Maybe it’s the rain

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I’ve been working on a  book this fall, a compilation of some of my favorite photos, columns, blogs, poems and recipes from the past six years I’ve spent documenting what it means to come back home again.

It’s been a fun, nostalgic, enlightening and difficult project to take on during a transitional time for us as a family, a time in which we’ve gone from two to three, from couple to parents, from dreamers to sort of dream-come-truers.

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Because I typically don’t spend much time looking back on what I’ve written,  I have to focus on what to write, thinking about what’s meaningful in the moment and what could be learned, I have had to sort of force myself to sit down in my spare moments and look back. And so I’ve been seeing our lives a little differently lately, thinking about how far we’ve come and how far we haven’t, how some things have changed completely and how some things haven’t changed at all and it’s from that place that I wrote last week’s column, that limbo between past and present, a reflection brought on by the rain.

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Rainy horse ride triggers memories of couple’s beginnings
by Jessie Veeder
10-23-16
InForum
http://www.inforum.com

It was late August, and it had been hot for weeks, the kind of heat you remember as a kid, where popsicles melt on sticks in the heavy air that sends the flies gathering at horses’ bellies and driving them to bob their heads and swish their tails in the trees.

We were sweating it out in the little house in the barnyard where my grandparents used to live, three years into our marriage and three months into unpacking our lives back home at the ranch where I was raised. And it was only six years ago, but we were just kids, really, with plans big enough to keep us busy.

But that day we resigned to the weather, keeping busy with tasks in a house that was sinking and shrinking with the weight of time.

And then the clouds rolled in, dark and as ominous as the lightning on the horizon, and we found ourselves standing, noses pressed to the screen door, watching the water form new rivers and waterfalls in the corrals.

The buttes in the horse pasture turned from rock to slick mud in a matter of minutes, and soon I found myself running behind my new husband through the mud, past the new barnyard river and scrambling up to the top of those buttes where we stood side by side before launching our bodies down the steep bank of that hill, sliding on the slippery, wet gumbo, just like we used to do as kids.

I’ve told this story before. You may remember it and how it ended in bruises, bloody scrapes and a heap of laughter spilling out into that dark, rainy night. I’m thinking about it now because last weekend I found myself out in the rain again with my husband. We were riding through an unfamiliar pasture looking for a couple stray cows. The day was still, but the sky kept spitting on us, a little mist followed by small, flying drops hitting our cheeks and gathering on our horses’ manes. It was a quiet rain, the kind that seems to clean up the landscape, making the colors richer against the gray sky. And I just kept looking at my husband on the back of his bay horse, his black hat and red scarf moving along the big landscape, and I started thinking about the times in my life where the rain made the moment.

I decided this was one of them.

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And it was perfect timing, I think, following behind him on trails where he broke branches for me or hollered my name from a hilltop. We were doing work, and we were living out a plan, rain or shine.

But that day, I preferred the rain, because I was starting to wonder if it is possible to spend the rest of my life here without losing the magic of this place. A few days before, I received a note from a man telling me that my life seemed romantic in a way that few people know and that I was lucky for it. I sort of felt like a fraud, wondering if I had lead him to a false conclusion. Settling into a new life as a mother and a new partnership as parents, no matter how much we wanted it, hasn’t been an easy and seamless transition. I’ve been struggling with it in ways I hadn’t expected.

I began to wonder if I was the same woman who slid down that gumbo hill with that young man six years ago.

We pushed up the bank of a wooded coulee, and I listened to the rain hitting the leaves and the branches break against the chest of my horse, and I thought about how I was taught to lean forward as a horse takes you through the trees so that you don’t catch one to the face and get pulled off.

It’s a lesson I reach back for when I’m in the thick of it, the same way I reach back for the girl who kissed a boy under that old oak tree in the field promising him forever, no matter the weather.

So maybe it’s the memories we make that keep this place magic.

Or maybe it’s just the rain.

Rain on buttes

On horseback…

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We’re in the thick of fall at the ranch, which doesn’t mean as much pumpkin spice flavor as it does wooly horses, wooly caps and scrambling to get things buttoned up and rounded up for the winter.

On Sunday gramma came over to watch Edie do the things Edie does, like try as hard as she can to stand on her own, fall down and get concussions…oh, and blow kisses, and I headed out with the guys for a ride out to the west pastures to move the cows to a different pasture and find some strays.

The weather looked sort of threatening and chilly from behind the glass windows of my house, so I bundled up in layers and squeezed into the riding jeans I haven’t worn since I was three months pregnant, and headed out into a calm and sort of rainy day.

