Sunday, July 17, 2011

A farewell

I’m a lucky man to count on both hands
The ones I love...
Some folks just have one,
Others they got none...
--Pearl Jam, Just Breathe

That song has been floating around my head all week. It feels fitting today.

I feel incredibly lucky that I've had six people in my life who I've considered grandparents. Six! Can you even imagine the love?

There were my four biological grandparents: Grandmom and Grandpop on my Dad's side, with whom I lived all my early years, and Nana and Grandpa on my Mom's side, who lived in Florida but who I was fortunate to visit with at least twice a year for most of my life. They were all unique and loving in their own ways, and I feel lucky to have known them all. All of them passed away in the last fifteen years or so.

And then, well....when I was two, my mother befriended a woman who lived on our street. She had children whose ages matched my two brothers and me, and it at her house that the most defining friendship of my life was formed. I met Amy, five weeks older than me and destined to become my non-biological sister. We have been best friends ever since.

Amy has a HUGE family. Really, it dwarfs mine. Seven brothers and sisters, tons of aunts, uncles and cousins, and their house was always full to the brim with kids. And yet no one ever flinched to see another kid, a skinny blond girl with big glasses, whenever I showed up at to play. I was just part of the family. I never had to knock; the front door was never locked. No one was ever surprised to see me there.

That included Amy's two grandmothers.

There was Grandma Paczkowski (yes, I did just google that spelling!), who lived around the corner from me. Amy and I used to walk to her house to play Labyrinth, and eat M&Ms and drink Coke.

She passed away when we were in our teens, and we still talk about those times. Good, fun times.

Then there was Grandma Eberle.

If you ever wanted to know the true meaning of the word "matriarch," you needed look no further than Grandma Eberle. She was Amy's father's mother, and I swear she ran the family show. Things revolved around her. She was at every family party (of which there were hundreds, though the years), and it was always expected that you'd filter past at least once to say hello to her. She had a...presence. Like the Godfather, only she was the Grandmother.

Nowhere was this presence more felt than at Frog Hollow, the swim club to which both our families belonged. Grandma Eberle was there every day of the summer. I can still see here there with her white curly hair, in her skirted one-piece bathing suit, sitting in the shade with the other ladies, the other matriarchs of the pool.

They watched out for us kids, and only now that I'm a mom do I understand the importance of what they did. My mother often dropped my brothers and me off at the pool for the day, with strict instructions for my oldest brother to keep an eye on us younger ones. But he didn't have to, because Grandma Eberle was always there to watch.

And let me just tell you - she kept us in line! She had that "look." One glance from her when you were misbehaving and, well, you stopped. You could get away with no crap when Grandma Eberle was around. She was old-school, and she single-handedly kept the vast majority of us Eberle and Soltis kids out of trouble. I know now how grateful my parents must have been.

And yet, she wasn't always all about intimidation. She was also at every swim meet, cheering for her grandkids. She always had a special word for me if I had a good race, or a bad one.

She was always there. A constant in my younger days. I was afraid of her, sure - that "look" was intense - but I loved her.

As we all grew up, the family of which she was still the leader grew and expanded. Her grandchildren had kids (I won't even attempt to count them all...the number is vast), and those great-grandchildren loved her too. And she loved them.

And for me, even though I'd moved far away, she was still excited when I did come to visit. The last time I saw her was at Amy's college graduation party, and I swear to you, her face lit up when she saw me walking over. It didn't matter that I wasn't related by blood - I was a proxy grandkid, and she was happy to see me.

In recent years, I've sent pictures of Zoe, and while I can't guarantee it (she moved to Florida a couple years back to be with her daughter), I imagine Zoe's picture was up on her fridge along with all her other great-grandchildren. I'm sure it was.

So, you can just begin to grasp the love with which Grandma Eberle's life was filled. Her family adored her, and she them.

She passed away Friday night, and I feel as though I've lost my last grandparent. It's an orphaned feeling, in a way, but then I stop and think.

Six. Wow. Six.

Damn, I am a lucky girl.

And for you, Grandma Eberle. You are loved and you will always be missed.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cooking with kid? and other stuffs....

