Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Days of Wine and Roses ... and Bacon?

As a conscientious blogger, I feel it is my duty to try and stay on top of (or at the very least, trail not too far behind) the latest trends. Here's one that seems to have captured my tween daughter and most of her friends — as well as grown men, grown women, small children, the media, the food industry and Lady Ga Ga's dressmakers.

I'm writing, of course, about BACON.

Now, I myself rarely if ever eat bacon. (In my perfect life, I would be vegan. Of course, in my perfect life, Oprah Winfrey's personal chef would do all my cooking.) Despite my natural aversion to cured meats, I do confess that the smell of bacon sizzling in the pan instantaneously transports me back to my childhood visits to my grandmother's house. So, while I may not ingest it, even I (self-described woulda shoulda coulda been a vegetarian) am not immune to bacon's power.

What I find so interesting is that here we are in a world that is hyper conscious of diet and appearance. Where people spend millions of dollars on diet supplements, health clubs and even plastic surgery. And yet ... we still wannna bring home the bacon. Not to mention fry it up in the pan.

You know how there are times when some random item or thought or piece of music suddenly seems to be everywhere? It becomes a 24/7 leitmotif and you can't help but wonder if there is some deeper, hidden meaning to these seemingly coincidental reappearances? (No? Well, trust me, it can happen.)

Lately, I have been surrounded by bacon. Here are some of my recent run-ins with it ...

• Gourmet chocolate-covered bacon at a local sweet shop. (I find the idea of it repulsive. But, of course, I had to buy some for my husband.)

• A bumper sticker in front of me at an intersection that read, in a milk-like way, "got bacon?" It was next to one that said, "My beagle is smarter than your honor student." Hmmm. Perhaps this is because the beagle eats bacon?

• Flipping through the channels (with apologies to Bruce, it was one of those "1,076 channels and nothing on" nights), I caught the scene from Pulp Fiction when greasy hit man Vincent (John Travolta) offers evangelical hit man Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) a bit of his dinner ...

Vincent: Want some bacon?
Jules: No man, I don't eat pork.
Vincent: Are you Jewish?
Jules: Nah, I ain't Jewish, I just don't dig on swine, that's all.
Vincent: Why not?
Jules: Pigs are filthy animals. I don't eat filthy animals.
Vincent: Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood.

• A recent trip to Vermont where I saw "Mr. Bacon Posable Bendy Figure Toys" for sale at an upscale general store that specialized in artisanal breads and overpriced embroidered jackets. (I resisted. All of the above.)

• A recent trip to New Hampshire (this is what comes of being a non-skier in an all-skier family) where my girlfriend and I purchased a box of gourmet cupcakes and watched a couple of hours later as the rest of the group practically fought over the "Maple and Bacon" one. Yes, you read right ... a cupcake topped with maple syrup and bacon. (Again, I resisted.)

• My four-year-old niece who visited us last week and wanted to watch The Simpsons. Apparently Homer's great love of bacon does not preclude his owning a precious porker pet, "Spider Pig."

Is that smokehouse in the sky trying to tell me something? Or, is it just a big fat bacon world? There are entire websites devoted to small-batch, locally-sourced bacon; bacon clothing; bacon accessories; bacon gifts; and bacon novelties. Bacon strip band-aids, anyone? Check. A gourmet "Swine and Wine" club? Check. Bacon tee shirts, bacon wallets, bacon watch bands? Check, check, check.

My personal favorite? The "My FIrst Bacon Talking Plush Toy." Okay, is that because there will be a second, third or fourth bacon talking plush toy? The product is marketed with a photo of a darling mop top in a Disney princess dress, hugging her bacon. And, as an advertising copywriter, I have to say that I am in awe of their tagline: "You've got a friend in meat."

Why do so many teens (and so many non-teens) worship at the alter of bacon? Is it the salt? The fat? Does it bring back memories of big, old-fashioned family breakfasts (in the days before cereal bars took all the guilt and all the taste out of the morning meal)? Or, is it because we know it's bad for us and that adds to its "forbidden fruit" allure? Sarah Katherine Lewis, in her book Sex and Bacon: Why I Love Things That Are Very, Very Bad for Me, explains that "Nobody wants to be wholesome, boring Betty when they could be sexy, hot-to-trot Veronica 'Pour me a drink, light me a smoke, fry me up a pan of bacon, and let’s get it on.' "

I guess if eating bacon is indeed a way to be bad (so bad that it's good), I shouldn't complain. There are worse habits my daughter and her friends might pick up than devouring some fresh fried pork product now and then.

