Thursday, December 31, 2009

Warm Hospitality in the Frigid Red River Valley

We always have a Christmastime celebration with our friends Jeff and Janelle and their family, usually involving our staying overnight in their home (in Harwood, about 4.5 hours away), being treated to delicious food and drink, and thoroughly enjoying their hospitality. This year we're two for three.

You see, they're in the middle of a house remodeling project, so we planned an afternoon visit that would not involve their having to blow sawdust out of the corners of their home so that we could find places to sleep. We adults got to visit and see the progress on their construction project, the children got to play, we enjoyed tasty beverages and a great dessert that Janelle whipped up, we exchanged gifts, and then we got out of their hair. (It also happens to be their 17th anniversary today, so I'm sure they have better things planned than entertaining house guests . . . hubba-hubba!)

You're not surprised, Faithful Reader, that there are photos:

Janelle and Jeff hold the personalized door mat that we figured they'll need to put outside their newly remodeled house so that visitors will know who lives there (since it'll look so different from the old version of their home).

Jeff

Janelle

Megan (their first child)

Jaden (their second child)

Jordan (their third child)

Austen (their fourth child)

Suzanna, as Jeff and Janelle's goddaughter, always receives a birthday present from them, too. This is an etched glass block that can be used as a keepsake box or stuffed with a string of lights and used for room decor, etc. Jeff and Janelle find the most interesting gifts!

Megan and her "sisters" Hillary and Abigail. Just because Jeff and Janelle are Suzanna's godparents, our children all consider themselves related. Three blondes and four brunettes? Uh huh.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Suzanna's 12th Birthday!

Our oldest child is now 12 years old. Suzanna has been looking forward to this day for a long time, not only for the usual reasons (e.g., looking forward to the individual attention, to receiving gifts, to getting to choose the meals for the day, etc.) but for three others particularly tied to being 12 years of age:
  1. A 12-year-old child, according to current vehicle safety regulations, may sit in the front passenger seat of a car. (Did you know that children younger than that ought to sit in the back seat? Susan and I have enforced that with our kids, so Suzanna has been eager for the "privilege" of sitting in the front.)
  2. A 12-year-old child can be certified and hired as a babysitter, a job that Suzanna has been eager to hire herself out to do. (The American Red Cross provides babysitter training to children as young as 11. Susan and I thought it was 12 and have had Suzanna wait until now. Oops!) By the way, Suzanna got two phone calls today asking her to babysit tomorrow night . . . jobs she would have accepted happily had we not already planned to be out of town ourselves.
  3. A 12-year-old child, in our household, can get her ears pierced.

Here are highlights from Suzanna's birthday:

One of Suzanna's gifts was a digital camera, with which she was thoroughly delighted. She quickly figured out many of its special features (e.g., taking photos in sepia or black-and-white modes) and snapped photos throughout the day no matter where we were or what we were doing. (Note in this photo the length of Suzanna's hair so that you may make a comparison to her hair in upcoming photos.)

These are our friends the Donners: Chad, Ethan, Audrey, and Sullivan. Audrey and Susan were great friends during their high school years. The Donners now live in TX but are in the area visiting family for Christmas, and they dropped Ethan off at our house for a play date in the morning and then met us for dinner at Taco John's (Suzanna's choice) around noon.

Our entire family had haircut appointments this afternoon: about 4.5 hours of hair cutting before we were all shorn! Before heading to the salon, we posed for this family pic in Taco John's.

Here is Suzanna with her new hairdo and her newly pierced ears! 12 years old?! Sheesh! What a beauty.

Here are Hillary and Abigail with their new hairdos. The stylist curled their hair for them, too--snazzy!

Here is Susan with her new hairdo. The stylist straightened Susan's hair for her.

Here I am with my new hairdo. Whatevs. Suzanna's ear piercing happened after our hair cuts, after which we went out for supper at Sanford's Grub and Pub, which serves a birthday celebrant a special treat for dessert: a gigantic chocolate chip cookie heaped with three enormous scoops of vanilla ice cream, one covered in strawberry sauce, another in caramel sauce, and the third in chocolate sauce, with the whole shebang topped with (canned) whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.

After supper, we went home and played games to give ourselves time to digest the sundae from Sanford's before . . . eating Suzanna's birthday cake! She requested a brownie cake, which Susan made on a round baking stone and frosted using my mom's wonderful chocolate frosting recipe. Sinfully irresistible.

