OC Family Fun at Monster Jam

last weekend was all about Monster Jam! my boys have been looking forward to going to Monster Jam at Angels Stadium of Anaheim for weeks. last year i just had a baby during Monster Jam season, so we didn’t get to go. this made going this year extra exciting. and we went as an entire family – mom, dad, boys and baby. we even invited my mom and dad to go with us.

first up was the Pit Party, which happens a few hours before the Monster Jam show. it is a separate ticketed event…tickets are $10. the Pit Party is where you can get up close to actual monster trucks and even meet the drivers. there are also booths with hands-on activities, game booths and food vendors. this year, the lines to get into the pit party were extra long due to security, so we only got to enjoy it for a short time. so i suggest getting there early…when it opens. my kids love this part of Monster Jam.

we got lots and lots of photos with many of the boys favorite trucks.

i really wanted to get Dani’s photo with Brianna Mahon, the driver of the monster truck Whiplash. she was the only female driver of the evening. i thought it would be nice to have some photos to show Dani when she gets older…just so she can see that women can do the same things that men can do. unfortunately, we got to the truck a little late and Brianna had to run out. but we still got Dani’s photo with Whiplash!

we all really enjoyed the Pit Party, even the grandparents!  then we headed back to our car for a tailgate dinner….because that is what you do at Monster Jam. i had made a really yummy picnic with sandwiches, chips, dips, pasta salads, cookies and drinks. you can also bring food into the stadium…as long as it is not in bulk. you can bring unopened water, gatorade, and juice boxes into the stadium as well.

after dinner, it was time to head into Angels Stadium. it was all very exciting to see it all ready and set-up for a Monster Jam competition. the show is super loud once the trucks get going, so it is really important to protect those kids ears from the noise…even adults need ear plugs. of course the baby had a really good pair pf headphones to protect her ears.

as i mentioned before, the whole family, even my mom and dad went to Monster Jam this year.

the Monster Jam competition began with a head to head competition race with trucks racing against each other. then they had a new race, called the “two wheel” competition. where trucks tried to do tricks on jut two wheels. it was amazing what some of those truck could do.

there were even a few wrecks…which make the crowd go wild.

this year, the fans were able to vote for the trucks using their cell phones. that was pretty fun for everyone to get to participate. it was pretty interesting to see the scores the boys were giving to the drivers, and hearing their explanations on why they deserved the scores given. this made the show even more fun.

the last race of the night was the freestyle competition. all the trucks pretty much wrecked themselves by going all out on the tricks and speed. almost all the trucks ended up without shells. 3 trucks even did backflips!!!!! it was amazing….the crowd went wild.

by the end of the night, we had so much fun that little Dani was all tuckered out. 

i do have to mention that our family felt that this Monster Jam was the best we had ever been to!  the driving was awesome, the tricks were amazing, the crowd was ecstatic, and the show was very entertaining.  Monster Jam surely didn’t disappoint, i’m so glad that i got to experience it with my boys and my little girl.

there are still 4 more chances to see Monster Jam in Orange County this year! the most ever offered, so if you want to go, make sure to get your tickets soon before they sell out. so much fun!

Another Reason to LOVE California

there’s no hiding how much i love California. it has the mountains in the north…some even with snow, there’s the inland desert area with unique trees and cacti, beautiful sunny weather in SoCal, the most amazing coastline and the central valley filled with orchards and rolling hills. i believe that California is one of the most unique states in the U.S. it has unique landmarks, diverse geography and one-of-a-kind weather patterns….i love living here so much. which brings me to mention California’s produce. you might not realize this, but California grows most of the produce for the entire country. i recently had the opportunity to tour some of the California farms located in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys, and was once again blown away by the extraordinary abilities of our state.

with the beginning of the New Year, many of us have made resolutions to eat better and healthier. this probably includes eating more fruits and vegetables. did you know that California is the only state that can grow a lot of the produce we eat ALL year long?!!! it’s pretty amazing. California has pockets of land with unique climates that are perfect for growing produce for our country. California’s Imperial and Coachella Valley’s are so unique…they are one of two places on Earth that has a mediterranean climate. let me share a little bit about what i experienced in these special valleys.

