Monday, July 30, 2018

Hello Monday!!

Our weeks have been full of fun this summer and this past week was no exception.  Everyone was happy, healthy and we enjoyed ourselves.  We had date nights, family in town, fun with friends and some delicious food.  I'm kind of in denial that Summer is wrapping up, but we are starting the week with a to do list of FUN things to squeeze in before school starts.

Pool Days! 
We've been to the pool as much as possible this summer.  The kids both love their puddle jumpers and are happy to have some independence in the water.  This Summer has felt much easier with two kids than any other summer.  Kevin's even surprised us a time or two and gone with us during the day.  The kids love his flexible schedule in the Summers.

Mom's Night Out. 
My friend and I headed out for a night of dinner and clothes shopping.  We had the best time.  We went to our favorite restaurant in town Fifis and both loved our food.  I'm dying to recreate this quinoa salad and the pie was heavenly.  It was a PECAN BACON CHOCOLATE CHIP PIE.  Wouldn't that be a fun one to try at home!?!  Stayed tuned for both of these recipes.

Bakers in Training. 
Both kids love helping me bake.  Fletcher mostly loves helping me by sampling and emptying every kitchen utensil out of the drawers.  Olive is for real helpful.  We surprised Kevin and made his favorite brownies one evening.

This is the only kind of school we can think about in July :)

Minty Cruiser.
Kevin surprised me with a minty cruiser for our anniversary.  I'm not usually a fan of surprises, but surprise gifts is something I can get on board with.  He was so proud because he found a great deal online, used several coupons and discounts and then built it for me.  It's so much fun!!  I'm still trying to come up with the perfect name for her.  Any suggestions??

I am amazed at how quickly Fletcher can go from clean to dirty.  We were outside for five minutes and he required a change of clothes, sink bath and then a real bath that night.   

My parents came in town for the weekend!  We ate at our favorite pizza spot, played outside, worked on some projects and enjoyed the amazing weather.

 My siblings came into town the following day for a fun BBQ.  It was so nice to host my whole family at my house.  As you know we've always lived far from "home", so being 2 hours from most of our family seems like such a treat!  I am hoping to make this a Summer tradition.  Kevin loves to grill.  Fletcher said, "Mama, your food SO GOOD!".

The cousin crew had a great time playing.  I'd HIGHLY recommend this giant inflatable ball from Sams.  It's under $20 and was hilarious to play with.  We all laughed so hard.

 The original 5 Heilmans (plus 12 more family members running around behind us)

Fletcher decided that he was not going to let Olive leave him behind any more and just started riding his bike this week.  He can pedal fast and is still working on the whole breaking/steering thing.  It's crazy to see him riding all by himself.


We've been going to a really sweet church and loving it this Summer.  Olive had preschool graduation on Sunday.  They did a really nice job and gave the kids a Bible of their own.  It was wonderful!  Both kids are loving their Sunday School classes and going without too many tears.  It has been such a blessing to us to be able to go to church services knowing that they're happily learning about Jesus in their class.

Hope your July is going great!!  Happy Monday!!  Linking up with the ladies of Hello Monday

Friday, July 27, 2018

Kindergarten Makes Me Cry

Well, we have reached the parenting milestone that seemed so far in the distance back in 2013 when they handed me a tiny bundle of a baby girl.  Olive is heading to Kindergarten in August.  She claims to have 600 butterflies in her stomach about it, but at last count it was down to 300.  We have about two weeks to clear out the last 300 butterflies.  Wish me luck!

She is ready.

She's smart.

She's feisty.

She's eager to learn and super curious about learning to read.

She hopes her teacher is much like Miss Honey.

I know she's going to love it and I'm so proud of her.

But, Kindergarten makes me cry.

Let me explain. 

We are 100% pumped over kindergarten and really selling it hard at home.

But, I am nervous about her making nice friends and her teacher really getting to know her with a class full of other kids.  New things make me anxious so I'm trying hard to figure out all the things before school starts.  She's starting a new school and I'm hoping I've prepared her well enough.

I'm reading kindergarten picture books with a lump in my throat.  I'm tearing up reading over the giant parent handbook for elementary school. I'm crying happy tears over supply lists and the idea of going shopping with her.  I promise her through teary eyes that I'll take her to and from school to avoid the scary school bus.  I teared up with pride during the school tour when she was so excited to see all of the cool spots she'd be learning.

I am really excited about her starting elementary school so there have been plenty of tears of JOY.  I taught elementary school for 9 years before Olive was born.  I taught 2nd and 3rd grade and know that these young elementary years are so much fun!  I can't wait to see all of the things she learns and does in her school.  I'm also hoping to be a really fun parent volunteer :)

I tear up when I think about just how fast these little years have gone by.  People kept saying they will fly by, but it was hard to notice the warp speed with all of the new things happening in our lives these past five years.  If you're home with little babies right now, go and snuggle them a little extra because they'll be heading off to school in the blink of an eye.

