Saturday, October 31, 2009

Words cannot describe....

Words cannot describe how we are feeling right now. We are so happy and so excited! We are going to be parents!!! 3 and 1/2 months ago we made the decision to adopt a baby from Ethiopia. We knew the journey would not be easy (possibly the hardest thing we've ever done) but in the end, it would be the most worthwhile thing we've ever done.

On July 12th 2009 we jumped headfirst into what we thought God was telling us to do! We didn't have $27,000 laying around. We didn't know how to start the process, we didn't know anything except that we needed to adopt a child halfway around the world.

We spent that entire Sunday researching agencies and gathering information. We slept on it, but the next day we thought we had found our agency and so we already filled out a pre-application form and waited. We did not have to wait long and by Tuesday we had been pre-approved for Ethiopia!

We continued to pray about this. It was scary and very exciting all at the same time. By Wednesday we had already received an information packet and official application in the mail. We were moving right along! That Friday we went up to our agency's office and met with them and asked all the right questions and officially turned in our application!

Then we had our first "waiting period". Our application would not be reviewed by the social services department until Wednesday the 22nd Peter's, 23rd Birthday. Now the ironic thing about this is that we both had to be 23 in order to adopt. God definitely had his hand in all of this.

Wednesday came quickly and I remember getting the call at work - I was nervous and she told us we were officially accepted into the Ethiopia program! Wheh, we made it out of the starting gate!

By the next day we had recieved our orientation packet with a bunch of contracts we needed to sign and a very large check that needed to go out with them! We certainly did not have that type of money laying around, but we did our best to scrounge up the money. We had 3 months to come up with this money and we thought we might need every bit of those 3 months to come up with that kind of money.

Within 1 week, God provided the funds necessary to turn in our orientation packet. On our 3rd wedding anniversary July 29th, we had the last of the money we needed to continue on the journey.

We turned in our packet and quickly recieved our home study and dossier planners in the mail. We were finally overwhelmed by the daunting stacks of paperwork we needed to compile. My life became these documents! I was very proud of myself that within 3 weeks I had completed all of our home study paperwork and we were able to get it out of the house. Unfortunately our state fingerprinting process became a real pain, real fast. We were ready to proceed, but without the fingerprints we could not. The state fingerprints were a thorn in my side for 9 weeks, but we finally received the clearance we had been waiting for in the mail on October 13th!

We were ready to get the home study done so we could complete the dossier which had been in our house, ready to go, for several weeks. Our social worker started the home visits immediately and the next 2 weeks became a whirlwind of activity in our house. Cleaning for home visits, having a 4 hour visit that went until 10 at night. Finishing up the home study. The report was completed within 2 days, we just had to wait until over the weekend!

This week has been an emotional rollercoaster and yet, we were pretty calm about it all and knew what we needed to do. We needed to pray. We prayed and prayed this week that things would come together. This past Monday things looked very bleak that we would get wait listed this week. One more week wouldn't have been horrible, but I just felt like we had to get on the lists this week. There was so much to get sorted out, but I felt like we needed to get on the lists this week to get "our baby".

Tuesday brought more bad news that other things needed to get sorted through. I had a few phone calls with our social worker on Tuesday and Wednesday brought no news. I really wanted to bug them on Wednesday but I could feel God telling me to leave it alone, and just pray. Thursday we got word that our home study was under review and needed a few changes. Wow! That was another miracle. We were told 5-7 business days and this was 2!!! We were so close! God was listening and giving us the miracle we had been asking for! Still a lot needed to be sorted through on Friday for it to happen. We continued to pray all day Friday and I received word at noon on Friday that the home study was finalized and she would look through our dossier and get back to me by the end of the day! Things were moving, but if one little thing in our dossier was not done correctly we would not get our numbers. It came down to the wire but a few minutes before the office closed we got the phone call we've been waiting weeks for!

We were on the wait lists! Such a feeling of emotions! We were done with the paper chase. We are now waiting for our baby! We are so happy and so excited and amazed at the miracle God provided for us this week. It truly is a miracle that things got sorted out.

