Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Proof of Life


Well look at me. I’m writing on my blog. It was a long winter and spring here. Anyone who knows me in person or on Facebook has seen various updates on my health. I had surgery in February and again in May. That was fun. And a great reminder from both my doctors and my body that 40 takes a lot longer to recover than 20. But I’m finally nearing normal again. I would say I’m at 85% and will get back to 100% once I get my butt in gear and do some exercise to rebuild my stamina.

So, what else…school ended. And is about to start again. Summer vacation was the annual beach trip and a couple of days in Asheville. I spent the first part of summer resting and recovering so it has been a pretty quiet one. The girls have been amazingly patient. No recipes – I haven’t been loving food much the last few months. No pottery to show off – I had to quit my class after the last surgery. I don’t have a lot to say – really thought I’d drop a photo and run. Getting ready to send Sabrina to the 3rd grade and Tessa (my baby turned 6 yesterday *sob*) to kindergarten. As most moms, I’m wondering where the time has gone. Here is my little fam in Asheville a few weeks ago.



I’m hoping to stop back in soon with actual words but no promises.

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A few photos


I realized this summer that I am kind of over blogs. Mine and everyone else’s. I haven’t been writing here (obv) but I also haven’t been reading many blogs lately. Once in awhile I check in on a couple but after 7 1/2 years of blogging and reading hundreds of blogs, I just need a break from it. It was feeling like an obligation on both ends. I felt obligated to write and to read. Don’t write me off completely. I’ll pop in and put up some photos and maybe a funny story now and then. And I’m sure I’ll come back to it all some day in the not too distant future. But for now, this few and far between thing will likely continue. Thanks to those who have checked in that we are all okay – we are all great. Just busy with life.


When I lived in Ohio, everyone went to Myrtle Beach for vacation. When I lived in Pittsburgh, everyone went to OBX for vacation. Now that I live in TN, everyone heads to Destin for vacation. We have been here a little over 6 years (!?!?) now and had yet to make it to the gulf shore. A few weeks ago, the girls and I remedied that. We met my mom for a long weekend and frolicked in the surf in SeaGrove, FL. It was gorgeous. I haven’t been to the gulf in probably 30 years. I forgot how beautiful and clear and calm it is. The girls had so much fun. The Atlantic isn’t their favorite – it is usually cold and rough so they stay away from the water. But here we could have spent all day on the beach if 3/4 of us wouldn’t have turned into lobsters. I really enjoyed it more than I’ve enjoyed a beach in a very long time.





This child takes my breath away. She is so beautiful.





School is going well for everyone. We decided to do another year of preschool for Tessa so that she could mature a little bit socially. It feels like the right decision. Sabrina seems to be catching up in areas that she has struggled with. There are fewer tears this year over reading and homework. (Also less homework – yay!) Halloween is always cause for big excitement. We had Robin (or SuperGirl if you asked Tessa…she is suddenly into super heroes and after 7 years of pink and sparkle, I’m all about it) and a cat this year.

She has moves like Jagger.





Sabrina also loves climbing trees in our front yard now.


So there you have it. All the news worth knowing around these parts. Life is pretty quiet. And I’m pretty happy about that.


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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.

OBX 2013 – now with fewer words!



Steve and I – photo (and the next couple) courtesy of my SIL…the last few are mine). A relaxing week (if hellish drive to and fro) at the beach was just what I needed. A break from the girls’ bickering, time to read books, swimming, crossword puzzles, and cocktails.



The ocean was FREEZING so our swimming was in the pool only. But the girls liked playing in the sand.




My BIL took some time to paint.


We just returned from our annual family vacation. A great time was had by all. The girls had a great time with their cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. I love that they get this week every year with extended family.

IMG_0384 IMG_0412

We spent the night in Asheville on the way home. We just love it there. If we could figure it out, we would move there. The girls had a great time dancing at an outdoor concert after dinner.


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Asheville aka what I did on my summer vacation


We decided to change the venue of our usual annual vacation with Steve’s side of the family. We normally head to Corolla in the Outer Banks but the traffic last year made everyone vote to try somewhere new. After much googling and discussion, we settled on Asheville, NC. We found a house at the top of a mountain that suited our needs and had a swimming pool for the kiddos to enjoy.

