Sunday, May 31, 2009

THE SIMPSONS Celebrate Syttende Mai!

I just discovered that, on Syttende Mai, FOX aired a Norwegian-themed episode of The Simpsons! I'm watching it right now on Hulu, and it's hysterical. (If that link should be out-of-date by the time you read this and check it out, do an Internet search for "Coming to Homerica," which is episode 21 of season 20 of The Simpsons, aired May 17, 2009.) Out-of-work Norwegian-Americans from nearby Ogdenville come to Springfield and provide low-wage labor, which the citizens of Springfield initially find attractive. However, they soon decide that they don't like how life in Springfield has changed due to the influx of immigrants from Ogdenville, and the mayor vows to close the city's border by building a wall to keep out the Norwegians.

The Norwegian-Americans from Ogdenville sport blond hair and beards, are easy-going and hard-working, and speak with the sing-songy lilt of stereotypical Minnesotans (ever seen the movie Fargo?). As a Scandinavian, a Syttende Mai celebrator, and a former Minnesotan myself, I can appreciate the teasing (and not entirely inaccurate) depiction of Norwegian-Americans; and as an American with a sense of humor, I can appreciate the satirical parallels between Springfield's reaction to immigrants from Ogdenville and America's reaction to immigrants from Mexico.

Thank you, Sons of Norway Blog, for calling this episode to my attention! Fair Reader, if you have 21.5 minutes to spare, get comfy and watch it for yourself.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Trae Magnifique

(After reading this blog post, raise your hand if you "get" its title!)

Do recall, Fair Reader, that last year, our family enjoyed hosting a sleepover for Susan's cousin Todd's son Trae, then just half-a-year old (remember?). Now he's almost two, and he's spending the night with us again! His mommy, Trista, brought him over this afternoon, and the girls were very busy into the evening keeping him entertained. They took out a tub of some of their own toys from a few years ago and showed him how to play with them. They spent a good part of the afternoon outdoors exploring the yard, taking him for wagon rides on the driveway, and eating popsicles. Back indoors, they watched some Wiggles movies with him, introduced him to Huckleberry Fin, walked him up and down the stairway repeatedly, and joined him in playing with the baby and blankie that he brought along.

After supper (more on that below), Susan gave him a bath and then tucked him into bed in Hillary's room. She put pillows on the floor on either side of the bed because Trista warned her that Trae sometimes falls out of bed in the middle of the night . . . and about an hours ago, Susan discovered him on the floor! But he was still asleep and didn't wake up when she put him back in bed. Cute!

Here's the freshly bathed lad playing with one of Hillary's toys, a pink stuffed baby bear that has its own blue pacifier. Isn't he doing a fine job pacifying the baby?

And here's Trae "caring for" Suzanna's baby doll Sophie. A real baby probably wouldn't appreciate a caregiver who lies directly atop it and sticks his fingers into its eyes, but Sophie didn't fuss.

See what a good-humored guy Trae is? Here he's playing with one of Hillary's stretchy toys.

And here's Trae in Hillary's bedroom at bedtime. I'm guessing that his house does not feature any rooms with as much pink in them as Hillary's bedroom has (but there's some token blue for him in the sheets on Hillary's bed).

Because it's Scandinavian Saturday in our home, Trae even got in on some exotic Nordic cuisine. It was Susan's turn to be my cooking partner, so I chose a dessert and assigned her the task of making it while I prepared other items from tonight's menu:

appetizer
lemon Stilton cheese
blueberry Stilton cheese
rye flatbread

The rye flatbread was the Scandinavian element. Stilton cheese is English, but it looked interesting to me when I spotted it while I browsed the cheese case at the grocery store. Fruit-infused cheese? It turned out to be delicious! Susan and I could easily have made a meal out of the appetizer tray with the addition of some green apples, summersausage, and wine. Trae sampled the cheese but had multiple portions of flatbread.

main course
garlic bâtard
Danish kale soup
grilled ocean perch

I saw a recipe for Danish kale soup in a Scandinavian recipe book, but it didn't look all that exciting (one of the steps in the recipe is to "add seasonings as necessary" . . . not a good sign). So I made it up. I sautéed onions and celery with salt and pepper in some olive oil and butter. I added diced carrots, potatoes, parsnips, and turnips and then got them boiling by adding chicken stock and turning up the heat. I added cubed ham and poured in some ham stock. Toward the end of the process, I wilted five stocks of fresh kale in the soup and then added powdered cream of spinach soup and milk. The result was a huge Dutch oven full of hot, creamy soup thick with vegetables and rich with flavor from the parsnips, ham, and kale. Susan baked the bâtard so that we would have hot, crusty bread to enjoy with the soup.

