Summer

Party in the Back Dress FREE pattern

It’s finally summer, so that means it’s time to wear dresses! I’m joining up again with Melissa at Melly Sews for her 30 Days of Sundresses series! You can check out my last year’s post with free pattern here and the previous year’s tutorial here. This year I decided to stick with my knit dress theme (because knits are my jam) and make a cute little sleeveless dress with a slightly gathered yoke and a super fun cut out back. So I had to name it the Party in the Back dress! :) Keep reading for the full tutorial and to download your own FREE pattern!This dress is really simple to sew and SO comfy to wear. The slightly gathered yoke gives it a little bit of interest while still letting the fabric be the focus.

Unless, of course, you’re looking at the back, and then this fun cut out is the focus!

And hopefully the fun cut out in the back is enough to distract you from the weird short hairs that are growing… I blame the baby. ;)

I have a one-size pattern (size medium) free for download. If this size doesn’t work for you, you can use this tutorial to use a pattern you have on-hand to make your own cut-out back dress.

Download Your Party In The Back Dress FREE Pattern

Quick note on fabric: you want a stable knit with good stretch. Really drapey knits will not work well for this dress.

1.Print out and tape/glue together the pattern pieces. The pattern is tiled four across.

2. Gather the front and back pieces. They are very slightly gathered until they match the front and back yoke pieces. Sew the back yoke to the back gathered piece, right sides together, and repeat with the front.

3. Cut out a strip 14.5in x 1.25in for the binding for the back cut out. Sew the binding onto the cut out, the right side of the binding to the wrong side of the cut out opening. 

4. Fold over the seam, folding the raw edge under.

5. Sew the binding down. You can do this with a double needle or a coverstitch. I used a coverstitch with a single needle.

6. Overlap the ends of the cut out about an inch to form the circle. Pin or clip together.

7. Sew the shoulders together, right sides together.

8. Sew the sides together, right sides together.

9. Cut a 24.5in x 1.25in strip for the neckline binding. Sew the short ends together, right sides together.

10. Sew to the neckline as you did with the cut-out binding. *only here, use a 1/2in seam allowance. Make sure you secure the ends of the cut-out binding in your seam.

11. You can hem the armscye with a double needle or coverstitch as I did. Or you can cut a 16.5in x 1.25in binding and sew it like the previous bindings.

12. Hem the dress to your desired length. I took a couple inches off the pattern, because I am short (5’3″) and I wanted the dress to be a fun above the knee summer length.

13. Press the bindings and hems really well.

Download Your Party In The Back Dress FREE Pattern

 This dress is super comfy and is going to be a staple in my wardrobe this summer!

To check out more sundresses, make sure you pop over to Melly Sews to see what everyone else has been sewing.

Happy sewing, friends!

 

 

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Planning a Family Vacation Without Losing Your Mind (plus FREE packing list printable!)

                                     
Summer is here! Schools are letting out and everyone starts thinking about pool days, park time, and family vacations! When you’re planning a vacation with kids, it can be easy to stress about lots of details: where to sleep, what to eat, what to bring, etc. I have a list of ten things to help you plan a family vacation without losing your mind (plus a free packing list printable, so keep reading!)

1. Don’t overplan.

Kids are unpredictable. You may arrive at your destination only to find that your kids are content with doing one activity the entire time you’re there! Have a few preplanned outings or activities, but keep your schedule loose and allow for flexibility.

2. Bring snacks.

This is basically a given when you’re traveling with kids, but it will make your life easier. Rather than having to search for food to eat when those inevitable hangry meltdowns occur, pack some healthy snacks that your kids enjoy. It also helps for those “You want me to eat WHAT?!” moments that happen a little more often when traveling. ;)

3. Schedule nap/rest times.

When you’re away from home and filling your days with activities that aren’t the norm, your kids are going to need some down time. And let’s face it – so are you! Plan to spend at least an hour each day (or more, depending on the ages of your kiddos) resting and doing quiet activities like reading, card games, or taking naps. This will help everyone to recharge and have more energy – and fewer meltdowns!

