Samuel Jerome and Richnightder

Samuel Jerome and Richnightder
Our boys in Haiti

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Waiting, not very patiently

Our cable tv went on the fritz last night.  All of a sudden the picture just froze, and then the screen went to snow.  We tried all the handy-dandy quick fixes they tell you to try before reporting the outage, and nothing worked.

Marc phoned the cable company and informed them of the problem.  At 7AM I received a call from the company asking if our other services, internet and phone were working properly.  Since I could barely understand the woman thru the crackle on the phone line, I'm guessing she got the point that the phone was on the fritz too.  We had a doozy of a lightening storm night before last and several hits were VERY close to our house.  Our nearest neighbors house was hit and their internet and power were knocked out.  I'm guessing our outage has something to do with their problem.

The repair person was supposed to be here at 3PM.  Hmmmmm?  It's now 4:10 and not a peep, boo or holler from the company.  I detest people that are late and even worse....people who are late and do not call to let you know they are running late.  Hey, I have a life, however non-exciting it may be...and i still have places to go and people to see.  I have to go to the feed store and get some rabbit food and guinea pig food.  See.  Exciting things to do and places to go.

But I really, really, hate waiting!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Everyone has a story

It's true.  Everyone does have a story.  All stories have a beginning, a middle and a conclusion.  Sometimes I feel like I have so many stories in my life to share, that I don't even know where to start.  Most of us know our stories.  You know where your story begins, and you are in the midst of living the middle portion of your story.

Two of my four kids have stories with a beginning.  Two of my kids do not.  For one of my kids, that means not knowing about the stresses and abuses he was exposed to in utero and ad-libbing the first 2 weeks of life.  For one of my other sons, we know nothing about his first 3 years of life other than he was abandoned at an abusive, neglectful orphanage.  For him, his story begins at the age of 3.

Of course in reality, both their stories begin before their first breath.  This is where it gets sticky for me.  I know one of my boys had a rough start from the moment of conception.  His little developing body was exposed to substances that will forever affect the way he interacts and interprets the world around him.  For my other little guy, his body was exposed to a disease in utero that had the potential to cause devastating effects upon not just his musculoskeletal system, but also his brain, heart and other vital organs.  Chances are his birthmom didn't even have a clue she carried this disease.  Their stories have very difficult beginnings to share with them.  What's even harder is that while Thomas knew his birthmom's name and had a picture of her, her death meant he would never hear the story of his beginning from the one and only person who could tell it.  For Jerome, we cannot offer ANY information to him about his birthmom or dad.

His story is unknown.  I can't imagine how that would feel; to not know the story of your birth.  To not know how he came to be left at an orphanage in a very dangerous part of Port-au-Prince.  He wonders what her name is.  He asks what she looks like and how old she is.  For all those profoundly important questions, we tell him we honestly don't know the answer, but strive to give him information that makes him feel good about himself.

Today, he asked me again what his birthmom looked like.  I told him I don't know, but that I am sure she had his happy eyes and brilliant smile.  Other questions are harder to answer.  He wants to know how old she is and where she lives now.  He also wants to plan a trip to visit her in Haiti.  At his age, he isn't connecting the dots that it will be impossible to locate a woman who is nameless, who left nothing behind, but an infant boy.  He still enjoys making believe about seeing her someday.  That's cool with us, but hurts us to know that eventually, he'll realize it's futile.

Everyone has a story.  Sadly, not everyone can tell their story.  Huge, critical pieces are missing.  Do those missing pieces leave permanent holes in their hearts?  I know for me, it would. For my boys, I'm not so sure.  I know that no matter how much I love them, a piece of themselves....their beginning .... is missing forever.  There are no do-overs, no second chances.  You get what you get.  My hope is that the rest of their lives are SO amazing, the beginning is not as important.  I can never give them that part of 'their story' but hope to high heaven that the rest of their story can begin here, at home, in my heart forever.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The sweetest kid alive

Jerome is the  sweetest kid alive.  He finds joy and happiness in the most mundane aspects of life, but when he is partaking in something special, his joy can not be contained.  This picture says it all.  It was taken at Haiti camp last month when he successfully climbed to the top of the rock wall.

Friday, August 19, 2011

odds and ends

My life should be titled, "Odds and Ends" as it seems so damn appropriate for the craziness of our chaotic life.  We seem to have our fair share of 'odd' and a lot of loose "ends" right now.

