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! :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You, me and an accordion makes three

I love a good accordion.

I have several theories as to why. For one, they're super-cool and have you ever heard anything more mournful than an accordion well-played? (OK, maybe bagpipes, but the pipes are also creepy, so the accordion wins.) Second, I've heard stories of my dad playing the accordion as a kid, and as a life-long daddy's girl, of course I love it. And my brother rightly pointed out that when we were small, our grandfather kept his radio tuned into an a.m. polka station at all times. And polkas frequently feature accordions. Since we lived with him...well, let's just say I have a secret love of polkas, too. Don't tell.

So when Charles and I arrived at the Music Farm in downtown Charleston last Friday night and there was a gorgeously shiny accordion right there in front of me, less than five feet away, well, I of course took a picture of it and texted it to my father immediately.

And then...well, to give this story its just due, I should back up a second. It was date night, and Zoe was at my parents' house to spend her first night there, so I was super-pumped. I'd also had three gin and tonics (over my normal two-drink limit). We were there to see Neko Case, a longtime favorite, and I'd gotten so close to the stage I could lean my thighs against it. I WAS RIGHT THERE FOR NEKO CASE AND I WAS HAPPY AND TIPSY AND READY TO HAVE A GREAT NIGHT!!!

Seriously. That pretty much sums up me in that moment.

So when the opening band came out, I was even happier. Music! And some of the guys had been at the restaurant where we'd grabbed dinner! So these strangers were old friends already!


There were so many ALL CAPS moments and exclamation points for me right then. It was fantastic.

And the band! They were called Y La Bamba, and they were super-fabulous! Groovy indie/folk tunes, some great singers (the lead singer, Luz Elena Mendoza has a tremendous voice), and that wonderful accordion.

I was smiling, dancing, making eye contact with the band (especially the accordion player because, well, he was playing the accordion!!!), and smiling some more. It was a great set and they kept me dancing through the whole thing.


So then they were done with their set, and I sadly waved goodbye to the band as they left the stage. Then I ran for the restroom because OH MY GOD I had to pee.

When I came back to find Charles and re-take my spot against the stage, I got the text from my mom that I'd been waiting for. Zoe. Was. Asleep. Fabulous!

I turned around and waved my phone in Charles's face, then commenced bouncing for a few seconds, stopping only when there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned, expecting Charles to tell me to stop hopping.


In my stupor, I almost fell over (thank goodness I'd chosen flip-flops that night).

"Um, hi!" was about the best I could manage.

I don't remember exactly what he said, but Eric the Accordion Player told me that he'd had to come see me because he'd had fun playing to me, that my smile was "engaging" (I do remember that), and various other amazingly nice things.

Seriously, you guys. I about cried. When was the last time a complete stranger complimented ME? And a stranger who I'd just watched perform for a couple hundred people and make everyone happy? Um...never?

It was a moment in life where I was completely tickled. I gave him a hug, thanked him a ton, and he came back later to hang out with us while Neko Case sang her face off (really - she's great - if you don't know her, you should).

And I have to hand it to my husband, who took my silly happiness in stride and was completely un-fazed by it all.

Anyway, I'm babbling, I know. But if you take nothing else out of this goofy post about a fun fun fun night, take this...Y La Bamba puts on a GREAT show and I need to buy their album and so do you. And Neko Case sings her damn face off (even though she was wearing shorts, flip flops and a hoodie...), so you should buy her albums too.

Also, accordions and accordion players are awesome.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Zoe's Big Birthday!!!

Insomnia, how I never miss you when you're blissfully away. But how familiar and almost comfortable you are whenever you come back.

Sigh. It's 3:44 a.m.

To be fair, I do know that whenever my routine is off (like when my best friend, Amy, and her daughter Gabby are in town for Zoe's birthday bash weekend - which is fabulous, but means life is a bit...hectic...right now), I have a very hard time sleeping, which is probably why I cling so hard to my routine, because I hate not sleeping. And now, for Zoe's birthday party, which is in approximately 7 hours and 15 minutes, I will look like I have two black eyes.

