Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

That's What Happens When Your Mama Is A Science Writer

You go to your pediatrician (who practices at a major children's research hospital) for your getting-ready-to-go-to-kindergarten checkup. After all the poking and prodding and peeing in a cup and reading letters off a chart and listening to sounds on a headphone, a lady says they need to take some blood from your finger. Afterwards, you and mama go out to the waiting room to wait for your doctor to talk to you about the various test results. While you're waiting, you ask your mama what they're doing with your blood. You think it's a simple question, but the next thing you know, mama's got a pad out, and she's talking about plasma and white blood cells and red blood cells.

She starts to label the picture, but then remembers that you can't read.

A few minutes later, when your doctor comes to talk to you again, you show her the picture, and she laughs at your mama and says, "I guess that's what happens when your mama is a science writer." When you get home, you show the picture to your daddy, and he just rolls his eyes at mama.

Lesson learned? Your mama is a geek.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I Don't Have The Answer. Hell, I Don't Even Have *An* Answer.

In the midst of a phone call from Grandma and Pop-Pop's house the other night--where Em is clearly having the official Time of Her Life--she suddenly changed subjects on me.

"I'm worried about what's happening in Israel, Mommy."

"What are you worried about, sweets?"

"I don't know. I just don't want anything to happen to Israel. I don't want Israel to go away."

Emmy's attachment to Israel has been somewhat sudden, dating from her beginning religious school last fall, and our beginning to attend shabbat and other services from time to time. It's second in her nationalistic affections; when we watched the Winter Olympics this year, for instance, she rooted first for the US, then for any Israeli participants in the Games. When the Miss Universe pageant was on the other night, she made sure to tell me about how both Miss USA and Miss Israel did. She clearly considers this her second homeland, which is amazing to me, since my own feelings about Israel vis a vis my self are...well, I'd like to say they're complicated, but that would imply that I've thought about them enough to be able to describe that complexity, and that's not true. I've just always viewed Israel as somehow a degree or two of separation away from me: I'm a Jew, and there are Jews who care deeply about Israel and what it represents; therefore, I care about what happens there, but only on a fairly detached plane rather than an emotional or spiritual one.

With Em, that separation simply doesn't exist. She couldn't tell you why or how Israel is important to her (or at least I assume she couldn't, though with that kid you never do know), but it clearly is. So when she hears that Israel is in peril (as in our house, the TV news/newspapers/talk radio are omnipresent in my parents' house), she feels it in her soul. And she frets. And she looks to me for answers. Which I do not have.

At the age of 4, she was obviously too young to 'get' what happened on 9/11 (though, stranded with Baroy at JFK airport that very morning, she was sort of right smack in the middle of it); the Iraq war has been a fact of life for her since she was 6, before she was aware of that sort of activity around her. This is the first international event to make it onto her radar screen. In the face of such distressing news reports, her compassion makes me proud; her vulnerability makes me scared.

But none of that helped when it came time to respond to her comments.

"I know, babe. I'm worried too."

It was all I could think of to say.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tiny Coconuts

N's been having an increase in separation anxiety at preschool lately. (Sensitive to the upcoming transition to kindergarten? I dunno.) A month or so ago, faced with a crying little boy on the other side of the preschool fence who wanted "just one more hug and kiss, Mommy," I suggested that he look down on the ground and pick up a pebble by his feet, and that would be his special "Mommy rock" that he could keep in his pocket and touch whenever he got sad. He loved the idea, though he took it a bit further: at the end of the day, he had a pocket BURSTING with little "Mommy rocks" that he presented to me with much fanfare.

Fast forward to last week, when he arrives home (Baroy picked him up) and announces, "I found something really special for you today, Mommy! Close your eyes!"

I comply, of course.

"Ta dah!" he says, as I hear a clattering onto the table in front of me. "Look, Mommy! Tiny coconuts! Tiny coconuts for you!"

[Official disclaimer: My children do not read my blog. No one in 'real life' calls me Tiny Coconut except for the brother-in-law who gave me the nickname, and he generally calls me TC. Thus, there is no reason for N to have called them tiny coconuts instead of baby coconuts, or little coconuts, or something like that. But he called them tiny. And has since brought me home another handful of them each and every day. It's all very funny, and a little bit spooky, too.]

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The News From San Francisco

N (who is 5.5) is spending the weekend in San Francisco with his Uncle Stevie, who he absolutely adores. Earlier today, I got the following two emails from Steve:

Subject: Quote from my nephew

While in the tunnels on the BART, N and I repeatedly noticed a tiny blue emergency light flashing by every 50 yards or so. In keeping track of them, he spotted three for every one I noticed myself. Then when we got back to the hotel and got off the elevator, I turned in the wrong direction toward our room and he had to correct me. He then raced ahead and was waiting for me with indulgent patience when I finally got there.

