This not-so-glamourous life…

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A photographer came to visit the ranch and I’ll tell you right now, it wasn’t pretty people. We spent the day before working an art event in town that I had been planning for months and didn’t get home until after eleven. It was the last event in a week with a full schedule. I was tired. I had to gather the troops. I sorta forgot to take a shower and fix my hair.  I didn’t make even a remotely healthy lunch for my niece and I (because when you’re tired you much prefer Doritos to salad). I didn’t put pants on the baby. I didn’t get the horses in ahead of time to prepare them and de-bur them so that they were photo ready. And I didn’t mention in the newspaper column below the part where the baby stuck her finger up my horses’s snotty nose, which was bleeding a bit because of a fresh little cut.

That was horrifying. And there was a man from Minneapolis with a big camera to witness my disgust.

So this is my confession published in newspapers across the state, in case you might get the wrong idea when you see the photos and article in the magazine that we have our shit together out here.

Because we don’t.

But I think you all knew that already…

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Coming Home: Glossy pages don’t reflect our not-so-glamourous life
by Jessie Veeder
6-5-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inform.com

This morning a big yellow screwdriver sits next to a half-eaten pan of cinnamon rolls (the kind out of the freezer section, not out of my KitchenAid mixer) and that sits next to a couple baby books about farm life that feature a perfect red barn against green rolling hills dotted with smiling black and white cows.

Today as I reflect on the last couple weeks, I’m wondering if I should even read those little farm books to poor Edie. Maybe I should just toss them in the trash and keep her from asking some hard-hitting questions about this place.

Like, why don’t the horses in the books have cockleburs in their manes? Aren’t horses born with them?

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And momma, why don’t you wear an apron like the mommas in the books? And where is that fresh-baked pie that’s supposed to be sitting on the windowsill to cool?

Yes, follow us around for a day and you would see that clearly the authors of these children’s farm books didn’t base them off of our life.

No.

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And while Edie’s not old enough to start asking questions (sigh of relief) I did have a reporter call me a few weeks ago with some questions of her own. Like, what’s life like on the family ranch for two people who got to move back to it? What does a typical day look like?

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I couldn’t think of an interesting or straightforward way to answer that. When she called my husband just got home from work and he was rocking the baby, trying to keep her happy so I could have an uninterrupted conversation. When that was over, he was going to go to his next job of taking care of this place. And when he returned we would have leftover lasagna for the third night in a row because I got distracted by a writing deadline when I should have been doing laundry because I’m out of clean underwear, for crying out loud.

And so they sent out a photographer to see for himself. A photographer who likely had a hope of capturing what I’m sure he envisioned as some picturesque scenes of a family of three working side by side and meeting up for a picnic meal with the grandparents who live down the road.

But this was an agricultural magazine so I hope they knew better. And while I was raised in an environment where both my parents worked, ran a ranching operation and managed to keep three kids alive, I’m learning what that really means as an adult. And I’m not sure we’re exactly killing it.

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I mean, when a photographer shows up, completely announced and expected, a balanced and together woman would have had pants on the baby. Or combed her hair.

Or at least cleared the evidence of her recent Dorito and Oreo lunch from the counter.

And when the request for a photo of my husband and I riding side by side through a herd of calm cattle sent me down to the barnyard attempting to lure uninterested horses in with a bucket of grain before resorting to leading one with the shirt I was planning on wearing tied around his neck so that I could spend the next half hour before my husband arrived home currying the tangle of burs out of their manes and tails so I wouldn’t embarrass the long line of Veeders who once called this place home, I began to question if we were really worthy of the press.

But at least he got authentic. Authentic sweat. And authentic cussing as my husband and I attempted the impossible task of moving a herd of cattle toward a man with a camera standing in an open pasture.

Needless to say, none of it was picture perfect.

Because around here burs stick to horses while they fill up on green grass that makes them fat and sassy on the hilltop behind the barn that needs painting. And inside, where the books might write in the apple pie, we have a screwdriver instead. Or a calf tagger. Or a hammer.

And it might not be glamorous, and it might not be easy, but that’s why they make frozen cinnamon rolls.

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The long way home

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Coming Home: Sometimes we need to take a different road to get back home
by Jessie Veeder
5-15-16
Forum Communications


Last week I took a different road from town to home. I do that sometimes, to break up the scenery that flies by outside the window of my car. There were blossoms in the brush patches, the gravel roads had dried up from a week of rain, and I needed to see something new.

