Monday, July 30, 2012

Why won't you play with me?!

Cooper thinks horses are just big dogs and doesn't understand why they won't chase him and play with him!
 Cooper doing anything he can to get the horses attention
 Maybe if I run really fast straight toward you, you'll want to chase me?!
 Come on guys!!!! Let's play!
What do I have to do to get you to look over at me?!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Financial Peace University - 13 Weeks DONE!!

While living in Chicago I really wanted to attend Dave Ramsey's, "Financial Peace University," (FPU) but we had way too much going on and knew we'd never be able to commit to 13 weeks of two hours of classes.  Right before we moved to Colorado Dave Ramsey came to Willow Creek and Willow introduced FPU to all their campuses but we were moving and knew we couldn't attend.  What better time than when we know no one, have no obligations and are starting a whole new lifestyle in Colorado?  After researching, I found a class at a church about 5 miles from us and signed up!

It's been a long summer of classes, especially since a lot of holidays are in the summer and we took a break for all of them but today we completed the whole course!  It has really been life-changing for us and puts money, debt and savings into a whole new perspective for both of us.  
FPU has six baby steps to complete and the idea is to "live like no one else, so you can live like no one else." Meaning, live frugally now, paying off your debt and increasing your savings so when you're older, you're set for retirement and if done correctly, you'll have lots of money to play with too.  Basically, YOU tell your money where to go, not your money being spent aimlessly and not knowing where it's all going.  

We really are trying to get to a point where we are "living like no one else so we can live like no one else!"  But honestly, it's so hard too!  Society tells us we should be able to get whatever we want, when we want it, with whatever means we have available AKA credit and loans. Sadly, my student loans are the biggest hurdle of our completing the steps but we couldn't have taken the course at a better time with our transition to Colorado and wanting to buy a new home.  Over the past 17 weeks or so we're slowly getting the hang of it, have set up a great budget and hope to set ourselves up for financial freedom. :) 

I recommend this course to everyone.  I wish it was offered and required to everyone in order to graduate high school.  Plus for anyone considering (I hope you all are!) they just changed the course so it will be only nine weeks.  I'd love to chat with anyone who is interested in learning more about the course or the financial worksheets to help begin your planning.  It is my hope that we listen to the CD's in years to come as a reminder of what we're striving towards.  If anyone has taken the course or read his books and has any words of encouragement for us, I'd love to hear them!  

Do it, do it, do it!  You'll be super thankful you did!
*Dave Ramsey has lots of books available too so if you want to start there, check out this one...Total Money Makeover...or just check out all his books and decide what's best for you!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Morning Run

I've learned that running here is a lot different than Chicago not just because of the altitude and the hills but also because with the sun constantly shining it's always hot. I've been told this has been a really hot summer for Colorado (probably just as it's been extreme temps in Chicago) but when I've gone for runs at 9:00am or tried in the evening around 7:00 it's just way too hot.  I've learned I have to get up a lot earlier than I like.

Well today I got up around 6:00, did my run and came home to this:

That would be Cooper in my spot, sounds sleep, legs in the air (on my pillow) completely sprawled out over where I sleep.  

Too funny!  Happy Saturday!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fill in the Blank Friday

Fill in the Blank Fridays are back!  Lauren switched it up for a while and I while I wanted to participate I never got around to it so was shocked to come back today and find that "Fill in the Blanks" were back! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend and Happy Friday! 

1.  I am   a follower of Jesus Christ, a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, God-mother, soon-to-be teacher, music-lover, runner and lover of every kind of love   .

2.   I have always     had a lot of compassion     .

3.  I hope to      be an amazing teacher and advocate for those with special needs  .

4. I can     find the good in just about anything  .

5. I dream of     someday being a mom preferably of four...but probably only of two.

6. The way to my heart is    listening and good conversation .

7.  I am passionate about   following God's calling   .

Kenny and Tim

Last Saturday night was Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw!  In January when I was here I saw the banner on the stadium and really wanted to go but it wasn't until about a month ago that I started looking into tickets.  The ticket prices were so much more reasonable here than in Chicago so we were able to get some little lower than nosebleed tickets for a really great price!  Plus we later found out that Phil and Laura were visiting and were planning on getting tickets as well and Jason's step-sister, Jenny, was going with her friend!

