Tuesday, September 30, 2014

October Hootenany

It's almost October! Hurrah! Hurrah! There are so many things I want to do before Halloween:

  • Take Pippa to a pumpkin patch
  • carve pumpkins with Pippa (and hopefully Nathan, but he is crazy at work so yeah, that seems unlikely) - wait, I'm insane. Let's modify this one: DECORATE pumpkins with Pippa with paint and glitter - KEEP THE KNIVES AWAY FROM THE TODDLER
  • eat pumpkin pancakes
  • (if you are noticing a theme, you are not alone)
  • pull out our Halloween decorations and decorate!
  • visit some sort of carnival or festival with Pippa
  • Take Pippa to another pumpkin patch
  • Then take Pippa to a pumpkin patch with a petting zoo
  • and a pumpkin patch with a moon bounce
  • sew something
  • make an info flyer about my postpartum depression meetup
  • deliver that flyer to 10 different pediatricians and/or ob/gyn's in Pasadena
  • get my hair highlighted (treat yo self!)
  • visit a pumpkin patch

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Courtney's Somewhat Exhaustive Guide to Living in East Pasadena

I am specifically writing this post for my cousin Julie, who recently moved to my neighborhood (hurrah!) I thought it would be fun to write a post for her with all the great wisdom I have gleaned during my Pasadena tenure.

Mexican food: So there is an El Cholo at Paseo Colorado, but the service can sometimes be ... questionable. But the fajitas sizzle and the margaritas will make you forget your sorrows. But if you want some excellent, cheap Mexican food that's closer to home, you must try Chiquita Bonita. Especially for breakfast. You should probably go there tomorrow. Then there's Chipotle over on Lake, in the same complex as Best Buy - they have really, really long lines. We always preorder and take home.

Best Buy: If you ever feel the need to go to Best Buy, go to the one in Monrovia. The one in East Pasadena is a Shit Show.  The one in Monrovia is usually empty, even on weekends.

Nordstrom Rack: You probably already figured this out, but we live insanely close to an excellent Rack.  I have scored big time in their jeans department.

Breakfast: So in addition to Chiquita Bonita, I recommend ... oh wait, I have a baby, we don't go to breakfast anymore. But we used to trek to Dish in La Canada - outstanding pancakes - and we'll be making a pilgrimage soon for the pumpkin pancakes. Everyone raves about Marston's, and I do like their French toast, but this place is overhyped and the waits are too effing long for some fucking pancakes. But if you want a special/expensive treat, get brunch at the Langham (where we got ready for my wedding.) It's a fun outing. If you want to hit a diner, then you must try Rod's in Arcadia - mint green booths, lots of great people watching, good cheap food.

Burgers; There is a burger stand called Super Burger and holy eff, it's SUPER. The line for In N Out is always insane, even at 10 a.m. The food at The Habit is also delicious - and dangerous.

Cheap But Awesome Massage: I have found it - yes, I found it - the best massage, and it's only $20! This place is the opposite of Burke Williams, but the $20 foot massage is divine. A Beautiful Day Spa - treat yo self.

Best Cheap Pedicure: Still searching, no luck yet. Sorry. But if you want to pamper yourself, Bellacures in Old Town is amazing.

Books: Vroman's - there are two. The one near us is good but the flagship on Colorado is all sorts of awesome.

Things I Have Recently Learned

  • If you are taking the baby out of her car seat, and you could swear she had a bottle of milk, but you do not see said bottle of milk: SEARCH THE ENTIRE CAR FOR THE MISSING BOTTLE OF MILK.
  • As soon as your car starts to smell like an army latrine, SEARCH THE ENTIRE CAR FOR THE SOURCE OF THE DEATH STENCH. Don't just hope and pray that the smell will go away on its own volition. It won't. 
  • When you find the bottle of rotten milk underneath the driver's seat of the car, don't celebrate and think the latrine smell will disappear. OPEN ALL THE CAR WINDOWS OVER NIGHT, IDIOT. Otherwise, the smell will only get worse.
  • When the smell gets worse, check for sour milk stains.
  • It is probably a good idea to constantly check for milk stains and then scrub the shit out of those stains immediately, if not sooner.
  • But if you are an idiot, and you allow numerous sour milk stains to fester in your car during an extended heat wave, GET YOUR ASS TO THE CAR WASH AND IMMEDIATELY PAY TO HAVE YOUR CAR DETAILED.
Related lessons: I'm an idiot; always use a coupon at the car wash.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Introducing Guest Blogger: Anges the Abandoned Sofa!

Hi, loyal readers! Between raising a rambunctious toddler, writing my memoir about postpartum depression, organizing some grassroots support for mommas with PPD, training to be a trapeze artist, and battling forces of evil across the Universe, I have been super busy and neglecting this blog. While I focus on my stay-at-home mom, writer, circus and superhero gigs, I thought some guest bloggers could entertain you.

First Up: Agnes the Abandoned Sofa! I first met Agnes last winter during an early morning walk with Pippa. She had been abandoned by her latest owner and left on the curb. She looked very lonely and dejected, and I had a pebble in my shoe, so I sat down on her and we chatted.

And so began an unlikely friendship!

Her life began with a family of disgraced but wealthy Spanish aristocrats living in exile in Vermont. Who would have guessed that she would someday be friends with a California girl of humble ordinary roots? I feel so incredibly blessed to call Agnes my friend, and I hope you enjoy her posts.

Without further ado... Agnes the Abandoned Sofa!






Very long chess games.

Very short chess games.

Seven marriage proposals.

Five marriage proposal acceptances.




And, of course, charades.

God, I hate charades.

But look at me, it's my first guest blog post, and I'm babbling like a broken wicker rocking chair, and you know what they say about wicker furniture: there is crazy, and then there is bat shit wicker furniture crazy.

So let's talk about something Interesting and Important: your morning beauty regimen!!!

I know, I know. I am only an abandoned sofa. What do I know about exfoliants and moisturizers? Well, let me remind you, I might now live on the porch of a disreputable fraternity, but I used to be the personal sofa of the Countess Von Countess of Agua de la Mar. And although her family had been exiled to Vermont, and forced to tend a flock of goats, those goats produced cheese that is the stuff of legend. Have you ever heard about the Legend of the Vermont Goat Herder? Of course you have! Well, that legend is about a different herd of goats, but one time... oh shit, I'm babbling again. Sorry.

Anyway, I once lived in the Countess's personal dressing room where she attended to her beauty routine every single morning, and today I am going to share some tips I gleaned.

I think these tips will be very valuable because the Countess Von Countess was reputed to be a Great Beauty but she was, in fact, quite ugly. 

Beauty tips are usually given by the very, very beautiful. WTF? What the hell does a beauty know about beauty regimens? A touch of mascara, a dab of lipstick, and yay, you are ready.

The Countess Von Countess, however, was working with a face that not even her mother could love. I was born after The Exile Affair, but I understand the Countess' face played a small role in that drama. There was also something about a veil and switched brides and an enchanted carousel.

But nobody wants to hear about switched brides or enchanted carousels. We are talking about beauty secrets!

Here is what the Countess Von Countess did every morning to make herself look like one of the world's greatest beauties:

First, she fetched her bag, which she kept in a locked chest, inside a locked closet.

Then, she took her Daytime Face out of the bag. The Daytime Face was a false face made from flower petals, pig skin and ketchup. Also, the Countess chanted a series of rhyming words while waving her arms around - the words were very important, but I do not remember them.

Just Google it. Google knows everything. It certainly knows the words to make a Daytime Face with flower petals, pig skin and ketchup.

This next part is very important: before adhering the Daytime Face to her Ugly Nocturnal Face, the Countess Von Countess spun around in a slow circle, a dozen times, and hummed. Then she summoned her Spirit Animal, a winged gargoyle named Jesse, and fed him breakfast. Breakfast varied from corn to goat fur to pancakes with cobwebs. After breakfast, Jesse whispered secrets into the Countess' ears.

I could tell you all about those secrets, because the Countess was always sitting on my cushions during that part of the Morning Beauty Routine, but I know you are not interested in those secrets. You are only interested in beauty tips.

So to recap: fetch the bag; take out the daytime face; spin and hum; feed your spirit animal; listen to dark secrets about the end of the world and the enslavement of mankind to the gargoyle overloads; and then, and only then, glue on your face with lipstick, mascara, foundation, and blush.

I recommend Clinique but in a pinch, any drugstore brand ought to get the job done.

Happy Monday!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The L.A. Postpartum Depression Meetup Group

When I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression, I wanted to join a group of women who also had postpartum depression. I imagined we would share war stories and give each other support. Maybe someone who had already recovered would be my Big Sister and mentor me. I was not looking for formal group therapy because I already had a psychiatrist and psychologist.  I wanted something that was free and social. Since I live in Pasadena, right next door to L.A., I assumed I would have tons of nearby options.

There were no nearby options... unless you count Missouri.  (Or maybe it was Michigan - whatever, it was in another state, and not even a state adjacent to California.)

I was shocked and disappointed. I had a ton of support from my doctors, husband, parents, siblings, family and friends, but I really yearned for a community of women who knew exactly what I was experiencing. I often felt incredibly alone and frustrated because I could not find local mamas who had PPD.

