Mayday Mayday – Crazy May Ahead!

Good morning friends!

I don’t know about you, but I cannot believe it is May! The past week has been full of rainy days, but that means whenever the sun does shine, it showcases lush green grass, blooming flowers, and glorious signs of spring. Just yesterday I plucked some fresh daffodils from one of my flower beds and it made me so happy – I love this time of year where everything seems fresh and new!

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That being said, this month is going to be absolutely wild for us. We have some MAJOR things happening in our family coming up and everything kind of fell into the same 3-4 week window. I wrote out a giant “to-do” list for the month and it’s a bit uhh… hefty. (Side note: I love love love my Erin Condren Life Planner for keeping track of my days and I also love that there is a space to make lists or write notes before each month. It helps keep me super organized!)

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The biggest thing we have going on this month is: MOVING! Justin and I bought our house 3 years ago when we moved to Indiana and purposely bought a smaller house. At the time, we weren’t sure what our long term plans were and this house was right for us, our two dogs, and a future baby we were then dreaming of. We have since decided to stay in the area long-term and wanted to find a home with a little more space to grow our family. Our original plan was to house hunt this fall after baby arrives and we’re adjusted to life as a family of four, but we happened to stumble across our dream property for sale in April and our plans got expedited! It’s been an absolute whirlwind but thankfully it’s been a smooth process overall and we close on our new house on May 17. So this has meant I’ve been a flurry of activity over the past few weeks, getting our home ready to put up for sale and show to potential buyers. We have accepted an offer on our home and are in the process of finalizing all those details. Whew!

So now, it’s time to purge, clean, pack, and prepare to move! On top of that, I’m hosting my sister’s bachelorette party over Memorial Day weekend and then Justin and I leave on our babymoon (which was planned and fully booked a solid month before we even considered buying a house and moving in May).

I’m all about keeping life as simple as possible, but my head is spinning a little just typing all that. It’s all exciting stuff, but there are so many logistics and to-dos that I know I need to find ways to streamline and cut back in other areas of life in order to manage all these things well. One way to do this is to cut back on the blog. For the time being, I’m going to post just once a week on Tuesdays so I can focus my time and energy on other things and not go insane. 😉 I’ll still be posting regularly on Instagram (@simplifythechaos) so feel free to keep up with me there!

I hope you have lots of fun things coming up in May too!

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First Haircut + Easter Weekend 2019

Good morning!

This past weekend Justin, LJ, and I packed up the car and road tripped out to Virginia to spend Easter weekend with Justin’s family. Since they live so far away, we don’t get to see them as often as we’d like so it was wonderful to have lots of quality time together. I more or less unplugged from social media, which was also a nice change of pace. Today I thought I’d just share a few pictures from our weekend.

Before we left on Friday morning, we stopped in at a local men’s salon for…LJ’s first official haircut! Insert all my mama emotions here.

I love his wispy blond hair but it was just getting sooo long – it was getting in his eyes and was starting to look a little mullet-like so we decided it was time.

The place we went was amazing! They had him sit on Justin’s lap and turned the little TV in the booth on to Paw Patrol so he was pretty mesmerized the whole time. He’s a little ticklish around the neck so there were a few flinches but the hairstylist was so patient with him and we’re really happy with the end result. Overall, LJ did way better than we expected! They gave him a little certificate for “graduating babyhood” with his first haircut. Beforehand, I’m not sure I would have said this was “the step” to no longer being a baby but afterwards I see where they’re coming from because he immediately looked SO. MUCH. OLDER. Justin and I could not get over how he looks like a full-fledged toddler now.

After the haircut excitement we headed out to Virginia. LJ did great on the trip and we made decent time. We arrived Friday night and left Tuesday morning. It was a fantastic weekend with family! A few highlights include:

A mega Easter Egg hunt! Justin’s brother’s church puts on a giant egg hunt for the community and there were SO many people there. Do you see all the people in the grass? This is just the 4 years and under hunt – it was crazy! LJ and his youngest cousin (bottom of the left picture) were more fascinated with the chaos happening around them and we really had to work to get them to focus on picking up an egg. It was pretty hilarious actually. By the time they caught on, the eggs were mostly gone. LJ got three eggs which honestly was two more than I was expecting him to get so overall it was a success.