We got there around 2:30 and tailgated in 100+ degree weather with Phil, Laura, Jenny, her friend and a couple other of Phil and Jason's friends then headed in for the concert.  Tim McGraw was great but I loved, loved, loved Kenny Chesney.  Always been a huge Kenny fan (I consider him my country version of Dave) so it was just song after song of me singing along and telling Jason how much fun I was having.  This night will definitely go down as the best night of the summer so far!  Thanks Jason for getting us tickets and going AND having so much fun...I know I'll eventually make you into as big of a country fan as I am. :) a super highlight of my day...I've been talking about getting cowboy boots for years and now that we're finally living in a place where they're worn all over (and I'm back into being around horses all the time) we looked into getting some.  I used my graduation money to get me the cutest pair of boots and what better time to wear them but to a country concert?! (though probably not the smartest time to try to break them in...wearing them all night, but ehhh, they looked super cute!) :)


More tailgating

Me and Jason

Jenny, Jason and I

Our seats view - singing along with Tim

The boots!

Country concert with my love


Kenny (and the crowd) singing one of my favorites!!! "Summertime"
Oh I want to go back and do it all over again!  Such a fun night!!!

One Week Later - Processing the Theater Shooting

I haven't wanted to blog about much because I wanted to acknowledge the shooting that happened here in Colorado but a whole week has gone by and I still don't have anything to say about it.  I've literally not known what to say, so maybe just writing will help me process it.

As a way of acknowledging it and honoring those who were there, I thought I would share where I was and how that day affected me and ask for everyone to continue to pray for all those affected.


Thursday night Jason's brother and sister-in-law came to visit for the weekend for a wedding and were staying with us Thursday night.  So they arrived here via car around 4:30pm and Jason was flying in around 7:30pm in Denver.  So Phil, Laura and I visited for a while before I headed off to get Jason from the airport. Before I left, Phil and Laura told me they wanted to go to see the midnight showing of Batman so I told them which movie theater was the closest and they purchased tickets through Fandango.  I picked up Jason and all four of us all headed to dinner and drinks at a local outdoor patio in Aurora just a few minutes from our home.  When we got home around 10:00pm we all went to bed but Phil and Laura just for a nap before they went to the movies.

At around 3:00/3:30am I remember waking up to Cooper barking but then fell back asleep. When I woke up again at 6:00am I had about 4 texts, 2 missed calls/voicemails and about 4 emails all asking if we were okay and something about a shooting.  Though I was half asleep, I finally read one from my sister-in-law that actually explained what happened, (10 dead, and many more shot in an Aurora movie theater seeing Batman at midnight). I started freaking out because I knew Phil and Laura were at an Aurora theater and again, half-asleep I remembered Cooper barking but also remember there still being a light on when that happened so were they really home?  I had my first panic attack in over a year unable to breath and my brain wasn't really comprehending what had happened until Jason reassured me that they were home and in bed.

The rest of the morning was a lot of rushing around with an accelerated heart rate. I had an interview (more on that later) set up for 8:00am but also wanted to respond to all those who had called, texted and messaged me plus I was glued to the TV as we learned more of what had happened.  My day had to continue and I went to the interview but it was a very sad and confusing day and weekend...and we're all still looking for answers.


Through all this I learned that Jason and I are so loved by friends and family. I cannot express what it felt like to wake up to that many texts and messages and then have them continue through the day as more people learned about it.  Yes, of course I know friends and family care about us but being so far away from "home" I definitely feel very alone and feel this way a lot of the time. This tragedy reminded me that we have loved ones who genuinely care about us regardless of how far we are from all of them.

Through attempting to process my own feelings of the week I've realized it felt so close to home...literally in proximity of where we live now but also for anyone and everyone no matter where you live.  We've all been super excited to see a movie that is coming out, we've all been to the movie theaters, we have all made last minute decisions to go to a movie or something else where others have asked you. We've all waited in line for our popcorn and picked out "the best" seat.  We've all sat in anticipation of what what going to happen next on the big screen.

For us, I would say I'd never find myself at a midnight showing on a Thursday night, but having family in town who wanted to see it, there was a good chance we'd have gone with them had it not been for the interview in the morning and me being a baby about getting enough sleep.  Even with the movie theater, there's a theater that's super close and another I'd have probably sent them to before Century 16, but had we been up at a brewery Jason and I both like we very well could have sent them to Century.  It's not so much of "oh we could have been there" because we live here, but because anyone who's reading this could have been there.  This was something that an everyday person could have been to. 

