the boys of fall

Time to move the Red Sox shirts out of my drawer and really commit to football season. At least in the modern era of Red Sox choke lore, I can rest knowing that when I die, I lived to see the Red Sox win the World Series title. Twice. Generations of New Englanders died never experiencing that sweet moment when the last out is executed and the realization sinks in that you are world champions (well, North American champions). Still, it was hard to have this conversation when Jack woke up (uncharacteristically) at 6:15 this morning:

Jack (voice too enthusiastic for pre-alarm clock): Mommy, did the Red Sox win?

Me (eyes closed): No.

Jack: But Tampa Bay lost?

Me (pulling covers over head): No.

Jack (voice laced with a familiar disappointment): But I thought this was finally the season that I was going to see the Red Sox make it to the World Series.

Jack has lived through the same two World Series titles that I have, but in 2004 he was three and cared more about Tonka trucks. Even in 2007 he was only six and while he was watching games, I think the season takes on new meaning once you start playing little league, learn to keep score, and can identify players. But now in 2011, the poor baby has no idea that he has just joined the ranks of many an anguished sports fan. Yeah, it burns.

Now that baseball season is over for me, maybe the weather will finally stop acting like it’s August and remember it’s fall. I have a hard time making my very special warm cheesy bean dip that I’m known for by legions of football fans in multiple states when the temperatures are hovering around 84 degrees with 96% humidity.

I love baseball – and for an OCD person like myself I mean I love the ritual of baseball. (I make Nomar Garciaparra look well adjusted.) But I really enjoy the mechanics of football better. I prefer the faster pace. I prefer the presence of a clock. I prefer the element of strategy. And I certainly prefer Tom Brady to any baseball player to come along since Steve Sax (who played in the days before it was de rigueur to resemble a cave man under your batting helmet).

Football season. Fewer than 20 regular season games. Your teams plays once a week; there’s none of the being neurotic for 160+ days a year baseball inflicts. When people say about baseball that the first few weeks of the season don’t count, they’re wrong. If the Sox had won one more game in April, our guys would be on their way to Florida for a one-game playoff instead of to Boston to pack up for the winter.

So the Pats might have rolled over to the Bills this past weekend. Or maybe the Bills are for real. My original favorite football team is back on the rise, though I can’t look at a 49ers uniform without sliding into a reverie of the Joe Montana-Steve Young eras. I’m in one of those “easy” draft-free fantasy leagues where you just make your picks on the winners each week. This weekend will be comfortable football weather in DC. There’s hope for an exciting season ahead. Who needs baseball?

At some point in the doldrums of winter, I’ll be longing to hear an umpire call, “play ball” but for now I’m happy to instead be focused on false starts, two-point conversions and roughing the passer calls. Daydreaming, of course, about roughing my own favorite passer. I’m sure Gisele won’t mind.


today’s outfit

today's outfit

 Well, this isn’t exactly my outfit today. But it’s a rather close representation. Instead of the earrings pictured here, I wore a vintage pair of gold studs I inherited from my great-aunt. And instead of the eggplant colored MV Wallace bag, I carried a black one (but oh how this one would have looked so much better). The bracelet pictured is also close to what I own, but not the one.
Readers will recognize the shoes that were the object of so much drama (with a happy ending) this summer.
I was a little nervous about the leopard print shirt; I tend to incorporate animal prints in smaller doses. Wearing too much kittycat print is recipe for being called names a woman in her 40s doesn’t want to be called. But then one day a few weeks ago I spilled coffee on myself walking from my car to the office. I had no backup at work and couldn’t go home to change, so at 10:00am sharp I ran to the Ann Taylor at Union Station in search of a replacement and returned to the office with this top.
I feel like today’s ensemble worked, if I do say so myself. I could pretend fall has arrived in DC with the vibrant flame skirt, but the sleeveless top allowed me to bounce from meeting to meeting with limited overheating. After all, sweat is not a welcome addition to any outfit.

the sweat equity challenge, week 2

welcome to the mommy cave

Admit it. You didn’t think I would actually keep up my own challenge to myself. But I did. In spite of the fact that I had the kids this weekend, and that they were determined to help, and that the project I had in mind (again) involved paint, we got it done.

