December 29, 2010

My Christmas Cactus

I love houseplants, love them, but I can't keep them alive for anything! I've had them infested with bugs which eventually kills them. I have over-watered them, usually my favorite way of killing them. I once had a mushroom growing out of one (however, that wasn't my fault...I wasn't home for over a week and my place was all closed up and it was HOT and obviously very humid in there) A few months ago I came home to a plant upside down knocked down from the counter by Sam, who is NOT allowed on the counter. (I wish I had a camera to see all the places he goes when I'm not here) Most recently I had a plant take a fall when a book shelf crumbled to the ground and the plant went right along with it. I'm still trying to salvage parts of that one in a cup of water by the sink. I've even managed to kill several cacti before. But a couple years ago I became slightly obsessed with the Christmas catus because a girl at work had one. I eventually got around to buying one and figured with my history of plant-killing, I'd never see it bloom. You can imagine my surprise and excitement when it started blooming a couple weeks ago! Its not exactly blooming all at once, it's taking its sweet time, but that's even better, each one blooms and gets me excited all over again. I think I've found one plant I've managed not to kill, we'll see if it's still around next year at this time!

December 28, 2010

A Perfect Christmas

Christmas was so special this year! Every card, text, email and note I received reminded us how special our first Christmas as a married couple would be and it surpassed my expectations! We got up early on Christmas Eve to head to my brothers house where would spend Kaylee's first Christmas opening gifts. She is just precious, all smiles and giggles as Mom helped her open gifts. Then we went to lunch together in Naperville, Kaylee slept through the entire lunch! It was great to be able to spend such a good amount of time with my Shawn, Tiffany and Kaylee. After we stuffed our bellies we went to pick up my parents and head to the Willow Creek Christmas Service. I was most excited to go to church on Christmas Eve! It's always been a tradition to go to church on Christmas eve with my family so to be able to go to a service again on Christmas Eve and have it be at our own church was fantastic! To have it be the Willow Christmas service too was an added bonus. For anyone who hasn't been to their Christmas service, it is just amazing and this year was no exception. It was heart-warming and was so wonderful that my parents were there with us too. After church, we went to Fridays to kill some time and grab snacks before heading to Grandma's to meet the rest of my mom's family who were in town this year. The kids are all so darn cute and always the highlight of my Christmas Eve. While they're all ripping open their gifts, then playing with them us cousins and aunts/uncles catch up while eating more good food. After all the fun, we drove back to the city. Jason and I watched Christmas Vacation while waiting for my parents to arrive. I think we went to bed later that night than I have in a over a year!

Christmas was spent with my parents (and Sophie) at our condo downtown. Jason made cinnamon rolls for breakfast then the rest of the day was spent watching Christmas movies, dad taking a nap and snoring, lots of food and lots of talking. We had some snacks while opening presents, followed by our Christmas dinner (on our new table!). It was so much fun cooking dinner for everyone and I was really glad everything turned out okay. I had my mom cook the ham so it would taste okay and I paid close attention so hopefully I can do it all on my own next time. After my parents left, Jason and I opened his families gifts and then each others. We then laid on the couch watching more Christmas movies and was just perfect! It's hard that we have to split our holidays between our families and couldn't see Jason's family but since we were able to see them for Thanksgiving, it was nice to be home in our own home for our first Christmas. I will remember this year for years to come, I hope your Christmas was just as special as ours! Merry Christmas!

December 27, 2010


Jason and I are getting a puppy! If it was up to me, I'd have 3 dogs, 4 cats, a few horses, some bunnies, ferrets, hamsters, lizards and pretty much anything that breathes but living in the city doesn't allow for that. Ever since Chaz died, I wanted to get another cat right away (Sammie's can't just have one animal!) but Jason said no because we had always planned to get a dog when we were married. Well, that time has come, we're married! After discussing what we wanted, we determined that I want a shelter dog and Jason wants one that doesn't shed. After checking many shelters and looking at daily, we realized that we were not going to get his wish with a shelter dog, unless it was a little dog and we don't want a little dog (at this point in our lives). (*note...most that we found on petfinders wouldn't allow us to take their dogs, we did apply for a few but since we live in the city without a fenced backyard, we weren't approved) Jason and I agreed a couple years ago that we wanted a goldendoodle and a couple months ago started looking for breeders and with a lot of prayer we found one that we both loved. It's a family farm up in Wisconsin where two sisters breed their family pooch. We talked on the phone with each sister for about 30 minutes and decided that from all they had to say, they truly love their dogs and weren't in this for the money, but instead for the love of their furry friend. We put down a deposit about a month ago and have been patiently waiting for updates of our puppies birth and today we finally got the email that he/she was born yesterday! There were 8 boys and 2 girls in the litter, we're not sure which sex we want but are so excited to go to Wisconsin to pick out our little bundle of joy as soon as possible. We were told we can take him/her home after 8 weeks and we can't wait! Let the countdown begin! Until then we have a lot of picking up to do around here and I need to start getting lots of sleep to prepare for some sleepless nights and early mornings!
one of those little cuties is ours!

December 23, 2010

December 23, 1989

I've blogged about horses before (you can read by clicking here) but 21 years ago Thursday my life changed. I remember the details like it was this morning! I woke up and my family and I were all supposed to head to the mall, but my dad said he had to make one quick stop for work to look at the someone's furnace. (totally not out of the norm for those days) I was especially excited for this stop though, we needed to stop at Dunham Woods, where I took horse-back riding lessons twice a week. My brother, the kid who hated all things horse-related was less than thrilled but I was ecstatic! When we got there, I was walking around talking to everyone I knew and my dad asked me to show him my favorite horse, so away we went to the back corner stall and showed him Calico, the spotted appaloosa who I loved! Even though there was a big red bow on the door, I hadn't caught on, and we walked into the stall and began petting him. Then one of my parents said, "Merry Christmas Stephanie!" I still didn't get it, but looking back I think it was like when Jason proposed, I think I was in shock. I was SO EXCITED. Only a few minutes later, my grandparents came around the corner to meet Calico. I remember telling the few people that were there that Calico was now mine and nearly jumping up and down as I said it. We all went to lunch at one of our favorite after-church restaurants, I was sitting in the booth with lunch in front of me untouched, I was too excited to eat and just wanted to get back to the barn to ride. That day was the end of my life I had formally known and was the beginning of my new life which was spent doing everything horse-related and the barn becoming my second home...or more like my real home only being where I slept at night. Thanks again Mom and Dad for the best Christmas present anyone could ask for!

