How do you spell out what you don't want your child to hear when she just won the 17th annual Scripps Regional Spelling Bee competition?
No problem for David Greenberg and Marisol Villamil, who say it loud and say it proud: Their daughter has always been No. 1 in their book.
Now they can book a trip to the national finals, in Washington, D.C., where daughter Lena Greenberg will compete beginning June 1.
It was the second spelling triumph for the recent Bat Mitzvah of Mishkan Shalom in Roxborough, who finished second runner-up last year.
But this year, before a crowd of some 800 people in the audience at Microsoft's School of the Future, in West Philadelphia — and after 28 rounds (including the word "dreidel," which she nailed) and 156 fifth-through-eighth-grade competitors — this home-schooled (by her mom) seventh-grader knew what spelled relief after the four-hour contest: C-y-t-o-l-y-s-i-s (a breaking down of cells).
What does Lena do, study Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body every night at bedtime?
No, she laughs. "Luck has a lot to do with it, and I studied word roots a lot and language patterns."
There is a pattern here; she is also good at spelling in Hebrew.
Easy as cake, but hard as a shoo-fly pie? Oh, "shoo-fly": That's the word she faltered on last year, she remembers.
If she won on the last word last week at the contest, sponsored by The Philadelphia Tribune, then who has the last word at home when it comes to rules and regulations for her and her sister, Anna, 16?
"Oh, they're in charge," she says of her parents; Dad teaches screenwriting at the University of the Arts, while Mom, well, Mom sets the lesson plans.
Plans for the future? "I want to be an author," claims Lena.
She's got the celebrity thing down pat. And, in a word, she admits she found this interview …
"Exciting; e-x-c-i-t-i-n-g. Exciting."