Ok, ok, I KNOW this blog's been a little schmoopy lately, and I KNOW I've barely been writing anyway, but I promise you, oh ye faithful reader(s??), I am hard at work creating a site focused more on writing and less on kid stuff, and also am putting the finishing touches on my book so that I can send it out into the ether to get mean rejection letters (from which I will learn BIG THINGS, I am sure...).

But I just have to share this one more sweet Zoe story because it makes me happy. Maybe it make you happy too? goes...

Charles had to work late tonight, which used to be grounds for me to panic. Back in the day, it was terrifying...a late afternoon by myself when I'm already exhausted from work, and Zoe is cranky from a full day at school? Too much to handle. (I have nothing but the utmost admiration for single parents, by the way...I don't know how y'all do it!)

Tonight, we really didn't have much to do. I'd decided on homemade personal pizzas for dinner, and didn't feel all that rushed to get anything done.

So I picked Zoe up from school, and she was in a fabulous mood. We giggled the whole way home (mostly over nonsense words). When we got home, we took care of the dogs, did a little cleaning up, and then it was time to start dinner.

I'm not typically one to stop and smell the roses. I always feel rushed, like there's not enough time to get everything done well, so I have to half-ass most things. This is sort of ironic considering one of my favorite movie quotes is the famous Ferris Bueller line: Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Usually, when Zoe "helps" me with something, it stresses me out because I know it's actually going to take twice as long for us to do together as it would for me to do it on my own. It's not a personal trait of which I am proud.

But for some reason (perhaps making it through a super-stressful meeting at work today?), I was super-chill tonight. Even Zoe noticed and told me I was relaxed (which sounds REALLY WEIRD from the mouth of a three-year-old). And so, I let her help me cook.

While I sliced onions, she pulled the stems out of mushroom caps. While I sliced mushroom caps, she watched and directed. When I spent ten minutes trying to open a jar of artichoke hearts, she cracked up hysterically because Mommy wasn't strong enough.

By that time, there were mushroom crumbles all over the counter and floor, but I didn't care. Floors are easily cleaned, right? And when it was time to assemble the pizzas, I let Zoe do most of the work.

She spread sauce. She sprinkled onions and cheese. I handled the artichokes (ok, I drew the line at oily artichokes...I do have my limits, you know), but then she decorated with the mushroom slices. She even spread the Feta on top (For the record, Zoe would eat a whole box of Feta in one sitting if I let her. I had to watch carefully to make sure ANY Feta made it to the pizzas!).

By then, the cat was enjoying a feast of dropped cheese, I was happily drinking red wine, and Zoe was having a great time! And so was I! I was actually, legitimately cooking with my kid!!

Who knew? advice to those of you who are always too busy (like me)...take some time and relax sometimes. You'll have an unexpectedly good time! I *almost* promise!


And by the way...did you SEE that USA vs. Brazil soccer game on Sunday? Charles and I watched it and it was AMAZING! Seriously, when the US scored that goal in the closing seconds of the second overtime...I almost cried. The hell with people who say women's sports aren't exciting - that was the most exciting sporting even I've ever seen!! USA! USA!!

ANDDDD....Charles ordered me George R.R. Martin's latest book, A Dance With Dragons, and even though it's officially released tomorrow, thanks to's brilliance, I have it in my hands TONIGHT!! Charles is officially my hero, and I'm taking a night off from editing so I can

Good night!

Monday, July 4, 2011


Hello, and happy July 4th to you! I hope this day has found you happy and healthy!

We've had quite the holiday weekend. Each day has included beach or pool, and I'd almost say I'm finally a blonde again.

I am...utterly exhausted.

But today was...fabulous!

So...having July 4th fall on a "school night" is kind of rough when you're a working parent with a three-year-old. You want to let them experience the full effect of cookouts and fireworks and the awe that you (ok, I...) remember as a child. But you (I) know how quickly 6 a.m. comes, and how hard it will be to get your kid out of bed the following morning. So you (I) are (was) torn.

