Phone Photo Friday

09/13/2013

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I got a wake up call from DCS placement yesterday morning. Ugh. These decisions are hard! We’re on hold status so they must be desperate. It’s good to make decisions and set boundaries when you have a sound mind and not in the heat of the moment when a worker is describing a specific kid(s) and situation and your heart is breaking. I think we’re going to stick with our original decision to not accept any new placements until the beginning of November. (Previous kids or bio fam would be an exception.) Heart is still broken either way.

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


Visit to Erie, PA

09/12/2013

We took Ali up to Erie to visit the place we grew up, met, fell in love, got married and started our lives as a couple. We had the special opportunity to introduce her to her great-grandmother who she is named after. We were also blessed to spend time with other family and friends that we rarely get to see. My mom traveled up and back with us but stayed with her sister’s family for the weekend.

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The 9 hour drive was 11 hrs one way and 12 hrs the other way with a potty training toddler sick with a cold, road construction and traffic jams. But, all-in-all, she’s a great traveler. We got bored a few times.

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Jason’s and my first apartment was the second story of this house. It was so drafty the first winter (our last winter in PA!) that we almost froze to death.

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I love that we could see Lake Erie from so many places as we were driving around.

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The house I grew up in from age 9 (when we moved to Erie) until I got married at 18. Too many memories to list them all here but lots of pictures before school dances, Jason picking me up for dates, our first kiss, him asking my dad for permission to marry me, the garage sale before we moved where we sold off all our snow shovels, boots and salt bags.

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Asbury Woods Nature Center

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I used to volunteer at this nature center on Saturday mornings taking care of the animals. It’s changed so much it was hardly recognizable–in a good way.

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I have so many wonderful memories in these woods, exploring and biking with my best friend Michele when we were kids. It was special to walk through the trails with my family this time. These woods are one of my top two places I miss in Erie. I wish we could have hiked all the way to Buttermilk Falls but it didn’t work out this time.

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The Grandfather Tree. Red Oak est. 150 years old.

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Honey stick! My elementary school was right across the street so we took field trips to this nature center often and always bought a $0.25 honey stick on the way out.

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Ali with her cousin Aiden at Cheddars.

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Connie’s Ice Cream – we all got their turtle ice cream – best turtle ice cream in the world, I say.

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One of my best friends from high school, Chrissy, prepared an amazing picnic lunch for us to eat at the beach (with Wegmans food and Art’s cookies!) This is Ali with Kaitlyn.

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Another one of my best friends from high school, Sarah

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This beach is the number one place I miss in Erie. So many memories here with family, friends, Jason…playing in the sand, sun tanning, picnics and birthday parties, gorgeous sunsets.

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The water was too cold for our little Nashville girl’s feet

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Approximately where Jason asked me to marry him and I said yes…11 years ago!

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I’m so thankful that I got to see these women and watch our daughters play together on the same beach we spent so much time at when we were kids. Sarah and Jessica, me and Ali, Chrissy and Kaitlyn.

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Froyo with these two, who refused to pose for my photo… Dave and Emily!

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We drove past the house were Jason lived as a little boy on Poplar Street.

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Look a dirt road! We also drove past the house were Jason lived in middle school and high school our in Wattsburg but couldn’t get a good look at it through the brush.

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Namesake

09/11/2013

When we finalized Ali’s adoption we changed her name. It was a slight change to her first name because we really liked her name. Well before we had even considered foster care we planned on naming our first daughter Anna Mae. Jason and I both have/had grandmothers named Anna. Mine was Anna Maria. His is Anna Mae. We realized while debating about what/if to change her name that we could modify it just a tad and incorporate our planned name into her existing name. Alianna Mae Ahlbrandt.

Jason’s grandmother Anna Mae Ahlbrandt lives in Erie, Pennsylvania, where we’re from. We don’t get back up there often and it occurred to us that our opportunities to introduce Alianna to her great-grandma could be running out. Last Friday these two finally had a chance to meet. They probably won’t remember this meeting but it was important to me that we captured it in photographs so we can show Ali in the future. Great-Grandma has dementia and her short term memory lasts only about 5 minutes. She asked us over and over again who we were. She really seemed to enjoy Ali and Ali did very well braving this unfamiliar and awkward situation. When we talked about it afterward, Ali’s impression was that great-grandma was sick and she was crying. She was not crying—in fact, we was smiling, joking and singing most of the time we were there—but perhaps Ali was picking up on a deeper emotion. I’m thankful we could do this and capture the moment forever.

