Adventuring in the Mazda CX9

I partnered with DriveShop and Mazda to facilitate this post. I was given a Mazda CX9 to test drive for the duration of our vacation, but I was not paid for this review. Thank you to Drive Shop and Mazda for partnering with me. And thank you readers for supporting the brands that support this blog and my family.

All year we dream of our summer adventures in Michigan. We go every year, a Michigan bucket list in hand, and make memory after memory together with our aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins. We breathe in the sweet scent of white pine and sugar maples. We rush to get our first glimpse of Great Lake Huron imagining that if we squint hard enough, maybe we could see the other side. We eat pasties from Kathy’s and our weights in fudge from Mackinac Island. We buy cheesy tourist souvenirs from shops called The Red Barn and Poppins. Michigan is our family’s own version of Disneyland. While many dream of mouse ears and fairies, we dream of Petoskey stones and s’mores.

This summer we were able to bring all five of our children with us. That’s one big blended family, my friends. We knew the best way to visit Michigan with our little tribe was in the Mazda CX9 since it seats eight. For two weeks, we drove a beautiful gray Mazda around the Great Lakes State and she did not disappoint. The CX9 took us all over North Eastern Michigan in comfort and style.

We visited Frankenmuth, where we played at the Zhender’s Splash Village Water Park and ate Zhender’s Famous Chicken Dinner. Aiden even tried some chicken liver patê.

We visited Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store, with over seven acres of Christmas decorations, ornaments, lights, and everything else necessary for decking the halls and fa la la la la-ing.

We enjoyed Tim Horton’s (which is really a Canada thing, but they’ve seeped into Michigan) drinks and TimBits.

We picnic-ed on the a grassy shore of Lake Huron’s coast.

We crossed the Mackinac Bridge.

Our CX9 took us to the best canoe spot in Northern Michigan, just off the Au Sauble River.

We visited cousins and made family memories.

We took a ride on the Au Sauble River Queen.

We fished. And we fished. And we fished some more.

Our Mazda CX9 took us to a dairy farm where we pet baby cows and chased around some chickens.

We learned the history of the Thunder Bay area and it’s lighthouse.

With five children and two adults traveling up and down the eastern coast of Michigan, we needed a vehicle that could handle not only the wear and tear of our family, but the constant changing of topography. The Mazda CX9 help up beautifully and even had safety featured to ensure we stayed within our lanes. Cupholders galore, room enough for the kiddos to not get on each other’s nerves for being too close, and backseat air control were my mom favorites about the vehicle. With the optional third row being used, there wasn’t much room for our luggage or groceries, but when the row is tucked away, there is more trunk space than I could ever dream of. The navigation panel was handy since we were in mostly rural areas and needed to rely on it more than a few times, but I was disappointed I couldn’t search a popular destination without having the exact address. My husband especially loved that he could connect his phone to the system to play his Pandora stations and his Spotify playlists. He was also pretty impressed with the automatic windshield wipers. The Mazda CX9 made for a great family vehicle (despite my gripe about the trunk space, ha!) and handled everything Pure Michigan and the Sosa Tribe could throw at it.

For more information on the Mazda CX9, be sure to visit to see what other people think about the vehicle and to find a dealer near you.

Summer Travel Essentials for Big Families

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #SummerIsForSavings #CollectiveBias #WFM1

My family and I are mere days away from our major summer vacation plans to visit my side of the family in Northern Michigan. We are taking all five of our kiddos across the country from the SoCal High Desert to Northern Michigan. We’ll be taking two planes and a van ride to get us to our rural destination and have adventures planned over the course of two weeks. Traveling with our large family will be quite the challenge, but  we’ve travelled together before and I’m drawing off of our previous experiences to get us through this trip of a lifetime. This is my comprehensive list of summer travel essentials for big families like mine.

