Alianna at 14 Months


I’m not specifically doing monthly updates anymore (or maybe I just skipped 13 months…I haven’t decided for sure) but I do want to continue documenting her growth and progress, for my own records if nothing else. So here we go…

Ali-girl, you are 14 months old today! I don’t think you know that tomorrow is a very special day – it’s the 1 year anniversary of when you joined our family! But I’ll talk more about that next week. I remember reading somewhere that 14 months old is the average age that kids learn to walk. You, my dear, are right on time. You started taking steps for the first time on September 4th. I was so proud! You are very brave and a little bit reckless. You take a few steps and then dive into one of us with your eyes closed and your arms out. Except, you don’t always check to make sure I’m paying attention first and sometimes the diving ends poorly for both of us, especially if you have a book in your hand that you want me to read to you. The good news is, you’re gaining confidence and taking more and more steps at a time. Very soon you’ll be walking and running all over the place.

To satisfy your adventurous toddler spirit, I took you to the park the other day. It’s was our first time at this particular playground that’s designed for 2-5 year olds so the slides and steps and everything are shorter. You’re still a long ways away from 2, of course, but you seemed to really enjoy this slide. I’d set you at the top and say, “Ready, 1-2-3!” and you’d launch on 3, just like we’ve been being doing on the side of the pool over the summer.

Speaking of following direction, yeah…we’re working on that. You understand everything we say and you often listen. I have to keep reminding myself that you’re just 14 months old and not always mature enough to obey. When you do, we celebrate! Honestly, you’ve been surprising me with how much you do listen and obey like when I ask you to hand me your sippy cup (instead of dropping it off the high chair tray) or take the chewed up paper out of your mouth and you actually do it! It’s really a test of patience and parenting skills for the adults and you’re giving us all plenty to chances to do re-dos when we mess up.

You’re still eating well and sleeping well. I feel like a broken record saying that every time. You’ll eat just about anything. Your favorites are still peaches and blueberries but we recently rediscovered kiwis. You’ll still eat green beans and broccoli. You prefer beef to chicken because it’s easier to chew (I suspect). Scrambled eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches and PB&Js have been working into the lunch time options lately. Oh, and you still LOVE cheese sticks and yogurt. You had fun making a big mess out of this bowl of speghetti at dinner the other day. I think more ended up in your bib and on your lap than in your mouth. Soon enough you’ll be using utensils!

You’ve had a ton of new words lately. My favorite is that you’ve been saying Mama much more consistently now. Finally! We’re still working on “more please” instead of pointing and whining but sometimes you’ll point at what you want and say “Mama?” Sweetest thing ever. You’ve also started saying baby and you love to point out babies everywhere you see them. You love to look at pictures of your baby cousins and friends and most often say “Ice!” for your cousin Iris. You called your cousin Eliza Ice the other day but when I corrected you, you said Eye-za. You say/whisper stars when we’re putting you to bed at night (we have a turtle night light that projects stars) and you’ve said shoe a few times. I’m very impressed with the s’s! The other day you crawled over to your high chair, pulled up to a stand, looked at Jason and said, “Hungee.” I love that! Makes me glad we were too busy to bother with baby sign language. You’ve always been good at communicating your needs. You say baba for bottle when you want a drink. You have 3 6-oz bottles of milk a day before naps and bedtime, and are doing pretty well with a sippy cup for water at meal times. You say woowoo for “woof woof” when you see a dog or any animal resembling a dog. “Meow” comes out as ee or ow, and sometimes you also say moomoo for a cow. I’m sure I’m forgetting some words and of course there are instances where you repeat words once or twice and then ever again.

Clearly, we think you are the most talented, intelligent, precious girl ever to exist on the planet. You make life so much more fun and interesting. I’m thankful that God brought you to us one year ago. You are a beautiful girl, inside and out, Alianna.

Cincinnati Visit – September 2012


Besides checking out the Sign Museum, we also had some time to just chill out and hang out with our friends Sean and Renata and their crew. Their house is so cool! It’s like an MCM showroom. It’s fun to share that interest with them.

We also had a very important little dude that we were anxious to meet. Little Jonas and Ali are birthday buddies! They share July 20 and are one year apart.

Renata and her dad with Jonas. (Her mom was there also but not feeling well, so no pics.)

Ali and Olivia are very close in age and this is the first visit where they’ve really been able to play together. “Play” meaning mostly taking toys from each other…we’re working on sharing.

Ben has a special place in my heart. He was one of the first babies born to any of our close friends, right after this dear family moved away from Nashville. He’s a cool kid. My two favorite Ben quotes from the weekend:

1. Sitting around the table eating breakfast: “I have a lot of babies! Baby Olivia, Baby Jonas, Baby Alianna!” Yes, Ben, you have a lot of responsibility!

