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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Goalie Mom, or a brief lesson in unclenching | December 7, 2022

When my eleven-year-old was around seven, he came home from hockey practice and announced he wanted to be a goalie.

“Great!”  My husband said.

“Erm,” I said.

Here was my concern: hockey is a team sport, but the goalie’s mistakes stand alone.  In fact, sometimes, the goalie shoulders the burden of the entire team’s mistakes; for example, we were recently at a University of North Dakota hockey game and UND scored on the opposing team’s net. 

“Sieve, sieve, sieve, sieve!” the crowd shouted at the goalie while the goal replayed on the screen.

“See that,” Kyle (as a reminder, a hockey agent) said, pointing at one of the opposing defensemen.  “He lost his man.”

“Oh, yes,” I said, even though I didn’t see because my knowledge of the intricacies of hockey stops at whether they serve hot dogs or brats at the concession stand, and also because it’s hard to keep your eye on everyone when there are ten people quickly chasing a small black disk on a big sheet of ice (and you’re busy eating a brat).

Anyways, I didn’t want my sweet, doe-eyed seven-year-old to face that negative attention, warranted or unwarranted.

“How about this,” I said.  “You can play goalie for your Tuesday practices, and play out for your Thursday practices.”

“I want to play goalie all the time,” he said.

“Let’s start with Tuesdays,” I said.

That plan lasted exactly one week.  On the second Thursday, I popped by the rink after work to pick up our toddler from Kyle and wave to the big boy.  Shore ‘nough, I found him out on the ice in his borrowed goalie equipment.

“I thought we agreed on Tuesdays,” I said to Kyle.

“He wouldn’t get dressed otherwise,” Kyle said.

That first year, he let in approximately nine billion goals.  I sat in the stands scrunched like an old dried-up sponge, searching his face behind his mask for an anticipated torrent of tears.  They never came; instead, he’d dance along to the music that would play during the whistle.

He was still wearing borrowed equipment by his second season – “I don’t want to spend the money if he’s not going to stick with it,” The Killer of Joy told Kyle – although I had willingly agreed to pay for goalie lessons because I needed another thing to obsess over.  Before every practice, lesson, or game I’d say to our son, “Have fun and do your best,” and then spend the next hours and days fretting over why he wasn’t paying enough attention, or getting his stick down fast enough, or saving every shot, or whether the other goalies were better and if they were and he was cut from the team would he have any friends anymore and should we just pack up and move right this second to a town in the middle of the desert that had never seen ice?  WELL SHOULD WE?

Of course, I didn’t want to share these neuroses with an eight-year-old, so instead I’d tamp down every emotion into a tight ball and ask with the eyes of a psychopath, “Do you still like being a goalie, buddy?”  And our son would always answer, “Yes!”

Once, I decided to mention a few of these anxieties to my best friend, who has neither children nor any interest in youth sports.  After a loooooooong pause, she said, “I don’t think he needs goalie camp, I think you need Valium.”

Fast-forward another year, to when my parents met us for one of the final games of the season.  I was sitting in the stands next to my mother, who was talking away about something when she stopped and asked, “Are you holding your breath?”

“Yes, I guess I am,” I said, exhaling quickly.

“Why?”

“I’m nervous,” I said.

“About this game?” 

“About everything,” I said.

“Well, what is the point of THAT?”  She asked, as if I had told her I owned more than one can opener.  “It’s a game, Amanda.  Games are meant to be fun.  Is he having fun?”

She pointed to my son, who was zipping around in his net.

“Yes,” I said.

“If he doesn’t do well, are you going to go out there and play for him?”  She asked.

“No,” I said.

“Then you can either have fun or not have fun, or be nervous or not be nervous, but none of those things are going to change the outcome of this game.”  Then she went back to whatever she was talking about before, probably can openers.

I thought about what she said all summer, through baseball and road trips and goalie equipment shopping trips (because I’m not a total monster).  I thought about it while we were packing up for his first fall hockey tournament, and while we were walking into the rink for the first game.

“Have fun, buddy,” I said, with a depth of emotion that can only come with total enlightenment – because that was what I was going to do: enjoy myself, and my son’s time in the sport.

“Okay,” my son said, not giving a crap about my spiritual growth at all.

Today, fifteen zillion games later, my younger son has also decided to become a goalie.  At one his first games, he got tired of playing, leaned his arm up on the back of his net, and just…let in goals for a while.  Kyle and I were standing together and we burst out laughing (and then knocked on the glass to get him to pay attention).  I may not have yet achieved total Zen, but at least I was having a good time.

“Man, I don’t know how you can stand to be a goalie parent,” one of the moms said to me after the game.  “It would be too stressful for me.”

“I’ve had a lot of practice,” I told her.


The photo above was taken by photographer Jeff Wegge.  My older son (then eight years old) got to play with the Little Chippers during the first intermission of the UND game.  As you can see by his face, he had a REALLY good time.


Caitlynn Towe, Myah Johnson, and MacKenzie Olson of Rugby, Hazen, and Watford City, respectively, are on their way to New York to sing at Carnegie Hall. (KFYR TV)

A Bismarck non-profit called Badlands Search and Rescue now has a pup named Copper. (KFYR TV)

In North Dakota-adjacent news, Breckenridge’s Jared Hoechst was recently honored for saving an elderly couple from a burning vehicle. (KFYR TV)

In celebration of her birthday, West Fargo’s Gowri Pillai has donated 5,000 pounds of food – her 10th year of gathering food donations. (KVRR)

This is a sweet little read about memories. (Minot Daily News)

Bismarck’s Christian and Wilfried Tanefeu had Thanksgiving dinner with their new friend, Kelly Ripa. (KFYR TV)

Minot’s Josh Duhamel – you may have heard of him – is the voice of the main character of a new video game. (Fargo Forum)


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Seven and the Grasshopper Egg | October 26, 2022

This past Saturday, Kyle took our eleven-year-old deer hunting (or, rather, he took him stand-sitting because the only thing they bagged was some magical father-son bonding time).  Kyle also wanted to bring along our seven-year-old, which I nixed because Seven is not a fan of quiet, or sitting, and especially not quiet sitting.  For example, Seven and I went to see the Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile in the theater a couple of weeks ago and mere seconds after he finished his popcorn he leaned over and said in what I suppose could be considered a whispered tone but was more of a shouted volume, “Let’s go home.”