If you have any doubts about how passionate an underage bacon lover can be, just check out this story from several weeks ago. A fifteen-year-old boy was charged with misdemeanor battery after throwing frozen bacon at his elderly grandmother because she wouldn't let him cook it.

Now, if that's not a porcine portent for the rest of us, I don't know what is.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sh*t Tweens Say

"Sh*t _________ say."

Have you seen those online videos that are circulating right now? There are versions for New Yorkers, Bostonians, Girlfriends, Hipsters, Yuppies, Gay Guys ... pretty much any group you can think of that has its own idiosyncratic language.

Basically, you take a video camera and record your friends (homely cross-dressing guys are fairly popular in these things), reciting all of the clichés common to the group you are depicting. Then, you edit them together with quick cuts back and forth so the result is a rapid-fire stream of sayings.

The good ones ring true. The bad ones are ... well ... bad. In this day and age, anyone with a smart phone and access to a PC is a filmmaker. Who needs to go to UCLA or NYU?

Well, I have an iPhone. I have a laptop with iMovie. So, I'm thinking of making my own version. It's entitled, "Sh*t Tweens Say." Here's the script:

"I don't have any homework."

"That teacher hates me."

"Um, I need you to sign this ..."

"It's soooooooo unfair!"

"My room IS clean."

"Please five more minutes."

"Why can't I do my homework during New Girl?"

"No you dint!"

"You're ruining my life!"

"Why do I have to make my bed?"

"No one else has to."

"I need $5 for Starbucks."

"Just give me a twenty and I'll bring you change."

"You owe me money anyway."

"Why are you yelling at me?"




"You don't get it."

"You don't understand."

"You never said that!"

"Why are you making such a big deal out of this?"

"I forgot, okay?"

"I'm sorry, okay?"

"Waitaminute, I'm texting."

"Will you please try and not embarrass me."

"Will you please not say anything."

"Will you please stop posting on my Facebook page."

"Did you move my stuff?"

"Get out of my life!"

"That book is soooooooo boring."

"That class is soooooooo boring."

"I don't need a coat."

"I don't need a scarf."

"I don't need gloves."

"Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, you're sooooooo annoying!"

You get the idea.

Yes, I have all the electronics to turn my movie into a reality. However, I also have a life — a life that's rather too busy already, thank you very much. So, while I'm no doubt missing my fifteen minutes of Internet fame, I will not be making a "Sh*t Tweens Say" video after all.

However, if you would like to experience the live action version, feel free to stop by my house. We sooooooooooooo have continual showings here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Yoga Mamma

Like many women of a certain age and situation, I heart yoga.

Twelve years ago, when I started my practice, I wanted to change my body. I imagined a better me. Long, lean, not muscular per se but strong in the way that a white birch stands erect yet can move whether with a light breeze or hurricane gale.

I wanted yoga arms and a yoga torso.

I ended up with yoga feet.

My feet are wider than they were and my toes are flat bulbs like the toes you would find on one of those little translucent day-glo gecko lizards in Hawaii. The lizard's toes help it climb up walls where it can chirp all night while tired tourists try to sleep. My toes, in theory, should make it easier to stand in tree or dancer or other one-legged balance postures. Yeah, in theory.

I began my life as a yogini with a series of Power Yoga videotapes by yoga's preeminent and pony-tailed stud Rodney Yee. I would do a tape each morning before showering and waking my toddler daughter, getting her off to preschool and driving into Boston for work. It wasn't until I owned my own agency that I was able to devote time to actual classes with living, breathing, talking yoga instructors. (Not that owning a company meant I had more free time. Quelle joke, mon ami! It was just that with a home office, I suddenly had the flexibility to work at 5:00 in the morning or until 10:00 or 11:00 or 12:00 at night. Taking a couple of hours midday for a class became a great de-stresser and something to look forward to.)

Initially, I had two instructors with very different styles. One taught a high-energy, fast-paced, power yoga class in which I was encouraged to "Engage your thigh muscles!" "Push down through your hands!" "Be strong!" Sheer will power (and our benevolent drill sergeant) enabled us to reach higher, twist farther and balance longer than we thought possible.

The other was an expert in Ananda Yoga, a gentle approach that uses affirmations tied to each posture. So, not only was I moving and flowing through peaceful poses, I was reassuring myself that "Right, left and all around me, life's harmonies are mine." And that, "Calmness radiates through every fiber of my being." And, my personal favorite, "I rise joyfully to meet each new opportunity."

