One Zinger Year

Evil?

Dear Zinger,

Look at you.

On Mondays I volunteer at a children’s hospital library up in Salt Lake City. Before going down the hallway that leads to the library, I pass through the cafeteria. Sometimes I see parents with their children. They have food in front of them, seemingly going through the motions of eating just to pass the time. As I make my way toward the information desk, I often see parents dreading results in the lab waiting room. Sometimes in the next room there are children and their parents in the sibling playroom. There’s a life-sized cardboard cutout of Elsa, looking glittery and friendly. The hospital is bright with tall, green plants, left-spectrum colors in the furniture and carpet and fun, educational murals on the walls. This effort to cheer patients and their loved ones is commendable, because everything possible needs to be done to raise spirits in a place that can generate so much fear and heartache. The parents especially look tired, probably from waiting or lack of sleep or anxiety. They look worried. The parents try to get their children to eat or play to make waiting bearable, to lessen time’s weight, to relieve the pain of slow ticks of a clock. I come home and think of the parents looking at their children. Exhaustion, defeat, hope. Love.

I look at you.

I don't know what you're talking about

RUNNNNNN!

bond

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine posted a video of her daughter walking with crutches. This amazing girl was born with limb differences, and I talked to you about the video after showing it to you. As Lamp (her online name) took her first few steps, she squealed and laughed, and I saw your face light up and smile. Tears filled my eyes. I said that’s your friend Lamp. I said do you remember her. I said she lives in Ohio now, but we went to the park with her and her family when you were two months old. I said her arms and legs are different sizes, so her dad and doctors built things to help her move around. I said let’s watch the video again. So we watched it again, and you smiled again. I cried again. We watched the little 11-second video at least three more times, and you smiled each time. Each. Time. I said you can see she’s having fun learning how to walk. I said you have a good heart to be so happy for your friend.

I said please don’t lose that.

Sweep

You like to play a game where you close our bedroom door and I’m kneeling in the hallway. I put my knee just across the threshold so that the door doesn’t close all the way. I see your fingers wrap around the edge of the door just before you swing it open. When it swings about halfway I see your face, and I say boo. Then our eyes connect and we laugh. You love the game with Dadda where he says I’m gonna get you! and you smile and run away from him, but not so fast that he can’t catch you. And sometimes you actually run toward him. Then he picks you up and laughs while you smile that smile saved especially for Dadda. It warms my heart.

You want us to get you.

Peas & Carrots

curly

bear

toes

You are one year old. And you can probably tell that I still don’t know what I’m doing. But I’m doing the best I can, like I said I would. I read books and articles and watch other parents with their children and ask for advice. For the most part people are very helpful. They share experiences and make suggestions and gently reassure me of my role as your mother. As long as you’re clean, eating, and sleeping, you’re doing okay. You even play hard every day, so Dadda and I are doing something right. And I’m doing okay, even when I shower only every 2-4 days and skip some meals (but eat snacks) and dream about eight hours of sleep during a five-hour slumber. I know I’m supposed to take care of myself, but I can’t say that I’m neglecting myself because I have so much fun spending time with you and Dadda. We eat dinner together at the kitchen table; we share hugs and kisses and snuggles and laughs. We dance and spin and read. We pray. We say amen. While Dadda holds you I stroke your face three times and kiss your cheek. I say sleep good, little girl. I say I’ll see you in the morning. I say I love you. And Dadda lays you in your crib.

hair

wavy

cloak

cozy

You are one year old. You are so smiley and gentle and curious. You point at people you know, and you look at people who ought to know you until they smile at you. I have never known so much anxiety, uncertainty, wonder, and joy than I have in the past year. I never knew I had the ability to love so far beyond myself. I will gladly keep giving up showers and meals and sleep for more years like the first one you gave us. Those will years will be different, because you’ll be learning and growing and progressing exponentially; you’ll be forming opinions and making discoveries and forging relationships, but those differences are what makes those upcoming years the same. Does that make sense? We’ll be teaching each other. We’ll continue to strive to understand each other. We’ll keep playing and reading. Hopefully there will still be dancing and spinning.

We will still be praying.

Happy birthday, little one. We love you. Watch this slide show to see just how much you’ve blessed our lives this past year. (Some songs are cliché and cheesy, but I couldn’t help it.)

Love, Mom

 

 

Ten Months

High chair

Dear Zinger,

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

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

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

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

Maybe, second breakfast

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

Lion

Verbes français

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

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

HFAC

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

Diet Coke

Pillow head

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

hee

aww

thinking

toothy joy

Love, Mom

Birthday Man

During your first birthday as a husband, we waited for Into the Woods to begin at Shakespeare in the Park at Central Park in New York City. We sat there while it poured rain until a couple behind us held their giant golf umbrella over us to provide a little relief. We sat for at least an hour and watched sheets of rain sparkle in the stage lights until they announced a rainout. We walked on Broadway in the 70-streets in our wet clothes until we found a place that served cake and hot chocolate. We ate cake and drank hot chocolate. We were two months into being married. You were helping me move my stuff out of storage to Utah. I was excited about sharing so many more birthdays with you.

IMG_4445

Today is your 3rd birthday as a husband, your first as a father.

IMG_0114

We began your birthday celebration last night at dinner. A little party, just the three of us. You and I talked while our daughter sat quietly and watched us until she started trying to stand, which turned into rolling over in her carrier. Then you held her while I ate. I watched you with her across the table from me and thought, man, how did I end up with this amazingness in my life?

IMG_5283

You have spent the last four months getting up in the middle of the night to rock our daughter. You’ve stayed home and fed her and changed diapers and sang to her and taught her to blow raspberries. I think she understands the time you spend with her more deeply than we know. You are totally killing it as a father, which not only inspires me but makes me ever so grateful that you’re my husband. And I know our daughter is grateful that you’re her dadda.

