Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble | April 26, 2023

Kyle has been traveling quite a bit for work lately; in the last five days I’ve seen him for approximately 15 hours (a MAGICAL 15 hours, though, filled with laundry and sleeping romance).  Back when our babies were still babies, Kyle would have returned home after a single overnight to an emotional and physical apocalyptic landscape.  As an example, when our oldest was four and our youngest a newborn, Four and I awakened – in the middle of the country during a blizzard – with raging cases of pinkeye.  I scraped my eyelids open wide enough to drive the pile of us to Urgent Care – from the country during a blizzard – and then inched back through mountainous drifts of snow to find the power out.  Fortunately, two of us couldn’t see anyway and the third only had about a twenty-foot distance perception so we kept ourselves busy by sitting under a pile of blankets and crying.

Now, however, the boys are pretty self-sufficient (Seven told Kyle he wasn’t planning on getting married anytime soon but he’d “let us know if anything changed”) and, of course, this ain’t our first rodeo.  Obviously, we’d greatly prefer it if Kyle were here; but at this point we have a standard checklist of things that happen when Dad’s out of town, including eating all the foods Kyle hates and we love (it’s basically a bacchanal of spaghetti and meatballs and shrimp fried rice the moment his car leaves the garage).

On Kyle’s recent trip, I had cleaned up after an early dinner of spaghetti and meatballs topped with shrimp fried rice and realized I had nothing pressing to do for one whole entire hour.  I went down to the basement where Eleven was playing on the Oculus and Seven was re-re-re-re-watching the movie Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.

“Would anyone like to hang out with me?”  I asked.

“No, thanks,” Eleven said.

“You can make me some popcorn if you want,”  Seven said, graciously, without looking away from the television.

I stood there for a beat.

“Well,” I said slowly, “Maybe I’ll go take a bath.”

“Sounds good,” Eleven said.

“Okay, but popcorn first,” Seven said.

I don’t want to brag, but I am substantially great at baths.  I’m so great at baths that if I wrote a weekly story I’d use it to brag the crap out of my baths.  I’ve spent the past 43 years amassing a collection of candles, soaps, salts, scrubs, masks, musical playlists, and bath pillows, which I combine with a scientific knowledge of the ideal water temperature and room lighting to create a *swoops hand for a dramatic chef’s kiss* bathing experience for the ages.

Since there isn’t any actual BATHING in my baths – I dump so much stuff in the water one could argue a person comes out less clean than when they went in – I don’t take them very often.  So, when I do, I make sure everything is so perfecto that the memory of its amazingness carries me until I can do it again.

It took me a solid fifteen minutes to get everything set up (and remind the not-yet-married Seven that he could make his own popcorn).  For my final step, I went to lock the bathroom door…and remembered that I was the lone adult in the house. 

“A good parent would leave the door unlocked in case of emergencies,” I thought – hesitated, and left the door unlocked.

I stepped into a Shangri-la of bubbles.  I leaned back, took a deep breath, and closed my eyes.

“Mom,” A Voice said.

I opened my eyes.  Eleven was sitting on the side of the tub.

“I have to tell you the funniest thing that just happened,” he said.  “I was playing Monkey Tag and this kid jumped onto the wall and…”

The story had a lot of ups and downs and vocal inflections and took an eternity.  At the end of it, he said,

“Isn’t that funny?”

“Yes,” I said, even though I wasn’t 100% sure which part was the funny part.  Eleven, pleased with my answer, surveyed the room.

“How’s your bath?”  He said, and then, “Okay, I have to get back to my game.  They are waiting for me.”

“Okay, buddy,” I said.  “Close the door.”

He shut the door.  I fluffed the bubbles, turned up the music, closed my eyes.

“Hi, Mommy!”  The door swung open and Seven appeared with a fistful of popcorn.

“Do you want some popcorn?”  He asked.

“No, thank you,” I said.  “Sweetheart, would you let me finish my bath, please?”

“Yes,” he exclaimed, and then whispered, “Yes.”  He shoved the popcorn in his mouth and made a big show of tiptoeing out of the room.

“Have a good bath, Mommmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyy,” he whispered through the crack in the door.

Ninety seconds later, Seven was back.  He brought with a little battery-powered fairy light nightlight he and his dad crafted the weekend before.

