Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Times Five

Ceej and I had the pleasure of attending 5 celebrations of Christmas this year, and I loved every minute of them! I didn't take many pictures because I was waiting for my new camera (a graduation present from mi padre), but each celebration was unique and wonderful. I'll break them down for your curiousity:1. The first was on Christmas Eve, when Ceej and I went out for dinner at Red Lobster with my mom's immediate side of the family (my stepdad, brother, and step-brothers). It has been a tradition for many years and for good reason! Our dinner was delicous, and afterwards we all went to church. When it ended, we came back to our house for a game of "Christmas Bingo," entailing (surprisingly) delightful prizes like $10 gift certificates to Pier 1 Imports, Blockbuster, Subway, etc., as well as an assortment of Burts Bees products and yummy candy. Instead of typical gifts this year our family bought an ice shack to go ice fishing as a "family (boy) present," and my mom and I are going on a Mission Trip to New Orleans next week as our gift. We ended the night with a good old fashioned watching of Home Alone 2. 2. The next morning, Ceej and I drove to Stillwater, MN to visit my dad's immediate side (my sisters, brother-in-law, dad's girlfriend, and neice and nephews). We had a classic breakfast of his famous cheesy scrambled eggs, pancakes and bacon, which used to be a typical Sunday occurance when I was going there more regularily. After breakfast we opened gifts and played with the kiddos. I couldn't help but look around and smile at how big and busy our family has gotten! I remember when it was just the three of us girls and my dad, and now it's a houseful! It was Rylan's first Christmas "out of the womb" (Mickeegan, his 5 year old brother, graciously reminded me that he WAS actually with us last Christmas), and Elliana has grown so much since last year as well. The kids are so fun and I love being their "auntie Em."

3. Christmas night we drove back to Eau Claire for the Thurner immediate family Christmas, which included lobster dinner at their house. Ceej and I refrained from ordering lobster at the restaurant the night before, knowing Charlie's would be better (And it was! It was also 3x larger than the one Ben ordered at Red Lobster). We enjoyed dinner and then opened gifts. We laughed a lot, especially as John modeled his clothes that were many sizes too big! Ceej and I got some very thoughtful gifts, one being a recipe box that was owned by his grandma filled with recipes that he enjoys. One of the recipes was handwritten by Ceej years ago!

4. On Saturday I drove back to Stillwater for the Reich extended family Christmas held at my sister, Jenni's, house. Ceej played in the Alumni hockey game and couldn't make it (I had to miss the Johnson extended family Christmas because of exams, so he was off the hook... not to mention, we did have FIVE to go to). Like last year, we all gave white elephant gifts in addition to a good gift, and had lots of laughs at the creativity of the silly gifts. Some highlights included a floor-length, bright purple, jean jacket with painted sunbursts on it for my cousin, and "grills" for my uncle (fake silver teeth). Two special gifts were given to my neice and nephew: beautiful quilts made from the clothing of my late grandmother. They were called "hugs from grandma" and brought back a lot of memories of the little lady. Hugging the quilt really did make it feel like she was there with us! 5. That night I returned to Eau Claire for the Thurner extended family Christmas. Ceej played pheffer with his uncles and dad, and we all had a relaxing evening chatting for a long time. I had gotten there after the meal and gifts, but it was very nice to just casually enjoy the company of family.

This year more than ever I am so thankful for family. I am humbled by the fact that Ceej and I both have very close-knit families and extended families, and I am excited to watch as they all grow and change throughout next hundred or so years. I pray for continued health and happiness, and I hope your day or week or month of Christmas was equally as wonderful!


