Monday, November 29, 2010

Two-year-old Phraseology

This past weekend, Charles, Zoe and I celebrated Thanksgiving with Charles' sister and her family in semi-rural North Carolina. It was great to get up into some hilly country (Charleston is very, very flat) and to spend time with a much-loved chunk of our family.

That said, any time you travel with a two-year-old, you can be fairly certain funny things will happen, and since Zoe is my child, most of the funnies occur when Zoe opens her mouth.

In the first place, on the evening of Thanksgiving as we all sat and (tried to) eat a peaceful dinner, Zoe was over-tired and rather wired. She decided that the appropriate thing to do would be to count the diners. So for the next twenty minutes, we each got jabbed in the head by a small but surprisingly pointy finger as she counted (always starting with herself)...One...Two...Fwee...Foa...Five...Six...Seven...And then our brother-in-law started messing with her.

"But I'm twelve."

"No, you're Six."

"No, I'm twelve."

"No! Six!"

This went on for quite some time, during which we all CONTINUED to get poked and prodded by a counting Zoe.

The next day, my sister-in-law somehow convinced me that shopping at Target on Black Friday would clearly be fun, so we took Zoe (who loves Target) along for the ride. Zoe knows that we're in the market (or maybe Santa is...) for a bicycle helmet as she has recently shown a big interest in Charles' old skateboard, so she helped me look for the "helmet aisle."

As we rounded the corner into the aforementioned aisle, Zoe literally gasped.

"Oh my God, there's the helmet aisle!!!"

Now, I am a Jersey girl who is somehow also part Valley girl in my speech patterns, and I have certainly been known to pepper all my conversations with the occasional (frequent) "Oh my God." I've never really given it too much thought, actually.

But that particular phrase, coming out of Zoe's mouth, makes my husband CRAZY, so I know I'm supposed to correct it. So, choking back laughter, I said, "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

She looked at me, a picture of innocence, and said, "I said, there's the helmet aisle!"

Finally, we took Zoe to her first ever college football game (UNC/Duke - Go 'Heels!!) on the amazing Duke University campus. The stadium is pretty tight quarters, and over the years, my outspoken sister-in-law has gotten to know her neighbors on one side, who happen to have two grown daughters.

One of the men absolutely ate Zoe up (have I mentioned how darn cute she is?), and at one point asked her what her name was.

Zoe answered, "I'm Zoe, and this is Aunt Mary, and that's Uncle Keith (Keef), and that's Morgan and Kayla and Mommy and Daddy."

Then she stopped, looked around her, and gestured to the crowd.

"But I don't know who all those people are."

So it was a great weekend, we laughed a lot, and I forgot to take even a single picture.

So it goes. We've still got the memories.


And, coming soon to a blog near you...I need to do a lot of reading first, but I want to work through my thoughts on the launch of WikiLeaks...because I'm afraid that for the first time I might be close to sharing an opinion with Sarah I need to work on that opinion to make sure it's right....wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An evening of thanks

Life is about to get really hectic for a few days as Charles, Zoe and I head up to my sister-in-law's house in North Carolina. It should be a great trip, and it includes a trip to Durham to watch the UNC/Duke rivalry football game (go 'Heels!!), so I'm really excited.

But I don't know how much time it will leave for writing.

So I thought I'd do my Thanksgiving post tonight, while Charles is already upstairs sleeping and I have a few quiet minutes before I follow him to bed.

Rather than just listing those things for which I am thankful (of which there are probably thousands, I kid you not...from the amazingly good health of my daughter to the deliciousness of pizza), I thought I'd thank a few key people in my life for all the things they've done over the years.

First off, to my parents, Sassy and Pops or Mom and Dad or Wendy and Andy, thanks first for life. I don't know that I've ever said that.

Dad, thanks for instilling in me a love of both horror movies and musicals, two things that have shaped my imagination over the years. Thanks for teaching me that family is always more important than career, a lesson I have employed in my own life. And thanks for always being willing to come pick me up when I need a rescue (i.e. lost my car key in my own house!!).

Mom, thanks for every time you've ever babysat - it's appreciated. Thanks for my personality - I know much of it is yours as well. Thanks for brisket and matzoh ball soup and brownies and that potato soup this past weekend. YUM. And thanks for sharing your love of writing with me, because without that I'd be a little lost I think.

And my brothers...Daniel and Jonathan. I honestly think a girl could not possibly have two better brothers, so to each of you, thanks for that.