Look how excited Suzanna is to be 12 years old! And to own her own digital camera! And to have pierced ears! And to have a family who loves her as much as we do!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Our Daughter, the Award-Winning Author

In all the hubbub of Christmas events with visiting family members and terrible weather, etc., I failed, Faithful Reader, to share this news with you in a timely manner: Suzanna was featured in the newspaper the morning of Christmas Eve!

The local paper invites readers and area students to contribute original poems and short stories for its annual Christmas Story Book, an insert in the paper's Christmas Eve edition. They make it into a contest with prizes, too, for the best entry in each of these categories: 1st grade, 2nd-3rd grades, 4th grade, 5th-6th grades, junior high, senior high, and adult. The rules: The story must be 150 words or fewer, and it must relate somehow to Christmas. That's it.

Many teachers in the region make entering the contest a classroom activity, asking their students to write in class and then submitting all the stories from the class to the newspaper. That's what Suzanna's teacher did. Suzanna showed her story to Susan and me before turning it in to her teacher, and then we didn't hear any more about it . . . until the newspaper phoned our home to arrange to get a photograph of Suzanna because of her having won a prize for her story!

Suzanna was pretty excited, thinking she had won the best story in the 5th-6th grade division. Susan took her to the mall to meet the newspaper photographer at R Books, the business sponsoring the prize that Suzanna had won. Suzanna told me that there were three big surprises waiting for her there:
  1. her story was framed and posted on the wall outside R Books for all mall shoppers to see while passing by;
  2. her prize was a $40 gift certificate to R Books, an enormous amount of money to Suzanna; and
  3. the certificate presented to Suzanna named her as the winner not of the 5th-6th grade division but of all divisions--Suzanna won for the best story overall!!
Susan and I were pretty proud, and it was terrific to get the newspaper Christmas Eve morning and see not only Suzanna's photo but also her story printed for everyone to read. What's that you say? You didn't get a copy of our local newspaper that day? Well, you're in luck; here's Suzanna's prize-winning Christmas-themed story in 150 or fewer words. Enjoy!

(If you're not from around here, you should know that Killdeer is a city about a half-hour north of Dickinson. Also keep in mind that So You Think You Can Dance is a nationally televised dance contest on network TV. Okay, now get to readin'.)

"My Reindeer Tail"
by Suzanna Moberg

Many people wonder what the reindeer do when it's not Christmas. I've got the answers.

Dasher is a track star in Reindeerville. His name gives it away. Dancer runs Dancing by Dancer, his very own ballet studio--not in Reindeerville, though . . . in Deerkinson.

Prancer is the head judge for So You Think You Can Prance. Vixen is a trainer for the Reindeer Games.

Comet is an astronaut and has a home (that's not with Santa) on the moon. Cupid is the priest at a church that does just marriages. He loves that kind of stuff!

Donner works with blood donors at the North Pole Clinic. Blitzen owns Blitzen's Books, a bookstore in Don't Killdeer about 40 miles away from Deerkinson.

Finally, Rudolph: He's a lighthouse manager on the coast.

Even with their busy lives, Santa, Christmas, and we kids are the reindeer's biggest priority!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Stormy Christmas

Sadly, we were right; as predicted, the weather was bad yesterday morning when we awoke to get ready for church, and the forecast was for the blizzard to get worse as the day went on. If Susan's sister Cassie, her husband Nick, and their 10-month-old son Davis were going to make it onto the airplane for their flight back to SC this morning, they would have to leave yesterday morning and spend last night at Susan and Cassie's brother Jerrett's house in Mandan. So we skipped church, ate brunch, opened some Santa Claus gifts, posed for photos, and sent them on their way.

As it turned out, the drive--which usually takes just over an hour--took them about three hours due to reduced visibility! But they made it to Jerrett's safe and sound; and as of this morning, their flight today is delayed but not canceled. I'm sure they'll be glad to be home again and away from the uncertainty and inconvenience of Midwestern winter weather. But it was terrific to have them here this past week and to spend so much time with that cutie-patootie new nephew of ours, Davis!

Hillary, Suzanna, and Abigail with their cousin Davis

Nick and Cassie with Davis

Davis with a gift from Santa Claus, who found Davis at our house . . . but probably still left other gifts for him at his own house in SC.