Last May I started a meetup group for mamas in Pasadena who have or had PPD. We are now eleven mamas strong! We meet at local parks and talk, and by "talk," I mean "we pour each other's hearts out." Although I am fully recovered, I still find the group incredibly cathartic and healing, and I enjoy helping moms who are traveling through the darkness of depression. 

A few weeks ago, one of our members started a meetup group for mamas in Glendale who have or had PPD. I was so excited! Yes! This is exactly what we need! L.A. is BIG, and it is difficult to drag a baby to the far corners of the county, so let's have a meetup group in every neighborhood, from Malibu to Echo Park and everything in between.

At first I was excited, but then I felt INSPIRED.

Why should I be content with organizing a meetup group in Pasadena?  There are women, just like me, struggling with postpartum depression in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Los Feliz, etc. etc. Those women need meetup groups, too! But if you have PPD right now, it's difficult enough managing showers, groceries and diaper changes. I myself could not even think about starting a group until I was 110% better.

I cannot sit by and do nothing if there is one woman with PPD feeling alone and scared in L.A. County, so I started another Meetup Group today: the Los Angeles Postpartum Depression Meetup - We're Not Alone!

I am hoping to use this big L.A. group to start lots of neighborhood groups. One out of seven women suffer from postpartum depression after giving birth. There is no need for us to suffer alone!

I am so excited! I have so many other ideas. I want to get some links and pages going with PPD info on this blog. I need to start some Facebook groups to compliment the Meetup groups. And I want to send fliers to pediatricians and hospital support groups. I told Pippa's pediatrician I want to make fliers to share information about my group, and she was very enthusiastic about this. I also need business cards! I talked with a momma this morning who gave birth two weeks ago and told her about my postpartum depression. Ugh, I wish I had remembered to give her my name and email address.

I also want to make a tote bag that proudly declares the fact that I had PPD. Something I can use for sand toys so other mommas at the playground can see it, and maybe my candor and openness will help someone who is feeling shitty.

Once I help get the neighborhood groups off the ground, I want to use the L.A. group for monthly and quarterly gatherings.  Maybe sometimes we will have weekend gatherings so the dad's and grandparents can come as well.

AND THERE NEEDS TO BE A DANCE PARTY! Postpartum depression is, well, depressing; so I want to encourage moms to do fun things, because FUN helps fight depression.

AND THERE NEEDS TO BE A 5K! Every cause has a 5K. Where's the PPD Fun Run??

And this is L.A. so we need an outing to Dodgers stadium. 2015 season, I'm looking at you! I want the big t.v. screen thing to flash a big cheerful welcome to PPD Moms of L.A.

But whew, all in good time. For now, I'm working on the L.A. meetup group and getting the neighborhood gatherings started. I hope this project gathers momentum quickly, but I realize it might take time. That's okay. The best things come to those who wait.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I'm liking the word "No"

Pippa has been saying "no" for a long time, but she recently started saying it with a lot more passion and intensity. 

Other parents had warned me about the dreaded "No's" making it sound like a death sentence. But so far, it does not bother me. (I reserve the right to amend that statement at any time!)

Yesterday I overheard a toddler saying "No! No! No!" to everything her mother said. Her mother told her that "no" is a negative word and if she kept saying it, people would think she was not nice.

I see her point.

But I politely disagree. (Of course, I kept my disagreement to myself - I'm not in the market for any new enemies this week. But now I'm going to share my disagreement with the world! Muhaha.)

Why does "no" have to be seen as a naughty four-letter word? Why do we discourage our children from using it? The way I see it, "no" is a very important word and I hope that during her life, Pippa uses it regularly and with great intensity. If her junior high school friends offer her a cigarette, I hope she says, "Gross! No!"

 If she is at a party and her drunk friend tries to drive home, I hope she says, "No! Give me the keys! You idiot!"

If anyone ever pressures her to do anything she does not want to do, I hope she says "No!"

If anyone ever tries to take advantage of her in any way, I hope she says, "No!"

If anyone ever touches her in a way that she does not want, I hope she screams, "NO!!! NO!!! NO!!!"

If anyone ever tries to hurt her, I hope she shouts, "NO!" and then kicks that person in the ass. (Or flees if that's the better option. Always choose Life over Dignity.)

If anyone pressures her to do something stupid, I hope she says, "NO!"

I could go on.

Instead of hating the word "no," I am celebrating it every time Pippa says it. When Pippa tells me "NO!" because she is feeling defiant, I smile inside and think, "You go girl!" When Pippa says "No!" to make the point that she is an individual, I silently cheer, "Yes! You are!"  And when Pippa says "No!" when it's time to brush her teeth, I listen, recognize her feelings, and then make her brush her teeth anyway. I am still the momma, after all.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some Rambling Thouhts on The Whole Introvert/Extrovert Paradigm

This is my understanding of what it means to be an introvert or extrovert: an introvert draws her energy from within herself; an extrovert draws her energy from other people.

I have taken many different personality tests during my life, and the tests all agree: I am an Introvert.

I have prided myself on being a Lone Wolf. If stranded on a desert island, I would do fine.

Or so I thought.

Until recently, I have always been a member of a Pack. From preschool through law school, I spent my days with my classmates. Then I went to work and there were always tons of people around. Even if I spent most of my day staring at a computer screen, I still spent lots of time interacting with other people. For my entire life, I had a built-in Wolf Pack. I spent my days with the Pack.

After Pippa was born, I became a stay-at-home mom and I no longer had a Wolf Pack. Instead, I was a Wolf with a Cub - not a pack.

Still, I clung to my belief that I am a Lone Wolf. All the personality tests said I was an Introvert!

But here's the thing about personality tests: they depend entirely on my answers.  I might have thought I was answering the questions honestly, but sometimes I can be dishonest with myself.

Nathan has been very busy at work. Insanely busy.  Hellishly unreasonably busy.  He has been working 70-80 hours every week for ... well, it feels like forever. He has been going to the office every weekend for the past month and has been in Arizona for the past week. 

This has been tough for him, but it has also been tough for me. The weekends were especially tough. My parents were in New York, Nathan was at the office, and Pippa and I just had each other.
I was feeling .... ick ... urg... I did not know exactly what I was feeling, but it did not feel good.

I thought about it.  I wrote about it.  I thought about it some more, and then I realized ...

I was lonely.

Me? Lonely? How could that be? I'm an introvert! I should be relishing the Me Time. I only need a book and I'm happy. Right?  RIGHT?!

Wrong. I was lonely. L-O-N-E-L-Y.

I whined and complained to Nathan. He listened, but this did not change the fact that I was l-o-n-e-l-y.

So I made more plans. A year ago, I joined a local mom's group but never attended the big gatherings. I finally attended one. I emailed friends and set up lunch dates. I took Pippa to a free music class and signed us up for the semester. We went to a free gym class. I made more of an effort to chat with other moms at the playground and you know what? The friendlier I am, the friendlier the other moms are too.

When I was talking with other people, I found myself happy and ... energized. Energized by other people? WTF? Aren't I an introvert?

At my monthly appointment, I told my psychiatrist that Nathan was busy at work and I was feeling lonely. He told me if I feast all day and have burnt toast for dinner, that's okay. But if I only get one meal a day, and that meal is burnt toast, then I'm going to be cranky and depressed.

He's right. I have been getting out of the house every day and exploring new places with Pippa. We have taken classes and made friends, but we were not interacting with people every day. I depended on Nathan to be my breakfast, lunch and dinner; my mommy friends were just snacks. But with Nathan hellishly unreasonably busy at work, he did not have the time to be a 24 hour social buffet. 

After lots of ruminating and soul-searching, I finally accepted the fact that I am not a Lone Wolf. I am an extrovert, and I love being part of a pack.

You hear that, world? I AM AN EXTROVERT!!!

I believe I have always been an extrovert but thanks to my extreme anxiety, I convinced myself that I was an introvert. Let me try to explain...

Before I had postpartum depression, I was an anxious person, but I was able to function. After I gave birth, my hormones went bat shit crazy, and my anxiety went to a whole new level. I became depressed, had panic attacks, and could not sleep. I wanted to die.

But I did not die. Although I had thoughts about killing myself, I did not like those thoughts. So I saw my doctor and self-admitted myself to the hospital. I got help. I saw a cognitive behavioral therapist every week and he helped me defeat my postpartum depression. And then we tackled all of my other pre-existing anxieties, and we shredded my anxiety to pieces and then took those pieces and lit a bonfire and turned my anxiety to ash. Now that the ashes have blown away, I can see how deeply every part of my life was affected by anxiety.

I know now that thanks to my anxiety, I was afraid of people. I was so, so terribly afraid of REJECTION. I was afraid of talking to people and asking friends out to lunch because, horror of horrors, THEY MIGHT SAY NO AND THAT WOULD BE FUCKING TERRIBLE.

Except it wouldn't be. Rejection is not the end of the world. It's not even a broken arm. It's a paper cut. An itty bitty ouch, a little drop of blood, and that's it. Big deal.

I am starting to put myself out there. I joined a mommy play group. I joined a mommy class that starts at the end of the month. I started a play group/book club on Meetup a few days ago. I have a few other Meetups that I want to start, especially one for crafting and a big one for postpartum depression. I am looking at my calendar and making sure it is FULL.

