Things I used to be…

Things I used to be
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There are things I used to be.

I used to be more careless. I used to be flexible. I used to be able to say “yes” loud and clear without worrying what “yes” would cost me.

I used to be OK in a bikini, stretched out across the front lawn with a magazine and an endless afternoon in front of me. Because I used to be younger.

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I used to be younger, and thinner and less affected by the one margarita I ordered with supper. I used to order two and then sing into a long night without worrying about the morning and the thin thread attaching me to the little bodies breathing in and out, eyes closed tight in their beds without me.

I used to have spare time that I didn’t spend on searching for sippy cup lids or calculating the coupon cost per diaper.

In my other life, I never once uttered the words, “Don’t lick the doorknob!” and I certainly never made 37 negotiations a day that involved two more bites or five more minutes and no, you can’t put the puppy in your purse.

And I certainly didn’t use the phrase “be careful” as often.

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There are things that are buried in me now under these new layers of motherhood. I think about peeling them back only when I’m looking through old photographs of myself toasting to the sky or in the rare quiet moments that last long enough that I’m almost convinced I could be her again, before the creak of the door or the cry out of the lungs of the fresh soul in her crib in the dark calling for her momma.

I am momma.

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Last week, I was driving the ribbon of Interstate 94 that stretched out west for home. My babies were tucked in the back as the landscape zoomed by their windows and my eyes were heavy with the weight of exhaustion my new body holds. It overwhelmed me.

I signaled, parked in a rest stop and found a shady spot to take a break. I used to be unprepared, but this new version of me had blankets to spread out under our bodies and so we all laid down in a big pile under clouds rolling slowly, slowly, slowly across a blue sky.

And I want to say it before it absorbs into my skin and gets lost in the bigger, more urgent stories of a life…

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If I died tomorrow, this 20 minutes at a rest stop along I-94 with the baby navigating the lines of my tired face, my husband lifting the toddler to the sky, her squeals, our laughter, all four of our bodies touching one another, touching the earth, looking up at the trees and the fact that we simply couldn’t be anywhere else in the world if we wanted to, will make the highlight reel when I close my eyes at the end of my life.

Because I used to be so many things, but now I have these layers attached to this wonderfully agonizing winding and unwinding thread, and I will never be who I used to be because now I am a mother.

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A thousand breathless moments

How little, not big moments, remind you about living

There are moments in this life that remind you what living is. And I can say from experience that it’s only a little bit the parts that you plan out to do the trick, like jumping out of an airplane over the Gulf of Mexico. Making it safely to the sandy beach after swallowing the atmosphere in the world’s most terrified silent scream does indeed make you thrilled to be alive, but I think it’s a lot more the quiet moments after the jump that stick with you in playback.

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Like the margarita I had with friends on the beach afterwards, laughing at how close I came to throwing up my breakfast on the way down.

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This chapter in my life doesn’t involve any sky diving plans, although some days the story feels a lot like jumping out of a plane with a prayer and no parachute. Right now the adventure is supper negotiations with a toddler when we’re all spent from the day, evening hours wearing a path in the floor bouncing the baby to sleep and balancing schedules so the cows can get fed, the taxes can get filed and the work can get done so the bills can be paid.

And in the in-between moments the floors are swept and spilled on, the laundry is cleaned and soiled and the plates are filled and washed over arguments won and lost while we make plans.

When they say they lived “Happily Ever After,” they mean for you to fast-forward to the highlight reel. Only sometimes the highlight footage is found tucked in the mundane.

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Last weekend I took my two-year-old to watch the High School production of the Wizard of Oz. My daughter loves to dress up, and so I made a big deal out of it. She chose her dress, her hair bows, we painted her nails and she picked out a necklace from my drawer to wear. She didn’t know what a play was, but she was thrilled anyway.

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“Mommy! You look so different!” she exclaimed after I put on the purple dress she suggested and we both did a twirl. Then we put on our fancy coats and headed to town, and while the high school students were making moments for their highlight reel they were also making memories for me, watching my little daughter worry for Toto, her little body hardly heavy enough to keep the theater chair from folding in on her.

