First Down

For the past few weeks an icy patch has covered part of our driveway. Whenever I’m taking the baby to the car, instead of walking in a straight line, which would cross the slippery area, I would walk around the ice and into some slush, which at least provides a little traction.

One of my recent fears involves falling while holding the baby. I’ve often stared at that icy patch and imagined what to do in case I slipped. I visualized positioning myself landing on my back and holding the baby up in the air. If I fell forward, I would twist my body around. If I slipped back, all I would have to do is brace the baby with my arms as I hit the ground.

Some warmer weather has graced us recently (50 degrees!), and the icy patch has since melted. It has been a relief not having to worry about slipping and falling with the baby. Or the baby biffing it while she walks around. To be fair, we haven’t been outside all that much, so we really haven’t created an opportunity for this type of accident.

Before this warm front were some cold, hazy days, and before that there was the Super Bowl. Our family went down to my inlaws’ to watch the game. A bunch of us gathered around the TV in the basement. Some people sat on the floor. No one sat in the barstools. Reilly and I sat on the couch, and Z was playing next to it.

I stood up to take Z to go potty. Picked her up and started toward the bathroom. One of the dogs was lying between the couch and the nearest barstool. In order to get to the bathroom, I had to step over the dog.

Some part of my foot caught the dog’s back, and I felt myself losing balance. Tilting backward, I grabbed onto the back of the nearest barstool, hoping to keep myself from falling. Barstools spin. The seat of the barstool gave in to the weight I exerted on it, so Z and I spun with it. Instead of falling back toward the couch, Z and I were now falling toward the middle of the room.

All I knew was what I’d visualized on that icy patch in the driveway: hold the baby towards the sky. When my body had slumped with my back and legs on the ground, the baby was at the end of my outstretched arms, unharmed.

Everyone was fine in this little accident, though I can’t speak for my mother-in-law, because MY HEAD LANDED IN HER LAP. Or somewhere on her legs. That was embarrassing. The dog was fine, too.

Halftime (as controversial(?) as it was), commercials, and the game itself did not offer as much excitement as tripping over the dog, landing on my mother-in-law, and keeping the baby safe. Still in play. Touchdown.

 

Six Months

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

 

 

 

Of Bonds

Next Sunday is the Super Bowl. People gather together in different parts of the country to watch the top teams from the two divisions face off against each other. There’s food and laughs and yelling at the television. Sometimes there’s trash talk. Sometimes there’s betting. Many families have the tradition of watching this yearly event. It’s a big deal who gets to sing the National Anthem and who gets to perform at halftime. Often fathers and sons bond over the sport.

My brother and I watched a lot of sports when we were growing up. We learned names and stats; we executed plays with the nextdoor neighbors. When we played inside, I was the quarterback and Frank was the wide receiver. I’d throw his teddy bear toward the couch and Frank would make a diving catch and land on the couch for a touchdown.

Last year Reilly and I watched the Super Bowl at one of his friend’s house. There were burritos and other finger foods and a general lightheartedness within the group. The game went on as scheduled.

As I try to recall details from a year ago, the only thing I can remember is seeing a news ticker run at the bottom of the screen while the game continued playing. I was reading that Josh Powell had retrieved his sons from their grandfather. He locked his children and himself in their house in Washington state. He caused the house to explode, killing himself and his sons. He destroyed any knowledge of the truth of the disappearance and death of his wife, the mother of their sons.

If I think hard enough, I can remember who won the Super Bowl last year. It doesn’t matter who sang the National Anthem, who performed at halftime. Many families and friends had gathered together to enjoy each other’s company, to relish relationships. As much as I try to understand what kind of bond Scott Powell thought he had with his sons, I can’t.

Of Course You Have to Brag at the Beginning

Because, what if we suddenly suck as the season progresses?

I joined an intramural kickball team, and tonight was our first game.

The rules allow everyone to play an equal amount of time. And I think everyone had a chance to score at least once.

We had fun. So there’s that.

And we quickly determined the “weak spot” in the outfield, but I never kicked the ball that far. We do have strong guys who can blast them into the upper troposphere (I said I’d brag, not grossly exaggerate), and we have a girl who’s played soccer and another girl who plays hockey. Lots of strong legs.

My strategy from now on is just to get on base, because my legs cannot do what theirs can.

Also, I played catcher. And my team fielded really well. They knew where and how to move the ball; everyone knew how to throw people out.