But tomorrow will be better, especially if I think to buy some Melatonin, which really helped me in London when said routine was completely shattered. (Charles, when you go out in the morning to get beer for the party, will you also see if you can find some Melatonin? It's an herbal'll be in the pharmacy section of Publix...with the vitamins...k, thanks!)

Anyway, enough about sleep (or lack thereof). I am going to take these quiet minutes to write about Zoe's Big Birthday!! W00t!

She had such a fun, such a full, such an EXHAUSTING day! (Why is it, by the way, that all the most fun days are utterly exhausting? You never hear anyone say, "Wow, we had a great day, so much fun at the park and the let's go for a ten mile hike!" Instead it's typically, "Wow, we had a great day, so much fun at the park and the beach...and now...I cannot...move...zzzzzzzzzzzzzz..." But I digress...)

Zoe woke up on Thursday morning and came downstairs to find a display not-unlike a modest-Christmas. But instead of a tree, there was....a basketball goal! Hooray! She's been asking for one since Charles suggested she might possibly want one for her birthday. Anyway, it stood there, towering over our living room in its four-foot-tall glory, with other gifts arranged impressively around its base.

You'd have think Zoe got a million dollars, she was so excited about the basketball goal. Sweet. Good job, Charles.

Other gifts of note included a soccer goal from her Aunt Mary and an original painting of pretty things by her Uncle Jonathan. The gift that was thrown aside? Clothes...that I picked out...of course..but they are CUTE, DARNIT!!

Our longstanding (if you can call three years longstanding) birthday tradition has been to take the day off and take Zoe to the South Carolina Aquarium here in Charleston. This year, the tradition seemed to be failing, as earlier in the week, Zoe wanted to go to the beach instead. But on the morning of her birthday, when we asked what she wanted to do, the Aquarium won handily so we got cleaned up, watched a bit of Annie (a slightly more successful gift I selected), and headed out.

(I should mention here that we are having Major Improvements done to our yard this week and next, so mixed with in the "get cleaned up" part of the story was Zoe being TERRIFIED to go outside due to the Scary Workmen...)

The Aquarium was fantastic this year. We had to dodge school groups but managed to see things like: one of the otters showing off how close to the glass tank walls he could swim, so I could almost give Zoe an anatomy lesson; an escalator; super-big sharks with super-sharp-looking teeth, also swimming eerily close to the glass by our faces (those creepy!); a scuba-diver in the big tank who waved at Zoe and tried to touch her hand through the glass. So cool.

Another longstanding tradition is that on her birthday we take Zoe to the gift shop and let her pick out anything she wants. In the past, this has led to our acquisition of a stuffed opossum (named Oliver) and a plastic, grabby iguana thingie that helps us get stuff from under Zoe's bed. This year, we came home with...wait for it....a rubber snake and a plastic red-eyed tree frog, "so they can play games," according to Zoe. "Games" seems to mean that the two creatures take turns pretending to eat one times indeed.

The rest of her birthday included going out to lunch (Triangle Char and Bar in West Ashley - mighty fun place, I must say!), no nap for Zoe, more yard work and Scary Workmen, and a lot of dirt in which to play. By the time my dad showed up for dinner, Zoe was one GIANT mess. By the time we sat down to dinner, her cute pigtails had flopped completely down, and instead of her pretty birthday dress, she was in comfy shorts and a t-shirt. Her eyes were dark from exhaustion. Her feet were brown with mud.

Charles took some pictures when she blew out the candles on her birthday cake. I haven't seen them yet, but I know they will be classics.

OK. Enough said. I may be ready to go back to sleep now. And if not, China Mieville is calling me to read...

'night, world!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A letter to Zoe on her third birthday

Dear Zoe,

Forgive me. You turn three tomorrow and I'm feeling schmoopy.

It's funny to remember this night three years ago, when we knew you'd be with us the next day and our life was going to change. I was terrified and excited and I couldn't wait to meet you and I don't think I slept more than two hours that night.

And then the next day you were there and nothing was ever the same.

In those early months, we had no idea what you'd turn into, but now we're starting to get a pretty good feel for you. Here's what we know so far.

You have an amazing sense of humor. You make us laugh by whispering silly things in our ears, by singing nonsense songs and by laughing SO hard at yourself that you wind up shrieking.

