I have been struggling to keep up with blogging the past week or so. I think this happens to every blogger from time to time. Real life takes priority, but I also aspire to keep up with documenting and sharing. Here’s a little bit of what’s been going on lately:

• Jason finished recording his lullabies album last week. I’ve been working on the album design. We had a little photo session yesterday with Precious, Jason and his guitar. Hopefully I captured something that will work with what’s in my head.

• After being home for a solid month, Jason’s tour schedule starts back up this week. It’s been so great to have him home. But I’m also incredibly thankful that he’ll be back to work soon because he loves it and it’s how he makes a living. That makes us both very happy.

• This month the guys are going on a Florida Snowbird Tour and Precious and I are going to join them in the Tampa area for a few days. I am  SO EXCITED about this mini-vacation that I’m willing to fly with a 6 month old, pick up bags and rent a car all by myself. I’m a little nervous but it’ll be oh-so-worth-it. I flew alone with Ladybug once and it was OK. The first flight was great and the second flight was mix of bad and torture. (It started out with her smacking me in the face when I tried to contain her on my lap after the last passenger to board the plane took the last available seat next to the lady flying alone with a toddler—me—and said “Oh no, this is going to be a long flight!” I wanted to spit back, “You have no idea what this child has been through! We’ve only known each other for 2 weeks!” But I kept my mouth shut. The flight ended with a screaming tantrum. Thanks for the curse, mean old lady sitting next to us…ANYWAY…I’m sure these flights are going to be great because Precious is the most easy-going baby in the world.)

• Our house has been on the market about 6 weeks and we’ve had around 20 showings. Nuts! Showing a house when you have a baby and a dog is not easy and I’m not a fan of the one-hour-notice showings. What the heck, people?! It’s all good though. We pull it off with smiles on our faces and we’re praying for an offer soon. It’s nice to not have any rush, we’re just excited to move forward on our new construction. We’re hoping for breaking ground in March and moving in by the end of summer or early fall but it’s impossible to say at this point.

• On Saturday Jason and I stopped by a new string of shops in East Nashville called the Idea Hatchery. It’s a bunch of small studios for start-up and small businesses with more affordable leases, funded by the art gallery next door called Garage Majal. Cute little area. (Pictures above and below.)

House Plans: Initial Drawings


We’ve got plans! However, I want to protect the original work of our architect so I’m not going to fully share the plans at this point. We are thrilled! We wanted a lot of mid-century influence but figured it was going to be a modern twist, since it is 2012 after all, and we’re not planning to try to trick anyone into believing our home was built in the mid-1900s. Jason and I were hoping Ryan, our architect, would not just take our (many) ideas into consideration but also throw in a good mix of his own ideas and creativity. We were not disappointed. The exterior is different than what we expected and anything we’ve seen before. “Stunned” is the word that comes to mind with my initial reaction. Stunned/stunning are pretty similar words, right? Now I think it’s stunning.

The front of the house, according to these plans (which I’m sure will change some), will be a mix of cinder block and stained wood. I scribbled in the landscaping to help me visualize it. The most notable elements are the roof line—Ryan’s idea to let a ton of light flood into the great room which will have vaulted ceilings with exposed beams—and the lack of apparent front door. There is a front door, of course, but it’s concealed behind the wall of a courtyard.

I woke up early one morning walking through this house in my head and getting ideas along the way. I had to get out of bed to fetch some tracing paper and start scribbling down my ideas. We’re still waiting for our house to sell—we’ve had 13 showings in the first month!—which means we can take our time in the design and planning phase for now.

