Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's Spring!

According to our minivan's dashboard instruments, the temperature outdoors today was in the 50s. On January 28. In North Dakota. Remind you of this?

So warm out that one of our daughters had to go indoors to find ice for skating. So warm out that our other two daughters got out their bicycles again to join a neighbor girl in outdoor play. So warm out that we had the windows open. So warm out that I uncovered the grill and made supper outdoors: marinated filets mignons from Omaha Steaks, fresh asparagus, and sweet potato packets (yellow sweet potatoes sliced with onions and wrapped with minced garlic, olive oil, and seasonings in foil packets). Susan sautéed mushrooms and onions to top the steaks and made garlic toast and, for dessert, strawberry-topped cheesecake.

After supper, we went through the girls' handouts from Sunday school, each of which had Bible verses and related activities suggested for each day of the upcoming week. We had a marathon Bible session, reading and discussing all the week's verses--from all the handouts (two or three weeks' worth of verses)--and talking about the suggested activities and conversation starters within the handouts. It was a bit of Bible overload, methinks, at the end of a long, active day and a filling supper right before bedtime; they looked fatigued as I cracked open the Bible for one final verse. But afterward, as I was helping Hillary clear her plate, she said, "Daddy, would you like to say a prayer with me?" I told her, "Hillary, the answer to that question, whenever you ask it, will always be 'yes.'"

Slipping Away?

At 12:22 P.M. on Sunday, January 27, 2008, a boy phoned our home to ask our eldest daughter, Suzanna, out on a date. It's monumental and disconcerting.

Granted, he and she are good friends in the same fourth-grade class, so it's less of a romantic outing than a platonic play date. Susan is dropping Suzanna off at the Dickinson Recreation Center to meet her friend and his parents . . . and perhaps other friends of his--I don't know. They'll be ice skating in a public setting under the supervision of parental chaperones, not going by themselves to hear a jazz pianist at a cocktail bar late at night.

Still, something is clenching inside my chest.

(Listen to the words as Billy Ray Cyrus sings "Ready, Set, Don't Go.")

A Guthrie Evening

Minnesotans and theatre folk will think, from the title, that this post is about having seen a play in Minneapolis. No, not that Guthrie.

This Guthrie.

We have season tickets for the Dickinson Area Concert Association offerings, and last night was a terrific performance by The Vanaver Caravan, a dance/vocal/instrumental troupe that brought to our city their "Pastures of Plenty" concert work. It was a tribute to the music of Woody Guthrie, nearly all of which was completely new to me (except for the night's final song, "This Land Is Your Land"). A handful of musicians stood downstage right, some of them singing, some of them playing (a variety of string instruments--fiddles, banjoes, guitars, etc.), and some of them doing both. They introduced numbers with explanations of Guthrie's life and philosophy and his inspiration for writing each (which was a bit of a history lesson for me). Most of the songs also featured the dance troupe center stage interpreting the music and lyrics with appropriately choreographed routines: Appalachian clogging, the Lindy hop, modern, etc.

Susan couldn't attend; she had to work a shift in the kitchen for the annual Mardi Gras held at the school where she works (a fundraiser for Dickinson Catholic schools). So I took the girls, and we found seats in the very front row (of the very crowded Stickney Auditorium at DSU). We had an unobstructed view, of course, of everything, and the girls were alert to all the details on stage. Dancers themselves, they were particularly interested in watching the choreography. Abigail could hardly contain herself, twitching around in her seat as though any minute she would bound up on stage to join them. Hillary and Suzanna, too, tapped the rhythms of the songs on my legs and sat unblinking with mouths agape and faces grinning throughout.

Afterward they were able to get Bill's (the artistic director) autograph on their programs, and they clogged and square danced their way out of the auditorium, reviewing their favorite parts, their favorite dancers (the ones who wore bright smiles as they danced), and their dreams of someday being on stage like that themselves. Without coaxing from me, they even offered to check with the bus driver of their future tour bus to see if Mommy and Daddy could ride along from booking to booking.

