Well, the Whites broke our streak of attending bowl games for Baylor. Ah well. San Diego was just too far/expensive right after Christmas, and we had Madeleine actually needing an airplane ticket, yadda yadda yadda. Sooooooo we got with our good buddies the Carpenters and co-hosted a fun bowl party at our house. Everyone pitched in with the food, so it was really low-key for us as far as hosting went. We had a great group here, some folks knew each other previously, and some didn't, but all in all, it was a good Houston gathering of Bears. Of course it always helps when the game is a decided win! :)
As some of you may know, we have a very intense annual Christmas ritual. We have basically done the same routine since we got married, with neither of our traditions having to compromise! (miracle.) Anyway, I haven't always done a great job with a re-cap, so here goes nothin' for 2012's!
Before leaving Houston, we have two celebrations. The first was at Linnet's with our Houston Deily side of the family the Thursday before Christmas. She cooked a delicious dinner, and we opened presents! Madeleine particularly fell in love with two stuffed animals Linnet picked up in Thailand. She affectionately named the elephant "Emmalyn" and the rabbit "Honey Bunny."
On the Saturday before Christmas, we had "family Christmas" which is what we do simply among my birth family of origin (ha!) the Deilys of Cypress. This has been a tradition since I was a little girl - our family's own intimate time before heading to Dallas. We enjoyed another delicious meal by Mom, Dad read the Christmas story, and we did family stockings and gifts. The stockings were new this year - we used to do those Christmas morning, but Mom thought it would be fun to do at this gathering. The sisters surprised Mom and Dad with some stockings for them too! There were so many sweet, thoughtful and fun gifts - Julianne gave all the girls salt and pepper wands - really makes cooking that much more magical to wave a wand over your pot! Liz made a sweet little brown cat for Madeleine (which she named "Moo Hoo"), Liz got a food chemist set (nerd) and Julianne gave Cason an I an extravagant date night all planned out and of course covered childcare-wise!
After church the next morning, we loaded up to head north! We began the metroplex portion of our Christmas gatherings with a Gajdica dinner at my Uncle John and Aunt Suzanne's house. We missed an entire family - my Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Peggy's family didn't make it this year (understandably! It's getting harder and harder to gather everyone as we've done in the past due to growing families! We missed them though! We had some delicious pulled pork tacos and some lovely time around the firepit catching up.
After our dinner in Plano, we went a little further north to Denton where we spent the night at the Whites'. The next day was Christmas eve! See how excited our girl is? She got her nails painted sparkly red, and she donned a Christmas dress of mine from just a few years ago. :) It's a little short on her, considering she is tall and she is a few months older than I was when I wore it! We can be Christmas Eve nomads when we are in DFW, but this year we went to Prestonwood. It was a beautiful service, and Madeleine loved all the candles.
Following the service, we went back to my Grandma Carole's house. We had Christmas there, along with my Dad's sister's family. We were minus two of his siblings' families. My Grandma Carole is a retired librarian and a freelance writer. One of the treasures she gives us every Christmas (for the past several years) is a booklet of her memoirs. She is such a wonderful storyteller, and I learn so much about writing from her.
Madeleine looks so huge in the picture on Grandma Carole's lap. Ha.
Also I just love this picture of Grandma Carole. When we had asked her for some ideas, she mentioned some kind of kerchief/head wrap that was a thick, small scarf, perhaps a square, that could be used to keep her head warm. She asked if Community Cloth had anything like that. I didn't think so until I scoured the studio and found TWO cute kerchiefs by Illham, knitted with soft, warm thread. She loved them! It's such a great feeling to find the exact thing that someone wanted or needed!
We went back to Gran and Granpa's house (a few streets over) to settle in for Santa, and when we woke up on Christmas morning, Madeleine was quite excited to see that Santa brought her exactly what she asked for: "a pink scooter and a purple lollipop." Santa even managed to fill her stocking with some fun things like play dough, a Spanish book, some goldfish, a cupcake shirt and some (gasp!) big girl undies!! Cason and I got her one thing this year. A $5 baby from Walmart. We knew the grandparents and great-grandparents would spoil her :) (which they did!) so no need for Mom and Dad to go nuts. She loves baby Camille! (named for a real baby girl of our friends the Bishops')
After the hubbub died down a bit, and everyone scattered to get ready for the day, I had a quiet moment of reflection at Gran and Granpa's kitchen table, over my coffee and coffee cake. See, I've woken up in their home on Christmas morning every single year since 1988, when we moved to Houston. Every. Single. Year. Well, long story short, my parents have (we think) decided to start staying in Cypress for Christmases going forward, for no other reason than well...they are grandparents now, and my sisters are in serious relationships, and we just can't come to Gran and Granpa's every single Christmas going forward. Anyway, however things change or stay the same going forward, I am grateful, so very grateful, for memories made in Plano at Christmastime over the course of my entire life. Full disclosure, y'all, I'm actually writing this blog in March, actually March 2, Gran and Granpa's 56th wedding anniversary and I am getting choked up. Cheers to nostalgia...amazing grandparents...etc.
