Let me start by saying that Grams and Grandad have never written an annual Christmas letter. But I love them. We have several friends who send them every year. My husband's Uncle Peter and Aunt Margaret sent their 35th annual letter this year. We got it day before yesterday. I look forward to it every year.
I absolutely love getting these letters and catching up with friends and family that we don't see often. In recent years they often include photos. That's been especially fun as our childrens' friends have had babies and we get to see their little ones.
I actually intended to try writing a Christmas letter this year, but then Shutterfly offered me 50 free photo Christmas cards in exchange for a blog entry about their Christmas cards. Here's what the final product looks like. It's called "Shiny Pretty Things" and is printed on beautiful high-quality 5" x 7" card stock. I will admit that it's a little heavy on the pictures of Our Little Princess. (Okay, my son-in-law asked for a royalty. I offered to pay him off in babysitting.)
Even though I didn't send a Christmas letter this year, I've been imagining what I might have included if I had. So, here it is, my first ever Christmas letter.
Dearest Friends and Family,
Merry Christmas from the Valenta family. 2010 has been a year of celebrations for us.
Early in the year, we celebrated Our Little Princess' 1st birthday. She had her first chocolate cupcake that day and her Uncle Nick had to show her what to do with it. Seriously, she'd never had sweets before that day. That situation has now been remedied and I know that some day she'll thank us for it.
In June, Grandad's mother, Mama Ruthie, celebrated her 80th birthday with a family dinner at Gary & Nancy's home in Sinton. We attempted to get all of her children and grandchildren together for a family portrait. At the last minute, some of them had to work, but we had a good time and got some good pictures.
In June we went back to the Texas Heart Institute in Houston where Grandad underwent a cardiac ablation. He's had a problem with atrial fibrillation and heart flutter since his mitral valve was repaired three years ago. The ablation did work and his heartbeat was in near perfect rhythm for about a month. Since then, the A-fib and flutter have returned. We expect that he will undergo a second ablation shortly after the new year. While we are disappointed, we were told prior to the first procedure that it might have to be done as many as 2-3 times to achieve long-term desired results.
We celebrated the 4th of July with our first vacation since 2003. Every year when we watch the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on television I tell Grandad that I want to see it in person. In 2010, we finally did. We spent the week leading up to July 4th in Massachusetts. I fell in love with Cape Cod. Its history and its beauty were captivating. I just have to tell you ... Cape Cod smells amazing! I don't think I've ever been any place that smells so good. We visited Plymouth Rock, the Sandwich Glass Museum and took a drive up to Hyannis. Then we spent a day in Salem. It was a lot of fun. The history of the witch trials an the National Park were fun. One of the highlights of that day was a walk through the historic district which contains the finest examples of federal-style architecture in the the USA. It's gorgeous.
Then we spent the next four days in the Boston-Cambridge area. In celebration of Independence Day there were re-enactments and tours everywhere. We watched as the Redcoats landed on Long Wharf and marched into the City of Boston. We shopped at Quincy Market and ate lobster for lunch. We walked the Freedom Trail and strolled through the North End (better known as Little Italy). We toured the Old North Church and visited the USS Constitution. We rode the subway and walked through Harvard Yard. We saw an amazing building on the MIT campus designed by Frank Gehry. Then we celebrated Independence Day by spending a day in the park with thousands of other Americans. People from all over the USA were friendly, unabashedly patriotic, and relaxed as we waited all day long for a performance by the Boston Pops and the fireworks over the Charles River. It was well worth the wait and I would go back every year if I could.
A little later in the summer, we enjoyed a day at Fiesta, Texas. We rode the roller coasters and spent quite a bit of time in the children's area with Our Little Princess. We were joined that day by Travis' 14-year-old daughter Mady. She was excited and frightened by her first roller-coaster ride, but she bravely went back and rode it a second time just to prove she could.
We feel so good about how well both of our children are doing. They are both happily married and have settled into homes of their own. Katy and Travis own a 1950's ranch-style home in the Alamo Heights area of San Antonio. They're working on updating it's mid-century style to fit their own funky style. Our Little Princess is growing like a weed. We visit often since San Antonio is only a couple of hours away. In between visits, we stay in touch using a web-cam. She is talking pretty plainly now and will even say "I love you" when we talk on the phone. Her new little sister is scheduled to arrive next April.
Nick and Marie have a beautiful new home in Summerwood near Humble in North Houston. It's spacious and modern and they're working on furnishing it. No kids yet for them, they are both busy building their careers and doing some traveling before they have kids.
In November, we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. We still live in the Calallen area of northwest Corpus Christi.Grandad has been with Chesterton for more than 30 years. He spends a good deal of his time in Houston now as he manages both the Houston and Corpus Christi retail operations. Retirement is still a few years away for him. I enjoy my part-time job as a substitute teacher. I always knew that I should have been a teacher. I enjoy working with all levels of students and spend quite a bit of time in special needs classes. Of course, my favorite days are when I get to teach English or Social Studies. I have found high school mathematics challenging, but I'm learning as I go along. Thank God, other teachers are usually very helpful and willing to show me how it's done.
This year, for only the second time ever, our family will not be together for Christmas. Katy, Travis and Our Little Princess will visit the weekend before Christmas and we'll celebrate then. Mady will spend Christmas with them for the first time ever. That means they'll be spending Christmas with Travis' family. I couldn't resist reminding Katy that last time she didn't come home for Christmas, it snowed in Corpus Christi for the first time in 100 years. Nick and Marie will be here for our traditional Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We've already chosen what movie we'll see on Christmas Day. It's going to be True Grit.
We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. May 2011 bring you lots of reasons to celebrate.
The Valenta Family