Seester Sunday: Flashback to February

This Seester Sunday occurred on February 23, 2020. I am writing this post in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic and realizing just how much I took for granted just two months ago. My seester Sarah has been super busy homeschooling four of her five kids, while also caring for the fifth and getting ready to give birth to a sixth child in July! I am posting this without her, as she may or may not add her piece later. 😉


I enjoyed this last pre-quarantine, in person Seester Sunday surrounded by family. I stayed overnight with Mom and Dad in Durant, since we celebrated Dad’s birthday on that Saturday night.

We kids were also surprised with a set of DVDs for each of us with old family movies on them! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Dad cooked me an awesome ham, egg, and cheese sandwich on King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls for breakfast. So good.

Then I attended mass with my sister and her family at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Wilton. This was a special Sunday, as it was nephew Gabriel’s first time as altar server. Of course this godmother had to take a few pictures. 😉

We stuck around for donuts after mass while the kids had Sunday School. Niece Amelia also took a few photos for me.

And Kateri was on the move during the entire time. This girl is growing so fast!

After the pups and I went back to Durant and lounged with my parents for a bit, we were off to Bennett to take my nephew Gabriel and two oldest nieces Lucy and Amelia to a birthday party in Tipton.

Once the birthday party was over, we dropped the kiddos back at home in Bennett and then headed home ourselves.

Such a fun day!


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).


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!


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!!

Seester Sunday: Happy New Year!

I am continuing to catch up with posting our Seester Sunday updates. This post should finally bring us up to date. 😉


After a bit of an absence with Seester Sunday, we’ve decided to (try) to get back into the habit. This week followed a snowy Saturday that left us cooped up in the house most of the day. The kids were a bit antsy and honestly we didn’t do much. I spent a good majority of the day on the couch and J even cooked dinner (spaghetti-his trademark 😉  ).

All that to say we were slow getting up and about on Sunday morning and were LATE to church after de-icing the van and driving on slick roads. Kateri was the only one who got her hair fixed and Ruth wore her snow boots. We were even short one kid as Lucy was at a sleepover. We walked in and Ruth took off in Ruth-fashion running up the center aisle to where we usually sit…..except we weren’t sitting there because, as I mentioned, we were LATE and had to sit elsewhere. Ahem. Anyways, here’s what I wore:

 Who’s that handsome teenager standing next to me? Oh, that’s only my man-child, Gabriel. I somehow convinced him to get in a pic with me. In case you’re interested, he now can wear man-sized jeans, I buy his shoes from the men’s section and he no longer needs a booster in the car. {tears**}

My dress/tunic/long shirt thing is thrifted and old and some brand I’ve never heard of. I love it. It’s comfy and forgiving. It’s short enough that I don’t wear it in the summer but feel comfortable putting it with leggings. I can bend over and wrangle Ruth kids without my hiney showing. My leggings are run-of-the-mill from Old Navy and are much warmer than they look! Boots are my favorite grey ones from Famous Footwear that I’ve had for 2 years.   And that’s that!



So, the reason this Seester Sunday post is a day late is because yours truly did not get her act together in time for a Sunday post. While I do not ANY human children, nor do I have a husband, my life seems to keep me busy with other things.

I spent my snowy Saturday working at Barnes and Noble. What began as a part time seasonal job has become a permanent part time job that I absolutely LOVE. Hopefully I can continue to balance my bookselling job with everything else going on in my increasingly crazy life!

On Saturday night, I had an amazing first date at Centro, my favorite restaurant in downtown Des Moines. Then, I was invited to join this great guy for a second breakfast date on Sunday morning before mass. While I was home by 11:00 p.m. on Saturday night, I barely slept! Glad I still woke up early on Sunday though, because breakfast was awesome.

After breakfast on Sunday, I attended 10:30 a.m. mass at the Basilica of St. John. Then I came home for some office time. My client 50-50 in 2020, whom I currently serve as Executive Director for, has A LOT going on during these next two weeks! By mid-afternoon, I was off to Barnes and Noble for the rest of the day and evening.

