Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Halloween costume

Happy Halloween dear readers! Hopefully, wherever you are, you're having better weather than we are here. It seems like this happens every year, Halloween weather is always wet, cold, and miserable, forcing kids to put heavy coats on over their cute costumes.

Not my pumpkin, but thank you Pinterest.
I grew up in Toronto and I can remember very few Halloweens where this was -not- the case. Here in West Michigan, the overall climate is pretty similar to that of Toronto, and so it continues. It's really too bad that yesterday's weather is not today's weather. Yesterday was unexpectedly mild and sunny. I went out to Zumba last night with just a light hoodie on over my costume instead of a heavy coat. Yeah... You read that right. I said "costume" and "Zumba" in the same sentence. For some of you out there, maybe this isn't such a wacky concept, but for me, this is the first year that I've done this.

About two years ago, I borrowed an issue of Z-Life (the magazine by Zumba) from my friend Don. I'm pretty sure it was the Summer 2011 issue, and in the back were a bunch of pictures from Convention of groups of people in costumes. I guess Convention does a costume party, but when I first saw them, I thought they were Halloween photos. I'd never considered the idea of dressing up in a costume for Zumba before that moment, but those people in the pictures sure did look like they were having a great time. Then again, they -were- at Convention... Someday people, someday... But I digress. I decided that I would like to dress up for Halloween, however, having already spent one Halloween week at Zumba the previous year, I knew from experience that nobody in my class dressed up and I guessed that they probably wouldn't again; so I let it go. I let the next one go by too (that was last year). As it turned out, I was right, nobody dressed up either time. year has been a year of some pretty big changes for me and if you've been reading along since I started in July, you know what all I'm talking about.
So I decided that this Halloween, I was going to dress up for Zumba. I planned to wear a costume with the full knowledge of two things:
1) That I would most likely be the only person in my class who dressed up.
2) That all my classmates would look at me and go, "Oh my goodness, look what that crazy girl from the front row is wearing tonight!"

I knew that I might face these, but decided that I was going to do it anyways. I'd always wanted to, and what better year for it than this one? I was right about the first thing, I was the only one dressed up. And that's okay! Not everyone loves costumes, or even has the time to mess around with putting one together. But I was really wrong about the second thing. Really wrong. I was surprised to see how many smiles me and my costume put on people's faces last night.
They complimented me on it and asked where I got it. A couple ladies came over and wanted to touch the fabric, they also wanted to know if it was making me too hot. It wasn't, I did a practice at home wearing it just to make sure I could actually dance in the thing. So you can see at the left, I'm rocking a Wonder Woman look. I bought both the top and the tutu at Wet Seal. I was in the mall and saw it in the store through the window. I just pulled the the tutu on right over my Feelin' It cargoes. You can barely see them in the picture, but I'm wearing some gold bangles on each arm because of course Wonder Woman had gold bracelets. I couldn't actually find more authentic looking accessories, so I improvised. I bought these at Party City while shopping for an Iron Man costume for our oldest son. It's superheroes all the way this year. I've got our baby dressed in a red Spider Man romper right now. There was a gold tiara thing at Party City that matched the bangles, but when I got it home and took it out of the box to try it on, it didn't fit so I took it back to the store and just went tiara-less. I will say this for the bangles, not all of them made it through class in that great of shape. At least none of these ones broke (like my poor pink set...), but I had several ovals by the end of the night. So that's twice, and I'm not doing bangles for Zumba again. Let that be a lesson to the rest of you: bangles + Zumba = no bueno!

"I am ZIN" dog tags
A last minute addition was the necklace that you see me wearing in the picture above. Those are my ZIN tags, and they arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon. Not wear them to class? I don't think so. But... Yeah, there's a "but". Having worn them, let me tell you that dog tags are noisy! So I tucked them into my tank top during the second song. Problem solved? No, not really. They were -still- too noisy under there so I tucked them into my sports bra when the second song ended. That finally took care of the jingle-jangle.

I am definitely going to dress up again next year, and I'll say that a tutu is an easy costume. I got some advice in advance about tutus from someone I know who runs marathons and makes her own tutus to wear for them. Tutus are lightweight and flexible and durable enough to stand up to vigorous physical activity (unlike bangle bracelets...). I also didn't feel like it got in my way at all. Some of the other women in my class said they wished they'd dressed up too. How about that?

Best advice: Be brave because you never know who might be watching, and who you'll inspire with your confidence. I've had people in my life inspire me this way, some who continue to do so regularly in fact, so I kind of think maybe it's my turn now.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The independent five year old

I've been really focused on blogging about Zumba lately, what with going to certification class and all, so it's been some time since I did a "mommy post". I've been working around the house here and there trying to organize things a little better. It's been a very slow process. It seems like every time I find something that needs organizing and I get started, it opens a can of worms. I wind up having to do about three other things in addition, just to accomplish the first thing. We've only been living here slightly over two years. When we moved in, I was pregnant with our second son and extremely sick as a result. So I was next to useless when it came to unpacking and organizing the place. Some of Bry's relatives formed a cleaning crew and came over here to help. A huge blessing to our family, and I was extremely grateful. At the time, things I thought should go in certain places or systems I thought would be good ways of organizing, have since turned out to be a little less efficient than I originally thought. I blame "pregnancy brain" because I look back now and go, "Why is this here?" or "Why did I think that would work...?" But as I said, reorganizing is a slow process and I work on things during the days in between dealing with our younger son's needs.