LG Grace Phone and Walmart Family Mobile Plan, powered by T-Mobile

I use the Unlimited Talk, Text, & Data which includes up to 15GB of 4G LTE† then 2G* the $49.88 PLUS Plan from Walmart Family Mobile. My younger kiddos share their LG Grace phone to call their other parents (we’re a blended family), send them a text, and take pictures. It’s a simple way to stay connected while they travel since they don’t need a phone all of the time. I can easily walk into Walmart knowing I’m getting the best priced no-contract wireless plan, pick the phone, pick the plan, and go. No renewals or contracts to worry about and no late fees or activation fees to factor in. Since they use Nationwide coverage on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE† network, I also don’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll have service when they do call and interact with their other parents on the line. As an added bonus, while we’re on the $49.88 PLUS Plan, we receive a free VUDU◊ movie rental credit (valued at $7.00) each time we renew the service.

A printed itinerary

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I believe a printed itinerary is essential when traveling with a large family. I print off all our confirmations, hotel reservations, and travel details and store them in my trusty paper planner to ensure we have all the information we need. This is also helpful in the event of an emergency or a spontaneous change of plans.

A backpack

With kiddos, even older ones, a backpack is one item I never regret bringing on our summer travels. Someone always needs me to hold something, cuts and scrapes are inevitable, and it gives me a safe place to store sunscreen, bug spray, and extra water. As a serial souvenir shopper, it’s also handy for my inevitable magnet purchase as we explore new towns and areas.

These three essentials have been my true blue sidekicks during previous adventures with my big family. While there’s bound to be a bit of chaos, at least it’s controlled chaos thanks to these helpful tools. I’d love to hear some of your travel essentials and advice you have to offer my large family before we embark on our summer journey.

To learn more about Walmart Family Mobile and their best priced no-contract wireless plans, be sure to visit their social hub where you’ll see how bloggers like me have used the service.

*Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to this page or your local Walmart for current pricing.

*Please always refer to the latest terms and conditions at

†To get 4G LTE speed, you must have a 4G LTE capable device and 4G LTE SIM Card. Actual availability, coverage, and speed may vary. LTE is a trademark of ETSI.

◊Limited time offer. Available for lines active with the PLUS $49.88 plan only. VUDU enabled device and account required for digital viewing. Customers must be 18 years or older to open a VUDU account. Movie rental only available in the USA. Free movie rental provided in the form of a movie rental code to the value of a $7.00 VUDU credit. Must be used within 30 days of receiving code. Offer is non-transferable. Limit 1 per customer. Additional terms and conditions on VUDU’s website: Movie rental code allows for selection from available movies for rent.  May not be readily redeemable on all new releases. Code will be delivered within up to 24 hours of the effective account renewal date.

3 Reasons Legoland California Should Be On Your Summer Bucket List

This post is sponsored by Legoland California. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas are my own. Thank you to Legoland California for partnering with me and thank you readers for supporting the brands that support this blog and my family.

My family’s summer bucket list isn’t complete until we’ve had our annual trip to Legoland California. We’ve gone every single year for four years now and we leave with the most memorable experiences every single time. Lines are minimal, staff is friendly, and there are things for everyone to participate in. Delicious food, affordable prices, and tons to explore are just a few of the reasons Legoland California should be on your summer bucket list, but in case that’s not enough, here are three more reasons to entice to you one of my family’s favorite summer places.

Everyone can participate

One of my most favorite parts about our Legoland visits is that there is quite literally something for everyone in the family. During my family’s first visit, my youngest was just two and she even was able to participate on a couple rides, explore the park, and tons more. I’m such a sap because I totally cried when I realized just how inclusive of everyone the park is. There were faster paced rides for my older boys, but I was appreciative of there being things available for all of us to do as a family.

Granny’s apple fries

Granny’s apple fries are so delicious, I’d pay park admission just to enjoy this signature snack. The apples are cut into classic french fry shapes and coated in a cinnamon sugar outside. They’re served with a dollop of cream and they’re amazingly delicious!

