Monday, January 30, 2012

I'm Over Here, Waving

My feelings are hurt. I'm trying to get over it because I don't think there's any other solution, but I'm baffled and bothered.

Many of you know that I directed The Vagina Monologues last year with a large group of women from several organizations. The show was a huge success--we sold out a 731 seat theater and veterans and novices alike all seemed to have a great time. Sure, we had some bumps along the way. I had to be firm and--I'll admit it--bossy, particularly as it got closer to the show and the lives of 25 different people pulled them in other directions. I was actually proud of myself for behaving with complete professionalism--I didn't yell, or get into arguments, and while it might sound like a weird claim it's important for me--I never cried. And I worked HARD. While many of the cast members were present and focused one day a week, I was sometimes working various angles behind the scenes every day. Just the communication alone took a lot of my time.

Many of the women were wonderful to me, full of praise and support and recognition of my commitment. One of the producers was my biggest cheerleader, privately congratulating me on my skills of diplomacy and human resources.

Which is why the first stab to my heart came when I saw that the show is going forward again this year, with this same producer at the helm. I also had a "music committee" that I trusted and confided in behind the scenes--one of them is directing and the others are in the cast. Many of my former cast members are appearing in the show as well.

And how do I know this? It's the age of Facebook, baby. I noticed a friend had RSVPed to the event and I clicked on it, where I saw the info and invitation list.

On which my name did not appear. Now, although it gave me a twinge, I can completely understand not asking me to direct again. Spread the wealth around; get a different perspective; I get that. But they know I'm an actress first. Mightn't I have received an invitation to audition? Certainly there are many returnees on the list.

But the part that really gets me is that I wasn't even included in the Facebook invitation to attend, a list that includes around 200 people. Even though I am Facebook friends with most of them. So I can only conclude that whoever made that list omitted me on purpose. Sounds paranoid, doesn't it? Can you think of another reason? I'd love to have options.

My only consolation is when I rack my brains for the way in which I might have blundered egregiously, I can't really think of anything. Sure, I raised my voice to get everyone in order during hell week--I was doing them the favor of making sure they didn't have to stay until 2:00 a.m. Someone had to take that bullet, and it needed to be me. Perhaps I was a perfectionist, demanding their very best at rehearsals and in performance--as I told them, I'd rather have you think I'm bossy and make sure you have all the tools you need to be proud of yourself when you're out on stage.

But overall, I can say I behaved with integrity. I did my job to the best of my ability. I gave it my all. I really cared about it, and about the people involved. I cared about the cause. And I guess that knowledge is going to have to be what gets me past these feelings now.

Friday, January 27, 2012

P.S. From Previous Post

I can't believe I forgot Tuesday. There I was reading an e-mail from the school that said "As you know, tonight is the K-2 Talent Show..." Huh? As I know? Start time: 6:00. Current time: 5:55. I mentioned this to Jarrah. She didn't hesitate: "Let's go. I don't need dinner." We jumped in the car, leaving the broccoli in the lurch.

For two years, I've been hoping Jarrah would enter the talent show. I mean, I'm not sure what her talent is, but I figured she could do something dramatic. She has an uncanny ability to memorize two-page Shel Silverstein poems, for instance. But she crushed my dreams both times. Something about being "shy" or "scared." Whatever. As if. But we both agreed that we could attend the show this year and see what all the fuss is about.

And that time was now. We tiptoed into the packed house of proud parents and leaned against the wall near the front. Jarrah claimed that several of her classmates would be performing but we only saw one.

What I quickly learned, though, is that for every interlude of tuneless banging on the piano, there was an Act of Total Awesomeness that had me amazed and woo-hooing. Perhaps the highlight of the night was a tiny little man who shuffled out in his big jeans looking lost...until a hip-hop song came on and he began whirling like a dervish around the floor, sometimes on his head. I have never seen the like and it made my night.

There was also the shy, pale little girl from J's Daisy troop whom I've never heard utter a sound...turns out she doesn't have to because her feet don't lie. She tapped up a storm around that stage and held herself like a duchess, smiling proudly with every clickety-clack. Such showmanship in one so young, oy.

