Holiday Letter 2021

Season’s greetings! We hope this letter finds you safe and well.

As with many things in 2020, the holiday letter went out the window. So, this will be a two year recap. 😉

Little did I know that taking a leap of faith into my own business in 2018 would prove helpful during a worldwide pandemic a year and a half later. I was already accustomed to working from home and had clients who relied on some of my services even more-so without in-person events. The 50-50 in 2020 organization had made the decision to dissolve after the candidate training cycle that concluded with the Blueprint for Winning Academy at the end of January 2020. We were able to wrap everything up neatly well before the pandemic hit. I knew this would be concluding when I first signed on with the organization, and the timing of everything proved to be impeccable.

Covid affected each of us differently. My favorite saying pertaining to this strange time has been, “We may all be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat.” Each of us experienced a different reality. Thankfully my life was not disrupted to the extent others’ were. I was able to mostly work from home and stay safe and covid free. When the derecho hit Des Moines in August 2020, I experienced two and a half days without power and a fridge full of spoiled food. Once again, I counted my blessings.

My fifth niece Mary Josephine was born on July 18, 2020. With Covid restrictions in place, I was not able to visit the hospital and instead spent two days and one night as Nanny Mel for her older siblings in Bennett. We had a blast! And then, when my sister Sarah and brother-in-law-Jeremiah arrived home from the hospital, the kids surprised me by telling me that I would be the first to hold sweet Mary. So I am 6 for 6 with holding my nephew and nieces first after their parents!

The most trying part of 2020 was my mom’s 70-day stay in hospitals and rehab facilities after aspirating on food and enduring multiple complications from Parkinson’s disease. You can read previous blog posts for all of the details. She and my dad left home for routine appointments and errands on August 28 not knowing that she wouldn’t return until November 6. So thankful to have Mom at home again, albeit with a lot of new caregiving requirements.

Percy, Gemma, and I moved from Des Moines to Davenport on November 4, 2020. We found the perfect rental house in the McClellan Heights neighborhood complete with a porch and swing, fenced in back yard, and an amazing front room for our office. We love being back in the Quad Cities and closer to family. I enjoy more frequent visits from my nephew and nieces, as well as my once or twice weekly trips to Durant to see my parents.

While concert going and cross country and overseas trips were put on hold during these past two years, I was able to enjoy a few other fun times:

  • I read 67 books in 2020 and have read 55 books thus far in 2021.
  • The pups and I have explored many new trails and parks across the state of Iowa.
  • I took one weekend trip in 2020 to Omaha/Council Bluffs for cousins Allison and James’s high school graduation and great aunt Marilyn’s memorial service.
  • I visited my bestie Jen and her family, along with a few of my college friends, in Lee’s Summit, MO in July 2021.
  • I treated myself to a long weekend in Milwaukee when visiting the city for cousin Tess and Eugene’s wedding in August 2021.
  • My favorite kids resumed their weekend visits to my place in December 2020. While we were not able to venture out during the first round of visits, we are now visiting more of the Quad Cities including the Quad City Symphony Orchestra at the Adler Theater, Cafe d’Marie, Figge Art Museum, Freight House Farmers’ Market, Me & Billy, Putnam Museum, and multiple River Bandits minor league baseball games at Modern Woodmen Park.

As 2021 comes to a close and I reflect back on these past two years, I am amazed by all that has happened within a short window of time. I have learned to embrace change while becoming more resilient. By going through the tough times, I am learning how to better enjoy the good times. Let’s all unleash the joy during this holiday season, and let it carry us into 2022.

Love,
Melissa, Percy, and Gemma

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Seester Sunday: Chili, Books, and Rest!

This edition of Seester Sunday occurred on February 9, 2020. Sarah posted it on time; alas, I did not (per usual).

Mel:

Today was truly a Sunday Funday! I was busy with a few awesome activities today.

After mass, I attended our Basilica’s Knights of Columbus 10th Annual Chili Cook Off. I had a blast trying four out of the seven chilis. I would have tried more, but I was stuffed and did not want to be miserable for the rest of the day.

Today I wore one of my “winterized ensembles.” This full outfit is from Target. I started with a sundress, and then added a cami, cardigan, tights, and boots. I was careful with the color selections for each of my additions, as I did not want to over power the floral print with too much black, and I also did not want to look out of place and washed out with too much white.

I really enjoy pulling colors out of prints to complete an outfit. I wore my favorite blue Silpada earrings that I wore last week. And this week I added my necklace with Saint Agnes (my confirmation patron saint) and Miraculous medals.


After all of that chili eating, I was ready to relax with the pups. The only thing better than reading books is reading books while snuggling with dogs. It’s simply the best.

