February 2016: A Review in Pictures...

Friday, March 4, 2016
Every month I love reminiscing and taking a look back at all we did.  Especially these wintry months where we feel we are in the doldrums of winter!  We actually had a lot of fun, had a special visitor, made awesome memories on our trip to Florida, celebrate Valentine's day, went to a dance, had a few sick days and had many a dance and wrestling party on the living room floor.  A new favorite around here is "Our House" by Flo Rida (you can thank ISU basketball for that one).  Let's take a peak into our February :)...

Vera and Daddy headed off to the Father-daughter dance as mentioned in a previous blog post.  That kicked off a fun weekend with Auntie Ellen coming for a visit.  We played lots of games, went to swimming lessons, did a little shopping, had dessert and appetizers at 3pm, and enjoyed a whole lot of laughter and snuggles before she ships off and moves to Seattle.  Ellen is a hot commodity, everyone just loves her ;).


She bought them new flip flops for their 2 upcoming trips :)
Snuggle me Auntie...
Oh Catan...
Great-Grandmas admiring sweet Lucy
While Ellen was here, my grandparents came over to take us all to lunch at our favorite mexican restaurant.  They drive 2 hours JUST for lunch and they try to always bring Scott's grandma with them.  It is such a treat for all of us, they love seeing the kids of course :).

Grandma Olive and Lucy
Solon is hoping for Seattle Seahawks tickets from the newest Seattle resident ;)

We spent our fair share of time at home in February and Vera is always crafting...all of her supplies are found in the pantry.  Sometimes she finds that a good place to work, I guess!


We took time to write valentines and make Solon's valentine spaceship.  He ended up staying home sick on the day of his party...darn fever!  Luckily, our sweet neighbor friend brought his filled box of treats home to him!


We continue to take swim lessons and the big news this month was Vera moved to Level 5.  She was SOOOOO proud (can you tell in the photo below!).  This means she can now start working on front and back stroke and side breathing.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for an independent swimmer before summer.  Solon is in level 8 (last level) and continues to work on his strokes and endurance!



We have our fair share of photo moments -- Lucy is just such a willing party and Vera of course jumps right in :)



Since Solon had a sick day we took the opportunity to build a huge lego town in the basement.  Daddy was proud of our civil engineering prowess.  Vera added the drive in movie theater at the front of the picture complete with ice cream stand, as you can see I was close by there :).


I attended a women's event at our church "Paint the Word".  It was $10 and they had all the supplies to paint a scripture verse or hymn of your choice.  It was a lovely morning of painting and socializing while dad manned the home front!


Of course we loved our Florida vacation and have been dreaming of those warm, sunny, vitamin-D filled days ever since.


When we got home we promptly decorated for spring because once you get a taste of sunshine, you are just itching for more!  The weather has been unseasonably warm and we have even had a few warmish days to play and be outside :).


A couple of us gals surprised a sweet bible study friend on her birthday.  I have been serving on the leadership team for our bible study and my job is to write encouragement devotions once a week.  I love how God takes our passions and gives us opportunity to weave them into our daily lives.


After vacation, this little one got a little something something.  She was so bummed to miss preschool but bounced back in time for her new favorite hobby -- DANCE.  She literally glows and asks how many days until she can go again.  She has a break in the summer and I am signing her up for a little Parks and Rec class because she just loves it so much!



And of course we love bath nights around here and Solon was so excited to finally match Lucy, since the girls are always matching ;).  Lucy is still a bit pout pout about family selfies.


Nana ordered Lucy her own Easter basket so some-bunny is already to go next month!


Of course I did some rearranging and shopping our own home for a new look for our bedroom.  We got a mattress but not any extra funds for new bedding.  This quilt is supposed to be a queen but fit our bed so we switched the bedding from our guest room upstairs and I love the new brighter feel.  I am eye-ing an upholstered headboard.  One of these months it will fit into the budget ;)!


