A Denver Home Companion | lashley rhodes photography

Dear Ramona,

I’ve written many letters to you about you, and being your mother, and how much I love you, and how you’ve been growing and learning. I love writing these letters and reflecting on where we’ve gotten and who you’ve become since our family grew to three.

For a long time I will continue to be –as simple and complex as it can be– your mother. You will know me as “mama” and you will assume, rightly so, that my job is to be there for you, to feed you, to clothe you, to kiss your owies, to read countless books to you, to drag you around on errands, and to tuck you in at night. Being the person most familiar to you, who has just always been there, you will, understandably, take me for granted. I am your most constant — always have and will be for many more years (at least 16 more if all goes as planned).

My Minka Moo, I accept this position and relationship fiercely, passionately, and enthusiastically. I am yours as much as you are mine.

But the day will come when you will realize I am more than just your mother. And if/when you realize this in your pre-teen or teen years, you will most likely think of me as an alien. You will wonder why I laugh so loud or why I eat chips by the fistful or why I say silly things that are best left for inside my head or why I insist on asking your friends a million questions or why I’m pretty darn particular about how the house is kept or why I get grumpy and take it out on you and Papa for what seems like no reason at all.

What you won’t realize, in your growing independence, is that these traits/quirks/obsessions of mine aren’t new to me. They’re just new to you. I’ve always been this way. You’re just slowly realizing I’m not the perfect caregiver and playmate you always thought me to be. This will be hard on both of us. And when you do come to understand this, there are some things you should know to hopefully understand me better…

–I do best w some quiet time for myself each and every day. Perhaps it’s because I’m an introvert –but no matter what it is, if I don’t find for myself enough time to steal away and do my own thing (read a book, blog, clean the living room, nap, watch trashy reality shows, journal, do my nails, whathaveyou) I get a bit grumpy. And sometimes a little rude. And I’m not proud of it all and I’m working on that. But it’s hard when I know that all I need is alone time and I cannot get it. So please don’t ever stop napping. 😉 And we should both be thankful for your father who loves stealing you away for father/daughter adventures. I’m also learning to not be so possessive and compartmental with my time. It is MY responsibility to get out of bed just a little earlier to carve out some sacred, quiet space for myself and make sure I am ready for you and Papa. Again, I’m getting better at it.

–I am learning how to be a better listener but I’ve still got a ways to go. Your Papa is teaching me some really important things on how to put other people first. A big way I can work on this is by listening to other people and without judgment. This goes along with my stubbornness: I assume I’m always right thus it’s hard for me to be a gracious listener when I disagree. This gets me into trouble. Which makes me grumpy. Which makes me need alone time. It’s a vicious cycle. Like I said, I’m working on it. You and I will undoubtedly butt heads over this. I’m sorry. I love you.

–I can’t cook. I was never taught, never thought about learning, and your father enables me. Now, I am working really hard to want to learn for you but it’ll never be the best thing you ate. And if it is, bless you. Needless to say, if your Papa continues to work evenings, we’ll have many dates over take-out and at restaurants. And I’m kinda excited about all those dates with you.

–I laugh really loud. By now you’ve probably figured that one out. I’ve been doing it since I was a baby (ask Pops, he’s got home video to prove it). It’s not ever going to change and if it ever bothers you or embarrasses you this is just something you’re going to have to deal with.

–I react quickly and emotionally to situations I am in. Often this is a very good thing: I have street smarts, I am very good at getting the feel for a situation — knowing when it’s best to stay or flee. I have a pretty darn good judge of character and I do judge people fairly quickly. Most of the time it serves me well. However, I’m human, I’m flawed, I make mistakes. I have probably missed out on meeting some lovely people because they rubbed me the wrong way and/or I misread their vibe the first time around. I will try and be gentle with the friends and dates you bring home even if I’m not too fond of them. If something bad happens, I usually jump to the worst conclusions (doctor’s calls, if Papa doesn’t answer his phone, when I hear sirens in the distance and you and Papa aren’t home). You may want to break bad news to your father first. His response is usually a little more measured. I tend to freak out. Again, I’m working on it.

