Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Official Notice

I did not--repeat, DID NOT--know Oprah had chosen One Hundred Years of Solitude for her book club when I put it into my answer to Natalie's interview questions. I mean, I'm glad lots more people will read it, and it will be republished, and all that. But I feel sorta the way I did when I had E, and gave her what I thought was a fairly unique, old-fashioned name, and only AFTERWARDS found out that it was the #1 name in the country for girls. It's like I've been robbed of my ability to be quirky and unique and interesting, even when I'm actually trying. Woe es me.

But, speaking of Oprah, it made me realize...I can't believe I forgot to put Steinbeck on my list of favorite authors. Not so much East of Eden, though I liked it, certainly. But oh my goodness. The Grapes of Wrath. That had to be one of the most brilliantly painful reading experiences of my life. The final scene is one of the most disturbing images I've ever had to grapple with, and I've carried it with me ever since. Powerful. And so, so good.

On another note entirely...four chapters. By Monday. Four. None of which are quite finished. And N's birthday party is tomorrow, so little to no work will get done then. Which, of course, is why I'm typing an entry right now, since clearly, this will magically make large chunks of text appear in the blank spaces of my book, right?

It's also no doubt why I'm having this huge angsty depression right now about not being able to be a stay at home mom--or at least a mom who writes her book from home but doesn't have to hold down a job and worry about money at the same time. Sometimes, the resentment factor is huge. Huge. I'm sure it didn't help that my best work friend left on Thursday...quit, in fact, to stay home with her two kids. Did I mention the resentment? And that it's huge. Yeah, I thought I had.

Back to work I go...

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Well. We Showed Him. Or Not.

Dinnertime. N's in a pissy mood, as is his new 3-year-old norm. He begins demanding a cup of milk before I've even served him his dinner. If N had his way, he would drink milk 24/7, and never eat a bite of food. So the rule is no milk until after dinner. Which is exactly what I tell him, offering him water instead. He continues to demand milk, lapsing into an occasional shriek, but eventually realizes I'm serious. So, after eating about half his dinner, he tries another tack.

"I want juice."

"OK, N. But we only have cranberry mango."

"No. I want orange juice."

"We don't have orange juice."

"Yes! I show you."

At this point he leads Baroy over to the fridge, where he points to a quart of grapefruit juice.

"That's not orange juice, N. That's grapefruit juice. You don't like that."

"I want orange juice."

"We don't have orange juice."

"I want milk."

"You can't have milk."


Nerves shot, totally exasperated, I notice that Baroy has his customary Diet Coke on the table.

"Hey, how about some soda, N?"

He considers it, casting one final longing glance at the milk. "OK."

As he hops onto his chair and start sipping at his dad's soda, I smile at Baroy, victorious. He's stopped whining, and I didn't have to give in to him. I was firm. I was consistent. I was...duped!

I think it hits Baroy and I at the same time.

"How did he DO that?" I ask. "How did he get us to talk him out of milk and grapefruit juice in favor of a soda?"

Baroy just shakes his head.

That kid is little, but he's good. Man, he's good.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Three Years Ago Right Now...

...I was getting ready to leave my house and head over to the hospital. I'd been having contractions for hours...well, days, really. They'd started on my birthday, nice and strong but a full half-hour apart. My friend A had come to take me out for a birthday lunch, and she wound up walking me around the local mall for hours, in hopes that it would make the contractions speed up a bit. It didn't. Neither did a lunch of spicy Thai food. I did have flu-like symptoms, which made me hopeful, but as it turned out, I actually had the flu. Bleh.

The next morning, my due date, was January 25th. I got up and realized that my voice was about to go--I was really, really hoarse. But, determined to nest just a little bit more nonetheless, I went to the supermarket, where the contractions really kicked in, stopping me in my tracks every eight to 12 minutes. I was quite a sight. Big doesn't even begin to describe me; I'm all of 5'1", and I'd gained 50 pounds during the pregnancy, all of it in my stomach, which stuck straight out. I wish I knew how to attach a picture, because I have some taken in the last days of the pregnancy, and I really do think they ought to be used in high schools 'round the country as natural birth control.

Anyway, I knew it was going to happen sooner rather than later, so I put in a call to my friend C, who had agreed to act as my doula, because my first birth hadn't quite gone the way I'd wanted. Now, mind you, I knew this was the worst possible day to have this baby, as C had a meeting she couldn't cancel, and lived three hours away. But, lo and behold, the meeting got cancelled, and C said she would grab her stuff, hop in the car, and be on her way.

By early evening, C had arrived and was walking me around the house, much to my displeasure. She made me some pasta, because the contractions still were kind of far apart, and we both figured it might be my last chance to eat something. It was delicious--at least the part of it I could eat in between contractions. Then it was back up on my feet to do more laps around the house.

By eight or nine o'clock that night, my brother-in-law had arrived--he was going to watch E for us--and I was in a warm tub of water. That would have saved me completely, if only it had been deeper and wider. As it was, I could only rock on all fours with my belly hanging in the water, and after a while, my legs were ready to collapse. So C got me up onto my bed, and was trying to keep me relaxed.

