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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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06

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.

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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.

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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?

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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

Thanksgiving Point

Dearest Zinger,

The above photo perfectly captures your attitude about life. You’re such an inspiration.

Let me recount a few experiences from the past few weeks.

One day I set you on the living room floor while I cleaned the apartment for a few minutes. I don’t remember if I set you on your back or stomach. Either way, you end up moving across the room and closely studying anything within reach.

I was straightening out your room: sorting clothes that you could still wear, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, making sure there were diapers at your changing table. Doing these types of chores is meditative for me, and I enjoyed being able to find focus on what I was doing.

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During this precious moment of Zen I heard you cry so I walked back to the living room. I found you kneeling next to the ottoman, which you were holding onto with one hand.

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One day I set you in your crib and went to wash the dishes. The hush from the water coming out of faucet cleared my mind as I cleaned your bottles. After a few minutes I heard you crying. I turned off the faucet and walked to your room. You were crying in your crib. Your were hanging onto the top rail of the side of the crib away from the wall. And you were only tall enough to reach the top rail because you were standing up. You used the bars to pull yourself up.

Crib

One day I had set up a play area for you in the hall by the bathroom. This is what I do when I need to take a shower and keep an eye on you at the same time. After showering and getting dressed, I decided to play along with you in the hallway. A blanket was on the ground with some pillows to keep you from hitting your head on any corners. I lay on the floor while you crawled about. You hovered around my head, scooting along, exploring the space. I could hear you babbling, and then the next moment your babbling had somewhat intensified.

I looked up to see you looking down at me. You were holding onto one end of a pillow and standing up.

Sometimes I let you use my body as a jungle gym. Using my bent knees, you’d pull yourself up. Then you’d let go of my knees and just stand there, taking in the view. Or looking at me as if to say, “Hey, look! No hands!”

In the past week I’ve knelt a few feet across from you in the living room. I patted my knees and cheered for you to come to me. You scooted pretty quickly toward me, almost crawling. Who am I kidding, we might as well call it crawling. Once you got to where I was, you put your hands on my knees, then you climbed your way up, legs straightening until your body became completely vertical. Then I pulled you close and told you what a hard worker you are while we hugged.

You’ve done the same for Dadda, too.

What you’ve also quickly learned is how much easier it is to fall once you’re standing. But, Dadda has also observed that you’re becoming a better faller. You know how to fall on your bottom. And you’re also learning ways not to fall. Your reflexes are quickening. Dadda believes you’ll be competing in the Olympics next week. That’s just silly, because everyone knows the next Olympics isn’t until 2016.

Let me tell you something else we discovered this week. Your drool was returned with a vengeance. No mercy. You like to chew on my wallet. Spit strings dangle from your face, and they make me think of spiderwebs. And this past week when you took my finger to chew on, I felt a sharp little edge coming from your bottom gums. So, your drool could trap insects then you could use your emerging teeth to eat them.

Oh, heck no.

No Comment

Standing, crawling, teething. Solid foods.

All at the same time? I mean, really? You spent the first six months practicing: tummy time every day, watching people walk, insisting to stand when people wanted you to sit. You seem to have a good grasp on the theory of human movement that you have applied to your daily activities. You are already such a great student.

Nap

People comment all the time how cute and beautiful you are. And there’s no denying that. But Dadda and I also like to call you names that pertain to your personality and things you can do. You’re our little stander. And crawler. And talker. You’re a hard worker, and a good thinker, and we praise the way you figure things out. And just so you don’t get a big head, we also call you our little pooper and little farter. You’re very good at those actions, too.

The pulpit in the chapel of our church was broken last Sunday. The microphone is very high and can’t be lowered. Shorter people have to step onto a box to reach the microphone. I thought about walking up and bearing my testimony and making a joke about being short. Because people find my type of self-deprecation funny. But as I visualized myself approaching the pulpit, the image of using a step to reach the microphone to bear my testimony appeared in my mind, and that image seemed a pretty good metaphor. Stepping up takes work. Bearing witness of the work stepping up takes also requires effort, and neither of these actions are unassisted. So, while Dadda and I are helping you crawl and walk, all your energy and determination and eagerness are an example for us.

So, yes. We are very proud of you. At the end of a long day of standing up and crawling around, I like to hold you to give your muscles a rest. I like to massage your legs and arms to help them recover. To thank you. And as another way to show we love you. Then you get up the next day and do everything even better. And more.

Shots

Smug

Crosseyed

Alpine

Witches

Bottle

Cap

Books

Thanks for blowing our minds, little one. We love everything about you and all that you’re growing up to be.

Now it’s time to childproof our home.

Love, Mom

Food!

Dear Zinger,

Last week for my informatics class we talked about quantum computing. There are computers capable of factoring a buncha-bunch of numbers at the same time. And this is all for managing and organizing the ever-growing amount of information in the world. I guess in that aspect they work better than the human brain in its current 10% working state. Some people out there can use their 10% a lot better and more efficiently than other people, so maybe I mean the average human brain. Some brains can process math and logic quite well, and others have a greater capacity for emotional intellect. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this about me, but I want my brain to do it all.

