Monday, May 30, 2011

"Bad" Words

When did "penis", "vagina", and "breast" become bad words? Why do people get so worked up about them, and why is it so seemingly inappropriate for a child to use them? They're the correct names for those body parts - like hand, arm, nose, and toe. What's the big deal?

This is one thing I'm not quite sure what to do when it comes to Evan. I want him to know those words and body parts are normal. I don't want him to feel shame or embarrassment. BUT, when he's older, I also don't want him pointing at people's crotches and telling them they have a penis/vagina, or whatever else kids do!

For the parents of older kids out there: how did you handle this?

For everyone: why do you think these words are so "taboo" in our culture (or at least in North America - is it different elsewhere?).

Friday, May 27, 2011

I wish...

...I had a mentor.

Now that I'll be starting my first real job, I wish I had someone who could help me navigate these uncharted waters.

What would I look for in a mentor?

A woman who holds a similar position to mine - someone who interacts with faculty at the university, but also people off campus. Someone who is confident, approachable, and trustworthy, but who stands up for herself and does not shy away from confrontations. Someone who loves their job, but has a home life too and keeps the latter a priority. Someone I could feel comfortable enough to be open and honest about my experiences, and who would do the same with me.

Do you have a mentor? How did you find them and how have they helped you?

If you don't have a mentor, do you feel like you're missing out? What would you look for in a mentor?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Help: Book Review

Our first book club selection, and my eighth book, of the year was The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The main theme is about a white women named Skeeter who writes a book with the help of two black women about black maids working for white families in Mississippi in the 1960s.

I won't claim that I'm particularly familiar with the culture in the Southern USA at this point in history, so I won't comment on the accuracy of the situations portrayed. However, I really enjoyed the story, especially after I read that Stockett herself lived in Mississippi during the same time period and she grew up with a black maid.

I liked how she told the story from three different perspectives (Skeeter's and two of the maids: Aibileen and Minny, who work with Skeeter on her book). The story was very intense and I found myself holding my breath or gasping from surprise throughout the book! It was funny at times and heartbreaking at times (especially one story of a woman who basically hated her 3 year-old daughter).

For some reason, though, I didn't feel like I couldn't put the book down. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think it's because some of the characters were rather one-dimensional. Because of this, I give the book a 4/5.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Finally - Job Post!

I've mentioned it a few times in the past few months, but things are finally close enough to being finalized* that I can talk about my new job!!

I will be working as the coordinator for a space science education and outreach program at the university! I am so very excited!

Mostly, I will be in charge of developing activities and workshops to take into primary and secondary school classrooms. There will be a team of graduate TAs that will be doing most of the outreach, so my role will be more on the development, organizational, and promotional side of things. However, I'm sure I'll get out into the classrooms at least a few times a year. I'll also get to run workshops for teachers, and attend conferences to get the word out about our programs.

I start June 1st! I'll work from mostly from home in June. In July, Evan will start daycare (sigh) part-time and work his way up to being full-time by August 1st. At that point, we can decide how much I'll be working at the office and how much I can work from home.

It's an exciting time to become a part of this program, as it has been in existence for a couple of years but is now starting to grow quickly. I really think it will be a lot of fun, but will also be a challenge, and it will be a great fit for me.

So, for those of you sick of Evan-centered posts (though, come on, how could you be? LOL!), I will be writing about more of a variety of topics soon!

*Because of a bit of university red-tape, the actual job has not been posted yet. I will be working temporarily as a post-doc until that gets sorted out.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Seven Months

There haven't been any majorly different developments over the past month - basically Evan is bigger and stronger, and able to do things easier and better than before. He rolls over constantly, is sitting on his own more and more, is good at standing with support, has been eating a variety of foods, and can play independently for longer periods of time.

He is working on crawling by getting his knees under himself, getting his butt into the air, and moving his legs. But, he needs to figure out he also has to get his upper body off the ground. I'm not particularly in a hurry for him to figure this out though, as I like my immobile little man!