The room affectionately referred to as “the playroom” doesn’t really see a lot of play time. But it does house a number of the boys’ toys. It’s nice to have a room that I can throw all their crap into the weeks that they are with their dad. But this room, in its current state, feels a little like wasted space, and I have had it in my mind that I would like to de-emphasize the “play” and enhance the prospects of this room serving as a sort of office-slash-reading-room-slash-home-office.

Step one was to weed out the broken and long-ignored toys, chucking those that don’t work and donating those ready to move on to a new household. That step of the project absolutely has to be done when the kids aren’t home because there’s nothing more likely to compel a kid to find a new favorite toy than to threaten you are giving it a new home. So I had undertaken this step a few weeks ago when weeding out toys was a better alternative to whatever else it was I should have been doing.

As for step two, if you have painted a room before then you know how time consuming it can be to prep a room. And let’s just say that these next steps (cleaning, taping, tarping, preparing tools) were made all the more painful when every ten seconds a kid asked, “can we paint now?”

But we got the room cleaned, taped and covered in a drop cloth in less time than it would have taken me to do it alone. (Jack is a master with the blue tape.) I was still a little nervous about letting them paint, but of all the rooms for them to “help” in, I figured it was this one, the one room with carpet, carpet that will (on a more ambitious day) be removed and replaced with bamboo flooring.

As it turns out, Jack is quite the master painter. He is a little heavy handed with the amount of paint he puts on his brush/roller, but then again so am I. Colin, as I suspected he would, gave up after one wall and instead focused on keeping the kittens out of the room while we worked. Everyone has to have a job.

When we were done, the kids quickly proclaimed their love for this room. Of course, at this point I had been envisioning it as sort of a mommy cave, where mommy friends and I will drink wine when our kids have co-opted the living room to watch a movie. But regardless of who is using it when, it felt good to cross another item off my to do list.

If only Jack hadn’t felt the need to cut the paint out of his hair. Next step, schedule kid haircuts.

current obsession

today's current obsession

You know how it is when you can’t get some one or some thing out of  your mind? I don’t mean in the unhealthy Fatal Attraction pet-rabbit-boiling-in-a-pot sort of way. (Yes, that’s a shout out to you, Caroline.) (Note to readers: not because Caroline has boiled a lover’s daughter’s pet rabbit but because the reference was recently lost on a a woman of a younger generation whom she was talking to.) An obsession can sometimes be a goal on steroids. Other times, it’s a flash in the pan. But regardless of the duration or the dedication to pursuing said object of affection, obsessions are all mind (and time) consuming.

It’s safe to say that my current obsession is this pair of Rebecca Minkoff pumps. Every day for the last month I have visited them (at least once) on-line. I have created countless outfits in my head, both with items already in my closet and items I don’t yet own. These shoes have gone on dates I don’t have prospects for, and they have taken me to meetings I haven’t yet scheduled. I’d wear them with my favorite Fidelity Denim skinny jeans, a crisp white shirt and my black Smythe blazer. I’d wear them with my vibrant flame J. Crew pencil skirt. I’d sleep in them if I didn’t think I’d kick them off in the middle of the night, leaving them unprotected from kittens who seems to obsess over getting their little paws on my shoes as much as I do.

If you see my strolling down the street wearing these shoes, you will know I gave in. That or I achieved whatever task I told myself I needed to achieve in order to deserve these shoes.

Or maybe, just maybe, I have a date.


underneath it all when I was doing my original blog (styling my back brace, for those of you who missed my period of Beatrix incarceration) I wrote a post on underpinnings. In excruciating detail, I shared both my perspective on the benefits of wearing nice lingerie and recommended my favorite designers. It was the most-read post I had (except I suspect my dad skipped it).  Given the popularity of the original post, I feel compelled to update you on my current lingerie discovery, one that may have changed my undergarment life forever.