There was a little guy who crossed his arms and did a single, jerky dance move to a song that seemed to be called something like "Rock You Hard." I have no idea what was going on there, but I was mesmerized and could have watched it all night. Oh, and the self-possessed kid who did a Borscht-Belt style comedy act with amazing timing. I laughed the whole time, but my favorite was the segment on math humor: "What did the 0 say to the 8?" "Nice belt." WHEEEE!

And then there was the mouse. Oh, the mouse. Who was actually a close friend of Jarrah's in kindergarten. Dancing to the Nutcracker. A bold choice, I was thinking. I had no idea. The music began, and she stared at the audience and suddenly began jerking her ear violently toward her shoulder like she had water in it. This went on for a bit, and then a sudden transition into what I believe were intended to be grand jetes around the perimeter of the stage but which looked like a massive seizure. I would have been fine except that Jarrah turned around and bugged her eyes at me. I realize in retrospect that this look was actually "Mad respect!" but I unfortunately read it as complicity and before I could stop myself I had snort-laughed louder than the music. Mortified, I clamped my hands over my mouth to stem the convulsive chortles, with the result that tears began pouring down my face and Jarrah started yelling "MOMMY, WHY ARE YOU CRYING?" while I repeated silently over and over "Please don't let her parents be looking at me. Please don't let her parents be looking at me." Our intrepid dancer progressed to lying on her back and shuddering like she'd just eaten some poisoned peanut butter, during which I was physically incapable of controlling myself. Jarrah was really concerned that I was upset and helpfully kept asking me about it.

Jarrah was not happy to see how much I enjoyed the talent show, and kept trying to silence my clapping hands with hers. Occasionally, she would turn around and whisper through gritted teeth, "I could do that. I could totally do that." Which--call me crazy--does not sound like the reaction of a shy person. Maybe next year will be the year.

V. Busy And Important

Nothing harshes a post-massage buzz like turning on your phone and discovering you've just flaked on meeting a friend at the gym. Maybe there's something to all this "I'll check my calendar" business everyone's always going on about. I feel so guilty. And wanna know just how much of a space-case I am? I actually worked out before my massage. Totally oblivious. Ugh.

But in my defense (just a little?) this wasn't exactly a typical week. Now that it's winding down, I can see that.

It started at dawn on Monday with the departure of our pater familias for parts north. Yes, he had just gotten back. The man's in demand. After school, we had ice skating and I had obsessively arranged to hand Jarrah off to a babysitter afterward with only seconds to spare before being late for music rehearsal. I didn't get home until 10:00, though learning those four-part harmonies is so fun I can't believe it's legal.

Tuesday morning I had my first voice lesson at Southwestern College. It's a private lesson, but my teacher reserves a piano room there. I had a little stress finding the place and somewhere to park, but the lesson was fun and I learned that I can warm up my voice by moaning. Let's just say I'll only be doing that alone in the car.

Wednesday was minimum day and I picked Jarrah up and drove her to Cardiff to see the new Go-Pro digs for the first time. That was pretty cool, and David took us to the yummy Kook's Cafe for lunch. Then he was off to a meeting and we had time to kill before Jarrah's annual check-up, which I filled with shopping for "character shoes with a heel." Jarrah was freaking out in the tiny, musty dance shop so I didn't buy them yet. The check-up was a big success: no shots this year, and no ear-wax removal, either. Jarrah was giddy with relief and passed her eye and ear tests in record time. We also discovered that she's in the 86th percentile for height and 65th for weight--down about 10 percent in both this year. Her doctor says she's seriously overweight for a 7-year-old but remarkably underweight for her actual height "which is what you want." Doc was also very impressed to find her reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when she entered the room. I was pretty proud.

Then I proceeded to go the wrong way on the freeway to get back to David's office, finally got to drop her off and scram (if "scram" can describe the 45 minutes in traffic) home for an hour of hair and makeup for our professional head shots that night. Also I had another of those three-hour music rehearsals. Not that I'm complaining, but man, she works hard for the money. And there is none.

