Walking Tacos | May 17, 2023

My friend, Lori, is in treatment for breast cancer; and her close girlfriends hosted a fundraiser to help offset her expenses and surround her with love.  As I’ve noted before, North Dakotans aren’t big on overt displays of affection, and so events like fundraisers are popular around here because, as my mother says, “North Dakotans would rather starve than spend $10 on eggs for themselves, but will drop $50 on six cupcakes to show someone they care.”

This particular fundraiser took the (cup)cake because the organizing ladies managed to solicit a bonkers number (that’s the official count) of silent auction and raffle items from area businesses.  In addition to the auction and raffle, Lori’s friends sold 50/50 tickets, made available Miss North Dakota to take pictures with attendees in exchange for free-will donations, and offered up an extensive table filled with food, also available for a non-specific monetary amount.  If you’ve ever been to North Dakota I don’t need to tell you that the most popular item was the Walking Tacos; the ladies had to stop an hour into the event and stuff Lori’s son’s backpack with Walking Taco $20 bills to make room for more.

For those of you who have never had the delicious fortune of consuming a Walking Taco – otherwise known as Taco in a Bag – allow me to give you a small taste of its majesty.

A Walking Taco starts with an individual bag of chips.  When I was younger, those chips were Fritos; now that we have developed as a society and invented things like THE INTERNET and BUMPITS, Walking Tacos can also be made with Doritos.

“What about tortilla chips?”  You may be thinking.  Walking Tacos are never made with tortilla chips for reasons I don’t have time to explain.

Each individual bag of Doritos/Fritos/Not Tortillas is smushed by hand until the chips are crunched but not crumbled; then the bag is turned on its side, sliced the long way, and opened into a little pouch.  That pouch is filled with taco meat (always ground beef), shredded cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, and, if you’re feeling spicy, sliced jalapenos.  The ingredients are then mixed together – held in place by the handy-dandy walls of the chip bag – and eaten with a fork.

It’s called a Walking Taco because, unlike a regular taco, it comes with a wrap-like object to allow a person to enjoy it on the go. 

Everyone loves Walking Tacos.  Everyone.  What’s not to like?  Salt?  Portability?  Walking Tacos are so universally beloved that they are served around here as a school lunch.  Even my EIGHT-year-old (birthday was Monday!), a self-proclaimed “vegetarian” who only consumes chicken nuggets, will eat Walking Tacos.

The best thing about Walking Tacos is that you can customize its ingredients to your fancy and no one will know you have a disgusting palate.  I, for example, like to cover my Walking Tacos in ranch dressing, just as one would at a taqueria in Oaxaca.  Eight picks out the chips and then pretends to be full until someone produces a dish of ice cream.  My husband eschews the chips entirely and encases his Walking Taco in fry bread, which is called an Uffda Taco around here and a Fry Bread Taco in Saskatchewan and isn’t technically a Taco in a Bag but whatever.

For his part, my Eleven-year-old is a Walking Taco purist and wants only chips, taco meat, and cheese.  Chips.  Taco Meat.  Cheese.  He once had a Walking Taco where a single whisper of lettuce had inadvertently drifted into the bag from lettuce fields unknown and IT RUINED HIS WHOLE DAY.  It should be noted that he will eat lettuce if served on a plate.

For Eleven’s eighth birthday, I decided to become the most popular mom in the world and serve Walking Tacos.  I bought a box of individual bags of Doritos, filled two giant bowls with shredded cheddar cheese, and then cooked taco meat according to my tried-and-true taco recipe, which I had made one hundred times prior for one hundred taco dinners that had been devoured by Eleven (then Seven/Eight) all one hundred times.  However, none of those one hundred taco dinners included the word “Walking” since we were sitting at a dinner table.

It turns out the word “Walking” is pretty important to the Walking Taco process because only one kid ate my Walking Tacos and that kid wasn’t my own.  I had made a few back-up cheese pizzas and those went like they were covered in literal and dairy-based gold.  When I asked Eleven/Eight why he didn’t have a Walking Taco, he said it was the wrong taco meat.  It’s now almost four years later and I still don’t know what that means but I certainly learned a lesson that day.

At Lori’s fundraiser, Eleven got himself a Walking Taco.

“Do you want a bite?”  Eleven asked, holding out his fork.

“Does it have ranch on it?”  I joked/not joked.

“No,” he said.  “But guess what?  I put taco sauce on it.”  He nodded knowingly.  I peeked in the bag.  A one-quarter teaspoon taco sauce was drizzled over a single chunk of taco meat.

“Wow,” I said.

“Yep,” he said, proudly.  “I guess I’m growing up.”

“I guess so,” I said.  “Next up, lettuce.”

He shook his head.  “No, lettuce is for old people.”

