13 Years!

06/14/2016

IMG_3480

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


Jason Ahlbrandt On Stage at the Ryman Auditorium

12/17/2014

My talented husband has had the opportunity to travel all over the world playing music—Iceland, Alaska, Amsterdam, Faroe Islands, more states than I can keep track of and many miles logging by tour bus and airplane. It’s a dream come true for him and nothing could make me happier as his wife than to see his purpose and destiny fulfilled as a professional guitarist, to see his passion satisfied by playing music every single day. I had a really special proud wife moment at the end of November when I got to see my best friend take the stage with his guitar at the famous Ryman Auditorium for Opry at the Ryman. For several years Jason has been Guy Penrod’s right-hand-man—literally at stage right most of the time, playing lead guitar—through many 100s of concerts. Several times a year I get to see a concert. This particular one was actually Jason’s third time on the Ryman stage but I missed the first two times and I was determined nothing would stand in my way this time. God sure has blessed us with amazing opportunities and friendships as we’ve pursued our dreams. Jason works so hard fine tuning his gifts and it’s a treat to see him play live. Such an honor to be in the audience that night.

IMG_8173 IMG_8171 IMG_8168 IMG_8166 IMG_8164

signature


Respite and IKEA

07/16/2013

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.”

IMG_9509 IMG_9514

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:

IMG_9518


Refreshment

07/15/2013

 

IMG_9459

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.

IMG_9485

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

IMG_9488

And then we saw a box turtle.

IMG_9493

 

Jason looking very Floridian with his green pants.

 

IMG_2193

Have you ever seen such blue water?

IMG_2195 IMG_2198 IMG_2199 IMG_2201 IMG_2204 IMG_2207 IMG_2208 IMG_2213 IMG_2218 IMG_2221 IMG_2222 IMG_2226

IMG_9497

IMG_9495 IMG_9498

IMG_2234

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.

 

IMG_9491

IMG_2238 IMG_2241 IMG_2245

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.


The Power of the Praying Wife

01/31/2013

 

IMG_7965

While I was resting on Sunday afternoon, I decided to pick up The Power of a Praying Wife (again) instead of The Connected Child which I’m in the process of reading (again). Each chapter is about a different aspect of my husband’s life with suggestions of how to pray for him. The first chapter is much longer than the rest and it’s all about His Wife—praying for his wife. It started out by making it clear that if you’re praying “God, change him, ” you need to shift your perspective. He’ll change whoever is willing to change. You have to be willing to change yourself and to ask God’s help to change you.

IMG_7966

I like the analogy she explained that while the husband is the head of the household, the wife is the heart of the household and regardless of who works outside of the home more or who spends more time with the kids, there are certain roles that fit the head and certain roles that fit the heart. (You might not agree with this Biblical picture toward marriage and that’s totally fine with me. We believe it and it works well for us.) This has been a little bit of a challenging balance for Jason and I. Because he’s a musician, he’s often at home during the week, which means more of the childcare responsibility falls on him. It makes it very difficult for him to get the work done for his career that he needs to do. And because I work outside of the home, even though it’s my desire to be taking care of Ali, cooking, cleaning, etc. (it’s Jason’s desire for me, also) that’s just not where we’re at right now. But we are working more toward that goal everyday. It’s a huge blessing that my bosses allow me to work from home 2/5 days of the week so that I can spend those days with Ali, relieve Jason and not ask Ali’s grandma’s to babysit too often. I do, however, want to step it up in the area of taking care of the household. I love to do it and it speaks to Jason’s love language (acts of service). I’m doing a lot more of the cooking now that we’re in our new house, even though Jason is a great cook. We’re both really happy with the shift.

IMG_7914

There are 30 chapters in The Power of a Praying Wife, intended for each to be read and prayed every day for a month. I pray for Jason a lot but I love this book because it brings up things that I often don’t think of to pray about. I hope he’s feeling the affects. I know that I am feeling changed already.


Soaking It In

01/30/2013

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.

IMG_7901

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.

IMG_7896

IMG_7898 IMG_7900

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.


Date Nights

10/31/2012

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!


In The In Between

09/10/2012

Alianna is learning to walk. On September 4, she took her first steps, 2-3 at a time, between Jason and me. She did it about 10x that evening. Now we can stand her up and once she gets her balance, she’ll stand for quite a while, then take a few steps, then fall. We’re so proud of her and she’s been a trooper about it all, not really getting frustrated but willing to try it over and over again. She’s in this in between stage. Between crawling and walking. Between baby and toddler.

We’ve been in between homes for 7 months now. It’s getting old. Really old. I feel like a jerk for even complaining because I know the new house is going to be a great blessing and worth the wait. In addition, we’ve really got a great situation here living with my parents who help with Ali and cooking and charge us less rent than we’d be getting anywhere near here. But I’m really ready to be in our own home again, you know? I look at pictures of our old house and I miss it. I miss the feeling of coming home. I go inside our new house in the midst of construction and I’m excited…and impatient. I feel stuck in between.

Separation. It’s the step in between married and divorced. Jason and I have some friends who are separated right now after 10 years of marriage. It’s painful to see them hurting, even nauseating at times. I feel so helpless. We’re brokenhearted for them and want so badly to see them come back together. All we know to do is to pray and to be available as friends when they need to talk. I think separation is stupid; it’s one foot into divorce and it’s really hard to move backward. The space in between them is killing their marriage.

I’m beginning to despise the in between.


Yearly Goals: Looking Back and Forward

03/07/2012

A couple of years ago Jason and I took a tip from some successful friends and started writing down goals and a game plan for the coming year. These aren’t the dreaded “New Years Resolutions” and I’m purposely waiting until the second week of January to write this blog post. It’s not about what day we start; it’s about making a plan for the year. In fact, we haven’t written our goals for 2012 yet—though we both have a bunch floating around in our heads. We’ve used this tiny notebook to record our goals for the past 3 years:

Some of our goals are on a personal level, some are career related, some are for our family and home, some financial, and some are big picture goals.

We didn’t hit all of our goals for 2011 and that’s OK. We set a lofty income target and we didn’t quite make it, but we did see a significant leap. We’ll try for that goal again in 2012. We had goals to finish some home projects like put a shade roof on the pergola and build a privacy fence around the patio and garden, which were completed. Others, like replace the plumbing mainline to the street, we decided to forego.

We had written a goal to start saving for our next vehicle. We ended up buying the Silver Bullet in cash. Yay!

We had planned to save up money for an adoption or for medical expenses if we had a baby. We ended up draining all of that money preparing our home to become foster parents. That works, too!

We had intended to save, save, save for our future (kids, vehicle, retirement) in 2011 but we ended up just saving a little (see above two points).

My favorite goal of 2011 was “Take more risks.” At the time, that was a big picture goal. We didn’t have anything specific in mind when the calendar page flipped over to 2011. Turns out we became foster parents, which was a pretty huge risk. We also bought a piece of land and put our beloved MCM ranch on the market with plans to build our dream house in 2012 with rooms for more kids.

It’s fun to look back at how much life has changed in one year. 2011 was a challenging, stretching, overall good year.

Here are a few of our (not too personal and/or financial) 2012 goals:

• finish new home build

• move in and get settled

• finalize Precious’ adoption

• specific goals for our retirement savings

• save up cash for a new vehicle to replace our 10-year old Ford Focus

• reopen our home as foster parents

• release Jason’s first solo album, Acoustic Lullabies

 

• specific marketing and distribution goals for Acoustic Lullabies

• get debt-free (but the house)

 

• specific home related financial goal

• specific income target


38 Years

03/01/2012

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!