Axolotl | April 27, 2022

My ten-year-old has been campaigning pretty hard for an axolotl.  An axolotl, for those of you who aren’t up on your Minecraft animals and/or exotic amphibians, is a carnivorous salamander that lives under water, has frilly external gills, and looks like it’s always smiling.  My ten-year-old is not getting an axolotl.

Ten wants an axolotl because he actually wants a dog – and if not a dog, a cat; and if not a cat, a guinea pig; and if not a guinea pig, a bunny; and if not a bunny, an axolotl.  The thing is, Ten is allergic to pet dander.  Really allergic.  Think, “Oh, just take a Claritin and you’ll be fine sniff sniff,” and multiply that by an at-home nebulizer and a punch card’s-worth of asthma-related trips to the ER.  If you’re up on your dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and bunnies, you’ll know that all of those have fur (and therefore dander)…meaning his chances of getting an axolotl are about 4,000-times more likely than one of those other animals, even if those chances are still zero.

His request for an axolotl also isn’t completely lost in the deep end of the pool because his dad and I have a habit of getting him guilt pets – and nothing makes us feel more guilty than having a kid with a health thing.  Ten’s first pet, for example, was the by-product of his needing tubes in his ears.  If you, an adult, got tubes in your ears it would be achieved in your doctor’s office with some numbing.  When Ten got it done he was three years old, and three-year-olds need to be put under so they don’t wiggle their way into some extra head holes.

If you’ve ever been under anesthesia, you’ll know that you need to sign all sorts of waivers about the dangers of said anesthesia.  As three-year-olds aren’t great at writing their names, it was up to me to fill out forms that read something like, “I understand that this surgery is completely elective and anything that happens as a result is because I suck at parenting.”  Then my little buddy was wheeled back for tubing, gripping tight to his favorite hockey card, which he opted to bring with him instead of a stuffed animal.  He waved that hockey card as he disappeared out of view.

Naturally, I burst into tears.  Kyle got the lucky job of guiding his weeping wife out to the waiting room, where he deposited me in a chair just in time for the nurse to pop her head in and say, “All done!”

Those eight minutes (five minutes for forms + three for the rest) were so traumatizing to me that we left the hospital and went right to the pet store, where we got three guilt goldfish.  We named the fish Randy, Ralphie, and Flick after the movie, A Christmas Story.  Our son, who was completely unphased about his earlier surgery, was equally as disinterested in the fish by Day 2.

Ralphie and Flick made it four months (which is three months and thirty days longer than any other fish in Silverman fishstory).  Randy, on the other hand, was a valued member of our family for seven years.  He lived in Ten’s bedroom, first in a small bowl, then in a mid-sized tank, and then in an aquarium roughly the size of a bathtub.  Despite the fact that Randy and Ten shared nearly equal square footage in that bedroom, they only interacted with each other once – when Randy decided to jump out of his tank, and Ten’s (who was four at the time) gut instinct was to cover him with a pillow.  Everyone, including the pillow, made it through unscathed.

The rest of the time, Randy was Kyle’s fish.  Kyle fed him, cleaned his giant tank, bought him toys, and acquired additional fish friends – all but one of whom met their watery graves at the fins of Randy, who turned out to be a bully.  Kyle also had to find babysitters to care for Randy when we went out of town because fish are a lot of work – like, you know, axolotls.

As much as Ten has promised to take care of any new pets, salamander or otherwise, Kyle and I are unconvinced that we won’t be tweezer-feeding worms to Little Cutie the Axolotl (Ten’s choice for a name) long after the boys have left for college.  We are also considering allergy shots for Ten, so as long as those work we should be able to make it through his adulthood without any guilt animals…but a guilt bike – I mean, the kid does have to get a series of shots – may be in his future.

The photo above is of Kyle with an artist’s representation of an axolotl.

This week’s news has a baby eating a pickle and a special birthday party.  Read on.

(Also, today is my mom’s birthday.  Happy birthday, Mom!)


West Fargo’s Ellis Bonn is now Internet Famous after trying her first pickle. (KVRR)

Or the 31st time, the Dickinson State University Agriculture Club spent a day showing pre-schoolers through third-graders all about ag. (Dickinson Press)

Bismarck’s Marcus Ell had a “one hundred” (on a scale from 1-10) birthday after his mom put out a request on Facebook. (KX Net)

Mersiha Arapovic is Mandan’s first female firefighter. (KFYR TV)

Let’s Be (Official) Pals!

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Squeegee | July 22, 2021

We are moving; and between packing up and saying goodbye to our current house, renovating and unpacking our new house, working at my job, and doing the bare minimum at parenting, I have reached my complete maximum mental bandwidth.

