In her dress, life’s just more beautiful

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This week’s column is a little more about “The Dress.” Which my darling daughter is, of course, currently wearing as she sits on the potty and watches videos as I sit on the bathroom floor in front of her typing this on my laptop and waiting to hear a tinkle.

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On Saturday she actually plopped a poop in that potty, but that’s likely only because we rushed her there while she was clearly working on somethin’.

This is what my life has become.

But I have to admit that my daughter’s obsession with all things dresses, and pretty, and hair and painted fingernails has provided such an unexpected reality for me, a mom who, until I discovered her love for a good twirl in a floor length gown, has never played a legit princess movie in the house and really doesn’t get dressed up too fancy unless I’m heading to a performance.

But she’s been watching. She see’s what’s special, decides what she makes her feel good and smart and beautiful and independent and she goes all in.

And she’s not even two yet.

I didn’t realize this identity development, these preferences, started so young.

Last week I had her up in my room with me while I was getting ready for a meeting. She went into my closet and tugged on the bottom of one of my dresses and said “mommy dress, mommy dress,” and so I pulled it out and put it on. Her smile lit up that dim room. She was thrilled, she bounced up and down and told me I was “bootiful. Bootiful mommy in a bootiful dress” And then she instructed me to twirl. And so I did.

And there we were, the two of us, mom and tiny daughter alone in the house, in my bedroom, in the middle of nowhere, laughing and singing and dancing and twirling, telling one another how fabulous, beautiful and lovely we are in dresses way too fancy for an ordinary day. But to Edie there’s no such thing as an ordinary day and I hope I never forget the complete innocence and freedom in that moment with her. Because it was everything.

My only wish is that she could always remember it too….

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My daughter’s love for dresses
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We have an issue in our house these days. At least that’s what I’m calling it, dare I utter the real word and ignite the flame.

I’ve been dealing with the “issue” moderately successfully for the past few weeks, but last night it raised its voice loud and clear while I was chained to a phone with a cord, trying my best to have a professional conversation as the last human on earth who still owns a landline and my daughter let out a series of loud, desperate and relentless cries that only got louder and more inexorable as my poor husband worked to remove her from the room.

Did she fall and hit her head? I didn’t hear a thump, but maybe she’s bleeding. Did she need stitches? An ambulance? Or maybe she saw a ghost — you know like one of those supernatural phenomenons that only innocent children can spot?

That’s a thing, right?

“Do you have to go?” The now-concerned voice on the other end of the phone asked me as I tried, apparently unsuccessfully, to pretend that nothing catastrophic was occurring in my household.

Which turned out to be true, despite my worst-case-scenario predictions. I hung up the phone and opened the door to my daughter’s room where she sat on her daddy’s lap, in her jammies, tears streaming down her face.

“What on earth?” I asked him in the best version of the mom voice I now posses.

He looked me straight in the eyes with an expression as defeated as any strong, healthy man can possess and simply replied, “The dress.”

Yes. The dress.

He dared suggest she wear anything else and there were not enough bribery lollipops in the world…

I blame my sister-in-law for handing it down — this floor-length, checkered, floral and quilted little number with just the right amount of twirl to bring a toddler the high she needs to become addicted.

But I think it’s also a hereditary thing. Because I wouldn’t wear anything but a pink leotard, purple tights and legwarmers for my entire second year of life, God gave me a daughter and then introduced her to “the dress.” Needless to say my mother is loving every minute of my peril.

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She wakes up and it’s the first word my daughter says, and she will say it — “dress, dress, dress, dress” — until I retrieve it from my unsuccessful hiding spot in the hamper.

The other day she wore it out to the pasture where the guys were building corrals, and I suddenly became sympathetic to the prairie girls who came before her as I watched her unsuccessfully try to run and frolic, making it only a couple steps before getting tangled up and pummeled to the ground.

“Well, maybe she’ll want to take it off now,” I thought as I hoisted her up for the 50th time in five minutes. But I knew better. Judging from her smiles and squeals of delight, I realized it was quite clear the challenge of the dress only made living more fun.

And, according to my darling girl, infinitely more beautiful. Proving that the only ones who have an “issue” is her parents.

