It makes sense not to swear around your toddler. She picks things up. She mimics you. She said “geez kid” the other day after you said, “Geez, kid, stop climbing into the bathtub.” She learns words you don’t even teach her. Like “farmer’s market,” and “soy sauce,” and the lines to “Scarborough Fair.”

It’s eerie, is what it is.

She shouts, “See you guys!” when friends leave. What the heck happened to “bye-bye”? And her latest copycat-ism: “Indeed.”

You didn’t even know you were saying it, did you? Who says, “Indeed” anymore? But it  must be you. You’d notice if Husband was saying it. So you ask her if she’d like more milk. “Yes, indeed,” she says. How about some goldfish crackers? you ask. “Goldfish…crackers…indeed,” she says, weighing each word carefully, as if they were vowels on Wheel of Fortune. Did we see a dog yesterday? you ask. “Dog indeed.”

Where is my child? you want to ask. Why are you running around sounding like you swallowed a book of Jane Austen fan fiction? Come back, little Z! Come back!

You’ve been paying attention to what you say now, searching for that “indeed.” The one that jumped out of your mouth and created an indeeding indeeder. Haven’t found one yet.

Puzzling indeed.

Oh, because I’ve been watching it over and over again (Z is obsessed with the Sienna family now), here’s a link to the Swagger Wagon music video from Toyota. I don’t drive a Toyota, nor do I have any immediate plans to go out and buy a minivan, but this is hilarious.

Come back Friday for my second, very-cool, very nifty author interview, featuring local author and poet Josh Fernandez!

If You’re Happy and You Know It

First, two cute toddler things:

1) Z has been dancing and trying out hand motions to songs for awhile now, and I believe this is a result of a couple of different factors: the Music Together program, and the fact that I often sing to Z and recite nursery rhymes and poems instead of suffering through enjoying her scintillating conversations about whether the dogs next door are awake, asleep, eating, wearing diapers, singing, or barking.

Of course I’d like to believe a huge part of her love of music and dancing is due to a) her inherent genius-ness and b) an inheritance of my own unrealized talent for singing and dancing (I can hear family and friends laughing aloud at this. Shut up. I’m totally talented as a singer/dancer. Chicago NEEDS me, and everyone would love Cats if I were cast as Grizabella and warbled out “Memory”).

Whatever the reason for the dancing and accompanying hand movements, it’s pretty cute.

2) Another cute thing is her Entourage. This is the name I’ve given her stuffed animal friends. Not all of them are animals, though. We have Mr. Penguin, Talula (a cat), Noop (a doll), Doggie, Giraffe, Giraffe (again), Bird, and…Necrotizing Fasciitis. Necrotizing Fasciitis is a giant stuffed microbe holding a fork and knife, a joke gift from when Husband did lab work in school.

Z carries her Entourage around the house. Usually she only has three A-listers, since that’s all she can manage to carry, and she switches it up a bit (perhaps Z, too, notices that conversation can get dull when hanging out with the same person day after day after day).

The cute things are totally necessary right now, because life has not been serene or happy in my house lately. I have to steal these cute moments when they come, because at naptimes and most of the night she has been an Unholy Terror of Screaming Proportions (UTSP). The UTSP is not happy, and everyone knows it. Including the neighbors, their dogs, and the people one county over. There has been so little hand-clapping, foot-stomping, shouting-hooray fun here that I even -gasp!- considered getting a job and sending the UTSP to daycare just so I don’t have to deal with her anymore. Last night I was about to give Husband my formal resignation.

But then, she was falling asleep in her enchilada at 6:30, so we (er, Husband, that is, since I was still busy sulking) whisked her off to bed, and she didn’t wake up until 6:30 this morning. Which for Z, and by default, me, is sleeping in.

I don’t know if the sunny disposition will last, for either of us, which is why I’m going to clap my hands, stomp my feet, shout hooray, and let my face show the tiny, stolen happinesses I find.

Writer Quiz

Dreamer? Wisher? Hoper? Player? [A Friday Free-for-All Entry]

1. Do you have at least seven titles but no salable manuscript?

2. Have you spent over two hours finessing your writing space (on purpose–not just cumulatively over the years)?

3. Is your Acknowledgments page already drafted (if even in your head)?

4. Do you read five or more different writer blogs?

5. Can you hear your friends groaning when you ask them to read your manuscript (again)? Even if you’re asking in an email?

6. How many times have you checked the query success pie charts on an authors website like

7. Have you ever used your blog as an excuse to put off revising your manuscript?

8. Have you ever used dirty dishes as an excuse to put off revising your manuscript?

9. Is your manuscript…
a) halfway through the first draft
b) finished after only a few months
c) halfway through a rewrite after it was supposedly finished?

10. If someone asked you to describe your writing routine, would your answer be among the following?
a) when inspiration hits
b) when my child takes her nap
c) when the moon is full and I’ve just finished a Laurell K. Hamilton book for inspiration

11. How many drinks does it take for you to think your writing is “really great?” Is it the same number it takes to make you think you’re speaking fluently in a foreign language?

12. Do you indulge in fantasies where Stephenie Meyer greets you with the words, “Dang, I wish I had thought of that idea”?

13. Do you indulge in fantasies where Seth Green bites your neck (as he did Stephenie Meyer’s) at the premier of your book-made-into-a-film? Have you lost 15 pounds in said fantasy?

14. Do you feel just a tad bit queasy posting this blog entry, knowing that it’s sort of a confession but put into the form of a survey?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, wow. Get thee to a writer’s conference.

Yes, yes. I’m going. Tomorrow.

Reno, bay-bee!

Mayan Pick-up Lines

For today’s Friday Free-for-All I’m cheating and recycling something I wrote a long time ago. Yeah, I need a break. It’s late. [And I don’t know what’s going on with the formatting, but I’ll fix it later…maybe.]

