Sylvester Sofa Sale!

02/14/2013

Say that 3x fast! Jason and I have decided it’s time to say so long to the sectional sofa we spent a big part of the summer reupholstering, so we’ve reduced the price to move it quickly. While we love it to pieces it’s just not right for us and our home for two reasons: 1. The shape doesn’t suit our living room very well. It makes an almost equal size “L” (about 8’x9′ I think) and our living room is more rectangular. We realized a longer straight sofa would suit our space much better. 2. It’s too precious for our young family. We’re pretty careful with our belongings but not only do we have a toddler whose friends often come over to play, we’re getting ready to open our home up to more kiddos of various ages and furniture-respecting backgrounds. We’d hate to see something abusive happen to Ol’ Sly so we’re hoping he’s a perfect fit for someone else’s abode.

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Hope on over to ReAbide for more details on the Sylvester Sectional Sofa.
Contact me at Martina (at) ReAbide [dot] com if you’d like more information.

(In case anyone is wondering, I would love to keep this sectional for home staging. It’s very versatile for that purpose. I’m still considering that option; however selling it would make it more affordable for us to buy a different sofa for our living room…and that might be more important right now.)


A is for Adoption

02/13/2013

By the way, if you have a heart for adoption and would like to donate to this sweet family (mentioned in my previous post), they’re in major need of funds. They drove through the night until they needed to stop for rest and to wait out a snow storm in Missouri. They’re just a few hours away from picking up their baby boy!

Visit their blog for info about their family and to donate.


Throw Your Plans Out the Window

02/13/2013

One of the things I love/hate about foster parenting and adoption is all of the unknowns. On one hand, I love surprises. One the other hand, I’m a planner to a fault. With foster parenting, we can just be going through our day like nothing is out of the ordinary and then WHAM – get a phone call that turns our whole world upside down. (Side note: we haven’t been approved to be reopened yet. Two weeks to our deadline.) Typically with private adoption, the new parents get at least some timeline or due date but there are still a lot of unknowns. Some of our friends have been waiting to be matched for a private adoption for over a year and then this week, they suddenly had 2 potential matches…both several states away. With very little time to mentally prepare, they found out they were chosen by the first birth mom and immediately jumped in their car to head out to Kansas—an 11 hour drive to pick up their brand new, 1 month old son from the hospital. Surprise!

I think God likes to remind us that although we might make plans, He is ultimately in control and His timing is not often the same as ours. Part of why this is funny is that those friends were planning to babysit for our other friends while they take a work trip/vacation to Hawaii. Because they’re suddenly unavailable, we’re now babysitting Ali’s good buddy Jaron until further notice. Thankfully, we already had a bedroom all set up and ready to go for him!

Some posts I’ve written about “the call.”

Our “next kids” room.


Master Bedroom Ideas

02/12/2013

I’m planning on doing virtual tours of more rooms of our new home. (Kitchen tour here.) In fact, I’ve already taken photos of Ali’s room, the next kids room, the den, the dining room, the living room and the master bathroom…however my computer doesn’t have enough free memory to upload the pictures from my camera. So yeah, I need to deal with that. One room you will not be seeing photos of any time soon, however, is the master bedroom. We currently have our mattress on the floor, a headboard leaning against the wall, end tables that are too big, temporary curtains and three big plastic storage totes that we haven’t found space for yet. So if that conjures up a visual, that’s the best I can offer.

I have started collecting inspiration, though. We definitely want to do an accent wall behind the bed, most likely with wallpaper. I didn’t take a photo of the headboard yet but its the same color wood as the dresser with a black horizontal stripe. We have lamps that we want to use but need a fresh coat of spray paint. I’m stuck on orange for some reason. I sent Jason these two initial ideas.

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While I love the wallpaper on the left (by Orla Kiely), the one on the right feels cozy and warm. The one on the left is more masculine so it’s not surprising that Jason liked it better. I decided to take another stab at it after I discovered that Urban Outfitters sells wallpaper.

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I’m liking #4 best with either this or the light gray wallpaper.