Sometimes we would chant. Sometimes, the instructor would read to us from the teachings of Swami Kriyananda. I know this all sounds new-agey and sort of silly, but the entire practice was actually very spiritual. Unfortunately, the very spiritual instructor moved to very spiritual Missouri.

But no need to panic! There are as many yoga classes in an upscale American suburb as there are lotus blossoms emerging from the mud. And this particular mother, in her quest for centeredness, has tried many of them. But not all. Not, I confess, the infamous "hot yoga." Having fallen into an early and particularly symptomatic menopause, I carry my own little Bikram studio around with me wherever I go. A 90-minute hot flash is not my idea of a good time.

Let's see ... there was the class in which ropes bolted into the walls and ceiling were used to support our weight as we assumed flying postures. Yoga in any form is very much about self-discovery. What I discovered in this class is that I am emotionally incapable of letting go enough to hang from a rope.

Then, there was the time that the yoga instructor, a very very old but very very flexible gentleman, introduced sound effects to our practice. Have you ever noticed that an inordinate number of postures are named for animals? Well, I never thought of pigeon pose in quite the same way after folding over my bent knee and cooing.

I had one yoga teacher who apparently confused the yogic principle of non-violence with knee-surgery-needed. I limped for nearly a week after one of her classes.

Another yoga teacher spent the 75-minute class wowing us with her pretzel-like contortions and stories about her natural childbirth, which — to add insult to injury — had only taken place three weeks earlier.

But despite the inevitable sideshow attractions, I've kept at it. I do it for myself mostly, but I truly believe that I am better able to stay calm in the stormy seas that circle around me as a wife, a businesswoman, and especially as the mother of a tempestuous tween. And, every once in a while, I have a moment that is truly transcendent.

One yogi began his class with the assertion that "If it hurts, it isn't yoga." I felt a shining light dawn. It was as if the heavens had opened and a choir of Buddhist angels had descended singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" in Sanskrit. More recently, my newest yoga mentor finished a particularly wonderful class with several minutes in the traditional corpse or resting pose: Savasana. Before sitting back up, she had us turn onto our sides, with our knees bent in a relaxed fetal position. She explained in one of those wonderful yoga teacher voices, "This is who you are. This is how you came into this world, in total bliss. You are here for a while and when your work is done, you will return to this." I found this really comforting and have replayed her words many times since.

We are all here to work (although sometimes, as mothers, it feels like we're working longer and harder and with less appreciation than anyone else). So, with that my friend, the divine in me honors the divine in you.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Love Hurts — But, It Shouldn't

The Grammy Awards were particularly sad this year, with the news of Whitney Houston's untimely death coming just the day before the music industry's biggest celebration.

We were up in Vermont when we heard about it. One of the teenage boys in our ski house had booted up his laptop so we could watch some videos. "Whitney Houston died," he announced matter-of-factly as his browser came up. There were four adults in the house and we were stunned. We all thought about that beautiful young girl with the glorious voice first. And the troubled middle-aged woman she became second.

With very little time to prepare, the Grammys team pulled together a tribute that was perfect in its simplicity. Accompanied only by a piano, Jennifer Hudson came out and did a soulful version of Houston's most famous (and most heartbreaking) hit "I Will Always Love You." She seemed to choke up a little but made it through, knowing that she was singing for all of us. I was reminded of Elton John's courageous rendition of "Candle in the Wind" at Princess Diana's funeral nearly fifteen years ago. Both brought me to tears.

In hindsight, I'm troubled by an unspoken but pervasive theme that lay beneath the ceremony. For me, the loss of Whitney Houston and other gifted musicians is sad of course, but less disturbing than the fact that the entertainment industry (and society as consumers of that industry) turns a blind eye to violence against women. One might even argue that the industry glorifies it. As a feminist and a mother, I found it interesting that the music world was mourning the loss of a woman who was allegedly beaten and whose drug use (and most likely whose death itself) was the result of an abusive relationship with another musician. At the same time, the Grammys were celebrating the "come back" of Chris Brown, another musician accused of beating up his girlfriend, pop star Rihanna.

Am I overreacting? I don't think so. According to BuzzFeed, here's what girls were tweeting during Brown's Grammy performance Sunday night:

Everyone shut up about Chris brown being a woman beater... Shiiiittt he can beat me up all night if he wants

Chris Brown could serenade me and then punch me in the eye. I'm down for it.

