1101

Dear Zinger,

Eleven months. E-leven. E-leaven. Like electronically baking bread. This is blowing my mind. I can’t even wrap my head around next month, when you’ll be a whole year old, so I’ll try my best to focus on this letter.

That sassy expression in the above photo makes Dadda and me laugh a lot. Your personality shines in everything you do. You know how to tease: you hold things out and offer them to us, then you pull them away and don’t let us have them. It’s a fun little game, but where did you learn how to do that? Is that something all babies know?

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You have a favorite kitchen cabinet. You haven’t gotten inside it as much lately, but you do open it a lot and put many of your things in there, from shoes to books to toys. It seems you’re slowly taking over the apartment. You’ve recently learned how to open the broiler part of the oven, and just two days ago I found two of your toys in there. Does this mean that you don’t like those toys and want to broil them, or is that your way of claiming the oven as your property?

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You also like to wait by the bathroom door whenever someone is in there. Sometimes you knock on or scratch at the door while you wait. Once I got out of the shower and found Gina the Giraffe so thoughtfully placed at the door.

The bathroom has greatly interested you these past few weeks.  You enjoy standing by the tub and marveling at its structure. Or maybe you reminisce about bathtime and plan what you’ll do next time you take a bath. You really do like bathtime, with splashing and fun bath toys and trying to play with the faucet. You don’t like water being poured on your head, but you seem to enjoy the shampooing of your hair and scrubbing of your ridiculously soft skin. And when you’re done with a bath, we carry you in a towel to the futon in your room, and you run and jump around while I try to get your diaper on you.

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This past week your turned on the dishwasher. Like it was no big deal. Like it was a chore you’ve been doing since you were born. Of course the dishwasher wasn’t full, and I had to turn the dial all the way around to turn it off, but I was still impressed. Should I have been? I mean, I didn’t shower you with praise, and when it was actually time to run the dishwasher, I called you over and pointed to the dial and you looked at it and did nothing. Like it wasn’t your turn to do that chore. And you looked at me as if to say to me that I should know how to operate the dishwasher so why am I asking you, a mere baby for help. You watched me turn on the dishwasher and gave me an approving look. I was so proud of myself.

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You are learning how glorious sleep is and are steadily sleeping anywhere from eight to ten hours every night. Of course falling asleep is a different story. You still drift off peacefully in Dadda’s arms as he rocks you, but when he lays you in the crib you wake, realize he’s leaving you alone in a dark room, and cry. But then you understand that on the other side of waking is a brand new day of eating, reading, and play. And you finally fall asleep.

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The other day I noticed you standing and spinning in one place. This morning you’re spinning a lot. It might that your head is full of snot and every time you sneeze it’s like Spiderman spraying a sticky, weblike substance, except it’s from your nose and not your wrists. Or it could be because Dadda and I are on our computers. He’s preparing a Sunday School lesson, and I’m writing about you. It’s a few seconds later, and Dadda’s not on his computer anymore, and now you’re playing contentedly by yourself. Interesting how that works.

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Today, we have church from 1-4pm. Staying for the entire three hours has been very challenging for you, but you do a decent job. You sit through most of the first hour, then I let you walk around and give you a snack for the second hour, and sometimes if I’m feeling especially daring, I’ll take you in to Sunday School for the last 10 minutes. Then Dadda has you for the third hour, during which you two usually go for a drive and you get a much-needed nap.

Church is so important, little one. Even though we don’t spend a lot of time in our classes, it’s important that we go and start forming good habits. Fellowshipping isn’t a problem for you. You approach different people and reach out (literally, and point to them), and either give them a sincere, caring look or a great big smile.

About five weeks ago, Lola was called to be the Relief Society President of her ward. Observe the progression of her texts to me.

January 29:

Hi May, Poppi got me this new phone and I’m learning to text. I also have been called to be a relief society president and I’m scared out of my mind so remember me in your prayer. I love you.

