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, well....it 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.

So...here 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 supplement...it'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 beach...now 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 eyes....so 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 another...fun 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 guy...so...

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.