Ye olde puberty | January 17, 2023

My son’s fifth-grade class recently had the Ye Olde Puberty Talk.  As far as I can tell, my eleven-year-old’s takeaway is that they said the proper word for the male anatomy SIX TIMES.

That’s fine.  As we all know, puberty and adulthood do not live in the same neighborhood, let alone the same time zone.  I personally went through puberty at the ye olde age of ten, which was great because my mom and I could have conversations about excess body hair and use my Barbies for illustration.  It was almost a year later that my teacher finally popped that puberty tape into the VCR, and I was dismayed to find out that my early development had meant I missed a very important milestone.

“MOM,” I shouted the second I walked in the door after school.  “The girl in the video got ice cream.  I DIDN’T GET ICE CREAM.”

We went for ice cream.

Despite the fact I had reached my adult height and, uh, other stuff before I entered Junior High, I was very much in the “I’m a big kid now” camp.  I played with dolls.  I watched Saturday Morning Cartoons.  I filled up Strawberry Shortcake coloring books on a regular basis (which I know is now an all-ages thing but the ‘90s were known for cocaine, not coloring).  My bedtime routine was one of two major points of contention for my parents because every night I spent fifteen minutes kissing and saying good night to my stuffies and then required someone to sit in the hallway with the lights on while I fell asleep.

As you can probably guess, they didn’t care about the stuffies (except that every time I acquired a new one it added two minutes to the process), but they really, really cared about sitting in the hallway as their 13-year-old drifted off into Strawberry Shortcake dreamland.

My parents’ second point of contention was that I didn’t hang with my friends outside of school.  Sure, I saw them at activities – I was, after all, the co-manager of the girls’ basketball team, as well as a lackluster ballerina (those two things were both related and not related) – but girls my age were interested in Aquanet and MTV, and I was perfectly happy coming home to choreograph solo dances to my Raffi records.  Besides, I told them, I wasn’t alone; I had my little sister and her friends, and they needed someone to choreograph their dances (and force them to dance to choreographed dances).

Every Friday morning my mother would say to me with the hope-iest of hope:

“Do you think you’ll need a ride to the mall this weekend?  I hear Brittany is going to get her ears pierced.”

And I would say, “Oh, no, all she wants to do is walk around, which is, like, so boring.  I’m going to categorize my Barbie furniture by room and color!”

This tete-a-tete went on well into the fall of eighth grade.  Sure, I had a couple of boyfriends during that time thanks to Brittany, who would broker the relationships with the boyfriends’ friends and then give me the news a few weeks later when we had broken up, having never said a word directly to one another.  And sure, I had started wearing Hypercolor t-shirts and tight-rolled jeans with penny loafers instead of sweatshirts with curly ribbon monkey tails.  And SURE, I suppose I changed my music taste from Raffi to Janet Jackson because that’s what was on the radio.  However, each evening I still flipped on the hall light and kissed those stuffies while my dad deep-sighed against the stairway railing.

That is, until one fateful day.

A few days before that fateful day, I was sitting on the gym stage with my co-basketball manager, Crystal (as well as Brittany, who was not a basketball manager but supportive of our efforts) while the team did warm-up lay-ups.  We were doing what co-basketball managers did best, which was to sing Little Mermaid songs.  As we hit the crescendo of “Part of Your World,” a boy named Chad Hart (I suppose this is where I should say that none of these names are real) popped out from behind the curtain.

“Hey,” he said to us.

“Hey,” we said back.

“I’m having a party on Friday if you want to come,” Chad Hart, who looked a little like Luke Perry and actually spoke to the girls he dated, said.

“Sure,” Crystal, Chad Perry’s current girlfriend, said.

“Sure,” Brittany said.

Chad Perry looked at me.  “Amanda?”

“Sure,” I said.

At dinner, I casually mentioned that I had been invited to a party.  My mother did her best to seem casually interested.

“A birthday party?”  She asked.

“I think just a regular party,” I said.

“That’s nice,” my mom said.  “Whose party?”

“Chad Perry,” I said.

My mom jumped up from the table, caught herself, and returned more composed and holding the phone book.  She flipped to the P’s.

