Nine Months

01

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.

05

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.

04

07

08

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.

10

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.

03

02

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

Eight Months

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

The Childhood Home of a Southern Gothicist

Have you read any Flannery O’Connor? You need to. She writes some seriously fantastic stuff. Reilly and I went to her childhood home in Savannah, Georgia.

Does she know where you live?

Touring the author’s home was the last thing we did in Savannah, and I have to say it might have been better than touring Hemingway’s home in Key West. Some reasons are more substantial than others.

The tour was small. The touring hours neared an end when we decided to take the tour. An older couple were the only ones there with the docent. They seemed nice enough, but neither of them had ever read any Flannery O’Connor, but the woman said that a friend of theirs likes O’Connor’s writing, so I guess that piqued some curiosity. As the docent told us various stories in different rooms of the house, the woman in particular made comments about how creative O’Connor was. She commented constantly. Like, constantly. And the broadness of her comments confirmed that she hadn’t read any of the author’s work. She also showed that she wasn’t listening by asking questions about topics the docent already covered. It was annoying, but I also felt bad for being snobbish, because we and the docent discussed how O’Connor’s childhood stories had affected her writing that the other couple had read zero of. I guess I’m glad they were there so they could learn how cool this author was. Except that when we described Flannery O’Connor’s writing to them, the woman expressed that that type of writing didn’t interest her. So maybe I felt that the tour was an overall waste for her. And that makes me a little sad. This sadness is different than the sadness I felt learning that many of Hemingway’s relatives suffered from depression and committed suicide. In Savannah, the proximity of dumb tourists gave me quite a thrill, albeit a sad one.

"Not a very good book."
“Not a very good book.”

The docent was very knowledgeable. Reilly and I stayed after the other couple left and after tour hours ended to talk some more with the docent, Toby. He answered questions about the estate, about where O’Connors moved after leaving Savannah; we discussed Flannery’s personality and how her parents managed such a precocious child. We even talked about Toby’s own writing goals and his writing process. This tour felt very personal. The conversation was very stimulating and much needed after eating ourselves into a complete stupor at Paula Deen’s restaurant.

It wasn’t as hot. The entire time we spent in the South the weather was rather pleasant. In Key West the year before, Hemingway’s house was shaded, but the doors were kept open. It felt more humid and much warmer even though Savannah is right on the coast. Also, it seemed a legion of polydactyl cats roamed the property. Because Savannah seems so magical and haunted, the town protected and preserved Flannery O’Connor’s house. I felt more comfortable there.

The power went out. With Grimm’s Fairy Tales on the toilet, of course. It was only a short power outage, but it was a cool effect that added to the creepiness of Flannery’s stories.

Bathroom reading, obviously.

Jerry Bruckheimer. Flannery O’Connor’s estate does not permit any film or theater adaptations of her work, but Jerry Bruckheimer’s name has quite a presence in this house. He happens to like Flannery’s writing, and he made major contributions to have the house restored and turned into a museum. Which is pretty cool. I just get a little scared when I think of what kind of movie Bruckheimer would make if the estate decided to expand Flannery’s work to other media. The work by itself powerfully engages the imagination and provides wonderful dialogue. Explosions or other ridiculous effects and bad acting would definitely detract from that. The estate has acted wisely, but maybe a play would work well sometime in the future.

He's so cute!

I really enjoy touring authors’ homes with someone who loves to read. We have fun discussions, and we make each other smarter. It doesn’t seem possible, I know. Just take my word for it.

The Effects of Butterbeer

Last month Reilly and I visited family and friends in Florida. Part of that trip included three days at Universal Studios in Orlando. Everyone who has visited Universal Studios since June 2010 has explored the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

If you’ve never been, it’s as amazing as everyone says it is. Even those who haven’t been enchanted by this ubiquitous enterprise will have a wonderful time at the park. The Hogwarts ride is inside a giant Hogwarts-looking castle. Portraits of various HP personalities adorn the heavy stone walls, and a lot of the people in the paintings move and talk to you, just like in the books/movies. Harry, Hermione, and Ron holograms come out to tell us what to expect during the ride. The effects impress, the ride thrills, and I talked to (at?) Harry during the whole ride experience. Both times.

We also rode the Dragon Challenge roller coaster twice. Two dragons go out at the same time on different tracks, and they chase each other, twist around, and pass each other at high speeds. It’s one of my favorite rides.

Harry Potter World teemed with lots of British tourists. Some may ask why British people would come to a place that simulates where they come from, but having so many of them around actually added to the authenticity of that part of the park, especially the Londony town. You can wander the town and browse various toy and souvenir shops. Ollivander’s wand shop is very popular because many children buy into the idea of a wand choosing its wizard. (We didn’t go inside the shop; the line stretched endlessly, and I wasn’t sure about the open carry laws for magic wands in Utah.)