I also wore a thrift store gem during this past Sunday. I found this dress at Phase 2 Consignments in Grinnell, just over a year ago. This photo is not from Sunday, because, as we have established previously, I did not have my act together this week:

This photo is from the Women Lead Change Dubuque Conference in November 2019, where I exhibited on behalf of 50-50 in 2020. Paired with my dress then and this Sunday were Silpada earrings, and brown tights and boots from Target. I do not wear a lot of jewelry, and earrings are my go-to accessory – in addition to my glasses!

Another note on my dress: I love cowl necks and things that flow openly. Nothing is worse than a form-fitting dress when you are having a day when you feel bloated or fat. Yes, we must be self confident, but we all have those days because we are human.

We look forward to posting together again next week!

Halloween Costume History

Six years ago today – October 31, 2013 – I put on a Halloween costume for the first time in several years. I was inspired by my then four-year-old nephew Gabriel and two-year-old niece Lucy to find a fun costume and trick or treat with them. In 2012 I had trick or treated with them and decided then that the next year I was finally going to get into this costume thing.

I was never the kid who really got into costumes. Finding a costume was a task I had to do in order to get to the fun of parties and trick or treating. I had a couple of moments of costume brilliance in my 20s, such as when I dressed up as a devil:

I tried Wilma Flintstone once, but that doesn’t count because I botched that costume by not having the right dress with the right neckline due to very last minute shopping in between a Hawkeye football game and the Halloween party for which I was purchasing said costume:

So when I decided to go all in during 2013, I wanted to get it right. Gabriel was dressing up as Iron Man, and Lucy was going as Belle. I wanted to tie into one of those. As a real life godmother, I thought being a fairy godmother would be fun. However, I did not want to be the elderly godmother from Cinderella. I wanted to put a Lucy spin on it. I came up with what I thought Lucy would love her fairy godmother to look like:

Yes – lots of pink! 🙂 We had a blast on Halloween night, and now I was hooked.

By the time Halloween 2014 rolled around, I had adopted Percy the puggle. Since Percy was a part of the family and went everywhere with me, I knew he and I had to be a duo on Halloween night. I cut it close with the online shopping, but our costumes managed to arrive just in time:

Catwoman and Batman!

In 2015, I had to engage my artistic side and free hand a Starbucks logo:

Starbucks Barista and Pugkin Latte!

I was tempted to go with food costumes in 2016 but then found a classic costume that also seemed to be a fun tribute to my brother Mitch who was serving in the Navy at the time:

Sailor Girl and Sailor Dog!

By the time the fall of 2017 rolled around, I was wondering how on earth I could top the last few years. It always came together at the last minute, and this year was no exception:

Princess Leia and Chewbacca!

Last year I had a new challenge: One more dog to coordinate!

The Incredibles!

Now I was REALLY getting into this Halloween thing. We participated in our first Spooky Paws Parade, in addition to going on our annual trick or treating night with our favorite little people.

So that brings me to this year. I had it down to two themes well over a month out from Halloween – planning ahead for the first time ever! – and ended up choosing the Peanuts theme. I bought a human 3T t-shirt for Percy and managed to find a dress for Gemma. And my costume is proving to be perfect for the especially cold weather:

Charlie Brown, Sally Brown, and Snoopy!

We participated in our second Spooky Paws Parade last Sunday and will be dressing up to go trick or treating in Bennett tonight. Stay tuned for more photos!

We also entered our very first online costume contest this year. Percy and Gemma’s doggy daycare, The Barking Lot, is announcing the winner later today. Thank you to everyone who liked, loved, shared, and commented on our photo! We had a blast during the process, so win or lose, we will definitely compete again next year.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Fridays with G and L: Fall Fun

On the Friday before Halloween 2011, I brought Halloween cupcakes to G and L’s house.  Of course G spotted them immediately when he walked into the kitchen that morning, so we had cupcakes for breakfast.

Lucy woke up shortly after we filled ourselves with sugar for the day.

We had a busy day, beginning with moving dirt in the yard.

