December 31, 2022

Habit Goals - 2023 - and a small reflection on goals themselves.

I am into goals this year.

I've always loved goals.  And schedules.  I remember making a "summer of fun" binder for myself sometime in primary school, filled with all the things I planned to do - books I planned to read, lists I planned to make... I'm sure it had a "Best Summer Ever" sticker on it.

I also remember something going wrong early in the summer and me getting upset and throwing the binder away.

It turns out, my lack of resilience is not a new phenomenon.

(this post takes a sad turn from here for the next 2 paragraphs:)

I'm also acutely aware how lucky I am with my goal setting.  In December 2017 my friend Amy wrote about how excited she was for the new year - she was almost 5 months pregnant with her rainbow baby.  Leo was stillborn the next day, Amy was diagnosed with cancer in the spring, and she died in April of 2018 at the age of 32.

Amy and I used to joke a lot about diets and health - we both talked about losing five or ten pounds.  We both were pretty good looking (in the way twenty something North Americans living in in the UK are) but I'm sure we spent a long time talking about going to the gym and/or eating more salads.  When Amy got cancer she lost weight quickly.  I remember her writing that she finally had that "dream body" but the dream body was literally killing her.  

When I think about goals I remember to hold them loose and consider how lucky I am to even make goals.  To have the opportunity to enter 2023 generally healthy, and with a healthy family.  To make goals based on "normal", with the limitations of "normal".  My life, even the pre-goal version, is someone else dream.  Not some far away person from another land, or even some person from another century, but someone from down the street or across the road.  I try to be continually in awe of how lucky I am. 

So while I would like to get into better shape (why did I not realize how fit I was in 2013?) And be a better human, I'm starting from a place of pretty huge advantage.

With that long preamble, here are the habit goals I want to try out for at least some of 2023:

  • Eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day (incorporate more fruit!)
  • Flossing habit (ie not just the week before the dentist)
  • Continue daily gratitude in evening
  • Get a regular morning routine back (not sleeping till kids get up)
  • Get into a yoga routine (3 times a week is a habit)
  • Get back into strength training - lift heavy things (return of the bench press?)

These are not necessarily everyday goals, maybe trial add-on goals for a month?  I'm sure all of these habits would make me a better person.  But these are the 6 I've picked for 2023, and hopefully fortune will allow me the chance to trial all or most of them, and maybe even keep some as life habits. (FYI gratitude is a learned habit from 2021ish)

If you are a goal setter, I hope you have a healthy list of goals for the new year, and that your goals are built on a foundation of good luck and good opportunity as well. 

December 29, 2022

2023 Planning: Holidays & Adventures

We put the kids in nursery today because it was raining AGAIN and also because nursery was open and we are paying for it and we had some house things to do.   For instance, we organized our "pantry":

IN addition to generic organizing, having a day to ourselves was generally a very good decision, especially after driving my brother to the airport at 5am.  Yay for brother visits, Waah for returns home.  It was great having him here, and I am very aware that flying from a rainy part of the US to an even rainier part of the UK to spend a week with a 2 and 4 year old is probably not the ideal fun way for any person to spend their Christmas holiday.  I am glad that my brother puts up with it.

Back to today - Andy and I went out for coffee/midmorning snack and did some 2023 planning.  The primary victory was a rather comprehensive holiday schedule for the year.  2020 was supposed to be our year of awesome before Lilah was born but it was definitely not a year of awesome.  It's a bit galling that it's taken 3 years to get back to awesome, but travel is much harder with two kids than it was with one.  Also, pandemic.

Here is the rough plan:

January: Forest of Dean long weekend

March: Bournemouth long weekend

April: Forest of Dean 1 week holiday

May: Cotswolds long weekend

June: Camping long weekend, or possibly week holiday at home

I've also scheduled in my work Trips for the first 3 months:

January: Manchester

February: London

March: Edinburgh

The March trip may include a second visit to best friend in Cumbria, which would mean leaving the kids with Andy for 5 days.  As Andy said "how hard can it be?"

Have you planned any trips for 2023?  Do you want to come visit Wales?

December 28, 2022

Toddler Takeover at Mountain View Ranch

It's been a wet christmas, as usual in Wales.  