Meanwhile I fired up the grill and loaded several fish grilling baskets with fillets of ocean perch (just because seafood is a very Nordic menu item, even if I couldn't find any actually imported from a Scandinavian country). I rubbed each fillet with olive oil, salted and peppered it, laid fresh herbs upon it (rosemary, sage, and parsley), and topped it with slices of lemon. The fish was perfectly done and was a good match for the soup. I don't think any of the fish made it into Trae's stomach, but he enjoyed the bread and the soup.

dessert
Norwegian baked prune custard

We still had half-a-pound of prunes left over from a recipe that Hillary and I made for Scandinavian Saturday a while ago (remember?), so I found this recipe to use them up for tonight's dessert. Susan stewed the prunes in port, stuffed them with almonds, and arranged them in the bottom of a baking dish. She mixed up a custard and poured it over the prunes and then baked it, let it cool, and put it in the fridge to chill. After supper she made some whipped cream to serve over each portion of the custard. This is not a recipe that we will be making again. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't too thrilling, either. Trae politely sampled a prune, but I think he had the right idea in then ignoring the rest and instead using his fingers to scoop all the whipped cream directly into his mouth.

English cheese, Norwegian flatbrød, French bâtard, Danish soup, Canadian fish, and Norwegian fruit custard--it turned out to be quite an international menu for our Scandinavian Saturday. All in all, the meal was très magnifique (there--does that help you with the title?)!

P.S. To further globalize our food intake, I also bought peach kuchen for our breakfast tomorrow. Yep, may as well add some German food to the mix.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Huckleberry Fin

No, that (the title of this blog post) is not a misspelling. Although Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn uses a different spelling, "fin" is appropriate for the name of Suzanna's new fish.

Yes, today we bought a Betta fish for Suzanna to keep in her bedroom and care for. Her teacher had an aquarium in the classroom this year that she was willing to part with at the end of the year (she's retiring), and Suzanna expressed interest in it. I, however, expressed a strong lack of interest in inheriting a multi-gallon fish tank to store somewhere in the house and to stock with fish and to maintain and to clean up after whenever reckless children knocked into it and overturned it onto the carpet, etc.

However, faithful readers will recall that I used to own a Betta fish myself (read this), and we still have his little Betta-sized fish tank. We told Suzanna that she could stock that tiny tank with fish and keep the pet fish in her bedroom provided that she keeps her bedroom clean (something that she doesn't consistently do). So Suzanna dug out the Betta tank and set it up, and this afternoon Susan brought home the fish from the aquarium that she has had in the library at school this year. They put the fishies into our Betta tank . . . and they all promptly died.

Suzanna was in tears, but I promised that we'd go buy an actual Betta for the tank, and we did. She chose a male with a red belly, blue body, and long, tassle-like fins. She also got Betta fish food and two plastic plants to adorn his tank. After carefully considering many options for his name, Suzanna settled on Huckleberry Fin: "huckleberry" because he's dark blue, "fin" because he's a fish, and the combo because it's a literary allusion, and that's how we roll in our house.

So far he has been very well behaved and, best of all, he has remained living. Let's hope he keeps that up. Here are some pics:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

And the Winner Is . . .

One of the end-of-the-school-year events at the girls' elementary school is an awards program, attended by the faculty, the entire school body, and any members of the public who wish to come. Several evenings ago, the teacher of one of our daughters phoned our home to let us know that our child would be receiving an award, in case we might want to attend--but we were to keep it hush-hush since none of the students would be told of their awards in advance. A couple days later, another daughter's teacher phoned us for the same purpose, and this morning the third child's teacher phoned.

