Mission Accomplished: It’s a Dresser

03/18/2013

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My big goal for this weekend was to find a dresser for the bedroom our future foster kids will stay in. Eventually, I’d like to add a beautiful vintage dresser but for now we just needed any dresser. I found this specimen for $22.99 at a thrift store in our neighborhood. I spent about 3 hours repairing, sanding and painting it. I spent another $12 on handles and hardware. It’s not big but it will work for now. I painted it the same color green as the little 2 drawer nightstand I painted a couple years ago for our first kids’ room that’s now in Ali’s room. Eventually they may end up in the same room. So here’s my wonky little weekend DIY project, before:

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And after:

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I need to call our case worker to double-check but I believe all of our requirements to reopen our home as foster parents are now met. BIG SIGH!

Related posts:

Preparing for Foster Kids: Bedroom Tour (the 1st time)

New Home Tour: Nursery (Alianna’s Room)

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids (the 2nd time)


Phone Photo Friday

03/15/2013

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We got our fireplace screen in the mail on Wednesday. (I ordered this one.) It’s fairly lightweight but has enough catch against our ceramic tile that it won’t budge easily. It looks better than we expected. All in all its a very silly purchase for home safety but whatever. If we have a fire roaring in the fireplace and kid accidentally lunges toward it, this should save them.

Now the only thing we have left to resolve on our home safety checklist is to add a dresser to the kids room. I don’t think either of those things are holding up our home study approval but we had to agree to comply before our next home visit. Still waiting for an official approval letter in the mail.

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


New Home Tour: Master Bathroom

03/14/2013

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At our last house Jason and I built and tiled a custom 4’x5′ shower with two shower heads for our master bathroom, inspired by the house in Costa Rica we stayed at for my sister and brother-in-law’s wedding. It was huge! Our architect was determined to make sure our new master bathroom was not a downgrade so this one is even bigger. And the best part about it is that we have enough water pressure in this house to use two shower heads at the same time…although the hot water does run out a lot faster. It’s awesome in a private locker room kind of way. I like to joke with Jason that when we’re old we’ll be able to hobble our walkers right in here.

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The pretty orchid was a housewarming gift from the couple across the street.

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I love the natural light that pours into this room and especially the shower. I have bad vision without my glasses on and natural light in the shower helps me see. Notice that no electric lights are turned on in any of these pictures. It’s that bright, even on a cloudy day.

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Sources can be found on this post I did about our master bathroom plan. The only change is the towels and bathmat, which we ended up getting from Target.

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


Lessons from the Foster Dog

03/13/2013

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“We’re becoming foster parents,” I explained to the young woman I had just met.
“Oh! Like for dogs?!” She asked.
Dogs?! Are you freaking kidding me? 

That was 2 years ago.

It bothers me to no end that searching for “adoption” and “foster” yields as many listings about canines as human beings. I love dogs, but that love is worlds apart from my love and value for people.

The other day I was walking my loved cocker spaniel Lucy. We don’t usually walk far this time of year but it was the first sunny day we had had in a while and we both needed exercise so I decided to go around our whole block. Halfway, a cute shaggy little white dog ran across the street to us and started sniffing Lucy. They both seemed playful and unintimidated so I let them check each other out for a while thinking this little guy’s owner wouldn’t be far away.

After 5 minutes I decided we needed to start back home. Puppy followed us. I kept stopping and shooing him away. “Go back home, little dog!” I felt like I was luring him further and further from his home as I walked with Lucy but I wasn’t sure what to do.

When we finally got back to our house, little pup was still with us.

I left home with one and returned with two. The metaphor was not lost on me as a foster parent. My mom commented later, “He heard you take in strays.”

Jason and I discussed what to do and I decided I’d walk him alone all the way back where I found him and try to figure out where he lived.

