wipes, tucked into the glove box of the car, will keep those paws from soiling the car seat on the way home.

Missed a spot of mud? Those same Grooming Wipes will clean the car seat, too.

My love for the PL360 products runs deep, guys. It's not just the healthy that makes me love them, either. It's the fact that they clean well, too. This is a quality product, to be sure. In addition to the pet line and the household cleaner line, they also have natural supplements to help support your dog's health and wellness.

PL360 and I have teamed up to give you free, all natural cleaning products as well. I know you'll be just as excited about cleaning naturally as I am! Please leave a comment here to be entered to win. As a bonus, I've included a few more ways to enter. See below for details.

In the meantime, you'll want your won PL360 products. You can find these at your local, independent pet stores and online at, or

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How Our Son Ended Up At College

I'm so far behind on All Of Life at this point, that I'm just now talking about taking the boy to college last weekend. Let's start at the beginning.

Four years ago, our nephew moved in with us. We choose to call him our son, because when you care about someone that much, they're your kid regardless of whether or not they were born to you, or adopted into your family, or they simply carried a dresser across the field and claimed stake to half a bedroom in your house. This son of ours decided, just a few months ago, that he was going to attend college this fall. And by "a few" I mean that literally. As in, I think, 2 months ago. This is the way we roll here.

In that 2 months of time, someone pushed the fast-forward button in my life, and I haven't had time to do all the college prep things that I should have, as a mom. I figured that he was a responsible young man and could take care of things himself, and he pretty much did, because he's an incredibly responsible young man. We do nothing if not teach responsibility around here. I'm not even tooting my own horn over that; it's a survival skill for the kids. I'm not going to hold their hand until they're 38, so they'd better figure out how to do things on their own. In fact, by the time they're 15, I'm pretty much going to be done holding that hand in the figurative sense. (And let's be honest, in the literal sense as well. Unless I feel the need to punish them for something in public, in which case hand holding by mom is a great punishment.) If they can't make their own phone calls or think ahead to check things off a list of to-do's, they're not going to succeed in life. Life skills. We teach them.

So that's how we ended up on the public lawn at college last Saturday evening, crying onto the shoulder of the dean of women.

Turns out, I should have done a bit more hand holding than I did. Or at least checked the to-do list to see what else needed done. Or perhaps even took some initiative and figured out how college was going to be paid for. The boy's other aunt helped him fill out the FAFSA, because she had 2 kids that had already done the college thing and was experienced with that. (Check! Right off the list.) He had a grant that was being applied for a portion of the fees. (Check!) And there are student loans to cover the rest. (Done!) (Except not.)

We arrived at the college later than we should have on Saturday, which was totally our fault. We let our oldest two boys drive themselves 700 miles to visit some very dear friends of ours in St. Louis, with an overnight stop in Indianapolis on the way to say hello to relatives. Sam, Luke, Micah and I met them at the St. Louis residence and we spent the night before heading to Springfield, MO the next morning. But we slept in.

Arriving late on freshman registration day is going to have perks, such as not having to stand in line to register. It's also going to have pitfalls, such as needing to be in the finance office at the very same time you're called to schedule classes, after waiting for an hour doing absolutely nothing at all but waiting. Finance said to schedule classes and they'd catch up with us later, and they did. It was late, and Sam took the other boys to eat dinner while Quincey and I sat in Mr. Bob's office and replied to the question of "how are you going to pay $1,000 per month" with "student loans." Sounds reasonable, no? I mean, that's what college is all about, right? Accumulating so much debt that you'll never see the end of it during your entire working career? I had a handle on things.

Except I didn't, because I didn't do any parental things such as checking into how one pays for college.

Mr. Bob said Q only qualifies for one student loan, and it was already applied. And how were we going to pay $1,000 per month? (He asked, as he smiled at us.) The answer, my friends, is to simply gather your dignity around you and leave the office, because the other answers of maiming staff or screaming really aren't acceptable ones. I left after about 4 rounds of this fun question, and each time the answer was a bit more bleak. At the last, it was very much implied that $1,000 per month would need to be paid by us, or we'd just be better off driving on home in the morning with our son and his packed car in tow. Let it be noted, however, that even Mr. Bob agreed that $1,000 per month was a very impossible payment for a college student to make, or even the not-parents of a college student who still have 4 other kids at home.

This is how we ended up crying onto the shoulder of the dean of women on the public lawn at college last Saturday evening. Sam met us there with plates of food since the cafeteria had closed, and we were trying to not discuss financial events because I really just needed to just cry and pray, in private, before trying to figure out a solution. Everyone at college is over the top friendly (even Mr. Bob, if you can count his constant habit of smiling at you while delivering bad news as friendly), so when one of these kind smiles walked our way and asked how things were going (when it was pretty evident that things weren't exactly going well), I simply said, "good." And then followed that with, "we ran into a bit of a financial snag, but I'm sure it'll be sorted out." We started talking about job openings in the town and the student work study program, and one thing led to another and pretty soon we were both crying and it was just a hot, soggy mess right there in public.

We like to make a great first impression on the entire student body like that. But that's not enough, because the entire staff was pretty much impressed with us as well. In a roundabout way, phone calls and contacts were made, and friends who weren't even there got balls rolling that we didn't know how to do. Suddenly, we were the family that staff sought out. I'm not going to lie, it was both weird and wonderful.

Long story short, I learned that Q can indeed pay for college with student loans (shocker to nobody) and when I revealed this very thing to Mr. Bob on Monday morning, his phenomenal reply was, "yes, but they've got such high interest rates that I don't recommend them unless you can get someone with a good credit rating to co-sign, in which case you can get the interest rate lowered considerably. But I don't recommend co-signing because if something should happen to you (God forbid) then that person would be responsible for paying back your loan. That's not a good idea." (He said, as he smiled at us.)

So Mr. Bob really just doesn't want Q at school for some very odd reason, and everyone else really, really does. "Everyone else" includes college staff who heard him drum in the talent show and are now greatly anticipating his skills joining their music ministry, most  of his family, friends both old and new, the bank teller who shared her phone number when he opened an account, and the band director of the very large church we attended Sunday who wants him to audition to drum this coming week for one of their many praise teams.

At one point, I'd questioned Mr. Bob about what would happen if we left Q there, and drove 14 hours back home, only to find out that he couldn't afford the monthly cost of college without loans. Mr. Bob simply shrugged his shoulders, smiled warmly at us, and waited for us to figure it out. We did. We left our son at a college 1/3 of the way across the nation, and cried a bit on the way home because we're so ridiculously proud of that boy and all he's accomplished to get there. Dropping a class helped lower the payment to something reasonable enough that a second student loan wasn't even needed anyway (Mr. Bob will be happy, even though we set that up with Mr. Jason instead) and the job that Q has already secured will more than pay for his monthly bills.

God smiles on that boy, and that, too, made me cry a bit, because 14 hours is a long drive home and a lot of time to think about things like how amazing your kids are and how much they're growing up.