Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My Not-Yet Aquarium

I want an aquarium. Badly. I have wanted an aquarium for years - decades! - but I always hesitated. Where would I put it? What would I do when I went out of town? What if the fish were from another planet and they hypnotized me and sent me on a mission to steal the Hope Diamond? (Because everyone knows intergalactic fish are obsessed with the Hope Diamond.)

Despite these legitimate concerns, a couple of months ago, I finally decided it was time for my aquarium. It would be a goldfish aquarium. I bought a book about goldfish at the pet store. (Pippa and I often stop by the pet store to admire the animals, especially the canines at doggie day care. I was glad to finally engage in a little commerce with a place that gives us so much joy. They should really sell snacks. For people. We're not eating the dog snacks.)

Did you know that if given enough space to thrive, goldfish are actually quite big? So big, that if you have a large 29 gallon aquarium, you should only keep two goldfish? Did you know it's cruel to keep goldfish in a bowl? That goldfish actually live for years and years but when trapped in a bowl, they suffer and sicken and die very premature deaths?

I had no idea! I had goldfish as a child. I don't remember their names, but my brother always named his fish "Frankie." Oh, our poor tortured fish! And then, I had goldfish in college - Chunk and Eloise, and Marty and Doc - oh, my poor goldfish babies! I'm sorry!

(In college, I wrote an op-ed column for the student paper, and one of those columns was about my goldfish. And that post can be read right here. Yes, I have always been lame but I think we all already knew that.)

I decided we would NOT have a goldfish aquarium. Sure, we could have a tank with two fish, but that seems lame. The whole point of a tank is to have little schools of fish darting around, getting up to all sorts of crazy shit. Two goldfish = no crazy shit.

So I bought a book about freshwater aquariums. It is an excellent book. If anyone wants an aquarium, they should read this book first. After reading it, I wanted my aquarium even more.

But not yet.

Here's what I learned about aquariums: if you are going to have one, you have to do it right. You can't half-ass it with a 5 gallon novelty tank with a big replica of the Eiffel Tower and clean the water every few months. You have to get a big rectangular tank, at least 29 gallons, but 50 gal. is much better. Then you need to put that tank on a proper tank stand, because a filled tank is too heavy for a standard bookcase. You have to change the water regularly and frequently to keep your fish as healthy and happy as possible. (I suppose, if you are the sort of person who tortures squirrels and microwaves cats, then you don't need to change the water.) And if you are going to be changing the water regularly, you need to position the tank close to a sink. But the tank does not belong in a kitchen or against an outside wall or near a main door...

Above all, I learned there is nowhere to put a respectable tank in the Cranky Pumpkin household. Except the guest room. Where no one would ever see the fish. Except for overnight guests. Which, in the past year, have included the following: (1) my mother-in-law, and (2) no one else. I suppose my mother-in-law might enjoy the fish, but then again, I don't actually know that. She might hate fish. she might be nursing a secret fish phobia. If I put an aquarium in the guest room, she might stay up all night with a harpoon to guard herself. Or, she might think the aquarium makes an annoying bubbling sound.

Long story short, the aquarium is not happening anytime soon, but I am not giving up the dream. Someday! In the meantime, I may accidentally buy a hamster during one of our frequent pet store trips.

Monday, March 2, 2015

How To Write A Peppa Pig Episode

We watch a lot of Peppa Pig in the Cranky Pumpkin household. It's a cute British cartoon and my toddler Pippa adores it. This creates a lot of tongue-twister situations, e.g. "Pippa wants to watch Peppa." (Just try and say that three times fast while changing a toddler's diaper.) The similarity between "Pippa" and Peppa" also generates a fair amount of confusion. Pippa often says something that could be her name, Pippa, but then again, it could be the name of her favorite British cartoon pig, Peppa, and then I don't know what the hell is going on. Does my toddler want to watch an episode of Peppa? Is she trying to tell me something about herself? Or is she having an existential crisis?  

Pippa has watched so much Peppa, the cartoon now registers in my ear as white noise. I can sit on the couch, with Pippa on my lap, and happily read a book - even a difficult book with lots of big words and tricky grammar. But some part of my brain must be interested in the show, because I have memorized all the damn episodes.

