Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Natalie, from over in Natalieville (and if I could figure out how to link here, i would, but really, you need to read her blog if you're not...www.natalieville.net) responded to a comment I left her about hitting Baroy--who was then my boyfriend, not my DH--with my car by suggesting I tell the story here. And so I shall, for no reason other than that I must always do as Natalie bids.

So. Baroy and I were living together in one of the more happenin' parts of Los Angeles. (We were not, however, happenin' folk. Still aren't. But we like us anyway.) One Saturday night, we decide to rent a video from a video place right in the midst of a bunch of clubs, etc. I drove. At the time, I had a black Geo Prizm. Because I couldn't find a place to park, I dropped him off in front of the store, which was directly across from the Viper Room (you know, where River Phoenix died all those years ago). I then proceeded to drive around the block a few times, to avoid clogging up traffic.

So Baroy gets the video and exits the store. He looks across the street, sees a black car in front of the Viper Room, crosses the street, goes over to the car's passenger side, and begins pulling on the passenger-door handle...much to the surprise of the man sitting in the driver's seat.

As this is happening, I'm driving up the block towards the traffic light, and I see everything. I immediately dissolve into hysterical laughter...you had to be there, but it was soooo funny to watch the whole thing evolve, to watch Baroy's face as he realized it was the wrong car, to watch the driver's face as he realized someone was trying to get into his car. Anyway, I pulled up to the red light and honked my horn, practically weeping with laughter. Baroy saw me, said something apologetic to the other car's driver, and came around to the passenger side of my car, opened the door and started getting in. The light changed to green and, still laughing so hard I could barely breathe, I started to go...without first checking that Baroy was in the car. He wasn't. In fact, he was half in the car, half on the ground...the result of the door jamb knocking him over as I took off.

He screamed, I slammed on the brakes (thank god no one was behind me), he got into the car, and I took off again. He was laughing, I was laughing...and then I was crying, absolutely hysterical crying. Baroy reached over, guided the car over to the side, and turned it off. He assured me he was fine, just fine, and he hugged me. And then the two of us just fell apart. I couldn't stop crying for laughing, or laughing for crying. And he just kept saying, "You hit me with your car! You HIT ME with YOUR CAR!!!" and laughing in total disbelief.

And there you have it folks. I don't know which one of us is dumber, me for...well, for that whole story up there...or him for later going on to marry me.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Ah, to be a political cartoonist in California in this time of fire and strife. (Or should that be fire and strike?) It seems so symbolic to have the state ablaze right now. There is so much one could do with it, no? And Gray Davis is a better man than me, is all I can say. Because right around now, if I were him, I'd most likely be saying things like, "Now, what am I supposed to do to declare a State of Emergency? I *can't recall*."

[Yup, officially backing down off that 'not going to talk about it' stance. Then again, I said I would. I'm predictable that way.]

Thursday, October 23, 2003

How old is she again?

This is E and I on our way home from swim lessons last night. She was telling me some silly little story about a boy in her class, and how they were looking at each other and giggling during something or other. (Sometimes these stories are cute, but at other times they're deadly dull, and yes, I'll admit it, I tune them out a bit...) E said something about how "me and D aren't friends exactly, but we're starting to be...." and I said "friendly?" and she said yes.

This reminded me of her 'friend' E, on whom she had a crush all last year (that was very much reciprocated), but with whom she has since parted ways. I asked her about how he was doing, because he's been having some trouble with their teacher this year.

Em: He still does some things wrong sometimes, but he's much better than he was in kindergarten.
TC: Oh, I'm glad to hear that. And are you two still friends?
Em: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Even though we broke up, we're still really very close, Mom.
TC remains silent, trying not to laugh out loud.
Em: It's funny, you know, it's like even though I don't love him any more, I still do sort of love him, except not like a boyfriend. I love him like a brother, now. He's like a brother to me.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my daughter, who is chronologically just-turned 6. That's SIX, people. A six-year-old who talks about her kindergarten boyfriend (heck, who HAD a kindergarten boyfriend in the first place) using phrases like "we're still really very close" and "I love him like a brother." You know, as if she actually knows what it means to love someone NOT like a brother.

Words fail me. What AM I in for at 12 and 16, if this is what I'm in for at 6?

Be afraid, me. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I'm not a black-and-white kinda gal. Really, I'm not. In fact, I'd be willing to say it's one of the traits that defines me, my inability to ever stand so strongly on a subject that I can't see the other side, hazy as that vision may be. It's both a good thing and a bad thing. But it's definitely a part of me.

