Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Melt-down Wednesday


I hate my agency this morning. I have my dossier all ready to take to Harrisburg for certification. I was planning to go tomorrow. It has taken us 2 1/2 months to reach this point. I’ve redone the employment letters twice for both of us. I’ve gotten 4 different doctors signatures for each of us striving for the most legible. I’ve painstakingly explained the need for legible signatures more times that I can count. I scanned all my documents for agency approval, expecting no problems. Now? I have to re-do EVERY. F*CKING. ONE. Because some of the signatures aren’t legible enough. The only things they approved were our 171H (which can’t really not be approved unless there is a mistake) and our police clearance letters because we were lucky to get a signature at all rather than a stamp.
I cried for 15 minutes after reading the email. Hell, I’m still crying. I don’t have the energy to re-do them all. Maybe adoption wasn’t the right choice. Or maybe our agency isn’t the right agency. No other agency that I am aware of requires that every signature be picture perfect script for every single document. So my questions are: Do we scrap this whole adoption because I just can’t emotionally go through another 2 months of gathering signatures? Or do I eat the loss of $2500 and switch agencies knowing that another agency would consider us paper-ready? Or do I suck it up and do what I have to do to make our agency happy?
Maybe in a few hours, option #3 will feel right, but at the moment I have to say I’m leaning toward option #2. Right now, it just seems too hard.

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Crap-tacular Monday


I started the day in a foul mood. Why? Because the alarm clock went off well before I was done sleeping and I had to go to that place I call a job. Some days the anticipation is worse than the actual 8 hours I have to spend there. Today was not one of those days. No one wants to hear me whine about my job, so I’ll just share a few things that have been rattling around in my head.

  • We were in a store and I was trying to show Steve what I meant when I said ‘umbrella stroller’. It took both of us almost 10 minutes to get the damn thing open and then another 8 to close it (with a pinched finger in the process – sorry honey). What kind of NASA certification in rocket science do you need to work these things? And if I can’t operate the simplest stroller on the market, what hope is there that I can operate one of those Hummer models with the reclining seats and cup holders?
  • Speaking of baby gear, holy hell – do we need this many choices? By the time I finish reading reviews of each crib, stroller, travel system, and car seat on the market, there will be 43 new ones. Make one model in pink, blue and neutral and call it a day! I’m intimidated by the B@bies R Us clerk because I think she is smarter than me. She speaks an entirely different language and seems to think I am a moron because I don’t know what the advantages of a 5 point harness system are. Is it bad to just pick out the cutest car seat, ratings be damned?
  • Why do stores not understand that a growing number of people are adopting? I am no where near ready to go and register yet but I’ve spoken to many others who have. And there is no option for adoptive parents. You must enter a due date. Can I enter one that has passed (i.e. the day our baby was born) so that everyone will know how old she will be when they are shopping? Or does their computer not allow that? I mean come on – adoption is not a dirty little secret. If I mention it to anyone, anywhere, they have a story of a friend or neighbor or a friend’s neighbor who has adopted a child from China or Russia. Can’t the baby stores get on board here? Because if anyone wants to go crazy buying baby stuff, it is the parents who have struggled with infertility. We’ve been pressing our noses up against the windows of baby stores for a long time and will happily drop some serious cash (or whatever is left in the sofa cushions after paying the adoption fees) on lots of cute baby gear.
  • I feel very inept when I think about having to register for a shower. Can I just send everyone a note? “You are in no way obligated to bring a gift. But if you do wish to bring one, please note that the parents-to-be have no idea what they will need in order to care for and entertain a 6 month old child so please bring things that you think are appropriate. Also please refrain from telling diaper explosion and vomit in the hair related stories during the shower. The mother-to-be will freak out. Thank you.”
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A good Saturday used to look way different than this…


It’s Art Festival time in our fair city. I love a good art festival – the kind that actually sell artsy stuff rather than crafty crap. I noticed a change in myself this year while wandering around the festival. The way they set it up, the walk ways are very narrow. Last year, I was grumbling at people hogging the aisles with strollers. This year, I was contemplating that I would be one of those annoying people hogging the aisle with a stroller next year – and it made me smile.