4. Pack light.

Unless you’re vacationing in a remote village somewhere, you probably don’t need to pack everything you own. Many hotels and water parks have laundry available, so you don’t have to worry if baby goes through all five outfits in the first day. When my kids were younger, I would pack lots of toys for them to play with, only to discover that they were so excited to be in a new place, they barely looked at their toys! So bring the bare minimum and know that you can always grab extra supplies at a nearby store if you find you absolutely need them. You’ll be happy to carry fewer suitcases!

5. Pack a few familiar comforts.

Whether it’s a lovey, an essential oil diffuser, or a cozy bathrobe for snuggling in after swimming, everyone likes to feel at home when they’re away. I always let my kids chose one stuffed animal or blankie to have on long car rides or in hotel rooms. That familiar feeling tends to help everyone sleep a little better!

6. Make a list.

I just looove lists. Whenever we take a trip, I make a huge list of everything I need, so we don’t forget anything. I really adore checking off boxes. :) I have a great packing printable for you free at the end of this post!

7. Choose a kid-friendly location.

Not all vacation spots are made for kids, so choose wisely. We love vacationing in the Wisconsin Dells, because there’s something for everyone. The Kalahari Resort is family friendly and has activities for all ages. They have both indoor and outdoor waterslides, so you can have fun even when the weather isn’t that great.

The Kalahari Resort here in Wisconsin recently added an awesome new outdoor waterslide, which just opened this Memorial Day. The new ride “The Smoke That Thunders” looks amazing! You can pile on these big rafts with your family and friends and thunder down the epic waterslide. I can’t wait to try it!

Over the years, my family has traveled to the Wisconsin Dells many times, and the Kalahari Resort is perfect for families with multiple ages. Since there’s such a wide variety under one roof, you don’t have to get in your car to go elsewhere unless you want to. One-stop vacationing is my jam. Because once I’ve gotten everyone out of the car, I really don’t want to get back in unless we’re going home! Mom can hit up the spa (um, yes please!!) while the kids are playing arcade games, then we can all meet back at the waterpark. There are water activities appropriate for every age level, so no one feels left out. That’s important for a big family like mine. ;)

Since there’s so much to do in one spot at the Kalahari Resort, you really don’t need to pack much. They have towels, food, fun activities, arcade games, and more. So you just need to pack a few personal items! I’ve made a free printable to help your packing go a little smoother.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE PACKING LIST PRINTABLE

If you’re not close enough to drive to the Wisconsin Dells Kalahari location, be sure to check out the Sandusky, Ohio location!

What packing tips do you have to help keep your sanity?

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Patriotic Ice Cream Cones

It’s a holiday weekend here in the U.S., so we are all about the red, white, and blue to celebrate Independence Day! And what better way to celebrate than with family and ice cream? That pretty much sounds perfect to me (and to the baby in my belly!) – and fitting, since July is National Ice Cream Month! We’re adding a little red, white, and blue to our ice cream to make some Patriotic Ice Cream Cones, perfect for the 4th of July. Or anytime, if I’m being honest. ;) Patriotic Ice Cream Cones

 

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We’re big on ice cream in our house, and a little particular about what we buy! I like the good stuff. Kemps has these new flavors that are soooo good. We tried Mint Cow Tracks, Caramel Cow Tracks, and Caramel Fudge Cow Tracks.

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Oh. My. Goodness. All the heart eyes for these flavors! I maaaay have had two bowls after coming home from the grocery store. Maybe.

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The kids and I made used our Kemps ice cream to make patriots ice cream cones, which were quick and easy. And with different colored sprinkles, they’d be perfect for any holiday or special occasion.

Supplies:

  • chocolate melting wafers
  • ice cream cones
  • red, white, and blue sprinkles (or whatever color you want to use!)
  • two small bowls
  • Kemps Ice Cream

1.Melt the chocolate in a shallow bowl according to the package instructions. Pour some sprinkles into another shallow bowl.

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2. Coat the edges of the ice cream cone with melted chocolate. I found it best to leave it in there for a minute and coat it quite thoroughly.

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3. Dip the chocolate covered cone in the sprinkles.
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Oooohhh, looking so good already, right??

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4. Fill up the cones with your Kemps ice cream! Use a small spoon to push it into the cone so that you don’t knock the sprinkles off.

