Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

New Venture


Looky at me! Selling stuff on Etsy! People who don’t even know me have bought stuff so I feel all official now. Check me out (if you like pottery…if you don’t then it wouldn’t interest you)! I even have a new domain name with thoughts of a muddy type bloggy thingy. Haven’t decided what to do with it yet but it is mine for another 6 months while I think about it.


Keeping it real


By now, most folks who read blogs have seen this post about not airbrushing our lives to look so perfect on Facebook. While I agree, there are some folks out there who make everything seem idyllic and Martha inspired with perfectly framed photos and statuses about frolicking through orchards then making organic applesauce at home while smiling children assist with nary a spill in sight. It makes the rest of us feel as though we are falling short and doing it wrong. But, and this is a big but for me, don’t we all also have friends in our FB feeds who do nothing but complain? They focus on every little thing that doesn’t go their way and then put it out there because apparently they believe misery loves company or at least an audience? I don’t enjoy those people either.

I feel like I’m pretty real in my facebook feed. Yes, I show off the Martha moments – mostly because they are rare and I’m proud when I can pull it off. But I also share statuses about wanting to lock myself in the closet with a bottle of wine because my children are driving me insane. I don’t feel like snapping Instagrams of my overflowing-with-dirty-dishes kitchen sink or complaining about everything that doesn’t go my way is being more real. I share the bad – usually tempered with humor because if I can’t find the humor I am going to end up in a fetal position in the corner throwing applesauce on my head. And I share the good – usually trying not to brag while doing it. I do have some rules about things I don’t share but I don’t think that makes me less real…I think that everyone appreciates that I don’t over share. My relationship with my husband is pretty much off limits in all social media arenas. I brag on him a little here and there and might occasionally complain he can’t remember that trash day is Friday even after 5 years but that is as much as anyone gets from me. My marriage is good but private. I get really uncomfortable when people overshare about their marital issues on FB. I also share less about the girls as they get older. Obviously, they aren’t completely off limits but there are things I keep to myself out of respect for them.

Are you your real self on FB? Are there things you hold back?

Tessa keeping it real with cowboy boots and fleece jammie pants:


Merry Christmas


From our beach vacation in August.  Nothing to do with the post, I just love this photo and haven’t shared it yet.  These 2 are my joy all year.

It has become a bit of a blog tradition (in my head at least) to not share my Christmas card photo until Christmas (or at least until all of my cards have been received).  I sent out 2 different Christmas cards this year.  The first card had the girls in their Halloween costumes on the front:

I didn’t have a Christmas photo yet and I needed to get some cards ordered so I used what I had.  The second, and more limited, version had this photo of the girls with Santa:

One of my friends in the Moms Club is a great photographer and takes photos at all of our events – I was going to have her do a photo shoot with the girls but time just wasn’t on my side.  So I used this photo from our Moms Club Christmas party for the second version of our card.

This was the first year that Sabrina sat on Santa’s lap – in the past she has always stood next to him and looked at him suspiciously from the corner of her eye.  She has been a lot of fun this year in anticipation of Christmas.  She remembers last year and has been excited both about visiting family and about Christmas.  Tessa is sure something interesting is going on but isn’t quite sure what. I’m looking forward to spending time with family and watching the magic of Christmas through my childrens’ eyes this year.

Merry Christmas!

And we’re off


Strapping my kids into their seats and playing many hours of Disney movies a foot from their faces while we drive north.  Then I will complain that I don’t understand why all kids insist on having branded items all of the time and wonder why my girls love princesses.  Cuz I’m awesome.

But? I’m not a bad blogger…I have a couple of scheduled posts for you. One of them featuring my adorable children on Santa’s lap.  AND! No one is crying!  Bonus!

