Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our family's holiday traditions and reflections on 2011

As our family grows and changes together, we find our holiday traditions evolving as well.

This year, I added the tradition of new summer solstice pajamas to mark the longest day. I hope to have an annual tradition of new season pjs on summer and winter solstice each year (and a fun bonfire for winter solstice). The girls loved this first go!

We're still working out present opening for Christmas. Markus's family opens all presents on Christmas Eve; mine does one on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas morning. This year, we made a hybrid version and opened all on Christmas Eve but eagerly awaited one present each from Santa on Christmas morning.

Today is the last day of 2011. We have a nicely established New Year's Day tradition of enjoying Neujahrsbrezel for breakfast in the morning, but we haven't been marking the last day of the year. Spurred on by some reflection questions I found on a blog, I mentioned the idea of sitting together and talking about the year together. Ellie hopped on board with gusto, mentioning it again before breakfast and again before lunch. For instant gratification, I downloaded the pdf of the questions I found and we sat and answered them together as a family. It was a lovely exercise, one I hope to carry forward in years to come.

What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
M: My mom moving to her house in Hannover
J: Spending time with both grandparents on my last US visit
E: New Zealand because I like the long plane ride and I like the museum

What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
M: Maintaining good work morale
J: The international moving limbo began
E: Trying to catch Figaro with Papa
(Figaro is our canary. We often let him out to fly around the house, but he doesn't care for being recaptured each time.)

What was an unexpected joy this past year?
M: Being able to go on so many vacations (Albany, New Zealand, Bali, Rottnest, Bali)
J: Watching Ellie thrive in Middle Primary and her reading take off like a rocket
E: I wasn't expecting to go to my art class because I didn't know because you didn't tell me.
(and she really liked that art class)

What was an unexpected obstacle?
M: Not being able to participate in the October job round.
J: Ditto.
E: When I couldn't really ride the pushbike yet, I could go straight and around the curves but I tried to ride around the table and I couldn't.

Pick three words to describe 2011.
M: Exhausting. Brilliant family.
J: Full. Challenging. Changes!
E: Middle Primary. Reading. (Mama gave these words as samples and she wanted to use them)

Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2011 (don't ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you).
M: Stressed, stressed, stressed.
J: Knitting, yoga, scooter. (joking!)

Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2011 (again, without asking).
M: Thankful. Fun times.
J: Stressed. Holiday. Stressed.

What were the best books you read this year?
M: The Life of Pi. I Heard The Owl Call My Name. (rereads)
J: Buddhism for Mothers series. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
E: Hush, Little One. Disney Princess books. Poems. (these were sitting next to her chair when we answered questions today. Her big favorites not mentioned have been the Charlie and Lola books, Conni books in German, the Lost and Found picture books and the Rainbow Fairies series.)
S: Lost and Found books. Edward the Emu. Room on the Broom.

What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
M: Work strain aged me by more than a year.
J: Stephanie started school and I had time alone during the day for the first time in more than six years (it was a harder adjustment than I thought it would be).
E: I went to Middle Primary and started reading.

In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
M: Learning not to let others upset me.
J: Reading about Buddhist practices helped me to be more even, less reactive.

In what way(s) did you grow physically?
M: Midline expansion.
J: More frequent yoga was fantastic.
E: I can do handstands and cartwheels. I lost six baby teeth!

In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
M: Letting my sister deal with certain things in her own way rather than trying to dictate
J: Spending time with my grandparents felt invaluable. I know I need to give the more, at least in terms of communication.

What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
M: I repaired the Bose dock. (man, did he love repairing the Bose dock)
J: The time I get with my family. Even when my stay-at-home status is trying, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

What was the best way you used your time this past year?
M: Morning sports, motorcycling to work, glorious weekends with my family.
J: More yoga. More reading about Buddhist applications to my life. Taking baby steps towards better balance for self. Having time during the week for errands and home jobs allowed me to relax and enjoy each weekend with family like a mini-holiday.

What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?
M: How to repair the Bose dock.
J: In terms of a skill, I learned basic piano and introductory music reading.

Questions we made up for 2012:

What do you most look forward to for 2012?
M: A new job. Seeing more extended family and friends again.
J: Seeing more extended family and friends again because we'll be closer (heck, almost anywhere will be closer!)

What would you want to do differently?
M: New job. Eat less sugar.
J: Talk less, listen more. Concentrate on what I want to build in my relationships with my children.

What would you like to do more of?
M: Teach my children more.
J: More date time with Markus when we're both awake. More exercise. More deliberate, healthy eating.

What would you like to learn?
M: Improve my sailing and motorcycle skills.
J: I'd like to read more non-fiction books, acquiring new information in that way.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in the sun

What do you do after opening presents, enjoying a special breakfast, and talking with family on Christmas morning? If you live in Perth, Australia, and want to maximize an absolutely perfect summer morning, you do this:

Afterwards, enjoy a (not really) traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich as you dry off in the sunshine.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Opening gifts

Thank you all for your generosity!
We love you!
Merry Christmas!

A higher resolution version of this movie can be found here.


I have been very absent from this space this year, leaving you a picture of a girl peeing in the river as your touchstone with us for the past month plus. Oops. The truth is I posted that as a funny and I hadn't remembered to come back and post more of our daily lives since then.

I don't know about you, but I find the year slams into warp speed just before Thanksgiving. We compounded this by taking a little family vacation just then, arriving home the week of Thanksgiving (and five important birthdays, nearly all of which I missed or acknowledged belatedly--again, big oops). Since then, it has been warp speed, Mr. Sulu!

The girls have been out of school since December 9. That has been a very good thing. As much as Ellie loves middle primary, she was ready for a break. Stephanie never happily resettled into school after our holiday, so she was extremely ready for a break. We've been keeping ourselves busy ever since. I find I have no time once again, which is a readjustment from having weekday time while they were both in school. Now I have NO time until they are in bed, but by then, I admit I'm pretty tired and useless. The summer days mean the birds start at 4:30am, the sky is light by 5, and the girls haven't slept past 6. After 6 years of living with these little early risers, I wish I could say I have adjusted to hitting my day with both feet running at such early hours...but I haven't!

Now, Markus will be home with us for the next week plus (hooray!), so we'll have some nice family vacation time at home while Perth empties as its residents head for Bali, Rottnest, Margaret River...and we enjoy all the beauty that life at home has to offer. A Christmas swim in the Indian Ocean, anyone?

Merry Christmas!

Christmas dancer

She has danced around the tree every day in December.

Merry Christmas to you!