Phone Photo Friday


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New rug! It’s 8×10. I feel so grown up.

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


A Mom



I’m not sure if it rubs me the wrong way because I’ve been trying to get Buzz to call me Ms. Martina (for his mom’s sake) for 4 weeks with no avail or if it’s because he’ll say it repeatedly until I respond and it’s usually for nothing in particular.

“Amamamamamamamamamamamamama…” as we’re driving to day care in the morning.

“What is it, Buzz?”

“Right there.” An airplane. Or a McDonalds billboard. Or a dog. Sometimes, by the time I turn my head around to see what he wants, he just shifts his eyes and smirks like he can’t remember what he was going to tell me. Or maybe he just wanted my attention.

Yesterday I remembered a conversation we  had on one of his first days at our home. He had woke up from nap time crying and I went into his room and held him for a good long time until he calmed down. I explained to him—as best as I could to a two-year old—the situation: that he would be living with us for a while as the grown ups take care of some things that need to be done and that we’re hoping he can go back to live with his mom and dad very soon. I told him he was safe with us and we hoped he would make himself at home. I acknowledged that he was missing his family. I explained to him that “I’m a mom, too.” He seemed comforted by that.

“A Mom.” I’ve decided that he’s calling me “A Mom.” I’m not sure if it’s the truth but I’m hoping it’ll make “Amamamamamamamama…” a little less annoying today.

If you hold hands nicely…


I will pull you REALLY fast down the driveway!


It was an attempt to get them to stop swatting and kicking at each other. It worked. In fact, they held hands 1/3 of the way around the block.

Phone Photo Friday


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Last weekend I actually had this thought, God, I am looking forward to Monday! These two were driving me bonkers and sitting at my quiet but windowless cubicle at work suddenly seemed so appealing. Then I took a break from unloading the dishwasher and peeked around the corner in time to see this. I’d like to think these getting along moments are increasing as they both get more and more adjusted to this new family life.

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

Off Day(s)


I woke up yesterday in a fog with my alarm clock and my back up alarm clock both going off. I (attempt to) get up at least an hour before everyone else so that I have time to shower, take the dog out, have a cup of tea, spend some time with the Lord…not necessarily in that order. However, because of sleeping through my alarms I was greeted bright and early by a little boy holding an empty sippy cup that he had just retrieved from the kitchen cabinet. I fumbled around and filled it up for him and told him a needed a few more minutes to rest. Five minutes later he returned to my doorway holding an oatmeal packet. Ok ok. I’m up. Jason is out on tour for a few days so it’s just me and the two kiddos. I managed to get them both up and ready and we got out of the house on time. I only forgot 5 things. I remembered 2 of the 5 before we were too far away so I swung back home for Buzz’s afternoon snack and the flowers I bought for his day care teacher.* (The other 3 things I forgot to do were: turn down the temperature on the thermostat, start the dishwasher and take a sweater to work… in case anyone cares.) My mom was watching Ali and texted me in the early afternoon that my baby girl had a fever of 103 in addition to her really snotty nose.

It was definitely an off day.

I realized as I was scrambling out of work early to pick up Buzz from day care so I could get home to my sick little girl that I have so much to be thankful for. Ali was in good hands—wonderful hands—with my mom who is not just an experience mom and grandma, but also a nurse. I’m thankful for Buzz’s day care—it’s been so good for all of us and I really appreciate that the state helps to provide this service for foster families. I’m thankful for my dad who picks me up every Wednesday and takes me out to lunch. I’m thankful for my husband who is encouraging and supportive even when we’re states apart for a few days. I’m thankful for an encouraging card that came in the mail from a friend I don’t see often enough. I’m thankful for the senior art director at my office who was willing to help me out of a sticky situation with a logo design at work—I really value her advice, skills and gracious encouragement. I’m thankful for my neighborhood MOMS club and for the sweet ladies who have been taking time out of their busy schedules to bring us meals three days a week. It has helped tremendously!

