Hello, January!
Current family routines: screen time



More than halfway through January and I think I'm finally feeling the rhythm of the new year. We seem to be making progress on the parenting hard stuff I mentioned and will keep at it. Chris and I have been revisiting and tweaking some family routines like screen time, manners at the dinner table, and chores which has me feeling like we're righting a listing ship. And I'm finding everyday routines again for my work as well as laundry, dinner, and tidying which all felt quite out of sorts over the holidays. It feels like a good tidying of sorts to start the year.

So let's get into looking ahead in 2024, shall we?

Big things in 2024

Thinking about the ages of my kids and what grades they'll be in is one of the first ways I start to frame a new year. Which recalls my "the years are short family spreadsheet," a handy tool that puts the long days into perspective.

For most of the year our kids will be 11, 9, and 4. Cedric just had his birthday and turned 9 while Maeve and Dash will have their birthdays in early April. This year Dash will start 6th grade, his last year at our neighborhood school, Cedric will start 4th grade, and Maeve will be in pre-K when 2024 ends. April of this year will also bring our 14th wedding anniversary and in July we'll have lived in our house for 15 years.

Next, I think about any travel we have planned, and we already have a few trips on the books for the year. For spring break we'll visit Joshua Tree National Park on our way to southern California where we're doing a Home Exchange. In April we'll make a short trip to Austin to see the solar eclipse, and in July we'll take a big Wharton family trip to San Diego.

I'll take all three kids camping on a moms and kids camp out to kick off the summer. We hope to send Dash to sleep away camp again this summer. In August we'll visit Karchner Caverns and see the Perseid meteor shower. I'd love to fit in a trip just Chris and me as well if we can. I'd also love to get out of town during the kids' fall break this year; I found staying home to be a drag this past year, but we'll see what's in the cards.

Another bigger thing for us this year is that we'll find out if Chris is promoted to full professor in May, which would be a big professional accomplishment. Academia can be unpredictable but he's so deserving and I feel very optimistic.


SHINE in 2024

My word for the year is SHINE, which is a word and intention dear to my heart. It shows up in my blog name and the recent goals workshop I gave (Your Year to Shine). My mom actually gifted this intention to me because she's had a saying to describe my sister and myself: Kelsey shines and Elizabeth sparkles. My year of being 40 feels like a good time to return to this word.

This year I want to pay attention to what and who makes me shine. I want to make more time for those people and those things. As a parent this year (and always) I want to help my kids to shine, each in their own way, and for them to know that I'm always there to help them shine. I want to help other people shine, especially Chris, family, and close friends, and be a source of light in my community, while also preserving enough of myself to be my best, shining self.


Goals for 2024

Personal care & growth

+ Always be reading. Plus read all the books on my 2024 syllabus, which are books I want to make sure I read this year. The list is a mix of classics I've never read, at least one biography, self-improvement/parenting books that seem important, and at least one book just for fun. Books and reading are definitely something that makes me shine. I'm already always reading and I want to keep it up. I'll set a book goal for myself on Goodreads because it's fun to track, but I also want to shift my focus away from the number of books I read. Instead I want to be more focused on appreciating my love of books and reading as a constant in my life.

+ Establish healthy news consumption habits. I've been happily and healthfully pretty disengaged from the news. Currently I don't scroll any headlines or listen to any daily news podcasts. I maintain an arms-length understanding of the news by listening to Pantsuit Politics and The Ezra Klein Show, but I would like to bring some more current news consumption back into my life as we head into an election year. My plan is to make time to listen to every Pantsuit Politics and Ezra Klein Show podcast episode plus listen to the NPR daily news podcast Up First at least once per week. I've already started doing this by listening to it on Wednesdays on my way home from Orange Theory. As the election picks up I might add another news podcast, or even more ideally I'd love to get the Sunday New York Times again. How I miss our paper and pancakes ritual -- maybe it'll come back in 2024?!

+ Take at least three days completely off. I love the complete "off duty" feeling I get on my birthday each year. I've been asking why I only do this once per year. This year I'm planning to take at least three days completely off: February 29 (hey, we get by without this day every other year so I can definitely take it off, right?), my half birthday on June 22, and my birthday, December 22. I've always remembered The Lazy Genius recommendation (on a podcast episode I cannot remember) of taking a day off each quarter and I'd like to work towards that.



