Baby Edie rides her horses

Here’s Edie, doing what we do in the morning.

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Rolling and flipping and grabbing and smiling and screaming at her toys because they aren’t doing what she wants them to do and I have no idea what that might be but it sure pisses her off.

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But mostly she’s plain happy, as long as there’s action.

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So when she’s done rolling and flipping and screeching I put her on her horse.

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And as you can see she likes it.

So you can imagine her delight when we put her on a real horse yesterday.

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Yup.

We had a branding at the neighbor’s and Pops brought the horse around before he rode it back home.

I wish we had a video camera to record what she moved like when we put her close to the nose of that bay and then up on his back. It was one of my favorite moments with her.

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All of the sudden I had this flash-forward moment to all of the things I dreamed about doing with our daughter out here on this place someday. I saw her up there so tiny and excited, reaching for the horn of the saddle and squealing and then reaching further to grab the black mane and I saw her at five years old, blond hair and curls, riding a pony while I lead her around the pen in front of the barn. And then I saw her at ten years old, on a big horse, following behind us across the pasture in the warm glow of a sinking summer sun, her face flushed and dirty, her hair windswept.

And then she’s sixteen and I’m holding my breath, her ponytail flying and bouncing under her straw hat as she rounds the last barrel at a rodeo and I let out a sigh of relief…

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Maybe it was watching the neighbor girls that I used to babysit all grown up and beautiful, helping to ride and wrestle calves, or maybe it was the light of the evening casting long shadows and reflecting off the dust in the air, making everything soft and dreamlike, but I was nostalgic for a future with this tiny little human who could just as easily grow up to prefer video games to horses.

But for now she seems delighted by it all, by the big outdoors and the blue sky and the grass and especially the animals.

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She has a physical elated reaction to them. She sucks in air and reaches out her hands and grabs their fur. When we go to feed the calf she has a mini hyperventilation spell. When she’s crying for no apparent reason all I have to do is open the door and walk out on the deck and a smile spreads across her face.

She leans down from my arms and tries to get closer to the dogs.

She reaches out for the kitty’s fur.

The wild world is hers…

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Yes, this is Edie. Our daughter. Our baby discovering that the fun is just beginning.

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Sunday Column: A warm welcome to the mommy club.

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Coming Home: Wait is over to celebrate Mother’s Day as a mom

by Jessie Veeder
5-9-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Long before I became a mom, I often heard the phrase “You just wait” from other parents. While well-meaning, it was an expression that made me cringe for a few reasons. Besides the fact that it made me feel like I was being set aside to a place they put people who couldn’t possibly get it, it made me want to scream, “I am waiting! I’ve been waiting for years!”

“You’ll understand when you have kids of your own.” That was another one.

It was never really clear, the mystical thing that I was to understand. If I could just get it together enough to have a kid already, I could finally know what I desperately needed to know.

I’m sorry. I’m sounding sarcastic. I haven’t been sleeping.

I think that’s one of those things I couldn’t have possibly understood.

OK, I get it now.

This year I will celebrate my first Mother’s Day with a baby of our own in our house (and in my arms and in my car and in the bathtub and in her carrier walking with me across the cow pastures) and I can’t help but notice that over the past five months it’s felt like I’ve become a part of this big, new and welcoming club.

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My Sister-in-law, who is busy raising my three nieces. She sent us home yesterday with five big bins of girl clothes. God bless her.

I walk through the grocery store with the baby strapped to my chest, wiggling and drooling and smiling at the stranger in the dairy aisle who smiles back. “Two teeth already! How old is she? Wow, that’s early! My son didn’t get teeth until he was almost a year. He’s 21 now. They grow so fast …”

And we stop there, holding our milk cartons, feeling compelled for some numinous reason to share with one another our most intimate birth story, the struggles we had or didn’t have with feeding, the joy of the first smile and ugh, the sleepless nights, the stranger so eager to reflect and relay, and me, a new mom, hungry to know that I’m not alone in the joy and, more importantly, the challenge.

“She’s precious,” she says. And I beam with pride as I move on to the cereal.

Working men in muddy boots push past us with carts full of chips, burgers and pop. One stops to take a peek at my baby’s chubby cheeks. His daughter is 3 and back home in Tennessee. Before I had Edie I would say, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be away from her.” Now my heart breaks for him.

Until five months ago I only understood motherhood from the perspective of having one. And I have a great one. One of the best. But I always thought she worried too much. I’ve been telling her that since I was a little girl. Don’t worry, Mom. Don’t worry!

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Now I know what an impossible demand I was making on her as I pulled on my boots and went out into this big, sharp and dangerous world, my little sister trailing behind me.

Asking her not to worry was like asking her not to breathe. I get it now, Mom. I haven’t stopped worrying since the moment I found out I was pregnant. And when I’m done writing this I’m ordering Edie a full-body helmet.