Well, it's official: I am an Alumna of UW-Madison. What a journey these past 3 1/2 years have been! As I reflect on my undergraduate studies, I am amazed at how unbelievably blessed I am! I have met the most wonderful women who have become my best friends, I have been challenged spiritually, psychologically, and academically. I have felt disappointment, enlightenment, confusion, joy, dismay, excitement, pride, hopelessness, and success. I have felt that I would fail at least once per semester. I have failed exams, and I have gotten "Best in Class" on several papers. I have lived in apartments infested with bats and mice. I have pulled plenty of almost-all-nighters, only to realize that I only function optimally on 8 hours of sleep. I have found a church that I adore to the extend of downloading the services and listening to them on my ipod. I have laughed so much that I cried or peed a little.

I have loved being in college.

Now that this part of my life is over, I am so thankful that I had such an amazing experience. I am sad to be done and I already miss my roommates more than words can say, but I couldn't ask for better friends, better classes, or a better experience. I have learned so much about myself and life in general, and feel ready to step into the next chapter of my life!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Grand Finale

Well, it's officially finals week here in Madison! I had an exam yesterday, one this morning, a 10 page paper due today, and an exam yet on Monday and Tuesday. I'm averaging 5-6 hours of sleep a night (and I'm definitely a fan of my 8 hour nights), and I've been at the library until about 1am each night, give or take. Don't feel sorry for me! I am DONE with exams on Tuesday and GRADUATING on Sunday... that feels so weird to say! I've also been managing to wake up 30 minutes early each day to watch an episode of Friends; ahh life's simple pleasures. Anyway, lots have been going on!! Here is a list of the events that have been occurring:

1. My amazing roommates and I have decorated our apartment FULL of Christmas joy. It's beautiful!! I'm a big fan of Christmas and my roommates, so it's pretty much the most wonderful place in the world right now!
2. We spent a night taking "Ugly Christmas Sweater" pictures. We had a blast! Below is one entitle, "awkward smile." It makes me laugh!
3. My poor roommate and Maid of Honor, Jamie (on the far right), has 3 kidney stones!! We're waiting for them to pass and she's taking it like a champ. We affectionately refer to them as "the triplets" as it feels like we're waiting for her to go into labor when we ask questions like what she'll do if they come during class or who will hold her hand when "it's time." 4. Ceej and I have a new niece!! Little Miss. Scarlett Rose was born on December 6 at 8 pounds and 1 ounce, and she is beautiful!! Mommy and baby are both happy and healthy. I can't wait to see this little punkin again! I am so happy that she lives in Madison right now so I could be there shortly after the birth, but I will be sad to leave them in a month! Anyway, off to study! I'll update you when I have my Bachelors degree!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Giving Thanks

What a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! I've decided that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love that it is the least commercialized holiday (besides Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Flag day, I suppose), and it is literally about thanking God for close family and friends. Because this year I am thankful amidst a ton of papers and projects (actually I had four due the Monday and Tuesday after this short break), I decided to spend Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family an hour and a half away from Madison in Hartford, WI and return to Madison Friday night to pump out some projects. Ceej had been planning on working Friday, so he was going to meet me in Madison that night to keep me company while my 6 roommates were away.

So Wednesday night rolls around and I'm taking a "study break" to clean (because I love cleaning) and watch Private Practice when I hear a knock on my door. For those of you who don't know, I am a major chicken when it comes to being alone at night, and I immediately assumed it was a robber coming to kidnap me. My eyes bulged out of their sockets, my heart started pounding out of my chest, and sweat was forming around my face (pathetic, I know). It got worse when I looked out the peephole of the front door to see a man with his hood up, a cap on, and looking toward the ground! After a few seconds of debating if it was Ceej or not, I called his phone and -low and behold- it was! After recovering physiologically from my near-death experience, I felt absolutely thrilled that I could spend the holiday weekend with one of the things I am most thankful for.

Thursday morning we drove to Hartford and had a day filled with great food, family, and fun! My cousin, Courtney, and I agreed that this year our already-close extended family felt especially unified. We talked, laughed, and played an intense game of Apples-to-Apples.

