Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

She really does smile


Our family didn’t get to see much of Tessa’s charming, sweet side when we were home last weekend.  She pretty much glued herself to myself and Steve.  She played on the floor as long as no one got too close.  So here is proof that our youngest really does smile and laugh.



posted under family | 8 Comments »

Making Life Better


This is a compensated post through my affiliation with Mom Central.

Y’all know that Unilever does everything, right?  Think of a major brand name you see in the grocery store and it is probably a Unilever product.  Breyers?  Check.  Bertolli? Yes. Ragu? You bet.  SlimFast? Uh-huh.  Dove? Right again.

Mom Central and Making Life Better are working to get the word out about the Making Life Better website and a series of You Tube videos featuring The Kitchen Coach, Jennifer Bushman.  The videos work to give easy, healthy, and affordable ideas to help you get dinner on the table quickly and painlessly – featuring many Unilever products.  Click here for a 4 1/2 minute video with ideas for making grilled chicken and veggies, a pomegranate tea spritzer, a flank steak asian grilled dish, and a grilled chicken and roasted pepper ciabatta sandwich.  The video is interesting and easy to watch.  See what you think.

If you aren’t into videos, the Making Life Better website has a food section as well as sections on beauty, health, home and family.  I checked out the recipes because I’m always looking for new things to try.  They feature a recipe of the week and have sections on budget cooking, crock pot recipes, recipes to try with kids, easy weeknight recipes, etc.   If I baked, the Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake would tempt me.  Since I’m not a baker, I’m thinking Steve would like the Chicken Parmesan Heros.

posted under food | No Comments »

My 1000th Post!


Memo to Target:

You know I love you.  I spend many hours and tens of thousands hundreds of dollars in your store each year.  But we need to have a little talk.  Because I don’t have a goose laying golden eggs, we use your house brand of formula for the wee one.  She likes it and it is 1/2 the price of the big brands – we are all happy.  But if you are going to change the look and brand name?  You need to tell someone.  How in the world am I supposed to know that the one on the right is the new version of the one on the left if you don’t tell me?


Yes they have the same “infant formula with iron” wording BUT THE BRANDS APPEAR DIFFERENT.  If you’ve ever had a baby, you know when you find something the works, you don’t change it.  A little placquard saying “this is our new look” with photos of both would have saved me much angst in the past month.  We’ve been trying other things because we thought you stopped carrying your house brand.

Some googling reveals that Target is abandoning the bullseye for this new look.

“We believe that it will stand out on the shelf, and it is so distinctive that we’ll get new guests that will want to try it that maybe didn’t even notice the Target brand before,” said Kathee Tesija, executive vice president of merchandising for Target.

Because we might have missed the big bullseye on the front of the store when we walked in or not noticed the huge marketing campaign surrounding the bullseye, including a Spuds McKenzie-esque dog, on on TV and in print for the past 5 years?  Consumers are using more store products right now so why not keep the recognized branding?

Oh and the new look? Meh – washed out and boring.  And the new name and logo (Arrow with “Up & Up) is stupid and has no connection to Target.  Stick with your bullseye. Or at least tell your stores to PUT UP SOME SIGNAGE about the change.  Because honestly and truly, I don’t care about the change in packaging on 99% of your products…but don’t mess with the baby formula without spelling it out clearly for us tired moms.

I would be happy to accept a six figure salary so that you can obtain my opinions on all major decisions in the future.  I’m always happy to tell you what you are doing wrong consult.  Call me.

PS You also play fast and loose with the word “Clearance”.  25% off is not clearance – it is a sale.  Let’s not use the word “Clearance” until we’ve reached at least 50% off. M’kay? Thanks.

posted under Misc. | 19 Comments »

3M Filtrete


This is a compensated post through my affiliation with Mom Central.


When we moved into this house, one of the clauses in our lease was that we would change our air exchange filters monthly.  We signed our lease and promptly forgot about that.  I don’t think I’ve ever had filtered air exchanges like these in a house before so I never gave them any thought.  Then the leasing company appeared for our first quarterly inspection.  They maintenance man tsk-ed at the state of both of our filters.  He told me that changing them regularly would make our heating and cooling units run more efficiently meaning our bills would be lower and the units would last longer.  Huh.  I was on board with that.

