Snow Day in Nashville 2015

02/19/2015

Yesterday we woke up to a dusting of real snow. I would have been happy to hide indoors all day but Alianna was so excited to make a snow angel. I couldn’t resist her enthusiasm, plus the chickens needed water, so I bundled us both up in lots of layers and we spent about 20 minutes outside playing.

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She could have stayed out much longer but I was worn out! Our buddy Jaron lives right around the corner and his mom was under the weather so I took Ali over to play with him. I lasted 45 minutes until my toes were frozen and it was time to head home. As much as I despise this weather and want to pack up and move to Florida, I really did enjoy watching Ali playing in it.

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Gender Reveal Surprise Christmas Baby Shower

01/08/2015

That’s lot of words, huh? We had a Christmas baby-gender-reveal surprise baby shower. It was an unforgettable blessing organized by my friend Steph with a part of our foster mom support community from across the country. I had passed Steph the sealed envelope from the ultrasound tech because she offered to give us something more special than a piece of paper to open on Christmas day. (And she’s one of the most creative people I know!) She rallied the troops behind my back and they sent gifts to Steph to wrap and organize into a really unique gender reveal surprise for us. I am still so overwhelmed with gratitude that they would bless our family like this. Most of these women I’ve never even met in person, although we connect daily through social media to encourage, pray for, commiserate with and entertain each other.

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The first present to open was this ornament that Steph made. It will be such a special keepsake on our Christmas tree every year.

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(Please excuse my Christmas-morning-no-makeup-pajamas family.)

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The first baby boy outfit we opened…

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Ali got some special gifts, too.

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These little knee pads made me swoon.

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A teething necklace in one of my favorite colors.

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A fellow chicken mama sent this one!

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At some point while I was opening gifts and Jason was documenting it, Ali started taking photos with my DSLR.

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These are her photos…

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I am so thankful! What an amazing surprise for Christmas day, to find out we’re having a son and to be showered with so many thoughtful and adorable gifts for him.

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Brother-Sister-Friends Forever

11/17/2014

After living for three months as (foster) brother and sister in the summer of 2013, Termain and Alianna will always think of each other as brother-sister-friends it seems, and I hope it stays that way. (He was originally nicknamed Buzz Lightyear here.) I’m beyond grateful to his mom allowing us to stay a part of their lives as friends (that still feel a lot like family) over a year after they were officially reunified. A couple Saturdays ago we had the privilege of babysitting Termain for several hours. We get together every few months but this is the first time he was with us without his mom. We were all a little nervous about how he’d do, since being at our house stirs up a lot of traumatic memories from the time he was separated from his mom. Thankfully, he did great! He and Ali play so well together and their love for each other is obvious.

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I just realized I never shared the photos from our last visit with them at Baby Vegas (AKA Chuck E Cheese) for his 4th birthday back in September. They wanted to do every game together.

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Costume Party

10/30/2014

On Saturday night we went to a costume party with the guys Jason plays with and their families. The three bandmates dressed up as the boss, Guy Penrod. It was a hilarious surprise! We all had a great time. Ali wore her dog suit but ditched it halfway through the party before I got any photos. I had about 3 hours notice to get ready and figure out a costume so I borrowed Ali’s dress up butterfly wings and whipped up some antennae with hot gun, pipe cleaners and ping pong balls. I was a butterfly…or a bug…or a bee. I’m not sure.

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The Pennsylvanian Cousins

10/23/2014

 

Alianna, my mom and I took a trip up to Philadelphia to visit and celebrate my niece Iris’ third birthday. Ali and I had not had a chance to meet my newest nephew Jack and niece Tahlia in person yet – they’re 9 and 8 months old respectively – so that was a big highlight for me. Ali’s highlight was playing with her cousin Iris and all of Iris’ toys. She also got to spend a morning playing with her cousin Eli. My brother and sister and I haven’t been together since last Christmas and I can’t remember we took a photo of the three of us. The morning before we flew home we went to a local farm with a pumpkin patch, hayride, fabulous muddy puddles, lots of farm animals and fields and fields of beautiful zinnias.

