February 28, 2010

Tow-to-One Pre-Marital Class

Jason and I have been spending the past 7 Friday nights at Willow's pre-marital class called Two-to-One. The class is not yet offered at our campus in Chicago so Jason has had to leave work early every Friday and take the train out to Wheaton where I'd pick him up and we'd drive together to the 2 1/2 hour class. South Barrington. The class was presented by a different couple on a different topic each week:
  • Week One: The Designer's Plan -- Discover God's design for marriage
  • Week Two: Let's Unpack! Recognize the influence of family backgrounds
  • Week Three: Hardwired to Communicate -- Learn effective communication
  • Week Four: Fighting Fair -- Resolve conflict successfully
  • Week Five: Purely Intimate -- Understand God's perspective on sexual intimacy
  • Week Six: Essentials of the Heart -- How to connect emotionally
  • Week Seven: Marital Mindfields -- Identify and own contribution made to failed relationships
The class provided a safe environment to discuss the topics which they presented on and was not quiet about how much work goes into a successful marriage. It was extremely insightful and I highly recommend it to all engaged couples, regardless of your beliefs.

Goodbye Olympics!

I am so happy for the Olympics to be over! I don't watch much TV, so when the TV is on all the time these days and its hours and hours of sports, it gets to be too much! I am ready for normal TV to be back on and cannot wait for The Office this Thursday to meet Jim and Pam's baby! :) See you in two years Olympics...when it's my favorite sport!! :)

February 26, 2010

Happy Birthday! (to me!)

I love birthdays...especially when they're my own! I used to call February "birthday month" but after my 30th I decided that would be the last year I would have a party or make it some big deal. And this year it really felt different. I didn't even realize it was my birthday until the day before. Meredith took me out to dinner to a BYOB sushi place on North Ave and we had a great time catching up. Last year Jason was in Ohio on my birthday so she took me out and I think its started a tradition of birthday dinners with her. (yippy!)

On my birthday I met Ellis for lunch at English. She shares the same birthday as me...though she is 2 years younger. Something which I used to like back in the days when I got my drivers license or turned 21...these days I would prefer her to be 2 years older! In thee evening, Jason took me out to one of my favorite restaurants, Mia Francescas. The entire day I stuck with my diet having a salad for lunch and tasty salmon with spinach for dinner. It was delicious!

Last night Jason and I met my family out at one of my favorite suburban restaraunts, Antico Posto. Thursday nights are BYOB, no corkage fee so we all sipped wine and I ordered my favorite, angel hair pomodoro with extra mozzarella. (didn't keep with the diet that night!) It was a really nice week of festivities. Thanks for all the birthday wishes and a special thank you to Meredith, Jason and my family. Jason, I really appreciate you getting out of work on time and for taking the train to the burbs to be there with my family and me!

February 23, 2010

The Joys of Unemployment Benefits

Thank you Obama...thank you, thank you, thank you! When I was first laid off I was granted 6 months of unemployment benefits. At the time I thought I would need anywhere from 3 to 9 months of benefits. As I quickly learned, I've needed many more than that.

I originally wrote this post explaining how unemployment benefits work and all the little details that go into it but after composing it all, I decided I'd spare you the details and just say that some months can be very stressful.

This month was one of them. About 3 weeks ago, I got a letter stating that there would be a one week waiting period where I wouldn't be granted pay. Hmm, it's like going on a unpaid vacation for a week, but without the vacation!! While I am extremely thankful for unemployment benefits, it is worth mentioning that it is more than half of my original earnings so taking one week without those earnings was extremely scary. Then this past Friday, I got another letter, this one stating that I was no longer eligible for unemployment benefits at all. Panic started to set in and I began frantically looking for a phone number of who to call about this. This literally took about 30 minutes of searching for a phone number to an office. Once I did find a number I called it to find out that that number had been changed. Though slightly annoyed, at least they listed the new number! I called the new number only to get a busy signal. After hours of calling I finally had to give up after 5:00 when I finally got through but only to hear that the office was now closed. First thing yesterday I began the process again. More busy signals after busy signals until finally around 2:00 I got a hold of someone. We chatted for about a half hour explaining the situation while he was in the computer trying to figure out my situations, being put on hold numerous times but in the end everything was figured out and I found out, I do, in fact still qualify for unemployment for another 6 months! Wooo hooo! I was given very strict instructions to not miss my certification this week and next week. (this is when I call in to certify that I am still eligible for unemployment...about a 4-8 minute call where a computer asks me a bizzillion questions.)