I'm not bragging. Anyone can memorize the Peppa Pig canon, because there are only a dozen or so themes that keep getting repeated. Once you know the themes, then you can write a Peppa Pig episode yourself. Just pick two or three, mush them together, and bazinga, you have a hit show on your hands. In case you are looking to script your own episode, here are the themes:
  • Daddy Pig's big tummy
  • vehicular trouble (choose at least one: car; boat; or train)
  • Mr. Dinosaur issues
  • Muddy puddles
  • Peppa getting frustrated that she lacks a natural talent like whistling
  • Madame Gazelle performing mind experiments on the children
  • the school roof needs fixing
  • tortoise in a tree
  • Mummy Pig has some amazing secret talent like playing the violin or archery
  • Grandpa Pig's hobbies - the more eccentric and expensive, the better - I can't decide which is more ridiculous, the million dollar telescope in his attic or Gertrude the miniature locomotive
  • Miss Rabbit's jobs
  • Pirates! Alas, this is just Danny Dog playing. No pirates are yet to plunder and pillage the school.
  • George is a genius. 
  • Daddy Pig is an expert at _____ (diving, accordion, jumping in muddle puddles, etc.)
  • Daddy Pig claims to be an expert but is not, in fact, an expert (e.g. French and basic carpentry)
  • Pedro Pony is lame and needs to stop calling everything "super"
  • I am really lame and should probably watch the news once in awhile

Friday, February 27, 2015

My Motherhood Bucket List

I keep meaning and forgetting to do this. So while I find myself with a few free minutes, I'd like to get started. These are the things I hope to do with Pippa before she flies the coop.

° fly a kite
° go to a county fair
° take high tea someplace fancy
° see the Nutcracker ballet
° host a mother/daughter book club (bonus points if we read Pride and Prejudice)
° roller skating
° see a movie at El Capitan
° Disneyland!
° sledding
° make her an awesome dress up box
° lemonade stand
° do volunteer work together
° take her to see the Phantom of the Opera and Wicked
° take her to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl
° be a leader or coach for something she wants to do

More later!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hi! Greetings From Konmari Land!

I have been lost in the world of Konmari.  Apparently this has been all over the internet and NY Times bestseller list, but these days, I miss nearly all internet sensations. I found this book by sheer luck. I've been on a massive decluttering/reorganizing the house kick. It felt really good to clear away all the messes that have piled up on tables and corners.  The kitchen island is once again a kitchen island! Or at least 95% so. Progress!

But I felt like I was still wrestling with the Clutter Beast and it was slowly winning. It was hard to make any progress.  I'd spend hours trying to declutter and nothing seemed to get done. 

So I started buying all sorts of organizing props, including a big carousel gizmo for my closet and a battery organizer. Yes, A BATTERY ORGANIZER. You know you have reached a new decluttering low when you think a battery organizer is going to make your life better.

But I couldn't stop. I kept running searches on Amazon with words like "organize" and "declutter." I was searching for props, not books. I have read so many books about organizing, there is nothing else I can learn from another book. How many times do I have to read about throwing out ten things every day? 

But my searches kept turning up a book: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo.  Finally, I tried a sample on my phone and I quickly realized I needed to read one more book about organizing. 

Okay, let's see how quickly I can write this, because I am tired and this episode of The Bachelor is nearly over. I loved this book. So much.  I am going to reread it soon. Like I want to stop writing this post and reread it now! First, Kondo tells you about discarding. If something gives you joy, keep it.  If not, it's time to say goodbye. This is a shitty summary of an awesome book.  Kondo talks so much about the psychology of objects, especially books. I am a bookworm and booklover and last week, I donated over 200 books to Goodwill and it felt so liberating.

You are supposed to finish all of your discarding before you organize. I have cheated a little on this because I have a toddler and sometimes you have to seize the moment and improvise.

I want to write about this book forever, but really, please, just go read it now! Because it is so good, and because I am too lazy to write anymore about it. 

(Hi, Dad, I'm too tired to proofread so please forgive any grammatical oopsies). (Hi, Dad, me again. I just screwed up the placement of the period in relation to the parenthetical just to mess with you.)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Dora vs. Caillou (The Death Match)

In the Cranky Pumpkin household, Dora is a four-letter word. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. I'd much rather teach Pippa to say f*** than Dora. I guess Dora is more like Voldemort, He Who Shall Not Be Named. Do not say Dora's name or you might summon her spirit into our home and be haunted forever.

