Weekend Recap: Calls #1 and #2 and Respite


I’m not quite sure if I’ll be able to get back to regular blogging this week but I’m gonna try. I’m still between computers so I don’t have any photos to post yet. Last weekend turned out to be quite interesting. Here are the bullet points:

• Friday afternoon we got our second placement call…for a 17 year old boy. I said no. (Our age cut off is 12 years old for now.) Our first placement call came on Tuesday evening for a 2.5 year old boy. We said yes to him but less than an hour later the placement worker called back to say they were able to locate a family member to take him. Based on what I was told about his situation I am happy for him—sounds like it would most likely be very short term and I’m glad he can stay connected with people he knows. Also, I was a bit relieved because that’s so close to Ali’s age!

• After that phone call, I left work early Friday afternoon to pick up an 11 year old girl from her middle school after school program. I’m gonna call her “Sunshine” on here. She’s been living with another foster mom we know for most of a year and we had offered to do respite for the weekend since we’ve had a bedroom just sitting empty.

• We got back to our house and gave her a tour. The girls watched Curious George for a few minutes (Ali’s new favorite) until the notary from a title company came over so we could close the loan on our new house. We had been in a construction loan since June and finally got it converted into a permanent loan (regular mortgage). We’ve closed many loans in our 8 years as home owners but that was the first time someone had ever met us at our house on a Friday night. How awesome is that!

• After that we went out for pizza, kind of late, so it was bedtime when we got back home. Sunshine helped me give Ali a bath and then took a shower and while I read Ali books and put her to bed. We let Sunshine stay up a little later and watch one episode of Storage Wars with us since she could sleep in the next day.

• Saturday morning I woke Ali up at the crack of dawn for our second swimming class. We had massive downpours all weekend. Saturday was the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, which happened to go up and down the streets on either side of the community center where our class is. We had to park a block away and walk through the monsoon to get there so that was fun. Class was great though. Ali is so brave and is learning a lot. That deserves it’s own blog post. I’ll get around to it.

• We got home just as Jason and Sunshine were waking up. She helped me make chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. Jason gave her a lesson on flipping them with the spatula since she was having trouble. It was sweet. She loves to cook and do anything  helpful in general. We finished the game of Sorry we had started the night before—she won. Our plans for the zoo were thwarted by the rain so instead we went to the mall.

• Bass Pro Shop turned out to be a zoo. Sunshine enthusiastically pushed Ali around in her stroller from display to display. We saw a bobcat, geese, ducks, raccoons, a skunk, turkeys, boars, a fox and lots of deer—all dead and stuffed, of course. They had some kids activities going on outside and Sunshine was excited to learn how to cast a fishing pole and shoot arrows at a giant target. We walked around inside the mall for a while and gave in to a Carousel ride that was expensive and kind of lame but I think both girls enjoyed it.

• While Ali was taking her afternoon nap Jason went to the grocery store to get supplies for the spaghetti and garlic bread dinner Sunshine wanted to make for us. While he was out, she and I watched the most bizarre Pinocchio movie. After dinner, the girls and I played with barbies and baby dolls for a while. After we put Ali to bed, we had a movie night with popcorn and root beer floats and some 1960s Godzilla movie. Sunshine was really into it but Jason and I kept kicking each other to keep from falling asleep.

• Sunday was church and we had to be there early since Jason was playing in the worship band. I felt bad waking up both tired girls so early but they both kept good attitudes. Thankfully, it seems that everyone at our church remembered that we’re foster parents and no one asked any intrusive questions. I didn’t need to explain much. I just introduced Sunshine as a friend that was staying with us for the weekend and she was only asked about her age and grade. She’s very polite and always finds something to compliment someone on immediately after meeting them.

• We had lunch at home and Sunshine chilled in front of the TV watching Dumbo while Jason milled around outside and Ali napped. I really wanted to be outside since the rain had finally let up and I’m not used to watching so much TV but I could tell Sunshine wanted to be near us. At one point Jason and I were outside looking up at our chimney (trying to analyze why water was coming into the living room side after our torrential rainstorms) and she came outside and said, “What are you doing? I want to be involved!” That pretty much sums up the whole weekend. She asked a lot of questions about everything and wanted to help do whatever we were doing…or watch TV, which I’m pretty sure was a treat for her. If she were going to be with us longer than 2 days, we’d definitely have to put some caps on the TV time and junk food but since it was just a weekend we didn’t fuss too much.

