The case of the mystery peas…

 

Last night Husband came home from mom and dad’s with an armful of mail and a ziplock baggie on the counter full of fresh garden peas.

I was standing in the kitchen feeding the baby and he plopped that ziplock down on the counter next to me.

“Your dad thought you might want these,” he said. “They’re from his garden.”

I held the spoon full of smushed plums in a hover position in front of my wiggling baby and with my other hand I examined that bag of peas in disbelief and envy.

“He does NOT have peas yet!” I declared to my husband who had moved on with his life, and pulled the hover spoon from my hand and into the baby’s mouth.

“No wayyyy!!!” I declared again.

“Yup,” said the man I married.

In my head I visualized the plants I examined in his garden just week before. In my head I thought there was no way they could have flowered and grown a plethora of vegetables while I was away on a camping trip for the love of Martha Stewart.

But my head was foggy. I was tired. Turns out the baby doesn’t sleep much on camping trips.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.38.49 AM

And neither does her mom.

The dad?

The dad could sleep on the back of a cheetah chasing after a gazelle in the jungle. Wait, do cheetahs even live in the jungle?

Probably  not.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 9.31.26 AM

I don’t even know things anymore. Earlier that morning I sneezed and immediately said “Pew.” Instead of “excuse me.” And then, realizing my error, I corrected it by saying “Thank you.” In front of all the family. They are very likely concerned. But what the hell? This baby took all of my brains.

Anyway, back to the peas. I left them sitting on the counter without further discussion while I went about making supper, cleaning up the baby, throwing a load of camping blankets in the washing machine and generally biding my time before the child went down for the night so I could too.

But I couldn’t get past the peas. He couldn’t possibly have peas already. Didn’t they just sprout a few weeks ago? Mine are barely visible leaves in a sea of black dirt out front. And while he planted them on Memorial Weekend like he was supposed to, and used a pile of sheep manure, and watered and weeded and basically pulled out his A+ horticulturalist game, there is no way that little vegetable plot could be that far along and that far ahead of mine…

Unless…

Husband came out from putting the baby down and sat in his chair. I plopped down the ottoman and stared blankly out the window while I mulled over my conclusion before turning Husband and declaring…

“I’m pretty sure dad transplanted his garden from a greenhouse. I mean, think about it. One day his garden is dirt and the next he has full fledged plants. I never saw the in-between! That has to be it. Those pea plants were started already when he put them in the ground. It makes sense. Makes total sense!!”

“Those peas were from the Farmer’s Market.”

“Wait. What?”

“Your dad. He got them from the Farmer’s Market.”

“Wait. What Farmers Market?”

“The one in Minnesota. He thought it would be funny to give them to you and tell you they were his. I didn’t know how long to let it go. He thought it would be funny to mess with you. And it was.”

Well that explains it.

If you need me I’ll be out in my garden…

Because this. This is what I’m dealing with.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 9.31.35 AM

 

 

The perspective from a distance

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.38.49 AM

We’re spending the week in vacation mode.

Vacation mode meaning heading east to the lake in Minnesota to spend time with family at my grandparent’s lake cabin, per tradition.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.30.11 AM

And then coming home to cut some hay and meet some deadlines before heading back out the big lake tomorrow to spend time on the pontoon or roasting s’mores with the other side of the family.

When we’re at the lake in Minnesota we do this thing where we load up the crew on the pontoon, drinks and snacks and towels and caps and everything else we could have forgotten, and we drive that boat around the shore, slowly, so we can take a look at the beautiful houses that have been built in place of the small cabins that once stood there back when my grandparents first bought their place.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.29.06 AM

We comment on the lawns and the landscaping, the docks and the red shutters. We like the cedar siding on that one, and the cottage feeling of the other. We wonder where the NFL football player’s house is. We wonder how much the inflatable trampoline costs. We like that patio set and the adorable kids playing catch in the front yard.

We wonder who lives there. And secretly, I think we all wonder, what that would be like.

It sounds sort of strange, a literal boatload of family tooling by people’s houses on the lake. But we’re not the only ones who do it. It’s like a parade of homes, only we’re the parade.

We wave.

They wave back.

