bathing beauty there anything clothing related that gives a woman who has birthed two children more anxiety than having to get into a bathing suit? Even when I was at my marathon running height of fitness, I detested the trying on and purchasing of bathing suits enough that I wore one that was two sizes too big for three seasons longer than I should have just because the alternative, standing in front of a three-way mirror with that horrible department store lighting, seemed much worse. And I loved the color of the suit.

But this year, I had to face the inevitable. Last year’s hasty on-line bathing suit purchase did not pan out. I had bought a strapless one because I knew I was going to be wearing a strapless dress to a July wedding, and I can’t stand the look of tan lines. Aside from the realization mid-wedding that I never want to wear a strapless dress again, I came to the conclusion that strapless bathing suits just don’t work for moms who still sometimes get in the pool to play with little swimmers who tend to grab fabric instead of flesh when in water over their heads.

Let’s just say, I don’t need a repeat of the time I was at a “mommy and me” baby swim class with Colin at the YMCA when he grabbed a hold of me and pulled down the bodice of my bathing suit, exposing me for more than a brief second to a very shocked dad who didn’t make eye contact with me for the rest of that class or any others. Needless to say, we didn’t take lessons there again.

This year summer came faster than expected, and I’m not just referring to the insanely crazy temperatures and humidity. How can it be that tomorrow is June 1st? The last day of school is in striking distance. Summer camp time is near. Whereas usually the water in the Cheverly Pool is too cold opening weekend or the weather too rainy, this year, we made it for Memorial Day (as did every other pool member) which meant I had to put on a bathing suit just a little sooner than expected. (I honestly thought given our schedule it might be three more weeks before we got there.)

Since I donated the aforementioned strapless suit in a fit of closet and drawer purging, that left one option: the one-piece, racer-back Speedo I bought for myself back when I thought I would trade my running shoes in for laps in a pool. The tags were still on it. And if there is any style suit that was meant for function not form, it is a Speedo. I definitely did not take off my sarong.

But I can’t hide forever, so before they are completely sold out (my first choice style and color is already back ordered until mid-July) I got on the J. Crew website and ordered a couple different options to try on in the privacy of my own room, without the discomfort of unflattering lights and three-way mirrors to taunt me. Which means I will only have my doctor and his ban on activities I consider “real cardio” to blame for what I see reflected back at me. Well, that and my love of food. And wine.

I think regardless of how the suits fit, the sarong is going to figure prominently into my summer plans.


sex education

Fluffy takes a break on his first trip down the stairs.
Fang may be pretty but so far he is all boy.

How do you talk to your kids about sex? I guess I didn’t really think of this as a big deal. After all, I had learned myself at a young age. I remember asking my mom what a test tube baby was, and the responsible mom she was, she explained it to me. (I had envisioned a baby growing in a test tube, but was stuck on how the doctors moved it to progressively bigger vessels as the baby itself got bigger.)

When I had my own kids, one of the first decisions that I made was to call all the body parts by their real names. A penis is a penis, it isn’t a pee pee or a wiener or thingy. Then, when I was pregnant with Colin, we explained in very rudimentary terms to Jack how it was that this baby came to reside inside of me. But of course, at age two-and-a-half, he didn’t get it. Shortly after Colin was born, Jack asked his dad, “did Colin used to live in mommy’s belly?” When dad responded in the affirmative, Jack followed up with, “did Mommy EAT Colin?” Thus a more detailed description of how he got there was offered.

When the boys’ dad and I decided to separate, we went to a kids’ shrink to ask her advice on how best to convey to the boys what was happening. A key part of her advice was to make sure that they understand what sex is so that we could distinguish “romantic love” from the love that parents have for their kids. That is to say, describing this intimate action between adults would prevent them from thinking that someday we could fall out of love with them and want to divorce them. (I didn’t buy it either, but we followed her advice anyway.)

With a book on a procreating alligator family in hand, we explained what happens in a more detailed way when grown ups take off their clothes and bump into each other in the dark. Even though he had heard it before, Jack’s response was an indignant “no way.”

