2017: Grow

02/14/2017

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I started out 2017 choosing Grow as my 2017 One Little Word as I was writing down some goals and dreams for the year. I want to grow as a wife, mother, friend, home educator, designer and I had some general ideas of how that might look. Four days into the new year I was laid off from my full time graphic design job, just a few weeks shy of a decade with the company. When I started out, I never expected to still be working there 10 years later. I had dreams of switching to all freelance but the safety net of a salary made it easier to stay, along with my bosses graciously allowing me to do most of my work from home. Ten years, three kids, five foster kids, three moves and the same faithful husband later; here I am. I’ve made the switch to all freelance graphic design work. I feel so…free! Occasionally scared. But mostly hopeful. I’m clinging to faith and trusting a good God who loves me and my family and will not forsake us. It’s pouring as I’m writing this and the Sara Groves’ song “Open My Hands” is playing in my head: I believe in a blessing I don’t understand/ I’ve seen rain fall on the wicked and the just/ Rain is no measure of His faithfulness/ He withholds no good thing from us/ No good thing, no good thing from us.


I haven’t blogged consistently in a while and I’m not sure if I will start back up now, but I wanted to write to update a few major life changes:

1. My freelance graphic design website is MartinaAhlbrandt.com and it’s freshly up and running with some portfolio images.

2. I’ve reopened my Etsy shop selling midcentury modern and vintage collectibles along with a few graphic design creations. It’s now ReAbide.Etsy.com.

3. I post frequently about my day-to-day with the kids, homeschooling, graphic design, vintage treasures, pretty pictures, etc. @mrsallbright on Instagram. A fraction of my photos there get pushed to my Facebook. I have a love-hate, mostly-hate, relationship with Facebook right now but I still love Instagram.

4. We’re still planning on building an investment property called Rosewood Heights House. It’s been a long time dream of ours and it’s slow going, but still going. I don’t have much to update currently while we’re waiting for a few essential pieces to fall into place. Follow @rosewoodheights on Instagram or Rosewood Heights House on Facebook to hear updates on our process.

5. Speaking of real estate, my husband Jason is rockstar. Literally, he’s a touring musician and recording artist, (currently working on his third album!) Also, he’s our rockstar real estate agent. When I lost my job/salary, he doubled down and has been working his tail off. I’m so proud of him, not just for how hard he works to serve his clients well and to provide for his family, but I really admire his integrity. There are some shady people running around in the real estate industry, who will tell people whatever they want to hear to get a listing or act like total jerks to other agents. Jason is perfect mix of hard working and highly motivated AND honest and moral. If you know of anyone moving to Nashville or within the area, we would be so honored if you would pass his name along. I’m his in-house assistant, designer and marketer.


Introducing: Josephine Louise

08/04/2016

Josephine Louise was born July 13, 2016 at 5:46 am, weighing 6 lb. 9 oz. and measuring 18.5″ long

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Yesterday she turned 3 weeks old which seemed like a fine time to update my blog. However, I fell asleep halfway through putting this post together. That happens when you have a newborn. I’ll keep my words short for now (so I don’t put myself to sleep…) and share mostly photos. I will write out her whole birth story soon.

In short, she’s a wonderful baby and a sweet addition to our family. We’ve been calling her Jo, JoJo, Joey… trying out lots of nicknames. I also call her Peachie Pie because she has the softest peach fuzz on her warm little head. JoJo is one of those (rare?) babies that sleeps 20 hours a day, making life as easy as it could be with a newborn and two other small children. She’s doing great with breastfeeding and all around a pleasant, easy-going baby. Her big siblings love her. Ali wants to hold her many times a day, wants to match her outfit or at least pick out her clothes, and generally be near her all the time. Isaiah pats and rubs her soft head, brings her blankets and toys, and responds with a concerned “Baby!” anytime he hears her fussing. (He also sometimes calls her DoDo… hehe) Jason and I are smitten, tired, happy and most definitely outnumbered. Full hands, full hearts.

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Heading home from the hospital

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Josephine with her big brother, Daddy and Grandpa

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First morning at home, Ali and Zay couldn’t wait to come see her

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We’re a family of five! (3 day old JoJo here)

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First bath at home with big sister eager to help

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Josephine Louise – 39 Week Update

07/12/2016

I’m just a couple days away from my due date (July 15) and so far Baby JoJo is still hanging on. My last day of work was Wednesday and I’ve felt so much more patient and relaxed since my leave started. I think that feeling of trying to tie up loose ends everyday “just in case” and also that disappointment of “I guess I’ve got to go to work tomorrow after all…” was causing more stress than I realized. I’m using this potential week or two before she’s born to visit with friends who came in from out of town (check out #sistermomsonthefarm on Instagram if you’re curious!), hanging out with my sister and her kids who are coming to visit this week, and spending as much time as I can hanging out and playing with Ali and Zay: swimming, going to the park, walking at the mall (it’s too hot to walk outside!), swimming some more… And also making sure the nest is ready for our new little chickie to be welcomed home.

