Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jacksonisms and Lincoln Lately

On a recent trip to Alabama we were driving through cotton country and Jackson looks over and says:

J:  "Look Lincoln, it's cotton."
L:  "thas not Cotton, thas a PLANT"
J:  "No, Lincoln, that IS the plant cotton"
L:  "Cotton is NOT a pwlant, he's a CAT!"

*if you haven't figured out, we have a cat named Cotton.

On that very same trip we were driving over the dam and I hear Jackson sniffing and then he accuses Lincoln of pooting.  (gah, boys!)  Lincoln adamantly rejects the suggestion and then turns it around and blames Jackson.  He also refuses to claim the indiscretion   I am a little annoyed at their constant attempts at using what we call "bathroom words" so of course they both resort to ask me if I did it.  I told them what I've known the entire time.  "Boys, that's the paper-mill!"  Jackson said "You mean the Paper-mill pooted?!?"

Lincoln is quite convinced he's Incredible Hulk.  He can not keep his shirt on when we are home.  Sometimes I look back in the car and he's managed to get his shirt off and his car seat is still on.  I'm not sure how the Houdini does it.  So it was pretty obvious what he would be for Halloween   I started looking at the Marvel costumes and not only were they UGLY but they were also $50!  I knew I could do better.  We were on a trip to Bargain Hunt when I found the perfect pair of girls purple sweat pants for $1!  That night, he slept in them.  The next morning he asked me to cut them so I cut jagged edges on his pants.   I thought he might never take them off.  He later told my Granny an elaborate and drawn out story of how "Mommy got my pants and colored on em then she cut em up and 'put a crack in em'!"(shredded edges)

Mom (boys nana) found a new gadget for the boys and her to play with.  She recently bought a Yonanas machine that makes soft serve ice cream from frozen fruit in just seconds.  It was pretty tasty but the boys got a kick out of the fact that it was called a "Yonanas as in Yo Nana!"  We went round and round with "Yo mama, yo nana, etc.

Lincoln is great at going to the bathroom all on his own. But occasionally it's a 2 person job and when it is, he knows who to call!  I hear him yelling from the bathroom, "Moooooom, Can you wipe me?"  Sure, Lincoln.
"And bring the baby wipes!"  I guess at least he knows when its a serious job!

Jackson is learning to multiply.  He has taken on the interest and we are merely fostering it.  He is learning the single number times tables.  My mom recently told me the hand trick for learning the 9's.  It's pretty amazing and I taught it to him in just one night!  Check it out here.  You might be impressed too!

In light of my sister having her baby Jackson asked me, "Mom, where do babies come from?"
I quickly told him the greatest truthful reply, "They come from God, honey!"
He retorted, "Yeah, I know that but like...How do they appear?"
Um...yeah, your dad is so super smart, you should really ask him when he gets home!

Jackson has been interested in politics.  Jason and I rarely discuss them in our house.  We agree politically and vote that way so there's no need for discussion.With the upcoming election, Jackson has gained interest   He recently asked me if the signs in the yards mean they have voted?  I explained that the signs were the candidates that they support.  He also asked if they come to your house to let you vote.  Not exactly and we talked about the polls.  I asked who he would vote for if he were old enough and he said, "I wouldn't vote for Obama!"  Now I was intrigued.  I ask "why?" and he said because he'd like to have a new president every single year!  Ok, so then I asked which one he did want to vote for and he proudly said,
"Mittten Ramen!"  There you have it.  Vote cast by my political 6 year old.  This kid may be a future republican candidate!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Destination: Folk Art

Folk Art.  
It should be no surprise to me that Jason likes folk art.  He may not love the style but he likes the spectacle of it.  This summer while we were in Houston, he planned a day for us.  Our first stop was The Orange Show.  It wasn't in a great part of Houston and we were mesmerized when we got there.  
{{ The Orange Show[
Jeff McKissack, a mail carrier in Houston, Texas, transformed a small suburban lot near his wood frame house into The Orange Show[1] in honor of his favorite fruit. Between 1956 and 1980 McKissak used common building materials and recycled junk such as bricks, tiles, fencing, and farm implements to transform his home into an architectural maze of walkways, balconies, arenas and exhibits decorated with mosaics and brightly painted iron figures}}

Next on our Houston tour of folk art was the beer can house.  