And the weather the last weekend of February had us all outside :)  I have been running the couch to 5k program as its an efficient way to get in some workouts throughout the week and I did my first 20 minute non-interval run outside.  I find its easier to do those runs outside because I HAVE to get home!  The kids prayed for me before I left and the whole gang was there to encourage me and high-five me when I got home.   Running is not my strong suit but I have found as I accomplish new levels, it gives me courage to do more that I didn't think I was capable of.  Running has taught me I can do a lot with prayer, patience, practice and perseverance.  :)  Now I better get that next run in, sigh!



We also headed to Solon's school for his fun night and while there we found he was on the school's wall of fame for showing great character.  He is a great academic student, learning and growing but we are most proud of his good character and how he shines bright for Jesus being kind to his friends and respectful to others especially adults.  #Proudmommoment #sorryforthebrag #myblogdontcare



When the crowds got to us at fun night, we bribed the kids with our first froyo of the warmish season!  We all enjoyed it.

We had a great February.  The kids continue to learn and grow in school, Scott stays busy with airport work and his I-35 project and I just try to accomplish my day to day, not drown in laundry and keep things sailing along :).  March has a few fun things up its sleeve and the weather report is showing above average temps so I am off to find my sunglasses :).

Happy February!

Florida Vacation 2016...

Wednesday, March 2, 2016
We are blessed that both of our parents escape the midwest in the winter for warmer climates.  Scott's parents have a trailer in a 55+ community in Bradenton (on the gulf coast of FL) and my parents are renting for 6 weeks in Fountain Hills, AZ (my dad commutes from PA).  My parents gifted us tickets to see them for Christmas and since AZ is warmer than PA this time of year, we are going there!  Allegiant flies to Tampa and we snagged $150/person tickets back in November.  I tell Scott we have to return the favor someday and choose a tropical locale so our kids can come hang with us :).

We headed out Mid-February and the weather last year was ok but this year the stars aligned and the weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky and only one thunderstorm at 2am the night we arrived.

Our only objective was to enjoy the beach this trip.  Last year we fell in love with Anna Maria Island.  It had the beach town feel I love, just the right amount of shells for the kids and beautiful sand beaches not overly populated.  This year we learned more about the island and explored further spending 3/4 days there.  Ice cream and seafood are also a must and a pro is eating on the water outside.  Let's reminisce...

We traveled down on the afternoon/evening Monday.  Our flight was delayed but we knew we would just go straight to bed upon arrival so it wasn't awful that we were late.  The kids LOVE to travel so the day of travel is as fun for them as vacation.  We enjoyed watching the planes come and go, had a terminal picnic and some serious screen time with headphones on the airplane.

Packed up and ready to go -- we don't travel as light as we use to!
Funny story -- on Allegiant you pay for drinks (well our kids don't get that) so when the attendants came by Solon flips down his tray and when they asks what we would like to drink Solon says I'll take a sprite.  It was so cute I couldn't resist 1 $2 soda which we split 3 ways ;)!  He knows he can have soda on airplanes so he took advantage of that.

On the plane -- safety first
Lucy's first airplane ride (in her jammies!), she was like what is going on? She didn't make a fuss at all and slept most of the time!
Day 2: Mote Aquarium, Ice Cream at St. Armand's Circle and Swimming

Nana and Papa found a great aquarium on Lido Key they wanted to take the kids to.  We took a boat ride around the bay first and saw dolphins and lots of birds, neat sights and went under bridges and learned a lot about the area (like the bay is on average only 1-3 feet deep, what?)   Then they pulled a net and grabbed some real sea life to touch and observe.  It was a great experience.
On the boat and enjoying the sun


Happy baby in Nana's arms
Puffer fish we got to observe pulled up in a net on the boat 
 The kids loved seeing crabs and different sea urchins, plants and fish up close and the non-stinging, pinching varieties they got to touch too :)

After the boat ride we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the bay, the kids dipped their toes in and then we went and enjoyed the rest of the aquarium -- sea turtles, sharks, manatees, eels, stingrays we got to pet, and more.  It was awesome!