We sat to listen to a little acoustic band for a few minutes. There was a little boy, probably about 4 years old, who was running amok. Now I’ve always cut people some slack when their children scream in a store or throw a fit in restaurant because I’m sure it is frustrating (and sometimes mortifying) to be that parent. And with motherhood in my near future, I am even kinder because I know I will have a 2 year old who will throw herself down in the produce section at some point. But the parents of this little boy were seriously pissing me off. He was running through a flower bed in a public area, trampling the flowers. The parents called him once and then ignored him. He continued running over the flowers and then started throwing rocks at the birds in the tree. The parents ignored him. The child then started picking up clumps of dirt and throwing them at the band. The parents still did nothing. I was ready to go tell the child to stop. My husband, being smarter than I, went to the parents and explained what their child was doing since they seemed blissfully ignorant. Seriously, why are these people always that fertile ones? They were right there, they just didn’t want to deal with him.

But aside from judging other peoples parenting styles, we had a lovely time. I picked up some really cool earrings and a pottery plate. I’m a pottery freak. Steve fell in love with the work of a mixed media artist there. He really loved one of the originals but since we didn’t have $5500 to spend today, he settled for a very colorful print. We also went to the Art Festival last weekend but since all I bought was a couple of Christmas gifts, I can’t share those photos.

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The One Where We Choose The Paint Colors


Steve and I spent some time in front of the paint swatches discussing what color the future nursery should be. I lobbied for periwinkle. I lost. Again. I wanted to paint our bedroom periwinkle and lost that one too. When I say the word periwinkle, Steve has no idea what I’m talking about. But when I show it to him, he turns up his nose. He was lobbying for pink. Awful pepto and/or baby pinks. I have a feeling that around age 5, our daughter will make her own strong case for Barbie pink in her room. When she is able to say to me “Mommy, please, I want Barbie pink walls” then I will most likely swallow the bile rising in my throat and paint her walls Barbie pink. But now? She will be too young to care so I veto Barbie pink. After much discussion, we finally found paint that we both like (although not as much as the periwinkle). The future nursery has an odd shape. There is one long wall (it’s shaped like a P only not rounded…the long wall is the stem of the P – old house…the bedrooms are shaped weird). The long wall will be this pink color (very non-Barbie) and the rest will likely be the yellow. The green probably won’t be seen again after this paint chip. It’s kind of exciting. We are going to have a nursery in the house someday in the near future. And no, I don’t have a “theme” picked out. I’m not really a theme kind of girl. I don’t do matchy-matchy without retching. I think it is adorable when I see others do it – just not for me. Although I am rather partial to Winnie the Pooh (old style) so I wouldn’t be surprised to a see a bit of repetition in that area pop up. But there are so many cute and colorful things out there…how does anyone ever choose?

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5 Things


I’ve been tagged by DD. This one brings home to me that I am a rather dull grown up.

5 items in my fridge

caffeine free diet pepsi

12 kinds of salad dressing, 7 kinds of mustard, 4 kinds of BBQ sauce, 3 bottles of misc marinades

yogurt – strawberry and strawberry banana flavors

feta cheese

leftover Chinese take-out

5 items in my closet

About 35 pairs of shoes

Winter blazers that I haven’t put away for the season yet

3 skirts that I bought on sale a couple of years ago but have never found anything to wear with

A bunch of blouses that need to be ironed

Monster dust bunnies in the corners

5 items in my purse

Breath mints

Toll receipts to turn in with my expense sheet at work

Lipstick and lip balm

Nail file

All of those stupid rewards cards from various stores – I hate that they force me to use them in order to track my habits so they can market more effectively to me but I can’t pass up the deals

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Thank you – Gracias


Few people write thank you notes in this day and age. I’m not saying that is a good thing or a bad thing. It is simply something that most people don’t do. Thank you emails and thank you phone calls have replaced the practice. But I have this voice in my head (this is a different voice than the one that asks for hot fudge) that won’t let me drop the habit. The voice belongs to my mother. If I neglect to send a proper thank you note, it plays on a continuous loop until the guilt overwhelms me.