2. After his dad asked him if he wanted some coffee. “Noooo! I’m a boy! I’m not a man!”

A few more cuddles with our buddies before we left go to IKEA and then home to Nashville.

Good friends are a blessing from the Lord! We love you guys! Thanks for having us!

American Sign Museum


A few weeks ago while we were up in Cincinnati visiting friends, we went to the American Sign Museum. There were lots of signs and it was very cool, especially for this graphic designer. That’s about all I need to say about it.

Look The Erie Enameling Company from Erie, PA! That’s where we’re from.

Happy 30 to My Best Buddy


Jason hit a big birthday milestone yesterday – THIRTY! (Sorry, honey, did you want me to keep that quiet?) I can’t help it; I love to celebrate him! I’m so thankful to have Jason in my life. He is truly my best friend and we have a ton of fun together. He’s always there to support me through hard times, hold my hand when I’m scared, or give me a pep talk (or kick in the pants) when I’m slacking. He loves and values his girls. Jason’s creativity, wisdom, passion, hard work and sensitivity to people inspire me everyday. Rather than just blab and blab about how awesome my husband is, I found 30 pictures from the past year to reflect on some great memories…mostly centered around Ali since she joined our family just after his birthday last year.

We celebrated Jason’s birthday last year at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams with some friends and family.

One of the first pictures I have of Jason with his little baby girl:

Remember those days when she would sleep ANYWHERE? That was convenient. I think we were enjoying our Saturday morning coffee and bagels at Ugly Mugs here.

In October, we started negotiating to buy this piece of property.

At the beginning of November we got to meet our little buddy Jaron, home from the hospital. We were like totally baby experts by then. (Ha!)

We went up to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving.

In December, we closed on the property we’re now building our new house on. This picture was taken a couple days later on, just after we’d returned from the juvenile courthouse accepting a parental rights surrender from Ali’s bio mom. It was a bittersweet time.

Ali giving her Daddy a big wet kiss on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Day, helping my dad carve the turkey.

Not the best quality picture, but I love the look of love and pride on Jason’s face, watching Ali learn to sit up on her own. This was taken on New Years Eve.

Lazy morning cuddles.

In January, Ali and flew down to Florida to meet up with Jason on tour. It was a mini-vacation for Ali and I.

Jason introducing Ali to the Gulf of Mexico.

Then in February, we moved out of the house we absolutely loved…but was going to be too small for our vision for our family.

Back at Jeni’s. This picture reminds me of how much Ali’s birth mom expressed that she was hoping Ali would be a daddy’s girl and get whatever she wants from Jason. I think her wish for her daughter came true…

The unplanned everyday outings are often the best. I took this picture because I was loving my life so much at that moment, having a delicious lunch outdoors on a Sunday afternoon with my best friend, and I wanted to capture it to save forever.

Jason, the self-proclaimed NOT a car guy, fell in love with this 1988 Mercedes Benz. How could I say no?

Easter squeezes and navy blue stripes.

My arms and back are so thankful that Ali has a strong daddy. My heart is glad, too.

In April we visited our friends in Cincinnati. This was taken at the aquarium.

At church on Jason’s first Father’s Day.

We celebrated with Wendy’s frosties afterwards.

At the end of June, we dedicated Ali to the Lord at our church. We committed to raise her to know the same faith that we have come to know and cherish.

(Look a picture without Ali!) While we were on vacation in the Outer Banks, Jason was just sitting here in the hallway playing his guitar looking as handsome as ever and I had to snap a picture quickly, before he saw me.

While on vacation, our little baby turned 1! Do you think she knows she’s precious?

I’ve always thought of myself as Jason’s biggest fan but Ali has been putting me to shame. She LOVES to watch him play guitar, always wants to touch the strings and claps after every song he plays. He’s giving her a lesson here:

Earlier this month we took a road trip and stopped at our family favorite, Cracker Barrel for dinner.

At our friend’s house in Cincinnati.

And slightly out of order, this photo is from August 7, Ali’s adoption finalization day. What a happy day for our family!

We love you so much, Jason! More than all the Jeni’s ice cream in the world! You’re still a young man. The best is yet to come!

Phone Photo Friday


Cousins sneaking in a little more pool time before it’s too late. Ali calls her “Eye-za” and Eliza calls her “Owie.” They’re good buddies.

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

Why Adopt a Teenager? How about: Why not?


When Jason and I started out foster parenting we set our parameters that we would accept a placement of one child or two siblings up to age 5. We were first time parents and we were/are young (26 & 28 at the time). Most of our friends had kids under 5 years old. We felt more competent parenting a young child. All those factors led us to set our parameters the way we did.

