homemade knit socks

Ruts, Grooves, + Comfy Things to Wear at Home.

A caveat today: This is an intense week. I wanted to give you a heads up that I will not be discussing the results of the election tomorrow, as is consistent with the set of principles I set for this blog many years ago. One thing I have been reminding myself over the course of 2020: look for the things that fill my cup. I hope you consider the same today — and that may mean that you turn elsewhere for the reassurance, conversation, release, coverage, etc that you need at this time and that you hit snooze on the distractions and musings I provide here. Thinking of you all and hoping you are taking good care of yourselves.

****

The other day, my sister called and asked: “What’s going on with you? What’s on your heart?”

Oh!

How to even begin? My heart is full with residual gratitude for making it through such a tough time earlier this year and the joy of raising two healthy and happy children with my other half and the delicious honor of writing this blog for a living. I am obscenely lucky. Whenever I check in with my father about how things are going for him given the pandemic, he says: “Oh, Jen. No complaints here. We’re the lucky ones.” Yes. This year has been unbearable and ruinous for millions of Americans. We are the lucky ones.

At the same time, my heart is heavy with…well, the weight and uncertainty of 2020. Like all of you, I find myself toggling between the staggering slap stats on the news and the functional concerns of quotidian life in the grip of COVID-19: “Where can I perch my three year old on this subway car so as to keep us as far as possible away from anyone else?” “How do I remove this glove without touching the exterior with my hand? Should I put sanitizer on my glove?” Etc. The result is a slow and continuous application of pressure. And I still grapple with anxieties over my COVID diagnosis. I can’t quite square any of it away — the guilt, the fact that I recovered and others did not, the fear, the unbearable pause at the end of the line when I told my mother I could no longer smell or taste anything, the way my husband muscled through the entire thing — caring for me, exposing himself in the process, while also parenting our two small children. It is a darkness.

But the only thing I could say at the time to my sister was: “We’re hanging in there. We’re in a good groove.”

Which also happens to be true, and which also happens to be the reality I prefer to focus on. We have somehow managed to eke out a little channel of consistency in our Upper West Side apartment amidst the chaos of 2020. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to discern the line between a groove and a rut. Most days, Mr. Magpie and I march on through our days with something like determination, or maybe it’s resignation? No — determination is too imperious-sounding, and resignation reads overly downbeat. We just know the ropes and get it done. We’ve defined our roles and responsibilities and we dance around one another and our respective routines with the deft and practiced footwork of two people who respect each other and have been married for ten years and together for nearly twenty. That is to say — there is no question as to where the saran wrap belongs, and there are often silent, obliging transfers of responsibility when one or the other needs to tap out for a second.

As with all parents the world over, the hours between 6 and 9 a.m. in the morning and 5 and 8 p.m. in the evening are clustered with chores, instructions, carefully-drawn timetables, and what feels like an infinity loop of the same exact movements: the endless clearing of small plates and refilling of small milk cups, the monotonous dragging out and folding up of the mat for mini’s dining room chair, the repetition of the same muted directions (“you may do one more thing before bedtime,” “you have two minutes until you get into your pajamas,” “this is your final warning…”), the same prescribed movements and pauses around our home (we retreat to the green chair when getting dressed in the morning; we station mini with her iPad on the floor of micro’s nursery while he is in his crib so I can prepare dinner at night; etc.) We know which steps we can trim and when to expedite based on where we are in our routine versus the time on the clock. We have it all down to a science.

Most days, I would classify all of this as “a good groove.” And when mini was first adjusting back to school in September, I remember desperately wanting to “just be in a good routine.” The dislocations and adjustments were challenging, especially with the stress of COVID at the door. (Are we doing the right thing? What’s the safest and most reasonable way for us to get to school? Etc.) And I was anxious for normalcy after my own illness and the many ways it temporarily upended our day-to-day. So I am grateful for what feels like “a good groove.”

