Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Author, Author!

Looks like I've got the book. The bipolar book. The editor called on Wednesday while I was reading to E's first grade class and helping them make Thanksgiving necklaces. ;-) Baroy picked up, and when the editor said he'd talk to me on Monday because he was leaving for the holiday, Baroy said that I was going to be really upset that I'd missed his call. Apparently, the editor laughed and said, "Well, tell her not to worry. It's good news. And if she wants to work on the outline for the book this weekend, it wouldn't be wasted time."

So, yay! Go me! Of course, I've already hyperventilated a few times. I mean, really, how AM I going to write a whole book in four months? I'll do it, to be sure, but I may die trying...

Normally, this is where the paragraph about how this means I won't be posting as much goes. But, I don't post very often to start out with. And chances are I'll actually post MORE often now. Procrastination are us, you know.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The Barbie Chronicles

Every morning, when N and I get in the car to drive to school and work (his preschool is on the university campus where I work), he invariably begins wailing for "my Bobby"--a naked-from-the-waist-down, abandoned Barbie doll from E's prodigious collection. (And no, I didn't buy her a single one of them. I wear my Barbie-hating like a badge, though it hasn't really made a damned bit of difference to anyone else...)

The first time I sort of smiled to myself as I handed "Bobby" to him, thinking fondly back to "Free To Be You and Me," and proud of my little gender-neutral guy with the nurturing instincts. That little fantasy died an abrupt and brutal death within minutes, however, as I started hearing clunking noises from behind me, and caught a glimpse of N repeatedly bashing Barbie's blonde, touseled head into the window, then roughly spreading her legs into a split position and raising her above his head so that one toe grazed the ceiling of the car. "Cwap, Mommy, cwap! Yay, Bobby! Bobby touch the see-wing!"

I clapped, of course, just as directed.

This morning, after retrieving poor, battered Barbie from the car floor, where she lay amidst an embarrassingly large collection of crushed Honey Nut Cheerios, Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs, N was quiet for a few moments. Just as I began to wonder what was going on back there, I heard a cheerful, "I tuck, Mommy, I tuck!" I peered in the rearview mirror to find that he had deliberately stuck his hand in between Barbie's legs, so that she was straddling him. When I turned around, he wiggled his fingers at me. I laughed, and N grinned at me. "I tuck, but I like it, Mommy."

Yes, son, I imagine you do.

Monday, November 24, 2003

The Thanksgiving Curse

Somebody up there thinks I'm not thankful enough. It's the only thing I can think of that would explain the way everything seems to fall apart at Thanksgiving these days.

Two years ago, we're in the midst of selling our house. Three days before Tgiving, E comes down with the chicken pox. (I'd declined the vaccine, though I'm generally pro-vaccination, because it was so new, and I was unconvinced of its utility. I regretted it after this, not because the disease was hard on E--it wasn't; she had a very easy time of it--but because she exposed an entire daycare full of children, including infants, to chickenpox, and that's just not right.) Then, on the morning of Tgiving--with a 22-pound turkey that had been bought pre-pox ready to go, but only my brother-in-law willing to step foot in our poxed house--our hot water heater dies. It was, to be sure, quite a day in the Coconut household.

Last year, almost-two-year-old N comes down with a really bad cold the weekend before Thanksgiving. It's not getting better, not going away. Our friends M and G come over for Tgiving dinner, but N basically sleeps through it in M's arms. M is worried; he tells me N is breathing really heavily. N sleeps in bed with us that night, and I can hear how hard he's having to work to breathe, and how fast his respirations are. At 4 am, I touch him, and he's burning with fever. The next morning, I take him to the urgent care clinic, where they tell me his oxygen levels are below 90%, and they hear the characteristic rattling of pneumonia in one of his lungs. They tell me to go directly to Childrens Hospital; no going home first. We get there and, after two breathing treatments, they decide to admit him. It is the first night of Chanukah, and we spend it in a hospital room. We spend the second night there, too.

So now it's the Monday before Thanksgiving, and the trend continues. This year, the kids are currently healthy. (Knocking wood vigorously...) But last night I found...um, well, no nicer way to say it...shit in the downstairs bathtub. It had seemingly come up the drain. And this morning, while I took a shower upstairs, the same thing happened. Then the downstairs toilet backed up. So I am currently at home, awaiting the Roto Rooter man. Which isn't too bad, since, you know, my car is in the shop. Why? Oh, little things. The check engine light went on, the driver's side window is making a loud clunking noise, and there are two recalls on the thing. And my warranty runs out on...you got it...Thursday. So we had to get it taken care of today, or pay for the fixes.

