Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Happy 4th!

July4

We are about 1/2 through summer vacation here. I’m ready to start counting the days until school starts. I’m having fun with the girls but their constant bickering is driving me crazy. They talk constantly. I answer 1,343,564 questions a day. And the eating. Holy cow, the eating! Where to they put it all? They are constantly saying “I’m still hungry!” I’ve tried discussing the difference between hungry and not being stuffed or being bored but they just look at me blankly and say “We are still hungry.” So, I got a brilliant idea from a friend. Snack baskets. I put all of the food (outside of reasonably sized breakfast and lunch and dinner) that they can have in the day in a basket in the frig. They may eat what they want, when they want. But when it is gone, it is gone.

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A couple of types of fruit, some nuts, yogurt, hard boiled egg, and a granola bar. I vary it every day. I try to do some veggies but no one is ever hungry enough to eat them. Sometimes, they spend all morning just eating it all and then have nothing for the afternoon but they’ve learned there are no refills. They seem to like the control it gives them. I like forbidding the phrase “I’m still hungry” from being uttered in my house.

Sabrina spent a week at day camp. That was a great break for all of us from the bickering. But can I just say she looks way too old/big in this photo from the last day? The growing up needs to stop now.

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Otherwise, we’ve had a low key summer. It has been unusually cool and rainy here in TN so very little pool time. They took some swim lessons at our local rec center but they were pretty worthless and the girls didn’t really learn much. We have made it to the zoo twice which is surprising because it is usually way too hot for zoo trips in July. The girls are excited beyond belief about our annual family beach vacation which is coming up later this month. We’ve been counting down the days.

Last year, the fourth festivities were cancelled due to dry conditions – the cities around us banned fireworks because of fire concerns. This year it has been raining for over 24 hours. But at least the rain let up a little to let us have a little low key fun with sparklers and smoke bombs. The girls declared it the best ever.

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Seriously – look how green that grass is. It is usually brown and crunchy this time of year. But it has been so moderate and so rainy that we could mow every 4 or 5 days.

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I wish I knew what they were thinking…

June10

I found this the other day. I wonder what the story was in Tessa’s head when she surrounded my phone with her albino frogs.

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Another school year is behind us

May22

Time needs to stop flying by. Sabrina finished 1st grade. Tessa perhaps finished preschool…I’m still not sure yet. On the left is the 2 of them on the first day of school in August 2012. In the middle and right are the last days of school yesterday (Sabrina) and today (Tessa). Not a huge difference but both definitely are a bit taller and lost a little more of the round baby-ness in their faces.

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What I’ve been up to…

May20

We’ve got all sorts of projects going on at Chez Smiles. First, I have been searching for chairs to go in our eat in area for 2 years. I finally found 6 at a reasonable price. Now to paint them. I’ve been wanting to play with chalk paint so I bought a super ugly, super cheap end table (soon to be bedside table) to practice with it on. I love the way it turned out but I will admit it was way more work than I was anticipating. First comes paint, then sanding to distress it a bit, then clear wax, then some steel wool, then some more clear wax, then some dark wax to age it some more, then some more clear wax. The 6 chairs will likely take me six months. Here is the before and after of my $8 side table. For my first attempt, I am pretty pleased. Let’s hope the chairs turn out well.

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Last year, I blogged a bit about our CSA experience. We loved it. It changed the way we eat and the way I cook. I found ways to incorporate vegetables that I never dreamed of – and I learned that a lot of things I thought I didn’t like just hadn’t been cooked well when I tried it. We were going to do it again because it was such a fun experience. But after some discussion, we decided to try something different this year. There was some waste with the CSA either because it was something we never learned to like (beets for me…some greens for all of us) or because of an over abundance of 1 item (can only eat so many kohlrabi  or because of just an overabundance (another box before we were done with the previous week’s box). This year we decided to set aside the same amount we spent on the CSA each week and spend it on local foods at local farmers markets. That way we can tailor it to what we want and need. We also decided to plant a garden. That means as the summer goes on, we can spend less on veggies and more on dairy and meat. We are doing square foot gardening and have planted two 4′ x 4′ raised beds. I am skeptical about growing so many things in such a small space but am excited to see how it turns out. We’ve planted tomatoes, peppers, onions, herbs, pumpkins (the small pie variety), baby watermelon, cantaloupe, green beans, carrots, and lettuce. The gardening has made me think so much of my dad. First because he would be shocked to see me planning to eat so many veggies. Second because he gardened (which I hated as a kid – forced to weed in the heat and bugs but didn’t like anything that came out of it) and took pride in trying to have the first red tomatoes in the county every year.

