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    Mama Loves Moonshine is an honest, heartfelt, photo-centric blog devoted to all things motherhood, pregnancy & maternity, babies, toddlers, children, parenting and more... all accompanied by lots of photos. Julie is a new mother who has fallen in love with being a mom and already feels like it's going by so fast. Julie is married to Jesse, mother to Ramona Moon (aka Moonshine) and lives on an acre and a half in horse country between Boulder and Lyons, Colorado.

    Loving the journey (most of the time),

    Julie (Mama Moonshine)

    Read more about Mama Loves Moonshine...


Meow has only one eye.  Her orange fur is scruffy, sticky and sometimes stinky.  The plush in her limbs and tail have been loved out. Her body has grown thinner, her head floppy.  She’s my daughter’s “lovey” and because of this I love Meow more than any adult should love a stuffed animal.  Meow has oddly become a part of our family and on Saturday, we almost lost her forever.

It’s become an ongoing debate—to bring Meow or not to bring Meow wherever we go.  Meow is a comfort to Ramona and her best pal.  Leaving her at home at times seems cruel. But to take her everywhere is to risk losing her.  Most of the time, Meow is allowed to tag along as far as our destination point in the car but then has to “hold down the fort” while we are out and about.  But every now and then Meow is allowed on a stroller ride, knowing that if Meow is dropped, there will be immediate shrieking.  So it was on Saturday—a gorgeous 65 degree day, we decided to take a little hike around Wonderland Lake and as our spirits were lifted with the sunshine, we felt generous enough to let Meow accompany Ramona in the stroller.  Meow made it around the lake, hung out in the stroller at the park and kept Ramona company while Jesse and I enjoyed adult conversations.  All was well until we left the trail-head to head back home.  Confused as to who was breaking down the stroller and who was buckling in the kid, poor Meow was placed on the roof of our car and left there as we drove away.  Thank God we were only a couple miles away when Ramona started to panic.  “Where’d Meow go, Mommy? Oh no, Mommy! Meow, NOOOOO!!!”   Jesse and I looked at each other, equally as panicked and nearly stopped the car in the middle of the road to search for Meow, knowing what had probably happened.  Pulled over precariously on the side of a busy street, we frantically tossed the car. Meow was most likely in the middle of the road somewhere torn to shreds.  We kept Ramona calm and retraced our tracks all the way back to the trailhead. No Meow on the road.  No Meow in the trail-head parking lot or under parked cars or in the trash can.  I decided to retrace our tracks by foot while Jesse stayed in the car with Ramona, reassuring her that I’d be back soon with Meow.

Panicky and prayerful, I walked the sidewalk up Broadway, methodically eying the road and sidewalk area. After what seemed like forever, I was flooded with relief when I spotted something tethered to a street sign.  It looked like a reusable grocery bag with something in it.  It was Meow! I practically ran to the sign and untied Meow only to notice that one of her glass eyes was missing.  Still, extremely overcome with a new appreciation for the little plush pet, I ran back to the car holding Meow high in the air triumphantly.  Ramona squealed with joy then immediately asked, “What happened, Mommy?  Meow’s eye.”

I wouldn’t say that in general I’m an overly pessimistic person.  I’d like to think of myself as more of a realist. But honestly, for a while there I thought that things weren’t going to turn out well for old Meow. But as we drove home in relief and silence while Ramona cooed and kissed Meow in the back, I was overcome with gratitude for two things. First and foremost, my faith in the innate goodness of humans went up a couple of notches.  Some good Samaritan (I imagine her to be a mother but it could have been anybody), ran out in traffic on Broadway to save a stuffed kitty for a kid.  I’d like to believe that I would have done the same but I just don’t know.  If I ever encounter a similar situation, you bet your ass that I’ll be out in the middle of the street in a heartbeat to rescue a lovey! Some kind, compassionate stranger was looking out for my daughter on Saturday and I am eternally grateful to her.  It makes me want to be a better person—to think of others more instead of being preoccupied with what is convenient or comfortable for me.