When we got back, still no one was looking. The yard he came out of was actually a vacant home for sale. Shoot. I tried the house next door wondering if they recognized him. No answer. Meanwhile he’s running around in the street, almost getting hit by cars and I’m debating whether or not I care enough to do something about it. When he had gone a ways from me, I started back home. He chased after me at first but then saw a teenage boy across the street and ran to him instead. Then a couple walking their little white dog caught his attention. (This is a lesson in itself: he was desperate to follow someone. Anyone.)

I was free from this not-my-responsibility dog. I walked back home looking back every few minutes, half expecting to see a little white fluff ball following me. I went back inside relieved and tired from walking almost 2 miles and sat down to work.

Jason was still outside planting and digging in front of our house. An hour later I heard him shout from the garage for me to open the door. There he stood holding the little white pup in his arms. He had found his way back to our house.

I should back up and say that my husband just barely loves our dog Lucy. He’ll let her out, clip her nails when they get annoyingly loud and help me give her haircuts if I ask but I can’t remember the last time he’s pet her. But there he was holding this stinky, muddy little dog in his arms explaining that he picked her up for our next door neighbor to take a photo and the dog just settled into Jason’s arms.

Oh dear! How pitiful. 

I really don’t want another dog and this one not our problem or responsibility. Lucy looked at me longingly, reminding me that she doesn’t get as much attention as she craves and she really needs a haircut. I hardly have enough time for the dog we already have. I put some of Lucy’s food and water out in the garage for the little dog. He ate and drank a little and wandered back off to follow Jason around the yard. I went back inside because Ali was waking up from her nap.

Our neighbor posted the photo online somewhere…our community has several online forums, general and pet related. I’m not sure where she posted it, honestly.

While Ali had her snack, the little dog came up to the front door a few times, looked at Ali, Lucy and me and barked at us. Then he returned to Jason in the front yard.

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Lessons Learned from the Foster Dog:

Compassion is what made me stop. Compassion for the dog… sort of, but also for his owners who I was sure where looking for him. Compassion is what made Jason pick him up when he returned to our yard the second time.

Selfishness is what made me walk away and attempt to ditch him…twice. He’s not my responsibility! Find someone else to care! Why did you choose to follow ME?!

Pride is what made us explain to the people he jumped all over and the cars that he ran out in front of “Sorry, he’s not our dog!” We will not be held accountable for his unruly behavior.

Sympathy is what made us decide we’d keep him in our warm garage overnight, in Lucy’s crate with a soft blanket so he would not freeze or get run over outside.

Love is what drove us to give him snuggles and a bath and blow dry later that night. I realized this is how I would want someone else to care for my dog if she was lost. Also, we wanted him to be well presented if we did need to find a new owner for him. Love is why we started calling him Stuart instead of just “dog.”

Empathy is what made me look at stinky, tiredly little Stuart in my arms and ask, “Is someone missing you?” and wonder if he was asking himself the same question.

Hope is why I posted his picture and a description on Craigslist, attempting to locate his owners or at the very least line up new ones if we couldn’t find his within a few days.

Joy came when we got a message from our neighbor that she had found a listing from another neighbor, half a mile from us, listing that her neighbor boy across the street had been calling for his shaggy dog Whitey that evening. We believed we had a match. It was 10pm when Jason got ahold of the neighbor and he ended up taking Whitey to her house for the night. She said she’d take him back to the boy after school the next day.

It was a short lived foster experience—fostering a DOG—I can’t believe I’m even calling it that. But it was packed with metaphorical lessons. I’m thankful for how much God is speaking into my life right now and I’m very thankful this lesson was relatively painless. The Teacher is doing a lot of teaching and I know the test is coming soon.

Update: The next day the dog’s boy came by and thanked us for finding his dog. Apparently his grandma let him outside unchained and Whitey was long-gone when he got home from school.


Eliza is 2!

03/12/2013

My niece Eliza turned two a couple weeks ago and I haven’t yet shared the photos from her party. I was looking forward to doing a lot of testing with my new camera with all the cute little subjects but neglected to make sure my battery was charged. Oops.