Farm Tour of the Imperial and Coachella Valleys

to cut down on travel time, we took a small chartered plane from San Diego to the Imperial Valley.

the flight was short, only thirty minutes. if you aren’t familiar with where the Imperial Valley is located, it’s in southeastern Southern California, largely centered on the city of El Centro. it’s just north of the Mexican border, slightly southeast of Palm Springs, laying just south of the Salton Sea. as we flew into the valley, i was impressed to see the terrain change from brown desert sands to rows and rows of lush green farmland. what is this place i thought? how is it possible to grow such wonderful produce in the middle of the California desert.

the answer is – the Colorado River. the Imperial Valley is literally below sea level. the nearby Salton Sea was created by a flood of channeled water from the Colorado river into the Imperial Valley basin in the early 1900’s. the valley is bordered by sand dunes and mountains, and the Salton Sea lies within the borders. it is fed by irrigation drainage from farms served by the Colorado River – which is what makes it possible for farmers to grow produce in this desert oasis. i learned a lot of this information from Marion Champion, of the Imperial Irrigation District, and found it very interesting.

our first stop in El Centro was at Jack Brothers, one of the Imperial Valley farms. it was very interesting to talk to the farmers and learn how they farm in the Imperial Valley. the crops looked fantastic, and we were able to first hand how crops were harvested. every farmer has their specialty in produce the like to grow, some grow organic, some share fields, and they all work together as a big community.

we learned how they farmed using irrigation from the Colorado River. aqueduct channels help bring water from the river to the fields. the farmers have gotten really good at saving and recycling water from their fields. there is good and bad in this. good because they are saving water…but it’s a double edge sword, since there is very little water run off into the Salton Sea. now levels in the Salton Sea are dropping. so they are currently trying to figure out how to prevent this from happening. hopefully the politicians and land councils can figure out a way to keep the water coming to the Imperial Valley and also conserve water in the Salton Sea. this is really important.

many of the farms are family owned and passed down from generation to generation. this was the case for the next farm we visited, Lawrence Cox Ranches.

they grow a lot of the produce that we find in our grocery stores and restaurants. one of my favorites was the broccoli. it was so fresh and yummy eating it right out of the field.

we also got to see harvesting in progress. check it out….these workers are harvesting lettuce that will be distributed at Wendy’s around the country.

next, it was time to head north about 60 miles to the Coachella Valley to visit a couple more farms. an hour later, we arrived at Hadley corporate Headquarters, where we met with Albert Keck. Hadley’s grows some of the best dates. i remember visiting Hadley’s when i was little…we always got to get date shakes, dried fruits and nuts.

it was harvesting week at Hadley’s, so we got to see them packaging the dates for shipment, and talked about how they are grown, harvested and about the workers who make it all happen. it was great to learn that these workers love working at Hadley so much that they stay there many many years. the work is hard, but the pay is much higher than the norm.

the best part of the tour…we got to try some dates. yum yum! it was really awesome to learn about the date trees and how they only will survive and produce in a climate such as Coachella Valley’s. next time you are in Palm Springs, stop by and have a date shake.

our final stop was at Desert Mist Farms. we met with Jeff Percy while we enjoyed the view. rows and rows of produce. artichokes, peppers, blueberries, brussels sprouts and more.

i learned that in order to pick a good artichoke, you want it to be more tall than wide. the bigger the petals and the less there are from top to bottom, the more meat you get it. the petals should also be tight together, that means it was freshly picked. if you squeeze it, you may hear a squeaky sound. the best way to eat them is to cut off the top inch of the petals and to steam them for 20 minutes. now all i want to do is make some artichokes!

farmers are very proud of their produce….and they should be.

Desert Mist Farms is part of Ocean Mist Farms’. you probably have come accross their produce in your local grocery store. be sure to try out their Season & Steam line of fresh vegetables if you see them. they make meal preparation easy peasy. and if you would like to read a little more about Ocean Mist Farms’ Natural Resource & Sustainability initiatives, head over to their website.

what an awesome experience to get to go on this special Farm Water Tour. it really is amazing what these farmers do and how they are able to farm in California. we really live in a magical place…i’m so glad to call California home.

Wanna learn more about California farming? Chelsea from Someday I’ll Learn was on the tour with me and wrote a great post about here experience. check it out – 7 Things I’ve Learned from Farmers

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Grandma Is Staying Active in the OC with Bay Alarm Medical

This is a sponsored post.last June, i wrote about how we got my grandma a Bay Alarm Medical alert device. she lives alone and still is very independent, so we wanted to make sure that in the case of an emergency, she’d have the help she needed. it’s been 8 months since she’s been set up with the Bay Alarm Medical alert device, and so far, she loves it. it’s been such a great experience, and i wanted to share with you how things have been going. plus, i wanted to share about the new addition that we got for her device.

