McDonald’s Signature Crafted Recipe Sandwiches

*articles may contain affiliate links* This summer, a new line has come to McDonald’s – the McDonald’s Signature Crafted Recipe Sandwiches. I got a chance to test out two of them – have you tried them yet?

McDonald’s Signature Crafted Recipe

The McDonald’s Signature Crafted Recipe line of sandwiches brings three amazing flavor combinations, all with fresh and tasty ingredients. It’s a build-your-own experience, starting from the recipe (Pico Guacamole, Sweet BBQ, or Maple Bacon Dijon) > adding the protein (100% beef, crispy chicken, or grilled chicken) > then picking your bun (artisan roll or sesame seed bun). You can also add a drink and fries to make it a meal.

Now, due to my just finishing up the Whole30, it took me a little while to get my body ready to handle the flavors and additions that are found in these options. I have to say, it was worth the wait! Which two do you think made it in my bag?

I headed to my local McDonald’s and gave the Sweet BBQ with 100% Beef and Pico Guacamole with Artisan Grilled Chicken a try. (For the purposes of this review, I tried two sandwiches but will tell you I had to cut them in half and got very full on a “whole” of each type I tried! These are big sandwiches! Also, I had to take off the buns because gluten and I are not friends…but I have a good source who confirmed they’re delicious…I trust him since he eats the food I cook! *wink*)

Look at all this guacamole on the Pico Guacamole Chicken sandwich! This called for a few napkins, but no complaints from me, the guac-lover!

And that bacon…so delicious!

These are premium sandwiches that were inspired by people just like you and me – people looking for something zesty, tasty, and delicious. Check out this video from McDonald’s:

If you’re lovin’ it, head out to McDonald’s and try your own favorite combination. You can read more about all of the recipes over on McDonalds.com.

If you are in the Greater Pittsburgh Area – I have a chance for you to win! To win a swag bag filled with McDonald’s branded items and coupons to try out these new sandwiches, enter below. Good luck!

Here’s what you could win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Mom Stuff: Busy Beauty Showerless Shave Gel

*articles may contain affiliate links* Are you so busy being a fabulous mom or wife that you simply don’t have the time to add shaving to your routine? I know it sounds super “gross”, but I sure don’t. And the thing is, I am not alone. I want my shower time to be fast, and that’s why I’m over the moon excited to tell you all about my latest secret: Busy Beauty Showerless Shave Gel.

showerless shave gel

Busy Beauty Showerless Shave Gel

This product has revolutionized how I get ready in the morning. If I feel the need to shave (which is frankly all too often in the summer), I don’t have to worry about handling it in the shower any more. With no need to lather, rinse, repeat…I can now shave on the go, in a tiny hotel shower, or even on my bed!

Busy Beauty Showerless Shave Gel is a 3-in-1 pre-shave, shave, and post-shave product. It goes on without “suds” or foam but moisturizes the skin just right for a perfect, close shave. Even my sensitive skin (that itches like mad every time I shave) felt amazing after it. (I thank the fact that it is made with essential oils and is alcohol free!) Even days after, I still felt silky smooth.

Check out my very first experience with this shaving product…

Get your Busy Beauty on!

Super easy, right? I’m sure you can see why I am so excited and you’re probably wondering how you can get your hands on this and start shaving the best way right away, right? Drop everything and head over here (Amazon) and buy yourself a bottle or two.

Once you get your bottle(s), all you need to do is smooth on the gel and shave with your favorite razor (though I recommend one without built in moisturizer/soap). If you follow up this quick routine with a little bit extra rubbed in, you’ve taken care of your post-shave moisturizer, too. So easy. (If you’re still reading, WHY haven’t you headed over to get a bottle?!?!)

Traveling? No worries – at 3.4 fluid ounces, these bottles are TSA approved for flying! I took mine to NYC this past week, but still felt great after my Saturday shave from last week…it was that refreshing.

Busy Beauty Showerless Shave Gel is available on Amazon for about $9 per bottle. It’s been called “the dry shampoo of shaving gels” and for good reason – it makes the shower routine so much faster…something all of us busy women need! Find out more at busy-beauty.com.

