A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

dear ramona,

as i type this it is 9:16 on tuesday evening, july 15th. your third birthday. you are on the futon eating strawberries and watching the lego movie with papa. today has been a very good day. for the record, you don’t typically stay up this late. in fact, many moms i know are flabbergasted that i put you to bed between 6:00 and 7:00. however, birthdays are so so special. at least papa and i think so. so, basically, you get to do whatever you want to do on your birthday. and, thus, today was a very good day.

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

before i get started on how awesome our day was, can i just tell you how freaking weird it is to have a three year old?! i can’t believe you are three already! i can still vividly remember the day i first met you (which we revisited over pancakes this morning) and since then time has flown. seriously. they (they being every parent before me) tell you that it goes by in a blink of an eye. boy, they were not lying. it’s easy to forget that when the tough stages seem so long (newborn sleepless nights, infant teething, toddler surliness) but always in hindsight those more difficult, trying bits are always just that. bits. bits out of larger chunks of speedy awesomeness. bc that’s what it feels like to be your mom. just chunks of days filled w awesomeness. then a bit of holy shit. and then back to chunks of awesomeness. thank you for being so awesome. you are three, girl! it has been so much fun getting here.

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

so july 15, 2014. you woke up later than usual (thank you so much) and eased yourself outta bed and onto mr. hippo [readers: he's a large pillow-shaped stuffed hippo]. you two had a chat. i made my way down bc i couldn’t wait to tell you happy birthday. it is, after all, the first year where you have been old enough to anticipate your birthday. you’ve been planning it and talking about it for at least the past two months. which is, like, eternity for an almost-three year old. i sang you happy birthday and you threw your arms around my neck. you were so excited. it was adorable.

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

papa made raspberry-vanilla pancakes and scrambled eggs. i made the table and the doors pretty. you couldn’t wait to blow out the candles. we spilled watermelon-pink-lemonade-coconut-water drink all over the table in our excitement to celebrate. mama forgot the candles but you didn’t forget to remind me. ugh. i love how your brain works.

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

after breakfast, we sat on the couch and watched you open up the presents from us. you are so cute in how you spend such good time w each present after you open it: taking a good look at it, telling us what you see, trying to figure it out before you move onto the next one. your economy of movement and focus isn’t always precise but it sure is beyond your actual years.

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

papa left for work so he could get back early to celebrate the late afternoon with us. so you and i settled in and played in the basement while harriet took her morning nap. when she was up, we were all ready to head out on a walk to tattered cover, which was followed by a pizza slice at anthony’s and then a walk back home.

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

the way home took us past the denver skate park. you floored mama by not only asking to go to the skate park before you had even seen it (or ever been there before) but also by promptly and unabashedly wheeling your bike right up to the first bowl (i don’t actually know what anything at a skate park is called bc that is one thing i have no familiarity with whatsoever) and diving right on in. fearless. dare devil. girl, you seriously are going to do some amazing things in life bc i don’t know any other three year old or thirty year old that would tackle something so foreign and unfamiliar and new to them with such courage and confidence and non-plussed, bad-assed attitude.

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

but i shouldn’t be surprised! you’ve always faced challenges head on. you might pull the shy card now and then but, overall, you’re up for anything, scared of nothing, eager to try new things, and also conquer them. today was no different. and it was extra special for me to watch you do this on the day of your third birthday. it just seemed so apt.

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

you’re silly, ramona. (see the photo above? you learned you can roll your tongue [something inherited from your papa] and find any excuse to do so.) you make me laugh. you make me beam. i am so proud to be your mama.

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

and more and more you and i have become a team. you seem to be catching on to how much fun we have together. we have inside jokes. we have tickle fights. we have daily “rituals” have activities we do each day that make us happy and smiley and giggly. we have ongoing stories and conversations. you tell me to “don’t be too serious” or to “smile and be happy” if i need that reminder. and i am amazed at how much you offer to me: “i love you.”

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

and the way you include your sister! you search for her first thing in the morning or after your nap. you work hard to make sure she’s content: pacifier, smiley faces, tickling her toes. someday she’ll join in on the inside jokes we have together and i’m so proud at what you are doing now to make her feel loved and included even though she can’t can’t quite keep up on her own yet. i’ve told you this but: you are such a kind, loving, fun big sister. thank you for making it easy on mama.

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

ramona. after some quiet time to recharge from our long walk, we got a special visit from lashley and koan, who popped by just to see you and say happy birthday! (kola: if you couldn’t tell she was short on sleep and long on sugar…). you seriously are so so loved by so many great people.

