On Parenting and Villages

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.

Nine Months


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.



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.




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.


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.



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.


Love, Mom

Three Months


Getting cuter

Dear Zinger,

You love us. You really love us.

Three months today, baby girl! One fourth of one year on this earth. Can you believe it? With your alertness and activeness, you don’t take a single moment for granted. Your father and I love watching you grow. You get bigger and cuter every day. Your dad sometimes looks at you and asks me if I can imagine you at your current size in my stomach. I can’t, although there are some expecting moms out there who carry babies your weight.

You sleep more at night now, which is good for everyone. You probably average about eight hours every night, waking up only once to eat. This past Sunday night you slept from 9pm to 5:30am straight through. And when you woke up in the morning, you had this look on your face that showed you didn’t know where you were. I mean, more than usual. You often wake up pretty disoriented. Last night, you slept from 8pm to 1am, and then 1:30am to 5:40am. That’s nine hours! All that sleep helps you grow faster than we can keep up.


You are developing separation anxiety, which, I must admit, feels extremely validating. Except that it makes you sad. Really sad. And often pretty angry. On Sunday a few people from church and a BYU friend tried holding you, and I think you were cussing at us. Angry cries. Red face. Little tears streaming down your cheeks. Sometimes though you give people a chance and remain calm when people hold you, like when some friends from New York passed through on their way to a new home. And when a former seminary student came to visit. I do appreciate being missed, and I love the way you look at your dad and me, with an increasing knowledge of who we are.

We love that you are ours.

Other than these crying spells, you are smiling a lot more. You take in your surroundings. You study everything, and you smile at people when they talk to you. You sometimes seem bashful as you smile and turn your head away. You even giggle, which has to be the purest, most glorious sound ever created.

You talk in little squeals and squawks and singsong sighs. We listen and agree and ask you to elaborate. We love listening to your philosophy on life.

giggle rattle

We sit you upright on the couch, and you do several things. You suck on your hands and then you look at your hands and watch yourself opening and closing your hands. You pick up a nearby rattle and look at how the whole system of your arm and hand can make things move. We sometimes catch you staring at your feet. You’re figuring things out, but you also watch television. Yeah, our family watches a lot of television.


You took your first road trip last month. We went to St. George, and you behaved so well in the car the whole time. Your cousins thought you were awesome, and my friends from New York thought you were quite darling. Can anyone blame them?

hoodie, yo

mommy thumb

A couple weeks ago, you went on your first little hike to Bridal Veil Falls. You’re cute wherever you go.

Little girl, I returned to work this week, and I might have had a harder time with it than you did. Yesterday morning I walked around the apartment getting ready, and you watched me and knew something was up. You lay on your tummy time blanket on the living room floor, and while I kissed you goodbye I forced a smile and blinked back tears as my throat tightened. I closed the door behind me and when I walked to the car I wondered what the heck I was doing. Maybe I’m really the one with separation anxiety.

You’re progressing so quickly. The thought of missing any sort of milestone makes me sad, yet I don’t want to hold you back in any way. I would love to see all of your upcoming firsts: crawls, solid foods, steps, words, spelling bees, karate tournaments. I want to keep holding you with your fingers wrapped around my thumb, the three of us dancing, floating across the room. I know your dad feels the same way. But we will do what we can so that we’re there for you as much as possible, when it matters the most.

baby thinking

We are obsessed, little one. Totally beside ourselves. Thank you for an incredible first three months.

We love you. We really, really love you.

Two Years and Two Months

Always contemplating

Dear Little Zinger,

Last Sunday was your parents’ second wedding anniversary. Last year I wrote a blog post about magic math, how one plus one equals one. It worked well because it was our first anniversary, and your father and I form a single entity.

This year the math is different. Instead of

1 + 1 = 1


1 + 1 = 3

One Week
One Week

Your father and I have been married two years. Two years together, and there are three of us. You made our single entity bigger. Stronger. With each passing day, you make it even better. This impossibility happens with you in our lives.

The last year has been quite the journey. I spent nine months of it pregnant with you. Your father and I started masters programs. Your dad added a film studies class to the English curriculum in the school district where he teaches. Two months ago today, I gave birth to you.

