Thursday, September 25, 2008

Audited, Seriously?

Just what you want to see, right? An audit inquiry from the Utah State Tax Commission arrived a few weeks ago and it has been sitting on the corner of my desk while I stewed about it. The audit only has one action item: Deduction for Adoption Expenses. My first reaction was to drive over there with Nora, find the yahoo that flagged my return and ask, What the Hell? I don't have time for this, here she is, do you think she got here on her own dime?

But I've come down from that ledge a little and I'll spare you all the rest of the content of my response related to my 2005 and 2006 returns and adoption related expenses for both YuYu and Nora and when they can be claimed for state and federal tax purposes. I'll just cut and paste one paragraph where I try to weasel out of paying the bank a buttload for copies of three year old checks:

2. Although the USTC audit form requests copies of cancelled checks related to the 2005 adoption expenses, I have declined to provide those copies. The expense of obtaining all those copies from my bank is prohibitive and would not provide proof of all expenses where some expenses were incurred by electronic funds transfer or wire transfer. I have, however, enclosed a copy of adoption related expenses itemized by my personal finance software program for your review. When preparing my response to this audit inquiry, I realized that the cost of our airfare to China (families must travel to China to adopt their waiting children, children are not escorted to the adoptive family’s home country) had not been recorded and the actual 2005 adoption related expenses exceeded the amount claimed on my 2005 USTC return by well over three thousand dollars. Obviously, an international adoption does not happen for free and copies of the cancelled checks would not be especially probative under the circumstances. I have also enclosed a photo of myself, center, my third daughter YuYu on the left and my fourth daughter Nora on the right. This photo was taken by our Chinese guide seconds after we first met Nora and Nora met us. Nora is the unhappy one. Nora is real and the expenses related to bringing her home were real and within normal parameters and copies of cancelled checks are not going to be more or less useful than the enclosed transaction register.

I sure hope its the last I hear from our friends at the USTC (and I actually have friends at the USTC, just not in the audit department), but I kind of doubt it. My tax dollars at work, blerg, to quote my favorite TV character.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Run! Don't Walk, it's Honeycrisp Time!!

It's Time!!! It's Time, they are here, run, don't walk to your nearest green grocer and buy as many of these special little jewels as you can haul off in a goat cart because they are only here for a short short time and you need to eat, eat, eat a lot of them so you can savor the memory all year long. I'm serious. This is not hyperbole. The Honeycrisps are back in the markets and they are are "Explosively Crisp! Honeycrisp are fast becoming the most popular apple in the world!"

And lest you think all the extra exclamation points are a little histrionic, then you have obviously never eaten a Honeycrisp because: "Honeycrisp it is more than an apple it is an eating experience!"

I'm getting all the quotations from the "official" Honeycrisp website where they say things like: "We like to say Honeycrisp vs. Red Delicious; "You got the looks, But have you got the Crunch?" Think of that when you eat other apples!"

It is such a bad, amateurish website, but obviously reflects the grower's unparalleled enthusiasm for it's product, which I share whole-heartedly and also approve of the unfettered use of the many exclamation points. And if you can't find these incomparable queens of the fruit world in your local market, you can have them shipped right to your door. And I don't know any service men and women personally, but these good Honeycrisp people are picking up the shipping for any apples going to APO addresses, can you just imagine how good one of these things would taste if your butt was stuck in Ramadi? so I clicked a little donation to contribute to the shipping costs because that got me where my patriotism hits the road. Hard enough that these men and women are sent to stand in harms' way, separated from family, the comforts of home and then, to add insult to injury, to miss the short seasonal window of Honeycrisp availability because you're serving your country? Hell no. That cannot stand. Apple for Troops. I can't end the war, but I can help send apples. Off my soap box, safe to keep reading.

These apples are so good in fact, I know of a local woman who buys them and sneaks them out of the house to keep in the break room refrigerator at her office just so she doesn't have to share them with her husband. Sounds shameful, I know, but once you taste these apples, where: "The balance between sweet and tart utterly seduces your taste buds," I don't think you will or could judge her so harshly. She is definitely making the right decision. He can find his own way to the grocery store if it is that important to him, I say. And she knows who she is and you know it's not me because although I would certainly do the same thing if I had a husband, I don't, so I just keep my apples from my kids: I tell them I'm feeding them Honeycrisps and slip them Galas instead. They don't know, they're kids. I'm doing the right thing. Taste one, you'll see.