Introducing Grandma and Grandpa to Calico. (awesome glasses, I know!)

One of the Joys of Chicago

Just in case you were wondering if the Chicago PD enforces their "No talking on cell phone while driving", I'll tell you that they do. I got a $100 (AGHHH!) ticket for it last weekend and am not happy about it. Whats a joke is that I was only on the phone for 47 seconds AND in a parking lot and not moving. I was waiting for the cars in front of me to turn but was off the phone before I was on the road. Yeah, yeah I know technically I was driving and shouldn't have been on the phone, therefore putting me in the wrong, it's just annoying given the situation. Plus the call was to Jason just to make sure he had his warm jacket because we were meeting at an outdoor mall and it was freezing out. Pretty sure I could have bought him a really nice warm jacket for the $100 I wasted on the ticket! For now on, I will pull over to talk or use my hands-free headset, although I'm pretty sure untangling the wire to my headphones will distract me a lot more than any conversation I'm having, but I'll follow the rules! Don't talk and drive friends!

December 21, 2010

We Got a TABLE!!!

We got a dining room table tonight! I feel like I should insert the word 'finally' in there but we've only been married 3 months, so I certainly didn't have to wait long! We're hosting Christmas this year and I'm going to attempt to cook Christmas dinner (with my mom's help with the ham) and we felt that we really wanted a table...and it's the piece of furniture I have on our list to buy sooner rather than later. We purchased it at a warehouse so we got it for a great price and our intent is to just hold onto it while we're living in the city, but we'll see where we end up. I am SO excited for the many memories that will be created around the new table! I hope you'll join us for dinner soon!

December 20, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Our Christmas tree...thank you Grandma and Grandpa,
it's brought lots of cheer to our condo this year!!!

It's a Wonderful Life

Can you believe I've never seen the movie? I've been wanting to for the past few years but for one reason or another, haven't been able to. Finally after a few trips to Blockbuster (and a lot of searching on demand) we were finally able to get our hands on a copy. I absolutely loved it. During parts of it, I was a little bored, very curious how it was considered a Christmas classic (there's no reference except the opening prayers until the end!) but by the end I was a sobbing mess. It was so good, I must have said 10 times, "I just love this movie, that was so good, that was so sweet, oh what a wonderful movie!!!" I'm excited to watch it again and see how it all comes together, what a great movie!!

Feel Better Virginia!

My dear friend, Virginia, had surgery last week and she is besides my mom, the only person who I know will have the hardest time being home stuck on the couch. I've been praying for you girl and hope you're healing fast and hope that my blog has given you some smiles the past week!! Love you and FEEL BETTER! xoxo

December 19, 2010

The Not-so-homemade Cookies

On the other end of the kitchen spectrum is the baking that's going on...or should I say the lack of baking that's going on. Over Thanksgiving, Judy gave Laura and I a set of Christmas cookie cutters which I was super excited to use but the only problem was that I've never baked anything from scratch and to be honest, I've managed to burn plenty of boxed brownies and tubes of chocolate chip cookies. I decided to keep my chin up and try to make some sugar cookies. That weekend when we got home I found a pre-made bag of sugar cookie mix at Dominicks and bought it so I could use the cookie cutters. I mixed the dough with the eggs and whatever other ingredients it called for and away I began with my rolling pin...and away went the dough all over the counter. I turned to Jason, who has numerous times bailed me out of my cooking/baking frenzies and he told me to use flour. (please note...the recipe on the plastic wrapper did NOT say to use flour...I know with homemade ones, we are to use flour but I was following it as I was supposed to.) Basically I lost interest in the cookies as soon as the mix wasn't coming apart from the cookie cutters and went to watch TV. Jason ended up finishing them. (definitely not because he was enjoying cutting out the cookies but more that I think he wanted to eat the final product!) They turned out okay but tasted awful! Neither one of us had more than a needless to say I am less than thrilled to take on that challenge again! However, after I had already bought the mix, I did get a sugar cookie recipe from Judy that is her mom's famous recipe that she uses every year so I am excited to at least give it a try. I envision having a lot of fun decorating the cookies with the frostings and holiday sprinkles I've bought so I have to give this another shot! At the very least I want to get a dozen cookies out of each of the shapes I have. I'll be sure to let you know how that goes, wish me luck! :)

Cooking Update!

Lots of people have been asking how my cooking has come along since I started a few months ago. I'm pleased to say that it's been going well, I have really enjoyed cooking!! A lot more than I ever thought I would. I've stuck with simple recipes so I can learn the basics but with each recipe we decide to add more or less of some ingredients and I am having so much fun with it! Lately I've most enjoyed cooking soups, I found a really good cheese tortellini soup online, last week I made my aunts minestrone soup that I love, tonight I'm attempting my mom's chicken noodle soup and later this week I'm attempting an Asian dumpling soup. It'd be a lot more fun to cook for more than just Jason and I, but I think I'm learning the best with just the two of us since I know Jason will eat almost anything I make for him! If anyone wants to come over soon while I'm still learning, we'd love to have the company and I would love for your help in perfecting the recipe, as long as you're willing to order take-out as a last resort!

I Can Smell!!!!

Yes, I can smell!! Its been a long time since I've been sick where I lose my sense of smell, but the past 4 days I can't smell or taste anything. I'm known to have a really good sniffer, I can smell anything from miles away, which is not always a good thing!! ;-) But these past few days have been weird! I'm so excited to smell again, this morning was like a whole new world to me, everything was like a new smell! :) I will say though, cleaning the litter box and the primates house at the zoo on Friday night were both a lot more enjoyable with a clogged nose!

Christmas Shopping is DONE!

