It takes a village to raise a mom

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It takes a village to raise a mom 

Sunday Column, Forum Communications

This morning I drove Edie to town to daycare so I could get some work done. My husband has been gone hunting in Montana over the past few weekends and into this week, and so I’ve been on my own a bit more, managing a schedule of deadlines, performances, doctors appointments and fun, calling on my mom and dad, sister, mother in law and daycare provider to fill in the blanks of caretaking along the way so that my husband can have time to do the things that make him feel like himself, obliging, of course, because he does the same for me.

I’m sitting in my mom’s coffee shop to work, the occasional shrill of the latte machine cutting through the background hum of conversation and music coming from the speakers. If you sit in a place like this long enough you get a good glimpse of the characters that make up a community, or at least the characters who prefer to get through their day with a proper dose of caffeine and conversation.

When I was a kid my grandma would take my little sister and I into town to run errands. After a stop at the pharmacy and post office we would inevitably wind up at the Chuck Wagon Café on the corner for a hamburger or ice cream. If Dixie, my favorite waitress was working, she would serve us chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup and chocolate M&Ms, a sweet indulgence and a simple gesture that seemed to stick with me throughout my life the same way I’ve kept the memory of a teenage neighbor giving me words of wisdom about an unruly horse at a 4-H show when I was eleven.

And there are dozens others—my third grade teacher who would let me write plays for our class to perform for the school during lesson time, our hired man who drove an El Camino and saved our puppy when he got his head stuck in the Christmas tree stand and caught my sister and I a grass snake to keep as a pet one summer, the older neighbor boy who taught us girls how to play football by running plays on his knees and letting us tackle him, my aunt uncle who would have me at their ranch for a few weeks in the summer to eat popsicles and help my cousins groom and show their sheep and steers and pitcher of KoolAid that was always waiting for us in the plastic pitcher on the kitchen counter in the house.

These are the moments embedded in that old saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” I’ve been thinking about it lately as I’ve been relying on my extended family and friends more than ever to help me balance mom life and work life and making sure the laundry is done once in a while. And a parent could start to feel guilty about leaning on others in the hectic times, especially someone like me who is under confident about asking for help and thinks she can handle it all on her own.

Except the older Edie gets, and as my big belly grows along with our plans, I have slowly come to realize that not only can we not do this parenting thing alone; I don’t know if we were meant to.

Because that little village of 4-H leaders, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, nice waitresses, neighbors, baby sitters and teenagers I looked up to are characters woven into the story of my life who not only taught me lessons, but sweetened my life experience beyond the borders of our barnyard

And you know, now that I think of it, the influence of that village didn’t stop when I found myself all grown up, it’s just that I think I took them for granted until now when I feel I need them the most. Because it turns out it takes a village to raise a mom too, and I am thankful for mine.

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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Knowing what’s important in the moment

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Coming Home: Knowing what’s important in the moment

My phone dinged on the counter while I was digging in the pantry for the broom. I looked at the screen to find a message from my sister-in-law with a photo of my daughter in her life jacket and sunhat sitting on the banks of the Little Muddy River looking up at her daddy looking down at her in his Superman shirt and cowboy hat.

A smile spread across my face. It was a sweet moment captured on a kayaking trip my in-laws take each June with their friends and family. I’m usually there, but this year I opted to send my husband out the door with our toddler, her swimsuit and vats of sunscreen and bug spray so I could work on tackling the fossilized blueberries on the floor. It’s been a busy spring made more exhausting by the first trimester of pregnancy and I couldn’t stand looking at the mountain of clothes that had piled up in our bedroom one moment longer. Like seriously, they were touching the ceiling. The thought of an entire, uninterrupted weekend to tackle house and yard chores was appealing in a way that sort of scared me. Like, does this mean I’m a grown woman now? The 23-year-old version of me would have thrown a bucket of water in my face if I told her that in ten y ears we would trade an 80-degree day on the river for staining the fence and sucking dead flies out of the windowsills.

Turns out, at that moment, the 33-year-old version of me wasn’t too happy with our decision either. One look at that photo and I proceeded to cuss myself and the dirt on these floors, the unplanted garden, the unwashed sheets and North Dakota and its fifteen minutes of summer.

