Monday, August 29, 2011

Goodnight Tween

We are away this week, enjoying a final family vacation before it all begins again. Five days on the coast of Maine. No cell phones, no email, no texting. Heaven!

So, I thought I'd entertain you with that timeless childhood classic, Goodnight Moon, reinterpreted for a ... well ... more complicated age.


Goodnight Tween

In the great blue room, there was a tired tween
Who had just made a scene
And a picture of ...
Karen O'Connor, Olympian queen
And there were three CDs
And countless tees
And ribbons of blue
And a random shoe
And leftover lunch that was turning to mush
And a quiet old mother who was whispering "hush"
Goodnight tween
Goodnight scene
Goodnight disagreement that led to the scene
Goodnight laptop
And Abercrombie jeans
Goodnight tees
Goodnight CDs
Goodnight blue
And goodnight shoe
Goodnight lunch that's definitely mush
And goodnight to the old mother now hollering "HUSH!!!!"
Goodnight stars
Goodnight air
Goodnight BFFs everywhere

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Seven Tweenly Sins

"Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all." ... Joseph Epstein

I truly believe that all babies are born innocent and good. Regardless of their religion or whether anyone puts holy water on their head, no baby in my book ends up in limbo. If there is a heaven, and I hope there is, it is chock-a-block full of babies.

But, something happens along the way as they grow wise, grow stubborn and grow up. Tweens may still be little angels on the inside, but they can be positively devilish on the outside.

Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride. The seven tweenly sins will not land the typical tween in hell, but they can certainly put well-meaning moms in parental purgatory.

Let's begin at the beginning: Lust. My daughter, like every other girl her age, is pure passion. Much to her father's relief, her lust for life does not yet center around boys or even one particular boy (I won't count Darren Criss from Glee; while her admiration runs deep, she hasn't technically met him). She does, however, love her horses with an "intense appetite," "uncontrolled desire," and "enthusiastic craving." There you have it ... the dictionary definition of Lust, the first tweenly sin.

Next: Gluttony. My daughter has an adorable figure. It would take major — and I do mean, major — surgery (along the lines of amputation really) for me to fit into her size 3 Hollister jeans. This natural slenderness, however does not keep her from ingesting her body weight in pizza, pasta, Cheetos, dark chocolate M&Ms and orange soda. My idea of a snack? A small handful of roasted pumpkin seeds. My tween's idea of a snack? A small handful of roasted pumpkin seeds AND a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

The third sin is Greed. In the gospel according to tween, more is more. Sugar Lips tank tops, Breyer horse models, Japanese erasers, iPhone apps, iTunes songs, Gossip Girl books. More, more, more. With all due respect to Gordon Gecko, I insist that "Greed is not good." It isn't even feasible. Well, not unless you have lucrative babysitting gigs and a mother with a very good credit rating.

Then, we get to Sloth. To see this particular sin in action, simply step inside my daughter's bedroom door. On any given day, you'll find drawers hanging out of the dresser, discarded outfits wadded up on the carpet, a cluttered desk, an unmade bed. But, none of this bothers her (as you've probably gathered I can't say as much for her dear old mother). Is she blind or just lazy? Or, is she simply a tween?

Wrath. To prepare us for the eventuality of PSATs, Wrath is to Sloth, as ...
(a) My daughter's reaction is to my insistence that she clean her room.
(b) My daughter's reaction when I threaten to cancel a sleepover or riding date unless she clean her room.
(c) My daughter's reaction to my confiscating her electronica until she cleans her room.
(d) All of the above.

And that brings me to the sixth sin: Envy. The tween and teen years are a period of intense scrutiny and keenly-felt comparisons. "So-and-so gets to stay up as late as she wants." "What's-her-name's mother bought her a horse." "Whosit never has to make her bed." As an enlightened, 21st-century mom, I try to get my arms around every potential teachable moment. "There will always be things you want but can't have, honey." "There will always be people with more than you." More importantly, there will always be people, millions and millions and millions of people in this world, who have far less than my daughter. Somewhere, deep inside, she knows this.