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This morning, Ali and I took a short walk in the park after dropping Buzz off at day care. She was feeling pretty yucky but by the time we got home, she started acting like her usual spunky self again. I’m hoping it was just a short-lived virus and we’re at the end of it now. I’m really thankful that I am able to work at home a couple days a week so I could be home with my sweet little bug today.

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*I bought flowers for Buzz’s day care teacher because… SHE DID HIS HAIR!!! I had jokingly asked her last week while she was fixing a little girl’s hair, “Oh! Can you do his hair too?” She said she would. On Monday she noticed that his hair hadn’t been braided over the weekend (as we had planned with two different appointments that didn’t work out.) She did it! I am over the moon grateful. We were at the point of 2-year-old vs. adult power struggle and he would not even let me touch it. I think she’s going to agree to style it for me on a regular basis and I’ll gladly pay her.


Ali Mae at 22 Months




Oh, Ali Mae! You are now 22 months old. This past couple of weeks since Buzz arrived have come at you like a knuckleball. I’m sorry for how difficult and unpredictable it has been for you but I also believe that you are learning and growing so much. You are a sweet little girl but you are not afraid to assert yourself. You are easy going but you have a strong voice. You are a lover but also a fighter. God knew exactly what He was doing when He created You. He knew you would eventually end up in our family and that one day you would become “a foster sister” to other kids in our home.

Don’t lose your joy, precious little girl. Your place in our family, in our home, in our hearts is established forever. You will never be replaced. You will never be removed from us. I pray that God fills us all with so much love for each other that we have more than enough to give out to others. Thank you for sharing with Buzz… Sharing your home, your toys, your parents. It’s a lot of ask of an almost two year old and I know you’re doing the best you can. We’ve all had to make a lot of sacrifices but I want you to know that the job you have in all of this is so vital. You are an amazing sister to Buzz. You lead the way and show him the ropes around our home and our family. Your confidence, contentedness and joy are helpful for him to witness.

Your Daddy and I have noticed that your words have been exploding lately and we suspect it comes from an increased need and desire to have your voice heard. We hear you, sweetheart. We hear you say “Ali’s drink, ” “Cereal please,” “Can I have more?” “Mommy’s Day” “Ali’s Day” “Ali’s Daddy” “Apple juice” “Bubbles?” “Show? George?” (Curious George is your new favorite show.) And when we do miss your words, Honey, thank you for being patient with us. We’re all tired and little on edge lately. You are still an encouraging, radiant ball of sunshine in our home. Everyday I can’t help but marvel at your ever increasing beauty!

You are doing great with your swimming lessons. I’m so proud of your attitude and your bravery. This last Saturday, you hopped in off the side and I let you go under for a few second before lifting you up. You’ve been practicing blowing bubbles and not sucking in water. When I pulled you out of the water you wiped your eyes and said “Good job, Ali!” I’m glad you’re feeling proud of yourself. We’re going to have so much fun in Grandma and Grandpa’s pool this summer. Thank you for being you, Ali. I love you so much!

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A Hat, My Heart and My Ego


On Tuesday, Buzz started daycare with shabby looking double strand twists in his hair. His mama called it “crazy hair” when we saw her on Saturday but also said “it’s not that bad.” By Tuesday it was looking even more crazy. His day care is 95% black people working there and attending so I was feeling pretty embarrassed when I dropped him off. I told his teacher that I know it looks bad and I have an appointment on Friday for him to get new cornrows done. That night, I unstyled it so I could wash and moisturize it.

Wednesday, I put his hair in a ponytail against his wishes. But what were my options at that point? So off to day care with a pony tail. (Side note: ponytail was suggested by his mom if I couldn’t style it.) When I picked him up in the afternoon, only a tiny bit was still in the ponytail and the rest was all crazy wild and free. If that wasn’t bad enough, immediately upon seeing me he dropped down into the wood chips in the playground and rolled around. Yeah, wood chips all up in his crazy hair. Ugh.

So another bath and detangle and moisturize session that night. Getting the wood chips out of his hair was NO FUN AT ALL! Since the ponytail didn’t work out and he was scheduled to get cornrowed on Friday, I sent him to daycare on Thursday with an afro. Not a cute afro. A crazy wild, my-white-foster-mom-has-thrown-in-the-towel afro.