My Brother commented that he was the most content to sit in the house of any of us, and it's true.  I am going stir crazy.  The kids started to go a bit crazy.  The husband got out on the mountain bike on Sunday but is still going a bit stir crazy.

This morning we decided to attempt toddler takeover at Mountain View Bike Park.  The website said there were coached lessons on Wednesdays at 9am during school breaks... and it is a school break.

When we arrive at 9am there was no one there, which was a slightly bad sign.  Perhaps it was the yellow warning of rain, or perhaps it was the actual rain.  Here's some photographic evidence.  It was wet, but both kids had fun.

Lilah has a strange habit of taking corners so sharply she leaves the pump track and skids into the mud.  Then she cries because she wants to be back on the bike.  She is made of tough stuff!

After 45 minutes we all went inside for hot chocolates:

We were back home by 11.  This afternoon we are visiting friends for a toddler tea party.  My brother heads home tomorrow (5am wakeup for the airport adventure...) and then hopefully Andy and I might get a day of catch up ourselves with the kids in Nursery.  

Christmas holiday has been fun and busy.  I love the bit after Christmas when you get to really start thinking about 2023.  I can't wait to read all the goals posts in the blogosphere and solidify our 2023 plans fir fun and adventure.

Also, I finished another book.  Really enjoyed A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers.  
Updated book list here - I think I'm ending this year on 58 books which is no small achievement for a former non-reader.

December 20, 2022

Weekend Rundown - Tuesday Update

It's been a busy few days.  On Thursday I stayed overnight in Bristol with Andy for his work's Christmas do.  I am not used to staying up until midnight! On Friday I was tired, but we managed to get some hipster bagels and coffee before coming home.  We also bought a second hand frog bike, in a slightly smaller size than Isaac's current bike, so hopefully he will be riding a pedal bike soon:

Andy did ask if we could get one without the Team Sky logo, but beggars and choosers and all meant we could not.

The weekend was a bit of a toughie, Lilah has another generic winter illness so hasn't been sleeping well, and Isaac hasn't been particularly chill either.  We made it through the weekend with a lot of being very tired.  Both kids were vaguely ill on Sunday and I was off work on Monday.  They were both asleep by 6:15pm on Monday night, and Isaac slept until 8am on Tuesday, which is a sure sign he is ill.  He did wake up at 6am and asked to play with Peppa Pig toys so perhaps he did some playing before sleeping till 8.

On Monday evening I attended a Yoga Conditioning course that was absolutely brutal.  Perhaps going to conditioning only once a month makes it more brutal...?  I'm hoping to make a regular practice of yoga in the new year... at least more regular than once a month.

Today Lilah was still ill, and although it was Andy's day with the kids I helped out so he could get some work done too.  

Tomorrow Lilah still won't be well enough for nursery, so were doing the kid-work shuffle. Unfortunately I'm cracking into my 2023 leave with all this time off now, I was supposed to work through until Friday but at this rate I'll be vaguely absent until my actual absence.   I'm still looking forward to powering off my work computer for Christmas.   I know we won't get much "down time" but we can at least have some "substantially lowered expectations time"

Also, you know what keeps kids entertained?  New toys.  Magically, the kids seem to get better toys on days when they need some down time playing with toys.  Today Lilah got a doll-pram and Isaac got a marble run.  We opened presents at 4pm and everyone was extremely entertained until dinner (at 5:30).

Do you celebrate Hannukah?  Is everyone in your family healthy or are you experiencing an immunity debt disease onslaught?

December 19, 2022

Gendered Impact of Technology: Post Event Commentary

I've spent some time considering the differences between my WhatsApp departure and my husband's WhatsApp departure, and I am starting to wonder whether the disparate reactions are indicative of a larger disparate gendered impact of smartphone technology for women. 

One thing I noticed when leaving WhatsApp (and social media) was the massively reduced time costs of post-event commentary.

After group events I would often find myself running through streams of messages and photos from the event - all appreciative - all wonderful - and all taking up time.

The problem with this approach is that any event cannot be experienced for what it is - it's experienced for what it will be after.  After enjoying the company of friends we then enjoy reflecting on our enjoyment through WhatsApp.  Sharing photos of what transpired that day is friendly and nice, but it's also highly gendered.

