Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Shoe Shopping

The 3rd and final week of stories about Lucy....stay tuned next week for your "regularly scheduled blog"....perhaps some highlights from Staci's trip to Ireland?

As moms, we not only tend to worry a lot; we also tend to feel guilty about the most ridiculous things. Like shoes. Like many moms, I don't have an unlimited shoe budget for myself, much less for my 3-year-old. I usually end up finding the cutest knock-off baby Uggs $20 can buy at Target and rarely treat Lucy's feet to shoes from places such as Stride Rite unless they're on sale. So when it came time to purchase a pair of shoes for Lucy's first season of school, I was delighted when my mother-in-law handed me a $50 bill and told me to buy Lucy a good pair of "school shoes". Since her teacher made it quite clear that gym shoes were the required shoe for school, as they would be running and jumping on both the indoor and outdoor playgrounds all year, I set out to find something durable, comfortable and cute.
Not the easiest task, as it turns out. To begin with, the idea of having a 3-year-old sit still in store after store while half-annoyed clerks shove shoes on and off her feet, poking her toes to find where they end, is just plain ludicrous. Not to bad-mouth Stride Rite or anything (but I guess if I have to give you an honest account, I must)-- let's just say I was not impressed with the one we went to. The store clerk could not have been more grumpy, barking mumbled orders at Lucy like she was a dog in training "stand up! sit down! step!". I couldn't even understand half of what she said because she mumbled so much. At one point I am almost positive I heard her say, "Don't buy shoes here", but maybe that was just me reading too much into her body language (back turned toward me). After measuring Lucy's feet, she brought out TWO whole choices-- yes two. I asked if she was sure there were really only two different styles available in size 8 and a half girls, and despite it being a pretty common shoe size, there really were only two options-- both plain and boring. If I was going to be spending someone else's money to get a decent pair of shoes, I definitely wanted them to be cute.
After leaving Stride Rite and the mall scene altogether, we found a really cute place, "Gotskind's Children Shoes", near where I live in downtown Naperville. We were greeted by something surprising-- a friendly, smiling shoe salesman. From the beginning, he made it fun for Lucy, joking around and complimenting her princess shirt (yes, 3-year-olds eat up compliments too). He was also very quick, measuring her feet and bringing out 6 different choices in a matter of minutes (Lucy didn't even have time to start begging me to leave yet-- phew!). I knew this was definitely "the place" we were going to buy shoes. Lucy's taste is currently such that we were able to quickly rule out the pairs she didn't like-- basically anything that wasn't pink, sparkly or shiny.
There was one particular pair of shoes that the gentleman helping us brought out that he mentioned was usually a hit with the kids, but he made sure to open the box at an angle that only I could see before showing Lucy so that I could give him the "nod" that it was okay to show her since, as he explained, once little girls see this pair, they usually want them. Glancing at them, they looked pretty fancy for a gym shoe, but I figured they were worth a shot. They had a comfortable, gym-shoe-type sole and were a mary-jane style on top with silver glitter and different-colored gemstones scattered over the shoe. Lucy's eyes widened; she was in love. The salesman explained that the stones would stay in place and would not fall off but that the glitter would wear a bit over time. I immediately had visions of silver sparkles shedding everywhere and a note from Lucy's teacher requesting she not wear the shoes because they had littered her classroom with glitter. In hindsight, the glitter wearing probably meant that a few sparkles here and there would fall off, but at the time all I could envision were millions of sparkles and a vacuum cleaner that I didn't feel like pushing. So, despite the shoes falling within my $50 budget, at a perfect price of $48, and despite the fact that my daughter who hated shoe shopping and had earlier told me she didn't want new shoes, was now madly in love with them, I shook my head no. The salesman was a quick-thinker and pretended that he didn't have Lucy's correct size in the shoe, whisking the sparkly shoes away in an instant, which helped keep Lucy's disappointment to a minimum. He showed us a Geox Respira (a European brand, I believe) pair of pink, white, and silver velcro shoes-- a more traditional-type gym shoe but with a shiny, pearly-white material on the top and sides plus a few small strips of sparkles that gave them a sleek look. They were $68, but since Lucy was okay with them and the other comparable pairs he brought out weren't any less, I decided to cough up the extra $18 beyond my mother-in-law's gift and buy the shoes. I could tell Lucy was not in love with these shoes but she liked them well enough, and since she was able to pick out several stickers at the cash register, she was a happy camper. But as we walked outside, and I looked down at her little marching feet, already sporting her new pink and white sleek shoes, I was hit by that feeling. You know, that sinking feeling that creeps in and says, "you should have done this or that". Yet she was already walking on dirty pavement with the new shoes-- too late now.
Of course, Lucy is just fine. She probably will not even remember this shoe-buying experience at all, yet for me, these silly guilty thoughts keep creeping their way into my head at odd hours of the day. We'll be sitting watching cartoons, for example, and I'll look down at her feet and think, "What other time in her life will she be able to get away with wearing super-fancy gym shoes with sparkles all day?" and "Why couldn't you have just let her pick out the pair she liked?" and "What kind of precedent are you setting for the future, already controlling what shoes she wears?" Yes, I do realize the ridiculous nature of these thoughts, but I still can't help but think I crushed her little feelings in some way. So I'll do it differently next time, right? Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll make the same dumb decision about some other small matter in my child's life. I guess that's part of being a mom; we make a million little decisions that affect our children every single day-- what they will eat, drink, wear, do, watch, etc. And we just hope that all these small decisions will add up to a healthy, happy kid. And I guess for me, I kind of like to think that if I happen to mess up on some of the small decisions, perhaps I have a better chance of getting things right when it comes to the big decisions, which I don't even want to start listing right now since all those future big decisions would just send my thoughts reeling. For now, while she's 3, I'll stick to thinking about all the small decisions that today holds.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

