13 Years!



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


11th Anniversary Squirrel Buster


We celebrated BIG last anniversary with a trip to Naples and Key West for 10 days, including snorkeling in a coral reef—the highlight of the trip. Father’s Day, our anniversary, my (30th!) birthday all fall within 5 days of each other. Combine that with newborn baby induced sleep-depravation and schedule-juggling and… This year I ordered a bird feeder. To celebrate our 11 years of blissful matrimony, we have a Brome 1015 Squirrel Buster Classic hanging outside our living room window. (Using this bracket.) It really is a gift to both of us, our whole family, as we’ve already been seeing lots of birds frequenting the feeder and we can see it from the dining room table and from the living room (where I’ve been sitting a lot to feed Firefly.)

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It’s pretty cool how this works. It has a spring mechanism that closes up all the feed openings if a squirrel-weight animal clings to it. But for bird-weight animals, there are several openings for seeds. The birds are dropping a lot on the ground, though, so the squirrels are still happy.






Jason and I love Naples but since our 10th anniversary was a very special occasion we also wanted to go somewhere new to us. We decided on Key West. The drive was beautiful.


We stopped at Mangrove Mama’s for lunch on the recommendation of an Instagram friend @bakewithamy. It was delicious.


And then we saw a box turtle.



Jason looking very Floridian with his green pants.



Have you ever seen such blue water?

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Jason is a key lime pie connoisseur so we had a lot! Kermit’s was our favorite, followed by Key West Key Lime Pie Co.



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It was a very restful, restorative trip for us both. In Key West we walked miles everyday exploring the island. We slept late most days and watched a lot of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and Bob’s Burgers on Netflix. We ate a lot of really good food. Blue Heaven was recommended by multiple people and lived up to it’s reputation. Jason ordered lobster eggs Benedict with bacon and tomato which was the most memorable meal we had in the Keys. We went to Blue Heaven after a morning of snorkeling which was the highlight of our trip. I don’t have any photos of that excursion. It was incredible to see sea creatures in their natural habitat. The most thrilling was when a nurse shark, about 5 feet long, swam right past Jason and me. I’m a little bummed that I didn’t get to see a sea turtle (Jason saw one from the boat but I missed it) but it gives me a reason to go back. Next time we’d like to try scuba diving.

Good Morning from the Sunshine State






I had planned to schedule a bunch of posts for this week but with Jason and Buzz sick last week and the holiday, time just got away from me. So know you get to know: Jason and I are in Florida this week. Since before Buzz arrived (at the beginning of May) we had been planning a getaway to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. We’re not big on celebrating milestones with “stuff” like cards or gifts but we always set aside some time for a dinner date. We did that this year too and it was painfully clear that 2 hours away from the toddlers was not enough time to catch up, and definitely not enough time to rest and relax.

A kid-less vacation was what we needed. Four days into our vacation and we already feel like its been SO refreshing! We had dinner at the Columbia in Sarasota, spent the weekend in Naples, Fl (our favorite) and this morning we’re heading to Key West – somewhere new to us.

My mama always told me that the best gift you can give your kids is to love your spouse well.

A Decade of Matrimony


10 Years is a BIG deal.

When Jason and I announced our plans to get married at 18 and 20 years old, we had a lot of skeptics. I’m quite thankful they kept their concerns to themselves, or at least didn’t tell us until much later. We were very young, no question about that. But we were sure. One of my bridesmaids, Chrissy, sent me an encouraging message on our anniversary and told me how impressed she was that I was calm and cool as I got ready on my wedding day. She had expected me to be nervous the way brides are portrayed in the movies.

When I was 14 years old, I had grown apart from my best friend emotionally and I was lonely. I prayed and asked God for a new best friend—someone I could trust, share my dreams with, hang out with at youth group and on the weekends, someone I could pray with and grow spiritually alongside. I was shy and dorky (middle school, hello!) and wasn’t imagining a boyfriend. Across town a 16 year old Jason was fed up with not being treated well by girls. He took relationships seriously and the girls he dated were flippant with his sensitive heart. He prayed and told God that he didn’t want to date anyone else unless she was going to be his future wife. When Jason and I met and quickly fell in love, we both realized that God had answered our different prayers by bringing us together. I am incredibly grateful that we met and fell in love so young and were spared from much of the heartache and regret that comes along with dating different people over high school and college years.