Davis saying goodbye to Grandpa Gustafson

With all our guests gone by midmorning yesterday, our house was suddenly very quiet again, and we went into holiday relaxation mode. Our afternoon included a family nap on the bed in Susan and my bedroom! Then we opened the gifts from Santa Claus that he left in and near the girls' stockings by the fireplace upstairs. Then we migrated downstairs to open family gifts from beneath the Christmas tree in the family room. I lit a fire in the fireplace while Susan made homemade pizza, and we ate our supper in the living room. We played games and ate snacks at the coffee table while the fire died down. Then we all camped out for the night in Susan and my bedroom.

Hillary, Abigail, and Suzanna waited impatiently before the pile of gifts from Santa Claus.

Santa usually brings new pajamas as part of the girls' gifts (a tradition from Susan's own childhood days). This year: footie pajamas!

The girls pretended to sleep in order to model how their new pajamas work. Convincing.

This morning we peered out the windows and marveled at the snow drifts that had formed overnight against our neighbors' houses and along the side of our house and down our driveway. It's still blowing and snowing, so I'm not venturing out to shovel or snowblow just yet--let the blizzard stop before doing that, I say. Instead I tried out a new gift that Santa brought Susan and me: an espresso/cappuccino maker! He also brought us an espresso bean grinder, so I ground some beans and made us each a cappuccino. We don't have any flavored syrups at the moment, so they were just plain ol' cappuccinos--very bold coffees, I must say! Should give us both plenty of energy for . . . well, for doing whatever we happen to feel like doing. We're on vacation, so we don't plan on doing much, for a change. Merry Christmas to us! And merry Christmas to you, too!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Season's Eatings

Our nephew Davis makes a fine centerpiece for the dining room table.

House guests do not go hungry at our home, thanks to Susan. This week she has been preparing lovely meals to delight her dad Roger, her siblings, her brother-in-law, and her nephew (and her husband and children, as usual). Let's review, shall we?

Sunday

  • lasagna
  • green beans
  • buttered corn
  • garlic toast

Monday

Tuesday

  • meatballs in gravy
  • mashed potatoes
  • steamed broccoli

Wednesday

  • 17-lb. ham! (courtesy of Roger)
  • cheese buttons (a tradition in Susan's family: homemade noodles filled with cheese, onions, and dill, folded into dumplings, boiled, and served with melted butter)
  • dill pickles

Thursday

  • smoked salmon cheese ball and crackers
  • shrimp cocktail
  • lobster macaroni and cheese
  • crab-stuffed mushrooms
  • oyster "stew" (another tradition in Susan's family; it's a misnomer, though: instead of a stew, it's literally a kettle of warm milk and melted butter with oysters dropped into it)

There's a storm a-brewin' and headed toward this state, and it's expected to affect our area tomorrow and Saturday. Susan's sister Cassie and her husband Nick already changed their flight plans to leave ND from Bismarck on Saturday instead of from Fargo, but will they be able even to get to Bismarck without leaving our house early tomorrow (instead of Saturday, as they had planned)? Their getting home safely is our main concern . . . but here's what they could miss:

Friday
brunch:

  • egg bake
  • sausage
  • banana/chocolate chip/oatmeal muffins
  • fruit salad
  • coffee and fruit juice

supper:

  • homemade pepperoni and Canadian bacon pizza

In the meantime, it's Christmas Eve! Susan started the oyster "stew" early and sent some of it with Roger, Cassie, and Nick, who took the "stew" and the kiddos to Roger's mom Laura's nursing home so that she could enjoy the traditional oyster dish and see her granddaughter and great-grandchildren. Meanwhile, Susan and I stayed behind to prepare the seafood meal for their return.

Laura with her granddaughter Cassie, her son Roger, and her great-grandson Davis

Laura with her great-grandchildren Davis, Suzanna, Abigail, and Hillary

After they returned and we ate supper, we had Davis open the gifts from our family and our daughters open the gifts from Davis and his family . . . just in case they have to leave early tomorrow due to the weather. All the presents were well received, but the very best part of the holiday has been the presence of our extended family. Gotta get to bed now; the girls have written Santa a note, left him some cookies and an empty glass ("There is milk in the fridge; help yourself"), and hung their stockings by the fireplace, so I'd better get to sleep so that Santa can make a stop at our house tonight!

Davis Claus!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Full House

Today was the last day of school for Susan and the girls until January 4! They got to start their holiday break with a family reunion at our house. Susan's dad Roger, his three kids, and their kids were all in our home tonight, and it was very nice to be together again. [Susan's sister Cassie, her husband Nick, and their son Davis arrived from SC on Sunday {remember?}, and Susan's brother Jerrett arrived from Mandan today.]