We had a one-hour torrential downpour in Grand Forks the other day.  Our poor dry ground was not prepared for the equivalent of the sky overturning itself and dumping a lake’s worth of water onto everything, and so the streets and parking lots were flooded in minutes.  I was stopped at a traffic light and noticed an employee – a small elderly woman – standing at the entrance to a nearby grocery store, calmly and methodically pushing water out from the entrance using a squeegee.  The rain was pounding into swimming pool-sized puddles in front of her, and yet she just kept sweeping the squeegee, sweeping the squeegee, sweeping the squeegee.

This is how I’d describe the current situation in my brain: I have a small elderly woman standing at the entrance to my ear, calmly and methodically sweeping out all information not immediately pertinent to my house, my job, or my family.

My Squeegee-er (Squeegeer?) has made for an interesting brainfellow.  For example, I made lunch for the boys and myself last weekend, eating mine while I was putting together the rest.  I gave the boys their food, went back into the kitchen, and made myself a second lunch.  I was several bites in before I thought, “Man, I’m just not hungry today, I wonder why,” and then realized the reason was because I had already consumed a full meal not ten minutes earlier.

Another time, Kyle gave me a full rundown of a true crime podcast he’d found.  I listened intently, asking questions and commenting on what he was telling me.  When he was finished, he said, “You should check it out.”

“Check what out?”  I said.

“The podcast,” Kyle said.

“What podcast?”  I asked.

However, the most distracting part of my Squeegee-er (this seems more correct) is that she whistles while she works, so to speak.  A few weeks ago, it was song lyrics; I was minding my own business when the “Dum-dum-dum, good times never seemed so good,” part of “Sweet Caroline” got jammed on repeat somewhere in my brain, playing over and over and over again from morning to night.

Lately, though, it’s been joke punchlines.  I woke up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water, and my Squeegee-er whispered, “I’d like some fish and chips.”

The rest of the joke goes like this:

A man walks into a library and up to the front desk.

“I’d like some fish and chips,” he asks.

“This is a library,” says the library.

“Oh, sorry,” says the man.  And then, in a whisper, “I’d like some fish and chips.”

Anyways, dear friends, I had a different story planned for this week but it got squeegeed out into the parking lot – so instead here are the punchlines (and the jokes that accompany them) that keep popping into my mind in lieu of other things that should be there:

***

Morty is speaking to his neighbor, a doctor, over the fence.

“I think my wife may be losing her hearing,” Morty laments.

“Well, there’s a simple test you can try,” says the doctor.  “Start out 40 feet away from her and say something in a normal tone.  If she doesn’t hear you, move up to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until she responds.”

That night, Morty’s wife is in the kitchen.  He goes into the living room and asks,

“Honey, what’s for dinner?”

She doesn’t answer, so he moves to the doorway.

“My love, what’s for dinner?”

No response.  He walks up right behind her.

“Dear, what’s for dinner?”

She turns around.

“For the third time, Morty, CHICKEN!”

***

A man goes ice fishing for the very first time.  He sets down his gear and reties his scarf.  Suddenly, from the heavens, a voice booms out,

“THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE.”

The man looks around, doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary, and figures he must be hearing things.  He cuts a hole and tosses his line in.  Again, a booming voice says,

“THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE.”

This time the man can’t ignore it.  He drops his pole and shouts,

“Is that you, Lord?”

To which the voice says,

“NO, THIS IS THE ICE RINK MANAGER.  THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE.”

***

A pirate limps into a bar.

“Um, excuse me,” says the bartender.  “Is that a steering wheel in your pants?”

“Arrgg, it is,” said the pirate.  “It be drivin’ me nuts.”

***

And finally,

A woman goes to a beekeeper to get a dozen bees for her garden.  The beekeeper gives her thirteen.

“Oh!” she says.  “I think you gave me an extra.”

“Yes,” says the beekeeper.  “That’s a freebie.”

***

I snapped a photo of the aforementioned rainstorm, which is above.  Two hours later, it was completely evaporated/soaked in/down the storm sewers.  Wild time.

This week’s news is about BTS, young aviators, and loungewear.  Read on.


West Fargo’s Eden Smith is a finalist in a worldwide essay competition about the impact of the musical group, BTS. (Fargo Forum)

A Williston ice cream truck has started stocking up treats for puppies, as well as humans. (Williston Herald)

Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux are the 45th and 46th recipients of North Dakota’s prestigious Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award. (Grand Forks Herald)

The Bismarck Community Food Co-Op has been holding free cooking classes for people looking to learn how to do food prep. (KX Net)

Kids are flying high at the Fargo Air Museum’s Youth Aviation Camp. (KVRR)

Fargo’s Sydney Craig has created a clothing line – t-shirts, hoodies, joggers, crew necks, and loungewear – alongside local artists in order to promote mental health(Fargo Forum)

McDowell Dam celebrated its 10th Annual Fun Day, where all of the rec spot’s activities were free to try out. (KX Net)

The politics of cake | July 1, 2021

Our friends hosted a family birthday party for their ten-year-old last weekend.  The jury is still out between my sons as to the second-best part of the soiree (right now it’s a tie between the slip-and-slide covered in dish soap and “playing” in general), but they both have agreed that the number-one spot goes to the cake.

