Old Mill State Park | May 31, 2023

I had 150 million housekeeping items to do over the long weekend so, naturally, Kyle and I threw them all aside and took the boys to Old Mill State Park in Minnesota.  We had actually planned (by “planned,” I mean that Kyle said, “Should we go to Icelandic?” and I said, “Sure,” and then we tossed some sunscreen and water bottles in a backpack and put the kids in the car) to go to Icelandic State Park, which is in North Dakota and not really close to Old Mill State Park.  However, midway through the one-hour drive to Icelandic, Kyle said “Hey, what about Old Mill Park instead?” and when I Googled Old Mill the DNR web page stated that a mama bear and her three cubs had been spotted near the campgrounds.  Kyle’s random thoughts coupled with possible bear attacks were the winning combination for us to throw our unmade plans aside once again and set a new course for Old Mill State Park.

Kyle and I were willing to put the safety of our beloved children on the line because Old Mill State Park was advertised as being the home of…wait for it…an old mill (Sometimes Bears State Park was already taken; ba-dum-ching).  Our oldest son loves touring historic buildings; since that same kid was NOT HAPPY about being on what I had advertised as a “Fun Family Hike!,” we figured he would be mildly placated if said Fun Family Hike! included a mill.

“Let’s go fishing first, then hike,” Eight, who was promised a Family Fun Hike! And Fishing, announced as we pulled into the park.

“NO,” Eleven said.

“We’re going to hike first,” I said.  “It’s too hot for fishing right now.”

“NO,” both boys said.

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” Kyle said.  “We’re going to park the car, walk to the mill, take a little hike around, and then go fishing.”

“FINE,” we all said.

Unsurprisingly, we made it as far as Step One before our plans went asunder – because just down the hill from the parking lot was the sweetest, sparklingest swimming pond you’ve ever seen.  We strolled to a picnic table under a giant shade tree; nearby, a woman lounged half on the beach, half on the grass, reading a book.  Eleven walked out onto the sand and dropped to his bug-sprayed, suntan-lotioned, hiking-socked knees.

“Can I go fishing?”  Eight asked.

“This is for swimming, not fishing,” I said.

“Can I go swimming?”  He asked.

“Well, we’re not wearing swimming suits,” I said.  “You can take your shoes off –”

Eight was in the water before I could finish my sentence.

It was deep enough in the middle that a group of girls was able to float on a bunch of blow-up unicorns, but the edges were shallow.  While Kyle and Eleven messed around on the beach, I followed Eight as he walked around the pond.  Directly across from the beach was a grouping of rocks and a teeny-tiny waterfall of sorts, and when we climbed up over the rocks, we found it emptied into a red silty-sand stream tucked into the trees.  Eight, who was somehow now soaking wet from knees to noodle despite never actually immersing himself in water, reached down and grabbed a handful of the powdery sand.

“Mom!”  He exclaimed.  “Look, wild Kinetic Sand!”

While I contemplated all of the money we were going to save not having to buy manufactured Kinetic Sand, Eight turned his attention to a 14-ish-year-old girl in a hot pink bathing suit sitting in the middle of the stream, her legs straight out in front of her.  Around her were several smaller children peering down into the water.

“Look at that one; that’s a big one,” the girl said, pointing a few feet in front of them.  The children squealed, and Eight immediately launched himself into the group, because all around them were dozens upon dozens of FISH.

“Can I catch it?”  Eight asked, reaching down towards the largest one.

“You don’t need to catch it,” she told him, gently.  “If you stand real still, they will nibble your toes.”

All of the children, except for Eight, froze.  Eight stomped around the water, trying to grab one of the fish with his bare hands.  His splashing caught the attention of Kyle and Eleven, who came up behind us.  Eleven, who did not want to catch fish with his bare hands and was fine standing in one place so as to take in the “soundscapes” (his words), was quickly surrounded, and then nibbled on, by fish.

“I guess in this place, the fish catch you,” he stated matter-of-factly.

Eight was still tireless in his hand-fishing attempts after an hour, and so Kyle got everyone out of the stream and back into shoes for our Fun Family Hike! And Mill.  Next to the stream was a rock bridge leading into a veritable Fairy Land of oak trees and wildflowers.

“This is so pretty that I don’t be-LEAF it,” Kyle said.

“I bet the bears are in here,” Eleven said, remembering that he didn’t want to go on a hike, “and they are going to EAT EIGHT.”


“Don’t worry, they BEAR-LY like eating kids,” Kyle said.