I tell you these things so that perhaps, one day, when you’re frustrated that I’m not always on point or that I don’t seem to know you the way you assumed I always would,  when you realize that I’m human –that I have my own personal struggles, personality quirks, character flaws– you’ll have some grace. And remember that I still love you fiercely, passionately, and forever. I am, enthusiastically, your biggest fan.

I love you.

Love, Mama

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this week’s contributor is april from our ship on the sea, a husband & wife writing/photography/videoography/event planning power team (and that’s just what they do for fun!). april approached me, curious if i’d be interested in a post about her experience with the unexpected things that happen after babies are born — the stuff they don’t necessarily tell you about and the stuff new parents often find themselves unprepared for; the stuff we often don’t talk about with everyone who asks us how wonderful, albeit tiring, our life with new baby must be. yes! i said. of course! mamas need to hear about other mamas’ struggles: it helps us feel less alone and can sometimes put our own struggles in perspective. it also can open up relationships to work through issues together and find support. read on!

A Denver Home Companion | our ship on the sea

The Unexpected

Even before she was born, Annie was unpredictable. At 38 weeks my doctor told us that she would be arriving within days (!!!) and to get everything in order. Jeremy and I rushed home, finished the last of the nursery preparation, I went on maternity leave, and my parents arrived flew in. Two long weeks later… the day my parents had to leave to go back to Nashville, I went into labor at the Denver Biscuit Company. (You better believe I stayed and ate the entire cinnamon roll). The doctor predicted a 9 to 10 pound baby. Annie was born at a sweet little 6 lbs 13 oz. 

A Denver Home Companion | our ship on the sea

We prepared well to bring our baby home, but we weren’t prepared for a few things that followed once we got there:

We weren’t prepared for breastfeeding not to work out for me. I mean- I took classes! And watched DVDs! And had THREE books! That preparation and multiple lactation consultants couldn’t help the range of issues I experienced. I just finished nearly 7 exhausting months of pumping. I didn’t even get the chance to make anyone uncomfortable from breastfeeding in public. : )

We weren’t prepared for our baby to have severe colic. When she started crying for hours every night at three weeks old we assumed it was gas or just typical evening fussiness. By the third day we realized we were in for weeks of what we called “Scream Fest 2012”. Annie would start crying at 5 pm and end around 11. We did everything imaginable to make it stop. One exhausting Friday night we put Annie in the car around midnight to get her to stop crying. It worked! But then we were too afraid to stop driving. We drove around our downtown neighborhood until 2 am looking at all the couples out on dates, laughing and holding hands, probably all a little sauced. I wanted to scream “OH YOU JUST WAIT.”

After the colic stopped, we weren’t prepared for the chronic congestion to begin. It’s common for young babies to be congested, but when it didn’t stop, we knew something bigger had to be going on. We took Annie to the pediatrician more times than I can count, Urgent Care twice, and the ER on multiple occasions when her breathing was so labored that she refused to eat or sleep. No one seemed to find anything wrong, but as her parents, we knew there was an issue. It was heartbreaking and we felt defeated. Finally, an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor confirmed what I already assumed- her adenoids we’re blocking her airway so severely that she struggled to breathe and eat, thus making quality sleep a joke… a super NOT funny joke. In six months time Annie had only slept for more than three hours ONCE. Thankfully, the end of the sleeping/eating issues is in sight – Annie is having her adenoids removed next month and we expect her issues to almost fully resolve. YAY!

A Denver Home Companion | our ship on the sea

Either most new parents really do have few issues, or those who do simply don’t talk about it. Well, I really wanted, maybe even needed, to talk about it. I thank Emily for giving me the space to do so, and I hope that someone out there finds this helpful.  I want to share some of our own lessons learned, thoughts, and internet love with those who might be struggling:

Ask for help. Since Annie’s birth, Jeremy and I have had three dates. One given to us by friends for three hours, a quick dinner date, and a movie. I take responsibility for this because I didn’t feel comfortable burdening anyone. Looking back- what a ridiculous thought. So many people who love us were willing to help, and we could have used the time alone together. So- ask for help! If your friends offer, take them up on it – that very week! If your family lives out if town- show weakness! Say- “Um yeah… we’re LOSING IT OVER HERE, please come help. Thanks!” Most likely those new grandparents will be thrilled you asked and will get on that plane if they are able to.