Baroy, however, had other ideas. The whole rocking and (very hoarse) moaning and moaning and crying thing was really making him nervous. He kept suggesting we head over to the hospital, especially since by then the contractions were less than five minutes apart. C wanted to keep me at home longer, for reasons obvious to almost anyone who's had a hospital birth or two, but they gave me the choice to make, and I was well beyond decision-making. So I abdicated to Baroy, and off we went. I remember we left the house at 11 pm on the dot, which is almost precisely what time it is as I'm typing this paragraph.

The trip to the hospital was horrendous (potholes+contractions=YOWCH), but we got there. Things went downhill from thereon in--think monitoring and decels that were a sign of things to come--and by 3 am on the 26th I had an epidural, nasal oxygen, and antibiotics due to a fever. Less than 12 hours later, I was ten cm dilated (a first for me--E had been a c-section after failure to progress, among other things), and ready to push. Except for the little issue that we were having with the baby's heartbeat, where it was, you know, disappearing during contractions. And I mean disappearing--these weren't just decels. My doctor (a pretty young thing who, as an aside, was apparently wearing a black thong that Baroy could see while she was bending over examining me, which I think put her at an especially unfair advantage) apologized up and down to me about letting it go this long in the first place, which she did just because I'd really wanted to have a vbac so as to hold the baby immediately after he was born. (With E, she wound up with a 6-day NICU visit at a different hospital than the one she was born in, and I didn't get to hold her until she was 36 hours old.)

In any case, they rushed--and I mean rushed--me into the OR, and at 3:20 or so, N was born. (I will never completely forget the pure terror of being restrained on an operating table, awake, about to undergo an operation, and realizing that my voice was so completely gone that if something were to go wrong, if I could feel what they were doing, or whatever, I wouldn't be able to tell anyone.) N's first apgar was a 3 (!), making us all glad we'd gone for the section, but he quickly pinked up and his five-minute was a 6 or an 8 or something. They took him to the NICU for a checkup, and kept him there for about five hours, but after that, he was all mine.

God. I loved that squishy-eared, round-headed, gorgeous bundle o' boy from the second I laid eyes on him. We had a pretty rough start; I had a nasty case of baby blues for about a week and a half, and he had some fierce gas issues for about six weeks, until I finally got my diet figured out. But after that...bliss. He started sleeping through the night--and I mean six, eight hours--completely on his own at four months, and has never really backslid. He was the kind of baby who woke up happy and cooing every morning, who giggled and smiled and entertained himself. We had all sorts of quasi-medical issues with him in his first year and a half, and those took up a lot of our time and focus. But it all just rolled over him. I will never forget him having a blood test when he was about a year old. He laid quietly on the table, staring at the lady about to poke him with a needle. And when she did, not only did he not cry, he didn't even flinch. It was amazing, but it was just how he was. He was The World's Easiest Baby.

Then came 18 months, and the personality started to shine through. I don't know what happened, but he went from World's Easiest Baby to Officially Challenging in about sixty seconds. But it's funny...no matter how challenging he gets, almost everyone who knows him says that he's even more loveable this way. Easy Baby didn't have quite the same force of personality that Offically Challenging does. And it's quite the force, let me tell you.

My boy at three is talking all the time. He's loves sports of all kinds, and sits and watches basketball with his dad. He can hit a ball off a tee like nobody's business, and knows instinctively how to throw different balls in different ways. He picked up a frisbee the other day and threw it nearly perfectly after watching me do it once. Astounding. He also loves to draw and cut paper and paint. He loves Blue's Clues and Maisy and Zaboomafoo. He loves construction equipment and fire engines. Given the option he'd ride his tricycle up and down the block all day. He's going to flip over the junior scooter my mom got him.

He's still a total snuggler, would rather be carried than walk on his own, would rather sit in my lap than sit on a chair by himself. He refers to all of us as his: my mommy, my daddy, my Emmy. "Where my daddy go?" he'll say when Baroy goes off on his own. Or, "My Emmy go to my Emmy school," when E heads off in the morning. Our house is "my house," and the cat is "my Buttons" and the rabbits are "my Zaboo and my Pumpkin." Even Baroy's PT Cruiser is "my daddy's new car," despite the fact that it's over a year old.

I love it. I love being 'owned' by a despotic preschooler. He makes me crazy, but he also makes me smile--heck, he makes me beam--absolutely every day. He makes our family complete. And he's turning three today (well, today by the time anyone reads this). Happy birthday, Boa boy. Your mommy loves you to pieces.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Party Animal

Yep, it's my 40th birthday. And here I sit, at work, trying to get a couple of hours in on my book. Do I know how to party or what?

Actually, it's been a great day, and there's more to come. I opened presents from my family this morning, got lots of hugs and kisses from my kids and my husband, and went running with my new running jacket (from the kids) and my brand-spankin'-new Timex Ironman watch with GPS system (from Baroy). Unbelievably cool. I just ran a trail however I wanted to, and I was able to track both time and how far I'd gone.

In a little while I'll go back home, get changed, drop my kids off at my girlfriend's house along with a bunch of other kids (eight in all!) and one very brave nanny/babysitter, and go to my birthday party at a local restaurant. I'm beyond psyched. This is going to be FUN!