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These cones are filled with Caramel Chocolate Cow Tracks and Caramel Chocolate Cow Tracks …. SO yummy!

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And then EAT IT UP!

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The boys were SO excited to eat these. And honestly, it was really hard to choose a favorite flavor. Though if I’m forced to choose, the Mint Cow Tracks is my pick.

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The boys were divided over which flavor was best – half voted for the Carmel Cow Tracks, the others said Chocolate Caramel Cow Tracks. But really, they’d take any of the flavors. ;)

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This is pretty much the perfect way to celebrate the 4th of July – eating ice cream together!

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Now how about some free ice cream?? Visit the Kemps website to check out these seriously delicious flavors. Then come back and leave a comment with your favorite flavor. I’ll draw 5 winners from the comments to each win a $5 off coupon – so five winners get free ice cream so you can find your favorite flavor! Yum :)

Surfer Tank – FREE tank top pattern!

Today I’m over at Our Chez Nous, helping Julie celebrate Boy Sewing Week! We all know how much I love sewing for boys, so I couldn’t pass this one up. Head over there to hear my thoughts on summer wear for boys. And as part of Boy Sewing Week, I have a free tank top pattern to share! The Surfer Tank is available in sizes 3-6. While it’s drafted for boys, you may find it appropriate for your girls too!Surfer Tank

The Surfer Tank is a pretty quick sew. I sewed these three tanks, as well as the three pairs of shorts in the picture, in a day and a half (while somehow managing to not ignore my children in the process ;)

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It’s been pretty warm lately, with a few really HOT and humid days, so my boys have been in need of some more tank tops.

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For this pattern, you’ll want to use a knit fabric that isn’t super thin. While that’s comfortable to wear, that can make the binding trickier to sew, so I don’t recommend it. Because the tank is a slightly looser fit, you can use a knit that has between 10-30% stretch. You can use ribbing for the bindings, but I like to use a fabric that’s similar to what the tank is made of.

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Are you so excited to sew a Surfer Tank?! :)

Download your FREE Surfer Tank Pattern here

1.Cut out the front and back of the tank top – these will use the same pattern piece, but the front of the tank will use the lower neckline.

2. Put the front and back pieces right side together. Sew the shoulders together.

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3. Sew down the side seams.

4. Cut out the binding pieces. Measure around the armscye/neckline. Take 85% of that number to get the length of your binding. The stretch of the fabric should go lengthwise. (If your fabric is super stretchy or a lot stretchier than the main fabric, you may have to use 80%) Each piece should be 1 1/4in. wide. Take the bindings pieces and fold them right sides together, sewing the short ends together.

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5. With right sides together, pin the binding to the armscye/neckline. You will slightly stretch the binding.

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6. Serge or zig-zag the fabrics together.

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7. If you are not using a coverstitch, you will bring the binding to the wrong side of the dress, folding the raw edge under. Use a double needle to stitch it in place.

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If you are using a coverstitch, it’s not necessary to fold the raw edge under.

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Repeat these steps with both armholes and the neckline.

8. Hem the bottom of the tank top using a 1/2in. hem.

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And show off those pipes!!

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My boys are ready for summer fun in their Surfer Tanks!

Download your FREE Surfer Tank pattern here

Keeping the Kids Busy This Summer

Summer has officially begun, and you may be thinking of ways to keep your kiddos busy. We use screens really sparingly around here, but sometimes I just want something quick to occupy my boys. And if I don’t have something on hand, it’s super easy to fall back on iPads and Netflix. That’s why I’m so glad to have this Boredom Buster Kit from Andrea’s Notebook.

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This post contains affiliate links.

There are SO many different activities in this kit! Some of the activities require some additional craft supplies, but many of them are just print and go. And there’s such a wide variety of choices!boredom-busters-sales-image

After scrolling through the activities, I chose the Fill-in-the-Blank stories from the Creative Kit. I knew that my oldest would love this one, because it’s done MadLibs style.

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There are several stories to choose from, and the instructions are clear enough that your kids can do them on their own. One page is just for the words, so they fill it out without looking at the story. Adjectives, people, emotions, etc.

