Contractor / Stay-at-Home-Mom/Crocheter
We are the Aarrestad’s (pronounced: Are-Sted), a family of three who reside in Swansea, Il, part of the metro east suburbs of St. Louis. Our family started in 2011 when Brandon and Deborah got married.
Brandon was born and raised in Minnesota and Wisconsin. For several years, Brandon was a Worship Arts Pastor (he led the music and gave oversight to all creative content), and in 2019 he started his own carpentry/painting business. In 2021, he went full time in the carpentry business and has been able to serve our church in a volunteer capacity since. He plays drums in a local cover band, loves to build custom furniture, and he is a passionate fan of the Minnesota Wild.
Deborah was born in Indiana and mostly grew up in the Cincinnati area. She graduated college with a degree in musical theater. Since her days in college, Deborah has acquired several talents from videography to teaching, learning new musical instruments, cake design, and eventually she took a deep dive into the world of crochet. After a few months teaching herself the craft, Deborah began selling her creations as a side hustle. As her talent grew, her business “Snuggle Monkey Custom Creations” took off. Now she makes all kinds of custom stuffed animals among other knicknacks to the specifications of her customers. Deborah is a die-hard Notre Dame football fan.
Faith is our 5-year-old daughter (adopted), who joined our family when she was just over a year old in 2018. When we met her, she had spent her entire first year in Children’s hospital after having been born very prematurely, weighing only 15 ounces. Faith was living with a tracheostomy tube, on a ventilator, and a feeding tube (called a g-button) directly to her stomach. She is a determined little girl who loves to play with other kids and makes new friends like it’s her super power. Two years ago, her lungs and airway were strong enough to remove the tracheostomy and let her breathe on her own. We have been pleased with her resilience as well as her determination to try new experiences at every opportunity. Faith loves music, dancing, books, cooking, playing outside, cheering for her parents and extended family members, and she loves breaking through her barriers. She is very eager for a new sibling to love.
We initially made the decision to adopt after a long struggle with infertility. Eventually, it was clear that God had a different plan from ours; and that plan meant we would be adopting children. While we would have probably looked to adopt regardless of our ability to bear children. We love adoption because it is a reflection of how we have been adopted by God. Our first adoption stretched us in ways we never could have imagined. Due to the serious health conditions of our newly adopted daughter, we had to learn a lot about nursing and advocating for our child’s medical needs. It was difficult. Our lives changed. There were countless nights where we went without sleep. We struggled through our daily lives, trying to balance our need for income with the attention and care our daughter required. We sacrificed so much more than we ever could have imagined, and although we have been through the fire with her, we would never trade it for anything. We have learned that the more we give up for a child, the more we love them.
We live in a 2-story house with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths. Brandon runs his business from the house. Our neighborhood is a quiet one with similar sized homes and mostly middle class families. We love our neighborhood and the metro east community in general. Living near St. Louis gives us a lot of great options for family activities.
We are very close with our extended families. Deborah has three older brothers, each with children, and a mother who is an excellent grandma to her 8 grandkids. Brandon has two younger brothers, each with children, and his parents are also great with their 6 grandchildren.
Brandon is a wonderful man. He is a dedicated, hardworking, hilarious, musically talented, caring, and thoughtful man. He is a devoted and loving husband, father, and friend. He will always work overtime to make sure he can provide whatever is needed. He gets the largest smile when watching our daughter learn and grow and never tires from hearing about new things she does when he is at work. Brandon always tries to turn a mundane experience into a fun adventure. He cares about other people and wants to do whatever he can to help others succeed.
Deborah is by far the greatest with children that I have ever witnessed. She has a natural ability to make connections with little kids and brighten their day. At church, every kid knows her and makes the effort to find her and say hello. She has been a nanny, a teacher’s aide for ESL elementary students, and led children’s ministry events. She loves her family unconditionally, strives for excellence in everything she does, sacrifices for the people around her, and she is extremely fun. She gets my jokes, even if they aren’t that good. Our daughter adores Deborah and jealously stands by her when all the other kids want Deborah’s attention. She is always ready to try new things, and she makes our adventures memorable. Deborah is the historian of our family, as she always has her phone on hand to take pictures and videos to document all our ups and downs.
In Cincinnati, 2010, Deborah and Brandon were introduced by mutual friends. We didn’t have any intentions of dating at first, but our friends were persistent and we reluctantly obliged a group date. Though we both felt like it was awkward, we sensed some form of friendly connection. Brandon had just moved to Cincinnati and was open to making new friends, Deborah was well established and figured Brandon could be an ok hang. Brandon reached out a few days after their initial “date” and they began some light chatting on Facebook Messenger. Sensing Deborah had a similar take on their first meet-up, namely that it was silly and awkward, Brandon invited Deborah on a pseudo 1-on-1 date for dessert.
The evening went well, and when Brandon drove Deborah back to her apartment, he made some jokes about his luck in getting a date within the first couple weeks of moving to town. It was Christmas time and Brandon took a trip back to Wisconsin to see his family. Deborah spent Christmas in Cincinnati with her family. They had a couple series of texts during the break and Brandon felt good about the potential of their relationship. Deborah was still skeptical of Brandon, though.
After he returned, Brandon asked Deborah out a couple more times. By their third date, there were some sparks, but they were playing it cool. Deborah told Brandon that if he really wanted to date her, he had to meet her parents and her brothers. Brandon was willing, and after meeting her family, the two of us were developing genuine feelings. We began dating with the intention of testing our fitment for marriage. We were not interested in a slow-burn casual relationship for kicks and giggles. So we spent a lot of time sharing our personal stories, our dreams, and our beliefs. As we sought to gauge our compatibility, we developed our chemistry, and eventually fell in love.
Brandon proposed to Deborah 5 months after their first date and we were married about 5 months after that.
Invest in relationships with people you respect.
Be humble and seek wisdom from others.
Be curious to try new things and learn to discern what endeavors are worthwhile to you.
We believe that it is important for a child to know their birth parents as much as possible. We all have a family tree, but adopted children have two trees. Our identity comes from who we are in our life contexts as well as our biological contexts. Without access to their biological history, a part of a child’s identity will be missing. Questions will be unanswered, and the mystery surrounding their biological family can become detrimental to the child.