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Phone Photo Friday

08/31/2012

Most of my Phone Photo Friday pictures are from my Instagram feed. Follow me @mahlbrandt if you’d like!

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September 1, 2011

08/30/2012

Saturday is September 1. Isn’t it funny how a date can be insignificant for so many years and then instantly become important. September 1, 2011. Since then I’ve been referring to it as the hardest day of my life. It was the day we said goodbye to our first daughter, our first child, the little lady that made Jason and I parents for the first time… Ladybug. I was looking back at my posts from last year and I don’t think I ever wrote much about that day. We had a vacation to Florida planned (coincidentally) for just a few days later and I was in get-the-hell-out-of-here mode.

We had been parents for exactly 5 weeks. She was our first foster placement. We knew little about how the child welfare system worked at that point. Ladybug’s social worker and the rest of the department did not want her to exit state custody to go with a relative but they knew it was likely to happen in court on September 1. We trusted their judgement but we prayed for God to lead the decision, wanting nothing but the best for Ladybug. Her case worker was convinced it would be a mistake to release her to this relative and that if the judge made that decision, for sure Ladybug would be back. And she would call us back to be her foster parents again.

We knew her case was on the 9am docket on Thursday, September 1. The night before I reluctantly packed up her few belongings into her bags, with the addition of some new outfits and toys. I put a picture of the three of us in there with a note on the back, knowing that no one really recalls memories from that young. But I hoped that somehow she would remember us, remember being loved and cared for, remember having a daddy—even if it was just for 5 weeks. I prayed that she’d remember the things we taught her…not to hit and bite, to say “tank you” and “no tank you” and “peez.” I prayed and prayed and prayed for that little girl, still clinging to the hope that maybe she’d stay a while longer or maybe she’d be brought back to us.

I assumed that Ladybug’s case worker was going to tell us where to be and when but she assumed we knew. I was trying to resist the inevitable so I didn’t call for instructions. We went to our favorite coffee shop to wait for her call. Ladybug sat on Jason’s lap and played with a toy light saber while I snapped my last photo of her. Her bags were packed in the car. Her case worker did call, just before they were called into the courtroom. We were supposed to be there, with her bags, but we didn’t realize. We got directions and got there quickly to wait outside the courtroom. The courthouse was noisy, filled with kids, parents, foster parents, case workers, security guards, police officers and court workers. It’s a mostly awful place.

We sat on a bench in the hallway waiting for the session to end. When Ladybug’s relative emerged from the doors, we could see on her face what the judge had decided. She was thrilled. Ladybug seemed to have no attachment to her at all but willingly went to her (as she did to anyone). Her case worker filled us in on the details and asked if we’d brought in her bags. We hadn’t. Jason and Ladybug’s relative went out to the parking lot to exchange L’s things. I had a few more minutes to hold her and love on her until they returned.

There were so many things I wanted to say to her but none of it felt right. Jason and I each took a turn giving her one last hug and kiss. After my goodbye, I knew I had to hand her over. But I desperately didn’t want to. How could she possibly understand what was going on? This sweet child had been abandoned once already by the one she called “Mom” and now her new “Mom” was going to pass her off again? I wanted her new custodian to yank her out of my arms. I wanted Ladybug to feel my resistance…I wanted her to know we weren’t rejecting her, we weren’t giving her away, she was loved and wanted. And yet…I had to let go.

It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

She took a huge chunk of my heart with her.

As Jason and I grabbed hands and started down the stairs, I looked back at them. Ladybug never looked back. She never saw tears welling up in our eyes or the pain on our faces. As we walked out the courthouse doors, empty handed, we clung to each other and cried. The words of an older friend at our church echoed through my head. “You will get through this. You hold her up. And you hold him up. Support each other and you will get through this together, you hear me?”