We did it, the shopping is complete! Ever since I moved to the city, I take a day off from work to head to the burbs and do all my Christmas shopping. I have a blast when I do it because Yorktown and Oakbrook generally have every store I need to check everyone off my list. This year, my schedule didn't allow for a full day but on Monday I had planned to head out for a half day after small group. Small group was canceled so my day got all messed up and I started to feel really crummy with my cold so I stuck around Chicago to finish my shopping. It wasn't nearly as much fun as years past. There's something fun about bouncing around from store to store trying to find someone that perfect gift, but we're pretty limited on the stores I like to shop at in the city, not to mention the traffic in between each store. Yesterday Jason had a credit to a car wash that he had purchased from Groupon which closed in the city so we had to take his car to Deerfield (real convenient, LOL!) for it to be detailed. So we had several hours to kill and finished all our shopping in Northbrook and at Old Orchard. We had fun trying to find all the extra little add-ons together. It's great to know we have all our shopping done, now it's time to wrap everything!

Zoo Lights!

Friday night Sarah invited us to go to see the Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo with her, Nathan and the kids. (Kaitlyn and Brandon who I babysit now during the day) We met them around 6:00 and despite the freezing temperatures, the lights and exhibits were a lot of fun! They had all sorts of activities for all the kids, complete with Santa inside the Lion House ready to take pictures with all the kids. There was coloring and ornament making in the Primate House while the monkeys swung in the trees. Of course we got hot chocolate and popcorn which was delicious. It was a lot of fun and would (obviously) be a lot more fun if we had kids to bring, but got to enjoy the night with Kaitlyn and Brandon. Thanks Sarah and Nathan for the invite!

December 17, 2010


I've said it before...I love sleep. It was definitely one of the best things about being unemployed and is one of the worst things about babysitting Brandon because I had to be there by 8:00am. I've never had a job where I've had to be there at 8:00, I have had to work really late hours but never started before 9:00. (Is this where I mention that teaching jobs start in the wee hours of the morning...) As I wrote yesterday, I've been sick all week, and though I was sleeping well at night I was just dragging during the day. Last night I went to bed what I think was hours before Jason, but thats typical. (he goes to sleep at 12:00 or 1:00 on some nights!) This morning I woke up at my normal time of 6:30ish but being that I don't work on Fridays, I tried to go back to sleep. And sleep I DID! I didn't wake up until 10:12. My first thought was guilt. It's interesting that we see repeatedly in magazines and health articles that we need more sleep. And when we're sick, everyone says, "go home, get your rest, go to bed early," but no one ever says, "sleep in late." There's so much pressure put on us by society to constantly be on the move, to jam pack our schedules, to do it all which means the more we do, the less sleep we get. Even when I woke up and realized how late I slept, I texted Jason that it was Sam who convinced me to stay in bed and that it was his fault. (yes, I texted him, when we was only about 30 feet away from me working from his office at home, and yes, I blamed it on my cat.) I felt like such a bum for sleeping in. Well you know what? I feel like a million dollars today! I can finally breath through my nose, I'm not coughing up my lung, and I finally feel better! I constantly hear from friends (and see on facebook) how ever since they had kids, they never get to sleep past 6:00 and even that is late and ahhhh what they wouldn't give for sleep and all this other stuff about being parents. Well yes, good...that's exactly why I don't have kids right now! Honestly, that's probably the biggest reason, I can't imagine how it'll be having to get up every 3 or less hours the first few months, then not getting a full nights rest until they're married (and will I even sleep soundly by then?) My days are limited before I have real responsibility of a full time job or a new puppy...or a BABY in the house. So yes, today I slept in, really late and it felt good. Np, not just good, it felt really good and I am not going to feel guilty about it because 99.9% of the population my age has kids and responsibilities they have to get up for. I feel like I could conquer the world right now!! Maybe I'll even hit up the gym for the first time in 3 months, or maybe I'll just save it for another day and take a mid-afternoon nap.

**Yes, I feel like I have to add a disclosure to this since I know some people read this who may be freaking out...Yes, I want kids, actually I want a LOT of kids (and I pray so very hard that I am blessed with easily getting pregnant and carrying them full term without any challenges or hardships which I know so easily can come our way) And yes, I want a real job...that's more than half my sadness these days (maybe I'll blog about that some day?) But since I don't have either one of those right now, I'm relishing in what I do have and appreciating every second of it so that when I do have those things I know I've appreciated the time and life I am living right now...and will never look back and won't some day wake up at 3:00am in the middle on the night nursing my precious baby and wonder why I didn't take advantage of sleep when I could. :)

December 15, 2010

Sick and Sick

Last weekend I had some weird flu-like illness. I came down with it on Friday with the worst sore throat, headache and just achy all over. I went to the Walgreens Clinic (I'm a huge Walgreens fan but their clinic reminded me of my high school nurse, which is not a good thing!) and learned that it wasn't strep so was sent home to get rest. Rest I did, until Monday night. Not the most fun way to spend 4 days! I was able to get out for the Christmas service at our church and then our Registry Completion Event at Bed, Bath and Beyond (another post to come)but it was very chill for a weekend! Then a week later, both Jason and I started feeling sick (me again!) He had a sore throat so I was convinced he was getting what I had, but we both decided it's just a bad cold but it's made for a long week of work. After work, we've laid on the couch together catching up on TV series eating soup and grilled cheese. (Why when we're sick do we still have appetites? Its seems like the perfect time to lose some weight but we're both always hungry no matter how sick!) Last night we ordered in chinese (which is actually a treat...we never order in, Jason has something against ordering in and paying for taxi's...odd bird that kid is! :) We're both ready to be healthy and get out of the house at night, hoping that tomorrow will be the day!

Congratulations Ellis!

My wonderful friend, Ellis, got engaged on Friday to her (now) fiance, Josh! I am so excited for her!! Congratulations Ellis, I know you will LOVE this time of planning, I couldn't be more happy for you guys!! :) :)

(sadly, my camera was dead on Friday so I don't have any pictures to include here.)

December 7, 2010

I found the song...