Chrissy also reminded me of the funny way Jason and I entered our wedding reception as our arrival was announced to the room of waiting guests. It  took everyone by surprise and we really hadn’t put that much thought into it. We were waiting in the hallway as the DJ announced the wedding party and I just thought, hey, wouldn’t it be funny if you carried me in on your back? It’s best described with this visual:


That’s pretty much the way we entered into our marriage. We knew we wanted to be together and we just went for it, wholeheartedly, jumping in with both feet, full of joy and energy.

Here’s a little recap of the past 10 years:


• Got married on June 14, 2003 and were endlessly teased about not being legally old enough for a champagne toast

• Spent our first year living in a poorly climate controlled upstairs of an old house in Erie, PA. I was in college and working part time. Jason was working part time and teaching guitar lessons at two different music stores and leading a band. We did laundry at my parents’ house once a week. I have no recollection of how we managed all of that with 1 car.

• After nearly freezing to death in our drafty apartment we decided that there is no reason to wait until after college to move somewhere warmer. I applied to Watkins College of Art & Design in Nashville and got accepted.

• Much like our wedding a year earlier, we headed for the hills with excitement, hope and no reservations. At 20 and 21 years old, I don’t remember having any fear about leaving behind all we had known and starting a new life in Music City.

• I graduated from college in December 2006 with a BFA in graphic design. Two months later, we sold our starter home of 2 years and purchased our beloved mid-century modern ranch in East Nashville. The same month as I started my first full time job at Salem Publishing, where I still work as an art director designing magazines.

• Jason had been working part-full time at Starbucks while building his music career, working on his band, traveling and playing, networking and making friends, playing lots of different kinds of music gigs. In 2009, he was able to quit his part time job and focus completely on his growing music career. A year later, he had more than made up for his retail income  by doing only what he loves—music. He has an amazing testimony of working hard, chasing dreams and reaching goals. He inspires me!

• In 2011 we decided to become foster parents. We had been thinking about having kids for a year or so and had talked about adopting some day. God planted the idea of foster care into our minds through some adoption research I was doing randomly one night combined with a home related comment on this here blog from K (and then I got sucked into their story of foster parenthood.) Jason and I realized that we really didn’t feel the need to have biological kids first (or at all) and that we had the room, resources and love to become foster parents at that point.

• In July 2011 we became parents for the first time to 16 month old Ladybug. She was with us for 5 weeks. On September 21, 2011 our home was blessed with the arrival of our little Alianna, our second placement. She was 2 months and 1 day old and the most content baby I had ever known. In November we were granted custody of her so we could pursue a private adoption. (Long story.)

• The same month, we put our cool little ranch up for sale and bought a property less than a mile away and started to plan the construction of our dream house with an architect. We knew that we wanted to have more bedrooms so we could continue to foster children. In 2012 we sold our house, started construction of our new home, celebrated Ali’s first birthday in Outer Banks with my family, finalized her adoption in August and moved into our dream house in December—just in time to get settled and host a Christmas family gathering.

• In March 2013 we reopened our home as foster parents. We did a weekend of respite for 11 year old Sunshine in April. At the beginning of May, 2.5 year old Buzz was placed with us.

• This past Monday night we went out for a dinner date to celebrate our anniversary (and sort of my birthday and father’s day too since they’re all in a 5 day period). Jason bought me a new dress as an early bday gift so I could wear it to dinner. He always picks the most lovely things for me! We stuffed our bellies at J. Alexanders and brought home a giant piece of carrot cake because it’s a must-have, even when we’re too full. We picked up the kids at their respective babysitters and put them to bed. Then we finally made time to sit down and plan our 10th Anniversary Child-free Vacation! We set the dates aside months ago but still hadn’t found time to sit down and book anything. Two hours alone for dinner was not enough time to catch up from all of the craziness of life lately. We are so looking forward to getting away together next month. I love this man.