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Worry like a mother…

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What it means to worry like a mother
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My mom hasn’t been sleeping well. She says she wakes up in the middle of the night and lies there in the dark and breathes her fears and worries in and out — about her kids and grandkids and the unpredictable and uncontrollable things that happen to us in the circle of community.

My mom is known for worrying. She’s got her mind on the big things, like car crashes on icy roads, resulting in an obsession with weather forecasts and road reports, which she relentlessly relays to her children. She’s already telling me not to drive to Fargo next month, because it will be November and it’s likely to snow.

And she worries about the little things too, like Edie having the right outfit for family photos or Papa playing too wild with the grandkids in the living room pillow fort, interjecting playtime with warnings to “Be careful!! Careful!”

Her worrying used to make me crazy when I was young and invincible and had the sense that the world wouldn’t let me down. I didn’t wish the worry of the world on my mother’s shoulders, I simply didn’t understand what worry was.

Because she carried it for us.

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“I haven’t slept well in three years,” I tell her now, sympathetic to how loud and daunting the dark nights can become when a heart is being stretched by one child snoring face-down on her blankie in her bedroom and the other kicking and rolling and hopefully growing strong and healthy, heart flickering at 140 beats-per-long-and-agonizing-minute in my womb.

These days I can’t close my eyes without thinking of the mothers who have seen their most unreasonable midnight worries come true. No matter how many times we reassure them, “Mom, I’ll be safe.” “It’s just a concert.” “I’ll call you we get home.” The harsh and heart-wrenching reality that’s blaring on computer and television screens is that sometimes, sometimes, the fear that keeps you up at night is the very fear you wake to in the morning.

And that’s what they don’t tell you about becoming a parent when your belly is round and heavy on your body. They don’t tell you about the weight you carry with you long after your children learn to stand on their own two legs, drive their own four wheels or fly with their own set of wings.

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Today, despite my aching back, I want to keep my baby safe in my womb and my daughter close within the familiar embrace of this landscape. I want to shut out the world and stay here, just us, forever, to protect them. And it makes me feel silly and selfish and then it makes me angry that in this big world I keep telling them is so beautiful that such ugly and evil can make me want to keep them from the freedom and perils of growing up healthy and strong in it.

But right now I don’t know what else to do. So I vow to love them fiercely, to model compassion and to try my damndest to raise them to be the good humans.

And worry like a mother.

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TEDx: Making a living out of a life

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Happy Friday. It’s a beautiful fall day in Western North Dakota, the perfect weather for a Homecoming Celebration in my home town.

I spent this morning giving a talk to the 8th grade students. My focus was on my career path, ultimately hoping to convince them to follow the gut feeling they have about who they are and what they love at this point in their lives because it could likely guide them in their future career endeavors.

I’m not sure how they processed it. They were a little wiggly dressed in our school’s maroon and white gear, anxious to take on the rest of the day’s fun events, like coronation, the parade the homecoming football game.

But I always jump on the opportunity to share my story with the kids in the hope that it might give a kid like me a little nudge and inspiration.

As I headed towards the door after my presentation,  I was cut off by the marching band playing the school song in the hallway and I couldn’t help but feel glad to be there, suddenly struck by the memory of the feeling I had when I was a teenager dressed in my boyfriend’s jersey feeling sorta free and sorta nervous and sorta awkward and sorta invincible in my youth, not realizing the way the years fly like the yellow leaves  blowing from tree branches today.

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I don’t know if I would have thought I would be back here if you would have asked me then, married to that boy, having his second baby.

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In the time capsule letter I wrote to myself when I was a senior, and dug up at my ten year reunion, I confessed that I hoped I’d be doing something creative as the adult version of me. I hoped I was with someone I loved. I mentioned a family.

I didn’t quite know what I really wanted though, or how it might all play out. But I was willing to just jump into things that seemed like an opportunity or an adventure. Things that sorta scared me enough to put a little wrench in my gut until I found I was comfortable in it. I figured I’d eventually be comfortable in it all.

But I was wrong. Turns out being an adult means you feel that little gut wrench so much of the time, that being an adult does not, in fact, equal having it all together and figured out.