I knew that after I posted the entry on Thankfulness that our church would post the song we sang. Sure enough I checked today and here it is. What a beautiful song right? Definitely one of my favorite Christian songs from the good old green hymnal that I remember singing from when I was a youngster. :)

December 6, 2010

RIP Ronnie

I woke up on Friday morning and wasn't feeling well so I lazily checked my email and facebook from bed. I saw two posts on facebook side by side which read "RIP Santo" and my heart dropped. I literally ran to the living room to my computer and learned that he had passed over night from bladder cancer. I didn't even know he had bladder cancer?! I just sat there taking in the story as tears fell down my cheek. I was at a loss for words and even more confused as to why I was crying for the loss of a man who I had never even met. Later in the day, I saw this post on facebook,

"Its weird that though he was a celebrity and I never met him, I think a lot of cubs fans feel they lost a friend with the passing of Ron Santo. Many of us got to know him well through the years and he was hard not to love."

That was exactly how I felt. Like I just lost a dear friend. I must have said 50 times that day, "WGN Cubs Radio will never be the same." I know I'm not the only one who muted the TV and replaced it with Ron and Pat. I'd only have to listen for five minutes before laughing out loud at something he had said, completely unrelated to whatever was going on with the game. Then he'd chime in as soon as something big happened in the game, always with some form of grunt or yelp. How many times had I heard his own heart break on air with loss after loss of the Cubs? And when the Cubs were doing well, his smile and excitement shined through the airwaves, giving all us Cubs fans reason to believe "this was the year!" or sometimes, just "YAY, we finally got a Win!" After 3 days, I'm still at a loss for words, I just know that there will always be a part of Ron missing from my Cubs heart.

My heart and prayers go out to his family, we loved you so much Ronnie, thanks for showing us what it means to never give up on our Cubs but even never give up on your health and life which did its best to bring you down. Rest in peace dear friend! And remember that we're all still rooting for you to be inducted into the Hall of Fame!

December 2, 2010

Happy 9 Months Brandon!

Brandon turned 9 months yesterday! It's hard to believe I've been watching him since he was 3 months old, I look at the pictures from then and he was so tiny! It's been fun being part of your life Brandon and watching you grow. You're the smiliest little guy I know! :)

December 1, 2010

Christmas Traditions

I shared this last year, but a couple years ago I started a new tradition of "preparing" for Christmas. I lit my tree-scented candle, drank hot chocolate and played Christmas music while decorating the apartment with bright white lights. Last year, I put up my first (big) Christmas tree which was my grandma and grandpa's from a few years ago. It was my last Christmas as a "single" girl and one that I truly cherished and am so glad I embraced it!

Now this year we have our condo to decorate and new memories to be made. Another tradition I started a couple years ago was that I buy one new Christmas CD to listen to as I decorate. This year I bought "Now That's What I Call Country Music." Please take a minute to laugh at that one! I love Country music and Christmas music...I figured I couldn't go wrong. Only problem was that Jason's not too into country so I decided not to subject him to that CD as we decorated. Plus, he wanted to watch football so while I did get to mute the TV, we just listened to other Christmas songs. (and now I have a new Christmas CD to make other new memories too this season!) So with the tree-scented candle glowing, our Christmas tunes on and sipping hot chocolate we decorated the tree together. Jason and I carried the tree up from storage and he put it together, then assembled the ornaments that have since come apart since last year (random.) and I hung them on the tree. Good team work if you ask me. The tree looks much smaller at my new home but that's because our ceiling is that much taller here! It's beautiful and reminded me of Grandma and Grandpa again, just as I remembered last year. I'm waiting to post a picture once we have the tree skirt which I had to order online that's hopefully in route as I type. I'm so excited to bring old traditions and start new ones into this Christmas season this year with Jason...and someday with children of our own. Are there any traditions you have or would like to start, I'd love to hear them!

November 30, 2010

I Love Quarters Over Semesters!!

Have I already said this? No more school until Jan 10! I know I blasted it all over facebook because it's such a big deal. Quarters are so much better than semesters...they give you much longer breaks! I had a great day yesterday without homework or class...I started the morning being lazy in my pajama's reading and cleaning, then had small group from 12:00-2:00, which followed with a trip to the burbs to meet my grandma for some Olive Garden. (one of my FAVORITE restaurants EVER). After a very early dinner, I went to Hobby Lobby (why aren't those in the city??!) for some Christmas decorations. After sitting in hours of rush hour traffic, I was home at 7:00 to take a bath and read some more of my really good book. I still had time to cuddle up next to Jason to watch get an episode of a certain show we're completely addicted to before hitting the hay. What an enjoyably jam-packed day of fun-ness!

November 27, 2010

Thankfulness (written on Sat night)

Every year I write a list of all that I am thankful for. The past few days I had been thinking about all that I am thankful for and quite honestly, my list is really great this year. So as I was thinking this morning, I decided that I wanted to write just a few things that I am most thankful for. The years that we go to Iowa to visit Jason's family, I write my "thankful list" on my way home but I just wasn't feeling it. On that trip home, we decided we wanted to go to the Saturday night service at Willow S. Barrington on our way home. (Jason and I attend the Chicago campus of Willow Creek). It was tonight, at church singing "Our Great Savior," which was a hymnal I remember singing at church growing up, that it hit me what I am most thankful for this year. This year I am thankful for everything listed in last years post but most importantly, I am thankful for God's love and faithfulness.

