Saturday, September 30, 2006

Scenic Drive

We drove to Dad and Beverly's farm (near McGregor) today to spend the weekend. His birthday is Monday, so we thought we'd help him celebrate early with a visit and some gifts. The drive from Dickinson to McGregor takes us through the Killdeer Mountains, which are a beautiful enough sight on their own. Add to that the fact that the leaves are starting to turn colors as autumn takes hold, and you've got one darned scenic route north (and, on our return trip, south!).

I love the rolling hills and rugged badlands and treacherous turns (in the mountains) and distant lakes and meandering streams along the roads we take to Dad's. I irritated my family by pointing out every beautiful thing I saw, noting the yellow-leaved trees and the red ones and the orange ones and the maroon ones and the still-green ones, etc. I pointed out the different colors in the exposed layers of rock and soil in the badlands. I ooh-ed and aw-ed while driving over the Four Bears Bridge that spans two sides of Lake Sakakawea near New Town. I pointed out cattle and horses congregated on hilltops and alongside fences. I noted the freshly painted drilling rigs and pumping units here and there along the road.

The weather was so mild--in the high 70s--and the day so sunny and the scenery so pretty that I couldn't help but be in good spirits. We had supper with Beverly's family and had birthday cake afterwards. It was a good day. The weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow, too. I'll try to keep my yap shut about all the beauty outside as we drive. All the same, I'm glad that I do in fact notice that kind of thing.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Licensed!

Well, I'm feeling a lot more "North Dakotan" after today.

It occurred to me recently that the tags on the MN license plates on one of our vehicles will expire at the end of September . . . which is tomorrow! So I went to the ND Motor Vehicle office today to see about getting ND plates and transferring the titles on both vehicles from MN to ND. It took about ten minutes to sign over the MN titles and get handed ND plates and tags.

Well, it would have taken that long, but I needed to leave to get the checkbook from Susan before returning and paying (I pay only by credit card, so it never occurs to me that places still exist that don't accept credit cards for payment). That was no problem; the woman helping me simply set things aside and had them waiting for me when I got back.

I also asked about the process for getting a ND driver's license. Minimal: bring in my MN driver's license card, get a photograph taken on the spot, give them $5, and leave with a ND license. Pppbbb! That's nothing! I had to study and take a test when trading in my initial ND license for a MN license years ago. You gotta love ND!

(Susan and I just got new haircuts today, so we're going to wait a few days before returning to get our ND licenses. Don't want our hairdos to look "too new," you know!)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Golden Strings

Tonight we enjoyed the first concert in this year's Dickinson Area Concert Series: a performance by The Golden Strings, a group of ten musicians from the Minneapolis, MN area. There were six violinists (one of whom was Clifford Brunzell, the founder and leader), one drummer, one string bass player, one accordionist, and one vocal soloist. Everyone was very accomplished with his/her instrument (even the soloists, who started off tentative but ended the night singing robustly); however, the spotlight was definitely on the violins. Those folks often left the stage to wander around the audience while still playing, some of them holding entire conversations with audience members without missing a note! They played all styles of music from all eras and incorporated humor in their song choices, their song stylings, or their song introductions throughout the night.

My dad and stepmother were in town for the weekend, so we took them to the concert, and they enjoyed it, too. My dad plays accordion, and he really appreciated the accordionist on stage and his abilities. The girls enjoyed the concert, too, although it kept them up too late on a night before school. And the house was packed in the Dorothy Stickney Auditorium on the campus of Dickinson State University tonight. It was great to see such support for the arts and to enjoy such great art for such an unbelievably reasonable price. Bravo!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hillary: Verb Maker

Do you know the Disney movie Madagascar? In it, penguins plan their escape from a zoo. One of them, to avoid detection, must hide among a bunch of similar-sized squeezy toys through which a woman is pawing, searching for a gift. She, of course, picks up the penguin and, thinking it's a toy, gives it a squeeze, whereupon it releases flatulence, which she assumes is the squeak of a squeaking rubber toy.

That's the background you need to understand this comment by Hillary. For whatever reason, she recalled this scene from the movie while I was driving her home from dance class the other night. To remind me what scene she was thinking of, she referred to it as the one in which "the woman farts the penguin."

"Farts the penguin." "Fart" as a transitive verb. I love it! It's not entirely tasteful to share that here, perhaps, but it's too funny not to.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Nature Sets the Mood

You know how a fiction writer can establish atmosphere for his/her work by setting a short story, for example, in an abandoned building on a dark and stormy night and trusting that readers will expect something dark and negative to occur? Nature today is like that fiction writer.

