Meet who’s behind the East Side center
Mike & Ellen met in college at Loyola Chicago, and it was love at first sight. After dating for 10 years, they finally got married in 2012. With Ellen being an actress and Mike being a musician, the move to Los Angeles was basically inevitable, so soon after getting hitched, they packed up and headed out west.
Mike found a great job working for a large spirits distributorship, which fit well with his other passion for craft beer and fine wine, and Ellen started landing commercial gigs. She also began working as an independent contractor for an elementary school assembly program called The Environmental Defenders, which was funded by LADWP and was created to educate grade-schoolers about protecting the environment – reduce, reuse, recycle! Ellen has always loved working with children, whether it was being a camp counselor, a tutor, or performing in children’s theatre. After so many years of playing a mom on TV and babysitting other people’s kids, she finally became a mom in real life. Their son, Coltrane, was born in the Spring of 2014. He was a super happy baby and loved accompanying Ellen to a wide variety of classes & activities as she began to explore LA from a new mom’s perspective. Together they attended places like mommy & me lactation support group, music, swim, dance & gymnastics class, baby sign language & sleep training workshops, and even learned some martial arts & yoga.
But by far, her & Cole’s favorite class was Outside the Box, aka OTB, which they heard about from some new mom friends in the valley. Although the center was located in Woodland Hills, they were able to sign up for a satellite class in Sherman Oaks and started attending when Cole was about 1 year old. OTB was so unique with the way it combined things like music and movement, sign language, counting and singing in several languages, and endless cool ways for Cole to explore his world using all of his senses. Their favorite activity was playing in a pool full of warm pasta!
Ellen and Cole continued the program for 5 more years, many of them in private field classes at friends’ houses. She always wished she could introduce it to all of her friends who lived in east LA, and so, she decided to become a licensee and open another center in La Crescenta!
Where it all started
Ellen works closely with the founder of Outside the Box, Octavia Lindlahr, to bring the new center to La Crescenta. After years of being a Labor Doula, Childbirth Educator, and International Infant Massage Instructor, Octavia came up with the idea of creating a multi-sensory curriculum for infants and toddlers. She has a background in Neurobiology and Child Development and with her knowledge of the brain and babies, she found a way to merge new groundbreaking research on the importance of sensory play with child development. Her goal was to introduce parents to ways they can interact with their babies that stimulate their growing brains, although it feels just like play.
Read more about how Octavia got started in her interview from 2018 with Voyage LA.
“We are so grateful to have found such a great community here in NELA where we truly feel we belong and which has been the perfect place to settle down and raise a family. Thank you for the opportunity to bring the “east side” this very special place, which we consider to be more than just a classroom, but rather a resource center that offers caregivers and parents, new & experienced, unconditional support in so many ways. It’s our way of giving back and we can’t wait to make tons of new & amazing memories!”