Category Archives: Kids

Birthday Bash

Our 5 year old gardening buddy has a birthday next week, and asked his parents for a Gunsmoke themed party. He likes dressing up like a cowboy, and I assume his parents let him watch Gunsmoke reruns. His parents agreed, and his dad found a bunch of wooden pallets he is transforming into a boardwalk. There is a large sign the says Long Branch Saloon. I can hardly wait to see if anyone dresses up like Miss Kitty.

Our daughter also has a birthday in a couple of weeks. She always has anxiety over birthdays, I think stemming from anticipation over childhood parties. We never went so far as to recreate a film set, but she had some nice parties. She stated she has a number of birthday events scheduled by friends in the next two weeks. She is celebrating personally by having a different kind of hot dog a day for her birthday week. We never knew she even liked hot dogs.

My childhood parties were pretty tame, but I will never forget my heartbreak on my 8th birthday when my parents told me that we were moving to a new house in a different part of town, meaning I wouldn’t be next door to my best friend anymore.

What are some of your more memorable birthday parties? What events or celebrations do you dread? What would you wear to a Gunsmoke themed party? Plan your next birthday bash.

Scandal-No Place to Hide

We live in a predominantly Roman Catholic community. We are a town of only 23,000 people, yet we have four Catholic churches, two Catholic elementary schools, a Catholic Middle School, and a Catholic High School.

You can imagine the gasps when, last week, the Catholic School Board announced that Father H, the principal of the Middle School and High School had been permanently relieved of his duties, along with an unmarried, female Elementary Principal and athletic director. They had apparently been consuming alcohol in a school vehicle on their way to a basketball tournament in Minot in March, and then tried to hide what they had done. There is also much scuttlebutt about other misbehavior, but that didn’t make the newspaper. Oh, the scandal!

This is no place to misbehave, because everyone knows everybody else, people notice things, and there really is nowhere to hide. The two Principals should just have worn shirts that said “Shoot me now” instead of trying to be sneaky. Moreover, if you get drunk and disorderly in Minot, 230 miles away, even that news will make it back here. This is a small State despite the vast distances between towns.

What are some scandals you remember from your home town or where you live now? 

Being in the Right place

Last week as I was struggling with my usual insomnia, I started to do a room  by room inventory in my mind, visualizing each part of the house and deciding what furniture we would take with us when we moved, and what we would discard. I haven’t done that before, and I have no idea why I did it last week.  We have no firm moving date.  It could be as long as  five years  before we  leave here.   Doing that inventory sure didn’t help my sleep, since I got increasingly anxious about all the stuff we have, and how we could possibly move it.  The next day we got a New Yorker and wouldn’t you know, there was an article about a woman who decided that  her possessions were too burdensome and  her actions to get rid of the unnecessary.  I believe that both these incidents were signs from the Cosmos to sit up and pay attention and prepare for action. 

Husband and I had a discussion the other day about our tenure out here, and how we seem have been in the right place at the right time for us and for the communities we have worked with/for.  We both felt, though, that it was time for us to seriously think about that time ending.  Husband had just returned from doing some expert witness testimony for the Tribal Court in New Town,  his first time on the Reservation since March, 2020.  He felt good about his testimony, but decided that he really didn’t want to make that 100 mile journey any more.   I talked about how useful and needed I still felt at my agency, but how exhausting it was getting for me. Both of us are sick to death of the constant attention in the state to extraction industries like oil and coal.  The isolation from family is feeling keener.  

We have lived here for 34 years.  Given our family health history, we could both live another 30 years, and I really don’t want to spend all those years here.  I think I am going to start getting rid of the unnecessary stuff in the basement.   We may not move for several years, but I want to be ready.

When have you been in the right place at the right time?  How did you know? When did you know it was time to go somewhere else?  

The Pacifier

With the nice weather over the weekend, my nextdoor neighbors got their chalk out and went to work creating a village on their driveway (designed by Margot, who is 6).  When I stepped outside to appreciate it, Matilda (the almost 2-year old) informed me that she had a new bed.  Turns out it is just her crib but with the side down and a bed rail attached, but she was happy about it.  There was more big news… last night was her first night without her pacifier.  It was apparently a trade – the pacifier for the big girl bed.  I laughed and thought about my experience with pacifiers when YA was little.

When I went to China to pick up YA, there was a big list of “suggested” items that I take with me; a pacifier was on the list so I dutifully packed it.  YA, even as Tiny Baby, was not interested.  After a couple of futile attempts, I stuck it back in the duffel bag.  Nonny was at the airport when we got back to Minneapolis and she stayed for a week or so while I got my feet underneath me.  Nonny was absolutely sure that if she presented the pacifier enough times, Tiny Baby would accept it and all would be right with the world.  (It’s funny looking back because Tiny Baby was not fussy, there really wasn’t a great need.)  But Nonny kept trying and every time TB rejected a nook, it would end up on the side table or a chair or someplace where it became irresistible to someone else:  Baron. 

