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.