Old Friends Are Good To Keep

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My friends, The Blues, are back in town from Thailand where they live now and work with the Charis Project. You probably remember them from this post and the Narnia birthday party (that was so cool!) and this post and that post…so many posts over the years! They are those kinds of friends, you know? The ones who were there for you for so many adventures, for so many sleepovers when you needed a place to stay, for that cup of chai and conversation when your heart was heavy…. Those friends. They are very special to Bug and me because they were a big part of our life when it was very tumultuous.

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But we haven’t seen them in years! Everyone has grown up so much! Bug was actually really nervous about seeing her friends again because she’s had a couple of experiences with old childhood friends changing and just not clicking at all. I was a little anxious for her too. But I shouldn’t have been!

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Everybody was exactly the same way they always were. I was so genuinely happy to see my old friends again.  It was like going back in time and feeling home and welcome. BluesAreBack-3

The first thing I saw was this little guy helping himself to pasta. Have you ever seen such a self-assured little person? What is he, like two?!  There are six kids in Carrien’s family and when you get that many kids the little ones get more and more brazen about helping themselves. But what’s wrong with that, right? I only had one kid for a really long time and because I took care of everything ever, she’s now twelve and  still asks me to untie the double knots in her shoes. I’ve sort of created a monster. I should have had five more kids. It would have been a service to her. Just kidding. But having Joon around really helps.

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Then I saw this dog. We bonded right away. Apparently he’s very shy of everyone but since he looked a lot like Whiskey, I made contact and then he followed me around like I was his new friend. That happens to me with animals a lot. It’s like they know I have anxiety and need an extra dose of oxytocin.  I look in their eyes and they look in my eyes and we both feel a little bit better.

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This kid is the most friendly of all the kids. I met him a few years back and he says he remembers me but I’m not so sure since he was only two then. It doesn’t matter because we acted like old friends who knew each other forever. He showed me all his tricks on the swing and I took pictures of his toes. No shy butterfly there.

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There was this monkey…he was so little when we last saw him. He talks now. Which is crazy because I always remember him as the quiet one. Quiet but smiley.

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And of course my friend, Carrien. I love her so much. She’s probably not going to love these pictures of her because I snatched them with very little warning, if any. No “plandids” here. These are real candids. But I love that about her. I love that she doesn’t mind me taking pictures of her and her family “in the golden light.” She knows I love that time of day and it’s like giving an artist a paintbrush to be able to snap away.

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After dinner we had s’mores out by the famous big old rectangle fire pit. I love that fire pit!

And now I know the secret to good s’mores!!! It’s finally been revealed to me!  I was never really a big fan of s’mores before because they never really worked for me. You know how it is, you have a big gooey marshmallow all soft with a chunk of hard chocolate and a crumbly graham cracker. You bite in and it all falls apart. The chocolate doesn’t melt, the cracker is in crumbs and pretty much you have a mess.

Guess what the secret is: CUT UP THE CHOCOLATE INTO LITTLE SHARDS!!!

What? What!! Seriously. This solves everything. The chocolate melts, the marshmallow oozes, the graham cracker holds it all together. How have I not known this all my life?!!  And it totally tastes delicious! Now I get what all the hullabaloo is about. I like s’mores now too! Ding Dong!

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So yeah, that was thoroughly enjoyable. We sat around and enjoyed s’more after s’more after s’more. Some wine was sipped too.

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This is what I love about Carrien and her family: I love the effortless enjoyment of simple things. Just a fire and chocolate and marshmallows and graham crackers and a little glass of wine and my heart was bursting with contentment.  Both Carrien and I have had to make do a time or two with less money than we’d like. Things get hard sometimes but she’s the one who always invited me over no matter what was in her cupboards. She always served me treats made with the simplest of ingredients and they tasted a thousand times better than anything. Isn’t that weird how that happens?

I know sometimes in the past I had neighbors come over and I worried that I wouldn’t have enough food. And then somehow when my table was filled with faces, one chicken breast would magically stretch to feed six people and there was always enough. How does that happen!? Is it a miracle? Five fishes feeding five thousand? I don’t know. I think everyone takes a little less because they know they are really there to feed their heart.  I think that is the most valuable lesson I’ve learned about food and friends. We are really there to feed our hearts. Let our tables be large…

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I miss them already. We were only there for a few hours but the fireside memories will last me for a long time. I love that Bug has memories like this stored up too. It’s so important to keep in touch with old friends. What do they say? The friends you keep for longer than five years last forever?

