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)https://www.facebook.com/StutsmanCounty

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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What I was doing when the Vikings had the largest comeback in NFL history | December 21, 2022

If you live in North Dakota or Minnesota, you are legally required to be a fan of the Minnesota Vikings (or the Green Bay Packers, but only if every other football team in the world quits).  There’s a lot to like about the Vikings – the Skol chant, the horn helmet, the Gjallarhorn, the color purple – but also, being a fan of the Minnesota Vikings means you need to adopt the attitude of “Isn’t is great that today is a football game, and all of these guys are playing football, and we are watching them play today, on football game day,” because if you also think, “Hey, maybe there’s a chance the Vikings will win the Super Bowl!” then you are giving yourself unnecessary hope and heartburn because as sure as hotdish is topped with tatertots, if there is a football season, the Vikings will find a way to screw it up.

On December 17, 2022, the Vikings pulled off the biggest comeback in NFL history, beating the Indianapolis Colts 39-36 in overtime to clinch the NFC North Title.  Related, this date also marked the biggest crowd of in-person and at-home Vikings fans collectively “Holy Crap”-ping themselves in surprise.

It was a normal Saturday, in that the boys had hockey at 8:15 am and 9:15 am and all the hockey moms agreed that while we had “a million things to do, we really should take a nap” (note: Kyle got the 8:15 kid up, fed, and to the rink while I “rested my eyes” in bed).  I managed to check five of those million things off the list by lunchtime, and so I sat down on the couch with a turkey sandwich while Kyle turned on the Vikings game.

By the end of the first quarter (and my turkey sandwich), the Colts were, predictably, up 17-0 and the Vikings had, predictably, just missed a 4th-and-1 from their own 31-yard line.  So, unpredictably, I did what I had been saying I was going to do for, oh, seven years and instead of folding laundry or grocery shopping or wrapping presents or sitting there and watching the Vikings as per usual, I told Kyle I was heading upstairs to take a nap.

Here’s the thing: I’m not a great napper (unless falling asleep on the couch at 10:30 pm and then dragging myself to bed an hour later is napping).  The only way I was able to nap before I had children was to put on a TV show I didn’t want to see and then tell myself I absolutely had to watch it.  After my kids were born, my ability to relax deeply enough for nighttime sleep – let alone daytime snoozes – went out the window the first time a piece of dust slowly drifted down from the heavens and gently landed on my sleeping baby and I decided I was the worst mother in the world for not knowing it had happened.

The main reason why I felt compelled to nap this particular Saturday was that I was really, really, really tired.  I was coming off of a cold that had awakened me at least three times a night for the past week, and my youngest had played musical beds the evening before.  Being really, really, really tired historically hadn’t been a good enough reason for me to nap (I don’t want to brag but I own a coffee maker), but I’ve recently become really, really, really aware of how OLLDDD I look – a fact I was talking about with my dermatologist who said, “You know, Amanda, the best thing you can do for your skin is get good sleep.”   And since I’m vain and will do anything for my face, I decided to attempt a nap.

Because I’m OLLDDD, I have a good bed – and so I got snuggled up on my good bed with my good comforter and my good pillows.  I took off my socks because I hate socks, and I left the curtains open because I hate curtains (kidding, it felt like the right thing to do).  Then I closed my eyes and said, “Amanda, go to sleep.”

I did not sleep.

I rolled on my side and looked at the clock.  Fifteen minutes had passed.  I rolled onto my other side and said, “Amanda, go to sleep.”

I did not sleep.

Either another fifteen minutes or 300 hours later, the door opened.  Kyle came in and got under the covers.

“The Vikings are down 33-0 at the half,” he said.  “I’m going to take a nap.”

“Of course they are,” I said, but Kyle didn’t hear it because he was already snoring away.

“Amanda,” I said, “Go to sleep.”  This time my brain answered back, “But where are the kids?”

I nudged Kyle.  “Where are the kids?”  I asked.

“Neighbor’s and basement,” he said, and went back to snoozing.

I lay there for another thirty minutes or 300 hours, intermittently staring at the ceiling or the clock.  Finally, with mere seconds left in my predetermined nap time, I decided to get up.  I rolled over to be annoyed by Kyle and his sleep-ability, and realized he had disappeared into thin air.

I put back on my socks – if I was going to have to go on a nationwide Kyle hunt I had to be dressed for speed – folded back up the comforter, and went downstairs.  On the TV, Vikings fans were celebrating something.  I glanced at the score: 36-36 at the end of the 4th quarter.

“Holy crap,” I said to no one.  I picked up my phone and called Kyle.  He answered from our garage.

“The Vikings tied the game,” I said to him, and then, “How did you get into the garage?”

“Holy crap,” Kyle said, and then, “I walked.  How do YOU get into the garage?”

 “Why didn’t I hear you get up?”

“Because you were asleep,” Kyle said.

“Holy crap,” I said.

I walked into the bathroom and looked in the mirror.  Still old, but less tired.  I walked back out as the Vikings were gearing up for overtime.  Not wanting to sit there and see them lose when they had come from so far back, and renewed by my unexpected restedness, I decided to go outside and surprise Kyle by shoveling snow off the rink – another one of the million things on my list, although one I had zero intention of ever doing.  Needing a witness to my AWESOME WIFENESS, I got my son out of the basement and made him come out and help.

