All posts by bertandorduke

My Favorite Part of the Summer

People always ask me the same thing when I say I took the summer off with the kids: “What was your favorite thing you did?” I’m always kind of stumped.

It’s not that we didn’t do a lot of fun things this summer. In fact, to refresh my memory, I read all 39 posts. Some of our best days were spent riding water slides, visiting with old friends, hanging with family, helping the homeless, and of course, being beach bums.

 

We had a ton of guest stars, old and new, that helped make the summer extra fun.

 

And how could I forget, we got a new team member!

dogs in nature
She likes ice cream and whining. She fits right in.

But I think my favorite part was just being a team with Hazy and Georgie and really getting to know the people they are at ages eight and five. The thing about these “one summer(s) at home” is that for 3/4 of the year I’m a working mom and for this 1/4, I’m a stay-at-home one. And I hate to admit it, but I gain a much deeper bond with my kids during my time at home. We have our soundtrack (it includes Carly Rae Jepsen and lots of John Williams), our inside jokes (we always sing-yell, “That’s how she feels!” instead of “I love cheap thrills!” because that’s how George sings it), and our routines down pat (coerce George to put on pants, pack beach bag, sunscreen everything in sight). And while they definitely did more than their fair share of whining (what’s a fair share, btw, one minute per kid?), they also made me laugh, helped me feel like a kid, and made me feel incredibly loved every day. They treat me like a rock star and so I feel like one around them, and I am eternally grateful that I have this time with them.

 

I mean, what team’s better than this one?

For George’s kindergarten class, his teacher had us fill out a family info form. One question was, “What’s something you want us to know about your child?”. The day after I turned it in, she asked me, “Where you the one who said you would legit hang out with your kid if he wasn’t your son?” Hell yeah I was. He’s hilarious and fun. Same goes for Hazy. She’s the Edina to my Patsy, I’d go insane without her. I miss our time together already, turds, and I’ll cherish it forever.

Going through One Summer At Home withdrawal? Try the Designer Impostors version. If you liked One Summer At Home, you’ll like Letters Lists. And if you don’t, well, I’ll probably write a letter to you.

 

Don’t Know What You Got Until It’s Gone

As per usual, Cinderella (the band, not the princess) had it right. It was just last Wednesday that we had our last summer Wednesday at Oma and Opa’s. It happened to be a rainy day and past Labor Day, so we didn’t go to the pool (or wear white). I told my mom we’d have to come up with a Plan B and she reminded me about her brilliant parenting philosophy, “you don’t always have to do something.” [Editor’s note: that could also be a great Cinderella song.] So we just hung out, and you know what? It was great.

The kids played Hors-opoly with Oma. (It’s dumb. You try learning to say “Go to stable. Do not pass Giddy Up” instead of “Go to jail. Do not pass Go.” without sounding like an idiot.)

Horsopoly They also enhanced the enjoyment of Hors-opoly with their new discovery: arm farts.

Hors-opoly and arm farts
Arm farts are a million times funner than Percheron, which is the Boardwalk of Hors-opoly.

We completed this puzzle:

Star Wars puzzle
And by “we”, I mean me, with the littlest bit of help from Hazy (20%), George (5%), and Oma (1%, and that’s generous).

Rosie and Teddy established a truce (i.e. she stopped bullying him for a short time).

dog relatives sharing bed
Rosie’s pissed she has to share the bed she stole from Teddy with him.

We had one more epic dinner by Opa: wontons and bok choy. Even though I use my dad’s exact same recipe when I make wontons, they’re never as good.

homemade wontons
Hazy and George asked Opa why he doesn’t open a restaurant. “Because I don’t like cooking for people I don’t like.” Fair enough.

Not to be outdone, Oma made her famous Peach Roll, which is very much like her famous Strawberry Roll, except you can probably figure out the difference.

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Ask my friend Beth what happened to the strawberry roll my mom brought to our college dorm with instructions to “make sure I share it.” (Spoiler alert: I didn’t. Other spoiler alert: I gained more than the Freshman 15.)

