Easter Sunday Musings

Easter in Fillmore!

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Family Time

Easter Sunday at my godmother’s ranch house in Fillmore was a beautiful Spring experience. She purchased the house about two years ago and everytime we visit, we know we’re in for a treat.

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It reminded me of how special it is

to enjoy religious celebrations with the family, especially because it was the type of joyous camaraderie that my late grandmother, Mamá Lala, always asked her children and grandchildren to preserve. My dad and his three sisters were there. Only my uncle Chavo was missing.

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The kids ran around playing tag,

sliding on my Nina’s zip line and eventually broke an egg-shaped piñata that was hand-made out of cardboard, tissue paper and homemade glue.

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Before the egg hunt,

they took time to pet and feed the ranch animals. Toby was trying to feed the goats fresh slices of watermelon but was too scared to get his hands close enough to the goats’ mouths. So he would end up dropping the watermelon slices and as soon as the fruit hit the ground, the goats would refuse to eat it... lol. He then moved on to petting the bunnies with his cousin Delilah and having toddler conversations about how to properly hold them.

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Benny and his cousin Ethan found themselves

playing their own version of the Pokémon card game inside a beautiful kiosk-type structure located toward the back of the ranch.

Then they explored a small creek that runs through the garden. As the evening began to wind down, the boys discovered a lifeless gopher near a large tree.

The rodent was laying flat on the grass, teeth sticking out and all.

“Maybe he’s still alive,” suggested Ethan.

Benny confidently replied: “No, I think he was poisoned.”

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The confetti eggs were a memorable way

to end our backyard Easter soirée. It took Toby a few moments to figure out how to crack an egg on someone’s head... but when he finally did, it was really sweet to watch him do it.

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As the bright sun started going down,

we begun gathering our belongings. At one point, I found Benny crying next to the backyard swing. I worried that he’d gotten hurt or something.

“What’s wrong hijo?,” I asked him.

“Papa just gave me the report,” he replied sobbing.

“What report?,” I insisted.

“The report that we have to go home now and I don’t want to leave.”

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It was an amazing Easter Sunday indeed.

Thanks for reading, friends!

Xo,

-Anabel M

Anabel Marquez
Toby's 3rd Birthday Blippi Breakfast

Toby Turns 3!

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Blippi Breakfast

Besides watching his favorite cartoons on the Disney Junior channel, my son Toby loves watching the “Blippi” Youtube channel.

I’m not sure how he discovered Blippi (perhaps daycare?) but the fact is, he loves this character. Blippi is a an adult male Youtube star with millions of viewers. He targets preschool age children with videos showcasing shapes, colors, vehicles and catchy songs. He often travels around the country to visit kid museums and interviews police officers, firefighters and other community leaders. Toby is always asking to watch Blippi. He’s obsessed.

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While I had contemplated

throwing my son a Blippi-themed birthday party (mainly because I love the colors of Blippi’s brand— orange and baby blue), my husband and I learned that a few years ago Blippi recorded himself defecating on his friend. omg. How nasty is that?

My husband and I had a long discussion about this. Look, we know he didn’t actually commit a crime. We also know he was trying to become a famous Youtube star long before he became Blippi. Several friends of mine laughed it off and thought it was no big deal. But I was pretty grossed out and decided to start limiting Toby’s Blippi TV time.

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All this to say,

we reduced the Blippi-themed birthday celebration to a simple breakfast where the only Blippi reference was a faded Blippi printout. Then we celebrated his 3-year birthday with a Disney Pixar’s Coco-themed bash.

Still, my son got his Blippi shoes (which were purchased before the pooping video surged) and he got other Blippi gifts. He was super excited.

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Next year,

we’ll hopefully move to a new favorite character with a less crappy past. LOL.

Thanks for reading friends!

Xo,

-Anabel M.

Anabel Marquez
A Valentine’s Week Reminder that Love is Sweet

With Treats from Bristol Farms

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Love is Sweet!

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, I love doing fun and festive things for Benny and Toby—even if it means pink balloons and soft pastels!

In anticipation of the annual LOVE day, I went to Bristol Farms Mulholland and picked up their awesome Valentine’s Day Meal for two promotion that includes HEART-shaped wellingtons, Potato Au Gratin Dauphinoise, Steamed Asparagus and Peppers and Heart-Shaped Chocolate Ganache (more on that in the next blog post).

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When I walked into the store,

I was welcomed by a lovely and very thorough display of foods, treats, accessories, flowers, balloons, bubbly and desserts for Lover’s Day:

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Can you guess what happened

when I saw the display pictured above upon entering the Bristol Farms Mulholland store?

I immediately started thinking of (and shopping for) my little boys!

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I pictured kicking off Valentine’s Day week

with a surprise dessert table. For that, I bought beautiful heart-shaped paper plates and napkins by Meri Meri. I got ice cream shaped gummies by Sugarfina, a giant Hershey’s kiss and then… drum roll please… I walked over to Bristol Farms’ bakery section. The selection of Valentine’s day-themed pastries and sweets was so fabulous, I may have gone a little crazy.

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I bought cake pops and tea cakes

And chocolate-covered strawberries and even picked up some fresh organic strawberries from the neighboring produce department because, well, balance. Lol.  Honestly though, I figured that if there’s a day of the year when a sweet tooth fix is appropriate, it might as well be Valentine’s Day!

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Back at home, I left the kids with Paul in the dining room,

I went to my office, cleared some space and organized a tiny dessert table. Carefully placing the treats over small stands and paper napkins, I added a few of my personal tea forks (which the boys never use because they would all end up broken) and placed my golden wanna-be Mickey Mouse for a touch of whimsy.

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When they walked in, my sons were all smiles!

I made them tell each other they love each other and when I started with my mini photo sesh, they protested against having to take pictures before eating their treats by covering their faces with the heart-shaped paper plates, which probably turned out to be the best photo of the day!

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Friends, small acts of sweetness go a long way with kids.

By taking advantage of any festive occasion to remind them how much we love them, we’re creating memories they’ll (hopefully) take with them to adulthood. On this particular day, we shared tons of laughs and it was an easy set-up thanks to Bristol Farms having everything available in one great place.

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Happy Valentine’s Day Friends.