You dance like Elaine from Seinfeld.

You are bloody brilliant. You're just turning three, and already your teacher is telling us that we can push you at home because there's no limit to what you can learn. You can read about a dozen words and you are SO close to being able to write your own name without our help.

Your drawings are suddenly mini-masterpieces with intricate, intriguing details.

When you want to cuddle, you're the sweetest thing I've ever seen and you give amazingly strong hugs.

But you aren't always sweet. Sometimes your angry and frustrated emotions build up inside of you and we're working on saying things like "I'm mad" instead of lashing out with your little fists, and I can see that you try SO HARD. And I love you for how hard you try.

You love your pets and are unfailingly gentle with them. I've never had to tell you that tails are not for pulling.

Sometimes I get frustrated with you, and I'm sorry. It's typically when you ask me the same question over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Today, you actually asked me "What's cook," as if you hadn't helped me cook dinner a hundred times already.

I also get angry when you don't go to bed, and I'm sorry for that too. I know you just want to stay with us, to see what the world has to offer when the sun goes down. But you need your rest, and 6:00 a.m. comes early, and since you rarely sleep past then even on the weekends, I need you in bed by 7:30 each night. So I'm sorry I get grouchy.

And I love you. I love seeing what each day will bring.

Three years ago, I was scared on this night. Tonight, I'm just....happy. I have no idea what you will want to do tomorrow on your special day. Will we go to the beach? The aquarium? Who knows. But whatever we do, we'll do it together, just you, me and Daddy, and we"ll have a great time.

Because you're great. Totally, wonderfully, super-great. Happy birthday, my love.


Monday, May 2, 2011

A crazy confluence of events

So...on this day in history:
  • Much of the world found out about the suicide of Adolf Hitler
  • We celebrate Holocaust Remembrance Day for 2011
  • George W. Bush gave his ill-fated "Mission Accomplished" speech...long before any real mission was accomplished
  • Much of the world found out about the death of Osama bin Laden
Busy. Freaking. Day in history.

I am a mix of emotions right now, looking at that list. So much death, so much sadness, so many crimes against humanity mixed up in that list.

It seems almost criminal to celebrate, doesn't it?

But...there is reason to celebrate, right?

Hitler is dead. So that's good news. He was a bad guy. (Understatement of the year.)

The Jewish faith/religion/culture is NOT dead. Hitler didn't succeed.

The war in Iraq is kinda, sorta over, unless you're one of the troops still stationed there. For them, I imagine, it's still very much on.

And bin Laden is dead, and that in and of itself is a major victory for our country, for our President, and for those people still affected by the deaths of their loved ones in 2001. He deserved to die...I think...but I still can never wrap my head around the moral question of the death penalty...and bin Laden was a REALLY bad

So, I don't know...the celebrating in the streets, the parties at Ground Zero and the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania...they strike me as in questionable taste perhaps? Much as I would love to see America rally around this news to come together again as a nation like we did in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, it makes me nervous to know that the images of people waving flags to celebrate a death are being flashed around the world today. Those people who have been indoctrinated to hate the West are getting tons more ammunition today. Retaliation is almost a sure thing, don't you think?

It scares me.

But then...the country celebrated when Hitler died, right? V-E day came quickly thereafter, as the upper echelons of the Nazi dictatorship were extinguished in a single night. We celebrated a death then, and all that happened after was another victory several months later. But we were a superpower then...are we a superpower now?

So maybe it's ok to celebrate? I don't know, it makes me uncomfortable. In my head, I'm waving a flag, but I'm also concerned about the message we're sending to a certain part of the world. Instead of extending a hand and saying, "OK, now that he's gone let's try to move forward productively," we're sort of dancing and laughing and saying, "We got you, SUCKERS!"

So maybe it's not ok?

Or maybe it doesn't matter what I think, since images of the Twin Towers on fire have dredged up an awful lot of terrible memories for me today. I cried when Charles told me about bin Laden this morning. So maybe I should just sit quietly and think about a boy I used to know, with red hair, lots of freckles, and one of the friendliest smiles I've ever seen. If there's a Heaven, I doubt he's dancing today...I doubt residents of Heaven have much time for vengeance and retribution...but I hope his family has a little bit of an easier time sleeping from here forward. Now that the man responsible for their boy's death is gone.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

An ode to balance (or lack thereof)...

