Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.



We got great news on Friday. Just before I mailed the application to our second choice agency, our first choice agency called to say they were ready to take some new clients! I believe our second choice agency would have been a good choice but I must say I am really excited to be using our first choice agency. Let’s hope that as our process moves on, I continue to be excited about the new agency. They are very picky about paperwork but as a result they’ve never had a client kicked out of PGN. So, I might be grumbling about all the things they make me re-do in our dossier.

Also, our server was screwy this weekend so sorry if anyone had trouble checking in – living with a computer genius doesn’t mean we never have computer issues!

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Steve’s tips for a successful home visit


Steve felt after the incredible success of our home study, we should give others some tips to make sure their home studies are also a raging success. (Who says geeks can’t be funny?)


cut “the jungle”, also known as your lawn

remove all rusted appliances and car parts discovered in your front lawn

unplug any device known to cause erratic, unpredictable electrical fires

put all bondage, S&M, and/or drug paraphernalia in a locked trunk inside a locked closet

politely ask all redneck neighbors to chain their dog, clean up the beer cans, turn off their TV, lock the kids in their bedrooms


refer to the coal cellar as the “time out zone”

mention how nice everyone in your Hell’s Angels group is

say “the old ball and chain” in reference to anything

wear a tie – you’re just trying too hard

look at the dog’s cage longingly when asked about your child care plan

kick/punch the dog, spouse, cat, walls, or social worker during the visit

say “Don’t ask me, this is gonna be HER kid”

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United 93


The movie about United flight 93, the 4th plane from 9/11 that was brought down by its passengers, is being released this weekend. We live close to where it happened so there has been a lot of talk about the movie here. The families apparently cooperated with the making of the movie. Many of them turned over voicemail messages and gave transcripts of last phone calls. Will you see it? I’m not going to see it. At least not right now. Not because I feel it is too soon. Not because I object to Hollywood making money from the tragedy. Not because there was likely some dramatic license taken due to no one knowing exactly what transpired in those 90 minutes. For me, it is simply because I just don’t feel emotionally equipped.

9/11 is not a day I would choose to relive. I remember the feelings of horror and helplessness watching the events unfold on CNN. I was vacationing with my sister, her husband, and my ex-husband. It was my 29th birthday. The guys left at dawn for a fishing trip and my sister and I went back to bed. She woke me up a couple of hours later telling me something was going on. She said something about a plane hitting a building in NYC. I rolled over to go back to sleep because she wasn’t the most reliable news source (she’s been known to quote the Enquirer). But something about her voice and what she said made me get up and go to the living room of our condo to see what was going on. My groggy mind had trouble wrapping itself around what I was seeing. I walked in just in time to see the second plane hit. I just remember sitting there watching the news in horror for hours. I remember hearing about flight 93 going down. As details came out over the next days and weeks, I thought about the brave and selfless act performed by those people. I have at different times since 9/11 thought of those people, as well as all of the people who died in the other planes and in the World Trade Towers. I just can’t sit through a 90 minute movie – it’s more sorrow than I can bear. I won’t forget. It isn’t fading. I just can’t handle it in a movie theater. Maybe I’ll rent it on my birthday some year and watch it from the safety of my couch. With a box of Kleenex. Or two.

God Bless all of the victims and their families. God Bless the crisis workers who worked through the aftermath. God Bless everyone who lost a little bit of innocence and peace of mind that day.

10% of the box office proceeds from the first 3 days will be donated to the flight 93 memorial fund (I would rather see it go to the families but no one consulted me). Is anyone out there braver than me? Planning to see it?

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Monk Puppy


Have you seen the show on USA ‘Monk’? It’s about an Obsessive Compulsive detective, named Monk. We have an adorable pain in the ass dog. His name is Angus but one of his many nicknames is Monk Puppy. I’ve never met an OCD dog before Angus. He has all of these little habits and rituals that he seems to need to follow. He must walk up and down the stairs on your left side. When playing ball outside, he must circle the tree before giving you the ball to throw again. Before he eats, he wants someone to pat his side and tell him he is a good boy. When playing fetch inside, he must circle Steve’s office chair at least once, preferably twice, before giving you the toy to throw again. When going potty outside, he must find one of his balls and carry it around in his mouth until he finds the perfect spot to go potty. He begs for raw carrots and ice cubes (not OCD but kind of weird). He used to wait until I told him that it was time for all the puppies in all of puppydom (he was the prince of puppydom of course) to go to bed before he would settle down to go to sleep (he has stopped this…but I must admit I kind of miss it). Let’s hope we aren’t bad puppy parents who screwed him up and he was just born a little off.