Coming up, I’ll share the actual reason I stopped by Bristol Farms last week— the very delicious Valentine’s Meal for two currently accepting pre-orders until midnight tonight!

Thanks for reading,

Xo,

-Anabel M.

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Anabel Marquez
"'Mama, Are you on vacation?'..... No, son. Definitely Not"

The 2019 Government Shutdown Explained…by an affected L.A. Mom

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The Scoop on my work situation

Friends, I’m among the 800,000 federal employees on furlough due to the partial government shutdown (more on that in a bit). When Benny noticed that I’ve been able to drop him off and pick him up at school every day, ON TIME, for two weeks in a row, he asked if I was on vacation.

“No son. Definitely not,” I responded.

Currently, I’m not working and I’m not getting paid. As a matter of fact, I just missed my first paycheck in nearly ten years of working for the federal government.

And while I generally limit my opinions on the topic to face-to-face conversations with close friends and relatives, today I’m opening up a bit more.

I won’t be sharing what I think about the current state of politics— but rather what a shutdown means.

Here with a group of wonderful co-workers during a detail I completed back in 2014, in Washington D.C.

Here with a group of wonderful co-workers during a detail I completed back in 2014, in Washington D.C.

For many years I served as a spokesperson,

often giving interviews on behalf of my agency at local TV stations and media.

Today, I have the privilege of holding a position in the legislative affairs division of my agency. As a public servant of this great country and given my unique job roles, I have always carefully obeyed the Hatch Act.

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The Hatch Act

is a law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity— including comments, campaigning, lobbying or even wearing partisan buttons or clothing, while on the job.

Because anything anyone says can easily go viral in these days of massive technology use and the tense political climate, I’ve made it a point to err on the side of caution and avoid talking politics even outside of the office.

I’ll be honest, it’s been hard to stay quiet recently. But since it’s a great honor to hold my current position, I choose to stay loyal to the idea that working for a federal government agency means I’m working for all Americans, regardless of anybody’s political inclinations.

With a few former co-workers during a business trip to Arizona in 2015.

With a few former co-workers during a business trip to Arizona in 2015.

With that said,

Here’s my simplified explanation on the government shutdown:

Every year, the government must decide how much money it needs in order to keep running (kind of like creating a yearly financial plan for your family). Our elected officials in Congress come up with a budget which is supposed to allow the government to operate from October 1 through September 30 of the following year (our fiscal year).

Once our lawmakers decide how much money is necessary to fund the many different agencies, federal programs, services, etc., the President reviews it. If the President agrees with the numbers, he signs the budget and things keep moving. Some years the budget may reduce funds for certain agencies, other years it may give an agency more money than was expected.

Selfie with one of my co-workers during training in Washington D.C.

Selfie with one of my co-workers during training in Washington D.C.

But last year (2018),

when the end of the fiscal year was approaching, it was clear that lawmakers in D.C. were NOT agreeing on a budget. That’s why, before the fiscal year ended, they simply approved an “extension” of sorts to keep the government running at the same levels through December 7.

When December 7 came around, there was still no agreement on the budget so lawmakers then approved another extension (called a Continuing Resolution) through December 22.

But when the clock struck midnight on December 22, they still had not agreed on a budget, nor did they approve another extension. That was when the government closed. And it remains closed for many agencies.

Photo of the National Mall in Washington D.C. during an afternoon run back in 2014

Photo of the National Mall in Washington D.C. during an afternoon run back in 2014

But why did certain agencies stay open? you may ask

Before this complicated budget fight, Congress had already approved a smaller budget to keep a few agencies running through 2019. Those included agencies that conduct “essential” operations like national security, emergency services, law and order as well as the U.S. Postal Service.

Since that smaller budget was a separate item, it didn’t get lumped into the big budget and that’s why some people never got furloughed hence the partial Government Shutdown.

At this point, there’s no way of knowing when a budget will be approved. There have been several attempts to reopen government but none have worked so far.

When there’s a government shutdown, federal employees are not allowed to work, meaning, no visits to your office or logging in to your government computer or answering your government phone.

People are allowed to file for unemployment benefits. However, if employees eventually return to work and get retroactive pay (which the President just approved), those unemployment benefits will have to be refunded.

Still, for many families, the need is too great to worry about having to later repay unemployment payments. They need a paycheck.

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Many employees have been asked to work without pay.

I’m not one of them… at least not yet. The unfortunate aspect of having to report to work without getting paid is that you cannot collect unemployment benefits even if you’re not getting paid by your agency.

Friends, there’s no question the government will reopen… I mean, It HAS to.

But just how long it will take is anyone’s guess.

In the meantime, I’m trying to maximize my time at home, organizing sock drawers, rearranging my pantry and working on keeping the house clean. I’m also working hard on my magazine and helping my husband Paul with his CPR business.

I hope anyone affected by this government shutdown is keeping their spirits high. Keep in mind that many successful business owners and entrepreneurs have become such after surviving times of financial instability. Let’s try to make the best of this experience.

God Bless America.

Thanks for reading,

Xo,

-Anabel M.

Benny's 6th Birthday Breakfast!

A letter for my son

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Happy Birthday, my dear son

My baby is a big boy now!

Since this blog was initially intended to be a web log or online journal of sorts, today I will use it as such. I’m writing a brief letter to my son, to keep a memory of the thoughts, feelings and experiences of December 7, 2018 when Benjamin turned six-years-old.

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Dear Benny,

Happy 6th Birthday!

I woke up extra early today to prepare a “birthday pancake” breakfast at home. You were fighting a cold but still enthusiastic and eager to know if, on your birthday, you’d be receiving your arcade-themed sneakers. Instead, I surprised you with breakfast, balloons & a Nintendo Gameboy Advance!

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We’ve had a tough few weeks.

I was really sick with an awful cold recently and you were experiencing growing pains and emotional moments— from living the consequences of misbehaving in school to understanding the concept of a guilty conscience. Kindergarten has been a challenging transition for you but through it all, your maturity and willingness to own your mistakes has allowed you to carry on and has made me very proud!

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Toby wasn’t sure how to use the party blow horn during Benny’s birthday breakfast, which made us laugh…A LOT!