We’re at a safe distance that way. We can imagine and talk and wonder while we make our rounds and come up, always sooner than expected, as the sun starts to sink, on the blue house with the sailboat in the water out front, the familiar trees where the hammock used to swing, grandma’s flowers, the American flags stuck in the grass by the rocky shore, and feel the warm flood of familiarity fill us up with the good memories we’ve had there year after year together.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.29.32 AM

It happens to me every time we leave on that pontoon, sitting shoulder to shoulder, talking and laughing with my aunts and uncles, sisters, parents, grandparents, looking briefly into other people’s lives, wondering, wishing perhaps that we could afford that big boat or that beautiful deck, contemplating who we would be there before pulling slowly into the dock on that one house out of a hundred that we know so well.

The one that holds so much.

The best one on the lake for people like us.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.31.49 AM

Coming Home: Searching for perspective on life from a distance
by Jessie Veeder
7-3-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

IMG_1357

When I lived between the sidewalks of town, one of my favorite things to do was go out for a walk in the evening as the sun was going down on the neighborhood. It didn’t matter what time of year—the crisp, still air of winter or the thick heat of the summer—I liked to follow the path of the sidewalks that stretched past the neat rows of houses, the warm glow of the kitchen lights shining brighter than the setting sun outside, projecting a slice of each family’s life out onto the street.

For a few short years of my young life, when times were tough and my parents had to move to eastern North Dakota for work, I was one of those sidewalk kids, riding my bike a few houses down the block to the neighbor girl’s house so we could pretend we were riding horses in her front yard.

But mostly I was a kid who played in the coulees in the evenings after school, one who got to ride horses in real life, who never learned to rollerblade for severe lack of pavement, whose new neighbor girl was a mile away up the hill and who pushed a lawnmower over cocklebur plants and Canadian thistle that couldn’t be tamed no matter how my mother willed it.

Those were my memories.

IMG_1383

So it was surprising to me how much console I found in walking those neighborhood streets in my adult years spent away from the ranch.

I was thinking about this last night as I walked out in the pasture as the sun dipped below the horizon, turning the grassy pastures and the sky behind me dark green and navy blue. I climbed the hill where the two teepee rings still sit and I looked back at our house, noticing how it somehow looks nestled and perched at the same time in that small opening of oak trees.

The lights were glowing small squares of gold to the outside, while inside the baby slept in her crib, holding the satin edges of her blanket, breathing in and out behind drawn curtains.

I couldn’t see her, of course, but I knew she was there, just as I knew my husband was in the new easy chair, reclined with his arms above his head and his stocking feet kicked back, a small glass of whiskey beside him.

This has always been my favorite way to look at our house. From this distance it seems like it doesn’t contain my life at all, but a life of another woman entirely, and I’m just a passerby who can make up her story.

IMG_1367

Because I can’t see the things undone from here—the fence that needs stain, the pile of unsorted laundry, the conversations we need to have about selling the car or cleaning the garage or juggling the bills.

From this distance I can imagine our life instead of live it, and it’s a strange but wonderful thing.

And I think that’s what I was doing all those years walking those sidewalks in my 20s, trying to imagine my life and how I was going to get to whatever came next.

I would put myself in those houses with the manicured lawns, the dad on the grill out back, the kids jumping on the trampoline. I could put myself in the kitchen that opened up to the deck and invite my neighbors over for burgers.

I could fall in love with the little boy fishing in the gutter of the street, I could name him and his siblings and make up what kind of mother I might be to him.

Because I wasn’t prepared for any of it, even when I found myself living in it, in a real job, renovating a real house, working on my own manicured lawn along those sidewalks. So I walked. For perspective.

And I still do.

Because everything’s a little easier, a little more perfect, at a safe distance.

IMG_1377

Raising children in this world

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.28.22 PM

Coming Home: Teaching our children in the midst of a harsh world
by Jessie Veeder
6-19-16
InForum
http://www.inforum.com

It’s hard to think of anything else these days but what’s in the news. It’s tragedy and politics all wrapped into a messy ball of emotions and fierce beliefs as we try to predict and manipulate our future. It can be as paralyzing as it is polarizing.