It appears George has inherited his father’s flatulence problem. The emissions are frequent and smelly, enough that Oma had to institute a “No Farting At The Dinner Table” rule. So, George would frequently say, “Excuse me” and then we’d hear a big fart and an “Ahhhh” from the bathroom down the hall.

fart run
The Fart Run in action

I know I say this every “one summer at home,” but we are so fortunate to have Oma and Opa in our lives. I love that my kids have inside jokes with them, that we have lame games that we only play at their house, and that they’re stricter about certain things than I am. And I love love love all the incredible food we were spoiled with every week. I’m definitely gonna miss our weekly time together, but there’s always the weekends…

I’ll leave you with these words from Cinderella:

I count the falling tears
They fall before my eyes
Seems like a thousand years
Since we broke the ties

Also, I’m sorry that Rosie peed on your rug (again), mom.

The Last Tuesday

You know, kind of like the last supper, but without everyone sitting on one side and no Judas, that we know of. Since this past Tuesday was our last one before both kids are in school, I tried to make it extra fun. And what’s more fun than whine-walking a mile to the pet store? Unfortunately, we got there about 45 minutes before they opened, which Rosie did not understand.

Rosie at Polka Dog Bakery
You see, Rosie can’t read, tell time.

Thankfully, JP is a treasure trove of playgrounds, and there was one nearby that we’d miraculously never been to. Hazy and George killed the time working on their American Ninja Warrior training and having a dance fight.

But come on, it was the Last Tuesday. You didn’t think we were just gonna run errands, did you? You may recall that last month when the kids got a Legoland game-ending whining penalty. (I may or may not be writing this wile watching the Patriots game.) Well, the Last Tuesday was their redo and THEY. WERE. PSYCHED.

Legoland Boston
They don’t get these kind of verticals for non-LegoLand adventures…

We’ve been to LegoLand a few times now, including one time where we almost broke George and another time where we definitely broke him. We know how to shoot the spiders on the ride, where to find the hidden Cheers window, when to shout “LEGO!” on the factory tour, and how to beat the Ninjago lasers (at least on “novice”). And I’m proud to say that we made it through all of LegoLand without breaking George.*

My favorite ride at LegoLand is the play structure, because I get to sit on a bench and do nothing while the kids entertain themselves. Just kidding, it’s the ride where you get to shoot spiders with laser guns because I hate spiders and I’m awesome at shooting them with laser guns.

LegoLand tea break
This is how you win at LegoLand.

We spent a lot of time, as we always do, making our model cars. I love watching Hazy tinker with her car. I’m not sure why they looked completely miz during the actual time trials, except maybe because my car smoked theirs! Guess my 35+ years of additional life experience finally paid off, turds.

Of course, you can’t go to LegoLand without seeing a 4D movie. Ours was about a farting skunk, an idiot bird, and a battle between an evil gator and a heroic lion for a powerful chi energy ball. I’m serious. I’ve gotta get a job writing 4D movie scripts for LegoLand.

4D theatre at LegoLand
Cooler than a farting skunk.

This might have been our best trip to LegoLand yet. Yeah, Last Tuesday!

jumping under LegoLand giraffe
Let’s touch the LEGO giraffe’s LEGO groin!

We got back just in time to have :30 for Hazy to change into her soccer clothes, me to grab a snack and Rosie, and George to find a way to make us late. I grabbed some Seriously Sharp cheddar (Hazy’s fav) and some Ritz, and Hazy ate them on the way to soccer while walking the dog.

snacks on the way to soccer
This is why girls run the world.

On the way to soccer, I gave Hazy a lecture about actually playing soccer this season, and not just chatting with her friends. The funny thing is, most of her soccer friends are the daughters of my bootcamp friends, and we’re always getting in trouble at bootcamp for talking too much.

girls soccer team
The next generation of social exercisers

Oh well. Aren’t team sports mostly about learning teamwork, communication skills, and the latest gossip?

Coming up next: what we did on our last day before school. Hint: not much.

*Unfortunately, on the walk to the car, George broke himself. He walked right into a pole. He wasn’t even looking at his (non-existent) cell phone! He got a big bloody gash on his forehead, and we had to stop by Outback Steakhouse to get a bag of ice. Thanks, Outback Steakhouse bartender! And although this is George’s 3rd (4th?) head injury this year, I assure you he’s still a genius. He figured out how to play the Imperial Death March on recorder this morning. I tried to get it on video, but he refused, saying, “then you’ll show it to everyone.” He’s right.

“It wasn’t over, it still isn’t over!”

