All Hands on El Gato


I’m not trying to brag when I say we have an exceptionally tolerant cat. My family certainly can’t take the credit, he was like that when we adopted him. I suspect he might have been smuggled into a frat house as a kitten…

Lucky for us, because we’re obnoxious pet owners:




The only thing he doesn’t like is when I was pretend he’s an accordion and I sing “The Famous Person Polka.” He nips at my face and jumps out of my arms.


Our cat also LOVES to be loved. I say that about all cats, whether it’s true or not. With this one, however, it’s really and truly true. He demands two hands petting, thank you, so don’t even think about that coffee. PUT IT DOWN.

This summer, when the kids have a disagreement – let me just say, I really don’t care if they have a disagreement, that’s fine. I’m talking about when they have a disagreement that goes on long enough to impact me – I simply say, “All Hands on El Gato.” We go and find El Gato (not too difficult, he’s usually right there) and everyone puts two hands on him and he’s in HEAVEN with this sudden and lavish attention.

Usually that’s enough to move everyone on with their lives, unless the cat insists we stay there for another hour of petting and he will let us know when our spiritual healing is complete. Since he’s smaller than your average cat, our hands have to overlap, and soon we’re laughing and everyone’s forgotten who killed whom with a platinum sword.


“That’s right, I’m like freaking St. Francis over here. I’m an instrument of peace, yous guys.” (My cat starred in Welcome Back Kotter.)

Pets have one job. Your dog won’t plow a field. Your cat won’t deliver brandy to you in an avalanche. They’re stress relief. Pets are living fidget spinners –  Use em, I say!

At least, I’ll use our cat while I can. I might have three more kid-arguments, tops, before I have to come up with something else.

Moms can’t get too comfy.

Unlike cats… toocomfortable






Congratulations to my sister and brother-in-law on their new bundles of feline joy!


Just the two – she didn’t adopt five cats… I mean, that’s too many cats, right…?

If you have a pathological love of cats, check out the Katzenworld blog.

Like cat fiction? My friend, Debbie Manber Kupfer can fix you up.


OMG Bay Beach

Zippin Pippin: one badass dessert apple

Zippin Pippin: one badass dessert apple

You know that dream where you’re shopping, and everything in the store is amazing, and really cheap, and you keep saying, “Why have I never shopped here before? Does everyone know about this store but me?”

That’s Bay Beach Amusement Park in Green Bay, WI.

How could I be a Wisconsin native and never have heard of this place?

It all began about 2 years ago at preschool graduation. “We’re taking the kids up to Bay Beach tomorrow.” “Oh, fun! We love Bay Beach!”

Then again at the salon. “You know what your kids would love? Bay Beach! We go at least twice a year!”

But, I was gun shy. For one thing, it’s in Green Bay, which seems like a really long drive.

It's about 30 miles north of Arendelle...

It’s about 30 miles north of Arendelle…

And normally, when we go to a famous Wisconsin attraction or event, it’s not all that. Take Summerfest, for example, whose motto is, “Watch out for vomit.” And State Fair, which smells like pigs – dead and alive –  all mixed together.

In fact, when I tell the kids we’re going somewhere in the car, they ask, “We’re not going to the dinosaur museum, are we?” because of the Dinosaur Museum Debacle of ’12.

I wasn’t going to let another summer go by without seeing this. My friends were beginning to say, You’ve NEVER BEEN!? NO!!! YOU HAVE TO GO!” and clawing at their faces. It was too much.

Damn those jaded kids… “We’re going to Bay Beach,” I said …and, off we went! (Theme song here!)

Here’s my review: first of all, the drive wasn’t that bad. It was very lovely, in fact, and not even that long. Okay, it was downright bucolic, especially if you like looking at farms and smelling that dairy air.

Secondly, there was this legend floating around that Bay Beach is extremely inexpensive. “All the rides cost a quarter!” they said.

Well, like all legends, that’s only partly true. TICKETS for rides are $0.25, but any decent kid ride costs multiple tickets. So, bumper cars were $0.75, the Zippin’ Pippin was $1. Still… we bought 80 tickets, stayed 5 hours and went home with 16 tickets in our pockets. Not too shabby!

We didn’t even pay for parking. Just moseyed on in. (Don’t get any ideas, Green Bay.)

But, it’s a public city park! Isn’t it, you know, kinda grimy?

Surprisingly not. The bathrooms were CLEAN and NICE. (I wouldn’t do surgery in them, but the stalls were in tact, the toilets were clean, soap, hand dryers, the whole 9 yards*.) The staff was really friendly – we’re talking high school- and college-age public servants, so they didn’t even have to be! The rides were in good condition! Each one had a placard which told you when it was purchased to avoid the, “I’ll bet this thing is fifty years old” argument.

*Football reference. Ahthankyou…

A tangent: when you have 2 kids, you have 1 Big Kid and 1 Baby. The big kid will never want to go on the “baby” rides, and the Baby will always be tentative about trying more adventurous things. Eventually, the Baby will try them (after the Big Kid comes out unscathed), but you can’t push it because of the possibility of a “meltdown.”

My daughter had to ride everything first and weather some

This is lame!

This is lame!

extremely stupid rides before my son would try them.

But she got over it when we rode the Scrambler, the Pippin, and the Yo Yo. (Best ride ever, IMHO.) This is the perfect place if you have kids from 0-12. After that, it’s all Sea Dragon & Zippin’ Pippin, which probably gets old pretty fast. So, there are no roving gangs of tweens or teens – another bonus! (Sorry, friends with teens and tweens. I’m not talking about your kids. They’re great.)

The only bad experience was in the “restaurant” (actually a charming building from 1892) where no one seemed bothered that a self-serve chicken sandwich took 17 minutes. I can totally live with that – most people picnic.

So, here’s what we spent: $25 on gas (we used a whole tank there and back), $13 on food, and $20 on tickets, but we only used $16 worth. No worries, we’re going back!

It’s not a dream, it’s real!

Check out my books about Free and Cheap Kid-Friendly activities on Amazon, and wherever e-books are sold!