11th Anniversary Squirrel Buster

06/26/2014

We celebrated BIG last anniversary with a trip to Naples and Key West for 10 days, including snorkeling in a coral reef—the highlight of the trip. Father’s Day, our anniversary, my (30th!) birthday all fall within 5 days of each other. Combine that with newborn baby induced sleep-depravation and schedule-juggling and… This year I ordered a bird feeder. To celebrate our 11 years of blissful matrimony, we have a Brome 1015 Squirrel Buster Classic hanging outside our living room window. (Using this bracket.) It really is a gift to both of us, our whole family, as we’ve already been seeing lots of birds frequenting the feeder and we can see it from the dining room table and from the living room (where I’ve been sitting a lot to feed Firefly.)

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It’s pretty cool how this works. It has a spring mechanism that closes up all the feed openings if a squirrel-weight animal clings to it. But for bird-weight animals, there are several openings for seeds. The birds are dropping a lot on the ground, though, so the squirrels are still happy.

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Baby Inspired DIY

06/24/2014

I’ve been storing an olive green sheet for years, planning to sew it into a baby sling. Slings are great for a tiny newborn, which we’ve never had until now. In fact, Firefly is too small for our Infantino baby carrier or Moby wrap (or the ErgoBaby carrier I’m drooling over!). I found this sling tutorial via Pinterest and whipped up a sling for Firefly one Saturday afternoon. It’s perfect for him and I love the color.

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While I had the sewing machine pulled out, I decided to sew some baby tube socks and mittens for the little guy using upcycled old socks. His little hands and feet are so small that baby mittens and socks dangle off of him. I used this trusty tutorial from Made By Joel, the same one I used 3 years ago for baby Alianna.

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I love these ones made from a pair of Jason’s socks that got holes in the bottom. Baby business man socks. I’m tempted to pull socks out of Jason’s sock drawer to makes some more…

I spent another afternoon nap time sewing Firefly some baby pants from shirt sleeves. (Just like these upcycled pants like these I made for Ali.) They’re fairly easy and free if you have some old sweaters, sweatshirts or long-sleeve shirts you don’t need anymore. Jason had a striped hoodie that shrank in the wash—so much that it didn’t even fit me. I’ve been hanging onto it for such a time as this. I made Firefly some pants with room to grow since they’re really too warm for summer in Nashville. I also made him some lightweight pants from two gray long-sleeve t-shirts that I was no longer wearing. Since the pants turned out pretty well and I still had a lot of shirt leftover, I made him a hat and a pair of simple tube socks. The socks are perfect for his tiny feet but I’m guessing they’ll only fit for a couple weeks until his legs get more chubby. I’m glad I didn’t have to spend a penny on them.

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Adopting From Foster Care – What is it Really Like?

06/23/2014

I read this article recently and thought you might enjoy it too.

Adopting from Foster Care – What is it Really Like?

Here’s a snippet:

Adoption is born of loss. As wonderful and beautiful and amazing as adoption is, it starts with a loss, especially in foster care. A mother and father lost their children. Grandparents lost their grandchildren. Siblings are separated. My children lost countless family members, most of whom they will never see again.

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Two weeks of Firefly

06/19/2014

It doesn’t seem possible but the calendar cannot be denied: it’s been two weeks since little preemie Firefly was delivered to our house. He is a joy and a delight, a bringer of light into our home. He’s steadily gaining weight, sleeping well and staying healthy—that’s all he needs to do right now. He’s eating on a 3-hour schedule. Jason and I have worked out a lovely system where Jason stays up until 2:30am to finish the last feeding and I get up at 5:00am to give him his first bottle of the day. We’re like ships passing in the night but it’s “teamwork at its finest” as my friend Leslie put it. We’re a bit tired but all in all things are going really well at home. I wish I could talk more about his case but of course the details of that are confidential. I’ll say this, he’s secure in our home until the next court date, June 30, for sure. That’s all I know at this point, though we and every DCS worker have opinions and gut feelings on what we think will happen. He’s our fifth placement and I’m amazed at how different each of the cases have been.

