Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mardi Gras

This weekend was the Dickinson Catholic Schools' annual Mardi Gras fundraiser event. It was held at the high school where Susan works, which is only four houses away from where we live. The girls had a friend over all day playing, so we took her with us and walked over late in the afternoon.

The gymnasium was set up like a midway at a state fair with numerous booths for games where kids could play for little trinkets and toys as prizes. First we scoped out the entire setup, planning which games to play and how many tickets we'd need. Then we bought the girls tickets and got to playing. They fished plastic fish out of tanks of water, found a number on the bottom of the fish, and won a prize whose number (and level of quality) corresponded with the number on the fish. The "pick a duck" game was similar, except the level of hand/eye coordination required was significantly lower: one simply reached in and picked up a duck from the tank of water. Everyone was a winner (depending on your opinion of the quality of the prizes won).

The girls won no cakes in the cake walk, and Abigail won no toys in a wheel of fortune game (she had to place tickets on various numbers and then hope that the arrow landed on that number on the wheel when it was spun). There was a similar game, though, featuring candy as prizes that won some of the girls some sweets. There was also a "throw three ping pong balls into a glass jar" game that would have earned them fancy drama masks had they landed all three balls in the jug. Suzanna got one ball in and came away with a piece of candy.

Good timing: we used up the last of our tickets just as Susan was to begin her two-hour shift working in the kitchen, so she reported for duty, and the girls and I got into line for supper. The line was long, snaking from the school's foyer, down a hallway, and back again in the other direction to the cafeteria. It moved pretty quickly, though, and brought us to a buffet line where we helped ourselves to American crudites, deviled eggs (an ironic choice for a Catholic event), cookie/Cool Whip salad, coleslaw, creamy green bean casserole, rice, sliced ham, and fried chicken. We were seated by hosts and hostesses at long tables where they served us water, half-pint cartons of milk, and coffee; baskets of bread sticks; bowls of homemade chicken noodle soup; and platters of baked goods: cakes, brownies, and bars.

We were seated all on the same side of a table, so Abigail was four seats away from me and out of reach for my assistance. However, the people next to her took care of her, serving her water and soup and passing to her whatever she needed. All four girls were perfectly behaved, too, so there was minimal stress for me. In fact, the only negative was that I was seated amidst a passel of surly senior citizens who themselves were less well mannered than the four children who accompanied me. These folks refused to visit and literally snatched at the food around me rather than asking for out-of-reach items to be passed. They also hoarded the items set beside them, eating up two and three bars apiece, leaving slim pickings for the girls and me--and not offering to pass what few sweets remained, either, without prompting from me. (In return, I refused to notify them that they each had embarassingly large chunks of food stuck to their faces near their mouths. Take that!)

While Susan remained to finish her shift, the girls and I returned home well fed . . . and without beads. (And we're okay with that.)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

That Sucks!

(Our new vacuum cleaner, that is.)

Our previous vacuum--previous as of this morning--has been smelling very bad each time we've used it lately. The carpets may have been cleaner after a once-over with that vacuum, but the house reeked of burning motor or burnt rubber. We'd open the windows and freeze for a little while until the smell abated or until we decided that the chill was worse.

Well, this morning Susan created a list of housecleaning chores for the day, and "vacuuming" was on it. We joked about putting on our coats and cracking the windows before firing up the stinky machine and wondered whether filthy carpets would be preferable. Susan opened the phone book to look up a local vacuum cleaner repair service and found one. She decided to make a quick trip over with the vacuum to see if they could identify/fix the problem.

She was gone for a long enough amount of time that I knew they couldn't have told her to leave it and return in several days for a repaired machine. I assumed that meant they were fixing it as she waited. When she returned home, she announced that she had traded in the stinky sucker for a brand new vacuum:


Ours is a bit darker shade of green, but that's our model: a Riccar R800 with lots of features--the primary one being that it sucks but doesn't stink. (Try explaining the humor of that choice of words to an English-as-a-second-language speaker.)

It pushes easily, lies flat for vacuuming underneath furniture, has easy-to-use attachments, is relatively light, and comes with a nice service warranty provided by the merchant, Clean Sweep Vacuum Center. Because our household features four ladies each with long hair, our vacuums always require periodic cleaning of the rollers to disentangle them of long strands of blonde hair. This model has an easily detachable bottom cover for ease of access to the roller for those periodic "haircuts."