• Sunday evening we went out to dinner at Logan’s Steakhouse to celebrate my mom’s birthday. It was much enjoyed by all. We went back to our house for presents and cake and then Sunshine’s foster mom arrived to pick her up.

I feel like I have so much more to process about this weekend and I may end up writing more about it—or not. It was definitely a good learning experience for us. I hope it was a fun getaway for her and a restful weekend for her foster mom. Ali did really well sharing our parental attention and seems to enjoy having another kid around. After a few short months as foster parents and then a really long break, one weekend was a big adjustment. I had a few “What the heck are we doing? Is this our life?” moments. We also had some good discussions—me and Sunshine, me and Jason, Jason and Sunshine. Spending time with an 11 year old cemented my decision to cut off our fostering at age 12 for now. I just don’t feel like I’m ready to jump into parenting a kid any older than that yet as a 20-something who only has experience parenting toddlers.

I mentioned that we got our first call on Tuesday evening. I didn’t mention, though, that it was just a few hours after I had talked to our case worker about some documents and mentioned that I was surprised we hadn’t gotten any calls in almost 2 months since we’d been approved. She said they’ve been getting mostly large sibling groups and older kids but I can’t help suspecting that after we got off the phone she said “Oh crap! Are they on the list?” Getting our first call a few hours later just seems too coincidental to me. And then getting Call #2 three days later. I guess we’ll see where it goes from here. It might be another interesting week!


Phone Photo Friday


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

Mid-Century Modern Vinyl Armchair



We’re selling this bad boy on Craigslist. It’s not quite ReAbide material in it’s current state; we had planned to reupholster it but we need to make some room so we’re unloading it as is. It has a few rips that are not extremely noticeable, though it would be happier in a new upholstery outfit. Check out the ad on Nashville craigslist here and contact us if you’re interested. (The pictures there are a bit dark. Jason took them with his phone late at night.)

Gone Migratin’ Be Back Soon


Well, this has been an interesting day. I didn’t have a chance to get a “proper” blog post written. We had a house guest last night and we have a different one this weekend so I’ve been preparing for that. Mainly, though, I got a new computer so I’ve been spending a lot of time moving files around and getting adjusted. The one of the left has been with me almost everyday for the past 7 years. It was an early college graduation gift from my parents that saw me through my last semester of design school and my first 6 years as a professional graphic design. It’s a little bittersweet to move on and the adjustment period is frustrating, however I’m so thankful to be upgrading to a newer, faster model. Bare with me while I get everything settled. I have several things I’ll be blogging about soon…a getaway to Florida, Ali’s first swimming lesson, some midcentury modern furnishings we’re discounting to clear out some space, and maybe a little bit about our current foster care situation though there is not much going on yet, I have a feeling its about to get interesting. I’ll be back to regular blogging soon, I hope.



homemade bubble solution - myMCMlife.com

Have you ever made your own bubble solution? It’s cheap, very easy and makes awesome bubbles! I’ve seen a lot of pins on Pinterest with homemade bubble recipes but this is the one I tried. I cut the recipe in half and used Dawn dish soap and light corn syrup. I found it to be too thick so I added more water.

With one breath and a simple little 1″ bubble wand, I can make 20-40 bubbles! Ali is thrilled. We’ll never be wasting our money on the “miracle” watery bubble solution at the store again. I’m hoping to try this out with a bigger bubble wand soon. Even with my little wand, I can get a bubble about 4″ in diameter.

Usually we do bubbles outside but sometimes if Ali is well behaved in the tub (in other words, not soaking me with splashing…) I’ll reward her with bubbles in the tub.

homemade bubble solution - myMCMlife.com

Dog photo bomb! (By the way, Ali is not crying in the background, she’s gasping/laughing because of the bubbles popping around her face. No children were harmed in the making of these photos. 😉 However… Warning: it’s soapy and it will sting the eyes. She tends to get it on her hands from exuberant bubble decimation and then sometimes rubs her eyes.)

homemade bubble solution - myMCMlife.com

Phone Photo Friday


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

My Little Water Lover



I’ve got a little water lover on my hands and I’m so glad! We just recently got her a plastic wading pool but here are some pictures from the last couple of weeks. 

