Three birthdays and fourteen pesos

Can you believe that our girl Mara Layne turned SEVEN?! It seems like just yesterday that she was two years old, sucking her thumb, and being bossy. She has stopped sucking her thumb since then.

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She did all the regular birthday stuff, including the traditional Toys R Us trip and dinner of her choosing (Olive Garden). Wesson gave her this dress for her birthday. He said she needed a really nice dress to wear. Sweet boy!

Happy Birthday, sass monster. You make the days brighter!

Right after Miss Mara turned seven we got sick of playing in the cold and moved our spoiled butts to Palm Desert. Palm Springs Thousand Trails is there, and in true Thousand Trails fashion the campground is irritating in it’s own unique ways. The front office troll likes to torture people over their mail, and the palm trees, although great to look at, make getting into and out of your site almost impossible. Add the skinniest sites ever seen to the list and the warm weather is just barely worth the visit. We like the area, though, so that helps.

Everybody ended up with a cold just before we arrived. Everyone else got better within a day or two but Wesson decided to be an overachiever and turned his into bronchitis and an ear infection. We got to go to urgent care in California! How fun! After some heavy duty antibiotics and a few days of staying out of the dirt he was as good as new, just in time to turn NINE!!!

On our regularly scheduled birthday visit to Toys R Us we discovered that they were closing! *sob* Gone are the days of the traditional toy store. So sad! I can’t say that I haven’t contributed to it’s downfall, what with most of my purchases coming from the overlords at Amazon.com. We finished the day at Red Robin. He gets a free kids meal there every year and, like his mother, is all about the freebies.

Happy birthday, buddy! May all your dreams come true!

Wesson got a new scooter in that same week. It wasn’t really a birthday gift, more of a replacement for the one he had beat into the ground. When I went to toss the old one in the trash Justin stopped me and suggested we put it out by the dumpster in case someone wanted it. It was still ride-able, just not in great shape. Boy, am I glad I listened to him. No sooner was it out there that an inebriated lady and her male companion stumbled by. She immediately grabbed the scooter and tried to ride away, losing a chunky heeled shoe in the process. Then, her man friend decided to fold it up for easy carrying, couldn’t figure out how to do it, and ended up riding it home. It was such a sight that neither one of us could actually laugh. Best decision ever!

The morning of March 15th started like any other. Wesson ventured outside at about 10am and came running in with an unfamiliar bike headlight that he’d found back by our bicycles. It was puzzling but no one actually gave it much thought. A few hours later when Justin went out back to do something he started screaming several expletives. There, at the bike rack, where his big ol’ expensive top of the line Trek bicycle should have been was a pile of cut locking cables and a patch of dirt. Someone had STOLEN his bike in the night and left their own headlamp behind in the process. They also cut both ends off the cable which made no sense but maybe bike thieves aren’t the brightest crayons.

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Within the next few hours he was able to get a police report done and a claim in to the insurance company. The locking cable people even mailed me a new one, even though I’m not sure it will matter. By the next day he had a deposit in the bank account for the full value of his bicycle and all the accessories/upgrades at retail prices! So, if anyone is looking for a moderately used black Cannondale with pink brake cables, I’ll leave it unlocked tonight. Just make it look like a pro job, please.

A few days later Wesson started looking funny around his mouth. He’s had really badly chapped lips before because when he gets to chewing at them he won’t quit. This time, though, his cheek started getting red and the whole thing just kept getting worse. By bedtime on the 21st it was hot and nasty. We were supposed to be moving the next day so we made the decision to run him out to the emergency room right then instead of waiting until the next day. After he and I had been in the ER waiting room for about an hour and a half, I tried to leave with him, resigning to bring him back tomorrow because it was already 11pm. A different triage nurse than the first took one look at his swollen, red face and basically said no, you’re not leaving with that kid. She out mommed me, people. This is, apparently, what a staph infection in your face looks like.

Two antibiotics later we were touring California looking for a pharmacy that would take our veterans administration insurance. Wesson was thrilled to be running around CVS at 2am and shockingly he never once fell asleep during this whole adventure. We did not move the next day.

When we finally DID move, it was to a place called Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field.

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The campground itself is tucked away between the airstrip and the firing range. This place doesn’t really have any claim to fame, necessarily. They do, however, have a lot of arsenic in their water. A reverse osmosis system was set up at each campsite to make sure we didn’t let the government poison us with anything but propaganda.