Catch you all later!

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Interview With A Coconut

I can't believe it. I've succumbed to the seductive charms of a meme--and I don't actually know for certain what the definition of a meme is. Still, I figure if anything is a meme, this is. Next thing you know, I'll be doing the Friday Five and participating in Holidailies. Naaaaaah....

Anyway, I couldn't resist asking my beloved Natalie, ruler of all she surveys over there in Natalieville, to ask me some questions. The rules of the game are below, after my answers. Play along, if you too want to be one of The Cool Kids.

Here's what Natalie wanted to know:

1. I know you're officially a "California Girl" now, but what are the things you miss the most about Long
Island and wish that you could have in California? (Family is a given.)

Before I answer, I'm going to go off on a tangent. (What? Me? A tangent? How usual!)

I've never really known where I'm from. I don't mean that in some existential, struggling-with-my-identity, many-hours-in-psychoanalysis sort of way. I mean, I grew up in Queens, New York. Officially, it's a borough of New York, just like Manhattan. Geographically, it's on Long Island. And culturally, well, it's got an identity crisis. Because I lived very near to the easternmost tip of Queens, though, that crisis was definitely skewed
toward the Long Island end of things. So in some ways I grew up as a city girl, but moreso as a "Guylander," with all the Jewish Geography implications thereof.

That said, I'm going to answer your question about the things I miss most about Queens.

I miss real pizza. Greasy, by-the-slice real pizza. Found on almost every corner in Queens, coming out of a pizza parlor that is not part of any chain any where. The kind you have to use six napkins on to sop up the grease or it'll run down your chin and onto your shirt. The kind that's so hot you can't help but burn your tongue--and like it. The kind that's making me want to cry for want of it as I type this.

And I miss bagels. Ooooooh, I miss bagels. When I was in high school, I used to have to take two buses to get there. Oftentimes, on the way home, we'd take the first bus to Union Turnpike, then walk the rest of the way home. On the way, we'd pass a real bagel shop. Again, the kind that's not a link in any kind of chain. Usually, one of our friends would be behind the counter, working an after-school job. Hot, huuuuuge, fresh-out-of-the-oven bagels cost 16 cents apiece. And no sundried tomatoes or blueberry swirls or what-have-you. Just bagels. Plain, sometimes salted, occasionally with poppy seeds. There are days I literally dream of those bagels.

What else? Frankly, not a whole heck of a lot. There are things I appreciate about where I grew up, and about New York in general, but they're things that I had in the past but wouldn't want to have now. Like the hustle and bustle, the fast-talking, quick-witted folks all around, the way nothing ever closes. I miss Manhattan, being able to walk to a museum or a Korean market or a Chinese restaurant--all in less than five minutes. But what I'd have to give up to have that sort of stuff here, well, I'm not willing to give that up.

Really, when I occasionally daydream about moving Back East, there's only one motivation behind it: my family. Well, my family and a few good friends who I miss with all my heart. But mostly, it's family. And not for me, but for the kids. I really do think not being around their aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents is a huge loss. Not huge enough for me to give up the plusses of our life here in Los Angeles, but huge. It's definitely something I grapple with all the time.

Oh, and if you were waiting for me to say I miss having seasons or snow or something, it's going to be a long wait. I hate cold with a passion. I'm still, ten-plus years into my California Adventure, giddy over my luck in
landing in a place where I can go running, outside, in January, in a tank top.

2. You have written (and are currently writing) a non-fiction book. Do you have a burning desire to
publish a fictional book? (For the sake of the question, let's assume you have lots and lots of free

Oh, absolutely. I got into writing because of my "burning desire" to write fiction. Two problems, though. One: There's no money in it, and I like money. Two: I'm not all that good at it. I mean, I'm a good writer. But I
have major flaws when it comes to fiction. I don't have an ear for dialogue, to start with. Well, actually, that's not entirely true. I have an ear for it, but I can't seem to commit dialogue to paper without "cleaning it up,"
making it more grammatical and whatnot. And all the voices in my writing tend to sound the same. I have a hard time becoming someone else and putting words into their mouth, unless I've actually interviewed them, and then it's nonfiction.

Which leads me to my other main fiction flaw: I'm a little bit imagination-challenged. OK, a lot bit. All my story ideas are based on my own life. That's not necessarily a fatal flaw; many writers admit to drawing
on their experiences. But with me, the problem becomes that as I try to spin the tale, the only logical sequence of events is the one that actually occurred. And that's not fiction, either--that's autobiography with peoples' names changed.

That said, I do intend to get back to the NaNoWriMo novel I started last year. Which, so far, is almost completely autobiographical, but maybe I'll surprise myself as I go along.

3. You and Baroy are building a dream house and you each get one room to do with as you wish (no matter
what the other person thinks). Tell us about your dream room.

Pshaw. This is easy. This is what I spend many idle hours doing. Well, if I had idle hours, it's what I'd spend doing. So instead, I guess, it's what I spend many procrastinating hours doing. Whatever. In any case...do you want the actual dimensions of the closets and shelving units?

