Monday, November 30, 2009

Night and Day

One weekend down! Last night the house was distinctly un-full. And even less full after the intermission when (I was told) at least four couples "stormed out" because they were incensed about the play's racism. (There's a scene in which a KKK member makes a public service announcement for a party themed "The Whitest Christmas Ever.") While I couldn't seem to come up with the word "satire" (Calvin helped me out) I was more than a little surprised by this reaction. I mean, the whole thing is so over the top--no one is safe. And one must remember that something like 17 characters--mostly women--were originally played entirely by two guys.

In any case, I had fun. I'm starting to feel more comfortable with both my characters and have been trying out different physical shtick. That's big for me, because I'm kind of a "heady" actor. Any chance to get my body more involved is good practice. Oh, and speaking of which, my former director, John, was there Saturday night, and gave me a dubious compliment: "I really enjoy watching you. You're definitely getting better." I was all, "Why...thank you. That's really...sweet." Way to deflate the moment.


I open my eyes, feeling like I just closed them. But it's been two hours. I can hear the neighbor's porch door open and shut. It's nearly noon. I can't remember the last time I've been asleep in this particular segment of the day. I was up at 8:00 to get Jarrah ready for school but by 9:30 felt my head lolling like a seed-laden sunflower and lay back down. I was certain I wouldn't fall asleep. I was wrong.

I stand under the shower and forget what I'm supposed to do now. Soap, okay. Shampoo. Can't. Open. It. My hands no longer seem equipped to perform manual tasks.

I'm in the car. I can't believe how bright the day is. Is it always this bright? It hurts my eyes like I'm hungover. But I'm not. I'm not sure why, but I'm driving to Balboa Park. Really want a rice bowl at the Japanese Tea Garden. In fact, I feel certain I couldn't eat anything else. I sing with the radio, and my voice comes out like a croak.

Balboa Park is empty today, and that feels especially lovely since I know on Friday it will be a sea of insanity with December Nights, an annual two-night festival of food and music. I park behind the Organ Pavilion and see boxes stacked six feet high on the steps, labeled "Display #4" and "Tree #10." A group of people are arranging lights and a tree on the stage. This makes me happy, though I'll be missing the finished product since I have a show both nights. The clock begins to chime.

I stand in line at the Tea Garden. Everyone who looks at me smiles, which makes me thankful. I pick up a container of Yam Yam Choco Snack, a Japanese candy that is sheer genius. It's a little cone with straw-like cookie sticks on one side and a tub of Nutella-like chocolate spread on the other. When I have my food, I head to a table on the patio, half in sun. As soon as I sit down, the sound of the piped-in Japanese flute gives me the feeling that I can just close my eyes and someone might massage my temples. Instead, I open my Kindle and order the New York Times.

The food is sweet, hot, crunchy, smooth. I drink 32 oz. of water with barely a breath. I'm dehydrated from three nights of backstage life where I don't dare drink anything because there's no bathroom. (Even if there was, pulling down my pants wrecks my careful padding.) I read and feel the heat on my shoulders. When I look into the distance, I see dozens of trees and plants, all of them green as July, and hundreds of tinsel strands winking in the sunlight. I open the Yam Yam and get chocolate on my fingers. I guess I have to lick it off.

The flute plays and the bells play a little song. It's November 30th in San Diego, and this is what it's like.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Lots of Nasty Stuff About Underwear Salesmen."

A few of you have inquired into how it's been performing to an audience the last couple nights. Well, it beats the hell out of performing to an empty theater, I'll tell you what. We've pretty much been at capacity the past two nights, and one more show to go this weekend. According to an e-mail I received today, this will be the first Sunday show in our group's history, and the audience will be "older than dirt." I'm not sure how this has been predetermined (some sort of screening process?) but I'll let you know.

So, performing for an audience always restores my faith in humanity and makes the stress of the week leading up to it all for the good. Even our director seems pleased, and our stage manager is smiling. Though the show is rather long for a slapstick comedy, the audience thus far has been game, and the laughs plentiful. And those laughs are like a spa treatment for the soul.

We've had a few glitches, surprisingly, none of them technical. Opening night, several people started losing their wigs mid-scene, much to the viewers' delight. I forgot my fabulous pink handbag and had to stuff imaginary cookies in my pocket instead. Our beat-up animal rights activist accidentally flung a finger bandage in my general direction during our scene last night, and I was so proud of myself for swooping it up and returning it with the in-character ad-lib "My goodness, you're just falling apart, aren't you?" without missing a single cue.

Helen and Inita (that's me and Greg) are getting huge laughs with our entrance, which comes from behind the audience at the beginning of Act II when most people have no idea we're lurking back there. I absolutely love that scene, and feel so happy during it.

In general, I love every moment that I'm on stage, and love almost as much the moments when I am hiding behind the flats, bouncing on my toes, wiggling my fingers and getting ready to spring back out there, like an Olympian waiting for the gun. I love the moments when I am perched backstage, whispering with my castmates, or helping them tie their aprons or straighten their wigs. The only part I don't love is the 45 minutes between my Act I scene and my Act II entrance. That's a long time to cool my heels, and I sort of get out of the mood by the time I've fixed my lipstick five times and read all the fine print in the New Yorker.

But it's worth it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why, Thank You

Just fell asleep multiple times on the way home from Thanksgiving at my parents. I always pretend like I'm not doing this. "Oh, I totally heard that whole segment of This American Life. I know exactly what they were talking about. It was all about...people."

But I also just checked out "tryptophan" on Snopes and it's just as I suspected (or have previously learned and forgotten): The whole turkey-induced sleep thing is an urban myth. Many foods contain tryptophan, and tryptophan doesn't make you sleepy anyway--alcohol and overeating do. Which is why I get really sick of hearing about tryptophan on Thanksgiving. I've been around the block, and the topic has been done to death.

Thanksgiving was nice. My mom's apple pie was fab as usual, as was the lemon meringue permutation that her friend Judy brought. The pearl onions with cream n' crumbs were reliably sublime. Eating turkey with stuffing and real cranberry sauce all mixed together was as good as I remember. And it was Jarrah's first interactive Thanksgiving. I mean, she didn't stay at the table longer than absolutely necessary, true, but she joined in the conversation. When my dad mentioned a local golf course with a family of foxes, she archly inquired "And do they golf?" And when all of us stared at her while she ate her butternut squash from a china cup like a perfect lady, she made a twisty face and said "Why is everyone STARING at me?" Because you're perfect, darlin'. Because you're perfect.