In my office, there are weekly lunchtime yoga classes. I love yoga, but don't love the idea of doing it at work, so I don't participate. Still, I occasionally run into the teacher when I have a meeting in the conference room immediately following the class.

One day, another coworker was chatting with the teacher when I wandered into the room. They were talking about yoga (shocker!!), and asked me if I practiced.

Ever looking for a moment of amused self-degradation, I laughed and said, "Yep, most days. But I tend to fall over a lot."

The teacher laughed, too, which made me feel good, but then she said, "You know, that's probably a good thing. I mean, with yoga, if you play it safe, you'll never fall down. But if you push yourself to the next level, to go just a little further with a pose... well, sometimes you fall, but you almost always get better."

I kept laughing...but I also thought about what she said afterwards, because it had the ring of a Major Life Lesson. Because...well...she was right...

I mean, look at me. I have a reasonably full plate even at my baseline daily routine. I am mother to an almost-three-year-old, super-active girl. I am a wife to a man who loves to talk about music and books and, this week, trees. I work near-full-time hours, and I have a house and dogs and cats to take care of. Lots of laundry, lots of ball throwing, lots of cooking, lots of dirty dishes.

But I can balance it. No problem.

But it's not quite enough for me.

So last year I started working on my "writing career" (in quotes because I've yet to publish anything other than this blog)...and my that every night, after dinner was eaten and baths were given and the dogs were fed and the child was in bed, I had a full night's work ahead of me. A thirty minute workout and at least an hour of writing were added to my daily routine. Because I had to push my limits to see what would happen.

And...I definitely fall down sometimes, there's no doubt about it. Sometimes the pressure of daily life builds up until I'm ready to explode, or punch someone. The guilt over never quite doing any ONE THING to the best of my ability, including parenting Zoe, sometimes makes me cry.

But sometimes...I feel better. I get better. In the past year, I've lost about 5 pounds, gained a bunch of muscle and flexibility, and I've written a whole novel. And Zoe hasn't fallen apart. She knows I love her, and she gets as many hugs and kisses as she can handle on any given day. Charles and I still get along great (most days) and have fun times on random date nights or just hanging out on our couch together, watching TV.

So I think, most days, that I've gotten better. But then, sometimes something throws me off balance. And then I fall back down again.

Like tonight. Tonight we got home super-late. I had a haircut appointment that I desperately wanted to keep, and instead of taking two cars to work, which would have allowed Charles and Zoe to get home on time, we took one car since the weather was supposed to be terrible. Quentin, my dog, was inside our laundry room instead of in his outside dog run, again due to weather. By the time we got home, he'd pooped and yakked all over the crate in his room (probably due to fear of thunderstorms), and it smelled like death. So I cleaned that up (he is my dog). Then I made dinner. Then Zoe was wired and didn't want to go to bed. Then even when she was in bed, she kept needing just one more thing. Then I couldn't do a silly yoga pose I've been working hard to master. Then I procrastinated working on my book by writing this post. Then I realized I'm just all-around tired from a few nights of interrupted sleep.

Yep, tonight, I'm falling down.

But tomorrow, I'll get back up. And maybe I'll get even better.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Weekend - the good, the bad, the chocolatey

So. Easter Weekend was about as technically perfect a weekend as my life can ever provide. I thought it would be fun to share it here, along with the various ways my stupid moods tried to mess it all up.

It's all in good fun, though. You know me - I'm not happy if I'm not being snarky.


I start my weekends on Fridays, which is how I like it. About nine months ago, I cut my work hours back to "part time," which in this case still means a good 32 hours on any given week. But I have my Fridays off, which is basically priceless.

Friday was a STORMY day (it actually hailed here the night before!!), so Zoe and I had time to kill at home, inside, which is typically not my favorite thing. I like being outside. But luckily, we had to prepare for a class Easter egg hunt the next day, so we spent our day making chocolate muffins, eating chocolate chips, stuffing plastic eggs, eating candy corn, and watching Monsters, Inc. A movie on a weekday morning? Score!! Actually, Zoe called Monsters, Inc. "Monsters Hank," I think in honor of my cubemate at work. It made me laugh.

