Hey, Alexander, do you think the baby in Mommy’s belly is a baby brother or a baby sister?
You think it’s a dinosaur?
“Yeah. Hug Monster.”*
Oh, okay. I bet the baby will really like getting hugs from you.
Pointing to his belly: “And Al-naner has dragon.”
You have a dragon in your belly?
Is it a nice dragon?
“Al-naner has dragon in belly. Dragon not bite you.”
. . .
Turns out it’s not a dinosaur or a Hug Monster. Just a healthy, human baby GIRL!
The jury’s still out on what type of dragon Alexander’s growing in his belly.
*Alexander’s a little concerned about monsters, so we frequently assure him that the only monsters allowed in our house are Kiss Monsters and Hug Monsters. Although sometimes the Tickle Monster sneaks in, too.
Last night was the most fun we’ve had on Halloween in recent memory. Watching Alexander experience all the joys of jack-o-lanterns, costumes, and trick-or-treating was so much, probably because this is the first year he’s really starting to understand it all. We spent most of October getting him used to the idea of wearing a costume and supporting his new-found love of pumpkins, and it all came together last night to make for a ridiculously fun evening.
- We bought Alexander a dragon costume on super-clearance over the summer, and when we got it out for him at the beginning of October, he was not impressed. The first thing he said when he woke up the next morning was “Not like dragon.” We kept the dragon in the playroom for the next couple of weeks, encouraging Alexander to play with his fun dragon friend, and he slowly accepted the dragon into his life. He begrudgingly agreed to wear the costume twice, but he only lasted a few minutes before declaring that he wanted to take it off. He loved playing with the dragon, but anytime we asked him if he was going to wear the costume on Halloween, he insisted “Not wear dragon.” Last night, though, he had a change of heart (possibly because Tim and I were also wearing costumes, and he wanted to dress up and be silly like us), and he willingly wore the dragon for a solid hour and a half with no complaints. Success!
- He did pretty well trick-or-treating, though he insisted on being carried 90% of the time and was too bashful to actually say “Trick or Treat” when presented with strangers offering bowls of candy. He did manage a whispered “thank you” when we left each house, at least.
- Lukewarm as he was about trick-or-treating, he loved handing out candy after we got home. We sat out on the front porch for awhile so he could see all the kids’ costumes, but we eventually had to go inside and try to get him to eat something besides fruit snacks and M&M’s for dinner. Every time the doorbell rang, he raced down the hall, impatiently waited for one of us to catch up to him and open the door, and very politely placed a piece of candy in each kid’s bag. Anytime the doorbell wasn’t ringing, he looked at the front door and commanded “Hey, kids! Come in the door!” When he was hesitant to eat his dinner, I suggested that maybe if he took a bite, more kids would come to the door. Luckily we had enough trick-or-treaters that the doorbell rang almost every time he took a bite of food, so my plan worked. He was so convinced he was getting kids to come to our door with the simple act of eating meatballs that when he finished eating, he held up his empty plate and said, “I need more meatballs. I need more kids come in the door.”
This kid, you guys. He made an awfully cute dragon, but he really pushed the cuteness over-the-top as a candy distributor.
Five years ago, the lovely and fashionable RA started this thing called Mission: Put Together (M:PT). The goal was simple: Every day for a month (usually May), participants would strive to be Put Together (PT) in how they dressed. Not only that, but they would photograph their PT outfits and post them to the M:PT photo pool, a place where participants could enjoy and be inspired by one another’s PT looks. RA has documented the evolution of M:PT over the years over at her blog; what we’re here to discuss today is how M:PT has aided in the evolution of my own personal style.
Back when M:PT started, my style was simple, basic, and–let’s be honest–a little boring. My standard uniform was solid-colored tees (short or long sleeved) and jeans, khakis, or shorts. My shoe preference was limited to a few pairs of flip flops and my old, oxford-style red shoes that I’d had since college. It was nothing exciting, nothing fancy, but it was comfortable. And, more importantly, it was easy. I didn’t have to think much about what to wear each day, beyond choosing what color shirt to wear and making sure that if I chose a red shirt, I did not also choose khaki pants, lest I look like a Target employee. Things like patterns and textures fell firmly under the category of “Froof.” And I did not do Froof.
M:PT May 2, 2008 — A typical five-years-ago outfit: Plain purple tee, jeans, trusty old red shoes. The fact that I wore a necklace made it feel PT.
When I joined M:PT that first year, I had no idea how much it would influence my style in the years to come. M:PT has had a hugely positive effect on my style, and on my life in general. I’ve connected with wonderful people, and the contents of my closet have improved in a big way. Slowly but surely, I pushed myself to try things outside of my comfort zone, both when shopping and trying new combinations with pieces I already owned.
