Musings + Essays


By: Jen Shoop

“Hang on to your hat, toots.” — my life, the last few weeks.

(Starting with this update.)

We’ve officially transitioned mini to school and she loves it. We were pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it all went. The only hiccup so far has been figuring out pick up in the afternoon. For the first few days, I dropped her off and picked her up alone because she had such odd hours (i.e., one hour from 10:05-11:05 one day, then two hours from 9:30 to 11:30 the next day, etc.) and it would have been impossible for Mr. Magpie to handle either end given his work schedule. I would usually just post up in a nearby coffee shop and get some work done, but it was a pretty disruptive week, especially coordinating breastfeeding around it. Then we transitioned to more of the expected routine: Mr. Magpie drops her off in the mornings on his way to work. I had intended to have our nanny pick her up in the afternoons so I could stay home with micro for breastfeeding purposes, and so after I felt we had the morning routine down pat, I decided to bring our nanny with me to pick mini up so I could show her the ropes and pass the baton. When mini saw our nanny first (before seeing me), she dissolved into tears. I had given her a heads up that our nanny would be there, too, but I think she was upset that I wasn’t the first face she saw (the best part of my day has been seeing her beaming face when I arrive at the door — “there’s my mama!” she shrieks). The school had warned us about this, noting that kids can be very thrown off by disruptions to routine, and encouraging us to stay consistent with who drops off and who picks up. Now I know why. Mini was apoplectic and close to impossible to maneuver home (i.e., refusing stroller, refusing to walk, laying down on the subway floor — After that incident, I chatted with her teacher and we decided that I should continue to handle pick-ups for the next few weeks before introducing our nanny into the mix — just too much change for that little one. Besides, I hadn’t anticipated it, but our little pocket of thirty minutes on our way home is nearly always the highlight of my day. I love hearing about her day, smothering her with kisses, holding her little willing hand as we walk towards the subway stop.

And so this whole transition to school has been relatively smooth all things considered but still quite a change for everyone. Routines in the morning are planned down to a millisecond and I’m busy getting that little one fed, toileted, dressed, brushed, and out the door by 8 a.m. Gone are the leisurely mornings nursing micro in bed! And then — oh! The apartment is deafeningly silent in mini’s absence. She is a whirling dervish at home, flitting from activity to activity in constant chatter and singsong. I have found myself straining to hear her on multiple occasions, my heart in my throat. Changes all — most of them welcome, some of them…skeptically accepted.

Meanwhile, the apartment hunt continued. We saw at least fifteen units all up and down the West side of Manhattan, a few spots on the UES, and one in DUMBO. It was exhausting, in large part owing to the underhandedness of the broker situation. There are so many misrepresentations in listings — “3 bedrooms!” is often “2 bedrooms but you can split the second to make a third with a partition” or “2 bedrooms plus a closet with a questionable window that could be a nursery” or “2 bedrooms plus a dangerous loft where no child should ever sleep.” And then there are things like “washer and dryer in unit!” — only you arrive and find you will be responsible for purchasing the washer/dryer, though there is a hook-up available. And “available immediately!” only you arrive with your baby in a carrier and your toddler wrangling out of your grip and find yourself in a construction zone, sawdust coating our lungs and electric saws buzzing inches from our faces (i.e., decidedly not available immediately). There’s this shadiness, and then there’s the fact that the NY rental market moves at the speed of light — aka a frenetic pace ill-suited towards families with small children and lots of moving parts. New places are listed daily and are often gone within a day or two, and you are meant to move in within a week — and if you aren’t planning to move in immediately, you’ll probably be passed up as an applicant for the unit because brokers don’t want to sit on a vacant unit. They’ll just wait another day or two for someone willing to move in sooner.

I mean, can you imagine?! It’s too much pressure! How can you expect a family to find a place and move within a week?!

At any rate, after seeing fifteen places, we put in an application on a unit with about a month left on our current lease and were passed up because the landlord’s broker pulled a weird stunt on us, using our application offer (rent is almost always negotiable in NY) to go back to another applicant that had been interested in the apartment to get them to counter with an earlier lease start date and a slightly higher rent offer. The brokers hadn’t made this information known to us, of course (we would have happily matched the offer), and had instead more or less counseled us to submit the offer we did (“I’ll encourage the landlord to accept it,” stated the broker — grrr) to push the other couple to sign immediately. And so we suddenly found ourselves back at square one, with no apartment lined up and the clock ticking. When we heard the news, it took every ounce of my personal resolve to avoid bursting into tears. I had loved the unit, but more than that — I had loved the idea of being done with the search and able to move forward with next steps. The night we found out, I woke up at 3 a.m. shivering uncontrollably — my teeth were actually chattering! — and aching all over. A few hours later, I woke up and had sweated through my clothes. It went on like this — sweats, chills, achiness, splitting headache — for several days. I eventually went to see the doctor who confirmed I had picked up some kind of virus but I’m convinced that my shock and stress level at discovering we had no apartment with less than four weeks to go had triggered it, or left me in such a state of weakness that any old virus could have shut me down.