Jarrah played "water doctor" with my dad, which involved sitting him down near the jacuzzi and then splashing his arms, head and face with water while he grinned from ear to ear. That man will put up with a lot from his granddaughter, I'm telling you. Thomas and David napped. Lindsey and I walked her dog, who walks VERY fast.

Because of who we are, we told completely disgusting, inappropriate anecdotes with great relish at the table. Judy remarked that this would never happen at their place. I remarked that I can't imagine it happening at anyone else's place, at least I certainly hope it doesn't. I might be a little worried about the world if our brand of table talk is a common thing.

So, tomorrow night we open. Reportedly to a full house. I certainly hope so. Even though we had an audience last night (albeit a tiny one) it was once again stony silent out there, no matter how much I flailed around. Oh, I stand corrected: there was a huge laugh when my "mama's" paper towel bosom fell straight out of her dress while she decorated the tree, and she retrieved it and stuffed it back in without breaking stride. I can't compete with that. I was disheartened and overwhelmed afterward and wept a bit on the way home while listening to sad songs. I asked David to remind me that I always act this way right before opening night, and he did not disappoint.

Y'all come on down and see us, you hear?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009







"I'll Start A New Trend."

Preview tonight, and then three more shows this week, and I'm already sooooo tired. (Do not complain--you love it! That's my inner monologue.)

We are doing the hard part now, where we have to chill backstage and shimmy into our costumes without rustling too much plastic or making the floor creak (did I mention the theater was built in 1918?) and find something to do for freakin' 45 minutes between scenes (last night I remembered to bring Emma) and listen without breathing while people forget their lines, and we are doing all of this with NO LAUGHING.

It's not fun. But I went back and looked at my blog from last year at this time, and I was feeling the same way. It's just not fun to do all the work without getting any love. So tonight should change that a bit. It's going to be a small audience, but at least they'll be fresh meat.

Director is still not pleased with my first scene. Says it's slower n' molasses. Drags the whole thing down. I am flummoxed. I think it might be all the miming--eating cookies, pouring coffee, decorating the tree. I am new to miming, and I think it's like patting my head and rubbing my belly: I can't really do both at once. Not to make excuses. Of course I don't want to drag the show down. But last night, when he said "I know where we can lose 3 or 4 minutes: Charlene and Bertha!" my face burned, because I think that's how long the entire SCENE is. Tonight I'll have to pay attention to where people laugh. If they do.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I See Dead People

I never thought I'd say this again after becoming a mom, but I did so much partying this weekend that I am BEAT. It was pretty much non-stop socializing from Friday afternoon to midnight on Sunday. And this morning--though it made me feel wicked--I needed a little me-time. So I took myself to see New Moon.

I read the Twilight series. I saw the Twilight movie. Here's my review of both:


Twilight: This incredibly long car ride scene where she figures out he's a vampire is incredibly hot. More like that, please. Lots of kissing, which is good...but more action, please. No? Okay, maybe next book...

New Moon: This is ridiculous. Vampire dude is gone, and clearly she is not going to end up with this other guy, the wolf. I don't know why, but she's not. Other than that, not much happening...until the exciting finish in Italy. Okay, that was good. Maybe more will happen in the next book...

Eclipse: An entire book in which nothing happens at all. Some not-interesting-in-the-first-place characters return. Lots of talking. More talking. Endless talking. A ridiculous forbidden kiss. Teenage girl wet dream in which two cute boys bicker endlessly about which one gets to "protect" you. I am not a teenage girl.

Breaking Dawn: Ugh, teenage wedding. Ugh, wedding night sex that goes horribly awry in the light of day. And ugh, vampire spawn...ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME? This cannot be happening. Oh, but it is. I am revolted. Breaking ribs. Maternal instincts. People falling in love with talking babies. Did I mention the talking? Heaven help us, the TALKING. Talk, talk, talk: THE END.

The first movie:

Robert Pattinson/Edward Cullen ruins my favorite scene where he and Bella sit together in science class while he's trying to control his blood lust by playing it as if he's holding back his vomit. Sexy! Lots of running. Sparkling. That's all I remember: THE END.

But the second movie...not terrible! I actually get a bit choked up when Bella is feeling the pain of abandonment. I've been there; I know what that's like. I didn't respond by riding motorcycles or jumping off cliffs, but hey--I can relate. And there is more of Jacob, and Jacob is...all grown up. And he grown up good. He gets an A+ in Growing Up. He has fierce eyes and sparkly teeth and rips into his lines like...a wolf.

Whereas I'm not sure what's going on with Edward this time. His head seems awfully big. And he's always clenching his teeth in unspoken agony. Unspoken agony annoys me. Speak, already! Still, considering how draggy the book was, the movie moves swiftly and looks great. And while I'm not usually into the beefcake-y men-with-no-shirts kind of thing, I admit I gasped just a tiny bit when Jacob whips off his shirt and uses it to dab the blood on Bella's forehead.

So, I know how this all turns out. But I kinda wish I didn't. I wish Jacob had a fighting chance. He's just hotter. Literally. The guy is alive--the other one is dead. Seems pretty simple.

As for my actual life, I have either a full dress rehearsal or an actual show every single night for the next seven days, except for Thanksgiving. That is daunting, and might cut into my partying a bit.

We'll see.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Yesterday They Told You, You Would Not Go Far

My show opens one week from today. And I really would be panicking except I have this vague recollection that I've felt this way before. Like exactly one year ago. And then a bunch more times.

By which I mean the show has "We open in a week!"-itis. Everyone is cranky and impatient and wild-eyed. The sound cues blare at inappropriate times, or there are long stretches of shifty silence while we dart our eyes around and wait for one to happen. The blocking is off because we need to learn how to stand in the light. People are dropping things, and tripping, and running into each other. From offstage, it looks like a junior high variety show up there, which gives me a bit of a stomachache.

And everyone is forgetting their lines. And not handling it well. Like, the scene is rolling along, and then someone is suddenly bug-eyed and motionless and muttering "I'm sorry...I just have no idea...LINE?" Only EVERYONE is doing it.

Now that we're in costume, problems have arisen there, too. "A note?" said Shelley when I came offstage in Act II last night. "Your butt is really...pointy. What's going on there?" "I don't know..." I whined. "I need to speak to Elouise. Her butt is nice and round." That's what happens when you start stuffing hypoallergenic polyester pillow-fill down your pants. The fluff-filled pantyhose "inserts" for my bra popped right out at an inopportune time last night, too. My glasses slip down my nose and I've developed a tick of flicking them back with with my index finger. And damn, those borrowed cowboy boots are hard to run in.