Because the big, sharp world is dangerous, yes, but now I get to watch my baby discover it, and I think I might have taken for granted what a gift it is to have hands that can touch and eyes that can see and a voice that can laugh at the wonder of it all.

Apparently with all this motherly worry comes waves of overwhelming gratefulness.

Yes, they told me I’ll understand when I have kids of my own and, finally, here I am discovering what being a mother means to me.

And while the birth of my daughter has somehow given me a big happy welcome into this warm and open club of parenthood, after such a big discovery, this Mother’s Day I don’t have anything more profound to say than this:

Thank you, Mom, for worrying.

Thank you, Baby, for being born.

And to all the mothers-in-waiting, may your children find you.

 

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Puppy Boom

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Well, it seems to be a baby boom at the Veeder Ranch, and I tell you, I can’t get enough.

On December 29th, just in time for the weather to get good and cold, dad’s dog Juno gave birth to a big ‘ol batch of puppies.

I got a text from dad early that morning telling me that there were “4 pups so far.” Later that morning, when mom stopped over to snuggle our baby, she said she thought there were five. But it was hard to tell, because she had them in the dog igloo and it was dark in there.

Five pups was my guess. That’s what I thought she would have and that was a nice manageable number.

I called my little sister to report the news and then headed over to mom and dad’s when Husband got home to take a look for myself.

We pulled into the yard just as Pops was pulling in from work and Juno ran up to welcome her favorite human, giving him the opportunity to shine a flashlight in the igloo to see what she made.

“They’re so loud in there,” he said.

And then he found out why.

“Holy Cow!” he hollered.

“What?!!” I asked nervously “What’s in there? Are they ok?”

“There’s a whole pile of them!”

And indeed there was….

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A little more than five I guess. I tried to get a good count on them while they were wiggling and squirming all over each other.

I thought I counted nine.

I was confident. But I counted again.

Yup. Nine.

Nine’s a lot. That’s a lot of pups there.

The mat they were laying on was a little damp. These pups were brand new, so I decided to get a couple towels to put underneath them and help absorb some of the moisture.

So we took the pups out one by one.

And we all counted out loud, Pops, Husband, my niece and I.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9!!!”

“9,” I declared. “Perfect!”

“Oh, we’re not done yet,” said Pops.

“WHAT?!”

“10, 11!”

E.LE.VEN.

Eleven.

ELEVEN PUPPIES!

That’s a lot of pups.

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“Good idea we had here huh dad?” I said to him.

Because it was our idea, to breed our Gus with his Juno the best cow dog ever.

Because cute + cute = so damn cute…

But also, because they will be really good dogs.

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Baby Gus 

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Baby Juno

After Pudge died this fall we thought we needed to get another young pup to start learning the ropes.

And we thought maybe someone in the neighborhood might be interested in a good cow pup too.

But eleven? ELEVEN?! What were we going to do with eleven puppies?

Well, first things first I had to pick one out for Edie.

The Litter

Which wasn’t an easy task, except I liked the brown border collie. She was the only one like that in the batch. And I haven’t seen many brown border collies in my life.

So she was my favorite.

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It seems like Edie liked her too..

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But this one is also my favorite because she’s so little and she has brown eyebrows that match her brown feet and I just can’t take that sweet face I want to smush her and put her in my pocket…

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And this one is my favorite too because of his speckled little feet and speckled nose and he seems like he’s going to be really smart and I just can’t take it I want to scoop him up and put him in my cereal bowl.

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And this one breaks my heart because, well look at him! Those ears! That look! He’s so beefy and rolly-polly. He’s also my favorite. I really like him. I like his white face. I can’t even take it, I want to wrap him up in a blanket and snuggle and watch re-runs of Seinfeld together. He seems like he’d like Seinfeld. He seems like he has a good sense of humor that way.

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And be still my heart. This one is my favorite. Look at her! Look at the brown on her. She looks like she’s going to be SO FLUFFY I COULD DIE!!!! Look at her feet, with the little speckles on her toes. And I just can’t take it I want to buy a pink purse and put her in there and walk around the mall with her peeking out, smiling while everyone declares “What an adorable pup!” and I would say “I know right?!”

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And this one is my favorite because of his brown legs and white face. He looks smart. And snuggly. And I just can’t take it I want to tuck him in bed and read him bedtime stories.

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And this one is Husband’s favorite, but I think he’s also my favorite because he looks like his dad Gus and Gus is my favorite. I like that he’s solely black and white and he has a cool big black spot on his side and he’s going to be beautiful. And I just can’t take it I want to teach him the best tricks and enter him in one of those frisbee catching contests that you see on TV. We would win, because, well, just look at him.

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And this one. This one’s my favorite because he’s going to be fluffy and I love him and I just can’t take it I want to comb his hair and put a bandana around his neck and name him Scout.