It would be a craft room. I'd have my sewing machine, all set up and ready to roll, with an area nearby with all my supplies, as well as the fabrics and a bin for the clothes that need mending. I'd have an overstuffed easy chair, a recliner, actually, with a MagLight (one of those natural-light lamps with a magnifying glass attached). In that chair, I would do my tatting, my cross stitching, my hardanger embroider, my huck weaving...all the old-lady crafts that I love so much. I'd have huge amounts of storage space for threads and fabrics and scissors and needles, all organized according to craft--preferably by someone other than me.

I'd also have reams of bookshelves so that I could store all my hundreds of books. (I like owning books more than borrowing them, though I've cut back in recent years. I just love the feel of books, and being able to run my hands over them, and idly pick them up and flip through them at will.)

Oh, and I'd have a big, old, flat worktable on another side of the room, where I could do piece-cutting for quilting--which I don't do, but someday want to learn. It's my mom's domain right now, though, and I simply can't conceive of trying to compete.

And I'd have a TV--preferably with TiVo--so that I could watch as I stitch.

I'm going to have that room, too, or at least most of it...but not until E moves out in about 12 years! I've already called dibs on her room.

4. I just told you my deepest darkest secret. It's a juicy one. Do you tell Baroy (or anyone else for that matter) or keep it to yourself?

Does Baroy know you in this scenario? Is he likely to ever spend time with you? If he knows you/will spend time with you, no, I probably don't. Or at least not right away. I do tell someone, though, but I find someone to tell who doesn't know you at all and never will.

If he doesn't know you, or is unlikely to ever spend time with you, yeah, I tell him. Because I have to talk about it with someone, right? A juicy secret unshared is a waste of juice.

I know. Nobody is ever going to tell me a secret again. But hey, I didn't say I'd write about it in a book, did I?

5. What is your favorite book and who is your favorite author? (I gave this one to practically everyone.)

Ahhhh, you want this to go on for decades, don't you. I'll limit myself. I have three all-time favorite books. Two of them I read in basically a single sitting, while sick in bed on two separate occasions. One was Toni Morrison's Beloved. It was such a profoundly moving book, so beautiful and scary and sad and bizarre and lyrical and sad. Did I say sad?

The other was Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. This is not my normal 'type' of fiction, and yet. And yet. Unbelievable. Transporting. Positively the most fantastic piece I've writing I've ever had in my hands. If you haven't, do. Read it. Now.

Finally, there's Dickens. Great Expectations, to be specific. Though I was also quite enraptured by A Tale of Two Cities.

You have to understand, I had this weird adult experience of reading--for the first time--many of the "classics" that you all read in high school well after I graduated college. That's because I was rolling along in junior high, reading whatever was assigned, and then when I hit high school, I was put into this 'extra honors' class, where we read lots of amazing material and did really high-level thinking and writing and discussion...but never covered the stuff everyone else was covering. So while I was reading Kafka and Dostoevsky and Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener (a favorite as well), everyone else was reading Dickens and Shakespeare. So I had to catch up when I was an adult. And what I found was, I love Dickens. Just love reading him. Who knew?

So that brings me to my favorite authors. Yeah, Dickens. And Marquez. Everything he's written is simply golden, charged with life and possibility and wonder. (I once saw a series of short films he did, and they, too, were amazing.)

Another favorite is Wallace Stegner. He wasn't someone whose works I thought I'd like, but my friend Roseann turned me on to him back before he'd died, and I was totally hooked. Crossing to Safety is really good. Angle of Repose is excellent. So is Big Rock Candy Mountain, for that measure, though it's different--a different era, a different sensibility. Oh, and All the Little Live Things. Wonderful. Read him.

For what I believe are some of the best short stories ever written, read Grace Paley. The Little Disturbances of Men is a fabulous collection. There are others, too. And anthologies. She is the person who made me want to write fiction--and the person who made me aware I'm not cut out for it. And the fact that she wrote about Queens often didn't hurt, either.

And if you've never read the poetry of Hayden Carruth, you owe it to yourself to do so.

God, I could go on and on and on. Virginia Woolf. Barbara Kingsolver. I loved Joan Didion's essays from the old days, though her persona takes over once you get out of the 1970s. I listened to and now devour all the books of essays by Sandra Tsing Loh. (Just laughed my butt off through A Year In Van Nuys.) David Sedaris rocks. And I love Anna Quindlen's essays, though not so much most of her fiction. And love the nonfiction works of Annie Dillard, too.

Did I say I could go on and on and on? I'll stop now. But I could. Go on and on and on, that is.

Anyway, per Natalie's request (read: stern order coupled with threats of physical violence), here are the rules if you, too want to be interviewed:


1 - Leave a comment, saying you want to be interviewed.
2 - I will respond; I'll ask you five questions.
3 - You'll update your journal with my five questions, and your five answers.
4 - You'll include this explanation.
5 - You'll ask other people five questions when they want to be interviewed.

And that's all she wrote, folks!

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

A Celebration of Disrespect

My brother-in-law sent out this email the other day about a conversation with his just-about-to-turn-five year old. He swears this is verbatim, and considering my niece, I don't doubt it for a second. Cracks me up every time I read it. (Oh, and just in case you're wondering, they live in Manhattan; makes the whole walking-back-from-the-grocery-store-in-the-freezing-cold thing slightly more understandable.)

