Episode #121: Evaluating Our End-of-Year Goals

As we near the end of 2021, it’s a good time to do an end-of-the-year goal audit. Listen in as we walk you through the five steps to evaluate your goals. Plus, we have a question for you (and we share our guilty pleasure treasures).

You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.

A big thank you to our sponsors! Check out the offers from Agility, Milk Bar, Girlfriend Collective, and KiwiCo. And if you’re looking for a specific code you heard on the podcast, you can see a full list on this page!

Show notes:

How to evaluate your end-of-the-year goals:

  • Set aside intentional time
  • Make an outline of the past year
  • Identify your top three wins and your top three pain points
  • Gratitude or celebration
  • Brainstorm on how to improve on the pain points

-We mention our Evangelical upbringing:
Episode #75: Elsie’s Evangelical Upbringing Story
Episode #79: Emma’s Evangelical Upbringing Story

-Check out Kacey Musgraves’ Christmas album

-Elsie’s kids’ library collection: American Girl, Goosebumps, Harry Potter, Twilight, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Nancy Drew. What other book series should she add to her library?

-What’s the most annoying Christmas song that you get stuck in your head? Let us know in the comments!

-Send us a voicemail question at 417-893-0011

-Bonus! Etsy Finds (holiday edition):

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

Miss an episode? Get caught up!

Episode 121 Transcript

Emma: You’re listening to the Beautiful Mess Podcast. As we near the end of 2021, we think it’s a powerful exercise to take some time to do a little end of the year goal audit. So there are lots of ways to do this but we’re going to walk you through a few steps that we think are helpful. Plus, we are sharing a for the listener question at the end of the episode. 

Elsie: I love goals. Goal episode is like one of my top favorite subjects that we do on the podcast so I’m excited about this one.

Emma: Me too. I feel like everyone’s expecting it as you get really close to January for New Year’s resolutions. This is more about taking audit of the past year rather than setting goals for the next year. We can talk more about that another episode we’ve talked about in other episodes before, but this one’s just about reflecting. So I won’t speak for everyone else, but at least for me, this is an area that I could use some improvement because I’m a very like forward, forward forward. I have these next goals. I finished that, okay, the end, next thing, like always, next thing. So this is more like taking audit of what worked, what didn’t work, and how that can help you set some ideas for the next year, or if you do your goals every three months or whatever. So anyway, we got five steps.

Elsie: I completely agree. I think I feel like I’m the designated person in kind of like all of our various friend circles, who’s like, excuse me, excuse me, aren’t we going to go out to dinner to celebrate this big achievement. But I do sometimes breezed past the what you can learn from the goals that didn’t get achieved so I think I could also be more reflective.

Emma: Yes. So okay, we’ll go through these five steps. Like I said, there are a lot of different ways that you could do this. So these are just kind of to give you ideas. If one of these steps sparks an idea for you and you have a way to do it differently. Cool, do that. Like there’s no real right or wrong way. Step one is set aside intentional time. So I feel like if I don’t schedule things, at least right now the way my life is, it is not going to happen. So if anyone else listening…

Elsie: Me too. Raise your hand if you’re a tired mom, because we know that we have one or two tired moms in this podcast family. 

Emma: Yeah, and you don’t have to be a mom to be busy but it really does get you. So anyway, 

Elsie: It’s kinda just like a next-level mind f*ck, honestly, 

Emma: A little bit. 

Elsie: I remember having overwhelming busy work seasons in my life before kids, and every experience is valid for sure, but for whatever reason for me, this is definitely the most like if it’s not on the calendar, it will never happen season of my life. 

Emma: Yep, me too. So I’ll put things on my calendar that are semi-ridiculous, but it just won’t happen otherwise, 

Elsie: Like take a shower or what’s ridiculous?

Emma: Just honestly, I’ve thought about putting time to read my book because I haven’t been able to read and I’m like, maybe I can just put that on the calendar, and then everyone will know like, just let me read my book. 

Elsie: I definitely relate with that. I have a bedside book and so far I’ve read it one night for like 20 minutes and then I fell asleep. Then every other night I open it up and then I close it and fall asleep.

Emma: Yep. Anyway, okay, so this is an important step for me and you at least so set aside the intentional time. I think you need at least three hours to do this. That’s part of why we’re recording this episode a little bit before the end of the year because it’s hard to find three to four hours in your schedule sometimes. Some weeks it’s just really full and I get that but I think you should set aside around three to four hours because you’re going to go through a number of little exercises.

Elsie: Oh hell yeah, alone time. Okay. I don’t know when I’m going to get my three to four hours but I am excited to do this. Okay, teach us what we need to do, Emma? 

Emma: Yes. And I will say you might want to go to a coffee shop. You might want to do this completely alone. I like to talk to myself out loud whenever I’m really thinking things through so you will never find me deep working at a coffee shop because that’s just not the environment for me.

Elsie: I don’t like working in public as well. My preferred place is I like to hide in my closet. You know, my romcom closet. I like to go in there with my journal. I’m being dead serious. That’s where I can think right now.

Emma: Once you hear the five steps you’ll know too there’s certain parts of it where you could like go on a walk or something and for me, that’s a great time to think

Elsie: What about a bubble bath? 

Emma: Bubble Bath, great idea. Love it. Get those bath bombs going. Okay, so set aside some intentional time. You can be at a coffee shop, you can be alone, whatever you need about three to four hours, so that’s step one. Step two, make an outline of the past year. So if you’re a person who does an agenda, or you have a planner, or calendar, or maybe you journal, anything like that, have those with you, because you need to go through your past 12 months, 11 months, and basically make an outline of all the big events that happened. This is in your work life and your personal life and your mom life, anything that’s important to you whatever’s going on for you. Maybe you renovated your house so the big highs and lows of renovating your house, whatever. But you’re just trying to make like a high-level major events outline of the last 11 to 12 months. I’m very forgetful so I have to look at my calendars and be like, oh, what did I do this month? Oh, yeah, we went on this trip, I totally forgot about that already.

