Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Working Mama Wednesday - Bonus Time 2013

A good portion of my income is made of my annual bonus. We always look forward to bonus payout because it helps us to check off a few things on our list that we'd wanted to do for the past several months but because of Christmas & New Year, both of which bring higher expenses for our family, we weren't otherwise able to do.  You know, all the exciting stuff like buying new tires where steel belts are coming through and replacing the fence at the rental house.  That being said, we always set aside a little money for each of us to spend independently on things we want.  It becomes a bit of a treat for us both to purchase something nice for ourselves without any guilt what-so-ever because all of our other expenses that we'd been putting off have been taken care of.  In this past this has meant things like a new Xbox360 for my hubby or new clothes/shoes for me.

This year my hubby new exactly what he wanted.  In fact, he knew exactly what he wanted for about 6 months and I give him super props for using self-control to avoid purchasing it earlier.  You see, our tv was 8 years old and on its last leg.  Hubby bought a 60" Sony as a bonus gift to himself after he hired on at his current job which was also his first "career-type" position.  He took great care of it and it served our family well while it lasted but unfortunately it had a problem where it was slowly turning blue.  Something related to the picture quality was actually melting so every time we turned it on or off the edge of the picture became a little more blue and we lost a few more pixels.  By the time the new year came around the damage to the tv was very obvious - every time you turned it off the screen looked more like the opening scenes of Star Wars (think "In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...) than it did a blank screen.  Those "stars" appeared during a show too.

I admit, even I was getting bothered by it.  Mie, the frugal one who doesn't care much about picture quality or screen size - I was pretty much ready to get a new one too.

So hubby researched and read and researched some more to figure out what he really wanted.  This is what we ended up buying, the day my bonus hit the bank.

And fun was had by all.  We even watched a 3D movie (well 2 of the kids did - that's all the glasses we have for now, which by the way doesn't work well when you have a 7 member family...).  Everyone's happy and the astronomical tv is headed upstairs to the play room for future use.

A few days later I had the opportunity to do some shopping of my own and buy the thing I was looking for...

These are close - I can't find them anymore online because true to self the shoes I bought were on clearance and are nowhere to be found online...

When I showed my hubby my purchase he said "don't you already have enough shoes?".  I quickly pointed out that I had 2, one for working in the yard and one for normal wear.  The ones for working in the yard I bought about 10 years ago...they are for working in the yard because I don't worry about how nasty they get out there, they are already that bad.  The other pair for "wear" are the ones I bought oh, about 5 years ago, the ones I bought to replace the others purchased 10 years ago.  I showed him where there was no more paint or materials in spots, where the sole is worn completely through in spots, etc.

I fully intended on ribbing him about here on my blog about the apparent discrepancy in our purchases and how I definitely didn't need a hard time from him on my purchase of a discount pair of shoes on clearance after 5 years (when he purchased a brand new tv with all the bells and whistles!), with my bonus.

That was, at least, until this happened:
Photo courtesy
Ok, so it really wasn't that bad but since apparently my hubby forgot to take a picture this will have to do.
Yes, I crashed my car.  Unfortunately I crashed my car into the rental car we had.  In my driveway.  While my entire family watched.  While our other car was in the shop waiting to be picked up from getting fixed after a freak accident led to its damage.  Yeah.  That.

So I guess we're even.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Moolah Monday - Tax Trouble

I finally did my taxes a few weeks ago.  I don't know what I was thinking on two fronts.  First, I must have been anxious about the results or how difficult it would be because I procrastinated longer than usual (and my hubby let mie).  Surprisingly, it was much easier than I expected once I got everything organized.  Second, why on Earth did I wait so long?  I knew this would be a problem.

As foster parents we're allowed to claim children as dependents if they were given into our care by court order, we provided for more than 50% of their expenses, and they were in our custody more than 6 months. We had 2 kiddos (#9 & #10) that qualified that way.  It's always a gamble in doing your taxes whether or not the current family will go ahead and claim the children regardless of whether or not they're legally allowed to and so it's always a good idea to jump right on your taxes as soon as you can if you plan to claim children who are or were in foster care.  Even though it is tax fraud to illegally claim someone as a dependent, families do it all the time and it's pretty annoying to get it corrected.

As a side note...gosh it seems like a long time since 9 & 10 were with us!