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Some big art for above the dresser with orange in it would be another nice addition. This is all just dreaming and brainstorming right now since we don’t have any budget for any of this right now. First order of business: build a bed frame for our vintage headboard and footboard so we can get our mattress off the floor.


Good Reads

02/11/2013

These three blog posts rocked my world last week and I wanted to pass them on to you.

Look at Me When You’re Talking to Me!

You want me to look at you, even when you are very angry and I don’t want to look at you.  And you want me to wait my turn for talking, even when I have something very important to say.  So why don’t you look at me when I’m doing my very important things before you tell me to stop?  And why do you get to interrupt what I am doing without waiting until I’m done?

Written from the perspective to the child, this totally humbled me as a mama. It brought tears to my eyes as I realized how often I fail Ali by not giving her the attention and respect she deserves. The day before I read this, I had scolded Ali for demanding “Cacka! Cacka! Cacka!” from the other room. I told her she needed to say “Cracker please” in a nice tone. Then a few minutes later, I caught myself toning out her voice as I was preparing dinner. “Pease. Pease. Pease.” she was saying in the sweetest little voice as she pointed to the package of crackers. She wasn’t rude, loud or demanding…and she totally did not get my attention. Sigh.

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For the Foster/Adoptive Dad

My friend and mentor says there are only 2 emotions; fear and love.  They are intricately and inversely related.  Foster or adoptive children live out of fear, they are afraid that at the drop of a dime they will be picked up and put out of the home they are currently in.  It does not matter how old they are or how long they have been there, fear is often the primary emotion that is shaping everything and anything about these children.  … God says He is love, and thus far I believe Him.  No matter how many moments we want to respond in fear, fathers must ferociously pursue the presence of God…the presence of love.

I don’t come across a lot blogs written by foster/adoptive dads so I thought this one was pretty cool. This father discusses 3 things that he feels very foster/adoptive dad must force himself to lean into daily.

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3 Things We Forget

In most cases lying, stealing, selfishness, and the inability to empathize will surface again and again. Get ready, because they all come with the territory. All of these are symptoms of a human being who has been forced into survival mode early on in their little lives.

From the same father as the previous post, here he addresses 3 things to keep in mind when parenting “hurt” kids—behaviors that result from fighting to survive, not to expect gratitude from a child who didn’t choose this life and the long term investment beyond a kid’s 18th birthday.


Phone Photo Friday

02/08/2013

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


The Nest is 75% Ready

02/07/2013

75% is enough for now. Enough to call our case worker to have her come out and do a walk-through. Enough to make me feel mostly prepared.

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Bedroom for Future Foster Kids Checklist:

• assemble KURA bed
• hang curtains
• hang wall art
• add a rug
• make space in closet for clothes
• dresser
• bookshelf ?
• nightstand
• lamp
• hang book ledges
• mount guitar hook for my old acoustic
• nightlight
• make bed look comfy and inviting

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The Rest of the House Checklist:

• mount TV to the wall in the den
• cover all electrical outlets with annoying plastic caps
• lock up all of our medications and vitamins
• lock up all of our cleaning supplies
• lock up all knives
• lock up all matches and lighters
• secure rugs to the floor (so they’re not tripping hazards)
• make sure we always have bananas
• have and know how to install car seats and boosters for newborn – 8 year olds

Our den/playroom:

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Flying Food and the Power of Words

02/06/2013

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Meal times are getting so much better now! When we first moved into our new house, Ali was used to having the attention of 4 adoring adults every meal. It was a big adjustment with just Mommy and Daddy who would occasionally be trying to talk to each other. Her way to get attention was to throw food. And it worked marvelously. She would even seek a scowl face that one of us must have been giving her, because she would throw food on the floor, yell “no” and then scowl at us. I scoured my parenting books for advice and landed on a suggestion from The Connected Child that positive reinforcement of good behavior is really the most effective discipline.

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I was skeptical. But willing to try.