And it was a much needed trek for me, something I used to take so much for granted before I had a little one attached to my hip. Now, if I want to go out for a ride it involves “arrangements.”

So many simple things these days involve more planning than I ever did in my pre-baby life. But it’s worth it all around. Gramma gets one on one time with the baby and I get one on one time with the things I love most.

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I traveled those hills on my sorta of slow and lazy horse, took two pees in the pasture behind bullberry bushes because I drank too much coffee,

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Here, hold my horse…

chased cooperative cattle through open gates,

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got sorta lost looking for a stray, got slapped a few times by wayward branches, got kinda wet in the rain and the deep creek running high because of all the fall moisture and came home a different woman, reminded that heaven isn’t the only thing that can be found on horseback…

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Sometimes, you wind up finding yourself again too.

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A rainbow baby in a pumpkin patch

This morning I’m sitting at my table, hair unwashed and disheveled from a weekend spent on the ranch, wearing sweatpants and the stretched out cami I slept in. The baby is still in her jammies and I can see her out of the corner of my eye, throwing one Cheerio  at a time on the floor and watching it drop.

In one month she’ll be a year. And we’ve hit so many milestones in these short months, I can’t imagine what measuring her life in years is going to bring. She blows kisses and claps her hands. She turns her waterworks and emotions on and off like a champion baby manipulator. She’s standing (for two or three seconds anyway) on her own. Give her a few more weeks and she’ll probably be walking, rendering me completely helpless to get anything done around here. We started daycare once a week, and, because among her adorable tricks, she also bites people, I’m a little nervous about her social skills.

She can reach the top of my table, so nothing is safe.

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She’d rather play with my Tupperware collection than her toys. She shakes her little body to the sound of music and since suffering recently through her first little cold, has discovered that the worst thing in her entire world is her mother wiping her nose.

These are the little things that make up the big picture of parenthood we used to dream and plan about. It’s nothing and everything like I imagined it when we were trying to get here for all those years, a journey that I have not swept under the rug in the name of compassion and understanding for the families who haven’t had their chance at these little milestones…

Coming Home: A simple photo is a moment mom waited for
by Jessie Veeder
10-16-16
Fargo forum
http://www.inforum.com

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There are things I always envisioned doing once I had a child of my own in tow. One of them was sitting my baby on a hay bale at a pumpkin patch and taking a photo.

I wasn’t naïve enough to think that the real-life scenario looked like the pages of the Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I knew it was likely more in line with mini-meltdowns and arguments about not wearing shorts in October and bribes to smile for the camera, but I didn’t care. I was happy to pay my mommy dues if it meant I got to be a member.

Last week I finally got to sit my baby on a hay bale and take that photo. A group of moms in town got together to create our own community pumpkin patch in the park, and I made plans to go, despite the snow covering the ground that morning and the chill in the air that afternoon.

I picked up my little sister and we drove down to the park. I forgot Edie’s mittens and her stroller and cash for admission, so one of the moms supplied the mittens and, after my little sister paid, the two of us took turns shifting the bundled up, rosy-cheeked baby from hip to hip as we walked around in the chill, visiting with friends and watching the neighborhood kids jump in bounce houses, paint pumpkins and run wild like kids do.

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Jessie Veeder’s daughter, Edie, smiles for a photo at the pumpkin patch. Jessie Veeder / Special to The Forum

And then I set my own baby down on the ground next to a formation of square hay bales, cornstalks and gourds, and we clapped and squealed and coaxed her to smile that smile I’ve been waiting so long to capture.

She didn’t let me down.

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And while that pumpkin patch photo wasn’t a huge milestone for my rosy-cheeked daughter, watching her bobble around in her knit beanie and new winter jacket, trying to take a bite out of the little pumpkins propped beside her, it was a huge milestone for me, who finally gets to be her obnoxious, obsessive, photo-taking mother in the pumpkin patch after so many uncertain Octobers.

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I’m thinking of this now because this month has been designated as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. And I admit in the past, after nine years, six miscarriages and the loss of any hope of carrying a pregnancy to full term, I wasn’t much for being reminded of those heartbreaking moments in my life. I didn’t want a day to feel obligated to shout it from the rooftops.

No. You were more likely to hear me telling my story in the everyday quiet exchanges between strangers, the ones where I found myself answering the question, “Do you have any children?”

It’s that question that sits like a rock at the bottom of many hearts. It’s that question that gives us a reason to dedicate some time to remember, to understand and to find compassion.