“Here’s the address,” she said, showing everyone at the table as if our dinner depended on it.  “Dad will take you.”

“Brittany said her dad can drive us,” I said.

“Oh,” my mom said, choking back her glee.  “That’s nice.”

Chad Perry’s party was held in his basement.  He had covered the lamps with his football t-shirts so the room glowed red.  On the radio, Janet Jackson rocked.  There were twelve of us – six boys, six girls – and so we settled (crammed) ourselves on the two couches, boys on one, girls on the other.  Chad Perry lounged on the arm of the boys’ couch, talking about something that was probably worldly and important with the other guys.  On our couch, Crystal showed us her new slap bracelet.

The radio changed to “Red Red Wine,” and Chad Perry asked Crystal to dance.  They moved towards the back of the basement until they were fully ensconced in the red light.  She put his arms around his neck.  He put his hands on her waist – and then, after swaying back and forth a bunch of times, slid them down into the back pocket of her jeans.  And with that, as quickly as a teacher pressing play on a VCR or a mom taking her daughter for ice cream, I grew up.

Brittany’s dad brought us home at 10.  I got ready for bed, patting my stuffies on the head instead of my usual ritual.

“You don’t have to sit in the hall, Dad,” I said as he hugged me good night.  Teenagers who went to parties where people put their hands in other peoples’ back pockets weren’t afraid of the dark.

“Oh, okay,” my dad said, surprised.  He turned off the light, and I drifted off into UB40 (and maybe just a little Strawberry Shortcake) dreamland.

(P.S. In case my children read this sometime in the future and decide they can slow dance with their hand in someone else’s back pocket, there are two things they should know: One, none of the other party guests, including myself, got off our respective couches for absolutely any reason until it was time to go home. Two, being 14 in the ’90s was a lot different than it is now. Fourteen-year-olds then were only a few years away from carving themselves a wagon out of a couple of trees and setting off in order to raise a family and settle distance lands. Fourteen-year-olds now are expected not to swear on YouTube.)

The photo above was taken at my Bat Mitzvah when I was 13 (the man in the photo is my dad). I have that dress and the matching Dyeable pumps in my closet. If I could squeeze even one leg into that dress, I would wear it every single day.

Hope you’re hungry!  Minto is shaping up for the 37th annual bologna feed. (Grand Forks Herald)

Fargo’s Jacob Hansen will make his Carnegie Hall debut as a percussionist with the Honors Performance Series. (Valley News Live)

Lia Karjalainen of West Fargo, Heidi Holt of Bismarck, and Makenzie Vangstad and Lily Rokke of Fargo are some of the youngest athletes to participate in USA U18 National Curling Championship in Lafayette, Colorado. (Fargo Forum)

The “Ling King” has set a new record after hooking a 41-3/4” burbot. (Grand Forks Herald)

Best of luck to the University of North Dakota dance team, who are headed off to the Universal Dance Association College National Championship this weekend! (Grand Forks Herald)

Grand Forks professor Michael Lents is buckling up with Team USA  as they prepare to fly at the 2023 World Advanced Aerobatic Championships in Las Vegas, NV (fun fact, he placed 5th overall and took home Silver with Team USA in 2018). (Go Fund Me)

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This is a story about karma. | January 4, 2023

Last week, Kyle took the boys to a hockey game and I stayed home to tackle the literal mountain of laundry that had accumulated after our Christmas vacation in Canada.  I had no sooner tossed up my Tide Pod Grappling Hook (patent pending) and gotten a foothold on a stack of socks when it dawned on me that it was a beautiful day and I would much rather go for a walk.

“You’re always at work in the middle of the afternoon and aren’t able to go for a lovely walk,” I told myself as I slipped on my shoes.

“Well, you’re always at work in the middle of the afternoon and not at home to do lovely laundry, either,” the Tide Pod Angel (patent pending) on my other shoulder reminded me.

No problem, I thought.  I’d make up for it by doing DOUBLE the laundry tomorrow.  TRIPLE.  I’d do the neighbor’s laundry.  I’d pre-wash clothes that we hadn’t worn yet.

