Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

The obligatory New Year Review Post


Sorry Carla, I know how you despair over all of the retrospectives but I figured I would jump on the band wagon.  As many other bloggers have done, I’ve gone back and collected the title and first sentence of each post for each month of 2006.  I began the blog in April so you all only have to suffer through 9 months.

April: First Post. How exciting! We made the decision to adopt from Guatemala about a month ago.

May: Ways to Pass the Time While Waiting for International Adoption. I’m not there yet…but I will be soon enough.

June: A phrase I never thought I would utter…I Love the FBI!!!  Our ink fingerprint clearances came in the mail today!

July: Home again.  I’ve returned from the beach – kicking and screaming all the way.

August: Life is what happens when you are making other plans. Through a couple of venues, I try to hear a little bit about how re-building is going after Katrina.

September: Benefits are apparently fashionable. Check out this article in the NY Times. It discusses the disparity in adoption benefits offered by various companies.

October: Nothing better than an old friend. My best friend, Deanna, came to visit this weekend.

November: Being a girl sucks sometimes. An on-line group of adopting friends were sharing photos of babies and themselves yesterday.

December: Things a dad should know.  Okay, I shamelessly stole this.

Putting this together I was surprised that 1) there were no whiney posts because I seem to whine a lot and 2) None of the posts were about Sabrina.

Happy New Year to my friends out in blog world!  I hope some of you are going out and kicking your heels up.  Us?  We will be on the couch with a glass of wine and most likely in bed by 12:30am.  If you are a resolution maker – good luck with those!  I don’t make resoutions because I normally forget them before the dawn of 1/1.

Despite my resistance to resolutions, I do have hopes for 2007.  I hope that Sabrina is home for 3/4 of 2007.  I hope that I am a good mommy. I hope that I can get my SAHM-ass up and exercise with some regularity (because my working self certainly doesn’t cooperate).   I hope that we are okay financially.  And I hope that I continue to be a good wife while trying to be a good mommy.

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Christmas in Ohio


When I moved to PA, we tried to see everyone on Christmas day but decided it was too much.  The weather is unpredictable this time of year and everyone was rushing around – it kind of sucked the joy out of the day. We decided to spend Christmas close to home and celebrate Christmas with my dad and my sister’s family the weekend of New Years.  It has worked out well.  It allows us to spend the day together without having to rush off to another place.  Today was Christmas in Ohio.  We spent the day at my step-mom’s house with my sister, brother in law, and nephew.  It was a nice day – we missed Dad but had a good day.

My nephew is a fair weather fan to many teams.  His favorite NFL team changes monthly but he has become quite an OSU fan this year.


My sister:


Steve & I, a self-portrait (my sister says I never smile in photos – I’m smiling damnit!):


Hope you all had a nice Saturday.

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I did something a little out of character tonight


I met Jenny in my very first class on the first day of freshman year of college.  We sat next to each other in PoliSci 101.  We discovered we were both Psychology majors and both lived in Jefferson dorm.  We were friendly on and off all year but we didn’t really hang out much.  Then sophomore year, we discovered we were both living in Wilson Hall and she was friends with my next door neighbor, Julie.  Julie, Jenny and I, along with an assorted cast of characters who came and went, hung out quite a bit sophomore year.  My favorite memory of that year:  Jenny, Julie and I stumbling down the bridge to Wilson after a night uptown drinking.  Jenny was trashed and singing Desperado at the top of her lungs.  While waiting for us to unlock the door, Jenny took a dollar bill out of her pocket and unfolded it like a Kleenex.  She proceeded to blow her nose into it and fold it back up like a hanky to be placed back in her pocket.

Anyway, Jenny, Julie and I remained friends through college – not best friends but good friends.  Jenny and I sat together at graduation.  After college, I had a little contact with Julie but she eventually stopped returning cards or calls.  Jenny and I have remained in Christmas card only contact for the past dozen years.  She still lives in Ohio and has 3 darling children.  Her mother in law lives in another part of my city.  Jenny emailed me and invited me to a holiday open house at her mother in law’s tonight.  I normally wouldn’t attend such an event in a strange part of town where I would only know one person.  But tonight?  I figured what the heck.  I haven’t seen Jenny since college graduation and I’m always whining about how hard it is to make friends as an adult. So why not risk a little awkwardness showing up a stranger’s house for a holiday gathering in order to visit with an old friend?  Jenny was always very sweet, warm and outgoing – I was sure she would make me feel welcome.  I was originally going to drag my husband along but decided to spare him.