Baron was an 85-pound ball of fluffy, sweet, calm Samoyed.  He wasn’t the brightest bulb but he was sure that these pacifiers that Nonny kept leaving around were meant for him.  Of course as soon as he absconded with one, it became off-limits for the baby; slowly but surely over that week, we went from having a collection of 10 baby pacifiers to a collection of 10 dog pacifiers.  If ever there was a dog that didn’t need a pacifier, it was Baron.  He had self-soothing down to an art.  Eventually he chewed them all enough that I had to throw them away and we never had any more, since Tiny Baby didn’t need or like them.  Nonny wasn’t amused but I thought it was hilarious.

Do you have any self-soothing practices?  Are they working well for you?

Easter Baskets

I received a text from Daughter last week enquiring if she would get an Easter basket this year. I replied that of course  she would. She reminded me of her favorites (anything milk chocolate, Butterfinger eggs, anything sour) and I assured her they  would arrive in good time. I asked Son and Dil what Grandson should get in his basket, and they sent their suggestions (Cadbury mini  eggs, freeze dried mangos and raspberries, raisins, and pretzel chips).  Now I am sorting through our spare boxes to get everything sent.

I remember the activities of Easter more than the treats. It was a time I got a fancy new church dress and hat. I don’t remember dying eggs.  The Easter Bunny left white  tracks all over our house, deposited on the charcoal colored carpets by my mother,  who dipped oval shaped shoe polish applicators in flour and left bunny tracks through the house that led to the candy.

We plan to tell the children next door on Easter Sunday that we have rabbit problems in our yard, and would they please come over to get the chocolate eggs those darn rabbits have left all over the place. That will be fun.

What are your Easter memories? What do you want in your Easter Basket this year?

Pierced

I see in the news that Jennifer Garner just got her ears pierced.  According to her, the main reason she didn’t do it sooner was because she thought her father would disapprove.

I can certainly understand.  Getting your ears pierced started to become popular when I was in high school.  As the years went by, more and more of my friends started to get pierced but my folks, particularly my father, were adamant that I not join the “fad”.  Back then the only official way to get your ears pierced was at the jewelry counter of the big departments stores and you had to have your parents permission if you were under 18.  There were a few girls I knew who did the deed on their own with a needle and ice cubes, but that scared the heck out of me.  It never occurred to me to go against my folks’ wishes in this, even if I could figure out how.

The argument went on for a couple of years and came to a head toward the end of my junior year.  All the trendy and interesting earrings were now pierced; the non-pierced options all made me feel like my grandmother.  Finally my father made his big error in his argument; he said that getting your ears pierced was a form of body mutilation “like those Ubangi natives you put the metals rings around their necks to stretch them out”.  I remember these words, because he brought it up several times before I came up with a counter-argument, that being overweight was also a form of body mutilation.  (My dad fought his weight his whole life.)  I’m not sure what gave me the bravery to say this to my dad and as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was struck with the certain fear that he might kill me for this comment.  (No, my dad was not abusive, so this is not literal.)  But he did not.  He actually left the room and the next day told me that I was right.  And if I lost 20 pounds, I could get my ears pierced.

If I would replicate the process by which I lost 20 pounds, I could bottle it and retire to my own private island on the proceeds.  Took about 3 weeks.  I know that my mom yelled at my dad over this, but they both took the honorable path; my mom drove me to the department store, stood by while I got my ears pierced and even paid for it. 

It was a good decision for me.  I adore earrings and I have far too many of them.  Friends who know of my earring fetish has brought me earrings from all over, including some huge paper mache dangly fish from Hong Kong and some adorable pink pig earrings from a barbecue joint in Boulder.  I have earrings from Sicily, Hawaii, London and even New Zealand.  YA has made earrings for me and I have trouble not going overboard making them for myself as well. 

I did not repeat my parents’ dictions; when YA turned 10 she wanted to get her ears pierced for her birthday.  Off to Claire’s we went.  Too bad that Jennifer Garner didn’t have ME for a parent.

What have you tried to do differently than your folks?  How did that work out?

Winter Attitude

It’s not spring yet… it’s not spring yet… it’s not spring yet. 

It’s my mantra right now.  Most of the snow and ice is melted from the yard.  I’m able to get out (without a coat or even sweatshirt) and walk the dog.  The footprint of my bales, where there is not grass, is showing.  YA has mentioned plants for the garden this year as well as some solar light that she thinks we need in the back.