Men do not spend the post-event hours sharing photos of their kids.  They don't thank friends in the group for their amazing cupcakes or lovely home.  They enjoy an event, and then finish it.

Andy never messages his mountain biking buddies after a ride to say how well they all did.

With WhatsApp, the post event message was almost obligatory.  I know this might make me sound crotchety or unkind - but I've realized that every message we send is a moment of our time and a fraction of our headspace.  Finishing an event with a series of social messages, as nice as they feel at the time, still takes up our valuable time.  It's also expected of us, and the idea of not doing it would be exceptionally odd.

So perhaps, in this post, my gendered use of WhatsApp links directly to our gendered use of time.  However, the creep of WhatsApp obligation has gone relatively unnoticed.  I never realized Andy didn't send post event messages, and I never noticed how much time I spent doing it, but once I was off WhatsApp it became more apparent that I was missing something and his life remained the same.

When I thought about it I realized I was missing out on the recaps, and perhaps some photos of my kids, but I wasn't missing it.  I was instead far more appreciate of the event itself, the limited time I had to spend with my friends, and making the most of the minutes I was in.  

Without Social Media I didn't need to, or get to, re-live time.  Because of this, I try to enjoy that time much more.

December 14, 2022


I was somewhat off kilter today.  Lilah woke up with a hacking cough, which caused great concern.  Concern that I won't be able to attend Andy's Christmas party tomorrow.  Everyone was exceptionally slow out the door, arriving at nursery at nearly 9am.  Andy picked up Lilah at 11:45 so she could nap at home, which she did for 3 hours.  In the interim, I fractured 7.5 hours of work into slightly less than 7.5 hours of experienced time.  

Lilah seems much better after her mega-nap and I'm hoping she will be fine at nursery tomorrow. Although she is not terribly ill, she does have occasional bouts of severe croup, which is a terrifying ordeal for anyone who hasn't experienced it before.  The barking cough is fine, the stridor breathing is not.  The bad cases are fixed with a dose of crushed up oral steroids, but I really don't want to leave my mom watching kids overnight with the potential of a croup attack.  I am crossing fingers she sleeps well tonight and arrives croup-less by tomorrow.

In other news, my roast sweet potato and haloumi dinner turned into this:

Yes, I we had fish sticks for dinner. And sweet potato and broccoli.  Turns out, fish sticks are delicious.  They call them fish fingers here.  

We got a smart meter last year, which is cool because it shows us our daily usage and actual real time electric usage.  It's also horrifying because:

Today was a £10 day for energy usage.  This is kind of insane.  We only heat the house to 62 degrees.  I'm looking forward to the end of this 30 degree cold snap and the return of 53 degrees and rain.

Andy's gran sent us a Christmas hamper.  I love a hamper.  Isaac was excited to find this box of horse food:
"This will be really good if a horse comes over to our house" he said.  His little mind may explode when we open the box to find regular crisps.

December 13, 2022

Women, men, and the obligation to reply.

Here's a super random one for a Tuesday.

I've worked in consulting for over five years now, and I've noticed that men don't reply to everything.  Women, when asked a question, reply.  Men, when asked, don't.  

Obviously not all men, and not all women, but while I initially appreciated the thoroughness of my female colleagues I'm now starting to envy the lack of obligation from the male ones.

It can be so small, "Hi Male, do you want X or Y?" and the reply comes "sure"

Or "Hi Male, can you please explain X and Y?" and the reply comes "yes here is the explanation for X"

I've realized they're not doing it maliciously, it's how their brains work.

A colleague of mine (in my department) recently had an email with a very simple questions and a very complex tangential question for example: "X entry is an error and should be Y, unless fundamental shift in the meaning of X and Y?" My colleague started drafting a reply, explaining the pros and cons of X and Y and trying to put together a very thorough response to both part of his email.

I told her to stop.  The male answer is "Thank you, it was an error, and I have corrected it now"

How much time are women spending feeling the obligation and then responding to requests that men don't register?

How much is this playing into non-promotable work?  

