A day to remember. Or not.

A huge portion of yesterday was spent celebrating Monkey’s birthday, as was right and good, but of course there were a few other things that had to be tended to as well.

Like, I still had to do some actual work. (I guess none of my clients got that National Monkey Holiday memo I sent out. HMPH.) And Otto had to do some actual work. (I guess none of his students got that Write Your Own Syllabus memo he sent out. DOUBLE HMPH.) And the children needed to finish unpacking and get ready for their return to school, except they agreed to do that and then spent most of the day playing with Monkey’s birthday toys, which I suppose is par for the course.

And somewhere in the middle of all of this, Otto and I realized it was a rare business day while everyone was home—the last we’d have for quite a while—and probably it made sense to get our butts down to the Post Office and get our passports done.

We’re going on a cruise this summer, and apparently we all need passports. I have no idea. I am just along for the ride. (We are being taken on this trip, like royalty! Or at least like the rotten children and grandchildren of a certain awesome pair of world travelers who happen to want to do a big family trip.) Really, there are no words to describe our excitement, and ALL WE HAVE TO DO is 1) get passports and 2) show up. Everything else is taken care of, and how stupid would we have to be not to manage those two things?

Well. Um. I mean, LOOK who you’re talking to. [I just need a minute to crawl under my desk….]

Okay, so it kind of went like this:

A while ago, Otto did some research and determined that because he and I both have prior passports, we could renew by mail. Great! Except that my passport is too long expired for renewal, so I would need to get a new one. Crud. Okay.

He also determined that we would need notarized forms from the kids’ dad before we could get THEIR passports, on account of there is apparently a huge rash of custodial parents who take their kids on a “fun ship” cruise and then… disappear into Belize? Send ransom notes to the other parents reading things like, “Send money or I’m getting everyone’s hair beaded!”? I’m not sure. The good news is that we were actually on top of that, and had the necessary forms for the kids.

While Otto filled out the kids’ applications online, I went to fetch their birth certificates. Except that… I couldn’t find them.

We have a fire safe, and that’s where they live. Except when they don’t.

I tore the house apart. Eventually I discovered that after I brought the birth certificates in to get them registered at school two+ years ago, I must’ve set the certificates ON TOP of the fire safe, where they then slid off onto the floor the very next time I opened the lid to get something.

[Handy tip: Having a box which is impervious to fire is not actually all that useful if your important documents are sitting outside of it.]

So I found the birth certificates, but then Otto asked me for their social security numbers and I realized I couldn’t find their cards. I mean, we know the numbers, but mightn’t they need the cards for something sometime? Those are still at large. (Do you have them? I’d like them back.)

Otto finished filling out the kids’ forms, then moved on to mine. It only took us about an hour to find our marriage certificate, by the way. Thanks for asking. Ahem.

Otto got both my eye color AND my birthday wrong on my form. The former was discovered before we left (and only made me irrationally angry for about half an hour) and the latter was discovered by the woman who processed us. Nothing like having a stranger point out that you don’t know your wife’s birthday, right, honey? NO I AM NOT LETTING IT GO. Love you!

Anyway, after what seemed like a million years, we took ALL our forms and went to the post office. Where there was a line halfway out the door. Because apparently everyone ELSE had also realized it was their last day to go to the post office with their kids and get a batch of passports.

We were able to pass the time while waiting in line by listening to Chickadee complain about having to have her picture taken. Because nothing says THE AWKWARD TWEEN YEARS like being forced to get a passport just days after cutting all your hair off, shortly after getting braces. (I’m sorry, sweetie. You looked very nice! And I am not just saying that because I’m your mother! And I’m sure you’ll spend the next ten years telling me how much you hate that photo and it’s all my fault.)

After another five years it was our turn, and thus we began the Grand Paper Shuffle. I was probably still a little annoyed with Otto over the eye color thing and THEN the woman was all, “I think you have your birthday wrong, here” and Otto was all “I am just not having a good day,” and I couldn’t be mad anymore, because there is only so far you can put a dude into the doghouse before it’s theater of the absurd, you know? So she shuffled, shuffled, shuffled, and then pointed out that actually, no, I COULD renew my passport, still, because it’s within 15 years. Great news! That saves a whopping $20 or something.

