Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

A New Me

When I got pregnant with N, everyone kept regaling me with stories of how much harder raising two kids is as opposed to raising one. So, after he was born, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never did.

Finally, I figured out why. For me, the hard part of parenting hasn't been the actual parenting. The hard part of parenting has been becoming a parent, becoming someone with entirely different interests, priorities, even friends than the person who got pregnant with E just over seven years ago. By the time N came alone, that new me--Mommy Me--was fully formed, and pretty darned comfortable in her skin, to be honest.

The old me was a bit of a contradiction. She was fairly promiscuous, willing to do more than just try a large variety of intoxicating substances, and always craving attention. And yet, she was not at all a thrill-seeker. I've never shoplifted (unless you count that little mistake I made in the Dollar Tree a few months back...), never found the thrill in roller coasters and scary movies and fast cars and minor scuffles with the law. I'm a rules maven--gimme a rule, and I follow it. I was the ultimate good girl, actually, if you ignored the sleeping around, drinking and drug-taking.

Becoming a mom, for me, meant throwing away the wild child and embracing my inner Good Girl. The funny thing is, while it was a bit of a change, and took a little while, I don't miss Wild Child at all. I adore being a mini-van driving, PTA-attending, soccer mom. Not only have I been faithful throughout my almost ten years with Baroy, but I haven't even been tempted, haven't even been interested in anyone else. This, ladies and gents, is very, very much a first. (I'm almost embarrassed to say how often and how persistenly I cheated on my last boyfriend before Baroy, who I dated for seven years...) And I can't think of the last time a man has shown signs of being interested in me. There was a time in my life where that would be death to me--not having anyone new to flirt with or sneak around with. And yet, until I started typing this entry, I hadn't even thought about it.

There are so many other things that are different about me. I've gotten way into 'old lady crafts' like cross stitching and hardanger and tatting (lacemaking, not giving out gang tatoos). I've become an avid cook, whereas in the past I hadn't a clue what to do in a kitchen. I've even learned to sew.

Now I'm staring 40 in the face. For a while I wondered, in a sort of oddly distanced way, if I would respond to turning 40 by regretting the changes that life has brought me, and yearning for the past. I haven't. Not at all. But I am aware of another kind of shift in me, from a baby mom, consumed with making every moment of my kids' lives enriching and exciting, to a mom of kids who can entertain themselves--and who are actually better off learning to do so. And so I'm starting to find myself again, a little. I'm starting to focus on me, a little. And that focus on me is having a pretty positive effect on my marriage, as well, which I'd been neglecting for a long time. Baby steps. But I think they're good ones.

What brought all this on? I went for a run today. Actually, I went for a run--for those of you who have done the Couch to 5K program at Cool Running, it was week 5, day 2--after stopping off at Ross to buy myself some running pants and new jogging bras/shirts. I haven't run since college, and even then, it was a very short lived thing. And I haven't bought myself clothes, especially work-out clothes, since before E was born. When I crawled into my car after my run, I realized that both of these things are major changes for me, major shifts of focus. Call it my mid-life crisis, though I don't see it as a crisis. Fit at Forty, that's gonna be me. Hey, it had to happen some time...

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Ssshhhhh....Can You Hear That?

It's the sound of tumbleweeds rolling through my office.

It's Christmas eve, and therefore it's the day where I get to walk the walk after talking the "it's not *my* holiday" talk for the past few months. Everyone in the office wanted the day off to get ready for tonight, and my boss was scrambling to put together a skeleton staff to cover the phones until at least 3 o'clock. Now, I usually only work until 11:30 on Wednesday mornings, and am actually officially beginning to take them off entirely with the book deadlines looming. But I went in to her yesterday and offered to cover the office for the whole day. Because I'm selfless like that. Not to mention always willing to score major suck-up points.

So here I sit, doing absolutely zero work, answering the phones (which have rung all of twice this morning), and sucking down the remains of the bazillion gift baskets we got this year. Life is grand. Hope yours--whatever you're celebrating or doing or not doing--is grand as well.

Monday, December 22, 2003


I have book deadlines now, kids. And I'm talking deadlines. Like, I need to get them a 'sample' chapter (a real chapter as a sample of the direction I'm taking the book, so they can let me know if the voice or tone or language or content is somehow off) by January 12th. Three weeks from now, in other words. And I need to have the first whole QUARTER of the book to them less then two weeks after that. Then, like clockwork, another quarter of the book every 28 days or so until I'm done, in mid-April.

