Somehow, they manage | January 11, 2023

A month or so ago, Kyle texted me at work and said, “Do you want to be the team manager?”

To which I replied, “I’m sorry, I regretfully have to pass; thank you for asking.”  (I actually think I said, “No frickin’ way,” but this is my story and I’ll tell it how I want.)

Our eleven-year-old is in his second year as a Squirt hockey player.  Grand Forks Youth Hockey recently kicked off the travel portion of the Squirt winter season, meaning the kids now play teams in other cities and not just one another.  The “team manager” Kyle referred to is a Mom who somehow miraculously finds an extra ten hours in a day to arrange all of the non-game activities that come along with toting around fifteen kids and their families from place to place.  Specifically:

  1. Selecting hotels and negotiating room blocks.  A good hockey hotel is located close to the rink; offers rooms with enough space for a hockey bag to be opened and everything inside to spread out to dry without stinking up an entire family’s worth of clothing, snacks, drinks, pool toys, blankets, pillows, takeout pizza boxes, and extra children; serves a free breakfast; has a pool and/or a place for everyone to hang out between games (preferably away from other guests on the RARE occasion someone isn’t giddy with excitement about relaxing in the middle of the equivalent of a Mardi Gras parade); and costs $100 a night.  Did I mention that sometimes the rinks are located in a town with only one option…and it’s an 8-room motel with a shared bathroom and you have to take one of those Tom Sawyer rafts to the rink?
  2. Ordering stuff.  In addition to the briefcases full of cash regularly doled out for skates, pads, helmets, gloves, sticks, practice jerseys, Gatorade, registration fees, gas, hotel rooms, and takeout pizza boxes, it is widely agreed that our little popsicles need promo items to effectively play hockey.  From hats to eight-person ice houses – if you can embroider a last name and a jersey number on it, the team manager has to source, organize, order, distribute, and troubleshoot it.  Also, it sure would be nice if the kids had gift bags filled with tape, snacks (the aforementioned hotel room snacks don’t count), energy chews, knee hockey pucks, and stickers, wouldn’t it?  Yeah, it would.
  3. Coordinating team meals, social activities, and related.  Turns out, restaurants aren’t immediately ready for 50 people who need to eat, drink, and get out of there in an hour.  Who knew?  Fortunately, that’s only one person’s problem – the team manager.
  4. Doing actual management things.  Grand Forks Youth Hockey gives every team manager a backpack filled with all sorts of important gameday items – like, you know, the record book and the First Aid kit.  And, like, you know, Grand Forks Youth Hockey expects someone to do whatever it is they do with all of those objects…which, I wouldn’t know, since I’m not the team manager.

“No problem,” Kyle said.  “I’m sure Youth Hockey will find someone.”

Later that night, after the kids had been scrubbed down and put to bed, Kyle said to me,

“Good news!  We have a team manager.”

And then I said,

“Great!  Who is it?”

And then Kyle said,

“This Other Dad and I are going to split it.”

So then I said,


We blinked at each other for a while.

“Why not?”  Kyle asked.

“Because,” I said.  “It has to be a second-year mom.”  (PS, kids play Squirts for two years, so a second-year mom is someone who has a kid that has already been a Squirt for a year.)

“Why?”  He said.

“Because,” I said.  “That’s just the way it’s done.”

“But why?”  He said.

“Because the second-year moms learn from the previous year’s second-year moms,”  I said, exasperated.  “You were never a first-year mom, so you’re not going to know what to do…which means [deep breath, pause for dramatic effect] NOW I’M GOING TO HAVE TO DO IT.”

“Oh, that’s no big deal,” he said, brushing me off.  “You can tell me what to do.  Besides, the other team manager is our friend, and she can help us.  Like a partnership!”

“Harumph, Kyle,” I said.  “HARUMPH.”

The next day, Kyle met me for lunch.

“We got the hotel for the Duluth tournament,” he said.  “I also went to the embroiderer and picked out a beanie for the boys.”

“Harumph,” I said.

“The Other Dad is going to coordinate the book and the box workers for this weekend,” he said.  “And check it out – he made a song playlist for between whistles.”

“Harumph,” I said, and then, “What about the door signs?”

“What door signs?”  Kyle asked.

Every year, the moms and grandmas get together during a practice to paint large paper signs for the front doors of our houses.  These signs have the kids’ names and numbers and say something like, “Go team!” to make it easier for burglars to figure out who is out of town for the weekend.

Kyle pulled out his phone and typed something.

“Okay, one of the moms said she’d be in charge of the door signs,” Kyle said.  “By the way, I was thinking we should organize a group dinner after the Park River game.”