And our director has given up on the gentle encouragement. Now I wait in breathless terror as I sense him rising from his chair, when he stomps towards the stage and starts bellowing "HEY! I CAN'T HEAR YOU! AND PICK IT UP! PICK. IT. UP! THIS IS GOING ON FOREVER, GEEZ!"

The worst part of all is that we've done our "bits" so many times now that he, and the rest of the cast, have completely stopped laughing. Or smiling. Or even having movement in their faces. It's like having Mt. Rushmore for an audience. You stop wondering if you're funny and start wondering if you're even visible.

And that's where I really start to panic. Because if everyone is going to sit out there, impassive and stony-faced, like I'm doing A Doll's House, then we are in big trouble. It's going to be a mighty long evening for everyone concerned. This is supposed to be a BROAD comedy, people.

And then I remind myself that it's like this every time. And that the real audience isn't already bored of my mullet and my cantankerous ways. And that one day--hopefully a week from now--people will watch and people will laugh. A lot. At the play, but also at ME.

And there's no sweeter sound in the whole crazy wonderful world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'll Cry If I Want To

It's been one of those parenting days that brings tears to my eyes. And not in a good way. In an "I'm feeling sorry for myself" kind of way.

The morning started rough. I had sort of an upsetting rehearsal last night and was up late ranting and raving about it to David (patient man!) So I wasn't "perfectly rested" (as he would say) when the trouble began. Seems a certain person in this house is not always keen on getting ready in the morning. And the situation seems to escalate dramatically with very little provocation. Like, I can say "Let's get dressed now" or "Let's brush teeth" and suddenly there's a lot of screeching, foot-stomping and slamming of doors. What was all this about the terrible twos? And when are those supposed to end, exactly? My kid is pushing five. The furious fives?

Before I knew it, I was holding her door closed (it's the only way to keep her in the room after saying "Go to your room.") while listening to heavy objects ricochet off said door and the frequent repetition of "I don't like you! You're not my friend!" (An aside here: I actually find it almost painfully adorable that this is the worst thing she can think to say.) By the time we were able to get her shoes on without a scuffle (David had to hold her upside down for a while--it's not what you think; she requests it) she was almost a half-hour late and I was missing my scheduled morning walk with a friend.

I took a moment of gratitude as I watched them drive away, reflecting that we'd surely seen the last of Hurricane Jarrah for the day. Silly, silly me.

When I picked her up this afternoon, I had grand plans to take her thrift shopping (I need a giant pink purse for my costume), followed by fro-yo. There were even some gently used princess dress-up clothes in it for her if she cooperated. But the plan fell apart almost immediately. First, she refused to use the bathroom before we left school (a problem, since thrift stores don't have them.) Then, she said she wasn't going shopping no matter what. When I bribed her with fro-yo, she demanded fro-yo FIRST. That's when I said something I probably shouldn't have:

"No, not first. After we shop. I'm the mommy and I make the rules."

That did not go over well. More of the high-pitched screeching and foot stomping, and then she fled to the car. I ran after her, mouth set in a grim line. She refused to hold my hand crossing the parking lot (luckily it was empty) and ran screaming to the car. She wouldn't get in the car, so I got in and waited. She got in and resumed screaming, now with additional seat-kicking. I got out of the car. She got out. I got back in. She got back in. Rinse; repeat. I could feel my blood pressure rising like the water in the washing machine window at the beginning of the cycle. Suddenly, I swooped around, picked her up, and pinioned her into the seat with one hand while clipping her in with the other. I'm surprised she let me.

Now she shrieked that she wanted the window open. Then closed. She wanted the music lower. Then off. The shrieks became more and more specific.


I have to admit, this stung a bit. I furiously repeated in my head, "She's four, she's four, she's four. She's trying to get a rise out of you. That's all." But I could still feel my temple throb.


I remained eerily silent throughout. I didn't really trust myself to talk. When we got home, I went in the house, and I could hear her muffled shrieks from the car. Eventually, she came inside and continued where we'd left off.

There was a very funny moment (do not laugh, do not laugh, do not laugh...) when she stomped into the kitchen (where I was emptying the dishwasher) with a murderous look on her face, positively poisonous, but she was holding a sparkly purple pinwheel next to her face while she did it. She paraded the pinwheel through the room, glaring daggers at me, and then stomped out. It was like a Parade of Fury.

Eventually, I walked to my room and put myself in a time out. I locked the door, climbed into the bed, and pulled the covers over my head. And cried, just a little bit. But I didn't stay long. When I opened the door, Jarrah came shuffling around the corner, her little face swollen and tear-stained.

I'm sorry, Mommy. Sorry I had a fit. Can I have a snack now?

Not so fast, young lady. We need to have a conversation.


Saturday, November 14, 2009


Because she really wanted me to mention her. Recently, a number of people have asked me what they have to do to appear in the blog. It's simple, really: you buy me a really thoughtful gift, you tell me how fabulous I'm looking, or you ask to be mentioned. Choose your poison.

Phyllis and I were talking about my blog because we had a lot of time to talk this weekend. We were both part of a "spa crawl" (David's term--cute, huh?) for our friend Grace, who planned a birthday itinerary for her near and dear. Along the way, we assembled a list of words for inclusion in this post, beginning with "Phyllis." And away we go.

The word: Phyllis. Definition: Super-cute neighbor to Grace, mom to Sophie, and one who looks slammin' in black leggings and a white shirt that I SWEAR is not too short.

The first event was Glen Ivy Day Spa in Corona. I decided to drive up by myself so I could sleep in and work out first. That stretch of the 15 is so scenic, with giant boulders on the roadside that could probably crush you like a bug. But the boulders stayed put, my iPod was cranked, and I was howling and rolling along. Even at 90 minutes, the drive primed me for a good mood.

I felt a little timid driving through the elegant stucco gates, past the manicured hedges. I got over it quick when I saw the gang of distinctly un-supermodel-like women clad in brown towels (the reason for which became quickly apparent) lolling about on every ledge. I paid the all-inclusive day rate and headed to the lockers, hoping I'd find my friends, since I thought cell phones were strictly verboten. After a multiple loop tour of the lovely grounds, I gave in and called them, and though I had missed the spa lunch, I was just in time for Club Mud.

