Musings + Essays


By: Jen Shoop

I’m writing this while perched on the edge of the bathtub in our new apartment because there aren’t any seats here yet — but the Internet is cruising. (#Priorities.) Mr. Magpie is at our old apartment supervising the moving-out process and I’ve been uptown with our pup, micro, and nanny and I find myself suddenly with nothing to do. It is quiet. My errands are run. And so I thought I’d sit and say hello from this purgatory, a wayfarer unloading her thoughts while in transit.

Today, we moved. Or — we are moving as I write this. I can’t quite figure out how I feel, which is strange for me and my verbose, hyper-aware-of-how-I-feel self. I can usually at least categorize my mood as “good” or “bad,” but right now I principally feel distracted–too scattered and preoccupied to take my own pulse. I guess the emotional forecast is partly cloudy skies. I have felt something like exuberance as I’ve explored our new neighborhood which, so far, I much prefer to our old one, though both are on the beautiful UWS. It’s more neighborhoody, cozy, quiet, and family-oriented up here. Fewer agony-inducing disturbances (like that time I saw a pack of teens shooting heroin while walking Tilly), more strollers. We used to live down by Columbus Circle / Lincoln Center, and there is a lot more tourist traffic and general mayhem in those parts.

My excitement about our new neighborhood froths up further whenever I enter our new apartment, as it is far brighter and more spacious, and micro will have his own nursery, and I will have enough space in our bedroom to position my writing desk. The prospect of closing a door and writing in my own room is beyond delicious to me, and I understand more keenly than ever some of the more surface-level musings in Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.” (I say surface-level, as her essay is more engaged with gender dynamics in The Canon than it is with Manhattan real estate problems. Ha.) I expect more of this kind of writing to ensue, though — if I may be so bold as to classify that piece as “good” — good writing can happen close to anywhere if the emotional headwinds are strong enough. After all, I wrote that particular post in between frantic sessions with Mr. Magpie, strategizing about this move, while I was still recovering from a mysterious virus and my world felt topsy-turvy.

So there is excitement. And there is also a lingering stress — will we need to make more trips back to the old apartment? What about our fridge — how and when will we transports its contents North? And there is so much to buy for the new apartment. I’ve drawn up a wishlist and am awaiting a conversation with Mr. Magpie to set a budget and prioritize. I have “a bias for action” (Mr. Magpie’s gently chiding description) and so am anxious to have everything set up and unboxed and livable.

At the same time, I found myself farklempt when I saw mini playing amongst the boxes in our old apartment, and when I hacked together her bedtime routine on the night before we moved. The movers had accidentally packed her blanket and pillow, and I have no idea how I managed to track down a spare baby blanket and pillow of micro’s that just happened to have been left unpacked and afloat in one of the closet. God was looking out for us, I suppose. “I’ll spare you a meltdown tonight,” He said. I was sad, though, that she didn’t have a normal experience on her last night in our little alcove off Central Park West, but I let that bizarre thought drift right out of my mind, too preoccupied with other concerns, like whether the packers had actually packed enough of the apartment (they had left all of the closets untouched which — yikes).

Anyhow, as I sat in the silver-gray twilight of her bedroom, her warm little body on my lap, her head resting on my chest, reading her one of her favorite books, Harry the Dirty Dog (thank you to the reader who suggested this one! An instant classic chez Mapgie! — P.S. More great bedtime books for children here), I felt a swell of nostalgia catch in my throat. How many hundreds of nights have I sat there with her in my arms, repeating the same affirmations and reading the same books and singing the same lullabies? How many mornings have I walked into her petite room to rouse her — one of my favorite moments of any day?

Oh, I am a silly-heart, and saccharine to boot, but it left me teary-eyed thinking of the many happy and exhausting days we have had in Old Louise.

The day we brought micro home from the hospital, for example. (My heart breaks writing that sentence, as he is now four months and the newborn days are behind us, and I can’t stop thumbing through pictures of him at three days and one week and eleven days and — oh please! I feel ten ways about his growing up. Relieved that we are sleeping better than before, excited for the many firsts around the corner, but damned heartbroken at the prospect of his increasing alertness and independence.)

The first time we celebrated Thanksgiving on our own in New York.

When I found out I was pregnant with Hill — in the bathroom off our master bedroom, pacing back and forth, vibrating with excitement and shock.

When my sister moved back to New York.

When we found out my other sister was engaged.

When we sold our first home.

