Bare naked lady

manicureI hate being naked.  I’m a very modest person, so I rarely let my bare-self show. (Unless I’m in the dressing room at Loehmann’s and I’m scoring a great deal.)  Same way with my nails.  I hate having bare nails.

I take that back. I LOATHE having bare nails.  I’m a staunch advocate of the polished nail.  Mademoiselle is my middle name, dontcha know?

So for the last few many years, I’ve indulged myself with weekly manicures.  I remember looking forward to Friday, my self-proclaimed manicure day, where I could sit at the nail salon, gossip with the nail tech and read trashy magazines.  The US Weekly mag I read always had the most oil stains on it, but I didn’t care.  I was content perusing the “Just Like Us” section in a vibrating spa chair, even if Jennifer Garner was smudged out.

And my nails used to get compliments.  Who knew I have “long nail beds”?  Or nice white tips?  I took pleasure in knowing that a little bit of dough got me a long way with that cashier at Starbucks or a colleague in a meeting where I was taking notes.  I could be Wicked without anyone knowing just how innocent I really was.  That’s the beauty of a nice manicure.  It provides a good cover. My nails would shine even when I didn’t.  And people notice.

Then I had a child.  I know it sounds so cliche, but I think those folks are right. Having a baby changes everything.  I swore up and down that when I had my son I would let nothing get in the way of my nail upkeep. But something’s happened over the past few months.  I’m going naked.  It’s impossible to stay properly clothed as the mother of a 16-month-old.

At one point, I pretended that I could keep up my polished exterior.  When my son was a bit younger, I tried haplessly to wear trendy dark colors.  This resulted in numerous expletives flowing from my mouth every time I saw a chip.  There’s one thing I hate more than bare nails.  Feeling like you’ve thrown $15 down the drain because you’ve smudged your nail giving your son a bath.

I’ve found that going around bare does have its benefits. You can wash the dishes without gloves on, garden freely, and pull apart sippy cup parts like a bat out of hell.  You can open up toys without pretending to your child that those twisty tie thingy-s are really a part of the toy.  (I mean, those twisty tie thingy-s are KILLER on a fresh manicure.) You can type on your keyboard recklessly. You can open up cans and bottles. You can pry open the seal of that fresh tube of Aquaphor.  It’s quite liberating, really.

Then again, there are disadvantages to a non-manicured nail.  There’s the hanging cuticle problem, which typically requires the unsanitary, but necessary extracting of, which draws blood in the office, which results in you running screaming to your group assistant to find you some freaking Band-Aids (!!) so you don’t have to try to type on your keyboard with paper towel over your finger.


Needing to get nailed.

Also, unmanicured nails give off this terrible impression that you actually care about housework. I think there’s a direct correlation between how dirty your house is with how bad your nails look. Meaning, if you care about keeping your nails polished, you’ll let the dust build up a little.  I hate dusting too.

The good news is that for the next week, I’ll be away from reality, “working from home” (more on that later) with no business people to see and no in-person meetings to be had.  I can let myself go for a little.  But believe you me, as soon as I get back I’ll be calling up the nail salon.  I can only walk around naked for so long.

Flip flopping at work

Susan Wagner, author of one of my new favorite blogs, “The Working Closet,” gave out some rules today on appropriate work attire.  I agree with most of the “rules” on her list.  Except for one.  The one about wearing flip flops to work.  Wagner says:

I love flip flops, particularly for summer, but they are not appropriate for the office. Nicer flip flops–made of leather, say, or even those pretty ones with the ribbon straps–are fine for weekends or evenings, but never for work. And those rubbery ones from Target should not EVER be worn outside the house. EVER.

Immediately after reading this I looked down beneath my desk. 

The offending foot.

Yes, I’m wearing flip flops to work today. Of the leather kind. Of the Jack Rogers kind.  My immediate reaction was to get defensive of my decision. It’s hot out, and my feet were sweating in my first shoe choice, the Tory Burch flat.  I chose breathability vs. smelly feet.  I think the silver sheen of the leather makes these particular flip flops kind of dressy.  Plus, they look great with the seersucker pants I’m wearing. It’s not like I’m clacking around in my new favorite Chaco flip flops.  (Trust me, I’ve tried to make an appropriate work outfit with these to no avail.)

Just say no to Chaco.