 
And we have gotten really good at arguing after all these years together. Throw a baby, a man who can’t eat solids and a woman who can’t sleep in the mix, and we got plenty of practice that week.

And it was only Monday.

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But as the sun was setting on a day that took him to work and kept me home trying figure out a way to rock the baby, type and return a phone call at the same time, we found ourselves all three alone in the car together, driving home. 

I can’t remember why we were all in town together, but I do remember that the radio was low and the baby was sleeping and I turned left off the highway where I normally would keep going straight and my husband asked what I was doing.

I said, “Don’t you ever take a different way home?”

“Yeah, I do sometimes,” he replied. And then we were on the back roads driving past neighbors’ houses we haven’t seen for a while, taking note of the green grass growing in the pastures, the baby calves kicking up their heels and the way the light hit the big butte close to home.

And under that butte, right next to the road, two large dark figures appeared before us and revealed themselves as giant elk. I reminded him of the weekend before

IMG_0150 when three came down from the hills to water at the dam outside our window as I slowed the car down to take a better look at the animals that always seem to take our breath away.

Yesterday morning while the baby slept, I watched a flock of turkeys come down to the same dam to water. They lingered there undisrupted, one tom fanning his feathers, showing off in the morning sun.

I was wrapped up in the tasks of the day, the dirty bottles in the sink, the dirt tracked in on the floor and the work deadlines, but the privilege of witnessing wild things never fails to make me pause.

I’m glad we put so many windows in this house. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what a majestic place we’re living in when we’re living in it. I looked up from my computer screen and watched them waddle up the hill. I cracked the patio door and listened for the gobbles.

Last Saturday my husband arranged for my little sister to babysit for a few hours so we could take a ride together through the cows. It was a simple gesture that put me back in one of my favorite places after over a year of giving it up to grow and care for a baby. I swung my leg up over the saddle and listened to it squeak as I rode alongside my husband out of the barnyard and into the hills, the sun and the scent of plum blossoms.

In the past few months I’ve experienced some of the most wonderful moments of my life, but I’ve also found myself overcome with the task of working, mothering and trying to figure out how to be my best for my family. I’ve had my most happy moments, but I’ve also had my most ungrateful waves rush over me in frustration and exhaustion. But last Saturday my husband took me out — not to a movie or to a restaurant for wine — but out of our house and into the hills and coulees of the place we love.

Because he knows, sometimes all I need is to take a different way home.

Sunday Column: The plans we make…

In this week’s column I was trying to convey my appreciation for the things in life that go as planned. I’m not sure I successfully got to the meat of the point I was trying to make in the morning fog I was in after a sleepless night with the baby trying to meet my deadline while she took her typical 20 minute morning nap.

Re-reading it now it’s funny that the little baby that was our plan has finally made her way into our life, throwing every other plan we’ve ever had upside down or out the window.

Like sleep. Or ever getting work done. Or having a conversation that doesn’t involve her ever again. Or getting anywhere on time (like I was ever good at that in the first place, but now I can blame her…)

Today I’m thankful for the rain and this baby and the husband who helps me raise her and the work I will get to later and this body that stays healthy enough to make it all so…because sometimes those things don’t go as planned.

And then, sometimes they do.

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Sunday Column: Noticing the everyday moments of life, routine and frustrating
by Jessie Veeder
4-24-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Outside my window a mist has settled in heavy and has been busy soaking this thirsty landscape for days, turning the grass green. We’re all breathing a sigh of relief before going back to holding our breath, because we needed the moisture but we’re worried about calves being born in this weather.

Inside this house, I’m pressing my nose to the glass. The wiggly baby in my arms does the same, her eyes transfixed on something she finds interesting out there in the big wide world.

When I’m done writing this, I will fill up a big bottle with warm water and powder milk, put a little beanie and snowsuit on my daughter, and we will go feed the baby calf in the barn. I will set Edie in her seat on the floor and she will watch the calf suck the milk from that big bottle, listen to the squishy noises it makes and smell the must of the straw and the breath of the animal.

She won’t look back on her life and remember these daily rituals we kept when she was so young, but I know she’s learning something here. And already she knows what she likes and what she wants.

As it turns out, she likes to be in that big wide world we see outside the glass.

So I take her out there. Because I want to and because some days I have no choice. She sits beside us when we feed the cows and check for babies, the bumpy trails combined with the way we bundle her up and the heat and the closeness lulls her to sleep. 