But also the moments between the drumbeats — the silences, the nothings, the grout between the cracks — like the nitty gritty of learning to be a mother to two children, the infinite soothings of skinned knees and bumped elbows, the ritual of bathtime in that damned glass-doored bath tub where you could only ever reach half of the water at a time because the other half was barricaded off by the sliding glass door, the triumphant high-fives Mr. Magpie and I often exchange when both babies are down for the night, the evening pitter patter of mini’s feet to greet her father at the door, the constant disciplining of a large airedale who tends to bark whenever anyone is in the hallway, the folding of tiny baby clothing in anxious anticipation, the boxing of too-small baby clothing in wistful nostalgia, the uncorking of celebratory bottles of wine — and bottles of wine for no reason at all, the exchange and opening of Christmas gifts, the morning brewing of coffee, the tip-toeing around a bassinet. All of these petits riens that together feel like the densest, richest pastiche of a very full, occasionally nutty, life with young children I adore and a husband I love and a dog who only occasionally tolerates me.

We are on to better things up here, but goodbyes are hard for me, and hellos can be tricky, too. I like the lived-in-at-the-seams core, where everything feels comfortable and routine and I am mistress of my own domain. We will get there.

There is a section from the poet Antonio Machado’s “Proverbs and Canticles” on wayfaring that springs to mind at this moment of transition:

Caminante, son tus huellas

el camino y nada más

In English: “Wayfarer, the only way is your footsteps, there is no other.”

Onward we go, caminante.

Post Scripts.

+I’ll share a full post on purchases for our new apartment soon, but the items I am most excited about: this vacuum, this rug for micro’s room, and this dresser.

+We will need a large rug for mini’s room and I sought the input of my dear friend and interior designer Jen Hunter as to where to look for something practical (i.e., non-white and not-too-precious), as we are still running into accidents now and then and mini loves to streak her yogurt-y or chocolate-y fingers all over the place. She immediately suggested Albert & Dash. My challenge now is to pick a pattern that isn’t too girly, as we intend to eventually move both children into the same room and it would be lovely to pre-empt the need to redecorate mini’s room from start to finish again in another year. I’m thinking of leaning into green for her room, as the glider we have for her is a beautiful green and white seersucker and — curiously, fortuitously, the previous tenants in our apartment left a beautiful set of green plaid draperies that coordinate with a window seat cushion in her room. I’ll take that as a sign. I’m considering this, this (too much pink?), this. I also liked this green one from Lulu and Georgia, this “merchant” style from C&B, and this affordable Nuloom (probably too easy to dirty).

+I’m going to do a round-up of winter shoes for little ones soon, but I did just order these for mini in the pearl color. (Does micro need these?!)

+I ended up returning that Primary fleece and buying the Patagonia. I like Primary but find the quality can be spotty. I wasn’t impressed with the fleece. (This Patagonia is also adorable.)

+Swooning over this cardigan!

+A lot of you commented on the perfect fit of the jeans the street style chic pea is sporting in the pic here. The denim from Khaite seems to be very much in that zone.

+These loafers are actual perfection.

+Love this tie-waisted quilted bomber!

+These mocs with the bat eyes!!! So cute for Halloween! (More Halloween finds here.)

+I need help expanding mini’s palette. She used to be so adventurous, and — just like that — we’re in an infinity loop of butter noodles, chicken, peanut butter and jelly, and fruit. Help! Any recommendations on good cookbooks? Considering this one.

+RL is running a 30% off promotion now through October 14th — great time to stock up on long-sleeved polos and denim for little ones.

+Had to have these corduroy overalls for micro.

+I had similar mottled emotions the day we sold our house

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14 thoughts on “Caminante.

  1. First of all, congratulations on making it through your move! Moving homes = no joke, especially in New York. We’ve been in our place in Cambridge for 5+ years and I half-joke that we need a move in order to parse through our accumulated belongings! So many books … haha.

    I love the upper part of the UWS … neighborhoody and cozy is right! I hope you are settling in well. 🙂

    In terms of cookbooks, when I was struggling with a similar issue a few years ago (a very picky, but slightly older child), my mom gave me a copy of Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious. It’s kind of retro (early aughts style) and DEFINITELY gimmicky, but I bet you can find a copy for a song on Amazon, and it might have some good ideas for you. My pediatrician friend also emphasizes serving whatever fruits/veggies the child WILL eat (“pump them full of berries!”). I’ve also found that kale chips are surprisingly appealing to (our) little ones — lacinato/Tuscan kale, specifically.

    Hope this helps! xx

    1. Good thought on the kale chips! Going to try that and hunt down that Jessica Seinfeld book! Thank you. xx

  2. The thought of moving gives me hives (and we’ll likely have to move next year – I am already dreading the thought). But, I do hope you’re enjoying your new space! A room of one’s own (or some private space, at least) is indeed so important!

