Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Suzanna's 11th Birthday!

Today's guest blogger is Suzanna, our new 11-year-old:

After I woke up, I went upstairs, and Mommy and Daddy gave me lots and lots of hugs and kisses. I helped Mom make a breakfast of ice cream caramel rolls (my request). While those were baking, Abigail and Hillary had just gotten up, so they were hugging me and wishing me a happy birthday, too. We ate our breakfast, and I asked if I could open presents. Mom and Dad said "yes."

I opened a present from my aunt Cheryl, and I got the movie Camp Rock and a savings bond. Then I opened a present from my aunt Sandy. I got a calendar, clothes for my Build-a-Bear, a sweater and shirt for me, and a homemade card. I had already opened some birthday presents from others over the holiday: from Mom and Dad, I got snowpants and a coat; from my aunt Cathy, I got a lettering book, a bouncy ball, magnetic bookmarks, and an iTunes gift card; and from my Grandma and Grampa, I got a pink quilted vest.

She looks as though she's getting as much joy out of trying to pop the packing bubbles as seeing what's inside the package from Sandy! Yes, her T-shirt does say, "I am going to be a Grandma." My mom had it made and wore it around after we told her that we were pregnant with our first child. After Mom died, we gave her T-shirt to that first child, Suzanna, who wears it often in memory of Grandma.

[Added January 2: Today from my aunt and uncle Cassie and Nick, I got cute red pajamas and a book: The Girls' Book: How to Be the Best at Everything.]

After breakfast I took a shower and got dressed. The night before, we had just gotten home from Harwood, so I helped unpack in the morning while Mom and Abigail went grocery shopping. Hillary went over to her friend Madeline's house. Our friend Jordanne came over to play just as Abigail and Mom were getting home. The night before, Mom had asked us what our favorite foods were. One of mine was nachos, so Mommy went to Taco John's and got tacos and nachos for dinner. While I was in the shower, Abigail and Hillary had been brainstorming about presents they'd like to give me (that they bthen ought while out grocery shopping). They came up with a couple things: a playpen for my baby doll Sophie and a couple baby outfits for her, too. I also got the movie WALL-E from them.

Suzanna was very happy with all her gifts. Here's she registering her excitement over having received WALL-E from her sisters.

After dinner we went downstairs and played with Jordanne some more. Then we had swimming practice. When we came home from that, we had a delicious supper of chili (my request) and cornbread muffins. Then we watched some of the movie A Christmas Story. We didn't get to all of it because some of us were falling asleep (I won't mention any names, Dad). 11 years old doesn't feel much different from 10, except now I don't get to eat off the children's menu at Olive Garden. Boo!

Susan made a wonderful birthday cake: chocolate with dulce de leche buttercream frosting (remember?). Does Suzanna look a year older to you? The last pic is of our three beauties, aged 7 (Hillary), 9 (Abigail), and 11 (Suzanna).

Monday, December 29, 2008

Treacherous Travels

The day started off peacefully enough: leisurely breakfast and delicious dinner served by Janelle (remember?), my playing with Austen and Jordan while the older kids frolicked in the snow outdoors, and leaving early afternoon in order to stop at a few stores in Fargo to exchange too-small clothing received as Christmas gifts. I was hoping that would take about a half-hour tops, but it was several hours before we were on the road for Bismarck. It was dark outside and cozy-warm inside, so all the ladies napped while I drove.

When we got to Bismarck, we went to the just-opened Olive Garden for supper. That restaurant has always been one of our favorite reasons to go to Fargo, and now it will draw us to Bismarck, too, I'm sure! Our friend Casey, a former Ground Round coworker from our university days, is a manager there, and we got to visit with him before and after our deeeelicious meal. Even though they had only just met him, each of the girls hopped up to give him a hug afterward. (Casey's response: "Your girls are awesome!")

When we left the restaurant, big flakes of snow were falling--the kind that look terrific when backlit by yard lights or snowmobile headlights and make winter feel all Norman Rockwell-y when viewed from the comfort of one's own home, perhaps with a fire in the fireplace, hot chocolate on the stove, and Christmas carols playing on the Victrola. But also the kind that aren't all that fun to drive over when they have accumulated on the streets and started to turn slick and icy. We had a few errands to run: fuel up at a gas station, stop by a grocery store for ingredients for tomorrow's breakfast, drop off a Christmas gift for our nephew Arron in Mandan. Did I mention that Mandan is a city built on several steep hills? That fact is made abundantly clear when its streets are filling up with the kind of snowflakes that were falling tonight.

