Dad Garages | May 25, 2022

It’s graduation party season, which means that Kyle gets continuous access (and I get continuous commentary) to some of the awesome garages in Grand Forks.  Before we were married, I foolishly assumed the purpose of a home garage was to protect your car from the elements.  Now, after eighteen years with a guy who feels about grass edging the way I feel about throw pillows, I know that a garage is more than a place to store Fourth of July decorations; it’s a way of life.

Specifically, it’s a home-at-home for the type of dad who owns more than one hammer because “they do different stuff.”  For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to call these Dad Garages, even though HGTV insists they are Man Caves (or Mantuaries, which…well, is hard to believe is a common usage) and even though plenty of women and child-free men hang out there.  The thing is, women trust themselves to also sit inside the house, and child-free men don’t need to aggregate all of their possessions into a single room so as to protect it from sticky-fingered/-bodied goobers.  Related, an important part of being a dad is comparing your cool crap to the cool crap owned by other dads, and so a garage is necessary for a dad to causally display his collection of Bluetooth headlamps and combo digital skate sharpener/fish knife/engine de-greaser so that his friend dads can say, “Oh’d you get that at Scheels?  How much’d that set you back?”

The baseline requirement for a Dad Garage is a place to seat at least six adults.  Appropriate seating is crucial because you want to be able to sit in the garage but also still have full visual and physical access outside the garage so as to get your daily required fresh air and monitor all passing vehicles.  Plus, if it’s cold enough, a dad will usually supplement his in-garage heat (because this is North Dakota and a heated garage should be a right, not a privilege) by dragging a fire pit onto the driveway, meaning all of the dads need to be able to watch that the kids don’t mess around with it and also say things like, “Where’d you get the wood, a log guy?  I got a spot down by the river where you can get it for free.” 

To achieve this type of seating, in most cases the vehicles need to be removed from the garage.  One of our friendly neighborhood dads got so tired of moving his truck in and out for parties that he added on an extra bay – not for seating, but to park his truck.  His logic was that people needed direct access to the bathroom inside the house, and if he put seating in the additional bay (instead of the main) everyone would have to walk around his vehicle to go inside.  This was very thoughtful, and also made Kyle very jealous.

Speaking of the bathroom and Kyle being jealous, another one of the dads didn’t want his gentleman friends to have to take off their shoes every time they had to go.  As such, he put a little fenced-in enclosure outside of a garage side door so that the dudes could do their business under the watchful eyes of the moon and stars and nothing else.  As you know, Kyle was pretty put-out that his outdoor bathroom opportunities were taken away when we moved to town, so I hear about that privacy fence a lot.

Typically, seating is accomplished through camping and deck chairs; however, when a dad is really serious about fun he will incorporate bar seating (and, of course, a bar) into the space.  If you’re going to have a bar, you might as well get some beer taps, and if you’re going to get some beer taps you might as well get a kegerator, and if you’re going to get a kegerator you might as well add in those bottles that dispense alcohol shots, and if you’re going to have hard alcohol you probably need cabinetry for all that glassware, and if you’re going to have glassware you should probably get a sink, and really, every garage could use a sink because hoses “do different stuff.”  Our garage has a fridge and a deep freeze, which is “okay for now,” according to Kyle.

After that, the sky’s the limit for Dad Garage features.  One of our friends was recently divorced and Kyle went over to his new house “to check on him.”  Three hours later he came home and announced the friend has a TV and a surround sound system AND a couch; “So he’s fine,” Kyle said.  Another dad put in a window and bench seating along the back so that his kids could have their own warming house – which also serves to educate those boys on space layout options for their own turn as a Dad Garage owners in the future.

For my part, I support Dad Garages by saying, “Oh, really?” and “That sounds neat.”  When I am invited to sit in one, I bring bars and comment on the importance of being outside as much as we can and also, is that a new “I got lei’d in Hawaii” sign, because I really like it.  I also commiserate with Kyle that ours is filled with our post-move junk and dream about the day when Kyle can have a pee spot all his very own.

The photo above is of Kyle with his light-up bar sign – a gift from our boys who felt “he needed it” and he heartily agreed – in our own garage.

This week’s news has a license plate artist and a pack of scouts.  Read on.


This is the story of Grand Forks’ Cole Reimann‘s life-saving bone marrow donation, and also his work to create a national donor leave policy because one of the reasons donors back out is due to lack of PTO. (Grand Forks Herald)

Teachers in Divide County figured out a way to artistically engage Ransum Zaug, a 14-year-old with autism, and now the sky’s – and also, the map’s – the limit. (KFYR TV)

Two parks in Mandan now have Play Communication Boards to help kids interact with one another. (KFYR TV)

Devils Lake Scout Pack 28 gathered up more than 1,665 pounds of donated food for Hope Center. (Devils Lake Journal)


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A thing of beauty | May 18, 2022

I am writing this from a massage (which is aggressively vibrating like the engine room in a submarine) chair at the nail salon, where I am getting a pedicure.  Since you didn’t ask, my polish color is a coral-ish named “I Eat Mainely Lobster” – which is purely aspirational since the last time I had lobster was 2021 and it was a part of a bisque so its statehood was unknown.  I am getting a pedicure because society has generally agreed that painted toenails are a basic expectation of summertime grooming, like wearing a bathing suit under your clothes – or, in the case of my husband, as clothes – just in case.