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The water was pretty fantastic, actually. This weekend the air force academy was in town to do some jumping so we got to watch the instructors out jumping for fun. They were doing some formations and at one point two guys came down with a giant American flag strung between them. It was quite a show! The F-16’s from nearby Luke Air Force Base were also conducting some training and would come in extra low and fast all day long with their roaring afterburners. I was also told that we had just missed the munitions training that made all the campground gravel jump up a few inches.

Nearby the community fire pit was a “bathroom” although I got the feeling as I was using it that it may have been a joke.

Our next adventure involved a week in Phoenix. Now, last time we were there we stayed at WestWorld in their parking lot for about a million dollars. This time around we were taking advantage of the Trails Collection with Thousand Trails. Basically, for an extra $200 per year you get access to about 35 more campgrounds within the system. We’ve used it a few times so far and with the exception of one hiccup (looking at you, Sherwood Forest) it’s been well worth the fee. We stayed at Monte Vista Resort right across from the pool.

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Our site was between two houses and had it’s own grapefruit trees. I ate at least one oroblanco grapefruit every single day (sometimes three).

There were always little quail roaming about the site. The poor timid little things didn’t want you to even LOOK at them, though, and it took me several days to even get a photo. We had great neighbors too! The elderly couple next door had one of their sons and his wife visiting and they had the cutest little Brittany Spaniel puppy! The kids were smitten. Everyone we met was more than kind, even the staff. The place is fantastically immaculate and they pick up your trash at your site – a miracle in itself! If you have a chance to stay here book as many weeks as you can.

As soon as we landed in Mesa we got ourselves together to go out for dinner with Justin’s cousin Micah and their Aunt Brenda and Uncle Dana. It was Dana’s birthday! When Dana and Brenda showed up to the restaurant we were sporting our birthday hats and a ridiculously giant birthday balloon.

We had lots of fun and stayed waaay too long, so long that I started feeling bad for the waitress, although after a certain point we weren’t bothering her just taking up her space. We made sure to tip her well, though, and when we left, we left our party hats stacked up on the table. As we were standing around outside still chatting away and taking photos we spotted the kitchen staff through the windows. THEY WERE WEARING OUR HATS! Our waitress had one on too! She finally spotted us and looked almost mortified but laughing hysterically. We all thought it was hilarious and awesome, of course.

The next day when I finally made it to a grocery store I discovered that their specific brand of Kroger was called Fry’s and IT HAD A BAR INSIDE OF THE STORE.

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Why can’t Kroger roll this out all over the place, huh?! Everybody needs a bar inside their grocery store! Just getting milk? Have an IPA first. Running in for diapers? Get a glass of wine, you deserve it.

We used the next weekend to go bowling with Micah and he kicked our butts. We have only been bowling with the kids twice before this, and they did ok with the bumpers in place. Justin and I should have opted for bumpers too, I think.

Easter also happened to… happen, while were here. Good guy EB left us all too much candy and a few toys.

And then we went SWIMMING!

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The pool is actually two pools separated by a really awesome waterfall that I never documented.

On our way out of Arizon we stopped at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for a night. Our original plans were to head straight back to Holloman Air Force Base but we were off on the distance and it ended up being quite a bit farther than we usually plan for in a day. Check your route with your actual GPS, ok?

Davis-Monthan is where they have the plane grave yard!

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They need at least ten days notice to run background checks for tours of the boneyard. As much as I would have loved to do that, if you’ve paid any attention to our mildly interesting lives you’d know that we don’t plan for diddly squat. Our journey changes by the literal minute because of who we are as people: flighty, fidgety, and a touch legitimately crazy. This next paragraph will prove it.

Our next stop was another famcamp in El Paso that’s associated with Fort Bliss. While we were there we loaded up into the truck to go to the base museum as always and then suddenly we went to Mexico. It wasn’t really planned for? I mean, I had our passports so I had definitely considered it while I was getting ready to leave but it was a toss up until we actually crossed the border. Mostly we just wanted to use those passports we went through the effort of obtaining before our full-time nonsense began and just have the little mental everything-trophy that said we’d been out of the country.

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So we crossed the border. We made our way to a pretty good sized park that was supposed to have a history museum. The museum was going through a remodel as it turns out, so that was a no. Instead, we found a spot with a scary looking playground and let the kids out to run around.

It’s worth noting that the dirt in this park was at least 25% confetti, no joke. We tried to go to a big art installation down the road, and I think this is when we started to actually look around at the ‘roughness’ of the area.

