Living With Kids: Martina Ahlbrandt

October 25, 2011

I tend to hold my breath when I check in on Martina’s blog. She and her husband, Jason, are foster parents hoping to someday adopt. They’ve sweetly decorated a bedroom in their home without knowing the age of the child they would be asked to keep, and every corner of it makes me smile.

Their first placement, lovingly called Ladybug, stayed in their nursery not nearly long enough; they’d been hoping she’d stay forever. After a little break to try to heal their hearts, they’re now taking care of a newborn they call Precious. This is her room. I  hope you enjoy the tour as much as I did.

Q: This is a different sort of Living With Kids tour in that you’re foster parents. How did you make the room comfortable without knowing what age children would be placed in your home?

A: For years I’ve been digitally saving design inspirations for both nurseries and kids’ rooms. I hadn’t planned on combining my favorite ideas into one small gender-neutral bedroom, but I had a lot of ideas to use as a starting point for this unusual situation.

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? Have you stayed true to your design philosophy in the nursery?

A: We call our style mid-century modern, which is really general and can mean different things to different people. To my husband, Jason, and I it means a combination of sturdy, well-designed, clean and simple designs from the 1950s-70s and today. We furnished our first apartment with all IKEA furniture, and gradually started replacing the new with vintage as our style developed. It’s kind of a game to us. We love to hunt for great prices on unique antiques at estate sales and thrift stores, and then see if we can resell the newer furniture it’s replacing for a profit. But that process takes time. Our kids’ room is still leaning a bit more towards modern.

Q: Describe setting up the bedroom. Where did you get the furniture, accessories, and toys? Are any from your own childhoods?

A: Our first piece of furniture for the room was the small green dresser. We found it at a yard sale a few years ago and bought it not knowing where we’d use it. The beds, rugs, and book ledges came from IKEA. After a year of searching for a mid-century wood, changing-table height, not-too-wide dresser, we finally found a great deal at a local vintage store. Go figure, we’ve ended up just using the twin bed as a changing table! The newest addition to the room is the Eames knock-off rocker by Baxton Studios, purchased through Amazon. The yellow lamp was a thrift store purchase. The MOMA color wheel clock was a gift to me from my late uncle many years ago. The monkey poster and Gee Whiz game hanging below the clock were gifts from our dear friends and fellow MCM enthusiasts. The Petit Collage alphabet poster was won through a giveaway here on Design Mom! I made the mobile above the crib.

All of the toys in the room are second-hand. We have a collection of handmade Barbie furniture that my grandmother made for me when I was little, as well as Jason’s collection of Definitely Dinosaurs, which were his favorite toys growing up.

Q: Love the electric guitar! It’s such an interesting choice for a kids’ bedroom! Is there a story behind it?

A: I love it, too! It’s a Sekova, originally belonging to my mother-in-law back in the 60s. It’s the guitar that Jason learned to play on when he was a child. In high school, he took it apart and painted it blue. It was never reassembled to working condition, but I love the way it looks as a piece of art. Jason is now a professional guitarist, so it holds a special place in my heart and represents a legacy of dream-chasing that we hope to impart to all of our kids.

Q: What’s been your favorite DIY project in the room?

A: Painting the nightstand green was my favorite project. As we were preparing for our home study and certification as foster parents, I flew into nesting mode. Usually, Jason and I do home projects together with Mr. Handyman leading the charge! This was the first time we’d painted vintage wood furniture, but it was in bad condition and had really strange handles. I tackled this DIY all by myself and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

Q: You’ve had one foster child who’s left already…is it hard to let go? How do you prepare yourself for such a thing? And how do you manage your hopes?

A: Letting go is definitely the hardest part of foster parenting. We knew going into it that would be true. Our first little girl, Ladybug, was around a year and a half old. We fell completely in love with her. She was with us for five weeks and we still miss her every day. Three weeks later, we accepted a placement for a two-month old little girl we’re calling Precious on the blog. I’ve tried to maintain the perspective that we never “own” our kids and we’re never promised any number of days with them…whether they are foster, adopted, or biological children. Recognizing that up-front has reminded us to cherish every day and shower these kids with love and blessings while we have the opportunity.

The goal of foster parenting in most cases is to provide a great family atmosphere for children until their birth parents are ready for them to return home. We don’t hope for their parents to fail, but at the same time, we hope the kids can stay with us because we love them. It’s complicated and messy, but along with great pain comes great joy.