Three parks to explore

Legoland, the Sea Life Aquarium, and the Legoland Water Park are all in one central location and could easily stretch into a two or three day visit. Each park has a variety of features, rides, and activities for kiddos and adults alike (don’t lie, you sort of like playing with Legos too).

We will be heading to Legoland later this summer and I can’t wait to share our experience with you all again (2014, 2016). All of our kiddos are a bit older this year and will be able to remember our summer traditions that the park has fostered with us over the years.

Be sure to visit the Legoland California page on Facebook for all the latest updates. To buy park tickets, visit the Legoland California website.

My Family’s Perfect Fit | Capital One Auto Navigator

This post is sponsored by Capital One Auto Navigator. Thank you to Capital One for partnering with me. And thank you readers for supporting the brands that support this blog and my family.


In our blended family, our vehicles are members of our family. We do plenty of driving between homes in our long-distance blended families which means we spend a great deal of time in our cars. Not only do we rely on our cars to get us from home to home, but we also depend on it to keep us safe as our children grow and our family evolves. We’ve come a long way from squeezing three car seats into our little four door Hyundai, and while our current vehicle fits all of our needs, we know it won’t be long before we’re ready for that minivan we’ve been dreaming about. When we’re ready, we know Capital One’s Auto Navigator site will be there to guide us.


The Capital One Auto Navigator is a great tool for families like mine (or anyone, really!) to utilize when purchasing their next car. The is a re-imagines car buying experience that allows us to not only find our dream car, but also check on the financing without risking our credit score. First, we can find out in minutes how much we can pre-qualify for without having our credit score affected. From there, we can test drive (see what I did there?) our financing options based on term lengths, vehicles, and prices. The Auto Navigator will help us to achieve a monthly payment that’s comfortable and the best fit for our family.


We can also use the Capital One Auto Navigator site to help us search from over 12,000 dealerships to find that minivan we’ve been dreaming of using handy filters like price, make, model, and more. The Auto Loan Navigator gives us confidence to step into the dealership with financing in hand and a car already in mind so we can save time, money, and even pesky haggling.

To check out the Capital One Auto Navigator for yourself, visit them here and test drive your own options.

Time for an Upgrade? | Capital One Auto Navigator

As a one income family, we take careful measures with our budgets make sacrifices to ensure our family’s lifestyle of having a stay at home parent. For three years, we were a one vehicle family that carpooled, picked up, dropped off, and did whatever we had to until we paid off our car and could finance a new-to-us used vehicle. Last year, all our hard work paid off when we were finally able to purchase a second car for our family. After three years of driving just one car with over 100,000 miles on it, we were desperate to get an additional vehicle into our lives. We didn’t have anyone to guide us or give us advice, so we went at it alone. We ended up with a car we loved, but it would have been helpful to have some guidance and to know what exactly we could qualify for before starting the whole process.


Shopping for a car can be overwhelming and other than the idea of a sweet new stereo system, it doesn’t appeal to me much – if at all. But with the Capital One Auto Navigator® site, we can go through each step with ease. From shopping vehicles near us to calculating our payment, they’ve reimagined the car buying experience with a one-stop-shop for everything we need so we can conquer it with confidence.

One of my favorite features is the ability to find your dream car right from their Auto Navigator site. We’re hoping to upgrade within the next year to a Kia Sedona and we were able to search over 12,000 dealerships for the exact make and model for sale and received several results. From there, we are able to find out what our estimated monthly payment would be and even get prequalified without risking our credit score.


When we’re ready to upgrade later next year, my first stop will be the Capital One Auto Navigator site where we will confidently be able step into the dealership with a dream car in mind and financing in-hand. Visit the Capital One Auto Navigator site for more information and to get started today.

Beat Bugs Premiere and How I Fail at Being Hollywood

Netflix invited me to the premiere of their new original animated series, Beat Bugs. They’ve also given me a free subscription to their service to facilitate this post. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas are my own. Thank you to Netflix for partnering with me and thank you readers for supporting the brands that support my family and this blog.