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Freud veered off course


I’ve never been your typical girlie girl or nutty woman. I don’t get jealous. I don’t ask if these pants make me look fat (I make the pants look fat…I realize this). I don’t stop speaking to Steve if he doesn’t notice my new haircut/shoes/glasses/fingernail polish within the acceptable 3 ½ minute window. I don’t ask “What are you thinking?” randomly unless he gets quiet in the middle of an important conversation. I don’t try to discuss our relationship during the Super Bowl. And I don’t translate his remark about the weather to mean he doesn’t love me anymore and thinks I am ugly. I don’t know if that is truly the way “normal” women behave but according to sitcoms, romantic comedies, and my guy friends it isn’t too far off. Steve has always loved that I’m not a “normal” woman.

Steve is also not a “normal” man. He is self-aware and talks about his feelings. He “gets” my shoe addiction (or at least tolerates it). He doesn’t mind shopping with me and is actually a good shopping partner (time limited – he hits the wall before I do). He has good taste and actually cares what color we paint the bedroom (when we disagree I find this trait annoying…some days I want him to say “I don’t care…whatever you want honey” and mean it). He knows that he doesn’t totally understand women but has a better handle on women than most men.

Despite our both being a little off from the traditional views of normal for our genders, we have settled into some traditional gender roles. I traditionally do the cooking but this is mostly because I am a better cook. Steve takes out the trash. I clean the toilet. Steve carries in the groceries. I vacuum and dust most of the time. Steve mows the lawn. It bugs me a little bit that we automatically fell into these norms but not enough to go mow the lawn myself.

Our newest traditional gender roles? My upcoming role as stay at home mom and Steve as the breadwinner. Steve would love to be a stay at home dad but, unfortunately, my social work gig won’t pay the mortgage (well it would but then we wouldn’t be able to pay for the cars or eat or have electricity). It’s like rock beating scissors – computer geek wins over social worker in the pay division every time. Between day care and parking, exactly ½ of my take home pay would be gone off the top. Financial benefit won’t win out over mommy guilt with those numbers. Besides financial considerations, Steve and I long ago decided that one of us would stay home for awhile when we had children. At that time, Steve was self employed and thought he would be the one staying home. He’s a little bummed that I will have all the fun.

The weird thing? I’m excited at the prospect of being a stay at home mom. I NEVER dreamed that would sound even slightly attractive to me. I was anti-marriage and anti-kids into I was in my mid-20s. I got married but still wasn’t sure about the kid thing (mostly because my ex was a petulant child himself). Somewhere in my late 20’s my views on children being evil started to soften (but my views on my ex did not…hence his ex status). The theoretical idea of having children “some day” started sounding more attractive when I turned 30, even though I was in the midst of a divorce. Steve and I were engaged when I discovered that antibiotics really do lower the effectiveness of the pill. It’s amazing what seeing the word “pregnant” on a digital pregnancy test will do for your views on children. We were so excited and scared. Losing that pregnancy made me realize how much I wanted to be a mom and how much I wanted to have a family with Steve.

The message I received in the 80’s was ‘Woman can have it all but if you are going to give up something, give up the family thing not the career thing’ (all that and those really high spiked heels were in fashion…no wonder we were angry) went right out the window. In the 80’s and even to a large degree in the 90’s, it didn’t seem like making the choice to be a stay at home mom was okay. It was a betrayal of all the progress women had made. Men don’t give up their careers for children, why should we? I don’t know if societal attitudes have changed or if it is just my attitude that has changed. It now feels more important to me to raise my child well than to further my career. We’ve come a long way baby – now I can make a decision about staying home with my child or continuing my career while raising a child. If I am honest, I will also admit that my decision is made easier by the fact that my current job is sucking the life out of me.

