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An Aubade to Parenting.

By: Jen Shoop

I have been waking up early, before the sun rises, for the past few weeks.  During these quiet hours, feeling the baby move, my thoughts inevitably turn to parenting.  I’ve written a lot about the gear and apparatus associated with having a baby, and some about the discomforts and surprises and excitements of pregnancy–but nothing at all about the substance of bringing a life into our home and nurturing it in the way I aspire to.  These still mornings are space to think about–and occasionally fret about–these intentions.  I’m hopeful in this space, in the way that I always am in the morning.  While I may kick around anxiously, sleeplessly at night, the mornings are streaked with optimism.

What I want, though, for myself, as a parent, is a tall order.

I would like to have the patience and deep empathy and solicitude of my saintly mother, who will listen to all five of her children, even when most of them are well into their late 20s and 30s, talk about their lives in all of their (often banal) detail–from earaches to heartaches and everything in between–with rapt attention and kindness and deep and abiding interest and concern.  Is there anyone in the world who cares about the indigestion I suffered last night?  My mother does.  She is always there, offering advice and the occasional, much-needed wake-up call (I recall many frantic, tear-filled phone calls about unimportant things like boys and minor ailments and “what will I dooo with my careeeeerr?!?!” where she would empathize, but promptly call me back to center with a firm: “Jennifer.” I always know to snap out of it when I hear her say: “But Jennifer” in a certain hushed, arresting tone of voice.)  But, most powerfully, she listens.  She will let you gush about your engagement to your fiance, dab her eyes alongside you, saying all the right things, but mainly just letting you bubble over with excitement.  She will commiserate over bad bosses, absurd fights with siblings, the loss of friends to cancer; she will celebrate with you over new jobs, new homes, new haircuts.  She will let you cry aimlessly about feeling overwhelmed during month 6 of your pregnancy, sputtering nonsense, and let you know it’s all normal and it’s all OK.   She will sit with you through the lightest and darkest moments of your life, holding your hand, listening.  Through these thousands (millions!) of authentic and unrehearsed gestures of love, she has made it dramatically clear that we–the five of us lucky people that call her our mom–are her world.  Standing in front of her, I feel important, and, more importantly, loved just as I am.

As if that weren’t enough.  I would also like to have the deep, stand-up goodness and generosity of my father, who has taught me more in action than in word (though, also in word) the difference between right and wrong–and who continues to do so to this day.  There’s a beautiful quote in the movie As Good as It Gets (one of my favorites; worth a re-watch), where Melvin says: “I might be the only one who appreciates how amazing you are in every single thing that you do…and in every single thought that you have, and how you say what you mean and how it’s almost always something that’s all about being straight and good.”  This line should have been written about My Dad.  My Dad is one of those “straight and good” people.  He walks the hard line, unflinchingly.  There is no gray with my Dad — there are no bent rules, no possible misinterpretations of his intentions, no funny business.  And here is as good a space as any to mention that, a veteran himself, he has devoted the last decade of his life to ending (not curbing or reducing — ending) veteran homelessness in his hometown of Washington, DC, a metropolis with a particularly dense concentration of homeless veterans, and that, though he is fiercely private and works hard to ensure his name stays out of the press in these efforts, and has therefore refused to speak at the ribbon cutting later this month, because of him, there is a large complex that has been built on N. Capitol Street in D.C. providing permanent, supportive housing to one of the most vulnerable homeless populations in the country.  When I say this massive accomplishment is because of him, he will brush it off, attribute it to the consortia of funders and planners and politicians and non-profits that have contributed to this extensive project.  But I know that if you were to talk to any of the good folks involved in this undertaking, they would attribute its success to him.  He has quietly, determinedly steered this project through innumerable hurdles and complexities and funding shortfalls for the past many years, with no fanfare and no want for it.  I am so proud to be his daughter, and not only because of the bigness of what he has achieved with this philanthropic work; I see this as one of many examples of the kind of person he is: deeply, soundly good to his core.  Hard-working.  Self-effacing.  Big-hearted but unassuming.  The kind of person who does everything for the right reasons.

So, you see, between these two paradigms of parenthood I have been so fortunate to claim as my own–one all nurture and the other all moral strength, and both 100% heart–I have my work cut out for me.  But these quiet mornings in bed, just me, my thoughts, and this new little heart-beat inside me, I am hopeful.

