What's Up Wednesday

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I'm linking up with Shay, Shaefer and Mel the last Wednesday of the month again for What's Up Wednesday!
What we're eating this week:
Chili and cornbread
Sticky BBQ chicken drumsticks
Loaded sweet potato nachos (thank you for the recipe, Becca!)
Grilled chicken and roasted root veggies
What I'm reminiscing about:
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Spencer's conference in Chicago earlier this month a.k.a me and Jack and David's free vacation ;) Full Chicago post ---------> here.
What I'm excited about:
Our truck completely gave up the ghost last week (that part was not exciting) but our new addition is! We all love my new sweet ride ;)
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There was a discussion about vans on fb the other day and my friend said, "Sliding doors were the creation of a benevolent God who knew how hard it was to get little kids in and out of cars without taking out other people's paint jobs." AMEN! lol
What I'm loving:
Jack quotes! He has said the funniest things this month.
  • Out of nowhere - "Hey, mom! Turtles, pizza, and Arizona are my favorites!"
  • In his prayers every day - "Heavenly Father, thank you that our truck broke so that we could get a "bootiful ban". Thank you for turtles, and kangaroos and frogs..." 
  • After I watched this video that made me cry - "Hey mom! What are you feeling?! I see you feeling sad!"
  • He came home from preschool last week so excited about his new art project - "Mom! I MADE GOD!!!" I totally believed him because we usually refer to God as Heavenly Father at home so I assumed that he learned "God" at his Lutheran preschool. But I did find it odd that they made a God puppet with colors and googly eyes! Then I cleared it up with a friend :)
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I have no idea how he completely missed the Joseph thing, but I think it's so funny!
  • Also, the funniest thing happened this week at church. Jack wore a temporary frog tattoo to church on his hand and a new guy in our congregation noticed it. He told Jack that it was soooo cool, and then proceeded to take off his jacket, roll up his sleeves, and show Jack all of his huge tattoos of a scantily clad women. Soooo... we won't be wearing fake tattoos to church anymore ;)
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  • I'm also loving that when you ask David what his name is, he yells, "HALL!" I've never heard a one-year-old go by their last name before :)
What we've been up to
All things Halloween! Highlights: Boo at the Zoo, mall trick-or-treating, and pumpkin painting. I love that puppy and spooky ghost :)
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What I'm dreading:
What I'm working on:
I'm working on getting the basement better organized for the winter when we will need to play inside more. During General Conference weekend, I bought a bunch of tubs at the Dollar Tree and purged and sorted through all of our small toys.
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I'm also training for a five mile race on Thanksgiving. I want to beat my time from last year so I'm started working out about once a week with the Cornbelt running club again. (I took a nice long break after my half marathon) They do a six mile strength workout every Tuesday night throughout the winter that has 14 hills and I did my first one last week in the pouring rain! It was actually a lot of fun but I think it's because the rain distracted me from the miserable hills. I hope I'm still running when I'm old and retired like some of these guys! Actually, I'm just hoping I have enough motivation to keep running with them this winter in the snow!
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What I'm watching/reading:
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Still watching Parks and Recreation! Spencer now loves it more than The Office and I think it's tied for me. If you haven't watched Parks and Rec WATCH IT NOW!!!! It's so dang funny.

For book club this month, we read Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas. I loved it!
What I've been listening to:
Old Disney movies in the van - Lion King, Aladin and Beauty and the Beast. Driving around town is a lot more peaceful with a DVD player :) BUT I am forcing the boys to watch the Disney classics because they never choose them at home.
What I'm wearing: 
It is 3:44 pm on a Sunday afternoon as I type this and I'm wearing pjs :)
What I'm doing this weekend:
Trunk-or-treating at our church on Friday night and trick-or-treating on Halloween night!
What I'm looking forward to next month:
Thanksgiving and Jack's 4th birthday!
Bonus Question: What is your favorite Thanksgiving Recipe?
I have three favorites :) Sorry I'm not a real foodie blogger who includes pictures ;)

12 cups bread, broken up w/ crust (let it lay out for two days until it's stale)
1 cup melted butter
3/4 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 cup chopped celery with leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 TB dried sage

Brown onions and celery in butter over stove.