Steve and I were ridiculously excited to only have a 6 hour drive versus the 14+ hr to Corolla. We took the scenic route and enjoyed the sights through the Cherokee National Forest. We were pleased to find the vacation house was truly off the beaten path and at the top of a mountain. The views were AMAZING. I plopped myself in an adirondack chair on the deck and declared I wasn’t moving all week. (Spoiler alert: I did move. For 2 reasons: it rained and the bugs were horrible.) I loved the view from the deck. I spent a good bit of time out there until by the end of the week I couldn’t stand to add another bug bite to my growing collection. I loved watching the changing view. In the morning, the clouds were heavy and the city was obscured. By late morning it would burn off and we could see the city again.

Steve and I fell in love with Asheville. The people, the weather, the food, the laid back vibe, the artists, the mountains, the green-ness of the city – everything suited us. If we didn’t own a house and I didn’t shudder at the thought of moving again, we could happily live there. Since we won’t be residents, we hope to be frequent visitors.

 Proof my children aren’t orphans. Making an effort to be on the other side of the camera now and then.

I’m not sure the rest of the family love the city as much as we did. The weather certainly put a damper on the kids’ plans. They, of course, planned to spend most of the week in the pool. But the weather at the top of the mountain was so cool that they didn’t get much pool time. (Much warmer down in the city.) The grownups loved the cool breezes but the kids were getting bored by the end of the week since they couldn’t be fish. And the bugs were horrendous. Most of us left with dozens of bites all over us.

Steve and I took a walking food tour of downtown. It was very yummy and we would definitely recommend it to anyone who is visiting the city. We spent our days wandering around, eating good food, hanging out with family. It wasn’t the most relaxing vacation (on the go more than a beach trip) we’ve ever taken but it was very enjoyable. My mother in law and I went to an arts and craft show – lots of talented folks in and around Asheville.

Thanks to recommendations of friends we wandered into several places we probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Highly recommend the shrimp and grits and the fried green tomatoes at Tupelo Honey Cafe. Mast General Store is worth a stop – the barrels of candy brought back childhood memories. And the Woolworth lunch counter (old Woolworth building…now a place for artists to sell their wares…skip the downstairs that is where they stick the bad art) is very nostalgic.

 The girls and I at Tupelo Honey Cafe

 Woolworth lunch counter

We skipped the Biltmore. The girls wouldn’t have liked it and the admission was pretty steep ($59 per adult and I didn’t even look at kids admission). I would like to visit it some time – but there just wasn’t time this trip.

 Me on the other side of the camera again

 My sister in law, the photographer, took a family photo. Thanks Krista!

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Our newest family member


My sister in law and her husband just adopted this beautiful baby boy. The girls and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to go and meet him when spring break rolled around. So up north we headed. When preparing for the trip, I decided that I was done with listening to 12 hours of Disney. I wanted my radio back. That meant headphones for the girls. Tessa was either going to have to get on board with it or watch movies with no sound. I wasn’t budging on this issue. Let’s just acknowledge that Tessa watched a lot of movies with no sound. But momma got to listen to books on CD instead of Disney and felt much more sane at the end of the drive. Win! (Wicked was my book of choice. 17 discs. Still not finished – 1 1/2 discs left. I’ve tried to read it several times and had trouble getting into it. I find I can get through a book on CD much more easily.) (Also speaking of books, spent all week reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63. I’m more than halfway through and I have to say BEST KING BOOK IN AT LEAST A DECADE.  Loving it after struggling through so many of his more recent books.)

I can not describe the joy of seeing my sister in law and her husband realize their dream of becoming parents. It has been a very long journey for them – but that is not my story to tell. Pat is just so excited and Krista just looks so content and complete. So amazing to see. And the baby is such a sweet boy! Our family is very blessed. The girls were enchanted with him and now want to play with baby dolls where they never have before.

The girls had a great time hanging with family up north. I enjoyed seeing everyone. Easter was full of dying eggs, eating candy, and hunting eggs. A good time was had by all. And the girls cried when it was time to return home. Poor Steve was left all alone for the week so he was quite happy when we returned.