But I’m cynical and am waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It’s just too unbelievable that spring is here.  Didn’t the groundhog see his shadow?  My winter attitude does well for me.  I was able to run errands this past February (when it was hovering around zero) with a sweatshirt, scarf and gloves. So I’m a little skeptical that I can break out the zorries and tank tops.  If I lose my winter attitude, what happens if spring is just jerking us around?

How do you handle the changes of season? Do you have a favorite?

Radio In My Life

Today’s post comes to us from Steve.


I often think about the impact radio has had on my life. We all are shaped by different influences, but radio has been a major presence in my life.

When I was a kid, we had just one radio in our home. It was a gorgeous cherrywood console that graced our living room. Listening to it was often a family activity.

Then radios became less expensive and smaller, enough so that I had a radio of my own. That meant I could choose the music I heard, a major step in my personal growth. I’ll never forget that winter night in 1956 when I first heard Elvis sing Heartbreak Hotel. I was blown away by the angst it expressed, and from that moment on my taste in music diverged from the taste of my parents. I became a great fan of Top Forty pop music, something I listened to on a small Bakelite AM radio in my bedroom. Later the popular life was revolutionized by the availability of inexpensive, portable transistor radios.

When I began grad school, there was a radio station called WLOL broadcasting classical music. I planned my whole day around that station’s schedule. When Bill Kling launched KSJN as a classical music station in the Twin Cities, I became a listener on the first day it hit the air. That classical station had a weird eclectic show in the morning, weird because the host, Garrison Keillor, played an idiosyncratic hodgepodge of country, folk and world music. I was hooked. Keillor later began chatting with his studio engineer, Tom Keith, and I became fanatical about the show. It was the way I started my day, and that remained true when Dale Connelly became the host and whimsical voice of The Morning Show.

The only firm, fixed point in our family’s week was listening to Prairie Home Companion on Saturday nights. We made no plans that conflicted with that broadcast. My daughter grew up thinking of Garrison as something like a family member, a windy storyteller like her dad. She expected her birthday to be hailed by Dale and Tom.

When I joined an online dating service following my divorce I had to define myself so women could judge whether they were interested in talking to me. My personal description mentioned books and outdoor recreation and other activities, but I always felt the most concise and useful identifier was the three words identifying me as a “public radio guy.”

What memories do you have of radio? What has radio meant in your life?

Good Gifts

Our daughter’s best friend since childhood currently lives in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area where she  attends  North Texas State University for graduate study in vocal performance.  She has a beautiful soprano voice and we are very proud of her.  She is like a second daughter to us. She has sent frequent updates on the storm.  As a North Dakota native, she is probably better accustomed to managing the cold and the bad roads than most folks in Texas right now.  She lost electricity/heat  off and on the past several days, and Wednesday night her apartment complex lost all water due to a busted water main. She got to the grocery store for provisions yesterday.

I was gratified to learn that she kept warm when the heat was off  by wrapping up in a down comforter we gave her for a high school graduation present nine years ago. It was a real good one with a high fill power. I was happy to know she still had it and that it came in handy. How clever of her to take it with her to a place where you never imagine needing that kind of warmth. I hope all the things I give as gifts are so useful.

What have been some of the most useful gifts you have given or received? Any advice for Texans right now?

a new year – hopefully

YA and I ordered take out from our favorite Chinese Restaurant over the weekend.  I set the table nicely with red plates, chopstick holders and even lucky red envelopes (with chocolate coins).  But our only guest this year was Nimue, who made herself at home on the table. 

This completes my year of no festivities.  Last year I was all ready for Pi Day when the world turned upside down.  I had all the ingredients for my pies, had a to-do list of what needed to be done in what order, including baking times and temperatures.  I even had little placecards done with the names of all the pies.  Then on Friday, the day before, I had to cancel; the pandemic had arrived at our door.

Since Pi Day, there have been several other occasions when, during “normal times” I would have entertained: my Girlfriend High Tea in May, our neighborhood Memorial Day gathering, a new neighbor welcome party in June, my birthday bash in August, Leaf Pile in October and, of course, the Great Gift Exchange at Solstice.  This list doesn’t include book club meetings or other breakfasts/lunches/dinners with individuals.  I would have always said that I entertain a lot but when everything is listed out like this, I realize that it’s an enormous part of my life.

So now that we’ve celebrated Chinese New Year on our own, we’ve come full circle.  Unfortunately there won’t be a gathering for Pi Day this year either, but I am hoping we can do a Pi and a Half Day in September.  Fingers crossed. 

What’s the most interesting party you’ve ever been to?