But that was heavenly driving compared to the return home on I-94. It usually takes just over an hour to get from Mandan to Dickinson. Tonight it took two hours. The wind was whipping the snow around in swirls that covered the windshield and blocked my view of the highway. The snow was also drifting across the road, making it impossible in places to see the lines marking the lanes of the highway. I had to stop frequently to chisel ice off the windshield, and once I pulled over to join a couple other drivers in pushing another car out of the ditch. It was stressful, to say the least, and the muscles in my shoulders and neck are in knots. But we're home safely now, and the vehicle is unpacked, and everybody is either in bed or on his way. Fun as it is to travel and see friends and family for the holidays, it's always good to be back home!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

These Friends = Family

After breakfast and games and goodbyes with the gang in East Grand Forks, we headed off to Harwood, ND to the home of our dear friends Jeff and Janelle and their kids (to refresh your memory, read this, this, this, and/or this). We have been friends with them our entire married lives, and no Christmas is complete without a stop by their home . . . because they not only give us gifts but also feed us delicious food, put us up in their comfortable home, and entertain us. What could be better?!

Janelle prepared a great supper, after which we exchanged gifts in the living room. Jeff and Janelle are godparents to Suzanna, whose birthday is in just a couple days, so they gave her a birthday present, too (a beautiful necklace). Then there was much playing and visiting. And, after the kids went to bed, more visiting and just a little bit of imbibing (Baileys Irish cream, a tradition of sorts for us--just ask Jeff, Janelle, or Susan about Winnipeg!). We'll leave midday tomorrow, allowing us time to do some post-Christmas shopping and exchanging of gifts that didn't fit and still make it home tomorrow night. Christmas isn't Christmas without seeing Jeff and Janelle, so now we can bring closure to the holiday!

Rule of thumb: the blondes are ours, and the brunettes are Jeff and Janelle's. Here, Megan looks on as Jordan (in the green) and Austen (in the blue) open gifts. In the corner of the pic are Hillary and Abigail (wearing the spectacles).

Hillary looks on as Jaden opens a gift. They're the same age, and tonight they're sharing Jaden's top bunk (Jordan sleeps in the bottom bunk). For now, their sleeping together is cute, but in a few years, I'm calling a halt to that practice! (P.S. The gratuitous crotch shot is of Jeff.)

For Christmas Megan had gotten a video game designed to teach one how to play the guitar, and here Abigail is trying it out, pushing buttons on the guitar to correspond to prompts on the TV screen as a song plays. Jeff and Megan are searching for a new selection of songs for the game as Suzanna looks on.

When you're as cute as Austen, you can sit on the furniture with impunity.

Here's Suzanna opening the lovely necklace that her godparents gave her for her 11th birthday. Suzanna has always referred to Jeff and Janelle's kids as her own godsiblings, and now even Abigail and Hillary call them their brothers and sister. We're just one big happy family! (Is the key to family happiness seeing one another only once or twice a year? Hm . . .)

Pajama Party!

We had an ulterior motive for coming to East Grand Forks Friday. Yes, it's great to see good friends at Christmastime, but last night happened to be the night of another can't-miss themed party hosted by Jay and Erin. It began at 7:30 last night and has just now ended . . . at 4:30 A.M. Sunday! That's how we roll at these get-togethers. Jay and Erin always go all out, and we don't miss a minute of it.

Some background: One summer Jay and Erin hosted a barbecue for which they set up hay bales all over their yard and ordered in the meat from their favorite barbecue joint . . . in Texas!! A couple years ago, they hosted a luau in the winter (in MN) and hauled in sand to create a beach in two stalls of their garage! Their New Year's Eve party last year required everyone attending to dress as a favorite movie character, and we entered Jay and Erin's house on a red carpet and found our names on stars on the floor à la Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA! This past spring they decorated their garage to look like a gymnasium decked out with metallic streamers and a disco ball, and they invited couples to dress in 1980s prom outfits and dance the night away! Are you surprised that we refused to miss their pajama party last night/this morning?! No, of course you're not.

