Musings, North Dakota Living

Blog Wars

Andy, my eldest of five brothers, has decided to start a war with me. This will not be the first. Our sibling combat throughout the years has consisted of many situations that have demanded determination, intelligence, and of course, deceit and treachery on both sides. Well, the deceit and treachery was mostly on Andy’s side.

I’m just the innocent little sister.

Let me give you a sampling: How many of teenage Rachel’s land-line phone conversations can Andy eavesdrop on, in order to find out which boy Rachel likes? How many of Rachel’s diaries and journals can Andy read, in order to find out which boy Rachel likes? How many of Rachel’s bedroom closets can Andy hide in, in order to best hear her conversations with her closest friends, in order to find out which boy Rachel likes? (You get the picture.) Also, who has the highest GPA? Who has the highest ACT score? Can Andy and the other brothers ambush Rachel with plastic pellet guns when she is walking into the house? Can Andy make angry Rachel laugh, which makes her even angrier because she really wanted to stay angry? Who can collect the most wheat, brick and ore supplies in the game Settlers of Catan in order to win? (I have one thing to say here: Only one of us tricked our dear, sweet mother in order to win a recent game of Settlers of Catan, and it wasn’t me.)

Who is Grandma Marilyn’s favorite? (Duh.)

And now, we present Blog Wars: Who has the most enjoyable writing style, sharpest wit, and best knowledge of semicolon placement?

My opponent is good, I will give him that.

Andy has started a new blog called Tetra Dad, named for his newborn son Oliver’s heart condition, Tetralogy of Fallot. I am dying to meet little Oliver myself, but with Andy’s family being so far away (he, his wife Shawna, and their kids Clara and Oliver live in North Carolina), the blog is a good tool for Andy to share some of those moments the rest of us might otherwise miss. It is intended to share updates and information about Oliver’s condition, offer support to other parents experiencing similar situations, tell stories about life in North Carolina, and generally focus on the positive things in a stressful situation.

You can find Andy’s blog here. I also have a link to Tetra Dad in my sidebar, in case you’re ever looking for it again.

Of course, I should mention that one of the goals of Andy’s blog is to “demonstrate that” he is a “better writer than Rachel.” (That is a direct quote.) It’s on, Andy.

However, I feel like I also need to point out that he has two of the cutest kids in the world on his team. I feel this is unfair: I have two sloppy dogs on my team.

Adorable children, Clara and Oliver
Sloppy dogs, Lucy and Jake

See what I mean?

Someday this auntie will steal said adorable children, take pictures of said adorable children and post them, and dramatically improve the overall cuteness of Boomtown Diaries.

Blog Wars, as Andy calls it, has revealed to me that our sibling combat hasn’t gone away as we’ve gotten older; it is simply evolving with the times. Fifteen years ago, it involved stealing diaries and eavesdropping on landline conversations because none of us had cell phones. (I can’t help but think that my adolescent life would have been much simpler if I had an iPhone with a secret pass code then, like I do now. Oh, the possibilities!) Now, it’s blogging. But Andy’s challenge is a reminder to me that regardless of age, miles, and life events getting in the way, we are still siblings in the end. Plus, this morning I finally felt motivated to update my Boomtown Diaries home page and links. Nothing like a little healthy sibling combat.

Just remember one thing: Regardless of what anyone says, I’m the innocent little sister.

From left: Me, Danny, and Andy, back in the pre-blogging days
An oldie but a goodie: Me, Danny, and Andy at breakfast, back in pre-Blog War days
Musings, Teaching

Trading It In

One day in late May every spring, a teacher puts away the whiteboard markers, stacks the textbooks on the shelf, takes one last look at the empty desks, and locks the classroom door behind her.

She is trading in her teacher hat for three short months, trading it in for another hat: a second-job hat, a student hat at the local college because she needs more education credits, maybe a more-time-to-be-mom hat, or even, if she is lucky, a much-deserved relaxing hat.

She is trading in her chalk for gardening tools.

She is trading in her red grading pen for a Canon camera and her gradebooks for a passport.

She is trading in her high heels for a pair of hiking sandals and her book bag for a hiking pack.


She is trading in her parking space at school for a boat dock.


She is trading in school lunch chicken nuggets in the cafeteria for fresh-cut strawberries on the porch.


She is trading in hours spent teaching other people’s children the ins and outs of grammar, literature, and respecting others, and instead, she spends those hours teaching her nephew how to ride a horse.


