Monday, August 31, 2009

I'll Let Twitter Tell It

@tinycoconut, Monday, August 31:

4:19 a.m.: Never a dull moment in this fire...Baroy called about half an hour ago. We got an evac order. Cops said not a huge rush, but...

4:20 a.m.: Then minutes later, call comes in that evac order lifted but ONLY for houses north of us. Which is odd, since THEY ARE CLOSER TO THE FIRE! [Edited to add: The initial call came in at around 2 a.m., I talked to Baroy at 3:45 when he called my cell, the cancellation call came in at 4:15 a.m.]

4:21 a.m.: Baroy is outside having packed the car to find out what's going on. I'm waiting for call back and looking for info online. LATimes says...

4:26 a.m.: AND I QUOTE: "Eastern flank of Station fire still active, calmer elsewhere." This at 11 p.m. Uh, thanks LAT. [Edited to add: We're part of the western flank.]

4:40 a.m.: Call back. Evac canceled for ppl south of a XX street. We're two block south, so we're OK now. Baroy's going to try to get some sleep.

4:41 a.m.: I can't imagine sleeping now, but...I probably should try. After I blog. ;-)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

So Far, So Smoky

It's easier to update my blog frequently than to make a million phone calls to let people know how I'm doing. If you're on Twitter (I'm @tinycoconut there) or Facebook (where I'm my 'real' name), you've heard much or all of this already. Sorry for the repeats, but...It's all fire, all the time around here right now.

Saturday, August 29

10:01 a.m.: There's an awful lot of ash falling

11:42 a.m.: I'm good 3, 4 miles west of fire. Unhealthy air, everything covered in ash, but in no real danger re house. Just lungs!

12:31 p.m.: So forget that 3, 4 miles west of the fire thing...It's now right above our house. On the other side of the mountain, tho, so safe for now?

4:02 p.m.: Just found out that the area just TWO BLOCKS north of us and ONE BLOCK west is now under a mandatory evacuation. Holy shit.

4:02 p.m.: Never expected it to get this close...I'm actually scared now.

4:09 p.m.: Thanks, all. Gathering stuff for Baroy to put in car if evac becomes a reality. N and I going to friends'; Em to another; Baroy here for now.

7:16 p.m.: Am at friend's house in Burbank...Baroy's staying behind to keep an eye on things, but will leave if our area needs evacuating.

7:17 p.m.: There's actual AIR in Burbank...things have EDGES to them. ;-)

7:17 p.m.: I'm getting my info from LANow which is an LA Times blog. LCF site only giving info on LCF evacs.

7:18 p.m.: N is totally excited, though. His school is in the evac zone, and they're supposed to start Monday. May not be the case now!

And from Baroy's Facebook page, some of his impressions from the familial front lines:

Around 7 p.m.: They evacuated an area starting two blocks west and north of our house. The fire seems to be moving away from us in that direction, but getting a little too close for comfort right now. Water helicopters are continually flying over the house.

Around 10 p.m.: Helicopters have stopped for the night. Can see the fires on the hill ridges about 5 miles away. No evacuation on our street, but we got a neighborhood watch thing going on. So, I'm gonna go have a beer.

A few minutes later: Don't know why I just spent the last half hour cleaning up the kid's rooms. I suppose if it's going to burn down, might as well be neat.

So far, though, it looks like we'll get to stay put for the time being. I'm writing this from my friends' house in Burbank, so it's not like I know this for a fact. But I'm assuming I'd have heard if Baroy had had to grab Snug and the cats and head for the hills. Or, to be more accurate, way far away from them and their 40 years' worth of brush that, as the LA Times said in one of it's reports, is literally adding fuel to the fire.

More news when I have it. Thanks for caring, all.

LA Fires, An Update

I think Baroy's shots, taken two houses down from our house because the trees in our background got in the way, say it all.

Or we can add N's comment: Holy Moly.