Last week, the kiddos and I loaded up our Chevy and drove from our sleepy desert town towards Hollywood. We were invited to attend the Beat Bugs premiere with Netflix and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jam to some of our favorite Beatles tunes via the new animated Netflix Original Series.

My littlest kiddos were super stoked to be invited to an event that was created around them and I was just excited because I heard there’d be booze. The event was held at the Los Angeles restaurant Au Fudge and Netflix had set up complimentary valet for the event. I felt very high class.

When we walked in we were greeted by friendly faces and a fun green carpet. And I was promptly handed a white sangria while the kids were served fruit boxes on a silver tray.

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The kiddos got to choose fun hats based on the characters from the series and Netflix also had a little photo area set up for the kids to pose. I’m never one to pass up a good cheesy photo op.

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The screening room was one of the spaces in the restaurant that they had cleared out and tossed a ton of bean bags into for the kids. Pretty much optimum kid watching setting. Evelyn wasted no time before jumping into the pile and dancing around.

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Netflix had set up a fun coloring book station and tattoo station with temporary tattoos of the Beat Bugs characters.

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We were served all kinds of goodies like flatbread pizza, sliders, and macaroni and cheese balls.

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And Evelyn drank no less than twelve juice boxes.

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The show was awesome and it made my heart happy to hear so many young kiddos singing Beatles songs together. Each episode is what I like to call snack sized, which just means they were 10-15 minute episodes perfect for the attention span of a snacking toddler. They played three episodes, which was a good choice because the little room ended up being packed to the gills with people. We were all sitting extra close to each other. We got personal. I got sweaty.

Once the screening was over, Evelyn informed me she took her shoes off and put them in Andie’s room. Only Andie’s room was 90 miles away at home. I then turned over every bean bag searching for the brand new moccasins that I purchased the literal week before. And it was then that I discovered my three year old is a magician because that whole restaurant couldn’t find her shoes.

I gave up because I was sweaty and hot and by myself with my four kids. Read: no backup and now that I know my three year old is magic, I need to keep close watch in case she decided to make herself disappear next. We did a few dance moves in the DJ room, shoeless and sweaty.

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After we all busted a move on the dance floor, I decided it was time for us to bid farewell to Hollywood. Really though, I was sweaty and gross and worried I was starting to stink. The Netflix staff gave the kids each a box full of swag and I forced my kids to stop for this picture.

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Evelyn, shoeless, on the front steps of the restaurant while I waited for valet to bring our car around. At least we got some super rad swag for each of the kids! It totally made up for the lost shoes!

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While my kiddos and I did, at the end of it all, have a total blast, I couldn’t help but feel that I totally and completely failed at being a fun Hollywood mom. All of the other moms there looked effortless and fun and put together. By the end of the screening, I had stripped down to just a stained white tank top that I was previously hiding under a kimono. My daughter lost her shoes and that family we got up close and personal with? Ended up being Jackson Rathbone with his wife and two children. I can’t even Twilight right, you guys.

Whine, whine, whine. I know, wah, wah, wah you got to go to a Hollywood event and you’re complaining, Holly. Ha! I’m actually super grateful for the opportunity and I hope I’ll be invited to more events. I’ll always promise to keep it real here for you guys. Even when I fail like I did here. But I hope I at least made you laugh at my blunders.

You can catch the new animated series, Beat Bugs, now on Netflix. Be sure to come back here and tell me who your favorite character was!

Sosa Summer Travel Diaries | SeaWorld San Diego & Aquatica

SeaWorld has become a summer tradition for our family. We have gone every year since moving out here to Southern California four years ago. My kiddos love seeing the sea life up close and I love that it sparks a love for learning more about the animals in the ocean, how they live, and how we as humans can help them to thrive in the wild. Every single time we’ve visited SeaWorld San Diego my kids leave having learned something new. And so do I!

