Sunday, October 28, 2007

Reformation Sunday

In honor of today's being Reformation Sunday, we all wore red to church today. A family of religious geeks, yes, I know. Poor Suzanna's tonsils are as big as golf balls, so she stayed home from Sunday school (with Susan) while I took Hillary to her class and then joined Abigail for the third of three Sundays that parents and third-graders have together been studying the Bible as a pre-confirmation thing. Abigail was supposed to have chosen one of four Bible verses to memorize (she memorized all four) and to memorize the first few books of the Old and New Testaments (she memorized all the books of the Bible). So, she did just fine!

Susan and Suzanna arrived just before church so that we could meet with Larry and Margaret, the couple assigned to us as mentors for the year--to invite us to church events, check in on us, make us feel welcome at St. John, etc. They're great. I work with her, actually, so I already knew that she's great, but her husband seems to be, too. They sat with us during church and gave us supportive looks when we joined the other new members at the communion rail during the service to say our "I do"s to various questions from Pastor Lisa. Now we're officially members! Our photo outside the church door and our listing in the church bulletin announced as much to the rest of the congregation.

So, to fit the theme of the day, we have re-formed our church family in a new church home and are looking forward to many good things to come (not the least of which has been renewed dialogue at home about religion as we've helped the girls with their Sunday school "homework" and carried out the suggested activities that they've brought home for each week) (and yes, I, too, now know all the books of the Bible in order from memory).

Weekend Fine Dining; or, Fine Weekend Dining

Some tasty food this weekend, for those of you who check in on "Pensive? No, Just Thinking" just to find out what the Mobergs have been eating:

Friday night
Susan's aunt Kathy was kind enough to babysit for us so that Susan and I could go out to eat before attending City of Angels, a musical presented at Dickinson State University. We chose Sanford's and started with some beverages of the adult variety and some Buffalo chicken strips for an appetizer (with, sadly, the mildest ever bleu cheese dressing as a dip). We chose to share a meal, too, and ordered a steak covered in garlic and bleu cheese chunks (this time very flavorful), garlic mashed potatoes (instant--yuck!), and black-eyed peas. It came with a delicous mini-loaf of bread served with honey butter. It also came with soup, and we ordered an extra bowl and shared both: cajun clam chowder and cheeseburger soup.

Saturday night
Per my request, Susan concocted a wonderful meal of perfectly pungent and robustly flavored dishes: French onion soup, bruschetta, and garlic shrimp Caesar salad. The house was filled with the smells of sautéing onions and fresh garlic and basil all afternoon and evening. The provolone cheese melted over the toasted French bread crusts atop the rich beef and onion broth in the ceramic ramekins was perfect. Susan brushed more slices of toasted French bread with sliced garlic bulbs and then heaped each with the fresh tomato, herb, and balsamic vinegar mixture for the bruschetta. Abigail and I shelled the shrimp for Susan to cook in butter and herbs, and I tossed them into the bowl with the romaine lettuce, croutons, and Caesar dressing and then grated fresh parmesan cheese into the salad. The wine that didn't go into the soup went into drinking glasses for Susan and me--the perfect accompaniment to the meal.

Sunday noon
After church [where we were welcomed as new members today!], we went out for dinner at Country Kitchen. (Suzanna isn't feeling well, and she thought that soup and mashed potatoes and gravy would make a good meal for her sore throat.) I stuffed myself with a Big Country Burger and definitely the best French fries I've had in a very long time. Hillary gobbled up her chocolate chip pancakes, and Abigail and Susan shared a tasty chicken sandwich and soup. Very affordable and delicious.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Split, Tumble, and Roll

Each Thursday evening, our daughters spend an hour at the public high school a few blocks away taking gymnastics lessons. The Dickinson Gymnastics Club offers these weekly classes throughout the year, and after each session (of about nine weeks), they pause to assess the students' progress and award them ribbons. Do you see from the photo above the progress our girls have made since these photos?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fabulous Gifts and Prizes

"Thank you for joining St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church! As soon-to-be new members [as of Sunday, October 28], you are hereby welcomed with the following Lutheran gifts:

Note the smart St. John canvas tote bag in the back next to the bound, hard-cover edition of the church membership directory, from the corner of which hangs a Crystal Impressions Christmas tree ornament (made in Israel, engraved in Dickinson) featuring an image of our church itself. Other high-end items include a Bible in the center and a decorative plate--suitable for wall display--from our church's centennial four years ago. Also included is a variety of informative handouts about our church and Lutheran magazines and prayer booklets and a plastic-covered pocket calendar reminding you to contribute to our church's trust fund.

