Musings + Essays

Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 132: Paying It Forward.

By: Jen Shoop

My Latest Snag: The Dress I’ll Wear to Micro’s Christening.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I have purchased and returned probably half a dozen dresses (several listed here) as potential contenders for micro’s Baptism (tomorrow!) and had planned to re-wear a Self-Portrait while lace dress I’ve had for a few seasons. Then I found this $60 steal and it was case closed. Very excited to wear it with my pearl headband for a Duchess Kate moment and, because it’s supposed to be warm, these past-season Tory Burch pearl mules (gently used), which — interestingly — I bought and thought, “These are so loud, I’ll probably only wear them a handful of times, but I LOVE THEM” and yet have worn them at least once a week this summer. If it’s cooler, I’ll probably wear them with my ivory rockstuds (still wear these a ton).

You’re Sooooo Popular: A Sleek Black Dress for Fall.

The most popular items on the blog this week:

+This elegant/sleek black maxi.

+Pet cocktail napkins!

+Tortoise shell decor. Love. Very Nate Berkus.

+Cool girl denim. (Proof.)

+The best everyday pumps.

+My son’s christening dress (above) — a lot of you liked this via the link in my Instagram profile. (I occasionally share finds there, too.)

+The best sneaks for little ones, IMHO. (Little boys, too!)

#Turbothot: Paying It Forward.

I have spent (and will spend) a lot of time shuttling back and forth from mini’s school the past two weeks, especially during her phase-in schedule, where some days, she was only there for an hour! Navigating the subway twice a day with a toddler has been interesting. I know it will become routine, but I’m always vaguely anxious about how crowded the trains will be, as sometimes it means I should fold up the stroller and ply a stranger to give up his/her seat so she can sit down while I hover over her with the stroller folded and slung over my shoulder — and other times, when the trains are gloriously void, it’s easier to just wheel her straight onto the train in her stroller. Only — it’s never quite that simple. I have to take her out of the stroller to get her down the stairs of the subway stop to begin with unless I want a slightly longer commute (accessing the elevator to the stop adds at least five minutes, and even then is not great because I still need to get her through the turnstiles, which usually means leaving her in her stroller outside while I rush through myself and then swing open the service door to wheel her through — something I hate doing during the busy morning rush hour). At any rate, I usually just get her out and have her walk down the stairs with me, but then she often does not want to get back in and I’m left negotiating with her, which can occasionally backfire if the train is crowded and I need to take her out yet again. Usually, I just keep her out of the stroller full-stop, but then there are always the concerns of keeping a grip on her, keeping her hands off the grimy poles (and then out of her mouth), keeping her in a place that makes it easy for us to get off the train when we need to get off.

And that’s only for getting ON the train. The whole thing repeats when we arrive at our destination stop ten minutes later.

But, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The subway is fast and reliable, for which I am eternally grateful. And, bizarrely enough, I kind of enjoy our commute together. I am squarely focused on her; there’s not even an option to do anything else, as my hands are full and I need to be alert to our surroundings. What’s more, mini notices and learns a lot on the Subway, including numbers — she loves reading the numbers of the train we are on! It’s a special little pocket of time for us to chat and observe the world together. (Plus, I’m getting a crazy workout carrying a stroller and occasionally a toddler, and balancing it all on a moving and jerky subway is a great core workout — ha!)

Still — on the occasion of a toddler meltdown on the subway floor (ew ew ew OMG OMG OMG — can I incinerate her clothes?) or the sight of something disgusting en route (will not deign to disgrace this blog by sharing some of the horrific things I’ve seen on the subway), I think, “Oh Lord, why are we here? What am I doing? Am I insane?!”

One recent morning, on my way to school with mini, I was doing the usual song and dance and mini and I were pointing out all of the colors we saw on the train. “Ozinge seat,” she said. (Ozinge = orange.) “Red number 1. Black stroller. Brown floor [ed. note: EW].” We were engrossed in this game for a minute or two and then I gave her a heads up, as I always do, that at the next stop, we would need to get off really, really fast, a directive she curiously loves and takes very seriously. As we were scurrying off the train, a construction worker who had been sitting across from us stopped me and said:

“M’am, you’re supermom.”

I was so flustered with sudden emotion, I could scarcely squeak out a “oh, thank you–!” as the doors closed and the train departed the station.

As I held mini’s little paw in mine and we inched our way through the turnstiles and up the filthy stairs, and then got her situated in the stroller at the top, dodging angry humans and disgusting debris, I was choking back tears and positively beaming. This kind stranger had given me the boost I needed to realize I was doing a good job. I was getting it done! I was doing it! Such a seemingly small task — getting a child to school — but I clutched his encouragement to my chest. I so deeply valued the fact that I was being seen, recognized, rewarded for my admittedly puny though somewhat convoluted achievement.

