Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Musical Folk: Our Music Together Experience

Living in the greater New Haven/Waterbury area, we have access to some amazing family-friendly programs. Music Together through Musical Folk is one of them. And it is the best activity we have done for our son, hands down. 

Coming up next month will be FOUR years since we began Music Together classes. We couldn't be more grateful for the impact it has had on our son's life. He is creative, thoughtful, imaginative, and simply LOVES music. He can hold a beat, he has been exposed to numerous types of musical genres and instruments, enjoys the theatre and concerts, and carries a tune better than my husband. And I accredit these characteristics to his time in Music Together program. 

We started when Ness was barely 3 months old in a Music Together babies class. As a parent of a premie, I was very skeptical of taking him out and about but this was the first program I wanted to try and I am so grateful I did. My favorite part of that class? The moms have all become very good friends AND the kids have as well. They're all turning 4 right about now and we're all celebrating their milestones together STILL four years later. Incredible.

Music Together has 9 collections and once you make it through all nine, you can continue and simply repeat. In the 4 years we've been a part of this incredible program, we have participated in 13 full sessions. We have done all 9 collections, repeated 2 of them, done 2 summer sessions (usually a "Best Of" or "Greatest Hits" collection), as well as a few short winter sessions provided by Musical Folk

Music Together is a music AND movement program. So don't you think you're going to just sit back and watch.... NO WAY! This is not a drop off program. You'll be just as involved as your kids, being a role model to them as well as the other kids in the class. And it is marvelous! Research has proven that this involvement helps your child learn and grow developmentally appropriate skills as well as creates an ideal learning environment where it is open and accepting. The children learn and grow together with their parents, other children, and teachers. 

Music is truly priceless and it bring a magic to children's faces that is truly immeasurable. Stop and take a step back in one of their classes. The kids are having FUN. They are enjoying themselves. 

And also, the PARENTS have fun too. 

It is an incredible way to have bonding time with your child as well. You learn songs to share together as well as methods to calm and soothe your little ones. We have often said our Music Together CDs are magic in the car. I know many of my friends can agree on that one too! 

Ness learned to sing and dance right along side learning to walk and talk. It doesn't matter the age of your child to enjoy and learn from this program. You can be a baby up to starting elementary school. It is truly remarkable and the impact it has on children all ages is just astonishing. 

The teachers at Musical Folk are simply THE.BEST. Each and every one of them has a unique talent that transcends into their teaching. While they all teach the same collection, they each have their unique spin and methods to come across and bond with each and every one of the children in the class. 

Spring registration is now open and the session begins the first week of April. I truly cannot recommend this program enough, regardless of how old your child is. 

Want to try out Music Together with Musical Folk in the greater New Haven area? Sign up and use code NAOMI40 to get $40 off your semester! 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Love Yourself First and Foremost

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. In honor of this week, I thought I'd share my story. And I'm sharing this because it helps me get it out. And if it helps someone else, then it's worth it. But more so I'm sharing so that my son knows he is always beautiful no.matter.what. 

To be blunt... I am pleasantly plump. I am short and squat. I have rolls and curves. Heck, I even came out chubby. 

I sure was cute though, wasn't I?! 

But for the first 20 years of my life, I was fat, plain and simple, and was told I wasn't beautiful. 

"You'd be so much prettier if you just lost a little weight."

"How hard is it to tie your shoes? Does all of THAT get in the way?" 

"Why are you even trying out for sports if you can barely move?!" 

"What's it like being fat?"

"Why don't you care about yourself?"

"You're my little butterball." 

I could go on. For years, comments like these poured in. Not just from my peers and people my own age, but from family and close friends and even my own parents. 

It made me self-conscious, embarrassed, and ashamed. I hid. I hid behind anything I could find. And I fed my sadness with food. It was my comfort and it made me feel better. I even thought at one point chopping all my hair off would help hide me. Nope. Didn't work.  

When I was in high school, I started to come out of my shell and wanted to be viewed differently. I wanted to be looked at as equal and not inferior to the athletes, the blonds, the cool kids, the musicians and dramatics, or even the popular kids. I was tired of wrapping my body in duct tape each morning under my clothes to suck it in. I didn't want to wear bike shorts and three bras anymore. I didn't want to be bullied anymore. I just wanted to be accepted as me, regardless of my size and shape.

So I tried to lose weight. I tried so hard. SO. Hard. And some things worked. But most didn't. 

My mom is overweight. My dad is overweight. Both of my brothers are obese. It's in my genes. It came to a point, numerous times actually, where I would cry in the doctor's office and just ask to be done. To no longer try and just stop caring. Because it was so bad, I didn't think it could truly get worse. I was always sad and lonely and questioning myself. The bullying and meanness had sunk into my thoughts. It was bad. really bad. 