I'm so thankful that Phil and Laura weren't at that theater and that we all were okay, but there are still so many hurting and will always hurt.  There's still so many who are still in the hospital, who may have incredible medical bills, who are missing days of work, days with family.  A man missed seeing his child be born.  Those who lost their lives, their days cut too short and families who never prepared for this. So many other things these individuals and families are going through that I will never understand or even begin to understand.

My prayers go out to everyone affected by this and to all who reached out to us, thanks so much for caring.  Love you all!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday Meanderings

I am so far behind on this blog so I think it's time to bring out the "Meanderings"

Wednesday Meanderings...

On Red Rocks -- Last Tuesday night we went to Film on the Rocks at Red Rocks to see Bridesmaids.  It was a blast.  We got there a little early so we were able to get good seats.  We brought Firehouse Subs (our new favorite subs) and I, of course, brought a lot of popcorn and a lot of salt.  Next time we'll bring some cushions for my butt since I lost feeling only about 2 minutes into the movie.  It may sound strange but I loved just being there. With my need to be around people and since my husband is the total opposite I need to make an effort to make it happen so it was fun to be surrounded by a bunch of people. Awesome movie and awesome night.  Love that we live close enough to go again and again in the years to come!

On Colorado License Plates and Drivers Licence -- Last week Jason and I had to get new licences and plates.  First off, the plates were ridiculously expensive.  I mean ridiculous!  And I guess the newer the car, the more they cost!  So there goes my new car I've been really really trying to convince Jason of, even though know I know it's not in our finance's best interest.  I was surprised that we didn't have to take a test to get our license. I am not complaining at all. Trust me, just shocked.  Now that I have the plates on, I really really feel like a Colorado resident.  I no longer have an excuse for slamming on my breaks and driving slow as I try to navigate my way through Colorado.  (I am still so lost driving around all over!)

On Cooper -- I really love this dog.  Jason's been gone all week so that's when Cooper actually pays me attention and I love it!  He is such a great running partner.  We go running together whenever it's cool enough or there's water in the creek at the huge dog park but he's just the best.  When he's off leash he never leaves my side for more than 15 seconds.  He'll go down and swim for a bit but always meets me at the top and runs at my side.  Really love him.  He's such a sweetheart and obedient!  We've been a lot of places where there are kids lately and he is so gentle and sweet with them.  It's like he knows they're kids and is extra careful.  Love him.

On Tomato Plants -- I bought a couple plants a couple months ago and while my cherry tomatoes are doing well the big ones aren't.'s my favorite time of year when I have my home-grown tomatoes and they're just not growing.  There's still time, so we'll see.  Wishful thinking as we approach August.

On the Therapeutic Riding Lesson Instructor -- I start teaching lessons on Monday which are needed in order to become certified.  It's basically the same as student teaching for schools, but with horses. I need 25 lessons in order to move forward.  I'm excited but nervous about the certification portion.  Glad to get it started!

On Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney -- A couple weeks ago we got Kenny and Timmy tickets and I am so excited.  When I was here back in January I saw the sign on the stadium and wanted to go but assumed the tickets would be outrageous so didn't even think twice about it.  A couple weeks ago, I finally looked it up and the nose bleed section was super reasonable!  I'm totally loving Colorado for that reason!  I can actually get tickets for concerts here!  Plus Jason's brother and sister-in-law will be here and are also going.  I'm excited for this weekend with the concert and to have more guests!

On the Pool -- I love having a pool here!  We've used it several times since we moved it.  Still working on the weight loss (which has not been successful the past few weeks) but once I get that going, I'm even more excited. (Of course it'll probably be December by them but there's always the hot tub!)

On DenverShare -- I heard on K-Love that there was an event happening in Denver Public Schools to help them repaint or do landscaping or whatever it is they need so of course I signed up. It was fun...being the event planner that I used to be, I saw room for improvement but hopefully we made a difference in the schools. :)  I also met some pretty amazing people.  It's fun to see God work. :)

On Birthday Presents -- I got Kaylee her birthday present.  It's not what I wanted to get her since they're out of stock but I made do and I am still excited.  I wish I could be there for her birthday but Skype will have to suffice! I cannot believe she is about to turn two!!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Oops...Let the Countdown Begin

Noticed today that the back of my phone shattered. Oops. I have no idea when it happened but am thankful it's the back and not the front.  But now I need to be extra careful which is going to be tough. I'm really hard on my phone, I'm surprised it's lasted this long!  Come on Apple!!  Release the new iPhone because I really need one now!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Our First Visitors -- Pikes Peak and RAFTING!!!