February 1:

Hello May, I was sustained and set apart today. I bore my testimony on how Heavenly Father placed people on our path as an answer to prayers. In this I testify that it is true. A testament that our Heavenly Father loves us and will always be there to help us. I have been thinking of you and your little family and how blessed I am. I love you and thank you for being you.

February 17:

Hi May, just thought of you and how Heavenly Father keeps you close to him. He truly loves you with all the tender heart of a father. So very grateful for that knowledge. Now you are a mommy and you will have a glimpse of that kind of love. I guess what I am saying is … I am so happy to see you have happiness and fulfillment. I love you very much. Mom

In each text increased confidence shows in the words of each message, which also indicates to me increasing faith. She’s a very loving and compassionate woman who supports and encourages everyone around her unconditionally. I know this because I am her daughter, and there were times when I made her very mad or disappointed, but she still hugged me and reminded me of my potential. Right now, she lives in a ward with a lot of aging members and a lot of need, and if anything, my stubbornness helped her to develop patience and longsuffering. She’ll be amazing at her calling. You are very blessed to have such a spiritually strong Lola.

She’s right about being a mama. The glimpse I have of the kind of love Heavenly Father has for us is still beyond what my mind can grasp. My heart feels like it could explode all the time. I’m so very lucky to have your endless affection and generosity. May you never lose that.

So this morning, we’ll get ready for church. I will be at church, even though I’m sneezing and my nose itches constantly. I will also try not to fall asleep, and I will remember the example you’re setting for us. You’ll be at church, and I’m grateful it’s not a place you hate. We’ll tell everyone you’re eleven months old, and even though you’re tired, you’ll toddle around and explore the pews and hymnals. Even though you’re sniffly, you’ll smile. Our little sassy, carefree, and caring spirit, you raise us up.

Leaven.

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Love, Mom

I’m putting this here because it wouldn’t work in Facebook. Besides, I always need cuteness documentation.pigtails

 

High chair

Dear Zinger,

I hold my finger down to you, and I say, “Let’s go for a walk.”

You take my finger. You start walking. I wonder where you’ll lead me.

This is one of my favorite things about you right now.

I find your shoes everywhere. Once Dadda and I were getting you ready to go out with us, and we found one of your shoes in one of the kitchen cabinets. At a different time I found one of your books in another cabinet. You love the kitchen cabinets. We’ve childproofed most of them, but we left two of them free for you to play in. I put old plastic cups and old tupperware containers in them, and you have fun taking them out to examine and leave all over the kitchen floor. I sometimes don’t clean up after you right away so I can come into the kitchen later to find evidence of your play. I love how much you play.

Maybe, second breakfast

You no longer lie still with a bottle. Unless you’re extremely tired. With a bottle in your mouth, you walk around different parts of the apartment, as if you’re inspecting the place. Then the level of your food gets to where you need to tilt your head way back or lie down to finish your bottle. And you often finish your bottle, because your increased play works up a big appetite. You often fight naps because playing is so much better.

Lion

Verbes français

The whole apartment has evolved into your room. You used to keep the books in your room separate from your books in the living room. You used to keep your toys in separate rooms as well. And you sometimes even bring books from Mama and Dadda’s room to different places in the apartment. Everything’s a surprise with you. This can be both good and bad. Just the other day I imagined giving you crayons and paper to start coloring. And then I imagined crayon all over the walls. And then I realize that while I enjoy playing and laughing with you, there are so many opportunities to teach you. But I think we can make learning fun. I will try to keep you surprised as well.

You are officially a toddler. Because you toddle. And I love it. The weather has been a lot warmer than normal for this time of year, and for the past few days we’ve let you wander outside. The ground is uneven and you stumbled a bit, but you adapted quickly. You go just about anywhere now. Your world has expanded.

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You sing, you dance. You smile so easily. You give kisses so generously. But you also get angry when you don’t get what you want. I will excuse that for now because you’re a baby, but be prepared to understand that you will not always get what you want. Even if what you want is good. You may end up having to wait for it or realize that you may not get it at all. But you can still be happy, anyway. Life is interesting like that.