Here’s my “Dream House Wishlist” in case you’re curious:
• great room (kitchen, dining room, living room)
• wood-burning fireplace
• 3 bedrooms minimum
• 2 full bathrooms
• 4th bedroom that will serve as a den/playroom/guestroom for now, until/unless we need it for more kids
• studio for Jason
• laundry room/office/craft room area for me
• courtyard or atrium
• mid-century design influence
• great natural light and big windows
• garage
• wood floors
• lots of other little ideas

Oh, it’s exciting! It will be sad to say goodbye to this house that we love so much but having a new place to look forward to helps. We’re also anxious to get back to fostering kids. I’m glad we’re finally not getting placement calls anymore because it was heartbreaking to have to keep saying no, but we’re still very aware of the need and that every day there are kids that need a safe place to go. We’re feeling like this year and transition time will go by very quickly, or maybe we’re just ready to jump ahead to moving into our finished house.

Phone Photo Friday


Ok, so it’s not Friday, I know. But I have today’s blog post (about our new home plans!) only half written and no time to finish it. Welcome to Phone Photo Friday on Thursday!

Hush Little Baby



Yesterday Jason finished recording his first solo instrumental album, Acoustic Lullabies. It sounds amazing! I know it will be enjoyed by all ages as the guitar playing is just beautiful—a combination of his classical guitar training, finger-style influences of Phil Keaggy and Tommy Emmanuel and probably a hundred other things. He’s sending the files off to the mix engineer today while I’m working away on the CD package design. We’re expecting an early February release.

If you read my post on Thanksgiving, you know that we’re selling one song as a pre-release off the album, “Hush Little Baby,” for a minimum donation of $1 as our one and only adoption fundraiser. A bunch of you—near and far, friends and strangers—helped us out by buying the song with a donation. Thank you so much!

And I hate to bring it up again, but…we’re short. So far we’ve used generous donations to pay for our attorney, filing fees for Termination of Parental Rights/Petition for Adoption, a new birth certificate, publication for TPR of the biological father, fingerprinting (as part of our background checks) and a private home study but we’re about $500 short for all of that.

I may have mentioned before how much I dislike asking for money for an adoption. And now here we are, paying out of pocket for an unexpected private adoption and realizing we can’t do it alone. So, in case you missed it the first time around, here is another opportunity:

Click here to purchase “Hush Little Baby” from Jason Ahlbrandt’s forthcoming instrumental guitar album, Acoustic Lullabies, for a minimum donation of $1. Include your email address when you purchase and I’ll send you the mp3 within 3 business days. 100% of the money donated goes to paying for the adoption of our Precious baby girl.

Things I Love About This House – Front Door


When we bought our house it had a shameful, navy blue, contemporary door with an oval stained glass window. It was brand new and perfectly good but not right at all on this house. Thankfully, Jason found a good old 1950s door at a local salvage yard. He was able to clean up and stain the inside and we repainted the outside. We added the new industrial door handle and deadbolt.

Opening Up to Birth Parents


The most recent episode of the Foster Parenting Podcast is pretty relevant to some of the things we’ve been dealing with lately as we’ve had visits with Precious’  birth mother Brave. Take a listen if you’re interested.

And, what’s a post without a picture? Look who is sitting up all by herself now!

Phone Photo Friday


Christmas 2011


It was by far the best Christmas ever, thanks to a sweet little someone. Precious was equally interested in the gift wrappings and the goodies inside. (My kind of girl!) She curiously watched as we opened presents and even helped a little. My family has a tradition of having homemade Swedish meatballs for dinner on Christmas eve. The were delicious, as always. After that, we decided to just go for it and open all the presents from and for my parents, and from my siblings. My parents have a tradition of giving us an ornament every year. This year Precious got a customized baby’s first Christmas ornament.

We all got adequately spoiled. Jason and I are particularly enjoying our new Keurig. (This one, if you’re in the market for one.)

Precious got a bunch of new clothes—much needed since she’s quickly growing out of 6 month size already—and some new toys and books. She got this pretty shirt from Uncle Aaron and Aunt Laura.

And this really cool crinkly, textured book from Uncle Jeff and Aunt Jess and cousin Iris.