With all three girls receiving awards, Susan and I knew we had to attend (she got her principal's permission to leave school for part of the afternoon). But how could we do it without raising the girls' suspicions and alerting them to the fact that they'd be winning awards? Well, as it turns out, the school ends the awards program with a "graduation ceremony" for the fifth-graders (who will attend sixth grade in a different school building next year), so there was our excuse: we had to attend for Suzanna's fifth-grade graduation!

It was awfully fun to be able to watch the girlies receive their awards. And it was fortunate that we got front-row seats for optimal recording of the event. Enjoy these highlights:

Here is Abigail winning an award for perfect attendance. Her sisters had no hope of winning this award due to their surgeries (remember this and this?). [The award announcer/distributor is Mrs. Meduna, the girls' principal.]

Here is Abigail winning the President's Award for Educational Excellence, which came with a copy of a congratulatory letter from President Obama.

Second-graders were not eligible to receive the President's Award (too young), so their teachers came up with an equivalent award (Outstanding Student) so that they could recognize deserving children in their classrooms, too. Here is Hillary winning that award. (Our neighbor and Hillary's best friend Madeline is seen receiving the award, too, in this clip.)

Here is Suzanna winning the President's Award for Educational Excellence.

Here is Suzanna (and Madeline again) winning the Golden Rule award. In the video clip, Mrs. Meduna explains what this particular award is all about.

Here is Mrs. Meduna announcing the fifth-graders' "graduation."

And here is Suzanna "graduating"!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorable Memorial Day Weekend

We're back from yet another busy weekend! We spent the Memorial Day weekend at my dad's farm and got to see my sister from Omaha, NE, also visiting for the weekend. Here's a photographic recap of the weekend:

On our way out of town Saturday morning, we stopped at the cemetery where Susan's mom, Sue, is buried (a sad anniversary: Sue died 10 years ago this past January). Susan and the girls had decorated Sue's grave a few days earlier but had trouble getting a wooden cross into the ground, so I helped with that and then had the blondes pose. The pretty ladies are as colorful as the pretty flowers surrounding them!

My sisters and I take turns buying flowers for our mom's grave, and this year it was my sister Cathy's turn. Because she lives in OR, she ordered this beautiful arrangement for us to pick up from the flower shop in Tioga, ND on our way to Dad's. After we got to Dad and Beverly's and exchanged hugs and kisses with them and Sandy, we all headed to the cemetery to decorate Mom's grave and visit the graves of other relatives buried there.

Here are the beautiful blondes posing with me at my mom's grave. What you cannot see are the swarms of mosquitoes that defied the wind and persisted in attacking us the entire time we were at the cemetery.

Here are my sister Sandy and I at Mom's headstone.

We brought a belated Mother's Day gift for Beverly: flowers in purple, her favorite color. Beverly has a couple shepherd's crooks in the front yard from which to hang plants, and these purple flowers looked nice hanging there this weekend.

We brought an early Father's Day gift for Dad: a bird feeder made to look like a barn (since he lives on a farm). We also brought bird seed, and we filled the feeder and hung it on a shepherd's crook near the flowers. Both yesterday morning and today, little yellow and gray birds enjoyed the feast!

At the end of fourth grade for Suzanna, I gave her my trombone (remember?) so that she could take band lessons last summer and then join band in fifth grade. Well, Abigail's fourth-grade year is winding down, so Sandy--who drove to Dad's from Omaha--brought her saxophone for Abigail to use for lessons this summer and band in the autumn. Isn't that nice?! Here's Sandy demonstrating how to put together the instrument. (By the by, when it's time for Hillary to start band, she will play the flute that was Susan's when she herself was in band. Aren't we s' good to recycle?)

Beverly's great-granddaughter Cady spent Saturday night at the farm. Her dad brought her out Saturday evening, and her mom picked her up Sunday morning. In between, Cady did a lot of sleeping . . . but we still got a little playing in! She's a good-natured baby.