I remember one pivotal moment from that first year. I was at Target, tasked with finding a simple white T-shirt. I stood in front of the T-shirt display with two options in my hands: One, a plain white v-neck (the safe option), and the other, a still fairly simple v-neck with a touch of added Froof in the form of a gathered neckline and sleeves. As I stood there debating which shirt to buy, I thought about M:PT and how I’d learned that sometimes a little bit of embellishment on a top could actually be cute. So I left the safe option behind and bought the Froofy tee. The next day, I wore it to work over a pink cami. Froof and layering. This was a big step for me.
That was the first of many M:PT-inspired purchases. These days, that shirt is one of the plainer pieces in my closet. In the years that followed, I continued to try new things and strived to use some of the staples in my wardrobe in new and exciting ways. But for the most part, I still played it pretty safe. I’d comment on people’s cute outfits and say “That cardigan is super cute, but I just can’t do cardigans.” Or “Flats aren’t for me, but that pair looks really cute on you!”All the while, I was slowly being won over by adorable shoes and accessories that managed to pull together otherwise plain outfits.
The previous two years’ M:PTs have happened when I was pregnant (2011) and still carrying a lot of extra baby weight (2012), so I was really forced to get creative with my limited outfit choices. While it was more of a challenge, I think it ultimately helped give me that last little push out of my comfort zone.
Some of my more PT outfits over the years, from left to right:
Spring 2008: “Froofy” brown top with blue cami, both M:PT-inspired purchases; safe khaki capris and flip flops
Fall 2008: Classic and safe white button down, purple cami, and brown pants; M:PT-inspired purple heels.
2011: Striped maternity tee with cami and M:PT-approved blazer (I posted photos of the outfit with and without the blazer, and my fellow M:PTers encouraged me to wear the blazer); Classic jeans
2011: Stiriped maternity tee paired with blue necklace (I was seldom brave enough to pair bright colors pre-M:PT); Cork wedges with jeans (also never would have happened pre-M:PT — it would have been flip flops all summer long)
2012: Cardigan! Worn by the former Captain of the Anti-Cardigan Team! Pink nursing top. Big, shiny necklace! Heels with jeans! Basically none of this outfit would have happened before M:PT.
These days, whenever I shop, I shop with M:PT in mind. I deliberately seek out and try on things I might have passed up in the pre-M:PT days, just in case they turn out to be cute (spoiler: they often are). Stripes! Bright colors! Ruffles! (a/k/a the Froofiest of the Froof!) And yes…even cardigans and (gasp!) flats.
During this year’s M:PT, Heidi mentioned one day “I got the chevron skirt instead of the solid one, and it has made all the difference.” Statements like this apply to so many of the wardrobe purchases I’ve made since M:PT began. While last year I lamented during Pattern Week that I had hardly any patterned items in my closet, this year my closet seemed to be overflowing with adorable patterns, and I struggled to choose which of my favorite patterned tops/skirts/cardigans to wear.
While I feel confident in my style now more than ever, I’m still learning so much, and my style continues to evolve as I push myself to be more adventurous. This year, I mixed patterns. I layered accessories. I wore fabulously bright shoes. During Color Week, I learned that more colors go together than I think, and I don’t need to stick to neutrals to guarantee versatility. I made a solemn vow that week that the next cardigan I buy will be a bright color.
(It wasn’t all successful — there were definitely one or two days when I wasn’t thrilled with my outfit. But that’s bound to happen whenever you try new things. Probably 27 or 28 days out of the 31, I was really happy with the outfits I put together. And 31 out of 31 days, I was encouraged by the supportive comments from all the other incredible M:PT participants.)
One of my favorite things about M:PT is being inspired by others throughout the month and putting new ideas into practice along the way. At the end of Color Week, when so many were pairing teal and coral, I used a birthday gift card to pick up a fabulous patterned coral top and a chunky teal beaded necklace to go with it. It’s not a combination I ever would have thought of pre-M:PT, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites. Plus, that necklace goes with everything. (Who’d have thought I’d ever say that about a non-neutral item?)
(Somewhat-related aside: During that same shopping trip, I hemmed and hawed over some adorable flats that came in either a neutral beige color or a coral-and-pink print. The store didn’t have my size in either color, so I found the shoes online and debated which color to order. I made up my mind, placed the order, and promptly moved on with life. The next day, I was daydreaming about the patterned flats and had a panicked moment of “OMG did I stupidly order the boring neutral shoes?” I had serious regret at the realization that I had probably gotten trigger shy and hadn’t ordered the fun patterned shoes. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I checked my confirmation e-mail and saw the line item for “coral patterned flats.” M:PT-influenced shopping at its best, you guys.)