The summer between high school and college something clicked. Maybe moving away from home helped. Maybe a change in scenery helped. Maybe being on my own helped. I honestly don't know. But I gave up looking down on myself and tried to see the positive. I was alive. I was healthy. I could easily be happy if I just got out of my own way. And I was somewhere new where no one else really knew who I was. 

I walked everywhere. I got a bike and rode to my classes on the other side of campus. I talked to people in my classes I didn't know. I took aerobic classes as part of my class schedule so I HAD to go and would get graded. As an overachiever, there was NO getting around that one. And finally, after a few years of requesting from our family health insurance provider, I was granted coverage for a breast reduction. At 19 years old, it is still the best decision I ever made. 

After my recovery, things were easier for me. Working out was easier. I mean, I went from a 44GGG to a 36C. I could MOVE for the first time in my life. I went from over 250 pounds to 150. At 19 years old, I lost a Backstreet Boy. Ha! 

In all seriousness, it gave me a newfound ability to move and try things I literally had never been able to do before. I walked more, I started running, I stood up straight (as crazy as that sounds, it made a HUGE impact on my confidence), and I smiled. A lot. 

I grew up and matured and learned to love myself. It did NOT happen overnight. But it happened eventually. 

I'm now in my 40s and I still struggle with it daily. But I know deep down that I am beautiful and I hope that I transfer that self-love onto my son so he knows he's beautiful no matter what anyone else thinks or says. 

I have kept those 100 pounds off for over 20 years now, give or take a few here and there over the years. And it's ok that I'm not tall, thin, and blond. Because when I look around at the average person, they're closer to me, my size, and shape than those we all tend to idolize. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Trunk Club Review

I was a StitchFix addict for years. Then I converted to trunk club. And last year, with my year of not shopping, I took a break. But.... I'm BACK!

Here's the deal with trunk club. It's a Nordstrom personal shopper without ever leaving your home. In a nutshell. You can request specific styles, even specific items, and your 'personal stylist' shops for you and ships you a trunk. You can do it monthly, quarterly, yearly, or on demand. I prefer on demand because sometimes I'm hunting for certain items and it's nice to have someone else also looking on your behalf. You have to be VERY clear with what you want AND what you're willing to spend. After all, it is Nordstrom. Ya get me?! 

You fill out a style survey all about yourself - style preferences, body shape, budget, wardrobe ideals, etc. Then you schedule your trunk. Your stylist will pull items for your trunk and send you a preview. You can browse it and decide if you want to keep it or make changes to it. This is a great time to let them know specifics of what you're looking for and if they've paid attention to your preferences. For example, this time I had a new stylist because my last one left (who I LOOOOOVED) and she was trying to push expensive items on me. First of all, I don't need a leather jacket. Secondly, I don't need a $398 leather jacket. And I removed it from my trunk and elaborated why. She got my point. My stylist before my last one did NOT grasp my I-won't-spend-over-$200-on-an-article-of-clothing so I switched stylists. 

So, without further adieu, here's my trunk!

It's literally a trunk. Well, a cardboard trunk. But big perks for adorability in the packaging and shipping department. 

When you open it, everything is nicely packaged and prepared. 

Each item that is sent is individually wrapped and labeled. 

I take everything out and lay it out. It's easier for me to go thru what was sent AND it's easier for me to style it with pieces I already own easily within reach this way. 

The packing slip is itemized along with a personal note from your stylist. Each item is listed with the name, brand, color, and cost. I often write notes on mine for when I send it back. I don't know if anyone sees it but it makes me feel better. 

The trunks typically come with 10-14 items. In this trunk, I requested long sleeve white button down tops (looking for a new one), an embellished collared top, a maxi dress that fits and flares, and a pair of Birdies loafers. 

These are two of the white button down blouses she sent. The first one fit good. But was $198. Sorry but no. I barely spend that on amazing jeans. But a shirt? A hard pass. 
The second one was cute but too big, too sheer, and unnecessary. 

She obviously browsed my personal style because she tossed in a JCrew striped sweater. It was cute but too big. 

Next were these 2 maxi dresses. Both petite. Both obscenely too big and long. And not really what I was looking for. 

She also sent me a pair of sandals and three pairs of pants. I don't need pants so all of them went back as did the sandals. 

I tried on the Birdies loafers and they were too big. The smaller size down were too small. So that's a fail. 

