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Swinging into Spring

03/17/2015

On March 5 we had a snow storm that brought 2-3″ of the dreaded white stuff. I don’t ever recall getting snow accumulation in March in the 10 winters we’ve lived in Nashville. On the bright side, I got to work at home more than usual this winter. And of course, Alianna loved it and was sure it was Christmas all over again.

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It was too stinkin’ cold to play outside that day so Ali brought a bucket of snow inside and played in the tub until it melted.

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One week later the temps were in the 60s and we were playing outside with no coats. A few budding flowers have been spotted. I can’t wait until everything really bursts into bloom. Spring is so breathtakingly beautiful here. And of course, I’ve been looking forward to Spring for another little/big reason this season. AccuWeather already has the extended forecast up for my due date. It’s currently looking like April showers and upper 60s. (Seriously, how can they predict the weather a month in advance? Crazy…) I’m so thankful for the longer daylight hours in the evening brought by Daylight Saving Time and I’m trying to get some more exercise with evening walks, lots of playing outside with Ali and eating meals on the back patio whenever possible.

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Feeding the chickens one of their favorite treats: black oil sunflower seeds (birdseed).

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Homemade Orange Julius popsicles. Mmm!

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Look! Dresses and no socks!

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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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Iced In

02/17/2015

We’ve been iced in since Sunday night. The forecast was originally for 3-7″ of snow. Instead we got 1/2″ of ice and sleet. The trees look beautiful and also pitiful. I’m concerned about the number of plants we’re going to lose. We’ve had ice storms in Nashville before but in the 10 years we’ve been here, we haven’t had one that lasted this long. Usually it’s melted within a day but the temps are not forecasted to go back above freezing until Saturday. Yikes. I’m trying to enjoy being stuck at home and not go stir crazy. I will not admit to the amount of cartoons Ali has watched in the past 24 hours.

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Jason Ahlbrandt On Stage at the Ryman Auditorium

12/17/2014

My talented husband has had the opportunity to travel all over the world playing music—Iceland, Alaska, Amsterdam, Faroe Islands, more states than I can keep track of and many miles logging by tour bus and airplane. It’s a dream come true for him and nothing could make me happier as his wife than to see his purpose and destiny fulfilled as a professional guitarist, to see his passion satisfied by playing music every single day. I had a really special proud wife moment at the end of November when I got to see my best friend take the stage with his guitar at the famous Ryman Auditorium for Opry at the Ryman. For several years Jason has been Guy Penrod’s right-hand-man—literally at stage right most of the time, playing lead guitar—through many 100s of concerts. Several times a year I get to see a concert. This particular one was actually Jason’s third time on the Ryman stage but I missed the first two times and I was determined nothing would stand in my way this time. God sure has blessed us with amazing opportunities and friendships as we’ve pursued our dreams. Jason works so hard fine tuning his gifts and it’s a treat to see him play live. Such an honor to be in the audience that night.

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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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At the Nashville Zoo

08/05/2013

One morning last month had the chance to take my little punkin to the Nashville Zoo (my first time, her third time) and it was so fun! She loves animals and has a general zest for life so it was exciting for me to see her reactions to everything. In general I just love hanging out with her; she’s so cool! My sister-in-law got us in as guests with my niece Eliza and a friend. We also met up with Ali’s friend JeeJee (Jaron) for a little bit.

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Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids

03/07/2013

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

We really loved our last house but sold it so we’d have room for our family to grow. Specifically, we wanted to have more bedrooms so we could continue to provide a home for children in foster care. At our previous home, I designed a room that could suit one or two kids ages birth to five years old, male or female. It was a big challenge, especially with a small room. This room is targeted toward 2-12 year olds in my mind, though we’re keeping an open mind about ages at this point. It felt much easier this time around, I suppose because we already had the super versatile IKEA KURA bed (which can be flipped over to be a low loft bunk bed) and I’m not set on putting a crib and dresser in here…yet. (We do need to add a dresser ASAP, we found out last week.) Other than the bed and bedding, the woodland creatures curtain was the only other element we started with from the previous house.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I chose the green wall color based on the curtain. Also, green is supposed to be soothing and it’s one of my favorites. I read somewhere that mirrors are good for self esteem for kids. Ali loves looking in the full length mirror in her room so I put one in this room, too. It was less than $10 at Target. See that house reflected in the mirror?