Talk about it. Your honesty allows others to be free in sharing their own hardships. My greatest comfort in low moments has been finding those who will simply say “I know. It sucks. It will get better.”  

Learn to let go and do what you need to do to get through it. Don’t beat yourself up over getting delivery because you’re just too exhausted to even think about turning on the stove. The same with the housework – nothing matters more than your well-being, especially not mopping. I wish we would’ve been more open to letting go of some things that weren’t working. Was giving Annie breastfeeding ideal? Yes. But should I have considered giving it up at the extreme point of exhaustion while Annie was sick and not eating any way? Yes- I should have been open to formula. 

Give yourself the ultimate gift: Stop comparing yourself to others. When those well meaning friends with dream babies who sleep through the night at 3 weeks old (I hear these mystical babies exist?) start to offer advice about your difficult baby-  it’s ok to stop them mid-sentence and say “We’ve actually tried it all.” and get off the phone. I’m not suggesting being rude, but if you have to hear another unhelpful suggestion again you might lose it even more severely. (So hey dream baby parents- it really is awesome that you’re having an ideal experience. Really- no sarcasm! It’s awesome! But your friends aren’t and they are struggling. So consider *not* offering advice. Instead say “What can we do to help?” Better yet- don’t even ask- just do it. Bring a meal over or take their baby for a walk and let your friends have an hour alone.)

A Denver Home Companion | our ship on the sea

With all this said, we didn’t expect that we’d be so happy to spend our weekends laying on the floor with Annie, singing songs and reading books. The delight in her laughs, the feel of her little hands rubbing over my cheeks and my husband’s beard – the best! Tonight we all sat together on the floor with baby sized instruments and had a mini-family band for a few precious minutes. I never expected to pray for time to stand still, even for just small moments like these.

-April Powell

Our Ship on the Sea

P.S. I hesitated writing this post because I didn’t want to sound ungrateful. We recognize how fortunate we are. We have a happy baby girl, and her health issues can be fixed. We are lucky- we know this. However, when you’re in the muck, it all becomes relative. To those who might be struggling – I’m wrapping my arms around you in a huge internet hug. It gets better- I’ll swear on it. 

thank you so so much, april. your honesty is brave and important. and i have no doubt this will have been something someone needed to read. parenthood is not easy. but its trials, as much as its blessings, need to be talked about amongst other parents and community members so that we can learn from and support those going through what all parents have gone through. (and how beautiful is that family?!)

if you are interested in contributing to A Denver Home Companion, please submit original writing (or ideas!) to emily [at] adenverhomecompanion [dot] com. though i may not be able to publish everything, i certainly consider all of them.

A Denver Home Companion | potty training

now, obviously, all children are different. but this is how ramona learned to use the potty:

1. we (being my hubby and i) decided early on that we weren’t going to even think about potty training/learning (i’m going to call it learning from here on out as ramona was the one that decided she wanted to learn and did so) until ramona showed us she was ready. i didn’t even think about it that much as i have never had any problem changing and washing dirty diapers.

2. ramona started making obvious signs of when she was peeing or pooping. i mean, i could always tell when she was pooping by her poop face, but she started to make it more obvious when she was peeing now too. that got me interested.

3. so we talked about what we ourselves were doing on the pot a lot. if you could be a fly on the wall at our house you’d hear: “yeah, mama’s going potty,” “mama tooted,” “say bye to mama’s poops!”. TMI? trust me, i know i’m giving away some of my dignity writing these words for all the interwebs to read and maybe, if i run into you, quote. but trust me on this also: everybody poops.

4. and then, when she seemed to understand what we were doing on the toilet, we moved her into undies. and she was SO excited about them. and she totally wet her pants on the floor not two minutes after i had just gotten done bragging to my mom on gchat how ramona wear undies.

5. soon after, she started asking for a diaper whenever she needed to do anything. she didn’t like getting her undies wet. each time, we’d set her on the toilet and encourage her to pee. we bought one of these to help her feel comfortable on the seat. still, she’d refuse to do anything and wait until a diaper was put on her.