And thank goodness for that really. I’m not ready to give up the gut wrench. Hence, perhaps, the impending second baby. That one’s giving me a hellofa wrenching these days (not to mention indigestion, heartburn, back ache and insomnia).

Speaking of indigestion, heartburn, and insomnia, a few months back I was asked to take part in Bismarck’s TEDx conference as a speaker. I was honored to be considered, but hesitant to participate, knowing how tediously planned and executed these events and talks needed to be and knowing I would have to wrangle my off the cuff performance style.

And I wasn’t sure I had an idea worth sharing really. I would have to think on that one, really reflect. But I said yes anyway, because, you know, my guts.

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Anyway, I’m glad I did. I had a lovely experience and it helped me push myself to really think about what it is that I’m doing here.

They sent me the link to the video today. In true Jessie fashion I’m not going to watch it right now, because I will criticize my accent, my stumbles and the way I carry my pregnancy in my cheeks. Because when I left the stage I felt good about it and so I want to continue feeling good about it.

And I hope it provides you a little insight, a little inspiration and makes you think differently about how and why and where we choose to live our story.

Happy Homecoming Watford City and happy weekend friends. May it find you in your happiest places.

Peace, love and guts,

Jessie

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Friday Confessions…

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Happy Friday. It’s a beautiful fall day here at the ranch, the leaves have really started to turn, some have even started to fall from the branches, much to my dismay. It’s warmed up enough to awaken the boxelder bugs and hornets, two really annoying bugs that have no purpose in this world. I particularly like it when a hornet flies directly into my hair for no reason and gets stuck there. Waving my arms frantically, screeching and running in circles in my favorite fall activity.

I also like it when I randomly find a boxelder bug climbing up my bare arm. I have to say, the lack of bugs is a really huge perk to the season fully changing into winter. I’m not moving to the Amazon anytime soon.

Anyway,  Edie’s sitting in her chair eating popcorn and watching Bubble Guppies and my back hurts like a bitch so since I’ve decided to parent from my recliner for a second before we load up and head to the rodeo in town, I thought I’d gather some random thoughts to take us all into the weekend.

I promise to be inspirational..

#1. Ok, so my pregnancy app informed me today that I am 30 weeks pregnant, which apparently means the baby that is sitting low enough to send me to the bathroom every five minutes and high enough to give me instant heartburn after eating a cracker is the size of a large cabbage. And if this is the cabbage they’re referring to, then I believe it.

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Seriously, that cabbage, grown by one of our local farmers, is holding a lot of coleslaw waiting to happen there….or sauerkraut, depending on your picnic.

Yeah, I’m feeling like I’m cartin’ around a lot of baby these days. This second pregnancy thing in my mid-thirties is no joke. Especially when you combine it with toting around a 30-pound princess who can walk just fine on her own until she decides she can’t.

Which brings me to

#2. This. Damn. Dress. 

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It’s all she will wear. When we wake her up in the morning for daycare I can trick her into a proper outfit because she’s not fully awake, but as soon as she gets home she runs to her closet saying “dresssss, dressss!” and no other dress will do. Nothing twirls the same. Nothing else will do for dancing.

Or flossing.

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Or hiking.

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Or relaxing.

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Or hauling rocks.

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Or playing the drums.

The only thing that makes her happier is when I’m in a dress too.

And even though I’ve spent plenty on a variety of adorable outfits that I will be wrestling her into each time we go in public, I think it’s so amazing to see how tiny humans develop their preferences so early in their lives. Because it’s not like we’re watching lots of princess shows or getting dressed up for parties very often around here, but this girl knows what makes her feel pretty and powerful, and this hand-me-down-dress just happens to be the thing for now.

I’m hoping she’ll bend a bit on the wardrobe thing soon, but let’s be honest, I wore strictly leotards, tights and leg warmers my entire second year of life, so I deserve this.

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#3. The Pony situation. 

IMG_1753Gramma took Edie to ride a pony last weekend at Applefest while I was singing. I’ve been in the market for a pony for her, since, well, let’s be honest, since before she was born, and it looks like my little wish is going to come true tomorrow thanks to a generous friend. We’re going to pick us up a pony named Mascot tomorrow morning and I’m so excited!!!