People, these are insane deadlines. I have no idea what possessed me to just sort of laugh and agree to them, other than the fact that they weren't really negotiable. (This book is going to be the second in a planned series, and they need to start releasing them next fall.)

So what did I do this weekend? If you guessed 'didn't write a single word or work on the book in any way, shape or form' you guessed correctly. Because, you know, insane deadlines get much less insane if you just ignore them and hide under a rock for a while.

Panic doesn't even begin to describe what I'm feeling right now. I'm sure I'll get it done, and maybe even somewhat on time. But I'm going to lose a large part of my mind in the process. Like so many things in life, I love thinking about writing a book, and I love having written a book. It's the actual doing that I'm not quite so crazy about.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

I Hate Croup

Surreal things happen when you're up with a sick kid at ungodly hours. N has a cold, and N's colds always mean postnasal drip, which always means lots and lots and lots of coughing. Last night was no exception. Poor baby was coughing so hard that he was vomitting. In his sleep. That's both pathetic and disgusting at the same time.

Anyway, at one point, I took him out of his bed and sat with him on the couch so that he could sleep and still be upright. That, along with Robitussin, worked for a while. Then the coughing and gagging started again, so I asked Baroy to bring him up to me. It was at that point--at around 4 am--that we noticed how croupy/barky N sounded. So I turned on the shower in our bathroom, let it steam up, and took him in there with me. That worked, for about ten minutes...until the hot water ran out. Damn that tiny-assed water heater of ours. So I handed him back to Baroy, along with another dose of Robitussin, which it was time for. N was coughing and mumbling and refusing to open his eyes and making grunty, refusing noises about the medicine. Finally, Baroy sort of forced the dropper into N's mouth, and I heard him swallow. And then, in a voice as clear and awake as any he ever has, he said, "I yike it, Mommy. I yike this medsin." And he put his head down on Baroy's chest and feel immediately asleep. Like I said, surreal.

Anyway, he was still sounding croupy, so I decided to try the 'cold night air' thing instead of the 'steamy bathroom without any steam' thing. I put on a pair of thermal underwear, a pair of flannel pants, a t-shirt, a long-sleeved flannel shirt and a sweatshirt, grabbed three quilts and wrapped N up, and went out onto the porch to sit and swing on our porch swing for a while. And as I stepped out the door, I just started to laugh. Because, my friends, I live in Southern California. And it's been warm lately. And if it was much below 60 degrees last night, I'd be surprised. So there I am, dressed for the Arctic, with a bundled-up almost-three-year-old baby sea lion (or at least that's what he sounded like), on a balmy 'winter' night, swinging on a porch swing and SWEATING under all those layers. It was just too strange. And, strangely, quite nice. Our neighborhood is so peaceful, and the air was clear if not cold, and there was enough of a moon to see down the mountain a bit (we live on some foothills), and I was holding my baby boy, and he was finally starting to breathe normally, and he smelled sweet and mediciney and warm. And I felt like a mom, like I was doing something good, helpful. Like I was making a difference. Like my baby had needed me, and I'd come through.

Of course I was more than happy to STOP being the mom at around 7 am, when Baroy came downstairs and found N and I on the couch together. N had woken up at 6:30, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, or as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as you can be with a stuffy nose and a bad cough. I was trying valiantly to stay awake and respond to him as he played and watched TV, but was failing miserably. So Baroy took over, and I got to sleep for four whole hours, and I'm like a slightly used person today. (It would be asking too much for a new person, so I'll take what I got.)

Friday, December 19, 2003

Riding in a Car with N

My little guy slays me. N will be three in January, just two days after my 40th birthday, in fact. His language development is nothing like his sister's was, but we're not supposed to compare now, are we. Except I just did.

In any case, he's still hard to understand, especially if you can't see what he's seeing. So each day, as we drive together to and from his preschool and my office, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what he's telling me. Because the kid talks. A lot. In that, he is just like his sister. (Whoops, there I go with the comparing again. I am not a good mom.)

Last night was no exception. I wish I'd had a tape recorder, because of course I can't remember it all, sieve-minded as I am. But I know that at one point, a big truck passed by, and that prompted about five minutes of chatter...

N: Mommy, a boo one!
TC: A blue what?
N: A boo druck! Wight dere! See it?
TC: Oh, yes, a blue truck.
N: Too far way. Boo druck too far way now, Mommy. I no like it. [At which point, all of a sudden, he starts calling] Boo druck! Gum back here boo druck! You lissen a me, boo druck. You gum back here WIGHT NOW! Look a me, boo druck. Look a me WIGHT NOW!

