Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Middle class guilt and a screened in porch


We are poor at the moment because we just made our final adoption payment as well as paying a mortgage in PA, rent in Antigua, and now rent in TN all while going from 2 incomes to 1.  Because of that I find it ironic that for the first time in my life I have hired help.  Leda comes 2 days a week for a couple of hours.  She is a sweet girl.  She cleans and watches Sabrina so I can take a shower and get dressed without a meltdown 2 days each week.  I don’t speak Spanish and she doesn’t speak English so our interactions are somewhat comical.  My ability to order a beer doesn’t really help in asking her to clean the shower.  I feel guilty the entire time she is here – I hate asking her to clean up my messes for what amounts to about $7.  But I love that my dishes are done, my bathroom is clean and Sabrina isn’t sobbing because I took a shower.  Today I was saying I would see her on Thursday and I think she quit.  I think she told me she found a job with someone who wanted her everyday.  I understand that if I actually understood what she said.  So I guess I’ll see if she shows up on Thursday.  If not, then I guess she quit and my Spanish has expanded slightly beyond ordering a beer.

Steve spent the day in TN yesterday looking at apartments.  After he got over the sticker shock, he picked out an apartment for us.  I’ve seen the floor plan and pictures of the development – it looks like he did a good job.  I really like the screened veranda – I think the screen will allow us to enjoy it a lot more than just an open balcony.  He says the area seems nice and there is a good bit of green space.  He moves in next weekend.  I hate that all of this is happening while I am away.

My mom left this morning.  I was sad to see her go – it was great having a face from home as well as an extra set of hands around the house.  And she cooked for me – I’ve been too lazy/tired to care much about food (amazing I know considering how much I love food) so it was nice to have some decent meals.

posted under Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

The road to home


Many friends and family out there don’t really understand why we can’t come home tomorrow since we are out of PGN.  There are several more steps that must be completed (thanks to Ashley and Hadyn for posting these – I combined the lists a little – any errors are mine).  We probably won’t be home for 4-5 weeks and this is what is happening during that time:

+ Attorney arranges birthmother’s 4th and final sign-off
+ Final adoption decree drafted
+ Final adoption decree registered in general archives
+ Final adoption decree ready 48 hours later
+ New birth certificate is requested from civil registry where Sabrina was born (her civil registry tends to be fast thankfully)
+ New birth certificate is ready
+ Lawyer takes new birth certificate and applies for a Guatemalan passport (she will not become an American citizen until we step off the plane on American soil).
+ Passport/Visa pictures taken
+ Entire adoption file translated from Spanish back to English (with 200+ documents to translate, this step takes the longest)
+ After translation, file is submitted to US Embassy for pink slip/embassy appointment
+ Child gets an exit physical by an Embassy-approved doctor (to make sure the child doesn’t have unrecognized handicapping conditions or infectious diseases).
+ Within a few days, pink slip is issued with appointment date and time.
+ Steve joins us in Guatemala for US Embassy interview appointment
+ Next day, unless our appointment was on a Friday, Sabrina’s orphan visa to enter the US is picked at 3pm and delivered to us.
+ The day after we receive her visa, we are homeward bound!

Now for a few photos from today.  We had brunch at the lovely Hotel Antigua with a couple of friends from our agency.

Abuela and Sabrina


Three generations


The pretty birdies that live in the court yard of the hotel


The food at Sunday brunch is frankly not all that great but the surroundings and atmosphere are phenomenal


posted under Uncategorized | No Comments »

Basking in our Post OUT glow


Amazing how for 24 hours you are so excited to be OUT and then immediately your mind turns to when you can actually bring them home. Seegal calls this Pink Disease. Sabrina’s birth certificate is coming from an area that is supposed to be pretty fast (for those not involved we have to wait for them to reissue her birth certificate with our last name). I need to look up what has to happen before we are submitted for pink so I have a clear understanding of exactly what we are waiting for.

It has been wonderful to have my mom here – the extra set of hands helps so much! I have been able to take showers, followed imediately by getting dressed and drying my hair – no one cried at all. Luxurious! My hats off to all of you single moms or moms of multiples out there.

