Wednesday, March 5, 2014
5:30 AM: Tim’s alarm goes off, but he’s not there to start his usual round of hitting snooze every 5 minutes for 40 minutes. Alexander woke up several times in the night complaining of bad dreams (we will not be reading Where the Wild Things Are at bedtime again), and around 3:00 Tim gave up and slept in Alexander’s room with him for the rest of the night…or morning, I guess. I lay in bed, trying to summon the energy it will take to haul my massive self over to Tim’s side of the bed to turn off his alarm, but apparently it snoozes itself automatically because eventually it stops. Five minutes later the alarm goes off again. I continue to ignore it, alternating between trying to get a few more minutes of sleep (my alarm doesn’t go off until 6:30; you can imagine how pleased I am to have Tim’s alarm waking me up an hour earlier than necessary most mornings) and contemplating how I’m going to wake Tim up without disturbing Alexander, who is finally sleeping.
6:00 AM: Turns out I needn’t have worried about Tim waking up on time, because I hear Alexander ask for milk over the monitor. I flick the screen on and see Tim getting out of Alexander’s bed. A few minutes later, they appear in the master bedroom doorway, and Tim deposits Alexander and his sippy cup in bed next to me, and stumbles into the bathroom to take a shower. We don’t say much to each other; there’s no need. It’s been a long night, we’re not morning people, and we’re both exhausted. I try futilely to get a few more minutes of sleep while Alexander drinks his milk, but all too quickly he’s holding his empty sippy cup in my face saying “That was good!” And then he’s climbing all over me, ready to play.
6:20 AM: I give up on sleep and take a shower. Alexander comes into the bathroom with me, but soon he’s starting to throw my shoes all over the closet, and when I tell him to stop, he refuses. Tim’s still getting dressed, so he helps corral the kiddo, kisses me goodbye, and takes A. to the playroom to hang out while I get showered and dressed.
6:33 AM: I get out of the shower and hear my alarm going off on my nightstand. I turn it off, wondering why I even bother to set an alarm, seeing as how I rarely get to sleep til 6:30 most days anyway.
6:34 AM: From the playroom down the hall I hear “Daddy! DAAAADDDDYYY!!” I can hear Tim downstairs making his breakfast and getting ready to head out the door, so I go ask Alexander what he needs. “I need Caillou!” I hunt around for the remote, then sit on the couch for the few minutes it takes to start Netflix and scroll through the menu to find the requested show. Alexander giggles and asks “Why you wearing this towel shirt, Mommy?” and I explain that I just got out of the shower and still need to get dressed. The show starts, and I leave Alexander sitting on the floor, happily singing along to the opening song.
7:00 AM: Once I’m finished getting dressed, putting on makeup, and drying my hair, I head to the playroom and start negotiating with Alexander about getting him dressed. He holds up his magnadoodle and requests I draw an elephant. I tell him I’ll draw him an elephant after he gets dressed, but he doesn’t want to leave the playroom. We eventually agree that I will bring clothes into the playroom and he can get dressed in there, which I’m happy to do because it means I get to pick his clothes instead of waiting five minutes for him to select undies, waiting another several minutes for him to pick a pair of pants, then holding him in front of his closet for another five minutes while he decides on a shirt. I quickly select some clothes and start getting him dressed, all the while assuring him that he cannot stay in his pajamas today, much as he’d like to. “Can I stay in my jammies just a few more minutes?” Nope, time to put your jeans on. “But can I stay in these just a little bit longer? Pretty, pretty, pretty please?” Sorry, bud, jammies off, jeans on. Once he’s dressed, I draw him an elephant, as promised. A deal’s a deal.
7:10 AM: We head downstairs, and I pop a couple waffles in the toaster. Alexander asks for a banana (“I want a banna!”), so I let him pick which one he wants and peel it for him. I make myself a peanut-butter-and-jelly waffle sandwich and enjoy a couple quiet minutes while we both eat. Then it’s time to wrestle shoes and jackets on — it’s a struggle to get A to hold still long enough to put his shoes and jacket on most days; today he’s busy hopping “Like a kangaroo!” and trying to flip his mini armchair over to make a cave. I plop down in a chair and struggle to bend over far enough to tie my own shoes — my 34+ week belly is making this sort of task pretty cumbersome. Just as I’m opening my mouth to tell Alexander he needs to try to go potty before we leave, he announces “I need to go potty!” and races down the hall to the bathroom. Great timing, kiddo.