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Ali and Eliza are good buddies. They talk about each other ALLTHETIME. Eliza is always asking for “Please See Ali” and Ali is always asking for “Ey-za.” These two cousins who are 5 months apart could not be more different in appearance and personality. They balance each other out wonderfully and I hope their friendship gets deeper and deeper as they grow up.

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Happy 2nd Birthday, Eliza! You make me smile. 🙂

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The party is over. Everybody get out of my room so I can chill out!

 


Why?

03/11/2013

I keep asking myself why? Why are we doing this? Stacks and stacks of paper work. Vigorous home inspections. Fingerprinting. Background checks. Physicals. Classes. Appointments. Poking. Prodding. Drama. Purchases in the name of home safety. Sacrificing all privacy. All to be foster parents. Really, when I’m asking, I’m asking God. Why? And He’s kind enough to answer me sometimes. When I’m willing to hear, this is the answer: Listen and obey.

It’s a funny answer because that’s what I tell Ali when she’s doing or about to do something disobedient. At first I may warn her playfully that we don’t stand on furniture but as she teeters near the edge of the sofa, my tone gets serious. “Ali, listen and obey! Sit down!” So when He said listen and obey, He got my attention. I know Father means business.

After another day of feeling knocked around, while I was getting ready this morning I asked the same dumb question again. Why are we doing this?! It wasn’t the same kind of loud and clear answer as before, but I had the immediate realization that they are worth it. These kids are worth it. Ladybug was worth it. Our Precious Ali was worth it. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if it was about my daughter. All the paperwork, time and prodding from the first time around … looking at those sweet faces, especially the one I still get to kiss everyday, remind me that these innocent kids are so worth my plight.

My plight? And here’s where I gave myself a real (much-needed) kick in the pants: Seriously?! Do you want to tell a kid who has been emotionally and physically abused by the adults who are supposed to protect him, who has been taken away from the only people he’s ever loved, who has been bounced around from stranger’s home to stranger’s home with his few belongings in a trash bag, who is way behind in school because he keeps getting moved around, who doesn’t know how to express himself because his emotions are all mixed up…do you want to tell HIM about your plight? About all this dreadful paperwork you’ve filled out and how much time all these processes and appointments consume. Do you want to tell HIM how hard your life is? How hard you had to work to get to where you are? Good grief, woman! Where is your perspective!

We’re in it for the kids.

Jason and I remind each other of this often. When we’re taking things personally. When we’re feeling unappreciated and unwanted by the system. When we get frustrated.

I’m amazed that I can still be so selfish after all this time; after all we have learned.

Thank God that everyday I get to snuggle a beautiful reminder of why we are doing this. Even though it’s hard, each and every child is worth it.

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In high school, when I had something I wanted to remember, I would write it on the palm of my head…where I’d see it for a while and then it would eventually wash off, hopefully when I didn’t need the reminder anymore. These days I use my smart phone for notes-to-self but when I thought, where can I put the answer to this why question I keep having?, this is what I came up with.


Phone Photo Friday

03/08/2013

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


Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids

03/07/2013

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

We really loved our last house but sold it so we’d have room for our family to grow. Specifically, we wanted to have more bedrooms so we could continue to provide a home for children in foster care. At our previous home, I designed a room that could suit one or two kids ages birth to five years old, male or female. It was a big challenge, especially with a small room. This room is targeted toward 2-12 year olds in my mind, though we’re keeping an open mind about ages at this point. It felt much easier this time around, I suppose because we already had the super versatile IKEA KURA bed (which can be flipped over to be a low loft bunk bed) and I’m not set on putting a crib and dresser in here…yet. (We do need to add a dresser ASAP, we found out last week.) Other than the bed and bedding, the woodland creatures curtain was the only other element we started with from the previous house.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I chose the green wall color based on the curtain. Also, green is supposed to be soothing and it’s one of my favorites. I read somewhere that mirrors are good for self esteem for kids. Ali loves looking in the full length mirror in her room so I put one in this room, too. It was less than $10 at Target. See that house reflected in the mirror?

