As wide as the sky…

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I took Edie on a horse with me for the first time last weekend. We just got back from what I’m now calling my annual Mother’s Day Ride, because we’ve done it two years in a row now and it’s pretty much the only time since giving birth that I insist that today I’m going riding, so who wants to watch the baby?

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The day before we took Edie to her first horse sale in one of those spontaneous last minute decisions to do the thing we probably shouldn’t do instead of the million other things we should be doing, and so, because it was going to be 80 degrees, too hot for productivity, we loaded up and headed to the big town to sit at the sale barn and see if we couldn’t find a horse or two to replace our good buddy Stormy.

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I submitted next week’s column on how much I love the sale barn, an affection solely tied to the memories I gathered when I was a kid tagging along with dad, because I found, even at 80 degrees with a wiggly, sweaty toddler, I still loved it. And I think Edie did too. She really got into the whole yelling thing. I think she might have even bid on a few herself 🙂

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Anyway, a have a little more to say about that for next week, but I will tell you this, if you think we sat through an entire horse sale without winning a bid or two, well then, you don’t know us very well.

If you figured we’d come home with more than one, well then you’ve hung around here a fare bit. Because we headed home with two nice geldings and my Sunday Mother’s Day Ride was a perfect time for the guys to try them out while I plodded along beside them safe on my trusty steed, Rocky, not willing to be the one who discovers the kinks.

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It was a beautiful, windy, spring day and we didn’t even really do any work or chasing cows. The cows were spread, hiding in the trees, munching on the long grass and weeds that grow on the creek bottom and so we just looked around at the scenery, commented on how things are greening up and caught whiffs of the blossom scent blowing up and on in our nostrils.

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Chad’s new dun rode out nice and calm and the paint we got for the purpose of an amateur/kid horse seemed to do his lazy job just fine. So we were pleased we could say so far so good.

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My little sister (and her big baby belly) was inside the house with Edie and I thought it would be fun to ride down and see if she wanted to get on a horse (the toddler, not the belly). I came in to get her just as Alex was getting ready to bend over and try to squeeze Edie’s boots on, so she was grateful for the relief.

And Edie was pretty excited to be up on that horse. As soon as she decided this was one of those things she loved, she basically did what she does, and became obsessed with it.

Couldn’t take her down.

When her cousin showed up to take a turn, she lost her shit when he disappeared with Papa over the hill, reminding me yet again that 1 1/2 year olds are the worst at sharing.

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Turns out she had the same sentiment toward sharing her harmonica, bouncy horse, toy tractors and Papa too.

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Good thing the 6-year-old is tolerant.

IMG_6509Anyway, having her up on that horse with me was one of those moments when I realized that a dream I used dream was coming true. I’m not deep enough into this motherhood thing to forget how much we wanted and waited for little things like this.

And I didn’t realize how wide my smile was until I watched the video back. It seemed it almost matched hers.

It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time because of this. I remember how hard Mother’s Days used to be for me. It’s getting easier to forget, but I will never forget. For all those mommas-to-be out there waiting for their babies, I promise I will never forget.

And I hope with all my heart that you get a moment in your life like I had on Sunday, a moment where you hold your child and the two of you smile as wide as the sky you’ve been given a chance to raise her under…

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On horseback…

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We’re in the thick of fall at the ranch, which doesn’t mean as much pumpkin spice flavor as it does wooly horses, wooly caps and scrambling to get things buttoned up and rounded up for the winter.

On Sunday gramma came over to watch Edie do the things Edie does, like try as hard as she can to stand on her own, fall down and get concussions…oh, and blow kisses, and I headed out with the guys for a ride out to the west pastures to move the cows to a different pasture and find some strays.

The weather looked sort of threatening and chilly from behind the glass windows of my house, so I bundled up in layers and squeezed into the riding jeans I haven’t worn since I was three months pregnant, and headed out into a calm and sort of rainy day.

And it was a much needed trek for me, something I used to take so much for granted before I had a little one attached to my hip. Now, if I want to go out for a ride it involves “arrangements.”

