Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Jumping ahead


Sabrina. She wants so badly to be big. She talks longingly about being a big kid and a grown up.  When she is with children her own age, I don’t see it so much. But the moment she is around older kids, it is very apparent how much she wants to be like them. That turns into her wanting their approval which makes me very uncomfortable. Because what I want, besides for her to stay my little girl forever and ever, is for her to be confident in who she is.  I want her to be a leader not a follower. But the second she is around an older kid, she immediately submits and starts to act like an excited puppy willing to follow her around and lick her face.

I am fortunate that the older kids she has spent time with thus far have been kind and patient. They haven’t seen her eager-to-please attitude as an opportunity to be mean or hurtful. But if she continues, she will find that type of kid sooner or later. I fear the mean girl who will break her heart and dent her big smile. We call Sabrina our ray of sunshine because she just radiates happiness when she isn’t giving me attitude. I don’t want to world to take even a tiny particle of that away from her.


One day last week, the girls were playing outside in the back yard.  I was just about to go out when I overheard Sabrina talking with the girl next door, M.  M is in the 3rd grade and part of a very solid and nice family.  They were standing on the top platforms of their respective playsets and chatting over the fence.  Sabrina is enamored with M. She wants so badly to be friends with M and would happily do just about anything M asked of her.

I was just about to step out when I heard M say “Why don’t you jump off your playset?” This made my heart stop because Sabrina’s top fort is 8+ feet off the ground. It took everything in me to stop myself from running out screaming “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I decided to stop and see how Sabrina handled it. I was within yelling distance if she was stupid enough to consider it and with her in school who knows how many similar situations she has to face daily.  Sabrina basically ignored M’s request and went on chattering.  (Full disclosure: Sabrina knew I was standing there listening. M did not.) A few minutes later, M repeated the suggestion.  Sabrina told her “No. It is too high and I’m too little to do that.” I breathed a sigh of relief. Her need to please is deep but not so deep as to cause her to be a complete moron.  M dropped that subject then asked Sabrina to play Truth or Dare. Again, it took everything in me to not intervene.  But really, how racy can truth or dare get with a kindergartener?  Sabrina quickly proved to have no understanding of that point of the game and M grew bored with that.

Sabrina tried to invite herself over to M’s house (I’m working on social conventions/manners like not inviting herself places but it is slow going). M was very sweet in telling her maybe another time.  M is always kind and never seems annoyed by Sabrina stalking her (seriously, M can’t be in her backyard without Sabrina yelling for her over the fence).  But listening to the interaction really drove home a few things.  First, Sabrina is growing up and there is nothing I can do to stop it.  Second, I am going to try my hardest to teach her social norms but some mean girl somewhere is going to find something to use against her and break her heart. Third, it is going to be hard not to read her diary.  Fourth, she is going to try to date seniors when she is a freshman. GAH!

The photos have nothing to do with the post. They just make me smile. One rainy afternoon, the girls made up a game involving light up wands and a football.  It made little sense to me as a spectator but they had a grand time.

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.

Out of practice


Daddy made a rookie mistake and this was the result:

posted under family | 4 Comments »

Over the hump?


I’m knocking on wood as I type this but I think the worst is over.  This isn’t the first time I’ve discovered some parenting secret you all have kept from me.

Why didn’t anyone tell me what assholes kids are the first couple of weeks of school?

Sabrina had what seemed to be a raging case of PMS which started every day about 30 minutes after we walked in the door.  On the days Tessa had school, she became a whiny, cranky, pissed off mess about 10 minutes after we picked up Sabrina. Tuesday and Thursday nights were so miserable the first couple of weeks that I couldn’t even enjoy the 5 blissful hours I got to myself because I was dreading picking up the beasts.  I know they were tired and getting used to a new routine – I cut them some slack because of that but DAY-UM.