And if I had questions — about money or friendship or God or the things that scared me — my parents had an answer to help make me feel safe again.

road 2

During baby Edie’s second week in this world, she sat sleeping in my arms as news of the San Bernardino mass shooting flashed on our television screen. Outside our house, it was cold and quiet. Not a bird to sit on the fence railing, the wind likely blowing the tips of the gray trees back and forth and I was alone with this tiny, fresh and oblivious human watching the window to the world flash terrifying images of helplessness, heartbreak and fear into my home.

My first instinct was to cry with outrage. How selfish to bring a baby into such a violent world. And then thoughts and plans on how I could possibly protect her from evil and heartbreak, worry and fear, started swirling and bouncing around in my freshly postpartum brain, without conclusion.

IMG_7533 copy

And time passed. Conversation about the wonder of her fresh face and tiny hands turned to sleep schedules and teething remedies. Conversations about the state of our country turned to oil and cattle prices and the impending election and we settled into a life on the ranch with a baby as the fear of those first few weeks settled into the cracks in the floor of this house.

But last week I woke up to a reminder. Forty-nine killed, another 53 wounded in the name of hate.

I cried again. Dozens of mothers lost their babies that day. I couldn’t shake my grief.

I put Edie in her sunhat and strolled her out to the dirt patch that’s working on becoming our garden, and I dug in the earth. There was nothing else I could do in that moment except to nurture what was in front of me.

So I planted seeds. I picked up the baby when she fussed. I bounced her and lifted her up to the sky. I nursed her to sleep. I turned on the sprinkler and watered the ground. I strapped her to my body and walked up the road and back. I let my worries and thoughts bounce off the hills.

IMG_1041

Tragedy isn’t new to the human race. Children across the world live and suffer through much more than seeing it on their television screens with the privilege of shutting it off and returning to the swing set in their backyard.

And while parents worth the job want to protect their children from the harsh realities of this world, I know that protection from the truth is a disservice to our human race.

Because kids aren’t immediately responsible for helping to make decisions for a better world, but eventually they will be.

Letting them in on the truths of life, teaching them about respect and consequences, helping them process pain and suffering, cultivating their ability to have compassion, all of these are important lessons that can only be taught against the backdrop of reality.

Listening teaches them to listen.

Questioning teaches them to question.

Yes, I want my daughter to feel safe here in her home protected by the coulees and hills of North Dakota. Held tight in my arms. But holding her so close will inevitably hold her back from learning to understand, appreciate and respect the differences we celebrate as human beings.

IMG_0209

As parents it’s our biggest role to create the compassionate helpers in this world.

And while these hills can’t protect us from pain and tragedy, they can hold us.

And we can hold one another.

And if I can teach my daughter anything, I hope it’s that.

 

13344501_10156905526850062_604258654367649452_n

Whirlwind.

IMG_0993

A storm built up over us last night just as I was settling in to bed. The radar screamed red and flashed tornado warnings above our town while we sat in the house at the ranch, pressing our noses against the windows to watch the dark clouds skim past us, leaving nothing but some wind that bent the trees down pretty good, a little hail that poked some holes in my petunias and a headache from all my worrying.

IMG_0995

It seemed the town, despite the tornado warning, fared ok. A few backyard trampolines were displaced, cars were dented, lawn chairs rearranged and what not, but that’s small potatoes compared to what could have been. After the tornado that ripped through an RV park in my hometown a few summers back, I think people are a little punchy about the summer weather.

And I have to admit so am I. I have seen too many close calls in my life.

IMG_0996

Tonight though.

IMG_0997

Tonight was the definition of the calm after the storm. 60 degrees and still, the smell of cattle hanging in the air. The wildflowers poking up out of the cool ground. The sun setting golden on the grass, kissing it just the way I like.

IMG_1019

I was feeling a little emotionally drained and frazzled after a long couple days of trying to comfort a baby who just wants to be happy, but dammit, she’s sprouted five teeth in a matter of a couple weeks. So I’ve been coping by snuggles and distracting her with walks outside to watch the dogs, and this morning, to chase a cow who had somehow mysteriously got into the yard. Edie thought it was funny how the old bag made a point of pooping during her entire walk to the exit, leaving a smelly string of lawn ornaments for me to pick up.

I know what her chore will be some day.