It seems like a good purchase, although it's not necessarily glamorous to say that you've just spent that amount of money and gotten for it . . . a vacuum cleaner. Well, it was needed. Long live this sucker, and R.I.P. to the stinky sucker with whom we've parted ways.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

ANOTHER Luau!

(Get yourself a cup of coffee and get comfortable; this one's a long one!)

Faithful readers will recall the holiday luau that Susan and I attended in December, hosted by our dear friends with a penchant for theme parties (last month's party theme: "Get Lei-ed"). 'Twas a Mele Kalikimaka indeed.

In any case, we were invited to another Hawai'ian luau . . . on the upper Midwestern plains . . . in the dead of winter. This one was a wedding reception for my first cousin once removed, Amanda, and her new husband, Logan. They were married earlier this month in Hawai'i and threw a party last night in Tioga, ND so that friends and family could congratulate the happy couple.

The reception started at 6:30 P.M. (Central time). Normally we would have gone up the night before and stayed overnight with my dad and spent the day with him and gone with him to the reception; however, since he and Beverly are now on the road, that wasn't an option. So we southwestern ND Mobergs decided to make a day trip, going a route that we don't usually travel to see some sights (and sites) that we don't usually see. We left in the morning and drove west, then north through Watford City to Williston. Along the way we stopped a couple times to ooh and aah over the beautiful badlands scenery:

Gotta read the highway department's informational plaques, of course.

Um, this little treat greets motorists entering the burg of Alexander. It's on the south side of town. I wanted to slow down anyway to tell the girls that this town is where their Grandma Moberg (then "Miss Roloff") once taught first grade, but the sight of this billboard brought me to a screeching halt. A local, already parked at the side of the road in his pickup and talking on his cell phone, gawked at us intensely while we snapped our pics and as we drove on. Welcome to Alexander, heathens--believe or leave!!

We got to Williston in time to eat dinner at the Trapper's Kettle restaurant. Then we headed downtown to see what shopping was available. We were happily surprised to find so many stores and shops still open downtown. In so many ND towns with big stores on the outskirts (e.g., Wal-Mart), the businesses in the "business district" either die out or relocate to strip malls near the chain stores. However, we were able to make some purchases at JCPenney (including a couple CDs: Awake by Josh Groban and Songs from the Labyrinth by Sting) and Bible Bookstore (going out of business . . . everything 50% off) and Judy's Cupboard. We looked around the old Hedderick's store, now an arts, crafts, antiques, and random crap store. The weather was mild enough to make walking around downtown refreshing and comfortable.

We did stop at Wal-Mart on our way out of town and then made it to the Farm Festival Building in Tioga just a little after the festivities began. People weren't expecting to see us there, so it was fun to surprise everybody and visit with lots of relatives and former "neighbors" (I went to school in Tioga but grew up on a farm some 16 miles out of town, so I wasn't really a resident--still, I knew a lot of Tioga people there). Amanda's dad is my cousin Jeff, and he and his family had dug a pit and prepared pork and beef by cooking it underground overnight. That was served (moist and delicious) on homemade buns along with beans, potato salad, macaroni salad, potato chips, punch, cake, coffee, and a cash bar.

There was a DJ who provided music (really loud music, that is) for dancing. For a long time, however, the only dancers were our girls and Susan and I. We persisted song after song, but people could not be persuaded to get out of their chairs and onto the dance floor. Occasionally the DJ would coax people out to dance by telling the kids to go grab some adults for the chicken dance, the butterfly dance, the conga, a polka, the dollar dance, etc. Otherwise, it wasn't a dancing crowd at this particular dance. Hm.

Some highlights of the night included a peculiar hula dance and an unusual version of musical chairs. Logan's brother, cousin, and friend all stripped down to their underwear, put on grass skirts and coconut bras, and took the dance floor to do an interpretive Hawai'ian-ish "dance." They ended up going from table to table, collecting dollar bills in the bands of their underwear from those seated at the tables, presumably as money to donate to the happy couple but more likely as payment to get them to go somewhere else with all their exposed flesh and hair! Logan's brother got carried away and stepped on top of a folding table to perform some kind of exotic routine. Unfortunately, the table immediately snapped in two, and he went tumbling to the cement floor beside me. Unfazed, he went elsewhere and continued to shake his booty while others cleaned up the ruins. It was all good-spirited and pretty funny.