ME (A groan.) You see things better than I do, you remember directions better than I do, and you walk faster than I do. You should be taking ME to San Francisco.

N: I'm not a good driver, you know.

And then, a few moments later, came this one:

Subject: Killin' me here

I brought a couple packs of Extra! Wild Cherry gum with me because I knew it was N's favorite ("berry gum" in Nspeak). All day he's been digging into my right jacket pocket, in intervals that accounted for all 15 sticks. So when we got back to the hotel room, I said to him, "Duh. I have an idea." Then I opened a brand new pack, put it in his pants pocket, and said, "Now you have berry gum whenever you want it." Whereupon he opened the hotel room, stuck his head out, and began shouting, "BERRY GUM FOR SALE! BERRY GUM FOR SALE!" I had to physically pull him back inside.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mighty. Fallen.


I've written about this story before, I think, though I can't find it in my archives.

The lowdown is this: He was one of my scientific heroes long before I worked at the same institution as he did, and long before I spent time with him in his laboratory, listening to his plans for the future of medicine. I am unreasonably angry with him for falling so low, for being so low as a human, for letting me down so egregiously (as if what I think about him should make any difference). Still, the science he was doing, and the community he was serving, deserved better. As did the little girl he abused (and I have no doubt that he did, indeed, abuse her).

For shame.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Yeah. So, um, last Tuesday, I think it was, my mom called to tell me that after almost 30 years, she and my stepdad are putting their house on the market. So of course I had a whole post planned about my reaction to that--happiness for them because this is the right thing for this stage of their lives, weirdness for me at the thought of them moving from the neighborhood that I've had roots in for almost 40 years. And I was going to talk about my oh-so-sensitive Em's response, which was to cry and cry, and my oh-so-has-to-be-in-on-the-drama son's response, which was to pretend to cry and, when asked why, reply, "I sad that grandma's moving. Is Pop-pop going with her?" (Hee!)

But then I had to get packed, see, because I was leaving on Thursday morning with Em to fly to New York and go to that self-same house, where she is to stay with my mom and stepdad for the next month or so. But, I figured, I'd do my blogging there.

Of course, once I was there, there was the whole going-out-to-see-the-new-apartment-they'll-live-in thing, and the whole family-coming-over-for-barbeque thing. And then there was the (SURPRISE) blackout thing, followed by the my-mom's-modem-no-longer-working thing. And here we are. A week since my last post, and no time to really do any of the above planned discussing and analyzing.

So, to sum up:

1. Parents moving = mixed feelings, but definitely more positive than negative if you ignore last night when I had to go through boxes of my old stuff stored in their basement and found one FILLED with love letters from an old boyfriend and had to sit there with my daughter next to me and throw them all away because reading them was just too...weird. And sad, for reasons that have nothing to do with how said relationship ended--unlike the dentist-guy I dated for seven years who subsequently dumped me, I had ended this one, and for very good reasons--and more for that odd feeling of time and energy wasted and friendships gone by the by and how freaking long ago so many things in my life were and how little I remember of them, especially on the visceral level.

2. Em staying with my parents = sad to leave her, but happy to see how strong her relationships with her grandma and pop-pop and aunts and uncles and cousins are, as well as happy to give N a chance to be an only child for a few weeks and get lots and lots of mommy-and-daddy time.

3. New York = same as it ever was. Except I didn't get into the city, so what do I know? So really, I should have said Queens = same as it ever was.

4. Seeing Paula and her family at my mom's house = awesome. As always.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Poetry Of Panic

Just moments ago, in the grip of day 2 of an unexpected, unexplained panic attack, I had a sudden thought: I wish I were a poet.

I was trudging, oh-so-slowly, up the stairs to my bedroom at the time: My panics are not about moving fast, whipping through life, but about heaviness of chest and limbs. The typical bird-like flittering of a classic panic attack does make random visits--my hands will suddenly begin to tremble more than usual, and it feels as if the very cells of the skin stretched across my cheekbones are vibrating, leading to the tingling in my face that only panic brings.

It's my brain that fails me, however. Thoughts don't race through it; they appear briefly, though as mere skeletons of anything significant, and then disappear as quickly as they came. The point of my upstairs trudge was to take half a Xanax, so I could then go run a couple of errands--there are a couple of things I really need to pick up before tomorrow. Except, somewhere between step 1 and step 15, the list disappeared. I couldn't even remember the stores I needed to go to, much less what I'd planned to pick up there.

