Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

In the Car, On the Way to School, Yesterday Morning

N: Mommy, I blew Superman!
TC: Uh...
N: I blew Superman, OK, Mommy?
TC: Uh...
N: I blue Superman, you green Batman. Petend. OK, Mommy?
TC: Phew.

(Interestingly, when I tried to send this exact note to my birth-month list yesterday, it never made it through. Perhaps that should have been a sign from the gods that funny stories about three-year-olds blowing superheroes aren't actually all that funny. But I, clearly, refuse to acknowledge the gods. I am a bad-humor rebel.)

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Mixed Blessings

Having my mother and stepfather visit, as they did last week, is always such a mixed blessing.

The pure blessing part is obvious: They are absolutely besotted with their grandchildren. My mother is wonderful with them, and my stepfather, well, if you knew him when I was a kid and then saw him with these kids, you’d be amazed. He always took care of me and my sister, make no mistake about that, but he was never an exceptionally—or even slightly—affectionate man. And involved? Um, no. Not in the slightest. I can think of two occasions where the two of us did anything without my mother along, and both occurred when I was an adult. Basically, while I love him and know he loves me, in his way, it’s nothing like the way he loves these kids. I was his stepchild, but they are his grandchildren. There’s no step away, no step aside. He reads to them, even sometimes plays with them. He even watched N all by himself for almost two hours one morning. This is a man who still asks my mother to pour him a glass of water, who can do almost nothing for himself. And yet he babysat for his grandson. Astonishing.

The other pure blessing part is that my mother comes swooping into my house expecting to be put to work. Her specialty is organization. My speciality is, well, not organization, that’s for sure. So after a week together, all the trouble spots in my house are gone. Everything has a place, and is in it...for now, at least. Plus, she taught me to crochet, which is another post. Soon.

The mixed part always comes when they leave. Having them here is a bit of a strain. My stepfather is getting old, and he’s always been a little set in his ways, and making him ‘comfortable’ takes a lot of bending on the part of everyone, including my little ones, who are not used to bending. So when they leave, there’s some relief. But there’s also some sadness, because I do miss them. And then there’s also a huge amount of guilt. Because if their leaving makes me a little sad, it devastates my kids, especially Em. In fact, we planned our Sunday (Father’s Day and their last day in town) specifically to keep Em distracted when they left. And at first I’d thought it had worked. We’d invited a bunch of our closest friends over with their kids, who are Em’s closest friends, and Baroy’d fired up the hot tub (we don’t have a pool, but we got us a hot tub because it’s Southern California, after all...) for the kids to “swim” in. And they were in there, splashing around and laughing it up, when my mom and stepdad came and said goodbye to Em. She looked sad, but seemed OK. My mother was congratulating herself as she got into her car on her astute planning. Except, not so much. Because by the time I got back to the backyard, Em was sitting in the water, just sobbing. Broke my heart. I had to gather her up and take her inside and hold her for a long time until she stopped. There’s nothing like having your child completely devastated by the departure of her grandparents to make you feel like the worst parent on the face of the earth for not moving closer to where they could see each other regularly. And that brand of guilt? She lingers. She lingers a long, long time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


There's a section in my book--which I sent back to the publisher yesterday, hence my reappearance in the world of the living--where I talk about a form of antidepressant therapy called Total Sleep Deprivation, or TSD. In essence, TSD involves several cycles of staying up for 36 straight hours. According to the research that's been done on it, TSD is extremely effective, lifting moods almost immediately. The downside? The lift goes away as soon as you get in a good "recovery sleep." And, eventually, you have to get in a recovery sleep, or you'll have bigger problems than depression.

Because I am a dedicated journalist--OK, OK, because I am a dedicated procrastinator, are you happy now?--I did a little TSD experiment the other day. I got up at 7 am on Monday morning, and didn't go to sleep until 9 pm on Tuesday night. (Because that's how long it took me to put in the final changes in 16 chapters, three appendices, an introduction and an acknowledgements section. Yeah, I know. I'm slow.) I didn't get a wink of sleep folks, much less two winks.

And let me tell you...it works. Yup. No depression at all. AND I was hip-deep in PMS-mode. This no-sleeping-at-all thing is pretty miraculous.

It's also for the birds. I will NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER do that again. I slept 11 hours last night, and I STILL feel like a truck ran over me this morning. Yeah, so I wasn't bawling and snapping at people all day yesterday. Big whoop. Instead, today, I'm stumbling and drooling. And I don't even have a newborn I can blame it on.

I'm 40 years old, and I did an honest-to-goodness all-nighter. I have got to get a real life. And a nap.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Now, That's Just Stupid

I thought my eyes couldn't roll any further backward into my head than they did when I saw that one of the multitude of editors who've read my manuscript changed the name of my place of employ in my bio. I work here! I don't care if you think its name is grammatically correct, or appropriately succinct, or whatever. It's where I work. What I called it? That's what it's called. Live with it, fool.

