2021 GTA Year in Review

(Yeah, I know, I no longer write on the Good Times Ahoy! blog. But the grand tradition of everyone thinking I’m writing about Grand Theft Auto every November/December/January lives on FOREVER, dangnabbit.)

Well, we survived another year, and while 2021 didn’t involve a lockdown, a new baby, or a movacuation, it was a pretty busy one. I really appreciated Tom taking on the 2020 Year in Review/Christmas letter, but I’m glad to be back in the saddle this year.

Without further ado, let’s get to the updates!

The Tom

Tom continues to be the best husband and father we could possibly ask for. He’s still working for Valero, now on his fourth refinery economics job. The current assignment involves coordinating plans for four Valero refineries along the Gulf Coast. Sometimes the plans don’t even get destroyed by Winter Storm Uri, Hurricane Ida, pandemic aftershocks, or refinery misadventures! But despite all that, Valero is doing well, San Antonio still seems to have gasoline (from the refineries Tom plans for!), and we are very grateful to be taken care of by such a great company.

Outside work, Tom is serving in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by planning activities for the 9-11 year old boys, among other things. He’s written a handful of blog posts and articles for Public Square Magazine (all linked on his blog here). For the second year, he masterminded our family chocolate-making process, in which about 15 pounds of Belgian chocolate became around 900 hand-dipped chocolates per the Nysetvold family recipe.

Tom’s big parenting achievements of the year include introducing Dan to programming with Scratch, helping Will learn to read (more on that later), and getting Marie hooked on finger-puppet books, the first of a series of gateway drugs leading ultimately to Lord of the Rings.

Favorite series read this year: The Second World War by Winston Churchill.

The Elissa

This was a pretty good year for me. I spent most of it trying to get better at dealing with these adorable people.

I suppose the most notable thing I’ve accomplished this year was publishing a book (which you can buy here! And review! Plz?). It’s been terrifying releasing something so personal and so full of my ideas and personality out into the world, but I’ve been bolstered and humbled by the constant support of family and friends throughout the whole process. I love you guys. So much.

I’ve continued filling our house with crafts. So many crafts. In addition to my normal knitting and crocheting, I also picked up sewing in a more serious way, largely because I want to make my adorable daughter pretty dresses. I didn’t do a craft roundup for last year’s post, so I figured I’d do a giant one for 2020 and 2021.

I might have a problem.

I’m still baking lots of bread, both yeasted and sourdough, pursuant to my eventual goal of never buying bread again. I’m getting more comfortable with the sourdough process, and my loaves are turning out tastier, and sometimes even prettier.

Best sourdough sandwich loaves yet

My favorite books I’ve read this year were Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, The Wraith and the Rose by CJ Brightley, and The Executioner of God by C. David Belt. The first is an outstanding sci-fi novel by the author of The Martian, the second is a lovely fairy retelling of The Scarlett Pimpernel, and the third is about a time traveling templar knight and runaway nun hunting the Morrigan through the centuries. I’d highly recommend all of them.

The Dan

Dan has had a great year. He graduated from Nysetvold Homeschool and matriculated into first grade at the local public school. By all accounts he’s having a blast with his many friends, and his teacher claims he’s very helpful and polite and the other kids learn a lot from him. Dan has also started piano lessons with Mom, and played on a soccer team for the first time this fall.

Dan at the elementary school bike rodeo

A new institution in our family is the Dan and Will Baking Challenge, in which Dan and Will follow recipes start to finish with minimal help from adults. Dan tends to do most of the work in these endeavors, which suits both of them pretty well. We’ve had some mishaps (like the time Dan thought you just put whole eggs in the mixer and ended up making crunchy, calcium-fortified cookies), but the results have generally been fantastic. We’re glad Dan is developing his talents in such a productive way.

Little bakers at work
Crunch crunch
Much more successful coconut bars

As always, Dan is an excellent big brother and helps keep his siblings in line when they misbehave, even after a long day at school.

