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.

sun goddess

Meghann is finally getting her glow from bronzing products and not human microwaves.

Who doesn’t love that sun-kissed look that says you spent the day outside playing in the sun? People will go to great lengths to acquire that look. Some do it the old fashioned way. Who from high school remembers crawling out my bathroom window to lay out on the roof of my house?  Kim? Debbie? Jen? We used to spend our summers worshiping the sun (Debbie always had a gorgeous summer tan) and often lathering ourselves with canola oil to attract the sun because we were out of, um, baby oil. We also went to the beach and laid out at Sheila’s pool without using SPF-loaded products. (I always justified this by thinking the Maine sun was less harmful than the California sun.)

It was the 80s. Everyday products like body lotion and foundation didn’t have SPF. Or maybe it did and we didn’t pay attention. Maybe it was the invincibility of youth.

But really, I should have known better. When we were little, my mom was putting sunscreen on us (I can still envision the bottles of Sea & Ski) in the 70s before it was vogue to do such a thing. We even had our noses routinely painted with a healthy dose of zinc oxide before going to the pool. But that didn’t stop my teenage self from absorbing a sun that we did not acknowledge would give us the wrinkles we now curse.

While these days I’m more or less a direct sun-evader, there are many who embrace its deceiving glow. If you want or need to be in the sun, all your skin asks of you is to use sunscreen. And something better than SPF 4. For me, I’m a big fan, for everyday use, of the Bobbi Brown Brightening Protective Face Base. I use serious sunscreen if I am going to the pool, but for everyday under-the-make-up purposes, the Bobbi Brown provides SPF of 50, goes on lightly and doesn’t smell like Coppertone (after all, who needs an olfactory reminder that they’re going to work and not the beach?)

I have also been a devoted fan for many years of Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturizer. While it only has SPF 20, and thus is not sufficient by itself, the product is superb, and when combined with the aforementioned face base, I feel protected enough to sit outside at the Cafe Berlin and enjoy a seasonally appropriate Spaten after work.

What I am trying to say is: if you need to be in the sun, be smart about it. Take it from someone in her early 40s who still gets carded. While I have not but on a handful of occasions in my irresponsible youth visited a tanning salon, it seems that these beds of aging have a draw that is undeniable for the Millennials. I have to admit to watching a dreadful episode of a TLC show called My Strange Addiction in which a young woman was seriously addicted to tanning. Her need for a UV fix was so bad that she would travel to more than one salon a day, because no one place would not allow her to tan twice daily. She might have been 21 (if that) but her skin looked much older than mine does at 41. Long ago, I gave the anti-tanning bed advice to my 25-year old sister Meghann and it seems she has finally switched to self-tanners (or so she tells me). But on that note, if you are going to do liquid tan, take time to apply it evenly. Even super cute shoes can’t hide a streaky orange ankle.

With the money you save by not going to the tanning salon, you can save up to fund a trip to the Greek Isles. Just don’t forget your sunscreen.

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.

something blue

I know that it’s cliche to write about weddings today of all days. While I did not get up at 3:00am to watch the royal wedding (though I did wake up at 3:00am for other neurotic Chelsea reasons) by the time I got out of bed at 6:00am to do my physical therapy exercises, I caught more or less the meat of the royal event without being intentionally in a sleep deficit. But if I had had others to join me in the drinking of the Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee, trust me, I would have made the move from bed to living room a tad bit earlier.

If I may, let me muse for a moment over the whole “should we watch it or should we not” pressure. In my opinion, it’s a world event. Prince William will be King of England. He may be a king in name only, but let’s give respect where respect is due. Second of all, I personally am very up to speed on world events. I don’t watch the Jersey Shore. (I don’t even watch American Idol.) I understand what the “debt ceiling” is. I watch C-SPAN for god’s sake. So let me enjoy something light and happy. Don’t judge me for wanting to see two people express a very public display of affection and commitment.

In 1981, my almost 12-year-old self watched Lady Diana marry Prince Charles. I had never had a boyfriend (and was probably just on this side of thinking that boys didn’t have cooties) but I was enamored with all things royal. I cut out of magazine photos of presumed designs of what her dress would look like. I had a coffee mug commemorating their engagement. I woke up at 2:00am to follow the coverage. But given all that, I cannot say in all honesty that even at that age I was bought into the fantasy. Did Diana’s later courage to divorce Prince Charles in the most public of ways give me the validation to terminate my own marriage?

I can feel you rolling your eyes, but at the same time, I cannot for sure say no, just as we can’t today predict how today’s betrothal of Prince William and Kate Middleton will impact weddings to come. Will brides imitate her dress? (Personally, I think Kaitlan could totally pull off Kate’s look. And bridesmaids… you should demand a dress as flattering as that worn by Kate’s sister.) Prince William and the new Princess Kate are a modern royal couple. She is older than he is. One can presume they have had sex. (Does anyone else remember the release of the details of Diana’s embarrassing examination that showed she was a virgin?) She rattled off  his obnoxiously long name in the right order. And held her flowers with seemingly steady hands. An inspiration.

The one question I have, which I am sure would be answered by a quick Google search, is what shoes did she wear? While her dress was timeless, how fun would it have been to mix it up with a sassy pair of shoes in an exotic color? Maybe even use it as her something blue. I know that if I ever get married again, I will pay way more attention to the shoes than the dress.