Would my female colleagues be surprised at what men don't reply to?  Many of the women I work with would get A+ for what they do, administratively, if we were in school.  In work, the men seem to get promoted, regardless of the "administration".  I wonder if this plays out in other fields as well - are headteachers predominantly male party because they are good at setting workloads but have never properly completed them?  Or are women afraid to take the next step because their workload burden at their current level is so high that they can't imagine taking on more.... not realizing that the men are already doing less and facing few/no repercussions for it?

As an aside, adding this one to my list now:

December 12, 2022

Monday - meal plans and bedtimes.

I have often been accused of burning the candle on both ends.  “But why not?” was my often reply… “a candle burning at both ends burns twice as bright!”

I have since realized that Is exactly the answer a twenty something would give.

On Friday I was tired.  I knew it was a night to get an early bedtime, and recover on the busy week of suboptimal sleep.  But then, the book was too good.  So instead I read it all. Until 11:30pm!   On Saturday I was tired.  On Sunday, I was tired.  On Sunday I went to bed at 8:30pm.  Which was good, because the biggest little is really into his 5:15am wake ups at the moment.  

Today, I went to Bath to have Christmas lunch with my new team, and this evening I’m going to the local indoor bike/bmx center to play on BMX bikes with my mountain biking buddies.  I love a ladies night at a BMX center, and haven’t been since 2018.  It was the one biking hobby I gave up quickly on becoming pregnant, mostly because it was the only biking hobby where I have ever actually flown off a bike and landed on my stomach.  

Tonight I have low expectations for my skills and fitness, and high expectations for fun.

My meal plan this week is underwhelming:

  • Monday: ?? Andy food
  • Tuesday: Tacos!
  • Wednesday: Sweet Potato & haloumi tray bake, or maybe sweet potato fries with veggie burgers?
  • Thursday: Out to dinner for Andy’s work Christmas party!!
  • Friday: Salmon and Potato

One of our lovely pumpkins has gone mouldy and we need to eat it soon.  I made pumpkin soup with the last one, so am thinking a pumpkin chili with this one?  Or possibly a savory pumpkin pie (pumpkin and chorizo?

Do you have any favourite pumpkin based recipes?

(Photo is Bath, outside the train station, decked out for Christmas.  I love it.)

December 10, 2022

Season Fun: Winter Fun List

Here's my quick seasonal fun list for Winter:

  • Go Indoor Swimming
  • Visit a Christmas Market
  • Do a Valentines craft with the kids
  • Visit the community farm
  • Visit a castle (one with a roof if it's raining)
  • Order a new Almanac, then look at the year ahead
  • Barre3 workouts and indoor yoga classes
  • Imagination Play with the kids (at imagination play centers)
  • Look at Christmas lights
  • Light candles and use a diffuser to put good smells in the house
Not all of those are applicable after December.  But hopefully I can plan some swimming, castles, and community farm trips in February.

Bird Watching from Indoors at the wildlife center:

December 9, 2022

Week in review - Plan on Fridays

This week was BUSY.  

Monday night Andy and I made our holiday card - we gave up on waiting for a family photo and went with:

I couldn't find a "happy holidays" card that I liked enough - I really enjoy "Joyful" layouts they are all a bit to far towards Christmas.  Not in a way British people notice, but in a way Americans definitely would.  

(once my British friend told me that a santa was non-denominational.  He had a point, but also no.)

Tuesday I did Breakfast club AND writing club.  So much social.  You know what I missed a lot in the last two years?  Hanging out indoors with people I really like.

Wednesday I went to the office.  It was gorgeous and icy on the ground and I saw the sun rise out the train window.  I did Circuit Training at lunch with my new team, then invited some colleagues out for drinks, which turned into dinner, which turned into me *almost* missing my train home.  For once, a two minute train delay was substantially in my favor!

(side note: after two drinks I really wanted to talk about plans and making plans and goal setting and that wasn't really a popular topic of conversation)

Thursday andy was out biking in the evening and I finally got an IKEA order done!  We are getting one of these, because we are a cliche.  
We are still contemplating putting both kids in the same room.  It might go terribly.  

(side note: we tried to order this bed back in September but then the queen died and the king came to Cardiff and so the order got canceled because they couldn't deliver in king-traffic.  Living in the UK is sometime too weird.)