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And this one is my favorite because of his white legs and spotted nose and I just can’t take it I want him riding shotgun in the pickup with me anytime we go somewhere so he can stick his head out the window and really get his ears flapping.

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And we’ve established why this one is my favorite…But it looks like she’s going to have curly brown hair so I think we’ll be able to relate…

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And this one. Look at this guy! He’s going to be smart I can just tell. He’s got the look of a perfect ranch dog and he’s my favorite because he reminds me of the old dog we had growing up named P.V. and she was the best. I just can’t stand it I want to bring him inside and let him lay on the rug in front of the fireplace.

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And this one is my favorite because he’s classic and he knows it. He looks like he could be in a movie where he herds up lost sheep that got out on the highway and headed to town so he grabbed his brother and saved the sheep and the day. And I just can’t stand it I want to give him an extra bowl of milk because he looks like he’s going to do such a good job someday.

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Oh Lord. It’s been hard on me. All this cuteness. It’s giving me cavities.

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But it turns out it hasn’t been hard to find these babies homes. No. One little social media advertisement and they were homed in a matter of hours to some really wonderful families who will probably not put their puppy in a pink purse and cart it around the mall, but might let them ride shotgun in the pickup. Or sleep on the rug in front of the fireplace. Or, most importantly, give them a life where they can do what they were meant to do…chase cows and roll in poop and drag bones from gawd-knows-where all over the yard.

And be unconditionally loyal.

And fluffy.

So fluffy. Just like their mom.

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And so annoyingly smart, just their dad.

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Because that’s what’s running through their blood.

And I can’t take it.

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Now, does anyone have any name suggestions for our new little girl? I would ask Edie, but I don’t think she’s old enough to make these sort of decisions.

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Ugh, life must being going good when too cute becomes a problem…

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This seems like a good time to share my music video “A Girl Needs a Dog” again, featuring baby Gus and the photos you all submitted of you loving on your favorite dog. Enjoy!

If you need me I’ll be snuggling something.

Peace, Love and Puppy Breath,

Jessie

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Sunday Column: Dreaming of horses…

Chad and Jessie Maternity 1

Coming Home: Dreaming of horses, the best gift a ranch kid can get
11-9-15
by Jessie Veeder
http://www.inforum.com

A funny thing happens when you’re in the home stretch of your first-ever pregnancy. Between all of the unpleasant symptoms we’ve all heard about — the heartburn, the aches and pains, the insomnia — you suddenly find yourself with an overwhelming need to purchase a festive Christmas baby hat because the most important thing in the world is being prepared for this new baby’s first Christmas photo under the tree.

It’s all you can think about, never mind that you don’t yet have the car seat properly installed or a single diaper stocked up. If you have this hat, you will be ready.

But three days later when that handmade Rudolf hat with the red button nose arrives in your mailbox, you’ve completely forgotten that 5 a.m. panic order altogether. Because you’ve already moved on to the next obsession.

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And lately, for me, three weeks away from my due date, I’ve decided I should really be thinking seriously about this kid’s first horse.

It’s not logical, I know, not in the sequence of things anyway. I mean, I have a good few years to find the right animal, one I can trust to take care of my firstborn as he sits tall in the saddle beside us, chasing cows or checking fence, honing his skills and his way around this place.

But to have a horse of your own as a kid is a unique and life-shaping privilege, one not granted to every child, and one I want to give to mine. Because I remember how I was one of the lucky ones. I inherited an old red mare from my grandma. Her name was Rindy, and she was short and squat with just the right amount of attitude and a rough trot.

I would ride her bareback in the summer, learning about balance and patience as I searched the tree lines for raspberries, leading her to big rocks or side-hills to help me swing my short legs up on her back if I happened to climb down or fall off.

 

I broke my arm tumbling off Rindy.

I broke my foot jumping off her in a youth rodeo.

I won “best groomed” at a sleepaway horse camp because she couldn’t find a mud hole to roll in like she did at the ranch each time I groomed her the night before a 4-H show.

I put red, white and blue yarn in her mane and rode her in the county fair parade.

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I rode double, or triple, with my best friends on her back, trotting through clover fields, seeing how fast we could go before we all tumbled off, leaving her grazing a few yards away as we rolled around on the ground laughing.

And in the fall I would saddle her up, pulling the cinch as tight as I could around her round back, and she would puff out her belly to trick me into thinking that’s as tight as it would go only to let the air out once I climbed on, her way of controlling her comfort level, I suppose.

Oh, that horse was something. But that’s the thing, anyone who had a horse of their own as a kid will tell you stories like these about an animal that helped raise them in an environment that has the potential to be intimidating for a kid.