Sure enough, when I submitted my taxes electronically it immediately came back as rejected because social security numbers were used twice.  I tried to fix it that night but the software I use was being squirrelly, that or we have a much bigger problem on our hands.  The system is insisting that two of my 4 kids' SSNs have already been claimed.  This makes logical sense as someone must have claimed #9 and #10 (illegally of course).  The confusing thing at this point is that the software is insisting that I change the SSNs for Logan and Summer, not #9 & #10, as if THEY have already been claimed instead of the fosters.  As I said, the software is either being irritatingly squirrelly or worse, we have a bigger problem on our hands.

I'm told this situation is easy to correct.  Because our tax situation is somewhat complex with foster children, higher income, and rental property, I always purchase the extra service to deal with the IRS should they come back and audit (or have other issues).  Last year this worked out very well for us because the IRS rejected Summer as a dependent because she was adopted AND rejected her SSN because her adopted name didn't match the name on her SSN.  It was a complicated mess to sort out but in the end it worked well to have the agency folks run it down for us.

Here's hoping it's as easy to solve this time around.  I'm headed now to figure it out.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Foster Parent Friday - Are the Kids Dangerous to Your Kids?

Q: Are the kids who come into your home dangerous to Logan (and Summer)?  Don't you worry about that?

A: I will honestly say that yes, as a foster parent you must absolutely consider the impact each foster placement might have on your forever kiddos.  That is not in question.  You can control some of that if you want to by limiting the children that you take to avoid certain known triggers or things you know you couldn't handle.  We have very few of these limitations but we have always said no to a male with known history of sexual abuse (not that we've actually had the chance to say no to that).  We have also one time actually said no to a child who was described to us in a way that we didn't believe we'd be able to handle.  In truth I didn't believe we'd be the best family for that little guy but honestly I was concerned about my kiddos as well.  Poor thing - I hope he's found a good home by now.

With all that said, I didn't want to focus on the serious danger today but rather point out the REAL impact foster children have had on my forever children through a series of brief glimpses into scenes from our life over the past 3 years.  (Why yes, now that I think of it, it was 3 years ago Tuesday we received the call that our license had been approved and 3 years ago next Wednesday when we received our first call).

Scene 1: Driving by Whataburger - A Texas hamburger chain that is very recognizable

#20 - Mom, What's that?
Mie - Whataburger
#19 - Mom, don't throw a hamburger at me ok?
Mie - Ok.  I won't throw a hamburger at you. ...  Wait. Did someone throw a hamburger at you?
#19 - Yes, (So and So past relative placement)
Mie - Oh I see.  Well we don't throw hamburgers at children.  No one should ever throw hamburgers at you ok?  Why did (person) throw a hamburger at you?
#19 -  Because I'm bad.
#20 - He's bad.
Mie - No, you're not bad. I think you're a good boy.  I think you both are good boys.  I won't throw a hamburger at you.

Our forever kiddos have learned that in other homes, some other children face different kinds of discipline and not all mom's have it as together as I do (see my posts from the last two days...).

Scene 2: Driving in the big city - #20 points out EVERY police car

#20 - There's one.
Mie - Yep, there's another one, but don't worry mommy's not afraid of the police.  I obey the rules so the police aren't coming to get mie.  Do you know someone who's scared of the police?
#20 - (Immediately, without hesitation) My dad punches my mom.

Then I talked to him about THAT.  

Our forever kiddos have learned that some daddies are mean to the mommies and kids in the house by hurting them.  The calm-down corner seems relatively harmless.

Scene 3: Walking through the clothing store

Mie - This weekend I'm going through your things to see what else you might need and if you need something I'll buy it for you ok.
#19 - We need pajamas.
Mie - Ok, I'll look through your things and figure out what you need and if you need pajamas I'll make sure I buy them for you ok?
#19 - Ok.  (Relative) says we have to wear pajamas 2 times.
Mie - Oh, so at her house you had to wear your pajamas 2 times before you washed them?  
#19 & #20 - Yep.  She said we didn't have enough so we had to wear 2 times.

At this point I have to stop and tell you how unbelievable it is that they didn't have enough - there are at least 20 pajamas between the two of them, though admittedly only a handful of "sets".  I also have to point out that wearing PJs more than once, though not our standard, is not a big deal.  I did it as a kid and do it as an adult.