And while I can answer it more easily now, while I can say, “Yes, I have a baby daughter,” and then I can whip out my phone and show you the photo of her, while I’m now part of the pumpkin-patch club, I won’t ever forget the other club in which I also belong.

And for the sake of the families who have suffered such loss, the ones counting the years and wondering what she might have been for Halloween, the ones who felt him kick but never heard him cry, the ones quietly hoping for their chance to forget the mittens and the money and the stroller at the pumpkin patch, I don’t ever want to forget.

So I won’t shout it from the rooftops, that’s not my way, but I will send up a quiet prayer that some way, somewhere, I hope they get their picture.

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“How to make a phone call”-a step by step guide for mothers

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Oh, the things I took for granted before I became a mom hell bent on working from home. I could make a list now that includes showering, going to the bathroom, finishing a meal, uninterrupted sleep and an undisturbed laundry pile, but really I want to talk about phone calls.

Yes. Phone calls.

I knew this was a thing. A child could be sleeping a sleep of a sweet fluffy angel from heaven, or completely enthralled in the drama of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, or distracted by the love and adoration received by her father who just arrived home from work, but as soon as you make the commitment and pick up the phone to place that important call, the one you’ve been waiting to complete for probably a week because, if you’re like me you procrastinate stuff like that, and shit hits the fan.

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It’s like dialing the number sets off alarm bells of panic in young children, like they fear the little white box is going to take control of all their mother’s attention until the end of time so they must act to make sure they’re not abandoned. I think it’s some sort of born-in instinct.

Anyway, the phone hasn’t always been my best friend, but now it’s become a sort of nemesis of mine, especially when I finally have to give in and make those annoying calls to  a credit card company or “customer service line,” the kind that sends you through forty-seven options, where you can press “1” for English, “6” for French, enter your card number, speak clearly your reason for calling, and then again because the robot didn’t understand you, and then try to magically recall and type in the mysterious access code you were never given so you can state your hair color, shoe size, reason for living, bank account number, your father’s mother’s grandmother’s maiden name and your thoughts on Donald Trump all the while frantically pressing “0” for the operator hoping that the message will get through the vortex of space and time you’ve been living in since dialing the damn number 45 minutes ago and you might get a shot at talking to an actual human being who will promptly put you on hold thirteen times before they tell you that your name’s not on the account and your husband needs to call to make the changes.

 

 

The Lord’s on my side if Edie’s first word is “momma” or “puppy” and not
“*%&$*(#@&!”

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Because I don’t have time for this shit. I have a window of five minutes at a time where the baby might have found something other than a magazine or a crusted piece of spaghetti on the floor from last night’s supper to chew on to keep her busy and then it’s over. Surely some of the managers of these customer service centers have children of their own?!

Or maybe I just have more annoying problems than most. Because after my failed half-hour credit card phone call I decided to tackle my UPS situation. See I ordered my husband a custom pocket knife for our anniversary two months ago (hey, that’s as close to on-time as I can get) and I wanted to make sure that they didn’t deliver it to my mom and dad’s place.

Because that’s what UPS has been doing with our other packages. They set it, with the best intentions, on a bench in their garage where it enjoys a safe existence for approximately 5 seconds before dad’s pup Waylon shreds into it, spreading shards of cardboard, plastic and the entire contents of the package across the front lawn and driveway, sending my poor parents on a scavenger hunt for our belongings.

It’s not a pretty sight, especially if I order diapers.

Seriously. Sometimes I feel so alone in my redneck situations.

So long story (sorta) short, I made the dreaded phone call, if only to save me from having to dig through Waylon’s future poop pile for the expensive pocket knife.

It didn’t go well.

It started out with the baby safely in her high chair enjoying strawberry pieces and, by the time I got through the above process, dialing zero while declaring my religion, counting backwards from 100 by fives and offering cash to the robot lady if I could just please, for the love of George Clooney, talk to an actual person, the baby was on my hip trying her damnedest to get that phone in her hands so that maybe she could give them piece of her baby mind, or, more likely, take a bite out of it.

By the time I got to the first operator I found out that she didn’t care about the dog problem. She just wanted a tracking number.

But I didn’t have a tracking number. What I had was a baby who had just pooped her pants.

I was put on hold.

I changed the diaper.

I was put on hold again.

I made a bottle.

I was put on hold again only to be told to call the company and give them the right address.

They had the right address. It took me thirty minutes to get her to misunderstand me.

I hung up.

I called for a tracking number.

I called UPS again. I put the baby down to crawl around and picked up a broom to try to multi-task.