7:20 AM: I buckle Alexander into his carseat then gather my purse and the dog, and we’re out the door. Today Smalls is coming with us because I have to drop her off at the vet for her semi-annual checkup and teeth cleaning. Alexander is delighted to have her in the car with us and talks to her the whole way to daycare. “Smalls is in hers seat! But Ben is not. Ben staying home.” “Smalls is happy! Her is a happy girl.” “Lookit all the cars, ‘Malls! You don’t have to be afraid. It’s just the cars driving on the road.” “*Gasp!* A blue truck! I’ve never seen a blue truck ‘afore.” Usually he spends the drive to daycare watching for “Boo-mint Trucks!” (cement trucks), but today Smalls has all of his attention.
7:30 AM: We pull up at Linda, our daycare provider’s house — “That’s Ninna’s house!” — and I take Alexander inside. After giving Alexander a big hug and kiss goodbye, I go back to the car and drop Smalls off at the vet before heading back home. Now that Alexander’s not in the car, I turn on my current audio book, The Dream Thieves. I’m enjoying the book quite a bit and am glad to have a little extra driving time to listen this morning.
8:00 AM: I get back home, pausing for a few minutes in the garage to listen to the end of a riveting scene in the book. Ben greets me at the door happily, though I think he’s confused about why I haven’t brought Smalls back home with me. I log on to my work computer and sort through my emails. I thought I had a conference call followed immediately by a webinar training this morning, but I see the conference call has been rescheduled to next week, so I have a little more time than expected to get my own work done before the training. I touch base with a couple of coworkers about our plans to meet for lunch after the training, then settle in to do a couple hours of editing.
8:00 AM to Noon: Work, work, work, with occasional breaks to put on a load of toddler laundry (after which I add detergent to next week’s grocery list), make coffee (I’m relieved to remember Tim did the dishes last night so my favorite travel mug is clean; I still use a travel mug even though I work from home since I’m a slow coffee drinker, and the travel mug keeps it warm longer than a regular mug), have a snack (I’m craving protein after my sugary breakfast, so I toss some buffalo chicken tenders in the oven. At 10 AM. Shut up, it’s totally a normal mid-morning snack), and check Twitter and Facebook. Work’s not super busy this early in the month, but I’m working on a project for another department while my main workload is light, and I have a company-wide training session at 11:00 AM, so the breaks are few and far between.
12:05 PM: I meet up for lunch with a few coworkers (the handful of us who were lucky enough to keep our jobs and work from home after company-wide layoffs resulted in our local office being shut down at the end of January) at a new-to-me Vietnamese restaurant. The restaurant is okay, nothing to write home about, but it’s nice to see my coworkers face-to-face and have an actual conversation instead of just sending emails back and forth.
1:00 PM: The restaurant we ate at is just down the street from Sprouts, an organic grocery store, so I swing by there on my way home to pick up some of their frozen chiles rellenos for dinner. Tim and I both love these rellenos, but we don’t make it to Sprouts very often, so eating them is a rare treat. Today is the last of three long days of Tim proctoring state-standardized testing, and I know he’s worn out from it, so I’m excited to surprise him with one of his favorite dinners tonight. The grocery store is crazy busy, considering it’s the middle of a week day, and I do my best to get in and out as quickly as possible, then head home to finish my work day.
2:10 PM: Just as I’m getting to the point in the day where I start to fret that I haven’t heard from the vet and wonder if I should be worried, the vet calls to tell me Smalls is finished with her teeth cleaning and recovering well from the anesthesia. They’d like to keep an eye on her for a couple of hours, which is standard procedure, so we arrange for me to come pick her up at 4:45.