Mix in 1/3 of the bread and let the butter soak in the bread.

Transfer to a mixing bowl and gradually add salt, pepper and sage

Add the remaining bread crumbs

And here's the tricky part - my recipe says to cook it in the oven. That's it. So I guess cook it at whatever temperature you want until it looks done to you :)

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups sweet potato
1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Boil and mash sweet potatoes. Blend in sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, and milk. Put into baking dish and bake for 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Mix topping ingredients and pour over sweet potato mixture and heat for 5 minutes.

This Pecan Pie
What's up with you?!
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Last week, Spencer had a 5 day conference in Chicago, and I feel like Jack, David and I got the better end of the deal because while Spencer sat in meetings for five days straight, we got to play!

On Friday night, we drove to Chicago as soon as Spencer got off of work. We took a forty-five minute detour for Spencer's ridiculous favorite - Panda Express. There isn't a Panda Express in Davenport and there wasn't one in Birmingham either so Spencer has really missed that cheap Chinese chain food ;) To this day, I still don't crave Chinese food after eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for six months straight when I lived in China back in 2009, but I'm glad that Spencer got his fix.
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 On Saturday morning, Spencer went to his conference and we headed out to play! Jack's only requests for the trip were to see The Bean and to go to the "rocket ship museum" aka the Planetarium. Our hotel was in an awesome location on the Magnificent Mile and since there was so much to see along the way and because I'm cheap and didn't want to spend any money for parking, I decided to walk the 2 1/2 miles to the museum. Jack and David did great on the walk! The Magnificent Mile was decorated so cute for Halloween and Jack and David wanted to get out of the stroller and touch every. single. pumpkin.
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Next stop was "the Bean" aka Cloud Gate in Grant Park.
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We walked along Lake Michigan, stopped to feed the geese, and then finally made it to the Planetarium!
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 Since I knew where all of the kid areas were this time around, we were also able to hit the Field Museum before Spencer came and picked us up during his lunch break.
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That afternoon, David took his first and only nap in the hotel room and once Spencer was done with his conference for the day, we walked over to explore the American Girl Doll Store and the Lego Store. The only reason Jack and David liked the American Girl Doll Store is because all of the dolls had pets. They just wanted to see the dogs, not the dolls! #boymom #legostoreforthewin
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 The only food request that Spencer had the entire trip was Unos! It was delicious. While we were waiting for our food, David and I headed over to Trader Joes to stalk up on some of our favorites and some seasonal items - we got the red and yellow Thai curry, the pumpkin bread mix, the pumpkin pancake mix, the pumpkin pecan oatmeal, the pumpkin spice pumpkin seeds, and the amazing dried mangoes with no sugar added.
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We stopped at Sprinkles on our way home because nothing beats delicious dense pizza followed by a delicious dense cupcake ;) Spencer ranted about trendy cupcakes and how cupcakes weren't even good but then he took a bite and took it all back :) We shared the red velvet cupcake and Jack and David each had a mini strawberry cupcake.
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 The next morning was the Chicago Marathon and once I realized that my friend and old college roommate, Erika, was racing, I headed out to the start to try and meet up with her before the race. Her goal is to run a marathon in every state and Illinois was her 13th state! She's running the Boston Marathon this spring and I'm so excited for her. Watching all of the crazy runners out and about almost made me want to run a marathon again... but then I remembered that 26.2 miles of running is torture :)
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Spencer had the afternoon off, so in the morning we wandered around the Magnificent Mile while we waited for him to finish. Jack and David loved the Disney Store!
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They had all of Pixar's The Good Dinosaur toys out already and I can't wait to take Jack and David to see it over Thanksgiving! They already love it.
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Spencer only had one afternoon off his entire conference and of all of the Chicago touristy things to see, he chose to see the Lincoln Park Zoo :) We love the zoo, in case I haven't mentioned that on this blog before ;) The Lincoln Park zoo is free and I think it is my favorite zoo I've ever been to. 
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Me and Spencer's favorite were the gorillas and apes, David's favorite were the giraffes, and Jack's favorite were the turtles, of course :) Jack was cheering, dancing, and squealing in the hot, stinky reptile house!
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A nice man gave us his extra tickets to the tractor ride.
