Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

The neighbors are looking at us funny


We had a great week with Steve home.  The girls loved having Daddy around full time.  I have no idea where the week went.  I wanted to go check out the Opryland Hotel in all of its Christmas glory and take our Christmas card photo while Steve was off…I didn’t do either.  We just enjoyed being together.  And we walked and drove around picking up sticks.  It is for a project I will share soon.  But the neighbors are starting to look at us odd.  While they are all decorating for Christmas, we have a pile of dead tree branches in the driveway.  And we keep coming home with more – because I have to have the perfect dead tree branches.  Because I have a little OCD streak that I work hard to keep in check. (Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I refuse to decorate for Christmas prior to December 1st.  Blame my mother.)

Photos from our walk and playground stop yesterday:


I didn’t notice until we got home and I looked at the photos that Daddy put her shoes on the wrong feet.








Tessa passed out on the way to the playground


posted under family | 5 Comments »

Can’t you feel the love?


p1010315Everyone on my Christmas card list can expect individual photos of the girls rather than one of them together if my attempts at taking their photo last night was any indication.  I took 40 photos.  I have photos of them rolling over each other, falling off the chair, kicking each other, blocking kisses from each other – but not 1 of them looking at me at the same time.  I promised myself I would take the Christmas card photo before Steve goes back to work on Monday but I really am not looking forward to trying to get a decent shot.

Tessa enjoyed her pasta shells and cheese – the wall next to her will never look the same again


Thanksgiving is over which makes me sad – it is my favorite holiday.  My mom already headed back to Texas.  She had an accident on the way here for Thanksgiving.  Amazingly, was able to drive her car away after being hit by 2 cars while they were all traveling at 65+ MPH but still needs to get some body work done so she left early to tend to that business.

Steve decided he wanted to check out some of the Black Friday craziness so we got up at 5am and headed to Sam’s Club to check out their deals.  Sam’s is like Black Friday Lite – very civilized compared to some of the others.  We saw some great deals on flat screen TVs but our big non-flat screen is still working fine so we bought chicken breast and hamburger since we were there.  We were the only people back in the grocery section and likely the only people who got up at 5am and didn’t return home with anything that plugged in or required batteries.  But it was fun to drive by all of the other stores and see the full parking lots and lines of people.

I’ve spent my evening painting ornaments for those of you who have ordered.  It is a fun way to get into the Christmas spirit!

Sabrina was sad to see Abuela and Abuela’s dog head home this morning.


posted under family | 5 Comments »

One more thing I’m thankful for…


I’m thankful for the usual things: the health, happiness, security, and success of my family and my friends.  But this year I am thankful for one additional thing: there were no angry octopus at dinner this year because you know I love to taunt…


Thanks to oddlyspecific.com

I hope you all had a holiday as warm and fuzzy and octopus free as mine.

posted under humor | 1 Comment »

Christmas Ornaments


I saw some really cute Christmas ornaments on Etsy last year but couldn’t bring myself to pay the price tag that many were asking (the one I bookmarked was $25).  I was sure I could do it myself for much less.  How hard could it be?  Anyone who has ever walked into Hobby Lobby/Michael’s/JoAnn Fabrics has probably had the same thought.  Others have probably also found that making 1 ends up costing exponentially more than the original item might have cost if you purchased it from someone else.  Many have probably also had my experience and found yourself returning 4 or 5 times trying to get things right because it was a little more difficult than you anticipated.  I finally got the right materials and have enjoyed painting ornaments for friends and family.

I’m going to offer them up for sale here if anyone is interested.  They are 4″ glass ornaments.  I have frosted and white ornaments.  The white are topped with a clear glossy glaze.  The frosted are not gloss coated because it interferes with the frosted finish (as you can see on the Amanda and the Jackie – this was all a learning process). Each ornament is on a ribbon for hanging.

I’m naming each ornament for the person to whom the original belongs to help with identification.  You can request some swapping of colors – I will show you the colors available at the end of the post.

They can be personalized with whatever name you specify.  I did a lot of first names but also did one a family one “The B*****’s est. 2004”.

Each ornament will be $12 plus shipping.  I will only charge what it costs me to ship so it will be a case by case…it looks like it should be less than $6 (I did a few quotes on USPS and they were all around $5).  If I run out of boxes, I might have to purchase a few and add $.50 or $.75 to the shipping costs to offset that.  If you order more than one, I will do my best to ship them all together assuming I can get them wrapped up safely and still shipped cheaply.  Payment will be via PayPal.

