Phone Photo Friday

06/28/2013

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Tuesday night I got hit with a GI virus and I spent most of the day Wednesday in bed trying to regain my strength and rehydrate. I just wanted to give a big public THANK YOU to my awesome husband who took care of the kids bedtime routine as I was starting to feel sick, then went out to the grocery store at midnight to get medicine and comfort foods for me. He slept on the sofa to minimize germ exposure and got up and got the kids out the door in the morning so I could rest and stay quarantined. Usually most of bedtime routine and morning routine are my responsibility and it’s such a relief to know that he is willing and quite capable of taking over my mom duties when necessary. He’s a good one, that Jason. In sickness and in health.

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

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Baggage

06/27/2013

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

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Buzz (not real name), our foster son, rarely has his hands free. I noticed the first day he was with us that he was always carrying at least one toy in his hand, if not 5 toys like in the photo above. He’s very clingy to his stuff. “By!” is how he stakes his claim over whatever is in his hands or pockets (which translates to mine), and it doesn’t matter if it’s really his or not.

The poor kid  had almost everything that belonged to him stripped away, so I can understand his deep rooted desire to claim, hold, own things around our house. I’m thankful that his mom brought us a lot of his favorite toys, pillow, and clothes so that he does have a lot of familiar objects here. We have issues over sharing everyday. Ali has been forced to share just about everything that she believed to be hers alone (toys, home, parents, attention) so we expect Buzz to share what he believes belongs to him as well.

The bigger issue is that all of that baggage is weighing him down. It’s hard to actually play with a toy when he has 4 other toys in his arms, afraid to set them down, to release his claim. One day in the pool he had the three cars (in his left hand in the above picture) and all 4 of our diving sticks in his arms…and he was trying to swim! Dude! Put the toys down so you can use your arms!

I’m hoping as he continues to feel more secure here that he’ll be more comfortable letting go.

We had a foster care review board meeting on Tuesday that he was required to go to (although he’s 2 and didn’t say a word!) so I had to take him. It was quite interesting. We were told at the start of his placement that Buzz’s parents had the simplest plan to reunification but yet it seems there are still hiccups and snags coming up along the way. Even though everyone on the board (mostly older white ladies) commented on how cute he is, and he was well behaved and played quietly with toys while the grown-ups discussed his family and his future, I could tell the stress was affecting him—his bodily functions, his behavior when we left, the visible sadness on his face as we were driving away.

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.


NPR interview: Midcentury Furniture + Grandkid Nostalgia = Modern Trend

06/26/2013

I had my 15 minutes 15 seconds of fame last month in an NPR interview with All Things Considered’s Andrea Hsu. She found my blog while researching for a story on the popularity of mid-century modern furniture. I was totally humbled to get to speak with her about why Jason and I are so drawn to home furnishings from the 1950s-60s and why we connect with the values of our grandparents’ generation. Check it out here. It’s just a few minutes long if you listen or you can read the story.

Here’s an excerpt of my What is “MCM?” page (which I think it what caught Andrea’s attention):

In 2007 when Jason and I bought our beloved 1955 atomic ranch, we dove head over heels into mid-century modern design. We love the simplicity, functionality and minimalism; the colors; the low, flat furniture; the unique details; the Danish and Scandinavian influences.

The more we fixed up our house, rifled through thrift stores and bartered with old ladies at estate sales; the more we started thinking about the lives our grandparents and great-grandparents lived half a century ago. We realized that we hold many of the same values: hard work, faith and family first, saving money and buying with cash, fixing things when they break, not wasting anything, watching our consumption, growing our own vegetables, knowing our neighbors, resting on Sundays.

That’s my mid-century modern life the best that I can describe it.


Weekend Update

06/25/2013

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Friday night after the kids were asleep Jason and I started preparing our house for our first party—a house warming party! We’ve been in our new home for 6 months but it took us this long to find a weekend that worked for both of us and to feel like we were settled enough.

