Happy 30 to My Best Buddy


Jason hit a big birthday milestone yesterday – THIRTY! (Sorry, honey, did you want me to keep that quiet?) I can’t help it; I love to celebrate him! I’m so thankful to have Jason in my life. He is truly my best friend and we have a ton of fun together. He’s always there to support me through hard times, hold my hand when I’m scared, or give me a pep talk (or kick in the pants) when I’m slacking. He loves and values his girls. Jason’s creativity, wisdom, passion, hard work and sensitivity to people inspire me everyday. Rather than just blab and blab about how awesome my husband is, I found 30 pictures from the past year to reflect on some great memories…mostly centered around Ali since she joined our family just after his birthday last year.

We celebrated Jason’s birthday last year at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams with some friends and family.

One of the first pictures I have of Jason with his little baby girl:

Remember those days when she would sleep ANYWHERE? That was convenient. I think we were enjoying our Saturday morning coffee and bagels at Ugly Mugs here.

In October, we started negotiating to buy this piece of property.

At the beginning of November we got to meet our little buddy Jaron, home from the hospital. We were like totally baby experts by then. (Ha!)

We went up to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving.

In December, we closed on the property we’re now building our new house on. This picture was taken a couple days later on, just after we’d returned from the juvenile courthouse accepting a parental rights surrender from Ali’s bio mom. It was a bittersweet time.

Ali giving her Daddy a big wet kiss on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Day, helping my dad carve the turkey.

Not the best quality picture, but I love the look of love and pride on Jason’s face, watching Ali learn to sit up on her own. This was taken on New Years Eve.

Lazy morning cuddles.

In January, Ali and flew down to Florida to meet up with Jason on tour. It was a mini-vacation for Ali and I.

Jason introducing Ali to the Gulf of Mexico.

Then in February, we moved out of the house we absolutely loved…but was going to be too small for our vision for our family.

Back at Jeni’s. This picture reminds me of how much Ali’s birth mom expressed that she was hoping Ali would be a daddy’s girl and get whatever she wants from Jason. I think her wish for her daughter came true…

The unplanned everyday outings are often the best. I took this picture because I was loving my life so much at that moment, having a delicious lunch outdoors on a Sunday afternoon with my best friend, and I wanted to capture it to save forever.

Jason, the self-proclaimed NOT a car guy, fell in love with this 1988 Mercedes Benz. How could I say no?

Easter squeezes and navy blue stripes.

My arms and back are so thankful that Ali has a strong daddy. My heart is glad, too.

In April we visited our friends in Cincinnati. This was taken at the aquarium.

At church on Jason’s first Father’s Day.

We celebrated with Wendy’s frosties afterwards.

At the end of June, we dedicated Ali to the Lord at our church. We committed to raise her to know the same faith that we have come to know and cherish.

(Look a picture without Ali!) While we were on vacation in the Outer Banks, Jason was just sitting here in the hallway playing his guitar looking as handsome as ever and I had to snap a picture quickly, before he saw me.

While on vacation, our little baby turned 1! Do you think she knows she’s precious?

I’ve always thought of myself as Jason’s biggest fan but Ali has been putting me to shame. She LOVES to watch him play guitar, always wants to touch the strings and claps after every song he plays. He’s giving her a lesson here:

Earlier this month we took a road trip and stopped at our family favorite, Cracker Barrel for dinner.

At our friend’s house in Cincinnati.

And slightly out of order, this photo is from August 7, Ali’s adoption finalization day. What a happy day for our family!

We love you so much, Jason! More than all the Jeni’s ice cream in the world! You’re still a young man. The best is yet to come!

Phone Photo Friday


Freight Train


Happy Independence Day! I LOVELOVELOVE fireworks so this is one of my favorite holidays. I’m optimistic that we can keep Precious up late enough and that she’ll be entertained and not terrified by all the colorful explosions.

Here’s a little musical morsel to celebrate the 4th of July. My handsome husband Jason Ahlbrandt playing “Freight Train” (Tommy Emmanuel’s arrangement):



“We’re like peas and carrots, you and me,” Jason said. A sixteen year old romantic.

“I don’t like peas,” I typed back on AOL chat.

“You don’t like peas?! Peanut butter and jelly, then.”

“Ok then.”

It was 1999 and we were young and freshly in love.

13 years later, we have an almost 10-month-old daughter that loves peas as much as her daddy.

Our Love Story – 1:6


I thought it would be fun to record Jason’s and my love story—at least the beginning of it—starting with when we met and fell in love back in 1999. This is part 6 of 6.

Jason and I started talking everyday after school on the phone and on AIM chat (the text messaging of our day…) late at night. We shared everything with each other about our struggles at school, drama with friends, tension with our parents, dreams for college and beyond. It was clear that God had answered my prayer.  I got my best friend.

From the beginning, Jason shared with me that he wanted to take it slow and not rush into anything. It hurt. I assumed that meant he liked me, but he didn’t like me like me. But he kept calling. And we kept getting closer.

