TWO- Lady Baby is TWO.


Every year on their birthday  I write my children a letter, this is Piper’s second birthday letter.

(this is so late due to so much site trauma. So third child, my LadyBaby, please forgive me.)





My Sweetest Lady,

You are two. Without a doubt these have been the two fastest years of my life. I’ve blinked and you’re two.

And what a two year old you are!

Your aunt says  “Piper’s such a little bad ass” and it’s one of my favorite things that’s ever been said about you. You are. You are as girly as they come. You only want pink, sparkly things around you, and if they are Minnie Mouse related, all the better! You are distinctive in your clothing choices already, obsessed with shoes, a jewelry thief of the highest order. Your sweet  little “tink you” when you get what you want will melt even the coldest heart. But should anyone mess with you?

Nope. Not today.

You are beyond fearless. You walk right up to the pool and plunge right in. Can’t swim? No big. You’ll figure it out. I am so grateful that you have deemed your pink safety float as a desirable accessory, because none of us can keep up with you!

You are determined, when you want to do something, you do it.

You are a sneak out of bed and destroy your room expert. You climb ALL the things and give me terrors over it! I kept finding these long bruises on your ribs and I admit it took me a while to realize it was because you were hurling yourself (quietly) out of your crib and then hurling yourself back in before the sun rose.  So off came the crib rail, and I was thrust into my last baby being a full on KID. But you’re my kid. I took you shopping for bedding for your new bed and you marched past all the characters and prints and went right for a frilly white quilt. “is Pippi!” You announced and I handed my card over to the cashier feeling so proud.


I’ve had to move things so you can’t get up on your dresser, take even the toddler rail off your bed, due to your climbing and jumping in the middle of the night. Keeping you safe is a full time job. There are no baby gates on our stairs, we had to put a hook and eye lock on your door for nighttime because you took one look at the baby gate at the top of our very steep stairs and attempted to hurl yourself over it.

You call yourself Pippi, or Mon Pippi, because you own yourself and apparently you are French.  Your brothers still call you Lady or The Lady. Speaking of brothers, oh how they love you and you love them! Max is sweet and kind and makes sure you are safe and plays so happily with you. He thinks of you as his and takes a great deal of responsibility for you. And Huckleberry, I am not going to lie, Huck had a hard time when you were born. It’s rather common, but now you and he are best friends. He beats you up like crazy, won’t leave you alone and is always in your space. You LOVE it. And when you don’t, well…the little bad ass comes out and takes care of business. I like to tease that you are twins, you and Huck. The Terrific Twosome! You are wild and adventurous and the way you laugh together absolutely makes my heart want to burst.

You can sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and the ABC song and several others like a PRO! You can identify most shapes and all the major colors, especially PINK!

You are inventive and silly, sweet and snuggly, and so full of personality.

You rarely throw tantrums, when you do they seem to be short lived- so far. Our favorite tantrum thing you do is fall to the ground and cry “Why! WHYYYYYYYYYYY?” Someday we will show you video of an ice skater named Nancy Kerrigan and tell you how without even knowing it you performed pitch perfect imitations of her, regularly.

You were our missing piece. With you we are complete. You are utterly adored by your father, who is powerless against your charms. He doesn’t even get grumpy when we come home with yet another pair of shoes, he just smiles and says “anything for Piper.”

You bring joy to everyone you meet, you wave at strangers and we will need to drive home some stranger danger lessons soon as you tend to just go up to anyone who looks like a grandpa and asked to be picked up.

That’s not cool. How do we encourage your friendliness and teach you not to just GO with people?


Happy Birthday my sweet Lady Baby. You are the center of this family’s universe. Watching you play with your brothers heals my soul. Max teaches you love and kindness and gentle play. Huck makes sure no one will ever mess with you and with him you take over the world!
The three of you are a force to be reckoned with, trust me, I know. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.






Whole 30 when you have been eating disordered.


10835168_10152659607565876_5416511026038435177_oThis summer my entire family decided to do Whole30 and I was definitely on board. Once I had Piper and was able to eat again I basically went crazy.  I was feeling sluggish and crappy and honestly?  I have a sugar problem. As in I was eating a big bag of Hershey Kisses a day. No exaggeration. So, primarily I wanted to do it to get that out  of my system. I knew I wasn’t eating well and I know food really DOES impact how we feel, think and behave.