Yeah, I'm really late in posting this but as always, things have been busy!

I haven't seen my friend, Lauran, since November because she had been in Florida since December to do her student teaching and when she moved back to Chicago I had already left so it was so I was so excited to hear she and her boyfriend, Josh would be visiting so she could look at schools and get a feel for Colorado. It happened to be on the 4th of July which was awesome because I was lonely and feeling like everyone had  friends except us on Memorial Day.  It was nice to have our own friends in town to spent the holiday with!!

The first night they got here we stayed up late at the fire-pit catching up and roasting marshmallows... except the gas was shut off to early so we never got to roast the marshmallows.  Boooo.  But it was still a fun night. :)  

Lauran and I at the fire-pit right before the gas went off :)

Wednesday we started the day going to Pikes Peak and rode up the cog to the top and had lunch in town which was super fun.  I cannot wait to go back and do some serious shopping in town.

We made it!
 14,000 ft UP!!
 14,000 ft UP!!
 14,000 ft UP!! (yes I realize I always pose with one foot forward...I don't know why!)
In town....very excited to go back! Mom... definitely a girls trip for us!

After going home and napping we spent the evening in Parker where we had Firehouse Subs (mine and Jason's first time....and will not be our last!!) and then to the town's concert and would-be fireworks if they had them this year. (due to all the fires this year they didn't have any.)  

The 4th of July Festival in Parker

Thursday they went to other parts of Colorado and I volunteered and Jason worked but Friday Jason took off work and we met them in Canon City to go white water rafting!  This was my first time and we had a blast.  I am looking forward to going once there's more water being that the water was so low this year that the rocks were so much higher and if you fell out you were hitting some rocks for sure.  Fortunately our raft stayed afloat but one of the others from the group wasn't so lucky!  Definitely a very very fun day and am looking forward to more trips in the water!!

We're ready! -- Waiting for the bus
 On the bus on our way to the river!
 Right before we began...still dry :)
The view where we began...Gorgeous!!
 Jason and I :)
 Laura, I mean Jessica....Or Lauran...Jason, me, Josh and Mitch...ummmm right Lauran was in the front the WHOLE time.  Uh huh ;-)
 This is the life!
 Yep, we just did that!
I LOVE this girl!!

So much fun and so thankful for friends who could visit!  What a fun way to spend the holiday!  Love you Lauran and Josh!!  Hope you'll come visit again soon so we can ski/board together!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I got a JOB!!!

On Wednesday, the day before I was leaving for Chicago I got a call in the late morning asking me to come to an interview on Thursday but since I already had an interview scheduled for Thursday morning and was leaving around noon for Chicago I told them I couldn't come in.  So she suggested I come in in two hours for am interview for a teaching job!  I didn't even know which position this was for and since I had just gotten in from a run, I had no time to investigate but had to shower and get on the road!

The interview was rather informal with just the principal and myself.  He had a list of questions to ask me but it was very conversational.  It was for a middle school and he told me it was a new position, that the school didn't have any kind of special ed program before, let alone one with cognitive disabilities.  He didn't really know much about the students or their needs.  He wanted whoever was hired to be able to lead a training of some sort to the staff about special needs.  We talked a lot about diversity as this school was extremely diverse.  After we were done I had asked him what to expect as far as second interviews were since I was about to head to Chicago for over a week.  He told me that I was his last interview and that there wouldn't be a second interview and that someone would let me know either way.  We continued talking some more and at the end he told me he really liked all I had to say and my experience and thought I was a perfect fit for this position and the job was mine if I wanted it.

So in about 3 hours time I went from not having an interview even scheduled to having a position that was mine for the taking!  And not just a job but a TEACHING job!  I asked him when I had to know by since I was caught off guard and after leaving immediately called Jason.  We had talked about it and I felt like there  wasn't much reason not to take it so called him back and told him to begin the paperwork.  I then had to get them three letters of references, copies of my transcripts from both my undergrad and graduate work.  All three of those were not easy tasks when I was leaving for Chicago in less than 24 hours but of course got on that and got copies of everything (except my undergrad transcript) by the time my flight left on Thursday.