But it also meant we’d filled out the wrong form.

So I filled out a new form while the kids got their pictures taken; both of them looked adorable, and it made me smile more than a little to think about 20-year-old Monkey taking in his passport for renewal and looking at his grinning 10-year-old face, plus I mentally moved some funds around for further therapy for Chickadee on account of that whole hair/braces/anger thing (though her picture really was cute as well), and then I sat down to get my picture taken.

There was a flash and then the woman just kept staring at the back of the camera.

“Did you get it?” I asked, finally.

“Well, I did, but I don’t know if you want me to print this one. Come take a look,” she said. I got up to look, keenly aware of all the people standing there in line, looking at me like I was the only thing between them and a nice afternoon at home, eating bonbons.

The screen on the back of the camera revealed me making a slightly odd face. In our family we refer to it as the “I just bit into a bug” face. Charming, as I’m sure you can imagine.

“Do you want me to take another?” the nice woman asked. Except I was too busy trying not to look directly at any of the two dozen people in line GLARING at my family, which had now been at the passport counter for over twenty minutes.

“Uh, no. That one’s fine,” I said.

Ten years of me biting into a bug. AWESOME.

Eventually the kids’ forms were turned in and my form was stuffed into a mailer and everything was DONE and we got to leave. I’m pretty sure we’re actually going to get passports back in about two months.

Except that if any of the applications are returned for any reason I am just going to close my head in the fire safe and let Otto deal with it.


  1. Tracy

    That is one thing I’ve never done…passport. I’ve been to the Bahama’s but that was prior to 9-11 and the world wasn’t crazy…yet. I hope ya’ll have a wonderful time and hopefully the Post Office gets it right. Good luck w/that!

  2. adhocmom

    I need to do this soon. It’s on the list after things like, “root canal.”

  3. Courtney

    I think kids have to get new pictures every five years, so Chickie only has to worry about the pic for that long.

  4. Saskia

    Chickie is indeed in luck – kids’ passports do only last for five years. Although ten might be better – by that time she’ll have forgotten all about it and might think how she looks now is cute.

  5. Megan

    Oh memories… of taking Child 2, aged… hmmm…. 4 months? to a do-it-yourself photo booth in Germany and trying to take a photo that did not include anyone else’s head or neck at all but did show the front of Child 2’s head (not the side, not the top… not…) without any blurring. I think we burned through about $50 in Deutchmark coins and possibly 10 years in parent age that afternoon – good times!

    And hey, at least you’ll be able to point out to Chickie that even WITH short hair and braces your photo totally beats hers.

  6. Dawn

    Was it a palmetto bug?


  7. gaylin

    The last time I renewed my passport, I had all my papers in order, standing in the line and the guy in front of me was being argumentative with the official passport teller guy. He got sent ‘upstairs’. Dude don’t argue with the guy that approves your passport DUH.
    Me I strolled up to the passport teller, handed all my papers, smiled nice and had a new passport 10 days later!

    Then I went to use it and the customs guy pointed out it wasn’t valid until I signed it . . . Thankfully, he had a pen, let me sign it and sent me scurrying on my way.

  8. JoAnne

    We have a fire safe too, but I always forget about it until after I’ve spent 3 days looking for the important papers and then I remember that they are right where they are supposed to be…in the fire safe.

  9. Ani

    I hate to bring this up but…you don’t need passports if your cruise is both originating and returning to the same US port. But they’re good to have anyway. :-)

  10. loonytick

    If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably make that face when going through customs, so…appropriate!

  11. Karen

    I just got my passport renewed with the new photo early in ’09. I cannot tell you how happy I was to be rid of the 16 year old girl with the frosted pink lipstick and Jersey mall hair. I hope Chickie will look back and laugh like I did.