His personality is coming out more and more. He's just such a happy and fun baby 90% of the time, but can become upset at the drop of a hat. He is really in tune with the emotions of others, especially other babies. If he hears/sees another baby cry, he'll get upset. He really likes most people, though it seems he plays strange with people with curly hair and/or thick glasses for some reason!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Milestones, Schmilestones

My mom sent me an email the other day with my baby milestones*:

First rolled over: 3.5 months
First sat up alone: 8 months
First crawled: 11 months
First stood alone: 15 months
Took first step: 17 months

Besides rolling over, these are all pretty late (according to the standards these days, anyway). So, for those of you worried about your baby being slow or behind other babies: I a) can do all these things just fine now, and b) have a PhD.

*I was also a second child, so my parents probably recorded when these things actually happened as opposed to it happening by accident or something like some of us first-timers might do.

PS: You have probably noticed my new blog header - isn't it super cute? Thanks to Liz for designing it for me!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Trip

Evan and I go back from our trip on Saturday. He did amazingly well, and was a little trooper the whole time!

We started out flying from here to Toronto (a quick, 25 minute flight), where he smiled half the time and slept the other half. We then had about 45 minutes to catch our flight to Regina. It started off pretty badly with Evan crying his head off while everyone was boarding. But, he did pretty well once we got going, and only cried a couple of times for a few minutes. He was all smiles once we saw my parents! We're pretty sure he recognized them from our iChats. Then we drove to Yorkton (about 1.5 hours away).

We visited both my grandmothers and my aunt and uncle on my dad's side. It was tough seeing my paternal grandmother, as she is in a nursing home and not doing particularly well. But, it was nice that Evan could put a smile on her face. My other grandmother was really happy to meet him too!

After three days in Saskatchewan, we drove 12 hours to Calgary. I was dreading it, but Evan did awesome. He pretty much slept the whole time, and was happy otherwise. While there, we had visits with my aunt, uncle, and cousin on my mom's side, and a few friends of mine. We went to the zoo, and Evan really enjoyed the big turtles, the fish, and the elephants.

On our flight on the way home, he was the perfect baby - being cute, smiley, and cuddly. I got a few comments on what a good baby he was. One man even said he was the best baby he'd ever seen on a plane. That made me happy, though I know it was basically the luck of the draw and had nothing to do with me!

The visit made me miss Calgary a bit. It was just so nice having family around, being around long-time friends, and not wanting to strangle people when I'm driving. Though, going back always makes me realize what I don't miss about it too (materialistic and ultra-conservative attitudes).

It was a wonderful trip! I'm so happy that my parents got to spend so much time with him, and watching them with him is always a treat.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Photo Series, Part V

17. A picture during a time of sadness

A very rare December rainbow after suffering a miscarriage.

18. A picture of an accomplishment

Drinking from the Goblet of Knowledge after passing my PhD defence.

19. A picture of your furry friend(s)

Isaac (left) and Isabella (right).

20. A picture that always makes you laugh

Burping Evan in the early days always gave us comic relief during his NICU stay.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Photo Series, Part IV

13. A picture of your spare time

Knitting (although this has taken a back burner lately).

14. A picture from a great night

Bachelorette party!

15. A picture from last summer

End of July - about 5 months pregnant.

16. A picture of your favorite vacation


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Photo Series, Part III

9. A picture from a place you love

Times Square. New York is my favorite place to visit!

10. A picture that reminds you of great times

U2 concert in New York. I went with a friend of mine and we had so much fun!

11. A picture of the best day of your life

Our wedding day.

12. A picture of you at work

At a conference banquet.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Photo Series, Part II

5. An old picture of you

Getting ready for the Calgary Stampede!

6. A picture you have never posted on your blog before

Doing one of my favorite things: outreach!

7. A picture of your favorite place

Our house.

8. A picture of your everyday life

Snuggles with Evan.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Photo Series, Part I

A few weeks ago, MJ over at Livin' The Dream did a great photo meme. Since I'm away this week, I thought it would be fun to split it up into a 5-part series. I took some of them out and added a couple of my own to suit my needs :)

1. Someone you spend a lot of time with

I think you're all familiar with this character :)

2. A picture of you

Circa 2002.