(And yes, I said as much in my comment back to them. Actually, I said it a little less meanly but a whole lot more snottily. But I couldn't help it.)

Apparently, however, I was wrong about that eye-rolling thing. My eyes can go even further back. Who knew? I certainly didn't...at least not until I got to the end of chapter 12.

Now, chapter 12 is a chapter on support groups. And at the end of each chapter, I have a section of common-sense tips called "What You Can Do." Those tips are preceded by a single introductory paragraph.

Are you following me? (If you're not, don't worry. It's not critical to the story.)

So I decided to start off that intro paragraph with a quick list of commonly-used quotes/phrases about support. I used "you've got a friend," I used "it takes a village," I used "lean on me." And I used "no man is an island."

Can you see this one coming from a mile away?

Yup. One of the editors changed it...to "no one is an island."

If you're not a writer, you might be wondering why that would cause me to want to emit a primal scream and do damage to breakables within my arm's reach. But if you are a writer, you know. You either just smacked your forehead or shook your head in sympathy and disbelief. And you're now recalling a similar thing that happened to you once, which you will now put in the comments section so that I can be distracted from my pain.

No one is an island. Fer cryin' out loud.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Crazy Week

So, let's see. This week, I'm either scheduled or have promised to do the following:

Attend a meeting with the superintendent of schools about finding a suitable replacement for Em's principal, who announced last week that she's leaving/been promoted
Attend a parent meeting for Em's Brownie troop
Hang with my mom and step-dad, who are in from New York
Take Em to two swim lessons
Attend Em's gymnastics 'recital'
Attend N's gymnastics 'recital'
Attend a going-away party for Em's principal
Have a play date with friends of ours who have kids Em and N's age
Finish up a round-robin tatting project (I'm holding things up...sigh...)
Do a much-needed grocery run
Work a four-day week at that ofice place that unfairly occupies only a teeeeeensy weeeeeeensy sliver of my attention these days
Oh, yeah...And finish reading a 350+-page manuscript, make all required changes, make additions and deletions, and get it all back to the publisher by Friday morning. Not to mention that my one 'real' contact at said publisher announced to me on Thursday that it was his last day, and so now I'm freaking out.

(In case you were wondering, this isn't even everything that I could be having to do--there's a Brownies tea party and a end-of-school picnic that I simply had to say no to, though I'm feeling much guilt over that.)

Yeah, I know. You wish you were me. I wish you were me, too.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Em's Greatest Hits, Volume I

We're off to a bar mitzvah tomorrow, which brought to my mind one of my favorite Em stories, one which I've probably told a million times, though I don't think I've done it here. And that brought to mind a couple of other of my all-time-favorite Em stories. So I decided that it's time to tell three of them here, just because. Many of you have heard them before, but I don't care. They tickle me.

#1: Em is not-quite 3-and-a-half. I'm pregnant with N. Em and I are in a bathroom stall in the mall, and she points to the little garbage can for feminine products and asks what it is.

Now, you have to understand that Em is and was extraordinary in terms of her verbal abilities--both expressive and receptive. So my simple response led to more and more questions, and ultimately to a full-out explanation of the concept of menstruation, including the idea that blood comes out of a woman's v*gina once a month if she's not pregnant. It was a very long conversation, and I really wished we weren't having it at the mall, but there it was.

A few months later, I'm driving Em home from daycare, and she mentions her cousin, M, who lives in New York, and wonders whether he's driving home from his school. I start telling her about how New York is three hours ahead of us, and she starts asking more questions about the whole time-zone phenomenon. Since I'm in heavy traffic, I'm having a hard time concentrating, and eventually I say, "Em, I'm sorry I can't explain it to you right now, but it's complicated."

"What's complicated mean?"

"It means difficult to understand."

She's quiet for a minute. "That's not difficult to understand," she says. "Blood coming out of your v*gina every month...now THAT's difficult to understand!"

#2: It's a few months later. N is a newborn. The three of us have gone to a local botanical gardens where we have a membership, and we're enjoying a nice, warm March day.

After we've wandered for a while, we head to a little cluster of weeping-willow trees where Em likes to pretend she's in a jungle and that she's Nala, the girl lion from The Lion King. I nurse N, and he falls asleep. Em's been running around for a while when she comes to me and asks for some water, and I realize that the sippy cup of water I had for her is empty.

But, never fear. There's a bathroom just 50 feet or so away, within sight of the tree where we are, and it has a water fountain. I realize that I won't be able to juggle N and open the cup and get water into it, so I lay him down on the blanket I've already spread out, and I tell Em that I'm just going to walk over to the bathrooms and fill up her cup, and she needs to stay near N and watch him until I get back. I figure it's OK because although I can't really hear her, it will only take about a minute, and I can watch them the entire time.

