Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens with Sonja

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Last week I tagged along with Payam for a work thing and since it happened to be in my friend Sonja’s neighborhood, I decided to visit my old 7days buddy. It’s been a few since we last hung out, sadly. But you know what makes me happy? She didn’t even mention that I haven’t visited in forever and she took me on a walk with her boys to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens! I LOVE that she thinks nature trails when I come to visit. That’s the kind of friend I want to be.

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It was a beautiful spring day, squeezed in between weeks of dreary rainy days so we felt like we won the lottery with the weather. It was so nice! Look at that snow! I’ve been scrolling past post after post of snowmageddon images on Instagram feeling major FOMO so getting a glimpse of snow like this is gleeful. Wee! Snow! If only I owned a cabin and we could pile the dogs in the truck and head up for a day of it. Not gonna happen though. I am on budget-watch 2019 and no trips to the snow are included. Sad face.

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But that’s okay because we have things we can do for free like visit nature trails and look at native plants and art installations…

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This particular installation was so perfect for the gardens. If I was a sculptor making stainless steel origami statues I would definitely want them placed strategically around these gardens. It was wonderful. Walk into a clearing, there stand some iron origami horses. Look sideways into a dark patch of evergreens, there’s a tower of origami cranes. 

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Paper airplanes, floating boats, standing bison, iron eagles… it was very imaginative and fun. Hats off to the artists.

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Of course there were animals to watch too.

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We brought our very own wild animals with us. Just kidding.

Sonja’s boys are not wild animals but they are boys and therefore very different than girls, which is what I’m used to. No chatting about ASMR or singing Ariana Grande songs or whining about who gets to sit in the front on the way back but definitely lots of climbing, stick stealing and rock-throwing… At one point we were by a pond and her boys were throwing big boulders into the pond. Sploosh went the boulders one after another until a woman nearby who was eating her lunch chided them to stop. They stopped and threw little pebbles into the pond instead.

Then later they were sliding down a stone wall next to a staircase and someone piped up that they sure hoped they didn’t get hurt which passive-aggressively meant: please stop doing that. Sonja very kindly informed the woman that the boys were fine and she was keeping an eye on them. I had to admire her parenting because if boys can’t play in a botanic garden full of nature, where can they play? I suppose the commenter preferred they sat quietly on a bench sketching or something but if anyone knows boys, they know that is just silly.

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I supremely enjoyed myself even without any quiet sketching. I could have easily wiled away an hour or two sketching my favorite plants but it was fun to see the park through new eyes. Not just flora and fauna but fun jungle gyms and rock launchers, stinging nettles, noisy palm fronds and which stick would make the best walking stick.

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I suppose this post is going to be pretty boring to most. Except the 2 percent who love native California plants like I do. Hey there 2 percent! Let’s be friends! Happy, sunny black-eyed Susans, curling spindly reddish manzanita…these are a few of my favorite things!

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Don’t hold back on the spikes dudes!

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Before I close up this post I should also mention that they have lovely facilities if anyone wanted to throw a gala event or a wedding. How pretty, right? There were white paper solar powered lanterns everywhere.  I would love to come back at night and see how they glow.

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Very lastly, on the way to the parking lot actually, we visited the nursery. I wanted to take home a few spikey friends but my drive was long and I didn’t really do my research yet on where I should plant them at home so they stayed there. Next time!

 

Finding My Aesthetic

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I’ve been singing the phrase “finding my aesthetic” to the tune of REM’s Losing My Religion for days. It’s silly. It’s just a funny thing that resonated with me. Let me explain.

A while back I was snooping through Bug’s secret “spam” instagram account (that I have reluctantly let her have like the overly-indulgent parent that I am) where she communicates with her friends and I came across one of her buddy’s accounts. It was a series of nine photos from a rainy day. Each photo was gray and minimalistic but completely beautiful and artfully taken. A vase of dead flowers on a windowsill. Raindrops on a windowpane with soft pastel foliage in the background, a cup of tea steaming… it was moody and amazing.  I couldn’t believe a twelve year-old captured them. And then on top of that the captions were even better.They were riddled with cuss words that I don’t want my kids saying at all but I had to admire their succinctness and the hilarious juxtaposition to the zen-like photos they accompanied. It was cute and brilliant.

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Of course I had to have a talk with Bug about her friend and how much they cuss. Done and done.