After our first time riding the Hogwarts ride, we decided to split a butterbeer. You can find butterbeer stands scattered throughout the town, and you can choose to drink it hot or cold in a throwaway plastic cup ($3.75) or a souvenir mug ($7.50-ish). I remember from the books how delicious butterbeer seemed. It sounded so creamy and sweet, and it was one of the most popular beverages the Hogwarts students drank whenever they visited London. I got the impression that because butter was so delicious, it was also very addicting, and kids would drink it until they nearly exploded. This was my impression. Butterbeer was magical because its bubbles tickled the taste buds, and the sugar went straight to the brain.

However, I did not know about the intoxicating effects of butterbeer. Your brain does not recognize the tipsiness it causes, but apparently you can capture proof of being utterly lit on camera. Neither Reilly nor I felt drunk while we drank the butterbeer; we walked in straight lines, we didn’t pocket-dial anyone; we felt no nausea, we woke up without hangovers the next day. As much as we wish we could deny being under the influence, we know that the camera doesn’t lie. The camera has no mercy. While Reilly and I are generally a photogenic couple, the camera caught us quite out of sorts while we drank butterbeer:

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2Doesn’t it look like we were having a great time? Notice the level of the butterbeer in the cup, and you can figure out what lightweights we are. (Remember that we split that cup between us!) I mean, we did arrive at the park around 9:15 that morning, and we had been standing in line in ponchos so we wouldn’t get soaked from the rain for nearly an hour. So while I didn’t know we’d get sloshed at the time, I’m glad we treated ourselves so early in the morning.

I just don’t know why it didn’t affect any of the kids around us that way.

During Spring Break

Reilly’s spring break was this past week, and I also didn’t have to work. So, we partied.

Ikea

Tuesday morning we wandered around the entire showroom at Ikea. We talked about improvements we could make to our living space. We recently renewed the lease on our apartment, so we decided to try to create cozy home feelings instead of being poised to move at any second. We purchased a few things and reorganized a bit. I admit that watching a lot of HGTV helps motivate with home projects. That can be bad and good at the same time.

Bridal Veil Falls

Wednesday morning we decided to “hike” Bridal Veil Falls. Utah County offers a ton of easy nearby trails, and the weather permitted us to go and explore the area. We didn’t climb the trail close to the falls, but we stayed on the low path and took pictures and had a picnic and watched people. We also noticed some foreign-sounding accents, which was cool and made me glad that world travelers can enjoy Utah.

More pictures if you click the photo below.

Yay, falling water!

Natural History Museum

Wednesday evening we met with Reilly’s sister at the Natural History Museum in Salt Lake City. The museum rests on the east foothills, which provides a fantastic view of the city. We started from the fifth floor and worked our way down. The building runs on solar power and the lighting doesn’t waste energy and the exhibits display lots of information about Utah’s natural history. There were displays about climate change and evolution. Sometimes Utah participates in science, which is refreshing.

Solar panels

My shoes!

Are they always smiling?

Luther

We finished the BBC series this week. Two very intense seasons so far. We started about a month ago and then we decided to watch all the episodes. The first season has six episodes, and the second season has four. It actually didn’t take too long.

BYU Museum of Art

Thursday afternoon we visited the heroes exhibit (which has now ended) at the BYU Museum of Art. Last week my friend Bridgette presented a paper at the “We Could Be Heroes” Symposium (which I’m very sad I couldn’t attend); my friend Annie had a display at that exhibit. Thanks, cool friends, for being so cool.

One we finished at the museum, we got the heck off BYU campus.

Kidding. Mostly.

Temple

Friday morning we attended a session at the Mount Timpanogos Temple in American Fork. The temple is a gorgeous building, and the crowded parking lot indicates that it’s constantly busy.

Basketball

Friday evening we met with some friends at the Orem Rec Center to play basketball, which means we shot around for a long time until we played a few rounds of lightning/elimination/speed and then shot around some more.

General Conference

What an uplifting way to end our week-long party. Except we also watched the season premiere of Mad Men. So there’s that.

Now

Since BYU doesn’t have a spring break, this past week felt like a vacation. I enjoyed spending it with Reilly.

Because I Like Movies That Make Me Cry

yay this movie!

I asked Reilly when we saw this movie at the Broadway Theater in Salt Lake City, and he said it was sometime in July. I believe him because he has an unbelievable memory. Because not only did he say we saw this movie in July, he described all the circumstances of our seeing it. Something about how the Saturday before we went to a cousin’s wedding and laughed a lot at the reception but not because people were being deliberately funny. Except for one cousin who’s good at being funny and telling stories. And we ate such-and-such, and I wore an outfit with these sleeves and shoes, and we also saw the Dark Knight Rises the Friday before at a matinee and other details of which I have absolutely no recollection.