It seemed like my last update was some grumbling about things going wrong… particularly breaking my toe which led to waddling/limping and then some crazy back pain. I’m happy to report that my toe is 95% better. It’s still a little tender, especially if bumped, but I can walk pretty normally. I did 4-5 weeks of physical therapy for my back pain and I’m feeling significantly better than I was a few weeks ago. I’ve got a lot of stretches and exercises to work on, now and after the baby is born. Overall things are going really well. I’m very ready for labor to start and to meet our littlest lady face-to-face, but I’m also feeling patient most of the time. Isaiah was 5 days past his due date so I’m preparing myself for that possibility. Five days past Jo’s due date would fall on Ali’s 5th birthday, July 20. She goes back and forth between wishing for that and wanting to keep her birthday her own. She’s been hoping and praying for a baby sister for a long time so either way Josephine’s arrival will be a gift to Ali, as well as to the rest of us.

39 weeks:

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38 weeks:

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37 weeks:

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36 weeks:

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35 weeks:

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Here’s how Jason nests: He’s working his butt off with two careers (realtor and touring musician), and he then does gigantic landscaping projects (like building a retaining wall) as a way to decompress after a stressful day. Not to mention he’s also picking up a lot of my slack inside the house with cleaning and helping with the kids and groceries and things like that. He’s a rockstar! I am so thankful for him and all he does.

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Father’s Day 2016:

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This little guy takes after his daddy in a lot of ways! He’s currently a big fan of vacuuming and a sweet friend sent him a special one of his own in the mail.

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Ali is so excited about her baby sister! She hugs and kisses my belly several times a day and tells me how much she loves Josephine already.

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Practicing with a baby doll…

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Lots of hanging around together.

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Popcorn movie nights (when Mommy is too tired to do anything else!)

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Jason and I celebrated our 13th anniversary on June 14 by going to Josephine the restaurant for dinner. It was really lovely!

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13 Years!

06/14/2016

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Timehop made this easy for me. I’ll just repost what I said last year. 🙂

Before digital photography was common, before Facebook and iPhones existed, these two kids said “I do.” I met the love of my life when I was 14. A lot of people thought we were too young to get married (at 18 and 20) but our love only got deeper as we grew up together. For 13 years I’ve had the privilege of being Mrs. Jason Ahlbrandt. I thank God everyday for my best friend.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an examplefor the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

May your fountain be blessed,
    and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.”
Proverbs 5:18


Phone Photo Friday

06/10/2016

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He started the day [Monday] leveling concrete for a retaining wall footer. Over fourteen hours later he’s still working hard, writing offers for two different clients today after doing showings much of the day. (Prior to that he was touring for 3 days in TX and LA and then spent all day yesterday with me and the kids.) I’m so thankful for my man who works hard for his family.

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2015 – 5 Biggest Moments

12/31/2015

So much change has happened for our little family this year! Here is a recap of the top five most significant events of this year.

1. Isaiah’s birth. At the start of 2015, I was 23 weeks pregnant. We had just found out on Christmas that he was a he and were starting to prepare his place in our home. April 25 was a leisurely family Saturday, four days past my due date. Ali and I had a picnic lunch and went to the playground while Jason visited a friend. Then we all went window shopping and stopped by Chick Fil A to satisfy one of my cravings: frozen lemonade and waffle fries. We went back home, visited with some neighbors, and then went for a long, vigorous walk at Shelby Park. My labor started while we were there. We timed contractions while waiting to pick up a late dinner at Jet’s Pizza. After we ate and put Ali to bed we realized we needed to call the grandparents to come get her. After a sleepless night we were officially admitted to the hospital around 5:00 am on April 26. Isaiah was born at 8:07 pm. One of the most amazing moments of my life was when they placed him on my chest and I could finally look at the little face I had been imagining for many months. Jason and I cried as he stared back at my face like he had been wondering what I looked like, too. The next morning Ali met her baby brother and so maturely climbed up next to me in the bed and gently held him and touched his face. I’ve loved watching her blossom as a big sister. She is so kind and loving to him.