{{The Beer Can House is a folk art house in Houston, Texas, covered with beer cans, bottles, and other beer paraphernalia.  Milkovisch started his project in 1968 inlaying thousands of marbles, rocks, brass figures and metal pieces in concrete blocks and redwood, all of which were used to make patios, fences, flower boxes, and an array of other items. The result was a yard with no grass, as the entire front and back yards were covered with cement. When asked why he did it, John simply answered, “I got sick of mowing the grass.”}}

Right up Jason's alley!  
So I knew right away I had to take him to a place I went as a child.  It's folk art at it's finest and it's in Alabama!
The week of Fall break, we kicked off our fun at Ave Maria Grotto.  I hadn't been since I was about 12.  It looked exactly the same!

{{Ave Maria Grotto, in Cullman, Alabama, is a landscaped park in an old quarry on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey, providing a garden setting for 125 miniature reproductions of some of the most famous religious structures of the world.  The stone and concrete models are the work of Brother Joseph Zoettl, a Benedictine monk of St. Bernard's, who devoted some 50 years to the project, the last three decades (1932 to 1961) almost without interruption. They incorporate discarded building supplies, bricks, marbles, tiles, pipes, sea shells, marbles, plastic animals, costume jewelry, toilet bowl floats and cold cream jars.}}

The boys were intrigued.  It's very...different.  They did love that we had seen the Capistrano Mission this summer and they noticed that we had been there!  Jackson later referred to it as "the God place".  I remember liking it as a kid, thinking "I could probably do this."  
No one can say we are not a cultural or artistic family.  
We just see art differently.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Clean is the new Cool!

Shortly after a "my jeans don't fit" breakdown, I decided to take on a whole new approach to eating.  It was not necessarily in an attempt to loose weight but to change our lifestyle to just be overall more healthy.  I have been following blogs in regards to clean eating for a while now.  It's intriguing, seems easy and fits our foodie tastes.  I like the idea of clean eating because it's not a diet at all.  It's about eating foods that are clean  meaning not processed or as close to nature as possible.  It means loading up on fresh vegetables  fruits, lean meats and whole grains.  It's not eating ingredients that you can not pronounce.  I like that idea. It's NO SUGAR.   It's also non-judgmental.  Can you never eat those foods again?  No, you are your own boss but the idea is to change your habits so that you don't want those foods again and when you do have a "treat" you do it rarely and then jump back into the good habits you have formed.  You decide the rules here, it's about YOUR health and the health of your family.

I will be the first to admit, it's not cheap!  Buying fruits and vegetables in their fresh versions is usually more expensive that buying processed.  And you have to shop more often.  I am going to 2-3 grocery stores to get the cheapest and freshest vegetables for our meals.  I am buying more organics than  I used to.  Not everything I buy is organic but I choose it when I can (and when it's on sale!).  I haven't ventured into the organic meats.  They are so far beyond the price of standard that I can't do it yet. Maybe one day.

I'm learning to eat things even I didn't think I liked.  I don't consider myself picky at all.  I will eat almost anything but I have never been a fan of eggs.  Neither of my kids like eggs but boy have I been eating eggs lately.  They are the best protein for breakfast and I can pack them with all kinds of veggies and actually make them taste pretty good.  Well, after 3 weeks and about 2 dozen eggs, I am actually craving eggs in the morning and I'm enjoying them.  I'm also eating more kale than I ever thought possible   I'm eating kale chips, kale in eggs and kale in soup.  It's apparently some sort of super food along with THIS list of other must haves.  I've also ventured into cooking quinoa.  I've been hearing about it for a while now but it's now a regular part of our diet.  It's a "grain" that is actually a seed and is a full serving of protein   You can't beat it for the nutritional benefits and it taste fantastic as well!

