What Edie has to say…

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Coming Home:
2-year-old Edie thinks she’s 30-something, or 60-something, or something

Yesterday, I told my 2-year-old that it was time to take a nap. She replied, of course, that she didn’t want to. When I asked her why, she said, “Because it’s too dangerous.”

The day before I told her “never mind” after she asked me for the 40th time what I was doing. She replied, “Never mine? Oh, never yours.”

My daughter calls the fly swatter a “shoo fly,” and announces the presence of every bug within a 10-mile radius, demanding that I bring her the shoo fly to take care of every one. On nice days at home, this is about all we do.

Edie calls her rubber boots “scrubber boots,” and I hope she never stops

My 2-year-old thinks she’s a 30-something mother or a 60-something grandmother, or a teenage girl, depending on her most recent and influential caretaker.

When she’s wearing her jeans, boots and a hat, she’s just like Chad, her dad that she often calls by his first name. She also calls him a queen, which is fun for us all. And as it turns out, when she’s outside, she spits just like him, too. Discovered that little gem the other day.

Yes, little Edie Elizabeth transitions in and out of her personas with ease, keeping us on our toes. On our way home from town last week, she initiated conversation by asking, “How you doing girlfriend?”

That night at supper, her icebreaker of choice was, “So, how’s your mom doing?”

Then she insisted that I take the cantaloupe off of her cantaloupe, proving that she is indeed a toddler after all.

And that’s why these tiny humans are so amazing really, just the right miraculous combination of spitfire and inherent sweetness to keep us all on our toes.

For example, a few days ago she wrapped her skinny little arms around both her baby sister and I, declaring us her “best friends.” About a half hour later, she must have changed her mind as she tested the waters by gently slapping her so called best-friend-baby-sister’s cheeks.

These are the things parenting books don’t prepare you for, these big personalities that come out of a tiny human you somehow had a hand in creating.

This morning, on our way into town, we passed a man sitting on a big ol’ Harley in the parking lot of our little grocery store. He was a large man, bald, tattooed, wearing leather — a straight-out-of-the-textbook Harley-Davidson owner.

“Look Mommy, that guy’s got a motorcycle,” my daughter chirped from the back seat. “What’s his name?’ she asked, because she always wants to know, leaving me to make up a lot of characters to appease her.

“Larry,” I lied. “I think his name is Larry.”

“Yup, he’s Larry,” she replied. “He’s perfect.”

And then my heart swelled up big enough to leak out eyes that were seeing the world as Edie sees it… where naps are dangerous and biker men are perfect and I think I’ll just enjoy this moment and worry about it later, like when she actually becomes a teenager.

Spring’s little gifts

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We went from winter to summer here in Western North Dakota. Last Saturday it was nearly 80 degrees and so I loaded the kids up with sunscreen and attempted to clear the yard of dog poop while Edie sprayed the hose into the little plastic pool and Rosie watched and drooled in her stroller.

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The sunshine made us all feel so alive and happy that I didn’t even mind shoveling the dead squirrel in full-on rigamortus from the yard for the thirteenth time that week (country living is glamorous).

And when we heard the next day was going to be even warmer, we went ahead and made plans to go fishing, successfully transforming us from grumpy, nose to the grindstone workaholic types, to full-on retirees–if retirees wipe toddler noses and baby butts while they’re poles are in the water.

Oh, it was the complete heaven that comes when we get nice weather up here. Because when it’s nice, it’s glorious. The lake was still and the fish were biting, at least for Pops, who proves time and time again that he’s the luckiest of the lucky ones.

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I looked over at him who is getting better and better every day and said “Isn’t it a great day to be alive?”

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And it was indeed. It is indeed.

Cheers to spring turning rapidly into summer. Just make sure you’re checking for ticks.

Love, the Girls of Spring!

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Coming Home: Relishing the signs of spring, whether good or bad

Throw open the doors and bring out that old book that props up your window. Let the sun in and the breeze blow through the house because I think spring might finally be happening after all.