We are still working on the schedule. Yesterday she napped for 90 minutes in the morning but woke up after only 30 in the afternoon. She woke up very angry in the afternoon and it took 15 minutes to calm her down. Then because of the missed afternoon nap, she was exhausted in the evening. I tried to keep her up until 8 but she fell asleep at 7:30. She was up at 8:30 because our neighbors decided 15 minutes of firecrackers would be fun. Then she was up for an hour at midnight – not sure what that was about. She slept in until 8 this morning. Weird.

A couple of photos from yesterday:

On our way to the grocery store. Three generations braved the Bodegona on a Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t pretty.


Still working on our sitting up skills. She improves every day.



But she still falls over when she realizes what she is doing.


Could my kid look any happier?  Not that I take credit for it…she just has a sweet disposition.

posted under Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

Picture Page


I’ve been badgered reminded that I haven’t posted any photos in a few days – even my husband has joined in.  I apologize.  I was having some tough mommy days…and that makes it hard to get out the camera.  But our new schedule and our OUT phone call today have made mommy’s life a bit more cheery so we have photos.

Also, let me just add that as a point of etiquette, you should never tell anyone that their PGN stay (or adoption in general) seemed to go really fast.  Because for those of us living it, there wasn’t anything fast about it.  Thanks to everyone for their wonderful wishes and congrats!  I love when people delurk for congrats!  Okay, now to the photos.

We purchased Seegal’s bumbo seat which has made meal times much more pleasant.


Sabrina and Abuela.  Just moments after this was taken both Abuela and Sabrina had to change their pants…a little diaper leak (Sabrina, not my mom).  It has been such a blessing to have an extra set of hands today.


Sabrina likes her beef and vegetable dinner…notice the mosquito bite in the middle of her forehead.  Poor thing.  But my friend Cindy brought us some bug repellant that is natural so I will try it out and see if the helps with her bites.


Sabrina wants to show daddy how much progress she has made with sitting up.


Getting ready for bed (bedtime was 8:15 tonight and she took a 2 hour nap today).


And finally, the self portrait for daddy.


posted under Uncategorized | 22 Comments »





We are hoping to be home by the first week of June.


posted under Uncategorized | 58 Comments »

Day 2 of the schedule


My mom arrived today bearing goodies.  Unfortunately, the suitcase with her clothing didn’t arrive.  She is being a much better sport about that than I would likely be.

Somehow I still didn’t get my camera out.  So yet another photo-less day for the internet.  Sorry!

Day 2 of the schedule has gone swimmingly so far.  I will say I was rethinking this whole earlier to bed thing when she woke up at 4:30am after sleeping through every other night since I picked her up.  But I got her back down and realized in the light of day that putting her to bed 40 minutes early shouldn’t result in her waking up 4 hours early – must have been something else.

Today she took two 90 minute naps and I had her in bed at 8:20.  It’s only 9:20 now so I can’t get cocky and say she’s down for the night but I’m crossing my fingers.



Today started a little rocky.  My poor husband had to deal with my mini-melt down via messenger.  I was tired and frustrated about Sabrina’s whining and lack of napping.  I felt like a bad mommy.  The rest of our day was wonderful.  Sabrina napped for 2 hours (unheard of!), got up and ate like a champ (she finished a whole jar of food in one sitting – also unheard of), and then I managed to get her down for the night at 9:20 (making progress).

I don’t know if any of this will carry over to another day but I have to say that the 2 hour break I got while she was napping made me a much happier momma.  Speaking of mommas – mine arrives tomorrow.

I promised photos.  I lied.  I still haven’t gotten the camera out.  I will share one a friend took at the Hotel Antigua.  That’s the best I can do today.  Grandma being here tomorrow will provide me with an extra pair of hands so photos will be more likely.


And completely off topic – I swear we had a small earthquake here last night.  Did anyone else here feel it around midnight?  It freaked me out!  I’ve never felt anything like it before.  I had trouble sleeping – my adrenaline kicked in and every time a truck rumbled by I tensed up thinking it was another one.

posted under Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

Social life interrupted


I’ve decided that part of our problem is that we haven’t developed a good routine. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get the things we need to be comfortable and enjoying the social life here in Antigua with the other mommies (I’m new to the mommy club and have been enjoying membership). I think we need to turn down a few invitations in order really establish a routine. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not going to become a hermit. I need to interact with other grown ups. I just need to make sure we develop a more concrete routine and stick to it a little more closely.