But I had to admit I admired her friend’s aesthetic. That’s a thing these days: aesthetics. They talk about their “aesthetic” all the time like it’s their personal brand and style guide. These kids use their instagram accounts like I used to sell graphic design to corporations. They have distinct styles and rules and they stick to them like they were launching a company. It’s kind of amazing.

The kids use their instagram accounts completely differently than I do. I take a ton of pictures and document my life. They use it as a personal portfolio to hold their place on the internet and share their brand with their friends or maybe even sponsors if they blow up and become influencers someday. They curate nine photos with a color scheme and mood and then delete those photos and replace them with new when they are ready to move on to the next theme. Instagram is more of a visual place holder to advertise who they are and then everything else is done through stories and instant messages. It’s funny and weird but probably pretty smart since the real meat of what they are doing on the internet is hard for a parent like me to track and control because it automatically disappears after 12 hours or so. Kids man. Always outsmarting their parents.

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Anyway. I think there is a positive to every negative. I know there are a zillion things wrong with letting your kids have social media and I am fighting a war with mine. Believe me, I am in it and involved and fighting my head off.  If I could go back in time and take back my decision to give them phones I would. Phones are ruining our brains.

But on the other hand I am pretty impressed with their skills both creativity and socially. They adapt so quickly.  They create amazing things!  Will this someday help them in a world that is getting more and more virtual? I have no idea. What I do know is that I am impressed. More and more I am letting go of control and often I’m pleasantly surprised with their actions. They do remember the values I’ve tried to instill in them. They do use the internet with respect and draw boundaries where they should. Who knew! Kids aren’t always trying to be bad!! Not that I’m going to make great claims but I don’t want to judge too early either.

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Anyway I’ve been singing “Finding my Aesthetic” and thinking about curating my nine photos. Of course I’m not going to do that fully because I don’t really care that much AND I like to take a million photos AND NOT delete them but it is fun to play around with. Since my background is in graphic design and art it’s something I’ve always done on some level anyway. It’s just been fun to talk about out loud with my kids and they don’t even laugh at me.

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Bug has been wearing this gold sweatshirt for days (too many and not showering—ew!) and borrowing my old red knitted hat. Then I got a new gold knitted hat myself and I’ve been wearing this really old but warm red flannel quilted jacket. We visited my parents and went on a hike with my dad in the early morning hours and Bug and I joked about how our new *aesthetic* was gold and red. And it is! I love gold and red right now. Add in a little early morning blue sky and the graphic designer in me is jumping up and down for joy.

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Pretty, right?

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And of course you have your minor notes of blue and gray chiming in. I love this old owl lantern that my mom has had forever. I remember playing with it when I was a kid so it made me super happy to see it in their new home in the desert. Have I mentioned how much I love their new place? Yes, I have. It’s very much *my aesthetic* as the kids say. (insert eye-rolling here)

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Bug and I had a great time hiking and taking pictures. I love that I have an artistic child who gets me. Sometimes I miss the crazy eccentric artistic-ness of my ex (that was something I really admired about him) but guess, what? It showed up in my kid! So that is really nice. And she doesn’t smoke or get grumpy when I chew too loudly so win, win!

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My dad took us to see the maze stone that is nearby his house. It’s a landmark protected by the state. It’s this really cool maze carved into rock by the Native Americans who used to live there. Sadly, because people are idiots and like to spray paint rocks it has to be protected with a bunch of ugly fences.

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But it was definitely worth the hike in the early morning air. I love that there are still places to explore.

I’ve explored my own neighborhood to exhaustion and I’m starting to get bored of it. Lately, I haven’t been able to take the dogs on walks on the nature trail by my house because Whiskey is allergic to something on the path (Wheatens are allergic to everything). He keeps licking his paws until they are infected and it’s become a very expensive problem. So we’ve had to stay inside and it’s the pits. When he gets better we’ll be able to walk again but we might have to stay away from the nature trail. And invest in some fragrance-free baby wipes to clean his feet after every walk. Note to self: never get a Wheaten again. They are so so so loveable but high high high maintenance!

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But back to my kid. That’s her hat now. She’s stealing more and more of my clothes lately which I take as a compliment.  She looks pretty good in gold and red. I guess she can stay in my nine curated photos. Just kidding! I’m not kicking anybody out of my instagram feed if they don’t match.

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But I’ll definitely take more photos of you if you do!

(skips away humming REM)