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We walked to and from the Zoo (which was a little over two miles from our hotel) and by the time we got back to the hotel, we were wiped! We tried the popular M Burger on our way home and it was good and tasted very similar to In N' Out. My only advice would be to not eat it after pounding deep dish pizza and cupcakes the night before :)
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The next day, I decided to visit the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum which was right next to the zoo because it was another museum that we could get into for free with our local science museum membership. It was the highlight of Jack's trip and he changed the name of the museum to "the turtle museum." I think we saw over 20 difference species of turtles! Jack cheered and danced and sang made up songs about turtles the entire time we were there. My boy loves turtles :)
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The turtle feeding in the butterfly house was Jack's favorite part.
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I ended up buying a couple of turtle toys for Jack because he wants a "cute cozy turtle" for his birthday and for Christmas, and I'm not sure how easy it's going to be to find one. There was a "cozy turtle hand puppet" at the gift shop so I hope that works :)
After the museum, we rushed back downtown for the Columbus Day Parade at 12:30. We got a great spot and had a great time.
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Jack lined up his new turtles to watch the parade :)
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After the parade, we walked back to the hotel for a little break before dinner. Jack and David did SO GOOD walking all over the city, thank goodness!
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 Spencer had a reception that night so we were on our own for dinner. I tried the Velvet Taco because a friend recommended it. She especially recommended the tater totes with the fried egg! Totally different, but it was all great!
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 We were all exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel and when Spencer got back, he had FOUR Sprinkles cupcakes with him! #cupcakeconvert (FYI the red velvet is THE BEST but they were all amazing!)
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 Day two with no nap.
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 On our last full day in Chicago, Jack begged to go to the "turtle museum" again and David screamed "NO! ZOO!" every time Jack asked to go to the turtle museum :) So that's exactly what we did. Nature Museum and Zoo round 2! This is how excited I was spending hours in Chicago in front of turtle aquariums:
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And this is how excited Jack was:
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 This is the part of the post that you probably want to skip because - animal pictures.
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 rhino bum selfie
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I caved and let them ride the carousel - of all the cool animals to choose from, my quirky Jack chose to ride the frog! David chose the tiger. When the ride started and the tiger went up and down, David screamed "Scary! Scary!" so we finished the rest of the ride sitting on the bench part of the carousel.
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 We headed back to the car at about 3, but then poor sleep deprived David fell asleep in the stroller. I knew he would wake up if I moved him to his car seat so we headed back to the zoo... again. By this time, even Jack knew his way around the zoo!
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 Once David woke up, we booked it straight to the car to meet Spencer for dinner. We ate at Portillo's and had their Chicago style hot dogs and shared their famous chocolate cake shake. We stopped at the original McDonald's on the way to the hotel so that the boys could have a "white" ice cream cone.
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The next day, Spencer had meetings until noon so we hung out in the hotel and then headed over to Water Tower Place to get some Garrets Popcorn for the ride home (since we didn't have enough junk food this trip) and to play at the American Girl Doll Place and the Lego Store for the last time.
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When we got in the car to start the drive home, Jack started crying because Spencer didn't get to see the "turtle museum". So... we made a "quick" stop at the Nature Museum and then David started yelling "ZOO! Raffs!" (Giraffes) so we made a "quick" stop at the zoo again. We are suckers.
Spencer with the turtles:
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Spencer with the giraffes:
(And Jack's victory dancing)
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True mother love is going to Chicago for five days and spending three of those days at the zoo and at the "turtle museum," then being too exhausted from the zoo and turtle museum to even go shopping on the Magnificent Mile at night :)
While we were in Chicago, my mom sent me these pictures of my first Chicago trip in 2002! I remember the highlight of my trip then was playing elevator tag in the clear glass elevators of our hotel :) So really, who cares if the highlight of Jack's trip was the turtles?!
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We had such a good time in Chicago! The weather was perfect and I just love walking around and exploring big cities! I feel lucky that we've been able to see so much of Chicago at basically no cost, thanks to Spencer's job.