j,,,,mzz . Social Navigation

[The first part of the title is Z’s. I stepped away from the computer for two seconds, and she decided she wants to blog.]

The Saturday before Halloween our ward had a chili cook-off and Halloween carnival. Earlier in the day I had put Z’s costume on her to see if it fit and so she could get used to it. I’d taken it off so that she wouldn’t get too hot. When it was time to get ready for the party, I struggled with Z to put the costume on, but she finally relented.

She was cranky. She didn’t have much of a nap that day, and when I tried to paint her with a lion face–super simple, a short black upside-down triangle covering the bottom of her nose, a white snout, and black whiskers–she wouldn’t stay still. She looked like she’d eaten powdered donuts mixed with soot.

It’s two blocks to our church building, but we decided to go on a little drive to to fit in a little nap for Z. We drove around for about 10 minutes before pulling up to the church. Z was sleeping. We found a place to sit. Reilly held our dozing child while I stood in line to get us food.


We made it through most of our meal before Z woke up. The moment she opened her eyes, she began to cry. She saw all the people and heard all the noise. I would have been overwhelmed as well.

We tried feeding Z, but she was too upset. Reilly took her into the foyer for a little while, and when they came back, Z was no longer wearing her costume. But she was still crying.

Time to go. The instant we stepped outside into the cool air and fuzzy ambiance of dusk, our little toddler calmed down. We went home and she played until bedtime.

The following Friday I decided to get our money’s worth out of Z’s costume, so I put it on her, and we went to the library. She likes climbing the stairs to the juvenile section.

On the prowl...
On the prowl…

Z especially loves to play in the courtyard between wings. It was chilly outside, but the costume seemed to keep her warm enough.

Bounding down the hill...
Bounding down the hill…

We then went to Provo Towne Centre Mall, where she could play in the kids’ area and walk around. She fell asleep in the car on the way, but I brought her to the kids’ area and lay her down to let her sleep. When she woke up, she didn’t move but watched the other kids playing for a while.

Just watching...
Just watching…

After walking and playing, we went back home to walk and play some more.

Lion slide
Lion slide

We checked the mail, and Z likes to see if we received any packages.

Where's our mail?
Where’s our mail?

Then came Halloween day. We were up until 1am the night before watching scary movies with Reilly’s brothers (Z was in bed), so Reilly and I were quite tired. But we wanted to do something for Halloween. We decided to accept an invitation to a party. We all got in our costumes.

Off to see the Wizard...
Off to see the Wizard…

We thought Z might have another tantrum, but she was actually very good. We were early to the party, so we left to get eat some pie and came back. But the person who invited us wasn’t there yet, and it was getting late (8:30!), so we just came back home and put Z to bed. I invited friends over, and we watched another scary movie and stayed up past midnight.

The following Tuesday we went to a wedding reception in Riverton. We stood in the reception line no longer than two minutes. When we got to talk to the beautiful bride and groom, Z began to cry. We wrapped up our conversation and found a seat and I got up to get some refreshments–s’mores. Perfect for a crisp evening. I thought Z might like the chocolate and graham crackers. Z ate quietly for a few minutes, but maybe it was the crowd of strangers and unfamiliar chatter and not being able to run around like she usually does before she started crying.

Again, once we stepped outside, she stopped crying.

She did really well her first time in nursery, but she’s had a rougher time the past few Sundays.

Then last night Reilly and I brought Z to a ward missionary meeting in someone’s home. She did fine playing on their carpeted stairs. She jabbered and checked in on us every few minutes. Someone else’s toddler was there. Once when he stood in Z’s way she looked at him and did something that looked like frustrated jazz hands before walking around him.

From these experiences I’ve observed:

  • Z likes small groups, especially with family. (Just like Reilly and I.)
  • Z likes being able to run around and explore.
  • Z doesn’t like a lot of noise or strangers.
  • Z isn’t sure what to think about other toddlers.

From these observations, maybe:

  • Z could adjust to being around people her age more often. (Just like Reilly and I.)
  • Reilly and I could have more creative solutions whenever Z doesn’t feel like being very social with us.

Times like these I wish I knew what I was doing, but we’re okay. We’re learning. And she’s only 19 months old, so there’s that.

