Let it shine…


Edie calls my guitar my “Sunshine” and I never want to forget it.

When I get my “sunshine” out she cries until I sit her on my lap and let her play with me. And we can only sing “You are my Sunshine.”

She’s so bossy and I’m putty in her hands.

Here she is on one of her 37 renditions of our song.

​I can’t help but look at her in these sweet moments and wonder what kind of woman she’s going to grow up to be. I wonder if she will spend her life behind a guitar or the windshield of a motorcycle, the screen of a computer or the wheel of a tractor…

In hard and confusing times like these, I’m so thankful that I have her to give me hope for the future. I pray I can do right by her, to help guide her toward love and acceptance and bravery when she’s worried and wondering. I hope I can always be her rock, the way good parents and good people should be to our children…

Funny, I never expected my baby to be my rock in return.

My rock and my sunshine. ​

Let it shine, my friends, in any good and decent way you can.

We need your light.

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Take the picture

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I’m trying to get my photo situation under control. Or, I should say, I’ve been thinking about getting my photo situation under control.

Since I moved back to the ranch seven years ago, that’s pretty much been the mission of my life, to take photos of it all. I would tout my big camera along with me everywhere, capturing the way the sun set on the petals of a wildflower, the soak of the rain, the sparkle of a snow bank, the lines on my husband’s face.

I was obsessed. I created thousands of images and posted them here. I loaded up my computer, my phone, my camera cards. I did my best at organizing them at least by year, but even with my best effort, it became sort of a kazillion GB mess.

Now that I’ve added a child to the mix of things, it’s gotten downright ridiculous. I made an 80 page photo book just of the first two months of her life with every intention of doing another one at least by her first birthday, suddenly so aware and sort of frantic about the importance of not only taking the photo, but printing it as well.

And rightly so. About the time that my baby was born was the time that every technology in my universe seemed to fail me. My computer crashed and on its way to its death, it drug along the external drive where I had backed up everything. And because we had terrible internet at the time, the great mysterious services like the Cloud were useless to me.

Needless to say, there was a lot of cussing and despair involved in my attempt to recover my precious memories. And I wound up saving my computer in a fragmented form, thanks to a techie band mate, but I couldn’t save the backup. And the backup was what I really needed…

Waahhhhhhh…..

I was determined to be better about all these damn photographs I was going to be taking in this next phase of my life. I was going to keep on top of it. Make prints. Make books. Make use of them so that when Edie’s my age she doesn’t have to figure out how to recuperate ancient laptops to retrieve her memories the way we do with old home movies and slides.

I was going to put her memories in books I tell you! I was going to do better than my mother, who has our memories in piles in a trunk in her living room and the overflow in a drawer in the buffet and another overflow in another drawer in the kitchen.

But I’m not convinced people can change. And here I am, a year and a half later with one photo album and another thousand photos of my baby in all phases of getting there on my computer and an overwhelming feeling that our memories have the potential to be lost forever if I don’t get on the ball, especially cause here I am pregnant again, and Oh My GAWD, I’m halfway through this baby-growing business and I haven’t even taken a photo of my belly!!!

I took like seventy thousand photos of my growing belly with Edie!! This kid’s not even born yet and I have some explaining to do!!

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So anyway, I have a goal. Before this baby is born, I’m going to catch up on the album thing. It’s not that hard. I just have to do it.

In the meantime, I have signed up for a cool service called Chatbooks, where they automatically send you little square books featuring photos off of my Instagram feed. So if anything, in the end, I’ll have a nice little collection of our day to day life, because I put the responsibility in someone else’s hands.

So this was on my mind when I was putting together September’s issue of Prairie Parent. Because soon it will be school picture time, and soon moms and dads of seniors will be digging through the archives of their child’s life, pulling out the favorites, and putting them in books and on poster boards for relatives and friends to reminisce over.