Elsie: Me too. I think if I looked back at all the things I did the last 12 months, I would be sort of proud too so maybe that’ll be a good moment for people to realize even when you’re overwhelmed or struggling that you still achieved a lot.

Emma: I think of this kind of like the KonMari exercise where you put all of your clothes in a pile. You are often amazed by how much you have. Maybe you still end up keeping most of it or maybe you don’t, but it’s just like when you don’t really realize how much, it’s easy to forget. So anyway, so make a big outline. That’s step two. Step three. Now look through the outline once you’ve made it and identify your top threes. So there’s two parts to this, you want to identify your top three wins. So these are successes, moments that you loved, maybe some of the happiest events from the year, whatever. You can put more than three but put at least three. So top three wins. Then your top three pain points. I like to call them pain points but you could also call them things that didn’t work, mistakes, things you would have changed if you had known whatever.

Elsie: Whoopsies. 

Emma: Yeah, you can give it whatever label you want. But I like to call them pain points because, in my mind, that’s like a way of kind of saying, here’s something that maybe I could solve, it’s pain point. So anyway, so make those top three wins, top three pain points. Step four, you’re going to love this one, Elsie because this is the one you’re good at. Step four is called gratitude or celebration. This is just to take a little time however you want and look at those three wins. Look at those three successes, moments that were amazing from your year, and celebrate. Thank the universe. 

Elsie: Hell yeah. 

Emma: If it was something that you worked your ass off to make happen, celebrate yourself and your achievement. Really sit with those wins, however many are on your list three or more because we don’t do that enough.

Elsie: I don’t think anyone does that enough. I think that’s actually one of the things that entrepreneurs miss from a corporate environment is you can get really rewarded for meeting your goals. When you’re an entrepreneur, you sometimes don’t remember to reward yourself so I think that’s really meaningful.

Emma: Yeah, and it doesn’t even have to be a work thing. Maybe it will be but it could be a really successful moment, family moment, or really successful personal goal that you had.

Elsie: Yeah, well, I know that one of yours, at least for this year is a successful family moment.

Emma: Yeah, for sure. I was like on your list could be your biking thing, all the rides you did.

Elsie: Honestly, yeah. That was a really joyful part of my year and something that was a big step forward for me as an athletic person.

Emma: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah, so step four is gratitude celebration. For me, this is a great time to take a little walk around my neighborhood and just think about those three wins, and thank the universe, and congratulate myself for trying so hard. 

Elsie: Nice. I love that. 

Emma: Step five is since we just had a gratitude celebration for the three wins, obviously, step five is about those three pain points. So brainstorm how to improve on the pain points from your last year.  I like this as step five as sort of the conclusion because these might lead into making some goals for the coming year or the coming quarter or however you like to do your goals.

Elsie: I would make a strong case for sometimes you’ve had a goal that you haven’t hit it over and over. Sometimes there’s goals like that, that you need to just let them go or put them in the trash or say like, I might come back to that at some point but that’s not something that I’m gonna wear myself out over anymore right now. I love to just put a goal on the shelf and be like, see ya in five years or so. Whenever it’s in certain seasons of your life, you just sort of need to clean your plate a little bit.

Emma: Yep, I’m literally in my office right now, which is where I record the podcast, I have this half-made diorama that was just like a fun project. It’s literally just the inside of a shoebox painted white. That’s as far as I got. I was putting it on my list for probably a solid month.

Elsie: She thought she was a little Wes Anderson. 

Emma: I was like, oh, this will be a fun little thing to do. I just wanted to make this, no reason. It’s not for work. I finally had to be like, okay, I’ll just save this but I’m not making this diorama right now. It’s just not going to happen.

Elsie: Yeah, I have a lot of things like that in my life right now. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Remember last year when we talked about those charts, about how your life changes through the years, it’s like we will have progressively more and more alone time until we die. This is probably the point in our life where we have the least amount of alone time and I think it’s okay to just honor that and sort of like course correct for it.

Emma: Yeah, I might make a million dioramas in my 60s and I’ll be so stoked then. 

Elsie: Exactly. I mean, I love to think about my retirement future about how I’m going to like wake up and have my coffee and make a painting, and sort of like live the same life our mom’s living. I think that that’s a really pleasant thought but if I did try to do that right now, it would be a mistake for me.

Emma: While and two I think I’m trying so hard. I think I’m doing it with varying amounts of success, but a good amount of success, where I just constantly remind myself, I will miss this season when it’s over. 

Elsie: Oh, yeah.

Emma: Just like, enjoy it, and when you don’t get that stupid little diorama done, who cares because you got to spend an hour staring at your son sleeping. He’s only gonna be a baby once and it’s just a precious time that will go by fast. But yeah, so on the list, as Elsie alluded to is like this isn’t about, oh, I’ve got to solve each of these pain points, or oh, I need to make a harder goal or a bigger goal, like no. It could be that you just need to adjust your expectations. It could be that you need to consider changing some habits in your life.

Elsie: Maybe a different strategy. 

Emma: Different strategy, seeking additional guidance or getting some more education. Those might be things. Maybe you need to take a step back from achieving a certain goal and just be like, I need to learn a lot more about this. That’s what I need to do first. It could be a lot of things. This is not a step where you should look at those pain points and identify yourself as a failure. That is really not at all what you should be doing. It’s a time to reflect and think, well, how could I go through this or let this go. What’s serving me? What isn’t serving me? Make a plan for the future. Don’t think you have to solve every single issue. I also kind of just want to encourage people like growth is not a straight path. It’s very windy and curvy. It sometimes feels like you’re not making progress, but that’s what it’s like, for everyone, even if it doesn’t look that way from the outside when you’re looking at somebody else and comparing yourself like we all do and probably shouldn’t. But growth is just not a straight line. 