I called in this morning and guess what I hear? "We're sorry, the computer system is currently down, please try again later."

I have...about 500 times. Finally, now I am getting a busy signal, so I guess that's progress, at least that shows signs that the system is up and running again. I just keep hearing the *friendly man from the unemployment office telling me, "You cannot miss your certification tomorrow or next week, I cannot stress how important this is!" Okay, I hear ya buddy, but tell your computer systems that!!

Once again, I thank Obama for this extension. I cannot imagine how worried I would be if I had children who were relying on that income for our food and shelter. It's much easier to know it's just me and Sam I'm providing for. It's always nice to put literally hours into something to have it all work out in the end. I finally just got through and after a 7:14 minute call, I certified my benefits and should be expecting a check by nxt Thursday. That is good news for me. Really good news!!

*friendly - he really was friendly. I am impressed each time I have to talk to someone at the unemployment office how friendly and helpful they are. They're very accommodating and sympathetic to my emotions each time. It's amazing how comforting it is that they truly seem to care about our well-being!

February 17, 2010

Im Going to be an Aunt!!!

I am so very excited to share that Shawn and Tiffany are expecting in August! They told us right after Christmas. They told my parents on Christmas but since we weren't there they told us when we celebrated together the following week. I was in tears when they gave us our last gift which was a pair of yellow baby socks!

This is also the reason we were waiting on the save the date's for those of you who know we were waiting to decide our final "local reception" date since they're due just a month before our wedding.

It's been killing me that I wasn't allowed to tell any friends until last week and family didn't find out until this past weekend. I am happy to be able to share the excitement. I've already picked out his/her first gift, let the spoiling begin!

This is going to be a huge year for the Russell's with a new baby and Jason and I getting married!
I'm going to be an aunt!!! (and Jason's going to be an uncle!!!)

February 16, 2010

Gym Time

I am proud to say that I am finally getting to the point that I enjoy going to the gym again! Although, I still find it hard to fit it into my daily routine. Yes, I'm unemployed but I can find a million other things to do with my time before thinking the gym should be a priority. I found a picture of me from about 4 years ago at a Cubs game and I couldn't even believe that was me. In my own defense, I did think I was too skinny and I cannot help that my hips spread but ohhhhh to have flat abs again and some muscle definition, wow!! I know I can...and I will by September and BEYOND. I got a good run in today and a little bit of lifting. Only thing I wish I could change is that the Shamrock Shuffle was a 5k instead of an 8k. I'm not so sure I'll be ready for an 8k in just a little over a month, but since I don't really have any say in that matter, it looks like I better do my best to be ready!

I was looking for a fun picture to add from google images but didn't have any luck, then thought since I am trying to motivate myself, I'd just add the picture of me from the Cubs game that I cropped myself out of. I have it in my journal to look at but this posting it on here will probably hold me more accountable, right? (the guy I cut out was an old friend from COD who was an avid cubs lover like myself)

February 15, 2010

Happy Valentines Day!