Admiring the sea turtles and manatees

 The kids also used their vacation spending money at the gift shop and each got a shark tooth necklace.  Solon opted for the working submarine toy and Vera picked a sea horse stuffed animal.  We got some postcards to take home to share with their classes too.  I love how they carefully select their souvenirs, they do a good job of being thankful and not asking the rest of the trip :).  Of course we were hungry after all that fun so we stopped at St. Armand's circle for some gelato on the square.  It was fun to explore a bit and enjoy the sun.
Then we headed back to Nana and Papa's and took advantage of their warm pool and swam while Nana cooked up a yummy seafood dinner.




After baths and dinner, it was time to hit the hay.  We had the beach the next 3 days and we couldn't wait :)

Day 2: Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria Island and Starfish Market



 We enjoyed flying kites, collecting seashells, burying Vera, and of course football on the beach along with a delicious picnic lunch all while relaxing and soaking up the sun!  We finished off the day at a repeat favorite from last year, The Starfish Market on the bay in Cortez.  It's busy so you have to wait, luckily we had the pelicans to watch!  More seafood - yum!

 Day 3:  Feeding the turtles, Bean Beach -- Anna Maria Island, Ice Cream and Date night

We walked down the street from Nana and Papa's and a sweet neighbor gave us some bread and a tip that the turtles like to be fed.  Sure enough, they swam right over.  We had never fed turtles before, there were all different types - some bigger, some small.  They all liked bread :).




After the picnic and car were packed, we decided to head north on Anna Maria Island to the tip called Bean Beach.  This beach wraps around from the gulf to the bay giving it expansive water views.  There is no parking lot or public bathrooms (rule of the lake applied ;) but street parking was easy to find and it made us feel like we were more local.  We packed everyone up and headed to make camp for the day -- it was the best kind of "groundhog day" repeating beach days.  More sand playing, surf jumping, relaxing, and picnicking!


Vera is a fellow bathing beauty! 





We had a little photo shoot, it was SO bright for V!
Sugar...beach and baby

It wouldn't be vacation without ice cream...
Date night!

That night we left the kids with Papa and Nana and headed out on a date!  YAY!  We went to a fancy dinner place on the bay where the boats cost  more than our home, had a cocktail and talked and then went back to St. Armand's Circle to grab a coffee and walk around a bit, do a little window shopping and enjoy the fresh, warm air.  All kids were fast asleep by the time we made it home and we enjoyed our alone time!

Day 4 -- Bean Beach, Anna Maria Island

We loved the quaint, local feel of Bean Beach so much, we chose to repeat it on our last full day in FL!  The weather was the best yet, with no find and nearly flat waves.  It was a perfect day to enjoy the cool water and just have fun as a family.  We took walks with the kids, found sand dollars and starfish,  and saw dolphins frolicking just a little ways from us (SO COOL!).
Our little flamingo...
Nana and Papa -- thanks for living here!

My love bugs!
We love the water...
Look dolphins!



Port Party of 5 
Dinner of the night -- Rod and Reel Pier (Anna Maria Island, bay-side)
And just like that it was time to pack up and get ready to head back to reality.  We absolutely LOVED our time in Florida and Anna Maria Island definitely stole our heart.  We will be back someday...

Day 5 -- Back to reality...


Our awesome EARLY morning travelers

 Allegiant doesn't offer many time/day options.  For the price, you take what you are offered.  Our flight took off at 7am, meaning we left Nana and Papa's at 4:15 to get to the airport to check in.  We got back to Iowa by 9am!  So we spend the rest of the day in a vacation coma and resting on the couch before plunging into unpacking and laundry!

It was a fabulous vacation, just the perfect amount of fun and relaxation.  The beach, in my opinion, is pretty hard to beat!























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