Elsie: I mean, I think that that’s a very important thing to remember. Going through seasons where we can push ourselves and then seasons where we lower our standards more than we ever thought we would. I think is a great way to live life.

Emma: I think too, you don’t need to blame yourself but you may need to think about adjusting habits. 

Elsie: So Emma and I, because of how we were raised, our little church trauma, I guess I shouldn’t say little, our significant church trauma and all of that stuff we’ve talked about before. We are big on guilt-free living and so anything that is guilt-free is what I want to advocate for. Being driven by guilt or motivated by guilt, I also don’t think it’s an effective or lasting way to change yourself or to get things done or to stay motivated, any of that. So yeah, I would say whatever you can, wherever you can, clean up and remove the guilt from your life and just put it in a permanent trash bin.

Emma: I agree. On the flip side of that, I would also say as you’re looking at these top three pain points from your year I don’t have the inclination to do this I’m much more likely to just blame myself. I also think another common thing that, it’s basically a trap that you can fall into, is to just blame others because that’s taking your power away. So it’s one thing if you’re in like a toxic relationship of some kind, friendship otherwise whatever, that’s something to evaluate for sure. But I think it’s really easy to kind of look at your year and kind of blame somebody else. Blame your job, blame you know whatever for not getting something that you wanted. All you’re doing is basically not making a plan to change because you can’t change other people’s so what can you do? What is your power?

Elsie: What I would add to that is, maybe it’s okay to blame people, but not without doing something about it. So if you see a problem, see if you can also find a solution or a way to pivot, or a way to reevaluate. Like, Emma was saying, I mean, I’ve definitely been in toxic relationships before and it’s not always like a one-day solve. I have a lot of compassion for that so we’re also not trying to make you feel guilty. I think that a lot of people can spend years or longer blaming the situation that they’re in for not being able to do simple things that would bring them joy and hopefully, we can stop doing that.

Emma: I just think you got to be careful where you hang your hat and it should be somewhere where you can make a difference with your choices. Otherwise, you’re going to be disappointed over and over again. 

Elsie: What do you mean by where to hang your hat?

Emma: If you’re like, well, I wish the daycare that my son goes to didn’t have so many days off. Okay, well, your options are to go to a different daycare, or figure out childcare on those days, or just accept it and plan for those for the next year. But if I’m just gonna stay angry and this is a weird example I don’t even know, but I’m just gonna blame them and get on their Facebook page and I’m like can’t believe your guys are so unprofessional. It’s like, well, that’s not helping anyone. That doesn’t help me. That doesn’t help them. It doesn’t do anything. So it’s just gonna make me feel worse and worse, more and more angry and more and more bitter but nothing’s actually going to change. So it’s like, well, maybe it would be better if instead I just identify, this isn’t working for me so what can I do to change the situation? 

Elsie: How can you reframe it and put yourself in a hopeful, productive position? That feels good to me as well.

Emma: Yeah. So anyway, that’s the five steps for how to do a once-a-year goal audit. It’s not super deep, but it will take some time. Hopefully, when you make that big pile of clothes on your bed, you’ll make that outline of your past year, that you’ll see, wow, it was a really full year and a lot of great things happened. Sure, there’s some things that I’d like to change and move forward differently with. But hopefully, because I think it’s just every time that you have a down moment, that becomes like the headline. There’s so many other headlines that don’t get enough air time in our minds so this is an opportunity to kind of see those, I think.

Elsie: Yeah, I hope that this is productive. Send us what you think if you do it because I’m curious to hear everyone’s experiences and I’m excited to do it. I feel like I’ve definitely lived my past year in a little bit of, what’s the word, where you’re like waiting for certain things to happen to feel good. Where you’re sort of like delaying your own happiness.  I’ve definitely been doing that. I know that that’s not good, but I’ve been doing it. So for this next year, I kind of want to reposition and make sure that I’m living each day in the moment a little bit better so that feels exciting. One of the things I love about goal setting is just the opportunity to have a fresh start over and over again is so exciting and so helpful because we all need that. 

Emma: I think goals are the most hopeful thing because they’re just thinking about the future and the opportunity to build something or grow something or change something, which is really exciting. This is kind of like, not a heavy episode, but kind of serious. So let’s move on to 

Elsie: Something dumb. 

Emma: Something dumb. So this is a question for you listeners. We want to hear what you think and you can leave us a comment really anywhere, but the best place is the show notes which is abeautifulmess.com/podcast. We’re going to answer the question too. So the question is, what is the most annoying Christmas song that you get stuck in your head? So mine is the hippopotamus song, I want a hippopotamus for Christmas. The version where it’s like a little girl singing and the girls so cute, but man I find that song annoying and as soon as it’s on the radio then it’s like in my head the whole rest of the day.

Elsie: Emma is like be aware I’m not shaming a child, but I totally hate it .

Emma: But I don’t like that song.

Elsie: Okay, in defense of the hippopotamus song, I will say that our most listened to, in our family our most listened to Kacey Musgraves is definitely the Christmas record and we love it. We listened to it a lot every year. I like how she focused on classics and she does that song, which when it came out, I was like, wowers, that’s kind of like an extreme choice. When we had kids and everything, it’s so cute. They love it. I do think that is less annoying for sure. Well, I shouldn’t say less annoying, I should say more fun to listen to the other version. The whole record is so sweet. So my annoying song, I couldn’t figure out the exact name of the song, but do you know what the Trans Siberian Orchestra is? 

Emma: Yes, do I. 

