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Thursday, June 30, 2011

IRS audit of adoption tax credit

Actually, they can keep the t-shirt...check, please!
We were delighted when our tax preparer told us we were getting a hefty tax refund this year. We knew we were owed a carryover of our tax credit from 2010 for our 2009 adoption of Aniyar and Madiyar so we never questioned the amount. We started thinking of home repairs, vacation plans, and bill paying that we could use our refund for. Then we got our refund...just half of what we were expecting...and I couldn't get a real, live person on the phone at IRS so I had no idea why.

It was early June when a letter arrived from IRS explaining that we (and lots of other adoptive parents, as it turns out) were being audited re: our adoption tax credit. The folks at IRS gave us 30 days to gather our receipts, invoices, cancelled checks, etc. to document our expenses and submit said documents to their tax examiner. If we couldn't comply within the time limit, they would set aside our request for a credit and we would be out of luck, meaning no more of our money would be refunded to us. If we got them the paperwork, then they would review our records and decide how much more of our money they would refund to us. (Am I bitter? Just a tad bit...)

Anyway, this might seem to be an easy fix to those unfamiliar with foreign adoption. After all, if you adopt, you work with an agency and that's a business, right? Businesses give receipts and invoices, right? And everyone has cancelled checks, rights? Um, not so much.

See, we adopted from Kazakhstan...on the other side of the freakin' earth...and it's a cash economy...that uses its own currency...and English isn't the language of Kazakhstan. The aforementioned issues presented a teensy problem to securing what IRS needed in a timely manner.

  • Cancelled checks??? All our in-country fees for our foreign adoption had to be paid in cash, nice crisp $100 bills and not a check, credit card slip, or receipt in sight. Of course, this was the largest part of our adoption expense...and did I mention we adopted not one but 2 kids?
  • Oh, yes, we did get some receipts for airline tickets and hotel bills and filing fees while in Kazakhstan. All I had to do was have them translated from Russian to English...and then use a currency converter to calculate the exchange from KZ tenge to US dollars. Several nights with my computer and my Russian speaking son at my side got me the documents I needed.
  • Interestingly enough, even our adoption agencies here in the US never gave us receipts for our home study fees, program fees, post placement reports, etc. At least they were willing to send me receipts after the fact...they were very gracious and did their best, getting the copies to me in less than 2 weeks. (Unfortunately, the agencies are also swamped with calls now since all their other adoptive families are being audited, too and everyone needs receipts.)
  • Cancelled checks for USCIS or KZ embassy filing fees? Forget about it! None of those guys take checks, only money orders or cash. Luckily, I had a stack of those receipts stashed in a file...only took me a week of sorting and organizing the documentation to come up with a total figure.
  • Had tons of little receipts for apostilles, document stamps, etc. Didn't even bother to add them up. Figured my time was better spent focusing on the big ticket items. Kept the suckers, though...you never know what IRS will ask for next.
Anyway, here we are, 30 days later. For the last several days, my dining room table has been covered with documents. I've been reliving my bad old times of adoption dossier preparation but in reverse this time. I finally got it all compiled, copies made, and the huge package of receipts, invoices, translations and conversions sent off to the IRS via Express mail. Now we wait for an answer...to see how much of our money the IRS will give us back. Let's see if they can turn it around in 30 days like I had to. Bitter??? Nooooo, not me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Our five heartbreakers

For Father's day, we gave Dad a photo of all of the kids together....it wasn't easy getting everyone to smile and play nicely, to wear nice (clean) clothes, to stop bickering long enough to say cheese...but aren't they a handsome bunch?

Where did my babies go? Sniff, sniff....wah!!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Trauma's poetry

My daughter has been working on a multi-genre English project for the past few weeks, one of those "Let's write several things in different formats but focus on one topic" assignments. My 7th. grader had to write a poem, a non-fiction piece, a fiction piece, and a free choice piece. She's a hard worker and she loves to write so no problem there. Doesn't sound so terrible, right?