My break began last week after semester exams ended, so I've been around during the day to entertain our guests while the ladies have been at school yesterday and today. After shoveling the driveway this morning (third time in two days, btw), I made Cassie and Nick a breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon (very dark bacon . . . think "carbon"). Jerrett arrived while Cassie and Nick were getting ready for the day, so I made frou-frou coffees for the both of us (real men aren't afraid to drink frou-frou coffees). Then they all went out to lunch with Roger while I took a turn in the shower and got dressed for the day.

Everyone was back at our house by mid-afternoon, and Susan made us a delicious supper of steamed broccoli, meatballs, and mashed potatoes and gravy with an assortment of Christmas cookies for dessert. The adults hung out in the living room visiting and playing with Davis while Suzanna, Abigail, and Hillary suited up and went out to play in the back yard around 9:00 P.M.! Roger went back to his apartment for the night, but everybody else is bunking here overnight. More family time and food will follow tomorrow. Meanwhile, enjoy some photos:

It was a mild night with enough snow on the ground for the girls to bury each other! Here's Suzanna next to Hillary beneath the snow.

Here's Hillary lying atop Suzanna's snow-buried body!

And here are Hillary and Suzanna having just buried Abigail in the snow.

Meanwhile, in the warm living room, a freshly bathed and lotioned Davis played on the floor and looked cute.

He enjoys chillin' with Uncle Kevin. (Who wouldn't?)

Dang, this kid is cute!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Morey Christmastime Get-Together

Susan's aunt and uncle Kathy and Pat are s' good to host the extended family at their lakeside home for special occasions, including holidays. They did so again tonight so that everyone could get together and see the out-of-state relatives who are here for Christmas visits: Susan's aunt Jake, her daughter Kelli, and Kelli's daughter Kynnedi; and Susan's sister Cassie, Cassie's husband Nick, and their son Davis.

There was a lot of terrific food (sausage and dumpling soup, cheese and broccoli dip with corn chips, crab dip with crackers, shrimp with cocktail sauce, crudités, and "holiday baking" galore) and conversation . . . and noise! There were LOTS of little kids running around--very fun! Here are some photographic highlights:

Morey great-grandchildren! Trae (sitting with his daddy Todd), Hillary holding Davis, Abigail holding Kynnedi, Kaden, Suzanna holding Kylan, and Jordan (sitting with his mommy Laura)

Kathy's daughter Tina's son Kylan (with his mommy)

Kathy's son Todd's son Trae (with his mommy Trista)

Susan's aunt Mary's daughter Laura's son Kaden

Laura's other son Jordan

Jake's daughter Kelli's daughter Kynnedi

Susan's mom Sue's daughter Cassie's son Davis (with me)

Nick and Cassie, the parents of Davis

Cassie and Kelli, cousins and best friends

Nick and his son Davis

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Two Angels and a Virgin

As Sunday school director at our church, Susan decided this year to direct a Sunday school Christmas program--the type of thing typical at many churches but not done at ours for a few years (and no, I don't know why not). From my mom's own collection of Sunday school Christmas music, Susan chose A Christmas Carol Pageant, which the children at church performed tonight. There were Bible verses, hymns, carols, and children in costumes. And it was all over in about a half-hour with cookies served afterward. Success!

As husband of the Sunday school director, I enjoyed reserved seating at the front, meaning I got some great photos and videos of the program:

Suzanna in costume as Mary

Abigail as an angel

Hillary as an angel

video

Suzanna sings "Lullaby, My Little Son"

video

Abigail and Hillary sing "Born Is He, the Child Divine"

video

Suzanna and Abigail sing "A Child Thou Art"

The whole herd of becostumed kiddos were cute enough, but I was especially proud of the Moberg dollies and their lovely singing. And I wasn't the only one there proud of 'em. Also in attendance in my pew were Susan's dad Roger (who chauffeured the girls' unofficial foster grandma Monica); her sister Cassie, Cassie's husband Nick, and their 10-month-old son Davis (all from SC); and Susan's cousin Kelli and her 8-month-old daughter Kynnedi (from CO).

Kynnedi, Kelli, and Kelli's mom Jake (who is Susan's aunt) are here for a couple days to see area relatives at Christmastime; and Cassie, Nick, and Davis arrived today to spend several days at our house for Christmas. "Yay!" for the return of family members for the holidays! I'm sure there will be photos and stories to share in the coming days, so come back and check it out.