So many simple things these days involve more planning than I ever did in my pre-baby life. But it’s worth it all around. Gramma gets one on one time with the baby and I get one on one time with the things I love most.

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I traveled those hills on my sorta of slow and lazy horse, took two pees in the pasture behind bullberry bushes because I drank too much coffee,

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Here, hold my horse…

chased cooperative cattle through open gates,

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got sorta lost looking for a stray, got slapped a few times by wayward branches, got kinda wet in the rain and the deep creek running high because of all the fall moisture and came home a different woman, reminded that heaven isn’t the only thing that can be found on horseback…

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Sometimes, you wind up finding yourself again too.

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Wild berries, worms and cuss words…

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Last night I went on a walk to close some gates in our home pasture and check a couple juneberry patches.

Juneberries are a special treat around here. Like wild mini-blueberries, if they show up, they show up around this time to much fan fare for those of us who know people who make pies.

Juneberries make the best pies in the world.

Probably because getting to them before the frost kills them or the birds eat them up is so rare, and the entire task of picking enough of the little purple berries sends you to the most mosquito and tick infested, hot, thorny, itchiest places in the free world, so finally making and tasting a Juneberry pie is like completing some prairie, culinary, ironman marathon.

Only better and more gratifying, because, well, pie.

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Anyway, my little stroll before sunset was only mildly successful. The gates on this place were made to be shut only by Thor himself. Or the Hulk. Or some hybrid of a bear-man. By the time I grunted and groaned, used my entire body weight trying to push the two posts together to maybe, possibly, for the love of Dolly Parton, stretch the three wires tight enough to get the little wire loop over the top of the scrawny post, I was sweating, cussing, bleeding and wondering how I missed the yeti that we apparently hired to fix the gates on this place.

I called Husband on my cell phone (who was inside the house with the baby, like twenty yards away) and told him there’s no way in hell I’m ever getting that damn gate shut and that shutting the damn gates was his job from now on who the hell do you think I am what the hell is this all about who in their right mind makes gates that tight good gawd sweet mercy Martha Stewart.

And, if you’re wondering, the gate on the other side of that pasture went about the same way…

Anyway, on my way I did in fact locate a big ‘ol juneberry patch. But the best berries, of course, were hanging out about fifteen feet above my head at the very tops of the bushes. And to get to them I had to wade through thorny bushes up to my armpits. But some of those thorny bushes had raspberries growing on them, so that was a win.

I proceeded to eat every ripe red berry I could find.

Even the one with the worm on it…which I discovered after I put it in my mouth and crunched.

So that was a loss.

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Yes, the raspberries, worms and all, were within my reach. The juneberries, not so much. But tonight I’m going to use my best convincing skills to see if Husband might want to come with me to back our old pickup up to that bush, stand in the box, brave the mosquitos and pick us some berries.

Because, well…pie.

Anyway, when I got home I discovered that apparently wading up to my armpits in thorny brush to pick raspberries was not only a good way to accidentally eat a worm, but, even better, it’s a great way to acquire 500 wood ticks.

I came home and picked off a good fifteen or so. Stripped down to my undies, checked myself out in the mirror, sat down on the chair and proceeded to pick off at least five more.

When I crawled into bed I wondered out loud to Husband what time of night I would wake up to a tick crawling across my face. He made a guess. I made a guess.

But we were both wrong.

At about 12:30 or so, just as I had drifted into a really nice slumber, I was indeed awoken by a tick…but it wasn’t crawling across my face. No.

It was crawling toward my butt crack.

Thank good gawd sweet mercy Martha Stewart, I cut him off at the pass…

Ugh, all I wanted to do was close some freakin’ gates…

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Sunday Column: Small Houses/Big Love

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Since baby Edie arrived, it seems we have a house full of company more often. She sure draws a crowd, and it’s taking me back…

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Sunday Column: Small houses feel big to kids who fill them with love
by Jessie Veeder
5-1-16
Forum Communications

 The first few years my husband and I were married, we lived in the house where my dad was raised. Gramma’s house stood modestly next to the red barn on the end of a scoria road.

 

That was just one string of memories I had attached to the house, but they all sort of looked like that, a piece of the good life attached to a pile of cousins gathered at Gramma’s.