Over a year later, our hearts have changed a lot. We’ve gained confidence and grown passionate about the kids in the foster care system. When we start back up again, we’re considering opening our home to a child of ANY age. That means we could be placed with a newborn or an 18 year old. As always, we’ll prayerfully consider and discuss each potential placement and decide what will work for our family. This time around we have a 1-year-old daughter to think about, not just two adults.

(Sidenote: Case workers please take note. First time foster parents are scared and may think they only want to accept young children. Don’t turn them away! A year or two later, they might be the ones who are willing to accept any placement.)

Our biggest concerns about parenting, fostering and potentially adopting a teenager are kind of silly. Mine is: what will people think? A 30 year old and 28 year old with a teenage kid? Jason’s is: how much more will it cost to parent an older child? Will we have enough for college? Jason’s response to my fear: does it matter what people think? My response to Jason’s fear: there are grants available for kids from state care to attend college and I’m sure that God will provide financially for our family, just as He always has.

Ever since I learned about the waiting kids in the US, most of whom are over 8 years old, my heart has been breaking for them. Most people consider them to be too old. Not adoptable. But yet, they wait desperately for parents. I’ve had in the back of my mind, “someday, when we’re older, maybe we can adopt an older child.” The past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the teenagers that are approaching adulthood. For a kid in state care, adulthood means “aging out:” getting dropped into the real world without any parental support.

I entered adulthood younger than many of my peers. I got married just before my 19th birthday. At 19, I was completely moved out of my parents’ house. Jason and I were renting an apartment, going to college full time, working part time jobs, sharing an old used car to get around, making a budget, paying our own bills. I was 19 and a full-fledged independent adult. Except for one thing… we had a safety net of wonderful parents supporting us. We went boldly, confidently, excitedly out on our own into adulthood—because we knew our parents had our backs. They had taught us how to make a budget and pay bills, helped us get our first car, they assisted us financially through college, and most importantly—we knew without it ever being stated that they would help us when we got in trouble.

And we did run into trouble. Every young adult does. I still vividly remember the morning I went out to the car to go to work and discovered someone had smashed our Ford Focus into the curb during the night. A hit and run. I called our insurance agent to find out what our deducible was and then looked at the checkbook. I called my mom and cried. We were living on such a tight budget that we didn’t have $500 for the deductible. My mom was there to catch me when I fell. Just as my parents always have been. I cannot imagine entering adulthood without parental support.

(Me and Jason on our honeymoon at 19 and 20)

Which brings me back to the “unadoptable” older kids in the US foster care system, waiting, waiting, waiting to be adopted. They know they’re going to age out at 18 and be “free” but most know that’s not really what they want. They want parents and families into adulthood. They want someone to help them decide on a future career. They want somewhere to go home to for Thanksgiving and Christmas break from college. They want someone to walk them down the aisle when they get married. They want someone to celebrate the birth of their first child with them, someone they can call in the middle of the night when the baby won’t stop crying and they’re exhausted. Someone who misses them and calls to check up on them.

I really don’t know what’s in store for our family down the road. We have big dreams but loose plans. I don’t bother making specific long-term plans anymore. God’s plans alway turn out to be different than mine, and so much better. But I wanted to share my heart, because there are thousands and thousands of older kids waiting to be adopted and I can’t fix it on my own.

New Home: Kitchen Plan


I sketched out the plan for our new kitchen in my moleskine journal:

Make sense?

Basically, I want walnut-stained wood cabinet doors on the base cabinets and white wall cabinets. Somewhere on the same wall as the refrigerator, I want a small open shelf for our everyday dishes and glasses. Plus, a whole lot of specifics that won’t matter to anyone but us.

These are my inspiration kitchens:

Source: Uploaded by user via Martina on Pinterest



Source: via Martina on Pinterest


Source: via Martina on Pinterest.


The good thing about our house taking so long is that we have time to change our minds about things as many times as we want. For example, at first we thought we wanted all white cabinets. Now we want half white, half walnut. We thought about doing soapstone countertops or concrete countertops…now we’re set on kashmire granite.

Here’s my inspiration board, our plan for the kitchen (not that we can’t still change our minds!):


1. Sherwin Williams Greek Villa – (main color throughout the house)

2. IKEA MINUT pendant 10″ globe lights $30 each

3. White upper wall cabinets

4. 3×6 glass subway tiles for backsplash

5. Delta 9159-DST Trinsic with pull down single handle

6. Double under mount sink (50/50) with lower center wall

7. Kashmire (Cashmere) Granite countertops

8. Woodland Garden 2×3 from Urban Outfitters $18

9. Walnut-stained (probably cherry wood) base cabinets

10. Hickory wood floors

11. Tabouret counter-height metal stools $40 each

12. Whirlpool White Ice appliances

13. Whirlpool 30″ stainless range hood