Thank you for attending this evening's 'Pizza with the Pastors' event for incoming members. Not only did we have the opportunity to give you the gift-stuffed tote bag, but we also got to feed you Domino's Pizza, share a Christian puppet show performed by 7th- and 8th-graders, and lead you in a service project: creating care packages for college freshmen from our congregation. We were happy to have laid out in advance piles of microwave popcorn, hot chocolate mix, powdered drink mix, bandaids, and business cards with our church's contact information on them. We were happy, too, to have laid out sheets with various freshmen's names and college addresses on them so that each new member could take one, stuff a package, write an encouraging note, and address the envelope for us to mail later. When we found that there were wa-a-ay more addresses than new members, we were happy for the Mobergs to grab the remaining addresses and make care packages for the rest of the students. How nice that even the Moberg girls wrote notes to the recipients.

We look forward to your arriving about a half-hour early on Sunday morning so that we may introduce you to your mentors: current members whom we have matched with you to invite you to church events throughout the coming year, to check in with you, and to serve as a liaison between you and St. John. In the meantime, enjoy the gifts, get started with the reading, and welcome to your new church home!"

P.S. Not pictured, but still given to us by the church, is an orange, transluscent rubber ball with "Jesus lights the way" inscribed on it. It's supposed to light up when bounced, but it came to us pre-broken for our inconvenience.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bibles, Sunday School Boxes, and a Favor to Ask

(Faithful reader: Read through to the very end to get to the favor I'm asking of you.)

Had our daughters started going to Sunday school at St. John Lutheran Church when they were in kindergarten, they would have been given cardboard boxes to assemble and to decorate with their choice of religious symbols and drawings from Bible stories. In kindergarten, they would have pasted to their boxes printouts of the Lord's Prayer, and in first grade they would have done the same with the ten commandments. They would have been told to save and use the boxes throughout their future years of Sunday school and pre-confirmation study to store Sunday school readings, crafts, projects, and anything else from their religious classes at church.

However, because we're just now joining the church, Suzanna (fourth grade) and Abigail (third grade) missed out on that completely, and Hillary (first grade) got in on it a year behind her classmates. One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, while the other first-grade children were cutting out the ten commandments, Susan and I raided the nearby kindergarteners' supplies so that I could assemble a box for Hillary and Susan could offer Hillary a copy of the Lord's Prayer to paste onto the box, just as her classmates were doing. Before we went home that day, we grabbed supplies for Abigail and Suzanna, too, so that they could "catch up" and have boxes of their own.

To Susan and my disliking, the versions distributed of the Lord's Prayer and the ten commandments were written in "modern" language rather than the "who art in Heaven" and "thou shalt not" stuff with which we grew up. So I printed out copies of the more traditional versions of the Lord's Prayer and the commandments and daily prayers that we learned as children, and I gave them to the girls to use on their boxes. They spent some time today decorating their boxes:

We attended Sunday school classes with Hillary two weeks in a row when the parents were expected to do so to help the first-graders learn the ten commandments. We attended Sunday school with all three girls the following week (along with my visiting sister, Sandy) for the monthly family class that parents are expected to attend with their kids. The next week was last Sunday, which was the first of three consecutive Sundays that we're expected to attend class with Abigail while the third-graders have pre-confirmation classes. The three weeks thereafter, we will attend Sunday school with Suzanna while the fourth-graders take their turn with pre-confirmation lessons. What's in store for us beyond that--other than the monthly family Sunday school classes--I can't imagine, but I'd be surprised if we'll be let off the hook completely, judging by the pattern thus far.

(I recall fondly the days when Susan and I would walk the girls to their Sunday school classrooms and then drive to the nearby Starbucks for frou-frou coffees and lemon poppyseed pound cake and the New York Times crossword puzzle. You are missed, Calvary Lutheran Church!)