FInally, we have Pride. While I have drilled into my daughter's head, longer than she can remember, that I'm so proud of her, we are talking about something else here. Austen's Mr. Darcy would argue that, "Where these is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation." My daughter has come to believe that she has that "real superiority of mind," at least where her father and I are concerned. There is very little we say or do these days that doesn't elicit rolled eyes, pained sighs or at the very least a tolerant half-smile.

When faced with one (or several, for as you can imagine, they travel in packs) of the tweenly sins, I try to keep a sense of humor. I trust that my daughter will outgrow them.

Just as she will eventually outgrow those jeans.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Canine Ties that Bind

When my tween daughter needs a reason to resent us (and trust me, this happens rather frequently), she meditates on the fact that she is — and always will be — an only child. Or, as she put it when she was little, a "lonely child." This isn't entirely true unless you want to indulge in speciesism. My daughter has an older, smaller, significantly furrier brother.

Like many young couples, my husband and I started our family not with a human child but with a canine one. He was a five-pound bouncing bundle of joy, a black-and-tan miniature long-haired dachshund. We named him Boogalie, which is Cajun for either "little darling" or "swamp monster." (In truth, he is both, often simultaneously.) We call him Boo or Boogs or Booja or Dr. B or myriad other permutations.

When we brought my daughter home from the hospital, Boogs was about 18 months old. He was curious — we have a darling picture of him eyeing her suspiciously in her infant carrier. But, once he got through a couple of welcome sniffs, he pretty much ignored her. Of course, when she started eating semi-solid food out of a high chair, Boogalie realized that there was a benefit to hanging out nearby. You never knew what delectable treats might fall from the heavens. Grapes and Cheerios and macaroni. Oh my!

No matter how much my daughter grew to love Boogs, he was never a cuddly-wuddly lapdog. Nor was he an always loyal, always friendly tail-wagger. Full-grown, Boogalie weighs in at just eleven pounds, but he's always had a big personality. Big, as in, ornery at best and full-blown psychotic most of the time. His vet, in her politically correct doctor-to-patient language told us that he's "mentally ill." And, with her advice we've had him on puppy Prozac most of his life. (Now, before you think we're the ones who need medication, please understand that Prozac was actually invented for pets before it became the chi-chi anti-anxiety med we humans know and love.)

At an early age, my daughter recognized that Boogalie wasn't a very sociable pooch. One morning, when she was about three, my husband woke her up with the following tall tale:

"You'll never guess what happened last night! Boogalie stole the keys to the Miata and drove all over town with his dog friends."

My daughter, who was never anybody's sucker, rejected this. "That's not true, Daddy," she said.

"Why not?"

She rolled her preschool eyes; wasn't it obvious? "Boogalie doesn't have any friends."

But antisocial behavior aside, Boogalie was always the canine apple of my daughter's eye. She bought him tiny doggy baseball caps, bandanas, sweaters, tee shirts and Halloween costumes. (Needless to say, he wouldn't be caught dead in any of them!) She hosted an 11th birthday party for him with a bunch of her (human) friends, complete with a bone-shaped cake and donations for the local animal shelter in lieu of gifts. She trained him to "sit," "stay," and "get it," which would not be such a big deal unless you understood how terribly thick and stubborn the Boo can be. And, she has played endless — and I do mean, endless — games of ball with him over the years.

Now, at fifteen and a half, Boogalie no longer plays ball. He's become a very picky eater and spends most of his time lying down on the rug, lying down on the couch, or lying down in his crate. He has cataracts and hearing loss and sore teeth and stiffness in his joints. And, none of that is really a surprise, I guess. If you do the math, he's about 108 years old now. He's no spring puppy!

A younger girl might be disappointed that her playmate (albeit a playmate who was pretty perpetually in a bad mood) was no longer available for walks or belly rubs or ball-playing. But, my daughter has been extremely sweet and compassionate with her geriatric pet. She's adapted as he's aged, moving slower, speaking softer. Meanwhile, knowing that this will probably be her first big loss, I've tried to prepare her for the foreseeable day when the crazy mutt is no longer with us. We both know it's coming. And, no matter how heartsick we'll be, we both agree that he has had a long, long, happy (if neurotic) life. And that we would rather have him at peace than in pain.