Time goes too fast. I always thought it. I think it more every day. Photographs and videos are our only visual connection to a past we can’t hold on to. So I’ve decided not to apologize about it, and just keep snapping. And while I regret a few photos taken of me (Ahem…Little Sister!!!) I don’t think I’ll ever regret one taken of my growing and changing family…

Read more about “Taking the Picture” in my From the Editor column in this Month’s Prairie Parent. And check out the full issue of the magazine online at www.prairieparent.com

Counting Photos, Collecting Memories

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A song comes to life

Coming Home: How a song comes to life in the garden

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She was munching on a pea pod I’d plucked from the plant in front of her, her fine blonde hair escaping from the ball cap she insists on wearing backwards, rendering it completely useless for protecting her rosy cheeks from the 80 degree day.

Before she finishes her first garden treat, she’s reaching out her hands, mouth full, mumbling “more.” I pick her two, one for each hand. Pleased, she struts across the garden in her cowboy boots and shorts, trampling over my onions on her way to see if she might get the chance to pull up an entire bean plant before her momma tells her “no!”

We’d been in the garden together for approximately 10 minutes and this is about the way it goes — a series of “come heres,” “no, no, nos” and “stop walking on my peppers!” as if a toddler understands any more about the concept of a garden than the cool touch of the dirt and the crunch of that pea pod she’s started asking for by name while she points out the window toward the yard.

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I was removing the grip of her chubby fingers from the leaves of that plant when I looked up to find my husband and dad, back from the hay field, apparently taking a moment to see how this scene was going to turn out, a pregnant momma trying to save her garden from Toddlerzilla.

I put my hand up to shield my eyes and hollered, “hello” as they made their way over to take a seat on the grass in front of us, smelling like diesel exhaust and sweat. Edie squealed “Papa” and ran toward them.

They sat there together for a bit, commenting on the cool breeze, feeding Edie more peas while I pulled up radishes and weeds and that was that, just another moment in a series of moments on the ranch.

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“I went home that night and I was choked up about it,” Dad said the other night as we were driving home from a performance. “I saw you out there with her and it just reminded me of that song you wrote…”

I dreamed you high up on his shoulders, on a horse, riding along. I dreamed you digging in the garden and I wrote you in a song…

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And I thought, oh, of course. That song I wrote all those years ago, dreaming up that very moment, which seemed so out of reach at the time. I only sang it alone in my house and cried through multiple takes in the studio where I recorded it weeks after losing my fourth or fifth pregnancy … I lose count.

And then there we were, together in the middle of that scene, sweating in the hot sun and getting the chance to take it all for granted.

But leave it to Papa to say, “Well, look at you now! Who would have thought?”

Yes. Look at us now.

Because in this life we’re all made for something, holding tight and letting go. And some things, they are certain, and some things we’ll never know…

List to full length version of “For You Child” from my 2012 album, “Nothing’s Forever” available for purchase at www.jessieveedermusic.com 

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Paying the good stuff forward

Summer Sunset

We had our 20 week ultrasound scan last week. My husband and I got up really early to drop Edie off at daycare and take the three hour drive to the doctors to make sure everything was going and growing healthy and normal in there. So I wrote this column in the passenger seat of our pickup, driving into the sun on Highway 94, thinking I would write about that week’s “pay-it-forward” moment and how sometimes the smallest gestures of kindness can help brighten worried hearts.

I didn’t really realize that was the diagnosis of my attitude lately until I started writing this. That’s the thing about having he chance to reflect on my life in writing very week, often I discover a few things about myself along the way…

Because they all tell you the second pregnancy is different, but I didn’t know how much. When I was pregnant with Edie, it was all so new and exciting and terrifying. I documented every milestone, took weekly photos of my growing belly, made (and executed) nursery plans, even took naps sometimes and counted down the minutes until her arrival.

Baby #2? Well, despite a tiny little scare early in the very early stages of my pregnancy, and now that I’m through the icky first trimester sickness and hanging out in the sweet spot, I have to admit, if it weren’t for this little one’s jabs and kicks to remind me, I might forget I was pregnant.

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Four months pregnant and this is the first real photo documenting it…

And it makes me feel sorta weird, a little bit guilty maybe? But pre-Edie I had no one to think about but me and that mysterious growing human inside of me (and my husband too, but he pretty much takes care of himself you know?)

After Edie? Well, I have Edie. And she’s a lot of kid you know. One-and-a-half going on thirteen, a spitfire who strips off all her clothes as soon as she hits the back yard, a baby who already has opinions on what dress she wants to wear and what she wants for “supper” (which is breakfast, lunch and supper in her language.)