I am very aware of society’s base-level expectations of beauty because I am the dictionary definition of doing the absolute bare minimum.  The other day I styled my hair after a lobster bisque-esque period of time of braids and ponytails, and three of my coworkers asked, “Whoa, why are you all dressed up?”  The week prior, I was complaining to my friend that I am starting to look old and she said, “Well…do you use…some…thing?”  Not, “Do you use this serum?” or “Have you tried this treatment?”  Just, “Do you put absolutely anything on your face besides the Earth’s oxygen?”

I wasn’t always like this.  Back in THE OLD DAYS, I would spend hours plucking and feathering and masking and filing, and squeezing things in and pushing things up, and saying “If I ever got a tattoo, it would be a permanent wing eyeliner” and “Ugh, no, I can’t wear that to Saturday brunch; that’s a Sunday brunch outfit.”  But then I became the mother of two boys, and it’s hard to put in a lot of effort when my target audience thinks the perfect look is a baseball cap, cut-off sweatpants, and a box of farts.

My sweet, darling, muddy, oblivious personal universe has very low expectations of my appearance because, as Kyle says, “They like me for me” (and for my ability to make macaroni and cheese).  For example, my ten-year-old tells me I look beautiful when I wear a pair of pajama bottoms with a satin waist-tie.  When I ask my seven-year-old to pick out earrings for me, he always goes to a fist-sized pair of sparkly jack-o-lanterns that I got for a Halloween costume because “They are the prettiest.”  That same seven-year-old went through a period where he would wipe things on my clothes (usually boogers) so that his own didn’t get dirty.

As my boys are perfectly satisfied with my appearance, it’s hard for me to justify (to myself) breaking away from all the mac-and-cheese compliments for spa treatments and shopping trips.  While I used to spend hours upon luxurious hours combing through clothing racks and testing out makeup samples, now my mantra is “Get in, get out, get back into those booger-wipers.”  A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to shop for a bit with another mom, and it had been so long since I’d browsed that I’d almost forgotten how to do it – as evidenced by the fact that I bought a crop-top see-through army green tank-top that I’m apparently going to wear on my leg because that’s the only place it will look good.

I know for a fact that my sons would go with me to get a pedicure if I asked.  They would sit there and hum along with the chair vibration and drink their little bottle of water and have a grand time – and then never willingly go back.  I know this because my seven-year-old recently pulled out my box of nail stuff and demanded a manicure, and I got halfway through one hand when he said, “That’s good,” and then spent the next week with one-half of one-hand haphazardly painted until he figured out he could pick off the remaining polish with a wooden sword.

Even though pedicures pull me away from my pajamas and fart boxes, and even though I have a nail salon’s worth of polish under my sink, I will do them forever because if my last bastion of beauty is lobster coral nails, you can bet your bippy that I’m tipping my sword to the professionals.

I’m not alone in this sentiment because I’m currently sitting next to a lovely woman who told me that she gets pedicures because she recently had knee surgery and it’s good for the scars when the pedicurist massages her legs.  “I suppose I could do it myself,” she said with North Dakota pragmatism.  “Why on Earth would you do that?”  I said.

At some point in the near future my children will no longer want to hang out with me, and then (possibly) I’ll get back to the glamorous life.  Or, maybe I’ll create a club for situationally-similar moms where we organize day-long fishing-and-bonding trips for our children and their fathers at resorts that are conveniently located near spas and mini-malls.  In the meantime, I will admire my perfectly-painted toes from the driver’s seat of a go-kart while my seven-year-old eloquently shouts, “We’re going so fast that my spit is coming out of my mouth!  VROOM VROOM VROOM!”

The photo above is of Kyle at said go-kart track in Fargo.   You’ll be happy to know that he is tall enough to ride the bumper cars.

This week’s news is about a marathoner, a makeover, and a mayor.  Read on.