It was a homemade leopard cake.  The cake itself was green and white confetti because everything tastes better with a color; and on top was layered white frosting and gold sprinkles, followed by edible paint sketched into the leopard design.  The whole thing was surrounded by a garden’s worth of pink flowers handmade out of white chocolate.  It looked, as one might say, good enough to eat.

If you’re up on your birthday cake consumption, you’ll know that typically the most coveted pieces amongst today’s youth are those with a lot of frosting or some kind of atypical decoration.  For example, the most popular elements of my son’s birthday cake were the legs on the spider.  In the case of the leopard cake, the pieces with the most frosting did not include a chocolate flower – a fact the partygoers were well-aware, as there were numerous discussions during the aforementioned “playing” as to the superiority of chocolate or frosting.

The kids had been running around like wild animals for the entirety of the day; but the moment the cake was announced, they dropped whatever they were doing and got themselves, hands washed, to a seat at the table before the candles were fully placed.

“I call the eye!”  The first kid shouted with the confidence of someone who had scoped out the cake in advance and knew that the eye had the most paint.

“I call the ear!”  Another kid yelled.  “THIS ear, not that ear.”

“I call the other ear!”

“I call the big flower in the corner!”

I read somewhere that it’s a tradition in Brazil to give the first piece of birthday cake to the person you love the most.  In the United States and Canada we want our children to love themselves best because it’s a well-known fact that the birthday celebrant gets the prime piece.  And so, the birthday girl took in all of this information with cool silence and then, after all pieces had been called, stated,

“I want this eye and this flower.”

With her piece+ identified, the re-calling began.  “Okay, I call the other eye!”  “I call the ear!” Etc, etc.

We sang the song, the slices were distributed appropriately to the callers (with some last-minute trades) – and then, as per usual, the grownups slinked off to the kitchen to divvy up the remaining “undesirable” scraps.

As I sat eating my green and white confetti cake without any leopard paint or chocolate flower, I was struck by the fact that we adults have given up a well-earned right in birthday caking. For one, while I suppose we could just make and eat a birthday cake whenever we wanted regardless of the existence of an actual birthday (it’s a birthday somewhere), the number of actual birthday cakes to which grownups have access (outside of kids’ parties) goes down precipitously as we age due to things like birthday pie and restaurants serving a single slice of cake or people “just not wanting all that sugar,” making them all the more valuable.

For two, we are much older than children, meaning we have many, many more years of expertise in winning “Called It” battles, not just in cake, but in front car seats and other important life circumstances.  I’m definitely not suggesting we take the “good” pieces away from the kids like jerkfaces; but we don’t even make an attempt to gain superiority over our fellow grown-ups.  In fact, it’s the opposite – at this party, as is always the case, when the time came for the parents to get some cake, we didn’t take the pieces handed to us.  Instead, we kept passing them around to make sure that everyone else had a slice because “winning” in adulthood means picking the remaining crumbs and frosting bits off of the cake plate with a fork after all of the rest of the cake has been consumed.

In fact, we absolutely waste all of our “Called It” skills in general.  For instance, I have never once walked into a business meeting and proclaimed,

“I call the chocolate-covered doughnut, I call that chair with the good armrest, and I call $50,000 for a marketing campaign.”

I don’t know what my point is here, but I do think we are giving ourselves the short end of the sprinkles bottle somehow.  Maybe we need to bring back the “Called It” system.  Maybe we need more cakes with lots of frosting and decorations but also zero sugar because we don’t need all of the calories.  Someone should come up with a solution.  As I don’t really like cake, I call not it.

It’s both my son’s and my nephew’s birthday on Sunday.  The photo above is my son’s 6th birthday cake.  Obviously, he eschewed a piece of cake in lieu of eating the shark, which was made of Rice Krispies.  He had two bites and pooped out – so everyone, including the shark, won.

This week’s news is about hungry horses, family garage sales, and wheelchair baseball.  Read on.


I always love the days when there’s so little news that a horse going through a fast food drive-thru makes it to TV. (KFYR TV)

Bowman’s main street now has a new mural, which tells the story of Paul Harvey’s poem, “So God Made a Farmer.” (Bowman Extra)

A pop-up food pantry at West Fargo’s Lutheran Church of the Cross – which served 3,700 people last year – has now become the permanent West Fargo Eats, which brings together the YWCA, the Great Plains Food Bank, and Gate City Bank in order to better assist the community. (KFYR TV)

The Moms Club of Bismarck held a 20-family yard sale in order to raise money for the Dakota Children’s Advocacy Group. (KX Net)

Downtown Fargo has a new mural – a postcard featuring images that are representative of the city’s culture – courtesy of Victor Ving and Lisa Beggs’ mission to create one in all of the 50 states. (KVRR)

Twenty Grand Forks students played wheelchair baseball thanks to HOPE, Inc. (Fargo Forum)