we spend a lot of time with grandma out and about in Orange County. it’s so beautiful here, i would hate for her to be cooped up at home. she needs to enjoy the sunshine just like we do. just a few weeks ago, me and the boys…and baby Dani too, took her out for our weekly date night. it was a build-your-own pizza kind of day, so we headed over to one of our favorite local pizza joints. we always LOVE the time we get with grandma. and it’s very special to have my boys spend time with her…i hope they always remember these special dates.

grandma has been living on her own for the past 5 years since my grandpa passed away, and we always worry about her safety. she has had a falls…luckily not too terrible. but it’s scary thinking about if no one was there to help. this is why it has been a great piece of mind having her use a Bay Alarm Medical alert device. what would she do if she had an emergency and there was no one there to help?

just recently, she told me a story about one of her cousins. her cousin, who lived alone, fell in the hallway of her home. she was very overweight and was unable to pick herself back up again. it was days later until someone finally found her. they came to pick her up for church but she never answered. unfortunately, she had already passed away when no one came to her aid. the doctor said that she had been laying there for at least two days before she died.

this is a horrible story. and to think that if she would have had a medical alert device, she maybe still would have been alive today. this is one of the reasons why my grandma agreed that setting up Bay Alarm Medical was the best idea. hopefully she’ll never have to use it, but it gives her the piece-of-mind to know that if she needs help, it’s just a click of a button.

we’ve added GPS to grandma’s Bay Alarm Medical alert device.

after using the medical alert for a few months, my grandma expressed interest in being able to us the alert system when she was outside her home doing errands and going places. her regular device is not meant to be worn outside the home…although she likes to wear her bracelet at all times. so we recently added the outdoor GPS feature to grandma’s Bay Alarm Medical alert device. it was very simple to upgrade to The Bundle Package, which is a great (cost-effective!) option for individuals looking for at-home and cell coverage. it includes the GPS medical alert device that is made for outdoor use – if she is out and about and has an emergency, she can just push a button for help. we have loved having the in-home device so much, that this was the logical next step.

basically, its a handheld device that you can wear or put in your pocket or bag. it’s great to have at night, especially when you are driving. if there’s an accident or you get lost and are in danger, you can press the button and Bay Alarm Medical’s trained 24/7 emergency operators will be there to contact family, friends, neighbors and if necessary, local 911 emergency services. you can choose your emergency call list. in my grandma’s case, her son and daughter will be called.

now we have piece-of-mind that when grandma is out of her house, she can call for help immediately if she needs it.

at lunch, i asked grandma how she has liked having the Bay Alarm Medical alert device.  she told me that she will continue with the service for the rest of her life. she loves it that much! having a Bay Alarm Medical device in her home has not only given her family piece-of-mind, but her as well. it has calmed her nerves. she also mentioned that by wearing it all the time, it has reminded her to be more careful in her footing – not to take corners too fast and to pay attention more to her balance. this has helped prevent some falls she probably would have had.

i would never forgive myself if something happened to my grandma and she didn’t have the access to call medical personnel. she really likes her Bay Alarm Medical alert device, which will help her stay independent for as long as possible. help is just a click away. for anyone who has aging family members or friends, i highly recommend Bay Alarm Medical…piece-of-mind is a priceless thing. don’t forget to read about our journey to getting Bay Alarm Medical here.

we love our grandma…she deserves the best!

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Dani’s Birth Story, One Year Ago Today

it’s hard to believe that just one year ago today at 6:31 pm, our little Danielle was born into this world. now called Dani Kat by all who know her, she has been a beautiful ray of light in our home. her brothers adore her, she has daddy wrapped around her little finger, and has made all of mommy’s little girl dreams come true.

i was over the moon when i found out i was finally having a little girl after three boys. actually, everyone in our family was very excited. i’ve always wanted a little girl, and my wish came true…we weren’t even thinking we would have a fourth baby. apparently, God had other plans for us, and sent us Dani.

i’ve never shared a birth story on the blog before, and i never planned on sharing Dani’s. but since she’s a year old today, i thought i would go ahead and share a little bit about the day she was born. having her in our lives has made me a happier person. i have cherished each day, the bad and the good ones, especially since i don’t see us having anymore babies.

one thing, i wanted to share with you is something that is very dear to my heart.