You still wonder what your kids get and what they don’t. It’s like some big intricate game of post office. What comes out of their mouths after you have explained it to them is very different than what went in to their ears in the first place. And since you know that Jack is going to tell Miles who is going to tell Ritzer and so on, you have to be particularly judicious about what you say. They are both sharp and clueless at the same time. When several years ago Jack asked how one of his friends could be born from two moms (sharp), I called the moms to ask what they had told their daughter so that we’d all have our stories straight. But then this week, after bringing boy kittens home, when he asked if we could please let our kittens have kittens (clueless) I had to not only remind them the kittens are male, but explain the process of neutering.

Jack’s response? A very indignant “no way.”

the prom’m going to the prom tonight. Not as a chaperon. (I have at least 6 or 7 years before I get to torture my children in that manner.) No, tonight is the annual “Cheverly Prom,” a long honored tradition of the adults in Cheverly getting dolled up and drinking a lot of booze so that they can be hungover the next day, otherwise known as “Cheverly Day.” Cheverly Day is also an annual tradition with an early morning parade; a fair-like atmosphere; and most importantly to the kids, a moon bounce.

Usually Cheverly Day is 90 degrees and humid, thus I try to pretend that I “forgot” about it so that I don’t have to go watch the boys risk their dental work and pristine noses while I stand by sweating profusely and cursing the noise. (I know, I lack community spirit.) And thus far, I have never been to the so-called prom. But as you should know by now, I like all things bacchanalian. And I have been told that everyone drinks a lot of wine at the prom. So when my friend Kate asked me to be her date (her husband Rob is gallantly doing the NYC to DC Climate Ride this weekend) of course I had to accept.

Kate is super cute and we have a good rapport, but I’m pretty sure that at the end of tonight, my status of not hooking up with my prom date will be intact. Junior year of high school, I broke up with my boyfriend/date in between dinner and the prom. My mom was horrified, thought that he would presume I had just been going out with him in order to go to the prom. Really, I was just petrified at his suggestion that I apply to colleges in the state where he (a year ahead of me in school) was headed in the fall. So I broke up with him, spent the evening dancing with my friends, and at the end of the night, when he brought me home at 11:15 instead of the 1:00am curfew my mom had for once in my high school life set, everyone in the family was astonished.

Senior year, I got perilously close to the prom without having been asked to go. Then one of my dearest friends, a junior, not wanting me to miss this seminal event in a relatively popular high school girl’s life, mercifully asked me to be his date. We went. We had fun. But we agreed later that the funds would have been better spent on a weekend in Boston. But hey, if I hadn’t gone to my senior prom, I’d have always regretted it. Well, for at least a few years anyway. (But if you are reading, thanks for the gesture Ryan because it is only in retrospect that I have such a mature attitude about it. I owe you a trip to Boston.)

Of course, what to wear has been on my mind off and on since I accepted Kate’s invitation. Not feeling at the height of my hotness, I have been loathe to try on anything prom-worthy from my own closet. But I also am not going to accept the post-back procedure state of my body by buying a new dress. So my first appearance to the CHV prom might be in skinny jeans and a sequin top. After all, I was not rebellious enough in high school to make such a statement, so why not now?

And I promise Kate that no matter what happens, I won’t break up with her tonight.

do as I say (and as I do) morning I got an email from my friend Rayanne. The subject line was “Dear Chelsea Chronicles” and the message included a fashion question. At first I thought that I had accidentally published my last post sans the great photo I was still in the process of tracking down of Seersucker Thursday and my super long hair. But it turns out she just wanted my advice. Minutes before I was about to take Dear Chelsea Chronicles live, here I was getting a question from another friend who values my advice.

Her timing was almost impeccable. An email yesterday would have yielded inclusion in today’s post, but regardless, the continued requests are making me look forward to including Dear Chelsea Chronicles as a weekly entry. And for the record, while I answered Raye’s question right away, she did indeed provide fodder for next week’s edition.

Then at lunch I talked to my friend Tom (although he isn’t necessarily in my demographic) about adding a weekly feature called Buy This! where I highlight one recommended item to buy. The item might be something that is on super sale. It might be an investment piece. Maybe something I already have and love. Or covet. Whatever the case, so many women tell me they want to go shopping with me that I consider this my own way of virtual shopping with all of you, but without the hit my budget would inevitably take if we hit the stores in person.