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The past month has been filled with birthday parties. Sabrina got to go to another horse riding party. Lucky kids! I never got to do cool stuff that like as a kid.

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I’ve also been agonizing over some art pieces I was working on. A friend asked me to do 3 canvases her daughter’s nursery. She showed me her nursery and just said have at it. For whatever reason, this completely made my brain freeze. The canvases were bigger than I have done in the past. I had no idea what would make her happy. I wanted them to look nice together but not to be 1 connected scene. It took me months of starting and stopping to get these done. I learned that I either need to just do canvases and THEN let people buy them so that I know they like them or I need to just get out of my head and just do it. Because there was no reason for that to take so long and to paralyze me that way. Rather ridiculous. But, in the end, I was happy with what I did. And so was my friend.

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Mark this under: I really need to get out more

May14

I have this person at the grocery store that I think of as my Newman/arch-nemesis. He is a 20-something guy who mans the self checkouts. I cringe every time I see him there and consider waiting in line for regular register. I’ve had numerous issues with him – the take away being that he just isn’t the brightest/fastest/most aware human being.

We have a mutual dislike which I will admit I am responsible for. Shortly after we moved to this little town, we were walking through the produce department. Sabrina was pretty young. He walked up to us and said “Where did you get her?” I was in a mood (I think I was pregnant and therefore perma-cranky) so I didn’t respond in a kind way. I said something snarky like “Wal-Mart.” He took a minute to figure out my response and then said he was only asking because he was adopted (he looks Korean or Vietnamese…I’m not good at telling Asian heritage). I immediately felt like an ass. I apologized and told him I was just crabby. Then much more pleasantly answered his questions. Obviously, not a good start to our relationship. Over the years, I have gotten irritated with him repeatedly for not paying attention, walking away, having a bad attitude, and generally sucking at manning the self check out. He has not been a fan of mine since our first interaction and I can’t blame him.

He sealed my dislike of him during The Yogurt Incident. It was marked on sale. It didn’t ring up on sale. He very grudgingly went to check on it (there was a large price difference or I wouldn’t have made a big deal). After taking his sweet time, he finally returned and said the sale signs had been incorrectly left up (this was 3 days after the sale would have ended) so he guessed he would give me the sale price. I thanked him. Then he revealed how horribly our education system is failing our youth because he had to figure out what to charge me per item because the sign said 4 for $2. He got out his calculator. Then he got very confused because his calculator told him they should be $2 each. I then had to explain to him that they were $.50 each. He never looked convinced that I wasn’t scamming him. I was sad that he couldn’t figure out the cost of each yogurt in his head or with his calculator but my dislike was sealed by his surly attitude through the whole interaction.

Every time I see him at the registers I mutter “Newman” under my breath. I really need to get a life instead of creating feuds in my head. He gives my children copious amounts of “I’ve been Krogering” stickers so that there is no surface in my car or home that doesn’t have a sticker on it at all times as payback. Well played checkout guy. Well played.

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Anyone have a paper bag I can breath into?

April5

So. This happened today.

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How is that possible when just last week she looked like this?

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We put a deposit on her preschool seat for next year in case we feel she isn’t ready by the end of summer. But can we use it if I’m not ready? I’m not ready to give her up to the world yet. I’m not ready to lose my snuggle bug. I’m not ready to admit all of the baby is gone from her now. One more year of hanging out with her on Tuesdays and Thursdays would make me very happy. Why do they grow so damn fast?

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Big Girl

March29

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

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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.

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

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Passing geekdom down to the next generation

March28

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

March27

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.

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Pinktastic

March26

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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?

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