And if holding a baby on your hip while chasing a cow out of the yard isn’t multi-tasking enough, I’ve also found myself setting up an office in my car to get some work done, taking advantage of the fact that the baby fell asleep during the three minute drive to the other place to feed the calf.

This afternoon I was busted twice working in my car by my brother-in-law. Once behind my mom’s shop after a meeting in town and once on the hill before home. Because the baby’s gonna wake up once I open that door…and well, she’s got teeth to sprout and I’ve got shit to do.

But that reasoning is sort of hard to explain to a man who maybe thinks I’m a little kooky already…

Anyway, the time was right to take a walk. To see a little of my world from out behind the computer screen and bald baby head (bless her heart.)

This is my favorite time of year and it was my favorite time of day and it’s all so fleeting isn’t it?

That’s what makes it so especially beautiful I think…

IMG_0998IMG_1051IMG_1010IMG_1016IMG_1018IMG_1021IMG_1025IMG_1036IMG_1037IMG_1041IMG_1047IMG_1058IMG_1061IMG_1066

I feel like making time to really see it is as important to me as breathing these days.

IMG_1048

I think the same can be said with this baby and me.

Those stormy patches are rough, but oh so momentary too.

IMG_1023

And the rest of it is a whirlwind of pretty damn special.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.53.20 PM

 

What it takes to be a dad

I’ve always said that men can’t multi-task. This weekend Husband proved me wrong.

Apparently it just depends on the task.

This is fatherhood.

IMG_0263

I’ve wondered a long time how it would look on him.

On Sunday mornings when we don’t have to rush off to some big chore right away, it looks like this.

IMG_9777

And on nights when things are rough (like when she’s cutting top and bottom teeth at the same time and mom had nothing but a granola bar and guacamole for breakfast, lunch and supper) it looks like this.

IMG_0234

And while there’s no question that there is plenty of sacrifice in being a mother, I think sometimes we’re guilty of skipping over the dad part.

Like, we just got in from a beautiful summer evening, an evening Husband could have used  to fix fence or ride through the cattle or go fishing or drink beer on the deck, pretty much anything else in the world, but he didn’t. Instead he spent it in his fancy shirt carting the baby around the hills and smiling for a photographer so we could get those family photos I’ve been talking about for weeks.

And while I will admit that I’ve complained plenty during my six + months of being a momma (knowing full well I should just shut my mouth and be grateful after all we’ve gone through to get to this point but sometimes I’m tired and sometimes it’s hard) but I will tell you the truth here, the man I married hasn’t complained one moment about his role as a dad.

Not one moment.

Even when I leave for the night and she only wants mom and lets him know it loudly and for a long time.

Even when she poops through her pants and on to his.

Even when he has to leave his perfectly cooked steak at the table to bounce her on his knee.

Even when he has to take part of the day off work to give me the chance to do my work.

Even when she cries in her carseat the whole hour drive home, and so do I.

And what great qualities to find in a man, the ones that aren’t written about in the Cosmo Magazine articles about dating and finding a perfect match, the ones that will make him a good father to the kids you may one day have together. The most important ones.

Turns out, in the end, it isn’t his six pack abs or his high paying power career or his kick ass karaoke skills that really matter when you find yourself at your wits end because you can’t get the damn carseat installed or you need someone you can count on to get home from work when he says he’ll be home from work because you have a deadline or somewhere you have to be. No. All those things are fun and the karaoke skills may come in handy for the lullabies, but it’s the steadiness, the strength of character, the reliability that matters the most when you need it the most. Because turns out the task of raising a human just might be the most terrifying and wonderful and most important part of your relationship. And so you should pick accordingly.

Not something you really think of when he put a ring on it.

But it’s true.

And after a long day with a teething baby where I only had granola and guacamole for breakfast, lunch and supper, I am glad to be in the trenches with a man who was built for this stuff.

And I’m so glad to know that I did something right, picking him to be Edie’s dad.

IMG_0065

Happy Father’s Day to you and to all the good ones out there.