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John Denver ear worm


I’ve had various John Denver songs stuck in my head since we headed out for the mountains on Friday. Since my last update about Steve having to return to Pittsburgh, he accepted a new job here in Nashville. We are very fortunate that his skill set allows him to change jobs with relative ease. To celebrate, we decided to head to the Smokies for the weekend. We snagged Sabrina from school at lunch time on Friday and took off.

We are only 4 hours from Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg but we only made the trip once since moving to TN…about 3 1/2 years ago. Everyone got sick on that trip except for me so perhaps that is why we haven’t returned.  The amount of bodily fluids I had to deal with might have colored my memory. This time was much more successful. No one got sick and a good time was had by all.

We decided on a hotel instead of a cabin this time. Mostly because it was a last minute trip and I didn’t have time to obsess over cabins. And the hotel boasted a pool which is all that is required for a 5 year old and a 3 year old to have a good vacation. Traffic was horrendous, as always. We were trying to imagine how insane it must be at high season. Do you just rent a cabin and then not get in your car again until you leave at the end of the week?

A rare photo with mommy on the other side of the camera.

We drove up and down the mountain. We looked at scenic vistas. We ate BBQ. We took many photos. We took the girls walking in the woods. We swam with the girls (the pool water and pool room were FREEZING). The hotel was a nice solution for a quick weekend but we likely won’t do that again. Mostly because sleeping with Sabrina is torture. We had 2 queen beds and there is no way the girls would sleep together. They would giggle and fight and giggle and bicker and generally drive us insane. I slept with Sabrina the first night. She spent the entire night kicking me and trying to spin herself 90 degrees (by pushing off me with her feet) so that she could sleep sideways. She also hit me in the face 4 times and talked in her sleep and ground her teeth. I slept in 20 minute spurts. Thank goodness the hotel was nice enough to have decent coffee for the in room coffee maker.

The girls didn’t appreciate the beauty of the nature around us as much as they appreciated the pool and eating out. But they had fun. And they are great kids. The disruption to their schedules didn’t phase them much. They are good little road trippers.

We had gorgeous weather. It was cold and windy at the top of the mountain on Saturday but less so on Sunday. My hands were numb after snapping photos on Saturday but it was worth it. So many beautiful spots it was hard not to take some nice shots.

Tessa might be starting to get over her camera shy ways. Or maybe it was the thin mountain air?

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Steve and I haven’t gone away alone together ever. Like ever. We’ve taken a vacation almost every year we’ve known each other but it has always been with a group of friends or family. This year, our Christmas trip to Pittsburgh was longer than normal so we started kicking around the idea of leaving the girls with Steve’s parents and going somewhere for a couple of days. Because the weather is iffy this time of year, we decided to find a place in or near the city and have a little staycation. We rarely get to wander around the burgh anymore so this would be our chance.

We decided on The Priory – a little inn on the north side. Surrounding neighborhood isn’t one I’d want to walk around in by myself after dark but it isn’t unsafe either. It was a Benedictine monastery back in the day – and quite lovely now. We enjoyed checking out all of the period details in the lobby and breakfast area. I was enchanted by the huge, solid doors and ornate hinges.

Door to Monk’s bar

I could barely get my arms around this newel post.

We had a lovely room and spent 2 days/nights. We wandered around our old favorite spots and spent time playing our new board game (Agricola – why yes, we are geeks) each night when we returned to our room. It was so nice to reconnect with the Steve and Michelle who met and fell in love while wandering Pittsburgh. It was also nice to be reminded of how much I like my husband.

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The Trip and The Vacation – Now with more photos!


The girls and I had a pretty easy and uneventful drive from TN to Pittsburgh.  Traveling alone adds its own unique challenges to a road trip.  I learned to change a DVD while hurtling down the highway.  I also learned there is no easy way to take 2 young children into a public restroom – it is infinitely ickier than taking 1 child in with you.  But it was all the good.  We spent 2 days in Pittsburgh. One of those days, my girls hung out with their grandparents while Steve went to work.  I slept in, had lunch with my husband, then went shopping all by myself. I went into Pier 1 with no intention of buying anything but just because there would be no little hands touching things. It was lovely.