But a horse out here gives a kid some power. I felt like I was worth something on Rindy’s back, like I could help move a cow through a gate or learn where the fence lines run. I had a partner, a big companion that gave me new abilities. I was stronger and bigger up there. I was capable.

Who wouldn’t want to give that gift to a child if they could?

And so I have that Christmas hat in the drawer, we’ve set up the crib, I’m washing onesies and putting away diapers, and late at night, when the world is dark, my husband’s chest rising in sleep next to me, I lie with my eyes open in our bed, a hand on my swollen belly, waiting on this baby and dreaming of horses.

Maternity Haze

The biggest project of my life….

Belly B&W

Ok, so I am a project focused sort of woman and if the last three weeks of pregnancy don’t count as the biggest project of my life, then nothing does.

Last weekend the beautiful women in my life threw me and this baby an unforgettable shower, complete with waffles, bacon and donuts,

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diaper cakes (courtesy of my nieces),

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diaper cake

a watermelon in the shape of a baby (courtesy of my mother-in-law)

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an endless supply of baby books

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and and even bigger supply of love and support.

And while I sat there surrounded by these incredible women, opening these beautiful gifts, I was in disbelief that this was actually my shower I was attending (even though the bacon induced heartburn tried its damnedest to reassure me it’s true). 

But there were other forces of nature working to reassure me. Four capable and handy men, my husband, dad, grampa and uncle, spent the morning of the shower putting together the crib (at last!), installing the light fixture and even hanging the curtains in the nursery so we would be one step closer to getting this place ready for our brand new family member.

Did it really take four grown men to assemble a baby crib you ask?

Yes. Yes indeed it did.

But I was so thankful to see it there when I got home and unloaded boxes of onesies, toys, blankets, bottles, pacifiers, pajamas, a diaper genie…

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and socks so tiny I just can’t get over it.

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My mom came over on Sunday to help me sort and tidy up, because organizing is like her therapy (and what’s more fun than organizing adorable baby shoes or onesies rolled into the shape of cupcakes?).

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And the two of us laughed, oohed and aahhed and marveled at the fact that in a few weeks an actual human will be wearing those teeny, tiny diapers she was putting in the drawers.

When Husband came home from his fireman duties serving pancakes at a local benefit, he set up the chair and gave it a good test run…

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And this week I’ve been hanging out in this space every chance I get.

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Yes, in between working, writing and figuring out what we have to eat in this place, I’ve been making my way to the nursery to sort and wash baby outfits and blankets,

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pack the to go bag, order a rug and a toy box, make plans for some shelves, and channeling my inner 4th grader to create some chalk art on the wall, an idea sparked, of course, by my baby-brained obsession with Pinterest.

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I’ve seriously never put as much thought (or funds?) into another room in the house.

It’s ridiculous and I’m aware of it. But it’s been fun to see how each piece I picked out, and each gift given to this baby by people who love her already, fit into this space.

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To be honest here now for a minute, I’ve always wondered about my mothering instincts. Even after all of these years of working and hoping to become a mom, I have never been fully convinced that I possess the sort of confidence and know-how that seems to be born in some of the women I know. Where they effortlessly maneuver a newborn, I have been known to nervously and reluctantly cradle the tiny fragile beings while frantically searching for a chair for reinforcement.

Where they are organized with supplies and informed on the latest baby products and how to use them, I over research and panic at the saturation of information before calling it quits and heading to the fridge in search of chocolate.

Almost every new mom I’ve seen lately makes new motherhood look effortless and beautiful while in the back of my mind I try to shut off the images of me and this baby flailing and struggling in a world that I’m scrambling to domesticate in time for her arrival.

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I do not have swept floors.

I do not have a meal plan.

I do not have a stocked and organized pantry or a house put together and void of sawdust.

I am most comfortable in the dirt and the wind and out from under a roof.

But I know I can love this baby, even though I haven’t been convinced I’ll instinctively know how to swaddle it, bathe it, feed it and carry it around like a fifth limb while I fold laundry, do dishes, cook a gourmet meal or feed the horses.

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But my uncertainty doesn’t scare me as much anymore. Not now that I spent a day surrounded by women who I can call upon to give me advice or direction when I need it. Not now that I’ve started to create this space in my home for this new life.

Not with my mom down the road, a drawer full of tiny baby socks, a room almost ready and a plan to be myself and do my very best by this kid.

Because I might not know what I’m doing quite yet, but I like a project…and this is the biggest project of my life.

Maternity 4

How faith might find you…

Yesterday morning one of my best friends, my neighbor down the road with curly hair kind of like mine, a similar obsession with photographing wildflowers and a much better success rate with house plants, gardens and crafting projects, gave birth to her first child.

A beautiful baby girl.

When that baby drew her first breath from within the safe walls of a hospital made of bricks standing strong against the chilly North Dakota air, I had just landed in MInneapolis after taking the red-eye out of Las Vegas where I slept face down, hair splayed out on the tray table for nearly three hours.