I wouldn’t dare say for sure, except last weekend I picked some crocuses and a tick off the back of my neck, and out here those two things might be the most reliable indicators that sub-zero temps are on their way out, for a few months anyway.

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It’s incredible what a 70-degree day will do to a person up here where winter drags its heavy feet coming and going.

After a February that lasted three months, I promised my friend who has been living on a ranch in North Dakota with her husband for just a few years, that spring always comes … eventually. She didn’t look convinced.

Maybe because I wasn’t so convinced myself.

But here it is, however late. It’s that promise that keeps us crazies living up here in the great white north, all bundled up and waiting to walk around in our Ice Cream Shirts (with a jacket in the pickup just in case). And now that I see it in writing, I realize that I might be the only one in the great white north who uses the term “Ice Cream Shirt.” I’ll explain.

Ice Cream Shirt: The term our grampa Pete used to describe a button up, collared cowboy shirt with short sleeves, the type of shirt a man might have to wear if he spends his days scooping ice cream. Also, a piece of clothing the man himself probably never wore, because of the thorns in the bullberry brush and frankly, arms that aren’t accustomed to the sun should probably remain in the protection of sleeves, no matter the weather.

It’s the same sentiment my friend’s husband has about shorts. “I don’t like things touching my legs,” he said. “Like grass or bugs or air.”

That’s a cowboy for you.

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And it’s my understanding that even the ones who live in the desert might only be caught in shorts on that Caribbean cruise his wife bid on at a church silent auction or something.

Oh, there are good reasons for these unspoken wardrobe rules out here.

My little sister found out firsthand last weekend on our hike up to the top of the hill we call Pots and Pans. We were both dressed in tennis shoes, leggings and had a baby strapped to our chests, practical for a sidewalk stroll but brutal when you march right into a giant cactus patch, proving once again that out here, sunshine comes with a few small, annoying price tags, some with tiny stickers and others tiny legs.

Oh well, shedding a little blood is a small price to pay for a spring crocus bouquet, said the girl with a cactus plant dug into her ankle to the other with the tick stuck behind her ear.

Happy spring everyone. Wear what you want and soak it in!

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Not enough coffee in the world

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We had a wonderful Easter weekend, with a house full of guests. We were lucky enough to have everyone from both sides of our family (minus one) under our roof which, made for just the right amount of chaos.

And no amount of snow could keep us from the annual outside hunt, so there was that too. Another snow bank Easter in the books.

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Today we’re paying for it all dearly though. Because I thought it was a great idea to say “Sure, Monday at noon will be fine!’ to the lady who wanted to come over for a TV interview with me about the Lifetime HerAmerica project. Which meant I had to get after cleaning up the crusted turkey pan, candy wrappers, plastic egg pieces, punch bowl and crusted on floor crumbs and tackle my sleep deprived face and messy mom hair before her arrival.

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I also had to pray to the sleep Gods for well timed naps, which I miraculously managed, except the interviewer was late, which meant that just in time for me to mic-up the baby started to fuss and mid-way through my answer to the question about “managing it all” the toddler, complete with bed head and pink paint in her bangs from the morning’s craft project, woke up with a temperament of a poked bear.

And she wasn’t having any of it.

Especially the shirt I made her wear.

At one point in the process I was singing to Rosie and from her perch on the potty in the other room, Edie screamed for me to stop. Which I’m sure was exactly the mood they were going for.

I hope no one watches the news. That was exhausting.

And apparently, if my patience had a chance today, it’s shot to shit. I told Edie to say please today and she said I was being crabby. She even made up a song about it…

She wasn’t wrong. I sorta am, despite feeling so grateful after celebrating my favorite holiday. Funny how you can be so many things at the same time.

