Monday, December 27, 2010

Three Weeks of Christmas

What a joyful Christmas season we've had. I'm so thankful that we were able to spend quality time with each and every member of our immediate family, as well as some extended family that we hadn't seen in a long time. All these celebrations meant that we started our Christmasing early in December.

We joined the Petersons and Jeff and Susie for Christmas #1 in Colorado Springs the weekend of December 11-13. It was also a great chance to celebrate Doug's birthday. The weekend was full of kisses, giggles, tickles, a new word in Spanish (Tia!), meatballs, Sadie's very own sling for her baby, movies, chatting, knitting, reading, naps, and a delicious homecooked Christmas dinner!
The most lovely gift of all was a very special, handmade wooden rocking chair that Doug and Chris gave to Sadie (Doug made it himself!).

What a treasure this chair's so sturdy and just perfect for our rowdy little girl. I can picture Sadie's great-grandchildren using this chair!
The following weekend, we were so excited to pack up the truck and head for the hills for Christmas #2 with my family. We settled in at their house, which for me means a pile of books and a basket of knitting in front of the woodstove. I was most thankful for the following things: my lovely, crazy family of course!;. the aforementioned woodstove; being out of the suburbs and a little closer to nature for the weekend; a house full of very rambunctious dogs; a beautiful Christmas tree; card games; Dad's annual reading of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales; mom's homemade cooking; late night pickin' with Brian and my dad; and some solitary mama time in the hottub with a good book. I love that my family makes our Christmas day traditions last as long as possible...stockings, crepes, open a few presents, break for bagels and lox (we have to put our Jewish twist on the day), open some more presents, take the dogs for a walk, model a new piece of clothing, open a few more, etc... you get the idea.

After all this excitement, we decided we would set aside a special winter night for our very own celebration with the just three of us at home. We had some special things for Sadie and for each other and were really looking forward to carving out some time for our own traditions.
On the winter solstice, I picked up Chinese takeout on my way home from work. After a great takeout picnic in the living room (a special treat for us), we enjoyed some gift giving and receiving.

A word on the tree...we almost skipped having a tree all together this year. We were gone for so much of the month that we couldn't justify getting a real tree (our preference) that would probably just die while we were out of town. My friend Heather came to the rescue by lending us a small, but very lovely, artificial tree. We covered it with cloth, indestructible, toddler-safe ornaments and we were instantly in the Christmas spirit!
The most exciting gift of the season was a Radio Flyer tricycle that we bought for Sadie. And we topped it all off with a custom-made bumper sticker..."Earl Scruggs for President". The sticker pays homage to my childhood bigwheel which my hippie parents adorned with a "Willie Nelson for President" bumper sticker. Awesome!

What a lucky girl Sadie has been this year, and we're so thankful for our generous friends and family who obviously put a lot of thought into her gifts (and respected our wishes too!). Last gift of the season came from her dear buddies "Aunt" Amanda and "Uncle" Ryan....her very own ukelele!

But we weren't done yet! A couple days before Christmas, we piled into the car with Doug and Chris, and headed to Holdrege, Nebraska to celebrate with the extended Peterson family. What a wonderful treat it was to finally introduce Sadie to some aunts, uncles, and cousins that she had never met!
And although she was rather shy for most of the weekend, she did warm up to her great-grandpa Peterson a bit. It was so special to see him with his first and only great-grandchild.

It was actually really nice that the majority of the gift-giving for the season had already taken place on previous weekends. It meant that Christmas weekend was really just about the things that matter most to me, and to us. ....spending time with loved ones, visiting, remembering, telling stories, enjoying Sadie's every move, eating delicious homemade food, games, rest, quiet times of reflection, a beautiful candlelight church service, singing and reading, knitting, and lots and lots of laughter.

It is at these times that I love to take a step back and reflect on how thankful I am for the family I am lucky enough to have married into. The Petersons are so welcoming, supportive, and loving, and I am so grateful for them.

Hope your season was as lovely as ours has been and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hot Water Heaven

Hands down one of my top three favorite weekends of the year. Good food, good drink, beautiful scenery, and wonderful women! What an inspiring, empowering, magical weekend it was.

This year, our second annual, absolutely sealed the deal that these ladies and I will be visiting the Alpine Hotsprings Hideaway every year for the rest of our lives. Yes...we will be like these snow monkeys...80-year old, gray-haired women soaking up the magic this place has to offer. Ahhhh......

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

It's my favorite holiday of the year. I LOVE LOVE LOVE getting into the beautiful Florida weather. It's not too hot, not cold at all, not humid...pretty much just perfect, and a nice change of pace from the dreariness of early winter in Colorado.

It was a relaxing, exhausting, peaceful, chaotic, and fun-filled week.

We played at the beach....

We gave and received LOTS of kisses....

We went for leisurely walks full of all sorts of new things to look at for a certain toddler....

We missed my Grandma and Grandpa but gave thanks that we're all still able to get together for their favorite holiday....

We went to the zoo....

We shared costumes....

We rejoiced in the change in our family dynamic over the last couple years (although it feels like it happened overnight). We've gone from a bunch of adults and young adults sitting around together to a family full of kids under 5, and it is such a joy to watch this new generation!

And we soaked up the wonder and beauty of our newest, beautiful family member, Chloe Noel Armstrong.....

Welcome to the world baby Chloe...we're so happy you're here! You'll fit right in with this crazy, loving, happy, energy-filled family!

My very favorite part of the trip was watching Sadie slowly gather the courage to investigate and eventually chase the waves. Check this out....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

And Now I Celebrate

Because I passed the ASBOG National Geology Examination!