Yesterday started innocently enough. Throughout the day, while all our kids played together, we helped here and there with party preparations. Jay and Erin always have everything well planned out, so there's not much for us to do, but we try. Susan worked on party favors and food indoors while I shoveled the driveway and front walk outdoors as our children went sledding across the street. We are not Jay and Erin's only house guests; Erin's sister, her husband, and their kids are staying with them over Christmas, so their kids joined ours for sledding. Jesse and Nicole hiked across the street with their kids, too, to enjoy some fun with their new sleds.

This sledding spot is directly across the street from Jay and Erin's house; the mailbox in the center of the pic is at the corner of the driveway, and the street runs left to right at the bottom of the hill, which is actually the dike (the Red River is on the other side). Yes, they're sledding down toward the street! But it's a low-traffic road, and the adults are there to call out "Car!" to alert the younguns to potential danger.

Here I am visiting with Jesse before I return to shoveling and he returns to giving kids pushes on their sleds down the hill.

Because Jesse and Nicole live just one block over, their home is the default babysitting site for every Jay-and-Erin party. We all haul our kids over there to spend the night with Elizabeth, babysitter extraordinaire. She feeds them pizza, monitors their playing, lets them watch a Disney movie, and then wrangles them all into bed by 10:30 P.M. When Jesse and Nicole return home from the party, they relieve the babysitter and then get the pleasure of being awakened in the morning by children who have had a full night's sleep (when Jesse and Nicole have had perhaps just a couple hours' worth of sleep!). See what good friends we have?!

So we got the kids over to Jesse and Nicole's, and it was time for the guests to start arriving. This party's theme: pajama party! Guests arrived clad in their pajamas (the invitation stipulated "no birthday suits") and received sleep masks as party favors. Susan, Erin, and Ali wrote sleep-related phrases on the masks ahead of time. There were adult beverages and food galore. In fact, Jay and Erin had arranged for pizzas to be delivered every hour, so there was a steady supply of hot pizza throughout the night! There was a sundae table set up in the garage across from the karaoke machine and stage, which got a lot of action throughout the night. And when people tired of singing, they'd visit while munching in the kitchen or relaxing in the living room. Jay and Erin gave out prizes for best pajamas in different categories: raciest (winner: Tammy in her red two-piece), granniest (winner: Joey in his Leave It to Beaver blue button-up top and matching pants), and pajamas that Erin would most want to have (winner: Kathy in her UND pink sweats). Here are some non-incriminating photographic highlights:

Our masks have "Snoozin'" written on them.

Nicole and Jesse's masks say "Hittin' the hay."

Ali (Erin's sister) and Mike's masks are reversible; one side says "Tonight," and the other says "Not tonight." You can see Ali's choice. Mike chose to show the other side of his mask, which he is wearing . . . somewhere out of sight in this photograph. Ahem.

Darin (mask: "Bed head") was a good sport, showing up in pajamas even though he had to duck out early to meet friends at a bar downtown. (He brought jeans to change into.)

The illustrious hosts, Erin and Jay (masks: "Cat nap"). Yes, Jay is wearing adult-sized footy pajamas with a drop seat. He's also wearing boxer shorts with realistic plastic buttocks attached to them, and those buns are peeking through the drop seat. Perhaps needless to say, his butt was a big hit all night long with seemingly non-stop groping of his prosthetic rear end. If this weren't a family-friendly blog, I might also write about how, at one point out in the garage, Laurie reached inside the drop seat, found the elastic waist band to the boxers, and exposed Jay's assets for us all to see.

I am not kidding; people could not keep their hands off Jay's faux butt! The groper in this pic is Kathy, winner of one of the prizes . . . and wife of one of Jay and Erin's pastors! Hey, ain't nothin' in the Bible prohibiting us from touching plastic ass cheeks.

Rob and Laurie were regular contributors to the karaoke madness. The karaoke corner of the garage featured a large chunk of carpet for flooring and a black backdrop whose silver side panels were leftover decorations from the spring's adult '80s prom. Laurie's sleep mask says "Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation." Rob's mask? "Camp Morningwood."

Four mikes: one held by Ali singing with her husband Mike and one held by Tammy (she of the sexiest pajamas) singing with her husband Mike and with Nicole. I love the look on Nicole's face!

Here's Joey with his "granniest" jammies.

Devilish grin? Who, me?

Here's a view of the gang in the garage at one point in the night. This is during the first half of the party. I can tell because (A) there are more people sitting than dancing around and singing karaoke and (B) the pastor's wife is still there.