And I got home late and then had to set the alarm for 5:30 because I am insane and agreed to teach a Nia class at 6:30. I am not a morning person. I'm not even a "before noon" person. I once had a roommate whom I banned from listening to NPR when she got ready for work "because I can't bear talking before 10:00." When I got there (in the dark!) it was like "Nia Bizarro World"--half the class was MEN! Whoa! Everyone was very nice and I enjoyed it, even though I was slightly panicking during the first song because I haven't taught in like three months. When I came out of the dance room, I saw sun pouring through the windows and I said--out loud and with genuine wonder--"And it's daytime." That marked the first time I've ever gone into the gym in the dark and come out in the light instead of the other way around.

That day felt about three days long, but instead of getting to take it easy, Jarrah and I had matching dentist appointments after school. You get your money's worth at this place--just the cleaning took an hour. I seethed when I discovered that Number Four of Jarrah's four 6-year molars popped in stealthily during our six-month absence and already has a freakin' cavity in it. Which is annoying in itself, but what's really fit-inducing is now that molar can't be sealed like its three friends and she will be subject to a million more cavities in it, which I'm sure she'll be collecting with impressive diligence starting now. I started yelling, "Maybe we just need to come in every two months!" but I could tell everyone thought I was over-reacting.

By the time I was making dinner and helping with geometry (has it come to this? Oh, handsome 9th-grade geometry teacher whose name I forget and whom I tormented to near-tears daily, karma is a you-know-what) I felt like I was on nitrous. Only the promise of Downton Abbey (David and I are newly hooked) kept me awake until bedtime.

And there I was this morning, literally rearranging my sock drawer, thinking I had a whole morning to do absolutely nothing. Do they still make those File-o-Faxes? I think I need one of those.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Blame It On The Rain

Rainy morning as I staze into the wet street. (That's a combination of "stare," "gaze" and "daze.") Soooo tempted to get back in bed. No one here to stop me.

Cold is almost better. I was pretty tired there for a few days but at least I didn't have to go to rehearsal at night. Another reason I'm glad about that is my car stopped working on Thursday morning. I was getting off the freeway about a half-hour from here and it just shut off. Kind of scary but I was in the right lane so I just glided to the side and nobody slammed into me or vice-versa.

Lucky for me, I was being followed by my friend Robyn (we were meeting for a movie) and she is awesome. She said "I don't like where your car is. Let's move it to a safer spot." "WHAT? You think we're going to push this car?" "No, I'm going to push it. You're going to steer it." Wow. And she did.

It took a long time to get my car back because it was towed to a random place where they kept forgetting to look at it and also to call me. What's a girl to do? Finally David was able to drive me up there in Friday rush hour traffic and the first thing I hear when I started it up was "SCREEEEEEECH!" "Um, that is NOT good," the guy said, and I was like "Ya think?" They tightened something and I drove home hoping it wouldn't blow up but it seems to be fine.

Saturday David was far, far away in Radiator Springs (apparently that's not what it's called but it should be) learning to drag race. You think I'm joking? Ask him about it. He's found his new thing. When he told me he wanted to start drag racing I said "Absolutely not. We can't spare you. It's not even open for discussion." I asked some of my friends about this and they seemed either amused or surprised but then my friend Stephanie said she wouldn't tell her husband not to do things. "I'm not his mother," she said. That sounded ridiculously reasonable so I had to sit with that idea for a while.

While he was gone, Jarrah and I went to rehearsal (I bought her silence with some lollipops) and then to meet Mary and Joy at Legoland. It had been raining all morning and I could tell Mary thought I was cur-azy. Like a fox, though, because the rain cleared up, the sun came out, and the place was like a ghost town. Only a really, really fun ghost town with rides and attractions. Our own personal Legoland. We didn't wait in a line all day. Now I never want to go there again because it could never be as good. Every time J and J tried to veer off to a playground or a patch of sand or a spot of sitting on a Lego figurine I'd bellow, "Keep moving! There's no stopping today! You can do all this lollygagging in July when there's an hour wait for everything else!" Which maybe was not exactly a festive attitude, but it was a fantastically practical one. We even ended the day on the Knights Tournament aka "The Claw" which threw us up and down like so many naked Barbies (just trying to avoid "rag dolls"--there was no actual nudity) and it was terrifying but totally rocked.

Do I sound a bit slow? Yep, I noticed that, too. Nap time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Person Can Develop A Cold

Well, it was a good run, but it's over.

