Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

In which I admit defeat

I have overscheduled my daughter. I am now officially one of 'those' parents--the ones who the rest of you look at and laugh at in a condescending "what COULD she be thinking" kind of way. The one who the media write about. The one who is destroying childhood for children. It's me. I've done it.

Let's review: Em is 9, in fourth grade. In addition to school from 8 until 2:30 daily, she has chorus after school on Mondays from 2:30 to 3:15 on Mondays (and now on Wednesdays as well until the spring concert is over), Hebrew school from 4:15 to 6:30 on Tuesdays, and from 9:30 to noon on Sundays, Girl Scouts from 3 to 5 every other Thursday, and soccer practice once a week plus a once-a-week game on Saturdays starting in the fall and continuing through November. She takes flute in school, and has to practice at least half an hour, three to four times a week.

But wait, there's more. There are reports to be done (the mission report is just past, but now we're knee-deep in the year's big science project). There's homework for school, review for Hebrew school. There's our usually weekly get-together with our 'gang' of friends, every Sunday afternoon/evening.

And then there are the social engagements: Playdates, study dates, sleepovers. This child simply Never Stops Going.

Let's look at just this weekend, for instance. Last night we had a new member celebration/potluck at our temple at 6 pm, after which Em went off to have a sleepover at her friend Cat's house. This morning was the religious school's Saturday services (something they sponsor just twice a year), so Cat's mom brought them at 10:30, and N and I met them there. We left right after the services (and lunch) to get Em over to her friend C's house so they could spend the next 4 hours conducting their science experiment, the results of which are due on Monday. She came home around 6, and I thought she might hang around a little, since Uncle Stevie is here for dinner, but she saw some of her friends playing out on the street and so is out there now, Heely-ing around. She wants to invite her friend J to dinner, which would undoubtedly turn into a sleepover request, but I said no. BECAUSE...tomorrow at 9:30 is Hebrew school for both she and N, and then N's kindy teacher is coming at 1 to pick them up for a lunch-and-bookstore date that we purchased for them at the school fundraiser. They'll be back around 4, and then we'll be off to Deb's house for our 'gang' get-together.

Then, Monday, school starts again.

I'm tired just thinking about it.

But here's the rub: We've already cut out SEVERAL things. No more swimming lessons, no more gymnastics, no more guitar. What next? And what do you do about a kid who simply fills any vacuum in her schedule with more friends, more playing, more things to do. Look up at my weekend. Look up at her schedule. What would YOU cut out? What would you deny her out of those experiences? And HOW would you deny her them? Chain her to the couch? Ground her for being too...social?

I think I take it back: I haven't overscheduled my daughter. She has overscheduled herself. I'm just a dazed and exhausted bystander.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007


This is what happens when it's spring break, and you have--no kidding, no exaggerating--six conference calls and a lunch meeting to deal with, and your husband is busy working on a project and your daughter is out at a friend's house: Your son cuts his own hair. Again. And not even so ridiculously that it's cute, like last time. Just enough to totally screw up the haircut you paid for just two days ago, so that you consider throttling him for a moment or two. Except, of course, when he announces what he's done, you're on Conference Call #3, and so you have to pretend nothing's happened, then mute the line and hiss at him to go downstairs and show his father what he's done and surrender all scissors until he can prove he's mature enough not to cut his own hair any more, which likely won't be until he's 34 or 35.

The poor kid is a mess, actually. Two days ago, Em and her friend C used him as a model for just about every gaudy cosmetic ever marketed to a 9-year-old. He had eyeliner on and lipstick; his nails (both hand and toe) were polished a bright pink, and there were sparkles all over his face and hair. ANYway...Something they slopped onto his skin caused a reaction, and now he has two GINORMOUS hives on his left cheek--so huge they've merged into one red, hot welt--and another one on his left temple that is only slighly less ginormous. (Yes, I've given him antihistamines. And calamine lotion. And hydrocortisone cream. And aloe. And whatever else you can think of. The hives just laugh at me.)

Plus he has seasonal allergies from the ridiculous winds whipping through the foothills these past few days, and so is coughing up a storm and has a constantly running nose. Plus he's decided to spend his entire spring break digging in my garden, and so when not actually physically in the bathtub, looks an awful lot like Pigpen. If Pigpen had welts on his cheek and temple. And little bits of sticky-up hair because he cut it himself.