When I finally landed in North Dakota, my momma and I rushed to the floral shop to buy tulips and chocolate, a small token of appreciation for the newest addition to our neighborhood, then we pointed our car toward that hospital made of bricks so that we could take a look at those tiny hands and count those toes and say hello, we’re so glad you’re here.

I’m so glad she’s here.

Now, babies are born every day. All of the people I passed on my way through the airport, all of those souls standing in line and sitting shoulder to shoulder, taking off across the sky together, have mothers who grew them and carried them and brought them into the world to grow up and drink coffee, tell stories and host dinner parties, drive cars too fast and take midnight walks, make a mean cheesecake and fall in love, fall out of love, then back again and bite their nails, own too many cats and someday, have babies of their own.

And while all of these living and breathing people, all 7.046 billion of us, have stories we can tell each other about work and family and that great restaurant we visited last night, stories we might hear over a long overdue phone call or while standing in line at the post office with a stranger, every single one of us carries with us a different story about how we came into this world.

And although we carry it with us, not every one of us is able to tell it. Because not every one of us were told–not all of us really know.

That’s the thing about humans, we may choose not to share every detail in words.

A child may never know how much he was wanted.

Or how he was a plan.

Or a surprise, a pleasant surprise.

A terrifying one.

A surprise that couldn’t be handled.

But I’ll tell you something about my friend and her husband, the couple who welcomed that beautiful baby into this cold little corner of North Dakota yesterday–yesterday they witnessed a miracle.

And they knew it.

Now their story is like everyone’s story in that it is their own. And I, as their friend down the road, am not qualified to tell it, to give justice to what it’s like to pray and worry and drive hundreds of miles to spend countless hours in doctors appointments explaining and re-explaining, planning and re-planning and spending time on procedures and money on drugs while hanging on to a hope, a hope that has hung on for years…

Five years to be exact.

That someday she will be a mother.

And he will be a father.

And they will hold their daughter, a daughter with a little splash of red hair, tiny pink cheeks, long fingers like hers and eyes like his in their arms in the brick hospital in the middle of winter on the edge of North Dakota.

Because even some of life’s most natural promises are not promised to everyone.

And then sometimes that promise does not come easy.

But when it does, well…

There are no words.

Last spring I was driving my pickup down a gravel road, coming out of the badlands and onto the highway. My friend with the curly hair like mine was my passenger and we were talking about our struggle to become mothers, another thing, besides the unruly hair, that we have in common.

My hope was dwindling, wavering and faltering after years of disappointment. Six pregnancies celebrated and then lost with nothing but an unsolved mystery, heartbreak and frustration left in their wake.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be a mother,” I told her. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take. It might be a sign it’s not meant for us.”

She sat there beside me then, a woman with the same hope of a family, but one who had not yet seen those two pink lines.

“I just know there’s a plan. I have faith. I can see it for us,” she said. “I can see it for you.”

Faith.

In my life I’ve had it and lost it…

Moving along that gravel road with my friend talking and holding on tight to her hope, I believed for her it would work out.

But I couldn’t hold that same belief for myself.

And then I got the phone call in the early morning hours of January 5th, the one with my dad’s voice on the other end of the line begging for help. The one that sent our whole life reeling with prayers and hope and desperate pleas that the man called dad, grampa, husband, Pops, brother, uncle, friend would live to hear us tell him we loved him a thousand more times.

The one that promised this man was not going to live.

But some of life’s promises are not promised to everyone.

I stood in that North Dakota wind outside of that hospital as they prepared my faltering father for a plane ride he might not survive. I watched that wind bend the trees down and cool the air and I struggled to catch the breath that I lost with the news…

I tried to imagine a world without my father…

Today my dad stopped by the house. He wore his blue jeans and boots, a checked wool vest and a cap he got free from a company he’s likely been working with now that he’s back working. I made him a  cup of coffee and we sat at the counter and visited a bit about the weather and plans we have for spring when the cows come back…the things I promised him we’d do when he was lying in that hospital bed for a week working on pulling through.

Yesterday I got off a plane that flew me high above the clouds, shoulder to shoulder with a hundred other people with heartbeats and stories who were flying too…

And then we came back to the earth safe and sound so that I could hold my friend’s baby in my arms where she wiggled and opened her tiny little mouth to cry a bit before I bounced her and shushed her and told her she’s ok.

She’s got all the love in the world around her and in this world where she now lives, sometimes, miracles happen…

I know, because I have faith…

A little about Little Man

Check out my date for the day:

Yup, he’s a handsome catch.

Don’t judge me ok. But when I get a chance to hang with my baby nephew, the first thing I do (after getting a smile and a hug) is dress him as a mini version of an adult character, like a cowboy or a hunter or an extreme athlete who wears Under Armor gear and then head outside.