We make the drive to Sea World from our desert oases here in the High Desert and this year, we did it in true comfort and luxury in a Kia Sedona SX-L. It was fully loaded and provided us with plenty of room to drive comfortably from Lucerne Valley to San Diego with four kids in tow (and a dog for part of the way!). We had bootie warmers and even better were the booty coolers & steering wheel cooling feature. We desert folk love anything that keeps us cool! The kids got to watch DVDs with headphones already included with the vehicle and their seats even reclined. Ya’ll, they were so spoiled in this car. And my husband and I were loving that we didn’t feel all squished together and on top of each other.



Totally normal. Riding deep with my four kids and remote control! I’m a mom, you guys. I’m less impressed RPMs and engine sizes than I am with features that keep my family comfortable and the whining to a minimum, ya feel me? My husband really enjoyed the navigation system that helped us to avoid heavy traffic more than once during our travel down to the coast. And one of our favorite features was the parking spot locator. There is an app we downloaded and synced with the Kia Sedona that helped us to locate our vehicle after a long day at the park.

We had some friends over the night before we had to return our fancy Kia Sedona and I overheard my husband say to them, “This is going to be our next vehicle. It’s such a great car.” And I have to agree. After a week with this spacious beauty, how can we turn back? A big family like ours fills up most other vehicles to the brim, but we all had our personal space and felt a little less stressed thanks to the room and features offered in the Kia Sedona SX-L.

As for the parks, despite all of us needing to use the restroom, as soon as we entered the Sea World gates, the kids made a beeline for the cleaner fish. They look forward to these little guys every year. And my husband, with his callouses work hands, always attracts the most fish, which makes the kids scream and giggle.

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We were blessed that my sister, niece, and nephew were able to tag along with us this year thanks to the Veterans program. Anyone who has served in the US military can get a ticket for themselves and three guests to enjoy the park. There was so much cousin love and playing that filled my heart. Here is a gaggle of cousins watching dolphins swim by.

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The older kids got to jump on a ride while Aunt Cort and I hung back with the little ones and explored the tide pool exhibit.

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Collin, whose favorite show ever is Catching Monsters, made a beeline for a freshwater aquarium exhibit and I was surprised to hear him spouting off names of each of the fish. “Mom! That’s an alligator gar! Do you think any bull sharks are in here? Sometimes they go into freshwaters!”

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The older kids and dad on their water ride. They came off totally soaked.

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We strolled by a turtle exhibit and one of the turtles made her way right out of the water towards our squealing kiddos. We all felt personally bonded to this particular turtle, of course, ha!

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Next we fed the bat rays, which is always the coolest! Evelyn, my youngest, is never afraid of getting right up close with any animal and she loves feeding these guys every time we visit.

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The crowing jewel of the trip was when I won wife and stepmom of the year. Jacob, MJ, and Andie got to participate in the Dolphin Interaction Program and actually get in and swim with the dolphins. We’ve been home for three days now and MJ is still clinging to her DIP towel she received after the swim.

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Lunch is always here. Buffet style. Something for everyone. And beer too.

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After we filled our bellies, we headed off to visit the beluga whales at the Wild Arctic exhibit.

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And the three brave girls explored a polar bear cave. Collin was a little too scared.

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We spent some more time exploring the park and learning more about animals. Penguins, flamingos, and otters. We also let each of the kids choose a souvenir. MJ chose a shark tooth necklace, Andie found a pretty starfish necklace, Evelyn chose a mermaid doll, and Collin chose a shark tooth necklace too. This year was supposed to be just for the older girls and Evelyn, but on a fluke we ended up having Collin on board. Sweet Aiden was having surgery to remove something he stuck in his ear (!!!) and his mommy was taking care of him so he couldn’t come, but we did get him some special souvenirs. One of which was a shark tooth necklace similar to Collin’s that he refuses to take off, ha!

Then we went to go pet some sharks.

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Our final stop was one more visit to the cleaner fish. I finally gathered enough courage to let one touch me. And that was plenty adventure for me.

