Knowing what’s important in the moment

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Coming Home: Knowing what’s important in the moment

My phone dinged on the counter while I was digging in the pantry for the broom. I looked at the screen to find a message from my sister-in-law with a photo of my daughter in her life jacket and sunhat sitting on the banks of the Little Muddy River looking up at her daddy looking down at her in his Superman shirt and cowboy hat.

A smile spread across my face. It was a sweet moment captured on a kayaking trip my in-laws take each June with their friends and family. I’m usually there, but this year I opted to send my husband out the door with our toddler, her swimsuit and vats of sunscreen and bug spray so I could work on tackling the fossilized blueberries on the floor. It’s been a busy spring made more exhausting by the first trimester of pregnancy and I couldn’t stand looking at the mountain of clothes that had piled up in our bedroom one moment longer. Like seriously, they were touching the ceiling. The thought of an entire, uninterrupted weekend to tackle house and yard chores was appealing in a way that sort of scared me. Like, does this mean I’m a grown woman now? The 23-year-old version of me would have thrown a bucket of water in my face if I told her that in ten y ears we would trade an 80-degree day on the river for staining the fence and sucking dead flies out of the windowsills.

Turns out, at that moment, the 33-year-old version of me wasn’t too happy with our decision either. One look at that photo and I proceeded to cuss myself and the dirt on these floors, the unplanted garden, the unwashed sheets and North Dakota and its fifteen minutes of summer.

“I should be on that riverbank with them,” I whined, alone in the house in a raggedy tank and cutoff shorts with the top button undone. And then I posted the adorable photo on social media as a warning to other moms to not make the same poor choices.

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But as the day played out, as I folded and stored away our winter clothes, mowed our scraggly lawn, stained our weathered fence and excavated the dried fruit fossils from between the cracks in our hardwood floor, I started shedding the jealousy and guilt I felt about missing a fun moment and replacing it with a dose of vindication.

We hear it all the time as parents. “The dishes can wait, go play with your kids!” “No one ever died wishing they’d worked more!” “Chores will always be there, but the kids are one sleep away from moving out and only calling on the holidays.”

Ok, yes. Time goes fast. My 1 ½ year old daughter has already started making meal requests, so I’m well aware. And I get that these statements are well intended and meant to help take the pressure off of parents, but sometimes I feel like they put more pressure on.

Maybe my tight shorts and baby growing hormones are making me a little cranky, but do you know what else is true about those dishes? They can only wait forever if you’re willing to off paper plates until the kids are 18 or are anticipating a call from one of those TLC shows asking you to be on their next episode of “Dish Pileup” or whatever.

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And yes. The chores and work will always be there, especially if my family spends every day at the lake like we really want. But then who’s gonna make sure the cows aren’t eating at the neighbors’ and pay for those groceries I carefully selected while my two loves were kayaking care free down the river together?

I don’t know. I appreciate the encouragement to blow off my responsibilities. Lord knows I need to be reminded to relax. But here’s my amateur parenting advice for the day: You know what’s important in this moment.

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Sometimes it’s taking your baby down a waterslide on a Friday afternoon, sometimes it’s letting her watch Elmo while you pay the bills and sometimes it’s sending her off for the weekend with a sunhat and her Superman dad so that pile of laundry can get done and leave you all to play in peace.

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Squish. A short story.

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So this morning I followed dad and Edie out the door of our house to go feed the bulls and found a squished mouse head laying in my entryway, a gift my cat regularly leaves for me on the  deck rug, drug into the house on the bottom of my dad’s shoe.

And I’m just going to leave that here in case you were feeling in any way bad about your housekeeping skills, unruly pets or the fact that we don’t have control over the universe.

Oh, and then I had to pick it up with a pair of  fencing gloves and fling it out the door and I swear it’s beady little eye was looking up at me wondering how we got to this place in our lives…

Happy Thursday. We got a little rain yesterday and have a little more coming this weekend I heard. Better get those tomato plants in.

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Peace, Love and Un-welcome houseguests.