Our first official waitlist numbers are:

Siblings - 14
Boy - 21
Girl - 43

We can finally prepare for this baby to come in to our family. This is real, this is going to happen! We are now entering another stage of waiting, but at least this time we know we will be moving closer to our baby! We are at such a high point in this journey and with all the lows of the past few months we feel great! Now we can prepare and anticipate the call from our case worker where she will say "There is a baby I would like to talk with you about!"

We are coming for you Baby Dash!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Time to take a deep breath and ...... relax

We can take a breather for awhile now.

Now I know this isn't our adoption blog, but I wanted to post this on our family blog too as this is important information!

If you missed the post below about our trip to see Dave Ramsey - check that one out too, it's good, solid information!

This is 3 months of our lives:

I know it doesn't look like much, but we have put a ton of work into these documents right here. Our dossier is officially complete and we are just waiting on word that the agency has received our home study for review and we will be able to turn our dossier in! It feels so good to be done with the paperwork!

I remember the day we received our home study and dossier binders in the mail. I felt so overwhelmed by all the information we needed to compile. Slowly, step by step it all came together. This very information will be put in the mail and travel all the way to Addis Ababa Ethiopia where the Ministry of Women's Affairs will look over all this information and determine if we would make good parents to an Ethiopian child. Very important documents!

Once they approve us (hopefully) they will hold on to it until a child has been referred to us and a court date has been granted. The judge will ask the Ministry of Women's Affairs for a determination on the case and once they give favorable determination we will be able to go and hold our baby!

We are hopeful that possibly this week we will be given our first official wait list numbers and then we wait for a few months. We are still hopeful that come January or February we will get "the call" that will forever change our lives!

We are both very excited to get our dossier turned in. Another huge step closer to bringing home our baby!

Our Total Money Makeover

Yesterday we had the opportunity to meet our hero - Dave Ramsey in Portland. In January of this past year we were introduced to the Total Money Makeover and jumped right into step 2 of his program - Paying off all debt. We worked very hard the first six months of this year to pay off as much as we could, even with the glitch of Peter being laid off for 6 weeks - it did not stop us! We ate beans and rice for lunch and dinner for the first 6 months of this year. We made some sacrifices but were able to pay off around $15,000 in debt in just 6 months! The debt reduction has kind of come to a stand still as we felt lead to adopt and adopting is kind of expensive :)

Dave's principles are pretty simple and kind of a no brainer, but we need it to be a no-brainer. It is by no means easy, but I think that anyone can succeed by following his principles. We hope to work our way through his ENTIRE program and someday reach the coveted 7th Step - Build Wealth and Give.

Here are some startling facts:

If a 30 year old couple made 48 grand a year and saved 15% in a 401K at 12% growth at 70 they would have: over 7 million dollars!

That same couple could fully fund a Roth's IRA at only $5000 a year at 12% growth at 70 they would have (tax free at that) almost 1o million dollars!

If they did both of these things they would have almost 17 MILLION DOLLARS!!

70% of consumers live paycheck to paycheck
The average American household has $91,000 in debt
In 1929 only 2% of homes had mortgages (by 1962 only 2% did not have mortgages)
60% of baby boomers will not have the means to support their standard of living after retirement

Here's a quick rundown of the Total Money Makeover

Step 1 - $1000 in an Emergency Fund

This one he really encourages people to finish in about a month. Sell stuff, get another job, do whatever you have to do to get this one done as fast as possible. We were fortunate enough to have this one completed before starting the program!

He went off about buying new cars and yes I am guilty of that one, but I will never make that mistake again. Most millionaires drive used cars - that is a fact. Obviously they know something. The average new car loses $360 worth of value per month!!! That is crazy. That is more then our car payment is!!!

If I did not have a car payment and I invested the money I spent every month on my car payment instead of blowing it on something going down in value - I would be rich in a matter of 10 years! I hate thinking about that. Our debt we are working on right now is our car and I cannot way to have that one behind me. He has no problem with people who have the cash to buy a nice car buying a nice car, but when you actually look at the numbers - buying a new car and paying on it every month is a really stupid thing to do.