3. A random photo of you and your significant other (a bit tough, since DH doesn't want to be recognizable).

Me and DH's foot in New York, 2006.

4. A picture of something that makes you happy


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Silent(ish) Sunday*

How can it not be a Happy Mother's Day with this kid?

*In lieu of Wordless Wednesday.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Style Series, Part V: Tips and Final Thoughts

In the last post of this series, I want to share some tips I've learned from this whole process. This is a long post, but I think it is incredibly useful for those of you who might want to do something similar.

First: how I found Sue. I actually just Google'd for image consultants in my area, and three websites popped up. I contacted all three, but I ended up choosing Sue because a) I saw her in action at a local Home & Garden show and I liked her presentation, b) she got back to me quickly when I emailed her, and c) she wanted to talk over the phone instead of doing everything over email (much easier for her to explain her methods and for me to ask questions).

Before Shopping
1. Get a bra fitting done: I can't express how important this is for your shape and for your health.

2. Write down your style words: think about what you want your clothes to say about you. Are you trendy and hip, or are you classic and traditional? Do you want to convey that you are confident and professional, or that you are easy-going and grounded? Write these words down and bring them with you when you shop.

3. Alter clothes you already have: this can be an inexpensive way to update your wardrobe. It's also a great way to make generic clothing your own.

4. Purge: get rid of anything that you don't love to wear, doesn't suit you or your body type, is outdated, is losing its color/shape, or is unwearable for any other reason. Do this with your accessories, shoes, and your undergarments too. Don't worry if you're getting rid of most of your clothes! You actually don't need that many to put together a wide-range of outfits.

5. Organize: Put your casual T-shirts into a drawer. Fold all of your knits and organize into topping pieces (those that can zip/button up), lighter sweaters, heavier sweaters, and sweatshirts. Hang all of your casual dresses/skirts/pants to one side of your closet, your professional clothes in the middle (pants together, blouses/shirts together, cardigans/jackets together), and your dressy clothes on the other side.

6. Take stock of what you have and figure out what you need: Maybe you're short on dress pants, or maybe you really need some topper pieces like cardigans or light jackets. Or, maybe you're like me and you need a bit of everything! Don't feel overwhelmed if you have very few items to work with though. It's amazing how many outfits you can make if all of your pieces can go together. Prioritize what you need, write it down, and take the list with you (along with your recipe card). It will stop you from buying duplicate pieces or pieces you don't need or won't work with your wardrobe.

Shoe Shopping
1. Buy 2-3 pairs of neutral shoes first (black, navy, nude, bronze, etc.). Then you can add more unique shoes to compliment your wardrobe down the road.

2. The taller you are, the more shoe styles you can get away with, such as rounded toes (yay for me!).

3. For longevity, buy classic-style shoes that can be worn throughout the year. Closed-toe pumps with pointed toes are always a good bet.

4. Don't buy shoes that you know you won't be able to stand/walk in for more than 10 minutes. As cute/hot/awesome they look, you'll never want to wear them.

5. Prioritize and keep a wish-list! Sure, those red pumps are slammin', but how many outfits can you wear them with? Buy those as your 4th or 5th shoe, not your 1st or 2nd.

Clothes Shopping
1. Get all your basic pieces (pants, skirts, dresses) in neutrals that can be worn throughout the year (black, navy, olive green, etc.)

2. Buy suits - that way you know the pieces go together, but they can also be worn separately, creating a more versatile wardrobe.

3. If you're big-busted like me, it's worth the money to find button-up blouses that fit properly.

4. Buy camisoles with adjustable straps to wear underneath shears, or to cover cleavage with low-neck tops.

5. Tops should be made with thin fabric because they are much easier to layer; they don't stick to each other and they don't add bulk.