UPS call. House Cleaning. Keeping the baby alive. That’s what my life has come to.

But I nearly failed at it all. While I swept dirt and half-alive boxelder bugs in little piles I tried to explain the dog situation to the UPS lady, pleaded with her to just tell me how to get the message to my local UPS driver, who, according to her, doesn’t have a phone, or a boss, turned around to find the baby playing in the dirt piles and hung up with no delivery solution just in time to watch my baby put a boxelder bug in her mouth and chomp down.

I screeched.

She crawled toward me, her hands slower than her knees, and banged her head on the floor.

She cried.

I picked her up.

I cried.

And that is why I hate the phone.

 

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Memories in October Rain

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Today it’s snowing. Big white, silent flakes falling from the sky and accumulating on the earth and tree branches, coating the grass, which has turned green again in late fall due to all the rain we’ve had.

The last of my garden is sitting in a basket safe from the weather in the garage, tomatoes in various sizes and states of readiness, waiting for me to turn them into salsa, someday soon hopefully.

Our plans for finishing up the rest of the outdoor projects–hauling hay, staining the house,  mowing the lawn one last time–have come to a pause as we wait for it to melt off again.

Sunday it was nearly 80 degrees.

Saturday was in the 30s.

‘Tis the season of extremes in North Dakota.

And ’tis the season of nostalgia for me.

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Coming Home: October rain brings back childhood memories
by Jessie Veeder
10-9-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It rained all day yesterday. Big sheets of water fell from the sky, straight down and then sideways, giant drops making puddles in places puddles rarely exist in the dry autumn months around here.

I’ve always been fascinated with the rain around here, and yesterday, as I stood with Edie pressing our noses to the glass doors on this house, it occurred to me that fascination still holds.

Because water transforms this place. It’s one of the only kinds of real magic I know exists, besides how the heck the hornets keep getting into the house.

In the unpredictable weather we live in up here, I find it comforting to know that we can always count on a season change. But I’ve never seen one like this.

It’s been so wet this fall that overnight big white mushrooms sprouted up like oversized golf balls scattering our lawn, a lawn that had to wait until October to fully turn green.

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We rarely get soaking rain like this so late in the year. This morning I looked out the window and noticed that the trees looked like they were shivering, their leaves shaking on the branches as they work to hold on tight to this season.

Tomorrow it might snow.

These weather shifts always turn me a bit nostalgic.

I drive through my parents’ yard, my tires splashing through the puddles that have been forming in the same places since I was a kid and I remember the time when my little sister—she was about 5 or 6—took her sled out to where the warm sun had melted the snow in the driveway. A big body of water had formed and to her it looked like a perfect place to try to float. So she plopped her sled down on the edge and took a seat.

I can still see her brown curls escaping from her ponytail and her look of surprise and disappointment when her sled-boat sank, freezing cold water flooding over the shallow edges of the plastic sled, soaking her purple snowpants.

Funny how something as simple as a puddle can bring back big memories. I guess that’s what happens when you find yourself all grown up in the place that grew you.

I opened the windows of this house this morning and the smell of damp leaves and the brisk morning air turned me back into a 12-year-old girl on the back of my red mare riding alongside my little sister on her white pony, Jerry.

We’re on our way to the reservation to round up cattle and bring them home to wean. Our noses are cold and we can see our breath, but the sun is shining, the dew making the yellow leaves sparkly and golden.

And we’re paying no attention really. We’re just kids, spitting plum pits at one another and screeching when that pony, like he always did, decided he had enough for the day, gave up and laid down on the trail in an attempt to get rid of that curly-haired cowgirl on his back.

Dozens of autumns have passed since, creating countless memories I could recall, but the scent of the season and the change of the leaves always turn me into that little girl in a red barn jacket, as if that’s the only person I’m supposed to be in this season.

And I can’t help but wonder, as I open up the door so Edie can feel the cool air, what this season might mean to her when she’s a grown woman. I wonder what she’ll remember with the crunch of the leaves beneath her boots and what stories will fall from the sky and gather like big puddles of October rain.

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A motherhood tip.

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Here’s my baby, right after she smacked her head on the floor, despite my best efforts to save her from such bumps… 

The purpose of my life has become keeping this child of mine from eating the boxelder bugs that keep coming into the house.

My floors have never been clean, but I swear, they’ve never been cleaner than now.

Still not clean though, thanks to the new game the child plays called something like “when I’m sick of eating I will mash it all up with my tiny hands and then fling it on the floor.”

