How to go sledding with 2 toddlers in only 20 steps


Husband and I took a break from the never-ending winter last week, dropped the kids at Nana and Papa’s and headed out on a tropical location. How we wound up in Jamaica alone when we were supposed to be in the Dominican with friends is a story for next week.

This week I’m going to leave you with some tips on how to get out the door with two toddlers. It seems simple enough, but all you parents out there know, there are way more than 20 steps, but I only get so much space in the paper. Anyway, when I wrote this, we still had plenty of snow on the ground, but the air was warming up. When we arrived home from our vacation, we found that snow is quickly turning to mud, which means not as many clothes, but plenty more laundry.  Today Edie added a few more steps to the process as she searched for just the right amount of jewelry and the proper hair bow to put under her snow clothes for a trip to help load cattle, adding another thirty or so steps to this process, so really, you know, it’s not an exact science.

Anyway, if you need me I’ll be catching up on that laundry and itching my sunburn.


How to go sledding with 2 toddlers in only 20 steps
Forum Communications


So you want to go sledding with two toddlers? Here’s how to do it in only 20 steps.

Step 1: Check the weather. Declare to the entire house that it is now above zero and you are all going outside.

Step 2: Tell the 3-year-old to go find her snow gear while you attempt to wipe all the syrup off of the 1-year-old. Respond to 3-year-old’s cries for help because she can’t find her mittens.

Step 3: Try to find the mittens while wondering why in the bleep you can never find the mittens.

Step 4: Pull the 1-year-old out of the pantry that you forgot she could open. Sweep up the sugar she was eating.

Step 5: Marvel at the way your 3-year-old’s body can transform into an instant limp noodle while you attempt to get her rubber band legs into her snow pants. Leave her lying on the rug half-dressed while threatening to cancel Christmas if she doesn’t, literally, straighten up.

Step 6: Start sweating.

Step 7: Locate the 1-year-old in the kitchen. Clean up the 5,000 plastic baggies she has pulled out of the box.

Step 8: Lay the puffy toddler-sized snowsuit out on the floor and attempt to wrangle the wiggly little child’s limbs into each proper compartment.

Step 9: Dig out her little hands and spend the next 45 minutes trying to get them into her mittens. Allow the same time frame for the snow boots.

Step 10: Set that tiny human down on the ground to waddle around. Cry at the cuteness. Also, wonder where you put her beanie.

ARCHIVE: Read more of Jessie Veeder’s Coming Home columns

Step 11: Start searching for the beanie all over the house, declaring to whoever is in the house with you (which is likely just your children) that it’s the only one she will keep on her head and what the heck could you have possibly done with it, you just had it a second ago for crying out loud!

Step 12: Check on the 3-year-old, who is sitting at her little table fully outfitted in her snow gear and fully invested in a coloring project she has to be convinced to abandon for the sledding hill.

Step 13: Realize you should have taken her to the potty before you started all of this. Continue your search for the missing hat.

Step 14: Give up on the missing hat. Locate smaller, less practical hat and squeeze that on the 1-year-old’s head. Notice that she’s taken off her mittens and one boot’s now laying on the kitchen floor. Repeat Step 9.

Step 15: Hastily pull on your own snow gear as your tiny, puffy humans crowd around you. Hurry now, Momma — each passing second is a second one of them could pull off a mitten.

Step 16: Declare joyfully, “Let’s go!” — and then take the 20-minute waddle–style trip down the steps, past the kitty (stop for a pet) and out the front door.

Step 17: Plop puffy children into sleds and proceed to pull them toward the sledding hill. Continue sweating, as previously indicated in Step 6, while you vow to start a workout program tomorrow.

Step 18: Take three runs down the hill, all while yelling at the dogs to stop licking and jumping on the children. Have the time of your life for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or the time it takes for someone to lose a boot.

Step 19: Carry one crying, slippery, puffy child on your hip while pulling the other limp noodle child toward home.

Step 20: Undress the children as fast as you can because now you have to pee. Discover that the missing hat was zipped up in the 1-year-old’s puffy snowsuit the whole time. Swear. Sweat. Repeat Steps 1-20 tomorrow.


