Friday, February 29, 2008

A Quiz for You: Funny Things Said in Our House

A multiple-choice quiz for you follows. See if you can match each amusing thing said in our house recently with the amusing blonde child who said it. Here are your options:

A. Hillary (age 6)

B. Abigail (age 8)

C. Suzanna (age 10)

___ 1. A child was standing in our bedroom talking to me while I changed out of my clothes for work into something more comfy for the evening. With no warning, I grabbed her and threw her onto our bed, to which she replied, "Well, that was quite unexpected."

___ 2. A child was standing in the kitchen telling me her qualifications to babysit, so I quizzed her by role-playing the part of a parent interviewing her as a potential babysitter for my dozen kids under the age of nine. She went along with it, improvising her answers to my faux interview questions. With each question, I painted a more dismal picture of the situation into which she would be getting herself: in addition to the horde of younguns, I allowed my children to eat only chocolate and drink soda, to stay up until all hours of the night, to play with videogames and guns, etc.; my children were not potty-trained; and my wife and I would be needing her to stay with them for several days, getting them ready for school every day. I pointed out that previous babysitters had the habit of declining the offer to work for us, and--without breaking character or pausing at all--she said, "And what if I were one of those babysitters?"

___ 3. A child was volunteering to perform some household chore, and I asked her if she needed any assistance. Perfectly willing to do it herself, she shrugged and said, "Oh, you could help or help not."

___ 4. I was helping one child at the supper table to understand her homework related to correct usage of punctuation. It turned into a table-wide conversation about using commas (hey, two English majors for parents? whaddya expect?) during which the child whose homework it was gave an example of correct comma use. Her sister said, "Good job!" and then reflected on what she'd just said. She told us that her remark--since it was both a comment and a compliment, both of them related to a comma--must have been a "comma-ment."

___ 5. As I stepped out of the shower one day, a sad-faced child entered the bathroom to tell me, "Daddy, my eyes are sore, and my throat is scratchy, and I've got a sharp pain in my stomach, and my head hurts." I replied, "Oh, but other than that, are you fine?" She thought about it a moment and hesitantly replied, "Yes." I said, "Well, that's good news, isn't it?" She cheered up and observed, "Yes, other than those four things that I said, I'm feeling just fine." [And we got no phone calls from the school secretary that day to report a sick child. Mission accomplished.]

___ 6. I was tickling one child at the supper table and making jokes with Mommy, who was in the kitchen. The tickled child said, "Daddy, you are one outrageous boy."

___ 7. I was working with one daughter on an on-line multiplication activity (to learn her multiplication table), and another daughter came in, observed what we were doing, and said, "I would like to multiplicate."

Okay, submit your answers . . . and good luck!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Catching Up, Part IV: "Whose Wedding Is This Again?"

On Saturday, February 23, I took my family to a wedding at which they knew virtually no one . . . not even the bride or groom! One of my former employees--a writing tutor who recently graduated--invited us to her wedding, and we had a good time, considering that pretty much no one besides the bride knew who we were. The wedding was a short-and-simple Lutheran affair, after which we all gathered outside the church (without coats on, mind you . . . in February in ND . . . gotta love Dickinson!) and blew bubbles at the couple when they exited the building to drive off in his decorated vehicle.

Their reception and dance were held in the same hotel ballroom where Susan and I had our own wedding dance nearly 15 years ago! It was decorated simply but beautifully; the meal was dee-licious; and we met and visited with a very friendly neighbor of the groom (and, soon, of his new wife, too). The same DJ company that played for our wedding dance played for theirs, too, and we all got out on the dance floor and cut a rug or two. We left for home relatively early (church and Sunday school in the morning), but I was happy to have been able to attend--and happy that my family was game to accompany me! (I'm sure they felt a bit like wedding crashers, but hey: free food! free cake and punch! free dancing! How tantalizing.)