I was excited when Charles agreed to host a small cookout at our place, but we still went back and forth over fireworks. I wanted to drive about 30 minutes to watch the professional shows from the back porch of the house in which Charles's mom and grandfather grew up, which is today owned by his cousins. He wanted to shoot off some fireworks in our back yard instead.

That option...sort of made me nauseated.

Because I grew up in New JERSEY, where fireworks set off by anyone without a license and a county-sponsored show are ILLEGAL, and even SPARKLERS are ILLEGAL and it just doesn't feel right to light my own damn fireworks.

But that was the option that won, and it turns out one of our neighbors is a certified pyromaniac, so she had a STASH of fireworks to add to the little $30 kit we purchased yesterday on our way home from the beach.

So we had our cookout, which was super-fun. Charles's mom even got out to play some soccer with Zoe, and our neighbors and their kids had a great time hanging out in our back yard. We all ate a lot, and I only had one glass of wine due to a mimosa incident yesterday, and all was well.

Then the sun went down. Charles and our neighbors Monica and Jamie took turns setting off fireworks. And Zoe was delighted.

And I? Well, I got a bucket of water. I got out the fire extinguisher. I even contemplated getting Zoe to put on her Spiderman bicycle helmet. I jumped at every boom. I flinched as each bottle rocket flew off in a different direction.

But got better. I got a bit more comfortable, especially when I realized practically ALL our neighbors with children had made the same choice, and fireworks were going off all around us, and really, if they could do it, why couldn't we?

The only time I paused for a moment was when I came inside about halfway through to check on the dogs. Quentin, my 'fraidy-cat dog who panics at the slightest rumble of thunder, was relaxing calmly in our laundry room. He gave me a look as I came in..."Whatcha worried about, Leah??"

So then I went looking for Molly. She wasn't downstairs. I headed upstairs, expecting her to be hiding next to my bed.


I started to get a little worried. "Molly? Molly?" I couldn't find her, so I called louder.

Then I heard a rustle in Zoe's bathroom. I found Molly, shaking, terrified, laying in the bathtub. I think that if she'd been able to, she'd have had a bucket of water nearby. She'd have had a fire extinguisher. I have no doubt she'd have had a helmet on.

I could TOTALLY understand.

But at least I knew she was safe. I patted her on the head and said something that was, I'm sure, not even remotely soothing, and went back out to watch the rest of the show. Even if we stopped our show then, the neighborhood would still be booming.

And now? It's 10:30. Zoe is in bed, but not yet sleeping. I figure we have a 50/50 shot of actually making it to school and work on time tomorrow. But you know what? DIY fireworks are actually FUN! No one got hurt (well, Charles *does* have that one burn on his hand...), and we had a great time.

All without the crowds on the beaches, or having to deal with drunk drivers on the roads, or getting home even later because we are stuck in traffic...

So I have a feeling we'll be doing this again next year. Bigger and better, as Charles just informed me.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I love New York!

When I was very small, my two brothers, who were born in New Jersey like my parents, used to tease me for being born in New York. They called me a "born New Yorker." It hurt my feelings and made me feel like an "other" in my family.


Thank you, New York! I love you!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Why I read sad things...

I'd love to raise my daughter in a world where rape, murder, genocide and all other atrocities don't exist.

But since I don't, and since I firmly believe that we must learn from the past in order to not repeat it, I believe it's important to read articles like this one, and the book which it references.

I'll be ordering it soon. It will make me sad, and nauseous, and angry, but I will learn from it. And I hope others will, too. Because we all have to work together to keep things like this from happening ever again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dispatches from the mountains, Part 3

Today's subtitle: And then....that happened....



I'll admit it, I was more than a little freaked out by our cabin in the woods on the first night. I already wrote about how I wanted to go home, how I was expecting hairy, sweaty madmen to appear at every window.

But by last night, I was feeling zen-like about the whole experience. I'd learned to love the dark wood surrounding me, the dangers of the slippery river rocks. I'd even embraced the wide-open windows and their mostly-unused, heavy drapes. By the time I went to bed last night, I was damn peaceful.

And then...this 5:30 in the stinkin' a.m....the phone rang.