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The purpose of my life has become cleaning squashed avocados out of the crevices of her high chair. And off her little pants. And then, if I see it while I’m sweeping up dead boxelder bugs, I might also get to scraping that squished avocado off the floor.

Not that it’s a matter of life or death, those avocados or those squished boxelder bugs, (they probably have some sort of nutritional value, those bugs) but they’re just added tasks on top of the main purpose of my life, which is keeping this child alive.

Seriously. Nobody tells you when you take your sweet bundle of joy home with you, the little miracle that can’t roll over on her own, or hold her head up or her eyes open very long, that in a few months they will try every day, as hard as they can, to get themselves seriously hurt, and in turn, try to kill you. You know, because of all the heart attacks.

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Here she is, trying to strangle herself with my bra

I had one the other day. A heart attack. Or something like it. It was sort of cold outside, but we needed some air. So I bundled the child up in her hat and snowsuit, strapped her in her stroller and put a blanket over her. She was pleased. She loves walks. There’s nowhere else in the world she’d rather be than outside, but damn, the wind was cold up top on the road. Too cold for her mother, so too cold for the baby.

So I wheeled her back down to the house and thought, well, while we’re all bundled up she can sit in her stroller and I can pick the rest of my tomatoes. Because I’m still holding out hope that a twenty-fifth hour will show up in a day, or better yet, an eight day in the week, and I’ll find some time to make salsa this year.

So I grabbed my garden basket and headed out back, situated Edie where she was out of the wind and could watch her momma work and looked up every few minutes to yell at Gus for licking my baby’s face.

Not that the baby minded at all. In fact, she was thrilled with it. She grabbed his ears, squealed and leaned in for more, again proving that babies get a real kick out of risky, germy, behavior.

Anyway, my garden is on a little slant of a hill, something I’ve never thought twice about until I looked up again to watch my baby, and the stroller she was in, on the tail end of a sideways tip to the grass.

And I’m not positive how it happened, I mean, I didn’t witness it, but I blame it on the dog.

I threw down the tomatoes and ran to her, certain that one of her limbs was missing, or, at the very least, broken. Positive she had a concussion or at least scarred enough for life that she’ll have flashbacks whenever she sees a dog.

Or a stroller.

Or a tomato.

Oh Lord, I’ve given her an aversion to tomatoes.

I looked at her pink cherub face as it morphed into the beginning stages of her cry– wrinkled up nose, eyes squeezed tight, mouth wide open, silent gasp to get a good breath of air and then a wail.

I unbuckled her from the sideways stroller and picked her up before her next breath, looked her over for blood or mud or a missing foot or something and waited for the next wail to release from her lungs.

But it didn’t happen.

She was up in my arms, caught sight of the dog and smiled.

She was fine.

But I wasn’t sure I was.

Seriously. I need a back up heart.

Peace, Love and Tomato Trauma,

Jessie and the Daredevil

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Parenthood: Adjusting the sails

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Baby Edie turned 10 months old when we were on the road last week.
She celebrated by hanging out with gramma at a beerfest fundraiser for cops in downtown Bismarck and then at a fundraiser for the area cancer center after that, clapping and singing and climbing all over the seats in the front row while I sang.
And after that was done we hit up one more party for a family friend and headed back to the hotel room to make the trip across the state for another show.
I tell you, the right kid was sent to me. She’s resilient, she doesn’t need much sleep, likes a crowd, likes to stay up late, likes to visit and likes a good party…all skills needed to survive being the daughter of a musician who tends to travel a bit.
While we were making plans all those years to start a family, I always wondered how I might really do this job with a kid in the mix.
Now I know.
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You bring gramma along. And you forget the schedule. You go with the flow and hope for the best and spend all the money you make at the job on adorable baby outfits.
And then you come home and sleep train all over again, snuggle on the couch, play on the floor and makes plans for the next trip or party or job.
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I’m looking out the window at the wind blowing leaves off the trees and I’m thinking about where I was a year ago. In this house, with my big round belly, worrying about the crib getting set up on time, worrying that she might come early, wondering if it’s a boy or a girl, pretty certain it was a boy and watching this baby kick and squirm and roll in my body, perhaps just as anxious to enter the world as I was to welcome her.
I was totally oblivious as to just how many things would change and, maybe more surprising now, how many things would stay the same.
I can’t believe she’s almost one.

I can barely remember what we did before her, other than totally take time for granted.
As I’ve said since she was born, it goes so slow and so fast, all at the same time.
by Jessie Veeder
10-2-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I woke up this morning in Minnesota, holding on to a baby who is only 10 months old but appears to be getting her one-year molars already.