Someday soon she’ll be telling us that the cows say “moo” and the sky is blue and that no, she doesn’t want to wear her snow boots and it will be another ceremony entirely getting this girl out the door.

But these days, when my husband gets home from work in the late afternoon he’ll find me sitting in the chair feeding his daughter. I’ll say hello and he’ll set his thermos on the counter along with the mail he picked up on his way home and we’ll say something about supper and I’ll fill him in on his daughter’s state of affairs that day (she was fussy or she rolled around everywhere or she took a full hour nap), and then I’ll lift her up to him and she’ll smile, eyes bright and wide at the face of the familiar man she knows.

And he’ll scoop her up and say, “Hey, baby girl,” and I’ll say, “Let’s go check on the cows.”

There are dozens of other moments in every 24 hours together as a family that are difficult or frustrating or go so incredibly awry and off the rails, the kinds of moments that you don’t see in the musical montage of the life you’re planning when you’re young and in love and certain it will all turn out like a romantic comedy. By now, you all know us well enough to understand that nothing about the horse poop in the yard, the four-year unfinished home construction project or the middle-of-the-night meltdowns willing this baby we waited seven years to meet to please, for the love of blankies, fall asleep, indicate that it all went as planned.

But we also didn’t plan for my husband to come into the bathroom with a towel ready to wrap up his daughter every night after her bath. We couldn’t have, because we didn’t know how great that little ordinary and predictable part would be.

And we didn’t plan on her light hair or blue eyes or feisty little attitude sprouting as early as her first two teeth.

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But watching my husband bundle up his smiley baby girl, getting her ready to ride down a bumpy trail, all three of us together and close and out looking at our world at the end of a long day, I can’t help but take a breath and take notice.

Because we might not have planned on waiting so long, but this, we planned on this.

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While I rock the baby: Confessions of a new mom

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These days I don’t know where the weeks go. They fly by me as I sit rocking this teething baby who just started to notice when I enter and exit the room, making sure to voice her distaste at the whole exiting part.

I’m trying to work from home and take care of her at the same time, so I spend a lot of time thinking I should be doing another thing while I’m doing what I’m doing.

Like, I’m rocking this baby, but I have a pile of emails I need to respond to.

Or, I’m working on this column, but I should be rocking the baby.

Or, maybe when the emails are answered and the baby’s fed and napped we can take the dogs for a walk.

But I should really do the dishes.

Or return that phone call…oh, look, she just pooped up her back. Guess I’ll change her outfit for the third time today. Oh, is it 4:00 already? I should probably think about supper…

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I knew it was going to look a lot like this as I tried my hand mixing what I was doing before I was a mom into my life as a mom. I knew my days would look a lot like a juggling act and that I would have to bust out my best multi-tasking skills. I knew it was going to be a challenge, so I’m trying to cut myself a little slack as I work on figuring it out.

And by cutting myself some slack I mean letting some things slip. Like my own personal hygiene for one, which was pretty predictable considering the amount of days I sometimes went without a shower before an infant arrived. I mean, if I didn’t have to go to town and see people, what was the point?

Anyway, turns out Edie’s morning nap is a good time to squeeze some work in, so I’ve learned I can sacrifice the shower…my husband can see me with my hair fixed when I get home from a meeting or something.

I haven’t shaved my legs for days.

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And so this is my Friday night confession. It’s 10 o’clock and the baby’s in her crib at the foot of our bed. The lights are off and I’m tired as hell. Last night was one of the first times I left Edie with Husband to go out and do something that wasn’t work. I went to a movie with Little Sister and ate too much popcorn and worried the whole time that I didn’t leave enough milk for her.

They were fine.

When I got home she was sleeping and Husband shushed me when I started asking questions in a whisper.

I fell asleep just in time for the baby to wake up at midnight and then again at 4 and then again at 6 and I’m sorta holding my breath right now wondering if she’s really down for the night or if she’s just playing me like usual.

And so this is what it’s like now to be me. It’s me + 1. Me + the worry. Me + that little thread that ties me to that tiny person that is learning something new every day.

Me, half wishing time to slow down because she’s growing so fast while the other half is so excited to see what she’s going to become.

Me, a little lonesome for the great outdoors, cursing the cool spring wind that keeps me from taking this baby on a walk.

Me, a little lonesome for a husband I haven’t really been alone with in months.

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Me, who used to have a lot more time for the slow pace of nature. Me who can’t remember what I used to do all day before her.