These are tough concepts, but my daughter gets it. And, when the time does come, we'll get through it ... together.

Monday, August 22, 2011

School Supplies

With all due respect to champagne toasts and "Auld Lang Syne," I've never felt that January first was really New Year's. For me, it was always the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Going back to school was the ultimate fresh start. And, although it's been many (okay, many many many) years since I was actually a student myself, I still get excited as September comes around again each year.

True story. When my sister, brother and I were kids, we spent summers in a little town in Missouri with my maternal grandmother. This was quite a change from the "bright lights, big city" of New York. Around mid-August, the local kids with whom we had played for the past several weeks would head off to school. Back east, we wouldn't start again until September. So, I'd sit on my grandmother's front porch and watch the school bus pick up my friends and sigh with sadness and envy.

We've already established that I'm somewhat of a geek.

As a consolation prize, my mother let us shop for school supplies. One year, my mom had to borrow an extra suitcase just to bring them all home. I remember in particular two cloth-covered loose leaf binders: one denim and one red and black plaid.

Man, I loved those notebooks! But, I digress.

My daughter is a more typical tween. She has had a fabulous summer filled with fun and friends and freedom — and she is most certainly not looking forward to its end. I remind her that it will be good to see all her friends at school. She reminds me that she can see them now at the beach. I say, "Won't it be exciting to find out who your teachers are?" She looks at me like I have two heads.

Back-to-school shopping is yet another mother-daughter ritual that is fading away. My daughter, rightly, doesn't want to buy any clothes until we pull out her fall and winter wear and see what still fits and what doesn't. (I think she's also waiting until she sees what everyone else is wearing, which is in itself a smart strategy. I'd rather not spend a small fortune on jeans, boots and running shoes only to find out that they are the wrong jeans, wrong boots and wrong running shoes.) Similarly, she doesn't want to buy school supplies until she knows her schedule. Something about how many binders she'll need and how she can minimize between-class trips to her locker.

Nevertheless, Saturday found us at Staples because we had volunteered to build a backpack for a disadvantaged middle schooler in our area. My daughter and I have done this for the past several years and it's a great hands-on way for us to give back to the community. This particular shopping trip was a bit stressful though. I was deep in the doghouse because my daughter had assumed she was riding and I had assumed she knew she wasn't. Basically, she hadn't said anything to me for the past twenty-four hours except, "I really wanted to ride," "It's not fair," and "You don't understand."

Our first stop was the backpack display. My daughter was texting (probably reporting me to Social Services), but she managed to grab a bag and fling it into our cart. It was cute, kind of a rose color with a grey graffiti print. Fortunately, I looked at the price tag: $79.99! "No way," I told her. I found what was arguably an equally cute one for $19.99. "No way," she told me. We compromised with a mid-priced option.

Spiral notebook, 3-ring binder, pencils, pens, compass. As we checked items off the list, my daughter reluctantly pocketed the iPhone and started paying attention. Clearly I would choose all the wrong things if I was left to my own devices! How could I possibly think any self-respecting middle school student would want pencils with peace signs on them? Or a fuzzy calculator? Or yellow Post-It Notes?

By the time we had filled the cart, my daughter was in charge, and our relationship was back in business. A quick trip to CVS and we had added hair accessories, some character erasers and a Tinkerbell PEZ dispenser (why not?). We both declared that the backpack was now "Awesome."

My daughter may not look forward to September like I used to. But, we both felt better after our shopping trip. And, we both hope that the girl who gets the awesome backpack will have a very wonderful new year's day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Babysitters Club

I've always joked that running an ad agency creative department is a lot like babysitting. You have all this energy that needs to be focused. You have to make sure everyone feels safe and appreciated and loved. Sometimes you even have to deal with tantrums. And, your success rate is much higher if you bribe your charges with chocolate.

No wonder I've done so well in my professional career — I began training for it back in sixth grade. And, my daughter is now following in my footsteps.