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2. Jason became a realtor. At the start of the year Jason was looking for ways to increase his income. He auditioned for a new touring gig with country artist Easton Corbin. When he initially didn’t get the job, he started classes to get his real estate license. Then he got a call back to become the acoustic guitarist for Easton. He managed to finish his online classes, much of it from his bunk in the tour bus while his bandmates partied around him. When he passed his licensing exams it was a cause for celebration!

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3. & 4. Jason quitting EC / Ali’s 4th birthday. Jason’s new tour schedule was rigorous. His income indeed increased and he had many amazing opportunities. Lifelong dreams were fulfilled. Huge crowds. Free gear. National television shows. But the time apart was hard on all of us, especially after Isaiah’s birth. Jason felt like he was missing out on so many of those first little milestones. And our sweet little Ali was starting to have a really hard time saying goodbye so frequently to her daddy. Home for a day and gone for four…home for 12 hours and gone for 6 days… It wasn’t working for us. When Jason made the decision to quit, it was a sigh of relief for all of us. It was a growing season and it was provision for a period when we really needed it. He came home from his last gig the day before Ali’s birthday which was a special gift for her. We spent her birthday all together as a family of four. She had a mermaid-themed pool party at my parents’ house. Perfectly appropriate for our water-loving girl. Jason returned to his previous touring gig with Guy Penrod (and a much lighter schedule) and hit the real estate market running. He had three closings in his first several months of working as a realtor.

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5. Pregnant again?! “Are you sure you’re not pregnant? Your belly looks…different,” Jason said. I think it’s just all those Nutter Butters I’ve been eating… Two days later, positive pregnancy test. We were surprised but not totally surprised because we weren’t preventing it and knew it was quite possible. It just happened a little faster than last time. But we’re all thrilled. Well, Isaiah has no clue what’s coming. But Ali is super excited and kisses my belly regularly. (She’s really hoping for a little sister this time.) I’m starting 2016 12 weeks pregnant with our third child. Foster parenting is currently on hold status, though we’re keeping our license open. We’re hoping to do some short term respite for other foster parents and we’re about to start mentoring new foster parents through a new program at DCS.

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Looking forward to in 2016: Family trip to Florida. Weekend getaway/”Babymoon” to San Francisco. Finding out Nutter Butter’s gender. Isaiah’s first birthday. Leaving my full time job after 9 years. Welcoming our new baby. Beginning homeschool kindergarten with Ali. Pursuing some big, exciting real estate ventures with Jason. It’s already fixin’ to be a great year!


Happy Birthday to My Guitar Playing Real Estate Man!

09/16/2015

Dear Husband,

I don’t write a tribute to you every birthday but this year has been an incredible test of your character through many big changes, and I want to thank you for your steadfastness through it all. On your last birthday I was pregnant and entering into a season of tiredness that I haven’t fully come out of yet…which translates to a season of you picking up my slack. Sorry about that and thank you. I could count this past year of your life with the number of concerts you’ve played, miles you’ve trekked, TV shows you’ve been on, guitars you’ve acquired, things you’ve built around the house, times you’ve mowed the lawn, plants you’ve planted, hours you’ve worked. But none of that is as important as the number of hugs and kisses for your family, the baby kicks, the soccer games, the contractions you held my hand through, the lost sleep, the happy tears, the diapers, the pounds of coffee, the bedtime stories, the date nights, the stacks of Nutter Butters and cups of milk for dunking, the dishes you’ve washed. So many dishes. I know that the latter list matters more to you than first because you proved it over and over again this year. Your faithfulness and determination to provide well for your family led you to a new gig with a busier tour schedule. During your time away you worked hard taking classes and tests to get your real estate license while your bandmates enjoyed the perks of rock stardom. When the gig started taking it’s toll, you made the decision to come home. A lot of people wondered why you left when it seemed like you were at the top—and you had indeed reached one of your biggest life goals—I know why. I will never forget the sacrifice you made for your family. It was a challenging year but now you are here: you have two beautiful kids and an adoring wife, you’re back to your less strenuous touring gig and you’re killing it in your first quarter as a realtor. I am so proud of you; for your hard work and diligence, your drive to reach goals and passion to provide well for us, your wisdom and daily presence in parenting (even on the days when you’re away), your integrity and devotion. You lead our family well and it’s a pleasure to submit to your thoughtful guidance. Thank you for choosing to love us and serve us everyday. We think the world of you. Happy birthday, Jason!