Call me crazy buttttttttt I would let Chris Brown beat me up anyyyy day

ok not gonna lie i'd let chris brown beat the eff out of me

And my personal favorite:

Dude, Chris brown can punch me in the face as much as wants to, just as long as he kisses it ( :

The smiley emoticon is a nice touch, don't you think? My God, what is wrong with these girls?!?

Here's what's wrong. They listen to lyrics that glorify the fusion of sex and pain. They are surrounded by media that objectify women's bodies. They are citizens of a country in which women's health and reproductive rights are being threatened.

Violence against women is marginalized by the very language with which it is defined. With its added modifier, "domestic violence" becomes a less serious form of "violence." It's ASSAULT, people. Whether a person was in a relationship with their assailant before getting a fist in the face is immaterial! It is VIOLENCE.

The same is true with the phrase "date rape." Is a rape somehow less horrific because a woman knows and perhaps had dinner with her rapist? I would argue that psychologically a rape committed by someone with whom a person was building trust would be more traumatic not less. Regardless, and I repeat, it is ASSAULT. It is VIOLENCE.

And, what about Rihanna? Because she herself was the victim of violence, her song "S&M" is irresponsible and offensive. I thought about using a picture of Rihanna's bruised face for this post. (It probably would have meant more readers.) But, I decided to use a photo of a girl who looks like she wants to fight back.

Men need to stop hitting. Women need to defend their sisters — through words, legal action, or in the case of celebrities like Rihanna, through the media and their fan base. The entertainment industry needs to take a stand. The judicial system needs to draft and enforce stricter laws. Mothers need to teach our daughters that if he hits you, he does not love you. Period. Real love does not hurt in that way.

I hope we will someday see violence against women taken seriously. I hope we will someday all agree to a zero tolerance policy where violence against women is concerned. No matter who is involved or how many records he can sell.

But, we are not there yet. In fact, this morning I heard that Rihanna and Chris Brown are collaborating on a song together.

Maybe they should do a cover of Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby, One More Time."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentween's Day!

Today is February 14th. It's Valentine's Day. Tonight, my daughter and husband will each receive a box of chocolates and a homemade card. There's a good chance I'll get a pair of earrings, but I won't get roses. My spouse is adamantly opposed to paying inflated prices for flowers because of a so-called "Hallmark holiday." He would, so he tells me, rather surprise me with them all year long. (Nice thought, right? In fairness to him, he used to bring me flowers on a fairly regular basis. But, these days, between working and parenting and all the crazies that go along with both, I feel like Barbra Streisand, if you catch my drift.)

As with everything else, once you have a child, Valentine's Day becomes more and more about them and less and less about you. For several years, we made and decorated little mailboxes so that my daughter could collect valentines at school. In this day and age of politically correct fairness, each child brings home a complete list of the children in their class. They have to bring in a valentine for every single person on that list. Even the bullies, even the nerds, even their secret crush and their ex-best friend who no longer talks to them. If Janis Ian was writing "At Seventeen" now, she would have to find new lyrics. In today's classrooms, nobody knows "the pain of valentines that never came."

One year, recognizing that the days of frilly dresses and tea parties were numbered, I offered to throw a Valentine's Day party for my daughter and a half dozen of her friends. Our dining room was decked out in floor-to-ceiling pink and red. There were beads to string and cupcakes to decorate. And, being a thrifty mother as well as an affectionate one, I threw the party on the Saturday after Valentine's Day. All those hearts and streamers and little candies with the sayings on them ... half-price!

But, it's been a while since my daughter dressed up, or since we cut and signed and folded 24 Power Puff girl valentines. So, I thought that on this day dedicated to l-o-v-e, I would write about all the things that my now tween daughter dotes upon.

Here, in no particular order, is a little red foil chocolate box of what lights up my daughter's life:

Mozzarella Sticks
Yes, they're strips of fat that are then fried in fat. But, they are ooey, gooey delicious. Confession: sometimes when her father is out with his buddies or at a late meeting, I'll agree to forego any nutritional value whatsoever and serve mozzarella sticks for dinner. "Thank you so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o much, Mom! You're the best!"

Yessirree, it buys me a lot of credit — for about an hour.

Whether there's something earth-shattering to report, or whether there isn't. It doesn't matter. The way girls of my era loved talking on the phone, that's how much today's tween and teen girls love to text. And, I guess this is appropriate for the holiday. Have you looked at the average 14-year old's texts? They look an awful lot like conversation hearts. "R U THERE?" "U R GR8!" "LUV YA"

Teen TV
The New Yorker recently published a story about what they called a "quiet renaissance in children's television." Um, right. Too bad we missed it. When I think of the programs on my daughter's current DVR schedule, "renaissance" is not exactly the first (or the ten thousandth) word that comes to mind. Let's see there's "trashy" and "ridiculous," but not "renaissance." Of course, you are welcome to see for yourself. Next time you're in the mood for some deep, intellectual stuff, check out The Lying Game and Pretty Little Liars.