We saw the preview for Beasts of the Southern Wild before we saw Polisse and Intouchables. (By the way, those two movies are very different French films, and I highly recommend both of them.) If a preview makes me cry, I pretty much want to see the movie. I was excited for it, because I knew it would be sad and tragic and beautiful. I knew that I would believe the little girl in it. I knew that I would be holding my breath and wanting to scream at the screen. I knew that it would make me feel sticky and gross. I knew that I cheer for the strained relationships and the massively fallen characters. I mean, what else would you do if you were watching actual news footage of a hurricane’s destruction and seeing people removed and/or displaced from their homes? And seeing the apparently well-meaning government swoop in and insist on improving the lives of people who don’t want to leave their territory because they’ve only known one home, one community, one happiness?

While we watched the movie, I did all those things that I knew I would do. I’ll probably still do those things every time I watch it from now on.
May’s rating scale:

MAY!

May?

meh…

meh?

MESS.

Have a Wonderful Christmas

Cool lantern

(More photos at Flickr.)

Let Earth receive her king

For unto us a Child is born

Come, adore on bended knee,

Christ the Lord, the newborn King

Radiant beams from thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime, A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Joyful, all ye nations rise

Join the triumph of the skies

Let every heart prepare him room

Streams of mercy never ceasing

Call for songs of loudest praise.

Le monde entier tressaille d’espérance

En cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth

And he shall reign for ever and ever.

Hallelujah.

At Church Yesterday

All the children stood in front of the congregation and sang two Christmas songs. One of the little boys standing near the pulpit caught my attention. He looked to be around 7 years old. He wore a lime green dress shirt and a dark, pin-striped vest. His lime green striped clip-on tie was slightly askew. He was cute. As his mouth moved while the music played, it became apparent that he didn’t know the words to the song. He just opened and closed his mouth to the beat, ba ma ba ma. It was a little bit funny at first, but then I admired his effort.

During Sunday school, an elderly man stood up and made a couple of seemingly unrelated comments about the Christmas lesson. He’s probably in his 80s, he only comes to church every once in a while. The teachers always do a good job of tying in what he says into the lesson, and yesterday was no exception. He usually talks about his childhood, his time at war; yesterday he recounted the history of man since Adam, and I realized that his comment wasn’t that far off. When we think about our origins, our history, our universal family, Christmas has as much to do with the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Ark as it does with December and eggnog and gift exchanges. More, actually.

The young and the old. Those who are most childlike shared themselves with their fellow church members yesterday. I am grateful to have experienced it. They reminded me of the spirit of Christmas.

December Did You Knows

light!

Did you know that December 1, 2012 was the six monthery of our wedding? I can’t decide whether the time is passing too quickly or just right. We’re having a wonderful time, regardless.

Did you know that Reilly had never seen Elf until December 1, 2012? We watched it for free at a movie theater, compliments of the Teachers Union. We were among 10 or so people in the entire theater, while other teachers and their families opted for Ice Age 4, Brave, and the Dark Knight Rises.

Did you know that the movie Footloose was filmed in the town where Reilly grew up? If you look at the scenery throughout the movie, you’ll see mountains that look like the don’t belong anywhere in the Midwest where the movie was supposedly set. Payson is also Don Bluth’s hometown and where Jewel was born. Did you know that?

Did you know that December 1, 2012 was also a big family Christmas party? It was also in Payson, held in a cool old building called the Peteetneet Academy. Did you know that I took pictures of the building?

Smalltown old buildings!

Carolers!

Gazebo!

Did you know that Santa is real? This kid never had a doubt.

Having SO MUCH FUN.

A Little Christmas Prep

For the upcoming Hobbit movie, Reilly decided to read the book, but he didn’t stop there, no. He’s gone on to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy:

Sometimes when we’re sitting on the couch together, I’ll take a break from the book I’m reading and look over Reilly’s shoulder at his book. I’ll point to random words on a page and ask him what the words are, and he’ll tell me. Then I’ll act really impressed that he can read random words! However, when Reilly tries to peek over at my book to see what I’m reading, I’ll lean away from him and bring the book closer to my face, because I only pretend to read, mostly because I don’t know how, and having a literate/-ary family is mere pretense to me; I only want to look cool and not be cool.

Reilly printed out a map of Middle Earth and the surrounding lands so that he doesn’t have to turn to the back of the book every time the books mention a different location. I was going to take a picture of this printout, but I can’t find it, which either means that Reilly is embarrassed by his slight nerdiness and hid or threw away the map, or that he has memorized the map, which could be even more embarrassing. (I secretly think it’s awesome.)

Right now I am “reading” Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, Flight Behavior. It’s about climate change and perfect for the Christmas season!

The Christmas tree is up and decorated and even guarding a few presents beside it. We also have stockings, but we don’t have a fireplace or mantel. We do have a bar, which is a sufficient substitute because I don’t feel like putting more holes in the wall or using ugly tape on the wall:

I’m not super crafty, but I do like making snowflakes. Also, Reilly has the tall stocking, and I chose something a little more traditional. Also, we don’t have fishing line, and I couldn’t find our thread, so I used dental floss to hang the flakes. (That pretty much cancels out the idea of not using ugly things for decorating. Oh well.)

It’s STILL not December, but look how excited I am for our first Christmas as a married couple!