When I agreed to remind you all to check and replace your filters, Mom Central sent me a document written by Dr. Neil Schachter, a leading authority on Respitory Disease, outlining 8 tips to keep your house healthy.  His 8 tips in short are:

  1. Avoid cleaning products with amonia or chlorine
  2. House plants are clean air allies (especially if you can keep them alive, unlike me)
  3. Lay area rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpet
  4. Use high performance air filters like the Filtrete 1″ Advanced Allergen Filter from 3M
  5. Restrict your furry friends – especially keep them out of the bedrooms and off the bed
  6. Turn up the air conditioning to reduce the humidity and inhibit mold
  7. Turn off humidifiers which can allow mold growth and spread bacteria
  8. Leave shoes outside

dsc09847I was only doing it to keep my leasing company happy and my bills lower until Filtrete reminded me that it can have important health benefits for my family.  So I will continue to climb up here every month (okay to be honest it is more like 6-8 weeks) and change my filters.  I also use my beautiful Dyson to keep the grate free of dust and dirt.  Taking this photo reminded me that I need to do that again soon!  And it is time to pick up a couple more Filtrete 3M filters when I run to Target this week.  (That is truly the brand I always buy when I change them.) Go check yours now. Go on.

posted under Misc. | 4 Comments »

Oh hey!


dsc09783Did you miss us? We took a little road trip this weekend.  This drive to the ‘Burgh wasn’t as bad as the last couple.  We only had 1 Incident and 4 hours of screaming.  The Incident was a rather ugly nose bleed from Sabrina that required a long stop to get it stopped and her cleaned up.  The 4 hours of screaming was Tessa.  She wanted to drive was tired of being in the car.  I didn’t disagree…I just didn’t scream about it.  It took us 11 1/2 hours.  Taken all together, that was the smoothest trip we had had to that point.  We also discovered that Sabrina, when she is so inclined, is able to make Tessa stop crying and and start giggling.  Bonus.

Tessa continues to hate anyone who isn’t a designated bottle getter (meaning Steve or I).  She spent most of the weekend sitting on my lap and sucking her fingers or sleeping.  She was so out of sorts that she napped a lot.  She did allow Pap-pap to hold her once for about 5 minutes.


She spent the rest of her time peering suspiciously at anyone who might come near her.


Sabrina, on the other hand, had the most fabulous time.


On Saturday, my in-laws had a big picnic.  Sabrina had so much fun charming young and old, blowing bubbles, and jumping in the bouncy house.


She was plotting with Tessa in the car.  She told Tessa that she could have Pap-pap first but that Sabrina wanted Grandma first.


dsc09807After Sabrina spent all day Saturday running around with the other kids, we figured she would sleep like a rock.  We didn’t get her to bed until 10pm.  At 12:30 am, she woke up screaming.  She had a little bit of a bloody nose but she got hysterical about it.  And the more upset she got, the more it bled.  Steve got her calmed down and cleaned up.  At 1:30, she fell out of bed and started screaming which started the nose bleed again.  Steve got her calmed down and cleaned up.  At 2:30, she woke up screaming “where’s daddy?”  We calmed her down and Steve said he would sleep with her.  I was all stretched out by myself in the bed.  I had just gotten comfy and started to fall back asleep when at 3am, she woke up screaming “Mommy?!?”  So I had to climb in bed with them while the other lovely bed stayed empty.  She woke up every 15 minutes to check that we were there until about 4:30.  Needless to say, we were all wiped out on Sunday.  Tessa, thankfully, slept through all the commotion but continued to scream anytime anyone touched her so our families are convinced she is really grumpy.

We headed to Ohio on Sunday evening after a yummy sandwich at Primanti’s (pastrami and cheese with lots of hot sauce thank you very much).  After saying an excited hello to Grandma Freida, Sabrina spent the next 36 hours harassing her cat into a nervous breakdown.  I don’t think the poor thing was able to come out to eat or use the litter box except from 2am-4am.


My sister is trying to turn her into a girlie girl by painting her fingernails and toenails for the first time.  Sabrina declared herself beautiful afterward.


And my nephew spent all day Monday giving us a private concert.


It was way too short but a great trip.  As always, we enjoyed seeing everyone and love being home.  The trip home was as painless as it could be.  10 hours in the car with 2 small kids can’t be fun but it wasn’t bad.  No one threw up.  No one bled.  No one’s diaper exploded.  And Tessa only cried for 1 1/2 hours instead of 4.  And we actually got home while it was still day light.