When I was a child, I would receive stationary most years for Christmas. It was understood that the first thing this stationary would be used for was writing thank you notes for my Christmas gifts. I hated writing those thank you letters. As a 7 year old, it was terrifying to face an entire sheet of blank paper and try to figure out how to fill it. I would write really big and draw a smiley face to hide the fact that I had nothing else to say.

“Grandma – thank you for the socks. I like them. They will keep my feet warm. Love, Michelle”

The first year Steve and I were together, his family shocked me with a pile of wonderful gifts on Christmas. I was so touched that they included me so completely in their family. I wrote each of them a thank you note. They all commented to Steve how nice that was. The following year, I also wrote thank you notes after Christmas. His sister came to me and said “Gee, I thought you were just sucking up last year, but you really do that, don’t you?”

Yes, I really do. I can’t make the voice stop until I do. Tonight, I found myself writing thank you notes to all of the people who wrote reference letters and signed witness letters for our dossier and home study. We really did appreciate it and mom wouldn’t shut up until I did it.

Thanks for the good manners Mom. I even used the adorable note cards you gave us for Christmas.

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It’s here…it’s here!


Our I-171H arrived today – only 6 days after we submitted our I600a and had our fingerprints taken. That is incredibly fast my dear friends. (And if you already read this on the message boards, sorry, I’m a little excited.) Now we just have to get everything certified and authenticated and we are paper ready!

Glad you all enjoyed my little quiz…I need to go get a king size bed and some more vodka though because it’s getting crowded under here…

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Adoption Readiness Quiz


Think you might want to pursue an international adoption? Take this handy dandy quiz to see if adoption is for you!

  1. When faced with a long list of paperwork to collect and/or fill out, you:
    1. Break tasks down into manageable chunks and tackle them in an orderly, organized fashion – one thing at a time
    2. Think about proceeding as in a. but quickly lose the list and just complete things as you remember them
    3. Approach the task as a race – if you are told it will take 2 – 3 months to complete, immediately decide that you, being superior, can complete it in 30 days and begin harassing every agency and individual you need assistance from in completing your paperwork. In 30 days, your paperwork is not complete and you have a bleeding ulcer.
    4. Assume the fetal position in the corner of a dark room.
  1. When requiring assistance from a government official you:
    1. Be firm but pleasant when expressing your need for the form/letter/file
    2. Bake cupcakes to give to the official for doing such a wonderful job but accidentally drop them on his desk getting icing all over your form and everything else
    3. Tell the official that he doesn’t “know who you are dealing with here” and proceed to threaten to hunt down his children and his children’s children. Call husband for bail.
    4. Begin rocking back in forth while in the fetal position in the corner of a dark room just thinking about dealing with the government.
  1. Faced with the costs of international adoption, you:
    1. Think “no problem, we’ll sell a few stocks and use our savings, piece of cake!”
    2. Decide it will work out as you go along, God will provide, besides, all the money you find in pants pockets while doing money goes in the jar marked “Adoption Fund”
    3. Begin a funding raising campaign, hitting up every friend and family member, even those who are relegated to your Christmas card list. You. Will. Make. This. Happen.
    4. Throw applesauce on your head while rocking back in forth while in the fetal position in the corner of a dark room.
  1. When forced to relinquish control of important things to others (e.g. waiting for a foreign government to decide that you can come and pick up your child), you:
    1. Let go and let God. You can’t waste time worrying about what you can’t control. It will happen eventually so you find things to keep yourself busy while waiting for The Call.
    2. Are completely unable to concentrate on anything. You can’t finish a sentence, you leave your keys, stalk other people’s timelines while at work, run red lights…what was I saying?
    3. You don’t give up control to anyone. You hound your senator and the embassy demanding answers. You will not let some dictator of some third world country stand between you and your child.
    4. Crawl under the bed and hope that your husband can find you when The Call comes.