First order of business was to figure out what to take – my grandmother always taught me to never show up with empty hands.  Too late to make something so off to Sam’s club for a cheesecake (why don’t we have any decent bakeries in this town?).  No, Sam’s is too far…a poinsettia from the grocery store will have to do.  Next was what to wear.  I decided jeans and a blazer is always safe – it can look semi-dressy and casual all at the same time.  Shoes…do I wear the cute and stylish yet not very comfortable red ones I wore to work today?  Or should I wear the comfy shoes?  Jenny is a mom of 3 small kids, surely she understands the allure of comfy shoes?  Nope, gotta go with the cute ones.  (All of that and I walked out the door in the exact outfit I wore to work for casual Friday – why did I spend 15 minutes digging in the closet?)  Last, directions.  Why do people live in that part of the city?  It is impossible to navigate and traffic sucks!

I arrived and Jenny looked exactly as I remembered her.  I met her kids, her husband, and some assorted in-laws.  We talked about our jobs, her kids, Sabrina, friends from college.  It was really nice to see her – I’m so glad that I went.  I stayed about an hour and then made my way home remembering what a good time college was in my life.  Everyone always told me that the friends you make in college will be the best friends in your life.  I haven’t found that to be true – my best friend from high school is still my best friend.  But I’m still in touch with some college friends and they never fail to make me remember a very good time in my life.  Life scatters us but make the effort to reach out to an old friend.

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Are you ready for kids?


I found this here.  I’ve seen it before and have always chuckled at it.

Mess Test
Smear peanut butter on the sofa and curtains. Now rub your hands in the wet flowerbed and rub on the walls. Cover the stains with crayons. Place a fish stick behind the couch and leave it there all summer.

Toy Test
Obtain a 55-gallon box of Lego’s. (If Lego’s are not available, you may substitute roofing tacks or broken bottles.) Have a friend spread them all over the house. Put on a blindfold. Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen. Do not scream. (This could wake a child at night.)
Feeding Test
Obtain a large plastic milk jug. Fill halfway with water. Suspend from the ceiling with a stout cord. Start the jug swinging. Try to insert spoonfuls of soggy cereal (such as Fruit Loops or Cheerios) into the mouth of the jug, while pretending to be an airplane. Now dump the contents of the jug on the floor.
Dressing Test
Obtain one large, unhappy, live octopus. Stuff into a small net bag making sure that all arms stay inside.
Grocery Store Test
Borrow one or two small animals (goats are best) and take them with you as you shop at the grocery store. Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage.
Night Test
Prepare by obtaining a small cloth bag and fill it with 8 – 12 pounds of sand. Soak it thoroughly in water. At 8:00 P.M. begin to waltz and hum with the bag until 9:00 P.M. Lay down your bag and set your alarm for 10:00 P.M. Get up, pick up your bag, and sing every song you have ever heard. Make up about a dozen more and sing these too until 4:00 A.M. Set alarm for 5:00 A.M. Get up and make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.
Physical Test (Women)
Obtain a large beanbag chair and attach it to the front of your clothes. Leave it there for 9 months. Now remove 10 of the beans.  (If you are adopting, you still gain some of the weight but don’t get to remove 10 beans when you bring the baby home.)

Physical Test (Men)
Go to the nearest drug store. Set your wallet on the counter. Ask the clerk to help himself. Now proceed to the nearest food store. Go to the head office and arrange for your paycheck to be directly deposited to the store. Purchase a newspaper. Go home and read it quietly for the last time.
Final Assignment
Find a couple who already has a small child. Lecture them on how they can improve their discipline, patience, tolerance, toilet training, and child’s table manners. Suggest many ways they can improve. Emphasize to them that they should never allow their children to run riot. Enjoy this experience. It will be the last time you will have all the answers.


Edited to add:  Apparently there are additional tasks in this test that were not in the original version I found!

Take an egg carton. Using a pair of scissors and pot of paint, turn it into an alligator. Now take a toilet paper tube and turn it into an attractive Christmas candle. Use only scotch tape and a piece of foil. Last, take a milk carton, a ping-pong ball, and an empty box of Cocoa Puffs. Make an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Forget the BMW and buy a station wagon. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there. Get a dime. Stick it into the cassette player. Take a family size package of chocolate chip cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car. There, perfect.

Make a recording of Janet Street-Porter shouting “Mummy” repeatedly. Important: No more than a four second delay between each “Mummy” (occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet is required). Play this tape in your car, everywhere you go for the next four years.
You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.

Start talking to an adult of your choice. Have someone else continuously tug on your skirt hem/shirt sleeve/elbow while playing the “Mummy” tape made from Test 12 above. You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.

Put on your finest work attire.Pick a day on which you have an important meeting. Now:
1) Take a cup of cream, and put 1 cup lemon juice in it.
2) Stir.
3) Dump half of it on your nice silk shirt. Saturate a towel with the other half of the mixture.
4) Attempt to clean your shirt with the saturated towel.
5) Do NOT change. You have no time.
6) Go directly to work.