They had plenty more to tell Susan as we all gathered in the kitchen afterward for late-night lemonade and buttered popcorn to compare stories of our evenings, followed by several rounds of Mad Libs. What a great night.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Where Does She Come Up With These?!

More from the mouth of Hillary (with appropriate setup):

Item #1:
Thursday I helped my father-in-law move some more furniture, and he offered me a small dresser that I agreed we could use in our house. I brought it home and, since Susan and the girls were out of the house at the time, decided to set it up in Abigail's bedroom (since she most needs more clothes storage) for her to discover when she returned. It necessitated rearranging some other items and rehanging some things on her walls, so it was a noticeable change. My father-in-law had also given me some toys that the girls used to play with at his apartment, so I put those in Suzanna's bedroom for her to use with the new baby doll she got recently.

When the girls returned and went to their bedrooms to get into their pajamas, Abigail and Suzanna noticed the new things in their bedrooms, and we all gathered to look over the newly acquired items. I could see in Hillary's face an expression that reflected her wondering whether she had gotten anything from my trip to help Grandpa (and the answer was, unfortunately, "no"), so I offered her a gentle explanation of why there were new things in her sisters' rooms but not hers. With a new that's-no-problem facial expression showing her effort to be a big girl and avoid tears, she quickly said, with a nonchalant shrug of her shoulders, "Capisci. I'm fine."

"Capisci"?! When did this girl learn Italian?! [I guess her conjugation could use some work.]

Item #2:
Even though some mornings are now pretty frigid, the girls and I continue to walk to school together every day (three or four blocks from our house to their school and then another block or so to my office at the university) for exercise, conversation time, and economy (I don't pay for gas for my undriven vehicle). Friday morning, Suzanna paused at one point to pick up three pennies from the sidewalk, and she shared the good fortune ("Find a penny, pick it up, and all the day you'll have good luck") with each of her sisters.

At supper last night, Hillary remembered a related unfortunate after-school event that she wanted to tell us about. However, mid-sentence she found herself overcome with emotion and decided that it was too difficult to go on--she wanted to change the topic. I don't remember word-for-word what she said, so I'll have to paraphrase a bit; but I'll underline the exact phrase that I do remember: "Daddy, after school in the gym, I lost my penny. It was the one that Suzanna had given me, and I lost it, and now I don't have it anymore. [suddenly in tears, bringing her hand up to her face] I don't want to talk about it."

Our six-year-old Scandinavian daughter is verklempt?! Did middle-aged Jewish New Yorker Linda Richman possess Hillary momentarily?! (Raise your hand if you did not have to click the links to "get" those allusions.)

In both instances (items #1 and #2), Susan and I tried very hard to be comforting and tend to Hillary's emotional needs and not burst out laughing at the humor of what she had said. Parenting is a tricky business and requires a straight face.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Parent/Teacher Conferences . . . Yawn

A trip to visit the girls' teachers tonight for regularly scheduled parent/teacher conferences resulted in reports quite similar to last time. I jokingly imply in this post's title that it's boring to hear the same ol' "great student, straight A's," etc., from each teacher, but Susan and I are really very proud of the girls and delighted to hear that they're doing so well in school. Some highlights:

Suzanna's teacher has her students write notes telling their parents how they think they're doing in school, and the teacher presents us with them when we arrive for the conferences. One of Suzanna's comments was that "language" is her best subject "because I love writing stories and talking correctly." With two English majors for parents, she surely gets enough grammar correcting at home--good thing she enjoys it! She's in 4th grade, and her reading level is 8th grade, 8th month ranging up to 9th grade, 3rd month.

Abigail's teacher is pleased with her contributions in class and continues to send her and a handful of other classmates regularly to an "enrichment" class with the gifted-and-talented teacher (something this same teacher did with Suzanna last year). Abigail's in 3rd grade, and her reading level is 5th grade, 2nd month ranging up to 6th grade.

Hillary's teacher is amazed at the way Hillary's mind works, seeing patterns in things in ways that her classmates don't--and in ways that surprise the teacher, too. Some literacy assessments show that she's above expected levels for 1st-graders in such areas as "nonsense word fluency" and "phoneme segmentation fluency," whatever they are. Her reading level is 3rd grade, 1st month ranging up to 3rd grade, 7th month.