And then there was this cutie. An embellished collared top. Not at all what I had in mind (I was thinking a chambray ruffled collar with silver jewels) but I loved it. It's short sleeves, which I actually loved, and a relatively fitted style in a thicker tee style. A total winner in my book. So she was a keeper. And everything else went back. 

The style fee for this is $25 but it goes towards anything you keep. 

I plan on doing it again next quarter for spring/summer so stay tuned to see how that one goes!

Interested in trying it out? Click here! 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

#noshop19 Year End Recap

I went 365 days (well, 363 days because it is not the actual end of the year) without shopping for myself. And you know what?? Not shopping sucks. There. Ok. Feel better? I sure do admitting that.

This has been the HARDEST thing I have ever challenged myself to do but it has been worth it. Seriously. As HARD HARD HAAARRRRRDDD as it has been, and damn it has been HARD, it has been worth it. I have learned SO much about shopping, my personal habits, the dependency it is for me, and more.

Hold onto your seats because this is going to be a long one. Worth it, yes... but it's a lot. I mean, shopping runs in my veins and I gave it up for an.entire.year. 

At the end of 2018, after having what I thought was a difficult resolution of a selfie every day to commemorate #thisis40 on Instagram, I decided I needed to reevaluate my spendings and made the resolution to not shop for myself in 2019. I followed alongside Meg Hall in her #noshop19 challenge and went hard core. Read all about my decision here.

I updated on the blog throughout the year with some snippits. I also share a LOT in my Facebook group and I did on Instagram before I took a little break from that part of social media for the end of the year. 

Month 1 update This is where I shared what things I'd done to help the process run smoothly. Unfollowing 'influencers' on social media. Refusing to swipe up. And giving myself rules. RULES were needed.

Month 2 update and Month 3 update

Month 5 update Here I delved into my rules because I kinda sorta didn't cheat. Did you remember this one?! Did you think it was cheating? I ended deciding it was NOT cheating.

Halfway update A few insights into what I learned.

Month 8 update  Getting real with you on this one and open honesty that not shopping is hard because, well, it's called retail therapy for a reason.

And now here we are. The end of the year. The final recap.

First of all. Here is what I have "purchased" for myself this year:

- a sequin blazer from ThredUp for 53 cents after using credits (I posted about whether or not this was cheating and it was determined it was not cheating)
- a pair of workout sneakers because I ripped my old ones, $100 out of pocket, a necessary purchase
- a pair of Birdies that I traded someone on Poshmark for, free as a trade
- a black TopShop dress I had been stalking for 3 years on Poshmark, used $20 credit on it, nothing out of pocket 
- a yellow Anthro kimono top I, again, stalked on Poshmark, used $45 credit on it, nothing out of pocket (this ended up not fitting and being mistagged and I have HORRIBLE buyers remorse over it)
- a yellow JCrew raincoat, a necessity as I didn't have a raincoat, but cost me 3 cents after rewards and stacking coupon codes
- a JCrew rollneck sweater that was a gift but I exchanged it for a different color that wasn't the same price, spent about $5 out of pocket on the price difference
- some new underwear from Soma, a necessity, but waited for a killer sale and stacked coupon codes on top of the sale price, $30 for 9 pair
- a pair of Spanx leggings on crazy sale ($19) on Zulily
 *I succumbed to the pressure on this one and am less than impressed with them. Wish I hadn't bought them. Total buyers remorse. 
- a pair of black booties over Thanksgiving weekend after finally finding a pair that fit, that was comfortable, and that was affordable - $52 (I did not own a pair of black booties until this purchase and was on my list of can-buy items via my rules)
- a JCrew cable knit sweater for under a dollar with a $50 JCrew gift card in the mail
- 2 new pair of Rothys, both bought with referral credits, so nothing out of pocket 
- a new pair of Spanx shaping underwear (bought from Shapermint), a necessity as my Spanx bit the dust in the wash this year $12
- a new bathing suit coverup and burgundy dress, both from Amazon, bought with Amazon referral credits, nothing out of pocket
- Hannah Andersson matching family pajamas for the holidays (on crazy sale with a coupon but still more than I wanted to spend but SO worth it) $140
- an Anthropologie dress off of Poshmark via trade, nothing out of pocket
- a pair of Madewell jeans, via Poshmark, using credit, nothing out of pocket, to replace my everyday jeans that ripped and needed to be replaced
- a pair of leopard booties, bought in December but arrived in January (does that count?!) with Poshmark credit so nothing out of pocket
- matching mommy & me aprons, via Poshmark with credit, nothing out of pocket
- a pair of faux leather Spanx leggings via Poshmark with credit, nothing out of pocket (again, succumbing to social media pressure of the *best* leggings ever and truth is, they are even better than sliced bread)

Seems like a lot when I list it all, doesn't it. Yikes! I spent $360 total on "shopping for myself" this year. And that includes matching family holiday pajamas (a yearly purchase we make) and $100 sneakers. So realllllly I only spent about $100 out of pocket when I deduct those two purchases. $100 on myself for an ENTIRE YEAR. Let's focus on THAT for a moment. That's like nothing!! But here's the thing: What's crazy is I can totally justify every purchase, every item had a reason for purchasing it, nothing was a spur of the moment purchase, and every item had thought and purpose behind buying it. 