Darn that truck. It would neither listen nor look at him. But he got over it quickly.

N: Hear dat, Mommy?
TC: Yes, I did.
N: What dat noise? What dat noise about?
TC: I don't know. Do you?
N: Yep. Dat my shoes. And dat my socks.
TC: Oh, you took your shoes and socks off, did you? (This is part of his on-the-way-home ritual; not my personal favorite part, but a part nonetheless.)
N: Yep. I dook them off, Mommy. Now I count my does. One, doo, free, foe-wur, fie, dics, seben, eight, nine, den, weben, twev, doiteen, doiteen, eighteen, nineteen, dwendy!
TC: Wow, twenty toes, huh?
N: Yep. On dis foot. Now I count my others does.

By now, we're getting off the freeway. Our offramp goes uphill a bit.

N: Ohmost ome now! We go up, up, upadahill. Da cars go down da hill. Bye cars. See you yater! See you amorrow!

And so, on that note, see you yater too. Happy Chanukah, to those celebrating. And happy, merry everything else to those about to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

A Bah Update

All is joyous in Coconutland this impending holiday season. The no-longer-a-Christmas chain has just two rungs left, and E is almost beside herself with excitement over the presents heaped in front of our fireplace. (N mostly just can't understand why he can't unwrap his presents now, this very minute, and how it's possible that not every single present is *his*.)

The change of heart, I must admit, came about in no small part because of the same teacher who sent home the cursed Christmas chain to begin with. I had been planning to come talk to the class about Chanukah for a while, but on the day that I got there to do so, I was really pleasantly surprised to see that almost everything they'd done that day--and indeed everything they'd been doing in recent weeks that was holiday-related--included Chanukah. In fact, that morning, they'd done their reading/spelling/writing lesson by writing Chanukah-related words and putting them in alphabetical order on a printed menorah.

Anyway, my 'presentation' went fabulously. E couldn't have been prouder. I read a couple of Chanukah stories to the class, E and I sang them some Chanukah songs, E showed them our menorah and we talked about the meaning of Chanukah (on a very basic level), etc. I was really surprised, and pleased, when I took out the two wooden dreidels I had--as it turned out, the teacher had bought ten little dreidels for the class, had gathered up ten pennies for each kid, and so we paired them off and let them play for a while. And these kids were having a HOOT! They loved it; totally didn't want to stop playing, not even when I mentioned I had brought chocolate gelt for each of them.

The highlight of the day was when they were sitting on the rug near me at the end of the day, munching on gelt, and one of the kids (who E had previously complained would give her weird looks when she brought up Chanukah) came up to E and said, "You're so lucky you get to celebrate Chanukah. It's so fun!" My kid could have lit up a temple for eight days, she was so happy.

To top it off, the teacher in her aftercare program made a special Chanukah necklace for her and the one other Jewish kid in the program. I think she's seeing the good side to being 'different.' I hope it stays that way for a while, at least.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Four. Oh.

In less than two months, I'll be turning 40. For some reason, it's freaking me out. I'm really not that type of person, you know, the type who cares about age or grey hairs (of which I am suddenly sporting more than just a few) or weight (of which I am currently sporting more than at any non-pregnant time in my life) or anything of the sort. I don't wear makeup. The only times I dress fairly well are when my sister hands me down her fashionable clothes. My hair hasn't been moussed or blown dry in a decade, at least. It's a well-known fact that I completely missed Girl School. So why does the idea of turning 40 make me want to puke? Damned if I know.

It is interesting, however, to look back at 30 and realize how little I have in common with the me of ten years ago. That TC was just out of a 7-year relationship that never went anywhere--and shoudn't have. She had moved to Los Angeles just over six months before, and flew back to New York for her birthday, where her mother threw her a surprise party, and invited people that this TC barely keeps in touch with. (Well, except for J, who just a few months later would set me up with his brother, Baroy. I'm still in touch with him, since, you know, he's family now.)

In the ten years since, I've gotten married, had two children, moved four times, bought two houses and purchased a minivan. I've had three jobs, freelanced twice, written a documentary series and a book, and am starting on my second book. I've made many new friends--keepers, all of them--and kept, well, a few of the old. I have to wear glasses. I've learned to cross stitch, and do hardanger embroidery, and to tat. I've started a running progam. And, of course, I've endured almost ten years of having my family stalked every now and again. I almost didn't endure, but almost doesn't count.