I know it'll be an adjustment for us - new routines, new bedtimes, new schedules and new independence.  I am excited to figure out a new routine with Fletcher.  It'll be fun to have some alone time with him.  I know he's going to miss his BFF, but I'm determined to fill our days with learning opportunities and fun while Olive is doing the same thing.  

So on the first day of school, You can bet that I'll be the mom sporting oversized sunnies with tears in my eyes waving goodbye at drop off. 

Am I alone?? 

Will you be teary eyed with me or eager to get your kids back into the school routine??

Does anyone else have an incoming kindergartner??
Let me know and I'll be praying for you, too!   

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

8 Tips for Making Road Trips with Kids Enjoyable

We road tripped from Indiana to Florida back in June.  12ish hours in the car each way.  I'd say we are seasoned road trippers at this point in our lives.  The kids are both pretty good travelers thanks to lots of practice.

We had the best time on our trip to the ocean this year.  Everyone did great in the car and it felt like the easiest big trip we've taken in years.  I did a lot of prep work to help things go smoothly for everyone.  Kevin always does the driving/navigating and I do all the packing/snacking/prep work.  We've got our jobs down pat.  Everything didn't always go smoothly, but we were prepared for almost anything.

As always, things went well on our trip, but there were definite lows... car sick kid, tired parents, spilled snacks, near accidents, kids fighting, etc.  Keep that in mind as you read my tips :)

They're all great tips, but #8 might be the most important.

1. VAN
We got a new Honda Odyssey this Spring and it's been a game changer.

I never knew I could be so excited about a vehicle.  Or a mini van.  When I drove an SUV both kids had issues with car sickness and we were always cramped for space.  Now we can all spread out and enjoy the ride.  It's amazing how much space there is and how many seating options there are.  The kids watch movies on the DVD player and I know much of our road trip success was due to the van.

I packed all of our favorite healthy foods so we can have what we liked without having to stress about finding a restaurant for us to stop at.  We'd still stop for gas and restroom breaks, but we had almost all the food we needed in our car.  I had a large cooler in the back with drinks and food for our condo.  I kept a small cooler up front with chopped veggies, cheese sticks and other snacks.  It was the perfect size (says it would hold 30 cans and was soft sided from Sams this year)

I also had a snack bag filled with snacks for everyone.  Make sure to include chip clips to close things up.  The side pockets held small snacks so they were easy to locate as we were driving.

I transferred some snacks into ziplocs for easy access.

The perfect little cooler - has a lift flap on top to easily get out food and three big pockets.  I did wipes and trash bags on one side, plates and snack bowls for the kids and then cups/knives on the side.  I filled it with freezer packs so there wasn't ice dripping inside.

Olive LOVED this Flip to Win Memory Game from Melissa and Doug.  There are 7 different games you can play and no little pieces to keep track off.  You just change the card inside to a different game.  She could play this independently and LOVED it.  We keep it in our car now.

We also played I Spy and looked at license plates.

The kids would also watch movies as we drove.  We'd alternate letting each kid choose the movie.  Definitely have your kids wear headphones so you can listen to some music.

Melissa & Doug Flip to Win Travel Memory Game - Wooden Game Board, 7 Double-Sided Cards

I collected special surprises for each kid for the car.  This was something we'd never done before.  I got two of each thing and then put them in bags for each kid.  I set a timer on my phone to go off randomly when I thought they needed a little pick me up and surprised them with something fun.  They LOVED this!  You should have heard their screams of delight when my phone would go off.

I did not spend much money on these items - McDonalds toys purchased for less than $1 each, Dollar Spot Sunglasses, candy, stickers, etc.  Each kid had a gift bag with their items in it and I kept them up by my feet.

The kids loved reading books as we drove.  I picked out some of our favorite ocean themed books for the car.  I didn't do any reading, but they loved flipping through them as we drove.

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)

Let each kid pack a bag of favorite toys.  My kids played with these in the car and then they each had a bag of toys in the condo that they played with all week.  I think each kid had 10 items to keep track of for the week.  It made things feel more homey and gave them something familiar to play with.  

Stop at touristy things, walk some laps around the gas station and get some fresh air to keep the spirits high.  Everyone will feel better if they can do this.

I learned long ago that my attitude was contagious when we travel (and at home :).  I've worked really hard over the years to stay positive, laugh off frustrating things and to try to be flexible even when I don't feel like it.

This picture was taken at 11:30pm at a gas station.  We had hoped to be stopping for the night, but were gassing up to keep driving instead.  We stopped at three different big cities in Alabama and ALL the hotels were booked.  This went on for two hours.  Kevin finally saved the day and found us a hotel 15 minutes off the interstate.  We were all tired and a little discouraged, but I just kept joking around with the kids.