Old London Melba Toast


I wrote  this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Old London Melba Toast and received a sample to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Because I am sure that my last 2 posts sparked everyone’s appetite, I thought I would change the subject.  So, food!  Ha.  Seriously, I love melba snacks.  It really is an illness.  When someone buys the bags of ready made chex mix?  I totally dig for the melba toasts in it.   When there is dip that shares a plate with melba snacks at a party?  I totally go for that dip first because it has to be good on melba snacks and if the dip disappoints, I can snag a few extra melba toasts to eat plain.  The sea salt is very light on the salt (the box says new bold flavor – I personally didn’t find the flavor bold but I liked them as is) – just a nice, crunchy treat.  I ate most of the box of  the sea salt while I was sick this week.  No toppings, no recipe, no frills – just melba snacks and me on the couch.  My children love them too – they are like pigeons and draw around me as soon as they see the box…one saying “I want some Mommy.  I like those” and the other signing hungry and more.

The Spicy 3 Pepper flavor was bold and I liked it.  It made me think of spices in taco seasoning – definitely some peppery flavor and a little cumin in the background I think.  Fabulous with hummus.  Yum!  It didn’t overpower the hummus at all…just added another layer of flavor.  And it wasn’t like a powder coating of flavor like you find in chips (you know those orange fingers you get) – it seemed to be baked in.  It didn’t leave my tongue burning but it was a little too spicy to let my kiddos try (darn, couldn’t share).

They included a link to a few recipes and they sound yummy – unfortunately with the sick lingering in my house this week, I haven’t done much cooking.  But the idea of dipping 1/2 of a sea salt toast into melted semi-sweet or dark chocolate and sprinkling with crushed pistachios? Gah.  I love the salty/sweet thing.

They also included a link to a sweepstakes to win a trip to Hollywood! From their website:

“Dance Your Way to Hollywood” will send one lucky winner and a guest to Tinseltown for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, including private dance lessons and tickets to watch the taping of a highly popular television show. The four-day, three-night, all-expenses-paid experience includes air travel and accommodations at a popular Hollywood hotel. Sweepstakes entries accepted March 17 through June 30, 2010.

Sounds like a good time.  (Wonder if they would stock my hotel room with boxes and boxes of melba toast?)  I’ve never been to California but there are several cities there I would love to visit – and having Old London pick up the tab would be sweet!

3 years ago today…


I’m never sure what day to officially call our family day – the day I went down to foster Sabrina, the day we got out of PGN and our adoption was legal in Guatemala, the day Steve arrived for our embassy appointment so our family was together again for good, the day Sabrina arrived in the US with us and became a citizen?  I have mostly settled on April 12th.  April 12th is the day that we flew to Guatemala and picked up Sabrina for the very last time.  She never left my care again after that.

I’ll never forget that period of time before I moved to Guatemala.  I was so excited and so terrified.  I didn’t know if I would be there for weeks or months or years.  I just knew that I couldn’t let our daughter get any older without us (she was 7 months old).  I didn’t want her leaving her foster family to be any more traumatic than it already would be.  I didn’t want to struggle with attachment issues if I could avoid it.  I didn’t want to spend another day knowing my daughter was in another country and I couldn’t hold her.  In the weeks leading up to my departure, I couldn’t get the REM song “Its the End of the World as we know it” out of my head.  I was quitting my job and moving away from my family and husband to live in a place that I barely spoke the language.

antiguahouseAnd it was hard.  It was very hard adjusting to another culture and becoming a single mom in 1 day.  I was terrified of doing the wrong thing as a mom and as a gringo in Antigua.  But at the end of each day we found ourselves safely locked behind our walls together.  Sabrina didn’t have nearly the trouble with the transition that many babies did but it was enough that I bought a pack of cigarettes at the little tienda down the street and would smoke a cigarette outside each night after I wrestled her to sleep.  (I had quit a couple of months before moving to Guatemala.)  I cried in the shower every day.  I missed my husband.  I was struggling to figure out how to be a mom alone.  It did get easier with time.  And I had family visit so I wasn’t all alone.  And the support system of other adopting moms in Antigua was nothing short of amazing.  I never would have survived without them.  Heck, I never would have gone without their encouragement.