This is the end of week 3 and while it is by no means rainbows and unicorns up in here, after school isn’t as bad.  I love listening to Sabrina give me a disjointed accounting of her day over dinner.  And Tessa is so proud of the art and worksheets she brings home.

posted under Misc. | 12 Comments »



If I was being honest, I mean deep dark recesses of my mind that I don’t usually say out loud honest, I would tell you that having no contact with the birth mom went into the Pro column when deciding on international adoption.  It was by no means a deciding factor but it was there, in my mind, as a positive as compared to domestic adoption. Five years later, I have trouble believing I thought that way. From the moment the adoption was final (read: the moment we stopped operating through a haze of fear), Sabrina’s birth mom became a part of our hearts and our family. I expected that feeling would remain but I didn’t expect that it would grow with time.  With every year that passes, I feel more connected to this woman who carried our (hers and mine) daughter for 9 months. I ache more for this woman who made the ultimate sacrifice and kissed our beautiful girl and wished her well. I want so badly to be in touch with this brave woman and let her know how amazing our daughter is and how incredibly loved she is. I really didn’t expect my feelings for this stranger to grow stronger each year but as I watch Sabrina become this incredible girl I want so badly to share the joy of her with the woman responsible for her life. Each year I become more resolute – I will find her someday.  I want her to have the opportunity to know our girl (assuming she wants that).

I spent Sabrina’s birthday tearing up on and off all day as I thought of her birth mom. But I also spent the day getting ready for her first friend party (we usually just do a family thing).  Sabrina wanted a princess party.  In Sabrina’s world princess = whatever she likes.  The girls had tutus and wands.  The boys had pirate hats and eye patches.  Everyone enjoyed some chaotic play time  then pizza then cake.  A good time was had by all.

Photo taken by Crystal

She is just becoming so grown up.  Sometimes as I look through photos, I’ll see a moment captured and it will take my breath away.  An angle, an expression, a posture and suddenly I can see the woman she will be.  It fills me with joy and grief.  We all know time passes too quickly but to actually see the days speeding by never fails to startle me.

Corn Chowder


The summer has been rather brutal around middle TN. Very hot. No rain. No breaks.  It has consistently been in the mid to high 90s for months. Until it wasn’t. All of a sudden on Monday the temperature plummeted 30 degrees and it started to rain. Hallelujah!  It has been chilly for a couple of days and I started craving soup.

I started playing with this chowder at the beach this summer. Not exactly weather appropriate but we had all of this fresh corn and I really wanted to try making some sort of soup. I saw a corn chowder recipe in Cooking Light earlier in the year and it was lurking in the back of my head (you’ll notice there is bacon and cream in this soup…obviously it didn’t come from Cooking Light).  I’ve made this 3 times now and the results are quite yummy.  Once the fresh corn is gone, I would imagine frozen corn would work (and cut out one of the steps).  This isn’t the fastest recipe (a lot of the effort is prep) but it is worth the effort.  Cook the corn the day before, cut it off the cob, and throw it in the frig to speed up dinner. Recipe adapted from The New Basics Cookbook.

Corn Chowder

4 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

1 jalepeno, seeded and diced

2 Tbl butter

3 Tbl flour (if gluten free, use other thickener…if using cornstarch skip the above butter and mix it with cool water or milk and add after the broth)

1 32-oz carton chicken broth

3 medium baking potatoes, peeled, bite sized dice

6 ears of corn, cooked, kernels cut off

3/4 cup half and half

1 tsp black pepper

salt to taste (if not using reduced sodium broth taste before adding any)

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

4 green onions, sliced

2 or 3 Tbls sherry (I like a little more…Steve likes a little less)

In your soup pot, cook your bacon pieces.  Throw in the onion, garlic, and jalepeno – allow them to cook in the rendered bacon fat until onion is softened.  Melt butter then add flour.  This will form a paste-y substance. Allow to cook for 5 min, stirring so it doesn’t burn. Start adding the broth until it is all incorporated.  Add the potatoes.  Cook 20-30 minutes until potatoes are almost done – time will depend on the size of your potato chunks. Add corn, half and half, salt and pepper.  Cook another 10 minutes.  Add red pepper, sherry, and green onions.  Simmer another 5 minutes.

You can garnish with cheese but I like it as is. I’m going to enjoy it before the hot weather returns!

posted under food | 6 Comments »