Jason had a job at a McDonalds inside of a Wal-Mart (talk about double-yuck!) and as my mom and I were on one of our frequent mother-daughter shopping dates, I suggested we stop by and say hi to him. She kindly obliged. We probably ordered fries or a milkshake. That I don’t remember, but I do remember seeing Jason in his purple hat and polo shirt and thinking he looked so cute!

The Saturday after our first double date, Jason and I went out again, just the two of us this time. We went down to the peninsula to watch the sunset over Lake Erie—my favorite place in Erie, PA. I remember sitting on a lifeguard chair together and talking about the awesomeness of the sunset and how the sky changes colors. We pondered the marvels of God and the complexity and beauty of Creation. This guy was a deep thinker and I loved that we could share this awe of our Creator together.

Back at my parent’s house we watched TV with my dad. When he left the room, I let Jason pick what he wanted to watch. He landed on Emeril on the Food Network and I learned that he loved cooking and was considering becoming a chef. Seriously? This guy is an amazing musician, writes poetry, can spend an hour marveling at the sunset AND he loves to cook? I was in heaven. Emeril’s show was just starting to get popular back in 1999 and he would say he needed to “kick it up a notch” every time he was adding more spice, and “bam” as he tossed it into the dish.

As we sat there on the love seat together, across from Emeril Lagasse on the TV, Jason asked if I thought we should “kick it up a notch. You know, make it official.” He was asking me to be his girlfriend! I don’t think Jason was certain of it quite yet, but God had answered his prayer, too. He didn’t want to date another girl unless she was his future wife.

Phone Photo Friday


Our Love Story – 1:5


I thought it would be fun to record Jason’s and my love story—at least the beginning of it—starting with when we met and fell in love back in 1999. This is part 5 of 6.

Monday after school I called my friend Lindsay to discuss homework, youth group, the usual…and why did she think Jay hadn’t called me yet? Was he going to ask me out on a date? We tossed around a plan that maybe we could invite Jason and the guy Lindsay liked, Matt, to hang out and make it seem like it was just a group of people from church hanging out…not a date or anything.

About that time, the call waiting beeped. Hang on, Lindsay. There is someone on the other line. Hello? Is Martina there? This is. This is Jay Ahlbrandt. Heart. Beating. So. Hard. His voice sounded incredible. So different than hearing my brother’s or my dad’s voice on the phone. He was speaking soft and clear, right into my ear.

We made small talk for a few minutes then he asked if I’d like to go to a movie the next Saturday night. I was glad he couldn’t see the ridiculous giddy grin on my face. I’d love to! Not sure if I was ready for a solo date with a boy—I was only 14, remember—I suggested we make it a double date and invite Lindsay and Matt. Jason was the only one of us with a license so he offered to pick everyone up. I arranged plans with Lindsay and then Matt (still letting him think it was just some friends hanging out).

The day of our date, my mom got a call from Lindsay’s mom. Karen had all kinds of questions for my mom. How well did she know this Jay? Was he a good driver? How old was he? Where exactly were we going? What time would we be home. My mom laughed. Lindsay is the first born in her family and I’m the youngest of three in my family. “Should I be more concerned?” she asked me jokingly. “I guess I’ve already been through this with your sister and brother and I just trust you.”

I paced around my bedroom, sneaking peeks out my window towards the driveway every 15 seconds. When I’m nervous, I have a constant urge to pee. I think I went to the bathroom three times before Jason’s blue Acclaim pulled into the driveway. Another quick swipe of deodorant. Check myself in the mirror one more time as the doorbell rang. I let my mom answer the door so she and my dad could fulfill their parental duty of inspecting a guy before he takes their daughter out on a date. I walked down the stairs a minute later, even though I knew my parents weren’t going to be obnoxious and intimidating; it just wasn’t their nature.

We picked up Lindsay and then Matt and headed to the dollar theater—the one that showed movies a few months late for a greatly discounted price. It was becoming clear that Matt still didn’t think this was a double date. While Jason bought my $1.50 movie ticket for She’s All That, Matt just bought his own. We sat in this order: Matt, Jason, Me, Lindsay. It was a cheesy high school romance movie but it totally spoke to me. It was about a cool, popular guy who ends up falling in love with a quirky, shy, artsy girl after a mean bet from his best friend who challenged that he could make any unlikely candidate the prom queen. There I was—a shy, nerdy, artist—being pursued by a cool, confident, rockstar. The song Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer that played at the end of the movie instantly became my new favorite.

We got a late dinner/snack at Burger King afterward and then went back to Emily’s house to say hi to some other friends. At this point, I think Lindsay was completely frustrated with Matt’s avoidance and decided she’d get a ride home from someone else. Jason took Matt home and then me. We both agreed we had had a really nice time and should do it again. After a friendly hug goodnight from across the car, I floated into the house. I don’t remember specifically what I did but I’m guessing I went up to my room and straight for my journal to recount the night and draw hearts around Jay’s name with colorful markers. Because that’s what 14 year old girls did back in 1999. Or at least one did.