The moral of the old friendship story

Some old friendship keep you young. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up witnessing that phenomenon, one  adventure and mishap after another.

Here’s this week’s column.

The moral of the old friendship story
by Jessie Veeder

We were all sitting around in the living room visiting about weather, politics and how Edie managed to get her second bloody nose in two days in church that morning when Dad came sneaking sort of quietly through the door, slipping off his snow boots and wool cap before shuffling down the hall and sliding into the chair.

The last time we saw him he was at the top of the neighbors’ sledding hill, brushing the snow off of his Carharts after a lightning speed solo trip on the orange toboggan.

His best friend just came back from the shop with his chainsaw to cut down a dead tree that he thought was in the way of the epic run they were building.

All the kids had already gone in the house due to frozen cheeks and my little sister and I, exhausted from a half hour of trying to save Edie from the ideas she had about running, unassisted and unafraid, down the sledding hill, decided we would all be safer and happier in my living room.


And so that’s where we left him — grampa Gene with his best friend, neighbor and grampa himself, Kelly — alone with two other dads, a slick sledding hill, a stack of sleds and no supervision.

“I bet if Gene and I took that orange sled down this hill together we could get going ’bout 150,” I heard Kelly say as he walked up the hill behind me.

And so I called Dad. I knew he wouldn’t want to miss out on a chance to go 150.


I should have known better, but neighbor Kelly is notorious for building epic escapades in the middle of an ordinary Sunday afternoon.

And in the winter, the go-to adventure is always their sledding hill, which is as meticulously cared for as an Olympic rated luge track.

“So, did you and Kelly go 150?” I asked Dad, thinking his unusual silence was a little suspicious.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “It was plenty fast.”

He sort of half-laughed the way a kid does when he’s holding on to something funny but knows giving in will undoubtedly mean having to explain himself.

Which is exactly what happened as he entered the living room scene, with my mom, little sister and husband all staring at him, knowing there was more to the story.

“What,” I said.

He scratched his head where his hat had been, making his silver, scruffy hair stand up straight and gave it up.

“Oh, it … it was bad,” he puffed. “Kelly got hurt. I don’t know …”

“What? How? Where?”

“Well, his arm I think. Think he tore a tendon. I don’t know … We tried snowboarding.”


“Yeah, well it’s not a challenge for those young guys; they just fly right down there. It’s more fun for us. To see how far we can go. Anyway. I hurt my shoulder … ”

“Your shoulder?!”

“Yeah, but he wiped out pretty bad at the bottom, don’t know how much hand shaking he’ll be doing these days … ”

“Might be the end of his curling career … ”


And the conversation spun on from there about past near misses, heroic injuries and the epic 2-mile toboggan run from the hay field to the barnyard. One story blended into the next the way they do when you get an old guy rolling in memories with a friend who’s lived up the hill from him his entire life and can always be counted on to help with things like roundup, keys locked in cars, or kittens stuck behind refrigerators.

My favorite is the time he spent the evening at our house in the dark sitting on the floor in the living room while Dad sat in his easy chair, both holding BB guns pointed at the open cabinet under the sink waiting for the unwelcome pack rat they were hunting to make his next and final appearance, a really great scene in the wonderfully ordinary story of their long friendship.

“Well, if there’s a chance to go sledding I’m taking it,” Dad said when someone swung back around to ask how his shoulder was feeling.

And I think that might be the moral of the story, and maybe of friendship in general, no matter how old and reckless you get.


Sunday Column: About an impromptu sledding party

Last weekend we had an impromptu sledding party with the neighbor kids.

I just happened to be hanging out with my nephew building a snowman in 50 degree weather, so it was perfect timing.

Impromptu is always perfect timing for me. Especially in the winter when the days can get sort of long without a project or a visit or two from the neighbors.

We gotta stick together around here.

Stick together and then, you know, let small children push us down an icy hill into a quickly melting crick below.



It was fun watching my friends’ kids playing on the same hill where we used to play, sliding down with their dads, squealing the same kind of screams, laughing the same kind of laughs and pushing it to the limit they way we used to, you know, trying to see how many could actually fit on a sled at once without crashing into a pile of tears and bloody noses at the bottom.


