Old Mill State Park | May 31, 2023

I had 150 million housekeeping items to do over the long weekend so, naturally, Kyle and I threw them all aside and took the boys to Old Mill State Park in Minnesota.  We had actually planned (by “planned,” I mean that Kyle said, “Should we go to Icelandic?” and I said, “Sure,” and then we tossed some sunscreen and water bottles in a backpack and put the kids in the car) to go to Icelandic State Park, which is in North Dakota and not really close to Old Mill State Park.  However, midway through the one-hour drive to Icelandic, Kyle said “Hey, what about Old Mill Park instead?” and when I Googled Old Mill the DNR web page stated that a mama bear and her three cubs had been spotted near the campgrounds.  Kyle’s random thoughts coupled with possible bear attacks were the winning combination for us to throw our unmade plans aside once again and set a new course for Old Mill State Park.

Kyle and I were willing to put the safety of our beloved children on the line because Old Mill State Park was advertised as being the home of…wait for it…an old mill (Sometimes Bears State Park was already taken; ba-dum-ching).  Our oldest son loves touring historic buildings; since that same kid was NOT HAPPY about being on what I had advertised as a “Fun Family Hike!,” we figured he would be mildly placated if said Fun Family Hike! included a mill.

“Let’s go fishing first, then hike,” Eight, who was promised a Family Fun Hike! And Fishing, announced as we pulled into the park.

“NO,” Eleven said.

“We’re going to hike first,” I said.  “It’s too hot for fishing right now.”

“NO,” both boys said.

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” Kyle said.  “We’re going to park the car, walk to the mill, take a little hike around, and then go fishing.”

“FINE,” we all said.

Unsurprisingly, we made it as far as Step One before our plans went asunder – because just down the hill from the parking lot was the sweetest, sparklingest swimming pond you’ve ever seen.  We strolled to a picnic table under a giant shade tree; nearby, a woman lounged half on the beach, half on the grass, reading a book.  Eleven walked out onto the sand and dropped to his bug-sprayed, suntan-lotioned, hiking-socked knees.

“Can I go fishing?”  Eight asked.

“This is for swimming, not fishing,” I said.

“Can I go swimming?”  He asked.

“Well, we’re not wearing swimming suits,” I said.  “You can take your shoes off –”

Eight was in the water before I could finish my sentence.

It was deep enough in the middle that a group of girls was able to float on a bunch of blow-up unicorns, but the edges were shallow.  While Kyle and Eleven messed around on the beach, I followed Eight as he walked around the pond.  Directly across from the beach was a grouping of rocks and a teeny-tiny waterfall of sorts, and when we climbed up over the rocks, we found it emptied into a red silty-sand stream tucked into the trees.  Eight, who was somehow now soaking wet from knees to noodle despite never actually immersing himself in water, reached down and grabbed a handful of the powdery sand.

“Mom!”  He exclaimed.  “Look, wild Kinetic Sand!”

While I contemplated all of the money we were going to save not having to buy manufactured Kinetic Sand, Eight turned his attention to a 14-ish-year-old girl in a hot pink bathing suit sitting in the middle of the stream, her legs straight out in front of her.  Around her were several smaller children peering down into the water.

“Look at that one; that’s a big one,” the girl said, pointing a few feet in front of them.  The children squealed, and Eight immediately launched himself into the group, because all around them were dozens upon dozens of FISH.

“Can I catch it?”  Eight asked, reaching down towards the largest one.

“You don’t need to catch it,” she told him, gently.  “If you stand real still, they will nibble your toes.”

All of the children, except for Eight, froze.  Eight stomped around the water, trying to grab one of the fish with his bare hands.  His splashing caught the attention of Kyle and Eleven, who came up behind us.  Eleven, who did not want to catch fish with his bare hands and was fine standing in one place so as to take in the “soundscapes” (his words), was quickly surrounded, and then nibbled on, by fish.

“I guess in this place, the fish catch you,” he stated matter-of-factly.

Eight was still tireless in his hand-fishing attempts after an hour, and so Kyle got everyone out of the stream and back into shoes for our Fun Family Hike! And Mill.  Next to the stream was a rock bridge leading into a veritable Fairy Land of oak trees and wildflowers.

“This is so pretty that I don’t be-LEAF it,” Kyle said.

“I bet the bears are in here,” Eleven said, remembering that he didn’t want to go on a hike, “and they are going to EAT EIGHT.”


“Don’t worry, they BEAR-LY like eating kids,” Kyle said.

We Fun Family Hiked! for thirty magical minutes.  The boys fought the entire time, which kept away the bears.  We stopped at the mill and homestead so they could fight at another location, and then we turned onto a different hiking trail leading into the campgrounds.  At the edge of the camping area, a three-year-old boy in one of those electric toy Jeeps came rolling up to us.  He put out his hand, and Eight reached up into a tree, grabbed a leaf, and handed it to him. 

“Take it or leaf it,” Kyle said under his breath.

The boy took it, and rode away without a word.