“This is for you,” he said, turning it on and setting it on the counter.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Now your bath is good,” he said.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Can I have a bath?”  He asked.

“Yes,” I said, “If you let me finish my bath.”

“Okay,” he said.  He sat down on the edge of the tub.

“Love,” I said.  “Go back to your movie and I’ll come get you when I’m done.”

“I’ll miss you too much,” he said, popping a bubble.

“I don’t think you’ll miss me for such a short amount of time,”  I said.

“No, I will,” he said.  He gave a deep sigh.

“Wait!  I have a great idea,” he said.  “I could get into the bath WITH you.  We can share!”

I, too, gave a deep sigh, and grabbed a towel.  Seven was undressed and in the tub before I was totally out.  He leaned back.

“Mmm,” he said.  “This bath is perfect.”

“Yes, I know,” I said.

I couldn’t come up with a good existing photo for this story so I decided to take a quick selfie in my bathtub. As you can see by the photo above, Seven walked in juuust as I had sat down and I opted to use this picture as proof that I can’t even take a clothes-on-pretend bath without group participation.

Gilby’s Molly Dickson is one of The Hollywood Reporter‘s 25 Most Powerful Stylists in Hollywood. (Grand Forks Herald)

Grand Forks’ Allyssa Johnson finished eighth in the nation at the USA Wrestling Women’s National Championship. (Grand Forks Herald)

Fargo’s Parker Swenningsen got the tour of his ten-year-old lifetime. (Fargo Forum)

Bismarck Century students have a reason to say gracias with the addition of a new scholarship in memory of a long-time Spanish teacher. (KX Net)

Congratulations to Dr. Gabe Dahl, named North Dakota’s Assistant Principal of the Year. (Facebook)

Beep beep!  The West Fargo Public Library’s Little Red Reading Bus is on the road again! (Valley News Live)

Are we newsletter friends yet?

Sign up for the weekly North Dakota Nice email and get this story and the news delivered to your inbox once a week (and never more than that).

A Love Story | April 5, 2023

My seven-year-old, a goalie, played in a hockey tournament this past weekend.  His eleven-year-old brother, also a goalie, was forced to attend.  At the end of the second game, Eleven – who had spent the previous eighty ten minutes BORED OUT OF HIS MIND having been asked to stand in one place with his face turned in the direction of the ice – wandered over to his brother as he was getting undressed, bent over, and murmured something into his mask.  Seven nodded vigorously.

It turned out Eleven had offered to be his goalie coach.  For every moment of the next twenty-four hours, Eleven exercised, stretched, strategized, and encouraged Seven in his gameplay and attitude.  Seven, who would do absolutely anything for his brother’s attention, ate it up.  After it was over, Seven put his little arm around Eleven and said,

“I love you so, so much, forever and ever.”

Eleven turned to me and said, “Can we get Taco Bell?”

“Your brother just said something to you,” I admonished him.  “Is there anything you want to say back?”

Eleven looked down at Seven, seemingly surprised to find a person gripping onto him for dear life.

“Okay,” Eleven said to his brother.

Like Seven, I am an effusive lover.  At least half of my conversations with Seven are the two of us trying to one-up each other with love.  As I was typing this, for example, Seven came up to my office and said,

“Hi, I love you.”

And I said,

“Hi, I love you with all my heart.”

And he said,

“I love you with all my heart to infinity and the universe and I’ll love you FOREVER and EVER and I like looking at you so much if feels like a dream.”

And I said,

“Well, I love you INFINITY more than that.”

And he said,

“I love YOU infinity infinities more than that.”

Anyway, three hours later and we’re still going.

The only thing that keeps me from saying “I love you” to everyone I love – and I love A LOT of people – is the societal understanding that not everyone loves proclamations of love.  The vast majority of people in my family, in fact, will usually only say “I love you” if someone says it first.  Kyle is one of those people, and every time Seven or I tell him we love him unexpectedly (and not at a prescribed time like before bed or leaving the house or going to the bathroom) he mumbles a “Love you, too,” as if he were trying to surreptitiously let us know that we had a booger hanging out of our nose.