Mie - I see.  Well in our house you only have to wear your pajamas once and then I'll wash them for you.  If you need more pajamas I'll buy them for you.
#19 - Ok we need more pajamas.

Our forever kiddos have learned that other families might do things differently and that's ok.  They've learned it is NOT ok for kids to be in need and they've learned how to provide for kids in need.  They've also learned that different still must be safe - children cannot live where it isn't safe.

Yes, our kids are introduced to things as foster siblings that they wouldn't have otherwise been exposed to.  On the other hand they've also been forced on a regular basis to see that other children and adults don't always have what we have and yet because we have what we have we are able to share with those in need, not just by talking about things but also by doing something about it.  Sure there are things that they are topically exposed to (drug abuse, child abuse, neglect) that in an ideal world we'd like to shelter our children from but the reality of this world is that those things exist and it is much better for our children to experience them (from a distance) in a safe, healing family where they also see action taken to fix the problem rather than burying their head in the sand like so many of us American Christians would like to do.

Bottom line - our kids are exposed to "different" concepts as foster children. We work really hard to protect them from the truly dangerous things, as any parents would, while teaching the to engage with the world around them in a positive way.  In the end we believe we'll all be better off, by the Grace of God, than if we played ostrich through this life.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

REALLY (Not) Having It Together

First, see yesterday's post. Then come back and read this.

I took this morning off to register #19 for school.  It's my first school-age placement and the first time I've gone through the "normal" registration process, not that this is normal by any stretch of the imagination.  So, I planned to take all the kids in and then go register him for school and head off to work.

As a side note, this plan was somewhat interrupted by another child and I getting sick with strep-like symptoms.  So, I planned to work from home in the afternoon.  I couldn't get out of an 11am meeting though.  Just keep that in mind.

Last night as I prepared to send him off to school I could not find my placement paperwork anywhere.  We looked everywhere.  3-4 times.  The only thing I could think of was that I left it on my desk at work.  Of course I didn't remember doing that but it was the only place left it could have been.

That meant this morning after dropping all the kids off at their respective schools I had to drive the 26 miles to work in rush hour traffic to check out whether or not I left it on my desk before I could continue with the registration process which involved .  So I did.  And it wasn't there, which meant I had to drive the 26 miles back home empty handed with no other plan.  I can't withdraw him from the current school without the paperwork.  I can't enroll him in the new school without the paperwork.

Incidentally, I can't take #20 to the doctor without the paperwork either.

So, I went home.  I almost cried.  I looked through everything a 5th and 6th time.  No luck.

Thankfully the caseworkers in this case really are the best and jumped into action, working together across different caseworkers to email mie what I needed right away.

Now I sit here at Chick-fil-A while my kids play in the play place and the phone won't ring to get a hold of the folks who are waiting for me to call for my 11am meeting.

*Sigh*  I really do need to get it together.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

(Not) Having it All Together

Yesterday Kim over at It's a Vertical Life posted briefly on the challenge shoes place on their life at home.  In response, I pointed out how awesome I am at keeping our shoes organized, if I do say so myself.  She responded, cracking mie up.  Go check it out.  I love this woman - you should follow her.  Really you should and thank mie later.

So - here they are - our shoes all perfectly in line.

 And I say hush to all you Type As out there who are pointing out that they are NOT perfectly in line because they aren't lined up by size and color and why on Earth are mom's shoes in with the kids instead of in her ginormous shoe closet.  Hush I say.  I don't want you encouraging the Type A in mie to try and tear mie down from the inside.

So as you can see, I totally have this shoe thing down in my house.  The kids are pretty good at putting their shoes away like this when they take them off, or if not them at least when I remind them that they need to put their shoes away.  This is in our main hallway, across from the bottom of the stairs, kind of in the center of it all so my kids always know where their shoes are and they don't need to scatter through the house to go get their shoes from (closets, etc.) when we have -3 minutes to leave the house.  My shoes don't usually go there but I was cleaning up and lazy so they ended here last night.  We don't worry about how many shoes each kid has downstairs as long as they are nicely lined up here.  When they line gets too long (the length of the wall) we narrow down to 1 favorite per kid and put all the rest away upstairs in their closets.  Eventually the line gets long again and we start over.  This system works really well for us.