As soon as Jason and I were engaged, we prayed about every detail of our wedding. We began with the date and location, narrowing it down to September 18 at Dreams in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Looking back on this, I still giggle to myself that I had been to Puerto Vallarta before and had always told everyone how much more I loved Cancun better (since my family has been going there since I was a young kid). But we both felt this was where God was telling us to be married. After that we realized a few obstacles of having it there (the most obvious being that we were going during the rainy season). But before and after every decision, we prayed and asked God to lead us. Of course, that didn't mean we didn't have typical wedding obstacles along the way. I got more and more upset as I heard from friends and family who weren't going to make the trip to our wedding. Then it was just 9 days before we were to board our plane, I had a bit of a breakdown about the way my dress looked and then learned that my veil was no where to be found. (could have been anywhere between Europe and the House of Brides store in Lombard.) The forecast every day for our wedding weekend showed rain, and it even rained right at 6:00 on the dot of our wedding day, the time of which our wedding party was to be walking down the aisle, but, through it all, we prayed. Because we had prayed before making any decisions, I knew that God would make it all right. I had the same fears that I think anyone would have, but knew that in the end, our day would be just as God wanted it to be. One of my spiritual gifts is Faith, so it comes as no surprise that I would just roll with it knowing that God was going to work it all out. But don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean I wasn't really bummed every time I got a call from a friend who couldn't come to Mexico or I tried my dress on and thought I looked like a big white blob, or heard they were moving our (Mexico) reception site indoors just in case it would rain in the evening. But God was present through it all, EVERYTHING was perfect, even the raindrops stopped falling just in time so we could have our beach wedding and everyone else was so relieved to have the reception moved indoors since it was so hot outside. Not a single person had an issue with their flights or luggage (how does that happen with nearly 30 people flying international?!) My mom and I found the perfect undergarments to make my dress fit, my veil was found (it was in the stockroom all along!), and I am convinced that He had the right people there with us for a reason. I could go on and on and list the millions of things that went perfectly our entire week in Mexico and specifically related to our wedding and guests but you get my point. Our wedding was the biggest testimony of God's love and faithfulness for us.

It's been an interesting two months since our wedding day. I'm embarrassed to say that I've felt a huge disconnect with God. After praying about every detail of our day, it's been hard to get that back in the everyday bits of life, but tonight at "Big Willow" I realized how much He wants me to rely on Him and how willing He is to provide if I'm willing. During the service we all took communion together and Darren, one of Willow's teaching pastors, reminded us that communion is a time to reflect and give thanks to God. Man, do I have so much to be thankful for!! This year I am so thankful for all He has done for me. God, I thank you for all you have blessed me with this year, especially for bringing Jason and I together and I pray that I will continue to grow in this relationship with you by praying for every detail of my life in the way that we prayed for every detail of our wedding. You are so faithful!

If you're interested in growing closer to Him this Christmas season, check out this reading plan through (click here) You can read a little bit every day about the Christmas's only 30 days long and I am sure it will help you appreciate what this season is all about!

Wishing you all a belated Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you have a lot to be thankful for this year too!

November 23, 2010

Oh I Just Can't Wait to be KING!!

On Friday, Jason and I went to see The Lion King on Broadway. I saw the musical about 10 years ago when it was here in Chicago and being that I have seen the movie literally about 50 times and know every word, it's no surprise to say that I loved everything about the Broadway show. Back in May, I heard that they were bringing the show back to Chicago for a very limited time so I immediately jumped and bought tickets. I remember thinking, we'll be married then, our local reception will be over and the weather will be getting'll be a nice treat after coming off the high of all things happy. Now that the date was here, it was hard to believe all that has happened in these 6 months! So on Friday night, we got dressed up and took the el downtown to Italian Village. We treated ourselves to some dessert which we never do. I got the cheesecake (it's really the only dessert I like but oh my gosh, do they make a good cheesecake!!) and Jason got the chocolate mousse, both of us just short of licking the plates! We then headed to the Cadillac Palace for the show. It was just as I remembered with an excellent storyline, amazing acting and unbelievable costumes. I hated the scene with Scar just as I remember hating it when I was a teen and loved all the songs with Simba and Nala, again just as I remembered it. Jason admitted to enjoying it just as much as I and we plan to go to Broadway shows as often as is reasonable. It is our hope to maybe see Billy Elliot before it heads out but if not that, a different one next year.
(click here for a promo for the London show)

Kaylee was Baptized! 11/14/10

Last Sunday Kaylee was baptized. It was a beautiful service at her church in Naperville surrounded by family and friends. After church we all went back to the Russell's to celebrate her special day with some delicious food. Kaylee's Godparents are Tiffany's brother, Troy and myself. I am so excited to see what God has in store for her she she grows. I love you Kaylee Elizabeth and so proud to be your Godmother!
Love, Aunt Stephanie

I learned that it's a tradition in our family that te Godmother buys the Baptismal dress and gets her dressed for the day.

Mom holding her while I tie the back -- maybe some day I'll be helping her into her wedding dress!

The baptism, she was so good! Not a peep out of her when the water touched her tiny head or when the pastor walked her around the church.

Mom, Dad, Kaylee and Pastor Gary

Me and my two Goddaughters (but Katie was quick to remind me that she was my FIRST Goddaugher!)

Uncle Jason and Aunt Stephanie with Kaylee (she is loved!!)

Kaylee with proud Grandma, Grandpa and Great-Grandma!

November 12, 2010

Happy Birthday Jason!

I love birthdays!! LOVE them. Every year in February I get really excited for my birthday; every day leading up to the 24th I get more and more excited for MY day. My husband couldn't be any more opposite from me when it comes to his special day. He'd prefer that the day would just come and go without any mention. But here's how I see today, his birthday marks the day that he came into this world and therefore changed my life forever. Not to mention all the people in his life who he has also blessed by just being Jason. So tonight we're going to one of his favorite restaurants so he can order his favorite item off the menu to celebrate his very special day. I know better than to have anyone come sing to him, or do anything that may draw any attention to him (except this blog post :) but we darn well will be celebrating his birthday! Happy birthday Jason, I couldn't imagine my life without you and am so excited to celebrate another year of YOU.

November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans Day

For about the past 3-4 months I have felt promptings to tell our soldiers "Thank you for all you do." A simple phrase. I could even shorten it to just "thank you." But I have the hardest time doing that. Being in Dallas Fort Worth airport four times in the past three months on a layover to Puerto Vallarta, would have made that very simple task possible as there are many soldiers in and out of that airport. So when I was there in September, I made a conscious effort that any soldier I walked past I would thank. Even though we had long lay-overs both times the opportunity didn't arise. Today I was out for a walk and three marines walked past me, and all I could muster up was, "Happy Veterans Day." I have no idea why it's so hard for me to say such a simple phrase. For all they do and all they're giving up, they each deserved for me to say a lot more than Thank you, or Happy Veterans Day! For now, it is through this blog that I salute each of you who have served this country, "Thank you, thank you thank you!"

