The birthday gift | January 25, 2023

It’s my birthday on January 29; and a month or so ago Kyle told me he was busy organizing my gift, “which would be a surprise.”  This was an unnecessary statement, as 100% of my presents from my husband are 100% a surprise.

I know a woman whose husband gives her the exact same present every year: two nights alone at the hotel of her choosing so she can read magazines, catch up on shows, go shopping, and do whatever it is she wants to do in this world without anyone bothering her.  I know another woman who not only sends her husband a link to the gift she wants, if he has too many questions related to the purchase she just goes online and buys it herself.  My husband, on the other hand, spends the 364 days leading up to my birthday listening for things that I like (hint: everything) and things that annoy me (hint: everything), and then either gets me something related to one of those factors or goes totally rogue and picks something out of thin air.  For example, on more than one occasion I’ve been awakened by my sister or my best friend walking in the door after a red-eye flight.  Another time he gave me a t-shirt.  The only commonalities between my birthday gifts is 1) they are always thoughtful, and 2) I never know what’s going to show up.

Here’s a fun fact: I don’t like surprises.  Or, rather, I don’t like being surprised because I’m an ungrateful grump.  So, I’ve had to implement a few rules: If I’m going on a trip, I get to pack for myself.  If I’m participating in an activity or event, I have to have access to a car.  If I’m going to be in a situation where I’m expected to speak intelligently on the musical catalogue of a former-boy-bander-turned-solo-artist, then that boy bander better be Justin Timberlake because I don’t know anyone else.  And if the surprise involves other people, everyone – including Justin Timberlake – needs to be fully briefed on the entire plan.  Beyond that, I’ve learned to just go with the flow because I know whatever it is, I’m gonna like it.

Anyway, when Kyle told me my birthday gift was a surprise and then didn’t offer any other details like, “What’s your understanding of Joey Fatone’s recent activity,” I immediately put it out of my head.

A couple weeks later, Kyle and I were brushing our teeth before bed when he said VERY NONCHALANTLY,

“Oh, hey, I turned on the outlet in the toilet room.”

And so I said,

“What outlet in the toilet room?”

We have a little closet-type thing in our bathroom with just a toilet and a toilet paper dispenser in it.  Kyle pulled me over by my toothbrushing arm and pointed to a plug-in directly below the toilet paper dispenser.  A small light on it glowed green.

“Okay,” I said, a bit confused because I didn’t remember an outlet in the toilet room…but it also wasn’t like I was looking for one because who needs an outlet while you’re on the toilet?

“Has that always been there?”  I asked.

“Yep,” Kyle said.

I went back to brushing my teeth.

“Yeah, so I turned it on,” Kyle said.  “Want to hear something weird?  I had to turn it on in the closet.”

I stopped brushing my teeth.  “You had to turn what on in the closet?”

“The outlet,” he said.  “Weird, right?”

He pulled me over by my formerly-toothbrushing arm to our clothing closet and pointed to the wall.  Another little light glowed green.

“Has THAT always been there?”  I asked.

“Yep,” Kyle said.

I thought about it for a moment.  “But why do we need an outlet by the toilet?”

“For cell phones,” he said.

“Do you think someone is going to be in there long enough to need to plug in a cell phone?”

“And other stuff,” he said.  With that, he immediately set his toothbrush down and walked out into our bedroom.  I looked at the little green light, decided that if Kyle wanted to charge his phone on the toilet who was I to judge, and went back to getting ready for bed.

A few evenings later I was lying on the aforementioned bed with our two sons when Kyle came in and said,

“Don’t come in the bathroom.”

“Why not?”  Our seven-year-old said.

“Because,” he said.  He looked at me with his serious face.  “Don’t come in.”

“Not to worry,” I said.

For the next fifteen minutes, there was a tremendous amount of banging and clanging coming from behind the bathroom door.  At one point, Seven said, “I am going to go downstairs and get a drink of water,” and I said, “For your own safety, I don’t think you should leave the bed.”

Finally, Kyle emerged.

“Do you want your birthday present?”  He asked.

Eleven jumped up.  “IS IT HERE?!”  He shouted, and raced to the bathroom door.  Seven followed on his heels.  I got up a lot more slowly.  At the bathroom door, Kyle handed me a remote control with a complicated number of buttons – one of which read, “Defecation,” which is exactly what you’d expect in a birthday gift from your spouse – and pointed to my fancy new toilet seat.  A heated, air conditioned, spray-nozzled, probably-sentient toilet seat.  It beeped hello.

With that beep, the boys immediately started fighting about who got to use it first.  Kyle shut them down.

“This is mom’s toilet seat,” he said.  “No one else is allowed to use it.  She’s had to share with us for waaaaaay too long.”  He winked, probably to remind me of the multitude of times I’d SAT DOWN on SOMEONE’S PEE in the middle of the night, or the other multitude of times I’d been minding my own business and someone had been rap-rap-rapping at the door because “they needed to use the bathroom and they ONLY wanted to use THIS BATHROOM and not any of the other bathrooms in the house, and also they needed to tell and show me something.”

“Thank you,” I said.  “I love it.”

I’ve now had my toilet seat for a week, although Kyle’s plan to give me something just my own hasn’t really worked out because once my eleven-year-old figured out it squirted water and hot air at your butt he’s had every other eleven-year-old in Grand Forks up there trying it out.  Eleven has currently spent so much time in the toilet room that he’s needed to plug in his cell phone, so I guess the accuracy of Kyle’s statement about “cell phones and other stuff” related to what turned out to be a newly-installed outlet was also a surprise.

The photo above is of me on my toilet seat (pants on).

Students at Eagles Elementary in Fargo delivered cookies and muffins – and shared gladness – to the residents at Touchmark. (Valley News Live) (KVRR)

The hockey community celebrated long-time superfan Al Pearson at the recent UND-Minnesota Duluth game. (Grand Forks Herald)

Fargo has nine new ice and snow sculptures thanks to Jay Ray, Mike Nelson, and Josh Zeis. (KVRR)

Kyle and I both look for articles during the week, and every once in a while we land on the exact same one – like in this case.  My favorite line: “We’re the best band in the history of the world.  If another band wants to be better they just need 323 copies of the DVD.  It isn’t that hard.(Fargo Forum)

Minot’s Abbie Eads is a special guest artist on an upcoming album with the Seattle Guitar Orchestra. (Minot Daily News)

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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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