Suzanna and I made supper for Scandinavian Saturday! It was interesting to do so in somebody else's kitchen, but Beverly told me where to find things, and it all turned out well. Appetizer: shrimp and crab salad -- rye/caraway crackers and garden herb crackers -- dill pickles; Main Course: Swedish meatballs in gravy -- steamed baby potatoes in butter and fresh dill -- creamed peas with fried onions and bacon; Dessert: angel food cake -- homemade whipped cream -- homemade fruit sauce of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries simmered in the juice of a lemon with sugar and cardommom added

Sunday night Beverly made a big supper of ham, scalloped potatoes, creamed corn, sweet potatoes, and salads, and Sandy baked an apple/rhubarb dessert. Beverly invited her son and his wife (Dennis and Julie) as well as my aunt Penny (Dad's sister) to join us. The photo above is of Dad and Beverly relaxing after supper.

And here's Dennis.

And here's Julie.

And here's my sister Sandy, the dessert baker.

And here's my aunt Penny.

And here's Bandy, Dad and Beverly's puppy. She was thoroughly overstimulated this weekend by the girls and me, so she's probably enjoying a quiet night tonight. Susan, the girls, and I stopped in Tioga on our way home from Dad's and enjoyed a supper of chi-chi burgers, onion rings, French fries, and vanilla malted milkshakes at the Bobbi Sox drive-in restaurant (remember?). We still had enough time to get to Dickinson well before dark, meaning it was a lot easier for me to see the numerous deer standing along the roadside the entire way home. But we're home now, safe and sound, with fond memories of another busy weekend.

P.S. Compare this year's Memorial Day weekend at the farm with last year's.

P.P.S. See my sister's take on the weekend here, here, and here!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Five Score Years Ago . . .

My cousins' grandpa Morris died last week; he was 99.5 years old! Because I spent a lot of my childhood at my cousins' house, and because Morris was always there, he felt a bit like my grandpa, too, when I was growing up. I attended Morris' funeral this afternoon in Tioga (Susan and the girls stayed behind; they all still have school). One of the things that Morris was known for was his ability to recite selections that he had memorized long ago, including the Gettysburg Address, which he would often deliver with great expression at patriotic gatherings such as programs for Memorial Day or the 4th of July (he's even been featured on the news doing so). In honor of that, the minister recited the Gettysburg Address today in much the same way that Morris often did. It was a nice touch that everyone who knew Morris understood as soon as the minister began with "Four score and seven years ago . . ."

The ladies from Morris' church served a delicious lunch after the funeral, and in the room where Dad, Beverly, and I ate (Dad sang a song for the funeral), we watched a slideshow, set to music, that featured photos from throughout the years including family as well as farming: from the implements that Morris used when he started farming in the '20s (which required horses to pull them) to the huge tractors and other machinery that Morris and his family were using when he retired from farming a couple decades ago.

Morris had two sons--both deceased now--the younger of whom was my uncle Jerol, married to my dad's sister Penny. For supper Penny invited the extended family to the Jungle, a restaurant in Tioga, and I snapped a buncha pics. Here are some highlights for those of you tuning in to see photos of the family:

my aunt Penny, Morris' daughter-in-law

Dad and Beverly

my cousins Brenda and Jerry, two of Morris' three grandchildren (Penny and Jerol's children)

Darren (Morris' other grandchild; Penny and Jerol's other son), Brenda, my cousin Myrna (Dad and Penny's brother Shine's daughter), Dad and Penny's cousin LeeAnn (their dad's sister's daughter), Penny's hair to LeeAnn's right, Morris' niece in front of Penny, and Brenda's son Nick in front of Darren

my step-aunt Janet (Shine's wife), Wanda (Jeff's wife), my cousin Jeff (Shine's son), and Myrna

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Recitals and Rhubarb

It was another busy weekend for the Mobergs. Saturday morning, the university held its commencement ceremony (for the largest graduating class in its history), so I was robed in my academic garb for that and spent some time afterward shaking hands with and hugging graduates. Then I had just enough time afterward to mow the lawn before the girls' dance recital in the afternoon.

It was held in an auditorium at the university but put on by the girls' dance studio, Academy of Dance. The program was called "Back to the '80s" [which was misspelled "80's," but who am I to judge?]. Suzanna and Abigail's Ballet IV class danced to the theme song from the movie Chariots of Fire, and their Tap IV class danced to the theme song from the TV series Rags to Riches.

Abigail is front and center, and Suzanna is to Abigail's left. This is their Ballet IV class.