Phew! It’s been quite an adventure so far. Not able to be captured in these bullet points are the wonderful friendships we’ve developed over the past 9 years that we’ve been in Nashville. I have loved to watch my husband grow, mature and adapt through roller coasters in the music industry, challenges in relationships and struggles with the foster care system. Jason is creative, keen, perceptive, wise beyond his years, loyal, humble, passionate, talented, fun, patient, consistant, generous, hard-working, loving, playful and strong. He takes his job seriously as a godly leader of our household—he prays for us, takes care of us, gently corrects and guides. I recently told a friend just before he got married that I think the greatest gift you can give your spouse is accountability. Jason and I have learned this hard lesson through the years—it’s not fun to be caught in the wrong by your best friend, especially when your actions are hurting the one you love. But, we’ve found that it’s actually a blessing and gift to keep each other in check—to not let each other get away with crap. No one cares more about your success as a person than your spouse. I tell Jason often that I appreciate how he keeps me centered when I start getting worried, selfish, angry or lazy. He’s truly my best friend and our relationship has only grown richer over the past 10 years.

I wonder what the next 6 decades of our marriage will hold!

I Believe in Miracles


Do you remember this story? One year ago tomorrow, a miracle happened while were in court feeling hopeless, thinking that we were about to say goodbye to our sweet baby girl after two months of fostering and falling in love with her. But, to our surprise she was taken out of state custody and put back into our arms so we could become her forever parents! We are so blessed, so thankful that we get to be this precious little girl’s parents!

November 10, 2011

November 11, 2012

New Home Update


On Monday, we closed on construction loan. YAAAAAAAYYYY! I’ve never been more excited for a loan closing, probably because we’ve been waiting months and months for this. Kudos to local Wilson Bank for working things out for us and being super awesome so far. Now we can break ground. Woohoo!

Jason and I stopped by the property the other day. It’s hard to not walk around and dream about our new home. I can’t wait to start seeing progress! (SIDENOTE: Today is our NINTH wedding anniversary! Happy Anniversary, Jason. I love you!)

While we were piddling around at Home Depot the other day, we spotted programmable light switches. This one made by GE is only $19.97; a better deal than I found last week. We got one for the front lights at my parents house so we’ll get to test it out and see if we’d like to have one or two at our new home.

While we were there, we also looked at some paint swatches. These are all just ideas. Most are Martha Stewart Living and a few are Behr. Sherwin Williams colors are my favorite so we’ll probably get colors from there (plus there is a store right down the street from us) but anyway… top left: kids room; top center: Jason’s studio (which is going to look like a cave…); top and bottom right: my office/laundry room; bottom left: baby’s room. Precious wouldn’t stop eating the paint chip for Behr Raspberry Lemonade (fourth from the left on the bottom) so I’m pretty sure that’s her vote.

38 Years


Tomorrow my parents celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary. I am so thankful for the example they set for me and my siblings with their relationship. At one point in elementary school I remember learning about some of my classmates parents getting divorced and I was concerned that my parents might get divorced, too. My mom reassured me that it would not happen. “How do you know?” I asked. “Because, we decided a long time ago that divorce is not an option for us.” It felt good to know that as a kid and it’s something I’ve carried with me into my own marriage. We will never even consider divorce as an option, no matter how angry we might be with each other or no matter how much we don’t feel in love at any given point.

Why am I writing about divorce? Oh right…I guess because the key to a long, successful marriage is commitment. It’s not about staying in love, keeping it fresh, romance; though those things are nice. But really, it seems to come down to a decision, a covenant, a contract that’s made between two people that says we will stick it out and stick together. We will not quit. And, of course, if we want to have a happy marriage, a whole lot of love helps, a whole lot of putting my spouse’s wants before my own and finding ways to serve him everyday. My parents’ marriage has been a great example of that, too. My mom loves to serve others and take care of her household. My dad loves to spoil my mom with gifts and dinners out and vacations. They’re a sweet combination and I’m thankful they’re my parents.

