Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Big Girl


Look who joined the ranks of those riding big girl bikes.



Finally got that Christmas bike put together. And she is almost too tall for it already. That will teach me for waiting so long to get her a big girl bike…and daddy for taking so long to put it together. (Yes, her helmet is really loose here. I fixed it after the photo.)

Soon she will likely inherit Sabrina’s. Sabrina’s legs are getting long enough that she’ll need a new one by next Christmas.



Sigh. More proof that they keep growing up. Make it stop.

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Passing geekdom down to the next generation


Steve is passionate about teaching the next generation to code and program computers. He feels it is a teachable skill greatly lacking in all educational arenas. He is currently working with a local school that has started with the express purpose of providing these skills to young adults so that they can be employable in a lucrative, secure career.

He also wants to see if our girls have any aptitude or interest in his field. He recently attended a conference and received a Raspberry Pi. He had talked about getting one for Sabrina so he was excited to bring it home. He has been teaching her some basic coding with a program called Scratch which is meant to help kids learn a little bit about coding. I’m quite certain my 6 year old now knows more about computer coding than I do.




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Mommy Guilt


I was going through some old draft posts.  I wrote this one on August 6th, 2008 when Tessa was 8 days old. It struck a chord with me because I’ve been asked recently how it was different. It being adoption vs biological child. The post must not have been finished but I present it as I found it. I thought I would share.

One nurse in the hospital made the joke that makes all adoptive parents cringe “So you did it the easy way the first time, huh?”  Anyone who has adopted knows there is nothing easy about it.  And those who have children the traditional way know that pregnancy isn’t always easy.  In my mind, it is apples and oranges.  One was one of the most emotionally taxing things I’ve ever experienced and the other was full of physical discomfort and uncertainty.  But both produced miracles – my daughters.

The flood of post partum hormones has surprised me.  I don’t know why.  I knew it was part of the package.  I’ve worried about post partum depression.  Steve has done some reading and marveled at the chemical changes documented in the post partum brain (told you he is a geek).  But despite the knowledge, the sudden tears and overwhelming emotions I’ve experienced since having Tessa have caught me by surprise.  Thankfully, the majority of my emotions are sappy, happy, and awe filled rather than anything depressive.  But all of this emotion has lead me to feel guilty at how different this experience is from my first week with Sabrina.  For some reason, I feel like the experiences should feel more alike to reinforce the fact that I love my adopted child every bit as much as my biological child…and in fact don’t think of them in those terms at all.  They are my children.  Period.

But despite loving each with my whole heart, this first week with Tessa has been a completely different experience than my first week with Sabrina.  Our first week with Sabrina was when she was 3 months old.  We visited for a week in Guatemala.  I felt incredible love for her but I also felt fear (that the adoption could fail) and uncertainty (did she like being rocked like this) and clumsy (I didn’t know how to comfort her).  I felt rather fraudulent declaring myself her mother and her my daughter.  I loved her from the minute I saw her photo but I didn’t feel like her mom until I earned it – meaning had her in my care for good and stopped feeling like I was playing house with her.  I sobbed for her, ached for her, worried about her, longed for her but the throw-myself-in-front-of-a-speeding bus to protect her love took a little time to develop.  It was fast once I moved to Guatemala but it wasn’t instantaneous.

Before I had Tessa, I was a little concerned about loving another child as much as I love Sabrina.  I just couldn’t imagine it was possible.  I anticipated it would take some time with Tessa as well.  I thought I would be so tired and so busy that logistics would keep me going until that fierce momma love kicked in.  That wasn’t the case at all.  The second I heard her cry and then saw her face, I was lost.  I look at her eating or sleeping on my chest and I cry because of the overwhelming love I feel for this child.  I am awed by the miracle that we created.  I suddenly get why people love newborns (I’ve never been a fan).  I won’t go into the ride home from the hospital but suffice it to say the level of protectiveness from both Steve and I was bordering on absurd.







For the first official day of spring break, we had snow. In Tennessee. Weird. I am usually trying to talk myself out of putting away the coats and sweaters at this point each year. With no regard for weather, the girls and on put on our springy pink best and headed to the city for Pinkalicious The Musical.