November 7, 2010

Kaylee is 3 Months (and one day) Old

How cute is she?!

Mom, Dad and Sophie Visit

My mom and dad came down to visit on Friday night and they decided to spend the night. They even brought Sophie, who Sam made sure to let know who's condo this really was! We went to one of our favorite dive bars for some pizza, then showed them the local fudge shop and tobacco store followed by a viewing of our photo montage from the local reception. Then on Saturday we tried going to one of our favorite brunch places but it was too crowded so settled for the local pancake house which they seemed to enjoy. It was such a treat to have them all over and even more fun that they spent the night and extended our time together!

McRib Goodness

The McRib is back! And I've already had two in the past 3 weeks...YUMMMMM

My Sam

I just love when he uses things I've bought for him! I got him this a couple years ago so he'd have something to sharpen his claws but in addition to that, he sleeps on it all the time. I love this kitty. :)

November 4, 2010

No Hot Chocolate for Me

Hot Chocolate is a 5 or 15k which runs through downtown Chicago starting at Grant Park. Originally I had registered for the 15k (9.3 miles), knowing that I'd have to train while we were in Mexico. I was really excited to have a race to keep me running through our vacation and also through the cooler months in Chicago. However, my back had other ideas, so I wasn't able to run nearly as much as planned (and Mexico it just wasn't happening!) so a few weeks ago I changed my registration to just the 5K but was still really looking forward to it. Running is so much fun to me, and having a race to train for gets me out on the streets and running which immediately reminds me of why I loved it so much to begin with. Last week on Tuesday I was babysitting Brandon, put him down for his nap, came downstairs and sat on the couch for about 5 minutes and when I got up, I literally couldn't stand or walk. (in hindsight I know it was the way I laid him down, I twisted my already upset back in a way that really upset it). It wasn't just that there was so much pain but it was like my muscles were stuck and wouldn't let me stand. I took a lot of Advil and was able to walk very slowly but that was about it. Fortunately I have the best chiropractor ever and after a few visits with her and 4 days off from babysitting Brandon I am almost back to normal. But with all that pain and rest, I wasn't able to continue running and there's no way my back would let me run even a 1/2 mile this weekend. I'm bummed because I didn't do much running this summer and was really looking forward to it, but for some reason my body just doesn't like me running anymore! I'm excited that I still get my packet which includes a hooded sweatshirt, who can't use one of those for the winter weather that lies ahead? Good luck to all my friends who are running it this weekend, I know there's several of you out there! Have some chocolate at the end for me! :)

November 3, 2010

Food and all its Flavor

Just want to say that I love not dieting. I lost the weight I wanted to lose before the wedding and am pretty sure I've kept it off only because I am not on that dreaded drug anymore but I just love the way food tastes and it's such a shame that so many of us have to worry about what we eat and how much. I'm eating one of the zero (weight watcher) point soups right now and practically gagging on it since I ate so much of it while dieting. So I just thought it was worthwhile to share how excited I am to not have to eat it if I choose not to. :) However, I did eat a piece of Giordano's left-over stuffed pizza and a piece of pumpkin pie after I got home from class last night just as a snack (yes, I had already had dinner hours before) so I'll probably be right back on Weight Watchers if I keep this up but it's fun for the time being! (oink oink!)

New Year = New Schedule

This has been a few weeks in the making, but I finally got confirmation from school that I'm registered for classes full-time beginning the second week of January. Once I took a look at what I have left for my classes I realized if I go full-time and if (and thats a strong if) I can get all the classes I need, when I need them, I could be student teaching by next fall! After reviewing the pluses and minuses of working vs. full time school, it makes the most sense to go full-time and get this schooling done as quickly as possible so I can start making some real money again. I'm nearing the 2 year mark of losing my job and I can't tell you how excited I am to be working a "real job" again. While I'm thankful for the opportunity to have babysat Brandon all this time and for the extra income it's allowed, I need a challenge and need to interact with people again! With my new schedule, I'll have 2 full days off which will allow me to do my observation hours (averaging around 60-75 hours which will need to be completed in 10 weeks!) Plus I am really excited to only have one night class next quarter which will allow for more studying during the day but more nights home with Jason, family and friends. I know the lonely factor may just get worse while I'm in school full time and I will be traveling as far as Wheeling for my classes, but at least now there is light at the end of the tunnel and it's crazy how soon it will be!

October 27, 2010

Local Celebration - October 23, 2010

This past Saturday was our local reception. When Jason and I decided to have a destination wedding, I really wanted to have a local reception back home so we could celebrate with those who couldn't attend. At that time, I knew my grandma, Jason's grandparent's and a few friends wouldn't attend the wedding but had no idea how few of our friends and family wouldn't be able to go to Mexico. So I am forever grateful to my parents who threw a big bash of a celebration for us back here. We had family and friends join us from as far south as Florida and South Carolina and as far east as Colorado, and of course many from the northwest tip of Iowa including Jason's grandparents, and cousins from all over Illinois!

Originally, my idea of a reception was to have it in my parents backyard on a Saturday, middle of the day with some inflatables for the kids, BBQ food for the adults and just laid back and low-key (but of course with me wearing my wedding dress, Jason in his suit and the wedding party in their attire.) As time went on, we decided the best option would be to have it at Klein Creek Golf Club in Winfield. Without going into any details of how this all transposed and why we decided on Klien Creek, I will tell you that it was more than an answer to prayer in ways that Jason and I never could have asked for!