I finished my day with an evening shift working at Barnes and Noble. I made a few book recommendations tonight and splurged on some cheesecake during my break.

Hope you have a great week!

Sarah:

Well my Sunday was much less exciting than Mel’s, but still good!

We have been battling the plague for the entire past week 6 weeks at our house. Jeremiah was hit HARD on Mon/Tues and really didn’t emerge from the trenches until Friday evening. Gabriel was home from school for 3 days this week. By Sunday morning, Jeremiah still wasn’t feeling great, and offered to stay home with Kateri. I jumped on that idea, because ‘Me/4 kids in Mass alone’ sounds a lot better than ‘Me/5 kids in Mass alone’!

I quickly got myself ready while the older 4 got dressed and we were off. Ruth was naughty during church (what’s new?) but everyone else was fine and well behaved. I shared with Jeremiah awhile ago that I know one of the specific reasons God gave me Ruth was to keep me HUMBLE. And that she does, very well, almost daily. After Mass, the kids ate doughnuts while I chatted with a friend, then we all went to our respective Sunday School classes. Gabriel’s class played Bible Jeopardy for part of their session, how fun! My 1st grade class talked about Baptism and Sacraments.

My outfit was an oldie, but a goodie. My shirt was thrifted a long time ago and is super long. I like to tie it in a little knot to give it a little something and so it’s not shapeless. This shirt is so wonderful because I have worn it when I am trying to hide a post-baby pudgey belly, when I’m not pregnant, AND when I am pregnant, and I think it looks decent in all situations and is very forgiving–my favorite types of clothes!! My leggings are maternity from Old Navy and I basically live in them when they’re not in the washer. I wore tall boots and forgot to put earrings in. I did nothing with my hair other than a ponytail because that’s how I roll a lot of days and Kateri pulls on it all day anyways. 😉 This pic was taken right before bed, so yes, I look a bit tired and my glasses are on. haha!

Photo cred to Ruth(?)

After that we all headed home on icy roads and had lunch. The rest of the day consisted of me getting 100 pages into a new book (“A Woman is No Man” by Etaf Rum–VERY GOOD), watching an episode of “Flip Wars” on Prime, helping Gabriel with a pile of makeup homework (–see couch), making all people take a nap (they all were quiet for 2 hours!!! WIN!), planning our week in my planner, keeping Kateri from climbing on me too much, doing laundry, watching the kids go crazy (anyone else’s people have cabin fever?!) and ordering dinner in from the bar/grille in town. A good, restful Sunday, but I am happy to see and feel the sun today!!

Fridays with G and L: The Chicken and the Egg

Flashback to Halloween 2011: The Friday before Halloween weekend was fun, but that Sunday was even better.  That afternoon I went trick-or-treating with G and L in Durant.

G had been so proud of his chicken costume the minute his mom brought it home.  He even mowed the lawn with his costume on!

However, when the time came to go onto the proverbial stage, G was having a near meltdown.  When he arrived with his mom, dad, and Lucy at my parents’ house in Durant, he did not want to become a chicken.  So Aunt Mel did what she did best back during her preschool teaching days back in Pearland: She acted so excited and assumed G would be too.  See, enthusiasm is contagious, especially with G.  Mix in the fact that I’m not his parent, and I have hit a home run.

Within a few minutes, G was a chicken.

As we stopped at the first few houses, one thing slowed us down.  G wanted to eat his candy right away.  Had we been blessed with the entire day to trick-or-treat, this would have been fine.  However, we had about an hour and a half.  So little by little we all coached G on letting the candy wait for him unopened in his plastic pumpkin.

G was scared of only one house:

What freaked him out is still a mystery to me.  Maybe it was the dim lighting?

Lucy played the egg role very well, only being mistaken for an angel one time.

Lu Lu a.k.a. the cutest egg ever

Before I knew it, we were on our way back to Nana and Papa’s house for my mom’s birthday dinner.  Double nickel!

Perhaps my favorite site of the trick or treating outing was the chicken crossing the road.

A little blurry – guess the chicken likes to hurry across the road. 🙂

Then again, the family photo was cute too.

Cutest family ever!

Fridays with G and L: Special Day

Last Friday was a pretty simple day, or as simple as possible with a two year old and a two month old.

L was up first this time, looking adorable even at 6:30 a.m.

It was raining for most of the morning, so G and I watched a Winnie the Pooh movie – something about Easter.  The movie’s core message about friendship and allowing for imperfections resonated with this 32 year old.  Perhaps I should seek the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh and gang more often.

G and I had a blast with Play-Doh.  I can’t believe G is already old enough to sculpt without trying to eat it!  I left the camera to the side, since I did not want to distract him playing so nicely.  We created snakes, telescopes, pancakes, towers, and many other things.