 

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My sister Lindsay, me and my cousin in the Veeder house on Easter morning.

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The Veeder cousins with Grandma Edie during Easter at the Veeder House. I’m directly next to my grandma in the adorable striped jumpsuit, always a good choice in the early 90s.

It was my favorite thing in the whole world to meet up with these people who sorta looked like me. They were the only ones in my life who understood that the hay bales covered in snow stacked by the barn were really Frosted Mini Wheats and we were shrunken kids trying to escape the giant spoon. The short, bald gumbo hills in the pasture actually formed a mansion, and we were the fabulous people who lived there. The scoria road that wound up the hill to the grain bins was actually the Yellow Brick Road and, after a long discussion about who was who, we would link arms, sing at the top of our lungs and dance our way to the Emerald City.

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That was the thing about Gramma’s house. We could be anything we wanted because we were at the perfect age to imagine it all to be so. The red carpet in the basement was hot lava. The hallway was a wedding aisle. The closets were secret passageways, and the deep freeze was full of ice cream sandwiches.

When I moved to that little brown house with my new husband all of those years later, I couldn’t believe we fit that much possibility and so many big suppers into 1,200 square feet. I was having a hard time finding enough space for my shoes.

Every time I walked through that door and took my boots off on the hot-lava carpet, I was transported back to standing in bare feet next to my cousins while Gramma handed us each an orange Schwan’s push-up pop.

The plan was never to stay living in that little house. Time and weather took its toll on the structure, and we needed more space. So here we are, over the hill in a new house of our own.

Last weekend, the cousins came to visit with their mom and Gramma and Grampa. The kids spent the day changing Edie’s clothes, baking banana bread, feeding the bottle calf, tracking in mud and indulging the littlest ones in make-believe games.

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There was a point when I was crammed into our modest bathroom giving Edie a bath with four of her cousins as assistants. I was sweating, she was splashing, the three sisters were bossing and laughing, and my nephew was tossing bath toys in the little basketball hoop suction-cupped to the shower wall.

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This house that we built is not huge by design, and the basement isn’t finished, so we all bumped into one another plenty of times as we squeezed in on chairs, couches and floors eating hamburgers and helping put batteries into the remote-controlled toys.

At one point, my nephew came down to the basement with me, a construction zone filled with tools and dust, and he asked about plans for the space. When I told him where the walls will go, he threw his hands out and declared this is “the biggest house in the world!”

I laughed and thought of the little brown house and hoped that this one was at least small enough to hold as many good memories for Edie and her cousins.

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Sunday Column: On a memory named Pooper

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It’s raining, the grass is getting greener and the calves are being born. I love this time of year where things are fresh and new and there’s nothing ahead of us but the promise of warmer weather (after a couple spring snow storms that leave us holding our breath of course).

The bottle calf in the barn has made me a little nostalgic and I’m having a flashback of a bottle calf my little sister and I took care of back when I was the boss and she didn’t care…

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Coming Home: Everything is better with some cows around
by Jessie Veeder
4-17-16
InForum
http://www.inforum.com 

Calving season is in full force here at the ranch, and this year it’s extra special for my husband and I because part of the new herd we’re building is our own.

And by better, by no stretch of the word does he mean easier. If I learned anything in my life it’s that better doesn’t always mean easier. (I’ve found this to be true in ranching and in motherhood.)

Anyway, it could be the green grass sprouting up on the hilltops or a little hope of warm rain in the forecast that sends us outside with the enthusiasm of a kindergartner with a new backpack on her first day of school, but I know it’s those cows grazing on the hilltop and the babies trying out their new legs beside them.

Last week, one of our best new cows gave birth to twins. I was in Bismarck with Mom and Edie at a singing job when I got a text with a photo from Dad telling me the news. My little sister, my mom and my husband all got the same message and I smiled at the realization that we’re living in an age where my dad sends group texts to his family about cows.

This morning one of those twin babies is waiting for me in the barn because, as it goes sometimes with animals, the cow didn’t recognize the second twin as hers.

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So I’m her momma now, a job I happily volunteered for because feeding babies is something I know how to do, and it’s not just due to my new role as a mom.