Susan's dad was a dear and agreed not only to stay with the girls while Susan and I attended conferences but also to shuttle them to and fro their Tuesday night ballet classes. As a reward, we had him join us for supper after conferences: venison stew (using meat that he gave us from his own hunting expeditions) with lots of vegetables, hot biscuits drenched in butter and honey, and chocolate cake for dessert.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Weather Outside Is Frightful, But the Fire Is So Delightful

What a great night! For supper tonight, Susan invited over her dad, Roger, and his girlfriend, JoAnn. We spent the day working like Turks to clean the house, and Susan prepared a delicious meal: lasagna, toasted garlic bread, green beans almondine, and a tossed salad à la Olive Garden's tasty version (complete with a "knock off" recipe for their savory salad dressing)--and, for dessert, a chocolate Bundt cake with homemade chocolate frosting and Schwan's vanilla ice cream.

It has been a frigid day with a little chill in the house that we didn't notice when we were moving about vacuuming and scrubbing, etc., but that was apparent once we sat down to wait for Roger and JoAnn's arrival. So we lit a fire in the fireplace . . . our first use of the fireplace since we moved into this house! It doesn't kick out the heat like our gas fireplace did in our previous home, but it was toasty nevertheless and cozy and romantic and inviting. We lit every candle in the living room, too, and had quite a moody, serene atmosphere goin' on by the time our guests arrived.

The roaring fire with candles on the hearth for accents

The girls warm themselves at the fire--so exciting because it's the inaugural fire in this fireplace (well, so as long as we have lived here, that is).

Suzanna, Hillary, and Abigail pose in the atmospheric light of the fireplace and the many candles throughout the living room.

After supper, the girls got out their game Apples to Apples, and we got comfy in the living room to play a few rounds of it. It was good for some teasing, plenty of laughs, and a lot of family-togetherness fun!

Susan, JoAnn, Suzanna, Hillary, Abigail, and Roger pondering their next moves

'Nother view

Friday, January 18, 2008

Are You Smarter Than a Fourth-Grader?

Suppertime routine: Our daughters get out all their school papers--art projects, graded homework, permission slips needing signatures, etc.--and place them on the table for Susan and me to look through and discuss while we eat. It's a pretty good way to keep up on what the girls are studying, how their grades are coming along, what activities are coming up in school, what's happening with other kids at school that we ought to know about (best friends, bullies, potential boyfriends, etc.), how they feel about school and their teachers, what we should help them study before the next test, and so on.

Tonight I got to read a brief paragraph titled "Saturday" written by Hillary (first grade). It's a fine paragraph that displays her ever-improving penmanship and spelling . . . as well as words that she has not yet learned. Can you tell what word she means by the as-it-sounds spelling used twice in this paragraph?

Sat is not a scool day. I get to sleep in latter than yousuwull. I get to stay up than yousuwull. I play on Saturday a lot.

Suzanna brought home a geography sheet with a couple "critical thinking" questions. Faithful Readers, are you smarter than a fourth-grader? Can you answer these? Give it a fair shot (i.e., DON'T LOOK UP THE ANSWERS!):
  1. Someone standing on the Great Divide would see a very different view from what someone standing on the Northern Divide would see. Explain.
  2. Pretend you get into a boat on either the James or the Sheyenne River, but you don't know whether it is the James or the Sheyenne. Pretend you float in that boat all the way to the ocean. When you get to the ocean, you know which river you started out on. How do you know?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

North Dakota Talk

Susan's dad, Roger, is moving some furniture out of his apartment into his garage and moving some other furniture into his apartment from his mom's apartment. I helped him this evening to lug some of the biggest stuff up and down the stairs from one second-floor apartment to the other second-floor apartment across town. We're now pooped and have resolved to move the rest of it another night--perhaps a less blustery and less frigid evening, as well.