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Pumpkin Patch 2014

10/20/2014

We recently spent an afternoon at the pumpkin patch with a couple of Ali’s besties and their parents. Jaron is our friend and neighbor and Eliza is Ali’s cousin. These three have been friends since birth—and we’ve been friends with their parents for much longer—so it’s always special to see the three of them together. They had a great time picking out pumpkins, exploring the activities and going on a hayride. I remembered to get out my good camera for a change. (Jason was on the road that day.)

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My 3-year-old Niece’s Dress Up Party

02/27/2014

We celebrated my niece Eliza’s third birthday with dress up clothes. What a perfect set up for fun photos!

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Family Life Update

01/08/2014

One of these days I’ll get around to editing photos and posting about Christmas. We had a lovely Christmas and New Years. Did you?

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Before I get to covering Christmas, I think a little family life update is in order…mainly because I hope you’ll pray about these situations.

Bee
She has been up in Wisconsin visiting with her extended family since December 20. They’re bringing her back on Monday for her permanency plan hearing. It’s likely that she’ll return to our home that day. There is a chance that the judge will give custody back to her mom at the hearing. I think this would be best for Bee, but I’m not really positive. I don’t know enough about her bio mom to say whether or not I think she’s ready to have her child back. She does however, have a healthy and large family support network. Her family in Wisconsin is trying to get placement transferred to them through the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children. ICPC is a paperwork nightmare and is necessary when a child who is in the custody of one state (Tennessee in this case) is transferred to the custody of another state. They’ve already had their home visit done up there and now we’re just waiting for the papers to move to all the right places. It can take months. I really don’t think it’s in Bee’s best interest to stay with us during those formative months of the first year of her life if it’s inevitable that she will be moving with her family eventually—and I’m certain that is the case. It’s going to be hard on her family who would be missing out on a bunch of her firsts, hard on us as we all fell in love with her after only 1 month, and hard on her because she’s not old enough to remember people she’s away from for long periods of time or understand what’s happening. So, if you would, pray that she’s moved to her family very soon, maybe even at the hearing on Monday.

Trust
Alianna has a biological baby sister that was born at the end of August. I’m not sure if her official nickname on my blog will be Trust but that’s what I was calling her in my prayer journal before she was born. I chose that as a reminder to trust God with her future, her safety and her forever family. Without going into much detail here because it’s still a very sensitive case, I ask that you would pray for her custody trial on Tuesday morning. We were invited to attend by Ali and Trust’s bio mom. The girls’ oldest biological sister is also seeking custody and will be there. The baby girl is currently with a relative of her biological father. We have a good relationship with their oldest bio sister and I don’t feel like we’re fighting against her or anyone else here…we just want what is best for Trust. I’m not sure what to expect on Tuesday but I know that God can do anything and if He wants Trust to end up in our home, in our family, so that she and Alianna can grow up together—He will do it. He moved a mountain for Alianna to stay with us and I fully believe that He can move a mountain for Trust to join our family.

Based on the above two situations, you might have noticed that there is a chance we will have one, two or no baby girls in our home next week. Having one is good. Having none is OK. Having two is…? LOL! I know we could handle it, especially knowing that Bee’s placement with us is short term. Monday and Tuesday are very big days for our family. I greatly appreciate your prayers.


Sugar and Spice

11/18/2013

Alianna has one cousin in Nashville, Eliza who is 5 months older than her. It’s such a blessing that they’re close in age and dear friends. They’re ying and yang, sugar and spice, opposities in many ways, and it’s so fun to see them playing together. They’re finally getting to the age where they don’t need so much supervision and my sister-in-law and I can sit back and chat while they play.

I grabbed my camera while these two girlies were having a dance party in Ali’s room the other day.

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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.