Q: What’s on your wishlist for the room?

A: Oh, man… the only thing on my wishlist right now is the opportunity to adopt Precious. Right now, it’s between us and another pre-adoptive foster parent, so we’re in a waiting game until a team and eventually a judge make the final decision for her future. Until then, we keep on cherishing every day and showering her with love.

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What an incredible journey you’re on, Martina! Thanks so much for sharing an absolutely heart-warming peek into your life. We’re rooting for you all!

P.S. — If you’d like to share your home with us in my Living With Kids series, drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pam October 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Martina and her husband have so much love to give and the kids placed with them get to know a little deeper how much goodness can be found in this world. I don’t think I’ll ever forget about Martina. Or the room they created – very beautiful! I hope all their dreams come true.

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2 Christie October 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I used to be a foster care case manager before our first child was born in 2007. We signed up to be foster parents at that time, but DCS would not allow it since I was an employee. Praying one day God will open the door for us to help in that manner, along with our 3 kids. It was hard as a case worker to watch the children return home sometimes, and I know it was heart wrenching for the foster parents. God is doing a good work in you, Martina. Ladybug and Precious are blessed to know you and your husband :)

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3 Megan October 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Such a beautifully selfless group of people. Truly inspirational :). Thank you for sharing.

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4 Martina October 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Thanks, Gabrielle! I am so excited, humbled and honored to see this interview and pictures of our kids room on one of my favorite blogs. Thank you for letting me share our story!

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5 Julia October 25, 2011 at 8:02 pm

i love her blog–mixing faith, design + family. a real inspiration…

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6 Julia October 25, 2011 at 8:04 pm

sorry i meant to put this at the bottom!

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7 Helen October 25, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Great interview. I saw Martina’s room on Ohdeedoh, and since then I have become quite a fan. I just can’t help re-visiting to follow what happens with the girls that have come into their life. Plus, it is pretty amazing for me to read as we do not know each other, but live in the same town

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8 Martha October 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm

they are amazing. thank you for sharing.

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9 K October 25, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I love how much thought went into this room before they even knew when kids would arrive. What a wonderful family for these kids.

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10 patricia October 25, 2011 at 4:54 pm

What an amazing couple. I couldn’t even imagine being a foster parent without growing attached to these children. What a magical room too. I love green dresser. Your kids are so lucky for this. I wish you many blessings your way. Thanks for sharing this!

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11 Damaris October 25, 2011 at 4:55 pm

All the best to Martina, Jason, and the children that are part of their lives. Thanks for sharing this wonderful interview

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12 Marlena October 25, 2011 at 6:55 pm

What a gorgeous story. I remember reading it on Ohdeedoh (?) and tearing up. Thanks to Martina and Jason for bravely helping families!

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13 teresita October 26, 2011 at 5:14 am

Martina, congrats on everything, your kid will find you and will be blessed with all you have to give!

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14 Sherri October 26, 2011 at 6:08 am

Martina – keep doing what you do. You are amazing. Those kids are so lucky. What happiness you put into their lives – even for a short time. I’m adopted, and I’m so glad you’re looking for a permanent placement (we’re all grateful to our parents all these years later :-).

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15 barchbo October 26, 2011 at 8:08 am

Fabulous story (and quite a gorgeous room.) Thanks for sharing and I am so excited to follow their story.

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16 Cecilia Madden October 26, 2011 at 9:15 am

I love this entire series, and this one definitely struck a chord design-wise and emotionally. Love her blog too!

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17 Mariah Bohannon October 26, 2011 at 10:15 am

It takes a very strong person to foster a child. Never quite knowing how things will turn out in the end. I applaud Martina and her nerves of steel for doing such an incredibly loving thing for these children. They really are blessed to have been in Martina’s presence as much as she has been blessed to have been in theirs.

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18 R. Pyper October 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Wow, what an amazing woman. I wish her the best.

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19 christina October 26, 2011 at 8:22 pm

This is probably the best living with kids post so far! What an inspiring couple they are

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20 Rachael October 27, 2011 at 7:40 am

This is so timely – I just got the phone call yesterday that my husband and I are officially certified foster parents and open for a placement! We also have tried hard to make the room our foster kid(s) will sleep in warm, welcoming and gender-neutral. Martina did such a great job!

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21 Jacqueline November 3, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Love it!

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