Anyhoo, we noticed some peculiarities of ND old-timers' speech in the verbiage on signs posted around his mom's apartment building, and that reminded me of an example I heard recently that I remember having heard as a child, too: "A person should almost . . ." This precedes an action that the speaker is considering doing soon or feeling guilty about not yet having gotten around to doing, and it might be suitably replaced with "I should . . ." or "I had ought to . . ." It can also be used to suggest something that the listener ought to get off his/her lazy butt and do, equivalent to "You should . . ." or "People are starting to talk about why you haven't yet . . ." In the latter case, it's a gentle nudge without being too pushy; in the former, it's an acknowledgement without being too committal. Examples:

A neighbor crosses the street to visit, and the two of you stand on your driveway looking out over the too-tall grass in your own lawn: "A person should almost fire up the lawnmower and get out there pretty soon then. Dog's liable to get lost while doing his business."

You cross the street to visit your neighbor on his own unkempt lawn: "A person should almost take a day off work just to catch up with all the chores a fella's gotta do around the yard. Say, what kind of lawnmower you drivin' these days?"

You borrow the neighbor's lawnmower to mow your own lawn and afterwards have a cup of coffee with your wife: "A person should almost have his own lawnmower anymore, what with all the rain we've been getting and the way the prices have been droppin'. You seen the Sears flyer this week? Push mowers on sale for a hundred-fifty bucks."

Am I right, North Dakotans?!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Welcome! Could You Hold the Door?

Well, today winter finally arrived in southwest ND with some chilly weather and wind (but no snow of any consequence) . . . just in time to "welcome" some visiting Japanese dignitaries to our campus! They represent an organization that will be sending Japanese students to our university to join the already multi-national student body (many North Dakotans themselves would be surprised to arrive at DSU and see so many students from Mongolia, China, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Kenya, Russia, Nepal, etc.).

I was invited to join them for dinner at noon at Hawks Point and then to take them to campus and give them a tour of the Academic Success Center to explain the tutoring services we offer students (services in which their students will be very interested--particularly the Writing Center). After a delicious meal of hot borscht, French dips, and for dessert a deep-fried pastry filled with cheese cake, I led them to my vehicle, opened their doors, let them in, and shut the doors behind them. Except the rear passenger-side door bounced back.

Yes, good ol' faithful 1994 Ford Explorer chose today--or the weather chose today to cause the Explorer--to have a door latch malfunction. I'm sure the guests were most impressed as I had to drive super-slowly the couple blocks back to campus, asking the backseat passenger to hold the door closed the entire way. Very classy, right?

As soon as the tour was done and I had delivered them to their next appointment, I phoned my father-in-law for his advice on where to go for trustworthy service to an automobile door. He recommended Ray's Auto Electric, whom I phoned immediately and who invited me to bring the Explorer by right away. They had a specially shaped tool that they stuck into the door and had it back in working order in approximately four seconds. For free. Clearly, I am recommending them to everyone reading this. I already have an appointment to return next Wednesday to have the other backseat door repaired. (Our daughters had some difficulties when younger opening those doors from the inside, and they have wrenched on the handle of the driver's-side backseat door until it no longer opens from either inside or out-.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Generations

Susan's grandma, Laura, has moved into the same nursing home as her husband, Susan's grandpa, E.J. (catch up here). Last fall, their children (including Susan's dad, Roger) helped them sell their house and helped Laura move into an apartment adjoining the nursing home. Since then, Laura has left the apartment for the nursing home herself, so now Roger and his siblings are sorting through items from the apartment. Staying in town for several days to do most of that work is his youngest sister, Candy.

That's the background to this: Candy, her sister Patty, and Patty's husband, Buddy, invited our family to join them at the nursing home tonight for pizza with Laura and E.J. When we arrived, we stopped by E.J.'s room first, but he was hesitant to leave until our daughters volunteered to lead him down the hallway to the room where we'd be eating:


Susan baked some cookies and added them to a selection of Christmas baking to provide dessert after the pizza. When we'd cleaned up after supper, we walked across the hall to see Laura's room, where we had another photo opportunity:

Both Laura and E.J. enjoy their great-grandchildren (read about "cute little guys" here), and the feeling is mutual on the part of our girls. Four generations of Gustafsons in the same town: Suzanna, Abigail, and Hillary → Susan → Roger → E.J. and Laura!

