Chick Wit | A nest recently empty is full again, for summer

I am a woman who likes routines, but now that my daughter, Francesca, is home from college for the summer, the times they are a-changing.

By way of background, she is my only child and I'm a single parent, so it's just the two of us. Even so, I had gotten used to the empty-nest thing. I liked everything being in order, or at least in my favorite form of disarray. I had my own hours and habits. I walked in the morning with the dogs. Worked all day. Cooked something simple and light during the evening news. Worked at night or read without ignoring somebody, guilt-free. Showered as necessary.

But my baby bird is back, and she's wrenched my life out of shape. For example, I had to move all of my winter clothes, boxes, and books out of her room, as she insisted on having a bed.

Annoying.

Also, she thought it would be fun if we got a kitten, and I went along. But somehow we couldn't leave with only one kitten, so we got two. When we took them home, I learned that one plus one doesn't equal two, when it comes to kittens. Looking at my house now, you would think I hired a kitten wrecking crew. Their names are Mimi and Vivi, and they're conspiring as we speak. They shred toilet paper. They climb table lamps. They surf throw pillows. By the way, we already had four pets - three golden retrievers and a bossy Welsh corgi - and you can imagine their happiness at the new arrivals. The goldens think the kittens are delicious. The corgi thinks she gave birth.

My schedule is a mess, too. Francesca has become a vegetarian, so we go food shopping all the time. We're in the market, squinting at labels and scanning for magic words like cruelty-free. What's the alternative? Pro-cruelty? Obviously she's right, but all of a sudden, I'm spending too much of my life around produce. Plus, I'm carb-free, which means that we agree only on celery.

And I don't recognize my own shopping cart. I buy Bocaburgers and tempeh like they're going out of style. This is food you couldn't pick out of a lineup. Bocaburgers look like coasters, and tempeh looks like fiberglass. I've eaten Bocaburgers, so I know they're good with ketchup, only because everything is good with ketchup. As for tempeh, I have no idea what it tastes like or how to prepare it. I'm thinking sautéed. With ketchup.

Worse yet, Francesca likes clean clothes, which I regard as picky. Living alone, I have gone months without doing laundry. I work at home, and the UPS man doesn't care if I wear the same T-shirt and shorts all week. So does he.

But now dirty clothes make a high and aromatic pile on the floor. My daughter and I play Laundry Chicken, to see which one of us breaks down first and washes the clothes. I suspect that at the middle of the pile is a kitten. Two kittens.

Still, no matter what, I refuse to iron. Nor do I want her to iron. In fact, I don't own an iron and will not buy one. Women shouldn't iron, ever. It's our wrinkles that make us interesting.

And there's a drastic difference in Francesca's and my hours. I keep normal hours, and she keeps vampire hours. I used to wait up for her and worry. Now I go to sleep and hope for the best. Even when she stays home, she's up late watching TV or talking on the cell phone. Did you know that at any given hour of the night, three billion sleepless young people are updating their Facebook profiles, friending each other, or announcing their newly single status? If only we could harness their energy, we'd be less dependent on foreign oil.

Our entertainment choices differ, too. I don't go out much, but last weekend, I was trying to be cool and suggested that we go see Ocean's Eleven at 7:30. She reminded me that we were up to Ocean's Thirteen and talked me into seeing the 10:30 show. I fell asleep in the movie, twice, and she had the gall to wake me up. What does it mean if even Brad Pitt puts me to sleep? Don't answer.

Plus she bought a box of fresh Raisinets and a bag of popcorn, which reminded me that carbs practically demand to be eaten, so now I've fallen off the wagon.

You get the idea. My daughter has disturbed my empty nest and she'll be home all summer.

And you know what?

I wouldn't have it any other way.


Lisa Scottoline is a best-selling author, most recently of "Daddy's Girl." She can be reached at www.scottoline.com.