If your answers were mostly “a” – I hate you. Go find Martha Stewart and make tea pot covers for the homeless. (This is the person I pretend to be. It’s all a big lie.)
If your answers were mostly “b” – You should wear a helmet for your own protection. (I sadly resemble this one in many ways.)
If your answers were mostly “c” – Weren’t you my freshman year room mate? (I also pretend to be this person but after I actually look at my lists…well…see below…)
If your answers were mostly “d” – Come and join me. I have vodka under the bed with me.

Plants Fear Me


I had 4 addresses in 2004. I sold my house and moved to a temporary apartment. I moved from that apartment to PA to live with Steve. We moved from his apartment a couple of months later to our current house. I told Steve I wasn’t moving again until it was time to cart me off to a nursing home. I wasn’t kidding. I’m here to stay.

I find myself taking a very different approach in planting flowers than I have at any of my previous addresses. I’ve never lived somewhere with decades in mind. Normally, I plant annuals because I love the colorful and easy to care for flowers and each spring I have a clean slate to start over again. But now, with many summers stretching ahead of me and a child coming to keep me busy, I’ve decided to plant things of a more permanent nature (assuming I don’t kill them).

I don’t have a good track record outside of annuals. I plant a variety of herbs in pots each spring and put them outside all summer. I use the herbs for cooking all summer and fall. But when it starts getting cold and I have to bring them all inside? They die. Basil? Dead. Dill? Dead. Cilantro? Dead. Oregano? Dead. Parsley? Dead (okay it usually isn’t doing well when it comes in – I can’t get parsley going for some reason). I don’t know why. Don’t even get me started on house plants. I have 1 surviving plant. It is a dracaena and as long as I repot it every year and ignore it other than to give it water, we get along fine. If you ever visit my home, you’ll notice lots of silk flowers – you can’t kill silk.

But last weekend, feeling optimistic, I bought a butt load (this being a scientific unit of measure meaning more than 9) of perennials. We dug out a new flower bed at the end of the driveway, mixed compost and peat moss into the soil, and mulched it. We planted 2 hydrangeas (my favorite), 3 azaleas, this really cool variegated willow bush, a peony, a columbine, a hosta, and some decorative grass thingy. Did I mention that I tend to over plant? I plant pots every year (different than the dying herb pots). They are spectacular in June, beautiful in July, but by August they are all choking each other out, fighting for space. Following that logic, if I keep everything alive, in 3 years I will have a jungle back there. But then again, I planted 4 annuals in the front flower bed last year. Only 2 have returned to live again. If the 50% survival rate continues, it might be just right back there.
** Photos are my pots last year about a month after planting when the over crowding was beginning, a couple of close ups of my pretty posies last year, Angus checking out the flowers before I put them in the pots this year and the last one is the new flower bed we just planted.

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A phrase I never thought I would utter…I Love the FBI!!!


Our ink fingerprint clearances came in the mail today! All hail the FBI fingerprint clearance lady! That is officially the last piece of paper that we have to generate! Don’t get too excited…there are many more steps and hurdles to clear before we can call the dossier done. I have to fax it all to my agency to make sure that all papers are up to snuff. I have to take everything to the Secretary of State in Harrisburg for certification. We are still waiting for Steve’s birth certificate to return from the CA secretary of state all certified and pretty. I have to then send them (OMG – I have to trust some disgruntled mail man or Fed’ex guy with these priceless papers – can I insure paper for $100,000?) to the Guatemalan consulate in NY for authentication. And we still have to receive our I171H from the Department of Homeland Security. But aside from all of that, we are done! Hehe.

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