Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

End of an era


I almost never dress the girls alike. Usually just 1 outfit for our family photos at the beach. This year, for the first time, Sabrina objected. She also pouted and sulked. I promised I wouldn’t make her do again. But I didn’t make any promises about coordinating outfits. Because look how stinking cute they are!



The attitude is developing nicely in the bigger child. She has been expressing that she is mad at me about different things. We got our first silent treatment at the beach this year. Sadly for her, it cracked us up and I documented it with a photo “My baby’s first silent treatment”


She was mad because we walked to the lighthouse and didn’t realize there was a fee to climb to the top. We didn’t bring our wallets so we couldn’t go up. She walked 5 steps ahead of us and refused to speak the whole way back to the house. She wasn’t amused that we were so tickled at her attempt to freeze us out. The photo taking and chuckling might have fueled her indignation. There was another incident of not talking to me (that one apparently Steve wasn’t blamed for) and being mad at me at Cracker Barrel on the way home. It was also met with mirth. She is kind of screwed with that tactic. It won’t ever work with us.

Anyone have a paper bag I can breath into?


So. This happened today.



How is that possible when just last week she looked like this?



We put a deposit on her preschool seat for next year in case we feel she isn’t ready by the end of summer. But can we use it if I’m not ready? I’m not ready to give her up to the world yet. I’m not ready to lose my snuggle bug. I’m not ready to admit all of the baby is gone from her now. One more year of hanging out with her on Tuesdays and Thursdays would make me very happy. Why do they grow so damn fast?

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Mommy Guilt


I was going through some old draft posts.  I wrote this one on August 6th, 2008 when Tessa was 8 days old. It struck a chord with me because I’ve been asked recently how it was different. It being adoption vs biological child. The post must not have been finished but I present it as I found it. I thought I would share.

One nurse in the hospital made the joke that makes all adoptive parents cringe “So you did it the easy way the first time, huh?”  Anyone who has adopted knows there is nothing easy about it.  And those who have children the traditional way know that pregnancy isn’t always easy.  In my mind, it is apples and oranges.  One was one of the most emotionally taxing things I’ve ever experienced and the other was full of physical discomfort and uncertainty.  But both produced miracles – my daughters.

The flood of post partum hormones has surprised me.  I don’t know why.  I knew it was part of the package.  I’ve worried about post partum depression.  Steve has done some reading and marveled at the chemical changes documented in the post partum brain (told you he is a geek).  But despite the knowledge, the sudden tears and overwhelming emotions I’ve experienced since having Tessa have caught me by surprise.  Thankfully, the majority of my emotions are sappy, happy, and awe filled rather than anything depressive.  But all of this emotion has lead me to feel guilty at how different this experience is from my first week with Sabrina.  For some reason, I feel like the experiences should feel more alike to reinforce the fact that I love my adopted child every bit as much as my biological child…and in fact don’t think of them in those terms at all.  They are my children.  Period.

But despite loving each with my whole heart, this first week with Tessa has been a completely different experience than my first week with Sabrina.  Our first week with Sabrina was when she was 3 months old.  We visited for a week in Guatemala.  I felt incredible love for her but I also felt fear (that the adoption could fail) and uncertainty (did she like being rocked like this) and clumsy (I didn’t know how to comfort her).  I felt rather fraudulent declaring myself her mother and her my daughter.  I loved her from the minute I saw her photo but I didn’t feel like her mom until I earned it – meaning had her in my care for good and stopped feeling like I was playing house with her.  I sobbed for her, ached for her, worried about her, longed for her but the throw-myself-in-front-of-a-speeding bus to protect her love took a little time to develop.  It was fast once I moved to Guatemala but it wasn’t instantaneous.

Before I had Tessa, I was a little concerned about loving another child as much as I love Sabrina.  I just couldn’t imagine it was possible.  I anticipated it would take some time with Tessa as well.  I thought I would be so tired and so busy that logistics would keep me going until that fierce momma love kicked in.  That wasn’t the case at all.  The second I heard her cry and then saw her face, I was lost.  I look at her eating or sleeping on my chest and I cry because of the overwhelming love I feel for this child.  I am awed by the miracle that we created.  I suddenly get why people love newborns (I’ve never been a fan).  I won’t go into the ride home from the hospital but suffice it to say the level of protectiveness from both Steve and I was bordering on absurd.