There are certain rewards that go to the host of the party. Here Laurie, Nicole, and Susie show their appreciation. Perhaps they're just grateful that, for only a few moments, his damned fake butt is not hanging out all over the place.

If I weren't always invited to these phenomenal parties, I think I would want to be either the babysitter or the cab driver. That babysitter makes a huge haul from all the couples who dump our kids on her, and, really, how much work is it for her? The pack of kids all keep one another entertained, and since she gets them all into bed just a few hours into the night, she's got hours and hours of work-free income racking up as the minutes tick by. And the taxi? For each party, Jay and Erin hire a cab driver who, because of all the designated drivers there, usually has nothing to do but sit parked outside until Jay eventually comes out to release him. Jay even made several trips out to the cab with pizzas and snacks and pop throughout the night. Getting paid to sit in a warm car and enjoy curbside delivery of free food? Sign me up!

The last reveler has headed home or off to bed, the sun will be up in just a few hours, and only a couple hours after that, our group of friends will be back again for breakfast! We'll be exhausted, but it'll be great. Just like the party. And just like our friends.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friends Forever

We had a very relaxing morning. The girls played: with Christmas gifts, with Cathy's Wii, with Bandy, with toys in the house and in the garage, etc. The adults visited and made a big brunch: smoked turkey scrambled eggs by me, French toast by Susan, and caffè latte by Cathy (using the espresso machine that she gave Dad last year). Aunt Penny came out to visit, too, and before we left, we snagged a photo of three generations of Mobergs:

Suzanna, Cathy, Dad, and Penny on the couch; Abigail, I, and Hillary on the floor

The grandkids.

In the afternoon we set off for the eastern edge of the state, and I had the displeasure of driving through weather that got windier, colder, and more drizzly as we approached Grand Forks. But we're happy to be here in East Grand Forks, MN, where we're spending a couple nights with friends (Jay and Erin) whose family was one of several "game night" sets of friends (along with Jesse and Nicole and Rob and Laurie) when we used to live here. (Monthly or often more frequently, we would have a game night at one of our homes. We'd eat and then send the kids away to play the night away while the adults enjoyed beverages and played Catch Phrase or charades or a board game that inevitably got more and more entertaining as the night wore on and the beverages kept a-flowin'!) In fact, shortly after we arrived tonight, Jesse, Nicole, Rob, Laurie, and their kids showed up, too--just like old times! It's good to be with them again for the weekend.

I also had the opportunity to meet up with a couple good friends whom I haven't seen in a long time: Mishka and Darin. We met at the Italian Moon, a restaurant where Darin and I used to go frequently for late-night snacks, and we caught up a bit on each other's lives. Darin is in a Ph.D. program in OH, and Mishka recently got a graduate degree in nursing and is working as a nurse practioner. Darin had just been out tonight with another mutual friend, Michael, with whom both he and I had once been in a musical called Monky Business II: Back in the Sandals Again. So Michael joined us, too, and he's the only one of the three with whom I have a photo (Mishka had his camera along). Michael has an acting career that's going well in New York City, NY. I'm sure he owes it all to me. Or something like that.

Michael and I at the Italian Moon. When Suzanna was but a youngun, one night Michael and Darin were over to our house snacking and watching TV in the family room downstairs. Sleepy Suzanna came wandering out of her bedroom, saw a blond man seated on the floor at the end of the hallway, toddled out, crawled into his lap, and fell back asleep, thinking she was snuggling with Daddy. It was Michael! He mentions it each time that I see him.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

. . . and Christmas Day on the Farm

Guess what! Santa visited our house last night! The girls must have been good this year. They found presents stacked with their overstuffed stockings by the fireplace, but Scrooge (Daddy) wouldn't let them open anything until we had read the final Advent devotion. When you're a kid, it's hard to get excited about the birth of Jesus Christ when Santa Claus has dropped off a load of presents for you to open . . . just . . . as . . . soon . . . as . . . we've . . . read . . . from . . . the . . . Bible! Well, after some initial pouting, the girls focused on the reason for the season, and then we finally turned to the fruits of the commercialization of the holiday. The best of both worlds!

Hillary, Abigail, and Suzanna in new Christmas outfits seated by their tempting Santa Claus loot mere minutes before Daddy said, "But first, let's read our Advent devotion for today." Notice that they're still smiling!