Me, who, even after 5 months, can’t believe this baby is mine forever, God willing.

Me, so grateful and humbled by what it actually means to be a mother while wondering at the same time if I’m really cut out for this.

Me, who meant to write something here on Wednesday about the cows or the budding trees or how thankful I am for the rain, but those thoughts were thoughts I thought I should be thinking while I was rocking the baby.

So thankful to be rocking the baby.

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Sunday Column: Do it yourselfing

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In the beginning, there was big vision, big enthusiasm and big mess…

For those of you who have been following this blog since the beginning of time, you are good and familiar with our home building/do it yourself/never ending construction that is our lives.

We have been ankle deep in saw dust since moving out of the little farmhouse four years ago and into a house we are building as we go along. And in four years, while we’ve made progress pouring a basement and foundation, climbing scary homemade scaffolding to build the loft, nearly deciding to live in separate houses over a bathroom tile project the seemed to never end, my husband and father in law falling to their near deaths off of the roof, a giant garage project and countless power tools just hanging out on the kitchen table, I am not here to tell you that we are finished.

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No.

But I am here to tell you that we bit the bullet and, despite my pledge to hold off on new furniture until the damn house was done, we actually bought. new. furniture.

And, because we do things ourselves around here, I almost pulled every muscle in my back helping Husband get the couch through the door and around the corner.

He said he hasn’t seen me grunt so hard since giving birth.

And it was the truth.

 

Here’s the rest of the story…

Coming Home: Life and love look different for do-it-yourselfers
by Jessie Veeder
3-13-16
Forum Communications

A new couch was delivered to our house yesterday.

In almost 10 years of marriage, we’ve never had a new couch. In fact, the ratio of new to used furniture in this house prior to yesterday was like four to 20, the new pieces being Edie’s nursery furniture, the worn-out recliner we bought the week after we were married on a trip to one of my concerts in South Dakota that we passed off as a honeymoon, and the bar stools that were a little too big for our space, but we couldn’t pass up, because, you know, they were on super sale.

And so when guests started to get stuck in the cracks of the deep-sunk couch we bought from one of our landlords eight years ago, we thought it might be time to take the furniture plunge.

Turns out, for a couple who has survived on other people’s cast-off items for years, we’re sorta picky. It must be the whole “we’re spending lots of money so we better love this forever and never, ever spill wine on it” mentality.

Anyway, our track record with furniture could really sum up the way the two of us have been dealing with grown-up life. I was contemplating this as I stood resting my noodle arms on our new couch as it lay in limbo, half on the landing and half wedged in the door, while my husband searched for a tool to take the door off its hinges.

We will never be people who hire movers.

No. We are the people who save every random nut, bolt and spare piece of plastic in an old coffee can on the tool bench because we might need it someday.

Our garage and the room in the basement that we don’t let anyone see will always be a scary place full of useful things … if only we could remember where we put them.

I blame it on our fathers. While completely different, both held the same mentality when it came to saving money and squeezing every bit of life out of the things they owned. Neither one of them ever saw a stray bucket on the side of the road without stopping to load it in the back of the pickup.

It makes sense. I was raised by a North Dakota rancher who could make anything work good enough with a pair of leather gloves and a spare piece of wire.

And my husband was raised by a man who had a garage full of things like extra doorknobs, old, out-of-warranty power tools and a couple extra lawn mowers, you know, for parts.

I mean, the man built his own croquet set for crying out loud. My husband didn’t stand a chance.

So I wasn’t surprised when, in college, my washing machine went out and my then boyfriend/now husband had at least three washing machine motors laying around in storage.

I tell you, it’s a special type of romance to love a man with the skills to save you from the laundromat. If only I would have known that years later it would turn into me painstakingly putting up tiles on the kitchen island while my husband made 500 trips up and down the ladder leading to the dirt basement, because we still needed to build steps. And pour the concrete floor.

Ourselves.

I’m here to tell you that sometimes the “do it yourself” movement is only romantic when your car is broke down on the side of the road and he shows up with a toolbox and pops the hood.

Stay married long enough and it turns out he might expect you to know how to fix it yourself. Because apparently that sort of thing should wear off on you.

But if together we can get this couch through the doorway, past the bedrooms and around the corner to the living room without me pulling every muscle along the way, perhaps it’s a sign we’re turning a corner in our lives.

And the old couch will work great in the basement … once we get it finished

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Sunday Column: What love looks like these days

IMG_7994I’m going to preface the sharing of this week’s column by letting you know that I’m feeling much better now.