Recognizing, of course, the foregoing as the substance of baby preparedness, I would be remiss if I did not also share another important component of getting ready for a newborn: the nursery.  I was initially overwhelmed by the trillions of directions I could go in for Mini Magpie’s nursery.  But then I spent a lot of time pinning nurseries and making a note in the comments section about what I liked about each.  Here were the final points of inspiration:




Allison K

Photography by: Beau Kester/Round 1 Productions

I loved the pink, beige, and gold of the first two pictures — I was immediately drawn to the palette.  I hadn’t known I’d be into pink for my daughter (I know a lot of moms go in the opposite direction — pink is too frou frou!) but somehow it feels tempered and sophisticated with the bisque/tan and gold accents.  I was also really drawn to oversized gingham, as seen in pictures 3 and 5 — it feels child-appropriate and yet still stately and timeless.  And, finally, that star-print room just nails the balance between baby-friendly/whimsical and modern/fresh/not too kiddy-kiddy.

I knew I wanted to do a wallpaper, so I started there and worked my way in.  The top contenders were:

+Leaping bunnies from Chasing Paper (shown in the 1st picture above, actually!).  How beyond adorable?!?!  It’s removable/repositionable wallpaper, which is clever for a nursery, so you can always remove without too much effort when the child outgrows it.

+Serengeti from Hygge + West.  I loved this safari-print paper — this brand has the most gorgeous papers.  I like that it’s whimsical and child-appropriate but also sort of fetching at a glance as a sophisticated wallpaper in a great palette.  I worried it might be a little too busy for the space, but liked that it would work for a boy or girl.

+Caitlin Wilson oversized check.  As I mentioned above, I was really drawn to gingham and I liked this pretty pink pattern.

+Groundworks’ bunny print.  This was not at all in my color palette, but I died over this wallpaper and had to share it.  Very Goodnight Moon.

+Osborne + Little’s Farfalle butterfly print.  I have always loved loved LOVED this wallpaper.  I seriously need to put it somewhere in my house eventually.  Playful but sophisticated.  AHH.

But despite all the time I’d put into finding the right wallpaper, none were just right.  I realized I really wanted an oversized gingham check in a beige/bisque/tan color along the lines shown in the last picture above.  Of course, the last picture above features a nursery where someone hand-painted the gingham onto the wall (ugh).  I knew I wasn’t up for that kind of challenge, or that kind of expense.  So I was OVER THE MOON when I discovered that WillowLaneTextiles would custom create an oversized version of this gingham wallpaper for me and sell it to me via Spoonflower.  DONE.  But guys.  I had no idea how $$ wallpaper is!  I was hellbent once I had the idea in my head that I was going to outfit the entire room–all four walls, not just one!–in this wallpaper.  So we splurged on it and it’s going to look amazing, but YIKES!  Now I get why accent walls are a thing.  Also, our ceilings are very high and though we’d initially intended to wallpaper ourselves, we’ve decided to find a contractor to handle putting it up.  Whew, see ya money.

Next was le crib.  I went with Land of Nod’s Harmony crib.  Great safety ratings, AND it converts into a toddler bed.  Plus, that upholstered headboard is SO my style.  Bumpers are a big no-no nowadays (suffocation hazard), but I’d also read babies can get their hands stuck in the slats.  This breathable crib liner has gotten the green light from safety experts.

Bedding was really tough for me.  I had been smitten with all the French linens at Smallable (ahem, this), and Biscuit Home’s sheets had been in my secret baby Pinterest board for eons.  I also loved some of the hipster-cool prints at Fawn and Forest (like this) and at Auggie (OMG, the dogs!!)  But at the end of the day I decided I need something pink with hints of beige to complement the wallpaper and Land of Nod had a whole host of fab prints/patterns in the right scale.  I went with this crib quilt ($89) and a few different contrasting prints for sheets — this and this — and then this style from the brand Oilo.  I think layering in all the different micro-patterns will look so fabulous against the oversized gingham wallpaper.  Just wait — I have a vision!

I also picked a few different coordinating changing pad covers (this and this) from Land of Nod.  Luckily, I have a white dresser from Crate + Barrel that we’ll use as the changing table, so we didn’t need to get that furniture.

