Joon’s Amazing Harry Potter Pool Party!

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As you probably know, Joon celebrated her tenth birthday this last Sunday and it was a splash and a half. Actually, make that five-thousand smashing splashes and a half because it went off like no other pool party I have ever planned.

Have I ever planned a pool party before? No, I don’t think so. But that’s beside the point.

A little back-story on this party: It was cold and rainy on Monday. Payam and I even had a fire in the fireplace on the Friday before so the fact that Sunday rolled around to be a scorching 83 degrees Fahrenheit was downright providential. It was the PERFECT day to have a party at the pool. In fact, I doubt we could stand being anywhere else.Harry-Potter-Birthday-Pool-Party-Friends

Pool parties are easy. You know why? Because you don’t really have to do anything. Just throw in some pool toys, order a few pizzas and maybe bring a cake. That’s really all you need to do and at the end of the party all the kids will go home sun-kissed and exhausted.

But of course that’s not how we roll. We go big or go home!

We made pool noodle brooms, aka The Aqua Nimbus 2000: They are very good at hovering over water and then bucking you off into a big belly flop of a splash. The kids had a blast with them, and then afterwards used them to mop the deck. (Just kidding. There was no mopping.)

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We made butter beer (skipping the sweetened condensed milk in favor of whipped cream out of a can, because come-on, who’s gonna deal with that sticky mess at the pool?). It was a huge hit. It looked nasty like a pot of kombucha or something but that didn’t stop the kids from sucking it down in their miniature plastic beer steins (aka coffee cups ordered from Party City that I customized with a Joon’s Butter Beer Pub logo.)

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And of course edible wands (cookie sticks) and Levitating Lemonade (aka regular old lemonade in a neon green cooler that broke half an hour into the party. Note to anyone planning a party like this: Do not buy this model of a cooler from Party City. Do not be tempted by the el cheapo $16 price tag. It is junk and you will rue the day. The knob broke off the top the minute I touched it and the spigot broke during the party, leaving everyone to ladle lemonade out of the top with a paper cup. It was super messy and super stupid.)

Don’t you love a good back-story? Here’s some more:

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How did we make the giant snitch piñata? With paper maché of course! I did it very much the same way I created the giant cat toy piñata for Bug’s black-cat-themed seventh birthday party but this time I took my time and applied FOUR coats of newspaper and flour-water paste over the span of a week.

It was so much more solid than the cat toy. Awesomely solid in fact. I could have rolled it down the street if I wanted to and it would have held up. But it was also very big so in order to make it strong enough to hold the 20 pounds of candy and prizes we needed to stuff the piñata with, we had to create a macrame holder from string. Otherwise the pure weight of the piñata would have busted off it’s top.

Payam and I worked very hard on this thing. We haggled over how to make the wings for hours. We tried all kinds of wire (you should have seen Payam stripping tv coax cable which unfortunately didn’t work either) before we finally found the right gauge combined with a small piece of a wire clothes-hanger to keep it just stiff enough. Then I covered the wings with gold tissue paper and cut the feathery bottom. We sprayed the whole thing with gold spray paint.

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I also made some baby snitches (or actual-size snitches) for anybody who might want to play quidditch in the water. Those were made from ping pong balls, wings cut from duct tape and hot glue, of course. Hot glue is my spirit animal.

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SMASHING SUCCESS! That thing was so satisfying to smash. It broke just the right way, like smashing a big hardboiled egg. Everyone got a good thwack and then the birthday girl got a second turn to really whale on it before all the candy rained down on their heads.

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Joon’s mom made a really cool Harry Potter cake with a chocolate fondant sorting hat, broom, glasses and even a tiny, super-cute, red-and-yellow stripped Gryffindor scarf.

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I think this kid is loved. Don’t you?

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Joon is TEN!!! Can you believe it?!!  This is the best age. I used to worry that Payam and I rushed into living together too soon but when I look at our girls and how they get along so well most of the time (while bracing for the hormone-riddled teenage years) I am so thankful. These are the best years. I love this family that we have created so much! Sorry to gush, but you know how I feel. It’s just probably been the best twisty turn I’ve ever taken.

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And last but not least, I leave you with a closing shot of Joon giving Payam a rotten egg-flavored Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour jelly bean. Yes, we totally re-posed that shot because I wasn’t quick enough to catch the original but let me tell you, that belly laugh is real.

Love you Joon!

The Story of Noon Lodge

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Our recent trip to Noon Lodge happened completely by accident. Way back in December I was on Expedia late at night, experiencing some FOMO (fear of missing out – always a bad sign) because it had just snowed up in the mountains and all my friends were posting these amazing pictures of snow on Instagram. Taking the kids to the snow has been on my bucket list for a few years now. Neither of them had really experienced it, being the true Southern Californian natives that they are.