But there are also days where I really have to dig deep before barreling into the 5-8 p.m. time slot in particular. Days where I just don’t know if I have it in me to negotiate my toddler through the bedtime routine one more time. (How does she continue to engineer new ways to dawdle and balk at the same exact things we do every single day?) Days where I am frustrated to no end by my 1.5 year old flinging pieces of chicken all over the dining room, his eyes wide as saucers at the apprehension that he is not supposed to be doing what is he doing, but he is doing it anyway. Is this where we are now? I wonder. Now I have two recalcitrant toddlers to contend with? But mainly, it’s the sameness of the routine that can feel downright overwhelming. “Baths are the worst,” my friend said the other day. “It’s vaguely dangerous, it’s uncomfortable because you’re bending over, and you have to do it every day.” I knew exactly what she meant. We were both at that moment seeing a rut where we normally see a groove.

But, you know what? That’s OK. I trust myself enough to know that I will still manage to get my children into their beds with brushed teeth and clean pajamas and somewhat-full bellies at some point between 7 and 8 p.m. in the evening, and that we will still arrive, on-time, to school in the morning no matter how many tantrums happen en route. I know because in spite of the occasional moment where I have looked, helplessly, at Mr. Magpie in a gesture that says “I don’t know how to get her out of the apartment this morning,” we have successfully made it to school every single day, come hell or high water. I also know that at some point after my children have fallen asleep, I will lay in my bed and scroll through pictures of them, and that even as I am straining through the nightly ritual of two performances of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in the dark of my daughter’s room, my heart will swell when she tells me, as she always and invariably does just before I leave: “God bless you and good night, I love you and good night, and I will see you in the bunny morning.” A litany all her own, a patchwork of phrases she stitched together after hundreds of nights hearing similar proclamations from yours truly. (We still don’t understand what “bunny morning” means, but we don’t mind it either.) And you know what that says to me? Sometimes the routines and recitations aren’t so bad after all. And just like that, I’m back in the groove.

Post-Scripts: Comfy At Home Attire.

Whether you’re in a rut or groove, you’re probably spending a ton of time at home right now, and who doesn’t want to be comfy at home? One secret to feeling more pulled-together than sloppy is to go monochromatic — wear shades of camel/beige/tan, or gray, or all-blue-everything. Below, a few recent casual, cozy home finds:

PATTERN FOR KNIT SOCKS (SEEN ABOVE!) — OR IF YOU DON’T KNIT, THESE CULT-FOLLOWING CLOUD SOCKS FROM BROTHER VELLIES

GAP IS KILLING IT IN THE BOXY HOODY DEPARTMENT — I LOVE THIS JACQUARD QUILTED STYLE AND THIS SHERPA

ALL THE NAP DRESSES (THEY ARE RESTOCKING THEIR POPULAR TARTAN COLLECTION IN NOVEMBER, FYI)

THIS NAP-DRESS-LIKE MIKOH MAXI

POINTELLE PULLOVER

…PERFECT OVER WAFFLE TEES AND PIMA TURTLENECKS

OUTDOOR VOICES JOGGERS (MR. MAGPIE OWNS THE MALE VERSION OF THESE AND LOVEEEES THEM) — I AM INTRIGUED! I ALREADY OWN AND ADORE BOTH THESE DREAMY JOGGERS AND THIS RECLINER SET THOUGH THOSE ARE BOTH “INDOOR/PAJAMA” PAIRS WHEREAS I THINK YOU COULD RELIABLY WEAR THE O.V.’S OUTDOORS FOR ERRANDS

ALSO LOVE THE COLOR/STYLE OF THESE UNDER-$30 JOGGERS, ESPECIALLY IN THE LINDEN AND SULPHUR COLORS

SUPERSOFT CROPPED CARDIGAN (LOVE THE IVORY COLOR)

FLECKED COTTON PANTS (LOVE THAT THESE CAN BE “DRESSED UP,” BUT THEY ARE BASICALLY SWEATPANTS…MORE NON-DENIM OPTIONS, INCLUDING LOUNGEWEAR-THAT-PASSES-AS-WORKWEAR HERE)

THIS HIGH-COLLAR SWEATSHIRT (FRANKLY, I LIKE THE ENTIRE LEWK…WHICH READS INTENTIONAL VERSUS SLOPPY)