I've done great in letting go of the carbs.  I know they are not good for me.  The dairy has been a little harder.  I love cheese, especially goat cheese.  I still use it fairly often.  I also haven't given up coffee creamer .  I use the sugary bad for you stuff and it's my only vice.  I love it and my coffee is not the same without it.  I love it so much I have given up soda in exchange.  I love my Diet Dr. Pepper but now I will only occasionally have a sip of Jason's.  That's a pretty big deal.

I'm finding that I WANT to eat the things that are good for me.  I'm choosing to eat snacks that are healthy.  I've been trying many of the clean eating recipes and I have liked every one I've tried.  It's really not hard to make any recipe clean.  I have learned most everything I know from The Gracious Pantry.  But I take what I read and make it my own.  I love the freedom to decide what works for us.

I wanted to list some of the recipes I've tried although like I said, everything I've tried has been good!

This was my latest loves:
Clean Eating Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk and Cilantro
Cabbage Roll Stew

Cherry Larabars

Quinoa with  Black Beans

These are just a few of my favorites.  Ones my family gave two thumbs up and I will be going back to again.  
I have also made a few family staples clean as well.  We had chili last week and this week we will have white chicken chili made clean.  
We still have pizza, just now we pack it with veggies (or at least I do!)  I still occasionally have wine.  Although, it's been a while and I have to double my water intake the next day.  
I'm so far from perfect or even certifiably clean that it's almost hard to proclaim we are clean eaters but I'm trying and I'm dragging the family along with me.  Any steps toward better health are steps in the right direction!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gone Bananas

I've been helping support a local food pantry in small donations weekly for a while. I really love the work they do at this pantry and the simple idea that they know and love the people that come there for food.  They don’t ask for ID or any other proof, they just love the people who walk in and ask for help.  They take a personal interest in them and make sure they know that they are important and God loves them.  It’s freeing to not worry about the details and just love people openly.  I dig it.
 This week, I volunteered to purchase and deliver the bananas that they need weekly for the shoppers.  I have not yet been to the pantry so this was a great way for me to get by there and feel like I was really doing good.  I had to buy the bananas on Friday to ensure they were fresh.  I had asked Jason to help me since carrying 40lbs of bananas was not something I could easily accomplish.  We went to sams club for our banana shopping.  We loaded the flatbed cart with 3 cases of bananas and Jackson and Lincoln hopped on.  We drove through the store and also got some almonds for me.  Every single person we passed had something to say about our bananas.  Jason, the eternal comedian, got a sparkle in his eye.  The next couple that walked by said, “Oh my, you guys must really like bananas!” To which Jason replied, “No, actually we have a pretty severe potassium deficiency but we’re going to take care of  that Tonight!”  Jason laughed, I laughed but the couple only smiled and kept walking.  The next lady that walked by proclaimed “Wow!  What are you going to do with all those bananas?” and before I could give the spill about the pantry, Jason jumped in and said, “we’re going to be feeding those to our new pet Monkeys.  We just got them, straight from Africa.”  She laughed a little more than the first couple.  It was obvious by my reaction it was a joke but she walked away rather quickly after that.  The guy at the register also wondered what I was going to do with 40 bunches of bananas and I told him about the pantry.  I have to agree, it wasn't nearly as exciting to explain as pet Gorillas would have been.  There is no doubt part of why I married him was his sense of humor. 

You can read for yourself about The Little Pantry here.  If you are needing your heart strings pulled, you should read THIS post. It sums up the WHY as if you really need a why to love people.   After that, I was hooked.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The White Elephant in the Room

Jason recently gave me the definition of “white elephant.” as something that is not what it seems.  He also explained the phrase “the elephant in the room” as an issue no one wants to address.  I truly feel this covers both bases.