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

from that (i know. can you believe we’re not done?!) we went on to lakeside amusement park to give you a ride on the ferris wheel. this year you were finally tall enough for it and you’d been wanting to try it since last season. after we whet your whistle with that you wanted more. you went on the matterhorn and the flying dutchmen with your mama! and, then, you even begged for more. all our tickets were gone so it was time to go. but we’ll be back. seeing you “living on the edge” for your three years of life is amusing and exhilarating. you’ve got way more courage than i ever had as a little one. i am thoroughly impressed.

A Denver Home Companion | ramona turns 3

and that’s what brings us here. you (now asleep curled up into papa, who is also snoozing) on the futon with the lego movie going on. it’s so dear. happy third birthday, sweet minka moo. thank you for your zest, your spirit, your silliness, your listening, your new ideas, your patience, your spunk. thank you for your goofy faces and voices, your persistence, your make believe, your willfulness. thank you for being you.

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i love you. love, mama.

wasn’t ramona’s party fabulous looking?! i couldn’t have done it without the help of party planner extraordinaire, nicole, from hey! party collective. she’s also my new business partner in our event space, 3126. more information on that awesomeness soon…

A Denver Home Companion | photos of etta zA Denver Home Companion | photos of etta z

ramona would only be able to sleep if slung up on me or if i was next to her in bed. i thought this was adorable. this was also doable since i had no other children and nothing to do except hang out with her.

harriet seemed to know, right out of the gate, that those sleeping habits would not be as easy for me to accommodate. so she takes two power naps in her car seat or in the sling while we’re out and about in the first part of the day — never staying asleep for more than 20 minutes. but never cranky about it either.

then she takes one four-hour nap around noon. one more power nap comes sometime in the early evening. and then she goes to bed promptly and easily around 7:30 or 8:00. no fuss. no hysterics. swaddle. hat. ceiling fan. a quick nurse on each side. and then down in the co-sleeping pillow. often a little awake, falling asleep on her own. WHAT?

i never thought a baby could go to bed so easily. cross your fingers this isn’t just a phase. it blows my mind every time i put her down.

thank you sweet baby, for knowing just what your mama needed.

what are you little one’s sleeping habits? did it change much from kiddo to kiddo? what tricks worked for you?

 

A Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth Story

Harriet, Miss Etta Z, H, Little One.

Welcome to the world. We’re so glad you’re here for so many reasons. You’re ours. You’re our daughter. We’ve been curious about you since we first found out we were pregnant (it was July 2013 and we were visiting friends in Nashville). And, if all goes as planned, you’re the baby of the family; you make our PowerDriver clan complete.

My pregnancy with you was hard. This owing mainly to the fact that by the time the first trimester was done (a stressful time as we thought we lost you and mama was just so so exhausted all the time) it was winter and boy was it a rough winter. We barely left the house and so –cooped up and mama tired– I gained a lot of weight and your sister was stir-crazy and our little house just felt so incredibly small. I wasn’t too good at finding ways to let off steam or get the wiggles out. We watched a whole bunch of PBS and Disney. We were grumpy, confined, mad-at-old-man-winter people.

You were due on March 21, 2014. I was pulling for March 16 because that evening had a full moon. Your sister, waiting four days past her due date, was born on a full moon.

A Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth Story

Well, Saturday, March 15, was a weird feeling day for mama. It was the weekend before St Patty’s Day so my route to and from the restaurant was crowded with revelers. I was annoyed. I took this grumbling out on the kitchen floor, which I furiously cleaned on my hands and knees. Diri had said she would do this for me but, for whatever reason, I could not wait. After I cleaned the kitchen floor –every single square inch of that silly little kitchen– I cleaned/swept/mopped all the floors in the house. And then cleaned the bathroom. I have never in my life had so much energy and motivation to clean the way I did.

My lower back started to hurt immediately after I was done with this. I became annoyed at myself for putting so much strain on my back and my body so close to my due date. I had just gotten over a pretty bad cold and now I went and did this to myself?! Overall, all day I just felt completely off — physically, mentally, emotionally. Even now reading this I am so annoyed at myself. Though opinionated, such grumbling and being peeved is not my forte.

A Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth Story

I tucked your sister into our bed around 8:00. After reading her a handful of books, I looked at her, choked up and teary eyed, and said –this just popped out of my mouth: “Ramona, I’ve had so much fun just the two of us.” It was, I realized shortly after, a sort of goodbye in order to say a new hello. My body sensed what was about to happen but I still did not know.

She fell asleep instantly and my contractions seemed to start the second I shut the bedroom door.

These contractions felt different than the Braxton Hicks I’d been experiencing the last couple of weeks. I started timing them –hoping but skeptical that they were the real deal– and texting a couple of friends who I’d been giving play-by-plays to throughout the pregnancy (thanks Tessa, Tara, and Erica!). Still, though, I didn’t pay too much mind because I more felt funky than anything else.

