Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflection of 2014

I think it is safe to say that upon reflecting our year in 2014, it has been a really big year for us, and 2014 will be bookmarked as one of the best years for Russ Family. It has been a whirlwind ride consisting of so many life-changing events. 2015 might pale in comparison to this year, but we will see what 2015 will bring for us, right? 

For the first two months in 2014, we dealt with a lot of polar vortexes, and we were getting sick of winter. January-February, and sometime March tend to drag on, and make Wisconsin winters seem so, so long. We kept ourselves occupied by visiting our friends, family, and supporting Stu through his graduate school semester. 

March rolled around with no sight of spring coming anytime soon. Ordinarily, this would have put us in the doldrums, or a cabin fever, pining for spring weather to arrive already. However, in early March, I had gotten a very exciting news, and it was going to change our family dynamics once again. 

I had just learned that I was pregnant with Frankie! Thrilled, I informed Stu that we were going to be parents once again, and that Frankie was estimated to be due in late November. It was a blessing to get pregnant when we did, because of the craziness that ensured shortly after. If we had gotten pregnant earlier, then it would have thrown a wrench in the chaos, and made it even crazier. So, it was truly a perfect timing that we got pregnant when we did.

In may, Stu graduated from Marian College with an administration degree. He had been looking for a job for awhile, even before he graduated, and landed a few job interviews. While the interviews went very well, and Stu felt confident with his interviews; he often came in as a second choice, and did not get a job with the places he had his interviews at. I was pretty sure that we were going to stay another year in Ripon, which I had not minded, because I loved living in Ripon. However, at the same time, I understood that we really need a new opportunity to support our growing family, and for Stu to climb up the ladder in his career. Then Stu had informed me that he had a job interview with Shawano High School. I was excited about this possibility, because it meant moving closer to Green Bay.

While Stu was in graduate school, we talked about what we had hoped to see happen from Stu's job search. It was our ideal plan in a perfect world scenario to move back to Green Bay. We had a lot of friends in the area, and my OB-GYN doctor was located there. I wanted to give birth at the same hospital where Forrest was born, and had hoped for a natural birth. If we moved closer to Green Bay, then my hope to have a natural birth was more likely going to happen.

At the same time, we also liked the idea of staying in Ripon area, and to raise our kids there. Ripon was our second choice after Green Bay area. Even though we wanted to return to Green Bay, the idea of leaving Ripon was also really sad, because I had come to really love the place. After all, it was where Stu, and I met, and fell in love. That place had a lot of special meaning for us.

In early June, while we were waiting on the word from Stu's job interview with Shawano High School; Stu, and I left Forrest, for the first time since he was born, for a long weekend to attend one of my best friends' wedding, and it was a wonderful time! My favorite part of their wedding was when Monis sang a beautiful song to Teri. Tears were definitely shed at this amazing heartfelt surprise he did for Teri during the vows. I was able to catch up with our "Three Musketeers" best friends, spend time with them, and enjoy our friendships for old time sake. It was a beautiful wedding, and I felt honored to stand up for Teri, and Monis. And the best part was that, later in the year in the fall, I learned that Monis, and Teri were expecting their first baby (and I'm guessing the baby is a girl)!

In late June, we got the news we were waiting for! Stu got a job through Shawano High school! We were thrilled! On the other hand, I was a bit daunted by the idea of moving, because as much as I hate to admit this, I was slow to accept new changes. We also learned that Stu was starting his new job on July 1st, and we just found out that he got the job a week before! Fortunately, Spencer, and Wally (Stu's brother, and fiancee) lived in the same town, so Stu was able to crash with them until we found a place to move in. It meant our summer was going to be a bit hectic with packing, commuting, and finding a new house to move in.

Stu came home to us on Friday afternoon/evening, and stayed with us until Sunday evening. Before Stu left every Sunday evening, he always made sure he helped me out by bathing Forrest, and putting him down to bed. He wanted to make it easier for me, and to savor every moment with Forrest. During the week, I had to be a single mama to a very active toddler. I definitely gained a lot of respect for single parents after this experience (not that I never had any before--it was just that I had no idea until then how hard it was to be a single parent).

It was equally hard on both Stu, and I. For Stu, commuting, living away from his family, sleeping on his brother's sofa in the living room, and finding a perfect house for us placed a lot of stress on Stu's shoulders. For me, a lot of packing, cleaning, and tending to Forrest while pregnant was difficult. I did not sleep well at night without Stu with us at home. Thankfully, my mom stepped in as much as she could to help with packing, and kept us a company. For that, I was grateful to her.