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I found this when we were unpacking. I colored this picture in art class in first or second grade. I pray that our next kids will feel at home in this room and at our home. I added some cuddle buddies to the bed.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I started adding bits and pieces to this room without any kind of theme in mind; just using what we had available. A friend gave us the headphones pillow as a housewarming gift. We had the other 2 pillows already. The rockstar flashcards are the only 4 letters I completed when I started designing the series 4 years ago. Maybe I’ll finish it one day…

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

This old acoustic guitar that was a gift from my parents for my 16th birthday narrowly escaped the trash during the move. (Jason’s guitars are a million times nicer so he doesn’t see this as fit to play. However, I think some tween or teen might love it!) We also have a collection of random, discount pile Hatch Show Print posters that I thought could help fill the walls here.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

There are a few vintage ReAbide items living in here. This Florence side table works for now as a night stand.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

And this Mack arm chair (below). Before we moved in, I ordered a Nashville road map. I thought it might work as a big poster for this room. It’s colorful and free (as an AAA member) and I thought it might be neat for kids to see where our house is in comparison to where they used to live. The rug is from a local IKEA reseller. I think it’s the only thing besides the full length mirror that we purchased for this room.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I have a pack and play set up in here. I’m hoping it’ll be enough to convince our case worker that we’re equipped to take a child younger than two. Ali still sleeps in her crib and I don’t have much desire to buy and set up a second crib. If we accept a placement of a younger child, we might consider getting another one at that point…or maybe moving her to a big kid bed.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com  Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

The book ledges also came from the previous house. These books (with the exception of Pop Warhol’s Top…which I don’t recommend) these books were are all specifically chosen to be in this room.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

So a really cool thing happened. This room developed a theme without me even realizing it! I suppose it started with the Nashville map, and then the Hatch Show Print posters, and then the guitar. The headphones pillow and the rockstar flashcards followed suit. The theme that developed—which happens to be something that every child who stays in this room, regardless of age or gender will have in common—is Nashville! Music City. Even the woodland curtains and botanical bedding and rug work. We live very close to a huge park so we see squirrels, owls , leaves and lots of trees in our neighborhood.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

It was important to me that I had thoughtful, personal elements worked into the design of this room. I didn’t want it to feel like a guest room. I want it to be a special room because it’s made for a really special kid…a kid we don’t know yet but I want him or her to feel comfortable, loved and wanted from the moment they walk in. I want him or her to know that we’ve been thinking about and praying for him or her before we ever met.

Here’s the floor plan of this room. It’s about 10×12.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

If you’re putting together a room for foster kids in your house, here are some things I recommend:

• Flexible sleeping arrangements
We have this room set up with a twin bed and a pack and play. Without much trouble at all we could flip the twin bed into a bunk bed and replace the pack and play with a real crib. Sometimes foster parents put together a really nice room for 5-12 year old kids and then God has a sense of humor and their first placement is a newborn. Flexibility is key for foster parents.

• Adequate Clothing Storage
This is one of our home checklist requirements from DCS. I’m hoping to add a dresser before too long but for now, we have a big closet ready with hangers and hanging storage for smaller items. We also keep extra blankets, pillows and sheets in the closet.

• Books and Toys
Admittedly, we don’t have toys in here but we do have a playroom right down the hall. It’s mainly because of the wide age range this room is open to that I haven’t put many toys in here. The stuffed animals are probably nice for any age kid, though. These books have been carefully selected to be in this room: Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care, I Don’t Have Your Eyes, I Had Trouble Getting to Solla Sollew, The Little Train That Could, The Velveteen Rabbit, and the Sleep Book.

• Nightlight
Some kids won’t want it on but we have it ready just in case. A new room can be scary and dark. The nightlight is enough to make the whole room visible. We also moved Ali’s constellation turtle light in here because she doesn’t use it anymore. It projects stars on the ceiling for 45 minutes before shutting off automatically. We’re also required to have hallways lit and to have flashlights handy. We got this 3-in-1 night light, emergency light (comes on automatically when the power goes out) and flashlight for our first foster parenting experience. It is in our hallway.