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Work Shoes

08/17/2015

 

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Four years ago, I took a picture of Jason’s old shoes before throwing them away. I wanted to remember what they looked like because they represented so much to me. As disgusting as they were, I was a little sad to say goodbye. First, they show that my husband is so thrifty that he’ll wear his shoes until they’re completely falling apart and his wife insists on throwing them away. More than anything though, they represent hard work. He’s spent the past 20 years playing the heck out of guitars, fine tuning his gift. These shoes took him to school and band rehearsals and shows at first. But these shoes also worked for five years at Starbucks when we first moved to Nashville and were chasing hard after our dreams. Jason worked two or three jobs at a time while I finished my graphic design degree. After the barista days, these shoes spent many, many hours doing yard work and home renovations, building tons of sweat equity into our first two homes. He works harder than anyone I know taking care of his family, our home and his career. Jason Ahlbrandt, thank you for doing all that you do for us. I could not be any more proud of you. I’m so glad I get to be your one and only.

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So Many Changes

08/13/2015

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Once upon a time, I wrote blog posts several times a week. I hardly missed a day. Not always deep thoughts but I’ve enjoyed this as a place to journal and keep records of our lives the past six years (even more if I count my previous blogs). I sometimes wonder if there’s any value in sharing all of this but then I get an email from a fellow foster mom looking for support, a potential adoptive parent thanking us for telling our story or a casual reader just checking in to say hello since this space has been so quiet. Two months ago I thought I was back to blogging and then the weeks quickly slipped by and I haven’t blogged much since then. I’m not sure how to restart without doing a general update post. Our family has gone through so much change in the past 6 months.

It started back at the end of winter as I was entering my third trimester. We were looking toward an unpaid maternity leave and what life would look like with two forever kids. An unexpected door opened as we prayed for provision. Jason auditioned for a new gig with a busier tour schedule that would translate to better income. He didn’t get it and we wondered why. It sounded like it was going to the perfect answer to our prayers. When he didn’t get the job, he started taking classes to get his real estate license. Then he got a call back; he got the gig after all. The timing was perfect for our finances. He entered a busy season of touring just a couple weeks before Isaiah was born and my unpaid time off work began. From his bunk in the tour bus he continued working hard on his online classes, studying and taking tests for his real estate license. It was a lot to juggle but once he’s got his mind on a goal there is no stopping him. He missed one weekend of shows—two concerts in Texas—for Isaiah’s birth and then he was back on the road two days after we got home from the hospital. His tour schedule was lighter in May, thankfully, because my recovery was much harder than I anticipated. But in June things picked up again. I started back to work full time, working mostly from home now—a huge answer to prayer! And also a new juggling challenge. Jason had 6 full days off/home in June and managed to fit his real estate licensing exam in there. He passed! He’s now a fully licensed real estate agent. His schedule for July was even fuller than June and it was taking it’s toll on all of us. Half way through the month he had a hard conversation with the band leader about needing to step away to focus on his growing family and his new real estate venture. He was willing to stick it out for a few weeks to help their transition but God made a way for him to be home within days of that conversation without putting anyone out or severing any relationships. He returned to his previous gig with a much lighter touring schedule and started full steam into his real estate business. And that’s just the big stuff. There were also soccer games, visits from out-of-town family, and so many doctors appointments for check ups, dentists, PT, OB, dermatology, radiology. Phew!

All the transitions have sent our finances on some roller coaster loopy-loops and been exhausting in other ways, too. But God is good. These changes are good and I can see His hand on us through every change. It has not been easy or painless but the blessings have outweighed the struggles:

We have two beautiful children. I was able to keep my full-time graphic design job of 8+ years and be home with my kids 6 days a week. Jason was able to add a realtor hat next to the professional musician one—both flexible jobs that allow him to spend a lot of time at home. I trust that life will feel less tiring soon, and in the meantime I have a newfound love of coffee.

The photo at the top, taken by our friend Beth Rose, basically sums up the past several months. But here are some other memorable moments, too:

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Birth Story: Isaiah Jason

05/18/2015

Saturday April 25 was a restful family day. We had a big breakfast together, followed by a dance party in an attempt to shake the baby out. (Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” are our go-to dance songs.) Ali and I played together, had a picnic lunch outside and then went to the playground while Jason visited with a friend. Then we all went shopping and out for an afternoon treat at Chick Fil A. (Frozen lemonade and waffle fries with ranch for me—hello pregnancy craving!)  When we got back home we visited with some neighbors for a little while.