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We finished our evening at Aunt Cort’s house and rested our heads before heading off to Aquatica the next morning.

We knew that we needed to get there early if we wanted any shot at grabbing a couple chairs in the shade. And our mission was a success once we landed a few chairs right under a shady umbrella.

We grabbed lifejackets for the smaller kiddos and headed off right away to get wet! The Lazy River was a great family activity that we all could play in together. There is a small waterfall you can float under and Evelyn was pumped about it. I know it doesn’t look like it here, but she was loving it.

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One of my favorite things about the Aquatica San Diego waterpark is that they have several small areas for different age groups. Evelyn played in the toddler area, which is only about a foot of water, and went down slides in this area without being disturbed or overrun by bigger kids. There were several lifeguards manning the area with measuring sticks to ensure no bigger kids spoiled the fun for the smaller, less agile children.

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For the older kiddos, there was this massive water playground that had a few bigger slides, lots of water machines, and plenty of places to explore. Here is where my big kid prefers to pick his wedgie.

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Poor little Evelyn couldn’t hang. She slowly fell asleep after being wrapped up in her mermaid towel.

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Both parks were such great places for our family to learn and explore together. We have memories from each and every time we visit that will last a lifetime. Growing up, my family had vacation traditions that I still look back on with fondess today. It makes me happy to know that SeaWorld San Diego and Aquatica will be a place for my kiddos to do the same.

For more information, maps, prices, and to purchase tickets for your own SeaWorld adventure, be sure to visit them on Facebook and the SeaWorld and Aquatica websites.

Things to Know Before Visiting LEGOLAND California

I was not financially compensated for this post. As an Official LEGOLAND Blogger, I bring you the latest news on what’s happening at the park. Occasionally I receive free tickets to visit the park in exchange for these posts. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas are my own.

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As a SoCal family, we are located in a pretty family friendly region. A few hours drive any direction will lead to a fun experience, but one of our favorite places to visit is LEGOLAND California. Short lines, beloved characters, building stations, rides, and loads of activities for all of the members (even the littlest!) of our family. We’re seasoned LEGOLAND visitors and over our visit, have learned some helpful tidbits about visiting the park. I’m sharing these in a brainstorm of things to know before visiting LEGOLAND California in hopes you’ll be better prepared before your first visit to the park where everything is awesome.

Children under three are free

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It’s not readily available on the LEGOLAND website and I couldn’t find much information on it when I did a quick internet search. But kiddos under three get into the park for free. A helpful piece of information when you’re budgeting your visit to the park.

Bring your swim suits

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There is an entire area of the park, Pirate Shores, that is a huge splash pad that I actually equate to a small waterpark. It’s large, offers several rides and loads of areas to splash around in. We typically make it our last stop when we visit the park because we leave soaked to the bone after playing in the water attractions.

You can bring water and snacks

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We were unsure of if this was allowed during our first visit, but we had a cooler in the car in case they told us we couldn’t bring our water or snacks in. After inspecting our backpacks quickly, we were allowed through with no comment on all of our snacks and refreshments. Having toddlers while we visited the park, keeping snacks on hand was a must.

Get free refills with a souvenir cup

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If you end up not wanting to carry around a bunch of water and snacks, I’d recommend purchasing one of their souvenir cups. They’re large and you can refill them for free throughout your stay at the park. Alternately, if you have an empty water bottle of your own, you can have it refilled at most any of their restaurants. We did this often with no one declining us.

Apple fries are a must

Is it even humanly possible to visit LEGOLAND without enjoying a serving of the cinnamon covered treats? If you’ve never tried these, you must during your next visit.

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With summer vacation planning and theme park hunting in season, I can’t help but share my love for LEGOLAND. We’ve made family memories there to last a lifetime thanks to their rides and attractions that make the best effort to include us all. Hopefully our trips and advice will prompt you to try LEGOLAND for your next family outing.

Visit the LEGOLAND California page on Facebook for the latest news, coupons, and more.