Club Mud isn't exactly a club, but there's certainly a camaraderie that develops when you and a crowd go wading into a warm, murky red lake with a mountain of slippery, shiny red clay rising out of the middle. You sink your hands into that mud, feeling it squish between your fingers, and then you suddenly have the urge to slap it on someone. Which is exactly what you're supposed to do. No sooner did I say to myself, "Ooooh, this really seems unsanitary" than I couldn't wait to slather myself with filthy goo. And slather I did--arms, chest, belly, neck and extra on my face for good measure. We did each others' backs, and after a bit of a splash in the warm pool, we waded out to a land-locked mud mountain to gather more for our legs and feet. The normal trajectory would be to bask in the sun on the very dirty lounges until the mud got dry and flaky, but the day was chilly so we congregated under the heat lamps, admiring each others' muddiness and snapping photos for later blackmail opportunities.

The word: Wafa. Definition: A sort of "warm cave" at Glen Ivy that was "burned out" and therefore closed. We were really needing the Wafa that day. Oh, well.

We giggled about how when someone asked, we could say "Oh, I spent the day massaging mud into womens' bare flesh--you?" Finally, a very, very long communal shower with lots of back-scrubbing and the rueful realization that there were just some areas that would have to remain muddy for modesty reasons.

Next, about eight of us crammed into a two-person mineral pool, which reeked of sulfur but felt very nice. I already felt relaxed from my mud detox. According to the other gals, something about this stinky mineral bath was going to make us extra-healthy, and I'm all for that, so I got used to the stink. Also, Grace was glowing and happy, surrounded by her loved ones on her birthday, and that made me happy, too. Plus, I was getting to catch up with my friend Beth, who had flown in from DC for the occasion. All in all, I was feeling pretty grateful Grace had been born.

After a long soak and lots of shrieking and laughing, we dried off a bit (a word on Glen Ivy, if I may: as a novice, I did not pack well. I did remember to bring a suit I didn't care about [the mud and minerals stain] but really could have used a robe, rubber flip-flops, and a headband. I was chilly in my wet towels and my hair was heavily caked with gunk all day) and then headed into The Grotto, which worried me because it's a "cave-like atmosphere" and you take an elevator to the center of the earth to access it. I am severely claustrophobic, but our escort, Misty, assured me that it's not even really underground, thus destroying the illusion for everyone else, too. It was still really cool.

Beneath, each of us had a personal attendant slap us down with an industrial paintbrush full of green stuff. Apparently, it's some kind of moisturizing treatment, but it looked a bit like Green Goddess salad dressing, very slick and oily and thick. Once covered, we moved into a dark, dank, steamy cave, where we were supposed to "perch on rocks and relax." I couldn't exactly do that, because steam increases my claustrophobia (I always feel like my sinuses are closing up) but I did take part in the "massage chain"--Grace and several of her friends are professional massage therapists, and I'm not an idiot. I tried not to think about the pools of standing water everywhere, because I could tell I was the only one skeeved out. The next room was a communal rock shower, where we scrubbed off the green goo (later that night, Beth and I laughingly tallied our showers for the day--I had FOUR) and finally, the last room, which was dry and filled with tea and bowls of green apples. More perching ensued, with lots of sipping and crunching forthwith.

From here, we ascended to the surface with our escort ("Where's Misty?" I asked, mock-suspiciously. "I'm funnier than Misty," she said. "Okay, give it your best shot," I replied, and she totally didn't.) We kept telling each other we looked 10 years younger ("which makes me 23!" I kept announcing.) A soak in the Roman bath-like whirlpool in the locker room, and we were ready to get pretty for our evening out. I was a little nervous because they actually officially closed before we did this, but they were strangely relaxed about us staying another hour to primp.

The word: Pashmina. Definition: a wrap that Phyllis had two of, so generously offered the second to anyone who was cold. I told her I had my own pashmina. She said "Then you won't be needing my pashmina, will you?" And then we laughed.

After a harrowing drive (five cars caravan-ing for nearly 30 miles in Friday rush hour traffic) we reached the twinkly-light loveliness of Old Town Temecula, and a restaurant called The Edge. Although Beth lives in DC and I live an hour away, we agreed we're going to have to charter a private jet regularly to return to The Edge, since it's our new favorite place in the whole world.

The decor is all sumptuous and harem-y, with comfy chairs and lots of draperies and lamps shaped like floating jellyfish. The menus are so heavy you can barely lift them. The booths are private and romantic (though we were at a big table.) And the food...oh, the food. I could tell we were in a FAWNCY place right away because the hostess brought us warm towels for our hands. Ooooh! The second clue was the prices. Gulp. But hey, it was a special occasion. I started with the list (a list, Readers!) of champagne cocktails, from whence I chose the Cherry Sugar Fizz. I don't know what was in there. I only know that I couldn't stop slurping until it was gone. And it was pink. And sugary. And really, what else is there to tell?

The word: Amuse Bouche. Definition: It's actually two words, and they're French. It's the little taste that the chef brings you before your meal so you can see how cool he or she is. Our Amuse Bouche was a shrimp toast, so I passed it to the birthday girl. Jacqueline thought it was hilarious that I said it meant "fun for the mouth." In consequence, we discussed lots of other things that are fun for the mouth. What was really fun for my mouth was the "intermezzo" after the soup. A square spoon with a perfect tiny scoop of house-made blueberry vanilla sorbet. Ooohhh.

Everything on the menu seemed extra special, but I decided to keep it light. While I was making this plan, a heaping basket of the "house bread" arrived, and in about 10 seconds, it was decimated. Turns out the house bread is baked every morning, and is called something like Roasted Pecan Raisin Pillow For Cherubs, or at least it should be. Puffy, soft, chewy, nutty and packed with three different color raisins. Between the bread and the champagne, I was a little swoony.

My next course was "deconstructed" French Onion soup. The waitress explained that they use chicken stock instead of beef, and caramelize the onions first. Say no more. It arrived on a rectangular platter with perfect little triangles of Gruyere and French bread grilled cheese, some of which I dropped into the soup, where they made a perfect cheesy, crunchy crouton. The soup was zesty with sherry and creamy-sweet from the onions. I sort of had to close my eyes with each spoonful. Also, I was a bit sleepy from a day spent soaking and slathering myself in mud.