EDITED TO ADD: I guess sometimes I think it goes without saying but I should say it since I don’t know everyone who visits my blog – it was hard but it was the most amazing experience moving to Guatemala.  Living there even for a short time was unforgettable and something I will never regret.

Here I sit, 3 years later.  I am still awed by Sabrina’s beauty and wonderful disposition.  And I am still worried about being a good enough mother and hoping I don’t do the wrong things.  I am blessed with an amazing little family.  It all started 3 years ago today in Antigua and Sabrina who made me a mom.

April 2007



April 2008


April 2009


April 2010


Let’s talk light bulbs


It has been awhile since I’ve done a product review for 2 reasons.  First, I was saving my $20 Amazon compensations to put toward my camera.  I purchased my camera in September.  Second, I haven’t seen much pop up in my inbox that interested me.  I only do review products that are useful and relevant to me or stuff that I want to try.  It isn’t always sexy but it is stuff that I find useful.  Today: lightbulbs.

cfl_light_bulbI signed up to review the Sylvania Supersaver Halogen light bulbs because I don’t like the CFL light bulbs that I’m supposed to use because they are greener.  I use them in some places because I know I should.  I know they are better for the environment, cheaper to use, and last a long time.  BUT I can’t stand the light they give off.  It is so harsh and unpleasant.  I use them primarily in outside fixtures, garages and basement fixtures, and lamps with warm colored shades.  The warm shades soften the light enough that I can handle it.

p1020531When I saw the Sylvania Supersaver Halogen light bulbs fit at least 2 of the 3 aforementioned criteria (no one has suggested to me that they last longer than regular light bulbs), I said “Sign me up!”.  Did you know that regular incandescent light bulbs will be phased out in the next 4 years?  As a result, we should start seeing some new lighting options pop up in our stores.  I received 2 Sylavania Supersaver Halogen light bulbs in Soft White to try out.

The bulbs are mercury free and use between 22 – 33% less energy than incandescent bulbs.  The bulbs they sent me were 43 Watts to replace a 60 Watt bulb.  (They are available in 28, 43, and 72 watt as well as a variety of flood light wattages.)

I took them one out of the package and compared it to a regular light bulb.  Looks pretty much the same – the bulb portion is a tiny bit smaller.  The left is the new bulb and the right is a 60 watt incandescent bulb.


I put one in my favorite little lamp.  I know these photos probably aren’t a fair representation because so much is dependent upon my camera and your computer screen but if nothing else you can admire my cute little lamp.  The one on the left is the Sylvania Supersaver Halogen bulb and the one on the right is the 60 watt incandescent bulb.  These photos are straight out of my camera with no editing other than sizing them down and adding the watermark.


Bottom line: I notice very little difference which is a good thing in my opinion.  The new bulb is a little bit brighter and a little bit whiter than my incandescent bulb but I only am aware of it because I was looking for differences.  The bulbs come on immediately unlike the CFL bulbs that tend to hesitate before they blink on.  They are fulling dimmable and they use a bit less energy.  They are a bit pricey compared to incandescent bulbs (cheaper than CFL the last time I bought them but it has been awhile so I can’t swear to it) starting at $4.29 a 2 pack.  They are currently available for purchase at www.sylvania.com/HalogenSS and at Menard’s and BJs.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of SYLVANIA and received products necessary to facilitate my candid review. In addition, I received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.



The situation with the orphanage in Haiti that I’ve posted about is changing often.  Their situation is being worked on by many and you can stay up to date by visiting Virginia at That’s Church – she is directly in contact with the families of the women running the orphanage and posts only confirmed information from the family after the family has given permission for it to be shared.  (Many of the links in my previous posts no longer work because she is trying to keep things up to date.)


August 28, 1963

The text from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.


I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Merry Christmas




A rant because I can


p1010210Tessa expressing her joy that Daddy took this week off to hang out at home with his girls.

I don’t use my little corner of the internet to rant very often anymore but today I will.