But backing down off of my defensive position, I realized that flip flops in the workplace are a necessity for some working moms or soon-to-be-moms.  They’re comfortable, they come in all shapes and materials now, and well, if you’re very, very pregnant, sometimes they’re the only shoe that will fit a swollen foot.  Plus, it gives you the chance to flaunt the $35+ you just spent on a pedicure to someone other than your child.  Ban the “rubbery” ones, I will, but nothing will ever come between me and Jack at the office.

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The fashion stages of motherhood

preggomirror.jpgIn this month’s In Style magazine (I know, heavy reading), costume designer Debra McGuire makes an interesting comment about Katherine Heigl’s pre-to-pregnancy wardrobe in the upcoming movie Knocked Up:

Like all women who raise children, she [Heigl] experiences many fashion phases.

I sort of wish she had expanded on this term, “fashion phases,” but since she didn’t, I thought I’d take the liberty of recalling the typical wardrobe changes I went through as I became a new mom.  Feel free to add your “phase” as needed.

Phase 1: Show-and-don’t-tell
Many of us like to wait awhile before we announce our little secret, but sometimes mother nature likes to play tricks and discloses pregnancy before we’re ready.  Sometimes you “show” when you’re not ready to tell.  Thank goodness long shirts are in nowadays. They’re really good for covering up the waistband that you can’t quite cinch anymore. 

Phase 2: Bump-a-licious
At about month four of pregnancy, you take a look in the mirror at your rounding belly and think, “boy, I look cute.” Then if you’re anything like me, you head out to the nearest maternity botique where the salespeople “ooh and ahh” at your bump and coerce you into spending way too much for that silly top with a string that ties around your back (seriously, what pregnant woman can actually tie this herself?) and really will only fit you for four more weeks. No, I don’t plan ahead when it comes to clothes.

Phase 3: Feeling-not-so-hot
There is a time long into your pregnancy when you realize you aren’t going to stay Bump-a-licious forever, and really you’re just lookin’ large.  Now’s the time to whip out the size XL long sleeve top you found on the back rack of the Gap maternity store on sale for $9.99 because, well, you really don’t care what you wear to work anymore, as long as its comfortable.  And you’re lying if you haven’t worn flip flops or Ugg boots to the office at this stage of the game.

Phase 4: Hide-the-pooch
After your baby is born you think you look really good. And thin.  You even think you can wear normal clothes again.  Until you realize that really, you’re just playing a game of “Hide-the-pooch.”  It’s sort of like “Show-and-don’t-tell” but this time your belly’s not that cute.  Unfortunately, this means you’ll have to whip out those flowy tops from the early stages of pregnancy again to hide the poochy belly.  Because we all know the worse thing someone can ask you after you’ve had your baby is if you’re pregnant.  And it’s happened to all of us.

Phase 5: Back-to-work
Going back to work after baby takes lots of planning and thought – about your clothes, of course. I spent many weeks debating and deciding child care what I was going to wear the first time I saw my coworkers after 4 months off. (Yes, I was lucky, I had extra time to find a good outfit.)  All I can say about this phase is go find something you like and looks good for you. You never had a better excuse to go buy new clothes.

Phase 6: The real you
Sometime after the “9 months down” scenario plays out in all its evil, you realize that even if you’re thin again, your body just doesn’t look the same as it did pre-baby.  I personally have lots of extra skin around the middle and wider hips.  So I had to “readjust” my wardrobe. I seem to reuse those long flowy tops still, but have a little more confidence to put on a good old pair of skinny pants once in awhile.  For about an hour before I change back into my trusty sweats. Old habits die hard.

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One-year-old syndrome, part 2

I recently reflected on all the changes that occur when your child goes from infancy to toddlerhood.  No more bottles, no more formula, no more infant clothes.  It’s quite an experience for a new mom.  Blah, blah. But in my rant about impending toddlerhood, I forgot to mention another bi-product of having a one-year-old.  It’s the time when people start asking you the dreaded question:

So, when are you going to have another one?

A question like this, for me, rates right up there with the most dreaded pregnancy and post-baby inquiries:

    • What are you having?  
    • How many cm dilated are you?
    • How long did you ‘push’?
    • Are you breastfeeding?
    • Did you need an episiotomy?
    • Does your baby sleep through the night yet?