Saturday, September 13, 2008



What makes a happy girl even happier? Mooncakes from her foster mother, that's what. Notice Nora in the corner of the driveway photo? That's the "Ohwah! where's mine" face she wears on any occasion when she is not the designated recipient of the package, e.g., every birthday party she has ever attended that was not her own. EDIT[Well, all my worry about anonymity and I posted a picture with our addres on the shipping label clearly visible, damn these high resolution cameras, but no more picture of pouty Nora] END EDIT But she got over it and she and YuYu have been devouring these mooncakes, especially the cute kid-sized little numbers. I had to hide some of the cakes to share with our neighbors (Chinese citizens who work in a medical research lab at the U) to take over when I impose upon them, I mean ask them nicely, to read the letter that came with the package. And we have to save a few to eat under the Autumn Moon and think of friends and family far away who spent money they don't have to express mail mooncakes so they would get here on time and still be fresh.

Mimi and Ellie, both adopted as infants, don't have any affinity for Chinese snack foods including these mooncakes. They tasted a tiny corner of a cake, but that was all I could get down them. YuYu and Nora, both adopted at 4.5, retain their appetites for Chinese snacks and they could eat mooncakes and dried squid strips 'til the cows come home. Ever been driving along, minding your own business, when you were completely enveloped and overwhelmed by the smell of dried squid stips wafting up from the back row? I have and now we have a no squid strip in the car rule at our house so Mom doesn't drive off the road inside a cloud of squidiness.

Happy Mid Autumn Moon Festival!!!

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Plenty Good Enough


See, I'm completely immune to external pressure to perform to a higher treat standard than I could ever achieve without staying up and fussing over it all night before the "big game." My kids call every Saturday game, regular season play, not a playoff or tournament, the "big game." Too much Disney.
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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Her feet are long fellows

At the end of the school year last spring, YuYu's second grade class invited their parents to an Author's Tea. The wonderful Mrs. G compiled the poems into a book and each child scrambled up to the front of the classroom (literally, scrambled, Mrs. G had 28 second grade students and I think each child had at least one adult there for the tea, plus lots of younger siblings, so it was wall to wall humanity) to read their own poem out loud.

So you know that YuYu was in foster care with a family in Nanning for a little over four years and that they adored her and would have given anything to adopt her but could not afford the domestic adoption fees and were compelled to deliver her back to the orphanage on the morning of November 15, 2004, so I could meet their daughter, our daughter, a few hours later. I still cannot think of how painful that must have been for her foster parents to have to let her go that morning. Sure, sure, they knew what they were getting into when they agreed to the foster arrangement. But YuYu was their first placement and she stayed and stayed and stayed with them year after year and they had dared to hope that she could be with them forever, and the news of her impending adoption, which they heard first from me, actually, in a letter I enclosed in a pre-travel treat package, rocked their world. They told me the news of her new family really set them back on their heels, but they were grateful to have as much advanced warning as they could get. They told me that some foster parents who live in their apartment complex don't find out until the day before they need to send their foster child back to the orphanage, harsh, very harsh. But they wanted me to know that even in their sadness, they were so pleased and excited about YuYu's chance for a different future. I admire them for being able to see the positive aspects of having their beloved daughter torn out of their arms. I don't think I could have been so generous about losing an angel to a stranger.

So you also know that we are breaking the bank and all five of us are traveling to China next summer to attend her foster brother’s graduation from the military college in Guangzhou. I don’t think the idea of the trip is ever far from YuYu’s mind. Don’t get her wrong, she is a happy, well adjusted child who loves me and her sisters and she just feels lucky to have two mothers (the concept of her first mother has not seeped through her consciousness yet) who love her best.

So think of me, a sentimental softy on even the best of days, sitting with my knees under my chin in a tiny plastic chair, listening to my angel read her poem to her classmates. Imagine the odds looks I was getting from other parents as the tears leaked down my face. Good lord, they’re thinking to themselves, pull yourself together, it’s only a second grade author’s tea. Yeah, only.