Another invaluable piece of advice my parents taught us: a couple that prayer together stays together. Praying for each other, encouraging each other, rooting for each other, honoring each other (especially in conversation with others)… those are all really important, too.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! Thanks for leading the way!



Last year Jason and I celebrated 7 years of marriage and 11 years since our first date. It was our 7-11 year. I had been wanting to get some professional pictures done. It was time; we hadn’t had any done since our wedding. Sitting in front of a backdrop at a department store isn’t our thing so we commissioned our friend Beth Rose, who is an awesome photographer, to do some lifestyle portraits for us. And I had the perfect idea. A 7-Eleven photo shoot. I envisioned a local Slurpee selling gas station as our setting. Problem is, there aren’t ANY 7-Elevens in Nashville. None in Atlanta where we go to IKEA. None in Naples, FL where we went on vacation last year. None in Cincinnati where we frequently visit our friends. So I shelved the idea. Then, over Christmas we planned to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Emmaus, PA. Before our trip, I looked it up and sure enough, there is a 7-Eleven right near his house. I had a new solution: bring Slurpee cups back home and do the photo in Nashville in the spring. BR was game. (The cup designs exceeded my expectations!) I convinced myself that as long as we did the shoot before May, it was technically still our 7-11 year. But, I’m overdue in sharing these since we’re now absolutely in our 8-12 year. Ah well. But now that you know the back story, the cups will make sense.

(Cup-free pictures were posted here.)

I’m thinking of getting one of the three above (where the cups are prominent) blown up to poster size for something funky/different for the house. Leaning towards the 2nd from the bottom. Do you have a favorite?

All photos by Beth Rose Photography bethrose.com

A Picture of Our Lives Right Now


I may have over-promised by calling this a funny story. We’ll see… if nothing else it’s a long story.

Last week when I met with our home study writer for my individual interview, we realized that Tuesday was our only option for the next/last appointment. I opened Jason’s calendar to June 14th and said, “Oh, that’s our anniversary.” Ms. Lady insisted we couldn’t have our appointment then. “But it’ll only take an hour, right?” I suggested. I mean, we’re not real fancy anniversary celebrators anyway. We go out for dinner. Sometimes exchange a small gift or a card. Well, she was not having it. No way was she going to interrupt our anniversary evening. It’s an off-deadline (less intense) week at my work so we settled on Tuesday morning and I’d work from home the rest of the day.

Jason and I have a tradition of getting either fondue ($$$), usually at the Melting Pot, or sushi ($), usually at RuSan’s, on our anniversary. It’s a ($) year so we made tentative plans to go out to a movie with our Living Social coupon (2 tix for $9!) and get dinner at RuSan’s, our favorite sushi place. Perfect, easy date night.

Then, on Monday I got a call from our electrician asking it was OK if she came Tuesday evening. I hesitated for a few seconds, then said, yes. Why? Because 2 weeks ago, while Jason was installing a new track lighting system in our kitchen, we had an electrical explosion. (See picture above.) The result was some burned 50-year-old+ wiring and no lights in 2/3 of our house. (The problem was likely some brittle old wires had been arching and eventually touched.)

(Our temporary bathroom light)

It took a week and a half for our schedules to line up so the electrician could even get out to our house to diagnose the problem. (Rightfully so, people who don’t have power to essential appliances like A/C or refridgerators get priority.) So when she asked if she could come Tuesday night, you better believe I didn’t mention to her that it was our anniversary.

(Running power to my cloffice)

Change of plans. Since I was working from home yesterday, after our 20-minute home study appointment Jason and I exchanged gifts (he got me a handmade-with-local-stone necklace and earrings from his recent trip to Alaska) and I gave him this “card.” Then, we dropped off my car to get the brakes fixed. After work, we went out for a geriatric dinner (translation: it was 4:30 pm) at RuSan’s so we could be back in time to meet the electrician at 6:30pm. And guess what? She got caught up longer than expected at her previous job and wasn’t able to make it out last night. Sigh.

(My pretty present from Jason)

Jason asked me if this was all ok. My response: This is a perfect picture of our lives right now. And a memorable (though not bad) 8th anniversary for sure!