2:30 PM: My boss calls and we chat for a bit about work, kids, and pregnancies (she’s due a few weeks after me). It’s so nice having a boss whom I not only respect but also count among my friends.
2:58 PM: The internet goes down, because of course it does. Luckily, just as I’m about to trundle down to the basement to unplug and re-plug in the router (sometimes that helps), the connection flicks back on again.
3:03 PM: Ben’s incessant barking alerts me to the fact that it must be 3:00-ish and therefore the end of the school day at the neighborhood school. He’s going to bark at the kids walking home on the path behind our house for the next 40 minutes no matter what, so I let him out the back door so he can run up and down the fence, barking to his heart’s content, and I can continue to work in peace. Sorry, kids.
3:05 PM: Work’s still not busy, so I work on finalizing the details of my maternity leave…as much as I can, anyway, given the multitude of unknowns I have to work around. Since I plan to work right up until the baby is born, I obviously don’t know the exact date my leave will start, but my manager and I have been through this before, so we have a pretty good plan in place to distribute my workload to the rest of the editing team at a moment’s notice if need be. On top of that, though, some major changes in my company — both recent and soon-to-come — mean that my insurance benefits and paid time off may (or may not) be changing sometime before (or soon after) my leave begins. So I plan as much as I can based on my current benefits and PTO allotment, take a lot of deep breaths, and remind myself that there’s only so much I can control and everything will work itself out somehow.
3:30 PM: I’m hungry again (still, always) so I go rummage in the kitchen for a snack (cookie or granola bar? better go with both), then quickly put away the load of toddler laundry I washed earlier, depositing a pair of too-short jeans he wore earlier this week into the box I keep next to the dryer for clothes he’s outgrown. Putting Alexander’s laundry away goes much faster when he’s not around to “help,” and it’s only a few minutes before I’m back at my desk.
4:15 PM: I hear the garage door open, which means Tim and Alexander are home. I keep an eye on my office window eagerly anticipating one of my favorite parts of the day: watching the two of them walk hand-in-hand to the mailbox down the street. Those two are stinkin’ adorable. But apparently they’re not getting the mail today, as they immediately come inside instead. Oh, well. I head down the hall to say hi to them and find Alexander crying in the time-out chair. Apparently he was a stinker all day at daycare and then wasn’t listening to Tim when he picked him up. So that’s why they didn’t go get the mail. Meanwhile, Tim sees the chiles rellenos defrosting on the counter and is pleased. Tim and I briefly discuss our days and he fills me in on Alexander’s daycare shenanegins. Alexander promises to do a better job listening, and he’s allowed out of time out.
4:20 PM: As soon as A. gets out of time out, he asks to go outside and go to the park. Tim tells him they can maybe go to the park if Alexander can show him he can be a good listener. “But I need to go to the park!” Alexander protests. After a few minutes of debate, Tim offers Alexander a deal: If they go upstairs and clean the playroom, then they can go to the park. Alexander reluctantly agrees, and they head up to the playroom while I go do a few more minutes of work before leaving to pick up Smalls from the vet.
5:00 PM: Smalls and I are home from the vet, and Ben is overjoyed to see his little sister again. I log back in to my work computer to see what I missed while picking Smalls up, and am pleased to see the email reminding me that it’s payday. I do a bit more work before going upstairs to hang out with my boys in the playroom.
5:30 PM: Alexander and I play while Tim talks to his sister on the phone. Alexander’s in a much better mood, and we have a great time together. He has quite the imagination, and it’s so much fun to watch him pretend as he plays. The boys never did make it to the park; Alexander finished cleaning the playroom, but then Tim’s sister called, and he was on the phone with her until after the sun went down. Still, Tim tells Alexander what a good job he did listening and cleaning the playroom, and promises to take him to the park tomorrow.
6:20 PM: We all go downstairs, and Alexander drinks some milk on the couch and watches cartoons while Tim and I fry up our rellenos.