“I should be on that riverbank with them,” I whined, alone in the house in a raggedy tank and cutoff shorts with the top button undone. And then I posted the adorable photo on social media as a warning to other moms to not make the same poor choices.

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But as the day played out, as I folded and stored away our winter clothes, mowed our scraggly lawn, stained our weathered fence and excavated the dried fruit fossils from between the cracks in our hardwood floor, I started shedding the jealousy and guilt I felt about missing a fun moment and replacing it with a dose of vindication.

We hear it all the time as parents. “The dishes can wait, go play with your kids!” “No one ever died wishing they’d worked more!” “Chores will always be there, but the kids are one sleep away from moving out and only calling on the holidays.”

Ok, yes. Time goes fast. My 1 ½ year old daughter has already started making meal requests, so I’m well aware. And I get that these statements are well intended and meant to help take the pressure off of parents, but sometimes I feel like they put more pressure on.

Maybe my tight shorts and baby growing hormones are making me a little cranky, but do you know what else is true about those dishes? They can only wait forever if you’re willing to off paper plates until the kids are 18 or are anticipating a call from one of those TLC shows asking you to be on their next episode of “Dish Pileup” or whatever.

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And yes. The chores and work will always be there, especially if my family spends every day at the lake like we really want. But then who’s gonna make sure the cows aren’t eating at the neighbors’ and pay for those groceries I carefully selected while my two loves were kayaking care free down the river together?

I don’t know. I appreciate the encouragement to blow off my responsibilities. Lord knows I need to be reminded to relax. But here’s my amateur parenting advice for the day: You know what’s important in this moment.

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Sometimes it’s taking your baby down a waterslide on a Friday afternoon, sometimes it’s letting her watch Elmo while you pay the bills and sometimes it’s sending her off for the weekend with a sunhat and her Superman dad so that pile of laundry can get done and leave you all to play in peace.

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A Definition of Motherhood

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Mother’s Day is approaching and I am feeling pretty special because my bouquet of lilies already arrived yesterday. I’ve been watching them work on opening up and blooming on my kitchen table, surrounded by smashed peas, coloring books and stickers and I’ve decided they fit in perfectly there.

Tonight my mom stopped in to see Edie. We were running around all over last weekend so they haven’t seen each other for a while. Our steaks were just getting off the grill and Edie was full of kiwi and peas, so Gramma B took her granddaughter outside for a wagon ride so we could eat our entire meal together without interruption.

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It was sweet.

And it’s even sweeter to see the two of them together. They have a funny relationship, one that’s based on Edie’s automatic assumption that if gramma’s coming over it means mom is leaving. So they have to jump that hurdle every time. But once it’s jumped, Edie just makes my mom laugh and laugh. I love it.

And I love my mom more with every minute I’m in this motherhood game myself.

Here she is at mom’s coffeeshop learning how to mix her own drink : )

This month’s “From the Editor” section in the Prairie Parent publication is all about reflecting on what it really takes to be a mom, and the realization that my mom had to develop these very same set of skills raising me.

And how much more I appreciate her for it now.

Check it out, and then read all of the other fun Mother’s Day inspired stories from our staff of talented writers.

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Patience-Plus: A Definiton of Motherhood
by Jessie Veeder, Editor
Prairie Parent, May 2017

My personal favorite this month is the Kids Talk section where 2nd graders tell us their favorite things about their moms and, for the dads, a really great list of Mother’s Day gift ideas (because it’s not too late)!

Happy Mother’s Day to the moms, grandmas, daughters, sisters, aunties and cousins showing us every day what it means when a woman loves you.

 

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Easter and the Target Syndrome.

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

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

A trip to Target.

It’s mandatory.

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

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

It runs strong in the Veeder women blood.

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

There’s just so much she needs.

So many pretty and delicious things…

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

It couldn’t be stopped.

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

See you out there everyone.

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

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

Peace, Love and Happy Happy Easter,

Jessie, Chad and Edie

 

 

Why God made wheels…

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

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

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

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But it goes the other way.