Daniel, thank you for being smart and creative and funny and for always showing me how cool it is to be all of those things. Thanks for being excited about the fact that I want to come to London to visit you in February. It still amazes me that you like to hang out with your annoying little sister.

Jon, thanks for always being willing to listen to me vent. Thanks for reminding me this summer that it's ok to step out of my comfort zone every now and again, and thanks for throwing a KICK ASS wedding party. We had a great time. And thanks for sharing running with me now - I really love that.

To your spouses, Zeke and Michelle - thanks for being excellent in-laws. I'm happy to consider you a brother and sister, and I'm SO happy you make my brothers so happy.

To my *other* in-law, my sister-in-law Mary, thanks for being one of my best friends, in addition to being such a great sister to Charles. I am so excited that we'll be sharing this holiday this year. Thanks for loving red wine and for your understanding of all things girl-related - you are my girl-touchstone. And thanks for having a fun husband, too, because we LOVE spending time with both of you.

To my mother-in-law, Harriet, thanks for always having a recipe handy when I need it (I made the mac&cheese this week and apparently I finally did it right!!). Thanks for everything you do for us and for Zoe and for loving all three of us. Thank you for all that you do for your extended family, too - you are a great example to follow.

To Zoe, even though you can't read, thanks for being such a super cool kid, and for doing random things like kissing my friends goodnight when they're visiting, and for being an awesome travel-companion this year. Thanks for singing "Hey Jude" and the ABCs when I ask, and thanks for trying to remember to say "Please" and "Thank you" without needing to be prompted. Thanks for loving fruit as much as I do and for giving me an excuse to always keep it in the house. Thanks for being so darn lovable. Like, every single day. Even on the rough days.

And finally, to my husband, thank you, thank you, thank you for being an amazing husband and a fantastic dad, and thank you for all that you do for me EVERY STINKIN' DAY. Sometimes I can't believe all you do around the house and how you mostly always stay cheerful about life. Thank you for your silly songs and your Curious George stories and your tendency to send me instant message pictures of sheep. Thank you for every hug and kiss you've given me.

To all of you, I love you and I'm thankful for you each and every day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Tips

In the spirit of the holidays upon us, I thought I'd share some fun stuff with you.

First off, check out this amazing blog I discovered a few weeks ago. Discovered is the wrong word because she has thousands and thousands of followers and it's certainly not like I discovered her, but you know what I mean. She is giving away some really cool stuff for the next twelve days. Stark Raving Mad Mommy. Plus, I just really love the name of her blog. If you are a mom, then many days you will feel like you are stark raving mad. Or at least I do.

Second, if you need a really fast, easy and delicious side for Thanksgiving then I want to share with you a recipe that I stole from my bestie Nicole about five years ago (Thank You, Nicole!) This recipe doesn't have a name but trust me, they are yummy. Get a pack of crescent role dough, a package of sweet potatoes (they already cooked and mashed kind), a bag of pecans, and a little cinnamon. Lay out the crescent role triangles, put a dollop of sweet potato in the middle, lay a few pecans on top of the sweet potatoes, then roll the crescent roll up around the filling. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Bake. Delicious.

Third, if you haven't tried a peppermint mocha latte from Starbucks or peppermint chocolate chip milkshake from Chic-fil-A, then you MUST go out and do so. They are WONDERFUL. Let me repeat, WONDERFUL. Not that anything really compares but I found a way to half recreate the peppermint mocha latte at home in a really cheap and easy way. Dunkin' Donuts has a mocha mint coffee that you can buy from the grocery store. Get some. Then add the peppermint mocha creamer from Nestle (also in the grocery store). It's pretty darn tasty.

Ok, that's it. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On half-birthdays, babies and Maria Mushroom...

I was waiting to get some soup in the cafeteria at work the other day when I noticed Charles' boss standing in front of me.

We said hi, and then she gave me a funny look.

"How was Zoe's half-birthday?" she said.

And then, "By the way, what is a half-birthday and how do I get one?"

I cracked up.


Last Friday was Zoe's half-birthday (exactly six months after her normal birthday). We started celebrating her half-birthdays when she turned six months old, and we felt like celebrating the fact that we'd kept this tiny human being alive for a FULL SIX MONTHS. Also because I wanted some cake.

So we invited Charles' mom and my parents over for a little fiesta and we celebrated our little girl.

Since Zoe is (and probably always will be, barring adoption) an only child, and since real birthdays are few and far between, we've kept up the tradition, embracing any chance to once again celebrate our little girl.