On a recently family outing, I took Jason to Bargain Hunt.  If you’ve never been, it’s a store similar to Big Lots.  It has everything you never knew you needed and a couple of things you might actually need.  All of which you could live the rest of your life without.  The pricing in the store is based on the date on the price tag.  Items tagged in July would be  around 75% off now.  Jason and the boys went to look at toys and sporting goods while I looked at shoes and specific baby gear for Tracie.  An hour had passed and I found them again.  Jason came around the corner with a smile on his face and a large object in his buggy.  When I looked down questioningly, he started in.  “I called my mom and she said it was a good deal!” he said before I could even ask.  “What is it?” I inquired.  It’s a pressure cooker he tells me.  An electric one.  For canning.  Um, what exactly am I going to be doing with a pressure cooker?  He convincingly tells me we can can tomatoes (ok, maybe) or green beans.  I argue that we don’t grow green beans and even if we did, I wasn’t interested in picking them, washing them, snapping them and then para boiling them before going to all the trouble to CAN them.  I’m pretty sure, I’ll just buy them at Sams club.  I could already tell this was a battle I had lost.  He found something that he was certain was a great deal and it was coming home with us.  I had to just accept it. I may or may not have texted my sister with the announcement and added “Help me!” at the end.  This wasn't a cheap purchase and to be really honest, I didn't want it.   I wasn't opposed to canning.  I just don’t know one thing about it and outside of tomatoes, we don’t have a garden.  So, as we load our 25qt ELECTRIC pressure cooker in the truck, I call my granny.  I told her about our find and asked her what exactly I was going to do with an electric pressure cooker.  Her exact words were, “Well, hun, I just don’t know.”  Ok, red flag number one.  My canning all her life grandma doesn't know what to do with this thing.  Red flag number 2 was when Jason called his dad and he proclaimed he’d never seen an electric pressure cooker but he’d like to see this one.  We bring it in and Jason places it on the counter.  It takes up my entire counter space for the night.  The next day, I get up and see it and am reminded we have a a giant pressure cooker and I need to know what to do with it.  Later that afternoon, I google it with few results.  I got up and look at the label and got more specific in my search.  I kept being taken to sites concerning “ clinical fungi cultivation” sites.  Lab grown mushrooms, I was confused.  I dug further, changing my google search terms and reading on forums when I noticed that kept calling this model a “steroclave” instead of pressure cooker/canner.  There was discussion of converting it which proved to be dangerous and not recommended.  That’s when I finally found it.  I found the exact model we have at “”  Strange.  As I read further, I find the uses for this equipment include sterilizing and sanitizing dental instruments.  Yep, it was finally clear.  We have ourselves an autoclave.  Working in a lab for years pre-children, I am familiar with autoclaves and sterilization but not of this exact variety.  I was laughing at my realization but needed concrete proof for Jason that I wasn't making this up.  And there it was, at the bottom of the page.  It clearly states in italics “this is an autoclave and not a pressure canner.  They look very similar but they are made very differently.” 
Ok, I think I have my proof.  You can’t argue with that.  When Jason got home, I delivered the bad news about his white elephant and he was surprisingly humored by our mistake. 
In his defense, he knows a good deal when he sees one.  It was about $94 at Bargain Hunt but it was $648 on Lion’s Dental.  Now that’s a good deal.  If you needed an autoclave.  We don’t. 
Who’d have ever thought we’d be the proud owners of an autoclave.  It makes me laugh. 
Luckily they have a 30 day return policy.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Guest Blogger: Once upon a Friday night...

Lucky me!  I have my first guest blogger and it's none other than my mother!  She's super talented in child rearing (hence moi!), has some mad sewing and photography skills and tops the list of  world's best Nana's by handing out organic suckers and performing regular science experiments to keep the grands well entertained.  She's the best.  