STILL NOT OVER KATIE HOLMES IN THE KHAITE CASHMERE CARDIGAN & BRA SITUATION…PEAK LUXURY LOUNGE

DREAMING OF A PAIR OF RIBBED CASHMERE SOCKS

MOCKNECK SWEATER DRESS (CUTE ON ITS OWN OR WITH A TISSUE TURTLENECK LAYERED UNDERNEATH)

THERE IS A WHOLE INTERNET SENSATION OVER THESE $10 FLUFFY TARGET SLIPPERS, WHICH KEEP SELLING OUT! I USED TO OWN AND LOVE THIS SIMILAR PAIR BY EMU

THIS $34 TURTLENECK SWEATER DRESS

FINE-GAUGE CARDIGAN

I’m writing this while shivering at my desk (despite wearing slippers, a turtleneck, a heavy cardigan, and jeans!), and wishing I had this throw over my legs.

P.S. Sweatshirts I love and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, thoughts on what to wear when dressing up for Thanksgiving.

P.P.S. The incongruous emotions of motherhood.

P.P.P.S. Nightly affirmations.

19 Comments

  1. Hi Jenn, for the last almost 3 years I’ve read your blog quite closely, and it is the only blog that I comment on with any regularity. You’ve built a community that I appreciate, in large part because you so actively maintain many fronts — intellectual, fashion, family and motherhood. I am a university professor in the humanities and a mother of 2 small children and — though we have very different styles — I love fashion. Most blogs that I read feel like a guilty pleasure that I retreat to when I feel overwhelmed and need to turn off my brain. Yours does not — it feels like a familiar landscape that is not necessarily contiguous with my thoughts and values but one that is complementary. I often buy things at your suggestion because you seem so precise and discerning, and I trust you. I write all of this to you because I just don’t know what to do with your silence around the election. You write so precisely about words, and yet you are letting your silence speak for you now. This is such a huge and consequential moment and I genuinely don’t know how to reconcile how much I appreciate what you do and the precision of your writing with your choice to not address this. I have trusted you and your perspective and your thoughts and provocations. I don’t feel that trust towards you right now, and it’s a scrim through which I read what you’ve written. That may mean that our paths diverge now, because this is obviously your space and your choice and your decision to handle everything as you want to — but you have always invited feedback from this community, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

    1. Hi Holly – First, thank you for your compliments, readership, and companionship here in the comments over the past few years.  I am deeply flattered and grateful. To your critique of my decision not to broach politics here on the blog, I am pained by your disappointment but understand if you need to look elsewhere for the kind of open political discourse you are seeking.

      Jen    

    2. I appreciate the response and have mulled over the comment I left you — which I thought about long and hard before I wrote. I still go back and forth on it, because it is more critical than I want to be or choose to be in most parts of the internet. In part, I don’t know what you ‘owe’ us as readers — I don’t need you to affirm my political beliefs, I am frankly not interested in ‘civil exchange’ on this election, and this is your site, your choice, your decision. It makes me wonder what we mean by community through blogs — mostly we as readers consume your writing for free, and, in exchange in some way, you make affiliate income. Still, it’s yours, not ours, and we are not necessarily entitled to an open book. But still – it is the absence that I am struck by, and so I find myself filling the space with my own thoughts (does she not want to offend family members that have different beliefs? does she not want to lose followers because the goal is to grow affiliate income? does she actually not care about this political moment?). It is not political discourse as such that I seek from you, as I certainly have that in other spaces. Perhaps it’s a reckoning with silence, with what civil exchange actually means, with who gets to have it – or a way of understanding this choice you’ve made with the precision that you approach so many other things.

  2. I would love a post recapping the principles and the start of the blog. And how they’ve evolved. I’d love to hear why you steer away from politics. In some ways, you already do because you talk about values and issues that matter to you…

    Very much appreciated this post on grooves and ruts (and digging deep to get through bedtime – so me!). I love hearing the back and forge with your family too.