Bins labeled "Toys"
Dollar Tree haul
One of the places I decided to start with was our boys' rooms. In our older son's room the mess consists of lots of toys and books and laundry. You know, the basic kindergarten boy's kind of mess. I bought some bins from Dollar Tree (above left) and sorted it all out. I wanted to make the organizational system something easy to maintain, but not just for me - for him. After all, it's his room. The idea here is for him to be able to be as independent as possible for his age. So, I started by designating two bins for toys that would fit inside the cupboards of his dresser (above right); one for the larger toys and one for the smaller toys. That's easy enough, plus it reinforces sorting by characteristics which is a kindergarten skill. I also bought bins for his closet (below; left and right) because things were jumbled and in piles.
Labels from right to left: PJ's, Pants, Exar
Bin labeled "Shoes"
Basically, he needed me to help him find anything in there. This way, it's obvious to him what's what so he can get what he needs for himself. I made sure to put the bins with the things he'd need most often (like PJ's) on the shelves he could reach. And in case you're wondering, "Exar" is the name he gave his Cabbage Patch doll, so that bin contains the clothes, accessories, etc. Most of the shoes in the shoe bin are pairs he's outgrown that I am saving for our younger son, but they were all in their little boxes and that was taking up way too much space in the closet. Plus, I had an idea for how to put those to good use...
Bins labeled "Donations"
His clothes are on the lowest bar
The round bins that you see to the left are for organizing the boys' clothes that I'm not planning to save. I also bought a couple of pop-up laundry hampers, one for the laundry (obviously...) and one for his stuffed animals. I bought them in two different colors so that it's easy to tell which is which. The black one is for laundry, and the white one is for toys.

Seven-day organizer
Even our son got into the spirit of organization. Usually, I have him set out his clothes for school the night before and a couple of weeks ago, he asked me if he could lay out his clothes for the entire week. Actually, he asked me -after- he'd laid out about four shirts in random places around his room... Sigh. So, after cleaning that up, I offered to get him a closet organizer. I know that there are seven-day clothes organizers for children's closets available for purchase out there, but I figured I'd just save some money and make one myself. Because we have a pool, we have bleach, which we buy in a convenient three-pack from Costco! Everything at Costco comes in a convenient three-pack... Anyways... The boxes they come in are skinny and I turned them lengthwise and built in some shelves. It was a duct tape project. Our son likes color, so I bought seven different colors in addition to white. I labeled each shelf with the name of each day and while our son is organizing his clothes (by himself) he's practicing colors and days of the week.

All those little shoe boxes that I pulled out of his closet? I wrapped them in duct tape. For these, I used red, blue, and superhero. Duck Brand duct tape has rolls with Spider-man and The Avengers, great for a little boy going through a superhero phase. The shoe boxes are the perfect size for sorting the toys in the toy box. Top; left to right: Action Figures, Miniature Playsets, Dinosaur Train. Bottom; left to right: Animals, miscellaneous, Wooden Block Tool Bench. The rule in our house is "one at a time", so if one box comes out of the toy box, another one goes back in. Now, he's able to keep track of his toys on his own. He and I used to have the following conversation nearly everyday:

Son: Mommy, where is my     X     ?
Me: I don't know Big Guy. Why don't you check your toy box, it's probably in there.
Son (rummaging around): Mommy I can't find it!
Me (sigh, rummaging around): Here it is...
Son: Thanks Mommy!

But not anymore! Hooray! the kitchen, I reorganized, rearranged, and purged some things to free up a lower cupboard. I turned it into a "kids' pantry". I collected all of the kid friendly snacks and plastic children's tableware and put them in here where they are within easy reach. I pre-portioned some of the snacks into sandwich baggies too so that our son can just pick up the right amount of crackers or dried fruit along with a bowl to put it in. Instead of recycling some of the empty boxes that just naturally seem to appear in the kitchen, I covered them in...? You guessed it, duct tape. Love that stuff! It's easy to work with and kid-durable. Anyways, in red box are the baggies with the pre-portioned snacks. The blue box has granola and cereal bars. The white box in the left corner has our older son's applesauce pouches. There's extra room on the slide-out for our younger son's pouches and some of his toddler finger foods. Up on the shelf are the cereal boxes, canisters of puffs, and boxes of crackers. The plain yellow box has teething biscuits in it and I used a shelf divider to make a place for the larger sized baby bowls.

Lastly, in my recent quest to give our older son more independence, I made him his own reusable sweeping pad. He loves to dust and sweep so when I was making a reusable sweeping pad, I made a second one.
I bought a bunch of microfiber cleaning cloths from Dollar Tree and then I cut and sewed until they fit the sweeper. I already had a sweeper, but I found a no-name brand sweeper at Dollar Tree along with a little microfiber duster. Now that he has his own duster that he keeps in his room, he doesn't have to ask me to get my duster out of the closet for him. He also doesn't need me to get him the sweeper, he can just grab his own out of the laundry room whenever he's in the mood to clean. Interestingly enough, his enthusiasm for sweeping and dusting is not quite so pronounced now. Heh. That's a kid for you. Nothing is quite as fun as being able to do something you can't always do.

