Thursday, December 25, 2008


Our Christmas begins at mass on Christmas Eve. The kids performed in the annual Christmas Pageant telling and acting out the story of Jesus' birth. It's a wonderful performance that lasts about ten minutes. The church is packed with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and just about everyone you've ever met anxious to see their "shining star" walk up the aisle in their costume. With cameras flashing from every angle, the kids don't miss a smile or nod to acknowledge they are truly the center of attention.

Dustin was one of the three wise men.

Rachel was an infant angel.

Courtney was a gift-bearing angel.

After mass we all headed over to John and Kelli's house for the Andel family dinner and gift exchange. We were joined by Ken and Judy, Don and Norma and John, Kelli and Matt. We had a delicious turkey dinner with all the usual trimmings. After all the gifts are distributed to their new owners we began opening them one at a time from the youngest (Courtney) to the oldest (Don). Thank you everyone for all the wonderful gifts!

Christmas morning came none too soon as the kids were up and ready shortly after 6am. They just couldn't wait any longer to find out what Santa had delivered for them. With no time to waste, the wrappings were torn and the faces were glowing. Santa had brought them a Wii with lots of games. No time to play with it now though... we have mass at 8am!

So off we go again to church. It was a quiet crowd of parishioners this time with only a handful of children in attendance. Father Walter was waiting patiently to start mass when we noticed he had no servers to help. Without hesitation, we sent Dustin and Rachel to Father's rescue. After mass we went to visit Randolph and Evelyn Green. We enjoy the company and usually stop by to visit after Sunday mass to partake in ice cream and cookies. Today was no different. We returned home to an action-packed day full of Wii play. Courtney and Rachel ended up crashing on the couch after their late night of bowling, tennis and baseball competitions.

Wait! It's not over yet. Since Sara and Kate were not able to attend the usual Andel family gathering on Christmas Eve, we had a special luncheon with them on Sunday at John and Kelli's house. Kate flew in from New Jersey and brought her boyfriend, Nick. What a nice guy he is. Sara, Travis and Elizabeth drove up from Victoria. John cooked the best roast ever. We exchanged gifts and hugs and were on our merry way back to Rogers for Courtney's basketball practice and plenty of Wii playing time.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Parties

So many parties, so little time! Just look around and you will find a holiday party for every group, class, family, club, society and company. I believe we fell into each of those categories in one way or another. Unfortunately, we had several gatherings that conflicted and could not attend all of them.

After missing at least one party, we began "THE" party of parties on December 13th with the Carson Energy company party at the owner, Carter Bills, home in Lost Creek in West Austin. Keith started working for Carson Energy back in June of this year after having them as a client for over ten years. The party was as elegant as ever from the hors d’oeuvres, wine, fabulous tenderloin dinner to the marvelous tricks of the master illusionist. Keith and I stayed at the Barton Creek Inn and drove back home Sunday morning just in time for the kids Christmas Pageant practice, late mass at Marak, basketball practice with Courtney and none other than, yes, you guessed it, another party.

After basketball practice I made a sweet potato souffle and took it and the kids to the SPJST Lodge #24 Christmas Party. Each of the kids also took a gift for the Santa Pal collection. The youth club provided the meat for the meal and everyone else brought the sides and desserts. There was so much food! The youth club officers lit a candle for each of the deceased lodge members from the past year and Dustin, bless his heart, burned his finger with the match. He told everyone later that was his first time to use a match and didn't realize it was getting so hot while he struggled to get the wick to light.

