Q: I’d love your product recommendations on a toddler backpack. I’m sending my 2-year-old daughter to part-time care early next year. A big milestone for her and me, as she’s never been in group care. My “wish list” features are wipeable fabric/material, elastic side pockets for a water bottle, and simpler designs. I’m not too keen on monogramming, so this is not a requirement for me, as I’ll most likely use a hanging bag tag instead.
THIS TWELVELITTLE LOOKS TO TICK ALL THE BOXES FOR YOU
Q: Kitchen towel solutions/recommendations! Absorbency and functionality necessary.
A: I find these pantry towels from W-S to be the absolute best. They are far more absorbent than the more attractive striped towels W-S is known for and I like that one side is “nubby” and the other side “smooth” — the textured side is great for drying glassware, dishes, etc. I also have and love this inexpensive microfiber drying mat when I need a spot to place pots/pans while air-drying. Super thick and absorbent. I own it in the marble pattern.
Q: Are you asking for any books for Christmas?
A: Truthfully, we treat books like paper towels or toothpaste in this house — i.e., a utility that we buy as we go rather than a special treat, so it never dawns on me to add books to my Christmas list. I will say that the next books on my lust-list are the new Shari LaPena for a little brain vacation and Rachel Cusk’s Outline, which looks artful and important. I would also love to add this coffee table book to my collection.
Q: Your approach to sentimentality vs. Marie Kondo? Was this a struggle in your move?
A: This is always tough for me. I find that if I linger too long on any one item or spend more than, say, an hour sorting items, I want to keep everything. I have found it helpful to set a timer for sixty minutes and organize items in one specific area of the house — i.e., one closet or one dresser or one cabinet — and create three piles: trash, keep, donate/sell. It’s the most effective way for me to prevent myself from hoarding…
Q: You mentioned staying organized in your drawers — how do you do it?
A: These little bins are my lifesaver. They help me keep my bedside tidy, i.e., pens in one, hair ties in another, loose jewelry I need to ultimately return to their bags in another, etc. The same goes for my desk drawer and medicine cabinets and “miscellaneous” cabinets in the pantry/kitchen. Using these forces me to place things in their correct spot. And if something doesn’t fit in one? I am compelled to find its rightful home.
I will also say that more recently I have been repeating a new mantra: “Do things to completion.” I find sometimes I’m sprinting around, trying to manage a thousand things at once, and I will — for example — just move my ironing board out of the way so I can get to my dresser drawer rather than taking the thirty seconds to collapse the board and return it to the closet. It’s a really small change but it’s made me feel much more serene and — how to say it? — in control? The same ethos applies to drawer organization. If I’m tossing something into a drawer just so it’s “out of sight, out of mind,” I will tell myself: “No, do this to completion” and take a minute out of my day to put it in its rightful place.
Of course, this is aspirational — I’m guilty of shoving things in the closet when guests are about to arrive!
Q: Can you share about the switch from Truth Serum to Vintner’s Daughter?
A: Yes — thanks for asking this because I know I’ve raved about both in turn. And I still find both to be exceptional products. Though I was thrilled with the Truth Serum, I had read so much about Vintner’s Daughter that I wanted to test it out after I finished my bottle of TS and haven’t gone back since. Here’s my analysis: Truth Serum is a gel that dissolves into your skin and “turns on the lights” when applied. I love the immediate effect — my skin looks bright, happy, and awake. I also went through about a bottle every other month (yikes) and was shocked to see how quickly it went. Vintner’s Daughter, on the other hand, is a deeply-scented, rich oil. I place a drop right on my forehead and on each cheek and then pat/massage into my skin in the morning. It almost has the consistency of olive oil but dries pretty quickly (i.e., it doesn’t leave an oily residue). I feel my skin looks more deeply hydrated and elastic from the inside out consistently, i.e., even hours and hours after application. In short, Truth Serum is sort of like an immediate light switch turns on and Vintner’s Daughter is more like a candle burning from the inside — all the time, 24-hours-a-day.
Q: Do you tailor many items you purchase? Or just wear dresses and tops the fit and length they are?
A: Yes! I have to have all maxi dresses and pants tailored because I’m a shrimp — 5’0 — and I often have to have straps shortened and waists taken in. However, I’m not always inclined to tailor a midi or knee-length dress; sometimes I like the way a dress looks hitting me at the ankle even though it is meant to be worn at mid-calf.