Of course, I was grateful for Ramona’s reaction to Meow’s new look.  I thought Ramona would respond negatively to Meow’s eye.  She can be extremely particular and isn’t keen to change. But instead, Ramona just kisses Meow where her eye used to be and says “Awwww, Meow.  Meow fall down.” What a great lesson this has been for her—She can love people and animals for what they are: imperfect, different, broken, missing an eye.  Meow with just one eye, instead of two, is still the same old Meow. Maybe this will help Ramona empathize with the kids with glasses at school, or help her cope with having glasses herself.  Or maybe she won’t do a double take at the neighbor in the wheelchair. Perhaps Ramona will be the person who adopts the three- legged dog from the animal shelter when she’s old enough to get a real pet.

Albeit the stress of believing Meow was a goner for 30 minutes, the gratitude I felt for the compassion of both the Good Samaritan and my two-year-old daughter made losing Meow the highlight of my weekend.  And I love Meow with her one eye even more than I did with two.  She now has a story, and for me personally (and hopefully Ramona), she will always be a token of compassion.

Andrea Shoman-Timmsen - Wow. Needed this today! Thank you!

Alison Christofferson - Both my kids have a “special blanket” that my Mom made for them. When my older daughter was two my step-MIL let her take it to the Zoo and it got lost. Like you, ours was saved by a stranger. I do not kid when I say this event strained my relationship with my MIL for years! I think only those with a child who has a lovey can truly understand. So glad Meow was found! The person who found it was surely a parent, if not a Mom!

Candi Bales Counts - So sweet 🙂 made me tear up

Svatka Schneider - Beautiful.

A Wrong Turn Somewhere


It has recently dawned on me that I haven’t been parenting the way that I thought I wanted to.  Never in a million years did I think that I would be that mother who would be out with friends, but catering to my kid the whole time—rattling gadgets at her, picking  toys  up off the floor repeatedly at restaurants, taking half eaten crayons out of her mouth.  I never thought I would let my adult conversations be interrupted by my children.  I just never thought that my kid would rule my world.  But I am that mom.  I’ve become that which I’ve feared.  I don ‘t know when or what I did (or didn’t do) exactly, but I have realized that I have taken a wrong turn somewhere.

We had some good friends over for dinner the other night—good friends whom we rarely see. Good friends who live in Denver and drove an entire hour to see us.  Thank God for stiff drinks and good conversations with Jesse because I certainly wasn’t present.  Just twenty minutes after they left, I couldn’t even remember what we talked about.  I do remember, however, telling Ramona to show our friend’s 6 month-old baby, Harlan, all her toys about a bazillion times.  I recall taking her to the bathroom to wash her hands at least twice to wash off the guacamole that I permitted her to get into while I was cooking.  I do remember numerous conversations, or shall I say, the same conversation numerous times with Ramona about how “Mommy is talking to her friends right now, so please be patient”.  But I don’t remember much about the time that I had just spent with our friends.  I don’t know what the hell we talked about.  Quite frankly, I was completely frazzled.  After they left, I felt embarrassed and humiliated, wondering what my friends must have thought as they toted away their sweet sleeping baby.

I just finished the only parenting book thus far that has resonated with me, “Bringing up Bebe”.  It’s about the difference between French and American parenting and how French babies are raised to be autonomous.  They don’t throw food,  they sleep through the night by 3 months,  they play independently while mom and dad have adult conversations and they eat gruyere instead of Kraft singles.  While Ramona actually does prefer blue cheese to string cheese, she is everything but autonomous and self-reliant.  In my defense, I didn’t even know that the French way was possible for a two-year-old.  I thought that this clingy behavior from Ramona was simply the “terrible two’s” and for all I knew,  was parenting perfectly.  This book rocked my world.  The other night’s dinner with our friends and the looks on their faces rocked my world.  The whining, the fussing, the demanding, the pleas for 5 books to be read at bedtime instead of 2 is rocking my world and it’s time for some change and some God-damn discipline around here!   I’m not sure how to turn this boat around, but I have to believe that it’s not too late.  I just don’t know where to begin.  This blog post isn’t going to end with some sage advice about what I’ve learned or a new technique that I’m going to try in the future.  It’s simply a vent.  It’s a confession of sorts that I have become a boundary-less, exhausted, ignorant, push-over Mama.  That’s  the truth. But  my heart is in the right place. My heart is almost always in the right place—although it’s not always for the better.

