Sunday, October 25, 2015

Our Little Legoland California Getaway

My son Benny, who regularly asks if we can go to Disneyland, has now added Legoland to his theme park outing requests.
We took him to Legoland for the first time a couple weeks ago and decided to make a weekend out of it, booking a room at the park-adjacent Legoland Hotel.

My husband couldn't make it so my mom and sister Frances joined Benny and I. As you can see, my son is not cooperating for a photo! LOL

I had already visited the park twice before but had never stayed at the Legoland Hotel.
The park itself is EVERY Lego fan’s dream, with brick building opportunities throughout the premises and Lego-themed thrill rides, exhibits, games and shopping. There’s an area where kids can build their own Lego cars and engage in a car race competition with their fellow race car builders, which makes for tons of laughs! There is another area where kids can make their own Lego creation for a chance to have it displayed on the Lego Wall of Fame.
My sister Frances and I tried to create something fabulous but gave up when we saw a 7-year old boy finish a perfectly well-designed Mario Brothers head, while we still struggled to make sense of our robot-like vehicle things.

To the left, in a red plaid shirt is the boy who made an awesome Mario Brothers themed Lego creation, which was added to the Lego Wall of Fame!

We tried the famous Granny Smith Apple Fries (amazing, delicious, worth every bite) and we enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the Legoland Hotel (complimentary for hotel guests). Still, there were a few things that I couldn’t help but notice.
For one, the hotel front desk staff wasn’t able to answer basic theme park questions, like how much an adult ticket cost. Park employees refuse to take pictures of you and your family with any device other than their own assigned cameras. The grounds could use a little more maintenance, etc. What’s more is that Legoland is VERY expensive.  

A fully-themed hotel room averages $350 a night. Park admission is $89 per person and the park closes at 5:00pm on most nights, except in the summertime.

Benny on his way to our room at the Legoland Hotel

 Sure, there are shows and very cool things to see like the set of the Lego Movie and an elaborate display of some of the most popular cities in the U.S. (all made out of Legos) but this mommy is probably biased toward Disneyland and equally bitter that prices at the Mouse House have skyrocketed and other theme park alternatives are just as expensive without the extra “magical” details.

With that said, I am a parent and any place that makes my child happy, excited and enthusiastic makes me happy too.  I’ll just have to “build” my appreciation for this Carlsbad, Calfornia kids’ favorite, one Lego brick at a time (smiley face).

En español

Mi hijo Benny, quien pide regularmente que lo llevemos a Disneylandia, ahora ha añadido el parque Legoland a la lista de parques temáticos que quiere visitar.Lo llevamos a Legoland por primera vez hace un par de semanas y decidimos quedarnos allá, reservando una habitación en el Hotel Legoland, que está ubicado casi a la entrada del parque.Yo había visitado el parque dos veces antes, pero nunca me había alojado en el hotel del mismo nombre.El parque en sí es el sueño de todo fan de los ladrillitos Legos. Ofrece oportunidades de construir con ladrillitos a lo largo de las instalaciones. También tiene juegos mecánicos, exposiciones, atracciones divinas y tiendas originales con productos del famoso juguete. Hay una zona donde los niños pueden construir sus propios coches de Lego y participar en una carrera de autos con sus carritos de ladrillo, lo que resulta en muchas risas! Hay otra área donde los niños pueden hacer su propia creación de Lego para ver si logra ser colocada en el Muro de la Fama.Mi hermana Frances y yo intentamos crear algo fabuloso, pero desistimos cuando vimos un niño de 7 años de edad terminar una cabeza de Mario Brothers perfectamente bien diseñada, mientras que todavía luchábamos para dar sentido a nuestros vehículos tipo robóticos.Comimos las famosas varitas de manzanas fritas (increíbles, deliciosas, valen la pena) y nos gustó mucho el desayuno estilo buffet en el hotel Legoland (gratuito para los huéspedes del hotel). Sin embargo hubo algunos detalles que no pude ignorar.Por una parte, el personal de recepción del hotel no fue capaz de responder a preguntas básicas del parque, como el costo de una entrada de adulto. Los empleados del parque se niegan a tomar fotos de usted y su familia con cualquier cámara que no sea una de sus propias cámaras asignadas. Los jardines lucirían mejor con un poco de mantenimiento adicional y otras cositas más que no me parecieron ideales.Pero lo que más me impactó es que Legoland es muy caro. La habitación decorada como castillo cuesta $350 la noche. La entrada al parque es de $89 por persona y el parque cierra demasiado temprano, a las 5:00 pm, excepto en los meses de verano.