Converse All-Stars
Here's a little logic for you. If one pair of Converse All-Stars is good. And, two pairs of Converse All-Stars are great. What are five pairs of Converse All-Stars? Supermegafoxyawesomehot! Yes, that is a direct quote. And, I know, I know, I'm an enabler. On a recent trip to New York City, we invested (I won't say "wasted" — I'll think it, but I won't say it) quite a bit of time wandering around Times Square looking for the Converse super store. Turns out it's in Soho.

And it begins. Well, not quite but it's getting closer. Short of a couple of so-called "dates" at Dunkin' Donuts after school, my daughter and her friends have not started obsessing about the boys in their grade. Not yet. Instead, they obsess about the boys on TV, the boys in magazines, the boys in bands. They talk about them (a lot) and give each other sage advice. I look at the whole thing as a warm-up for the big event that's looming: high school.

There are lots of other things on my daughter's love list: her new horse, raw chocolate chip cookie dough, the extremely cool health ed teacher, her friends from camp, worn-in Hollister jeans, our ancient dachshund, brightly colored Sugar Lips tank tops, a particular iPhone game called "Surviving High School." When she loves, she loves truly, madly, deeply, with an intensity of purpose that would put Juliet and her Romeo to shame. Eventually, she will put all this passion to use.

For now, I'll end with a quote from an over-the-top romantic movie: Moulin Rouge. "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." Mozzarella sticks aside, my daughter knows how to love.

And, in case you haven't figured it out yet, she is very much loved in return.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Watching Videos, Literally

We're skiing again. Do I sound like a broken record? Think how I feel! As soon as I've finally finished the ski laundry — long underwear, thick socks, flannel pajamas, my daughter's beloved "Waffle Hut" long-sleeved tee — I'm packing it again. The winter's half over; we have just two more trips planned.

These ski weekends entail lots of traditions. Homemade (or seriously doctored) salsa and chips, thick sandwiches at our favorite local joint: "The Den" (their policy, reinforced by humorless waitresses, pointing to the words: Absolutely No Substitutions!), my breathtaking walks through sugar-coated woods, funky earrings and handknit sweaters from local artisans, communing with our two best friends from Vermont: Ben and Jerry. Yum.

These are all fairly natural extensions of any family's journey into the great white north. But, one of our favorite customs is, I believe, uniquely our own. We sit with our friends, libation of choice in hand: glass of wine or local microbrew, and watch ...

Literal videos!

For those of you who have not skied with us (or stumbled upon them in some less frozen place), literal videos are music videos that have been rerecorded so that the lyrics match the actions onscreen. There are dozens of them out there. The best ones have vocal talent that sound eerily like the original artist, and a cleverly offhand narrative that walks you through often silly directorial choices. The very best are videos that were, in their time, perfectly legitimate examples of the medium ... no matter how perfectly ludicrous they were. An 80s song, complete with asymmetric hair, eyeliner and shoulder pads, set in a library? On a riverboat? At a Renaissance fair? Why not!

My daughter and the other tweens and teens in the house think the videos themselves are ridiculous (which they certainly are). My generation, who remembers the advent of MTV like it was yesterday, can get an extra chuckle. Yes, we used to think these mini-theatricals were a valid art form. As my daughter would say ... OMG! WTF!

Here, for your listening, viewing and laughing-out-loud pleasure is a countdown of our ski house's all-time top four literal videos. (After you watch, be sure to hit your browser's "back" button to move on to the next one.)

Number 4: I Would Do Anything for Love
This is the only one on our list that is post-80s. But, the gothic twist on Beauty and the Beast meets Bram Stoker's Dracula is as over-the-top as anything from that decade. You gotta love the gorgeous damsel in distress, the lesbian vampires, and, last but not least, Mr. Loaf! After all these years, I love me some Meat Loaf. Thrill to it here.

Number 3: Safety Dance
Whatever happened to "Men Without Hats?" They are long gone and forgotten by all but their friends and family (and a dwarf and some puppets and a "crazy ho"). And yet, thanks to the miracle of modern literal videos, they dance on. You too can dance (if you want to) here.