Toby wasn’t sure how to use the party blow horn during Benny’s birthday breakfast, which made us laugh…A LOT!

You are a great big brother!

You protect Toby and share your toys with your little brother, even at the expense of your own fun. You’re a great dancer, often impressing me with your “freaky robot” moves and imitating some of Michael Jackson’s choreography. You are doing great with your “snap” words and beginning to read short words. Your love of books has increased throughout the years and I love seeing how very curious you are about life.

You LOVE arcades and arcade games and recently hosted “Casinoland” for our guests at Thanksgiving. Basically, you coordinated a series of play areas for guests “of all ages”… there was an dance lounge, a card playing table, a game room, a fitness center and a lunch buffet, all directly created from your imagination. You were adorable, Benny!

On another note, your front tooth is loose! This means the tooth fairy will be arriving soon!

You didn’t want a birthday party this year requesting a “long day at the arcade” instead.

I promise we will make it happen.

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Benny, I never knew what motherhood would be like—

but you have given it an incredible meaning because you are that special.

I hope you enjoyed your birthday cake pancakes… I know for a fact, you loved the buttercream frosting drizzle and cherry on top!

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I’m sure you’ll have a great day at school.

I’m on my way to a press conference for work but I’ll be thinking of you all day!

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When I get home you won’t be here tonight.

That’s because Tia Frenchee is taking you for a fun adventure to Marina Del Rey and you’ll be spending the night at a “Boatel”… fun!!!!

Oh yeah— those arcade game shoes you’ve been hoping for— Papa will surprise you tomorrow!

May this be your best year yet little guy.

Love you forever,

-Mama Anabel 12,07,2018

Anabel Marquez
A PJ Masks Supermoon Adventure!

Tons of fun with Catboy, Owlette & Gekko

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#PJMasks #SuperMoonParty

I just find it so hilarious when kids have an all-time favorite cartoon hero yet can’t get near it when they see it in person.

That’s exactly what happened when Toby saw Catboy, the leader of the PJ Masks Trio. The PJ Masks is a show about heroism and empowerment and its’ superheroes are children!

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We were recently invited to a PJ Masks Supermoon Adventure

It was held at The Coop Indoor playground in Studio City with an afternoon of action-packed and imagination-inspiring adventures, a hero dance party and even a meet-n-greet with the PJ Masks themselves!

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During the #SuperMoon Party,

The children got a chance to watch an episode of PJ Masks as they played in The Coop’s ginormous ball pit. They also enjoyed pizza and a series of PJ Masks activities, including coloring,

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role-playing with masks, toys and an adorable dance party where the little ones got to hug, dance with and enjoy fun tunes with the PJ Masks. Toby insisted on showing Catboy that he too had a Catboy mask!

More about the PJ Masks characters:

Connor / Catboy is a blue-eyed boy with brown hair. When he transforms he wears a blue cat costume with cat ears and a thin tail. He has super-hearing using Cat Ears, can leap high and far using Super Cat Jump, and sprints fast using Super Cat Speed.

Amaya / Owlette is an auburn-eyed girl with brown hair who wears red glasses. When she transforms, she wears a red costume with wings. She has owl eyes which lets her see things that are far away up close, and she also has super owl wing wind.

Greg / Gekko is a green-eyed, blonde haired boy. When he transforms he wears a green costume with a thick reptilian tail and fins on top of his head. His powers are, Super Gekko Camouflage to go invisible or blend into his surroundings, Super Gekko Muscles to lift heavy things, Super Lizard Grip to climb walls or anchor himself to stop vehicles, and Super Lizard Water Run to walk on water.

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By the time we had to go home,

the kids had already enjoyed their fill of PJ Masks cupcakes and received some awesome PJ Masks gift buckets!

Then came the best moment! After having been too scared to even get in a photo with the PJ Masks at the beginning of our SuperMoon Party adventure, Toby was demanding that they stay longer when they said bye to all the kids. He gave Gekko a hug then, with watery eyes, said: “Don’t Leave!”

We love PJ Masks and we’re very grateful to have been invited to this awesome play date!

Thanks PJ Masks and thanks for reading, friends!

Xo,

-Anabel M.

Winding Down the Evening: Tips to Make Bedtime Routine Fun & Bubbly!

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

For bath time, we Choose Gentle

As many of you know, my husband and I lead very busy lives. We’re working professionals managing several other projects simultaneously. We also have two boys under five and well, there’s never enough hours in the day to get everything done.

But one thing that we’ve finally got down is our boys’ bedtime routine.

This is particularly important for us because we get to spend quality afternoon time with our sons while teaching them about following instructions, engaging in thoughtful (often hilarious) conversations and ending the night with warm baths, book time and snuggles before we tuck them into bed and return to our projects.

Their baths always include JOHNSON’S® Baby Products (Hover over the image above to see more information about the products and how to purchase them at Target.)

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I visited the baby aisle because I needed to stock up on bath supplies for the kids and I noticed JOHNSON’S® Baby products had a different ‘look’.

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Turns out,

JOHNSON’S® recently reformulated its products to be more gentle.

The products are now more naturally derived with 50% fewer ingredients. They’re hypoallergenic with no parabens, no phthalates, no dyes and sulfates. The company also designed new packaging and gave the bottles a makeover with more easy-to-use pumps.

For a mom who’s been using JOHNSON’S® Baby products for nearly six years, discovering the new features was everything! I started loading my basket with some of our faves.

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Back at Home,

Weeknights are like a whirlwind. There is so much to do after work and everything happens so fast! In order to keep sane, my husband and I sat down last year and came up with an afternoon schedule which goes like this:

4:30pm — Pick up the boys from daycare

5:00pm-6:00pm — Homework. During this time, our little Toby who still has a long way to go before he starts Kinder, gets to do his “homework” too. His assignments usually involve scribbles on coloring pages or playing with flash cards. LOL.

6:00pm — Prepare dinner & Bath time! Whoever is not in the kitchen, takes care of giving the boys a bath. Lately, Paul’s been on a culinary quest to become the household’s next top chef so he opts to stay in the kitchen while I wrangle the boys to the bathtub.