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I found this when we were unpacking. I colored this picture in art class in first or second grade. I pray that our next kids will feel at home in this room and at our home. I added some cuddle buddies to the bed.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I started adding bits and pieces to this room without any kind of theme in mind; just using what we had available. A friend gave us the headphones pillow as a housewarming gift. We had the other 2 pillows already. The rockstar flashcards are the only 4 letters I completed when I started designing the series 4 years ago. Maybe I’ll finish it one day…

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

This old acoustic guitar that was a gift from my parents for my 16th birthday narrowly escaped the trash during the move. (Jason’s guitars are a million times nicer so he doesn’t see this as fit to play. However, I think some tween or teen might love it!) We also have a collection of random, discount pile Hatch Show Print posters that I thought could help fill the walls here.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

There are a few vintage ReAbide items living in here. This Florence side table works for now as a night stand.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

And this Mack arm chair (below). Before we moved in, I ordered a Nashville road map. I thought it might work as a big poster for this room. It’s colorful and free (as an AAA member) and I thought it might be neat for kids to see where our house is in comparison to where they used to live. The rug is from a local IKEA reseller. I think it’s the only thing besides the full length mirror that we purchased for this room.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I have a pack and play set up in here. I’m hoping it’ll be enough to convince our case worker that we’re equipped to take a child younger than two. Ali still sleeps in her crib and I don’t have much desire to buy and set up a second crib. If we accept a placement of a younger child, we might consider getting another one at that point…or maybe moving her to a big kid bed.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com  Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

The book ledges also came from the previous house. These books (with the exception of Pop Warhol’s Top…which I don’t recommend) these books were are all specifically chosen to be in this room.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

So a really cool thing happened. This room developed a theme without me even realizing it! I suppose it started with the Nashville map, and then the Hatch Show Print posters, and then the guitar. The headphones pillow and the rockstar flashcards followed suit. The theme that developed—which happens to be something that every child who stays in this room, regardless of age or gender will have in common—is Nashville! Music City. Even the woodland curtains and botanical bedding and rug work. We live very close to a huge park so we see squirrels, owls , leaves and lots of trees in our neighborhood.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

It was important to me that I had thoughtful, personal elements worked into the design of this room. I didn’t want it to feel like a guest room. I want it to be a special room because it’s made for a really special kid…a kid we don’t know yet but I want him or her to feel comfortable, loved and wanted from the moment they walk in. I want him or her to know that we’ve been thinking about and praying for him or her before we ever met.

Here’s the floor plan of this room. It’s about 10×12.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

If you’re putting together a room for foster kids in your house, here are some things I recommend:

• Flexible sleeping arrangements
We have this room set up with a twin bed and a pack and play. Without much trouble at all we could flip the twin bed into a bunk bed and replace the pack and play with a real crib. Sometimes foster parents put together a really nice room for 5-12 year old kids and then God has a sense of humor and their first placement is a newborn. Flexibility is key for foster parents.

• Adequate Clothing Storage
This is one of our home checklist requirements from DCS. I’m hoping to add a dresser before too long but for now, we have a big closet ready with hangers and hanging storage for smaller items. We also keep extra blankets, pillows and sheets in the closet.

• Books and Toys
Admittedly, we don’t have toys in here but we do have a playroom right down the hall. It’s mainly because of the wide age range this room is open to that I haven’t put many toys in here. The stuffed animals are probably nice for any age kid, though. These books have been carefully selected to be in this room: Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care, I Don’t Have Your Eyes, I Had Trouble Getting to Solla Sollew, The Little Train That Could, The Velveteen Rabbit, and the Sleep Book.

• Nightlight
Some kids won’t want it on but we have it ready just in case. A new room can be scary and dark. The nightlight is enough to make the whole room visible. We also moved Ali’s constellation turtle light in here because she doesn’t use it anymore. It projects stars on the ceiling for 45 minutes before shutting off automatically. We’re also required to have hallways lit and to have flashlights handy. We got this 3-in-1 night light, emergency light (comes on automatically when the power goes out) and flashlight for our first foster parenting experience. It is in our hallway.

• A Place for Photos
The frame on the nightstand that says “Welcome” is actually a placeholder for a personal photo. Thanks for another foster mom’s suggestion, I also added (after taking photos) a bulletin board with pictures of “Who Lives Here” (me, Jason and Ali with names by our photos) and a photo of our first foster placement with her name and hand print. I will add a photo of each new child under either category.

• Curtains without strings or cords
Another requirement for our home safety checklist—not that we have a curtain but that there are no choking hazards dangling from blinds or curtains.

• Rugs secured to the floor
Yeah, I actually stuck this rug to the floor with rug tape. Another item on our home safety checklist.

• Smoke detector
Our list doesn’t require it to be in the child’s bedroom but there is one in there per codes for a new house build.

• Egress window
Also per codes, in order to be considered a bedroom, a room must have a window that can be opened for escape in case of a fire. Our home safety checklist also requires this.