Now I’m gonna leave you with this cute photo to help cleanse your mind…

Edie and Papa

Jessie

A moment in the plans we’ve made

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This week’s column is a little reflection triggered by branding day at the ranch a few weekends back.

It really is something to take a breath in the middle of this crazy life and realize that the crazy was actually your intention and what you’re doing is a little piece of a dream coming true.

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Oh, and for those of you who don’t reside in Western North Dakota, a slushburger is a sloppy joe.

Thanks for all the words of encouragement. In six months or so I’ll be calling you at 3 am wondering what we were thinking.

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Coming Home: Taking time to appreciate moments as ranch, family expands

I rushed to get the slushburger in the slow cooker, the chip dip layered and the watermelon cut and mixed with the cantaloupe from the fridge. It was 7:30 a.m., and one of our friends was already sitting at the counter with a cup of coffee, boots and hat waiting in the entry. He’s more of a cattle expert, but it turns out he had some tips on cantaloupe slicing before heading out the door with my husband to gather gear and saddle horses.

The neighbors would be here in an hour or so to help ride, and I had to get Edie and my niece dressed and down the road to gramma’s with the burger, melon and grocery bags full of paper plates and potato chips so I could climb on a horse of my own.

It was branding day at the ranch, and the sun was quickly warming up the world as I finally made it to the barnyard, buckling my belt as I ran past the neighbors and the guys already saddled and waiting to take off over the green hills together, splitting off at the corrals up top to gather cattle in the corners, search the brush and trees and meet up at the flat to take them home.

It’s one of the best views in my world, to see the cowboys and cowgirls you trust most riding together on our land, connected by generations, friendships and blood, dedicating a Sunday to getting a familiar and time-honored job done. I loped my horse across the flat to catch up and watched a trail of black and red animals form a jagged line across the crick and up the road, kicking up dust and bellaring to their babies as our crew gently coaxed them along.

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My husband and I have dreamed about the days we could figure out a way to own our own cattle out here, a goal we began to realize last winter with the help and partnership of my dad. We branded a handful of our own calves last year and worked this year to crunch numbers and build plans. And it’s been scary, exciting and challenging to say the least, balancing full time work and family while helping to take care of this place and the animals on it.

But last Sunday we sorted and doctored those animals together while the neighbor kids sipped juice boxes and waved sorting sticks outside the fence, my grandparents sat watching in the shade, my sisters standing together, my little sister arching her back against the weight of her pregnancy while my mom and aunt opened the door of the car to let out my fresh-from-her nap daughter, and I willed myself to take a moment to appreciate that I could stretch out my arms and nearly touch all of the most important things in this world to us.

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And then I reached down to loosen the belt on my jeans that are growing tighter each day as my belly swells with the newest member of the crew, due to arrive in December to these grateful arms.

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In his words: What’s it like to be a dad?

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It’s Father’s Day month and to honor dads and grampas and uncles and brothers and sons who make this world go round, this issue of Prairie Parent is dedicated to dads.

To kick it off I did a little interview with my husband as we took a three-hour car ride home from the big town, our daughter tucked into her carseat sleeping in the back seat of his pickup after a long day of shopping.

I might be biased, but I think it’s an adorable interview. A lot of times we don’t consider or report on or talk about what parenthood is like for dads.  They sort of get pushed aside as babysitters or the incompetent third child. But most of the time the truth is, if you have a good man in your life, dads are a essential piece of the complicated and delicate puzzle that makes up a family.

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And I want to be honest here, sometimes it’s hard for me to step back and let him do the parenting thing his way. Sometimes he drives me crazy because I don’t think he’s paying enough attention or holding the right things as priorities.

But it’s not true. He is paying attention (and if I’m really honest, I’m probably not paying attention to how much he is paying attention, you know?) And, yes, his priorities are different than my priorities sometimes, but when I stop being annoyed and really think about it, that’s a good thing. Edie needs us both, she needs both our perspectives and opinions and different and unique types of care. I’m a lucky mom to have a man like him around and she’s a lucky kid to have a dad like him.