And it wouldn't have been...except our girl decided her topic should be her early years in Kazakhstan...and as a result, she has spent the past few weeks revisiting her first 6 years of life. Not an easy thing for a kid with PTSD. I have to admit I suggested maybe she should  change her topic because I knew this would stir up some demons but my girl refused to be deterred. The demons have stirred as predicted...it's been pretty intense. We've had tears (ours and hers) but also some healing as she has struggled to process her memories. I have to say that I'm so proud of my girl; I'm awed by her strength and by her writing. In fact, I was so touched by her work that I asked her permission to share a bit of it here. The author has graciously consented to let me post her poem about her parents in Kazakhstan.

Mommy was short
Daddy was tall
Mommy was drunk
And Daddy had a fall,

Broke his leg
And got gangrene and died
Mommy couldn’t stop drinking even though she tried
Daddy was cool
Mommy was not
Even though I lost them young
I miss them a lot

Every word the truth...every word her own. If you read it without shedding a tear, you're made of tougher stuff than I am.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Forgive me, gentle reader, for I have sinned...it's been a week since my last post. I've forsaken my friends and family in blog land and I beg your forgiveness. It's not for lack of stories. In fact, it's just the opposite. There's been so much happening here that I couldn't find 5 minutes to sit down, much less write a post. Here's the Cliff note version of just a couple of the events of the past week:

Who the heck gets the flu in June? Well, apparently we do. Both Madiyar and Craig went down flat with a very nasty virus last week. When I say nasty, I mean it. Madiyar (who is almost never sick) missed 3 days of school and Craig missed 4 days of work. (In 18 years of marriage, I've never known Craig to stay home sick from work more than a day or two a year, let alone 4 days in a row.) I was Nancy Nurse all week, tending the sick and dying, delivering ginger ale with crushed ice, wiping fevered brows, shuttling from one sick bed to the other, offering solace while trying not to get too close to either of the infected. I even quarantined them from the rest of us...hey, it was self-defense. There are 7 of us in this house...and as if that weren't enough to deal with, just as the guys started to recover, there was the next crisis.

Heaven help us, final exams and end of year projects are upon us. That means lots of hours helping kids study for tests, research for term papers, practice for oral presentations, etc. Most of the time, that's situation normal...but noooo, not this week..

In the case of one of my cherubs, this meant being handed a stack of papers for his English project that he asked me to type. The project was an alpha biography; it required the students to use different forms of writing that they had studied this year. This meant choosing a word for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet and writing about why that word is important to them in either a paragraph of 5-6 sentences (topic statement, supporting details, conclusion) or a poem (haiku, limerick, free verse, acrostic, concrete). Each entry would be something like "A is for animals", followed by their paragraph or poem explaining why animals light their bulb using simile, metaphor, alliteration, repetition, onomatopoeia, personification, etc. as well.  Then there were the 20 new vocabulary words he had to use in the project and list and define in a glossary, the friendly letter he had to write to his teacher describing his creation, and the table of contents for his book.

In short, this was a project that was assigned well over a month ago so it would be lots of typing but sure, no problem. I don't mind typing for the kids, especially when their handwriting is as hard to read as this boy's. I tell the kids all the time that as long as they do the work  (remember this part!), I can help with making it look nice. In this case, the stack of papers that were supposedly his completed product had more doodles and food stains than English content and only covered about 10% of what was required. Two days before the due date...90% of the work still to do...for a project that was worth 25% of his final grade.

I'll admit that what happened next was ugly.  I contemplated throwing my darling son off the roof. I contemplated (once again) the possibility of running off to join the circus, leaving my spaceshot boy to twist in the wind come Monday morning at school. Then I sat his butt down at the kitchen table where he basically stayed for the weekend doing the work he should have done previously...only this time with me breathing down his neck and beating him with a whip under my watchful eye. By Monday morning, he still wasn't done but he had enough to show his teacher his handwritten version and ask for an extension to finish it up. She and I talked...we agreed that he should have a reduction in grade for missing the deadline but that he would be allowed to turn the project in late.

Since this isn't the first time our boy has struggled with time management, focus and organization, I spent part of Monday with the Special Education coordinator at his school. I believe that he needs more support next year to help him stay on task, especially for large projects...so over the summer, he'll be evaluated and hopefully by Fall, he will be moved from his 504 plan to a full IEP. He's not thrilled about the go to school and be tested during the summer part of this plan. I've explained to him it's that or one of us is going off the roof . Testing it is!