I don't even resemble that woman of ten years ago. (And I don't even live on the same planet as the girl of twenty years ago.) I have to say, though, that I really don't miss her. She was fun, but she made bad choices, and she was yearning for all the things I have today.

Now if only the new, improved me could explain why this birthday milestone is feeling more like a millstone...

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


I'm going to a baby-naming ceremony this weekend, for a friend of ours who we've known for years. You might know her name, or recognize her face; she's had a couple of series. She lives in Bel Aire; she was telling me about her house once, with its so-big-there's-a-tree-in-it bathroom, and I'm almost salivating with excitement at getting to see this place, assuming I can finagle a tour at some point during the ceremony/general merriment.

But that salivating is being offset by a huge case of oh-my-god-really-REALLY-famous-people-will-be-at-this-partyitis and the subsequent dry mouth that causes. I am so not a Beautiful Person. I am a very social person, but only when I feel I'm in my element. I just have visions of me wanting to just sink into the floor rather than have to come up with something to say to people whose faces I've seen on movie screens many times. Then again, truth of the matter is, said people and their faces probably won't be talking to me to begin with, so I'm not really sure what I'm worried about. Oh, yeah. That really, REALLY famous people won't be talking to me.

Oh, and it pisses me off that I care. I mean, I don't really care. Except, obviously, I do.

I wish I were like E. One of my all-time favorite E stories is when she was just over a year old, and we were at the home of the parents of friends of ours for a birthday party, and Michael Keaton was there. And Michael just thought E was the cutest thing on two legs. (She was.) At one point, he was kind of cooing at her and talking to her, but she wasn't interested in him; she was interested in the pasta I had just put on my plate. Michael is playing with her toes, and reaches over and gives her feet a kiss. Yep, Michael Keaton kissed my daughter's feet. And what did E do? She gave a little grunt of annoyance, pulled her feet away, and grabbed a handful of pasta. That's my girl. Playing hard to get.

Later on that day, I'm sitting in a lounge chair chatting with a friend, when I see Michael coming my way. Now, I knew 95% of the people at the party, so I was fine, in my element, being all witty and charming and crap. And I'm thinking to myself, "Wow, check it out. Michael Keaton's coming to talk to me. To me! I'm so cool." (Yeah, the fact that I still frequently use the word cool should have been my first hint as to how much I am not cool.) Of course, when he gets to where I am, he barely glances my way as he says, "Hey, where'd your beautiful daughter get to?" I point her out by the pingpong table, and he's off like a shot. And that, my friends, is the extent of my close personal relationship with Michael Keaton.

Is it any wonder I'm worried about this weekend?

Wednesday, December 03, 2003


Yessiree ladies and gents, it's that time again. Time for the annual TC Festival of Anger and Resentment, which you all call the Christmas season.

Last year, E's first year in elementary school, the 'holidays' were so difficult for us to get through that I ended up writing a note to the principal. This is what it said:

"Dear Ms. P:

I am the mother of E, a kindergartner in Mrs. F's class. I am writing to you to air some of my feelings about the way the holidays were handled at VV Elementary, in the hope that it might affect the planning in the years to come.

For the record, our family is Jewish. I don’t know how many children at VV are Jewish (or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist or…), and so I don’t know whether my experience was common or rare. But too often, this December, I was put in a position where I had to either compromise my beliefs or disappoint my child. That is not unusual during the holiday season, when you’re not a member of the majority religion. But to be put into that position by a public school—a school that is supposed to be without religious affiliation—was upsetting.

Our family’s take on Christmas is that it’s fun and respectful to help our Christian friends celebrate their holiday in whatever way they do, but that we don’t celebrate it in our own home—just as we invite non-Jewish friends to our Passover seder, for instance, but don’t expect them to go home and change their plates and throw out all their bread. E seems to understand; I hope my two-year-old, N, will too as he gets older.

And so I didn’t much mind the stockings and computer-art Christmas trees and such. I was somewhat disappointed that the ‘family art project’ for the month was a Christmas tree, but handled it by explaining that since we don’t decorate Christmas trees in our house, we would just make ours a regular winter tree. E grumbled—“but all my friends did theirs like a Christmas tree!”—but complied. I was a bit more disappointed that my daughter never brought home a single Chanukah-themed project—not even a secular symbol of the holiday like a dreidel. Nor were any of the other winter holidays mentioned, best I can tell.