“Sage words,” I said, as Kyle walked up with a fistful of 50/50 tickets in one hand and a plate of egg rolls in another.

The photo above is of me. Completely unrelated (minus the fact that this is about my own child), I have to tell you something Eight said after school one day.

Eight: [Kid in my class] said he has ADHD, but I don’t believe him because he’s never gone to war.

Me: …

Kyle: …

Eight: …

Kyle: …you’re thinking of PTSD. PTSD is what you get when you go to war. ADHD is different.

Eight: Oh, okay. Then I guess he has ADHD.

Kyle: Sounds good.

Five high school seniors – Jaylen Anderson, McKenna Barnick, Kaylee Kemp, Casia Steinhaus, and Piper Suhr – will graduate from both high school and Lake Region State College in May. (Grand Forks Herald)

Speaking of young graduates, six Bismarck State students are set to graduate from college before graduating high school in a few weeks. (KFYR TV)

Have some extra seeds laying around this spring?  Minot’s Amee Mitchell is looking to propagate a community seed library. (KX Net)

Anamoose students got a taste of a Farm to Table lunch made with area beef and the school’s garden via a farm-to-table program – and fun fact from the article: North Dakota has more cows than people. (KFYR TV)

Speaking of tables, Elgin’s Kirby and JoAnn Schatz have taken to hosting “farmboy breakfasts” for their agrarian neighbors. (Fargo Forum)

Hatton’s Carl Ben Eielson will soon be memorialized in film. (Fargo Forum)

The headline of this article says it all: Williston’s Band Day Parade marches on. (KFYR TV)

Linton’s Dan Carr is serving up his last year of caramel rolls and coffee to graduating seniors. (KFYR TV)

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Hockey Mom, Part 2 | May 3, 2023

My eleven-year-old has one more tournament weekend left in his spring hockey schedule.  I’m the one who packs for hockey tournaments because it requires a certain je ne sais quoi and Kyle does it wrong.  Here is a non-exhaustive list of things a mom needs for a travel hockey tournament:

  • Clothing for your player, including personalized team t-shirts, personalized team long-sleeves, personalized team shorts, personalized team sweatpants, personalized team hat, personalized team socks, personalized team welding coveralls, personalized team swimsuits, personalized team workout jacket, personalized team winter jacket, and sweatshirts from every single past tournament in which your child has ever played
  • Layered clothing for your other children so they can be inside a cold hockey rink and then strip everything off when they get out into the warm spring air without being fully nude (note: they will wear the same t-shirt and pants the entire time but it’s the thought that counts)
  • Twenty-five pairs of underwear so your player can change after each game/every fifteen minutes
  • Shoes to wear to the rink; shoes to wear to the pool (can’t be the same shoes)
  • A blanket and pillows, even though you are paying the hotel to provide them
  • Healthy snacks for your family to eat
  • Garbage snacks for your family to ACTUALLY eat
  • A cooler containing every flavor of Prime (especially white), and also beer
  • One of those bar globes stocked with crystal bottles of brown liquors
  • A backpack filled with toys, tablets, and ministicks for your non-playing child(ren) to open, spread around the floor, ignore, and then forget at the rink
  • A bag of medicinal items to heal 100% of the known and unknown ailments borne by man
  • Hockey equipment, such as jersey(s), pads, breezers, helmet, nut cup, one of those shirts with the Teflon neckpieces that they guy at the store told you don’t need but you know someone who once got a skate to the neck so you’re not taking any chances, hockey socks, regular socks, single extra sock, moldy t-shirt, skates, skate guards, tape, the hockey stick they love, the hockey stick they used to love but has now fallen out of favor because of the new hockey stick they love, deodorant/mouth guard to go unused but add unnecessary weight, and a water bottle with just enough water left in it to soak the bottom of the bag
  • Clothing and toiletries for yourself (optional)

At the last tournament, we checked into the room late at night.  I have a whole rigmarole I do to set up and organize the room – Kyle LOVES this – and I was in the bathroom laying out a little washcloth for everyone’s toothbrushes (Kyle ESPECIALLY loves this) when I realized I had forgotten to pack my makeup.

As noted above, makeup falls into the “optional” category – it’s all for the kids, amirite?!  Except that this particular team is some kind of miracle of biology and is filled with the most beautiful hockey moms the sport has to offer.  You know how during the Olympics someone says, “Hey, we should get a normal person to first run this race so we can understand how truly amazing these Olympians are”?   If we took a group photo of the moms on this team, you’d use me as that normal person…or maybe the photographer.

