Friday, September 28, 2007

Scratch that: October baseball is the best baseball

Cubs clinch the NL Central with a 6-0 win over the Cincinnatti Reds and a Brewers loss to the San Diego Padres. Life is good -- for now.

The Sweatsuit Alternative

I'm a little upset with Tim Gunn.

As a Project Runway fan, I was excited to see his new makeover show, Tim Gunn's Guide To Style, debut this month. I was particularly interested to hear his silhouette advice to women with fit difficulties -- this seemed tailor made (pun obviously intended) for women like me, those of us not blessed with the 5' 10" 125-pound body. The show's promos suggested a kinder, gentler version of TLC's What Not To Wear. So far, it certainly hasn't been a grand slam. Both Tim and his cohost, supermodel Veronica Webb, seem a little stiff yet; perhaps there are some first-season jitters to work through.

One of the ideas behind the show is that a woman's closet needs ten essential items. I love this concept, and the closet cleansing through which Tim and Veronica coach their guests. Most of the women I know have the tendency to buy too many poorly made, ill-fitting "fashions" that don't necessarily flatter them. The cleanse leads women to keep the clothes that make them look and feel terrific. Many of the essential items are expected: a skirt, a trench coat, a blazer, etc. As someone who has a tendency to buy too many grey t-shirts and the daughter of someone who buys too many turtlenecks, I like the idea of having a shopping (or closet-purging) list of must-haves.

That brings me to "the sweatsuit alternative." In the two episodes of the show I've seen, the women are encouraged to find something to wear in place of a sweatsuit -- and in both cases the alternative was a short, bare dress. WIth all due respect, these women -- one a working mother of three and the other a pediatrician -- need comfortable clothes for running errands or doing housework or just hanging out with friends that don't require strappy designer sandals and specialty undergarments. My guess is that Tim has never tried to heave his strapped-in-the-12-pound-car-seat child into the back seat while balancing a stack of slippery, plastic-wrapped dry cleaning. Doing this while managing to keep a strapless bra from slipping down to my waist would probably qualify for the 35+ Summer X Games.

I don't know if the show is too NYC-centric or just out-of-touch with what real women actually do during the day. Perhaps both are true. I don't know -- even when I lived a more fashionable life in Manhattan, it would never have appealed to me to run errands in a halter dress. The fact of the matter is that women need functional clothes infused with a touch or so of fashion that fit well and wash well. I wish that one of these women had challenged this particular outfit, or at least questioned it. Ladies, how are those little dresses working out for you?

Perhaps I really have lost track of the fashionable me, but I don't think so. When I'm wearing cargo capris (a no-no, according to the experts) and a t-shirt in a pretty color that hugs my curves, I can still look pulled together while having a place to stash a half-consumed bottle, a paci, and my car keys. I feel beautiful when I see my husband gazing at me as I hold and nurse our daughter, not when I'm wearing uncomfortable shoes that might make my legs look longer. So where is the middle ground? I would love to have Tim and Veronica help me clean my closet and shop for clothes that fit me properly, but I'd need something that really is a sweatsuit alternative rather than a pipe dream.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

September baseball is the best baseball

My husband is not a very good Cubs fan. He wants to be, but as a Yankees fan, he just doesn't understand what it's like to wait. And wait. And hope. And believe -- and then to be let down. Way down, usually. I am a third generation Cub fan, and so I'm more than accustomed to having my hopes dashed, or as has more often been the case, for there to not have been hopes to begin with. For the last ninety-nine years, the Cubbies have only rarely been in a pennant race, let alone in the playoffs.

Last night, the Cubs won a nail-biter in the ninth, as Bob Howry struck out two to give the team a 3-2 victory over the Reds. I enjoyed every pitch of that last inning like it was the World Series. In a way, it was the World Series for me. How many times in my thirty-seven year life have pitches meant so much? As the battle for the NL central continues, every game counts -- the Brewers sharing the same goal as the Cubs -- the penant and a spot in the 2007 post-season race. In a way, the Brewers are just as unlikely as the Cubs, since both teams are barely above .500, but the Brew Crew started the season hot, hot, hot. It is thanks to their slide, in part, that Lou Piniella and the Cubs are even in the conversation.

