Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Boomtown.

North Dakota is not what it used to be. My hometown has changed quite a bit in the last few years. And most all of that change is due to oil. America is pushing to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and western ND is home to one big oil reserve.

So now it's Boomtown USA. And it.is.crazy.

When we were there in July, I took a lot of random photos with my cell phone. Things just kept shocking me. I was too young to remember the boom of the 80s and apparently this boom is the 80s' bigger, meaner older brother. Yeah, that's right.

So join me for a (long) photo experience through a few of the changes I noticed of my beloved western North Dakota. Click the photos to see them bigger. 

A beautiful North Dakota landscape. Oh how I miss those bright blue skies and fields you can see for miles and miles! But as you can see circled in red, there are evidences of oil popping up in even the best of scenes.


Now when you drive along the highways, you'll see pockets of trailers, semis, and shacks. "Man Camps" built just for the influx of workers. Yes the scenery has changed indeed.


You know those truck stops where truckers can park to sleep overnight? They are packed in there like sardines now. There must have been over 100 in this lot as we drove into town.


If you know anything about me, you know that bringing your cart back to the cart holder is VERY important to me. It says something about your character if you don't return your cart. So when, on our drive in, this is one of the first things I saw, I was saddened:


The oil industry pays very, very well. Most of it is dirty, hard work but again, it pays very well. No one wants to work menial jobs like cooking deliciousness at Gramma Sharons or stocking shelves at Wal-Mart. Why would you when you could earn five times as much? So the rest of the industries are suffering. Props to Gramma's for their creative employment strategy:

  

All this oil business means there's a lot more people around northwestern ND. More people means more traffic. This is the traffic light off the bypass to get to my house. It is busy like this ALL the time. So many, many semis and trucks... I'd say twenty trucks to every car.


As Greg and I drove into town, the change in traffic was obvious. I didn't quite get how traffic has changed life until my dad forgot his cell phone on the way up north one day. I realized it shortly after he left the house so I grabbed his phone, hopped in the car and went to chase him down. Normally this would be no biggie. Just look for my dad's truck at the stoplight and if not, he went to Simonson's to fill up so head there. I didn't realize how difficult this would be now. There were too many trucks similar to my dad's four-door. And there were too many semis blocking my view. I was actually laughing out loud in disbelief as I drove like a mad woman trying to find him. Fifteen years ago I could have found him in two minutes. This time it took me over thirty.

This is one of the stop lights I was stuck at in my pursuit. It's the same one I kept hearing about from my parents, over and over again: "There are semi's backed up for a mile! You can't take a left!" Having a huge semi next to you is an everyday occurrence. But the thing that frightens me is what this would be like in winter. With these guys who are from somewhere warm, say South Carolina, driving these dangerous monstrosities on icy, snowy roads. Not safe, so not safe. I've already heard of way too many accidents that shouldn't have happened because of these inexperienced drivers.


This photo was taken at the same intersection. Growing up, we used to play a license plate game on road trips, where you "x" off each state's license plate. How did we ever play that and enjoy it? Did we ever get more than five states and Canada?! Well, now you could play it and easily hit most states. Here's three. I even saw Hawaii when I was home.


I call this the Wal-Mart stop light. It never existed before the new Wal-Mart. Now you may be stuck at it for ten minutes.


Ah, Wal-Mart. It opened up when I was in junior high (I think) and then they built a new super one a few years ago. It's always busy. Always. 


So you need some shampoo? Are you a young, attractive, single female? If so, then you could not only get help for your hair, you can get a husband or two at Wal-Mart. Seriously. There are men everywhere. Warning: they are usually dirty, very dirty. (Apologies to these three dudes who could very well be nice men... but they represent the new population of Williston quite well.)


One of the things Greg and I scoffed at was people telling us that the shelves at Wal-Mart were bare. Really? Bare? Come on. But it is partially true. We learned from someone that knows someone that's a manager at the Williston Wal-Mart: they should have over 150 workers and they have 60.

There are full palates in the middle of the isles, just waiting for someone to unpack them. The shelves aren't all bare, that was a bit exaggerated. But if you want a banana, you'll have to just take it out of the box:



To be fair, there are certain isles that are far from bare. Think of items that an oil field worker wouldn't need and that isle is quite well stocked. In fact they are overflowing in the drapery isle:

 
It was an experience to go to Wal-Mart. I began to understand why my mother had to give herself a pep-talk in order to get the gumption to go there. It's busy, noisy, dirty. I heard a couple speaking Italian. I saw from the logo-d polos they were wearing that they were workers at a new hotel that went up. Full-on Italian people? In Williston? Part of me thinks that's awesome, heaven knows I could have used some world culture growing up! 


But at what cost is this change? What have you done with my hometown? PUT YOUR CART BACK!  (Just to be clear, I'm not yelling at that dude in the Jeep. Unless that's his cart he didn't put back. Then I am yelling at him).