That night Ceej and I stayed with my cousin Lindsay and her husband, Shane, in their beautiful, newly built home. It made Ceej and I really excited to decorate our own little apartment in the upcoming months (the details of which are yet to be unveiled by you-know-who (God)). While we didn't make it out shopping for Black Friday (we were busy being treated amazingly well by our hosts... complete with chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast!), I found out later that my dad was able to take full advantage of the bargains. This man who hates lines and busy malls camped out in front of Best Buy from 8pm Thursday night to 5am Friday morning to get a laptop for $500. He said that while it was quite cold, it was worth it (although he doubts that he would do it again). I'm proud of his ambition, and I now realize where my bargain-hunting ability comes from!

Friday night Ceej and I relaxed to the movie Schindler's List; I had never seen it and it came highly encouraged by his parents, for good reason! It made me even more thankful for everything I have... how blessed I am with family and friends as well as the opportunities I have been given and often take for granted. Saturday my wonderful fiance went grocery shopping for me and cooked me dinner while I did homework, being so respectful and supporting of my obligations. After a scrumptious dinner we went to the hockey game against Michigan (Badgers won!) and to the Comedy Club on State Street. My roommates will tell you that I am slightly obsessed with the Comedy Club here--it's one of my favorite things to do in this city! It was such a fun night; we just have so much fun together! The weekend high was extended when I came home from the library tonight to an apartment decked out with Christmas cheer. We now have a decorated tree, stockings with our names on it, lights, snowflakes, you name it. It makes me so happy to be home!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Home Sweet Home

For Ceej's Birthday I went back to the Eau C to spend the weekend with him. We had so much fun! I decided last minute on Thursday afternoon that I couldn't function anymore without seeing him (I had been stressed, burnt out, and crabby pretty much all week), so I skipped class and went to see him then instead of waiting until Friday afternoon. After the weekend at home, I can honestly say that I feel like a different person. I was really dreading the next month (it's my last month of undergrad filled with an insane amount of exams and projects, and I have the added pressure of needing to do well for grad school), and after "recuperating" at home I have a totally different attitude. I look at this next month as a mountain to climb rather than an ocean to drown in. It's weird how seeing one person can make you feel balanced, reminding you of why you're working so hard to begin with.

Back to the weekend, on Friday night we went out for dinner at Manny's Mexican Cantina with our parents. We enjoyed margaritas, good food, and great conversation. It was nice to be able to spend time with everyone in an intimate setting. After dinner, Ceej and I went to the movie Saw V. It was very well done, but not for those of you who are ultra-sensitive. We both love scary movies, so it was right up our ally!

On Saturday night Ceej and I went out for dinner at Tokyo (a Hibachi-style Japanese restaurant) and then went to the play, "Tuesdays with Morrie." We were without a doubt the youngest couple at the play, but really liked it nonetheless. We pretended we were on our first date and asked eachother questions to "get to know" one another again. We also did the whole "I want to hold your hand but I'm afraid of making the first move" thing (i.e., we put our hands on our own knees and slowly crept them toward the other's). It's funny to remember actually doing that! After the play we went to Rolly's with Ceej's uncle Mark and his girlfriend Angie. We also met up with Andy, Mandy, and Mitch for Ceej's Birthday!

We had a lot of fun at good ol' Rolly's (the famous bar of Altoona), and we were both really glad everyone could make it out!
On Sunday was our nephew's first Birthday party (it's fun to say "our")! Alex had a lot of people at his party and seemed to have fun (he REALLY enjoyed the Jello Poke Cake)! It was so fun that the little guy got zonked out and fell asleep for a little while before opening his presents. It was quite the party!

