Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.



Life is pretty quiet here in middle TN. House showings have come to a screeching halt (from several each week to none in 5 weeks) but that is understandable given the time of year. Everyone wants to settle in and hibernate for the winter.  This fall has been the prettiest one we’ve had since moving here. I’ve really missed the intense colors of the fall leaves up north.  Most years it is dry and hot so the leaves just turn a rusty brown and fall off.  But this year we’ve had the perfect combo of rain and cooler temps that we have some pretty great color. All of these were taken from my front and back porch this morning.

It is Halloween and the girls are out of their minds with excitement over trick or treating tonight. Due to intense pressure from Sabrina, I did a little decorating on the front door and porch. (I couldn’t put up my cool glowing cat eyes because of the house being on the market.)

(Hate candy corn but it makes a cute wreath.)

My dog isn’t even smart enough to shed at the right time of year. He is molting. Hair is everywhere. I vacuumed 4 days ago:

Tessa is getting a little too smart for her own good. I put the markers up on top of this red cabinet yesterday afternoon when the girls were done coloring. This morning after I loaded the dishwasher, I found her seated at the craft table coloring with the marker (Color Wonder thank goodness). She left the evidence of how she obtained them behind:

Because we got both girls a Vtech Innopad (kind of like an iPad for kids) for Christmas, we’ve let Tessa start playing with her big sister’s Mobigo. She loves it and does pretty well at playing the games.

And thus ends the random ramblings for this Monday.

Nothing spooky here, move along


This year, I let the girls pick out their costumes. The result was pink and glittery and blond and purple and cheaply made.  But they love it so I’m not complaining too much. Tessa picked out her butterfly costume because she is currently obsessed with butterflies that land all over a bush in our yard.  Sabrina said for months that she wanted to be Rapunzel and never wavered. It had to have the wig. I had mixed feelings about my beautiful Guatemalan daughter wanting a long, blonde wig. But I decided to not a make a big deal out of it.

Just as well I didn’t over react.  She ended up not wanting to wear it because it itched and the wind kept blowing it in her face so she removed it right after photos. (Photos by Crystal.) She did think it was hilarious that everyone at the party did a double take and said they didn’t recognize her.

Tessa was mad that we weren’t going to the playground (the party was at a picnic pavilion in the park) but I knew the costumes wouldn’t survive hard play. She protested loudly and often. But at least she looked cute while doing it.

posted under family | 33 Comments »

Sleep perchance to dream


Tessa. She is sweet and sassy and laid back and difficult and in her own little world. She makes me laugh every single day. She cracks herself up too. Steve says she is a mini-Michelle. In most ways, I can’t deny that.

She loves her sleep but since I finally converted her crib to a toddler bed last month, she is drunk with freedom. She wakes up early and instead of rolling over and going back to sleep until a sane hour, she wants to get up and see what’s shaking (nothing – we are all sleeping!).  She even wakes up before Sabrina many morning – and Sabrina just doesn’t sleep.  We’ve been trying different ways (short of one of those kid proof knob covers or a baby gate – not really wanting to lock her in) to keep her in her room in the wee hours so that she gets more sleep.  Because, much like momma, Tessa without enough sleep is not pleasant.

She also fights sleep at nap time when she goes to school. I think there is just too much to look at to waste time sleeping. I can always tell when she doesn’t nap at school.  On those days, about 15 minutes after I pick her up, she turns into a demon who can not be pleased. She’ll stand in front of me and demand to be up on my lap. The second she touches my lap she’ll scream “NO!” and jump down. Lather, rinse, repeat. With everything . Until bed time. Yes, it is a joy.

One day last week, I decided to let her play with her sister’s Mobigo. She was entranced and almost happy despite having no nap. But after 20 minutes, this is what I found:

She never passes out in random places. I wish I could make her understand how important sleep is.

posted under family | 9 Comments »

Fear interrupted


For Christmas almost 2 years ago, Sabrina received a “big girl” bike from her aunt and uncle. She wasn’t big enough for it yet but she picked it out with excitement – fortunately she was just coming out of the Dora phase and moving into the princess phase so she still likes the bike because it isn’t covered in Dora.  She sat on it a few times but flat out refused to try to ride it. It scared the bejeezus out of her. This summer, she finally declared if we bought her a helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads, she might ride it. I told her I wasn’t spending the cash on those items unless she was really going to ride the bike.  Impasse until yesterday.  Having daddy home bolstered her confidence and she decided she wanted to try it out in our cul de sac.  She did pretty well.  Today, she was even braver and rode around the cul de sac unassisted.  Guess I better pony up for a helmet and pads now.

Not more than 30 minutes after we put her bike away and went inside, a little boy came to our front door.  He asked “Can Sabrina please come out to play?” With my heart in my throat, I had to tell him no because we were about to sit down for dinner.  Two such big things in one day. A boy. Asking for my daughter to come out and play. No one has ever done that before. (Next will be a boy picking her up for a date. Hyperventilating here.)  And then the bike. (Next thing we know it will be a car. Is it hot in here?) I just want to put a freeze on this growing up thing for a little while.