I hope you all had a fabulous holiday weekend.  We did all though we return home with a heavy heart having received news that some friends lost their child last night.  I won’t go into details because they are private people but give your little ones an extra squeeze and spare a good thought for those out there who know a grief that no parent should have to shoulder.

posted under family | 4 Comments »



You know that curse that all mothers utter at some point?  The one that goes “I hope some day you have a child just like you?”  Yeah well I have a feeling my mom’s curse and Steve’s mom’s curse joined forces.  Steve and I both admit to being somewhat devious mischievious in our younger years.  But neither of us got into Big Trouble because we understood the art of flying under the radar.  My sister was often in Big Trouble (hey Rus? I think you are still technically grounded) but I rarely was.  I was viewed as a good kid for the most part.

dsc09776Sabrina already understands the art of flying under the radar.  She is an exceptionally good kid whose bad behavior is chalked up to being 2 and normal.  Tessa? Obviously there is a lot yet to be determined, but so far I’m a little scared. She is a little firecracker at 9 1/2 months old.  I have a feeling she is going to be a challenge.  Yesterday, she catapulted herself out of her exersaucer. I was reading a magazine and the next thing I knew, she was on the floor and crying.  She is fine but I can’t believe she escaped it.  Sabrina used it until she was at least 15 months old and never even tried to escape.   I have a feeling life will be interesting with these two.

My Inner Martha Isn’t Happy


dsc09761-1When I saw this post about an adorable butterfly collage, I knew I had to steal the idea make one for both of the girls.  It has been in my ‘ideas’ folder for awhile with many other creative things I will probably never get around to want to try.  The internets is choke full o’ creative folks with great ideas.

I dragged Steve and the girls to Michael’s yesterday to get a few things to make one.  A bajillion dollars later (seriously I feel so inspired when I walk in that place sadly it fizzles once I’ve left the parking lot), I returned home and started punching butterflies out of every piece of paper in the house.  (If you happen to have to use the powder room when you visit me, don’t get too engrossed in any of the articles because you will likely find a butterfly shaped piece missing at an important junture in the story.  Sorry about that.)

dsc09762My first attempt has left my inner Martha frustrated.  I measured, remeasured, drew grids and had the calculator out and still the spacing isn’t right.  They are too close to the edges so I have to break out the ruler again.  And I don’t like the frame – it is too heavy for the butterflies.  I want to find something simpler.  But I will try again.  And the one for Tessa’s room?  It isn’t butterflies…it is a crab punch out that will be cuter than cute! (I call her my little crab or crab apple because she is a bit of a pill in comparison with her sunny sister.)

(Oh and if you are related to me? You might find one of these under this Christmas tree this year because once I perfect them, it will be a darn cute gift idea so forget you ever saw this.)

posted under Misc. | 28 Comments »

Hair fail


I’ve highlighted my hair on andoff since I was 18.  I’ve done it at home and had it done in the salon depending on my time and financial situation.  At home, I’ve used all of the application techniques: the cap, the paint brush, the weird square plastic applicator, and the new double sided applicator thingy (I believe the full technical term is thingamabob).  As much as I hate it, the cap has always yielded the best results.  Even the time in the 80’s when I had really long hair and it got all tangled and my sister had me leaning over the edge of the tub with her foot on my head trying to get it off of me – the highlights looked good despite the crochet-needle sized bruises all over my scalp from her poking it through the cap to fish my hair out.

I’ve admitted that in true rural southern style, I currently get my hair cut in the corner of the local paint your own pottery shop.  I got my hair cut a few weeks ago and meant to go back to get my highlights refreshed (they started down around my ears as they were last done in early October) before my trip last weekend.  But suddenly I was leaving in 24 hours and hadn’t done it yet.  I picked up a L’Oreal Feria Highlighting kit and decided to take care of it myself.  The new applicator is pretty cool if you don’t mind chunky highlights.  It works better than most of the cap alternatives.  But the resulting color?  Ugh.  I never truly understood the term brassy when discussing haircolor before.  Now I totally get it.  And no, I’m not posting a photo.  Just trust me and don’t try it.  You’ll have a successful application of really bad highlights.


And just another public service announcement.  I’ve had to give up my beloved Bumble and Bumble Thickening Spray.  At $25 a bottle, I just couldn’t justify it right now.  At the recommendation of a friend, I tried Pantene’s Root Lifter Gel.  I have to say it does really work – it adds volume and texture.  But if like me, you wear your hair in a somewhat smooth hair style (aka the mom bob), it roughs up the hair shaft so much that my hair looks very damaged when I use it.  If you have curly hair or a touseled ‘do, it would probably do wonders if you are looking for some extra volume.