Which is when I suddenly thought, "I wish I were a poet."

Maybe I'm romanticizing. Probably I am. But my experience of panic feels so unlike anything else I've ever read about or heard about. I feel as if I need to find the words to describe it; that maybe, if I could find those words, I'd be able to find a reason, a trigger, something to work on that would prevent its reappearance. Or, at least, I'd be able to talk about it in a way that would allow me to share it with someone else, lessening the burden of it.

But I find myself stymied. This feeling does not need to be written out in long, convoluted sentences. This feeling screams out for tight, carefully constructed passages. It despises grammar, this feeling. It needs free-form space, a place to just exist and expose itself. It needs analogies and metaphors, and words chosen with such practiced precision that it becomes immediately obvious that there are no other words that could be used. It needs an absolute, crystal-clear perfection of language. It needs poetry. It needs a poet. *I* need a poet.

But I am not a poet. I am not so careful with words, and I am not capable of making words sing. I can talk; I can write. I am (I'd dare say, tempting the gods of hubris), a good writer. But I am no poet.

In the end, I cannot do my panic justice. And so, instead, I must live with it coiled inside me. Because I cannot speak for it, I instead need to silence it, however temporarily.

Xanax, take me away.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Grumble, Harumph, Grumble

Hellooooo? Is this thing on?

Where'd you all go? Why don't you have anything to say? Don't you love me any more?

I know you're not all over at the parenting site using the invitations I sent and busily posting away. Well, a couple of you are, but most of you? Not so much. Right Mr. Gloat? Yeah, I'm talking to you. Issues, shmissues. I need comments!

That's it. I'm going to go off and start a trainwreck journal and make stuff up about how I'm in a relationship with my stepbrother who beats me with a crack pipe, but I can't leave because I LOOOOOOOVE him, and THEN you'll all have something to say.

(Yes, I am expecting my period any day now. Why do you ask?)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

So Sweet It Makes Your Teeth Hurt

N (5.5 years old) went for his second-ever sleepover last night to our friend's house, where they hosted five boys, ages 2.5 to almost 9. (Well, three of the boys are theirs, but still...they are brave, brave souls.) N was a little nervous, and called after less than an hour to tell me he was "starting to get sad." I got the following email from my friend--dictated by N--an hour or so later:

Dear Mommy,

I miss you. We made cupcakes and I frosted it and we put sprinkles on it. And I really really love you. I miss you miss you miss you so much. I love you I love you I love you so much. And I'm sad you leaved. That's all. Oh, also I watched television.


Monday, July 03, 2006


Em and I have been reading "Marley and Me" together. Funny book, great bonding time. Em is an animal lover of the first degree, and what with the still-new-to-us Lab pup hanging around our house (and stealing our hearts), reading about a Lab pup is perfect for her...and me. It's the first time in a long time--as in forever--that we read a book that I've never read and one that I actually wanted to read.

Clearly, it's a bit adult for a not-yet-nine-year-old in some places, but I've always been one to answer all of Em's questions honestly, and she's always been one to take said information in stride. Until yestterday.

We were reading the chapter in which John Grogan and his wife are trying to get pregnant after a miscarriage ended their first pregnancy. He talka about--laments about, actually--how Jenny puts him on a "schedule" and how unsexy that is.

"A schedule?" Em asks, turning to me. "What does he mean?"

"Well, sometimes when people are trying to get pregnant, they try and figure out exactly when the egg is in the mom's uterus, so they can have sex at that time and give the egg and sperm the best chance of meeting one another." I explained.

She had a few follow-up questions, each of which I answered, about how you mnow you're ovulating, how you come up with a schedule, etc. I answered them all.

"That sounds weird," she said, when I had finished. "I know you and daddy would never do anything like that!"

"Well, actually," I said offhandedly, my eyes returning to the book, eager to continue on, "it was taking us a while to get pregnant when we had you, so I acually did put us on a schedule."

"You mean, you told Daddy when you could and couldn't do it???" she asked.

"Uh-huh," I answered, still distracted. But quickly, the absolute silence in the room caught my attnetion, and I looked up to find my daughter straing at me, her mouth a perfect O.

"What?" I said, starting to laugh.

She remained frozen in that rictus of disgust. Then, finally, she said, with great emphasis, "Ewwwwwwwwwwwwww."

"I take it you didn't need to know that?" I said, laughing out loud at her facial expression.

"That was DEFINITELY too much information," she replied.

I mortified my nine-year-old by giving her too much information about her conception. My work here is done.

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