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

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Daddies on their way to work

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Coming Home: Daddies on their way to work
by Jessie Veeder
3-19-17
http://www.inforum.com

I unloaded my daughter and her backpack, and we left the car with the mechanic and sat down on the chairs in the lobby. It smelled like a combination of tire rubber and grease. The sun had warmed the snow enough to make it stick to the rubber soles of the muck boots everyone wears around here, leaving squeaky, muddy footprints to and from the door that dings when it opens…

We live in oil country. It’s been this way since my husband and I moved back to our home turf nearly six years ago. We used to call it a boom. The Wild Wild West. Men arriving from all corners of the country looking for high-paying jobs, some young and single and up for anything, others with families they left in Oklahoma or Arkansas, going back to visit every other two weeks, living in close quarters with other men in trailers, hotel rooms or apartments and sending money back home.

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Watford City, 2014

Add the heavy traffic flow, long lines at the post office and extravagant news stories about crime, safety and how you couldn’t find a woman in the mix with a magnifying glass, and that was the narrative out here.
It’s funny how fast a story can morph into history in a place like this.Funny what a half hour in a Jiffy Lube with a toddler can show you about your community.
I’m married to a man who works in an industry that sends him out into the elements every day to help fuel the world. Along with raising cattle on our ranch, this is his job.
He wears fire retardant jeans, a button-up shirt, a hooded jacket and a ball cap every day, the ultimate uniform of a majority of the working men in this part of the country.
In Edie’s eyes, in Jiffy Lube that day, every man that came through the door for an oil change that day was a daddy. And she was thrilled about it.
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So she hollered “Hi!!” loudly and repeatedly to each of them.Certain that none of them wanted to spend their wait having a conversation with a toddler, I tried to distract her with crackers and a story.”How old is she?” the man across the room asked.”Oh, she’s one,” I replied, reminded then that they’re likely also husbands.”Hhiii!” Edie waved.
“I remember that stage,” he said as Edie dropped down from her seat and did a little twirl on that dirty floor, and soon we were talking about his teenage daughter and her short-lived trombone career, his tech-savvy sons and the wife that moved his family here from the south to be with him.
Because when they talk about their families, history taught me to ask if they’re here together.”Yeah, they’re here,” he said. They’d been here for four years or so. They have a nice place in a new development south of town.”We like it here,” he said. “It feels like home.”
They called his name.
“Have a great day,” I said.”Byyeee,” said Edie.
As he went out, another young guy in the uniform came in. I got up to keep Edie from running down the hall and into the shop.
“How old is she?” He asked.
“I have a 1-year-old boy.”And the same narrative followed.
Our kids will likely be in the same grade, but probably not the same classroom, because there are so many young kids here now. More than a hundred in the current kindergarten class. I’m 33 years old, and I’m older than average in our once aging town, a statistic I was recently made aware of.
And now that I’m thinking of it, it’s pretty clear you no longer need a microscope to find the women here anymore.

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Photo in my mom’s coffeeshop on Main Street. On Saturday, the PTO organized a “Princess” event in honor of the opening of Beauty and the Beast. Countless mommas and princesses attended. It was overwhelming and still surprises a woman like me who grew up in this town when it was 1,200 people with no movie theater. 

It seems we’re invested now, building the new swim team, organizing an arts council, building a new hospital, working alongside all those men they talk about, setting up businesses and young professional organizations. Building a community that will help raise our families.

Taking our toddlers to make friends in Jiffy Lube in a town that went boom and then settled itself quietly, like the dust kicked up behind pickups driven by daddies on their way to work
Main Street, Watford City

Watford City, 2016. Photo by Chad Ziemendorf 

 

A day in the life of Chief Executive

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Life’s getting interesting around here. We’re all feeling a little cooped up and ready for spring. And by all, I mean probably in particular, me.

I can’t wait for the grass to show up from under the snow pile so that we can run off some steam and energy and blow the stink off this winter season.

But it looks like I’m going to have to wait a bit longer, seeing as we’re under  another winter storm warning.

Some days, even in the midst of being extremely grateful for it all, I think being a work-from-home mom might be the most impossible gig there is. I feel that way mostly when I’m staring a deadline in the face and staring up at me is a crying one-year-old in desperate need of a nose wipe and a banana and a cuddle and a nap.