The conversation with Tom was still a bubble in the air when another mind-reader made herself apparent. I got an email this afternoon from my friend Kasey recommending a regular Style This! feature where YOU, my readers, send me an item, and I style it for you. (It looks like I am going to be getting well acquainted with polyvore after all.) I love it. A challenge. Bring it on.

But please, don’t ask me to style a meat dress. Or sweatpants.

Dear Chelsea Chronicles

Seersucker Thursday 2008

There is nothing that quite makes you feel like your own little universe’s fashion icon than to get questions from friends on what to wear. Lately, a number of you have suggested ideas for new blog posts, and most of these ideas come in the form of questions, such as “do you think it’s okay to…” or “how would you recommend styling…” Not to mention, “I have a wedding to go to…” As a result, beginning today, I am going to include a weekly post dedicated to your burning questions. So bring them on.

Dear Chelsea Chronicles:

When is it okay to wear linen? On that note, when is it okay to wear white?

Sincerely: Your Office Mates

Dear Office Mates:

You wouldn’t be asking me this question if you weren’t looking for a response that allowed both items to be worn outside the traditional Memorial-to-Labor Day window. And you are in luck, as the rules of fashion have been not only bent, but completely broken over the last few years. For example, while we were always told that white was only to be worn during the aforementioned time frame, I read a blog recently that advised women to wear white jeans in the early spring. The key is to make the outfit more seasonably appropriate by pairing the white jeans with a darker hued top and adding a cardigan or blazer. That is to say, white jeans and a sleeveless pink silk shell look out of place in March, but white jeans with an orange tee and a nautical striped shirt (and camel colored shoes) would pass my pre-Memorial Day test.

Part of the answer is in the styling, and part is in the weather. Last week, I saw a woman wearing a seersucker suit on a 62 degree day. Texture fail. It was just too breezy and cool of a day to pull out the seersucker. Even former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who founded the tradition of Seersucker Thursday, would have looked out of place. If you’re going to don linen, seersucker or poplin fabrics, make sure the weather is appropriate for it. That doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to wool until May 31st, dearest office mates. Opt for lighter fabrics and play with color. When in doubt, you know where my office is if you need a personal consultation.

Dear Chelsea Chronicles:

Is there a red lipstick that doesn’t make teeth look yellow? I hate to have to bleach my smile every time I want to opt for a sexy red pout.

Yours Truly: Stuck in the Capitol

Dear Stuck in the Capitol:

Finding the right red lipstick can be harder than securing a date with an unmarried man over 5’8″ with a good head of hair who is gainfully employed and isn’t living with his mom. I have heard it said before that the “blue reds” will minimize the yellow tint caused by love of red wine and coffee. A quick Google search of “red lipsticks with blue base” revealed several hits for M.A.C. Ruby Woo. (I never knew there were so many blogs dedicated to red lipstick.) I myself am devoted to Chanel’s Rouge Allure in Lover, although recently I was seduced by Tom Ford’s Private Blend Lip Color in Smoke Red. Any make up artist should be able to steer you toward the so-called blue reds. The best advice I read though is that if you are testing lipsticks at the cosmetics counter of a department store, take a moment to step outside and see how you look in the natural light instead of relying on what the overhead lights (or self-absorbed bloggers) may tell you. Though given that you may be wearing your perfect non-teeth yellowing red lipstick while confined in the U.S. Capitol complex, perhaps natural light in this case is overrated.

Dear Chelsea Chronicles:

Is it okay to wear black to a wedding?

Warm Regards: What (Not?) to Wear.

Dear What (Not?) to Wear:

In my opinion, the only color it is not okay to wear to a wedding is white (or shades thereof) unless it happens to be your wedding. Or you are maid of honor to the future Queen of England. So if it is an evening wedding, wear your black dress, but make sure the fabric, cut and accessories (in particular, your shoes) don’t scream day at the office or funeral chic. And while you’re at it, try a lush red lipstick.