I wish I was talking about Ryan Gosling’s feelings for me, but I mean summer. Even though the rest of the country is back in school, we’re still. on. vacation. Last week, we headed to beautiful Lake Winnepesauke for a good old-fashioned family vacation. We stayed at the Naswa resort, which Matty and I refer to as having “just the right amount of cheese.”

Naswa resort, Lake Winnepesauke
It’s pretty much the Dirty Dancing resort except cuter cottages, no dancing (dirty or otherwise) and I didn’t have to carry any watermelons.

We did all the usual vacation stuff: ice cream, lake fun, mini golf, foofy drinks, and of course, settling all of our differences via inflatable log boppers.

ice cream at Liliuokalanis
Sorry, Rosie.

 

Wait, what was that last thing? Ah yes, the inflatable log boppers. If possible, we’d settle all disagreements year-round with the inflatable log boppers. You know how sometimes you wish you could just hit your partner upside the head? Well, now you can! With inflatable log boppers! Here’s Matty totally cheating and “winning” our battle. Don’t worry, I got a few good bops in.

Photos by Hazy

Score settling via inflatable log boppers is not limited to grown ups:

It’s pretty much appropriate for all age combinations. For example, here’s Hazy destroying Matty:

When we weren’t celebrating bizzarro Festivus (airing of grievances via log boppers), we also hit the local arcades. Hazy and I are obsessed with this game called Harpoon Lagoon, where we figured out how to team up to shoot the shark and get a ton of tickets. I may have just lost two minutes of my life watching a video on how to catch the jellyfish in Harpoon Lagoon, and I didn’t even know the jellyfish existed. Clearly, we need to go to arcades more often. We also whacked some moles and Matty schooled some small children at bumper cars.

Oh, and we had our family portrait painted by Rembrandt. Yes, the Rembrandt.

Rembrandt family portrait
Classic Rembrandt shading

But wait, there’s more. We also jam-packed this vacation with dueling puzzles (Rosie, that traitor, joined the kids’ team), the kids’ first viewing of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (the old, good one), one “king-size” lobster roll, and bumper boats, where we ran into friends from JP. Sorry/not sorry that I annihilated you, Lucas. I wasn’t about to go easy on you just because you’re only 8 years old.

At mini golf, both Matty and George got holes-in-one, but only one of them insisted on doffing his hat and waving to the “crowd.”

It wouldn’t be a Lake Winnepesauke vacation without a boat ride, and the Naswa offers a free lake tour with Captain Dennis.

boating on Lake Winnepesauke
All smiles pre-pirate takeover

Captain Dennis was nice enough to let both kids drive the boat. It was all smooth sailing until a pirate took the wheel.

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America in 2015
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America in 2017

Despite things looking pretty dark for a few minutes, we made it safely back to the resort. And not to worry, there were positive pirate encounters (it’s a thing!) as well.

Pirate's Cove mini golf
Tank tops tucked into jeans with marauder accessories are the big trend for Fall 2017, marrrrrrk my words.

You know how sometimes your kids will make a new friend and then you’re pleasantly surprised when the kid’s parent is also cool? Well, that happened, except in this case, Matty was the kid. No one was playing football with him, so he randomly threw the football to another guy in the water. Turns out that guy, Chris, had a sweet daughter, Lola, who was a little older than Hazy. Both kids ended up loving Lola, George even asking her if she’d be his best friend. She magnanimously told him he could be “one of them.”

new friends at Blue Bistro
Dinner date with new bestie, Lola

Hey, aren’t ducks such a fun and cute part of a lake vacation? Imagine fire shooting out of my laser eyes when I say NO, THEY’RE NOT.

chasing ducks
Such a ducking a-hole.

We learned the hard way about something called Swimmer’s Itch or “Duck Mites.” It’s a short-term immune reaction to parasites carried by ducks. We thought they were some sort of horrible bug bite, but when Matty, Hazy and George had literally dozens of them on their legs, but had never noticed being bit by anything, we eventually figured it out. Also, I’m usually a mosquito magnet and I didn’t have any “bites,” so we knew something was fishy. George ended up literally screaming in pain in the middle of a CVS because the bumps were so itchy and painful. Sorry, people of CVS and poor Matty who had to endure a bunch of dirty looks. For future reference, if you’re swimming in a lake with ducks, wear lots of sunscreen, towel off immediately after swimming, shower after swimming, and wash your swimsuits well. It turns out that my anal-retentive sunscreen applying and wimpiness about going in the water for very long saved me in the end.