School Days & Milestones

by Joy Thomas

The smell of freshly sharpened pencils is in the air, marking the beginning of a new school year. Besides all the back-to-school ads telling me school days are returning, I haven't really paid much attention to the start of school the past couple years. After all, I am not currently teaching; I am no longer a student; and I have had no children in school. That all changed this year, however, when my daughter, Lucy ("Hello Kitty" from last week's blog!), started school-- okay, preschool, but still a really big deal in my mind. I guess I didn't really realize how big of a deal preschool would be until I went to preschool orientation. I figured this "meet and greet" would be pretty simple... meet the teacher, look at the fun preschool toys, check out the other kids to make sure they'll be suitable playmates, and we'll be out of there in a matter of minutes, right? Not so much.

First, there were the rules.... 10 detailed rules that we were to go over with our child the night before school started (truly, it felt cruel replacing Lucy's bedtime story with "School Rules 101", but I'm a responsible parent, so I did it.... okay, according to my husband I OVERdid it by having her repeat each rule after me). Then there was the snack list-- all 3 approved items. We're talking no dairy, no nuts, no foods manufactured in the same building as nuts, etc., etc. There was a list of approved brands of 42 oz. juices, which we are to bring with 5 oz. paper cups, small white paper plates, and napkins. Everything must be sealed in its original package, which means absolutely no homemade snacks. Since Lucy has a very small class, our snack dates (laid out nicely on a snack calendar that I will no doubt lose repeatedly before remembering to photocopy), occur quite frequently, which means we're hauling plates, cups, napkins, juice, and snacks to school about 4 times a month. After recovering from snack shock (all, of course, while smiling and nodding at the teacher and other parents... "yeah, snack time-- fun!"), there came the calendar of dates we are to bring alphabet objects of the week, then the list of dates we are bringing "teddy" home for the weekend (and "teddy's" blanket and accessories, which we will most definitely lose and have to replace at least one of the weekends), and finally the list of all the special dates to remember (i.e. Halloween parade, Thanksgiving Feast, etc.) Beyond all the calendars, there was a survey to fill out about your child's interests and ways you as a parent can volunteer in the classroom (does bringing your assigned snack count as volunteering?) There was also a list of curriculum objectives and goals, which I found interesting because I thought the whole idea of preschool was to play and socialize.
I realize I may be coming across a bit cynical and negative, and the truth is that it's a fantastic preschool that is extremely kid-foucsed; I just had no idea it would also be like another part-time job for the parent. Silly me, thinking I'd get a 2 and a half hour break while my daughter is at preschool!

After reading through the extensive folder of info at orientation, I had one real decision to make: what was Lucy going to wear on the first day of school? I knew if I asked her, she'd definitely want to wear her long, white satin princess gown, so I opted to give her two choices instead: a jean skirt with a pink ruffled top or a jean jumper with a pink collared shirt. She chose the latter, so then came the question of shoes. Per school rules, no open-toed shoes nor dressy shoes, yet it was in the 80s and sunny, so I didn't want her to be hot. I finally settled on her brown saddle shoes and little white ruffled socks. Her teacher had said she likes them to wear gym shoes and play clothes, but I figured I could get away with this outfit on the first day anyhow.

When the first day of school arrived, we met my youngest sister, Lucy's aunt Jilly, for lunch beforehand. I made the mistake of ordering Lucy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, so by the end of the meal there were smudges of jelly on her collar. I thought I had packed a back-up outfit, but no such luck, so I wiped away what I could and sent her on her way. Looking at the pictures, I'm glad that the jelly doesn't show, as I can just imagine Lucy looking back at the pictures someday as a teenager, saying "I can't believe you sent me to my first day of school with jelly all over me!" Although she's opinionated enough about clothes these days that she's more likely to complain about the outfit I dressed her in (already, she is making fun of my wedding photos from 10 years ago-- "mommy, I don't like you when you got married." um, thanks... is it my veil?)