Tailoring costs a freaking fortune in New York. It’s not uncommon for me to spend $60 or $80 tailoring a single garment (ughhh) — so I always factor that in when contemplating price.
If an article of clothing is under $100 and doesn’t fit correctly, I usually return it, because the cost of having it tailored will almost double its purchase price!
Q: What are the best hostess gifts for sweet friends hosting a baby shower?
A: So sweet of your friends, and congratulations to YOU! A few ideas:
FROZEN CROISSANTS (FOR THE HOSTESS TO ENJOY THE DAY AFTER THE FESTIVITIES)
Q: Navigating parenting philosophies! What has been your journey?
A: I am too impressionable when it comes to reading parenting philosophies. I read something and think, “Oh GOD! I’ve missed the boat!” My approach has instead been to trust my instincts, confer with Mr. Magpie regularly (we have nightly download sessions* about the various things that have come up throughout the day as parents — “I put her in time out for this…what do you think?”), and to call my mother, my sister, or my friend Steph for everything else. I have avoided parenting material because I know that I will read it with eyes wide open and then fret. Even now, with mini in Montessori, we attend various parent education nights that they put on and I will scurry home, my mind filled with ideas and my heart sinking at all the things we’ve not yet done — and then Mr. Magpie and I have to sit down and choose to either adopt or discard the recommendations after thoughtful conversation. Essentially, we need to re-center and remind ourselves to filter all suggestions through our own experience and instincts, and the powerful prism of reality/common sense.
HUGE, ENORMOUS caveat: some of the moms I most respect and trust are prolific readers/investigators of various parenting philosophies, so the foregoing should not stand as any kind of indication that I think I know what I’m doing more than anyone else. I decidedly do not. (This, coming earnestly from a mother who spent no less than sixty minutes this evening attempting to get her nearly-three-year-old into pajamas. There were tears. There were time outs. There were flailing legs being forced into pajamas. There was an accident smack dab in the middle. And at the end of it, a puffy-faced toddler asked me: “Are you dis’pointed at me?” And I wanted to die or sob or something and instead just reassured her that though I had been disappointed at her, I loved her, and that we could move on. OY VEY. WHAT IS HAPPENING. EMOTIONAL WHIPLASH. I DO NOT KNOW ANYTHING.)
But I do know myself well enough to understand that I am at my best and most comfortable when I am responding organically via my own intuition and the principles Mr. Magpie and I share. I feel disempowered when I feel as though other voices are speaking in my ear.
So that’s my unsatisfying response to that.
*We call these download sessions “STPs” or “Shoop Talking Points” (ha!) and we run down a list of items that came up throughout the day that need the other’s input — everything from coordinating our social schedules to booking travel plans to purchasing wine to planning dinners — and there are always multiple items pertaining to the children. This gives me the space to share what’s happened and solicit his feedback, and I think this has ultimately given us a platform to craft our own shared philosophy, though I haven’t the faintest idea how to corral it into something legible.
Q: Gifts for the guy that has it all (literally)!
A: I hear you — Mr. Magpie falls into this category. I shared a list of my favorite gifts for men here. If nothing fits the bill, what about an experience? If you are local to NY, you might consider The Magician at the NoMad (super fun) or Hack The Met. Elsewhere — a membership to a local museum or a special restaurant experience (i.e., sit at the chef’s table). Finally, food gifts tend to go a long way with the men in my family. My Dad loved his Jeni’s Ice Cream order, and we’ve gifted Alaskan King Crab Legs, MilkBar cakes, and Callie’s Biscuits to other, very pleased recipients.
Q: Dress ideas for a mother for christening in January.
A: Congratulations!!! I’d reach for a tweed dress like this (look for less with this) and pair it with a pearl headband and black pumps. I also like this dress with pearl accessories — ladylike and timeless. Though I tend to like to wear white for a christening, I realize that’s not for everyone, especially with January as the backdrop, so I also love this LBD and this polka dot shirtdress as alternatives.
Q: Potty training advice?