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I’ll share about the rest of our trip—Ali’s first time to the place we grew up—in my next post.


Merry Christmas!

09/10/2013

I know, I know…It’s only September. I used to work at a Michael’s craft store and I was always amazed when the boxes (and boxes and boxes) of Christmas decorations would arrive the first week of October…three weeks before Halloween. It just felt wrong. But I have a very good reason for bringing up Christmas in September. For several years my husband Jason has been dreaming and planning on recording a Christmas album. If you’ve been a blog reader for a while you probably remember when he released a lullabies album in February 2012 called Acoustic Lullabies. He’s had the idea for a Christmas album well before that but put it on hold to create a CD of beautiful guitar music dedicated to our daughter Ali, and the sales of that album helped fund her private adoption. Well, he’s finally finished with the long-awaited Christmas album. I’m so excited about it! It’s really wonderful. I’ve seriously had to resist the urge to set up the Christmas tree because overhearing some of the recording process and then listening to the almost-finished product has really brought on the Christmas spirit at our house. In September. Jason’s not just any average guitar player—he’s been obsessed with the six-stringed instrument for 20 years. He is trained and seasoned in classical, jazz, rock, country, finger-style guitar and you’ll hear all those influences on this album. I’m a big fan.

So anyway… producing an album is an investment. There is an initial expense and then money is gradually recouped through sales. His lullabies album was successful and worth the risk but we despise debt. We decided to try something different this time. Jason set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund the initial expense for mixing and duplication (recording is already complete) through pledges for pre-orders of the album. At the base level a $15 pledge results in Christmas Classics shipped to you when it releases in October. Higher pledges have various rewards like autographed or gift wrapped CDs and bulk discounts. If he doesn’t reach his goal (which covers the cost of mixing and a minimum initial order of 1000 CDs), he doesn’t get any money and the pledges are all voided. It’s an all or none situation. Would you consider pledging money to pre-order this CD? I guarantee you’ll love it. You’ll love it so much that you’ll want to give copies to your kids’ teachers and soccer coaches, your best friend, your hard-to-buy-for-music-loving brother, your chiropractor, your insurance agent, etc.

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On Jason’s Kickstarter page, you can also watch the silly video we made to promote the project, and hear one of the songs. It was late at night and we may have thought it was a little funnier than it actually is…but all is redeemed by Ali’s incredible sweetness at the end.

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Merry Christmas!

Thanks for your consideration.


Mother Daughter Road Trip to Cincinnati

09/09/2013

 

 

 

Over Labor Day weekend, Ali and I took a road trip up to visit our dear friends in Cincinnati. It’s a 4 hour drive so manageable for just the two of us. It was 2 weeks after her potty training day so we stopped more than usual—3x instead of 1. She did great though. Before we left she was feeding her favorite lovie Little Lucy cereal for breakfast. It was so sweet and funny. I could tell it was going to be a good day.

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We stopped for lunch at Skyline Chili, a speciality of Cincinnati. Ali wanted to sit in the booth across from me rather than in a high chair. She’s turning into such a little lady!

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It was her first experience with cincinnati chili over speghetti and I think it was a bit too spicy for her tastes. She said, “I no like that. I just like cheese.” OK, sweetheart. You can eat oyster crackers and shredded cheddar for lunch.

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She had a great time visiting with our friends Jonas (her birthday buddy who just turned 1 in July), Olivia (who is 3 months older than Ali) and Ben (who just turned 4).

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Ben didn’t want me to take his picture but he agreed to make silly faces with me.

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“Night Night” is Ali’s new favorite game.

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We took the kids to a childrens museum on Sunday afternoon. They liked petting Shelly the turtle.

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Ali coloring with Aunt Renata.