I know that I’ve been extremely co-dependent in my life, enabling many around me to avoid conflict or to spare others from feeling pain.  But pain is inevitable in life as cliché as it sounds. I’ve been working hard on changing this about myself over the last couple of years as I’ve gained knowledge about the sickness of co-dependency and the avoidance of conflict in general.   But Ramona is really bringing these issues to the forefront these days .   The insane love I have for her is forcing me to grow and I’m seeing things about myself, every day, that I want to change for her sake.

Ramona needs to feel pain to thrive in this existence.  It’s part of life—I certainly can’t guard her from that; in fact, allowing her to experience pain in small doses and in safe places is part of my job as I usher her into this world.  And God certainly knows that there will be some “conflict” in her teen years that we are going to have to face, so I should be practicing that now as well.  The first step to change it to admit that I have a problem and that my life has become unmanageable because of it.  Dramatic?  Maybe. But holy moly, parenting is dramatic.

Hopefully, I’ll have a follow up post with all that I’m learning and all  the ways that Ramona is becoming an  autonomous, courteous and more cooperative  little lady.  Maybe soon, I’ll be having adult conversations with some of you.  Until then—prayers for some swift  parenting recovery, please.

Chelsy Ann Clark-Supinski - I SO relate to this post. I have totally been there. It wasn’t until my oldest turned 3 that I really was able to recognize and make some intentional changes with my friendships. Also took a Love and Logic class that saved my life.

Jodi Peterson Cox - You are an amazing mother.. Perfect with faults, and willing to admit them. That’s how we all should be! Love you

Laura Esmond - Every mother in the world can empathize with your plight (even the French I’d be willing to bet.) So YOU GO GIRL! You let Ramona know who’s boss. Let your yes be yes and your no be no without debating (oh just wait until those debates get logical!) We still struggle at times with having consistent expectations of their behavior especially when we’re tired. And when they were Ramona’s age I was afraid they wouldn’t love me or feel loved. But they do and Ramona will. Consider reading Parenting By The Book. It’s shockingly old school, but a great follow up to Bringing Up Bebe.

Mark Harris - Perfect cover photo. What a cute little brat. Just so you know, I have never felt like our time together has been compromised by Ramona. Raising a two year old does look like a handful more often than not. You are such a great hostess, and a great parent. I hope you find some peace with some adult friends in the near future.

Anonymous - Ooooh, Ceasar Milan – the dog whisperer. Sounds bass-ackwards but swear it will help. It’s free on hulu.

Let’s Talk Some Sh#t


We don’t actually use that word to describe literal poop in our home–we use that big bad word to describe much pettier things like gossip or to punctuate our disgust of something that’s simply not true–as in, “bull sh#t”.   Jesse and I use  the good old fashioned word “poop” for poop and I have tainted and demonized that noun (and sometimes verb) far worse than its naughty cousin.  Besides, what is a  curse word to a toddler when it’s out of context?  It’s only a “bad” word when one makes it such and I have certainly done that to our socially accepted noun, “poop”.  In fact,  I’m ashamed to say that something in my parenting has gone horribly awry regarding everything having to do with poop.  In the last month, Ramona has become ashamed and grossed out by it–especially her own.  But horse poop, bug poop, or anything that resembles poop has become gross or even scary.  It’s actually heartbreaking to have her look at me directly, while pooping in her diaper, and announce that she is, in fact “not pooping”. She feels ashamed.

Of course, there is a back-story to this demonization of poop and it all began with potty training.  Ahhhh–the woes of potty training–there are all sorts of stories and lessons that came out of our first attempt with potty training.  I’m learning all about my failures as a parent in this simple act of what I merely thought was a “to do” on the toddler check list.  I had no idea what a power struggle and boundary tester it would become.  It’s truly the first time it dawned on me that I actually have to “parent”.  It turns out that you have to use some discipline when potty training–and by discipline I mean that you have to be conscientious, patient, firm in your boundaries and above all, you must be consistent and approach the subject positively.