I'm sick. Waaah. And being a big baby about it. Oh, it's just a little cold. Feels like a fast-moving one, too--I didn't even get that tell-tale preview sore throat. I just started feeling really weird yesterday afternoon after my productive morning of preparing a Crock Pot dinner and sweating out two hours at the gym.

What is this feeling? So thirsty. So tired. So much lethargy in the limbs. I guess this is what getting old feels like...

I guess not. By 3:00 I was sneezing and stuffed, and last night's 90 minute blocking rehearsal which otherwise would have been a total lark felt like a week in steerage, me standing there shivering, glaze-eyed, clutching my increasingly more pathetic scraps of tissue and trying not to revolt everyone around me. By some convenient miracle I am now off until Saturday, so I can stay here and torment David instead.

I was the Diva of Sniffles when I got home. "I'll need some of that Gypsy Cold Care tea, steeped ten minutes, with honey. Put the tissues near the TV, please. And how about warming me up some dinner?" That good man puts up with a lot.

So, the run: more than an entire YEAR. I did not sniffle in 2011. And now I've gotten out of practice. "How do people do this?" I whined. "With the not breathing?"

I guess I'm getting a refresher course. Part of the job. But I liked my smug "Don't cough on me. Don't even breathe on me" outsider status better.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"It Was The Present Of A Friend."

When I was a child, there was no internet. We weren't allowed to watch TV during the day. Phone calls were strictly limited because we had to keep the line free in case my dad was needed to deliver a baby. And yes, I also walked to school three miles in the snow and uphill both ways, but that's a story for another time, Dear Ones.

Readers, I was a reader. That's what I did. If you asked me to do something for you or with you, I was likely to glower and snap "I'm reading." Oh, I had a few friends on the street, and half an hour a day I was forced to practice the piano, but chances are, the rest of the time you could find me reading.

I didn't read in a comfy chair, oh no. I lay on the carpet near the sliding glass door in my room (to this day I prefer natural light), propped on my elbows, chin in hand. It can't have been very comfortable to do this for hours at a time, but children are flexible, after all. I must have been about seven when I started this practice, and I was probably still doing it when I came home on college vacations.

I read a lot of things that stayed with me. All the Road Dahl books. The entire Little House series. The Five Little Peppers. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Harriet the Spy (oh, how I love her) and all the slightly-lesser sequels. The Pigman series. Every word Judy Blume ever wrote. A lot of them I received from my mother--she had great taste in books. She also took us to the library often and let us have at it. I especially loved books that took place in earlier times, when the author was likely to give lots of details about bolts of gingham and barrels of salt pork. When including raisins in the biscuits was "dear." Times of war and privation when people really appreciated a new dress or a squidge of blackstrap molasses with their teacake.

One of the series of which I read every word, I forgot about completely. Until, one day, I remembered. That day was two years ago, when my friend Jen S. gave Jarrah the book Betsy-Tacy for her fifth birthday. Inside, she wrote that this story was about two friends who meet at a fifth birthday party. I read that and burst into tears.

How had I forgotten Betsy and Tacy? And how lucky was I to be reminded of them now, when I had a daughter to introduce them to? A few weeks ago, I started reading the book to Jarrah. At first, I thought she would read it to me, as she often does these days. But she kept asking me to read. And unlike the time I tried to get her excited about A Cricket in Times Square, she didn't forget. This time I'd come into her room at bedtime and she'd have the book ready for me.

Now we are almost done. The last chapter is "Tib," because that is when Betsy and Tacy meet the last member of their terrible trio, and their adventures can begin afresh in the next book, natch: Betsy-Tacy and Tib. Tonight I looked up the author, Maud Hart Lovelace (b. 1892) and reviewed the series (ten in all, published between 1940 and 1955, which will take the girls from age 5 to 22.) Readers, my anticipation at re-encountering these books seems almost excessive.