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That evening we went for a long walk in Shelby Park as we had done several times that week—the week of my due date. I was having some contractions while we walked but I wasn’t timing them because they often happen while I’m walking. When we got in the car I had a pretty long one and we decided we should start making a note of the time and intervals. It was 8:05 pm. We went to pick up a pizza and came home to eat it, all the while timing contractions that were coming predictably and getting closer together. We put Ali to bed but then decided we should have Jason’s parents come get her. They arrived around 10 or 10:30 pm. We finished packing up our things for the hospital and I took a shower and did my make-up.

We left for the hospital around 1:00 am but when the nurse checked me I was still just 1 cm dilated. She gave us the option to get admitted, wait/walk until I was 3 cm or go back home to rest and come back when the contractions got more intense. We went back home to try to sleep since it was getting so late. We got home at 2:30 am. Jason was able to sleep a little bit (maybe 45 min?) before I woke him up and said it was time to go back. We got back around 4:00 am and I was not quite 2 cm. They don’t like to admit before 3 cm generally. So we walked laps around the hall for about an hour, stopping every 5 min or so to get through a contraction. We were admitted around 5:00 am. I got settled into my labor and delivery room and the first thing I did was get in the gigantic tub for a hot bath and put on some relaxing music from my iPod. The water helped so much! Jason brought in the rest of our things from the van and rested on the sofa bed.

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The on-call doctor arrived around 9:00 am and offered to break my water to get things going faster, and we agreed. We had one scary moment about an hour later when Isaiah’s heart rate dropped and the nurses came rushing in as the alarm on the monitor went off. In a matter of seconds, they rolled me onto my side, plugged in my IV and strapped an oxygen mask on my face. It’s amazing how much more a contraction hurt when I was scared! Thankfully, it was no big deal—just by changing my position his heart rate returned to normal. They said the umbilical cord sometimes gets pinched by his/my position and just moving is enough to fix it. By noon I was 6 cm dilated. (10 cm is the goal – that’s when you can push.) But I got stuck at 6 cm. The contractions were getting so intense and painful that I was having trouble not pushing, which is not helpful because it made my cervix swell at the top instead of dilate. Even with the help of nitrous oxide to relax and Jason’s coaching to breathe and relax through the contractions, I was in a lot of pain and getting exhausted. After being stuck at 6 cm for 4 hours I asked for an epidural.

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I like to say I did 2/3 natural childbirth and 1/3 with an epidural. The epidural was amazing! Instant relief and ability to rest. My sister is an OB/gyn and my brother is an anesthesiologist so I asked Jason to send them the above picture. It was wonderful to go back to looking forward to seeing and holding our son, rather than just thinking about making it through the next contraction. I could watch the contractions on the monitor but I didn’t have any pain. I went from 6 cm to 10 cm and ready to push in 2 hours. Then, I ended up pushing for another 2 hours. It’s an interesting thing to push when you can’t feel your whole bottom half. At right about the 2 hour mark, which the doctor warned was about the max he would let me push without looking into other intervention (like foreceps or suction), I used every last bit of strength in my body and pushed that boy out. Jason was instantly in tears, just totally in awe with our son, with what I was capable of doing, with the whole process of childbirth. (It looks like he’s crying in the picture below but he never actually cried the whole time we were at the hospital, just little squeaks when he was upset.)

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The nurses took Isaiah to the corner to check him out. Typically they hand the baby straight to the mother to do immediate skin-to-skin but he had passed a little meconium during pushing and they just wanted to make sure he hadn’t ingested any. Jason watched as they checked him out, weighed him, cleaned him off and wrapped him up. Meanwhile I got stitched up. (I had a little tearing and an episiotomy.)

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When they put him against my chest a couple minutes later, I was overcome with tears of joy, finally getting to see his precious face and hold him in my arms. I cry every time I look at this photo. It was such a sacred moment. Isaiah was born almost exactly 24 hours after my contractions started. We missed an entire night of sleep so we were exhausted and starving. As soon as things were stable Jason ran out to get some carry out dinner from Five Guys because they were minutes from closing and the hospital cafeteria was already closed. The sweet server saw his hospital band and gave him one meal free. He was back before it was time to move up to our postpartum room.

We got settled up in our postpartum recovery room around 1:00 am. I can’t remember all the details of the first night since I was so tired but I know we did get several good chunks of sleep that first night. At one point I think I had asked the nurse a breastfeeding question (we were having a hard time getting him to go to sleep) and she offered to take him to the nursery for a little bit so we could rest. She said he fell right to sleep once he got down there. She brought him back as soon as he woke up. The nurses at St. Thomas Midtown were absolutely amazing! So kind and helpful, with humble, servant hearts. They took really good care of the three of us. I am so glad we decided to deliver there and would definitely recommend it.

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