I should be grading. I've been off of work for just over a week, & I've barely done any. I have, however, lived Christmas to the fullest. The kids & I met my mom at the mall Christmas Eve day to watch the last minute shoppers, celebrated Christmas Eve at my in-laws, Christmas morning at our house, & Christmas night at my parents'. We slept over at my parents' for more family time, had a bonus Christmas at my sister's house, babysat their friend Lucas for a day, & hunkered down in the house for two frigid days before hosting my sister & brother-in-law & their kids for New Year's. We played with the kids' new toys & discovered just how well Ginny can read. James got a I Spy book at the library & spent hours devouring it in our laps. I may have spent a bit of time on my phone, but generally speaking, I lived in the moments with my kids this week. It was awesome.
Then, today, it was clear that it was time to take down the tree. We have a real one, & needles were falling off... no, basically, branches were falling off. It had to be done, & as the ornaments came down, melancholy rolled over me like a Mack truck. James found a train ornament he'd picked out on Veteran's Day. I remembered the day he bought it when I'd been looking forward to the whole season-- picking & decorating the tree, visiting Santa, riding the Polar Express, driving around looking at lights, & then, of course, opening on the big day. Now all those moments had passed, & my kids would be a year older the next time they came around.
So I cried. I cried & tried to distract myself & then cried some more. I'm proud of how often we live in the moment with the kids, but even when you do, those moments still pass. I wish I had some wisdom to write here about it, but I don't. You don't get to play Santa forever, & eventually they don't want to read I Spy books in your lap. And that sucks. But I also know people who've lost children, whose children are frozen in time for them, so I'm not letting myself stay in this mood for long. It is a blessing that they keep growing. I have so much to be grateful for & to pay attention to...
For example, while I was busy trying to pull it together today, the kids decided that they wanted to help clean up after the tree. James got the vacuum & attached the stick thing & spent probably 45 minutes sucking needles out of the cracks between our floor boards. Ginny decided to make her doll's Jeep into a "snow plow" to clean up the needles in the kitchen. All of this activity happened while they were dressed as superheroes (naturally). If I'm too busy feeling bad that these days will one day end, I'll miss the day that Spiderman & Batman clean my floors. Good thing I do keep my phone handy-- I took pictures. When these days have passed, I'll be darned if I don't have plenty of ways to remember them. These are pretty awesome days.
I really resisted the Elf on the Shelf. I really, really didn't want to do it. I couldn't wrap my head around spending $29.95 on a little doll & then telling the kids that the doll was watching them to report back to Santa like a vindictive little spy, and oh, yes, if you touch it you ruin its magic. What a terrible, horrible tradition. I was having none of it.
Then, the kids started going to a friend's house two mornings a week and they had a elf. If we didn't get an elf, my kids would somehow feel rejected. Much as I didn't want them being spied on by a little doll, being rejected by one seemed worse. That's how Snowflake came into our lives last year.
I didn't do anything terribly creative with it last year, but we had our fun. Snowflake read a tiny book one day & hung from a few ornaments on the tree. She wrapped tinsel around the stairs. The kids loved her. I was indifferent but did my mom-duty and moved her around every evening until it was time for her to return to the North Pole on December 24th.
After we celebrated Thanksgiving this year, I knew we had to get ready for Snowflake's return. One more thing to do in the evening, right? Great. Then something happened that changed my perspective.
The news of November 29th felt like a gut punch. On a global scale, our standoff with North Korea freaked me out. One of my students asked, "We're kind of in a Cold War now, aren't we?," and it became my job to have that conversation with her. Then, the news about Matt Lauer really, really got to me. I've been thinking about it, and I think it's because I welcomed him into my home every morning I was around. I watched him every day on both of my maternity leaves. I watched he and Katie Couric try to do their jobs through their own devastation as the Towers fell. The news made me feel angry, betrayed, and scared. (See a great article about this in Scary Mommy-- the link is below.)