We also spent a ton of time outside. LJ was obsessed with the basketball hoop and we spent hours out there playing. It was so sweet to see him with our 6-year old nephew (middle picture) who is so sweet to him. They are the only boy cousins so far and they already have a special little bond.

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Can’t forget about our sweet 4-year-old niece who also loved playing with LJ. In this picture they are heading off to find the cat that is hiding along the edge of the woods. 😉 Since none of my siblings have children yet, these are LJ’s only cousins and I just love watching their little relationships blossom. Plus, I feel like this picture just captures something magical about spring evenings.

My little growing family attended my husband’s home church on Sunday. It was extra special because my sister actually lives in the area and she was able to join our festivities!

Easter Sunday is one of my absolute favorite days of the year. The music is always so worshipful and inspiring and I love celebrating the fact that Jesus not only died for our sins, but also rose again and we now have eternal life in Him. It brings me to tears every year!

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And last but not least, it was pretty hilarious to watch LJ open his Easter basket – in true toddler style, he only cared about the tissue paper. 😉

 

Easter always feels like the true kick-off to spring, so I’m excited for warmer weather, blooming flowers, and more and more time outside!

Prayers for “G”

I had a different blog post planned for today, but this morning I woke up to a text from a former co-worker that flipped my day upside down before it had even begun.

For those who don’t know, I am a former special education teacher. I taught for 6 years in 3 different schools (we moved a lot!) and loved it. I started this blog partly as a way to share teacher outfits and classroom projects & activities which you can find under my “Teach” menu in the archives. Even though I love staying at home with my son now, teaching remains a passion of mine and I miss getting to work with my students.

My co-worker reached out to me because she realized I give up Facebook for Lent and hadn’t heard the news: a former student of mine has recently been diagnosed with stage 4 malignant astrocytoma, a form of brain cancer. Yesterday he suffered a pulmonary embolism and is in critical condition. I had him in 6th & 7th grade but he is now 16 years old and a sophomore.

To say my heart is broken is an understatement. I truly mean it when I say that all the students I’ve had on my caseload through the years have a special place in my heart, but some students just stick with you a little more. He is one of those. Whenever he pops up in my mind I smile and look back on our struggles and triumphs with great fondness. We came a long way in two years and when Justin and I had to pack up and move to Indiana, it was hard for me to know I wouldn’t get to see him go all the way through middle school. I am completely devastated to hear about his cancer and will be spending much of today lifting him up in prayer.

For the sake of privacy, I will not disclose his name in this space but I will tell you his first initial is G. My hope is that you would join me in prayer today for “G” and his family – prayers for miraculous healing for G and prayers for comfort and strength for his family.

Thank you ❤

Let’s Look: My Pantry

Good morning!

This week has an extra blog post because I’m once again linking up with Shay and Erika for their monthly “Let’s Look” post. These posts are always a fun way to look at a little piece of life (past months have discussed cozy spots, favorite books, and family) and this month’s topic is something I honestly never in a million years thought I would blog about.

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So let’s look at . . . my pantry!

Yep, today’s topic is all about pantries and so I’m going to share a little peek into mine.

Our pantry is conveniently located between our fridge and laundry room entrance. I keep my aprons on a hook on the inside of the door for easy access when I’m baking.

I read a book last year that was trying to help women simplify and organize their lives, and the author encouraged the reader to not worry about pretty labels, matching containers, making your pantry all look amazing . . . and yet the picture on the very next page was a picture of gorgeous open shelving with pretty labels, matching containers, and neat little bins that had just the right amount of matching food stored in it. I mean, I’m all for pretty pantries (and if that’s your thing, absolutely go for it!), but talk about mixed messages from the book! This is one instance where I take to heart something frequently mentioned on the “Happier” podcast: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. My pantry could be prettier and probably better organized, but really the space just needs to help me get through the day and feed my family with as little stress and frustration as possible. Things need to be easy to find and access, so I make that happen as best I can with the space I have and don’t stress further over the space.  Today you’re getting my a glimpse at my very practical, functional, and un-Pinterest-like pantry. This is my unfiltered, real life storage solution and I’m going to take you through shelf by shelf.