I will admit that there is a small part of me that fears I will be dismissed in social settings. When someone asks what you do and you respond that you are a stay at home mom, you are immediately dismissed as having nothing to offer to conversation outside of poopy diaper and peas in your hair stories. I worry that I might have been guilty of making that sort of judgment in the past. Why do we forget that a stay at home mom had a life before she started singing potty songs and searching for ways to get dried Similac out of bottle nipples? That she had a career or at least a job? That she has opinions on feminism, politics, cars, religion, Prada bags, and quite possibly nuclear physics? I don’t want to lose my “status” as an interesting person because I choose to stay at home. Thankfully, most of our social gatherings are with friends who also have children so I don’t spend much time worrying about this.

I wonder how many women out there see staying home as a worthwhile sacrifice and how many don’t see it as a sacrifice at all. I wonder how many women wish they could make that choice for themselves rather than not having options because 2 incomes are required in this day and age to live comfortably. I wonder how many women are able to juggle it and do it well.

**Please note, this is not to say that working mothers are cold, uncaring, horrible women. I pass no judgments about this topic – it is a very personal choice to make. Some people don’t have a choice due to financial situations. Some people choose to continue working for their own reasons. I don’t think there is a globally right or wrong answer to this dilemma…I am simply thankful that I have the choice to make. I think children are happiest when their parents are happiest – so follow your bliss! And I think we (we being all of mankind but less optimistically we being women) need to support each other in our choices.

Damn, this turned into quite the long post…it honestly started out as a post about me decorating my cubicle and Steve refusing to take any personal items into his office. My Freud action figure sitting on my desk and the resulting questioning looks I get from co-workers inspired the post…but I got off on a very different tangent.

Home study


Yesterday, we had our home study appointment. First off, I have to say that our social worker was wonderful. We felt great after he left. He was very laid back and knowledgable about international adoption. He and his wife have 2 children they adopted from eastern Europe so we felt much of the information he offered was useful rather than text book. Second, we ended up discarding the pre-homestudy to-do list. The house was clean but not any where near what I had envisioned. The social worker just did a very quick walk through so he never would have noticed whether or not I got around to scrubbing the tile grout in the bathroom (I didn’t get around to it by the way).

We enjoyed the meeting and felt good about things after the social worker left. He offered to hook us up with a group that was started by other parents who have adopted from Guatemala. I am looking forward to meeting other families who have beautiful children from Guatemala in our area. He said he would email us a copy of the home study to proof read by Thursday so we should have the notarized version in our hands the first week of May.

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One weird thing about me to add


I can’t believe I left this one out of my list of 6. Perhaps I do it so much (even Steve has started doing it) that it has begun to seem normal. I was reminded of it during our home study tonight when I did it in front of the social worker. Thankfully, since I’m a social worker, I wasn’t overly paranoid so I just let it pass and didn’t try to explain my weird behavior. So, I must add a seventh item to my list of weird.

7. I talk for the dog. No, I don’t mean I talk TO the dog (I do that too but so do all of you)…I talk FOR the dog. I make the comments I think he would make if he was capable of speaking (and capable of the thought required to be a smart ass). Steve will play with him and I’ll say (in the Angus voice – yes, Angus has his own voice) “Gee Dad, way to you go, you out smarted the puppy.” Or I’ll ask if he wants to go out and reply to myself, in the puppy voice, “Well duh Mom, what do you think I’ve been whining about for the past 15 minutes?” I supply a running commentary from the dog’s point of view for whatever is going on in our house. Steve has even started doing it – my weirdness is apparently contageous.

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Tagged…I’m it


Rhonda, who lives in Alaska (and has really cool pictures and videos on her Still Waiting blog) and is soon adopting from Russia, has tagged me to share 6 weird things about me. That shouldn’t be too hard for me! I probably did 6 weird things this morning before I left for work.

A word of explanation for my blogging challenged friends and family – tagging is when a blog friend answers a particular question and challenges other bloggers to do the same on their blog.

6 weird things

1. Rhonda noted that she gets on food kicks. I have to own up to this one too. If I find something new (or sometimes rediscover something old) that I like, I will eat little else for weeks. I’ll get on a Triscuit kick and have to stock pile them until it passes and then won’t eat them again for 6 months. I drive my poor husband crazy. He introduced me to sushi – I love it! I was constantly begging him to go out for sushi and he got sick of it. I’ll get obsessed with movie theater popcorn and make Steve go to the movies with me even if there isn’t a movie I want to see. You just can’t make it like that at home (probably because I don’t have the proper artery clogging oils in my kitchen).