We resolved, instead, to find a bathroom and then begin the process of heading back to the United States because the line for the border was a little lengthy. We stopped at that same park again when we spotted what appeared to be a public restroom. Except… an aggresive lady was charging people 5 pesos each to use the restroom. I paid her two US dollars to let us all pee, and wished those dollars good luck, not expecting change. She handed me four pre-measured strips of toilet paper. Just as I was about to go she gave me 14 pesos back! So not only did we get a ‘souvenir’ but we had a somewhat pleasant interaction in a foreign language. Ok, my Spanish sucks and I wasn’t paying attention so I almost went to the men’s room but Justin had his shit together. Later I discovered that she shorted me two pesos. I call that a tax for dealing with my dumb, needy, American keester.

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After we had safely made it back to the United States I posted about our field trip on Facebook, because of course I would. Every sane person on our friends list, border patrol agent included, pointed out that we’d gone to one of the most dangerous places in the entire world.

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Literally. The WORLD considers Juarez to be one of the MOST DANGEROUS PLACES. This is where I laugh to keep from crying. In the end, though, we survived it; “it” being our blatant stupidity and lack of googling.

And also the Mexico.

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La fin de Janvier, and maybe a little FĂ©vrier

Hola, internet friends! It is I, the goose whisperer.

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Look at those fat puddles of hissing and fervor. They’ve been making a habit of stalking whatever I happen to be cooking outside. Chicken Taco Soup is not for you! Is there a good recipe for goose in the Instant Pot? Someone once said to me that you don’t really know that you miss Canadian Geese until they’re gone. I would like to at least give it a try.

Where did we leave off? Ah, yes. Texas!

From our trusty posting in Whitney, we ventured into good ol’ Fort Worth to visit Texas Christian University. Seriously, I was just as surprised as you are.

It turns out that the science building holds a very extensive meteorite museum! The Monnig Meteorite Gallery houses approximately 3,000 samples of meteorites from around the world – correction, universe. Their catalogue can be searched here if you’d like to take a look. The samples range from very small to very large, some being slices and others big fat chunks. The kids were excited because there were quite a few meteorites to lay hands on. We touched Mars, y’all!

This next thing I found on google maps just by accident. Did you know that they print money in Fort Worth!?

The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing is located there, and they offer TOURS! The only catch is that you have to leave behind every single bit of technology you carry on your person. No phone, no watch, and sadly NO CAMERA. It was such a damn shame too, because that place is super freakin’ neato. It’s a self-guided tour on an enclosed catwalk over the printing floor, but a tour nonetheless. Mara was extra excited about the little handheld telephone type speakers they gave to everyone. When you got to a number on the wall, you’d type it in to your device and a disembodied voice would tell you all about what was happening through the windows and below.

You guys, the employees on the production floor were SO HAPPY! Everybody waved at us as we awkwardly gawked at them and a few even showed us what they were working on. One guy took an uncut sheet of 36 hundred dollar bills and folded them like a paper airplane so that he could throw them to us. Damn windows. That same national treasure of a man also counted out ONE MILLION DOLLARS in hundreds, folded the sheets up in thirds, and hugged the mass of paper like a teddy bear. Someone somewhere is buying an industrial sized tub of gummy bears with a hundred dollar bill that man snuggled.

New Mexico was next on the adventure list.

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The last time we came through southern New Mexico, it was a pass-through state. We really didn’t accomplish much, and that was OK. This visit we were determined to see the things we’d passed by and ignored for times sake. Have you ever been to Carlsbad Caverns?

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As you know we LOVE us some National Parks! My mother has spoken not so fondly about the caverns in the past, as she had visited as a child and HATED it. I had high hopes, though. We were privileged to have Justin with us as his handicapped feet bought us a pass on the elevator straight down about 800 feet to the big room, skipping almost two hours of hiking!

The big room in the cavern is really pretty, and over the years they’ve put in actual paved walking paths, about a thousand lights, and even a snack bar. I had it in my head that I wanted to walk the whole mile and a half trail through the big room. These guys frequently ride their bikes WAY farther than that, they can walk a measly 7,920 feet.

They were MISERABLE. Honestly, by the time we got to the last half mile anxiety was winning. I was freaking out internally, the kids were tired and hungry, and Justin’s feet were barking. In hind sight, the cavern looked the same all over. We could have spent twenty minutes down there and been done. We did it, though, and we don’t have to do it again! Some regrets!

The next day we used our spiffy new military ID’s to gain access to a campground inside Holloman Air Force Base. We got there on a Friday when no one was flying, and the silence continued until Monday morning when the zoomies woke up for work. SO MANY PLANES. Fighter jets, reconnaissance planes, cargo planes… they all wooshed past the camper on repeat for the entirety of the day. I really like base campgrounds, and I really like planes. Sometimes, though, you just want to complete a full sentence before the jets go by again.