Oh, its all sort of funny, even the hard stuff. And I’m not sure when, but they say I’ll look back on it all one day and miss it. And I know that’s true, because we tend to forget the exhaustion and that weird, unidentifiable blob crusted under the leg of our table that was discovered with a house full of company and only remember how fun it was to hunt eggs in the snow.

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So that’s what this week’s column is all about. And when it was published, I got a few sweet emails from people reassuring me that it goes fast and that they can relate. And then there was the one woman who spoke her truth, saying I will NOT miss it because little kids are exhausting and it’s hard and the later years are easier and you know what, today I love her for that.

Because apparently, I’m crabby…and I don’t know why…

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Coming Home: As parents, when will we look back on this stage and miss it? 

“Remember when we used to hit up places like this after a long night out?” he said as he held the drooling, wiggly baby in one arm and ate chicken fried steak with the other while I shoveled eggs into my mouth between the toddler’s incessant requests for more toast, because she had just discovered jelly, a condiment she is was convinced was sent down from heaven to this café from God himself.

That was back when we would stay up until two in the morning on purpose and come rolling into cafés like these for a stack of pancakes or a pile of eggs, twenty something, tipsy and childless.

It’s a far cry from our current state of thirty-something, hungry and sleepless.

But I’m not sure how our waitress would have categorized us that morning when she walked toward our booth and caught me absentmindedly singing, “I need coffee, I need coffee, I need coffee” into my fork.

I didn’t even know I was doing it until I saw her face pull up into a full-on laugh as she handed us our menus and took our drink orders.

“I’m thinking you need coffee then?” she smiled.

“Huh, yeah,” I replied. “And maybe a little time away from the kids.”

She left and we laughed too. Our idea of a fun had morphed a bit from planning a night out on the town to planning a trip to take the toddler swimming in a hotel pool.

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Sitting down to eat breakfast at a café like this used to be a relaxing way to spend a Sunday morning. These days it’s more like a bad idea, a chance to test our patience, my incognito breastfeeding skills and, apparently, experience the thrill of eating jelly out of those little plastic packets.

But in between cutting up chicken nuggets, cleaning up spills and sipping cold coffee, the reminiscing made me take notice of all the different life stages that were seated in that busy café that morning. The rumpled weekend college kids we used to be, the parents of teenagers trying hard for discussion, the elderly couple quietly and ritualistically sharing the newspaper, the 5-year-old boy out to eat with his dad who kept turning around to sneak a peek of our baby…

And behind me a woman talked with her mother about giving her teenage daughter relationship advice. And in her words I heard my own mom’s voice talking over the hum of the radio in the mini-van, driving us somewhere so we couldn’t escape it, the same technique this woman seemed to employ. And I couldn’t help but think that in a few short blinks that a different version of us will be in that café while our daughters are sleeping in or out with friends.

And we will say, “Remember when they were little and we would come to these places to make a mess and noise and barely take a bite? Remember when there wasn’t enough coffee in the world?”

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A thousand breathless moments

How little, not big moments, remind you about living

There are moments in this life that remind you what living is. And I can say from experience that it’s only a little bit the parts that you plan out to do the trick, like jumping out of an airplane over the Gulf of Mexico. Making it safely to the sandy beach after swallowing the atmosphere in the world’s most terrified silent scream does indeed make you thrilled to be alive, but I think it’s a lot more the quiet moments after the jump that stick with you in playback.

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Like the margarita I had with friends on the beach afterwards, laughing at how close I came to throwing up my breakfast on the way down.

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This chapter in my life doesn’t involve any sky diving plans, although some days the story feels a lot like jumping out of a plane with a prayer and no parachute. Right now the adventure is supper negotiations with a toddler when we’re all spent from the day, evening hours wearing a path in the floor bouncing the baby to sleep and balancing schedules so the cows can get fed, the taxes can get filed and the work can get done so the bills can be paid.

And in the in-between moments the floors are swept and spilled on, the laundry is cleaned and soiled and the plates are filled and washed over arguments won and lost while we make plans.