Love,

Your girls

IMG_2860

Where everybody knows your name (or the name of someone you might be related to)

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 8.11.06 AM

For those of you who grew up or continue to grow up in a small town…

Coming Home: In a state that’s a big small town, there’s always a seat at the table
6-12-16
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communication
http://www.inforum.com

The white noise of conversation and laughter filled the bar like the scent of the burgers frying on the grill in the back. The three of us stepped inside from the sunny early evening, our eyes adjusting to the dim light, scanning the room for an open table to grab a drink and a bite to eat.

13307393_852720494832362_2060612768423108609_n
When my quick scan revealed there wasn’t an empty table in the place, I figured we would just turn around, head out the door and find a restaurant without a wait.

But we were there with Merrill, a radio personality, musician and host of the event that evening, and it appeared that he saw the room a bit differently than we did. Like, there may not have been an empty table, but there certainly were empty chairs. And as Dad and I started heading for the door, we noticed Merrill talking and shaking hands with a couple at a table with three empty seats.

“They said we could join them,” he declared as he waved us over and started adjusting chairs. And then he informed the waitress of his plan.

“Well, if it’s OK with them,” she said, a little concerned.

Which I thought was weird. Because Merrill, being the friendly, recognizable personality he is, well, I just figured he knew this couple. It’s North Dakota after all.

We’re like one big small town, a statement that doesn’t make sense at all unless, well, you live in North Dakota.

By my not-scientific-at-all-estimation, if you’ve lived in this state for longer than 10 years, the chance of running into someone you know at a restaurant in any given community from east to west is a good 60 percent.

And if you don’t know anybody in that restaurant, strike up a conversation and the likelihood of the two of you finding a friend or relative in common is like 90 percent.

Which was the case with this couple, who had never seen Merrill before in their lives but were friendly enough to let three strangers infringe on their date. We didn’t have to go too far past our initial introductions to find places and people in common.

Small talk revealed that they were both retired and living in Bowman. (My old boss is from Bowman. Do you know the family? Yes. Yes.)

And the woman, who had seen me perform in Hettinger a few years back, had ties to the Killdeer area. (Oh, we’re just north of there. Yes, we know so and so. Relatives of ours.)

And from there we fell into an easy banter of stories that somehow always seems to have me recounting the tale of the raccoon that snuck into Mom and Dad’s house through the screen door every evening to rearrange the rocks on the decorative bird bath and the more recent revelation about another raccoon that climbs up on my deck every night to poop on my rug.

Then over burgers and fries we learned that they like to go to the car show in Medora every year, which revealed that he’s spent his life tinkering and repairing old cars. Which reminded me of my brother-in-law, who had just recently given up on an old Volkswagen Bus that was just never going to run right. Which reminded him of a story about the time he bought an old VW Beatle that once broke down and left him stranded on such a windy North Dakota day that he just opened both doors to that little car and let the wind push him home.

Which reminded Merrill about the road trip he took with his friends, all crammed in a VW Bug to Mexico and back years ago.

“I had a girlfriend when we started the trip. She wasn’t my girlfriend when we got home,” he said. “Never talked to any of them again actually.”

And our laughter and conversation became part of the buzz of strangers and friends telling stories in the dim light of a bar on Saturday evening in small town North Dakota.

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 8.11.31 AM

This not-so-glamourous life…

10366265_747582251958689_7617940880747725446_n

A photographer came to visit the ranch and I’ll tell you right now, it wasn’t pretty people. We spent the day before working an art event in town that I had been planning for months and didn’t get home until after eleven. It was the last event in a week with a full schedule. I was tired. I had to gather the troops. I sorta forgot to take a shower and fix my hair.  I didn’t make even a remotely healthy lunch for my niece and I (because when you’re tired you much prefer Doritos to salad). I didn’t put pants on the baby. I didn’t get the horses in ahead of time to prepare them and de-bur them so that they were photo ready. And I didn’t mention in the newspaper column below the part where the baby stuck her finger up my horses’s snotty nose, which was bleeding a bit because of a fresh little cut.

That was horrifying. And there was a man from Minneapolis with a big camera to witness my disgust.

So this is my confession published in newspapers across the state, in case you might get the wrong idea when you see the photos and article in the magazine that we have our shit together out here.

Because we don’t.