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At my last checkup they asked me if I’d felt this baby move yet and I had to take a minute to try to remember. And it made me feel bad. And then sorta worried, like am I already screwing this second child up?

But mostly I’m nervous. I’m not sure I’m the mega-mom I see my friends being, the ones with three or four kids, carting them around to church and hockey and picnics in the park and playdates and just nailing it really.  I work from home thirty miles away from civilization, the park and the pool and most of said mom friends. Lots of days are a combination of frantic and lonesome. I can’t imagine how the hard stuff might multiply with a newborn in the house.

And while this was the plan (albeit a bit earlier than I expected) I’m not certain I’m cut out for being a mom of two. And I know it sounds ungrateful, given all we’ve been through to get here, but it’s honest. And I was honest before when I said I didn’t know if I was cut out for the first one, despite and because of all the heartache

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A few weeks before Edie was born…

These were the thoughts that were going through my head when I sat in the drive through after a long day one evening last week and realized, after I ordered, that I had forgotten my wallet…and well, surprisingly, it all worked out nicely actually.

Which, when I really slap myself back into reality and out of my hormonal worries, I know is going to be the case with me and my husband and these two babies. Because we’ve gone through so much to get to this chaotic point in our lives, I do believe we deserve all the crazy/wonderful/beautiful/weird/unexpected that’s ahead of us.

And honestly, worry couldn’t have changed or predicted anything it turned out to be so far, and what it’s turned out to be is a hilarious, vivacious, smart, hot little mess of a human that’s turned every moment into something more special. And it’s hard sometimes and awesome lots of the time.

So, after I submitted the column with the worry tucked in the back of my throat, we opened and shut the door on a great doctor’s visit where our new little person barely sat still long enough to get all the photos they needed. And I breathed a sigh of relief, smiled at my husband and passed the gratitude along…

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Coming Home: In a world of worry, pay the good stuff forward

Last night, the person in front of me paid for my meal at the drive through.

It had been a long Monday, and I got to the end of it only to realize I hadn’t really eaten anything all day. So I went to one of the only drive-throughs in town, sacrificing nutritional value and inevitable heartburn to make sure that I didn’t pass out on my drive home.

And really, there’s nothing like a fast food taco when you’re pregnant and starving. Next time I’ll remember to pack an apple or something, I decided as I reached in my purse to dig out my money only to realize I didn’t have my wallet. Combine mom brain with pregnancy brain and things like this happen I guess — wallets get left in diaper bags in baby rooms 30 miles away.

Crap.

Does any place take checks anymore? Remember when we used to write checks for things like tacos?

“Do you take checks?” I asked awkwardly while trying to explain that I left my wallet at home, and I’m so sorry this sort of thing never happens it’s just been a crazy day…

“Well you don’t have to worry about it, doesn’t matter,” she stopped me. “The car ahead of you paid for you. They left a note. Have a great night.”

She might as well have handed me a squirmy new puppy because that’s how surprised and happy the simple gesture made me, especially given the timing and my overall grumpy attitude with the world lately.

I blame it on hormones and lack of sleep, but some days it’s something more.

It’s bad news on my television screen. It’s the lack of rain and the heat. It’s too much on my list and too little daylight.

It’s missing my husband who gets up early for work and comes home late from the hay field. It’s my puny tomato plants.

It’s nothing really, in the grand scheme of it all.

Funny how we let ourselves get this way when things are going pretty dang good really. It’s the blessing of a good life, to have the time to complain.

This morning, as I type, we’re on our way to our mid-pregnancy sonogram. My husband is driving into a hot sun, and I’m squinting into the computer screen because I forgot my sunglasses and I have a deadline. Our daughter is safe and sound, playing with her friends at daycare. Her gramma will pick her up this evening, giving us more time in the big town to maybe have a long lunch without picking hot dogs up off the floor.

In an hour we’ll see the little fuzz of our new family member, the length of a banana, inside my belly and hold our breath until they tell us that all is well.

Now that we’re down to it, maybe my mood’s been a little less about the puny tomato plants and a little more about the quiet worries sitting in my gut with the banana baby, tickling my nerves.