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Then they transfer the words over to the corresponding spot in the story. Sidenote: I love how bold and colorful these pages are! Fun and bright, just like summer!

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The giggles have begun!

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Have your kiddos read the story aloud to you, and watch as they laugh at their silly story!! Seriously, we had SO much fun with these!

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And share it with siblings, of course. These two would not.stop.laughing! I remember how much I loved these things as a kid, and they haven’t lost their appeal even now! Each story also has an additional activity that goes along with it – this one has your kiddo draw the silly robot they wrote about in the story.

Check out all the different activities that come in the Boredom Buster Kit:

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Use code BUSTERS10 for 10% off through July 31st

Buy Now!

You can buy the entire Boredom Buster Kit
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or you can purchase only the Adventure Kit

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Or you can purchase just the Creative Kit.

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Personally, I’m glad to have both kits, because the Adventure Kit is more outdoor activities and the Creative is more indoor – so some are great for getting outside in the summer sun, others are perfect for some downtime inside when it’s hot or rainy. Plus, there’s a bonus Reading Kit you can add on. This is full of printable book review pages, reading logs, library lists, bookmarks to color, and more. My boys love to read, so we are definitely going to use these!

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Once he had completed the first fill-in-the-blank story, my son asked for another and wouldn’t stop until we had gone through them all! It will be super fun to print these out again to do another version of these silly stories. After we do some of the other activities in the kit, of course. I’ve already printed out the story cubes from the Creative Kit, and they’re ready to go when the boredom strikes!

Use code BUSTERS10 for 10% off through July 31st
Buy Now!
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Buy Now!

Coconut Strawberry Chocolate Popsicles

We had our first taste of summer this week, so it’s got me thinking about cold treats. Ice cream, popsicles… mmmm, I’m hungry just thinking about it! Here’s my problem: as a mom of four little boys, I don’t like to give them a lot of sugary treats. So I came up with a super yummy popsicle that will satisfy your sweet tooth, but also leave you with a clean conscience.

Coconut Strawberry Chocolate Popsicles

Ingredients:

  • handful of chocolate chips
  • 6-7 strawberries
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk vanilla yogurt
  • approx. 1TBSP chia seeds (optional)*This recipe makes 8 popsicles*

1. Chop up the chocolate chips and strawberries into small pieces.

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2. Mix the 1 1/4 c. of coconut milk and 1 1/4 c. of yogurt. Add in the chocolate chips and the strawberries.

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3. If desired, add in chia seeds. In case you haven’t used chia seeds before, they are super good for you! They won’t change the flavor at all, but they’ll make the pops even healthier. You can even add more than the recommended amount!

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4. Mix everything together and pour into your popsicle molds. If you don’t have popsicle molds, use paper cups and popsicle sticks.coconut popsicles_4

5. Wait at least four (torturous!) hours for your pops to freeze. Then slide them out of the molds and eat! If you’re having trouble getting them out of the molds, dip them in warm water to loosen.coconut popsicles_7

These popsicles are not super sweet, but they are incredibly delicious. If you like yours a little sweeter, here are some options: add more chocolate chips or fruit, drizzle chocolate over your popsicle, or use sweetened coconut milk. Change up the flavor of your pops by substituting a different berry, such as raspberries or strawberries. Use whichever is in season!coconut popsicles_8

The kiddos won’t realize they’re eating a healthy treat, and you can achieve super mom/aunt/grandma status by saying yes to these yummy pops!

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Or don’t give them to the kids at all. Keep them all for yourself without an ounce of guilt. I promise, I won’t tell. ;)Coconut Strawberry Chocolate Popsicles - easy to make, super yummy, and good for you!

Summer Fun for Kids: DIY Pool Noodle Sailboats!

For our family, summer = lake. We live near Lake Michigan (which is amazing) and we vacation every year with my family at a small lake in northern Wisconsin. When I was packing up our swim toys, I had a great idea: this year we would make pool noodle sailboats! Simple, inexpensive, and hours of fun. You could do this at a lake, river, or even in your own backyard pool or tub!
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All you need:

  • pool noodle (if you have one that is ripped or broken, this is a perfect use for it!)
  • small stick or dowel
  • piece of paper

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1. Cut off a small section of the pool noodle.

