Giving Thanks


I’m playing a little blog catch up. I meant to share this photo on Thanksgiving. Every day in November leading up to the holiday we would think of something we were thankful for and write it on the chalkboard wall. It was fun to hear what Ali would come up with. She answered “trees and leaves” or “leaves” at least three times. I think it’s safe to say she had fun playing in crunchy, colorful leaves this fall. My favorite, though, was when she’d say “Mommy-Daddy-Ali love” or “Mommy-Daddy love” or any combination of our names. I’m not really sure if it’s our love for her that she was thinking of, or if it was each unique relationship dynamic. Either way, it melted my heart. She also listed “baby brother or sister” and “messy [fried] eggs.”


Here’s my little heart melter on Thanksgiving. We hosted at our house but I failed to take any photos once the gathering began.


I snapped this selfie (bumpie?) of my baby belly and a grapefruit because at 19-20 weeks, the baby was supposedly about this size. I thought that seemed crazy until I looked at the photo. OK, I guess a grapefruit would fit in there.




Turkey Day 2013


We hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our house this year which actually worked out pretty well because everyone else brought the majority of the food, we just did the turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole and lots of dishes.

Turkey #1:


Turkey #2:


‘Twas a beautiful day.


I asked Ali if she would take a picture of Jason and me before anyone else arrived. She’s getting pretty good with my iPhone!


Ali with my parents, Grandma and Grandpa:


Ali with Jason’s parents, Nana and Papa:


Mmm… Jason did an awesome job with the turkey and stuffing. It was delicious.



I didn’t get too many pictures of the actual dinner party but suffice it to say, it was a great day. These two little ladies laughed and played and ate too much dessert. Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite days of the year. I have so much to be thankful for. God is good!

Thanksgiving 2012


I had a really nice Thanksgiving, partly because my sister and her family visited for 3 days and partly because I was forced to take a 4-day break from work during a busy deadline period because I had no place or time to work. And of course, also because of all the time with family, friends and delicious food!

It was a beautiful sunny, warm day so we took a walk down to our new house to show my sister’s family. Ali and her cousin Iris rode in the red wagon.

Jason and his brother Daniel finally had an opportunity to deep fry a turkey this year. They used a Cajun Butter injection. Oh my goodness…it was so good!

Both of Ali’s girl cousins were there for Thanksgiving. That’s Eliza on the left and her mom Aunt Ginger (Daniel’s wife) and Iris on the right. Iris and Eliza look like they could be cousins too, but they’re not related.

My mom also roasted a turkey in the oven with stuffing. My dad and sister Jessica carved it.

Clearly Jason was very excited about how the fried turkey turned out.

Papa (Jason’s dad) and Ali were intrigued by the turkey, too.

I didn’t take any pictures of everyone at the table this year. Boo. We had a diverse group of my family, Jason’s family and some friends … 18 people I think. After dinner, Ali and Eliza took a bath in the living room. (Not really.)

Self-portrait mode on the iPhone = a good trick to get a low quality picture of a toddler looking at the camera…

…and maybe even smiling at her cute self! Hi Eliza

Jason’s mom/Nana/Grandma K made Iris an owlie hat just like Ali’s but with shut eyes. So cute!

Piddling around behind a record store on Black Friday.

We tried a new hairstyle for Ali: pigtails! She looks so different!

Her hair looked absolutely hilarious when we took the piggies out.

After dinner my early Christmas present from Jason arrived in the mail. A NEW CAMERA!!! I’m so excited to start getting better quality pictures. I have a lot of learning to do but the good news is that I’ll be practicing a lot which means lots of pictures to share with you here.

My very first picture of the most easy going subject. A little dark but I was quite impressed that it could capture her tongue mid lip-lick without a flash in low light.

Cousins in matching PJs horsing around on the couch also made willing subjects. (Testing out the external flash on these ones.)

Ali giving Iris a big smacker kiss.

It was a wonderful, fun weekend! I’m already looking forward to Christmas break now, which will be spent at our new house. Yay!



Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all! Thanksgiving is one of my absolute favorites because I love good food, getting together with family and friends, and I love to be thankful. We have been blessed with so much and this day is all about giving gratitude to God for His provision and abundant blessings. I’ve been participating in the Twitter Trend #ImThankfulFor this month, each day listing another thing I’m thankful for. These have been pretty random based on whatever is happening each day. Here’s my list so far:

Day 1: #ImThankfulFor Good friends and a girls’ night out … even when the kiddies come along. Mostly I’m thankful for our awesome friends!

