A Klongerbo Christmas letter, by Troy Klongerbo
If you take your eyes off him for 15 seconds, he’s ripping into something.
A swift transition from long, free nights at the office, dinners out with friends, and travels to states and countries, our lives are now spent chasing and saying, “No, icky, that’s the puppy’s food.”
But Calvin James, now 16 months old, has changed our world and so much for the better. Really, for the best.
His favorite things to rip into are cabinets in the kitchen, the shoe closet, the toy chest in his room, Mommy’s makeup drawer, or his bookshelf. Whenever he finds a new thing, he loves to share it with extended arms.
“Thank you for the colander, buddy, this is perfect.”
He’s found that books serve many purposes. They aren’t just for turning pages when Daddy is trying to read as fast as he can (he loves flipping the page aggressively and goes way too fast). They’re also for chewing, throwing, carrying, sitting on, and casting across the floor in an expression of abstract art.
Most importantly though, books show him colorful pictures while Mommy reads the “words part” perfectly. He doesn’t know how good he has it with the best reader and writer on the planet exploring books with him. But he loves it; it might be his favorite. Mommy’s, too.
Calvin understands things now, which is really fun. “Where’s the dog, Calvin?” The gears process, he smiles, then looks at the dog. A sheepish grin covers his face as he looks back at me.
“Where’s the dog, Calvin?”
He beams now. He knows he’s a genius and the smartest boy ever. Emphatically, he points at the dog and shows off the full-of-teeth smile he’s had almost since he was born. “That’s right — that’s Pali!” Daddy exclaims.
I’m not much of a cryer, but these are likely the days that will make me sob as an older man. We’re just starting them, which is such an amazing blessing.
I tell Sarah this often: We’re already, right now, in our 80s holding hands, looking out over some body of water. Our kids are off with kids of their own. Our work has slowed. She looks at me reflecting on our life and says she wants to do it all again. The Lord grants her wish, and in an instant we’re back in our 30s, helping Calvin put on his clothes for “school.” And we’re living that granted wish right now.
Heaven has to be better than this, God promises it. I guess I’ll have to trust Him.
Another positive of fatherhood is that I have gained an incredible immunity to having poop on my hands. I never thought this would be a skill I would acquire.
We’re in the thralls of parenthood with all of the challenge and glory.
Life is moving fast. It’s like Calvin is in charge of flipping the pages.
Last year, I started doing this chronological recapping of the months. Maybe this part of the letter is boring, but I’ll have Sarah add our best photos to each month to make it brighter and better. She makes everything brighter and better.
Besides, I’ve liked looking back on the month-by-month summary from previous years. I feel like my older self — and my eulogist — will appreciate the meticulous detail.
Our 2023 in a nutshell…
All photo captions by Sarah below
I started the year in Sevierville, TN, at the nation’s largest beekeeping conference. Premier Bee Products, a company I’m invested in and work closely with, had a booth to sell product and meet customers. I join on marketing efforts with my brother-in-law Matthew. We work well together and had a great conference.
Not as much “Downtown Sioux Falls Burger Battle” for the Klongerbos; the babysitter bill would be wild, finding a way to eat 34 burgers in a month. We celebrated Christmas with Sarah’s uncle David and family during Munce Family Christmas. Overall, it was a fine month. But Januarys are boring.
Some friends, some family, and a lot of time at home.
I made lambchop medallions with seared asparagus and a Korean demi glaze for Sarah for Valentine’s Day. I have about 27 photos on my phone from February — 10 are of this meal. Sarah, please put a picture of the lambchops here. Don’t delete this sentence.
I do a horrible job of taking photos of life during the winter months.
My phone has a few from church services with verses I wanted to look up later, photos of meals I made (red wine braised short ribs, garlic pepper fish filet, chicken banh mi sandwich, curried cauliflower salad, etc.), and pictures of our nieces Harper and Hilde on their birthday date to get cotton candy burritos downtown. Yes, cotton candy burritos are a thing.
Our niece Hilde, after finishing hers with about 120g of sugar, said, “For some reason, I kind of want another one.” I’m stealing that line from her for anytime I want more of anything.
At the end of the month, we got a sitter and went to Brian Regan live. He told a joke about copywriting for road signs that still makes Sarah laugh.