Now, normally when Kyle and I go for a lovely walk we take a route up and down the street by our house.  However, there were three unique factors on this particular day: One, Kyle wasn’t there to put any limitations on distance; Two, it was twenty degrees outside (if you live in a cold-weather locale you know there is a phenomenon where the moment the air dips below zero all temperatures above feel like springtime); and Three, earlier in the year I had purchased a coupon book from one of my friend’s kids for $20.  Another phenomenon that exists is one where the moment I clip a free coupon I lose it immediately – but if I have a financial skin in the game, by golly I will do whatever it takes to get my $20 back.  Wouldn’t you know it, I had a coupon for a free cup of coffee at the coffee shop two miles from my house.

My coupon (plus $1 for a tip) and I set out for our lovely walk.  I didn’t bring any additional money – even though Kyle also loves coffee and would have totally appreciated me thinking about him while he took our children on an outing – because I didn’t want to walk back with two cups instead of one.

“It would get cold anyway,” I told myself.

“You could get him an iced coffee,” Tide Pod Angel suggested.

No, I thought, because if I slipped, I’d have my hands full and would have nothing to break my fall.

“What are the chances of that happening?”  Tide Pod Angel asked, but I didn’t hear her.

Now, normally when I go outside for any amount of time over nine seconds I wear my hot pink snowpants; however, it was so warm that I opted to eschew my typical layers for the ripped jeans (follow me for more fashion-related tips) I had put on that morning.  It took me (and my ripped jeans, coupon, and $1) about ten minutes longer than anticipated to get to the coffee shop because something had been going on with the street clearing situation in Grand Forks and so all of the crosswalks were mounded with snow.

As the shop, I traded my coupon and $1 for a 16-ounce cup of coffee.  I put on my brand-new leather gloves – a gift from my parents – opened the door, walked outside, took a deep breath, and slightly shifted the coffee sleeve.  With that, the entire cup of coffee exploded all over my gloves and shoes.

Now, normally I don’t appreciate it when things explode all over me and so my typical reaction would be to throw the cup of coffee away.  Except that I had $1 and a $20 coupon book invested in this particular beverage, and I had just walked two miles to get it.  Plus, while it seemed like the quantity of liquid soaking into my socks was the equivalent of 16 ounces, when I looked in the cup it was still about four-fifths full.  So, I shook off my gloves, picked up the coffee lid from the ground, stuck it back on the cup, took a sip, and started off on my way.

I walked to the first crosswalk hill.  I took a step onto the crosswalk hill.  And, apparently, I slightly squeezed my cup of coffee at the crosswalk hill because, once again, the lid came off and, once again, sprayed coffee all over my gloves, coat, and jeans (or rather, knees, since my jeans were torn).  Not to be deterred, I did that cross-legged thing to use the back of my knees to wipe the front of my knees, picked up my lid, and took a sip.

I then repeated this scenario five more times over the next five crosswalk hills.  No matter how I held the cup, the minute I stepped down, the coffee went up.  As this was the magical Mary Poppins purse of coffee, the actual amount of liquid in the cup seemingly never reduced.  By the third crosswalk hill, the rim of the cup simply started rejecting the lid, slowly disintegrating over the next couple of blocks.  I finally gave up on the lid and decided to pound back the entire cup of coffee because 1) it was sloshing everywhere now that it was lid-less, 2) it was quickly getting cold now that it was exposed to the air, and 2) I didn’t want to dump it out because I am a nutjob.

When I had blessedly finished the last drop, I stuck the lid into the cup to make it easier to carry.  It, too, launched out of the cup, lodging itself in my hair.  I put the lid in my pocket.

Unencumbered by the cup of coffee, covered head to toe in liquid in freezing temperatures, and POWERED BY A BOTTOMLESS CUP OF CAFFEINE, I felt the best course of action was to power walk home.  I don’t have much of a memory of this walk, although I’m pretty sure I flew during part of it.

Finally, I – and my soaked gloves, coat, shoes, jeans, and hair – reached the house.  Kyle and the boys came in a few minutes later.  My seven-year-old hugged me.

