“Hang on to your hat, toots.” — my life, the last few weeks


(Starting with this update.)

We’ve officially transitioned mini to school and she loves it. We were pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it all went. The only hiccup so far has been figuring out pick up in the afternoon. For the first few days, I dropped her off and picked her up alone because she had such odd hours (i.e., one hour from 10:05-11:05 one day, then two hours from 9:30 to 11:30 the next day, etc.) and it would have been impossible for Mr. Magpie to handle either end given his work schedule. I would usually just post up in a nearby coffee shop and get some work done, but it was a pretty disruptive week, especially coordinating breastfeeding around it. Then we transitioned to more of the expected routine: Mr. Magpie drops her off in the mornings on his way to work. I had intended to have our nanny pick her up in the afternoons so I could stay home with micro for breastfeeding purposes, and so after I felt we had the morning routine down pat, I decided to bring our nanny with me to pick mini up so I could show her the ropes and pass the baton. When mini saw our nanny first (before seeing me), she dissolved into tears. I had given her a heads up that our nanny would be there, too, but I think she was upset that I wasn’t the first face she saw (the best part of my day has been seeing her beaming face when I arrive at the door — “there’s my mama!” she shrieks). The school had warned us about this, noting that kids can be very thrown off by disruptions to routine, and encouraging us to stay consistent with who drops off and who picks up. Now I know why. Mini was apoplectic and close to impossible to maneuver home (i.e., refusing stroller, refusing to walk, laying down on the subway floor — After that incident, I chatted with her teacher and we decided that I should continue to handle pick-ups for the next few weeks before introducing our nanny into the mix — just too much change for that little one. Besides, I hadn’t anticipated it, but our little pocket of thirty minutes on our way home is nearly always the highlight of my day. I love hearing about her day, smothering her with kisses, holding her little willing hand as we walk towards the subway stop.

And so this whole transition to school has been relatively smooth all things considered but still quite a change for everyone. Routines in the morning are planned down to a millisecond and I’m busy getting that little one fed, toileted, dressed, brushed, and out the door by 8 a.m. Gone are the leisurely mornings nursing micro in bed! And then — oh! The apartment is deafeningly silent in mini’s absence. She is a whirling dervish at home, flitting from activity to activity in constant chatter and singsong. I have found myself straining to hear her on multiple occasions, my heart in my throat. Changes all — most of them welcome, some of them…skeptically accepted.

Meanwhile, the apartment hunt continued. We saw at least fifteen units all up and down the West side of Manhattan, a few spots on the UES, and one in DUMBO. It was exhausting, in large part owing to the underhandedness of the broker situation. There are so many misrepresentations in listings — “3 bedrooms!” is often “2 bedrooms but you can split the second to make a third with a partition” or “2 bedrooms plus a closet with a questionable window that could be a nursery” or “2 bedrooms plus a dangerous loft where no child should ever sleep.” And then there are things like “washer and dryer in unit!” — only you arrive and find you will be responsible for purchasing the washer/dryer, though there is a hook-up available. And “available immediately!” only you arrive with your baby in a carrier and your toddler wrangling out of your grip and find yourself in a construction zone, sawdust coating our lungs and electric saws buzzing inches from our faces (i.e., decidedly not available immediately). There’s this shadiness, and then there’s the fact that the NY rental market moves at the speed of light — aka a frenetic pace ill-suited towards families with small children and lots of moving parts. New places are listed daily and are often gone within a day or two, and you are meant to move in within a week — and if you aren’t planning to move in immediately, you’ll probably be passed up as an applicant for the unit because brokers don’t want to sit on a vacant unit. They’ll just wait another day or two for someone willing to move in sooner.

I mean, can you imagine?! It’s too much pressure! How can you expect a family to find a place and move within a week?!

At any rate, after seeing fifteen places, we put in an application on a unit with about a month left on our current lease and were passed up because the landlord’s broker pulled a weird stunt on us, using our application offer (rent is almost always negotiable in NY) to go back to another applicant that had been interested in the apartment to get them to counter with an earlier lease start date and a slightly higher rent offer. The brokers hadn’t made this information known to us, of course (we would have happily matched the offer), and had instead more or less counseled us to submit the offer we did (“I’ll encourage the landlord to accept it,” stated the broker — grrr) to push the other couple to sign immediately. And so we suddenly found ourselves back at square one, with no apartment lined up and the clock ticking. When we heard the news, it took every ounce of my personal resolve to avoid bursting into tears. I had loved the unit, but more than that — I had loved the idea of being done with the search and able to move forward with next steps. The night we found out, I woke up at 3 a.m. shivering uncontrollably — my teeth were actually chattering! — and aching all over. A few hours later, I woke up and had sweated through my clothes. It went on like this — sweats, chills, achiness, splitting headache — for several days. I eventually went to see the doctor who confirmed I had picked up some kind of virus but I’m convinced that my shock and stress level at discovering we had no apartment with less than four weeks to go had triggered it, or left me in such a state of weakness that any old virus could have shut me down.