Number 2: Take On Me
My husband's favorite. After all, it has everything a man's man could wish for: a diner, a comic book, a cute 80s chick, a race car, and pipe wrenches. It also features a short sequence ripped off, frame by frame, from the movie Altered States. Take it on here.

And our Number 1 Literal Video: Total Eclipse of the Heart
Here is a video that could never be made in our post Mary Kay Letourneau world. Bonnie Tyler is apparently the new teacher at an all-boys prep school. She fantasizes about underage preppy boys in various states of dress and un-dress, while she emotes through a castle in a filmy white dress. Laugh, cry and sing-along while you wonder aloud together "What were they thinking?" here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Maternal Vigilance

According to www.merriam-webster.com ...

vig•i•lance [ˈvi-jə-lən(t)s] is the quality or state of being alertly watchful especially to avoid danger

I agree and will take it even further. According to the dictionary of mom, vigilance is the state of being alertly watchful in order to avoid those unforeseen circumstances when one's tween has caught you with your guard down. These seemingly meaningless events can spell danger, indeed. They can uproot long-established order. They can bend rules irreparably. They can set precedents, that no amount of parental regrouping will ever un-set.

Case in point: breakfast at my house.

Ten years ago, if the American Academy of Pediatrics had wanted to award a Best-Breakfast-for-a-Toddler Prize, I would have been a strong contender. My daughter used to sit down to a yummy variety of healthful wholesome foods. A typical morning started with fresh fruit. Then, she would have some protein: a hard-boiled egg maybe, or a slice of cheese, or a nice yogurt. Next, some grains: maybe half a bagel, or a muffin, or some cereal. To wash it all down? A tall glass of 2-percent milk. Mmm mmm good!

She never argued or complained, just ate whatever was put in front of her. Every morning, she pretty much cleaned her Hello Kitty or Disney Princess or Pooh Bear plate.

Mornings changed as she grew older. She stopped liking hard-boiled eggs. She stopped liking yogurt. We evolved to pizza bagels, breakfast burritos and the occasional chicken noodle soup breakfast. She still ate fruit. And ...

She still drank milk.

She didn't like it, but she drank it. It was — supposedly — non-negotiable.


Several months ago, she hit me with her usual, "But, Mo-o-om. I hate milk!" and "This milk tastes bad!" and "Why don't you and Daddy have to drink milk if it's so good for you?" I don't know what happened. I was tired? I was distracted? I was stressed out? Maybe. What I wasn't was ... vigilant.

"All right, all right," I said. "Here. Drink this instead!" I replaced the dreaded dairy with a cup of calcium-enriched orange juice. And that, dear readers, was the beginning of the end. Wait. Actually, it was just plain the end.

The reason that vigilance is so incredibly important is because tweens, in the words of Winston Churchill: "Never, Never, Never give up." It is the tween's nature to climb every mountain, forge every stream, find every chink in their parent's proverbial armor and then ... GOTCHA! ... use it to their advantage.

My short-term fix ("Here. Drink this instead.") resulted in a long-term paradigm shift. That one moment of weakness made the milk-with-breakfast rule null and void. Not for one day, but forever.

There have been other moments of truth in which yours truly has lost both the battle and the war. Most involve time limits, electronics, family traditions, electronics, chores, electronics, consequences and ... electronics. If only a little warning bell would go off right before those "All right, just this once" words leave my lips. But, no. Like so much else in my life as the mother of a tween, I fall into these situations blindly. By the time I understand the ramifications, it is too late.

My hope is that back when she use to listen and comply, she picked up the underlying reasons and beliefs and moral foundations I was trying to impart. I didn't want her to drink milk because I own stock in the dairy industry. I wanted her to get a nutritionally sound start to her day. I wanted her bones and teeth to be strong and healthy. Maybe somewhere inside, she absorbed a little of that balanced diet idea. Maybe someday when she's on her own, she'll make smart choices. But, until then, I'll just try to look on the bright side ...

Think of all the money I'm saving on milk!

Monday, February 6, 2012

M & M

I'm from New York but I live in New England. This meant that yesterday's Super Bowl was a win-win for me. Whichever team took the championship, half of the people I love would be happy.

As for me, I'm in it for two things: the ads and the half-time show. Especially this year.


You may love her, you may hate her. But, you have to admit she's still got it. As my brother posted midway through her set, "53 is the new 23." (I kind of wish she hadn't injected whatever she injected into her face; those shiny cheekbones make her look like a burn victim. But, otherwise, she is one fine figure of a fifty-something.)

