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The Magpie Edit: My Late August Diary.

By: Jen Shoop

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This week, I took care of myself as though sick. I moved more slowly, took longer pauses, sent myself to bed early — but not because I was physically unwell. I just needed the extra TLC, for two reasons. First, I sent both of my children off to school, and endured the usual whiplash of emotions. Every “first day” photo on the front stoop reminds me how impossibly fast this is going, and I found myself wondering this past week, even as his “big kid backpack” dwarfed him, “When did my son shed his baby fat? His legs look so long and thin now.” As though the dawn of the school year transformed him physically, too. I am so accustomed to this weepy ruefulness at transitions and, frankly, every few nights, when I shuffle through photographs of my children on my phone in bed, that its strain feels nearly familiar, worn-in. Ah, you again. I let it sit with me for as long as it needs to before ushering it out — it is, after all, as I remind myself routinely, a guest, not a resident. (This, too, shall pass; no feeling is final). At the same time, I am thrilled to return to a routine. I feel as though we are all buttoning up after the long unspooling of summer in a pleasant, shouldering-against-the-wind kind of way — and the quiet in the house is a godly thing. Still, I let myself feel it all, and didn’t do a thing to stop the tear that fell when I watched my boy walk away from our car towards his new pre-K teacher for the first time, his eyes saucer-like.


The second reason I needed extra self-care this week was because I went to a doctor’s appointment I’d been dreading. All is fine, and I’m fit as a fiddle, but the anxiety I felt in advance was exhausting. I got to my car afterward and sat still and silent for a good minute. It was hot out that day, but I didn’t turn the A/C on — I just sat in that melty, comfortable pod as the jitteriness evaporated. A long exhale. Shavasana.

Neither of these mildly stressful happenings were acute or important, but I truly believe that handling yourself with care when you feel as though the winds are beginning to pick up is the best way to prevent — or at least attenuate — serious emotional stress.

In between it all, a few beautiful snapshots to share —

I recently crossed paths with the founder of skincare line Flora ex Machina, Alle, who is a holistic health practitioner and certified nutrition counselor. She generously sent me her facial oil and toner and they are botanical delights — beautifully-scented and luxurious to apply. I’d liken the facial oil to a slightly heavier version of the Vintner’s Daughter formula, and have been using the toner at the end of the work day, as a kind of “marker of transition” during my “buffering” phase, when I turn off my work/writer self and turn on my mom self. Alle offered us 15% off with code JENNIFER15 if you’d like to try.

I took my big first-grader to get her ears pierced on Friday! I had a lot of questions about where we had it done, and how we decided it was the right time. We are lucky that our pediatrician offers the service — I felt much more peaceful knowing it was done hygienically and with trained nurses. She was not happy after the first ear but I signaled to the nurse to keep it rolling so that she wouldn’t have time to process the pain and back out of the second, and so it was done in a flash, and then she was beaming all weekend long. We made a big to-do about it, calling aunts and grandparents to show them off. Later that day, she came into my room in her usual uniform of cut-off jean shorts and a t-shirt and said, “My earrings look really good with this outfit.” I loved that moment for her — seeing herself styled the way she likes. She’d been asking to have her ears pierced for awhile, as a few of her little girlfriends have them done, and we spent time this summer with a tiny two-year-old cousin who also had earrings. I had to wait until I was thirteen to get mine done, and I felt like it was so late and almost babyish not to have them — I’d wanted them for so long! I understand why my parents did this, but I was open to advancing the timeline for my girl. (I even debated getting them done when she was an infant!). She picked out some studs from Pip Pop Post to switch to in a few weeks, per doctor’s instructions.

I wore my new Grace jeans a lot over this past week — been enjoying wearing all ecru-white looks recently. I also really love my new shearling-lined Birks, but it’s been too hot to wear them outside the house. I put them on with my favorite Doen dress (sadly sold out, but I adore everything they do — this fall one is on my list), but had to switch to my more practical Ancient Greek Eleftheria sandals, which remain one of my absolute favorite buys this summer. They look good with absolutely everything.