NOT one of our cell phones. NOT a skype connection on our computers. But a land-line, a sole little phone plugged into one of these dark, wooden walls.

It rang for all its little life was worth. Ring. Ring. Ring.

We rolled over in the darkness, confused, muddled. "Wha..." Charles mumbled as my heart pounded with adrenaline from the sudden awakening.

I stumbled out of bed, scared.

Because...isn't this how most horror movies get started? Don't the peacefully sleeping heroes get awakened by a phone call in the middle of the night, only to find they're being stalked by the hairy, sweaty madmen who tells them he has the house surrounded? Don't they then dissolve into an evolution of terror only to wind up killed and hung on the walls to dry?

Isn't that what always happens?

I grabbed the phone, a cordless, and carried it wordlessly into the room and handed it, still ringing its death chime, to my half-asleep husband.

Who set it down on the nightstand and rolled back over into sleep.


It stopped ringing after eight long, insistent bellows, and I noticed I was still alive. There was no hairy, sweaty madman leering in the window. So I got out of bed and checked on Zoe who was sleeping, zen-like, peacefully, on the couch.

So I lay back down next to Charles and tried to calm racing heart with soothing thoughts of sunshine and rainbows.

Ten minutes later, the phone rang again. Death chimes re-visited.

I wanted to cry.

This time, Charles answered sleepily. "It's just beeping at me..." and he got up to make some coffee. And me? I never quite dozed back off either.

But...I'm still alive. Still. So is Zoe. So is Charles (even after a close encounter with a (non)venomous snake while hiking today). So all is well. And I'll just have to remind myself once again that my overactive imagination is better left for my noveling efforts., Zoe got a set of marbles. She calls them "marvels." I like it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dispatches from the mountains, Part 2

This post should seriously be subtitled "Zoe is a trooper."

I mean really. We're on day four of our five day vacation, and we've been going non-stop pretty much since we got here. I already told you about our first hike (a full mile for some very tiny legs, without any complaints)...but there's so much else!


In the first place, the wedding Saturday night was excellent. The bride, our friend Ashley, was truly lovely, and even though the weather was TERRIBLE (they had to move the outside wedding inside at the very last minute), I never saw her break a sweat.

And Zoe? Holy cow, she danced the night away. Seriously, I've never seen anything like it. My typically shy little girl completely opens up as soon as there's music and a dance floor. Hopping, spinning, turning, leaping, she does it all. Even some ballet moves (and she's never even had one class). I mean, she DOES look a bit like Elaine from Seinfeld, so it's not like her skills are astonishing, but her energy and joy are boundless. We finally had to leave during the speeches because you could see the imminent crash by Zoe coming; she'd only had a 20 minute nap that day.

She slept until 7:30 the following morning, a record for her.

Our days since have included LOTS of driving, especially yesterday when the weather was pretty awful. She hasn't had a real nap since we left the house on Friday, and has instead caught 20- to 30-minute catnaps in the car. The few meltdowns we've had have been epic, but for the most part she's been cheerful, enthused and engaged.

Today we went to Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West theme park, and it was like her holy land or something. She rode two separate trains, an airplane and a helicopter, and she even got to ride some go-carts with Charles. There was also a ton of junk food (argh, she's eaten SO MUCH JUNK FOOD) and silly tourist-trap souvenier souvenir stores where we picked out presents for friends, and a frog and a bag of rocks for Zoe. Plus, there was Rusty the Cowboy, on whom Zoe now has a huge crush. Whew.

Then we went on a huge hike to see a waterfall, and once again (once we got past the epic meltdown for the day) Zoe was great. She kept up with us, every step. Over hills, crossing streams, climbing up and down stairs. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Not a single complaint. Zoe is a trooper.

And as for me...well, traveling with a three-year-old is less relaxing than, say, my solo trip to London, but it's been mostly great. I've been enjoying some amazing views of some seriously breathtaking mountains, and I had tons of fun at Tweetsie, too. Plus, today there was a piece of the hike which was maybe a little too complex for Zoe, so she and I sat on a bench and waited for Charles to go check it out. When he got back, he said it was great, so he and Zoe started back for the car while I went to go see. I promised to catch up. The view to which I climbed was pretty amazing (waterfall, trees, valleys, mountains...wowsa!), but my favorite part was trying to "catch up." I decided to jog (even though I was hopelessly ill-equipped), and seriously, it's been years since I did any sort of running on hills. I'd forgotten how FUN it is!!! So that was a lovely moment in an equally lovely day for me.

