The Hard, Jadeite Places.

By: Jen Shoop

There are ruby red sprouts on the trees of cherry blossoms and apple blossoms in our neighborhood. They seem to me different than in years past, almost shriveled in the bud. But I doubt my own memory. (Is this how they always grow?) I don’t know enough about arboriculture to determine whether these incarnadine dessicates are the faces of run-of-the-mill incipience or the sad aftermath of the biting frost this March has carried with it. Every year, the cold seems to linger too long, but this year, I resent the Wednesday morning that brought malevolent gales of frigid air at 21 degree wind chill. I have been waiting for the blossom and now I wonder, dyspeptically, whether a cruel March has pre-emptively culled it.

At home: a similar kind of twitchy speculation. I find I have been expecting too much of my daughter and too little of my son. My daughter is deceptively precocious, with a wry smile and a quick grasp of things I assume to be outside her ken. Because of this, I ask a lot of her, and find her occasional outbursts inscrutable and even beneath her. I meet them as unwelcome shocks — until I force myself to remember that she is still just-six. The other day, my husband pointed out a scar on his pinky finger, earned from a knife accident. She squinted her eyes in disbelief. “A baby came out?” It was clear she’d fused “stitches” with “c-sections,” and I was reminded again of the narrowness of her world, its circumference extending not far beyond this nuclear family and the ring of Catholic families at her school. My son, by contrast: late to develop his speech, and still with a baby lisp heavy on the tongue. (We’ve had his articulation assessed; do not worry.) I am newly aware that I baby him because of this, and, as he is my last, the irrationality of wanting him to stay young. He can dress himself, but I find myself almost itchy with the desire to help. I occasionally want to hold him, too, and wipe his mouth after he eats, and hold his hand on the steps. It requires nearly herculean energy to resist these ministrations. In short, I see that I am permitting my own soft and blind spots to mislead me in some of my parenting decisions. And so I have been messing with the dials. Is it like this? Too much. Do less. Step back. Step in.

These thought movements — about the trees, about my own parenting — are an apt entry point into a kind of tension I’ve been noticing in myself. I am nearly 39 and I find myself increasingly circumspect about my instinct to push back against the natural flow of things. Lately, I have been interrogating what I call “my hard places.” The spots where I turn to granite, where I find myself coiling up when this subject is broached, or that request is made. If there is instinct to shoulder against the wind, I have been asking: why? Sometimes, these askings yield nothing beyond the wild vent of my own frustrations about how much I want to do and how little time I have to do them. Other times, I find something small and gleaming underfoot: Oh. I see why that person’s comment nettled. It’s tied to this feeling of insecurity. A good portion of the time, though, I realize something shocking: whatever it is I’m scrimmaging against is not worth the footwork.

This is true even in some matters of parenting. I say that carefully. Because one of the big challenges of motherhood is divining which are the mountains and which are the molehills. But, as an example, I know I need to work on calibrating my expectations for my children, but — strangely — my tack for both appears symmetric: do less. Take a step back from interceding on my son’s behalf; take a step back from expecting as much from my daughter. Relax, on both fronts.

So, too, with my are-they-dead-or-not blossom worries on my morning walks. Wondering about it, resenting it, will bring bloom in neither case.

I am learning, at the end of my 30s, to feel for the hard, jadeite places inside.

To see if I can’t replace them with softnesses.


+A lot of this thinking echoes with my intention for the year: flow.

+On creating soft landings for myself.

+In case you need a permission slip to do less today.

Shopping Break.

+One of my favorite paper brands, Appointed (based here in D.C.) just launched a really beautiful “Origins” collection, with gorgeous notebooks for reflections, tasks, ideas and more. After I wrote about being committed to process / not letting “perfect be the enemy,” a Magpie wrote that she was still struggling to put things out there. One tactical suggestion I had was to think about the tools and mediums she’s using. I find I can write easily either drafting by hand or typing into the WordPress editor. If I open up MS Word, I am overcome with stage fright. Tools matter! Notebooks like these are a beautiful way to begin to seed a ritual: a designated, low-stakes space for tinkering/list-making/drafting/drawing.

+Doen just launched a beautiful spring collection. I adore the pattern and shape of this ethereal dress. (And your mini can match!) PSA: I find you must wear slips under most of their pieces, which run sheer, FYI. Skims has one that comes in tons of different tones so you can match your own.

+Gorgeous blockprint tablecloth for only $40. Julia Amory vibes for a fraction of the price.

+Easter bunny jammies for littles, 40% off! (More Easter finds here.)

+This striped, feathered button-down is a ten. It reminds me of my girlfriend Lauren Neff, who owns this blouse in multiple colors (see her in one here). I think she needs the stripe, too. The shirt would look amazing tucked into high-waist, light-wash denim (this is one of my most-worn pairs), but I’m also kind of digging the site’s styling with this wrap mini?

+Mr. Magpie loves these Patagonia shorts in the summer months. They are a versatile beast: they can be used as swim trunks, fitness, casual! Good for yardwork, outdoor adventures, beach days! They released them in such great colors. I love the coral and violet. Some colors are on sale for 55% off! A nice little surprise for your man!

+A super pretty floral skirt – reminiscent of Agua Bendita, but $150.

+Alice Walk just launched their beautiful cotton sweaters in a crazy chic forest green color. I love unusual colors like that!

+Have wanted one of these “tini” tables from Oomph for oh, ten or twelve years. I am hoping we find a way to work one into our family or living room…a dreamy size for holding a cocktail or cup of coffee next to an occasional chair.

+Do you have good scissors? Like, really good ones? You need them. I didn’t realize I’d been bluntly, awkwardly hacking way through life before I got a pair of Fiskars. So sharp and easy to wield. Buy the three pack and bestow one in the kitchen, one in the office, and one in the utility area. You’ll be shocked.

+Really want to try this rose-and-pepper scented candle. A girlfriend gave me a candle from this line years ago and it smelled heavenly — I had totally forgotten about it and now want to retry.

+I learned about this too late, but some of the moms I knew in NYC who lived a similarly pedestrian lifestyle with little ones, with their strollers being their mobile home bases, used key rings like these. I know it sounds odd, but when your hands are full and you’re bopping in and out of your building with key fob / keys at all times, having it on your wrist rather than buried in your bag is kind of brilliant. A good gizmo for moms with young ones and a lot of in/out of home adventures.

+Just discovered the brand Bell and it’s SO up my alley? Love this shirtdress with the contrasting belt, and how great are these shorts?! I like the idea of pairing with a white tank/tee, or throwing on over a swimsuit.

+Speaking of shorts: people are going wild over these scallop-edged ones. Scallop detailing is my weakness…

+Actually gasped when I saw this spectacular Carolina Herrera dress. ($$$$$$$)

+How BEYOND adorable are these sticker books?! My children still love sticker books, especially the ones from Usborne. I usually have one or two in reserve in my closet for long, rainy days or adventures out of the home. Might have to buy a few of these French ones for mini; would be cute in an Easter basket. Speaking of sticker books, my 3.5 year old son literally spent an entire afternoon doing all of the sticker mosaics in this “beginner” book. It was perfectly calibrated to his abilities and he was so proud of his productions. He told me multiple times: “I love this book all day long.” Ha!

+Clever picnic table for little ones for the upcoming summer! Note that it includes inserts for sensory play, so it can convert to a water or kinetic sand or water bead station.

+This company makes really cute paper products for the table.

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