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?



Sugar Nation


Don’t get me wrong. I love me some sweet treats. I’m all about chocolate. And ice cream is a food group in my world. Sometimes fruity skittles turn my crank. All things in moderation – yada yada. I loved this blog post about taking the holidays down a notch. I totally agree. I saw someone on facebook asking how to make St. Patrick’s day more special for her (Guatemalan) children. She had never made a big deal out of it before but everyone else was so she wanted to do it for her children too.

My poor kids. We have a few special traditions. I do the damn elf at Christmas. (I hate that elf…it doesn’t help modify their behavior. It only modifies mine as I wake up in a cold sweat at 3am with the realization that I forgot to move the damned thing again.) I made an advent tree that we put up and enjoy every year. Ummm…that might be where it ends. I don’t decorate for any holiday that doesn’t end in -mas. I don’t go over the top for anything. The bar is very, very low in our house.

But many of my fellow moms don’t share my lazy, low bar setting tendencies. Every freaking holiday and psuedo-holiday results in candy. Look at this:



The pottery bowl on the left is full of left over Halloween and Christmas candy (after them eating some and me throwing a decent amount away). The bowl on the left is Valentine’s Day candy and the felt basket is half full from my youngest’s egg hunt at pre-school. I remember it being a big damn deal when someone included a lollipop in a Valentine card back when I was covering a shoe box with tin foil. It was rare and quite exciting. Now almost every Valentine includes a candy treat. A few were tattoos instead but most were candy. I’m guilty – my girls picked out Valentine’s with candy this year. Last year, Tessa gave out tattoos and Sabrina gave out Hello Kitty magnets but this year they wanted to choose.

Treats have stopped being treats. There was rarely candy in my house growing up. Easter and Halloween was it. Otherwise, there was a dearth of chocolate. I feel like I am constantly having to be the sugar police. The girls request treats daily. I allow them what I believe is a reasonable amount of junk food (some would say none is reasonable…but having grown up with it being off limits, I have struggled my entire life with finding a balance so I am trying to teach it to my children). Part of my just wants to throw all of this away then it stops being an issue. But I have trouble throwing away food and I tend to recycle it. The Halloween and Christmas stuff will go into Easter baskets and plastic eggs. What isn’t eaten will be given out at Halloween (yes, our house might not give out the freshest candy – watch out for those taffys and tootsie rolls HA). But I am weary of all of this candy constantly coming into my house (I don’t mind some but come on – look at the volume). I am weary of telling my children no several times a day when they ask for a treat. I am sad that a sweet little Valentine isn’t enough of a token any more and everything requiring candy or even a whole treat bag.

What do you do with the piles of candy? Do you give your child(ren) free access to it just so it will be gone? Do you limit it? Do you throw it away?

posted under food, parenting | 18 Comments »

Sunrise, sunset


Steve was out of town for 4 days including the weekend. 18 months ago? That would have been a disaster for me. By day 3, I would have been overwhelmed and cranky. But now? We had fun. It wasn’t a big deal. We missed daddy but had a grand time having a girls’ weekend. As the girls get older, I like them so much more and find them so much easier to be with.


Don’t get me wrong. I LOVED all of the baby stages. And most of the toddler stages (except age 3…age 3 can just be wiped straight from my memory). I miss baby snuggles and that period of rapid milestones when they are learning and conquering new things in the world every single day. And the clothes. Oh so sweet. But I am hoping I don’t turn into that woman. You know the one. The one who stands behind you in line at Target while you are plotting in your head which closet to lock your children (or yourself) in when you get home. She then gives you that sad, nostaglic look and says “Enjoy it…it goes so fast”. You want nothing more than to turn around and bitch slap her. Because yes, you know in your head it goes fast and you will miss it someday but at that exact moment what you need is someone to hand you a shot of tequila and tell you that you (and your children) will survive this time when things just feel so. damn. hard. You need to know that everyone has days like this…not that some older woman, who clearly has an early form of dementia, has shined up her memories with that rosy colored glasses cloth and forgets that while she was living it, it was damn hard some days.