Do they look related?

Susan made a tasty breakfast, and we all got ready for the day, packed the vehicle with everything we would need for a long weekend of driving around the state visiting relatives and friends, and hit the road for Dad and Beverly's farm. Cathy cleared out the back seat of her car, and all three of her nieces joined her for the drive.

Here are Cathy, Suzanna, Hillary, and Abigail before setting off for the farm. There was some intermittent napping going on in the back seat throughout the drive, I heard tell.

Here's what we get to see on our drive through the Badlands of southwestern ND en route to Dad's. Beautiful!

We were joined for Christmas dinner at Dad and Beverly's by Beverly's brother Kenny and his wife Bea. Later in the afternoon, Beverly's son Dennis, his wife Julie, their son Ryan, and his wife Kristi (remember?) came out to visit, too. There was a lot going on today: gift opening after dinner, performances by the girls (Beverly had printed out some Christmas-themed things for the girls to read and asked them to sing some holiday songs, too, for an impromptu Christmas program in the living room), much playing of the Wii video game system that Cathy had brought along, continued eating, lots of visiting, and even an early birthday celebration for Suzanna. Whew! It was fun but completely exhausting!

The meal featured ham and smoked turkey and homemade lefse.

Dad and Beverly's dog, Bandy, gets pretty tuckered out when the girls and I are around to play with her.

"Silent Night" upon request (unrehearsed).

An impromptu Christmas program, thanks to Grandma.

Cathy showed the girls how to play the Wii.

Abigail and Suzanna burned off some of the calories from dinner by playing sports games on the Wii.

Hillary persuaded Ryan to join her in a game on the Wii.

Suzanna will turn 11 next week and got to celebrate early with Grandpa and Grandma, Auntie Cathy, et al.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve in the City . . .

Over the weekend, my sister Cathy drove from OR to our dad's farm in ND to spend Christmastime with family. Last night she made the trip to our home in Dickinson, and we'll all go together to Dad's tomorrow for a Christmas Day celebration. In the meantime, she has been getting in on a lot of Advent devotions, church, eating, gift opening, and visiting while here with us! It's been good to have her here.

Today we hosted Cathy, Susan's dad Roger, her brother Jerrett, and her grandma Laura at our house for dinner: ham, potatoes au gratin, green beans almondine, etc. There was time afterward to open a few presents (those to the girls from Grandpa and Uncle Jerrett) before heading off to church in the afternoon. The theme of the Advent devotions that we've been using each evening is "Unexpected and Mysterious," the title of a hymn written by Jeannette Lindholm. It has a beautiful melody and meaningful lyrics, and we haven't sung it in church during Advent; so when invited by the pastors to provide "special music" for one of the Christmastime services, we offered to sing that song at the 3:00 P.M. service today. Actually, the three girls sang and I played the piano with Suzanna's joining me on the piano for the final verse, playing the melody while I switched to a countermelody accompaniment. They did a fine job, and one of the pastors said he liked the song so much that he's going to be sure to have the congregation sing it during Advent next year.

"Unexpected and Mysterious," #258 in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal

When we got home, we got into comfy clothes, opened more gifts, ate more food, and shared in Advent devotions with Cathy. After the girls were tucked into bed to await St. Nicholas' arrival, I blended some tasty mudslides for the adults to enjoy as we visited some more. Tomorrow: gifts from Santa Claus (if the girls have been nice, that is--we'll see how Santa judges them) and then off to the farm for Christmas dinner with Dad and Beverly!

Hillary reads from the Bible during Advent devotions.

Abigail takes a turn reading from the Bible.

Suzanna reads from the Advent devotions while Hillary cuddles with Daddy and Cathy looks on (those are her plaid legs attached to the pink sweatshirt in the blue chair).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vocabulary Lessons

Yesterday Suzanna built a fort in her bedroom closet, which necessitated her removing all the normal items from it and setting it up with pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, notebooks and pens for note writing, books for reading, and a makeshift reading lamp created by tying a string to the end of a flashlight and hanging it over the rod that holds the hangers. After she showed me her creation, I had her tell Susan about it, and we all giggled together over her imagination. Suzanna said, "Well, it's fun to be avant-garde sometimes."