So Thursday morning I had an interview scheduled for 10:00 for an aide position.  I decided to go since anything could go wrong with the teaching job.  It was at a high school in one of the most reputable school districts in the area.  Right from the beginning of the interview I could tell it was going well.  (more the way I would have thought other teacher aide interviews would have gone that I'd been interviewing for!)  They were very excited to have me to there, they gave me a tour of the facilities and got to know me and my goals a little better.  They helped me understand some of the ways of Colorado Board of Ed and some other tid-bits of teaching jobs in Colorado.  I felt really comfortable there and felt like I would have a great network of people for any future jobs.  I left feeling confident that I would be offered the position but of course this wasn't the first time I'd left interviews felling the way the past couple months so wasn't sure.

On my way home from that interview they called and offered me the position.  (so less than 24 hours since the teaching offer!)  I was ecstatic, but also very confused.  Here I had been interviewing for so many jobs and applying to ten times more and wasn't getting anywhere. Now I had a teaching job and an aide lined up all within 24 hours and only about 3 hours before I was boarding a plane to go back for graduation and family/friends time.

The schools were completely different and the districts were almost opposite from each other so there was a lot to take into consideration  It was nice that I was back in Chicago where I had a lot of people to talk with. I talked it through with Jason, my family, many different friends, especially my teaching friends, and my sister-in-law who is an assistant principal and I prayed A LOT.  Once minute I was thinking definitely take the teaching job and the next it was to definitely take the aide position.

While at church on the Sunday after the offers, Bill Hybels was giving a lesson on being "all in with God" or "dead with God" and while the subject matter really didn't speak at all about my situation I heard very clearly that God was telling me to take the aide position.  The teaching position seemed to provide no support what-so-ever and there wouldn't be anyone in the school to discuss options with.  I had such an awful experience student teaching that I know I am going to need a lot of support in writing IEP's, developing BIPs and lesson plans and this teaching job would be very isolated.

I took on this journey because I felt God's prompting and want to make a difference in the lives of those with special needs.  I want to be faithful to God's calling to that.  If I take the Teacher Aide position I would hopefully be able to network with a lot of people and establish some great connections.  I also hope to learn from a teacher who is truly providing and teaching the kids in her classroom.  I hope to learn how to write IEPs better and see what really works in a school in Colorado. Like I've said, the lingo here is very different too, not to mention the politics.

I felt like if I took the teaching position I would probably have a much better chance at getting a teaching job the next year but how good of a teacher would I be and what would it mean to the kids who I would be teaching this year and even in future years?  It was obvious the principal didn't know much about special ed and certainly about their needs, so who would back me when I didn't know what was best? While I believe that every first year of teaching is a year to learn for every first year teacher, I didn't feel it was best to go into one that had no support or resources available to me.  I am praying that whoever gets the position instead of me has many more years experience and doesn't need the support and resources that I did and they can give those kids the education they deserve. 

It was a tough decision, especially having the pay scale looming over my head and the student loans that are about to kick in...not to mention my pride that I just finished grad school and want to think I can take on any teaching job, but I want to do this for those with special needs.  I really want to be a great special ed teacher or whatever it is I am supposed to do with those with cognitive disabilities.  I am praying that the experience I gain and the networking I am able to do within the school and the community the next year will lead me to a teaching job (or the likes) where I can really do what I feel God's called me to do.  And honestly, when I look at the big picture...this is only for 9 months.  That's a lot of experience I can get and just a little bit of time to take a big pay cut.

Thanks for everyone's prayers and support after my last post about being jobless!  I really appreciate it!  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Graduation 6/23/12

Also as I posted already, graduation day was so much fun! It was an early day since we all had to be in the city by 9:30ish.  My brother, mom, dad and Jason all went to watch me walk. (Tiffany stayed home with the baby and Kaylee.) Going to the graduation made it feel real, like I really had accomplished something.  Being that I was done with student teaching and my portfolio was reviewed back in March it had been a while but walking made it feel real and complete!