We also took a Thurner family picture while everyone was around. I feel so blessed to be marrying into such a great family!
Actually, I'm pretty blessed in general.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

For the Birthday Boy

Happy Birthday, Love Boat! I wish I could have spent today with you, but I am so very happy to be able to celebrate with you this weekend! Remember the picture below? It was on your 18th Birthday riding on the bus back from Fall Camp Castaway. As a whopping 14 year old, I specifically remember thinking how OLD 18 sounded, and I also remember how sick of pictures you were by the time this one was taken (some things don't change). As I look at this picture and reflect on the last 7 years, I am so in awe of the man you've become. Ceej, I am so in love with you! I am thrilled to be spending the next hundred years together, and I look forward to our marriage and learning even more about you.
Love, Your Future Wife

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Christmas Lover

I love Christmas. I love everything about it, whether it's going to church and being in awe of Christ's blessings, baking cookies and spending too much time decorating them, shopping for or making gifts unique to each person, and (yes) spending lots of time with the many people whom I love. I can honestly say that I enjoy picking out my gifts for other people more than I enjoy getting gifts myself. For those of you who know me well, you know that I have a big, semi-complicated family situation. My family has already been tossing around Christmas plans in an effort to organize our many options. To give you a little taste of what I'm talking about, Ceej and I need to organize Christmas at mom's, dad's, mom's relatives, my step-dad's relatives, dad's relatives, Ceej's parents, Ceej's mom's relatives, Ceej's dad's relatives... whoa! Needless to say, there is no physical way that we can make it to everyone's, but we do as much as we can because we truly love to spend this amazing season with our amazing family. I'm writing this entry because I'm sure that I'm not the only person on earth who has to organize where to spend Christmas and with whom, and I know that it can get stressful. Whenever I feel a little drained at the thought of going from this Christmas celebration to that Christmas celebration (you know what I'm talking about), I remind myself how truly blessed I am.

Christmas time is unfortunately a time that MANY people around the world feel more lonely, sad, or depressed than any other time of year. Here I am, having to organize my many Christmas' because I have so many people whom I love and who love me. I feel so humbled by this thought, and I wanted to share it because I know we all get so caught up in the party-planning, gift-giving, financial-strain of this season that we forget the true meaning, which is the birth of our Savior meant to be celebrated with family and friends.

Below is a link to an awesome video put together by some Stewards at Blackhawk, my church here in Madison. It really impacted me and the reasons why I'm anticipating the upcoming holidays, and I hope it does the same for you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Spooktakular Halloween in Madison!

For my last Halloween as a UW student, Ceej and some of our friends from Altoona came to spend the weekend with Dana and I (most of my roommates were out of town). For those of you who aren't from around here, Halloween in Madison (AKA "Freakfest") is quite the event and even has a place in Wikipedia, so you know it is of great importance ( This year 38,300 people purchased tickets to State Street, which doesn't even take into consideration the visitors who just come to go to the bars! Dana and I were exceptionally excited for the weekend and spent two weeks preparing (and by "preparing" I mean "anticipating"). We made some decorations and put up spider webs... successfully making out apartment extremely scary.

We had a great time dressing up as a brick house and a brick layer (we just can't get enough of the couple costumes... although it didn't surpass our costume last year of the milk man and a pregnant housewife). Did you notice the cool facial hair that Ceej grew out to complete his costume? It was wonderful to spend some time together and with the A-Town boys, although (as usual) the weekend went by so fast!

Saturday was absolutely beautiful! We spent a majority of the afternoon having a few drinks right here on my front steps. It was just lovely! As the night went on, we played a game of "Apples to Apples" before heading down to State Street to go to a few favorite bars and experience Halloween Madison-style. We danced at Frida's and Brats, enjoyed a Fish Bowl at Wandos, and just laughed a ton. As is typical in early November, the walk home was freezing. I was thankful that Ceej was gracious enough to let me wear his outer layer (he always as at least a few). For some reason on this particular evening I ended up in many random belongings and articles of clothing. In the picture below, which was taken in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I am wearing Ceej's costume over my own, Adam's hat, Evan's lei, and Mitch's mustache! It was definitely a successful weekend!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Andy and Mandy's Wedding!