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Brick Fest Live Pittsburgh

*articles may contain affiliate links* Are Yinz excited for Brick Fest Live Pittsburgh? If you love building with toy bricks (Lego if we’re being specific), then you’ve got just one more day to catch this fun event that came to our city this weekend. The ‘lil Burghers got a chance to check it out today (thanks to US Family Guide) and are here to tell you it is awesome!

Brick Fest Live Pittsburgh

Brick Fest Live Pittsburgh

This event is in Pittsburgh at the Monroeville Convention Center on Saturday, July 15 and Sunday, July 16, 2017 from 10 AM to 6 PM each day. Tickets are required for anyone 3 and up (my readers save $3 off tickets with promo code USFGTHREE on EventBrite).

From US Family GuideEnjoy an amazing LEGO world where you can marvel at giant creations and even build some of your own. The Brick Fest Live LEGO Fan Experience provides a venue for LEGO lovers of all sizes to celebrate, build new creations, and see some truly mind-blowing LEGO sculptures to help set the imagination free.

If you are on the fence about going, but have builders in your life, make the time to go! Check out our Facebook Live video tour (note that I didn’t video the back room, but there are photos below to share some of that too).

brick fest live

Attractions Include:

The Brick Show Experience: Meet popular YouTube LEGO show hosts from The Brick Show and be featured on in an upcoming video.

Brick Fest Derby: Build and race your custom built LEGO derby car down one of our 35-foot long timed tracks!

Collaborative Building Activities: Contribute to large-scale mystery floor mosaic.

Inspiration Stations: Add to existing LEGO cities and make them your own by building custom creations.

Video Game Arena: Have a favorite LEGO video game? Come challenge your family or make new friends in the Brick Fest Gaming Arena playing your favorite LEGO title head to head.

Mini Golf: A miniature golf course built to inspire! Take your game to the next level on the Brick-Links.

Brick Fest Theater Trivia & Entertainment: Participate in LEGO trivia all while taking a break from what will be an overwhelming amount of awesome!

Mosaics: Using a colorful variety of LEGO bricks, build a piece of art to proudly display for other attendees.

Shopping: Find new, vintage, rare, and custom LEGO sets and merchandise from one of the many merchants in attendance.

Our Experience at Brick Fest Live Pittsburgh

We took advantage of the Saturday afternoon session and because the twins are 2 (2 and under are free), all six of us went. While most of the activities are geared toward the bigger kids, Ava and Isla seemed to enjoy all of the stations we visited. Take a look at how the day went for us:

Remember, if you don’t have tickets for Sunday, you can still get them here for $3 off with code USFGTHREE. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel to see the video recap of the day (and this event)!

Tell us: What’s the coolest thing you ever built with LEGO?

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Wildlife Wednesday: Clear Creek revisited

After our last visit to Clear Creek State Park, we brought some tadpoles home so the kids could observe their incredible transformation into frogs. My plan is to eventually build a permanent wildlife pond in our backyard so that we can have a nice suitable environment for critters, year round. For now, our tadpoles have set up residence in the kids’ turtle sandbox. It’s not perfect but they seem to like it.

After a hot week with no rain, the water in the frog pond was getting dangerously low for our pollywogs so a return trip for fresh water was in order. Now you may be asking, why not just fill it with the garden hose? Well, one does not simply fill a frog pond with just any H2O. The water we drink and the stuff that keeps amphibians alive are a bit different. The chlorine and chloramine that makes water safe for us to drink would be a death sentence to a frog or salamander. They do make water conditioning products which can treat tap water to make it safe for animals, or you can use distilled water; but if we’re being honest, we really just wanted to get a bit more exploring in.

When we arrived at the park, the kids were begging to go to the swimming area. There is a creek fed pond that has a beach section, so we stopped to take a look around. On the way down to the water, there is an educational sign about Northern Water Snakes which actually came in handy.

Before the kids waded into the frigid water, we took some time to walk around the perimeter of the pond. There were children across the pond in the midst of their own creature quest, and I couldn’t help but smile. It is always great seeing the next generation taking an interest in nature. As I admired their spirited search, I had almost forgotten about our own until Evan yelled “SNAAAAKE!!!”. I looked down at the water to see a gorgeous water snake searching for crayfish among the rocks. I waded in and grabbed its tail just as the head dove under a large rock. It squirmed and tried to wedge itself further under the rock. Finally, so as not to injure the reptile, I lifted the rather heavy mini-boulder off of the serpent and it came writhing free. I brought it onto land and the kids from across the pond spotted us and came dashing over.