6. Add color through blouses or t-shirts, scarves, and accessories.

7. Get items tailored if they don't fit exactly how you want them too.

8. Think about $ per wear, not necessarily the price on the tag. Sure, spending $200 on one item like jeans or a jacket may sound insane, but when you wear them 1-2 times every week (or more!), it's worth to get a pair that will last!

9. Dark denim is always in style and can be dressed up or down as needed.

10. Try things on. Even if it's "just" a t-shirt, you don't know how it will fit unless you try it. It will save you time in the end!

1. Start with a base piece (pants, skirt, or dress), and build up from that.

2. Always include a completer piece (jacket, cardigan, scarf, etc.) to have a more polished look.

3. Create outfits that are suitable for a variety of occasions - from the office, to meetings, to conferences, to casual Friday's, to date nights - to get the most bang for your buck.

4. Things don't have to be matchy-matchy. Just because your top doesn't have orange in it, doesn't mean you can't wear orange bangles on your wrist. Same goes for patterns: you can wear a floral top with snake-skin pumps. It makes things more visually interesting!

5. You don't have to put together every possible combination, or use every single piece of jewelery, right off the bat. This will allow you to come up with new outfits in the future without having to spend very little, if any, money!

Final Thoughts
So, after all of this, would I do it again? Absolutely! This whole experience was definitely worth it! Sue was really fun to work with, and I learned a lot about what clothes say about a person, what I want my clothes to say about me, and how to put together a variety of polished looks without needing an overflowing closet.

I would recommend working with a wardrobe consultant if you're having problems creating a cohesive look, are wanting to polish or update your current wardrobe, or just hate shopping for yourself! Even though the initial cost is larger, you end up saving money in the end because you won't be standing in front of the closet every morning thinking "why don't I have anything to wear?".

This ends my series on style and working with a wardrobe consultant. I hope everyone enjoyed reading and are inspired to do your own wardrobe style make-over (I would love to hear about it if you do). And, finally, thanks to Sue for working with me!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Style Series, Part IV: Wardrobing

The fourth and final appointment with Sue was the wardrobing session: taking the clothes, shoes, and accessories to create an array of outfits. Even though I was feeling a bit under the weather, this was a ton of fun! It was like being in a mini fashion show!

Each outfit began with one of my base pieces (pants or skirt) and building around it. We started with my olive pants and created seven outfits, ranging from business formal to casual to date night. We did the same with my new skinny jeans (something I never thought I would like, but now love), my pinstripe skirt from the suit I already owned and had altered, and the denim skirt that is on layaway.

Every outfit had a "completer" piece - either a jacket, cardigan, or scarf - as well as shoes and accessories. These touches take my look from ordinary and plain to interesting and polished. After finalizing an outfit, Sue would fill in a spread sheet, itemizing everything I was wearing, what settings the outfit would be appropriate for, and which of my style words were portrayed.

Here is an example of using one base piece (pin-stripe skirt) for several different looks (sorry for not modeling them, but I took these photos for my cataloging purposes as well):

Fig. 1: A great outfit for around the office or for meetings.

Fig. 2: A "power" look, but still approachable. Perhaps for a conference talk or when I need to make sure it is clear I'm the boss.

Fig. 3: A going-out look - either for dinner with DH or drinks with the girls (note: this should also include a black pashmina, but I don't have it yet!).

I truly loved all the looks we came up with and, after two hours, we had 21 complete outfits using 17 pieces. We could have gone on for much longer, but we plan on meeting again in August so we can re-configure things for the Fall. The wonderful thing about this is we'll be able to shop for free in my own closet, and probably come up with 20-30 new outfits for the season!

This session was really fun, and I feel more comfortable and confident about the clothes I bought now that I see how versatile they can be. Sue often mentioned throughout this process that I should try to think in terms of price per wear as opposed to the price on the tag, and I can definitely see her point. Being able to wear a $150 pair of pants 10 different ways is a lot better value than buying a $50 pair that I can only wear with a couple of things.