In other shopping news, I picked up a few staples: these brown leggings, some Falke socks, and a new bra. By the time you are reading this, I probably also will have purchased this Veronica Beard jacket (somehow on sale for around $155, down from nearly $700) and this suitcase, as both are sitting heavy in my cart right now.

And I did a pretty big shop at Amazon this week, ordering Sally Rooney’s new short story (!), this rechargeable mirror for travel, Tilly’s favorite training treats, this Plus Plus flags building set and this magnetic story maker (setting both aside for Christmas), these individually-wrapped makeup removing wipes (I hate all the packaging but these are reallllly handy for travel), and this travel version of our favorite board game for some upcoming trips. I also picked up these mommy-and-son corded bracelets for my son’s first day. He wore it and I wore mine — it made me feel connected to him throughout the day in the loveliest way.

Finally, two random motherhood notes —

I surprised my children with these personalized plate/bowl/mug sets from Mayfly and Junebug on their first day of school, and they were over the moon. They adore the mugs in particular — they pretend their drinking coffee. It was a fun way to mark the start of the new year. The smallest things mean so much to them. (You can see them above on my go to Proper Table acrylic placemats! Still obsessed with these. I also own in this pretty pattern. They are a great gift idea.)

On the Sunday before school started, we had a slow and restful day at home. We took a long walk, played Uno, played with some butter slime, and then they begged me to set up a sensory play station we call “car wash.” You mix a little cocoa powder with cornstarch and water and they roll their cars through “the mud” and then scrub them off in soapy water. Lord knows why this is fun, but they adore it. I just set out big beach towels on the back patio and let them have at it, which is more or less the principle rule of accommodating sensory play: it is going to be messy, and you have to make peace with it. One thing that helps is doing it outside, on big, washable, non-precious beach towels, and asking them to “please stay on the mats.” More sensory play ideas here. Such a great way to invite imagination and creativity using mainly household items. I’m also reminded right now of something a Magpie once told me when I was really struggling through pandemic lockdown days with a one year old and a three year old. She said: “Put them in water.” I think about that when they’re channeling a big energy and I’m on my last rope. Put them in the bath, let them run through the sprinkler, set out a big water play station (literally, you could just fill a big tupperware with water and a couple of random kitchen implements, duplos, toys, some food coloring), or drive to the pool. Water does such wonders at resetting the system.

Anyhow — onward, to the new week!

P.S. More thoughts on navigating first days of school.

P.P.S. The art of losing.

P.P.P.S. Love in the big ways and the small.

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5 thoughts on “The Magpie Edit: My Late August Diary.

  1. Yay for E and her pierced ears! I remember that as SUCH a big transitional moment (I had mine done at 10, also at the pediatrician!) My niece just got hers done for her birthday (she just turned 5) and it’s so cute to see how proud she is of her piercings!

    I LOVE those brown Varley leggings — adding to my wishlist! — and the lacy Skims bra has me reconsidering my pause on buying anything from them (due to my unhappiness with how things have worn/shrunk over time) — it is GORGE! I might have to size up and hope for the best … I love it!!


  2. Hi Jen! First of all, thanks so much for posting on a Sunday, as usual, even though it is a holiday weekend.
    Secondly, I wanted to write to say the photo of your daughter with her newly pierced ears is so sweet. This reminded me of the fact that my dad would not allow me to get my ears pierced unless it was by the pediatrician. Unfortunately, my doctor did not perform such a service so I had to wait until I was about 13 to get my ears pierced when my dad finally said OK. I’m sure at the time I was annoyed, but now, seeing your story about your daughter reminded me that he only did that because he was also worried about it being hygienic, just like you. As always, my amazing father was looking out for me, like he did until the very end when I lost him 3 years ago.

    I hope you and your family have a lovely and safe holiday.

    1. Hi Marty! Of course! I’m so glad you appreciate the consistency of my posts 🙂 Also happy that my note on the hygiene issue helped lead you to deeper understanding with your dad and his decisions. Sometimes it can be so hard to discern what your parents were thinking / what other parents are thinking and usually we’re all just trying our absolute best.


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