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!