I am a day late in posting this but have had the idea for over a week now but cannot get the picture off my camera which goes with the post. (stay tuned!) You can view the top of the Hancock building from Jason's condo. The top of the Hancock's lights change according to the season or whatever is going on in the city. So the past few weeks have been red for Valentines Day. I love it! I've always loved Valentines Day, single, dating or now engaged (gasp!!). While I am a total romantic at heart, I absolutely love the idea of being wined and dined and exchanging cards while whispering sweet-nothings in each others ears, but I also just love the opportunity for everyone to tell someone they love them. In fact, one of my fondest Valentines memories was 4 years ago. It was one day after I brought Chaz home that my friend, Andrea, came over to meet him as we drank wine and chatted. Not your typical idea of a Valentines Day date, but it was one of the best and I remember it so well because it was on Valentines Day. This year, Jason took me out to dinner to The Melting Pot on Saturday night. We went there last year as well and it again, did not disappoint. That place is delicious! Thank you Jason for the romantic evening out. Hope it was a very special Valentines Day for each of you too and that you were all able to spread the love!

February 14, 2010

Snuggie and Flowers

As said in the last post, I was very worried about taking the Basic Skills Test on Saturday morning. So right after the test I check my email on my phone and see one from Jason titled, "Hope this will make you smile" with a picture attached of Sam wearing a snuggie. I literally busted our laughing. Only Jason would make my cat wear a snuggie and send a picture of it to me.
When I got home, not only did I have a warm kitty to greet me but a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I thought they were for Valentines Day since we were celebrating later that night, but Jason said he bought them for me because he knew how upset I'd been all week and that he knew I'd appreciate flowers to celebrate being done. What a guy, right?

A Week of Tests

I hate tests, always have and always will. Because of tests, I have a strong hate for school. I enjoy learning but can't sit still in a classroom setting and if it's something I am not interested in, I'm doomed. It took me 7 years to get my bachelors degree which was a really big accomplishment for me. I always used to joke that I have enough credits to have my PhD by now. As I said in an earlier entry, I have decided to get a teaching degree in Special Ed, which means I need to apply (and be accepted) to grad school. I have looked into many local schools and have applied to National Louis University. I only have the minimum GPA needed from my under-grad so a lot could be riding on my test scores I may need but as I said above, I hate tests and don't do well on them. So when I heard that I needed to take 2 tests in order to be accepted made my heart race. There wasn't much prep work that could be done before the tests (unlike the GRE which I have also studied for, taken and pretty much bombed) but I did review the study guides and take some of the practice tests questions. I took the first test, The Miller Analogies Test, last Monday night and it was horrible. It was 120 questions, all analogies. I am terrible at analogies, in fact, my mind rejects them. I struggled with them back in high school so my parents got me a tutor (sylvan learning center) but I still did terrible on the ACT's. Needless to say, Monday night was a really bad night for me. I felt so dumb! I worried all week about the next test, The Basic Skills Test, that I had to take which was on Saturday at 7:15 am. The experience of just getting into the classroom to take this class could be an entire post in itself. It was unreal how many people were there to take that test...maybe 400 people? It took me 4 hours and 17 minutes to complete this test. The first part on reading comprehension was awful, I cannot remember anything I read, so that took me a long time. The language arts was fine, I was amazed at how much math I remembered and the essay part was a joke. As much as I love writing, it was at the end of the test and my brain was fried. I am praying that I did okay on both of these tests to at least be accepted. I also have to write a written statement about why I want to be a special ed teacher, which I don't think will be a problem. I've invested a lot of time and hundreds of dollars into the tests, fees, transcript requests and everything else they require, I am really hoping it all pays off and I get my letter of acceptance. I am confident that I will excel in my classes and be a great teacher so my fingers are crossed! I'll keep you all posted. :)

February 11, 2010

Our Flower Girl, Katelin

I've had a pretty rough week of stress and emotions but had a big smile on my face last night due to my Goddaughter, Katie. Kristi, Katie and I met at David's bridal to try on Katie's flower girl dresses. She was SO CUTE wanting to try on all the dresses and having a comment about each one she tried on (and all the pretty ones she liked and thought would be perfect for our wedding, including the orange one, the purple one, the green one, the spotted one, the blue one...you get the picture!) We hit up a couple stores but we still haven't decided on which dress she'll be wearing. She looked adorable in all of them but the trick is finding a dress which is elegant enough to match my dress but not too much for the beach or the bridesmaid dresses, not to mention the ridiculous cost of flower girl dresses! I am confident we will find the right dress soon but I wouldn't complain if I had to take her shopping 10 more times just to see how cute she looks in all of them! I can't wait for you to all see her in Mexico or at our local reception in her perfect flowergirl dress!