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So check out his interview at the link below and moms, if you get a chance this Father’s Day, grab a minute with your man to ask him what it means to him to be a dad. It will be well worth your time.

Real Talk: What’s it Like to be a Dad? 
Father’s Day Q&A
www.prairieparent.com

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On honesty and motherhood…

So yes, you heard right. Big sister status is due to set in for Edie on December 8th. And just like her mother, she’s having some mixed emotions about the whole thing.

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Like, I’m simultaneously excited and terrified. I mean, I haven’t forgotten some things, if you know what I mean. They say you forget, but I haven’t.

I remember. I remember the first three or four months of pain and no sleep and major adjustments, although some kind people have told me that it’s all easier with the second child, because you know what to expect, what you’re doing, you’ve made your mistakes, etc.

Then the people sitting next to those people tell me they’re lying, sooooo….

But, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t think we’d ever have one kid, so the idea of two, well, I think it’s going to be great.

But man, I’m tired.

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Edie’s hit 18 months and she’s too smart for me already. We spend most days reciting animal noises and body parts and singing Twinkle Twinkle but mostly she just follows me around and repeats everything I say.

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When she farts, she says “Toot!” and it’s hilarious.

When she gets up on the horse with me she says “Yee Haw, Yee Haw” and it’s everything.

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When my mom says “Dammit” there’s an echo.

When she wakes up she yells for Daddy, and that’s just typical.

When daddy’s not there she asks “What happened?”

Because daddy’s her favorite.

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The girl’s the most jealous little thing I’ve ever met. Just yesterday I went to lay with my husband on the couch and she promptly came over to execute her removal proceedings.

She pushed me. She cried. She tried Kung Fu. He lifted her up so we could all be on the couch together and she made it clear that was not good enough and I was not welcome  by repeating all previous moves.

She’s very dramatic about the whole sharing thing.

She’s none too thrilled when I touch another baby either, which will prove to be a bit of a challenge in a couple weeks when our niece arrives. The little turd’s gonna have to get over it, or I’m gonna have to just snuggle that baby behind locked doors.

I can’t wait.

It’s crazy how fast a family can grow. My parents will go from two to four grandkids in a matter of a year. And my little sister and I have gone from cocktails on the porch and plans for music festivals to late night emergency calls about what bottles to order on Amazon.

I can’t wait to see her as a mom in action. I’m just a little sorry I told her about everything…if you know what I mean.

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Because sometimes, it’s nice when people lie to you.

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Taking time before time takes us away…

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It’s been over a week since we got back to the real world after the vacation Husband and I took just the two of us, and boy did we get back to reality. Since then we’ve had a family reunion event, work catch-up, Little Sister’s baby shower,

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my in-law’s anniversary party, branding…

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and zero time to unpack.

You should see my room.

No. You shouldn’t. I don’t even want to see my room.

Yes, summer’s arrived in full swing in our neck of the woods and so has begun the mad rush to fit in as much work and fun as we can in the 90 days we get of summer.

I love this time of year. Already the heat has sent Edie, Sylas my niece and me to the pool in town on opening day to take a dip,

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running through the sprinkler, filling the baby pool, planting flowers, riding horses 8480C446-7BEA-43BF-BB3E-85162447DB0Dand all of the summer things I envisioned for us this year. It’s going to be a good one.

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Now if we could just get some rain while we anxiously await the birth of the new addition to the clan. Little Sister is due in about two weeks, but just to freak her out I like to tell her she is for sure going early.

Any minute now…

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She protests. But as she’ll soon find out, in motherhood, it’s best to just surrender the whole illusion of control thing.

It’s one of the reasons parents need vacations most of all.

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I wish my parents had time for more of them when we were growing up. I’m sure we gave them plenty of reasons to want to leave us with the grandparents.

We’re just lucky we got the chance before this happens…

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Edie’s only child status expires December 8th…

Coming Home: Time away together is an investment in each other

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We said we would take a honeymoon later. I was on the verge of turning 23, out of college a couple years and on the road with my music. He was on the verge of 24 and climbing oil derricks, seven days on, seven days off and more if he could.

