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   Posted by: liz    in general

IMG_0899i’ve been blogging for 11 years.  i started this blog when i was a few weeks away from having our second baby (sawyer). he turns 11 this september 11th.

when kenny was designing this blog (i still rememeber the custom-design he made, with green and pink the blog colors i chose), he came up with a few choices for the domain name, which would also be the name of the blog.  he preferred “” which was the name our niece Sadie called me.  since i was hoping it would be a family blog and not really a “liz-only” blog, i opted for “smithical.”

blogging has changed so much since my first entries into smithical. my blogging has changed a lot since i started.  mommy bloggers took over the internet, then came the photo bloggers and the foodie bloggers.  now everyone has a blog, and everyone is starting book deals and traveling for speaking engagements. it’s a little daunting being just a lil’ ol’ blogger without a book deal, without really a purpose for the blog, and with writers block that has lasted for a few years now.

i refuse to be a mommy blogger because i am always learning about parenting.  i can’t offer advice because i need advice myself.  i have a lot to say, but i’m in no way an expert on anything, especially parenting.  so i can’t blog with my holy insights on parenting.  on homeschooling. on theatre. on celiac disease. on farmsteading.

but i’m re-entering, humbly and slowly.  if there is anyone out there still reading…thank you!  i hope you’ll nod in agreement, speak up with a different view, or just simply read.


today we celebrate rowan’s 12th birthday with a few of his best friends (her turned 12 on wednesday).

happiest day to our astronomy-loving, soccer-loving, videogame-loving, big-hearted firstborn, Rowan Tucker!



Happy Birthday, Adam!

   Posted by: liz    in Uncategorized

IMG_3042This little guy, the baby of the family, turns 9 today.  He is 100% country boy: born and raised completely out here in cow-country.  He’s not a typical country boy, though.  He is fierce on the soccer field, loves video games, and has dance moves that we hope he uses on stage some day.  :-)

Happy 9th Birthday, Adam Henry Smith!











celiac screening

   Posted by: liz    in celiac, family, food

IMG_4149i took our three boys to get their blood tests this morning to check for celiac antibodies. it’s the first step in testing to see if one has celiac disease.  here are a few statistics from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness:

1 in 22 first-degree family members (parent, child, sibling) and 1 in 39 second-degree family members (aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, grandparent, grandchild and half-sibling) are at risk for celiac disease. Your risk may double if your brother or sister has celiac disease.

they have a much better chance than most americans of getting celiac because their mother has it. we had a discussion at breakfast about the blood test and the test results, and all three of them came to the decision unanimously that if one of them tested positive for celiac, then all three of them would join the gluten-free (GF) lifestyle with their mama.  if one of them tests positive for celiac antibodies from the blood test, the next step is to have a biopsy of their small intestine (via an endoscopy). they will have to continue consuming gluten until that test is over, so we have a few months before they would have to give up gluten altogether.

their pediatrician suggested that if they all test negative for celiac antibodies, they don’t have to get tested again until they start showing symptoms of celiac. but my gastroenterologist has suggested that they be tested every five years since one in three patients with celiac disease ever show symptoms.  who knows how long i was walking around with full blown celiac disease since my symptoms started 19 months ago?

there is a tricky line here, that i have to tow with them.  if one of them does test positive for celiac, and they all decide to go gluten-free i will have to figure out ways to get gluten into the non-diagnosed brothers’ diets from time to time so that they can test again in five years. when you are tested for celiac disease, you need to have been consuming gluten so that the tests are comprehensive, and show small intestine damage.  if you decide to go gluten-free because it makes you feel good, or because people in your family are celiac patients, then you can’t ever test positive for celiac (even if you have it).  but if you’re going to live gluten-free for the rest of your life, it doesn’t matter if you know if you have celiac or not, since the only cure for celiac is a gluten-free diet.

it’s confusing, but worth it to me to stay on top of research and studies about it.  i’m hoping they’re all negative so that at least they can live a somewhat normal childhood.  however, if they need to be gluten-free, their quality of life is still the same,,,just different.


we have just finished up the first two weeks of school here. it’s been absolutely the best first two weeks of school, ever.

perhaps it’s because i was focused a lot on the all-day 8th/9th grade class that i’m tutoring and got those first two classes down before sending my own kids to the same all-day co-op (but for their levels) this coming week.

perhaps it’s because we started every school day at the kitchen table together, and then broke out into individual subjects? i think starting at the table together makes the day feel like it has a beginning.  when you have a beginning, you feel as though you have an end to strive for.

or perhaps it was because summer finally kicked in these past 14 days, and we have spent more time in the pool these past two weeks than we have all summer (or so it seemed!). it was lovely to head outside in the hot sun after our studies were through in the afternoon and lazily bob around in the pool, or get a lot of exercise swimming and jumping, and wait for dinner.