I can breathe out of my right nostril and I’m not going through as many cough drops these days.

Also, Edie, though not a great napper is a relatively good night sleeper, so I can’t complain really…except for when she chooses the night when I have a head cold from hell (the fourth disease I’ve acquired since her birth only a few short months ago) to wake up every time ten minutes from 2 am until 7 am.

I wrote this column the day after that night.

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But today I’m sitting here with a fancy new laptop I bought myself because I’ve been doing most of my work these days from my bed or my chair while the little pumpkin sleeps or swings or squeaks next to me and I feel like it’s a work necessity and she’s sleeping like an angel in her swing right now and I’m not coughing out a lung and we’re going to have steak tonight and so things are going good.

That being said, I still can’t find the debit card I lost two weeks ago after buying a photo album from Shutterfly and accidentally sending it to the address where we lived five years ago.

So I don’t have my mind.

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But every day, between the crazy, the sweating, the crying, the snuggling, the explosive and inconveniently timed poops and the mess it’s all made in this house of ours, I am finding out a little more about this thing called love.

And it turns out it’s not what it looked like a few months ago.

And it’s not what I really expected, as in, I’m not who I expected I would be in the middle of it.

It’s wonderfully terrifying, this whole motherhood thing. Wonderfully terrifying one second and the most peace I’ve ever felt the next.

I haven’t smiled or cried so much in my life.

And, as it turns out, even when I think I’ve depleted all of the love I have in this haggard, sweat pants clad, spit up coated body, I hear him singing an off key version of “You Are My Sunshine” to his daughter for the four thousandth time and another wave washes over me and I cry for the thirty-seventh time that day because I know it could just keep getting better…

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Coming Home: Love looks different a year, and a baby later
by Jessie Veeder
2-14-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I don’t think my husband has seen my hair out of a ponytail for a good two months.

The statistics on him seeing me out of my stretchy pants is about the same.

This is the fourth cold I’ve had since this baby was born, and last night that baby was on a timer to wake up each time I finally fell asleep.

It’s the same timer that reminds her to fuss as soon as her parents sit down at their supper plates.

I would say that I haven’t been at my best these days, but at this point I think as good as it can get is a chance to take a hot shower, sleep for three hours straight and breathe out of my right nostril, and that seems to be asking a lot.

Anyway, today my plan was to talk about love, being it’s mid-February and the stores are selling heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Last year at this time I was likely showered and make-uped and in a black dress somewhere singing to people toasting love, completely unaware that in a year, fitting into that black dress again would be a distant goal.

One that comes after the long overdue haircut.

Last year at this time I would have written about love a bit differently. I would have been more in tune with myself and my husband. I might have mentioned patience and plans and the flowers sitting on the table that he picked up for me at the grocery store in town or how he stayed up that night and waited for me to get home.

Last year at this time I didn’t know that in a year I would be nursing a 2-month old in our bed at 5 in the morning, blowing my nose for the 1,500th time while his alarm clock blasts a rock song and he fumbles around quietly locating his clothes, wallet and cell phone by the light of the television news, set on mute so as not to disturb a baby that I need to fall back to sleep for the love of cough syrup.

It only took a year and the growth and delivery of a new life, but these days I have a different take on love entirely.

Because for nine months my husband slept so far on his side of the bed that one leg was resting on the floor and half his body was on the bed railing. And it’s not because he wanted to keep his distance from his pregnant wife, but more because the woman he loved needed space for her giant body and the giant body pillow she needed to help her sleep.

Love looks like that to me now.

And once that baby was born, love looked like that same man changing every dirty diaper in the first few days he could be home from work, and taking every diaper and helping to give every bath every evening since then.

And I didn’t know this was going to happen, but love looks like me crying because I love my baby, and crying harder because I haven’t been outside in days, and then crying because I think I’m crying too much lately, and a man holding a baby dressed in pink in his arms telling me to take a walk.

And yes, of course, love looks like that baby dressed in pink who fell asleep listening to the click of her mom’s fingers against the keyboard trying to explain to a world (that’s likely already figured it out) that sometimes love can be a compliment on your outfit or the way you wear your hair, but then there’s something really romantic about not mentioning it at all (the sweatpants, the three-day ponytail, the pile of cough-drop wrappers laying around the house).

And to me, that might be the difference between falling in love and being in love forever.