Claro, hay espectáculos y cosas muy interesantes para ver como el escenario de la película “The Lego Movie” y una zona elaborada de algunas ciudades populares de los EE.UU. (todas construidas con piezas de Lego) pero quizá esté un poco sesgada hacia Disneylandia y disgustada a la vez que los precios en la Casa del ratón Miguelito se dispararon sin clemencia. Y que otros parques alternativos ahora están igual de caros y sin tantos detallitos "mágicos".

Pero con todo y eso, soy madre y cualquier lugar que hace a mi hijo sentirse feliz, emocionado y entusiasta a mí también me hace feliz. Voy a tener que "construir" mi apreciación por este parque en la ciudad de Carlsbad, aunque sea un ladrillito a la vez (sonrisas).

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tips on Preparing for a Move with a Toddler

My husband and I married in 2007. We decided at that time that we would wait several years before having kids. We wanted to enjoy the married life, travel and simply have fun. And we did. For five years.
We moved to different cities in and out of California and somehow, our kid-free lifestyle also translated into a lifestyle with little desire for grown-up responsibilities, like buying a home.

My honey and I back in 2008

Now it’s 2015 and we’re expecting our second child! We also just bought our first home.
It was an exciting process— from getting qualified for a loan to finding a house that seemed like a good fit, exploring different neighborhoods, etc. But the one thing we didn’t really plan for, was explaining to our son Benny that we were moving.

Holding the keys to our new home in the San Fernando Valley!

We’re still living in Los Angeles County. But moving from the San Gabriel Valley to the San Fernando Valley is quite a change, especially for a toddler who grew fond of his daycare and daycare buddies and loved the only place he ever knew as ‘home’.

Even before beginning to pack, we started explaining to Benny that we would be moving to a new house. His response at first was: “I don’t want to move to a new house. This is my favorite house.”
This of course, was enough to make an emotional pregnant woman cry a little but I didn’t let him see me and I continued promoting our upcoming move with excitement.

Benny enjoyed being a rascal while I tried to pack my messy office!

When we started packing his toys, we made a game out of it. I sorted all of his toys and the game consisted of filling up empty boxes as fast as possible.
When the only thing left in his room was his bed, we lay on the floor and created puppet shows using our hands and a flashlight against the wall. Then we had fun screaming funny phrases that echoed in the empty room.
When the U-Haul truck was parked and we hired a few guys to help us load, Benny started asking: “where is everything going?”

My Paul worked so hard to move us!

Then came the moment to pick him up on his last day at Daycare.

By the time Paul and I arrived, his babysitter for nearly three years was already in tears.
Benny knew it was his last day there and upon seeing her cry, which immediately made me cry too, he tried consoling each of us. First he explained to his babysitter Lorena that he had to go to school now and he was moving to a new house. Then he told me he was “so happy” to go to school. But then he too got emotional and broke out in tears.
It was so heart-breaking! I may be bordering on being excessively sensitive but seeing him so sad yet still wanting to make us all feel better touched my heart to the core.
My husband was very calm, constantly reminding me that Benny would be fine. He drove us straight to the nearest mall, where we made an evening out of the last day at our old city and bought Benny a toy. Then we took him to a pumpkin patch where he played carnival games, visited a petting zoo and got on a super slide (all while I stepped away periodically to cry and cry).

Big shades to cover my watery eyes at the pumpkin patch

Later that night, as we were driving to our new house where we would sleep for the first time, Benny started crying. I think he realized we were moving away from everything familiar to him. He cried for a while without being able to express what was going through his mind other than offering: “I’m mad at you, mama”.
Eventually, he fell asleep in his car seat while I wept the rest of the way home. As a mom, there was a certain type of guilt (again, I can only speak for myself because I’m hormonal and very sensitive these days) that came with taking my little boy away from everything he ever knew.
Nonetheless, he woke up happy and inquisitive the next morning at the new house and seemed very excited to run around a new set of halls, bedrooms and bathrooms.
On occasion, Benny still asks about his “other casa” but I think he’s begun to enjoy his new home and preschool.

Benny helps mommy paint the pantry in our new home!

Benny's new backyard!

I’m not a child psychologist or an expert in any capacity.  I’m just a mom sharing the following tips (based on our own experience) in case you have a toddler and plan on moving soon:

*   Talk to your little one(s) openly about your plans to move. Explain why you’re doing it and make an effort to incorporate language that will make them feel they’re going to enjoy the new place.
*    *  Involve your kid(s) in all aspects of the moving process. Take them along to pick up boxes, let them give an opinion about what size moving truck you should rent. It’s a bit silly, I know but it makes them feel so important to have an opinion!

      *   Make packing a fun experience by improvising games and contests to take away from the fact that their comfort items (toys, plush dolls, books) will be put away for a little while.

      *   On the day you have to say a final “good-bye” to friends, sitters, neighbors, etc. try to share a fun family activity afterwards (a park outing, a trip to the toy store, a favorite restaurant). This will serve as a distraction and also as a memory of the last day in a place you will no longer call ‘home’.