As I held the snake, the kids took turns petting it and asking questions. One little girl congratulated me on catching it. I told them about the sign and pointed out how easily they can be mistaken for other snakes. This one specifically was a brilliant copper and brownish pattern, which I could definitely see being confused for a copperhead. They then showed me some of the creatures they had discovered. After awhile I decided it was time to release the snake back to search its dinner.

When we got to the other side of the pond, we noticed the water was teeming with great big tadpoles! They were much larger and more elusive than the tadpoles that we caught on our last visit.

As we dragged our nets along the weedy bank, we came up with dozens of salamander larvae in different stages of life. I have always had a love for salamanders, being one of the few species of amphibian that I did not come across very often growing up. Now, to see them so abundantly is amazing!

Swimming along with the tadpoles were several Eastern Newts, another species I never thought I would see in such prolific numbers. One animal I rarely had trouble finding were crayfish, or craw-dads as we called them. These little guys are so much fun to watch!

Once we had exhausted our search area and caught a sufficient number of specimens, the kids finally got to play at the beach while I took our critters to the van. Once those crazy kids had adequately frozen themselves, we decided to head over to the frog pond to get water before going home. After filling several containers, I noticed a cute little wood frog hopping through the grass around the pond. These frogs are pretty amazing! They can survive in some pretty harsh environments and even freeze over the winter. These particular frogs are not actually aquatic, they live mainly in leaf litter in the forest, but do congregate near water during mating season.

My little explorers were so pleased with our adventure, they really did not want to leave! Fortunately, we brought a little bit of the great outdoors home with us so they can explore any time. We even caught something I have never seen before, which is in the beginning of the video below. Hit up our comments section if you know what it is!

Keep checking in for updates on the happenings around our frog pond, there’s sure to be some exciting developments! Until next time, happy herping, ya’ll!!

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What We’re Reading: July 10

*articles may contain affiliate links*In the midst of a busy summer, we’re still getting in some time to read. The Bigs have been participating in our local library’s Summer Reading program, the girls love when a book is read to them, and I’m trying to keep up on some professional and personal reading, too! Here’s a glimpse at what we’re reading right now:

What We're Reading

What We’re Reading

The Twins (Books for ages 0-2)

Ella Who? by Linda Ashman is an adorable story of a little girl who gets a brand new friend on her first day in a new house. Her parents think Ella “the neighbor girl” is so a great new friend, but what they don’t know is her zookeeper is looking for her! Isla giggled her way through this one, I think she was onto the secret!

Sterling Publishing, 2017; available on Amazon and at other retailers (MSRP $14.95).

Dance is for Everyone by Andrea Zuill is an adorable story of diversity and fitting in. When an alligator shows up to dance class, the class accepts her and makes a routine just right for their “larger than life” friend. Adorbs.

Sterling Publishing, 2017; available on Amazon and at other retailers (MSRP $16.95).

The Bigs (Books for ages 6-10)

World Pizza is the story of what happens when a mama wishes on a star for world peace and then she sneezes. Pizza falls from the sky, trying to solve the world’s problems! Pizza, pizza from everywhere! It’s kind of a dream, isn’t it? Can’t pizza solve our problems?

Sterling Publishing, June 2017; available on Amazon and at other retailers (MSRP $14.95)

Mango Delight by Fracaswell Hyman is a good read with your girls. Arianna is 8 and although it’s recommended for 9-13 year olds, I think now’s a great time to dig in. This is the story of a girl’s life “falling apart” thanks to a simple accident. Making tough choices, finding real friends, this book is perfect for telling our daughters about real friendship!

Sterling Publishing, June 2017; available on Amazon and at other retailers (MSRP $14.95).

The Adults


Being a working mom who is trying to be everything to everyone is tough and can be lonely. That’s why Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst has made it to my audible playlist. I’m hoping to listen in and find peace in my relationships – and stomp on that ugly Devil and his evil ways. Uninvited is available on Amazon or through Audible (Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks!)