Elsie: So it just has a very Dwight Schrute vibe about it. That’s the song I don’t really like. For some reason, it plays on the radio kind of constantly and in stores and I think it’s really funny. I actually think I did maybe like it when I was in junior high, which makes sense but now not as much. So yeah, that’s probably the one and for some reason, it just sticks like glue in my brain. So yeah, it’s funny. Can I just say something random, I love on The Office when they do the Christmas karaoke. That’s one of my favorite scenes of all time, and I just remembered how Angela’s sings The Little Drummer Boy, which is also one of the worst songs but she makes it so good.

Emma: She just makes it so religious.

Elsie: Does she have prayer hands maybe?

Emma: I think so.

Elsie: So oh, we haven’t done a guilty pleasure treasure in a long time. One of our original segments from episode one, probably. 

Emma: Probably. Yeah, yes. So Elsie was like, let’s do a guilty pleasure treasure in this episode. So I was like, I got to think on what something random that I have recently been excited for and spent money on and spent time on whatever. Here’s what came to mind because I was like, I don’t know when else I’m going to talk about this. So I have been getting laser hair removal.

Elsie: Ours are gonna be the perfect pair. We could not be in more different universes, okay. Go for it because I want to hear everything. I love this subject and I wanna hear every single thing about it. 

Emma: This is just something I wanted to get after Oscar was born. I’m really excited for swimsuit season this year. I always got terrible razor burn in my bikini area. I was like, why don’t you just get laser hair removal? 

Elsie: It’s a modern miracle.

Emma: Yeah, and it was just a thing for you. I do a bad job prioritizing those so in my mind that was never even a possibility. But then I was like, wait, why do you think that’s not a possibility? You could go do that if you want. So I am and I think it’s like four to six appointments. My gals named Shelly, she’s really nice. I’ve gone to two appointments so far. I don’t know what it’s like everywhere in the country, but you can get this kind of numbing cream. Yes. So I’m not using the numbing cream because you can’t use it if you’re nursing, just a heads up to all the nursing moms out there. So I’m just doing it just straight up. 

Elsie: Hardcore. 

Emma: My review is it hurts less than a tattoo but it’s definitely unpleasant. Like I said, I’m getting my bikini area, or I guess it’s called Brazilian, and it takes about 20 minutes. So it’s pretty quick, but it does, it kind of stings. It feels like a rubber band like snapping your skin, basically. Like I said, I’m really excited for swimsuit season this year. I don’t know, it’s just something that I was like kind of sick of those like razor burn little red bumps so I was like, it’d be nice to not have that anymore. So there you go.

Elsie: Whoa, that’s awesome. Yeah, that makes me really happy for you. Okay, mine is that I’ve been collecting every single American Girl book. I’m doing the OG 1990s American Girl books that have the white covers because there’s newer ones that are more colorful. I’m doing the old school ones with the white covers. They’re from my childhood. Hopefully, if you’re listening, hopefully you read them as a child. I know not everyone did but it was a very big part of my childhood. So I recently read one and they’re like an easy reader. They’re really short and the words are really big. So I’m hopeful that our daughter who’s six who’s learning to read now, I’m hopeful that she’ll be able to read them maybe kind of soon. I think they would be the next graduating step after you can read like a kid’s book all by yourself, a little kids book. Maybe this would be like the very first level of a chapter book. So yeah, I’ve been collecting them. I did a printout for my purse. So I’ve been collecting a lot of series maybe I should say all this. So I made this like print out in my purse of all the books I wanted to collect and then it’s sort of a checklist so that I could just like thrift them. In Nashville, we have this amazing use bookstore called McKay’s. It’s really big. It’s like a wonderland of used books and it’s how I collected all my rainbow books a few years back for our last home. Now I’m collecting books for, we’re doing like a library-style dining room. I’ll talk about it fully in a future episode. But anyway, I’m collecting books again, I’m on the hunt. This time I wanted to do some series because we’re also adding a children’s library, which I’ll save that for later too but it is so epic. The things I’m collecting are every single Goosebumps, well I already collected all the Harry Potter’s and The Twilights. Which that was fun. All the American girls and then I did the Series of Unfortunate Events. Those are really cute, really good easy readers. The covers are really cute. I’ve never read them, but I watched one of the movies one time I thought it was kind of boring, actually. 

Emma: Have you seen the TV series? 

Elsie: No. 

Emma: It’s very charming. Nova might be into it. It’s a little scary for little kids maybe at parts, but it’s a good spooky vibe. Yeah, really, really charming, I would highly recommend it. 

Elsie: I would love suggestions on what else series to collect because it’s actually really fulfilling to me having these little checklists. I’m really enjoying it. I did some Nancy Drew’s, I think one through ten. I’m considering whether or not to do the full collection. There’s lots of different series in the young reader aisle. So yeah, I would love to hear from everyone what you think is worth it and holds up and stands the test of time. I started reading a Babysitters Club the other day and for me. I’m not sure that it does stand the test of time, as well as like a Goosebumps does. I don’t know if you’ve read one recent. 

Emma: What about did you ever read Little House on the Prairie? I read that with mom growing up. It was at our church library. They had them all. 

Elsie: Yeah, that’s cute. How many books are there do you think?

Emma: I don’t remember, but it’s definitely a series.

Elsie: I loved those as a child so that could be fun. 

Emma: I feel like they probably hold up because they don’t have like technology in them because of its Little House on the Prairie. You know what I mean.  Be interested to see what our listeners recommend. 

Elsie: Yeah. So I have one more little, crazy story. This is so cool. I’ve been collecting all the books I started with all the ones I read as a child, obviously. But there was one, the character Josephina I never read her books. Did you ever?

Emma: No. 