One of my beefs with SC is the littering. It's really frustrating how the culture at-large feels about littering. In comparison, I never thought North Dakota had a problem with litter. Sure, there was litter, but nothing noticeable. Now, well, that's just not the case:



Here in Columbia, we frequently have to endure the annoying security system salespersons that knock at our door. I don't think I even really knew what home security systems were until we moved here (minus what I saw in movies). In fact, we didn't lock our doors all that often growing up. But now houses in Williston have those dorky little "warning: ADT security system" signs, too. Including Greg's old house (I'm sure they loved some random car driving slowly by and taking a photo):


Here's our hometown from a distance. New construction is everywhere, even way out on the road to the golf course:


Not all the changes are bad, of course. There are new, exciting things coming. But it always comes at a price. Let's say you wanted to go to someone's wedding and needed to find a hotel. Too bad, they are booked for years out. Years. My parents house was on the market only one day before they had an offer (which fell through, but then quickly had another offer; they are scheduled to close in a few weeks). So if a nice, young family wanted to settle down in Williston, they would have no decent place to live that they could afford.

Unless their family happened to have a oil well! Then they could buy a nice big house. The oil is making some people ridicuously, filthy rich. This would be a crazy good cultural study, in fact. A bunch of Norweigan farmers homesteaded on this land they got from the government who stole it from the Native Americans and now their kids' kids are rolling in the dough ... or some random investor from Colorado (because, sadly, many of the farmers sold their mineral rights when the going got tough). I just hope all this excessive wealth doesn't ruin these people. Of course I'm biased, but I like to think of North Dakotans as hard-working, giving, humble people.

The end.

-Heather

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rainbow.

I'm not sure if you know it, but babies born after a loss are called "rainbow babies." I can't recall why that is exactly. Something like they are the bright spot after the storm. At one point I thought it was in reference to the rainbow in the Bible, when God tells Noah "yeah, no worries, I'm not going to destroy the earth ever again in a crazy consuming flood" (my translation), a sign of a promise of hope and trust.

But to be completely honest, when I first heard the term sometime after Maelee died, I thought it sounded... meh. Lacking. Dumb even. Maybe that was the grief talking or the cynical me coming out. Though when we did get pregnant with Eli, I used the term quite gladly, even if I did think it sounded silly. And recently I read a great blog post from Molly Piper about her rainbow baby whom she calls her Redemption Baby. I like the sound of that!

But tonight, well, tonight I'm all about the rainbow baby terminology. Why? Because darn it, rainbows are awesome. They are beautiful, really stinkin' beyond this world beautiful. And that's how I feel about being blessed with Eli in our lives. There was death, a furious storm, destruction... then there was life, redemption, a promise of beauty.

Without further ado, here is our wonderful rainbow baby with the glorious rainbow displayed for us to enjoy after the downpour storm that took place here tonight:

 
I get teary if I look at this shot too long.

He was a bit confused why we were so excited.
It was actually a double rainbow, too.

Photoshop  PW Action Vintage
 
The lighting on this one is most accurate to what it was like tonight... orangey grey.

 
We squeezed him into this "Mommy's Little Man" onesie one last time tonight, so glad for him wearing it for these spur-of-the-moment shots!

I can't describe how grateful I am for this redemption rainbow boy. 

-Heather

Friday, September 23, 2011

Miss Ava.


Somebody is ONE today! Happy Birthday sweet Ava Maelee Linn. You are loved, dear niece. You will always be special, always be connected to your cousin in heaven. And we are so glad we get to watch you grow!

We love you!

-Uncle Greg, Auntie Heather and cousin Eli

Cheesy Smile.

I think this is the face I'll get when I ask Eli to smile for the camera: 


If you can't tell, Eli's family likes to send him clothes. Thanks Auntie Amy!

-Heather 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Skin Care Plan.


"I like brown rice cereal mush. It's tasty. It also makes a great body scrub and shampoo. Seriously, try it. All you have to do is have your mom forget to put a bib on you, put your hands in your mouth during eating and then go crazy!"

-Eli


Monday, September 19, 2011

Size 4.

I think Eli is ready for size 4 diapers. Greg just weighed him with the luggage scale and he's about 19 pounds. So yep, not wasting away.

I'm in the middle of another full-blown migraine so this is going to be short. I thought I'd post this pic of Eli's mohawk so everyone can see that it's still here, albeit a bit thinner than before. He's also growing more hair all around his head, though hard to see in this photo.


I love that noggin!

-Heather

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pants.

I am wearing pre-Maelee pants. That's what I call the pants that I wore before I was pregnant with Maelee. I never got to wear them last year. Even with the hell that was boot camp I never lost that pregnancy weight. Then I got pregnant again so I went right back into my preggo comfy pants.

Yet the last few weeks I have noticed nothing fit well. My post-Maelee pants kept feeling too loose. So I have started to grab a few pairs from the pre stack and some (not all) fit. This is good. It's sort of like having a new wardrobe.

Admittedly I'm not working out and I most definitely should be... so this bit of weight loss must be breastfeeding. And thus another reason I didn't get to loose my Maelee pregnancy weight as easily. Groan.