And yet, the other day, I suddenly realized that I'm neither a very good or a very bad parent--or rather, that I'm sometimes very good and sometimes very bad--and that totally took me by surprise. Which, of course, completely goes against that whole not being a black-and-white kinda gal. I don't know WHY I've always tried to judge myself as one or the other, or refused to recognize that both could coexist in me, and one doesn't necessarily have to take over the other. In other words, not only aren't I a black-and-white kinda gal, I'm a hypocrite as well.

But (and say it with me now, folks) I digress. Usually, I have good days and bad days as a mom. But lately, they're starting to run into one another. And it's hard to reconcile, for me at least. What my kids think is something their therapists will have to sort out later on, I guess.

For example: Last Thursday, I took N to preschool, and noticed a cage with four baby bunnies in it. I immediately fell in love with one of the two little black ones. All the mommy hormones came rushing in. But I knew Baroy would *kill* me if I brought another animal home, since he's expressed nothing but resentment over Pumpkin since I took him in. So I let it go. Well, I let it go mostly, but did mention to Baroy that afternoon how cute they were. And to my complete shock, he suggested I take the one I fell in love with, to keep Pumpkin company and maybe make him a little more social.

Now, E was in aftercare. (I get out of work too late on Thursdays to pick her up from school, so I usually get her after I run a few errands, and then we go and get Noah, who is napping when I leave work, from preschool.) So I immediately left the house to get E; I wanted her to be with me when I got Noah and the bunny. As we walked from aftercare to the car, I told her my surprise. She was beside herself with excitement. Kept hugging me and kissing me and telling me how I was the greatest mom in the world. We were both so excited, we couldn't keep still. We giggled and chattered the whole way to the school. But then, right before we got to the preschool parking lot, I hit a nasty traffic snarl, and E was oblivious. I asked her to shush so I could concentrate on maneuvering around cars. She kept on talking. And so I snapped, yelling at her to shut up. The smile left her face, and she shrank into her seat. After we'd parked, I apologized to her, but still. I'd taken the fun out of the afternoon, if only for a few moments. (By the time she had the baby bunny in her arms, all was forgiven. But I hadn't forgotten.)

In contrast, yesterday she came out of school with a total attitude. (I do get out early enough on Mondays to pick her up.) The teachers take them to the main playground to "release" them, and E was at the head of the line. She walked right up to me and started demanding that I take her swimming in the afternoon, and what was I making for dinner, and when could she go home with Emma...Well, I immediately lost it and started to really lace into her. And then pulled myself together, took a deep breath and said, "Hey, E, go back over to Mrs. G and let's do this over again." She hesitated, then 'got it.' She walked back to her teacher, took a deep breath of her own, then came running over to me. "Hi, Mommy!" she said as she gave me a huge hug. We both grinned and giggled and left the playground for home, holding hands and chatting amicably. That's who I want to be more often. That's a good mom. But the other woman, well, she exists in me too. And I don't think she's going anywhere. If the Zoloft hasn't scared her off, I'm afraid nothing will.

Grey. Lots and lots of grey. I really do have to learn to accept it.

Friday, October 17, 2003

I have always despised self-help books. I was surprised, then, when I started reading parenting books--which I won't pretend are anything more than self-help books that focus on just one part of your personality--and actually found a few that I enjoyed. Well, maybe enjoyed is too strong of a word. But I learned from them. Or, at least from a couple of them. They gave me ideas about new things to try when I run out of 'strategies' for dealing with the little people in my home. (Of course, there are some I despise just as much as any other self-help book--in particular, those that come with a rush to judgement about parenting practices that don't fall into lockstep with those they are espousing. I thought that Dr. Sears, for instance, had a treasure trove of information in "The Baby Book," and was a devout reader of it until the day I came to some tiny box on one page where he basically said that if you go back to work when your child is young, they will become a drug addict. Blow me, Dr. Sears.)

But, as always, I digress. I'm currently reading a new parenting book, "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children," by Wendy Mogel. It's everything I should hate in a book. No strategies, lots of comments about what's wrong with our society, lots of finger pointing, lots of judgement. And yet, I'm finding it absolutely fascinating. Chapter 2 is called "The Blessing of Acceptance: Discovering Your Unique and Ordinary Child," and it just resonated with echoes of my personal doubts and fears about things I'm doing 'wrong' with the kids. It's about parental pressure, even when it's put on the child with the best of intentions. She quotes a Hasidic saying: "If our child has a talent to be a baker, don't ask him to be a doctor." (Ironic, that, considering the stereotypes, all true, of Jewish mothers obsessing about their children becoming doctors.)