I mentioned this recently, but I was also dying to get one of these heirloom-worthy mobiles from Etsy storefront Patricija.  I’d read about them awhile ago and had them bookmarked for a long, long time.  I wound up going with this one ($125).  It is TOO GOOD.  It is BEYOND!  I also love this sheep one and this bunny one.  So precious.  I can’t even deal.

Mr. Magpie LOVED the huge giraffe in the last pic above, so we have to get him.  We also ordered an oversized Sharon Montrose baby animal print to go with the look and had it matted and framed in gold by Framed + Matted.  BTW, this framing service is AMAZING.  The quality is incredible.  It does require assembly (duh) upon arrival, but I’m so excited with how it turned out, especially for the cost!  I think ours (with a double mat, and awesome gilded frame) was around $148, which is a fraction of what you’d pay at an actual framing source. (Not sponsored, just happy with the results!)  OH and P.S. – You can see it framed on my Instagram or Snapchat (username: jennifershoop), but it’s sitting on the floor in a pile of other things we need to assemble…)

I also recently added this double gourd pink lamp and a sheepskin rug to the room, and had to spring for this giraffe nightlight from Jonathan Adler.

I spent weeks and weeks trying to figure out what to do about a glider/rocker.  On the one hand, I don’t like the idea of buying furniture that can only be used for one thing (like a changing table) and wanted something we could repurpose down the road.  On the other hand, I imagine we’ll spend a lot of time snuggling/feeding/reading the baby in a chair and wanted something that, well, rocked/glided.  I was into the Land of Nod Toby glider and even brought Mr. Magpie to take a close look, with the intention of snagging one.  When we were there, he had the idea of checking out the Crate and Barrel Outlet next door.  We totally and completely lucked out and found a swiveling/gliding chair (this one, to be exact) in a fabulous pale green stripe that we both loved, and that was marked down to 50% off.  Boom.  We like the idea that we can replace/update the slipcover if we decide to move it downstairs to the living room in a few years, AND you can easily wash the slipcover in case it gets dirty.

The last pieces I need to figure out:

+A bookcase.  I want something simple, cheap, and white.

+A laundry hamper.  I like the idea of using 1-2 of these from Serena + Lily in the pink.

+Additional art.  I’ve been looking at framing some vintage Babar prints or finding something safari-appropriate given our little pink-beige-safari situation, but haven’t yet found anything I love.

BUT the bones of a fab nursery are there!  I am loving that it’s not too themed but has a certain amount of color palette consistency and enough patterns/prints to make things look child-appropriate.

WHEW, this was a long post.  Thanks for sticking with me my loves!  Share your thoughts and ideas and feedback, because I live for it.

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9 thoughts on “An Aubade to Parenting.

  1. I just re-discovered this post and fell in love again, particularly with your description of your mother. I feel the exact same way about my own mother’s selflessness and compassion, and just emailed her the paragraph starting with “I would like to have the patience and deep empathy and solicitude of my saintly mother” with a big thank you. I so appreciate you sharing your words with us – these made quite the impact on me.

    1. Oh, I’m so happy! This is one of my all-time favorite posts. I could write about my parents for days on end; they are miracles. So glad it resonated with you, and thanks for letting me know! xox

  2. We have a gorgeous felt bunny mobile but also added the
    Wimmer-Ferguson Stim-Mobile. Unfortunately for my aesthetic, little babies really need bright colors and bold patterns. We also had black and white wee art cards that we propped up around the edge of her bassinet.

    Think about wash-ability for the hamper. Baby clothes can get gross (blow outs, spit up, baby food, art projects, etc). Also handles are a must so you can carry it to the washer and avoid extra handling of the mess. I use a white plastic woven basket from target. Save the pretty baskets for toys. Although around six months you’ll want open low storage so the baby can see and pick out her own toys.

    We don’t follow the Montessori philosophy exactly but it has some interesting ideas for how to setup a nursery. Mirrors so the baby can see herself are important. My daughter’s exer-saucer is in front of a big mirror — guarantees me 25 minutes to shower in the morning and 5 minutes to take off shoes and coats in the evening.

    As for Babar prints, you can take apart a children’s book. The ones sold along the Seine are from books.

    Finally, ottoman! You will want one for the glider.

    1. RACHEL! Such amazing tips — I am going to look into this Montessori stuff / consult with my mom (a former Montessori school teacher) after hearing this. I have a looong way to go…and YES to ottoman. Adding to my list…

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