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The bottom two shelves are pretty unexciting. The very bottom is where I keep extra canned goods and large bulk items that don’t fit anywhere else, as well as small tote bages and lunch boxes. The next shelf up is where I keep paper products: plates, cups, napkins, extra food storage containers for taking food to friends, etc. Also I have syrup and flour here because that’s where they fit right now – ha!

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The next shelf up is basically divided in thirds. The left side is all LJ’s food: applesauce pouches, freeze dried fruit, little bars he likes, basically any of his snacks. The middle container holds snacks for Justin and I: extra granola bars, chips, Rx butter, etc and we keep fruit snacks, popcorn, and bread here too. The far right stores grains: rice, quinoa, couscous, etc.

The next shelf is right at my eye level and stores the most frequently used items. We keep all our nut butters, crackers, granola bars, cereal, and oatmeal right in front because I’m reaching for those items almost daily. Behind all these items I have inserted a small shelf and I keep small items like honey and infrequently used spices on top and canned goods like soups and beans underneath. The right side holds all our things like mac and cheese, various pasta noodles, and sauces.

The next shelf holds all my baking items. Most frequently used items like oils and oats are in front, and less frequent items like specialty flours and other powders are stored behind on a turntable.  The turntable is a must because the shelf is slightly above my eye level so the easiest way to reach things in the back is just turn the table and they come forward to within my reach. This also keeps things from just getting shoved in the back and forgotten about. I do have to keep flour, sugar, and brown sugar in containers along the right side which is a little annoying because I have to take a lot of the other things out to reach the flour in back, but it’s really the only way everything fits and I just deal with it.

The very top shelf holds all our bagged snacks like goldfish, pita chips, tortilla chips, etc. Behind the bags I’ve inserted another shelf; on top are extras of items we frequently go through like ketchup and applesauce and beneath I keep all my mom’s yummy homemade salsa. I do have to use a little step ladder that I store nearby to reach the items behind the bags when it’s time for more olive oil or whatever.

And that’s my pantry! Not the most glamorous space in the house, but it’s perfectly functional and does its job well. If I could wave a magic wand and change the way the shelves were laid out, I would make them longer and not as deep so I don’t have to remove items to reach stuff in back, but I’m happy with how we make do with what we have. Are there any great tricks you use when organizing your pantry?

 

Spring has Sprung!

It seems like Indiana has finally decided that it is spring and we have been loving it! Today I thought I’d just share a little peek into our life lately and how we’ve enjoyed the outdoors the past few days.

First of all, it bears mentioning that this was the weather on March 31. In like a lion, out like…a stubborn lion?

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It felt like spring was never going to arrive. And then, just a few days later, the weather improved and we’ve been enjoying it ever since! Here’s what we’ve been up to:

LJ “helped” with cleaning up the flower beds. We trimmed back bushes, picked up the dead leaves, and just spruced up the beds so they’re ready for new growth.

Justin loves to golf so when he saw this little golf set at the store he couldn’t resist buying it for LJ. It was so cute to see them work on this together! At first, LJ just wanted to pick up the balls and throw them but after a few days he got the hang of it and now will whack the club to try to hit the ball. Looks like I’ve got two golfers in my house now. 😉

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One day when Justin was off work we walked to a park; LJ loved the swing and slide!

There’s been a lot of playing in the dirt too. LJ likes to dig in the little flower boxes we have and when he finds treasures, i.e. clumps of dirt, acorns, pieces of mulch, etc, Mommy is the designated treasure holder. There is something very sweet about him bringing me these little items and I’ll hold just about anything for him (here’s hoping he never finds a worm though).

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So happy to be outside! I didn’t get pictures, but a few days after this pic was taken he finally got the courage to step out on the grass and he has been racing around the backyard with the dogs ever since. He is go-go-go and just wants to be outside all the time. In the morning he walks to the patio door to try to open it and go outside and whenever we come in from the outside, even if we’ve been out for hours, he cries. He loves being outside and something tells me we are going to have a really fun summer!

I hope your April has started off as fun as ours has! Has spring finally come to your area?