Dani was born on my dear friend’s birthday. i met Joan when our oldest sons where in kindergarten. we continued our friendship as they’ve grown up and entered junior high. throughout the years, Joan had three more boys, and myself, two boys. unfortunately, she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. for the past three years before Dani was born, she fought…and she fought hard. she went through multiple rounds of chemo and surgeries. you never saw her sad, she was always so positive. an AMAZING mom with lots of talents. i remember calling her to tell her about my surprise little girl. we talked and talked about how exciting it was. we would text, and talk about how the boys would be so excited. Dani was due to be born near Joan’s birthday, and she told me that she hoped Dani would share her birthday.

summer came and terrible news came that Joan’s cancer was getting worse. it would finally take her at the end of the summer. everyone was devastated. i cried and cried….and i still cry today. every once in a while, i mistake another mom who is pushing a child in a stroller at school pick up as her. i still expect to see her smiling face every afternoon, and having our happy chats about our boys.

here is Joan. her smile says it all. it was contagious…and how i will always remember her.

fast forward to January 1, 2017…January 2nd would be Joan’s birthday.  i was due to have Dani on January 5th…and then my due date got pushed to the January 9th. so i didn’t think there would be a chance i would have Dani this early. after three kids, i figured i knew how my body worked.

i woke up the morning of January 2nd at 6:15. i hadn’t had any substantial contractions during the night, and no signs of labor. i thought to myself,

“i guess i’m not going to have the baby on Joan’s birthday.”  

i sat up in bed, an whoosh. my water broke!

i had to eat my words….looks like my baby girl would be born on Joan’s birthday after all. i can only help but think that Joan had something to do with Dani’s birthday. this is something that’s very special and dear to my heart. just thinking about it makes me grin ear to ear….especially remembering Joan’s contagious smile on her birthday. i only hope that Dani grows up with a smile as special as Joan’s.

the rest of the day went a little different than planned, but i still ended up with a beautiful baby girl.

i got to the hospital around 8:30am. finally in a room around 9:00am. my water broke, but i was not in active labor. i had a few steady contractions, but not very strong, and very far apart. i was able to walk around to keep myself busy. i wasn’t sure if i was going to get an epidural or not. my last baby came in less than 4 hours, and if this baby was going to come that fast, i didn’t want to bother with it.

i was given a cervical softener to help get labor started. it worked so no pitocin was needed. my contractions became regular and steady. by two-thirty they were 3 minutes apart….but not strong at all. i continued walking around my hospital room, keeping myself active. the nurse told me the baby would probably come closer to 9pm, so i tried to keep from getting bored.

around 4:30pm, i decided that i would walk around the hospital halls and try to keep busy and comfortable. contractions were strong, but not uncomfortable. once in while a contraction was stronger and hurt, but i had a handle on everything.

the nurse checked me before i started walking, and my cervix was high and only 4-5 cm dilated, so we still thought baby would be born later that night. i even told my friend i was bored and to come over to keep me company.

but while my husband and i were walking the hospital halls, things started to change. my contractions got very painful. after 4 times around the halls, i had to stop and wait during contractions. they were very painful. i needed to get back to my room and have some counter-pressure put on my back. i told my husband that i didn’t think i was prepared to deal with contractions this bad if the baby wasn’t going to be born for another 4 hours. so we called the nurse to go ahead and get an epidural.

the anesthesiologist came quick, but i was in a ton of pain. i kept saying that i was going to die LOL. i couldn’t even talk between contractions. i probably should of had the nurse check me before i got the epidural. it was worse trying to stay still to get it administered than the contractions were. i couldn’t sit still enough for it, and the anesthesiologist had to pull it out because it wasn’t put in the right place. i wasn’t still enough. but i swear the baby felt like she was coming out. i tried my hardest to stay still so the anesthesiologist could put the epidural in correctly. my nurse was a dream. she held me tight and whispered to me that i was doing great. i was shaking so hard just trying to stay still. at last they thought the epidural was done correctly.

the anesthesiologist said it would take three contractions for the epidural to kick in….but instead they got more intense, so much so that the nurse said she should check and see what the baby was up to.

turns out, that i was having the baby! i don’t know why i couldn’t figure that out. i just had it in my head that she would be coming around 9pm, not now. the epidural was useless…which ended up being a good thing.

after that, everything was a blur. it all happened so fast. my friend had just arrived…so she came in, the doctor came in  and said the baby was here for sure. they lowered the bed and got me ready to push. the doctor kept telling me to stop making a scrunchy face….whatever that is. all i know is that i was in a ton of pain, and was ready to push the baby out. i think i even told the doctor that he wasn’t funny LOL. which is pretty funny since he is a pretty fun doctor.

then it was time. a few good pushes, and baby girl, Danielle Kathleen Parkin was born at 6:31 pm.

she was screaming, very pink, and weighed 8 lbs. 8 oz. and was 20 inches long.

not the most unique birth story. and nothing dramatic, but nonetheless, at the end of the day, i got to finally hold my precious little girl. awwwwww…the best feeling in the world when you finally get to pull that little soul close to your heart and hold them skin to skin. you want it to last forever and ever.

