Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 in review: The stories behind the Christmas card.

What a year it's been! Here are the photos that made the cut for this year's Christmas card.

January 1: The All-Birdville Band performs in the Tournament of Roses Parade
I still tear up just thinking about that amazing moment: seeing Ryan marching in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California! The BISD band's invitation to march in the parade is a testament to the district's excellent music programs. Ryan and his bandmates worked hard to practice for the parade once the marching competition season ended. They also had to train to have the stamina needed for the 5-mile route. Seeing the Rose Parade in person was on my bucket list, but it was so much more thrilling to be there for Ryan's big moment. (We also had a blast in the days leading up to the parade, too, spending time at Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Hollywood and our dear friends' house.)

December 7: Katie wins her school's spelling bee
The texts started coming toward the end of first period. I was at work, but Brett was in the audience, watching Katie in the spelling bee. I had a hard time focusing on Beowulf because I couldn't wait for more news from the bee! Finally, the text arrived: Katie had won! Those hours of practice and all the Post-Its with spelling words stuck all over the house had paid off. Katie now is preparing for the district bee in February.

November 1: The RHS band performs its contest show
The fall marching season culminated with the RHS band competing at the BOA Super Regional contest in San Antonio. Before leaving for that event, the band played in its home stadium one last time. Ryan and the rest of the band spent many hours in the brutal August and September heat to perfect this show, but wow, was it worth it. We loved watching "The Diary" come into being with each performance, and we were so very proud of our favorite baritone player.

August 15: Brett's third book arrives
After months of hard work, Brett finally got to hold his latest pride and joy: Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990. This third volume of his critically acclaimed book series covers Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and TurboGrafx. The book is available via Amazon, but Brett's really looking forward to taking it to some gaming conventions in 2012.

November 24: We run our first 5K
OK, so Brett and Katie ran the 5K while I mostly ran it! Still, this was a huge accomplishment for my previously sedentary self. This event, a fundraiser for the North Tarrant Food Bank, was at the Texas Motor Speedway, and it was a trip to run on the track usually reserved for race cars. Brett and Katie were pros, finishing with great times (especially for rookies). My time wasn't so fast, but at least I finished! I never would've even considered running if not for Couch to 5K, a fitness app on my phone that helped me train. Since Memorial Day weekend, I have run three times a week with few exceptions. The result: I have lost 27 pounds and can now run for 30 minutes straight. (With more training, I hope to actually run a whole 5K soon!)

December 14: Ryan wins a Survivor buff
Our son has an addiction to the reality show Survivor. He knows all the trivia; he even knows many of the contestants through Facebook and Twitter! On this particular Wednesday night, host Jeff Probst answered a question Ryan had asked him. (You can see Jeff's answer on his Tout site.) A few days later, Ryan received his buff along with Probst's autograph. It was a deserving prize for the world's biggest Survivor fan. Among his Survivor-related activities was an online game, complete with alliances and immunity challenges. Care to guess who was the sole survivor after the last online tribal council?

July: I attend the Reynolds High School Journalism Institute
The two weeks I spent at the University of Nevada, Reno, was one of the highlights of my teaching career. The high school journalism teachers in the institute stayed at the Silver Legacy Resort and Casino, took classes at UNR and produced an online newspaper. Along the way we learned so much to take back to our newspaper staffs and formed some great friendships. All of us fellows were wined and dined and treated to some amazing excursions, including dinner at a Basque restaurant, a trip to Virginia City, Nevada, and a weekend visit to Lake Tahoe. Watching Twelfth Night while huddled under a blanket on the sandy Tahoe shore isn't something I'll soon forget.

November 17: Katie returns to the basketball court
It's been so much fun to watch Katie dominate the boards during her seventh and now eighth grade girls basketball games! She is usually her team's first or second leading scorer, but her specialty is defense. We haven't seen the stats, but we'd bet she leads the league in steals and tie-ups. The eight grade season is just now underway, but we're excited to see what this year brings on the court.

