New Mama Musings

Friday, February 29, 2008

Style Quest

I've always been extremely insecure about the way I look. (But then, what woman isn't at one point or another?) I've talked about my crappy childhood before, so I won't go into details. Suffice it to say I blame it for my lack of self-confidence in many areas of my life, including how I present my physical self to the world.

Growing up, I spent summers poring over Seventeen magazine plotting how I would re-invent myself for the start of the new school year. Different hair? More make-up? New clothes?

Inevitably though, come September I was the same old me, lacking the cojones to put myself out there. For some reason, even though I thought most of my classmates were morons, I wanted to impress them.

Go figure.

In my late teens I discovered new wave, punk and otherwise "alternative" music and I began to relish being different. (Being different by being part of a group of people being different...follow?)

I also discovered the thrill of thrift store shopping and started to dress more "alternatively."

Back then, I was not all that picky. If it was cool, or had the potential to be cool, I snapped it up, regardless of the fit or how it might work in my wardrobe (such as it was). I dressed a little funky, and on special occasions I could put it together, but I'm not sure I ever really developed a true, personal sense of style.

At the same time I was very shy and afraid of looking foolish. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but I think any funkiness I indulged in was within certain parameters of established funkiness. I gravitated toward solid-colored tops. Nothing form-fitting. Nothing button-down. Few accessories. Kind of a boring, take-no-chances funky.

(Man, I'm loving this hair. The eighties were awesome.)

In my early twenties I started nannying and my daily wardrobe went a bit downhill. I got lazy. There was no point in dressing up, since no one really saw me but the kids and their parents. I saved skirts, dresses, tights and cool shoes for the nights I went out to see bands. Clothing I was hesitant to wear for fear it would make me stand out or look silly went even deeper underground, becoming something "special" I rarely wore.

Then I had Henry. For the first six months, during his infant spitting-up phase, I wore fleece pullovers from L.L.Bean (helpful new mama hint: liquid wipes right off fleece, saving multiple changes of clothes a day). Not pretty, but warm and practical. My hair was in a funky (in a bad way) growing-out stage and make-up became even more non-existent than before.

Lately, I've been trying a little harder. Now that Henry's older and I have more time and space for myself, I realize that I want to be stylish. I want to be more daring. I want to know that everything in my closet is flattering and nicely constructed and goes with other things I own. I want to look put-together. I want to be a bit funky and cool, even though I'm thirty-seven and I have no idea if the kids are using those words these days.

So. I have a plan. Beginning in March, I will go through every item of clothing I own. I'm starting with sweaters and pants, since it's still damn cold here in Wisconsin and skirts may be more do-able in April. Maybe.

I plan on evaluating each piece to make sure it really fits and is in decent condition, de-pilling and sending off for alterations when necessary. I'll be a bit more daring, putting pieces together even if I'm not totally sure they work, taking photos of each outfit for more objective judgment. When I'm done I hope to feel good about my clothes and to have come up with actual outfits and not just disparate pieces I throw together at the last minute.

My hair is a more difficult case. I've been cursed with baby-fine, thin hair, and although it's finally at a length I'm happy with, I'm not sure what to do with it. It's too cold for me to wear up, though I like how it looks that way. I'm thinking of getting highlights and side-swept bangs so it at least looks like I'm trying.

And then, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I want to get my nose pierced.

I've been thinking about getting a tiny diamond stud for a long, long time. Yeah, sure, I'm in my late thirties. But when I'm fifty, won't thirty-seven seem a perfectly reasonable age for getting one's nose pierced?

In the scheme of things, figuring out my wardrobe and how I look in general may seem shallow. Petty. Superficial. Irrelevant.

But even at my age I feel the labels and judgments placed upon me in childhood pulling me back, keeping me from being who I really want to be and doing what I truly want to do. Deciding to deal with this one area of my life, no matter how small it may be, seems like a step in the right direction.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Updated Version

Henry has been asking us to "talk wid you" lately, and today he specifically requested that we discuss Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

I told him the story, stopping every now and then to ask him what happens next. We got to the part about the bears going upstairs, and I said, "Papa Bear saw that his bed was all messed up. And what did he say?"

I expected Henry to reply, "'Someone's been sleeping in my bed.'"

Instead, he said, "'What the...?'"

I'm 37. I'm Not Old.*

Happy Birthday to me!

*I've been waiting a long time to use that quote!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Little Engine that Would

I've been giving Henry a teaspoon of cod liver oil every night for the past month or so. He's never been thrilled about it, but lately it seems as though he's starting to catch on that hey, this is not very fun.

The other night I told him it was time for the "squirty stuff" (I put it in a syringe and squirt it into his mouth). He said, "No. Don't want to."

I tried my usual tactic of putting it aside and telling him to let me know when he was ready, but after about twenty minutes and a few more attempts on my part I realized I would have to change my approach.

"Open up," I said. "The engine needs some grease or it might get stuck!"

And just like that, Henry smiled and opened his mouth for me.

This is a strategy my husband and I have been using with great success lately.

Henry doesn't want to get his boots on? "Hey engine, you need your wheel covers so you don't get wet in the snow!"

He doesn't want to change clothes? "Let's paint the engine a different color!"

This feels a bit like subterfuge, but obviously Henry knows he's not an engine, and I love that we're making things into a game instead of a battle of wills.

The old me would have thought I was giving in or abdicating my authority, but I know now that it's not about that. Just one more thing Henry has taught me.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

An Overdue Update

I haven't been very good at updating this blog lately, but it isn't because I have nothing to say. On the contrary: Henry amazes me constantly.

His speech has improved considerably in the past few months, to the point that he's telling me, when he doesn't want to do something, "I too tired, so Mommy do it." He does have one verbal quirk, though, which is that he mixes up "me" and "you." I suppose it's understandable since we say, "Give the book to me" and "Here's a sandwich for you" that he would think he is "you" and the other person is "me."

The other day, for the first time, he expressed love for me. "I love Mommy," he said, repeating the sentence two more times. And then: "I love me."

His curiosity has expanded along with his vocabulary. He is constantly asking, "What this is?" or "What that mean?" When we read to him he wants to know what the words on the page say. He notices every little detail about everything, and sometimes, honestly, I have no idea what something is called. We've made many trips to the computer recently to consult Google.

Did you know that the device mounted on the front of a locomotive to deflect obstacles from the track is called a cow catcher or a pilot? Yeah, I didn't either, up until a few weeks ago. Now I don't know how I ever got along without that particular piece of knowledge.

Speaking of trains, Henry is crazy about them. I've been doing my best to facilitate his interest by checking out every storybook involving trains from our library. It's amazing to watch him absorbing the information in the books, and I'll admit to having fun learning along with him. When it warms up around here I hope to find an old-time steam engine to take him on.

Henry likes lighthouses, too, and after checking out a book on them from the library we took him to a lighthouse museum not far from our house. Daddy carried him nearly to the top (the last stretch involved a metal ladder, which will have to wait until he's older) and after we came back down, he tried to follow another group back into the lighthouse.

He also likes to draw, going through way too much paper, making train tracks and who-knows-what-else and then dropping the paper to the floor. He also "writes" his name, making a perfectly legible "H" and then several lines after it. I've written his name out for him many times in an attempt to get him to copy it, but he just tells me, "Already wrote 'Henry.'" That's good enough for me. It will come when he's ready.

He has one more obsession, which when he's much older he will not appreciate me discussing, and that is what we call "Baby Discovery Time." When he gets too quiet I can almost guarantee he's got his diaper and pants down, checking things out. It is his body, so we try to let him do his thing when we can. But Lord I'll be happy when he learns a little modesty.