*in the picture above, I'm pretty sure was just a dress she wanted to try on while we were waiting for her to be measured...she wanted to see how it felt when she was sitting on the chair, on the floor, standing, twirling, kneeling, etc. Like I said, PRECIOUS.

February 9, 2010

One Year Later

A little over 2 weeks ago I had my 1 year anniversary of losing my job. It wasn't a date I really wanted to celebrate like I do every other anniversary; however, I did acknowledge it and posted the following as my facebook status:

"One year ago today...my life completely changed and I could have made the choice to be bitter and angry. While yes, this year has been more difficult than if I had a steady income and I hate living in the suburbs, I have learned SO MUCH about myself and how its ALL ABOUT HIM and NOT ME!"

Honestly, that is it in a nutshell. I have been so blessed this past year. I have had to make some sacrifices, I hate living in the suburbs at my age and I am really tired of not having any money for anything. But I still have just the right amount to pay for bills and food, plus Jason takes such great care of me paying for all of our dates and even other expenses which come along that I don't have the money for. I am so blessed when I remember why I am here and that it isn't about me. My human ways and wants will kick in and like any one else, I want to have all the things that society says we should have. I don't get to buy clothes, new shoes, more than one jacket, scarves, mittens, workout clothes, earrings, or any other trendy item I see others wearing and can get completely jealous of. I got one outfit to wear to all my dressier outings for the winter. (note....if you ever think you're going to lose your job, that would not be the opportune time to gain a lot of weight like I did, requiring all new clothes. It really limits your wardrobe!) It stinks, it really does, especially because when I wasn't working I wasn't really making the big bucks so I always thought eventually I'd be able to buy a new pair of shoes or have 2 jackets or just splurge on sometime without having to feel too bad or worry at all. I share all this because I never want to put on the front that just because I know God has a plan for me means I don't still want what society tells us we should want. But I think He has made a really good point this past year that while I am broke and living on the minimum, look at how much I still have! I've never had to worry about the things that matter such as food or water. I have clothes on my back, a warm winter jacket, gloves and hats. I turn my heat way down when I am not there and at night but with a quick flip of a switch and a couple blankets, I am warm within minutes. I have a safe and clean apartment without bugs, rodents or violence. A few weeks ago, I turned on my car and thought to myself how fortunate I am that all it takes is a flip of key and the car starts right up every time and I am off to whatever destination it is. Not to mention, I still have my computer, a TV, (big TV when I'm at Jasons!) a microwave, a place to launder my clothes, cable, and all the other luxuries I've gotten used to. In addition to God and all that I've listed, I have my health, a loving family, amazing friends, a very supportive and loving fiance and even Sam! Originally, I wanted to take some time to review some things I've been able to do since I lost my job back in January '09, but as I started to think about my passed year, I realized there are way too many things to begin to create a list. A very obvious opportunity was that I could go to Mexico in August to serve at an orphanage, but isn't everything I do a result of me not being at work? I mean, even that I am able to blog now at 2:51 pm because I'm not working. It was one chain of events that was changed but will forever change who I am as a person. I'm so thankful that God has chosen this path for me and provided me with all that I have. Even when I can't have all the material things I want (more often than not) I am blessed.

February 4, 2010

Nursery Duty

So I realize that my last 2 posts have been about the children in my life but apparently this is what my unemployed life has led me to. (as I sit here typing from my phone at Andrews!)