NINJAGO World at LEGOLAND California

I was not financially compensated for this post. LEGOLAND California provided my family and I with access to their park to share our experience with you. Thank you to LEGOLAND California for partnering with me. And thank you readers for supporting the brands who support this blog and my family.

The NINJAGO show makes a regular appearance in our home. My two boys love to watch their favorite characters in ninja battles and then going off on their own pretend ninja adventures. LEGOLAND is opening a new NINJAGO World area in their park that we knew we had to check out, so we made our annual trip to the park a little early to get a sneak peek at the new interactive ride and park area.

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We ended up arriving to the park over an hour early. In the rain. With three kids about to explode with excitement. I took an overabundance of park entrance photos before they were over having my camera in their faces. Thankfully, there are these play tables in front of the entrance loaded with LEGO bricks to build with and my kids had zero cares that it was raining once they saw that.

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The rain slowed down and stopped completely once we got through the entrance and into NINJAGO World where these amazing Crispy Pork Sandwiches were waiting for us. My kiddos gravitated towards the climbing wall while husband and myself enjoyed the festivities before the official ride opening.

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The ride was a blast! I’ve never been on an interactive ride before and it was a treat to be able to enjoy it with my video game loving boys. It was like being inside a video game and we worked together to defeat a giant serpent. It was an experience and I loved that even our three year old could join us on the ride. They had fun photos waiting at the exit for you to view and available for purchase too, which is always fun to see. And Collin and Aiden even ended up getting interviewed by San Diego Channel 8 News, which they were both pretty pumped up about.

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They also got to see Kai and get their picture taken with him, which Aiden was crazy excited about.

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After the excitement of experiencing NINJAGO World, we took off to explore the rest of what LEGOLAND California had to offer. We are regular visitors, so we had some kind of idea about what we really wanted to see and we enjoyed some of our favorite sights before heading to our first ride.

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The Fairy Tale Brook is my favorite ride in the entire park, which I know is so cheesy, but you can bring all ages and enjoy it together as an entire family. When Evelyn was just over a year it was her first ride ever and the only one we could take her on. Which was amazing considering I’d never been to a park where my littlest kiddos could enjoy any ride at all. I’m nostalgic about it and we always have to hit that ride first.

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Once my nostalgia was satisfied, they boys were practically frothing at the mouth to try the race cars and earn their licenses. This was the first year Evelyn wanted to try too! They offer two separate tracks, one for 2-5 year olds and one for 6-12 year olds. Do you see why we enjoy LEGOLAND so much? All of our kids get to participate here!

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The helicopter rides were Aiden’s favorite. He loved being in control of how high we went together.

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We enjoyed building our own custom LEGO dudes. What even are you supposed to call them? I grew up calling them LEGO dudes, my kids call them LEGO dudes. I’m satisfied with that, I suppose. Evelyn made a LEGO dudette. Check out sister child with zero cares for manners.

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We went on to walk through the LEGO cities and towns that are where LEGOLAND all started. Collin naturally had to pose in from of Las Vegas for his Daddy (he lives in las Vegas).

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The ride Collin was most excited about was the LEGO Technic Rollercoaster, which he ended up riding four times total. He somehow convinced me to join him and I maybe peed my pants a little. He thought it was the most awesome thing ever and giggled the entire time.

Next we hit up the Lost Kingdom where we enjoyed another interactive ride! We each had little guns attached to our seats and used them to fire at targets throughout the ride. My second favorite ride of the day for sure!

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Leave it to my two boys to sniff out an XBox wherever we go. There was an entire room with several LEGO games to play.

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The kiddos all enjoyed the small airplane ride, but sweet little sister rode it six times. Giggling each and every time she rounded the corners and the plane lifted slightly. It was one of the only rides she could go on alone and she loved the independence.

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Of course no LEGOLAND trip is complete without enjoying a helping of those sugar coated apple fries, right?