The teams switched leads throughout the game, but we got to kick at the bottom of the last inning, where a team member coached at third base. We confirmed our legitimacy with that. We needed two runs to win, and I had pop-flied out, but the rest of the lineup delivered. And when we scored the winning run, the game ended. We high-fived and cheered the losing team; and we almost got away with sneaking the game ball — the victory ball — off the field, mostly because the next two teams were praying with the referees to begin the next game.

Prayer will get you every time.

That’s why I don’t close my eyes when I pray.

We like each other quite a bit, and I’m actually not surprised by that. There was constructive coaching and serious fun. I’m honored to be playing with my team.

We’re actually a good team.

So maybe I’ll just keep bragging.

Which will mean even more once we figure out a name for ourselves.

Suggestions?

Some Randoms

The whiplash is mostly gone, but new and weird pain has shown up in my knees. And my scabs are starting to itch, which in some ways, is so much worse than the pain.

After we came out at the end of the trail on Saturday, we loaded our bikes onto the doctor’s truck, and we headed back up to the trailhead where the other car was parked. People started transferring bikes from the car to the SUV. It was barely a 10-minute ride and I thought it was funny how we spent three hours on a trail for such a short return. It was definitely worth it.

People were chatting, and all of a sudden I felt dizzy. And the back of my head tingled. And everything was washed out in white light. And I thought, [bleep], I’m about to pass out.

I didn’t faint, though, but instead squatted where I stood and lowered my head and closed my eyes. I began to wonder if this was a result of the fall, if hitting my head had to do with the dizziness. It scared me a bit.

People kept on chatting, and I stayed seated. Then someone might have looked at me–he must have–and then he asked if I was okay. And I told him that I was dizzy. And the other stuff I was feeling. And he said that I had altitude sickness and that I should take two aspirin and drink a lot of water. That the aspirin would thin my blood and allow oxygen to travel more easily through my body blah blah blah fishcakes.

Someone gave me two ibuprofen and said it would do the same thing as aspirin. I dropped the pills from my palm into my mouth and drew some water from my Camelbak.

We boarded the white SUV and the driver blasted the air conditioning and I positioned the vent next to me to blow on my head. Someone told me how to recline my seat, so I leaned back and closed my eyes for a bit.

Within the first five minutes of the drive back to Duck Creek Village, some nausea sneaked up on me. I began to think how I would tell the people in the car how I was going to throw up at any second: could we pull over please, I’m about to vomit. Or that I’d just roll down the window and blow chunks and hope not to ruin the paint on the car. But, I continued to lay back and focus on the conversation around me, and soon the nausea subsided.

The sensation of the entire experience came back only one more time, and I worried that I would have to drive for four hours to Provo in this condition. Yet, my body adjusted to the altitude, and once I drank more water and had something to eat, it wasn’t so bad.

The drive to Provo was great. Thunderstorms booming and tumbleweed rolling across the interstate. Playlists and Radiolab podcasts. Mountain biking that morning and 8 hours of hiking the day before worked me hard, but maybe adrenaline kept me alert. And pain rode with me the whole time. Soreness had begun to settle into my joints and muscles. Mostly my shoulders.

I didn’t interact with very many people today. Maybe a total of two lines in Google Chat, and one response in facebook. All this morning.

I began rereading Atlas Shrugged. When I opened to the first page of Ms. Rand’s tome this morning, a familiar-weird-bad taste returned to my mouth. I was 18 or 19 when I read it the first time. I was only 17 when I read the Fountainhead. It’ll be interesting to see if my opinions have changed over the years. Writing: fine. Story: fine. Propaganda: whatever. I mean, it’s hard for me to understand how this woman could hate women so much; how her philosophy was JUST SO COOL once upon a time. If I take everything she says with a grain of salt, then I will also need a good prescription for high blood pressure. Or I won’t have to wonder why I’m retaining so much water.

I want scones. Real scones from England.

Before It Gets Better

It happens so fast, you know?

They tell you all sorts of things, like to “feather” the front brakes while going hard on the back brakes. Like hanging your weight at the back of the bike. And not to lean forward. And keeping the pedals horizontal–at 3 and 9–instead of at 6 and 12, so that they don’t catch  onto rocks or the sides of deep grooves.

And maybe the bike is a little big on me, but it’s also very light.

I. Am also very light.

Gravity doesn’t care. I’m on two wheels, and there are rocks and roots, and sometimes the trail isn’t much more than a couple feet wide before it falls steep. And suddenly.

There is a lot of skidding. And it is easy to slip.

I’m bringing up the rear, because I know I’m the slowest and most skittish.