If you want to order one, leave me a comment with your email and we can discuss the details via email.

On to the ornaments.

The Tessa: white ornament, fuchsia & lime stripes and dots


The Adam: snowflakes on a frosted ornaments


The Abuela: red and green stripes with silver and gold polka dots


The Jameson: frosted ornament with Christmas lights


The Polka Dot: white ornament with polka dots in a variety of colors


The Sabrina: fuchsia stripes, lime dots, with purple and turquoise squiggles


The Amanda: 4 flowers ring the top of the ornament and vine trails down and around the bottom


The Jackie: Fuchsia & turquoise stripes with a line of lime stripes and silver swirls


The Avadar: ladybugs and butterflies


Okay now for the paint colors.  These are available for stripes.  The turquoise and the lime are too transparent to make good thick stripes – they work best for the thinner accent stripes.  The fuchsia, red, and dark green are opaque enough for the bold stripes.


These colors are available for things other than the thick and thin stripes: silver, gold, apple green, bright pink, red, green, turquoise, magenta (the pinkish purple cap), purple, yellow, and black.


posted under Misc. | 6 Comments »

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.

It is only quiet on the blog


p1010119It is really only Wednesday?  We’ve been having a long week here filled with much 3 year old angst.  Nothing serious – just lots of sass, attitude, bullying of the little sister, and talking back to momma.

Steve left for a 3 day business trip before dawn this morning so this momma is digging deep into the patience reserves (and the booze reserves in the back of the frig).

Fortunately, they make me laugh as often as they make me count to 10 to avoid stroking out.  We (mostly Steve – hey it’s my blog so I can blame whomever I wish) don’t always watch our language as well as we should.  Tessa just gives us these looks some days that cause us to declare “She is so damn cute!”.  Well, Sabrina decided to get in on that action and has declared Tessa damn cute too.  I explained it was a grown up word.  Now she tells people as we shop in Target “I say Tessa is so cute.  Mommy and Daddy say she is so damn cute.”  Heh.  Following the letter of the law if not the spirit I suppose.

posted under family | 7 Comments »

Creamy Jalapeno Dip


We went to Chuy’s one day last week to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  It just opened here…apparently the first outside of Texas.  It was quite busy but the service and the food were both above average.  The margaritas got our stamp of approval too.  (But 2 people in our party got mojitos and said they were pretty awful.)  I got baja tacos – they had shrimp, shredded purple cabbage. and this amazing sauce they call creamy jalapeno.  The tacos were so good I couldn’t stop thinking about them (I’m not saying the margaritas didn’t have something to do with my happiness).  I decided I had to recreate them at home.

The taco part was easy(ish). Corn tortillas heated in a pan with some non-stick spray.  I used broccoli slaw because I couldn’t find purple cabbage that day.  I bought some shrimp and cooked them.  But the magical creamy jalapeno sauce was really the key. I googled copy cat recipes and found several.  I  took my ideas from them and gave it a try.  My tacos weren’t any where near as good but they were pretty darn yummy.  And the dip/sauce?  It wasn’t an exact replica but is really good.  I’ve been eating it on everything for the past week.  First the tacos, then on a chicken club, on some chicken nuggets, and tonight on a baked potato.  It is cool and fresh with a slight heat at the end.  Yum!

p10101751I will probably halve this next time…it made a lot.

1/2 cup light mayonaise

1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup salsa verde

1 packet dry ranch dressing mix (e.g. hidden valley)

handful fresh cilantro leaves

2 jalapenos, seeded

juice of 1/2 of a lime

Put mayo, sour cream, buttermilk, and ranch packet into a bowl.

I threw the jalapenos, cilantro, salsa verde, and lime juice in the food processor and pulsed until it was finely chopped.  You don’t want any jalapeno pieces large enough to crunch into.  Put this into the bowl with the other ingredients and whisk until combined.

Why can’t I buy buttermilk in a quantity smaller than a quart? I don’t know what to do with the rest.

p1000776Someone asked if everything I make turns out amazing.  No.  Admittedly, I have enough skills to make most things decent.  There haven’t been many times we’ve had to throw an experiment in the trash and head to McD’s.  (There was an awful, terrible, horrible lentil soup once that tasted like dirt.)  But not everything turns out pretty and yummy.  An example…I tried to make biscuits with the Jiffy mix from my pantry to go under some hamburger gravy concoction.  These were the result.  We ate them but they were kind of like flat, tasteless, hockey pucks.


posted under food | 4 Comments »

How to cure an ear ache


p1010167Hopefully her fashion sense develops with age.