I need to get more pictures off my brother and dad's camera as they took a lot more but you get the idea.  We took some pics inside then outside along the lake.  (I loved that the ceremony was in Chicago!)  Then we went to lunch at Antico Posto for lunch where Tiffany and the kids and Grandma was able to meet us.

Thanks to Jason, Shawn, Tiffany, Grandma and Mom and Dad for a wonderful day of celebration!

Meeting Baby Kaitlyn and Park-time with Kaylee

As I blogged earlier, our second day in Illinois we went to Aurora to meet our newest, precious niece, Kaitlyn.  She is just such a little peanut!  I am so thankful we were able to be there within a week of when she was born!  We also got to spend some one-on-on with big sister, Kaylee.  We took her to the park for some playtime.  Jason is so good with her, she definitely loves her Uncle Jason and we both really love her!

Meeting Baby Kaitlyn

Uncle Jason reading to Kaylee

My sweet, loving, adorable, wonderful, hugable, squeezable nieces.  
22 months apart -- how fun will that be when they're growing up!?

Baby Kaitlyn and Uncle Jason

Little bit of electricity on her playset! Love this pic!!

We love you Kaitlyn!

She loved being pushed higher and fear for Kaylee!

Once she figured out we could go down the slide with her, she wanted us to go down every.single.time.  :)  
Uncle Jason also gave her a high five when she was down so every time she would run over to him with her hand in the air and say "High Five!?" 

Love you so so so much Kaylee!  You're growing so quickly and 
are just the sweetest, cutest, smartest little blond I know!

Friday, July 6, 2012

First trip Back to IL

I am back to Colorado after spending about 11 days in Illinois!  Originally when we planned the trip, it was for my graduation which was on Saturday, June 23, in Chicago.  But since we had planned it we learned my niece, Kaitlyn, would be born and we would get to meet her! (can you believe the timing on that?!)  Lastly, I decided that I would take part in the PATH Intl. Workshop the weekend after my graduation so I could be one step closer to being certified as a therapeutic horse back riding instructor.  So really this trip was just full of fun things but also had a lot of purpose to it.  Not to mention that the longer I "had" to be there, the more people I could see!

We flew standby in to Midway and got on our planned flight...and even had enough seats so we could sit next to each other! My friend Adam, who is a flight attendant, gave us buddy passes so we could fly back standby. We were soooo thankful for the tickets!  My mom forgot we were landing at Midway and started heading to O'Hare...Oops...but they got there just in time to pick us up. It was so great to see some familiar faces and had lots and lots to talk about!  We hit up Portillos' on the way to the hotel. YUMMM (here starts all my crazy terrible NON-Weight watchers meals!)

Jason worked in the morning, so I went to the gym for a good workout which I needed because then we had more Portillo's at my parents while Jason fixed my dad's computer.

Then we went to my brothers and met my adorable niece, Kaitlyn.  After some quality time with Kaitlyn, we took Kaylee to the park for some one-on-one with her. 
Adoring our niece, Kaitlyn

Once we'd spent time with my brother and sister-in-law and thier ohhhh so cute kids we met my parents at Giordano's for a much anticipated dinner. Oh was it soooo mouth-watering good!
Giordanos -- Mmmmmmmmm
Jason and I finished off the night in the hot tub at the hotel. I will post all the pictures for this on a separate post...such a fun and special day it deserves it's own. :)

Graduation Day!! It was a very early rise to get to the city in time.  Pretty boring 2 hour ceremony but it was so worth it!  There was never a doubt in my mind that I'd walk once I'd earned my degree but I am so thankful I did.  It really made all that work feel worth it.  Doing my portfolio to earn this degree was probably the hardest and most tedious part of grad school and that alone earned itself the walk.  A HUGE thank you to both my parents, Jason and brother, Shawn, for coming downtown so early in the morning to support me for my 1.5 second across the stage to get my diploma.  It was so awesome to have my family there to support me.  Another big thanks to my sister-in-law Tiffany for watching both my nieces (Kaitlyn only being a week old that day!) so Shawn could go downtown to see me. I know that couldn't have been easy and I really appreciated it!  We took pictures out along the lake (I heart Chicago) and then went to Antico Posto in Oak Brook for some Italian favorites and wine.  That restaurant has always been a family favorite for many many years so was a lot of fun being back. My grandma and sister-in-law and nieces were able to meet us for the lunch which made it all the more special. 