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And I want for your brain to do it all. My math abilities are weak, but I can listen and sympathize well. I can do a decent close reading of a text, but I can’t do organic chemistry. I’ve tried a lot of things, and I want you to want to try a lot of things. I don’t know if that’s blatant projection as a parent, but I think it’s a major part of wanting what’s best for you. And I think it boils down to wanting for you to realize your potential.

“Geez, Mom, I’m only six months old.” Yes, I know. But the thing is, I really don’t hear you say that. You know what I hear instead? I hear jabbers and happy squeals and perhaps even some sing-songy coos and sighs. Lots of them. And instead of seeing you roll your eyes I see a lot of diligence and persistence. But we’ll talk about that a little more later.

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I also see increasing curiosity. A pretty smart guy named Albert Einstein said, “Never lose a holy curiosity.” At your age, all curiosity is holy. You want to see and touch and hear and taste everything. If your Dadda and I don’t stop you, you put everything in your mouth. So with your growing wonder, your Dadda and I have to step it up as parents and consciously teach you about the world. Of course we want to let you explore, but there are times when we let you learn from your mistakes as well.

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The other day you were moving — not quite crawling — around the living room floor, and you found your way to the ottoman. The camera was on top of the ottoman, but the camera strap was hanging off the ottoman. I was nearby in the kitchen, fixing lunch or washing dishes. You were in my line of sight, but I turned my head for just a few seconds and then I heard you crying. I walked toward you and saw a classic crime scene: a camera on the floor and a sprawled-out crying baby, also on the floor. Some part of the accessible 10% of my brain deduced what happened, just like Sherlock Holmes. I picked you up and said that you were okay, and after a few seconds, you were back on the floor, on all fours, meandering or doing whatever it is you’re doing that isn’t quite crawling.

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Your curious love for books continues to grow. I look at your face when Dadda or I read books (or magazines, or junk mail) to you, and there’s just something about the way you listen and look at the pictures. Is it our voices? Is it the wonder of language? Is it the way authors and artists present language and art? Is it the way the pages and covers feel against your hands or their salty acidity in your mouth? When you look wide-eyed at whatever we read to you, we share your wonder, and this brings us closer together. I have a feeling you already know this.

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Always observing. Always studying. Always holily curiositing.

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Some days I have to go to work. I’m gone at least eight hours, but when I get home, you smile and kick your feet and wave your arms. And when Dadda gets home from work or class, you do the same thing. It’s one of the biggest thrills we have with you. We wondered how six months into parenthood would greet us, and we really couldn’t be any happier.

The diligence and persistence I mentioned earlier? This is what I mean:

Yesterday was your six-month visit with the doctor. He gave us percentages pertaining to your growth. He said that you are in the 56th percentile of babies for your height and your weight. Maybe that means that out of 100 babies, 44 are taller than you and 55 are shorter; 44 weigh more than you and 55 are lighter.

Does that feel weird, being compared to other babies? Even though this is a way to keep track of your development, and while I’m grateful that you’re growing well, comparing still feels weird. Maybe I should just let it go; if it doesn’t bother you, I shouldn’t let it bother me.

You know what, though. The doctor said the size of your head is in the 79th percentile of babies your age. And of course I immediately thought: BRAINS. You make connections in your brain. As you watch me type this, you know there’s a correlation between the movement of my fingers and what appears on the screen. Your stomach tells your brain you’re hungry. Your bum tells your brain you’re wet or poopy. Your body tells your brain you’re tired. Your heart tells your brain to humor us when we try to make you laugh.

But we all know you’re so much more than your brain. You know this, and it’s not your brain that tells you. You are time. You are complexity, completeness, love. You are what makes our world go ’round in a continuous, paradoxical blur of the single moment that is life. Thanks for an incredible six months so far. We’ve loved every single second.

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Love, Mom

 

 

 

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Dear Zinger,

A certain fierceness accompanies motherhood that I have never really experienced before. When family members or friends feel threatened or bullied, I want to defend them. I want to stand up to whatever force is making them feel small. I want to say, “Back off. Now.” I want to write angry letters. I want them to feel how they’re making my loved ones feel.

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This tendency took a while to develop when I was a youngster, because whenever people teased my younger brother – your uncle – I let him take it. If I felt that he really was in danger I probably would have stepped up, but I knew his character enough, and I knew he could fend for himself.

What I feel for you is somewhat different, this maternal indignation. Like, “Get the [bleep] away from my daughter, you [bleep].” I want to rip open a hole in the earth and throw anyone in who gets in the way of you growing into the person you want to be. Who you should be. Who you have the potential of becoming.

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I’ll be the first to admit how protective I am of you. I try to resist watching you constantly. I mean, part of it is making sure I’m there in case you get hurt, but the other part is that you’re just so darn cute. I love how much you enjoy exploring the world around you; I’m already so very proud. You are so alert and observant. I understand why you want to fight naps and bedtime: there’s just so much world to see. So much to learn. So much to understand.