“Harumph, Kyle,” I said, pulling out my own phone.  “Fine.  Here’s a restaurant in Park River with a kid’s menu.  I’ll call them after we eat.”

“I called them already,” Kyle said.  “They are going to get a bunch of tables ready for us.”


We’ve now had two weekends’ worth of games – and in the most annoying situation ever, Kyle and the Other Dad continue to do a good job as co-team managers.  I keep telling myself it’s because all of us moms have such low expectations for their output that whatever they do seems acceptable – but they approach everything with such gusto that it’s hard to find fault.  They send messages!  They buy pin bags!  They hang out with other dads in the scorer’s box!  They bring the backpack to the rink!  They take the backpack back home!  Sure, the moms have had to redo a few things, but overall they are a major success; so much so, that I’m thinking Grand Forks Youth Hockey should always have dads be team managers – second-year dads, of course.

The photo above is of one of our two team managers.

The Three River Crisis Center in Wahpeton had 1,762 (after finding one hidden away!) pairs of undergarments under the tree this year. (Wahpeton Daily News)

In North Dakota-adjacent news, Red Lake Falls’ Alex Gullingsrud is back on the ice. (Grand Forks Herald)

This is a story about a clock. (KFYR TV)

Teen author and Lansford-ian Lindsey Undlin has written a second book. (Minot Daily News)

Fargo’s Russ and Robin Nelson ate at a different locally-owned restaurant every week and wrote about it on Facebook. (Fargo Forum)

Trust no one at the Dickinson Public Schools Foundation’s annual murder mystery dinner. (Dickinson Press)

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Goalie Mom, or a brief lesson in unclenching | December 7, 2022

When my eleven-year-old was around seven, he came home from hockey practice and announced he wanted to be a goalie.

“Great!”  My husband said.

“Erm,” I said.

Here was my concern: hockey is a team sport, but the goalie’s mistakes stand alone.  In fact, sometimes, the goalie shoulders the burden of the entire team’s mistakes; for example, we were recently at a University of North Dakota hockey game and UND scored on the opposing team’s net. 

“Sieve, sieve, sieve, sieve!” the crowd shouted at the goalie while the goal replayed on the screen.

“See that,” Kyle (as a reminder, a hockey agent) said, pointing at one of the opposing defensemen.  “He lost his man.”

“Oh, yes,” I said, even though I didn’t see because my knowledge of the intricacies of hockey stops at whether they serve hot dogs or brats at the concession stand, and also because it’s hard to keep your eye on everyone when there are ten people quickly chasing a small black disk on a big sheet of ice (and you’re busy eating a brat).

Anyways, I didn’t want my sweet, doe-eyed seven-year-old to face that negative attention, warranted or unwarranted.

“How about this,” I said.  “You can play goalie for your Tuesday practices, and play out for your Thursday practices.”

“I want to play goalie all the time,” he said.

“Let’s start with Tuesdays,” I said.

That plan lasted exactly one week.  On the second Thursday, I popped by the rink after work to pick up our toddler from Kyle and wave to the big boy.  Shore ‘nough, I found him out on the ice in his borrowed goalie equipment.

“I thought we agreed on Tuesdays,” I said to Kyle.

“He wouldn’t get dressed otherwise,” Kyle said.

That first year, he let in approximately nine billion goals.  I sat in the stands scrunched like an old dried-up sponge, searching his face behind his mask for an anticipated torrent of tears.  They never came; instead, he’d dance along to the music that would play during the whistle.

He was still wearing borrowed equipment by his second season – “I don’t want to spend the money if he’s not going to stick with it,” The Killer of Joy told Kyle – although I had willingly agreed to pay for goalie lessons because I needed another thing to obsess over.  Before every practice, lesson, or game I’d say to our son, “Have fun and do your best,” and then spend the next hours and days fretting over why he wasn’t paying enough attention, or getting his stick down fast enough, or saving every shot, or whether the other goalies were better and if they were and he was cut from the team would he have any friends anymore and should we just pack up and move right this second to a town in the middle of the desert that had never seen ice?  WELL SHOULD WE?

Of course, I didn’t want to share these neuroses with an eight-year-old, so instead I’d tamp down every emotion into a tight ball and ask with the eyes of a psychopath, “Do you still like being a goalie, buddy?”  And our son would always answer, “Yes!”

Once, I decided to mention a few of these anxieties to my best friend, who has neither children nor any interest in youth sports.  After a loooooooong pause, she said, “I don’t think he needs goalie camp, I think you need Valium.”

Fast-forward another year, to when my parents met us for one of the final games of the season.  I was sitting in the stands next to my mother, who was talking away about something when she stopped and asked, “Are you holding your breath?”

“Yes, I guess I am,” I said, exhaling quickly.


“I’m nervous,” I said.