Then came the visit from Santa. I’m not sure how I feel about Santa being ‘available’ after school on school grounds, but I know that I was not at all pleased to hear that he was personally visiting the kindergarten classrooms—and taking ‘wishes’ from the children. This put me in a horrible position—I could tell my daughter that she couldn’t talk to Santa (which would have crushed her, as she believes “Santa cares about Jewish kids, too, Mom. He loves me even if I am Jewish.”) or I could do as I did, and permit it at the expense of my own personal beliefs. It was not a comfortable decision for me.

There was one other incident, which I include only to explain to you that my daughter was not unaffected by all of this. When she brought home the presents the kids made for their parents, E repeated told me she was “a little worried” about mine. I couldn’t get her to tell me why—she said it would spoil the surprise. When I opened it—a beautifully done Christmas tree clay ornament—I think I did a pretty good job of simply praising her for her hard work, and telling her how beautiful it was, etc. However, she promptly burst into tears. When I was finally able to quiet her, she said, “I was afraid you’d give it away to [family friends who are Christian] because it’s a Christmas tree and we can’t have Christmas trees in our house.” It almost broke my heart that my daughter spent a couple of weeks worrying that I would reject her present. Having the class make snowman “winter” decorations rather than Christmas trees would have been a simple solution that wouldn’t have left any of the children feeling different or excluded or anxious.

I’m writing to you rather than to Mrs. F because my complaint—such as it is—is with the overall decision to put the admittedly secular symbols of just one holiday forward so pervasively, rather than with any individual projects that might be completed in a kindergarten classroom. Feel free to share this note with anyone you feel might benefit from it. I don’t know who made the decision to bring Santa to school—if it was you, the PTA, the Education Foundation, or some combination thereof—but I hope that in the future, alternative viewpoints will be considered. It makes me feel horribly Scrooge-like to ask you all to not do things that undoubtedly bring great glee to so many of the kids. But it would make me feel horribly hypocritical if I didn’t say something about it. Again, it seems unfair to have been put in this position by my public school.

Please know that I recognize this is a relatively small issue. I am beyond thrilled with VV, with Mrs. F, and with the strides that my daughter is making in your school. We moved here a year ago specifically to afford our children the opportunity to attend a top-notch public school, and we have been in no way disappointed with that decision. I hope you take my comments in the spirit in which they were intended, and know that I appreciate your taking the time to hear me out.



I got a great response to this letter; a note from the principal and a call from--and long talk with--the PTA president, whose organization had sponsored the Santa visit. It was that experience that got me involved in the PTA, and I wound up on the board this year. I'm pretty sure Santa won't be coming to town.

So, fast-forward a bit. E's first-grade teacher, clearly having received a heads-up from someone, comes to me early in the year and asks me to come and talk to the class about Chanukah in December, and has since talked with me several times about projects planned for the classroom, to be sure none of them will be somehow upsetting to me or E. Wonderful.

So why she neglected to mention the CHRISTMAS CHAIN they made in class yesterday, with 24 red and green links and a poem at the top about how this is Emily's Christmas chain and we should hang it up and take off a link each day and when we get to the final, gold link it will be Christmas day...

Baroy called me fuming, because when he saw the chain and told E that we wouldn't be hanging it up in our house, she started crying, and started saying how she hates being Jewish because nobody else is Jewish, etc. I would have gotten equally upset if I'd been there, but since I was at my office, and I didn't see her upset and crying, I was able to be calm about it. I told Baroy to tell E that I would fix the problem when I got home. And I did. I took the chain, cut off five links, crossed out the word Christmas each time it appeared and wrote in the word Chanukah. Et voila! A Chanukah chain.

But you can be sure I'll be talking to the teacher today. I'm going to be kind, even a bit disingenuous. I'm simply going to ask her if there were going to be any kinds of mentions of the chain, like math lessons asking how many links were left, because I'd had to change E's into a Chanukah chain. I know this woman. She's wonderful. And she's going to 'get it' right away, and realize what happened, and I'll get an apology and all will be well.

But it won't really be well, because my kid feels marginalized at this time of year, and even if I understand where that comes from, it's a hard thing to teach a young child.

And that's my problem. You want to focus on Christmas this time of year? You go, girl or boy. You're the majority. You've got the right to do whatever you want to do. You want to even focus on it in the classroom? I'm not going to argue with you there, though I'd appreciate a nod to all the other traditions of the season. But don't ask me to take Christmas into my home. Have E make a stocking to hang up in class; don't have her bring home a Christmas chain. It seems so clear cut to me, and yet, it's clearly not.

I hate being Scrooge, but Scrooge I am, and Scrooge I probably always will be.

free hit counter