The next day was the Easter egg hunt for Zoe's little class at school, and I woke up...on the wrong side of the say the least. I was feeling rough, and everything Charles and Zoe said was rubbing me the wrong way. It was hot. And muggy. My hair was out of control. I was pissy.
But there was lots of fun to be had at the hunt anyway (when I wasn't whining about the heat or my hair, anyway). Zoe "found" lots of eggs - they were just scattered all over the ground, so it wasn't that hard to find them - and insisted on opening every one of them. And then insisted on arguing with me over whether or not she should be allowed to eat all that candy. And the arguing...pissed me off.

But I won.

The outing wasn't improved for me by a trip to Earth Fare on the Saturday before Easter. It was busy, crowded, and generally annoying. But we persevered and came away with all we needed for our Easter Feast the next day.

Zoe didn't take a nap, and I went on a cleaning spree, then went on a run at 3:00 on a hot, sweaty day. Not my best idea, but I made it without passing out, so that was good. And I felt better. So I was therefore MUCH nicer for the rest of the day. (I think.)

Which included Zoe playing in the sprinkler in the back yard while Charles and I sat on lawn chairs and listened to Jimmy Buffet. He drank beer; I was still re-hydrating after my ill-advised run. When "Margaritaville" came on, I was finally happy - I associate that song with a trip my family took when I was about Zoe's age, and was thrilled to think that we're passing that music on to her. Sweet, right?

Anyway, Zoe was super-pumped for the Easter Bunny's annual visit, and she was tired from no nap and lots of sprinkler-time, so she passed out early for once. We set up her Easter treats (the child got WAY more than is necessary for any almost-three-year-old, but I have no one but myself to blame for that one!), watched Harry Potter 7.1, then went to bed. I was really happy the day had turned around for me...I hate feeling so icky. It's unpleasant for all three of us.

Easter Sunday included a family run/walk, LOTS more outside time with Zoe's new sprinkler and jump rope (that jump rope is the best $0.99 I ever spent!), a kite, bubbles and more Easter egg hunts. It was a fairly traditional Easter Sunday in my book...and that's coming from a Jew! Ha!

One of the highlights of my day, though, was watching Zoe curl up on the couch next to my dad (her Pops!) to watch The Wizard of Oz. It reminded me of all the hours I spent as a child in that exact same spot, and it made me SO happy to see. In case you can't tell, I love traditions, and I'm happy to pass them on.

And then....well...I ate WAY too much chocolate and had a stomach ache for the rest of the night....the one tradition I could have lived without. Leave it to me, right? Ouch!

So...mood swings and stomach aches aside, it really was a lovely time for my family, and I'm glad of it. People need all the lovely times they can get!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I am a girl. And a fan of fantasy. You got a problem with that?

I am almost at a loss for words.

A responsible writer would step away from the computer. Think. Percolate.

But I am not a responsible writer. And I am mighty pissed off.

So. Hi, I'm Leah. I'm a girl. I've been a girl my whole life. I like being a girl. I like dresses and tall shoes and I wear makeup and jewelry.

I also read. A lot. Some of my favorite books are classics. To Kill a Mockingbird. Pride and Prejudice. I read Anne Frank's diary annually. I can practically recite passages of it. I read tons of nonfiction as well.

But much of my taste in literature runs...elsewhere. I read the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy while laid up after having my wisdom teeth yanked. Ray Bradbury and Stephen King feel like old friends to me.

It was probably close to ten years ago that someone handed me a tattered, paperback copy of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, and from that moment on I've been a devoted fan of Martin's seven-part, not-yet-completed series. So much so, in fact, that I've cursed him many times for NOT WRITING FASTER, because I just want to see what's going to happen by the end of the story! I've forced my brothers to read his novels. I got Charles hooked. We've been waiting with baited breath for the upcoming HBO adaptation of the first book in the series, watching every single "making of" special that HBO has posted on its On Demand Channel. In fact, now that I think of it, we RE-ORDERED HBO simply to be able to watch this damn show!

I am a devoted fan-girl, to say the least.