“You smell weird,” he said.

“I smell like coffee,” I said.

“Did you get coffee?”  Kyle asked.

“Yes,” I said.  “I went for a walk.”

“That’s good,” Kyle said.  “I feel like a cup of coffee, too.  I’ll make a pot.  Would you like another cup?”

“No thanks,” I said, peeling off my coffee’d socks.  “I’m going to do some laundry.”

I took the photo above as Kyle and the boys were walking in the door, although in hindsight I should have left my coat and gloves on because this just looks like a normal person with slightly redder cheeks. On an unrelated note, Kyle proofreads my stories for me and so he’s finding out about all of this right now.

The Minot community baked up 9,000 cookies for the service men and women at the Minot Air Force Base. (KX Net)

Congratulations to Fargo’s Mike Nelson, Josh Zeis, and Jay Ray, who took home bronze at the U.S. National Snow Sculpture Competition in Lake Geneva, WI. (Fargo Forum)

Lace up your sneakers, because North Dakota’s state parks are challenging you to 12 hikes in 12 months. (Williston Herald)

Welcome to the world, Kyson Kadrmas – the first baby born at Bismarck Sanford in 2023 (and, notably, born on his due date)! (KFYR TV)

Like Fargo’s Liam Loree, my seven-year-old LOVES the history of the Titanic; however, Liam definitely has Seven beat when it comes to turning that passion into Legos. (Fargo Forum)

I have a nice story all of my own (or adjacent, I guess) this week.  I was sent a Purposity link from the Grand Forks School District, on which teachers made requests for their students such as new t-shirts and weighted stress learning equipment.  I forwarded the link to Kyle and asked him to send money for one of the lower-cost listings – a student who needed snacks over the holiday break.  In turn, Kyle texted the link to his group of dads and suggested that everyone chip in $5 and they would fulfill as many of the requests as they could.  Well, those dudes sent more than $5 and they were able to purchase 12 of the remaining 16 requests.  They are the nicest guys, and I’m glad they are our friends.

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Come in, we’re clean | December 28, 2022

Of all the household chores, the one I like the least is washing dishes (the best is folding towels).  If I ever come into an inordinate amount of money, the first thing I’m going to do is replace my kitchen floor with one of those evil genius shark pits – but when you press a button and the doors slide open it’s going to be a giant dishwasher (in case it needs to be said, no sharks).  That way, when you are finished eating or cooking, you just drop the plate or pot into the floor.  This is an infallible plan.

In my college-ish days, my #1 requirement for an apartment was a dishwasher.  The realtor could have said, “Listen, it’s a two-bedroom, but one of you will need to sleep in the crow’s nest of a colonial pirate ship.  It also has a dishwasher.”  And my roommate and I would have been unpacking our collection of limited-edition Hardees dishware before you could say “Shiver me timbers.”

We spend every Christmas (minus Covid) at my father-in-law’s house in Saskatchewan, Canada, along with my husband’s brothers and their families.  If you include my own sons, our collection of limited-edition children is as follows: 14-year-old girl, 11-year-old girl, 11-year-old boy, 11-year-old boy, 11-year-old girl, 7-year-old girl, and 7-year-old boy.  This year, my wise sister-in-law took a look around at this group of able-bodied, highly-sugared goofballs and announced that the new Christmas tradition would be for the children to wash the Christmas Eve and Day dishes.  As opposed to the floor dishwasher which may still have some kinks to work out (like a standing platform), this was actually an infallible plan.

My wise 14-year-old niece did the type of quick calculations that only come with age superiority and realized that while Christmas Eve would just be a normal supper, Christmas Day would be a competition for how many different foodstuffs we could prepare and serve (and sometimes forget in the oven/microwave, also per Kosior tradition).  So, after the last few bites of Christmas Eve deliciousness had been crammed into the nooks and crannies of our tummies, my oldest niece volunteered herself and her 11-year-old sister to do the evening’s cleanup.