Best advice: Age-appropriate independence is important for children, it goes hand in hand with responsibility. That's sounds like a "Duh, of course it is and of course it does." but the truth is, that before I was a parent, I was a teacher and I have encountered children, several who were older then mine, who seemed either incapable or unwilling to be independent and act responsibly for their age. If our son needs me, needs my help, I'm there for him all the way, but laziness is in no way tolerated in this house.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The report from Saturday or how certification went

It's the day after my Zumba certification class and I am so tired. I felt awesome yesterday. Even when some of my fellow participants were dragging around 3pm, I was still going strong. I felt very pleased with myself about that, but today it seems that it's all caught up with me. I've been dragging since I got out of bed this morning - after sleeping in until almost 9am. I get up at 5:45am every day so 9am is pretty good. It's days like today that make me wish I kept sources of caffeine in the house. I don't because it will give me an ulcer. Seriously, I had one at 17 which gives you an idea of how much Coke and Jolt I used to drink.

Anyways... On to yesterday! How -did- it go yesterday? I went great. It was a fantastic experience and I feel like I learned a lot. There were several moments where Debbie the trainer said/did something that made my brain go, "Oh! That's why Jae and Rae do     X    . Okay..." In spite of having done Zumba for three and a half years, there was still lots to absorb and take in, so in my opinion, this was very worthwhile and time well spent.

I left my house a little before 6:30am with the idea that I would arrive at Michigan State University at around 7:30am. I'd forgotten how much I hate highway driving in the dark... I made it on time and with no problems though. Navigating MSU in the dark is something I haven't had to do in a very long time so I wound up circling the area once before finding the correct building and the correct entrance to the parking ramp. The parking ramp was open that early in the morning so I didn't have to pay to get in and by the time I left for the day it was open so I didn't have to pay get out either. Bonus!
The walk from the parking ramp to the building was actually surprisingly short, given how large MSU is, so I was early by 15 minutes and I was actually the very first one to check in. Through those open doors you see in the photo to the left, is the studio room where the class was held; it had an awesome floor. At the back of the room were some long tables set up and on one end was a woman with a computer, a stack of waivers, and crate full of green bags ("goody bags"). At the other end were piles and piles and piles of Zumbawear. Squee! Okay self...stay cool and don't make a spectacle over all the shiny new things...

I very calmly gave the woman with the computer my name, she handed me a waiver (which I filled out and gave back) and a green bag. She told me that inside the green bag was an instructor's manual and a box with a CD and some DVD's that went over the basics. She also told me that inside the manual was a form to fill out to join ZIN. I was pretty sure I was going to join before I got there so I just filled it out and gave it back to her right away. Incidentally, sometime around 2:30pm, I checked my email on my phone during a break and there was an email in my inbox saying "Welcome to ZIN"; she works fast I guess. So, after calmly handling the paperwork, I calmly made my way along the table to have a (calm) little look-see at the Zumbawear. It's wholesale, so I am actually paying the trainer, but I don't have to pay for shipping so, all in all, a good deal. There on the table was the black/white version of the latest football shirt. I've been watching that one a while, it's long sleeved so I was thinking it might be a nice every-day kind of shirt.
Hey, you all know I'm a freak about Zumba... What's stopped me from buying it up until now was that I didn't know what the weight of the cotton was. If it's intended for exercise, then the cotton might be too lightweight. But, being able to hold it in my hands, I decided that I liked it and was going to buy it. They had a lot of that shirt available so size wasn't an issue.

Me: Do you have the orange and grey version?
Check-in lady: No, sorry. No orange.
Me: Aaw. Okay then.
But I was only disappointed momentarily, because next to the white/black football shirt was another kind of football shirt, the Zumba Team Spirit Jersey in black/pink. I've seen pictures of this floating around the internet, but I know Zumba no longer sells it (it also used to come in black/yellow). There was only the one shirt and it was my size. Shoink! You see dear readers, it pays to arrive early. The black shirt actually didn't have tags anymore so it had probably been hanging around for quite a while. Below is a picture of the back. Aren't those little buttons adorable? I can understand why there was only one of these left. I feel really lucky that it just so happened to be my size.

I think I managed to contain my enthusiasm and glee as I payed for my shirts. The email I received in advance had said that cash was preferred, but the lady with the computer also had a smart phone with a credit card swiper so I cheerfully hand my card over, used my finger to sign my name, and then typed in an email to get a nifty little e-receipt.

I did check out the other shirts, pants, and accessories too, but with the exception of some socks, everything else was either something I already owned (or a version of it) or something I wasn't really interested in. I have a lot of socks though so I left those and called it good with my two shirts.

It wasn't even 8am yet so I decided to stake out a spot in the room along the wall where I could set down my stuff and kind of camp out for the day. Debbie the trainer had her iPod going on the room's sound system and as I sat there changing my shoes, the song Zumba Mami came on. That song is actually where the inspiration for the name of my blog comes from. My shoulders started reflexively moving in circles even though my hands were busying tying shoes and any nervousness fled and I knew at that moment that it was going to be a really good day. I couldn't resist a little Facebook update to all my people about it. The room started filling up, and I think there were roughly 49 women in the room...and one man. Brave guy. Heh.
Check-in and shopping
Around 8:30am, pretty much everyone had shown up and checked in so Debbie the trainer gave us all a little hello and a welcome and an overview of what to expect for the day. All that took about 15 minutes and then we all arranged ourselves into rows and got started with the master class.