Which brings me to the biggest thing I have learned this year:


For me, shopping is complete retail therapy. I get a high from it. It's my drug of choice. It fills a void I have inside. I enjoy it 1000 times more when something is causing turmoil in my life. Family drama, a sudden death or loss, friendships gone south, a cranky toddler, a spousal disagreement, rainy day blues, snow day blues, you name it. Whatever causes me stress also fuels my desire to shop.
When I have a purpose and a specific item I need and am looking for, it is just as satisfying if not more. The excitement I felt finding and scoring the two items I'd been hunting for a long time made me feel like I was high on a drug or had just won something on a scratch off lottery ticket.

What y'all have been asking and want to know... 

How have you avoided resisting temptation without completely avoiding/ignoring the internet?

   Well, the first thing I did at the beginning of the year was unfollow over 1000 'influencers' on Instagram and social media. The constant "you need this" and "swipe up for the new must have" was just too much for me. Not only was it tempting, I was honestly annoyed. Really? Is this REALLY a must have? Is it really your ABSOLUTE most favorite thing EVER?! I doubt it. Do you want to make 17 cents off of my purchase? That's more like it. 

How did you build up the willpower?

   Basically, I am stubborn. People didn't think I'd be able to do it. And I wanted to prove them wrong. I wanted to prove I was capable of self-control. 

Hardest thing not to buy? How did you deal with it?

   Honestly, I miss TJMaxx and HomeGoods. I haven't been in either store all year (except to help a friend shop one day) and I miss the fab find. I miss the mall. I miss the outlets. I miss the great deal, the incredible bargain, that gorgeous piece for a steal. I don't miss digging the racks because I hate that. But I do miss that random fun find. I also miss strolling the clothes section in Target. I avoided that area like the plague this year. And I cannot WAIT to go back. I don't think I'll buy anything but just to wander and browse... I miss that. 

How would you define need vs want?

   A need is something you truly need and can't imagine your wardrobe without. A classic staple. A perfect basic. A fun pop of color or print to mix in easily. A want is everything else. 

If I lose substantial weight, can I buy stuff? What limit would you set to this?

   Ummmm.... YES. We don't want you walking around naked or looking like a frumpy homeless person now do we?! I would stick with basic basics and a capsule-like wardrobe til you are done with your weight loss AND have maintained it for a clear period of time. Clothes are expensive and constantly rebuying and replacing the same items in different sizes is no fun for you or your wallet. 

If you were to do it again, would you do it the same or set different rules and boundaries?

   First of all, I would NEVER do this again. NEVER. NEVER EVER. NO WAY. Nope. Got me? Second, I set some lenient boundaries in the beginning but didn't actually utilize the leeway I gave myself. For example, one rule was if I went a full month without buying something for myself then I could buy something off of my list of things I wanted. I didn't do that until almost the end of the year. 
   As far as rules and boundaries, I would be more lenient with myself and not be my biggest critic and constantly judge myself. 

Do you think you have made extra of other purchases to suffice the need to shop? Like clothes for Ness or Dave or household decor?

   Nope. I actually was just as good for them as I was for myself. I surprised myself there. 

   And also - household decor was on my list of what I couldn't buy as well. So I didn't buy any of that either. 

What do you do to cope with stress instead of shop now?

   Drink wine. You asked and I'm being honest. #sorrynotsorry I have also read a LOT more this year. Almost twice as many books as the prior few years. I also went back to my love of art and have been doing that more this year as well.  

What was the biggest impact? Time? Money? Stress? Less stress?

  The biggest impact for me was the realization why I shop and how it is truly a coping mechanism for me. I saved time because I wasn't shopping to occupy time or spacial energy. I saved money because I was spending less. I saved stress because I wasn't wondering how I was going to pay a larger than normal credit card bill. 
   I was able this year to not only pay off the minimal credit card debt I had but I was also able to pay for my son's activities easily. Part of my resolution was also to purge my home. I got pretty far in my basement, including a tag sale over summer, and REALLY purged my closet and listed hundreds of items on Poshmark. I made a pretty penny there this year and have saved almost all of my earnings to splurge on a playscape for my son this upcoming year and a fun family trip somewhere. 