BUT, lest we get proud over at Mie's house, let me share with you what you see when you turn around 180 to look at the living room:

No, it's not as bad as it could be and yes some of that laundry is mie catching up from all of the stuff the boys brought with them last week when they joined us (seriously - each had 25-30 t-shirts, not counting long-sleeved or the stuff I have on the back of the couches needing to get hung up!).  If I'm honest with you - the couches look like this about 75% of the time.  I always have laundry going when I'm home.  I don't hate laundry - I actually like doing laundry if I don't have to put it away - but the reality is I don't have time to sit and go through the entire laundry cycle in one sitting.  So, it ends up looking like this.

BUT, notice the mantle.  Here's another picture in case you missed it:

"So..." you say...well, until St. Patrick's Day it looked like this:

Yes - those are my Christmas decorations still up through St. Patrick's day.  I'm mighty proud of myself for breaking down Sunday and getting them put away, finally. (in a box in the office, not actually upstairs).

Notice the laundry on the couch.  I have no idea when this picture was taken but I assure you those are different piles than what was there last night.  More proof that is really what my house looks like most of the time.  And, dear Type A, don't go comparing the mantle pictures closely and finding the snowman in the middle of my "After" picture.  Just don't do it.  Clearly I missed the snowman as I sat down to pat myself on the back for finally cleaning up Christmas 3 months later.  I won't tell you that I didn't even notice until I looked at the picture more than 24 hours later.  

Furthermore - if you look at my kitchen it looks like this:
That pile o' crap on the island has taken up permanent residence.  Like the shoes, when it gets too big to stay in one pile I go through it, weed it out to a bare minimum, and then start the cycle over again.  That is the 2nd or 3rd pile of dishes in the sink waiting to be done.  We fill the dishwasher at least once a day and the sink is kind of like a bus stop shelter for dishes waiting for the next load.  Hand wash?  Only my copper pots and pans and stoneware.  At least the dishes on the counter are clean and the visible counters are sanitized.

The turtle tank is the light to the right of the picture.  It is by sheer luck it's not pictured.  I'll go ahead and tell you the moss has started to grow...

SO, long story made longer - judge for yourself whether we have it all together.  Our house is safe and sanitized for the kids but I make no apologies for the lack of complete organization in my home if you stop by for a random visit - or really even if it's planned.  I choose to worry more about reading with my kids, taking them on outings, and letting them live their lives rather than pay attention to the color of the grout or whether the baseboards have been scrubbed recently.  My kids are happy and our family is in the perpetual process of healing.  That's just the way it is.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Once Again - A Family of 7

As you can imagine from a title like that we did indeed get the call for our newest kiddos (#19 and #20, but who's counting?) and they joined us last night.

And what a glorious night it was.  Seriously.  Best. Night. Ever with new kids.

These two are so eager to have a family, it's painfully obvious but overwhelmingly fulfilling to be meeting that need for them right now (and a bit of a red flag for what might be coming in the future post honeymoon).  It's been a while since I've had a good honeymoon period so I forgot what that was like.  I just got off the phone with their CW and was able to sing their praises, again.  Everything really has gone that well.  I'm probably glowing.

(But my eye is red from recurrent allergy-induced pink eye.  Yay!)

We were very concerned about this placement for one giant reason.  #19 is older than Logan by about 5 or 6 weeks.  This is something we were always against though honestly my hubby more than mie.  I didn't mind the thought of having older children too much, that is, until we actually accepted a placement with an older child.  I suddenly began freaking out about what that meant for our family.  It didn't help that Logan changed his mind about having these brothers (before they came) and insisted I call them back and say no because he was NOT having an older brother.  Oh the dilemma in the pit of my stomach.  We prayed that if it wasn't meant to be the whole thing would fall through some how.  We prayed that if it was meant to be the transition would be smooth and the older brother thing would work out.

So far so good.  Prayer works.

Logan enjoyed spending time with his new brothers last night and having met the new "older" brother made him realize that all his fears about having an older brother (being bullied, the brother bossing him around, etc.) was not as guaranteed as he thought it would be and maybe, afterall, wouldn't be so bad.  Especially after finding out he'd have someone in the house that would play HIS kind of stuff with him, like video games and basketball and out in the yard doing boy things.  This might just work out afterall.

They called mie mom before I got home from picking them up.  Very eager to feel part of the family.  (Which I acknowledge is something that will need work over the years).