I used to be afraid of a full dance card - that was another bullshit concern that my anxiety manufactured. I was afraid that I might have to cancel plans AND HOLY EFFING EFF THAT WOULD BE THE END OF THE WORLD.

Nope. Sometimes plans get cancelled. It's not the end of the world. It's not even a broken leg. Shit, it's not even a paper cut! It is, at best, an empty carton of milk that someone accidentally put back in the fridge. You think, "Shit howdy, this carton of milk is empty, let me throw it out and open this one instead" and then you move on with your life.

Rejection is not a big deal, and neither are cancelled plans. Two days ago, Pippa took a long nap at a weird time so we had to miss a play group. Guess what? The world is still here. No one broke a leg or even a toe. And there is still plenty of milk in the fridge.

This past week, I have embraced the fact that I am an extrovert. I need people! Nothing has changed - I am still the same Courtney - and yet everything has changed - for the first time in thirty-five years, I truly understand and accept who I am.

Nathan is finally coming home today after a week in Arizona, and I feel great. Pippa and I missed him, but we had a great week.  We saw lots of different people, and I had great conversations, every day. I fed my soul and energized myself by making sure I had a Pack.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Many, many moons ago, way back in September 2011, I wrote a blog post called "Dog Leashes: Explained." Long story short, one of my neighbors was walking her Rottweiler and although the Rottweiler had a leash clipped to its collar, the neighbor was not actually holding the leash.

Fast forward to July 2014, some random reader stumbled upon this post. I no longer leave my posts open for comment because eh, I'm just not a Comments sort of person. But this old post was open for comments, so Anonymous commented:

You need to get out more. Challenge your assumptions. Be prepared to be wrong, learn from it. Maybe you'll find you're the animal who should be chained in a basement.

Thank you, Anonymous! Thank you for taking my sarcasm/humor so seriously. Nathan and I shared a hysterical laugh. Now why don't you go cuddle with a strange Rottweiler roaming your neighborhood.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Life Lately

  • Slowly making progress on my Big Ass Parks Project
  • Easing myself into the Atkins lifestyle - I am excited to break up with carbs, but needed to say goodbye to pizza.
  • Waging a war against the army of toys taking over the house - Pippa is graduating to more interesting toys, so it's time to exile the rattles to the garage
  • Plotting ways to deal with my craft supplies
  • and I want to draw now, so adieu, adieu

Friday, July 11, 2014

Courtney's Dream Home

I love our house, but you know what would make me love it even more?
  • an indoor hammock
  • two stories - upstairs for sleeping, downstairs for rowdiness and mayhem
  • a balcony off the master bedroom for morning coffee
  • self-cleaning floors (really just in the kitchen in the highchair zone - I'm not greedy)
  • a saltwater aquarium with starfish
  • a little free library for the neighborhood
  • a big tree with a tire swing 
  • brightly colored furniture
  • a room with a ceiling painted a fun bright color, like so
  • lots of house plants that I don't forget to water
  • a craft/play room that has a big long table for my sewing machine and a teepee for Pippa
  • man cave for Nathan with a jukebox
  • vegetable garden with space and sun for TOMATOES
  • an open floor plan for the kitchen/den (our house comes close to this, but I'm greedy and want the kitchen to flow into the den)
  • a leather booth in the kitchen
  • a zipline and trampoline in the backyard (and of course, since this is my dream home, we'd still have a pool - duh)
  • a front porch with more seating (hmm, gears are whirring in my head as I consider ways to rearrange our porch...)
  • a pumpkin patch

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Courtney's Ultimate Bad Ass List of Learning Ambitions

According to The How of Happiness, learning new things makes me happy. I fully agree. And as I've noted before, I LOVE LISTS. So obviously it is time for me to make a list of all the things I hope to learn during my life. I am not setting any deadlines for any of these ambitions.

Without further ado, behold! All the crazy, practical, lame, impractical, exciting, amazing, and weird things I want to learn:
  1. how to throw a boomerang
  2. how to ride a unicycle - I have wanted to learn this for at least twenty years now! I was THIS CLOSE to buying a unicycle when I was a senior in college. I was convinced it would make an awesome study break while I was writing my thesis. My friends thought otherwise and convinced me to abandoned that scheme.
  3. how to juggle five objects - I can juggle three tennis balls! I learned how to juggle in the sixth grade, but if I ever want to be a circus clown, I'm going to have to up to my credentials.
  4. how to make a balloon animal - Apparently what I really want to do is go to clown college.
  5. how to change a tire - oh thank god, something unrelated to the circus
  6. how to change the oil in my car - I'm sick of being such a girl with all things car-related
  7. the different parts of a car - I can identify the tires! And the windshield wipers! I'm on my way!
  8. all the presidents of the United States in chronological order - George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson...
  9. five fun facts about each U.S. President but I can't learn the facts from Wikipedia
  11. how to execute a cartwheel - the cartwheel does not have to be flawless, but a bystander has to be able to say "Hey, that chick just did a shitty cartwheel."
  12. how to be a bad ass with a hacky sack - back to the clown theme, but this one has a stoner twist
  13. the Thriller dance
  14. how to make pasta from scratch - I actually was signed up for a pasta making class once and then the bastards cancelled due to low enrollment
  15. how to make a pie from scratch - not to boast, but I'm sure I can do this, I just have never attempted it
  16. Spanish - I took Spanish through high school, plus one class my first quarter of college, but I flamed out of that class. But I am working on reclaiming what I used to know and then becoming fluent. I've been using a great app called Duolingo plus reading some books in Spanish.
  17. French or German or another third language
  18. World geography - My education was severely lacking on this point. I want to know where every country in the world is, plus major cities, rivers, mountains, etc. I already know where the oceans are, so this is totally doable - right?
  19. Guitar
  20. Ukulele - I own one, I own a book, I own a tuner, but I can't figure out how to tune the damn thing! Someone I know must be able to help me with this one...
  21. Grilling - This has been Nathan's jurisdiction, but it is time to conquer my fear of the grill. There's only a 5% chance I will become engulfed in flames and have to jump into the pool.
  22. Harmonica
  23. Accordion
  24. survival skills in the event of a zombie attack, e.g. how to build a fire
  25. basic first aid
Okay, I've got my work cut out for me! And I know this list will get longer before I am able to conquer a significant item...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Air Conditioned Adventure Awaits!

The heat has arrived (oh joy). Our house has air conditioning, but when the temperature hits 95, our poor a/c unit struggles. It is better to seek out corporate air conditioning. Plus, Pippa and I go bat shit crazy if we stay inside all day. We also get bored if we frequent the same places over and over (see my Parks Project).

I started a Beat the Heat Cheat Sheet, but then got lazy and never finished it. I'm going to use it myself, but I doubt I will ever polish it to perfection. Instead, I am challenging myself to take Pippa to at least 25 awesome air conditioned places between now and the end of September and keep track of those places here. Without further ado...

  1. Magical Playground - 7/5/14. My thoughts on this place are here in my Beat the Heat Cheat Sheet.
  2. Petersen Automotive Museum - 7/6/14 - This was a fun place to wander around with Pippa and Nathan. My inner history buff loved the first floor dioramas that showed beautiful old cars in their natural habitats, so to speak. The entire third floor is a play area that Pippa enjoyed. This is definitely the place to bring a child obsessed with cars. Pippa is only mildly interested in cars, so I doubt we will rush back (unless the Model T suddenly replaces her obsession with dogs, monkeys and elephants).
  3. IKEA - 7/7/14 - I assumed this would be either (a) an awesome outing or (b) a total fucking disaster. Yay, it was awesome! Pippa would have stayed in the children's section all day if I let her. We did not even have time to wander through the rest of the furniture floor, and Pippa would enjoy scaling the couches and chairs (and I would enjoy soaking up the design inspiration). Bonus: there is a Barnes & Noble across the street from the Burbank IKEA which we will have to make time to visit next time.
  4. California Science Center - 7/8/14 - Love this museum! It's free, the adjacent lot is $10. There is so much to see that Pippa and I barely made a dent. We will be back soon soon soon.
  5. Kidspace - 7/10/14 - so effin unbelievably awesome

Courtney's Big Ass Parks Project

I love taking Pippa to new parks, but it is so easy to get into a park rut and keep visiting the same two or three parks over and over and over. Then we both get bored and sick of the same effing slides and tunnels. If I visit the same park too frequently, it turns into A Place Where My Happiness Goes To Die. But if we visit an ass shit ton of parks, Pippa and I both have fun and crack up as we run around.

In order to avoid the Park Rut, I'm going to keep track of all the parks I visit. My goal is to visit 100 different parks by the end of the year. (I reserve the right to realize that I'm insane and extend the deadline.)

I thought a lot about whether this list may include indoor playgrounds and decided it may NOT. This is about parks with fresh air and birds. Most of them will involve playgrounds, but the point is to visit new outdoor places.

But I have another list in mind that will include indoor playgrounds.