My sister-in-law Cassie and her husband Nick, who currently live in Fargo, are moving to Raleigh, North Carolina a week from Wednesday. For a final family get-together, they came to our home for the weekend, as did my brother-in-law Jerrett and his wife Cheryl and her son Arron (my father-in-law lives here in town and joined us, too). After a week of beautiful, sunny, hot (90 degrees) weather, things cooled down yesterday and became downright frigid this morning as everyone prepared to pack up and drive back home. We all shed tears as we hugged and bid Cassie and Nick goodbye and good luck with their move and waved as they drove away in the rain. The house has been relatively quiet this afternoon, and now it's snowing. Nature set our family's story perfectly today.

On a positive note, however, Cassie and Nick were able to see how their efforts at wallpaper-removing here a few weekends ago have since paid off with painted walls. In anticipation of this weekend's guests, Susan and I painted like fiends last week and got everything done. Every room upstairs is now painted. We also painted the storage room, the stairway, the family room and craft room, and the bathroom (all downstairs). My father-in-law used his pickup to pick up our dining room table set, and he delivered it last week, so we had comfortable seating room for 11 adults* at once for supper last night. We're still waiting for our entertainment center to arrive, but we got the rest of the family room furniture into place before everyone arrived. There was sleeping room for everyone, too.

Today we're bringing in more boxes from the garage and putting away what we can. We're waiting for some storage shelves to arrive for our storage room. I'm looking on-line for a couple more pieces of furniture (storage for our music books and a computer desk for the girls' homework area downstairs). We're waiting for a contractor to drop by to discuss installing egress windows in Suzanna and Abigail's bedrooms downstairs (after which we can finally paint their rooms, too, and be completely done with painting in this house). Several people took naps this afternoon, too (not I, though).

It was sad to say goodbye to family today, and nature didn't make it any easier with the unfortunately appropriate weather. Here's hoping for great things for Cassie and Nick in Raleigh!

* Susan's grandma, Laura, joined us, too; she lives in town. Also, our friends Jeff and Janelle and their three kids from Harwood, ND joined us. Jeff and Janelle spent a day and night in Medora and left their children with us Friday night and Saturday. Their kids and ours ate first, and then we 11 adults (and Arron) ate next.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My Daughter, the Coach!

Today's guest blogger: my 8-year-old daughter Suzanna (with help from my 7-year-old daughter Abigail):

A couple days ago, I saw some kids shooting some baskets at school during recess. I told those kids, "You don't shoot a basket that way." I went to basketball camp myself this past summer, so I came up with the idea of having a basketball camp for them. I asked some first- and second-graders to join, and I started putting them into groups and teaching them how to dribble and shoot the right way. There were two kids in each group, and they both made up their own names for their teams. Abigail's team is the Twins with her classmate Zach. On the other team are Jordan and Riley, and their team name is the Midgets.

As the kids practiced more and more each day, the better and better they got. Now we are having extra help from even better basketball players in third grade. I am coaching the kids on dribbling and stealing; my friend Brandon is teaching them how to do tricks; my friend Jacey is teaching them how to block; and my friend J.B. is teaching them exercises, such as dribbling around the court and running without having to stop and take breaths.

Next week we're having a huge game at my school, but I have to make sure it's okay with my principal. If it's okay with her, then I will start making posters and hanging them around the school so that more kids will come, but I'll have to make a poster saying, "We need one more team" and a sign-up sheet. The Midgets and the Twins are actually going to be one team called the Midgets; they were only separated for practicing. Now we need four more kids for a second team (we'll figure out their team name later). This team will be third-graders. We are waiting to find them the day before the game so that the little kids will have more practice and will feel confident in themselves. Those kids are learning so quickly that I think they're going to beat the big kids.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

H.I. Purgatory

It doesn't seem to end.

More and more painting has occurred in our house. The living room is now blue, and all furniture has been moved into place in that room. The foyer and hallway to the upstairs bedrooms have now been de-wallpapered and patched and primed. The main bathroom is now blue and green. It has new blinds, new drawer pulls, new towel bars, new towels, and new rugs. The office has new blinds, too. The kitchen has new rugs and a new valance and wall clock above the sink. And there are new towel bars waiting to go up in the mud room bathroom and the downstairs bathroom.

Saturday and Sunday were more painting days, and yesterday was a shopping day. We bought not only the supplies to dress up the kitchen and bathroom and office but also a new table (and benches and chairs) for the dining room and a new entertainment center for the family room ("Labor Day Sale! Everything Must Go!"). Whew! We were pooped from walking around all day (especially the girls--how boring, I'm sure, for them to watch us deliberate among three shades of green hand towels), and we still didn't get everything on our list.

However, little by little, we're making the home feel more like us.

P.S. The furniture pieces will be delivered later. For now, we've outlined the table on the dining room floor using blue painter's tape. It looks like a crime scene outline! We're practicing walking around it and getting used to the floor space being gone once the real table arrives.