On real birthdays, we do big parties, with big cakes, and we always measure Zoe on the height-wall. On half-birthdays, we do little family parties, cupcakes, and another measurement. Our wall is starting to look like yard-stick.

Since her half-birthday fell on a Friday this year, and since I don't work on Fridays, I decided that she and I would have a lunchtime picnic at a local park as a jumping-off point for the celebration. I was thrilled when Charles decided to take a half-vacation day from work to join in the fun. We built it up for Zoe all week and by Friday, she was Ready For Her Half-Birthday (Dammit!!).

Here are two highlights from our picnic at the park and some of the events that followed:

Zoe was having a great time at the park, but was struggling to make friends with another little girl who was maybe a little older than she. (This was because the little girl seemed to speak only Russian, and because she was eating lunch while Zoe was trying to play.) Undeterred, Zoe got louder and more rambunctious in her solo-play, and she started shouting something over and over. "Maria...Mushroom...Maria...Mushroom..."

Um...what? No matter how many times we asked her to repeat herself, all we heard was "Maria...Mushroom...Maria...Mushroom...".

Yeah, we had no idea what a Maria Mushroom is...

So we started speculating. Was Ms. Mushroom a character in a book they read at school? In a song? I was almost tempted to email Zoe's teachers to find out what was up.

And still, she continued, long after we'd come home, and even while we were out to dinner later that night.


Finally, the following day, as Zoe was watching her current Favorite Episode Ever of Dora the Explorer (Rojo the Firetruck from Season 2, in case you wondered), we figured it out.

Several times through the episode, Dora asks her viewers to choose between two items. One is always yellow, the other is always blue.

And Dora is speaking in Spanish when naming the colors, of course.



Mystery solved.

But there's one mystery that is still ongoing, leftover from Zoe's half-birthday. I like to call this one, "And WHY can't your new baby have a name, Zoe?"

You see, Zoe has very recently started showing interest in all things doll-like. We'd been sticking to stuffed animals (I can't help it...dolls creep me out!!), but when Zoe's teacher sent me a picture of her playing with a baby doll, I got it in my head that she needed one of her own at home.

We decided that a half-birthday was a perfect reason to buy Zoe her first official baby doll (for the record, she did already have a Cabbage Patch Kid, but they don't creep me out, so I don't count them in the baby doll category).

After dinner that evening, we ran into Target, where Zoe, Charles and I hemmed and hawed while trying to find the perfect baby doll. Zoe liked the ones that moved and talked and did other terrifying things, while I liked the simple bald-headed infant ones. Charles finally found the winner - a little girl baby with blonde hair and hippie-ish clothes.

Zoe has since taken this baby EVERYWHERE with her, in various stages of undress, of course (today, for example, she spent the day in Zoe's cubby at school wearing nothing but one shoe). She has gone to my parents house, to the grocery store. She sits in the car (in her stroller, no less) every day going to and from school.

But no matter how much Zoe appears to love this baby, she REFUSES to give her a name. We've tried suggesting all kinds of names, with no success. Emmy, Jessie, Madeline, Amy, Gabby, Wendy, Annie...should I go on? Charles likes weirder names, but Zoe vetoes every single one.

Want to know why? All you have to do is ask her.

"Zoe, what's your baby's name?

"She doesn't have a name."

"But why doesn't she have one?"

"Because she doesn't."

"Zoe, will she ever get a name?"

"Not until October comes."

Yep. Not until October comes. So we will have this nameless, vaguely creepy doll for ELEVEN MONTHS before she will at least gain an identity and therefore cease to be namelessly-creepy.


Not until October comes.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

For your entertainment...

I ventured into my parents' attic today to look for an old Playbill (I am convinced I saw Lea Michelle in Les Mis years ago, and I wanted to find the proof). I didn't find what I was looking for, but I found some things that are even better, including senior prom pics in which I was pretending to be a rock star.

But my favorite find of the night, full text posted here for your reading pleasure (!!) was the first book I ever created. I wrote and illustrated it while in the second grade and part of Eisenhower Elementary School's Talented and Gifted program. While I think you'll agree it shows neither talent nor gift, it's pretty funny.

I believe the assignment was to create a new animal that was a composite of two or more other animals...I merged a Brontosaurus, my favorite dinosaur (yes, I had a favorite dinosaur), with a dog, my favorite animal. My illustrations of this creature are a passable dinosaur, but are colored brown, I guess to incorporate the dog?