Parks I Have Visited - Woot Woot!:

  1. Singer Park - 7/5/14 - I have driven by this park at least 100 times and always thought that I should take Pippa there. Finally, this morning, I did and it was awesome. From the street, it looked ok, but once we parked and walked over, we could fully appreciate its awesomeness. It's shady in the morning, there are lots of different things to do, plenty of greenery, and there are fences to prevent little ones from bolting into traffic. We will definitely visit this gem again - but not too soon! I don't want to transform it into A Place Where My Happiness Goes to Die.
  2. Brookside Park - 7/7/14 - The mother of all Pasadena parks.  There are not one but two playgrounds. Lots of open space for toddler adventures. The Rose Bowl Aquatic Center (which I still haven't visited - someday). And of course, there is Kidspace. Today we went to the Pirate Ship Playground behind the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center. I know I will be tempted to include Brookside Park multiple times on this list since it feels like three different parks but I shall resist temptation!  
  3. Memorial Park (the Sierra Madre edition) - 7/9/14 - A small SHADY park. The playground's main structure is simple, but Pippa played happily for 90 minutes.
  4. Tournament Park - 7/14/14 (Bastille Day! And my brother's birthday!) - Tons of shade, Pippa wandered around listlessly thanks to some wicked teething; but the park is great so we will be back. I'm sure she will love the slides and sandbox when she is not in pain.
  5. Mason Park - 7/15/14 - This was another miserable teething day. I had to drive around to help Pippa fall asleep and then schlepped to Chatsworth because I had read good reviews about this park and figured Pippa deserved a diversion from her gums.  The park is fantastic. Amazing playground, even more amazing splash pad. We shall return when Pippa's gums are not torturing her. Poor girl had zero interest in the splash pad, which is very uncharacteristic of her.
  6. Eaton Canyon Natural Area - 7/17/14 - More teething, but since we were having a lovely reprieve from the summer heat, I decided it was time for some Nature. There is a little nature museum with some snakes and bugs in terrariums and turtles outside. There are also a ton of stuffed animals (by stuffed, I mean both "taxidermy" and "cute sewn teddy bears.") There is an easy nature walk, but my teething tot was not interested in walking. Also, there were signs warning about rattlesnakes and recent bear and mountain lion sightings. So yeah, we won't be going back any time soon! (Unless we have daddy to protect us from snakes, bear and lions - oh my!)
  7. Vina Vieja Park - 7/20/14 - Another amazing Pasadena park, but this one has a bonus: there's a dog park! Pippa is obsessed with dogs and she loved watching the dogs romp around, and even got to pet a friendly chocolate Labrador; but she had even more fun at the playground. 
  8. Victory Park - 7/21/14 - The toddler area is pretty shabby, but I still love this park.  Spectacular views of the mountains, lots of open space, shade, and Pippa loves the big kid playground.
  9. Dunsmore Park - 7/21/14 - WOW! Love this place! The playgrounds are fun, clean and safe. There is a ridiculous amount of shade. And during the summer, on Mondays and Thursdays from noon-5, they fill up the little skating rink and turn it into a wading pool. It's FREE and only for kids 8 and younger.
  10. Gwinn Park - 7/23/14 - No playground, just a big ass open green space with lots of pretty old trees. Perfect place for picnics, tossing a Frisbee, cloud gazing and letting a toddler explore the world. 
As of mid-July, I have visited seven different parks which means I have 27 weeks to visit 93 parks. That's 3.44 parks/week. Chop chop, I better get a move on!

    11.  Some park in Southampton - first half of August 2014 - Pippa and I spent two weeks in New York and visited the local park many times. We both loved it, especially the ducks. We need to find a local park with feathered friends.

    12.  Garfield Park - 8/16/14 - Love love love! Easy parking. Lots of trees and shade. Great playground for toddlers. The bathrooms REEK of death, despair and diarrhea, but we shall return.

Two weeks in Southampton slowed down this project, but we are back! Watch out parks, here we come!

    13.  Central Park - 8/17/14 - Love! I can't get over how many amazing parks are so close to home. Great playground and bonus, walking distance to Old Town. Win-win.

    14.  Lacy Park - 8/20/14 - Love the new playground but the slides were too hot to use - next time we'll go in the morning. But this park is spectacular. The grounds are so lovely to wander. Also, I saw a Mom Fight.

    15.  San Rafael Park - 8/21/14 - Great playground, tons of shade, but no restroom. And if your bladder is a time bomb like mine, you will appreciate what a liability this is.

This project is fun but ridiculous - how the effity eff am I supposed to visit 100 different parks in six months?? But I love visiting new parks - new people, new playgrounds, new neighborhoods fresh air, nature. So I will soldier on, for shits and giggles, just to see how badly I end up missing the mark.


When I was recovering from postpartum depression, my sister introduced me to The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, by Sonja Lyubomirsky.  The book describes the science behind happiness and explains how different things make different people happy. Rather than give a one-size-fits-all approach to happiness, the book has a lengthy multiple choice test. The test results identify the best activities to boost your personal happiness. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to be happy (and I recommend it to the martyrs as well - happiness is so much better than misery!)

I especially recommend this book to moms recovering from postpartum depression. When I was first diagnosed with PPD, I was too broken to do much of anything; but as the Zoloft kicked in and my energy returned, I was able to become more proactive about my recovery. Zoloft was a huge essential piece of this, but it could not heal me alone. I had to seek out activities that made me happy.  PPD made me forget the things that make me happy; but The How of Happiness helped me remember what they are.

According to The How of Happiness, my "happy activities" are having goals and big projects, learning new things, and being physically active. The results could not have been more correct; but before I read this book and took its test, I could not have articulated these truths about myself.

The second half of The How of Happiness describes effective techniques to increase one's happiness, but you only read the chapters that apply to you - e.g. I read about setting goals, learning, and being physically active and then followed the advice in those chapters.

It was tough at first. Thanks to my bout of postpartum depression, and to our societal and cultural expectations about motherhood, I had become a martyr and thought I had forfeited the right to make my happiness a priority. I needed to be constantly entertaining Pippa and attending to her well-being. Now I know that in order to be the mom I want to be, I also have to take care of myself. Also, I'm discovering that the things that make me happy often make Pippa happy as well.

With that said, I have decided to use this blog to help boost my happiness even more. In addition to my love of learning, projects and physical activity, there is one other thing that makes me super happy: LISTS. Oh my god, I love lists! I have lists of places I want to visit, books to read, books I have read, museums I have visited, etc. etc. but the lists get lost or my computer crashes and eats them, and then I am so, so sad for my list.

So now I am going to start keeping my lists here! Woot woot! Time to start the first one...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Having Fun!

Quick synopsis for new (or forgetful) readers: My daughter Pippa was born in March 2013.  I struggled with postpartum depression for four months, culminating in five weeks of insomnia.  I wanted to die and finally went to see my ob/gyn in late July 2013. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and spent four nights in the hospital's psychiatric wing.  

I met my psychiatrist when I was a patient at my hospital's emergency room. I told him that I had had insomnia for the past five weeks and anxious, as if I was being stalked by a serial killer, but I was not depressed. Even though I was exhausted and broken by anxiety, I was very happy and content.

He did not seem convinced and asked if I had been having fun.

It felt like a trick question on a Calculus final exam; but I was confident that I was happy; and if I was happy, I must be having fun. Right? Happy mothers have fun - right? I was a happy mother - right? My life was filled with fun - right? I told my doctor that I was indeed having fun. 

Then he asked, "How? How are you having fun?"

How? WTF? I immediately felt defensive and cornered. The question implied that I was lying, that I was not in fact having fun in my life, that I was a horrible bitter mother who was not enjoying every precious moment with her newborn. If I was not having fun in my life, then I must hate my life; and if I hated my life, I resented my baby; and if I resented my baby, I was the most horrible mother in the world; and I could not bear the thought of that. The possibility that I was not having fun made me feel sick to the stomach. 

Indignant, I started to defend myself... but could not think of a good example to convince the doctor I was having fun. I knew that I was having fun, but my doctor did not believe me. The gears in my head clanged and sputtered, but I could only think of one example: watching t.v. with Nathan. As I explained to my psychiatrist that Nathan and I were new parents and watching television was the most fun we could expect to have, I felt both pathetic and outraged: pathetic that I was a couch potato; outraged that my doctor expected me to be going to extreme measures to have fun when I was busy caring for a newborn.

My psychiatrist and I had that conversation eleven months ago, and holy shit, what a difference eleven months has made! Eleven months ago, I thought that in becoming a parent, I had forfeited the right to have fun. Now I know that having fun is critical to my mental health. Eleven months ago, I thought watching television was fun. Now I know that television can be relaxing and entertaining, but rarely "fun." (I make exceptions for things like Super Bowl and Oscar viewing parties.)

Eleven months ago, I had forgotten how to have fun.  The word had been erased from my vocabulary so completely, that I was startled when my shrink asked me that simple question: are you having fun?

Now I have fun every day. I often find myself thinking, "This is going to be fun!" or "That was fun!" and when the word "fun" comes to mind, I feel grateful. I am so grateful that my psychiatrist did not just prescribe a sleep aid and tell me to lose weight. I am so grateful for all the support I received from my husband, parents, siblings and friends. If my doctor had not forced me to look at my life, if my family had not supported my recovery, I might still think that it's fun to be a couch potato.

So how do I have fun these days?  I started doing Zumba a month ago - Zumba is fun! Now I find myself dancing during random moments throughout the day. I spin Pippa around the kitchen and amuse her with silly dance moves. Dancing is fun!