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Shopping at the miniature Kroger.

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Celebrating another staying dry and using the potty instance in the restroom. She gets a Skittle when she has stayed dry/clean and successfully uses the bathroom.

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In a miniature house, wearing an apple dress, holding an apple. She’s fun!

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I know this picture is terribly blurry but 90% of my pictures of the kids over the weekend were blurry. (I forgot my good camera.) Ali and Olivia got along so well. Renata is one of my very best friends and it was really sweet for us to see our daughters become fast friends, too.

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On Labor Day we went to a fair and the kids got to ride this little train. What a cute caboose!

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since our last visit. Before Ali and I left last summer both girls were wanting me to hold them and Renata took this picture.

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She thought it would be fun to recreate the picture one year later. These two got a lot heavier! I’m wearing the same jeans in both pictures and I actually packed that purple shirt with me. Had I realized, I would have worn it.

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I’m sad that our good friends aren’t in Nashville anymore but glad that we can see them at least once a year. Gosh, that seems like way too long! I’m really thankful that our kids got along so well and we had lots of time to visit as adults over the weekend, too.

 


Phone Photo Friday

09/06/2013

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


Ali’s First Purse

09/05/2013

Ali has been really into mimicking her mama lately—wanting to put on make-up, glasses—and recently wanting to carry a purse. She had taken to using a red plastic bucket with a handle as a purse and I thought it would be fun to make her a special handbag of her own. Actually, I had been itching to do some sewing ever since I got my work room organized with new cabinets (I guess I should post about that some day!) and this was a great excuse to blow the dust off of my sewing machine. Maybe making a dust cover for my sewing machine should be my next project.

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I did this quickly during a nap time one afternoon. It’s a perfect fit for her Leap Frog cell phone and a small wallet that I no longer use. I added a couple of fake debit cards for her to play with. When I gave her the purse she immediately pulled out the phone to play with and then later discovered the wallet. She pulled it out and said, “What’s this, Mommy?” with a big grin on her face. It’s so fun to surprise our kids, isn’t it?

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You can see her carrying her purse while we were grocery shopping in yesterday’s blog post.

I recently read a post over on one of my favorite blogs of all time about little girls imitating their moms and how important it is that we exemplify the kind of woman we hope they become. Ali is about the same age as Ashley’s youngest and she is definitely watching and learning from everything we do. It’s a good reminder to be very intentional.


Mama’s Little Helper

09/04/2013

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I took this little lady grocery shopping with me the other day. We weren’t in a rush and the store wasn’t busy so when she didn’t want to ride in the shopping cart I decided to let her walk for the first time. She got so much attention with her stylish boots, little purse, (Dora sticker on her face…) and her out-going personality. I think she said hi to every person in the store and had at least 5 conversations about how old she is and what her name. She was thrilled to look at the live lobsters and knew what they were (maybe from shopping with her daddy, I’ve never talked to her about them before). I would hand her a item, like an orange or a box of rice, and she would drop it into the cart for me. I even let her choose a couple things for me… red grapes or green grapes? (She chose red.) Mac and cheese in a fun shape. Fruit snacks (her new obsession), even though we had a box at home. She carried the fruit snacks under her arm for the duration of our shopping. She told me she was carrying them in her armpit. She was usually trailing 5-10 feet behind me as I walked up and down the aisles pushing our cart. At one point I looked back and noticed she would take a few steps, turn around in a circle, take a few more steps, turn in a circle. She has such a passion for life and an incredible joy even at the small things. I decided to follow her lead…take a few steps, turn in a circle, take a few steps, turn in a circle. Her vitality is contagious. And she thought it was pretty great, too.

I must note: Publix employees are amazing! They all stopped to talk to her and offer her samples. While we were checking out she told one of the ladies that she had to go potty. She offered to take her for me (I declined that…that would have been weird) but then they offered to finish bagging my groceries and I could pay when we were done in the restroom so my little 2 year old wouldn’t have to hold it too long. After we finished up and paid, the older woman who bagged our groceries pushed our cart out to our van and insisted on loading it all herself so I could buckle Ali in. It was such a wonderful grocery shopping experience!