and daddy finally had his little girl, and the boys finally had a sister. my heart almost exploded with joy. and their smiles say it all.

the next couple days in the hospital were such a joy. usually i’m one to go home as soon as possible. i think i only stayed 22 hours with Vann. but with Dani, i stayed 2 days, which was the best decision ever. this is the first birth where i didn’t get an effective epidural. i was able to walk immediately after birth. recovery was easier because of this. also by staying a bit longer, i got the proper care with better restroom facilities. my nurses were the sweetest nurses ever, and by staying in the hospital, it forced me to heal without trying to do more that i should. us moms are always trying to do more than we should.

here are some pictures from our time in the hospital.

finally, it was time to go home. Dani was our little New Year’s present. the past year has been a complete joy, and has gone by way to fast. faster than all my boys combined. i wish i could get some of those moments….i would mind having some of those memories as doubles.

one year later, we can’t imagine life without her. Happy Birthday Dani Kat!  WE LOVE YOU.

and Happy Birthday Joan…i miss you like crazy, but will always remember you on this special day.

Tips on Visiting the Tournament of Roses Parade Floats

Visiting the Tournament of Roses Parade Floats – a SoCal tradition.

one thing our family looks forward to doing every year, is visiting the Rose Parade floats after the Tournament of Roses Parade. last year i was pregnant and had my little Dani Kat on January 2nd, so we never made it out to view the floats. this year, i am definitely taking the kids. we are going on Tuesday, the day after the parade, but did you know that you can visit the floats before the parade as well as after?!!!

if you have never seen the floats up close, you gotta try to go. you may think they are beautiful on the television, but seeing them unclose is an experience in itself. they are absolutely AMAZING!!!!!  the craftsmanship and detail that goes into making them is breathtaking. the flowers are vibrant and fragrant…..and they are enormous! plus, there are so many floats to see.

Tips on Visiting the Tournament of Roses Parade Floats

if you have some time today before the parade, or after the parade on Monday or Tuesday, i highly suggest heading up to Pasadena and checking out the Rose Parade floats. it’s a fairly easy trek. they have made it easy to park and shuttle over to the viewing area….or you can try your luck at finding a parking space. i personally have always paid someone near the floats to park at their house. the viewing area is open December 31st from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, January 1st from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm and January 2nd from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, but you must get there before 4:00 pm or they won’t let you in. trust me…i have tried.

one of the best things about seeing the Rose Parade floats in person is the beautiful flowers. they a bright and colorful. you will get fantastic pictures, so don’t forget your camera. 

it will be crowded, but the crowds are bearable. there are plenty of areas that are not crowded where you can take a breather and sit down. there are also vendors selling food. make sure to bring cash, a lot of the vendors are local scouting troups and church groups, so they don’t take credits cards. i believe you can take in snacks, and maybe water, but security is strict on bottled drinks, etc.
when taking small children, you will want to bring a stroller or a wagon. with the crowds, kids that wonder can easily get lost. plus there is a lot of walking. i even bring a stroller for my seven year old….gasp!
we always allow at least two hours to view the floats without being rushed. we like to go up and down every street to check out every single floats. a lot of times there are volunteers at each float talking about them and flowers. it’s highly educational. again…there are a lot of photo opportunities!
just check out some of the great photos we got at our last trip to view the Tournament of Roses Parade Floats.

simply gorgeous!

we can wait to go back this New Year….the kids have been asking about it all week.

Best Tips for Visiting the Tournament of Roses Parade Floats

•  Float view takes place at the corner of Sierra Madre Blvd. & E. Washington Blvd. Pasadena, CA
•  wear tennis shoes, you will be walking and most likely you will have to park far.
•  bring water, drinks and snacks (kids are always thirsty, also make sure drinks are unopened)
•  bring your camera
•  strollers and wagons are a must for kids who don’t like to walk far.
•  plan to get there by 2:00 p.m., the ticket booths close at 4:00 p.m.
•  carpool if you can, the less cars your group comes in the better because of limited parking.
•  study a map to get familiar with the area…this will help you find closer parking and figure your route to the float area.
• admission is $15 (free for children five and under).  Ticket sales end at 3:00 p.m. – venue closes at 5:00 p.m.  Tickets are available through Sharp Seating Company at (626) 795-4171. Tickets will also be available at the event box office and all Park-N-Ride locations
• click here for Park & Ride shuttle locations if you want to avoid finding parking.
• designate a meeting place to gather if people in your party get lost
•  MOST OF ALL, use this time to enjoy the beginning of the new year! these are memories your kiddies will carry throughout there lives. ENJOY!!!