She is a little sad. She is sad to say goodbye to those students, knowing she will not teach most of them again and will maybe never see some of them again. They will move on to other paths, other states, other teachers, other desks in other classrooms. She hopes she has done her job well, hopes they have learned how to write a little better and think a little more, how to treat each other nicer and see the world as a big, wide playground, a place waiting just for them.

But she is also happy.

She is happy to say that she has put her heart and soul into her students this year, even if they don’t know it. She is happy that one student found a love for reading this year, and another student figured out he is good at poetry. And she is happy that she can forget, for just a short time, about PD and PLCs and IEPs and remember, instead, how wonderful it is to sit on the porch in the sun in the middle of the day.

In what seems like a blink of an eye, she will be back in the classroom, handing out textbooks, digging out whiteboard markers, and hanging up bulletin boards.

But for now, she is taking her teacher hat and trading it in.

Musings, North Dakota Living

Multiple Modes of Mobility

I love mobility. I love transportation. I love travel. I just love getting from here to there, and back again.

I think I just love seeing everything I can possibly see.

I’ve loved it since the moment I got my license when I was 14. I’ve loved it since I learned to combine wheat and barley fields when I was 12. (Driving around in circles counts as mobility, right? In fact, I also ran cross country and track for ten years. People used to ask why I liked to “run around in circles so much?” I guess I’ve always had a thing for transporting myself in circles.) I’ve loved it since my brother and I used to push our plastic purple and red Hot Wheels trikes to the top of the cemetery hill and fly down to our driveway so fast our feet couldn’t stay on the pedals.

I’ve loved it since I realized there’s so much of the world to see and only one short life to see it.

And I think I love almost every kind of mode there is to accomplish all the seeing:

A walk down our gravel road on a cool summer evening…


A bike ride in the North Dakota Badlands right at the set of an autumn sun…


A road trip across the Middle of Nowhere, Montana, in a Buick that’s going to break down in about 150 miles…


Which, after the Buick is properly checked out by a mechanic, who tells us to only drive it back to North Dakota at our own risk, which of course we do, turns into a hike in one of our nation’s most beautiful national parks…


A jetski ride across a Minnesota lake…


Or better yet, a free kayak ride from Auntie…


Being on a farm, we get to vary our transportation modes a bit more…




And just for the heck of it, why not drive a short bus around the state of North Dakota every once in a while?


And why not ride around in a oil-can cow train, just to see the sights of the pumpkin patch on a bright autumn afternoon? (If it didn’t attract so much hostile attention from other adults, I would have been seated in an oil-can cow, too, right next to my niece and nephew. I resigned myself to taking a picture instead, sighing a little to myself. Kids are so lucky.)


I don’t think I could pick a favorite mode of transportation. The joys of mobility and seeing all the sights there are to see are too… joyful. But if I had to pick one, I think I might have a new favorite: flying. My brother Danny earned his pilot’s license a couple years ago, and I’ve become spoiled with this new way to travel from town to town around the Midwest. Besides the convenience of cutting hours off of travel time, flying is one of the few transportations where you just have to look out the window. I usually have a book in hand when I travel, because one of my other great joys in life besides traveling is reading, but flying doesn’t allow such a distraction. Looking at the tiny cars and houses and oil flares below is too fascinating.

All of the phrases about “a bird’s-eye view”, and “as the crow flies,” and “on eagles’ wings,” aren’t false advertising. Flying in a small plane is a luxury that if I could, I would bestow upon all of you, so that you could see little farms and checkerboard fields like this:


The checkerboard will be even prettier in a couple months when the wheat fields are gold and the canola fields are yellow and the flax fields are purple.

And you could see neat-o controlled burns like this:


And you could see the lights of a hundred flares lighting up the sky at night, looking like little outlaw campfires from the seat of the plane.

But my camera died before I could take a picture of that.

Thanks, Danny, for the ride last week.


Luckily, I don’t have to pick one favorite mode of mobility. Flying, and biking, and hiking, and driving tractors and combines and four-wheelers, and gliding across the water in a kayak, and even cruising down a two-lane highway in a Buick with a transmission valve going out, are some of my favorite things. They are the stuff that memories are made of. And I can do them all, as long as I have life in my lungs and legs and sometimes, a few dollars for gas.

And maybe, this year at the pumpkin patch, I’ll just say to heck with it and take a ride next to my niece and nephew in that oil-can cow.