Dear Precious Breastfeeding. Is this the end?

BreastfeedingThe last month has been my roughest yet in nearly three years of nursing.  So bad, in fact, I’ve contemplated shutting down shop after 34 months of mass milk production.

I have treasured my breastfeeding journey.  I’ve sailed through periods of exclusive breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding, nursing through pregnancy and tandem feeding.  I’m a proud, seasoned breastfeeding mother.  How could one tough month have me waving the white flag?

First, it’s become blood sport:  My eight-month-old has turned nursing into an acrobatic mission of twists, turns and claws.  It’s as though she’s playing a solitary game of Twister and every combination starts with “mouth on nipple” (as in “mouth on nipple, bum in the air, finger in mommy’s eye”).  There’s an awful lot of face-grabbing, breast scratching and nipple tugging going on these days, making it more of a wrestling match than a bonding session.

Second, I got a nipple bleb:  If you have a special interest in innocuous-looking things with the ability to produce monstrous pain, look up nipple blebs.  A bleb is a small callus or blister that builds over one or more of your milk ducts.  It might not look like much (mine was a small white mark just half the size of a pencil eraser), but by blocking your milk flow, it’s a catalyst for fierce pain.  Breastfeeding on my right side was impossible until I found a trained lactation consultant prepared to scratch it off me with a hypodermic needle.  Had I waited another few hours before finding help, my over engorged breast just may have exploded (which I imagine would still be less painful than nursing through that darn bleb!) Continue reading

My 1st DVF Dress (& tips for buying yours)

DVF Wrap Dress

DVF Wrap Dress

Around three months postpartum, I was on the market for a “go to” label to simplify shopping while reflecting my new sense of style.  After months of infatuation, I started to suspect DVF would be that brand. 

On the chance you’re not familiar with the label, designer Diane von Fürstenberg skyrocketed to prominence when she launched the wrap dress in the early 70’s.  The label, designing for “the woman who loves being a woman”, has been an industry staple ever since.  Diane von Fürstenberg also has a reality series, House of DVF, launching this November.

I’ve long adored wrap dresses and felt it was time to get aquatinted with the Real McCoy. I was also desperately needed a dress for rapidly approaching summer wedding.  DVF.com was offering very tempting sales, but my faves were all the dreaded FINAL SALE.

With the wedding weeks away, two babies to take care of and no time to hit the boutiques, I was tempted to take the risk.  Holding my breath, I keyed in my credit card information and clicked “confirm order” on the purchase of a lace party dress and classic wrap.

The good news is that DVF quality is everything I hoped it would be.  The bad news is that buying DVF online presents some significant challenges (sometimes expensive ones), for the international shopper.  After a great deal of research, correspondence with DVF stores and one shocking import fee, I hope to spare you the same tribulations with the following tips:

Avoid Shipping Costs and Duties with Big Retailers:  As an international shopper, you’re better off purchasing the line through big retailers, such as Neiman Marcus and Saks 5th Avenue.  Both companies offer free shipping with a minimum purchase and frequently run duty-free promotions. DVF.com charges $25 for shipping and I had to pay a $106 care-on-delivery charge for a less than $200 dress.  Yikes!

Cross-check Reviews:  The great thing about DVF products is that they are sold through a number of different outlets, including all the big American department stores, Polyvore and Shop Bop.  As a result, you’re not limited to the product description on DVF.com, but can cross-check reviews on several sites before making a decision.  Continue reading

Work Your Tight Budget to Your Style Advantage

Is your wallet worth more than what's inside it? Work that tight budget to your advantage!

Is your wallet worth more than what’s inside it? Work that tight budget to your advantage!

Do you bemoan a tight clothing budget? Think you’d be better dressed, more chic and ultimately more confident if only you had more money?

What if I told you that a tight budget can actually improve your style? It’s true!  If you invest deep thought (instead of deep credit) into your purchases, you can master the style-presence of a celebrity. 

Here’s three ways that a limited budget can actually make you more stylish:

Careful decisions:  A tight budget forces us to reflect on purchases rather than buy every item that grabs our attention.  Thank your limited budget for forcing you to do the style homework that the wealthy (or reckless) can’t be bothered with. 

Remember that clothes are ensemble cast members, not solo performers!  Invest your money in items that work with the strongest performers in your closet for award-winning looks.