And this one is finally having the language explosion we expected a year ago. She is trying a dozen new words a day and putting together small sentences. She is pretty adept at riding the big wheel and would probably hop on the big girl bike tomorrow if we let her.  She is fearless. We had potty training boot camp for 2 1/2 days and we lost. Badly. I decided it was best to retreat and regroup. We’ll try again in a few weeks or months when she is interested. Right now she has no interest or desire.

posted under family | 8 Comments »

The other mouse


A friend told me that she and her husband had been taking their kids to Chuck E Cheese on Sunday mornings. I asked if she was insane. I’ve been to Chuck E Cheese. It is loud and crowded and loud. And that mouse is effing creepy.  She said that on Sunday mornings it was pretty okay because we live in the bible belt and most folk are hiding at home so everyone thinks they are at church. I’ve mentioned that I’m working with a lot of mommy guilt around here for a variety of reasons but mainly because I’ve been a solo parent for the past 5 months. I know this means my girls get short changed a lot. Sabrina sees commercials for CEC and has begged to go. So one Sunday, off we went.

I printed a coupon before we left and we purchased tokens. There were very few people there at 9:30 on a Sunday morning.  We had our run of the place until around 11. By 11:30 it was getting a little crowded with birthday parties but we had played everything age appropriate at that point anyway.  We left with some candy purchased with the tickets the girls won and enough tokens to return another time. So if you are a heathen and need some relatively cheap Sunday morning entertainment to soothe some parental guilt, CEC isn’t too painful. Except for my youngest head butting me in the face when I attempted a little family “photo” – this photo was an action shot about .5 seconds after that:

Spicy Asian Pork Noodles


I love Pinterest. Love. I used to have this HUGE list of bookmarks that were so hard to go through even when I used folders to organize. But with the thumbnail and ability to add a comment Pinterest has filled a void for me. So many new sites aren’t something I need – how many sites can provide networking for moms? Please, if you are going to start a web site, make sure it is a value add to someone other than you.

I pin a lot of things to reference later.  Recipes are a favorite. I’ve only cooked a couple because with Steve gone I don’t cook often. And I have to make sure I am either taking it somewhere or that I like it enough to eat it for 3 or 4 days because the girls don’t eat much of anything that I cook. I’ve made these spicy asian pork noodles twice in 6 weeks. They are super yummy – totally comfort food.  I was just going to link to the pin but I couldn’t find the main ingredient (a branded sauce) so I had to put it together myself. (Disclaimer: Nora made these and said “meh”.)   Also, I added veggies so the recipe is changed from my original pinned one.  (Quelle surprise!)If you don’t use Pinterest, click the photo to go to the original recipe.

Please forgive the photos. My battery was dead in my Canon so I had to use my point and shoot. It was late and the lighting was awful. Also? There is just no way to make this dish pretty. The first time I made it, it was a little prettier with the veggies but this time I didn’t have the fresh veggies (except mushrooms and green onions) on hand so there was no color.

Spicy Asian Pork Noodles

1 lb ground pork

1 bunches green onions, sliced; OR 1 small onion, diced

Assorted veggies (first time I used broccoli, carrots, and a red pepper; the second time I used a bunch of mushrooms)

Sauce (recipe below)

1 box linguine, cooked according to directions

3 Tablespoons peanut butter

Red pepper flakes or sriracha to taste


1/4 c brown sugar

1/2 c soy sauce, low sodium

2/3 c chicken broth

juice of  lemon

1 Tbl fish sauce (can be omitted but adds a little something)

2 tsp ginger

3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

1 1/2 Tbl cornstarch (mixed with 1/4 cup cold chicken broth or water so no lumps)

Put it all together in a sauce pan, bring to a boil. Allow to cook for a few minutes to thicken.

Cook the pork  and onion until almost done. Add veggies. After pork is cooked through and veggies are done to your liking, add the sauce.

While the pasta is cooking, take a few tablespoons of the boiling water and mix with the peanut butter. You just want to loosen it up to allow it to be easily tossed with the noodles.  After draining the cooked linguine noodles, stir in the peanut butter to coat noodles. Add coated noodles to the pork mixture.

Toss it all together. Add red pepper flakes or sriracha to taste.

It doesn’t look like much but it is yummy. And the spicy part is totally up to how much of the red pepper flakes or sriracha you put in so it doesn’t have to be spicy.

posted under food | 1 Comment »

I’m not a teacher


I’m 39 years old. Oh, I didn’t mention my birthday around these parts this year, did I? Yeah. Last month. 9/11. I get lots of birthday love on facebook so I tend not to mention it here so much anymore. But husband bought me an ereader – yay! I promptly bought the Hunger Games trilogy and stayed up way too late reading for weeks.