So I head over to the water fountain. As I'm filling up the cup, I take my eyes off the kids for a split second. When I look back up, I see about four of five people--a family with three kids--approaching the spot where my kids are. They're Japanese, and they have a camera. I see one of them start to talk to Em, and then I see them stop dead in their tracks. I quickly screw the cap back on the cup, and hurry back over to where my kids are.

And there is Em, on all fours, crouched over N. She has on the most serious face I've ever seen. And she's roaring at these people--literally. "Raaaaaahhhhhrrrrr," she's shouting over and over, trying to keep them away from her new baby brother who she's been asked to protect. "Raaaaaahhhhhrrrrrrrrrr!" And the family is just dumbfounded. They just don't know what to do. So they back up, and scurry away, before I can get close enough to say anything.

I couldn't decide what I more proud of...the fact that she was so protective of her baby brother, or the fact that she didn't even break character.

#3: Em is now four-and-a-half years old. We've moved into our new house, and she's become very good friends with the younger two boys from next door, whose parents I like alot, but who are very, very different from me. They homeschool for religious reasons--not enough God in the schools, apparently.

Passover comes, and I'm in the house on the night of the first seder, setting the elaborate seder table. I'm putting matzoh under a matzoh cover when Tommy and Em come into the house looking for a snack. "Hey," Tommy says, pointing at the matzoh. "I know what that is. That's the body of Christ!"

"Um, no," I say, trying not to laugh. "But I can see where you'd make that mistake. It does look like a communion wafer, I guess."

Later, when my brother-in-law arrives, and is chewing on a piece of matzoh, Tommy makes the same comment to him. Em, apparently, is simply taking it all in.

A couple of months later, we're at a bar mitzvah. It's the first time Em's been in a temple. (Yes, I know. Bad Jew.) At one point, the rabbi asks us to observe a moment of silent prayer. Em, who's sitting between me and the aforementioned brother-in-law, asks what we're doing.

"We're talking to God, quietly, in our heads," her uncle explains, whispering.

"Oh, yeah, I know about that. That's what Tommy and Nick do when they go to church! Except they don't talk to God. They talk to..." and here she pauses, searching for an elusive name. "They talk to...oh, what's the name of that guy whose body they like to eat?"

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Christmas in May

Most of you know about my history with Em's elementary school and the subject of Christmas. (If you don't, head on over to my December archives, and you can read all about it. The relevant entries are on December 3 and December 17.) My rabble-rousing is undoubtedly four-fifths of the reason I'm on the PTA Executive Board right now--you know, that whole "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" thing.

Anyway, I really enjoy being on the Board, and I signed up for another year, except as newsletter editor this time. So we're sitting the other night in our first meeting of the 'new board,' which has 8 people from last year, and only 3 new people. And we're talking and we're joking and we're bantering. At the end, one of the new folk, who hasn't said a word for two hours, asks for a chance to speak about some ideas she has for things the PTA could do next year. And she hands out some printed-up proposals. Cool. New blood, new ideas. All good.

Anyway, she starts talking about her first proposal...a "holiday boutique" for the kids to buy handmade stuff for their parents. Now, she doesn't know me from a hole in the wall, but the seven other old-timers on the board start staring at me, like I'm a bomb about to explode.

I should say here that her proposal was for a "multicultural" boutique, and that aside from a single reference to Santa's workshop, there was nothing in there that ANYone could object to. But, you know, I'm a loose cannon, apparently. Who knows what I'll object to?

(Oh, and I should also add that we were having this meeting in the church that the PTA president works at--she runs their child-care program. She is, by all accounts, the person who pushed for Santa in the classroom in previous years, though I don't know that for sure, and she and I actually have gotten along extremely well. Still, the crosses overhead just add to the 'flavor' of the moment.)

Anyway, New Girl talks for a few minutes. You can tell she's nervous about overstepping her bounds, and I'm sure the deathly silence when she's finished doesn't help any, especially since she doesn't know why it's so quiet. So I step right into the breach.

"Well," I say, "I know some of you are wondering what the Grinch has to say about this..."

A few of the more laid-back folk laugh.

"I have to say I think it's a fabulous idea. Really. I'm all for it. Keep it 'holiday,' keep it multicultural, keep Santa out of it, and you've got my full support."

As I finish, the PTA president, who's sitting to my right, puts her arm around my shoulders. "Why, TC," she says, after a brief pause, "I do believe your heart just grew two sizes!"

