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One More Month

09/30/2013

There is one month left in our self-imposed 90-day break from foster care following Buzz’s return home. The first month was a blur of catching up on life. The second month we fell back into rhythm as a family of three and life got really comfortable and easy again… Foster care was kind of a distant thought. In the final month I want to start preparing my heart and my home to enter the foster care world again.

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Here’s a little reflection on my 90-day to do list from the beginning of August.

Here are my goals for the next 3 months:

• Take Ali to visit our friends in Cincinnati

• Visit our previous hometown Erie, PA and introduce Ali to her only great grandparent – Jason’s grandma who she was named after (and other friends and family, too!)

• Clean out and organize the garage. More. Again.

• Clean, rearrange the kids room

• Organize and store extra kids clothing in the closet for easier access

• Reorganize the playroom (pack up or give away toys that Ali has outgrown)

• Stock the freezer with meals again. More.

• Celebrate the 1 year anniversary of Ali’s adoption day

• Transition Ali into a big girl bed (AKA take the side off of her crib)… And then reverse it.

• Potty train Ali

• Clean out the van

• Clean and store spare car seats

• Sell the Mercedes and get another van (we love our van so much that we want a second one!) … Jason tells me there is no hurry for this.

• Take Ali to Dollywood while Jason’s playing there

• provide respite for another foster family … We were getting lots of requests over the summer through our family service worker but I haven’t seen any since the beginning of August. I guess it’s more of a summer thing.

• decide what I want to do with the rest of my life

In the month of October I’m going to take a step back from blogging, maybe all together but for sure less than my usual 5 days a week. I plan to spend that time reading (I’m halfway through One Thousand Gifts and loving it…so poignant for this time), preparing our home (I’d love to have more meals in the freezer…cooking is nearly impossible for me when we have a new kid), praying (for my fellow foster mamas who are in the trenches right now facing the really hard stuff, for myself, Jason and Ali, for Buzz and his mom, for our next kids) and doing my best to stay on top of work and keep myself healthy emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.

If things are quiet around here, I’m off resting and restocking for the next big adventure. See you back here soon!

My email address is posted in the right column. Feel free to send me a message if you want to check in. I’ve connected with lots of lovely people all across the world that way.

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Phone Photo Friday

09/27/2013

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We had a babysitter so that means its a date night, right? Required biannual 4 hr CPR class…with free snacks

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


Joy and Sorrow and Heart Transplants

09/26/2013

 The anniversary of Ali joining our family and some recent news I got about her biological mother has stirred up a lot of sadness in me. I’m keenly aware that Alianna is my daughter because she was taken from another mother. September 21, 2011—day that I look back to and reflect on with joy and gratitude is a day that another woman’s heart was deeply wounded…not for the first time and not for the last time. I cry for her because I know what she is missing out on and I can’t imagine the pain of loss after loss.

It seems to be hard for others “on the outside” to understand why I have such sadness about this. Yes, she made mistakes and losing her child(ren) was a consequence. Yes, she released her to us and gave us her blessing. Yes, life is good for us and Ali doesn’t exhibit any signs of trauma or loss. But this woman who I barely know will forever be important to me and honored as such. We have a unique bond as two mothers to the same little girl. She carried for nine months, gave birth to, loved and did her best to care for my daughter for the first two months of her life. That’s a reality that will never be erased or replaced by adoption. Ali had a mom before me—her first mom—and I love and bless her for the gifts she gave to Ali of life, love, beauty.

The best analogy I can conjure for how this feels is to imagine a heart transplant. In the movie Return to Me, the main character Grace is painfully aware that she received a new heart because another woman died. She and her family gained because another family lost. That’s how it goes with adoption. Most of our family and friends only see the benefit to us but we also see the damage done to her original family. So, it is with heavy hearts that we celebrated this past weekend. Saturday we celebrated being a family but Sunday we spent time talking about Ali’s first mom, reflecting on events of the past two years and praying for her.

(Face covered and identity concealed for her privacy.)

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The first picture I have of me with Ali:

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I felt a little funny about this “mommy adores me” shirt that came to our home with Ali until I realized how much her biological mommy AND I (her foster mommy at the time) both adored her. She was the most content and happy baby I’ve ever seen.