Edmore’s Holden Mack is looking for the group of people who rescued him from his burning truck so that he can thank them in person. (Grand Forks Herald)

Alivia Lowery was Williston’s Mayor for a Day thanks to her award-winning essay. (Williston Herald)

After running his first marathon in Fargo in 2015, Grand Forks’ Nate Lizakowski is set to complete 50 marathons in 50 states. (Grand Forks Herald)

Children’s Park in Medora got a sweet new makeover thanks to a volunteer crew of 80, who power washed and re-stained all of the wooden equipment and replaced the rubber mulch. (Dickinson Press)

The Minot Girl Scouts Troop 10028 earned a badge for kindness by planting flowers, bagging and carrying groceries, and handing out cookies. (KX Net)


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Hockey Bubbes | May 11, 2022

My ten-year-old’s hockey team closed out the spring season with a tournament in Minneapolis.  As his mother, I’m legally obligated to tell all of society (but, like, in a casual way) that they went undefeated, and won the championship, and my son and his friend (the team’s two goalies; they each play half-periods) had two shut-outs and the whole thing was very fun.

My parents live in the Cities and attended all of Ten’s games.  The championship was held on Mother’s Day – and so my mom recommended (by saying “Amanda, you need to drink more water and your next column will be about me”) that I use this week’s story to honor those mothers and grandmothers and aunties and next-door neighbors who give the entirety of their love and support to a child athlete without actually caring about the sport itself.  My mom calls them “Hockey Bubbes” because my children call her Bubbe (the Yiddish word for grandma) and so I’ll use that for simplicity’s sake – but really, Hockey Bubbe-dom transcends all activities, genders, ages, taste for concession stand hot dogs, and geographies.

There are three rules to being a Hockey Bubbe.

The first is that you can’t be bothered to learn the rules of the game.  My mother is currently teaching herself another language and has watched hundreds of hockey games; and while those two things are unrelated they are proof that she has both the intelligence and access to understand the general nuances of the sport.  She does not, however, have the interest.  As such, 100% of her understanding of hockey is that the puck has to go into the net more times on one side than the other in order for the game to end.  She knows that icing is more than a topping on a cake…but she definitely can’t identify an icing call when it happens. 

This lack of knowledge does not keep her from commenting on the game, of course; which she does from the puck drop to the handshake (I also have this gift of non-stop chatter, and I’d like to formally and deeply apologize to any past or future moms who have the misfortune of sitting in my general vicinity.  Thank you for not turning around and saying, “Jeepers creepers, Amanda, shut your piehole.”).  A Hockey Bubbe’s commentary is accurate maybe once every thousand times.  She will yell “Hustle!” during an end-zone penalty kill, or “Get to the net!” to a player who is already off-side.  At this recent tournament, the buzzer rang to indicate the end of the period.  One of the opposing players tipped the puck into the net as he skated back to the bench.

“Goal!”  My mom shouted at the ref.

“The period is over,” I said.

“So what?”  She said.

“So…the game is stopped,” I said.

“Well, that doesn’t seem very fair,” she said.

Fairness is the second rule of Hockey Bubbe-ness.  In the case of my mother, she wants everyone to have fun and feel good but she also only wants her own grandchildren to win.  As my son is the goalie, this means that she demands that every game end with a 1-0 score.

It also means she doesn’t like any cheering against her own grandchildren and/or their teammates.  My son was scored upon in the second game and the other team (unsurprisingly) celebrated.

“That is terrible,” my mother said.  “Look, they made him feel sad.”  And then, loudly, “That is terrible.”

A few seconds later, my son’s team scored, and my mother jumped to her feet and cheered,

“Great job, [kid’s name]!  Great job, [another kid’s name]!  Great job, [a third kid’s name who was not on the ice]!  Whoop whoop whoop whoop!  Beat their butts!”

Finally, the last rule of Hockey Bubbe-ing is to have opinions on everything.  Here are a few of the exact comments that came out of my mother’s mouth over the weekend:

“What was that penalty?  Hooking?  I think that was tripping.”

“That ref needs to stop blowing his whistle, I have things to do today.”

“I don’t like the color of those jerseys compared to the other team.”  And then, when it was communicated that the Home team always wears white, “I want to see a few alternates.”

Obviously, there is no greater fan than a Hockey Bubbe.  Also, obviously, there is no one who can move on from a game and onto the next activity faster.  To quote my mother when my son emerged from the locker room after his championship win: “You’re the best goalie in the world, now let’s go to lunch.” 

The photo above is of the boys holding their championship trophy – because, you know, legal obligation.

This week’s news has an interactive playground and not one, not two, but THREE TV shows.  Read on.


Connor George has a sweet new playset thanks to Make-a-Wish North Dakota. (Jamestown Sun)

Heart River Elementary School now has the first interactive indoor playground in North Dakota, which uses touch projection to keep kids active. (Dickinson Press)

Bismarck’s Cody Adolphson is the winner of the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire,” a TV show where bladesmiths recreate historical weapons. (Hot 97.5)

Congratulations to Halliday’s Chloe Fredericks, who made it all the way to the finale of NBC’s “American Song Contest.” (KFYR TV)

The Badlands will be front and center in a two-part NOVA science series called “Dinosaur Apocalypse,” which will feature the findings from a fossil site near Bowman. (Fargo Forum)


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