 

Dating Your Spouse

I don’t remember a lot of advice I was given during the newborn haze of the first few weeks of LJ’s life, but I will never forget these words from our pediatrician at his 2 week check-up: “You are the foundation of his life.” Basically, he said we can do a lot of things to help LJ grow and develop but the thing he is going to see every single day is US. The stability of our relationship and how we treat one another is going to be one of the biggest things that he watches as he grows. Our marriage is a huge part of LJ’s life and will form the foundation for his childhood. The pediatrician took a few minutes to specifically encourage Justin and I to make sure not to lose ourselves or our marriage to our new job as parents, but to continue to foster our relationship and prioritize one another as well.

I mean, wow, right!? What an amazing reminder to brand-new, slightly-overwhelmed parents to not get so wrapped up in parenthood that they forget what started the journey in the first place: their relationship. Justin and I were so appreciative of this reminder that we can love our son SO much, want the absolute best for him, try our hardest to be great parents, and still want to prioritize our marriage.

I blogged about our recent trip to Chicago last week. We take LJ with us on a lot of trips, but this was one we took without him. It was so wonderful to have a few days away together and we both felt reconnected and rejuvenated and ready to get home and love on our boy on Sunday! Obviously, it doesn’t always work to do something big like a multi-day getaway; but Justin and I have really tried to take our pediatrician’s advice to heart and remember to prioritize our marriage and spend time together. It doesn’t mean we have to spend a lot of money, or even any money at all, but it is important for us to connect and enjoy our marriage together every once in a while. Sometimes it’s just talking on the couch during LJ’s naptime. Other times we go out for a movie, sporting event, dinner, putt-putt golf, etc. It keeps our marriage strong, helps us focus on our love for each other, and is just plain fun. We are always ready to come home and give LJ so much love and attention afterwards!

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Together again – ready to love on LJ!

Today I’m sharing a few ways that Justin and I utilize to spend one-on-one time together. These are ways that work for us – they may not work for you and that’s totally okay. I encourage you to find what works for you and your partner and carve out some time to focus on the relationship that started your little family: your love!

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Relax together after LJ’s Bedtime

We have a few shows we both really enjoy watching (This is Us, A Million Little Things, and occasionally The Bachelor depending on the season and main person). Some days one or both of us may still have some work to finish on our computers so we will have those up while we watch but it’s still fun to be together while the show plays so we can discuss our thoughts during and after. Some nights we both are totally finished with work and there isn’t a show we want to see so we’ll curl up together on the couch, usually with bowls of ice cream, and watch a movie together.  It’s such a fun, relaxing way to just spend some time together! Of course, there are days when it feels like Justin and I are just counting down the minutes until LJ goes to bed and we’re both so exhausted from our long days that we just kind of zonk on the couch and do our own thing. It’s always nice though to watch something together.

Screen-Free Time

Occasionally during naptime or after bedtime, we’ll intentionally set 30 minutes of screen-free time. TV is off, computers are shut, phones are away, and Justin and I just sit and talk. We might talk about our days, our dreams for the future, our plans for the week, or whatever else is on our minds, but it’s always just nice to have focused, uninterrupted time to reconnect. The busier the season of life, the more important I think this time is!

Utilize grandparents (if possible)

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I know we are SO lucky to have parents who want to be very involved as grandparents. Both Justin and my parents adore LJ and love to love on him. We are also lucky that my parents only live just over an hour away and frequently babysit LJ (we know Justin’s parents would love to do this too but they unfortunately live several states away). I personally think it’s important to take them up on their offers to babysit not only so Justin and I can have some time to reconnect, but also so LJ can develop a relationship with his grandparents. It is so sweet to watch their bond grow! My mom often offers to come watch LJ at our house so we can have a date or take him to their house for a day/night/weekend. I had no problem leaving him in their care early on (they first babysat him at 2 weeks old for 2 hours so we could attend Justin’s work Christmas party nearby) but I did take much longer to feel comfortable leaving him overnight. They first watched him overnight when he was about 8.5 months old. It went so well though – they loved it, LJ had a great time (they sent lots of pics and videos), and Justin and I got to enjoy a little getaway for my birthday (read the recap here). Once we did it once, it became much easier to continue to do and increase the length of stay. My parents just had LJ for 4 nights while I joined Justin in Chicago and it was amazing. They all had a fantastic time and Justin and I both agreed that it was so nice to have time away together to relax, explore Chicago, and just spend time together.