I was in bad habits and wanted to change them, but as an eating disordered person I know this can be a tricky business. In fact one thing that snuck up on me was when I had HG and my neonatologist had be sipping protein shakes trying to keep them down I ended up switching shakes. The ones he had prescribed were the same ones I was on when I had to relearn how to have food. Without even realizing it I started thinking how great it was! I was thinking when the baby was born I would just keep eating ice chips and drinking the shakes. As soon as I recognized that thought pattern, I changed shakes and flavors and that helped a lot.

My point is that as far out as I am from eating disordered behaviors, the thoughts sometimes pop up.  And as I want to stay alive I do need to consume my addictive substance-food. I cannot quit it like a drug addict. I need to have my addictive substance while not having addictive behaviors. And for many eating disordered people, restrictive diets are an addictive behavior.

For me restrictive diets are both a good thing- they give me freedom from worry. I know what I am allowed and not allowed and like any structure I find comfort within them.  However, they are also a bad thing. Because I’m a bit like Crocodile Dundee and his “That’s not a knife” quote. That’s not a restrictive diet. THIS is a restrictive diet! And the next thing I know I am only eating 5 thin slices of apple and 7 almonds. That only can last so long before I will binge and purge.

So, I knew going into this I needed to be careful. Luckily for me I had already done a restrictive elimination diet before under a doctor’s care and knew a few things, like corn tortillas etc were fine for me. I went in to it with a resolve to focus on health and energy and not worry about weight. (Which was good because at the end of the  30 days I weighed the exact same) I made a few of my own rules, I had splenda in my coffee and non-dairy creamer. I already knew dairy was really hard on my system.  So was definitely cutting that out.

I realized several things during this month. One: my stomach was a lot smaller than I thought. Once I got over that omg I want all the junk food craving I was satisfied with decent sized portions and able to stop when I was full a lot easier. Two: by the second week the cravings were gone and I wasn’t feeling like I was being deprived. Three: I have a sweet craving in the afternoon and it was easily taken care of with almonds, coconut, and dried cranberries (get the ones from the salad toppings section, not craisins) Four: I felt GREAT! I had so much more energy, I was sleeping better, my skin was looking good. All around it was  a total win! Five: while I didn’t lose weight, it was like I depuffed. It was the weirdest thing!

Then we went to the beach and we ate our own weight in ice cream. And I puffed right back up!

My general plan is a 90/10 split. I want to eat whole 30 compliant most f the time but have the freedom to have a hot fudge sundae without feeling badly. I want to be vigilant, not only for me but for my daughter. I want to focus on being strong and healthy and NOT on weight loss or being thin. I will verbalize why i choose salads with protein over pastas….I simply FEEL better. But I will make sure she sees me indulge, she will see me enjoy ice cream and birthday cakes. Mostly I want her to see me honor my needs and actual hunger. I will grab a snack if I am hungry. I won’t say the word diet to her or to myself.

I almost died from an eating disorder and I will do my best to guard my girl from that experience.

It starts with being healthy. That’s my vow.

(You can read about my struggle with eating disorders here)


Each year on their birthdays I write my children a letter. This is Piper’s first letter.

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My darling girl,

I am in denial that you, my last baby, have had your last night as a baby and are bravely tackling the new moniker of toddler.  I am certain that this denial will follow your growth, but I promise not to let it get in the way of your growth. This past year has flown by. I feel as though I have blinked and you are one.

When your father and I were deciding if we wanted another baby, a woman told me “You might regret it if you don’t, but you will never regret it if you do.” She was so right. You are an absolute treasure to our entire family. You make us softer, kinder, and stronger.  When we go out it never fails that someone smiles at you and says softly, sometimes to us and sometimes under their breath “how precious”. Everyone we meet recognizes indeed how precious you are. Priceless.

Your brothers dote on you. Max loves you unconditionally and takes the job of protector and builder of self-esteem very seriously. You never go long without a kiss, a hug, and you never want for a toy, the very moment you reach for one your big brother is off to get it for you. Your eyes positively light up when you look at each other.  Huck also only has eyes for you.  Baby Big Brother is making you tough, he loves you so much, he sometimes hugs too hard and wants to hold you too tight. He teaches you to stand up for yourself, and heaven help whoever crosses you…he or she will have the three of you to deal with!