Anyway, here's the complete, unedited text of my first ever (un)published book.


written and Illustrated by Leah Soltis


Once there was a Newnimal named Dinodog. A Newnimal is two or three animals mixed together. Dinodog is a boy and he is seven years old. He is also five feet tall.

One day Dinodog was walking in the field when a bad Newnimal leaped at him!

"I'm not scared of you," said Dinodog.

"Sure," said the bad Newnimal.

"Oh, why are you so mean?" asked Dinodog.

"Because my dad was mean," said the bad Newnimal.

"Well, it's never too late to change. Give it a try and be nice," said Dinodog.

"O.K. I'll be nice," said the bad Newnimal.

They both walked off as friends!

******************** are my thoughts.

1. It's dialog heavy. The story on which I am currently working is totally dialog heavy. Some things don't change (but maybe should?).

2. I find it funny that I didn't give the bad Newnimal a name...I've always struggled with naming characters. I struggled with naming Zoe. More things don't change.

3. I love that my dedication is in ALL CAPS. I have no idea why I did that.

4. The bad Newnimal is black and sort of one drawing he seems to have a curly ear. Maybe an early idea for a shape-shifter creature? To be explored in future stories perhaps?

5. He's bad because his dad was bad? I am very rarely (if ever) angry with my father, so I wonder what the heck he had done to offend me that I made the bad guy blame his be explored in future therapy sessions perhaps...
Hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The things I can count on

There are a few things I can count on in life, and I thought it would be nice to share them:

1. By 8:00 or 8:15 every night, I am sitting on the right side of my couch with a cup of water next to me, watching TV and working on my computer.

2. By 8:03 every night, my dog Quentin is sitting outside my kitchen window, whining and crying like the world is ending, since he wants to go into the garage and go to bed. He's so pitiful.

3. No matter what network Conan O'Brien is on, he will get great guests (Tom Hanks? Come ON, that's great!) and he will be funny.

4. On the mornings when I have the most to do to get ready for work, Zoe will wake up at least thirty minutes early.

5. On the evenings when I am most tired/frustrated/grumpy, Zoe will be at her silliest and/or sweetest.

6. Any bottle of wine opened by my husband tastes better than one opened by me.

7. The sun will always rise tomorrow. seems auspicious, doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Read this

A mom defends both her young son's choice of Halloween costumes (and her decision to allow him to cross-dress) after she receives an earful from some bigots at a pre-school costume parade.

Sad that it happened, to be sure, but it's always encouraging to hear from another mom out there who will love her child NO MATTER WHAT and who will allow him to express himself in whatever way he chooses.

So I think she (and her little Daphne) kick ASS.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Writing, Mom-ing, etc.

This has been one of the crazier weeks of my life (not counting the first few weeks of Zoe's life, which were supremely crazy on this whole OTHER level). I've been busy, so busy with work and family; Zoe has started tantrum-ing, also on this whole other level that I never dreamed possible; and I've been writing like a madwoman...or at least, a madwoman who is busy with oh so many things other than writing.

See, I've been paying attention over these last few months, and I've been pleasantly surprised to find that, at almost any given time, there are numerous story, essay and blog post ideas floating around this head of mine. I tend to cultivate them during quiet, me-time, like during a long weekend run or at night when the TV becomes background noise and I stare vaguely in it's direction while playing with these ideas, going 'round and 'round until I don't know where I started and where I'll end.

It's been fun. It's been cathartic. And then, I took the plunge.

NaNoWriMo. Have you heard of it? I hadn't, until about a week ago. It's National Novel Writing Month, and it's a challenge. Can you write 50,000 words during the month of November? I never dreamed I could even come close, particularly since it has to be in novel form, and the longest piece I've written thus far has been about 5,000 words.

But I decided to try it.

Since you have to work on something new, I had to put aside the story/novel idea I've been fussing with for about three years now...I only recently had a breakthrough with it and vomited about 4,000 words onto the screen...4,000 words that don't even begin to do the story justice, but at least provide a reasonable outline for future work. That story is serious,'s Holocaust based, which should surprise no one who knows me, since I've been studying the Holocaust since I was 14 years old.

So for NaNoWriMo, I am trying something new, something that I am having so much fun writing, I never knew it was possible. I am writing about...zombies. Yep, a plague of zombies and a teenager coming of age in hard times. Neither are original plot lines, but I am currently into my main character, and I'm having fun writing her in and out of trouble. And, I guess, what I'm finding is that it's ok (in fact, it's probably ideal) to actually enjoy what you're writing. To not agonize over each word to the point that you bag the three pages you just wrote and start all over again...every day.