Why am I boring you all with this? Because I figure my only chance to break the Thanksgiving curse is to chant out loud, in front of as many witnesses as possible, the following: I am thankful for my wonderful children. I am thankful for my fabulous husband (who is getting on a plane on Friday, which scares me just a touch, so please leave him alone, Fates). I am thankful for our bunnies and our kitty. I am thankful for my extended family, and for great friends who are always there for me. I am thankful for my health, and my job, and my regular paycheck, and my health insurance, and my 401K, and my subsidized daycare. I am thankful for good public schools and a safe neighborhood and fabulous neighbors. I am thankful for a working car, and a working computer, and a working phone. I am thankful for electricity and heat and plumbing and a roof over my head and walls that aren't falling down around me (yet). I am thankful for anything that I may have forgotten to list here, that somehow will come back to bite me in the butt.


Friday, November 21, 2003

God's Plan, My Ass

Last Friday, the caregivers/teachers at N's daycare/preschool were all huddled together talking in hushed whispers when I dropped N off. I meant to ask what was up, but got distracted.

On Monday, I got an email from one of the room reps, telling us that a teacher from the toddler room--a woman who has taken care of both E and N, and is beloved by both of them--had lost one of her daughters in a car accident that day. Unbelievable, unbearable.

But it gets worse. In talking to the center's director, I found out that the daughter had been pregnant with her third child and was just two weeks shy of her due date.

Last night was the viewing; this morning was the funeral. Many of the teachers from the center were going, and when I went to drop N off this morning, they were giving instructions to the various subs staying behind who were going to make sure the kids were all covered with an adequate number of caregivers. Still, I managed to pull one of N's teachers aside and ask how the viewing had gone, how R (the teacher from the school whose daughter and grandson these were) was holding up. Her eyes filled with tears.

"R's doing great. Really great. I don't think it's hit her yet. But, TC, it was just so unbelievably sad, seeing C [the daughter] lying there, with the baby in her arms. That perfect baby. There was nothing wrong with him at all, not a cut or a bruise. He just looked like he was asleep."

Now, I am not a cryer. I didn't cry at my own grandmother's funeral, though my heart was broken. But this. This made me cry. Not wracking sobs, just quiet tears that have come on and off all day, every time the horror of it all strikes me anew. A perfect baby, asleep in his mother's arms, where he will remain for eternity.

There is nothing fair about this. There is no lesson to learn. There's nothing good here. It just is. It just is.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Fakin' it (or, Don't Hate Me Because I'm Lucky)

Some days, it hits me how ridiculously lucky I've been in my career--in my life, actually. Maybe lucky is the wrong word. What I'm talking about is being that kind of person most of you probably hate, the kind of person to whom things--good things--happen, pretty much without me having to lift a finger.

Let me explain. I could start back in elementary school, but I'll skip to graduate school, where I was in a science writing program (with a full-scholarship ride, I might add, based not in small part by the fact that the program director's brother went to my college). To complete my graduate program, you had to do an internship. I'm a procrastinator, and I put off finding one until the last minute, when I went running to the internship director all freaked out, and she laughed and said, "It's your lucky day. ABigScience magazine just called this morning looking for an intern, and I told them I thought everyone was already set."

It was that moment of luck, or serendipity, or whatever, on which the rest of my life is based. I ended up working at ABigScience magazine for seven-plus years. It was there that I met D, a friend who later recommended me for a BigCableNetwork wildlife series. That wildlife series involved my working with a man who later recommended me for the book I wrote about a different documentary series that ran in the UK.

It was also at ABigScience magazine that I met P, a friend who later recommended me to a public relations person for a job in Los Angeles. The guy called me, and I politely turned him down. (PR? Me? The hot-shot senior editor/freelancer? Bah!) Three years later, after a job at a magazine that died a quick and painless death, I decided I needed stability, and sent in a resume to a job listing at a local university. I got a call within minutes asking me in for an interview--an interview that was really nothing more than them trying to talk me into coming to work for them. And one of the two people in that room? That same guy--who had remembered my name, remembered P's glowing recommendation, and wanted me to work with him. I'm still here--and, in general, very happy to be here.