I somehow managed to muscle through last week, sick as a dog, visiting a new battery of listings all over the place. We also had a bizarrely busy social schedule (we’re normally homebodies), with two receptions and a cocktail hour we hosted — and then there was mini’s meltdown owing to the nanny’s pick up at school right smack dab in the middle. During that epic tantrum, I’d had to carry mini by her arms up the subway stairs while I also had micro strapped to me in the carrier. She had turned into a jellyfish and would.not.climb.the.stairs and also would.not.let.the.nanny.come.near.her. I had no choice, after attempting to reason with her and cajole her for about five minutes while no-nonsense, in-a-rush New Yorkers trampled us at the foot of the steps, but to pick her up by her arms and carry her up the steps in front of me, like a noodle. That debacle led me to pull a muscle in my abdomen which in turn made breathing hurt for a couple of days — though at the time, I wasn’t sure if the pain in my side was related to the virus or something more serious, and so the doctor ran a gamut of tests, had me x-rayed, etc. (It all turned out clear — just a strained muscle from trying to carry forty-five pounds of children up the stairs in the most awkward maneuver known to womankind. Go figure.)

Somewhere along the way, micro picked up whatever virus I had and suddenly my world was literally collapsing on itself. There were a few nights where I was up with poor micro every hour of the night. It got so bad that I had to ask Mr. Magpie to split shifts with me, but even then it was impossible to sneak in a stretch of sleep because we are all about two feet from one another. The baby was running a fever and battling an upset stomach and so we were covered in baby vomit, shivering/sweating together, and mind-numbingly exhausted. And did I mention that while I believe I hold or can reach a sense of perspective in most parenting-related matters, when it comes to ill children, I lose my bearings?! I worry myself sick, wondering if I’m overlooking a symptom and what I believe to be a run-of-the-mill cold is actually something more nefarious. I clutch them in my arms and cry over them. It is physically painful for me to see my babies unwell.

Then, on Friday, I woke with the worst migraine I have ever had in my life. I could not see straight. I could barely walk. Turning my head to the left or right was shockingly painful. I was so sensitive to light that I had to stay in my bedroom with the blinds drawn. I could not rally myself to put on clothes and pick up mini from school — I had to call Mr. Magpie and ask him to leave work early to get her.

On top of it all, micro was scheduled to be Baptized two days later and I had my parents coming into town, with fabulous dinner plans to boot.

I was defeated.

That was the lowpoint. The lowpoint of this year (fingers crossed), and in fact the last two years — since the last botched and stressful move, come to think of it.

But as quickly as everything had spiraled out of control, it all came back into focus. We found another — better! — apartment, this one a “classic prewar six” in Manhattan terms. (A classic prewar six refers to an apartment configuration with six rooms — three bedrooms (one smaller, typically referred to as a “maid’s room,” perfect for a nursery), living room, kitchen, formal dining room — in a building constructed before WWII, and therefore likely to be rife with traditional charm. You won’t find open concept floor plans with a classic 6, which Mr. Magpie and I rather like. These buildings also tend to be very well-constructed — i.e., “they just don’t make them like that anymore.”) When we went uptown to sign the lease, the broker walked us through the unit and something inside me relaxed. I could instantly see the wonderful life we would have there, with much more space, a dedicated nursery for micro, a larger kitchen, and a bedroom for mini that is large enough to accommodate all of her toys, her activity table, her dollhouse, and all the other bulky items that currently reside in our living area. I’m sure her toys will still find their way into our living room, but no longer will it be their primary home, praise God. A friend of mine recently said that “a cluttered house is a cluttered mind,” and I think this, too, is why this stretch of the last few weeks has been so overwhelming. We are busting out of this apartment as micro grows and has new needs and more clothing and bigger diapers and all that jazz.

Micro and I both overcame our ailments (for the most part) around the same time and managed to enjoy his Baptism feeling more like ourselves. (I wore the dress mentioned here.) We had a beautiful morning with friends and family, enjoying brunch after his Christening smooshed in like sardines around a small table at Cafe Luxembourg, whose boisterous environment matched the general ebullience of the moment.

I looked around the table at one point and thought how lucky I am, and how insignificant all my travails of the previous week were in the grand scheme. I mean, let me be real: everything is horrible when you feel sick, and everything is doubly horrible when you feel sick and are caring for an ill infant while going on four months of sleeplessness. And moving is stressful, full-stop. But there we were, closer to the other side, with the happiest occasion in front of me. A happy and newly healthy baby, welcomed into the Church, the presence of my loved ones, the promise of a new, more spacious beginning on the Upper West Side.