Walking back from the grocery store with A in three degree weather (minus twelve, wind chill).
DADDY: Hey, we're walking in a refrigerator, A, aren't we?
A: No! It's not a refrigerator.
DADDY: It isn't?
A: No! There's a car! And cars can't be in the refrigerator. And there's a store! And stores can't be in the refrigerator.
DADDY: And there's people!
A: And people can't be in the refrigerator. We're outside!
DADDY: But feel how cold it is! It it sure feels like we're in a refrigerator.
A: (Pause) That's just the wind, you idiot.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Baby Oedipus

N has been on a Mommy tear lately, probably a result of spending literally eight to ten hours in my arms on Wednesday. (My diagnosis: bratitis, secondary to pneumonia.) He'll want some more milk, for instance, and when Baroy goes to get it for him, he'll scream (and despite the cloudiness on the x-ray, this kid has LUNGS), "NO! Mommy do it! Go way Daddy!"

The other night, the kids were arguing about who was going to sit next to which parent; we recently changed the orientation of our kitchen table, and whereas before we all sat on separate sides, we now sit two-by-two. Anyway, both kids wanted to sit next to me, and the fighting was making me crazy (and, yeah, Baroy is trying to keep a sense of humor about it, but it was clearly bugging him), so I decreed that they would sit next to each other and Baroy and I would sit on the other side. Case closed. Except, once E had finished her dinner, N started clamoring to come sit on my lap. I refused. But when Baroy got up to get seconds from the stove, N saw his chance. He jumped off his chair, ran over to the other side of the table, and quickly scrambled into Baroy's seat. "Daddy all done now," he declared. "Dis my chair now!" Baroy couldn't help but laugh. "Gee," he said, "could he be any more obvious about taking my place?"

Then, yesterday morning, he followed me upstairs while I was getting dressed. All of a sudden, he pointed to my breasts. "What's DAT thing?" he asked. "Those are Mommy's breasts," I said. "No, not DOSE things. DAT thing," he said, pointing more clearly to my bra. "Oh, that's a bra," I replied. "What a bwa?" he asked. Hmmm..."A bra is kind of like underpants for Mommy's breasts," I said. he wrinkled his brow at me. "Dat not underpants," he said. "Dat Mommy bwa. I touch it." And he did, gently, smiling up at me. And then, thankfully, he jumped off the bed. "I all done now. Bye Mommy."

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

I have always edited my life.

Usually, it's a minor edit: I'll give myself a line I really WISH I'd said, or enhance a reaction that was a bit murkier than I'll admit to. I'm a writer, after all. Even when I tell stories out loud, rather than on paper, it irks me to have them be dull, or illogical. So I fix them, just a bit. Or sometimes more than just a bit.

Yes, I know the word edit is a euphemism. What I'm really doing is lying. And I do it all the time. I've always done it. I look back sometimes on journals I kept as a teenager or a college student, and I can just tell where the reality and story depart from one another. Well, mostly.

And there's the rub: After a while, the lie becomes the truth, if only because I can no longer remember what the truth was.

Case in point: My sixteenth birthday party. Recently, I had cause to talk with my sister, J, about our no-longer-stepmother, S. She was telling me a story about a time when S smushed an entire piece of cake into J's mouth during a party, and how humiliated J felt. I remarked that I didn't really remember the story in full, but that I had my own, the time when S threw a plate at my head at my sixteenth birthday party. Except, even as I said it, I started to doubt myself. Not that some kind of dishware was thrown in my direction that night--I know it was--but that it was a plate? At my head? I really can't remember any more whether that's true or not.

I know that everything I can think of leading up to that moment is true. It was my Sweet Sixteen party; my father had insisted on throwing me a birthday party, perhaps to make up for all the ones he'd missed over the years. Whatever. In any case, it was a really fun party, if only because my dad was trying so hard to be seen as "cool" by all my high-school friends that he made a champagne punch for all of us. (Yeah, I'm thinkin' that maybe a few of the parents were less than pleased when their underage kids came staggering home that night...not that it would have been the first time for most of them, but it may have been the first time it was sanctioned by a supposed adult.)

Anyway, I'd had more of my share of punch when, after opening gifts, someone called "Speech! Speech!" Thinking I was being awfully clever, I started, "Well, I'd like to thank everyone who made this day possible..." Before I could get out the rest of the sentence, which was "...My mom and dad, who brought me into the world," or something like that, my stepmother laughed and said, "Thank you, thank you," thinking I was talking about the party. I wasn't following her and, still thinking about the rest of my sentence, said, "Well, you had nothing to do with it!" Her face dropped, my stomach dropped, and she went storming off. I sat there, flabbergasted, still not sure what I'd done wrong.

After a while, my dad suggested I go and apologize to S, saying she'd been working for weeks to make this party special for me. S and I didn't get along, I should add, but I did appreciate the fact that she'd made such an effort. So I went upstairs, and went into the kitchen, where she was rinsing dishes and putting them into the dishwasher. Still drunk, I tried to explain about the miscommunication we'd just had, but she was having none of it.