I’ll admit I was a bit leery. The last time I took the girls to a show by myself it was a disaster. Disney on Ice – the happiest place on Earth on ice and Tessa made my cry. In my (and her) defense, it was while Steve was living in Pittsburgh and I was an emotional mess that summer. She was just too young to sit still that long. It was almost 2 years ago but I still so vividly remember the overwhelmed feeling that I almost didn’t buy the tickets. Poor Tessa – her momma’s memory is long. (I really wanted to take just Sabrina to see The Lion King but holy moly those were some ridiculously expensive tickets…the children’s theater was much more reasonable.)

Fortunately, this was a much better experience. Tessa was enchanted by the play. The length was perfect – she was just starting to get a little antsy as it ended. Sabrina loved it too. I would love to be able to expose them to more plays and shows but it is going to require planning and a line item in the budget. I’m thinking of taking them to a high school production of Cinderella next week since that is uber-affordable. Production quality isn’t really an issue for a 4 and 6 year old, right?

How do you find affordable ways to expose your kids to the performing arts? Is it a priority for your family?



Sugar Nation


Don’t get me wrong. I love me some sweet treats. I’m all about chocolate. And ice cream is a food group in my world. Sometimes fruity skittles turn my crank. All things in moderation – yada yada. I loved this blog post about taking the holidays down a notch. I totally agree. I saw someone on facebook asking how to make St. Patrick’s day more special for her (Guatemalan) children. She had never made a big deal out of it before but everyone else was so she wanted to do it for her children too.

My poor kids. We have a few special traditions. I do the damn elf at Christmas. (I hate that elf…it doesn’t help modify their behavior. It only modifies mine as I wake up in a cold sweat at 3am with the realization that I forgot to move the damned thing again.) I made an advent tree that we put up and enjoy every year. Ummm…that might be where it ends. I don’t decorate for any holiday that doesn’t end in -mas. I don’t go over the top for anything. The bar is very, very low in our house.

But many of my fellow moms don’t share my lazy, low bar setting tendencies. Every freaking holiday and psuedo-holiday results in candy. Look at this:



The pottery bowl on the left is full of left over Halloween and Christmas candy (after them eating some and me throwing a decent amount away). The bowl on the left is Valentine’s Day candy and the felt basket is half full from my youngest’s egg hunt at pre-school. I remember it being a big damn deal when someone included a lollipop in a Valentine card back when I was covering a shoe box with tin foil. It was rare and quite exciting. Now almost every Valentine includes a candy treat. A few were tattoos instead but most were candy. I’m guilty – my girls picked out Valentine’s with candy this year. Last year, Tessa gave out tattoos and Sabrina gave out Hello Kitty magnets but this year they wanted to choose.

Treats have stopped being treats. There was rarely candy in my house growing up. Easter and Halloween was it. Otherwise, there was a dearth of chocolate. I feel like I am constantly having to be the sugar police. The girls request treats daily. I allow them what I believe is a reasonable amount of junk food (some would say none is reasonable…but having grown up with it being off limits, I have struggled my entire life with finding a balance so I am trying to teach it to my children). Part of my just wants to throw all of this away then it stops being an issue. But I have trouble throwing away food and I tend to recycle it. The Halloween and Christmas stuff will go into Easter baskets and plastic eggs. What isn’t eaten will be given out at Halloween (yes, our house might not give out the freshest candy – watch out for those taffys and tootsie rolls HA). But I am weary of all of this candy constantly coming into my house (I don’t mind some but come on – look at the volume). I am weary of telling my children no several times a day when they ask for a treat. I am sad that a sweet little Valentine isn’t enough of a token any more and everything requiring candy or even a whole treat bag.

What do you do with the piles of candy? Do you give your child(ren) free access to it just so it will be gone? Do you limit it? Do you throw it away?

posted under food, parenting | 18 Comments »

Sunrise, sunset


Steve was out of town for 4 days including the weekend. 18 months ago? That would have been a disaster for me. By day 3, I would have been overwhelmed and cranky. But now? We had fun. It wasn’t a big deal. We missed daddy but had a grand time having a girls’ weekend. As the girls get older, I like them so much more and find them so much easier to be with.


