Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Crisis Averted…I think


Things were very panicky in the Guatemalan adoption world on Thursday. Short version: UNICEF offered Guatemala $28 million to essentially halt adoptions from that day forward. The President of Guatemala was going to issue an executive order to make it so. Thankfully, the Congress did not support this and combined pressures convinced the President to re-think the order. Moral of the story: if UNICEF is an organization you’ve supported in the past, please read up on their policies before continuing that support. I just saw a commercial for “Trick or Treating for UNICEF”. I thought, yeah, I’ll get right on that.  Here is one perspective on UNICEF and international adoption.  If you want the other side of the story, visit UNICEF’s webpage.
My other piece of interesting news: the woman who skewered me at the conference I had to speak at earlier this week? Yeah, she’s angered the powers that be with her behavior. Now she is in the hot seat. Words like “hostile” and “belligerent” and “damaged the collaborative spirit” were batted around by the powers that be. Heh. That’s a shame.

Long winded Friday


I have been feeling pretty anxiety free about this whole adoption process since our referral. Last night changed that. There are some things happening in Guatemala right now which are causing me great anxiety. I don’t have enough information to share on that topic so I am choosing to not worry about it today. I will instead go on and on and on about my general anxiety over actually becoming a mother. There are so many things I am clueless about.

The snot sucker thing. Does it work? How far do you put it up there? I don’t want to start sucking out brain fluid.

Burping. At what age do you stop burping?

Feeding. When do you start introducing rice cereal? What about baby food? I read something on a message board yesterday about not introducing peanut butter until age 3? I didn’t know that – they need to put warning labels on that stuff

Bumpers in the crib. Oh I’ve heard long, passionate debates on this issue. I don’t know what to think about this. They either smother your child or stop her from being scarred for life by getting an arm or leg stuck between the rungs – jury seems to be out on that one.

Strollers. I thought I had one picked out. I test drove it, read the reviews, it folded compactly, good brand, cute to look at – it was a winner. Then we saw another one somewhere. I test drove it, it folded with one hand like a dream, had a bigger storage basket underneath, cup holders for mommy, and was ½ the price of the first one. I love the folding and unfolding with one hand feature – the other one challenged me with 2 hands (might be a learning curve). It is much bulkier when folded and not very cute. I can only find it at 2 stores. I have no idea why but everyone else only sells it in the tandem model. But it is ½ the price and folds with 1 hand! And if I can lower my principles and make myself buy it at Wally World I can actually get it for 1/3 the price of the first one I looked at.

Car seats. Don’t even want to talk about them. They scare me – too many options and I have no idea how to install one.

Bottles. I thought this one would be easy. A bottle is a bottle, right? WRONG! There are bottle systems, nipple sizes, shapes to consider, disposable liners, and on and on. I thought they were all pretty much the same. I was just going to buy some cute ones.

Highchairs. Again something I didn’t think would be controversial. It’s a chair you feed your child in. But moms have discussed hating their highchairs with a vengeance. Huh. I was thinking about getting this one because I liked the looks of it and it got good reviews. It’s wooden with a plastic tray. What if that is one of the hated ones? I just don’t know anymore.

Diapers. Not a pleasant subject but a huge part of life with a baby. I have friends who use cloth and swear by them. They promise it isn’t more work and they actually have fewer leaks with cloth than disposable. They say it saves them money in the long run too. I admit to being skeptical but I would be willing to consider it. Then there are all of the disposable diapers – name brand, generic. Everyone has a favorite. I don’t even know how they size those suckers. And if she is used to disposable, would she freak out if I decided to try cloth? Not that I am ready to commit to anything…I just don’t know if I should research. Plus cloth sounds kind of icky…

Registry. I thought I would go to Target and BRU to register. (I’ve already gone on long tangents about my hatred of baby showers…I’ll just keep moving today.) But then I discovered this “My Registry” thing. You can pick any item you like from any store’s website and it stores it all on ONE registry on line. So if I want to register for this cool diaper bag, this slick high chair, this cheaper stroller, or this more expensive stroller, and this latin doll – it will all be in one place. I love that idea. But my question is – will everyone else love it? Not everyone enjoys online shopping. Not everyone is comfortable with the web. So, what’s the verdict? Cool, convenient, and nifty? Or intimidating, confusing, and tacky?

So wise internet, this is your opportunity to freely offer advice on the above topics. Feel free to offer your opinion or favorite product or most hated product.