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I doubt that Ali’s first mom will ever see this post but just in case you do read this one day:

We will never forget about you. We will include you when we tell Ali the story of how she became part of our family and we will show her photos of you. We always speak about you with respect and dignity. We won’t lie to Ali about the realities of you and her and the part of your lives that was spent together and when she’s ready and old enough to understand we will answer every question we’re able to answer. We think about you and pray for you all the time. We love you.


Last Chance to Preorder Christmas Classics

09/25/2013

Jason’s Kickstarter campaign for his Christmas Classics album ends tomorrow just after midnight. Last chance to preorder a CD and help fund this project. Thanks for considering.

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Second Familiversary – Two Years Together

09/24/2013

It feels almost like Ali has three birthdays and they’re all within two months of each other. In July she turned two, in August we celebrated one year since her adoption finalization and on Saturday we celebrated our “familiversary” or family day – the second anniversary of the day she joined our family. At that time it was through foster care and we had no idea that she would eventually be part of our family forever. She has been an amazing blessing and has brought me so much joy as a mother. God’s plans are so much better than anything I could have come up with on my own. She stuck her tongue out a lot as a baby (and consequently drooled a lot). She was dealt a pretty bad hand as a newborn but I guess she was showing what she thought about that…

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Thankfully, Jason got home on Saturday so we could celebrate our family day all together. We asked Ali what she wanted to do to and she gave us the same answer she almost always gives: Chuy’s! I’m not sure why she loves Chuy’s so much. She pretty much just eats the chips and beans. Maybe it the rainbow sherbet push up the server always gives her for dessert.

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On the way home from dinner our picture perfect family day celebration started to crumble. We’ve been trying to teach Ali to stop taking her shoes off every time we get in the car (a habit learned after our two recent road trips.) She wasn’t listening so I climbed into the backseat so I could address her correctly and attempt to reverse the behavior. She wasn’t having it. In fact, the more anger and frustrated I got, the more she just laughed and laughed. I was losing my temper and the only consequence I could come up with for her defiance was to not allow her to have pie for dessert when we got home but to go straight to bath and bed. I had made the peanut butter pie  especially to celebrate our familiversary and Jason’s birthday, and I had specifically planned to have her blow out candles on it since she’s been recently obsessed with the birthday song and blowing out “crandows.” I gave up on the shoe battle and got back in my seat. When we got home, I stuck to my guns and took her straight to her bath. She was still as happy as could be. It was me who was having a problem. I looked at my beautiful, joyful daughter and released that I was allowing our family’s enemy to steal the finalé away from our family day. I quickly changed my mind about my consequence and asked her to forgive me for losing my temper. She’s always quick to forgive.

I dressed her in her “daddy’s little girl” pjs—my favorite. Ali almost didn’t grow up with a daddy, twice. But now she has a great daddy, a daddy who fought for her and continues to fight for her everyday. Her birth mom told us she hoped that Ali would be a daddy’s girl and she is—they have a very special bond. When Jason’s not on the road his schedule is very flexible. From the time Ali came home she was his sidekick, hanging out with him in his studio during recording and practice sessions, going with him to the bank, lunch, coffee shop. Despite him being a touring musician, he gets to spend a lot more time with her than most parents who work away from home M-F/9-5. It’s truly a blessing! I love seeing their father-daughter relationship growing and changing as she gets older.

Clean from her bath and cozy in her pjs, we celebrated our familiversary, singing, “Happy family to me!” and Ali blew out 2 candles for our 2 years together. Then we sang “Happy birthday to Daddy” and he blew out candles for his 31st birthday which was last Monday while he was away. I’m so thankful for my little family and excited to discover what lies ahead for us in the next year.

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Family Fun Weekend

09/23/2013

Friday morning Ali and I celebrated that we only had 1 more day until Jason got home from his recent Canadian tour.

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Then Friday night we had a girls night out, dinner and frozen yogurt. I love hanging out with her. She’s so much fun!

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Saturday morning we had a light breakfast and then went straight to the airport to wait for Jason to arrive. Then we went out for breakfast together.

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Can you tell that Ali was happy to see her daddy? I wish I would have gotten video of her jumping up and down and screaming, “Daddy! Daddy!” when we watched him walking toward our van with all his luggage and guitars. We sure love this guy.


Phone Photo Friday

09/20/2013

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