I had never taken a master class before this. I found it really interesting the way Debbie taught the class. She'd get the group started on a specific step, then she'd stop and walk up and down in front of the class and at the appropriate moments in the song, she'd pick up the next step and get us all going on that one and then resume her walking up and down. A few times, she walked in and out of the rows and joined us. In between songs, she had us rotate rows so that no one got the same one spot the entire time (something she continued to do all day long). It was a lot of fun. So much so, that I was half way through the class when I realized that I hadn't wrapped my ankle before getting started. Oopsie! Well it was too late at that point. But I was surprised to find that by the time we were done, my ankle wasn't hurting me at all. I'm pretty sure a lot of that had to do with the floor. It was excellent, providing just enough traction so my shoes could grip, but just enough smoothness so that I could twist and slide.

I'm not sure whose coat that is, but the silver ribbon attached to the black pants is me.
After the master class, we took a brief break. I used the opportunity to have a little snack from my food stash and wrap my ankle. Yes, it had made it through the master class unscathed, but there was no reason to push my luck. After the break, we all dug our instructor manuals out of our green bags and listened to what Debbie had to tell us about warm-up and cool-down songs.
She also went over the basic aspects of merengue and then we all got up and practiced some merengue. The rest of the day went a lot like that. We'd have breaks (one of which was lunch), followed by a break-down of a dance style, followed by some time to practice that style. After merengue came salsa, cumbia, and reggaeton.

Before we finished dancing for the day, Debbie had us do a "mini class", two songs from each style. She had volunteers come to the front to take turns directing the group for just one step of the song. So there were four volunteers up front at a given time each taking turns with their assigned step. Taking a turn was not mandatory, and I was shocked to hear, for a very brief moment, an annoying little voice in my head telling me to just stand in the back. I decided to ignore that voice. I volunteered for one of the salsa songs and wound up being assigned the salsa step that happened to be -the one- that I had actually never done before yesterday. Figures...but it worked it out alright. I could do it, I was just a little stiff at it. My turn only lasted 10 seconds at a time and I went three times so really, I was only leading the group for about 30 seconds total.

My certificate from Zumba
When the dance and movement portion was over for the day we had a Q&A session to discuss anything that hadn't already been discussed. We also filled out evaluations of the class. Then we were told that our certificates were waiting for Online, what? I had to print the thing myself at home.
B1 charm
I was really hoping to receive it at the class. I wanted to have someone take a picture of me holding it while I was still dressed from the class. It's my Rhythm Rocker shirt, when it comes to photos, that shirt is cursed. I have yet to get a picture of myself wearing it because somehow it just never quite works out. And yes, I was still wearing it by the end of the day. I never did change into my second set of dance clothes. The locker room/bathroom was very small and thus very crowded (49 women remember?). With limited time to change and get back, I decided to just live with sweaty clothes. I had to squeeze in to change when it was time to go home, but at that point there wasn't the urgency so I could wait my turn.

The picture above and to the left is of my new key chain charm. I bought it back in August with my birthday money and I've been saving it for this day. The certificate is my reward from Zumba, and the charm is my reward from me.

***Side note: Isn't the beaded key chain pretty? Our older son made that for me at school last Mother's Day. Proud Zumbamommy moment!***

So that was my day, and it was a very good day. Walking out of there knowing that I was licensed and legally able to teach Zumba (for money) was a pretty surreal thing; I'm part of the club now. In some ways, I feel exactly the same and in other ways, I feel completely different. Zumba has taught me a great deal about myself over the last three and a half years and I realize, based on my experience yesterday, that I have a lot more to learn. It would have been easy to fall back into my old habit of hiding in the back row. So very easy and almost without realizing it. The fact that that is even true, tells me something about myself - that the timid back row dancer from a few years ago is still lurking around in there somewhere. But the fact that I didn't let it happen tells me something too - that I'm braver than I used to be and considerably more confident. The voice of strength drowns out the voice of fear these days.

Best advice: Let the voice of strength be louder than the voice of fear, and see how you like that version of yourself.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The preparation for certification

Tomorrow is my Zumba certification class and I am all packed.
Here is my bag sitting by the door and ready to go. This bag was a great idea. It has all my food and drinks, my toiletries, a towel, my dance shoes, a change of dance clothes, a change of regular clothes, extra hair clips and bracelets, and three tensor rolls for my ankle (never hurts to have extra...).

I finally decided on dance clothes.
I'm borrowing this idea from someone I know who runs marathons and often photographs her running outfits this way, "flat", for her blog.