About a month ago, I was meeting a friend at the E Street Cinema. Of course I was early, and my movie-partner was late. (In all honesty, he ended up being on time, which is early for him, but I anticipated he would be late.) I had always admired from afar the lingerie boutique Coup de Foudre, located across the street from the theater, but it seemed it was usually closed when I was in the neighborhood.

But there I was, early for a movie, tickets in hand, expecting to wait 30 minutes for showtime, so it only made sense to finally take advantage of the location and the time of day to check out its lacy offerings.

As the French say, oh la la.

I was instantly greeted by a beautiful French accent, and as my eyes scanned the walls the way my kids eye the candy aisle at the grocery store, the very helpful owner of the French accent came to my side to offer her assistance. My eyes were immediately focused on a beautiful cosmic blue Marie Jo plunge bra with this gorgeous daisy detail on the straps, so pretty you almost want your strap to show.

I was ushered to the changing room, the cosmic blue in my size in hand, but just in case I was wrong about my size, the very experienced staff was there to ensure the perfect fit. And when I say ensure, I mean ensure. Leave your modesty at the door, ladies, a small price to pay to walk away with the correct size in a bra that’s a flattering cut and shape for you.

The cosmic blue bra (and matching panties) went home with me that day, and I love so much how this bra fits that I went back the following week to buy it in black. But it was not an in-and-out-of-the-store experience. I was again ushered into the changing room, just to make sure the black fit as well as its beautiful blue sister. Of course while I was there, I tried on many other options, but in the end we agreed that the Marie Jo plunge is the style for me. How happy was I today when I received an email informing me that my new favorite bra is now available in ruby red.

The women of Coup de Foudre have seen “more” of me than anyone else lately, and I so appreciate their good eye and discriminating taste in lingerie. It truly was, as the name of their store indicates, love at first sight. But if you decide to take the plunge, just don’t buy my ruby in a 36B.


the sweat equity challenge all started with a hurricane and peeling textured ceiling paint in the guest room.

The textured ceiling paint was not peeling as a result of Hurricane Irene; no, it was gratis the previous harry homeowner, or maybe two harry homeowners ago. who made a number of sloppy sweat equity decisions back in his ownership days. When my brother Nathan (a professional) was here refinishing my downstairs bathroom, he checked out the peeling ceiling for me, reported that it was the result of the person who applied said textured paint without sanding or priming ahead of time.

“Even you can remove it easily,” he assured me.

Since I mostly keep the guest bedroom door closed though, it was really out of sight, out of mind. But then we were stranded in the house without power, and I needed something to do that didn’t involve electricity. Since I love to peel, be it sunburns, beer bottle labels or old wallpaper, a little light bulb went off in my brain. Surely textured ceiling paint would provide the same satisfaction.

Six hours later, I was barely a third of the way done and it was getting dark. A few more hours the next day did not yield much more progress. I have found oddly that letting the ceiling “rest” helps loosen some of the tougher spots. I’m not done yet, but I am determined to finish it soon. By next weekend. Or next month. At least by the next time I have guests.

All this Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor work got me to thinking, why not take on one project a weekend, no matter how small, between now and Thanksgiving. It isn’t like there’s a shortage of work to be done around my old house. This weekend I was ambitious; the ceiling continues to be peeled during my “breaks” from other activities, namely applying a fresh coat of paint (or three) on the backside of the kitchen door and stairwell that leads to the basement. Other jobs on my personal honey do list: painting the exterior backdoor; replacing some ceiling tiles in the basement; converting the playroom into an office-homework station; power-washing the side of the house; and well, I will stop there or my friends will be scared to come over lest I put them to work.

I could hire someone. But let’s be honest, there is plenty of work on that list too. (I don’t do electrical. Or pipes. Or floors.) So why not test my homeowner skills on this easier set of tasks and realize some immediate progress? After all, I at least can meet my own cost estimates and I guarantee myself I will get the job done in the time I have available.

Break’s over. Back to the ceiling.

style me!

Brigid's Fall Event

Finally a challenge that doesn’t involve entertaining a kid in the ER, beating the national average on the Constitution Quiz or explaining what a dry scrubber is.