So, my dear readers, bring on the questions, the more challenging the better. I may even attempt a polyvore set for you.

war and rememberance the news broke last week that Osama bin Laden was dead, it was hard for me not to reflect upon my own generation’s “where were you?” moment.  And the answer is that on September 11, 2001, my nine-month pregnant self was at work in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

It was a crisp fall day. I remember the sky being a vivid blue when I opened my eyes after the 40-minute nap I routinely took in the car on the commute into the city. (Did you catch that I was nine months pregnant?) I remember driving (well, riding) on D Street, NE, approaching 2nd Street, heading to the Hart Senate Office Building where my now ex-husband used to drop me off because the lines weren’t as long there as they usually were at the doors to my own building. As always, that morning I lamented the end of the nap, and this particular morning, I marveled on the perfection of the weather.

By the time I got to my desk, I was greeted with a chorus of “oh my god, did you hears” as the first WTC tower had just been hit. We all promptly congregated in one office (mine) to follow the live coverage on CNN. We had no idea that we were watching the worst terrorist attack on American soil occur. But then that second plane hit and reality quickly sank in.

We were numb. Our first reaction was “back to business as usual”  but then there were smoke plumes reported at the Pentagon, mysterious reports of car bombs at the State Department, the internal “hotline” announced evacuation of the Senate complex, and my contractions were coming on strong, albeit erratically, every 5-9 minutes. As my colleagues and I were about to leave our suite, my ex bounded in, and we made an executive decision that retrieving our car, three floors under in the parking garage of the Rayburn House Office Building, made us sitting ducks since we didn’t know if there were other planes headed for more DC destinations. With uncharacteristic calm we quickly reached a unanimous decision.

Call Brigid.

Brigid lived on the Hill, but far enough away from the epicenter that we figured if a plane was heading for the Capitol, we would not be in the carnage. Again, in retrospect I marvel at our relatively detached demeanor in such a tense moment.  After 16 or so tries on my cell, walking as we speed dialed, we finally reached Brigid and got the green light to head to her place. As I lumbered from the Senate-side to the House-side, past Eastern Market, I pleaded with my baby to stay put and not be born on this terrible day. I also hoped that at Brig’s there would be space for an enormous pregnant woman to sit down.

We made it to Brigid’s. I was given a seat on the couch. And history unfolded before our eyes. I found out later that the 25 Hill staffers crammed into her tiny apartment secretly took bets on whether I’d go into labor. The contractions stopped (adrenaline suppresses pitocin) but the day perpetually plays in my mind, like the black and white films that run on a loop at Ted’s Bulletin. As we all know now, there was indeed a fourth plane. And to this day, I believe that plane was destined for the U.S. Capitol. The passengers of United Flight 93 saved not only my life, but the life of my unborn son.

Four days later, with a newborn in my arms, I wondered what kind of world awaited him. As I have grown to begrudgingly accept over the years, I can’t protect him from everything, and for this reason, I applauded the President’s decision not to release photos of Osama bin Laden’s dead body. My kid reads the paper. He has an email account. He is observant. Had that photo been released, he would have eventually seen it. The greatest generation didn’t need to see pictures of Hitler’s charred body to believe he was dead, but my child is growing up in a YouTube world that has to see, hear or google everything to believe it. As for me, even though I loved 24 with its crazily unrealistic conspiracies, I’m going to take the Administration’s word for it on this one.

While I can’t say I have closure on 9-11 or feel that the world is a safer place, at least the success of this mission reaffirmed for me that sometimes, the good guys still win. And that’s the kind of world I want for my sons.

super mommy blues Needs Moms. And moms need wine. If you are my Facebook friend, then you know that my schedule this week is: Monday Jack had little league practice, Tuesday both kids had practice, Wednesday Jack has a game, Thursday both boys have practice, Friday Jack has a game, Saturday Colin has a game, and Sunday both boys have practice. Just writing it makes me tired. In addition, Tuesdays are musical theater practice rehearsal (yes, I am a stage mom). This Saturday is Touch Truck. (If you live in the DC metro area and have a child obsessed with trucks, you need to come to Cheverly for this annual event.) Saturday is also the annual Cheverly Garden Club sale and this month’s “Weekend Warriors” day. (Weekend Warriors is a group of friends who once a month tackle a household project or projects at one family’s home. I have been trying to break into the club for six months, but with all the back brace issues, this is my first opportunity for an appearance.)

