I finally figured out why I haven't been blogging for awhile. I had originally chalked it up to pure exhaustion (I can't even begin to say how crazy these last few weeks have been) but as I have sat here looking at the empty screen for the past several minutes, I realized that it wasn't exhaustion.
It was a lack of words.
Because there is really no way to describe the incredibly wonderful, insanely amazing, utterly exhausting past few weeks. And when I try to wrap my head around it all, I just get overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with LOVE and gratitude to everyone who has been part of this, overwhelmed with feelings of indebtedness to so many, overwhelmed with what this means to our family...
Just plain overwhelmed.
I really, truly hope that every person who has been part of the puzzle them home project in any way can sense our love for you and our gratitude. I hope you can know how much this means to us and how full our hearts are...
The house is beautiful. More beautiful is the way Sophi's eyes light up when she turns on the light switch in her bedroom all by herself (it is low to the ground) or opens up a door with her chin (no more knobs!) or climbs onto her little sink to wash her feet all by herself. More beautiful is the way the stairs to the Rapunzel tower were built in such a way that Sophi and Cali can actually make their way up them, and the way Cali's eyes shine as she speeds through the house on her wheelchair-- uninhibited by stairs, lack of space or thick carpet. More beautiful is just thinking about how absolutely life changing it will be to have TWO safe, custom, wonderful spaces for Elli to play and explore and be happy without us worrying about her breaking things, getting hurt, etc.
It's just too much to wrap my heart around-- I would cry all day if I dwelled on it! We are so happy!!!
You want to know something kind of funny? When we were first dating, one of our biggest "issues" was the size of home we each eventually wanted. Jeremy said that he would love something that was 4,000 square feet or so. I thought that was WAY too much! I couldn't see a purpose for it and thought it was just crazy to even think about more than 3,000 square feet. Then again, he always wanted EIGHT children and I couldn't begin to understand how he could be so stuck on a number like that.
Ha. I guess we were both in for a surprise!
And yes-- for all those that have asked-- I AM scared of cleaning it! (; However, I am so looking forward to places to put things, and surely a "place for everything" will help with the cleaning aspect!
One thing we both really do love about the home is the way it's designed. When we sat down with the architect and talked about the things we needed and the things we wanted, we both said that we didn't want it to look ostentatious. We wanted LOTS of space, but we didn't want it to look intimidating from the front. Well, I love the comment I just read on the Salt Lake Parade of Homes's facebook today, speaking of our home: "This house seems about three and a half times bigger inside than it looks from the outside. Architect or magician?" (: Jamie Walker of Walker Home Design did a fabulous job of giving us SO much space, but laying it out in a way that worked so well for our family. It doesn't have long hallways or corridors that you get lost in-- it's all feels very homey even though it's big. We love it! It fits all of our needs and then some. It's more than we ever could have hoped for! It also has some beautiful features that were donated-- such as custom wood mouldings (Marathon Moulding) and of course the amazing mural work! (I need to get a link to their website-- anyone know of it?)
We have loved being there during parts of the Parade and listening to comments people make. I'll be honest-- sometimes it is hard being so transparent-- putting our story out there for everybody to see. But I have seen some really wonderful things come of it. Obviously, our lives have been HUGELY blessed by this whole thing. I am so happy when I see others blessed by it as well. Many times while at the Parade, people will come up and hug us and cry and tell us how our children have touched their lives just by their stories. (The story of each of the kids and the story of the home is told throughout the house.) I am hopeful that the seed of adoption has been planted in some hearts along the way... (: People have been so kind and sweet in their comments to us while at the house!!!
As we were talking to our architect last night, he said that a couple of common questions that are asked of him have to do with the financial end of things. I know I have addressed this in a past post, but I also know we have some new blog readers out there. I also realize that though finances are in general a more private thing, the nature of this project is such that people have valid reasons to want to know! So here it goes: (:
The amazing, incredible, wonderful people who put together Puzzle Them Home have worked so hard for over a year now. The concept of "buying" puzzle pieces generated over $35,000 in donations. Again, I get overwhelmed just thinking of what that means. I know there was so much love and sacrifice in that money. I know MUCH of it came from you wonderful blog readers. We are SO grateful. Besides the cash donations, there was a tremendous amount donated in the way of discounted or donated labor and materials. Much of this came from friends and family who pitched in to help. Much of it came from strangers. We have estimated that these donations brought the cost of the home down by about $225,000. I know... again, there aren't words. "Thank you" seems so small compared to what we want to say.