Have you started a summer book list? For you, the kids, or both? What is on your must read list?

PureFlix FREE Trial

 

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Fat to Fit – The Struggle is Real

When people tell me how proud of me they are, I usually smile and say thanks. In fact, it’s still a work in progress, so sometimes I even get down on myself and say how far I still have to go. Truth is that deep down, I feel like they don’t really get how real my struggle has been to go from fat to fit.

Yeah, sure, I’ve run half marathons (yes, that’s plural). I’ve lost 173 pounds (in total, not off my highest weight!) over the last six years. I’ve done things I never thought I could (like jump off a sail boat into the Caribbean or jump up on a box at a crossfit class). But I hate that people probably think I make these things look easy, because they are not.

Imagine you are in a starting corral of runners and you start to breathe really fast because you’re looking down at your body and looking at the body next to you. You start to question if you really should be here doing this thing. You are not a runner! You quickly forget the miles and hours of training, the on point eating you’ve done in the last five months and just hyper focus in on the moment. It’s crushing. It’s numbing. And it’s a real struggle. You forget that (even though you are still working) your journey from fat to fit has been full of way more endurance than many of the people with the full marathon bibs have ever gone through.

Or maybe you are laying face down on the floor of a crossfit class wiping away tears because you can’t do burpies and you really don’t want to be a baby about doing them again. You justify your thoughts that you have way more pounds to lift off the floor than anyone else in the room and jumping up with this much flab just isn’t pretty. You forget that a year ago you were laying face down on a different floor crying because you were so tired of being so tired and unwell. You forget that you have come so far, all you can do is focus on that moment and get down on yourself.

Even if I make it look easy with my posts about running and Whole30, I am here to tell you it hasn’t been. I’ve had to overcome a lot of physical and mental struggles. Even when I was at my thinnest in 2014, I still had a lot of issues. (I couldn’t do a burpie or box jump, for instance.)

But what I can say is I am working on being proud of how far I’ve come. And sometimes, that may show too little or too much. This is all part of my journey, and I am thankful for those who support me, those who get me, and those who are inspired by me. No, it’s not easy going from fat to fit – but it’s my struggle and I’m loving it.

Posted in Becky, Fitness | Tagged | 10 Comments

Whole30 Mistakes

(*articles may contain affiliate links*) Well, now that another Whole30 Round is in the books, it is a great time to share with you some of the Whole30 mistakes I’ve made along the way. (Truth be told, this eating right thing is pretty tough, so mistakes are sort of expected.)

Whole30 Mistakes

Whole30 Mistakes

Mistake 1: Not trying Ghee in Round One.

ghee

I loved putting this on my sweet potatoes and cooking with it during Round 2. But in Round 1? I didn’t spend the money on it, nor did I care to take the time to make my own at home (because it involved cheesecloth and patience, but is totally doable with the recipe in the Whole30 Cookbook). That was a big mistake!

Ghee is a healthy fat that is made from pulling all the water and milk solids out of the butter, leaving you with pure goodness. If you’ve ever had an addiction to honey butter, this is a close friend. You should be able to get Ghee at your local grocery store (I did, even in Kittanning!). This is the brand I used and fell in love with – you might just want to put two in your cart now.

Mistake 2: Not keeping compliant snacks handy.

While snacking isn’t a thing on Whole30 (you should really eat three solid meals a day), I was training for the Half Marathon and sometimes needed a little extra to boost my energy and progress. Or there were times that I wasn’t fully hungry (or not feeling well) and just needed a quick, small bite.

For those times, I should have had some good snacks around – like cashews or macadamia nuts. (When I was in Round One, plantain chips were my jam. They’ve now been removed from the plan but will show up in my meals when I’m not 100% Whole30.) And while bars – not granola! – are not shortcuts, they’re really good to have on hand, too.

Mistake 3: Not trying RXBAR until the last day of Round 2.

It was the last day of Round Two. There I was, overwhelmed in Trader Joe’s and super hungry. Knowing my Crispy Angry Chicken Drummies wouldn’t be ready for at least another hour (because the coconut aminos Greg needed to make them were in my basket), I was staring at RXBAR in hopes that I’d see one I’d like that could tide me over yet be compliant. It was only a few hours left, but I still didn’t want to mess up.

