The Magpie Diary: Dec. 31, 2023.

By: Jen Shoop

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On Christmas Eve, we sat behind a family with two young children, probably aged 4 and 2, and I watched as the mother wrangled them throughout the service, taking the younger one to the vestibule every so often when energies were spiking, transitioning from standing to rocking to sitting to fetching toys and snacks in an endless rotation of movement, whispering corrections and smoothing down dresses and strong-arming tiny tantrum-ing bodies. I of course saw myself in her — but an earlier version of myself that I can’t believe I’ve already shed. When did that metamorphosis complete? I looked over at my son, now 4.5, as he sprawled in tempered boredom across my husband’s lap, and two thoughts jetted through my mind: “How far we’ve come!” and “I can’t believe those years are gone.” Later, I sniffled to Mr. Magpie: “That might have been the last Christmas Eve Mass where we have a child young enough to want to sit on our laps.” He accepted this before saying, gently, “And isn’t that also great?”

As much as I tell myself “Every phase is a good phase” and “We carry all the ages of our children inside us,” I find the transitions excruciating. Each new milestone is shadowed by loss — the tiny pigtails, the rubber-band wrists, the funny turns of phrase. Is this a personality idiosyncrasy or a condition of motherhood? I reflected on this later in more detail. If I am honest with myself, I don’t really want to be that young mom, because I know what it feels like on the inside: mildly stressful and flustering, a string of waiting games — how long until the wheels fall off? Have I reserved enough snacks for the next thirty minutes? OK, we probably have about 10 minutes left, can we make it? The mental math alone is draining. Church feels so much easier these days, from a parenting standpoint: just a part of the week, no different from getting kids out the door to school or sitting them down to dinner. I should celebrate and wonder at this more routinely, because it used to feel impossible. I did not start taking Hill with me until he was probably two? And I’d pep talk my way into it, and pat myself on the back after. Small victories.

But I miss the shapes of their tiny bodies pressed against me. The way they’d tuck their faces into my neck, and cling to my shirt. I can still feel my son on my hip, against my chest. I called him my koala because he barely left my skin for the first year of his life.

And yet — they still need me, just in new and less physical ways. My daughter and I are reading the Ramona books together and I find our conversations at the chapter breaks fascinating. Her observations are windows into her unfolding spirit. She looks to me for reaction, reassurance, as they tumble out. She asks for my input on her outfits, and delivers jokes with thoughtful timing, waiting excitedly for a laugh or smirk. “Really?” she deadpans when I do something embarrassing, like dance or kiss my husband in her presence. So many of these interactions are methods of shaping herself, defining herself, against the solidity of her mother.

I’m glad that I saw that mother in the vigil pew in front of me, because I caught a glimpse of myself before I’d fully shed this parenting exoskeleton, and was able to consciously soak up my son, and his tiny hand in mine as we walked up the nave for Communion, and his blond hair against my cheek in the pew afterward.

Now I must remind myself, again: Omnia mutantur, nihil interit.

(Everything changes; nothing is lost.)


A couple of snaps from this festive week…

Christmas Day at my in-laws. My MIL always has the most fun decorations up. She found the 3D Fa La La garland at Joann’s and it’s currently 70% off! Also like this white felt one for a Scandi mantel.

I was wearing a tartan nap dress from a past season and these fabulous red ballet flats from Margaux.

My MIL has the most epic collection of Nutcrackers. I love the skiing one! (Similar here.) I am keeping my eyes peeled for some to go on sale in the Christmas aftermath — specifically monitoring the Alexander Taron ones at Saks, but have this one from Cailini Coastal (on sale!) in my cart. My mother also has a set of fun Nutcrackers (seen below). So charming! (BTW, mini loves the sweatshirt dress seen below, and it’s on sale, as are some cute sweatpants for boys. And my son’s bear sweater is Ralph, of course!)

A “smidgie” this year: mini refused to wear one of the tartan dresses I had lined up for Christmas, so we just had her wear the same blue plaid dress two days in a row. We were seeing different families and — who cared anyway?! She looked great, and she was happy in it (she picked it out; blue is her favorite color).

Note also that we’ve given up on frilly socks and knee socks — she won’t wear them! She only likes these white tube socks. Eh well! She does like this green dress coat, which looks adorable on her — one of my favorite items she has in her closet. (My son is wearing this tartan shirt — on sale now, and a great time to buy for next holiday season!)