Of course all was forgiven tonight when he came to me and said, "Can I lay on your back to fall asleep, Mama?" and then, situating himself, gave out a huge sigh and said, "Ahhhh. Now THIS is more like it."

As my mother is undoubtedly saying as she laughs and shakes her head while reading this, he's lucky I like him.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Here I am

We found out about my dad on Thursday; four days later (a week ago today), I found out that my boss at ParentsConnect had resigned. I'm going to be taking over for her for the interim, which is a lot of pressure at the same time as that of my dad's diagnosis. Worst of it is that the people in New York who run ParentsConnect want someone to replace her in New York. Which makes sense if you're not a person who lives in LA who was hoping to take over part of her job on a permanent basis and finally get a staff position (read: benefits). So that's more stress--the stress of who will come in to replace my boss, and will she want me to continue to work at this more managerial level to which I've become accustomed? Or will she want her entire staff to be in New York with her (it could be a him, but it's unlikely, given that this is a site aimed primarily at mommies) and thus will I find myself suddenly out of a job--out of the only job I have right now, the only job anyone in this whole family has right now?

Oh, and the kids are off for spring break this week. And I'm heading out to New York to see my dad and meet with the ParentsConnect folks a week from tomorrow.

There isn't enough Xanax in the world to keep me calm.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Telling the kids

They are 6 and 9. N has met my father a total of three times, the first of which was the day he was born and my father, more engaged in my life at the time than he had been in many years or would be for many years hence, had flown to LA from New York to try to be there for the birth. Em has seen him maybe a single handfull of times. Neither of them is likely to see him before this is all over. They do talk to him on the phone once or twice a month, but that could easily be finessed if you didn't want a kid to know what was going on behind the scenes

Given this, I'm sure there are many people who wouldn't have chosen to tell them about their grandfather's terminal illness. I'm also sure there are many people who would be able to keep their emotions to themselves, to be careful what they say on the phone when the kids are in earshot, to discuss travel plans and financial issues when they're in school. I am not one of those people. So told they were, with no sugar-coating, because I think it's better for them to think the worst is coming, and soon, and then maybe--just maybe--have something miraculous occur and have him around for more time than they think they will, than to have it go the other way, where they think they might see him for an afternoon this summer as they have the past two years, and then be disappointed when it doesn't happen.

Em, who is 9 going on 39, responded precisely as I thought she would. She cried. She sobbed. She talked about how even though she doesn't get to see him much, he's still her grandfather, and she's going to miss him. Then she cried and sobbed some more. Then, bless her incredible little heart, she told me that she thought I needed to "let it out" myself, that she could see how sad I was, but that I wasn't crying, and I should. I told her it wasn't that simple. We did a lot of hugging. She cried some more. Then she went for a sleepover at her friend C's house. That, in a nutshell, is Em.

N, who is 6 going on, um, maybe 5-and-a-half, came closest to making me cry. He often follows Em's emotional lead, because he doesn't always know what feelings are expected. Baroy and I were expecting him to fake/force cry, trying to get attention away from Em, as he usually does in these instances. Instead, he pushed out his lower lip and furrowed his brow in his classic distressed/angry look, and refused to be held or kissed or cuddled. For N, this is tantamount to refusing to take in a breath of air, to refusing oxygen. At one point, Em was asking a question, and N followed by trying to ask one of his own, but then lost his train of thought, or couldn't come up with the words or something, and began grunting and hitting himself in his head with his fist, angry at his brain. I have literally never seen him do ANYthing like that before. He was really hurting, my little boy. Not that Em wasn't and isn't, mind you, but she does her thing, gets it out, and moves on with her life. N hit himself in the head, gave up, and insisted he wanted to go outside and play basketball while Em and I finished our conversation.

He did come in a few minutes later, however, to ask me if we were going to bury Grandpa Jack, and I almost answered in the affirmative before I realized, in a flash, that he was wondering if we were going to bury Grandpa Jack in a hole in the backyard, the way we did with Buddy the guinea pig a few weeks ago. We ended up having a somewhat surreal conversation about cemetaries and coffins, as well as about what cremation means. Apparently, my born-in-Nazi-Germany Jewish father, having escaped the Holocaust, wants to be cremated. Don't ask.