Two weeks
Two weeks


You have been with us for two months.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that you are an actual human being living with us.


Three weeks
Three weeks

You have a wonderful personality. You smile more and more each day. As long as you’ve eaten and have a dry diaper, you can play and coo and smile for an average of an hour at a time.

Four weeks
Four weeks

You love watching the mobile that hangs over your crib. The sound of winding it up brings a smile to your face, and your eyes follow the revolving objects while your arms swing and legs kick.

Five weeks
Five weeks


Tummy time is a lot of fun now. We place you on your little elephant rug on the floor, and you know that we have expectations. But you also have discovered a different perspective from being able to raise your head. It’s such a joy watching you discover new things. You are so alert and you seem to study everything — especially faces — so intently.

You are quite amused by your own reflection. I hold a mirror in front of your face, and you look at the cute little girl looking back at you with curious eyes, and you smile and talk until you get upset and then she gets upset, too. That’s the thing about mirrors: you and your reflection either make each other smile more or cry more.

Six weeks
Six weeks


You love being read to. We open a book and your first reaction is always to smile.

You enjoy our dance parties in your room. If you’re upset, this always seems to calm you. Your dad picks a song, he bounces you and I sway and bounce along. Lately we’ve danced to Bob Marley, David Bowie, and the Beatles.

From some angles, you are also starting to look more like your dad, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Seven weeks
Seven weeks

You are getting hungrier, which somewhat shifts your routine, which means you’re growing, and I’m sort of in denial about that. But you get cuter as you continue to grow, and that’s something I wholeheartedly accept. Your father and I have voted you cutest baby ever. You win everything. You win, we win. You win our hearts with your big eyes and fetching smile. We win joy and utter happiness.

Eight weeks
Eight weeks

Even though your turning two months old is a week after our second wedding anniversary, your father and I could not have had a better gift. One plus one plus one equals one. We are one.


Keep being awesome, beautiful child.

Love, Mom

One Month (?!)

What the HECK, Zinger.

Two weeks ago when the doctor measured you, you were in the 94th percentile of babies for your height. Neither your father nor I can claim in good conscience that you take after us in that regard.

Also, you have mostly outgrown your newborn clothes. You can squeeze into the 0-3 months clothes, but we’ve broken out the 3-6 months clothes and have started to give your small clothes away already.

You can already scoot on your tummy. You can stand with our help. You look so much more grown up than when you were born.

I do not understand this. You’re only a month old.

Last week at your weighing, we hoped that you had finally gained enough to reach your birth weight. Well, guess what: You outshot that by eight whole ounces. Half a pound. I must admit that we did get a little zealous during the week leading up to this weighing. I pumped and we supplemented about half the feedings and crossed our fingers that it would be enough. It was more than enough. We are very proud of you.

Daddy and Zinger are so beautiful!

Your umbilical cord stump finally fell out, so your father and I gave you your very first non-sponge bath last Saturday. You liked the warm water spraying on you, and you seemed sad when the bath was over, because all of a sudden you felt cold so we rushed to dry you off and put on cute pajamas and prepare your outfit for Sunday.

Baby-bathwater situation?

Oh my heck this kid.

You received a baby blessing at church Sunday morning. I kept a prayer in my heart all last week and maybe I cried for most of sacrament meeting. Seriously, the opening hymn (which might as well have been the “Barney” theme song because I was emotional to begin with so it didn’t matter what the song was) set off the waterworks. And I didn’t bring tissues, so I just wiped tears with the back of my hand. Your dad did such a wonderful job. He blessed you with the ability to make good choices and understand and apply important gospel principles to your life. He blessed you with the ability to empathize and be a good friend. A decent human being with a caring soul. He blessed you to recognize the love your family has for you.

You already manifest these qualities. When you and your dad came back to the pew where the family sat, your dad passed you to me so I could hold you. You saw tears and love in my face and you calmed me with your deep, expressive, sort of bluish-brown eyes. Your countenance told me you understood everything your father declared to you.

The fam.

You may have had a blessing placed upon you, but we — your family — are the ones who are truly blessed.

So cute.

