In her dress, life’s just more beautiful

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This week’s column is a little more about “The Dress.” Which my darling daughter is, of course, currently wearing as she sits on the potty and watches videos as I sit on the bathroom floor in front of her typing this on my laptop and waiting to hear a tinkle.

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On Saturday she actually plopped a poop in that potty, but that’s likely only because we rushed her there while she was clearly working on somethin’.

This is what my life has become.

But I have to admit that my daughter’s obsession with all things dresses, and pretty, and hair and painted fingernails has provided such an unexpected reality for me, a mom who, until I discovered her love for a good twirl in a floor length gown, has never played a legit princess movie in the house and really doesn’t get dressed up too fancy unless I’m heading to a performance.

But she’s been watching. She see’s what’s special, decides what she makes her feel good and smart and beautiful and independent and she goes all in.

And she’s not even two yet.

I didn’t realize this identity development, these preferences, started so young.

Last week I had her up in my room with me while I was getting ready for a meeting. She went into my closet and tugged on the bottom of one of my dresses and said “mommy dress, mommy dress,” and so I pulled it out and put it on. Her smile lit up that dim room. She was thrilled, she bounced up and down and told me I was “bootiful. Bootiful mommy in a bootiful dress” And then she instructed me to twirl. And so I did.

And there we were, the two of us, mom and tiny daughter alone in the house, in my bedroom, in the middle of nowhere, laughing and singing and dancing and twirling, telling one another how fabulous, beautiful and lovely we are in dresses way too fancy for an ordinary day. But to Edie there’s no such thing as an ordinary day and I hope I never forget the complete innocence and freedom in that moment with her. Because it was everything.

My only wish is that she could always remember it too….

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My daughter’s love for dresses
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We have an issue in our house these days. At least that’s what I’m calling it, dare I utter the real word and ignite the flame.

I’ve been dealing with the “issue” moderately successfully for the past few weeks, but last night it raised its voice loud and clear while I was chained to a phone with a cord, trying my best to have a professional conversation as the last human on earth who still owns a landline and my daughter let out a series of loud, desperate and relentless cries that only got louder and more inexorable as my poor husband worked to remove her from the room.

Did she fall and hit her head? I didn’t hear a thump, but maybe she’s bleeding. Did she need stitches? An ambulance? Or maybe she saw a ghost — you know like one of those supernatural phenomenons that only innocent children can spot?

That’s a thing, right?

“Do you have to go?” The now-concerned voice on the other end of the phone asked me as I tried, apparently unsuccessfully, to pretend that nothing catastrophic was occurring in my household.

Which turned out to be true, despite my worst-case-scenario predictions. I hung up the phone and opened the door to my daughter’s room where she sat on her daddy’s lap, in her jammies, tears streaming down her face.

“What on earth?” I asked him in the best version of the mom voice I now posses.

He looked me straight in the eyes with an expression as defeated as any strong, healthy man can possess and simply replied, “The dress.”

Yes. The dress.

He dared suggest she wear anything else and there were not enough bribery lollipops in the world…

I blame my sister-in-law for handing it down — this floor-length, checkered, floral and quilted little number with just the right amount of twirl to bring a toddler the high she needs to become addicted.

But I think it’s also a hereditary thing. Because I wouldn’t wear anything but a pink leotard, purple tights and legwarmers for my entire second year of life, God gave me a daughter and then introduced her to “the dress.” Needless to say my mother is loving every minute of my peril.

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She wakes up and it’s the first word my daughter says, and she will say it — “dress, dress, dress, dress” — until I retrieve it from my unsuccessful hiding spot in the hamper.

The other day she wore it out to the pasture where the guys were building corrals, and I suddenly became sympathetic to the prairie girls who came before her as I watched her unsuccessfully try to run and frolic, making it only a couple steps before getting tangled up and pummeled to the ground.

“Well, maybe she’ll want to take it off now,” I thought as I hoisted her up for the 50th time in five minutes. But I knew better. Judging from her smiles and squeals of delight, I realized it was quite clear the challenge of the dress only made living more fun.

And, according to my darling girl, infinitely more beautiful. Proving that the only ones who have an “issue” is her parents.

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Making the costume, making the memories

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Ok, so Halloween is just around the corner. My daughter will turn 2 in a little over a month and a few weeks after that (if not before…) we’ll welcome a new family member into our house and our home and our hearts.

And so, as you probably guessed, I’m feeling a little panicky at this point. There’s not much time left to get my office cleaned out and made into a proper baby’s room or make the “plan ahead” schedule for the work that needs to continue to move forward while I’m in my post-baby fog. Running my own business means I don’t technically get maternity leave, so it’s up to me to get prepared if I want some time off. So far I’m not prepared.

At all.

But I could be working on being prepared, except there’s too many other fun things to do, like hit up the pumpkin patch in the big town this weekend, force Edie out of her prairie dress and into one I’ve had in the closet for six months and make her pose for her “almost” two year-old photos and, of course, most important of all, get to working on her Halloween costume.