The loose ends revolve around the distinct possibility of Marc being transferred.  We've been in North Dakota for 8 years now and are in our second house here.  When we moved here in 2003 we bought a house on 3 acres just north of town with a gorgeous view of the river.  I loved the layout of that house and reveled in it's bright interior and southern exposure.  Sadly, on only 3 acres, our growing menagerie needed more space to stretch their legs. 

We bought 40 acres of beautiful rolling grassland and planned to build a house, but before that happened, this house came up for sale and was on 40 acres.  It's plenty big and has a nice layout, but I wasn't wild about it at first.  We've been in this house since 2006 and slowly over time, we've claimed it and made it not just another house, but H.O.M.E.  We finished the basement, added counter tops, flooring, barns, arena's, fencing and I now feel at home in this house.  We have 2 of the worst, lousiest neighbors alive, but I can overlook them, ignore them and find joy in our home and it's setting.

There are 3 very possible transfers in the wind right now.  Each of those transfers hinge on a multitude of other factors far outside our control.  We understand that moving is a possibility again for our family, but this time, we aren't finding much joy in it.  We've made good, life-long friends here and have become members of a church our whole family enjoys and feels connected too.  Going to church on Sunday isn't just about worshipping God, it's about connecting, visiting and giving to friends and a community.  I'm not sure that kind of church family will be easy to replicate somewhere else.

We've moved before and will probably move yet again.  I just wish that the government would give us some clues as to the directions things are heading.  Until then, we sit and wait for Marc to get that infamous email telling him he has 90 days to report to the new office.  Of course during those 90 days, there's a mad dash of a house hunting trip, getting the house ready for sale and appraisals, organizing for movers, closings, kids' schooling, finding new doctors, friends, church, veterinarians, etc, etc, etc.  If I had to lay money on this, with our luck, we'll move sometime in the next 8 months and inevitably it will be during a blizzard. 

My ability to move spur of the moment has waned over the years.  C'mon gov.  Give us a clue!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Where in the world is our adoption tax credit?

We live in North Dakota and our adoption tax credit is being reviewed in Holtsville, New York.  Yeah, I know that makes a lot of sense, considering we originally mailed all our tax documents to California.  If your brain is known to blow a fuse easily, you better not read on.  It gets so convoluted that it quickly becomes as clear as mud!

Marc spoke to the gal reviewing our adoption tax credit file in New York 2 weeks ago today.  She said we must amend our 2008 returns to claim the boys as dependents, even though they still resided in Haiti, were not U.S. citizens and did not have social security numbers.  Because the adoption was finalized in Haiti in August of 2008, they will reduce our allowable credit to the 2008 limits, which effectively reduces our return by $1000.  I guess it matters not that the boys weren't granted a visa to enter the U.S. until April of 2009, which is when we brought them home.  Whatev!~

Nameless IRS employee with her thumb up her butt in New York said she could not fax us the documents we need to amend, but must be snail mailed.  Great, yeah, whatever.  Oh, except the mail only goes out on Mondays, and the mail had already been picked up.  I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!  We finally received the documents, which shockingly had been filled in with the supposedly correct numbers and we just have to sign and snail mail back.  Marc is mailing those off today and we should receive two separate payments; one for the amended 2008 return and the current 2010 adoption credit still owed us. 

Now this is the kicker.  We received the new documents that we needed to sign and mail last Thursday.  On Saturday, we received a letter from the IRS apologizing for the delay and informing us that they would review our file within 30 days and would notify us of their decision.  This is friggin' hilarious.  Wouldn't it appear that since Marc has spoken to nameless IRS employee reviewing our file that our case has been reviewed?  Hello? 

The icing on the cake is that although they have reduced our overall adoption credit return by $1000, as of 2 weeks ago, they owe us $564 in interest!  At the rate the IRS is working, they will be paying us in excess of the $1000 they reduced our initial return.

Sarah, hang in there.  This ride is almost as crazy as the roller coaster ride to bring the kids home in the first place. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thomas is officially a teenager today, God help me!

13 years ago today we received a phone call from Winnell Bird who ran Blessed Trinity Adoption Agency in Houston.  She was calling to tell me that 3 babies had been born that day and I needed to pick one of them RIGHT NOW.  I heard the words, but could not believe what I was hearing.  How could I possibly choose one of these newborn angels?

One of the babies was a bi-racial girl in New Hampshire, one was a black baby girl in Louisiana and one was a newborn black boy in Houston.  In the 60 seconds I had to choose, I asked Winnell which baby would be the last one chosen.  She told me the dark black boy would be, so that was the baby I chose!  That itty-bitty baby boy, that we named Thomas has been a treasure for our family.  I know with every fiber of my being, that God meant this child to be ours.  He is a blessing to us and has helped us see the world thru different eyes.  He has taught us so many lessons that I most often feel inadequate.