And as if that weren't enough, it was at ABigScience magazine that I met J, who became my best friend, and who said to me, when I'd been in LA for less than a year, "Oh, if you're just looking for a fun date, I should set you up with my brother." He did. Almost from our first date, I knew I was going to wind up married to Baroy. And I owe it all to J and to ABigScience magazine.

What's making me thing about this now, today, is that I'm still in negotiations for this bipolar book, and I was thinking about how even this is tied almost-inextricably to my past, rather than to my credentials. For one thing, there are two women I know who work at the magazine putting out this book series. One of them is a friend of J's, who I met through him, and who also worked at ABigScience magazine, though after I'd gone. Still, we know a lot about one another, and she's the one really pushing for me to the book publisher, who would otherwise have passed me over in favor of someone with more writing experience on the subject itself. The other woman I know there, who also apparently is singing my praises, is someone I dealt with a few times when I took over the internship program at my graduate school for a couple of years.

Not to mention that yesterday, someone from my job here came up to me to see if I might be interested in possibly co-writing a book with one of our doctors, as well as with a 'celebrity' patient of his, on a medical topic. And I almost laughed out loud. I mean, if all these possibilities were to come to fruition, I could have three books to my name, not a single one of which I initiated at all. Who does this kind of crap happen to? It's almost ludicrous to have so much good stuff simply handed to you...

Now, in my defense, I know that none of this would have happened to me if I weren't at least moderately good at what I do. I am. I know that. I'm even possibly more than moderately good. But still. Still. I keep thinking that at some point in my life, I'm actually going to have to go out there and go after something. You know, be aggressive. Work for my success. But, maybe not. Maybe I'll get to go through my entire life having my life happen to me. (Certainly, that's the way it's been with the bad things, too. I didn't go out there looking for a stalker. Hmmm. Maybe she's karmic payback...)

No pain, a good amount of gain. I can live with that, I think.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Setting an example--a potentially inflammatory post

I apologize in advance if anyone reading this is offended by what I'm about to say. If you find these parenting philosophy discussions tiring or obnoxious, feel free to skip it. Sure, you yourself probably account for a full fourth of my readership, but really, it's OK. I just need to get this down on 'paper.'

I've been thinking a lot about parenting styles and parenting goals lately. (Yes, in between outlining nonfiction books, writing fiction books, running a food drive at E's school, attending teacher conferences for both kids, attending PTA board meetings and working more-or-less full time. What, me, manic?)

Anyway. Parenting styles. Parenting goals. I'm still reading the Blessings of a Skinned Knee book I was talking about before. And last night's PTA meeting had a guest speaker who talked about 'affluenza' and the diminishing returns kids experience when we give too much to them/do too much for them. I've been thinking about attachment parenting and its various derivations. I've also been reading about positive discipline, and even a bit about TCS (Taking Children Seriously...and man, I really do have to figure out why I can't link..). And bits and pieces of each thing make sense to me, but I keep finding myself coming back to a basic question: What am I trying to accomplish as a parent? And do the things I'm doing get me closer to those goals?

Here's the thing, and I know that it's going to be hard to verbalize, because I've had a hard time grappling with it internally. But it's my parenting epiphany. (Alliteration rocks!) What I need to find, what I gravitate towards, is a parenting philosophy that allows me to model what I want my children to become. I don't mean that just emotionally, but literally, physically, concretely as well.

Why didn't attachment parenting work for me, when almost every single one of its philosophical underpinnings calls to me strongly? Because I couldn't reconcile the giving up of all the things I personally need--space in my bed, for instance, or work that fulfills me, even if it's outside the home--with what I want my children to become. TCS? I just can't begin to feel comfortable with a parenting philosophy that seems to require the amount of sacrifice of my own personal needs and wants that this does.

[And for the record, and just as an aside, I take my children very seriously, though not by the movement's definition. And I'm attached to my children, though not by that movement's definition. It's all about labels; I'm also very, very, very pro life, but not at all Pro Life, iykwim.]