6:45 PM: We sit down to dinner together, even though I know it means Alexander’s 7pm bedtime will need to be pushed back a bit. I’m not sure if he’ll like a chile relleno, so I put a few bites of one on his plate along with some apple slices and Spanish rice, which is usually a favorite. He ignores the rice completely, eats all of his apples, and begrudgingly tries one bite of relleno before declaring that he doesn’t like it. I’m more than happy to finish off his uneaten relleno because he’s crazy and it’s delicious. After dinner he runs around the table tickling everyone — Daddy and Mommy, and even Smalls and Ben, who begrudgingly tolerate it — and then he and Tim make a game of crawling upstairs together to go brush his teeth and get ready for bed.
7:15 PM: The toddler bedtime routine at our house looks like this: I lay out jammies and a pull-up while Tim helps Alexander brush his teeth and go potty. Together, Tim and I wrestle a very squirmy toddler into his PJs, then Alexander picks out two books to read with me in bed. He asks for “The Monster Book,” a/k/a Where the Wild Things Are, but I tell him that book’s not in his room, and we have to pick books that are in his room. Luckily he doesn’t press the issue, and instead picks two books about being a big brother and getting ready to welcome a new baby into the family. After reading, he asks to go potty again, so I take him but tell him after this it’s straight to bed. Of course, as soon as we get back to his room, tun the lights off, and turn his star nightlight on (the nightlight has three color options, and he loves picking which color to turn on: “I’m gonna pick! Purple stars!”) (He always picks purple), he asks to go potty again. He’s learned that he can use going potty to delay bedtime, and I’m not playing his game tonight. I tell him no, which doesn’t go over so well, but eventually he calms down and settles into bed. “Lay next to me,” he requests, as always, and I do, as always. Out of nowhere, he throws his arm over me and declares “You’re my best friend!” and my heart immediately melts. I tell him he’s my best friend too and I love him very much. “No, you just a friend,” he says, to which I can’t help but laugh. Could this kid get any better? We cuddle for a few more minutes, trading hugs and kisses in exchange for me staying with him “Just another minute.” Eventually I get up and leave, pausing at the door to tell him, “Goodnight, Alexander. I love you.” “Goodnight, Mommy. Wuv you too.”
7:45 PM: I come back downstairs to find Tim on the couch watching a house-flipping show in which I have zero interest. I work on drafting this post while he finishes the show, then we watch the season 2 finale of House of Cards, followed by the latest Modern Family to lighten things up a bit. This is our time to unwind together, and we are happy to veg on the couch with a couple of good shows before succumbing to our own exhaustion and going to bed.
9:40 PM: Teeth brushed, face washed, in bed. Tim and I spend a few minutes talking about our days, as usual, then I heave my giant self over to my side of the bed, arrange various pillows around my belly to help me stay comfortable (a nearly impossible task these days), and drift off to sleep, hoping Alexander will let us sleep all night. (He doesn’t, choosing instead to wake up every few hours complaining about having a stuffy nose and wanting to go to the park. Apparently he’s decided that sleeping through the night is overrated.)
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 30 and celebrated being in the best shape I’ve been in since Alexander was born by running a 5k. To make it even more fun, I did a mud run with my good friend and college roommate, Lauren, and we celebrated our success at the end with breakfast burritos. I don’t remember what exactly I did on the actual day of my birthday (I’m sure burritos were involved), but the mud run was my main personal birthday celebration.
What are your strongest memories from this year, and why?
(1) The conversation in which we decided to have another baby. (2) The Black Forest Fire in early June. Watching the beautiful forest where Tim grew up burn, wondering whether we’d have to evacuate since we live only a couple miles from the forest’s edge, wondering if Tim’s childhood home, our church, and other memory-filled places would still be standing when all was said and done. A lot of things burned — over 500 homes were lost — but Tim’s childhood home and our church both survived. (3) Our month-late Anniversary celebration in which we visited a local brewery’s new location in a 100-year-old building that used to be an elementary school, tried a delicious new-to-us Mexican restaurant, and celebrated both eight wonderful years of marriage and the new baby that we’d just found out was on its way. (4) Alexander’s 2nd birthday. (5) Experiencing Christmas through Alexander’s eyes.