This is not to say, obviously, that only the Sevens and the Amandas of the universe love big.  It seems to me that most people prefer to show their love rather than tell it.  Eleven becoming a goalie coach, for instance, is about as close to throwing himself on his knees and declaring his undying love as he gets.  Kyle is a super-duper helper.  My mother is a maestro of letter-writing and handwritten hearts. My dad clips articles.  My paternal grandmother baked chocolate chip cookies.  And my maternal grandmother used to show her love with cold drinks.  No matter where we were or what we were doing, if she was happy, she was also thirsty.

We were out shopping in New York sometime in my college years when I said,

“Grandma, I love you with all my heart.”

“I love you, too,” she said.  “Let’s go get a cold drink.”

We got iced teas; and as we were contemplating the addition of a light nosh, my grandma said,

“Have I ever told you how I find it interesting that you say, ‘I love you with all my heart?’”

“No,” I said.  (As an aside, my go-to message has been “I love you with all my heart” since I was about four years old.)

“After your great-grandpa had his stroke, the only thing he could say was, ‘I love you with all my heart,’” Grandma said.  “You wouldn’t have known that, though, because he died when you were six months old.  I wonder where you picked it up?”

“Maybe Mom?”  I said.

“No,” she said, “I guess it’s just one of those things that reminds us we’re connected.”

“Like cold drinks?”  I teased her.

“Absolutely like cold drinks,” she said, raising her hand to call over the waiter.  “And crème brulee.  Let’s get some crème brulee.”

The photo above is of one of my loves.

It was a packed house in celebration of Dickinson’s Jessica Clifton, who has spent the past decade “going above and beyond her job duties to help veterans in Stark County. (Dickinson Press)

There are now four former University of North Dakota hockey players playing for the Ottawa Senators. (Grand Forks Herald)

Happy 107th birthday to Dickinson’s Helma Lein! (Valley News Live)

Best of luck to the Bismarck U-16 curling team, who are headed to nationals in Boston. (KFYR TV)

Speaking of Bismarck, Bismarck’s Britta Curl is suiting up for Team USA – the 10th time playing for USA and the third at the IIHFWHC – in the IIHF World Hockey Championships. (KFYR TV)

And one more time for Bismarck: Bismarck’s Marea Reinicke took advantage of all of our recent snow to make a snow sculpture on her roof. (Facebook)

Congratulations to West Fargo’s Darcy Brandenburg, named North Dakota Band Director of the Year. (Fargo Forum)

Grand Forks has been named the fourth-best place in the United States to buy a house on a budget. (Grand Forks Herald)

This is not related to North Dakota, but my Godmother sent me this video without knowing this was the exact topic of my story this week, so enjoy. (Facebook)

Are we newsletter friends yet?

Sign up for the weekly North Dakota Nice email and get this story and the news delivered to your inbox once a week (and never more than that).

Kids these days and their darn rock ‘n roll music | March 29, 2023

My weekend Facebook feed was top to bottom about the appearance of northern lights – aurora borealis for us sophisticates – in North Dakota last Thursday.  If you’ve never had the good fortune to see the northern lights in person, they are one of those things where even the most majestic photo does not do them justice.  Kyle and I were driving to Canada a hundred winters ago when all of sudden the universe began to buzz and what was a pitch-black sky lit up into a chorus of dancing color.  The whole thing lasted ten minutes and will have a seat in my brain forever.

Speaking of things that are amazing and must be seen to be believed, my eleven-year-old is now 5’1” tall.  I am 5’2”, so if you are doing the math this means I can look Eleven and his friends in the eye when I pull a random sock out of the kitchen cabinets and ask 1) who the sock belongs to, 2) why it’s in the kitchen, and 3) where all of the other socks are located, since I’m standing in front of six boys in bare feet who were 100% socked not thirty minutes prior.

Obviously, I had a pretty good idea this time would come.  If you set aside the fact that North Dakota is one of the tallest states in the U.S., and also the non-fact that Kyle and I did the old wives’ tale thing where we doubled our sons’ heights at age two and both of them came out to be over 6’, I am still short.  “Small but mighty,” as my mom likes to say.  Not to brag, but I’m bigger than the average Bangladeshi by .08” and Bangladesh isn’t even the shortest country in the world (it’s the ninth-shortest).