perhaps it was because i’m back to planning our evening meals, and we’ve been able to eat well before rushing off to soccer practice and auditions (which both started this week). i always feel so much better when i’m feeding my family good stuff instead of relying on mcdonald’s to fill them up after soccer practice, or before a rehearsal. planning it out makes it so much easier.  even though our eating of dinners has become a bit more complicated since my celiac diagnosis.

and on that note…perhaps its because i’ve given up all grains and i’m finally feeling as though i’m not walking around with rocks in my stomach.  and because cookbooks like danielle walker’s Against All Grain and Meals Made Simple have really helped me be able to manage our meals so i’m not cooking two different dinners for all of us. and…grain-free sandwich bread! and an amazing chocolate protein-packed shake for my busy wednesday’s? and grain-free pizza crust!!!!


our family curriculum is fully entrenched in Classical Conversations.  Even though I’m tutoring the 8th/9th grade level class on wednesdays, our three boys are able to partake in their own classes on wednesdays, when we meet together.  they start this week, and then i know our other school days together will be busier, but i’ve planned this fall so that we’re not rushing off to afternoon lessons or practices every day.  we have one day of gym class but the rest of the days are truly home.

in the spirit of education, here is a fun link with even more fun photos.  i’m alarmed that parents had to send their children on 4 mile-long walks to school (and home!) each day, but that explains the shorter class day, perhaps. in some ways, we do the one-room school house here and our co-op is modeled after the one-room school house.

here is another post that a friend of mine wrote comparing their experience to schooling in australia.  i find it fascinating how active the australians are in their school day compared to the american school system. and apparently the activity is a year-long thing.

IMG_3574so with that, we bid adieu to another wonderful summer and look forward to the lovely fall weather approaching.  i’m hoping fall stays around for a while this year and keeps winter at bay.  an early spring and hotter summer next year would be awfully good as well.

This post has been in my drafts folder since June 10th, his actual birthday.  We had a big celebration – with friends, minecraft party, and presents. He introduced us to the world of the Leopard Gecko. We now have two, and we will soon have three (all three boys wanted one for their birthdays this year!).

Happy Birthday, Adam Henry!



Lyme is the Enemy

   Posted by: liz    in family, hobnob theatre co.

today i spent more time in doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and my car than one who has a full-time job.  from 7:00-3:30, i drove from a medical lab to the dentist office to a pedatrician office to two different pharmacies, and finally landed at home at 3:35 pm.

the medical lab was for me, where i “donated” four vials of blood for more of the same-old testing that i’ll probably undergo for a few more months. the dentist office was a “date” for my husband and i to get some routine dental cleanings while my mom stayed with the boys.

IMG_3717 the pediatrician was for sawyer. after we noticed this on him last night (photo). it was tiny, but we noticed because we’ve been there before. that is a bulls-eye rash, and you can see that it’s about an inch in diameter. an INCH. that’s not very large. and Lyme bulls-eye rashes aren’t raised or itchy, so if you get one on your inner thigh, or your back, you may never notice you have one. we live in western pennsylvania, one of the most densely-populated Lyme-disease areas in America. so we know to look for these. after the second day of sawyer complaining about a stiff neck and a headache, we started looking for the rash.

he is the third in our family of five to contract Lyme disease since we moved here (from Pittsburgh) 8 years ago. and all three of those of us who have Lyme (Kenny, Adam, and now Sawyer) have had different symptoms.  Kenny and Adam had high fevers for three-four days (along with typical flu-like body aches). Kenny and Sawyer had bulls-eye rashes. Sawyer did not have flu-like symptoms. Adam had a red rash at the tick bite, as did Kenny. Sawyer only shows bulls-eye rashes. Adam and Kenny did  not have head aches.  Sawyer is on day 3 of a head ache (and he’s not a headache-type kid).

Lyme is one of those diseases that presents itself differently in all of its patients.  It also presents itself as a lot of other diseases: MS and Fibro among the most similar in symptoms, if the Lyme is left untreated. Fortunately we know what to look for. We also know to check for ticks. I admit there are days we don’t check. And every Lyme case in our house has been when we never knew there was a tick bite. We have pulled ticks off  us a lot: but symptoms have never followed when we pulled a tick off.  We only get symptoms when we haven’t found a tick in weeks.  This makes sense: when a tick removes itself from its host, it regurgitates a substance that contains the Lyme bacteria into the bloodstream of its host. When the host (human) removes the tick, it (usually) doesn’t regurgitate the bacteria-substance.  So pulling a tick off of you is much better than never finding one in the first place.