Hillary's Ballet III class danced to "Menuet Célèbre" performed by the Zagreb Philharmonic Chamber Studio [although what that song has to do with the 1980s, I don't know], and her Tap III class danced to the theme song from the TV show Pound Puppies.

Here is Hillary dancing with her Ballet III class.

When we got home, I cleaned up the grill and the fire pit, and for supper we had grilled brats (well, turkey sausages, but we ate them covered with sauerkraut and brown mustard, so it was like bratwurst) on the veranda while a fire crackled in the fire pit on the ground behind us. Then we roasted marshmallows over the fire for dessert. Summer has begun!

This morning Suzanna and Abigail's choir sang for church, and Susan joined the adult choir. After dinner at home, we went driving in search of Vang Lutheran Church to join their local Sons of Norway lodge for a Syttende Mai celebration! Yes, the 17th of May ("Syttende Mai" in Norwegian) is Norway's Constitution Day (read this, this, and this), similar to our Independence Day on July 4th. Sons of Norway lodges around the world celebrate the holiday in recognition of our Norske heritage. The Vang Lodge of Dunn County invited the Hardanger Lodge of Dickinson to join them for a celebration today, and we were game. Their lodge meets at a Norwegian church out in the country, so the first step was to find it! We used these directions to drive just north of Manning and then east several miles on rather well maintained gravel roads, and we found the church on the top of a hill.

It was overcast and windy today. The sky made for a pretty backdrop for all our photos of the church (I'll spare you the entire collection), but it was chilly outside, and we nearly blew off the hilltop when we weren't inside the building or the vehicle! Cute detail: When we first arrived, Hillary opened the van door, stepped outside, closed her eyes, breathed in deeply, and said, "Mmmmm, smells like Tioga." She meant my dad's farm between McGregor and Battleview (north of Tioga); she was recalling and appreciating the smell of fresh air out in the country. Atta girl!

As it turns out, members from our lodge far outnumbered members from the host lodge! We even held our business meeting, conducted by our lodge president, while their members quietly observed. Then it was time to dance around the maypole! Some Vang and Hardanger lodge members had built and decorated a maypole, which they set up in the back of the church because it was too windy outdoors. Our lodge president asked the girls to sing with him during the maypole dance, but they wanted to be dancers instead. They were the first three to volunteer . . . and then it was like pulling teeth to get adults to grab a ribbon from the maypole and join them! (Susan and I declined; she was taking photos, and I was videotaping.)

"Pretty-please won't some adults join us for the maypole dance?"

The dance was pretty much a disaster. People didn't "get" the instructions for how to weave around one another while dancing in order to make the ribbons wrap around the pole in a pretty pattern. In no time, the ribbons were tangled, people were out of order and going the wrong direction, and the maypole looked like someone had attacked it with Silly String. They unwrapped the maypole and tried the dance a second time with better results, but they weren't winning any maypole dancing contests, that's for sure. It was the thought that counted.

Pretty altar, huh?

The maypole itself was a carpet roll that the Vang Lodge president had spent hours and hours wrapping in green twine. She also decorated an umbrella with plastic flowers for the top. Our lodge president built the wooden base.

Here's the crew "dancing" around the maypole . . . rather like bumper cars driven by alcoholics. Notice the ribbons entangled in midair above the woman in white slacks. Yeah, just getting the ribbons to touch the maypole itself was a challenge.

The maypole dancers.

Afterward we regathered in the church basement for a potluck meal (at about 3:30 or 4:00 P.M.!). It was absolutely delicious, just like the potlucks that I was used to attending while growing up. There were several homemade salads (including a potato salad that tasted just like my mom's), baked chicken with a savory onion sauce over it, a crock pot of baked beans with huge chunks of bacon, and a great selection of desserts, including Norwegian waffle cookies, sandbakkels, and a rhubarb dessert with a lemon and whipped cream topping. The church has no running water, so we drank bottled water and coffee made from water that the ladies had hauled in. (When our daughters learned that the bathroom there was an outhouse, they all three suddenly needed to use the restroom. Suzanna came back and announced that she had used two pumps of hand sanitizer to clean the toilet seat before she sat down.)