My dear friend Brigid, who has been there with me at so many seminal points in my life ranging from my first purchase at the Bobbi Brown counter to 9-11, is in charge of an important upcoming event at work. As is often the challenge in work-related events, she needs to strike a balanced evening look that is professional, yet elegant, and a daytime (outdoor) look that is casual but demands her to look office-appropriate nonetheless.

For the evening portion of her event, Brigid has to dress for Mass, a reception, and a benefactor dinner at the university where she is director of communications. Given that she will be attending Mass, she needs to be conservative. But I want her to stand out appropriately and highlight her beauty. So I found this gorgeous DVF in a bottle green color that will make Brigid’s beautiful green eyes pop (and distinguish her from all those wearing black, but without the ostentatious message that red can sometimes send). The Maidey is long-sleeved, has a high-neck, isn’t too form fitting, but highly flattering. I’d pair it with simple pearl earrings and nude pumps.

For the day look, considering that Brigid doesn’t have much time, I stuck to options from J. Crew, a store she shops. I know I am spending a lot of Brigid’s money here, but I also have confidence that she can replicate any of these items at a lower price point. I’m just here to provide some direction.

For Brigid I love this viridian green wool skirt (okay, I have it, and the color is so much richer in person than it appears on-line) and an ivory blouse. I gave her two sweater options (after all, Brigid lives in Wisconsin and daytime temps might demand an extra layer). If she’s feeling bold, I’d pair the plum cardigan with the green skirt. If she needs to err on the side of conservative, the camel cardigan provides a neutral alternative. I couldn’t help picking out a leopard print flat (not just because it’s named after Brigid’s daughter) just for a little edge and some extra personality. The orange necklace options were another wildcard for if she chooses the camel sweater but wants an additional punch of color.

So there you go, Brigid. I wish I could come shopping for the day. Next time, give me a little more notice and I will see what I can arrange.

ten lessons I have learned in my first ten years of being a mother me get one thing straight: I have learned more than ten parenting lessons.  But on today, the day that marks ten years of my being a mother, a day when my friend Angie is likely to give birth to her first child (I hope I didn’t just jinx the pace of your labor, Angie) I offer these lessons as a good cross-section of those things that the books don’t teach you.

In no particular order:

1. Band-aids are required for booboos that do not necessarily involve bleeding. As a parent, you just have to accept that you’re going to blow through a box of band-aids in a week, whereas when I was single the same box would linger in my medicine cabinet for over a year. A bruise, a bump, it doesn’t matter. Band-aids are accessories.

2. Sleep begets sleep. Early on as a parent, you may think to yourself one night, “we are having fun, drinking good wine, having conversation. Let’s let the kids stay up later, then they will sleep later and we can sleep in.” It doesn’t work that way. Kids who stay up later wake up at the same time in the morning, but are sleep-deprived, or in other words, cranky. But by some miracle, kids who go to bed early (and/or have a good nap) will sleep until their usual wake up time — or sometimes later.

3. On a related note… no amount of fun the night before is worth the pain the next morning. Now that my kids are of an age that they don’t wake me up in the morning, it doesn’t matter quite as much, but back when they were younger, I would have loved to hire someone for the morning after even more than being able to have the evening out.

4. If your child gets him or herself dressed, you look the other way if it doesn’t match. For several months, Jack’s “go to” outfit was a pair of bright red athletic pants and a kelly green tee-shirt. It hurt my eyes to look at him. But as long as that outfit was clean, I didn’t have to pick out his clothes or get him dressed. Then one morning, he was in said outfit at the table having breakfast, looked down at himself, and exclaimed, “I look like Christmas! I have to change.” In other words, he eventually figured it out.

5. Kids tell the same jokes and play the same annoying games we did as kids. You have to pretend you haven’t heard the banana/orange knock-knock joke a gazillion times. You suddenly understand why your parents wanted to leave you at a roadside stop after two hours of you and your sibling playing the copying game where they say what the other just said. Where they say what the other just said. Mom, he’s copying me. Mom, he’s copying me.