When they say they lived “Happily Ever After,” they mean for you to fast-forward to the highlight reel. Only sometimes the highlight footage is found tucked in the mundane.

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Last weekend I took my two-year-old to watch the High School production of the Wizard of Oz. My daughter loves to dress up, and so I made a big deal out of it. She chose her dress, her hair bows, we painted her nails and she picked out a necklace from my drawer to wear. She didn’t know what a play was, but she was thrilled anyway.

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“Mommy! You look so different!” she exclaimed after I put on the purple dress she suggested and we both did a twirl. Then we put on our fancy coats and headed to town, and while the high school students were making moments for their highlight reel they were also making memories for me, watching my little daughter worry for Toto, her little body hardly heavy enough to keep the theater chair from folding in on her.

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And it was that. And then, later that night, it was looking over to find my usually stoic husband dancing with the little neighborhood girls at the fireman’s fundraiser, and then it was my dad, who had been deathly sick for months, now able to sit in a vehicle to watch the neighborhood kids fly down the sledding hill and his granddaughter build a snowman,

and then the baby’s first giggle and all of us racing upstairs to lay out together as a family on our brand new bed that had just been delivered and about a million tiny little moments between that carry momentum to me these days that render me as breathless as a jump from that plane.

Creative Kids

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There you have it. A relic from my early days working to hone my skills as a poet. This one is official, because it’s typed up on one of the first computers ever delivered to our elementary country school in the middle of nowhere, the kind we all used to play Oregon Trail and make Happy Birthday banners that would print off at our teacher’s desk, slowly and loudly as we stood by and watched, waiting to rip those little holey-perforated edges off.

Oh, nostalgia. That’s the source of my creativity these days. But back then, there was no such thing. My muse was this fascinating world surrounding me, one full of dirt turned to mud and mud turned to snow and snow turned to ice and ice turned to water filling the creek bed and sending it rushing through the trees.

I spent hours along that ever changing creek, making up songs and singing them at the top of my lungs. And when I wasn’t making up songs, I was spending time with my neighbor friend up the hill trying to figure out how to make a go cart from the scraps in our dad’s shops or concocting a genius way to keep the bugs from our faces with a ketchup bottle and a bike helmet for when we rode our bikes like the wind up and down that road.

Because we were kids and we had no creative limits, a fact that could be proven from our made-from-scratch recipes in our moms’ kitchens, convinced that red hots and spaghetti noodles go together, if only someone was brave enough to try it.

We were.  And it was disgusting. Actually, come to think of it, nothing we invented or created was ever really that genius or durable or useful, but it didn’t matter. To us it was about the process and the fact that our parents let go of the reigns, or their hope of a spotless kitchen, and let us try.

And we sure had fun trying.

I listen to my two year old daughter making up songs in her room as she’s lying down in the dark, waiting for sleep, or in the bathtub washing her baby doll, and I know she’s like me in that way. I can set her up with a couple tubs of Play Dough or a set of paints and she’s good for a long stretch. The activities that keep her attention the longest are the creative things and I love it.

I’m happy to oblige and, if I can, sit down next to her and color too, a little piece of my childhood indulged.

This month in Prairie Parent, we celebrate kids and all of their creativity that’s in them.

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We feature two young girls who have turned their love for crafting into businesses, we profile an event that celebrates and encourages young inventors and entrepreneurs and we ask kids to tell us why art is important to them.

In my “From the Editor” piece, I reflect a bit more on what it meant to me to be a creative kid and why I’m giving up my kitchen table for the time being. Read it here and then head on over to our website to read the rest of the issue!

Give up the kitchen table and give kids space to create

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Next month we’re doing a special issue called “Ask Us.” Send in your parenting questions and we’ll throw them at the experts or our contributors to advise.

Comment here, send them to jessieveeder@gmail.com or visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/prairieparent. 

Happy parenting! Spring’s coming soon, I promise.

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Love. An explanation.