So…always, always check. Every night. Several times a day. whatever it takes. And be happy when you find if you do have Lyme in the early stages. Antibiotics are the only thing I trust to kick the bacteria out of your system, and fight the symptoms Lyme can bring. We can live in fear, or live in knowledge to fight the disease. I choose the latter. We live outside during the summer. I love the outdoors when its warm (I wish ticks loved snow!  you’d never find us outside nearly as much during our winters!), and I’m not going to keep us inside for fear of Lyme. We fight it as much as we can. And if it wins by getting into us, we fight it with medicine.

Since I’ve been getting routine bloodwork done, I have them test me for Lyme. So far, I’ve not contracted it. But it only seems a matter of time, based on where we live. Still, I’m thankful for the age in which we live. We can fight these things instead of live in fear.


its not just about reading labels

   Posted by: liz    in celiac, food

after going public with my celiac diagnosis (it took me two months to admit it outloud), i heard over and over: “at least there are lots of alternatives for you. it’s so easy to be gluten-free these days!”  i’ll get into this more in a minute, but i assure you this:

~ there is NO alternative for a guinness.

~ there is also no way to replace the deliciousness of Twizzlers (they contain wheat flour).

~ and forget about coming near to replacing a prantl’s burnt almond torte. no matter how delicious GF cake is, it’s NOT a prantl’s burnt almond torte!

there are thousands of gluten-free (GF) options lining grocery store shelves these days, and i admit to enjoying several of them, especially the first few weeks after my diagnosis (i was starving and craving everything, so i found replacements in the gluten-free aisles).  a vast majority of them are not healthy. they are full of high-carbohydrate, blood-sugar-rising ingredients, it’s no wonder that i gained weight after going gluten-free!

that is the number one reason to just stay away from GF processed food. but a bigger reason to stay away from all processed food is the hidden gluten. here is a partial (partial!) list of gluten-containing ingredients that don’t say “gluten” that celiacs must avoid:

  • artificial color
  • baking powder
  • caramel color/flavoring
  • citric acid (can be fermented from wheat, corn, molasses or beets)
  • coloring
  • dextrins
  • diglycerides
  • emulsifiers
  • enzymes
  • fat replacers
  • flavorings
  • food starch
  • glucose syrup
  • glycerides
  • maltodextrin
  • malt syrup
  • modified food starch
  • natural juice
  • red dye #3
  • soy sauce
  • stabilizers
  • starch
  • wheat starch

for those who CHOOSE to go gluten-free, this list is a non-issue. but the trace amounts of gluten found in these buried ingredients still harm the villi in a celiac’s small intestine. so we have to be vigilant in understanding all the ingredients on a food label.

for now, i’ve chosen to just eat real food, and not mess with processed foods.  it makes shopping a whole lot easier to just hang out in the perimeter of the grocery store (did you ever notice that if you shop the perimeter of your store, you hit all the fresh/refrigerated items so you don’t ever have to go into those pesky boxed-food shelves [unless you have to find a jar of olives or salad dressing or mayonnaise or baking items]?).

there are days that it’s very boring.  very, very boring eating the same old, safe food.  i have to keep reminding myself that my food can only now be my fuel. my medicine. i will learn to enjoy eating again, but i have to get through the initial healing process first, and then i have to learn to enjoy this new, life-long diet i’ve been given to enjoy.

for those that have asked, i don’t quite feel better yet. it’s been nine weeks, and i’m still having a lot of symptoms. i read that this is normal, that it can take up to a year (!!!) for GI symptoms to go away.  my patience is wearing thin. i am hoping i feel better soon.


IMG_3547Last Wednesday was a very busy day. Actually all of last week was busy. Rowan Tucker Smith, the boy who made boy Kenny and I parents, turned 11.

He decided that he really wanted a Leopard Gecko just like Adam’s…so we found ourselves with a new little guy in the aquarium a few days before his birthday.  We ended up having to take that gecko back because it didn’t eat. Even after force-feeding it (hearkening back to the days when we were force-nursing newborn lambs!), it was not interested in eating. Or sleeping. So we returned it for a healthier guy this weekend. He’s just as cute, and a much better eater.

We’ve been really enjoying the World Cup over the past month. For several weeks we were able to follow the American Team, and weren’t disappointed, even when they finally lost. Rowan loves to research the teams, watching highlights of past games, and replaying important games. He claims it helps him learn how to play better. (can’t argue with that!) Since we’ve been watching the games at my parents’ house (since they have ESPN), my parents decided to give Rowan a replica of the World Cup soccer ball. He’s been loving it (and has even taken it to the local high school field a few times).IMG_3493

This summer is at the half-way mark today. It’s already been a much better summer than last year (weather-wise, mostly). We’ve had some great, lazy summer days spent entirely on our back deck, in the pool, with friends. The weather has been wonderful (almost perfect!). We are producing a new Shakespeare show with hobnob this summer – A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We’re thrilled that another talented theatre person has stepped up to the directing role. I hope more and more talent steps into the directing role in future plays as well. Then, I guess, we’ve known we made it. (ha ha).