I somehow managed to muscle through last week, sick as a dog, visiting a new battery of listings all over the place. We also had a bizarrely busy social schedule (we’re normally homebodies), with two receptions and a cocktail hour we hosted — and then there was mini’s meltdown owing to the nanny’s pick up at school right smack dab in the middle. During that epic tantrum, I’d had to carry mini by her arms up the subway stairs while I also had micro strapped to me in the carrier. She had turned into a jellyfish and would.not.climb.the.stairs and also would.not.let.the.nanny.come.near.her. I had no choice, after attempting to reason with her and cajole her for about five minutes while no-nonsense, in-a-rush New Yorkers trampled us at the foot of the steps, but to pick her up by her arms and carry her up the steps in front of me, like a noodle. That debacle led me to pull a muscle in my abdomen which in turn made breathing hurt for a couple of days — though at the time, I wasn’t sure if the pain in my side was related to the virus or something more serious, and so the doctor ran a gamut of tests, had me x-rayed, etc. (It all turned out clear — just a strained muscle from trying to carry forty-five pounds of children up the stairs in the most awkward maneuver known to womankind. Go figure.)

Somewhere along the way, micro picked up whatever virus I had and suddenly my world was literally collapsing on itself. There were a few nights where I was up with poor micro every hour of the night. It got so bad that I had to ask Mr. Magpie to split shifts with me, but even then it was impossible to sneak in a stretch of sleep because we are all about two feet from one another. The baby was running a fever and battling an upset stomach and so we were covered in baby vomit, shivering/sweating together, and mind-numbingly exhausted. And did I mention that while I believe I hold or can reach a sense of perspective in most parenting-related matters, when it comes to ill children, I lose my bearings?! I worry myself sick, wondering if I’m overlooking a symptom and what I believe to be a run-of-the-mill cold is actually something more nefarious. I clutch them in my arms and cry over them. It is physically painful for me to see my babies unwell.

Then, on Friday, I woke with the worst migraine I have ever had in my life. I could not see straight. I could barely walk. Turning my head to the left or right was shockingly painful. I was so sensitive to light that I had to stay in my bedroom with the blinds drawn. I could not rally myself to put on clothes and pick up mini from school — I had to call Mr. Magpie and ask him to leave work early to get her.

On top of it all, micro was scheduled to be Baptized two days later and I had my parents coming into town, with fabulous dinner plans to boot.

I was defeated.

That was the lowpoint. The lowpoint of this year (fingers crossed), and in fact the last two years — since the last botched and stressful move, come to think of it.

But as quickly as everything had spiraled out of control, it all came back into focus. We found another — better! — apartment, this one a “classic prewar six” in Manhattan terms. (A classic prewar six refers to an apartment configuration with six rooms — three bedrooms (one smaller, typically referred to as a “maid’s room,” perfect for a nursery), living room, kitchen, formal dining room — in a building constructed before WWII, and therefore likely to be rife with traditional charm. You won’t find open concept floor plans with a classic 6, which Mr. Magpie and I rather like. These buildings also tend to be very well-constructed — i.e., “they just don’t make them like that anymore.”) When we went uptown to sign the lease, the broker walked us through the unit and something inside me relaxed. I could instantly see the wonderful life we would have there, with much more space, a dedicated nursery for micro, a larger kitchen, and a bedroom for mini that is large enough to accommodate all of her toys, her activity table, her dollhouse, and all the other bulky items that currently reside in our living area. I’m sure her toys will still find their way into our living room, but no longer will it be their primary home, praise God. A friend of mine recently said that “a cluttered house is a cluttered mind,” and I think this, too, is why this stretch of the last few weeks has been so overwhelming. We are busting out of this apartment as micro grows and has new needs and more clothing and bigger diapers and all that jazz.

Micro and I both overcame our ailments (for the most part) around the same time and managed to enjoy his Baptism feeling more like ourselves. (I wore the dress mentioned here.) We had a beautiful morning with friends and family, enjoying brunch after his Christening smooshed in like sardines around a small table at Cafe Luxembourg, whose boisterous environment matched the general ebullience of the moment.

I looked around the table at one point and thought how lucky I am, and how insignificant all my travails of the previous week were in the grand scheme. I mean, let me be real: everything is horrible when you feel sick, and everything is doubly horrible when you feel sick and are caring for an ill infant while going on four months of sleeplessness. And moving is stressful, full-stop. But there we were, closer to the other side, with the happiest occasion in front of me. A happy and newly healthy baby, welcomed into the Church, the presence of my loved ones, the promise of a new, more spacious beginning on the Upper West Side.

And on we go…

What’s happening with you?
Post Scripts.
+What are your most memorable golden moments/golden hours? Brunch after micro’s Baptism is up there.

+OK, mini would die and go to heaven with this.

+A perfect Christmas dress for a little lady.

+Expect some more home decor related posts soon, as we need to purchase a number of pieces of furniture. I am already eyeing a couple of rugs, and Horchow has such a great selection (on sale) — love this for mini’s room, or maybe this. Although I’ve been chastened — probably not good to have a light colored rug in a toddler’s room. May need to explore darker/more patterned styles.

+I love this oversized houndstooth scarf.

+So excited we’re closing in on sweater weather.

+Likely my next headband acquisition.

+I like this slim hamper for micro’s nursery…

+I’m a copycat.

+I ordered one of these tags for mini’s stroller, which we store at the school during the day since Mr. Magpie drops her off and I pick her up. It’s perfect! I was impressed with the quality and speed of design/shipping. Going to order some more for her bags. A cute add-on to a gift for a little one, too.

+I love these for keeping my phone free of fingerprints.

+A good dupe for those Paris Texas snakeskin boots that are all over the place.

+A fun tee.

+A great dish to display fruit/citrus on your counter.

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