#4. October’s coming up and like the true nerd I am, I’ve already got our costumes figured out. But if you’re looking for an idea, I think this is a home run.

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You’re welcome.

#5. Here’s a picture of my sweet niece, baby Ada.

IMG_1709 (there, now I’ve cleansed your pallet). We’re heading in to see her in a bit and I know you’re jealous, of the snuggles and her hair. She’s the tiniest, sweetest, most snuggly baby ever and in so many ways the opposite of her cousin Edie (who wasn’t snuggly or tiny and was bald) but who can’t get enough of her. It’s been so fun watching my little sister figure out this motherhood thing. She’s great at it. Tomorrow the two of us are going to stroll our baby daughters in a 5K “fun” run/walk. I put “fun” in quotes given that I can barely walk, or even waddle these days. It was her idea and I’m going to blame her for every ache and pain I endure as the aftermath of such “fun.”

#6. My garden wasn’t great this year, but I’m blaming the hot weather. This is the last of the harvest, besides the carrots I’ll be digging up for a while. I used it to make Husband’s Garden Tomato Soup and you should too if you get a chance. Here’s the recipe if you need it again. It’s heaven.

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#7. Speaking of recipes, there are a few more in the book. I just placed my third re-order and it seems like they’re going fast. So if you want to stock up on a great Christmas gift for the storytellers/ranch dwellers/prairie lovers/nature appreciators in your life, you can order it here (www.jessieveedermusic.com). I’ll sign it and send it along. Get it before it’s gone again!

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#8. My sweet tooth game is strong. This is different from my last pregnancy. I’m taking guesses on boy or girl. My hunch is a boy, and so was the hunch of the random lady in the post office, who was right about the girl thing last time, so we’ll see.

Wow, it won’t be too long before we see! Time goes fast, except the last two months of pregnancy. These months are lasting seven years.

Anyway, I better go. I wanna grab a scoop of ice cream from the freezer before we head to town.

Thanks for reading. Much love to you all and much hope that you can take a lesson from the beloved Pooh this weekend.

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See, told ya I’d be inspirational.

Peace, Love and Chip ‘n Mint,

Jessie and Edie

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I don’t think Montana wants us…

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Ok, so the very first time my boyfriend, now husband, took me on a trip to the wilds of Montana, we borrowed his dad’s Ford and loaded his 1970-something pop-up pickup camper to make the long drive across the big ‘ol state. It was 110 degrees and the air conditioning was out in the pickup and I nearly died of heat stroke by the time we made it to our campsite, where it rained just in time for us to get everything unloaded.

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More recently, a few years back, on another trip west to Montana, our pickup broke down pulling our camper on the way home from a music festival.

The time before that, same pickup issue, same music festival.

The time before that, on a family trip to Yellowstone, we had three flat tires before we even made it to Glendive, not even a quarter of the way into our trip. And that was before we hit a deer in our new-to-us pickup and then, narrowly escaped running over a motorcyclist who had wrecked on the interstate, where we spent the next three hours working as first on the scene responders, calling 911 and working with emergency crews.

Luckily I think the man was ok.

And we haven’t been back to Montana for a while.

But my husband thought he would give it another go last weekend and, well, here’s how it turned out…

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Coming Home: When the best laid plans go awry
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“Well, I’m on my way home now anyway,” he said on the other end of the phone. I called him for something trivial, like why the lawnmower wasn’t starting, just the kind of phone call every husband likes to get when they’re off on a manly weekend getaway. (The same way he likes that I call it a manly weekend getaway).

He’d been preparing for a trip with his dad to scout for elk in Montana for a couple weeks. The plan was to pack up the pickup and pop-up camper with essential supplies like cans of Vienna sausages, a couple sleeping bags and a spotting scope and head a few hours west into the foothills to see if they could find a good place to hunt during the season.

I was excited for him to take the time away to do something he’s passionate about. He doesn’t golf, participate in fantasy football or go to the bar to shoot darts; when you work full-time and try to run a ranch, build a house and maneuver tiny ponytails in your off hours, it doesn’t leave much time for extracurriculars. But he does bow hunt. Bowhunting is his thing.