I'm not 100% confident about putting my own outfits together, but I think I have a much better idea about this than before I started with Sue. I now know the look I am going for, and the style words are a great help in leading me in the right direction. I will probably make some mis-steps, but being able to meet with Sue in the future here and there will help me stay on course, and update things as needed.

Next Up: Tips and Final Thoughts

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Style Series, Part III: Clothes Shopping

My third appointment with Sue was the "biggest" one in my mind: shopping for clothes to fill out my rather sparse professional wardrobe. The goal for the day was to find some classic, basic pieces and then add some color with various tops.

On the morning of April 23rd, I met Sue at Channer's - a local business apparel store. She had pulled about 20 items, and explained how they could all work with one another. The core colors she chose were navy and olive, which I immediately loved. These colors portray trustworthiness and approachability, which are two traits necessary for my new position.

I tried all the pieces in various combinations (a surprisingly amazing array, actually!), and we whittled the selection down to 12 pieces: two camisoles (olive and black), two patterned blouses (with much color!), two cardigans (one navy, the other khaki with a floral print), two pant suits (one olive, one navy pin-stripe), one pair of jeans, and one denim skirt. Unfortunately, because of my budget, I had to leave about half of these behind and I ended up buying the two camisoles, one patterned blouse, the navy cardigan, the olive pants, and the jeans. The other items are on layaway and I intend to buy them later in May.

The second store we went to was La Jolie Jupe, a very cute women's wear store that I never even knew existed. This portion of the shopping trip was all about the tops and getting much needed punches of color into my wardrobe. I tried probably about 20 tops on, most of them t-shirts that are easily layered. Again, we whittled away until we had just a few key pieces left that I adored. I came away with a white 3/4-sleeve t-shirt, a fuchsia 3/4-sleeve t-shirt, a thin purple 3/4-sleeve shirt, a blue patterned cap-sleeve shirt, a black cap-sleeve shirt with a large floral pattern on one side, and a light blue button-up blouse. Unfortunately, I had to leave behind a khaki shirt-dress because I reached my budget limit!

Fig. 1: The items I bought (12 pieces total).

All in all, I was really happy with what I bought. Though, to be honest, I was disappointed about having to leave the other pieces I loved at the stores. If only I were rich, right? In any case, those will come with time, and we had lots to work with for the wadrobing session - coming up next!

Fig. 2: All the clothing we will have to work with in the wardrobing session.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Style Series, Part II: Shoe Shopping

I love shoes and I love to shop for shoes. So, I was very excited for my second appointment with Sue on April 20th.

After checking out my shoe collection during our first appointment, we realized I only had one pair of work-appropriate shoes (black pumps). So, our mission was to get a couple pairs of neutral shoes that could be worn throughout the summer and into the fall.

I met Sue at Town Shoes with little Evan in tow. She had pulled three neutral pumps, two neutral flats, and a pair of more casual (but still appropriate for work) blue cone-heeled shoes. She explained why she chose each one, which of my style words they were associated with, and why some would be more versatile or appropriate than others (the bronze metallic flat shoe can be worn in to the fall and with tights; the round-toe snake-skin shoe had a more youthful feel but the pointy toe pair were more classic; the blue shoe had a wooden heel which matched my style word "grounded").

I tried all of them on (one of Sue's rules, which I was all to happy to oblige). We immediately cut the round-toe snake-skin shoe and the nude pump because they didn't fit or look right. I loved the look of the blue cone-heel, but they were a bit too high for my liking (I have weak ankles after having rolled/twisted them multiple times). I liked the metallic flats, but wasn't quite sure of the fit. I liked the fit of the nude flats, but wasn't quite keen on the color. I immediately fell in love with the pointy-toe snake skin pair. So, we set the last three pairs aside and visited a couple other stores.

Here I found out how Sue shopped: quickly and efficiently. Just the way I like it! No dilly-dallying, no hemming and hawing. Either there was something to try on or not. Perfect! I ended up trying a pair of navy pumps in another store and loving them, and finding a red pair too.