“Oh, Amanda,” I’m SURE you’re thinking, “You’re being hard on yourself; I’m guessing you are equally lovely.”  Well, a while back, my own mother – who is very much a believer that “beauty comes from within” and “her own children are superior to everyone else’s children” – looked around at this group of supermodel moms (who are also beautiful within, which is incredibly annoying) and said to me,

“These women are so pretty it’s intimidating.”

Obviously, no amount of makeup is going to get me anywhere near “Intimidation” level; but the grading curve is so high that I need that makeup to help me stay in the “Average Human” category and not down in “Ogre Crawling Out from Under a Bridge.”

The next morning, I woke up bright and early and was fully dressed before Kyle and Eleven left for Eleven’s first game.  I piled our seven-year-old into our Honda, raced to Target, bought the cheapest, simplest concoction I could find, and returned to the car satisfied that this whole experience would probably make me even more glamorous than if I had used my normal stuff.

Except here’s the thing: My normal stuff includes a magnifying mirror.  This magnifying mirror is important so that I can obsess over my flaws precisely apply my makeup.  Also, it’s important because without it I can’t really see my face.

According to the American Optometric Association, “Beginning in the early to mid-40s, many adults may start to have problems seeing clearly at close distances, especially when reading and working on the computer.  This is among the most common problems adults develop between ages 41 to 60.”  Here’s a fun fact: I’m 43.  Do I use reading glasses?  No, I do not.  Do I need reading glasses?  Um, sorry, what was the question?

So, there I was, with only a non-magnifying car mirror and my own eyeballs standing between me and a sack of makeup PROBABLY GUARANTEED to make me Intimidation Beautiful.

First I tried squinting, which wasn’t suuuuper helpful for applying eyeliner.  Then I tried mind over matter and attempted to will myself into seeing clearly.  Finally, I did that thing where you tilt your head back (my fellow olds will know what I’m talking about), which worked.  Or at least worked enough to get makeup onto my face.

I leaned back in my chair and realized that an elderly gentleman was standing in front of my car, watching me through the windshield.  I smiled and gave him an eyebrow-raised thumbs-up as if to say, “Eh?”  He shrugged and walked off.

“How do I look?”  I asked Seven.

“Good,” he said, without looking up from his tablet.

“Great,” I said.

“Why do you need makeup?”  He asked.

“Because I want to be pretty,” I said.

“You’re pretty all the time,” he said.

“That’s the right answer,” I said.

“…Except sometimes you aren’t pretty,” he said.

“Well, we can’t win every battle,” I said, pulling out of the parking lot.  “We just need to win the war.”

The photo was taken by my husband during the winter season. Here’s a fact about Kyle: It’s his birthday on Friday! If you feel like it, send him a message on Twitter.

For the past year, NDSU mechanical engineering students have worked to design Parker Sebens a tool to allow him to man a kayak without using his arms. (Fargo Forum)

Lakota’s Emma Jutila is 10 years old and the recipient of the Ever Forward Volunteer Champion Award for giving her time at the local nursing home. (Grand Forks Herald)

Woot woot!  It’s seedin’ time! (KFYR TV)

Can’t have the news without Hankinson’s Cody Mauch! Cody was taken in the second round of the NFL draft after being a walk-on at NDSU. (Facebook) (USA Today)

Ohmergersh, I LOVE roller skating. (KFYR TV)

Four Vietnam vets – Gary Benjamin, Larry Young, Don Schultz, and Wayne Berglund – shared their wartime experiences with a Central High School journalism class.

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Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble | April 26, 2023

Kyle has been traveling quite a bit for work lately; in the last five days I’ve seen him for approximately 15 hours (a MAGICAL 15 hours, though, filled with laundry and sleeping romance).  Back when our babies were still babies, Kyle would have returned home after a single overnight to an emotional and physical apocalyptic landscape.  As an example, when our oldest was four and our youngest a newborn, Four and I awakened – in the middle of the country during a blizzard – with raging cases of pinkeye.  I scraped my eyelids open wide enough to drive the pile of us to Urgent Care – from the country during a blizzard – and then inched back through mountainous drifts of snow to find the power out.  Fortunately, two of us couldn’t see anyway and the third only had about a twenty-foot distance perception so we kept ourselves busy by sitting under a pile of blankets and crying.

Now, however, the boys are pretty self-sufficient (Seven told Kyle he wasn’t planning on getting married anytime soon but he’d “let us know if anything changed”) and, of course, this ain’t our first rodeo.  Obviously, we’d greatly prefer it if Kyle were here; but at this point we have a standard checklist of things that happen when Dad’s out of town, including eating all the foods Kyle hates and we love (it’s basically a bacchanal of spaghetti and meatballs and shrimp fried rice the moment his car leaves the garage).