They drew names throughout the afternoon for various door prizes. There were potted plants on the tables in pots decorated with Norwegian flags. A woman next to us who won one of those potted plants gave it to us since she lives in an apartment and had no place to plant it. The really big prize was a lawnmower that one Vang Lodge member bought and donated. He said, "Something just told me that I should do this, so I did." And aren't we glad he did because . . . I won it! When mowing the lawn yesterday, I thought to myself, "This mower is 13 years old; I wonder when it'll need to be replaced." And lo and behold, today I won a replacement!

How in the world was I supposed to get a lawnmower home from a rural church about 40 miles away when driving a minivan stuffed with children? I got the rear seat forward far enough to accommodate the dimensions of the lawnmower's base, and we folded down the handle so that it fit just fine in the back of the van. The gentleman had even filled it with oil and gasoline and started it before bringing it to the church; he wanted to make sure that it worked. Awesome!

Afterward we took a scenic route home, driving north to Dunn Center and then west from there past Lake Ilo to Killdeer and then south through Manning again to Dickinson. I had never been to Dunn Center, and it was so close; and Lake Ilo is the likely site for our lodge's midsummer picnic, so I wanted to know where it was. And we still had enough time to stop at home to clean up before heading to the next obligation: the girls' piano recital.

Here is the girls' piano teacher, Mrs. Vold, posing with the little pianists.


Here is Hillary performing "Firefly."

Here is Abigail performing "Pirate of the North Sea."

And here is Suzanna performing "Warrior Brave."

The girls each did a fine job, as did Mrs. Vold's other students. Afterwards we gathered in the fellowship hall of the church where the recital was held (the church where Mrs. Vold's husband is pastor) and had treats and punch and coffee. When we got home, everyone was quite ready for bed! Aren't weekends supposed to be relaxing?!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Two Days for Susan

Happy Mother's Day! We already had a few things scheduled for today that would prevent this from being entirely an all-about-Susan day . . . so we spread the celebrating out over yesterday and today!

For a gift for Susan, the girls and I knew that we wanted to upgrade some of her kitchen items: replace scratched-up pans and baking sheets, cracked measuring cups, etc. We also wanted to add pieces that she didn't already have but could use; after all, she's quite the culinary queen, and she deserves fine instruments with which to perform her art and craft. But what do we really know about exactly what she wants or could use? So I told Susan outright what her gift was going to be . . . and then invited her to go shopping for it with us! Hey, at least she got to pick out things that she wanted and didn't have to deal with our clueless selections. We went shopping yesterday before and after supper and again today after dinner, and Susan was able to select cookery that meets her standards and fits in with her current collection.

The girls got Mommy something of their own, too. Suzanna and Susan had to go to the mall a few days ago on an errand, and Suzanna snuck along some of her own cash. When they arrived at the mall, Suzanna sent Susan on her way to one store while Suzanna hustled alone down to Bath and Body Works and perused the possibilities, finally settling on a collection of travel-sized sprays and lotions in a decorative basket. She also opted to buy a gift bag. Having made the selection and purchase all by herself, she was proud as can be and could hardly wait to tell me all about it. I wouldn't let her show me the gift, though, telling her that I wanted to be surprised and wait until Mommy opened it . . . and that about sent Suzanna into nervous ticks. For days she kept offering to sneak me a peak, but I politely declined. Ah, the torture; it was rich.

Anyhoo, Suzanna did a fine job of selecting a lovely basket and travel-sized products in a scent that Susan liked, and that gift was from all three girls. The kitchen items were from all four of us, as were three dozen flowers, too: roses, carnations, daisies, etc., mostly in shades of pink (except for the daisies). And of course there were the meals: supper last night at Applebee's, dinner today at Bonanza, and supper tonight courtesy of KFC. Yummo on all counts!

And then there were the special events. Last night Susan and I went to the new Star Trek movie . . . and it was terrific! This afternoon we went to a performance by Form & Fusion, the dance troupe at the university, and it, too, was very enjoyable. Other special events: Hillary's choir sang for church this morning, and tonight the girls had dance practice . . . yes, on Mother's Day. That inconvenient intrusion on our evening is what caused us to do our dining out last night and to do take-out chicken for supper tonight--so that we could wolf it down before having to shuttle the girls off to the dance studio. On Mother's Day. (Bitter much?)