The day began with me meeting my mom at my grandma's house so Jolene could do our hair. Having my hair done was just as much fun the second time around but not nearly the emotions, which was a plus! Then I went over to Klein Creek to meet my aunts who had done an amazing job setting up. A HUGE thank you to my Aunt Shelby and mom for taking care of all the flower arrangements. They looked just beautiful! Also thank you to my aunts who all drove in early to help my mom and aunt make sure the place was all set up to Aunt Shelby's liking. After visiting the tent, I headed to the hotel where Laura helped with my make-up and got dressed in my beautiful wedding dress all over again. I told Jason maybe I'd start wearing my dress every 5th weekend on a Saturday night...I kinda liked this new tradition I was beginning. ;-) Once we were all dressed we met up with Jason's cousin, Dan and his girlfriend, Stacey, Phil and Laura and were shuttled off to the reception. From the second I got out of the shuttle the night just flew by! There were so many people to see and talk to, so much dancing to do (especially with the kids!), food to be eaten, pictures to be taken and fun to be had! The night began with hors 'd hourves and cocktails while a photo montage played in the background. Then we had a delicious dinner followed by a video of the wedding while everyone munched on cupcakes. After that, we did our (2nd) first dances, followed by more mingling, pictures and dancing. The kids seemed to enjoy the dance floor more than the adults, but by the end of the evening we had a pretty large group out there dancing. All the details of planning the local reception and then all the pressure to talk to everyone while we were there made me even more thankful for having a destination wedding. However, it really made me appreciate the local celebration even more because I realized just how many people didn't make it with us to Mexico and how much I would have missed celebrating with everyone. The intimate destination wedding allowed Jason and I to enjoy every minute of our special day and the local celebration allowed us to celebrate our wedding and marriage with all our family and friends. I am so excited to see the pictures from our local celebration, and can only hope that everyone had as much fun celebrating as we both did. Once again, a huge thank you to everyone who was able to be there with us this past Saturday and we look forward to many more nights of celebrations with you in our future as Mr and Mrs. Jason Lockwood!
This is just a sampling of the pictures, to view all of them, please visit:

October 21, 2010

Beautiful Fall Day

I'm not one for cold weather, I absolutely detest winters in Chicago. So it's no surprise that fall is my second least favorite of the seasons as it's just the precursor to cold temperatures. Fortunately, this year, the fall has really seen some great weather. It was pretty warm in August and September and even last weekend in October it was in the 60's or 70's. Yesterday and today have been gorgeous. Temps in the 50's and sunny! I decided I better make the most of the days we have left before I become a hermit and took Brandon and Izzy on a walk through Wicker Park. Izzy had her head sticking out the window the entire trip there and back and Brandon enjoyed the walk as much as I did as long as the sun wasn't in his eyes. Today we did the same thing but instead headed to the West Loop's new park, Adams-Sangamon Park to let Izzy play at the dog park while I fed Brandon his bottle. (sidenote, if you're in the area and have kids or dogs, definitely check this new park out) We all had a blast and it was such a treat to be able to get out and enjoy the beautiful fall weather before it all changes to cold, wind and snow!
View from Adams-Sangamon Park

October 19, 2010

Thursday at Howl at the Moon

Someday last week, I got an email from Carli saying her mom was in town from Iowa and wanted to go to Howl at the Moon so she was rounding up the troops to go on Thursday night when they had all you can drink with a buffet for $10 for 2 hours. Didn't take much convincing on my part so off we went on Thursday night. Howl at the Moon is always such a fun night, and hanging out with Carli makes it even better, and it was so good to meet her mom too!

Happy Sweetest Day --- to me :)

On Saturday, Sarah (Brandon and Kaitlyn's mom) stopped over and delivered flowers to me for Sweetest Day to thank me for all I do. (I don't really do anything special except love their kids!) It was such a nice little treat and was nic to see Sarah outside of the house since I'm usually either really crabby in the morning or rushing out in the afternoon to wherever I'm headed. Thanks Dill Family for the gorgeous flowers, it was such a loving, sweet gesture!!