Two days later, they're both fine. There will be more questions, I'm sure. But for now, they're fine, and dealing. Even N seems to recognize and accept the concept of the finality of it. Yesterday, he announced that he is going to find "the most beautiful rock ever" to give to Grandpa Jack. He doesn't bestow rocks lightly, my boy. It's his way of saying goodbye to Grandpa Jack...and, eerily, a throw-forward to the future, since leaving pebbles on gravesites when you've visited is a Jewish tradition. Perhaps I won't point that out to either him or my father just now, though.

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Friday, April 06, 2007


For the last couple of months, my father's been convinced he's dying. His long-time girlfriend and I have been convinced he's insane. Since he's bipolar and medicated to his gills, it's not a real stretch to be convinced of the latter. And we are, of course, right.

But so is he.

Turns out that despite some negative enzyme test several weeks ago, he does indeed have the pancreatic cancer he has been convinced he has. He's been waiting for this diagnosis since he was 52, the age at which his father died of pancreatic cancer. (Thanks for THAT genetic legacy, dad. First bipolar, now two generations of pancreatic cancer. Fun.) He's been convinced of this diagnosis for the past five weeks, during which he's dropped over 40 pounds (off of an I-figure-it's-gotta-be-nearly-300-pound frame, but still...) and complained constantly of severe pain. Since this is the man who taught me how to be a hypochondriac ("but I HAVE THINGS!"), it's not surprising we didn't really believe him.

I feel a little bit like shit for that.

The cancer is in his pancreas and in his colon and, considering the complaints he had a few months back where he was convinced he'd had a stroke and was having trouble walking, possibly in his brain as well. He's had symptoms for five weeks. The average survival time for pancreatic cancer (which is more than 99% fatal, the deadliest of the cancers) is three to four months from diagnosis. The cancer is not only not operable, it's not treatable; they sent him home today after the doctor appointment in which he was told about his cancer with pain killers and a promise of home hospice care when (not if) he needs it. (Thank god for the VA benefits he gets.) He's going to be 69 in August. The chances of him seeing that birthday are exceptionally slim.

I have a lot to say about this, and I'm sure I'll say it all eventually, but for now, I'm going to be selfish and narcissistic and make this all about me and myyyyyyy neeeeeeeeeds and mmmmmyyyyyyyyyyy feeeeeeeeeelings and say only that I'm learning something, um, interesting/pathological about myself from this. My one and only reaction to this news has been to spiral immediately into a full-blown, physical-only panic attack. It's obvious that my body has now programmed itself to take any and all strong emotions--depression, fear, grief, confusion, indifference, whatever--and turn them into panic. How fucked up is that? (Rhetorical question...)

So, next up: Book a flight to NYC sometime in the next couple of weeks to see him/say goodbye to him, maybe/take care of business. I'm purported to be the executor of his will, but nobody is quite sure that he actually HAS a will. Of course, that's OK, because he also doesn't have an estate. All he has, best I know, is debt. Oh, and ex-wives who hate him. And children who don't speak to him. And family members who have written him off.

Don't you want to be a fly on the wall at THIS funeral? I do...but mostly that's because I don't want to have to deal directly with people I cut out of my life and heart over 20 years ago.

I may not know exactly how I feeeeeeel right now, but I do know one thing: This sucks.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Death by pizza?

Two seders in two days. Total number of people fed with one 15-quart pot of matzoh ball soup: 25. And there are still leftovers. (My brisket--the best I've ever made by far--didn't fare as well; there were requests for more long after there was no more to be had.) But two picky little boys declared the meat delicious, a skinny-as-a-rail 10-year-old girl gushed over the matzoh balls, and my husband ate my first-ever-attempt at homemade horseradish sauce with gusto and love in his eyes. The way to that man's heart is through his stomach lining, I tell you. MAN, that stuff was potent!

On a related-only-because-it's-about-food note: I was looking at some food-safety tips today for work purposes, and found a USDA tip sheet that declares that pizza that's been left out for more than two hours needs to be tossed. And I laughed--LAUGHED, I say--in the face of danger. Because, really. Wouldn't every college dorm from Syracuse to San Diego be filled with youthful corpses if that were true? I mean, I had cold-pizza breakfasts (usually already-picked-over, lacking-all-edible-toppings, and covered with god-only-knows what kinds of ashes and debris) several times a week for four years straight, and lived to tell the tale.

Although, just thinking about it now is making my stomach churn...

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