We pay over $500 a month for health insurance with Cigna.  It isn’t top tier insurance but I would say it is pretty good (until Jan 1st when it changes and will cost us the same for significantly less coverage).  This year, Steve’s employer opted to save money by requiring all ongoing prescriptions (anything lasting more than 2 months) be filled by Cigna Tel-Drug home delivery pharmacy.  They deliver all drugs in 3 month supplies.  It irritates me because I have to be on top of things to trigger my refill a week or 2 before I need it to allow processing and mailing time and requires I pay 3 months worth of drug co-pays all at once but otherwise it isn’t wasn’t a big deal.

I don’t talk about my health issues on my blog – my choice.  Suffice it to say, I require 1 particular drug each month.  Without it, I could suffer life altering (or ending depending on the severity) consequences.

A little back story – after covering us for the previous two years, a few months ago Steve’s employer required more documentation than the IRS does to prove that we are his dependents.  (Seriously, I had less trouble passing the background check from the Secret Service the time I met Hillary Clinton.)  We faxed our marriage license, Tessa’s birth certificate (they payed for her freaking birth), and Sabrina’s adoption decree.  Out of irritation, I might have sent them the Spanish version – I’ll never tell.  Steve gets an email later stating that the only one accepted as a dependent was Sabrina.  We call.  We fax further documentation.  We are told it is all taken care of.

Over 2 weeks ago, I call to re-order my prescription.  I am given a confirmation number and told it will be mailed soon.  I wait.  And wait.  And wait.  I am now out of this drug that I require.  Last Tuesday, I call the mail order pharmacy to ask where the f*ck my drug is and am told that my order was canceled because my coverage was terminated at the end of September.  After berating the representative for the company not notifying me that they canceled my order (they claim they sent a letter – one was not received and later it is confirmed that one was never sent), I call my husband in hysterics and ask him to fix it.  He calls HR.  They tell him all 3 dependents are active.  HR and Steve call Cigna.  They say all 3 dependents are active.  HR, Steve, and Cigna call Cigna Tel-Drug.  They fix things in their system and re-order my refill stating it will take 2-3 days to process and then be overnighted.  I’m not thrilled with the time line but glad it is straightened out.

Saturday evening, after the last UPS, FexEx, and UPSP truck has rumbled by our house without stopping, I call Cigna Tel-Drug again.  A very nice but powerless man tells me that my order was canceled because my coverage was terminated in September.  My head promptly explodes.  I ask why this company would continue to cancel life saving drug orders without notifying the recipient.  He states that they don’t notify recipients (meaning they lied about the letter) because when the system says terminated it is “almost never wrong” and the people know they have been terminated.  He is sympathetic but says there is nothing he can do and tells me to call Cigna.  I asked if he wasn’t in fact Cigna.  He said yes but not the right department.  We call Cigna.  There is nothing they can do because their system is down.  The woman says she will escalate it to an account manager on Monday morning.  Meanwhile, I have been without this very necessary drug for a week.

This morning, Steve calls all of the parties again.  Four separate people assure him that it is now fixed.  They tell him they will process my order and send it overnight on Wednesday.  My head explodes again.  I offer to call back but Steve wisely feels he should make the call.  I tell him to communicate that is completely unacceptable because it means I won’t get the drug until Friday which is another 4 days away.  I demand that I either be able to go to the pharmacy down the street or that it arrives on my doorstep tomorrow.  He calls back and they agree to expedite it and have it on my doorstep tomorrow.

Moral of the story the first: Cigna sucks.

Moral of the story the second: Cigna Tel-Drug really sucks.

Moral of the story the third:  Steve’s employer kind of sucks for starting this whole cluster by holding us to a higher standard than the IRS to prove that we deserve the privilege of paying $500+ a month for health coverage.

Moral of the story the fourth: I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the proposed national health plan but I have to wonder if the government can really do much worse than some of the private insurance companies are doing now.

Moral of the story the fifth: You really have to be your own advocate so don’t be shy.

UPDATE: My drug did finally arrive this (Tuesday) afternoon. Thanks for all of the well wishes.

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