For as much preparation as I had as a parent for the first day of school, I wasn't really prepared to say good-bye. Lucy marched right in, kissed me good-bye, and began coloring at a nearby table, unaware of her mother standing in the hallway, staring at her, wondering what happened to that little 4-month-old I remember rocking not too long ago. I had anticipated that she might want me to stay in the room with her and maybe even cry a little, so I was relieved that she wasn't even close to tears. Little did I know that I was the one close to a meltdown. As I walked out the doors of the school, my pregnancy hormones must have triggered or something because I found myself wiping large crocodile tears off my face as I walked. I ran into a friend who saw me crying and hugged me. I felt like a fool; my daughter was going to PRESCHOOL for 2 and a half hours... shorter even than most times I get a babysitter. Yet this was somehow different. The backpack and all the stupid rules turned it into some kind of milestone. Now that it's crossed, I shouldn't have to worry about sobbing in public for at least another 2 years when she goes to kindergarten!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mommywood Meets Real World

Note from Jenelle: As many of you know, I am returning full-time to Mapel this month, which I am super excited about. Although being back in the shop is exciting, it's also a big transition being a working mom. Especially given the fact that my partner in crime, Staci, is headed to Ireland for a much-needed, well-deserved, vacation. To help lighten the load, I've asked my sister, Joy, to be our guest blogger this month. Enjoy!

(Posted by Joy Thomas)

Being a mom is not an easy job, even for Tori Spelling. Granted, I"m no Tori Spelling raising children in Hollywood. I'm more of what you'd call a "real world" mom (i.e. I have to work to live in a normal-sized house, not a mansion), but after reading Tori's latest, Mommywood, I can relate to her as a mom (minus the paparazzi, personal live-in baby nurse, and housekeeper). I want the best of both worlds just like "T" (after reading her book, I consider us friends-- no BEST friends). I want this Leave-it-to-Beaver time at home with my daughter, in which we read, play, and visit parks all day. Yet I also have goals and drams of my own and want to help my family out financially by being part of the work force part time. So what could be better than a hodgepodge of different jobs, mostly done from home so I can work AND play with Lucy all day? Or what could be worse?

These days it doesn't seem to be enough to just be a mom or just be a career mom with kids in daycare; no, we want it all. What does this have to do with fashion, you may be asking. Honestly, not that much I am not the fashion guru Tori is (although I do happen to be wearing a super-cute LA Made top from Mapel that accentuates my newly-pregnant belly). Considering the rapid baby boom that the dwindling economy has brought on, my guess is that most of the people reading this blog are either moms or someday-in-the-near-future moms.

As a mom, you deal with fashion every single day, though it's usually not your own clothes you're thinking about. For example, my 3-year-old daughter, Lucy, recently received a hand-me-down long, white satin flower girl dress that her older friend had worn in a wedding. It is sleeveless and has little satin flowers scattered all over it with a large bow in the back-- perfect for playing dress-up. Only she doesn't want to wear it just for dress-up; she wants to wear it everywhere everyday. A few days ago she decided to pair it with her "hello kitty" rain boots on a 60-degree sunny, autumn day, complete with pink princess umbrella and all. Discontent to simply wear this ensemble around the house or at the park across the street, she had to wear this to the bank, to the grocery store, and of course to the doctor's office. Fortunately, she's cute and young enough to pull off non-seasonal, inappropriate-occassioned outfits.

It's interesting how even at her young age she and her peers are so aware of clothing. I saw an example of this yesterday as I sat in her ballet class, multi-tasking on the phone (case in point: I can't just sit and watch her dance-- I feel the need to "get things done" all the time). Even though I was busily texting, I overheard a couple of the girls saying they liked Lucy's "hello kitty" ballet outfit, and then when Lucy stood up out of turn, they tattled to the teacher, "Hello Kitty is standing up Miss Miriam!". Something tells me that she may forever be known as "Hello Kitty" in ballet class. Something also tells me that Tori's daughter would be sporting some fancy,famously-designed ballet outfit, not a hello kitty one from Target. She also probably would not be in ballet class at the YMCA.... ahem.

At the end of each day, when it's all said and done, however, I think we all really want the same thing as moms-- mommywood and real-world style alike. Whether accompanying children in outfits that would outrage the hosts of "What Not to Wear", multi-tasking at ballet class, or juggling work and playtime at home, we want to show our children they are loved. Tori sums up the heart of a mom nicely: "I worry about my kids when they're sleeping; I try to get them to eat the right foods; I hope they're having fun as they start to make sense of the world; I want them to make friends, to grow, to thrive, to love and be loved."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Here's Lookin' @ Fall

Phew..... We survived- but just barely. We had a crazy, busy, mad, hectic week last week with our Leavenworth Back to Fall event on Thursday and Boutique Culture Warehouse Sale in Seattle on Saturday & Sunday.
Both events were huge success' (if we can say so ourselves) and we are just now recovering from our hectic August month. We want to send off a very special THANKS to Jillian and Nicole for spending their weekends with Mapel workin' it retail style. You two are lifers- and we love you for it. Thanks.
Now onto fall- one of our very favorit'ist months. We love fall dressing- it seems like everyone has a little more intention with how they appear.

If you didn't already know- we are offering our spring/summer SALE 50%-80% off & just added some fabulous fall fashions.
Below are a few pics from last weeks events.