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Before Bath Time

Benny and Toby have a basket with their bath time supplies, including bath sponges, a few toys and our favorite baby bath products, which include JOHNSON’S® Head-To-Toe Baby Wash; JOHNSON’S® Bedtime Bubble Bath; and JOHNSON’S® Bedtime Lotion. Like I mentioned earlier, we’ve been using JOHNSON’S® Baby products since the boys were born and I love that these products are even gentler now!

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Toby loves the water,

and he loves carrying the JOHNSON’S® bottles with him to the bathtub. He knows the blue bottle (JOHNSON’S® Bedtime Bubble Bath) is used to make a “simming pool with bubbles”. He knows the yellow bottle (JOHNSON’S® Head-To-Toe Baby Wash) is the most important because it removes all the yuckies from his body. And he knows the purple bottle (JOHNSON’S® Bedtime Lotion) helps moisturize his skin so he doesn’t get the itchies.

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By 7:00pm,

The kids have been bathed, dried, moisturized and changed into their pajamas, ready to have dinner. Toby takes a little longer to get to his high chair because he refuses to stay still when I’m putting on his diaper and applying lotion on his skin. I have to distract him with toys and books!

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At 8:00pm,

it’s time to brush teeth and tuck in bed for story time. Benny usually picks out three books and Toby chooses two. After we’re done with books, we say our bedtime prayer and the lights go out.

On week nights, they’re asleep by 8:30pm but I’m typically a little more flexible on weekends.

The next morning, the boys wake up looking snuggly and smelling clean thanks to JOHNSON’S® Baby Products… it makes me feel like hugging them for hours!

I’m sure you feel the same about your kids… and if you haven’t tried the new JOHNSON’S Baby Products, I encourage you to try them soon, friends :)

I promise you’ll love every item!

Thanks for reading.

Xo,

-Anabel M.

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Celebrating Batman Day for a Good Cause

September 15, 2018 was Batman Day!

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#BatmanDay2018

Comic book heroes take a whole new level of importance in your life when you’re a boy mom.

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So when we got invited

to an epic team-up between Buckle Down products, Bumkids, Kids Embrace, Silver Buffalo and Sun-Staches for an official Batman Day Family Fun Celebration, we knew we had to be there!

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The event was held

at Hazeltine Park in Sherman Oaks. There were several Batman & Dark Knight-themed play areas for kids but the element that caught our attention the most was the Batmobile ‘Tumbler’ from the Dark Knight Film Trilogy. Did you know this vehicle was built with two forward-firing machine guns? Annnnnnd…did you know both front wheels can eject when the vehicle is damaged? That’s when the Tumbler becomes a Batpod!

Batman Glasses, courtesy of Sun-Staches.

Batman Glasses, courtesy of Sun-Staches.

We received some awesome

Batman swag, including the boys’ sunglasses which were worn by them alllllll day.

I share about our fun Batman Day outing because it’s great to know that the previously-mentioned companies collaborated to bring families together and give back.

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Batman Day at Hazeltine Park

was a benefit event for two non-profit organizations that I support— Raise a Child and Vanderpump Dogs.

There were also several sponsors who donated snacks, treats and drinks for all guests.

Families who wanted to get their hands on the new KidsEmbrace Batman strollers were able to purchase one there— at the Batman Day Family Fun Day.

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It was lovely morning

spent with my boys.

My hubby who loves to be a Joker (no pun intended) had fun too. He wouldn’t pose for a picture but he took several of us!

Thanks Kids Embrace for the awesome invitation!

And thanks for reading, friends!

Xo,

-Anabel M.

Playtime with "Dr. Toby" and Koloreenies!

A New Generation of Neonate Babies Has Arrived!

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Toby Loves "Lazukie"

Earlier this summer, we received an adorable Generation X-Clusive Koloreenies baby. It's a toy called a Nerlie, from the Neonate Babies line. His actual name is Lazukie and upon welcoming Lazukie home, Toby took control, donning a doctor's coat, and making sure this Neonate baby (from the region of Neotopia) was happy and healthy.

After giving him a few shots and checking his temperature, Toby jotted down Lazukie's height & weight. You see, Nerlie measurements must apparently be recorded by way of scribbles and squiggly lines...hehe.

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The sweet little Lazukie arrived with 1 Umbilical cord, 1 diaper, 1 pacifier, complete Neonate baby documentation (including: 1 birth certificate, 1 neo-immunization schedule, 1 Neonate baby picture and 1 nursery card) plus 1 Dripity Drop (baby bottle). If you're lucky, your Nenonate baby may arrive with a dirty diaper too, however, Lazukie's diaper was poop-free (whew)!

We wanted to make sure he enjoyed a comfortable sleep so we made a tiny little bed out of a Jewelry box lid and a hand towel.

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Legend has it that in northeast Neonatopia a Neonate species never seen before lived in the Kolorado Mountain Range born without color. However, one day, on their way back to Neo-kindergarten, these babies found the most brilliant rainbow and took its color and splashed it all over themselves! From that moment, they transformed into Koloreenies–– super extra kolorful and bright, staying that way forever.

The Koloreenies have four different categories of babies: Zygoties, Espongies, Preemies and the newest line, Nerlies:

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Toby is a bit young to understand the concept behind the umbilical cord... so he simply focused on tube-feeding Lazukie his bottle. When you remove the little pacifier that comes attached to its mouth, the Dripity Drop fits perfectly for a warm milk feeding.

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Overall, we love playing with our Koloreenies' Neonate Baby, the Nerlie named Lazukie. Toby is Lazukie's doctor and overall caretaker and I must say, he's done quite well.

Even though the toys generally come in orange, pink and purple colors, which may be seen as toys intended for girls, I think little boys love to act as care-giving figures too. And Lazukie comes in green and blue which immediately caught Toby's attention.

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It's so very cute to see a toddler boy acting so sweetly toward a toy. It made my heart melt!

The Koloreenies are currently sold out, however, you can "adopt" another one of Distroller's adorable toys by visiting www.Distroller.com.

Thanks for reading, friends!

Xo,

-Anabel M.

This is a sponsored post. I received a free Koloreenies toy in exchange for a review.

Ten Reasons Why We Love LEGOLAND and the New LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

A Knight & Shining Legos!

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This Summer: LEGOLAND for the Win!