A: Oh, joy! I would say timing is everything — avoid starting just before or after other huge life events (we did not heed this and suffered the consequences), make sure your child seems ready (is interested and aware), and make sure YOU are ready as parents in the sense that you are on the same page with your spouse, you don’t have any major trips coming up, and you have thought about this enough to feel it’s time. (Don’t let other people’s children dictate your timeline!!! i.e., Jane is doing it, so should I! Trust me that most parents probably wish they’d waited even longer to start…) A big part of that parental readiness is accepting that it’s going to be a messy and exhausting time. It’s not so much the grossness of cleaning up (though this gets old), but the slow emotional fray of cajoling your child onto the toilet every two hours only to be met with resistance — for weeks, in our case. I would also pick and choose from the various approaches out there what makes most sense for you. For example, we never used pull-ups during the day but did at night (people have differing opinions on this). And we did not start by rewarding her extrinsically (our school advised against this), but quickly found that we had better outcomes when we gave her a chocolate chip after a successful trip. (Other parents use charts/M&Ms from day 1.) Further, we never used a “potty” and instead just put one of these rings on our toilet. Our reasoning was that it would be an extra step to train her to use a full-sized toilet when the time came. (And also, one less thing to clean. That said, when we were in the weeds, I ordered a potty that we then never even took out of the box.) And though many parents told us that if things don’t “click” within the first three days, to stop and try again in a few months — we persisted, and finally things did click at day six. (Yes, six days of accidents later. Our nanny thought I had gone insane.) We felt it would be too confusing for mini if we went back. But maybe that approach works for other parents/children!
In short, I would suggest picking what resonates best with you and what seems most practical for your circumstances. Anyone that says toilet training via xyz method is foolproof…well, take with a big grain of salt. A Magpie reader recently wrote: “Humans have been to the moon and understand quantum physics. If there was one ‘foolproof’ way to get all babies to sleep we would know about it and it would work.” I feel the same way about most things parenting-related, including toileting.
Finally, maybe consider removing the rug from your living/playroom area. I’m serious. I wish we’d done this…
Oh, and order yourself a nice case of wine for the duration. HA!
P.S. I had a lot of people recommend these thick Hannah Andersson training underwear and, like all Hannah products, they are well-made. However, if your child has an accident, even a thick pair of underwear is not going to help that much, and in retrospect I’m not sure $50 for 5 pairs of underwear was a great investment, especially when you are probably going to end up throwing out at least one or two pairs of them. We ended up buying tons of additional, inexpensive pairs on Amazon to supplement.
P.P.S. I have always found books helpful with transitions like these — in this case, this book was exceptional at helping to reinforce the idea of waiting during the first week or two when mini don’t quite get how to time things. Mini also really reacted strongly (favorably!) to this book and this one. We kept them all in a bin by the toilet for her.
P.P.P.S. OK LAST THING. I guess I do have a lot of thoughts on this. Can you tell we just got through it!? This portable/collapsible toilet ring is GENIUS. It was so helpful for us when we were just getting mini used to using toilets in public.
Q: How do you do your New Year’s Resolutions? Looking to plan ahead this year.
A: I’ve done this differently from year to year. One year, I focused on a single, aspirational attribute: gentleness. I intended to be gentle in my interactions with everyone around me, including myself. The problem was that it was difficult to measure success, but still — it did set the tone for the year and gave me a kind of aspirational touchstone to return to. Other years, I have written a more traditional tick list of specific goals, which is a solid approach in that you can then return to them every month to evaluate what progress you’ve made. (In years past, I’ve added recurring calendar invites to check in with myself.) Last year, I just set one big goal for myself, and I think I’ll do the same this year. I find simplicity is easier with these things.
Q: How many clothes did you buy in different age groups (NB, 0-3, etc.) for your children?
A: I would try to have about a week’s worth of outfits on hand for each age, plus some spare basics like footies and onesies and leggings because you will need to keep some of those in your diaper bag / at arm’s length for your occasional blowout/mess. Then add a few special occasion outfits as your calendar demands (i.e., birthday, special occasion, christening, holiday). I really try hard to make a lot of Hill’s bottoms/tops interchangeable so I can keep him looking fresh — ha!
I would underbuy in the NB category because sometimes babies enter the world wearing a size 0-3, or you can make do with a slightly bigger size when they are itty bitty. Neither of my children have worn a size NB for more than two weeks, I think…
I wrote a little bit about some of the wardrobe basics I buy at every age for my children here.
Q: Woud you ever write a book?
A: This is a long-term goal of mine…maybe one day! A shared a little about this aspiration here.
Q: Looking for an Audrey Hepburn look — cigarette pants, blouse, black flats. Suggestions?
A: I would go with J. Crew Cameron pants, pointed toe flats from Margaux or these embellished ones from J. Crew, and then a white blouse with a contemporary twist so it doesn’t look too staid — something like this or this. (But if you’re a true traditionalist, this blouse is classic and well-priced.)
P.S. More Magpie Mail!
P.P.S. Are you ready for Christmas?