(The 411: It's still on the other side of those hills, which means it's still a fair way away from us. Evacuations are in force, but they're for streets fairly far north of us, and still about a mile+ east. That said, there's no smoke-free air here, and because of that, Em, N and I are finding alternative sleeping locations for the evening, while Baroy will hold down the homestead. We have lots of really good friends, and they've all made it clear that they're here for us if we need them. We are--as much as this isn't a word I really use normally--blessed.)

Edited to add: Just found out that the area just TWO BLOCKS north of us and ONE BLOCK west is now under a mandatory evacuation. Holy shit. I would never have expected it to get this close...not any of it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fire on the Mountain

And this time, it's for real.

It's too hard to work and worry and worry and work and then try to blog on top of that. So I'll let my Twitter stream tell my tale:

This "Station Fire" is WAY too close to my house. WAY. Not dangerously close--maybe 3, 4 mi away?--but too close. Em's freaking, poor kid. about 17 hours ago from TweetDeck

They're evacuating people from Station Fire to the high school directly south of me. That means they don't think fire's coming here, right? about 14 hours ago from web

I really need to stop obsessively refreshing @latimesfires and go to sleep. Anyone wanna take the sucker bet on whether that'll happen? about 14 hours ago from web

Thanks for the concern, folks. 500 houses evacuated, but a coupla miles from here. Been up since 4:45. It's hard to breathe w/o actual AIR. about 8 hours ago from web

So what's a girl to do when she can't breathe or sleep? I'm thinking of catching up on Project Runway. Then Models of the Runway, of course. about 8 hours ago from web

Ash falling like snow. I want Baroy and the kids OUT of here; they're heading to Glendale to spend time at the mall. about 6 hours ago from web

They're just not getting a handle on this fire. And it's possible that I'm going to burst into tears at any moment. For no real reason. Fun! about 3 hours ago from web

My house=just to the left of this smoke plume 38 minutes ago from TwitterFon

(I sent that pic from the street behind my office...) 37 minutes ago from web

So, there you have it. I'm going to take the kids--and Baroy, if he'll come--somewhere for the evening, to keep them out of the heat and smoke as much as possible. Baroy's had them at the movies today; N has a doctor's appointment later this afternoon closer to my office. So hopefully their lungs won't be completely blackened by the time they get a handle on this sucker.

But it's scary out there, man. I really wish it were only the moon this time, too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Got Money?

So I started up this new review blog, I Try Things. (Get it? I Have Things, and now I Try Things? Aren't I clever?) Anyway, I just put up my first post--which is, in the name of honesty and aboveboardness (which isn't actually a word but should be), a compensated review. It's a look at the AT&T FamilyMap service, and it includes, down at the bottom there, a chance for one of my manymanymany commenters to win a $100 Visa gift card. So, go. Comment. Win.

You know you wanna.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Twelve Years Ago Tonight

Twelve years ago tonight, we had a barbeque, just me, Baroy, and my brother-in-law. Steve drove me nuts, watching my every move.

"Was that a contraction?" he'd ask every time any one of my facial muscles twitched.

It was my due date, but I wasn't there yet. I just knew it.

"No," I said, time and time again. Or, "Just a small Braxton-Hicks."

At some point, though, there was a sea change. I knew that if I told Steve, we'd never get him to go home, and I needed him to go home. I needed to get some sleep. It was almost time.

Instead, I told him that the Braxton-Hicks contractions were coming pretty regularly, and would he do me a favor and time them for me? By the time they were coming every ten minutes or so, I told him that, yeah, he should probably keep the next day clear, just in case. I also told him he needed to go home. Now.

In fact, it was pretty much right now--11:15 on August the 24th--as I'm typing these words tonight. Once we'd finally shoved Steve out the door with orders to get some sleep and keep his phone by his bed, Baroy and I got into bed ourselves, gearing up for a rest that wasn't to be. Within a couple of hours, it would be August 25, 1997, and I'd be up and on the couch, contractions coming every five to seven minutes, beginning the work of becoming a mother for the very first time.

But today--or, rather, 12 years ago today--it was not quite time yet. And that was good, because I wasn't ready. Almost, but not quite. And then, suddenly, without knowing it, I was.

Happy 12th birthday, Em. I love you. And I love what you made of me.