That means that on Saturday, I need to be in four places at once (garden sale, little league, warriors, touch truck) and Colin needs to be in two places (little league, touch truck). I almost had an aneurysm when Jack picked up the phone today to arrange a play date for this overbooked day.

Whether you are a stay-at-home-mom (a job that I don’t think I would ever be awarded should I apply for it), work part-time, work from home, have a nanny or have kids in daycare/school, being a soccer mom (that title sounds so much better than little league mom) is no easy business. And if you home school, you deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for not killing your children at some point in the curriculum and educating them in the process.

I am a single parent, but only 50% of the time. With our week-to-week schedule, that means that I get a break that not all single parents get. It isn’t the every night break that a two-parent family balances out, but a shift from managed chaos to solitude. Some kid-free weeks, my nights are filled with happy hours and dinners. In the pre-Beatrix days, I went to the gym (in particular, Jess’s spin class is better than any happy hour special). Most nights, I work late. When I go home on my off-nights, my house is clutter-free. (I know most of you think this all sounds appealing.) But one thing is constant and that is that whether the boys are home or not, at my own bedtime, I instinctively head to their room to tuck them in because I’m always thinking of them and sleeping soundly in their beds is where they should be.

Usually, I am a multi-tasking genius. But this week, it’s only Tuesday and I’m already overwhelmed with our pending schedules (work and extracurricular) and to do list. I am feeling a little like the mom in Mars Needs Moms. The tyrant mom, that is, not the beautiful, green-eyed mom gasping for breath on Mars, inspiring the life-saving action of her previously unappreciative son. But still, regardless of the schedule or the demands, I can’t imagine a life that doesn’t have my boys in it. It’s just that some nights, that life needs an extra glass of wine.

I’m that mom

I love baseball. I know there are many people who find its nine (if you are lucky) un-timed innings boring. I’m even one of those people sometimes. It’s all about the pace of the game. Unless the Red Sox are playing the Yankees and we happen to be on the assaulting end of an uneven score, give me a quick pitchers duel over a high-scoring pile-on any day of the week

Sadly, when it comes to Little League, you get more of the latter than the former. All I can say is, thank god for the mercy rule.

Saturday was my older son’s first little league game. The kid is a little behind his teammates in not only age (as the youngest on the team) and size (he is certainly the smallest) but also in experience. Last year, for some reason t-ball for his age group never organized, so he missed one last year of totally hitting the crap out of the ball and gaining the confidence of driving in a lot of runs. This year, he is old enough to play with the big kids. I swear some of them are already sprouting facial hair on their upper lip. Those first few practices, I was nervous for him, but it turns out, Jack has some natural talent. He is small but quick. He is aggressive. And this season, he is the starting second baseman because, according to his coach, he goes after a ball better than kids twice his size.

But put a bat in his hand and he hasn’t seen a pitch he doesn’t want to swing at, whether they cross the plate over his head or at his knees. Turns out, Jack is an all-glove, no-bat second baseman.

Yesterday, at his first at bat, I winced as the poor kid struck out swinging on three mediocre pitches. Like me, my son loves baseball, but given that he is only 9-years old, he doesn’t watch games for the thrill of a potential no-hitter. He wants to see homerun after homerun. He wants the Red Sox (his American League team) or the Nats (his National League team) to “get a lot of points.” And more than anything, this kid wants to make contact with the ball.

I knew he was sad after his second inning strikeout. I could feel it in his body language as he walked back to the bench to watch the player after him drive in a few runs. Between innings I said to my ex-husband, “he needs to not swing at every pitch. If he could work a walk and get on base, given his speed, he will score.”

Fast-forward to the fourth inning. Bases are loaded. Jack comes to the plate. He quickly goes down 0-2 in the count (swinging, of course). I yell to my ex, who is coaching third-base, “tell him to take the next pitch.” His dad is gesturing instructions to him, and of course, I’m not subtle so I am yelling this instruction myself because, let’s be honest, I am that parent. The pitcher winds up, delivers his pitch straight down the plate. Called strike three. Damn.