Maybe we’ll buy someone lunch today, pick their baby’s hot dogs off the floor and pay the good stuff forward.

Baby #2

Hosting friends, ranch style…

We’ve had company for a couple weeks and it’s been lovely to have new faces around to marvel at a place that has started to look more like work than love lately.

I needed that.

Thanks friends. I miss you.

Appreciating this rugged, imperfect place

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They left me with a plate of Snickerdoodles, a fridge full of half-finished dips, opened bottles of white wine, sheets to be washed and a heart full and lonesome at the same time.

A group of eight of my friends made their way to the ranch from Colorado, Minnesota and eastern North Dakota last weekend, fulfilling our promise to get together once a year, no matter what, since we first met 11 years ago during a hot summer spent moving picnic tables and cutting pies at a performing arts school.

Since then the group has grown to include boyfriends, spouses, babies, dogs and a cat on a leash, which I’d never thought I’d see on this ranch in my life. But I did, thanks to the eclectic and brilliant group of people I was honored to host for a few days in our rugged little mess of a life out here, surrounded by cattle, horseflies and bats swooping against the backdrop of a black and starry sky.

It’s funny the way the familiarity of a home changes when it’s full of people you love, some of them who’ve never set foot on the place.

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Before they arrived all I could see was the unfinished trim, the landscaping I thought I’d have done by now and the complete lack of Good Housekeeping magazine touches. We spent a half a year with their visit on the calendar thinking maybe we’d at least get the basement bathroom done, because anyone with a house knows that it takes impending company to get a long-planned construction project done.

But then we ran into haying season and I was on my own with a pressure washer, a lawnmower and a garage full of tools to do what I could around here.

Needless to say, we’re gonna have to wait until Thanksgiving to think about that bathroom project again, but I obsessed over it all nonetheless, because I’m my mother’s child after all.

And then they arrived and you couldn’t see the floor or the counters anyway for all the food and toys and bodies scattered about, talking and laughing. And not one of my friends inspected the tops of my light fixtures for dust, because we were too busy telling stories, cutting onions for guacamole and taking hikes around the farmyard, where I got a chance to see our place through their eyes.

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That was another gift they gave me that weekend: a gift of appreciation for our home. They picked wildflowers and rocks and marveled at the things we’ve labeled burdens or works in progress, like the old farm equipment and tumbled down fences that need to be repaired. In the midst of the overwhelming feeling that summer ranch work brings, I loved them for it.

And now they’re gone, leaving this place feeling a little electric, pulsing from the conversations and dropped forks and baby kisses, like it needs a moment to come back down to the quiet chaos of the life we lead, sending our love to them from this rugged, imperfect place.

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Memory’s sweet scent

Sweet Clover

My cousin from Texas is here visiting the ranch this week and she brought her three children with her. They spent this morning with us, playing with Edie’s toys (much to her dismay) running around outside and helping me dig radishes in the garden while my cousin and I tried to catch up between wiping noses and serving goldfish crackers.

Tonight they’ll come over for supper and I hope to take them up to the top of the hill we call Pots ‘n Pans the way we used to as kids, but with less emergency pee breaks and cactus in their butts, because there will be adult supervision…

This time of year makes me nostalgic for some of the magical times I had here as a kid. I know my cousin feels the same about this place, no matter how long she’s been away from here. That’s why she’s packed her three kids in a car to drive the million miles from Texas to North Dakota, for the memories.

And that’s what this week’s column is about…

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Sweet clover under my skin

I imagine everyone has some familiar scent that hits their lungs and brings them back to a time in childhood when they felt so deeply loved, so overwhelmingly safe, so much themselves. So free.

 

Maybe it’s your grandmother’s warm cookies from the oven or the smell of a diesel tractor plugging across a field. Maybe it’s your parent’s home or the fur on the back of your old cat or the salty air blowing across the ocean and onto vast beaches.

For me, it’s sweetclover.

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I wish I could pick the right words to describe the sweet, fresh scent that fills the air tonight and gives me comfort when I breathe it in, moving across the landscape, stepping high …

My first best memories are lying among it, rolling down hills on the ranch as the sun found its way to the horizon and my cousins, tan and sweaty, hair wild, would fling their bodies after me. We would find ourselves at the bottom in a pile of laughter, yellow petals sticking to our damp skin.