Thank you all for the suggestions via email and comments here. I’m not comfortable letting her cry it out – just my personal choice. As I’ve said, she sleeps through the night so I can’t complain about that. But her naps are short and inconsistent. She usually only sleeps for 30 minutes – twice a day. I don’t feel like that is sufficient. She whines most of the day and I feel like if she got more sleep that might help with the whining too. So I’m about to become a scheduler – so not me. I’m very laid back but that isn’t working for us here. She’s napping less and less able to entertain herself with toys now than she was when we picked her up. I am feeling like a failure at this mom thing – so time for a new tactic. I’ll post some photos later tonight since I know that is why you all come here these days – I’ve already made you go a whole day without any Sabrina cuteness.

Oh and I mentioned our move but didn’t reveal here where we were going – I did tell several of you via email. Here is our new skyline – anyone able to identify it? (No cheating if I told you!)


posted under Uncategorized | 20 Comments »

No pictures to see here…move along


Sorry, I didn’t even get my camera out today.  It was a rather hot and sweaty afternoon.  A small group of us had lunch together in a very warm room.  I realized my daughter LOVES any Guatemalan woman who smiles at her.  She had been whining at me for 3 hours but the second the nannies at the luncheon started playing with her, she was giggling great belly laughs!  She loved them – I started feeling a little neurotic about that.  But she was happy and I had 2 free hands to eat so I muddled through.

My mom arrives on Thursday – so a little piece of home will certainly make me feel better.  Monday marked 7 weeks in PGN for us.  Someone from our agency who re-entered PGN 3 days after us got out tonight so I’m hoping to receive that same call this week sometime.

I’m not having much success at pushing Sabrina’s bedtime to a more reasonable hour.  When we picked her up, she was going to bed at 11pm.  I managed to adjust it to 10 but she’s not budging any earlier than that.  I hate bedtime.  I start trying to rock her to sleep every night at 9 – we have a whole little routine.  I can’t put her in her crib before she is completely asleep or a total meltdown occurs.   So every night I spend an hour trying to get her to go down earlier than 10 because frankly by 10pm I am so wiped out I can’t get anything done after she goes to bed.  Any tips out there on getting a little one to bed earlier?  I hear all of these moms talk about their little ones going down around 8 pm and I am so jealous.

posted under Uncategorized | 10 Comments »



Today is really the first day I’ve felt homesick. I’ve only been here for 11 days so I guess it is a little early to whine that I want to go home. I just really miss Steve and how easy everything is at home.

I’m not feeling very welcome in Guatemala today. I had a man (American actually) who said to me “Gee, she doesn’t look anything like you” randomly on the street yesterday. My response was “Shhhh…we are hoping she won’t notice.” Then in a market today, a Guatemalan couple approached me. The woman asked if Sabrina was my child. I responded yes. The husband then started rattling off something in Spanish. I responded that I don’t speak Spanish which set him off on a faster tirade. The gist of what he said was that we take these children out of Guatemala and they never learn to speak Spanish and that I should learn Spanish. I felt slightly bruised but not unsafe. I’m tired. I don’t want to defend my actions in a language I don’t speak. I don’t want to be stared at because I am a white face with a Guatemalan child in a see of non-white faces. I know I have nothing to complain about. My stay here is likely to be relatively short. I am a guest here and should be thankful that I have this opportunity.

Enough whining…time for a few photos.


Sabrina HATES it when I put her in her tub.  She starts throwing a royal fit.  But after a few minutes, when it becomes clear my intent is not to drown her, she calms down and almost enjoys it.


Seegal and Abby came to visit us today.  We had a little field trip to get some lunch and run some errands.   One of those errands was to find Abby a hat – so of course the girls had to model them when we got home.  (Sabrina’s was a gift from her foster mom.)  Seegal and Abby are winging their way home tomorrow (Tuesday).  Safe travels my friends!  We will miss them but are happy for them to be going home.


We are continuing to work on sitting up.  Tonight’s session went well as evidenced here.


The self portrait – mommy looks a little scary tonight (sporting the lovely Guatemalan hair thingy) and Sabrina of course doesn’t want to share the spotlight so she refuses to smile.

« Older Entries