6. one day, miraculously, she just peed. so we gave her a chocolate chip. (there’s a photo on my phone of the first time she pooped in the toilet that jp sent me. i’ll spare you that).

7. we continued to give her one chocolate chip every time she went pee. and, if she pooped (which was almost never) three chocolate chips.

8. soon enough, she was looking for excuses to pee. she was so darn proud of herself and pretty slick about figuring out how to get chocolate chips (we never gave her any for just sitting on the potty. only for, ahem, producing).

9. now, besides nap time and bed time, this girl is in undies and usually dry. there’s maybe an accident once a week and it always coincides w long car rides where her mother forgot to offer her a trip to the toilet before they departed. for a while there she was reserving pooping for diaper time (nap time and bedtime) but as of today she seems to have gotten the hang of it (meaning, she seems to have understood just how many chocolate chips she gets when she does a #2).

10. for the record: more times than not, as of recently, she doesn’t even ask for the chocolate chips. that just seemed to get her excited about using the toilet in the first place.

as every child is different, i’d love to hear what worked for you. or what you plan on trying when you feel the time is ready for your little one. i’m also curious: when does the potty learning through nap time and overnight start? how does it happen? for those of you with older children, i’d love to hear how it went for you.


A Denver Home Companion | best iphone applications for mamas

i try to keep my smartphone uncluttered as i can find enough excuses to waste my time on it as it is. shown here are the apps i use the most, both for me and for ramona:

1. endless alphabet a great learning game that uses cute monsters to teach ramona how to identify letters. i certainly see how she’s absorbed it when she points out letters in our-day-to-day happenings || 2. heytell i’m more of a texter than a phone caller. but texting is not a good idea in a lot of situations. heytell allows you to voice text people. it’s a combination siri and skype and it’s great for sending quick messages when texting isn’t available || 3. dots: a game about connecting mamas need games too! try this game once and you’ll be hooked. hint: try and connect four in a sqaure || 4. simple grocery list i have lists on the fridge, in two notebooks, and in my agenda. all of which i forget whenever i head to the store. this app helps me consolidate and organize my shopping lists. and i never forget to leave home w/o my phone!  || 5. instagram who doesn’t have this?! it’s my favorite way to socially network, by far. if you insta too: follow me at adenverhomecompanion || 6. pbs kids video sometimes i just need ramona to veg out and give me some time. this app streams a large variety of pbs kids shows.

what apps do you love having on your phone?


A Denver Home Companion | swim lessons

i signed mo up for swim class at our local community rec center. the first class she clung to me in terror, crying the whole time. she was, by the way, the oldest kid in the class and the only one that was screaming. i wasn’t mortified bc i understood this was a new experience for her but i do remember feeling incredibly guilty: i supposed that i had ruined her chance for a love of water forever since i waited a year and a half to get her in there.

get a hold of yourself, emily.

i was underestimating her ability to adapt to and grow in situations. 30 minutes in the water w her (for her first time, at that) and i put too much weight on what i had or had not done as a parent in the previous 1.5 years of her life, forgetting for a moment that she is a resilient creature capable of learning and conquering new things.

the classes were only 30 minutes long, two times a week. we went back each time and i talked it up lots in the car and always tried to show her plenty of enthusiasm for it. when we went in the water i respected a lot of what she felt comfortable with (that girl loved to stand on the stairs and play w the toy water snake) and was patient easing her into the depths. however, each class i made a point of pushing those comfort limits. she’d hold onto me as we walked around the pool at various depths. i put her on her back, on her tummy, spun her around, threw her in the air, dunked her under water. i never told her to be quiet if she cried out in fear or discomfort but assured her i was there and she was ok. slowly but surely, she came to love the water. clapping her hands in glee she would squeal “pool!” and when we finished changing in the locker room, would tromp confidently in the direction of the pool stairs to ease herself in alone. i sheepishly look back at my initial reaction to her fear of the water. but i’m glad i got to learn that lesson about what my daughter is capable of.

we leave for a trip to the beach in a couple of weekends and i’m excited to see how she handles the water of the ocean. no doubt, it will take some patience and some easing into. but some risk too.

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