Forrest also went through a change over the summer. I had hoped to start weaning Forrest off his Nuk after we had moved into a new house. However, Forrest started chewing through his Nuk pacifiers. I made a bold decision not to purchase any new Nuk. Once Forrest chewed through his last Nuk, then he was done. I figured it was not going to happen after we moved. How wrong was I! One night, I discovered that Forrest did chew through his last Nuk. Frozen in the indecisiveness, I debated running to Walgreen's, and decided against it. I told Forrest that he was becoming to be a big boy, and no longer needed his pacifier. I prepared for a long night ahead of me. To my great surprise, after 2 hours of fussing, Forrest fell asleep, and slept through the night with no problem! The next day, Forrest inquired for his Nuk at his nap, and I gave him an answer that he was not getting one. He napped just fine. That night, he did not even bother asking for his Nuk! Mission accomplished for this such a big boy!

We continued to look for rental homes. It was becoming more stressful, because every house we looked at, there was something wrong with the house, the rent was too high for a shoddy place, the size was not right for our growing family, and there was always something that we did not like. It was when we decided to look into buying a home. We spent about 2 weeks looking at homes, and did find one potential home that we liked. However, we got cold feet, and did not quite want to make a huge commitment. Our reasoning was that we did not know the area very well, and we were not sure how long we planned on living in Shawano. We did not have a long-term plan, and retracted our decision to purchase a home. We were back to square one. The deadline loomed over our heads. We had to be out of our old home by August, and Stu wanted us to be settled in before school year began.

In the midst of house search, and packing; we took a hiatus from both for a long week to attend my brother, Alex's, and his wife, Alex's wedding. Yes, my brother, and his wife shared the same first name! I had a wonderful time, and it was a beautiful wedding. I loved the food, music, and company. The decor was beautiful. It was also bittersweet to see my first brother to get married, because I had a lot of nogalistic memories from our childhoods. Nonetheless, I had a blast spending time with my brothers, and sister, along with the rest of family. On the same weekend, I also helped Sam, who was a maid of honor for my sister, to host a bridal shower for Lauren! She got a lot of lovely things, and was showered with a lot of love by everybody who attended her shower.

By early August, we still had not found a house to move in, and the crunch time was on. However, first, it was time to participate in Lauren's, and Joey's wedding! It was a beautiful late summer wedding, and as tired as I was, I had a great time dancing, and eating. Lauren and Joey had their wedding at a rustic center with old building in middle of a beautiful garden. It was just a perfect fit for them to have a cozy, almost fairy-like wedding. We really enjoyed ourselves, even though Forrest was not wild about his duty as a ring-bearer!

Then, Stu found a house for us, and asked me to join him to see the place. The house did not have much to look at on the outside, and I was a bit apprehensive with what I was going to find inside. To my great surprise, I immediately fell in love with our home as we walked through the home. It taught me not to judge anything by its cover!

We met with our landlords. Initially, they were trying to sell their home, and the market was not doing so well. They were suggested by a Realtor to rent, but our landlords didn't quite want to make a plunge, due to horror stories with awful tenants not taking care of the home. At our meeting, we all clicked so well. Our landlords felt so comfortable with renting the house to us, and even informed us that if we decided down the road, then they were willing to sell the house to us! We sat down, and agreed on a date for us to move in, and start paying monthly rent. It meant a crunch time for me to get our house in Ripon cleaned up, and our things to be packed up to go! We were also relieved, because we had to be out of our old house by end of August for the new tenants to move in. Whew! It was when I got a lot of kindness in return from strangers, and friends to get boxes for our things to be packed up in.

Not even two weeks later; it was time to move into our new house, and unpack everything. It was a lot of work. Our family came together to help us move in, which was pretty awesome, and Forrest had a blast playing with his cousins. We worried a bit that Forrest might regress a bit with being in a new house. Fortunately, we only had one tough night with Forrest not wanting to sleep in his new bedroom, and after that, he took to the new environment with no problem! On the other hand, our pets; they took a while to adjust, and become comfortable with our new home.

