The Fashion Magpie Shoop Family Portrait

Adjustments + An Art Cart Restock.

*Photo by Ryon Lockhart Photography.

During a delicious nighttime porch sit with my sister last week, I mentioned that we’ve all been going through an adjustment with the new schedules, new spaces, new nanny, new school, etc., and that it’s been hard for me to set work-related boundaries with my children without feeling guilty about not being there for them at every moment during this enormous transition. More narrowly, I have been struggling with whether to keep my office door open or closed. I want to be available to mini in particular if she needs me, but I have also been finding it impossibly difficult to get work done during the week given a lot of interruptions followed by ambling chit-chat, which is lovely, of course, but also highly disruptive. I can’t tell whether it is better for me to draw hard lines and empower our new caregiver to totally own the daytime, or whether I should be flexible, popping in and out throughout the work day, available whenever needed, especially since mini will be starting school in a month and it’s really not such a long time. Maybe making this a softer transition would be better? Maybe it’s making things messier? There have been days where I have told myself: “Jen, you can catch up on work later. The most important thing is to be there for your kids right now.” But I can’t tell whether I’m just muddling expectations, or setting myself up for stress, of disempowering our new nanny.

My sister listened intently and then offered two powerful insights. First: as a parent, I cannot expect myself to solve every problem. That is, mini might well be accommodating a lot of conflicted emotions about this move, and I might well be struggling to get work done for that reason, but I can’t expect myself to solve every wrinkle in that equation perfectly, or scaffold a perfect emotional transition to mini’s new life here without a hitch. Her feedback made me realize that I have been imagining that if I can get the situation just right — be just available enough to her, be just focused enough on my own writing — I can ease everyone through this change with minimal strain. Ha! This new refrain (“I can’t solve every problem!”) has already been helpful in galvanizing my attention to focus on specific priorities and then accept that other areas will be bumpier, or out of my control, or by necessity left alone for the moment. Her second piece of advice was to have an open and honest conversation with mini, and to help her feel comfortable sharing all of the different emotions she has had about the move. I think Mr. Magpie and I do a good job in general of encouraging her to give herself permission to feel however she wants to feel. I can’t tell you how often we respond to her by saying: “It’s OK to be frustrated / it’s OK to be upset / etc.” before offering her some suggestions about how to work through whatever she’s feeling. But I don’t know that I’d taken the time to specifically ask her, head-on, about how she feels about this move. Perhaps I have mistakenly assumed she is still too young to fully articulate what she is feeling. When I asked her, though, she replied, unequivocally: “Sad.” (Heart breaking in her immediacy!) I replied: “That’s OK to feel sad. I understand. I feel sad about leaving New York, too. I also feel happy about having our new house and living so close to our family. Sometimes I feel two or three or even more different ways about something.” She nodded. We talked then about what she misses about New York, and she talked about the Natural History Museum (ha! her first reply!), our apartment, her school, and her nanny. She has been asking a lot about our former nanny in particular, and we have FaceTimed her a couple of times. A few nights ago, she asked: “But when we will see her in real life?” It was hard for me to say: “Probably not for a long time.” But there it was. I think the magnitude of this move is sinking in for her.

I have accordingly been trying to think of ways to help her realize it’s OK to celebrate our time in New York, to miss it, to revisit it, while also encouraging her to enjoy all the wonderful upsides of our new life here in Bethesda. It dawned on me the other day that it might be helpful to build a New York City scrapbook together and then look through it whenever she misses Manhattan. I just ordered her a scrapbook (in blue, her favorite color), photo adhesives, and a few packs of NYC stickers, and am going to print a bunch of photos of her and her favorite places and people in New York City (including some from our family portrait session, seen above). It might be cathartic for yours truly, too…(Note: for a more general scrapbook, this kit looks cute!)

At any rate, the scrapbook project has also led me to slowly begin to make my way through re-organizing all of our art supplies to accommodate our new space, and I realized we’ve run low on a lot of craft materials and need some new storage solutions. I am contemplating buying an art cart for a lot of our materials. I’ve bought several pieces of utility furniture/gear from the brand Seville Classics over the years, and am consistently wowed by the quality, so I’d probably go with their style (in a fun mint green!) and rest easy that the quality will be impressive. However, this one and this one come in even more colors, are around the same price, and get great reviews, too.