There were rice crispy bars, 


Snowball fights,


Soaking wet mittens,


Negotiated rides back up the hill…

IMG_1406And a failed attempt at a swimming pool sled…



It was the best way to spend a winter afternoon out here in the middle of all this snowy hills.

It was just like old times.

Coming Home: Sledding quickly into the life we imagined
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

IMG_1399  IMG_1402        IMG_1426IMG_1429


How to warm up.

It’s no secret, winters in North Dakota are long and cold. We always know they’re coming, but still they surprise us as we lean into November with brave faces and feed our bodies with soup and turkey and hot dishes (that’s Lutheran for casserole). We wait for the snow as we prepare our Thanksgiving meals and watch it fall as we wrap up presents, bring in Christmas trees, snuggle our families and ring in the New Year with champaign and a bit of dread, not necessarily about the year ahead, but the month we’re staring down.

No, the initial blast of holiday cheer can’t trick North Dakotans into thinking that winter is a party.

Oh no.


Because we still have January. And January is just the beginning really, marching in on us promising unpredictable, below zero temperatures, blinding blizzards, snow drifts, icy roads, and then usually a nice little thaw to tease us before it starts all over again.

January scares me. It always has. And I know it’s coming, I do, but for some reason I find myself worrying that I might not come out of the deep freeze with the rest of the furry animals tucked away tight for the winter.

I worry I’ll start eating hot dishes (Lutheran for casserole) and never stop.

I worry I’ll grow too comfortable with the extra padding on my rear-end and the bulky sweaters and the scarves that hug me and hide me from the elements and I will decide not to emerge with the warm sun.

I worry I might just turn into a hibernating bear-like creature who never shaves her legs or takes off her beanie and walks all hunched over and shivery if she ever decides to move at all.

This kind of paranoia is not healthy. Fear is not a good place to be. So this January, instead of bidding farewell to the holidays, packing out the gigantic Christmas tree and pulling on the wool socks with no intentions of removal, we decided to keep the party going.

We decided to leave the Christmas tree up. We decided to buy more groceries, turn on the oven, pull out the crock pots and paper plates and keep on eating.

We decided to dig out the schnapps.

And the snow pants.

We decided to call our friends and neighbors to see if they’d like to join us as we flung our bodies down the giant hill outside our window.

We decided to clear off the stock dam and turn it into a curling rink.

We decided to use icicles as stir sticks,

drink hot chocolate, sit close together on the couch,

play some games, tell some stories and sing a little.

I decided to make a chocolate cake.

From scratch.

We decided to build a fire and stand around it and then head inside to eat some more.

We decided to laugh in winter’s face.

Take that winter.

And that.

And this.

And this.

And that.





I think winter won there.

But I’m not scared anymore.

I just forgot for a moment what it is that really gets us through life in one piece. And it’s not just the special occasions that are put on a calendar reminding us to love one another, to be thankful and to celebrate.

No, it’s the every day and the way we chose to live it.

It’s the phone calls that we make that turn into plans to sit next to one another and eat dip and chocolate cake. It’s the way we bundle up against the cold and scream as we push each other down hills, remembering what it’s like to forget everything but the world you just climbed to the top of and flew down.

It’s remembering that sometimes we need someone to pull us up there.

It’s clearing a space for games and music.

It’s the invitation into one another’s homes, into our lives, to sleep on the couch or on the air mattress in the next bedroom and wake up for bacon and coffee and a recap of how someone nearly killed the pug in a sledding rollover.

Because we are made for so many things–work and worry, fear and bravery, singing and listening. Our lungs are made for breathing, yes, but they also work for screaming as snow sprays you in the face while you fly 25 miles per hour down a hill in a sled with your father and your friend.

How else would you find out a brain freeze can start on the outside of your head?

And our fingers are made for working and typing and pointing out things that are wrong with the world, but they also fit really nicely in mittens, as you pull each other up.

I mean, sure, it’s damn cold out there, but our legs are made for walking, hiking, climbing, jumping and standing on the top of things, we might as well use them properly.