I was so worried about having a girl, I myself had a hard time and I struggled in my relationship with my mother. I will try hard not to repeat the same mistakes, but I am certain to make some. My love for you is all encompassing and every new accomplishment of yours is met with great celebration from us all.

You are the sweetest little girl, you are kind and gentle and you are such a delight that I don’t even care that you still wake up every two hours at night. Daddy doesn’t even care that sometimes I have to tag him in because at least once a week Pippy Dulli, Party Girl likes to party from 2-5 a.m.

You prefer savory to sweet, choosing chicken and vegetables over fruits. You love spaghetti and sauce. You hate sticky fingers.

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You were the first of my children who didn’t care for cake.




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But you love tiaras. Your first stop is always to steal anything pink, sparkly, or girly. You, so far, are all girly girl. When we showed you your presents you squeaked and squealed because they were pink and you knew they were for you. Recently we took you shopping and your father got the biggest kick out of what you and I already knew; you are a girl who knows what she wants. He would hold up a dress or shirt and you would either smile and reach for it cooing excitedly or give him a face that clearly said you can’t be serious, no way am I wearing that. 

That is how you came home with more clothes than anyone, none of us can resist you!

You are not easy to anger but woe upon the poor soul (usually Huck) who takes one of your toys from you. When you are really mad you put your fist in your mouth and shake your head back and forth making a loud noise. Everyone in the family knows this means Baby Sister is pissed.

You know what you like and you let us know. You are strong, determined, sweet, silly, kind, and the absolute light of this family. With each of your siblings we felt like we couldn’t fathom how we lived without them. That is still true. When you were born it was like we looked around, the five of us and felt well! we are all here now.

Happy First Birthday my sweet girl. You brought healing to old wounds, and though I was afraid to have a daughter I can honestly say all those fears are gone. I am surrounded by good mothers of daughters to look too, including both your grandmothers, and you have strong men who will love and care for you all your life. I missed out on that and I felt that loss tremendously, you won’t.

I love you with all of my being. Just the thought of you make me smile.

That woman was right, I never regretted it. You are a gift to us all. We love you.

Love, Mommy

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My girl…


I worry about having a daughter. When Zach and I first got married I was emphatic that we only have sons…as if I had control over that. I couldn’t handle a daughter. Not only was I myself a difficult and troubled teen and I can’t imagine how my mother survived -we still bear relationship scars from this time- but I couldn’t imagine surviving should I have a daughter who was as messed up as I was.

Adding to that was remembering how hard and sad and scary a time I had growing up, and certainly I perpetuated some of it. A cycle I didn’t realize I was in and unable to stop. Mean girls can target the weak in the herd quickly and I pretty much carried a big old sign that said “WEAK”.

And in a particularly pathetic mindset; I worried I would be jealous. I always wanted a father, and I worried that I would be jealous of any attention my husband showed my daughter (I am not proud of this thought process, thank you) and jealous of her that she grew up with what I didn’t have. Worried I would resent her.

But after two sons I grew up a bit more, realized that having a girl would not only NOT be the worst thing in the world, it might be the greatest addition our family could ask for. So we tried. Nothing happened. We decided two babies were perfect and so we let it go. The next month I was pregnant and I just knew it was a girl! Now she is six months old and I cannot remember feeling any of those ways. I can’t feel any way other than happy she breathes.

I worry of course, about my girl. I whisper in her ear all the time, sweet nothings but also words of strength. She is beautiful. She is STRONG! She is smart…and specifics…she is so good at tracking objects, so good at sitting up! Doing such a good job of figuring out this eating solids thing. I tell her every day with her is a treasure. I tell her that her smile lights the stars for me.

I whisper these things as if they are a prayer. Somehow they will safeguard her against mean girls, against body image issues, against eating disorders and choosing the wrong boys. That she will not cut her beautiful skin. I say them wishing they will protect her from self-hatred. I say them as if they will make her strong, with a healthy ego and self esteem, as if they will protect her from being, well, being like me. I say these prayers while kissing her and listening to the joyous giggle and squawk of babyhood. I breathe in her soft scent and nuzzle her belly and tell her she is perfect exactly as she is. Hoping that somehow she will know this is true. That she won’t be torn down.