So off he went for two full days of no grooming, no vegetables, no broken down equipment and no tiny ponytails, kicking up dust, blaring the radio and howling the primal howl of his ancestors out the window of this pickup on his way to the wilderness…

Or at least that’s how I envisioned his departure that Friday evening.

But come Saturday afternoon it was apparent it didn’t end well. Actually, it sounds like it didn’t start well either.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Well, it started with the brakes,” he said, going on to explain that they were miles along a dirt road in a primitive land where cellphones are useless and bigfoot originated, when they heard the grinding noise and consequently spent the next several hours using the resourcefulness the two men honed from years of patching together old broken stuff from parts saved and scrounged off of other old broken stuff to get the brakes fixed enough to limp the pickup back to the paved roads of civilization known as the town of Ekalaka, population 343.

And while I admit I might have spoken too soon about that whole “no broken down equipment” thing, they did fix those brakes in Ekalaka, as they often do in those small town body shops.

Which was a good thing, because it turns out brakes are an imperative part of the recovery equation when you’re driving down the highway at 70 mph and the top of your camper blows completely off, sending those Vienna sausages, sleeping bags and a stray shoe or two bouncing down the highway, busted and bruised just like the broken down dreams of your manly man-cation…

“I’ve always wondered how people lose shoes on the highway,” I remarked. “See you when you get home. I’ll have the TV turned to that channel you like where they’re always fishing…”

 

Love is an untidy, unfolding story…

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Well, we might have forgotten about our anniversary, but this week is my birthday week and I made damn sure we celebrated early so no-one would forget by suggesting we hit up the lake with the family and the pontoon yesterday.

So that’s out of the way! And what a fun day it was.

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Now on to a busy week and another year. Funny, the older I get the more excited I seem to be to find out what’s in store…

Love is an untidy, unfolding story

“Happy Anniversary” flashed the message on my phone as it sat on a kitchen counter smudged with waffle batter and covered with grapes and cups of coffee and orange juice.

My body was aching, my back and feet screaming at me from a week of scheduling madness, keeping me and my big belly on the road and in late at night. I had one more thing that evening, one more thing and then next week would be calmer, I promised.

My husband was in the living room watching Edie twirl and sing “Twinkle, Twinkle,” and I looked over at him, my eyebrows contorted toward the ceiling in surprise.

We forgot.

“It’s our anniversary!” I said loudly, with a hint of despair in my voice as I set down the bowl of batter for a minute to collect my thoughts. “Oh my gosh, it’s our anniversary.”

“Yup. Yup, it is,” he replied with a laugh, because clearly, the thought hadn’t crossed his mind either.

Not this morning anyway. Not today. The day we were married.

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So 11 years is apparently the threshold where we need to be reminded about a relationship milestone in a text message from my maid of honor. How long would we have gone before realizing it? All day? All month? Are we beyond celebrating these kinds of things now, too wrapped up in this messy life to take a moment to commemorate how we got ourselves into this whole thing in the first place?

A proper couple should be mortified, shouldn’t they? And I don’t know if this is good or bad, but it just seemed like we were both a bit relieved, like, “look at us, we’re so in tune with one another that we forgot the same important milestone,” or something like that.

Chad picked Edie up and gave her a little tickle, and she went giggling down the hallway and I finished making waffles.

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And that was that. We were off the hook on gifts, on a fancy dinner, on changing out of my maternity yoga pants (me, not him).

Funny though, I didn’t even feel like we needed to make up for it really, because, well, love is just…so…untidy.

I’ve known this for a long time, but sometimes I put too much pressure on it to look more like a glowing embrace under the twinkling stars than the leftover chicken supper he cooked for our daughter while I was away at a meeting last night.

But who would have thought that leftover chicken could feel like a hug under those twinkling stars, because it means you have someone, under your roof, who has you and has your back and supper and bedtime under control when you can’t.

So I went to the grocery store the next day and picked him up some crab legs anyway, a meal that has become an anniversary tradition for us. We cracked them open sitting at the counter in our sweatpants listening to Edie sing herself to sleep before turning in ourselves, hunkering down on the middle chapters of our practical, imperfect little love story.