“About this game?” 

“About everything,” I said.

“Well, what is the point of THAT?”  She asked, as if I had told her I owned more than one can opener.  “It’s a game, Amanda.  Games are meant to be fun.  Is he having fun?”

She pointed to my son, who was zipping around in his net.

“Yes,” I said.

“If he doesn’t do well, are you going to go out there and play for him?”  She asked.

“No,” I said.

“Then you can either have fun or not have fun, or be nervous or not be nervous, but none of those things are going to change the outcome of this game.”  Then she went back to whatever she was talking about before, probably can openers.

I thought about what she said all summer, through baseball and road trips and goalie equipment shopping trips (because I’m not a total monster).  I thought about it while we were packing up for his first fall hockey tournament, and while we were walking into the rink for the first game.

“Have fun, buddy,” I said, with a depth of emotion that can only come with total enlightenment – because that was what I was going to do: enjoy myself, and my son’s time in the sport.

“Okay,” my son said, not giving a crap about my spiritual growth at all.

Today, fifteen zillion games later, my younger son has also decided to become a goalie.  At one his first games, he got tired of playing, leaned his arm up on the back of his net, and just…let in goals for a while.  Kyle and I were standing together and we burst out laughing (and then knocked on the glass to get him to pay attention).  I may not have yet achieved total Zen, but at least I was having a good time.

“Man, I don’t know how you can stand to be a goalie parent,” one of the moms said to me after the game.  “It would be too stressful for me.”

“I’ve had a lot of practice,” I told her.

The photo above was taken by photographer Jeff Wegge.  My older son (then eight years old) got to play with the Little Chippers during the first intermission of the UND game.  As you can see by his face, he had a REALLY good time.

Caitlynn Towe, Myah Johnson, and MacKenzie Olson of Rugby, Hazen, and Watford City, respectively, are on their way to New York to sing at Carnegie Hall. (KFYR TV)

A Bismarck non-profit called Badlands Search and Rescue now has a pup named Copper. (KFYR TV)

In North Dakota-adjacent news, Breckenridge’s Jared Hoechst was recently honored for saving an elderly couple from a burning vehicle. (KFYR TV)

In celebration of her birthday, West Fargo’s Gowri Pillai has donated 5,000 pounds of food – her 10th year of gathering food donations. (KVRR)

This is a sweet little read about memories. (Minot Daily News)

Bismarck’s Christian and Wilfried Tanefeu had Thanksgiving dinner with their new friend, Kelly Ripa. (KFYR TV)

Minot’s Josh Duhamel – you may have heard of him – is the voice of the main character of a new video game. (Fargo Forum)

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Where the Wild Things Are: The Younger Siblings of Baseball | June 29, 2022

Behold, America’s Pastime.  As the first buds of spring emerge on the branch, so do cleats on the baseline – ready to make and rake their own layers in the dusty tracks like so many generations before.  However, today on Animal Planet‘s “Where the Wild Things Are,” we take you off the baseball field to capture a species rarely seen by the naked eye (because most people wear sunglasses): the elusive, the sugar-filled, the unkempt and unkept…Younger Siblings.

As the title suggests, a Younger Sibling is the latter offspring in a family group that also includes an Older Sibling.  When enrolled in activities such as baseball, these Older Siblings require an excessive amount of attention – from identifying appropriate clothing (“Are we wearing blues or whites today?” a parent will ask, using the royal “We” to identify to the Older Sibling – who rarely knows the location or cleanliness level of any jersey, color notwithstanding), to providing nutrient-rich sustenance (“I hope we’re all hungry for microwaved hot dogs!”), to traveling to and from events (“We have to be at the field at 7am, so maybe we will sleep in the car.”), to watching every moment of gameplay (“Yes, instead of going to bed, let’s definitely talk about that minute detail.”).

An adult brain can only process so many thoughts at once; and, as a result, any Younger Siblings are given the barest minimum of care – basically, parents just make sure to bring them along to wherever they are going.  Left to their own wild devices, these Younger Siblings organize into feral packs, roaming about the ballfield in search of food and fun.  These packs are called “Buddies” because, once in a group, the Younger Siblings eschew their own given names so as to answer to all variations of the name “Buddy.”

Buddies exist everywhere and nowhere.  One minute, they are under the bleachers.  The next, they are in the outfield.  Their location rarely has anything to do with their purpose; they will throw a ball back and forth from inside the bathrooms, or cheer at random for whatever team is in closest proximity from the top of an electrical box.  Often, they will stop what they are doing and have a long conversation with another member of the pack – ending the conversation by slapping one another and shouting, “You’re it!” and running off.

