As wide as the sky…

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I took Edie on a horse with me for the first time last weekend. We just got back from what I’m now calling my annual Mother’s Day Ride, because we’ve done it two years in a row now and it’s pretty much the only time since giving birth that I insist that today I’m going riding, so who wants to watch the baby?

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The day before we took Edie to her first horse sale in one of those spontaneous last minute decisions to do the thing we probably shouldn’t do instead of the million other things we should be doing, and so, because it was going to be 80 degrees, too hot for productivity, we loaded up and headed to the big town to sit at the sale barn and see if we couldn’t find a horse or two to replace our good buddy Stormy.

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I submitted next week’s column on how much I love the sale barn, an affection solely tied to the memories I gathered when I was a kid tagging along with dad, because I found, even at 80 degrees with a wiggly, sweaty toddler, I still loved it. And I think Edie did too. She really got into the whole yelling thing. I think she might have even bid on a few herself 🙂

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Anyway, a have a little more to say about that for next week, but I will tell you this, if you think we sat through an entire horse sale without winning a bid or two, well then, you don’t know us very well.

If you figured we’d come home with more than one, well then you’ve hung around here a fare bit. Because we headed home with two nice geldings and my Sunday Mother’s Day Ride was a perfect time for the guys to try them out while I plodded along beside them safe on my trusty steed, Rocky, not willing to be the one who discovers the kinks.

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It was a beautiful, windy, spring day and we didn’t even really do any work or chasing cows. The cows were spread, hiding in the trees, munching on the long grass and weeds that grow on the creek bottom and so we just looked around at the scenery, commented on how things are greening up and caught whiffs of the blossom scent blowing up and on in our nostrils.

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Chad’s new dun rode out nice and calm and the paint we got for the purpose of an amateur/kid horse seemed to do his lazy job just fine. So we were pleased we could say so far so good.

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My little sister (and her big baby belly) was inside the house with Edie and I thought it would be fun to ride down and see if she wanted to get on a horse (the toddler, not the belly). I came in to get her just as Alex was getting ready to bend over and try to squeeze Edie’s boots on, so she was grateful for the relief.

And Edie was pretty excited to be up on that horse. As soon as she decided this was one of those things she loved, she basically did what she does, and became obsessed with it.

Couldn’t take her down.

When her cousin showed up to take a turn, she lost her shit when he disappeared with Papa over the hill, reminding me yet again that 1 1/2 year olds are the worst at sharing.

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Turns out she had the same sentiment toward sharing her harmonica, bouncy horse, toy tractors and Papa too.

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Good thing the 6-year-old is tolerant.

IMG_6509Anyway, having her up on that horse with me was one of those moments when I realized that a dream I used dream was coming true. I’m not deep enough into this motherhood thing to forget how much we wanted and waited for little things like this.

And I didn’t realize how wide my smile was until I watched the video back. It seemed it almost matched hers.

It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time because of this. I remember how hard Mother’s Days used to be for me. It’s getting easier to forget, but I will never forget. For all those mommas-to-be out there waiting for their babies, I promise I will never forget.

And I hope with all my heart that you get a moment in your life like I had on Sunday, a moment where you hold your child and the two of you smile as wide as the sky you’ve been given a chance to raise her under…

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In the first place…

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Well we had a fun weekend last weekend. I’ve been so busy thinking about next weekend’s plans,  I haven’t had much time to reflect. All I know is now that we have Edie in our lives, time seems to go so much faster, even on the weeks I feel like I barely see her, which was the case last week as I spent my days getting ready for our Arts Council Showcase and a weekend full of music.

And it all went as good as can be. Thanks to my wonderful community and board members we enjoyed a flawless evening of music and art and I got to accompany Native American Hoop Dancer Kevin Locke as he performed and visited the kids at all our local schools. He was inspiring and the kids’ energy invigorated me.

Saturday morning our arts council hosted a writing workshop with an award winning author for people over 50 to help encourage them to share their stories and pass on their legacy.  I attended for most of it, but had to cut out early to hit the road for Bismarck for the North Dakota Music Awards. But I was so glad I popped in and to participate for a few hours and see my community members engaging in the creative process. So much of my life is focused on writing and creating, and lately I admit I’ve been feeling less than inspired as I try to balance this brief, but chaotic time in my schedule. Just a few hours of focusing on the process in a room with all minds on the same goal was just what I needed.

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Then down the road I went to meet up with the band and sound check a performance. My grandparents and aunt from Arizona were passing through on their way back home to Minnesota, so it was a special treat to have my aunt in the audience when I found out you all voted me (along with the very cool Bismarck band Kids with Beards) as your favorite folk artist for 2017.