Despite the duck mites (ew) and George’s flatulence problem (he gets it from his father), a great time was had by all, even Rosie, and this black bear we adopted.

IMG_6940DSC_0330At the end of our vacation, keeping with the “just the right amount of cheese” theme, we went to Canobie Lake Park, the amusement park Matty and I both went to growing up. A lot of the rides are the same ones we went on as kids too, like the Caterpillar, the Yankee Cannonball roller coaster, and our favorite, the Log Flume. Last time we went, George was too scared to go on the Log Flume, but this time we all went on together, and it was pure happiness. We didn’t pony up the $16 for our photograph, but it was pretty classic, with Matty and George hiding behind me and Hazy respectively like a couple of wussies. The O’Rourke girls are pioneerswoman and we’re not afraid to get a little water splashed on us.

The kids are both big enough to drive the antique cars, which either makes you feel alarmed or like you’re in a Grey Poupon commercial, depending on the type of person you are.

The kids got ice cream and guess what I got? Hint: that’s not cocaine.

Other exciting things that happened include: George not running away from this giant wave, Matty winning me this Care Bear, and Hazy getting her fortune from Pappy. (Let’s hope she didn’t wish to be big.)

As you may know, I’ve been training Hazy and George in Photo Acting 101 and Photo Jumping For Beginners for years now, but it looks like they need a little more schooling. I mean, is George even trying?

jumping family photo

jumping family photo shoot
Better, Haze.

Aside from the Swimmer’s Itch, it was a fantastic vacation and the best way to spend the week before Hazy goes back to school (tomorrow, gulp) and George starts K2 (i.e. real kindergarten) next Monday.

family at Lake Winnepesauke
The family that gets duck mites together stays together, right?

The third One Summer At Home is about to wrap up. Single tear.

Oma & Opa’s, H2OGO, and the Legoland No-Go

Let’s wrap up last week’s recap and mentally prepare ourselves for a week of no One Summer At Home. I’ll be on vacation – from life, the blog, and even — gasp — Facebook.

On Wednesday, we went to Oma and Opa’s, and, great news, no one got kicked out of the pool.  The other good news is that Rosie and Teddy are getting along quite well, if you count her stealing his bed again as “quite well.” But look how nicely they walk with Oma!

At the pool, we played some low-volume Marco Polo and I also introduced them to Sharks and Minnows, which we used to play at our neighborhood pool growing up. Our deep end was 8’6″, and in our version of Shark, the shark treaded water in the middle and yelled “Shark!” and then all the minnows would attempt to swim across the bottom of the pool to the other side. Since tag was too easy, the shark had to drag your body to the surface of the pool in order to catch you. This resulted in a lot of underwater fisticuffs and I believe helped prepare me for my short lived water polo career in college. For Hazy and George, I did a JV version where I was the shark and they couldn’t get tagged if they were underwater. I let them make it across a few times before completely annihilating them. I’m not a monster.

After we worked up an appetite playing games at the pool, we came home to a feast of Chinese “lion’s head.” Although Opa tried to convince George that it was in fact a lion’s head, lion’s head is in fact made up of ground pork meatballs (the head) with sauteed napa cabbage (the mane) and it’s exquisite.

 

Chinese "lion's head" meal
I ate until I felt sick and then ate a little more.

On Thursday, we stayed local. First, we did our popsicle walk with Rosie.

popsicle time
These poor kids can’t eat a GD popsicle without me making them take a selfie. Whatever. Guess who buys them those popsicles?

Then, we headed to our awesome new Jamaica Plain library, where I ambitiously/foolishly took out two books for myself to read on vacation. The turds busied themselves with searching for all the Star Wars books in the entire Boston Public Library.

computers at Jamaica Plain public library
“Help us find these 8,202 books please.”

Usually, my M.O. is that I buy fun activities at the beginning of the summer and tell the kids I’m gonna save them for a “special day” and then forget all about them until I clean the side closet sometime in October. But not this summer! I’ve already used the Giant Bubble kit, and Thursday I whipped out the H20GO triple water slide!