If you live in the south, you go to high school football games.  Que the Friday night lights.  This particular Friday night was still in August and the Alabama humidity was still lingering like a think wool blanket.  Sweet Lincoln was spending a few days with us (aka Camp Nanapawpaw) and we had to show him what football is all about.  After I got home from a long day of educating, I prepared for a hot night sweltering in the bleachers.  The packing of our carpet bag of goodies included our trusty "misty mate" (possibly best purchase ever), lots of water and more snacks than a drive-thru convenience store.  We head to the game and already score a WIN with a free and decent parking place.  We swam through a sea of former students who all wanted to pinch sweet Lincoln's cheeks.  And who wouldn't?
The first thing to make its way out of the carpet bag once we were seated was that misty mate.  It did it's job and did it well.  We stayed cool along with most of the folks around us.  I'm not 100 percent sure they enjoyed the free shower but if they were nearly as hot as we were, they didn't really mind.
Next comes the snacks.  Suckers, fruit gummies and grapes, Oh my!  Lincoln never wiggled or pestered, he just sat in my lap a while then shifted to pawpaw's lap while watching the pre-game activities.  Lincoln had a bright idea and asked me if he could yell "Go Commodores".  I said sure buddy.  I believe the Trojan mascot reminded him of the ugly old commodore at the Vandy games.
Dinner at the game was Band Booster Burgers.  The concession stand special.  I'm guessing they were not cholesterol free but they were good nonetheless.  Even Linc at a few bites but mostly he just guzzled the soda.  He really enjoyed the half time show.
By this time, night has fallen, the misty mate is out of water and Linc begins to snuggle.  (Nana loves!)
Over the loud speaker the announcer says "TIME OUT, Muscle Shoals."  Lincoln looks up to me and says, "Nana, Are we in time out?"  A chuckle and reassuring hug let him know we were not.  It was about the football game.  At the beginning of the 4th quarter Lincoln announce he is ready to go home.  So guess what we did?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Wild Wild West- Part 1

Did you know that I flew with the boys to California this summer?  Yep, WAAAAaaaay back in June, the boys and I flew to LA.  It was  a trip YEARS in the making.  Apparently the blog is becoming years in the making too.  Or maybe it's that I have just recently  recovered from the wrath of flying across the US with 2 children under 6.  It was a fantastic fun filled trip that is going to span over the course of more than a couple of blogs and quite possibly more than a few months but gotta start somewhere.  
I begin with our airport excitement.  I was fortunate o have my mom on the first few days of the trip and I was just glad to have her along to spread out some of the chaos.  As we sat at our gate, there were whispers as boarding was nearing that Jackson was seated next to someone we should know.  Mom is texting me across the isle as he begins to pack up that it is Al Gore.  As he stands in the "premium boarding line, we walk over to him and Jackson walks right up and says "Are you the vice-president?" To which he answers, "I used to be." and Jackson goes on to ask permission to have his photo made with him and my little history buff stands tall beside former Vice President Al Gore as he waits to board a Southwest flight to LA. It was our first actual celebrity sighting in Nashville.

We arrived to an entourage and our name plastered on a sign.  WE felt like the celebrities then!  With a fully loaded mini-van and one of the best girlfriends I have waiting on us, we were in LA now baby!  That van was packed out with more snacks than we could shake a stick at.  (did I just say that?)  Yeah and we ain't in Tennessee anymore either. Nope, this was Beverly Hills.  Swimming Pools and Movie Stars.  My only LA request was to see the Hollywood sign.  I didn't quite know what I was asking or what we were in for.  I was completely unaware of LA traffic.  So, we took a leisurely ride through Hollywood, saw Rodeo Dr but didn't unload the clown wagon.  We passed through the movie star houses of Beverly Hills and even caught a glimpse of what appeared to be Jesus Christ.  A man fully dressed in a white cloak tied at the waist with long hair was wandering the streets there.  I'm not judging.  No.  It was just unexpected to see such a sight.  You just never know folks.  It's California.   Right before we got on the freeway Mari yelled "Look quick, Jamie! There's your sign."  Sure enough Waaaaay off in the distance, I saw my first and only glimpse of the Hollywood sign.  In her defense,  LA was MUCH larger than I had anticipated and getting there would have been a feat the children wouldn't have handled.

That night we learned what a process feeding and watering 5 children 3 meals and 50 snacks a day was going to entail.  It was going to require wine so naturally, we indulged.
The kids were thrilled to see each other.  It was non stop chatter, well, non-stop.  We stayed near the Capo house at Dana Point.  I learned so much about California geography while I was there.  We stayed just down the street from Doheney State Park which the Beach boys sang about.