Christmas morning magic. I don’t think mini has taken off her Mahomes jersey for more than a few hours since she found it under the tree. They both love their Petite Plume pajamas, which brings me so much joy. They are the FIRST ones they pick out of their drawers when clean. If you’ve never purchased your children these jammies, they are not starchy — a very soft, brushed fabric — and they are currently on sale, plus extra 20% off with code BOXING20.

Above, mini is holding her Chiefs jersey for her American Girl doll! She has been so into her American Girl doll lately. Santa gave her the AG desk set she’d asked for, and she is obsessed with it. I’d been skeptical (what would she do with a desk?) but the accessories are adorable, and she loves to set everything up, and have her doll do homework, etc.

Mr. Magpie played a few rounds of Azul over the Christmas holiday and gifted a set to our smart eight-year-old godson. He’s a strategic thinker and loves to play chess — it was fun to introduce him to this game on Christmas Eve with a quick round at my mom’s house. I also learned that my brother gifted this to his family, only his version is in Norwegian (!). He learned while visiting us this past summer. I’m telling you, it’s a fabulous game! On the game front: Mr. Magpie gave me Codenames for Christmas, which I’m already really into. You can play with two players (we played multiple rounds on Christmas night just the two of us), but I anticipate it will be even more fun with more players. We’re bringing it with us on an upcoming ski trip with another family. We also gave the children Klask, which we discovered at Landon’s aunt’s house over the summer. It’s really fun. Sort of like a mini foos ball situation? The games are really quick, which I like. You can complete a round in a few minutes.

This week’s “empty”: this absolutely fantastic body butter. It is so hydrating, with the best texture! I wrote about all my favorite cold weather products earlier this week, but this deserves special mention. I layer it over my lineup of Hanni products (splash salve and water balm — 15% off with code JEN15) and have the softest, silkiest, most hydrated skin! (Robe in the background is Hill House — apparently this “hotel robe” was the most-searched-for item on their site this year! It is excellent when you want to lounge after a shower. Super fluffy and soft. For getting ready and especially blow-drying my hair, though, I like Weezie’s short robe so I don’t overheat. The short sleeves is also handy for washing face so you aren’t dragging the cuffs through the water!)

Finally, a few shopping finds on my mind this week…

+A girlfriend of mine gave us chocolate-covered peanuts for Christmas and they are addictive. The perfect post-meal treat — just a handful is enough.

+Currently hunting the La Coqueta sale. I love this corduroy dress, these sweaters, this quilted jacket.

+These Agolde jeans. I’m between sizes in this brand but might size down to try these.

+The mom I sat behind in Mass was wearing this dress in bright cherry red. SO cute. This brand’s sale section is worth a gander, BTW! Obviously I have a thing for tartan and how spectacular is this?!

+These beautiful cashmere sweaters are on sale at Alex Mill. Similar on sale for even less at Everlane. (And while you’re at Everlane, snag one of these supima cotton turtlenecks on sale for $35.)

+These letter charms are so chic. While we’re talking jewelry, love these “sister” pendant necklaces. (I own and love the “joy” one!)

+I just bought a second tube of this Ilia liquid eye powder tint. I loveeee the cork one — a perfect everyday neutral. I am also thinking of trying their concealer. I’ve been using and liking a tube of this Lancome concealer I had forgotten about, but it’s almost kicked.

+Tempted by this Loretta Caponi dress, on super sale.

P.S. The “or whats?”

P.P.S. And “the or maybes.”

P.P.P.S. Lots of good shopping here.

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15 thoughts on “The Magpie Diary: Dec. 31, 2023.

  1. Amazon shop …. I would love to “follow” your Amazon storefront but every time I try, there is not a blue follow button like the others I have been able to connect with?

    1. Hi Kerry – This is a great question. I just enabled the follow button but for some reason my shopping / idea lists are not showing up under my name on that page. Grr! Will keep working on this – thanks for your patience!


  2. Do you have tips for mass with young children? We baptize my second child tomorrow, and I’m realizing I need to start bringing my almost 2 year old to mass (which seems daunting, logistically, while exclusive pumping for his sister!). I have no village here and my husband does not attend with me. I’ve put it off but it feels important to start.