I say all this not because I think I am supermom. (I am not. She is.)

I say this because this random act of kindness has inspired me to pay it forward — to stop a stranger to pay her a compliment, to take a minute to thank our family’s nanny for her incredible devotion and hard work, to pause and thoroughly acknowledge the doormen and porters in our building who are so kind and accommodating to me in helping me live my life here.

And to that man on the downtown 1 train carrying his “ozinge” construction hat: thank you, thank you, thank you for making my load a lot lighter that morning and the many mornings following.

Post-Scripts: Ottomans + Booties.

+How cool are these upholstered ottomans?! Love the Scalamandre zebra print, of course. (I get my fix in smaller dimensions with these napkins.)

+Swooning over these sweet booties for a little one.

+Shoe spree.

+Such a chic dress for a fall family portrait or event.

+Darling Superga sneaks on sale in select sizes for kiddos!

+Why I love “lowbrow” stuff.

+A great price on a classic area rug. Only I don’t know if I can handle a cream carpet with two little ones…mini is slowly but surely destroying everything we own with yogurt fingers, accidents, etc.

+I’ve been a little under the weather lately and have been drinking a ton of my favorite tea. I get this shipped to our apartment regularly.

+Another cool sweater to consider for fall. (More picks here.)

+Musings on remaining interesting to Mr. Magpie.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

11 thoughts on “Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 132: Paying It Forward.

  1. I am on day 2 of the Saint Therese novena, and in the prayer description that came to my inbox this morning, it said “[Saint Therese’s] “little way” teaches us to do ordinary things with extraordinary love, like smiling at a stranger, or writing a note of encouragement to someone we know who needs it, or calling someone we haven’t spoken to in a while, and so on.

    Doing these small things with great love are examples of St. Therese’s spirituality.”

    I love the phrase “small things with great love.” In addition to describing small acts of kindness toward strangers (like the one you experienced!) it’s how I have been striving to approach my days with my newborn. The millionth diaper, the hours of “shhhhhh sh sh sh sh,” wiping away endless fountains of spit up. It can feel like an endless loop (day AND night!) of menial tasks, but reminding myself to do these small things with great love helps me keep the perspective of the person and mother I want to be.

    So glad you got that boost from a kind stranger when you needed it.

    1. Hi! I love that expression. What a beautiful way to reframe the everyday nurturing of an infant, which can feel mind-numbingly repetitive. Thank you for this. Pocketing the phrase and sentiment.


  2. yes! so glad you have the thought to pay it forward! Last school year I was in complete survival mode. With a year in perspective (and a 1 year old who now, blessedly, sleeps!), I’m in a completely different place, and have also been trying to pay it forward to others at our school: to the mom of my daughter’s playmate who is nonverbal, I send a text update of what they did. To the mom who just had baby 3, I offer to drive her daughter to soccer on Saturday mornings (how I wish I had someone to do that for me last year when I had just had my 3rd!), and actually joining the home and school committee, when last year I either immediately deleted the emails or signed up for something to bring like napkins, which was all I could handle.
    It’s a good reminder that when we are in a position to give, we should. And it’s OK to realize that we are not always able to, but someday again, we will!
    you ARE super mom!

    1. Thank you, Anna — such a good reminder on all of these fronts. It actually nudged me to text a friend who recently had her second to check in on her. I know all too acutely how intense those first few weeks are. I also loved the idea here that though I might not have bandwidth now, I may have it in the future!


  3. Oh Jen! You ARE a super mom. Period. Full stop.

    P.S. if I could highlight, italicize, boldface, and underline the “ARE” above, I would.

    P.P.S. I often find that we (moms and women in general) tend to downplay what we do and don’t give ourselves enough credit. Why is that?

    1. Ahhh. THANK YOU so much. If I could highlight, italicize, boldface, and underline the thank you, I would. 🙂


  4. It’s amazing what a huge effect a small comment like that can have on you! Such a great reminder to voice compliments rather than keep them in my head.

    1. Right?! My mom is really good at this. I often overhear her compliment a woman on her haircut, or her shoes, or her eye makeup (no really!) and think I need to start doing that more often. Why keep our admiration to ourselves?! xx

  5. OMG!!!! I love your dress for Micro’s Christening. You will be absolutely gorgeous in that dress with your beautiful son in your arms!

  6. What a sweet comment, and sweeter thought to pass on similar praise to people that you admire (whether they’re known to you or strangers!) We’d all do well to remember these affirmations and regularly “pay it forward”.

    I LOVE the Scalamandré zebra print and have always dreamed of wallpapering a small space with it (a maximalist dream, to be sure!) Also, Harney & Sons makes the best tea. 🙂


Previous Article

Next Article