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Take the picture

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I’m trying to get my photo situation under control. Or, I should say, I’ve been thinking about getting my photo situation under control.

Since I moved back to the ranch seven years ago, that’s pretty much been the mission of my life, to take photos of it all. I would tout my big camera along with me everywhere, capturing the way the sun set on the petals of a wildflower, the soak of the rain, the sparkle of a snow bank, the lines on my husband’s face.

I was obsessed. I created thousands of images and posted them here. I loaded up my computer, my phone, my camera cards. I did my best at organizing them at least by year, but even with my best effort, it became sort of a kazillion GB mess.

Now that I’ve added a child to the mix of things, it’s gotten downright ridiculous. I made an 80 page photo book just of the first two months of her life with every intention of doing another one at least by her first birthday, suddenly so aware and sort of frantic about the importance of not only taking the photo, but printing it as well.

And rightly so. About the time that my baby was born was the time that every technology in my universe seemed to fail me. My computer crashed and on its way to its death, it drug along the external drive where I had backed up everything. And because we had terrible internet at the time, the great mysterious services like the Cloud were useless to me.

Needless to say, there was a lot of cussing and despair involved in my attempt to recover my precious memories. And I wound up saving my computer in a fragmented form, thanks to a techie band mate, but I couldn’t save the backup. And the backup was what I really needed…

Waahhhhhhh…..

I was determined to be better about all these damn photographs I was going to be taking in this next phase of my life. I was going to keep on top of it. Make prints. Make books. Make use of them so that when Edie’s my age she doesn’t have to figure out how to recuperate ancient laptops to retrieve her memories the way we do with old home movies and slides.

I was going to put her memories in books I tell you! I was going to do better than my mother, who has our memories in piles in a trunk in her living room and the overflow in a drawer in the buffet and another overflow in another drawer in the kitchen.

But I’m not convinced people can change. And here I am, a year and a half later with one photo album and another thousand photos of my baby in all phases of getting there on my computer and an overwhelming feeling that our memories have the potential to be lost forever if I don’t get on the ball, especially cause here I am pregnant again, and Oh My GAWD, I’m halfway through this baby-growing business and I haven’t even taken a photo of my belly!!!

I took like seventy thousand photos of my growing belly with Edie!! This kid’s not even born yet and I have some explaining to do!!

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So anyway, I have a goal. Before this baby is born, I’m going to catch up on the album thing. It’s not that hard. I just have to do it.

In the meantime, I have signed up for a cool service called Chatbooks, where they automatically send you little square books featuring photos off of my Instagram feed. So if anything, in the end, I’ll have a nice little collection of our day to day life, because I put the responsibility in someone else’s hands.

So this was on my mind when I was putting together September’s issue of Prairie Parent. Because soon it will be school picture time, and soon moms and dads of seniors will be digging through the archives of their child’s life, pulling out the favorites, and putting them in books and on poster boards for relatives and friends to reminisce over.

Time goes too fast. I always thought it. I think it more every day. Photographs and videos are our only visual connection to a past we can’t hold on to. So I’ve decided not to apologize about it, and just keep snapping. And while I regret a few photos taken of me (Ahem…Little Sister!!!) I don’t think I’ll ever regret one taken of my growing and changing family…

Read more about “Taking the Picture” in my From the Editor column in this Month’s Prairie Parent. And check out the full issue of the magazine online at www.prairieparent.com

Counting Photos, Collecting Memories

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Memory’s sweet scent

Sweet Clover

My cousin from Texas is here visiting the ranch this week and she brought her three children with her. They spent this morning with us, playing with Edie’s toys (much to her dismay) running around outside and helping me dig radishes in the garden while my cousin and I tried to catch up between wiping noses and serving goldfish crackers.

Tonight they’ll come over for supper and I hope to take them up to the top of the hill we call Pots ‘n Pans the way we used to as kids, but with less emergency pee breaks and cactus in their butts, because there will be adult supervision…

This time of year makes me nostalgic for some of the magical times I had here as a kid. I know my cousin feels the same about this place, no matter how long she’s been away from here. That’s why she’s packed her three kids in a car to drive the million miles from Texas to North Dakota, for the memories.