My father-in-law got Pippa a very fun vehicle that is decorated with Dora stickers. Since it is a fun vehicle, I'm letting Pippa play with it and praying the Dora stickers do not contaminate her mind. But if anyone gives Pippa any other Dora-related gifts, I will set fire to them immediately. (The gifts, not the gift bearers - I'm not that crazy.)

I thought Dora was the most annoying toddler cartoon, but then I discovered the horror that is Caillou on PBS. Holy crap, Caillou has such a whiny nails-on-the-chalkboard voice. I want to smack him. I let Pippa go on a PBS bender yesterday morning because she has a cold, and of course she wanted to sit in my lap during Caillou, may he fall off a cliff. I kept rooting against him. When a bigger kid was bullying Caillou at daycare, I cheered and hoped the bully would lock Caillou in a closet with a hungry wolverine.

PBS and Nickelodeon should have a Dora/Caillou cross-over episode and please, let's forgo all the lame jungle adventures and head straight to what the folks want: a Death Match. Put Dora and Caillou into one of those cages and do not let them out until one of them is dead. We can call the episode "Dora and Caillou: Someone Must Die." I would pay good money to see that episode.

Excuse me, there's a cross-over script I have to go write now.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Why do we use the word "extraordinary" to refer to something that is amazing? Shouldn't "EXTRA ordinary" refer to someone who is the textbook definition of generic and mundane?

This is the sort of shit that keeps me up at night. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I Do Not Have Time To Be Afraid

My cause is postpartum depression. I had it after Pippa was born and it took four months of anxiety, insomnia and dark suicidal thoughts to realize something was wrong. When my ob/gyn said I had postpartum depression, I did not believe her. When my psychiatrist said I had postpartum depression, I did not believe him. I assumed that all moms with postpartum depression stay in bed all day and cry and hate their babies. Since I did not have those symptoms, I could not have postpartum depression. Oh, how wrong I was.

I was hospitalized for four days in July 2013 and after my discharge, I wanted to join a support group. I had a psychiatrist and cognitive behavioral psychologist, so I did not want to attend formal group therapy.  I just wanted to meet and spend time with other moms who had experienced postpartum depression. There is an organized meeting for EVERYTHING. I just checked the Meetup listings for Pasadena, and there are hundreds of groups for hiking, dancing, reading, exploring the city, you name it, it probably exists. Peruse your local Meetup listings if you are looking for a fun way to procrastinate for five minutes. I could name some of the weirder Pasadena groups, but I don't want to make fun of anyone's hobby. (Unless it's stamp collecting. Can we all agree that stamp collecting is LAME?)

When I was discharged, I could not find any sort of postpartum depression peer-to-peer support group in the Pasadena area. I'm sure there are groups out there, but the only one I could find was in a state that starts with the letter I or O. (I'm pretty sure it was Indiana, but it could have been Iowa. Or Oklahoma. Give me a break, I was recovering from a serious mental illness.)

Last May, I started a group on Meetup for Pasadena moms with postpartum depression. I started the group, paid my dues, and hoped people would find me.

In November, I started daydreaming about ways to promote the group and increase awareness about postpartum depression. My group met in parks - I would find us a real location! I schemed about fundraising and establishing a place where moms can meet and recover together. I ordered business cards and wrote a list of places to leave them.

Then I became overwhelmed by these daydreams and freaked out. I managed my anxiety by doing nothing. I stopped hosting my park meetups. I invented excuses to make myself feel better - Pippa has a sore throat; Pippa could get a  sore throat; the weather could be bad. I hid the business cards in a closet.

But I'm sick of being afraid, I'm sick of excuses, and I'm sick of pretending PPD is not my problem anymore.  So fuck it, I'm going to ignore my fear and all the fake excuses for why I should take the easy road and I'm going to go forward with my Pasadena support group. I'm going to promote it and let myself dream. And if I get scared, I'm going to tell myself, "Fuck it, I don't have time to be scared."

Today I put my business cards in my purse, told a room of seventy women about my support group, and then gave my business cards to interested, caring women.

It has begun. I do not have time to be afraid.