Step 2 - Pay off all Debt

This step usually takes people a couple of years to complete. We have a good 6 months of hard work on this one (and $15,000 less debt!) Whenever we are able to start back up on this one we are going to work hard and hope to meet that 2 year goal! This one has taken a lot of hard work on our parts to stay on it and get this debt paid off, but at the end of the month it is exciting to sit down and get to see the numbers drop!

He recommends starting with the debts you owe the least amount of money on and only pay minimums on all other debts. As soon as you pay the small one off, pay off the next largest and the next largest until you are eventually to your biggest debt and throwing all extra money at it! We have our car payment (grrrrr) and then one very large student loan and then we will be able to call Dave Ramsey and yell "WE'RE DEBT FREEEEEE!!!"

Step 3 - 3 to 6 months in savings

Dave says this is the most important step to wives and I feel that way about this one. Women need to feel secure financially or we stress out big time. He says as soon as your wife knows this one is fully funded he promises that her personality and emotions will change. Dave says this step usually takes 6 months to a year to complete. It will be nice to have an umbrella over our heads someday!

Steps 4 and 5 go together:

Step 4 - Invest 15% of income in an IRA or pre-tax retirement plan

Without having debt, it is easy to put money in investments. He says this one can be a lot of fun and he preaches diversity and starting as young as possible on this one.

Step 5 - College Funds for children

This step is something I never thought would be possible for us to do, but our kids not having to deal with student loans is important to me and if we can help them get an education then I would love to do this one.

70% of students have to take out student loans so I know it is a very "normal" thing to do, but how nice would it be to not have that hanging over you for ten years after you graduate? As long as we start a fund before our oldest is 7 years old Dave says we should be able to fully fund a college account for them!

Step 6 - Pay off your home early

As much as I would love to think this is the house we will be in for the long haul, I am sure we will outgrow it. If you don't have other debts to pay it shouldn't be too hard to pay a lot of money on your home loan. Dave says it take the average person around 7 years to pay off their home.

Now we will probably have to move again before this one is complete, but his recommendation if we must take out a mortgage is only to take out a 15 year mortgage and spend no more than 25% of your take home pay on your mortgage. Hope our real estate agent can help us get a steal on a house next time ;)

Now for the one one that I really really want to get to:

Step 7 - Build wealth and give!

Money is not evil. Money should be fun. Dave says the best part about having lots of money is giving it away to people who need it. The idea of being financially secure at a young age and being able to help others - help the poor, help the homeless, and to help the ORPHANS - that is where our heart is really at. Trips, jewelry, nice things - yeah that all sounds wonderful but we truly do want to help others. We would love to start a non-profit and help families adopt, or help open orphan homes around the world. It all takes time, which when you have bills to pay, you gotta work all the time - and it takes money.

I have already seen amazing blessings poured out on us from God as we started this program in January. God does not desire for us to be indebted to anyone so now that we see some of the stupid choices we've made - we want to change course and He is helping us out of this hole we dug. It is not easy, and it is taking daily sacrifices and saying no to buying things that we would love to have.

We feel like as much as we look stupid to others around us and people made fun of us as we ate beans and rice all the time - but $15,000 were paid off the first half of this year - who's getting the last laugh? If normal is going farther in to debt and filing bankruptcy and spending more than you make, and buying cars that lose value faster than you pay for them - then I am okay with being weird!!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fruit Loop

Yesterday we took our trip up the gorge on what has become a yearly tradition for us to take advantage of the fall weather and fresh apples and pears on the Hood River Fruit Loop! The weather was chilly but nice which made the day great!

I love the fall colors and I like decorating for fall and knowing that the holidays are coming soon. I enjoy the cold, crisp air, and wearing sweatpants and pulling out warm snugly blankets! I love the return of college football season and settling back in to fall schedules. It seems like things slow down just a little bit in the fall and we are able to spend more time together, at home enjoying the warmth and comfort of warm foods and earlier bedtimes :)

Peter and I have been enjoying photography lately and the fruit loop was a great opportunity for us to take some pictures of what has become my favorite time of the year:

I personally believe that this is the best time of year to call the northwest your home. I do love spring and summer in Oregon, but I believe fall is the best. Don't even get me started on Oregon winter's though, I could skip January thru March