In my tween and teen years, I had many many many babysitting gigs. Friday nights, Saturday nights, weekdays after school. There were newborns, toddlers, identical triplet girls and a pair of terrorist brothers. I took my job seriously. In fact, family lore recounts a time, when as a very self-important thirteen year-old, I informed my grandmother that babysitting was "How I make my living."

It was certainly a win-win. I enjoyed the kids, and once they went to bed I had my choice of snacks, a nice quiet place to do my homework and complete control of the TV. On top of all this, I was being paid. My clients seemed to like me and I was always pretty busy. But in truth, they didn't know how lucky they were!

According to Huey Lewis, "It's hip to be square." Well, back in 1976, I don't know that I was hip, but I was certainly square. Reread my description of the benefits of babysitting above and you'll note some potential attractions that are conspicuously absent. I did not make endless calls on their phones. I did not avail myself of the contents of their liquor cabinets. I did not invite my boyfriend over. (All right, this was partly because I didn't actually have a boyfriend until spring of senior year. Definitely square. But, it's mainly because I was an extremely responsible girl.) Parents expect babysitters to behave, but among my friends in New York City in the seventies, there was a lot of bad behavior. At least one of my girlfriends lost her virginity while she was sitting (the 'whos lay a-snooze,' by then of course). But seriously, talk about lying down on the job!

Many of the local eighth grade girls are busy babysitters these days. But between riding lessons multiple times a week and the fact that we have very few family friends with young children, my daughter has had less opportunity. She is well-prepared though. She has her babysitter certification from the YMCA and Red Cross, and this past year she was certified in CPR. She is better equipped to handle an emergency than I am.

This past week, she got a chance to test those skills — the general babysitting skills, not the CPR, thank goodness — with not one but two major jobs. The first was watching eight (count 'em, eight!) boys (boys!) while their parents went on a wine-tasting harbor cruise. She did have a partner, a good friend and daughter of one of the tasters. But, even if you divide the charges in half ... that's a bunch of boys! With the parents' permission, the entire motley crew went to a nearby fort to play. Thank goodness for cell phones; the two sitters were able to text each other with continual real-time headcounts.

The second engagement was for friends of ours who have four- and ten year-old sons. We took the opportunity to add to the mix our little niece who was visiting from New York and a bit overtired. It was billed as a "playdate," but we weren't sure of our success until we walked in later and found all the children playing "Angry Birds." Technology to the rescue once again.

My daughter is really good with children, and she's smart and responsible. Well, not so much about making her bed, maybe, but she's responsible when it really counts. She came home from this intense initiation a bit worn out but satisfied, I think, with her job well done. Then again, maybe the satisfaction was due to all the money she earned: $80! Can you believe it?

My clients paid $1, $1.25 or in the case of one particularly flush family, $1.50 an hour. The going rate here today is $10 and up. I suggested to my daughter that she won't need an allowance anymore.

She suggested I was wrong.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

This Old House

My adorable niece is visiting us with her mother. My niece is four years old, an age when confidence and competence don't always align. She, of course, wants independence and is perfectly happy strutting around our house on her own. The adults, of course, are concerned about our two steep, crooked staircases and — much to her annoyance — follow close behind.

Our house was built in the 1830s and it is rich in character. There are nooks and crannies and "secret passages." Two of the three bathrooms have massive clawfoot tubs. The floors are antique wide pine. And, the aforementioned staircases, one in the front of our house and the other leading from the kitchen addition to my daughter's lofty bedroom, are death traps for toddlers.

In New York City, my niece rarely has to negotiate stairs. She lives with her parents, two cats and a dachshund in a brand new high rise apartment building. They are the apartment's first tenants so when I say new, I mean n-e-w new. A talking elevator (how cool is that!?!) takes them up and down and down and up.

So, the stairs are a novelty here, as are the fireplaces, the skylights on the third floor and the pitifully lean vegetable garden (cherry tomatoes and basil and that's pretty much it). Most people who visit — especially those from a big city or a younger part of the country — are enchanted. "It's so quaint," they say. Or, "It's so charming." Or, once, "It reminds me of the House of Seven Gables."

Um, okay.