For us, the clover was a blanket, a canopy of childhood. A comfort. It was our bouquet when we performed wedding ceremonies on the pink road wearing our grandmother’s old dresses, an ingredient in our mud pies and our crown when we felt like playing kings and queens of the buttes. It was feed for our horses and a place to hide from the seeker, to rest after a race, to fall without fear of skinned knees. It was a promise of summer and a wave of color to welcome us home together.

It’s there all season, the seeds tucked neatly under the dirt, and still I’m surprised when I open the windows of the pickup after a late night drive and the fragrance finds its way to me.

And I’m taken back …

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I’m seven years old and my grandmother has our bunk beds made up in the basement and my cousins will be coming down the pink road soon. And when they get here, we’ll climb Pots and Pans and we’ll put on a wedding and look for kittens in the barn. We’ll play “The Wizard of Oz,” and I’ll be the Tin Man. We’ll chase each other on the hay bales in front of the barn and then hide from each other in the tall grass that scratches and brushes against our bare legs.

I wish I could bottle it up for the cold winter days that showed no sign of release. I wish I could build my house out of it, weave it inside my walls, plant it in my floor and lay down in it at night. I wish I could wrap those cousins, my family, in its soft petals and sweet stems and watch as they remember now, the kids we once were before time took us and made us think that we were anything less than free…

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Rain or shine, this is the life we chose

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We’ve been in the middle of a heat wave out here for the last couple weeks, and it’s not looking to cool off or rain anytime soon. After a long, really snowy winter, I thought we might continue the moisture trend throughout the rest of the year, but it turns out that was just a hope.

We haven’t had a good rain for months and months and we’re better off than most of the state. Fire danger is high, and there’s one raging in the badlands as I type. It worries me. It worries everyone. That’s one thing we all have in common up here in the north. We all know worrying about the weather.

Last weekend we took a quick trip to the other side of the big lake to meet up with my inlaws who were camping there. While we were leaving a little storm cell blew through, darkening the sky and soaking the ground. We never drove in the rain, but we were in its aftermath on the way home. I rolled my windows down and breathed it in.

There’s nothing like the smell of rain on a hot summer day.

It’s heaven.

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It’s hard to believe when I’m sitting here in as little clothes as a pregnant woman can get away with in the summertime, that it was ever thirty below zero and completely white out here. We live in such extremes.

And that’s what this week’s column is about. It’s a little different take on the summer and the weather and just how crazy we really are when it comes to packing as much fun and work as we can in our three months of what we envision as being a California-esque summer.

Which it never is. No matter how we grit our teeth and bare it.

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Rain or Shine, this is the life we chose

“Well, I guess this is the life I chose,” he said as he pulled on his boots and headed out the door. “Work all day in 100 degrees so I can come home and work all night in it.”

Yup. That’s the story out here on the ranch where we can’t quit our day jobs. And on evenings when the wind settles down and the sun sets just right on cows grazing on green grass in their proper places, it feels pretty dang good.

But then there are days like today where you wonder if you might be able to fry an egg on the back of those black cows and the tractor won’t start and you just roll up your sleeves, wipe the sweat, crawl back under the tractor and hope to hell in those 10 minutes of scratching your head that you’ve magically developed the necessary mechanic skills and do what you gotta do.

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Rain or shine. That’s what they say. Whoever coined that phrase obviously didn’t live in North Dakota. If they did they would’ve likely added a few more elements – like hail – or 50 mile-per-hour winds – or blinding, sub-zero blizzards. I get that about this place. And I get that about the work.

But what’s been amusing me lately is the fact that up here we seem to apply the same motto to the idea of fun. Because it’s summer here, and dang it, we’re gonna stand in the street with a beer and listen to this band regardless of the fact that it’s 40 degrees and sleeting. It’s JUNE! We only have three months to fit in all of our outdoor activities, people!

Just a few weeks ago, I went to my niece’s softball game where we all wore gloves and beanies and sat in lawn chairs under blankets while we watched the cold wind whip these poor children to a misery, and I couldn’t help but wonder at what point we stop referring to this as a fun and games.

