By: Jen Shoop

Last week, I told my mother that I felt like I’d lost a week of the holiday season owing to the stomach bug, and that I was rushing to make up for lost time. I hadn’t yet picked up gifts for our teachers or cleaning crew; the batch of sugar cut-out cookies we made on Saturday (recipe here) had to be tossed (we’d not yet frosted them, but we couldn’t have delivered them anyway given our viral state) and so we’d not yet made let alone passed out cookies for our neighbors; we were attending an annual holiday gathering late last week to which I normally bring some sort of homemade treat, but I’d run out of time; our designated gift wrap night had come and gone, neither of us able to muscle the energy to wrap (let alone mix up a cocktail – blech). We also have not lit the Advent wreath in a full week. I told my mom — more to convince myself than her — “But you know what? Things will get done, or they won’t, or they’ll happen after the new year.” As soon as I said it, I realized I’d hit on something. Yep. Who cares if the Christmas cards arrive a few days late? Or gifts are delivered on New Year’s? Or you hand out your cookies as a 2024 surprise? And I wish we’d lit the Avent wreath every night but the truth was that all of us were drained and needed to do the bare minimum to get by.

I mean, obviously, it’d be better to accomplish these things during the designated season but…! No one is getting injured if the cookies arrive as a post-season treat.

As the concept clarified, I realized what I needed to do was draw up a list of non-negotiables (e.g., I must get the gifts for our teachers and cleaners – they deserve it, and in a timely fashion) and what I intuitively referred to as “smidgies” (things that are a bit more fungible, like when and whether we deliver cookies).

I’m pocketing this concept for regular use. Here are some other good applications, again talking more to myself than anyone else, as I’ve basically sprained my ankle (and spirit) attempting to do every last one, not recognizing they were “smidgies”:

+Do the cupcakes for your son’s pre-k classroom birthday need to be homemade and elaborated frosted to resemble Elmo? No. You can buy the inexpensive (mini!!!) ones from the local grocery. Kids will be just as happy, and you can often find allergy-free ones to boot.

+Do you need to iron your sheets? No. You are just going to sleep in them. Nice to have but inessential and possibly obstructive to the art of living. I was reflecting on this the other week while making our bed. I used to insist on ironing our sheets when we lived in NYC. Insist. And, don’t get me wrong: freshly-laundered, freshly-ironed sheets are a spectacular luxury. But I think that it was my very small, likely misdirected, way of keeping my tiny corner of Manhattan clean and organized, as the rest of the city felt so wild and dirty. You’d be out there, in the begrudging elements, shouldering your way through the city and its occasional heartlessness, and you’d need to make your home a sanctuary in any way you could. And you had such a small space that you’d find yourself lavishing attention on each corner, maximizing its use, its peacefulness, its promise. In Bethesda, we can close a door on a full basement of scattered toys and discarded children’s clothing. “That’s tomorrow’s problem.” In New York, you live in every inch of your living space. There is no place to cordon off and look at tomorrow. Your children play in your TV room; your kitchen is not just your kitchen but another foot in which to find privacy. Your bed is one of the few places that is solely your own, and that you can keep as you wish. Anyway, I say this to make sense of my erstwhile ironing insistence, but now have the space to see that this is a definite smidgie in my current life. Something I’m glad to have let drop.

+Do you need your children to be perfectly dressed according to your own view? No. I’ve talked at length about this. I wish they would, but I prioritize their comfort and senses of selves and taste more. It’s OK if your kid is wearing the tutu for the fourth day, or the grubby t-shirt instead of the polo you’d bought. Better, I think, to protect your energy for other battles. (Again, underscoring I’m saying this to myself, as I’m still a work in progress here.)

What other smidgies can we unearth here?

I think this conversation is timely given the week. Like, now is probably not the time to start a new fitness regimen or begin to redecorate the living room or roll out a new, veggie-forward approach to feeding your children. We can take those on in 2024.

Are there smidgies this week that you can let drop?


*Image above old, but there will be a lot of toaster waffles and “Grinch” viewings this week (exactly what was happening two Christmases ago, per the photo evidence above).

+This is another way of saying: there is probably room in my life to make space for better/more important things.

+Dear Dad, you were right.

+Don’t eat the caesar salad, or remembrances of my grandfather.

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Shopping Break.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.

+This $26 Amazon sweater is a great look-for-less for Jenni Kayne’s Cooper, which was JUST re-stocked after being sold out for awhile, and is currently 20% off with code HOLIDAY.

+Last-minute stocking stuffers for littles, all available via Prime (therefore saving you a trip to the store): Plus Plus tubes, sparkly headband, Washi tape (a Busy Toddler idea), Lego keychain, Ooly gel crayons.

+Very intrigued by these jeans. Not my usual style but I’ve heard the fit is amazing. Loving the cuffed look.

+If you have children, do yourself a favor and buy a pack of these zippered pouches in advance of Christmas. Great for corraling parts of sets together (markers, stamps, legos, doll accessories, puzzle pieces). I always wish we had more of these after the holidays! More under-$50 gifts and stocking stuffers here, but not all guaranteed for Christmas delivery.

+This dress is a party.

+Cheerful fair isle for your little girl.

+Fun hair clip. This was a Beach Reads and Bubbly find!

+Tis the season…for hydration. I’ve been refilling my water bottle every hour and carrying it with me all over.