The sun warming my body
The soggy fog goes away.
The sun comes out shining on the city
Rain drips from leafs
I feel you though you’re far away
But I can visit you another day.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


A comment to the previous post about soccer treat mom's possibly kinder ulterior motives reminded me of this website alllooksame I stumbled upon a few years ago. I thought I was more sensitive to the differences between Japanese, Korean and Chinese cultures than the average Joe. By the time I took this test, I attended school at the University of Hawaii for one lovely too short semester where I porked up on Asian food like there was no tomorrow, and there weren't too many tomorrows, one semester was all I got, but you name it, I ate it and I ate a lot of it, with two scoops rice and kimchee. All my roommates were Japanese Americans who shamed me into using chopsticks by telling me that 5 million Chinese pre-schoolers could do it so then so should I. And of course, by the time I took the alllooksame test I had traveled to China a couple of times and had read Red Scarf Girl and Wild Swans and whatnot trying to understand modern Chinese history so I could wrap my head around the genesis of the misbegotten one child policy that ultimately brought me to my children. I figured if I couldn't affirmatively recognize something as Japanese or Chinese, well then, it must be Korean by default and if it looked like bulgogi, I couldn't miss.

So I felt confident as I took the test (you go to the exam room link on the right side of the home page). I would have done okay if the test for cultural awareness had been limited to identifying pictures of food, but it wasn't and as it turned out I am just average at identifying the differences between these three major Asian cultures based on the seven other categories contained in the test. But, hey, I sure know my Asian food. So I guess it's a start.

A well meaning friend (and one who does not for sure read this blog) gave me an antique doll dressed in a unmistakably Japanese costume (and even if she did, wouldn't recognize herself because she wouldn't know that the doll wasn't wearing a Chinese costume) before Ellie came home, truly a thought that counts kind of gift. I'm still not sure what to do with that doll.

So it would not have occured to me that soccer treat mom was making a nod at my kids' birth country because they weren't born in Japan. And of course, I'm too self-centered to ascribe any other motive to soccer treat mom other than
a bald faced attempt to make me feel more inadequate than I feel almost every minute of every day as a parent. To stick the knife in and twist where I'm most vulnerable because it is all about me, always all about me. Next thing I know soccer treat mom will inviter herself over to my house so she can shut the hall door real fast and make the dust bunnies jump. She's diabolical.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Saturday Soccer Sushi

This is the first year that I've signed up the little girls for soccer. I could just never figure out how to get everyone to games and practices at different times on different fields, so I didn't push it. I figured if the little girls were interested enough in playing soccer they would nag me, but the guilt got to me first. Ellie has played on a recreational team for many years. She's not exactly in it for the athletics, but I thinkshe enjoys being on a team with a lot of her friends from school and if she wasn't having fun, I figured she let me know and she could stop, but so far, she's hanging in.

The guilts finally got to me though because I also know that the little girls would like to be on a team too, but they don't know enough about how things work to know that they just had to ask me to get what they want. I think they trust me to give them what they need and if I haven't given it to them, they must not need it. So I fudged YuYu's birth date a little so they could all play on one team. I have to rely on parents of girls on Ellie's team to ferry her to games I can't get to on time because I'm with the little girls (which was tough for me to ask for help, so stupid, but I am growing up a smidge). So for the next two months, someone will have soccer practice every night but Thursday and my Saturday mornings will be spent in a folding camp chair yelling until my throat hurts, but hey, it's only two months. And I never was a yeller before, but you try having half the team consist of your own kids (5 and a goalie for the little girls) and see how quiet you remain. Not.

But I have to tattle on the the treat mom this morning. And I could just kick myself for not getting a better picture. I sneaked this picture because I knew I was going to mock her and I felt badly about stealing the image. She probably thought I was some kind of royal wingnut when I sneaked this photo of her treat tray, but swear, I totally passed the camera around at Ellie's game later this morning because none of those parents have ever or would ever go to this level of effort for soccer snacks. I should have flattered excessive-effort-treat-mom and told her a lie like that I wanted pictures for my SIL or just made up someone who always has their eye out for cute kid treats, because no lie, these things are cute, but who was the cute aimed at? the kids or the parents? But I didn't think fast enough to flatter her with some load of crap so I could get a better shot, so this was all I got, but can you see what she's got going on here on the decorative pewter like tray?

Is this any better? can you see the bamboo sushi rolling mats atop a grass green sheet of what, who knows? and she even included a set of artfully placed chop sticks, no lie.

What the hell? who does she think she is setting the treat bar so high on the first game of the season? I, for one am neither impressed nor intimidated (well, yes actually a little bit of both), so boy are these kids going to be disappointed next week when I rip the top off a box of granola bars from Costco and hand them a warm juice bag and call it good.

Over-the-top-treat-mom made Rice Krispie sushi treats, damn. Maybe its the all the accessories that got to me the most, but geez, seriously? no one really expects their kids' soccer treats to get food styling points, or have I been living in a bubble?