And Edie smiled through the entire checkup, our doc looking in her ears, her eyes, her mouth and, holy smokes, she wasn’t expecting it, this child is getting four more teeth.

So that explained it.

And I was relieved, like any parent would be, that it wasn’t an ear infection or something icky like that. Because No. 1: Poor baby. And No. 2: We had a big weekend ahead of us. Five days on the road and in hotel rooms for meetings and music, and I was taking her along.

But first I had to hit a deadline. Because I’ve recently taken on a fun project as the editor of a free little monthly parenting publication, so lately I’ve been spending time taking notes, brainstorming and putting together ideas for stories and tips that might be useful to parents raising babies between the sidewalks and scoria roads of Western North Dakota. And while I’m not in any position to give tips myself, as a new mom, I’m in every position to seek them out.

And this week I could have used some tips myself on how to conduct a phone interview and take notes with one hand, while trying to keep the teething baby in my other from biting a hole through my shirt.

Or maybe a column from a mom who mothers all day, works all night and still finds the time to binge-watch “Downton Abbey” and is alive and happy about it all.

Or how to convince a baby to sleep through the night in a strange hotel room.

But what I really needed was a step-by-step list of how to pack for five days for a baby and myself in autumn in North Dakota when the forecast warns cool temps and rain but the actual weather finds you sweating in a cardigan in 80-degree hurricane winds.

What should I wear? Really.

Sometimes, I swear, in this whole mom-singer gig, that’s the hardest part.

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But here I am this morning, at the end of a trip that gave me the chance to visit my grandparents in Minnesota. They’re sitting in the kitchen having breakfast with my parents, who came along, my mom to watch the baby and my dad to sing along and carry all our stuff.

The two of them still helping their daughter out, still parenting after all these years.

Watching my mom try to keep her granddaughter from eating the grass under the tent where I’m singing “You Are My Sunshine” with my dad is a little slice of sweetness that cuts through the rough, sleepless nights.

Tonight I play music in a small-town Lutheran church, and tomorrow we head back west. But before I got started, I sent a photo to my husband back home of Edie sleeping in my arms while I scheduled the day out in my head, worrying about how to fit it all in.

He texted back.

“You’re so lucky.”

He wished he were here.

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And so did Edie, I think, who thought the sound guy at our last gig looked enough like daddy to reach her arms out and snuggle into his shoulder.

I’m not sure what her dad thinks of that story, but I think it made the sound guy feel pretty warm and fuzzy.

Oh, this parenting thing has so many angles, doesn’t it? So many different ways to live it and get through it and love it. That’s what I’m finding as I get a chance to bring this baby along in my work, to write and share stories that I hope can be useful, or at least entertaining, to the moms and dads who are in the same sort of boat, on the same prairie, trying, as I type, to diagnose a fever or figure out how to fit a princess dress over a snowsuit for Halloween.

And I’m pretty pleased to be navigating these waves and adjusting these sails with them.

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Making Memories. Making Pies.

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It’s a beautiful morning at the ranch, the wind is calm and the golden trees are sparkling in the sun, the baby is napping, the windows are open and I’m so happy to be home after six days on the music road.

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I’ve designated this day to unpacking and putting away all that was drug out in the name of traveling across the state with a ten-month old and my mother…which means we most definitely brought home way more than we left home with…

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Like maybe a few more outfits. And at least one new pair of shoes for each of us.

And maybe a giraffe suit for Little Sister?

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We sure have a fun and exhausting time when we’re out traipsing around the countryside. But we don’t get much napping in. And we don’t stick to a bedtime. And we try to cram as much fun as we can in between the gigs.

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Mini Merch Slinger

So we’re tired.

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I predict Edie will take the rest of the week to catch up on all of the extra time she spent kicking and clapping and singing along with her eyes wide open until the bitter end of the day when we plopped down together on the hotel bed, or the bed in my grandparent’s house, or the bed of our gracious hosts, and finally gave into the night.

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Sound check…

I’m contemplating crawling into her crib with her right now and the two of us could stay there all day. If only we both fit.

But not until I share this week’s column with you, a little story about the best part of this season change, which is most certainly more time in the kitchen with family reminiscing and making new, sweet flavored memories.

And I may be no Martha Stewart, as you all know, but this was my biggest attempt yet, getting as close as this non-pastry-making-family can get to pie perfection, thanks to the notes left behind from our grandma Edie…and maybe a little encouraging from above.