It seems obnoxious to say, “Good job, Ali! You’re doing a great job feeding yourself! Wow, look at you! Can you put that banana in your mouth? [As she dangles it over the floor…] Great job putting the banana in your mouth! What a good eater!”

ButOhMyGosh! It worked. If I would forget to do it—to give her positive affirmation for her good eating behavior—food would fly.

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Above: Messing but she polished off a whole plate of food at our favorite Mexican restaurant!

My eyes were opened to how much difference it makes to Ali’s ability level when she gets verbal encouragement and affirmation. It’s not just eating. When she’s trying to climb up her slide and grunts because she’s stuck, if we encourage her, “You can do it, Ali! You’re doing a great job. What a good climber!” There she goes. Right up to the top of the slide…and then head first down to the floor (that’s her style).

I’ve also been noticing a physical change in her posture depending on what I say. “Listen and obey” is a script explained in The Connected Child as well. Instead of saying “No” I give Ali verbal instructions and wait for her to comply, pending immediate danger. If she doesn’t do it, my tone gets more serious and I say, “Ali, listen and obey. Shut that cupboard.” When the words listen and obey come rumbling through the airwaves, I see her straighten up her shoulders. She knows I mean business.

Likewise, when I praise her actions I see her body respond. The other day she was putting back the glasses case that she had taken from my nightstand (as instructed) and as soon as she put it down, before she had a chance to pick it back up again (as she often does…) I said, “Thank you, Ali! Great job listening and following instructions!” and I saw her head lift up with pride like an invisible string just pulled her up a little bit. She smiled with confidence.

How humbling it’s been to realize what an affect my words have on my sweet little girl. I have the power to crush her or to lift her up, just with what’s coming out of my mouth. I mess up plenty, and she does too I suppose. Thankfully, she’s always been quick to forgive me and I give her grace, too. We’re learning and stretching a lot these days.

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eMeals: Budgeting, Planning and Cooking Family Meals

02/05/2013

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One of my goals for the new year, now that we’re in our new home, is to cook more. I’ve never been too much into cooking and really slacked off a lot while we were living with my parents. My mom was kind enough to let us chip in for groceries and still do a lot of the cooking she would be doing anyway—except for 5 people instead of 2. (Thanks, Mom!!) Part of what has held me back from cooking more in past years is the time to plan and shop for meals. Jason (who is a very good and creative cook!) and I would walk through the grocery store together and look for inspiration based on what was on sale. That would usually get us a meal or two and a lot of random stuff. There was a Groupon for eMeals around New Years and after discussing with a friend who as used it before, I decided that this would be my plan for 2013.

So far, I am completely loving it…so much so that I’m writing this blog post! Every Sunday I get a 2 page PDF in my inbox with 7 recipes and a grocery shopping list for my neighborhood Kroger. The recipes are selected based on what’s on sale this week. It takes a huge amount of the planning out it and allows me to get great deals without flipping through ads, cutting coupons or wandering through the store. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!) I love that the shopping list is broken down by section of the store, too. It’s cut grocery shopping time down by half. At least.

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It’s also saving us money. The plan we’ve selected is the Classic Family Plan (the only one based on your local grocery store’s sales, I think) for 3-6 people. They also have an option for 1-2 people but my friend suggested the bigger plan because it yeilds a lot of leftovers. That’s where the second half of the time and money saving comes in for me. Often, I’m able to freeze half of the meal either cooked, or partially cooked following the freezing techniques of Don’t Panic—Dinner’s in the Freezer We also have leftovers flowing all the time so I very rarely need to eat out for lunch or take my former staple can of soup to work.

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This is Creamy Burrito Casserole round 2 – just after taking it out of the freezer to thaw. The recipe made enough for 2 good size casseroles.

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An unexpected result is that we’ve been eating out less. I never really thought we ate out all that much but having a plan for the week means that we’re very rarely going out to eat Monday-Thursday. We usually treat ourselves to a night out after work on Friday and a lunch after church on Sundays. Other than that, we’ve been spending around $40-45/week on dinner/lunch. That does not include things like milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, fruit and other staples but for the bulk of our meals…I think that’s pretty good. The plan adds up to around $85 for 7 meals for 3-6 people. I’ve been choosing 3 meals per week and selecting from a rotation of freezer meals for the other days we’re eating at home.

