Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Early Santa Visit




We usually see Santa at our annual Moms Club Christmas Party. This year, the party was cancelled. I had nightmares about having to go to the mall in December and wait in line for an over priced mall Santa photo. Then a local business advertised an open house with take-your-own Santa photos. And the set up/background was lovely. So early Santa for the win!

Sabrina was happy to sit and chat with Santa. Tessa was less sure. She sat there. She let me take photos. She told him what she wanted. Then she ran right back to mommy the second we were finished.

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For the first official day of spring break, we had snow. In Tennessee. Weird. I am usually trying to talk myself out of putting away the coats and sweaters at this point each year. With no regard for weather, the girls and on put on our springy pink best and headed to the city for Pinkalicious The Musical.

I’ll admit I was a bit leery. The last time I took the girls to a show by myself it was a disaster. Disney on Ice – the happiest place on Earth on ice and Tessa made my cry. In my (and her) defense, it was while Steve was living in Pittsburgh and I was an emotional mess that summer. She was just too young to sit still that long. It was almost 2 years ago but I still so vividly remember the overwhelmed feeling that I almost didn’t buy the tickets. Poor Tessa – her momma’s memory is long. (I really wanted to take just Sabrina to see The Lion King but holy moly those were some ridiculously expensive tickets…the children’s theater was much more reasonable.)

Fortunately, this was a much better experience. Tessa was enchanted by the play. The length was perfect – she was just starting to get a little antsy as it ended. Sabrina loved it too. I would love to be able to expose them to more plays and shows but it is going to require planning and a line item in the budget. I’m thinking of taking them to a high school production of Cinderella next week since that is uber-affordable. Production quality isn’t really an issue for a 4 and 6 year old, right?

How do you find affordable ways to expose your kids to the performing arts? Is it a priority for your family?



Never Say Goodbye


Wednesday night, I was reunited with my jr high and high school love. It has been 25 years since I’ve seen him. But oh it was worth the wait. He rocked my world for 3 solid hours. And damn, he looked good doing it.

I loved him back in the day. I might have even cried a little bit when he married his high school sweetheart. He was supposed to marry me. Time marched forward. I accepted that he wouldn’t be mine. But he will always have a place on my laminated list.

A night of screaming and singing with my girl friends from the nosebleed section was loads of fun. (The woman in front of us who had beer dumped on her and asked the usher to move her might not agree. Man, she was pissed.) The after party was marred by my turning cranky over being cold and a little hung over while wandering up and down Broadway (beer from before the concert had worn off) but we turned it around and had fun. I finally, after 6 years of living in Nashville, got to see some live music on Broadway. I even had breakfast the Pancake Pantry (local institution) the next morning.

My throat may never be the same again. Here is 1/2 of our group around 2am – all more at least a little drunk.


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Adventure Science Center


My sister in law gave the girls and I a membership to the Science Center for a birthday present this year. Great gift! We finally cashed it in this weekend. We all had such a good time. The girls love any place where they are allowed to touch anything they want. And we had fun helping them discover things. Definitely a big chunk of the center is a little old for them but they will grow into it. Right now, they had fun climbing and pressing and turning and figuring out. Sabrina is fascinated with outer space. She was also much more interested and much less squeamish than mommy about the medical area with the bones and hearts and eyeballs preserved in jars. *Shudder* Tessa loves water. And pressing buttons and figuring out how things work. Definitely 8 thumbs up from the Smiles family on the Nashville Science Center. A little tip from me – wear comfy shoes.

Dr. Sabrina

Tessa would have stayed here all afternoon if we let her.



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Can you spot the differences?


What, besides sunshine and pretty fall leaves, is missing from this picture I took this morning?





Did you spot it? The For Sale sign is gone. And no, we didn’t sell the house. The move is off. We are staying. Steve will be home for good after the holidays. He will be working from home for his current employer and we will all live in the same zip code again. Such a huge relief to have a resolution after 7 months of limbo.

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We had a lovely holiday weekend. I have much to be thankful for but I won’t bore you with a list. My mom joined us for Thanksgiving which was nice. The day after, instead of shopping (because I am mostly done nah-nah-nah-nah), we took the girls to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to see the decorations (above is a collage of our visit there).  I also wanted to try and take a decent photo for our Christmas card. I wasn’t hugely successful at that. I took 217 photos.  214 of them look a lot like this:

Tessa was not about to cooperate – look at the defiance with the crossed arms. (I’m scared of teenaged Tessa already.) And on the rare occasion she was looking my way, Sabrina chose that moment to look at the sky or stick her tongue out. I lowered my expectations and chose a couple that were acceptable. So if you are on my card list, keep the bar low in what you might expect this year.

Hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving. It is truly my favorite holiday – all of the warm fuzzies and family of Christmas, without the pressure and expectations.

Note to self for future Thanksgivings: Do not buy a smoked turkey at Sam’s Club. It will be dry and salty. And the gravy will be like a salt lick.



Life is pretty quiet here in middle TN. House showings have come to a screeching halt (from several each week to none in 5 weeks) but that is understandable given the time of year. Everyone wants to settle in and hibernate for the winter.  This fall has been the prettiest one we’ve had since moving here. I’ve really missed the intense colors of the fall leaves up north.  Most years it is dry and hot so the leaves just turn a rusty brown and fall off.  But this year we’ve had the perfect combo of rain and cooler temps that we have some pretty great color. All of these were taken from my front and back porch this morning.

It is Halloween and the girls are out of their minds with excitement over trick or treating tonight. Due to intense pressure from Sabrina, I did a little decorating on the front door and porch. (I couldn’t put up my cool glowing cat eyes because of the house being on the market.)