A coworker complimented me on my bold color combination the day I wore a purple and orange wrap dress with my new teal beaded necklace (I told you it goes with everything). She said she’s usually too timid to pair bright colors like that, but it was working really well on me. Role reversal, much? Here I am, the person so used to saying “I love that on you, but I’m not sure I could pull it off,” and now someone’s saying it to me? As a sincere compliment? I have to admit, it’s kind of fun to realize that some of my more adventurous choices are paying off.
Before the last week of M:PT this year, in which the challenge was to Put It All Together: combine all four fashion elements (color, pattern, texture, shine) into every outfit, I worried aloud to RA about how I was possibly going to achieve that level of PT-ness for a full week. She assured me that it’d be easier than I thought, and sure enough, she was right! I managed to combine all four elements almost effortlessly that week, which is a great testament to how far the contents of my closet have come as a direct result of my participation in M:PT.
M:PT is incredible. It’s so much fun to try new things, make old shirts feel new with the addition of a fun accessory, and encourage others to do the same along the way. It’s such a kind, supportive community of gorgeous women who just want to take a month to band together and Fight the Frump. Every single woman who participates is quick to offer compliments, and every last comment in the photo pool is positive and encouraging. RA recently referred to M:PT as “this inspiring, supportive, non-snarky circle of the Internet,” and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a pretty great little group she’s created.
When RA first started M:PT, the goal was to dress confidently and feel good about yourself. M:PT has definitely helped me reach that goal. To me, being PT is about being adventurous with my clothing choices. It’s about feeling good in my clothes, enjoying the fact that my closet is full of options I love, and spending the day feeling confident with my personal style. The day I first started drafting this post, I was wearing skinny jeans. Not just skinny jeans, though, oh no. Cranberry skinny jeans. (Or, as I prefer to call them: Cranberry! Skinny! Jeans!) Who ever thought we’d see the day?
Some of my favorite looks from M:PT 2013, 100% of which I would have considered Too Froofy in my pre-M:PT days
From left to right:
Cranberry! Skinny! Jeans!, Teal striped top, grey flats
Black twist-front top, polka-dot cami, denim capris, fabulous coral patterned flats
Patterned wrap dress, teal eyelet cami, teal necklace worn as bracelet, cork wedges
Cranberry! Skinny! Jeans!, White striped cardigan, tee with ruffled neck, grey flats
Patterned skirt, tucked-in top, teal necklace, patent grey heels, toddler photo-bomb
Striped dress w/ blazer, big shiny necklace, espadrilles
What follows is the story of how I used my awesome parenting skills to introduce my son to a new experience. As you’ll see, my parenting skills include, but are not limited to: (1) Trying new things despite being completely unprepared; (2) Using threats to encourage trying new things; (3) Taking my son home from newly tried things mostly naked.
It all started with a trip to the park, which happens to be right next to the pool, which happens to have a splash park with which Alexander has previously wanted to have zero association. The splash park fountains caught Alexander’s eye from the playground, so we sauntered up to the pool fence and peered through to watch the fountains like a couple of creepers. I asked Alexander if he wanted to go get a closer look, and he replied with a resolute “No.”
Obviously I took him in there anyway, despite not having (1) his swimsuit, (2) a swim diaper, or (3) my key card (necessary to gain entry to the pool area like a legitimate resident of the neighborhood). We stood outside the pool gate for a minute, while I pretended to rummage around in my bag looking for my key even though I knew full well I didn’t have it with me, before asking someone to let me in. Luckily my neighborhood is full of friendly people and we gained entry without a problem.
We made our way over to the splash park, not at all embarrassed that we were both completely overdressed in our regular, non-swimwear clothes, and I encouraged Alexander to take a closer look. He flat out refused, until he noticed that another little toddler about his age was playing gleefully in the fountains. Suddenly, he was intrigued. Holding my hand for security, he inched closer to the fountains, using the tiny, shuffling steps he uses whenever he’s curious about something new.
I eventually convinced him to let go of my hand (in exchange for my sunglasses), and he hesitantly scoped out the scene.
He was intrigued enough to investigate further.
At which point he made a hasty retreat.
We hung out for a bit, and I tried to encourage him to give it another shot. He was reluctant, to say the least. We’d been out in the sun for awhile at this point, so I suggested that maybe it was time to go home and take a nap. This idea did not go over well, and here is where I saw my opportunity.
“Alexander,” I offered, “we can go home, or you can go play in the water.” Still, he was hesitant, clearly unsure about the lesser of the two evils.
“Do you want to go home?” I asked.
He firmly shook his head “No.”
“Then go play in the water,” I commanded in my sternest Mom Voice.