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Since court was pretty uneventful on Friday, we had a visit with Buzz’s mom Saturday morning at a newer city park a few miles from us. This is the first time we had had a chance to check out the splash pad. It’s pretty great and it’s totally free. Thank you, Nashville! This is the only picture I took because it was hard to stay dry. Buzz is in the background by Ali’s forehead. He LOVED it! Ali wasn’t so sure.

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I gave the kids early baths on Saturday since I knew they’d be up late at the party. When Buzz saw that I was putting a dress on Ali, he ran to his closet to pick out a nice shirt. I helped find matching shorts and then he picked out the flip flops for both of them. I had my new Pandora station running and they decided to dance together. I took a video to send to Buzz’s mom. I wish you could see the huge grin on his face. It’s very similar to Buzz Lightyear’s grin here:

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This was at the end of the party when just our BFFs were still there. We attempted to get a typical smooch shot of Ali and her buddy Jaron but they were too quick (although there was kissing a-plenty!) It was way past their bedtime and these two were getting so silly, especially Buzz. Again, I wish you could see his huge grin.

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Buzz got into a rare kissing mood…he kissed me, our friend, Jason…and then I suggested he give Ali a kiss. 99% of the time he refuses affection from her. She’ll sneak up behind him to give him a hug and he squeals and tries to get away. This time he gave her a big, long kiss! They really do love each other even though they drive each other (and us) nuts most of the time. Like brother and sister, I guess.

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When I finally crashed into bed, I had to stop to take a photo. This room has been the most neglected design-wise. We finally got new curtains and hung them the day before the house warming party. We had tubs of out-of-season clothes and piles of extra blankets that I finally packed into our closet. (Why didn’t I do that months ago?!) It looks so much more clean and relaxing now. I’ll be posting some more about this room as it progresses. We picked out new bedding but haven’t purchased it yet. After that, we’ll be working on night stands, lamps, an accent wall, and artwork.

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Four Pairs

06/24/2013

We’re all still here.

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Court on Friday was pretty uneventful. If you followed the comments on Friday’s post you probably noticed that we were expecting to have court and we thought there was a good chance that Buzz’s mom would get him back. I wasn’t planning to go because I was too busy to take another half day off of work. I was notified that we were all ill-informed at it was supposed to be this Friday. Then his mom went down there and got them to move it back to this past Friday again. She ended up going before the magistrate but he explained that she actually needs a trial, not a motion to appeal (if I understand correctly…what she explained to me…) and that is scheduled for July 1. So we continue to wait.


Phone Photo Friday

06/21/2013

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No matter what happens at court today, this one will still be with us. I’m thankful.

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


A Decade of Matrimony

06/20/2013

10 Years is a BIG deal.

When Jason and I announced our plans to get married at 18 and 20 years old, we had a lot of skeptics. I’m quite thankful they kept their concerns to themselves, or at least didn’t tell us until much later. We were very young, no question about that. But we were sure. One of my bridesmaids, Chrissy, sent me an encouraging message on our anniversary and told me how impressed she was that I was calm and cool as I got ready on my wedding day. She had expected me to be nervous the way brides are portrayed in the movies.

When I was 14 years old, I had grown apart from my best friend emotionally and I was lonely. I prayed and asked God for a new best friend—someone I could trust, share my dreams with, hang out with at youth group and on the weekends, someone I could pray with and grow spiritually alongside. I was shy and dorky (middle school, hello!) and wasn’t imagining a boyfriend. Across town a 16 year old Jason was fed up with not being treated well by girls. He took relationships seriously and the girls he dated were flippant with his sensitive heart. He prayed and told God that he didn’t want to date anyone else unless she was going to be his future wife. When Jason and I met and quickly fell in love, we both realized that God had answered our different prayers by bringing us together. I am incredibly grateful that we met and fell in love so young and were spared from much of the heartache and regret that comes along with dating different people over high school and college years.