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Sunday Column: A Baby Jesus #4

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I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas weekend. We have one more holiday visit to make to wrap up Edie’s first Christmas. We’ll hit the road tomorrow for eastern North Dakota to introduce her to my mom’s side of the family and her cousins, great aunts and uncles and of course,  great grandma and grandpa.

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It’s safe to say between the food, the visits, the gifts and the games, baby Edie fits well into our Christmas traditions.

And she’s already started a few of her own.

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This week’s column is about her a stage debut, baby Jesus, a fart in church and other meaningful messages.

Sunday Column: We all have a story about how we came into this world
by Jessie Veeder
12-27-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Edie made her stage debut as “Baby Jesus No. 4” in church last Sunday.

As the story of Mary, Joseph and the angel unfolded on a stage filled with neighbor kids in homemade costumes, moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles and cousins looked on adoringly, waiting for their kid to take the stage as a camel or a wise man.

Turns out Edie’s first church fart led to a poop explosion that leaked through the special “Baby Jesus No. 4” outfit I picked out for the occasion, which also seeped onto her dad’s pants, which sent him and his sweet, stinky daughter to the back room for a quick change, only to have her re-emerge down the aisle dressed in fuzzy footie pajamas right on cue and right in time to lie down in a bouncy seat manger among a half-dozen barn animals, a dove, a monkey, a skunk, a couple shepherds, the angels, Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

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The little country church where I grew up is experiencing a baby boom, and there was our Edie, second to youngest by a day, right in the middle of a Christmas story with carols, memorized lines and a close call with the Christmas tree, the advent candles and a toddler in a donkey hat.

It struck me then that Edie’s only 4 weeks old and already she has a memory. Not one that she’ll recall necessarily, but one I will retell to her year after year, about her first Christmas, her first stage debut and her first trip to that little church.

When I was young, I used to love to hear the story about the day I was born. It was a drought year, 100 degrees for days on end and a tough year for cattle. I was expected mid-July, but it was late August and my dad drove my mom over summer fallow fields in their old pickup to help induce labor.

But I came on my own time, in a small hospital in my hometown, delivered by an old Norwegian doctor with a thick accent. And when my dad held me for the first time, he looked out the window to find the sky had opened up and it was finally raining.

I don’t tell it as well as my parents do, because it isn’t my memory. But it is part of my story, a part that I loved to hear because it made me feel like my coming into this world had something to do with the long-awaited rain.

When I tell Edie the story of her birth, I will tell her how peaceful it was, arriving at the hospital in the early hours of the morning. I will tell her how she came to us quickly and without issue, and how I wailed a breath of relief and gratefulness when I heard her cry.

I will tell her how we got to take her home on Thanksgiving, which was fitting because we were the most thankful we’ve ever been, and so began weeks of an endless stream of guests, friends and family lining up at the door to meet her.

Watching all 20 or so children stand up in front of the church last Sunday to help tell the most famous birth story of all and seeing our tiny baby girl among them, I couldn’t help but think that each and every one of those children have their own special “coming into the world story” that they will hear year after year.

And some will hear about that day in church, about how she recited her lines as Mary perfectly, about how he ran down the aisle on a stick horse, the most gallant and swift 2-year-old king of all, about how he almost knocked the Advent candle over into the Christmas tree and about how only Baby Jesus No. 4 could get away with such a loud fart in church.

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The biggest project of my life….

Belly B&W

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

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

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diaper cakes (courtesy of my nieces),

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diaper cake

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

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an endless supply of baby books

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and and even bigger supply of love and support.

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

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

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

Yes. Yes indeed it did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I do not have swept floors.

I do not have a meal plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maternity 4

News from the bump-front…

So here’s an update.

It’s October 29th. My due date is in exactly one month. November 29th. If due dates mean anything.

This is what my office looks like.

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This is what the nursery looks like.

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This is what my belly looks like.

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And my head? Well, if you could look inside it it would likely look a lot like that office…

Husband has decided that this is the month he will get a cold and start snoring like a sawmill for the first time in his life. My dogs have become possessed and have started a nightly 2 am eerie howling serenade and I’m up every two hours on the dot, thinking, each time, I’ve slept through the night, cursing whatever food I last ate that is coming back to haunt me, swearing to never eat again and enjoying all of the new nightlife noises.

At least I’ll be nice and regulated for the upcoming nightly feedings.

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Anyway, this Saturday my neighborhood friends, my sisters and my mom are throwing me a shower. My gramma and two of my favorite aunts are coming to celebrate. I heard there’s going to be waffles.