Mom and dad on wedding day

What is love? It depends on who you ask.
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My dad once told me that he didn’t believe that there was just one person for everyone. I was sitting shotgun in the pickup as he drove us somewhere. He likely asked me about my boyfriend, and I think I responded with a sort of fed up answer.

I was in that transition from teenager to adult, heading off to college and thinking I might be in love. And I was wondering if I should break it off, because that’s what most people do. And at that age, what most people do sort of means something.

“Think about this,” he said. “What would it be like for you if you couldn’t talk to him tomorrow?”

From there he explained his theory on love and how he believed it was more about timing and choices and kindness than it was about destiny. And it wasn’t romantic really, but hearing that there were more people out there I could love, or who could love me, helped take the pressure off, even if the teenage poet in me didn’t appreciate the practicality of it at the time.

Anyway, it turns out that particular relationship did work for me. My husband and I became one of those couples who found each other as teenagers and hung on tight, not because of big romantic gestures or a dramatic series of events, but because, I think, neither one of us could imagine not being able to talk to each other every day. And although it’d be more passionate to say we were destined to be together, the truth is, in the end, it was a choice.

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Last month, I asked a group of preschoolers to define love. I wanted a few cute quotes in the name of Valentine’s Day for the parenting magazine I edit. I don’t know what I expected, but it got me wondering how I would respond if someone pulled me away from my Lego tower and asked me.

One little boy summed it up perfectly when he told me, confidently, that he shows his mom he loves her by “cooking her turkey.”

I smiled as I wrote down his answer, thinking how refreshing it is to hear such an uncomplicated take on what we grown-ups come to muddy up along the way.

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Then I thought of my mom sitting by my dad’s bedside day after day after day while he was in the ICU and unable to speak, not knowing if she would get to talk to him tomorrow, the choice no longer hers to own.

There will be a time when my girls will need me to talk to them about head and heart, and I hope I’ll be able to remember what it felt like that day in the pickup, to be a teenager on the edge of a wide open life, reminded that love looks less like Prince Charming and more like turkey dinner turned into turkey sandwiches turned into a lifetime of conversation with the someone you can’t bear to lose.

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Love and Parenting

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Happy Valentines Day loves. Above is my attempt at finding something in their closets that was “Valentiny” and getting them to sit together for a photo without incident.

This was after getting home from our early morning trip to the doctor where I got the fun surprise Valentines Day gift of bronchitis and Edie got her ear infection back.

Love.

But on the bright side, it’s above freezing for the first time this month! If you look close you can see the snow melting off the deck and I would call that February’s Valentine to us here in the frozen north.

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They must have put Valentines Day in February in an attempt to help cheer us up and pull us through to spring. Depending on where your feelings fall on the topic, it may or may not be working. Either way, I think there will be some good sales on chocolate tomorrow, so there’s always that.

So in honor of love, I dedicated this month’s Prairie Parent to the topic.

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I invite you to check it out. There are some fun articles, including Valentines Day desserts, how to use your love language to celebrate the holiday, the importance of having mom friends and my “From the Editor” comments on the way love changes and grows throughout our lives.

From the Editor: The Evolution of Love

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I’m certainly feeling that ever changing love today with my beautiful, challenging, kissable little Valentines.

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But it seems like no matter the day, I find myself caught in a moment where I wonder how this became my life (admittedly some days the question is more positive than others).

Were we ever seventeen and falling in love?

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Did that boy become a man who is now tasked with catching and wrestling or two-year-old into her snow pants so she can go feed her cows and her pony some “cereal?”

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Minus the never-ending house construction project, some days I don’t think I could have scripted it better, even with the challenges.

And the bronchitis and ear infections.

So friends, take a moment to read through our magazine online today. Hopefully there will be something there that makes you smile. I recommend the interviews with preschoolers on what love means to them.  