Sadly, things started to go south with my salad. It was supposed to be a Caesar with chicken, which I know is not terribly gourmet, but I like to "test" new restaurants on their Caesar prowess. I was expecting something crunchy, savory, and garlicky, and instead I got a plate of extremely wilted spring greens (hello? Isn't a Caesar always Romaine?) that tasted of lemon, oil and some unidentified bitterness. On top, a giant chicken breast was unceremoniously perched. It made me tired to contemplate cutting it. Beth and I joked that we should put it in the middle and carve it up for the whole table. Down at the other end, Lorraine's daughter Ashley was also turning up her nose at the bitter salad. We both tried to send it back, with varying results. The waitress told her, "You probably just aren't used to organic ingredients." To this we giggled amongst ourselves, "Could you please bring me a side of hormones and pesticides?" When I expressed my disappointment, the waitress nodded, vanished, and never returned. I finally asked someone else to take it away because I was the only one who still had her plate. Just then, the sous chef, Chris, appeared smilingly at my side. I think he might have been trying to let me know that I'm just a rube, but he did it charmingly. I thought it was sweet that he came to chat.

All was forgiven by dessert, which was a combo of chocolate souffle cake for Grace to make a wish over, and a platter of donut holes that I ordered. Oh, be still my heart! They arrived hot, coated in melting glaze, and light as French lace inside. On one side of the platter was an assembly line of hot, drippy chocolate, cinnamon sugar, and rainbow sprinkles for rolling. I ate one, then passed it around, and it amused me how everyone put up a hand to say "No, no, I couldn't possibly," but the plate was empty when it returned to me.

Overall, the dinner was one of the most delicious and luxurious I've had in a very, very long time. But the place has contradictions. The wait staff was hot and cold. The bathroom, which appeared very grand with a special immersion hand dryer, had no toilet paper. And our table abutted a door that was opened every 30 seconds, to the point where I was shaking with cold from the nonstop gusts of wind. Later, a band started up in the next room, with bass so loud that we could barely hear each other. When I'm paying a lot to eat dinner, I don't want to shout while I'm doing it. If and when (probably when) I go back, I'll be very particular about seating when I make my reservation. And I'll avoid the Caesar.

By 10:00, I could barely keep my eyes open. Since I had my own room at the hotel, I asked for directions and sprinted to my car to keep warm. No sooner had I pulled out of the parking lot than I was lost. I drove around and around a bit, and finally called David to have him figure out where I was. He came through, thank goodness, and in 10 minutes I was checking into the Springhill Suites.

It was really nice. Just opened. Everything accented in orange and lime green, very cheery. I was a little nervous when the front desk gal said "Are you with the soccer players?" She said the whole second floor was soccer players. I was on the third, "so it shouldn't be too bad." But I never heard anything. Even my partners in crime sailing up and down the hallway on a luggage cart after I was in bed. Damn, I missed that?

The room had a lime green couch and a separate little office. I lost no time getting into my leopard jammies and curling up in bed with my Kindle. Ahhhh. I usually can't sleep in hotels, but I had remembered my "white noise" machine, and with the setting on "Babbling Brook" (or somesuch) I was quickly in dreamland.

I awoke to a text from Beth that they were on their way to breakfast (included!) The food surprisingly generous and fresh. I remarked that it was a lot more fun eating breakfast with the four of them than doing it all alone after the reunion last month. Also, I was relieved to see that I was clearly not the only one who had simply stepped into sweats and thrown my hair in a ponytail before leaving the room.

They were on their way to Pala for spa treatments, and I told them I'd meet them by the pool in a couple hours. I really liked the sound of that. When do I have a weekend where I'm going to meet people by the pool? Nice. I could have done without a very long walk through the smoky casino at Pala (I guess I used the wrong garage) but then the pool emerged like an aquamarine in a setting of orange buildings and green lawns, and there was no one there but us chickens. I lounged in the sun and chatted with Jacqueline, who had also opted out of treatments, and eventually we were joined by the other three blinky gals in robes. I couldn't get over how cool it was to raise a little flag on my lounge chair and have a waiter instantly appear--we ate and drank poolside, followed by a dip in the jacuzzi.

Alas, the sun began to dip, signaling the end of the "it's all about me" bliss. If it weren't for Joy's birthday party back in the real world, I might be poolside still, sipping mai tais. I think this girlie spa weekend thing should be a yearly event. Or maybe monthly.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Got Buns, Hon?

So, we have a new costume designer for the show. She's super-enthusiastic and determined to get us all kitted out in style.

One thing I need is some jeans that will accommodate a whole lot of stuffing or padding or whatever will make my butt look huge. Why, you ask? Who knows? It's the director's vision for the character. She eats cookies, loves A Chorus Line, adores her gay boyfriend, and has a big butt.

I had explained to our costume designer about the jeans, and she said she'd get me some at the thrift store. And she did. She handed them to me, along with a fabulous pink and white polka-dot belt, and told me to go try them on.

"Now, don't be freaked out by how HUGE they are. I know they're GIGANTIC. They're MASSIVE. Don't be freaked out. We're going to stuff them like crazy. Just use this belt to keep them up for now, and come back out here and show me. I can see from your face that you think they're HUGE. Don't worry. I promise it's going to work out. They're GIGANTIC but it's going to work. Trust me."

She's a talker, that one. So I took the jeans into the bathroom and slipped them on.

And they're exactly my size. Fit like a glove. A glove for a really, really, really big butt.

I emerged, smirking, and wordlessly pointed to my stylishly snug jeans.

She was crest-fallen for maybe half a second, and then her eyes brightened and her lovely smile burst forth once more.

"We are going to make this work! You'll see! (stuffing her hand inside my waistband) There's plenty of room in here! WE ARE TOTALLY GOING TO MAKE THIS WORK!

That's what they always tell me. You better work, girl.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Will There Be Anything Left For Under The Pillow?

So, apparently Jarrah's blindingly white, stunningly gorgeous teeth are as crapcake as ever. And I'm all frustrated with myself, feeling like a bad mom. One of those days. You know those days?

Dentist this morning. A routine cleaning. I went over the procedure with Jarrah several times in the car. It's not that she's never been before; it's just that her anxiety level is through the roof because of what they did to her when she had six (!) cavities last year. My speech went kind of like this:

First, we play in the waiting room. We're in there forever. Finally, when we feel like we can't wait another second, they call us back. They put you in a chair with a big tube next to it and shove some little cards in your mouth. It's uncomfortable; I won't lie. But it's quick. After that, they lead us to a pink chair. You lie down and they make it go all the way back. The lady scrapes your teeth with a little metal tool. It's uncomfortable. [they didn't actually do this part.] Then they polish your teeth with a little tool that goes "Zzzzzzzz!" It doesn't hurt. Then they squirt water in your mouth. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO CHOKE. [she's very anxious about that part.] They suck the water out with a tube. It doesn't hurt. Then they sit you up, and the dentist comes over to take a look. And then you're done!