There were only a few small drifts left when Kyle came outside.

“The Vikings won in overtime,” he said.

“You’re kidding,” I said.  “Did the Colts forfeit or something?”

“Nope,” he said.

“Holy crap!” I said.

“Are you shoveling the rink?”  Kyle asked.

“Yep,” I said, sweeping my arms out like I had just made a game-tying touchdown.

“Holy crap!” he said.


The photo above was taken by Kyle as proof that I had shoveled the rink (or at least that I was outside in my snowpants).


I had to read this story twice because 1) it’s really cute, and 2) I love that it’s a news item.  Here’s what it’s about: a group of little old ladies got together to talk about fishing. (Grand Forks Herald)

It’s official: this year’s snowplows are Plowabunga, Scoop Dogg, Big Leplowski, Plow Force One, Austin Plowers, CtrlSaltDelete, Sleetwood Mac, and Blizzard Buster. (Valley News Live)

Grand Forks’ Rydell dealership gave away 12 vehicles to Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC) clients. (Grand Forks Herald)

Speaking of Grand Forks, principal David Nowatzki and teacher Justin Johnson hung out on the roof after students raised $6,000 to help families in need. (Grand Forks Herald)

Two of Argentina’s finest – Tiziana Huici and Iara Navarro, both student-athletes at Lake Region State College – have created a team of brand-new World Cup fans. (Grand Forks Herald)


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Eight Short Stories | December 14, 2022

My sister and I recently surprised our dad with “the gift of our presence” by crashing our family chaos into his Austin birthday weekend getaway with my mom.  I love me a good Hallmark/-adjacent movie for the same reasons as everyone else – the snark, and the final kissing scene – and so I watched Apple TV’s The Eight Gifts of Hanukkah on the way to Texas.  As expected, it was a magnificent dumpster fire (at one point I laughed so loudly that my son, sitting three seats away across the aisle, shushed me); in part because the overall premise is that the main character falls passionately in love with a mystery man who sends her eight INCREDIBLY PERSONAL gifts, including “chocolate” and “a non-descript watch.”  In honor of Jewish girls everywhere aggressively vision boarding a scenario where a rich Jewish contractor (oh fer sure), a rich Jewish tech genius (more likely), a rich not-Jewish-but-supportive celebrity chef found on Tinder (a statistically improbable meeting but fine), and a rich Jewish partner in a law firm (I’m offended by this accurate stereotype) are vying for her affection, and in celebration of Hanukkah starting on Sunday, I would like to offer you eight of my own INCREDIBLY PERSONAL stories from the past few weeks.

One.

To keep ten people – including four boys ages 11, 7, 5, and 1 – occupied between meals, we sought the services of Pioneer Farms, a multi-acred living history museum in Austin.  At one point, I found myself at the 1886 Bell House with my own seven-year-old and my five-year-old nephew.  The Bell House was filled with volunteers in traditional Victorian garb, and one of said volunteers called the boys into the parlor.

“Hello, sirs,” she drawled.  “Would you like to hear a short story?”

“Sure,” Seven said, never one to turn down a good plop onto a vintage couch.  His cousin obediently joined him.

Once she was sure they were settled, the volunteer spread out her hoop skirt, positioned herself onto a wicker rocker, opened a time-worn version of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” – and began to read the slowest version of that story ever told.  The boys sat there patiently and silently for approximately 186 years, after which the volunteer gently closed the book and asked the boys if they had any questions.  Five raised his hand.

“Yes?”  She said, patting the book.

“Do you have any graham crackers?”  He asked.

Two.

My eleven-year-old was recently given the chance to write his holiday wish on a paper ornament and place it on a Christmas tree. Nestled amongst the “A puppy” and “An Oculus” wishes was Seven’s request: “World Peace, Hockey, and Deez Nutz.”

Three.

We took my dad to the Austin Museum of Ice Cream on his birthday, which was appropriate since I’m still not totally sure my dad likes ice cream.  The Museum of Ice Cream plays fast and loose with the term “Museum,” as it’s really just a giant pink+pink box (Blush and Bashful, for Steel Magnolia fans) of rooms for eating ice cream and taking pictures for Instagram.  The ice cream is, obviously, the centerpiece, and when we walked into the second room (the first room was where we got to name ourselves something related to ice cream and so Kyle picked Vanilla and we almost got divorced right then and there because the #1 thing Kyle and I argue about is whether Vanilla is a flavor – his contention – or an ingredient – mine) the hostess (whose real or ice cream name was Sweetie) said while pointing to an ice cream counter,

“There are four ice cream stations throughout the Museum, and you can eat as much as you want!”

Seven, the foremost expert in the Titanic and ice cream (unrelated), was first in line to get his ice cream.  As noted, we were there with several children and adults, and so by the time everyone got settled with their own scoops (minus my dad, because I really don’t think he likes ice cream), I looked around and realized Seven was missing.  We found him back at the counter, tucked into his second dish.