I skipped around Expedia, looking at cabins and landed on this site. I was struck with instant graphic-designer love. Swoon! What a beautifully designed website! I could imagine the photoshoots I would throw down surrounded by such beauty and nature and great design. Do you see the room decor?! I was hooked. Back I went to Expedia to check out the prices. I knew it would be expensive but surprisingly for some reason I read that the rooms were only one-hundred-and-something and NEXT THING I KNEW I was checking out and the grand total was SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!  Wait. WHAT?!! Two nights somehow added up to six hundred dollars?

Back click, back click. Wait! Wait! This can’t be happening! Of course at this point Expedia was giving me the spinny ball of doom. I don’t have six hundred dollars for a freakin’ weekend! What the, what the?! Halp! I raced though the Noon Lodge site again and everywhere I looked they were very clear about their no cancelation policy. My heart sunk to the bottom of the ocean that is my bad financial planning. What had I done?

Deep breaths.

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I waited for Payam to wake up and I told him the news. Naturally, he was surprised but actually not horrified which was a huge relief. He calmed me down and made some calls. Nobody answered their phones of course.  So I sucked it up and calculated how long it would take me to pay off this new chunk of change I had now put on my credit card that already had a good sized balance on it. It would be bad but I wasn’t quite ruined. Six hundred dollars in the big picture wasn’t that much. Maybe this wouldn’t be the snowball of debt that would roll me into bankruptcy. I have a roof over my head and my landlord isn’t going to kick me out and I can take on more jobs and pay this down. I can do this.

And oh, how I wanted to do this! The Lodge! It was so pretty!

Several hours later Noon Lodge did call back and after talking to Payam (who is a great salesperson by the way) they said that even though it was against their policy, they would cancel my reservation because I had made it so far in advance, this being in December and the weekend I booked being in February after all. What nice people!

But wait. Now I was even sadder. I didn’t want to cancel this trip!!

I had fallen so deeply in love with the idea of this weekend in the snow at Noon Lodge, there was just no going back. Money be damned. Noon Lodge was going to happen if I had work my fingers to the bone for the rest of the year. I could do it!

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So we went!

What a crazy weekend. I had just gotten back from Alt Summit and my mind was a full of business tips and mixed emotions about where my online presence is really going and maybe it’s time to suck it up and admit failure. Le sigh. Blogging conventions always put me in a spin for a few days. It’s great to get inspired and learn new things and meet new people but it really makes you re-think your business plan and me, being the negative person that I can be, I often leave these conventions feeling worse about myself than when I started. It’s always good to mix things up though and I took away a lot of good advice. I just don’t know where I’m going with that advice yet. My head was a little spun.

Also, I had missed the girls (and Payam) terribly for the four days that I was at the convention. The girls were fine without me of course but I was just off my game. It’s hard enough only seeing them every other week due to custody arrangements but being gone the week they were with me made me super sad.  So when I got back I was so ready to spend a quality weekend with them.

I packed like a mad woman and we rushed off to the mountains!

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And it was everything I wanted it to be! The snow! The kids were so excited. The entire trip up the mountain they wouldn’t stop talking about the ice cream that was everywhere. Bug worked herself into such a silly state I actually worried for a minute that she was having a manic episode, which wouldn’t be that far from her mother.

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We tucked ourselves into our cozy cabin and the next morning awoke to the sounds of little girls singing at the top of their lungs, “THE SKY IS AWAKE AND SO AM I! DO YOU WANT TO BUILD A SNOWMAN?!!!” The sun had barely risen over the tree tops and the girls already had their snow gear on and they were out the door. Forget about breakfast. They were so happy.

And then DISASTER STRUCK.

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Payam had gone to the truck to get the girls saucers for sledding. I was back in the cabin, getting breakfast ready. The girls were down the ravine beside the cabin making a fort. Suddenly I looked up and I saw Payam out the window bleeding from his head. I ran out the door to see what had happened and it looked like he had something stuck out of the side of his head. Blood was everywhere. I screamed. What happened?! Are you okay?!!

Payam looked at me with this strange look like he had no idea what I was talking about. He was disoriented. He had his keys and his glasses in his hand and they were bloody and broken. I rushed him to the house and he sat down. I frantically looked for my phone to call 911.

Payam at this time is telling me he’s fine. Why am I freaking out and calling 911?! he asks. Over and over he kept saying he’s fine, he’s fine. He obviously was NOT fine and had no idea that he had a golf ball growing out of the side of his head. At this point I didn’t know if his head was broken and it was bone sticking out. I was in a panic. Bug found my phone and I called 911. The operator walked me through what to do with him and help was on the way.