See that’s the thing about us northerners. It’s not that we have found a spot in our hearts for the blinding snows of winters, the icy wind or temperatures that dip so far below zero that I don’t even want to mention it. It’s not that we ever get used to the deep freeze.

It’s just that we know, in the deepest of winters, on the coldest of January days, what to do to warm up.

Note: Only four sleds and two skinny little butts were injured in the making of this blog post. 

A quick Christmas recap (with some humiliation splashed in)

Outside the Christmas window

And now, a quick recap of a Very Veeder Christmas so you can all move on with your lives and wait, with bated breath, for the next dramatic adventure of the ranch pug in bad outfits, or weather report that involves more snow, or photos of tiny birds far away because I lack the appropriate sneaking skills.

And also because I promised you I’d let you know how the cheese ball turned out.

Ok, here we go:

This was the tree. My momma’s famous tree. A tree that only tipped over once during the season due to that one last bulb that set it over the edge. Yeah, surprisingly it wasn’t the evil cat.

Because the devil cat was too busy hanging out in this bag…

This is utter humiliation and annoyance and all of the things that are so awkward and wonderful about the holidays. Please note and oooh and aahhh over my holiday vest.

And these are the gifts, sure to provide hours of entertainment and complete happiness:

For little sister, a shiny new ukulele. To which she exclaimed with glee: “What? A ukulele? Oh my, oh my, oh my I had no idea! I will never put it down. Ever. I’ll prove it to you. All. Christmas. Day.”

“So many possibilities! We should put on a Christmas Ukulele Concert! And this will be our album cover when we take it to the streets.”

“But first I better learn a chord…oh man…I need to Google this shit…”

And a gift for Cowboy:

…now get your butt back in the kitchen.

Yes, the kitchen, where we feasted on prime rib, mashed potatoes, cranberries, smoked turkey, broccoli salad, sweet potatoes, and Cowboy’s famous cookie salad.

This is the table:

And upon this table a reindeer shaped cheese ball was born…

…and about one second after this photo was snapped, his head fell off.

But don’t worry, it was promptly reattached and relocated to the fridge…

…where it fell off again.

And so did his nose.

And for a moment I thought Christmas was ruined.

Until this came traipsing through the kitchen.

Bwahahahahhaahahaahaha! (Oh, and I’m in so much trouble)

Ok. Sorry. Moving on.

So after an uncooperative, but delicious reindeer shaped cheese ball was consumed, a beautiful feast with friends and family, a couple glasses of Santa’s Surprise (my famous cocktail…which was actually a Sex on the Beach, but that was deemed an inappropriate title for a Christmas drink) we headed outside to burn off some calories before the inevitable pie and cookie gorge.

The posse: My mother in law, father in law, pops and little sister…

Oh and don’t be alarmed, that is not Freddy Kruger on the snowmobile. That is husband.

He didn’t want to get cold.

Ok, this is the beginning of a sledding race between Freddy, I mean, husband and little sister…

…and this is how it ended…

This is pops demonstrating the depth of the snow…a severe situation…

…and this is what happens when you lose your sled at the bottom of the hill in these circumstances…

..turns out you also lose your arms and the bottom part of your legs. Poor pops, how’s he gonna eat pie now?

This is more holiday humiliation:

I think I heard him whisper “sweet mercy…” but I can’t be sure…

Oh Christmas. There is no better season…

…for love crashing down a snow covered hill…

…wearing sparkling bows as fashionable hair accessories…

…crowd pleasing performances…


…and humiliation…

Speaking of, let’s see that ukulele performance one more time!

Hope you had a great one!

Love you all.

This season remember yourself (at 5 years old)

Ok. Newsflash. The holiday season is upon us.

I know this because someone dressed me in suspenders, a bow tie and patent leather shoes and stuck me by this Christmas tree.

Now let me take a guess at what you’re doing in any of the spare time you may be lucky to possess.

You are making lists. Lists in your head about gifts to give. Lists on napkins about food to bake.  Grocery lists stuck to the side of the refrigerator that you forget to grab on your way out into the blizzard to get to the store. Lists on the back of your hand reminding you to add crazy uncle Bob to your Christmas card list.