It may have been the best laugh I've had in months.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

A Feel for Grammar

I've never quite been able to explain where I get my 'voice' from when I write. I've also never been able to understand how someone else can't do what I do, because it seems so simple to me, just transfering the words that the voice in my head dictates onto paper or a computer screen or wherever.

Everyone at my office knows that they can come to me with almost any style or grammar question, and that I will have an opinion. I'm always being asked to proof other peoples' work. But I actually know very little about grammar. I couldn't diagram a sentence if you paid me, nor could I tell you what a subjunctive clause is without first looking it up.

Today, one of my colleagues came by to ask me a question about a sentence in a report she was looking over. I gave her a quick answer, and then she said, "Yeah, that's what I was thinking, too, but I couldn't say why."

"Oh, I can't say why, either," I replied. "I just know that it's that way because it feels right. And the other way? That just feels wrong."

And it's true. As I'm looking over my book, I'm finding certain changes that were made that literally, physically, feel wrong to me. I can't say what the problem is, but I will actually feel something twist in my throat just a little bit as I read an improperly worded sentence, almost as if I've had a sudden taste of something sour or bitter. I'm not saying I taste something bitter, but that my body makes the same sort of rejecting motions that it would if confronted with a bitter taste.

I also find that my entire body tenses when there's a typo coming up in the next couple of lines. It's as if my other senses catch the error before my eyes actually get to that spot, and they start to ready me so that I don't miss it. If I get that tense feeling and don't find a typo nearby, I will read the paragraph over a few more times. And probably 7 out of 10 times, there is indeed a problem there that I would have otherwise missed.

Between all that and the voice in my head that will let me know when something sounds wrong, I get by pretty well without much training in this sort of thing. And, so far, no one wants to medicate me when I talk about those voices, so I guess I'm ahead of the game.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Hypothetically Speaking

Let's say you're in the car with your two kids, and let's say they're, um, oh, 6 and 3. A girl and a boy, in that order. And let's say you're not paying a lot of attention to them until you hear your 6-year-old daughter say to your 3-year-old son, "N, wanna touch tongues together?"

In this situation--which is, remember, just hypothetical--what would you do? Would you:

A) Flip out completely, hitting the brakes in the middle of the freeway, pulling over to the side of the road, demanding to know what possessed your daughter to try and tongue-k*ss her brother, and lecturing your children about the genetic, emotional, religious, and societal dangers of inc*st?


B) Chuckle to yourself, secure in the knowledge that N is still too damned young to figure out what the heck Em wants him to do or why and so will simply keep touching Em's tongue with his finger making her more and more infuriated, and then start planning out just how you're going to write a blog entry about the whole experience?

Hypothetically, of course.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

On Edge

I had a truly delightful weekend. Well, once I got over the gasped "Oh, are you pregnant again?" that I got from the dean of admissions here when I walked into the med school cafeteria. (Uh, no. Just crazy and on meds that have made me gain 30 pounds in the last six months. But thanks for asking...) I think it bothered me most because she's smart, and nice, and pretty, and funny...and therefore it must mean that I actually DO look pregnant, at least in my work clothes. Why couldn't she be stupid or mean? That would have made it much easier to shrug off. But I'm over it. Or I will be, in a year or two. Maybe three. Or four. But someday.

Anyway, the weekend. Delightful. Movies, multiple dinners with multiple friends, fireworks, a Memorial Day parade, kids splashing around in my backyard, beautiful weather, and a little boy who seems to be getting the hang of this potty thing, or at least beginning to get there. I was commenting to Baroy about how happy I am right now, especially socially. We have a great and ever-expanding group of friends, people I enjoy, people who challenge me intellectually, people who understand me emotionally. I don't think I've felt this settled, socially, since college, which was literally half a lifetime ago. (Yikes.)

So I'm not really sure why, today, my weird neurons have decided to start working overtime. I've had this unsettling feeling all day. It started with the fact that one of my email accounts, my main personal email account, seems to have shut down early this morning, and I can't get any mail there. And in some bizarre, Rube-Goldbergian way, that kicked off a chain reaction that led to me being convinced that Stalker Girl is back. It's been a year, over a year, in fact. And it's not like I think she hacked into my email account or anything. It's just that the hairs on the back of my neck have been standing up all afternoon. I feel like I need to be paying attention, need to be on my guard. I feel uncomfortable. Mostly because this sort of thinking is so uncontrollable. When I say I'm convinced she's back, what I mean is that physiologically and emotionally, I'm convinced. But logically, intellectually, I know the chances are slim. Still, I'm just a tad worried. Looking over my shoulder, just because I can't help it. She's never come at us the same way twice, and I have no idea how she will come at us the next time, assuming there is a next time. And so I watch, and I wait, and I shake my head at myself in anger and resignation. Oh, and I eat. Hmmm. I think I may see a connection here...

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