So there you go.  Avoid Feria Highlights and don’t ever let your sister do your highlights with the cap.

posted under Misc. | 11 Comments »

Go play with that stick


While they don’t receive less love, second children do sort of get the shaft when it comes to energy and stuff.  I spent lots of time shopping for Sabrina’s clothes and toys.

I bought most things on sale but I had a job so I was more able financially to buy all sorts of pretty little dresses.  I took photos of her in almost every single outfit.  I changed her clothes several times a day just to dress her in another pretty frock.  Tessa stayed in sleepers almost all winter.  Why put her in a cute outfit if we weren’t going anywhere (and with 2 little ones, we didn’t go many places).  Her wardrobe consists of hand-me-downs and consignment sale finds.

I bought Sabrina a huge lot of baby toys on Ebay.  After seeing Sabrina largely ingnore those toys, Tessa’s toys are often things like a bottle lid and odd things that were Sabrina’s. Or is Sabrina is napping, Tessa takes the opportunity to play with all of her things. (Don’t tell Sabrina – she would never sleep again.)


Sabrina’s “toy box” is a pretty wicker basket I used to use for throw blankets.  Tessa’s “toy box”:


There is one thing that Tessa has that Sabrina never did.  When Sabrina was at the age of dropping things over the side of her high chair just to watch them fall, we had a 3 strikes rule.  We would pick things up 3 times and then they stayed on the floor.  Tessa has the luxury of a someone who is happy to pick up toys forever:


posted under parenting | 12 Comments »

Best. Mother’s. Day. Present. Ever.


Sorry about leaving you hanging…I was very tired (partying like a mom away from her children rock star takes a lot of out me) and Tessa was very cranky (teeth emerging) so I didn’t have a chance to blog again yesterday.

dsc09670I spent the weekend here.  For those of you who didn’t attend the best university ever, that is Ohio University.  (No, not Ohio State – very different places.  I hear they play football there or something.)  A group that was a big part of my college experience had a reunion for its 30th birthday.  My old room mate called and said she was going.  Steve told me I should go.  So on Friday morning, I headed to Athens. Steve stayed home with the girls.

dsc09677I always forget just how much I love Athens until I go back. And the Student Alumni Board is a huge part of my great memories of my time there.  It was a group of amazing students.  We worked hard and played hard together.  I had the best time with everyone who came back.  We were saying it felt like it could have been any random Saturday 15 years ago.

n1616780293_206361_3332300This was the first time I’ve been away from the girls over night.  That means it was my first child free weekend in over 2 years.  I missed them but a weekend not being a mom is the best mother’s day gift EVER!  This is a photo of part of our group this weekend in an old favorite bar. (I don’t think they’ve cleaned the bathrooms since we graduated.)  All of us, without discussing it ahead of time, left our spouses and children at home so it really was like old times.

dsc09696I didn’t want to go to the annual street party that started back in my day and has grown into a huge thing.  I told everyone I was too old to drink bad beer on strangers’ porches.  But I am sure to be the only mommy on the playground this week who can say they attended a party that had to be broken up by the riot police this weekend.  The orange glow is a couch on fire.  You might be able to take the mom away from her children but you can’t take the mom out of me anymore.  I might have uttered the following phrases: “Who is going to clean this mess up tomorrow?”, (in reference to the tiny porch roof holding 75 drunken students standing on it) “That is going to collapse and someone is going to die.”, and “That fire is awfully close to those electrical lines.”  I also insisted that we leave when we realized the riot police had arrived although I bet the toilets in jail are much cleaner that the ones in the Pub.

Some things never change. There was a lot of this:


And we had to grab a burrito from the Burrito Buggy after a night out uptown:


Some things do change.  Tex insisted we take a cab to the street party just because we could:


And we were so shocked by how cheap drinks were that we talked about it all weekend and took pictures.  (That wasn’t the case when we were poor students.)  This was a round of 7 draft beers (not rot gut cheap stuff – at least 2 of us were drinking Leinenkeugal Sunset Wheat) for $7.


And on my way home, I was able to meet up with my BFF for a cup of coffee.  It was a fabulous weekend – exactly what I needed.  Thanks Steve!

posted under travel | 13 Comments »
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