Yeah, there may be some past evidence of this tendency….

Anyway, Little Man loves it outside. And with the unseasonably warm temperatures this week the little guy didn’t even need a puffy coat to enjoy the sunshine, barn animals and a big boy ride on the 4-wheeler.

Which reminds me, I need to get him a pair of goggles to go with that flapper hat. I think it would really complete the outfit don’t you?

Other than that, we’ve been busy you know. So busy that the kid is currently snoring, exhausted from a morning of growing teeth, making his aunt gag with the giant surprise he left in his pants: twice, and you know, working on the walking thing.

Yup, today Little Man discovered how to stand up without any aid from a piece of furniture and  propel himself forward on his feet. You know, a little thing we refer to as walking. And if I ever had doubt about why parents get so insane over things like children pooping on the potty and saying “DaDa” or “Shoe” (which not surprisingly, was my first word) I will never question it again.

Because when this little phenomenon occurred (one I have been nagging him about for months) this morning in my momma’s kitchen, I nearly spontaneously combusted with pride. When the reoccurring single step he usually takes from the standing position turned into two and then three, the look on that Little Man’s face was priceless. I screamed. I clapped. I did a back flip.

I called President Obama.

Hearing the commotion from shower stall, my momma came rushing in from the bathroom in her towel, and, well, she did the same thing, joining me in crazy company.

And then she called Oprah and asked her if she would like the exclusive interview with this wondrous kid.

It was magic.

And it hasn’t happened again for a good three hours, despite all of my coaxing.

Ah, well.

And ah, to be a toddler.

Watching Little Man discover the world, grab the cat by the tail, and snuggle into his gramma’s lap opens up a whole new world for us here on the ranch. One that has been plumb full of adult wisdom and responsibilities for years. But when Little Man comes down the road backward in his car seat and reaches his arms up to us, his way of asking to be pulled out, to be shown something, to be held and bounced and kissed and hugged, I cant help but wish I had still had some of those memories with me.


I wish I could recall what it was like to taste the world for the first time, or the adventure of never knowing if it’s milk or juice in that sippy cup. I wish I could remember that thrill of my first step and the faces that were there cheering me on. I wish I could reach back in the depths of my mind to hear the lullabies sung and the stories told, to hear my mother’s young voice, my grandmother’s whistle. I wish I could feel the thrill of being tossed in the air with full confidence that my grandfather would be there to catch me.

I wish he could remember how happy he is making everyone around here. How he melts his grandmother’s worries away as soon as she see’s his face. How he makes everything else in his grandfather’s world disappear when he see’s his toothy smile.

I wish he could remember how his aunt loses all inhibitions in attempts to make him laugh and  how everything’s right in his uncle’s world when he comes home from work and finds Little Man’s arms stretched out for a hug.

I know these particular events won’t stick in his little memory, but I know he will understand how important he is to our world.

Oh, and I will tell him.

Certain things.

Like how I did my first and only backflip when she saw him walk and how his gram called Oprah about the whole thing…

I probably won’t tell him about all the times he’s peed on me. Or how I repeatedly put his diapers on backwards.

Or how much he used to poop his pants.

Some memories are meant to be repressed.

Have a great weekend everyone. If you need me, I’ll be napping too.

Love,

Aunty Jessie

Spring’s cast of characters

Oh the coyotes have been howling, like really wailing, outside the farmstead lately and things are waking up around here as the sun shines and rain falls, helping wash the snow away.

And this morning there isn’t a trace of wind, everything’s still and things are waking up…

Well some are easier to rise than others…

Yawn.

Oh, I know in some places, in most places, the blossoms are opening up, green grass is poking through the ground and people are having coffee on their front porch without their wool mittens. But like the bay horse sleeping in the food pile up there, North Dakota is sleeping in. But that’s ok. Coming in slow helps me notice and appreciate each little change, each member of the cast of spring characters…

The geese are passing over, honking their hellos…

and if they’re brave and remembered their Muck Boots they touch down and stay for a bit. These are beautiful, elegant creatures…

Much like their cousin, the Turkey, who have been sneaking around the place lately. Always walking away, blending in with the brown grass because they’re shy like that.

Turkey butts.

Speaking of butts…

My view on my road walk if I’m not keeping my eyes peeled for something better.

Butt…(hehe) you’ve got to love my enthusiastic walking partners itching to shed their winter coats and do some rolling in the mud and slop.

I look up and in the air the crows flap and shriek and perch. I always wonder how they know when to come home…

…and how we’ve lived without them darting through our lives and swooping overhead all these months.

And I’m like a kid in a candy store out here in the spring air, keeping a watch out for the first colors, the first crocus poking through the ground. Ahhh, the crocus, my second favorite thing about spring.