Day 2: #ImThankfulFor my daughter’s bio family and especially her bio mom – for carrying her, loving her and wanting the best for her.

Day 3: #ImThankfulFor honest, fair and hard-working business people like our contractors, our architect and our mechanic … to name a few.

Day 4: #ImThankfulFor my church @gracechurchnash and my pastor @LindellCooley. Every Sunday I’m both challenged and encouraged.

Day 5: #ImThankfulFor my husband @JAhlb814 getting to travel the world playing music. But, #jealous he has 12x more passport stamps than me.

Day 6: #ImThankfulFor my rights as a U.S. citizen and glad to live in this country. And, I’m grateful that campaign season is finally over!

Day 7: #ImThankfulFor a knowing smile from a fellow adoptive mom at the grocery story, when stories are exchanged without words.#adoption

Day 8: #ImThankfulFor the wonderful people I work with who are creative, hard-working, trusting, encouraging, independent and supportive.

Day 9: #ImThankfulFor Friday night shopping dates with my daughter whenever @JAhlb814‘s on the road, even if it’s to Kroger. We have fun.

Day 10: #ImThankfulFor friendship that has survived college, careers, motherhood and distance…the kind of friendship that lasts forever.

Day 11: #ImThankfulFor times apart because they make reunion oh so sweet. Thankful my awesome hubby & best friend @JAhlb814 is almost home!

Day 12: #ImThankfulFor inspiring people who are kind, hard-working, motivated and optimistic even after coming through horrific situations.

Day 13: #ImThankfulFor electricity and light, gas and heat, running water, four walls and a roof … It’s easy to take them for granted.

Day 14: #ImThankfulFor a mid-week night out with my two favorite people and warm Italian food on a cold, dark evening.

Day 15: #ImThankfulFor the miracle that happened one year ago today! … #fostercare #court#custody #adoption

Day 16: #ImThankfulFor family near and far, but especially the ones close by that are willing to babysit their granddaughter so often!

Day 17: #ImThankfulFor estate sales! Found all kind of great stuff today, haggled for good discounts & got a workout moving furniture, too!

Day 18: #ImThankfulFor siblings. My childhood would have been so dull without them. Happy bday to my favorite sister!

Day 19: #ImThankfulFor really big dreams and the first exciting/scary step of a new adventure.

Day 20: #ImThankfulFor Oreos. And the sweet guy who is willing to get them from the grocery store at 10:30pm. @JAhlb814 #itsthelittlethings

Day 21: #ImThankfulFor getting out of work while the sun’s still shining & an early start to a much needed 4 days off!

Day 22: #ImThankfulFor Father God, from Whom all blessings flow! I have so many, many things to be thankful for today. Praise the Lord!

Follow me on Twitter @mahlbrandt if you’d like.

Thanksgiving 2011 – in Pictures


We spent Thanksgiving at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Philadelphia this year because they have a newborn, my sweet little niece Iris. It was so nice to finally meet her! Also, my siblings got to meet Precious. Here’s some photo overload from the long weekend:

Lovely table setting

My sister Jessica looking awesome as a mama.

My dad and my brother-in-law Jeff

Iris getting burped by Grandpa – the best baby burper

Grandpa and Grandma with Iris

My brother, Aaron and his wife Laura meeting our Precious on turkey day. In 2 months they’ll be welcoming their own little cutie into the world.

This is my favorite picture from the weekend.

Time to eat! Thankful that both babies slept through the meal.

Iris has a really cool mural painted in her nursery.

Precious’ hair is growing in nicely. I love her swirl.

Grandma and Grandpa with their grandkids. Two granddaughters added to the family in 2 months and a grandson on his way in January.

Do you ever accidentally pick out matching outfits for you and your baby?

A couple of firsts over the weekend: grabbing toys and putting them in her mouth AND giggling/laughing out loud!

Phone Photo Friday


I Told You She’s Precious


Thanksgiving 2011. I can’t think of a better time to share the sweet face of our little Precious girl. Getting full custody of her last week was an unexpected gift and wonderful blessing. God is so good!

Jason has been working on an acoustic guitar lullabies album to be dedicated to our sweet daughter. The whole album should be done in early 2012 but since we suddenly need to come up with several thousand dollars for a private adoption attorney to settle all this mess, Jason has decided to release one song early as an adoption fundraiser. The first song is “Hush Little Baby.” I know I’m biased but it’s a truly beautiful, layered finger-style guitar rendition. Think Phil Keaggy, Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Atkins style. I can’t wait to hear the rest!