13 years ago, Thomas entered the world at 15 minutes after midnight.  He has packed more adventure, joy and experiences into those 13 years than most people do in a lifetime.  I love my angel for his sense of adventure, kind, kind heart, sense of humor and his ability to adapt to the chaos of our life.  I can't even imagine what our family would be like without Thomas in it.  One thing is for sure.  Our family would have saved a TON of money on doctor co-pays and emergency room visits.  He keeps life spicy and always interesting.

Happy birthday to my oldest son.  I treasure you and thank God for you everyday!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

4 stitches and not a tear, pout, or whimper

Madison and I went shopping at Sam's Club today and only ended up filling one flatbed cart.  We thought we did a great job being frugal and just getting the necessities such as Chips Ahoy cookies, ice cream bars, Ritz bitz know....the basics!  We had just checked out when my phone rang and it was Marc asking if I had received the picture he sent me. 

I hadn't gotten any pics so he explained that he wanted me to look at a cut on Richnigthder's elbow he had gotten falling off his bike while trying to pull a 'Napoleon Dynamite' move.  Seems my two older boys were trying to jump their bikes over some homemade jumps which were made of 2x4's, 4x4's and some rusty nails and screws.  The pics would not come thru so I just headed for home as quickly as I could.  Of course I instantly got diarrhea on the trip home since I let Madison drive and there were numerous construction zones to pass thru.  Oh the struggles of being a mother!

We made it home and as soon as I saw his cut....actually it was more like a tear....I knew he'd need stitches.  Madison unloaded the car, took the groceries inside and watched Thomas and Jerome while Marc and I headed to the ER.  Of course the walk in urgent care clinic closed at 4PM so we had to go to the ER and wait awhile as there were two life flight victims of car accidents brought into trauma.  Richnigthder was an ALL STAR ROCK STAR!  They used a needle to numb the area around the tear and he watched and never batted an eye.  Then the doctor, who looked as young as Doogie Howser, sewed him up with Richnigthder watching intently.  My kid is da bomb!

We stopped at Dairy Queen and he got an extra large Butterfinger Blizzard and then pressed on to Little Caesar's for take home pizza.  All I can say is that they must grow them tough in Haiti.  Richnigthder is still denying any pain even though I know it must be throbbing.  He made this mom so proud.  Not proud because he was stoic, but because he is so thoroughly attached and trusting to know that we were looking out for him and taking care of him, even if it meant pain in the form of stitches.  I love my kid for being so brave and for trusting us so completely. 

Aside from the trip to the ER today and the near visit to the ER yesterday with Thomas and a possible broken nose, it's just been another normal weekend at our house.  Thankfully we have ice cream bars and cookies to ease all the boo-boo's!~  Bring on Monday.....I can take it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Adoption tax credit

Our accountant filed our taxes in early March.  In April we received a refund based on our taxes, but withholding the adoption tax credit still due us.  They requested copies of all receipts dealing with our adoption expenses, which we promptly provided.  Then they requested another copy of their IR-3 visa, which we faxed.

We received a letter in May telling us that they would review our file and notify us within 30 days of their decision.  DECISION????  What's to decide?  We spent gobs more on the adoption of each boy than the allowable tax refund, so what's to decide?  Then in June we received a letter asking for ANOTHER copy of their IR-3 visa.  WTF?  Marc finally talked to someone last week regarding why our file hasn't been reviewed yet, and they notified Marc that they needed a copy of the adoption decree and a translated version.

OK, we have those documents, but that's not what is legally required, per their own damn IRS forms.  Nonetheless, we faxed copies of their adoption decrees showing that the adoption of the boys was final in 2008 in Haiti.  Of course, the paperwork trail wasn't finished in Haiti until April of 2009 when we brought the boys home.  Heck, for that matter, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince took 2 weeks to issue their visas to travel home in April of 2009.  So while the boys were legally ours in Haiti in 2008, we couldn't bring them to the United States, nor claim them on our taxes as they were not U.S. citizens, had no SSN, and were not residing with us.  BUT now, according to the IRS, we should have claimed the boys on our 2008 taxes and will withhold part of our adoption tax credit until we amend our 2008 returns to reflect the addition of the two little boys........EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE STILL IN HAITI AND NOT LEGALLY ENTITLED TO ENTER THE U.S.! 