It's been a little over a month since the new LEGOLAND Castle Hotel opened its royal doors for all to visit but Benny and Toby have already asked several times if I can take them back!

The truth is, I'm considering returning for a little summer getaway with the boys because for one, my husband Paul didn't get to join us for the grand opening. Second, we absolutely loved it! The LEGOLAND Resort has truly transformed into a multi-day vacation destination.

I mean, I still remember the days when families would go to the LEGOLAND theme park, stay at a nearby hotel for a night and venture into San Diego for the rest of their vacation amusement.

Not anymore, friends. Families can now enjoy their visit to the LEGOLAND Resort without having to leave Carlsbad. In my opinion, three nights is ideal for a Brick-tastic experience.

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Here's How I recommend you do it:

Day One: LEGOLAND Castle Hotel Check-In.

Explore the hotel, enjoy the pool, let the kids run and play in the courtyard. Have a nice dinner meal and relax in your super fun castle themed-room.

Day Two: Visit the Sea Life Aquarium and the LEGOLAND Water Park

Day Three: Visit LEGOLAND Theme Park

We were fortunate enough to get invited to the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel grand opening. Here are five reasons why we're kind of obsessed:

 

Accommodations Built for a Queen (or King or Prince or Princess)

1. The Lobby

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2. Themed Rooms

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3. The Outdoor Playground

Photo: LEGOLAND

Photo: LEGOLAND

 

4. The Royal Dining Room

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5. The Outdoor King & Queen LEGO Display

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A Brick-Tastic LEGOLAND Park Experience!

6. The Attractions

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7. The Desserts

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8. LEGO Friends Heartlake City

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9. The Shopping

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10. The New LEGO City Deep Sea Adventure Ride (Coming This Summer!)

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Take it from me, if you haven't made it a point to spend a weekend at the LEGOLAND Resort, now is the time to do it!

Thanks for reading friends.

Xo,

-Anabel M.

I received a hotel accommodation and other awesome perks in exchange for a review. More information about the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel will be published in the premiere edition of Mommy In Los Angeles® Magazine launching in late July. All opinions are my own.

MINIMONO Launched an LA-Based Kids Clothing Line and We Love It!

#BornToBeCool

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Support This LA-Based Kids Clothing Line by Visiting their IndieGogo Site and contributing!

This is not a paid post. I was gifted a few boys tees and decided to bring awareness about the brand because I love what it stands for!

I always appreciate an LA-Based kids brand that manufactures its products locally, offers cute items that kids will be able to use for longer than a year and gives back to the local community. When I came across MINIMONO, I knew I had to share about this newly launched clothing line because it does all three of the above. Their signature product is the Elysian Linen Jacket, which looks like a darling kimono made up of denim-colored blocks:

Photo: MINIMONO.com

Photo: MINIMONO.com

MINIMONO also has awesome t-shirts for kids, sizes 2T-5T, which Benny and Toby proudly rocked recently in Hollywood!

 

All in all, here's why I think you should support MINIMONO:

1. Unisex

Every product is easily shared between boys and girls.

2. Versatility

You can dress their jackets up or down to rock any occasion. They even did an extensive design process to make sure that kids wouldn't outgrow their jackets too soon.

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3. Comfort

Their jackets are made of high quality 100% linen that continues to get softer with wear and is machine washable.

4. Ethical Production 

They make their jackets right here in Los Angeles and make sure their standards are met.

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5. Charity 

A percentage of every sale is donated directly to Free Arts LA!

6. MATCH YOUR MINI

They’ve also designed the adult versions of 5 of their favorite jackets so that parents can have the option of picking up a matching jacket! I can't wait for this since as many of you know, I love twinning with my little guys!

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Check out MINIMONO here, friends!

Thanks for reading.

Xo,

-Anabel M.

 

Castle Park in Riverside Gives us All the Carnival Feels!

Games, Golf & Grub!

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A fun family destination in Riverside, CA

This is a Sponsored Post. I received tickets to visit Castle Park in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Considering I have a lot of relatives who live in Riverside, including some very beloved aunts and cousins, I'm actually surprised I had never made a trip to Castle Park. As a little girl, I remember my cousins Viviana and Wendy frequently asking their parents: "Can you take us to Castle Park!?"

A few decades later, Castle Park is still going strong.

During a recent visit, we got to appreciate the theme park's clean and quaint environment.

Castle Park gives off a timeless royal carnival vibe featuring outdoor games, 26 different thrill rides (including a carousel), a miniature golf course, a vibrant arcade, a water park and a magic show under The Big Red Top Restaurant, the park's only table service eatery that serves All-American favorites like burgers, salads and chicken wings.

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We recently spent an afternoon with the boys at Castle Park and enjoyed every minute with the little rascals. Check out some of our faves:

 

The Food

Aside from the Big Red Top Restaurant, Castle Park offers three additional dining locations. They have Duke's Frying Factory where guests can indulge in deep fried Oreos, PB&J Sandwiches, Corn Dogs and Funnel Cakes. We decided to enjoy lunch at the Plaza Café which offers Pizza Hut fare. Duke the purple dragon is the park's mascot and and we fell in love with the shiny purple Duke souvenir cups!

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Outdoor Carnival Games

Merchandise carts with trinkets, toys and bubbles are located near the Carnival game area. Kids and adults alike can give their best shot at winning a supersized plush toy if they land a ping-pong ball on a plate or throw darts directly at a target. Toby just wanted to chase after bubbles!

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The Arcade

This was Benny's Favorite part of the experience. In order to play Castle Park arcade games, guests much purchase play cards. We found that most arcade games cost 4 points or more per play. The $10 play card arrives with 40 points. Some arcade games issue prize tickets and kids can exchange those for gifts and candy. Since Benny just wanted to spend hours shooting at Jurassic Park dinosaurs and riding the Ghost Blasters ride, located inside the arcade, we only collected enough tickets to get a few candies...hehe!

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The Rides

Given our brief visit, we only got to ride a few rides. We got on the Crazy Plane and flirted with the idea of waiting in line for the Log Ride but it was getting late and we needed to drive back home before it got too late.