Buddies are particularly hard to identify, as they are always shifting numbers, members, and clothing.  Many Younger Siblings will arrive at the field wearing their SpongeBob jammie bottoms and their Older Siblings’ unused jersey, and leave the field in a pair of shorts and no shirt at all.

Because of these changing facts, and in order to hold up the “parenting” end of being a parent, adults will move their focus away from the Older Sibling long enough to regularly track the general vicinity of his or her younger child.  Once they spot one or more members of their last-known pack, they will shout out an ambiguous missive, such as, “How’s it going, Bud?”  To which their offspring will identify themselves by yelling, “I’m hungry.”

The Buddies’ diet is forged entirely from the nearby concession stand.  This is not to say other options don’t exist; in many cases, the parents of the Younger Siblings will provide a carry-all filled to the brim with healthy/healthy-ish foodstuffs, ranging from sunflower seeds to fruit snacks to the same straight-up actual candy served at the stand.  Regardless of what is provided, the Younger Siblings will wait until the exact moment that the Older Sibling is either up to bat or pitching and then ask for money “to get something to eat.”

“Hang on, Bud, your brother is pitching,” the parent will reply, their eyes glued to the field.

“But I’m hungrrrrryyyyy,” the Younger Sibling will say, invoking a tone which has the effect of completely erasing a parents’ memory of any previously-packed snacks and/or best-laid plans to not buy anything at the park.

“Oh, okay,” the parent will say, producing $5 without actually looking away from the game.  “Bring back change.”

No change will ever return.  Instead, it will be traded for hot dogs and candy bars, as well as cotton candy, Freezees, Ring Pops, and bags of chips.  Once gathered, the Younger Sibling will graciously dole any and all foodstuffs amongst the Buddies, oftentimes forgetting to save enough to fill their own bellies.  Not to worry, though; they will soon be sated as soon as the coach switches pitchers and another Younger Sibling can repeat the same song-and-dance with their own different set of parents.

If, for some reason, the concession stand is closed, the Younger Siblings will console themselves with fistfuls of unshelled sunflower seeds – which they will “eat” by sucking off the salt and spitting into the grass whole, thereby saving themselves the unnecessary exertions of shelling, chewing, or actually consuming any protein.

To get an inside look at this volatile pack environment, Animal Planet embedded one of our top researchers, Dr. Pat Patterson, into what we identified as Buddy Bravo (which was formed after one of the members of Buddy Alpha left to go to Sam’s Club with his grandma).  Here’s what Dr. Patterson had to say:

“I found Buddy Bravo rolling down the pitching mound on an unused field, and I was able to join them by standing near the group until someone pointed at me and said it was my turn.  We played on that field for one hundred hours, and then petted a dog for another hundred hours.  I was briefly a member of Buddy Charlie after a kid named Sam called Finn’s sister a farthead, but we reconvened once Sam’s mom found a bag of balloons in her wagon.  Come to think of it, we never did blow up those balloons; instead, Finn pulled us around in the wagon like a choo-choo train for infinity hours and then it was time to go.  Did I have a good time?  Well, Sam did – wait, is that the ice cream truck?  Can I have $5?”

As Dr. Patterson – who is currently preparing for a similar study amongst Hockey Buddies – noted, Younger Siblings will spend “infinity hours” at the baseball park – time that will never be reciprocated by their Older Sibling.  Yes, one day the Younger Sibling may be at his or her own baseball game, and yes, the Older Sibling may need to come to the field to get his or her mom’s car keys – and, while there, casually glance at the game while mom digs in her purse.  When that happens, nearby adults will coo, “Isn’t it great that he came to watch his brother,” which is the cue to the Older Sibling that they are now allowed to leave to do something better.

Finally, speaking of leaving…all baseball games come to an end – and with it, our migrating Buddies find a soft landing pad on the folded-up lawn chairs of their parents. 

“Can we go to the pool?”  The Younger Sibling will ask, after a final handful of sunflower seeds.

“Sorry, Bud,” their parents will say.  “We have to be back at the field in an hour.”

Join us next week on Animal Planet‘s “Where the Wild Things Are” for a look at the dictionary definition of universal chaos: that time you decided to invite your four-year-old’s entire preschool class to his birthday party.

This week’s news has a swimming lesson and a barbecue.  Read on.

Minot’s Roosevelt Park Zoo is attempting to set the record for the world’s largest swimming lesson. (KX Net)

Fargo’s Johanna Zinke has created a business called Ramp Girl (she’s 10 years old) so that she can sell rare ramps she finds on her family hikes to area restaurants. (Fargo Forum)

Over 5,000 people came out to the 10th Annual Bakken BBQ – which broke records with 46 cooking companies – in order to raise money for Make-A-Wish North Dakota. (Dickinson Press)


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