The musical chairs-like game involved ten people seated on folding chairs facing the crowd. The DJ (or, as Hillary called him, the "pronouncer" [announcer]) would give an instruction and say "Go!" When everybody got up to do as instructed, Amanda's mom, Wanda, would remove one chair, meaning that the last person to return from the mission would have nowhere to sit and would thus be out of the game. It continued until one person remained to be crowned the winner. Hillary was one of the ten people, and she clearly didn't get the rules. The first instruction was to find a lady's high-heeled shoe and return with it. Hillary didn't even get out of her chair. Amanda's aunt Marsha, my cousin, was seated next to Hillary, so she shared a shoe with her, and Hillary remained that round. The next round required people to go fetch a handsome guy. Marsha was going to grab me, but instead I volunteered myself to Hillary, and Marsha grabbed her own son, Terry. Hillary stayed in the game.

By the next round, I heard strangers behind me saying to one another, "Go help that little girl." With every round, some person or another made it his/her mission to help Hillary, fetching whatever was required for that round and bringing it to her so that all she had to do was remain in her seat or scoot over to another available chair. Crazy straw? Wanda got one from the bride and groom's table and gave it to Hillary. Glass of punch? I poured one and handed it off to her. Coconut table decoration? The guy seated next to her found one and gave it to her. Sheet of toilet paper? Marsha grabbed one for her from the restroom. When she was the final player remaining, she was absolutely delighted to be proclaimed the winner, throwing her head back and giggling with glee! As a prize, Amanda and Logan each gave her their special red-and-white leis, which she wore proudly the remainder of the night.

After saying our goodbyes, we left for home, taking our usual route through New Town and Killdeer and Manning, arriving in Dickinson about 12:30 A.M. (Mountain time). It is so nice to be close enough now to take part in family get-togethers such as this. (And we learned last night of a few more upcoming family get-togethers: my cousin Jerry's wedding in June, Jeffrey's wedding in July, and my stepnephew Ryan's wedding in July in MN.) Here are some photographic highlights:

Amanda and Logan

Amanda and her dad, Jeff

Amanda's parents, Jeff and Wanda

My cousin, Brenda, and two of her daughters, Katrina and Meghan

My cousins, Myrna (Amanda's aunt) and Brenda (and Meghan on the right)


Suzanna and Julie, my stepsister-in-law, who works with Wanda

Hillary, the one child in the musical chairs-like scavenger hunt game activity thing

Only two players remain: Hillary and Jason, my stepcousin and Amanda's stepuncle.

Hillary the victor with her spoils, the matrimonial leis

Abigail with Jeffrey, the bride's brother

The Dakota Chippendales hula madness

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nice Package!

Yes, a very nice package indeed arrived for us Monday night (an excellent Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day gift): a new computer!

Over the phone, my wonderful sisters helped me through all the decisions required to customize and order a computer ("Do you want it to do this? How about that? Do you need this?"). We ended up getting one from Dell. It is a Dell XPS 410 with Intel Core Duo 2 processor and Microsoft Windows XP Professional. I don't really know what all that means, but I can say that it is more compact, prettier, and faster than our other two computers. We can use it to watch DVDs, listen to music, use the Internet with fast loads of every page, and write documents for home or work.

The equipment was cold from traveling in a delivery truck Monday, so I let it sit overnight to warm to room temperature. I had too strong a headache Tuesday to deal with it; we had dinner guests Wednesday night; and Susan and I had a date to watch NBC's Thursday night sitcom lineup. Thus, it waited patiently for me until last night. It's now all set up and working like a charm.

Our oldest computer's monitor is shot: it shows everything in approximately three shades of dim blue, making it an eye strain to use. So I hooked up our second-oldest computer's monitor to it last night so that we can see to move documents from the oldest computer to the newest one. Then I will complete the trade of the second-oldest one for the oldest one, which will go out the door. The girls will use the second-oldest one (just a few years old, actually) in their computer desk downstairs in their homework area. They don't yet have much use of a computer for school work, so they shouldn't mind that it runs more slowly than our new one.

This is the first computer I've bought (the others were gifts) since I bought myself a Tandy computer at Radio Shack for college. My, how things have changed in just a few years. (Yes, I'm implying that it has been just a few years since I went to college, thank you very much.)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Be Our Guests

Last night we hosted our first non-family dinner guests in our new home! Janna works at the same university that I do, albeit in a different unit. We met her and her husband Justin at a university Christmas party in December and had them over for supper last night. They have an eight-month-old daughter, Eva, who was cheerful and content to be entertained by our daughters. The girls were good hosts to the adult guests, too, leading them on a tour of the house when they first arrived and filling them in on all the details of who painted which room, who plays what in each room, etc.