+Every year, I think I’ll find a chic-er, more high-end option, but I straight-up love this no-frills planner. Lots of room for my never-ending daily to-do lists.

+CHIC ski wear.

+A GREAT Mango buy.

+Adorable reversible vest for a little.

+These terry-cloth pullovers are cute for your dude. Mr. Magpie owns a few of the brand’s short-sleeved polo style; love the idea of adding this to the rotation.

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12 thoughts on “Smidgies.

  1. Definitely embracing this mindset lately! We did “Thankful Turkeys” for November with our kids (where you fill out something you’re thankful for on a feather every day and stick it to a little turkey body), and we didn’t do every day, but when we did, it was meaningful. And while it seems silly, it was like a lightbulb going off that it doesn’t actually MATTER if we did it all the days or some days. We did it when we remembered and it was fun.
    I’m currently almost 8 months pregnant with baby #3, and we’re moving a few days after Christmas to our new home. Needless to say, expectations are REAL LOW right now. If it gets done, great, if not, I get all the grace. And thankfully my kids are young enough that they don’t really care either way – any bit of holiday fun is plenty of magic for them. Cheers to 2024 and more smidgies!

    1. “it doesn’t actually MATTER if we did it all the days or some days. We did it when we remembered and it was fun.” Amen to this – thank you. I definitely struggled with “oops” / guilt realizing how many days of Advent we skipped this year (usually, I try to light it nightly…) but it truly is OK. We had a lot going on with the stomach bug and then catching up afterward and it is OK. I still feel that the intent of the season was locked in / reinforced / centered!

      I’m so glad you have the right attitude heading into this HUGE transition moment for yourself. You will get through – let go of whatever you can!


  2. A reframe that has really helped me in dressing my children: I tell myself that they have their whole lives to dress “appropriately” and one day I am going to wish they would put on that tutu or tshirt with the giant graphic on the front (facepalm). They are so sweet and cute at this age that I really try to just lean in to their little worlds and let them be who they are right now.

  3. Love this concept! I find it hard to let go of certain things and drive myself and everyone mad trying to get it all done when no one really cares if things aren’t perfect. And as someone who also loves freshly ironed sheets, I found that putting damp sheets on my bed to dry is a very close second to ironing. Once the sheets are dry I then make my bed and it’s free of wrinkles and creases.

    1. So relate to this and hoping we can both find some things to let drop this week / this season. Thanks for the note on damp sheets! So helpful!


  4. I love the phrase “smidgies” – going to use this in my own life!
    I think Christmas is a time when (especially for women) it can be easy to end up focusing on what I “should” do/what everyone else is doing/what Instagram says everyone else is doing.
    I read something a few years ago that said you could ask members of your family at the start of December what ONE activity/moment they most remember enjoying from last Christmas (you pick one too!). Work together schedule those things. Then the most important thing: let go of the other things!! And if you don’t let go of them, remember that you are doing them because YOU want to. If at some point you decide you don’t want to: take the kiddos ice skating or go to the zoo lights or bake the cut out cookies, and those things weren’t on your list…then don’t! They weren’t on the list!
    It’s only my husband and I for now, but we do this at the beginning of Advent every year, and it’s really helped us reframe our December around what we want it to look like, rather than what we feel it should look like according to social media or family pressure (however well intentioned)!

    1. Oh my gosh – this framework is SO brilliant. Absolutely going to be borrowing this next year. And probably also for other moments, e.g., when we go to the Lake in the summer and there are so many things we want to do; children’s birthday parties; etc! Thank you!


  5. For the last week, my fiancé and I discussed going to Mass at a new church we’ve wanted to try. We’d selected this past Sunday – in which we were also hosting his entire extended, in-town family for Sunday evening cocktails and apps. On Saturday, as we discussed the intricacies of all that had to be done to prep for the party, he gently suggested we go to our church down the block. “Don’t boil the ocean if you don’t have to,” he said.

    And WOW is that going to be my mental check going forward – am I trying to muscle through a deadline or task because I’d mentally allocated that time for it? Can it be adjusted?

    1. This is SUCH a great example — I’d do the exact same thing! Thanks for sharing this. Love your fiance’s turn of phrase, too!


  6. I, too have been fostering this attitude of prioritizing what is imperative and putting what can wait on the back burner. We made a cross country move in the Fall and we are still adjusting to our new environs and trying to ‘fit in’ and get established in a new home, along with new schools and big feelings. This has been a stressful time, and although this is a good move for our family – we are burned out! Consequently, I have decided to circle the wagons around my own little family this year and focus on just us and worry less about everything being ‘perfect’ reasoning that next year I can do the pretty cards etc.
    A question though – I enjoy baking and was thinking of baking some cookies or cake for our new neighbors, but I paused wondering if people like or more accurately ‘trust’ homemade items? Maybe my brain is still in pandemic era but what is the protocol on this nowadays – are homemade confections enjoyed or eyed with suspicion?!

    1. Love this perspective, especially the image of you “circling your wagons around your own little family.” Such a great visual. So needed this year for you! Bravo for recognizing that.

      Good point on skepticism about homemade items! I’d probably be more careful about sending in to teachers or people I don’t know really well. The neighbors in question have all been over to our home for dinner / shared many happy hours before, so I think we’ve crossed that threshold, but I agree that it’s good to approach with sensitivity if you don’t know the recipient that well.


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