The Quotable Hillary (and Explication Thereof)

Four Funny Things from Hillary's Mouth Yesterday:

"Mom, you're full of chickens."

While shopping in the afternoon, we stopped at White Drug, a local pharmacy with a pretty nice gift shop featuring all sorts of fashionable items for home decor. We browsed the collection of rooster-themed items for possible additions to our similarly themed kitchen. Here, Hillary was remarking that Susan already has quite a few rooster items at home.

"Daddy, boy angels have to wear dresses."

On our way out of White Drug, we passed a shelf on which sat a wooden figure of three angels--apparently a male adult, a female adult, and a male child, from the looks of things. Hillary considered it awhile before announcing what she has noticed over time about the uniform required of celestial beings.

"I am a hot dog right now."

Hillary was cuddling with me on the couch to watch Planet Earth last night in our customary fashion: me seated on the couch, Hillary on my lap, and a quilt covering us both. The combined heat emitted by our two furnace-like bodies grew too intense for her, and she wished me to know that she had reached the point of being "too hot."

"A girl's gotta say what a girl feels like."

After "full of chickens" and boy angels in dresses, the "hot dog" line was the final straw, and we all burst out laughing at Hillary's day full o' silly sayings. She liked the attention but wasn't sure what exactly she had done to deserve it. Therefore, she pointed out the spontaneity and necessity of spouting forth the things that pop into her mind.

(And we're so glad that she does.)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

How to Celebrate Susan's Birthday in 15 Easy Steps

1. Wake up before the sun. Sneak out into cold garage to retrieve gifts from children to Mommy (purchased by Daddy without children in tow, but with children's input beforehand). Tiptoe to craft room downstairs to wrap gifts, and set out greeting card from children to Mommy.

2. Wake children. Make them find a pen and sign the card for Mommy.

3. Tiptoe to kitchen to make Susan breakfast in bed. Cringe as Hillary independently pads off to bedroom to wake Mommy by announcing that she should just stay in bed and await our bringing her breakfast--thus canceling plan to allow Mommy to sleep in on her birthday. Make Hillary, as penance, get newspaper and deliver it to Mommy for in-bed reading while waiting for her breakfast.

4. Set Suzanna and Hillary to making peanut-butter-and-jelly toast. Find them cookie cutters in fun shapes--stars and hearts--to punch out of toast. Put fun shapes on plate for Mommy; leave scraps and crumbs lying about kitchen counter.

5. Help Abigail make two fried eggs "over easy" topped with deli ham and American cheese. Find two more cookie cutters to place in pan and pour eggs into to make one circle-shaped egg and one butterfly-shaped egg.

6. Complete breakfast with orange/pineapple juice and sliced apple. Place items on tray and deliver to bedroom. Serve while singing "Happy Birthday to You." Stand around bed and watch Susan eat, making her feel not unlike animal in zoo. Chastise children when they lean on bed, lest the orange juice should wobble and spill.

7. Bring Mommy pen to solve the sudoku in today's newspaper. Clear her tray and wash dishes from breakfast. Feed children the crusts from Mommy's toast. Slice them additional apples, which they eat dipped in peanut butter. Pour them juice.

8. Bring Mommy presents to open: greeting cards; perfume and lotion set from Daddy; candle, rooster wall art [for dining room wall to match rooster theme in kitchen], and sudoku puzzle book from daughters; frothy coffee and chocolate drink maker from Mommy's friend Erin.

9. Spend leisurely morning at home before taking Susan out to eat at Applebee's. When she and Hillary decide to share choose-your-own-three-course-meal option, do same with Abigail (allow Suzanna her preference of chicken breast sandwich with steamed broccoli from children's menu). Tell server it's Susan's birthday so that she and other wait staff come out at end of meal, deliver ice cream sundae, clap hands rhythmically, and chant their unmelodic version of "Happy Birthday to You."