I look at my children--at E, in particular, because she's older, more developed, and a girl--and I see the future, as most parents do. I see all the things I want for her: strength, independence, intelligence, wisdom, serenity, happiness. I see a person who I think will make a difference in the world, do things her own way, make her own life. And I realize--and this is where the light comes on for me--that I don't want to raise her to be someone who feels compelled to subjugate all or even most of what she is as an individual for her own children. Yes, I do think that that's a great way to parent. So many mothers I know are so supremely self-sacrificing, and their children flourish, and for that I admire them so much. And yet--and I know this is contradictory--I don't want that for my child. I want E to be whoever she is in addition to being a mommy (should she so choose; right now, my six-year-old pain wuss swears she's never having children). I'm not putting all this effort into raising her so that she feels compelled to put all her I'm-going-to-make-a-difference-in-this-world energies solely into raising another child who will grow up and feel that she has to stop pursuing certain avenues of her life because she wants to be a good mommy, and so on and so on and so on.

And so I'm trying, with all my might, to give myself the gift I hope to pass on to my children, to allow myself to both parent and pursue other outlets as well, to allow myself to be proud of the ways I parent well, even if they don't fit into a box, and to allow myself to forgive myself for my shortcomings in parenting and in life.

Taking myself and my own needs seriously is why my children were put into a crib at three and four months of age, respectively, the point at which I could no longer stand the kicking and touching. It's also why I rocked them to sleep every night for their first two or more years, because I loved that closeness at that time. (I don't like to be touched while trying to sleep. It may mean I'm a cold and awful human being, but it's true. And I haven't been able to change it, so I've accepted it.)

Taking myself and my needs seriously is why I never wore either child in a sling past the first month or so, because it hurt my back and I still couldn't use both hands. It's also why I've always I carried both of them a lot, and still carry N to this day, because I love the closeness and the warmth and the access to necks for kissing and nuzzling.

Taking myself and my needs seriously is why I nursed until two-plus years with N, something I cherished and felt good about and miss to this day and am sad I didn't get to do properly with E. It's also why I stopped nursing him the day I was given a prescription for ativan, in the midst of the panic-attack-to-end-all-panic-attacks.

Taking myself and my needs seriously is why I'm hoping to get this bipolar book, even though it will take me away from the kids a lot over the next four or five months, and may not ultimately bring in much money at all. It's also why I took the job I have now, with limited hours and good pay and solid medical insurance and good daycare and a college tuition plan and a killer 401K.

I guess what it all comes down to is that I want my children to see me care about and for me, because I want them to do the same for themselves when they are adults. I also want them to see me care about and for them and Baroy and friends and family and sometimes strangers in need, because I want them to do the same for others when they are adults. And so, lately, I've been making parenting decisions through that prism. Makes it much easier to sort things into column a and column b, to pick and choose from the parenting philosophies that call to me, and yet discard that which seems to be contrary to my goals.

Or maybe it just makes it easier for me to rationalize being self-centered and self-absorbed. I hope not, but the possibility is always there...

Friday, November 07, 2003

Not Dead Yet!

A conversation between myself and E yesterday, as we sat on her bed playing the card game War before she went to sleep. (Names have been truncated to protect the innocent. ;-))

E: Sometimes K and K give me a strange look when I say something to them. It's not very nice.
TC: Well, not everyone is meant to be your best friend. Some people will just be friends of yours, people you talk to or play with, but not who you really take into your heart. And that's OK. Just don't deal with them when they do hurtful things.
E: Yeah. And besides, I do have lots of other friends to play with when they're being mean.
TC: So who do you consider to be your best friends these days?
E: Well, M is still my best friend, even though we do fight sometimes. And S, and Em. (She giggles and begins to blush, which I can't recall having seen before.) And E. Don't tell anyone, Mom, and don't laugh at me, but E and I have fallen back in love again.
[TC says nothing, trying to maintain a neutral look on my face so she doesn't feel like I'm laughing at her.]
E: Actually, you want to hear something funny? E told me the other day that W said C wants to marry me. And E told him, "No, I got her first!" (She giggled and blushed some more.) Besides, even though I like C as a friend, I know I just couldn't handle him. My hands are too full with E already.

Six. She's SIX. These boys are six and seven. I know I've said it before. But when I'm sitting on a bed listening to my daughter say "I couldn't handle him" or "My hand are too full with E" that's the only thing I can think of to say. She's six. WTF? What is she going to be like at 16?

Hoo boy.

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