In early September while the weather was still warm, and nice, we celebrated a birthday party for Forrest's 2nd birthday bash! I tried my hand at making an Elmo cake, and it turned out better than I thought it would. Forrest liked the taste of the cake more than the appearance of the cake itself, ha. We found a really nice pumpkin patch that sold pumpkins for good price! I was able to gather eight little pumpkins to be pureed, and made into pies, or any recipes that called for pumpkin puree!

Forrest also had his allergy tests done with Dr. Warpinski to find the numbers for his allergies to both dairy, and peanuts. We learned that Forrest had outgrown several of very mild allergies, which was great, and made us happy! We were explained by Dr. W that the milk allergy may be outgrown by the time Forrest started elementary school, which was the best case scenario, and the worst case scenario was Forrest not outgrowing his dairy allergy. The number for peanut allergy came back quite high, which was not surprising at all, and it was something that we already prepared for. I felt better knowing how severe his allergies were. We made an appointment for the following year to retest Forrest for tree nuts, and milk allergies.

October rolled around. With the weather finally becoming cooler, we harvested our tomatoes, and we got about good twenty pounds of tomatoes out of our garden! Matter of fact, we had so much that we had to give a lot away to our neighbors, family, and friends. Dad taught me how to juice tomatoes, and gave me an awesome starter kit for canning for the next summer. I was so thrilled to receive this amazing gift, and knew it was going to be put to a good use in 2015!

Stu, and I celebrated our 10th anniversary as a couple! We went out for our traditional date at Red Lobster for pre-baby celebration. With my pregnancy, I had a lot of craving for sea food, and I was quite glad to be able to enjoy a feast of seafood. Nom Nom.

Stu, Forrest, and I dressed up for Halloween. We had a great time passing out safe candies along with non-treats to the trick-n-treaters. Our outfits were such a hit, especiallly the duo costume that Stu, and Forrest wore (Trailer Park Boys; Bubbles, and Corky). Forrest enjoyed seeing all kids dressed up, and often wanted to help pass out the treats. We were asked by few people about Teal Project (allergy free treats). It was so successful that I decided to maintain Teal Project for Halloweens yet to come! 

Finally, Jellybean's birth date month arrived! Since we kept our baby's gender a surprise from everybody else, including ourselves; I dubbed the baby as Jellybean, because we announced our pregnancy around Easter. The nickname stuck ever since.

I had spent the last two months trying to turn Jellybean into a correct position for giving birth, because he was a breech baby, and I tried variety of methods. I stressed a lot, because my platelet level was erratic. It went to being really low, to being normal, then back to low. I held hope to have a natural birth, and tried to accept that it may not be in the cards for us. We had a few ultrasounds to determine the position of where Jellybean was in, and to check on the fluid level. Finally, we were given a green light in mid-November to have a natural birth! I was ecstatic! Suddenly, we were hit by an AWFUL stomach virus, and it was not fun at all. As result after we recovered from it, I got a burst of crazy energy to clean, clean, and clean. People told me that it meant Jellybean was going to be born soon. I shrugged it off, because I was so convinced I was having a December baby based on the fact that Forrest didn't come early when I was pregnant with him. I figured Jellybean was not going to be early, or on time either.

On one snowy evening, about a week early, Jellybean decided it was time to come into the world, and I had a natural birth that I wanted. As soon as Jellybean was delivered, we saw that he was a boy, and Frankie was born on the 24th at 10:25 pm! We became a family of four that night. In the coming weeks, we adjusted to a new family dynamics, and Forrest loved his new role as a big brother. Forrest had his crib converted into a toddler bed, and did so amazing. It was clear that he was more than ready for this change. We also purchased him a chair booster, and had him hand down his space saver high chair for Frankie to have. Forrest loved being a big boy, and a big brother to Frankie.

While we were not quite complete as a family, we were very content with being a family of four for the time being, and started to enjoy being parents of two boys.

Overall, it has been a really exciting, and big year. I am not sure how 2015 will top 2014, and I have a feeling that 2015 may be a bit slow compared to this year. However, it is okay, because I think we need a break from chaos to enjoy we reaped from 2014. I look forward to watching Frankie grow by doing monthly post updates on him, to get Forrest ready for potty training so he can get enrolled in 3K in the fall if we decide to do that, work on becoming healthier, start saving up for a van (yep, it's that time), start saving up for a house (maybe this one we are living in, we shall see, won't we), introducing new ideas for my blog (thinking about bringing back 7 on 7 photos for every month), and creating new memories in 2015!

Have a very safe New Year's Celebration tonight, and a happy 2015!