This little spot may have been my kids most favorite memory of the entire week in CA.  Better than any Zoo or Theme Park.  These are the "Shallow tadpoles" or formerly known as the "shallow tide pools".  Sunday morning was low tide and it made great exploring weather.  It was a bit on the chilly side and June gloom was in full effect on the coastal front.  I will never forget how much the weather could change from morning to midday to evening.  I will never forget how COLD it is in June while it tops 100 in TN.

The tide pools were beautiful and fantastically crawling with creatures of all kinds.  There was no stopping these kids in their quest for crabs, anemone and sea urchins.

Gabe and Jackson were convinced they could make it our to this giant rock but as the tide started coming back in, they had to turn around and they were so close!

We were so glad Nana could be there for the first few days of the trip.  The science teacher in her just loved all the learning involved in the tide pool exploration.  It wouldn't be our last trip to the tide pools this week.

We walked around this "haunted ship" to Baby Beach in the harbor.  The kids loved the pier and beach with no waves.  I reveled in watching the body boarders skim across the slick water.
We spent the afternoon at the Capistrano Mission.  It is beautiful.  Breathtaking, really.  I am certain that the kids enjoyed it for different reasons than I did but we all did and that's what matters.  My favorite part of the mission was the history of the return of the swallows where for centuries  flocks of swallows have returned to the mission to build nests.  It was fascinating to say the least.

Getting everyone to smile for a photo.  Well, that'd be downright Miraculous.  We try, oh do we try.

The kids figure out that these koi would eat anything.  They were fed, pieces of apple and cheese-its that we found in our bags.
The grande finale for the kids was this giant slop bucket.  You could pay $3 and get to stick your hands into this giant vat of muddy lukewarm water and come out with salt grains of... wait for it...fools gold.  I swore I wouldn't stick my hands in that mess but I ate my words and did it to make the boy happy.  They should at least give you the hope of finding real gold if you're going to stick your hands into THAT!

There you have it folks.  Finally.  3 months, ok, 4 months later.  Those are merely the first 2 glorious days we spent in (not so) sunny southern California!

I Want To Go Shopping! Chicago edition

 I finally did it!  After 10 years of marriage and 2 children, I finally took that all girls trip I've been dreaming of.  I've been plenty of places but this was me, my friends and a whole lotta SHOPPING!  It was a little over 48 fantastic hours that I won't forget!