My favorite time of the day with you is the early morning. I bring you from your room to our bed and feed you and cuddle you until you fall back asleep. Your dad kisses you on the cheek when he leaves for work. It’s the sweetest thing. The other morning I nestled you and your little arm stretched across across my chest as you slept. I had read a chapter from the scriptures to you. I listened to you breathe, I smelled your skin and hair. Our moments — the ones I wish could last forever — are mornings like this.

You may have already noticed, but we are surrounded by people who love us. Family, friends, potential friends. Lola has helped a lot. A couple weeks ago I shared some early experiences of new-motherhood, and we received an outpouring of empathy and support. For those moms who need a little boost, read this blog post. I told some classmates about your birth, and one woman acknowledged that I had undergone major surgery and trauma. That really meant a lot. It’s wonderful that people are willing to help us in any way they can. You understand this best as a baby who’s so dependent on others; I’m slowly realizing as your mother who only wants to make you happy, that we do not have to do anything alone. You eagerly accept help and are grateful, so I want to thank everyone who has reached out.

I can't stand it.


Zinger, you have already taught me so much; you are forever an example to me. I want to be able to tell you to stop growing up so fast, but I fear it’s too late for that. Your father and I will enjoy every moment with you anyway.

Inconceivable cuteness

We’ve basked in the last four weeks with you. We’re excited to see what the coming months bring.

Love, Mom

Stimuli – Three Weeks

Dear Little Zinger,

I don’t know when you’ll start reading these letters. For all I know, you’re getting up between your night feedings and staring at this screen sharing its soft glow with your already-beaming angelic little face. If you really do this, I would not be the least bit surprised.

Three weeks, little girl. It’s no wonder you or I don’t want to sleep: we don’t want to miss a single moment. The minutes pass so quickly and often blur the memories. After a while we might forget these early stages. Such is the nature of time and why I write you these letters.

We are observing some things about you, and we need to have a talk. Don’t worry, none of it’s bad at all. Well, most of it isn’t bad.

Quiet Mobile

Today I removed the music box from your mobile. You would watch the mobile go round and round for a few minutes before freaking out. I figured it might be the music. Now in place of the ever-violent and traumatic “Rock-a-bye, Baby” in an accidentally minor key is the low hum of the little wind-up motor. It’s a lot better. I mean, if you want a decent dark melody for a music box, people should at least consider “Danse Macabre” by Saint-Saëns. That playing over a crib with a sleeping infant doesn’t seem nearly as demented as “Rock-a-bye, Baby.”

Next, let’s talk about visual stimulation. I’ve searched the internet for fun little things that might help you develop your vision. I know you’re not crazy about this. Every time I try showing it to you, you’re like, “Meh.” I’ve tried it with and without the sound, and let me just say it’s so much worse with the sound. If you want your ears to bleed, make sure to turn on the volume:

As far as having something to look at, this always calms you down. Which, of course it does:

Of course.

We enter this room of books, and you see all the spines in their various sizes and colors. You get quiet — almost reverent — and your eyes get big and almost twinkly. Your dad and I read titles to you and wonder which ones you’ll read first, if you’re not already reading. For all we know, you sneak into this room between your night feedings, take a book from the shelves, crawl with a flashlight into a corner and devour all the words, even though you have your own shelf in your room of board books and classic picture books. We love that you love books. But it would be okay if you didn’t.

Finally, Zingster, we need to talk to you about your squirminess. You’re no longer an inert mass of cuteness. You’re a dynamic, sprawling, limby bundle of joy. Your eyes are more intent. You turn your head and stretch your arms. You smile more and kick those strong legs. But what’s curious is the way you grab a handful of your own beautiful, dark hair and PULL. And naturally it hurts and makes you cry. I wondered if you were trying to make yourself cry: an early experiment in manipulation. You’ve done this several times, and maybe that’s all it took for you to associate the action with the pain and stop the behavior. In case you forget, do NOT pull your own hair. At least pull mine. Or someone’s I don’t like. Or wait for a sibling to come along, since you can’t pull your dad’s hair. Unless he grows it out, which he probably won’t.

It’s fascinating and terrifying how quickly you’re learning and growing, and I wonder if your father and I can keep up.

