July 11, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Many parents understand the drive to and from activities, the shuttling of kids back and forth from one place to another, sometimes trying to be in two places at once. Parents in this country spend between 10 and 50 hours a month taking kids to extracurriculars.

Melissa Holtzlander, who, with her husband Gerald, is raising five children from the ages of 5 to 17, understands this concept well.

Daughter Michelle, 8, has soccer practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the same time as son Ryan, 7, practices football. Unfortunately, the practices are in different locations.

Holtzlanders2“Usually I go with Michelle and Gerald will take Ryan to his practices,” Melissa says. Then there’s Alexis, 17, who is the football manager and plays soccer; Caitlin, 15, who participates in show choir; and Samuel, 5, who plays soccer and tee ball. Michelle and Ryan also participate in bowling leagues, and Michelle plays softball while Ryan plays baseball and is a Boy Scout.  Everyone except Samuel takes dance lessons on Wednesdays. (“He didn’t want to for some reason,” Melissa says.)

This juggling act intensifies at the end of the week.

“Saturdays are the crazy days, ’cause that’s when the games happen.”

If you see one, you generally see them all.  Melissa is a big believer in family supporting family. If one child has a sporting event, everyone comes to cheer on that child, and their team.

Sunny Brazda of Bellevue Dance Academy says, “Melissa and Gerald live a very busy life…throughout each busy day, they choose family first.”

Far from going crazy, however, Melissa handles the timetable with ease, even admitting to be in her element when no one is without a task.

Melissa wakes at 4:30 a.m. and performs an hour of cardio training before taking the children to school. She then works at her job until 6 p.m. That’s when she and Gerald shuttle the kids to various activities. When they family activities are done, Melissa and Gerald go to the gym and lift weights for about an hour.

Did I mention that Melissa is a competitive bodybuilder?

One might think the family has lived in Omaha for a long time. In reality, they have been in Omaha since December 2014, when Melissa was given orders to serve at Offutt Air Force Base. They were previously at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where she was a paralegal and Gerald was a master chief cryptologic technician with the Navy. Gerald retired from the Navy and is employed at VTI Security.

The family enjoys their relaxed (if one can call it that) life here in Omaha.

“Nebraska has much nicer people, it’s a friendlier environment (than Washington D.C.),” says Melissa. “I know Omaha is a city, but it’s not the hustle and bustle of D.C.”

She has a hard time sitting still for too long, but she puts much of her extra energy into good deeds. She volunteers with Habitat for Humanity at every base at which she and her family have lived.

“It’s something that’s easy to volunteer for, but it’s a good way to give back to the community,” Melissa says. “We usually take part in the actual construction. I’ve painted, put on a roof, sometimes we’ve done demo.”

Easy, right?

“I actually feel like I’m doing something useful, not just lifting one finger, you know,” Melissa continues.

Holtzlanders3She participates with Habitat for Humanity even when she isn’t able to work construction. Six years ago, while pregnant with Samuel, she collected money from her fellow servicemen at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, where they were stationed, and bought lunch for the crew working on a home. She is a representative for CASA in Cass County and recently participated in her first court case. She voluntarily helps with physical training for other service people.

The idea of service is rubbing off on the other family members. Brazda said each of the Holtzlader children are hard workers, just like their parents.

Oldest daughter Alexis started participating in Habitat for Humanity projects this past year. (The minimum age for volunteering at Habitat is 16.)

“I had to carry a bunch of wood. I got to saw it all,” Alexis says. “Another lady would measure it and I just sawed it.”

The drive to serve their country is also a trait being passed to the next generation. Alexis is a leader in her Air Force ROTC group at school, an honor for which she was hand-selected. She also plans to apply to the military academies.

“When I see them do stuff, it makes me want to do stuff because they are so much busier than I am,” Alexis says.

Melissa’s goal? To keep her kids engaged in positive activities in order to keep them out of trouble.

“I truly believe that if you keep kids busy, they won’t get into drugs,” she says..”

More from Omaha Magazine

  • Minimal Living Artist Jamison Hiner hand-crafted a sign on the wall of his artistic Omaha home that […]
  • Dave Webber Dave Webber covered all five Big Red national championships during a broadcast career […]
  • War and Peace On March 8, 2013, a young man biked to the gates of the Afghan Defense Ministry and […]
  • Clara Sue Arnsdorff When Clara Sue Arnsdorff, 73, moved to Bellevue with her Air Force family (husband […]
  • TOYO! 2016 Outstanding is a word that is used often to describe an ideal situation or person. The […]