At that point, we took a mental inventory of the shoes we found and decided in what priority they should be purchased. I obviously needed a couple pairs of neutral shoes to get started, so we went back to the first store and I ended up buying the pointy-toe snake skin shoes and the metallic flats (they fit much better with some inserts!).

Fig. 1: The loot!

I was about to pay and leave when Sue came across these:

Fig. 2: strappy cone-heel. Drool.

I was intrigued by the heel, since it was similar to the blue pair I tried on before but lower. So, Sue "convinced" (okay, it didn't take much) me to try them on. Oh. My. God. I loved them! I immediately felt sexy and confident. I think I was actually strutting around the store. Interestingly enough, I probably would have never tried them on if I were shopping by myself. Hey - it's like that's the point of this whole thing! Unfortunately, those shoes weren't a priority, so I left them in the store.

All in all, the appointment took about an hour and I came away with two pairs of neutral but visually interesting shoes and a list of three others to potentially buy later on. I had a ton of fun and went home feeling very satisfied with my purchases and very excited about our clothes shopping trip!

Fig. 3: The happy shoppers ("happy" may be too strong of a word for Evan, but he did pretty well!).

Next up: clothes shopping.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Style Series, Part I: The Initial Appointment

This week will consist of a series of five posts about my experience working with a wardrobe consultant over a two-week period in April.

My first appointment with Susan Jacobs (of Personal Style Image Consulting) on April 14th was both really fun and really eye-opening in terms of what I had in my closet.

The first 2 hours consisted of an interview. Sue asked me lots of questions, such as what I wanted to get from this experience, which part(s) of my wardrobe needed the most work, what I wanted and needed from my wardrobe, what I wanted my clothes to say about me, etc.. I showed her pictures of clothing/accessories/furnishings that I found in magazines, and showed her some of my own favorite items.

Using that information, we made a style recipe card with a list of words that I want my wardrobe to say about me. This will help me when I go shopping (i.e., if the clothes don't portray those words, then put them back!). My words are: classic, traditional, simple, polished, approachable, warm, grounded, attractive, vibrant, current, alluring, and intriguing. Each word has associated textures, fabric, cuts, etc., so it makes the shopping process a bit easier.

Before I go on, I want to state that this whole process is not changing me, my style, or my likes or dislikes (this tends to be a big sticking point with people on shows like What Not To Wear, for example). It's all about finding clothes that I love, fit my personality, look great, match my style words, and are suitable for my new work environment.

The second part of the appointment concentrated on the clothes I already owned. I really thought I had a good base, and we would be able to put a bunch of outfits together and I would only need a few completer pieces. But, looking in my closet more closely, we discovered I had a limited number of pieces to work with in order to put together a professional wardrobe that encompassed the image I wanted to portray (see words above). I had a suit (a jacket and skirt), three cardigans, a few tops, and three pairs of dress pants. A start, but not nearly enough to put together several outfits.

So, unfortunately we couldn't continue with the second part of the session as planned. Instead, we went through all my clothes and accessories and got rid of anything that was worn out, the wrong size, out-dated, not age-appropriate, or otherwise unwearable.

The next step was to shop for some basic pieces and other things to get my professional wardrobe up and running. Before our shopping trip, I had some homework: get some of my current pieces tailored so they fit properly, organize my closet, and get a bra fitting (the last post in this series will consist of tips I learned from this process, and I will include what I did for each of these).

I was excited about the shopping trips (we ended up doing two), but was unsure about the cost of creating a full wardrobe. I couldn't help but think I shouldn't be spending money on something so seemingly "frivolous." After all, it was just for myself - not for us, not for Evan, and not for the house. Some familiar, ladies?

DH and I talked about it, and we agreed that I would need a new wardrobe for work no matter what. So, why not have someone help me put together a fantastic and versatile wardrobe that all works together? It was fun, exciting, and would save me money in the end too! We agreed on a budget that I could spend, so we both felt comfortable before I even set foot in a store.

Plus, I'm worth it, damnit!

Next up: the shoe shopping trip.