 

Peace, Love and Candy Hearts,

Jessie and the girls

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Motherhood, you’re a mess…

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I’m telling you, this winter deep freeze is starting to get to us. Couple that with the fact that Edie is on a daycare hiatus and we’ve been sorta sick and stuffed up for a week or so I admit, I’m digging deep here.

Today in particular.

Because as a sweet test from God I woke up this morning without a voice. Like, I’m not just a little scratchy. No. I can barely make a squeak come out of my mouth, no matter what I do. And it turns out a mom who can only whisper is fun for a two-year-old. Because if a kid jumps up and down on the living room couch and there’s no mom-voice there to tell her to get down, is it really happening?

Apparently not.

 

This kid is driving me nuts today, it’s like she knows I’m weak. Because the other one gave me no chance to get some rest and avoid this last night. Sleeping in 1.5 hour increments is another form of torture.

Anyway, to get me through the morning and keep Edie from trying, repeatedly, to feed Rosie her baby doll bottle full of water before attempting to lift her out of her seat,

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I decided I would sacrifice cleanliness and make this Moon Sand I’ve been seeing my mom friends do for their toddlers.

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It’s an easy to make, sensory activity for kids. I used the recipe off of happy-mothering.com because I figured with a URL like that, she must be on to something.  I mixed 8 cups of flour and 1 cup of baby oil together in the mixer long enough to get it all combined. I then poured it in a long, flat Tupperware container, thinking I was being really proactive about the mess by putting newspaper down on the table underneath. But it didn’t matter. By the time she was done the stuff was in my hair, under everyone’s fingernails, in Rosie’s ear as she slept in her swing across the room and the dog’s fur in the garage.

So, yeah, it’s more of an outside-on-the-porch kind of activity, but parenting up here in the great white frozen north where it was like twenty below zero here this morning is no joke. We make sacrifices in the name of our sanity. Today my sacrifice was my floor.

But it did keep Toddlerzilla engaged for a good 45 minutes or so. And she loved it. So I think it was an ok trade off for the 45 minutes I had to spend cleaning up the mess she made.

Ugh…Spring, you can come anytime now.

Until then, here’s this week’s column on the other messes I’ve created in my attempt to make it through this season with young kids…

Not all messes in life are created equal
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“Sorry for the mess,” my friend’s husband said as he opened the door to the pickup he was letting me borrow during the week I was waiting for my new baby to be born in the big town.

I looked around to find an orange hunting vest lying on the back seat and (GASP!) a stray penny on the floor. And that was it.

Clearly, we have opposite ideas of what a mess is, I thought as I wheeled around town in that spotless pickup like a fancy pregnant pageant queen, careful not to spill any crumbs from my occasional muffin pit stop on the seats and making sure to bring my water and juice cups inside when I parked it.

I’m pretty sure you could make a dozen new muffins from all the crumbs that are residing on the floor of my vehicle these days. And don’t get me started on the extra cups. And I know I’ve explained my car situation here before, how living 30 miles from any civilization means that a girl accumulates things, just in case — like extra socks, a stash of snacks in every available crevasse, lawn chairs, spare gloves, napkins upon napkins, a 2012 issue of Glamour magazine, a talking Elmo doll and a partridge in a pear tree. But if I thought I had an issue before I gave birth to two small children, well, I had no idea what was coming.

Like two, 75-pound car seats that come with said children.

Do you know what also comes with children? Stuff. So. Much. Stuff. Like all the extra things I thought I needed for those miles when it was only me? Multiply that by three and then add a giant stroller, a Pack ‘n Play, a couple stacks of kid’s books, a stash of fruit snacks, burp rags, baby dolls and at least one dirty diaper changed along the side of the road. Oh, and Edie’s lifejacket just in case.

By the time I get the car loaded and both girls out the door and buckled safely into their seats, I’m sweating like I’ve just come in last place at a Texas marathon.