I will say – yes this is a “free” option for us, but we do try to be conscious of the fact that it’s not free for my parents to drive an hour or buy groceries for LJ when they keep him overnight. We try to split driving (I’ll drop him off, they pick him up) and I’ll typically send along some food for him in addition to what they have. If my parents come to watch him so we can go out to dinner, I will try to either have dinner made for them to eat or they know they can always raid our fridge/pantry if they need. We never want them to feel like we’re taking advantage of them and want them to feel appreciated for all they do!

Swap with friends

I realize that many people don’t have the option to have grandparents babysit for a variety of reasons. Justin and I also swap free babysitting with friends. We have close friends who actually live in the same neighborhood as us so it’s super convenient to drop our kids off at each other’s houses. This isn’t something we keep track of, like your-turn-my-turn, but it’s more of a “when we need each other, we’re not afraid to ask” situation. We watch their two little boys if they need us for a dinner (they’re also into intramural sports so we sometimes watch the boys if they have a game in the evening) and they watch LJ if we need a date night or have something else going on. We 100% trust them and vice versa so it works really well for us.

Split a babysitter

There was a night when both we and our “swap” friends needed a babysitter, so since we couldn’t swap with each other, we split a babysitter. It was much cheaper to pay one person to watch 3 kids together and split the cost than to find two separate babysitters. I dropped LJ off at their house and the babysitter was great with all three! Problem solved!

Mega-Swap, or the “Night of Chaos”

One of my friends had the brilliant idea to create a kind of “mega babysitting swap” amongst our group of friends. There are six families with 12 kids between us. Each couple takes one month and picks a night to host ALL the kids at their house so the other couples can have a date night. It’s a pretty hectic night for the hosting couple (hence we playfully dubbed it the “Night of Chaos”) but you only have to do it 2x each year and the other 10 months of the year you have a free babysitter and date night each month! I will say that each couple has at least one member certified in CPR/First Aid and we are all parents who handle a variety of situations, which definitely adds to our comfort level with something like this. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have trust and confidence in each couple that was part of the group. But it works really well for us and it’s a great way for Justin and I to make sure to carve out time each month to do something together!

If nothing else, take him along!

Our friends hosted a Christmas party and we didn’t have someone to watch him so we just took him along in his jammies. We set up a pack n play in their guest room, brought our sound machine and his wubbanub, darkened the room, and just put him down there at bedtime. When we left at the end of the night and got him down from upstairs, guests who showed up after we put him down said “wait, there was a baby up there!?” He didn’t disturb the party and we didn’t disturb him. We’ve done this a few times now and while it is still preferable for LJ to fall asleep at home, this option works well if we need.

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I know not everyone feels comfortable with this and that’s okay. You don’t have to do it if it doesn’t work for you! I will say that the more we do it, the easier it becomes. We travel enough with LJ that he has gotten used to sleeping in places other than his crib in his bedroom and he does a good job in other environments. If we never had him sleep anywhere else, he probably wouldn’t do well with a pack n play in a guest room during a Christmas party. But because he sleeps other places often enough, now it’s super easy to put him down somewhere and have him go right to sleep! He transfers well to the car seat then and back to his crib when we go home. I would just encourage you to try it a few times and see if it works for you. The first time didn’t work flawlessly, but we kept at it and LJ got better at it (and so did we) and I’m glad we didn’t give up.

 

What works for you in making time for your spouse? What dates do you enjoy together?

Chicago Re-Cap

Last week, Justin had a board certification exam + conference to attend in Chicago. He left Monday morning and I joined him on Thursday after dropping LJ off with my parents. We so enjoyed a few days together in the city!  Beware this re-cap involves a lot of food and March Madness – you have been warned!

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Several of Justin’s co-workers were also attending this conference and I drove up with another spouse on Thursday. We arrived right around lunch and met up with our husbands at the hotel (we stayed at the Grand Sheraton downtown). Justin and I ran up to our hotel room to quick drop off my luggage and then we headed out to lunch at Mother Hubbard’s. It was a sports pub with TONS of TVs which was perfect for us because the March Madness tournament had just begun and we were excited to get to watch a lot of games and smack-talk our brackets.  We ate a light lunch because we had plans for a big dinner and hung out at the pub for a few hours watching games. I love the atmosphere of a sports pub when there is a big game on, and at one point the entire bar was watching and cheering loudly for the Auburn vs. New Mexico State game because it was so close. The energy in the room was awesome! It was a relaxing and fun way to spend an afternoon.