Alianna is absolutely loving having baby boy around the house. She’s convinced his name should be Donut. Sometimes she calls him Baby Bwudder. The other day Jason and I were working on a chicken-related project outside. Ali was with us and Firefly was in his crib. Ali slipped back into the house and when we went to find her she was IN his crib with him, just lying next to him and “petting” his head, as she loves to do. She’s on the brink of three-years-old so we’re still having to remind her often to be gentle with his head, not to touch his mouth or try to open his eyes, etc. But, I have to say, she’s being so sweet and mature with him. She’s come along way since November when 6-month-old Bee arrived at our house. (Ali was 2 years, 4 months at the time.) It’s really special to see their bond and I do hope he sticks around for a while. We all love him a lot.

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A Blessing From Above

06/18/2014

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This book (A Blessing from Above) really hit home when I was reading it to Alianna just a few hours after we talked to her biological mom on the phone. I’m so thankful I was positioned to catch my Little One when she fell out of her Mama’s nest and I’m grateful I have her blessing.

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To Love is to Risk

06/11/2014

I haven’t read Orphan Justice yet but I love this quote:

“To love is to risk. Opening your home to a foster kid will be emotionally difficult. It’s inconvenient. It’s hard. It’s messy. It’s exhausting. I guarantee it.

But all too often, selfishness keeps us from taking care of these children. Somewhere along the way, in our concern for an easy, happy, comfortable life, we may be missing the heart of the gospel — to seek and save the lost, to reach out to the forgotten and the oppressed, to love sacrificially, and to pour our lives out so that others can catch a glimpse of Jesus.

If the only reason we refuse to get involved in foster care is because ‘it is too hard emotionally’ or ‘we can’t handle saying goodbye,’ we may need to repent of self-absorption. We must ask ourselves the question: Do we truly love our neighbor as we love ourselves? What if a foster child is the ‘neighbor’ that God has brought into our path to love?” —Johnny Carr, Orphan Justice

People who consider foster parenting are often concerned about “getting too attached” to their foster children. But what is the alternative? To only half-love them? I’m already head over heels for our new foster son. I’m not afraid of getting too attached. I’m a grown up; I can survive having my heart broken. He’s an innocent, precious treasure; he needs and deserves to be loved with abandon.

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Firefly

06/10/2014

It’s firefly time of year in Nashville. Every evening as the sun is going down, we finish up our popsicles or ice cream cones and scramble around the yard trying to catch the little lightning bugs to put in our mason jar. I was a summer baby and I’ve always loved summer.

Things have been pretty quiet around here. I just finished up some big deadlines at work and a freelance project that had been on and off for months. On Thursday afternoon when Ali was napping and I was all caught up on work, I stepped out onto the back patio to enjoy a cup of tea. It had been rainy so I stayed close to the backdoor where it was dry and I tossed sliced raw almonds to my silly hens. It was a beautiful, restful moment. I wanted to capture it. Ashley Ann wrote a post a few months ago about drinking coffee (or tea) with two hands, savoring it instead of multitasking. That’s what I was doing.

Right in that moment of peace, my phone rang. It was DCS placement asking if we could take a newborn baby boy who was being released from the hospital that day. Without hesitation, Jason and I said yes. Firefly arrived at our house 90 minutes later. He’s the tiniest little person I’ve ever met, a preemie at just 5 pounds. He is precious and delightful. He smells like Heaven. He sleeps about 23 hours a day. He is by far the easiest foster placement we’ve ever had. We have no idea what the future holds for him and us at this point. I’m savoring him, holding on with both hands, just like that warm cup on a rainy afternoon.

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Jason Plays Guitars

06/05/2014

Jason plays guitars. Martina makes designs.

A few months ago, Jason requested my help to redesign his website. I’ve been working full time in magazine publication design for the past 7 years and though I do various freelance projects, my website design skills were a bit rusty. I’m thankful he pleaded challenged encouraged me to take this on because it turned out to feel good flexing the old HTML muscles again.

It’s at JasonAhlbrandt.com, where it’s always been, and now also at JasonPlaysGuitars.com because… we have a hard-to-spell last name. Not only the spelling, but you’d be surprised how many people just flat out get it wrong. We’re probably called the Abernathys, the Albrects and—my personal favorite—the Allbrights more often than we’re called the Ahlbrandts. So, JasonPlaysGuitars.com. Boom.

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My favorite part of the new website is that there are tons of audio clips and videos embedded right there on the site. Jason’s main gig is the road guitarist for a country-gospel singer but he’s also been doing tons of work in his home studio composing and producing music for TV shows, movies, commercials, etc. I love hearing all the stuff he comes up with. He also posts a Guitar Lick of the Day (#glotd) most days on Instagram and a lot of those videos are there, too.