Here's "Flat Miranda" number one... Pink hair ties and hair clips, my pink and orange Rhythm Rocker shirt, grey sports bra, pink and orange bracelet (Wrap Me Up Scotty), black samba cargoes, and orange socks. I was very decisive about this outfit, it was easy to pick this out. My favorite pants with my favorite shirt. Picking out a second outfit drove me nuts until my friend told me I should wear my new pink cargoes (thank you Tay). I talked about them in a previous post and I ordered them from about a week ago and had no hope they would be here in time, but they were! You can see the pants I'm referring to here on my blog, but not on Zumba's website anymore. Two days after I placed my order, they took that particular pair out of their shop. It had been on sale with every size (but XS) still available. That's practically unheard of, so I figure it just wasn't a popular pair of pants because usually every size -but- XS sells. I'm really glad I bought them when I did.

Here's "Flat Miranda" number two. It works out that the same hair ties and clips work with the second outfit. Handy that... This is my "Join The Party" shirt in mulberry, with my new pink cargoes, and a pair of pink socks. I've got my matching "Join The Party" bracelets too. The shirt and bracelets were some of my birthday presents this year, and I posted about them back in August.

It's a relief to have my clothes in order for tomorrow. I had everything else organized except for that. But now, my bag is packed and ready to go. All I have to do in the morning is get dressed, have some breakfast, and get on the road. In fact, I'll probably put the bag in the car tonight so I don't have to think about it tomorrow morning. There aren't too many ways to prepare for the actual class. I don't know the playlist, obviously, but even if I did, and I knew some of the selected songs, the choreography might (probably will...) be different. My nervous energy needs an outlet, so I've channeled it into packing my stuff for the day. Aaanndd...writing this post. Heh.

I've heard it said that one should, "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best." I suppose that's good advice in certain circumstances. Tonight though, I am preparing for the best - one of the best things I've done since starting Zumba in the first place. And hoping for...I'm not sure exactly, it's hard to put into words what I'm hoping for. Greatness maybe, excellence possibly... I want to be the best me I can be at this, and there are certain people who have walked with me on this journey that is Zumba and I'm hoping that I can make them proud.

Best advice: Be the best you that you can be at whatever it is that you do, at whatever it is that excites you.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The plan for this Saturday: Zumba certification

Saturday is the big day. Back in August, Bry (on behalf of himself and our boys) bought me a Zumba (B1) certification class. So now I get to go become a certified instructor just like Jae and Rae. Okay... Maybe not -just- like them, they set the bar pretty high (ladies, you rock).
What I mean is licensed like them, and aspiring to the rest of it. From them, I have a general idea of what to expect. I also searched online to find out what other people have written about Zumba certification classes and the Zumba Education Specialist (ZES) who is going to be doing the class sent an email a week ahead of time with all the pertinent information.

* Address of the place
It's in East Lansing on Michigan State University's campus which is actually where I went to school. All the other certification classes for B1, of late, have been in the Detroit area which is where I thought I was going to have to go. Then, as I'm very seriously considering which of those to sign up for, this one appears in the list like magic. Going to East Lansing instead will shorten my travel time considerably.

* When to arrive
I have to be there at 8am, no later. They're checking everybody in at 8am so in reality, I need to be hitting East Lansing closer to 7:30am, so that I can get a parking spot and walk. Thank goodness it's an away game (and by that I mean football) kind of weekend or that would have added a whole new element of crazy to a really long day. If you don't know MSU, things are really spread out, so when I say "find a place to park", that generally involves a 10-15 minute walk (at least...) from there to the actual destination.

* Lunch
Participants are advised to bring lunches but the email also says, "If necessary, you can drive to a nearby restaurant." Great, but... One, I'm not going to give up my parking spot once I have one. Two, I'm vegan so my fast food options are limited to begin with. Three, I used to go there, so I know what food lines look like between 11am-1pm - no thank you! My plan is to bring some veggies and peanut butter for dipping, and a quinoa burger. Hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

* What to bring
1. Water - And obvious necessity. I'm also going to bring a bottle of Gatorade for this. I usually don't use Gatorade for regular classes, but this is going to be an all-day event so I figure some extra electrolytes won't hurt. Bry is the one that talked me into the Gatorade. He pointed out that my usual drink crystals (made with Stevia) weren't going to cut it.

2.  Towel - I don't usually bring a towel to regular classes either. Some of my classmates do, and for this, I think I will. At the very least, I can use it to freshen up at the end of the day.

3. A pen - There will some theoretical lecture so it will be good to take some notes.

4. Healthy snacks - Again, an obvious necessity. I'm bringing some bananas, some Clif bars, and a bag of mini Oreos. Yeah, that last one isn't healthy but it -is- a straight shot of glucose. I bought Gatorade in the raspberry lemonade flavor but it's the low-cal variety which means some of the glucose (sugar) has been replaced with sucralose (Splenda). Which means that it won't be as effective as the original at the very thing it's intended to do. None of the other flavors appealed to me okay? So mini Oreos are how I am making up for the lack of glucose. Aaw shucks...heh.

5. Sweatshirt or jacket - I was going to bring a hoodie. I'm guessing I'm going to feel cool during the lecture parts in between the dance portions.

6. A change of workout clothes for the afternoon session - Jae warned me about this one. She said, "You should bring a change of clothes." to which I replied, "Yeah, I was going to bring jeans and such because I don't want to drive home in sweaty clothes." And she goes, "No, I mean a change of Zumba clothes. You're going to need it." Oh, well okay then, the day is going to be like that. Good to know, and nice to have her in my corner.