…for the rest of my life

   Posted by: liz    in celiac, food

When I turned 30 (11 years ago!), Kenny surprised me with a weekend away at Deep Creek Lake with friends. When we arrived, he had a huge spaghetti dinner for me that night knowing that was my favorite meal.

When I was in college, I frequently scarfed down a bowl (or two!) of cereal from the cafeteria FOR DINNER on my way to play rehearsal.

To this day, pancakes are my favorite thing to eat on a lazy weekend morning.

I share this with you because I am a typical American diet-eater. I love my carbohydrates. It’s a good thing I love vegetables, meats, dairy, and fruits as well, or I’d go hungry.

Since October of last year, I’ve been getting blood work done, and seeing different doctors trying to figure out just what is going on with my 40-some-year-old digestive system. Last month, I received a call from my gastroenterologist that told me my latest blood work came back strongly suggesting that I have Celiac disease. Then, finally, after getting a biopsy done on my small intestine this spring, my Celiac disease diagnosis was confirmed. On May 18th. I’m not allergic to gluten. My body just cannot tolerate it. My immune system sees it as a dangerous substance, so it fights it when it reaches my small intestine. I got the Jets and the Sharks battling it out in my midriff.

Finding out that you have Celiac disease, after spending a lifetime loving on the one food that your body physically rejects, it’s just plain shitty. But, let’s keep this post family-friendly and happy! Here are some fun facts on Celiacs Disease:

  • “The precise cause of celiac disease isn’t known.” – (encouraging, isn’t it?)
  • John F. Kennedy suffered from celiac disease, but never was diagnosed with it since it was still a fairly unknown disease for adult diagnoses when he was alive.
  • “The term coeliac derived from the Greek κοιλιακός (koiliakós, “abdominal”), and was introduced in the 19th century in a translation of what is generally regarded as an ancient Greek description of the disease by Aretaeus of Cappadocia.” –

GFThere is no cure for Celiac. Eating gluten-free is my medicine.  It’s the only way to avoid the unsavory symptoms it causes, and to keep from further internal damage.

Yesterday, I spent the morning in Pittsburgh’s Celiac Center. I met with three doctors: a gastroenterologist, a nutrition specialist, and a holistic psychologist. I met a few other patients who had been “gluten-free” for years or months longer than me. There was a time to meet with some volunteers from a “celiac meet-up” group and one thing they said really stood out to me. I was telling them how my husband and I love to check out new restaurants, and we love traveling to Pittsburgh to eat Thai, Indian, and in other new restaurants. She looked at me and said, “I generally don’t eat out anymore unless I know there is a gluten-free area in their kitchen. Otherwise, I’m very bitchy to the servers, demanding that my food is safe.”

I understand. Even the smallest particle of gluten can make some Celiacs sick. I even read in one article about “cross-contamination of gluten in Celiac patients” that if your restaurant salad comes with croutons (after asking for a salad without croutons), you need to ask for a completely new salad since the crumbs will make you sick. I’m fine with my gluten-free area in my own kitchen, but I’m not ready to be that somebody in a restaurant. I’m also not ready to give up eating out in new restaurants with my husband.

My gastroenterologist looked at me and said, “I’m sorry you have to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon, but you have no choice.” I asked him if I caused myself to become a Celiac patient. He assured me that it was nothing that I ate or didn’t eat that caused it: it is genetic, even though I was the first person in my family to be diagnosed with it.

Kenny has been so incredibly supportive. He’s picked up gluten free crackers and bread for me, stopped in at Gluuteny in Squirrel Hill (ironically across from what used to be Gullifty’s, where I indulged in many gluten-laden desserts in high school!) with treats for me to eat during our boys’ birthday parties, and found the most delicious hard cider for me to try (Angry Orchard…MILES better than Woodchuck). I admit this diagnosis was slightly reassuring (it’s not cancer!), but it’s also lonely. Now I understand why they had me meet with a holistic psychologist at the Celiac Center. Support is really important at this beginning stage.

Holiday family dinners are going to be tough. Summer BBQs are hard. Telling someone who has invited you over for dinner that you are gluten-free might bring some eye-rolling (since it’s super trendy to be “GF” right now: here’s a tip…don’t go gluten free to lose weight. Do it because it makes you sick). And road trips are harder now to plan for.

I keep telling people that I’m fine, this is an okay thing, really! At least I don’t have to be on medication, or have chemo. But deep down, it’s one of the harder things I’ve had to deal with. This is for the rest of my life. And since I plan on living at least another 41 years, that’s a long road ahead.

I’d love to meet other Celiacs. Please give me a shout-out if you are too!