And on we go…

What’s happening with you?

Post Scripts.

+What are your most memorable golden moments/golden hours? Brunch after micro’s Baptism is up there.

+OK, mini would die and go to heaven with this.

+A perfect Christmas dress for a little lady.

+Expect some more home decor related posts soon, as we need to purchase a number of pieces of furniture. I am already eyeing a couple of rugs, and Horchow has such a great selection (on sale) — love this for mini’s room, or maybe this. Although I’ve been chastened — probably not good to have a light colored rug in a toddler’s room. May need to explore darker/more patterned styles.

+I love this oversized houndstooth scarf.

+So excited we’re closing in on sweater weather.

+Likely my next headband acquisition.

+I like this slim hamper for micro’s nursery…

+I’m a copycat.

+I ordered one of these tags for mini’s stroller, which we store at the school during the day since Mr. Magpie drops her off and I pick her up. It’s perfect! I was impressed with the quality and speed of design/shipping. Going to order some more for her bags. A cute add-on to a gift for a little one, too.

+I love these for keeping my phone free of fingerprints.

+A good dupe for those Paris Texas snakeskin boots that are all over the place.

+A fun tee.

+A great dish to display fruit/citrus on your counter.

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23 thoughts on “Lately…

  1. I love this post. It is so refreshing to read about REAL life problems, I completely related to this post in so many ways. So many bloggers seem to lead “fantasy” lives for their blogs, you keep it real. Keep on writing!
    -a fan

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so happy this resonated and that you and my other magpies did not find it overly boring…ha! Life! It’s messy and full. Thanks for taking the time to write in and let me know how much you appreciated this. More of this kind of writing, on the way. xx

  2. Ugh. Moving is so stressful no matter what and then adding in a newborn and a toddler and the fact that it’s NY on top of it…sounds like one of my stress dreams!!!

    Sending some virtual hugs!!

    1. Thank you, Molly! It is so stressful — I always forget just how bad it is until I’m in the throes. I keep telling myself that the carrot at the end of the stick is going to make it all worth it. But I’ll take the hugs in the meantime 🙂


  3. Hi!

    I absolutely love following along with you and your life, thank you so much for sharing such a real and genuine glimpse. I do have a question though, if you have 2 parents working how does the phase in for mini’s preschool work? Thank you!

    1. Hi Alexandra! I know – I truly don’t understand how other parents make it work. I suppose they had to put in time off for a few days, or work with their managers to create a more flexible temporary work schedule. That, or I have noticed a number of nannies and grandparents handling pick-ups/drop-offs. It doesn’t make sense how little the standard school schedule jives/supports working parents’ schedules…


  4. Hi!

    I absolutely love following along with you and your life, thank you so much for sharing such a real and genuine glimpse. I do have a question though, if you have 2 parents working how does the phase in for mini’s preschool work? Thank you!

  5. I’m glad you chronicled this, because years from now when you recount your house hunt, you will forget so many of the details which are all so EXCRUCIATING in the meanwhile! I hope you were able to get a stiff drink by the end of all of this!
    I did something a little crazy last week. I had been adamant that we would not buy a swing set when we moved away from Boston. There’s a beautiful park down the street, and I of course would so easily and happily take my 3 children there. Fast-forward to…. reality. Do you know how easy it would be to send my kids to the backyard, and let our neighbors come over to play… on our own swing set? I started thinking about this last Tuesday, as we played with chalk on the driveway for the 1 millionth time. I spent Wednesday researching them, and spoke to my neighbor who told me that it was an ideal time to buy as they were on sale for end of year clearance. Thursday I convinced my husband, and Friday we went in person to purchase. It will be installed next month. We did not tell the kids. They are going to LOSE. THEIR. MINDS. There is a playhouse at the bottom complete with cafe table on the side where I see 10000 picnics in my future. We are not going to say anything to the kids until it goes up. How fun is THAT?

    1. OMG! I am SO excited for your kids (and for you!). What a brilliant idea. It’s so funny that you mention this — I have for sure done the same thing, put down arbitrary stakes in the ground on various topics (usually related to parenting) and then all of the sudden, I wonder, “And why…am I not permitting myself to do this thing that will make everyone happier and life much easier?” HA!


  6. Oh my — what a crazy time! I’m so happy to hear that you and micro are on the mend, health-wise, that he had a beautiful baptism and that you found ‘golden hours’ in the brunch that followed it, and also that you landed what sounds like a beautiful new abode. I’m excited for you! xxx

    P.S. How much do I want that Être Cécile tee? I can’t resist a cheeky Breton shirt!

    1. Yes, a crazy, full (as in, full-throttle, over-full, and also full-hearted) time for me. I am honestly ready for a deload, if such an opportunity exists in the near future…

      Thank you for the well wishes!