Her choice of "avant-garde" (and her even knowing that phrase) sent us into more giggles, and I kept repeating her sentence and complimenting her on her vocabulary. She said, "Daddy, I just pennied a phrase." That one had me stumped for a while. So she reminded me of a TV show that we had watched several weeks ago on which someone had come up with a catchphrase that caught on with the others on the show, and that person was credited with having "pennied" the phrase. "A-ha!" I said, "you mean 'coined a phrase'?" "Yeah, that's it!" she said. Too cute.

Anyhoo, each of Suzanna's sisters subsequently created a fort in her own closet, and they all got our permission to spend the night sleeping in their forts. They were cramped quarters, to be sure, but the girls were excited, so we tucked them in . . . while visions of charlie horses and neck cramps and chiropractor appointments danced in our heads.

Suzanna requested curls for tomorrow, when she and her sisters will sing for church (and I will play for them), so here she has curlers in her hair and has borrowed a knitted cap from one of her stuffed animals and placed it on her own head to keep the curlers from falling out in the night! Notice the red flashlight hanging overhead inside her fort.

Those are Susan's pink pant-clad legs in the mirror on Abigail's closet door, and that's Abigail cheerfully scrunched into the corner of her fort. I tried to remove a few stuffed animals to make more room for her own body, but Abigail would have none of it.

Because Hillary didn't want to remove the big bin of dress-up clothes from her closet, she had the least room of the three inside her fort. She has used the bin as a shelf for a few of her favorite things and crammed several stuffed animals in beside her. Near her feet are several stacked crates that she uses to store jeans and sweatshirts, so there is precious little room for her legs, but she's not complaining.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Performances, Take Two

Today was a day of rescheduled Christmas performances. The girls' Sunday school Christmas program was supposed to be last Sunday, but it was postponed due to the forecast of nasty weather last weekend. Also, the girls' piano teacher had scheduled an evening of musical performances by her students for this past Friday, but some of the families wanted to attend a hockey game instead and rescheduled the music program themselves (yes, indeed, they did) for tonight. For your edification, Faithful Reader, I've got videos of each to share!

As Sunday school director, Susan created a Christmas program that doubled as a church service. The hand bell choir (of which Suzanna is a member) played before church, the adult choir sang during church, and one of the pastors closed the service; but otherwise the children themselves led the service. Each grade as a group read a verse of an alphabet poem (e.g., "A is for angel . . . "), and after so many verses, they paused to sing a Christmas song. A few older kids served as narrators, reading Bible verses in between songs and verses of the poem. Even the children's choirs of which the girls are members sang a few songs (in addition to the whole-group songs sung by all the Sunday school children). [Compare last year's version of a Sunday school Christmas program, held before Susan was hired as Sunday school director.]

From my video collection, I have chosen to share one of Hillary's children's choir songs in which she plays the xylophone. I'm also sharing samples of Bible verse reading by Suzanna and Abigail, who were two of the narrators.

"Is Your Heart Prepared for a King?"

Last year, Mrs. Vold (the girls' piano teacher) held a Christmas "musical get-together" at the home of one of her piano students, and it got pretty crowded. Therefore this year she held it at Our Savior's Lutheran Church, where her husband is pastor and where there was plenty of room for seating in the pews and eating in the fellowship hall (B.Y.O. Christmas baking to share). It was, again, definitely not a secular "holiday" program; one of her students put on his shepherd costume and told snippets of the Bible story of Jesus' birth in between songs by the students, and many of the songs were religious Christmas songs.

All of Mrs. Vold's students were involved somehow, many playing solos and several playing in numbers with their family members. For example, one little girl played a duet with her mom and another with her dad; one daughter and mom played a duet while the father sang/spoke the lyrics to the song ("Silver Bells") and the grandma rang a bell during the chorus; and the adults in one family sang while the child played the piano accompaniment.

Abigail and Suzanna each played a piano solo, but Hillary was involved, too, in the Moberg family performance of "Deck the Halls" with the three girls on the piano, Susan on the flute, and me on the trombone! I videotaped the girls' solos, but with all of us performing in the group number, I couldn't videotape that until we got home. Enjoy!