Happy season change. May the cooler weather inspire you to cuddle up and settle down a bit. I know that’s my goal this upcoming October anyway.

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Coming Home: Connecting with gramma’s memory over a slice of apple pie
by Jessie Veeder
9-25-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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My mom keeps a small wooden box in her kitchen, tucked up in the cupboard next to her collection of cookbooks. On the front it reads “RECIPES” in the shaky, wood-burning technique of a young boy trying his hand at carpentry.

And the from-scratch buns she served with supper.

And the familiar casseroles that you could smell cooking as you walked up toward the tiny brown house from the barnyard after a ride on a cool fall evening.

Every once in awhile my mom will open that box on a search for a memory tied to our taste buds. She’ll sort through the small file of faded handwriting and index cards until she finds it, setting it on the counter while she gathers ingredients, measures stirs and puts the dish together the best way she remembers.

I’m thinking about it now because it’s sitting on my kitchen table, the one that used to sit in my grandmother’s kitchen all those years ago acting as a surface to roll out dough and pie crusts or a place to serve countless birthday cakes or her famous April Fool’s day coffee filter pancakes.

And so they’ve met again, that table and that box, which is currently sitting next to a pie pan covered in tinfoil.

Because last week we pulled the box out on a mission for guidance on what to do with the 50,000 pounds of apples my little sister inherited from the tree in the backyard of the house she bought a few years back.

“Maybe we should make applesauce or apple crisp,” we said as Little Sister plopped the fourth bag full of fruit on my kitchen counter, my mom sipping coffee and my big sister entertaining my nephew beside her.

I reached up in the cupboards to dust off a couple recipe books because we all agreed then that apples this nice deserve to be in a pie, and Googling “pie making” seemed too impersonal for such an heirloom-type task.

Then Mom remembered the recipe box.

And that Gramma Edie used to make the best apple pies.

It was a memory that was intimately hers and vaguely her daughters’. We were too young to remember the cinnamon spice or the sweetness of the apples or the way she would make extra crust to bake into pieces and sprinkle with sugar when the pies were done, but our mother did.

And most certainly so did our dad.

So we dove into the recipe with the unreasonable confidence of amateurs and spent the afternoon in my kitchen, peeling apples, bouncing the baby and rolling and re-rolling out gramma’s paradoxically named “No Fail Pie Crust,” laughing and cheering a victory cheer as we finally successfully transferred it to the top of the pie using four hands and three spatulas, certain this wasn’t our grandmother’s technique.

Wondering how she might have done it.

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Little Sister carved a heart in the top to make it look more presentable. We put the pie in the oven, set the timer and hoped for the best.

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We fed the baby and gave her a bath. We watched my nephew demonstrate his ninja moves. We talked and poured a drink. We cleared the counter for supper. We put the baby to bed.

And then we pulled the pie from the oven. We marveled at our work. We decided it looked beautiful, that we might declare it a huge success, but first we should see what Dad thinks.

So we dished him up a piece. It crumbled into a pile on his plate, not pie shaped at all. But he closed his eyes and took a bite and declared it just the right amount of cinnamon, the apples not too hard, the crust like he remembered, not pretty but good.

We served ourselves and ate up around that old table. We thought of our grandma, wondered if she might have given us a little help and put the recipe back in the box right next to her memory and the new one we made.

And we closed the lid.

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The chance to be ungrateful…

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It was truly a “take your daughter to work day” today as I hauled Edie to town and used her as a model for a little photoshoot I did for this new publication I’m working on for Western North Dakota called “Prairie Parent.”

When work means taking photos of cute kids in cute clothes with your friends and their kids and your baby on a beautiful fall day, it really can’t get any better.

Even if poor little Edie is coming down with something…and I think so am I.

And we have a big weekend of music coming up which means another trip across the state and a little prayer up to stay healthy. And a lot of packing. And a lot of catching up to do on work and laundry between now and Thursday.

Somedays I’m a little overwhelmed, but today I focused on the positives. I thought I was handling it thanks to my mom and the sunshine.

I don’t always think I’m handling it. Sometimes it’s harder to keep it all level and balanced. Sometimes it all comes boiling out my mouth because I can’t stop and think because I’m tired of thinking and I need to say things out loud so that it might all come together in some semblance of perspective.

And that’s what I got last week…

Lucky to have the chance to be ungrateful
by Jessie Veeder
9-19-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Last weekend on the way to meet my husband’s family to celebrate his grandmother’s 87th birthday, I had one of those moments where I broke everything down that wasn’t working in my life. Something my husband said set me off and I took it as an opportunity to let the steam out of the frustration kettle that had been boiling for a couple weeks.