7. Proper shoes - Dance fitness shoes or cross trainers with a shallow tread. Definitely not a problem.

8. A folding chair - This one is optional, for people who won't be comfortable sitting on the floor. Frankly, I have enough to carry as it is, so I'm going to forgo this one. I'm used to sitting on the floor anyway, I have little kids.

9. A credit card - This is for joining the Zumba instructor network (ZIN) which according the info about it in the email is "great". I've heard a lot about it already and I feel like I'm most likely going to sign up for that.

10. Cash - Zumbawear will be for sale and cash is preferred. Oh I am so torn on this. I know if I bring cash, I may as well kiss it goodbye before I even get to East Lansing. But I also know that if I don't bring some, I'll see something I really really want and regret not having brought some. Sigh... Zumba problems, I tell you.

* An agenda
The day goes from 8am to 5:30pm. The email says to come dressed to work out. Check in, introduction and overview are from 8-8:45am. Then there's a master class from 8:45-9:45am. I am really looking forward to that part, I think it's going to be a lot of fun. That's followed by a 15 minute break and there is some time before the lunch break for some theoretical lecture and hands on instruction. That's pretty much how the rest of the day will go - more practice, more lecture, more breaks. There will be a Q&A at the very end and I'm sure somewhere in there will be some time to look at the Zumbawear goodies; and I can't not look. I thought about trying to just avoid the display but I kind of think that it will be impossible. I figure they will make it impossible, but to me, that stuff is like a magnet or a black hole.
They forgot: the desire to go to a certification class and become an instructor yourself. The rest though, totally true. And when I say that, I mean T-R-U-E...the Pandora thing...the bright colors, the singing in Spanish...especially the singing in Spanish, just ask Jae...

Anyways... I've already been to the supermarket this week and picked up all the food I'm planning to take with me. I'm also going to put a few toiletries in my bag to freshen up with so that I'm not uncomfortable during the hour-long car ride home. Mostly, all that's left is to figure out what to wear. My first outfit is easy, I'm going to wear my favorite black pants with the silver ribbons along with my Rhythm Rocker shirt. It's my favorite shirt. I'm taking another pair of black cargoes, the ones with the black ribbons, but I'm on the fence about what to take as a second shirt. Maybe the neon green/blue one, maybe the Party In Pink one... Decisions decisions... More Zumba problems...heh.

With all this stuff to bring, I started looking around for my old backpack which I haven't used in years. Either it's buried in the attic or it's gone all together because I couldn't find it. Bummer. Before I could think up alternatives, I happened to be browsing for something completely unrelated and noticed that the black Zumba bag that I've had my eye on for a while was down to only four left in stock. Oh my...better get right on that. We have Amazon Prime so that gives us free two-day that means that my new bag will be here in time to pack my stuff in for East Lansing. Hooray!

I'm feeling nervous and confident, excited and apprehensive all at the same time. But I'm okay with that, all of it. This has been a long time coming for me and I know that now is the right time for this, I can feel it way deep down on the inside.

Best advice today comes from Socrates:
Photo credit: Quotable Books
This is the new that I am building. What's yours?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The style for the budget savvy - Part 2

After finding a bright yellow shirt on clearance at my local Meijer, I was inspired to write a post about creating a style for Zumba class, without necessarily having to shell out a lot of money. In part one of my "style for less" post, I visited Sears and TJ Maxx. In part two, I visited Walmart, and I'm also going talk about my experiences with Old Navy. I forgot to say so in the previous post, but I am not affiliated with or compensated by any of these stores. I'm just a shopper with opinions.

These tops by Danskin are only $8.96. There are the four colors that you see here in the photo and they have the same side drawstring feature as my new yellow top. What I don't like about these necessarily is that they are long sleeved, but that's a personal preference. I have seen ladies at class wearing long sleeved shirts and doing just fine...somehow... Anyways, no long sleeves for me. The pink top from Zumba is the Air-Glow Slashed Sleeve Top and it is currently selling for $30.50 (originally $38). It is also available in black. The purple top from Zumba is the Edgy Long Sleeved Top and it is currently selling for $21.50 (originally $42), also available in green and black. So as you can see, Zumba does make and sell long sleeved tops. If I ever bought one, it wouldn't be to actually wear in class, it'd be an every-day wear kind of purchase. If I tried to wear a long sleeved shirt to class, I think Jae would ultimately need to call the paramedics for me.

I thought these shorts by Danskin were cute, even if I'm not much for shorts; they are $6.96. The black shorts from Zumba are the Escape Running Shorts (also in pink) and are currently on sale for $12.50 (originally $30). Some ladies like shorts, but I'm pretty sure that I'll always be a cargoes girl. I do own some some plain generic (think grey...blah) shorts in this style but I use them for practice rather than class.

These racerback tanks from Walmart have some lace edging on the straps which I thought was kind of fun, but what I really liked was how many colors this style was available in. These are selling at $5.88, and I tried to get a couple of good shots of the tags, but they're hard to read in the photo.