It was all fun and games until we decided to all go on the slide together. After all, it is a triple slide, right? I went in the middle and somehow ended up basically throwing my entire weight on George’s leg. Given that I launched myself pretty hard and also have eaten ice cream/popsicles 9 days out of 10 this summer, it wasn’t pretty. When the kids were babies, I could interpret what each of their different cries meant. It’s harder now, but I can definitely tell a fake cry from a real one, and sadly this was a real one. For a few tense moments, I thought I had broken his leg, but it turned out it was pretty superficial. I eventually got him to get back on the slide, as long as I promised not to go at the same time. You’ll be happy to know that George has his full leg strength back now and I have not been shamed out of eating frozen snacks.

Friday was another slow news day. The kids woke up fairly early and did some Star Wars themed coloring in the toy pit.

Star Wars fan art
I guarantee my kids can name more fictional Star Wars planets than real ones. Although, to my credit, I did recently teach them about Uranus so I could tell them the joke I made up. (“Which planet has the most poop on it?” “Uranus”)

I had planned on taking them to LegoLand. We have a couple of discount coupons and it’s one of their favorite places on earth. I’m also a fan, especially of the entire city of Boston made out of LEGO bricks. However, after the coloring, there was a whole lot of fighting and whining, and I just didn’t want to reward them for being so uncool. At lunch time, I asked them if they thought their behavior was worthy of a trip to LegoLand and they both said no. Sometimes they surprise me in their rare moments of self-awareness. So instead of going on rides and watching 4D movies (the 4th “D” is fake precipitation!), we did a quick jaunt to Ocean State Job Lot to look for some special unnamed dog treats that Rosie likes. Almost as exciting.

special shopping carts
Do anyone else’s kids embarrass them by running right into the motorized carts for disabled people?

We couldn’t find the mystery treats but found a designer impostor version and hoped for the best. We did find Star Wars Jell-O Jiggler molds though! [Fun fact: I used to work on the Jell-O account and the one thing that really stayed with me is that scientists did an EEG on a lime green Jell-O mold and found that its brain wave pattern was similar to that of a human brain.]

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The waiting is the hardest part.
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The second hardest part is that they didn’t actually like the taste of the Jigglers.
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You have to admit, they look pretty awesome though.

I’m happy to report that they were much less combative/whiny the rest of the day, so at night, we continued with our Star Wars theme and met Matty at the Hatch Shell to see Rogue One.

 

It was such a treat to hang out with the whole family (even Rosie!), plus Matty brought me a literal treat, this tropical drink freezer pop slushie thing. He loves me! Rosie got seriously alarmed when <SPOILER ALERT> the Death Star blew up Jedha, which made me think George’s repeated playings of the Imperial Death March had gotten through to her.

Must. Stop. Empire.

You’re now about to begin a full week without the OSAH blog. May the Force be with you.

 

Glorious Alone Time, Triumphant Return to Wingaersheek

I haven’t officially thanked my sponsor yet this summer, so huge thank you to my piece, Matthew O’Rourke, who brings home the bacon while I occasionally eat it on some kind of BLT lobster roll while gallivanting with our children. Not only does Matty financially sponsor me over the summer, missing out on all the fun while he’s at work, but he also has to deal with my frequent full-on kid handoff to him the second he gets back from work. It’s like I’m back on maternity leave, except instead of handing over a newborn, I’m like, “They’ve been whining all day. I’ll be in my bathroom with this rosé. Also, the dog needs a walk.” To top it all off, I went to a wedding in Long Island with my friend Ajit last weekend, and Matty held down the fort solo like a champ. Thank you, Matty. You are the hot butter on my lobster roll.

Matty, Hazy and George are my three absolute favorite people on Earth (sorry, other people on Earth), but I have to admit, sometimes it’s pretty nice to have some me-time. I took the train to NYC, and had four hours to read, do some work, and take a quick power nap. (I also got assaulted by a 3-year old via head butt, but that’s another story.) I got to see some old friends in NYC (shoutout, Misong & Francois!) and Ajit and I totally dominated this wedding. There was a little framed sign about a photo scavenger hunt and one of the items was “worst dancer in action.” Ajit and I took this as a challenge.

Worst dancer? More like best dancer!