As I talked about in this post, I really studied my ass off for this test. I honestly have never worked so hard for anything (mentally). Sure, I had some hard classes in college, but nothing in my academic or professional life has ever challenged me the way preparing for and taking this test did.

We arrived home from our Thanksgiving trip to Florida to a big pile of mail. As I sifted through it, it didn't even occur to me to wonder if my results might have arrived while we were gone. And then I came across a relatively thick envelope from the Wyoming Board of Professional Geologists. I screamed! Then had a conversation with Brian that went something like this....

you open it
no, let me open it
no, I can't do it, you do it
go ahead and get the dog from across the street and then we'll open it
no, I can't wait that long, let's open it....

Needless to say, I finally opened the envelope and found that I had in fact passed both halves of the exam and I can now officially be considered a Professional Geologist (and I get to put letters (P.G.) after my name, yeah!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pinch Me....

It literally was the thrill of a lifetime to have Pete and Joan Wernick finish off our fall 2010 house concert series. As I told Pete, I've been listening to him play banjo since I was born. Really! And Brian (of course), looks up to him as one of the best (I'm not exaggerating here) banjo players in the world!

Pete Wernick is a true bluegrass legend. As one of the founding members of Hot Rize, he has been nominated for a Grammy, won several International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards, and graced theater and festival stages around the world. This fall, Pete Wernick was honored with the IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award, which "recognizes individuals in the bluegrass music industry who have fostered the music's image with developments that will broaden the genre's recognition and accessibility." And the guy has played on the David Letterman show! Yeah!

On top of all his accolades, Pete Wernick and his wife Joan are such kind and gracious people. It was so nice to be able to visit with them before the show and get to know them a little better. They have always been so supportive of me and it was such a pleasure to welcome them into our home and introduce them to our musical friends!

Thank you Pete and Joan for the beautiful night of music and for sharing your amazing talents with us!

Happy Chanukah!

I've come to love this holiday and its traditions since moving out on my own after high school. I started by joining the "Frozen Chosen" in Fairbanks, Alaska for my first Chanukah away from home. I hosted a raucous Chanukah party in my tiny Washington Park bungalow during my first holiday season with my future husband (and made him grate ALL the potatoes for latkes). I felt very special upon receiving my very own beautiful menorah from my Great Aunt Sylvia when I got married and bought my first house (to replace the sad gold-painted plastic one that was a hand-me-down from my mother's third grade classroom). And I truly enjoyed lighting the Chanukah candles with Sadie last year. But this year should be extra special because it's sure to be the first when Sadie will be aware of the colorful candles and magical flames each night. Hey, she may even join me in song!

some thoughts on Chanukah (from others)....

May the lights of Hanukkah usher in a better world for all humankind. ~Author Unknown

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, every cubic inch of space is a miracle.
~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Christmas brings enormous electric bills. Candles are used for Hanukkah. Not only are we spared enormous electric bills, but we get to feel good about not contributing to the energy crisis. ~KOACH Humor, "Holiday Distinctions Finally Explained" (KOACH College Outreach is a project of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism)

May love and light fill your home and heart at Hanukkah. ~Author Unknown

The darkness of the whole world cannot swallow the glowing of a candle. ~Robert Altinger

And finally, here's a little Chaukah deliciousness from Matisyahu. Gotta love him....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Piece Together Peace December 2010

As I discussed in this post, I set an intention for myself for the month of November to make meditation a somewhat regular part of my life. I have never spent much time meditating or had any luck or success with it when I tried. I remember my dad (who has meditated most of his adult life) meditating after a long workday, or on a Sunday morning when I was a kid. I really had no idea what he was doing, or why, I just knew that we weren't supposed to make too much noise! Over the past year or so, as I've struggled with finding balance and peace in my life as a busy working mama, my dad and others have recommended meditation to me as a tool I might want to consider. So, November was my month to give it a try.

I decided that guided meditation would be best for me at first. My mind is so busy all day every day (and many insomniatic nights, too) that I didn't feel like I'd have the self control to quiet my mind on my own. I picked up a copy of Guided Meditations for Busy People at the library and put it on my ipod.

Although I didn't find as much time to meditate as I was originally hoping for (3-4 mornings a week? right!), I did take 15 minutes or so to meditate on the mornings that I could drag myself out of bed a little early. There were times that I just couldn't get into a mind was still zipping all over the place, and I didn't feel like I got anything out of it. Then there were times that I actually did feel my breathing slow, my mind settle, and my body relax. And what a beautiful thing that was for me! And even the times that I didn't feel like I quite got to the relaxed state I was aiming for, I was still taking some time to be quiet and still, which I don't really do that often, so those were still valuable sessions.

I believe in the power this practice can have for me. I truly hope to continue to use meditation as a way to keep me grounded, calm, peaceful, and present.

My December intention for my own personal Piece Together Peace project is a simple one. The holidays are oh so busy for me, and more so this year with my lofty goals of handcrafting many of my christmas and chanukah gifts (why is it that keeping the holidays "simple" ends up being more work? hmmm?? anyway, I'll talk more about that later...). Needless to say, we're a busy bunch of Petersons right now. But I LOVE this time of year and have found myself really getting into the holiday spirit. So, my intention is to ENJOY! I want to really enjoy this season of family, friends, food, music, crafting, and magic. I want to soak up the wonder of it all and try to see things through Sadie's eyes. I want to show and teach my daughter that this season is NOT about commercial, consumer, crap! And how will I do this? I'll breathe, smile, stay present, be grateful, and not put unrealistic expectations on myself. And I'm looking forward to it.....