Me and my shadow

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

History has taught me better though.

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

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

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

These days it’s chronicled by my shadow…

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

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I hope this place is forever her refuge.

 

A little Christmas reality

I’ve been a mom now for over a year, so needless to say, I’ve learned plenty of lessons. Like, every day is a lesson on how much sleep you actually need to live. I’m still alive (I think) so apparently you don’t need much.

Last week was one of those weeks at the ranch that I think all parents look back on with fondness and then relief that it’s over.

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It started on Sunday when, after the church Christmas program, 2015’s Baby Jesus #4 turned 2016 Angel #6, leaned in for a snuggle and puked the puke of the mighty all over her mother, down my shirt and into the deepest unclean-able crevasses of the easy chair, and it just sort of went on from there….

and into a week that started with a sick baby and ended with a trip to the big town sixty miles away on the coldest day of the year (like -50 windchill) to pick up Husband’s broken brand new pickup from the shop only to find what we all already new…diesel pickups don’t start in sub-zero temperatures when unplugged and outside.

And in between (after rescheduling for the third time due to that damn month-long blizzard thing we’ve been dealing with) I finally got a chance to get Edie to her one-year photos and one-year shots only to discover upon arrival (and the arrival of her general foul mood) that the poor child was in the process of cutting all four molars and both of her eye teeth at once, just in time to smile for the camera.

Which she managed to do in true Edie fashion, in between fits of sorrow.

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Little did she know that the torture I was putting her through in the name of memories and photo books and embarrassing her at her high school graduation wasn’t going to compare to the torture coming to her next in the form of four big needles.

And that’s when I learned my biggest lessons since the birthday glitter catastrophe of November 24th:

#1: Don’t schedule shots and photos on the same day, even if it will save you a trip. Save your sanity instead.

#2: Planning a child’s photo session is a good way to invite disease or disfunction to your family.

But we made it through like we always do and everything is fine in the whole big picture. Last night I got home late from singing at a Christmas concert just in time to fall asleep and wake up again to rock my poor crying baby with a runny nose and a mouth full of teeth back to sleep in months between 3 and 4 am, which sets me up nice and exhausted for the week of Christmas.

But at least we finally got our tree. The week before the deep freeze, sub-zero temperatures, snow drifts up to my armpits and general good naturedness of an ongoing North Dakota blizzard finally had me persuaded to give up on the whole cutting-our-own-Christmas-Tree tradition and just get one in town for crying out loud. And so that’s what this week’s column is about.

It’s about the expectations. And then it’s about the reality.

And the truth is, the reality, in all its mess and mayhem, just can’t compete with the fantasy because, well, it’s real. It’s our life. And I wouldn’t trade it.

Puke and all…

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Coming Home: Christmas in my mind different than reality
by Jessie Veeder
12-18-16
Forum Communications

When I was dreaming of having a baby of our own for all those years, I ran through how it might look in our house at Christmas: cozy and warm tucked in the trees, hot cider on the stove, a fire crackling in the fireplace, our baby crawling playfully around the fresh-cut cedar we found together on the ranch under a blue sky and after a little impromptu snowball fight.

I held onto that dream through all those childless holidays, come hell or 75-below zero windchills. Even when daylight and landscape were against us, we rallied, we bundled up and took the time to find a tree and make a memory.

But that was back when we took our time for granted.

That was before we had a one-year-old, a house to finish, cows to feed, a broken pickup in a snow bank and a series of days spent getting stuck and unstuck, stuck and unstuck in 50-mile-per-hour winds and miles and miles of snow banks in our way.

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Yeah, this December all it took was one look out the window, the sub-zero temperature gauge and the calendar boxes quickly counting down to the big day and suddenly I became a little more flexible on that whole Christmas Tree Tradition thing. Not that I couldn’t count on my husband to try plowing through the snow banks to make it happen if that’s what I wanted.

But what I wanted was not to freeze my nose off having to pull him out.

And also, I wanted a Christmas tree before New Year’s.

So we went to town.

You heard me.

We had to get some things anyway, like light bulbs and doors for the rooms in the basement, so we might as well pick up one of the last sorry trees they had left in the back, all wrapped up tight and snug and out of the whipping winds.

And the baby loves to go shopping.

You should see her in a store, smiling and waving at everyone, babbling like she’s in a parade. So maybe we made the right choice, swapping a sled for shopping cart…

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Anyway, we picked out our rugs and our Lysol and our spindly, $35 Christmas tree and while I strapped Edie in her car seat, my husband strapped that sorry-looking tree to the roof of my SUV.

And it was a sight somehow reminiscent of both the Griswolds and Charley Brown’s Christmas as we drove an hour home, through the badlands and into a dark, 30-below zero, regular North Dakota blizzard, the heat blaring as we sipped the fancy grocery store coffee we grabbed on the way out of town.

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When I was rocking Edie by our tree last year, her tiny wrinkly body pressed against my chest, peaceful and innocent, I imagined what the next year’s Christmas would look like — a different kind of chaos, ornaments hung on the tree just above her reach, her squeals of delight at the pretty lights, an evening spent watching Christmas movies while we wrangled her up and decorated the tree together as a family.

Well, that’s sort of what happened … just replace the whole “squeals of delight” thing with my sick baby projectile vomiting down the inside of my shirt, all over her favorite blankie and in the deepest cracks of the easy chair.

Change “ornaments hung on the tree” to “the house strewn from wall to wall with partially unpacked boxes of frozen decorations and a tree losing about a thousand needles by the minute.”

Then finish it off by swapping “together as a family” with “my husband in the barnyard pulling Dad and his pickup out of another snow bank while my glass of wine and I found the least breakable ornaments to put on the tree at 10 p.m.”

No, it wasn’t the magical Christmas tree tradition I imagined, but it was real, and you know what? I’ll take it. For so many reasons, I’ll take it.

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Small challenges. Small reminders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And it’s really funny.

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

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

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

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And point out the bald eagle soaring above us…

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

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

I will….

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

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

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

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*sniff* *sniff*

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

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Peace, Love and good Lord take a nap,

Jessie

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A letter to my baby on Mother’s Day

Maternity Haze B&W

Dear Baby Girl,

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

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

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

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

Slowly it moves us.

Stretches us.

Grows us up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Mom

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