I could go on.  When you’re a new mom or very, very pregnant (41 1/2 weeks in my case), you can typically get away by answering these questions with a snarky comment:   

I was 8 cm dilated at 38 weeks and my baby chimpanzee flew out after 5 minutes of labor, I felt no contractions, my milk came in within 30 minutes of delivery, I had no stitches and, oh, the little monkey has slept through the night since we left the hospital.

But after a year, when you’re a little more lucid you can use a more fitting retort:

Hey you, nosy. Mind your own business.

The dreaded question, surprisingly, does not come from the grandparents.  My parents and in-laws, at least, know better than to push my buttons since I gave them the “Little Prince.” (If you don’t believe the moniker, you should see my basement.)  No, no. The people who typically engage in such a discussion are (in no particular order):

    • Co-workers (they need to plan when you’re going out on maternity leave again)
    • Your OB-GYN (she’s looking for more cash)
    • An acquantaince who pushed out two kids in 18 months, looks like Barbie and is annoying
    • The clerk at your local kiddie boutique (she too, is looking for more cash)

Or, in my case specifically, my husband. What, you ask?  Husband? Ah, yes. Last weekend on our Mexican “date” night (why is it a “date” when you are married, somebody please tell me?), over a very stiff margarita, my DH said to me:

“I could could see us you getting pregnant in about 6 months.”

(Me choking on my fajita) “Six months? Really?”

I know he’s six years older than me and all, but didn’t he get the memo? You don’t say this to a woman who just got all her pants altered. Look, I’m all for having another kid and all, but I’m not in a rush. I’m happy and contented with my little boy now and work is finally starting to make sense again. I see no reason to rock my uterus any time soon. Especially now that it’s summer and I have to put on a bathing suit.

I’m still feeling young and vital and knock wood, I’m hoping that it’s as easy for #2 as it was for #1. And if it is not, god forbid? Well, I’ll deal with it then. ‘Cause I’m not ready yet. I mean, I’ll probably never be “ready” but you gotta give a mama some time to digest the thought of getting pregnant again. And for me, one year is just not enough time to start thinking about it.

So can everybody just keep their pants on? Now that mine are finally fitting again?

This is cross-posted at Silicon Valley Moms Blog… also writing there until the Chicago Moms Blog launches!

Once you go flat, you never go back

I haven’t done a post about fashion in awhile, and it fits this week’s theme of no complaining, so here goes.  I flew out of the Nor’easter yesterday to the sunny Midwest where the temperature is hovering around 50 degrees and the sun is partially out.  Yes folks, spring has arrived in Chicago.  And with spring, comes spring shoes.  Some of you will be wearing wedgies, some of you will still stick it out in heels (I don’t know how!), but I will be wearing flats.  I love flats!  Flats are a mommy’s best friend that will take you from the office to the playground nary a blister in sight.  Herewith, my favorite flats of the season.  Enjoy.toryflat.jpg

My big indulgence this spring were these Tory Burch Reva ballerina flats.  I know they’re uber-trendy, but they are super comfy and look great with a skirt or jeans. I’ve already worn them 3 times – all 3 days it was over 40 degrees in Chicago so far this year.  Plus they come in all different colors for your wearing pleasure.mossimoflat.jpg

I also love these peep-toe flats by Mossimo for Target.  The mix of patent and regular leather belies the cheap $19.99 price tag.  It also means that I could buy them in navy and not feel so bad if that color only stays in style one season.

Next on my to-buy list are another pair of peep-toe flats, this time by Franco Sarto.  They’re a great knock-off of a Stuart Weitzman version.  But your wallet will thank you for going Franco.

francosartoflat.jpgthe “Franco”

stuartweitzman.jpgthe “Stuart”

Can YOU tell the difference?

crocs.jpgLast on my must-have list for flats this spring are these adorable all-weather flats.  Normally, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of Crocs, but thanks to a tip from my friend Tamara, I couldn’t resist the ballerina version of the normally clunky shoe.  I chose lavender, but am kind of liking the celery (to the right).  Unfortunately you can’t really wear these in the office (well, in my office), but as Tamara says, “they’re a great commuter shoe.”  Or a shoe you won’t care if your kid pees or pukes on.

[Update: the crocs didn’t fit me! Size 9 was too small, size 10 too big. Maybe they’ll make them in half sizes one day. Or my feet will shrink with my next pregnancy.]