I did it. I went for the Coconut Chocolate Rx Bar because I love those two ingredients so much (yes, I’m a Samoa girl). And guess what? Not only was it okay and compliant and delicious, it took me FOREVER to eat. (Perspective, I was at the Penn Ave Trader Joe’s near-ish to Chatham and I didn’t finish it until I was passing the Harmar exit on 28.) As a sweets girl, this was huge. My enjoyment of the bar lasted and it made me feel so much fuller than anything else I’d tried as a “quick win” snack.

If you’d like to try RXBAR, you can get them right from their site and if it’s your first order, you get $5 off your order when you click here!

That being said, I did have a few Lara Bars this time, too – Apple Pie and Cashew Cookie. They sound so “bad” but they are good too! I just ate them way too fast and will be sure to have a combo of these and the Rx Bars on hand next time – see Mistake 2. 

Mistake 4: Evangelizing Whole30 Too Much

Guys. I love this program / lifestyle. Maybe I talked too much about it, but it’s really changed my life. Sorry, not sorry. Some of my fears are that I made it sound scary and tough, but it’s really not. If you have your mind set on being successful with this, then every meal prep is worth it. Every “sacrifice” is worth it.

And it really helped to talk to everyone I knew about it – because then they understood when I couldn’t try their oh so delicious looking brownies or sloppy joes or have a beer at Beer Friday. And it helped them know that I am committed to making myself better. That’s big when you do something big like Whole30.

Mistake 5: Not keeping coconut aminos in the pantry.

coconut aminos

Some of our favorite recipes (Spicy Turkey, Chicken Drummies) call for coconut aminos and we always seemed to run out. I’d been buying them on Amazon which was fine, but a little pricey. Thankfully I was clued in that Trader Joe’s has them for just $2.99 a bottle! We are now stocked up and ready – we’ll be using this for our stir fry, meatloaf, wings…anything that called for soy sauce in the past!  (I’ve found throughout the years that soy makes me itch from the inside out – before I go to a hibachi or enjoy sushi, I have to take benedryl to “survive”!)

Mistake 6: Not trying Passion Fruit La Croix sooner.

Alright. This one is tough. As someone who really only drank pop when it was a birthday party or pizza night (hey, there’s something about Diet Pepsi with chocolate cake and pizza), giving up the sugary drinks was not an issue for me. Instead, I actually added something by giving La Croix waters a try. But I didn’t give my absolute favorite, Passion Fruit, a try soon enough!

+

Say what? These don’t sound like Whole30 mistakes! The honesty about this post: if you make a true mistake on Whole30 (stepping on the scale, eating dairy, etc.), then you start over at Day 1 the next day. These mistakes I made aren’t like that, they’re mistakes I learned from and want to pass on to you – you’ve stuck around this long, why not give the Whole30 life a try?

What’s the first step to Whole30 Happiness?

Buy this book and this recipe book because they will teach you everything you need to know. We got some really great recipes from living out of these books during my Whole30 rounds and they’ll be family favorites for a long time. Promise.

And ditch the scale. This isn’t about weight loss. This is about feeling good again. My mood has changed for the better. My body is lifting heavier and working harder and smarter. It doesn’t matter what’s on that scale. Just ditch it.

If you’ve decided to embark on the Whole30 lifestyle, let me know! I’d love to support you in your journey. Good luck! 

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Whole30 Dump Ranch Veggie Dip

*articles may contain affiliate links* This recipe for Whole30 Dump Ranch Veggie Dip was (as Greg put it) “a happy accident”. Because it would be great for picnics, I had to go up to the computer and work on this post right away (after I gobbled up my lunch with it as a side)!

whole30 dump ranch veggie dip

All I did was make my Dump Ranch (based on this recipe that’s from the must-have Whole30 Cookbook) for dinner the other night. Okay, I made it but I was one room temperature egg in before I realized I was out of my olive oil (and we’d been to two stores and dinner was already late). I stared at my gigantic jar of coconut oil and decided it would do. I scooped some in a bowl and heated it up so it was nice and melted.