Diet Coke

Pillow head

You are growing so fast, and you are discovering so much. I love how you see the world: always somewhere to go, something to touch and explore and study. You are so, so, happy, and that makes me and Dadda happy. Thank you for leading us to so much joy.

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toothy joy

Love, Mom

Today in Sunday School the little one was fussing a little, realizing she’d have to sit through yet another not-fun hour of church. I whispered to her that she was going to be okay, but she disagreed, as babies sometimes do.

Before she got too loud, a woman sitting behind me reached her arms out to Zinger and whispered, “Do you want to come to me?” I handed the baby to the woman, a new face with fun curly hair, big buttons on her collar, and a cool jangly bracelet. She’s been in the ward a long time and definitely one of the sisters I admire. I haven’t spoken to her very much in the past few years, but I’m glad she offered to hold the baby.

The woman played patty cake and chatted with Zinger while I got stuff ready for changing a diaper. I also took advantage of my free lap and a few quiet moments to actually pay attention to the Sunday School lesson. After a few minutes, I turned around and waited for Zinger to make eye contact with me. I asked her if she was ready, then I took her out to change her diaper.

Then Zinger and I roamed the halls for a while. Lately when she sees vast spaces to cross and long corridors to hike, she gets excited. When about 10 minutes were left in Sunday School, we returned to the classroom. I set her down on the floor with a toy and a book, but she wanted to keep walking. She headed toward another sister sitting two seats away. This woman picked her up and smiled and cooed at and nuzzled her. During the closing prayer, she made the baby laugh.

What a cool ward I live in.

A few months ago I read this blog post about assessing a situation and intervening when children are left unattended. The writer makes a good point about not judging the parents because we don’t always know everyone’s story, but if children are endangering themselves, then no one should watch and wait for them to get hurt.

I’m always worried about my child. My first attempt at parenthood is riddled with anxiety about being too cautious and not being helicoptery enough. Zinger began walking before she turned nine months old. In the past three weeks she’s progressed in her balance and speed. Part of that is not because I haven’t let her fall. Falling is a huge part of learning, but I or her father has been there when it happens. Falling is why she’s so strong. When she does fall, I talk to her about it. Sometimes she needs help standing up again, but more often than not, she can get up all by herself. I talk to her about that, too.

I try to talk to Zinger about many things. A lot of it is fun stuff, but some of it is serious, too. Kids are smart; kids are perceptive. I cannot assume that my child cannot pick up on what’s going on in the world around her. If there’s an opportunity to teach her about what she observes, I will take it. I will help her develop emotional intelligence. If anything, that will prepare me to discuss important lessons when she gets older. I have never imagined myself in a spontaneous, magical teaching moment like on cheesy family sitcoms. When Zinger asks me big questions, I want to be prepared to have a meaningful conversation with her.

She’s my first child. I’m surprised my blood pressure isn’t a lot higher with the anxiety I have. It’s hard for me not to imagine the worst-case scenario for every situation. After watching this video, someone asked if the bookshelves are secure:

I know the person meant well, but the question implies that we haven’t thought about the shelves. It implies that I haven’t imagined an earthquake and the shelves tipping, or the shelves even tipping by themselves. It implies that we leave the baby alone with the books. It implies that we don’t keep the bedroom door closed so that she doesn’t wander in and pull a pile of books on top of her.

It implies that we are negligent parents. I felt judged, and that really hurts my feelings.

I understand that it takes a village to raise a child, and I’m grateful for the village that has come together — inside and outside family — for Zinger’s sake. I just wonder what more I have to do be respected as a parent.

The bishop announced it the Sunday before. I wept.

A baby girl was born. Received a name.

The baby had a condition called Potter Syndrome. She had no kidneys while she developed in her mother’s womb. She could not produce amniotic fluid.

But she was born. And she spent 90 precious minutes with her family.

Her parents and older brother and sister held her. Talked to her. Smiled, took pictures.