We were on a mission, on a roll, in love but on our own schedules.

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We’d go when we had a bit more money.

We’d go in the winter when we craved the heat.

We’d go before the first baby.

We’d go. We promised we’d go.

But when you’re almost 23 and almost 24 you know nothing about time and how it sneaks up on you like the white streaks of hair around your temples or that old shoulder injury that grabs you when you’ve been fencing all day, and then suddenly you’re 10 years older and wiser, perhaps only because that’s what time forces on you.

And so we finally went. Last week, to honor those 10 years, we dug out our swimming suits, sent the toddler to her cousins’ and hopped a plane for a resort by the ocean, just the two of us, for the first time.

Oh, we’ve done plenty of traveling — work trips across the globe, family trips to the mountains, road trips and camping trips and trips to warm places with friends — but it was time to designate one of those tropical post-car trips for ourselves.

And I’m not saying you need to take vacations to places with sandy beaches and palm trees to stay in love, but I am saying it helps.

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To see your man out of his element with the sole mission to relax, have fun and drink rum is like being reintroduced to the person you fell in love with before you had a toddler and cattle and a mortgage on a partially-finished house.

But if you hate long airplane rides or prefer, like one of my cowboy friends, that the air doesn’t get the chance to touch your legs outside your Wranglers, I’ve decided now that we’re back, sunburned and broke, that all you really need is a few days away somewhere.

Because if you don’t invest in each other, who will?

And part of the investment is remembering why you chose one another for this business of life in the first place. Funny how uprooting, for even a short amount of time, can help put it all in its place. I think it’s the daydream moments you get when you’re doing unfamiliar things, like swimming side-by-side in the ocean, watching the boats come in and out of the bay, wishing time would stand still so you never have to vacuum again …

And then a stingray swims between your legs and you jump up on your complimentary floaty faster than Michael Phelps wins gold medals and you’re reminded of the first of many reasons you’ve chosen life together on the prairie.

Reason number two?

I got seasick sitting on the floaty.

Life and love: just one reality check after another.

Go get yours, friends.

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Plans and un-plans: How the best days are made

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So, Husband and I took a belated (by 10 1/2 years) honeymoon last week and now we’re back to the real world and I feel like I’m already tired tomorrow.

But it was a great trip. I’d tell you all about it, but besides a night snorkel, a really cool swim with the dolphins and hanging out with this stingray (OMGEEE)…

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I mostly I slept and read and ate and soaked up the sun while Husband did adventurous things like scuba diving and cliff jumping and Edie hung out around campfires and in campers with her cousins without really noticing we were gone.

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I’ll bore you with more travel adventures later, but my vacation brain just switched off in time for me to realize that tomorrow is Tuesday and I have to travel to the big town all day tomorrow, so I have to get cracking on next week’s column to meet the deadline.

So here’s last week’s column on another one of those great weekends.

Coming Home: A Trip the Sale Barn Proves the Best Days Can’t Be Planned

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In all the years my husband and I have spent growing up together, there’s one quality we continue to share and that’s our affinity for last minute, spontaneous plans.

Especially if those plans mean blowing off yard work and fencing projects in favor of spending an 80-degree day at the sale barn watching horses come through the ring while we try to convince ourselves of all the reasons not to bid.

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I’ve always loved the sale barn.

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I’m not sure why a little girl would grow up loving a place like that, but it’s likely the same reason anyone loves any place, because of the memories that hang in the air.

As a kid I spent time in the fall sitting shotgun in dad’s pickup as we drove a load of calves up through the badlands to Dickinson where I would wait in the pickup, feeling the calves shake the trailer and pickup as they unloaded into the bright autumn sun or the wind of a chilly overcast day. I would watch the men in ear-flap caps push the animals to their pens and then lean against sorting sticks or the railing of the fence and visit a bit about prices and weather and grown up things.

