Easter Sunday 2013




We started off our Easter Sunday early since Jason was playing in the band at church.

IMG_1717 IMG_1746

We enjoyed hearing the choir warm up.


Ali got the whole nursery to herself for a while. She loves the slide, of course.



IMG_1732 IMG_1745

Later, my parents and in-laws came over for Easter dinner. Grandpa let Ali decorate his face with stickers. What a good sport!


Oh, these two melt me!

IMG_1759 IMG_1764 IMG_1768 IMG_1771 IMG_1790

Hey look, a good family photo! Thanks for taking this Mom! And thanks for putting shoes on, Jason!


And one outtake: Uh oh…someone has learned how to cheese for the camera.



Phone Photo Friday


Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 5.08.18 PM

The fruit bowl is stocked and ready to go, which means I’m ready for the new/next kid(s).

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

New Home Tour: Jason’s Studio


Welcome to Jason’s office, music room and home studio.


Disclaimer: I try to avoid touching anything in this room so this is completely AS-IS not staged while Jason was out on the tour.


We both love this picture of Alianna on her adoption day.


The portrait above is Jason’s great-grandfather Carl. We just called him “Grandpa Carl” for short. We love this photo of him. You can read more about him here.

IMG_1633 IMG_1626 IMG_1624

This closet is actually a recording booth with an angled wall. It has it’s own air intake, fan, light and solid door. The ceiling in this room is also sloped/vaulted like most of the other rooms in our house. All of those angles have something to do with listening to and/or recording music. Jason’s considering putting a cushion above the recording booth and making a little loft hangout.

IMG_1629 IMG_1632

FYI, our architect is Ryan Thewes.

Related Posts:

New Home Tour: Kitchen

New Home Tour: Living Room

New Home Tour: Dining Room

New Home Tour: Den/Playroom

New Home Tour: Nursery (Alianna’s Room)

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids

New Home Tour: Master Bathroom

New Home Tour: Hall Bathroom

The Egg Hunt



On Saturday, one of our neighborhood MOMS clubs put on an Easter egg hunt at a park. It started at 10am on a cold, dreary morning when we all slept in. We pretty much missed the hunt. When we arrived at the field, the last group was scrambling for the last set of colorful eggs. I quickly grabbed one and tossed it at Ali’s feet. She was not getting the concept so she had no sense of urgency. And thankfully, because she had no idea what an Easter egg hunt is, she wasn’t disappointed that she only got 1 measly butterfly eraser.


She was much more interested in “slide!” Her favorite playground activity.


She’s also an excellent climber now and determined to climb structures designed for kids 5-12. (Jason is spotting her.)

IMG_1660 IMG_1661 IMG_1658

She’s fearless, my girl.

IMG_1665 IMG_1666

Approval Letter: Ready or Not, Here We Go!


Screen shot 2013-03-22 at 3.47.07 PM

This came in the mail on Friday. Jason sent me a picture of the letter while I was at work. Totally non-chalant. He texted to say that Ali liked my chicken salad and “Just got the mail too.” He’s as cool as a cucumber about this whole thing, unless it comes to advocating for a child—then stay out of his way or you’ll get bowled over! But, seriously, how does he stay so chill about it?

My immediate reaction was freak out. I’m not ready!

Then I remembered, wait… yes I am. We’re going to be fine. We can do this. Deep breath.

Dear Pre-Foster-Motherhood Self (An Open Letter)


I was so influenced by Lauren (from Word from the Wallaces) open letter to herself pre-four-kids-under-the-age-of-five that I decided to write an open letter too. To myself. Pre fosterhood.


Dear Pre-Foster-Motherhood Self,

Life is about to change big time and you can never go back to normal when it was just you and Jason and the dog. Except for that time between placements, but that’s not really the same old normal anyway. Just listen up. Here are so things you should know:

• Keep toddler foods around. I know you don’t know what this means because you don’t have kids yet so let me make it plain and simple: Your first placement will be a toddler and she will arrive late at night while Jason is in Norway. You should always keep things like this in the house: bananas, cheerios, yogurt, applesauce, fruit snacks/dried fruit, crackers, cheese sticks.

• Freeze as many meals as you can and stock up on frozen pizzas, burritos, pasta, macaroni and cheese, frozen and canned veggies. Fresh is nice but survival is more important. Food is food. Well meaning friends will think you don’t need any meals brought to you because you’re not recovering from a pregnancy. They have no idea how overwhelmed and exhausted you feel. Which brings me to…

• Ask for help. Friends want to help, they just don’t know what to do. They stopped over for 15 minutes to meet your new daughter but didn’t stay long because they didn’t want to intrude. You should tell them you’re at the brink of an emotional breakdown and you desperately need adult conversation.

• It’s OK for the mom to cry. Related to the previous point. You think you must always be strong and have all the answers. You were thrown in to the heat of battle and you weren’t briefed on the past. Give yourself grace. Put the screaming kid in her crib where she’s safe, call your mom for help and then have a good cry until she arrives.

• Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. You think you have no plans tomorrow. You can get groceries tomorrow. You can vacuum the house tomorrow. You can sleep in tomorrow. You have no idea if later today your life and plans will change drastically and you have absolutely no control over tomorrow. Or maybe you do. But do whatever you can today, just in case.

• You were wise to stock up on one outfit in every size range. It still won’t be enough but you’ll be happy you have something not cigarette smokey to put the new kid in before she goes to sleep for the night.

• Speaking of when the kid sleeps: this is your time to get things done. Also remember to sleep. But do as much as it’s healthy to do during nap times, right after the kid goes to bed and before she wakes up. That way when she’s awake, she has your full attention.

• The first few days, you will have very little contact or direction from anyone in the system. You’ve passed their vigorous inspection process already and they trust you with this kid (despite your own feelings of inadequacy). Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from her caseworker until next week when she informs you of the meeting you’re required to attend the next day. Write all your plans in pencil.

• Journal and keep records of everything. Everyday.

• Take lots of snacks with you when you leave the house. Those little people are constantly hungry. Left unfed for an hour or two, they get cranky. Also note: they don’t eat much in one sitting. Hence the constant hunger.

• Be brave and adventurous but know that sometimes you will flop. It’s OK. It makes a good story and you’ll be glad you tried. (I’m referring specifically to the time you decide to take the brand new toddler on a plane trip alone rather than finding a respite home. By the end of the flight all of the other passengers will hate you and assume you’re a horrible mother because “your daughter” keeps hitting and biting you, throwing her toys and screaming like a psycho when you try to restrain her in your lap. It really doesn’t matter. You will never see any of them again. Focus on nurturing and disciplining that feisty little girl…everything you do will matter eternally to her.)

• You’ve heard many times “it’s a broken system,” after your first placement you will have a much broader understanding of this. After your second placement you will realize it was so much worse than you thought. After your third placement… wait. We’re not there yet. But I’m scared to find out.

• Community and support will start to include a lot of people you’ve never met in person. This is perfectly OK. Your current network of family and friends does not include enough like-minded people who are young foster parents (yet, anyway). Blogs and blogging will connect you to these more-costly-than-gold individuals.

• Throw your expectations out the door. No really. Again. For real.

• Surprise: You will be adopting sooner than you imagine to a child much younger than you anticipated. It will be awesome! Also the most difficult fight of your life to date.

• It’s worth it. Love is never wasted. God will provide exactly what you need as you need it. He will sustain you through things you do not think you can handle. He will MOVE A MOUNTAIN. You’ve been told all of this before but I’m sending this from the future to tell you that it’s been tested and proved true. Your mind will be blown. Hang on to your hat…

Phone Photo Friday


Screen shot 2013-03-17 at 5.11.29 PM  Screen shot 2013-03-17 at 5.11.18 PM

Screen shot 2013-03-17 at 5.11.42 PM

A triple whammy today! Because the signs of Spring are everywhere and I LOVE it!

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

New Home Tour: Hall Bathroom


IMG_1645 IMG_1636  IMG_1639 IMG_1641 IMG_1643 IMG_1644


This is the only room in the house without any windows (aside from closets) making it an excellent safe room for tornado warnings. It also makes it harder to photograph. I was using a wide angle lens that I think it not very good quality…or else I just don’t know how to use it very well. Anyhow, sorry about the poor quality photos. This room needs some art. And a shower curtain. And new towels. It’s not very done. I’m not sure why I’m giving a tour of it at all…

FYI, our architect is Ryan Thewes.

Related Posts:

New Home Tour: Kitchen

New Home Tour: Living Room

New Home Tour: Dining Room

New Home Tour: Den/Playroom

New Home Tour: Nursery (Alianna’s Room)

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids

New Home Tour: Master Bathroom



I’ve been on a roll making homemade popsicles. (My current go-to is frozen mixed berries blended with plain whole milk yogurt and a bit of sugar to sweeten.) Ali loves them and she’s totally adorable and photogenic.

IMG_1549 IMG_1550 IMG_1551 IMG_1552 IMG_1553 IMG_1554

Gosh, I love this kid so much! By the way, Happy 20 Months, Alianna!

Enclosed Courtyard


One of our loftier wish list items for our dream house was an outdoor “room,” like a courtyard or atrium. Our architect surprised us with a courtyard was the front entrance to our home. To save money toward the end of construction, we decided we would add the fence and gate to enclose the fourth wall on our own. We finally had a beautiful weekend and time to do a quick project together. Jason and I used the same technique as the modern wood fence we built at our last house. Without the fourth wall, it didn’t really feel like much of a courtyard at all.

IMG_1510 IMG_1512

Now it feel more complete!

IMG_1587 IMG_1590


IMG_1592 IMG_1596

We’ve got our own private retreat. This is quickly becoming our favorite spot for lunch and afternoon popsicles. As it gets warmer, I’ll probably start spending my morning time with God out here, sipping a cup of tea.

IMG_1597 IMG_1599

I’ll do a follow up to this post with pictures of our process, as soon as I get around to editing all the photos.