We Fun Family Hiked! for thirty magical minutes.  The boys fought the entire time, which kept away the bears.  We stopped at the mill and homestead so they could fight at another location, and then we turned onto a different hiking trail leading into the campgrounds.  At the edge of the camping area, a three-year-old boy in one of those electric toy Jeeps came rolling up to us.  He put out his hand, and Eight reached up into a tree, grabbed a leaf, and handed it to him. 

“Take it or leaf it,” Kyle said under his breath.

The boy took it, and rode away without a word.

We stopped at the stream one more time on the way out, this time further down at a spot with a bit more water.  The boys forgot they were fighting with each other and poked at the rocks with sticks until we told them it was time to go.

On the way home, we stopped in Euclid for dinner and pull-tabs (we won, then lost, $2) and to alleviate ourselves of a few ticks.

“Did everyone have fun?”  Kyle asked as the kids downed their on-tap root beer.

“Yes,” Eleven said, begrudgingly.

“Yes, but we didn’t go fishing,” Eight said.

“You kind of went fishing,” I said.  “You just didn’t catch anything.”

“Did you have fun?”  Kyle asked me.

“Yes,” I said, as the sun set on newly-planted fields covered in the green peach fuzz of spring.

You know it’s springtime because Kyle wore his official warm weather hat at Old Mill State Park. To his right, off frame, is a rescue boat for water that you can stand in. I put a few more pictures (of Old Mill, not Kyle’s hat) up on my Instagram and Facebook pages if you want to see some average photos of a beautiful spot.

Also, in case you missed it: I’ll be appearing on North Dakota Today every Monday to talk about good stuff. To do so, I need your assistance, please. Tell me what that make you think, “Oh, for nice.” It could be something big like neighbors helping neighbors, or something small like a really great flowering tree.

I can share your stories anonymously or with credit, and I’m obviously going to make them about me so there’s that to look forward to, too. Regardless, I’d greatly appreciate you spreading some good news and start the week off right.

Grand Forks’ Quinn Roehl shaved his head prior to state track and field in support of his brother, who is being treated for testicular cancer – and then Quinn broke a record held since 1980. (Grand Forks Herald)

Students at Central Cass Elementary School raised over $20,000 for the American Heart Association so they could pour icy water on their teachers. (Grand Forks Herald)

There were so many thoughtful Memorial Day ceremonies around North Dakota this past weekend, including this one in Minot. (Minot Daily News)

Live in Grand Forks?  The Senior Center is looking for a Bingo Coordinator.  (Not to brag, but I was a bingo caller at the Senior Center back in the mid-90s and I was AWESOME at it.) (Facebook)

Fargo’s Amy Olson and her up-and-coming baby will soon be playing in the U.S. Open. (Fargo Forum)

Speaking of Fargo, I didn’t think there could be anyone more excited than Kyle that Shania Twain was coming to Fargo, but it turns out Bismarck’s Jessie Wald is that person. (KFYR TV)

Hettinger’s Andy Roehl is digitizing home movies to keep a record of the community’s past. (KFYR TV)

Fargo’s Madison Elementary School recently installed a series of art posters celebrating the cultural diversity of the community. (Facebook)

After fifty-seven years driving a school bus, Portland’s Allan Kville has decided to hang up his seat belt and his career has been lovingly – and, according to him, embarrassingly recorded here. (Grand Forks Herald) (KFYR TV)

Mayville’s Maureen Brunsdale has written a book about circus trapeze artists. (Grand Forks Herald)

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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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Who wears short shorts | May 10, 2023

After last week’s story about my hot hockey mom friends, one of their husbands strongly suggested I also write something about the hockey dads (he actually said “hot hockey dads” but let’s not get ahead of ourselves) to balance it out.  So, fine.

My favorite hot hockey dad, Kyle, has a confident personal style when it comes to clothing.  By “confident,” I mean “unique;” and by “unique,” I mean “if he lays his eyeballs on it, he’ll probably wear it.”  He owns a meat sweatshirt, which is a sweatshirt wrapped in a screenprint of a close-up view of a marbled slab of beef.  He’s mildly known for a red, white, and royal blue velour track suit I gifted to him kind of as a joke a few Christmases ago after we took the train from New Jersey to New York and Kyle was noticeably distressed to be the only dude in the station who didn’t have a gold chain and trackie.  Also, he devoted one full summer to seersucker.

