Jack is FOUR!

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By Caitlin Connolly
Today, we're celebrating the life of my sweet little boy. Last night, I found myself in the same exact position I found myself in last year, and the year before that and the year before that (and also the night before David's birthday) - kneeling next to my baby's bed in a hot sobbing mess :) As I knelt next to his bed, I tried to remember every last detail of my three-year-old boy. I kissed his head and his nose and cheeks and fingers. I noticed his peach fuzz on his face and listened to his sweet deep breathing. I whispered my love and praised God for Jack's four years on earth that have brought me such fierce, unconditional, and overwhelming love and joy. 
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Jack's Four-Year-Old Interview
  1. What is your favorite color? blue
  2. What is your favorite toy? my turtles toys 
  3. What is your favorite thing to eat? pizza
  4. What is your favorite TV show? Paw Patrol and Zaboobafu
  5. What is your favorite outfit to wear?  my tractor shirt
  6. Where do we live? Iowa
  7. What are your favorite animals? turtles
  8. Where does Daddy work? the hosibal (hospital)
  9. Where does Mommy work? the gym
  10. What is your favorite book?  Franklin books
  11. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play in the grass and have fun
  12. Who is your best friend? Steven
  13. What do you want to be when you grow up?  a daddy
  14. What's your favorite game to play? the matching game
  15. What do you like to take to bed with you? my cozy duck
  16. What's your favorite thing to do with Mommy?  play with her and have fun with her
  17. What's your favorite thing to do with Daddy? make black cookies with him
  18. What's your favorite treat? candy
  19. What is your favorite movie? The Lion King and The Good Dinosaur (he hasn't even seen it yet :)
  20. If you could go anywhere, where would you want to go? Go to the Good Dinosaur movie and go to Arizona
  21. What makes you happy?  Turtles and Zaboomafu and Paw Patrol and the Good Dinosaur and turtles (again)
  22. What makes you sad? when someone won't share my cozy duck
  23. What makes you scared? Tigers and lions and cheetas and leopards 
  24. What is your favorite sport? I don't like sports (hahaha)
  25. What's your favorite flavor of ice-cream?  White 
Jack's third birthday post
Jack's second birthday post
Jack's first birthday post 


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! How is it already the end of November?!
What we're eating this week:
And when we aren't eating Thanksgiving food, I am going to be eating these tortillas!!!
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It has been 3 1/2 years since these tortillas have been at my local grocery store (they didn't have them in Birmingham or in Davenport until now) and regular store bought flour tortillas just don't compare. I'm so excited for these!!!
What I'm reminiscing about:
Two weekends ago (a balmy 60 degrees):
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Because this last weekend looked like this:
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What I'm loving:
This! haha
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And this: #storyofmylife
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What we've been up to
Our church's turkey trot (I guess you don't get a good turn out when it's windy and freezing! haha)
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Jack fell in love with hot cocoa at the turkey trot and has been asking for it every day since :) I can't say no to that face :)
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Art class! David is surprisingly more into it than Jack. He loves going station to station and doing all of the crafts while Jack wants to stay at the play dough and water table stations the entire time :) I love that their hands are basically the same size!
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     Helping out at Jack's Thanksgiving party at preschool
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    We are (sadly to me) replacing park days with museum days because of the cold!
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    Playing in the first snow of the season! I hate snow, but I loved the look on Jack and David's faces when they looked out the window and saw snow. They were so excited!
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    What I'm excited about:
    The holidays! I love this time of year!
    What I'm dreading:
    Snow. Winter. Freezing temperatures. Everyone says that the first snow is magical but if I'm being honest, it is totally depressing to me. It feels like the "beginning of the end" - the end of bike rides and sending the boys out to play and park play dates and running outside and going on walks and going to get the mail without slipping on ice and falling flat on my back (that seriously happened this weekend) and leaving the house without bundling my kids with socks and boots and coats and mittens and hats and then going back inside to change a second time because playing in wet snow is more fun than getting in the van. I hate the winter blues and would love any suggestions or remedies that help make winters happier! #arizonagirlproblems
    What I'm working on:
    Just prepping for Christmas and getting ready to go out of town!
    What I'm watching/reading:
    We finally finished Parks and Rec last week and we loved it! So so so so soooooooooo much. I am now looking for show recommendations because Spencer started watching Mountain Men and I just can't.

    It was my turn to choose the book for book club this month and I chose Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. It's one of my favorites!
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    What I've been listening to:
    Christmas music!
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    What I'm wearing: 
    As usual, I'm wearing pajamas as I type this, but I did remember to take an outfit selfie earlier this week. I didn't, however, remember shoes and I didn't remember to pick up the junk around me so you could all think that my house was clean.
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    What I'm doing this weekend:
    Turkey trotting, feasting, celebrating Jack's birthday, visiting the Nauvoo temple, and hopefully getting our Christmas decorations up.
    What I'm looking forward to next month:
    My brother James' wedding and spending the holidays in Utah and Arizona!!!
    Bonus Question: What is your favorite Christmas Tradition?
    Every year we have a Christmas Eve dance party in our new Christmas jammies and it is definitely my favorite tradition! Some years it's laid back and some years it's structured and intense (everyone has to dance solo to the song of their choice) but every year it is so fun and hilarious! Here is a clip from our Christmas of 2012: (I may have promised to delete this a while back but I "forgot" ;)

    Other posts about some of our Christmas traditions -----> here and here
    What's up with you?!
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    Show and Tell Tuesdays - Service Abroad

    Today I'm linking up with Andrea at Momfessionals for Show and Tell Tuesday! Today we're telling about a mission trip we've been on or a service opportunity we've been apart of.
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    During my sophomore year of college, I took the winter semester off (strategically planned to avoid Utah's winter :) and spent 6 months in Zhongsham, China, a southern city in mainland China near Hong Kong. I volunteered with International Language Program and taught English to young Chinese students from ages three to about six.

