Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Not all sunshine and roses


I’m not in a good place with this move at the moment. I’ve been slapped upside the head with the financial reality of the decision we made.  We will likely incur debt with many zeros to sell this house after only 6 months of ownership because of realtor commissions, closing costs, etc. Then you add on the cost of physically getting all of our crap up north.  Renting is likely our immediate future.  Going from my beautiful 3000 sq ft house with a playset and playroom for the girls to a 1000 sq ft apartment with 2/3 of our stuff in storage and no outside space makes me sad.  It makes me feel like I am giving up my security.  That on top of leaving my friends puts me in a rather dark place at the moment.  I’ll get over it soon enough.  I will remember all of my blessings.  I will remember that the only truly important things are my beautiful girls and my wonderful husband.  But for now, I am spending a lot of time crying in the shower and taking deep breaths to ward off anxiety.  Until I get done with my stupid, petty, selfish pity party this space will likely be quiet.

Fortunately, I have these faces to remind me that I have all that matters.

posted under family | 11 Comments »

Thanks Easter Bunny – bawk bawk


My incredibly blessed/spoiled children received 3 Easter baskets.  One from grandma, one from abuela, and one from the Easter Bunny.  (Sigh…mommy never gets credit.)  The girls had a lot of fun.  Fortunately all parties involved agree that candy should be a small part of the basket.

Baskets purchased at 75% off after Easter last year. AND I remembered AND I knew where they were.  That my friends is rare.

The big pink and white “lollipops” are actually marshmallow.  Biggest hits of the baskets? The wind up toys and the lip balm.  Seriously, I could just fill the basket with lip balm and my kids would be happy.

The grown ups in the house liked the light up ball best.

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Gratuitous photos


A few more from the weekend.

Sometimes I wish Tessa would talk more just so she could tell me what is going on in that cute little head.

Sabrina’s a little easier to read.

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Trading cotillions for terrible towels


Remember this post where you all kindly weighed in on what color I should paint my kitchen?  Let’s put in a pin in that discussion, shall we?  Because I might need your advice again – for my next kitchen.  Just 12 days after that post, I have to announce that I am selling my dream house and we are heading home.

(I loved working downtown even if I didn’t love my job.  They towed my car up from the wharf as the river rose no fewer than 4 times. But damn parking is ridiculously expensive downtown and the wharf was the cheapest option.)

Why yes, we did just buy this house 6 months ago. And yes, I did just finish unpacking a few boxes that were originally packed 4 years ago when we left Pittsburgh.  And as a matter of fact, I did say that I was never moving again and Steve would have to drag my cold, dead body out of this house.  *Awkward chuckle*  Never say never and all of that.

Steve was offered a dream job. It happens to be in Pittsburgh.  We couldn’t turn it down. So off we go.  Again.

Please be prepared for several months of my being mopey and moany and verklempt.  I am very sad to be leaving the amazing women who have made this period of my life so much fun.  Being a stay at home mom, especially in a new place, can be isolating and lonely but I met a great group of women who embraced me and my special brand of crazy quirky.  I will miss them terribly.  I thought we would do the PTA thing together while figuring out what we wanted to be when we became grown ups again.  Instead, I am heading back to Pittsburgh which holds family but few real friends.  (Not that I don’t consider my inlaws friends as well as family – I do.  But you know what I mean.)  I won’t go into the long story of what happened with Steve’s group of friends after we left – the end result is returning to very few folks we would call for dinner on Saturday night.  It makes leaving my friends here even more difficult.  Also? I am bitter about only getting to keep my dream house for 6 months.  Wah, wah – I know, my husband has been offered not just a job but a dream job in a time when many people are scrambling for jobs so I really shouldn’t whine.  But, fair warning, I probably will.

In the long run, I know this will be a great thing for my little family.  My girls will get to live near family.  My husband will be fulfilled professionally.  In 5 years, I have no doubt I will be so glad we did this.  But for now, I’m focusing on the things I need to get done.  And trying not to complain too loudly about the fact that I will be a single mom for the next several months while Steve starts his exciting new job.  And I’ll try not to belabor the fact that yet again I am left to pack up a house by myself and put it on the market.  Really, I will try not to make you all roll your eyes as me too much when I have pity parties here at casa de Smiles.  Because I am blessed with an amazing husband.  We are starting yet another adventure together back where it all started.  I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.  Home is where we are.  Everything else is gravy.

posted under family, travel | 16 Comments »

Perfect spring day


We get about a dozen days like this a year in TN.  Not too cold, not too hot.  Gorgeous blue sky.  Pollen count not so high as to make everyone look stoned.  Just the perfect day that makes us say “ahhh…this is why we moved here”.   Yes, I realize this post seems rather ironic (or is it moronic?) given the news I shared on facebook today.  I’ll do a post on that soon.

Tessa is hard to get a photo of but wow they are worth it.  She doesn’t smile but I really like the photos I manage to capture. I find her expressions interesting.

The girls call this going down the slide “roller coaster” style.  No idea why but they do get a kick out of it.

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Ballerinas and no flashing


I bought the girls these dress up outfits at a consignment sale this spring. They spent all morning spinning around the house and pretending to be ballerinas.  (Photos are from point and shoot.)

Last night, I was playing around with my new camera to see if I could take a decent photo without using the flash.  If I could take photos while never using a flash again I would be happy.  That isn’t likely (especially with children who won’t sit still – they don’t care if they are in low light) but I can at least reduce my use of the flash.  The lighting in my living room was really low last night.  I took about 40 photos and deleted all but 4.  Sabrina wanted to pose in odd positions she couldn’t hold so she wasn’t able to stay still enough and most were quite blurry.