Anywhooo, I’m *cough*39*cough* years old. I’ve had 20 years of formal education. And yet I had to google twice to help Sabrina complete kindergarten homework. I’ve also had to send in 3 or 4 photos in the past month. What if I didn’t have a printer? Or a camera? The assumptions irritate me a bit.  We’ve received some information about what the class is learning but no information about HOW kids are learning/being taught. I learned to read (subtract…mumble mumble mumble, carry the 2) a lot of years ago. Things have changed in education. A lot. (See above – googling. Twice. For kindergarten homework. And see also the fact that google exists. And the internet. And home computers. And electricity.) A list of “sight” words that Sabrina is expected to learn by the end of the  year was sent home. We didn’t do sight words – my understanding is that they are supposed to memorize/recognize the words rather than learn to read them. I don’t have any idea how to teach sight words. I don’t even really understand the concept of why we do that rather than teach them to read the words. And they seem to be using phonics heavily (I thought phonics were out? Not that I have an opinion) to learn some reading/sounding out words. Also, there seems to be an assumption that the kids know how to write all of their letters because the little bit of homework has required writing out answers. Are they expecting me to teach her the letters she doesn’t know yet or are they working on that at school? If they (they being the school or the kindergarten teachers) could send home a page or two of explanation so that we (we being the parents) know HOW they are doing things, it would be immensely helpful. I feel like every time I say something to Sabrina she tells me I am contradicting what her teacher tells her. I might be – I DON’T KNOW.

So that is my gripe. I don’t want to cause the teachers extra work but if you want the parents to be partners in this endeavor, please don’t assume knowledge on our part that may not exist.

If you want a more entertaining take on the subject, check out this blog post from barefootfoodie.

posted under parenting | 9 Comments »

Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone


Remember that Cinderella song from the 80’s? I was totally cool because the chick who cut my hair the year I lived in NJ was dating one of the guys in Cinderella. That put me way closer than 6 degrees of separation from Jon Bon Jovi, the man I was supposed to marry until he went and married his stupid high school sweetheart. I guess it all turned out okay since I adore my husband but Jon, you don’t know what you missed! My 15 yr old hair would have totally looked awesome next to your 80’s hair.

I’m not even sure how to write this post. It is hard to explain and is such an odd thing. Part of me is embarrassed – I’m a mental health professional so I shouldn’t be so unaware.  And part of me wants to share just because it is one of those things that need to be on our radar so others don’t miss it.

Where to start? Just about every night, I lie in bed promising myself that tomorrow I’ll do better. I won’t yell. I’ll find more patience. I feel like I’m not great at this whole stay at home mom gig a lot of days. I know everyone feels that way and I know we all hold ourselves to higher standards than we do others. But I found myself battling frustration and impatience way more often than seemed “normal”. I thought this was me as a mom who stays home. Before having kids, I never thought of myself as a kid person and never dreamed I would be a stay at home mom. But once becoming a mom, I was lucky enough to make the choice to stay at home for a few years. I love my girls more than I knew was possible but the day to day minutia (topped with solo parenting for 5 months) was hard.

I can’t pinpoint when it started getting harder than seemed “normal”. That bothers me. Have I felt this way for the past 2 years? No, I think it has gotten worse in the past 6 or 8 months.  But I can’t be sure. It happened without my awareness. I certainly had plenty of reasons to be tired and frustrated. My husband has been living in Pittsburgh since May. It was a LONG summer in this house. Constant showings of the house. Children who miss their daddy. Doing it all alone. Missing my best friend and partner. And summer was HOT so it seemed normal to not want to do anything.


Two weeks ago, I ran out of a medication that I’ve been taking for 2+ years. Not a big deal, called my doctor for an appointment to refill it. (Didn’t realize I was out of refills.)  But I noticed something odd. After my first full day without the medication, as I was lying in bed, I didn’t feel bad about the mom I had been that day.  We had a good day. I started thinking the girls must have been exceptionally well behaved but realized they were just their normal selves. No, it had been me. I was more patient and didn’t yell and enjoyed my day with the girls. The next night as I was lying in bed, I realized it had been another good day. I realized that I was feeling hopeful and happy and like myself for the first time in a long time.

I had a sudden light bulb moment. I had been depressed. And it had disappeared within 24 hours of not taking that medication (even though it wasn’t something that you would think would effect mood). Googling commenced. I wasn’t the only one who had experienced depression on this medication. I found thread of people on forums talking about the same thing. I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t a bad mom. I was suddenly giddy. The absence of depression made me giddy. I had no idea I had been feeling depressed – I just thought it was the drudgery of life getting me down a little. I figured all would be well once we sold the house and lived in the same zip code as Steve again.

I can’t believe I didn’t recognize what I was feeling. I’m angry with myself for missing it. But I’ve never had an issue with depression and it wasn’t a deep dark, slit my wrists kind of place. But it invaded my life. I was lethargic. I was cranky. I didn’t laugh as much. Doing things seemed like way too much effort. And now I feel so much more alive and awake. I feel thankful that I ran out of the medication because I might have continued that way for years without realizing it. I also feel guilty that I robbed my kids of their real mom for however long I was in that funk but all I can do is move forward and show them their real mom isn’t an impatient, frustrated woman most of the time.

The effect of chemicals on the brain and body is an amazingly powerful thing.

Tessa still doesn’t love having her photo taken.

posted under Misc. | 12 Comments »