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And it was that. And then, later that night, it was looking over to find my usually stoic husband dancing with the little neighborhood girls at the fireman’s fundraiser, and then it was my dad, who had been deathly sick for months, now able to sit in a vehicle to watch the neighborhood kids fly down the sledding hill and his granddaughter build a snowman,

and then the baby’s first giggle and all of us racing upstairs to lay out together as a family on our brand new bed that had just been delivered and about a million tiny little moments between that carry momentum to me these days that render me as breathless as a jump from that plane.

Mother of daughters…

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On Sunday my Little Sister came out to the ranch to visit. The weather was nice, like 30 degrees, which is like 60 degrees warmer than it was last week, so we were anxious to take our girls outside and get a little fresh air.

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And that’s where I pause a second. Saying “our girls” still feels so fresh to me. I have two young daughters now and my Little Sister has been a mom to her own for seven months.

Just a few short years ago it would have been just the two of us out and about at the ranch, maybe taking a hike or going along to feed cows, mixing a Bloody Mary for an afternoon treat, not knowing how completely different our lives would soon be.

I don’t know if we ever envisioned it, with the big age gap between the two of us, that we would be exchanging little girl clothes and rocking our babies side by side.

“Did you ever think we’d be doing the ‘mom bounce’ together,” my little sister asked yesterday after we came in from pulling the older girls on the sleds and watching Edie try to comprehend why the sand in her sandbox wouldn’t budge.

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I had a little bit of a flashback then, of the things my little sister and I would do out here on the ranch to pass the long winters as kids. On a day like this you could find us building a snow fort or finding somewhere to sled or ice skate. And we would probably, eventually, get into a fight like siblings do, about something stupid, but not stupid enough to send either one of us inside.

Because who wanted to be inside on a rare, nice winter day?

Not us.

When Edie came into the world I couldn’t help but wish for her a sister. And when my little sister gave her a little girl cousin, we were both thrilled that at least they would have each other. And now Rosie is here and we get the privilege of watching the beginning of a sisterhood that has the potential to be powerful and wonderful and challenging and all the things these girls will need from each other as they grow up.

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I remember what it meant to me, to have my older sister spend time with me, dressing up and dancing to pass a long winter night. Or teaching me things I found so embarrassing, like how to shave my legs or what bra I should wear.

I’m not sure if I did the same for my little sister, you know, teaching her the gross girly stuff. That’s never really been in my wheelhouse. But I remember teaching her letters and numbers and sounds to make words, I remember building her a fort across the creek from mine, close but far enough away for a tin can telephone. And when I got older, I drove her to her orthodontists appointments and took her and her friends to a concert in the big town. I watched her play basketball and I cheered her on and she inspired me with her determination and confidence and made me proud.

Out here, in the middle of nowhere especially, I think girls need each other. Because it can be lonesome. Because it can be intimidating. Because girls just need other girls to remind them that they have muscles too and that they can do it, and if not, they have help.

My sisters have been gifts to me and I can’t wait to see what our girls become, with each other and on their own.

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But then there’s a little piece of me that’s nervous for them, knowing the unique challenges girls face in the big wide, intimidating world. Because there was a time I was scared to grow up to be a woman in it. And I don’t want that for them. I don’t want them to question their strength, but to flex at every possible moment. I want them to howl and sing and back up the pickup to the horse trailer like a champ. I want them to wear what they want and pursue what they want without that voice in their head wondering what people will think of them. And if Edie’s being an idiot, I want Rosie to have the brains and strength to tell her. And I want Edie to trust her enough to only be pissed for a few days about it.

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And the other way around, of course. Because we’re all idiots sometimes. That’s the point here I guess, I want them to feel safe enough in their skin and in their relationships to make mistakes. Big, giant, mistakes if they must.