In the span of 15 minutes, my nieces were able to fit all of our dining tableware into my father-in-law’s dishwasher, handwashing and drying only a couple of pots and serving bowls before throwing in the proverbial and actual towel for the evening.  As they are both careful and trustworthy girls, my sister-in-law and I “helped” by sitting in the living room and not paying attention in the slightest.

The Christmas cooking started bright and early; and, even with regular cleaning throughout the day, my father-in-law’s kitchen was covered from floor to rafters with dishes by the time supper was over.  My sister-in-law reminded the children of their bound duties, and my 14-year-old niece reminded everyone of her efforts the previous evening and promptly wandered off into the night – which, in turn, reminded me that maybe the infallible plan still had some kinks now that the job was in the hands of two wild-on-life 11-year-old boys (who were a little TOO EXCITED about a sink full of soapy water) and their best-intentioned 7-year-old counterparts.

Chaos erupted the second those children stepped foot in the kitchen.  The big boys took over the sink, my son washing while his cousin dried.  My 11-year-old niece, absolved of any work, watched my son scrub the crap out of the outside of the potato pot while their cousin simultaneously filled the inside with half a bottle of Dawn before stepping in and taking over the drying (and management) before the train went completely off the track.  With both boys now washing, my father-in-law had to stop packing up the turkey (my brother-in-law and sister-in-law raised the 28-lb Christmas turkey, which was so large that it bowed the oven rack and needed to be legally declared its own land mass) and turn to mopping since every inch of the kitchen was receiving its own deep clean due to the amount of water flying about. 

Meanwhile, my sister-in-law and I tried to get the 7-year-olds to help us put away the leftovers – and then, after they dumped more of the corn and carrots on the floor than in the Tupperware, sent them to load cups in the dishwasher – and then, after they ran out of cups and started putting very-soapy-and-wet-but-clean servingware in the dishwasher (much to the chagrin of the sink masters), gave them the job of watching a movie in the other room and staying out of the way entirely.

After either twenty minutes or 200 hours, the big kids hung up their sopping (similar to what one would find at the bottom of a swimming pool) wet towels and headed to the basement for a much-earned knee hockey tournament.  My father-in-law finished scooping the last of the soap bubbles off the floor, and my sister-in-law and I corralled the rest of the leftovers into the bulging fridge. We sat down at the table with caesars in hand to toast our success.

“To a new tradition,” my sister-in-law said.

“And a job done,” my father-in-law said.

“Shiver me timbers,” I said.

The photo above is me standing on Main Street in Kyle’s hometown of Fillmore, Saskatchewan – and if you’re wondering why I’m not wearing my trusty hot pink snowpants, it’s because it was 30 degrees.

After installing a Santa Mailbox on his lawn, Grand Forks’ Nate Bertram has responded to hundreds of children (and delivered a few presents) over the past three years.  This is my favorite line from the article: “‘It’s exciting,’ Bertram said. ‘And I don’t just write two sentences back to them; it’s a full page.’ In the evenings, after his wife and daughter have gone to bed, ‘I write ’til I’m falling asleep in my chair.'” (Grand Forks Herald)

If you haven’t done it already, follow the Stutsman County Facebook page – where one of its staffers draws all of the daily news and updates. (Facebook)

In North Dakota-adjacent news, a restaurant in East Grand Forks now has a five-item “Community Kitchen Project Menu” where a person can come in and order a free meal. (Valley News Live)

Students at St. Marys Academy in Bismarck made 80 fleece tie blankets – and collected warm clothing – for those in need. (KX Net)

Anonymous donors dropped not one, not two, but THREE gold coins (worth $3,606) in kettles around Fargo. (Fargo Forum)

Two Minot gymnastics teams played Secret Santa to residents at a local retirement home. (KFYR TV)

After a major snowstorm, UPS driver Nathaniel Hunt put out a Facebook post to help get all of his packages delivered in time for Christmas. (Facebook)

Leonard’s Rhonda and Eric Klubben spent their 60th birthdays on the Today Show (and won a Dyson Airwrap). (Valley News Live)

The Hoselton Farm in Drayton is home to a team of reindeer, raised just for the purpose of bringing holiday cheer. (KFYR TV)

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