And that's pretty much what happened. And she was so brave. For the first time ever, she submitted to ALL the x-rays with total cooperation. It would have been so nice to reward her with a big sticker and a place on the No Cavities Club wall, but instead we got FIVE MORE CAVITIES.

Hello? Who is not even five years old and has ELEVEN cavities? I mean, what kind of parents does that kid have? Ones who think toothbrushes are luxury items, not appropriate for a recession? Ones who think floss is mostly good for stringing beads? Ones who think teeth get about as dirty as hair, more or less? Ones who feed their child a steady diet of fruit leather, sprinkles, Halloween candy, strawberry milk and the occasional bowl of mac and cheese?

Just ignore that last question. Look away, I tell you. Move it along. We never had this conversation.

I am crushed. CRUSHED. We've been so diligent about the flossing and brushing. Her teeth look amazing. But apparently they're just a collection of tiny time bombs.

I was so disappointed in myself, so of course I took it out on Jarrah. I sulked all the way to the car, and said "I'm sorry, Jarrah, but no more fruit leather. NO MORE. EVER. Do you understand me? And no candy. EVER. In fact, you can't eat food at all anymore."

And on top of my evidently jaw-dropping negligence, I am a "difficult" parent, because the dentist started talking more crowns (she has two) and I flat out refused.

No. She is not a rapper. There is enough silver in her mouth already. Absolutely not. I'm getting a second opinion.

They threatened me with malpractice, infection, and fates more horrifying still. But there's nothing they could say to make me feel worse than I already do. I feel like I've totally failed my kid, or rather, that I'm busy failing her every day.

Failure as an ongoing project. Great.

And then while we were waiting to hear the damage for our "treatment plan," her purple balloon popped and everyone in the waiting room screamed.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Bless You

Last night, David and I went to a movie (An Education, which was completely delightful--you should see it. I may be over my Peter Saarsgard infatuation, though.) We arrived during the previews and tried not to rustle our contraband candy too much as we were getting settled. We're polite and seasoned movie-goers. Since we were going to be there a while, I took out a tissue and blew my nose. Might as well get it out of the way. It's just part of my lifestyle.

I don't think I was very loud, but the theater was mostly empty, and verrrry quiet. The effect was instantaneous. There was a couple in front of us, at least half a row over, not very close at all. Both their heads swiveled in my direction simultaneously. I tried not to smile, sensing what was next. Sure enough, they stood up, gathered their things, and moved down about three rows. David and I sunk down in our seats and snickered.

Readers, I am not heartless and unfeeling. I know we are in the middle of what the news anchors have been proclaiming a pandemic. But you've all heard far too often in this space about my lousy sinuses. They've been my personal plague all my life. But now, for the first time, my sinuses have become a larger social issue. And because I own them, I've become a pariah.

On the way back from Montana, we flew in a very small, crowded plane. I found my seat, sat down, and began sneezing like mad, which is my usual response to boarding a plane. (See above where I have lousy sinuses. I think I may be allergic to planes.) The thing is, I'm like a Girl Scout when it comes to my nose. I'm always prepared and ready to help it cross the street (oh, I think that's the Boy Scouts. I'm getting confused. I wasn't a very good Girl Scout. The other Girl Scouts tried to beat me up once for not having enough badges. They were a tough bunch. But I digress.)

So what I'm saying is, I was totally ready for it. I sneezed into a tissue. The whole experience was safer than the Wiggles. But the woman across the aisle acted like I had just penetrated her plastic bubble and caused irreversible contamination. She hunched forward in her seat, pulled her jacket over her head (!) and pressed her face into the tray table in front of her. It's like she was preparing for an emergency water landing. Without meaning to, my response was to sneeze a few more times. She cringed and cowered. I was THIS CLOSE to tapping her on the shoulder (after a liberal squeeze of Purell, of course) and whispering: "Allergies, not swine flu. Just thought you might like to know."

All I have to do to clear a room or amass greater personal space is to take out a tissue. I don't even have to use it. If I just wave it in the general direction of my nostrils, it's like the Red Sea of humanity parting. Why, thank you. I was feeling a little claustrophobic there. This is so much better. The irony is, I'm not sick. I'm hale and hearty. Never better. But people are fleeing from me like I'm Godzilla. I could just imagine what kind of havoc I could wreak at a crowded mall, or a Sports Arena concert.

Wait, that's giving me some ideas.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Color Of My Parachute

I have a Friday once a month which is kind of an ideal day for me. I mean, it's not always an unmixed delight--sometimes I'm crabby and pouting like on other days. But the day is set up the way I'd like days to be all the time. Today was one of those Fridays.

It began with an adorable almost-5-year-old throwing her Disney princess slippers at my head. Wait: rewind. That actually did happen, but that's not part of the ideal day. I ended up face down on my bed squeezing a couple tears into my pillow because of the aforementioned slippers, a tantrum culminating in "I don't care for you!" and a silly spat with my better half. But then the latter saw my distress and managed to get the former dressed and out the door.

I had breakfast and read the paper in complete silence. I have long believed this to be the only civilized way to begin a day, and in my current lifestyle, it's not that practical. But sometimes I make it happen. Then I stood under some hot water for a while while I did some thinking, which I do well under hot water. What should they write about? Oh, I know. How about a time they told a big, fat lie and what the consequences were? Yeah. That'd be good.

Soon, I was in the car, belting out "Bohemian Rhapsody" and soaring up the 15. I teach a writing workshop to retired UCSD administrators, and the students host in their homes. Today's host makes really excellent coffee, and told me she buys Hazelnut creamer because she knows I like it. So sweet! She had also made brownies. With peanut butter chips. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. Her kitchen table and chairs are capacious and comfy. While waiting for others to arrive, I gazed dreamily out her sliding glass door at a veritable aviary of lovely little birds diving in and out of a city of feeders. I love watching birds. If only the bird feeder at our house wasn't like a welcome mat for mice.

In the workshop, I get to feel smart. And useful. And appreciated. I get to read people's fascinating life stories and ask questions about them. And best of all, I get to make jokes to a captive audience. And then they PAY me. Am I a lucky girl or what? Today most of my callbacks (that's joke talk for "returning to the scene of the joke crime on one or more occasions") revolved around a former student who--though this is the first I've heard of it--apparently left us a couple months back because I insulted her.