Below, sharing a few other favorite finds along these lines…

art cart supplies and organization

BINS // RAINBOW // ART CADDY // SCISSORS // ART CART // DOT MARKERS // WATERCOLORS // TAPE DISPENSER // SMOCK // DROPPERS // NESTING BOWLS // RAINBOW CADDY // MASK CRAFT SET // TRASH CAN // SENSORY PLAY TOOLS // EASEL // PAPER ROLL DISPENSER // TRIPOD MARKERS

These and even more fun options and discoveries (and details!) below…

COLORED TAPE DISPENSER

OUR FAVORITE TRAYS FOR ACTIVITIES OF ALL KIND (PERFECT DEPTH AND SIZE, AND GREAT FOR KEEPING GLITTER/BEADS/GLUE/PAINT FROM SPILLING ALL OVER THE TABLE)

LOVE KEEPING MARKERS, CRAYONS, PENCILS EASY-TO-ACCESS (SOME ARE ALWAYS OUT ON MINI’S PLAY TABLE)! — SOLUTIONS INCLUDE THIS LAZY SUSAN, THIS RAINBOW CADDY, OR THIS PORTABLE CADDY, WHICH COMES IN TONS OF COLORS

THESE INEXPENSIVE AND COLORFUL BINS MIGHT BE ANOTHER GOOD SOLUTION IF YOU HAVE AN ART CART

BULK STICKERS ARE AN EASY MVP FOR SLOW WEEKEND MORNINGS — I GIVE MY CHILDREN SHIPPING BOXES OR PAPER AND THEY GO TO TOWN WITH THESE

WE ARE SUCH HUGE FANS OF OOLY PAINT STICKS — GREAT FOR LITTLE ARTISTS; HILL STARTED USING THESE AROUND 18 MOS; WE ALSO LOVE THEIR GEL STIX AND AM CURRENTLY EYEING THEIR JUMBO MARKERS

WASHABLE PAINT — GREAT COLORS AND CONSISTENCY

GREAT BRUSHES FOR THE TINIEST ARTISTS

POSTER BAGS AND BOXES FOR MASTERPIECE STORAGE

I THINK ONE OF OUR BIG CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR MINI THIS YEAR WILL BE AN EASEL — LOVE THIS STYLE AND THIS ONE FROM KIDKRAFT, WHICH IS THE BRAND USED IN THE ART STUDIO AT CAMP TOY STORES…SUCH A FUN DESTINATION IN NYC

CONTEMPLATING BUYING THIS SET OF LIFT-TOP BINS FOR ORGANIZING ITEMS IN SMALLER SECTIONS (CURRENTLY WE HAVE FOUR BIGGER TUPPERWARE, BUT THIS MIGHT KEEP SUPPLIES EVEN MORE EASY-TO-ACCESS — ALSO LIKE THAT THEY ARE CLEAR (EASY TO SPOT THE CORRECT ONE!) AND THE TOP LIFTS EASILY FOR LITTLES)

MY FAVORITE ART SMOCKS — THEY ARE MACHINE-WASHABLE AND THE LONG SLEEVES ARE CLUTCH!

JUST DISCOVERED THE BRAND ALSO CARRIES ART MATS

THIS MIGHT SOUND STRANGE, BUT THIS BABY FOOD FREEZER TRAY HAS BEEN A TOTAL MVP FOR CRAFTING — KEEPS SMALL THINGS LIKE BEADS/GOOGLY EYES/POM POMS IN SECTIONS, CAN BE USED TO DYE DIFFERENT COLORS OF VINEGAR/WATER FOR SCIENCE PROJECTS, CAN BE USED FOR PAINT, ETC.

DOT MARKERS ARE SO FUN!