And then we would head inside to the smell of black coffee and dirt and manure and the sound of the auctioneer spitting out numbers and weights and colors and “Hey!,” “Ho!” “Yup!” and I would sit with it all swirling around me, watching white papers go up and down, terrified to scratch my nose in case they might mistake me for a bidder. And then, after hours of collecting sale barn dust in my nostrils, it was time for my favorite part of all — a cheeseburger at the counter in the café downstairs.

I sat with Edie at that counter last weekend trying to will her to eat some chicken nuggets while her dad was upstairs bidding on gentle horses to replace Stormy. It was a different vibe than those fall cattle sales — hot, muggy and of course, full of horses.

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Cowboys would whip out rope tricks and tales of how the animal drags calves to the branding fire. Little kids would stand up on a pony’s saddle, flip off their backs and duck under their bellies, demonstrating the animal’s tolerance, reminding me of the few times I rode horses dad trained through the ring as a kid, showing how they handled, backed up and tolerated the swinging of my reigns.

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Was I really ever that kid? I wondered to myself as I watched my daughter lean against her dad’s lap the same way I used to, yelling “Hey!” at the auctioneer while I held my breath as my husband took a pretty dun gelding up to our budget.

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As wide as the sky…

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I took Edie on a horse with me for the first time last weekend. We just got back from what I’m now calling my annual Mother’s Day Ride, because we’ve done it two years in a row now and it’s pretty much the only time since giving birth that I insist that today I’m going riding, so who wants to watch the baby?

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The day before we took Edie to her first horse sale in one of those spontaneous last minute decisions to do the thing we probably shouldn’t do instead of the million other things we should be doing, and so, because it was going to be 80 degrees, too hot for productivity, we loaded up and headed to the big town to sit at the sale barn and see if we couldn’t find a horse or two to replace our good buddy Stormy.

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I submitted next week’s column on how much I love the sale barn, an affection solely tied to the memories I gathered when I was a kid tagging along with dad, because I found, even at 80 degrees with a wiggly, sweaty toddler, I still loved it. And I think Edie did too. She really got into the whole yelling thing. I think she might have even bid on a few herself 🙂

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Anyway, a have a little more to say about that for next week, but I will tell you this, if you think we sat through an entire horse sale without winning a bid or two, well then, you don’t know us very well.

If you figured we’d come home with more than one, well then you’ve hung around here a fare bit. Because we headed home with two nice geldings and my Sunday Mother’s Day Ride was a perfect time for the guys to try them out while I plodded along beside them safe on my trusty steed, Rocky, not willing to be the one who discovers the kinks.

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It was a beautiful, windy, spring day and we didn’t even really do any work or chasing cows. The cows were spread, hiding in the trees, munching on the long grass and weeds that grow on the creek bottom and so we just looked around at the scenery, commented on how things are greening up and caught whiffs of the blossom scent blowing up and on in our nostrils.

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Chad’s new dun rode out nice and calm and the paint we got for the purpose of an amateur/kid horse seemed to do his lazy job just fine. So we were pleased we could say so far so good.

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My little sister (and her big baby belly) was inside the house with Edie and I thought it would be fun to ride down and see if she wanted to get on a horse (the toddler, not the belly). I came in to get her just as Alex was getting ready to bend over and try to squeeze Edie’s boots on, so she was grateful for the relief.

And Edie was pretty excited to be up on that horse. As soon as she decided this was one of those things she loved, she basically did what she does, and became obsessed with it.

Couldn’t take her down.

When her cousin showed up to take a turn, she lost her shit when he disappeared with Papa over the hill, reminding me yet again that 1 1/2 year olds are the worst at sharing.

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Turns out she had the same sentiment toward sharing her harmonica, bouncy horse, toy tractors and Papa too.

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Good thing the 6-year-old is tolerant.

IMG_6509Anyway, having her up on that horse with me was one of those moments when I realized that a dream I used dream was coming true. I’m not deep enough into this motherhood thing to forget how much we wanted and waited for little things like this.

And I didn’t realize how wide my smile was until I watched the video back. It seemed it almost matched hers.

It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time because of this. I remember how hard Mother’s Days used to be for me. It’s getting easier to forget, but I will never forget. For all those mommas-to-be out there waiting for their babies, I promise I will never forget.