I know, I know, I totally shouldn’t use threats to coerce my kid to do what I want him to do. But hell if it didn’t work.
He had the time of his life. I eventually had to go in myself and drag him out, soaked and shivering. He would have played all afternoon if I’d let him. And, let’s be honest, I’d happily have watched him run around and squeal with joy all afternoon, but I thought I should try to be a somewhat responsible parent and get him out of his wet clothes in time for his nap.
Of course, I didn’t have (1) a change of clothes for him or (2) anything resembling a towel, so I just peeled off his clothes, put a dry diaper on him (I was at least a LITTLE prepared), and we walked the two blocks home like this:
After Alexander was born, I thought I’d just wait to lose the baby weight until I was done having babies. Makes sense, right? I mean, why work hard to lose all that weight just in time to gain it all back? But that was when I thought I might be wanting another baby around now-ish. And now that it’s now-ish? I’m not ready for baby number 2 at all. Which is fine, except there goes my excuse about not bothering to lose the baby weight. I don’t know when I’ll be ready for another baby, but I do know that I was really unhappy with my post-pregnancy body. So after more than a year of feeling fat and frumpy, I decided to take action and work toward feeling good about my body again.
The latest round of Biggest Blogging Loser (BBL) came around at exactly the right time. Since it started at the beginning of January, I used the holiday season to get all my overeating out of my system. I ate whatever and as much as I felt like eating, and, honestly, by the end of December all I wanted in the whole world was a salad. But! I was about to start a weight loss competition! It certainly wouldn’t do to lose weight before the initial weigh-in. When I contemplated just one little salad to relieve the bloating and feel better, my inner competitor countered with HERE HAVE MORE QUESO. And so I did.
The first day of BBL, though, it was game-on. I was prepared with a Pinterest board full of of healthy recipes and a solid workout plan. I did my initial weigh-in, took my full body pic, cringed at both the number on the scale and the shape of my midsection, and got to work.
In addition to my usual once-a-week, 2-hour dance class, I started going to the neighborhood rec center after putting the baby to bed and running on the treadmill three nights per week. I decided to do the Couch to 5k program, mostly because (1) it was free, and (2) it was something I could do without sacrificing time with my son.
It worked. The pounds started coming off, and for several weeks I was at the front of the competition. But then a wine-filled weekend with my parents that resulted in a gain happened to coincide with other participants making major progress with their losses, and I fell to 5th place.(Look, some things are more important than winning weight-loss competitions, and enjoying a few glasses of wine with my parents is one of those things.)
I never managed to claw my way back to the top, but you know what? It’s cool. At first, I really wanted to win, and the cash prize motivated the hell out of me. But then I started seeing results. People complimented me at work and at the dance studio. I rescued multiple pairs of pants from the stack of pre-pregnancy clothes I’d resigned myself to donating because they’d probably never fit again. Instead of choosing to spend a day at the spa as my 30th birthday present to myself, I signed up for a 5k race. (What better way to celebrate being in great shape when I turn 30? Plus, it’s a mud run, so it’s kind of like a spa day.)
And now, for the first time in a long time, I feel good about my body. I’m not embarrassed if Tim’s around when I’m getting dressed. I don’t spend my 2 hours at dance trying to avoid the mirror, to avoid comparing myself to the skinnier girls in class. I think maybe — just maybe — I might be able to go to the pool this summer in a swim suit that doesn’t scream “I’m ashamed of my body.”
I have an arsenal of delicious healthy recipes to cook for my family. Every weekend, I sit down and choose 5-6 meals to cook for the week and make a grocery list. I never thought I’d be the type to meal plan, grocery shop, and do almost all the cooking, but here I am. And I kind of love it. (Mostly because Tim does all the dishes. If I had to cook and do the dishes, my enjoyment level would decrease drastically.) Most weeks I choose a few tried-and-true recipes with one or two new ones thrown in to the mix so we don’t get bored. Now that BBL is over, I’ll probably start rotating in some of our old favorites occasionally (spicy macaroni and cheese, I’m looking at you). But for the most part, I think we’ll be sticking with the new stuff.
I didn’t win the cash prize. Hell, I didn’t even finish in the top five. (And that says less about my accomplishments and more about those of the winners — those ladies did some amazing work!) But BBL was just the kick in the butt I needed to get back to my goal weight. It’s gotten me to a place where I won’t need to participate in the next round, because I don’t need to lose any more weight, just maintain my current weight. It’s gotten me to a place where I feel damn proud of my body. And in that sense, I won. Big time.
In the spirit of being proud of my accomplishments, here are my before and after pictures. Between January 7 and March 31, I lost 17.2 pounds.
Damn, it feels good to have my body back!