Betsy-Tacy is an incredibly simple book. Two little girls live across the street from each other in a time that must be around 1910 (the girls' fathers drive horse and buggy to work) with their parents and siblings. They meet and are almost instantly best friends. Betsy is outgoing and imaginative; Tacy is shyer but just as creative. Their capacity to pretend is limitless, but their actual scope is tiny--just their street, the Big Hill above it and the view of town beyond. They are extremely happy (when a wealthy neighbor lady pays them a nickel apiece for jars of colored sand) very sad (Tacy's baby sister dies) and overwhelmed with confusion (Betsy is displaced as the youngest when her mother has another baby.) But the best moments are the simplest--when they are eating Tacy's mother's famous unfrosted cake and lovely chicken sandwiches and dreaming of visiting the magical-sounding Milwaukee, or deciding that a wandering chicken belongs to them and coaxing it to produce an egg.

As I read, I'm lulled to a place of gentle enchantment, marveling in the story and yet somehow recognizing every word, familiar with every tiny shift of emotion, as if it hadn't been decades since my first time. And I'm thrilled by Jarrah's attention--I love hearing her repeat the plot details to David when he goes to tuck her in afterward--she remembers everything, too. When I sobbed my way through the chapter in which Baby Bee dies, she watched me attentively--not precisely moved or unmoved, not confused but not certain, either. Her look was one of discovery--my expression and voice becoming part of whatever revelations were contained in the story itself.

I don't yet know how Jarrah will truly feel about reading. Sure, I've done all the things you're supposed to do--read to her at bedtime every night, made sure she's surrounded by books, and possibly most important--modeling how important reading is to me. But that can backfire, too. One day, in a tantrum-y rage, she responded to my suggestion that she "read quietly in your room for a while" with "I DON'T LIKE READING" and I couldn't help but shoot back "Why don't you just STAB ME IN THE HEART?" Only time will tell if she's a real reader or someone who just gives lip service to that label. Or (horrors) someone who feels no real need to read at all.

What I know right now is this: when I imagined the most precious moments of parenting, the ones that are burnished-Saturday-Evening-Post-glow-with-crackling-fire-and-cocoa kind of moments, I imagined them exactly like this. Me, reading aloud one of my most beloved books from childhood. She, listening with rapt attention and shining eyes.

I want to believe it will last.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fine, Upstanding, Healthy, Normal

So I got cast after all. I know! As "Adult Chorus." As far as I can tell, it means we have half as many songs as the "Teen Chorus." But it's Bye Bye Birdie, so I guess it makes sense for the teens to sing a lot. I'm just all about the gratitude.

When the director called, I was so busy going Squeeeee! over him that I had to stop at one point and go "Wait. You were actually saying something. Sorry." And then I was agog at the crowd at the read-through--45 people in the cast! But last night we started doing the harmonies with our saucy-yet-sweet music director, and I must admit I had a marvelous time. I made friends with the gal playing Rosie (she and I are the only two soprano-alto "hybrids" so we're standing together) and really dug into the challenge of hitting those notes.

I was proud of myself for some of those high ones. And for being brave enough to say "both" when he arranged us. I wouldn't have known to say that except that our music director in Choo Choo, in answer to "So I'm definitely an alto, right?" said "Actually, you're both. You've got about an octave and a half." I was also proud of myself for singing the same line over and over again (eight times!) while the pianist called "Again. And again. And again." while everyone stared at me because he wanted to see if I could go from very high to low (just me) on one closing line. I could do it; I just couldn't quite REMEMBER it after I'd done it. Luckily, I have a recording now so I can practice.

I'm looking forward to more fun learning songs and hopefully some dances, if they let us creaky old adults do a little shimmying when the teens are infinitely more qualified. I'm also looking forward to getting to know this vast group of people--already everyone seems incredibly nice and eager to chat. I guess it doesn't hurt that I already knew seven of them from David and Lisa.

My main take-away from the first night is that I'm totally in over my head and I like it. Half the time I didn't know what they were talking about, and everyone was way ahead of me, and my face was burning with shame and confusion, but in a good way.