·     *   Finally, try to impress on them that home is really where the heart is. There’s no better or safer place to be than surrounded by the warmth of their parents, regardless of the new location.

·     *   Keep in mind that kids are resilient. You may feel worried about how your little one will react to so many changes but it's possible you may be the one who's worrying too much!

Just my thoughts.

Thanks for reading! 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

How to Make a Spider Web Candy Holder to 'BOO' your friends!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BOOItForward #CollectiveBias

We’re officially two weeks away from Halloween!
This time of year is when my creative juices start to flow and what a better excuse to brainstorm Halloween ideas than two of my favorite candy companies (Mars & Wrigley) promoting a super fun campaign called “BOO it Forward”.
Basically, all you have to do is make a Halloween-themed candy bundle (as in a basket, arrangement, etc.) with candy treats and include a sign letting the person know they’ve been BOO’d. Then you secretly gift it by leaving the bundle on their porch, doorsteps or desk. 

Finally, you encourage the recipient to “BOO it Forward” by creating a candy bundle of their own and gifting someone else!
My idea for a BOO bundle was to create a stand-alone spider web candy holder with the help of an empty milk gallon!
First, I went to Walmart and purchased a couple big bags of candy, including a Wrigley Monster Stash bag with a variety of my favorite sweets, including SKITTLES®, STARBURST®, and LIFESAVERS®.
Then I bought another bag of Mars chocolates that included mini SNICKERS®, TWIX®, MILKY WAY® and 3 MUSKETEERS®. Finally, I went to the soft drink aisle and bought a six-pack of 8oz Sunkist® Halloween Can. I used all these goodies to stuff my Spider Web candy holder.
The Wrigley and Mars candy bags are sold in the Halloween section and in specially designated Halloween-themed sections of the store. You can find the Sunkist® soda cans in the soft drink beverage aisle.

I'm sort of obsessing over spiders this Halloween season so I thought a spider web would be perfect!

In order to make a similar spider web treat holder, you will need the following items:
*1 Empty Milk Jug
*1 Sheet of silver glittery construction paper
*White paint & brush
*Different Sized spiders for decoration


1. Start out with an empty milk jug (make sure you rinse and dry thoroughly and remove any labeling). Take the scissors and make a small perforation on the gallon handle. This will make it easy to start cutting through the plastic.

2. Make sure you cut out the entire handle and spout area to create a cavity. This way, you can use the bottom of the gallon to fill with candy and soda.

3. Once you're done cutting, paint the jug white. This is done so your silver spider web and black spiders can stand out later.

4. On the back of a Silver glitter construction paper sheet, draw a spider web. Try to make it wide enough to cover the tallest side of the gallon. Once you're done with your sketch, it's time to carefully start cutting your silver spiderweb. See images below.

5. Once your spider web is done, all you have to do is tape it to the edges of the plastic and Ta-da! Use spiders to embellish as you wish.

It's a great way to BOO someone and surprise them with some awesome Halloween treats, especially because they can't really tell what's inside the spider web holder until they take a close look. And don't forget the "You've been BOO'd" card! 

I hope you consider BOO'ing someone!

You will definitely want to visit the BOO It Forward page to download and print the “You’ve been BOO’d sign”. Make sure you include the card and sign when gifting the BOO bundle to keep the fun going!
Also, don't forget to enter the BOO It Forward Sweepstakes!


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Exploring LA With My Son and My Jeep!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CambioConfiable #CollectiveBias

 A couple years ago, I went looking for a new car. It was time to give up my Honda Civic because our little family of two was growing into a family of three.

I wanted something a little bigger and when I laid my eyes on a black Jeep Patriot, I fell in love.
My “Jeepsy” as I’ve affectionately named it, has been my source of freedom and exploration as a busy Latina working mommy in the great city of Los Angeles.  It’s such a liberating feeling to just pick up and go!

In true gyspy fashion, Jeepsy has an adventurous spirit and travels freely wherever I drive it!  It takes me to my office in Downtown Los Angeles on weekdays and when my husband goes away for the weekend for work, I use the Jeep to explore Los Angeles County with my son Benny.  Together my son and I have ventured into Chavez Ravine for a Dodgers game, Santa Anita Park to watch the horse races, and to numerous parks, museums and playgrounds all over Los Angeles County.

Note: All car selfies have been taken when the vehicle is completely stopped... just sayin'! Here Benny and I were on our way to Pomona!
Benny and I arrived at a Dodgers Game on a recent summer night!

I can only guess that this picture was taken before heading off to give the Jeep a car wash...Ha!

The cutest little happy face, excited about our outing.

At the Santa Anita Race Park with my Benny
Before arriving in the U.S. from Mexico, neither one of my grandmothers drove cars.  But in the late 70’s when my dad was courting my mom, he offered my maternal grandmother a quick driving lesson and Mama Gela ran with it! I remember seeing my mother and grandmother use their cars to drive across town and get things done!