And that’s what this week’s column is about…

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Sweet clover under my skin

I imagine everyone has some familiar scent that hits their lungs and brings them back to a time in childhood when they felt so deeply loved, so overwhelmingly safe, so much themselves. So free.

 

Maybe it’s your grandmother’s warm cookies from the oven or the smell of a diesel tractor plugging across a field. Maybe it’s your parent’s home or the fur on the back of your old cat or the salty air blowing across the ocean and onto vast beaches.

For me, it’s sweetclover.

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I wish I could pick the right words to describe the sweet, fresh scent that fills the air tonight and gives me comfort when I breathe it in, moving across the landscape, stepping high …

My first best memories are lying among it, rolling down hills on the ranch as the sun found its way to the horizon and my cousins, tan and sweaty, hair wild, would fling their bodies after me. We would find ourselves at the bottom in a pile of laughter, yellow petals sticking to our damp skin.

For us, the clover was a blanket, a canopy of childhood. A comfort. It was our bouquet when we performed wedding ceremonies on the pink road wearing our grandmother’s old dresses, an ingredient in our mud pies and our crown when we felt like playing kings and queens of the buttes. It was feed for our horses and a place to hide from the seeker, to rest after a race, to fall without fear of skinned knees. It was a promise of summer and a wave of color to welcome us home together.

It’s there all season, the seeds tucked neatly under the dirt, and still I’m surprised when I open the windows of the pickup after a late night drive and the fragrance finds its way to me.

And I’m taken back …

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I’m seven years old and my grandmother has our bunk beds made up in the basement and my cousins will be coming down the pink road soon. And when they get here, we’ll climb Pots and Pans and we’ll put on a wedding and look for kittens in the barn. We’ll play “The Wizard of Oz,” and I’ll be the Tin Man. We’ll chase each other on the hay bales in front of the barn and then hide from each other in the tall grass that scratches and brushes against our bare legs.

I wish I could bottle it up for the cold winter days that showed no sign of release. I wish I could build my house out of it, weave it inside my walls, plant it in my floor and lay down in it at night. I wish I could wrap those cousins, my family, in its soft petals and sweet stems and watch as they remember now, the kids we once were before time took us and made us think that we were anything less than free…

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No summer will ever be the same…

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We’re sitting right in the middle of summer here in Western North Dakota. The leaves on the oak trees have finished creating the canopy in the thick coulees, so much so that it seems that’s where you would stay dry in a heavy rain, under those oaks.

And oh, we could use the rain around here to keep the dust down at least. It seems a little late now for the crops, although the hay in the fields up top is going to be decent we think. The guys will start cutting it soon.

Probably should have started already, but isn’t that the story of our lives? Each summer is the same. Not enough of it.

This afternoon I’m heading across the state to play music with my dad and Mike under the summer sky. I’ll get home late, like 1 am, and I’m already tired thinking about it, but looking forward to it. Summer always means a few late nights of music.

Last night on our way home from work in town we noticed our young bulls got out with a few cows. We weren’t ready to let them out just yet, but they had their own plan. So Edie and I got in the pickup with Husband and watched him saddle up his horse while Edie picked at some sweet clover, declared it a flower, sniffed it, tasted it and pulled at its petals before grabbing for another one.

Husband swung the saddle and then his leg over his horse and took off over the hills to see if he could round those creatures up, and we followed in the pickup to open some gates to the corrals.

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We didn’t need to go along necessarily, I just like to go along. In my other life, the one before our daughter, this would have been a perfect night to go along for a ride. And we might have had more success as a pair of horses. I would have probably packed my camera because it looked like a storm was about to blow in, and evening storms here can produce the best afterglow on this landscape, but that’s not an option now.

I have different responsibilities. My belly is starting to swell with a new tiny and growing family member taking up residency inside. Edie reachers her arms up towards me. “Up! Up!”she says, because she can tell me what she wants now. And she seems to be a kid that always knows what she wants. My back is already tightening and stiffening and acting up, the result of the weight of two babies I carry every day, one in my arms and one inside me. I’m nervous about what the next months will bring, how I will physically do it.