Only buy items that flatter your figure, fill a gap in your wardrobe and make your existing clothes more fabulous.  In the end, you will have the leg up on the compulsive buyer who has a swollen closet of designer items, but no formula for making them work magic together.  Continue reading

Rocking My “New” Hermès Belt

Classic Hermes Belt Black

Recently I’ve shared my obsession with waist-defining belts and postulated on why a high-end belt is a good investment (especially for moms).  This belt fixation merged with my passion for vintage accessories resulting in this stunning, ‘new-to-me’ classic Hermès belt. 

I’ve long lusted after the classic “H” Hermès belt, seeing it as the perfect addition to my signature style since, in addition to seeking waist-defining element to my outfits, “H” is the first initial of my last (and family) name!

This style is reversible (black as shown above and tan as show below) making it the perfect touch to an infinite number of outfits.

I bought this from Yoogis Closet and paid about a quarter of what retail would have cost me!  Hooray for vintage luxury! 

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The Serious Business of Playing Dress Up

Playing dress up

One of the most compelling arguments of the unforgettable makeover show, What Not to Wear, is that it doesn’t take any more time to put on a stylish outfit than to throw on a frumpy one.   

Technically, this is probably pretty close to the truth (not withstanding complicated straps, embellishments and jewelry), but in order to reap the benefits of this ‘equal effort’ logic, you have to invest time upfront to define your style.

If your dresser is bursting with ill-fitting, unorganized garments, picking out a put-together, situation-appropriate and weather-suitable outfit could actually be quite time consuming (not to mention anxiety-producing).  Thus many people opt out of the challenge by grabbing their favorite pair of sweats or worn out jeans.  Busy moms (who often pick out an outfit while chasing children) are particularly vulnerable to the ‘path of least resistance’ trap.

So what’s the secret to making a great outfit as effortless as a bad one? Play dress up regularly!  By this I mean take some time to go through your own clothes, trying on different pieces together and coordinate outfits for future. Take advantage of downtime in your home, like when daddy is on duty or the kids are sleeping, to weed through your clothes and create functional outfits.

It’s an act of putting in the effort now to make dressing effortless later.  It’s also really fun! Continue reading

My First Dance Mom Heartache

"I'll stretch mom, but you're not getting me into Studio D!"

“I’ll stretch mom, but you’re not getting me into Studio D!”

No sooner than I pressed “publish” on this self-congratulatory post about how I’ll respond should my child want to quit a positive activity, then my willful toddler put my theory to the test. 

The very day I made the post, I proudly took my two-and-a-half year old to her second dance class.  We navigated our way through the jam-packed lounge area, lucky to find a vacant bit of floor on which to disrobe.  Lexia was already anxious in this chaotic environment when the door to Studio D thrust open.  A rush of people came flying out and then all the little girls enrolled in toddler Jazz rushed in.  All, that is, but for my 31 month old daughter who clung to me in fear. 

One of the two teachers leading the class spent a few seconds trying to coax Lexia into the room, but quickly (and rightfully) turned her attention back to the class. I asked if I could join Lexia for the beginning of the class, but this was forbidden.  Apparently a mom in the class would open the floodgates to toddler hell causing previously happy dancers to scream for their parents.  The young teacher did say that I could walk Lexia into the class when she was ready to join before tightly closing the studio door. 

As the clock ticked well into the 30 minute class, Lexia remained steadfast in her refusal to participate, crying every time I led her towards the door. Continue reading

Parenting from Experience or Living Vicariously?

My "mini me" getting ready for jazz class.

My “mini me” getting ready for jazz class.

My recent induction to the cult of the dance mom has me pondering the concept of living vicariously through my children.

I confess, dance was a big part of my childhood. Much of my free time was spent choreographing dance routines.  When friends came over, I was the dance teacher.  When older cousin Keri visited, I wanted her to demo her advanced moves.

I started dance young, but my parents didn’t have the means to put me in multiple classes each year like many girls my age.  I was decent dancer, and was once skipped ahead of my age group, but I don’t believe I reached my full potential.  I took exactly one jazz class per year until I was 11 at which time my parents enrolled in ballet as well. 

That year my family moved from central Toronto to its northern suburb. Continuing at my dance school required long, boring bus rides that wore me down. I still remember those long Monday nights (ballet) and exhausting Saturday mornings (jazz). It seemed I spent as much time standing in the cold at bus stops than I did in the studio.  At the end of that dance year, I said I wanted to stop dance.

I’m sure my parents felt relief at this announcement. Not only is dance expensive, but it probably didn’t seen to be bringing their now sullen tween much joy.  But my 11-year-old self made a mistake dropping out of dance; one that I still regret. 

Just a few months later I turned 12 and entered Grade 7.  It was the year I hit puberty, gained 20 pounds, faced bullying, and lost all my confidence. Continue reading