*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…
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…
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
WASHABLE PAINT — GREAT COLORS AND CONSISTENCY
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.
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
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 WHITE TRASH CAN IS ATTRACTIVE BUT ALSO EASY TO CLEAN (WIPE/RINSE OUT)