Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children
What could be better than an Ethiopian welcome, FOVC style?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Castrophe is Looming

The Economist has more this week on the impending drought in east Africa. This one will most likely surpass the drought of 2000 and could be the worst since the great drought of 1991. This is not only bad because more people go hungry, but as the article points out it often heightens the level of violence between already warring factions. In addition, droughts have all kinds of unintended consequences. Did you know that 95% of Ethiopia's power is hydroelectric, which is water dependent? And, if the needed rains do come, then the region is plagued with mudslides and malaria and cholera increase.

It's a no-win situation. However, besides prayer, it appears part of the answer is helping these countries to build stockpiles of non-perishables and livestock in anticipation of these droughts which appear to emerge on a regular basis. Also, this is also why initiatives like those the Jonas family is undertaking are so important.

Another friend is going to Ethiopia in December with Ethiopian Orphan Relief to help build a well in a remote region.

You can check out the Economist article here.

P.S. - If you want to keep up with what's happening in Africa...and the rest of the world for that matter, I highly recommend investing in a subscription to The Economist.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Picture of Little Boy B!!

Sorry, can't share any more. But isn't it cute and sweet? Those old adoption feelings have started bubbling up again. We can't wait to get to Ethiopia!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

She Loves to Read + Home Study

Meelsie loves-loves-loves to read books!

Given how she likes to spread out, I wonder how her bedside table will look someday? (For a hint, you might want to look at her Dad's and Mom's bedside tables....)


Our big, long homestudy visit is today! We needed just one--ONE!--decent photo of our whole family together. It was a monumental effort to get us all:
  • in the house at the same time;
  • awake at the same time (although it's pretty obvious Amelia is ready for bed);
  • fully dressed at the same time;
  • ...we gave up on getting everyone to smile at the same time!
Here are the results of our efforts...not aided, I'm sure, by the fact that our real camera is being repaired, so these are phone camera pics.

Aughghgh!! Given our difficulties in taking a simple family photo, can you believe "they're" going to let us adopt again?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Federal Government: An Object Lesson

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing about the above-referenced account for tax period 12-31-2008, form 1040.

We figured our 2008 taxes using Turbo Tax. According to Turbo Tax, our total tax liability for 2008 was $xxxxx. Between withholdings and a check we mailed with our return, we met our tax obligation by the April 15, 2008 deadline.

In mid-June, 2009, we received a check from the IRS in the amount of $4795.53. No explanation for this refund was included with the check. We made some efforts to contact the IRS about this check, however, the phone wait times were excessively long and we had a hard time reaching an actual person. So, we actually concluded that the IRS had detected an error in our favor and had been good enough to send a refund. (Yea! It’s great to be an American!)

At the end of August, 2009 we received two cryptic form letters from the IRS, stating we owe a total of $4852.71 on our 2008 taxes. Subtracting the penalty and interest included in this demand for payment, the amount due turns out to be the exact amount of the refund we received in June.

In trying to understand this situation, we spent two full days on hold, being transferred among various IRS departments, talking to various agents, faxing our tax information to the IRS (didn’t we already send it once, back in April?), calling back for status updates, etc. The many different agents we spoke to all claimed the IRS had sent two previous letters that included explanations about this request for repayment. (As God-fearing, hard-working, tax-paying Americans, I assure you, we NEVER received ANY previous communication from this IRS about this matter.)

Over the phone, two different agents indicated we "probably" would not owe the requested amount. Finally, however, we received a follow-up letter from a Ms. xxxxxxxxxx last week. She indicated we do owe $4795.53 (before penalty and interest) because it was an IRS error that resulted in the June payment by the IRS to us. With penalty and interest, the amount the IRS is requesting comes to $4852.71.

My first comment is this: My wife and I both have MBA’s from top schools. We work hard, we keep good records and we are honest people. It’s hard enough for us to figure our taxes (Read: it takes many, many hours and considerable effort to complete our return.).

That said, it’s incomprehensible to us that the IRS code is so complicated and tortuous that the IRS can’t even seem to figure it out. Why was a refund sent to us in June? Why was it so hard to make contact with a person who could provide an explanation? Why didn’t we receive an explanation for the refund, or an explanation for the demand of payment? Why did it take many individuals, several IRS departments, a fax, high anxiety and hours on the phone to get to the bottom of this IRS error? Given all of the varying information we have received, how can we truly know that we truly owe this money? There is something very wrong with this picture!

My second comment is this: Given the fact that this comedy of errors (which would, indeed, be funny if it wasn’t so sad) is due entirely to IRS error, poor communication and inability to administer its own tax code….doesn’t it seem over the top for the IRS to ask us to pay a penalty of $23.95 and interest of $33.23?

I am enclosing a check in the amount of $4795.53. This is the amount of the payment that the IRS sent to us in mid-June, 2009. This payment does not include the requested penalty and interest charges. It doesn’t seem reasonable to expect us to pay these charges.

We would appreciate a personal response to this matter. Unless your agency specifically explains that the penalty and interest are required, and how it is justifiable that these funds are required, we will assume the matter regarding the penalty and interest is resolved, and we are not expected to make payment.

Very truly yours,

David B. and Lora M. Howlett

cc: IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman
Congresswoman Betsy Markey
Senator Mark Udall
Senator Bill Bennett

Monday, September 14, 2009

Another Update!

Here's what we received from a different traveling family:

I did get to meet Bereket and spend time with him. He is a little guy and a cutie. The first day, he was very shy and wasn't too excited about getting his picture taken. The kids were all singing and he was participating with them, but when they moved to the floor, he just wanted to play with his toys instead. However, once he warmed up to me he began smiling and interacting a lot. Later that day was when he was outside swinging on the swing and playing soccer. Those shoes made me laugh! He was giggling and running around with all the kids. The next time we saw him he ran right up and was happy and trying to look at the camera and see himself and his friends in the camera. The day of the party he was dressed in traditional Ethiopian clothes and posed for me like a champ. His sweet smile is going to melt your heart!

I can't imagine what we are in for when B. comes home. Joy. Fun. Perhaps anguish. Trusting God. Hope. Adjustments. Grief.

I saw a blog the other day that is titled, "Because faith is bigger than fear."

That is definitely our prayer,
that our faith will be bigger than our fear.

We are plowing through our paperwork. It looks like we have found a way to expedite some of the required fingerprints. And we'll meet with our social worker next week; she says we can complete our homestudy update with just one visit!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Update from Traveling Families

Four IAN families arrived at Sele Enat yesterday. Here's the little update one of the families already sent:

Little Boy B. was wearing pink crocs on the wrong feet and playing soccer like a champ.

Ahhhh! That's our boy!

We are wading into the weeds of paperwork. We can re-use much of the information from Amelia's adoption (yea!), but there is still a fair amount to take care of.

Question: How Big is Africa?

Answer: BIG!

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's Official

We have decided to adopt Little Boy B. I wish I could share his picture here, it's really cute.

Fortunately, much of our paperwork from Amelia is re-useable. There's still plenty of "really urgent" stuff to do. Like...figuring out if we need to re-name the blog (The Howletts 6???)...determining what little boys like to play with...changing a room from pink to...a color that is not pink.

Since Little Boy B recently became a waiting child, our agency thinks the process will be pretty quick. As in, it's reasonable to expect to travel in December or January.

We are trusting God to provide the resources we need. We can only imagine how much pain and loss this little guy has already experienced. May God provide healing and may we provide much love and blessing to our new son.