(A photo of a photo of me and Baroy at a picnic, one week earlier...
I loved my belly.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Writing What You Don't Understand

I've been putting off this press release for days. The researcher's asked me twice about where it is; I've given him vague, half-true responses about overwork and other releases and other deadlines. Here's what's whole-true: I've been putting off writing it because I don't understand it.

I write about high-level science at one of the top universities in the world. No, seriously. The world. I never really understand the science I write about, because it's the state of the art in its field; it's stuff that the scientists themselves are only just beginning to understand after spending their entire careers looking at this one small set of questions. If I could really, truly understand what I was writing about every time, I'd be...too smart. Not-real smart. Impossibly smart.

I am not that smart. I am not even close.

But that's not the kind of "don't understand" I mean here. For every ten releases I write, I am seriously, significantly in the dark on one or two. This time? I wish I could find my way through the vacuum of my complete not-understandingness back to just seriously, significantly in the dark.

It's a little scary, and it's more than a little embarrassing. Because while I'm not impossibly smart, I don't like to admit that I'm stupid. And when it comes to this research, this release...I'm stupid, all right.

The thing is, I've been here before in this job; this is the second, maybe the third, time I've been this lost on a press release. And yet, in the end, I will write the release, and it will, with some work on my part and help from the researcher, make sense. I'll define terms, and look things up, and try to weave the words around in such a way that it makes a comprehensible whole, without drowning my reader in jargon and explanation and just a flood, a verbose avalanche, of words. It'll make sense...and yet, I still won't have a clue what this research is about. I still won't understand it. At all.

It struck me, as I stared at the blank page that should be this release just moments before clicking over here to write this (oh, please...if you didn't realize this post is little more than a procrastination tool by now, you don't know me very well...), that this is a feeling that a lot of us blogging parents have, especially those of you (us? me?) with kids who have special needs. And especially those of you (us? me?) whose kids' needs aren't so easily discerned.

So many of the posts I read--and oh, so many of the posts I write--are exactly this: Descriptions of stuff that's happening, of complex thought and sensory processes playing out before our still-ignorant eyes. In my case, I realize, so often I see what's going on, I watch oh-so-carefully, and I try and try and try to digest it and make sense of it so that I can report on it. And I do...but I don't understand. So often, my child--like many of your children, I know--gets sucked up by that vacuum of my complete not-understandingness.

And yet, in the end, I will write these blog posts, and they will make sense...and yet I still won't have a clue what is going on, what my child is all about. I still won't understand him. At all.

But I'll keep trying. And maybe, after defining my terms and looking things up and weaving my words, I'll make some progress. One can only hope.

Friday, August 14, 2009

When Life Gives You Onions, Saute Them

My garden's been a disaster this year.

Since the Spring of Gorgeous Lettuces--and yes, they were--it's been the summer of my discontent. There are no tomatoes in my garden; not a single tomato plant made it up through the soil. Nor did any carrots. Two zucchini plants poked their heads through, but they produced nothing. Two bean plants made it up, as well, and even put forth about 10 scrumptious green beans before turning brown and giving up the green-bean ghost. The dill I planted barely broke through the ground before dying. And while one of my basil seeds actually turned into a reasonably productive basil plant, all I can say is, really? Only ONE basil plant? After all those sown seeds?

It's been sad. I'll go even farther and say it's been downright depressing. Most of what I've accomplished in previous years has been more or less accidental, rarely planned-for, rarely thought out. But it's happened, and we've enjoyed the fruits of my accidental gardening since we moved into this house.

And then I went back to work, taking whatever gardening mojo I'd had with me, apparently. Because what remains at my house--this Dead Zone, this place where no green goodness grows any more--seems to have resulted from my inability to do a daily garden check for areas that need a little TLC or even to do anything resembling regular weeding. We don't have a real irrigation system in my garden, which worked before, because I'd notice some wilting, and I'd do a little extra hand watering in addition to whatever hits the garden when we water the lawn every two to three days. Worst of all, I planted when I had time, not when the time was right...and that, I believe, was my true downfall.