I have pretty vivid memories of all of the bottle calves we had when I was a kid growing up out here. One in particular left a big mark on my sister and I, mainly for the role that little calf played in our epic, sisterly fights.

I was 12 and so I pretty much knew everything, and my little sister was 7 and not as eager as she should have been at being bossed by me.

The calf, lovingly named Pooper, became our responsibility and part of our daily chores, which we eagerly took on in the beginning. Because, in the beginning, calves are adorable and have yet to grow into a 150-pound puppy on legs who has figured out two little girls are his only food source, and coincidentally has also figured out how to escape his pen in order to chase them down the road after the empty bottle, tongue out, bellering, head down in feeding position in case he caught up to one.

And he always caught up to one; it just was never this one. Because I employed the age-old advice: Want to survive a bear attack? Just be faster than the guy you brought with you.

Turns out my little sister never forgave me for it. Last weekend I took her down to the barn to have a look at the new baby, and she started getting the cold sweats. Instead of seeing an innocent newborn creature, Alex was having flashbacks of snowpants full of slobber, swift head butts to her rear and unanswered cries for help directed at a big sister sprinting to the house half a mile away, leaving her to suffer a terrifying death by the tongue of a baby calf.

Apparently, the times we spent together feeding Pooper were the first times she heard me cuss like a sailor, knocking me off my very low pedestal. I know because she brings it up at family dinners, holidays and probably the toast she made at my wedding.

Needless to say, my little sister will find different ways to help with the cattle business. Like babysitting Edie.

And I don’t blame her. It’s not easy playing momma to a baby with a giant head and four wobbly legs, especially when you’re feeding her with one hand and trying to put the pacifier back into your human baby’s mouth with the other.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Because everything is better with some cows around.

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Taxes, Netflix and what I learned this week…

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Every day with a baby in the house comes with a little life lesson.

That, for example, is one of those lessons. That there’s always a lesson.

And just when you think you have it figured out, you are reminded at 1 am when that baby is lying wide awake in her crib practicing her new pterodactyl noises, that you don’t.

And you will never have a full night’s sleep again.

Right now though, I’m holding out hope that just like her recent waking up every two hours in the night has thrown me for a loop, so soon will her sleeping through the night.

“Soon” being the word that I’m hanging on to by a thread.

 

Anyway, it’s Friday. As if that means anything to a mom who stays at home with the baby, except that, besides the gig I have on Saturday night, during the weekend I don’t have to try to work too.

Or do taxes.

Yup . This week was the week of the taxes. And lest I have mislead you to believe I am organized (which I’m pretty positive I haven’t) taxes, when you own a small business that sends you working in different venues across the state all year, mean you have to keep track of things like hotels, meals, miles, contract help and dozens of 1099s, and I suck at it.

I wish I lived in a world where I didn’t need to know what a 1099 is. But I don’t.

If only I had the self-discipline to stay on top of what I need to stay on top of to make taxes easier on myself. My system looks less like Quick Books and more like “put all the receipts and contracts and paperwork in a folder and sort through them the week before your tax appointment.”

I mean, I don’t even have my shit together enough to buy Quick Books. I need to get my shit together enough to buy Quick Books.

That was one realization I had this week.

Another? I eat way too many burgers while I’m on the road.

Like lots and lots of burgers.

Anyway, aside from the lessons my taxes tried to teach me this week, I also learned that baby Edie is one wiggle away from taking off out the door to college.

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She can’t be trusted alone on any surface, so we all prefer the floor.

And so I’ve learned I need to sweep more.

And mop once in a while.

And maybe use my burger money to hire a housekeeper…or maybe just tape a Swiffer pad to the baby and get her started early on chores.

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Anyway, aside from taxes, this week also found me in town at my Little Sister’s waiting on the shop to get done fixing my car, which also had a flat tire and three inches of prairie mud stuck to its finish, not that that’s anything new.

Little Sister has high speed Internet and Netflix, a luxury we apparently aren’t afforded if we choose to live in the boonies. And so I irresponsibly decided to use that Internet, not to get work done, but to watch whatever the hell I wanted. Because when you have access to high speed Internet, you can watch whatever the hell you want.