This is a hard time to be a high school teacher. The issues the kids are seeing every day in the news are really hard to navigate. They're trying to figure out who and what to trust and what a good adult looks like. As an educator, I do the best I can to help them as they enter adulthood, but I wish it wasn't such an ugly time. I'm grateful that my husband and I have been able to shelter our little ones from most of the vitriol and ugly stories in the news right now.
That brings me back to the Elf on the Shelf, because this year, I am freaking EMBRACING that Elf. We need a little holiday magic. We need something to look forward to every morning. I need something to look forward to every morning, and the kids' faces as they race around looking for Snowflake are pretty magical. I'm going to ask Snowflake to ignore when my kids are being unpleasant, not report back to Santa, and just join me in basking in their innocence. Adulthood and adult issues will come soon enough. In the meantime, I'll do everything in my power to give my kids a little magic this holiday season.
I've planned on putting together a post of kids' books forever. I know it's not the main mission of this page, but if you're feeling like you're wearing mom jeans... you might be a mom. And if you are a mom, you might be looking for kids' books, especially to give as presents this time of year. I'm not an elementary school or preschool teacher, but I was raised by a elementary school reading consultant (now principal) & I've spent quite a bit of time finding & tons of time sharing books with my kids. I'm happy to share what I've found!
I went to set up a widget (those little clickable pictures below) on Shop Style Collective, the site I use to find a lot of my links. They don't even have a major book retailer on there, like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but the widget quickly got huge regardless, & all I included were books we owned! So what you'll see pictured below are books we own & enjoy. These books are appropriate for babies to age six, I'd say. Please feel free to go to town checking out any of those! They won't disappoint. If you'd like a little more direction, here are some of my other favorites that you can get on Amazon.
Board book both of my kids LOVED, Red Truck:
First book my daughter loved so much she learned to "read" (could recite), Knuffle Bunny:
-- this one was given to her by her former reading consultant grandmother -- it's so good!
First book my son loved so much he could "read" (knew what sound each train made on each page), Trains Go:
Best classic for kids, Madeline:
My daughter & I have matching teeshirts of Madeline. She & I can basically recite that book.
Book I have super happy memories of snuggling & reading with the kids, Someone's Sleepy:
And for the holidays, I asked my kids to tell me their favorite characters. Ginny said Pete the Cat & James said Curious George. Here are the holiday books starring those two crazy animals:
Pete the Cat Saves Christmas: (if you want to truly lose your mind before Christmas, download the song. My kids love it. Me, well... not so much.
Merry Christmas Curious George:
We have also read all of the books below many, many times. I hope this post gives you some new ideas for books to share with the children in your life. There really is nothing better than snuggling with a great kid & a great book!
I know that I started this blog with an eye towards shopping for myself. I've definitely been doing that! The truth is, though, I do love shopping for my kids, especially this time of year. LOVE IT. I think I get more excited about Christmas morning than the kids do. I love the shopping, looking for deals online & picking up little things as I find them. I enjoy staying up drinking Bailey's & hot chocolate & wrapping. I love it all.
I love finding things that allow the kids to be creative. If you're looking for ideas for little people in your life, here you go! I also give the kids books at Christmas, & I'm an English teacher who was raised by a elementary school reading consultant. I know my way around kids' books, & I want them to get their own post later. Hang in there if you're looking for book recommendations! Here are a bunch of things I've actually bought & happily recommend!
One sip of a Starbucks bottled Frappacino & I'm a freshman in college again. The scent of Bath & Body Works Country Apple Body Splash & I'm a high school sophomore. The opening cords of any song from Counting Crows August and Everything After & I'm a high school freshman again.
Truth be told, I've spent a lot of time deliberately seeking out these sensory experiences lately. I don't think it's escapism, exactly. It's nostalgia. I miss the 90s. I remember the boxy clothes. I remember the scrunchies. I remember how many of the boys in high school kept their wallets on a chain. Still, I want to go back in my mind to that time in a very visceral way.
I recently read this amazing article
It articulated much better than I can what might be pulling me back there. I remember when we didn't have the Internet. I remember when I had the Internet, but it took so long to log in that I used to come home from work, start the dial-up process, & then go & make a cup of coffee & hope it had logged on by the time I put the creamer in. Now, you don't have to commit-- you're always online, & I feel the effect it has on me sometimes.