Tears welled in my eyes as Jack dejectedly walked back to the bench. It was my fault he struck out and I knew it. I saw his coach put his arm around him and give him what looked to be words of encouragement. Would it be worse for him to have his mom come over and apologize in front of all his teammates? I couldn’t let my son sit there on the bench and cry. So I went over to give his shoulder a squeeze and tell him I was proud of him. As he looked up at me, I saw one alligator tear escape from him, but I also saw a look in his eyes that told me he isn’t going to give up.

I kept my bench visit brief and while he still struck out at the next at bat, he at least worked a 2-2 count first (and honestly, one of those called strikes was totally a ball, it never even got over the plate). I know at some point I will probably have to have the “there’s no crying in baseball” talk with him (and maybe his dad already has) but given that I both delivered the instructions that led to the tears and almost cried myself, maybe I am not the right messenger.

my girl-crush on Gwyneth Paltrow am not usually drawn to blonds, but I admit it. I am totally in like with all things Gwyneth Paltrow. (Except, with all due respect, her singing.) Ever since I saw her in the movie Se7en with her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt, I’ve had a soft spot for her movies. (Except, with all due respect, the ones in which she sings.) How many times in my own life have I had a Sliding Doors moment? And the period pieces? Love. How I wish I could do a British accent.

I so wanted her and my other crush, Ben Affleck, to make it as a couple. That would have been quite convenient. But alas, he took the J.Lo detour. Gwyneth assumed a macrobiotic diet. And in some chronological order that I don’t know without looking it up, she won an Oscar, lost her beloved father, met Chris Martin from Coldplay and had babies named Apple and Moses. I still marvel that they didn’t notice (or perhaps they did) Apple’s full name is one vowel away from being Apple Martini.

Then, aside from looking hot for the Iron Man movies, Gp sort of slipped under the radar for me except when I came across the random shot of her in my InStyle magazine. She is definitely the consummate trend-setter, making every look seem effortless (except that one goth ensemble she wore to the 2002 Academy Awards). Something about Gwyneth’s style makes me want to grow my hair long, buy a closet of white cotton blouses, and wear Tod’s driving shoes.

A year or so ago, my friend Adrienne introduced me to Gp’s website and newsletter Goop. Goop! I love Goop! Granted, I am pretty sure I will never stay in any of her recommended hotels in Paris (unless I am there on my next honeymoon). I won’t be doing her insane detox program (though only Gwyneth could make me think twice about drinking kale juice for breakfast). And I certainly didn’t need to see her list of international apothecary drugstore products to know that I am a sucker for such a thing (after all, I discovered the Boots line that Target now carries when studying in the UK in 1991.)

And then there is her recently released cookbook, My Father’s Daughter. I have to admit, I bought it on a whim. I tend to be a little skeptical of celebrity cookbooks. Sophie Dahl’s attempt, Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights (which I actually first read about on Goop) sits in my kitchen without a single recipe having been prepared from it (though her recipe preludes are very entertaining and the photography is brilliant). But in two nights I have made three recipes from MFD and they all were fabulous. Even the kids cleaned their plates, which held such green things as kale and zucchini.

I do have to mock a little. Aside from her slightly preachy comments on organic and unprocessed foods (we know, we know) her recipes are peppered with comments like “good for the working parent” but none more so than ten-hour chicken. Having just roasted a chicken for the boys, which they declared “the best chicken in the world” I thought I should take a look. She bills this recipe as the perfect dish for the busy working parent. According to her recipe, put your whole chicken in a 200 degree oven before you leave for work in the morning, and when you get home that night, the chicken will be done. Yeah. Except most of us don’t have help who stay at our houses during the day to make sure they don’t burn down when we leave the oven on unattended for ten hours. An editor didn’t notice that maybe this is a great recipe for a cold Saturday when you don’t intend to leave the house but might not be not appropriate for those of us who neurotically check and recheck the knobs on our gas stoves before we leave the house in the morning?

But I forgive. After all, last night, my kids ate kale. Tonight, they ate fried zucchini spaghetti which is only significant (since they like zucchini) in that usually Jack won’t eat foods that touch. But he never once complained that his vegetable and his pasta were co-mingling in the bowl.

And if her recipes are so good, how bad can her detox program be?