That's most of the news from here. Oh, Jarrah got a note sent home saying she "has a lot of friends and likes to chat and visit during transition times," but just between you and me? I could think of worse notes to send home. I mean, I talked to her about it, and she clearly imbibed the message because when I was in there helping out with art and they were brainstorming ideas for "dreams for our classroom" (the lesson was Martin Luther King, Jr.) Jarrah chimed in with "I dream of a classroom in which everyone pays attention and listens to the teacher, because that would be the best environment for everyone to be able to learn." I may have snort-laughed just a bit, because suddenly all the kids were asking "Why is that funny?" and when I said "Oh, it's not. Not funny at all." they said "Then why were you laughing?" Yes, boys and girls: why was I laughing? Hmmm.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Perchance To Dream

Oh my goodness, I'm a weepy mess. Maybe because I haven't slept this week. Well, I finally slept last night because I knocked myself out with an Ambien, but for the four (!) nights previous I averaged about two hours. Why? Hmm. Maybe because we're back on this inhumane school schedule of waking in the dark. Maybe because I had a big audition this week.

Oh yeah, the audition. I had high hopes for this one. I worked really diligently with my voice coach over the holidays, and practiced like crazy with my headphones and my little recordings. My coach was pushing me to go for broke, and chose the hardest part of the song--it was the Barbara Streisand version of "Luck Be A Lady," and as he put it--"Babs likes those chords a little crunchy." The last section has crazy runs up and down the octave and three incredibly long held notes in soprano (read: not really my) range on which occasionally I would crack like a 13-year-old boy. And the fear of that...not a great confidence-builder.

Anyway, enough with the excuses. The one thing I can be proud of is how hard I worked. But at the audition itself, the keyboard was so much slower than I recognized, giving me lots of opportunity to get warbly and "pitchy, dawg." Plus he said some alarming stuff like "So these few bars, you'll just ad-lib?" and and I should have immediately said "WHAT? I will do no such thing."

Then there was a dance combination, and all the leggy teens were warming up in their tights and their stretchy jazz baby shoes, while I was looking ridiculous in my audition dress. I have to confess, learning the combination was great fun, though difficult, even when a wheezing old guy with a gray beard punched me in the ass while flailing around and it hurt an amazing amount. I soldiered on, and don't think I embarrassed myself too much.

But I didn't get a callback, and I was sad, and that disturbed my sleep, too. Second musical audition, second time without a callback. Right here is the moment where I have to stretch out my remaining confidence like taffy and little cracks and fissures start to emerge. But what can I do? I really want to sing, on stage, doing choreography, with a bunch of people, in a really big show. I guess I just have to keep working. And trusting my instincts. I can sing the HELL out of the slow open for "Luck Be A Lady." I should have done that, even if it didn't "showcase" a range that I may or may not have, depending on the day or the occasion.

Oh, so the weepiness. Yeah, over everything. I wept over Modern Family last night because Phil was waiting for a call from his doctor and I was having flashbacks. I wept copiously while reading Jarrah the dread Chapter 8 ("The Easter Eggs") from Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy (some of those chapters came back to me like a song in my heart, but I had sort of blocked Chapter 8, and now I know why...Baby Bee dies.) Jarrah watched my face carefully, with light perplexity, as my voice cracked and quavered over Betsy's attempts to console her best friend after her sister's death.

She didn't see me burst into tears in her classroom the day before, since I turned my face to the wall. There is a new poster display in there that is called something like "Making Friends On The Playground."

1. You can go up to anyone you like and ask them to be your friend.

2. You are allowed to say yes when someone asks you to be their friend.

3. The number of people you should ask to be your friend before coming to find me:


Oh, the horror, the horror! I wasn't sure what I was feeling, but I didn't like it. And turns out this sleep thing is really useful for helping us to manage our responses to the world.

Monday, January 02, 2012

The Jarrah Alphabet (Version 7.0)

A is for Amanda. Jarrah's 18-year-old pretend alter-ego, and apparently a friend of mine who likes to stop by for coffee to chat about her kid, Xavier, and movies we've both seen.

B is for Bossy. On playgrounds across the world, the sound you hear is my daughter telling strangers what to do and how to do it. Wonder where she gets that?

C is for Chess. New favorite game to play with Daddy. Hasn't won yet, but is surprisingly keen anyway. Wants me to learn. Not going to happen.

D is for Drama. It's a 24-hour festival of tantrums, fits of pique and storms of righteous indignation around here.

E is for Enter. Ever since she could write, there's been a theme and variations on the sign "DO NOT COME IN" on her bedroom door.