2. I can sleep through anything. I honestly don’t hear my alarm clock. I will hit the snooze button for an hour without truly waking up. I have the world’s loudest alarm clock and still sleep through it. Deanna has a story she loves to tell about the time I slept through a thunder storm (open window over my head, rain falling on my face) and wake up call in Switzerland.

3. I have weird food things besides the above mentioned kicks. I am all about texture when it comes to food. I will reject anything, no matter the taste, if the texture hits me wrong. Don’t even try to talk to me about tofu not having taste. I don’t care if it “takes on the flavor of what it is cooked with” – the texture makes me gag. Carrots? Love them raw but hate them cooked. Peas? Fantastic frozen but canned makes me ill. I also have a thing about chunks. Spaghetti sauce is meant to be completely smooth – the only chunks allowed are mushrooms or meat. When I make soups, I will puree an onion and saute it so that the flavor is there but no offending onion chunks. If a recipe calls for a can of chopped tomatoes, I will puree the can of tomatoes before putting them into the recipe. Thankfully I am a good cook and can compensate and tweak recipes to make up for my weirdness.

4. Toilet paper must roll from the top. I’ve been known to turn it around in other people’s homes. It’s an illness. That said, I almost never replace the empty toilet paper rolls at home. I will always make sure there is a new roll but I rarely put it on the holder. This drives Steve crazy so I’ve been making an attempt to reform.

5. I hate curtains. I don’t know why. We lived in our house for over a year with nothing on any of the windows downstairs. I have finally hung some curtains (old house…blinds would look odd) so that I can walk around in my underwear without giving the neighborhood a show. I don’t walk around in my underwear, because no one needs to see that, but I could. I also hate overhead lights. I think both of these things come from my mom. (Poor mom is getting blamed for an awful lot in my blog.)

6. Maybe this one is more shameful than weird. I don’t tell people this voluntarily but in the spirit of full-disclosure I feel I should include it in my list. My first concert was Culture Club. In my defense, I was only12 so I didn’t know any better. I have gone on to attend better (and cooler) concerts over the years. I saw Iron Maiden in my metal phase. I saw Bon Jovi back in the day when I wanted to be his child bride. Last summer, Steve and I saw James Taylor (awesome show – I highly recommend seeing him if you are a fan). I guess the other thing I should share is that I own very few CDs recorded after the 1980s. I don’t like new music – call me an old fuddy duddy. You know the Bowling for Soup song 1985? (That’s one of the few more recent CDs I own.) I can relate (well not the unhappiness but being stuck in 1985 music-wise). I remember being a kid and my mom not knowing any of the music I liked. I swore I wouldn’t be a parent who didn’t listen to popular music. Funny how those things work out, isn’t it?

Okay, I don’t have a lot of friends who check in with blogs so the only one I can think of to tag is Erinberry (LOVE the name of her blog…Jesus Was Not a Republican). So tag you are it!

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Memory Lane


I know I am getting ahead of myself…I’m still waiting for my home study appointment (tomorrow!) so we are months away from even having a baby. But I am so looking forward to reliving and sharing things that I loved in childhood. I hope that I can be mature enough to not pout if she hates the things that I remember so fondly. (And okay, some of the things I remember fondly are from teen years but Deanna and I used to have cartoon nights. We would rent disney cartoon movies, eat junk food and smoke cigarettes…and yes, this was late high school and early college years. Don’t judge us.) Things that I look forward to having an excuse to read/watch again and share with my child:

The Velveteen Rabbit – I LOVED this book and totally worried about loving each of my stuffed animals enough that they could be real someday. My Aunt Pam gave me this book one year and I read it many times.

Black Beauty – My mom bought me a beautiful leather bound version of this book and I felt so grown up.

The Monster at the End of This Book – this was my absolute favorite little golden book. It stars Grover. I bought it for my nephew 10 years ago and used to be able to do the Grover voice perfectly. I think my sister got a bigger kick out of that than my nephew did. (Not to ruin the end for anyone…but Grover is the monster at the end.)