It's possible that my friends who are Red Sox fans can understand what this is like. Watching the Cubs is a thrill and torture all at the same time. It is a game-by-game, inning by inning journey, taking nothing for granted. Think about it: in recent history we've had two of the greatest pitchers to accomplish nothing (Prior and Wood), the unsung pitching hero who finally gets his due (Zambrano) and a closer who, well -- has trouble closing (Dumpster -- oh, I mean Dempster). We had -- dare I even mention him -- Bartman. Don't get me started about Rothschild or Hendry. I'll just get too mad. So the Cubs finally spent some money on players in the off-season, and now we're blessed with Lilly, Soriano, and DeRosa, to name a few. But did this get us an easy ride through lame NL Central? Nope. That would defy the ninety-nine year story line and the Billy Goat himself. Who are we to hope?

My dad thinks that maybe this year the Gods have ordained it. He grew up in the shadows of Wrigley Field and often attended games with my grandmother. He's waited seventy-one of the ninety-nine year drought. Last year we bought him a paver to commemorate all that waiting and hoping. So maybe he's right? What else could have kept the Cubbies in the race?But here's the thing -- even if the Cubs do win the division -- it's that or nothing as the wild card is way out of reach -- think of all the great teams they'd have to beat to win it all. The Diamondbacks. The Mets (if they don't blow it). What ever slugging team the AL puts forth. Oy. In April, it seemed like the Brewers had been chosen, but now I'm not so sure. The Cubs have had some great comebacks this year -- is momentum building? Maybe Harry Caray is up there working some kind of voodoo. I don't know. I just know that I cringe every morning when I check the standings. It's crazy, but I am still, dare I say it? Hopeful.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Barf is the new black

When I finally got dressed this afternoon, after wearing my nightgown and robe for the better part of the morning, I put on my favorite black maternity t-shirt. Within 5 minutes, Josephine had spit up on it, leaving a gooey, smelly wet stain from my shoulder to my boob. I am gorgeous: I wear the glow of new motherhood accessorized with the stench of barf and the drag of excess weight. Fashion means wearing something that has a waistband with a button rather than elastic, but let's be honest: I prefer the elastic. My maternity clothes remind me of one of the happiest times in my life, in addition to being the most comfortable, forgiving garments ever created. Maternity clothes are not the tent dresses of yesteryear; many highlight and celebrate the bump with bows and arrows (and worse), so even those of us who started out Rubenesque can feel cute. sexy, and beautiful when we're expecting. It's hard to give up these clothes.

Let's be honest: society allows women to be heavy for nine months times the number of children she has. Fat outside of those guildelines is very much frowned upon. Somehow, after giving birth and while we're nursing (and in some cases, recovering from major abdominal surgery), we are to quickly morph back into our pre-pregnancy shape. I'm warned on a daily basis to lose whatever I've gained before I get pregnant again for fear it will make pregnancy even more taxing next time. So after having a difficult time conceiving, I am in awe of what my body produced, and at the same time, but impatient with the aftermath. In the three months since Josephine was born, I've been taught to hate my body all over again.

It's interesting. I never once felt fat when I was pregnant. Even at nine months, teaching in an un-airconditioned school, my feet so swollen I could barely walk, I never felt fat. I was encouraged to eat, and my burgeoning belly was celebrated by all, friend and stranger alike. But after baby arrives and as time goes by, baby weight becomes a more complicated issue -- and they don't make postpartum clothes.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I guess I don't have an occupation

...according to the list of options, anyway. I didn't see an option for someone who works in the home, cares for children, procures supplies to feed and clothe the family, prepares meals and all the other stuff a stay-at-home mom or dad does. I wonder why? My friend Liz, who also works in the home, says her business card should list her as CEO of her family. Another friend told me that some moms get business cards that list their position as parent to their child -- so mine would say "Josephine's Mom." Hmmm.

I am a teacher, by the way; it's just not my current occupation. For the last two years, I've been at Newark's Arts High School, and the two years prior to that I taught in the Bronx. On maternity leave, I'm still a teacher; my class is just much smaller. It still shocks me that one infant can be more exhausting (but also more satisfying) than one hundred twenty-five freshmen. I love this job. But seriously, the books about parenting don't tell the whole story -- and I found the same to be true of the pregnancy and birthing books. (More on this later.) I also found this to be true of most of the books I read on pedagogy. It's just that with people, there are so many more exceptions than there are rules. This is what makes parenting interesting. We don't all start out the same, so it is unlikely that our paths will be the same.

So I'm back to thoughts on my own path. Where am I? At home, for awhile, I suppose, and in the most wonderful profession not listed on the drop-down menu.