Oh - and the hot tub? Gonna be great for some sore hiking muscles.

Love from the mountains!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dispatches from the mountains, Part 1

Charles, Zoe and I are in Boone, NC, to attend a friend's wedding (but to all you would-be criminals who want to rob our house knowing we're out of town, please know that our house is protected by a FIERCE and FEROCIOUS dog, as well as wonderful neighbors who are VERY attentive). A couple months ago, when we heard about the wedding, we decided to make a proper vacation of the trip and rented a small cabin on a river for a full five days.

So here we on in the mountains, where it is breathtakingly beautiful at all turns, where little tourist traps offering gem mining and fossil factories line the windy roads, and where Charles would love to live.

Really, it is gorgeous here. We got our first view of the mountains yesterday about four hours into our five-hour drive, and it was sooooo nice to be out of the lowcountry where we live. And then, our ears started popping. And then Zoe, who had been damn near angelic for most of the trip, had just about had it. And then, to get to our cabin, we turned down a gravel road that is lined on one side with one house's private art (junk) collection. And I've seen the movie "The Last House on the Left" far too recently, and I began to freak out. A little.

So we got our bearings in the cabin, then headed out to find some food. We wound up eating dinner at a Japanese steakhouse, Zoe's first hibachi experience. It was totally random, and not what we'd have typically picked while on vacation (we like fancy food, I'll admit it), but it was perfect. Zoe loved the "cook on the table" show, and we relaxed, me with two glasses of strong red wine.

So then, we came back to the cabin, and we tried to take a walk on the river. Which I cannot do when I've had two glasses of wine. At least not without sitting down hard on my bottom after slipping on some algae. Whoops. I felt even more insecure.

We let Zoe stay up late to try to look for fireflies (she'd never seen any) but it apparently gets dark super-late here, so suddenly it was 9:00, Zoe was falling apart and so was I, and still, no fireflies.

We learned last night that you cannot expect a child to sleep in an unfamiliar, dark, kind of creepy room on her first night in a little cabin. She finally fell asleep on the couch, but not after one of her most impressive meltdowns ever.

Oh well, lesson learned.

I'll be honest, I was ready to throw in the towel by then. I was exhausted, frazzled, and I swear I kept expecting to see a creepy face out every window I saw. I wanted my own bed in my bright, sunny house.

But we persevered, and things were much better this morning...except for a dizzy-spat I can only attribute to the much higher altitude head was swimming for much of the morning.

But still, we persevered more. We headed out to explore the Blue Ride Parkway and it was AMAZING. We stopped at a "Craft House" (gift shop) and explored around this old mansion a bit, and even got to pet some horses. A few miles up the road, we stopped again to hike a "moderate to strenuous" trail that was so much fun I wish we could do it every day. Zoe kept up with us for a full mile (half mile out and back - we were afraid to push her much further than that) and was hilarious, hopping over and off of large roots and tree stumps. She only fell once, and hopped right back up to keep on hiking.

I'm glad we've found something we all love doing together, and I've already gotten much more comfortable in our cabin. Zoe's still having some sleep issues (translation: no nap) so tonight's wedding might get a little hairy for us, but still, it's going to be beautiful.

Oh, and the weather? When we left Charleston yesterday at 9 a.m., it was already pushing 90, with near 80% humidity. Here? Oh, it's been in the 70s. All day. I hiked in jeans and a hoodie. AMAZING. So we'll be staying the full five days.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The not-so-incredible Hulk

Holy hell, I'm mad right now.

Stinking, fuming mad. I just did a bunch of push-ups, hoping to release some energy, but they didn't help, and now I'm panting in addition to being mad.