  7. Ahhh, you got your classic six! So happy for you — and how nice that you don’t have to leave your ‘hood. Also, very impressed with your daily toddler subway wranglings. It’s almost enough to make me consider looking at daycare providers closer to my office, though then I think about toddler-wrangling PLUS babywearing PLUS winter coats and … thought killed.

    1. Hi! Yes, we really lucked out by missing out on that first place, despite the fact that it sent me into a spiral of illness, chaos, and stress…!

      Honestly, it feels like there’s no optimal way to get a toddler and a baby anywhere at the same time, whether subways are involved or not. HA. Just gotta power through…keep me posted on what you decide and how you manage it, though! Always picking up tips from other moms!

  8. Thank you for sharing these honest glimpses into your days! They are beautifully written and moving. You are so strong and a great mom! I can’t imagine having a sick child, though I better start imagining as I’m due with my first child in November. Last week, my cat (CAT!) had to spend two nights in the hospital after emergency surgery and I about lost it.

    I am happy the baptism went well and so thrilled that you found a new apartment! Apartment hunting in NYC is like the Wild West. Congrats on your new home and good luck with the move! xo.

    p.s. I’d be curious to know how you selected your children’s godparents. Something I’ve been contemplating lately…

    1. Hi Joyce! My pleasure. I often sit back from these “life update” posts and feel like I’ve just overshared/blathered on too long, but am always so happy to have the feedback, encouragement, and advice of readers like you when I do 🙂 AND — OMG, the cat in the hospital is no small thing! Especially with pregnancy hormones raging — yikes. So sorry to hear that. Hoping he/she is on the mend.

      Finally, let me answer the godparent question in my next Magpie mail!!


  9. I am so glad to hear things are falling into place and that Micro’s baptism was so special. I saw an image on Instagram recently that said: “never been in a situation where God took something and failed to slide through with the upgrade.” I have gone through some trials recently that have led me to a place I have been waiting and praying for. That time has shaped my character and strengthened my faith – what trials are intended to complete in us. It is a lifelong process. I am cheering you on!

    I am also excited for a new home decor-related post as I am moving again soon, too! I don’t plan on keeping all of my furniture as my previous movers damaged much of it 🙁 Will need a new TV stand/cabinet and desk chair in particular. So if the toys will have a place of their own now, I’ll be curious to hear what you’ll do with your new living room! xo

    1. LOVE that quote! Actually smiled ear to ear when I read it — thank you. It’s so hard to see things that way when you’re running on fumes, wondering how you’ll ever get from where you are to the next step, but…so true. (I think you and I have talked about that in particular in past exchanges — how impossible it is to remove yourself and see things clearly when you’re in the throes.)

      YES, lots more posts on home decor to come!


  10. Oh my goodness. All the while writing amazing blog post like usual! I thought I had a hard week (had a baby in 28 minutes and basically in the lobby of the hospital no less, my two oldest completely melted down with the change so I checked out of the hospital in less than 24 hours to get home to them, and now my toddler is refusing school and the teachers have to pull him off me kicking and screaming) but your week takes the cake. Take care of yourself. It’s not too late to take that maternity leave. Your readers will still be here!

    1. Um, AMY! Your week sounds far more chaotic — first, congratulations!!! I am in awe of you. A third baby and in the lobby of the hospital?! GOOD LORD. You are so strong and I am hoping you take care of YOURSELF, too. I can’t imagine all that you’re juggling right now, emotional weight and otherwise. Sending you love!


  11. Oh my heart breaks for you and all your trials. But hopefully now you are coming out the other side, with wonderful brunch memories, and a better next home! Yea!
    Small victories must be celebrated, especially when they come from a lot of adversity!
    Congratulations! Keep powering through with love.

    1. Yes to all of this! So far, this week has an entirely different feel to it — noticeably healthier and less stressful. Now it’s just onto all the minutaie of actually carrying out the move. Thank you for the reminder to power through with love — or, as another reader wrote below, to “do small things with great love.” xxx

  12. Congratulations on the baptism this weekend AND landing what sounds like a great new apartment!! Thank you for being so open about your crazy September. Reading about your September made me feel comfort in my personal crazy this month: a bridesmaid then Maid of Honor in back to back weddings the first two weekends this month and gearing up for my first solo living situation on the Upper West Side (shipping up from Battery Park City!) as I move next Monday 9/30! Wishing you calmness in your chaos of September and all the good moving energy- solidarity in making it through the madness!

    1. Wow – a LOT happening for you. A move by itself is chaos and stress — but tack on two big weddings/travel, and I’m overwhelmed for you. Hang in there! One thing that has been helpful in keeping me moving forward is remembering that there is a BIG carrot at the end of the stick, i.e., once we get to the other side, we’ll be in a much better unit with more space. Hoping you can take the same solace on board! Standing here in solidarity with you! xx

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