They thought it was hilarious (very Mary and Joseph no room in the inn :) that we kept getting turned away from hotels.  We grabbed some coffee, got them comfy and kept driving.  We arrived at our hotel at 1:30am!!!  Not ideal when you're traveling with little kids.  We were all exhausted, but the kids thought it was a great adventure.  Little did they know we were sweating bullets thinking we may have to drive all night.

 Do you have any road trip tips to add??  I'm always looking for new ones.

 PS Some affiliate links included.  Thanks for reading & supporting Polka-Dotty Place!

It's time to link up with my favorite Welcome Wednesday ladies.
Be sure to join us with some of your favorite blog posts.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

14 Years Ago We Said I DO!

Happy 14th anniversary, Kev!!

Lots of Love 07.24.04

Today we celebrate... 14 Years of marriage
(+ many more years of LOVE)

3 degrees // 3 jobs // 3 churches

2 kids // 2 cats

4 states // 6 homes

9 cars // 2 cruises

8 National Parks

11 nieces and nephews

4 ER visits // 1 surgery

Millions of smiles

Too many road trips, flights & adventures to count

Far more UPS than DOWNS

Tons of football, family & FUN

The best is yet to come!!  I LOVE YOU!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Fun Places to Go in Destin

Happy Monday!  Hope you had a great weekend.  We got lots done around the house, it rained a lot and we tried to map out the rest of our Summer.  Olive heads off to kindergarten in just a few weeks so we are feeling extra motivated to ENJOY Summer.

I'm excited to share some of the fun spots we tried and some new activities in the Destin area while we were at the ocean this year.  We tried to find kid friendly things to do because we did almost everything together as a family that week of vacation.

1. Dewey Destin's Harborside
They've got a great seating area outside and a great double decker deck.  The seafood is always delicious.  They serve jalapeno hush puppies.  Their key lime pie is delicious and everyone loved the food they ordered.  Go early for the best seats and very little waiting.

2. Harbor behind Dewey Destins
So many fun boats, fresh catches of the day and tons to see.  My kids loved spotting big birds, fish in the water, fresh catches up close and checking out the boats.

3. Chapala Mexican Restaurant and Grill - yummy Mexican off the main strip so it wasn't crowded.

4. Hungry Howie's Pizza - good take out pizza.  They advertise their flavored crust options, but we just went with the original crust and it was good.  The cheesey bread was really good.

5. The Donut Hole -
Amazing breakfast spot.  Worth all the hype.  Arrive before 8am for the best selection.  My father in law always headed there bright and early to pick up donuts for us to go.  We have never eaten in the restaurant, but have heard it's great.  All of their donuts are amazing - the key lime pie donut was a new favorite for us this time.

6. Publix - they have such fun food options!  We don't have a Publix in Indiana so it's always a treat to try them out when we head South.  Their key lime pie was really good and we got key lime cheesecake last year.

7. The Crab Trap
Fun restaurant on the beach.  It was a little pricey and the food was just fine.  But the atmosphere was really fun - live music, wiki sticks for the kids, kids meals on frisbees and it was Hawaiian night when we went.  They gave everyone free leis and Olive couldn't decide on one color so they gave her the entire rainbow of 15 leis.  She was in heaven.

8. McGuires Irish Pub
Our #1 favorite restaurant in Destin.  It's a delicious Irish pub and everything they serve is amazing.  We tried some new things this time - soft pretzel appetizer - it was HUGE and SO GOOD.  Their Shepherd's Pie is so good.  We decorated our dollars and added them to the walls.  They have over a million dollars hanging from the ceilings and walls.  Money everywhere you look!

9. Silver Sands Premium Outlet Mall
We had a great time shopping here.  We were staying on the other end of Destin.  It took us almost an hour to get here.  Traffic + construction really slow things down.  The mall is huge so we brought a stroller for Fletcher.  We were surprised to find a playground.  The kids loved it.  It's shaded.  There's a side for little kids and a side for big kids.  It was the perfect spot for kids to run around while mom's shop.  They also have several restaurants here like Panera, cookies, ice cream and more.

10. The ocean :)
I mentioned before that the traffic is really bad in Destin in June and July.  During the days we would head to the ocean and relax in the condo.  It was nice, "free" fun.  Obviously it's not totally free because you pay for the chairs and the condo, but you don't have to pay money to go down to the ocean every night.  We watched fireworks from our balcony, enjoyed the ocean during the mornings and strolled at sunset.  There are lots of water parks, golf courses, arcades, Aquariums, etc, but our kids are a little young for any of that.  The ocean and pool were plenty entertaining for them.

 Now I'm hungry for key lime pie :)