Still, it’s weird.  It’s weird that I suddenly have these large people roaming around my house, especially since they are inherently wee babes who can be bribed with fruit snacks and have a handful of Tooth Fairy visits left in their futures.  It’s also weird that these big-little children have started to develop interests outside of the things their parents tell them to like – specifically, in Eleven’s case, social videos.

So that we are on the same page, social videos are videos shared on platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook.  My favorite social videos, for example, are recipe tutorials.  My second-favorite, as another example, are worldwide restaurant tours.  My third-favorite, unrelated, is workout instruction, which I watch with the phone propped up next to me on the couch so that my hands are free to eat the food I cooked and/or ordered.  My fourth-favorite, and all of the favorites beyond, are too embarrassing to admit.

I am no monster; I don’t expect Eleven to appreciate my personal brand of quality video content (#253 on my list is watching people make teapots out of clay).  Instead, here are the social videos I’d like Eleven to watch: science experiments by real scientists in controlled environments, people being kind to one another, children practicing their tubas because they want to improve and not because their parents are standing over them saying, “Playing the tuba means practicing the tuba.”  Also, puppies.

Here are the videos Eleven actually wants to watch: I don’t know.  I mean, I KNOW, because I see them with my eyeballs and he gives me a frame-by-frame recap of every single one at dinner – but I don’t actually KNOW WHAT in the aurora borealis is happening in any of them.  One of the meager few I sort of understood was a cat made in the style of old-school pixels.  The video was twenty minutes long, and it was just that cat flying through the air with different outfits on.  Eleven was hysterical with laughter.  After it ended, he asked, “What was your favorite part?”  And the only thing I could think to say was, “I liked how much you liked it.”

Kyle is in a similar boat, especially when it comes to…I’m not even sure how to describe these…impersonation videos?  Re-enactments?  Basically, young people dress up as their mothers or teachers or siblings and mimic how they would respond in specific situations.  The totality of this caricature typically involves sticking a t-shirt over the top of one’s head so that it cascades down like hair(?).  Also, the background is fake, which I think is a part of it.  The titles of the videos are something on the lines of, “North Dakota Grandmas Be Like…” and then a huge amount of screaming.  No matter the topic, screaming is central to the script – and if there is one sound Kyle LOVES, it’s SCREAMING. 

However, because we grew up in the ‘80’s when DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince stated the obvious that “Parents just don’t understand,” Kyle will stand there and watch what Former Victorian-Era Pirates Who Are Now Homeroom Teachers Be Like and then say to an eager Eleven, “What’s a pirate’s least-favorite vegetable?  Leeks.  Now go practice your tuba.”

In addition to being large and a modern-day video savant, Eleven has started to become aware that maybe Kyle and I aren’t as hip and jive as he might have thought, giving us a glimpse of an era to come when we are devastatingly uncool.  To counter-act that, I have taken to sending him YouTube shorts about why kids should respect their elders.  Also, puppies.

Bruh, the photo above is of the sweatshirt my boys gave me for my birthday.

West Fargo High School has a peer-to-peer program which is currently pairing students with and without special needs to share in the universal world of coffee. (Fargo Forum)

Minot’s JJ Franks will be on the Jennifer Hudson Show TOMORROW after winning $10,000 by scoring a layup, free throw, three-pointer, and one-handed half-court shot. (KVRR)

Bismarck’s April Lund has broken the U.S. Women’s Track and Field 3,000-meter American record for women ages 40 to 44 at the World Master Athletic Indoor Championships in Poland. (KFYR TV)

Valley City’s Hadlee Mathias isn’t yet out of high school and has already earned 41 record-breaking college credits. (Fargo Forum)

Get out yer binoculars – Game and Fish is looking for bald eagles. (KX Net)

Teachers!  Gateway to Science is putting together a STEM All-Star team.  Nominate your all-star students – also the first 25 students nominated get two tickets to a Larks game – here. (Gateway to Science)

The Minot community came out to welcome back the Beavers after winning the ACHA Men’s Division I national championship. (KFYR TV)

WHOA!  Curling is now North Dakota’s official sport thanks to the work of Bismarck 6th grader Alaina Schmidt. (Dickinson Press) (KFYR TV)

Are we newsletter friends yet?

Sign up for the weekly North Dakota Nice email and get this story and the news delivered to your inbox once a week (and never more than that).