I took Pippa to a local indoor playground with a huge climbing structure and a big twisty slide. Pippa and I climbed up the equipment together - climbing is fun! - and then she scrambled into my lap and we whooshed down the slide together - slides are fun! Now I am plotting a trip to Raging Waters and contemplating the best way to bribe my sister to hang out with Pippa in the kiddie zone while Nathan and I go down the big slides. (Hey, Katherine, if you are reading this, I'll buy you a Lexus scooter...)

I went on a hike last weekend to celebrate my climb out of the darkness of depression  - hiking is fun! I scrambled over rocks and splashed across a stream - scrambling is fun! splashing is fun! There are lots of splash pads in the San Gabriel Valley and Pippa and I are going to play in them all summer - playing is fun!

Pippa and I are taking swim lessons - swimming is fun!

We had a family trip to the beach - the beach is fun! Building sand castles? FUN! Getting splashed by waves? Fun fun fun!

Every day, I build towers for Pippa with whatever is available - Duplo bricks, wooden blocks, Tupperware, paper bowls - and then she knocks it down and laughs hysterically. Building is fun! Laughing is fun!

Every day, Pippa chases after me, and then I chase after her, and then I hide behind a chair, and then we shriek when she finds me. It's our own version of hide-n-seek-tag, and it is FUN FUN FUN.

Before I had postpartum depression, I took the concept of fun for granted. I did a lot of things that were fun, but I did not deliberately make sure I had fun on a regular basis. When I was stressed at work, I could go days and weeks on end without having any.

Although I started to feel enormously better within 48 hours of starting Zoloft, it took months and months for me to recover. Today, as I type this, I feel as if I have recovered fully; but every month, I feel better and better. So maybe I have not fully recovered. Maybe I am still shaking off the residue of postpartum depression.

But I do know this: eleven months ago, I was not having fun. Six months ago, I was having a little fun... but not much. I was still anxious, and my anxiety made me feel reserved. Two months ago, I was having fun more often, but not exuberant fun. One month ago, I started doing Zumba, and I found myself having fun several times every day. One week ago, I rode down a big slide with Pippa and felt exuberant.

Folks, I am having fun! Life is fun! Postpartum depression stole the fun out of my life, but I have reclaimed it. I feel so energized. Having fun is not just enjoyable. It is INVIGORATING. When I have fun, my skin tingles with excitement, ideas bounce around my head, and my heart bursts with love. The fun of riding down a big slide does not end at the bottom of the slide; the exhilaration spills over the rest of my life. For example, today, while I was stuck in a traffic jam, I did not get frustrated or annoyed and pound the steering wheel, as I am wont to do. I danced. I grooved from left to right, using the steering wheel as my partner, as traffic inched forward. By having fun on a regular basis, I was able to actually enjoy a crappy moment in a traffic jam.

Now you will have to excuse me. I have to go have some fun!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Go, Me!

This morning I went on a hike as part of the Climb Out of Darkness fundraiser organized by Postpartum Progress. I hiked to celebrate my recovery from postpartum depression; I hiked to raise awareness about PPD; I hiked to help erase the stigma that haunts so many women who suffer from PPD; and I hiked to raise money to support Postpartum Progress.

I was not very aggressive in my fundraising efforts (just a few posts on Facebook) but I raised $375 - woot woot! Next year, I am going to hike again, and fair warning: I'm going to be a bit more obnoxious and post about it here, Facebook, instagram and send emails and maybe even some good old-fashioned letters seeking donations.

I learned about the hike when I was searching for organizations that help women with postpartum depression. Bad news: there are very few such organizations. As someone else mentioned on Facebook, it is easier to find grief counseling for the loss of a pet than it is to find help for the most common pregnancy complication. 

I had so much trouble finding PPD organizations that I strongly considered started a non-profit myself.  I still might! I am very impressed with Postpartum Progress, but if we are going to destroy the stigma of PPD, and help the women who need help, there need to be a lot more organizations out there. I am writing my memoir about having PPD to help raise awareness, BUT I WANT TO DO MORE. I have so many ideas percolating in my head, I sometimes have to dance to burn off the energy. (Pippa loves when mama dances like a crazy lady.)

Anyway, the hike. Women hiked in teams or they hiked alone. I hiked alone because I could not find a local team. Next year, damnit, I am spear heading Team Pasadena! (Or if someone else wants to do that, I will be their loyal sidekick and slice oranges for my fellow hikers.)

I hiked to the waterfall in Eaton Canyon Natural Area in Altadena. Nathan and I have done this hike before, so I knew it was safe and doable. Most importantly, the trail is busy with families and couples but not overcrowded. This meant I could enjoy nature and listen to birds, but I did not feel like I was in any danger of being raped by a hiking psychopath. (It's L.A. County - you have to be smart. Women have been attacked recently in Griffith Park.)

I thought a lot about my recovery from postpartum depression as I hiked. The hike truly was symbolic of my journey through the hell of depression:
  • I hiked up and down. Some parts of the trail were easy and other parts made my thighs burn. My recovery sometimes felt very easy and other days, it was incredibly different.
  • The trail crossed rocky stream beds, and it was sometimes unclear which way I should go. My recovery from PPD was also not straightforward and I did not always know what was the best thing to do. But I managed to reach the waterfall, and I recovered from PPD as well.
  • There were other people ahead of me on the trail who I could sometimes glimpse and hear. Although I did not realize it when I was plunged into the darkness of depression, hundreds and thousands of other mamas were plodding along ahead of me. I was never alone.
  • The trail sometimes split in two, and there were multiple ways to pass around a boulder or tree. There are multiple ways to kick PPD in the ass. 
  • I drank plenty of water and wore sunblock and hiking shoes. I was not going to be a martyr and get a sunburn for the sake of hiking to a waterfall! The same goes for mamas - don't be a martyr because that is what society suspects. You have to take care of yourself and enjoy the journey.
  • I made it to the waterfall! And I kicked PPD in the ass!
  • On the way back to my car, I hiked past many fellow hikers. Some were friendly, some were not. Some people know how support a loved one who is suffering from PPD. Some do not. (And that is okay. PPD is so stigmatized and misunderstood, our loved ones do not always know how to react and be supportive.)
  • Some hikers asked me how to reach the waterfall and I pointed the way. I am now trying to find ways to support mamas who are currently suffering from PPD. I recently emailed with a new mom - a total stranger - about the medication I've been taking. I hope I helped her at least a little!
I could spend all day writing about the hike and all the things it made me think about. It was so wonderful. I felt so excited as I waved goodbye to Nathan and Pippa this morning, so exhilarated as I set forth to the waterfall, and then so happy to get home and hug my baby and husband. Thank you Postpartum Progress for organizing such an inspiring event!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Great Stroller Conspiracy

Ever since I got pregnant, I have been on a quest to find The One True Stroller. The One True Stroller is lighter than air; has durable wheels that glide over the bumpiest paths; a canopy that blocks the most tenacious of sun beams; a cargo area that carries enough supplies for a three day wilderness hike; a seating configuration that pleases my daughter; it must be emerald green because that is my favorite color, thank you very much; and it costs no more than $80.*  I have hunted and researched and shopped and searched far and wide on my quest for The One True Stroller, and this is what I have determined: it does not fucking exist.

When Pippa was born, I mostly used one of those Snap and Go contraptions that you pop the car seat into. It had a big basket underneath and folded easily. It got the job done, and I'll gladly use it again if we have another baby. But it was only good for six or seven months, and then Pippa wanted to face forward and see the world, so it is not The One True Stroller.  The One True Stroller needs some longevity, and six to seven months does not satisfy that criteria.

I also bought the Bob stroller while I was pregnant, and it has gotten a lot of use. I can push Bob over any terrain in Pasadena. It was great when Pippa and I took lots of long morning walks, but my darling does not have the patience for long walks anymore - unless she gets to nap. But I don't want her to nap in the stroller. I want her to nap in the crib, so I can get some writing done! So poor Bob has been languishing in the garage.

A few months ago, I added an Uppababy umbrella stroller to our fleet. I thought it was perfect. I realize now I was seduced by its emerald green beauty. Damn me and my blind spot for anything that is emerald green! My umbrella stroller has crap storage. The basket will not even accommodate our lunch bag. I have to hang my backpack on the handles. This works fine when Pippa is riding in the stroller, but as soon as she gets out ... BOOM! The damn stroller topples over. I have to take off the backpack first, then unbuckle Pippa, and then dump the backpack into the stroller seat. This works fine if we are just walking from Point A to B, e.g. parking lot to restaurant table, but we do lots of museums and activities like the zoo and aquarium, all of which involve lots of hopping in and out of the stroller every five minutes. Playing musical chairs with Pippa and my backpack gets really old really fucking quickly, and no matter how diligent I am, the stroller still falls over at least twice during every excursion.

So what now, Universe? Do I buy another stroller ? What the fuck, am I really supposed to buy an new stroller every six or seven months? Or should I suck it up and lug the Bob everywhere, even though it weighs an ass shit ton and does not even have a good storage area? WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO, UNIVERSE? STEAL A SHOPPING CART AND COVER IT WITH GREEN FABRIC AND LEARN HOW TO WELD OR MELT METAL OR SOME SHIT LIKE THAT SO I CAN MAKE THE SHOPPING CART FLEXIBLE? IS THAT WHAT YOU REALLY WANT?