Within the first 20 minutes, I fall off the side and into some brush. It’s a soft landing, but: gravity. I grab onto some branches to keep from sliding further.

I call out, “I fell.”

“Are you okay?” The girl ahead of me waits.

“Yeah, I’ll be down in a second.”

My bike didn’t slide very far either, so I crawl back up to the trail and pull the bike up to me. I mount and begin riding the trail again.

I hit a relatively smooth section, and it doesn’t seem so bad. I do begin to go faster than I am comfortable, and I begin to squeeze the back brakes. The ground has gone from semi-firm earthiness to mostly dry clay and gravel. My rear tire starts to fishtail a little.

Two people in my group wait for me, about 150 feet ahead. I just met them this morning. The guy had told me not to hesitate walking any part of the trail that feels uncomfortable. He’s wearing full-upper-body armor because he’s a big daredevil. His girlfriend is friendly and smiles a lot and I instantly liked her when I met her. I’m excited to see them.

The trail breaks from the brush into an opening, a stretch of hard clay and rocks.  Some of the rocks are as big as mashers or golf balls, but they’re nowhere near as smooth or perfect. I come upon a drop–maybe 6 inches, with a root giving its edge a half-inch bump–or it comes upon me WAY TOO FAST, and in that instant I do everything wrong.

I probably pump the front brake. Hard.

I lean forward.

My pedals are vertical.

Then I am no longer holding onto the handlebars and my body is airborne.

Not sure for how long.

Not sure if my bike flew; if I landed near it or on it and then bounced off it.

I feel impact to my head. The ground slams the the left frontal side of my helmet, which pushes the same side of my sunglasses onto my left temple.

I land head first, then the rest of my body flips over.

I. Am very light.

I swear.

They say that swearing is a sign of stupidity, but my body is too busy processing pain to come up with anything intelligent to say.

However, I do roll onto my back from my left side to let my new friends know I’m alive.

The guy runs up to me. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“NO. REALLY.”

“I can move my limbs. It just hurts.”

“This is an advanced trail. I don’t know why they decided to bring you here for your first time.”

I learn later that the guy is a doctor.

He suggests we move off to the side of the trail in case other riders come down.

The girl runs up and I sit on a nearby log. She and the guy talk about options.

Do I head back up to the beginning of the trail, since I’m only a quarter of the way down? There’s talk of some sort of outlet halfway down where I could wait to meet the others.

I feel my throat tighten and then tears are rolling down my cheeks.

I can’t stop myself from crying because
-frustration
-embarrassment
-I hurt like hell.

The guy runs to get the rest of the group. The girl wonders if the guy got any of the fall on camera, because: cool story.  I try to laugh and the girl suggests I try eating something to calm down, because she see’s how shaken up I am.

She saw the crash. I only felt it.

The rest of the group comes. I ask one of the other girls for a wet wipe, and she hands me a small foil-lined packet. I open it, pull out the tissue and begin wiping the drying blood from my arms.

The others describe the rest of the trail to me.

They say there are switchbacks and rocky sections. They talk about steep sections with big rocks and roots. They say there are also gently rolling hills and shaded areas where it’s actually nice and I’d enjoy it.

The number of guys and girls in our group is even, so I get a balanced amount of technical riding advice and sympathy. From both genders, and it’s refreshing.

Heading back up no longer remains an option. They talk as if I’ll keep going.

Someone hands me my bike. I walk it back toward the trail, take a deep breath, and shake the nerves out of my arms.

I want to keep going.

And gravity will let me.

Mountains and Me

Click the photo, etc.

Summary of the Past Three Days:

Wednesday
1940: arrived at the Gunthers
met children
bedtime stories, family prayer, etc.
talked politics while eating a turkey sandwich
talked about Africa

Thursday
1000: arrived at the St. George Temple
walked the grounds
went to St. George Town Square
played in a fountain and wading pool
rode a carousel
met random relatives of friends
went to Target
played with kids
had dinner at the Robertsons’
ate Key lime pie

Friday
900: arrived at Zion National Park
became a relayer between rangers
hiked the Narrows
hiked the Emerald Pool Trails
was completely blown away for 8 hours
spoke a decent amount of French
got lost and joked about it
ate soup
played with kids
saw a movie with Jera

Saturday
920: arrived at Duck Creek Village
1000: arrived at the Blowhard trailhead
mountain biked
fell and stuff but still had fun
became altitude sick
ate lunch
2000: drove back to Provo in the rain

Sunday
1230: placed ice pack on left shoulder
wrote short blog post

There are stories and details ahead. But first I have to try to sleep and grow back skin cells.