I've realized that I must have Anger Management Problems and probably need to spend a bunch of money on some sort of Anger Management Therapy in order to keep from turning, sometimes, into the very ugly, very hideous, very not-so-incredible Hulk.

As it turns out, Zoe is a button pusher, and I have never been one to handle having any sort of buttons pushed. Because you see, sometimes I get angry, and trust me: you won't like me when I'm angry.

Take tonight, for instance.....

Zoe's been having a hard time going to bed for a couple months now. It's a phase, I know, and it's only gotten worse since she spontaneously gave up her pacifier a couple of weeks ago. We put her to bed at the same time we always have (7:30) and some nights it's 9:00 before the crying and the requests for potty and drinks of water quiet enough for her to actually fall asleep. I'd love to say she can just stay up till 9, but the thing is, it's already a struggle to get her out of bed for school in the morning, and if I change my work hours to later, I lose time with her in the afternoon. So 7:30 pretty much HAS to be her bedtime, but she fights it every night.

And I HATE it. Something about this nightly process gets under my skin, raises my heart-rate and my anxiety to dangerous levels.

So we've been trying to cope. But most nights I wind up angry.

Tonight we decided to try something different, a new routine. Instead of getting pajamas on, coming down for a story then heading immediately back up to bed, we would let Zoe wind down a bit more with a show. She loved the idea, and requested Peter Pan.

Netflix only streams a Broadway version of the play from a few years back, so I put that on and Zoe sat, enthralled, for about 30 minutes. Then it was time for bed.

And oh my GOD, the drama tonight!! She cried. She yelled. She begged. She pleaded.

We tried ignoring. We tried placating. We tried hugs and kisses and love. And when all else failed, and I could feel the anger bubbling up from my toes to my stomach to my chest, where it always explodes, I tried threats.

And what did I use to threaten her? The one thing that I've been COUNTING on this week, that I've been looking forward to more than anything.

She was going to spend the night at my parents' house. A whole night! A night away from the dreaded bedtime routine. A night for Charles and me to relax and maybe go see a movie. And most importantly, a MORNING of not having to get up at the crack of dawn to dive head-first into another busy day. A morning where, if Zoe got up early, she'd be in an entirely different house, and I could stay in bed and be lazy, dammit.

Yep, no sooner did the words come out of my mouth than I was wishing I could pull them back. "Zoe, if you cry one more time, you can't go to Sassy's tomorrow night."

Oh. Shit. What was I thinking?

And I couldn't take them back.

But it seemed to work, for about five minutes. Five minutes of blissful, lovely quiet.

But then the shouting started again.


And it took all my energy not to punch a wall.

So instead, I got angry, and out came the Hulk. I could feel it. I don't turn green (quite), but I hold my self different. My hands are clenched, my shoulders are raised. I stomp up the stairs and I yell.

Oh, how I yell. And I hate myself while I do it but I can't stop the words from coming out.


Who SAYS that to a three year old? I mean, really? Who?

Apparently I do.

And tonight, I finished with, "You will NOT be going to Sassy's tomorrow. I can't let you go, knowing you won't go to bed like a big girl."

Yep. That's me, too. I hit below the belt. Zoe's so proud of being a big girl lately, and I just told her she wasn't one.

And now, minutes later, I'm angry. At Zoe. At Charles (who has done NOTHING wrong, mind you, other than, you know, marry me and have a beautiful child with me).

But mostly at myself. Sometimes I feel like I ruin everything.

Gah. It's so ugly. I hate it.

And by tomorrow, when I'm not angry anymore, I'll want to send her to Sassy's anyway, to tell her it's all ok and I'm sorry for fussing and she can go if she wants. Actually, I'm dying to go wake her up and tell her that now (for the record, she only went to sleep because Charles is now laying on her floor, probably sleeping himself).

But I know I shouldn't. I need to be consistent so she learns her actions have consequences.

But couldn't I have at least thought of something ELSE? Like, no fun picnic lunch with me tomorrow? Can't I backtrack just a little?

I don't know. I'll have to see what Charles thinks in the morning. So for tonight, I'll sit here a while longer, do a few more push-ups, then probably toss and turn all night long, hating myself for losing my temper yet again.