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A few things we missed:

The Bucanneer Cove, a water park with five water slides and four levels of water play was actually open but we hadn't planned to stay long and didn't bring extra clothes and towels for the kiddos.

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Also, we didn't have enough time to play miniature golf, although we enjoyed spending time looking at the lush landscape from the nearby water fountain. Castle Park has four 18-hole golf courses offer varying levels of play for the beginner or pro. Each course has its own unique theme.

 
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Tickets

Tickets for Castle Park start at $9.99 per person for Unlimited Mini Golf to $29.99 per person for Unlimited Rides, Mini Golf, including Arcade game credits. Parking is $10 and I would recommend you budget anywhere between $50-$75 for food, drinks and snacks for a family of four.

I can't wait for the summer to arrive to visit Buccaneer Cove! If you're in the Riverside area with your kids, I would recommend you check out Castle Park. The kids will love it!

Castle Park

3500 Polk Street

Riverside, California 92505 (right off the 91 Fwy)

(951) 785-3000

Thanks for reading!

Xo,

-Anabel M.

 

 

 

 

Anabel Marquez
Clownin' Around for A Good Cause

Red Nose Day 2018!

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It's Red Nose Day!

My husband picked up a set of red clown noses from Walgreens this morning.

I opened one of them, put it on, then surprised Benny and Toby while they were enjoying a slice of pizza in the dining room.

Their reaction? Contagiously loud laughter!

Today is Red Nose Day, a fundraising campaign run by the non-profit organization Comic Relief Inc., intended to bring people together to have fun, raise money and change the lives of kids who live in poverty and need our help the most.

The campaign has only been around in the U.S. for three years but it encourages families to host fundraisers and donate the proceeds to one of many organizations that help end child poverty in the US and in some of the poorest communities in the world.

Globally, Red Nose Day has raised over $1 billion!

For every red nose purchased at Walgreens, you're helping Comic Relief Inc., help children in our country and abroad.

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It's really neat! Going forth, it's a cause I definitely hope to be more involved with.

In the meantime friends, make sure you tune in to NBC tonight for all the Red Nose Festivities including:

  • At 8/7c with Celebrity Ninja Warrior for Red Nose Day, which will bring together stars like Derek Hough, Ne-Yo, Nikki Bella, and so many more. For the very first time ever, beloved Ninja Warrior host Akbar Gbajabiamila will attempt the course. You won’t want to miss it.
  • At 10/9c the Red Nose Day celebration on NBC culminates with The Red Nose Day Special, a star-studded hour hosted by the charming friend we all wish we had, Chris Hardwick.

While we get ready for Red Nose Programming on NBC, I'll retreat to my living room where we're taking turns imitating Ronald McDonald, Krusty the Clown and Cepillin... hehe

Thanks for reading!

Xo,

-Anabel M.

Anabel Marquez
A 'Toy Auction' to Teach My Sons About Saving Money

It's National Financial Literacy Month!

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The Temptationless Bank Helps Kids Save up to $40,000!

Thank you Temptationless Bank for giving us an opportunity to try your product. This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

It's often hard to figure out a way to teach kids about saving money. Heck, I'm not that good at it myself!

But I know one thing's for sure, I don't want Benny and Toby to make the same financial mistakes I've made throughout the years, like incurring credit card debt and taking part in unnecessary spending. I want my sons to learn about savings so that when it's time to make big purchases that matter, like buying a car, paying for college or even buying a home, they're well prepared.

Well, there's an awesome product called the Temptationless Bank that allows kids to save up to $40,000. Yes, that's right... $40,000!

Photo of the Temptationless Bank inside Toby's room.

Photo of the Temptationless Bank inside Toby's room.

The Temptationless Bank is a sturdy, colorful coin bank in the shape of a box that looks like a small safe. It's available in three different colors and has an slot for kids to deposit bills or coins and it's practically impossible to open. As a matter of fact, in order to retrieve the money inside, parents would actually have to saw it open... isn't that great?

Here's the breakdown of how much you can save (approximately) with the Temptationless Bank:

  • $200 in pennies
  • $500 in nickels
  • $2,700 in dimes
  • $3,00 in quarters
  • $8,000 in one dollar bills
  • $40,000 in five dollar bills

So how did I get my sons to start saving?

We used the Temptationless Bank and held a "toy auction" in Benny's Room!

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The idea here was to remind Benny about the importance of cleaning out his closet and getting rid of toys he no longer uses. Also, to encourage him to make money out of his old toys and save proceeds from his toy sales to allow his savings to grow!

Since our Temptationless Bank is still far from being filled, we used it to play and save by hosting Benny's toy auction inside his bedroom. My younger son Toby was the sole bidder.

A toy auction seemed perfect in order to start clearing Benny's room from old toys. Toby "placed bids" on his favorite toys, which included plastic cars, board games with missing pieces and an old a burger-eating Piggy.

Benny accepted all of Toby's offers and deposited the payments inside his Temptationless Bank  (Mom made sure that once the toys were "purchased" by Toby, they were removed from Benny's bedroom...for good).

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Prior to the auction, Benny had been depositing a combination of bills and coins but he still has a long way to go before it reaches cash capacity... lol.

Generally, it's recommended that parents find a stable location to place the Temptationless Bank, like a table (away from the edges) or better yet, the floor since it can weigh up to 150 lbs. when filled.

Benny holds his microphone to announce that bidding will begin soon!

Benny holds his microphone to announce that bidding will begin soon!

Moments after the first purchase.

Moments after the first purchase.

It was so fun and quite hilarious to watch this toy auction take place. Most importantly, Benny added a few more dollars to his savings. He later asked that I carefully place his Temptationless Bank on the right side of the floor, next to his bed. The left side of the bed has a smaller coin bank which is where he places extra coins and bills in case he needs cash for dollar store purchases or ice cream treats!

Notice Benny's Temptationless Bank on one side of his bed...hehe!

Notice Benny's Temptationless Bank on one side of his bed...hehe!

Saving for a rainy day is always important!

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The awesome mompreneur who developed this product also offered a great suggestion: keep a Temptationless Bank inside the laundry room since that's where a lot of loose change ends up!

If you notice above, buying more than one of these actually saves you money (go figure!). They go for $29.97 for one bank, $25.97 each if you purchase two banks and $22.97 each if you purchase three or more. Now let's order some Temptationless Banks and save some cash money...yesssssss!