Elsie: Maybe she was just a little bit after our time. I don’t know what order they made them all in. But I only remember maybe five books or characters and there were a few more than that. So anyway, I ordered her, there’s six in each series, I ordered her series on eBay. A lot of times you can find them on eBay for like 30 bucks for all six, which I think is a good price, could be even less at a thrift store or something. Anyway, so this eBay seller wrote me and he was like, oh, I’m so sorry, I only put five of your books in, I’m going to send the other one and also, I have an original Josefina doll that I’m gonna send you as a thank you for being so patient. I was like, okay, well, that’s not necessary, but I have two little kids and that is so, so wonderful. I know, like an American Girl doll, can you even believe that? I feel like my 10-year-old self was mind blown.

Emma: Yeah, that’s a great seller. What else are they selling? You should buy more stuff. That’s amazing.

Elsie: I was so excited and I was like, who could I tell this story? I know who, the podcast. So anyway, American Girl books are definitely sparking joy for me. I hope that if you haven’t read one, just pick one up. It will give you this burst of nostalgia that you won’t even believe.

Emma: Love it. Thanks so much for listening. If you have a question, we would love to hear from you. We love answering questions. It can be about home decor. It could be about business. It could be about money. It could be about the holidays, whatever. Leave us a voicemail at 417-893-0011. That’s 417-893-0011. Thanks.

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  • Loved this episode! I plan to do this reflective exercise before January as I often tend to skip over this step and go right to making more goals (or continuing goals, which is more where I am at right now). It would be good for me to stop and reflect on the progress I have made on goals even if I have not completed them yet, to give me motivation to keep going on them.

    My 12 year old son is a VERY avid reader and he wanted me to pass along some of his favorite series. Mind you some of these are for kids older than your’s, so might be more for the future.

    For younger kids:
    -Winnie the Pooh: Lessons from the Hundred Acre Wood. These are so cute and all have great lessons about friendship etc(many of which are actually helpful for me too and good subjects to talk about with kids) (18 books)
    -Wheelnuts Craziest Race on Earth by Knife & Packer (5 books) These are super silly and very fun.
    -Cam Jansen by David A. Adler (these are short, good for a beginning reader) (33 books)
    -Captain Underpants

    These are not series, but are great picture books
    -Fox Makes Friends by Adam Relf – so sweet!
    -Kitties new Doll (Little Golden Book) my favorite growing up
    -The Burt and Ernie Book – another fave from my childhood and my son thinks it’s absolutely hilarious!

    For older kids:
    -Plants vs. Zombies
    -Percy Jackson
    -Wings of Fire (novels and graphic novels) – these are awesome, but can be a little violent, so depends on your kiddo and whatever is age appropriate for them
    -The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris – These are fun for kids who like to solve riddles, there are hidden messages in the books / clues to the mystery. But the plot makes sense without figuring out the riddles too. These are novels, but content is age appropriate for any age so could be read to kids even before they can read them themselves.

    I also second these that have already been mentioned:
    Magic School Bus
    Magic Tree House
    Harry Potter (spread them out though, the later ones can be a little intense for younger kids)

    Have fun collecting your kids library books, sounds like such a fun project! Reading with kids is so rewarding!

  • I loved this episode and listened today as I was just catching up on episodes. But I feel the MOST EXCITED about the children’s book collection!! OMG the Josefina doll!
    I would say I recommend the Trixie Belden series. Sort of a Nancy Drew vibe, but I felt like it was less cliche and not as much like every mystery was the same.

  • Most annoying Christmas songs for me are Hippopotamus For Christmas and Santa Baby.

    I was a big fan of The Baby-sitters Club series and Judy Blume books. “Fudge” was a favorite. I also LOVED the Mrs Piggle-Wiggle series. I can’t find them anymore!

  • There are some wonderful recommendations already in the thread so here are just a few I haven’t seen listed yet:
    – Howl’s Moving Castle – one of my favorite books of all time, wonderfully warm and nostalgic even thought I first read it as an adult
    – Enchanted Forest Chronicles (especially the first book, Dealing With Dragons) – I can’t recommend this one enough, because all the strongest, smartest, and independent characters are women! And they buck all the fairytale tropes.

    And some series I loved as a kid:
    – Animorphs series (some of them, because it is a huge series!) if your kids have any interest in sci-fi
    – Deltora Quest series – entry-level fantasy about saving a kingdom from a dark lord
    – The Chronicles of Prydain – another entry-level fantasy, sort of like Tolkien for kids

    All of these are middle-school level or younger!

  • Here are a few more book ideas: The Magic Schoolbus Series, Encyclopedia Brown, and Beverly Cleary (All of the series!).

  • So many good book series suggestions already, so I won’t repeat mine. Reading was such a special and important part of my daughter’s childhood — I love that you’re doing this. She is grown now, but one thing that she loves, in retrospect, are the inscriptions we wrote in books that were gifts to her.

    I too remembered the Little House books from my childhood as being wholesome and controversy-free, so was surprised when I got to the part in one (I forget which) where Ma repeatedly says something along the lines of “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Explaining the historical context to a young child did not seem appropriate, so I weaseled around it. Clever children will figure out when you are skipping over parts, so I improvised (rather lamely !) with, “And Ma said, ‘How about those Indians!”

    Also, you might want to bear in mind that the American Girl historical novels are intended for around ages 8-10, and some subject matter of a sensitive nature. In the historical section after the story in the book for Kit Kittredge (2008) who grew up during the depression, the 1929 stock market crash is discussed, including how investors who lost their savings committed suicide by jumping out of skyscraper windows. I believe this was an urban myth, but I skipped over this! Fortunately, my daughter wasn’t really interested in these sections, preferring the stories about the girls. But generally speaking pre-reading (confession: I never did this) or pre-googling can be a good idea when dealing with books that have been vetted through a lens that is not current or are intended for a higher age audience.