St. John gave the third-graders study Bibles: their own copies of Augsburg Fortress' The New Student Bible. Part of our first session with Abigail involved browsing the Bible with her, becoming familiar with its sections and indices, and assuring her that it is okay to write in this Bible . . . it's a study Bible with questions throughout for her response, and it's intended for her to mark her own questions and reactions as she reads. (We already had our own copy of that version of the Bible at home, so we gave it to Suzanna so that she, too, would have her own, even though she didn't spend her third-grade year at St. John.)

Part of Abigail's "homework" is to ask five loved ones each to write his/her own favorite Bible verse on the "notes" page in the back of her Bible and then to sign his/her name beside that verse within the Bible itself. If those loved ones live far away, the children have permission to find out those favorite verses via long-distance communication.

Faithful reader: What is your favorite verse in the Bible? Would you be willing to share it with Abigail (via my blog) so that she may record it in her Bible, despite the fact that you--her loved one--are too far away to sign her Bible yourself? Click on "comments" below and share away, please!

Grill While the Grilling's Good

DATE: Friday, October 19, 2007. SEASON: Autumn. STATE: North Dakota. WEATHER: 64 degrees Fahrenheit. EXPLANATION: Dickinson, the Banana Belt of the state.

I came home from work to find my wife preparing food for the grill. "Are we grilling?" I asked, thinking, "But it's October!"

"Yes," she said. "I figured we should take advantage of the weather while it's still nice."

So, grill we did. She prepared--and I slightly burned--smoked turkey sausages; asparagus coated in olive oil and parmesan cheese; and packets of sliced and seasoned potatoes and onions. Meanwhile, the girls frolicked with a neighbor child, running around the yard and riding bike without wearing coats . . . and without getting cold.

It was a delicious meal and a good reminder that we should live for the weather, not the calendar. Until summer actually goes away, why not keep enjoying it?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Comfy Reading Spot

We like to read in our house. We also like to cuddle. Suzanna and Abigail combined the two activities, finding a cozy spot to hunker down and enjoy their books: Mommy and Daddy's bed.

Try to Remember the Kind of September . . .

September 17 was Constitution Day, and unless you are currently a political science or history scholar or you have a great memory from your high school social studies days, perhaps you could benefit from a refresher of what our Constitution comprises. Peruse "ConSource, the only free, fully indexed on-line library of Constitutional sources" [well, a direct quotation but for the surface-level editing that I did--curse this English major!] by clicking here. Also check out the Constitution Society by clicking here. It's got lots of provocative documents, essays, and resources designed to aid in Constitutional interpretation in the face of "noncompliance" with the Constitution that "is creating a crisis of legitimacy that threatens freedom and civil rights." See what I mean by "provocative"?

September 23 was the 50th anniversary of the forced desegregation of the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, AR--"the first important test of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision," according to the National Park Service, which maintains Central High School now as a national historic site. Check it out here. Little Rock Newspapers offers this site with related articles from throughout the decades. Take a look here at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Center, whose archives include copies of the primary sources relevant to the integration and its surrounding controversy.

This post feels a little historical, doesn't it? Well, go with the flow and dig into some history. Not only will you become smarter for your benefit and others', but you just might enjoy it, too!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Abigail's Belated Birthday Party

Does any eight-year-old girl need two birthday celebrations? Just as I suspected--it's unanimous! Abigail is spoiled to get to celebrate her birthday once with her family on the actual date and a second time with her classmates after the school year has resumed. Today Abigail, her sisters, and a number of Abigail's classmates and other friends had a party at the West River Community Center. There was much swimming and water-based frolicking followed by opening of gifts and eating of cake.

Abigail requested a cake from The Donut Hole, which brought Susan and me right back to our childhoods. I especially remember my aunts from Williston and Minot bringing Donut Hole cakes--large doughnut-shaped, pudding- or jelly-filled cakes from that particular bakery--to family celebrations, including my Grandma Roloff's birthdays while she lived in the nursing home in Tioga, ND. Abigail asked for purple decoration on the cake, and she got it.

Well, even if you're a spoiled brat for getting two birthday celebrations, happy birthday anyway, kiddo!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Poe's "The Raven"

Suzanna's fourth-grade teacher requires the students to memorize poetry each month. This past week Suzanna came home with the first stanza of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" to memorize. Pre-Halloween is a perfect time for this poem! Today we gathered around a warm computer to read the entire poem while listening to British actor Basil Rathbone's narration of it. We stopped after each stanza to double-check that the girls knew what was happening in the "plot" of the poem, and let me tell you, our ten- and eight- and six-year-old children did a better job of comprehending and translating Poe's 150-ish-year-old language into contemporary words than have hundreds of high school students with whom Susan and I have read/taught the poem over the years!