We welcomed another nephew: Jack Schock (Matt and Cassandra’s first). That made 10 nieces and nephews for me and Sarah. Blizzards were brought to the hospital, and Auntie Sarah got to smother and snuggle.
Toward the middle of the month, I flew out to Philadelphia to celebrate Dillon’s upcoming summer wedding. Dill’s friends and family gathered for a Phillies game, a neighborhood grill out, and some tacos in Fishtown. It was a good time.
The weather warmed up, and we were able to take some walks with strollers and the pup. Tons of pictures on the phone of baby baths, PJs, and breakfast time at the table.
In early May, I joined a few fellas on a trip to The Prairie Club. Courses weren’t open yet, so we putted our balls through a bit of sand. But it was a blast to see the golf ball in the air, hang, laugh, and eat some steaks in Nebraska.
Yet another nephew! Emmett Fey was born to Sarah’s sister Lauren and her husband Elliot. They now have three, and the Schock grandkid count jumps to 11.
Got the garden in and the canna bulbs planted out front. This year, I planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, and tried a few other weirder ones. Big successes were tomatoes (always are), cucumbers, and spaghetti squash. A good number of duds this summer. It got dry and when the golf courses came calling, I didn’t water the way I needed to. Darn.
At the end of May, we made the solemn trip to Indianola, IA, to celebrate the life of our sister-in-law Amy Schock’s mother Rhonda, who had passed. It wasn’t the ideal way to gather with family, but it was good to gather with family nonetheless.
On the way back, Calvin went to the zoo in Omaha and found the seals entirely uninteresting. He was hot and didn’t really care about any of the animals. We’ll try again next year.
I made salmon pinwheels in early June for Darrell (my business partner) and his family when they breezed through Sioux Falls. The pinwheels were fantastic, a plate scraper.
I played some golf, we had three bonfires out back, and shortly after Calvin started eating chicken, he started spitting out meat every time we tried to give it to him. Maybe he’s vegan. Hard to say.
For my birthday, Sarah treated me to the Pheasant Restaurant in Brookings. We made the drive and had a great little meal in a place established in 1949. The restaurant business is hard, I get that, but it makes me sad there aren’t more of these little spots with decades of tradition still kicking. It was a great birthday meal. Calvin threw 15 pieces of his bun on the floor and would look to see if Pali came. She wasn’t invited to the Pheasant Restaurant.
I played some competitive golf and did nothing that was exciting. Lots of bogies and middle-of-the-pack finishes. I still love trying — though time is making truly competitive efforts more sparse. Stay tuned, though; almost caught lightning in a bottle in September…
At the end of June, we flew to Idaho for the Modern Homesteading Conference in Coeur d’Alene, ID. One of our companies I pour a lot of time and energy into is called Homestead Living. We had a booth at the conference. (More on work at the bottom.)
One evening there, we enjoyed a farm-to-table dinner with all elements of the meal sourced within 10 miles of a family farm. We also sold a ton of books and magazines. It was a wild few days of energy around the modern homesteading movement. I’d never been to Idaho, and Calvin hadn’t either. It was a fun week.
We also welcomed the first nephew on my side of the family with the birth of baby Laken, Sean and Bekah’s first. HI BUDDY UNCLE TROY SAYS HI AND LOVE YOU!
Over the Fourth of July, we ran to Duluth and put Calvin’s little legs in a northern Minnesota lake. Sarah and I then left him with his grandparents and drove to MSP, where we flew to Pennsylvania for the wedding of Dillon Friday and Krissy Woods.
We went a day early and explored Washington, D.C., for my first time — fascinating place. We toured the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Holocaust Museum, Museum of Natural History, and much more.
I had an epiphany that when we have kids who are 12, 10, and 7, we’re going to Washington, D.C. for a family trip. The kids are going to be required to learn about these museums during the school year, and we’re going to visit them together during the summer. They’re pretty much all free — amazing. And so much to learn!
The wedding was in Hershey, PA. Sarah and I stayed at the Hershey Hotel and snuck away for an evening to see Jerry Seinfeld live, as he was performing at the bottom of the hill the night before the wedding. Dillon has an uncanny ability to pull together all of the stars.
While we celebrated with friends, Calvin spent the week with Mimi and Grandpa and got mosquito bites on his little legs. He didn’t say a word or even cry about it.
At the end of the month, we had everyone over for a big BBQ to celebrate Calvin’s “one-year anniversary,” as my dad called it.