So those are the photos that made the cut. Of course, they don't tell the whole story. A more complete retrospective would have to include:

  • our snowpocalypse back in February. We missed a whopping FIVE days of school over two weeks. Crazy. The rolling blackouts were nerve-wracking, but it was nice to hit the PAUSE button for a while.
  • a mention of my mom's big move. In April, my mom moved from her apartment into a retirement center. Her new home is still called "independent living," but the center provides meals, light housekeeping and social events. It's been a huge blessing, especially now that Mom's dementia is making everyday activities more challenging. Soon after moving, Mom had to stop driving. In July she was hospitalized for a foot infection, too. It has been tough to adjust to this "new normal," but in spite of this year's struggles, Mom continues to be her cheerful, positive self.
  • the Mavericks' first title! It was so exciting to follow Dirk and the Mavs on their run to their first NBA championship. Brett, who saw the team play in its first season 30+ years ago, was especially thrilled to see our guys hoist that O'Brien trophy. We also enjoyed another season of Rangersmania, even if that Game 6 loss still stings.
  • our summer excursion to Austin and New Braunfels. We FINALLY took care of a couple of Austin "to do's," like swimming in Barton Springs and visiting the Tower's observation deck. And in spite of the "low and slow" river conditions, we can now say we have tubed the Guadalupe.
  • another football season. Now that Ryan's in marching band, we have added Friday Night Lights to our weekly football menu. Even though UT had another less-than-stellar season, I still had a blast cheering for my Horns (and spelling "Texas" with anything you can imagine).
Of course, our year was not all rainbows and smiles, but we're so thankful for our many blessings. Yet again, even amid crises and struggles, we've been reminded that we are blessed beyond belief.

To our friends and family: THANK YOU for your love and support. May 2012 be a wonderful year for all of us!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

We three trees.

Nov. 29, 2011

When the kids were little, our tree was thick with ornaments all along its lower branches.

These days, the lower branches are a little lonely, now that our prime decorators are so much taller!

Our Longhorn tree (in our Longhorn library)
ChaCha LOVES Christmas.

Our Texas Capitol ornament tree (in the living room)

And our family tree (in the entry)

Night at the Symphony.

Nov. 26, 2011

Three years ago we were privileged to attend the Fort Worth Pops Christmas concert as guests of a friend. It was such a treat that this year, we decided to make that event the kickoff for our family's holiday festivities.

Downtown is beautiful this time of year!

The Bass Hall is truly a gem, a source of great pride for our city.

Before the concert, we ate dinner at Razzoo's. We were more than halfway through dinner when Brett pointed out our dinner companion, looming right over my head:

After dinner we checked out the Sundance Square Christmas tree.

So big and beautiful!

Our kids may be too old to visit Santa, but we'll still force them to pose under the Christmas tree.

By the way, here's a flashback to Ryan and Katie under the big tree in 2008:
 My babies!

ANYWAY, back to 2011:

It's crazy to think that since meeting at a Christmas party back in '93, Brett and I have spent 18 Christmases together!

The concert, complete with snow and Santa, is absolutely magical. What a special way to welcome the Christmas season.

a&m: How do we spell Texas?

Nov. 24, 2011

Time to KISS those aggies goodbye! S-E-C ya!
Texas 27, a&m 25

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Nov. 24, 2011

We don't have many photos from this year's Thanksgiving feast, but that doesn't mean we aren't thankful!
This year we got to spend Thanksgiving with our precious grand-nieces. Their giggles and smiles truly made our day!

Even though he's in Japan, Chris was with us in spirit—and via Skype.

The events of the last few months and years have reminded us how quickly life can change. We are keenly aware how blessed we are to have our family with us on this holiday.

Grub Run.

 It was a cold, foggy Thanksgiving morning,

 and we were up and on the road early enough to see the sunrise.

What could get us out of the house at that hour on a holiday? A 5K, of course!

OK, so we're not really seasoned 5K runners, but since May when I started using the Couch to 5K app on my phone, I've been looking forward to running an actual race. This one was appealing because it benefits the Tarrant Area Food Bank, it didn't have a steep entry fee, and it was held inside Texas Motor Speedway. Win-win-win!