Nancy Drew – Nancy and her friends rocked! I hear they have started a new updated series…not sure how I feel about that. I used to get several of these every year for Christmas and my birthday.

Beverly Cleary – I loved her Ramona series. Bev totally got what it was like to be a 9 year old girl.

Superfudge – I have no memory of who wrote this book but I remember thinking it was hysterical when I was in the 4th grade.

Little Mermaid (Disney movie) – This is my all time favorite disney movie. I’ve heard they are bringing it out on DVD in October. I’ll be first in line. My dad bought it for me once but couldn’t find the Disney version – it was the Hans Christian Anderson version. She commits suicide at the end!?! What kind of kids story is that?!?

Judy Blume – I don’t even need to say why. If you were ever an 10 year old girl, you’ve read Are you there God? It’s me Margaret and you tried to get your hands on Forever to read the “dirty” parts.

Barbies – I know that they go completely against every feminist ideal I hold but I loved playing with Barbie and dressing her up. My barbies always had to walk around with one shoe though – those things are worse than socks in the dryer.

New boxes of Crayolas – nothing was better than cracking open that new box of 64, with the sharpener in the back, and seeing the possibilities.

There are also several things I am not looking forward to experiencing. Barney – I hate Barney. Teletubbies creep the f*** out of me. Mr. Rogers – okay, don’t send me hate mail but I never liked Mr. Rogers. I always thought he was condesending. Play-doh – I hate the smell and the only thing I could make with it was a worm.

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Silver lining


A woman on the yahoo Guatemala adoption list serve sent out an email a couple of weeks ago talking about the silver lining she found while doing her paperchase. She said that she was so grateful to hear all of the wonderful things her friends had to say in her reference letters because most people don’t get to hear those kinds of things because they are only spoken during eulogies. I thought it was a lovely sentiment and today I received my silver lining.

Deanna and I have been friends for 22 years (yes it makes me shudder to say that…we are getting old!). We met in the 7th grade during study hall. We spent many years in junior high and high school getting in trouble for talking and giggling. We traveled abroad together for the first and second time. We began college together. We’ve gotten drunk together, vacationed together, lived together, eaten A LOT of junk food together, deceived our parents together, commiserated over men (or lack there of) and jobs together, watched each other graduate and get married. There have been some small stretches where we haven’t talked – either because we got busy or one time because she got mad at me and stopped speaking to me for 6 months but forgot to tell me. But mostly, we’ve laughed together. We’ve laughed to the point of tears more times than I could even begin to recall. We try to tell our husbands our funny stories to let them into our twisted little world but we usually end up laughing too hard to finish. She has been a constant anchor in my life for almost as long as I can remember.

Tonight, she emailed me the reference letter she wrote for us for our home study. I can’t even begin to express how wonderful it was to hear all of the amazing things this amazing woman had to say about me (and Steve). It made me cry. Hard. Thank you Deanna and I love you!

There have also been a couple of other silver linings already in this process. An old friend sent the link for my blog to another old friend. Vi, my old boss from Big Brothers Big Sisters, checked in to say hello. I haven’t heard from her in many years and it was wonderful to hear from her. She is one of the coolest ladies I have ever known – and has the coolest kids (adults now). She is also responsible for my pottery addiction. Vi, Steve thanks you for that (somewhat sarcastically).

Also my wonderful friend Amy has been checking in (and posting some hysterical and touching comments). Amy and I worked together for several years in a domestic violence shelter/drug and alcohol halfway house. We got along so well because we both had incredible passion for the work we were doing, both had incredible disdain for those who those who stood in the way of our good work (she once called a lawyer, in court, a bureaucratic whore – she’s my hero), and both had rather dry and twisted senses of humor as our primary coping mechanisms. Amy and I have both “sold out” and become bureaucrats because fighting the good fight doesn’t pay the bills. That coupled with the fact that Amy is a mom these days leaves us few chances to catch up with each other. Amy, I love reading your comments and receiving your advice – you are an amazing woman! (Although, I did see the list you made Miss Amy – are we being a little co-dependent and enabling my list making addiction?)

And finally, my blog has allowed me to connect with others going through this adoption struggle and enjoy their blogs. There are an awful lot of kick ass women out there! I am going to attempt to remember all of these silver linings when I get frustrated and start to curse this process. Thank you all!

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