Get ready to go out.
1) Wait.
2) Go out the front door.
3) Come in again.
4) Go out.
5) Come back in.
6) Go out again.
7) Walk down the front path/driveway.
8) Walk back up it.
9) Walk down it again.
10) Walk very slowly down the road for five minutes.
11) Stop, inspect minutely, and ask at least 6 questions about every piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue, and dead insect along the way.
12) Retrace your steps.
13) Scream that you have had as much as you can stand until the neighbours come out and stare at you.
14) Give up and go back into the house.
You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

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Late Christmas Gift


My mom and I had talked about making a visit to see Sabrina together.  This is Mom’s first grandchild and I am her only child so this is BIG.  This second trip was contingent upon the financial piece working out.  Last night, Mom offered her frequent flier miles for my ticket so I will only have to pay the taxes and fees!  Obviously, that is a huge help.  Thank you, thank you Momma!

We started talking about this trip before Steve and I went on our visit.  I asked Steve if he would be okay with us visiting without him – kind of a 3 generational girls bonding trip.  He said he didn’t mind at all and thought it was a great idea.  Then he spent a week with Sabrina.  Now he is incredibly jealous of us going without him.  Mom offered to donate her ticket to him but he said no.  Financially, we can swing it with me splitting the costs of visiting with mom.  Finances aside, Steve doesn’t have the vacation time to take off another week.  He is trying to save days so he can take a little bit of time off after she gets home.  His company is small so it is not required to offer FMLA leave.  He says he wants us to go and he will remain jealous but is fine with it.  I have to say he is a bigger person than I am.  I would be insanely jealous of him going without me.  I don’t think I could stand it. 

Seven weeks from today (Valentine’s Day), I will have Sabrina in my arms again.  I didn’t want to go in January (even though some friends will be there and I would love to hook up with them) because I know I won’t have the chance to make another visit before pick up.  We entered Family Court on 12/15.  Average stay there is 6-8 weeks but that clock won’t even start until after the new year.  Much like the US, Guatemala grinds to a halt around the holidays (can’t blame them…I know nothing is happening in my office this week either).  So best case scenario will have us out of family court around the time Mom and I visit – and nothing has gone according to best case scenario yet.  Even if by some miracle we get out of family court in record time, there is still PGN to traverse.  I’m thinking March would be a gift and April is a hopefully realistic time frame for bringing her home at this point.  There are a good number of people from other agencies getting out of PGN very quickly right now (go Priscilla getting out in less than 2 weeks!) but for reasons I won’t speculate on publicly, my agency hasn’t had ANY of that luck.  We haven’t seen any really quick cases so I have no reason to believe that kind of luck would befall our case.  Right now, I am simply thankful that I have the opportunity to visit Sabrina again before we bring her home.    

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Holiday Hangover


I hope you all had a lovely Christmas (or other celebratory kind of day) with your families.  We had a very nice day.  Steve and I spent the morning at home opening our presents from each other.  Then we went to his mom’s.  We had tea, opened gifts, then had a nice dinner and played a board game (80’s trivial pursuit – 2 thumbs up from me). 

So many wonderful gifts!  Just to mention a couple: Steve got me (another!) beautiful surprise jade necklace from Guatemala and a combo coffee & espresso maker; momma got us a great light for over the kitchen sink; my sister in law gave us great baby and adoption themed gifts – a big basket full of Burt’s Bees baby products, a scrapbook and a book to help me get started (I’ve been avoiding the whole life book thing, I’m intimidated by it), and some rocking pottery bowls; and from wonderful my mother in law a Baby Depot gift card which will just about pay for a crib, martini glasses to help me get through the days until I need the crib, luxurious bed sheets to make sure I am comfy on the days I am wallowing in self pity and won’t get out of bed, and a little bit of chocolate because that never hurts. 

Best tangible gift?  The beautiful T’was the Night Before Christmas book Steve gave me on Christmas Eve.  Best gift?  Spending the day with family and being happy – nary a tear was shed.  Thing that sucks?  I am at work today!  However, no one is here and I snuck down to Macy’s – great sales!

Tell me about your best gift from Santa this year.

Merry Christmas





Enjoy the day and count your blessings.

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Christmas Traditions


I don’t have many Christmas traditions that I honor every year but there are a few.  I already mentioned that the tree can’t go up before 12/1 and needs to come down by 12/31.  I get that one from my mom.  She found it depressing to take the tree down after the holidays or on New Years Day and I completely agree.  There is already the let down of it being January, cold and dark outside, and no long weekends to look forward to for awhile – why deal with the undecorating too?