Sunday Firsts

Yesterday was Zinger’s first day in nursery at church. Since our ward meets at 11:00 AM, our strategy was to get Z to sit long enough for us to take the sacrament, take her for a ride so that she can nap for about half an hour, then bring her back in time for nursery.

We were able to get her to sit for the first 25 minutes of sacrament meeting. She wanted to walk around and play in the chapel, but we held her close and whispered to her how important it was to sit still. As soon as the bishop dismissed the priesthood after administering the sacrament, Reilly took Z on a ride while I listened to people bear their testimonies. I may have also briefly scrolled through Facebook and read comments in a Salt Lake Tribune article about black women in the Church.

When sacrament meeting ended, I walked out of the chapel and found my family. I asked Reilly if Z got a nap. He said no. I was nervous. We walked our daughter to the nursery room. We let her walk around, and there were a couple of times she tried leaving the room. Once the tables were set up the nursery workers put out some books and puzzles, and Z began to play. She also saw some blocks and played with those as well.

The nursery leaders asked for her name. We told them Z was tired and wasn’t really used to other children yet. They assured us they were good at getting the babies to calm down in case of tantrums.

Before we left her, we decided to change her diaper so that the next two hours for her wouldn’t be interrupted. So I took her to the mothers’ room and changed her. Reilly and I took her back to the nursery room. We opened the door, we said goodbye, and there were no tears.

Suddenly, we were free.

Reilly and I headed to Gospel Principles class. We sat down in the middle of a story the teacher was telling. One of the first things we heard the teacher say was, “And [this guy], he was homosexual.” Then she wrote on the board: [guy’s name] – homosexul [sic]. Then she continued telling the story, which offered a few more highlights:

  • “Many of their kids were homosexual. I don’t know if it’s hereditary or what.”
  • “And [another guy] was 70 years old, and he’s still homosexual.”

The teacher kept making eye contact with me, so I didn’t want to give even the remotest sideways glance to Reilly to express how weird I thought the lesson was.

But then came a story that had some context:

  • “My son came to me and said, ‘I have to thank you for something, but I’m not sure it was even you. My brothers were always beating me up. I was always on the bottom of a pile. But there were times I felt someone lifting me up above the pile, and I could see my brothers below me, and the next thing I knew, I was at the table and there were milk and cookies. I want to thank you for that.’”

My impression was that the lesson was about families, but we missed the first ten minutes, and with 20 minutes left in the class, someone came in and asked us to be substitute Primary teachers. So we walked out of our Sunday School class, being somewhat amused but not knowing for sure what we were being taught.

We found out that we were teaching the CTR4 class, which consisted of three boys. They were rowdy, as boys between 4 and 6 years of age typically are. Between Reilly and me, our combined powers of persuasion made classroom management pretty easy. (If other parents saw us, they probably would have disagreed.) We had a short lesson about missionaries. We colored pictures of children holding Books of Mormon. One boy looked at the other boys’ coloring jobs and said, “Dude, that’s scribbling.” We folded these pictures into paper airplanes, and Reilly refereed the races. We also played football because that’s always an appropriate Sunday indoor activity. I interrupted their fun to remind them if their moms ask what they learned in class to say they learned about being missionaries. Wishful thinking, I know; I should expect them to tell their moms that they played with paper airplanes and threw a football in class. The final activity was drawing on the chalkboard, which surprised me with how long they kept quiet. We ended the class with a prayer. While one boy was giving the closing prayer, another boy was talking. To whom, to what, I don’t know.

I tidied up the classroom while Reilly picked up Z from nursery. I asked how she did, and Reilly said that when he opened the door, one of her shoes was off. One of the nursery leaders was blowing bubbles, and Z was trying to catch them. I imagined her reaching above her head, trying to grab those clear, drifting orbs. I smiled.

It seems Z had a great first day at nursery, with nary a tear. She also didn’t nap the entire day. (Reilly and I each took two naps.) And she cried for about a minute when she had to go to bed.

It was an eventful day for all of us. If today’s gospel principles lesson was about families, then maybe we could take our day and talk about how our respective experiences have brought us closer together, either because they were fun (stacking blocks and catching bubbles) or slightly chaotic (teaching small boys) or didn’t make very much sense (listening to bizarre stories in Sunday School). I don’t think there will ever be another Sunday like this one. I really liked it.