Last week we finally did get around to going to that indoor swimming pool. I slowly made the trek from the parking lot to the door with a diaper bag backpack on my back, a swim bag overstuffed with suits, clothes and towels dangling off the stroller with a car seat and the baby inside, stopping only to pull my toddler in her puffy coat out of the snow bank where she decided to lay down for a half-way break. If it wasn’t so cold, I might have joined her and if you were flying over Watford City that day, I’m pretty sure you could see us giving up on it all from your window seat.

Three days later, when I went searching for that swimming bag, I found it, of course, in my car, stuffed full of very frozen swimsuits, towels and an ice cube of a life jacket.

And that, my friend, is the sort of mess worth apologizing for…

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This life, it’s a mess.

Happy Monday. I hope your team won last night.

I’m sitting on the bed upstairs with my laptop, working on emails and preparing for a meeting this evening, sort of furiously trying to manage my work before the toddler wakes up. She’s wiped out from the party she hosted last night and there’s a big ‘ol mess of leftovers, dishes, toys and tiaras (yes, we pull those out for the Super Bowl around here) that I’m avoiding. Our daycare situation has changed, and this is our first week without it. I’m panicking a bit, cause momma’s still got work to do, but my mother-in-law is coming to the rescue to ease us into it and I’m grateful.

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Making cookie bars for Super Bowl

My mom was able to come home late Saturday night and spend the evening with us. She’ll be here for the rest of the week while my uncle stays with my dad in Minneapolis. It was strange to watch the Super Bowl last night and know that he was there, in his bed in a rehab facility, wishing he was home. When they zoomed out on the lights of the city during the halftime show I couldn’t help but think of him as one of those millions of lights so far away and I missed him.

When I wrote this column last week we planned on having him home by now, but a minor set back has him there waiting for a bit more healing without a definite timeline. The difference though, is we know he’s coming home now. The difference is, he’s no longer dying. He’s on his way to a recovery, a slow one, but a recovery nonetheless. And we’re grateful.

This mess of a life will be easier to tackle with him back beside us all.

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Searching for calm in this mess we call life
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After three long, agonizing months in and out of ICU in a Minneapolis hospital battling pancreatitis and fighting for his life, my dad is set to come home to the ranch in a few weeks.

Friends are calling wondering what they can do, making plans to clear the driveway, buy groceries and welcome him back, and we are so very grateful.

And while I want to say that we’re all finally able to let that breath out that we’ve been holding in all this time, I’m not so sure that it’s entirely true yet. When a loved one has gone through such a traumatic, life-threatening experience, I’m not sure when you begin to trust that that it’s truly over. He’s coming home, but he’s got a long road to recovery, one that will be done out here, so far from the team of experts that saved his life.

It’s times like these the isolation of rural living sinks in. And it can scare you if you let it. The fact that my dad made it all those miles between the cold buttes and coulees of the ranch to a place with skyscrapers and sidewalks that could save him is truly a miracle that wouldn’t be possible in a different time. And now, somehow, it feels like years since we had him here, home and healthy with us. These months have passed slowly.

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Last weekend my great uncle stopped by the house to visit. He’s one of the three remaining children of 12 born just down the road from the ranch.

“Come on in, it’s a mess, but that’s life,” I said as I hugged him with my free arm, my sleeping baby in the other, my toddler behind us with the door open sitting naked on the potty.

I replayed those words in my head for days since I blurted them. It’s a phrase I’d never uttered before and one that may have resonated with him had I not said it with such haste in an attempt to explain away my housekeeping skills.

Because he just recently lost his wife after a long health battle and he came home for a visit with his brothers.

“It’s a mess, but that’s life…”

He stood in my kitchen, surrounded by the remnants of breakfast and Edie’s art project and our small talk about weather turned to a story about his immigrant father and how he rode his bike 80-some miles across the prairie to borrow a wagon to pick up his bride.