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Don’t even get me started on the memories I have of monsoon rain turning high school rodeo arenas into soup while our mothers sat steadfast, writing scores on soggy programs shielded from the brutal weather only by visors and the slicker that’s been sitting at the bottom of the horse trailer since last year’s rodeo in Elgin.

Oh, I come by this observation honestly. As a musician who’s spends her summers singing on flatbed trailers in my home state in the name of a festival, I’ve feel I’ve been with you through it all. But nothing sums up the insanity of our people better than the view I had from the stage on the capitol grounds on the 125th birthday of our great state a few years back. As the rain shot sideways into my eyeballs, I sang Red River Valley to a crowd of diehard North Dakota neighbors as they swayed back and forth under umbrellas and makeshift newspaper hats and I wondered if this is how I might go out, electrocuted by my soaking microphone – because 100 degrees or pouring rain, this is the life we chose.

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My husband and his stuff

For those of you who’ve been following our story since we first moved back here in 2010, you’ve heard the following complaint. Since this column appeared in newspapers a few days ago, I’ve had plenty of feedback assuring me I’m not alone, which makes me feel better and worse at the same time…

But that doesn’t get me any closer to finding the floor of my garage, although he might be getting there. After three weekends of clearing and cleaning and organizing things like plumbing parts and electrical wire and coolers and tree stand chairs, I think we’re getting there.

But seriously, it’s time we declare it’s gone to new levels.  That’s all I’m saying.

That’s all I’m saying…

A Wife’s Dilemma: M Husband and His Stuff

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My husband and I have this ongoing fight in our house. It goes something like this:

Him: Have you seen the charger to the phone I had back in 2001 during our first year of college?

Me: I think I put it in a bin somewhere in the basement with the rest of the unidentifiable cords from various electronic devices that no one’s used for 15 years.

Him: Don’t touch my stuff.

You think I’m exaggerating. I wish I were. The man’s a saver. He comes from a long line of savers, the kind that cut their paper plates in half and hoard washing machine motors in their backyards. In high school he spent his weekends restoring an old, leaky, 11-foot wooden boat his dad found in some stranger’s backyard, just because they thought that they could.

As a gift his grandma gave him an ice cream bucket full of every kind of nut and bolt she’d collected throughout the last 50 years, and never once has he gone to that bucket and not found what he needed.

These are the things he brags about.

So he comes by it honestly. And if I didn’t spend so much of my time wading through bins packed with old electrical wire, if I was his neighbor in need of a particular fitting for a pipe on my stock tank or a friend who suddenly found himself without AC in his pickup on a 90-degree day, I would call my husband, because he’s the guy who has five bins full of random plumbing supplies and an air-conditioning recharging kit, and I would respect the heck out of him for it.

But I married him. I’ve been married to him for almost 11 years now, and I’m beginning to realize that the whole “’till death do us part” line seems to also apply to the drill battery that’s been hanging out in our garage for a solid five years, even though it’s clearly marked “bad” in black Sharpie across a strip of duct tape.

Why? I ask him, my hands stretched out in defeat as I jam my toe on the wheel of the broken down lawn mower that’s been sitting in my garage for three years. But I know the answer. It’s a trait both learned and deeply rooted in his blood. And it’s not derived out of the need to have and to hold material things, but rather the opposite. It stems from part of his DNA that tells him he doesn’t need to waste money on anything new, because when the wheelbarrow tire goes flat, he has a perfectly good one waiting in the wings.

When there’s no Farm and Fleet in range that makes the sort of barbed wire spool he’s envisioned for the back of his 4-wheeler, he has the stuff to build his own.

And when he suddenly finds himself in need of a 2001 Nokia cell phone charger, he would know just where to find it, if only his wife would just stop touching his stuff.

No summer will ever be the same…

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We’re sitting right in the middle of summer here in Western North Dakota. The leaves on the oak trees have finished creating the canopy in the thick coulees, so much so that it seems that’s where you would stay dry in a heavy rain, under those oaks.

And oh, we could use the rain around here to keep the dust down at least. It seems a little late now for the crops, although the hay in the fields up top is going to be decent we think. The guys will start cutting it soon.

Probably should have started already, but isn’t that the story of our lives? Each summer is the same. Not enough of it.