More stories...soon...I promise...unless I join the circus.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Maternal musings

Image by dcbprime

linchpins, plural;lynchpins, plural
  1. A pin passed through the end of an axle to keep a wheel in position
  2. A person or thing vital to an enterprise or organization
a pin inserted through holes at the end of an axle, so as to secure a wheel; a central cohesive source of stability and security; a person or thing that is critical to a system or organisation

What happens if the linchpin breaks...or (just hypothetically, of course) runs off to join the circus? 
  • Would the wheel fly off and burst into a million smithereens of unwashed dishes and clothes? 
  • Would the wheel stop turning, clogged by the detritus of unsigned permission slips and uncompleted homework assignments?
  • Would the wheel lose its momentum without access to the locator device for all lost objects that is housed in the linchpin's uterus? 
  • Perhaps the wheel would just waste away without a road map to the refrigerator or a full-time chef...or maybe just fail to function properly after a steady diet of chips, soda, and ice cream?
  • How would the wheel roll out the door to the athletic event, the mall, the dance, the school play, the movies, the pool, the video game store, the orthodontist, the dentist? (OK, so the wheel probably wouldn't cry any tears over those last two.)
Be forewarned, all you wheels out there. Even linchpins need a vacation...it's either that, or the linchpin signs up for a few lessons at trapeze school.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Another fancy dance...

Last night was Tanya's turn to be Cinderella at the ball...her middle school Spring dance. Can you believe that my softball playing tomboy looked like this?

OK, where did my baby girl go?

Here she is with her girlfriends before the dance...too cute!
She went off to the dance with high hopes and romantic dreams. The boy she likes bought a ticket, too...and she had visions of dancing cheek to cheek...but he stayed on the other side of the room all night. He said he didn't know how to dance and he didn't want to learn. She came home a bit crushed...and we had the "Boys are from Mars and girls are from Venus" talk...followed by the "Boys mature slower than girls" talk. She wasn't buying it. Her decision? "Boys are just STUPID!" Poor girl...but...

Considering the way she looked in this dress at only 14...Dad and I are counting our lucky stars for that maturity thing. I'm just sayin...

Monday, June 6, 2011

My new toy

Look what I got for my birthday!

It's a Motorola Xoom wi-fi tablet...just what a busy blogger mama needs. It has great web access and messaging on the go, two cameras, an awesome calendar option, all the Android apps of my phone but with a much more readable screen for my poor old eyes. I'm loving everything about this...and my kids are sooo jealous.

Best of all, it was a gift from my IT guy who provides great tech support. (He's a pretty awesome husband, too.)

BTW, the end of my b-day was absolutely wonderful ...dinner and drinks were prepared by our best friends/next door neighbors so I didn't even have to cook. My spirits were definitely lifted by the lovely ginger-mint martini concoction they placed in my hand at cocktail hour; the perfectly grilled tuna steaks shared with my favorite people sealed the deal on a wonderful evening. (Thanks, Rick, Deb, and Eliz!) The kids were sweet; they gave me delightful homemade gifts from the heart and lots of good smelling things like potpourri and reed diffusers...much appreciated in a house with 5 kids and two dogs. It was a fun dinner with 10 people at our table, lots of good food and laughter. Even our crabby patty child managed to turn things around and join in the celebration...a substantial gift in itself.

Many thanks for the birthday phone calls and facebook wishes from friends, also for the kind words from my blogger buddies. OK, my pity party is officially over...and if I feel the need to vent again, I have a great new Xoom to blog on!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to....

Another birthday...not nearly as much fun as they were when I was a kid. In spite of that fact, the day started out pretty well with 4 of my kids making a real effort to be helpful and kind. They kept it up all day which is the best type of gift. As for the 5th child...let's just say his morning meltdown wasn't on my wishlist...nor was his continued bad mood. Still, it's part of the package with kids like ours.

Children with trauma and impulse control issues have a very hard time putting the needs of others above their own. They have a hard time with changes in routine. They are uncomfortable in situations that they can't control. Special occasions often involve all of those things and are therefore stressful for our kids ...and I know that. Intellectually, I know that. I knew it when the same child threw a fit on Mother's Day, told me he hated me and swore at me. I understand what drives the behavior...and sometimes that doesn't make it any easier. This is one of those times.

I'm tired...I'm having a bit of a pity party...but at least my birthday wasn't as bad as this: