Musings + Essays

(How About You?)

By: Jen Shoop

*Photo above of Laura Herrier for Porter Magazine. I loved the styling of this shoot, and especially this look — the crisp white dress and black bow are SO chic. Get the look for less with this LWD or this one and this hairbow.


I like New York in June, how about you?
I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?
I love a fireside when a storm is due
I like potato chips, moonlight, motor trips, how about you?

Mr. Magpie and I had a laugh the other night when we listened to Frank Sinatra croon the first line from the above lyrics —

“I wouldn’t know, Frank. What is New York? What is June?”

We have lost all sense for the magic of this city and for the season besides. The only indication that we’ve slipped into summer, aside from the warmer weather, is that we no longer need to bracket our day around preschool Zoom sessions–both a welcome reprieve and an unsettling un-anchoring that has let our days adrift, like rowboats untethered from the dock.

So it’s just…this? Us? On our own, no guideposts?

Some mornings, we have the children fed, cleaned, and dressed and have survived tantrums, messes, and injuries–and it is only seven-forty-three a.m. Other days, I am surprised to look up and realize it is nearly ten: time for micro’s nap, and a big chunk of the day beneath our belts. Why is it that some days drift by uneventfully, almost peacefully, and others feel unbearably long? And yet after every particularly impatient and exhausting day I have, I am grateful to find that God grants me a special kind of grace the following morning, and I feel unexpectedly restored and ready. And so I sit on the little stool in mini’s room and color with her for the umpteenth million time, cheered by her little voice assessing my work and telling me: “good job! I’m so proud of you!”, or pantomime excitement as she dictates which characters I may perform as we play with her Maileg mice or her Little People, or stack and re-stack blocks with micro in dawdling trails of activity throughout these June mornings. I am occasionally astounded by micro’s attention to detail — today, I watched him carefully retrieve a little doll crib from mini’s bookshelves, place it on the ground without disturbing its contents, and then remove and replace the three little dog figurines stowed inside with meticulous care. Mini’s vibrant imagination and unyielding attentiveness are equal parts impressive and hilarious. Yesterday, nodding in mini’s direction, I asked Mr. Magpie: “Should we let her have an i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m?” Without missing a beat, mini chimed in: “What are you saying about ice cream?”

If it feels like I am writing too much about the toll this quarantine has taken on me as a parent, I probably am. I am in constant friction with myself: “Stop writing about this! Enough! Buckle down! Settle down! So many people have it so much worse!” and yet and yet and yet — the circumstances we are living through are unnatural, protracted, trying. I have yet to talk with a parent whose eyes don’t bulge out of her head when asked how things are going. Without playdates, outings, group classes, extracurriculars, and sitters, even stay-at-home moms and homeschooling parents have noted: “This is not normal, what we are doing now.” I wonder if there are many parents the world over who spend this much time alone with their children? Even in cultures and societies and economic circumstances vastly different from my own, children are raised by communities of people. I feel ill-equipped to do this on my own. My children need other inputs, distractions, models, teachers, friends! I am not enough.

At the same time: children are resilient.

At the same time: I am lucky to have this time safe at home with my children.

At the same time: my dad often says, “I’ve learned to take the long view on these things.” One day I will look back on this time and think, “Did that happen?” Quarantine will be a blip on the radar, and — knowing myself — I will probably conjure its memory with rose-colored glasses. “All that time with my babies to myself!” I will say, dabbing away tears.

But I am writing this today just to sit with you. Just to create space here to acknowledge that though things seem to be opening up and time seems to be moving forward, my daily experience — and I assume this to be true for many of you — has not changed.

And though I can’t speak to the charms of New York in June, I do want to close by short-listing some of the things I very much like right now (how about you?):

I like the way micro will crawl over to me on the picnic blanket in Central Park, pull himself up, and rest his head on my shoulder as he stands, watching the world around him.

I like the sloping greensward we have claimed as our own in Central Park — a stretch of grass we visit every afternoon, whose contours mini now knows as well as any child might know her own backyard. Within that space, she has rolled down the hill, watched the dogs from the neighboring dog run, drawn octopi and suns with sidewalk chalk on the stones that demarcate the walkway from the lawn, dripped ice cream and popsicle onto the grass, released butterflies she grew from caterpillars, played catch with her father using her own beloved baseball glove, chased “Mr. Robinsons” (robins), blown three hundred thousand bubbles, and — entirely unprompted — tilted her head, squinting over at me through the sunlight, and said: “I love you mama.”

I like five p.m. happy hour: a refreshingly tart glass of ice-cold rose or, on lucky evenings, an artisanal cocktail from Mr. Magpie.

I like open windows season, blessedly extended during this week of 60-70-degree weather in Manhattan: the city inhabiting my apartment, reminding me that I am not alone.