How I will mentally do it.

This stage in my life is so different. Somehow I feel so outside myself and so much myself at the same time and I don’t even know how it’s possible. I had so much time becoming a woman and a wife without children. I had time to gradually grow into who she was, through trial and error and loss, I accepted that I might just always be her.

And now here I am on summer evenings when the light is just right, my camera tucked away and my horse out grazing on Edie’s clover, fixing my 1-year-old steamed broccoli and blueberries and a purple popsicle for dessert, listening to her sing and boss and test out her lungs in her chair, her little bare feet dirty, her face smeared and her hair wild, just the way she’s supposed to be at the end of a long summer day of play.

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She says “Done,” I wipe her face and run the bath and watch her blow bubbles and pretend to swim and point to her nose and her toes and her tummy and sing Twinkle Twinkle and wonder how she’s learned so much in such a short time on this earth.

Then she says “Done!” because she’s done and I scoop her up out of the tub as Husband walks through the door. She squeals for her daddy and it’s everything.

He didn’t get the bulls back, he said. They ran into the canopy of trees and disappeared.

It’s thick in there, he said. I didn’t rain, it’s not going to rain, but if it did, you wouldn’t feel a drop in those trees.

He stands over me and Edie as I wrestle her into her pajamas. She’s wiggly. I smell her toes and say “Peww!” and she laughs like I’m the most hilarious thing on the planet.

I pick her up, swing her to my right hip and find a comb for her hair, her toothbrush, her blankie, her cup…Husband takes a phone call and as I’m walking back down the hallway, I shift Edie to the front of my body to give her kisses and talk about sleep and, “ping” the baby inside me makes a swift and sharp kick to announce itself, to say hello, to make it feel real.

I squeal a little and look back at my husband. “The baby just kicked me, oh my gosh, big time!” He hears it and smiles that genuine smile I’ve come to know so well and turns to talk on the deck, because he’s on the phone and in two worlds at once…

The sun won’t go down for another couple hours, but Edie’s curtains are drawn and we rock a bit. When I hum, she hums and it’s my favorite time of day. Because I’m tired. Because she’s calm. Because it’s our constant.

But life with a child changes every day, so I know it won’t be our constant for long and that’s what makes everything sweeter and more terrifying. I can’t imagine exactly the shift that will occur with a new addition to this family, but I can predict some things…

More diapers, more messes, more long nights and teething pain, more aches and more blueberries crusted to the floor.

And less sleep.

And time that just pushes it all along too slow and too fast all at once.

This is this summer.

And no summer will ever be the same…

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In his words: What’s it like to be a dad?

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It’s Father’s Day month and to honor dads and grampas and uncles and brothers and sons who make this world go round, this issue of Prairie Parent is dedicated to dads.

To kick it off I did a little interview with my husband as we took a three-hour car ride home from the big town, our daughter tucked into her carseat sleeping in the back seat of his pickup after a long day of shopping.

I might be biased, but I think it’s an adorable interview. A lot of times we don’t consider or report on or talk about what parenthood is like for dads.  They sort of get pushed aside as babysitters or the incompetent third child. But most of the time the truth is, if you have a good man in your life, dads are a essential piece of the complicated and delicate puzzle that makes up a family.

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And I want to be honest here, sometimes it’s hard for me to step back and let him do the parenting thing his way. Sometimes he drives me crazy because I don’t think he’s paying enough attention or holding the right things as priorities.

But it’s not true. He is paying attention (and if I’m really honest, I’m probably not paying attention to how much he is paying attention, you know?) And, yes, his priorities are different than my priorities sometimes, but when I stop being annoyed and really think about it, that’s a good thing. Edie needs us both, she needs both our perspectives and opinions and different and unique types of care. I’m a lucky mom to have a man like him around and she’s a lucky kid to have a dad like him.

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So check out his interview at the link below and moms, if you get a chance this Father’s Day, grab a minute with your man to ask him what it means to him to be a dad. It will be well worth your time.

Real Talk: What’s it Like to be a Dad? 
Father’s Day Q&A
www.prairieparent.com

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