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We start swimming lessons this Saturday and I can’t wait!

Eating Outside: Toddler Solutions


As soon as it was warm though, I enthusiastically moved Ali’s high chair outside. Food throwing is one of my biggest pet peeves with her lately. (The other is splashing in the bath tub and soaking the mama, in case you were wondering.) Eating outside provided a temporary reprieve. I didn’t change the rules but it allowed me to stay more relaxed while correcting her, rather than getting stressed out about a strawberry smacking the white wall or a green bean getting smashed onto the wood floors. And getting stressed out makes me more likely to lose my temper with my sweet little girl. I’m a work in progress, as is she.

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We’ve also been spending a lot of time outdoors in general. My favorites (during Ali’s nap time) are lounging in the hammock, occasionally joined by a dog…


Walking around our property and picking up shards of glass (we started a jar for our collection about a month ago)…


and spotting beautiful creations while I’m picking up glass…


Ali likes to climb up the steps of the hot tub…


swing and spin in her swing…


And play in her giant sandbox…


DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition)


DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Almost 2 years ago, Jason and I built a modern horizontal plank wood fence at our previous house to enclose our back garden. We used the same technique to build this fence and gate to make the fourth “wall” of our courtyard. There were two major differences. 1. We only had a 12′ spanse to build. 2. We had concrete walls on both sides.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

There was only 1 post hole to dig. Hooray! Jason used our trusty old post hole digger. (Jason and that post hole digger have made holes for 2 fences prior to this!) We were only making our fence 4-4.5′ tall so we used a 6′ 4×4 pressure-treated post. The post hole should be 2′ deep.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

After making sure it was level, we added a few braces to keep it in place before adding the dry concrete mix and water into the post hole. Jason also added a little concrete mix and water under the post.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Next we attached two 2x4s to the side of the house. The bottom piece was going into the concrete block foundation of the house.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Drilling screws into concrete is not easy! We used these pretty blue concrete screws.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Jason pre-drilled the holes for the screws. He opted to drill into the mortar to make it a little bit easier.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Once that was secure, Jason added a second, longer 2×4 along the house. This one should have been easier because it was only going through wood (the hardibacker siding, the corner beam in our garage and the shorter 2×4 below. We borrowed this powerful hammer drill from a friend (necessary for drilling into concrete) and it was so powerful it stripped our drill bits and one of the outdoor screw heads. It seems like there is always something that goes awry on a project like this. Thankfully, he was finally able to get it secured to the house with a combination of this drill, every star drill bit we own and our wimpy Ryobi drill. The screw that was stripped was cut off with a hack saw.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Another 2×4 was attached to the concrete block wall of the courtyard. Everything went smoothly with this one so I didn’t have time to take any photos.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

I don’t know if it’s the correct carpentry term but we call the horizontal boards planks (as opposed to pickets on a vertical fence) and to differentiate between posts and planks. Adding the planks went every quickly since we’ve done this part many times before. We started at the bottom, putting the plank as close to the ground as possible and leveling it.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

We used 8′ untreated 1x4s. (Our last fence we used 1×3 ferring strips.) They’re cheap…around $1.20 a piece at Lowes. (Side note: in our experience Lowes has much better quality wood than Home Depot.) Jason used a nail gun to put four nails into each plank at the 4×4 post end and 3 nails into each plank at the 2×4 end. We work together doing this part and it moves rhythmically:

I position the plank into place.
Jason places the spacer between the planks.
Jason fires the nails into place.
I position the spacer at the other end of the plank.
Jason fires the nails into place.
Jason removes the spacer.
15x in this instance.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Anything sturdy and square can be used as a spacer. Since it was a fairly common question about our last fence project, I made a point of taking a picture. We used a plastic grout sample that was left at our house after construction. We have a bunch of them and it was quite convenient to have two so we could leave one at each end of the fence. They provided a gap of about 1/4″. It’s hard to see in the picture below because it’s brown…

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

We added another vertical 2×4 on the back side of the fence to keep the planks straighter. This 2×4 post is pressure treated but we didn’t put it into the ground. It’s only helping to keep the planks straight, not supporting the weight of the fence.We used the spacer again to make sure the gap between the planks was consistant. They’re often slightly bowed so we pushed and pulled to get them as straight as possible before nailing. Where the gap was too small, we used a pry bar to move the planks apart enough to fit the spacer.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Let’s step back and admire our work for a second. Ahh…

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Because we used 8′ planks, we made sure the space between the posts was slightly less than 8′. (If you’re building a fence with more than two posts, check out what we did here…I even have diagrams.)