They had a small air park that included a drone! One of the units at this base is made of drone pilots.

 

Why were we at Holloman? Two reasons: New Mexico Museum of Space History and White Sands National Monument!

The space history museum housed some fairly significant artifacts, such as the daisy track, once used to test deceleration techniques:

…and I don’t think they actually know the meaning of “fun fact.”

The first chimpanzee who went to space is buried here.

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Well, his skin is, anyway. Horrified yet? After a failed bid to have him stuffed (public outcry and all), his skeleton was shipped off to the National Museum of Health and Medicine and the rest of him buried in the front lawn at the museum. RIP Ham!

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White Sands was a whopping FOUR miles away from Holloman. Our stop here last year was very brief and expensive. They have that sled scam going on, funding the entirety of the parks system. This year we stopped at the local Walmart and procured $5 sleds. Take that!

Can I just say how much we LOVE White Sands? A LOT. It’s one of our favorite places by a mile. We started the Junior Ranger Program before we headed out for the really good stuff. Most of the programs can be completed in the visitor centers but White Sands requires some outdoor participation.

If you’ve never thrown yourself down a giant dune of gypsum you’re missing out!

The sand was so white and the sky was so blue!

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Do me and you a favor and make your way out here, please? It’s such an experience.

When Justin decided that he wanted to ride the roads at the monument on his birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY YOU ADVENTUROUS SOUL)

 

…we were all too eager to tag along for more sledding.

When Justin was done with his birthday ride, we did what any reasonably sane adults would do and geared up the turbos to rip donuts on the flats with our F350 dually. You know you would too, stop playin’. One problem, though: NOBODY SHUT THE TAILGATE.

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Helmets, sleds, an entire bag of lump charcoal, and sad, sandy Crocs as far as the eye could see. *sigh*

Worth it.

Now listen, my next post takes us into Arizona. Only a handful of people know what happened on our second day there, and most of them are Sheriff’s Deputies. I will write as fast as I can, just keep in mind that everyone is alive and well and we know exactly where they are.

 

A California Adventure and the Birthday Boy

Our second day at Disney was magical in its own way. It was dang near empty there by Disney standards. We rode all the rides we could stand and never waited more than 5-15 minutes each. The longest wait we had was for Anna and Elsa.

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Between you and me, they were disappointingly bland. The other princesses had personality, these two were not as exciting.

Pictures! Same deal as last time, we were more worried about having fun than documenting the shenanigans. Here’s a few miscellaneous snaps.

We met Mickey, Olaf, and Daisy!

And Minnie Mouse stole my child.

 

We were sitting on a bench when Minnie Mouse came walking by and Mara stood up. Minnie grabbed her hand and they both walked away!!! Justin and I looked at each other in shock, then had an “oh shit” moment like we forgot that we should probably follow them. When we caught up with them Minnie had found a spot in the shade to greet people and was interacting with Mara. The introvert had been kidnapped by a giant mouse and Did. Not. Care. She didn’t even know that she was “missing.” Her love for Minnie transcends all common sense.

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Wesson got this sweet hat, complete with his name stitched on the back. He was pretending that he was an airplane. Goofy would definitely approve.

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We ran into the very fun green Army men who had a little mobile dance party/cadence deal going on.

It was a great day! Disneyland and California Adventure far surpassed my expectations and the ridiculous price was worth every penny. There will definitely be a next time.

Another one of our fabulous birthday events was a trip to LEGOLAND! Wesson has been looking forward to this for years. He spent the day before we went randomly grabbing us and screaming “WE’RE GOING TO LEGOLAAAAAND” while simultaneously shaking our shoulders.

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LEGOLAAAAAAND!

They got fancy new Lego Batman shirts to commemorate the day. We were about five seconds into the park when we walked right into this:

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BATMAN!!! So, the kids were totally geeked. I was fairly horrified by the giant Lego Dark Knight. AND THERE WERE MORE…

Umm, do you see Unikitty? That was NOT a statue. There was somebody INSIDE that suit! I desperately wanted to stand around to see them try to walk out of the area but that probably would have scarred the children. Nobody cares that I’ve been scarred, though.

What’s more scary than giant people with claw hands? It turns out that it’s real people.

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These are the Lego Friends, and Wesson thought they were great. Mara was unsure about their validity, as the rest of the Lego characters actually looked like toys. Real people were not in the grand plan, yo.

