My little sister, her husband and their two young daughters have lived over the hill from us at the ranch for over a year now.

When they sold their cute little home in town and moved into the cabin while they built a house out here, Alex was pregnant with her now 1-year-old, her 2-year-old was climbing the walls and neither one of us could have understood how much the two families would come to rely on one another in the coming months.

Not many people predict a cancer diagnosis, let alone a global pandemic over the horizon waiting to make us all feel isolated, helpless and utterly disorientated, but here we are, all more grateful than ever to have backup.

We celebrated my youngest’s third birthday last night, and this morning my little sister texted me: Let me know if your girls’ poop is blue from all that frosting! Only a best friend/sister would want to know a thing like that, if only to laugh together about the absurdities of parenthood.

The sisters' four kids get to grow up with their cousins just over the hill. Jessie Veeder / The Forum
The sisters' four kids get to grow up with their cousins just over the hill. Jessie Veeder / The Forum

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Being in the middle of this season of raising our daughters together is one of those unexpected gifts that all of those years of infertility struggles gave us. If my husband and I would have been able to start our family the way we thought we should almost 15 years ago, our children would be babysitting their cousins instead of growing up alongside them like sisters, eating blue frosted cupcakes together in their leotards after gymnastics on Tuesday nights and fighting over baby doll strollers and Play-Doh rolling pins.

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And while Alex wouldn’t turn down a couple babysitters living down the road, I think we all feel pretty lucky (not to mention outnumbered) around here.

And the thing is, while raising children on the ranch 30 miles from the nearest structured entertainment comes with so many blessings — the wide open spaces, the lifelong lessons, unlimited pet inventory and an abundance of big rocks and hay bales to climb — there’s plenty about it, especially as a parent of young kids, that can make you feel pretty isolated.

While Alex wouldn’t turn down a couple babysitters living down the road, I think we all feel pretty lucky (not to mention outnumbered) around here. Jessie Veeder / The Forum
While Alex wouldn’t turn down a couple babysitters living down the road, I think we all feel pretty lucky (not to mention outnumbered) around here. Jessie Veeder / The Forum

Like when you’re in the middle of making supper for a hungry family and you realize you don’t have the main ingredient in your pantry. Like beans for chili or, in my case a few weeks ago, cheese for grilled cheese… You just can’t have tomato soup without grilled cheese.

Yes, my neighbor/little sister is my extended pantry, sounding board, change of scenery, chicken nugget lunch time date, quick drop-off point and, most importantly, a second mother to my daughters, which is my favorite part.

Because everyone needs a fearless backup who isn’t afraid to climb her own auntie/mom butt up to the top of the playground to retrieve your defiant screaming child while you have your hands full helping the other one take an emergency pee in the grass…

When my girls play “babies” together and neither one of them wants to be the daddy, they pretend they are aunties who live in the same pink house together because their husbands are out hunting or working, or, you know, they died...

Yeah, it can get a little dark in my kids’ pretend world. Alex tells me that’s normal, which is another reason I like having her around.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Rosie needs help on the potty and, frankly, now I’m curious.

Cheers to sisters/friends/family/shoulders to lean on in this crazy world of parenting. My wish is you have one down the block or right over the hill.

Jessie Veeder / The Forum
Jessie Veeder / The Forum

Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.