One thing I was really surprised to find at Walmart were dance shoes. Apparently, Danskin makes a shoe suitable for dance fitness.Which I suppose makes sense given the brand's name... There were three pairs for sale. The pink and yellow, the grey and pink, and the black and pink. At only $19.74, these things are a real bargain...assuming they do the job they're supposed to do. I have never tried them, so I can't give an opinion as to their quality one way or another. What I can say is that they are very light, which in my book is a must for a dance shoe. Also, their tread is very shallow, and there is a pivot area on the ball of the shoe; both are important aspects. In a purely aesthetic way, they are nice to look at. The grey pair and the black pair would go really well with just about anything, but I quite like the pink pair.  
The color combination is unique, and I like how the tread is jazzed up a little, not just one single color. I did flip a shoe over to get a picture of the tread. The pivot area is that square. It, along with the shallow tread, make thing easier on your joints when you twist or turn. My Zumba brand shoes still have a ways to go before they wear out, and when they do, I have a pair of Pumas waiting already. But, perhaps after both of those pairs are "retired", I may venture out to the Walmart once more and buy a pair of these to try. Both the price and the weight are very appealing.

I wandered through two more departments before heading out. One was intimates, because that's where they keep the sports bras apparently... And the other was accessories because... Well, you all know I loves me some bracelets...

Okay, so sports bras... Walmart has a very colorful selection as you can see, and the price was only $9.94. I'll admit that I was tempted, most especially by that orange in the top right corner. But...I restrained myself, after all, I'd just bought the red one from TJ Maxx two days earlier.

Lastly, accessories.

I love looking at this stuff. Even if I don't buy any of it, I still enjoy it. Of course, I'm in the kids' and teens' section, but the fact is, that's where they hide all the neon stuff! What else am I to do? Unabashedly buy stuff for Zumba originally created for girls! That's what. See that red circle on the picture to the right? That's what I bought. It's hard to see but they are those fold-over elastic style hair ties. There are three of them, each with a piece of coordinating lace. The bottom one is blue and green, the middle one is pink and orange, and the top one is pink and pink. The orange and pink one is what caught my eye; it reminded me of my Rhythm Rocker shirt.

Walmart is well known for having very low prices, and a wide variety of sizes (including plus sizes). Also, they do sell some things in their active wear department online, that are not in stores so it's worth checking out their website too.

Old Navy:
Old Navy has been my reliable source for well-priced active wear since my second class. Before I started buying Zumba brand tops, Old Navy was my number one go-to store for racerbacks. They always have a table full of ribbed tank tops from XS to XL in about ten different colors. This is true no matter what the season is, the only thing that changes is what the colors are. About a month ago, the whole family needed jeans and Old Navy was having a denim sale. Lucky us! So we all trooped over there one afternoon to take advantage of the low prices. Of course, as long as we were already there, we I may as well scour the clearance racks. I hadn't gone there with the idea of buying more tank tops since I already have...a lot (understatement...) of tank tops, but I saw one for 85% off so... Yeah...
I saw this (at the left) on the rack, and my very first thought was, "St. Patrick's Day!". I think the idea of a theme shirt is pretty fun to begin with, but at 85% off, this was a winner. There was a red/pink/white one too that just screamed Valentine's Day to me, but they didn't have my size... Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

So my family and I took all the jeans and this tank top to the check out line. The line was long because of the sale so as we waited we I perused the wall of impulse buys. Now, usually I bypass all that because it's pretty much all useless junk. However, on this particular day, at this particular store, I saw some bracelets for sale, only $1 each.

So I bought three! These have sparkles and water inside, how cool is that? The top one is a rainbow of colors and reminded my of my tie-dye shirt. The middle one is pink and white and made me think of my Party In Pink shirt. And the bottom one is green/yellow/pink and I just liked it. I have shirts in all those colors so it'll for sure go with something... I would not have expected to find bracelets like these at Old Navy. I've never seen them there before. I have a feeling they're intended for kids, but meh, I don't care. They're fun, inexpensive, lightweight, and made of a plastic that's sturdy enough to make it through a Zumba class.

Old Navy has quality clothes at decent prices, and you can count on them to have tanks year-round.

Best advice: Check out Walmart if you're looking for something but don't want to spend very much. Along with their usual low prices, they typically have a lot of inventory so if you need something in a hurry, chances are you can pick it up there.

Second best advice: Don't overlook the impulse aisle in Old Navy. Now I wonder what all I've missed...

Friday, October 18, 2013

The style for the budget savvy - Part 1

Having done the last two posts about Zumba fashion trends, I thought I'd follow them up with a third post (in two parts) on shopping locally, basically getting a similar style while spending less. The idea came to me as I was shopping for groceries in my local Mejier and spotted a neon yellow shirt on the clearance rack for $7.99. I had been looking for something yellow to go with my black cargoes. Initially, I was planning to buy this yellow asymmetrical top (on the right) from for $37.00, but I didn't move fast enough and now all they have left are sizes L and XL. Although, maybe that turned out for the best, because I saved almost $30. Here's me below wearing my new yellow top. This is the first thing with sleeves I've worn to class in a very very long time. It's light and fairly shear, so I gambled that I wouldn't overheat; a gamble that payed off. It has those drawstring things (I don't know what the real term is) that you can pull to shorten the shirt on both sides. On the hanger in the store, these were tied in a bow. I wash everything before I wear it, so when this came out of the dryer, both sides had untied. I almost tied them back into bows and then didn't. I thought if I left them dangling, they'd work like the ribbons on my cargoes. And sure enough they did!