I felt off. I felt warm and flush and weak and shaky. Crap! I thought. I don’t want to get the flu so close to my due date!

Then my mama, your Nona, texted at 8:30 to say she was looking at the nearly full moon and thinking of you (see the first image on this post!). I still wasn’t convinced I was in labor.

A Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth Story

I wasn’t even convinced I was in labor when I went to the bathroom next and there was what could only be bloody show. I had never seen it with Ramona. I knew this meant things were nearing but I understood it didn’t mean they were imminent. I called Maren, our midwife, to tell her this and that I also felt like complete crap. I think I even apologized for cleaning my house and tweaking my back. Maren told me to have some dinner and go to bed.

Ten minutes later, walking to the couch to sit down and eat some warm soup, my water broke.

A Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth Story

I called Maren who said she would be there in a couple of hours. I called Papa who said he would come right away (can you believe he left the restaurant in the middle of Saturday night service?! He’s quite the man). And I called Nona, bursting into tears the second I heard her voice, excited and nervous.

I noticed the water coming out of me was tinged with brown, which I was pretty sure was meconium based on other birth stories I’d heard and read. I told this to Maren who said she would come immediately.

Like with your sister, my water breaking put us on a time crunch: you need to see signs of labor and have labor progress fairly quickly otherwise there are health concerns for the baby. This is especially true with the presence of meconium.

A Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth Story

Papa came home and got busy right away setting up the birth tub, helping me tidy the house, and getting himself ready (a shower!). I walked around timing contractions and making sure the little things were in order around the house. Ramona was still fast asleep in our bed.

Soon after, Maren arrived, and we chatted and made sure whatever she needed was accessible. I had to keep walking and moving to keep the contractions going. When I rested they seemed to slow down. Papa and I walked around the block and I tried going up and down our back stairwell. I quickly realized how tiny our home was as there was nowhere to walk to! Ten steps and you reach the back door from the front!

Around 11:00 Diri and Dido picked up Miss Minka. I quickly cuddled her in bed while she slept and then picked her up to carry her to the door. I inhaled her scent realizing she wasn’t going to be my littlest girl anymore. You were!

A Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth Story

By 12:00ish, my contractions were not messing around. I tried to get some rest but they were too strong and I was also too worried about them stalling out. Castor oil was taken sometime around this point to get things to (hopefully) speed up.

The next seven hours were long and I am not a patient person. Your sister’s labor was no longer than seven hours total so I had assumed labor with you would be shorter. It was hard for me when seven hours came and went and you still weren’t here. I knew I was going to have you and have you at home but I was frustrated with how long it seemed to be taking.

A Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth Story

When contractions intensified, I got in the warm tub and labored there for quite a while. It felt good and, thankfully, did not slow down my contractions. I was flanked by Papa and Kimmy (my friend and doula who arrived around 2:30AM). They were helpful in reminding me to breath, make low sounds, and focus on sending my energy down. I stared at a paint splatter on our ceiling’s wood beam for hours while pressing the heels of my palms down the length of my thighs. Girl, it hurt.

I moved to the toilet when I need to poop as well as to be in a different place. I found a position that seemed to help and then started at a corner of the bathroom floor. The people around me faded away and I became my most animal self. Truly. I made noises I’ve never made before and flapped my lips and hummed and went completely into my own head space. It was tough and necessary. Wave after wave of contractions took over me.

A Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth Story

Finally I yelled out –with a bit of unexplained anger at everyone there– that I was going to push! And push I did. And I kept contracting and pushing and knew you were so close and making your entrance soon. Papa and Maren carried me –mid-contraction– from the toilet to the tub. I gathered myself, caught up with the proper breathing, gave a few “test” pushes, and then pushed you out in one swift and final push. 7:01 AM, 10 hours after this all began.

The cord was around your neck but the midwives easily got it off. And there you were, Harriet, in my arms, covered in vernix and wailing your little lungs out. I couldn’t believe it. And yet I could.

A full moon and you were here.

A Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth Story

And this is a feeing I had immediately: you were undeniably meant to be in our fold. And soon into that day, March 16, 2014, it felt weird to imagine life ever happened without you.

A Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth Story

Mama and Papa were exhausted. We’d just pulled an all-nighter! We climbed into bed and stayed there the rest of the day. People brought us brunch and doughnuts and dinner and we were just completely enveloped in love and adoration. How could we not be? Look at you!

A Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth StoryA Denver Home Companion | Harriet's Birth Story

We love you, Etta Z.

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I love you, always and forever.