    1. Hi Emily! Yes – “dig deep” is the key phrase at the bedtime hour. Oy! Hope you find yourself in more of a groove than a rut these days. Thank you also for your interest in TFM’s “origin story” (ha!) and the way it’s developed over time. The reasons for my authorship of this blog are many and evolving, but a cornerstone is a desire to create a safe space for civil exchange. I am mistrustful that direct engagement with contemporary political discourse would align with that aspiration.

      Hope you have a good weekend! Dig deep.

      xx

  3. I was surprised to read you bathe two children every day?! No judgement – at all – but… that seems like a lot for little kids? My 3 year old gets a bath twice a week unless she gets dirty/smelly. It’s good for their immune systems to be a little dirty. I totally get it if that’s a good way to kill time at night, but if you’re looking to cut something out, that’s an easy one! Or maybe we are just gross people 🙂

    1. I totally hear you! Whatever can be condensed/compressed/omitted…I, too, often bathe the children every other day, but my friend bathes her daughter daily — it’s a part of their bedtime routine. xx

  4. Jen,

    I’m always in awe of you and M.’s relationship, It might be weird since we’ve never met, but I look up to you both. I admire how you have grown together through challenges and triumphs. As a newly married (is four years new? I feel like we’re babies!), it’s nice to have role models outside my immediate circle.

    Also, I think I’m just in a…flow. ‍♀️ Hoping to grab a groove ASAP haha.

    xx,
    V.

  5. Since my diagnosis and recovery, I too am enjoying the routine, the good groove we have found lately. I still sit with a lot of guilt from my COVID diagnosis but have found that focusing on January when our baby girl is set to arrive helps distract my mind from the negative rabbit hole I can find myself in. Focus on the big picture and the good groove we have now. As usual, your post always brings a smile to my face! Enjoy your good groove – hopefully we can all keep ours for awhile!

    1. Hi friend! I am so right there with you in all of these emotions (except for the pregnancy-induced ones — wow, that’s a lot to digest at the same time!! go easy on yourself!) and am glad you are in a GROOVE instead of a rut at the moment. Cheers!! And thank you for reading along 🙂

      xx

  6. Always happy to visit your cozy corner of the internet and appreciative for the thoughtful ways in which you share. Discussing the election results is, of course, a very personal decision and I don’t presume to know what the “right” thing to do is, but perhaps there is at least space to acknowledge the privilege of not doing so. If I have learned anything this year, it’s that saying nothing so often shows our privilege. I say this with kindness and compassion and hope you fill your cup well this week.

    1. Hi Tricia — Thank you for the compliments and well-wishes! I’m so fortunate that you are a part of this community and have appreciated getting to know a little bit about you during your first year as a new mother. I respect your feedback on my decision not to discuss the election. Thank you specifically for the reminder to aim always to write from a lens of awareness and empathy.

      xx

    2. Tricia,

      Just wanted to pop in and commend you for your comment. I appreciate that you’re thinking about the ways in which being apolitical is an exercise in privilege. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Thank you for challenging us all to think about our choices.

      xx,
      Veronica

    3. Veronica (and Jen),
      Thank you – having grown up a people-pleaser in a rural, small town, I know all too well that discussing politics can feel like a no-win situation. That said, I voted for Biden and the other Democratic candidates on my ballot for many reasons. If I’m going to challenge others to share, I should certainly do the same.

  7. So well said! Thank you for offering us a place to visit that is uplifting, honest and inspiring, and for sharing your life with us! xo

  8. I recently bought a nap dress from Hill House but it is fairly see through. Any suggestions for undergarments to pair with them?

    1. Hi Ashley! The founder of Hill House, Nellie Diamond, always has interesting/chic ways of styling her nap dresses — I have been inspired by the way she layers turtleneck body suits and opaque black tights under some of hers…

      https://www.instagram.com/p/B688UM8joox/

      She also showcases the way other women have layered their pieces. If nothing appeals, a classic half-slip would work well for the ones with smocking at the waist:

      https://bit.ly/2TMSOd1

      And something like this for their Caroline style:

      https://bit.ly/3emSmLM

      xxx

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