I have this really strong memory of making fun of this book. I like when that happens….it makes me seem like less of a dork than when I realize I loved something that was so ridiculous. The main point that bothered me is all the postcards Dawn supposedly writes while away for three days. I can only remember writing a few postcards as a kid, and all of them were when I was away for two weeks or more. I never bought that these girls would send so many.
I also remember thinking it was so weird that we had a Dawn book here, and then had another one three books later. They were usually pretty good about alternating.
Jeff Schafer is coming to visit and Dawn is really excited to see him, as is her mom. Richard is a little nervous because he doesn’t really know Jeff and he doesn’t know how to bond with him. Mary Anne falls somewhere in the middle.
The first couple days, everyone is getting along and having a good time. The Schafer/Spiers are planning to go to Boston for a long weekend, and then end Jeff’s visit by having a family portrait taken. However, before they leave for their trip, things get a little tense. This is mainly because while Mary Anne and Dawn are in school, and Sharon is at work, Richard arranges to take off and spend time with Jeff. Unfortunately for Jeff, Richard’s idea of a good time is going to a museum. Jeff ends up pretending to be sick to avoid spending another day with him. This annoys Mary Anne, who defends her dad. However, Dawn thinks Mary Anne is criticizing Jeff, so she defends her brother. They end up barely speaking. By the time, they all leave for Boston the whole family is bickering over everything.
Once in Boston, Jeff turns into a spoiled brat. He complains about everything just for the sake of complaining. Dawn sides with him, because she wants him to be happy, and the family ends up splitting up for the first two days of the vacation. On the last day, Sharon and Richard remember that they are parents and can tell their kids that they have to spend the day together. But, Jeff remains a spoiled brat and Dawn and Mary Anne keep fighting.
Everyone is still tense when they get back in Stoneybrook and are posing for the photographer. What finally snaps them out of it is when they look at some Polaroids that the photographer took at the start of the shook. Everyone agrees they look horrible and laugh about it. They’re then able to shake off the fight and enjoy one last day together.
Meanwhile, the Barretts suddenly need lots of sitters. AND they’re having a crisis about mixed families too. It’s amazing how that happens, huh? The issue is that Mrs. Barrett has a new boyfriend, Franklin, who has four kids. The Barrett kids like Franklin, until they find out he’s got kids. When Mrs. Barrett and Franklin arrange an outing for all the kids to meet, everyone is tense and the trip ends up being a disaster. The BSC keeps getting hired to help watch the kids while Mrs. Barrett and Franklin try to make the kids like each other. Guess what finally makes the kids get along? A plan from the BSC, that’s what. Shannon and Claudia convince the kids they’ll have more fun playing together, which makes everyone like each other.
- Dawn says she “hates to say it, but her mother is a slob.” I really don’t think she hates to say it at all. I mean, she says it all the time. She clearly gets a kick out of it.
- Looking back, there’s a lot of foreshadowing about Dawn leaving for California. She says how there’s a hole in her since Jeff left, and she hates being apart from him and her dad, etc. She always does that a little, but it’s definitely more pronounced in this one.
- There is a scene where Richard talks about using “hospital corners” to make a bed that’s really familiar to me. But, I know I didn’t understand Dawn’s explanation of it as a kid, and I don’t now either. It doesn’t seem much different than the regular way to make a bed.
- It’s really annoying to keep writing, “Schafer/Spiers”, but that’s how Dawn keeps referring to them in the book, so I’m following suit.
- Since when is Dawn relaxed about cleaning like her mom? Wasn’t she supposed to be the super-organized one who kept things in order for her mom? Cause in this book, Dawn says she is more casual and Richard and Mary Anne are the neat ones.
- Did we know Mrs. Barrett’s first name is Natalie? I feel like that is a continuity error, but I can’t remember why.
- One of the reasons Jeff is in a bad mood is that his “Connecticut friends,” the Pike Triplets” like baseball better than soccer. And when they mention having plans with another friend, Jeff thinks they don’t like him any more. So, then the boys spend a week with no contact, then the triplets come over to say goodbye. I think it’s just a plot contrivance to have Jeff in a bad mood, but keep a happy ending.