Chrissy also reminded me of the funny way Jason and I entered our wedding reception as our arrival was announced to the room of waiting guests. It  took everyone by surprise and we really hadn’t put that much thought into it. We were waiting in the hallway as the DJ announced the wedding party and I just thought, hey, wouldn’t it be funny if you carried me in on your back? It’s best described with this visual:

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That’s pretty much the way we entered into our marriage. We knew we wanted to be together and we just went for it, wholeheartedly, jumping in with both feet, full of joy and energy.

Here’s a little recap of the past 10 years:

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• Got married on June 14, 2003 and were endlessly teased about not being legally old enough for a champagne toast

• Spent our first year living in a poorly climate controlled upstairs of an old house in Erie, PA. I was in college and working part time. Jason was working part time and teaching guitar lessons at two different music stores and leading a band. We did laundry at my parents’ house once a week. I have no recollection of how we managed all of that with 1 car.

• After nearly freezing to death in our drafty apartment we decided that there is no reason to wait until after college to move somewhere warmer. I applied to Watkins College of Art & Design in Nashville and got accepted.

• Much like our wedding a year earlier, we headed for the hills with excitement, hope and no reservations. At 20 and 21 years old, I don’t remember having any fear about leaving behind all we had known and starting a new life in Music City.

• I graduated from college in December 2006 with a BFA in graphic design. Two months later, we sold our starter home of 2 years and purchased our beloved mid-century modern ranch in East Nashville. The same month as I started my first full time job at Salem Publishing, where I still work as an art director designing magazines.

• Jason had been working part-full time at Starbucks while building his music career, working on his band, traveling and playing, networking and making friends, playing lots of different kinds of music gigs. In 2009, he was able to quit his part time job and focus completely on his growing music career. A year later, he had more than made up for his retail income  by doing only what he loves—music. He has an amazing testimony of working hard, chasing dreams and reaching goals. He inspires me!

• In 2011 we decided to become foster parents. We had been thinking about having kids for a year or so and had talked about adopting some day. God planted the idea of foster care into our minds through some adoption research I was doing randomly one night combined with a home related comment on this here blog from K (and then I got sucked into their story of foster parenthood.) Jason and I realized that we really didn’t feel the need to have biological kids first (or at all) and that we had the room, resources and love to become foster parents at that point.

• In July 2011 we became parents for the first time to 16 month old Ladybug. She was with us for 5 weeks. On September 21, 2011 our home was blessed with the arrival of our little Alianna, our second placement. She was 2 months and 1 day old and the most content baby I had ever known. In November we were granted custody of her so we could pursue a private adoption. (Long story.)

• The same month, we put our cool little ranch up for sale and bought a property less than a mile away and started to plan the construction of our dream house with an architect. We knew that we wanted to have more bedrooms so we could continue to foster children. In 2012 we sold our house, started construction of our new home, celebrated Ali’s first birthday in Outer Banks with my family, finalized her adoption in August and moved into our dream house in December—just in time to get settled and host a Christmas family gathering.

• In March 2013 we reopened our home as foster parents. We did a weekend of respite for 11 year old Sunshine in April. At the beginning of May, 2.5 year old Buzz was placed with us.

• This past Monday night we went out for a dinner date to celebrate our anniversary (and sort of my birthday and father’s day too since they’re all in a 5 day period). Jason bought me a new dress as an early bday gift so I could wear it to dinner. He always picks the most lovely things for me! We stuffed our bellies at J. Alexanders and brought home a giant piece of carrot cake because it’s a must-have, even when we’re too full. We picked up the kids at their respective babysitters and put them to bed. Then we finally made time to sit down and plan our 10th Anniversary Child-free Vacation! We set the dates aside months ago but still hadn’t found time to sit down and book anything. Two hours alone for dinner was not enough time to catch up from all of the craziness of life lately. We are so looking forward to getting away together next month. I love this man.