Now, part of what you pay for when you shop from Zumba's store is the Zumba Fitness trademarked logo and name on the clothing. The yellow top pictured above has a tiny one the model's left side. If you follow the link on the picture to, you can see the back view which has a really big logo. Don't get me wrong, I love the logo and I have...a lot of clothes with the logo on them. But, if you're willing to forgo having that on your clothes, you can still look stylish and colorful and you don't have to settle for black and grey and...*shudder*...brown... After having good luck at Meijer, I decided to spend some time this week looking in some shops that I thought would have nice looking active wear at nice looking prices.

On Saturday, me and the whole family were at the mall and we stopped at Sears for me and my continuing search for a grey boot. I found what I was looking for along with a really nice red pair that I had not been looking for but nevertheless had to have. While I was checking out, Bry wheeled our younger son around in the stroller. Just as I finished, he came back and said, "Did you know they have a $3.99 clearance section over there?" Hrmm, no. No I did not... Love that man. One thing I found on that rack was a black top made out of lace.

I held it up and turned to Bry and said, "I need to find some neon sports bras." I bought that black lace top with the idea that I could wear something colorful under it. This is it over to the right. You can see that there's really not much to it and that it's designed to go ever something else. I found the red sports bra at a different store, more on that in a minute, but I wanted to show an example of what this looks like with something underneath. Zumba also has a shear black top (on the left) currently for sale that is designed to go over a sports bra. It's on sale right now for $25.50 (originally $28). This top is also available in pink and white. I feel pretty pleased with finding a similar look for considerably less. Incidentally, I wore the red sports bra and black lace top with my red cargoes this Wednesday night for class; the reds are pretty much a perfect match.

Sears tends to have competitive prices and durable clothing.

TJ Maxx (for the Canadians, it would be Winners - same corporation):
TJ Maxx was one of the first stores that came to mind when I started thinking of places where I could find stylish active wear at reasonable prices. I've shopped there (and at Marshall's) before and I've had good luck, so odds were... While I was there, I found some fun things and took some pictures.
This is the same sports bra, the lighting was just a little odd from the one angle. The back view shows the color more accurately.
I bought this, it's the red sports bra in the photo with the black lace top. The tag on the front says, $25 (compare at $34.99). The second tag on the back says, $75. Really? $75? I figure it's at TJ Maxx because no one was insane enough to buy it at -that- price. Below, is a similar style of sports bra available from Zumba (also available in grey). This top from Zumba is on sale right now for $24.50 (originally $40). And yes, the price for the pink top is marginally cheaper, but one, I don't have to pay shipping and handling for the red one and two, the size selection at Zumba is limited given that it's a sale item; only the grey version is still available in my size.

Some other things from TJ Maxx... I tried these items on and decided they weren't quite my style. But everyone's style is a little different so I took some pictures and made some comparisons for you.

 The blue top from TJ Maxx is $15 (compare at $19.99). The blue top from Zumba is the Cut Me Loose Racerback, it sells for $24.00 and is also available in black and cherry.

The pants from TJ Maxx are $24.99 and I very seriously considered the pink pair. The only reason that I didn't buy them is that, like the newest Zumba capris, these don't have ribbons. I specifically want pink ribbons, so I'll be patient. The pants from Zumba are the Feelin' It Cargoes in pink and indigo (also available in green) currently on sale for $45.50, originally $65.

***Side note: After making sure my link to the pink cargoes was accurate, I noticed a curious thing. With exception of XS, every single size is still available in spite of the fact that it's a sale item. I hadn't even bothered to look figuring that there was no way my size would still be there. Huh. Time to order. Budget savvy? Meh, they're on sale. Hey, ribbons are no joke my friends.***

These are examples of "bubble tops". They are long and have an elastic (or drawstring) bottom so that the top sort of bubbles around the waist and hips. I've seen these in Zumba's shop many times. Each line of clothing usually has one and I've always wondered about them, but from trying on the one in TJ Maxx I now know that this particular style isn't for me. I'm pretty sure it's because I'm short. Add, "No bubble tops." to the list of Short Girl Problems... Heh. The top from TJ Maxx sells for $19.99. The top from Zumba is the Cut Me Loose Bubble Top. It is currently selling for $34 and is also available in pink and black.

The leggings from TJ Maxx sell for $19.99. The leggings from Zumba sell for $49.99 and are also available in heather grey. Up until I tried on the leggings from TJ Maxx, I was considering buying the leggings from Zumba. In this line of clothing, there are legwarmers available that are super cute, but they need to be paired with leggings -- not cargoes. What I learned from trying on the black and yellow leggings is that I am not really a leggings kind of gal. Sorry legwarmers... It's cargoes all the way.

TJ Maxx is great for variety, but once it's gone, it's gone. So if you see something you think you'd really like, as in 75% sure (or more), get it because chances are if you wait a week, you'll be out of luck.

Best advice: The great thing about shopping locally is the ability to try on the merchandise -before- you buy it. Zumba has its own little fashion niche and if you're not sure what style(s) suits you, trying things on is a good way to figure it out -- like me, with the leggings. Now I know: don't spend money on leggings and legwarmers that could be better spent on pink ribbons...I mean cargoes.