Madge and I go way back. I bought her first album during my senior year at college. I danced to "Like a Virgin" at Limelight in a short skirt, ankle socks and high heels. (Really.) I was pleasantly surprised by her performance in Evita. I read my daughter The English Roses. And, I still have a stack of black rubber bracelets. (Really really.)

I wonder what my tween daughter thinks when she sees and hears her. Do the songs sound old-fashioned and out-of-date? Does she think of it as my generation's music rather than hers? My parents listened to opera and Broadway musicals when I was growing up, so I don't really have a reference. I wonder what it was like for the children of Elvis Presley or Beatles fans.

Just in case, Madonna (or the NFL or NBC or some combination thereof) was smart to include a handful of contemporary stars in her extravaganza: M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj and Cee Lo Green and LMFAO. That last one, for the record, was unknown to me or my husband but our daughter was thrilled. (LMFAO is billed as an electro-rap duo and their first hit was "I'm in Miami B*tch." Now you know. Oh, and the asterisk is mine.)

Well, no matter how big any of these stars are (in Florida or elsewhere), they were onstage at the Super Bowl for just one reason. To make the material girl look good. She came in as Cleopatra and she certainly proved that she is the queen. I'd try and be cute here and say she's "the queen of the vinyl" (get it?) but Madonna has transitioned without missing a beat from LPs to CDs to iTunes. In 2011, her Celebration was the second top selling album after Adele's 21. Not too shabby thirty years later (and thirty years older).

If you had to name the most iconic superstars of the 80s and 90s, Madonna would be right up at the head of your list. Of course, the other artist that would be vying for the top spot is the late great Michael Jackson.

Whether or not my daughter thinks of M & M as has-been mom-music, she and her friends are very familiar with at least some of their songs. And, it's not because of the Super Bowl. Or my old lady radio station. Or even commercials that spend gazillions of dollars to use "Ray of Light" to sell Microsoft or "Billie Jean" to sell Pepsi.

My daughter knows the songs of Madonna and Michael Jackson because of Glee. And, she's not the only one apparently. When Glee pre-released its The Power of Madonna album last season, it was number one on the Billboard charts with 98,000 sales in its first week. More recently, the ten songs from the show's tribute to the gloved one were all within the top thirty iTunes downloads.

So, we have something to listen to together. "Like a Prayer" and "Like a Virgin" take me back in time. "Thriller" is still thrilling; "Vogue" is still in vogue. And "Ben" is (and was) a beautiful song — even if it's about a rat. In fact, my daughter claims that the new recordings by talented Glee kids Leah Michele, Darren Criss, Naya Rivera, Chris Colfer, Amber Riley and the rest are better than the golden oldies.

Well, on that note, we'll have to agree to disagree.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Tween In-Between

We're on another ski trip. What this means, per usual, is that my daughter and my husband are enjoying the ski slopes with our friends while I'm enjoying the peace and quiet of our rented ski house.

This morning, my daughter complained that her father is paying more attention to our friends' daughter than he is to her. He's tickling the younger girl, laughing at her fourth-grade jokes, teasing her with affectionate silly nicknames.

Quite frankly, my daughter is jealous.

I listened to her sympathetically and then I pointed out that her dad is really in a no-win situation, one that she herself created for him. He's between a rock and a hard place because if he teases and tickles his own daughter, she complains that he's treating her like a little kid. If he refrains from this activity, her feelings are hurt.

"You have to decide what you want," I told her.

My daughter heard me (which is in itself a rather unusual circumstance). She nodded knowingly and as she headed back downstairs sadly said, "I know. I'm too young for half the things I want and too old for the other half."

There's a saying about tweens: they're "Too old for toys; too young for boys." That's cute. But, the reality is much more complicated. My daughter and her friends are walking contradictions. They long for what they imagine were "the good old days." Easy friendships, less cliques, less lunchtime politics, less homework. At the same time, they are impatient for independence and the fantastic liberty they imagine comes with adulthood.

No rules, no limits, no curfews. Being your own boss. Never never never having to do anything, not one single solitary thing, you don't want to do.

Hey, sign me up.

I try to relate; I do. My daughter really is caught between little girlhood and grown womanhood. Her issues are intensely real to her even if I'm tempted to pooh-pooh them. When I point out that her perceived "glory days" of seventh grade weren't all that glorious, or try to tell her that with adult freedoms come adult responsibilities, she rolls her eyes, she walks away. In her book, it's just another example of my not getting it.