For my tween daughter, living in an old colonial home presents limitations. For example, there simply isn't a room big enough for a Wii. There isn't a finished basement in which to build a family room or what I like to think of as a tween den of iniquity. (Our cellar is old and wet and anyone over five feet tall has to stoop if they're doing laundry.) Although we did give her the largest bedroom and her own bath and — for the record, hello! — she has plenty of space, this isn't really a "hang-out" house.

Owning an antique home in a very strictly monitored historic district comes with distinct responsibilities. We are prohibited from making any changes that can be seen from the street. We had to go before the historical committee (my husband calls them the "hysterical committee") for permission to put up a fence to protect our then tiny daughter from nearby traffic. One member voted against it because, as she said, "You knew where the house was situated when you bought it," and "Besides, I don't like fences."

The woman did have a point. Not about fences, per se, but about our actively choosing to acquire and live in a really old home. We like it. We like the history and the uniqueness. At Christmastime, when I go overboard with wreaths and garlands and lights and four separate trees, it is transformed into something out of Dickens.

Typically, we're not only satisfied but downright smug about our old house. We snidely refer to new builds as "McMansions." But, I have a confession to make.

Sometimes I envy my friends who live in new houses. I long for floors that are level, doors that open and close without sticking, and that little swoosh sound when a new window closes snugly. I'd like a walk-in closet and a jacuzzi tub. I'd like a laundry room (my daughter rides horses; I do a lot, oh a lot, of laundry) that doesn't require contortionism or a follow-up appointment with a chiropractor.

But, then I think about the legacy we are leaving. Our daughter lives in a house that is nearly 200 years old. We have the house's history — everything from the dates of the two different additions to the time when our town's shoe industry was depressed and four individual families lived here. We are now, and forever more will be, a part of this.

And, someday when another family buys this house, perhaps thinking it's pre-historic, they'll know that we were here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Third Wheel at Glee 3D

Last night, my daughter and I attended something very exclusive. Picture this, if you will: dozens of glamorous celebrities arriving on a long red carpet. Flashbulbs are going off as the paparazzi try to capture an elusive front page scoop. Everyone is dressed to the nines and thrilled to be attending the world-premiere, sneak peek, VIP preview of ... wait for it, wait for it ...


(And, the crowd goes wild.)

All right, I'm stretching things just a little here.

The celebrities were actually tween girls from the surrounding area. Most wore jeans or shorts and tee shirts, but they all sported Glee hats, backpacks, lanyards with all-access VIP passes, and souvenir 3D glasses. The aforementioned red carpet was really the lobby of the multiplex's wall-to-wall (technically, it was red though). Let's face it. The Showcase Cinemas in Revere, MA is a far cry (a far, far cry) from Hollywood Boulevard. Yet I have to tell you that the excitement there last night was worthy of the most starstruck evening in Tinseltown.

My daughter and I are self-professed "Gleeks." We love the show. We listen to the music (my husband would say that we do so ad nauseam). We buy the DVDs. We've seen the cast live in concert twice. When I learned that there were sneak preview tickets available for the insanely popular franchise's new movie, I didn't hesitate. The showing would take place just a few days after my daughter's return from camp and I thought it would be a wonderful surprise. A great way for us to reconnect after three weeks apart.

Uh ... wrong!

Of course, the tickets (which had been delivered in the backpacks I talked about earlier along with a host of Glee-branded promotional items) were quite well-received. The movie had been buzzed about at camp and my daughter now had a very cool reason to jump onto Facebook and update all her BFFs. So, my assumption that she would want to go was well-founded. My assumption that she would want to go with me? Not so much.

The absolutely positively very first thing she said was, "I want to invite S_____."

We adore S______. She has been one of my daughter's closest comrades since they were just two years old and attended Sundance Preschool together. Not only is she a delightful young woman, but she genuinely appreciates music and dance. She lives in the next town, and ironically that may be why the girls have stayed so close. Had they attended the same school, clashing class schedules and diverging interests might have sent them separate ways. Instead, we have to make a bit more of an effort for them to connect but it's always worth it.