It's keeping me entertained and out of trouble for now.

And with so much else going on with work and life and Zoe's two-year-old-ness, it's nice to have such a fun outlet. I mean, aside from Zoe's kiss attacks, which keep us both in hysterics for hours at a time...

P.S. If you're looking for some fun music, check out this past week's Austin City Limits, featuring Steve Martin (yes, THAT Steve Martin) and the Steep Canyon Rangers, as well as a singer/songwriter named Sarah Jarosz who has, in the past 25 minutes, totally rocked my world. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A tribute

Six (or seven? I'm losing track of time.) years ago, Charles and I started dating, and it was great. One day, while a little tipsy, I looked at him with roses in my eyes, and asked, "Will we always be this happy?" It was my way of telling him how much I loved him and how thrilled I was we were together.

The only thing that could have stood in our way was the absolute divergence of our backgrounds. I come from Yankee stock, Jewish roots and a family that has scattered to the four corners of the world. Charles's family has spent generations in Charleston, is an established family in the area, and most of them belong to the same church.

I couldn't imagine this proper, quintessential Southern family ever accepting this liberal Northern girl.

That shows you just how much I DIDN'T know.

I remember the first time we headed to a big family affair. It was being held at a house that has been in the family for many generations; Charles's grandfather grew up in this house with his brothers, all of whom served in World War II. The house sits on the shore of the Charleston Harbor in perhaps my favorite neighborhood ever.

I was so nervous that day. It meant so much to me, for them to like me, because Charles meant so much to me.

Everyone was absolutely lovely and I felt so accepted and welcomed right from the get-go. And one person in particular made me feel so at home, I've never forgotten it.

His name was Uncle Wing, and he was Charles's grandfather's brother. Charles's grandfather passed away before I had the opportunity to meet him, and Uncle Wing seemed to step in to fill that role. Handsome in his bow-tie, he sat down next to me on the back porch of the house his parents had built, and patted my hand as he launched into the story of his life as a boy, when the marsh that now butted against the property was a white sand beach, when he and his brothers lived in a different world. He made a huge effort to get to know me, and to let me get to know a piece of the history of a really remarkable family.

I've held a special place for Uncle Wing in my heart ever since, and have enjoyed every opportunity that I've had to see him.

He passed away early this morning, and the family has lost a patriarch, and I have lost a friend and a role model of true Southern hospitality.

He will be missed. For sure.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Night

It's another election night, and as always, that means I am sitting in front of the TV with Charles as we watch the returns come in. (In the interest of full disclosure, he is technically dozing off next to me, but until that happened, he was watching...)

Typically I'd be glued to CNN, like I was two years ago as I crossed my fingers and kissed my elbow in the hopes that Barack Obama would win the White House. But tonight I care more about the local results, so I'm actually watching NCIS (I think...I know it features Chris O'Donnell, on whom I used to have a MAJOR CRUSH back in middle school) while the returns scroll across the bottom of the screen.

So Jim DeMint, the bigoted, judgmental homophobe, has won back his Senate seat. There's no shock there - everyone knew he would. Alvin Greene winning the Democratic nomination pretty much sealed that deal, so I've been prepared for that one.

And Jim Clyburn has won - hooray!

But the race of interest, the race that is keeping me glued to the TV and obsessively refreshing the South Carolina results on, is the Governor's race. Currently, Vincent Sheheen is beating Nikki Haley by about six points.

What what what?

I doubt it'll hold, but maybe, just maybe? Maybe Sarah Palin's well-funded endorsement of Haley wasn't enough to make her the automatic governor in this very red state. Maybe Sheheen has a chance? Maybe his only-slightly-left-of-center position on most issues has made him appealing to Republican voters? Maybe enough Democrats and Independents like myself, mistrustful of the scandalous stories following Haley around, actually went out and voted in this mid-term election?

Is it possible?

I don't know, and I doubt I'll be awake too much longer (5 a.m. comes early every day). So probably tomorrow, when all the results are in, I'll be eating these words and hoping that Haley will do a good job as our new Governor.

But then again, maybe...just maybe...not?

11/3, 8:06 Update...

Yep, Nikki Haley won in the end. I am eating my words, my foot, whatever. And they do not taste good. Let's just hope we can get through the next four years with no disappearing acts on the part of our new Governor.