Sniff sniff...okay anyway. On to more celebrations (hang tight - two left!) The rest of the Gajdica clan that was in DFW arrived later for gifts and lunch. When we were opening gifts, probably the most special one was the large shutterfly book the cousins gave to Gran and Granpa, full of photos from their Celebration event in November. We all contributed pictures, but my cousin Brooke did the entire layout of the book. We were all crying as they were looking at it! So sweet.
We packed up one more time after a delicious lunch made by Gran, and we headed to Denton. I forgot to mention that there was a weird winter storm that moved in overnight. It was raining really hard, and there was some intense lightning and thunder that I am more accustomed to in summer months. Anyway, it continued to pour rain all morning, and we knew a freeze was coming. It was so exciting driving to Denton. As we were in the car we watched the rain change to snow. Magical. When we arrived to Denton, we were greeted by the courthouse, just down the street from Cason's parents' home. It was especially fun because Madeleine fell asleep in the car while it was still raining, then woke up to snow at Nana and Pop's! Madeleine's Pop loved the Reveille hat she picked out for him!
Present opening at the Whites' is a looooooong affair :) so we took several breaks to play in the snow. Among Madeleine's special gifts was a teaset from the Bristers (Aunt Heather in particular) and her very first Pandora bracelet from Nana and Pop (Nana in particular!)
You can tell the difference in the present opening breaks - the first break it was still coming down hard, hence the washed-out pictures, and the second break it had cleared up. Plenty had accumulated for a snowball fight, and per usual, Madeleine jumps right in with her big boy cousins!
Well, that was Christmas. This might be the longest blog I've ever written. :) We feel so overwhelmingly blessed by our sweet families!
Last year we had a really fun breakfast with Santa, so we decided to do it again!! Madeleine and I almost missed it because she slept in so late (I know, I know, I should just wake her up, but it's hard!) The mamas toned it down just a bit on all the goodies, but it was still delicious. I also missed the memo about Moms wearing PJs too. I am always so on top of things! Look at how big they are sitting at their long table!
It's really fun to see the kids one year later and how much they changed - who still loved Santa, who still didn't love Santa, who turned the corner...haha, and Miss Kirby was here when she was still growing in her mommy last year.
Graham Bettis LOVED Santa.
And then it was so beautiful outside (yay Texas Decembers!) that we let the kids play outside in their PJs.
That's a great title for the post, yes? Well these are just other things about December I don't want to forget, so there. Ha.
Madeleine's favorite shows are Sesame Street, Sid the Science Kid and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. In November, PBS started running ads for the Nutcracker at Houston Ballet. Madeleine was hooked. Every time she heard the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" she would break into "ballet." She could be on the other side of the house, she could be sitting on the couch or eating a snack at the kitchen table. She would come running to the TV and dance her sweet little heart out.
As always, we enjoyed this year's Celebration at HFBC. Cason's parents came in town, and we were able to also celebrate his mom's birthday! Madeleine did a great job putting balloons and confetti all over the guest room to surprise her Nana. Madeleine didn't come to Celebration this year, but she sure loved the animals in the courtyard after school the Thursday before. She ran up to their pen in her wise man crown and exclaimed, "Merry Crimpas, goats!!"
Madeleine explored lots of new looks - she loved wearing her different Christmas outfits from her Nana and her Granna (they bless us with so many cute clothes!) but they didn't know that she would also create her own "Mary" outfit out of towels from our kitchen. Well done, Mads.
We had lots of beautiful weather - nothing terribly chilly, and only a few balmy days. Madeleine loved taking walks in the neighborhood, especially if she got to wear the hat that Ilham made.
We had her school Christmas party, and she ate plenty of sugar with her friends Levi, Avery and Graham.
They decorated the Christmas tree in the room, and not surprisingly, Madeleine wanted to "do ballet" (see above Nutcracker obsession.) Miss Avery wasn't shy, and she jumped right in. I could barely snap a picture of Madeleine with her sweet teachers Miss Billie and Miss Brenda - someone was waaaayyyy past her naptime!