I can’t believe I’m attending a baby shower that’s actually for us.

I can’t believe there’s a crib waiting to be assembled on the floor of the room that used to be full of my guitars, computer, paperwork, CDs, notebooks…

I can’t believe I’ve grown an actual human being in my belly long enough that it’s almost ready to make a debut into this world where it can maybe try kicking and punching his father instead of my bladder…

I can’t believe we’re not even remotely ready for this.

And I can’t believe how much love and support we’ve received from my readers and the community on this next phase in our lives. I didn’t realize how much joy and wonder the sight of a pregnant lady walking down the street can bring to some people. It’s almost electrifying the way they light up in the presence of a giant baby bump.

“When’s your due date?” “Boy or Girl?” “How you feeling?” “How exciting!” “You’ll do great.”

Aside from the random man at a small town gas station poking my belly (like sorta hard) and slurring “There’s a baby in there…” I haven’t had many of those awkward ‘being pregnant in public’ encounters.

Want to touch my belly? Go right ahead. I don’t feel like it’s really a part of my actual body anyway. Really, this whole pregnancy has been like an out-of-body-experience.

Last week I was standing in line at the post office and happened to wind up next to one of my friends who asked me some questions, gave me some advice and made a guess about whether or not I’m cooking up a boy or a girl.

“Girl for sure!” said the woman standing behind me. “Look at the way you’re carrying. I’m never wrong. Girl all the way.”

“Yup. I think girl too,” said the other woman I don’t know addressing envelopes at the counter. “I am pretty spot on on these things.”

“Girl!” Chimed in the third woman, and the long line behind me perked up with their own thoughts and predictions and there we were, strangers making small talk over the mystery of this bump I’ve been carrying around for months.

“Girl. Seriously,” said the woman behind me again. “Really,” she said turning around to the next lady in line. “I am NEVER wrong.”

So I guess we’re having a girl then.

Baby

Yes, I’ve entered the time in my pregnancy that I’ve become a walking (waddling) spectacle. My husband has taken to calling me Gru from Despicable Me…you know, because as he explains, “Tiny legs. Big Belly.”

Really?

REALLY?!!

He’s also been known to make a few unwelcome comments about the new size of my underwear because, well, I guess he gets a thrill out of poking the bear.

But he’s not the only one who loses his cool around me.

My Little Sister doesn’t even look at my face anymore. Nope. She just comes straight for the belly with her hands outstretched.

And my mom just sees me, giggles and wonders out loud how I’m fitting into my clothes.

No, she hasn’t become any softer since this comment months ago…

But being a spectacle does have its perks. This week I took an impromptu trip to Menards to satisfy this whole nesting thing that I thought was a myth and the Menards guy loaded up all my lumber onto the cart and another one shrink wrapped it, loaded into the pickup in the pouring rain and sent me on my way, no questions asked.

Didn’t even have to lift a finger really…

That never happens when I bring my husband along to the lumber yard.

And so there you have it. The baby brewing news. According to the pregnancy tracking app. I downloaded I’m only going to become more of a spectacle, but in the meantime I hope this mess I’m living in will look more like progress. If you need me I’ll be doing random things like organizing my kitchen cabinets and scrubbing down the walls and wondering if I’ve gone completely insane because I am actually enjoying it.

The countdown is on! What’s your guess? Girl or boy?

Peace, love and holy shit only 30 days left,

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Sunday Column: Dad jokes

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My husband spent all weekend (and it was a beautiful weekend) in the basement with his dad, putting up sheetrock, wiring lights, sawing and cutting and nailing walls together to get the house as ready as it can be for the rapidly ticking time bomb that is the arrival of this baby.

Because apparently I’m nesting and the sawdust and unfinished nature of this house is driving me absolutely insane. So insane, that I actually found myself scrubbing the insides of the oven, racks and all.

And organizing my kitchen cabinets, which hasn’t happened since I moved all our stuff into this house three years ago.

But as much as I can do, I am still waiting on dearly beloved to get his tasks in that basement checked off so I can put together this baby’s room already. As I type I’m sitting surrounded by unopened boxes of baby gear, blankets, books and onsies hanging out in my office full of guitars, CDs, paperwork, my desk, printer, sound system and microphone.

My instincts to organize it and put it everything in its proper place is overwhelming. It’s another pregnancy symptom that I assumed was a myth.