10. Take Susan shopping. Spend large chunk of afternoon looking for material for a couple sewing projects that she would like to begin. While Susan examines bolts of coordinating fabrics, observe children's gradual descent into disengagement, fatigue, and anguish. Listen to children, lying limp against the shopping cart like taffy in the summer sun, beg to be taken home for naps and, thus, realize the extent and authenticity of their boredom. Move on to more participative shopping: groceries.

11. Drive downtown to explore specialty shops. Start with The Village Gift Shop, a two-story building crammed with expensive and unique arts, crafts, furniture, and dishware. Alternate between pointing out to children this or that curious or beautiful piece and admonishing them about brushing up, with their bulky winter coats, against extraordinarily expensive and fragile vases and lamps. Purchase two 12-inch Santa Claus figures for Susan's growing collection.

12. Be thwarted in effort to patronize other downtown businesses by their seemingly collective choice to be closed to weekend afternoon shopping. Wonder which came first: their choice not to be open decent hours on the weekend when people who work Monday through Friday are actually available to do their shopping, or competition from the mall and the retail chain "super" store that attract shoppers away from downtown.

13. Get Suzanna home in time to go ice skating with a friend. Take Susan and the other girls out for supper at Sanford's Grub & Pub. Acknowledge that we're all still too full from dinner and simply order three appetizers to share (chili cheese fries, mozzarella sticks, and Buffalo boneless chicken wings), knowing what's in store for the free birthday dessert.

14. Sit through yet another clappy, non-sing-y "Happy Birthday" restaurant chant from the wait staff in order to share Susan's ridiculously plentiful and decadent birthday treat (faithful readers may recall what it is, but you may read about it and see pictures of it here).

15. Return home in time to welcome Suzanna back from her skating outing--bruised butt and all from a fall-down on the ice. Gather around a warm television for some family time watching Planet Earth. Drift off into deep coma-like slumbers brought on by awaking too early, shopping too much, and staying up too late, and exacerbated by having too much fun and, perhaps, growing too old.

P.S. No photos with this post. The only pics I snapped were of breakfast and gift opening, both of which involved Susan in her pajamas in bed. 'Nough said. To see what Susan looks like at her new age, see this and then add one year.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

January in North Dakota?!

Brrrr! It's the heart of winter in North Dakota, and our yard is icy and snowy, just as you'd expect it to be this time of year, isn't it?

Oh, wait, let me back up a few steps:

What? Where did that green grass come from? Let me back up a little bit more:

Well, that's just crazy. Where's all the snow and ice?! I'll just check in the side yard:

This is ridiculous! Surely there must be some snow in the back yard:

This is our life in Dickinson, North Dakota. Yes, North Dakota! In January!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Flu Ravages On

"I don't like the hurtingness of throwing up."

That was Hillary this evening after her somethingth trip to the toilet to vomit (or, for the squeamish, to engage in reverse peristalsis). However, it could also have been Abigail, who spent her weekend in Fargo racked with heaving. Or, for that matter, Suzanna, who kicked off the trend last week. What a persistent flu bug, marching from one little dollie to the next like a locust in a field.

It has so far stayed away from Susan and me, although one of its relatives invaded my head and has been wreaking havoc with my sinuses all weekend. All day Saturday and Sunday, while my beauties were away in Fargo, I lay around the house drifting in and out of sleep, coughing, breathing through my mouth, and blowing my nose incessantly. I lived on apple sauce and wheat crackers for those two days, too, since my stomach felt none too certain, but that turned out to be a false alarm.

The weather may seem like autumn or spring (50 degrees? in January? in North Dakota?!), but winter has struck our household illness-wise.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Fargo Weekend

As a 30th birthday gift for his wife, Susan's sister Cassie's husband Nick bought Cassie a plane ticket from NC to Fargo for the weekend to spend time with her good friends there. Although I had to stay in Dickinson for work (orientation for incoming students at the start of a new semester), Susan and the girls took advantage of the opportunity to see Cassie by driving to Fargo Friday afternoon and returning today. While there, they were able also to return to Harwood for another visit with our friends Jeff and Janelle and their family (whom we saw only briefly on our way back from East Grand Forks last week). Here are pictorial highlights to share experiences that were not mine:

Impromptu music recital featuring Abigail, Megan, and Suzanna. (Pop quiz: Which one is not a Moberg?)