 It was awesome to see the many bags of canned goods collected. The entry fee was $5 and five cans of food per person.

 It was also a treat to see the speedway again. What a massive oval it is!

 Even though we're not NASCAR fans, it's still fun to see some of the cars on display.

 What made this event special was running into all kinds of people: friends from church and school, longtime family friends, etc.

 I'm so thankful that Brett and Katie were willing to go along for the run.

By the way, Katie's grown a bit since our last visit to the Speedway in 2007:
(Aren't they adorable? Ryan was almost 11 and Katie was 9.)

Ready to run!
 Some people are always ministering, never taking a day off!

Thanks for sharing your photos with us, SP!
 We had a pretty good crew of HCC runners there!

Thanks for this one, too!
Full disclosure: Brett and Katie ran both laps and ended up with great times for their first 5Ks. I, however, ran for 10 minutes, walked for 2, ran for 10, etc. It took me a whopping 41 minutes to finish both laps of the speedway oval. But hey! I finished! I'm excited to finish my next 5K with a faster pace, and all three of us are looking forward to Grub Run 2012.

Texas game 10: K State.

Nov. 19, 2011

Although it seemed like the season had just begun, on this Saturday we found ourselves at the last home game of 2011. And wouldn't you know it, we had such awesome fall weather:

OK, so it WAS nice. It just would've been nicer to have FOOTBALL weather in November!

For this tailgate, we had the whole gang in town, including Ron. After co-sponsoring our gathering for five years, Ron took a break from the tailgating grind so he could attend his son's football games.

It was great to see him at the stove yet again. He makes a mean sauteed mushroom!

Of course, we always enjoy getting to kick back and visit with everyone.

Mmmm... Steaks on the grill. Nothing like it!

Before heading to the stadium for our game, we watched plenty of other games under the glow of our burnt orange lights.

Because this would be our last time in these seats for a while, I took a picture of the weird "52" that marks our row in section 1. (The 5 is upside down, and yes, it bothers me!)

Some of Dede's friends found us by chance at the tailgate. Sure enough, we found them sitting across the field from us.

(There they are again!)

Longhorn Hall of Honor inductees were recognized before the game. I tweeted this photo of Cat Osterman and Sanya Richards-Ross, and both of these superstars retweeted it! (That's a thrill for an amateur tweeter like me!)

Other scenes from the stadium:

Fozzy's injury had a huge impact on this team. From all accounts, Fozzy is an outstanding young man. It's a shame his career had to end with an injury.

Understandably, Fozzy got a huge ovation when he was introduced for Senior Night. As an added tribute, a Longhorn player wore his #2 jersey for the rest of the season.

So this one didn't end the way we wanted,

but we'll still love our Horns 'til Gabriel blows his horn!

After the game, we huddled around the TV to watch the end of the ou-Baylor game. (Thanks to Bruce for the pic.) We were all guilty of schadenfreude, loving every minute of the sooners' loss. And yes, we would end up losing to Baylor, too, but hey, we were all Bears fans that night!
The next morning, Dede and I made the most of our last football weekend,
starting with breakfast at Trudy's. Dede always gets the Mexican eggs benedict, and I usually opt for the migas rellenos. Yum.

After breakfast we drove over to the Co-op and checked out the view from the garage rooftop.

After shopping to our hearts' content, we started the long, slow drive home. We ran into several accidents and traffic jams, so it took us forever. I had a raging headache, so we went ahead and stopped for supper...
at our friend's restaurant! We both had been wanting to eat there for the longest time, and it worked out nicely for us to squeeze this stop into our weekend.

And so another season of tailgating and Longhorn games has come to an end. While it wasn't nearly as dreadful as last year, this season was a far cry from the glory days of '05, '08 and '09. But honestly? My team could lose every game from here on out and I'd still want to be there, Horns held high. (But please, please, please, Mack, don't let that happen!)