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...