So there you have it.  My ode to flats this spring.  I do hope you look into getting a pair (or two, or three) for yourself.  Make your feet happy.

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Some spring fashion ideas for moms

purse.jpgIt’s barely 30 degrees in Chicago, my really cute, new, faux-leather Rafe purse from Target (to the right- also makes for a great baby bag) froze on the way to work, and what did I hear? The fashion world is talking spring. This means I need to evaluate what I’m going to purchase in the coming months with the little excess income I have. AND I have to make the trends work for home and for the office. 

I did a little reading about what I should buy.  Here’s why I’m not listening:

clearpurse.jpgA clear handbag: there are some things that should just stay hidden. Like the diaper you accidentally forgot to take out of your purse when you went to work.

Neon: being fashionable does not mean matching the walls of your son’s gym class.

liger1v2.jpgAn animal print top: I don’t want to look like Meester Liger (my son’s blankie to the right). More on Meester Liger soon.

Mini dresses: this is laughable just won’t work with “mommy” hips.

Instead, I think I will invest in the following:

A white handbag: because white is almost clear and I can keep hidingbrpurse.jpg my things from you. Na na na poo poo!

edelmanflats.jpgEyelet flats: comfy and chic for the office or a play date.

nanette2.jpgA flow-y shirt: will hide the muffin top fabulously. (Please excuse the gorgeous model.)

Happy shopping!

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Dos and don’ts of work holiday parties

Our company’s annual holiday party is tonight.  It’s my third party, but first as a mom, so I think the rules are a little bit different for me.  Some dos and don’ts for moms at work holiday parties:

Do feel free to dance to the music; it’s a good chance to show your coworkers that you’re still alive.
Don’t get caught karaoke-ing “Like a Virgin” – you never know who’s got a cell phone camera out there and where your children may find those photos online (this is NOT a personal experience).

Do get dolled up for work that day; spend the 15 extra minutes to wash and dry your hair!
Don’t wear anything remotely similar to the photo to the left (Thank you, Tamara and Jeffrey).

Do gorge yourself on all the party apps. I’m quite sure they’re better than any dinner you were going to have at home.
Don’t stuff the dinner rolls in your purse for lunch tomorrow.  That’s not being a resourceful mom, it’s just tacky.

Do have a drink, or two (or three), if you please. You did get the night off for a reason.
Don’t overdo it. Your husband will NOT be sympathetic tomorrow and get up with the kids when you don’t feel well.

Enjoy the holiday party season!

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A walk on the dark side… of nail polish

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then your nails are the window into how bad of a week you’ve had.  This is especially true this season.  That’s because this season is the season of dark nails.  From burgundy to black, darker shades of polish are what everyone is wearing.  From WAHMs to SAHMs, I’ve seen dark nails lurking in every corner of the mom world.

It used to be that we could get by easily with our “Sugar Daddy” and “Sweetheart” and be as hands on in our mom life as we could.  That’s the thing about light nail color, it doesn’t show squat.  A chip, a smudge, no one can tell.

Not so much with the new fall palette.  So while there’s no doubt that Chanel’s Vamp looks great on a teenager, I wondered, how do these dark colors work on a mom?  So I put dark nail polish to the test, wearing various shades over the past few weeks.  The results? Read on:

I’ve actually been wearing Essie’s “Wicked” for a little while, but I hadn’t yet gone to the true dark side until last week, when I tried OPI’s “Lincoln Park After Dark.” A purple/ midnight hue, it looked fabulous in the bottle.  My nails looked great when I left the salon and I thought I had found my new regular color.  But when I tested the color out doing mom duties, Lincoln Park After Dark ended up looking more like Lincoln Park With a Bad Hangover (Exhibit photo to the left).  

Chip after chip after chip occurred as I typed on my computer, washed my son’s bottles and attended play groups.  I was ready for a new manicure after only 3 days (I didn’t get them done at my favorite spot, Paint, in Chicago, though)!  My other NMFs agree on the difficulties of wearing dark nails and sighed in sympathy at my ragged digits. 

So what’s a fashionable mom to do?  Your nails are an easy way to feign a fashionable appearance.  If you can keep them looking reasonably good, you can appear to look somewhat put together, even if your home is a wreck and your hair is dirty.  You can shut that window of doubt on what’s really happening with your beauty routine.  However, with this new trend, one chip of your nail means you look trashy instead of trendy.