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Eventually I had to start thinking about the long drive home. It was late and I am not the best person to be driving late at night because I am a morning person to the core. I hate trying to stay awake when I am tired. It’s pure torture.

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We hustled the littles inside and we saw this: The next generation of chai and conversation. No “not clicking” here. We can be oceans apart but we’ll stay friends. Because old friends are the best friends. Miss you guys!

Candytopia and the Great Instagrammable Adventure

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I wrote this whole post about my conflicted reasoning for letting my kids use instagram before they are thirteen and it was pathetic. It was definitely a trying-too-hard-to-justify-my actions sort of post. So I’m deleting it and I’m just going to talk about the fun of hanging out with your kids in this crazy whacky place called Candytopia. Thankfully this blog is not really on anybody’s radar anymore so I’ll probably squeak by without anyone noticing! Phew!SAJ-and-kids-go-to-Candytopia-2

Candytopia is a fun little pop-up museum dedicated to all things candy. They had some trouble getting it off the ground in the beginning. Some compliance issues with the city etc.. so they moved locations and things are a little worn around the edges because of that but it’s still well worth a trip if you are in the neighborhood.  It’s located in the Santa Monica mall, sort of like one of those seasonal Halloween costume shops but a whole lot more interesting and pretty big. I’d say there are just enough rooms and things to look at to justify the twenty-six dollar ticket price. Just barely.SAJ-and-kids-go-to-Candytopia-3

We mugged and we posed. We acted like instagram fools. Payam rolled his eyes and held our stuff so we could “have a moment” and then another moment and then fifty more moments just like that one to make sure we smiled just right.

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I’m probably the first one to roll my eyes when I see another picture of someone rolling around in a pool full of sprinkles on Instagram but you know what? It IS fun! You should go and you will have fun too! Candytopia is a blast. It’s a super fun museum of rooms to take whacky pictures in. Nobody shames you because the rooms were built for that sole purpose. The staff even encourages you to take photos and will even help you get a better shot.

Photography is such a wonderful medium to express yourself. Like any medium, it will be different from person to person. You can all take pictures in the same exact rooms of the same exact weird candy sculpture but nobody’s picture will be exactly the same.

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I say embrace it. Stop worrying about being a lemming. Sometimes things become weirdly popular because they really are fun.SAJ-and-kids-go-to-Candytopia-6

If your kids are into it, then maybe this is something you can do together. You could hike to Zion and stand in line to see the Narrows behind three troops of boy scouts. That’s the sad thing about social media these days, you find something cool, you share it and then everyone mobs it until it’s not fun anymore.SAJ-and-kids-go-to-Candytopia-7

The nice thing about Candytopia is that it wasn’t too mobbed. I think the millennials have already been there, done that and discarded it. Which makes it perfect for me. Still cool. Still super fun and hey, something fun to do with your kids.

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Don’t we all need new interesting avatar shots? Yes, yes we do.

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We had a blast.  I just spent several hours with my kids laughing and nobody was whining or complaining or checking out. They were very much checked in. We all were! I mean, Free candy! Whacky things to walk around and interact with! What’s not to love?

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We grabbed the ribbon wands and stood in front of the wind machine like real models surfing on rainbow covered surfboards. It was all those photo shoots I’ve wondered about within easy access.SAJ-goes-to-Candytopia-11

The piece de resistance was the marshmallow pit!!! I would pay thirty bucks just to do that again easily. It was hilarious!! I don’t think I remember the last time I fell into a ball pit and worked my core muscles so much. It was so hard! Then add not wanting to lose your phone or jewelry to the bottom of the pit and that made it even more challenging. We laughed, we jumped, we swam, we filmed instagram stories…. It was amazing.

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You might be wondering if they are real marshmallows. They are not. Thankfully, because that would be a bit of a sticky situation. The marshmallows were actually a stiff but squishy foam and I totally wanted to steal some. I didn’t. But I have been thinking on it and wondering if I could come up with some kind of similar material because how fun would that be for a craft? I’ll be perking on that idea for a while.

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After Candytopia we hit Third Street Promenade. We had lunch at the best taco place ever (BP Tacos which totally stands for Brenda Ponnay, wink wink) and then walked down the pier.

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It was a cold, windy day but still beautiful. The skies were so blue. I’ve been to Santa Monica many times but never taken my kids there. We didn’t ride any rides but we walked and walked and thoroughly enjoyed our day out. It definitely made the hour-and-a-half drive more worth it.

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What else can I say? I’ll leave the kids and instagram debate for another time. I think we had a great time and that’s enough reason to post these pictures.

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Fun activities together are never a bad idea. Fun activities with phones…I’ll just plead guilty.