- Claudia outfit: “Black overalls that she had splattered with pink and green and yellow globs of paint. Her purple tennis shoes matched her purple long-sleeve T-shirt…on top of her head perched a little white painter’s cap that she’d also splattered with paint. She looked awesome.”
- Speaking of Claudia’s outfits, has anyone seen this awesome quiz?
- Jeff says that he’ll probably have to watch a really dorky movie on the plane, like The Care Bears Meet the Smurfs. He’s just making up a title, but I think that would be a hysterical movie. In a, “it’s so bad it’s good” way. But I’m a dork, so I may not be the best person to judge.
- This was another familiar scene – Dawn thinks some other kid getting off the plane is Jeff, because he is wearing a green-and-white striped shirt. I think it’s just supposed to show that it has been awhile since she’s seen Jeff, but it comes off as really weird. Would she really not recognize her own brother
- The Schafers/Spiers do have a good time going to see a really bad movie called “The Mutant From Outer Space” because they spend the whole time laughing at it. When they sarcastically say there should be a sequel, an usher at the theater says there is one. But how often is there a sequel already made when the first one is still in the theaters?
- Jeff’s really a total brat in this one, and I don’t know why Dawn keeps siding with him.
- Ha, when they are away, Richard spends the whole time reading from a guidebook. I guess that’s where Mary Anne gets it.
- Mary Anne asks if the Boston Tea Party was an actual party. Now, seriously? I can see Jeff asking that. But not Mary Anne. If someone did not do any American history in elementary school, or in 6th and 7th grades, they WOULD do it in 8th. And the Boston Tea Party is one of the first things they would learn. So someone who’s been through 8th grade twelve times would know about it.
- Because Jeff is a brat and refuses to do anything Richard suggests, Richard and Mary Anne end up doing one thing, while the Schafers do something else. I am not sure why Richard and Sharon put up with it, especially considering they want to be doing these things together.
- At the hotel, the family has two adjoining rooms book…supposedly one for the kids and one for the adults. But Mary Anne insists on staying with Sharon and Richard. Bet they loved that. They’re still newlyweds, right?
- So, say you are Mrs. Barrett, and you and your new boyfriend want your kids to meet. Considering that your kids are a bit…active, shall we say? Would you arrange for the kids to come over and hang out for a casual day/dinner? Or would you plan an elaborate outing that involves taking seven children to the zoo, the park, a picnic lunch, and a play?
- Since Dawn is mad at Mary Anne, she tries to dress down for the portrait. She wears, “A jean skirt, red cotton T-shirt, and blue chamois shirt knotted at the waist.” What is with these girls always mentioning fabrics? Do we really need to know the T-shirt was cotton to picture the outfit? And, how many thirteen-year-olds know fabrics?
- For the photo, Mary Anne tries to wear an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, and Jeff wears a stained T-shirt and jeans. However, Sharon makes them all change into nice outfits.
- The Barrett kids and Franklin’s kids are all surprisingly cool with their parents dating. They only get upset when they find out there are other kids involved. And they later say that was only because their parents were tense. They even start talking about how they think their parents should relax and have fun. Now, I’m not saying everyone reacts badly to their parents divorcing/dating again. However, the Barretts were upset about their parents in earlier books, so it seems weird to not have them even slightly upset.
- On the way to the airport, the Schafer/Spiers sing a bunch of California related songs, including the theme song to The O.C.
- Do people really do sing-a-longs on car rides with their families?
- When the Schafers/Spiers are sent proofs of their photo to go through (to decide what is getting blown up), they get to see all the pictures of themselves pissed off. But, the photographer took those with a Polaroid. And everyone made up before he started taking the real pictures. So…why are thre proofs of them?
- Dawn thinks they should blow up the picture of them looking annoyed so that they remember to never fight again. And that is what they do. Except they decide to get two blown up and hang them next to each other. And they put them over the mantle in the living room. I can see keeping the angry picture to be funny, but to hang a full sized version of yourselves looking bad in the living room where anyone can see it? I don’t see it happening.