2017: Grow



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.

Isaiah Jason – 1.5 Years Old


Last month Isaiah turned one-and-a-half. Our book-loving, vacuum-enthusiast, snuggle bug is such a special part of our family. In July, at 14 months old, he became a big brother. He’s very sweet and gentle with his baby sister. He gives JoJo soft kisses and pats her head. He likes to bring her pacifier to her, push her swing, turn on her bouncy seat music and carefully wipe drool off her chin. Ali is his best friend. He loves to follow her around and do whatever she’s doing. She plays really well with him most of the time. I’m glad our three kids have each other. Zay is still a Mama’s boy, which I love…except when he’s clinging to my legs while I’m trying to cook or walk. He loves his Daddy, too. He loves to watch Daddy work on projects and try to help or imitate him. His favorite show is Chuggington (about trains) and he also loves big trucks, sirens, dogs and dinosaurs. Zay is easy-going, affectionate, obedient, helpful and gentle most of the time. He has his toddler moments of frustration, of course, but overall he’s a very pleasant little guy. Well, big little guy. He’s still at the very top of the percentile charts for height. He’s wearing 2T clothes and size 7 shoes at 19 months.

Zay is talking a ton. He will repeat almost any word and even has some small sentences like, “A bite, please?” and “I love you.” He LOVES food. Especially popcorn and yogurt (which he still calls yo-yo). If he eats something he likes he nods and says “Yeah.” And then points and says, “Mo-ore peace” while still nodding. I love how he stretches 1-syllable words out, like “hayyer” for hair, “playyyat” for plate, “shoo-oo” for shoe, “deeyo” for deer. A couple of funny made up words we hear many times a day: Meeno is the name for his lovely that I call Snuggle Bunny. It’s also the word he uses for banana. Dee Dah is how he says thank you. I was teasing the other day that the way he says cracker (“tattoo”) sounds more like thank you than deeda. He was saying cookie last night and it sounded almost like turkey. He’s a goofball and he keeps us laughing with the funny things he says and his silly faces. I love his giggle.

I’m so glad God gave us a Zay-Zay. He is a precious gift to us. God knew how much our family needed him.

Pictures from July (14 months old) through November (18 months old):

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This is his default face…so frowny. Good thing he smiles a lot.

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He was excited about getting in the bath and forgot he was still dressed…


Checking on “Doh-Doh” (AKA JoJo, Doughy, Jojie)

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Josephine at 2 months & 3 months



September 13, 2016: Two months of Josephine. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long but at the same time we’re getting into routines and it almost seems like she’s always been here. She a proper third child: easy going, happy, quiet unless she needs fed or changed, great sleeper. She’s smiling easier now and cooing. Soon she’ll be giggling. We call her Jo, Joey, JoJo and Joey Lou most of the time. Ali says she’s her coconut and proudly introduces her to everyone we meet. Zay calls her YoYo. This past month he’s fallen in love with his baby sister and gives her kisses many times a day. I’m back to work and feeling mostly back to normal.

At 2 months she’s 12 lbs., 24″ long (98th percentile!), wearing size 1 diapers and 3m clothes.


October 13, 2016: Three months old. This month brought Jo’s first giggles. Daddy is the best at making her giggle, and got the first joyful sounds, but now she’s doing it for all of us. JoJo is seriously the best baby, which makes her a big-time trouble maker. She’s so sweet, squishy, snuggly, easy-going and she sleeps all night. I put her in the shared nursery with Zay for a couple of nights but I haven’t figured out a good morning solution yet, so I moved her back to our room for a bit longer. She’s got her own private suite in our closet. Eventually I’ll have to bite the bullet and move her back but for now we’re enjoying the sleepy mornings and I can usually get her fed before Zay starts calling for me. I think Joey is between 13-14 lbs. now, with the plump, kissable cheeks to prove it. She went on her first family road trip last weekend to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. It’s a special place for our family as we go every fall when Jason plays there with Guy Penrod.


The end of the fourth trimester. I’m feeling pretty comfortable as a mother of three kids. Our days are falling into familiar routines, dictated mostly by feeding and nap times, but still with a fair amount of flexibility. I’m so thankful for friends who are willing to lend a hand while we’re out and about, usually chasing Zay while I’m feeding Jo or holding her while I help him. I’ve got most of my energy back and my body is mostly recovered from childbirth. I’m within 7 lbs. of  what I weighed before getting pregnant with Isaiah in summer 2014 but that matters less to me than the actual condition of my muscles. I still have back pain and I’m glad to know why; I still need to rebuild my core strength, specifically my abs. I asked my sister, who is an OB/GYN, how long it takes belly skin to go back to normal and she said six months, then you have “a new normal.” Last time around I got pregnant five months postpartum so that explains why I don’t remember; it was never all the way back. Three more months. Must do more sit ups…

Some favorite photos of Josephine from the past 2 months:

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Phone Photo Friday





Play Alone Time



A: Why do I have to play alone?
M: Because Mommy needs some alone time.
A: Can’t you just pretend to be alone?

My 5-year-old hates to be alone. Whether it’s her personality, a result of her past, because she was an only child for most of her first 4 years or a combination of all of those; she wants constant feedback and attention. She loves to perform and loves to talk. When her little brother was born and as she started out-growing naps, it became apparent to me that we needed to institute some quiet alone time. For my sanity. And to teach her a skill she is lacking. As I’m writing this post right now she’s sitting at the desk next to me writing letters to “sick people” and chattering out loud the whole time, asking for my attention every 30 seconds or so.

Play alone time.