  12. J from Ireland

    I love that about your picture. On my passport my picture is awful, the kids call it “Mammy’s mad face” so you can imagine how shite it is!!

  13. Lori N

    My kids are BEGGING to get passports. They have some grand idea that we’ll be able to afford some type of international trip in the next 5 years. Silly kids. Do you think a quick run to the Canadian border would satisfy them as well as justify the hundreds of dollars spent to get those passports? Um, no. :)

  14. Karen P

    Years ago when we went on a cruise you just needed a birth certificate not a passport. I had mine and asked my mother in law for my husband’s. All she had was a hospital record. No problem, I just contacted the county to get a copy. Except my husband child number 3 out of 6 didn’t have a birth certificate with his name on it. He was listed as boy Patlillo. (Last name spelled incorrectly) Had to get a copy of my father in laws birth certificate to show correct spelling and copy of our child’s birth certificate showing my husband’s name. Got the certificate. Then, like you,I put it in a really safe place and still haven’t found it. So when we got passports I had to get another copy. Except with the new computers with the state, my husband’s file wasn’t updated.So I had to go through all the same stuff again. I told my husband he could change his name to Jon from John just like his grandma wanted but he didn’t think that was a good idea.

  15. Heather

    Our passport pics can’t have smiles – and it is so hard for me not to, for a photo! It’s just a natural reaction – especially when I’m talking to the photographer and trying to be all friendly and such. Have a great trip!!

  16. JXB

    You should always have a passport chica! You never know when you may be swept off on a whirlwind trip to Paris or elsewhere.

  17. alicia

    Wow – I am surprised they let your kids smile, we were given strict instructions to not smile when our pictures were taken. Our post office also wouldn’t let us get pictures made there, we had to have them done at Walgreens. :)

  18. Dragon

    Okay, I think I enjoyed the whole post but I have to admit I’m kind of stuck on the fact that your kids’ passports are good for TEN YEARS. My oldest is nine and we’re about to get her her THIRD passport, not even including the one she got as a baby from a foreign government. In Canada children under three have to renew their passport every three years, and everyone else has to renew every five. I’m jealous that you only have to do it once every ten years!

  19. Amelia

    My license photo is so terrible that my three-year-old literally does not recognize me in it. She calls the photo on my work ID “my mommy” and the photo on my license “my buddy.” It was taken just a few days after she was born, and I haven’t the heart to tell her that mommy looks like that because mommy was SITTING ON STITCHES FOR OVER AN HOUR waiting to have the picture taken. Ahem.

    Enjoy your cruise!

  20. Beth

    I think Ani might be wrong. I believe in the spring of 09, that rule changed. I know as of Sept. 08, the law was “Scheduled” to change in the spring of 09…but I wonder if anything goes as scheduled in DC.

  21. Jen

    Be sure your key to the firebox is in a safe place. Especialy somewhere that won’t melt if Heaven forbid there’s a fire. Darling Husband pointed out that the bathroom drawer wasn’t all that safe since I’d probably accidentally start the fire in there…thanks Honey…

  22. Summer

    This is a very popular time for passports. Passports and visas are my job, and usually most of the calls I get are about visas, but this week, I swear, at least 80% of the clients who call me are asking for expedited passports.

    As a professional in this field, I’ve got to point out that Ani’s info is slightly out of date. As of June ’09, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative demands that US citizens have passports any time they leave the country by any means — air, land or sea. Before that, if you were traveling to a country by land or sea that didn’t require passports for US citizens (Canada, Mexico, many of the islands) you could get away without it, but no longer.

    British passport photos have to have straight expressions (no smiles), I know, but I haven’t heard that regulation for US passports.

    Photocopy those passports when they arrive! If you ever lose it (not that I’m implying you would, just in case), it’s really helpful to have a photocopy of the lost passport.

  23. dad

    The adventure has begun.
    Let us play.

  24. Julie

    Please don’t hit me for this, but you can get passports at the public library in your (our) town. Apparently it’s a well-kept secret, but it’s a breeze.