I've become generally bitter about the whole thing, to be honest. In case you hadn't noticed.

Which is why I thank god for the onions.

Sometime in the late fall, I saw a bag full of onion 'bulbs' for sale at a local gardening shop. They were on serious sale; I think I paid $2 for them. I knew it was late in the season to plant them, and I didn't have room for them in my 'main' garden, so I stuck them in a rarely used patch of dirt toward the back of the yard--an area where the light isn't at all optimal for veggie-growing, and where the sprinklers barely reach.

I was pleased when I saw green shoots coming up this spring, despite the conditions. But the "70 days 'til ready for harvest" had long come and gone, and all I had to show for my initial investment were some green onions. I'd pull one or two now and then, but mostly I ignored my pathetic little patch of failed garden in favor of gnashing my teeth over my pathetic BIG patch of failed garden.

Which is why I became ridiculously excited, a few weeks back, to discover that a few of those now-wilty-looking green onions had, while my back was turned, become now-wilty-looking BROWN bulb onions...and good-sized ones, at that. But there were only a few, and while it was nice, it wasn't impressive.

Now it's impressive. Or at least it was last night, when I decided to pull the weeds that have grown amongst the onions, and realized that almost all the onion leaves themselves had browned and fallen over...which meant that they were all ready to be harvested. And so harvest I did--a good three-dozen-plus onions, most of which were the size of real, though small, onions, and a few of which were relatively impressive, fists-sized suckers. Once I'd pulled 'em from the ground (and arranged them for a couple of glamour shots, of course), I chopped three or four of them up, sauteed them in a little butter and olive oil, added chicken thighs and, later, rice, and served them to my grateful family, who might miss the sun-soaked stringbeans of yesteryear, but were nonetheless grateful for the tear-gland-assaulting onions of today.

And so all is not lost in TC's World of Accidental Gardening. MOST is lost, but not all. And for right now, that's good enough.

Friday, August 7, 2009

News Flash

You know I don't normally do this newsy thing, but I'm making an exception for the world's biggest matzoh ball!

Though I do have to say: 267 pounds? Pshaw. That's what one of my better 6-inch matzoh balls weigh!


Wednesday, August 5, 2009


A few days before we headed to New York to visit family, we spent a day at the Kidspace Museum with always-to-be-called-by-his-full-name-if-N-has-anything-to-say-about-it Weeyum Wise.

Those of you who know anything about N know that Weeyum is the boy with whom N's been friends since they were in the infant room at daycare together.

I know I've written about their strange and remarkable friendship before, but let me say it once more: Weeyum is an incredible child. Smart, intuitive, mature. How and why these two boys have come together--and, more importantly, stayed together--despite their immense differences in personality and interests still floors me. Weeyum's mom agrees. And yet, being together makes both boys very happy. I keep waiting for Weeyum to tell his mom that he's outgrown N, but it doesn't happen. They just...connect. For no obvious reason.

Their day at Kidspace was remarkable in that it had been several months since they'd seen each other, and yet they picked up as if they'd been together the day before. They also didn't seem to notice, not even for a second, that they were BY FAR the oldest children there. It's really a preschooler's paradise, and these are 8-year-old boys. While that's not so surprising for N, whose interests tend to skew young anyway, I was a little afraid that Weeyum would be bored or feel out of his element.

I shouldn't have worried.

They examined bees:

(N's in mid-hair-twirl...his signature move. I've gotten extremely good at unshackling his wrist and/or fingers from the snarls he gets himself into. But, hey...He's pretty much stopped chewing up his shirts, so I'll let this one go for now.)

They examined life-sized plastic bugs eating in a diner:

They climbed:

And then climbed some more:

And then, because it was 100+ degrees, they hit the man-made creek and water wheel that runs through the gardens around the museum:

All of these photos, by the way, are courtesy of Weeyum's mom, J. Don't think even for one SECOND that I have any kind of photographic ability. I only wish I could show you the close-up face shots she got of both boys during the day. The joy in their eyes is almost edible. Heck, the BOYS are almost edible.

It was a very good day.