But the bottom line is that while today millions worldwide fawned over the ceremony joining this couple, it was really a private moment between two young people in love. Their demure pubic kiss may have passed with the blink of an eye, but I have faith that in their alone time, they were able to embrace the significance of the day. And hopefully, in the process, she flashed him a rocking royal blue satin heel.

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?

something new

Adam and Kaitlan, captured seconds after the proposal (and acceptance)

Love is in the air. While some fear the arrival of spring for its pollen-laden ways, Adam, the young and handsome suitor of Kaitlan, whom I refer to more as “my former LC in the Warner office” than I do by her current title in our present office, took advantage of the soft pink canopy provided by the cherry blossoms to get down on one knee and pop the question.

So last Monday morning, amid the “how was your weekend” questioning, it didn’t take us long to notice that Kaitlan was sporting an eye-catching gem on that one finger reserved for such magnificence. The requisite screaming, oh-my-godding, jumping up and downing and hugging ensued. And by lunch, the past issues of Trading Carbon and National Journal on our office coffee table had been replaced by copies of Martha Stewart Weddings and Southern Living Weddings. (We did keep the publication Wills and Kate: A Royal Love Story that Sara kindly brought us back from the UK on her last visit.)

After all, we are an office of almost all women, joined three days a week by one of the company’s founding fathers (whose own daughter is getting married this summer) and four days a week by Max the Intern, whom we are constantly apologizing to for our female-centric conversations. Let’s just say, Max is learning about not just energy policy, but heel heights, purse colors and outfit accessorizing.

Wedding bells toll for us daily now as we grill Kaitlan on updates to her planning. We are happy she has a date set. We peruse her dogeared pages of said magazines to see what dresses have caught her eye. We’ve all shared our worst bridesmaid dress story, a conversation that has been held more than once since we all have more than one worst story to share. (My worst story isn’t my own, but belongs to my friend Chris, who at her brother’s wedding had a wear a teal-colored sheath that just reached over the socially necessary places to cover, with a purple-colored skirt that you tied around the waist and could take off for dancing later, and purple shoes. But then when you took the purple skirt off, you were wearing teal and purple in the days before color blocking was stylish.)

It’s hard to not dispense with a dose of unsolicited advice when someone young is getting married. Just today, when Kaitlan told me that she promised her maid of honor that she’d pick a dress that could be worn again (haven’t we all heard that) I advised her to not bother. Really, no one ever wears the dress again. It’s an honor to be in someone’s wedding, and that’s worth the price of a bridesmaid dress you will wear once. I mean, how many times have you worn a non-bridesmaid dress only once for a less significant event? I’m certainly prepared for whatever dress I buy for the happy occasion (Janna, be on the lookout please) to not necessarily come with a second-wearing in mind.

While Kaitlan has to be on the dress ball, it’s a little too early for me to plan what to wear to a wedding that’s a year away. In the more immediate term, I have to break the news to Jack and Colin that their beloved Kaitlan is getting married. I’m not sure whether they will be disgusted (because getting married is totally gross) or disappointed (because they both nurture a serious crush on their former babysitter). This is one subject her wedding magazines don’t cover.

seeing red

The Valentine's Day Trench Coat

As anyone who has read my posts since I left Beatrix in the dust knows by now, lately I have been embracing color. This is very unlike my typical Northeastern default to wearing black most of the time. Black is usually my go-to color and certainly was the color of choice to camouflage Beatrix those two dark months of back brace confinement. But after ten days of being able to integrate more color into my wardrobe, I can honestly say that I have been pleasantly surprised.

My spirit is definitely a bit brighter when wearing color; I don’t miss that sickly glow that black can often cast on your skin. Don’t worry, I’m sure this is not the end of my relationship with black clothes. I have too many black dresses, sweaters and blazers in my closet to eschew my beloved black forever. But for now, I am obsessed with red.

Recently, the DC metro area has been plagued with a tug-of-war, not between political parties (well,  yes, between political parties) but between winter and spring. And the end result has more often than not been rain. Some days, the rain is accompanied by sticky humid weather. Other days, the rain is cold, steady and miserable. Both types of weather events call for my perfect red trench coat that I bought for myself (from Janna) for Valentine’s Day.

However, Thursday in DC was in the mid-60s and sunny, so the red trench stayed home. But feeling of festive spirit — and knowing I had three sets of drink plans — I pulled out of the closet archives a dress (same cut as linked here but different fabric and slightly different shade of red) I bought from Betsy Fisher a few years ago to wear to the happy hour that celebrated my 40-minus-one birthday (or 35-plus-4, depending on how you like to do your math).

Observation number one: nothing attracts compliments more than wearing red. It never ceases to amaze me how wearing a red dress (or a red trench) captures so much attention. Especially when said dress or trench is paired with the perfect shade of red lipstick (Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Rebelle). More strangers make eye contact. More random people offer you wishes for a good day.

Observation number two: red is empowering. There is certainly no fading into the woodwork when one is wearing red, so you really do have to own it. As one of my guy friends put it yesterday, “you look like a little red sports car in that dress.” People make way for you in a crowd. You get what you want.

Observation number three: I need more red in my wardrobe.

While I still have 9 days left until Lent is overt (I gave up shopping for Lent) I am already contemplating how I can incorporate more red in my life in a way that accommodates the fact that I have a list of home improvement projects to fund. And did I mention that I had to pay taxes? A lot of taxes? As my friend and accountant Kara put it, I need to invest in something other than my pretty clothes and good wine.

I’m guessing she didn’t mean a little red corvette.