But it turns out I can’t handle that kind of power. I just hold the baby and flip through the choices and never make a decision. I become a channel flipping, time sucking zombie.

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I can’t handle the pressure.

And so maybe our lack of basic Netflix/Amazon Prime/Internet good enough that I could at least watch a YouTube clip, is a blessing in disguise.

I mean, how would I ever get my taxes done knowing that every season of the 1980s hit television show “The Wonder Years” is just waiting for me in that black box?

So there was another realization.

And the wind and the snow outside this week reminded us all that it’s not spring yet.

And this morning, as Edie’s eyes are about to pop wide open after her typical 10-minutes-or-less nap, I am reminded that I should use those ten minutes to fry and egg or something because I’m starving and might have missed my breakfast window.

Which reminds me that I need to get eggs.

At the grocery store.

Shit. I need to go to the grocery store.

And the post office.

Because, well, taxes…

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Sunday Column: Two sisters, two puppies, a baby girl, a 5-year-old Batman and 100 crickets take a road trip.

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If there’s one thing I predicted correctly when it came to new motherhood it’s that all of the gadgets associated with keeping the baby happy, healthy, safe and alive would put make me crazy, sweaty, confused and hanging by a thread.

I could go on here with the examples of how I continue to find a way to lock the lid in the up position on the Diaper Genie, rendering it completely useless for its intended purposes, or how I inherited a bottle sanitizer without the directions so I just. Can’t. Even.  Or this weekend’s battle involving tears, pools of sweat and a nearly dislocated shoulder in an all out war to get the baby in one of those cool, hippy-mommy baby carriers I always envisioned myself sporting so we could go on a walk together for the love of fleece beanies and 60 degree February weather…

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But that’s nothing compared the the weekly battle with the car seat. No one in this house loves the car seat. Especially not the baby.

Because why, when we live at least a half hour away from anywhere we need to go, would God give me one of those babies who loves to snuggle and falls asleep as soon as she’s strapped in and rolling down the road? That would just be too easy on this momma.

Instead, I got one of those babies who likes to sprawl, arms above her head and legs pumping, one who would prefer to lay on her back and watch the world smile on her than be rocked in the chair in front of a TV tuned to the hunting channel like her dad hoped.

Maybe the next one.

But for now we have this…

And unless you’re sitting in the back seat with her inserting her pacifier on demand so that she might lull off to dreamland, or entertaining her enough to distract her from realizing her unjust confinement, traveling can be loud and, well, just like everything else these days, sweaty.

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So when I was charged with delivering the last of the puppies to a town two hours away from the ranch, I knew it was going to be an adventure. And when I heard Husband had to stay back because he was on call for work, and my 5-year-old nephew was coming for a sleepover, I knew I had to call in reinforcements…

Her name was Little Sister and after it was all was said and done, well, it might be a while before Edie get’s another cousin…

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Coming Home: Mastering routine of traveling with a baby is easier said than done
by Jessie Veeder
2-28-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Two sisters, two puppies, a baby girl, a 5-year-old Batman and 100 crickets take a road trip.

That was last Saturday in a nutshell. Because the last of the 11 puppies were ready to be delivered to their new owners, and plans had been made to meet up in Minot, a good two-hour drive from the ranch.

These days, a two-hour drive might as well be across the country when you factor in the preparation needed to get me and my 3-month-old out the door, buckled in and rolling down the road anywhere close to a promised timeline.

Add to that my 5-year-old nephew who stayed for a sleepover and two wiggly, fluffy little cow dogs who needed to be retrieved from the barn, loaded in a crate and introduced to a moving vehicle on a full tummy. It became pretty clear I needed backup.

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So I called my little sister, who I recently discovered would do anything if it means she gets to hang out with the baby, even if it requires waking up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday with no guarantee that the babies, human or canine, won’t cry, puke or poop along the way.