Friday Today is a quieter day of normal working from home.  I am very tired and definitely need an early night.  I did mostly manage bedtime before 10 however I'm edging towards staying awake too late reading this book because it's both good and getting better and better: 
I hope you all had a great week!  Did your week go as planned?  

December 6, 2022

Screen Time and Kids - Is Personal Judgement Judgmental?

My writing club this evening turned into a life-catch-up club.  It was great, but poor N did not get too much writing done.

Of the myriad topics covered, much linked back to shame and parenting choices.  The question I'm currently musing is as follows:

We do not do screens for our kids - ipads or tablets or smartphones.  Sometimes other parents will suggest tablets for entertaining kids, usually in the context of "oh, that's a long car ride! Just get the tablet out" or "we mainly use tablets at [restaurants/errands/boring things]".   If I say "oh, we don't do screens" the other parent either thinks we're weird, or they feel the need to defend their actions... "Oh we don't use them much, but they're helpful for the [car/errands/dinner]".  

Is there an answer which isn't judgmental to the choices of others?  Or is the choice I've made to limit screens inherently judgmental of those who don't?  In my judgement, limiting screens is the best for my children.

I don't judge them for their values, but I don't judge their values as being best for my kids.

Is that just a semantic difference?

I am lucky as my kids are so young, and I know the stakes will change quickly as they get older.  

Perhaps I mostly avoid these awkward discussions by already being the weirdos in the smartphone free house.  Once people know we don't do Whatsapp or social texting they don't think it's odd that we don't give screens to our kids.  

I find it weird that the normal analogue childhood of 1990s is now, to some, an unnecessary effort bordering on extremist technophobe.  Was 1990s child rearing was so intolerable for parents that we must use screens now to avoid inflicting the same on ourselves?  Or am I the luddite who laments the arrival of printed books as destroying the memorised story?  
This photo is unrelated to my post, but I went for a lovely walk outside my house yesterday in an attempt to recover from my GWI (Generic winter Illness).  The walk cured me.   Being outside is about the best drug there is (for GWI).  Also, my 17c/62f degree house felt a lot warmer after being outside.

this weather is highly unusual here.  Normally we get 3 months of 50c/10f and rain. Not this:

December 5, 2022

Monday - generic winter illness and a family photo update

I've been hiding a secret from you, my blogger friends.  I am suffering from GWI (Generic Winter Illness).  I have used Dr. Google and Dr. Google says I have the flu.  Or a cold.  or RSV.  Or Covid.  Dr Google is barely worth the $0.00 I pay him.

I have ben relatively healthy recently, so this is a real blow to my streak of good health.  I was mostly ill (coughs and colds and tiredness bugs) from August 2021 to April 2022.  I was so chronically generically ill that I went to a doctor who said "yup that's a lot of illness" and then I went to a reflexologist who also said it was a lot of illness but also did a reflexology session so I felt paying her was nicer than the actual Doctor who took my blood and told me to take more iron.

Anyways, I got some monster bug in April of 2022 and when I recovered from that I seemed to retain my good heath, until now.   Now, as I compose this timeline, I realize this sounds suspiciously like a totally normal string of seasonal diseases, especially in a foreign country and with your children in childcare. 

But i digress.  The reason I didn't disclose my generic winter illness sooner is that I had made some very rational assumptions which indicated I was not ill.  I thought that the body aches were from the 20 minutes of squats I did on Wednesday. I also thought that the fact I was so so cold is because my house is so so cold.  [It's currently costing £8 a day to keep the house at 62F /17C]  I thought my super weird dreams on Saturday and Sunday were due to my excess cheese consumption.  And as for my tiredness... have I mentioned I have two small kids?

After our family photo adventure on Sunday (spoiler: fail) I came home and took a nap.  Then I woke up and took a longer nap.  Isaac took a nap with me for the second nap.  He was very tired too.  I woke up around 3, ate a bunch of chocolate, and then plodded through to dinner.  Then I went back to bed at 9:30 and slept till 6am (always 6am.  Another sign I am old).

I'm still not right so took the day off work.  Taking the day off for sickness is somehow weirder when working from home, because I have the urge to not tell anyone and just monitor my inbox.  That's a bad idea for a number of reasons, but also it would not be an option if I was in an office.  Sometimes I realize that I selfishly miss the separation of work-life in an office, but only when I let work interfere with life.  I don't miss the office at all when I left life interfere with work.  