Several weeks ago I filled in at a nursery for a moms group at the church I used at attend. As a one time gig, it wasn't all bad! It gave me a reason to be showered before 10:00, gave me the social interaction I long for as a nonworking citizen and gave me a few extra bucks in my pocket! Can't complain! It wasn't long after that I was asked if I could come every week because there was another mom joining them with many more children. I'm broke, I have the time, why not? My first week of this went fine, I was in the nursery with three babies. Yeah, when they weren't being all quiet and calm they were all crying at the same time but that wasn't anything I couldn't handle on my own. However, this week was a different story. I had the toddlers. All seven of them, all three years and under. Minus the fact that one girl (we'll call her Maria) was crying for her mama the second she was dropped off, the rest were happily occupied with the Veggie Tales DVD for the first 30 minutes. It was after those 30 minutes that everything went downhill and very quickly. while playing with a little girl, I was holding Maria who was (still) crying and all of a sudden felt something warm on my leg. Apparently, there was a diaper malfunction. No worries, we'll just go get mom to find your diapers...quick fix. But as I was about to go get her mom, two other children needed to use the bathroom. I learned (the hard way) early on in my babysitting experiences that when a child this age says they need to use the bathroom, you let them use the bathroom NOW, so off we went. But then while we were in the bathroom I hear crying coming from the nursery. Remember, Maria is still crying in my arms and pee is still wet on her bottom and my leg. Pee is no longer warm but instead just wet and cold. So while both children are in the bathroom, I head back to the nursery with wet and crying Maria across the hall to find 2 boys crying (no idea why since I wasn't there but if I had to guess, one pushed the other and started a pushing war which I had previously sent one to "time-out" for) As I'm trying to mediate the boys (Maria still crying and wet in my arms) I hear wailing coming from the bathroom I just left. I go into the bathroom to find a very sweet little girl who couldn't get her pants down in time and peed all over herself, her pants and the floor. In all honesty, I don't even remember what happened next. I was either in shock or fight or flight mode, both of which my memory stopped working.

All ended fine, the tears subsided, pants and diapers were changed, hugs were given, apologies to fighting children were said and empty stomachs were filled but I'm pretty sure that day has bought me several more years before I start wanting children of my own. That was enough excitement for years to come!

February 2, 2010

Happy 3rd Birthday Andrew!

Andrew turned 3 a little over a week ago. I was lucky enough to babysit him the night of his birthday. Eating his dinner was a bit of a challenge for him that evening but we still got in a few minutes to play with Thomas, Percy, Gordan and Rosie. To say he likes his trains would be an understatement. Andrew doesn't just like playing with trains, he IS a train, depending on the day he will be James, Gordan, Billy or others.

This past Sunday Jason and I were invited to his birthday party. He had so much fun opening all his presents and blowing out his candles on his cake. After every present he opened he gave hugs to those who gave them. He is so well mannered and polite. When it was time for his nap he went around hugging everyone and saying goodnight without a fight. I was so happy that Jason could be there to see Andrew. Poor Jason gets the full "Andrew report" every night I watch him, complete with what we played with, what kind of books we read and even if he went "poops or peeps." (okay well I don't always share that last part unless it's a large portion of the night, which as a recently potty-trained boy, the "poops" part can be.)

Happy 3rd Birthday Andrew! I'm so glad we could be there to celebrate and so glad I am part of your life and love watching you grow! Love you!

this was from the night before the birthday party when I was watching him

February 1, 2010

Monday Nights

Last week I started watching my cousin, Karrie and Al's children while they attend a class for 8 weeks on Monday nights. I'm glad I am able to help them out and it gives me a chance to spend some time with their kids (who I LOVE). I was reading to them tonight and looked up to these two faces totally engrossed in the story I was reading. I quickly snapped their picture because they were just too cute. (thank you iphone for the easy photo opp!)