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Now, I like to give myself credit for being a multitasker, and I’ve certainly put plenty of miles under these tires, but I’ve only been a mom for a couple of months, and to say that I’ve mastered the routine of packing up and traveling with a baby would be a lie. In all of the mom blogs and what-to-expect essays I’ve read, no one maps out what it really looks like to get you and an infant out the door with minimal puke or poop on your outfits.

Sometimes there just aren’t enough burp rags in the world.

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Anyway, here’s my opportunity to fill in the missing information: Life with an infant is a ticking time bomb that can be controlled by a meticulously managed process of wake up, change her, feed her and get her happy and comfortable enough so that maybe she’ll take a little nap while you take a quick shower, find something to wear, run a comb through your hair and, if you’re lucky, find some eyeliner while filling up a thermos full of hot water so that in a pinch you can warm a bottle because you get a 3-second window of time between a hundred smiles and a wail of hunger that needs immediate attention, always during a time it’s not so convenient to feed the baby the old-fashioned way.

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And then there’s planning for the blowout that may or may not happen when you’re in the middle of buying laundry detergent and more tiny socks. They don’t tell you that the world isn’t quite set up for spontaneous diaper changes. I mean, up until Edie shot a poop so explosive the aftermath reached well past her little shoulder blades while I was holding her in the plumbing section of Menards, I was completely unaware of the importance of the life-saving “family bathroom.”

These are the life lessons I have come to appreciate.

And last Saturday, I also came to appreciate a 5-year-old who can brush his own teeth, comb his own hair, dress himself in the clothes he wore the day before and provide running commentary on why the puppies were crying, why the baby was crying, why he doesn’t want the crying baby to come with him into McDonalds and why, for the love of chicken nuggets, the puppies barfed everywhere.

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Because they ate too much, he thought. And maybe I drove a little too crazy.

Crazy like his mother, my brave older sister, who, after the pukey puppies were delivered, the 5-year-old was filled with french fries, the baby fed, changed and almost sleeping in her car seat, and two lattes were purchased for an aunt who just spent half her paycheck on gifts for her niece and nephew and a frazzled mom who had to call her husband to figure out how to close the collapsible stroller, thought it would be a good time to text with a request to pick up 100 crickets at the pet store for the 5-year-old’s lizard, Frank. You know, if we hadn’t left yet.

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A horrifying story

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Ok, so it’s beautiful outside right now, green and warm and it’s fixing to thunderstorm the way we’ve been waiting for, and I should show you a bunch of pretty pictures of it and lament about my favorite season and all that…but it just isn’t in the cards today.

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Because today I have to tell you a horrifying tale that involves my mother and a glass of wine.

Better get under your blanket, because you’re going to want to pull it over your head in a minute here.

So my family spent all day Memorial Day weekend working outside. Pops, Husband and my Father in Law were building fences, I was pressure washing everything I could pressure wash because I love shit like that, and my momma was planting flowers at her house.

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Well, I don’t think I have to mention it again, but when you’re out and about in the grass on a warm spring day you’re bound to get a tick or thirty-seven.

So that’s why when we came in for lunch, we did the regular neck slap, hair scratch, take-a-look-at-my-back-do-you-see-anything check and then went on with our sandwiches and back to our business.

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Well, later on that evening, after the whole house was hosed down, enough fence was repaired and mom’s flowers were in pots where they belonged, Husband and I showered up and snuggled down in our house and mom and Pops changed out of their work gear and settled in their comfy chairs to watch a movie.

Pops probably had a little whiskey and Mom poured herself a glass of red wine. She leaned back at her favorite spot on the couch, grabbed the remote and her glass of wine and took a good, long, well deserved sip, pausing for a moment after the swallow to remove what she thought was a little piece of cork stuck to her tongue.

But people. It wasn’t a cork.

No it was not.

It was a tick.

My mom had a tick in her wine and it went into her mouth.

O.M.G.

I mean, just recently Husband saw one crawling across my face and kindly mentioned it before it hit my mouth, which was disgusting enough…but not as disgusting as what happened to my mom.

She takes the cake for the most horrifying tick story on the ranch so far.

Imagine that. The woman on the ranch who goes outside the least wins the title.

Good one mom.

Good one.

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So this was basically my day…
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Annnndddd…..goodnight…