So I get when Bath & Body Works rereleased all the smells of the mid-nineties. I get why we can all buy crushed velvet again (I loved my long sleeve, dark green crushed velvet semi-formal dress!!). I can't get on board with the bodysuit trend-- I guess there's a limit to my nostalgia, & it's wearing clothing designed exactly like a onesie-- but I get why others have. I don't want to spend too much time in the past, but I don't think there's any harm in spending your retail dollars fondly remembering the past. What brings you back to your "good old days"?
Going back a few years for this story... but I've been thinking about it lately.
Back when I was getting married, I went with my mother to pick her dress. It was really pretty, with a cream lace top and latte colored skirt. As it often goes, they didn't have her size. We picked it out based on the sample, but when it came in, ONE WEEK BEFORE THE WEDDING, it fit differently than we thought it would. It was low cut-- nothing scandalous, really, but definitely not what mom would have picked. The woman who worked there told my mom to "embrace her womanly figure." I saw my mom's face when she said that... not gonna happen.
I'm not great at confrontation, but when I'm advocating for someone I love, I can do it. While my mom got changed back into her regular clothes, I took the saleswoman aside. I told her, "My mother is an elementary school principal. She doesn't want cleavage on her daughter's wedding day. If you don't fix this, we're going to leave here, get in the car, & go to Boston to find another dress."
That did the trick. They got the dress company to overnight more lace to the store & remade the dress. It looked awesome.
The moral I've recently discovered to this story? Embrace you. You'll never be able to truly pull off something just because someone tells you to. It doesn't matter if something is expensive or "in," if you're not going to feel right in it, don't wear it. For me, that means no cold shoulders and camouflage clothing. No cold shoulders because I'm always cold. Why would I wear clothing that promised I'd be cold? No camo because I've always disliked camo. I'm not going to allow trends to change my feelings about camo. I'll never look good in clothing that genuinely isn't me. What are you unwilling to "embrace"?
And I wanted to share some of my favorite smells of fall. I've smelled all of the Yankee Candle scents here, & it's a split between MacIntosh & Autumn Leaves for my fall favorites. I've smelled most of the Gilt candles here & they're also lovely. I just thought it would be fun to add them here because I'm feeling very Autumn-ish on this first day of fall....
And it candles don't get you feeling fall-y enough, Starbucks' Maple Pecan latte will put you over the edge. Seriously. I have a new favorite latte.
I started this project near the end of the summer, and in my line of work, that's a great time to make a change. I started back to work (I teach high school English) last week, and each day, I tried to stick to my goal of thinking about what I was wearing, putting a little time into it, and choosing things that made me feel good. Each day at work, at least one person has complimented me on my outfit or accessories.
Once I noticed this trend, I found myself feeling a little vain. Why did I care what other people thought about how I looked? You're not supposed to let other people determine your self esteem, right? So here I was, apparently accomplishing what I sent out to do, and feeling oddly guilty about it.
Then, yesterday, I saw a student I taught last year (who was used to my old "style"). She told me, in typical high-school-speak, that I was "rocking it [my outfit]," and that compliment shifted my thinking. My school is the place where 1000 kids go every day. If you head out of the house looking scruffy and unkempt, it says something to the people you see when you get where you're going. When you look like you spent some time preparing to go somewhere, you say that you care about where you're going, and when people compliment you, they're telling you that they get that you care.
I think that we all get that at some level. That's why we all spent lots of time getting ready for dates. Somehow, though, we lose sight of that and go into outfit-survival-mode: Is it clean? Does it fit? I'm putting it on.
I'm definitely done with that thinking. I'd prefer to think that I'm letting my students and colleagues (and family and friends) know that I care when I'm getting ready to spend time with them. And I won't feel guilty or vain if they compliment me. I'll just smile and say thanks.