There were 9 of us total.  We managed to all be on one flight into Chicago so landing and luggage wasn't too much of an issue but the buck stopped there.  We were brave (and cheap) girls and we were going to L train it into the city instead of hailing a cab.  Well...we discover AFTER we bought weekend train tickets that there is a line down for maintenance and it was going to require us to change trains to get to our destination.  TWICE.  Now here you have to picture 9 girls and all of their belongings being carted up and down stairs inside subway tunnels.  We were sure that others did this but when we looked around, we began to doubt our big idea. That was only the beginning.
 It was rather warm inside the subway tunnels.  We were hot and hungry and for me at least, that isn't a good combination!
 We finally emerged and to our surprise and delight, we were posed right under this sign.  I think I must have been the most compelled by it as I began taking pictures and totally neglected my suitcase and left it sitting on the sidewalk while I walked around with my mouth open like I had never seen a large city before.  You ain't never seen a southern girl run faster in wedges than I did back to get that suitcase that luckily was right where I left it!
 And so begins our journey to the hotel.  We spent a while walking this way.
Then we turned around and went back the other way for a while.  Then we took a left.  Indeed, it should have been a right.  This would all have been great in the name of sightseeing but we were all dragging 50lb suitcases behind us and looked a bit like a herd of church ladies.  Maybe we were a herd of church ladies.  We were still trying to convince ourselves that walking and dragging suitcases is what all the cityfolk do and we could fit right in.  We didn't.  It might have been me behind them with the camera or the one in front with the iphone and walking directions but we and our big southern accents stuck out like a VW bug at a monster trunk show.
 I have to admit, our little walking tour was beautiful and when we were nearly at our destination, we got to see the iconic Michigan Ave. bridge.  We picked an incredible weekend weather wise.  It wasn't hot or cold and the skies were beyond blue.  I enjoyed the architecture of the city more than I realized.  This summer, I've successfully visited 3 of the 4 largest cities in America (LA, Houston and Chicago).  For a metropolitan area, Chicago was the most picturesque.
 As soon as we dropped those bags, lunch was imperative   We were all pretty hungry but also mesmerized by the river that runs through the city.  We ate at a little bar on the riverside and the food exceeded our expectations.  Service for 9 is sometimes dicey.  I guess waiters cringed to see us coming but didn't mind so much when it was time to get an 18% mandatory tip.
 After lunch, we took the Magnificent Mile by storm.  We descended on that place like a meteor shower and we didn't let up until it was time to refuel.  I could say it was overwhelming but we had strategy.  One side of the road at a time.  There was a 7, yep seven story shopping area and it included a nice Sephora.  Well, you can just imagine putting 9 girls in makeup store with makeovers being done complementary.  I was in pure cosmetic bliss while introducing some of the girls to my favorite products.  Sure, I learned a thing or two also and came out with a new definition of liquid cheek stain (blush) that has changed my application habits for the better.  Man, I really do love cosmetics.
 The last store of the evening was H&M.  We don't have one of those here in Nasvhille (but we should!) so it was a mandatory stop.  It was crazy chaos to shop in there let alone the hysterical 20 text a minute conversations the 9 of us kept rolling.  It was laughable for sure but everyone came out with armloads of shopping bags and we hoofed it back to the hotel for dinner prep.
 Our dinner plan was Chicago style pizza and a fantastic concierge helped us secure a great reservation to the perfect place.  We didn't just cab it to the restaurant either.  We took a LIMO!  Apparently it is cheaper to "ride in bulk" and we were on a minivan boycott for the weekend so Limo it was!
 Jason had taken a trip to Chicago last year and he specifically told me to eat here.  He says I never listen and it's true.  I listened to the concierge though and he led me here also.  Thanks for the recommendation babe!
 We sat 3 floors up but we had our own private room.  That was lucky for us, this way we could really loosen up our belts.  No really, we had to loosen our belts to eat this fantastic pizza.  My life and view of pizza will forever be altered.

 Our next venture was, well, interesting.  We found ourselves on the ROOF.  The rooftop bar at the Wit.  It was far more of a "scene" than we were looking for.  Think: Vegas nightclub as they fist-pump giant flaming bottles of grey goose to a reserved table complete with a go-go dancer for eye candy.  There was flashing laser beams and loud techno music that was impossible to dance to.  We moms of multiples were in over our head.  We all yelled to each other over the music how we don't remember liking this scene when it WAS our scene.  As absolutely fascinating as it was to watch the people interact, we couldn't help but feel as if they were merely searching and as we happily finished our ONE drink, we realized that we just might have what they are longing for.  Suburban life is where it's at, ya'll!

 Ms. Stephanie is quite proficient at hailing a cab.  She gets the credit for planning this trip.  It ain't easy to please 9 girls at the same time.  I'm glad somebody is willing to do it.  I'm also glad it wasn't me!
 It was a long hard day of shopping and this little bottle of wine (or two) was the perfect way to end the evening.
 We even managed to convince some stranger to gather us up for a photo on the Michigan Ave. bridge.  There you have it. Nine girls perfectly posed and smiling.  Everyone is working their "skinny arm."  I like to look back at this photo and remember "this is what we look like without our gym clothes on!"

 No trip to Chicago will be complete without seeing "the bean".  I fell in LOVE with it after seeing it on The Vow    I had to go there and I wasn't disappointed.  It was really cool and for me a photog nerd, I loved the reflection photos.  It is truly a piece of art.

Cheers to the time of your life with 9 of your closest girlfriends!
  I'm already counting down till next year!
Nashville wouldn't be the same without them.
 No where else will be either...