STAPLES: POPSICLE STICKS, POM POMS, POP BEADS, PONY BEADS, AND PIPE CLEANERS

THIS ROLL-UP SET OF COLORED PENCILS WOULD BE SUCH A FUN SURPRISE FOR MINI, AND SUCH A GREAT GIFT IN GENERAL

LOVE THIS PAPER ROLL DISPENSER — SOMETIMES I TAPE A LONG SCROLL OF IT TO THE GROUND AND WE DRAW AN ENORMOUS VILLAGE, OR STREETS, AND DRIVE PLAY CARS OVER THEM

GREAT CRAYONS FOR BABIES AS LITTLE AS A YEAR! — NONTOXIC, EASY TO GRAB, TASTE-SAFE

SCISSORS FOR TINY HANDS

I HAVE A WHOLE POST ON SENSORY BINS, BUT THIS MONTESSORI-ESQUE ACCESSORY SET CAUGHT MY EYE RECENTLY

LOVE HAVING A FEW PRE-FABBED ACTIVITIES ON HANDS FOR SLOW DAYS — JUST BOUGHT THIS SUPERHERO MASK SET, THIS DESIGN-YOUR-OWN PUZZLE, AND A NEW KID MADE MODERN CRAFT PROMPT KIT

WATERCOLOR KIT (MINI’S PREFERRED MEDIUM!)

NOT ART PER SE BUT HOW CUTE IS THIS GRIMM’S RAINBOW TO STYLE YOUR ART CART / ART AREA?

THIS PAPER ORGANIZER WOULD BE AN INVITING WAY TO ARRANGE COLORED PAPER…ALSO LIKE THE LOOK OF THESE STACKABLE CLEAR LETTER TRAYS, BUT MORE EXPENSIVE

FOR THE MORE SCIENCE-ORIENTED, MY CHILDREN LOVE PLAYING WITH THIS LAB SET, THESE DROPPERS, AND I THINK THESE MAGNETIC WANDS WOULD BE A GREAT STOCKING STUFFER

COLORFUL BOWLS FOR PROJECTS AND SENSORY PLAY

CUTE AND INEXPENSIVE LAP TRAYS!

THIS WHITE TRASH CAN IS ATTRACTIVE BUT ALSO EASY TO CLEAN (WIPE/RINSE OUT)

P.S. Loads of indoor activities for little ones.

P.P.S. Being a mother is like living with a heart rent in too many directions.

P.P.P.S. My daughter is my other heartbeat, and she displays a forbearance that far outstrips my own.

18 Comments

  1. Oh, I love the sage advice from your sister and also the kind comment from Lela here — going to keep these practical tips in mind for transitions, as I think they could apply to our older kids as well! For now, I will leave a wish for mini to healthily process the move and all of her feelings. Thinking of her (and you) today!

    I love nothing more than making art projects with little ones … so many great ideas here and I love the concept of the “art cart”! Brilliant!

    xx

    1. Yay! So glad this resonates with parenting children in all different age groups!

      xx

  2. Beautiful family photo Jen!
    What’s better than new art supplies??
    Mr. Boddington has some really cute stuff! Especially love the Japanese colored pencils, the whale stapler, and the animal notebooks 🙂 XO

    1. Thanks for the tip!! Love that studio!

      Thanks also for the kind words 🙂

      xx

  3. People always say kids are resilient (and they are) but I don’t think we always realize how much these big changes impact them and they won’t bounce right along with no bumps in the road. It’s been 3 months since we moved from our apartment in Chicago to a house in the suburbs, and just last night out of the blue, my 3.5yr old told me he missed our Chicago apartment and asked why we left. Last week at bedtime he mentioned he missed one of his friends at his old daycare. I sometimes think that because he’s still little, he doesn’t remember that much, but these big transitions do make a big impact and our little kiddos do remember and miss things in their old environment.
    Talking about missing our old house, neighborhood, friends, etc. in Chicago while also talking about what we like in our new space is a great idea! I’ll definitely be implementing it in the days to come!
    Thank you for sharing your experience and suggestions, it’s good to know we’re not the only ones experiencing this!