At one point, she homes in on something I've found to be extraordinarily true...the way so many parents--I probably shouldn't generalize, but it's what she's saying--expect exceptionality (I'm pretty sure I just made that word up) from their children, to the point that if the child is anything less than perfect, they look for a disorder. "A problem can be fixed, but a true limitation requires adjustment of expectations and acceptance of an imperfect son or daughter," she writes. "Parents feel hope if their restless child is actually hyperactive, their dreamy child has ADD, their poor math student has a learning disorder, their shy child has a social phobia, their wrongdoing son has 'intermittent explosive disorder.' If there is a diagnosis, specialists and tutors can be hired, drugs given, treatment plans made, and parents can maintain an illusion that the imperfection can be overcome. Their faith in their child's unlimited potential is restored."

Oh, I know that's over the top. I know there are many children who need the drugs, the treatment plans, the tutors and specialists. But still. It's also so true. I'm so guilty of this with N. I can't tell you the number of times I've gone to one friend or another with questions about what I was worrying might be a 'speech delay' or 'asperger's-like behavior' or even 'motor delays' when he wasn't performing/learning/advancing quickly enough for me. Baroy made fun of me all the time for it, and while I recognized the sort of hypochondria-by-proxy, I didn't really GET what sort of road I was traveling down. This book is making me take a good, hard look at how I'm letting my expectations get in the way of letting my children be who they are.

I even started doing it with E's swimming, taking an offhanded comment about how natural she is in the water and how 'mature,' and how we should be thinking about swim team, and turning that into an increase in interest in her lessons, on my part. Whereas before I was just letting her be, now I'm all over the teachers each time, trying to get her the best teachers for her classes, etc. I'm sure it's putting pressure on her, or will start to, if I don't get it in check. She really doesn't have to be the best swimmer ever to enjoy it. And yet, there were definitely visions of traveling to watch her race in the Olympics flashing through my mind for a couple of days there. Bad me.

There's much more in this one chapter, and I'm not doing it even a bit of justice. But I found it very empowering, somehow. I feel almost as if I've been given permission to let go, to stop constantly looking for signs of giftedness in E, or signs of delay in N. Or vice versa. Maybe they're just average in abilities, or above average in some and below in others. Or whatever. Whatever they are, they're unique, all right. And they're wonderful just because of that uniqueness. I need to start remembering that. I need to continue believing it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

So here is where it starts to get weird. The illness that my father has, that partly makes him who he is, is bipolar disorder. The topic of the book I was talking about a few days ago? Bipolar disorder. So of course, being the type who is unable to not count my eggs before they've hatched, I began compiling some online research resources yesterday. (Where I am in the process is I'm sending the magazine editor some clips and a resume tonight; she'll pass them along to the publisher tomorrow, and I should hear something in a few days. Yikes. I'm not sure what I'm hoping will happen, frankly...) Among them was a sort of mania index/quiz you could take. So, of course, I did. It pegged me as mildly to moderately manic. Which immediately made me moderately to extremely freaked out.

Let me back up a little. I've been afraid of bipolar disease since long before my father was diagnosed. Which is not some coincidence, but rather because *I* diagnosed him almost a decade before he finally had the psychotic break that caused the psychopharmacologist treating him to go "Oh! You mean he isn't simply clinically depressed?" Sheesh. Some day, sooner rather than later if I get to do this book, I will most likely blog about his disease and what it has--and hasn't--done to him, but that would just take me way too long today, and take me way too far off course. Suffice it to say, I knew about bipolar, and I knew about its genetic link, and I worried about what that might mean for me, and for E and N as well.

During my recent stint in therapy (yet another unblogged issue that definitely needs blogging), one of the things I addressed almost immediately with the therapist was how my panic-disorder/PTSD/whatever-the-fuck-was-making-me-crazy was a sign of or a precursor to mania. I told her about how my internist had been really, really, really careful with choosing an antidepressant for me, afraid that she might kick me into mania, and that that had made me paranoid (yes, a sign of bipolar) that she saw something in me that I wasn't seeing. The therapist nodded a lot and basically told me she'd keep an eye on me, and about three or four weeks later, she told me flat out that I wasn't bipolar, that she didn't see a single sign of it in me (despite seeing lots of other issues I needed to work on, of course) and that I should stop worrying about it because, at almost 40, I was unlikely to suddently turn into Mr. Hyde when I'd been kindly Dr. Jekyll all these years. That statement alone did me a world of good. I would have even said it cured me, until I took that quiz yesterday. (Damned web!)

Now, I know logically that the way I answered that quiz had everything to do with circumstance. I've been feeling quite good these past few days--powered, in no small part, by first getting a call from someone basically dropping a book contract in my lap, and then by spending a weekend in Las Vegas with my girlfriends. And I guess feeling really good can look an awful lot like mania...except in mania, it spirals into insanity, and with me, it's more likely than not simply going to spiral into my normal life taking over again. So I shouldn't be worried. I shouldn't be doubting myself. And yet, here I am. Worried. Doubting.