That she will make it through unscathed. Somehow.




The best laid plans…


I had grand plans of Piper’s first Christmas. Yes, they all had matching PJ’s and I was going to bust out the big camera and do it RIGHT! The tree was packed full of presents. With both Huck and Max fully into Santa and the magic of Christmas we all got a little carried away… but…but…the flu, you guys.


And it was vicious. First victim was my sweet Max. Max rarely gets sick. But they called me to come get him from school before the break and dude went downhill quick. Three days of 103 fever and he was slowly on the mend. Just in time for me to get it. With my sister and nephew arriving for a long anticipated visit I basically handed the baby to my husband and said I AM GOING TO BED. Then slept for 48 hours. I was still icky but feeling okay. We wiped the entire house will all manner of lysol and toxic flu killing chemicals and welcomed my sister hoping we had stopped it in it’s tracks.

Not so much. We had a few good days and then it hit Huck like a Mac truck. He is the one we worry about, everything ends up in his lungs, just like mama. So we are still crawling out from under this bug. I hate it and wish it would die already!!

But Christmas was lovely nonetheless. I truly am one of those people don’t understand. I’d love to have my kids home allllllllllll the time. I am so selfish and want them and their awesomeness all to myself.

Except when I want to get away.

So now, the tree is down. My sister is gone and I am cuddled up with a not feverish but still coughing Huckleberry…

Back to life.

Princesses can be feminists, feminists can be princesses.

And they lived Happily Ever After…happily ever after

When I was four years old I wanted to be a fashion buyer for a department store and drive a tractor to work. I still think that would be a rad job, even if a tractor would make for a slow commute. I like the juxtaposition of the two. It also speaks to the child I was, that I not only wanted to dictate what I wore but also control the options that were available to everyone. I still do.

The other day Huck and I went to his very favorite place- Target- (I’ll take my parenting award now, thank you) and as a reward for some very good behavior he was allowed to pick one toy from the “partment”. It was a painstaking process. Would Legos win? Oh, look Power Rangers! No. No…new TMNT toys are in! Finally after about ten minutes of rumination he picked a real treasure. Pinky Pie, from My Little Pony. Or as he calls them La la pony. I smiled at him and handed over the $5.99 as he beamed at his treat. He is all boy, cars, wrestling and pink ponies. He defines who he is minute by minute, just as Max does. Max is all baseball and Beatles…and all about babies.

I like those juxtapositions too.

I hope my daughter will find her own as well. She will be free to define herself minute by minute too. Whatever she is into.

From the moment she was born people started telling me “No princesses!” “No matter what you do, just don’t do princesses!” and I have to admit that that hurt my heart a little because, well, I LOVE the Princesses! I can’t wait to share them with her!

I know, I know everyone hates the 1950’s the wedding is the ultimate goal of them all, and perhaps I was really dim as a girl- but I never took that away from those stories. I took many ideologies from them; you can travail over extreme obstacles, you can find beauty and friends in odd places. That there is evil in the world and that knowing who to trust is important. That optimism and perseverance can pay off. But scoring the man was not the main holdover for me. Perhaps it came from having a strong single mother. Toilet needs fixing? She did it. Want to rearrange heavy furniture? She’s doing it. I adopted that. It’s hard for me to wait even 10 minutes for help, I will just move that damn couch myself! Teach myself to use power tools so I can do what I want.  My daughter will learn that, alongside me just as I learned it alongside my mother.

By typical definition I am a “girly girl” and I love that. I love pretty clothes, jewelry, bedding…love it. BRING IT ON! I love looking and feeling like, let’s be honest, an aging Princess. And yes, my wedding was as Princess-y as I could get it. My gown was huge, my tiara glittered. I had one veil for the wedding and one for the reception. The location was as Castle like as I could find in all of Southern California. But so what? Does that make me less of a feminist?