We stopped at the stream one more time on the way out, this time further down at a spot with a bit more water.  The boys forgot they were fighting with each other and poked at the rocks with sticks until we told them it was time to go.

On the way home, we stopped in Euclid for dinner and pull-tabs (we won, then lost, $2) and to alleviate ourselves of a few ticks.

“Did everyone have fun?”  Kyle asked as the kids downed their on-tap root beer.

“Yes,” Eleven said, begrudgingly.

“Yes, but we didn’t go fishing,” Eight said.

“You kind of went fishing,” I said.  “You just didn’t catch anything.”

“Did you have fun?”  Kyle asked me.

“Yes,” I said, as the sun set on newly-planted fields covered in the green peach fuzz of spring.

You know it’s springtime because Kyle wore his official warm weather hat at Old Mill State Park. To his right, off frame, is a rescue boat for water that you can stand in. I put a few more pictures (of Old Mill, not Kyle’s hat) up on my Instagram and Facebook pages if you want to see some average photos of a beautiful spot.

Also, in case you missed it: I’ll be appearing on North Dakota Today every Monday to talk about good stuff. To do so, I need your assistance, please. Tell me what that make you think, “Oh, for nice.” It could be something big like neighbors helping neighbors, or something small like a really great flowering tree.

I can share your stories anonymously or with credit, and I’m obviously going to make them about me so there’s that to look forward to, too. Regardless, I’d greatly appreciate you spreading some good news and start the week off right.

Grand Forks’ Quinn Roehl shaved his head prior to state track and field in support of his brother, who is being treated for testicular cancer – and then Quinn broke a record held since 1980. (Grand Forks Herald)

Students at Central Cass Elementary School raised over $20,000 for the American Heart Association so they could pour icy water on their teachers. (Grand Forks Herald)

There were so many thoughtful Memorial Day ceremonies around North Dakota this past weekend, including this one in Minot. (Minot Daily News)

Live in Grand Forks?  The Senior Center is looking for a Bingo Coordinator.  (Not to brag, but I was a bingo caller at the Senior Center back in the mid-90s and I was AWESOME at it.) (Facebook)

Fargo’s Amy Olson and her up-and-coming baby will soon be playing in the U.S. Open. (Fargo Forum)

Speaking of Fargo, I didn’t think there could be anyone more excited than Kyle that Shania Twain was coming to Fargo, but it turns out Bismarck’s Jessie Wald is that person. (KFYR TV)

Hettinger’s Andy Roehl is digitizing home movies to keep a record of the community’s past. (KFYR TV)

Fargo’s Madison Elementary School recently installed a series of art posters celebrating the cultural diversity of the community. (Facebook)

After fifty-seven years driving a school bus, Portland’s Allan Kville has decided to hang up his seat belt and his career has been lovingly – and, according to him, embarrassingly recorded here. (Grand Forks Herald) (KFYR TV)

Mayville’s Maureen Brunsdale has written a book about circus trapeze artists. (Grand Forks Herald)

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Send me your stories!

I’ll be appearing on North Dakota Today every Monday to talk about good stuff.  To do so, I need your assistance, please.  Tell me what that make you think, “Oh, for nice.”  It could be something big like neighbors helping neighbors, or something small like a really great flowering tree.

I can share your stories anonymously or with credit, and I’m obviously going to make them about me so there’s that to look forward to, too. 😊  Regardless, I’d greatly appreciate you spreading some good news and start the week off right.

Click here to submit a story.

Thank you in advance!

North Dakota Today | May 24, 2023

On Monday, I went on North Dakota Today to talk about North Dakota Nice.  I work in marketing, so prepping people for media appearances is a standard part of my job; without exaggeration, I bet I have coached over 1,000 interviews.  There are a few baseline rules for television: sit up or stand up straight with your shoulders back; avoid noisy jewelry or garments that will interfere with the microphones; wear fitted and/or structured clothing to look thinner; don’t fart.  I didn’t have “don’t fart” on my list until I was privy to the worst interview I have ever seen with my own eyes during a press junket for the show Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  Melissa Joan Hart was in her early 20s and VERY MUCH over child stardom.  She slouched in her chair, one arm thrown over the back, and began every answer by smacking her gum and saying, “My best friend, Britney Spears…” or “My best friend, Soliel Moon Frye…”  After ten or so uncomfortable minutes someone on the stage let out what we were all feeling – a nervous fart, and every reporter immediately bent down over their cameras and notepads.

“That fart is going to be anything anyone talks about, thank goodness,” the intern next to me whispered.

“No farts; got it,” I whispered to myself.

(I feel compelled to note that Melissa Joan Hart is now a grown-up and seems to be living a lovely, non-slouchy life.)

Here’s the thing: while I have prepped a million people for interviews, I haven’t actually been on television.  Sure, I was in the background of the commercials for my family’s clothing store when I was a kid – but in terms of saying things into a microphone with a camera pointed at my face, nope.