The bride and groom look on as the musicians sing "The Wedding Song" (a blast from the past for me and my early days of singing/playing for weddings)

No snow on the ground; no need for coats; no problem traveling to the church--these were not typical of February weddings in MN or in other parts of ND before moving to The Banana Belt, tropical SW ND!

Burgundy, black, and white were the bride's theme colors for the wedding, so you'll see them also in the coordinating wardrobe of the lovely Moberg ladies. (Yes, we're that kind of family.)

Suzanna and Hillary dance together while I partner with Abigail. Mommy took her turns, too, dancing with daughters and with her hubby.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Catching Up, Part III: Two Sunday Announcements

(1) On Sunday, February 24, we brought in the newspaper and read all about Susan's cousin Robbie's having made the game-winning shot (seconds before the clock ended the game in overtime) that allowed his basketball team to advance to the championship game of the basketball tournament. That tale is told here.

[He played a similarly important role in the actual championship game tonight, scoring the final basket that put Trinity in the lead and allowed them to win the game and advance to the next level of competition. Read about that here.]

Congratulations, Robbie (and Titans)!

(2) Also on Sunday, Susan worked her first Sunday at her new job: as Sunday school director for St. John Lutheran Church. (Mind you, this part-time position is in addition to, not in replacement of, her full-time job as high school librarian at Trinity!) She applied when the position opened up last month; she was interviewed and hired shortly thereafter; and she has spent some time in the past couple weeks getting oriented to the job and her office in the church. We all got a taste yesterday of a Sunday morning at work with Mommy: going in early so that Mommy can set up for Sunday school and staying after classes and the services are done so that Mommy can break down and put away.

We anticipate becoming all the more holy because of this. Please watch us closely for observable signs of such an evolution.

Catching Up, Part II: Take Your Daughters to Work Day (Unofficial)

On Friday, February 15, the girls did not have school (public school teachers had an in-service day), but Susan did (private school teachers conducted business as usual). Susan's principal gave her permission to bring them to work that day, so she did--"to work" as both a location ("to" = preposition, "work" = place noun) and an activity ("to work" = infinitive verb). Child labor laws be damned!

They enjoyed helping Susan process new books: attaching spine labels, due date forms, and bar codes and stamping the books with the library's name. They got to interact with the high school kids throughout the day when they helped Trinity students check out books and when they joined Mommy for dinner at noon in the school cafeteria. They even had an afternoon treat: watching a movie (Underdog) in the dark and quiet of Mommy's office, complete with popcorn from the concessions stand downstairs!

Abigail and Suzanna at the circulation desk, ready to help students check out books

Suzanna using an official library pen (the fake flower attached to it helps students who borrow it to remember to return it afterward)

Abigail eyeing the supplies used to attach labels to incoming books being added to the library's collection

Hillary doing some sort of official library-related task (ignore the pink and blue flower purse that probably stored some age-appropriate activities to keep her entertained throughout the day)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Catching Up, Part I: Hillary the Penguin

On Tuesday, February 12, the three sections of first-graders in our daughters' elementary school joined forces to present Penguin Program (I know: clever title), a performance in four parts: Snowetry, three snow-themed poems and songs; Penguin Poetry, six penguin-themed songs and poems; Valentine, a Valentine's Day-themed poem; and Penguin Polka, a song-and-dance routine.

I didn't get to see it because the performance time conflicted with a class that I teach. However, Hillary reenacted the entire thing for me later that evening over supper, and Susan (who was able to attend) snapped some pics:

Penguin decor in the school's gymnasium

Hillary (the blonde in the center) and others in gloves for a number about winter weather

And with penguin masks added!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Suzanna in the News (Kinda)

Remember reading about Suzanna's fairly recent field trip to DSU to see/take part in some science experiments with Natural Sciences faculty? Here's an article about that!

Friday, February 22, 2008

In Memory of Mom

In honor of Mom's birthday, we ate our dessert first for supper--chocolate marshmallow ripple ice cream from Schwan's--followed by homemade pizza (well, Chef Boyardee make-it-yourself pizza) with slices of mozzarella (rather than shredded--more on that below). This was indeed meet and proper for several reasons.