The ranch served its purpose for dipping my wings in, then I put it in the fridge. The next morning when I had piping hot potatoes that were begging for something tasty on top, I grabbed for my ranch. Unfortunately, it looked more whipped than creamy. Oops.

Or not.

I had just discovered a way to 1) thicken without adding an extra egg and 2) have a healthy veggie dip (just in time for a 4th of July picnic, too!). It went great on my carrots but also worked on the potatoes because it came to the just-right temperature when hitting their heat.

To say I was surprised and ecstatic is an understatement. I was giddy! Arianna and Greg confirmed that I’d found a goldmine in my “mistake”. We’ll be making this more often, and perhaps you will, too!

Whole30 Dump Ranch Veggie Dip

Before you start this recipe, make sure you have an immersion blender (this one is the one we use because it is able to withstand lots of mixing when preparing dinners for six, even though it’s small it packs a punch!) and a wide-mouthed jar (while a pickle jar is good, if you are creeped out about sharing the dill taste with your ranch, give these ones a try).


If you try this, let me know what you think!

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Whole30: Round Two

Yesterday completed Whole30 Round Two for me. Let me just shout it out – I am out top of the world happy with my results. There, I said it and that’s that, right?

No, for real. I’m more proud of myself than I was the last time I went on my weight loss journey. And if you don’t remember, during that one I dropped 130 pounds, ran a half marathon, and even wore a bikini for the first time since I was a kid. I was (excuse me) damn proud of myself and what I accomplished – and not just because I looked good but because I felt good and was healthier for my kids.

But this time is different. This time, I am older and have two more kids and a longer commute. I have more faith. I have more drive. I have more to overcome. And I am doing it.

Choosing to do a second round of Whole30 this year was a no-brainer. After reintroducting foods and then training for the half, my eating sort of slushed a little. I was mostly gluten-free, but I allowed myself some treats (and paid for them later). I was mostly dairy-free, but I ate ice cream twice in one weekend – packed with guilt. It was time to do something for me again.

This time, we tried a few new recipes. I ate less sweet potatoes. I lifted heavier (I still have lots of gains to make there, but boy am I seeing changes). I ran less distance. I found beauty in my imperfections. And I learned that eating clean is a good way for me to live.

Whole30 Round Two Results

As a result of my commitment to my health, I have:

  • Longer hair
  • Looser clothes (I have gone from an 18 to a 14/16 and even put on a pair of size 12’s!)
  • More energy
  • More strength
  • Lost 6 inches
  • Lost 17.6 pounds

And you guys – that’s just on Whole30 Round Two. In all this year, I have lost 43 pounds in six months and have found out what I need to put in my body to fuel it properly. And I’ve gained confidence, courage, and strength.

I have to give a big thank you to my husband for letting me take care of me – putting in hours at the gym or on the trail, leaving dinner work up to him, making him read labels and hunt for “weird” ingredients. Greg, you’ve made this so much easier on me, even though this time around of losing it has been the hardest. Thank you!

Posted in Becky, Healthier Choices | Tagged | 2 Comments

Last Day of School 2017

This one is coming to you a month late, but The Bigs last day of school photos have to make it to the blog at some point! It’s incredible to take a look at how much has changed in a year.

last day of school

Seriously, though. And in the month since that photo was taken (their last day was May 31), they’ve both changed even more. (For instance, Evan has way less hair and I swear Arianna has grown a foot.)

Arianna completed second grade and fully lives the tween life (the struggle of being the oldest and not wanting to do “baby” stuff anymore is getting to be tough!). Let’s take a close up look at her first day of school photo from this year and then I’m sure you’ll see what we are faced with – the fact that we are raising a smart and gorgeous girl who is going to move mountains!

That there is a baby compared to her “now” photo! Someone hold me.

And then there is Evan. He excelled in kindergarten and is probably able to tell you how many days until school starts again. This boy loves learning and exploring – we can’t blame him – so school comes naturally easy for him, too.

Sure, keeping these two busy for the summer hasn’t been the easiest, but it sure is enjoyable having them home to fill the house with laughs and fun. Their little sisters are going to miss them when school starts next month, that’s for sure!

How are your kids doing this summer? How about mom and dad? 

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