My first?

Babies.

The kind born in the hay…

And the adorable, human kind wearing headbands and tiny hats entered in pageants put on by my small town for the enjoyment of the obsessed baby squeezer, kisser, snuggler and squealer like me.

My friend’s baby E. I can’t stand it, I just want to squish her cheeks.

And now cue the montage of my nephew, Little Man dressed in his pageant best:

Can you say “sweater vest?”

What about “Chillin’ with my ladies?”

Ahh, be still my beating heart and silence my baby talk, you’ve got to love a community that holds their baby population in high regard…

and gives them sashes and a spot on the front page of the weekly paper:

Spring’s here and life’s good in western North Dakota.

Bring on the sun, we’ve been (impatiently) waiting for you…

and we’ll take what we can get.

Under this roof.

This is what I had going on with my morning coffee today.

And this was my company.

Don’t be jealous. I know it’s hard.

See, my little big sister let me babysit little man, not just for a few hours, but for a complete sleepover stay at my house on the ranch thirty miles away from her.

Believe it.

She trusted me with her baby and his burping habits, tiny socks, and even tinier feet. She packed up a bag filled with gadgets to deal with poop, devices for boogers, wipes and clothes and blankets and baby blue outfits and stuffed toys that sing and glow and oh, those tiny, tiny socks and sent me on my way, down the snow covered road.

I was in heaven.

I was also freaked out about the fact that there was a little human strapped in his seat placed so helplessly in my care.

So I drove approximately three miles an hour and by the time I got the guy home, he was seven years old.

And a little hungry.

So I unloaded my tiny, not quite seven-year-old nephew and all of the things that go with him into our little house in the barnyard. Husband and I spent a good thirty to forty-five minutes trying to figure out that “Pack ‘n Play” thing they invented to replace the much easier to assemble, but not so convenient to transfer “Play Pen” and just like that our house was transformed into a quiet little place with a couple boring adults roaming around worrying about what to cook for supper, to a cozy, lovey, snuggly nest filled with questions about how long to warm up a bottle and if that was a poop or just a stinky fart coming from his adorable little bottom (little man’s, not husband’s).

Oh, yes there was all of that plus baby talk and burping and diapers and cooing and lullaby singing and my heart was so full as little man drifted off to sleep in the nook of my arm. And as I laid that perfect little guy down in his temporary bed in the corner of our house, it occurred to me that what I was doing, in this exact spot, under the bright stars shining down on the roof of this very house was something precious that has quietly and innocently been done for generations.

And it got me thinking about all of the children who were brought into this very home and held tight and read to at night and fed ice cream from the deep freeze and pancakes in the morning.

My grampa reading me bedtime stories...

Little man’s momma was one of them. And so was I. Although my memory doesn’t reach as far back to recall my time spent in the “Play-pen” in the spot where I laid my nephew down, I do remember piling into my grandmother’s bed with my cousins for a night of giggling and dreaming.

I do remember ice cream on the front porch, family photos on the couch, my grandfather’s chair, my gramma’s popcorn, board games, family Christmases, Jello Salad, the kid’s table and the way the house smelled…

Push-ups with gramma on the front porch. That's me in the hot-pink pants...

…and still smells sometimes.

And each of my sisters, each of my cousins will have their own memory of the place as children: filling up the plastic swimming pool on the lawn with the hose on hot days, the pajamas gramma made for us on her sewing machine, being rocked to sleep, the bunk beds, the adventure of gramma and grampa’s house on the ranch.

My first visit to the ranch...

No doubt my father, aunt and uncle and their cousins hold their own fond memories of childhood spent under this roof as well…though I don’t feel I hold the words to attempt those stories–those emotions. They are much too important. Much too precious.

And no, sweet baby nephew won’t remember the day I rocked him to sleep in the same spot where my grandma rocked her babies and her grand-babies off to dreamland.

Gramma and me

He won’t remember how his uncle held him in the easy chair and laughed as little man grabbed onto the neck of his Pabst Blue Ribbon. Truth be told, it is possible that this baby could be one of the last generations to drift off to dreamland under this roof. And with that thought I can’t help but think how much my grandparents, his great-grandparents, would have loved to have held him and watch him laugh and make him pancakes when he grew teeth and then give him gum when his momma wasn’t around to say no.

And although I would have loved to bring my own baby home to this house someday, time and life will not allow it. But as we are making plans to build ourselves a new home over the hill I am making plans to keep this one in tact so that my cousins and my sisters might bring their children from down the road, across the state and across the country, to spend a night under the stars shining on the roof over the house their great-grandfather built– a house that held them so tight with imagination, warm smells and love.

But for now I am thankful I am here to show little man, and his tiny feet, around the place…

I am thankful he was here with me…

…under this roof.

She will be a mother.