First, Mom loved desserts and, if she thought she might run out of room (in her tummy) for dessert at a big meal, she had no qualms about eating the dessert first, just to be certain that she had room for it. This was most likely to happen at a holiday meal, like eating a piece of pumpkin pie before the turkey dinner at Thanksgiving. However, in honor of Mom, we eat our dessert first on her birthday.

Second, she loved chocolate, ice cream, and Schwan's products, so it's fitting to combine the three in our choice of dessert in honor of Mom. When I was a kid, the arrival of the Schwan's truck in our yard was always a big deal because it meant the purchase of the most delicious ice cream on the planet, tasty ice cream novelties (ice cream bars, fudge bars, root beer ice cream bars, etc.), and frozen treats such as one-serving pizzas and microwavable sandwiches. Mom was a valued Schwan's customer; she felt compelled to purchase lest The Schwan's Man should decide it was no longer worth his time to drive out to our farm during his rounds! *

Third, when I was a kid, our family often made homemade pizza together of a Friday night. That meant two or three Chef Boyardee pizza kits and a counter full of supplies: canned mushrooms, black olives, green peppers, red peppers, onions, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, grated Parmesan cheese, and large slices of mozzarella cheese that would soak up the pizza sauce while sealing in the flavor and then bubble up in delicious, sauce-darkened patches covering the pizza. My sisters and I put together the pizzas, and Mom baked them in rectangular cookie sheets (and cut them with a scissors rather than a pizza cutter, which couldn't get into the 90-degree angles of the pan). I would make a pitcher of Kool-Aid, using about twice the recommended amount of sugar (an infrequent break from our standard glasses of whole milk with every meal), and we would have a terrific meal that we all loved.

(The next day, I would get up before the crack of dawn and eat cold leftover pizza for breakfast while watching Saturday morning cartoons. I'm going to do that tomorrow, too . . . minus the cartoons.)

My sister Sandy's birthday is in a few days, and our sister, Cathy, flew from OR to NE to spend the weekend with her; so I phoned Sandy tonight to visit with my sissies. They were off to an early birthday party that Sandy's friends are throwing for her tonight, but we had time to wish Mom a happy birthday together!

* Funny story:

In Mom's experience, Schwan's men in our rural area had so much territory to cover that they were likely not to return to a stop that hadn't made a purchase a few times in a row. That meant that, sometimes, she would buy items from the Schwan's guy even if the freezer was still full from his last visit to our farm.

One time she saw him driving down the long gravel road leading to our house, and she panicked. She knew that she didn't yet need anything more from Schwan's, but she had already declined to purchase on his last stop or two to our place and didn't want to say "no" again and get crossed off his list! So she rushed us kids into the basement stairwell, where she joined us . . . in hiding from the Schwan's man!

Yes, we crouched so that she could just peek over the stairwell to see him drive onto our driveway, listen to him ring the doorbell, and watch him drive away again. She felt it was better that he think we were merely away so that we could avoid purchasing without risk of getting dropped from his route. Therefore, she chose a hiding spot from which she could keep an eye on him without his being able to see us skulking around were he to peek in our windows. We were all laughing so hard that I'm surprised he didn't hear us!

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Were she still alive, my mom would be 69 years old today. Happy birthday, Mom! I love you!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dribbling Girls

Our family went to a girls' basketball game at Trinity High School tonight. It's the school where Susan works, so we were cheering their team on in the Regional championship game against Bowman County. The last time we attended a Regional basketball championship in which Trinity played, the results were quite different from tonight's: Trinity's girls were defeated tonight 63 to 35. Ouch.

Because Trinity fell behind early on in the game, the entire evening wasn't much about the basketball game for our girls. It was about the popcorn and bottled water that Mommy bought them to enjoy before halftime. It was about the splendid halftime performance by Trinity's drumline (including brass instruments and an electric bass guitar, too, along with fun choreography). It was about the brothers seated nearby--one of whom is Suzanna's classmate, the other of whom is Hillary's--and the suckers that they gave to our daughters.