So, when I read the first few words of Ginia Bellafante's snarky, dismissive review of the series, I was just sort of frustrated. At first. People are entitled to their opinions, and I know that, and just because I love something doesn't mean other people have to. I've even forgiven my father (finally!) for refusing to watch the LOTR movies because, in his words, "Elijah Wood just isn't a hobbit."

But then I read on. And on. And I got progressively angrier, near the point of fury, I think. Here's the thing.

Bellafante's argument boils down to this: she doesn't like the series because she thinks the books, and the show, are designed for men, with some pretty/sexy scenes thrown in to grab the female partners of the male fans. My favorite part has to be this:

"The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise. While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half."

Oh, where to begin....I mean, seriously?

In the first place, "illicitness" tends to make me consider tuning out of a show, rather than in, when I feel it's gratuitous. Sex for sex sake bores me, and I find it annoying in many contemporary shows.

In the second place, like I mentioned earlier, I am a girl, I read a TON, and I don't belong to a book club. And the main reason I don't is because book clubs DO tend to focus on so-called "chick-lit" (apologies to Lorrie Moore - you were unfairly used above, and I know you're better than that), without branching into the horror/sci-fi/fantasy genres that I love. I could probably find a club that DOES focus on those genres, but why bother? I'd already be proving the exact opposite of Ms. Bellafante's point above. But then, to be fair, she doesn't know me.

What I think kills me most of all, though, is that inherent in Bellafante's "review" is the assumption that women who DO read fantasy, who DO love Martin's works (as I do), are this other, when compared to the more traditional female reading populace. It's the stereo-type of the nerd-girl - you know the one. Need I spell it out? Insecure, overweight, acne-ridden. I don't think I'm making this up, and I don't think reading that into Bellafante's piece is that far of a stretch. And it's a stereotype that makes me ANGRY. Because really, we women need to be more supportive of each other than that, and with her words above, Ms. Bellafante slapped in the face those women who DO deign to read literature that she clearly does not. And it was a slap most undeserved.

So, to recap. I am a woman. (Hear me roar, bitch!) I am also a reasonable-looking one - check out my picture on this blog - I'm the blondie. And I LOVE George R. R. Martin's fantasy series - it's on my list of favorites. And I will watch the HBO adaptation with enjoyment and excitement, and not just because the producers threw in some hot, sexy scenes.

I'm not that base.

Oh, and finally...I'm also a woman writer. And my first book? It's about zombies. You hear that? ZOMBIES!!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mah mah mah mah poker face...or lack thereof...

I. Am. Dramatic.

Always have been. Probably always will be. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and most thoughts on my face.

Back in high school, when I was a freshman, a senior girl signed my yearbook and told me that I had a "fun, child-like quality about me" and that I should always keep it. I think I maybe took it too much to heart. My moods today are very much the same as they were back then. Quick, fierce and like that of a three-year-old.

I'm not good at hiding much of anything.

Which is fine, usually. Most of my friends and family are used to it. Typically, Charles deals with it like a champ.

But there's a new little person in my world, one who is VERY affected by just about anything I do. Can you guess who it is?

Yep. My Zoe.

I've been working hard on keeping my moods to myself lately, with minimal success. No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get through putting Zoe to bed without snapping at least once. It's true that bedtime is currently frustrating, with multiple requests for the potty and for water and for Just One More Kiss...but I also know that it hurts her feelings when I snap. And all too often, that is the last thing she sees of me before she goes to sleep.

So, I'm trying. I'm aware of the problem and I'm trying SO HARD to correct it. I promise.

Of course, being an open book like me has other issues as well. For one, I tend to giggle a lot. Yesterday in the car on the way to school, Zoe wasn't behaving, so I took away her favorite car-toy, a Magna-doddle shaped like Elmo. She got SO MAD that she screamed at the top of her lungs for as long as she possibly could. It was so high-pitched, so shrill, that I think I felt like I was shot in the head. Have you ever seen Aliens? You know how Newt screamed? Same thing.

I know I should have behaved myself, kept quiet, even said a stern word or was not ok behavior.

Instead, I cracked up. I couldn't help it. I found it so utterly hilarious that she'd screamed like that, that she's ruptured all our eardrums over a piece of red plastic, that I just laughed and laughed. Poor Charles had to dole out the discipline that time, and I think that's a trend in our house.