“Can you imagine what my mother was thinking? I don’t know if she knew what she was getting into…”

I couldn’t help but think then, that what she got herself into brought us to that moment in my kitchen that day, comforting one another, worrying about Dad’s homecoming and smiling as that man, who has known much more mess in this life than stray socks and spilled orange juice, called my daughters beautiful.

These are the reasons we stay here, standing brave, holding our breath, in this mess of a life.

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January. Or, Mom vs. Mittens

IMG_3820Being a mom to little kids in the great white north comes with its unique challenges. All the extra steps we need to take to go anywhere without suffering frostbite is one of them…and along with that comes my newest and biggest rival: Tiny Mittens.

Squeezing a pair of those buggers on a two year old’s wiggly hands while she’s bundled up like a puffy mummy, repeating “outside, outside, outside…” while I’m bent over, sweating and the baby’s squawking in her swing is a reason only the strong survive up here.

And now my sweet darling daughter has started to do this new thing where she goes boneless and drops to the floor with her eyes closed tight whenever she senses any sort of urgency from her mother, so getting her dressed is like dressing a large, limp, noodle. And getting her to find that nice balance between limp noodle and escape convict is really fun…It’s fun in the grocery store. It’s fun walking out of gymnastics. It’s fun in parking lots in freezing temperatures and it’s fun at potty time…and suppertime…and bath time…and bedtime.

And so I’m dreaming of summer and 80 degrees where the girl can run wild (or flop on the ground) buck naked if she wants, because by the time July hits we’ll have lost all patience for clothes…along with all the mittens that don’t fit anyway…

Here’s this weeks column, where I complain more about it…

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Spring-it’s just around the corner. I promise.
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Congratulations North Dakota! You’ve made it to the end of the longest month.

From here I can see spring — if I stand on the top of the highest hill, on a rock, with my binoculars, but probably only because February’s a short month and the past week we’ve had a break from the sub-zero temperatures long enough for us to find optimism and wrangle the toddler into her snow clothes and play outside.

If I start the process after breakfast, we’re usually ready to hit the small sledding slope in the backyard just in time for her afternoon nap. Because there’s nothing more fun than a tired, over-bundled toddler who just face-planted in the snow and has lost the will to save herself because it took too dang long to put her mittens on.

Seriously, if there’s a children’s mitten out on the market that doesn’t require a team of engineers and detectives to maneuver two tiny thumbs in the thumb holes and a therapist to convince the kid to keep them on, I’ll pay you for your recommendations.

Think of all the free time I would have if someone could solve the mitten problem. I might actually get supper on the table before dark, which currently isn’t possible because dark starts at 4 pm.

Oh, I’m only complaining a little, but I think it’s allowed in January. Our mutual annoyance with this long, cold month is what keeps us Northerners bonded together. January is the reason that there’s an entire colony of North Dakotans who abandon ship and relocate to Arizona each season.

And I would be jealous, except who can blame them? Especially when most of the Arizona-bound population has put in their years of earflap caps, long underwear and toddler mitten holes.

People in Arizona don’t have to deal with mitten holes.

Oh, but they come back eventually, usually around mid-May or June, when 42-below zero has become a distant memory, leaving only a scratchy little patch of frostbite you acquired on that one January night you had to walk home because you got the feed pickup stuck up to its floorboards in a snowbank.

If only we could ship our cattle to Arizona for January as well. I’m sure they’d be pretty pissed if they knew there were cows in this world that have never had to lean in against 40 mph winds whipping ice pellets at them, so I haven’t told them.

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No, we keep them blissfully unaware and fed each evening with giant bales of hay that smell like the beautiful, green, sunny summers we get up here.

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For that reason I hope that cows have memories. Because there’s nothing like the scent of that hay rolling out behind the pickup (that just conveniently dropped its four-wheel-drive) to remind us that this weather is fleeting and the tall lush grass, crystal clear creek water and sweaty, tick-filled days of summer are just around the corner.

Come on over, I’ve got a telescope and a tall hill, so I bet we can see it coming.

Just don’t forget your mittens.

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