So my big little sister is having a baby. I say big sister, cause she’s older than me. I say little because she’s smaller. Much smaller. Petite. Lovely. Fragile. Like a porcelain doll.

You know, the opposite of me.

And we’re all laughing around here because this woman, this ballet dancer who wears nothing but dresses and high heels and red lipstick, this woman whose wrists are about as big around as spaghetti noodles and who is the epitome of feminine, (you know the opposite of me) is having a boy.

Well, “it” hasn’t popped out yet, so I guess anything can happen, but you know, they are pretty sure…

This is a big deal around here, not only because it’s the first grandkid and it will be funny to see how it all turns out, with the trucks and boogers and snakes and noise and dirt and squirt gun fights that come with boys, but it will also be the first boy to have entered the picture since husband first started driving his Thunderbird out to see me when we were 15.

Poor pops.

Anyway, I have been an aunt now for a while to three wonderful little girls, so I know something about what it means. Like candy when they want it and projects that involve glitter and pink and taking them swimming and saving them from their mean uncle who makes them finish all of their macaroni and clean up their crayons. I know a thing or two about giving the kids what they want.

But I have to say, I wasn’t prepared for this: watching my big little sister–the one who forced makeovers upon me, who made me her own personal baby doll (until I was the age of 4 and I started beating her up), who baby-sat me when our parents were out of town and let me have popcorn and Oreos for dinner–preparing to become a mother.

I heard the news eight months ago and smiled, but the reality of this life-changing situation doesn’t kick in until you see her each day, her small graceful frame that treads so softly on this earth slowly taken over by a life. Each day, she glows a little more, each day her belly more swollen and her back arched a bit further, dresses stretched a little more snugly across her torso, until the one sad day when her husband outlaws her high-heals and we all know what happens next…

But she has never looked more beautiful.

And my big little sister has always been beautiful. Seven years my senior, there was this adoration, this mystery, this absolute intrigue that she would exude to me, an Olive Oyle-esc adolescent, all arms, elbows, fuzzy hair and bad t-shirts who wanted nothing more than to wander the hills alone picking berries and singing at the top of my lungs.

I was a wild child. My sister was civilized. I was a bit unkempt. She was polished. I was a tomboy who belched a little too loud and a little too often. My sister was a lady who I was certain had never even farted. I was an earth tone. She was sultry red. I loved dogs. She loved cats. I was a Pippy Longstocking. My sister was Marilyn Monroe.

We were perfect opposites, and even though I ridiculed and tortured every boy that she would bring home and complain when she would take too long in the bathroom, my big little sister never scorned me for my differences. Yes, there was the occasional bribe to let her experiment on me with makeup and eighties hair and she did pay me money to let her shave my gorilla like legs, but I think mom may have been involved in that one (God bless her).

But, she never made fun of my Garth Brooks posters, the 101 Dalmatian sweatshirt I wore until the seventh grade or my earthy, over-the-top poetry. No, she never made me feel ridiculous, she just embraced her quirky sister and took advantage of the fact that I had no problems playing the male role in all of her dance routines that we, unfortunately, captured on video (thanks to the filming capabilities of our much younger sister) …

Yes, I may or may not have donned a fake mustache and suspenders in many a home movie.

And that’s what I’m saying here. Those days don’t really feel so far away do they? I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that we were arguing about whose turn it was to unload the dishwasher? Didn’t she just get after me about tormenting our little sister? Didn’t I just eat the tuna noodle salad she always made for us when she was babysitting? Didn’t she just leave the house for college? Didn’t I just eat a piece of her wedding cake?

I know at 27 I might be too young for this type of nostalgia, but I guess these big moments, you know, the ones that change everything, bring it out of me.

And as we prepare for the little bun’s arrival, and big little sister cooks him a bit longer, and pops is planning ways to steal him away and mom is thinking about how she’s going to dress him, and little sister is vying for babysitting duty, I am standing here, mouth agape, watching helplessly as the world flies by at a thousand miles an hour.

Because I don’t know if I will ever be a mother. I don’t know if I will ever get to worry about what color to paint the nursery or who to choose as Godparents,  how to dress the baby for his first Christmas, what sport he will play or if he can make it through his first sleepover. I don’t know these things.

And that’s ok.

But I do know one thing. I know my big sister, the one I used to beat up, the one who borrowed my 101 Dalmatian sweatshirt for “nerd day” at high school, the one who laughs at my stupid jokes and never gets a word in at the dinner table, is going to make all these decisions and more with the grace, style and compassion she has always possessed–just with a bit of spit-up on her dresses and boogers in her hair.

She will be a mother next month.

This I know.

She will be a mom to a little boy and I will bring the fake plastic snakes and squirt guns.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Thanks sister, for letting me splash your preggers self all over this page. And thanks for trusting me to capture this moment.