18 Months

Dear Zinger,

I want to tell you a story. Don’t worry, it’s about you.

Nearly two weeks ago, you had woken up at least an hour earlier than usual. Dadda had prepared your morning bottle and got you out of your crib. I could hear all of this happening from the bedroom: the fridge, the microwave; Dadda greeting you as he opened your door. I was still under the covers, trying to decide whether I should get up. Maybe I was scrolling through Facebook or trying to blink away the dark static of dusk, but you were in the living room, drinking your bottle, staying relatively calm and quiet. Then after a few minutes Dadda said, “May, Z just threw up all of her milk.”


I walked to the living room and Dadda asked what to use to clean up the mess. I looked at you and asked if you were okay. You were crying. I picked you up and said that I was sorry. Maybe it was the milk at 5am; maybe it was too early for your stomach to be so full. I gave you some water, and you ate two Goldfish, but that did not stay down. We took off your shirt and wiped the vomit from the high chair. We laid you on the floor, and I lay beside you as you drifted off to sleep.


You managed a pretty long nap. You seemed okay with a little more water and a bit of banana. I texted two doctor friends, and they both said the same thing: Keep you hydrated. Sips of water at a time. If you can keep down the water and banana, then try BRAT the rest of the day — banana, rice, applesauce, toast.

We were making progress. You love rice, bananas, and toast, and you were hungry. You had a teaspoon of water through an oral syringe every 5-10 minutes.

You made it nearly six hours without an episode. Just before Dadda got home, it all came up, but slimy. Banana. Toast.

Rice. So much rice.

We started over again. You began to hate the syringe. But we learned that cold water felt pretty good going down your throat. And you knew enough to cooperate when you were thirsty.

We scaled back to bananas and toast.

About two hours later you started climbing over the arm of the sofa the way you often do, so it seemed you were back to feeling somewhat normal. One of your favorite Pixar cartoons was playing as you romped around. After your final dismount from the couch, you walked over to me and let out a whimper, which turned into a full-blown cry. I realized too late that this was THE signal. It came, and I was unprepared. Your tummy was a fountain of rice and bile, flowing onto the floor, spewing an irregular rhythm.

I wiped your face, picked you up. Held you close, and told you how sorry I was. I hated so much that you were sick.

Two hours later you wandered into our bedroom and rolled around in a blanket on the floor. In the dark. I watched you; I knew you were tired. After a few minutes you walked up to me and cried. I picked you up to carry you to the bathroom, hoping to make it in time, but I wasn’t fast enough.

I was so, so sorry.

The bright side was that you were keeping down water for at least two hours at a time, so you had wet diapers, just not as frequent as on your healthier days.

Another blessing was that you made it through most of the night without vomiting, and you had only one episode on Saturday.

Sunday morning you woke up crying. You were hungry and weak, only having water and Pedialyte and bread in the past day. You were prisoner to a stomach bug that offered no other choices. But the virus had stayed long enough and was on its way out, and when Dadda offered you a plate of banana pieces, your little hand trembled as you reached to the plate and brought real food to your mouth and remembered the exquisite sweetness and texture and the feeling of something substantial nourishing your body.

Nearly two weeks later you show no signs of ever having been sick. Even though I didn’t do anything wrong, I felt I was falling short. Your being sick meant something about me as your mother that didn’t make any sense, but ultimately it meant that I was worried. I’m allowed to be worried. But now that you’re better, I feel forgiven. I feel grateful.

You have mostly forgiven food, which shows in your restored appetite. I feel grateful for this, too.

Today, nearly two weeks later, you are 18 months old.

As much as we try to control your surroundings, predict your life—even in the short-term—I’ve realized that patterns of raising a child more closely resemble the uncertainty of your next hurl. There may be obvious signs, but will I be fast enough to avoid a mess? Will I ever be sufficiently prepared? Will the answer to these questions ever be yes?

The point is we recover, right? We get over the acidic and chunky and putrid. We appreciate the struggle in hindsight, but we truly cherish the fresh air now. At least we should. We bounce back stronger and a hell of a lot smarter. And hungrier.