No. Princess Stephanie rocks the feminism and true feminism is the opportunity for all women to have equal rights and opportunities to do with as THEY choose. Stay at home mom who wants to do nothing but be a quiverfull member? I might think you are crazy…but GO YOU! No kids, two doctorates in physics and kicking ass at work? That’s way beyond me ..but GO YOU! Or like most of us, we fall somewhere in the middle. We are stay at home moms who miss work and long for adult conversations and activities that don’t involve Caillou. We are stay at home moms who feel completely fulfilled just as we are. We are working women who want kids but not yet. We are working women who have kids. We are single moms, we are married and child free by choice. We are ALL women with all choices. That’s feminism. My personal brand of feminism involves creativity, pretty clothes, tiaras, power tools, fighting for reproductive rights and marriage equality and yes, I hate to break it to you; Princesses.

As a special bedtime treat my mother would sometimes put my read along Cinderella record on my turntable and we would act out the story. She being Prince Charming and of course I was Cinderella. I remember this vividly, one of those childhood memories that are snapshots of happiness. Several decades later I stood in a recording studio with a contract from Disney and narrated that very book for a new read-along. It was a dream come true for me. Cinderella. My favorite. I nailed it. It was beautiful. But my voice choked on one sentence so that we had to do several takes. Emotion bubbling to the surface as I spoke “and they lived happily ever after”

That moment was a happily ever after for me. Perhaps to some that phrase was the end of the story but to me it always seemed the beginning of infinite possibilities. My possibility involved a full circle from listening to the book to being a part of perhaps some other little girl acting out her story. Perhaps MY little girl acting out her story. I hope she will know Happily Ever After isn’t the end, it’s just the start, or perhaps it’s the middle. Our real lives aren’t over when we get married why would the Princess’s be? It might be the start of the Princess taking her throne, and a new phase of her using her power to effect change in the world. In her world whatever she defines that to be.

I am a feminist wrapped up in Princesses and that’s okay.

So don’t come down on my kid if she likes princesses. Don’t tell her no. Because if she is anything like me, she will kick your ass while wearing that glass slipper.

Just call her Piper Poppins.


Piper has been on this here green earth for three months and it seems like the blink of an eye! Why is three months an interminable length of time when you are pregnant and yet barely a breath when the baby arrives? No fair.

If there is one thing that Piper is, it’s adored. Max calls her Pippi Beautiful and says he can’t resist her because she is just so cute. Huck wants to just squeeze her till her head pops off, and if I had a dollar for every time I said PLEASE LEAVE YOUR SISTER ALONE! I could buy the most tricked out momma wagon in history. We are talking diamond encrusted steering wheel. Sometimes I think it’s all I say!

We’ve already developed several nicknames for her, Pippi, Pippilicious, Pippita Friskita Bandita Snugglita and of course, Pippi Poppins. Because she is practically perfect in every way. Obviously.

When she fusses (which is anytime she is put down because she would prefer to be held and snuggled every second of the day thankyouverymuch) you can hear two little boy voices quickly respond “I’m coming Piper!” It’s incredibly sweet, and sometimes frustrating. Huck is both obsessed with her and feeling a little displaced but luckily is madly in love and doesn’t resent her.

She is finally vocalizing, her coos are so cute! She smiles – mostly at her brothers, and wiggles with joy when you talk to her. She’s just…so sweet. She holds on to you when you pick her up and snuggles right in. It’s hard to put her down and so the laundry stays unfolded. Because she is the last baby and we all want to inhale her as much as we can. Especially me. Sometimes at night I just tuck her in bed with me to nurse because I don’t want to be away from her, even when she is just a few feet away in the basinet. She still wakes 2-3 times a night to nurse, sister is hungry! At 3 months she weighs 14 pounds, more than double her birth weight! She handled her first shots like a champ and once again I am just happily mindboggled at how much babies change from day to day.

She is, indeed, practically perfect in every way.


One of the weirdest things about motherhood…



When Max was a tiny cherub of a breastfed baby, I swear to you his tiny baby poops smelled like roses. Everyone thought I was crazy but I swear it was true. (Recently my very brilliant friend Stefanie remarked that baby poops smell like roses and that validated my theories) Anyway, Max had poops of roses. Sweet and precious!

Huck came crackling into this world a little sparkler of a person, long and lean where Max was round and chubby. His poops did not smell of roses, oh no. Rather they smelled of hot buttered popcorn. I promise you this is true.