I’m right aren’t I? But hopefully you’re not feeling the pressure just yet, as we have a good 24 days until Christmas. Oh, and by the way, thanks for taking the time to stop in, you know, between all of that baking and list making.

So while I have you here with me, I want to give you a little gift.

Close your eyes.

Put your head on your desk, or in your hands, or on the shoulder of your sweetie sitting next to you…

…and think about the season. Go ahead. I give you permission. Think about it the way you want to think about it. Love it. Loathe it. Tolerate it.

Now picture yourself when you were 5 or 6 or 7.

Shut up, neon was in. And so were earmuffs.

In the middle of December.

Picture your snowsuit. Think about the thrill of Santa’s impending visit, the pride you felt wrapping up that macaroni pencil holder for your gramma, the excitement of the first snow fall, the taste of your momma’s fresh cookies and your pops’ caramel corn. The quiet thankfulness you had for Jesus as you decorated the Christmas tree in preparation for his birthday.

Think of yourself, adorable I’m sure with hair wildly flinging out from your favorite beanie, breath heavy as you drug your neon sled, or wood sled, or cardboard box up to the top of the nearest hill and flung yourself down for the first time.

Remember how you couldn’t even feel your frozen cheeks as you closed your eyes tight against the wind whizzing by. You didn’t care about the weather or the windchill or the travel warnings or the buns you left in the oven. Because you didn’t leave buns in the oven. Because you were five or six or seven and no one let you use the oven.

Maybe your little sister was sitting behind you in the sled. Maybe your big brother was giving you a huge push. Remember the sound you used to make when you were thrilled? Remember how hard you laughed as you came to a crashing halt at the bottom–snow in your boots, snow in your hair, snow down your pants.

Yup, earmuffs, so fashionable, versatile anyone can pull off the look.

But you jumped up, brushed yourself off and just as soon as you yelled, “let’s do it again!’ your mom and dad came out from the house to call you for dinner and to your surprise, instead of making you come inside, they decided to take a run at the hill themselves.

So they climbed to the top with you, huffing and puffing into thier wool scarves, your dad holding your mother’s hand partly out of affection, but mostly to tug her along.

And just like that they were no longer adults. Just like that they were no longer parents who made you eat your vegetables, stop hitting your sister and clean your room. They were kings and queens of the mountain just like you. Their cheeks were rosy, their eyelashes coated in frost, their hearts pounding in anticipation as your mom wrapped her arms around your father’s waist and squealed– a sound so familiar somehow, although you swore you never heard it from her lips–as he launched the both of them, scarves trailing behind, like white lightning down the mountain.

And you held your breath and hoped your eyes did not deceive you. You clasped your hands together and bent your knees as they approached the little jump you and your brother had constructed. You closed your eyes as they caught air and seperated from the ground…and then from the sled…

You remained silent as they landed, with a puff, in a pile of legs and down and snot and wool and mittens, at the bottom.

You remained silent knowing surely that this accident, this launch, would transform them back into the people you knew only moments before. That a trip home right this instant was inevitable. Oh, the fun was surely over now.

And just as you were about to release your knees, slowly from their bent position, you launched into that jump after all as you heard, echoing off of the buttes and through the trees, laughter.

Laughter like you’ve never heard come out of these people you called parents before.

And you laughed too as you watched them lay there in a pile, their bellies rising and falling underneath the layers of coats and sweaters as they took in the next big breath only to release it again and again as huge chuckles, squeals, gasps. Pure joy.

So as soon as gravity returned you to earth your boots carried you, arms flailing, down the hill and to a sliding halt right into the middle of these new found friends. Then your brother or sister plopped right on the top and another wave of hilarity ensued.

And you were all there. You were all a part of it. A great big pile of happy and love and family.

A great big pile of friends.

Are you smiling?


Now the only thing I ask in return is this:  if you forget anything this season–the cookie salad, your third cousin’s new last name, what your youngest daughter wants for Christmas, or uncle Bob at the airport–please, please do not forget yourself…

… at 5 or 6 or 7…

…and then be her again…

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