Maybe 18 months barely scratches the surface — there’s so much more life to go — but the scratches are there. We’ve enjoyed your first year and a half with you, even when you passed your stomach bug on to me and Dadda. What a pleasant weekend that was! We’ve had so much fun and learned so many things. And we still have so much to learn.

Let’s keep going.

Love, Mom

We Went to the Park Today

It’s time to exercise more regularly again. A few weeks ago I fixed the wobble on the jogging stroller and this week I started taking Z on walk-jogs. A 2.5 mile route with a nice park on the way. Heading back home, we stopped by the park and I let her climb down from the stroller and she headed right for the playground. She knew what to do.

Sometimes she feels like crossing the high tunnel, sometimes she doesn’t.

high tunnel

Last time we went to the park, she got pretty brave with the slides. Last time I forgot a camera. This time I remembered.

Then after about 30-45 minutes, Z decided she was done and walked to her stroller and climbed up to the seat. I strapped her in. A mom and her toddler approached the playground. The little girl looked a few months younger than Z and was wearing shoes that squeaked every time she took a step. As she and her mom passed us, I said, “There’s no sneaking up on me.” The mom laughed and joked that my eardrums might be breaking. I watched the baby get closer to the playground, and I remarked that the baby’s red ruffly shorts were super cute. The mom then said that those shorts made her water break. I must have had a strange look on my face when she said that, because she explained that she was at the store and seeing the shorts made her laugh. And when she laughed her water broke. And then she gave birth to the wearer of the shorts. I laughed while starting to push the stroller toward home; she said goodbye and wished us a good day.

I wonder, though, how they came to own the shorts. Did she buy them at the time her water broke, or did she go back to the store hoping to find the memento of her water breaking? If she went back, when? Was she hoping the shorts would still be there? If she bought them just before delivering her baby, that’s some real clearheadedness there. Or maybe she got someone to buy them for her.

I will think about this forever.

That mom was really friendly and I’m glad that her daughter’s shoes squeaked, because I got to be a smart aleck. I like meeting nice strangers. That’s a good reason to exercise more regularly.

A Poem of Tomorrow for Today

In late 2011 WS Merwin visited BYU and read some of his poetry to students in the JSB auditorium. He said that after 9/11 books of poetry could not stay on the shelves. He said people needed poetry in those dark times. It helped them cope and understand and feel understood and less lonely. It reached deep and endless. It touched hollow and unrelenting. It was like pockets of fresh air displacing the billows of dust and sorrow and hate.

I was in a poetry class the semester of Merwin’s visit, trying to write poetry; trying to get it. Trying to learn things way beyond my grasp from my immensely talented classmates. It was a wonderful class. The semester happened to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. I wasn’t there, but I have friends who were. Today always makes me mournful, melancholy sinking my gut. This poem was my attempt to express an aspect of that tragic event.

It is 9/12/11

nine twelve eleven
nine one-two one-one
as if my fingers
swollen and sweaty
slipped while dialing
and starting over never crossed my mind.

No one will come
until I hang up
and think more carefully
to push
finger pads to keypad
with motions that should be automatic.

Now that Summer Is Over

Here are some photos of Zinger’s activities after her birthday and throughout the summer.

Watching shadows at Rock Canyon Park
Beginnings of climbing adventures
Leisurely baths (pronounced “bahths”)
Disagreeing with Mama and Dadda
Getting sick occasionally
Dancing at the Provo Pioneer Park splash pad
Practicing looking cute for money for when Dadda plays guitar on the street
Reuniting with some of Mama’s very smart high school friends
Going to a Jazz summer league game and Z trying to ignore the man with the gold-colored drink while she drinks water
Growing out curly hair
Being fierce at the Scera Pools splash pad
More recreation at Bartholomew Pond in Springville
Humoring the carousel for Mama and Dadda at the nickelcade
Practicing brushing teeth at the front entryway
Supporting Dadda at his graduation
Promoting change at the mall
Fitting in necessary naps
Classifying rocks in the courtyard at the Orem Library
Enjoying the Payson Onion Days Parade on Labor Day
Enjoying the Payson Onion Days Parade on Labor Day

We hope you enjoyed your summer. Happy anticipation of autumn!