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

We wanted the planks to be flush with the 4×4 post and we made a chalk line where they needed to be cut.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Jason used his circular saw for this. It’s a bit awkward, especially close to the ground. There may be a better way but this works for us.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

I always insist on the safety glasses. I like how Jason tucks his pencil into his hat.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

I didn’t do a very good job documenting the gate building process. (We started this project after Ali went down for her nap around 1pm on a Saturday and at this point 3 hours later, she was awake so she could “help” us.) We built a frame out of 2x4s just a bit (maybe 1″ both way) smaller than the opening for the gate. The extra 2x4s down the middle and diagonally (that I didn’t photograph here) help the gate stay square. We attached planks in the same way as the fence – starting first with the outside ends, using the spacer, and then the middle post, also using the spacer, using a pry bar as needed.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Once it was hung, I took a picture of the back side so you can see the two diagonal pieces of 2×4 we added. I’m sure there is a simple way to calculate those angles and cut them but we had a heck of a time and ended up just experimenting until we got some angles that worked. It was pretty amusing! Jason hung the gate with three hinges while I was inside with Ali so I didn’t get a picture of that process. How he did that himself, I have no idea!

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

He quickly stained the fence using deck stainer and sealer while Ali and I were having a snack. Just before dark, it was finished. Time to go out for dinner!

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

A couple days later, I took some finished pictures.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

A hook and eye (attached to the house) hold the gate open.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

A hinge door stopper (the same kind we used inside) keeps the gate from hitting the side of the house.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

I love how the fence and gate make our courtyard feel so cozy and private. We can sit out here with the toddler and the dog and not have to worry about either wandering out toward the street. This is quickly becoming one of our favorite spots for lunch alfresco, afternoon tea, blowing bubbles for Ali, and evening chats. It’s going to be even more wonderful once the landscaping matures.

All of my posts related to “modern wood fence”

Modern Wood Fence —Finished! (at our previous house)

Enclosed Courtyard (intro to this post, including some before pictures.)

Ali Mae: Fashionista


OK, the title is a little bit of an exaggeration. I have, however, started encouraging Ali to help pick out her outfits and I’m beyond excited about it! She doesn’t really care all that much. It’s mostly just fun to pull things out of the drawers and throw them. This is the first outfit she pulled…and truthfully, it was just based on whatever whatever she grabbed first.


I added the rainbow socks in an attempt to pull together the pink, green and purple. Later that day, we had a hair accessory party. She pulled out what she wanted and I put it on her head. I think she was up to 9 headbands at one point.


Then I discovered that she’s OK with hair clips now! Finally! I have so many cute ones made by kind friends and she’s always immediately pulled them out before. Maybe it’s because her hair is getting so long now. Or maybe it’s because she likes how they look. Regardless, I’m excited about all the new hair possibilities.


Here’s Ali’s second self-selected outfit. I’m really proud of this one. She chose the jeans and the black tee shirt. I suggested the pink furry vest since it was a cool day, and she enthusiastically said “Yeah!” When I opened her sock drawer, she went straight for the leg warmers. And they happen to match with pink and black stripes! Good one, Ali. And she chose her hot pink Dora socks and the green and purple hair clip. Oh my heart. When Jason saw this picture, he said, “She’s so cool!”


This outfit was all my doing. (We were in a hurry that morning so I picked it.) I love that she understands the concept of posing for pictures now. Right after I snap it, she runs over and says “Ali?” so she can see how it turned out.


Jason has a hoodie that shrank. It was too small for me, even, so we let Ali try it out.


Cuteness overload!


Oh, and girl loves some eyewear! She’s always after my glasses, which she calls “See” because I have to keep reminding her that I need them to see. (In other words, give them back!)


She can rock some sunglasses while we’re shopping, too.


And one time she even found Daddy’s glasses and gave them a try.


Oh, little girls are so much fun! I can’t wait until Ali starts dressing herself.

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