Which is what I did a few weeks ago when she was at her Nana and Papa’s (instead of working on the office/baby’s room like I planned.) I found this adorable idea online and ordered the supplies and sat in front of Netflix and got to work.

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Buy this costume from lauriestutuboutique on Etsy. Or try to make it like the fool I am…

When the tutu was done I was so excited at its poof and fluff and pretty certain my frilly daughter would find it suitable and wonderful and whimsical just like I imagined. I couldn’t wait to show it to her, to try it on and finish up adjusting the straps before hanging it in the closet to await the big day of Trick-or-Treating. I could just envision her delighted smile and giggle. I felt like Martha Stewert and super-mom and the winner of Project Runway all combined into one emotional, pregnant mess.

And then she got home and crushed my dreams. One look at the brown, orange and yellow tutu sent my toddler into a physical reaction of distaste and disgust. And then, because she’s a good talker, she followed up the sour look on her face with the following words, spoken as she pushed the homemade costume away from her before turning her head

“Don’t like it. That dress is gross.”

Cue a mother’s heart breaking in half. I had to go into my messy office/baby’s room, papers and baby decor scattered from wall to wall, and sit with my failure, my unnecessary hormonal tears and the “gross” tutu I had created for my baby who clearly isn’t a baby anymore.

She followed me in there then, and with the same disgust on her face, removed the tutu from the bed, placing it outside the door and out of her line of sight, and then climbed up beside me.

“Mommy cry? Don’t cry mommy,” she said as she leaned into my shoulder. And that made me laugh and shake my head, realizing I was watching a strong, independent girl who knows what she wants develop right before my eyes.

But what Edie doesn’t know is that I’m a strong, independent girl myself and I am working on ways to win this battle, the same way I won the battle of the dress this morning and managed to get her to smile for the camera in that adorable denim frock just the way I envisioned, dammit. It took an hour, some tears and a gramma intervention, but it happened.

I won.

This time anyway.

I’ll keep you updated on the Halloween costume situation. But if she’s going as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz this year, it’s because we just might be able to pass the dress she’s currently obsessed with off as a costume, all it needs is some ruby slippers, a basket and a Toto.

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Happy costuming parents and friends. Enjoy this “From the Editor” piece for this month’s Prairie Parent, where I explain why I even try. And while you’re there, read more from our amazing contributors on traditions and why they matter in our families.

 

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Making the costume, making the memories
Prairie Parent, From the Editor
October 2017

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Worry like a mother…

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What it means to worry like a mother
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My mom hasn’t been sleeping well. She says she wakes up in the middle of the night and lies there in the dark and breathes her fears and worries in and out — about her kids and grandkids and the unpredictable and uncontrollable things that happen to us in the circle of community.

My mom is known for worrying. She’s got her mind on the big things, like car crashes on icy roads, resulting in an obsession with weather forecasts and road reports, which she relentlessly relays to her children. She’s already telling me not to drive to Fargo next month, because it will be November and it’s likely to snow.

And she worries about the little things too, like Edie having the right outfit for family photos or Papa playing too wild with the grandkids in the living room pillow fort, interjecting playtime with warnings to “Be careful!! Careful!”

Her worrying used to make me crazy when I was young and invincible and had the sense that the world wouldn’t let me down. I didn’t wish the worry of the world on my mother’s shoulders, I simply didn’t understand what worry was.

Because she carried it for us.

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“I haven’t slept well in three years,” I tell her now, sympathetic to how loud and daunting the dark nights can become when a heart is being stretched by one child snoring face-down on her blankie in her bedroom and the other kicking and rolling and hopefully growing strong and healthy, heart flickering at 140 beats-per-long-and-agonizing-minute in my womb.

These days I can’t close my eyes without thinking of the mothers who have seen their most unreasonable midnight worries come true. No matter how many times we reassure them, “Mom, I’ll be safe.” “It’s just a concert.” “I’ll call you we get home.” The harsh and heart-wrenching reality that’s blaring on computer and television screens is that sometimes, sometimes, the fear that keeps you up at night is the very fear you wake to in the morning.

And that’s what they don’t tell you about becoming a parent when your belly is round and heavy on your body. They don’t tell you about the weight you carry with you long after your children learn to stand on their own two legs, drive their own four wheels or fly with their own set of wings.

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Today, despite my aching back, I want to keep my baby safe in my womb and my daughter close within the familiar embrace of this landscape. I want to shut out the world and stay here, just us, forever, to protect them. And it makes me feel silly and selfish and then it makes me angry that in this big world I keep telling them is so beautiful that such ugly and evil can make me want to keep them from the freedom and perils of growing up healthy and strong in it.

But right now I don’t know what else to do. So I vow to love them fiercely, to model compassion and to try my damndest to raise them to be the good humans.

And worry like a mother.

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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.

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