And so that’s the deal with this week’s column. A little play by play, a day in the life if you will, on the struggle, and the joy, of sharing a house with the Chief Executive One Year Old.

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Coming Home: A day in the life of  a chief executive baby
by Jessie Veeder
3-6-17

“She’s not a baby anymore,” I said to my husband as we were driving home from the big town; Edie was strapped in her car seat behind me, singing her own original refrain on repeat at the top of her lungs.

“No, she’s not,” he replied. “She’s the CEO of a household now.”

Well isn’t that the truth, I thought as I laughed, her little song turning into mimicking giggles behind me.

And she takes her role seriously as boss. I didn’t know a person could find her calling so early in life, but as I watch her read the house cat its rights, standing with legs spread wide, leaned forward, brow furrowed, finger pointing, it’s pretty clear she’s aware of the injustices in this world — like a cat taking her chair — and she’s bent on correcting them.

I’d say I don’t know where she gets it, but yesterday my husband informed me that the little Executive Director heard the dogs barking outside and promptly reacted from her highchair throne with a throaty “Nnnnoooo!”

“Wonder where she learned that?” he smirked.

Apparently we’ve entered the phase where no one can get away with anything, not even mom.

Ah, toddlerhood at the ranch, the phase where you get smothered in kisses complete with sound effects one minute and the next you’re being screamed at because you won’t let her sit inside the refrigerator or dip her toothbrush in the toilet.

But most of the time it’s more entertaining than it is frustrating.

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The other day we were digging through a box of her dad’s old toys, and she began a sorting game where she examined each action figure, loudly declaring every muscle-clad superhero — Marshal Bravestar, He-Man and even Lego Superman — “DaDa.”

How does she know all this stuff? Seriously? I didn’t teach her that.

And while I’d really like to take credit, I also didn’t teach her to bust a move at even the slightest hint of music coming from the speakers in our house. Hear a commercial jingle? She’s shakin’ it. The intro to “Wheel of Fortune?” Perfect for twirling and clapping. The ding of the microwave? Might as well use it as an opportunity to bounce.

Liked Lady Gaga’s halftime show? I doubt she was as committed to her Super Bowl performance as my one-year-old was that night.

I have to admit, I admire her spirit, even though it comes in a variety of packages and mood swings hell bent on keeping me from ever fixing my hair again, unless I’m OK with allowing her to completely unravel the entire roll of toilet paper before tearing each square up into a thousand pieces bit by bit so she can roll around in it.

I’m not gonna lie, some days, when I’m running late and Edie’s desperate need to apply eyeliner is making it look like the only way I’m leaving the house again is if she comes with me looking like Gene Simmons, spending a half-hour picking toilet paper confetti off the bathroom floor doesn’t seem like such a bad compromise.

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And anyway, it only took two months into motherhood to figure out that 98 percent of the job is just bending over and picking things up anyway. The other 2 percent is practicing animal noises.

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But I have to tell you, hearing my daughter holler “MOOO” and “COME BOSS” out the pickup window while we’re feeding cows is on the top five list of the best things in the world ever, so it’s all worth it.

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And it’s also the reason that this is it, this is all the news from the ranch. I woke up this morning thinking I would write something a little more enlightening, but then my husband got sick and couldn’t fulfill his marital vow of driving our child to daycare on Tuesday mornings so I can get this column in on time, and here I am doing my best to find anything other than her to write about while trying my best to keep her tiny fingers from pressing my keyjklj’jkldejlncn…

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The newest member of the Kitten Caboodle Club

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This is the face she makes when I ask “Should we go see the kitties?”

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This is the face the kitties make when they hear us coming downstairs.

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I think there’s panic there as they hear the high-pitched squeals and the pitter patter of a one-year-old running down the hall and flopping her body down on the floor to get a good look at them under the bed.

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And, well, this is how the rest of it goes.

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Notice dad’s hand working to contain the excitement.

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I should really video it to give you the full effect these tiny fur balls have on my tiny bundle of energy.  But I’m usually too busy working on protecting them from that same enthusiasm and I don’t want to be distracted.
Oh, there’s nothing like having a pile of fur babies around the ranch. I’ve had a few people comment, asking why we don’t get our cats fixed out here, and the answer has to do with the fact that we live on a ranch and every animal, even our pets, serves a helpful purpose. (These days Brown Dog’s happens to be to keep us company and our arms and backs strong from lifting him in and out of the pickup.)