  25. Otto

    For the record, I did get her birthday right on one page, just not the second one. I did totally screw up her eye color. (Though, in my defense, according to Wikipedia, “Hazel eyes often appear to shift in color from a light brown to a dark golden-green.” So maybe I’ve only seen them as light brown over the last 20 years …)

    I guess we can cancel all the Ottolessons …


  26. Kate @ And Then I Was a Mom

    HAHAHA hair beading. However relaxed you find yourself on the cruise, don’t succumb. Really, no one looks good with the beads and braids. I am stymied by how many people do it, though. Do they blend some kind of drug into the pina coladas? Must be it. So, beware the hopped-up frozen drinks.

  27. meghann

    Does your family want to adopt me? I come from poor folk and never have, nor ever will be treated to a cruise.

  28. Lucinda

    Oh Crap. I just realized we need to do that as we are probably leaving the country this summer. Here I was merrily laughing at your post until just now. Guess I should look in our fire-proof safe to see if the old passports are there. Think they’ll let my daughter use the one with a baby picture on it? I didn’t think so. Well, enjoy your cruise!

  29. MomCat

    This just goes to show that nothing is safe. My story, i.e., the one I’m about to relate.

    Long ago, one of my friends let her ex-husband take their 7 year old son on a “fun cruise,” and he absconded with the child to Argentina. Took her three years to have them tracked down. She had to hire a private, international investigator and spend three quarters of her parents’ substantial retirement savings. The boy was found living in an apartment with his father, who was living with a 16 year old girl.

  30. kat

    When I did my passport back in ’02 the nice lady retook my picture three times before I looked halfway decent. But there also wasn’t a line.

  31. getsheila

    Be sure to check your passports for spelling errors once you receive them. They spelled my first name wrong on mine (even though I spelled it CORRECTLY on the application) but it was so similar I didn’t notice it for 3 years. Until I had to travel. And the travel agent said my name on the airline reservations HAD TO MATCH EXACTLY or all would be lost.

    So I was SheLLa for the entire trip. Good grief.

  32. Scottsdale Girl

    Ahhhh passport aqcuirementing. Bleh.

  33. Angela

    Wow. She actually offered to take another picture? You must have been her nicest customer all day long!

  34. mar

    Agree with the other posters – kids passports are only good for 5 years. So, Chickadee can stop hating you sooner. ;-)

  35. Chuck

    The last time I renewed my passport I did it all in one day (only possible because I live in one of the six or so cities where passports are made.) It was extremely fun; I got to visit the office three times in one day plus pay a rush fee and a photographer…but I have nobody but myself to blame for not renewing it sooner. I didn’t expect I’d be needing it quite as soon as I did…it all worked out ok in the end though. Although my picture is also kind of lame.

  36. Jennifer

    My own mother got my eye color wrong when she filled out my driver’s license information when I was 16. I’m now 40 and my driver’s license still says I have brown eyes when they are actually hazel… but my mom might have had the same problem as Otto – maybe she only saw them when they were brownish in color.

  37. Heidi

    If Chickadee complains, you can tell her that she can absolutely wait until the braces come off and her hair grows back instead of using the current photo. Sure, she may miss a cruise in the meantime…

    It’s good I’m not a mother. I’d be a cruel, heartless mother.

  38. Crisanne

    I know exactly how Chickie feels. I had my first passport made in 6th grade, having just received an Ogilve Home Perm courtesy of my mother. She promised it would make it SOO much easier to do my hair in Europe. She neglected to mention the fact that it would cement my severe dorkitude status for the rest of my school career.

  39. Beth R

    If it’s not a law that you look like death in your passport photo, it should be. And no, I won’t show you my current passport photo.

    Wasn’t it Erma Bombeck that had a book titled “When you look like your passport photo it’s time to go home”?

  40. Sheila

    I think your kids’ Social Security cards are wherever lost socks end up. My husband’s card is there too, along with the last piece of cheesecake from my wedding and our marriage license. Let me know if they turn up, would you?