What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
Started running regularly (at least for the first half of the year), with the help of the Couch-to-5k Program and a handful of good audiobooks to keep me distracted from how boring running can be.
What did you want and get?
To get back in shape and reclaim my body after holding on to post-pregnancy weight for way too long. To get pregnant again. Lots of quality time with my favorite boys.
What did you want and not get?
2013 was a pretty great year and didn’t leave me wanting much. I did ask Santa to bring me a professional cleaning service, just for one day, to clean my house top-to-bottom and do all the things I’m too lazy to do (clean the baseboards, top of the fridge, etc.), and, alas, there was no cleaning service under the Christmas tree this year. Oh, I also wanted my dance studio not to move to a ghetto location that I’m not comfortable going to after dark for classes, but they went ahead and moved anyway. Luckily my tap teacher is awesome and has a tap floor in her basement, and she’s been holding class there for those of us unwilling to go to the ghetto. However, the studio’s move did mean that I had to give up my jazz class, and I really miss it sometimes. I know I could just find a different studio, and that’d be great if all the women I used to dance with would also go to a different studio with me, but that seems unlikely to happen. It’s not that I miss taking as many classes as I used to (though I do miss that); I miss dancing in those specific classes with that specific group of women. We had so much fun, and I’m still holding out hope that the studio’s ghetto location is temporary, and eventually it’ll move to a better place and we’ll all get to dance together again.
What would you like to have next year that you didn’t have this year?
A daughter. Good news — I’ve got one scheduled to arrive in a few months.
Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I resolved to finally get off my ass and lose the baby weight I’d been holding onto for over a year, and I was very successful, thanks in large part to Biggest Blogging Loser. And then I promptly got pregnant and gained it all back, but I’m okay with that. In retrospect, I think losing that extra weight really helped pushed me over the edge to finally being ready to go down the pregnancy/childbirth/recovery road again. I’ve lost the baby weight once; I know I can do it again.
I spent New Year’s Eve and Day this year in a haze thanks to the Sinus Infection from Hell and couldn’t be bothered to come up with any new resolutions. My main priorities for this year are to stay healthy through the final trimester of this pregnancy and try to adjust gracefully to all the changes that will come with adding a second kid to our family.
What was your biggest achievement of this year?
On a large scale, I feel like I did a pretty kickass job at finding a work/home balance and being a good wife and mother to my boys. On a smaller scale, I finally organized several years’ worth of digital photos, successfully implemented a system to continue to keep our photos organized as we take them, and worked with Tim to print, frame, and hang several family photos in our previously bare front hallway. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
What was your biggest failure?
I let myself get way to stressed out about prepping for the holidays, which happens every year, and this year the anxiety was magnified by pregnancy hormones. I have this mental block that I can’t start relaxing and enjoying the holidays until all my shopping and prep work is done, which turns me into a messy ball of anxiety during the first couple weeks of December. I really need to work at being better at going with the flow and allowing myself to enjoy the holiday season even before I’ve checked everything off my to-do list.
What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed?
Tim, as always, saved me from my crazy emotions on several occasions, and he did so more often than usual thanks to the aforementioned pregnancy hormones. I can always count on him to listen to me cry about everything that’s making me crazy and then help me put a plan in place to deal with it all; having a solid plan of attack usually calms me down quite a bit.
What are your strongest recommendations for entertainment from this year?
Oh, man, I read some really great books this year, including The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys, The Book Thief, The Fault in Our Stars, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. (Wait, technically I read Penumbra in 2014, but I read it before writing this, so I’m still going to count it.) We watched and loved the final season of Breaking Bad, and I’ve finally gotten into The Walking Dead this season. I’d like to go back to the first season and get caught up, but I’m still enjoying the current season. Luckily Tim is nice enough to fill me in on any important back story that I’ve missed up to this point. I think the only movie we saw in the theater this year was Gravity, and it was excellent. We do most of our movie watching at home via Netflix, and nothing really sticks out as being super memorable, except maybe Cabin in the Woods. I’m pretty sure we first watched that one in 2012, but we re-watched it this year, and it was just as fantastic. It was nothing like I expected, and I really, really enjoyed it.