6. If there is anything worth crying over, it’s spilled milk. I forgot about this one until the other day when Nancy’s daughter spilled a whole pint of strawberry milk in her car. Neither of my boys really drink milk anymore, but back in the day, a cup of spilled milk seemed like it took longer to clean up than the oil spill in the Gulf. In other words, it’s no laughing matter.

7. Kids always know how much money they have in their wallets. So if you have to borrow some (like when you have to call the emergency locksmith because you grabbed the wrong set of keys while simultaneously closing the locked door behind you and you don’t have the required cash to get him to then leave your house once he has broken you back in) you must replace their money immediately (before you forget) and in the same denominations you took. You should also try to crinkle the bills up like they have been in the grasp of a sweaty hand.

8. Reverse psychology was invented to be used on kids. You want them to do something? Pretend you think it’s too dangerous or complicated or that they aren’t old enough, and before you know it they will be fighting over who gets to do it.

9. Kids cannot keep secrets. Ever. Not even small ones like, “don’t tell your brother I let you ride shotgun (watch TV, lick the bowl, stay up late).” And the bigger deal you make of the secret, the faster they will reveal it.

10. When you are having a bad day, your kids will inevitably make it worse. After a long day, coming home to cook a dinner that they won’t eat (even if it’s their favorite) and argue with them about bathing (“but I’m clean!”), teeth-brushing (“why?”), reading (“one more chapter?”) and bedtime (“I’m not tired!”), just when you are at your wits end, one will say something to make the day better. My favorite is this:

Child: “Mommy?”

Me: “Yes?”

Child: “I love you.”

And suddenly all the drama is worth it.



It seemed that as the ten-year anniversary of 9-11 grew nearer, my writer’s block worsened. I started and restarted this post a dozen times, but everything I put down felt trite and inadequate. Then tonight I realized that I struggled with exactly what to write because I’m not sure what can I say that hasn’t been said already.

Then I decided that it doesn’t matter if it’s been said. 9-11 is a day that changed America. It’s a day that changed me.

On Friday night I wept uncontrollably as I allowed myself the emotional indulgence of watching a 9-11 retrospective. For the first time, I let my children see for themselves the footage from that horrific day. They know the basic history of 9-11. They’ve heard the story of how their very pregnant mommy was working in the Senate that morning. They know about the 18-wheeler FEMA truck that shared the road with us as their dad and I drove to Sibley the night I went into labor. I can’t really tell the story of Jack’s birth on September 15, 2001 without including the details of the 4 days that preceded it.

I knew if I was going to let them watch 9-11 footage, I would have to keep my emotions in check. More than once, I covered my eyes and Colin’s too. Jack squeezed my leg. I cringed at the footage of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. I had forgotten how fast the plane was flying, how low to the ground it was, and how very much like a weapon a commercial airline could appear. In that moment of the second hit we knew unconditionally that our country was under attack. The other night, seeing the footage was like feeling it for the first time.

Tears streamed silently down my face. Silently, that is, until Tom Brokaw moved to the story of United Flight 93. Emotion check failure.

Jack: “Mommy, why do you watch this show if it makes you cry?”

Because I have to. I’ll never know what would have happened if United Flight 93 hadn’t crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. I’ll never know whether my life and the life of my beautiful ten-year old son would have been in danger if Flight 93 had crashed into the Capitol – or more likely, been shot down over our city. Amid all I don’t know, I do know that the passengers of Flight 93 were heroes. And when I see their widows and children and loved ones recounting those last minutes on the flight, piecing together the story of their act of bravery, I just hope that I deserve their sacrifice.

I expected the moment of silence at 8:46 this morning to be heart-wrenching. But while somber, the silence allowed me to hear – coming from outside – the jubilant (and loud) voices of the 8 little boys who had slept over last night to celebrate my son’s upcoming tenth birthday. 9-11 robbed us of our innocence, but children still play and tell knock-knock jokes. They still skin knees and fall off their bikes. They even play Capture the Flag. And they laugh. The “post-9-11 world” for me was marked first and foremost by my entry into motherhood. I don’t need to be reminded to never forget.