We also enjoyed going out to Cypress for my mom's annual cookie exchange party. Madeleine quite brazenly took a few off the table before it was time to exchange, but don't tell anyone. There's that purple shirt again - it's one of her favorites because purple's her favorite color.
Before the party, she changed into some Christmas clothes and "read" the Christmas story to her aunts. "In the town of the Lord..."
Way back in October, actually, just a few days after our car wreck, I had a grant due for work. It was for the Seeds of Change grant from Neighborhood Centers, and we thought it would be great to use for our 2nd Annual Refugee Artisan Holiday Celebration. :) Last year, before I came on board, there was already a great party in place for our artisans and their families. Our goal this year was, with the help of this grant, to really grow the party into a larger event for our women and their families. Anyway, I really wanted to still take on this grant in spite of the wreck, so I told my boss I would. I felt my writing wasn't at its best (it wasn't, for obvious reasons!) so I asked my beloved college roommate and dear friend Anne (who works as the Director of Foundation and Government Relations at the Dallas Museum of Art) to edit for me, since she can write grants in her sleep and all. She knows me so well, she knew what I meant to say in my post-wreck fog, so she cleaned things up for me a bit, and we submitted! Thankfully, the Seeds of Change grant panel did choose us, so we were ready to go for our party in December!
This was a big and challenging event for me. I am no stranger to event planning, for it was a large component of my pre-Madeleine job at Family Services, however this party was different. It wasn't a fancy fundraiser, it was a party for our families. It required lots of planning (I leaned heavily on feedback from last year's event, as well as the leadership already in place!) and a different approach. For example, many of the families needed rides to the event, and we needed to collect lots of donations.
After logging 65 hours in the first two weeks of December (EEK!) the party happened on December 15. It was so much fun! We had over 100 people at the Baker Ripley Neighborhood Center in their large gathering area. Our artisan women, their families, friends in the community, our volunteers and donors were all there...so many great people. Thankfully, my sweet family and some friends gave much of their day to help out as well. We had a sales table set up for some last-minute Christmas shopping (sold over $1,500 in product that afternoon!), we had a hot meal for the families, there were activity tables, a photo booth, door prizes, Bhutanese dancers and baskets for the families to take home. In the baskets there were household and personal hygiene items - things that are difficult to purchase with food stamps. Each basket had a Fiesta gift card included as well.
It was an overwhelming blessing to serve these sweet families. These refugees are strong folks who are not used to being honored guests or having anyone throw a party for them or give them gifts or food. These are people who are used to being looked past, forgotten and despised. They are a people who lived for years (sometimes decades) in refugee camps as they felt like "people with no place to be" before coming to Houston. These are families that struggle to make it month to month, and to get to experience a party like this speaks volumes. I am so grateful for the Seeds of Change grant that gave us a critical amount to begin with, then it made it so much easier for us to solicit donations from friends in the community to cover the rest.
Channel 11 came by the party and did a piece on the organization here.
The Seeds of Change video I participated in afterward is below:
As the holiday season continues, we are never short on fun ways to celebrate! We began our Wednesday with a Happy Birthday Jesus Party with the other moms and kiddos in Cason's and my life Bible study class - Inside Out. Last year was the first party we did for the kiddos as a class, and it was really special. As our class has grown, we decided to take it to the CLC at church to let the kids play in the indoor playground and enjoy Chick-fil-A, fruit and a cookie cake for Baby Jesus. The kids had a great time - amazing how they have all changed so much in a year, and new friends and siblings have been added as well!
After heading home and having an afternoon nap, Madeleine was excited for Granna to come over and for us to head to the new (in 2012) Houston Zoo Lights! Her poor daddy couldn't make it because of his CFP class, and we missed him a ton! We enjoyed going with her Granna and Grandad, as well as AJ and Ben. It was really nice going on a Wednesday (no crowds!) and it was a Texas December night, meaning fairly mild but a little chilly.
It was really lots of fun! Complaints we heard from others included the aspect that most of the animals were already in bed for the night, but Madeleine and I get plenty of time with the animals on other days! It truly was all about the lights, music, and different atmosphere of the zoo at night.
The different light exhibits were really beautiful and creative! There was a sort of path through the zoo to follow, and around each bend we were impressed by what we saw.
Awwww look at our little elf. :) She didn't quite get the idea that only her face was supposed to go through the hole in the wall.
She kept us on our toes as she explored - Ben couldn't even catch her in the jungle huts, and of course we had to stop at the drums.
As we finished through the African Forest, we did get to see the giraffes and zebras out, and Madeleine got a ride on her old friend, the panda on the carousel. All in all it was lots of fun, and we will definitely be back next year!