And that's where it gets unclear. I know she turned around and screamed something at me about being an ungrateful brat (or was it bitch?). I know she was holding some just-rinsed object in her hand. I know she tossed it, but was it on the ground? toward me? toward my head? I dunno. And then she went storming out of the house to take a walk to cool down. And that was the last time it was ever even spoken of.

Now, obviously, a spoon thrown down onto the ground would be a much less dramatic story than a plate thrown at my head. And I know that I've always keenly appreciated drama. I also know that when I went back downstairs to the party, I burst into tears, and the plate story was the story I told all my instantly concerned friends. But something makes me think that's not entirely true. Or at least that the intent wasn't there. Or something. But I'll never know. And so, for all eternity, I will posit that my stepmother threw a plate at my head on my sixteenth birthday. And every time I say it, I'll feel a twinge of guilt.

My point? I'm trying my darndest to be truthful here. I've fought myself a few times already when I've wanted to put 'better' words into my mouth, or make some incident I'm describing just that much more compelling. But I'm making no promises. Consider me a repentant, but not-entirely reformed liar, and read on at your own peril.

Friday, January 16, 2004

We Have Testicle!

For all those of you who were staying up nights worrying...coughBambicough...let me put your mind at ease. N's pediatrician found his left one after much smushing and pushing and pinching. (N's only comment: "Ouch!") Baroy is much relieved.

The part I was interested in, you know, the question of my son's actual HEALTH, was equally good news. While the ped thinks he probably does have a small patch of pneumonia in his left lung, right where the ER doc said that it could be argued there was pneumonia, she said he was doing so well that she wasn't going to worry about it. This was said as N was pushing a chair around the examination room so that he could climb up onto the sink, the exam table, the magazine table...and as he was counting from 1 to 13 over and over and over again...and as he was hanging from the doorknob of the room...and as he was insisting on high-fiving the doctor over and over and over...and as he was grabbing her stethescope and listening to the walls with it...you get the idea. Clearly, his doctor has a keen grasp of the obvious.

She did give us a prescription for Zithromax, so that if he starts to run a fever again, or seems to have trouble breathing, or anything like that, we don't have to go through the whole rigamarole one more time. I definitely appreciated *that* bit of thoughtfulness.

I couldn't get over how cheerful N was, after all those hours in doctors' offices and hospitals just two days ago. But Dr. R is just like that. One of the best in the business, in my books. I mean, I take my kids to a hospital MediCal clinic to see her. Not a whole lotta private insurance patients streaming through those doors. But seriously, I wouldn't trade her for anything right now. She's that good.

So that is, hopefully, the final update on the N mini-saga. We now return you to your regularly irregular broadcasts.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Wild Ride

There's no way I'm going to have the time today, or even in the next few days, to tell this whole story. So here are the highlights:

N spikes a fever of 103.5, axillary. He's grunting as he breathes. He looks awful. I call my doc, but she's not in clinic today. So I call Family Medicine over where I work, and they have me bring him in. They start talking about crackles in his left lung, and how horrible he looks, and how we can't drive him to a hospital ER because might 'crash' in the car, and how they're really worried about him, and how they can't find his left testicle (WTF?), and how they think that it's probably a really bad bacterial pneumonia and he's probably going to need to be in the hospital a while, and I should be prepared for that. After THREE HOURS they finally figure out what they want to do with him, which is transport him to Childrens Hospital. Except when they call Childrens they find out that they don't have any beds available if he needs to be admitted, which they are certain he does. So they insist that the thing we should do is call 911 and have an ambulance take him to County hopsital, two minutes away, but not where I wanted my chld to be taken. (This isn't about prejudice or socioeconomics or anything, it's about me knowing way too much about understaffing and lack of funding and the general craziness that goes on at County, being that I write about it all the time.)

Still, I let them. The ambulance guys come in, look at him, bundle him into the ambulance, blow oxygen past his face for a couple of minutes, then usher us into the ER at Women's and Children's at County, where we're seen immediately, a definite benefit of the whole ambulance ride. (One funny aside; as we're driving, the ambulance guy is giving his report to the hospital on what they're bringing in, and he tells them the patient is approximately 40 kilos. I didn't think it would be prudent to interrupt him, but I almost choked on my tongue. The kid's not even 40 pounds! He's not even 30 pounds! He's about 13 kilos. I hope that ambulance guy, nice as he was, doesn't have a side job as one of those weight-guessers at a carnival, is all I can say. The folks in the ER had a good laugh at that one, as they were expected a truly obese 88 pound 3-year-old to come in, and here comes eensy beensy little N. They thought they had the wrong patient!)

Anyway, at W&C they went to the other extreme, telling me essentially that he just has a bad cold. The resident kept telling me he didn't hear any crackling, and that his oxygen sats were fine (they were), and yeah, the coughing is bad, but he'll just give me some inhaled albuterol to take home and that would be that. Then the attending comes in and says, "I hear definite crackles in the left lung, and they sent him here by ambulance. You need to do an x-ray to be sure."

X-ray showed some diffuse haziness and one area that the resident said, "you could argue that it might be a little touch of pneumonia" but nothing particularly worrisome. The good news was that his heart, which had been enlarged last year and was supposed to be followed up this month, is back to normal size. So they got me a taxi back to my car, and sent us home...seven hours after we'd left.