But I think you all knew that already…

IMG_9844

Coming Home: Glossy pages don’t reflect our not-so-glamourous life
by Jessie Veeder
6-5-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inform.com

This morning a big yellow screwdriver sits next to a half-eaten pan of cinnamon rolls (the kind out of the freezer section, not out of my KitchenAid mixer) and that sits next to a couple baby books about farm life that feature a perfect red barn against green rolling hills dotted with smiling black and white cows.

Today as I reflect on the last couple weeks, I’m wondering if I should even read those little farm books to poor Edie. Maybe I should just toss them in the trash and keep her from asking some hard-hitting questions about this place.

Like, why don’t the horses in the books have cockleburs in their manes? Aren’t horses born with them?

Burs

And momma, why don’t you wear an apron like the mommas in the books? And where is that fresh-baked pie that’s supposed to be sitting on the windowsill to cool?

Yes, follow us around for a day and you would see that clearly the authors of these children’s farm books didn’t base them off of our life.

No.

11880365_979872458729666_1697993920844688862_n

And while Edie’s not old enough to start asking questions (sigh of relief) I did have a reporter call me a few weeks ago with some questions of her own. Like, what’s life like on the family ranch for two people who got to move back to it? What does a typical day look like?

13346661_1145426468840930_1309046872284256161_n

I couldn’t think of an interesting or straightforward way to answer that. When she called my husband just got home from work and he was rocking the baby, trying to keep her happy so I could have an uninterrupted conversation. When that was over, he was going to go to his next job of taking care of this place. And when he returned we would have leftover lasagna for the third night in a row because I got distracted by a writing deadline when I should have been doing laundry because I’m out of clean underwear, for crying out loud.

And so they sent out a photographer to see for himself. A photographer who likely had a hope of capturing what I’m sure he envisioned as some picturesque scenes of a family of three working side by side and meeting up for a picnic meal with the grandparents who live down the road.

But this was an agricultural magazine so I hope they knew better. And while I was raised in an environment where both my parents worked, ran a ranching operation and managed to keep three kids alive, I’m learning what that really means as an adult. And I’m not sure we’re exactly killing it.

13312801_1146134852103425_1406342452621698959_n

I mean, when a photographer shows up, completely announced and expected, a balanced and together woman would have had pants on the baby. Or combed her hair.

Or at least cleared the evidence of her recent Dorito and Oreo lunch from the counter.

And when the request for a photo of my husband and I riding side by side through a herd of calm cattle sent me down to the barnyard attempting to lure uninterested horses in with a bucket of grain before resorting to leading one with the shirt I was planning on wearing tied around his neck so that I could spend the next half hour before my husband arrived home currying the tangle of burs out of their manes and tails so I wouldn’t embarrass the long line of Veeders who once called this place home, I began to question if we were really worthy of the press.

But at least he got authentic. Authentic sweat. And authentic cussing as my husband and I attempted the impossible task of moving a herd of cattle toward a man with a camera standing in an open pasture.

Needless to say, none of it was picture perfect.

Because around here burs stick to horses while they fill up on green grass that makes them fat and sassy on the hilltop behind the barn that needs painting. And inside, where the books might write in the apple pie, we have a screwdriver instead. Or a calf tagger. Or a hammer.

And it might not be glamorous, and it might not be easy, but that’s why they make frozen cinnamon rolls.

11219097_925048840878695_8602920751120415932_n

 

The sweet spot of the season

13327606_1141671339216443_7460000402736586573_n

Coming Home: In the sweet spot of summer, motherhood
by Jessie Veeder
5-30-16
http://www.inforum.com

The cows are milling by the dam and grazing on the short, neon green grass that’s growing just on the edge of my fenced-in yard, sending the dogs into a routine of nervous little ticks.

13267777_1141831645867079_602945378096985439_n

Speaking of ticks, those are out in full force too, of course. And not one author of a parenting magazine, blog or book has mentioned how unnerving and annoying it is to find one of the buggers crawling up the tiny pant leg of your baby as you walk across the pastures with her strapped to your chest so she can look up and learn about how the sun lights the tips of the trees and makes them sparkle.She doesn’t seem to mind the creepy parts of summer as much as I do. Babies haven’t yet learned to be bothered by such things. But I’m not about to let some little pest keep us inside for my favorite time of year.

