By: Jen Shoop

Last week, over cocktails at Dante in New York City, I mentioned to Mr. Magpie that I have grown to treasure these quick trips back to Manhattan because they remind me that I have range.

We’ve been talking a lot about that concept since in our evening unwindings. What does it mean to have range?

When I used the word, I meant that I am capable of more than I think. I have sensed a comfortable kind of torpor settling over me as I round out my second year living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Not intellectually: if anything, the still water here has afforded me unusual fecundity on the writing front. It has felt as though the fish swim close to the surface, and I need cast only a single net for a decent haul. But, otherwise: I see aspects of myself stymie in the cocoon here. I know the people, the streets and back streets, which lights will always be red. It is easy to fall into an unassertive rhythm. Is this necessarily bad? I’m not sure. But when I visit New York, I find myself alert, electric, light on my feet, aware, calculating. It feels sanative to navigate my way up and downtown, over to Brooklyn, dodging detritus, tuning into and out of the menagerie, running up the wet steps.

In New York, I am also, of course, a version of myself without children–a strange and liberating and heart-felling mode. I find myself reflexively casting after their whereabouts and needs, only to remind myself: oh! They are in D.C.; I am here. There is someone else to fill their milk cups and remind them that Thursday is gym day and no, you may not have a second cookie. I am, instead, some doppelganger of myself. Do passersby assume I am a mother? Are there tells? In D.C., motherhood is imprinted on me wherever I go. The school magnet on our car; the outline of car seats in the back row. The yogurt pouches and granola bars on the grocery conveyer belt. The size of my bag, the occasional spill of its telling contents onto a counter: matchbox cars and bandaids and those damned heavy Yeti water bottles. In New York, my motherhood feels invisible. And it lays lightly, too. Though I worry over them, though I miss them, though my heart contracts when my son tells me: “I cried last night because I want you in the house” and reminds me that he dutifully squeezed his palm so that his kiss would reach me all the way in “Yoo York,” I am fleet-footed. I bask in my aloneness. I can sit in a cafe with a book! I can decide to pop into a boutique! I can duck into a wine bar for a five p.m. glass with my girlfriend! And it is all impossibly breezy. I think — let me say this kindly, with love, with no bitterness — I have forgotten some of my own preferences, that I even have preferences? At home, even the smallest desire is sandwiched between the wants of my family and what must get done. For example, I might want a salad for lunch, but Mr. Magpie might want tacos, and so we must negotiate. I might want to zip out to get a manicure, but the children will be home in thirty minutes, and if I do go, I must divine some logistical plan to make it happen — coordinate to have the sitter stay late, etc. I might not be hungry, but it is six, and the children must eat at six in order to allow for enough time before bed. In New York, I am beholden to only my own wishes. It is, temporarily, thrilling. I feel myself extend into my own extremities. What do I want to eat? Am I even hungry? Do I want to lay in the hotel bed watching bad television? Or perhaps write in shallow sprints in a coffee shop? Fries and a glass of champagne at the bar? Room service? I mean, the options are staggering and delightful and about as foreign to me at this stage in my life as, say, waking up in Tahiti.

I feel as though I am rediscovering myself on these trips, as though I am more fully extending myself. I’ve got range.


+Motherhood is a surfeit.

+Dream talks.


Shopping Break.

+J. Crew brought back the Elsie pump!!! This is my favorite pump of all time. Perfect heel height and I love a pointed toe. I own these in four or five colors. One of my girlfriends claims she prefers it to her Manolo BBs, which have a similar silhouette. The heel shape of the Elsie is slightly different than the styles I have but still love — buy in the black and thank me later!

+Swooning over these D. Porthault-esque towels.

+I polled my Magpies for their favorite body creams. The three that came up many, many times over: Necessaire, Kiehl’s, and Goop.

+These brushes remain a staple in our household. I have multiple and love them to use on my daughter. Great at detangling and a perfect size.