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2. Cut the pool noodle section lengthwise. You can cut it exactly in half if you want, but we found the boats to float a little better if you cut them a little more than halfway.DSC_7770

3. Fold your paper in half and make two small holes to poke the stick through.

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4. Poke the stick into the center of the boat (we found it floated better when in the center vs. on one end of the boat). DSC_8102

You should also trim the sail to be about the width of the boat. If your sail is too wide, the boat will tip over. Ask me how I know… ;)DSC_8110

Then set your boat in the water and watch it sail the open seas!

DSC_7956My boys have been loving these boats! They’ve had such a great time testing them out in different conditions, with different sails, and a variety of “passengers!”

DSC_7894Rock passengers were the biggest hit, and also helped to balance the boat if there were any waves.

DSC_7882There’s so many things you can do with these boats, from races to experiments (how many rocks before the boat sinks? how tall is too tall for a sail?).IMG_5784

We discovered that the boats are also super fun to float with the noodle turned the other direction! If it’s super windy, this will also help your boat stay upright.

DSC_7936Keeping childhood simple and fun! That’s how we like it. :) Happy sailing!

 

The Summer Fun series is going on at Nap-time Creations, and there are some fantastic ideas for you and the littles to enjoy!

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Check out today’s posts in the summer fun series:

Frozen Pineapple at Nap-Time Creations

Orange Frozen Treat at Frances Suzanne

Ways to Play in the Sandbox by Messes to Memories

Pool Noodle Boats by If Only They Would Nap

Summer fun for kids - make Pool Noodle Sailboats! Easy, fun, and inexpensive!

Create your own Summer Essential Car Kit

Summer days in our house are filled with play dates at parks and splash pads, zoo days, road trips, and spontaneous stops to get frozen custard. Over the years, I’ve gotten smart and have begun carrying some essential supplies in the car for the inevitable messes and to avoid as many meltdowns as possible. Because nothing can make a day go sour like a toddler melting down because his shirt is soaked or his hands are sticky or (Heaven help us) we forgot to pack a snack. My mom secret to disaster-less days is a Summer Essential Car Kit!
Summer Essential Car Kit - help curb all the mini-disasters that happen away from home

Every Essential Car Kit will look a little different, because each family has unique needs. And as the summer goes on, you’ll probably find that you don’t need something you thought you would or that you need to add something. I like to use the reminders app on my phone when I’m out of the house when I think of something that I need to add to the bin.

What to put in your Summer Essential Car Kit

  • Paper towels
  • Extra clothes
  • Snacks that won’t melt
  • Sunscreen
  • Huggies ® Wipes – even if your kids are out of diapers, wipes are a must. I can’t tell you how many times I’m so grateful to have them!
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Band-aids and/or first aid kid
  • Extra diapers, if you have littles
  • Water bottles (we prefer reusable bottles, but no one wants to be stuck without water on a scorching hot day!)

DSC_6785I put everything in a bin with a lid that snaps on, but you could also make a tote bag to put everything in. This is especially helpful if you want to carry your supplies with you when you arrive at your destination. I like to know that when I put it in the bin, it’s going to stay in there, and not fall out as the car moves or if it gets kicked around the car.

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One of my kiddos does NOT like to be messy. Anything sticky or muddy can turn into a major disaster. So carrying wipes with me is a non-negotiable. Huggies ® Wipes have Triple Clean Layers for handling even the biggest of messes. A change of clothes is also necessary to avoid meltdowns. I add clothes that are in the middle size range, since my kids aren’t all that far apart in age. They might be a bit too big or small for some kids, but will fit the kids that are most likely to make a mess and will work in a pinch for the others.
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Here are some other ideas you can put in your Summer Essential Car Kit:

  • Bug spray
  • Larger first aid kit
  • Bubbles (for when you arrive at the pool before it opens and have to wait!)
  • Sweatshirts for cool summer evenings
  • Blanket
  • Instant ice packs
  • Extra sunglasses or hats

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Stock your Summer Essential Car Kit before your summer gets too busy, Because Kids Outgrow Diapers, Not Messes*
Here’s to a meltdown free summer!