  • Book series idea: the Besty Tacy books! So cute and Kathleen Kelly talks to a little girl about them in You’ve Got Mail!

    I laughed so loud when you said you hate Trans Siberian Orchestra – such Dwight vibes!! Lol

  • For kids’ book series, have you heard of The Chrestomanci Chronicles by Dianna Wynne Jones? So so charming, just the right amount of witchy fun, and each one is quite different although they have a consistent “universe” where they’re taking place. Super fun and mischievous and sweet.

  • The sweetest kid’s books of ALL TIME are the “Caroline and Her Friends” books by Pierre Probst. Gorgeous books with breathtaking illustrations. The only thing is that they are only printed one treasury of them in English, in 1963, and never ran another version — so sad! It’s nearly impossible to get that treasury, but my mother has one that she was given as a gift when she was a child, which is how I heard all the stories when I was small. I fell in love with them. I have been buying up the original books in French and translating the text — worth it, IMO. Seriously — so gorgeous.

    I also love the “Half Magic” books by Edward Eagar. They so perfectly capture the magic of everyday childhood. I adore them.

  • Hey Emma and Elsie!
    I enjoy every single episode but I especially loved this one! I do my “new year resolutions” at my birthday each year and I’ll be 30 on Monday. This was excellent timing for me as I, too, hope to be more reflective. So thank you!

    I also wanted to say that I died laughing when Elsie described the Trans Siberian Orchestra song as “a little too Dwight Schrute” and I agree! I can’t stand it.

    Enjoy your day!

    PS my favorite books series as a little girl were allllll the mysteries. Including the Mary Kate and Ashley books that had trading cards in the middle lol. But I will say, the Junie B. Jones series was the first I remember reading and loving. I couldn’t wait for new ones to come out!

  • Shel Silverstein was the childhood magic in our home growing up, his books helped me fall in love with poetry! “The Dirtiest Man in the World” was my favorite, and my sister’s was “Sick”. I also really loved Scholastic’s Royal Diaries series, they were a spinoff of the Dear America series that covered historical women in royal families. And this is a bit odd, maybe, but I’d really recommend getting a few nature field guides; Peterson field guides and the Audubon society guides are both great and have fantastic illustrations and photos. I have really vivid memories of endlessly flipping through the Peterson field guide of North American mammals, I loved all the pictures and was obsessed with wildlife and hoping maybe I’d look outside one day and see a mountain lion.

    As for annoying Christmas songs, I’ll leave it to anyone brave enough to decide if this is the funniest or most annoying thing you’ve ever heard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwsCKHDeiWw&list=PL1K_2u71AILJf0Trba9HZgchij2YDKIsu I put this on in the car during a roadtrip with my parents while we were stuck in traffic hell and they both laughed so hard they cried.

  • I love SO MUCH that you are collecting books for your girls’ library!!! Last year I reread a lot of my childhood favorites and it was a magical experience. I wont repeat what others have said, but wanted to alert you to The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards (yes, that Julie Andrews!). It was my absolute FAVORITE and I still love it very much – it was the only book I ever checked out from the library as a kid and all the librarians remembered me because of it! Julie Andrews also wrote a book called Mandy which is lovely but not as iconic. Also, A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears and The Phantom Tollbooth were classics in my house. And finally, the Nancy Drew series – my mom kept all of hers from her childhood! Though when I was a kid I wouldn’t let myself read them after 2pm because I would get too scared haha, so maybe hold off til Nova’s in middle school or so. Can’t wait to see how the library grows!!

  • I am not a fan of holiday music in general, but the WORST song is Wonderful Christmastime by the great Paul McCartney. I SIMPLY don’t understand how someone so talented could have recorded such an awful song. And, it never fails, it always comes on when I am out holiday shopping!

    I want to add my vote for the Anne of Green Gables series for Elsie’ s library. Another cute series I don’t think I saw mentioned already is the Bunnicula and Friends series.

  • Just left a comment but had to leave another one, Berenstain Bears is a great series to collect! Personal fave is the one with the tree house! 🙂

  • Hi! Elsie I love your children’s library idea! I LOVED the American Girl series when I was kid. Not sure if these hold up or if anyone would remember but there was a “Dear America” series that was historical fiction for kids, I used to love those as well! A tip I learned when sourcing old books for my wedding centerpieces was to check out booksalefinder.com and go to library book sales in your area! They have tons of books and usually for only $1 per book or sometimes less.

  • I always loved Junie B. Jones. There are a ton of them and they’re so fun. I’m pretty sure they follow Junie B. when she’s in kindergarten and 1st grade, so Nova’s probably the perfect age.

  • I loved the Cam Jansen series when I was just a bit older than Nova! I’d also get a ton of Newberry books if I were you!

    • Book series to buy for your girls:
      * Anne of Green Gables
      * Chronicles of Narnia
      * All of Roald Dahl ie. Charlie and the chocolate factory & James and the Giant peach
      * Redwall
      * 7 Children and It

  • You check out the American Girls podcast! I collect those and Little House on the Prairie series. Hoping my two year old will appreciate them one day ? there are a couple offensive (racist) scenes in the Little House books so buying the most up to date versions may cut them out?

  • The worst Christmas ear worm for me is “Last Christmas” by WHAM! I will wake up in the middle of the night with that one playing in my head, ALL SEASON LONG. I can’t get rid of it. Haha!