+Many of you have asked for an Amazon storefront over the years — I organized many of my favorite Amazon finds in one place here. You can also now always access it via the {Shop} menu at the top of the my blog’s home page. Happy shopping!

+Found trendy Inuikii boots on sale here!

+Pretty freshwater pearl heart earrings — only $32!

+These trousers are crazy chic. Would add to my what to wear to work roundup!

+Ellifox has a great sale going. These bunny jammies for little loves are on sale for $24. Buy now for Easter!

+Chic rug.

+These rope storage bins are well-priced for a nursery. One for toys, one for stuffies, etc. More great storage gear here ICYMI!

+A great dopp kit. I have one of these in a gender neutral green that Mr. Magpie usually use on work trips — nice, roomy size (long enough for toothbrushes/skincare/etc) and I like that it can sort of squish into any shape of bag.

+This gorgeous chocolate brown puffer!

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6 thoughts on “Range.

  1. I loved this reflection and how you framed it as “range” rather than a conflict or sacrifice. I’ve always thought of NYC as the perfect place to visit — there are so many reasons why you (and my sister, who lived in Manhattan for a decade) decided to leave, but going back reminds you that you could and did “make it” there! My husband and I were just reminiscing on the week we spent traversing Manhattan, going to 2 comedy shows in one night, getting expensive cold brews at Westbourne because WHY NOT, etc. — the summer just before we conceived our firstborn. We sort of knew it was our last chance at a trip like that. I love the memories, but I don’t exactly miss it? I don’t know, I think you’ve captured the nuance here — we are happy in our lives as mothers — so happy — and yet it’s comforting to know our selves are not totally subsumed in that identity.

    Ps: the sentence “Jcrew brought back the Elsie pump!” made me think, “Jcrew… breast pumps?!?” Oh dear. (The Elvie, I guess, is what I thought of.) Talk about a one-track mother-mind…

    1. HAHA J. Crew breast pumps! You’re in it, mama!!

      I love the way you’ve described the sentiment of being happy you had the time to do as you wish and being equally happy about your current situation. An “ampersand” moment if I ever saw one. I can be happy with what have AND miss the old days.


  2. I think describing range as being capable of more than you think is a great way to put it! I like to think of range as the ability to do things that surprise myself or things that are out of my comfort zone. I’m a very cautious and routine-oriented person by nature, so I like to feel a thrill in that way. Thank you for the Tuesday morning food for thought!

    1. Hi! I like your way of thinking of it, too — moments where you think, “Huh, I guess I can do this, too?” It can be hard for me to step out of my comfort zone in certain areas, especially ones in which I am a novice or do not trust my own abilities, but it’s such a good experience. Good to be humbled every now and then, you know?


  3. This post really resonated with me! I have not gone on a proper trip sans kid at all, if we have too we make it a 24-48 hours max. I used to love planning my outfits for a trip, packing it all (efficiently and chic-ly in my carry on!) and planning the itinerary of our trips. I do some of the same now but I also feel a burden of “oh no I better make sure I pack that sippy, that pillow, that specific blanket or else!”. I agree too that as your family gets bigger your own preferences shrink down – is this just something all moms do? For example, my husband would be quicker to say oh you get your salad, i’ll get my taco versus I would be quicker to say oh okay forget the salad. Not sure if it’s a mom thing or just a me thing haha!

    1. “As your family gets bigger, your own preferences shrink down.” Yes! I think this is just the way of living in close and very intimate quarters with people you love. You end up compromising on, well, everything because everyone has different wants/needs/expectations/etc. I hadn’t really reflected on that until this most recent trip, and what that means. I don’t think it’s nefarious — I actually think it’s beautiful, and a part of motherhood. A mode of being, and a temporary one (?) that is inflected by both pragmatism and a sense of, well, the new-seeming frivolity of getting your way all the time (or most of the time). When you have a baby, you simply accommodate the baby. You cannot expect them to sleep and wake and eat when it’s convenient. And that sets a pattern of self-relegation in play. A lot more to to say on that — thanks for getting my mind going at 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday!


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