You know why I cannot find my One True Stroller? Because the stroller companies have conspired to make sure that no stroller is perfect, so that we parents keep buying and buying stroller after not-quite-perfect stroller. Bastards. Would someone just design the perfect stroller already? And make sure it is emerald green? And sell it for no more than $80? And throw in a free deep conditioning treatment? If emerald green is asking for too much, apple green would be fine. See, Universe, I'm flexible.

*I'm sure if you diagram this sentence, you will discover that I violated eight or nine grammar rules. Hey Grammar Nazis, guess what? I don't give a shit.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Courtney's Beat The Heat Cheat Sheet

I love Pasadena, but the summer heat sucks. I'm compiling a list of places I can take Pippa so we can stay cool and still have fun this summer. If you are a regular reader, this is a good post to skip. If you are a stay-at-home mom in Pasadena looking for things to do this summer, welcome!

Libraries: Even though she is only fifteen months old, I signed Pippa up for Pasadena's Summer Reading Program. I'd like to visit all the local libraries with her this summer - except there are so many! Maybe by the end of 2014. Right now, every freaking storytime happens during Pippa's morning nap, but she will not take a morning nap forever and one day, by Jove, we will make it to storytime!
  • Central Library - Opens 9 a.m. every day but Sunday.
  • Allendale - 1130 South Marengo Avenue Pasadena, CA; Monday-Thursday, 10-6; Fridays 2-6; Saturday, 10-6; closed Sundays.  Preschool storytime Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.
  • Hastings (our closest branch!) - opens 10 a.m. everyday but Sunday, opens Sunday at 1; preschool storytime at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesdays.
  • Hill Avenue -55 South Hill Avenue Pasadena, CA; 10-6, Mon-Thurs, 10-2 Fridays, 10-6 Saturdays, closed Sundays. Preschool storytime Tuesdays at 10:30
  • La Pintoresca - 1355 North Raymond Avenue Pasadena, CA  91103 - Mon-Sat, 9-6, closed Sundays. Preschool storytime Thursdays at 10:30.
  • Lamanda Park - 140 South Altadena Drive Pasadena, CA 91107 - M-Th, 10-6, Fridays 2-6, Saturdays 10-6, closed Sundays. Preschool storytime Tuesdays at 10:30. Infant and toddler storytime, Thursdays at 10:30.  Family storytime Thursdays at 3:30.
  • Linda Vista - 1281 Bryant Street Pasadena, CA 91103 - M-Th, 10-6, F 10-2, Sat 10-6, Sundays closed.
  • San Rafael - 1240 Nithsdale Road Pasadena, CA 91105 - M-Th 10-6, F 10-2, Sat 10-6, Sundays closed. Preschool storytime Wednesdays at 11 a.m.
  • Santa Catalina - 999 East Washington Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91104 - M-Th 10-6, F 2-6, Sat 10-6, Sundays closed.
  • Villa Parke - 363 East Villa Street Pasadena, CA 91101 - M-F, 10-1 and 2-6, Sat 10-2, closed Fridays. Preschool storytime, Tuesdays at 10:30.
  • South Pasadena Public Library - 363 East Villa Street Pasadena, CA 91101 - 1100 Oxley Street
    South Pasadena, CA 91030 - M-W, 11-9, Th-F, 10-6, Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5. Lots of storytimes
  • Crowell Public Library - 1890 Huntington Drive, San Marino, 91108 - M-Th, 10-9, Fr-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5.
  • La Canada Flintridge Library - 4545 N. Oakwood Ave. La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011. M-W 10-8, Th 10-6, F-Sat 10-5, Sun closed.
  • Altadena Main Library - 600 East Mariposa St. - Altadena, CA 91001 - M-Tues, 10-9pm, W-Sat 10-6, Sunday closed.
  • Arcadia Public Library - 20 West Duarte Road, Arcadia 91006.  M-Th 10-9, F-Sat 10-6, closed Sundays. 20 West Duarte Road, Arcadia, CA  91006
    20 West Duarte Ro
ad, Arcadia, CA  91006
Indoor Playgrounds: Why didn't I come up with this business model first?

  • Magical Playground: Many indoor playgrounds are brightly lit with brand new toys and a cheerful pleasant vibe. Not Magical Playground! The toys must have been purchased at garage sales and the lighting is depressing. But Pippa loves it. There's a big climbing structure with tube slides, moon bounce, play houses, etc. The place wears down her endless toddler energy. We just bought a month long pass from Groupon, so we will be living here until mid-July. Open Play is M-F, 9-6:30 p.m, with some limited playtime on weekends, depending on whether the place is booked for a party or not. Tots under 2 are $7, check website for other pricing info.
  • Baby Polka Dot: Our current fave. Pippa plays independently for at least an hour whenever we come here, usually more, and then she plays with me as well. I get to relax and do some writing or read. The floor is cushioned, the toys are clean, and there is a small ball pit with a slide that Pippa adores. I bought two discounted passes in May, so we will be here a ton this summer. M-F, 10-6, sometimes open on the weekends depending on party schedules.
  • Amy's Playground: I love this place, and so does Roo. Skylights make the place feel airy and cheerful. Open play, M-Th, 10-6, F 10-5, the place sometimes closes at 3 on Mondays. 2 and under are $7.
  • Caterpillar Kids Place: M-Th, 9:30-6, F 9:30-5. Free parking in rear. $12, kids 1-8. Ouch! That's a bit steep, but it's an all day pass. I will certainly check it out at least once. 965 Foothill Blvd., La Canada.
  • Peekaboo Playland: Open play M-Th, 10-6, F 10-5. $9 for ages 1 and up. We have never been but definitely going to check this one out soon. Located in Eagle Rock on the corner of Colorado and Maywood Ave. 
  • The Awesome Playground:  Open play, M-F 10-6. $8 all day pass. They have water play Fridays from 2-5.  Two hour street parking is available on Avenue 52. All day street parking is available on Lincoln Avenue (one block south of York Blvd.) and Avenue 52 south of Lincoln Ave.  5158 York Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90042. We have never been but this is high on our Must Visit list.
  • Jump n Jammin at the mall
Kidspace Children's Museum: Oh, Kidspace! Glorious, glorious Kidspace. We are members and will go here at least once a week all summer long. A lot of the exhibits are outdoors, true, but there is plenty of fun to be had in the air conditioned buildings. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Kidspace is open M-F 9:30-6, weekends 10-5.

The Huntington Library: This is a great place to visit when it is hot but not brutally hot. Pippa loves the children's gardens, especially the fountain areas. She would play there all day until she fell asleep if I let her. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, open 10:30-4 every day except Tuesdays.

California Science Center: Free! Air Conditioned! Free! With Three Play Rooms! And it's free! (Unless you want to see the Endeavour Shuttle or an exhibit.) Open daily, 10-5, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. There is so much to do here. So much. It's a bit of a schlep, but definitely worth the drive.

Natural History Museum: Another worthwhile schlep, although this one costs money. Adults $12, 2 and under free. Open daily 9:30-5. The butterfly pavilion is open all summer, and I hope to visit that soon.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Another free gem for the kiddos. Children 18 and under can become Nexgen members for FREE and each child gets to bring one adult to the museum for FREE. There is a children's gallery where they can paint and make a mess on someone else's floor. (Parents can paint, too!) When Pippa was a pre-crawler, she happily looked at the art. Now she loves to run around and there is plenty of art she is allowed to touch. The best art for tots is outside, so this is good on a hot but not sweltering hot sort of day.

Splash Pads and Water Play: (oh hey, this section is under construction - not certain how close all these places are, so will delete if they are ridiculously far from Pasadena! I know, I'm such an amateur)
  • Kidspace (see above) has a splash pad and water table. I always visit Kidspace with a towel and Pippa's swimsuit.
  • Dalton Park in Azusa: This is about 15-30 minutes from home, depending on traffic. 18867 E. Armstead Street, Azusa, CA 91702. We have not been yet but from the photos, it looks awesome. Not certain when the splash pad turns on, but there is an adjacent playground.
  • Splash Zone in Rosemead: This looks like a 15-20 minute drive from East Pasadena.
  • Grand Park in downtown L.A.
  • Santa Fe recreation dam
  • Park in Alhambra has one
  • Santa Monica has one
  • The Cove Waterpark in Riverside - Riverside sounds like its on the other side of the moon, but really not that far
  • Raging Waters in San Dimas for a fun splurge
  • Universal City Walk
  • also a water feature now at Universal Studios - could be worthwhile, but a total production to get there
  • Garvey Park in Rosemead - how far is that?
More coming soon soon soon! Museums with play rooms! Splash pads! But Pippa just woke up and its cuddle time!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Neglect the Housework!

One of my favorite books is If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland. It's a short book that is jam packed with inspiration. It is not just a book for aspiring writers!  You can substitute any creative pursuit, from acting to Zumba, for writing. 

Each chapter has a fantastic title.  One chapter is titled, "Why You Are Not to Be Discouraged, Annihilated, by Rejection Slips."  Another is, "The Tigers of Wrath Are Wiser Than the Horses of Instruction."  (I have no idea what that means.)