All in all, though, it was a good celebration of Susan, who is a great mother and deserves the recognition.

P.S. Yesterday was the first lawn mowing of the spring. It has begun . . .

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bureaucracy

I was recently elected to serve on the Faculty Senate at the university where I work. Today was the last meeting for this school year, and I was invited to attend; my term doesn't begin until the fall, but the Senate president though incoming senators might like to be introduced and get a taste of how the meetings are run. So I thought, "What the heck?" and attended.

Big mistake. Because I was there and visible, I was nominated, seconded, and voted unanimously onto a committee before I had even gotten comfortable in my seat. And this committee happens to be a one-person committee: the Committee on Committees, of which I am now the chair. It means that I am responsible for rounding up people to fill all the open slots on the various committees across campus. Yes, a committee whose purpose is to fill other committees. And a "committee" of which I am both the chair and the sole member. What an honor.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Friends and Fargodome

We're back now from a busy, friend-filled weekend. Friday we drove to Jamestown and stayed in a hotel with a swimming pool, in which Susan and the girls frolicked while I powered up the laptop and got some work done in the hotel room. After enjoying the Comfort Inn's continental breakfast the next morning, we drove to Fargo, shopped at the Great Harvest Bread Company, ate at Extreme Pita, and attended a soccer game to watch Megan play. She's the daughter of our friends Jeff and Janelle, and watching her game gave us a chance to see her doing something that she enjoys, to visit with Jeff, and to learn more about soccer via a steady of stream of questions directed toward Jeff. He was patient, though, and still allowed us to stay overnight at their house as we had planned.

Megan stands alert with her eye on the ball.

Hillary hangs on Jeff and tests the strength of my back.

You see, we went to Fargo this weekend to attend the Billy Joel/Elton John concert at the Fargodome Saturday night, and Jeff and Janelle, who didn't intend to go to the concert themselves, were kind enough to agree to watch our kids for the evening. In the meantime, however, Jeff himself won tickets to the concert! So it ended up that they got a babysitter to stay at their house with all our kids, and they, too, went to the concert (although they weren't seated by us).

Since Jeff and Janelle wouldn't be going to the concert (originally), we had arranged to meet our friends from East Grand Forks, MN and go with them instead; and after supper, Jay, Erin, Nicole, and Jesse met us at the Fargodome to find our seats (we were seated together) and settle in. (While waiting at the Fargodome for them to arrive, Susan and I saw and visited with several people we know: some students and a coworker, Josh, from the university; a former coworker of mine, Pat, from East Grand Forks; and Bev and Wayne from Warren, MN. Susan used to teach with Bev, and she was one of several of Susan's coworkers who toured Europe with us about 14 years ago.)

It was a good concert: 3.5 hours of non-stop music! Billy and Elton started off playing piano and singing together; then Elton had a session alone; then Billy had a segment alone; and then they ended by playing together again. The downfall: the row of acting-younger-than-we-are ladies in front of us who were drunk and getting drunker throughout the night. They stood and swayed/danced through much of the concert (in between trips to the beer stand), blocking my view of the stage and even of the view screens hanging above the stage. Consequently, the experience overall was more like listening to a CD than watching a concert. The night ended well, though: we wrapped it up with adult beverages and Taco Bell takeout in Jay and Erin's hotel room before heading back to Jeff and Janelle's.

Mr. Joel

Sir John

This morning Jeff and Janelle carted their family off to their Sunday morning church obligations, and we met Jay, Erin, Nicole, Jesse, and Nicole and Jesse's kids (Jay and Erin's kids were still with Jay's parents) at International House of Pancakes for brunch. After Jay and Erin picked up their kids, Erin and Susan went shopping while Jay and I took the kids out for frozen custard at Culver's and then to a park so that our kids could spend some time together, too. After we bid them adieu, we made it to Bismarck in time to have supper at Olive Garden. After a whirlwind weekend topped off with a satisfying meal, it was a very sleepy drive back to Dickinson!

Suzanna, Hillary, and Abigail pose outside the restaurant before the others arrive.

Hillary, McKenna with Mya, Suzanna, Abigail, and Ethan pose after brunch.

Hannah and Gabriel pose before frozen custard.