He could not have cared less. (Thankfully?) However I was feeling guilty. I went on to Target to run some errands. First stop: boys section to look for a hat for Buzz. I picked up a few in the toddler section…a blue and white striped conductor style one that I decided was too small, a straw fedora that was too hipster, a Spiderman one that Jason vetoed via picture text.


Finally I saw some adjustable hip hop/skater style hats over in the bigger boys section. I was on the phone with his case worker at the time and Ali was trying to open a bottle of allergy medication so I just grabbed one. I also found his hoodie sweatshirt on clearance. He only has one hooded sweater that fits and he loves it; especially with the hood up. I couldn’t resist this one with eyes, horns and teeth—even one good tooth! Oh, how it made me smile. I laid them out on the chair in his room and hoped he’d like them.


His crazy afro didn’t look any worse at the end of the day when Jason brought him home. No wood chips, Thank God! His immediate reaction to the hat was that he wanted me to take the tag off. He likes it! I thought. He ran off to go outside with Jason and Ali, hat in hand. I convinced him to let me put it on him and took some pictures so he could see how cute he looked. It lasted for a few second before he took it off and started running around the yard with it. He was swinging it around by the tabs in the back and smacking it against the driveway. He hates it! I thought. I’m not gonna lie. It hurt my feelings. It was a gift and he was treating it like trash. A few minutes later it was lying in the dirt and he was off doing something else.


After dinner we went to the playground. Again I was able to convince him to put the hat on when we got out of the van. It was mostly black folks at the park—can you tell this white mama is feeling self-conscious about not doing well with her black foster son’s hair? Again, it was on for a few seconds and then he handed it to me. I wore it for the rest of the park time so I could have my hands free to take photos. He hates it, I’m convinced. Thankfully, I didn’t hear a single critical comment about his hair.

Twenty minutes after putting him to bed that night, from where I was sitting in the living room I could hear him creeping down the hallway. He was looking down at his feet trying so hard to be quiet that he didn’t see me standing there waiting for him. He had put his bare feet into his sneakers—wrong feet, unlaced—and he had the hat on backwards. He looked like he was about to leave on an adventure (which is totally not funny because of an incident a few days prior…). Instead of scolding him, I said “I like your hat!” He likes it!

I got him back to bed with a snack. (He was looking for a cup of milk when I asked him what he was doing up). I agreed to sit with him for a while as he was getting settled. He snuggled up in bed…with his hat. Oh, he really likes it!

Jason got him up the next day to take him to some appointments. I was already at work so I texted and asked if he wore the hat. Jason said yes. He had been wearing it since he woke up and he loves it. My mama heart is so happy!

Disclaimer: (Because yes, I still have an ego…) I’m fully aware of how important hair care and style is within the black community. I have a whole slew of appropriate black hair products and have done a lot of research. I’ve gotten pointers from friends and from his mom, as well as product from his mom. It’s not so much a matter of not knowing what to do… it’s a matter of not having the time and energy to do the “practice, practice, practice” that it requires to get good at styling black hair. I fully intend to get good at doing it myself; but sometimes you need to know when it’s time to outsource. I’m feeling pretty good about the style I eeked out last week in my first attempt. This week it felt like there were so many other higher priorities. That is why I scheduled someone to put his hair into a longer term protective style for us…however he was not willing to sit for a styling.

Phone Photo Friday



Two baby birds in a nest in front of my house. Coincidence?

There were four eggs. It appears only two are now living in the nest.

Ladybug. Precious. Sunshine. Buzz.

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

Double Blessing


I was generously blessed with this amazing double stroller by a woman I had never met. She follows my Instagram feed (Hi @curlybirds!) and apparently reads here too. I am incredibly grateful that someone would take the time out of her day to drive across town to deliver a beautiful and certainly valuable double stroller to my house. Ali and I got to meet her and her six year old twin daughters, too. What lovely, lovely people!


Thank you, again, so very much!