Because we have to amend our 2008 return, they will reduce our maximum allowable refund to the 2008 limit which is roughly $1000 less than the 2009 allowable refund.  To further complicate this, the IRS will be paying us interest on the 2008 return and on the adoption tax credit from this years return.  I'm not sure how much that will be, but I'm sure it won't be as much as if we were tardy in paying them!

I'm screaming right now out of frustration and anger.  How asinine to think we could have claimed the boys in 2008 when they weren't even a citizen of the United States then, nor could not legally enter our country.  I can't be the only one that finds this mind-numbingly confusing. 

Yeah, so we will get a portion of the refund....or so they say....within 6 weeks and the rest of the refund when we amend our taxes.  Even if we get right on it and get it done ASAP, according to the gal Marc has been dealing with at the IRS it will be approximately 6 months.  Hey IRS.....mama needs money!!!  Send me my damn money and stop changing the rules as you go along.  Kids call rule changers....CHEATERS!  Quit changing the damn rules and send me my money!  Mama needs a trip to the liquor store!

Monday, August 1, 2011

language disorders and other facts of life

It's widely known that Thomas has a language disorder.  It affects the way he hears, interprets and relays information he hears or sees.  When he was 5 and in pre-K  his teacher asked us to have him tested for ADD/ADHD.  I found an assessment center and had him tested only to be told he did not have ADD/ADHD, but instead had Semantic Pragmatic Language Disorder.

We kind of always knew something was weird in the way he reacted to social cues.  For instance, he never understood the fact that someone could be laughing with him and not AT him.  He'd get all pissy, stomp his feet and yell.  We also could tell that he was very verbal from a young age, but never realized his speech, while articulate, was mere parroting.  He also struggled with some sensory issues that affected his ability to eat foods with different textures and to deal with/ process outside stimuli such as large, loud settings or needing to sleep with a pile of heavy blankets on him.

Thomas worked his butt off to reach age appropriate goals in Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy.  He learned how to add content to his speech, how to extract information from his brain and articulate it, and how to 'read' social cues.  Perhaps the social aspect was the hardest.  It was interesting to see how Madison just innately got social inferences and facial expressions and yet Thomas had to be taught how to read someones facial emotions.  Weird.  My hat's off to Thomas for his diligent work over the course of 5 years in therapies.  While some social situations remain elusive to Thomas, he now is able to understand social parameters and gets when someone...or himself....are behaving outside of normal standards.  This is a huge accomplishment.

Even though he has graduated from Speech and OT, I still see areas of struggles.  The other day he had a really nice kid over to play.  He has been friends with this kid for 6 years and while I see that his friend is maturing at a faster pace than Thomas, I also see that Thomas notices it and strives to behave in an age appropriate manner.  Thomas works so hard to behave in an acceptable manner that is physically and mental whoops him.  When his friend went home, Thomas crashed.  He had a melt-down and was drained.  How sad that he has to work so hard to maintain friendships and social parameters. 

What's super sad about his language disorder is that his appearance to the world is 100%  average.  He doesn't wear a physical sign that tells the world he struggles with some issues.  There are times I want to hang a sandwich board sign around his neck that announces his struggles.  I worry as he gets older that the expectations of life get more demanding, he will be so frustrated that he won't be able to function.  I'd love to know why he has this struggle, but I guess it relates to the poor start he was given in life in utero.  My anger at the exposures he was subjected to even before his first breath is immeasurable.  I'm not angry at him.  I'm angry at his birthmom, but that is irrelevant now since she passed away.  I'm left to guide my son to successful adulthood: one where he can navigate the world of social situations and one where he must learn to voice his thoughts in articulate, clearly understandable  language.

While I know his struggles with life skills, he is greatly adept and trying to hide them from outside people.  My heart ached from laughter and from pain when I overheard this conversation with his friend while driving him home.  The comedy of errors began when Thomas' friend answered a question I asked him.
Me: Chris, isn't that you're cousin's house?
Chris: Which one?
Me: Your cousin, Jane.
Chris: Hmmmmm, that name rings a bell.
Thomas: What bell?
Chris: The lunch bell, idiot!

Chris is a wonderful kid, so don't get me wrong here.  It was just so sad to see that Thomas couldn't follow the simple conversation and grasp the social slang of 'ring a bell'.  Thomas is a very social kid and loves to be surrounded by friends, but finds it exhausting and now even he can see when he has failed to grasp a social cue or language inference.  He is still able to laugh off his faux pas but I wonder how it must feel to know he missed yet another simple, social cue?