Don’t get me wrong. I LOVED all of the baby stages. And most of the toddler stages (except age 3…age 3 can just be wiped straight from my memory). I miss baby snuggles and that period of rapid milestones when they are learning and conquering new things in the world every single day. And the clothes. Oh so sweet. But I am hoping I don’t turn into that woman. You know the one. The one who stands behind you in line at Target while you are plotting in your head which closet to lock your children (or yourself) in when you get home. She then gives you that sad, nostaglic look and says “Enjoy it…it goes so fast”. You want nothing more than to turn around and bitch slap her. Because yes, you know in your head it goes fast and you will miss it someday but at that exact moment what you need is someone to hand you a shot of tequila and tell you that you (and your children) will survive this time when things just feel so. damn. hard. You need to know that everyone has days like this…not that some older woman, who clearly has an early form of dementia, has shined up her memories with that rosy colored glasses cloth and forgets that while she was living it, it was damn hard some days.



So while I miss the baby stages and think back to them nostalgically, I’m not so far from them that I don’t recall how hard they were too. I’m lucky to have friends with babies so I can get my baby-fix while being reminded as I look into their sleep-deprived faces that it wasn’t all rainbows and ponies.



But just look at my babies! On horses at a birthday party over the weekend. Wasn’t I just wearing both of them in carriers a couple of months ago? How did they get so big? Tessa is just minutes older than a newborn in my head. And Sabrina is around age 2 if I don’t think too hard. And yet, I look at these photos on my computer of these young girls. It makes me want to weep sometimes. Yet. Yet, I feel guilty at how much more I enjoy them now that they are young girls instead of babies and toddlers. It feels like I am wishing away their childhoods – which isn’t what I am doing. I just love watching who they are turning into. Now, can we freeze time for a little while?



The girls both loved the horse back riding. But Tessa seemed especially enamored with the horses. Sadly, unless we take out a second and maybe third mortgage, that is not a hobby we can indulge. I thought gymnastics was expensive. Yikes. 

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What about Tessa?




I haven’t updated on the girls in awhile. So, Tessa. What to say about this one? She is going to be my challenge in life. Tessa marches to her own orchestra (drummer would be too ordinary for her). She does what she wants, how she wants, when she wants. She can be so sweet it makes my heart ache. And she can be cuttingly mean 10 seconds later. She is curious about everything when she isn’t living in her own little made up world. She loves to snuggle with me in a way that Sabrina never has. But she does it on her terms when she wants to. Tessa is hilarious in both words and actions. She kind of reminds me of a cat.


We are currently struggling with whether or not to put her in kindergarten next school year. She meets the age requirement. Her only skill that I worry about not being up to par is fine motor skills (in this case read: holding a pencil and writing). They expect a lot of out of kids in school these days. She could likely do the work but we worry that she isn’t ready yet. She doesn’t want to follow the rules of others – not that another year will likely change that but perhaps the maturity to understand that sometimes you need to? She does well in pre-school. Her teachers say she is a leader and often offers comfort to others when they get upset. She never gets in trouble for behavior so it isn’t like she can’t conform. I’m just not sure how she will do all day, every day. (She goes 3 days a week now.) And here is where I get a little more honest and admit I’m not sure if she isn’t ready or if I am not ready. She is my last baby. I love spending Tuesdays and Thursdays with her. (But will be glad to be rid of preschool tuition so there is that.) I love snuggling up with her on the couch and watching some stupid TV show in the morning. Now that she is older, I even enjoy taking her along on my errands usually. (Never would have believed that even a year ago.)


She still sucks her fingers and takes her froggie with her every where. How can she possibly be ready to go off to school? I never imagined this would be a decision I would struggle with. The calendar should make the decision for us. We don’t know what we are going to do yet. We’ve decided to hedge our bets: deposit on her seat for preschool next year and register for kindergarten and make the call when we get closer to August. A lot can happen in 5 months.

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Curried Meatballs


From a food blogging point of view, this is an ugly post. The photos are of left overs and not well done. But we just love these meatballs and I wanted to share the recipe.

I’ve made these meatballs 4 times now (I’m going to put the text of the recipe here only in case the other blog disappears – I don’t want to lose the recipe but please know it is not my own recipe) with very minor changes.  I have never made them with 3 pounds of meat. I’ve used 1 lb and the whole sauce recipe and I’ve used 2 lbs and doubled the sauce recipe. The original recipe is paleo – my way is not because I love a little filler in my meatballs. Some bread crumbs or crushed crackers make a better texture for my non-paleo pallet. This recipe can be made gluten free easily – I made them for my MIL with 3 or 4 pieces of toasted gluten free bread (2 lbs of meat) and then pulsed them into bread crumbs in my food processor. Serve over brown rice or quinoa.

Curried Meatballs (via Everyday Paleo)


1 lb ground beef (or chicken or pork)

2 slices bread pulsed into crumbs or 1/2 sleeve ritz crackers, crushed

1/4 cup sweet onion diced finely or 5 green onions including some of green part, sliced

1/4 cup apple, peeled and diced finely

1 egg

1 1/2 Tbl curry powder

salt and pepper

I put it in all in my kitchen aid to mix it together because I hate dealing with raw meat. Then I use my cookie scoop to make the meatballs but whatever works for you. Bake at 350 degrees for 20- 25 minutes.


2 Tbls coconut oil (I’m sure something else would work but I have some in the cupboard so I’ve been using it)

1 large or 2 small crushed garlic clove

1.5 Tbls honey

2 Tbs curry powder

2 Tbs tomato paste

1/2 cup chicken broth

Saute the garlic in the coconut oil for a minute. Add everything through the tomato paste and whisk together. Whisk in the broth and allow to simmer. Throw the meatballs in after they come out of the oven and cover. Cook for 5(ish) minutes then serve. I’ve also added peas into the sauce and that was yummy too.

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Keeping it real


By now, most folks who read blogs have seen this post about not airbrushing our lives to look so perfect on Facebook. While I agree, there are some folks out there who make everything seem idyllic and Martha inspired with perfectly framed photos and statuses about frolicking through orchards then making organic applesauce at home while smiling children assist with nary a spill in sight. It makes the rest of us feel as though we are falling short and doing it wrong. But, and this is a big but for me, don’t we all also have friends in our FB feeds who do nothing but complain? They focus on every little thing that doesn’t go their way and then put it out there because apparently they believe misery loves company or at least an audience? I don’t enjoy those people either.

I feel like I’m pretty real in my facebook feed. Yes, I show off the Martha moments – mostly because they are rare and I’m proud when I can pull it off. But I also share statuses about wanting to lock myself in the closet with a bottle of wine because my children are driving me insane. I don’t feel like snapping Instagrams of my overflowing-with-dirty-dishes kitchen sink or complaining about everything that doesn’t go my way is being more real. I share the bad – usually tempered with humor because if I can’t find the humor I am going to end up in a fetal position in the corner throwing applesauce on my head. And I share the good – usually trying not to brag while doing it. I do have some rules about things I don’t share but I don’t think that makes me less real…I think that everyone appreciates that I don’t over share. My relationship with my husband is pretty much off limits in all social media arenas. I brag on him a little here and there and might occasionally complain he can’t remember that trash day is Friday even after 5 years but that is as much as anyone gets from me. My marriage is good but private. I get really uncomfortable when people overshare about their marital issues on FB. I also share less about the girls as they get older. Obviously, they aren’t completely off limits but there are things I keep to myself out of respect for them.

Are you your real self on FB? Are there things you hold back?

Tessa keeping it real with cowboy boots and fleece jammie pants:


Never Say Goodbye


Wednesday night, I was reunited with my jr high and high school love. It has been 25 years since I’ve seen him. But oh it was worth the wait. He rocked my world for 3 solid hours. And damn, he looked good doing it.

I loved him back in the day. I might have even cried a little bit when he married his high school sweetheart. He was supposed to marry me. Time marched forward. I accepted that he wouldn’t be mine. But he will always have a place on my laminated list.

A night of screaming and singing with my girl friends from the nosebleed section was loads of fun. (The woman in front of us who had beer dumped on her and asked the usher to move her might not agree. Man, she was pissed.) The after party was marred by my turning cranky over being cold and a little hung over while wandering up and down Broadway (beer from before the concert had worn off) but we turned it around and had fun. I finally, after 6 years of living in Nashville, got to see some live music on Broadway. I even had breakfast the Pancake Pantry (local institution) the next morning.

My throat may never be the same again. Here is 1/2 of our group around 2am – all more at least a little drunk.


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