October 17, 2010

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Lockwood

September 18, 2010 was the most amazing day of my life. There is not a thing I would do to change any part of the day. We prayed about nearly every detail of the wedding beginning with the location and resort, down to the finer details like my dress but especially about the weather since we went during the rainy season. I am still completely in awe that every prayer was answered, especially the weather which was iffy every night leading up to the “rehearsal night” through our ceremony! The evening before our day we entertained our guests with a show provided by the resort which included entertainment and excellent food. Then we all headed outside for a bon fire complete with what I’ll call the Mexico version of s’mores and of course unlimited beverages of choice. It was a good opportunity for our guests to mix and mingle and for all of us to have a relaxing night before it all began. Jason and I decided not to share a room so he was in a complimentary room the resort provided us with, but it was in the other tower, so I was really nervous about being lonely during the night and when I woke up. So I made him bring a walkie talkie and leave his phone on (in Mexico…which you know the rates in another country are not cheap!) But as it turned out, I fell right asleep and slept like a rock. I woke up around 7:30 and it was shortly after that, that Jason called to say good morning before he headed out with all the guys on an ATV Tour. I had plans to meet Laura and Meredith for breakfast at 9:30 but wanted to spend some time on the balcony praying and spending some time with God. As it turned out, I took a look over the balcony to the beach and noticed that they were already setting up for our wedding. I completely lost it. I was crying so hard (all happy tears!) that my day had come! It was surreal to me…that this was the day that I was getting married! I’ve never bee that girl who thought much about my wedding or had my dress or any other wedding details planned. But I have been through some tough relationships and almost immediately after my last relationship ended, I decided it wasn’t up to me and gave my future relationship(s) up to God. I completely let go and realized that He had a plan for me and I’d meet my Prince Charming. I made some changes in my own life regarding relationships and from that day on, began praying for my future husband who would have to be a Christian and would already have a relationship with Him keeping Him first at all times. It was amazing to me that only 5 months later that God brought that person, Jason, into my life. And I’m sure I have shared somewhere on this blog the story of how we met and how different of places we were at the time and how just a short month later, God reintroduced us. Awwww. So that morning was an emotional one, thanking God for bringing me the most amazing man to spend the rest of my life with. It almost felt like I didn’t deserve to have what was about to happen really happen. Not to mention that we had nearly 30 people there with us in Mexico to celebrate this day with us. I wish I could have spent more time thanking God that morning and just taking it all in, but as I said, I had a date with the girls for breakfast to get to! I was practically skipping to breakfast with way, way, way too much energy. I forced myself to eat some yogurt and fruit before I was off to the spa to meet friends and family while they got their nails done. About 12 of us all got our nails done while sipping mimosa and then my mom and I both got our hair done. I was slightly nervous about how my hair would look since I hadn’t spent too much time researching and certainly didn’t have a trial but it turned out 100 times better than I’d have ever imagined. Our trip back to our room was an interesting one as Jason was headed up to the spa for a massage and I was nervous about running into him. Meredith did a great job keeping watch to make sure I didn’t run into him and dodging anyone who came along the way! All of us girls went back to my room and got ready…Andrea did my makeup and a bunch of girls helped me into my dress…there was some problem with the hook or something? Haha! We had about 3 hours to get ready so we planned to go take pictures with just us girls but somehow those 3 hours seemed to have turned into 5 minutes and before I knew it, it was almost 6:00. All of us went out to the balcony to learn it started drizzling, which seemed to delay the ceremony from starting, but allowed us all to see the guys and guests starting to be seated. Honestly, there are no words to explain how I felt when I was looking over the balcony and saw Jason walking down the aisle to the “alter” for the ceremony. I got so chocked up I had to walk back inside, and the best way I can describe it now is that I was and am so in love with him. We got our call from the wedding coordinator to head down to the beach and the next thing I know the girls were walking ahead with their groomsmen. I was an emotional wreck! When my dad came around the corner to walk me down the aisle, I couldn’t even make eye contact with him or I knew I’d start bawling. As soon as I came around the corner to where I could see Jason at the end of the aisle, I lost it…just started crying like a baby. After taking Jason’s hands, I tried to be “in the moment” of the ceremony but it was too hard. It went by quickly but the one thing I’ll remember was holding Jason’s hands through the whole thing and being the most excited that I’ve ever been in my life. Our minister was perfect, the Bible reading was beautifully done by Andrea. Jason’s Uncle Curt sang a gorgeous version of “You Rise Me Up” and Tiffany read a verse and reading about “God’s Knot” which we did instead of a unity candle or sand. The exchange of vows and rings couldn’t have been more perfect. (again, me getting a tad chocked up over the vows!) The ceremony was finished with a prayer that Jason’s mom, Judy wrote. It was the most wonderful time of my life filled with more emotions than I didn't know were possible. The next couple hours were spent taking pictures with our photographer then the reception with our friends and family. Jason and I took about a 10 minute time out during pictures to just catch up on the day (we hadn’t seen each other all day!) and sip champagne. Though it was only 10 minutes, that was probably one of my fondest memories of the day…even though I’m sure everyone was watching and many were still taking pictures, it was our time together on our special day to be together and I am forever grateful of that time. The reception was so much fun complete with our first dance, our father/daughter dance, the mother/son dance and wedding party dance. We had a cutting of the cake, then all hit the dance floor for the remainder of the night. We had maracas made with our names and date which read, “Shake for a Kiss” and they were definitely incorporated into the dancing portion of the evening. The last song the DJ played was “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas and everyone was dancing (more like jumping up and down, maraca’s in hand) through the entire song. It was the perfect way to end the best day of my life! I am so grateful for the friends and family that were there with us on that special day. It meant more than I could ever say to have friends and family there with us and I am confident that the weekend was a blast for everyone. I couldn’t be more excited to spend the rest of my life with my best friend. I thank God every day (many times a day) for bringing us together and look forward to all He has in store for us together as a couple and family in the years to come.

pedicure...look at that view behind me!

loved my hair!!!

Andrea did my makeup for me :)

Us looking off the balcony at everyone being about to lose it when I saw Jason walk down the aisle

Dad walking me down the aisle, me crying

the kiss!

our ten favorite part of the day

I loved how the cake looked and it was two kahlua and the other chocolate!

Our last song, everyone jumping up and down to "I Gotta Feeling"

October 13, 2010


For as long as I can remember, it's always been my dream to have a golden retriever. This past weekend I was able to pretend I had one as we dog-sat for Izzy, Brandon's dog. She is the sweetest, most loving and easy dog. It was a good warm-up for when we get our dog someday. I am still trying to convince Jason we need our future dog to be a golden, but I'm pretty sure I'm not near convincing him yet!

October 5, 2010

Married Fun Begins

I've been waiting to post anything until after I post the wedding post but I have no idea when I'm going to get the professional pics so the blog will have to continue without it for the time being. As I said in the last post, being married is completely different than being engaged. I'm sure a big part of that has to do with us not living together before we were married (long) and the very obvious part of our relationship that most of you know...but also there's so many things about it that are just "different." One of the things that I've made intentionally different is that I am cooking on a regular basis for Jason and I. I had this sort of epiphany a few days after we were back from Mexico. We were at my grandma's showing her the video to our wedding ceremony and we were discussing me cooking for Jason. My grandma was telling stories about how she used to cook every night for her family and dinner was on the table when my grandpa came home. I firmly believe that if we don't start these habits of nightly dinners, it won't automatically change when we have children and I really want the tradition of our children and husband sitting down together to dinner as many nights as possible. So I mentioned to my grandma that the biggest issue I have is that Jason and I can't ever decide what to eat, that Jason won't help me set the menu. And she laughed and said, "Oh I didn't ask grandpa...he just ate whatever I gave him." That's when it hit me...I just need to set the menu each night and we'll have dinner on the table. From that moment on, I was very excited about making this work! We have it set up that on the nights I have class, he's on his own and then I'll cook 2-4 other nights depending on what we have planned for the week. And with me being in class 2 nights a week and the other million things we both have in the evening we know in advance every week where we'll be so it's easy to plan. Last week I started really easy, one night was tacos, the second was chicken Parmesan and the third night was my mom's delicious chili. We don't really have a dinner table yet so the IKEA coffee table had to suffice. It was kind of funny as I took one of the pictures because it made me realize that some day we'll look back at how our first week of marriage we were eating off my cheap IKEA coffee table as our diner table, but I think it is these kinds of memories I'll always look back on so very fondly.

First I will learn how to cook, then I'll work on the presentation so don't judge!