Full Circle

Before I was an English major, I was a microbiology major. I was going to work in a lab and do research.

While I was a microbiology major, I took a really long break in my education to figure out what I wanted to do. I spent nearly seven years in New York City, and I found exhilaration and solace in writing.

I wanted to write. Maybe with my science background, maybe I could do science writing.

In 2010 I returned to BYU as a nontraditional (read: old) student who was given a stern warning to FINISH SCHOOL; changing my major to English after almost having a hard science degree was peculiar. But I hadn’t kept up my studies in NYC, and I’d have to retake many classes anyway, and I’d end up being there at least three semesters. I told the Humanities advisor I’d be done in four or five. They let me stay.

Five semesters and three terms later, I have no regrets. I took my time, got good grades, earned a scholarship, studied abroad in Senegal, and minored in French. During my last two semesters I met another English major who had graduated from the University of Utah. Nearly a month and a half after graduation, we got married.

A year and a half passes, and my husband was already a semester into his Master’s program at BYU. I was preparing to begin a Master’s program in Library Science at Emporia State University. At the orientation several library professionals spoke to my cohort, and the one who stood out most was a medical librarian. Throughout my program I have focused on medical libraries. I completed a practicum (internship) at the Eccles Health Sciences Library at the U; and I have been volunteering at the Primary Children’s Hospital Library. All of this experience has enhanced my studies, better prepared me for the work force, and built a solid network of colleagues.

When I had about a year left in the program, I started applying for jobs. When positions require experience and you have none, it can be a little frustrating. As I was finishing my practicum in the spring, an opportunity arose for working in a medical library. The position didn’t require an MLS, so I decided to use my time in the practicum and volunteering, as well as my time in the MLS program, as experience. Other requirements matched my skills acquired from other jobs, and position seemed like a great fit. The posting attracted a lot of applicants, and the hiring manager interviewed me over the phone before calling me in for a group interview, which was intense. I shined and dazzled among other qualified prospects.

I made the cut and went in the next day to interview by myself with the hiring panel. And it seemed things were looking up until they weren’t. The timing had turned bad, and other circumstances had proven inauspicious, so I pulled myself out of the running. While this decision was for the best, I learned so much during that interview process, and people from Primary Children’s and Eccles offered me wonderful advice and encouragement along the way.

About a week and a half after the final interview, I received some information about another posting. It wasn’t for working in a medical library, but it requires skills gained in an MLS program and searching in medical databases, so I inquired about the position. My contact requested my CV, and about two weeks later, she asked if we could speak on the phone.

That’s when I told her I was a microbiology major. And when I spoke to her supervisor on the phone, I recounted the same experience. And when I met with the two of them a few days after that, my hard science background came up again. They took me through the workflow, which helped me clear some cobwebs from the sciency sections of my brain. They asked me which I preferred: hard science or information science. It wasn’t one of those psychoanalytical questions to make interviews nervewracking (“Tell me about a time you failed/didn’t complete something/didn’t get along with someone…”); it was a question out of simple curiosity, and I told them I couldn’t decide. I loved them both.

Gosh, what’s a good metaphor here. The skills I gained as a humanities major will always be the ones important to finding work and solving problems. Close reading–critical thinking, analysis–and communication. And then the more specific training I receive during my MLS program helps with technology I will be using with the job. And then, THE thing that may have solidified the deal for me is the area in which I do not have a degree but have always been deeply interested. And wanted to do more with. This is one of the coolest opportunities ever. There’s no metaphor here.

After officially completing his thesis in June, my husband is enjoying his summer. He graduates August 16, and we’re all very excited. On the other hand, my summer semester is intense, and after spending daytime with my family, I stay up late doing homework, finally able to empathize with Reilly’s late nights over the past two years. I’ll have only three credit hours in the fall, and then I’ll be done with my Master’s program.

The baby will be the only one in the family without a Master’s degree. Aww.

After my interview two weeks ago, onboarding is complete. The company is great. They’re assigning me a laptop. I don’t even know if I have an official job title, but I will be maintaining a database for a pathology tool used in diagnostic immunohistochemistry for cancer. It’s a thing: look it up.

Also: I get to work from home.

I begin August 3.