What song will remind you of this year?
I don’t pay much attention to music. I heard a lot about a song called “Blurred Lines,” but I honestly couldn’t tell you whether I’ve ever heard it. If I have heard it, I didn’t realize what I was hearing was “Blurred Lines,” so I may as well have not heard it. I know I heard “Wrecking Ball,” but that’s only because Tim showed me a funny parody video about it. Keeping up with music’s not really a priority for me, is what I’m saying. So I’m going to interpret this one pretty loosely and say that 2013 was the Year of the Audiobook for me. I discovered the joy of a well-produced audio book this year, and the best ones I listened to were The Raven Boys, The Scorpio Races, and The Book Thief.
Quote a song lyric that sums up your year (not necessarily from the song that reminds you of the year).
Music not really being something I pay attention to, I was tempted to slap a “not relevant to my interests” answer here and move on. But the more I thought about it, the more I kept being reminded of Tim’s and my unofficial song, “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. (I say unofficial, since it wasn’t our first dance song at our wedding, but it’s probably more meaningful to us than our first dance song, and it’s one that Tim requests whenever we go to friends’ weddings. The DJs usually don’t have it, unfortunately.) The whole song is great, but the title lyrics, “I am the luckiest” really hit home for me this year. I know it’s cheesy, but I look around at my life and can hardly believe how lucky I am to have the amazing family, extended family, and friends that I have. I really am the luckiest.
What was your most enjoyable purchase?
We put together a playroom for Alexander in our loft this year, which has really been fantastic. We lined one wall with cubby shelves for his toys, Tim worked his handyman magic to mount our old flatscreen TV with wires running through the ceiling so the DVD player and other connected devices could be in the closet across the room, and we had a talented friend paint big, fun alphabet letters on one wall. We spend a lot of Alexander’s waking hours up there these days, which is great, and then we put him to bed and come downstairs to a living room that’s not cluttered with trucks and Legos and plastic tools, and that’s even greater. For myself, I scored a pretty amazing deal with an online sale corresponding with stackable coupons that allowed me to get a $90 pair of boots for $30, and that was pretty awesome.
Did you travel? If so, where?
We flew to Virginia to meet our new nephew at the end of June. In October, we took a road trip to San Antonio to visit Tim’s parents in their new home. Fourteen hours in the car over 2 days (each way) with a 2-year-old wasn’t as challenging as I expected it to be — Alexander did remarkably well, all things considered — but I’m not in a hurry to take another long road trip anytime soon. Once we arrived, we had a great time with Tim’s parents. Hopefully next time we visit the in-laws, we’ll be able to find cheap flights.
What do you wish you’d done more of?
I know it makes me sound like a lush, but I’ve really missed wine since I got pregnant. Just one cold glass of Chardonnay in the evening, that’s all I want. It sounds so good. Come April, you can bet my now-empty wine rack will be fully stocked again. (I know that’s probably not the proper spirit of the question, but I’m running out of steam here. Cut me some slack.)
What do you wish you’d done less of?
Stressing about the holidays, definitely.
Compared to this time last year, how are you different?
Well, I’m 6 months pregnant, which is the most obvious difference. I also feel, overall, more confident as a parent and (usually) more prepared to take on the challenge of adding a new baby to our lives than I did at this time last year.
Compared to this time last year, how are you the same?
I’m still the same-old me, overall. Still quiet in social situations, still a sucker for a cheesy romance book or movie. Still loving being married to a man who makes me laugh every day.
What’s a life lesson you learned this year?
Naps are amazing. No, seriously, they’re amazing. I’ve always known it on some level, but I really came to appreciate it when faced with first-trimester exhaustion coupled with chasing a toddler around and not having the luxury to nap at will. Now, Saturday afternoon naps with a toddler snuggled up next to you because that’s the only way either of you is going to get a solid 2 hours of sleep? Probably one of the best things ever.
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