These are the times I try to remember what it was like to be in eighth grade myself. It was a rather awkward period if the pictures I have are any indication. I was growing out a Dorothy Hamill haircut; I was a little bit chubby. I definitely didn't know what to do with myself. My parents were completely clueless about what I was going through, about parenting, about everything. (Funny how much wiser they became as I got older. Hmmmm.) I couldn't wait to go to college, get a job, have my own apartment, start my life.

It's tempting to romanticize your youth. But, in reality, those junior high years were downright difficult. Sure, there were some girls who seemed to have it all: cool clothes, popularity, clear skin, good grades, even ... a boyfriend (gasp!). But, I believe one of two things is true. Either they were consummate actresses and despite their smooth exteriors, they were suffering the same doubts and dramas we all were. Or, they really did have it all and how sad that must be because if you peak at fourteen where do you go from there?

Really, I ask you.

(Despite rumors to the contrary, heading into my fifth decade, I myself haven't peaked yet, which gives me something to look forward to.)

Here's my prediction for this afternoon. The skiers will return, wiped out in a happy way, rosy-cheeked with lots of stories to tell. My daughter will have forgotten this morning's hurt feelings and will be excited to tell me all about the black diamonds and moguls she and her father (both accomplished and fearless skiers) tackled. Somehow, the ups and downs together at a ski resort seem to wipe away the ups and downs they have in day-to-day life.

My hope is that when the terrible tweens are behind us, they will still have this exhilarating activity to share together ... and with me.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Caution: Explosives Ahead

I love movies. There is nothing quite like that feeling of anticipation when the lights dim, you settle into your seat, and taste that first piece of delectable popcorn with "golden topping." (What is that stuff? Never mind, I'm quite sure I don't want to know.)

Over the years, I've related to various silver screen heroines. I went through my Juliet phase, my Scarlet O'Hara phase, my Sister Maria phase. As an adult, I understood why working woman Holly Hunter cried after her run each morning, why Sally fell for Harry, why Hannah felt taken for granted by her sisters.

But these days, the movie in which I most clearly see myself is a tremendously gory low-budget horror film from 1981. It's David Cronenberg's Scanners. And there's one infamous scene in particular that reminds me of ... well ... me. I'm not going to link to it (because it truly is disgusting), but if you're curious, you can Google "exploding head scanners." Just don't say I didn't warn you.

In Cronenberg's cult classic, scanners are people with superhuman telekinetic powers: they can read others' minds and make things happen through their own thoughts and concentration. A renegade scanner who is participating in a "harmless" demonstration decides to show off, focuses on another scanner's cranium and KABOOM! there is blood and guts and brains everywhere. The effect was created with raw beef livers and a shotgun. Not for the weak of heart (or the recent of lunch).

Despite the spectacular 1980s special effects, there is something basic and human and motherly about the scene. You see, I often feel as if my own temples are about to burst. In fact, this exceptionally unpleasant sensation happens almost daily. And, the movie's tagline pretty much says it all ...

10 Seconds: The Pain Begins.
15 Seconds: You Can't Breathe.
20 Seconds: You Explode.

Here are some, but not all, of the reasons this particular mom fears for her head:

When I have to repeat — for the hundredth time — that a certain someone can't go on Facebook until her homework is done.

When it's below freezing and that same young person refuses to wear a hat or a scarf or a pair of gloves, even though she has several of each of these apparently unnecessary accessories.

When there are dirty dishes in the aforementioned offspring's bedroom, in the bathroom, in the living room, the TV room, in pretty much every room in the house ... except the kitchen.

When there is a complete and utter disregard for rules despite the fact that said rules have been in place for years and have not changed one iota in all that time.

When I've had a particularly gruesome day at work only to learn that there is a humongous social studies project due the next day that will require all hands on deck, not to mention supplies we don't happen to have.

When I learn, through a strategic series of questions, that the social studies project in question was assigned not today, not yesterday, not even last week, but A FULL MONTH AGO!!!!!!!!


Until today, I thought that the perceived combustion of my brain was simply a manifestation, a symptom of a greater disease state known as mother-of-a-tween-itis. But, some quick web research has shown that "Exploding Head Syndrome" is an actual parasomnia disorder in which the patient is awakened by a fantastically loud noise inside his or her head. How horrible! Although these EHS episodes do not include physical pain, they do lead to anxiety and understandable difficulty sleeping.

The cause is unknown, but EHS appears to be connected to stress and extreme fatigue. Oh, and more women suffer from it than men.

Yep, that sounds about right.