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Thank you so much for that honor, I don’t take your support for granted for a day. And you showed up then, the way you always do, on Sunday afternoon for my book release concert at the Heritage Center where you (and my grandparents too!) were able to be in the audience to see Edie’s stage debut.

Turns out my girl and I missed each other that week, so she couldn’t watch the concert without making a fuss about wanting me to hold her so she could play guitar, so at the end of the show my mom brought her up and, well, it was a sweet moment.

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Next time I imagine she’ll bring her harmonica and demand a solo.

The crowd was so wonderful to come inside on one of the nicest days of the year and hear my stories. I truly enjoy being out and about meeting you all. I like it best when Edie can come along too (thanks to my niece and my mom), even if it’s a little more sweaty and stinky and covered in cracker crumbs.

Click here to see a TV interview with me discussing that day’s concert.

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And so here we are, in the middle of a new week and I’m so glad it’s spring now. The grass is greening up, the forecast is in the 70s for the foreseeable future and I just want to sprawl out and let the sun soak in my skin.

So when Edie came home we went out to frolic a bit, to feed the bulls and tinker with fences and pick her dad some flowers.

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It was only for an hour or so before we had to head in and get supper ready, clean up and get Edie to bed, but it was a nice reminder for me about the importance of doing the non-urgent things together, the just sitting outside and watching her run.

And while I haven’t been much for recaps in this space, usually more compelled to reflect on individual moments, I felt like recounting the past few days tonight. Because some days, especially these days, I’m too focused on what comes tomorrow. And I realize as she’s one moment away from being able to open the door to the outside by herself, that her wings are coming in much quicker than I expected.

Because last night I opened her baby book and couldn’t remember how old she was when she first rolled over, or her first trip to the pool or when she decided peas were her favorite vegetable.  For a woman who makes a living off of memories, sometimes the short term ones, the dates, the logistics, they don’t stick. So I panicked a bit, realizing just how little time there is for reflecting in the middle of this parenting gig and just how many more reasons there are to give ourselves that time.

Like the way she runs to get her boots when we tell her it’s time to go outside. How she puts her cap on backwards every time.

The big swell of pride that filled my chest as I watched my husband patiently teach her how to scootch down the stairs on her butt, because he doesn’t want her to get hurt and she’s always trying to do it herself when we’re not looking.

I want to remember the way she says “puppy” and I know I’m going to forget. I want to close my eyes on the hard days and smile at the way she insists on sitting behind the wheel of the pickup every time we go outside.

Because she’s such an unexpected gift indeed and the stuff good songs and stories are made of.

And I think maybe she’s the reason, long before I believed I might ever meet her, that I starting singing them in the first place.

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Why God made wheels…

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If she had wings, she’d never come down from the sky.

That’s why God made wheels for this girl of mine.

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And once I thought He made her so we could show her things.

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But it goes the other way.

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Because she reminds us of a better, wilder world, every single day.

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Me and my shadow

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The snow melted into big rivers today, shrinking and sinking the drifts in the draws and creating a glorious slop of mud along our prairie trails and I’m hoping we’ve seen the last of the white stuff for the season.

History has taught me better though.

But we’re honing in on another spring season and I’ll take the warm up where I can get it.

I take to the hilltops like I do every year to check out the thaw.

In my other life the only thing that indicated the passage of another winter was a collection of fresh gray strands in my hair and new lines on my face.

These days it’s chronicled by my shadow…

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It’s my honor to carry this child across this prairie and through the quick tick of the clock, sun up and sun down, spring, summer, fall, winter and then again and again until she can climb these hills herself, without my hand to hold, and find for herself a dry place to lay in the sun the same way my dad taught me to do on the first warm day of spring.

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I hope this place is forever her refuge.

 

When life reminds you

Here is a little video (probably one that falls in the category of one of those things that only my family and I will find so adorable) of Edie walking to the pool with her daddy.

We went to the big town sort of spontaneously to visit one of our friends who just had a new baby and get some Christmas shopping done. And we stayed in a hotel so that the baby could go in the pool. She loves the pool. These are the thing we do for our children that I never thought I would do for my children. Like squeeze my pasty winter body into a bathing suit right smack in the middle of the holidays and then go out in public (in bad lighting) like that in the name of watching a baby splash and squeal with her dad for twenty minutes.

It was a quick trip, we didn’t sleep at all in that hotel, and we didn’t really get much Christmas shopping done, but it was fun. It’s fun to be out and about with this little family thinking about and picking out gifts for the people we love.

These are the little things I often take for granted.

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These are the things that run through my head in those brief reminders life gives us about how it could all be taken away…

Coming Home: A reminder to slow down, be thankful
by Jessie Veeder
12-4-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I was downstairs trying my best to finish up a deadline I’d been working on submitting all day. It was the Monday after a long Thanksgiving break spent with family and food scattered around the house for days.

