Friday, August 22, 2008

Iowa State Fair - World Record Corn Dog Chomp!

Bergers attend record setting fair.
The Berger family helped set a World Record at the Iowa State Fair last week -- sort of. After a very early departure (1:00 a.m.), we arrived in Des Moines early in the morning. We started off with a bang during what was called a "record-setting chomp" durig the opening ceremonies of the fair. The ‘Corndog Chomp,’ set a record for the most people simultaneously eating corndogs. More than 10,000 people packed the Grandstand for the event, with approximately 8,000 of them getting a corndog. Unfortunately, even though we followed all the rules, we did not get any of the dogs!

Not eating a corndog!
The kids are a little disappointed.

Even though we followed the rules, got a number, got a seat, and according to "Van and Bonnie" of WHO radio [my favorite station from my Iowa days], every server is assigned certain rows -- they didn't point out that only certain rows would get a corn dog.
The kids were not so disappointed that they did not get a corn dog, but that we didn't actually help set the record. We had been talking about it for more than a week and even moved our vacation up 1 whole day to participate, only to hear from D.J. and William, "You mean we didn't break the record?"
We could have spent the hour and a half NOT disappointing our kids! One volunteer offered to buy the kids a corndog, (I didn't tell her I have 5 kids!). We declined, but she missed the point -- we were there to participate!
What angers and frustrates me the most was that they knew even from the beginning that not all the people with numbers who were in the stands would get to participate, even though Bonnie from WHO kept repeating that you needed to 'be in the seats!'

The one positive was that we did get in for free, but again, that wasn't the reason we were there. Perhaps I'll write to Van and Bonnie and let them know.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Rumor control

First, the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated!
Although it would be hard to tell from the utter silence at the blog over the last year.
It has not been high on my list of things to do, but I miss it somewhat and do enjoy reading your blogs, so I must keep up my end of the deal.

What have the Bergers been up to for the past several month?
Here is the short and sweet version:

Last Fall, Christin and Todd became GRANDPARENTS!

Keaton James Rietz was born November 20, 2007.

Here are the proud parents, Cody and Maggie, back in December when we went to visit in December.

Maggie says that he is already trying to walk! More pictures to come...

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Other news, we are well on our way to having a petting zoo here in Minnesota.
(We had to give away our dog, Skip, because he killed our first batch of poultry.)
We currently own:
7 cats
2 fish
1 pigeon
13 ducks
26 chickens
3 guineas
1 bottle pig

Most of them are 4H projects, but the chickens will supply us with eggs, and the ducks and pig some meat in the fall. The guineas are supposed to be good bug eaters and don't let strangers on the yard without making a ruckus, so they earn their keep, too.

One other major development in our home is in April, Christin began working for Avera (a large hospital system in Sioux Falls) and Todd is now the stay-at-home parent and home-school instructor. big change, but working out.

Please come back and read again, as I will update the blog more often!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Educational Endeavors

Here is the article from the Marshall Independent about the charter school in Hendricks that Christin and I are working to develop.
Interim board aiming to apply for Hendricks area charter school this summer

By Deb Gau

HENDRICKS, MN — The idea had been taking shape for several months, but now proponents of a charter school in the Hendricks area are down to some of the real work.

“July 6 is the application deadline for the 2008-2009 school year,” Christin Berger said at a meeting Thursday night. If the charter application is turned in on time, she said, “we would have an answer from the state by October.”

The idea of a charter school in Hendricks first started to get attention when Hendricks resident John Thomsen organized public meetings on the subject last year. Area community members like Berger took the idea and began working toward it, meeting with representatives from E.C.H.O. Charter School and EdVisions Inc., a cooperative organization that helps establish charter schools.

The six members of the charter school Interim Board of Directors have officially worked together for about a month and a half, said board member Christin Berger. Their mission — to create a mission and goals for a new school in time for the July 6 charter application deadline.

“The mission statement should be where, why and how in two or three sentences,” Todd Berger reminded the board. “And our vision statement is how we plan to achieve that.”

After a few minutes of brainstorming, Berger came up with an acronym, RIDGE, outlining the group’s key points.

“It’s rigorous, individualized learning that develops relationships in a goal-driven environment with innovative education,” Berger said. “Those could be our talking points, then.”

The board also hopes the charter school can have special emphasis to study subjects like nursing, alternative energy and agribusiness.

The interim board members are residents of Hendricks, Lake Benton and Astoria, S.D. They include former educators and parents of home-schooled children. But what they have in common is a desire for different educational options in their area.

“One thing you want to have (in education) is a love of learning. A lot of kids have lost that by the time they get to high school,” said board member Bob Neff. “A lot of students will go out of state or even homeschool” due to frustrations with traditional classrooms, he said.