“Calvin K.” loved his birthday and got his first taste of ice cream, which was awesome.
In August, we zipped up to Hawley, MN, for my cousin David Juhnke’s wedding. Cousin Dave has always had my back. It was a great day of celebration, looking out over Stump Lake at Neil and Heidi’s. Calvin loved the dance part. Sarah loved the dance part, too.
I made a few work trips, mostly to Stillwater, MN, where our company Mount Haley is headquartered. More on Mount Haley below.
Calvin spent another few days with Mimi and Grandpa in Duluth, where he got to touch a bass.
Golf, garden, walks, and work filled the cracks in August.
Early in the month, my brother-in-law Kyle and I made the trip to the Black Hills to compete in the SDGA Mid-Am Two-Man at Red Rock.
Gosh, we really put together some good golf and had an opportunity to win the first-ever state tournament for either of us. Ultimately, we lost a few shots down the stretch, and we finished in second place. Results here. Close, but no cigar. It was so fun to compete and pursue a trophy as a team.
In the middle of the month, Sarah and I made our only trip to The Prairie Club together. I worked and gathered photos and videos for future club promotion (as I continue to serve on marketing efforts). Sarah also tried to work, but mostly played with and Calvin and Grandma Nancy.
We also hosted an event in our backyard for our dear friends John and Abby Van Peursem with Poetice International. Our backyard filled with 60–70 people to hear about the things Jesus is doing through their ministry in Zambia. Amazing stuff.
We finished the month with our annual pilgrimage to the Schock family cabin.
We like late September out there because we don’t have school-aged kids and can let others use the cabin during the summer. Besides, we love the quiet of fall in the Hills. I took late-fall cold plunges in the stream that were truly system shocking, but so good. We toured Lead, toodled around Custer, and wrestled Calvin at four different restaurants.
October quieted down. Pheasant opener, a fall festival in Harrisburg, and another trip to the Cities for work (for me). Otherwise, routines took over.
At the end of the month, Calvin dressed up as Potato Creek Johnny for Halloween. He got inspiration during the previous month’s trip to the Black Hills, where he learned about Potato Creek Johnny’s gold nugget.
I’ll let Sarah add some of her favorite photos.
The Klongerbos here in Sioux Falls again hosted Thanksgiving for my side. It’s turning into a great family tradition to gather in South Dakota.
My parents, Sean’s family (with Bekah, Laken, and their dogs), and our family all packed into our house on Sherman to watch football and eat turkey.
Calvin started a new daycare (after a blitzkrieg of a closing announcement of his previous daycare with 10 days’ notice). He’s adjusting just fine.
And here we are; I’m writing this on December 3.
A few other brief notes…
Sarah is still working part-time for an agency (Till), but her massive announcement was the launch of a brand around her copywriting services.
She is now the owner of Quotable Copy: A Copywriting Studio. Boom!
She worked for seven months on this brand launch, and you can read all about it here. I’m so proud of her; she is going to (and already is) killing it.
Explained simply: She’s a writer for businesses. She helps them do the writing work they need for their website, company emails, and much more.
As for me, after last year’s transition of Fisheye Marketing (the marketing agency I founded in 2016), I started to really hone my focus into our companies at Mount Haley. My main focuses are loyal marketing support of Fisheye’s handful of remaining clients as well as operations work at Homestead Living (mentioned above).
Explained simply: Mount Haley owns a half a dozen companies (now including Fisheye). As a partner at Mount Haley, I work across those companies to help them grow and operate better.
As a final note, recent weeks have taken us down the path of buying a home and selling our own. If all goes well, we’ll be in the Tomar neighborhood of Sioux Falls early in 2024.
It’s a pretty cool story; ask us for details.
Otherwise, we’ll include the moving extravaganza in our 2024 Christmas letter, which I’m sure will be here in a blur.
Sarah and I work a lot, but it’s those years of life. You make investments with time and treasure during the years where you have the energy to do so. We bring Calvin along for the ride.
The Lord’s grace, mercy, and blessing abound in our lives.
What He says will happen, will happen. Just as He did with our Savior.
Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Luke 2:11: Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
He is so good.
Sarah and I have health, youth, family, and deep friendships. We are blessed and happy.
With prayers, blessing, and hope,
— Troy (and the Klongerbo family: Sarah, Calvin, Pali, and ? 😉)