    And I LOVE CHILDREN’S LITERATURE!!!! Here are some of my suggestions!
    – Beverly Cleary books (not just Ramona series, but also The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Otis Spofford, etc)
    – The Princess in Black (newer graphic novel series, they were the first chapter books my daughter read! Adorable illustrations)
    – Any books by Shannon Hale – Princess Academy, Goose Girl, etc
    – Any books by Kate DiCamillo (the Mercy Watson series is an excellent early reader series, Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn Dixie)
    – Tomie De Paola’s Strega Nona books!!
    – Tomie De Paola also wrote an autobiographical series of short chapter books called 26 Fairmount Avenue – they’re harder to find but SO charming and funny!
    – the Ivy and Bean series (newer but so good!)
    – the Wizard of Oz series
    – Tuesdays at the Castle series by Jessica Day George (it’s about a castle that randomly changes it’s layout every Tuesday, but if you get lost you can always jump out the nearest window, turn left, and get to the kitchen. Haha! It’s a really fun fantasy series.)

    I check the website Read Aloud Revival for book recommendations! She has a great eye for books that are actually enjoyable for adults as well as kids, and so many book lists. Enjoy stocking your library!!

  • Elsie, hearing about your growing childrens’ book library was so sweet! I loved the American Girls when I was a kid. My brother and I also loved the Magic Tree House series. I haven’t seen it pop up in any of the comments, so I’m throwing it into the ring!

    • Did not read all the comments to see if others suggested these already:
      The Magic Tree house
      Ramona Quimby
      The Boxcar Children
      Such a magical time for you and the girls!!!

  • If you want to hear what other creators are saying about what children’s lit still holds up, I recommend the podcasts American Girls, Stuck in Stoneybrook, and The SSR Podcast!

  • I LOVED The Boxcar Children books when I was younger. I haven’t read them in a long time to see if they still hold up but I was happy to see others here recommend them.

    The absolute worst Christmas song is The 12 Pains of Christmas. Annoying, not funny, played way to much on my local Christmas station. Plus I don’t want to explain to my kids about hangovers or why people hate their in-laws while we’re just trying to enjoy some festive music.

  • Regarding “Little Drummer Boy” being the worst holiday song (LOL), try Leslie Odom Jr.’s version! It’s so good, it’s probably the first time I’ve liked the song and I more than like it, I LOVE it. It features the Mzansi Youth Choir and it’s dancy. 🙂 The whole album is fire.

  • For your historical fiction section, some favourites:

    Hilary McKay: The Skylarks’ War, The Swallows’ Flight
    Jean Thesman: The Ornament Tree
    Katherine Paterson: Lyddie, Bread and Roses … well, and anything really, she’s brilliant!

    And also:
    Astrid Lindgren: anything you can get your hands on — she’s written in so many genres, and the stories are very different from each other, but for historical fiction, I think you and your children might enjoy the Emil books and the Noisy Village books straight away! Save the fantasy/saga books for a little later, they can be scary.

  • I know I’m probably in the minority here, but my most annoying Christmas song is All I Want for Christmas by Mariah Carey. I worked retail for 10 years and I feel like that song would play more than any other during the holidays. ?

    • Came here to say this exact song!!! I have not worked retail but I can only imagine how horrendous it is to have to listen to All I Want for Christmas on repeat. Once is enough for me, lol. Actually if I didn’t have to hear that song again I’d be fine.

      Also wanted to echo the Dear America series that someone else mentioned as a series to collect! I read those and Dear Canada books when I was younger.

  • Probably the most annoying earworm is “Baby it’s Cold Outside” for me. Just round and round in my head. And the lyrics are obviously problematic, so it’s extra cringe.

    Also, I echo the Anne of Green Gables love (maybe a little older than your girls), and the Narnia books and Madeline L’Engle. Also James and the Giant Peach. My mom always read books to us as children before bed every night and I can remember staring at the ceiling imagining all of these worlds. It really fostered a long term love of reading in me. What a gift, really.

  • I’m not sure if they hold up, but I remember loving all the Peter Rabbit books as a kid. I’m pretty sure there’s a whole bunch of them. The illustrations are great too. Can’t wait to see the library dining room!

  • Any Shel Silverstein books, Amelia Bedelia, Aesop’s Fables, Frog & Toad, Ramona, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Not a series but my two favorites growing up were the Rubber Chicken Book, and Kidssongs2 (there was a cassette companion).

    By far the worst Xmas song of all time: “Hey Santa” by Wilson Phillips. I had to hide my mom’s cd in the 90s.

  • I saw Nova has a sweet vampire doll. She would absolutely love love love the Isadora Moon series. I know it’s not a vintage series, but they are so charming and perfect for kinder – second grade kiddos. My daughter has absolutely consumed these books.

    If she gets into the history of American Girl, The Who Was Series (with The Who Was show on Netflix) are a real winner. My kiddo has read most of them by now and they’re always making more. We just read RuPaul’s Who Was.

  • The Borrowers series is about tiny people who live under the floorboards of a Victorian house and “Borrow” things from the human inhabitants in the house. It captured my imagination as a kid.
    Also all the Roald Dahl books. Also, all of Shel Silvetstein’s poetry books. Reading them aloud to my kids was such a fun time for them and me

    I HATE THE CHRiSTMAS SHOES SONG about the little boy who buys his dying mother a pair of shoes. Ugh. Makes me cry and is an awful ear worm that won’t leave my head.

  • Do not judge the series of unfortunate events by the movie! It was a grave let down compared to the books!! Please give them a chance and read them

  • Anything by L.M.Montgomery, The Boxcar Children, The American Diary series, Winnie the Pooh series (so sweet), The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Spear, The Narnia Chronicles, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Percy Jackson series, Heidi and Heidi Grows Up, The Secret Garden, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (it’s truly SO much better than the movie), The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by AVI. I love and collect children’s books. I read most of these as a really young child, and still love them now. Harry Potter will forever be my favorite though!