So while I miss the baby stages and think back to them nostalgically, I’m not so far from them that I don’t recall how hard they were too. I’m lucky to have friends with babies so I can get my baby-fix while being reminded as I look into their sleep-deprived faces that it wasn’t all rainbows and ponies.



But just look at my babies! On horses at a birthday party over the weekend. Wasn’t I just wearing both of them in carriers a couple of months ago? How did they get so big? Tessa is just minutes older than a newborn in my head. And Sabrina is around age 2 if I don’t think too hard. And yet, I look at these photos on my computer of these young girls. It makes me want to weep sometimes. Yet. Yet, I feel guilty at how much more I enjoy them now that they are young girls instead of babies and toddlers. It feels like I am wishing away their childhoods – which isn’t what I am doing. I just love watching who they are turning into. Now, can we freeze time for a little while?



The girls both loved the horse back riding. But Tessa seemed especially enamored with the horses. Sadly, unless we take out a second and maybe third mortgage, that is not a hobby we can indulge. I thought gymnastics was expensive. Yikes. 

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What about Tessa?




I haven’t updated on the girls in awhile. So, Tessa. What to say about this one? She is going to be my challenge in life. Tessa marches to her own orchestra (drummer would be too ordinary for her). She does what she wants, how she wants, when she wants. She can be so sweet it makes my heart ache. And she can be cuttingly mean 10 seconds later. She is curious about everything when she isn’t living in her own little made up world. She loves to snuggle with me in a way that Sabrina never has. But she does it on her terms when she wants to. Tessa is hilarious in both words and actions. She kind of reminds me of a cat.


We are currently struggling with whether or not to put her in kindergarten next school year. She meets the age requirement. Her only skill that I worry about not being up to par is fine motor skills (in this case read: holding a pencil and writing). They expect a lot of out of kids in school these days. She could likely do the work but we worry that she isn’t ready yet. She doesn’t want to follow the rules of others – not that another year will likely change that but perhaps the maturity to understand that sometimes you need to? She does well in pre-school. Her teachers say she is a leader and often offers comfort to others when they get upset. She never gets in trouble for behavior so it isn’t like she can’t conform. I’m just not sure how she will do all day, every day. (She goes 3 days a week now.) And here is where I get a little more honest and admit I’m not sure if she isn’t ready or if I am not ready. She is my last baby. I love spending Tuesdays and Thursdays with her. (But will be glad to be rid of preschool tuition so there is that.) I love snuggling up with her on the couch and watching some stupid TV show in the morning. Now that she is older, I even enjoy taking her along on my errands usually. (Never would have believed that even a year ago.)


She still sucks her fingers and takes her froggie with her every where. How can she possibly be ready to go off to school? I never imagined this would be a decision I would struggle with. The calendar should make the decision for us. We don’t know what we are going to do yet. We’ve decided to hedge our bets: deposit on her seat for preschool next year and register for kindergarten and make the call when we get closer to August. A lot can happen in 5 months.

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Donna Reed I ain’t


Every time I have that moment of trying to be That Mom – you the know the one that kids fondly remember for making things fun and special – it goes off the rails. I just have to laugh. The girls came in and piled on the bed this morning. I told them about there was 2 hour delay for school. (Around these parts, we call school off or start late just because something is possible. The forecast said we *might* have ice this morning. We didn’t.) I asked them if they wanted pancakes for breakfast!?! What a fun weekday treat! And, and…I could make banana pancakes. They requested the addition of chocolate chips (barf) and were quite excited about a morning of TV and bad for them breakfast food.

I knew I had 2 bananas that were past their prime. I didn’t think beyond that. I waltzed into my pantry feeling a little smug – what a good momma. Then I discovered I was almost out of pancake mix AND syrup. The refrigerator told me there wasn’t much milk left either. Suddenly wasn’t feeling so smug. I managed to MacGyver them together with a little regular Bisquick and a little gluten free Bisquick (kept around for my MIL’s visits) and a few other things. And I topped them with part syrup and part honey. Everyone was happy. Well except Tessa who discovered she doesn’t like chocolate chip banana pancakes. I made her a plain banana pancake so the day was saved. And thanks to a little improvisation, I still had enough milk left for my coffee.  Because let’s face it – without the coffee I might turn into Mommy Dearest.