I never really thought of ordering clothing from Amazon until recently, but I've been super-lucky with my last few purchases. Cute stuff at fantastic prices (the advantage of Amazon taking over the world is that they have so many customers things can be sold for cheaper prices-- check out what's happening with Whole Foods' prices since Amazon bought it!). Still figuring out how to narrow down my searches and learning that it's important to read reviews! I got one shirt that showed up with holes in the seams... but I've also had some big hits. Anyone have advice for how to find great stuff from the great big world of Amazon?
Two great buys I've recently gotten from Amazon:
And some cool stuff I'm looking at...
At Target yesterday, I was in the dressing room near a teenager buying her first day of school outfit with her grandmother. They debated the pros and cons of dresses versus pants, shorts versus pants, sandals versus shoes, and the different styles of shirts she had in her pile.
Do you remember those days? I'd pick my outfit at least a month before school started, and I'd keep going back to my closet to look at it. I remember imagining what my first day would be like-- where I'd sit, what we'd do, and what my classmates would think of my outfit. I actually still remember a few of my first day outfits (I had a striped skirt with suspenders for the first day of fourth grade. I LOVED that outfit). I also know I wore jeans and an Abercrombie olive green tank the day I moved into college.
Why were those outfits such a big deal? Why have they stuck in my head all these years later? I think it has to do with the symbolism of the outfit (here comes the English teacher...). Each school year is a fresh start, and the outfit you choose for that day sets the tone-- not just for how others might perceive you, but how you perceive you. I wanted to be a little more laid back in college than I was in high school. Clearly, wearing a ribbed tank would accomplish that.
What's neat about my job is that I can get that fresh start every year. Tomorrow is the first day back with the kids, and it's my first opportunity to present myself the way I'd like to present myself at this stage of life. I want to look like I've got my act together, but I'm past needing to wear a suit (which never felt comfortable anyway). I don't have to prove to the students that I'm a grown up. I want an outfit that says I care about myself, I'm comfortable in my skin, and I'm approachable. Now to choose which dress in my closet says all of that.... And to play around on Nordstrom to look for more pretty things that give that same message...
I have a confession. When I started my clothing blog, I said I was ready to start buying clothing that made me feel pretty. I wanted to go apple picking with the family in some cute outfit and feel happy when I looked at myself in the pictures. I did a big purge, I made it sound like I got rid of all the clothes no longer worked for me. I lied. Deep in the pile of sweaters I kept was this brown sweater. It was a hand-me-down, so it's probably ten years old, and pilled, and it shrunk a little funny, but it didn't make it into the purge. Why? It's my last article of maternity clothes.
My sister was pregnant last year, and I gave her most of my things. I "forgot" to give her this. I've talked to my friends who are moms, and most confess to wearing some maternity clothing long after the baby stage is over. What keeps us hanging on to those elastic pants and tent shirts? I've identified four reasons:
Reason 1. They stretch. Seriously, all pants should have that waistband. That's a perfectly good reason.
Reason 2. When we have babies, we often go into martyr mode. "The baby seems fussy; I'll buy myself pants some other time." We're left wearing the last things we bought for ourselves.
Reason 3. Maternity clothes are EXPENSIVE. When you know you spent a fortune on an article of clothing, you want to get your use out of it.
Reason 4. This reason is the hardest to define, but I think it explains the brown sweater. I wore that sweater about once a week during the times in my life when I was the most excited, the most hopeful. Then, I wore it when I was newly in love with my perfect tiny people. I swear, half the pictures I have of me with my daughter as a newborn were in that sweater. I wore it many times on those days when all I did was in wonder. Then I washed it, over and over again, because, well, babies spit up. That sweater looked a little beat up because of those days. It was a reminder of that sweet time, so I clung to it.
It's hard to accept when you know you won't be having any more babies, when that time in your life has passed. It's tempting to cling to a symbol of those days, and it's ok if you do. No one should judge you for what you hide in the back of your sweater chest. I, however, decided it's time to donate my last maternity sweater. There's someone out there now who can wear it as she anticipates her little baby, and when she first takes that baby home. And I can look for a new sweater to wear to go apple picking.