That stupid Hulk inside me. I wish he'd go away.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A cure for a case of the Mondays

A co-worker told me today that he and I both had a case of the Mondays. Considering the fact that it's Tuesday, was as bad as it sounds.

So with that in mind I'm going to throw out the post I had in mind for today, which was meaningful and important (I swear), and instead share a story from this afternoon that literally had me rolling around on my living room floor, laughing uncontrollably. goes...

Zoe's a pretty good eater for a three-year-old. Give the kid a plate of broccoli or some green beans and she's excited. Eggs, bacon, sausage, all kinds of fruit. It's mostly easy to cook for her.

But still, she has her limits, and I was pretty surprised this afternoon when I looked out the window into our back yard and saw Zoe sitting on a lawn chair with Charles, happily munching on a banana pepper like it was...well...a banana. She devoured it, then came in bragging that she ATE a BANANA PEPPER from OUR GARDEN! Whew!

Then it was time for dinner, and Zoe had a plate full of goodness - broccoli, chicken and even a few French fries! But still, sometimes parent have to resort to tricks to keep their kids eating.

Tonight's trick involved another of Zoe's favorite foods: boiled peanuts. To my Yankee friends...I, too, cringed the first time I heard the words "boiled" and "peanut" back to back. Yuck, right? But no...they are one of my favorite things about living in Charleston. Cooked overnight in salted water with hot peppers and Cajun spices...YUM! And Zoe LOVES them.

We had some left over from a Memorial Day cookout, and Charles had the bag on the table, but Zoe hadn't noticed it. She'd cooled off on her dinner a bit, taking only sporadic bites, when suddenly Charles pointed to the back door and shouted, "Oh, wow, what's that?"

Zoe whipped her head around, and while she was distracted, Charles dropped a peanut on her plate.

Holy cow, that girl was DELIGHTED when she turned around and found it!

"Oh MY, Daddy! Mommy, where do you think that came from?"

The sincerity with which she then believed that the "Pink Witch" (Glinda from The Wizard of Oz) had dropped off that peanut, and the many that followed, was both hilarious and intense. And then, knowing that the Pink Witch was nearby, Zoe began to look out for the "Green Witch" (the Wicked Witch, of course), making the task of dropping more peanuts on her plate much easier, and also funnier.

"Mommy, there's the Green Witch!"

"Go away, Green Witch!"

By the time Zoe would return to the table from a trip to the window or the front door to scare away the Green Witch, there'd be more peanuts on her plate. In order to eat the peanuts, she had to eat more chicken or broccoli, but she was laughing, squealing and wholly distracted from the normal dinner-food the whole time.

"Look Daddy! More peanuts! Where do you think they came from?"

(To be honest, I know it's possible that she knew we were messing with her, but if so the joke's on her anyway, since she ate a big dinner and had a fun time doing it!)

So, by then, all three of us were laughing hard, and talk of cookies had begun. We don't mind if she has a small treat if she eats a good meal, so suddenly, Charles distracted her again, then mouthed to me, "Cookie."

I sprinted to the food closet to pull out a cookie and sneak it onto her plate, which was no small feat as the cookies were wrapped up in the loudest plastic bag EVER, and when she returned to the table, she almost fell over.

"A cookie, Mommy! Daddy, look! A cookie!"

That Pink Witch was really on a roll, though, and she soon struck again. The very next time Zoe's back was turned, I grabbed a can of whipped cream from our fridge. (Note: I LOVE whipped cream - whether it's fresh or from a can or from a tub, it's all AWESOME in my book! Zoe shares this love.) I shusshed a mound of it atop her only remaining piece of cookie, and when she came back to the table...well...

"Wow, look!" And she reached out...and grabbed...the pile of melty, mushy whipped cream. It squirted EVERYWHERE! Across the table, onto her face, over to Charles sitting three feet way. Everywhere.

And the look on Zoe's face...surprise, wonder, excitement, confusion. It was priceless.

I had to leave the room. I was done. The Pink Witch had left the building, laughing too hard to continue.

Happy Tuesday! Hope your work-week started better than mine! :)