Ramona started showing interest in the potty at about 20 months which, is a pretty young age.  Her older cousin, Orlagh, was learning to use the pot and Ramona (who is around Orlagh three days out of the week) was fascinated with it and would often accompany Orlagh into the bathroom to partake in the celebratory pee-pee or poopy in the potty.  She started to notice potties  in books and at peoples homes and when I brought her home a potty of her own, she opened it with glee.  At 22 months, we were confident that it was time to start potty training. We started the whole process by proudly putting her diapers in the closet, chanting, “No More Diapers!  No more Diapers!  No More Diapers!”, which she thought was pretty fun.  Things actually went brilliantly at first and I will still say with pride that Ramona never had a single  accident with poop.  She took to it instantly, exclaiming enthusiastically 20-30 times a day, “I’m pooping, Mommy!”, which just simply meant that she had to use the potty, pee or poop.  She even used it as an excuse to get out of bed or out of the shopping cart at Target.  I think we were all really into the whole thing for about three weeks, and then we hit a wall.  It suddenly wasn’t fun for any of us anymore.  The trips across the entire mall for a false alarm or the massive amount of laundry started to become exhausting for me. As I became less enthusiastic about a dribble of pee pee in the pot and the Reese’s Pieces tapered off, Ramona started to realize that she had some control over this little game of potty time. She started having more accidents–or shall I say she deliberately started to pee her pants in front of me.  I say this because I actually believe she had the self-control to pee and certainly poop in the potty a few weeks earlier.  I believe her defiance started with her desire to exercise her power and independence.  I was left feeling exhausted and powerless after a few weeks of this.   Out of fear of pushing the issue and raising an “anal retentive” child, I decided to give potty training a break.  I simply asked Ramona, “Do you want to wear your big girl panties or do you want to wear the diapers again?”.  She frankly said, “diapers”.  So that was that for attempt number 1 at potty training.

Except that I couldn’t let it go.  I was afraid that we had done it all in vain and that when we started potty training again that all would be erased.  So I started to demonize the poopy diapers.  I’d change  her diaper and dramatically gasp and plug my nose and say, “Ewwwwww! Stinky poop!  Gross– it’s all over your bottom and we’re going to have to use 10 cold wipes! Ewwww!”. Sometimes Ramona would ask to see her dirty diaper or would want to throw it in the diaper genie herself and I would say, “Why in the world would you want to do that?  Poopy diapers are gross and dirty!”    Poor, poor Ramona was so confused.  And boy, did I mess up the whole experience for her.  When I saw Ramona point to the potty at Grandma’s house one day and exclaim, “Ewwww!  Poop!”, I knew I had blown it on multiple levels.  But I did learn one of the most important things I’ve learned thus far as a parent.  We as parents are never powerless.  In fact, it’s quite the contrary.  We are everything to our little kiddos and the way that we  express ourselves and our attitudes towards situations greatly affect and mold our children’s experiences. Period.

It’s only been a month since our potty training regression and the whole negatives association with poop began, but I’m intentionally starting to talk about poop enthusiastically again.  I’ll say things like, “It’s okay if you’re pooping, Ramona–EVERYBODY poops!  Even Big Bear poops!”  She think this is pretty funny.  And when we see horse poop on the ground, we point it out and talk about it. I’m trying to remember that I do actually have some control over certain situations and that I can make these instances positive or negative based on the way that I am reacting to the situation.

In fear of messing up potty training attempt number 2, I am going to give this some time–some time for feelings to neutralize in the poop department, but also some time for me to read up on discipline.  I wish that I had understood that it wasn’t only Ramona who needed to be ready for potty training,  I needed to be ready too. I needed to buck up and set some firm boundaries while still remaining positive–even if it means dashing across Target in a mad scramble to get the the bathroom, false alarm or no. And next time, when we get there, no more diapers will mean no more diapers.

P.S. Please note that in the heartbreaking image above, Ramona is not crying because she is being forced to sit on the potty but because we couldn’t find Purple Rabbit.

Chelsey Heil - Great post, very honest! Maybe you should get the book: Everybody Poops. It’s funny and true 🙂

Alison Christofferson - Potty training is like childbirth, you forget the worst of the details so that you will do it again someday. The survival of the species depends on it. Personally with my second kid I just waited as long as as I possibly could. There is no perfect way to do it. Good luck!