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Random Thursday


  • How many times do you cry at your desk before you say enough? How many times do you beat your head against the same brick wall before you cry uncle? This has been a bad week work wise. Hell, it’s been a bad year work wise. Today? I could seriously pack up my crap, walk out of here and never look back. (I might have to make 2 trips…that would probably make my departure seem less dramatic.)
  • You ever entertain a couple that in many ways is very different? My best friend is FINALLY coming to visit this weekend. She is bringing her husband and her beautiful baby girl. Deanna and her hubby are different in many ways. She loves cultural events, him not so much. She loves good food, he doesn’t want to eat anything “weird”. She likes to browse at funky shops, he isn’t a fan. (Okay, that last one is true of most couples.) Simple things like where to take them for dinner have me stumped. It has to have meat and potatoes while still being eyes roll back in your head good and baby friendly. I think we’ve finally come up with a plan but it has taken me 2 weeks to finally pick something. But I am so excited they are coming to visit!
  • When we have guests, I start the week with these lofty intentions of cleaning the house from top to bottom – making everything sparkle. Then the day is suddenly upon me and I’m shoving crap in drawers and closets and quickly running the vacuum to get the worst of the dog hair off the floor and spraying cleaner with bleach in the shower hoping it will eat away all of the soap scum without scrubbing. Just call me Martha.
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I was a bitch today and it felt good!


The woman who led the charge against my project at the conference yesterday was present at an all day retreat/meeting today. First let me say, she has issues. BIG issues. Mental health issues. Seriously – DSM diagnosed, not just me hating on her. She asked me this morning “So what did you think of yesterday’s discussion?” I told her it wasn’t the time or the place to discuss it (there were many other people present) and to call me next week if she wanted to discuss it. I only spoke to her if she addressed me directly. I answered all of her questions in as few words as possible. Someone said “Congrats on the baby” (because of course anyone who stood still in my presence for more than 30 seconds saw her photo) and this woman said “Oh are you pregnant?” I simply told her no. Being passive agressive is so immature but it feels so good sometimes when you can’t really confront the person.

If we were still in high school? I would have totally spread rumors about her so no one else would talk to her and she would have ended up crying in the bathroom.

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Now what?


First, I have to say, I had a craptacular day. I had to speak at a conference – none of the 100 attendees were impressed. The afternoon “round table discussion” turned into a “roast Michelle’s project and second guess things I know little about 2 years later” session. Guess they pay me the big bucks to put up with those kinds of things (hey, what…there are no big bucks…I’m just getting royally screwed). I thought about breaking out Sabrina’s photos and educating them all about adoption since the scheduled topic wasn’t going so well…but they didn’t deserve to see her beautiful face. Enough about that. Back to adoption talk.
I’ve been asked several times “When will she be home?” “What comes next?” For those not involved in international adoption or involved with adoption in another country, let me briefly outline our next steps. (Times quoted are estimates – many, many things will take longer than anticipated.)
1. Power of Attorney. Per my last past, it is in Guatemala right now. It will be registered and translated. That will take 2-3 weeks.

2. DNA. First the attorney receives authorization from the US embassy to do the DNA test and then a day is scheduled to take DNA samples from the birth mom and Sabrina. This is perhaps the riskiest step adoption-wise. This is the first time the birth mom has seen her baby since relinquishment. This can take 4-6 weeks.
3. Preapproval. Once the DNA results are received by the embassy, they issue preapproval for the adoption of the baby by a US citizen.

4. Family Court. Our case can enter family court prior to preapproval. A social worker interviews the birth mother and sees the foster mother and baby. She reviews our homestudy and then writes a report recommending the adoption be approved. This is currently taking about 3 months.

5. PGN. The dreaded PGN. This is the an incredibly unpredictable step. An attorney reviews each piece of paper in the file searching frantically for tiny mistakes to ensure everything complies with Guatemalan laws. There will be can be one or more previos (also called kick outs). A previo indicates a mistake that must be fixed. Once it is fixed you start the review process over again. When the file is perfect, the reviewer makes his recommendation and send it to a supervisor for final signature. The birth mother then signs off one last time. This can take 8 – 12+ weeks.
6. A new birth certificate is issued, the baby gets her new passport, the pink slip is issued by the Embassy. The pink slip is the appointment date and time for the adoptive parents to bring the child to the embassy. The day after the embassy appointment, the visa is ready and everyone can go HOME!

So that is what comes next. During all of this time, we will go and visit Sabrina. We will receive updated photos twice a month and a medical report monthly.

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I heart Fed Ex


When I prepared our Power of Attorney, I did one of those fun adoption envelope inside of an envelope inside of an envelope deals so it would be sent off to Guatemala as quickly as possible. My friend Kendra did me a huge favor and took our Power of Attorney to be certified last week at the Secretary of State. Then she sent it on to the courier who took it to the consulate for authentication. The courier emailed me to say that the consulate said it would be ready today. Because of that, I didn’t check the tracking until today to see if it had been picked up yet. And what to my wondering eyes did appear? No, not a minature sleigh and 8 tiny reindeer…better!

It’s in Guatemala City right now on the truck for delivery!

I wasn’t expecting it to arrive until Thursday or Friday! It’s in Guatemala right now and should be delivered tomorrow! Few things happen faster than you think they will in the adoption world so this was a very happy surprise. Woohoo!