But my favorite chapter, by far, is called, "Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It For Their Writing."  The gist of this chapter is that in order to have time to be creative, you have to neglect the housework.  There is always housework to be done.  A ledge can always use extra dusting; a pile of books can always be organized better; and floors can be scrubbed until the end of time and still not sparkle enough.  Work too hard to have an immaculate home, and you will not have the time or energy to be creative.

If I was ever forced at gunpoint to get a tattoo, it would be "Neglect the Housework." Actually, it would probably be something related to Jane Austen or Benjamin Franklin, but you get my point.

Note to self: reread If You Want to Write this summer!

Completely unrelated note to self: Never again let Pippa hold my car keys in a public restroom.

Friday, May 30, 2014

My Postpartum Depression: An Overview

I spend most of my writing time these days writing  my memoir about postpartum depression.  I am writing as fast as I can, but I worry about the moms who have PPD today.  I worry about the moms who are suffering now, who are scared and don't know what the hell is happening, they just know something is wrong. 

A blog entry saved me.  A blog entry made me realize that my symptoms might be postpartum depression.  So on the off chance that this helps you, let me give a quick overview of what happened to me.

Before Pippa was born, I read approximately ten paragraphs total about postpartum depression.  Enough to convince myself it would not happen to me.  I was not the sort of person who got PPD. 

My daughter was born.  I did not get the baby blues.  I congratulated myself on dodging that bullet and felt smug that I would not get PPD.  I was not that sort of person.

I felt stressed and more anxious than usual, but that was not PPD.  Right?  Women with PPD cry a lot and hate their babies.  They stay in bed all day.  I teared up a few times with joy, but I was not wallowing in tears.  I loved my daughter and got out of bed everyday to take care of her.

I rarely left the house.  When I did, it felt like an ordeal.  Like I was organizing an expedition to Mt. Everest and the moon at the same time.

I did not enjoy being around more than one or two people at a time.  When my parents, brother and sister-in-law visited on Father's Day, I felt like the house had been invaded by barbarians.  People overwhelmed me.

Pippa cried a lot and I could not comfort her.  I felt like a failure.  She seemed to be a tough unhappy miserable baby.  That was the PPD.  My unhappiness affected her.  Now she is sweet and happy and joyful (except when teething, ha!)

I quit caffeine because I thought it might be agitating Pippa.  Then I had insomnia for five weeks.  I would sleep three hours max even though Pippa was sleeping ten hours straight.  every few days, I managed to sleep for six hours - those nights convinced me I was going to be fine.  I just had severe caffeine withdrawal.  I just had to wait.

My anxiety increased.  About four months after Pippa was born, I hated being alone.  I was afraid, so afraid, as if I was being stalked by a serial killer.  My husband and parents tried reasoning with me, but I was still terrified.  My heart rate was accelerated.  Now I started crying a lot from the constant state of fear.

I lost hope.  I believed my life was over.  I had a beautiful magnificent baby and in exchange, I would never again have a good night's sleep.

I wanted to die.

I sometimes had thoughts about ways I could kill myself.  I pushed those thoughts away as quickly as possible, but they scared the shit out of me.  I sometimes had thoughts about hurting Pippa when she was crying.  I pushed those thoughts away as quickly as possible, but they scared the shit out of me even more.

I wanted to die so my suffering would end.  I wanted to die so I would not be a danger to my daughter.  I did not want to kill myself but if a fortune teller had told me I would be hit by a car and die the next day, I would have wept with relief.

I thought I did not deserve my baby and husband.  They would be better off without me.

I felt guilty.  Guilty that I could not sleep.  Guilty that I needed help from other people.  Guilty that I was always asking Nathan for reassurance. 

My anxiety felt like a backpack that had been welded to me.  I knew I had to put it down, but had no idea how to do that.

Life had also lost its color and magic.  I was depressed - but I did not realized that until AFTER I got better.  After several months of healing, I realized I had been depressed.  But when I was depressed, I could not see the depression.  At first, I could only see the insomnia.  Then, the anxiety.  Finally, the desire to die.

I went to my doctor and told her everything.  She asked me to voluntarily admit myself to the hospital.  I did.  I spent four nights there.  I started Zoloft, which I am still taking. 

I have so much I want to tell you - that's why I'm writing a book.  But if you are reading this, and it resonates with you at all, if you have even the slightest suspicion that you might have PPD, please call your doctor and ask for help.  And if your doctor is dismissive, call another doctor.  And another.  As many as it takes to get help.  YOU WILL GET BETTER.  It seems impossible now but YOU WILL GET BETTER.

If you are reading this and think a loved one might have PPD, tell them they should see a doctor.  Your loved one will thank you!

If you want to privately ask me questions, please email me at courtneyrachelhenning@gmail.com.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Life Lately

  • My novel is on hold, to be revised later, because...
  • I had postpartum depression and I'm writing a memoir about it.
  • I have been wanting to blog about my experience with PPD for some time and finally have the courage to do it! I will post more about it here, including some excerpts from my book.
  • I'm also getting involved in raising awareness about PPD.  It is an extremely common but misunderstood illness. I was very ashamed of myself for having it. I want my daughter to live in a different world - a world where no mother ever feels a drop of shame for PPD.
  • I recently joined a brand new gym near my house and it is absolutely glorious. I am finally getting back into exercise and have so much energy, which is spilling into all areas of my life.
  • I finished Divergent last night and started Insurgent before bed. For the first time since Pippa was born, I am reading past my bedtime.
  • I started a massive crochet project this afternoon. Feeling a bit crazy. 
  • In related news, I'm still reading the dictionary. I'm about halfway through the Explanatory Notes. I want to jump into the definitions, but I might as well do this right. Sometimes I have to reread the same paragraph three or four time to understand it, but it's still very interesting to me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Greetings from the mall parking lot!

Roo Bear's molars are coming in and poor girl has been struggling to nap this week. She fell asleep on the way to the mall and I'm not touching her or turning off the car engine until she wakes. Normally I could easily transfer her from her car seat to the Ergo without waking her but I am not taking any chances today! 

Well, not yet, at least. It is lunch time. And my bladder is not exactly made from steel. I have a cheap model, made from doilies and dust bunnies. It's basically a colander. 

But for now, I'm good and so grateful for my iPhone. How did my mom's generation of SAHMs handle the boredom? I try to minimize my use of the iPhone so Pippa doesn't think it's an appendage but when I'm stuck waiting in a mall parking lot while she naps, my iPhone = sanity. I can read on my kindle app, surf the web, run my virtual shopping errands, and of course, blog. 

There's a car nearby with a vanity license plate that reads: ITIPSZ. What does that mean??? Aaahhhh it's driving me crazy. I think it means "I'm tipsy" but that seems like a really dumb thing to put on a license plate. Doesn't that count as a confession to drunk driving? 

ITIPSZ probably is shorthand for something really obvious that my mommy brain can't handle. I am getting plenty of sleep these days (thanks, Roo) but a huge chunk of my brain is devoted to my girl's well being. Yesterday, I stopped at my local Starbucks drive thru while Roo napped. She of course woke and started wailing as I was paying. Distracted, I started to drive away without my drink. Fortunately the barista reacted quickly and shouted for me to wait, but I still had to do the walk of shame back to the window to fetch my drink. 

If you have an indecipherable vanity plate, you should have the decency to post an explanation on a bumper sticker. Otherwise any upstanding citizen should be able to have your lame license plate, and any car attached to said plate, towed to another state. 

The classical station is playing Copland. I dated a guy in college who sneered at Copland for dumbing down music. He also hated the movie Fantasia for the same reason. Well, I don't care if Copland Hater is right or not. Maybe Copland is "too accessible" or "direct" but I love his compositions. They make me feel like I'm on an adventure. Right now, my body is in a parked car at the mall but my soul is exploring the frontier. I love you, Mr. Copland! (And I hate you, ITIPSZ.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mommy merit badges

I believe there should be some sort of Girl Scout-esque organization for mommies. Instead of camping, we would go to spas and instead of selling cookies, we'd eat a lot of cheese. Otherwise it's just like the scouts. We would do craft projects, learn how to fashion a diaper out of twigs and leaves, and braid each other's hair. But really, the whole point of this group can be summed up in two words: merit badges. 

Even though this organization does not yet exist (to my knowledge), I am earning a new mommy merit badge as I draft this blog post on my iPhone: sit in parked car while baby finishes nap. 

Some other mommy merit badges I have earned this past year include:

- ER visit (Pippa got dehydrated from a nasty stomach bug)
- plane trip
- road trip
- reading Go, Dog, Go to the baby for the hundredth time 
- sleep training
- pulling the plug on sleep training
- sleep training, take two
- letting baby sleep in crib while sitting up because doctor says that's fine

Oh, how I long for a green vest decorated with mommy merit badges. Except let's substitute a diaper bag for the vest, ok? Even in the sixth grade, I knew how lame that damn vest was. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Green Eggs and the Serial Killer

Pippa loves Green Eggs and Ham (the book, not the cuisine). I have read it aloud to her so many times, I only need about 12% of my brain to read it now. The other 88% of my brain is free to wander and think weird thoughts. 

