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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Santa and the Sewing Machine | December 22, 2021

I have kind of an unusual relationship with Santa.  Probably the weirdest part about it is the fact that we have any relationship, period – because, you know, I’m Jewish.  For Jewish kids, Santa is like your workplace hosting a doughnut party when you’re on vacation: it’s nice, but it doesn’t really affect you at all.  In the winter of 1990, however, I wanted a sewing machine; and I went to Santa to get it.

Nowadays you can watch children’s television programming until your eyeballs fall out of your head; but back in the olden times if you wanted to binge cartoons, you had to wait for Saturday morning.  My little sister and I would wake up just in time for Jem and the Holograms – a show that was “outrageous, contagious,” just like the sparkly-pink commercials that played throughout the episodes.  Barbies!  Cabbage Patch Kids!  Polly Pocket!  After each ad we’d shout, “We want a Care Bear!”  And our mother would say, “That’s nice” or “Hmm” or “Pee-yoo,” as she sniffed the air (because someone was “spoiled rotten”).  And then she’d go about her life.

In November of 1990 the most-often played commercial was for a toy sewing machine that used yarn to bind paper and felt.

“I need a toy sewing machine,” I said to my mother.

“There’s a real sewing machine upstairs,” my mom replied.  “We can sew something together.  That will be fun!”

“But the one I want sews felt,” I told her.

“So does the one upstairs,” she said.

“And paper,” I said.  “With YARN.”

My mother handed me a hole puncher.  “There’s some yarn in the cabinet.  You can sew it by hand.  Maybe you can make Grandma a book for Hanukkah!”

“UGH,” I said.  “I don’t want to do it by hand.  I want a sewing machine!”

“Pee-yoo,” my mother said, sniffing my shoulder.  “Someone is spoi-led.”

That year, Hanukkah came and went and there wasn’t a sewing machine to be seen (besides the one we already owned).  I did, however, get a book of kid’s sewing patterns and some pretty fabric so as to add insult to injury.  I ultimately made (spite) pillows out of it.

We were walking through the mall a couple of weeks later when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a team of elves, a lighted Christmas display – and in the center, Santa taking requests from all of the good boys and girls.

While my mother shopped for shoes for my sister, I considered the Santa situation.  We did have a chimney, I told myself.  We also had two big decorative trees in our living room; and while they weren’t pine, they were strung with white twinkle lights.  Plus, we celebrated Christmas every year with our family friends and decorated their pine tree…so…

I tapped my mom on the arm.

“Can I go talk to Santa?”

My mother considered it for a moment.  As a mother myself, I’m guessing she was thinking, “What kind of crackpot question is this?”

“Sure,” she said, after a moment.

Back then (and maybe now), it was free to meet the big guy.  Plus, you got a candy cane.  I was up at the front of the line before I had spit-whittled my candy cane to a point.

“What would you like for Christmas?”  Santa ho-ho-ho’d to me.

“I’d like a sewing machine,” I said.

“A sewing machine!”  Santa’s voice boomed throughout the space.  “Very good.”  Then he patted me on the back and I returned to the shoe store.  My mother and I never spoke of the interaction, although she did ask if I got my sister a candy cane (which I did not).

You will be unsurprised to hear that I didn’t get a sewing machine for Christmas.  I didn’t get anything for Christmas, as per usual – because, you know, I’m Jewish.

For the next fifteen years, I told that story over and over again to any willing ear.  I always ended with the punchline, “The moral of the story is, Santa is not for the Jews.”  I got a laugh at least once.

In January of 2005, I met the woman that would one day be my mother-in-law.  As there is no better way to endear yourself to your boyfriend’s family than by disparaging their major religious holiday, I shared my Santa story, ending with my hilarious punchline.  At the end, my mother-in-law said, “Hmm.”  She probably also laughed because she had a good sense of humor and, like I said, it was hilarious.

Just about a year later, I awoke on Christmas morning to find a big shiny box under my family-in-law’s Christmas tree with my name in it.  The tag read “From Santa.”  Inside was a sewing machine. 

The first thing I sewed on that machine was a set of potholders for my future mother-in-law.  I also used it to sew the binding on my wedding programs instead of stapling them, because it turns out that real sewing machines will sew paper, too.

The photo above is of my sewing machine, which is that blurry thing in the background because I asked Kyle to take the picture and I’m not sure he understood what we were doing.

It’s Christmastime, which means we have both an abundance of good cheer and good news.  Read on, and Merry Christmas!

North Dakota is just about able to declare “functional zero homelessness for veterans” across the state. (Grand Forks Herald)

Once again, the Minot and Minot Air Force Base communities have baked up thousands of cookies to be given to airmen for the holidays. (Minot Daily News)

Looking for a place to eat on Christmas?  Victory Lutheran Church in Jamestown is delivering 800+ meals to anyone who is hungry. (Jamestown Sun)

The Century High School boys hockey team donated 50 presents – with an additional $10 boost from Scheels for each shopper – to patients at Sanford Hospital. (KX Net)

Hunter Andes, an English teacher on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, has been awarded a silver medal from the Nonfiction Authors Association for his book, “The Elders: Stories from Fort Berthold.” (Minot Daily News)

Sixth graders at Wachter Middle School in Bismarck sewed up some Christmas ornaments to be donated to the Benedictine Living Community. (KX Net)