I'm trying not to use this sick day as a "getting stuff done" day, because that's not what a sick day is. So my goals are much reduced:

  • Do not do work
  • Go for a walk outside
  • put away laundry (maybe)?
  • Read
FYI I am really enjoying Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.  I Started listing to Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt (I need to stop courting the full focus planner).  And I'm half way through Why Has No One Told Me This Before because a book based on short youtube clips is very quick reading.

And finally: here is our best Family photo from yesterday.  It is definitely not going on a card.  We'll try again another time.  A time when I can brush my hair, when we can get Isaac to war the non-pink* fleece, and when we can get Lilah to not do crying.
*I love the pink fleece and think he looks great in it. And although I'm not a match-y match-y person I try not to have an eye-bleeding colour scheme, like Orange/Pink/Green/Yellow.  One of these things is not like the others...

December 4, 2022

Sunday Thoughts & Family Photos

I don't know what this is a picture of but I love it.  I know every parent thinks their kid is brilliant but seriously, look at this drawing!  Look at the emotion!

Last night I forgo-ed (forgot? didn't go to?) the pub in favor of an early night in bed and some reading.  I definitely didn't read much in November so it was good to kickstart my December reading.  I also feel much better this morning having gone to bed at 9:30 than staying up until midnight.  

Also, I'm not sure if it's a sign of age, but I just don't sleep well after a pint or two.  And my back hurts and these kids are too noisy.  

It is a sign of age.

Today we are going to a local open air museum to try and get a family photo.  I should have washed my hair, but I guess I can stick with a classic braid.  I used to read the amazing Putting Me Together blog which had great ideas for coordinating, but today my goal is to get something better than this:

If we can't get a good photo today we can just use Isaac's family portrait:

Andy is making a Pie for dinner and then we need to confirm our food plan for the week.  As it stands:

Monday: Roast Veg and Fish Fingers
Tuesday: Tacos
Wednesday: Jacket Potatoes
Thursday:  Spinach Mac & Cheese (because I messed up a spinach at Thanksgiving so I'm going to try and salvage it into Mac & Cheese)
Friday: Fish

Happy Sunday? Have you taken a family photo recently?  What's on your meal plan this week?

December 3, 2022

December Goals

Months that start on a Thursday are weird.  I don't feel like this is a very complete list, and it's very low key.  But also, it's December.  December is a month for family, friends, and at-home life.  We also have guests for 27 of 31 days in December, which is awesome, and definitely keeps the month focused on social and fun.


  • Update kids & family photo albums
  • Take kids to see holiday lights somewhere
  • Take a family photo
  • Bake & decorate cookies

Personal / Social

  • Make actual time for goal setting/reflection for 2023 (perhaps BOBW Patreon?)
  • 3 times a week is a habit - get exercise 3x a week
  • Visit a Christmas Market
  • Send out holiday cards
  • Plan fun visits with friends for January
  • Be more social with my team
  • Organize in-person meetings for Office days

House & Life admin*

  • Sell the Roomba we never use
  • Drop off bags at the charity shop (I am a continual purger)
  • Sell current mixing bowl set up and buy better mixer
  • Order IKEA cabinet for dining room
  • Contest semi-fraudulent Parking Ticket (or continue to contest it - I keep getting fee letters through the door, I keep sending information to them, and I keep getting threatened.  I want to give up because it's so frustrating but also I don't want to give up on principal, I don't own these sleaze-balls anything and I don't think it's fair they're taking advantage of people. )

*I know this isn't really a goal and more of a to-do list, but I am writing it down anyways

This isn't a super inspiring goals list but I think the month itself has enough in it without me adding more.  

Also, I love my local library. They have an amazing book holds system.  The only problem is that I can't really control when books come in... so yesterday I picked up the following:

I should read Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow first as that had the longest wait list. I probably won't read The Power of Habit even though lots of books I've read have mentioned it. But I want to start with Why has Nobody Told Me This Before Because Cal Newport's interview with Yael Schonbrun seemed to cover a lot of ACT theory and although I've ordered Work Parent Thrive I'm not sure when it's going to arrive.

What are you looking forward to reading this month?  

Do you make December goals?