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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Sunshine and May | May 4, 2022

As I type this, THE SUN IS SHINING.  We’ve had roughly 100000000 grey days in a row this spring and I tell you what, it starts to wear on a person – like a hat with bells which seemed like a whimsical idea in the store but turns out is the equivalent of self-induced tinnitus.  I like rainy days and cozy darkness just like all women on Instagram, but I was one more set of clouds away from getting a Vitamin D lightbulb to sit under it while I shopped for a plane ticket to Yuma, Arizona – the sunniest place on Earth.  These big, beautiful blue skies have completely cleansed my soul, like the feeling you get when you throw out a hat with bells on it.

You’d think I wouldn’t need as much sun as the average person because I am in the top 5% of the whitest humans in existence.  “Oh haha, Amanda, you’re such an exaggerator,” you may be thinking.  Well, once in college I was wearing shorts and went to put on some suntan lotion on my legs and my friend burst out laughing and said, “I thought you were wearing socks.”  Like white knee-high sport socks, because my legs were roughly the same color.  Believe it or not, it takes a baseline amount of sun to keep me this color; without it, I’d go translucent.

This stretch of clouds has made me wonder how folks in Seattle can stand it (probably because they have Bigfoot and it’s a worthwhile trade-off) because around the fifteenth straight day of grey my brain started to go to sleep.  I know this was the same for many of my fellow North Dakotans because it snowed several times and exactly zero people mentioned it.  North Dakotans love talking about the weather because we have so much of it.  May is historically an especially atmospheric smorgasbord; in 2021, it was 86 degrees on May 1.  In 2022, it was 36.  We had a dusting of snow yesterday and not one of my coworkers said ANYTHING – not, “Time to move to Florida!” or “It’s May, for Pete’s sake!”  My desk neighbor just looked out the window, sighed, and went back to her enormous mug of coffee; and if that’s not a sign of seasonal depression, I don’t know what is.

Anyways, it’s sunny and that same coworker got a chance to comment about the glare on her computer screen this morning so all is well.  With my brain reawakened, I have come to realize two things: 1) I’ve been wearing yoga pants to work for the last three weeks which is both great and…not…great; and 2) holy crap, it’s May.  To quote the entire Midwest’s favorite meme, “Ope, this month just sneaked up on me.”  If I’m being totally honest, 2021 and 2022 really sneaked up on me – I’ve had a half-written birthday gift thank-you note to my best friend sitting on my desk since February 2020 – but those years happened in spite of my lack of participation, and May is NOW.

Since I’m making lists, May means three things: 1) Grand Forks hosts a citywide garbage cleanup; 2) my husband and youngest son both celebrate birthdays; and 3) school is coming to an end.

The citywide cleanup – the City gives everyone a day to clean out their basements and garages and stick their found bric-a-brac on the curb for pickup – is a big problem for me because my husband and kids love crap.  Normally, on April 30th, I will sit them down and definitively state to NOT TO BRING HOME ANY CURBSIDE GARBAGE.  Then, when they inevitably do BRING HOME CURBSIDE GARBAGE, I have a well-crafted speech prepared which makes them return said garbage to its appropriate resting place.  Well, I didn’t do that, and in the last 24 hours Kyle procured a torn hockey net (which he’s “going to fix up for the neighbor’s kid”) and my ten-year-old dragged home a torn and wet gaming chair for a gaming system/desk that he doesn’t own.  And now, because I didn’t say anything, I’m either going to have two sad hockey net/gaming chair owners or a non-junk-filled house, but not both.

As I said, my soon-to-be-seven-year-old will soon be seven and my husband’s birthday is Cinco de Mayo (which we call Cinco de Kyle).  In anticipation of this 31-day party, I spend the bulk of April asking, “Do you want a bug party or a Spider Man party?” and “If I knitted you a hat with a bell as your gift, would we remain married?”  Since I’m behind on my schedule, I’ll have to buy Kyle a normal tortilla chip hat and Almost-Seven is going to have to be happy with fake bugs instead of real (kidding, that was never an option).

Finally, and speaking of schedule, school ends on the third of June.  In celebration, my sons’ school has started a month-long countdown of “Spirit Days” to give Kyle a chance to run around the house looking for a chartreuse shirt or a tortilla chip hat at 8:04 am.  I’d help him, but I’m usually standing in the corner shouting, “What time is baseball practice, and does that coincide with the first Wild-Hurricanes game, and why is that half-broken bench sitting in the garage?”

But the most important thing is that the sun is shining.  Garbage chairs and hockey nets can still go back on the curb (or not), and birthday parties can have fake bugs (or no bugs at all); and so long as my brain, and legs, get their Vitamin D, all will be well.

The photo above is of Kyle with a DIFFERENT garbage net that he saved from the curb.  I’m pretty sure I’ve shown this photo on here before; and I’ll keep sharing it because HE WON’T STOP BRINGING HOME THESE NETS.

In terms of a good use of the word “garbage,” this week’s news has garbage bag sleeping mats, free hotel rooms, and duffel bags.  Read on.

For the past five years, volunteers at Trinity Lutheran Church have woven mats out of trash bags, 2,000 at a time. (KX Net)

Williston businesses got together to gift Microtel rooms – more than 80 nights’ worth of stays – to community members who were still without power due the blizzard. (KFYR TV)

In North Dakota-adjacent news, Minnesota’s Ryan Huso and Kyle Rohlfs – two strangers who met on the side of the road – saved Fargo’s Shannon Aughinbaugh after her car flipped over into a water-filled ditch. (Fargo Forum)

The Roosevelt Park Zoo now has three Amur tigers named Viktoria, Dmitri, and Luka. (Minot Daily News)

Congratulations to Team North Dakota, who took home the championship (for the second year in a row) at the CCM High School National Invitational Tournament! (Twitter)

May is National Foster Care Awareness month, and so Grand Forks teacher Ms. Abel is raising money to fill duffel bags so that kids don’t need to enter foster care with trash bags holding few to no belongings.  Kyle and I bought three duffel bags, and I’m telling you so that you’re impressed by us and so you will also donate, if you can.  The Amazon wishlist for these items can be found here. (Amazon)

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