I like the way our doorwoman Nelly calls mini “beautiful princesa” every time we come and go.

I like the way mini says “the ipsy bipsy spider” and “ambliance” (ambulance) and “ozinge” (orange) and “yo-grette” (yogurt). I will not permit myself to parrot these babyish mispronunciations back to her (i.e., I will not let myself say, “do you want the ozinge one?”) but I simply cannot bring myself to correct her.

I like listening to my audiobooks while working on a puzzle in the dining room while micro naps and mini enjoys iPad time.

I like the seven p.m. cheers in the evening, applauding essential workers who have been bravely keeping the city running for months on end.

I like the early summer rain showers that leave the city cool and quiet.

I like the stretch of brownstones I pass on one of the numbered streets between Central Park West and Columbus, its proud doorways and broad French windows and leafy courtyards and stone stairwells startlingly romantic.

I like an early lunch — noon at the latest — with Mr. Magpie sitting across from me. Meaningful conversation always evades us with two children interrupting our attempts, but still: he is there, and I love all of this time with him.

I like the feeling of a clean kitchen after breakfast is finished: dishwasher emptied, counters and stovetop scrubbed clean.

I like wearing sundresses and bare feet. I have always said I love all four seasons, but man. I think I could live somewhere that is above 70 degrees most of the year.

I like the weekly story times my children have with their cousins, my mother reading them picture books via FaceTime.

I like the little park I can see from the window at which I write: a sliver of green between two tall brick buildings, verdant treetops dancing in the sunlight.

How about you?


+More on living in NY during the age of COVID19 and musings on quarantine fatigue.

+Currently reading The Warmth of Other Suns (spellbinding, lyrical nonfiction) and currently listening to Super Pumped (Bad Blood vibes — a book I could not put down). Just finished reading Ghosted (an underwhelming suspense) and listening to both Such a Fun Age (provocative and candid look at race and class dynamics in present-day America, though I found the plot line forced and the characters roughly drawn) and Lady in Waiting (a memoir of Princess Margaret’s lady in waiting — which I absolutely loved for her ability to “take the long view” as I put it earlier).

+Hanky Panky in a pretty print for nearly 60% off — had to order — and my favorite bra for only $25 (?!)

+Mango has just the prettiest things out right now: dead over this gorgeous white pleated shirtdress, this easy-to-wear paisley maxi (in the vein of nightgown/caftan day dresses), and these Hermes-esque slides.

+My favorite things, quarantine edition.

+I love a good face mist for setting makeup and/or refreshing in the middle of the day — this is next on my list. Rose petals?! Yes pls. In the past, I’ve also loved this coconut-rose toner spray by Kopari (which smells like vacation — instant mood lifter!), this cult-following Caudalie (addictively bracing/refreshing), and this beautifully-scented rosewater spray from Chantecaille (total splurge).

+RIGHT up my alley.

+Mr. Magpie and I love a good “seafood plateau,” usually indulging in it on NYE and at least once during the summer. I need this to accommodate.

+This delicate heart ring is so sweet — think I might buy for my youngest sister, who would love this.

+These monogrammed seersucker swim trunks for boys are only $13.59! TBH, I have been putting Hill in some of his swim trunks with a polo on hot days at the park, despite the fact that we likely won’t encounter any water. So breathable and easy to pull on!

+This woven pendant light is such a fantastic statement — you could completely transform a room with this for under $200. Pair with this rug for a reasonably-priced coastal-chic breakfast nook.

+$28 white eyelet magic. Imagine paired with this hat!

+A hydrangea dress for me, and a hydrangea dress for mini, and hydrangea planters for the home.

+Just sent this to a just-born baby boy.

+This BEYOND adorable Mi Golondrina gingham confection for a little one is on sale for 30% off.

+These “Born In…” silver spoons are such a unique addition to a baby gift — love!

+Relaxed-fit white button-down = easy beach cover-up and fallback staple to pair with white jeans when you just don’t know what to wear.

+If the thought of a shirt as a cover-up makes you uncomfortable — check out this shirt-as-dress concept. Love the gingham!

+This pearl-trim tote is so fun.

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15 thoughts on “(How About You?)

  1. Jen, I appreciate your decision to feature a Black woman at the top of your post, as you had mentioned recently that diversity in your choice of imagery was one of your action items.

    Aaaahhh so much to say about this, and I can go on and on about the current challenges, but — this list of “silver linings” is helping me focus on optimism and gratitude:

    I love how my 2.5 year old daughter will sometimes stop what she is doing to give me a hug out of the blue.

    I love when I have my home to myself from 6-7 pm: my husband takes my daughter outside, while I listen to a podcast (usually The Splendid Table) while I cook dinner.