And, okay, it was a little bit about basketball as Suzanna leaned over to tell me that Trinity's team were her "role models" and that she was learning from them how to be a basketball player in the future (her most recent aspiration). I didn't have the heart to ask her to model herself after the players on the winning team . . .

The bottle of water lasted and lasted and lasted, thanks to the girls' numerous trips to the water fountain to refill it throughout the third and fourth periods. As a consequence, three small bladders were very, very full once we had put on our coats for the brief walk back home after the game. They walked very quickly so as not to dribble (double or otherwise) before reaching home. (One of the girls may or may not have had a dribbling accident after going to bed, too . . . although I'm not naming names, or even verifying such a nasty rumor.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Valentine's Day Weekend

I spent my Valentine's Day with Josh, a DSU colleague, on a plane to Bloomington, MN for a conference: "Critical Thinking in the Age of the Internet," sponsored by the Collaboration for the Advancement of College Teaching and Learning. We got in late Thursday night and stayed up entirely too late finalizing the details of our own presentation, which we delivered Friday.

Immediately after our presentation, Josh and I started playing the "If only . . ." game: if only we had started with this information instead of that, if only we had allowed more time for this and cut that, if only we hadn't mentioned this subject that sparked off-topic discussion and got us off track, etc. Two of the attendees, professors from an institution in SD, surprised us with their out-of-the-blue grumpiness, challenging things that Josh said, arguing with comments by other participants, and raising points that had nothing to do with our presentation topic. Post-session evaluations from other participants called those two "rude" and mentioned wishing that those two hadn't been in attendance, and Josh and I would have to agree!

The next day, a colleague of those two professors apologized "on behalf of our institution" for their behavior and explained that they are notorious at their university for being confrontational curmudgeons. That made us feel better, as did the comments of numerous people who approached us with compliments, saying they had attended our session and found it practical and useful. That's how I felt about the conference overall, even though I attended some sessions that were less useful to me personally than others. In general, it was a well run conference with lots of ideas offered for how to encourage today's college students to think critically, despite the numerous temptations for them to do otherwise.

We didn't fly home until today, so Josh and I were able to take a hotel shuttle to the Mall of America and spend much of Saturday afternoon and evening shopping and eating. I had dinner at Opa! (souvlaki and Greek salad -- Josh chose pizza elsewhere), and we had supper at Tony Roma's (pulled chicken sandwich with barbecue sauce). I was able to find some gifts for all my girlies, too (dark chocolate and extra-dark chocolate Lindor truffles from Lindt Chocolate Shop for Susan, and a piano music book of famous songs from Disney movies for the girls).

The high winds in SW ND made for an alarming descent to the Dickinson airport; if ever an airplane-hating passenger were to feel as though certain death were imminent during a flight, our final 15 minutes in the air would have seemed like proof positive to him/her. To our delight, however, we did not die, and I was very happy to be reunited with my family to dole out gifts and hear stories from the weekend.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Babysitting Team

Our family has been looking forward to today all week long--ever since Susan's cousin Todd phoned to see if we'd be available to babysit Todd and Trista's almost-seven-month-old son, Trae, overnight tonight. Suzanna, who just recently took some elective classes at school on babysitting, immediately briefed her sisters on the basics, and they all three began to make plans for Trae's stay in our home. Throughout the afternoon today, they peppered Susan with inquiries about how much longer it would be before Trae's arrival. They were excited.

And so were we. It's been many years since Susan and I have had diapers to change and bottles to make and baby rattles to shake, and it was fun to re-experience that again tonight. It was fun, too, to watch the girls interact with Trae and to observe their seriousness about the task of caring for a baby and to hear their reflections (e.g., Hillary, while rocking Trae quietly: "When he grabs my thumb, it's almost as though he were my very own baby"). Suzanna has a sore throat, so she gamely kept her distance most of the night but offered advice from afar to her siblings. Abigail and Hillary vied for time with Trae, leaving Susan and me with just moments to enjoy feeding him and tickling him and holding him.