Readers, I confess: I insult my students all the time. Not on purpose. I just have a mouth that travels a little ahead of my brain. I am always sincerely remorseful, and seek to make amends immediately. But today I was flummoxed. Because you know what I did this time? I called her a lesbian. Allegedly. None of the other students have any recollection of this smackdown, and I don't, either. For one thing, her husband drives her to all the meetings. More to the point, that's not even my idea of an insult. Maybe I said "Back in high school, you were a thespian!" or somesuch. I really have no idea. But you better believe I handled the issue with the utmost sensitivity, making jokes about it for the next two hours.

Then to school, and lots of "hellos" and "how are yous?" with the crowd of Friday afternoon parents, the one day when we're all picking up at the same time. A moment of reflection to realize how many people I know now, after three years. There was a time when I wondered if I'd ever get to know anyone. Jarrah was cheery, and gave me a big hug, and one of her teachers gave her (ergo, me) a lovely compliment, all the sweeter for being totally unsolicited. She said that Jarrah is a great friend, very generous and loving with the other kids. Being a good friend is important to me, so if I've had any part in encouraging these tendencies, that makes me happy.

Fridays are park days. A bunch of preschool moms (and one delightful dad) go every week, and cluster our blankets on the grass while the kids go on safari, climbing hills and running for miles across the wide, wide grass. Then Jarrah and I head home for a brief rest, which usually includes Sponge Bob and a bowl of strawberries "with brown shuh-guh." I change into my dance clothes and pack up my duffel and my music.

Then David comes home--early on Fridays--and I head out again. Time to teach my Nia class. Nearly every week, I am dragging a bit as I drive, thinking "Oh, I'm too tired to do this today." And every week, after I've punched my time card and shoved my stuff in a locker and walked into the dim, cool, quiet studio, I think: "Was I on crack before? This is the best job in the world. They pay me to do this?"

That's the truth. I get to play music really loud and dance around like an idiot for an hour and 15 minutes, and whenever I make a move, everyone tries to copy it. It makes me feel like the head chorus girl in a 1940s musical! Or a Broadway show! It's such a rush.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, these are the ideal days because I am doing something I love with my mind AND my body, and on top of that, there are people appreciating both. Because I don't really like to do anything without sharing it with other people. And in between is a sweet outing with my daughter in which we both enjoy ourselves without spending a cent.

And that's the kind of day I'd like to have every day. The only thing that would make it even more sublime would be appearing in a show in the evening (and that will happen soon.) That really takes it over the top, when it comes to the perfect day.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

I Vant To Be Alone

Lately, Jarrah has been saying that she wants to live in her own house. Without us. This morning she said it, and also said she wasn't going to school. David said:

"Well, here's the thing. To live in your own house, you have to buy your own house. And to buy your own house, you need a job. To get a job, you'll need another 20 years of school. So you better go to school."

And that was actually convincing.

A couple days ago, we had this argument, occasioned by some ridiculously unreasonable demand on my part, like "It's time to brush your teeth." or "Let's clean up this room:"

Jarrah: No! And I want to live by myself. In my own house!

Sam: Oh, where are Daddy and I going to live?

Jarrah: In your own house. In Australia.

Sam: In Australia! But we'll be lonely without you.

Jarrah: No, you won't. Crick will live with you.

Sam: Just Crick? What about Maine and StarWarsandAway and Braden and Allie and Lynnie and Sarah?

Jarrah: They're going to live with me.

Sam: I thought you wanted to live by yourself?

Jarrah: They're invisible.

Sam: Right. But will you ever visit us, all the way in Australia?

Jarrah: NO. I will NOT visit you. And I won't Skype, either!

Maybe she doesn't want to live with us, but she's definitely related to us. That much is clear.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Not Drowning, Waving

For the past few years, I've been part of a team that hosts a panel of speakers for National Adoption Month, otherwise known as November. Through the non-profit organization RESOLVE, we gather a group of adoption professionals in La Jolla to address a crowd of prospective parents. I consider this rewarding volunteer work, as people have told me that they formed their adoption plan after attending this event. We aim for diversity--domestic and international, facilitators, agencies and attorneys, and a variety of countries. One speaker in particular, Mark Goldman of AdoptHelp, I invite every year, because he's brilliant, funny and, well...eye candy. I have such a crush on that man, which I'm sure he knows, since I flirt with him shamelessly. Hey, my mother trained me to perk up around smart, Jewish lawyers.

This year, my co-organizer Mary and I were especially delighted by a particular acceptance--Joshua Zhong of Chinese Children Adoption International, or CCAI.

Because CCAI was our agency--the one that helped us bring home Jarrah and Joy. And it's in Colorado. And Josh is the founder, owner and director (along with his lovely wife, Lily.)

So, what I'm saying, Readers, is it was kind of like Elvis agreed to fly to San Diego and speak on our panel. Yowza.

Mary immediately wrote to express our excitement and assured him we would drive him wherever he needed to go. By which she meant I would drive him wherever he needed to go. (Kidding!)

This post isn't really about the panel, though it was awesome. Mark was hilarious and amazingly comprehensive, as usual. And Josh brought the house down with his easy charm and autobiographical shtick. If I hadn't already fallen in love with him on a 10-minute DVD in 2004, I would be signing up for his agency's services today. Instead, I could just sit back and congratulate myself on the accuracy of my emotional instincts.

The other speakers totally brought it, too, which is why I cringe to share this part: there were only 15 people in the audience. What happened there? The economy? Not enough PR? (Which I don't believe.) In any case, I felt so guilty that our professionals had traveled from near and far to address a crowd, and got more of a...tea party. Surprisingly, the Q&A was the liveliest we've ever had, and I finally had to shut it down before people started doing shots and settling in for the night.

I had picked up Josh from the Sheraton with Jarrah in tow and the ride to La Jolla was pretty painless. In fact, it was quickly obvious that Josh is a pro around strangers--it's part of his job, I suppose. I had pictured us making formal small talk, but instead found myself blurting out how hard the beds are in China (seriously, like sleeping on plywood) and how Jarrah screamed her lungs out for three weeks and how I was so tired I thought my cells might be reconfiguring into an organism that didn't require sleep. He nodded sympathetically (he is a reverend, after all) and occasionally made jokes, and by the time we were applauding Jarrah's bracing version of "Zippity Doo Dah," I felt we'd really bonded.