    1. Hi! It is daunting at first!! There are many different philosophies/strategies on this, but mine is to bring lots of quiet activities and snacks, and then to move to the vestibule if you need a break / if kids are overly squirmy or squealy. In NYC, I would wheel my stroller right into the Church and park it at the very end pew next to me, and out of the way. That also helped — keeping her strapped in as long as possible! There are religious activities/books that I try to prioritize but I also am comfortable just giving them markers / coloring books / sticker books. My perspective is that I want to acclimate them to Church, get them accustomed to the rules (quiet!) and rituals and sounds of the prayers/hymns, point out the various parts of the Church — but generally not make it a horrible time for them. It is a lot to ask a two year old to be quiet and still for an hour, and I’d rather not have them dread Church from the age of two. My kids haven’t minded because I usually have snacks and activities on hand. I keep these in a separate bin in my closet so they always feel “new” on Sundays, and I rotate in new books and sets pretty frequently.

      I will say I have friends at the other end of the spectrum who think it’s important that kids learn to be quiet / focused / listening without a lot of distractions. They probably initially spend more time wrangling their kids BUT my sense is that the kids are better plugged into what’s happening in the Mass. Some moms even suggest moving kids up to front row so they can really take it all in / feel more dialed in on what’s happening. So maybe see what you prefer / what you value and go from there! I personally prefer to keep my kids pretty distracted so I have time to focus on the Mass and so we’re not disturbing anyone else, BUT — I also totally understand the valid perspective that kids SHOULD be permitted in Mass, and that noises / whining / crying WILL happen.


      1. [Raises free hand while the other wrangles children in the very front pew; also a toy mom] One thing that has worked really well for my family with kids under 5 is to volunteer to do one of the ‘jobs’ at mass now and then. I am a eucharistic minister and alternate which kid gets to join me for that special task. They stand right under me, head back, staring up. We have also brought up the gifts a few times – always very special, but my 3 year old requires (a lot, omg so much) supervision. They’re more tuned into the mass a few times before they participate and a few time after, so I like to try to sprinkle a job in every now and then – and i really hype it up. I also let my kids wear whatever they want to church always, no questions – so they routinely wear halloween costumes and/or matching pajamas. I let each kid bring a few figurines to church (cars, barbies, etc) and we bring high volume snacks (puffs, yogurt melts, cereal). I’ve been at this for about 2 years since bringing the kids back to church regularly post-covid. And some of it is starting to sink in – meaning, they know I like them to stand for the opening song, they stand and hold hands for the our father, shake hands at the sign of peace, and come to communion with me. Usually my daughter will pop onto my lap for about half of the homily. I see it all as progress. Good luck – if you were at my church in Chicago i’d happily give you a hand!

  3. I love the Chinese foo dogs on the mantle! I’ve always wanted a pair. In the Anne of Green Gables books, a pair of Chinese porcelain dogs are referenced throughout series. I am a huge fan of Anne Shirley and have a suspicion you may be too. Curious if you are.

  4. Love Ilia products! If you’re ordering, add the balmy tint lip color to your cart. It is a hero product – I have three and don’t leave home without at least one in my bag. Very hydrating and good color payoff for something that feels more like chapstick.

    1. Hi Meg! Thanks for this – I actually do have one but don’t love the color on my complexion so always overlook it. Do you have a color you swear by? Thanks! xx

      1. Seconding the love for Ilia Balmy Tint! I am on my second tube of Wanderlust and especially like it for the winter (not sure if this is entirely relevant, but I’m fairly pale but with dark eyebrows/darkish auburn hair, and it works well on me, esp in colder weather!)

        That said, I want to find a different (lighter?) shade to try, because the formula is top-notch!


  5. Love the Christmas snaps! Those children are darling.

    I had a similar experience observing my growing babies…it is so bittersweet! Last year at my older daughter’s all-school Christmas program, my then 2.5yo had recently given up naps. It was exhausting wrangling her during the program, which seemed interminable! This year, she sat quietly and drew on her doodle pad, and the program was actually enjoyable! Not sure why I was amazed, but it was a pleasant surprise. (Asterisk…we are, however, still in the stage where we are all buckled in the car after the program, ready to leave the parking lot, when someone realizes they need to use the bathroom and we re-park and troop back into the church…) It is a relief but if I think about it too hard, I need to go pick up my “baby” and squeeze her while I still can!

    1. Those markers are SO huge! It’s amazing what a difference a year, or even a few months can make. I feel like those are the moments where I really witness my children’s development — e.g., comparing how things were “the last time.”


  6. I absolutely enjoying taking 10 minutes each morning to sip coffee and read your blog while scouring the links you provide. 10 minutes of happiness before the hectic days begin! Thank you for the thoughtful content ALWAYS!

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