This tee shirt was a springtime gift from my mom. I love Life is Good and can certainly wear casual tee shirts in the summer, yet come August, it still had tags on it. Why? Well, it is a very casual tee shirt, and when I'm having very casual days (hanging at home, going to the playground, etc), I dress like I'm going to do yard work. I guess I feel like new stuff is too nice for a casual day, but I still feel frumpy all day in worn out old clothes.
A few days ago, the kids and I planned on going to the park, getting icees from Cumbie's, and having a picnic. A hang out day. My husband was golfing after work, so he wouldn't see my outfit, either. Until recently, that would have been a dumpy-tee-shirt day. Instead, I took the darn tags off. Thanks for the tee shirt, Mom!
Oh, also, if you want to see how far I can take this outfit-martyrdom, mom also bought me these amazing Penelope Chilvers boots for Christmas last year (there's a link to a similar pair below-- they're super-cute, too!), but I think I only wore them three times the whole winter. I didn't want to wear them on hang out days, rainy days, snowy days... so I barely wore the awesomest pair of boots I owned. So silly. If you wear clothes to make you happy, you should be wearing your best stuff every day. See? I'm starting to change my thinking :)
I've never taken a selfie of just myself until this week. I've never made a picture of just me, alone, my profile picture on Facebook. I don't think it came from a place of insecurity... but I have noticed one of my eyes is noticeably bigger than the other. Perhaps I was avoiding filling your computer screen with my disproportionate eyes. Then I started this project, and I had to get over it. That's also good for me because I plan on practicing my selfie skills with the kids, and I'd like to have more pictures of me with them.
Lastly, I think I need to take selfies to get a real view of how I present myself every day. Like those brief glimpses in the bathroom mirror, they allow me to see what others see every day. Do I look happy? Do I look pulled together? I think it will be easier to evaluate if I take pictures.
So, today was my first real attempt at taking selfies in the Target dressing room. Not as easy as it looks! I was so consumed with figuring out angles that I'm not sure I paid much attention to the clothes, and I look charmingly perplexed in almost every shot.
But I did it.
And now, to be brave since I clearly have to share pictures to have this blog, here are some outtakes from my first "photo shoot" :)
In case you're wondering, I bought:
And now that I'm looking at my outtakes, I wish I'd also brought home:
I've always been a Gap girl, so I'm not really going outside of my comfort zone looking there. That said, I have Style Cash coming up the 17th-20th at Gap Factory AND credit there from using my Gap credit card, so I'm playing around on ShopStyle looking to spend my money. Trying to decide what makes a "statement," because my five year old told me it's good to make a fashion statement :)
As I begin this project, It makes sense to ask the most honest and fashion-forward person I know, my five-year old daughter Ginny, for advice. How do I find clothes that will make me happy? I asked Ginny which of her outfits made her the happiest. She said, "My green leaf outfit," which surprised me since she's been Lady In Pink since she was old enough to talk. I asked why, and she said, "Because it's a fashion statement."
What does that mean? "It's different," she explained, which made me feel bad about all those times I've gone wild stocking up on shades of pink teeshirts at Children's Place sales. I got that leaf outfit rather by accident. I joined Fab Kids last Black Friday to get these amazing $9 pink sparkle boots, and I kept forgetting to skip my subscription. I ended up needing to spend a lot of money at Fab Kids, and in an effort to clear out my account so I could cancel the subscription, I bought a bunch of stuff on a whim. That leaf outfit was part of that order.
My lesson of the day from Ginny? Think outside the box. Explore new places to find things that will make me happy. Experiment. Get excited about making a statement. Hopefully, this project (and sharing it and getting suggestions-- hint, hint) will help me to do that.
You can go anywhere in Ginny's leaf outfit!
So I sat down to put together my grown-up shopping cart widgets... and before I knew it, I was in kid-clothes-heaven over at Mini Boden. It's definitely not a regular shopping spot for me (we do pay for childcare for two!), but I love, love, love their kid stuff. So cute, so well-made, & unique.