(Hate candy corn but it makes a cute wreath.)

My dog isn’t even smart enough to shed at the right time of year. He is molting. Hair is everywhere. I vacuumed 4 days ago:

Tessa is getting a little too smart for her own good. I put the markers up on top of this red cabinet yesterday afternoon when the girls were done coloring. This morning after I loaded the dishwasher, I found her seated at the craft table coloring with the marker (Color Wonder thank goodness). She left the evidence of how she obtained them behind:

Because we got both girls a Vtech Innopad (kind of like an iPad for kids) for Christmas, we’ve let Tessa start playing with her big sister’s Mobigo. She loves it and does pretty well at playing the games.

And thus ends the random ramblings for this Monday.

The other mouse


A friend told me that she and her husband had been taking their kids to Chuck E Cheese on Sunday mornings. I asked if she was insane. I’ve been to Chuck E Cheese. It is loud and crowded and loud. And that mouse is effing creepy.  She said that on Sunday mornings it was pretty okay because we live in the bible belt and most folk are hiding at home so everyone thinks they are at church. I’ve mentioned that I’m working with a lot of mommy guilt around here for a variety of reasons but mainly because I’ve been a solo parent for the past 5 months. I know this means my girls get short changed a lot. Sabrina sees commercials for CEC and has begged to go. So one Sunday, off we went.

I printed a coupon before we left and we purchased tokens. There were very few people there at 9:30 on a Sunday morning.  We had our run of the place until around 11. By 11:30 it was getting a little crowded with birthday parties but we had played everything age appropriate at that point anyway.  We left with some candy purchased with the tickets the girls won and enough tokens to return another time. So if you are a heathen and need some relatively cheap Sunday morning entertainment to soothe some parental guilt, CEC isn’t too painful. Except for my youngest head butting me in the face when I attempted a little family “photo” – this photo was an action shot about .5 seconds after that:

One of these things is not like the others


Several of you have asked how the sale of the house is going.  I haven’t talked about it here because there isn’t much to say.  We’ve had dozens of showings and 2 open houses (with a 3rd scheduled).  Realtors love the house – several have said it is one of the best houses in town and the price point is perfect. Don’t! Change! A! Thing! But. But the buyers aren’t in agreement.  We apparently have 3 problems. Problem the first: it isn’t across the main road in the other town.  Now I wasn’t aware of that the other town was more prestigious. Heck, I’m not sure where one ends and the other begins.  Second problem: new construction resumed here in January and because of our price point we are only about $20K less than a new build. The floor plans aren’t as nice but the appliances and house aren’t 9 years old and you get to pick your finishes.  I get that.  Lastly, the outside of our house isn’t they look they are seeking.  We loved the fact that it doesn’t look like every other house in the county in town.  It isn’t the style that I might have chosen if I was building but I have no issues with the pretend farmhouse-ish look.  But people want brick (ours is Hardy board which is as durable as brick) and fake columns and weird little porticoes.   These photos are taken from my front yard.  With slight differences in style and amounts of brick, they are representative of what most houses in the neighborhood/town/county look like.

Nothing wrong with them. Pretty standard. Here is my house.

Please to forgive the lack of landscaping…was planning to do it this summer but since it isn’t going to by mine I lost the motivation. Plus these are the MLS photos from before we bought the house.

There are 4 houses in the neighborhood like ours. They were going to be models for a new phase but that phase was scrapped and they went back to the brick houses.  So ours does stick out. I never dreamed that would be a bad thing but no fewer than 4 buyers have specifically said they hate the outside.

I don’t show you this so you will all tell me my house is pretty. I like my house and know there is nothing wrong with it. But different strokes for different folks and all that.  Apparently, we just need to have a little patience and eventually someone will come along who loves our house as much as we do.  And for those who’ve asked why we don’t just rent it out and go north – well, I don’t want to do that for a long list of reasons. Also, my husband’s parents are graciously allowing him to stay with them in Pittsburgh so we aren’t having the cost of maintaining 2 households.  If we leave, at some point we will end up paying rent and mortgage or 2 mortgages and I don’t need new ulcers.

Bottom line is: No news is…no news.  The girls and I are here until we sell the house unless Steve and I come up with a game plan that doesn’t end with us living in a van down by the (Monongahela) river. If we are still here at the first of the year, there are a couple of additional things we are prepared to discuss to get things moving. For now, Steve works from home 1 week each month and the other 3 weeks the girls and I are on our own.  The summer was really hard for us but now that school has started it has gotten easier. The girls have their days filled and I get a few hours each week to myself. As time has marched on, I think the girls have adjusted better to this separation than Steve and I have.  It is their new normal and, while they don’t like it, they are troopers.

Titles are hard


Steve is on vacation most of this week so the girls and I are enjoying some Daddy time.  This morning, Daddy accompanied us on an outing he would normally miss: the Discovery Center.  The girls loved having Daddy there because he is so much fun! And I enjoyed having another set of eyes.  Damn kids can dart around at the speed of light.  Or at least faster than this old broad’s eye can track.  Then lunch out which is Sabrina’s favorite! thing! ever! (No idea why – the child doesn’t eat whether we are at home or out.)

Tessa was so excited about this bird.  She almost lost her mind when it allowed her to touch it. (She is soaked from the water play area.)

Daddy helped Sabrina figure out how to work this backhoe type toy.

Trying to move as fast as a fly.

This one makes me laugh.  It highlights their differences so perfectly.

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