After dinner Jason and I went to see Jason's uncle and aunt in Naperville.  We were able to spend some time visiting with them which was really nice.  

What a fun (and emotional) day I had celebrating and seeing loved ones! I also plan to post pics on a separate post for this day as well...Again such an amazing day I wanted my own page for it. :)

Thankful that my family and husband could be there with me!
We had to get up around 5:00 to get Jason to the airport so I was an emotional wreck.  I had had my fair share of fun and was super sad to see him leaving so much sooner than I had to but it was what it was.  
On our way to the airport...while I was being dramatic 
in the pic I was crying when we got to the airport...

Once I dropped him and picked up my rental car for the week it was onto the next stop.  I went to church at Willow which was, of course, amazing.  The message really spoke to me and helped me make some decisions I had been praying about the past week or so.  (more on that later). 

Then I went to meet my Uncle Dennis and Aunt Marilyn for lunch.  We celebrated my graduation there and got all caught up on life.  

From lunch I went to see my friend, Jolene, who also cut my hair.  We had a good time catching up while she cut my hair and I also got to see her whole family which is rare.  My godson, Jeremy, wanted to go to GameStop so I took him there which was a nice unexpected treat being able to spend some time with him.  

Then I headed downtown and went for a long run along the lake. The Pride parade had just ended so it was a lot of fun being back in the city.People were everywhere: on boats, at the beach, at bars, on walks, just everything imaginable. Being there really made me miss Chicago in the summertime.  :(
This spot used to be my favorite place to take in the city so I made 
sure to run through it again to remember and enjoy the city.

After my run, my hot sweaty self met Virginia at one of my favorites, Mystic Celt, to sit outside and have some sangria.  We had a nice chat while I cooled off.  

Then I headed to my friend, Andrea's, for the night. She cooked fajitas for me and we spent some time chatting and drinking some wine while I pet and played with her awesome cat, Stella!  Huge thanks Andrea for letting me stay with you and feeding me!  I really appreciated staying with you and for your hospitality!

Monday I woke up early to meet Beth for breakfast at Marmalade.  She was very close to her due date so I was hoping to meet Baby...but no such luck!  Instead we got to talk and enjoy a quiet breakfast on the patio along Montrose.  

I decided to see my chiropractor while there to get some new stretches and an adjustment so I can hopefully continue with my running plan.  I love my chiropractor..if you live in Chicago and are looking for one, let me know!  

After my adjustment I went to my friend, Nikki's who made us lunch. I also got to spend some time with her two adorable kids.  Hannah who is around the same age as Kaylee was shy pretending she didn't know me but made sure to keep a close eye on me the whole time.  Such a cutie!!  

Once we were done chatting I went to Andrew's (who I used to babysit for) to see him and his sister, Katherine, and  meet his newest baby sister, Elizabeth, and chat with his mom.  His littlest sister was born just a day before my niece Kaitlyn!  Had a wonderful time seeing them and meeting their newest baby!  Congrats Michael, Susan, Andrew and Katherine!  
Waiting for Katherine to wake up from her nap...I got to hear a 
story read (and made up) by Andrew while snuggling with Elizabeth

The rest of the night I drove out to Round Lake to see my friend Stacy.  We went out for dinner and then had some wine while I was adoring her sweet dog, Shelby.  (Shelby is technically my parents dog, Sophie s sister...just from a different litter!) Thanks so much Stacy for your hospitality!!

Tuesday I started early so I could hit up the DMV for a copy of my car title and an attempt to change my name on the car.  They were way more efficient than I'd have ever thought and even took care of what I needed without all the necessary paperwork!  

After that I met my friend, Christy at a super cute cafe in Oakbrook.  We chatted a lot about her sister wedding festivities that have been going on this excited to hear about the details of the actual wedding once it's here!  

After lunch I took my goddaughter, Katie to Cosley Zoo and for some ice cream.  It was fun spending quality time with her, especially since I missed her birthday just a couple weeks earlier!  
Katie and me <3

After the zoo I went to Naperville to see Carli.  We went to Quigley's which brought back lots of memories of my younger days!  

After dinner I went back to my grandma's for the night where my cousin, Karrie, and her kids and my aunt Shelby visited.  It was good seeing them all and spending some time unwinding outside with some wine. I really love spending time with the kids so was thankful they took the time out to see me!