Dan’s favorite books he’s read this year are Nightwalker by Elissa C. Nysetvold (kid sure knows how to butter people up) and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan.

The Will

Will’s personality has really come out this year. I think he enjoys being the oldest kid at home for a good portion of the day, although he sure misses palling around with Dan. He has an amazing imagination, and is always creating alter-egos for himself. His latest is Goblin Will, since we read The Hobbit as a family and watched the animated movie over and over again. Goblin Will is a nice goblin, though. Not like the other goblins in our back yard who need to be slain.

Will defending the helpless Marie with his sword
Viking Will ready to pillage for candy

He also enjoys building amazing robots and other creations from Duplo and Lego.

Will named this car/truck/duck thing Mr. Pickles
“Mom, look at all these burninated pirates!”

Will’s big accomplishment this year is making it through Learn to Read (or, in other words, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons). He’s been cruising through the Mercy Watson books, Magic Treehouse, and the Kingdom of Wrenly series. He also loves to read Book of Mormon Stories to himself.

Mom’s “big red book” ended up being a letdown
Number Snack

One fun thing is how much Will has developed socially this year. He went from walking around saying “I don’t wike anybody” to trying to buddy up with every stranger we come across and tell them his life story. The other day he stopped someone from leaving the doctor’s office to tell her all about his plans to drink hot cocoa at snack time.

He’s also a very sweet older brother to Marie. These two have such a sweet relationship.

Will’s favorite books he’s read this year are Magic Treehouse 5: Night of the Ninjas by Mary Pope Osborne and Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke.

The Marie

Marie is growing up way too fast. She’s walking, starting to talk, and destroying things left and right. Seriously, she’s our most mischievous kid yet. She wants to be independent so badly, and tries to do everything herself. And I mean everything.

Coloring in an actual coloring book for once? It’s a beautiful one from Aunt Cathy!
Giving mom finger guns after being caught stealing chocolate
Baby loves black beans
Going for the pie on Thanksgiving
Using some serious qigong to brush her teeth with mom’s toothbrush

She cleans up well, though, and she loves shoes.

Marie can identify her feet, hands, tummy, hands, and arms. She loves to play peekaboo and gives the best hugs. Her favorite words are daddy, mama, feet (“Deet!”), pretty (“Ditty!”), shoes (“Doos!”), hi, and bye (hilariously, “Dieeeee!”) Yeah, her main consonant is “d” right now. We’re working on it. We get so many comments on her eyes, and how pretty she is in general, so it’s no wonder “pretty” is one of her first words.

Marie’s favorite book is a finger puppet book called Daddy and Me.

Family Activities

This summer we took a family trip down to South Padre Island. I never pictured us becoming a beach family, but that’s where we are, and it’s pretty great. Tom made an awesome Aztec-temple-inspired sand castle with Will’s help, Dan and I played in the waves for hours, I got severely sunburned and stung by jellyfish, and Marie ate lots of sand. It was super fun. We also took a drive to Boca Chica to scope out Starbase. Despite this, Will has somehow decided that Elon Musk is our imaginary friend, and refuses to believe he’s a real person. This is not helped by the fact that our favorite road trip game is pointing out every tiny shed or decrepit building along the road and saying, “Hey, look! It’s Elon Musk’s house!”

We took another road trip up to Yellowstone to hang out with my family. It was a very long drive, but everyone had a fantastic time, and the weather was gorgeous.

Another notable family memory from 2021 was getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Tom and I were both Team Moderna, and it kind of kicked our butts—Tom in particular got hit hard with the side effects. I still credit the copious amounts of chrysanthemum tea I drank for keeping me more or less functional post-jabs, but it’s possible I was just lucky. Dan had no averse effects on Team Pfizer Jr, for which we are very thankful. It’s been really nice to get back to more-or-less normal life this year, and we’re thankful for these life-saving gifts from God for helping make that possible.

So excite. So vax. So 5G

We wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year.