So where did the rest of the money come from? What does Jeremy do for a living? Just how much do we get paid to adopt these children? Apparently, these are some of the questions being asked at the home.
I'll start with the last question, one that I'm sure made people who have adopted internationally giggle a bit. We don't get paid anything. Not a penny, darn it! Adopting a child from China costs approximately $25,000. A tax credit of around $13,000 is given toward adoptions, so that offsets the cost dramatically. Jeremy's company also helps with adoption costs-- they pay $5,000 toward each adoption. As far as receiving financial stipends or anything because of their special needs-- that is reserved for adopting domestically out of the foster care system. I wish with all my heart that adoption wasn't so expensive because I know that MANY families desire to adopt, but cannot because of finances.
Which brings us to the next question. Exactly what does Jeremy do for a living? Jeremy has a wonderful job as a pharmaceutical rep for Bayer. A pharmaceutical rep's average salary is $70-$80k per year, with the potential for some bonus. So yes, we are very blessed! Besides his job in pharmaceuticals, we have some ownership in the importing side of the 2012 Game of the Year, Perplexus.
I will have to blog the amazing story of this toy sometime, but suffice it to say, it has been a tremendous blessing for us and has definitely contributed to our ability to buy this home.
When Puzzle Them Home originally started over a year ago, the goal was to help us get into a better home for our family. At the time, there was no way we could qualify for the kind of loan we needed and our current home was being appraised at MUCH less than what we had paid for it. As things progressed and as we partnered with Children and the Earth, their goal became to have the home completely paid for. Mortgage free. While a wonderful goal, we realized at the beginning of this year that short of a miracle, we were far from having that happen. After praying a lot about it, we decided to try and see if we could qualify for a loan. We were in a different situation than the year before because, among other things, we could now count income from Perplexus. Citywide Home Loans was told about the project and our situation. They made some wonderful accommodations for us, including waiving their fees, to help us qualify for the loan we needed. It was a bigger loan than we wanted to do, but we still felt good about doing it. Personally, I thought that it was maybe because contributions would keep coming to puzzle them home-- helping to offset the size of the mortgage. Many people involved kept talking about the possibility of this home getting national attention and therefore generating more donations. It never did. But we have been blessed! Things are going well with Jeremy's work and with Perplexus. The housing market has changed in our favor as we prepare to sell our current home. So we continue to go forward having faith that we have been prayerful as we've made decisions with this home and it's accompanying mortgage.
Two questions that has been asked a couple of times online are along the lines of "Why would they build a house they couldn't afford without continued donations?" and "Why would they continue to adopt if they can't afford it?" These valid questions were in response to a couple of articles on the home stating that Puzzle Them Home is still accepting donations for the home. I'll do my best to answer that. (: First of all, concerning the home, yes-- donations are still being accepted at the puzzle them home page. We are so, so grateful for the support. This house could not have been built without donations. One way that the bank worked with us was using pledges of donations as a down payment on the loan. As far as continuing to accept donations-- those working on the project have expressed that people walking through the home often have a desire to be part of it. They asked how we felt about a donation jar (to be shared with Make-a-Wish) being at the home. We gratefully said yes to it knowing that we have a long way to go in paying off the loan! But know that Citywide would not have approved us if they didn't think we could make it work. (: And yes-- we do realize that this home MORE than meets our needs-- there are many extras that are pure bonus-- like the sidewalk that circles the yard outside so Cali can have access to anywhere she wants. We know it's amazing. We are so grateful!! We weren't trying to build a mansion-- but we do realize it is a VERY SPECIAL HOUSE.
As for why we would adopt if we couldn't afford it... we can! (: There are actually financial requirements that must be met before China AND your homestudy agency will approve you to adopt. We have been so blessed each time we have chosen to go forward and haven't had to fundraise to help with adoption costs. However, if we DID have to fundraise, we would! And we support as many of those who are fundraising as we possibly can! (: Adoption is one thing that I would be willing to receive help to do and I'm so GLAD that other families go forward with adoption even if it means asking for help-- these children are worth it!!!
So... I hope that answers some questions on the financial end of things. (: I am not offended by the questions, and like I said, I think the nature of this project justifies them. People who have contributed especially have the right to know a little bit more about our situation. Have you noticed I'm putting lots of smileys? (: That's because I really do want you to know that I'm happy to answer these questions. (:
I was going to post pictures, but I've already spent much too long on here and I've had kids coming in every 30 seconds or so asking for things. (; So if you want to see pictures, go to puzzlethemhome.org and click on their facebook page. Or just click HERE.
Love you all for your support!!