We only had 1 child with us on the way to the beach (Sabrina road with her grandparents).  Tessa liked getting to choose all of the movies but after 8 hours of Dora episodes I was starting to get a twitch in my left eyelid. The trip to the beach was long but fine…until we were about 80 miles from our destination.  Then traffic just stopped.  We crawled along for the next 4+ hours to go those last 80 miles.  We were all a little stir crazy by the time we got out of the car.  (This was the first time we’ve ever gone to Corolla during the Peak Peak season so we were shocked by the volume of traffic. It usually isn’t quiet that heavy.)

Tessa loved the ocean.  (Tessa called the ocean “Pool! Big!” So stinking cute it made me melt every single time.) She loved the waves knocking her around.  It required constant vigilance to keep her from trying to swim to Africa. Sabrina wanted nothing to do with the ocean and cried anytime we tried to get her in deeper than her ankles.  She did like playing in the sand. But both girls agreed that the pool was the most awesome of all.  Sabrina refused to try to swim without her floatie despite her swimming lessons but Tessa would have jumped in the deep end without it if we had let her.  She was paddling around independently (with her floatie) and jumping off the side and off of the steps – she kept us on our toes.

We celebrated Tessa’s 3rd birthday (a week early) with cupcakes and bubbles and a pinata and noisemakers.

I took over 125 shots one evening at the beach trying to get just 1 or 2 really nice photos of the girls together.  It wasn’t very successful. The best of the bunch are a little out of focus. Sabrina lost patience with it quickly and is scowling in the last 100.

The girls’ almost 7 yr old cousins were there.  All the kids shared a room together.  I don’t think the older kids loved having to be quiet early because Tessa was sleeping but they were all so good with and to Tessa that it was kind of amazing.  And they let Sabrina be one of the big kids for the week.  Sabrina was simply over the moon and the couple of times that we had to say no to something because she wasn’t quite big enough (a late night beach walk, etc) she almost lost her mind but she was so tired from trying to keep up that she usually passed out before she was able to complain to much.

I’m big enough to admit when I’m wrong.  And while the total trip experience couldn’t be called a vacation, my week at the beach was definitely a vacation.  My husband made sure that I was able to sleep in and take naps.  My inlaws were so excited to spend time with my kids that I didn’t get to see much of the girls.  The girls were over the moon with all of the people to play with them (including cousins) that they checked to make sure I hadn’t left the state but otherwise wanted very little to do with mommy.  By the 4th day at the beach, Steve started to give me a back rub (he gives the best massages – I carry my tension in my shoulders) and said he couldn’t remember ever feeling me so loose.  It was fabulous.

The trip back from the beach was long but fine. We left just early enough to miss most of the traffic (FYI that would be 6am).  We stopped very minimally and it still took 11 hours. We determined that if we can find something 8 hour or less that has big homes with pools for rent we might change the venue next year.  It is just so dang far to OBX.  We love Corolla (it is impossible to find such a quiet, family oriented beach anywhere else drivable) but just such a long drive.

After a very warm Sunday in the ‘Burgh, the girls and I bid farewell to the Pittsburgh contingent of the family and headed 2 hours west to see my sister (and her husband and my nephew) and step-mom.  We had a lovely day with them then packed up early on Tuesday for what should have been a relatively easy drive home.  Except it wasn’t. It should have been 8ish hours.  Instead it was 14+.  Traffic was insane.  We hit 4 large different jams.  At one point, I might have been in tears out of shear frustration. But, we arrived home safely.

My sister with the girls

My nephew is 17…the phone only leaves his hand when he is on his laptop.

It has taken Tessa almost a week to really recover sleep-wise.  Sabrina seemed to bounce back in just a few days (but the attitude lingers on).  It was interesting taking an extended road trip with my girls but it was fabulous to get home to my own bed.  Now if we can just arrange it so that we live in the same city as my husband, life would be grand.

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If anyone needs me…


I’ll be here:

It may not be a vacation – but it is a trip I plan to enjoy. See ya!

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