The take-home? I think we all need to hope I don't actually get to do this book, or we're all going to be in for several months of tortured self-doubt. Not to mention the poor physicians who I will torture with thinly veiled questions about myself when I'm supposed to be researching the book.

Yep. I'm mentally ill all right. It may not be bipolar disorder (or maybe it is!) but it's a mental illness all the same.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Vegas, baybeeeee! What a hoot. I drove up on Saturday, ungodlyly early, with one friend, then met up with, eventually, five more ladies, and finally drove back through horrendous traffic on Sunday afternoon. It's not like we did anything unusual--we gambled, we ate, we stayed up late, we gambled, we got up early, we gambled--but it was so...wonderful. Just to be not-the-mama for 24 hours. Bliss. Which is not to say I didn't miss the kids...well, actually, it is to say I didn't miss the kids. But it really isn't to say that I wasn't totally thrilled to see them when I got home. So maybe I'm not a total monster of a mom? Sigh. I bet my monsterness is the reason I had absolutely NO luck at the tables and the slots, huh?

Friday, October 10, 2003

Gulp. I just got a call from a woman I know, who is executive editor at a consumer publication that's pretty well-known and is putting out a series of books with the magazine's imprint. And she wants to know if I want to put my name in to write one of them. Hoo boy.

I can't even begin to tell you how much I want to write another book. (My first, which is still miraculously in print, though on its way out, and was, until recently, on sale at Book Closeouts, was not a great experience because of my coauthor, but I definitely, definitely loved the process of book writing.) I can taste how much I want to write another book. It's the answer to the energy-sapping I've been feeling at work. It's the answer to the creative outlet I need. Heck, it's on a topic I am BEYOND interested in.

So why aren't I jumping up and down? Well, I can't even begin to tell you how little time I have to write another book. Maybe, maybe if I took a leave of absence. But to hold down a job--which, at 80% is pretty darned intensive, even if not full time by definition--and mother two children and be PTA-girl and soccer mom and Brownie troop treasurer...AND write a book? On a really, really, really tight schedule, nonetheless? Insanity.

I should have just said no. But I couldn't. Because I really want to say yes. Urgh.

Stay tuned.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering...I am not now nor am I ever going to post on that travesty of democracy that occurred here in California on Tuesday. Though I will say that I'm beyond pleased that the Nazis didn't get Proposition 54 past the voters.

Well, at least I'm not going to comment on the travesty now. I should know better than to ever say never.

The End.

Just ten weeks after E was born, she started in daycare. (This is not a post about daycare, or its effects on children, or what I perceive to be its pros and cons, or what others may think it did or did not do to my relationship with my daughter.) By the time she was 11 weeks old, I was completely immersed in the school...spending time there at lunch, hanging out after work, befriending the teachers/caregivers/whatever-you'd-call-them, one of whom is STILL a good friend, six years later. I knew then that I was going to be one of "those" parents--those smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-things, buttinsky, PTA-attending parents. I was room rep at E's first daycare, room rep at the daycare here for both her and for N, and I'm now on the executive board of E's elementary school's PTA, just one year after she started attending that school. (Baroy predicts I'll be PTA president in two years, but I'm still insisting that I don't like to be the one in charge, which is very, very true.)

Anyway, last night was the first general association meeting of the year. I was in charge of hospitality (read: setting out the snacks and cleaning up afterwards), and had to give a report on my "area," which is parent involvement. And can I just say? I LOVE this shit. Love it. Even more than I would have thought. Being a daycare room rep doesn't hold a candle to the whole PTA thing. I'm having a blast...and I haven't the faintest idea why. I hate public speaking, generally. I hate being in charge or anything. I have NO time for this, and organizing parents is a time-intensive job.

Still, I have always loved gossip, office politics, being behind the scenes. I loved being at the meeting last night and being in the "in crowd," ridiculously high-school as that may be. I love the fact that I can't go grocery shopping any more without bumping into some school mom who has a question for me or just stops to say hi. I love the feeling of connection to the school, to the teachers. I love the fact that the principal knows my name, that the school secretary chats with me, that I can ask special favors of the custodians, that teachers who teach at the upper grades already know my children. I love feeling like I might just be enhancing the education at a place that I think is already doing a pretty awesome job despite some pretty awesome hindrances. I love feeling like I make a difference.

So, yeah, this week PTA meant that I didn't eat dinner with my kids twice--Tuesday was our executive board meeting, then last night was the association meeting--and that's not a lot of fun. But I loved what I was doing. I was so energized by it. And considering that I don't love my job so much these days, it's nice to be able to find that I'm-doing-something-good energy elsewhere.

[Just reread that, and wow. I sound like a freakin' cheerleader or something. But every word is true. I'm a complete and total PTA geek. So shoot me.]

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