When asked about my language learning experience, I don’t conjure up memories of singing Alouette in high school French class or of trying to teach myself German with a best friend, a book, and a cassette. Instead I look back to my Spanish learning in the mini-immersion sessions I had at a restaurant I worked at in San Rafael.

Not surprisingly, the kitchen staff, including cooks, dishwashers, and busboys, were all Latino. More specifically, they were all Mexican, with the exception of one Peruano late in the game. This is a common theme in San Rafael. The owners, managers, and anyone who makes money is white; everyone else is…not.

But the guys had fun. Until the owner or manager came in, they’d blast their Spanish radio station as they did prep work. Pedro would sing along as he made meatballs. Sergio would curse and flick balls of pizza dough at the dishwasher. Ernesto and Saulo would throw bits of olive at me as I refilled pepper grinders. Julian would talk to me about his English class, his girlfriend in Mexico, and the latest rumors about the lunch shift busboy.

At first I just listened to the Spanish. The guys would eat their pizza in a collective group after the shift was over, and I’d pick at my salad and be quiet. In the beginning, when they all burst out into laughter, I would feel anxious and self-conscious. Are they laughing at me? Is a piece of broccoli wedged between my teeth? As time passed, I lost some of my reservations and let the unfamiliar sounds roll around me so I could be still and enjoy the music.

Soon I wanted to join in on the conversation, and with the occasional gracias or por favor, I started speaking Spanish. The plenitude of teachers inspired me. I could gesture to anything–a box, an apron, a fork–and learn its Spanish name immediately. I’m not sure how it happened, but I know it started with short phrases: para llevar, por favor, Julian, and soon moved into sentences: Este es para mesa treinta y tres. Quieren dos cajas por favor.

I needed to be heard. Waiting tables in a busy restaurant is the material of nightmares (I know, because I still have them if I think about the restaurant too much), and I wanted to perform my nightmare well. That meant communicating effectively with the kitchen. Julian, the busboy, was my main teacher and translator. We conducted informal tutorials by the servers station as i scarfed down fresh-baked bread before the restaurant opened, or as I ate my free meal at the end of the shift. He asked me questions about English, and I tried out my Spanish phrases. As my Spanish improved, our conversations turned into a strange hybrid language, back and forth, English and Spanish, Spanish and English. In the middle of a Spanish sentence, I’d falter on a word. If I could describe it in Spanish, I could, and Julian would supply the word afterwards. I could always fall back on como se dice?
As far as functioning in the workplace, I found that when asking questions or giving instructions, Spanish was faster. It was smoother and danced out of my mouth in a melodic and concise string. Also, considering that many of the kitchen staff didn’t know much English, Spanish was more expressive; with Spanish I could communicate both what I needed and why in just a few words. The owner felt this was bad for business, somehow, since the kitchen was an open kitchen and our Spanish communications could be overheard by customers. He told me to speak English with the cooks, but I was never really able to stop the Spanish. As I said, it was too convenient.
Eventually I discovered that sometimes the  guys weren’t speaking English or Spanish. “Julian, what are they saying?”
“It’s in Maya,” he said, and translated some of the words.
“You speak Mayan, too?”
“My grandfathers taught me.”
I asked Julian and some of the cooks to teach me Mayan as well, but I didn’t get far with it–just hi, how are you; good; where are you going? nowhere; what are you doing? nothing, and…let’s have sex. The last one was a joke Julian played on me.
The guys told so many jokes in Spanish–about each other’s girlfriends, about the boss, about each other’s supposed femininity. A large part of my desire to learn Spanish was a desire to be in on the jokes. I wanted to be one of the guys.
Early on I was a novelty–almost a muñeca (toy doll) in the restaurant. My pronunciation errors and other mistakes made the cooks laugh genially, not frown with indignation. Learning Spanish in this way prevented me from feeling pressured, and I never felt stupid. It was all for fun, and I took on my identity of a white girl learning Spanish with glee. It probably helped that the cooks found me pretty and flirtatious, and I would repeat pretty much anything they said slowly enough for me to hear. (Hence, “let’s have sex,” in Mayan. Which sounds something like “cosh tseets.’)
As my knowledge of the language grew, however, the guys stopped staring at me and started treating me like a sister. The transition was slow, and I barely noticed it. What I do remember now is being very uncomfortable at first–I was touched and ogled a lot. It seems, though, that the change happened as I got to know each of the cooks individually, and they got to know me. It seems that as they learned I was a person with my own emotions too, they could stop treating me as a muñeca, or an object. This was reciprocal: the salad chef stopped being “the salad guy,” and became Guillermo. Communication was a huge factor in the transition from muñeca to person, and it didn’t really matter in which language the communication took place. But it had to take place.

For awhile when I went back to visit the restaurant, I would shout to the kitchen first and throw big hugs all around. Slang phrases came back to me in a rush, and I practiced “your mama” jokes with Sergio. There was always a lot to catch up on with Julian, like the house he was having built in Mexico with money he sent home, or whether or not his suspicions of his girlfriend being unfaithful were true. Everyone called me Doña Bethie since I got married, and they would ask me all sorts of inappropriate questions in Spanish. In my view, there was inherent respect in that, as they were treating me not so different from each other.

The last time I went back I had Z strapped to me in her baby carrier. Julian and Sergio were gone; only Guillermo from the old crew was left. I knew Julian wouldn’t be there anymore; his phone number stopped working about a year after I moved to Davis. Still I was saddened; the kitchen wasn’t the same. These guys had no idea that I knew how to tell them to take care of their butts in Spanish, and without the close friendship forged through stressful Friday night rushes, they didn’t care. I don’t think I’ll go back there very often anymore. It’s too painful to miss the faces and voices of my friends.