Four children, ages 5 to 7, have been honored by the Grand Forks Police Department (with Dairy Queen) for helping stop a potential kidnapping. (Grand Forks Herald)

Minot’s Tyler Schmaltz has put together a Google map of all of the best Christmas lights in town. (KX Net)

Fargo’s Tristian Ellenson returned from his deployment in Africa by surprising his wife. (Fargo Forum)

And Minot’s Adam Gottbreht surprised his mom on his return from his naval deployment. (KFYR TV)

The Salvation Army now has 740 ham dinners for families to celebrate Christmas Day thanks to two area businesses. (KVRR)

Four-hundred North Dakota second-graders got to have a little Christmas party – and receive a backpack with toys, essentials, and a grocery gift card – thanks to a program serving the state’s eight Title I schools. (KX Net)

For the 23rd year, an organization called Freedom Prison Ministries helped female inmates send a gift (and a gift card for dinner) to their children for Christmas. (KFYR TV)

I try not to put too many business donations in here because they would take over the news, but this one was so unique I had to share it.  Minot’s Dakota Chappy Boutique has put together gift packages for children to give to their mothers for Christmas. (KX Net)

Did you get your $3 North Dakota Nice sticker yet?  As a reminder, 100% of the proceeds go to St. Joe’s!  Click here to check it out.

You Betcha: a guided meditation | December 15, 2021

You’re sitting in your favorite armchair, which was initially pretty expensive but purchased for 75% off thanks to a coupon book you bought from your co-worker’s fifteen-year-old so his class could go on a field trip to Minneapolis to see the Johnny Holm Band.  You’re wearing a brand-new sweatshirt that is still amazingly soft because it hasn’t been washed yet.  Speaking of that, you’re all caught up with the laundry.  Also, the house is clean, your email inbox is cleared out, and there’s taco hot dish bubbling in the oven and a bowl of puppy chow on the counter.

“You betcha,” you think.  “Yep, you betcha.”

Through the window, you see it has begun to snow.  Big, spun-sugar flakes drift gently down to the earth, immediately evaporating the moment they touch any surface requiring shoveling, but somehow blanketing everything else in sparkling fluff.  Your thermometer – shaped like a buffalo wearing a beanie and just about the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, to be sure – reads forty degrees.

“You betcha,” you think.  “You betcha.”

You light the fireplace for a bit more coziness, and the crackling warmth mixes with the sound of Lori Line’s latest Christmas CD.  Your mom got that CD autographed at Dayton’s, you know.

“You betcha,” you think.  “You betcha.”

While the air temperature outside is delightful, the ground is a miraculously-steady ten-below – convenient for the neighborhood children as they ice skate on backyard rinks and build snowmen on every berm.  On the nearby river, puffs of smoke rise from the chimneys of a makeshift community of cheery ice houses, swirling around the hoarfrost-covered trees lining the riverbank.  One of the fishermen steps out to pee – wait, I mean get something from the truck – and you can see the bell on his line ring-a-linging with a catch.  He slips a bit on his way back inside.

“Ope,” you think – and then, when you see that he’s fine, “You betcha.”

It’s 4:00; the sun is beginning to set.  The world is covered in a golden glow, made even more magical as families (and solar pads) turn on their Christmas decorations.  Soon you’ll fire up the ol’ Suburban and go for a twinkle tour around town, possibly popping into one of the Turkey Bingos happening somewhere.  If you win, you can merrily ding-dong-ditch the bird on the porch of the families in town for a little secret ho-ho-holiday giving.

“You betcha,” you think.  “You betcha.”

Later you’ll watch the UND game, where the Hawks will undoubtedly beat the University of Minnesota.  Maybe you’ll invite a small group of friends over; you know everyone will leave contented, with spinach dip in their bellies and Grandma’s latest batch of red eye in their hearts.

“You betcha,” you think.  “Yep, you betcha.”

The photo above is of my good sport of a husband, who didn’t ask a single question when I said, “Hey, hold this snowman for a second.”

Speaking of photos, look at this one:

Did you know this photo represents the fact that Kenzie Dorsher and I are raising money for the St. Joseph’s Food Bank? Read more here.

Also, did you know this week’s news has Shock and Claus, a bundle of toys (and coats), and a trio called Raynes?  Read on.

Medora’s Laynie Simons now has a pretty sweet playhouse thanks to Make-A-Wish North Dakota. (KFYR TV)

Seven West Fargo small business owners did a “Shock and Claus” when they gave their 19-year-old waitress – who had recently taken in her younger sister after the death of their mother – a $700 tip. (Valley News Live)

Bismarck’s Hope Manor held a coat drive – and received 75 coats – in honor of a friend who recovered from addiction. (KX Net)

The West River Lodge #5 Fraternal Order of Police took 40 Dickinson-area children to Walmart for their annual “Shop with a Cop” event. (Dickinson Press)

If you live in or around Minot, the Minot Wreaths Across America is looking for volunteers to hang wreaths on 1,080 graves of veterans in the Rosehill Memorial Cemetery on December 18. (KFYR TV)

Bismarck’s first responders hosted a toy drive and received 280 donations thanks to the generosity of the community. (KX Net)

Two North Dakotans – Matt Charley and Joe Berger – are a part of the musical trio Raynes, and will soon be competing on a British game show called Walk the Line. (KX Net)

Good luck to Miss North Dakota Reyna Bergstrom, who will be competing on Thursday for the title of Miss America! (Fargo Forum)