Because being a woman in this world, it’s a mess. A big, loud, glittery, dirty, grass stained, complicated, scary, wonderful mess. And I want them to be proud of it. Proud of themselves. And proud of each other for it…

 

Dear Daughters: Be anything but afraid of growing up
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My two-year-old stood before me, her little pastel jewelry set draped around her neck and wrists, and took a bow. “I a queeeennn!!!” she declared as she bent down to the ground and stood back up, beaming before sprinting down the hallway for more props.

Queen.

This is not a label we parents have given to her, but one of many she’s picked up for herself as part of the pretend world she’s creating, the way a 2-year-old should.

Better a queen than a princess, I thought to myself. She might as well pretend to be the one in charge. And just as I completed the thought, the little queen came flying out of her room, transformed now into a big, scary, growling monster, proving that in the mind of a toddler, you can be anything. The very same day she was also a tiger, a bear, a guitar player, a dancer, a cook and “funny.” I know, because she told us. And then she laughed and laughed.

As for me, well, it’s starting to sink in that I am now the mother of two girls. It’s a responsibility that feels a bit heavy and significant these days as I watch the news and am reminded what being a girl in this world can mean. I listen to my daughter who is just learning language, point to her dad and declare him a boy and then to me, a girl. Her sister? A baby.

She’s learning the difference already, if only by length of hair and lack of whiskers, and it reminds me of the time in my life when I was convinced femininity wasn’t something to be proud of.

I suppose I was staring puberty in the face and knew enough from watching my older sister to decide that I didn’t want the burden and fussiness that came with that sort of transition. The bras, the boys, the maintenance of pretty — it was scary and unfamiliar territory I wasn’t ready to navigate.

I was convinced that it would all be easier if I had been born a boy, for those reasons and because I thought that it would make me fit better out here at the ranch, that I would have more muscle to open the gates, or that somehow being a boy would make me braver or more capable, more trusted with things I wanted to be a part of, like horses and chores.

I didn’t want to face the pressure of the “girl” stuff. And so I worked harder to show those muscles, so much so that there were times I faked interest in things I had no real interest in and probably missed out on things I would have liked to be a part of.

Eventually I came into my own — that’s part of the process — but, darling girls, I don’t want you to be afraid, like I was, of growing up. I don’t want you to be afraid of being a girl.

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No.

Because girl or boy, you’re in charge of your identity and your body. You have the power to create you. So today you might be a queen, but tomorrow you can be anything.

Easter and the Target Syndrome.

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Yesterday my mom, Edie and I took a road trip to the big town to pick up my books. It was so exciting to meet up with the woman who has been helping me through the project, to see her big smile walk into McDonalds where I was winning Mother of the Year and feeding my child chicken nuggets for a 4:00 lunch, and page through all those months of hard work, and years of stories and photos.

I can’t wait to get them in the mail to you all and see you in the next few weeks on my book tour. Next week I’ll be heading to Fargo and Grand Forks and leaving Edie at home to handling calving with her dad, but the fact that we’ll be back to the big town in a few days didn’t stop the three of us ranch girls from performing our favorite big town ritual.

A trip to Target.

It’s mandatory.

If we don’t do anything else, we at least have to see what they have there that we didn’t know we needed but desperately needed. Like a third pair of brown strappy sandals, a beach bag for the one time a year we go to the lake, a pack of pretty stationary, a bottle of red nail polish we can add to our collection of red nail polish or, in Edie’s case, this pineapple hat that’s a size or two too small…

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Turns out the Target syndrome must be something that’s passed on down through the generations.

It runs strong in the Veeder women blood.

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I mean, she’s like five months into walking and already she’d prefer her own cart, thankyouverymuch.

There’s just so much she needs.

So many pretty and delicious things…

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Sorry about the banana, Target. (don’t worry, we paid for it)

It couldn’t be stopped.

The same way we weren’t leaving the store without the pineapple hat.

See you out there everyone.

Or at least, I’l maybe see ya in Target.

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For more information on the tour, or to order a signed copy of the book, visit www.jessieveedermusic.com

Peace, Love and Happy Happy Easter,

Jessie, Chad and Edie

 

 

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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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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