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Phew! It’s been quite an adventure so far. Not able to be captured in these bullet points are the wonderful friendships we’ve developed over the past 9 years that we’ve been in Nashville. I have loved to watch my husband grow, mature and adapt through roller coasters in the music industry, challenges in relationships and struggles with the foster care system. Jason is creative, keen, perceptive, wise beyond his years, loyal, humble, passionate, talented, fun, patient, consistant, generous, hard-working, loving, playful and strong. He takes his job seriously as a godly leader of our household—he prays for us, takes care of us, gently corrects and guides. I recently told a friend just before he got married that I think the greatest gift you can give your spouse is accountability. Jason and I have learned this hard lesson through the years—it’s not fun to be caught in the wrong by your best friend, especially when your actions are hurting the one you love. But, we’ve found that it’s actually a blessing and gift to keep each other in check—to not let each other get away with crap. No one cares more about your success as a person than your spouse. I tell Jason often that I appreciate how he keeps me centered when I start getting worried, selfish, angry or lazy. He’s truly my best friend and our relationship has only grown richer over the past 10 years.

I wonder what the next 6 decades of our marriage will hold!


June

06/19/2013

Why I Love June:

warmth
longer days of sunshine
fireflies
swimming
our anniversary (10 this year!)
father’s day
my birthday (29 today!)
popsicles
eating outside
flip flops
painted toenails
watermelon
strawberries
sweet tea
being outside
sundresses


Weekend Part 2

06/18/2013

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The second half of the weekend started when Jason got home Saturday night. I knew he was on the way so I let the kids have a dance party after their bath to prolong bedtime just a bit. Jason was greeted in the hallway by two kids running at him, screaming “Daddy!” and tackling him with hugs. I waited patiently for my hug and kiss. He is such a good dad and husband and we’re all so happy when he gets home. That greeting was his Father’s Day gift from Ali and Buzz. They love him. (Buzz started calling Jason “Daddy” a few days ago. He still calls me A Ma.)

Sunday we spent the morning at church. Jason played guitar in the worship band. I photographed the baby dedication portion of the service. The kids had a good time in the nursery. They wore the new matching clothes from Buzz’s mom and I was really hoping we could get a nice photo of the four of us. Did not happen. One of the four was not cooperative…

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I have to admit, I love this one, though. I told Jason it was a very accurate portrayal of his fatherhood at this place in time: trying to corral these two whirlwinds into place with his strong, loving arms.

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I guess it doesn’t have quite the same affect with the Buzz head on there. In the one below he’s looking straight at me with a sweet smile and I love the way Ali and Jason are looking at each other.

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After lunch and naps we went to my parents’ house for a cookout and swimming. Both kids love to swim so I’m always in the water with them and not taking pictures. I did beg Jason to get a video of Buzz jumping in off the side, swim/walking underwater and holding his breath to send to his parents. They were thrilled! Sadly, I can’t share it here because you can see his face in the video. Buzz and Ali are both doing really, really well with learning to swim and I’m so excited to see them getting better every time. I believe Ali will be swimming on her own by the end of the summer and if Buzz stays with us, he definitely will be too.

I attempted a few more times to get a good picture of the two of them in their matching yellows to send to Buzz’s mom. Ali will pose if I ask her; Buzz not so much.

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It turned out to be a pretty good weekend. I’m so thankful for all of the friends and family in our lives.

 


Weekend Part 1

06/17/2013

After Buzz’s long nap on Friday afternoon, I took him and Ali for a swim at my parents’ house and then we ate pizza and my parents treated us an exhibit at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens called Night Lights by Bruce Munro. I got so many great photos of Buzz, but of course I can’t share them here.

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Saturday morning our original plan for a visit with his mom had to change last minute because the splash park we were going to meet at was closed. Like Ali’s post-pigtails bed head?

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I told her I needed to go to Target and we ended up meeting there and doing our shopping together. It felt like hanging out with a friend. She was so sweet and got Ali and Buzz matching outfits at Old Navy before we met.

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I am so thankful for her kindness and patience, for how much she loves her son and for how hard she is fighting to get him back. He’s one blessed little dude to have his mama working so hard to get him back.

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And then, of course, we went swimming again.