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Part of this vigilance is motherly, but it also comes from what happened to me when I was a little girl. No one should have to go through that experience. And yet it happens all the time to people all around us. It makes me so sad and angry. It took a couple of years in therapy and the atonement of Christ to overcome that part of my childhood. It took me relearning trust in certain relationship systems. It took a while, but I eventually arrived at a place in my life and my heart changed enough to where I could accept love from the man I’d marry and who is now your incredible father. And sometimes I can trust myself enough to give and show love to him, and especially to you.

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I hope you feel how much I love you. I hope you understand that I want to let you grow and learn at your own pace. You already impress me so much every day. I want to brag to everyone how smart you are, how contemplative. But I also don’t want you comparing yourself to others.

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Once in a while I’ll consult the internet to see what milestones I should be watching for, but I don’t ever want you to feel that you’re not measuring up. You already work hard and try new things. You possess a sweetness that’s inspiring.

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I hope I can teach you early on that everyone is different; people’s experiences are unique to them. I hope you can hang on to your innately heightened sensitivity and keep extending kindness to everyone, at least in the form of your soulful eyes and amazing smile. Your existence brings light into the world, and I don’t mind letting people hold you if only to spread your light around.

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Just know that the early tantrums and the persistent crying didn’t always come from you, They helped me learn what kind of mom I should be. They are helping to form the eyes in the back of my head that I’m sure you’ll come to hate. They helped form the closeness we have now.

You continue to be an example of the person I want to be. While five months hardly seems like any time at all, I’d relive the past five months in slow motion with you. With increasing fierceness. Every moment.

Love, Mom

Sheets cover the lower half of my body. The nearby freeway hums and rumbles in the background. Light from streetlamps sneaks through closed blinds and diffuse the darkness. Turned toward the center of the bed, I watch; I listen. I realize I’m not breathing, not because I’m consciously holding my breath, but because of the little one beside me.

She takes my breath away.

Little lungs inspiring as deeply as they can, relaxed eyelids, the muted and peaceful glow of her face siphon happiness from places within I never knew and fill my heart that I’m still getting to know. There’s tightness, discomfort from contentedness. It is solid ground and a highwire. I teeter along the cognitive dissonance where happiness and doubt coexist.

The first eight weeks cast an easily darker shadow on my perspective. I couldn’t ignore hormones and just smile. I couldn’t ignore harmless comments or even generous offers of help and instead took offense. I couldn’t ignore persistent, pulsing cries pleading for simple needs to be met. I couldn’t help myself.

Objectively, months later levels are more even. There’s more smiling, fewer eggshells. We use the bathroom. We eat. We sleep. Fulfilling these needs reveals the complexity of her personality, the obvious need to be nurtured, guided, taught. Is it Maslowesque. Is it even a pyramid.

What am I doing. Is it good enough. Will it ever be good enough.

I allow myself to inhale her overwhelming beauty, her skin aubergine, opalescent in the wee hours. I continue watching her as the bedroom slowly brightens. The air conditioner and refrigerator harmonize in my subconscious, but her breathing completes the chord and finally lulls me to sleep.

It’s good enough for now.

There are still shadows, though fainter. They do not come from her.

A friend of mine commented on an article about Fergie saying how French kissing her son is “so delicious.” The friend then described how her own infant son kisses her: wide-mouthed, tongue out as if trying to latch onto her lips. Babies do this all the time. It’s cute and fun and food for the soul; so I agree with my friend’s interpretation (and probably Fergie’s, too) that babies’ kisses are delicious. I also agree that calling it “French kissing” is weird, but right when I read the headline, I immediately thought open-mouthed kissing–because babies kiss with their mouths open–though I knew people would also associate it with sexual tongue kissing. To that I say, Fergie, please choose your words more carefully. Or at least acknowledge that to the baby, it’s merely kissing.

This whole thing reminded me of times my daughter latches onto my chin. And those times remind me of a certain scene in the comedy-horror-tongue-in-cheek movie “Drag Me to Hell.” If you know the movie, you know the scene. It’s hilarious, and when Zinger catches my chin this way, I pretend she’s attacking me the way the gypsy is attacking the young lady. But I’m having more fun than the lady here. Maybe.

Ways this image from the movie “Drag Me to Hell” is like how my child sometimes kisses me:

  • This kisser has a lot of hair
  • The kisser appears toothless
  • The kisser opens her mouth wide 
  • The kisser takes as much of the kissee’s chin in her mouth as possible
  • The kissee may be laughing and thoroughly enjoying the moment (it’s hard to tell)

Ways this image from the movie “Drag Me to Hell” is different from how my child kisses me:

  • My child has differently shaped ears
  • My child’s clothes do not get that grungy
  • My child is not an old scary gypsy woman
  • My child is always strapped into her car seat when we’re in the car
  • I am not a blonde caucasian

Chin!

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