    On a typical day, we spent three hours in the morning teaching English. Each volunteer taught one content area a week (classes like drama, kitchen, art, etc) and the kids rotated to each class every day. We were trained on the teaching method before we left, but basically it was structured play in English only. After teaching, we ate lunch at the school, then had Mandarin lessons Monday-Thursday and Chinese cooking lessons on Friday. (I only learned enough Mandarin to ask for directions, to ask for the bathroom (ha!) and to have a basic (very basic!) conversation... and once I got back home, I sadly forgot it all.) After lessons, we walked about a mile to the bus stop and then took the bus back to our apartments. We'd relax, go running, or binge watch on bootlegged tv shows (ha!), then on many days head to Kung Fu class in the evenings or "Chinese night" (where we would do an activity with the Chinese teachers at the school so they could practice their English and so we could practice our Mandarin), or go out to dinner with one of our student's parents. (Parents really liked taking us out to dinner so that they could practice their English!)
    All of the volunteers at our school - I love these girls!
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    The kids were sooooo cute!
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     Mandarin Lessons
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     Cooking lessons (the cooks always asked me if one of my parents was Chinese :)
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    Jenny, Brian and Tao Tao had us over for dinner quite a bit and I just loved them! (they even sent me a wedding gift when I got married!)
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    My friend, Seantay, studied martial arts in the U.S. so when we got to China, she really wanted to take lessons! My friends were legitimately good at Kung Fu and I just went along with it so that I could say that I learned Karate in China ;) (Basically I just I kicked and screamed and chopped a lot and "fake it 'til you make it" was my motto :) If I remember correctly, we got free lessons so that Spring, our instructor could use us to advertise the new Kung Fu studio he opened. We performed quite a few times, and I think it was so he could show off the Americans he was teaching and I'm sure people were signing up like crazy after seeing my crazy American Kung Fu skills:
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    I have to say, I felt pretty gross the entire time I was in China. I ate Chinese food for breakfast, lunch and dinner from a school cafeteria, it was SOOOOO hot and humid in the city we lived,  and I was at my all time heaviest. Eventually, I completely let myself go and wore a skirt with tennis shoes most days (the skirts kept me cool and fit me the best and the tennis shoes were the most comfortable for walking around and I can't believe I'm even trying to justify myself here!!!!) Also, my all time ugliest candid picture was taken in China and I'm so proud of it!
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    So basically, I was at an all time physical low but was having the time of my life in China! I loved teaching and I loved my cute students (volunteering solidified my decision to get my degree in Elementary Ed), I loved how foreign everything was and how different the culture was, I loved the people I volunteered with, I loved my new Chinese friends and I loved exploring and shopping and traveling and trying new things. Every day was an adventure. Looking back, I almost get anxiety just thinking how limited I was there - I couldn't speak the language or get anywhere outside of our bus route or eat anything besides rice and fried veggies and unidentified meat but when I was there I was really just having fun and soaking it all in. I loved it!
    Proof of my horrible fashion choices:
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    The questionable meat market by our bus stop:
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    The school we taught at was great and gave us 4 day weekends once a month and a week (or two?) long break so that we could travel and see more of China. I got to visit Sanya (a beach in southern China), Yangshou, Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, and Hong Kong. We almost always traveled by sleeper bus because it was inexpensive and we could "sleep" while we drove through the night. Even thinking about it now gives me so much anxiety - we had no great way of communicating so we never knew when exactly we would get to our destination or when we would stop for a bathroom break. Plus they made me car sick and they were always stuffy and jam packed (because the bus drivers would always illegally pick up more people to sit on the bus isles). Looking back, I think we were crazy!
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     Hong Kong
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    My mom met me in Beijing on my way home and we visited Beijing, Xi'an, and Yangshuo. It was so fun showing her around!
    (Fun fact: Spencer got home from his Mormon mission in Vancouver, Canada the same week I got home from China!)
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     Yangshuo was by far my favorite place to visit in China and the most beautiful and unique place that I have ever been to. I will never forget riding scooters with my mom in the pouring rain in the most gorgeous place in the world :)
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      photo IMG_9326_zpskfqbcs8a.jpgLiving in a Communist country made me realize how blessed I am to be an American. It also made me feel very ungrateful because before I went to China, I was so clueless about American values, current events, and our whole political process. GOD BLESS AMERICA! I learned so much about myself, my country, and the world during those six months and I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to go. And man, I loved those kids - their smiles and giggles, their voices, their little attitudes, their high fives, their hugs and kisses, and their unconditional love. It's crazy to think that they are tweens and teenagers now! China will always have a piece of my heart :)
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