+ 230 workouts. Tracking workouts is interesting data to me and it's been fun to see my total workouts increase steadily over the years. My goal this year would be my highest volume of exercise ever and is an average of 4.4 workouts per week. I'm regularly going to five exercise classes a week so this number is possible but doesn't allow for many deviations. We'll see what happens!

+ One "push" week once a month. This is an idea I came up with to mix up my workout routine but not change my week to week very much. On the last week of every month I want to add at least one extra workout to my week and track what I eat in terms of protein, fat, carbs, and added sugars. My overall exercise goal right now is to get stronger/gain muscle and making sure I'm eating enough protein and carbs makes a difference. Checking in once a month on what I'm eating is fun and interesting for me. I use the FoodNoms app which let's you track aspects of food without seeing calories which I really like.

+ Maintain an average of 7 hours of sleep per night. I track my sleep using my Apple Watch and it's typical for me to maintain an average of just under 7 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is so beneficial, and I can tell such a big difference when I'm well rested overall, so I want to put some effort towards increasing my sleep. So far I'm keeping up my 7 hours per night average and I think consistently wearing a sleep mask is really helping.




+ Monthly one-on-one time with each of my kids. Copied from Sarah Hart-Unger's goals because it's such a great one, and very aligned with helping my kids shine this year. What I love about the way she framed this goal is that this time does not have to be super special like a whole multi-hour outing or have a big "wow" factor. This could be going to the library together, or, like I did yesterday with Cedric, hanging out at home just the two of us and then going rollerblading and biking together. Last week I took Maeve to a nearby farm and fed animals with her. My kids' personalities and interests are varied enough that this individual time feels really important right now. I'm planning to track this with a simple note on my phone and list what I did with each kid that month.

+ Establish family meetings. I've heard a few people mention these and love the idea. The boys are at good ages and could participate. For now I think we'll do these without Maeve, at least most of the time. My objectives are to establish a time and format where Chris and I can share information (like upcoming scheduling stuff), have discussions (such as around screen time, chores, etc.), and perhaps add some kind of reflection or relationship building component. This could be a chance to pay a compliment to someone else, share a small joy from the week, etc. It's still a bit nebulous so if you have family meetings please tell me all about them and what works for you!



Creativity & fun

+ Find the fun and shine as a fun vacation mom on our family trips. Family trips can be a lot of work and there are sure to be frustrating moments (especially since we'll be taking three road trips this year) but they are also incredible opportunities for family bonding. With two tween boys and teenagehood on the horizon I want all the family bonding time we can get. Once we're on our way, I want to tap into my vacation mode to go with the flow, enjoy my kids, say yes more than I would, and make sure I have fun too (i.e. not just taking care of everyone else).

+ Watch lots of summer Olympics! This is the first Olympic games with kids that we've had a television and I'm so excited to share my love of the Olympics with them. I just bookmarked the official Olympic news website to keep tabs leading up to the summer games. Watching rowing at the '96 Atlanta games is what sparked my interest in rowing which turned into an 8-year hobby and significant part of my life. So you never know what impact watching the games might have. :)




+ Run the Your Year to Shine goals workshop again! The glowing feedback I received has been so energizing and I'm excited to run this again. I'm percolating some tweaks to the content and format which is a fun part of the work for me.

+ Explore: writing another workshop on a new topic and an overhaul of my blog website.

+ Produce more content for The Girl Next Door Podcast. Erica and I always set our podcast goals during our annual February retreat which is still on the horizon. But I know that generally we want to work towards increasing our content production and growing our audience. We'll also be debuting our updated website this year!



Home & finances

+ Move to a new budgeting software. We're trying out Monarch although have not had time yet to get fully acquainted.

+ Complete two gallery walls: in the front room and in the hallway. In the front room I'm putting together a collection of art and family photos. In the hallway I want to put together a gallery of family photos, both from our family and older family photos. Honestly this will probably be one of my most challenging goals because I drag my feet to make decisions about art and photos, to spend money on frames, and get things on the wall. But I know at the end of 2024 I will be SO glad that I completed this.

+ Collaborate with Chris on at least one creative home project. As Chris has become a wizard in his garage woodworking shop, I've delighted in dreaming up home projects for him to build, which (luckily) he is always eager to take on. This year I want to add at least one beautiful and/or functional thing to our house that we collaborate on.


Sharing this post, plus our annual intentions episode on The Girl Next Door (also out today!) makes me feel that the year has officially started. So here we go, 2024!


I hope you have optimism for 2024 and that you make time for the things that make you shine. I'd love to hear about them if you'd like to share.


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