Trae is a smiley little guy, very patient with the onslaught of affection from our kids and easily acclimated to an unfamiliar house with so many strange faces (one of which is bearded!!). Trista will pick him up in the morning before we leave for Sunday school and church, but for now he's sleeping soundly in our bedroom. Here are some highlights from his first night at the Mobergs':

Tactile Trae gets to know the unfamiliar bearded dude.

Trae finds his toes to be entertaining--and is still limber enough to stick them in his mouth, should he care to.

Abigail changes Trae's diaper following Suzanna's instructions while I monitor Trae's safety throughout the procedure.

Hillary feeds Trae while seated in the very rocker in which her own parents often fed her as a baby! That was only six years ago . . .

Ditto Abigail, although that was eight years ago. She's very "in the moment." It's difficult not to be at peace with a content baby in one's arms!

Suzanna, Abigail, and Hillary keep a collective watchful eye on Trae, who is on the verge of entering Slumber Land (the state of consciousness, not the furniture store).

Friday, February 08, 2008

Tidbits

(1) Today was a nice change of pace for me at work. Three colleagues and I had an administrative retreat off campus. We booked a conference room at the Grand Dakota Lodge, a local conference center. We ordered breakfast and ate while we worked, doing the same again for dinner at noon. We spent the whole day reflecting on past and current practice and strategizing for the future of our unit at the university, all while escaping the daily routine and setting with its interruptions to sustained, deliberate thought and creativity. We even set aside time for reading and discussion of scholarly articles for professional development. It was refreshing and team-building!

(2) Although I was away from campus today, Suzanna was not! She and her class hiked over from their elementary school to the science building to join one of the natural sciences professors for some fun experiments. One involved putting something into a big pot placed underneath an empty littler pot and waiting for colorful flames to spontaneously burst forth from the empty smaller pot. Another dealt with a pickle through which the professor got electricity to travel, lighting up the pickle. He also dipped a copper penny into something that turned it silver and then into something else that turned it gold. His assistant added potassium to a bucket of ice, which started the ice on fire. Each child in Suzanna's class got to put vinegar and baking soda inside an uninflated balloon, which they sealed and then pounded; the friction mixed and heated up the vinegar and baking soda, which caused the balloon to inflate! I asked Suzanna if she were interested in becoming a scientist, and she said "no." I asked her why not. She said, "Because I'll be too busy doing things that I really want to do, like being a doctor and a singer."

(3) Abigail's most recent "thing": to hide about the house and wait to be noticed (as missing) and/or to be found. I walked upstairs to find her butt in hot pink sweatpants glaring out from underneath the dining room table. She was huddling silently in a 1950s public school atomic bomb drill position, just waiting for no one in particular to say, "Where's Abigail?" so that she could burst forth with a "Boo!" and surprise them. Instead, I said, "Hi, Abigail" and kept on walking. Later I spied her bright pink pajama-clad legs sticking out from under the coffee table in the living room. "Hi, Abigail" again. She's got patience, for sure, but she could use some advice RE: camouflage.

(4) At school Hillary has made something for me for Valentine's Day. I know this because several times she has approached me with something hidden behind her back, asking me, "Aren't you eager to know what I made for you for Valentine's Day?" I tell her that she should wait until next week to give it to me, whereupon she reiterates that I must be too curious to wait that long. "Nope, I'm not," I reply, and ve-e-ery reluctantly she returns to her bedroom with whatever it is until a few hours have passed and she spies it in her room once more. Then the procedure repeats.