We had a delicious meal, courtesy of Susan: tossed salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, red peppers, green peppers, mushrooms, shredded cheese, and seasoned crutons; chicken cordon bleu in a rich cream sauce served over mashed potatoes; green beans almondine; berry gelatin with mandarin oranges; wine & water & milk; and coffee with a chocolate pudding dessert brought by our guests. It was a leisurely meal with lots of visiting followed by coffee in the living room with more visiting (and playing by Eva and our daughters).

It's nice to continue getting to know people outside our circle of coworkers. We're looking forward to hosting our neighbors Chuck and Reba soon, and then to introducing them to Justin and Janna.

(Attention cherished "Game Night" friends: There shall be no substitute for you all, the originals . . .)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Do You Take This Man . . .?

My daughter, with her young ears, has heard wedding vows not quite the same way that I have. Last night she wondered about my being an "awfully headed" husband.

(Two points if you realized right away that she meant "lawfully wedded." Click "comments" below to claim your points.)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Wine's Not the Only Thing That Improves With Age

Yesterday was Susan's birthday. She is now a woman of a certain age.

At work, she received birthday wishes from coworkers who had been tipped off by the principal, who himself had been notified by a certain someone. She received birthday greetings by e-mail from some of my coworkers, who found out about her birthday by mysterious means. At a staff meeting after school, someone demonstrating a laser engraver chose to put Susan's name on the sample wooden pen, so she came home with an unexpected birthday gift from school. In the mail, Susan received cards from relatives to brighten up her day.

I brought the girls home after school, and we went to Applebee's for supper and had superior service and a delicious meal. I ordered a tall beer and the shrimp and (which they spell simply with an apostrophe before an "n," as though "and" is an unwieldy enough word to require contracting--and incorrectly contracting, at that [what about an apostrophe to represent the missing "d," too?]) parmesan combo, which involves a single serving of their tasty spinach and artichoke dip with soft wedges of toasted rosemary ciabatta bread as an appetizer; a juicy sirloin topped with plump garlic shrimp, fresh shredded parmesan cheese, and herbs as the main dish; garlic mashed potatoes, toasted garlic bread, and sugar snap peas and carrots as a side; and, for dessert, a maple butter blondie cake baked with nuts and topped with vanilla ice cream, chopped sugared walnuts, and their "decadent" maple butter sauce served warm. It was all so-o-o-o good.

Susan and the girls were happy with their choices, too. And Abigail tipped off the server to the special reason for our visit, so the entire team of "Apple-buddies" (I kid you not) came to the table to sing their own special birthday song to Susan. It was very fun.

When we got home, we were all too stuffed to eat the devil's food cake with buttercream frosting that The Donut Hole baked for her, so we'll have that sometime today, most likely with Schwan's vanilla ice cream. We did, however, have time for gift opening.

Mommy and her precious girls

Silly!

The girls intently watch the gift opening

A sweatshirt from Dad and Beverly: "Season's Readings" (a gift fit for a librarian!)

An appropriate card from the girls

Salt and pepper shakers from the girls (the kitchen has rooster decor)

A wall hanging with hooks

A lotion or hand soap pump dispenser

Susan reacts to the emotional, sincere card from her husband

From the hubby: a corner bookcase and a plaque that we had found and discussed buying for our powder room off the mud room

In its place (now we have a direction for decorating the rest of the powder room)

With some temporary accessories (until we decide on a color scheme and such)

We're so happy to have Mommy/Sweet Wife in our lives! Happy birthday: a perfect reason for celebrating.

ADDENDUM: We did, in fact, eat cake and ice cream today after dinner.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Hours of Community Service

I don't know if this really happened (it was passed to me in an e-mail of dumb things people have gotten caught doing--and who can trust the veracity of e-mail forwards?), but it surely is funny. Thanks, Erin, for sharing this!

A motorist was unknowingly caught in an automated speed trap that measured his speed using radar and photographed his car. He later received in the mail a ticket for $40 and a photo of his car. Instead of payment, he sent the police department a photograph of $40. Several days later, he received a letter from that police department that contained another picture, this time of handcuffs. He immediately mailed in his $40.