Thursday evening, Tessa just barely bumped Sabrina’s ear and Sabrina dissolved into hysterics about her boo-boo.  Steve said she mentioned her ear hurt the day before too.  I gave the outside a gentle tug and asked if it hurt and she said it did.  I touched the canal a little and she confirmed that hurt too.  Similar manipulations of her other ear yielded no pain. I repeated the exercise before bed with the same responses.

Friday morning, I again touched both ears and she said the right one didn’t hurt but the left one did.  I sighed realizing that we were lucky to have dodged the ear infection bullet for this long.  A lot of kids get them but it seems an inordinate number of Guatemalan tots end up with ear infections.  I waited for the doctors office to open and called.  I spoke with the nurse who confirmed that they would need to see her.  They offered me an appointment late in the morning.

p1010161I called to cancel our play date.  I turned off Dora and got everyone out of PJs and into clothes.  We loaded up for our hour long drive to the pediatrician.  By the time I got the double stroller in the car, grabbed a diaper and wipes, and grabbed drinks and snacks we were running a little late.  We pulled into the parking lot 2 minutes before our appointment time which meant we were running late by the time I hauled the stroller out and strapped everyone in.  I jogged to the elevator and down the long hall.  We signed in, paid our co-pay, and waited.  I refused to sit in the sick waiting area – she had no fever and I wasn’t going to expose them to who knows what might have been behind that half wall which was working hard to keep those germs in.

We went back to the room and waited.  The doctor came in.  He chit chatted and then took a look at Sabrina’s ear.  He tugged, as I had, and asked if it hurt.  She said “No.”  He looked again and said he saw no evidence of infection or inflammation.  Her ear looked perfect.

We got in the car to go home and Sabrina announced “My ear is all better now mommy!”

Apparently the cure for an ear ache is canceling a play date, driving an hour, and paying a $25 co-pay.  Who knew?

In all seriousness, I know a couple of people with children who are really sick and hospitalized so I am not going to complain too much that my child is healthy.

posted under family | 7 Comments »

Show off


Sabrina is very proud of her pretty new hair cut.


And Tessa won’t cooperate for photo ops with momma but I liked this one.


Now I’m off to have margaritas dinner to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

Sitting on the couch eating bon-bons


p1010110-1I love this photo of Tessa.  It isn’t a particularly good photo but I caught her mid-stride – she is always busy.

Steve calls me almost every evening on his way home from work to see if I need him to pick up anything.  (All together now….”Awwww”.  Yep, I got a good one.)  I always feel guilty when I ask him to stop because I remember how much I hated stopping at the grocery store after work.  But one day last week reminded me why I impose upon him at least once a week.

We needed milk.  The girls go through a gallon in just over 2 days so we always need milk.  Steve wasn’t feeling great and was working late so I didn’t want to ask him to go to the store.

At 4:10, I started the process of trying to get us all in the car and out the door.  I found both girls shoes and socks and wrangled them onto their little feet.  I asked Sabrina if she needed to go potty.  She said no.  I made her go anyway which caused much crying and drama.  I combed my hair, checked for really obvious food or puke spots on my shirt, put on shoes and headed everyone to the garage.  I strapped Tessa in.  I strapped Sabrina in.  Tessa then started to cough and puked.  I went around to her side of the car, took off her bib, and determined it wasn’t too bad.  I cleaned her up and ran the bib back inside to put it in the washer.  I came back out, my finger was on the wall button to open the garage door when Sabrina started yelling “Tessa puked! Tessa puked! Tessa puked!”  I walked around to Tessa’s seat again and this time wasn’t a little bit that I could wipe up with a bib.  I took her out of the car, took her into my bedroom (just off the garage), wiped her down, changed her clothes, and then took her back out to the garage.  I cleaned up her car seat as best I could then strapped her back in.  I finally got in the car at 4:55.  It took 45 minutes to even start backing out of the driveway.  I chuckled to myself all the way to the store because it was ridiculous.

As I pulled into the store parking lot (5 minutes from the house), Sabrina announced “Mommy I have to go poop now!”  So yes, sometimes I do ask my husband to stop at the store on his way home from work.  And he does so happily.

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