Wanna experience the timeless spookiness of this classic American Gothic poem yourself? Here's what you've got to do:

  1. Light a Halloween-themed candle and set it near your computer.

  2. Close the shades and turn out the lights in your computer room.

  3. Go to this site and choose a version of "The Raven" to read.

  4. Click here to launch Basil Rathbone's reading of the poem and listen to him as you follow along in the text of the poem from the other site.

  5. Don't get hung up on words or phrases or allusions that you don't immediately "get." Just go with the flow and let yourself get "into" the poem and the spooky mood and the creepiness of the raven and what he says and what effect it has on the poem's speaker.

  6. Invite someone else to share in the experience, and repeat the steps above with him/her/them!

Friday, October 12, 2007


Transition #1:

Autumn has come to Dickinson, wrapped itself around our trees, tugged off the leaves, and sprinkled them across our lawns. Some of the neighbors are fastidious about ridding their lawns of leaves: mowing grass that hasn't grown in weeks just so that they can suck up and bag the leaves lying on the surface; firing up their leaf blowers to take turns blowing leaves into one another's yards on alternating days; bending over (as I saw today while walking home from work) to pick up individual leaves from their driveways, even as hordes more blow in behind to replace those picked up.

Me? If I don't like the leaves that have blown onto our driveway or front lawn today, all I have to do is wait until tomorrow when the wind will have carried them off elsewhere. It's a pretty natural process, this cycle of life, this transition of the seasons: leaves will fall in the autumn and blanket the ground before the snow comes; in the spring the snow will melt, and the leaves will serve as mulch for gardens and lawns; and any excess leaves remaining will dry up and disappear with the first mowing of the lawn. Why freak out about leaves? Why not simply enjoy them?

That's what Hillary and Suzanna did today while Suzanna waited for her turn to practice her piano lesson (and while Abigail was inside practicing hers). Suzanna came in to get the camera, and here are some of her pics:

Transition #2:

Faithful readers will recall that my boss and her daughter, who have become good family friends, are moving on to Iowa. Well, the moving trucks arrived and packed up their possessions today, and this evening they stopped by for some quick, final hugs goodbye. The girls were all weeping on the front step as we stood and waved them off for their journey out of town. At least they were able to smile for a photo first:

Transition #3:

Faithful readers will recall that Susan's grandma, Laura, is moving from her house (where she and Susan's grandpa, E.J., lived for 23 years) to an apartment connected to the nursing home where her husband now lives. Some of their kids--including Susan's dad, Roger, and a few of his sisters and their husbands--helped her to pack and move today. This evening we hosted some of the group at our house for supper. Laura, Roger, and Laura's youngest daughter, Candy, and her husband, Stu, came over for baked chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes and creamy mushroom gravy, steamed broccoli, fruit bowls, and ice cream and monster cookies for dessert.

Afterwards there was coffee, a tour of the house for Stu (Candy has been here before), visiting, and entertainment by the girls (piano solos, vocal performances, and general silliness and showing off).

Susan, Candy, Laura, and Stu in back; Abigail, Hillary, and Suzanna in front

Thursday, October 11, 2007

IT'S SATURDAY on Thursday

The autumn display in the foyer of the girls' elementary school

The fourth- and fifth-graders at the girls' school had a program this evening (a Thursday) titled It's Saturday! As a fourth-grader herself, Suzanna was a part of the show. She auditioned for, and was chosen to sing, a solo, and she did a great job. The show was about what children like (sleeping in, watching cartoons) and dislike (doing chores, taking mandatory music lessons) about Saturdays, and Suzanna's solo came within the song "The Chore Song." She sang about the trials and tribulations of mowing the lawn--something she has never actually done, but she "sold" the song nevertheless! We were proud as punch of her clear and accurate voice, her breath control and projection, and her confidence and acting. (We would probably have been proud of her even had she sung terribly, but isn't nice that she didn't?)

