Thursday, July 31, 2014

Journey to our little girl - chapter 2: Getting a lawyer!

I shared yesterday about how we met and were chosen to adopt a precious baby girl. This is what happened next.

The first few hours were bliss. Jarrod and I were excited! We called our parents and told them the fantastic news. We ordered pizza and celebrated. But by 9pm or so, I was panicked. I googled private adoptions and quickly became overwhelmed. It's like googling headache symptoms and assuming you have cancer. I was overwhelmed - we'd need a lawyer, home study, and $100,000 by morning. We were months behind schedule and had to kick it into high gear. The internet completely freaked me out.

I didn't sleep well that night...or most of the next 3 weeks. I woke up at 5:30am and went for a 3 mile walk before Wesley got up...and then went for another 2.5 mile walk before church. My mind was swimming. Don't get too excited. This could fall through. She's not your baby yet. Adoptions are expensive. I prayed a lot for God to guide us.

On Monday I was sick to my stomach almost all day. I called and e-mailed lawyers. I had friends pull strings for us. I carried my phone everywhere I went - even the bathroom. I researched and wondered what to do. Finally at 4pm I finally got a lawyer that I trusted. He explained the process, outlined the fees, and eased most of my insecurities. I spoke with Jarrod about it and by Friday was filling out the paperwork and writing a large check. We dropped it in the mail on Saturday, May 3rd. It was exciting, but I was still completely overwhelmed.

In order to combat some of the intense anxiety I was feeling, I began working on the nursery. I set up a super girly private pinterest board and went to town. I bought about 20 yards of pink fabric that first week and began sewing curtains. I opted for the pinkest pink room for baby girl. I sewed ruffled pink curtains (they took 20+ hours!), created crib sheets and pillow cases, and planned to move Wesley's furniture to her room. I made a list and began checking things off of it.

I took our potential birth mother to breakfast one Saturday morning. My tension left. She was delightful and very wise. She liked us and wanted us to raise her baby. I adored meeting her and could have spent the entire day just learning about her. This meeting lowered my anxiety. I began to calm down. I trusted that God was taking care of the details. I tried to enjoy the ride...this beautiful journey we were chosen to go on with such a precious family.

We went to IKEA and got some new furniture for Wesley's room. I wasn't ready to move him out of the crib yet, but we did get a dresser and bookshelf for him in a dark wood tone - no more baby white in his big boy room! He handled the transitions like a champion. We moved the changing table/dresser into the new pink bedroom, situated the recliner in the corner, and folded baby clothes for the dresser. I got Wesley's old clothes out and sorted out some of the gender neutral things that will work for baby girl.

Because of the nature of this adoption, as many adoptions, we are keeping things a secret from most everyone. We don't want to "untell" people and definitely don't want things facebook official yet. We tell our bosses and our besties, but the rest of the world probably thinks we're just losing our minds. :-) I have pregnancy brain, probably from lack of sleep and incredible things consuming most of my brain, but nothing to blame it on. :-)
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Journey to our little girl - chapter 1: Finding out and getting chosen

Nearly 2 months ago I wrote that we were discouraged in our foster care journey. We switched agencies and on April 23rd received an e-mail that we'd need an additional 25 hours of training. On top of the 20 hours we'd already completed... Shortly after that e-mail, I went to lunch...

A great friend and I meet for coffee or lunch about once a month and have for over a year. We don't live close together, but enjoy each other's company and make time to visit. Sometimes we get busy and our meetings get more sporadic. We met for lunch on April 23rd at 11am.

Lunch with my precious friend was just what my soul needed. She's pregnant with a little boy and the restaurant was full of pregnant women. She asked me how things were going with the foster process and I shared my heart. I was frustrated. I was overwhelmed. I wondered if Jarrod and I should get pregnant in order to get our baby. That didn't feel "right" but seemed like the only option. We were meeting so many dead ends with agencies.

That's when she told me about a beautiful family. A young pregnant woman and her mother were looking for a couple to adopt a baby girl. My friend learned about the pregnancy on Easter Sunday and her anatomy scan ultrasound was on Easter Monday, April 21st. It was at that appointment that her due date was adjusted by 11 weeks. I told my friend to pass along our information and wondered if it was all too good to be true. I called Jarrod as I left and told him God might have a different plan for us. I was literally flying high for the rest of the day.

After work, Jarrod, Wesley and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. I got home to a voicemail message from the baby's grandma. She was precious, compassionate, and told me about their desire for an open adoption. My friend had told her all about my family and she felt very comfortable with who we were. She and her daughter wanted to meet us and I couldn't have been more thrilled. We decided to meet sometime the coming Saturday. We were so excited, already dreaming about our baby girl.

The baby's grandma texted me a sonogram picture taken earlier that week and I was in love. On Thursday afternoon April 24th, we texted again and set a time to meet - 3pm on Saturday, April 26th. Ironically, Jarrod and I had been praying for several months at 3pm each day about how to expand our family. We were being intentional with this prayer time and knew that God was doing something when the meeting was scheduled for 3pm.

The next day or two had me incredibly anxious. I was struggling to sleep past 5am and my stomach was a wreck. I didn't want to get too excited and instead worried myself by googling private adoptions. So much can go wrong, they can be VERY expensive, and differ from state to state. I struggled to control my emotions, but it was hard. I couldn't focus on anything at work, which was problematic.