Camille Andree Giroux - We often read a book called “Where’s the Poop.” my son loves to look at it while trying to use the pottie. Pretty entertaining and fun book about animals and their poop.

Gail Jackson - Potty training – one of the banes of a mother’s existence. And don’t be surprised if another regression occurs when Ramona’s baby sister arrives…. everything is fair game to a toddler when they are no longer your one and only!

Yearnings for the Brashness of Youth

Ghandi said that “True happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”. I don’t think I’m there yet.  Just under a year ago I wrote a post about letting go.  Letting go of my career, the expectations I’ve had of myself, the success, etc.  And though I wrote about it last year, it’s still an evolving concept/feeling/thought/meditation that I want to talk about… apparently… because I’m writing about it now.  Again. Maybe that’s because being a mother, for me, is like dying and being born, over and over again;  my identity being crushed and created in a constant cycle. And I certainly believed that “letting go” would be a good thing, but I’m not sure I’ve been able to let go of me and I’m not quite sure if I’m happy.  Or maybe two years into motherhood with another one the way, I’m a bit more sober.

It’s five degrees outside and I eagerly ventured out in blizzard-like conditions to visit a suburban pizza joint to savor my weekly glass of wine and some alone time.  Romantic and adventurous, right?  Let me tell you that just three years ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of visiting a suburban pizza joint for a glass of wine.  It would have needed to at least be a bottle to endure a strip mall. But let’s just say a few things have changed in the last three years.  Just a few.

About a month ago after one of my weekly self-pity breakdowns, I pleaded to Jesse that I needed some “me time”. I had a realization that having a two year old, being pregnant and living out in the sticks should buy me a night out once a week where I might read, write, go to a movie, see some live music, drink alone in a seedy bar… whatever. The notion excited me and Jesse was just as excited to have a night to himself without my griping and to have a happier wife for the few days that would follow.  Strip mall (still not my cup of tea, but certainly better than putting a 2 year old to bed for the 7th straight night in a row) or strip club, I am  thoroughly enjoying the luxurious time alone where I can gather some thoughts and feed my hungry ego. Let me reiterate the “hungry ego part”.  I’ve been struggling a bit with what you might call an identity crisis of late.  In just 2 years, I have gotten pregnant, had a baby, become insanely disillusioned with my career  of choice, moved from LOHI to a house out in the country, lost 2 dogs, swallowed my pride, have daycare three days a week and have finally decided to leave the wedding photography world altogether. Oh, and did I mention that I am pregnant?  Again? With another girl?  I think in the same rant pleading for this weekly date night with myself,  I dramatically  flung myself onto the couch and sobbed “Who am I?  What happened to the Gypsy in me? I don’t recognize this girl!  I don’t even know if I like her!”.  Jesse just nodded and listened as he often does,  knowing that I would be just fine after a hot bath and some sleep.

There is a quote that kind of sums all of this up for me by James Balog, the photographer who inspired the documentary, Chasing Ice.  He said, “The brashness of youth takes you far”.  When I heard that quote the other night, I literally jumped up and yelled “EXACTLY”.  What happened to  that brashness that I used to have?  By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I was making a six figure income as a wedding photographer, had purchased two homes, traveled, partied, and basically denied myself nothing.  I had attained my dreams at the ripe age of 26 and basically lived under the assumption (the brash assumption) that anybody could do anything that they dreamed of as long as they fearlessly pursued it.  I thought you could have it all.  By the time I was 30, I had purchased another property, this time a commercial property, a gorgeous store front property in the up and coming neighborhood of LOHI and  was at the height of my success.  I   was more popular than ever amongst my peers and colleagues and was overall quite satisfied with myself.  BUT.  BUT… with success comes many obligations–social, financial, energetic, etc.  And it wasn’t long before I got fed up with my own dream.  I started to realize that you have to give to get.  I was tired.  So I got pregnant.