Sometimes I think about the fact that the two main guys are Sam and the Cranky Guy Who Does Not Like Green Eggs and Ham. Why does only one main character get a name, Dr. Seuss??? We all know the Cranky is the unsung hero of this tale and he should have kicked Sam in the shins. Since you could not be bothered to give this hero a name, Dr. Seuss, I will: Friar Octavius Van Basass. There, that's a much better name than Sam. 

Sometimes I think about the story's message. It seems like the moral of the story is "keep an open mind because you might like green eggs and ham." (Or chess. Or cliff diving or disco. Or polka dot umbrellas and stinky cheese.) But there is also another moral: "browbeat someone enough, and they will finally eat green eggs and ham." (Or have sex when they just want to make out. Or smoke pot because their friends insist. Or go cliff diving or listen to disco.)

Most recently, I found myself thinking about how I would adapt this classic for the silver screen. First, I thought in terms of animation directed by Tim Burton with Johnny Depp as Sam and Bruce Willis Friar Octavius Van Badass. Then I thought, no, this needs to be a live action film with Javier Bardem as the Friar and Amy Poehler as Sam. Can't you see Amy chasing after Javier across the top of a train careening toward a cliff? And then the train crashes into a boat captained by Clint Eastwood?! Best. Movie. Ever. 

But my brain was in a creepy mood that day and my live action romp turned into a serial killer movie. The first victim is killed in a house by a hoard of rabid mice. The next is eaten alive by a fox in a box. And the killer always leaves behind a plate of green eggs and ham. I can't decide if the killer should be played by Kevin Spacey or Javier Bardem but Kevin Costner needs to be the detective investigating the crimes (his wife played by Marisa Tomei.)

Note to self: now would be a good time to give Green Eggs and Ham a break. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Some Random thoughts on time management

I love being a stay-at-home mom, but the job involves a lot of drudgery: changing diapers, endless loads of blueberry stained laundry, scraping dried banana bits off the floor, etc. The drudgery was starting to drag me down. It felt like I spent the entire day racing through domestic tasks during any odd free moment, but nothing got done. At the end of the day, I was exhausted and feeling bitter about the endless chores. And worst of all, since the domestic tasks were always on my mind, it was tough to fully enjoy my time playing with Pippa. 

Something had to change.

So I made a huge change: I stopped worrying about chores during the day. Now I just perform the bare minimum to keep the house safe and hygienic. I clean the highchair after every meal, but the dirty dishes spend all day in the sink. I might start a load of laundry, but nothing gets folded until after the baby goes to bed. 

At the end of the day, after Pippa is asleep, I cue up a podcast and tackle the chores. I no longer feel like Cinderella! Instead, I enjoy this new evening ritual, and even find myself doing extra chores in order to finish a podcast. My to do list is dwindling; the house is tidier than usual; and I still have energy when Nathan gets home. 

Best of all, playtime with Pippa feels more joyful than ever. I'm not fretting about dishes or dirty sinks. And when she is happily playing by herself, I sit back and read a book or do a little writing. My chores are no longer chores. They are an excuse to listen to a podcast!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday Omnibus Post

The baby is obsessed with blueberries, so the edges of my fingernails are stained  purple. Note to self: paint fingernails to conceal blueberry stains. 

Nathan and I completed our first 3d puzzle this weekend:

When we started, we thought it would take weeks to finish the puzzle (assuming we could finish it at all!). But it only took two evenings. It was soooo much fun and I can't wait to do another. That might not happen until after the Winter Olympics. 

Before we start our next puzzle, I am painting the kitchen tabletop green. I've been meaning to do this for years but was intimidated by the idea of painting our table. What if I ruined it? Then I ruined the table recently while crafting (don't ask). Now that the table is covered with green chicken pox, the table MUST be painted. (My interim solution - a tablecloth - does not work. The baby wants to yank it and pull everything on top of herself.) I went to Home Depot yesterday and bought supplies for this painting project. Wish me luck!

the baby just woke up from her nap. Time to go to the zoo! Happy Monday!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


It is an absolutely gorgeous day in Pasadena. Our weather has been particularly spectacular this winter. I am starting to take it for granted! I don't want to complain, because I know the rest of the country has been experiencing a hellish winter, but I'm ready for some cooler temperatures. I want to cook some comfort food dammit! There is a Ragu dish that has been on my bucket list for ages, that involves pork butt, but I can't spend an entire day making a fancy ragu when it is 80° outside. Okay, enough grumbling from Paradise. (Pork butt - sorry, couldn't resist saying it once more.)

Pippa and I recently started taking a music class and we love love love it. Love it! Forget all those toys that make annoying beeps. I want to hook my daughter up with an awesome music box. With symbols and tambourines and bongos and those awesome triangles. When friends and family visit, I am going to trick them into joining our music circle. Music is one of the most joyful things out there, and making music is even more joyful than passively listening to it.

I play the piano. I'm no Elton John, but I do love playing. Pippa is now getting into banging the piano keys and she looks so pleased with herself when she makes some music. The piano is in our guest, a room we rarely use. So I forget about the piano for days and days. Methinks it is time to get back into the piano! I have bought some sheet music for old children's songs, and as Pippa gets older, I would love to play tunes while she dances.

So you have fair warning: if you visit the cranky pumpkin household, be prepared to shake a tambourine and beat a drum!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Babies Are Weird

Pippa wanted to sleep tonight while sitting up. Every time I put her in her crib, she would scramble to a sitting position and fall asleep that way. I would sneak back into the nursery and try to lower her to her back... and then she would wake up and give me a look that said "if you are not going to let me sit up, then at least have the courtesy to hold me all night." This happened six or seven times.

Once, I let her sleep for about thirty minutes while sitting up, hoping that if she got into a deep enough sleep, I could finally transfer her to a supine* position without waking her. After thirty minutes, I checked the video monitor to see how she was doing. At that very moment, she toppled over and woke herself. This was not funny at all. (Just kidding. It was hilarious.)

Finally, after two hours of playing this fun new game, I was able to get Pippa in an appropriate position for her nighttime slumbers. Hopefully she will stay that way for the rest of the night! If not, hopefully she will at least stay that way until Nathan gets home. (On the night our baby decides to be extra weird, Nathan of course has to go to a charity event for work.) I am sure he will be totally thrilled to play this game at 3 a.m.

Why the hell did Pippa want to sit up in her crib and fall asleep that way? It was not a teething issue, our usual scapegoat for sleep issues. (If she was teething, she would not be sleeping sweetly in her crib as I type this.) Ah well, babies are weird.

*It took me about 30 seconds to summon this word from my "Vault of Words I Rarely Ever Use." And now I send "supine" back to the Vault. Don't worry, he's in excellent company with words like "kerfuffle," and "panacea."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The 100 Podcasts Project

In December, I realized I was bored. I love being a stay at home mom, but holy crap, peek-a-boo does not exactly stretch my intellectual muscles. My brain was crying for stimulation. At first, I thought I would attend some lectures at libraries and museums. Maybe I could audit a college class! Or take a literature class at Pasadena City College! Then I looked at my baby and realized I was crazy. Pippa is a trooper and is happy to go just about anywhere, but "just about anywhere" does not include lecture halls.

Then I had a light bulb moment: podcasts! I have always thought I would enjoy podcasts but was too damn lazy to find shows I like and download them to my iPod. But now there are iPhone apps that make it easy to listen to podcasts. I am using PodCruncher and love it. I would marry it except (a) I'm already married and (b) you can't marry an app (yet).

I decided listening to podcasts would be a good project for 2014 and instituted the 100 Podcasts Project: I am going to listen to 100 different podcasts by the end of 2014. That does not mean I can listen to 100 episodes of the same podcast. I have to listen to 100 different podcast shows. I want to expose myself to lots of new ideas, voices, stories, etc. etc.

Thanks to PodCruncher, I have already listened to twenty-one different podcasts . My favorites so far are WTF with Marc Maron, Welcome to Night Vale, Poem of the Day, Slate's Culture Gabfest, NPR: Pop Culture Happy Hour, and Books on the Nightstand.

I realize I'm many years late to the podcast party, but I'm not going to let a little tardiness hold me back. Would you ditch a wedding just because you go lost on the way to the church? Of course not! Now excuse me, I have to go dance on the table with Marc Maron and get a glass of wine from NPR. This podcast party is awesome!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

As I write this, I am sitting at my dining room table. Pippa is in her highchair, having some delicious pureed green beans for breakfast. Don't worry, I'm not a total monster. She will get some oatmeal in a few minutes. The grownups will be having waffles shortly. Okay, I'm a total monster.

Outside, one block from my house, hundreds of people are waiting for the Rose Parade to start. Many of them camped out overnight. Fools! Even though this is Southern California, the nighttime low was still in the low 40s. Sometimes we even get a little frost over night. I wonder if there were any orgies.

I made some resolutions last month, none of them having to do with this blog. But this morning, I woke up with a strong desire to get back on the Blog Horse. So hello. Good morning. Happy New Year!

I have a lot to blog about, but the waffle iron is calling my name. (His name is Wally, in case you were wondering.) Then I'm taking Pippa to see her first parade! I'm sure she will be more interested in pulling leaves off the neighbor's hedge, but at least we will still be able to say that her first parade was the Rose Queen of all parades.