Hillary doesn't know how to play piano (yet), but she doesn't let that stop her.

Caption #1: "You call that 'music'?!" Caption #2: "Take a look at these guns!" In either case, it's Jordan being cute.

More Jordan cuteness. Like the over-the-shoulder take to the camera!

Janelle (a cutie in her own right) shows off more cuteness from her loins: Austen.

Speaking of cute, take a gander at that birthday girl, Cassie, with her nieces!

"Cute" takes many forms.

Spoiled brat Suzanna's birthday never seems to end! Here are presents (that arrived Saturday and waited for Suzanna's return tonight) from her aunt Sandy: comfy pajamas, cute shirt, and a fun High School Musical game.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Li'l' Bear Has a Li'l' Bug

Last night at 11:00 and again at 11:30, Suzanna proved that we brought home the flu from Jeff and Janelle's kids on Tuesday! So I stayed home from work today and tended to the child's needs. We kept the apple sauce, wheat crackers, and water going into her body throughout the day, and she had lots of quiet resting, reading, and napping time. It became clearer throughout the day that she was on the mend as her energy rose and her attitude became more chipper. I'm sure she'll be back in school tomorrow.

As part of her birthday gift from her aunt and uncle Cheryl and Jerrett, Suzanna got a gift card to a retail chain store, where she bought herself a life-sized baby doll that she can dress in real baby clothes. Suzanna named her baby Sophie Olivia and snapped a few pics of her last night. Before going to bed last night, Suzanna also got to open a couple birthday presents that had waited here for her while we were out of town this past weekend. (And the festivities still haven't ended; she's got another birthday gift arriving in the mail on Saturday from her aunt Sandy! Spoiled kid.)

Sophie Olivia

The proud mommy!

Makeup and games from Uncle Nick and Aunt Cassie. Suzanna spent a lot of time playing that electronic word search game while convalescing today.

A lap table and matching white board message center with accessories (markers, magnets, and eraser) from Aunt Cathy. These items, too, kept her occupied throughout the day today--and kept me occupied, too, as she continued to show me the new art or writing she had just created on the white board!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

After the late and frolicsome New Year's Eve party, everyone was in surprisingly good shape this morning when we all gathered mid-morning at Nicole and Jesse's house for brunch. After a great weekend, it was sad to bid everyone farewell. On our way out of town, we drove downtown to see the marquee for River Cinema 12, the new movie theater that's making fans for its spacious and relaxing seating, variety of refreshments and free refills, and cheap admission prices. We also drove past our previous house and the girls' previous school just for old times' sake. (P.S. I saw our former next-door neighbor Judy at the grocery store yesterday when I went with Jay to pick up some food for the party. It was so good to see and visit with her again!)

We spent part of the afternoon with our friends Jeff and Janelle and their kids in Harwood on our way home. A flu bug has been making its way through their family, so we didn't spend Saturday night with them as originally planned, making this brief visit instead to exchange Christmas gifts and give Suzanna a chance to visit with her godparents. Even ill, those kids are darned cute (and so are the parents, if you're reading this, Jeff and Janelle). Visiting them is like visiting family, and we enjoyed even our short time with them.

Austen's pretty cute and cheerful for a baby with the flu!

While Suzanna opens her birthday gift from her godfamily, onlookers include Jaden, Austen in Hillary's lap, Jordan, and Megan.

Janelle distributes the Moberg family Christmas gift.

Jaden helps Janelle and Jeff open their family's gift from us . . . will they like it?!

We stopped in Fargo for more shopping and an earlyish supper at Chili's before heading home. By the time we were fed and the vehicle was refueled, it was late-afternoon dark and feeling especially sleepy out to this driver, who could have benefited from a nap today after last night's revelry. I stopped frequently at the various rest areas on the way home and, each time, took a little walk in the brisk winter wind before getting back in the van. We're safe and sound back home now and ready to start the new year!