There’s a reason for my lack of television prowess.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “She has a face for radio?”  Well, I have a situation for a blog.  In compliment of my nasally, Jewishy voice, my normal speaking speed is faster than the Micro Machines Man.  I am so pale – but not like “Nicole Kidman porcelain,” like “Guarding the Ark of the Covenant in a tomb in anticipation of the arrival of Indiana Jones” colorless – that one of my friends mistook me for wearing sweat socks instead of my own bare legs after a sunny college summer.  Also, I’d describe my body firmness as one of international appeal, in that I look like a French croissant.

Knowing these things, when I scheduled my North Dakota Today appearance I did what any person in my position would do: I bought a pair of shoes.  If you watch North Dakota Today you know that you never see the hosts’ or guests’ feet, so this was the right choice of action.

We have a bunch of great women’s clothing boutiques in Grand Forks, and so for the next two weeks I popped in to find a fitted outfit to go with my new shoes.  I bought sweats, a baggy short-sleeved denim shirt, a pile of floppy summer dresses, a novelty greeting card, and zero TV outfits. 

“No problem,” I told myself.  “I have lots of clothes; I’ll wear something I already own.”

I needed to be in Fargo – a one-hour-and-change drive from Grand Forks – at 9:00 am Monday morning.  At 6:30 pm Sunday night, as dinner was baking in the oven, I went upstairs to try on my plethora of outfits to find the best fit for television.  At 6:45 pm, Kyle came up to see what I chose and found me surrounded by the WORST CLOTHES in the WORLD.

“I look horrible in all of these,” I said, on the vergiest-verge of tears.

“What about this one?” Kyle asked, picking up one of my usual favorites.

“Too tight,” I said.

“Or this?” Kyle asked of another favorite.

“Too short,” I said.

Kyle patted my shoulder gently.  “Maybe you should run out and get something.”

“Everywhere is closed,” I said.  “And dinner is ready.”

“Target and TJ Maxx are open,” he said.  “Eat quickly, and then go.”

At TJ Maxx, I half-heartedly flipped through the racks.  Next to me, a lady sighed. I sighed, too.  Then, suddenly, the clouds parted, and a green dress appeared.  It was $19.99, and I bought it without trying it on (and there were about fifty left in every size if you want to get one so we can be a team).

The next morning, I woke up bright and early and realized I had meant to book a makeup appointment – and, like turning down that extra croissant, didn’t.  So, while the boys slept and Kyle made me coffee and breakfast because he is the BEST, I YouTubed “How to put on makeup for TV” and then slathered on foundation because that was basically the bulk of it.  I buttoned up my new favorite green dress, drove to Fargo without spilling any coffee or food on me, and was interviewed on North Dakota Today.  I don’t remember any of the interview because I left my body briefly somewhere in the middle, but I do know that both of the hosts and the secretary were incredibly nice and I had a wonderful time.  I didn’t fart.  Oh, and I didn’t wear my new shoes because they are five-inch heels and I honestly don’t know what I, the Queen of Converse Chucks, was thinking.

You can watch my interview here: https://www.valleynewslive.com/video/2023/05/22/ndt-north-dakota-nice-blog-may-22/

I welcome all comments, but only if they are positive because my croissant heart doesn’t do well with criticism.

AND GUESS WHAT.  I (and Kyle) get to do this rigmarole again because North Dakota Today is giving me a weekly segment to tell nice stories about people and happenings in North Dakota.  You can find me on North Dakota Today on Monday mornings starting June 19.  However, they are going to kick me off if I don’t have anything to say, so you can help me by telling me all about your nice friends and neighbors and flowering trees.  Please, please send me your stories at Amanda at NorthDakotaNice.com (and if my friend, Scott, is reading this, I was serious about the duckling thing).

The photo above is a screenshot from the show.  There are only so many $20 green dresses in the world, so maybe I’ll put my normal outfits on Instagram on Sunday, June 18 for anyone who wants to help me decide what to wear.

 A group of Mandan High School seniors went back to elementary school for some cookies and memories. (KX Net)

Speaking of seniors, 28 of the 34 graduates of Nueta Hidasta Sahnish College graduated with honors, making it the highest (and largest) GPA class in college history. (KX Net)

This is my friend Dave, and I can guarantee that there is few more deserving of all of life’s blessings. (Grand Forks Herald)

Batter up!  It’s almost time for the 3rd annual Liam G Medd Memorial Baseball Tournament, held in Fargo in memory and honor of our friends’ son with the goal of reducing stigma around mental health, building hope, and ending suicide. (Facebook)

I love this!  Williston High School held a signing ceremony for students going right into the workforce. (KFYR TV)

Sixteen-year-old singer/songwriter Annabelle Maher has released her first album, two years after appearing on Today with Hoda & Jenna. (Fargo Forum)

As the mother of a child who used to make us stop what we were doing to watch the garbage men drive by, I can appreciate a good Touch-a-Truck event. (KFYR TV)

This one is a bit self-serving, but Number 17 is my godsister (i.e. the daughter of my godparents) – Grand Forks’ Leonora Pitts! (KX Net)

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