• A Place for Photos
The frame on the nightstand that says “Welcome” is actually a placeholder for a personal photo. Thanks for another foster mom’s suggestion, I also added (after taking photos) a bulletin board with pictures of “Who Lives Here” (me, Jason and Ali with names by our photos) and a photo of our first foster placement with her name and hand print. I will add a photo of each new child under either category.

• Curtains without strings or cords
Another requirement for our home safety checklist—not that we have a curtain but that there are no choking hazards dangling from blinds or curtains.

• Rugs secured to the floor
Yeah, I actually stuck this rug to the floor with rug tape. Another item on our home safety checklist.

• Smoke detector
Our list doesn’t require it to be in the child’s bedroom but there is one in there per codes for a new house build.

• Egress window
Also per codes, in order to be considered a bedroom, a room must have a window that can be opened for escape in case of a fire. Our home safety checklist also requires this.


Blog Update

03/06/2013

I updated a few things on the ole blog design last week. If you, like me, use Google Reader or some other RSS feed to digest blog material, you might not have noticed. Click here to check it out.

I updated my blog header (which still had pictures from from 1-2 years ago).

I changed some of the main links at the top. Now I have:

Home | About | Inspiration | Timeline | Tour – New | Tour – Old | What is “MCM”?

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I also updated most of the pages those links go to… Inspiration is a combo of 3 pages I had before. Timeline is new and gives an overview of our lives. Tour – New is a landing page for the New Home Tours I’m gradually revealing. Tour – Old is a tour of our old house. The others didn’t change.

Thanks for coming to my blog! It’s means a lot to me that people enjoy my ramblings enough to come back over and over again. I love interaction and it keeps me going to know that others read what I write. Please feel free to comment or email me anytime! I read each comment and respond to most.


New Home Tour: Nursery (Alianna’s Room)

03/05/2013

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This is the only room of the house that I couldn’t photograph during Ali’s nap so she’s demonstrating how she uses her room. She loves her pushing buttons on her CD player and yanking the pillow and blankets (for Mama’s comfort) off of her rocking chair so she can climb up in it to look at her books.

Here’s a floor plan in case anyone likes them as much as me. Her room is about 10×11 ft not including the doorway.

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About this room.

I fell in love with colored cribs when I was planning a nursery the first time around. This one (SOMNAT) is from IKEA a couple years ago, no longer available.

The pink blanket in her crib was made for her by her Great Aunt Janice. The white Care Bears blanket was her first baby blanket from her birth mom. The stuffed brown spaniel was bought by us for our first baby, before we knew she existed. The white bear was a gift from the magistrate who granted us custody of Ali. The aardvark was a gift from good friends and her birthday buddy Jonas has the same one.

The hand painted name banner above the crib was an adoption gift from a high school youth group friend of ours.

The flower on the wall and the “A” pillow on the rocking chair were adoption gifts from a co-worker. She made the pillow. The green quilt on the rocking chair was made for Ali by her Great Aunt Linda.

The crocheted toy and the two cross-stitch pieces framed on the wall were made by Nana (Jason’s mom). The butterfly wood puzzle above the frame and the owl wall hooks that hold her backpack were gifts from Aunt Jess (my sister) and Uncle Jeff. The monkey poster was a gift from the same friend who gave Ali the aardvark. The heart banner I made for Valentine’s Day and then moved in here because that big white wall was driving me nuts.

The Eames replica rocking chair was from here. (I love it!)

The dresser, night stand (painted by me) and yellow lamp are vintage. It took me months to find a changing table height dresser that was narrow enough to fit in the kids room at our last house. I’d be happy to have a longer one here now.

The curtains are IKEA and were discontinued. I based the whole color palette of her room on them before purchasing so thank God for eBay! They tie together the blue crib and rugs, pink wall and yellow lamp. The book ledges (RIBBA), rugs (TOFTBO) and toy boxes are also from IKEA.

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