And then, sometimes my freak-outs can spawn Zoe freak-outs, so I'm working on that, too. Last weekend, when Zoe woke up from her nap, her right ear was filled with rusty, nasty goop. YUCK. I cleaned it out, trying hard not to get too grossed out, and decided to keep an eye on it.

Later that evening, she was not wanting to go to bed. When I checked on her at one point after she'd been fussing, she was rubbing at that ear. I leaned closer to her, and I could just smell something nasty. GROSS.

I called Charles upstairs, trying to keep my voice from shaking. I'm a big girl, I thought. I can handle this, whatever THIS is.

He brought me a q-tip, and I rubbed it around the yucky ear. It came away BRIGHT RED! Blood! Ohmigosh, ohmigosh, my baby's ear is bleeding, was all I could think at that moment in time. An "Ohmigosh" actually escaped my lips, and I know my face must have reflected my momentary panic.

Zoe started, looked scared, and opened her mouth to say something.

FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE, I got myself under control. "Oh, it's nothing baby," I said calmly. <Ohmigosh, ohmigosh, my baby's ear is bleeding...ohmigosh....> "Just an ear infection. We'll clean you up and you can go to sleep."

Calmly, collectedly, I cleaned the rest of her ear, lay her back down and tucked her into bed.


It was just an ear infection. Nothing major. But at least in that moment...for once...I acted like a big girl.

Maybe I'm learning?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My life, (not) a sitcom

So...did you ever have one of those days?

You know...those super-fun, utterly exhausting days that leave you wondering what the heck happened and where your bed is by, oh, say, eight o'clock? (Embarrassing but true, right??)

Today was one of those days. It felt like we did a little bit of everything; farmer's market downtown in the morning (Yay farmer's market!!! So glad you're open again!!), some errands, then some cleaning in the afternoon, some more errands, and then a big dinner. Any piece of it could have been cut out (Did I really need to experiment with my new Indian cookbook today? Well, the shrimp and chili sauce I made was totally worth it!), but then the day wouldn't have been quite as MUCH, and I liked how MUCH it was.


BUT, fun as it was, by the time dinner was over, and a totally-wound-up Zoe was finally in bed, I was kind of a wreck. I wanted to sit on the couch and groan incoherently, but there were two things standing in my way.

1. Charleston has suddenly reverted to two-shower-a-day weather, where it's so hot and muggy that you have to shower in the morning AND before you go to bed. I was a hot, sticky mess.


2. Charles was watching Bill Maher on our only TV, and as much as I love Bill Maher, he and his panel were all busily, passionately YELLING at each other and I just...wanted...quiet.

So I headed upstairs. And eventually was grateful that my life is not a sitcom...

I will set the scene...

Earlier in the day, I showered, but I didn't wash my's too long to wash every day now...and I did try to straighten it, but after 15 hours of Charleston humidity, it was a wavy, poofy disaster. I'd tried ponytails. Messy buns. A headband. Nothing would tame it. So about an hour ago, I'd had it, and I finally put it into two French braids, my favorite style when I was about six years old. Classy.

Then, after I showered for the SECOND time today, I decided it was time to have a little me-time...Charles was snoozing on the couch, so what ELSE was I going to do with my wild and crazy Saturday night? So I put on my jammies and rummaged around my cabinet to see what nice things I could do.

First, I found my foot lotion, and since my feet make me crazy in the summer (I swear, I must be part leper, partnered with a super-rare strain of dry skin), I decided to take care of them. The lotion I have is really greasy, though, so I have to put socks on after I use it to keep from leaving coconut-scented footprints throughout my house. So now, I am in jammies (a dress), white cotton socks, and my hair is in braids.

Such hotness, I know.

Then I found one of those face-conditioning mask-thingies, and decided to use it to take care of my skin. It's a clear mask, not the ugly purple or green ones you've probably seen on movies, but it makes my face look remarkably like shiny plastic when it's drying, so I typically hide out when applying it. Again, Charles was sleeping; what did I have to lose? So now, jammies, white cotton socks, braids and a shiny, plasticine face.