10169197_1138385399545037_2426397459698726790_n

Because I have things to show this baby. Today she’s officially half a year old. It feels like a lifetime ago that we drove her across the cattle guard to the ranch for the first time, drive-­thru Thanksgiving dinner in the console of the pickup.

And I guess it was. It was her whole lifetime ago …

13329422_10156854236585062_7565721746037429838_o

I keep saying it’s crazy how fast and slow it all goes at the same time.

13329549_10156854236385062_5575654993230768837_o

A baby calf is born and it immediately and instinctively wobbles to its shaky legs. In a few days you can find him bucking and leaping across the pastures, kicking his heels up to the sky, testing out what it means to have four hooves and a snout.

On the deck this morning our barn cat sits by the door, looking at me through the screen, waiting for a pat on the head or a bowl of milk.

Out in the barnyard somewhere she’s hidden a fresh batch of kittens. Last night my husband took my 12-year-old niece out to look for them, to listen for the whimpers and cries of their tiny new lives so that we might catch them and tame them before they open their eyes and grow wild.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.12.24 PM

Last weekend I sat on the floor of my living room and sorted through piles of hand­-me-down baby clothes my sister­-in-­law sent for Edie. There were sun hats and swimming suits, shorts and sweaters, snow pants and pink socks. In one bin I pulled out a tiny green and red plaid Christmas dress, one that I recognized from a holiday spent with their family when that 12-­year-­old niece was small — small enough to fit in that frilly little dress.

This morning as I type she’s downstairs playing peek­a­boo with Edie. She’s come for a week to help out, to babysit, ride horses, tell me stories about her friends and look for baby kittens.

Wasn’t I just playing peek­a­boo with her? I swear it was just yesterday but maybe it was a lifetime ago.

Well it was. Her lifetime.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.22.03 PM

Tomorrow I’ll wake up and Edie will be almost 13, too.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.28.05 PMBut today as we roll into the sweet spot of summer, where everything is fresh and new, the calves are kicking, the frogs are croaking, and the turkeys are gobbling outside my window.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.28.22 PM

I can’t help but relate to this season. Because I feel like I’m in the sweet spot of new motherhood, navigating a fresh and fleeting time where the world is so new to her and so completely changed to me that it might as well be a new life all together.

Except for the ticks. I remember the ticks from my other life.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.37.24 PM

The long way home

IMG_0202

Coming Home: Sometimes we need to take a different road to get back home
by Jessie Veeder
5-15-16
Forum Communications


Last week I took a different road from town to home. I do that sometimes, to break up the scenery that flies by outside the window of my car. There were blossoms in the brush patches, the gravel roads had dried up from a week of rain, and I needed to see something new.

 
And we have gotten really good at arguing after all these years together. Throw a baby, a man who can’t eat solids and a woman who can’t sleep in the mix, and we got plenty of practice that week.

And it was only Monday.

13256397_1132960790087498_76906857325367331_n

But as the sun was setting on a day that took him to work and kept me home trying figure out a way to rock the baby, type and return a phone call at the same time, we found ourselves all three alone in the car together, driving home. 

I can’t remember why we were all in town together, but I do remember that the radio was low and the baby was sleeping and I turned left off the highway where I normally would keep going straight and my husband asked what I was doing.

I said, “Don’t you ever take a different way home?”

“Yeah, I do sometimes,” he replied. And then we were on the back roads driving past neighbors’ houses we haven’t seen for a while, taking note of the green grass growing in the pastures, the baby calves kicking up their heels and the way the light hit the big butte close to home.

And under that butte, right next to the road, two large dark figures appeared before us and revealed themselves as giant elk. I reminded him of the weekend before

IMG_0150 when three came down from the hills to water at the dam outside our window as I slowed the car down to take a better look at the animals that always seem to take our breath away.

Yesterday morning while the baby slept, I watched a flock of turkeys come down to the same dam to water. They lingered there undisrupted, one tom fanning his feathers, showing off in the morning sun.

I was wrapped up in the tasks of the day, the dirty bottles in the sink, the dirt tracked in on the floor and the work deadlines, but the privilege of witnessing wild things never fails to make me pause.