“What are the chances he pukes before he gets out of here?”  I asked my sister.

Well, he didn’t puke IN the Museum, but my dad – who, as noted, may or may not like ice cream – got to spend twenty minutes of his birthday in the bathroom outside the Museum with a grandson who had filled himself up with too much happiness.

Four.

Seven has recently started playing goalie.  At one of his most recent games, he took a puck to the face mask that came in so hard that it took off some paint.  Seven was obviously upset; and so, after he calmed down, Kyle told Seven that if he needed him for any post-injury reason, to call him over.  About a minute later, Seven beckoned to Kyle, who rushed across the ice to see what was the matter.

“Um,” Seven said.  “I think there is more land on Earth than water, since there is land UNDER the water.”

“Sounds right,” Kyle said, as Seven got himself back into position.

Five.

We flew home from Texas on the same plane as my parents.  My parents sat up in First Class – deemed a gift for the birthday boy by his adoring wife, who coincidentally loves so much to board and depart a plane as early as possible that we’re thinking she will become a jet bridge agent in her retirement.  Eleven was fascinated by the fact they were in First, and so my mother announced to him that she would let him sit in her seat for part of the trip so he could check it out.

With forty minutes left to go in the flight, the attendant came back and communicated that my mom was ready for the switch.  We had just gotten our snacks (we were basically sitting in the bathroom), and so Eleven felt the need to completely consume every last bite of cookies and every last drop of ginger ale before heading up to the front.  My mom came back with twenty-two minutes remaining.

“I’ll give him a bit to take in the whole experience, and then I’ll switch back because…” she searched for a reason that wasn’t ‘Because I want to get off first,’ “My suitcase is up there.”

“We’re going to be descending in thirty seconds,” I said.

“No,” she said, as the captain came over the speaker to announce our descent.

The seatbelt light came on.

“I’ll be right back,” she said, pushing past me.

She hustled up to the front of the plane.  Five minutes later, she was back.

“Dad’s going to bring my suitcase,” she said, and then, “He was having too good of a time.” 

“That’s nice,” I said.

Six.

Last month, as we were flying back from my grandpa’s funeral, I noticed Kyle was staring off into the distance, deep in thought.  I reached out and held his hand.

“You okay?”  I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“What are you thinking about?”

Kyle sighed.  “My rink,” he said, in reference to our backyard hockey rink, which was, at the time, a few ice pours away from being skate-ready.

Seven.

Every year, Kyle and I sponsor gifts for a family with the local domestic violence shelter.  I took Eleven with me to the Dollar Store to get a gift bag and some toiletries.  I told Eleven what we were doing there as we were walking in, and he was quiet as I loaded items up into the basket.  As I walked up to the checkout counter, he went sprinting off to one of the aisles – returning with two tiny packages of cocktail forks (like the kind you’d put into a tray of cocktail meatballs) and miniature dessert spoons.

“This family probably doesn’t have much,” he said to me.

“Probably,” I said.

“Well, they are going to need silverware,” he said, putting the forks and spoons in the basket.

“Yes, good point,” I said.  “Maybe we should get them regular-sized silverware, then?”

“But I thought you said they were kids?”  He said, deeply earnest.  “So they need little stuff.”

“Oh,” I said, putting the basket on the belt, imagining the next day when I’d deliver a bag of gift cards, shampoo, and cocktail forks to the center.  “Okay, sure.”

Eight.

In addition to historic structures, Austin’s Pioneer Farms was home to a number of barnyard animals, including several donkeys.  The boys were FASCINATED by the donkeys, and spent ten-plus minutes feeding grass to the donkeys (who were standing in six-inch grass in their pens).  As we were putting the boys to bed after returning to Grand Forks, Seven began to wimper.

“What’s the matter, buddy?”  I asked.

“I’m worried about Austin,” he said.

“Austin, Texas?”  I asked.  “What are you worried about?”

“Who is going to feed the donkeys?”  He cried.


The photo above is of my sister and me at the Museum of Ice Cream.  We are sitting in a pool of plastic sprinkles, naturally.


In Minot, members of 17 law enforcement agencies took 128 “awesome” (quotation marks not needed) kids shopping for Christmas. (Minot Daily News)

And in Dickinson, 17 law enforcement agencies shopped with 51 more cool kids. (Dickinson Press)

Bismarck’s Emersyn Decker is now the proud owner of a camper (plus s’mores supplies, pillows, and sheets), thanks to Make-A-Wish. (KFYR TV)

The University of Jamestown Jimmies are the 2022 NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Champions! (Facebook)

There’s one day left to “Stuff the Bus” in Bismarck in support of Aid Inc. (KFYR TV)

Sydney Menne, a student at the University of North Dakota, is one of only 40 students to receive the prestigious Marshall Scholarship for study at the university of her choice in the United Kingdom. (Grand Forks Herald)

Watford City’s Saiorse the dog is being celebrated for saving her family from a house fire. (McKenzie Counter Farmer)

Hot diggity dog – the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile is coming to Minot! (KX Net)

An anonymous donor in Stanley paid all of the student lunch debt right before Thanksgiving – and, as you can see from this article, there is still time to help in other districts. (Williston Herald)


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