Beauty personified.

Then I needed to kill a little time while the mask dried. I busted my butt with a yoga workout and some running yesterday, and I've been really sore all day. I decided to try some restorative yoga poses, the first of which involved scooting my butt up to a wall, laying on my back and propping my legs straight up against the wall. If someone was filming and turned the camera, it would have look like I was sitting on the wall with my back leaning on the floor. (Great stretch for the hamstrings and calves, by the way.)

So now, picture this. Jammies. White cotton socks. Braids. Shiny, plasticine face. Laying on the floor with my feet sticking straight up in the air.

Suddenly I imagined my life as a sitcom. My husband (I'll assume it's Ray Romano, only because Charles sometimes says his voice sounds like Ray's when he hears it played back on videos) would walk into the room, wanting to snuggle or talk or something, ANYTHING, and he'd see me on the floor.

Cue double-take. Horrified expression. Cue husband turning on his heel, running away from his bizarrely clad, vaguely terrifying wife.

Cue laugh track.

It was enough to crack me up, and also make me doubly glad Charles was, in reality, still sleeping on the couch. Now he'll only know of that moment by reading about it...tomorrow...once I've taken out the braids and taken off the socks and look MUCH more like the girl I typically am.

Happy Saturday night. Hope it's wild and crazy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Passover, Easter and me: all served up with a big old slice of double standard

A long time ago, Charles and I agreed to raise Zoe in a multi-cultural, multi-religiously educated house. We agreed not to label her, to let her choose her religious ideals as she grew up and into them.

With that in mind, yesterday I almost posted on the Internets that I was an equal opportunity book buyer - I'd just purchased a Passover and an Easter book for Zoe. Clearly, I'm non-biased and am educating my child equally about multiple religions/traditions at once.

But yeah...tonight I was glad I didn't post that, because really...not so much.

The Passover book was called "Max's Four Questions" and we read it tonight. It told the tale of a little boy named Max as he negotiated a big family Passover Seder. He asked the Four Questions (Why is this night different from any other night: Why do we eat Matzoh? Why do we eat bitter herbs? Why do we dip the bitter herbs in salt water? Why do we eat reclining?), and through the answers to the questions, he learned the basics of the Passover story. Jews were slaves in Egypt; they escaped; their bread didn't have time to rise and baked into crackers in the hot sun; the bitter herbs remind us of both spring and the bitterness of slavery; the salt water is a reminder of tears; we recline because we are free and we can.

It's really a brilliant little book and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn the Passover story in a kid-friendly way. I even learned a bit, or at least got reminders, and this is a story that I've known and embraced since childhood.

So...that was my Passover education for Zoe. I even made a (terrible!) attempt at singing the Four Questions for her in Hebrew. I felt like a good person.

Then, I took a look at the Easter book I'd bought...

Yep. The Easter Beagle Egg Hunt. Snoopy and the gang went on an Easter Egg Hunt...


I honestly did look around the Barnes & Noble for a slightly more educational Easter book, but they all...started with the word Jesus. Sigh.

All the stories from the Old Testament have been a part of me for my whole life; the New Testament? Not so much. I don't know how to frame Jesus and his teachings for my not-yet-three-year-old daughter. I'm not comfortable buying books about Jesus.

And I realize that this is a total double-standard in that I expect Charles to be ok with me teaching Zoe the religious side of the Jewish holidays, while I teach her the secular side of the Christian ones. Zoe knows all about Santa Claus and his reindeer, but she also knows what each letter on the dreidel means. She knows about the Easter Bunny, but also about Jews escaping slavery in Egypt. She knows nothing of Jesus.

This is not balanced, and I get that, but I don't know how to fix it. And I'm sorry about it. I am, really. I wish I had it in me to be more balanced.

But to tell you the truth, I think I'm just all kinds of muddled about what Zoe is and how to raise her. Tonight, right before bed, this happened:

Zoe: Mommy, are you Jewish?
Me: Yep, I am.
Zoe: Am I Jewish?
Me: Um...hmm...ummm...yeah, sort of, technically, but we'll talk about it more as you grow up.

I don't know what to call her, teach her or tell her, but we'll figure it all out as we go...I think? Help?