We were also impressed with the singing abilities of all the other children and with their commitment to performing rather than standing lifelessly, rolling their eyes, barely opening their mouths, and/or spending their time scanning the audience for familiar faces (things we have seen in children's music programs elsewhere).

Abigail and Hillary have their own music programs upcoming. To be sure, they'll be featured here, too, when those occur.

Sing it out, Suzanna!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Several Days of "Goodbye"

Today was my boss's last day of work at Dickinson State University. She was offered a great job at Iowa State University, a position that represents a promotion in salary, responsibility, and reputation. It's a good move for her, but the "goodbye" process has been sad nevertheless.

Last Friday at our house, we hosted in her honor a farewell party to which we invited the employees in our unit and their families (little kids included). Susan made manicotti and garlic bread and created a beautiful and tasty chocolate dessert whose ingredients included brownies, cookies, candy bars, and imitation whipped cream-like product. We also supplied beverages. Everybody who came brought food items to share, so we had quite the smorgasbord. The kids had a blast playing, and the adults enjoyed eating, talking, joking, and reminiscing.

We had previously taken advantage of a day that our boss was out of the office to pose for photos that another coworker then manipulated on the computer and had an on-line company turn into a full-sized poster for us to present to her. It features each of us posing as an office-related superhero (each one an in-joke to those of us who work together) under the caption "ASC Heroes" (ASC is our unit on campus, and Heroes is an NBC television program that our boss likes). She was genuinely surprised when we presented it to her at the party. It is definitely a unique present, and she won't be able to forget us so long as she keeps the poster!

Yesterday we hosted in the ASC an all-campus lunch that served as an opportunity for people to stop by and wish her well. Susan made an electric roasterful of dee-licious baked beans for me to contribute to the lunch, and my coworkers completed the spread with barbecued meat, buns, soup, chips and crackers, fruit, vegetables, punch, coffee, and cake. It was sad to watch people bid her farewell and to be reminded that we were one day closer to her departure.

And today was D-day. Every time she popped into my office to talk today, it occurred to me that it was the last day that would happen. She has been an excellent supervisor and mentor over the past year, and I'm very grateful to her for all that she has done for me. At the end of the day, we all gathered in our work room, stood around awkwardly for a while, and then exchanged tearful hugs. Even though she won't be back in the office again, I expect to see her again at least once this week before she leaves town. Nevertheless, it seemed quite "final" to walk to her office window and see her cleared-off desk and empty shelves.

"Goodbye" sucks.

There's my sister Sandy on the left (visiting from Omaha, NE for the weekend), observing the mania of the crowd of kids and coworkers in our kitchen.

All the kids in the house Friday night were girls, and the entertainment of the night was playing "dress up." Here Hillary models the outfit and makeup that the older girls put her in and sent her upstairs to show us adults.

Doesn't she make a good clown? (Why, yes, those are Halloween socks on her arms.)

There's a little Moberg beneath that clown makeup.

Here, my boss (in the white) has just opened our "remember us" gift: the poster below.

Even if you can't make out the text or all the details of the pictures, can you at least tell that it looks very professional?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Li'l' Sis in Da House

My little (but older) sister Sandy stopped by Dickinson on Friday to spend the weekend with us before departing for her own home in Omaha, NE. (She had just spent the week with my Dad on his farm outside McGregor, ND in honor of his 70th birthday, as faithful readers will recall.) When she had called earlier to ask about coming to see us, we didn't tell her that we had already planned to host an office party at our house the night that she intended to arrive in Dickinson. Instead, we told her to come in time to join us for supper. She was a wee bit surprised to pull into our driveway only to find it full of vehicles. When she came in the house and discovered it full of strangers (to her, at least), she started to note details about her own personal hygiene: whether she had taken a shower that morning, whether she had food in her teeth from her on-the-road snacking, etc. The gang all welcomed her, however, and she ate well from the potluck spread that everyone had contributed, visited easily with these people whom she didn't even know, and enjoyed, I think, hearing from my coworkers stories about my work life--stories to which she normally wouldn't be privy!