  41. mom, again

    a few months after our marriage we had to go to the immigration office because my husband was not American (at the time, he is now). The nice immigration officer asked what was the date of our marriage, and we answered in unison (yay) with two different dates. I had the wrong one. by one day. and there are many valid reasons why, which I’ll explain someday when I am disciplined to write my own blog.

    18 years, I’m still gettin’ flack for it. but I always say we got married the day before Thanksgiving so that’s our anniversary no matter what date it is.

    PS: the kids passports won’t last 10 years, i think they hae to renew at 18. you, however are stuck with your picture for the full decade! (Next time, go to kinko’s, there usually isn’t the kind of line you faced today, and they will keep taking pictures until you are happy with it.

  42. Bobbie

    My husband panicked about not having our passports in time for our cruise (I think we applied three months in advance), and we had them in less than a week!

  43. Brigitte

    Heh, I got to jump through all kinds of extra hoops because though I’ve lived here for over 45 years, I’m still technically a Canadian citizen and had to get a Canadian passport. And found out my permanent resident card had secretly expired ages ago (it had no date on it, how was I to know?) so I had to do THAT first. Ugh, so glad THAT’S over . . for at least the next 10 years or so.

  44. Heather @ critterchronicles

    My daughter was born in Germany which meant that she had to get a passport in order to leave the country. (It also means she can claim dual US/German citizenship until she’s 18, which – at 6-years-old – she gladly does.) So we had her passport picture taken when she was just six weeks old and she looked like Jabba the Hut. With a bright pink jumper on. It was fortunate for her that when we received orders to move to Japan five years later her passport had expired and she could update that picture. (We still have the expired passport to use as blackmail, though.)

  45. Alison C

    The picture in my passport is horrible. Seven years ago I had very short hair and kept my glasses on. I figured I was going to change to much. Since then I have grown my hair and had laser surgery so look nothing like my picure. LOL

  46. Javamom

    Glad to hear the passport system in the USA is just as convoluted as it is here in Canada. Does anyone actually every read any of these forms you spend half your life filling out?

  47. Nicki

    Oh, man! So this is what I have to look forward to. We managed to take the last cruise just before the mandatory passport bit, but we’re doomed now. And I know he doesn’t have the patience for this. *gulp* Somehow, some way, there will be passports!

  48. Rachel

    We’ve had our passports for a few years, but I thought that if the person is 16 years old their passport is valid for 10 years, under 16 valid for 5. The reason this sticks in my head is that my daughter’s passport will expire in July when she is 15. If we renew prior to expiration, it will be valid for 5 years. If we wait until November of the same year it expires and renew after expiration, she will be 16 & then it’s good for 10 years. The passport person told us this at the post office when we were getting our passports (and told us to let it expire & renew when she was 16 to save $$), so this information could have changed. Really though, what 23 year old wants to be using a passport picture from when they were 16? She’ll probably want to renew in five years, instead of waiting until she’s 26.

    I’m jealous of the cruise, have fun!

    Maybe Otto has been looking at your beautiful hair, lips, nose, (insert any other body part) and has not noticed your eye color. = ) The birthday, well, he wasn’t actually THERE when you were born, so we’ll give him a break. He better remember your anniversary though! = )

    And Happy Birthday Monkey!

    Enough of the comments that never end…

  49. RuthWells

    Wait. I’m supposed to know where my marriage certificate is? Oh, crap.

  50. Katie in MA

    Otto, she didn’t mention ANYTHING about sleeping on a couch, so whatever you did still counts as magic. And I’d still like to reserve a spot for Ottolessons for my guy.

  51. Liza

    Shortly before my last passport expired, I studied abroad in South Africa. One day at the bank, the teller demanded to know whose passport it really was. My picture was THAT BAD.

    (Since you know me I will describe. In that picture, I look like a chubby, effeminate man. With glasses.)

  52. carrien (she laughs at the days)

    HAving an off looking passport photo is handy when you’ve been traveling for several days and don’t look your best. No one questions whether it’s you or not. And if you look better than it, it’s and added bonus. :)

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