This year, our Inside Out class had another tacky sweater party. 2011 was our first, and this year we continued the tradition with a twist. We added a progressive dinner element. Crazy, I know. Anyway, we started at the Owens with some catered Mexican again (can't mess with EVERY tradition.)
After the Owens', everyone came over to our house for dessert. Let me tell you, the best way to host something is to only be responsible for the punch, wassail and a clean house. Let everyone else fill your table with yummy desserts. It's a Christmas miracle! Ally borrowed Annette's London sweater this year (sigh) and I have to give J.T. Carpenter the award for tackiest...I mean...denim, Christmas, southwestern (see the chiles?) VEST. Brilliant
We finished up our Thanksgiving festivities quite fittingly. My sweet, sweet grandparents had a big party! When they had their 50th wedding anniversary, we tried to talk them into having a party, or, well, dance at the hall. My mom's side of the family is very, very Czech. :) No, they are too humble, didn't want to mess with the planning of it or bother anyone with coming. Five years later, they told the family they decided to have this celebration after all. My granpa turned 80 this year, they celebrated 55 years of marriage, and it just seemed to be a good time. My sister Julianne designed the invitation!
They rented out the Czech Club (their favorite place to go dance and have a marvelous time for many Saturday nights of their life), hired a band and a caterer, and we were in business. My mom and aunts did a lot of work on some photo collages and fall decor. Everything was just beautiful.
Cason and I left Denton while Madeleine was still napping - she would join us later with his parents, who were also invited.
A couple hundred people arrived as the band played at the beginning. It was so precious to watch my grandparents greet everyone. Gran comes from a family of 10 children and Granpa is the youngest of 8, so we have lots of family. I only wish everyone there had a bubble over their head so I could know exactly who everyone was! I knew a few, but certainly not everyone. People began to dance and enjoy appetizers. One of my favorite memories of the event is one of which we have no pictures! We did a traditional wedding march, which involved almost every guest and took about 20 minutes. It was a definite "follow-the-leader" type dance, with lots of "just do what the person in front of you does." The neatest thing is that we didn't know what we were doing, but my mom, dad, Cason and I and sisters and their boyfriends all ended up in a line with linked arms. We were a group the whole time, and we chuckled because we could NOT have choreographed that if we tried!
The next item on the program was an introduction of the family. My grandparents had 4 children. My mom is the oldest, and she had 3 brothers, though one passed away at 22 from a brain tumor. The remaining 3 children had 8 daughters all together, so we have no grandsons in the family. You can imagine my Granpa's excitement when I married Cason - finally a grandson! Also, my cousin Katie is married to Jeff, and he's a great addition to the family as well. Anyway, they introduced us, then we had a time of tribute. It was so special to hear from my mom and dad and my aunts and uncles, as well as all my cousins. Everyone shared a short blurb about Gran and Granpa. It was so touching and so beautiful to hear the way they lived their life with faith and family at the center. Life wasn't always easy for them, but they always followed the Lord, and all of us have been blessed by that legacy. I thought it was also special because many times this type of tribute might be done at a funeral. My Gran and Granpa got to hear every word of how we have been blessed by their lives - what a concept to share with people while they are still with us! When it was my turn to speak, Madeleine ran to me and just stood at my feet - my sweet in-laws were doing their best to keep her busy during the talking time, but she wanted to be a part too!!
One of my grandparents' few requests included a family song. We sang an old Czech party favorite - "Let's have a party." This was the same song my granpa paid each of the granddaughters a dollar each to learn many years ago. Some of us sang, accompanied by a family band of my Uncle Ronnie on guitar and harmonica, my cousin Karoline on bassoon, my sister Liz on accordion (!), my cousin Katie on clarinet and her husband Jeff on French horn!
Then more dancing, dinner and lots of fun! Madeleine was quite excited by the band and the disco ball!
Another part of the program was one of my granpa's most favorite things in life - a jam session. He plays both the accordion and the spoons, so it's so much fun for him to get other musicians up on stage to just play old favorites together. There were so many talented musicians there, and he was giddy!
It was such a special event - I love the hodge podge of pictures below - my cousin Kristen and I with Granpa, Cason's dad, my Uncle John and cousin Brooke catching some of the A&M vs. Missouri game on Aunt Suzanne's phone (those Aggies...), me trying to wrangle Madeleine for a picture with her other Great Grandma Carole, and Madeleine having her way with the centerpiece fillers when the party was winding down. I am blessed with such an amazing family, on my mom's side, on my dad's side and the family I married into.