While all this is going on Bug ran upstairs crying and Joon fainted and fell onto a wooden burl table and bumped her head. At the time I didn’t realize she had actually fainted. I thought she had just slipped on the rug (things were wet from us rushing into the cabin with melting snow on our boots) and when she righted herself and started to complain about her head hurting I thought she was having some kind of psychosomatic copycat symptom. Poor Joon. It wasn’t until after the commotion that we figured out she really did faint.

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Here’s what we think happened: Payam went to the truck to get the sleds but for some reason the hatch didn’t open (this happened to me when I went back and retraced his steps). As he was struggling to lift the stuck trunk door, he slipped on the black ice and hit his head, hard on the frozen asphalt. He has no memory of any of this happening. That’s the weirdest part. It’s a complete blank in his memory. Nobody saw him. Nobody knows what really happened. I’m just glad he was only gone five minutes and he didn’t get run over from laying in the street!

The paramedics arrived and checked Payam out. Because Payam was lucid and he could answer all their questions clearly with no trouble, they surmised that he was probably fine. They told me that injuries like this on the ice are VERY common and the swelling is normal even though at this point he started to look like the Elephant Man. The head is very”vascular” they told us which is why his wound was swelling up to the size of a tennis ball. There was just a lot of blood inside his head. No concussion but just watch it carefully and drive to the nearest urgent care if anything gets worse–like he starts throwing up or falls asleep etc.

Hoo Boy.

Payam rested. The girls went back outside to play. I checked on Payam like a chicken with my head cut off. The wound persisted with little change. Four hours later Payam decided he probably needed stitches. At the time the paramedics were there we couldn’t really see that he had a cut by his eye because everything was so swollen. This was actually a secondary wound from his glasses cutting into the side of his head and is additional to the blow that knocked him out.

Now here’s the part that I’m embarrassed about. Payam talked me into letting him drive himself to the Urgent Care. I know. I’m a terrible girlfriend! I should have driven him. But he assured me up and down that he was fine and besides the crazy swelling he did seem fine.  It was true that the last thing we wanted to do was spend our entire trip in an Urgent Care full of snowboarders with broken arms. I really should have driven him and I do feel bad but it was nice to sit in a chair, watch the girls and calm down from the trauma with Payam checking in with me by phone often.

Just like we expected he was stuck in the Urgent Care for a while. Eventually he got stitches and got checked out, which was a relief to all of us. He came back and rested some more.

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And then I went for a walk. Yeah. I did. I know. Girlfriend of the year awardee over here. But maybe you should give that award to Payam because he totally understood how bad I wanted to get out and take pictures. This was my $600 weekend. Worse weekend ever. Or was it?

I had noticed from the cabin windows that the sun was going down and I really, really wanted to see the lake before we had to go home. I asked Payam a million times if it was okay and when he assured me over and over I rushed out into the snow and trekked down the ravine towards the lake. I missed the sunset but the afterglow was amazing. There was beauty everywhere!

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It was a long cold walk and I kept falling through the snow every fourth step but I couldn’t stop because it kept getting prettier and prettier.

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Just look at the pink glow!

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Here it is bigger so you can feel how big this expanse of space was. Imagine this 360. The lake was frozen with a thin layer of ice and the sky was crisp. Everything was quiet. I stood there with my camera and soaked all the beauty and glory in click by click. It was such a contrast to the storm of recent events.

Payam was okay. This beauty made all those worries from Alt Summit seem small and insignificant. I don’t care about my website being a business. I don’t care if my instagram feed isn’t curated to a color palette that embodies my brand. All I care about is my family and nature and being in this moment where the sky is so pink and big! This is really what matters, right?

Everything was okay. Payam was home with the girls by the fire and he was okay with me being outside chasing the last glimpse of the day. He gives me permission to be a freak and book a weekend at Noon Lodge that I can’t really afford. And yes, he is kind of my safety net when I make mistakes like this which I really try not to do regularly. He lets me be the photographer who’s love in life is capturing beauty and sharing it. It’s almost a sickness with me. Everything is about capturing that crazy, beautiful picture. I don’t care about stuff. But I care about pictures. I don’t know if this is a bad thing or a good thing but I’m learning that it’s pretty hard-wired in me.

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And then I walked home and was welcomed by this site. Oh Noon Lodge. You are so charming with your green siding and bright orange doors.

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The next day before we packed up to leave I took a few more pictures of the girls having fun in the snow. I metered the top photos wrong but I kinda like them.

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Happy Kids.

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And that was that! What a crazy trip. We packed up all our stuff and headed down the mountain. For Payam it was the trip from hell and I’m sure he won’t be too keen to come back anytime soon but I will be. I’m not too terribly fond of Big Bear and the crowds but I love Noon Lodge. noon-lodge-7

And I love this guy. Put some sunglasses on that shiner and he’s good as new! Seriously though, the swelling has gone down and now he has a huge, scary, black eye–that he’s totally milking for sympathy points. He deserves them though. He took one for the team this weekend and we owe him big time.