Saturday finally came. Our house was moderately clean and I had a plate of chocolate chip cookies ready to go. They arrived and it was immediately comfortable. The birth mom brought her mom and aunt for support. We had a million things in common including music and Dave Ramsey - two things that are incredibly important to us! Wesley was even on his best behavior! The birth mom was very quiet, but when I gave her a tour of the house she opened up a little bit. I had no idea how she felt, but knew that we did our best. We were completely authentic and ourselves. And I sweat like a pig. It felt like the most important date and job interview ever...

Within a few minutes after they left, I received a call from the baby's grandma. They picked us. They wanted us to raise their baby girl. Her due date is June 24th - less than 2 months away! We don't have a lawyer, home study, or anything baby! But we celebrate with expensive pizza and an evening of sorting through Wesley's old baby things. We're cautiously optimistic!
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Introducing...

There's a really big reason I've been so quiet lately. Just a little over 3 months ago we got word that a family chose us to adopt their baby girl - due June 24th. Fast forward through lawyers, a home study, and a night at the hospital, it's time to introduce you to our baby girl.
Picture by Sugar Photography
We'll call her Sister on the blog. Its her most common nickname in real life too. :-) She was born on June 25th and we've waited over a month to announce it because of the logistics associated with her adoption.
Picture by Sugar Photography
Needless to say, we are all in love. Wesley adores her and we are making the transition to a family of 4. Over the next few days I'll be sharing more about how Sister joined our family through an independent, attorney-assisted adoption, domestic, infant adoption. I write all of that because I while I knew we would adopt, I didn't trust that it would ever be independent, attorney-assisted, domestic, or an infant! God is faithful!


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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Buying Cars with Cash

It's been a long time since I've written. I have a hundred excellent excuses. You won't get any excuses today, but you will get a lesson the Johnstons have learned the hard way. We recently lost both our cars on the same day.

Seriously.

We were in the midst of a very busy season on top of that, but that's a story for another day. One car broke down on the side of the highway. Radiator went bad and caused the engine to seize. The other car didn't die a complete death but did need a new water pump and took overnight to be fixed. We were without any vehicle for about 48 hours and needed to rent a car temporarily just to get by. I don't know that there has ever been a day that I have been more thankful for our emergency fund. We have a car repair budget, but occasionally the repairs exceed the money in that envelope. With that fund and our emergency fund, a car (or two!) breaking down is just a serious inconvenience.

I've written before about living with one car and our numerous car accidents (one, two, and three!) before. I even touched on our terrible car purchase after car accident number 2. We got great deals on excellent little Honda Accords after accidents one and three, but #2 we felt rushed and purchased a Mazda Protege. We didn't do our research and within a week were replacing belts and other not-so-awesome things. We've put a lot of money into that car over the past 18 months and yesterday we sold it to our repair man. For $450. Minus repairs we net $310. Seriously...

At first I was so angry. We lost several thousand dollars in 18 months because of a car Jarrod and I both hate. I quickly got over my anger because of the incredible lesson we learned through that stupid car. As we are preparing to purchase a new car, I want to share some of the things we learned...

1. Don't rush. It's less expensive to rent a car and purchase the right car than to rush into the wrong purchase because you feel frantic. Look at a lot of cars if you don't know what you want. Test drive cars and check out private sale vehicles to get what you want.

2. Do your research. If you have your eye on a specific type, make, model, or flavor of car, know exactly what it should cost. You can find this information at Kelley Blue Book. When we bought cars after our first and third accident we did research, haggled, and were prepared to walk away if we didn't get the price the car was worth to us.

3. Haggle. When we bought our Honda Accord after our first accident we were in a position to wait. We didn't want to bother with private sales, so we went to a local dealership and asked to see what they had in our price point. The first car they showed us was a late '90s Dodge Neon. Nothing wrong with that, but not what I had in mind. I asked to see a 2003 Honda Accord that was about $2,000 above our budget. I drove it and loved it. We got the price down where we wanted and then walked away. When we came back they honored the price (below Kelley Blue Book!!) and we paid for it with cash. I know the dealership lost money on that deal (and I feel a tiny bit bad about that...) because we stuck to our budget, bargained with them, and walked away when we needed to.

4. Buy used. This goes without saying. Unless you have a high net worth and can afford to take the financial hit on buying new, there's no other way to get a car. I definitely don't want to be the one to take the hit when a new car loses all of it's value! A new car loses the vast majority of it's value in the first 5 years. While someday we may have a car newer than 5 years, we do not have the money to waste right now. Having a new(er) car is paying for luxury, not need. I don't need the newest, fanciest model if the 5 year old model is still fantastic.

5. Pay cash. Hopefully this goes without saying, but paying cash is a must for our family. If I'm angry about losing a few thousand dollars on a car, I'd be SUPER angry about losing several thousand dollars in interest! Paying cash allows us to get a great deal, avoid monthly payments, and stay in control of our money. Cars lose value and I do not want a payment on something that is losing value! Want more information about why we don't have car payments, check out the truth about car payments by Dave Ramsey.

All that said, we have been doing our research, examining our budget, and plan to buy a new-to-us car within the next few weeks. We are disappointed that our car died because we hoped to use the next 6-10 months to save for a newer, bigger car, but that's not in the cards right now. We will not be depleting our emergency fund to get something bigger and better, but will be spending a small amount of money on a reliable vehicle that will get us through until we can save for something better - hopefully by the first part of next year!

How do you save on cars? Do you have any tips on changing our luck with vehicles? :-) 
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