Kyle comes by his fashion sense honestly.  Ignoring the fact that he was born and raised in Canada – Home of the Bedazzled Man Jean – Kyle works for a hockey agency and spends a lot of time adjacent to athletes, commentators, coaches, and related.  Hockey players and their surrounding personages are similar to other sports in that they are partial to jazzy outfits, and Kyle is no different.  Kyle once attended an awards ceremony decked out in the loudest sport coat I’ve ever seen in person (as a reminder, my family used to own a men’s clothing store so I’ve SEEN some STUFF), and when he texted me a group photo there were so many big dudes sporting gaudy suits that it took me longer than it should have to pick him out of the crowd.

The latest look in men’s hockey is 50’s-esque shortie shorts.  How short?  In the words of my friend, “bend over and show ‘em you’re nuts” short.  Kyle is 100% on board.

We were in the Cities this weekend for a hockey tournament.  The parents were hanging out Friday evening when I heard Kyle say loudly to the dads around him,

“Tomorrow we’ll go get some five-and-a-half-inch-inseam shorts.”

When I was a teenager, I visited my Jersey family and my aunt informed me that sparkly, off-the-shoulder, neon-colored body suits were VERY IN and, in turn, I said,

“That’s too much pizzazz for North Dakota.”

Thanks to the Internet, North Dakota is much more pizzazzy than it was back in the 90’s…but, like, not all the way more.  For example, at a recent board meeting one of the male board members walked in wearing a burnt orange polo shirt and another gentleman exclaimed,

“Whoa, Ted, you tryin’ to glow in the dark or what?”

So, when Kyle proclaimed shortie shorts to a group of dads whose idea of razzle-dazzle is a black stripe on a pair of black joggers, their collective souls scrunched up as if he had suggested they wrap themselves in tinfoil and do a group Riverdance down the streets of Minneapolis.  However, since 1) Kyle is their friend and they didn’t want to hurt his feelings, and 2) no one wanted to be the first to say they weren’t – what’s the word, I’m looking for? Brave?  Insane? – enough for shortie shorts, they all said,


“They aren’t going to wear shortie shorts, leave them alone,” I said to Kyle.

“Yes, they will,” Kyle said, knowingly.

Now the other dads had a conundrum.  If they sided with me – the person who was accurate in what was going to happen regarding shortie short purchasing decisions – they would be going against the Hockey Dad Code that states that Hockey Dads Are Always Right And Are Also Hotter than Hockey Moms.  If they sided with Kyle…well, they’d better make sure their leg hair was combed in the right direction because Sky’s Out, Thighs Out.

“Haha,” they said.  “Yeah.”

The next day arrived.  Our sons played an early-morning game and then weren’t on the schedule again until 7:00 at night, leaving MANY hours available for shopping.  The moms were discussing a plan to fill the time when Kyle reminded us – again, loudly – that the dads were going shopping for shortie shorts.  The other dads didn’t respond because they had individually elected to give Kyle a fifty-foot berth.

“No, you’re not,” I said.

“Well, later,” he said.  “After lunch.”

“Way after lunch,” I said.

Wouldn’t you know it, every single one of those dads miraculously had something to do that entire, previously unplanned, day.  Some of them stayed to watch one of the younger teams play their own game, which is something they had never done before.  One guy straight-up left town.  The rest disappeared into the ether, reappearing juuust before 7:00 pm.  The game ended at 9:00; the stores were closed.  Shucks.

Kyle, however, remained undeterred.

On Sunday, Kyle and I popped into a sporting goods store because I wanted to buy a t-shirt I didn’t actually buy.  Kyle bee-lined for the men’s clothing section, emerging pleased as punch.

“Good thing we didn’t get the five-and-a-half-inch-inseam shorts,” he said, taking a picture and texting it to his friends.  “They sell FOUR-AND-A-HALF-INCH shorts here.”

“Pizzazzy,” I said.

Full disclosure, I’m a fan of the shortie shorts.  The photo above is of Kyle in normal-length shorts.  He’s the one on the right.

The Velva Library is now the Iris Swedlund School and Public Library after being named for a beloved librarian. (KFYR TV)

The Dakota Cruisers are gassed up and ready to hit the road. (Minot Daily News)

In news that will also make our Canadian family happy/unhappy (because they are fans of the Saskatchewan Roughriders), Minot’s Troy Kowal has been drafted by the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League. (KFYR TV)

Jim and Cindy Unruh have made the largest donation in University of Jamestown history. (Bismarck Tribune)

After only THIRTY YEARS, volunteers have raised enough money to revitalize the Lisbon Opera House. (Dickinson Press)

And in news that will make me happy/Kyle unhappy, line dancing is on its way BACK. (KFYR TV)

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