This is probably going to be the only post on this blog about two things:

1. Weight/Diet
2. Clothes/Fashion

Not really topics I'm remotely knowledgeable about nor that interested. And I won't pretend. So consider this post a gem!

I can talk about Eli's clothes, however. And today I must say he looks like a South Carolinian used car salesman: lime green polo with a palmetto embroidered on the left pocket and some sweet jean shorts. I just need some hair gel to slick his mohawk up right.

-Heather

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In Your Face.

It all started out when I was feeling the need to take some photos of Eli because it had been *gasp* days (ie way too long) since he'd seen the lens of my Nikon.

I took a few cute ones in his "baby brother" onesie, a shout out to his sister. (Thanks Auntie Amy!)


But, in recent typical Eli fashion, he started to spit up. Lovely little spit-up drool combo here:


eeewww!

Then a few hours and a wardrobe change later, I started to take more cute photos documenting Eli's ability to hold his head up like this:


He got a bit crabby (he's not a fan of tummy time) so we were playing. I held him up, flying high above my head. I heard it. Then saw it just a little too late...


Eli puked on me. Like IN MY EYE puke. And hair. And down my shirt and pants. This is disgusting, I thought. But since my Nikon happened to be right there, I figured I'd document this for you all to have a good laugh at my expense today.

I'll pause for you to chuckle here. Maybe even click the picture so you can really examine the nastiness that was my face. It's my kid, so I'm okay with this.

Eli has been a pretty consistent at spitting up and requiring multiple changes throughout the day. Sometimes I feel like it hurts him (when there is hiccups and burping and weird noises coming from his belly) though overall he can be happy as a clam and be puking. And we know he's gaining weight (did you see those rolls?) so it's really not an issue in that sense.

If any of you out there have had a puker, a spiter-upper and have any magical tricks, do let me know. And now I'm off to hunt for a mountain of cute, large, inexpensive, absorbent bibs for my child to wear for the next year.

-Heather

UPDATE: I just posted this, picked up Eli who was waiting patiently on the floor for some attention, and he proceeded to let out a burp that rivals mine (a pretty big feat, I'm a good burper) and spit up a ton. But this time I was ready. With my hand. Ah motherhood, this is not dull! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Imitation.

Our friends had just left and I was stealing away some time checking e-mail last night. Daddy was in charge of the bath as usual in our nighttime routine. I was focused on e-mails and to-dos and ignored the sounds coming from the bedroom, assuming Greg was doing the normal singing or rapping or making up stories to entertain and calm our overly tired and hungry boy. I finally got out of my computer screen haze to listen enough to hear it.

Giggles.

Yes, all out giggles and yelps of joy. I had heard them a time or two before but nothing to this fill-the-house extent. I sat there smiling and taking it in, my boys having fun together.

I wanted this etched in my heart and my memory. I grabbed the point-n-shoot that takes video then rushed to the hallway, hoping I hadn't missed it. I got the tail-end of this time, of the dad imitating his boy's flailing arms and legs, of the boy responding in laughter as he chews on his fingers.

(Apologies for the lack of video quality and random bursts of wacky color. Our camera is on it's last leg.)

video

-Heather

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wishing It Wasn't So.

My Grandma Doris Mae (where we got the Mae for Maelee's name) has Alzheimer's. And today in Dickinson, ND many of my family members are gathering together, wearing purple and walking in hopes to raise money to help find a cure to end Alzheimer's. Oh how I wish it could be done!

It's been a hard journey for my family, watching my Grandma these last 10+ years. She doesn't know anyone now, can barely hold a conversation, a shell of her former self. She's at a most wonderful care facility for Alzheimer's patients in Dickinson. My mom, Eli and I were able to stop by on our way back to Bismarck. Introducing Eli to his Great-Grandma Zander was sweet. Her comment "oh he is heavy."
 




I remember being pregnant with Maelee and getting so excited to have that Four Generations photo with her and my mom. I ache for that still. Needless to say, this photo is a treasure:


I love you Grandma Doris! Someday things will be right again.

-Heather

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Our Newscaster.

video

I took this longish video last night of Eli talking while sitting on his throne (his high chair from Uncle Chris). We think it's hilarious because we are his parents. Oh to know what goes on in that head!

-Heather

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On Top of...

A few more photos from our weekend mountain getaway: 
Family!
 Eli checking out the view on top of Roan Mountain.
With Ben and Sarah and baby O due in March!
 We think this photo is hilarious because Ben is holding Eli (with his "dad thinks I'm rad" shirt) instead of Greg.

Orners on the porch... all the trees sort of blocked the view of the mountains.
Love this boy!
Greg had just taken shampooed his hair in the rain (and I in a real shower) so we are squeaky clean here!

Walking sticks are a must! 

-Heather

Monday, September 5, 2011

Attention Needed.

The past few days we have been up in the mountains doing a whole lot of nothing with our good friends Ben and Sarah. Eli has been especially spoiled with four sets of hands doting on him. He is currently laying on his play mat yelling "Hey, hey pick me up! Pay attention to me! I'm all by myself!"

It is hard not to spoil him when he's this cute:


-Heather