Wednesday I went back to my brothers in Aurora to spend some more time with Kaylee. We went for a walk and had fun playing in the sandbox where she would "s-oop" (scoop) the sand into the pail.  Ummmm, LOVE her.  
One our walk...she loves being pushed in here...until the 
last 5 minutes, then she has to push it herself :)

After crying lots of tears saying goodbye to her I went to meet my mom for a day of fun shopping and a delicious lunch at Uncle Julio's. (although no trip to Julio's is complete without a swirl, so I much go back soon!) We shopped and had some coffee at Starbucks.  I was thankful to have pretty much the whole day to spend with my mom...much needed girl time. :)  I'm sad we didn't get a picture together that day!

Then I met my grandma at Olive Garden for our traditional lunch/dinner.  We always get the same thing and I love our tradition!  After dinner my cousin, Joey and Kristi and kids came to visit which was wonderful to see all 6 of them.  Usually one of the kids is missing when I see them so it was a treat that all of them were there. Again super thankful they came to see me!

Thursday morning I had to wake up really early again to be in Poplar Grove, IL for day one three of the PATH Intl. Workshop to be certified as a therapeutic riding instructor.  I had to be there Thursday all day, Friday all day and Saturday until 1:30.  It was so much fun!  I will  write more about that later but for now will say I am so very excited about this journey!  It's going to be way harder than I ever thought but am excited! That night I met my parents for dinner at one of their favorite Italian restaurants then hung out with them at the lake.
More wine at the lake. Oh Weight Watchers...thanks for working 
when I actually try.  I surely will gain many pounds 
while back in IL, but it was worth it!
Friday I had to be up really early again for the workshop which was another fun but long day. That night my mom cooked for us, I got a run in along the lake and we caught up with our neighbor friends.  Later in the evening we went for a boat ride where my mom and I talked the entire time. :)
Ahhhh yes, more wine, but I'm still in my running clothes 
which proves actually did physical activity that night!  :)  
Wish my mom and dad were in this pic with me!
Saturday was the last day of the workshop, so another really early morning followed by an emotional afternoon lunch with my parents saying our goodbyes. 

After lunch I went to church at Willow Creek where Michael W Smith was leading worship.  I was able to meet my friends Beth and Les and my brother and his whole family came which was such a treat!  Kaylee got to see her first Christian concert and loved clapping when everyone else clapped! 
Kaylee's first Christian concert :)

After church I met my cousin, Wade, who I haven't seen in about 8 years.  It was great seeing him and we had a lot to catch up on. 

Finally, I went to my grandma's for our last night of wine. ;-)  We had a little extra fun that night because she accidentally hit her button which calls 911 so we had a visit from the paramedics and firemen, lights and sirens and all.  Because of that my uncle showed up so my aunt, uncle, Grandma and me had a night of giggles.  

Sunday morning I had to be up, once again, really early so I could catch my flight.  I was flying standby on a buddy pass thanks to my super generous friend, Adam so I wanted to get there early enough to hopefully get out early in the day.  I ended up getting out on my original flight and was back to Colorado by 10:40 in the morning which allowed a full day to relax, see Jason and the animals.  

Through this whole trip, I was so thankful for all the friends and family I got to see. I also was so thankful for the buddy passes from Adam.  The Workshop I attended cost us way more than I'd planned so with that and all the eating out and rental car, it got pretty costly!  Seriously a huge thank you to Adam!!!   

I wouldn't have changed a thing but learned just how exhausting a "trip back home" really is.  I wouldn't have ever imagined I would have been that tired but it really was way, way, way too much in that amount of time.  I am not sure what I'll do differently next time as I really loved seeing everyone but maybe my nights will be left open or even my mornings.  I realized I had no time at all to spend with God and without my quiet time with Him, I really don't do well.  Everyone who I saw, I felt like I was only half present because I was so tired.  Like I said, not sure what I'd change but something will have to give so I can really be "in the moment" with everyone.  Thank you to everyone who met me and to all those who let me crash at their house.  It was so wonderful seeing everyone!  I'm already excited for my next trip back and to see everyone I wasn't able to see this time around...and for all of you to visit us here in Colorado!  :)  

*PS...I really wish I had gotten more pictures with everyone!  Next time. :)