And I hope with all my heart that you get a moment in your life like I had on Sunday, a moment where you hold your child and the two of you smile as wide as the sky you’ve been given a chance to raise her under…

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Like her.

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Coming Home: We gain more than just our looks from our mothers

by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

In my life, there haven’t been many times someone’s told me that I look like my mother. I’m thinking about that now as I look at my head bobbing, harmonica playing, blonde haired, blue-eyed daughter and think, well, she doesn’t look like she belongs to me.

Yesterday I watched her balance her baby doll on her shoulder while typing on her pretend computer and it was a reminder of how quickly they start to learn from us.

My graceful ballerina mother who once put salsa on her lefse and didn’t know much about horses or guitars.

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How self absorbed we become when we’re trying to figure out who we are. I look back on it now and want to take the teenage version of myself aside to tell her, “Girl, the things you don’t understand about your mother are the very qualities that will get you through the toughest parts of being a woman in this world.”

Like the part when you become a mother yourself.

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I understand it now. That persistent worry tucked behind my mother’s eyes, the thing that keeps her checking the weather and checking in on us, I get it. And there’s a million little pieces of her that surface in me each day, things like collecting too many black bananas in the fridge for a rainy day baking project, obsessing about the right outfit for the job, or, in the event of surprise company, serving almost anything in a fancy bowl or on a platter to help it pass as an appetizer. Because you should always offer an appetizer.

But it’s more than the life applications that sunk in. My mother’s flexibility, self-awareness and good humor about fitting in and raising daughters in a world that was so much different than the world she knew is something I appreciate more now than ever. It took until I had Edie to finally ask her what it was like to uproot her life in Grand Forks to come out here to live in an isolated part of the country in a little house with two young kids and a party line. After barely surviving a lonely winter as a new mom myself, I suddenly became so aware of how isolated she must have felt.

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And she was. But she felt it was the best thing for her kids and so she went about figuring out how she fit without sacrificing the best parts of herself — her preference for salsa on lefse and all.

And I might not have green eyes or her nose, I’ve may not take her advice on always matching my bra with my underwear or making my bed, but I have her slush burger recipe and I have her as an example of how to live with a heart wide open. And I only hope I can do the same for my daughter.

Edie and Mommy

A Definition of Motherhood

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Mother’s Day is approaching and I am feeling pretty special because my bouquet of lilies already arrived yesterday. I’ve been watching them work on opening up and blooming on my kitchen table, surrounded by smashed peas, coloring books and stickers and I’ve decided they fit in perfectly there.

Tonight my mom stopped in to see Edie. We were running around all over last weekend so they haven’t seen each other for a while. Our steaks were just getting off the grill and Edie was full of kiwi and peas, so Gramma B took her granddaughter outside for a wagon ride so we could eat our entire meal together without interruption.

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It was sweet.

And it’s even sweeter to see the two of them together. They have a funny relationship, one that’s based on Edie’s automatic assumption that if gramma’s coming over it means mom is leaving. So they have to jump that hurdle every time. But once it’s jumped, Edie just makes my mom laugh and laugh. I love it.

And I love my mom more with every minute I’m in this motherhood game myself.

Here she is at mom’s coffeeshop learning how to mix her own drink : )

This month’s “From the Editor” section in the Prairie Parent publication is all about reflecting on what it really takes to be a mom, and the realization that my mom had to develop these very same set of skills raising me.

And how much more I appreciate her for it now.

Check it out, and then read all of the other fun Mother’s Day inspired stories from our staff of talented writers.

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Patience-Plus: A Definiton of Motherhood
by Jessie Veeder, Editor
Prairie Parent, May 2017

My personal favorite this month is the Kids Talk section where 2nd graders tell us their favorite things about their moms and, for the dads, a really great list of Mother’s Day gift ideas (because it’s not too late)!

Happy Mother’s Day to the moms, grandmas, daughters, sisters, aunties and cousins showing us every day what it means when a woman loves you.

 

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