    1. Hi Katie! You are so not alone — these conversations sound so similar to the ones we have been having, and they do materialize out of the blue over the course of a day, which makes me realize that she must really be processing these changes intensively in the background!

      xoxo

  4. What a lovely picture, I hope it always brings a smile to your face!
    Regarding the transition for your children, especially your daughter: your sister is correct in reminding you that you don’t have to solve all problems, and I think talking to your Mini about her feelings is a very good start. My suggestions are through my lens as a retired Parent Education professor, former teacher, and forever parent and now grandparent.
    For your daughter, you and your husband are the anchors to her world, as well as all the tangible physical things/places/ routine that provide her with stability
    When a child experiences a huge change, ie. a move, new school, nanny, it takes much longer than most people realize to make the transition, and while your daughter was able to successfully express her sadness, there are other cues to be aware of. Some examples are fatigue or disrupted sleep, bad dreams, clingy- ness, either being more quiet or aggressive, change in appetite, toileting, and subtle changes that your new nanny may not recognize. A new school generally promotes some degree of anxiety for most children, but especially if all their peer’s faces are new. (This does not apply if it is her first school experience as all the children are “ new” to each other) To help her with this transition ask if the school will be having summer, park, meet and greets, or play dates. If not, ask if they could provide you with a class list so you could initiate similar activities with some of the other children. I suggest daily check-ins ie. What was the best part of your day? What did you miss the most? What would you like to explore/discover in our new home? Remember, everything is new through her eyes, except you, your husband, and Micro. There is a great wooden “emotion clock” at Crate and Barrel which may be a neutral way for her to express how she feels, and keep validating her feelings, empathize, and relate back to her whatever emotion she chooses. To dismiss them or to try to pep talk her out of feeling the way she does sends the unspoken message that she should suppress the negative emotions, “put on a happy face” or “power through”. If adults struggle with these situations, why do people assume children will “bounce back”?
    I also suggest the classic children’s book, “Quick as a Cricket” which is fun for children to act as if they are the animals reflecting their emotions. Finally, let her know (for now) that when she is having “big feelings” she CAN come to your home work office for a quick hug/kiss, keep being her anchor to provide reassurance, and remember to tune into the non-verbal cues. I’m confident, in time, she will make a happy adjustment to her new world, and so will you!!

    1. Hi Lela – Thank you for the sweet note and for all the practical advice! I so appreciate it. We love “Quick as a Cricket” in our house!

      xx

  5. Your sister is a wise woman! I would also add to try to remember this is just a season. In a few months (maybe even a few weeks?) things will settle and new routines/places/people will begin to feel familiar. Praying for your peace in this season, Jen! Btw, LOVE the family picture!
    xo H

    1. She really is wise :). Thanks for the encouragement, prayers, and reminder that this is a season 🙂
      xxx

  6. Lovely picture of your family! Beautiful smiles. A couple of my favorite finds are wooden Montessori-inspired color coded crayon and color pencil organizers. My kids enjoy sorting their coloring supplies during clean up. We need an art paper storage solution. The white trays would be perfect.

    1. Thank you so much :). I love the sound of the color coded crayon/pencil organizers! Mini would definitely get into that. We are a family of neatniks…

      xx

  7. What a sweet family photo! I hope you have a chance to frame and display some from the session in your new home 🙂
    I also love the idea of making a scrapbook of mini’s New York City memories – sounds so special for her and for you both to work on together. I hope it helps her process this big change in her life! I think it would also be sentimental and fun for her to look back on as she gets older too.

    1. Thank you so much! I treasure these photos so much. I am definitely going to print a bunch to update some frames and give to my parents and parents in law. I just know I will always love having these as a memento of our time in NYC 🙂

      xx

  8. I need to put your sister’s words on a post-it! Such a helpful reframe to be reminded that we can do our best to equip our children to solve their problems but we can’t fix everything for them. Important to remember as kids get older and problems more complex. I think moving might be the most stressful and difficult positive-leaning event in life. Even when it’s the right thing for all the right reasons, it’s still not easy.

    Also, I’d love to know how you manage a two-year-old and accessible art supplies! My 9- and 7-year-old have had their cute cart stripped bare and everything stuffed into drawers elsewhere because their 2-year-old sister (aptly nicknamed “Wrecking Ball” by her siblings) cannot resist the temptation! Ultra-clean Washable markers live up to their name, thank heavens.

    1. Ha! I so hear you. Hill is very…adventurous. I will probably stow the art cart in my daughter’s walk-in closet when not in use, though I do always keep crayons out and available to him and they’ve accordingly lost their appeal so maybe the same will hold true (repeated exposure = not interesting?)

      I agree on my sister’s words. I’ve said it to myself so many times already!!

      xx

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