We enjoyed a relaxing weekend, and I think Sandy had a good time playing with the girls and visiting with us. On Saturday Sandy and I giggled as we played piano duets and looked through photos. She joined us for "family Sunday school" Sunday morning, sitting in the church basement at a table with us and the girls and joining in the Bible lesson and the craft projects that Sunday school leaders had planned for all the families in attendance. (Family Sunday school is the first Sunday of each month; other Sundays, the kids alone attend Sunday school classes while the parents drink coffee or read the newspaper or sleep in, depending on the household, I suppose.) We went to church after Sunday school and then out to lunch at Sanford's, where our delicious meal included an appetizer of fried green tomatoes. (Good recommendation, Sandy.)

Yesterday afternoon Sandy helped Susan make baked beans for me to take to a work function tomorrow. In the evening she joined Susan, the girls, and me in a game of Apples to Apples, which proved to be an entertaining way to wrap up the day. This morning we said our goodbyes and went to work and school, leaving Sandy behind to shower, pack, and head off at her own pace. It was great to have her around for a few days and to catch up on what's been going on in her life recently. We look forward to visiting her in Omaha sometime soon to see her new house and to play with her kitties.

P.S. Here is Sandy's version!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today my dad turned 70 years old! My sisters and I had thought that it would be fun to celebrate such a multiple of ten by throwing a surprise birthday party for him and inviting the general public. Unfortunately, coordinating their busy schedules and mine with Dad and Beverly's proved to be too monumental a task. Plan B: Everybody gather in Bismarck, ND for a surprise supper for Dad.

My sister Sandy drove up yesterday from Omaha, NE and forewarned them that she was coming for a visit. She did not, however, tell them that she would be stopping in Minot, ND first to pick up our sister, Cathy, who flew in from Portland, OR to surprise Dad. They worked it out so that Cathy stayed hidden in the vehicle when Sandy pulled into Dad and Beverly's yard. Sandy then distracted them while Cathy snuck into the house and sat in "Dad's chair" in the kitchen, where she was when he came in later with Sandy and found his chair occupied! That was Surprise #1.

Today they had to drive to Bismarck for a doctor's appointment for Beverly in the morning. They were done and could have left town again around noon, but Beverly and my sisters stalled, asking Dad to drive them from shop to shop around town so that they could browse throughout the afternoon. He saw through their stalling tactics and guessed (correctly) that they were delaying until suppertime so that we Dickinson Mobergs could be done with work and school and drive to Bismarck to meet them. When we showed up in the lobby of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant, where they were already waiting for our reserved table, Dad was happy to see us but not really shocked. That was (Non-)Surprise #2.

We had a delicious meal with excellent service and enjoyed seeing one another again. Dad opened our cards and teared up at the sincere, sentimental wording in each. He soon discovered that we all had given him an identical gift tucked into each card: $70 worth of gas cards from each of us! Cathy, Sandy, and I had discussed it in advance and decided that it was appropriate (suited the theme of "70") and practical (for their wintertime driving around the country in the motorhome), and it served as Surprise #3.

Cathy and Beverly had arranged for local (Tioga, ND) cake bakers to make a birthday cake for Dad decorated with an accordian (an instrument that Dad is well known for playing, from his early years of playing it in The Dakota Playboys--a band of which he was a member--to his current gigs playing in the community for local celebrations and as weekly entertainment at the nursing home in Tioga). When they set that before him in the restaurant, he was moved to tears. Surprise #4!

It was difficult to part tonight; we lingered a long while in the parking lot, knowing full well that we should be getting on the road for the long drives back home but delaying the moment when we would have to say goodbye to family members not seen often enough. The girls and I helped to wear out Dad and Beverly's dog, Bandy, by taking her for multiple runs around the parking lot, and then we drove our separate ways. We'll see Sandy again this weekend when she drives through Dickinson to stay a few days before heading back to Omaha. I will see Cathy at the end of the month when I travel to Portland for a conference. I don't know when we'll see Dad and Beverly again, but it was surely nice seeing them tonight. Happy birthday, Daddy!

Abigail, Sandy, Hillary, Cathy, and Suzanna are eager for the food to arrive.

Beverly, Dad, and I are eager, too, for the food to get to the table!

See why I was so impatient?! Delicious chicken and ribs in barbecue sauce, baked beans, and chili with a tall, cold beer and a side of fresh-baked bread with honey-cinnamon butter

Dad enjoying a card and its contents: the $70 of gas cards

Happy tears at the surprise of the cake, its appropriate theme (accordian), and a bunch of birthday surprises!