I think I found this blog post on Pinterest when Isaiah was an infant and I was desperate for 5 minutes without someone talking to/at me. It seemed like one of those obvious parenting moves that I had regretfully overlooked for four years. We should have been teaching her all along to play alone. Don’t misunderstand; kids need time with peers and time with parents and loads of attention. But learning to be content alone and play alone are life skills. Starting with 5-minute increments and working up to an hour, I’ve been teaching my kids to play alone. My 1-year-old can currently play alone contently longer than my 5-year-old. (Again, I wish I had started teaching her this skill a long time ago!) We’re up to 15-30 minutes now.


It’s amazing what I can get done in 15-30 minutes alone. It’s like a deep breath for my mind. I can get the dishwasher unloaded or dinner prepped. I can respond to emails. I can write a blog post. I can finish a graphic design project. Rachel, the writer of the blog post I mentioned above, has some great tips for how to teach your child to play alone. One benefit that I’m not sure if she mentions in her blog, my kids are more eager to play together after they’ve spent some time playing alone. Do yourself and your child a favor and start doing this if you don’t already!


Nursing Mom at Work



That sounds better than “breast-pumping mom at work” right? I started back to work two weeks ago. I’m really grateful to get to work from home the majority of the time. When I do go to the office one day a week, I get to use a private office. My first project on my first day back to work was to hang a curtain over my window for privacy and to make a sign for my door to let my coworkers know that when my door is closed, I need to not be disturbed. (I also lock the door.) I thought I’d share the sign files in case any other working moms would like to print one. I made three versions:

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Car Seat Safety and the Britax Advocate ARB



I was thrilled to be a part of a lunch event last week put on by the Nashville Mom Blog and Britax car seats. A group of mommy bloggers and a bunch of our little ones got to learn all about the new Britax Advocate ARB car seats and the best part—we got to take one home! I’ve loved Britax seats since we bought our first one back in 2011. Ali and Zay both ride in Britax seats and now Jo has a brand new one for her fancy self.


I was not familiar with Britax’s ClickTight system. It’s a sleek alternative to using the LATCH system that a lot of vehicles and car seats have. The hooks are often difficult to reach and it’s hard to get the car seat really tight. The seat is not supposed to be able to shift more than a 1 inch in either direction (at the belt path) once it’s secured to the car. The ClickTight uses the vehicle’s seat belt and snaps down into the car seat base in 3 quick steps and it’s so super tight. (NEVER use the LATCH system AND your vehicle’s seat belt; one or the other.)

Apparently 95% of people think they’ve installed their car seats correctly but 3/4 of them are NOT correctly installed. Yikes. I have to admit that with 8 kids (including the 5 fostered short term) and more car seats than I can count, I learned some things I’ve been doing wrong during the demonstration with the Britax reps Kate and Kelly.


The Britax Advocates we were given came with their new Anti-Rebound Bar (ARB). It’s very cool. It slides into the steel frame of the car seat for use when it’s rear-facing. The bar rests against your vehicle seat back. In the event of a collision the ARB reduced the rebound rotation (where the top of your car seat and your baby’s head could rotate toward the vehicle seat back) by 40 percent. It’s easy to install and easy to remove when it’s time to turn the car seat around for forward facing—which by the way is no sooner than 1 year old or 20 lbs., and it’s recommended that kids rear-face until 2 years old when their necks and spines are stronger. This car seat can be used in rear facing for babies 5-40 lbs. and forward facing for 20-65 lbs. and 49 inches tall. (For reference, my petite 5-year-old is still within the height and weight parameters for rear-facing!)

One common mistake that parents make with car seats is not tightening the belts enough. There should not be enough slack in the belts to pinch them once the child is buckled in. Britax has a solution for this common oversight: you pull the strap to tighten the harness until it clicks. It won’t over tighten! It really just clicks and stops tightening when it’s in the right position.


Another common mistake is having the chest clip too low. It should always be at armpit height.


For rear facing the shoulder straps should be at or below shoulder height of the child. For forward facing the shoulder straps should be at or above shoulder height. The tether at the back of the car seat is only for forward facing position.

Some other great features of the Britax Advocate: It’s really easy to raise and lower the headrest and shoulder strap by just squeezing a button and pulling it up or pushing it down. The cover, like all my other Britax car seats, is easy to remove and spot clean. (Washing machines can be too rough on the fabric and reduce it’s flame retardancy.) It has some great accessories like a cup holder and a seat guard for spills, diaper leaks, potty accidents, etc. Has anyone else ever had a child have a pee accident in a car seat… Oy! And one more great feature of this seat: it doesn’t expire for 10 years so Josephine will be able to use this seat until she outgrows car seats and maybe we’ll even get to use it for a future little sibling.

After hearing all about these fancy features while munching on wraps and cupcakes, we got to see it demonstrated in a vehicle and then we each got to take one with us. The lovely Britax reps watched us install the car seats, offered help if we needed, and made suggestions to make them as safe as possible for our little ones. All-in-all it was a neat opportunity and I’m really thankful to the Nashville Moms Blog and Britax for allowing me to participate.

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Kate reminding us to read the car seat manual AND your vehicle’s manual because all cars are different (and have different weight limits for their LATCH hooks, for example).


Kelly urging us to register our products so we’re notified if there is ever a recall. Oops… I still haven’t done that.


Some cute little ladies.


Kate demonstrating how to tighten the harness to the point that it clicks. Isn’t that pretty neat how it won’t over-tighten?


Kelly showing how the ClickTight works. The bottom of the seat lifts up and the vehicle seat belt is slid into the slots.


After it’s buckled, pull out all the slack and snap the seat bottom back down. That’s it! And it’s unbelievably tight. (More about how ClickTight works here.)


Princess JoJo heading home in her new throne!


Britax has a sale going on right now called All About Baby Safety Event, up to 25% off.


Sponsored by Britax.