The baby was so worn out from the excitement of it all that she decided to stop sleeping and pop her first molar, and I was ready to get back into the swing of things.

Things like getting this very important grant sent off before the deadline, a simple wrap-up made entirely more complex when done in the moments before and after the baby decided she needed to be held, fed, rocked, read to, sung to or saved from the stairs.

It was 5:30 or so, the weatherman was telling me about the snow that had been accumulating by the inches since I woke up that morning, blowing, drifting and piling up, and it wasn’t expected to quit.

And just as fast as Edie went from across the room to by my side helping me type on my laptop keyboard, it went from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

“No, no, no,” I said to her.

“No, no, no,” she said back to me, shaking her head and laughing.

“Seriously, kid. Give me five minutes,” I whined.

She whined back and threw her cup to the ground.

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“Ugh, where’s your dad?!” I asked in frustration before I really thought about it.

And then I thought about it.

It was getting dark. I called him over an hour ago to find out when to expect him for supper.

“I have some leftover cream we need to use up,” I said as I saved the baby’s life for the 50th time that day. “I’m gonna make knoephla.”

“Ok,” he said. “I’m on my way home.”

And he should have been home by now. Like a long time ago.

“Seriously though baby, where’s your dad?” I sighed as I put her in her high chair. A little wave of panic overcame me. I picked up my cell phone and called him for the answer.

Only he didn’t answer.

He always answers.

My heart started pounding as I quickly ran through all the circumstances in my head, looking out the window at a darkening sky against a road totally void of headlights.

The wind splattered snow against the side of the house, and I spooned some stuffing in my baby’s mouth, wondering if her dad was in a ditch somewhere. Wondering if I should load her up to go out looking for him, flashing forward, in a matter of minutes, to that worst case scenario we all think won’t happen to us until it happens to us.

Is it happening to us?

I paced the floor and searched my mind for a different explanation for his absence. This wasn’t the first time I’ve found myself a bit panicked. Plans run late, tires go flat, neighbors need help, pickups go in ditches, but out here alone in the night with miles of snow-covered county road between me and the answer, the whole not-knowing thing can escalate into something more daunting and lonesome in a hurry if you let it.

And each minute you’ve convinced yourself there’s a chance he’s not safe is helpless anguish, and suddenly the last words you spoke to one another come to you in waves and it’s all very dramatic in the very likely case that he’s just fine, probably at the barn or pulling someone out of the ditch.

I grabbed the baby and started the car and walked back inside for my gloves.

And then the phone rang.

I try to take vows to be grateful. I’m not always grateful. I try to live in the moment, but I’m often distracted. Many days the person I love the most gets the worst of me.

But every once in a while, if we listen, we might get little reminders to slow down and be thankful — for the deadlines, for the whining, for the leftover stuffing, for the whole mess.

I stirred cream in the soup and listened to my husband talk to our baby as she splashed in the bath while the wind whipped the snow up our dark country road.

“I’ve been reminded,” I whispered.

OK. I’ve been reminded.

 

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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Small challenges. Small reminders.

Here’s a video of Edie in the lake last weekend. It was hot as hell and it was my birthday month so I decided we needed to take the pontoon out on the lake for the first time all summer to celebrate, you know, now that summer is over.

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Edie loves the water, as you can see, and I’m pretty sure she would have floated like this all day. IMG_1997

I’m watching it now because the girl just finished fighting me for a good three hours about the whole nap thing. She finally gave in after having won two previous battles, but I’ve won the third and final and, I’ve come to find out,  that’s what really counts in this parenting game.

Who knew ‘strong willed’ came into play so early. Last night while she was standing up in her crib screaming at the top of her lungs, her post-bath mohawk illuminated by the night vision on the baby monitor, I ran across this:

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I showed my husband. He said, “Yeah, I think she’s as strong as you, but she might have you beat on the whole stubborn thing.”

Arghhh. And then Awwweee.  That’s personality and I love her for it. And it turns out it’s just like they said, for all the hard shit there’s the moments where you discover that your nine-month-old likes to watch the morning news like this.

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And it’s really funny.

And then there are the moments you’ve imagined for years and years that come to life right before your eyes and you have to sort of stop to catch your breath and tell yourself that this is what a dream come true feels like.

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Sometimes life gives you what you wanted and then it’s up to you to do what you should with it all.

Like squeeze her into a purple lifejacket and set her on her aunt’s lap on a boat floating across a beautiful lake so that you can help her put her tiny toes in the water.