(One of my goals for the year is to do a little pleasure reading every day, so that's where I'm off to next! Still wrapping up The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.)

NYE Party: Dress as a Famous Movie Character

December 31st was a relaxing day with Erin and Jay. The kids did lots of playing, including sledding down the hills just across the street. (Our daughters got new sleds for Christmas, but those are sitting out on green grass back in Dickinson. The girls had to come to the Red River Valley to find snow and winter weather conditions in order to get in some sledding in December. Sheesh.) Susan and I helped Jay and Erin get ready for the night's festivities: another theme party on a grand scale, as they are wont to throw! In the evening, I brought the girls over to Jesse and Nicole's (one block over), where all the game-night-couples-with-kids' kids ate supper, played under the watchful eye of the babysitter, and spent the night.

Meanwhile back at Jay and Erin's, the guests started to show up around 8:00 P.M. for the New Year's Eve party--a costume party to which invitees were instructed to come dressed as a famous movie character. There was a ton of food, a full bar, plenty of champagne for midnight (which we celebrated at 12:00 Central time, and again an hour later at 12:00 Mountain time, and then again at 12:00 Pacific time--but the killjoys wouldn't join me for midnight Alaska time), and lots of decorations and party favors to suit the theme: inflatable faux Oscar awards, miniature gold plastic awards to hand out, gold stars hanging from the ceiling, a red carpet leading into the house from the front door, even marble-looking stars affixed to the floor to look like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Jay and Erin go all out! (Compare last year's festivities.)

We were up 'til the wee hours of the morning having fun and being entirely ridiculous, joking and visiting, playing charades, and playing with one another's costumes. Speaking of, here are photographic highlights (and, by the by, MANY THANKS to Jay, Erin, and everyone for a fantastic time!):

Me as Obi-Wan Kevmobi. Susan bought a blanket from the thrift store and a bathrobe pattern from Wal-Mart, went home, set up her mom's sewing machine, and taught herself to sew so that she could make me this Jedi robe for my costume. She also made herself an apron for her own costume (below).

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars

Susan as Cinderella (pre-ball)

Disney's Cinderella

Jay and Erin as Elwood and Jake Blues

Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as Elwood and Jake in The Blues Brothers

Jesse and Nicole as Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson. The white stuff on Nicole's jacket is faux spider web. Yes, Spidey webbed all over her before they came to the party.

Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane in Spider-Man

Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. Jesse (above) is a dead ringer, wouldn't you say? (Come on, Jess! Where are the tights and codpiece?!)

Rob and Laurie as Dr. Emmett Brown and Marty McFly

Michael J. Fox as Marty in Back to the Future

Christopher Lloyd as Emmett

Missy as Mary Katherine Gallagher and Joey as Ron Burgundy

Molly Shannon as Mary Katherine in Superstar, based on the same character from Saturday Night Live

Will Ferrell as Ron in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Tammy as Jennifer Aniston (um, "famous movie character"?!) and Mike as Napoleon Dynamite

Jennifer Aniston (she's still not a movie "character," though)

Jon Heder as Napoleon in Napoleon Dynamite

Chen and Ye as pirates (um, yeah)

Keira Knightly, Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp, and Geoffrey Rush in Pirates of the Caribbean

Ken and Traie as . . . themselves. (Tammy, in regular street clothes, trumps these two for at least pretending to be a movie star, if not a movie character.)

We got some mileage out of Joey's collection of sticky-backed mustaches. Rob is stylin' in a monobrow.

Mike's Napoleon wig also made the rounds. My favorite of all the models, though, is Jesse. This could be next year's Christmas card photo, Jess! (And, again, Spider-Man? Does NOT wear a 3-dimensional Halloween decoration wrapped around a red button-up shirt with blue jeans! Rent the DVDs!)

Before the crowd dispersed, some photog snapped a series of pics featuring the "movie buff" statuettes. Love Laurie's facial expression here!

Can you spot the statuette? Come on, ladies, focus!