I really need to check out my supplies before I try to be Donna Reed.

And just as an aside if anyone is interested, I can finally use my flash now and then! I hate the flash on my Canon Rebel – it is so harsh. But for Christmas, I got this very reasonably priced diffuser by Gary Fong for my pop up flash. (I am not pro enough to invest in a professional flash.) It isn’t perfect but it is so much better than the flash without it. Just a little tidbit for my amateur photog friends out there. (I mention it because I used the flash on both of these photos.)

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Knocking on wood slows down the typing


I can’t wait to see that same look on her teenaged face because you know she will give me that same “go to hell” look. Often. Without the cute pigtails and probably a lot of black eyeliner.

So. Potty training. I’ve talked about it here a few times but it has consumed our house for way too long. Tessa finally decided she was on board. And then she decided she wasn’t. And now she is again. We’ve been accident free for weeks. AND she has declared she will wear panties at night and has done so successfully for 3 nights in a row. Huh. Success, as predicted, had nothing to do with us and everything to do with Tessa deciding she would do it. She day trained 2 years after Sabrina but night trained 2 years earlier. I’m not even going to pretend that evens out. But for the first time in memory, we have been to Sam’s Club and not purchased wipes or diapers or pull ups. Of course, the speed with which we are now going through toilet paper is rather mind boggling but I will take that over diapers any day. So I am going to call it. And you can all laugh at me when I come back here and eat humble pie for jinxing things:


Go ahead Karma…here is where you kick me in the teeth.

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Playing catch up


Some how, even without a job, life is busy. Nothing earth shattering but a million little things add up to busy days. I dreamed of having endless hobbies when I became a stay at home mom. Quit laughing – I didn’t know. But I do try to fit in some things for me. I read whenever I have a moment. And I’ve been cooking up a storm this summer with all of our CSA goodies. I’ve also been feeling all artsy fartsy lately. I’m dabbling with mixed media on canvas and having lots of fun. I want to just keep doing and doing…but I don’t have places to put it all so no idea what I’ll do with it all. Hey family – guess what you are getting for Christmas? Here is the one I just finished. I kind of dig it but have lots to learn as I play around more.

Speaking of painting, we painted the kitchen. You might recall that just before I announced we were selling the house and moving back north, I asked for color assistance. I finally found a color that didn’t clash with the weird yellow in my eat in and sun room area. But Steve hated it. So we decided to just paint over that color and paint it all a different yellow. I’m not convinced that I love the yellow I ended up picking. It is aggressively cheerful in the morning instead of warm and glow-y like I anticipated. But it is so much better than the brown. The kitchen looks even larger. As for the eat in area and sunroom, we are going 1 shade darker on the paint swatch because I can’t handle that much cheerful in my face in the morning. Before and after:

Steve’s parents came for a visit. The girls love spending time with them. They also love that their hotel has a pool. Sabrina started out the week rather fearful but got pretty brave by the end of it. Tessa is just fearless (which is terrifying).

Sabrina enjoyed some dance lessons from both Grandma and Pap pap.

There was also a late (Tessa) and early (Sabrina) celebration while Grandma and Pap pap were here.

Then the first day of school happened. Sabrina is started the 1st grade and Tessa started her second year of preschool. Both girls seem to be enjoying it so far.

We thought we had the potty training thing licked. But we should never underestimate the level of Tessa’s stubborn. Our family vacation seemed to throw her off and she quit making much effort. We had tried everything I could think of. Nothing was motivating her. So we went to the extreme. We took away Froggie (her bestest friend). It broke my heart but it was the only thing that made her want to try. After a very unsuccessful day, we left Froggie on top of the red cabinet over night. Our hope was that seeing him would motivate her. We got up the next morning and found this:

Someone pushed the table over and climbed on top of it in order to get Froggie. We turned a corner after we finally told her she was going to be a baby and go back to diapers or be a big girl and wear panties full time. She chose panties and hasn’t had an accident in 6 days. I guess the ambiguity of pull ups didn’t work for her. Child is going to keep us on our toes.

posted under family, parenting | 1 Comment »
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