The rest of this story is history.  I am reevaluating my life these days. I spend these nights alone doing serious soul searching.  I don’t make the money that I used to–partly out of choice and partly because the wedding photography industry has gone to pot due to over-saturation of weekend warriors,  and, of course, because of  Pinterest.  Ugh.  I have a love hate relationship with that one.  I don’t know if I am a cautionary tale or a success story.  Perhaps I’m both.  But there isn’t any question as to whether I am at a crossroads in my life.  For the first time in 20 years I don’t know what my dreams are.  I am in a scary and vulnerable place and am just hoping and waiting with an open heart and mind for something to move me into a creative alpha state where I can once again dream and love photography, or writing or both.  Who knows.

I do know this about myself and for now it’s enough.   I know that there will always be a little gypsy in me.  I do know that when my two year old daughter kisses my booboos, that I am the most wealthy woman in the world.  I know that I will always be a fun mom-, taking my girls on some of those same spontaneous (less expensive) trips that I did in my twenties. And I know that I will never ever live a conventional life.  So maybe it’s not an identity crisis that I’m experiencing.  Perhaps it’s the wine I’m drinking, but I will say that today, I know that you have to give to get.  Nobody can really have it all.  I have traded success for peace, partying for wholesomeness, and late nights for early mornings with my sweet Ramona.  And today, for this moment on, I am trading in the nostalgic yearnings for my “brash youth” for some wonderful, lovely, glorious freedom.

Rachael Weaver - I just want to say, I love you. You are amazing and from the moment we met, you have been an inspiration and someone to look up to. I can’t wait to see you in the spring, and I think we’ll need to add a little extra time just to catch up. 🙂

Jenifer Canning - You write so eloquently.
Congratulations on the new baby. You see and express the world in ways than others can’t – behind a lens or written on paper. It is a beautiful gift to pass on to your girls, and they in turn can make the world a more beautiful place. Best to you.

Sommer Bannan - You are so beautiful inside and out!! Thank you for your honest and vulnerable words! This spoke to my heart today! Lets meet at the pizza parlor and talk when you have some time! We have a lot to catch up on!! xoxo!

Jessica Green - Amen friend! You are not alone. Me too. Thanks for the transparent honesty!

Alison Christofferson - I must say I’ve been through a similar but less dramatic struggle. Quite simply, I believed that becoming a parent would not affect my ability to be adventuresome and ambitious. I was wrong. I had my children pretty young, first baby born when I was 26 and second at 28. I recently realized that I will be a mere 44 years old when my first kid goes to college, 47 with the second. That made me realize that my frenzy to figure out what “great” thing I was going to do with my life can wait a bit. The way our world is going I can start a whole new career at 44 and work as long as many of our parents did in their careers. As my grandma likes to tell me, you can have it all, just not at the same time. Hard to accept when you’ve been an ambitious woman but might just be true. Hugs to you! When is your next baby due?

Megan Maxwell - I can completely relate. But do not leave photography- you are far too gifted.

Kellie Coughlin - Beautifully said Julie 🙂

Caitlin - I love you so much. I am so proud of you.

megan alvarez - So lovely and honest and poignant and a great read for me this morning.

I feel like I am desperately grasping for the gypsy, especially now that I am pregnant with my first and in a constant state of various forms of total panic and I can feel my former/present self slipping away a little bit despite my excitement and anticipation. It’s always a relief to know I’m not the only one.

I seriously think we should get together sometime, especially now that you live in my neck of the woods! =)

Thanks for sharing this today. Such a talent.

anne singleton - So I just love you so much, and am so proud of you that you are talented enough to choose when you want to be on hiatus. I wish I could do the same in my career. Choose when I want to be on and choose when I want to be off. And the fact that you revel in your alone time, strip club or strip mall, maintains to me that you are still a gypsy. Sometimes I can’t muster the will to put on mascara and leave the house, let alone attempt a seedy bar to sit alone and contemplate. I think you have finally arrived…. barefoot, pregnant, and living in the sticks with your beautiful girl, your gadlfy hubby, and your amazing talent, still lining your walls, willfully in hibernation until you feel like getting on the bike again.

Amanda - The root of the word happy is hap.. it’s latin, translates “by luck” or “by chance” – you are building something so so so much deeper that will not leave you. You do things with a camera that you just shouldn’t be able to do. That gift will only get better. You make me cry, my story’s different but I very much sympathize. So so so many congratulations on another one. Amanda