Thursday, December 18th, was another fun-filled day of parties. Each of the kids had their classroom parties and I was able to attend all of them. Dustin's class had a buffet of sandwiches, chips, dips and desserts. I was "volunteered" to bring a dozen sandwiches, so of course, I dashed to Chic-Fil-A and got a tray of mouth-watering chicken salad sandwiches. Mrs. Fuchs brought her newborn baby for all to dote over and we played heads up seven up but used candy canes as the "tag" item. Everyone got a candy cane by the end of the game. From there, I went on to Rachel's class where she was having a white tablecloth sophisticated party. Mrs. Dodd brought glass plates and real silverware for their cake, strawberries, apples, and pretzel snacks. They also had orange juice to drink. Now, I have to say that was a great plan to keep the kids in line. Kids will usually act up to the environment they are placed in and this time it worked. Quite opposite from Dustin's party. Last, but certainly not least, I moved on to Courtney's class where she was enjoying her cookies, fruit and juice. After snacks, one of the parents read a couple of books while they were getting ready for the gift exchange. Each child brought a book wrapped as a gift. Mrs. Bonstead let the kids draw a number and then pick a book from the pile as their number came up. One of the kids decided to pass when it was his turn because he just could not make a decision. Courtney and two other classmates knew exactly which one they wanted and yes, they chose their own gift. I showed Courtney the book she was taking and oh how she wanted it so bad. She was thrilled when her number was called and her book, "Chicken Little" with all the stickers was still in the pile.

After three parties in one day, you would think that would be enough, right? Well... we had one more gathering. The kids and I loaded up and headed back to Austin for the Alliance Tech company party. We got to town a couple of hours early to miss the rush hour traffic and do a little shopping. We met up with Keith at Bed, Bath and Beyond and then went to Chipotle's for a quick snack of chips, guacamole and hot sauce. While there, a cold front blew in so we had to run to Marshall's and get the girls a sweater. From there, we headed to the County Line on the Lake restaurant for my company gathering. The company has grown so much this year and since I work from home, I had no idea who some of the people were. The food and drinks were good, as usual. Dustin got to be one of Santa's helpers as he and a couple other kids passed out gifts to all the kids. There was also a drawing for the gift baskets at each of the tables. It was 11:30 before we got home with the kids and they were sure cranky getting up for school on Friday.

On Saturday, December 20th, we had the Chambers family gathering. Dad & Joyce and Mom & Butch drove down from Kansas while Tammy & Aubrey came down from Oklahoma and Misty drove up from Spring. Dustin and I had about a 40 minute drive and we all met for lunch and gifts in Hewitt at James and Sharla's house. Keith brought the girls later after they finished with their softball hitting camp. Everyone brought part of the wonderful meal and the kids had a blast with their gift exchange as usual and then parted ways shortly thereafter. Some of us stayed for Alli's 6th birthday party that evening and then headed back home.

The Andel family gathering will be Christmas Eve...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Music Concert

Kindergarten, First, Second and Third grades presented their music one grade at a time. Courtney's Kindergarten class sang "Christmas Is My Favorite Time of Year", "Christmas Time is Here", "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells". Rachel's Third grade class sang "I'm Gettin' Nuthin' for Christmas", "Deck the Halls", "Zumba, Zumba", "Time to Pack the Sleigh", "Shine a Light for Peace" and "Silent Night".

The kids were instructed by their new music teacher, Carol Taylor. She did a wonderful job teaching the kids the words to the songs. I had never heard so many of the kids sing in unison like they did tonight. They were very well prepared. The sound system, on the other hand, left much to be desired. Mrs. Taylor started the program with an announcement that only the first row of the auditorium could hear. She even tried yelling, but her frail voice just would not carry over the crowd. There must have been over 500 parents, family and friends in attendance.

All of the kids from all of the grades joined back on stage with a finale of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".

Monday, December 8, 2008

Beauty and the Beast

Rachel was chosen from the elementary students who auditioned for the high school's rendition of the Beauty and the Beast play. She had so much fun learning the songs and acting out the motions. She is really developing a beautiful voice and letting go of some of that shyness.

Uncle Donald

After battling lung cancer for a couple of years, Uncle Donald passed away from having complications with breathing. Keith and the kids took me to the airport in Austin on Sunday so that I could meet up with my Dad and the rest of the family in Tulsa. I attended the funeral Monday morning and immediately flew back home so that I could watch Rachel's performance in the high school's play. It was a very quick and solemn trip.