But as I visit (battle) with my dearly beloved about the meaning of “urgency” I have been thinking and wondering about what’s going on in that handsome head of his. If his fatherly instincts aren’t based in ridding the house of saw dust, making sure we sweep under the refrigerator and vacuum the light fixtures, what are his priorities? What is going on in that head of his (because I haven’t sensed any panic so far) and where are all the web articles, books, literature and YouTube videos analyzing and giving advice on the topic of fatherly instincts?

Surly some social scientist somewhere has thought about studying what the male mind and heart is mulling around while he watches his wife or partner’s belly swell month after month.
All I have found so far are some tips on how to prepare him for this, as if he were a child. But he’s not a child. He’s going to be a dad, with lots of responsibilities he’s nervous and excited about taking on. And I’m pretty positive there’s more going on in that brain of his than being worried about keeping his regular sleep pattern.
So I’ve been studying him a little bit. Listening, learning and contemplating…
And that’s what this week’s column is about…

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Coming Home: Becoming a devoted dad is no joke for my husband
by Jessie Veeder
10-18-15
Forum Comunications
http://www.inforum.com

My husband has been practicing his dad jokes.

It’s been a long rehearsal, I’ll tell you. Six months of lame comebacks followed by a blank stare (by me) and a sort of ba-doom-chick, knee-slap, finger-gun-point routine (by him) before he officially declares it a “dad joke” and laughs his way out of the room.

Some men agonize over the best car seat/stroller/baby monitor in the world with countless hours of Internet research, testimonials and calls to their dad friends.

My husband?

Dad jokes.

Literally the first thing he said when he saw the image of our little baby floating around in his (or her) big ultrasound debut was, “Huh, look there, I think I see a mustache.”

It was such a sweet moment.

And a reminder of how embarrassing he can be sometimes.

But I appreciate that about him, and I think this kid will, too. I know I appreciated that about my dad anyway, to know that a man charged with lifting the heavy things in the lives of his family still had the energy and heart to sing “Be Bop a Lula” and dance with his daughters in the kitchen, using laughter as an exclamation point at the end of a long day.

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In our lives together, I’ve seen my husband take the same route. Lurking in his generally stoic nature will be a witty rebuttal that catches me off guard or an unexpected leap from behind a closed door so that he can relish me flailing and falling to my knees, half weeping/half laughing in terror.

It keeps things interesting.

Anyway, as we get ready for this new person to arrive, I’ve been obsessively pining over baby preparation material, because I figure if I can’t be in control of my hormones, waistline, sleep pattern or endless heartburn, I can at least learn about the things I won’t be able to control in the next phase.

And that’s where I ran across a few articles about the dad — how to help calm his nerves, prepare him, inform him, keep him involved and one of the top 25 things he should know before the kid gets here, which I read, of course, in case there was something in there that they planned on telling dads but were going to keep from me.

Needless to say, there was nothing in there about preparing for the arrival of your infant by keeping a logbook of lame jokes that will embarrass your entire family year after year, but judging by the short Rolodex my father-in-law repeats annually around the Thanksgiving table, I’m thinking the development of the skill is inherited.

It’s instinct. Which made me wonder: In all the discussion about a mother’s instincts as a couple prepares for their first addition, why does it seem like a father’s instincts go unrecognized?

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Now, I know there are good dads and bad dads out there, and the same goes with mothers, so lucky are those who have two devoted parents. And that devoted dad is who I’m talking about here. In my life, I’ve seen and have been influenced by plenty of examples of these types of men; the ones who take their kids along on cattle roundups, hunting excursions, trips to their favorite sporting event or just on a run to the hardware store.

Because in those excursions, there might be a chance to get some dad jokes in, yes, but there’s also endless opportunities to teach, to show, to answer questions and help expose a kid to a skill or a fact he can put in his pocket so that he’s better equipped to take on the world.

When my husband was asked what he was most looking forward to about becoming a dad, his response was, “To have a buddy I can show around this place.”

That seems to be a theme. A dad’s basic instinct. To teach. To prepare. To show.

Because dad was the original Google, after all. Which may make things a little tricky these days, you know, now that kids can fact-check.

But it also comes in handy when diversifying that pool of dad jokes, which apparently is the first step in the wonderful journey of fatherhood.

And, when I got done writing this column, my husband texted me his latest ‘dad jokes:’

“I went to a zoo and there were no animals except one dog. It was a Shih Tzu.”

And…

“Without nipples, boobies would have no point.”

Lord help me.

6 weeks and counting…

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