    I love all the greenery where we live — our apartment management has done a wonderful job keeping the old redwoods and maintaining a grassy area for weekday picnic lunches, ball/bubble play (yes, thank God for bubbles!!!), etc.

    I’m sure there are more but those are a few at the top of my head!

    Enjoy NYC in the summer, despite the circumstances!

    1. Hi Mia – Ooh that sliver of time from 6-7 sounds delicious. I have also grown to actually look forward to doing the dishes (????) when I have a good audiobook next to me. It’s just perfect because I don’t think I could just sit still and listen to an audiobook — I need to be DOING something. Makes the time go by so quickly and helps me get through more books 🙂


  2. Love your menagerie of moments at the end of this post. 🙂 Re: Face mists. I am a fan, and I, personally, believe there is a grand champion of the genre: May Lindstrom’s “The Jasmine Garden” botanical facial mist.

    I admit the cost ($70!) means I would’ve never bought it myself, but I received it as a gift on a meditation retreat I went to in France (lifetimes/one year ago) and I’ve since gifted it to a number of friends 🙂

    1. Oo la la, thanks for the introduction! Love gifts like that — the best kind :). Also, I laughed out loud — “lifetimes/one year ago.” 100%.


  3. Echoing what Anna said — remembering that it’s an enormous privilege to enjoy aspects of quarantine! That is the headspace I’m in these days. I have been enjoying the cooler (high 60s/low 70s) weather and focusing on cooking nourishing meals, reading wonderful books & enjoyable/informative articles on our current moment, and more.

    I’m so eager to start The Warmth of Other Suns later this summer! Thank you for the positive words about it.


  4. I am also enjoying the simplicity of life these days, while remembering what a huge privilege it is to enjoy any of this moment at all. It’s been a nice reminder that I don’t need much to be happy. I don’t need new things or novel experiences daily. It’s enough to lie outside in the grass sometimes.

    1. Beautifully put — “it’s enough to lie outside in the grass sometimes.” I thought of your words today as I walked back from mini’s three-year wellness check (belated!) with her little hand in mine. We observed the world together in absolutely no rush. It was warm and sunny, we had nowhere to be any time soon, and we had the doctor’s visit behind us. I felt completely content in that moment with my girl next to me. “It was enough,” as you put it. More than enough!


  5. Be encouraged — you’re doing a great job, being present in the moments with your little family. While I’m not so sure the months of quarantine will ever just be a blip on the radar, I do think we’ll all look back saying “WOW that was hard, but I kind of miss the simplicity of that time.” As my grandmother (and now my dad) would say: this, too, shall pass. Hugs!

    1. Hi Heidi — Thank you (!!) for this perspective, for the encouragement, and also for the acknowledgment that this will probably not be a “blip on the radar.” Thank you. This will pass!


  6. September 11,2001 had a beautiful early morning. I stepped out into my garden and took a long deep breath. A wonderful Virginia morning. My son had just started high school. An hour later, the first tower burning, the second plane crashed into the second tower. “We are at war”. I rushed to the school and then to my parents. My father an Air Force get was silent. We watched the Pentagon get hit. His old assignment.
    The fear for the future.
    I still love those crisp September mornings in Virginia.
    Be strong. Stay kind. Love to all. Denise

    1. Thank you, Denise, for this tangle of memories and reminder that we can still enjoy the quiet of home life when things are chaotic outside. Wishing you well, too! xx

    2. Oh my gosh, this made me tear up. I remember that crisp Virginia morning as an 8th grader. Such a great reminder that life will go on.

  7. Thank you for the authentic post. The “I am not enough” line resonated with me in the best sense. As in, I cannot be everything to my kids, no should I expect to be.
    Has this pandemic changed your thoughts on living in NYC with two small children? I read this as I live a much different suburban midwestern life- backyards with treehouses, nearby creeks to explore, a cul-de-sac to ride bikes. So I read this and wonder, is NYC worth it? Not in a condescending tone, but rather a sincere question if it’s made you reevaluate? I see people that have fled the city, some chosen not to return, and I wonder if you’ve had those same thoughts?

    1. Hi Christina – Relieved/glad this resonated with you as well. It’s been spiriting to connect with other parents these days to compare notes, pause, acknowledge, remind one another to take deep breaths. Thank you for sitting with me…

      Yes, the pandemic has absolutely put pressure on why we live here. In our most trying moments, we’ve even found ourselves checking out listings for homes way out of dodge — and we have several friends who have permanently left the city! But we aren’t making any quick moves for now — hangover from the intensity and stress of the past few years, which have involved multiple complicated moves and left us general averse to anything knee-jerk. (Though, at this point, three months into quarantine, a move elsewhere would hardly seem knee-jerk.)


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