Charter schools can help avoid that problem by letting students pursue their own interests, while doing projects involving multiple disciplines.

“If your goal is to be, say, an electrician, you’re going to be more engaged if you’re doing things that will help you reach that goal,” Christin Berger said.

A lot of the specifics of a new school aren’t planned out yet, Christin Berger said, including the number of students it serves. Berger said the board would ideally like to have about 15 students per teacher, drawn from a 50-mile radius around the school.

Based on some of her own education experiences, board member Mitzi Trooien said she thought the 15 student estimate would help teachers give more individual time to students.

“You get to the point where there are so many kids, you lose that individualized education,” Trooien said. “Fifteen kids is so good, it’s small enough that you can see what everyone is doing.”

The board also lacks a sponsor organization to partner with, Christin Berger said, although they are looking for one. Without a sponsor, the charter school can’t become a reality.

One thing board members don’t want is to be called an “alternative.” Charter schools are public schools, they said, only with different teaching methods.

“It’s a public school. It’s just not traditional,” Christin Berger said. “We can more effectively meet the needs of students who wouldn’t do so well in a traditional class.”

The charter school is also not meant to replace public high schools in Lincoln County, board members said.

“We basically hope to strengthen education in the area, not weaken it,” Christin Berger said. “We’re another option, and options are good.”

The interim board meets on Thursday nights in Hendricks. Community members who have questions or are interested in getting involved can contact any of the board members or e-mail

Keep your eye on us... Great things will happen!
And write to your state representatives to urge them not to cap the number of charter schools in Minnesota. Charter schools are the best thing we have going in the state!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Signing Time

As you may already know, we have been working on sign language with all of the kids, and the 3 older ones know and use over 100 signs! They really enjoy it. We use "Signing Time" videos and some books and a website to learn new signs.

Isaiah, at 22 months, knows a bunch of signs, too, and I want to brag a bit. It is amazing how quickly he learns new signs. I brought home a painted turtle last week, and after showing him the sign just two times, he was using the sign and "talking" about the turtle!

Here are the signs he knows and uses:

People: Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, boy, girl, baby

Animals: puppy, kitty, bird, fish, dolphin, whale, owl, shark, monkey, caterpillar, turtle, horse, cow, bunny, butterfly, worm, bug

Actions: potty, sleep, bath, play, more, help me, want, drink, eat, please, thank you, bye bye, sorry, yes, no

Foods: apple, grapes, banana, ice cream, candy, milk, more, all gone, corn, carrots, pear, strawberry, cheese, melon, cheese, fruit, juice

Things: water, book, flower, ball, blanky, car/truck, shoes, socks, Signing Time, flowers, books, tree, playground, tent

Adjectives: clean, dirty, blue, sad

The coolest part is that it has been SO easy. Neither Christin or I had much experience using ASL, we just knew of some recent studies and thought it would be fun (and beneficial) so we started renting the videos from the local Plum Creek Library System and their inter-library loan and it has been so easy!

That's all the bragging for today!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

He's here!

Andrew Benjamin Franklin Berger
was born on Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 10:51 PM.
He weighed 6 lb. 9 oz. and is 19 inches tall.

He is now at Avera McKennan hospital in Sioux Falls as he is having some respiration issues and they don’t want it to develop into pneumonia and he had a very high hematocrit level (too many red blood cells, he's as red as a tomato!) but that seems to be self correcting too. So while he is hospitalized, he seems to be doing well.

They never did put him on an IV, and no antibiotics at all yet. He is not quite so tomato-red as he was yesterday afternoon, they think his high hematocrit level is self adjusting.

Andrew, two days old.
He is not nearly so red as he had been.
So cute, just like his mom.

He tried to sleep all Tuesday night/Wednesday but couldn't with all the people moving around him, attaching probes etc. so last night when he finally tried to nurse he would barely start and then fall right to sleep! Then when the nurse tried to change him he screams like a fire alarm – one long, high-pitched squeal! Christin is staying there with him.

Probably coming home on Friday... I will take the other kids to see him on Friday after school.

Seeing Andrew for the first time at the hospital in Sioux Falls.

Everyone wanted to see, touch, and hold the baby!

Friday, April 27:
Yes, we brought Andrew home today. As much as Isaiah looked like dad, Andrew looks like Mom!!! He has very dark hair and skin (although it is not as red as it had been). He eats well, but does not like to have a diaper changed... as if you needed to know that!
Goodnight. I'm going to go back and not sleep some more.