Did you online shop and leave it all in your cart?

   Yes. Seriously. There were days when I just really wanted to shop and would make online carts all over. JCrew, Nordstorm, Anthro to name a few. Plus, if pieces really sparked my interest and that I could envision easily fitting them into my wardrobe I added them to my 'wish list' note on my phone. That list is quite long right now but only because it's been growing all year. I have added, and deleted, many items throughout the year but some have stayed put so they'll be things I hunt for early on in 2020.  

Did you track what you think you would have spent if you acted like you normally shopped?

   I started to. At the beginning of the year, whenever I was out and would grab something and eventually put it back (a graphic tee at Target, cute boots for my son, a fun throw pillow) I would take that amount of cash the items cost and shove it into an envelope. After about 2 months I stopped doing that. And used that envelope of cash to pay for a few of my son's activities for the season. But here's the thing too... I don't walk into Nordstrom, see a mannequin in an outfit, and buy everything they're wearing. I am a bargain hunter and love a good deal AND a great find. So 'normally shopping' will be interesting come January 1st. 

Is there anything you really regret not buying? Not just an "I wish I had that" but a completely sad missed out on purchase?
   YES! I was helping a friend shop in TJMaxx and found a Rachel Zoe sweater coat, in my size, for $30. I tried it on and it was perfection. And I did not buy it. It is a good 3 months later right now and I still think about it often. 

What recommendations do you have for someone who wants to do this in 2020?

~ Have a reason and a purpose for doing it. First and foremost. Prepare ahead of time and come to grips that it is HARD. No new shoes at Target. No fun new throw pillow from Home Goods. No random Amazon box arriving with something you forgot what it was. No new lip gloss or nail polish. 
~ Give yourself rewards. I had told myself if I went a full month without a purchase that I could buy something for myself. I never actually did it but had it there just in case. 
~ Track your what-I-would-have-spent longer than I did. I only lasted a month or so doing that. I'd love to see what I actually saved by the year end. 
~ Don't be hard on yourself. I cried often this year because I just wanted to go shopping and was denying myself the ability. Even if I gave myself $50 and a few hours at the mall, I might have not bought anything but the time wandering and browsing would have made me feel better via retail therapy. 
~ And pleeeeease, at the end, take what you've saved and treat yourself. Money towards a new home, pay off debt, a splurge you've always wanted, an incredible trip, ANYTHING. Buy SOMETHING for yourself because if you make it, you SO deserve it. 


Buy whatever I want. Ha! Just kidding. But I do have some ground rules for myself. 

- No immediate purchases, regardless of what a great deal it is. I will continue with my notes app and writing down things that I want, where I saw it, and leaving it there for a bit to decide if it is a worthwhile purchase that I will use and wear. Otherwise, it's a no go. 

- Poshmark is free shopping. Because I sell so much on Poshmark and have credits, it equates to free shopping in my mind. No money leaves my bank account. No charges appear on my credit card. Therefore, it be free. Don't argue with me. I'll win. 

- I truly do have plenty of stuff. I really don't neeeeeed anything else. We all have enough. But something pretty shiny sparkly and new is fun. Denying yourself that is just mean. So I'll treat myself once in while just because. It won't be a $1500 handbag every month, not to worry. But I will treat myself because I deserve it. 

- Continue to say no to fast fashion. I don't need to be on trend and 'cool' because I prefer a classic, simple, preppy style anyways. In this world of influencers everyone is trying to sell you something and not succumbing to that pressure is my main shopping goal of 2020. 

- Make a list of what I need and what needs replacing. Stop and think before I buy. Do I already have this? Do I need another striped shirt? Can I wear this multiple ways and for multiple occasions?


Here's the thing. This resolution for me... It's like a diet. Everyone needs a cheat or exceptions. I don't have a curated wardrobe. I have a wardrobe that's ME. I don't wear $250 sweaters and $400 jeans. My favorite t-shirt is $11 from Target. I love JCrew and would live in Madewell if I could. I am basic but clean cut. I love preppy classic looks with a little punch for fun. Which makes for a wardrobe that's a little bit of a clusterf*ck. I wear a variety of colors and don't live in blue, grey, and cream. I am a shoe whore and while I purged this year probably 50 pair of shoes, I am itching at the bit to add a few classic styles into my collection. 

When all is said and done, I am damn proud of myself and how I did. And I'd love to hear your thoughts on it too.