A Deadbeat Mom's Tips for Surviving Summer: Tip #3 Get a Puppy, or a Mulch Pile

For those of you who are rounding toward the home plate of summer’s end, I want to offer one more tip in this mini-series for surviving the summer with your kiddos home. I realize that my last tip was a bit more labor intensive… so for my final tip, I am offering two different options for summer fun, each requiring a very different level of effort on your part. It’s sort of like a choose-your-own regret-adventure, where you get to decide which approach best suits your family! What fun.

So, let’s cut to the chase. We did two really ambitious things this summer. While there are some fundamental differences between the two adventures, I submit that both have provided endless hours of entertainment for the children, both have taught our kids a sense of responsibility, both have taught me to release some control and live in the moment. Without further ado, I offer you your first option... 

Tip #3A: Get a Puppy

On the last day of school, we surprised our five kids with a puppy. (Nobody should ever write that sentence because it is foolish and simply reading it makes my blood pressure go up.) Still, we did it. Because how much fun is it to surprise children with a gift-wrapped box filled to the brim with baby dog? And that moment was so much fun. And now... we have a dog forever.


I honestly have zero regrets though, because I am surprised and pleased to announce that I actually like this one particular dog. Just this one. On planet earth, there’s one fantastic pup and I found her living with an amish lady and a small amish child that likes to sit on pupppies. So, yes, I consider her a rescue dog, because how would you like to be trapped under so many apron layers?

Anyways, we rescued a dog and she is adorbsies and we love her. The children have begged for a pet since infancy, so this was nearly 14 years in the making. But, the best part is because we waited so long (and because I am the meanest mom on this side of the Mississippi) the kids are actually taking an active role in training and caring for her. It’s been really fun actually. Plus it gives me this great thing to throw out there for Mom points.

Child: Can we go to Seabreeze (our local amusement/water park)?

Me: We decided that instead of spending money on things like Seabreeze this summer, we would get you this puppy. (holds puppy in front of child and makes it “talk” in baby voice.)          

Child: (Squealing with love and delight forgets that Seabreeze exists.)


Child: Can I have a snack?

Me: Well, we have no food in the house because I haven’t gone to the store since ‘98, BUT… I did get you a puppy! (**hunger pangs forgotten**)


Child: I think I might be growing out of my running shoes, do you think we could get new ones before cross country starts?

Me: Your feet don’t grow, we just got you a puppy!

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t work exactly like that. But, I do talk for the puppy in a variety of adorable accents which doesn’t annoy anyone ever. And having a new puppy does also provide a lot of great opportunities for the various sibling combinations to spend time together. Two kids are particularly whiny? Guess whose turn it is to take the dog for an extra long walk together!? Overall I would say it has been a sheer delight to have a pup in the fam. Oh, and she jingles a bell when she has to go out. #winning

I do realize that not everyone will want to rescue an amish dog, even if her ears are so big and adorable. So for those of you who are not interested, fret not, I still have a great plan for you!

I offer you...

Tip #3B Get a Mulch Pile!

If you can believe it, we’ve actually had our mulch pile even longer than our dog. In mulch years, we’ve had the pile for just over one century. We rescued the mulch pile from the town, because they just throw mulch in a huge parking lot and let people take it for free. It’s basically like a backyard breeding, mulch mill up in here. So, we brought home as much mulch as we felt prepared to neglect all summer long and we put it in a heap in the driveway.

Not our actual mulch pile. This is a dramatization. 

Not our actual mulch pile. This is a dramatization. 

And, just like our puppy, we have zero regrets about bringing this lovable pile of mulch home to tarnish our reputation by taking up permanent residence in our driveway. Also like the puppy, this pile of mulch has provided hours of messy entertainment for the children. And I think it has also earned me a bonus Mom point or two this summer.


Child: We have literally no outdoor toys.

Me: That is not true. Your brother has been pushing mulch around with a skateboard for at least two hours. Umm summer fun much??

Child: (admits how blind she’s been to all the exciting, mulch-based opportunities and we both throw our heads back in hearty, good-natured laughter. Annnnnd end scene.) 


But don’t be fooled, just because mulchboard makes for premium outdoor fun, doesn’t mean there won’t be some whining. Remember the three kids that aren’t walking the puppy? That’s right, they’re also a little fussy and now guess who’s on deck for sweeping the mulch back into a pile? Hint: everyone. Because a mulch pile takes a lot of care and responsibility and people think kids aren’t ready for that kind of commitment, but I disagree. I think every child should experience what it’s like to grow up with a mulch pile in their yard.

Here are 5 Ways to Tell if Your Child is Ready for a Pet and/or Pile:

  1. Your child is comfortable and respectful around animals or mulch.

  2. Your family can agree on the type of pet or mulch that is right for your family.

  3. Your child can hold a leash or broom.

  4. Your child has given pet-sitting a trial run, or played in the neighbor’s mulch or something?

  5. Your child is very sick of having zero outdoor toys.

Photo courtesy of vermontvalleyfarm.wordpress.com featuring the ever-ambitious dog-mulch combo pack. 

Photo courtesy of vermontvalleyfarm.wordpress.com featuring the ever-ambitious dog-mulch combo pack. 


So there you have it. Two fantastic options to engage your kids all summer long by making a decision that will last so much longer than one summer, and ultimately be your problem when the kids go back to school in three weeks!