Isaiah wants to help and hold the baby a lot.
Better than not wanting the help,
but still difficult for a 21-month-old.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Playing Possum

A few weeks ago we came home to our dog Jake carrying something rather large and furry in his mouth. We had been shopping so we had to take the groceries in the house first, but William ran and checked what it was. All we heard was, "Dad, It's a POSSUM!"

Jake had dropped it by now, and their the miserable, ugly thing lay, lifeless and slobbered on. We decided to check it out later as we have already seen dead possums before.

Not long after, we came out so see this day's "Look-what-the-dog-found" prize up close.
As we bent down to investigate, the animal hissed and DJ said, "I don't think it's dead." The possum was 'playin' possum!'

We found the closest item we could put over it, an egg basket, and left it. Hours later we returned again and the creature was still hissing, but was much colder and moving slowly. So we decided to remove the basket and take some pictures!

Afterward we put a board under the basket and brought it to the neighbors to share, although they were not interested, so we brought it another mile or so away to release into the wild, hoping to never see him again.

Marlin Perkins would be proud.

William, Jaqcie and DJ with another participant
in our backyard "catch and release program.
Marlin Perkins would proud.

Possums have little hands with sharp claws.

Ho, Park!

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we get to actually see what the kids do and hear what they have to say.

DJ seems to have an interest in absolutely everything! His current interests include: the Civil War, Orville and Wilbur Wright, builing his own personal flying machine (there are blueprints!), collecting bugs, wrestling, football, baseball, and of course questions about S-E-X.
He has also invented his own language!

He calls it the 'Backwards Language' and to speak it you simply pronounce the words backwards but in the same order. One day he said, "There's only one turn-down to my Backwards Language."

After figuring out that he meant only one 'down-side' Christin and I asked what it could be.

He smiled, giggled and said, "Saying words like 'PARK,' 'MAD' and 'TUB'."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Peter-Fire-Hole Cottontail

Yes there is a story to go with that name...

Back in March, after receiving a very welcome 10-12 inches of snow, William and Jacquie went out side to play. Dad was inside with Isaiah, napping. (Guess which of us was napping!)
They made snow angels, dug tunnels, and threw innumerable snowballs. Much of the time, Jake, our 1 ½ year old black lab played beside them, romping in the snow.

Suddenly, Jake bolted after something, pounced on it, and caught it in his mouth. William yelled, NO, but it was too late. The creature was caught.
I awoke to two kids carrying a large box into the living room and William saying, "Dad, Jake caught a rabbit and he's hurt real bad. We put him in this box."

Sure enough, there was a rabbit, too scared to move, but basically unhurt. It had a scraped ear, some skin torn from a hind leg, and a small puncture in his side, but that is about it. The rabbit was so frighted it was stiff as I wrapped it in an old towel and let the kids hold it.

Jacquie and William on the day they
caught "Peter-Fire-Hole Cottontail."

I succumbed to the pleas to keep it, but "only until it is better." Followed by, "It's a wild animal. It won't live if we keep it." I rummaged through my 'school' boxes and found the hamster cage I knew I had. It wasn't perfect, but it had a waterer, and I knew that it would be safe.

We moved the bunny to the basement and gave it a carrot stick and a cabbage leaf that we happened to have in the refrigerator, but he was too scared to eat. Fortunately in the morning he had eaten all the veggies we had left for him.

By day 2, this rodent had earned a name and the kids thought of it as a pet, even though I repeated "It's a wild animal. It won't live if we keep it." The name started as just Peter, but then gained a life of it own and became, after several incarnations, 'Peter-Fire-Hole-Cotton Tail.'

On day 3 we went to the basement to find that Peter had knocked his new home onto the floor and had escaped. Fortunately for us and him, he was hiding under the shelves.

We tried to coax him into a cardboard box, and when that didn't work we tried to scare him in. He ran and hid under the other shelves. Having never been a scout, but being resourceful none-the-less, I told the boys to go get a string and a piece of the PVC pipe they had been playing with earlier. So with a 2-foot piece of PVC and a shoe string, I fashioned a noose, not unlike one's I've seen in capture alligators... Not that I am comparing this fuzzy little bunny to an alligator, but their claws are sharp and they do bite!

The noose worked fine, it was getting it around his neck that was difficult. At one point he was behind the water heater inside a concrete block, but we got him.

William asked again if we really had to let him go, or if he could just take care of him like a pet. With a tearful goodbye, we let Peter-Fire-Hole Cottontail go in the ditch next to our grove. We left the remaining portions of parsely there for him, but he never even saw them. He was gone after just a moment of hesitation.

Jacquie and William say they have seen Peter at least two times since his successful release into the wilds of our backyard.