Christmas morning at our house was very laid back. I was the first one awake at 9:30. Even Lucy slept in! I tried to wake Precious first, without success, then Jason who told me to go back to sleep—it wasn’t time yet. At 10:00 Precious started stirring so I got her up and dressed and together we woke Daddy. She waited patiently by the tree while we got the Keurig fired up with some fresh coffee.

In her stocking, Precious had a new headband and three pairs of socks.

I decided to adopt a tradition from Design Mom to just give our kids three gifts for Christmas: something to wear, something to read and something to play with. This year for Precious that meant leg warmers, a book with textures and a crinkle-rattle-mirror-teether toy. She’s been enjoying all three.

Jason and I kept it simple for each other too, with a budget of $35 for each other. (Not including stocking stuffers.) I took some pictures but decided not to post the sleepy-eyed, pre-shower Christmas morning pics. I gave Jason a pair of hand weights and a new shirt. He gave me a new hat, a strawberry corer and  a Joie Piggy Wiggy bacon tray. I’m pretty ecstatic about the bacon cooker, which was on my wish list. I like to make bacon for breakfast on occasion and I hate the greasy mess it makes. This thing is amazing! The grease drips and splatters off the bacon is is contained inside the Piggy Wiggy, where it can be drained. I highly recommend this thing if you ever cook bacon. Moving on…

We went over to my parents for lunch where we were joined by Jason’s parents, my bro- and sis-in-law Dan and Ginger, my niece Eliza, Ginger’s dad Jim and our friend Jeremy. It was a nice group. We ate a TON of wonderful foods, did a silly white elephant gift exchange for the adults, real gift exchange for the kids and relaxed the rest of the day. Jason’s parents also had a boat load of gifts for Precious including new books and toys. I’m really glad we started the tradition of just 3 gifts for our kids because the grandparents and aunts and uncles are all very generous too!

Precious with cousin Eliza

Dad and Jason (sporting his new shirt from me)


And finally, one last snap of the pretty Shiny Brite ornaments before they get packed away…

The Land


We’ve been referring to the chunk of dirt, grass and trees we own as “the land.” We stopped by there one day last week to finally get a picture of the three of us. My mom walked down (a looooong walk, 6 house down!) to snap these photos for us. Standing on this ground makes us so excited about our new house. We’re really looking forward to the planning and building process next year.

Her Testimony


I debated about whether or not to share this because I know not everyone will get it. If you’re not a Christ-follower, it might sound totally random. I still wanted to share. The word testimony is thrown around a lot in Christian circles. Basically, it’s my story—who I was and how I got to who I am today. But when God gets ahold of a life, it’s really His story. Sharing my testimony brings glory to who God is and how He has turned my life around. It reflects His character, His power, His goodness and faithfulness.

Jump to the surrender day. Right before we were called back to the judge’s quarters I took Precious to the restroom for a diaper change. On the way there, someone stopped me.

“Excuse me! Excuse me, ma’am?” I turned towards a heavy black woman with a kind face, expecting her to say Precious was about to lose her sock or something along those lines.

“Oh! Look at her!” she said. “I’m just here with my sister,” she patted the woman next to her, “but we saw her from across the room and I said, ‘I have got to touch that baby!'”

And that point, I had turned toward her and I was thinking, wait—touch?

She reached out and put her right and on Precious’ right thigh. “Oh, she is a blessing!” she squealed.

I smiled. “She sure is. She’s like this all the time; she’s the happiest, most content baby we’ve ever seen.”

“That’s going to be her testimony!” the woman declared back.

And that was that. I went on with the diaper change and the rest of the court process but what she said kept resonating. She didn’t know who we were or anything about our situation. For a stranger to call my daughter a blessing would not be terribly uncommon but to use the word testimony. Her joy is going to be her testimony. We’ve seen it already. I’ve been telling people, even at just a few months old Precious already has a great testimony. She has been through so much yet she has been protected, she’s right on track developmentally, she’s beautiful and healthy, and she’s truly joyful and content. We believe God has great plans for her and none of what she has come through has been random or by accident.

Her joy is going to be her testimony.