We strolled back to our hotel room to freshen up and met up with our friends to walk to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Justin and I split an entree so I still had room for dessert – Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple did not disappoint!

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After dinner the six of us walked to the theatre district and enjoyed all the stunning views of the city along the way.

We arrived at the Nederlander Theatre to watch A Bronx Tale. Honestly, this was not my favorite Broadway play ever and I thought the plot kind of jumped around a lot but the music made up for it. The performers were all SO talented and two in particular blew me away with their vocal performance. It was a great way to cap off our first day!

Friday morning Justin and I enjoyed the fact that we were kid-less which every parent knows means you can SLEEP. IN. Glorious! We met up with a couple of our friends for breakfast at Yolk, which was super delicious. I didn’t remember to take a picture until all I had left was one piece of cinnamon roll french toast left, but take my word for it that my skillet breakfast and french toast was beautiful and delicious!

After breakfast Justin and I both had a little work to do so we headed back to the hotel to work on our laptops for a few hours. Around lunch we headed out to meet up with my uncle at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel which was an absolutely stunning building! There are different restaurants inside and we chose The Game Room, which has an awesome old-time clubhouse feel. The ambiance was just incredible! Their menu is limited with small portions, which was perfect for splitting a few small plates among the three of us since Justin and I were still pretty full from breakfast. The restaurant had March Madness games playing and since my uncle is a University of Cincinnati alum, we got really into their game vs. Iowa.

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After the game finished we headed up to check out the rooftop restaurant Cindy’s, which has a great view of Millennium Park and the lake. It was the perfect lunch spot to enjoy and catch up with my uncle!

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Justin and I headed back to the hotel but couldn’t resist a pit stop at The Bean for some super touristy pictures. I love the one with “The Bean and our growing Little Bean” haha!

We headed back to relax in the hotel room and watch more March Madness (and I took a nap – once again, kid-free gloriousness!) until it was time to head out to dinner. Because this conference is so huge, there are a lot of schools and organizations that have alumni meet-ups and Justin and I went to his school’s alumni dinner at Pizzeria Due. Nothing like delicious deep-dish Chicago style pizza! It was fun to catch up with a few people we knew from our time in West Virginia and hear what everyone is up to now.

Afterwards we met up with our friends at Timothy O’Toole’s for a few drinks and, you guessed it, more March Madness. I was cheering hard for my Buckeyes! It was extra fun with our group of six because everyone’s brackets were different so our alliances kept changing each game with who we were co-cheering with. Only one other friend had picked OSU to win their first game so we were pretty smug for the rest of the night. 😉

Saturday morning Justin attended a few hours of his conference so I headed to the gym to get a workout in. The gym overlooked the river so it was fun to watch the buzz of city life go by as I got my cardio in.

We met up with all our friends for lunch (another spouse arrived Saturday morning so we were now a group of seven) at Weber Grill, which was fantastic! Once again, I got so into our conversations and enjoying time together that I have zero pictures but our food was delicious and we were all very happy with our choice!

We split off into groups after lunch, as some people wanted to shop Michigan Avenue and others wanted to find dessert. I was in the dessert camp and we ended up at Ghirardelli’s where a friend and I split a delicious sundae and we enjoyed people watching from the window.

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Justin and I, along with two of our friends, had decided to leave Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning so we spent the afternoon packing up and getting ready to leave. We met up for one more group dinner at Pinstripes, which was a fun atmosphere. I got their wood-fired pizza which, while not deep dish Chicago, was still delicious! Next door to the restaurant was Molly’s Cupcakes and as soon as we saw they were Cupcake War winners, we knew we had to give them a try. I was stuffed so we got two cupcakes to enjoy later.

Once back at the hotel, we grabbed our things, said goodbye to the friends leaving Sunday, and headed back to Indiana. We didn’t get back until around midnight but it was worth it to have a relaxing Sunday morning before meeting up with my parents to take LJ on a plane to Virginia (yes! So much travel in so little time!) It was a short and sweet trip to Chicago but we really enjoyed the time away!