With new camera and flash:

Without flash:

This morning without flash:

I’m having fun playing with it.  Can’t wait to learn more!

posted under family | 3 Comments »

Happy Mother’s Day!


After his Christmas X-Box, I (half jokingly) told Steve that there would be no more toys (read: electronics) until I got a camera.  I found several places I could buy a used DSLR body and drooled over them regularly.  When we found out we weren’t going to have to pay thousands to the IRS this year as we were fearing, Steve told me that my early Mother’s Day present was a camera and lens.  I ordered one less than 4 hours after our conversation.  I got a Canon XTi and on the advice of Michelle a 50mm f1.8 lens.

The lens arrived on Wednesday.  The camera arrive on Thursday.  I discovered that they weren’t kidding about the body only thing.  It was the camera body, battery, and battery charger. So I went back to the internets and ordered a USB cable.  Then found the PDF manual.  I had to order a camera strap so I don’t have to trust my butter fingers to hold on to the thing.  Then went on the hunt for the memory card I needed.  I couldn’t even play with it without the memory card.  After 3 stores, I admitted defeat and again came back to Amazon and found the memory card I needed.    It arrived this afternoon around 3:30.  By 4pm, I had taken 127 photos.  No I’m not kidding.  I haven’t read much of the manual yet (needed to read it with a working camera in my hand) so it was all on full auto but I love it already.  I won’t be on full automatic for long – I’m going to figure this baby out.  The camera is actually as fast as my 2 years which severely cut down on the number of photos of the back of her head.  Sabrina on the other hand went into full blown model/ham mode.

Expect a lot of photos in the coming days weeks.

The very first photo with my new-to-me camera. Sabrina hadn’t decided to get on board with the modeling session yet so I got slightly stoic.

posted under family | 7 Comments »

Taco soup


My friend Alleen posted this recipe on Facebook a couple of months ago.  It was a cold, damp day and we all thought it sounded fabulously easy.  I share it because it is fast, easy, has no fancy ingredients, and pretty yummy.  It reminds me of chili but requires a lot less effort. If my children were normal, they might even eat this because they love black beans and chickpeas.

The photo of the soup was taken a few days later – great left overs.  It was soupier the first night but you can add more liquid when you reheat.

Taco Soup

1 lb of ground beef or ground chicken or ground turkey, browned

1 yellow onion, diced and cooked with the ground meat

1 green pepper, diced and cooked with the ground meat (I left it out)

1 can black beans (or other type of bean your family likes)

1 can chickpeas (or kidney beans if you prefer)

1 can corn or bag of frozen corn

2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained

2 envelopes taco seasoning

1 packet dry ranch dressing mix

1 can green chiles

1/2 cup or more of water to make it the desired soup consistency

chopped cilantro (optional)

Throw it all in the crock pot (except cilantro – add that just before serving).  Allow to cook 6-8 hours on low.  Or put it all in a soup pot and allow it to simmer on the stove on low for 1-2 hours.  Good topped with shredded cheese and sour cream.

posted under food | 2 Comments »

Color me undecided


The girls are going to spend a little more than a week with their grandparents in Pittsburgh after school is out.  (Why yes, half of me is jumping for joy and half of me is sobbing at the thought.)  This leaves me with a brain full of possibilities.  All of the things we can do without having to consider short people.  A few of the possibilities don’t even include dates with my husband or sleeping late.  One thought I’ve been toying with is slapping a little paint on my kitchen walls.

We didn’t paint anything before moving in because 1) the whole house had been painted prior to putting it on the market and 2) I didn’t want to.  When we bought our house in Pittsburgh, we spent months with paint brushes in our hands.  It left me with a strong desire to never paint another wall.  Ever.  Ever.  Never.  Ever.  So I convinced Steve that we should live with all of the colors in the house for awhile before making any decisions.  Most of the colors are quite pleasant.  There isn’t a speck of builder’s beige.  And while there are several colors, most end up reading pretty neutral so it isn’t a crayola box in here.  But.

BUT…the kitchen has been wearing on me.  It is so…brown.  Brown floor.  Brown cabinets.  Brown walls. Take a look (the first is one of the MLS photos before we bought it):

The kitchen and living room are both the same mocha brown – the second looks truer to color to me.  I just can’t take it anymore. I want to pay someone to paint it.  A child free week would be the perfect time to complete this task. That leaves me with the question – what color?  I want to do it green.  But unless you are a man and only see 1 shade of green, that narrows it down to 3,547 choices.  And I’m afraid green won’t mesh well with the yellow in the dining and sun rooms.  So here is where you all come in.  I know colors are hard to capture on computer monitors and with cameras but give me some thoughts here oh blog readers with fabulous taste (you must have fabulous taste since you read my lovely blog).    Here are my attempts at capturing the yellow in different lights with the swatch (lime sorbet) that I’m considering.

(Last one is another MLS photo.)

It is a warm (almost mustardy but not that brown) yellow with just a slight tinge of green undertone in certain lights.

Other colors we are considering for the kitchen are a very light periwinkle or very light aqua (toward the green family).  I want a color that is light(ish) and cool to brighten things up in there.  HELP!  Does this paint swatch look like it might work or I am completely off base?  And if it sucks, what would work?  I’m usually pretty good at this but for some reason I’m finding it difficult with this open floor plan.

How we roll


It was a dark and stormy night morning so we popped some corn and watched the newest Disney flick.  Sabrina seems to be digging Tangled.

posted under family | 3 Comments »
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