    • Seconding some of these:
      – Anne of Green Gables series
      – Percy Jackson & ALL of the Rick Riordan series (there are lots, they’re all great!)
      – Narnia series

      And adding a few (getting into some YA here, but kids grow so they’ll get to ‘me eventually!)
      – The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry
      – The Divergent Series
      – The Hunger Games series
      – Ramona Quimby!! (I think there are 8)

    • Oh my gosh, YES, the Ella Enchanted book Is so so good! Like you, I was extremely disappointed with the movie.

      Some have already mentioned Ramona and Amelia Bedelia, which I came here to add. But also, Judy Blume’s Fudge! Can’t wait until my son is old enough to share these books with him ☺️

  • I *loved* the Little House on the Prairies books as a kid. I reread them as an adult and the quaint charm definitely holds up. However, the portrayal of Indigenous people is not okay and I would recommend reading first/with your child to either censor those sections or add context and make sure it’s clear to kids that the language and content is not appropriate.

    Fun episode!

    • I second this!! We have been listening to the Little House series as a family for the past 18mos or so. My kids are 6 and 8. I haven’t censored anything, but I do stop and pause the story at some points to discuss what happened and how we wouldn’t personally treat people that way today. There’s a blackface performance in the 5th book I believe, which was unexpected for me, but offered a great opportunity for family discussion.

      Side note: the audiobooks are phenomenal!! Not only an excellent narrator, but they include fiddle playing whenever Pa pulls out his fiddle, and they sing the folk songs that are quoted in the book! Totally enhances the experience of reading!

    • I was coming to comment this! There is some blatant racism towards Indigenous peoples. It was so jarring when I reread them as an adult!

  • Hi Elsie and Emma,
    Love hearing your podcast today and every Monday. Here’s a suggestion on books to collect that I think you might enjoy. The Ruth Chew Books.
    The book “What the Witch Left”, was the book that captured my Witches heart as child. ✨
    Thank you and hope you have a beautiful week! ?

    • Such a great episode as always! I feel like this was a mullet episode…business on the front end, party on the back end! Haha! I came to suggest The Boxcar Children and as I’m reading everyone else’s comments I want to add a vote for Anne of Green Gables, Ramona books, and the Narnia series. Love these so much! I also loved the Sweet Valley Twins growing up, but they maybe a little too much like the Babysitters Club series. Most annoying Christmas song for me is “Baby, it’s Cold Outside.” I used to like it. I think it just got so popular that I’m over it now. Haha!

  • GREAT episode! You are so right that we don’t often congratulate ourselves for our accomplishments. I am going to set aside some time and make these lists. I definitely have taken Elsie’s advice to lower my expectations in some areas and it has helped my sanity tremendously! I can definitely think of a goal or two I’ve not been able to hit that needs a reframe/new plan to accomplish!

    Growing up I loved the 5 book series by Madeleine L’Engle starting with A Wrinkle in Time. So mind-blowing for my young brain. 🙂

    • Yes!!! Seconding the Wrinkle in Time series! I read those so many times! I haven’t read them in at least a decade; makes me want to see how they feel as a 38 year old reader!

  • I’m excited for the library dining room! I have a small apartment, and the room with our dining room table has both built in bookcases AND a giant rocking recliner. Definitely not a traditional dining room, but it’s super cozy and the room that we wind up hanging out in a lot — at least as much as the living room.

    I really like the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. Like the Little House books, they were written and set in the past, and the characters grow up as the series progresses. So at first they’re little kids who become friends, then they go through school and grow up together.

  • For book recommendations, The Land of Stories series and Keeper of the Lost Cities series were both ones that my kids obsessed over. Both are great ones to read when you finish Harry Potter and are missing an escape into a well-built imaginary world. Liesl Shurtliff’s Fairly True Tales series (Rump, Red, etc) were great family read aloud/road trip audiobooks that we’ve really enjoyed.

  • Hi! I just wanted to drop a line and say THANK YOU to you both for being so inclusive and thinking of all of your listeners. At the beginning of the pod, Emma’s comment “you don’t have to be a mom to be busy” and Elsie talking about all experiences being valid meant a lot – because a lot of spaces exclude people who choose not to have children or are unable to have children. Long time fan of the blog (I think I’ve been here since 2011) – and I’m so glad that your content has grown with me and stayed relatable and helpful. I admire so much how thoughtful you both are. Happy Holidays 🙂

  • The hits in our house were Boxcar Children and the Ranger in Time series. Ranger in Time is newer…our kids loved it from ages 7-9 and they re-read the entire series multiple times. Ranger is a Golden Retriever who goes back in time to help out at major historical events (Oregon Trail, ancient Egypt, etc.) and the series is all about love for family and friends and lending a helping hand.

    Most annoying Chrismas song? Puppies are Forever, hands down.

  • If you love the American Girl series may I suggest the Dear America series. I’d say it’s a couple steps up the reading ladder but a similar vibe. It’s fictional girls writing in their diary during different eras In American history. LOVE the children’s library idea!

      • Love the library idea! My 7-year-old bookworm loves:
        The Ramona series (Beverly Cleary)
        The Fudge series (Judy Blume)
        Betsy Tacy series
        Boxcar Children
        Mrs Piggle Wiggle series
        Everything by Roald Dahl

        For those grappling with the racism in the Little House series, check out the excellent articles by James Noonan and the Nashville Public library. They have some helpful thoughts on discussing the text with kiddos if you choose to read it together.

        Related to the above, Louise Erdich’s Birchbark series is set in the time period of the Little House books, but it has a native American protagonist.

  • I just wanted to put in a vote for the Wayside School and Roald Dahl books. I know Roald Dahl was a bit problematic, but Matilda is so good.

  • Super helpful episode, going to try to do this end of year audit for myself! My annoying holiday song is Dominic the Donkey!! Pls tell me I’m not the only one?

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