Thanks for reading friends and Happy National Financial Literacy Month to all!

Xo,

-Anabel M.

A Visit to Great Grandma's House
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Written on June 1, 2016

Beautiful Memories with Mama Gela

On Sunday, March 11, at 8:04 am, my great grandmother, Angelina Zavala Pineda, passed away. While processing this loss, I came across this blog post from two years ago that I decided to repost in her memory.

During my last few weeks of maternity leave, I started getting out of the house more often with Toby and eventually made my way out to Oxnard, where a big part of my family lives, including my parents and grandparents. 
One day while we were out there, the boys and I cancelled our beach plans because it was too cold and decided instead to spend a day at my grandmother's house, located in the "La Colonia" area of Oxnard.
It was so nice to relax at her house. Her and my grandpa, Papá Migue were so welcoming and sweet!
One thing I have to share is that my grandmother is the queen of "Kitsch". 

She owns hundreds of dolls and toys and collectibles, most of which were probably produced decades ago but somehow withstood the test of time to decorate the many dressers, cabinets and ledges around her house.

Her home is a humble place that's only had a few upgrades since I can remember but that's what keeps it comfortable and nostalgic!
For kids, a house like my grandma's represents an adventure at every corner since she has many fun things to keep them entertained.

But as you get to know this fierce and outspoken 90 year old woman, you begin to understand the meaning behind her toy collection.

Every little trinket in her home tells a story of a life full of sacrifices. She's certainly not a hoarder. The collectibles and dolls she has gathered over the years represent her innocence from an impoverished childhood in Mexico, where she grew up dreaming that one day she'd own a doll. She takes very good care of her dolls and we love to see her smile.

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This was such a worthwhile trip. So many lessons to be learned from our elders... If only my paternal grandparents would've been around to meet Benny and Toby too (sigh)....

RIP Dear Mamá Gela

-Anabel M.

Anabel Marquez
The Perfect Pant for a Boy Mom!

Comfy & Practical

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The Perfect Pant Provides a Perfectly Comfortable Option!

This is a sponsored post. I received compensation for a review of the Perfect Pant. All opinions are my own.

In a loud, rowdy house full of boys, there are few things that bring me peace on a busy week night. Those include having no dishes in the sink, enjoying a glass of wine when the boys go to sleep and wearing comfortable clothes around the home.

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Being that I usually wear khakis, skirts and suits to work, there's nothing like coming home and changing into lounge wear or some soft, comfy sweats.

Lucky for me, I found a clothing item that's both loungey and soft. It's a pair of pants called The Perfect Pant, developed by Yvette and her husband, a California couple who believes that all women should own "that one perfect pant that stretches to their body shape, soft on their skin and machine washable."

The pants don't have a waistband. They don't have hardware like waist fasteners, buttons or zippers. They simply wrap around your waist comfortably and have wide legs, providing ample leg room.

I found them to be perfect for sleeping. Perfect for hanging around the house and they're also quite versatile. I say this because I actually wore them to work the other day... (Shhhhhh, that's a little secret). It was one of those mornings when I was running late. Considering I have multiple pairs, I grabbed a pair of Perfect Pants and put together a Boho-looking ensemble:

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On another occasion, I went shopping, threw on a peasant top with neon details, a bunch of neon-colored accessories and a denim jacket...so fun! Nobody would have ever guessed that the pants are also used as a pajama bottom:

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The Perfect Pant got it right. They know women tend to wear many hats daily with housework, carpooling, going to work, fitness, travel and just lounging at home.

"This pant fits all those categories. The fabric I designed, doesn’t pull or stretch out at the knees," says Yvette. "It can be washed & dried everyday without fading."

And I totally agree.

You can learn more about the Perfect Pant here.

Thanks for reading!

Xo,

-Anabel M.

 

Anabel Marquez
Hativity Sun Hat to Keep Kids Busy!

Hativity to the Rescue!

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Hats Off to This Fun New Child's Accessory

I received a free Hativity in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I was recently introduced to a very cool product developed by a SoCal Mom. It's a sun hat for kids called Hativity. It comes with embellishments in the form of velcro patches that stick to six different spaces around the hat.

During this weekend's trip to Oxnard, we visited the Channel Islands Harbor with our Hativity in tow. I really wanted Toby to try it. We rented a Surrey bike and Toby sat upfront so he definitely needed a nice hat to protect him from the sun.

When I showed him the patches, he got super excited! His three favorite patches were an acorn, an angel emoji and a ghost.

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The Hativity patches are categorized in six different themes: 1. Emojis 2. Safari 3. Fall 4. Spring 5. Under the Sea 6. Winter.  The hats are available in blue and yellow colors.

Dr. Shannon Davis is the mom behind this invention. She says she came up with Hativity as a way to entertain her daughters, ages 4 and 8, at the grocery store.

"Initially I brought a tablet so they could play games while I shopped, but then I realized I was carrying even more in my mom bag! I needed a way to make life easier and happier for my children and I," she said.

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When Toby started getting bored during our ride around the marina, I would simply pull off the patches and ask him to re-attach them. By the time our surrey rental expired, the penguin patch had taken center stage! When his cousins met up with us at the harbor, the older boys were curious and tried to pull off the patches from Toby's hat. Given that only the center of the patches has velcro, the outer edges stick out a bit on some of the designs, making it tempting for other kids to try to remove them, which is precisely why kids love this hat! But Toby defended his Hativity so his patch placement would remain intact...lol!

Overall, it's a really neat product. You can buy it online for $16 and the patches are $2 each. While buying all six patches will drive the total price to nearly $30, there's currently a promotion offering a 20% discount off your purchase. 

Now I'm hoping for a red-colored hat in time to match the winter patches which include Christmas Trees and Santa Claus... That way Toby will be covered with Hativity fun all year long in sunny Southern California!

Check out Hativity: www.Hativityco.com

Thanks for reading!

Xo,

-Anabel M.

How to Turn a Dude's BBQ Into a Cute & Festive Occasion

It's all in the desserts!