I napped along with the kiddos.  L wanted me to hold her wile she slept, and I was happy to oblige.

After nap time, we played in G’s favorite place: outside in his yard, alternating between the pool and the sandbox.

My babysitting day was a little shorter since the 22nd was Sarah and Jeremiah’s anniversary – 5 YEARS!  It’s crazy to think of where we all were, without G and L, back then.  I looked forward to them having babies one day, but I never imagined their kids would be SO cute and fun!

Fridays with G, and now Lucy too!

My sister went back to work on Friday, July 1.  I arrived in Bennett at 6:25 a.m., with Starbucks in hand.  I’ve babysat multiple children at once before, but never my niece and nephew for a 10-hour day.  I was super excited.  I tried to savor the silence before they both woke up, but I kept checking on Lucy to ensure she was still breathing.

G was the first to break the silence at around 7:15 a.m.  “Mommy, Mommy, Daddy, Daddy, Mommy, Daddy….”  Lord, he was going to wake up his sister.  But Lucy slept through it.  I surprised G when I entered the room but still earned a grin out of him.  After the initial game of playing shy under his blanket, he was all business.  He pointed to the picture frame I gave to him for his birthday.  The little plastic frame includes four pictures from our adventures together, and he pointed straight to the picture of him in the cupcake shop.  “I want dat.”  Sorry G, not today.

When we went downstairs, G declared, “I want bye.” and pointed to Smurfette (my car outside).  I told G we were staying at his place today.  After he made an initial sad face, he was showing me his new toy semi truck.

G does pretty well with Lucy around, and Lucy is such a good baby.  However, we had a few crazy moments.

G thinks Lucy’s diaper change time is also his diaper change time.  But he doesn’t wait for his turn.  He prefers to rip his diaper off and run around while I am changing Lucy.  And it doesn’t matter if his bottom is dirty.  Thankfully he listens to most of what I tell him to do, so he does stand by Lucy’s changing table long enough for me to wipe him off.  And he went upstairs to get his diaper – just had a little bit of streaking time.  Good thing no one rang the doorbell, ha ha.

G also managed to pull a big box with packing peanuts from the outdoor recycling bin and then dumped it all over the yard.  And we had a small breeze.  No problem, Aunt Mel needed a project to do during nap time.  This happened to be on a day with a heat index of over 100, so I left just a few in the yard.  When G woke up from his nap, he was pleasantly surprised to see “bumballs” in the yard.  Then he made a game of smashing them and putting them in his wading pool.

Fridays with G & L
One of our quieter moments: snack time. G's bear had to join us too. And yes, I let him have chips for snack time. 😉

Meanwhile, Lucy spent the day eating, sleeping, and watching her brother’s craziness.  She is a pretty quiet baby, but I anticipate she will be chattier than G because she will demand some of the attention when she is old enough to hold her own.

Fridays with G & L

Our first day all together went well.  Glad to hear a Caribou Coffee is open at the I-80 truck stop now, because I may need a second coffee fix with two kiddos on Fridays.  🙂

Lessons from Gabriel

 

Go for what you want!
Stick both hands in the candy jar!

 

I adore my one and only nephew Gabriel.  He is so much fun.  I never understood the whole talking-about-babies-like-we’re-crazy thing until my sister had a baby on June 18, 2009.  That’s the day everything changed for me.  And my life is so much better for it.  Aunt/Godmother is the title I am most proud of to date.

Gabriel has taught me a lot, and he can teach us all a lot.  Let’s call this one “Lessons from Gabriel”:

1.  Don’t be shy.  Just go up to someone, smile, and say hi.  Never mind personal space.  Get as close as you can.  If they ignore you, move along to the next person.

2.  Enjoy the little things:  grass in sidewalk cracks, flowers, sticks, animals, trains, and tractors.

3.  Show people what you want if they do not understand what you are saying.  Preferred methods are pushing, pulling, or picking up their feet for them to get them moving.

4.  Enjoy cake, cookies, and ice cream.  They are so yummy!

5.  Eat lots of fruit.

6.  Play outside as often as possible.  Find every puddle and splash around.  Also, find every piece of dirt and get it all over yourself.  Have fun!

7.  Things are just things.  So what if they break or get a little dirty?  Mom’s laptop and cell phone are no exceptions.

8.  Trust those you love completely.  They will always catch you.

9.  Be courageous and step off that ledge.  Don’t be afraid.  Just do it.

10.  Stick both hands in the candy jar!  Go for what you want!

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child.  Listen to the don’ts.  Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.  Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child.  Anything can be.”  – Shel Silverstein