    My daughter is finally (hopefully) sloooowly emerging from her picky stage (mac and cheese for daaaays here – to be fair, she’s always been an okay eater, I just would like her to be more adventurous!). I don’t have any suggestions for cookbooks – I still largely cook what I want and just make sure that something she’ll eat is included (e.g., if I’m experimenting with pasta sauces, she’ll at least eat the plain pasta and may touch the sauce if I plate it separately). I haven’t been one to hide ingredients in her food – I want her to know what she’s eating/not eating and she can sniff anything “different” out like a bloodhound.

    What has helped a lot is having her “cook” with me – she’s more inclined to taste different ingredients when she’s participating. I’ve seen some plastic chopping knives on Amazon I may get for her so she can “help” me cut things. And exposure really really helps. One day, she’ll deign to touch a new food item… eventually it will make it into her mouth. Some Instagram accounts I’ve found helpful are Snackswithjax and Feedinglittles. Just keep persevering! If you love food, she will come back around too.

    1. Thanks, Jen – these are great ideas. In our new kitchen, we have a lot more space for mini to be in there with me. Maybe I’ll try to incorporate cooking together into our daily routine. Just gotta keep on keeping on, it seems…


  3. For carpets, you might consider Flor, which sells carpet squares in really neat varieties. We have several different patterns (in both bedrooms and high traffic areas) and are really happy with them after about two years of use. When accidents happen (dog and toddler over here) it is super easy to pull up the square and clean it, or just replace the offending square for around $20-30! With some varieties you can detect the carpet square lines, but I am often surprised by how hard it is to tell that they are not real rugs. They have 25% off sales or free shipping quite frequently — worth checking out!

  4. First, I loved reading your heartfelt sentiments on moving. It’s somehow cathartic to recount these emotions and memories of your first NYC apartment!

    Second, those little bat shoes!! Ahh 🙂

    Third, I really enjoyed the infant version of that cookbook, so I’m sure the toddler version is great. We also LOVE Melissa Clark’s Dinner cookbook – for ourselves and our son. Simple, flavorful recipes that are not complicated!

    1. Thanks for these tips on the cookbooks!! Really appreciate that.

      And glad that the moving saga resonated. It’s been a bit of a headache/whirlwind but we are safely on the other side, living amongst boxes…it did feel cathartic to write about it all!

  5. Oh man, there is nothing more unsettling and confusing to the spirit than the in-betweenness of moving. When everything is hanging in the lurch for a precarious split second (or hour, or day, or week…). Hang in there, and enjoy settling into your new space! I spent my first year in NY on 105th and Broadway and while I’m happy where I am in Brooklyn, I loved being part of that neighborhood for a short while. Silver Moon Bakery remains my favorite bread of all time…

    1. Ooh! Hadn’t heard of Silver Moon! Will check that out.

      You are so right about the “in-betweenness” and “lurch.” We are on the other end, thank God, but it was dicey and unsettling there for a minute…

  6. Oh , I loved this post! Very best wishes in your happy new home.

    A few notes to chime in on re: your post scripts:
    -We got a Dash & Albert rug for my older son’s nursery , and I have been so disappointed! We’ve got two naughty dogs and two messy kids and it stained terribly – an OUTDOOR rug! We actually threw it away a few months ago after three years. Perhaps we just got a lemon (and we did get a light-ish color/pattern), but just a counterpoint to the glowing reviews you see online. I have found over the years that the best move is to go to a quality carpet store and pick out something you like in 100% wool. Then have it cut and bound with serged edges as a rug to exactly the size you need. I have never had a problem getting stains out of quality 100% wool (Folex spray is a godsend for those of us with children and pups), and the price is generally comparable or even better to an area rug.

    -My current favorite toddler (and family!) recipes have come from the Mimi’s Bowl website. She has a lovely instagram too, and every single recipe has been a hit for us. Her recipes are quite simple, but they are based on fresh ingredients and they’re kid -friendly.

    1. Thank you SO much for these tips – hadn’t heard of Folex (?!) but added to my next Amazon order. And thanks for the honest D&A review. We need something heavy duty — mini is still in accident territory and pee is really really hard to get out of rugs. Ugh!

      AND — love this Mimi’s Bowl! Thank you! xx


  7. Your sentiment is one that I have also shared. It’s very exciting to move to a new place but the in-between can be daunting. In turn, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed at the memories swirling around, then compound that with the piles and piles of boxes everywhere. My world felt upside down for a few days, but it passed and soon I was able to enjoy our beautiful home – just like you’ll be able to! Good luck with the in-between and hoping the final pieces fall into place easily.

    1. JC – this is so comforting to read, and I’m already relating now that we are several days into our new place and the big pieces of furniture are in place and about half of the boxes have been undone. Our kitchen is SET and now it feels like we’re in business 🙂

      Thanks for the well-wishes.


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