I’m glad we put so many windows in this house. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what a majestic place we’re living in when we’re living in it. I looked up from my computer screen and watched them waddle up the hill. I cracked the patio door and listened for the gobbles.

Last Saturday my husband arranged for my little sister to babysit for a few hours so we could take a ride together through the cows. It was a simple gesture that put me back in one of my favorite places after over a year of giving it up to grow and care for a baby. I swung my leg up over the saddle and listened to it squeak as I rode alongside my husband out of the barnyard and into the hills, the sun and the scent of plum blossoms.

In the past few months I’ve experienced some of the most wonderful moments of my life, but I’ve also found myself overcome with the task of working, mothering and trying to figure out how to be my best for my family. I’ve had my most happy moments, but I’ve also had my most ungrateful waves rush over me in frustration and exhaustion. But last Saturday my husband took me out — not to a movie or to a restaurant for wine — but out of our house and into the hills and coulees of the place we love.

Because he knows, sometimes all I need is to take a different way home.

Sunday Column: Small Houses/Big Love

IMG_9094

Since baby Edie arrived, it seems we have a house full of company more often. She sure draws a crowd, and it’s taking me back…

cousins 3

Sunday Column: Small houses feel big to kids who fill them with love
by Jessie Veeder
5-1-16
Forum Communications

 The first few years my husband and I were married, we lived in the house where my dad was raised. Gramma’s house stood modestly next to the red barn on the end of a scoria road.

 

That was just one string of memories I had attached to the house, but they all sort of looked like that, a piece of the good life attached to a pile of cousins gathered at Gramma’s.

 

Veeder House

Veeder House

My sister Lindsay, me and my cousin in the Veeder house on Easter morning.

Veeder House

The Veeder cousins with Grandma Edie during Easter at the Veeder House. I’m directly next to my grandma in the adorable striped jumpsuit, always a good choice in the early 90s.

It was my favorite thing in the whole world to meet up with these people who sorta looked like me. They were the only ones in my life who understood that the hay bales covered in snow stacked by the barn were really Frosted Mini Wheats and we were shrunken kids trying to escape the giant spoon. The short, bald gumbo hills in the pasture actually formed a mansion, and we were the fabulous people who lived there. The scoria road that wound up the hill to the grain bins was actually the Yellow Brick Road and, after a long discussion about who was who, we would link arms, sing at the top of our lungs and dance our way to the Emerald City.

Country Cousins

That was the thing about Gramma’s house. We could be anything we wanted because we were at the perfect age to imagine it all to be so. The red carpet in the basement was hot lava. The hallway was a wedding aisle. The closets were secret passageways, and the deep freeze was full of ice cream sandwiches.

When I moved to that little brown house with my new husband all of those years later, I couldn’t believe we fit that much possibility and so many big suppers into 1,200 square feet. I was having a hard time finding enough space for my shoes.

Every time I walked through that door and took my boots off on the hot-lava carpet, I was transported back to standing in bare feet next to my cousins while Gramma handed us each an orange Schwan’s push-up pop.

The plan was never to stay living in that little house. Time and weather took its toll on the structure, and we needed more space. So here we are, over the hill in a new house of our own.

Last weekend, the cousins came to visit with their mom and Gramma and Grampa. The kids spent the day changing Edie’s clothes, baking banana bread, feeding the bottle calf, tracking in mud and indulging the littlest ones in make-believe games.

IMG_9108IMG_9798IMG_9990IMG_9980IMG_9995

There was a point when I was crammed into our modest bathroom giving Edie a bath with four of her cousins as assistants. I was sweating, she was splashing, the three sisters were bossing and laughing, and my nephew was tossing bath toys in the little basketball hoop suction-cupped to the shower wall.

IMG_9113

This house that we built is not huge by design, and the basement isn’t finished, so we all bumped into one another plenty of times as we squeezed in on chairs, couches and floors eating hamburgers and helping put batteries into the remote-controlled toys.

At one point, my nephew came down to the basement with me, a construction zone filled with tools and dust, and he asked about plans for the space. When I told him where the walls will go, he threw his hands out and declared this is “the biggest house in the world!”

I laughed and thought of the little brown house and hoped that this one was at least small enough to hold as many good memories for Edie and her cousins.

Cousins