Our Daughters, the Celebrities!

Yes, they're Superstars!

This morning, what should appear on page five of the local newspaper, the Dickinson Press? Why, a photo of our daughter Abigail using a marker to draw on a whiteboard at school, that's what! The caption says, "Dickinson's Jefferson Elementary second-grader Abigail Moberg creates a work of art Friday morning. The sub-zero temperatures kept students indoors for recess." She's got the prettiest little smile on her face while bent over her artwork. Suzanna read the newspaper first this morning and didn't notice the photo; I read it next and passed it by, as well. Susan is the one who saw it and brought it to our attention.

Last month at school, Suzanna was interviewed by a reporter for KQCD, the local NBC affiliate. Her class was working on math using tetrominoes and cubes, and the reporter (Cebe Schneider, a high school classmate and friend of Susan, incidentally) asked for Suzanna's opinion about their learning activities. We never saw the segment air, but our relatives near McGregor and Battleview, ND did, and they told my dad, and he told us! We have since contacted KQCD to ask for a copy of the segment.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Parent Locator Update #2

Dad and Beverly are now at Castle Rock Shores, a resort just north of Parker, AZ and south of Lake Havasu on the CA/AZ border. (Click on the map for an image that you can manipulate: enlarge, zoom in to street level, zoom out to topical map perspective, etc.) Temperatures have been in the chilly 50 to 60 degree range (those of you from ND may guffaw aloud at this point), but they're going to tough it out there for a few weeks, brave souls.

Any guesses where they'll be off to next? Click "comments" below and share your predictions!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Rest in Peace

Incredibly sad news: a dear professor, mentor, and friend of mine has passed away. Dr. Elizabeth "Libby" Rankin of the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks was my thesis advisor and sat on my dissertation committee. She was a calm, warm woman with smiling eyes and a listening face. She gave me good advice and showed immeasurable patience, and I valued her leadership and friendship. She was also a wise professor with a conversational writing style that made her research accessible and interesting to read.

I pray for peace for her now, and for her family and friends who must deal with their grief over her death.

ADDED 1/10/07: Read this and this.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Parent Locator Update #1

Dad and Beverly were recently sighted in Colorado Springs, CO. They spent last night in Santa Fe, NM, en route to AZ. Shall we follow them around the country? I'll keep you informed as they update me. (It's just like playing Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, isn't it?!)


P.S. Share your reactions or thoughts! Click on "comments" below and let me know that you've been here. Don't be a lurker!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Out with the Old, In with the New

Happy New Year! Are you making any resolutions for 2007? If so, remember to make them S.M.A.R.T. goals: specific, measurable, attainable, results-focused, and timely. Thus, "I will win the lottery" is not a good resolution. Instead, resolve something such as, "I will become wealthy by using the combination my parents gave me to their home safe to steal $1 million from it on October 5th when they're gone on vacation." Do you see how much better that is?

We rang out 2006 with a wonderful meal and some family time and rang in 2007 the same way. Last night Susan served us jumbo shrimp cocktail, baked French onion soup with gruyere cheese, twice-baked potatoes, torsk with melted butter, steamed broccoli, and Suzanna's birthday cake (carrot cake with cream cheese frosting) for dessert. The girls and I looked up "time zones" on the Internet and discussed the concept of 2007 moving westward from one time zone to the next. Then we gathered around a warm TV to watch televised New Year's Eve festivities around the country. We had thought we might whoop it up when the ball dropped in Times Square in New York City and then send the girls to bed (midnight there = 10:00 P.M. here). However, the girls stayed up until our midnight, at which time we toasted the new year (Susan and I with champagne, the girls with Shirley Temples) and then tucked them into bed.

This morning Susan served us scrambled eggs with cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, cream cheese Danish pastries, grapefruit, orange juice, and coffee. The girls and I will head over to Rocky Butte park (on a giant hill a couple blocks behind our house) to go sledding this afternoon. I return to work tomorrow, and the girls return to school on Wednesday, so we need to wring as much fun and togetherness as we can out of today!

P.S. Happy birthday today to Susan's dad, Roger!

P.P.S. Be sure to check out the Lutheran tidbit feature that I've added to the sidebar (to the right).

P.P.P.S. Share your reactions or thoughts! Click on "comments" below and let me know that you've been here. Don't be a lurker!