After a mere three seconds of maternal disappointment, I realized that my daughter's suggestion was ... perfection.

So, off we went. If the incessant chatter coming from the backseat was any indication, the girls were just a little excited. I went into the theatre lobby with them but once I was sure they knew where they were going, I exited stage left. (And, yes, I have to admit that the crowd headed into the screening was significantly younger than yours truly.)

For the next ninety minutes, the girls were wowed by live concert footage, intimate backstage drama, intense real-life stories of kids who were inspired to be their best because of Glee. I was wowed by the sandwich selection at the Stop and Shop across the street. (I needed dinner and the nachos at the theatre concession stand just weren't going to cut it — see my earlier post Orange Food.) While they laughed and cried and sang along to the movie, I settled into a surprisingly cushy couch in the lobby and caught up on the latest issue of The New Yorker.

And, then they came tumbling out of the theatre, resembling nothing so much as tipsy long-legged kittens. They came rushing over and recounted (in several cases, singing, dancing and acting out) all of the movie's highlights for me. And, while I might have liked the movie (in case you're wondering, we will almost certainly acquire the DVD when it's released in a few months), it couldn't have compared to the private show I enjoyed.

Now, that was a VIP performance worth the price of admission!

Friday, August 5, 2011

This Pretty Young Thing is Just Too Young

When you're a mother, people constantly tell you to savor every moment because, "They grow up too fast." Indeed, the years fly by and before you know it your baby isn't a baby any longer.

So given how quickly girls become women without any help from us, there's no reason why the fashion, advertising and magazine publishing industries need to rush it.

A current issue of Vogue Paris features a very beautiful, sultry and seductive model in sexy clothing and suggestive poses. This is par for the Parisian course except that the gorgeous girl with the "come hither" eyes is not exactly a consenting adult. Petite Thylane Loubry Blondeau is just ten years old.

The pictorial (which includes other underage models in similar makeup, clothing and situations) has sparked a lot of debate in mainstream media as well as the blogosphere. There are those who defend the photos as artistic, who criticize the United States as too repressed, and who point to the fact that each child was well-compensated for her time and likeness. Basically, there are those who say that we are making too big of a deal over this.

Of course, Thylane and her fellow models were probably not technically abused. In fact, I'm fairly sure they were treated like princesses on the set. Their mothers (or agents) were no doubt with them throughout the entire process. It's as though a disclaimer should be printed on the pages of the magazine: Bon jour, people. These are models. No real girls were sexually exploited to create these photos.

Or maybe, more appropriately: Don't try this at home.

But, isn't that part of the problem? Real little girls (as opposed to professional models) do play dress-up, trying on their mothers' clothes and make-up, and striking worldly poses in the mirror. Of course, if the pictorial is trying to depict a bit of this phenomenon, it moves into the realm of voyeurism, which is fairly creepy in its own right.

I have several issues with the photos. No, as I've already explained, I'm not really concerned for Thylane's safety. She's actually been modeling more than half her life and I'm sure this isn't the first time she's been tarted up. But, I am concerned for the message it sends to very young girls, to women of all ages, and — unfortunately — to society overall.

My daughter is a determined tomboy, rarely wearing a skirt and never wearing make-up. But, there are other girls at her middle school who dress, in my opinion, older than their years and often inappropriately. At a recent bat mitzvah, most of the 12- and 13-year olds were wearing dresses that were too short, too tight, too low-cut or in some cases all three. Add to this the fact that they were also balancing precariously on higher-than-usual heels and you can imagine some of the "wardrobe malfunctions" out on the dance floor.

Tween girls are exposed to sex through the media and in the middle school cafeteria. They are expected to talk a good game, even if they're not active yet. There is pressure to become sexy long before they're ready for sex. And, images like the ones in Vogue Paris just accelerate it.

On the flipside, adult women turn to fashion magazines to help us define what is beautiful and desirable. If young teens, tweens and girls who are still children are held up as sexual icons, where does that leave us? Is it any wonder that women of a certain age spend so much to try to look so young? In the United States in 2010, nearly 300,000 women had breast augmentation surgery and more than 5 million had Botox injections.