On Kyle’s recent trip, I had cleaned up after an early dinner of spaghetti and meatballs topped with shrimp fried rice and realized I had nothing pressing to do for one whole entire hour.  I went down to the basement where Eleven was playing on the Oculus and Seven was re-re-re-re-watching the movie Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.

“Would anyone like to hang out with me?”  I asked.

“No, thanks,” Eleven said.

“You can make me some popcorn if you want,”  Seven said, graciously, without looking away from the television.

I stood there for a beat.

“Well,” I said slowly, “Maybe I’ll go take a bath.”

“Sounds good,” Eleven said.

“Okay, but popcorn first,” Seven said.

I don’t want to brag, but I am substantially great at baths.  I’m so great at baths that if I wrote a weekly story I’d use it to brag the crap out of my baths.  I’ve spent the past 43 years amassing a collection of candles, soaps, salts, scrubs, masks, musical playlists, and bath pillows, which I combine with a scientific knowledge of the ideal water temperature and room lighting to create a *swoops hand for a dramatic chef’s kiss* bathing experience for the ages.

Since there isn’t any actual BATHING in my baths – I dump so much stuff in the water one could argue a person comes out less clean than when they went in – I don’t take them very often.  So, when I do, I make sure everything is so perfecto that the memory of its amazingness carries me until I can do it again.

It took me a solid fifteen minutes to get everything set up (and remind the not-yet-married Seven that he could make his own popcorn).  For my final step, I went to lock the bathroom door…and remembered that I was the lone adult in the house. 

“A good parent would leave the door unlocked in case of emergencies,” I thought – hesitated, and left the door unlocked.

I stepped into a Shangri-la of bubbles.  I leaned back, took a deep breath, and closed my eyes.

“Mom,” A Voice said.

I opened my eyes.  Eleven was sitting on the side of the tub.

“I have to tell you the funniest thing that just happened,” he said.  “I was playing Monkey Tag and this kid jumped onto the wall and…”

The story had a lot of ups and downs and vocal inflections and took an eternity.  At the end of it, he said,

“Isn’t that funny?”

“Yes,” I said, even though I wasn’t 100% sure which part was the funny part.  Eleven, pleased with my answer, surveyed the room.

“How’s your bath?”  He said, and then, “Okay, I have to get back to my game.  They are waiting for me.”

“Okay, buddy,” I said.  “Close the door.”

He shut the door.  I fluffed the bubbles, turned up the music, closed my eyes.

“Hi, Mommy!”  The door swung open and Seven appeared with a fistful of popcorn.

“Do you want some popcorn?”  He asked.

“No, thank you,” I said.  “Sweetheart, would you let me finish my bath, please?”

“Yes,” he exclaimed, and then whispered, “Yes.”  He shoved the popcorn in his mouth and made a big show of tiptoeing out of the room.

“Have a good bath, Mommmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyy,” he whispered through the crack in the door.

Ninety seconds later, Seven was back.  He brought with a little battery-powered fairy light nightlight he and his dad crafted the weekend before.

“This is for you,” he said, turning it on and setting it on the counter.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Now your bath is good,” he said.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Can I have a bath?”  He asked.

“Yes,” I said, “If you let me finish my bath.”

“Okay,” he said.  He sat down on the edge of the tub.

“Love,” I said.  “Go back to your movie and I’ll come get you when I’m done.”

“I’ll miss you too much,” he said, popping a bubble.

“I don’t think you’ll miss me for such a short amount of time,”  I said.

“No, I will,” he said.  He gave a deep sigh.

“Wait!  I have a great idea,” he said.  “I could get into the bath WITH you.  We can share!”

I, too, gave a deep sigh, and grabbed a towel.  Seven was undressed and in the tub before I was totally out.  He leaned back.

“Mmm,” he said.  “This bath is perfect.”

“Yes, I know,” I said.

I couldn’t come up with a good existing photo for this story so I decided to take a quick selfie in my bathtub. As you can see by the photo above, Seven walked in juuust as I had sat down and I opted to use this picture as proof that I can’t even take a clothes-on-pretend bath without group participation.

Gilby’s Molly Dickson is one of The Hollywood Reporter‘s 25 Most Powerful Stylists in Hollywood. (Grand Forks Herald)

Grand Forks’ Allyssa Johnson finished eighth in the nation at the USA Wrestling Women’s National Championship. (Grand Forks Herald)

Fargo’s Parker Swenningsen got the tour of his ten-year-old lifetime. (Fargo Forum)

Bismarck Century students have a reason to say gracias with the addition of a new scholarship in memory of a long-time Spanish teacher. (KX Net)

Congratulations to Dr. Gabe Dahl, named North Dakota’s Assistant Principal of the Year. (Facebook)

Beep beep!  The West Fargo Public Library’s Little Red Reading Bus is on the road again! (Valley News Live)

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