Today? No fever. A bit of coughing, but that goes down after we give him some albuterol. More or less back to his old self--he was even out back insisting on hitting baseballs off of his tee this morning. So, yeah, I feel foolish. Except I know I did the right thing, taking him to be checked. It's just everyone else after that who was sorta losing it, and things got out of hand.

Never, ever dull 'round here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

One Down, 16 To Go

Handed in a "sample" chapter of the book yesterday. I have four more due next Friday. That sound you hear is me giggling hysterically--and I mean the hysterical part quite literally.

The work is fun, and interesting. But it's making me crazy that I can't do it "right." The schedule is so tight that I'm having to rely on written sources where I really should/would rather rely on interviews with experts and with people living with bipolar. I just need a couple of weeks to just hunker down and interview everybody I have on this enormous "hit list" of mine. But 'tain't gonna happen. Still, I'm hoping to be able to talk them into an extra week or so upfront, with promises to make the time up as we go along. Because once I get a few more 'major' interviews under my belt, I'll be able to write the later chapters with ease. OK, maybe not ease. I don't think I've ever written anything with ease. Writing is hard work. I enjoy it, but it's hard. Mostly, I think, because its never perfect. What I end up getting down on paper is never quite up to the standards of what I expect myself to be capable of. What I *know* I'm capable of. For instance, the sample chapter...I already realized that I left out at least three points I wanted to make. In this case, I can probably still slip them in during the process, but in the later chapters? Whatever I do will be what I've done.

(Yeah. Thank you, Yogi Berra.)

On a completely unrelated note, I almost got proofed/carded/whatever-you-call-it-depending-on-where-you're-from at the supermarket yesterday. The kid (or, as the protesters would call him, the scab) at the register looked at the 12-pack of Bass Ale I was buying (did I mention I turned in my sample chapter yesterday? Did I mention I needed to celebrate?) and then looked at me, then looked at the 12-pack, opened his mouth...and got sidetracked by another cashier, so ended up just ringing it up. But, man. Less than two weeks away from my 40th. I wouldn't have known whether to laugh or cry. (Actually, yes I would have. I would have laughed. Then I would have hugged him. Then they would have taken me away.)

OK, I need to stop writing now. I'm boring myself, and that just can't be a good sign.

Hit Me!

Hey, did ya all notice? I got me a hit counter! Sure, that may not seem like a big deal to all you geeks out there, but for me, well...think walking on the moon or climbing Everest or turning down an opportunity to go out to lunch with my coworkers even though I have lots of work to do. Until today, I would have told you that it was something that was simply beyond my abilities. But no more. I did a search for hit counters, signed up for one, and even *inserted the code into my blogger template.* Folks, this is HUGE. Next thing you know, I'll...oh, I don't know. I don't even know what techno thingy I should be doing that I'm not. But believe you me, I'll be doing it before long.


Monday, January 05, 2004

Mommy, Heal Thyself

Two nights ago, Baroy was out at a party (from which he didn't stumble home until 2 AM--and I think I deserve a pretty loud round of applause for neither flogging nor throttling him when he did) while I stayed home with the kids, for whom I hadn't been able to find (read: hadn't really tried to find) a babysitter. We had a nice evening, I got N down to sleep without incident, and then put E to bed as well. In lieu of telling you a long, boring story here about all that transpired after, suffice it to say that she ended up sleeping in my bed with me, after staying up until almost 2 am with an 'off' stomach that I suspected from the beginning was somewhat emotional in nature. (She comes by it honestly; I got 'nervous stomach' several times a week when I was in first grade, myself.) The whole loose stools thing freaked her out a lot, so I gave her a lot of TLC, even as my brain was telling me that I was setting myself up for more of the same in the coming days.

I was right. Last night, same deal. Except I turned into Hard-Ass Mom and insisted she sleep in her own bed, and just deal with going to the bathroom every few minutes until she fell asleep. There was a lot of crying and whatnot, and eventually she fell asleep, but not until pretty late for a kid who has to get up at 7 for school. And by the end of it, I was angry, and felt oddly uneasy.

Then, tonight, she comes to me at around 8:30, when I'm just about to put N to sleep, and she's in tears, telling me her stomach's starting to feel a little bit bad again, and she's afraid, and she can't stop herself from thinking about it. I barely concealed my impatience as I tried to talk her out of being scared in under three minutes, then sent her off to her father so that I could put N down.

Halfway through the pre-going-into-his-room routine with N, I hear E in the bathroom, and she's whimpering. Something makes me stop, and I call to Baroy to take over with N, and I go into the bathroom and start to talk to her. And she's sitting there, and she's shaking so hard her teeth are chattering, and tears are running down her cheeks. And the hardass-though-ostensibly-gentle diatribe I was about to deliver dies on my lips. Because it hits me, in a flash--or, rather, a flashback. This was me, seven months ago. Terrified of something I couldn't quite put my finger on, something that might well sound ridiculous to anyone but me. Shaking and rocking, all hunched over. Feeling so totally alone and adrift, and desperate for somebody to make it all better.