(5) I'm reading a book via e-mail. Each day, a portion of the book Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton arrives in my inbox, per my request. I went to Daily Lit and found a book that I wanted to (re)read--and that was free (most of them on the site are, actually)--and signed up to have the book e-mailed to me in short sections, easy enough to read as they arrive daily. I loved the book when I read it in high school, and I'm pretty sure we have it in hard copy, too. I just wanted to try this new electronic method of reading a book. I still prefer to hold a physical book, but this system helps me control my pace and reminds me daily to keep reading.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Bowl-of-Water Sunday

Today was a very important day in the "life" of Sophie Olivia Moberg, Suzanna's relatively new baby doll. No, not her first-ever Super Bowl on TV. Today was the day that she was baptized! Yes, you read that correctly.

Recent baptisms in church sparked the idea in Suzanna's mind that her own baby ought to be baptized. She asked if we could baptize Sophie at home, and we agreed. Suzanna has waited patiently as we've moved the baptism day from the original date that she chose to the next day to the next . . . until, finally, today we felt we should do it after church (at which there was yet another baptism).

When we got home, we stayed in our church clothes, and Suzanna dressed Sophie in the baptism gown and bonnet that she, Abigail, and Hillary each wore for their own baptisms. To appear pastoral, I slipped into the Jedi robe that Susan created for our recent costume party, and Susan filled a shallow pasta bowl with some water and set out a white towel to dab Sophie's head after the event. When Suzanna and Sophie appeared in the living room for the baptism, Suzanna was carrying her large stuffed reindeer, Rudolph, who was wearing the men's sport coat that had been part of Suzanna's Halloween costume. She set Rudolph down beside her and Sophie, and we all looked at Rudolph quizzically. But it was so obvious once Suzanna explained it: You can't have a baby without a dad, and he needs to be at the baptism, too. (Fortunately, Sophie takes after her mom in appearance.)

We started the service at the piano, where I played--and we all sang--both verses of the hymn "All Who Believe and Are Baptized." Then I led the service of Holy Baptism as printed in the hymnal, and Abigail and Hillary served as godparents, saying the "I do"s wherever the printed service indicated that the sponsors should respond. Susan played photographer, standing at the far end of the living room and trying to stifle her giggles to avoid disrupting the otherwise solemn service and to prevent all the photos from turning out blurry.

Godparents Abigail and Hillary flank the happy family: parents Rudolph and Suzanna with Sophie Olivia.

Hillary is filled with the Holy Spirit, evidently, during the singing of the hymn. Rudolph is amazed, too; look at how he's staring at her. I don't know what Abigail is staring at. Sophie appears to be in the gut-buster hold by her mommy.

The solemn ceremony begins.

The girls were completely "into" the moment, especially when it came time to douse Sophie's head with water from the pasta bowl. I suggested holding the stiff doll by its ankles and dipping it head-first like a tortilla chip into salsa, but Suzanna would have none of it. Instead we treated Sophie like a real baby, and she didn't cry at all when I gently splashed water on her head and then dabbed it dry with the kitchen towel. I reminded Suzanna and Rudolph, too, that each February 3rd henceforth, they ought to light a candle in honor of Sophie Olivia's baptismal anniversary and talk to her about this special day and its meaning for her. Suzanna agreed; Rudolph stared blankly ahead. Deadbeat dad.

"Sophie Olivia, I baptize you in the name of the Father [splash] and of the Son [splash] and of the Holy Spirit [splash]. Amen."

The post-baptismal head dabbing with the sacramental kitchen towel.

At our previous church, the pastors carry newly baptized babies up and down the middle aisle so that all congregants can get a good look while the congregation sings "Jesus Loves Me," a tradition that we carried out with Sophie, too. We ended with a family photo (Suzanna + Rudolph + Sophie) with the pastor (me), presumably for Sophie's scrapbook. All three girls were delighted to have participated, and Susan and I were delighted when it was over and we could stop biting the insides of our cheeks. It's certainly a day none of us is likely to forget soon!

"Jesus loves me. This I know for the Bible tells me so."

Sophie Olivia, child of God, along with parents Suzanna and Rudolph and pastor Daddy.