Mama Gela would even give her small white Toyota Corolla oil changes!

I definitely  haven’t learned how to give my car an oil change but I make sure to take good care of it by letting a professional handle the routine maintenance checks. The other day, I took the Jeep to a nearby Walmart Auto Care Center for an oil change. I explained to Benny that the car needed some extra “food” to stay strong (hehe).

Benny and I on our way to a friend's party in Santa Monica!

Benny was pretty amused by the process which was actually a great experience. The Walmart Auto Care Center workers were efficient and took only 30 minutes to do the “Pit Crew Service Oil Change Special, ” which took care of Lube, Oil and Filter for only $19.88. The oil used was the Quaker State Advanced Durability Motor Oil.
Giving my car routine maintenance and oil changes is like taking a preventative measure so that I'm never in a situation that  jeopardizes my family's safety. Here, Benny looks at the Walmart Auto Center Worker as he drives Jeepsy in for a Quaker State Oil Change.

To date, Jeepsy hasn’t given me any problems, but I know that’s largely due to the fact that I take care of it. Trust me when I say that the Walmart Auto Care Center is a good, reliable and affordable starting point and you can’t go wrong with Quaker State Oil.

You can find Quaker State Oil in one of the car maintenance aisles at Walmart

We seriously drove out of the Auto Care Center with a sense of confidence and reliability and ready to venture out to yet another Los Angeles County adventure!
Consider trying Walmart for your car appointment, you’ll be happy that you did!

A little tired and a little excited here-- My Benny is a great passenger! 

En español

Hace un par de años, me fui en busca de un coche nuevo. Era el momento de dejar el Honda Civic porque nuestra pequeña familia de dos pronto se convertiría en un familia de tres.

Yo quería un coche más grande y cuando mi mirada se encontró con un Jeep Patriot negro estacionado en el concesionario, me enamoré.

Mi "Jeepsy" como lo nombrado cariñosamente (nombre que suena como la palabra ‘gitana’ en inglés), ha sido mi fuente de libertad y exploración como una madre Latina ocupada y que trabaja tiempo completo en esta gran ciudad de Los Ángeles. Es un sentimiento tan liberador de poder levantarme y salir en un dos por tres!

Mi "Jeepsy" tal como el gitano tiene un espíritu aventurero y viaja libremente por todas partes! Me lleva a mi oficina en el centro de Los Ángeles durante la semana y cuando mi marido se va de fin de semana para el trabajo, uso el Jeep para explorar el condado de Los Ángeles con mi hijo Benny. Junto con mi niño, hemos aventurado en el parque Chavez Ravine para disfrutar juegos de los Dodgers, viajado al parque de Santa Anita Park para ver las carreras de caballos, y visitado numerosos parques y museos por todo el condado de Los Ángeles.

Antes de llegar a los estados unidos de México, ni una de mis abuelas conducía. Pero a finales de los años 70 cuando mi papá estaba cortejando a mi mamá, le ofreció a mi abuela materna una lección de conducción rápida y Mamá Gela no desaprovechó la oportunidad y pronto aprendió! Recuerdo ver a mi madre y a mi abuela manejando cada una sus carros de un lado de la ciudad al otro para encargarse de muchos quehaceres!

Se ha sabido que Mamá Gela hasta intentaba darle a su pequeño Datsun blanco los cambios de aceite!
En lo personal, yo jamás he aprendido a darle a mi coche los cambios de aceite, pero siempre me aseguro de darle buen cuidado con mantenimientos frecuentes.

El otro día, llevé el Jeep a un Centro de Atención de Autos de Walmart, ya que le faltaba un cambio de aceite. Le expliqué a Benny que el coche necesitaba un poco de "comidita" especial para mantenerse fuerte (jiji).

Benny se divirtió con el proceso que en realidad fue una buena experiencia. Los trabajadores del Centro de Atención de Autos de Walmart fueron eficientes y les tomó sólo 30 minutos para hacer el Servicio "Pit Crew Oil Change Special", que costó sólo $19.88. El aceite que se usó fue el Quaker State Advanced Durability Oil.

Hasta la fecha, mi Jeepsy no me ha dado ningún problema, pero sé que eso se debe a que me he ocupado de cuidarlo mucho.

Créanme cuando les digo que el Centro de Atención de Autos de Walmart es un buen, confiable y asequible punto de partida y con el Quaker State Oil, les irá muy bien.

En serio que cuando salimos del Centro de Cuidado de Autos de Walmart nos sentimos con confianza y listos para nuevas aventuras en el Condado de Los Ángeles!

Consideren llevar sus coches a Walmart para un mantenimiento, de veras que no se arrepentirán.