F is for Friends. The more, the merrier. One of the things I'm most proud of is how empathetic she can be with her peers. Also still tries to befriend teenagers, but it's harder now, and it causes me physical pain to watch them reject her. I've been told it's not my job to protect her from feelings, though. Rats. Really? 'Cause I totally want to.

G is for Gouda, Smoked. She's obsessed with the stuff and sometimes eats 5 or 6 slices a day. But don't try to pass off the regular, unsmoked Gouda as edible. Whaddaya think, she was born yesterday?

H is for Homework. We were spared last year, but are paying for it now--the packets that come home are full of mystifying word problems and "algebra." What happened to good old-fashioned addition and subtraction? Now, I check her homework, and then David checks mine--several times I've gotten stuff wrong.

I is for Ice Skating. The exciting hobby of the moment, and the first one she seems to look forward to, even asking to go early to her lessons for free skate time. We just got her real white leather skates for her birthday. Started the second level today!

J is for Joy. Her Chongqing cousin, they seem closer all the time. It used to be cute when they just played side-by-side, but now they have elaborate, pretend worlds and never seem to get bored of each other.

K is for Kiss. This act has become yucky, and she instructs David and I not to do it. When she saw a kiss in We Bought A Zoo recently, she announced, "That is NOT appropriate."

L is for Lick. Her main interest in baking is licking the implements involved, including anything with sugar, butter, frosting or batter. I have to restrain her from bowls with raw eggs. And a favorite snack is licking sprinkles off a plate.

M is for Mad Libs. Bless her innocent little heart if "stinky" isn't the raciest word to grace those grayish pages thus far, but she cracks up anyway. Also love how I'm surreptitiously teaching her about nouns and adjectives.

N is for No. It's like she's two again and this is her favorite word. Only now the hint of desperation is gone and it's more sort of menacing.

O is for Owies. Scrapes are more horrifying than ever, provoking floods of tears even if they require a magnifying glass to see, but can (and must) be instantly cured by a Band-Aid. Even if the Band-Aid is covering a splinter the size of a toothpick.

P is for Phineas and Ferb. Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons and Sponge Bob still rank, but nothing inspires more random, enthusiastic, out-of-context recaps than the two crafty brothers and their sister, "Kansas."

Q is for Quickly. The rate at which we are still not doing things, especially right before school and anytime we are paying for something that starts in ten minutes.

R is for Reading. Nothing warms this mom's heart faster than seeing her darling curled up in bed with a good book. So what if she still prefers the pictures? Her pronunciation is SICK.

S is for "Scratchy." As in the size 2T pink t-shirt with the koala decal (thanks, Nana and Granddad!) she still sleeps with. Every. Night. No exceptions. Not IN, Readers. With.

T is for Treats and Toys. Either or both is required to motivate her. Preferred treats: anything gummy--still. Preferred toys: anything with tiny, rubber girlie accessories--still.

U is for Under. As in "under water." Which is where--since she learned to swim this summer--she would prefer to be at all times, including those times that are dark and below 60 degrees.

V is for Vampires. She's "a good one," she tells me. One that "only drinks the blood of the emeny."

W is for Weird. Partial list of things she will eat that I won't: shrimp cocktail, guacamole, refried beans, black olives, pumpkin pie, mayonnaise, spicy salami. Things she won't TOUCH: peanut butter (??) chocolate milk (???) hot cocoa (????)

X is for XBox. Maybe this makes me sound all self-righteous, but oh well: My kid is not playing computer games, either hand-held or on the TV. See above where her brain cells are already simmered in Sponge Bob and I'm desperately clinging to the last vestiges of imaginative play where she genuinely enjoys talking to a pile of plastic figurines for an hour.

Y is for Yet. As in "not yet." The list includes tying her shoes, washing her own hair, riding a bike and procuring her two front teeth.

Z is for Zombies. No, I do not let my kid watch The Walking Dead. But she saw a picture on the cover of Entertainment Weekly and now many of our drive-time chats begin like this: "So, if zombies catch you, how do they remove your flesh? Are their nails sharp, or just their teeth? Do they also drink your blood, or just vampires? And why do their eyes have white stuff?"