The bishop said the family felt incredibly blessed to spend that much time with their baby girl.

After an hour and a half, her frail little body stopped working, and she returned home. To a sibling who also came home, but only 40 minutes after being born.

They’re home. Where they no longer have Potter Syndrome. Where they will have kidneys.

Where they wait to see the rest of their family again.

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Dear Zinger,

It’s a pretty chilly morning, and I’m thinking about how you’ve been in the world for as long as I carried you in my tummy.

That totally blows my mind.

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Christmas was especially generous to you. Both sets of grandparents and Santa showered you with gifts and love and attention. You got to travel to Florida and you behaved so well on the plane there and back. (Sleeping and peekaboo were your preferred activities.) You met a few of my friends and met your Uncle Frank for the first time. He adores you, and now that he’s held you and played with you he misses you so much more.

[Click here to see more Christmas photos.]

Look how smiley you are!

You have begun walking. And it’s not like we’ve pushed you. This mode of mobility has always interested you, even in your wee months as a baby. You’d always straighten your legs, seeming to prefer standing to sitting. You’ve been patient, waiting until you were strong enough to balance yourself and try your first steps. What a champ. You’re still a bit wobbly, so for now crawling is still faster for you. But I can tell how much you like the view from two and a half feet up.

On Tuesday you had your nine-month checkup. You’re a healthy 19 pounds. And you measured 29 inches long, which is in the 93rd percentile of girls your age. Did you know that I am 58 inches tall? That makes you exactly half my height, which is impossible.

You need to slow down.

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I really enjoy being your mother, spending time with you, watching you grow and learn and discover the world around you. Traditionally moms are the nurturers in the family, while dads are the providers. And Dadda works hard to give us everything we need. He’s also torturing himself with grad school so that he can be a better provider. He only has thesis hours left and at least 100 pages to write. We will all cheer when he’s done!

But there are lots of families where both parents work, or where the dad stays home, or where there’s only one parent who doesn’t have a choice but to be both nurturer and provider. Many of these parents struggle with these roles; some don’t.

I do.

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For the past six months I have been working two days a week so that I could spend the rest of the week with you. It seemed a good enough compromise. And in the past month, I’ve been planning to take education and career to the next level. I’m in my last year of grad school and have scheduled time to volunteer at a hospital library and do a practicum at a university health sciences library this semester. Instead of adding to the days I’ve been working, I replaced them with volunteering and the practicum, so that I still get to spend five full days with you.

This doesn’t mean a lot to you right now, I know.

But those mornings when I say goodbye, it breaks my heart. I go through the day and focus on work and even enjoy what I do. And then during the commute home, I have nothing but squealy anticipation to see you. I open the door and see your face, and you smile and reach for me. I pick you up and give you a big hug while you give me a big slobbery kiss. Hands down, that is the best part of my day.

You do the same thing for Dadda when he comes home. His eyes light up and you give him your biggest smile, and my heart melts into a myocardial puddle.

What I am trying to say is that within six months to a year (maybe 15 months), I hope to have a full-time job so that I can contribute to providing for our family. That means that I’ll be away from you for at least eight hours a day, five days a week. I wonder what other nurturers do when they also become providers. How do they deal with the anxiety? What kinds of compromises do they make? In what ways do they make the most of their time at home? Some different perspectives might be helpful.

With your growing so fast because you’re a baby, and babies grow so fast, when I do go back to work, I have fears of missing milestones. I fear that being gone for so long you will forget who I am, that you won’t love me anymore, or as much. I fear that our little family won’t be as close or that I will miss opportunities to teach you important things. It’s not that I worry that you won’t be well taken care of, because that was never a concern. You’ll always have family and friends who feed you and adore you and play with you and keep you safe. It’s more selfish for me: I’ll miss you growing up. I blink, and you’re walking. I spend eight hours, or 40 hours away, and you’re ready for college. But you still can’t date until you’re 27. Hopefully you’ll be sleeping through the night by then. You’re almost there now.