So I sat down on the floor, and got E to sit down next to me. And I taught her a little about deep, rhythmic breathing. And I talked to her about the things we can't control--and the things we can. I told her she couldn't control her poop or how her stomach felt, but that she could control whether or not she was going to let that feeling scare her.

And then I told her that I know a lot about fear. I reminded her of my "talking doctor" from this summer, and how she had helped me learn how not to be quite so afraid of so many different things. (Of course, she wanted to know what I was afraid of, and I told her that it was something private to me, but that some of it had to do with being afraid something bad would happen to her, or N, or Daddy. "Like that we'd get sick?" she asked. "Yeah, sorta. Something like that," I mumbled. Where's a good talking doctor when you need one?)

Finally, I told her that I thought what was scaring her wasn't her stomach ache, but whatever it was that was happening in her life that was making her stomach ache. I listed a lot of possibilities, though I knew which one it was. (Bedtime has long been a struggle for her, in a variety of different ways.) She admitted she was scared of her stomach ache AND she was scared of going to sleep alone in her room. But she didn't kow WHY she was scared of her room all of a sudden. I told her that was fine, we could try to figure that out later. I also told her that I had a solution. And so tonight I sat in a rocking chair by her bed, with my laptop on my lap (how appropriate; how unusual) and worked a little on my book while she fell asleep. It took one bathroom visit, no tears and five minutes tops for her to be blissfully snoring.

It was a really, really Good Mommy moment.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

No Rhyme or Rhythm

My body has a mind of its own.

Seriously. It's always been this way. No matter what I do, what kinds of external interventions I attempt, my body does what it wants, when it wants, where it wants...and then turns on a dime to do the exact opposite.

I remember, as a kid, noticing this when it came to dental checkups. (A diatribe on my Nazi-like childhood dentist and the dental phobia that plagues me to this day--nearly 25 years without a full dental checkup, folks--will come one of these days.) I would have a mouthfull of cavities, endure a series of *unmedicated* fillings, and vow to be better about brushing twice, or even once, a day. And the next time I'd go back, I'd have another mouthfull of cavities. So I'd get annoyed, and stop being so vigilant about brushing, and six months later, I'd have no cavities at all.

That's not to say that brushing gave me cavities; there were times when I brushed well for a long time and had only a few, but there were also times when I brushed rarely and had only a few as well, or none at all...

It's the same thing with facial cleansing. I know you all won't believe me, but the best way to keep my face from breaking out--I skipped acne in adolescence, when it was expected, only to develop it as an adult, when it was much more mortifying--is not to do anything to it at all. That doesn't mean I won't break out--I still do, sometimes; I even have a nasty zit near the corner of my mouth right now--but applying astringents or moisturizers or even using the mildest of mild soaps dooms me to a full-blown breakout. Happens every time. Even Neutrogena, for crying out loud, makes me look like I've been deliberately plugging up about a quarter of the pores on my face.

But perhaps the place where this bizarre body behavior is most evident is with my weight. It's not that I don't sometimes struggle with my weight a little, it's that it just doesn't matter what I do in terms of diet and exercise; my body will do what it damned well pleases, when it damned well pleases.

For instance...I've been exercising seriously for the first time in...well, in my life. It's been about three months now. And what's happened? I've gained about 12 pounds in the last three months; I'm almost *25* pounds heavier than I was in May after my Stalker Girl-related 'breakdown'. I'm 5 feet and 1 inch tall, folks. That's a HUGE amount of weight. I weigh more today than I have at any time in my life when I wasn't pregnant. Do I look fat? No--and that's weird in itself. But yeah, my hips are unusually wide, and my belly is definitely popping out a bit.

When I started working out at the gym, I expected a bit of weight gain as fat or whatever turned to muscle. But then I expected to see it level off, or even drop. And it hasn't done that. I'm still steadily, if slowly, gaining weight. I'm running three times a week, I'm not eating any differently (I swear), and I'm gaining about a pound or two a week.

Of course, this is after more than six months on Zoloft, which was supposed to have a side effect of making me gain back some of the weight that I'd lost when I wasn't able to eat for weeks on end...and that didn't happen, either. Until I started to exercise, that is. In other words, I don't think the weight gain is related to either the Zoloft or the exercise; it's just me. It's just my body, and its perverse little mind.

I'd be more upset if I didn't know what happens next: At some point, completely unrelated to any change in diet or exercise, I'll start to drop pounds. Maybe not 25, but 10, or 15. And then, six or nine months later, I'll gain again. And then I'll lose. And then I'll gain. Hopefully not quite as much all at once in either direction, but I won't have any control over it.

And so I eat pretty much what I want, and don't even attempt to diet. And so I continue to run, because my goal wasn't to lose weight, but to keep my spirits up and my body strong. But I will never quite understand how it is that I wound up with a body so different from everyone else's. And I'll never quite understand what that means, in the grand scheme of things, other than that I get to continue going about my life without worrying about skin care and dieting and such.

Maybe some day, all this will come back to kick me in the ass somehow. But I can pretty much guarantee that when that day comes, I won't have any control over how big of a target that ass will be. It will simply be as big as it wants or needs to be.

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