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And point out the bald eagle soaring above us…

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And the horses who came from their pasture to take a long drink next to our beach blankets…

These things she won’t remember, but I want to.

I will….

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Because right now she’s sleeping but tomorrow she’ll likely be scaling that cliff to catch that eagle and I’ll be running after her saying things like “Honey, you forgot your jacket!” or  “Did you eat breakfast today?” or “Stop! Let me take your picture!!!”

or “Call me when you get to the top so I know that you’ve made it there safely.”

Oh my, they’re only babies for such a short amount of time.

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*sniff* *sniff*

Forget the drink, I need (a couple) donut(s).

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Peace, Love and good Lord take a nap,

Jessie

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A letter to my baby on Mother’s Day

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Dear Baby Girl,

The night before you came into this world, I lay in bed and put my hand on my big, swollen belly, closed my eyes and cried in the dark. I was trying to hold on to what it felt like to have you kicking and stretching the limbs of your tiny body inside my body, safe and sound. It was a miracle I didn’t think I would ever know.

In a few short hours you would be born, and, if all went well, a dream would come true for your dad and me. That dream was you.

And so I cried at the anticipation of it all. I was nervous and scared and excited to meet you. And I cried for all the suffering and loss we experienced to get to this moment. The moment before your birth.

Last night I lay awake again in the dark in the room next to yours where you slept in your crib. You’re still sleeping there this morning as the sun rises and wakes up the ranch where generations of our family has grown. You used to sleep in my belly, then in my arms, then in the bassinet beside my bed and now you’re a wall away. Time does things like that to us.

Slowly it moves us.

Stretches us.

Grows us up.

In a few days I will celebrate my first Mother’s Day with you, my baby, and I suddenly feel this overwhelming need to tell you some things about what it means to me to be your mother.

I had the same feeling the first night we spent together in the hospital room while your dad lay sleeping on the couch next to us. The lights were low and the room was still and I cradled you in the nook of my arm, foggy and worn out from the task of bringing you into the world. I wanted to grab a pen and write down everything I was feeling in that moment, to capture the flood of emotions that swarmed around us. But instead I just sang to you, every song I could think of that you might recognize from spending nine months behind my guitar.

I wondered if you would be a singer. I wondered who you looked like and if you would have blue eyes or brown and if you would ride horses, but I stopped wondering then if I could do this. I looked at you and the way you calmed as I hummed to you through my tears and I knew we were made for each other.

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Now, when I close my eyes and try to sleep at night, I sometimes replay the first moment I saw you. You opened your eyes and looked right into mine as the nurse laid you on my chest, your mouth opening wide and closing again, searching for food, ready to live, and I thought, “Of course! She is fierce! I told you all she was!”

I knew it from those constant kicks and punches you gave me while you grew inside me. They were such a gift, a signal that you were alive and growing.

Thank you baby, for being so strong. That’s what I wanted to tell you then. I needed you to be strong because I was scared of losing you.

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Last week your grampa watched me walk across the pasture with you strapped to my chest, facing out so you could see the green grass, feel the spring breeze and watch the dogs run ahead. You were kicking your legs, reaching for the sky and smiling wide, and he said “She’s the perfect baby for you isn’t she?”

Yes. Yes you are. I’ve said it all along.

Baby girl, you are so young but you’ve had such a profound impact on our existence here. We made you, together, your dad and I. And we’ve loved each other for so long that we’ve become intertwined, our happiness and sadness woven together so tightly that sometimes we don’t know whose heart is whose. And you will become the best and worst parts of us.

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We’ve always wondered what that would look like and now you’re showing us every day.

You have my eyes, and his light hair, my round cheeks and his long fingers, but you are so uniquely you.

And time will tell us if you are as brave as him or as silly as me. And we might hear you singing at the top of your lungs to the trees or run to your side when you crashed to the ground, discovering that the cape you constructed didn’t help you fly. We have so much ahead of us Baby Girl.

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But right now you’re starting to stir in your crib. I will walk in to pick you up and you will smile and snuggle into my chest. I will kiss your cheeks and we will start another day together as mother and child. And we will do it all again the next day and the next until time, as it always does, slowly grows you up and turns me into an old woman.

But today, Baby Girl, you are so full of wonder, the purest form of human, fresh and soft and so much alive and I get the pleasure of watching your life unfold. And you make me so grateful.

And as you grow you will learn to spend this day thanking me for giving you life, for rocking you and teaching you and bringing you the lunch that you forgot, and I tell you now before you can comprehend, Baby, “Of course, of course. I will do anything for you. “

Yes, you will have plenty of these days to thank me, but today, on our first Mother’s Day, I thank you.

You made me a mom Baby, and I’m so happy to be yours.

Love,

Mom

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