EDITED TO ADD: Apparently the Fed Ex tracking site wasn’t up to date when I checked it. I just received delivery notification.  It was delivered and signed for at 2:56 today.  I shudder to think what it will cost to have 3 day delivery to Guatemala but so happy it is safely where it belongs!

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?



Football isn’t just a past time in my city. It is an obsession, a passion, a religion, a mistress. People are rabid in their love of our home town team. Baseball is just a way to kill time until football begins again. The playoffs and super bowl last year brought more good will and love of fellow man than Christmas magnified by 10. This was one gloriously happy city.

I don’t come from a football city. My area of rural Ohio was equi-distant from Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Most people were Browns fans (even through the sad years when the Browns didn’t exist) but we had our fair share of Steelers fans. I grew up in a Steelers household but was never a rabid fan. I didn’t attend a big football college (the band was the highlight of the games). So I didn’t really get it.

When I first moved to the city, I didn’t quite grasp the total devotion the city has to the team. One Sunday, Steve and I ran into the grocery store to pick up a few things. It happened to be about 2 hours before the season opener game. The lines were insane. We were 20 deep at each register. I said to Steve that I didn’t understand why so many people were there buying their chips and salsa. He said “It’s the season opener” as if that was sufficient explanation. I said “I don’t get it. It’s just a football game.” You know those moments in movies where the needle skips off the record and everyone goes quiet and stares at the person who said something stupid or embarrassing? Yeah, it was like that. The gentleman behind me said “You obviously aren’t from around here.” I admitted I wasn’t. He calmly explained that there is no such thing as ‘just a football game’ in this city. Each and every game is a celebration, an event.
This is my 3rd football season in the city. I get it now. Last year was so much fun. We wore our team colors to work on Fridays during the playoffs. I lost money every week in the football pools. I along with the rest of the city almost had a heart attack during several games. (Actually one man did have a heart attack during a play off game – thankfully he is okay.) I’m not rabid yet but I am now a devoted fan. We love us some football. The team and owners treat the city well and the city treats them with reverance. GO STEELERS!

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Why should you be spared?


Since I’m bothering random strangers, you too are to be subjected to pictures of our daughter often. No, these aren’t new…but I didn’t post them here before. I love this one with her little hand up by her face.


And because I’ve had private discussions with people who have all admitted they shared the fear of not thinking their baby was beautiful in his/her referral photos, I give you a couple of photos when Sabrina was several hours old. She became much prettier in just a weeks time. I think that is probably true of most babies. Yes, it is shallow to worry about being referred an ugly baby but if most of us were honest, we did at least have a passing thought about that. I know we thought about it. We knew we would love her no matter what and we didn’t spend much time dwelling on it…but most of us think about it at least a little.



And how cute is my hubby? He called me from work on Tuesday and said “Can we go to Target tonight? I need a new frame for my desk.” He keeps almost nothing personal on his desk at work – only one photo of me. But he wanted to add a photo of Sabrina so he could look at both of his “girls” during the day.

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My life exposed


Everyone at work has been supportive about the adoption.  Only a few people were aware of it before our referral but since then just about everyone on my floor knows.  And no, it wasn’t me who told.  There are a couple of people in my office who are so excited for us that they have been sharing the news around.  One woman often brings people by my desk to admire photos of Sabrina.  If I am not at my desk, she’ll show them off herself.  And those who haven’t heard had to come see who had a baby when they saw the balloons floating above my cubicle yesterday. 

 It’s been interesting to see the reactions.  Everyone thinks she is beautiful (of course) but some people are afraid to ask questions.  Others come right out and ask where she is from and where she is now and when she will be here. 

The reaction that sticks with me the most?  One woman said she admired what we were doing.  Admired?  We are taking a child from her home country, from all that she knows, and bringing her to a strange place where no one looks like her.  She will face questions her entire life because she will not look like her parents. She will wonder about her birth mother and her birth family.  Yes, she will economically have a better life here.  She will educationally have a better life here.  She will be incredibly loved and celebrated by our families.  But I do not have altruistic motives here.  I want a child to love.  I want to be a mommy.  I’m not “saving” her from a life of poverty.  She is saving me from a life without children.  Her birth mother is not able to raise her.  If she wasn’t being adopted she would be in an orphanage.  Yes, I think that this is the best option for her.  Yes, I am happy to ensure she will grow up in a family who will love her fiercely.  But don’t think this is an admirable act on my part.  I am definitely coming out the winner here.

The most inappropriate reaction?  The woman who asked if we were adopting because of fertility issues.  I don’t know this woman well at all.  I really don’t want to discuss my uterus with her.  

The reaction I liked the most?  A woman told me today that I’ve been glowing all week.  She said she can see in my face that I am happier.  This is likely true since the people I work with have never known me when I wasn’t trying to become a mom. 

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I still hate my job


But I work with some great people.  When I went into the office this morning this is what I saw on my desk:

There were also 2 “It’s a Girl” banners tacked up in my cubicle, a sweet card and a cute stork pen.  My boss – she’s a great lady.  I almost cried.

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