Click here to make a minimum donation of $1 and I will email an mp3 of the song, “Hush Little Baby” by Jason Ahlbrandt within 3 business days. It’ll be well worth your dollar, I promise. (Of course, if you’re motivated to give more than a dollar, that would be tremendously appreciated!) Thank you for your help!



This is the time of year for thankfulness and boy, do I have a lot to be thankful for!

I have a handsome, talented, strong, supportive, hard-working husband and best friend. We have a delightful and beautiful 4-month-old little girl. We got 2 new nieces this year and several friends had precious new babies born, too. We live in a lovely little mid-century house where we get to express our creativity. We have reliable jobs working with great people. We have wonderfully encouraging friends and family near and far, some in our neighborhood, across town, across the country and through this here blog. We became parents this year, first to Ladybug for 5 sweet weeks. We’ve taken a big step towards expanding our family in the near future—I’m looking forward to telling you about it in the next few weeks. And, what I am most thankful for: God has been so good to us! The miracle He worked for Precious last week? Don’t even get me started. This year has been the most challenging of my life in many ways but without a doubt the most exciting, rewarding, joy-filled and purpose-driven. God has sustained me, filled me when I was empty and empowered me to keep trudging on when I wanted to flop down and quit. His love and faithfulness never wane.

Thank you, God, for blessing me way beyond what I deserve.

And thank you, blog reading friends, for following along on this adventure with us. You could be procrastinating your to-do list anywhere on the interwebs but you chose to waste your time here with me, listening to our story, cheering us on, and I sincerely appreciate it.

This song, “Thankful” by Jonny Lang has been running through my head the past week.

Our Little Focus


I took a picture of our car. While we were in Pigeon Forge in October amidst the beautiful trees I had an impulse to take a photo of our car. We’re not car people and we’re not in love with our car; it just needs to get us where we’re going. So, we didn’t really have any intentional pictures of it.

This little green Ford Focus has taken us on a lot of journeys; about 150,000 miles worth. She was Jason’s and my first big purchase (read: first big loan), six months after we got married. This car drove us from Erie to Nashville and back many times before our move in 2004. It drove us up to my parents house in Pennsylvania for holidays, to my sister’s wedding reception in Philadelphia, on vacations to Virginia Beach, Hilton Head Island, Cincinnati and many a day trip to Atlanta. The weekend of this photo it took me halfway across the state to spend a much needed 3-day weekend with my husband. It has carted many friends and family members around to work, to church, to homes, to stores, to the airport and back. It’s carried amps and guitars, groceries, lumber, straw bales, 100s of pounds of rocks, loads of IKEA purchases, packages, luggage, dogs and moving boxes. It’s had it’s share of problems through the past seven years but our little vehicle has been good to us.

In the season of thankfulness, I’m extending some gratitude to our little engine that could:

Dear Green Meanie,

Thanks for running strong these seven years, for carrying us and our treasures all over the place, for stopping on a dime and taking off fast, for not quitting us even after two hit-and-runs, for turning sharply enough to parallel park in one try, for chugging along despite your bolted-up rather than truly fixed back windows, missing lug nut cover, cracked and dented front fender, dashboard stickiness from many a drink spill, and overdue oil changes. You’ve been the setting for many kisses and fights and important conversations. You’ve been sung in, slept in, kicked, washed infrequently, snowed on, rained on and hailed on. You’ve been worth ever payment we made, the chili cheese fries we ate in celebration of paying you off, and for every dollar we’ve paid for repairs and maintenance. Yes, you’ve been a good little car.

This year you got a new battery, a new alternator, a new driver’s side mirror, a new fender, new tires, new brakes and some other new parts I can’t remember the names of. Now, please accept this long overdue tune up as a token of our appreciation … and continue on for the next seven years!


Your Drivers




Sorry for the lack of posting lately. (Has anyone even noticed? I’m sure you’ve all been busy too.) My amazing husband has been home a little over a week and I haven’t figured out where to reinsert blogging into my schedule. I’m still soaking up all the evening and weekend time I can with him. We had a great Thanksgiving. Jason smoked a 13 lb. turkey (it took 8 hours!) and we enjoyed all kind of deliciousness and fun times with his parents, my parents and a sweet family of 6 from our church (including a precious 2.5 week old baby girl that I had the privilege of holding for a wonderfully long time.) We put up our Christmas decorations, tore out some walls, chainsawed up some bushes, polished the cloffice (it’s almost done) and caught up with friends and family. It’s been a good week.

How was your Thanksgiving?