This afternoon I’m heading across the state to play music with my dad and Mike under the summer sky. I’ll get home late, like 1 am, and I’m already tired thinking about it, but looking forward to it. Summer always means a few late nights of music.

Last night on our way home from work in town we noticed our young bulls got out with a few cows. We weren’t ready to let them out just yet, but they had their own plan. So Edie and I got in the pickup with Husband and watched him saddle up his horse while Edie picked at some sweet clover, declared it a flower, sniffed it, tasted it and pulled at its petals before grabbing for another one.

Husband swung the saddle and then his leg over his horse and took off over the hills to see if he could round those creatures up, and we followed in the pickup to open some gates to the corrals.

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We didn’t need to go along necessarily, I just like to go along. In my other life, the one before our daughter, this would have been a perfect night to go along for a ride. And we might have had more success as a pair of horses. I would have probably packed my camera because it looked like a storm was about to blow in, and evening storms here can produce the best afterglow on this landscape, but that’s not an option now.

I have different responsibilities. My belly is starting to swell with a new tiny and growing family member taking up residency inside. Edie reachers her arms up towards me. “Up! Up!”she says, because she can tell me what she wants now. And she seems to be a kid that always knows what she wants. My back is already tightening and stiffening and acting up, the result of the weight of two babies I carry every day, one in my arms and one inside me. I’m nervous about what the next months will bring, how I will physically do it.

How I will mentally do it.

This stage in my life is so different. Somehow I feel so outside myself and so much myself at the same time and I don’t even know how it’s possible. I had so much time becoming a woman and a wife without children. I had time to gradually grow into who she was, through trial and error and loss, I accepted that I might just always be her.

And now here I am on summer evenings when the light is just right, my camera tucked away and my horse out grazing on Edie’s clover, fixing my 1-year-old steamed broccoli and blueberries and a purple popsicle for dessert, listening to her sing and boss and test out her lungs in her chair, her little bare feet dirty, her face smeared and her hair wild, just the way she’s supposed to be at the end of a long summer day of play.

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She says “Done,” I wipe her face and run the bath and watch her blow bubbles and pretend to swim and point to her nose and her toes and her tummy and sing Twinkle Twinkle and wonder how she’s learned so much in such a short time on this earth.

Then she says “Done!” because she’s done and I scoop her up out of the tub as Husband walks through the door. She squeals for her daddy and it’s everything.

He didn’t get the bulls back, he said. They ran into the canopy of trees and disappeared.

It’s thick in there, he said. I didn’t rain, it’s not going to rain, but if it did, you wouldn’t feel a drop in those trees.

He stands over me and Edie as I wrestle her into her pajamas. She’s wiggly. I smell her toes and say “Peww!” and she laughs like I’m the most hilarious thing on the planet.

I pick her up, swing her to my right hip and find a comb for her hair, her toothbrush, her blankie, her cup…Husband takes a phone call and as I’m walking back down the hallway, I shift Edie to the front of my body to give her kisses and talk about sleep and, “ping” the baby inside me makes a swift and sharp kick to announce itself, to say hello, to make it feel real.

I squeal a little and look back at my husband. “The baby just kicked me, oh my gosh, big time!” He hears it and smiles that genuine smile I’ve come to know so well and turns to talk on the deck, because he’s on the phone and in two worlds at once…

The sun won’t go down for another couple hours, but Edie’s curtains are drawn and we rock a bit. When I hum, she hums and it’s my favorite time of day. Because I’m tired. Because she’s calm. Because it’s our constant.

But life with a child changes every day, so I know it won’t be our constant for long and that’s what makes everything sweeter and more terrifying. I can’t imagine exactly the shift that will occur with a new addition to this family, but I can predict some things…

More diapers, more messes, more long nights and teething pain, more aches and more blueberries crusted to the floor.

And less sleep.

And time that just pushes it all along too slow and too fast all at once.

This is this summer.

And no summer will ever be the same…

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A mother is born.

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My little sister gave birth to her first child last week in the late hours of the evening of July 20th,  just before spring officially turned into summer in the changeover of the solstice and just like that the world is a little brighter, the future more full of wonder.

But I don’t know what was harder, giving birth to my first baby, or the long wait to hear the news that my little sister had successfully and safely given birth to hers.