And, finally, I worry that every time a little girl is portrayed as a sexual being, we are making it more difficult to keep our children safe. The sad reality is that we live in a world in which there are pedophiles and predators who simply don't need any more mainstream confirmation that their sick feelings are natural. If sexualized images of young girls are so pervasive, will a judge or jury convict a criminal who acted upon the impulses that the mass media is not only acknowledging but promoting?

Pictures like the ones of Thylane may sell magazines and designer clothes, but the price for all of us is too high.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Missing My Campfire Girl

It's quiet. Too quiet.

My house has been a very different place for the past seventeen days. That's how long it's been since my daughter left for camp. She's up in Vermont participating in an intensive equestrian eventing program for three weeks. Which, through some simple mathematics, means that I will see her again in just about four days.

Not that I'm counting or anything.

Moms like me complain about having too much on our plate. Career, motherhood, housework, trying to squeak in a fitness routine ... you'd think I might enjoy the privacy, the peace and the absence of all the tween drama.

Ha. How wrong you are!

Camp really snuck up on me this year. My daughter and I enjoyed a fabulous weeklong cruise to celebrate her shiksa mitzvah. Then, we had visitors from London. Then she competed in a big regional show. And, suddenly, we were packing and driving and saying good-bye at the new camp. I give myself "props" (that's tweenspeak, short for "proper respect") for not crying all the way home after we dropped her off. This shows great courage or, at the very least, great restraint on my part. The last two years, when she attended a different riding camp, I was not so tear-free.

So, my husband and I have settled into a temporary DINK ("dual income, no kids") routine. He sleeps in. (How does he do that?!?) I get up early, walk for an hour, work, go to a midday yoga or Zumba class, and work the rest of the afternoon. No need to drop everything to help with homework. Or to drive my daughter to a lesson or the mall or a friend's house. It's remarkable how much I get done! Once we call it a day, we go out for drinks, take walks down by the harbor, or catch up on some of our favorite shows via DVR. We've also managed to see several other childless couples for boating, dinner, a museum opening. And, I made a quick trip to New York where I saw two shows in two days.

'Sounds pretty nice, right? Well ...

I can't wait, can't wait, can't wait for this to end!

Over the past couple of weeks, I've managed to write her every single day. Not long letters mind you, just postcards, notes, silly little gifts. She's written us four times. Multiple pages on the first day, which betrayed some homesickness and a little nervousness about the new camp. However, subsequent notes were much shorter. And, that's okay. If I have to choose between long letters or a happy daughter, I'll take the latter. We can gauge her state of mind by the number of exclamation points and capital letters ...

"I've met SOOOOOOOO many awesome girls!!!!!!!!!! They are SOOOOOOOOOO fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

All right, it may not compete with Jane Austen's famous letters to her sister Cassandra as a literary missive, but I'll take it.

When I haven't been working (working, working out or working on trying to have a good time), I've been feathering my empty nest, making plans for my daughter's imminent return. She's coming home to a new iPhone, for example. The vibration mechanism in her old phone had broken and it sounded like, as she put it, a duck farting. The nice young man at the Apple Store's "Genius Bar" is replacing it for free.

There is a brand new pair of Converse sneakers waiting in her room. And, I'm stocking the kitchen with all her favorites: orange soda, cheese puffs, popcorn, Ben & Jerry's S'mores ice cream (formerly known as Marsha Marsha Marshmallow). I also straightened all her drawers and reorganized her closet. I'm a mom; I can't help it. Somewhere, deep down inside, my daughter will appreciate this. Okay, maybe not. Still, it's helping me kill time.

That's really what this is all about. The shows, the drinks, the work ... I'm killing time because my daughter's away and it's killing me. I'm looking forward to our reunion, and according to the brief notes we've received, she is too. But, I don't kid myself. Once we're back in our routine, I don't pretend to think we won't have our ups and downs, our disagreements, a little war now and then.

But, after thirteen years, I'm still crazy in love. And, I'll take the worst day with my daughter over the best day without her.

At this point, I'll see her in three days, 16 hours and 14 minutes.

Not that I'm counting.