Then I worried about making enough money to make it worth it and moved that into my frustration about unfinished projects.

And by the way, the house is never clean and how am I going to keep cockleburs out of the baby’s mouth if they keep coming in on the bottoms of our jeans?

Seriously? Is there anyone else in the world who has to worry about their baby eating cockleburs in the house?!

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And it just went on from there while the baby slept in the car seat behind me and my patient, but probably pretty annoyed, husband tried to offer solutions I wasn’t in the mood to hear like men tend to do with women during meltdowns like these.

Please tell me other women have meltdowns like these.

I threw those words at the windshield and we rolled down Highway 85 on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning, the leaves turning gold on the trees, sparkling against a blue sky. By the time we got to where we were going the radio was a bit louder and conversation had turned to the new funny laugh that Edie was trying out lately and what we needed to pick up while we were in the big town.

We spent the day watching Edie get passed around from cousin to aunt to gramma to uncle. We strolled through the zoo and heard her use her new scruffy laugh while watching the otters swim. We swatted away hornets and took some family pictures and ate three different types of cake, gave hugs and drove home toward the setting sun, not a trace of residue on the windows from my morning words.

Earlier that week I stood over our kitchen counter. It was scattered with Tupperware containers, unopened mail, sunglasses and probably a spare tool or two. I had a knife in one hand and a fork in the other and as I sliced into the big juicy steak we pulled from a freezer packed with meat we just picked up from the butcher, I was overcome with this unexpected wave of complete gratefulness, so much so that I had to stop and say it out loud.

“We are so lucky that this is our meal. On a regular Tuesday night,” I said to my husband sitting in front of his plate full of vegetables from the garden and his steak grilled to perfection. “There are people in this world who’ve never tasted a fresh garden tomato.”

He agreed.

Lucky.

Thing is, I didn’t think about that Tuesday night steak on my Saturday morning rant. It was long dissolved into my uncertainties of the week, crumpled into wondering if we were doing anything right.

And I’m sitting here this morning sort of worried about how quickly the taste left my mouth.

Just over a year ago I was holding my breath for a baby to come in and throw my schedule into chaos, just like she’s doing, just like I was complaining about on Saturday morning.

And now here she is, staring up at me from the living room rug while she’s pooping her pants. And I am grateful.

I’m lucky to be grateful. But maybe sometimes, and I’ve never thought of this before, we’re even more lucky to have the chance to be ungrateful.

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They’re not babies long..

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This is my view lately.

A pre-nap snuggle after the tiny monster had free reign of the living room for approximately three minutes and I’m sitting here sort of dazed at how fast they turn from helpless babies to tiny humans with minds of their own.

She’s hit the stage where she learns something new every minute, I swear. A few weeks ago it was standing against the furniture.

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Tuesday it was standing against the furniture with one hand.

Yesterday she decided to let go and see what would happen.

Because she’s pretty sure she can walk now.

She can’t.

But she’s amused anyway with falling on her butt.

 

 

Those legs need less squish and more muscle before this walking train is leaving the station, so I’m optimistic I have some time to do pad the walls of this house.

This girl. She’s funny. Like entertaining and wild and full of this spirit I just can’t get enough of and have a hard time describing.

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She laughs all day, like she’s practicing the one she likes best and then she tries it out when things get really funny. Right now it’s a cross between evil and adorable and she is so amused with herself.

And I’m so amused with her.

 

Because she’s woken up to the world and it’s so fun to watch. I didn’t know how incredible it would be to see her change every day.  She knows what it means when she hears the door open. She stops what she’s doing and waits to see him come around the corner in the hallway. She flings her arms and reaches for her dad, squealing with delight when he comes closer to pick her up.

I tried to take her from him to change her diaper on Sunday morning and her lip stuck out in the biggest pout I’d ever seen, literally showcasing on her face her little heart breaking at the thought. So I put her back in the nook of his arm and the pout morphed back into her sort of permanent working smile.

And it was one of the sweetest things I’ve seen.

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Every day of this mom thing is like that. Full of such extremes. Extreme frustration. Extreme exhaustion. Extreme happiness. Extreme hilarity. And that all bounces around in the mundane tasks and drone of the work of the ordinary days.

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The colors are changing outside our window and just as this baby started waking up in the spring I feel like she’s following another change in the season.

They’re not babies long. That’s what my friend told me a few years back.

And she was right.

They’re not babies long…

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