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Valentine's Weekend 2018

Before I started making weekend plans with Benny and Toby, my husband let me know he would be having his Jiu-Jitsu friends over for a Backyard BBQ on Sunday. My first question was-- but are they bringing their wives though!?

We all know a bunch of dudes wrestling, grappling and sweating on mats can be a source of intrigue, yes... but after a while, a woman needs to have someone to talk to about makeup and celebrity gossip and annoying husband facts, etc. Right?

The weekend arrived and Paul went to pick up meat, beer and chips. I called my parents over and they agreed to join us and bring salsa and all the ingredients required make chorizo tortas...yum!

Carne Asada-- not too visually appealing if you ask me!

Carne Asada-- not too visually appealing if you ask me!

Here's my husband holding a tray of Chorizo tortas made by my dad!

Here's my husband holding a tray of Chorizo tortas made by my dad!

Then it donned on me that it was the weekend right before Valentine's Day. So I went over to my laundry room where I store party and craft supplies and found an entire bin full of Valentines Day decorations!

On Sunday, when the guys arrived, they brought their wives! I was happy and decided to start making Valentine's Day-themed desserts: Chocolate covered strawberries, cupcakes, and fruit skewers with heart-shaped strawberries (yes I know, strawberries already look like hearts but there's a way to make them really look like hearts). By the way, I actually delegated the strawberry and cupcake decoration duties to my friend Ashley, wife of Paul's friend AJ!

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Sweets

Cupcakes are easy to make & everyone loves them!

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Fruit

Because something healthy(ish) should always be included!

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Once the guys were done with their Jiu-Jitsu roll, I put out my little dessert table and suddenly the backyard BBQ looked like a mini pre-Valentine's Day gathering... Awwww.

All this to say, the way to turn a dudes' BBQ into a cute and festive occasion is by way of sweet treats and small details like flowers, drinks served on champagne glasses and pretty serving trays.

The drink stirrers served no purpose other than to make a the sparkling wine glasses look more Valentiney!

The drink stirrers served no purpose other than to make a the sparkling wine glasses look more Valentiney!

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We had a lot of fun and the desserts were actually quite a hit!

Thanks for reading!

Xo,

-Anabel M.

Anabel Marquez
Hollywood and Highland With My Cuties!

Happy in Hollywood!

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An LA Outing with the Traviesos

Given Benny's recent obsession with arcades, I decided to take my boys to Dave & Busters in Hollywood for some food and games. It was a normal Saturday for us–– Paul was away at work and I needed to get the boys out of the house!

Off we drove to Hollywood. We parked underground at Hollywood and Highland (enter structure through Highland as if you're going to the Lowe's Hotel). If you dine at one of the restaurants within the facility, you get 2 hour parking validation for $2!

We had lunch at Dave & Busters which included a unique and refreshing icy grape soda beverage with gummy worms and later, a churro for dessert (from Street Churros outside on Level 1). Yes, I know...tons of sugar. Happy boys. Bad Mom. But believe me, I'm pretty good about healthy eating and snacking on weekdays, maybe.

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The boys can't see a ground-level water fountain without feeling an urge to run through it and get soaked. I allowed them to do so because, seeing their enthusiastic faces and happy smiles is priceless in a life that's so fast-paced and short.

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Hollywood with my boys was pure happiness!

Thanks for reading!

Xo,

-Anabel M.

Anabel Marquez
Benny's Juicy 5th Birthday Party!

MY #BENNYBOYJOY IS GROWING TOO FAST!

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Blending In The Good for my Chiquito's Birthday!

I received a free supply of Jamba Juice products. All opinions are my own. #IJamba

 

2017 was such a busy year that I simply didn't have a chance to plan ahead for Benny's 5th birthday celebration.

December 7 (his birth date) started approaching and I already knew I was going to be traveling to D.C. for work around that time. I also knew Paul wasn't going to be available a single weekend in December due to his job. So time passed and Benny's birthday week arrived with news that Paul's schedule would suddenly be changing in order to allow for mandatory training. Next thing I knew, Paul was going to be free on the Saturday immediately following Benny's birthday! 

I imagined a fun outing to Bob Baker's Marionette Theater in Downtown or a magical visit to Disneyland but my hubby had other plans. On the night my sisters and I took Benny out for his birthday to see George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, I learned Paul had graciously invited his family to celebrate Benny's birthday. I was very excited about the prospect of decorating the house and throwing a party for the sweetest 5-year-old in the world but I literally had ONE DAY (Friday) to pull it off.

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So we rushed to our nearest party store and Benny went for an Emoji-theme which I thought was appropriate given this kid's love for technology and self-expression!

Then I stopped by an ice cream shop, ordered Benny's Favorite cookies n' cream cake and upon arriving home, I dug deep in my garage bins for table cloths, streamers and balloons. I ordered pizza & lasagna for delivery and my mother-in-law and parents brought plenty of side dishes to share.

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On the day of the party, our guests had a very special surprise–– a Jamba Juice delivery that included vegetable and fruit juices and smoothies in three popular flavors. They were the highlight of the event!

I set up the Jamba Juice cups on the favor table and dressed them with smiley face party hats. The kids were so, so excited to pick their healthy liquid treat!

I've been a Jamba Juice customer for a long time. I love it because Jamba Juice started out as a little juice shop with a big idea: that healthy living starts locally.

Further, their products are awesome (they carry 13 different kinds of fruits and veggies) and they do great things for the community, like participate in securing garden grants for schools, help community fundraising efforts and promote childhood health through Team Up for a Healthy America. Plus, their smoothies and juices are refreshing and delicious.

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On the day of Benny's birthday celebration, we enjoyed Peach Pleasure Smoothies, Strawberries Wild Smoothies and Tropical Greens Fresh Squeezed Juice cups.

It was a very quaint and small party. I didn't get to invite the rest of my extended family since things were so rushed, but one thing's for sure, we'll be having Jamba Juice again at the next one!

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For now, I'll be thinking of my smiley boy who has certainly made mama go through each one of the many emoji expressions during the last five years of his life–– from kissy faces and eyes with hearts, to crying of laughter, angry teeth clinching, dreadful face and proud smiles with blushing cheeks. Love you, my Benny boy.

Thanks for reading!

Xo,

-Anabel M.

Anabel Marquez