So when Mary suggested we take him out to eat afterward (he interrupted himself several times during his presentation to remark that he was starving) I thought that would be so cool, like getting some dinner with Elvis. He charmed me by eating his burger with a knife and fork, and sharing behind-the-scenes gossip on China adoption. Before I could think, I was raving about why we only have one kid, people who say stupid things about infertility, and how Jarrah is so totally, obviously brilliant. When Mary offered to drive him back to the hotel, I shushed her, insisting that it would be my pleasure. And I thought it would.

Once in the car, I was yelling about something that was undoubtedly TMI, since he was seeming more and more like a priest who I could confess anything to. And while I was doing some of that (a special treat for a Jewish girl) I vaguely noticed that I was actually driving home, to MY home, and that would be...not near the hotel. Without losing my conversational stride, I swerved onto another freeway, which seemed sort of deserted at 11:00 on a weeknight. I figured it was a bit out of the way, but he'd never know.

Sometime later, I was engrossed in a terrible, ill-advised humorous anecdote about something I read on one of CCAI's Yahoo! groups, and my decision to refrain from sharing it here will give you a fair idea of the inappropriateness of shouting it at Josh. (Had I been drinking tequila without knowing it? What the @#$%&* was in those water bottles we passed out???) As I was reaching a crescendo of don't-go-there, I realized that I'd made a wrong turn and we were now hurtling down a dark hill into La Jolla, which really only has one way in and one way out: long, and not where we were going. At this point, I decided that a full disclosure was best. I told Josh that as soon as I could, I'd turn around and we'd be on our way.

But he was clearly concerned. He assumed I was lost, and I could see him wondering why. I wasn't lost, but every turn had a red line through it, and it was probably not a good idea to muse out loud "Hmmm. No U-Turn here. See any cops?" to the man who had decided I was fit to adopt a child. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him gripping the door handle a lot, and involuntarily shielding his face when I'd turn or change lanes.

I was a little amused by all this, because I'm a good driver, and while some of you may be shaking your heads, hear this: I've been driving for 26 years without a ticket. I was reminding myself of this comforting fact just as I screeched onto La Jolla Pkwy from a sudden, slightly out of control U-turn on a residential street while announcing "No right turn on red. Oops!" as I turned right on red.

"This is totally reminding me of how I interviewed for Dartmouth, and totally aced the interview, but then locked my keys in the car and had to go back and tell them so I could use the phone," I confessed gleefully. There was no response. In fact, Josh spoke very little after I admitted the first gaffe--clearly he didn't want to distract me more than was strictly required, as I was obviously trying to abduct him and hold him for ransom after circling around San Diego's back alleys until he was too disoriented to get away.

When we finally reached the freeway, I cheerfully reassured him that we were almost there, and then a massive fog bank rolled in and I couldn't see a thing. I briefly remarked how difficult it was to see, but now he was clutching the door handle full-time, so I shut up. All the silence was awkward, and I kept trying to find neutral topics that wouldn't a) further suggest that I was abducting him or b) provoke me into more ridiculous confessions, but I could tell that if I worked too hard at this, I was going to get us lost again, so I decided to just stick with the awkward silence.

And as I pulled into the driveway of the Sheraton, still fully 50 yards from the entrance, he had removed his seatbelt and was making ker-chunking noises with the door handle. He was out of there like a shot.

I called David immediately (hands-free, don't worry) and announced "I needed to talk to someone who doesn't think I'm crazy or a bad driver." Then I proceeded to miss three turns in a row (in my defense, the first two were roadblocked; the third, who knows?) and by the time I found my way home I'd been in the car over an hour.

I'm sure Josh will be rushing to return to San Diego next November. Ya think?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Scary Good

Jarrah and I agree on something: Halloween rocks. As a kid, I assumed it was some sort of public extension of my birthday, in which the whole neighborhood decided to give me a pillowcase full of candy to celebrate. Just what I wanted--how did they KNOW? Jarrah has always enjoyed the costume and the candy, but with each passing year, the whole gestalt becomes dearer to her heart. She gets all misty when she sees lawn ghosts, and pipe cleaner spiders, and anything with a witch hat. This year she also insisted on her very own pumpkin, which--just between you and me--I think David might have enjoyed even more, what with the carving and the fire. Can you believe they don't have Halloween in Australia? And he's always trying to convince me it's a civilized country.

This year, we had a very full day, which began with a birthday party for Jarrah's preschool friend Jacob (who was actually born on my birthday, but apparently he's younger.) Jarrah and her friends engaged in X-treme dress-up jump-jump, which is all fun and games until somebody's hair bows fall out and their socks get soaked in punch.

In the late afternoon, we went to my friend Grace's house for a potluck, which was awesome. I ended up being very glad that I invented a witch costume at the last minute (a $5 velvet dress I'd purchased for Hedda Gabler, only to discover it was too sexy for the 19th century, plus a matching witch hat from Halloween 2008 that we'll pretend wasn't sized for a 3-year-old; luckily, I have a weirdly small head) because the whole gang was kitted out. Grace's daughter Julianna was Ephalba from Wicked, which was too perfect with Jarrah's Dorothy.

A moment in which I praise Julianna and four of her 11-year-old friends. A nicer bunch of tweens I've never met. Not only are they super-sweet to Jarrah when it's convenient, they hardly needed a reminder to look out for her while trick-or-treating, often guiding her across streets with a protective hand, carrying her laden plastic pumpkin, or checking to make sure they hadn't left her in the dust with their mad sprints from block to block.

And a word about the sprinting. In past years, Jarrah hasn't been that interested in duration t-or-t-ing. A couple of leisurely blocks and she would indicate--with word and attitude--that she saw no reason to continue a quest that had already been successful beyond her wildest dreams. She had been to 14 houses and every last one had offered her chocolate or Twizzlers--wasn't the only sensible move to repair to a warm, quiet location and mow through it all?

But this year, her pride was on the line. There were girls twice her height with whom she was madly in love, all seeming to believe that more is better, and determined to visit every house in the greater metropolitan area. It was not for her to question, only for her to keep up. But I could see her hesitation on the occasions when their speed removed them from the purview of the adults. She was torn between the world of pre-teen freedom and independence, and the world of pre-school satellite to her parents' inexplicable, annoying but dependably constant whims. My heart broke a little when she skidded to a stop once half-way between worlds and shouted, "YOU GUYS! WE'RE GETTING TOO FAR FROM OUR MOMMIES AND DADDIES!" Even grouchy ol' me could recognize this as a formative moment on the brink: the desire to fly, but the pull back to the nest, where it's warm and safe and full of snacks. After all, there's no place like home (say it three times.)