My mom, big sister and nephew arrived to the hospital early to sit in the waiting room in case there was any reason they might need us. In case she came quickly. In case there was something we could do other than speculate, nervously chew our fingernails, watch terrible daytime television, scroll through news headlines and pace the hospital floors.

Turns out that’s about all we could do, until my husband and dad arrived in the evening with Edie, a wild little gift sent to distract us from the long wait.

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By the time we got the text from my brother-in-law, the one that said “She’s Here!” the whole lot of us, the entire family minus one brother-in-law, had supper, watched Edie climb up and down from the waiting room chair about 150 times,

went through dozens of YouTube kid songs,

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chased the cousins chasing each other down the hall

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and lost Papa and the kids for an undocumented amount of time because they went outside to get some air, examine the landscaping rocks and pretend that they were zombies and got locked out of the building. It wasn’t until gramma’s worrying instinct shifted for a moment from her youngest daughter to her missing husband and grandkids that their lives, in my nephew’s words, were finally saved.

It was a long wait…

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And while I had complete faith in the process, in her doctor and the hospital and the way things were going, I surprised myself at how nervous I became just sitting there helpless, knowing my little sister, the one who used to follow me up the crick when we were kids, the one who sat with me to watch Garfield cartoons after school every day, the one who had wild curly hair that matched her fierce little attitude, was a few rooms down in the middle of one of the hardest tasks she’ll ever face.

If there was a way I could have ensured a painless and fearless process for her, I would have ordered it up. But that wouldn’t be fair. Every mother has her own story of how their children entered their life, with a wail or a sigh, a quiet exchange or a dramatic display, and now my little sister and her beautiful, dark haired daughter, have theirs.

And while I’ve had the privilege of watching her tackle almost every phase of her life with confidence and some nervous nail biting as she grew into the woman she is today, I am looking forward to seeing her in her next role as mother to a daughter who has her eyes.

Turns out maybe there was a plan for all those years my husband and I spent waiting to have children…maybe it was so that we could raise them together, my little sister and I.

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Coming Home: To have my little sister along with me

She used to follow me up the coulee and along the crick, her purple barn jacket zipped up under her chin, the rubber soles of her boots keeping a careful distance between her and her big sister who hadn’t discovered her lurking behind the trees yet.

I would leave the house unannounced to sing to myself as I inspected my tree fort, the frog count on the crick and the wild raspberry plants growing alongside the beaver dam. And she almost always followed, stopping at the tire swing for a quick ride.

My daydreaming mentality made it so I almost never noticed her behind me until we were well into our journey up the crick and I had no choice but to keep her along with me, no matter my protest. Because she’s always been more strong-willed than me, more stubborn and certain and all of the things I could have used more of in my life. But I was on my way to growing out of her, I thought, the way big sisters do when they find themselves searching for the independence needed to survive impending adulthood. And I was five years older and wiser and I didn’t know where she fit in my world as I sat cross-legged on the pink carpet of my bedroom floor, strumming my guitar and writing love songs to the clouds.

But she was there, right across the hall from me dreaming her own dreams, right behind me in my footsteps, right beside me in dad’s pickup and in the front row clapping during my volatile and sensitive years, the ones that prepare us to launch out and on our own, but I wasn’t there for hers.

I missed the parts where she found herself in love for the first time, her winning baskets on the court, her late night cries over friends, her name in the paper on the honor roll, the straight As on the fridge.

I was gone by then, out of the house and down the road miles and miles and I’m sure she could have used a sister in the house for that.

It’s funny, I’ve never really thought about it until today—today when I’m struggling to find a way to convey what it’s like to wait for her call…if she needs me…if it’s going ok…if she’s arrived…

By the time you read this she will have given birth to her first born, a daughter. As I type she’s in the hospital room, my baby sister wincing at the needles, breathing through the pain, leaning steadfast into a new life…

A new life that seemed like a faraway myth all those years ago as we walked together in the trees, the sun sinking below the treetops to sparkle on us through dark branches as we headed up the trail toward home. And a hundred years later, or just a blink of an eye, here we are in big forts we call houses, two wide-eyed, wild-haired children raising children of our own.

And I’m so glad to have her along with me.