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Yet, I don’t dare underestimate you, little one. You have this innate sense of who your parents are, and you know things about your family without our telling you, but I’m going to say this one thing anyway, because I want you to know that I know it, too.

I will always come home to you.

My tummy misses you, but these past nine months have brought us more joy than we ever could have imagined. Keep blowing our minds, baby girl.

09

Love, Mom

Serious

Dear Zinger,

It was about a month ago. I didn’t see the actual collision.

The four-door sedan, driver’s side crumpled, in a slow spin.

The 4X4 truck, front end smashed, bleeding oil from the grill.

The truck seemed to have spun in the same direction as the car.

I saw an airbag deploy in the face of the truck driver. His head whipped back and then his whole body slumped down.

The car rolled past where I could see.

It must have all happened in two seconds. As the scene replays in my mind, there is no sound. I want to insert sound from accidents I’ve seen in movies or television shows. Was the radio too loud? Were my windows rolled up? The lack of sound somehow makes the whole thing worse.

The light turned green, but no one wanted to go. No one could, because time had frozen.

People were running toward the scene. I was too far back in the turn lane to have helped. I wanted to help. I can’t help feeling I should have helped.

Nervous

On the TRAX blue line, at the Courthouse Station. A couple board and then sit across from me. The woman has straight hair and a small messenger bag. The man has gritty hair and hands with dirty nails and freckles. The couple might have been in their 20s.

The woman hands the man a $20 bill. I watch without watching.

They watch who boards at the Temple Square Station. The man stands and pretends to stretch. The woman smiles.

Two men sit on the other side of the train from where we sit. One of those two men walks to sit in the seats behind the man and woman. This man has bloodshot, shifty eyes.

The man with dirty nails walks to sit across from the man with the shifty eyes.

The man with the dirty nails comes back to sit by the woman with straight hair. The man hands her something small. It’s wrapped in paper or cloth and the ends are twisted so that the package looks like a teardrop.

The man has one of his own. He puts it in his mouth and worries one end with his teeth while holding the other end between two fingers, like he’s trying to open it.

The couple gets off TRAX at the Planetarium Station, and I can breathe again.

Great Grandpa

A family gets off the Frontrunner at the same station as I do. One of the parents tells the children to slow down as they run across the tracks, and the image of Dadda and me teaching you safety rules flashes in my mind. I see you holding my hand. You want to run across the street, and I tell you to keep holding on to my hand.

Explorer

I worry, little girl.

You explore the world. You crawl, you scale the walls, the couches. You get excited about all the new things to touch and see and taste.

There is so much that is beautiful and breathtaking. But there are also darkness and tears to choke on.

Thanksgiving was this past month, and of course I’m thankful for our blessings. Lately, when I reflect on something I’m thankful for, I think about how other people are also grateful. For example, I’m thankful for food. And I imagine families in developing countries who appear to have so little. I imagine these families also being grateful for their food. Shelter. Rain. Being alive. Being around people who love them. Having something to believe in.

I want to teach you to be grateful in this way. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being grateful for what you have. I just hope you don’t give thanks that you have more than anyone else, or that you’re better than other people. That’s not true gratitude.

Am I thankful that I wasn’t hurt in that accident? Definitely. Am I thankful not to have a drug addiction? For sure. But beyond being grateful, I hope that you can reach beyond yourself. Are the families of these people okay? Will your gratitude enable you to help other people and be a good person?

Park

And so Christmas approaches. It will be your first, and your Dadda and I want it to be fun and special for you. But we also want you to feel Jesus’ love. And not be scared of Santa. We hope you like the gifts, but we also pray that you feel the spirit of this season.

Eight months, Zinger. Just today before church Dadda said he saw you try to take some steps on your own. I’ve seen your attempts. You practice so much. You work hard. Baby steps.

We’re all taking baby steps, but you’re much better at it.

Read

Happy!

Sleepy book

We’ll always do our best to catch up to you. Don’t you worry.

Merry Christmas.

Love, Mom

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