I try to salvage my dark nails by buying the color and touching up in between manicures.  A little polish and Seche Vite top coat can go a long way to preserving your nail dignity. I also always try to wear gloves when I do the dishes and wash the bottles and clean up the kitchen (wearing them while typing at work is near impossible). There is one good thing about dark nail polish – it doesn’t show all the dirt after a long day with baby.

But, overall, while I’ll stick out this trend for a little while longer,  I’m not ready to hang up my “Ballet Slippers” just yet.

Foul-Weather Gear for Fashionable Moms

Chicago is supposed to get it’s first big snowstorm of ’06 tonight, which means I’m going to have to bust out the boots and down parka tomorrow on my day off with my son.  But as a fashionable mom, how am I going to avoid looking like the State Puff Marshmallow Man when the cold weather hits the streets?

My theory on foul-weather gear is buy from the big brands and avoid the boutiques.  I find that the brand name goes a long way for reliability when the weather gets rough and the big brands usually come with a lifetime guarantee.

So without further ado, here are my favorite cold weather items for fashionable moms:
Every mom who lives north of Kansas needs a good pair of warm boots.  That’s why I bought Uggs. I know, I know, they are so “out.”  But moms, they really work, and are super warm and comfy while pushing Junior down Michigan Avenue.  I have the Ultimate II, but I wish I got the Uptown II (to the left, love the black). 

landsend.jpgAnother good, lower-cost option is a boot I saw from Land’s End.  I usually think Lands End = Land of Dowdy, but, these quilted boots are adorable. And they are lined with Polartec. What more could a mom want?  Working moms: Check out Tamara’s advice for “commuter shoes.”

Of course, all fashionable moms need a durable jacket that looks flattering, not fattening.  My pick is the North Face Metropolis Parka.  Filled with down, it wears well in mom-land AND at the office. Buy this coat, and you will never need to wear anything else.  North Face updated the Metropolis this year with new fun colors.

Gloves: North Face wins out again for me on gloves. You cannot beat their windproof version when pushing baby in the stroller.  Your hands will love you.  

Hats: This is a sore subject for me, since I have a rather large head (don’t laugh).  So it’s hard for me to find hats that I like and that fit.  I really liked this one from Banana Republic (to the left), but it didn’t fit (shocker). So I’m reusing the one I got last year from Marmot.

With these four key pieces you can build a great cold-weather mom wardrobe.  Now, off to the snow!

The end of my morning routine as I know it

My days of being a fashionable working mom may be over soon.  Why, you ask? I can only answer it with one word: mobility.  Yes, my son’s days of being immobile are coming to a screeching halt.  To some, this may be a welcome sign that your baby is moving up in the world.  To me, it raises the dreaded question: NOW, how am I going to get dressed for work in the morning?

Back when I started working, my morning routine was a breeze.  I’d stick my son in the bouncy seat (can’t describe my love for that invention), shower, dry my hair, put on my makeup, get dressed, and he’d still be sitting there, smiling, in his chair, watching the starfish turn and turn.  This morning though, I realized that my steady routine was slowly slipping through my newly-moisturized hands.  

It went something like this: Son sits in bouncy seat for 5 minutes while I shower (I confess, I didn’t wash my hair, but wore a cute headband), and towel dry.  Son needs to get out of seat, now! Take son out of seat and scurry to my closet for anything that matches.  Run back to bathroom where son has managed to hit head on cold tile floor when rolling over (ouch!).  I sit him up and prop his back with a Boppy pillow (another one of my favorite inventions).  I’m good for another 10 minutes. Brush my teeth, put on my mom makeup (love the foundation stick!) but I’m not finished.  I have not accessorized yet.  But son cannot wait for me to pick out the perfect matching earrings.  He needs to be picked up, now!  Pick up son and walk to closet where I find something to doll up my droll outfit.  Now son wants to get down, now!  But I don’t have shoes on.  Prop son up in closet while trying on various shoes that will not kill my feet all day.  Son wants to play, now! How do I have time to play when I need to pack up my purse and wolf down a banana before I get in the car? 

But just then my answer to how I will get dressed in the morning is at the door.  Nanny arrives, and I can assume my fashionable working mom position once again.  If only I can get to work on time.