Then we took a lunch break at A Place To Land in Tipton.  G was delighted to see our favorite dragon is a Hawkeye fan too!

After nap time, we still had things to do.  Luckily, G the Firefighter was on hand when a fire started!

Another great day with G and L!

Fridays with G and L: You Have Your Hands Full!

This post is dedicated to my sister Sarah, the best mom I know………

I took G and L to lunch at the Walcott Arby’s.  Twice on our way to our table I heard, “Wow, you have your hands full!”

Rage welled up in me.  Did I look that flustered?  Because I didn’t feel flustered at all.  And the kids were being angels.  Gabriel was walking just ahead of me, listening to me and looking for a table next to the window so he could watch the trucks.  Lucy was as content as could be in her carrier.  And Aunt Mel was balancing the tray of food beautifully.

I wasn’t whining; I wasn’t yelling.  G and L were behaving better than some of the adults eating their lunches.  Just saying.

Despite everything going super smoothly in my view, others must have thought it was too much work for one person to do.  Or maybe they thought I should figure out the birth control thing.  I felt judged, and these weren’t even my own kids.

And what is the point of saying something like that anyway?  It’s kind of like people saying to me, “You need to settle down and have a family.”  All that I want to do is give them a knuckle sandwich.

I made no comments to the people in Arby’s but instead enjoyed lunch with G and L.  As they looked on I thought, “Yes, they are super cute.  And well behaved.  I know you are jealous.”

After Arby’s we hopped across the street to the I-80 Kitchen building, where we stopped to see Alexis and get some treats from Caribou: a peach smoothie for G and a latte for me.

G loved his smoothie and drank nearly the entire thing. When I asked if I could have a sip, he said, "No, no. Mine!"


We had a brief toddler moment while waiting for our drinks.  G insisted on pulling every Ertyl toy off the rack to line them up in the middle of the gift shop floor.  I let him do it once, with about five tractors, etc.  Then it was time to put everything back.

And wouldn’t you know, on our way to our table, I heard it again, “You have your hands full!”  Deep breaths.

Yes, my hands are full, but so is my heart.

Fridays with G and L: The Great Outdoors

This week G and L were both up and at ’em by the time I arrived in Bennett at 6:30 a.m.  Thank God for Starbucks!

I brought along Sarah and G’s Bix packets, but G was more interested in opening up the hair bands I brought for Lucy.  He thought they were candy, A.K.A. “bumballs”.  I wouldn’t let him open the package and thus received the saddest face ever.  G has perfected his puppy dog face during the past week or so: droopy eyes, cute semi-frown, dropped shoulders.  Then I re-direct him to something fun, and with a little hop of his legs, he’s perked back up again.

One of G’s favorite movies is Monsters, Inc., which I happen to love too.  We popped that in, and G was totally into it.  He also wanted to snuggle with Lucy on the couch.

Then we tried our first ever self photo with the three of us.

Then we went outside, and that’s where the real fun began.  The sandbox was a wet mess, creating a sand paste that G loved.  Once dirty enough to continue with other tasks, G watered his mom’s plants around the outside of the house.

The best part of this task for G is running the garden hose.  He takes every opportunity possible to turn on the water: filling Ryder’s water dish, washing his riding toys, filling the pool, you name it.

And yes, he is wearing his standard orange trunks.  I have declared these G’s outdoor uniform, as we inevitably have to strip off whatever he wears outside once we go back inside.  We have a normal outfit for him, and then the outdoor trunks.

G decided to dig in a small area of dirt beside the garage.  Notice the war paint (sand paste) he has marked himself with.

G also loves gloves, and snags Sarah’s gardening gloves to put on while shoveling.

After cleaning up, eating lunch, and napping, it was time to get ready to go to Davenport for G’s first Jr. Bix!  G didn’t freak out, but he did have his daddy carry him part of the way.

G did run across the finish line himself, but by then he was out of my camera range.  When G received his medal, he decided to give it to his mommy.