Work over the years - we do expect this to be an adoptive placement (as much as a parent who has had 21 children "expects" anything).  Rights are supposed to be terminated next month.  We'll see about that.  For now we'll take one day at a time.

This will be our first time with a school-aged foster child.  Having it be spring break makes it a bit difficult to figure out what the next steps will be on that one.  Though in investigating his school background I have found that he previously went to school in the same district we live in, probably making it easier to switch schools but making us live relatively close to the previous relatives he lived with.  There's a chance he will be held back a year, making him in the same grade as Logan, something I'll probably look into sooner rather than later if it's appropriate for him.  You know - maybe as he switches schools he should start out in the younger year rather than be held back next year?  Seems to make sense to me.

I am really happy with all of this right now.  Really happy.  Remind me of that when the honeymoon wears off in a few weeks :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Maybe (new) Baby?

I have a favorite investigator.  Or, I'm her favorite.  So she tells mie.  Ever since she placed #11 with us she has texted every couple weeks with a new placement opportunity.  We've either been on the list or for whatever reason it hasn't worked out.

This afternoon my dear friend called to ask us if we could take an adoptive placement.  She has a 4 and 6 year old male sibling group that needs a permanent home.  The story started out that rights had already been terminated and the current kinship placement realized they couldn't do permanent care but then it turned into termination is scheduled soon but is a likely adoption since no other family is available.

Placement is needed tomorrow (Thursday).

We haven't been on the list.  We were waiting for a while, enjoying our break.  Frankly I wasn't sure I was going to want to go back on the list.

We said yes.  After a little toil to get back on the list, we're now ready to accept this placement.

Now we wait.  They are supposed to "officially" call in the morning.  They may or may not call.  The placement folks may decide they want to pick someone else, I suppose.  We shall see.

I plan to take the day off with my son to visit a local theme park.  He doesn't know this yet.  It may just be the last day of him being the oldest in our home.  Not sure what to think about that.  Thankfully though I'd been planning on this day off with my son already and it might just work out.  Either way it will work out.

So - we're praying tonight and tomorrow that God's will prevails.  That if these two children are meant to be part of our family then CPU calls us in the morning and it all goes smoothly from there.  Join us will you?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tuesday's Tears - The Flawed System & Siblings Update

I am desperately trying not to become jaded by the system.  Not to become one of those foster parents and by that I'm not referring to the evil dangerous ones of which I will never be but one of those who are tired of fighting the system.

Our kids deserve better.  They deserve to have someone to fight on their behalf.  They NEED it.

Oh but It. Is. So. Hard.

Last week we finally learned the (initial) fate of our #16's siblings.  I'm told in a text message that court did not go well, that the judge finally ruled on the 14 day hearing (8 weeks later) and with no other rationale the kids were ordered back to the home they were removed from.  I do not know this home.  I do not know the family.  I just know what everyone has described to me.  This is not  a safe place for "my" kids to be.

There is now nothing that can be done about it (in the natural world).  Judge has ruled.  Despite whatever evidence there was to remove the judge has decided it wasn't enough.  Who knows what the reason was.  I wish I could tell you what I have been told about this place.  You would be furious.  I will tell you that it involves multiple dangerous scenarios in the same house, any one of which would warrant removal in many situations.  These kiddos have now lived without any family of their own for 2 months only to be sent back to the place they were "saved" from to begin with.  With all of that said, the investigating agency isn't left with much choice.

Now it must escalate far worse than it was in the past to get ANY help to those kids.  My guess is that there will be no services - the department can't give the perception of harassing the family now that the judge ordered the removal to be unwarranted (for whatever reason).  So if there was drug abuse or domestic violence or mental health issues - all of it can be left unchecked, unsupported, unhealed.  The kids would be left amidst it all.  If it got slightly worse - maybe they're left outside in the cold for a while, they show up to school dirty and hungry, they start showing up to school irregularly - there won't be anything the department can do?  Afterall - it will only go back to the same judge who will do the same thing and send them back.  Again.  It will have to escalate to violence toward the children.  Battered.  Bruised.  Bloody.  Probably multiple times.  Much quieter, deep neglect.  Even then...

I have been praying for these children since I knew they existed.  I've been praying they could be all together, including #16.  I've been praying they could come live with us.  Am I disappointed?  Yes, of course, I wish they could be at our home, all together, one big happy family.

But as foster care goes...