ME, in a for-real whisper: We’re going to stay and watch this movie.

SEVEN, whisp-yelling: But I don’t feel good.  I need to go home.

ME: Why don’t you feel good?

SEVEN, shoveling in a fistful of fruit snacks: My stomach hurts.

ME: If your stomach hurts, you need to stop eating fruit snacks.

SEVEN: The fruit snacks are making it feel better.

ME: Have some water and watch the movie.

SEVEN: I’m allergic to water.

[Thirty seconds pass.]

SEVEN, holding his general calf area: Ow!  I think I broke my leg.  I need to go home.

ME: You broke your leg sitting in that chair?

SEVEN: I broke it earlier, but it hurts now.

ME: You’ll need to rest it.  Good thing we’re at the movies.

[Thirty seconds pass.]

SEVEN: I need to go to the bathroom.  Don’t come with me. [Runs out of theater on broken leg]

Seven went to the bathroom eight times during Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.  He watched exactly five straight minutes, which happened to be the final five minutes – after which he announced it was “his favorite movie in the world” and spent the next forty-eight hours singing all of the songs, which he somehow miraculously heard and retained.

As a consolation for being withheld from deer hunting, I offered Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’s Biggest Fan a variety of some of his favorite non-quiet/sitting activities, including the pumpkin patch, laser tag, and the trampoline park.

Here’s another thing about Seven: he marches very much to the beat of his own drum.  As another example, Seven has announced every single day this school year that it was the BEST DAY because he learned about the Titanic and how chicken nuggets are made.  At his Q1 conference, his teacher told us no, they hadn’t yet learned about the Titanic or chicken nugget production – but speaking of learning, she’d really like to see Seven finish his own non-Titanic/nugget-related assignments before moving on to assist his classmates’ with their work.  When we brought up her comments to Seven later that evening, he said, “Did you know a cockroach can hold its breath for 40 minutes?”

Anyway, when provided with a list of non-deer hunting fun options (funptions), Seven went predictably off-script and selected a walk from our house to the nearby gas station for ice cream.

It was an absolutely glorious day, and so we took our sweet time meandering to the ‘station – checking out Halloween decorations, pointing out birds, and, of course, crunching through blocks and blocks of fallen leaves.  Midway from Point A to Point I(ce Cream), Seven took to gathering a bouquet of the reddest leaves, which I, his loyal assistant, was allowed to carry for him.  Suddenly, he stopped.

“LOOK AT THIS,” he said, holding up a brown leaf with a teeny-tiny fuzzy ball on it.  “This is a grasshopper egg.”

“Are you sure?”  I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“Should we Google it?”  I said, surreptitiously Googling what the Internet quickly identified as not a grasshopper egg (inconclusive otherwise).

“No,” he said.

We continued, me with a handful of now-less-good leaves, him cradling this all-important proof of life.

“When this hatches,” he told me, “I will put the grasshoppers in my bug cage.”

“Wouldn’t it make sense to put it in the bug cage before it hatches?”  I asked.

“No,” he said.  “It will be too lonely.”

There were three other people – two shoppers, one employee – at the gas station.  Like any good dad would, Seven loudly announced to all in attendance, “Shh, these grasshopper babies are sleeping.”  Like any terrible mother would, I tried to gently undo his shushing by saying, “Oh, haha, no, everyone is fine.”  No one (including the grasshopper egg) seemed affected one way or the other.

I was put in charge of the leaf when we walked home because “I know about these things,” according to Seven (also, he was holding ice cream).  At the house, Seven put the leaf in the my car.

“What about the bug cage?”  I asked, skeptical that the answer was because the car was in the front yard (where we were) and the bug catcher was all the way in the back.

“That won’t work,” Seven said.

“Why not?”  I asked.

“Because,” Seven said.  “Did you know the first wedding cake was made out of bread?”

“What about the grasshoppers?”  I asked.

“Grasshoppers eat grass, not wedding cake, silly,” Seven said, marching into the house, humming the first bars of a Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile song.

The photo above was taken at the pumpkin patch the day after our gas station walk.  Seven, Eleven, and their friends spent two hours playing their faces off.  After it was over, we asked Seven his favorite part and he said, “The car ride.”

This week’s news has a grand marshal and a doughnut walk. Read on.


Watford City’s Olga Hovet led the high school homecoming parade honor of her 103rd birthday (and 86th post-graduation year). As a side note, I’d like her to put out a beauty guide because if that lady is 103 then I’m a fairy princess. (KFYR TV)

There are so many fun (and free) Halloween events going on across the state – like at Bonanzaville, where kids can participate in old-timey games like a doughnut walk. (News Dakota)

Garrison’s Mike Matteson is the recipient of the AARP’s most prestigious volunteer award, given to one North Dakotan annually. (Minot Daily News)

Happy 100th to the largest mill in the country! (Facebook)

An update to a previous news item: the Meyhuber Family won their episode of Family Feud. (KVRR)

Dickinson’s Tessa Johnson is the only nurse to be inducted into the North Dakota Nurse Hall of Fame in the past 35 years. (KFYR TV)


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