I was expecting a storm to follow that moment, a dark valley, a night of mourning…but it never fully came. We were sad, yes. We went over to my parents house to make calls to our friends and family and to cry some more with my mom. I know a lot of people were praying us through that time. I knew in my mind that God wouldn’t ask us to do something seemingly impossible without miraculously equipping us. After going through that experience, I now know in my heart, without a doubt, that He will come through for me every time. It felt like I was in a bubble for the week to follow that dreaded goodbye. I kept thinking the bubble was going to pop and the world would come crashing in, but it never did. We were sheltered. There are still moments of grief and we’re reminded of her all the time. Her picture still hangs on the refrigerator, on my cubicle wall, in an album on my phone. I don’t know when I’ll be ready to take it down, if ever. I will always miss her and I will always love her.


Help Us Pick a Paint Color – Follow Up

08/29/2012

Remember, the Help Us Pick a Paint Color for this Brick Ranch post? Well, Jeremy didn’t exactly go with the top pick on the poll, but I think it did help to influence his decision. The result is really nice. The house is the lovely Ellie Gray from Sherwin Williams. (Coincidentally the same color we had in the kids room at our last house.) The windows are dark gray with white trim. The foundation is dark gray. The front door is a lovely yellow-green from Sherwin Williams. I thought you might like to see how it’s coming together:

It looks bluer in the above photo than it really is. Here’s a close up of the colors (and the silver- and bronze-medalists for front door colors, to the left and right):

 

 


Who is Next?

08/28/2012

Our journey to Ali’s adoption finalization was like a roller coaster that ended with one long, long down hill coast. The timeline looks like this:

7/20/11 – Ali was born

9/21/11 – Ali was placed with us through foster care

11/4/11 – We were told they were taking her away from us in 2 weeks, moving her to a stranger

11/15/11 – She was put into our custody so we could adopt her

12/21/11 – Her first mom surrendered her parental rights to us

1/12 – our home study and adoption papers were filed at the courthouse

waiting…waiting…waiting…

8/6/12 – found out about our adoption hearing (less than 24 hours notice!)

8/7/12 – biological father TPR default and Adoption Day!

I have to admit, just one day after the crazy roller coaster ride ended, I started thinking… what’s next? More specifically, who is next? I’m ready to adopt again. Baby fever? No, not necessarily a baby—actually a baby might be my last choice if I have any say in it. I’m thinking about an older child next time.

Adoption fever. I think I have adoption fever.

Or I’m completely off my rocker. Or both. Thank God for a forced hiatus while our house is being built. And a husband with some good sense. Somedays if feels like my heart is completely dominating over my brain.


The Reupholstered Sectional Sofa

08/27/2012

Jason and I reupholstered a sofa! A whole, big, 3-piece sectional sofa! It was a massive project. We worked our butts off and we learned so much. A few things:

• First of all, I have no intentions of writing a DIY tutorial on furniture upholstery. It’s hard work, requires a lot of tools and knowledge. This was definitely not a beginner project. We didn’t take a lot of pictures during the process of reupholstering the sofa, just pictures of the deconstruction for our own reference and progress shots to make ourselves feel better after some long nights of work. If you want a DIY, check out this chair reupholstery blog post that I saw on a friend’s Pinterest page. There are also lots of videos on YouTube and many more tutorials out there. We started out watching videos, getting 4 books from the library, ordering tools, and studying other pieces of furniture. For my birthday back in June, I got a staple gun from my dear husband and The Complete Guide to Upholstery from my mom, both of which have been used a lot. I also found this Great Neck tack puller to be invaluable for removing staples during the deconstruction.

• Sewing skills are crucial, especially for making cushions and doing piping. Thankfully, I have been sewing since middle school and I have my Granny’s old trusty Singer. I sewed approximately 600″ of piping!

• Reupholster with a buddy. I cannot imagine doing this solo. Working with Jason made it so much easier to move the pieces of the sectional around from room to room, inside to outside, flipped over and back up. Usually I was stretching and positioning fabric while he was stapling. Or I was sewing while he was cutting the pieces out of the upholstery. Plus, it’s nice to have someone else to problem-solve with.

• Shop online. We found all the materials we needed and the best prices online. We ordered from Amazon.com, DIYupholsterysupply.com and OnlineFabricStore.net

• Experience is the best teacher. Jason and I reupholstered four chairs before we decided to tackle this sectional. Chair 1. Chair 2. Chairs 3 & 4. Each project we’ve done has gotten progressively better. If we were to do this same sofa over again, I’m sure it would be much better the second time around.