In celebration of the redesign, we’re running a mega sale on CDs in the store. Two for $20 with free shipping, for the month of June only. Jason gets lots of repeat customers for his albums because they both make great gifts. I’ve heard rumors of a third album in the works…and by “rumors,” I mean I can hear him working on it because my office is right next to his studio.

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Chicken Math

06/04/2014

There’s a joke among chicken owners about how the flocks keep mysteriously growing from adding “just one more” chick to the group. It’s called chicken math. We live in a metropolitan area so we’re limited to 6 chickens—hens only. When buying from a feed store or hatchery an experienced person can tell hens (pullets) from roosters (cockerels), even at a day old. The average farmer cannot. Chicks bought unsexed are called straight run, meaning it’s a gamble. Here’s how my chicken math happened:

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• Got our first 3 pullet chicks — 1 Rhode Island Red (Meringue) and 2 Buff Orpingtons (Sunny S.U. and Scramble) in early February

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• Took a chance on 2 straight run barred Plymouth Rocks (Quiché and Souffle) a few days later

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• Scramble (injured from a fall the first week) died a week or two after the transition from brooder to coop in late March

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• Added two more 1-day old chicks — 1 RIR (Frittata) and 1 Buff Orp (Omlet) because both of our Plymouth Rock straight run chicks started crowing. Dang. End of April.

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• Found a new home for my favorite cockerel Souffle “Sue” … He’s now called Hitchcock and enjoying country life.

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• Took a spontaneous trip to Poultry Hollow and came home with two 8 week old pullets — 1 Production Red (Custard) and 1 Black Sex Link (Poach) … At that point we were at 7 chickens. Shhh… Literally, Quiché the Cockerel, stop practicing your crow!

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• A sweet family from our church kindly took our last roo after we were unable to find him a new home. Phew!

So, we’re at our legal limit with chickens now and I’m confident they’re all hens. I don’t plan on getting any more for a long time (unless something should happen to any of these 6). I didn’t realize how much extra work it would be to have chicks of three different ages. The young chicks in the brooder in the garage, the 8 week old chicks trapped in the coop by the pushy older ones, and the original two girls who have free range of the coop, run and yard when we let them out. Finally, after 3 weeks the four oldest pullets are getting comfortable with each other and I don’t have to deliver food and water to the coop hostages twice a day. I’m already dreading the transition of the two littlest ones out to the flock in mid-June. I’m definitely going to purchase some chicken peepers to reduce the pecking since it’ll be 4 against 2 this time. Chickens are not very friendly to new birds and they work out their hierarchy by pecking the new ones and keeping them away from the food and water. It’s stressful for the new girls AND for the chicken mama. Establishing pecking order is ugly work.

In case it’s not evident, I’m really enjoying the chickens. Jason tried to talk me into getting chickens for a couple of years but I wasn’t on board until we finished the fence this January and I could finally envision it. He spent many hours building that coop but he really just wants eggs. I’ve always been an animal lover but never had birds. Despite my resistance to raising farm animals in our urban backyard, I really love these birds.

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Gross Stuff of the Heart

06/03/2014

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I’m back. I’ve had a good rest with time to reflect and refocus as it pertains to my family, my work and this ole blog here. I love this space and I’ve missed writing. In the next few weeks expect some cute kid pictures, home projects, chicken randomness, wise words (written by people smarter than me) and the usual rambling. I’m starting here: This post called The Gospel of Entitlement was shared the same day I got the dreaded news about Alianna’s baby sister—that she would not be joining our family. These words are perfect for how I felt:

I’m angry because this isn’t fair.

I’m angry because this doesn’t seem just.

I’m angry because this isn’t what I signed up for.

I’m angry because doors opened and God moved all for this?

I’m angry because we obeyed and now we’re hurt.

I’m angry because I feel like we deserved a good ending to our yes to Jesus.

Gross stuff of the heart, y’all.

At the core of it all, there is a part of me that believes in this weird gospel of entitlement mentality. I stepped out in faith. I said yes. I obeyed. Therefore I’m entitled for it to work. I deserve a happy ending. I have a right to it. Because THAT’S written on how many pages of the Bible?

Read the whole article here.


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