I used to always attend Christmas Eve services.  I love the candlelight service with the bell choir – absolutely love it.  But I haven’t found a church in my new city that I like so I haven’t been as faithful to that one.  I went to my mother-in-law’s church 2 years ago.  It was a Lutheran church but a little too close to Catholic for me.  I don’t like taking communion in a strange church and I felt like I should kiss the minister’s ring – it was just a bit uncomfortable for me.  Last year, my mom was here and we tried to go.  We showed up at a church with a sign saying “Christmas Eve service 6pm” only to find it dark and locked.  Weird.  I might try another tomorrow…we’ll see what my mood is.

Another family tradition is Christmas Eve dinner.  We always have spaghetti.  It started with my grandparents (no we aren’t Italian) and has continued on.  Some people find that an odd tradition but it is one we enjoy.

We never opened any gifts on Christmas Eve when I was a child.  We had to wait for Christmas morning (and it had to be light out…found that one out the hard way).  Steve’s family has always opened one gift on Christmas Eve so we’ve done that the last few years.  I always find it interesting when blending family traditions.  My family always had a very civilized opening of presents.  We all took turns so everyone could see what everyone else got.  Steve’s family just kind of does a free-for-all.  Neither is right or wrong…I just miss seeing reactions when people open gifts.  I love trying to find the right gift for everyone so I like to see them open it.

One tradition I used to love was Magic Reindeer food.  For 4 years after college, I spent Christmas Eve working at a domestic violence shelter.   The kids were always worried that Santa wouldn’t find them because they weren’t at home.  I would prepare baggies of magic reindeer food (raw oatmeal and silver glitter) and explain to the kids that it would help Rudoulph find them.  It looks so pretty on snow – but works on plain old grass too.  The tag on the baggy said:

Sprinkle on the lawn at night
The moon will make it sparkle bright
As Santa’s reindeer fly and roam
This will guide them to your home.

I’ll be missing one tradition today.  My dad was not a particularly sentimental guy but we had one tradition between just us.  Every year, no matter where we were, I would call him before bed.  He would read me Twas the Night Before Christmas every year.  I’ve made that call from some strange places over the years – work, in-laws, locked in a bathroom at a holiday party, my car, maybe even from a sidewalk in front of a bar one year.  I never missed that call.  Through the years it sometimes meant more to one of us than the other (during my teen years, I made the call for him…later I made it more for me) but it was our tradition.  It was our thing – one of the few things that existed just between the 2 of us.  Tonight there will be no call.  My mom offered to fill in tonight but I declined.  This year I will take a break from the tradition.  Next year, with Sabrina, I will decide how I want to continue it.  Either I will take over the reading of the story or I will let Mom step in – I’ll see what feels right.

Please share the traditions that are important to you.

In honor of my tradition, I will print it here.  The original version by Clement Clarke Moore.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

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Beginning to look a lot like Christmas


After all that has happened this month, I have been left with little energy, let alone Christmas spirit.  Our plan was to put up the tree upon our return from Guatemala.  Obviously, all post-Guatemala plans were derailed.   On Tuesday night this week, I asked Steve what if he still wanted to put up the tree.  He said it seemed rather pointless for such a short period of time.  (I have 3 rules about Christmas trees: they must be fake so I don’t have to vacuum up needles for 8 months, they can not be up before Dec 1 and they must be down by Dec 31.  Despite the fact that my rules sound Grinchy, I really do love decorating the tree and having it up.)  I was perfectly fine with not putting up a tree this year.  What did I have to celebrate?  My father is gone and my daughter in spending Christmas in another country with another family.

But I thought a lot about it this week.  Steve loves Christmas and he loves decorations.  Why should I ruin this year for him just because I’ve been a Scrooge?  I had yesterday off for Christmas Eve but Steve gets Tuesday off instead.  I decided to put the tree up and put the lights on while he was at work so we could decorate it together when he got home.  I trudged down to the basement and discovered I couldn’t lift the tree box – that sucker is heavy!  So I dragged the tree upstairs, piece by piece.  I put it together and fluffed it.  I strung lights all around (my personal tip – don’t string the lights around the tree – do it vertically up and down the tree – it makes taking them off so much easier).

Steve was very happy to see the tree when he came home.  He said he was going to do the same thing for me that very night after I went to bed.  So after a little time decorating, we have a tree:


It looks lovely and I’m so glad we put it up.  I’ve decided I’m not going to mourn my way through the holiday.  I’m going to enjoy all of the wonderful blessings I do have this year.  The first being my amazing husband.

So we,



wish you and your families




this holiday season.

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Schweaty Balls


A holiday favorite:

Schweaty Balls 

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