A Weekend in California



This post is sponsored by Annie’s Homegrown – making organic easier for everybunny

Once Landen got married, our family started doing a family reunion every other year.

This year, we rented a beach house in southern California and spent a day at Universal Studios and a day doing family photos and then playing at the beach. It was such a fun weekend, with a great balance of plenty to do and lots of downtime.

Everyone arrived on Thursday night, and Merrick, who doesn’t live too far away, made a big dinner for the whole family. While we got everything set up, the grandkids explored the backyard, pool, and deck.

After the kids went to bed, my mom and sisters and I made a grocery store run to stock the fridge for the weekend.

We picked up things for meals and snacks for our day at Universal Studios, since we were trying to get out the door quickly both mornings (Landen was really hoping we could get to Universal Studios by eight a.m., but that didn’t seem at all feasible with so many little children and when we were an hour away).

It’s so nice to be able to pick up our favorite familiar organic items at the grocery store, even when we’re hundreds of miles from home, and I think it makes long days easier when some routines and foods stay the same.

All of Friday was spent at Universal Studios. We started at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which was so beautifully done. I couldn’t ride either of the rides and it was a really hot day, so while my mom took my bigger girls on The Flight of the Hippogriff and everyone else rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, I went and sat in the shade, ate a snack, read some of my book, and watched a little stage show.

Once the girls and my mom joined back up with me, we spent some time walking around using the magic wands (our neighbors who just went, kindly lent us theirs, which saved us $100) and scoping out the little shops.

The girls ate some granola bars and eventually, when everyone else joined up with us, we headed to lunch.

Afterward, we split up so my mom could do Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Landen and Adam could get their little guy to sleep in the stroller, and Merrick and I took our kids over to the splash pad.

We joined back up to watch the Waterworld show, which my girls loved (although Ani held onto Crawford’s arm the entire time), and then headed over to the Studio Tour.

Both Star and Fos fell asleep and you can’t take strollers on the tour, so I stayed behind with them for nearly two hours while everyone else went on the ride. They slept for about an hour while I sat on the curb and read until they woke up. Fos didn’t want to get out of the stroller, but Star was delighted to sit next to me and eat her granola bar.

She’d hurt her foot somehow in the morning and wouldn’t put any weight on it, so she just sat on my lap or hung out in the stroller until everyone returned.

By this point, most things in the park were starting to close, so we hit the Shrek 4D show, which was one of the few things open, and then finished the day with the husbands taking the kids on the Minion ride.

Afterward, we ate dinner in CityWalk and came back to the house.

I had slept terribly the night before (I woke up at 4 a.m. and never could go back to sleep), so when we got back, we put everyone to bed at 9:45 including ourselves and slept straight through until seven a.m. It was amazing.

Saturday morning was our big family photos day.

My dad really loves cool family photos, so he’s been working on this one for months. He found a museum that lends out vintage cars and we got this amazing Packard and took it down to the beach. All the men were in tuxes with white jackets, with the adult women wearing black dresses and the little girls wearing white dresses.

I cannot WAIT to see them when we get them back in a few weeks. Christmas cards, here we come.

We came back for lunch and then some of the babies (and adults) went down for naps, while my parents returned the tuxes and the older kids watched a movie.

Then, after a snack, we headed down to the beach.



My main regret is that I forgot my swimsuit (thanks to Merrick for saving the day and bringing me one) and that I didn’t buy Annie’s Organic Cinnamon Rolls for a post-child treat on Saturday night. Other than that, a perfect vacation with my favorite people.

I made a fun little video of the weekend, if you want to see more of our adventures in California:

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  1. I was at Universal on Friday as well and I happened to see Merrick. I almost said "hi" before I remembered that I don't know her in real life. We also loved Harry Potter Land. Great details.

  2. I am extremely curious about the logistics and financials of your every-other-year reunions. My kids are just starting to leave home and I like the idea of renting a house in different locations, but I worry about putting to much financial burden on my kids. I would love it if you would email me privately, if you are willing to share the details of how it works for your family.

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