Now, Piper. Precious, sweet a mixture of both of them. Quickly leaving her tiny newborn-ness behind and assuming full blown cherub status. Her sweet little breastfed baby poops smell neither of roses or hot buttered popcorn. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what they smelled like.

Finally I remarked to my partner in crime, Max, that I couldn’t place the smell but that it was familiar. (are you jealous of the conversations I have with my children?) He said with utter certainty “they smell like wine.”

um….what? But here’s the thing; they DO. They smell like a good red wine.

Now lest you go thinking I am sort of lush, I didn’t eat roses with Max and popcorn upsets my stomach. I have had a grand total of 4 wicked apple ciders and one Summer Shandy since Piper has been born. There is no more reason that her poops smell like wine any more than Max’s smelled like roses.

As for how Max remembers the smell of wine? Well, we did let him take a whiff when we were having a glass like ages ago. That kid does have a hell of a memory.

But they do. So sayeth Max. So sayeth us all.


Motherhood is crazy.

The dance of motherhood.

I dream at night of being a ballerina.

suzanne farrell holding onto air

I am lithe and long as I glide across the non-existent stage. My arms slender and pale, ethereal. I am so thin and so very strong and there is no shame; everything is exquisite. The arch of my foot tells the story. The the soft folds of my ballet dress float as I turn, pirouetting. I am Suzanne Farrell. I am Gelsey Kirkland. Long dark hair trailing behind me as I spin and jump, so free. It is my ascension to heaven.

I wake drenched in postpartum sweat, feet aching from unconsciously pointing in slumber to nurse the new baby.

My great grandfather was a bit of a scum. He was run out of town and went on to have an entirely different and separate family. My great grandmother, not one to suffer fools, bravely filed for divorce in a time when that simply was not done. She had four children and worked so hard, standing such long hours her uterus prolapsed at work. She was strong, but she was not lithe.

We met this other family once. A meet up of my grandmother and her half-sisters, one thrilled to have more family and one very put out that Daddy’s Girl has a girl before her. Never mind that he walked away and abandoned that very girl. I myself was always desperate for family and wanted to know them. Wanted to be with them. Wanted them to love me.

They didn’t.

They shared stories of my grandmother’s absent father and of his other grandchildren. I had cousins, they said. And they danced. I love to dance! I told them, all of 13 and full of dreams not yet unrealized. I thought we are the same, those cousins and me. Scoffing I was told no they dance. Ballet. With Balanchine and Baryshnikov, who’s poster hung on my wall above my bed. My heart soared. Maybe I could meet them? Maybe I could just glean a touch of that world from them. They had both left NYC Ballet and moved on to be Ballet Mistresses of their own companies by then. We never saw my grandmother’s half sisters again. One meeting was all. I don’t know if they kept in touch, perhaps my mother does.

I saw a ballet once in San Francisco listing my cousin’s name as Mistress. Was she in the building? Were we close? I imagined her perfect, strong.

The baby has violent hiccups and I dance my own dance of bounces, sways, and rhythmic pats until she quiets, giving a shuddering sigh and relaxes her wisp of a body fully into my arms. Gingerly I kiss her cheek, she still smells of heaven. She settles into her bed and I crawl back beneath the covers and try to rest.

I am not thin. I am not strong. I am not even a success anymore. I feel sad for myself that I haven’t accomplished anything of great worth. No real goals achieved. When you are small years seem to take forever to pass and suddenly you blink and your thirties are gone. And here I still am, tied to the ground. Heavy. I miss the theatre. I miss my old friends who smoked on the fire escape at intermission. I miss the stories they told. It’s as if I missing a limb.

But truly I am happy here and now. There is no music more beautiful than my children’s laughter. There is no ballet as intricate as their play, beautiful and painful.

The sun rises, as it always does and things look brighter. My sons and I pour love over their new sister, kissing her head to toe while we wonder what she will like. Princesses they say assuredly. And baseball. I hold her impossibly tiny foot and she points. A good arch. I smile and wonder will she want to dance too? Will she want to act? Whatever she chooses I envision her strong and ascending upwards to her dream.

Perhaps motherhood is it’s own version of Ballet Mistress. My company my brood of babes. Warm ups are Yo Gabba  and the Wiggles. The music the Beatles and Green Day and Sophia The First. The steps are wild and unpredictable. More Twyla Tharp than Balanchine.