The grand finale of the evening was dinner at Happy Joe’s.  In G’s words:


Fridays with G and L

“Fridays with G” is now “Fridays with G and L”.  Depending upon how many kiddos my sister has, we could have an alphabet-like-acronym a la FDR within a few years.  😉

Speaking of history……

G and I watched the final Atlantis shuttle launch on TV this past Friday.  Pretty cool to share an historic moment with my nephew and niece.  When they are teenagers, and the space race has expanded to corporate entities and billionaires, I will say, “Back in 2011, we watched the final NASA shuttle launch on TV at your house together…”

G seemed pretty impressed with the whole thing.  Anything that makes noise and goes fast is intriguing to G.  I told G they were going way up in the sky to outer space.  The boy doesn’t know what space is now, but he will someday.

We actually made it a full day with no DVDs.  Usually I break down and put one in – either right before or after nap time.  Between the shuttle launch and Blake Shelton on the Today Show, we had plenty of filler entertainment for G.  While I am not a huge country fan, I will keep it on to foster G’s appreciation for live (ish) music.

Diaper changing the two kids went more smoothly this Friday.  This is partly because I gave G a little pep talk before each of L’s diaper changes, explaining that I was changing her now and he would get his own turn.  We’ll see if it works again next week.

Lucy was her usual pleasant self, and she and I took a nap together on the couch.  With her mass of black hair, she is super cuddly!

G’s craziest moment was post-nap, outside.  He had no boxes with packing peanuts to dump this time, but that’s OK.  G always finds something to do.

Like any two-year-old boy, G loves water, sand, mud, and trucks.  G’s yard is set up pretty well with a Little Tikes play house and slide, wading pool, and sandbox – complete with plenty of machinery, shovels, and buckets.  G alternates between putting everything in the pool or everything in the sandbox.  Last week it was the pool; this week it was sandbox time.

Fridays with G in Sandbox

Pretty soon G was slyly sneaking water into the sandbox to make his own “mud”.

And we must not forget to put buckets of sand in the kitchen, while washing the school bus and semi inside the play house.

Yes, that's Ryder in the picture! She must not be forgotten.

I have a hunch Lucy will have something to say about the play house decor in a year or two.  In the meantime though, she is content to sleep and let G do his thing.

And finally, my favorite pics of G and L from this past week, both taken “off the clock”.  I took the one of me and G in Kohl’s, and Sarah played beautician with Lucy in the second pic.

Aunt Mel and G at Kohl's

On that note, have a happy Thursday!

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.  🙂

Fridays with G: Fun at VanderVeer Park

G and I had a short and shared time together last Friday.  We met at VanderVeer Park in Davenport, along with Sarah and Lucy.  The last time I remember walking around VanderVeer was during a family photo shoot back in September 2006.  And the time before that was for Sarah and Jeremiah’s wedding pictures in July 2006.  I drive past the park all of the time.

Like it is with many things, I continued to tell myself, “Tomorrow I will stop and check it out.”  And before you know it, several hundred tomorrows have passed.  Last Friday was that “tomorrow”.  Maybe I was meant to put this off until I had a niece and nephew, along with my sister, to share it with.

I beat the trio to the park so sat and read my two-month-old Time magazine for a few minutes.  (Reading old magazines cover to cover will be addressed in a separate post.)  As I walked up to the car, G was hiding his eyes behind his hands.  Must be a new game.  I helped him out of his car seat.  I keep wondering when he’s going to just bust out of that thing himself.  Probably on a day when I am watching him.

G immediately went to check out the pond.  Then he reached for the Wheat Thins his mom had packed.  G might like Wheat Things even more than I do.  It’s a toss up.  We sat down to eat a picnic lunch, and G was entertained by the super tame squirrel who refused bread but loved Wheat Thins.

Then it was off to the playground, where G semi-successfully flirted with a couple of girls.  They were both at least a year older than him.  G was super smooth, opting to go on the double side-by-side slides where he could chat with them more.

G seemed to enjoy the large fountain the most.

G at VanderVeer Park

During the loop back to the car, G walked very quietly toward the ducks chilling in the shade.  He pointed and giggled.  I smiled.  This was a great tomorrow.