Anyway, simply put, farms and ranches have mice and we need cats to help us remedy that situation.

The laws and truths of nature aren’t pretty sometimes.

But these kitties are.

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The other reason is that we haven’t had a stray tom cat lurking around this place for years so we haven’t had to practice cat birth control lately. These kittens were the first batch we’ve had out here for a long time, a sweet little winter surprise, and lucky too, because they got to be born in the house instead of in the barn.

Soon a few of them will be ready to go to some of our friends’ homes who are looking for pets and pest helpers and we’ll keep the rest to help us keep this place varmint free.

And there will be plenty of snuggling to go around.

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This is a story I’ve told before, but when I was growing up, my cousins and I would go to the farm to visit gramma in the spring and summer and spend our days hunting around the farmstead for the newest batch of kittens. We got good at knowing the usual locations–a stack of hay bales, in the hole of an old tire, inside the old threshing machine–and we were so serious about our efforts we named ourselves “The Kitten Caboodle Club.”

We even made uniforms (a.k.a we puffy painted gramma’s old t-shirts).

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So it looks like Edie is the newest member of the KCC and I think she might be a natural. All we need now is some puffy paint.

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Peace, Love and Whiskers,

The KCC

The new good ‘ol days are on their way

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The new good ‘ol days are on their way
by Jessie Veeder
2-191-7
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I was five years old when my little sister was born. I was at an age where only the big things stick with you as a memory moving forward, and her arrival was one of those big things.

I remember the talks my family had about what we were going to name her if she was a girl or a boy. I remember my opinions on the choices. I remember my mom and her big belly at Christmastime.

And while I don’t remember visiting her in the hospital, I do remember bringing her home and wondering why she couldn’t sleep in my bed with me. So, I wholeheartedly offered her my tattered and beloved blankie to sleep with on her first night in her crib, feeling a little relieved when my parents declined my offer.

I wasn’t so certain I could sleep without it. But I was willing to try.

For that tiny new human who would now be living in my house, I would try.

It’s funny to think that my little sister arriving in this world, chubby and with what the nurse would describe as “a critical look” was one of my first memories.

And now that I think of it, even with the space of years between us, there aren’t many big and meaningful life moments that didn’t include her tagging along, or right there beside me or on the other end of the phone line.

When she arrived, a little sister myself, I was too young to understand what she might come to mean to me.

And now the young woman who once called me to ask how to boil an egg, who wept harder than me at the arrival of our daughter and who makes it a point to see her niece at least once every week, preferably on Sunday when she can have her all to herself, well, she’s going to be a mother herself.

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I can finally tell you. I have permission. Because given all that she’s seen me go through on my long and heartbreaking journey to motherhood, my poor little sister unfortunately had to inherit the knowledge that when it comes to building a family, it doesn’t always go as planned.

And while there are perks of taking notes from the hard lessons your older siblings face, that warning wasn’t one I wanted to pass on to her.

Because some days I swear she’s still six years old and I’m eleven and I’m building her a fort on the other side of the creek with a tin can telephone strung from my post to hers so that if she needed me she could call.

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And she’s always calling. That’s what I love about her. She’s better at things like sticking close and staying in touch. When she’s in your life she’s wholeheartedly there.

And while I lament about our childhood — three girls growing up in this wild and magical place — certain that those were the good ‘ol days, I can’t help but think that I might soon find out otherwise.

Because sharing in the common crazy, magical, sleep deprived chaos that is motherhood, raising our daughters together out here on the backs of horses, listening for the sound of their voices calling to one another across that same creek where we strung that old piece of twine, might take the place of the best years of our lives.

Yes. She’s having a girl.

And when I heard the news a little pang of hope that held its breath inside my chest finally let loose its air.

Because there’s no certainty in knowing if we’ll be able to have or welcome another child into our home, but from the moment I met my daughter, I wished for her a little sister.

And now, come June, it looks like she’s going to have one.

Just don’t make any bets on Edie sharing her blankie…

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