Getting Settled


I’m way behind on blog posts. I still haven’t posted about Ali’s and my trip to Florida a month ago or the swimming lessons she started. I have pictures of mid-century modern things we’ve bought and sold. I have pictures of our blossoming landscaping. I was behind before Buzz showed up 12 days ago but now I’m REALLY behind. However, it’s easier to write about what’s currently going on.

• Yesterday was Buzz’s first day of day care (in our care) and it was so good for all of us. The consistency of a daily routine, structure and opportunity to play with other kids all day will be great for him. It was also a much needed break for Ali who has been kind of stressed out (acting out for attention, yelling and hitting a lot) and we could tell she was craving down time, as well as some individual attention from Mom and Dad. I worked at home yesterday with just Ali. Holy Cow! I got so much done! I thought working at home with a child was challenging but after struggling all week last week with two, it was a piece of cake. Day care isn’t cheap and it will use up most of the daily board rate that the state gives us for Buzz’s expenses but it’s worth it for us. This is what Ali did after breakfast:

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• We all picked Buzz up together and went shopping for a new grill. I love when stores have double child seat shopping carts, especially when they’re shaped like a car. This is the first time we’ve taken both of these kids shopping. They were driving each other crazy. (Get it?) Seriously, they pick on each other like brother and sister. Ali is a pesky little sister constantly grabbing his steering wheel or flicking his hair. He whines and tattles and is always pushing her back into her side of the car. Then she smacks him. Then he fake cries. (Anyone have suggestions on how to foster sibling love and kindness?)

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• Our old grill was a surprise wedding gift from my cousin Dan. I was 18 at the time and I thought, A grill? That’s so…grownup. We’ve used the heck outta that thing over a decade and moved it to 7 different apartments and homes from Erie, PA to Nashville, TN. It was such a wonderful, thoughtful wedding gift. Now here we are 10 years later grilling our first dinner on the back patio of our dream house on a gorgeous May evening with a spunky little Hispanic girl we adopted and a playful little AA boy we’re fostering. I never in a million years would have pictured this as my life from that vantage point but here we are and I love it.



• Speaking of love, it’s not all brother-and-sisterly squabbles. They do like each other. After dinner they wanted to swing in the hammock together and then they were working together to fill containers with rocks in the courtyard. And the sweetest thing yet… Jason was putting Ali to bed while I was putting Buzz to bed. He brought Ali into his room so I could give her a hug and kiss goodnight. As they started to walk out, Buzz said “Wait!” We asked if he wanted to say goodnight to Ali. (We’ve suggested this several times before and they usually refuse anything other than an occasional “night night” or wave.) They both leaned in for a hug and then a kiss. MELT.MY.HEART.

• Neighborhood moms are so generously bringing us meals 3 nights a week and it lifts a huge burden. If I haven’t already mentioned it, Buzz will likely be with us a couple months but of course anything can happen in foster care. I love his mom. We’ve been texting back and forth a few times through the week. She was super helpful in getting me his immunization records so I could get him into day care. (DCS…not so much. They pretty much dropped the ball last week and this desperate mama decided to take matters into her own hands…without of course “going over their heads” because, ah hem, we’ve been warned.) We’re constantly referring to ourselves as Mr. Jason and Ms. Martina to Buzz, both out of respect for his parents and because we believe he’ll be reunified with them soon. However, he has started calling me “Ma” and Jason “Da.” I’m not sure how to avoid this because Ali is calling us Mama and Daddy all day. Also, I don’t think he’s able to say “Ms. Martina” or “Mr. Jason.” I just hope his mom is not offended if/when he calls me Ma in front of her someday. I tried. I really did. Ali, on the other hand, sometimes calls me “Nina.” Or “Ali’s Nina.” Oh that girl!

So that’s where we are. Blogging has been a little scarce because I’m still fighting to recover my energy. At the end of the day when I have the choice of sorting out my thoughts here or going to bed, I usually fall asleep sitting up before I even make the decision. But we’re definitely getting settled and life is starting to feel more manageable. Thanks for hanging out here and sharing this adventure with us.