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We skipped the Pirate Reef this year because it was a bit chilly, but that entire area is always a blast. We learned to bring our swim suits with us because it’s the best place to cool off and has tons of awesome water features and splash pad areas to play. It’s basically a small waterpark!

Our annual after-theme-park photo didn’t disappoint.

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LEGOLAND California is one of our favorite places to visit in Southern California. It’s also one of my most highly recommended parks for families with small children for several reasons. They have various rides that cater to smaller kiddos while also having a great variety of big kid rides too. And there are never long lines, at least never when we visit! Which makes it perfect for smaller children who lack patience and understanding when it comes to theme park line waits.

Be sure to follow the LEGOLAND California page on Facebook for the latest updates on the park and discounts and offers for tickets to your next visit!

4 Tips for Staying Close With Long Distance Family

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My mom and dad moved from Northern Michigan to the Wild West, Las Vegas when I was a young girl. Growing up, we would spend our summers returning to our Michigan roots and visiting with our family. While being apart from our grandparents and cousins was hard, we maintained a close relationship and to this day share lasting bonds. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve found myself in a similar situation of having to love from long distances. My mom, sister, and I are all close and talk or text daily, but we live hours apart. And to make things even harder, my sister, a Marine Corps wife, received news recently that she will be moving overseas to Japan. This makes me extra grateful for the experience we already have being far apart while keeping a close relationship. We are still strongly bonded and I credit it with how we grew up. These tips for staying close with long distance family are tried and true methods that have worked for my family and me as we have and continue to navigate the challenges of living miles apart.

Send snail mail and care packages

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What better way to connect than with a handwritten letter or care package full of goodies from home? My sister and her family will certainly miss their favorite snacks or candy or even the fun items from the ever worshipped dollar area at our favorite store. Putting together a care package every so often filled with their favorite things they may be missing stateside will be a creative way for me to send some Sosa family love her way. And handwritten notes to my niece and nephew will help them to connect with their aunt and cousins in a more physical way.

Make time for weekly video chats

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My kiddos love nothing more than when their Nanny calls them to video chat. They all squeeze together into the frame to make sure she can see them clearly over their siblings as they each loudly repeat, “Hiiiiii Nannnyyy,” over one another. Since they don’t get to see her often, it’s one way we ensure they still feel a family connection to her between visits. Get out that selfie stick and make some calls!

Use PayPal’s Xoom

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While snail mail and care packages are fun, they can get pricey, especially around the holidays and during birthdays. That’s why PayPal’s Xoom is so handy. Xoom is a PayPal service that powers international payments to friends and family in more than 40 countries around the world. While my sister is in Japan, I’ll be able to securely send her money to get my niece and nephew gifts from their aunt and on holidays like Mother’s Day, I can ensure she treats herself by sending a little extra for her. PayPal’s Xoom is a great tool for me to manage and move money quickly, leaving me with more time to be with my family and visit with my sister through phone calls or vide chats. With my sister overseas in an unfamiliar country, this service will help her and myself keep our minds at ease knowing that money is safely handled for us. Xoom also provides peace of mind since we can track each payment via SMS alerts and receive a text message when the money is received.

Plan a yearly trip together

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While it’s not always possible, we try to never go more than a year without my children seeing their grandparents in Michigan. Whether we visit them or someone comes to visit us, both sides make an effort to plan a trip out for some family lovin’s. We’ve visited and seen so many places as a family and made memories that my kids will talk about for their lifetimes. In a small way, our long distance relationships have been a blessing.

Coming from such a closely knit family, it’s hard to live far away from one another Which is why it’s important to ensure our bonds stay strong by fostering our relationships with things like video chats and care packages. Thanks to Xoom and PayPal, I can concentrate more on those relationships with peace of mind and knowing I have every financial aspect of long distance family lovin’s handled.

Check out PayPal’s Mother’s Day deals and egift cards for ideas on how to show your long distance family members you care. And be sure to follow Xoom on Facebook for finance tips and to learn more about their services.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.