Love, Mama

 

A Denver Home Companion | raising sisters

for the first 6-8 weeks of harriet’s life, ramona was not very pleased. she put on a happy face and did her best. but i knew something was wrong in the way her and i just kept missing each other. we were so disconnected. she was taking her anxiety about this new person out on me.

of course, this isn’t surprising. her whole world as she knew it had been rocked. there was no way to prepare her for that. no amount of telling her she’s going to have a sister and then her announcing that to every person she met would actually enable her to wrap her mind around the immensity of adding a new person to the family. a new person who only cries and poops and nurses and needs to be held an awful lot more than ramona is used to sharing me.

thank god she wasn’t taking out these growing pains on etta. but she was taking them out on me. she acted out. didn’t listen. cried a lot about little things. started waking up incredibly early. refused her usual bedtime rituals but demanded i never leave her room. stopped wanting to snuggle. i thought i had lost my spunky ramona. it was a rough beginning — learning to adjust and honor both girls with attention, nurture, snuggles, whatever it was each little girl needed. and ramona acted out in response to these changes. and thus i acted out in response to seeing a side of ramona i wasn’t used to and wasn’t completely comfortable with. that was my issue, i quickly learned. i had to adjust something in myself — not only being a mother of two girls (and dividing my time and energy as needed) but also being a mother to ramona who was, for the first time in her life, experiencing great mental and emotional discomfort that she didn’t know yet how to process.

obviously, something like this was to be expected after a second baby is introduced into a family. but it was really freaking hard to deal with a child so dissatisfied and, well, grumpy for so long. i felt lost. surely. i felt something had been irrevocably changed in ramona. i wasn’t satisfied with people’s explanations that this was just what two year olds do. no. i knew it was deeper.

in hindsight i’m extremely glad there was a little voice in my head –my heart, maybe– that told me not to dismiss her. not to chalk up these “antics” to just her being a toddler. i worked more on myself during this time: how can i be more patient? how can i show i am here to listen? or that my lap is safe if she just needs to be held? how do i enter into her madness, her inability to rationally sort out her emotions?

and then, seemingly overnight, things changed. ramona became a helper. her enthusiasm for her little sister grew. she got excited to do things with mama and papa. she stopped acting out for, at least what seemed to me, little tiny inconsequential things. things just got easier.

we came around to each other. we both started understanding our new normal. and ramona’s confidence and joy and eagerness was restored. phew. and now? this little girl, ramona marilyn, is so stinking excited to be a big sister. each day i am getting a glimpse of the friendship and sisterhood they are going to cultivate together; the companionship and camaraderie they will build — especially when they don’t feel understood by others, by their parents.

i pray i remember this first emotional toll ramona took. i pray i take a bit of that with me as my girls grow and that i remind myself to be patient, to create a safe and warm space, to lend my listening and swallow my unsolicited advice, to curb my anger and share freely my joy and pride for them. even if they’re acting crazy. no: especially if they’re acting crazy.

 

A Denver Home Companion | harriet zona three months

my sweet harriet,

every day you are visibly bigger. every day we seem to know you more. my love for you, like your scrumptious thigh rolls, is growing and growing each day.

you drool. a lot. (see photo above for proof). it’s mostly adorable. certainly a good excuse to put you in new cute outfits multiple times a day. i find drool spots and spit up down the back of my shirt bc you are just so quiet and sneaky and persistent with it!

you are wildly entertained by your sister. or at least you are good going along with her antics. yesterday, after i finished hanging up clothes on the line, i walked over to you two to find she had carefully placed a pile of sand on top of your head. i was not amused. until ramona explained it was “just like lion king.” i couldn’t stay mad especially bc you were just sitting there cool as a cucumber, nonplussed, handling all the attention incredibly well.

you sleep like a champ if the environment is perfect: car seat covered with a dark blanket. or in our air-conditioned bedroom, swaddled, pacified and snug in the snuggleme co-sleeping pillow. this is different from your sister who preferred to sleep either attached to mama’s boob or worn in a sling. neither way is particularly better — i’m just constantly amazed at the differences between the two of you. of course, i didn’t think my two babies would be the same but i didn’t suppose the differences would be so apparent right off the bat (if i’ve written this before it’s bc it is constantly on my mind!).

you are grabbing toys in your play gym. you love the black and white drawings above the couch. you stare at things happening with an intentionality that cannot be denied. watching you grow and learn to move your body and observe the world around you is mind blowing.

my favorite thing about you is your smile. electric. and you have these accompanying coos that are ridiculously wonderful and addicting.

we are not jumping to any conclusions but we are so so curious about the little personality you are slowly but surely developing and revealing. you seem to have your papa’s calm demeanor. but there’s bound to be bits of me and lots of just you!

harriet, you are loved. so very much.

A Denver Home Companion | harriet zona three months

i love you. love, mama.