Just like our two Disney days, we planned ahead! We were there on a week day so the lines were non-existent! The kids got to ride nearly every single thing, and most of it they were able to ride on their own. The rides there are pretty tame, made for the under 12 crowd. They chose to stay off the roller coasters and we walked past a few spinners we knew they would hate.

Wesson got a Happy Birthday button from member services when we walked into the park, and just like Disney every staff member we passed had a birthday greeting and a kind word for him! He had big smiles all day long.

We purchased passes for Legoland, Aquariums, Madame Tousseau’s Wax Museums, and other neat places so we can have fun and be horrified all year long!

What else happened? Wesson turned EIGHT!

Oh, boy. Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday that he was walking way too early (nine months old – for real), riding his big wheel down the stairs (Hey mommy, watch dis!), and asking if we can harvest the inner workings of Big Ben to build a giant robot. As for that last one, we agreed that if the clock were to be decommissioned – which is not probable – I would assist him in drafting a letter to the government asking for the spare parts. It’s what a mother should do.

The birthday boy requested lunch at Red Robin, a trip to Toys R Us for his birthday freebies, tacos and creamed corn for dinner, and to spend the afternoon at Coronado Beach.

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Happy birthday, beach boy!

The kids ended up finding another set of kids who were wearing Marine Corps hats just like them! Instant friends!

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We all love this beach! Look how happy these little boogers are!

My little buddy had a wonderful day! I only hope that the rest of his 100+ years can be filled with as many smiles and as much happiness. This kid is going to do amazing things. Correction: This kid is going to KEEP doing amazing things, and I can’t wait.

Ten Bottles of Glitter

Look at this gorgeous sandy water! Just LOOK!

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I don’t even care that the photo takes up the entire screen. It was so sparkly! If you haven’t guessed the locale yet it’s Coronado Beach, in front of the famed Hotel del Coronado. The hotel was built in 1888, and at the time was the largest resort hotel in the world. It is currently the second biggest wooden structure. The beach itself is one of very few beaches that has mica in the sand, which looks like flecks of gold. Mara said they had to have dumped at least TEN bottles of glitter in the ocean. Technically she’s not wrong.

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I have no idea who this footprint belongs to.

These guys are always so happy to be on the beach! Can you blame them? They roll around in the sand, haul buckets of treasures out of the water, and build castles with moats and flags – the whole nine yards. Part of Wesson’s actual schoolwork was to build a castle of some sort, so this was *technically* a school trip. Ahem. They left there with half the beach in their shorts and the other half in their hair.

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We also learned about Sand Dollars, AKA Snapper Biscuits, AKA Sea Cookies that day. They are burrowing sea urchins covered in tiny hairs that move independently and the little wiggly hairs definitely don’t creep me out in any way whatsoever. Look at the variety of colors that washed up onto the beach. I don’t think that I was aware that they were anything but the bleached, white “test” that’s usually found. Any day we can literally pick our lessons off the ground is a great one. “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

This was the view from the bridge that we had to cross to get to the island:

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And this was the view on the way back:

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Sleepy beach baby, clutching a platypus

We had tons of fun and will be back there in a few weeks. We’ve been trying to talk the kids into checking out a different beach. They’re insistent that we go back to the one with the fancy sand and the warm, hot sun.

A few days later California got rocked by the heaviest rainstorms that they’ve seen in six years. We decided to move off the mountain a few days early to avoid any potential mudslides or high winds. The Weather Channel had this to say about the situation:

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Someone made a typo or we’re all about to land in Oz

The bad news is that we didn’t get skipped by the storm but thankfully our site didn’t flood and we never lost power. Yeehaw!

Moving to this new park, Wilderness Lakes, gave us a site with a full hook up! BONUS! I have been keeping the laundry bucket empty and it’s been a dream come true. We also get to wash our dishes indoors and use our own shower! I like camping, I really do. I also like not packing a shower bag, as it turns out. “Glamping” would be a closer term for the thing I love.

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On February 18th, Carrots Fuggles Secrets Funnybunny Rowland turned TWO! In proper, traditional Rowland fashion, her bedroom was decorated overnight and when she awoke in the morning Mara provided her with a stylish birthday hat. She took her decorations down right away. She had no appreciation for my toilet paper streamers. As you can see from the above side-eye, she had no love for the hat either. Poor, tortured, traveling bunny.

The Disneyland post is next, people, and I am so excited to tell you about it! We have one more visit there this week and then I will fill you in on the Disney goodness all at once.

Sneak preview:

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