Another, perhaps more obvious benefit, is that it’s introducing us to a lot of new recipes and new foods. All the recipes we’ve tried have been good, some have been excellent (salmon cakes, swedish meatballs, oven fried chicken, creamy burrito casserole). I’ve discovered some items in the grocery store that I never knew existed (panko, cheese soup). I’ve learned where I/we draw the line to save a buck…white bread sandwich rolls for $1? Head of iceberg lettuce for $1.49? No thank you. I’m willing to pay a little more for something we like better.

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Guest Post: Older Child Adoption in Pop Culture

02/04/2013

A few months ago, I was asked to write a guest post for another blog. I felt quite honored and I realized I’d like to start honoring other bloggers here on my piece of the internet.

About 2 years ago, not long after I had been doing some research about domestic adoptions and the US foster care system, I discovered Krysta’s blog (Then called Proverbs 30:8, now called A Really Long Year) through a comment she left here on my blog. My misconception of what foster parents looked like (seasoned parents with older biological kids) was shattered as I clicked through post after post about her and her husband’s journey through foster care and adoption. God definitely used their story to encourage us into the decision to become foster parents and I’m thankful that Krysta was also willing to answer a lot of my questions through email and to become a “real life” long distance friend. In fact, she was one of the first people I texted when we got our first placement in July 2011! Let me introduce you to her and then she’s going to share a post with y’all:

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Krysta and Dan became foster parents in 2010. Since then they have fostered several children, adopted their two sons and welcomed a daughter by birth. Their sons joined their family at ages 3 and 4. They found out about foster care by listening to the Foster Parenting Podcast (www.fosterpodcast.com) and have shared some of their story there as well.

Older Child Adoption in Pop Culture

One of the strangest comments we ever received when we were getting ready to become foster parents was a recommendation by someone to watch the movie, Orphan. Yes, the horror movie about a nine-year old adoptee who terrorizes her new parents. The person thought it would serve as a cautionary tale for us. We never got around to watching it.

There are lots of orphans and adoptees in movies and television. I think you notice it even more when you have kids in your home who come from these types of backgrounds. Though I realize it is silly to expect an accurate representation of real life from television it is always nice when they get it (kind of) right.

For the past two seasons, I’ve been wrapped up in Julia and Joel’s attempt to adopt a child (first seeking a baby but then an older child, Victor) on the show, Parenthood. NBC didn’t do the plotline any justice by making it a short season for the show but I thought they did a decent job of showing the ups-and-downs of older child adoption. Those of us who have been there know the ups-and-downs last alot longer (and even come back when you least expect them). The victories are so sweet. The downtimes are so discouraging. Julia really struggled toward the end of the season with whether finalizing Victor’s adoption was the right thing to do – fearing for herself, her marriage, her daughter and for Victor. All these fears are totally legitimate and real.

Even though they are not real people, I wanted to send them a copy of The Connected Child. I wanted to encourage them to talk with Victor more about his biological mom and provide him with ways to stay connected with his culture and history. I wanted Julia to cut herself and Victor some slack. I’ve learned that it takes time to feel like a family. It takes time to love and be loved the way you hope for but it is possible.

Watching the season finale and Victor’s adoption finalization scene made me so reminiscent of the day back in 2011 when we promised to take care of our boys forever. Long before this day, we knew in our hearts they were ours and that we would never leave them but making it official was a beautiful thing.

Even though the Bravermans are not real, I hope families can take a cue from their behavior at the finalization. In Victor’s hearing, members of the family spoke up and affirmed him as a full member of the family. They promised to love him, tease him, teach him and include him. We know that kids who come from hard-places will seem like they are fighting against being loved. At times, it will seem impossible. It will seem like it is getting worse. There are certainly situations where extensive therapy is needed. It is not easy but it is so worth it.