Because of the women they were yesterday…

Sharing this again on International Women’s Day. May we honor them. May we be them. May we raise them.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

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It’s International Women’s Day.

Yesterday the wind blew snow across the plains at 60 miles per hour at times. I got out of bed at 6 am after a completely sleepless night with my one-year-old. I climbed in the warm shower and got my hair washed and legs shaved. I pulled on my robe and shuffled downstairs to wake my finally sleeping daughter, to kiss her cheeks, to change her diaper, to get her dressed, to send her out the door with her dad so she could spend a day at daycare and I could drive in the wind three hours across the state for work and then drive myself home again hopefully in time to miss the dangerous and snowy dark and to rock my baby to sleep.

I’m a mother living on a 100+ homestead at the end of a long winter.

Some days I feel lonesome and isolated.

Most…

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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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Gloves, muskrats and other misplaced things

IMG_4843 2We’re in the middle of an ice storm/blizzard/no travel advisory/typical almost spring storm today. And so it looks like March is coming in like a lion, or maybe, more accurately around here, like a wet muskrat in our window well.

Yeah, there’s a wet muskrat in our window well. My dog alerted me of our visitor this morning by barking at it incessantly and so I pulled on my robe and rubber boots over my pajama pants and trudged out there, wind whipping pellets into my squinty eyes, to give the little rodent a little 2×4 lifeline to help him save himself. And locked the dog in the kennel to give him a chance.

I would have grabbed my gloves if I could have found them, but I can never find a complete pair of gloves around here…

And so I give you this week’s column:

Coming Home: The curious case of the inevitable missing glove
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Gloves

We have an issue here at the ranch. Besides the weird animal that may or may not still be living in our wall, we have another epidemic that’s driving me mad. It has five fingers, it comes in all sorts of sizes, colors and textures and you can find one laying on every surface of the house, on every dash and under every seat in every vehicle on the place and scattered along trails, dangling from trees, laying on the bottom of stock dams and mashed into the dirt like artifacts from long, long ago.

I’m talking about gloves. Fencing gloves. Riding gloves. Fingerless gloves. Rig gloves. Mitten gloves with places for your fingers inside. Hunting gloves. Baby gloves. Toddler gloves. Gloves that some random kid left here one winter. Carpenter gloves. Mom gloves, Grampa gloves, and of course, the biggest culprit of them all, Daddy/Husband gloves, whose hands fits nearly every one of these categories, if only he could find a matching pair.

Yeah, that’s the thing about it all. No one can ever find a matching pair. It’s like the mystery of the missing socks that disappear into the black hole in our washing machine or fall prey to the little laundry elf that no one ever sees. And I would blame this missing glove phenomenon on that elf, or at least the creature in my wall, except that I’ve come to understand how it happens. Because once, on one of my rides, I came across my dad’s red wool cap laying in the absolute middle of nowhere, off of any beaten path, a good two miles from the barnyard, and I knew he must have been in a hurry chasing something across that wide prairie that has the tendency to swallows wayward things up.

I’ve done it myself, leaving one of my mittens to dangle for eternity on the branch of an oak tree after I took my horse quickly through a coulee trail trying to get around a group of cows heading the wrong direction. I put my hand up over my face to ward off an inevitable slap from that branch and it took my mitten clean off, left and then lost in the dust.

I think about that mitten when I come across things like an old fencing pliers half-dug in the dirt way out in the east pasture, likely accidentally kicked out of a pickup by my grandpa years ago. Or when I watched my dad drive his fencing vehicle too fast along a bumpy trail, steel fence posts, flying out in his wake, and I think, well, that explains so much.

So if we can’t find anything out here, at least there will be something left behind for the archeologists. Unfortunately, they’ll likely come to the conclusion that we were a people with only one hand…

And a never-ending collection of free snap-back caps collected from every feed store, implement dealership, oil company and bull sale along the way.

But that’s a story for another time…

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Her America

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Last summer I took part in a series of interviews for Lifetime’s new series “Her America.”  It’s a digital content series that gives an unapologetic look at real American women today and features interviews with 50 women across 50 states.

Among all of the wonderful women they could have chosen to represent North Dakota, I was honored to be chosen to tell our story.

At the time of the interviews and photographs, I was just entering the the second trimester in my pregnancy with Rosie, not knowing if it was a little girl or little boy I was carrying. How fitting then that we are now proud parents of another North Dakota girl and how wonderful to have documentation of that time in our lives.

Click here to see my story and then explore the other exceptional and interesting women across the country at  heramerica.com.

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Blue lipstick and memories

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 Lipstick and the memories that remain of loved ones

I leaned in towards the mirror after my shower, hair fixed and on to my makeup, cursing the laugh lines around my eyes and the gray hair that accompanied them as I worked to hide the evidence of the years on my face.

My 2-year-old daughter stood next to me, her blond hair wild from the morning. Each time I set something down on the counter — concealer, blush, eyeliner — she reached for it, as if mimicking my every move would help her unlock another door to growing up.

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“No, no honey,” I said as I saved us all from a mascara wand to her big, blue eyes. “Let me see what mommy can find for you instead.” I pulled my makeup drawer out wide, digging through half-used bottles of foundation, eyeshadow and powders, looking for something safe and convincing that would occupy her. I was reaching for an empty compact when I found it — a clear plastic tube of blue lipstick, the kind you find for a couple of bucks in a drugstore aisle that promises to turn your lips the color of your mood, if everybody’s mood is magenta pink.

I smiled as I picked it up, a memory of my grandmother Edith flashing at me then, the two of us standing together in her tiny bedroom at the ranch, the light from a summer evening shining through the sheer curtains of her open window, making a streak of sun on the carpeted floor. I remember the way the dust sparkled in that light in front of her mirrored dresser and the treasures scattered on top. And although I couldn’t name one specific thing she kept there, I do remember that blue lipstick and how it fascinated my cousins and me, convinced it was magic as it turned colors on her lips.

When my grandma Edith left this world and that little house, she was too young and I was too young, and she didn’t have much to leave behind in terms of material things.

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The tube of lipstick I found stuck in the back of my makeup drawer was something my aunt picked up at a drugstore and gave to all of the grandkids to remember her by.

So I turned it over in my hands and remembered her and the way her eyes crinkled at the sides as she threw her head back laughing, just the way mine are starting to crinkle.

That laugh, her stark white hair under her baseball cap, her soft, round stomach and the way her tan and aging hands seemed to be able to untangle any impossible kite string, dress any dolly and braid my fluffy hair, are the pieces of her that have held strong in my memories, maybe more so than her as a whole, perfectly flawed human.

I looked again at my reflection, leaned into the mirror and put that lipstick on, watching it turn bright pink on my lips as my daughter — my grandma’s namesake — eagerly looked up at me. I leaned down, kissed her cheek and made her lips pink, too, and we laughed and headed to town.

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My grandma Edith, looking glamorous…

Love. An explanation.

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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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Northern Lights

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As I write this, the plane dad’s taking to get him home from a three month stint fighting for his life is likely landing on this frozen tundra of a place. He won this battle, and four years ago at the beginning of a frigid January, he miraculously won another one, when a valve in his heart tore open and, against all odds, he made it home.

I wrote Northern Lights, a tribute to his will to live, in the passenger seat of a long drive home that winter, watching the lights of the aurora bounce and dance across the back sky, offering a flicker of hope in the longest, coldest season.

Dad and I recorded the song in Nashville the following year and have played it at select shows since its release.

For some reason, it’s taken almost three full winters to finish and release this video. How fitting, on his homecoming, it is ready to be shared today.

Welcome home Dad. May you live to be that old cowboy they said you’d be.

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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