I am not even worried about my feelings.  The sadness I thought would be there for "losing" these children has been non-existent or at least greatly dwarfed by the feeling of despair and fear I have for these children.  I am genuinely concerned for them.  My heart hurts for them.

On paper adoption with us looks better for #16 when the siblings are where they are today.  The reality though is that with the judge's ruling as it was the future for baby baby may not be so bright either.  There will be pressure.  It will be a fight like none other to keep this child safe.  I don't even care anymore (well, I suppose I do some) whether they end up with us or not.

I just want to go to sleep at night knowing their safe, loved, and provided for.

I wish that wasn't too much to ask.

It isn't too much for the One who holds the world in his hands.  Please join us in praying for these siblings who desperately need miraculous intervention and everyone else in the world who through no fault of their own are victims of injustice.  They don't have to stay there...

Moolah Monday - Our "Fair" Share

Greetings everyone and Happy Monday!

It is a happy Monday for mie in that this past weekend was super accomplished.  And by that I mean I did my taxes finally.  mostly.  And I went to sleep at 7:30pm on Friday night.  SWEET.

I just wanted to give you a glimpse into what taxes look like from where we sit.

I use Turbo Tax.  If you're not familiar with the tool, here's a brief overview.  It walks you through the process of filling out each of the categories related to taxes in a logical order, not necessarily the order the tax forms lead you through.  As someone who only stopped doing the paper tax forms in 2011 because I honestly LOVED filling out the paper, I can wholeheartedly tell you I love using Turbo Tax.  (This is in no way sponsored and there may be other great products out there...just my experience).  As you enter in information about your family and tax-related situation, you watch as the tax total changes, just like that.  It starts out at 0, but as you go you can directly see the impact of every entry you make into the tool.

The first thing it asks us is about our family situation and whether it has changed.  Here's where I got to delete two kiddos from my home, fix Summer's SSN, and add two new kiddos, #9 & #10 who left in July but made it long enough to claim them.  Easy enough.

I use home and business because we have a rental property so the next section is business-related.  It immediately added $6500ish to my total refund due because last year we had a rental property loss that we weren't able to take.  I went through the time-consuming process of adding up 2012 receipts, digging through paperwork, and even resigning up on my mortgage-company's website for that property and entered everything into the system.  As I did, the total refund grew to $11,000+.

The next section is about income.  I'm not going to share our specific income but I will tell you as a point of reference it is LESS than $250,000, what we kept hearing was the line for "wealthy" individuals during the last election cycle.  I feel we're wealthy because of what we have in Christ and how I know most of the under-developed world lives, but we're not wealthy by American standards; we're not out buying yachts or flying on private jets.  (We're not really flying on planes much as far as that goes...aside from our trip to Hawaii last year we haven't flown anywhere that I can remember since Logan was free...more than 4 years ago).

I entered in our income information, including taxes paid, an amount about DOUBLE what I made working full-time through college, just in case you were thinking we must not have paid taxes already.   Suddenly my tax refund of $11K+ turned into owing $1500.  Why?  Because yet again this year we're not able to take the rental property loss as deduction because our income is too high.

The next section had to do with personal deductions and credits, things like childcare credits, education credits, and itemized deductions.  I'll spare you the boring details but needless to say despite a lot of charitable giving (nearly the amount I earned working full-time through college), foster-care related donations, and several other related items our tax amount turned back into a refund far less than the original amount shown.  This took into account that several things that were mentioned as possible credits we were disqualified for because our income is too high.  As an example, the childcare credit (dependent care...) allows for up-to $3000 per child or $6000 total to be claimed, assuming you spent that much for your children.  We received $1200, despite the fact that we spent at least $6,000 in 2012 on foster care daycare alone, not to mention the childcare for our own 2 children.

Here's my point - that adds up to $15,000 in tax refund that we would have received if our income was slightly less, an amount someone else making slightly less would have received.  Having made slightly less, they would have also paid less in taxes to begin with, BTW.  Instead, we ended up paying an amount in taxes more than what some full-time workers earn in a year.

This is not meant to be a pity-party.  I'm not whining nor am I complaining.  I simply wanted to give one example of what it looks like to be a family working as hard as we are, giving as much as we are both financially and otherwise, when we do our taxes.  I don't think our perspective is well-voiced in the public forum and since this is mine, here it is.