On October 11th, Ceej and I had the privilege of being a part of the wedding of our dear friends, Andy and Mandy. We have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Andy and Mandy as couples for numerous game nights, valley fair trips, and dinner dates, and our friendship has grown tremendously throughout the past few years. Having friends that you can spend time with both on your own and as a couple is a very important yet rare find, and we both value and appreciate the time we can spend with them. We are extremely happy for the newlyweds, and we look forward to watching their love grow!

How we all met: Ceej and Andy have been friends since they were just little kiddos! They spent nearly all their time together. Apparently, they managed to stay out of trouble by making videos with the camcorder (as evidence, a "music video" of Andy singing when he was 8 was played during the Best Men's speech; it was absolutely hilarious to see how little he has changed!). Andy and I became friends the summer before my freshman year in high school, even before Ceej and I did! He has supported us throughout our relationship, and we will always appreciate that. Mandy transferred to Altoona her senior year and was a couple of years older. Because, unlike older boys, older girls don't really mix with younger girls until AFTER high school graduation, we became friends a few years ago through the four of us hanging out. I am so happy that we have them!

Ceej and I had a blast at the wedding! Not surprisingly, it made us really excited for our own!
Andy and Mandy had a trolley drive the wedding party around for a few hours between the ceremony and reception. We made a couple stops at Rolly's bar and 10th Street park for some pictures, but the trolley was so much in itself with karaoke and champagne that no other stops were needed!
So, the picture below is very out of order. It's actually at the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding. I included it because the wonderful man I'm going to be married to in 219 days is an extremely snappy dresser. He picked out his adorable outfit all by himself, just knowing the color of my dress! As corny as it is, we just love coordinating!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Catholic Engaged Encounter

Ceej and I spent the past weekend at Catholic Engaged Encounter in St. Croix, Minnesota. It was a beautiful weekend, and we both thoroughly enjoyed getting to know one another even more. Below is a view from the resort that we stayed at.

The theme of the weekend was Write Exchange Dialogue (WED). This meant that one of the two senior couples who were leading the retreat would talk about a certain issue (personal history, our specific relationship, hopes and dreams, finances, stewardship, conflict, sexuality, etc.) and their experiences regarding it. We would separate from our fiances to reflect and answer questions in a journal regarding the issues, and then we would get back together in a private area to exchange the journals and talk about them. The area of conflict was especially enlightening for us. Although you would think we've gotten the hang of it by now, analyzing how we both handle an arguement and respecting the differences was something that we have never actually done before. It has already had an effect on our relationship and the way we communicate. On a different note, we were given ten rules for fair fighting, and we thought you could might benefit from them as well:
1.No name calling
2.No third parties
3.Don't bring up past arguements
4.Stick to the subject
5.No cheap shots
6.Don't go to bed angry
7.Maintain a sense of humor
8.Hold hands
9.Don't use universals (e.g.,"you ALWAYS____" or "you NEVER____")
and 10.Fight with your clothes off

We were also given a little free time, during which Ceej and I played frisbee golf and took walks through the woods. It reminded us of our engagement pictures, so we tried to reenact a few of them. The picture on the left was our best attempt at replicating the professional photograph on the right. Not quite gallery material, but hey-we tried.

Catholic Engaged Encounter was such an intimate experience, and we truly left feeling emotionally and spiritually unified. If I could sum up the theme of the weekend it would be this:

How to keep God as the focus of your relationship, for it is only through a deep spiritual relationship between the two of you and our Father that you will sustain the unity needed for a healthy and happy marriage.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Engagement Pictures

On August 17th Ceej and I made the trip to Hartford, Wisconsin to get our engagement pictures done. Our photographer, Amy McManigal, lives just 15 minutes from my grandparents, so we were thrilled to see them and make a weekend of it! We had a lot of fun and laughed a lot. And no, we didn't even get sick of kissing one another!