We tore it up to everything from Taylor Swift to the Beastie Boys and dominated that dance floor. I also dominated the all-you-can-eat dessert buffet, because Matty wasn’t around to shame me. I showed him! And my pants. On the train ride back, I stopped by my favorite hole in the wall sushi joint, Canaan, and made it onto my train one minute before departure time.

sushi from Canaan NYC
Special bonus: no children head butted me during this train ride!

When I got back on Monday, the family met me at the train station and we walked to Chinatown for dinner. We tried out a place, Bubar Cha Cha (five stars for the name alone!) and they had both shumai (shrimp/pork dumplings) and char siu bao (BBQ pork buns), so the kids loved it. Chinese whole steamed fish is always a favorite dish of mine, because it reminds me of one my Nana makes. Theirs was really good, once I took off the mountain of cilantro, the devil’s herb.

whole steamed fish
That’s how I feel about cilantro too, G.

On Tuesday, we were back to full speed OSAH action, and we went to our favorite beach, Wingaersheek.

Wingaersheek Beach
Look how many people George got to kick sand on during his sprints to and from the water!

We spent most of our time splashing in the water and digging this hot tub/mud bath. If you haven’t attempted to dig a hot tub sized hole while simultaneously building a wall to create a deep pool of water and prevent the incoming tide from coming in, well then you haven’t truly worked out. Advanced level: do it with the third-best shovel in your arsenal, because your “teammates” insist on using #1 and #2. On the plus side, the kids did enjoy the resulting hot tub/mud bath quite a bit.

You might think we get ice cream every day, but you don’t know us! For example, on this day, we got Italian ices.

Living our best life

team selfie at Wingaersheek
It’s good to be back, turds.

Remember: summer’s not over until we say it is, and we’re not calling it yet.

Ooh Heaven Is A Place On Earth

Last Friday, we went to the very place that made Belinda Carlisle not feel afraid anymore: Shoppers World. This is how excited we were!

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That’s right; we went to Friday’s on a Friday. “It’s always Friday in here,” said the sign. Duh.

The big draw of Shoppers World for me was HomeSense, TJX’s new home store. But they already have HomeGoods, you might say. Yes, but HomeSense is HomeGoods winning its 7th Tour de France if you know what I mean. Instead of one shelf of throw pillows, they have six; instead of one clearance night stand and a sleigh bed, they have a full furniture section; instead of one aisle of breakable things, they have seemingly endless aisles of breakable things…you get the picture.

all the throw pillows at HomeSense
Look at all these throw pillows!
kids at homesense
Here’s how we felt about me giving the “you owe me a dollar for every breakable thing you touch in this store” speech again.

We bought a guest room (toy pit) comforter and a throw blanket (for Rosie’s crate). As we waited in the checkout line, a HomeSense employee gave us each a melty Hershey’s Kiss, which is a great thing to do to the mother of two unruly children in the don’t-touch-anything-everything-is-white section of a newly opened store. More like Home-No-Sense, am I right?

But wait, there’s more? Shoppers World/Heaven also has a TJ Maxx, my other favorite store. There, we came really close to buying this Betsey Johnson unicorn hoodie backpack.

Betsy Johnson unicorn hoodie backpack
It’s really quite practical if you think about it.

George was in charge of pulling our mini-cart, and at one point I turned around and he had put on this purse. “I’m a mom at TJ Maxx!” Nailed it, George.

shopping at TJ Maxx
The face is what really makes it.

Since the kids indulged me at my places, I let them go to Toys R Us. Believe it or not, I think it may have been their first time. We mostly buy toys at Boing, our local JP toy store, or from Amazon or Target. They certainly acted like it was their first time.

kids at Toys R Us
Minds = blown

You can’t stay in Heaven forever, otherwise it’s too hard to return to earth. And return to earth we had to, to give Rosie her new Dozer Donut dog bed which the kids had selected after head-to-head testing of dog beds.

kids testing dog beds
George’s was comfy, but not Dozer Donut comfy
new Dozer Donut dog bed
Kid tested, Rosie approved.

I’m still a week behind on the blog. So stay tuned for what happened when I ditched my family for a wedding, on our first Wingaersheek trip of the summer, during our weekly visit with Oma & Opa, the day we finally whipped out the H20GO water slide, and the time the kids bickered their way out of a trip to LegoLand. Life’s a beach and so is your mother when you’re being turds.

We’ll always have Shoppers World though. It truly did lift us up in a wave of love.