"Shimmering Waters" performed by Abigail

"The Night Horseman" performed by Suzanna

"Deck the Halls" performed by Hillary, Suzanna, and Abigail (on camera) and Susan and Kevin (off camera)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Here We Go a-Caroling

Do you remember our family's conversation a couple months ago about sharing, saving, and spending for Christmas? Here are some of the ideas that we generated back then and a brief status report on each:

Share

  • deliver Christmas baking to neighbors -- still planning to do this
  • deliver a meal to a business whose employees have to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas -- still considering this, although we don't know our travel plans yet; we may be out of town to celebrate Christmas with our families and, thus, unable to do this
  • volunteer at a soup kitchen -- we learned that the Welcome Table Soup Kitchen won't be serving a meal at Christmas; so a few weeks ago, we contacted organizers of a community Thanksgiving dinner to volunteer our assistance but were told that our daughters couldn't be involved in helping
  • go Christmas caroling at a nursing home -- did it today; read more about it below
  • buy gifts to donate to Operation Christmas Child through our church and help pay for postage to mail the gift boxes -- did it
  • buy gifts to donate to the Angel Tree at church -- did it
  • provide special music at church on Christmas Eve or Christmas -- still planning to do this
  • perform a Christmas play for the neighborhood -- the girls' idea; they haven't started writing the play or recruiting actors, so I'm guessing this won't be happening
  • go julebukking in our neighborhood -- we're thinking that people won't "get" what we're doing or what they're supposed to do in return, so this probably won't happen

Save

  • contribute money to each daughter's savings account -- did it; read this for details

Spend

  • spend money on ingredients for Christmas baking to share with neighbors, friends, coworkers, nursing home residents, etc. -- did it; read this for details
  • spend money on Christmas gifts -- in progress; this is not for our immediate family (remember?) but for friends and family with whom we exchange gifts
  • spend money on Christmas cards and photos to mail to friends and family -- still planning to do this; we're still considering which family photo to use, and I'm still working on the annual Christmas tome
  • spend money on travel to see friends and family at Christmas -- still planning to do this; we're still working out just exactly where we're traveling and when for family Christmas celebrations, but we know we'll be making a trip to eastern ND for a get-together with our dear friends out there; the people responsible for this are planning a pajama party for the weekend after Christmas, and we're invited

We also said back then that, as part of our Christmas celebrating, we would set up our creches, put out our Advent wreath, nightly light the Advent candle(s) and discuss together the daily Advent devotion and Bible verse, weekly attend church, and occasionally gather at the piano to sing Christmas hymns and songs--all of which we have done and will continue to do. Two things that we have not done:

  • attend Christmas events in small towns in the region -- we had in mind scouring the newspapers to learn about local communities' annual Christmas events (Christmas light displays, winter parades, church Christmas programs, community choir concerts, sledding and horse-drawn carriage rides, Dickens Christmas reenactments, etc.) and driving around to attend them ("take them in"), but it's too danged cold to motivate ourselves to get out at night and on the road to places unknown--maybe another year
  • bring Suzanna in for a tonsillectomy -- a child is truly desperate to end the agony of frequently inflamed tonsils when this is her only request for Christmas; sadly, this hasn't happened yet

Well, as noted above, today we tended to an item from our "Share" list: Susan took the girls Christmas caroling at the nursing home where Susan's grandparents live. The girls had hoped to go caroling in our neighborhood today, so they had invited friends over to join them, planning to load the little red wagon with wrapped plates of Christmas goodies (from last weekend's baking spree) and go door to door singing and handing out treats. Suzanna's friend had even made caroling folders for everybody to use, photocopying the lyrics of Christmas songs and pasting them inside covers that she made from red and green construction paper.

But it was just too cold for them to be spending time outdoors. Rather than cancel the event altogether, Susan first had the girls and their friends decorate gingerbread cookies and drink hot chocolate at our house, after which Hillary's friend had to go home. Susan then took the other two friends plus our three girls to the nursing home, where they distributed plates of Christmas baking and sang for the residents. They also sang for a friend who lives in the assisted-living apartments attached to the nursing home. They made caroling stops at the friends' grandparents' and parents' houses before returning home, delivering cookies every place that they sang. Here's photographic proof:

Here's Susan's grandma, Laura, enjoying the girls' performance for her in the nursing home.

Here are the girls performing for their friend Monica in her apartment: left to right, that's Hannah, Abigail, Hillary, Brittany (who made the caroling folders), and Suzanna. (Not pictured, of course, is Hillary's friend, the early exiting Madeline.)

Monica donned her Santa hat to pose with the carolers!