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.”
While we were out of town kid-free Jason and I had to find places for Ali and Buzz to stay, of course. Ali was easy. My parents were willing. Since we lived with them for 10 months last year and Ali goes there all the time, it was a pretty easy transition for her. We did a lot of FaceTime and sending photos and videos back and forth, which helped a lot. I’m so thankful for technology!
Buzz was a little trickier. It was too much to ask anyone to watch both kiddos together (I totally understand!) so we needed to find another home for Buzz to stay. Our new family case worker was awesome about sending out an email and locating a family that was willing and available. The other family’s case worker sent their contact info with a little note “heart in the right place” next to their names. I can’t tell you how much peace of mind that gave me! I talked to his respite foster mama at length before the trip and sent her a detailed list of his routine and likes/dislikes. They were grateful for all the info and I was thrilled that they cared enough to ask in advance about his favorite foods, books, activities, etc. She sent me reports and some photos during our trip reporting that he was doing great and such a sweet boy. She also kept in touch with Buzz’s mom through texts, pictures and videos lik we usually do. Buzz’s mom and I both hated for his sake that he had to be away from our home for 9 days, but it went as good, if not better, than we could have hoped for. It was a little rocky transitioning back to our house the first day. It was hard to interpret his emotions…sad, confused, scared…but I’m not exactly sure why. We did our best to explain to him everything that was happening and what to expect next. By the next day, he was pretty much back to his usual self. It sounds like he didn’t talk much at their house but he came back with some new words and expressions, and it’s been fun to hear what he learned: “that way!” “wait!” with his hand held out, “oh ok.”
I had planned to have an extra day of staycation when we got home before returning to the work/daycare routine but we ended up with 2 days (because Jason opted to drive through the night!) I’m really glad we had that time to transition back to a family of four again. Both of our kids caregivers did ALL of their laundry before pick up so I only had 3 loads to do when we got home, rather than 4 or 5. Thank you, thank you!
I looked at tacky over-priced Key West souveniers for the kids at several shops and just couldn’t bring myself to do it. We stopped at IKEA in Orlando on our way home and I picked out a big stuffed animal for each of them…or in Ali’s case a stuffed vegetable. She loves broccoli so I thought it would be funny to get her a big stuffed broccoli. There’s a video of her showing off Miss Bocki on my Instagram feed. Buzz loves dogs so his toy was an easy choice, too. He acted completely uninterested in it while we were still at his respite house but then fell asleep holding it on our drive home and has slept with it every nap and night since then. I asked him if dog has a name and he said “Woof Woof.”
We got a few things for ourselves, too. Some of it won’t appear until future posts when it’s assembled and/or photographed. These were easy, though. New towels, bath rug and shower curtain for the hall bathroom:
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?
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.
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.
I disciplined myself to rest from sundown Saturday until sundown Sunday. I’m trying a new thing this year inspired by the way the Jewish people observe the Sabbath (only I’m doing it the following day). I had spent every minute of Ali’s naptime and every evening after she’s asleep for several days nesting–organizing, unpacking the last few things, hanging shelves, curtains, etc. Either that or I was finished up some wedding invitations I designed for my sister’s friend. Jason was in Florida on tour and I had been busy. It was really difficult to rest, especially on a gorgeous sunny afternoon. Once Ali was asleep, I decided to sit outside in the sunshine for at least 20 minutes to get my daily dose of Vitamin D.
Our courtyard offered the perfect spot, in direct sunlight just for an hour or two in the afternoon. Lucy joined me outside while I planned our meals for the week and sent some emails I’d been trying to find time for.
Once I came back inside, I spent sometime reading and started a book that I’ve read several times before, The Power of the Praying Wife. After a few hours of forced rest, I had a list of things I was ready to do as soon as the sun went down, which was just about the time Ali was waking up from her nap. It’s hard to explain but I felt really truly refreshed: full of energy and joy. Ali and I ate dinner, went grocery shopping, I gave her a bath and put her to bed and then I cleaned the house. Wow! I felt ready to start the week and to welcome my man home on Monday after 5 days in a tour bus. Home to a clean house with a full fridge, meals planned for the week, and two happy girls waiting for him.
A few weeks ago I was grumbling about how “I just want to go home” and I’m tired of living at someone else’s house. Well, there are also a lot of perks of living with my parents. I also mentioned those in my complaining post. One of the best aspects is the ability to leave the house while Ali is sleeping (when one or both of my parents is home, of course). This has been really helpful with all the running around we’ve had to do with the new house. Often during her nap one of us is running down to the house to check on something or other. My favorite is when we’ve been able to put her to bed at 8:00 and then slip out for a few hours. It reminds me of our pre-parenthood days and it’s just lovely. A few times we’ve popped over to our friends’ house either to watch their kid so they could go out, or to have some adult time after their kid is asleep, too. A few weeks ago, in the midst of a busy travel time for Jason and my intense deadline time at work, we were able to grab a late dinner at our favorite Indian place. It was peaceful, delicious and romantic. Despite our busyness, I felt refreshed—like I had just had a weekend in the middle of the week (it was a Tuesday night).
Jason and I have always been intentional about date nights, even during the first 8 child-free years of our marriage. At least once a month we’d spend a little extra (sometimes that meant $30 budgeted instead of $15) and spend some set apart one-on-one time. We continued that habit when we had our first foster placement, a toddler just a bit older than Ali is now. My parents offered to babysit for us one evening early on and it was a precious time for Jason and me to reflect on everything that was happening. Once baby Ali was placed with us, we found it to be quite easy to take her with us on date nights. We could still go to our favorite restaurants, take our time and have great conversation. It’s a bit different now. The more busy we get with work, home building and an active toddler, the more date nights alone have become essential. We can really feel it when we haven’t had one in a couple months because we need it. We crave that time of quiet undivided attention, away from the distractions of home. Thank you to my parents for demonstrating how important date nights are and for valuing them enough to offer to babysit for us!