• A few people have asked me how hard it is to upholster a sofa. Difficulty is relative. We didn’t find it difficult. In fact, my [obnoxiously optimistic] husband said on our first night of working on the sectional, as we were deconstructing each piece and figuring out how it was constructed: “Honey! This is going to be easy!” I just laughed because that could not be more opposite of what was going through my mind. But I clung to that statement, hours, days, weeks into this project. It really wasn’t hard. It was time consuming. No joke, I’m pretty sure this took between 40-50 hours of labor with two people… that’s about 90 hours of work. I’m sure we could do another sectional just like this in 60 hours next time, or maybe less. But I did try to keep track of time for our own reference. We spent an average of 4.5 hours per night working on this, and approximately 10-12 nights over 3 weeks.

• Upholstery work is painful! I have more mystery bruises on my legs than I care to count. I have a gouge in one of my legs, two scraped knuckles and tender finger tips from accidental pin stabs. Jason, my professional guitarist, über careful (I call him “Safety Dad”) husband stapled into one of his fingertips. It was bloody and gross but thankfully a picking finger and it healed pretty quickly. My back and arms got quite a workout, too. I think my arms are the strongest they’ve ever been right now. It’s good exercise. See, I can be optimistic, too!

OK, enough about disclaimers and what we learned. It was worth it! We have a brand new couch. Sort of. Actually, it’s a 1960 Harmony House for Sears, Roebuck & Co. But it’s like new with brand new foam cushions and new upholstery. I can’t wait to see this piece in our new living room.

Before:

(more before pictures in my sneak peek post a couple weeks ago.)

After:

Not many detail shots because we were in the parking lot of our storage unit trying to be quick. The light was harsh, mid-day full sun and we were trying to hurry back home before Ali woke up from her afternoon nap. That’s my excuse. It has nothing to do with the imperfections that I’m so critical of… But in just a few months it’ll be comfortable sitting in our new living room, getting well used by a family, and those minor imperfections will be even less noticeable. Says Mr. “This Will Be Easy!”


Phone Photo Friday

08/24/2012

Most of my Phone Photo Friday pictures are from my Instagram feed. Follow me @mahlbrandt if you’d like!


Mid-Century Modern Treasures

08/23/2012

Jason and I went to our first auction last weekend. It was so fun! We watch Storage Wars every Tuesday night and it was our chance to get in on the bidding competition. The house and contents were in our neighborhood, right down the street from our old house. We scoped out a few things we wanted. Some we were out-bid on and a couple we won!

This armchair caught our eye from the beginning. Actually this is the picture our friend texted to us and made us come down to the auction. We got it for… FREE. It was auctioned with another chair and the winner only wanted the other one. Can’t beat that! It has a few rips in the vinyl so it’ll be getting brand new upholstery in the coming weeks.

This dresser we won for a friend. It’s perfect height to use as a changing table in a nursery but sadly, it didn’t end up working in their small room. So, we’re reselling it. (Nashville folks, if you’re interested, it’s on Craigslist.)

We also won this table and chairs that we really don’t need and have no place to store. But we couldn’t resist! Bidding is just so fun! Especially when you win. So, we’re reselling it also. (Nashville folks… Craigslist.) If it doesn’t sell, we may consider reupholstering the 4 chairs. They’re super cool and it’s a bummer they’ve each got a rip in the seat.

And because we just can’t get enough of moving heavy furniture around, we decided to hit up a couple of thrift stores after the auction. We found this unit and decided we had to have it. It’s a bit unusual. I’m calling it a storage cabinet. After a little research, based on the stamp “DECLARATION BY DREXEL” on the back, I learned it’s part of a series called Leisure Center.

It’ll be handy for storing dishes and table linens in our dining room. Behind the three cane wicker doors there are adjustable shelves.

This is what it’s supposed to look like as two parts (source):

Can you believe that some guy came in the day before, paid for both pieces and only took the bottom credenza half of the hutch?! What a booger! Our Silver Bullet finally met it’s match with this one. We had to have our friend drive out with his flat bed trailer to pick it up for us. Time for the Silver Bullet to get a hitch, maybe?