As I've been thinking about this next phase in my wardrobe life, I've been virtually shopping. A lot. I try to think through my decisions though, so I've found it best to put things in carts and walk away for a few days. Sometimes things get sold out, but sometimes they go on sale! I tell myself I break even. Here are two of my current clothing carts. Decisions, decisions.
Do you know what this code means? It means that I've owned my fall coat for 15 years now, despite the fact that it's always fit a little funny in the armpits.
I've noticed this look Army/utility look is in, and I've always liked it, so I'm moving on. The contenders:
The above clothing is pilled, ugly, ill-fitting, and frumpy, & I distinctly remember wearing the beige Banana Republic sweater while on an otherwise forgettable random Match.com date. My husband and I have been together for over ten years now. We did not meet on Match.com.
That darn sweater’s been taunting me for several winters now. I never felt really pulled together in it, but it’s really hard to let go of a sweater I know cost good money, and it still fit… but its best days were behind it.
I think I was in the right mood the day I did this. I’d actually done a major pants purge last winter because, while I’m the same size I was pre-kids, not everything goes back to the same spot after you have kids. Some of those pants were quite uncomfortable. That made it easier to let go. So I let go.
Besides being motivated with the next phase of the project (buying new clothes!), I also found it easier to make the piles bigger because I had a plan for where everything was going. NOTHING went in the trash.
The “Tier One” clothing that I had just tired of went to an awesome consignment shop. An awesome consignment shop is one that doesn’t smell like grandma’s house. This one smells lovely, and it’s focused on a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mission, which means I can also buy my favorite earth-friendly body products there (for free!) with store credit. [Desert Essence is awesome and I've used it for the kids since they were babies. If you're interested, I linked it at the bottom.] Anything the shop didn’t want went straight to Tier Two (do not pass go, do not come back in my house).
“Tier Two” clothing (not in amazing shape, but still useful) went to the local food pantry. They have a room where families can get clothing for free, so it stays right in the community and helps people out.
“Tier Three” clothing, for me, anyway, wasn’t stained or ripped. I don’t have much trouble parting with those things. Tier Three was mostly free tee shirts. When you work in a school and do volunteer work, you find yourself swimming in free tee shirts. So hard to part with them, but not enough days in the month to wear them all… and I’m pretty sure I’ll feel frumpy looking at myself in the mirror in a “Thanks for Volunteering in 2008!" shirt. I let go of the thicker ones (they’re never as comfy), the repeats, & the awkwardly long, hugs-my-hips-‘til-it-restricts-movement tees. All of those can go to a cloth recycling bin I found. They’ll take old towels and blankets, too. Nothing goes in a landfill!
Anything to help the environment and relieve the guilt of getting rid of a Banana Republic sweater.
I’ve spent the past two months at home with my children, a five year old daughter and three year old son. If I’m lucky, I get to go to the bathroom by myself, but everyone knows that injuries and screaming battles are most likely to occur during those brief sojourns. Realistically, I get two minutes in the bathroom, and knowing all the germs floating around our little ecosystem, I do try to use some of those moments to scrub my hands.
And those are the moments when I look in the mirror. Sometimes, I can’t look past the toothpaste spray caked on (how can short people splash that high?), but when I do, my usual reaction is, “Oh. I guess that’s how I look today.” I can’t say I’ve felt pleased with what I saw very often, and half the time, I’m actually surprised by what I see because I put so little thought into putting myself together that morning. It’s not a self-esteem thing—I feel comfortable with my post-kids body. I’m just not really trying, at all, and I look like it.
Soon, I’ll be returning to work. Bathroom breaks for teachers are actually shorter than they are for moms, but again, they’re tiny little moments of respite. Under fluorescent lights. If I want those tiny breaks to raise my spirits, something’s going to change.
I’ve started reading fashion blogs and thinking about what I’d want to wear that would make me smile. Like so many other things in my mom-life, though, if I don’t find some way to really commit to it, I won’t stick to it. Thus, I just spent $96 on a website. Let the journey to pulling together my grownup look begin!
I'm an English teacher, a wife, a dog lover, a bibliophile, & a wanna-be fashionable mom. Well, I'm already a mom. Just trying to get the "fashionable" part going...