That’s all part of the ride, though.

We love the ride.

Read this and believe it: We love you.

I cannot stand the cuteness.

Love, Mom

Letter to Baby Girl: 34 Weeks

Dear Baby Girl,

There are a lot of mommyblogs out there where mothers write to their children. I have always thought this was a great idea. I love the image of you coming upon this blog and reading my thoughts about you. Words, sentences, ideas, language. Communication. These are extremely important concepts.  I suspect you’ll find these letters in the next year or so, because I have a weird feeling you’ll learn how to navigate the internet and read very quickly. Your parents are geniuses, you know.

You are at 34 weeks gestation. That’s something like T minus six weeks before your arrival. Last night after Sunday dinner at your grandparents’ I was feeling really full. So full that I turned down dessert. And I don’t really turn down dessert, even if it’s just a sliver of what’s offered. And Baby Girl, dessert last night was strawberry shortcake. You’ve had it before, and I’m sure you like it. But for some reason if I overeat my back aches and I can’t get comfortable and I have to stretch and breathe, though some relief does come when I fart. Sorry if that’s crude, but you try make more space for yourself, and who am I to get in your way?

Which leads to repeating the point that I turned down dessert. There just wasn’t any room for more food. And because I turned down dessert, it means that you’re grounded. Of course it’s not your fault: you’re a growing baby and I’m short with a narrow ribcage and discomfort is inevitable. But look here at the difference of my insides with you in it: Can you begin to understand?How can you possibly be aware of what’s going on inside my body? And it’s not your problem, really. As long as you’re cozy and eating and growing, you know I don’t have any beef with you. You know that I love you anyway. As long as there’s yoga and warm baths and massages, I’ll be fine.

You know what though? You and I need to talk about you letting me sleep. When I get a good night’s rest, I feel refreshed for most of the day. But when I get very lousy sleep, my back stays cramped and my brain stays fuzzy. Again, not really your fault — just the way things are. And not for too much longer. But you know, on those nights when I wake up after sleeping for four hours, I can work on homework because the night is still and I can somewhat focus, so maybe I should thank you for helping me along in my masters program.

I may unground you today after seeing the doctor. Depends on how I feel.

Have I mentioned how much I’m in love with you? I love the way you move around and feel your way inside my womb. We are becoming very familiar with each other and getting a sense of each other’s personalities. I like to guess what certain protrusions are from my tummy are and imagine how you’re oriented. Your father and I watch my tummy as you shift around. He always assumes any hard surface is your head, while I go between thinking it might be a sitbone or a foot. Yesterday at church I wore a dress that accentuated my tummy and we spent Sunday school watching you. The lesson was about the Abrahamic covenant and we didn’t think it would be a huge distraction to contemplate our posterity by watching you. It’s one of our favorite things to do, besides reading stories and singing to you.

Your Utah grandma and aunt threw a baby shower for you on Saturday. I’m pretty sure you could hear the commotion, but there were a lot of people there to show their excitement and support for you! You got some really cute clothes and a lot of diapers and other very cute things. Just know there’s a world out here that can’t wait to see you.

Your Florida grandma and her husband will be coming to visit. They want to be here around the time you arrive. Your uncle–my brother–wants to visit sometime this summer. Your uncle is quite a character and I know you’ll love him.

A woman stopped me in the hall yesterday after church. She told me about how excited your father is about you. This thrills me to no end. Several people have told me he gets this sparkle in his eye and a huge smile across his face and that makes my heart want to burst with joy. He marvels at the sheer miracle of you growing inside me. He points to my tummy and says, “There’s a baby in there” in a cute voice and no matter how I feel, it makes me smile.  He’s quite in love with you, too. Of course.

It’s important for you to see how much your father and I love each other. We have promised to take care of you and teach you what you need to know to thrive in this world. We also accept that you’ll probably teach us quite a few things. You’ve already taught us a lot about patience. We hope you’ll be patient with us, not only as we raise you, but during the next few weeks. We still haven’t decided on a name for you. Please don’t ground us.

Dear sweet child, our Baby Girl, thank you for blessing our lives. Your father and I can’t wait to start a new journey with you.

Love, Mom