IMG_5315

Tonight, you have class, and that’s okay. I hope you have a wonderful and special day with lots of laughs and smiles and memories, and we look forward to more fun birthdays with you.

2014-05A

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.

awwsosad

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.

roadtrip

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.
Mom

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

it’s

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.

Three-in-One
Three-in-One

Keep being awesome, beautiful child.

Love, Mom

On Conversation and Small Talk

“A friend of mine once said that you can never trust a person who doesn’t talk much, because how else do you know what they’re thinking? Just by the act of being willing to talk about oneself, the person is revealing something about who they are.”

— Chuck Klosterman, Eating the Dinosaur

Almost everyone I knew in high school observed two main modes of speaking from me: Snide comments and occasional insights. This did not count raising my hand if I had the correct answers to teachers’ questions. I made friends slowly at that time, and those patient enough to stick around discovered that I was also capable of thinking deeply, even though I didn’t often verbalize my thoughts.

How did I process reality back then, that version of life trapped inside a high school bubble? I listened. I observed. This is how I found out about THE shocking moment of the Crying Game during trigonometry. One of my classmates saw the movie at the theater, and she could not wait to talk about it at school the next day.

Observing is also how I found out that band members M (girl, drum major) and T (boy, trumpet player, OF COURSE) may have had a thing for each other. M was a senior and T was a junior. I was a sophomore. After school one day, the band waited for our band director to return from somewhere and start rehearsal. I was practicing my part in one of the instrument rooms. Minding my own business. Then M and T ran in, oblivious to everything. T closed the door and had M pressed against it with his body. Then they started making out.

I watched for a few seconds, and I wondered if I should keep playing my clarinet. I decided that was better than watching. When I played the first few notes, T and M stopped what they were doing. I tried not to look at them but to keep playing. After a few seconds, one of them opened the door and they both left the room.

Beyond high school and into college and the real world, I continued the habits of listening and observing. I liked talking about myself, but I would only do it when people asked me questions. But I also loved asking other people questions and getting to know them better.

This was fun to do in college and especially New York City. I found myself in several settings with complete strangers. After a few questions, some laughs, and some observations about how we ended up in New York, we discovered valuable commonalities that became the foundation for friendship.

I never liked small talk, and because of this, friendshipping in the big wide world pushed me out of my comfort zone. While I always did better if people were willing to jump into deeper subjects more quickly, I also observed that small talk was some people’s starting point for meatier conversation. In some cases, if I couldn’t stick around past small talk, bonds would only form at that level.

Not everyone was like me; not everyone would work the same way my high school friends and I did to maintain our relationship. I would have to manipulate a paradox and give interpersonal space at the same time as internalizing the world around me, bringing different perspectives within my grasp.

Over time, I practiced and became good at small talk. Because I had worked on my observation skills for so long, I could read a person, initiate a conversation and make subtle adjustments to keep the discussion going. It felt great.

More time passed and maybe I fell out of practice or took it for granted, because suddenly it seems now that I suck at talking to people. Wires crossed somewhere and created a short and my conversation skills are no longer where they used to be. Although I can still listen and observe, it’s harder for me sustain my side of the conversation with actual spoken words. I’ll occasionally interject a question or a snide remark, but while I listen I also close up. Or go back to the safe space of small talk. Which I hate. But it’s safe. Defense mechanism, definitely. But why? and how can I get past it?

Part of it is that I can sym-/empathize, but sometimes I don’t know how to express that. Or I don’t know what’s appropriate. Or that if I try to relate, I’d be saying and revealing too much about myself when the conversation isn’t about me. I think that goes beyond introverted tendencies.

Obviously, I have no trouble writing about myself.

In general, people have been so willing to let me know more about them. I need to reciprocate. I have been selfish for so long, and I have to be better.

So, how about this weather?

Richard Marx Loves Orem, Utah

Lots of great acts come to Utah. Just this past weekend, James Taylor performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Utah Symphony Orchestra. This summer’s Twilight Concert Series welcomed bands like The National, Grizzly Bear, Ludacris, and MGMT. All those shows were up in Salt Lake City, and I didn’t go. But when I saw that Richard Marx was performing in Orem, mere minutes from where I live, I felt strongly about going.

On August 28, Reilly and I happened to drive by the Scera Theater where the marquis listed Richard Marx performing on August 29. We agreed that that would be a fun concert, and I looked up ticket prices that night when we got home. It looked like all the reserved seating were filled, but general admission tickets were still available. Since I’ve been in a nostalgic mood this year, I decided to wait until the next morning to see if I still wanted to go. I often don’t make a lot of spontaneous decisions.

The next morning, I bought two tickets, and I texted Reilly our plans for that night.

Before the concert, we went to dinner then headed over to the Scera complex. The concert was outdoors at the Scera Shell, which reminds me of a bigger version of Central Park Summerstage but a smaller version of Usana Amphitheatre.

The evening offered cooling air and clear skies as well as mountain views behind the stage. The night couldn’t have been more perfect.

Richard Marx played all the songs. The hits. He told funny stories that went with the songs. He charmed and delighted us. He even got the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” to an audience member’s wife. He sang new songs, but only a few, because he said he goes to concerts, too, and he knows that we want to hear all his old stuff from when he had an awesome mullet. Other than the new songs, I sang along (or moved my mouth, because I’m sure singing along the whole time would have annoyed Reilly) to everything else.

He sang songs he wrote for/with Keith Urban and ‘NSync. He talked about how he writes songs as his main job (giving concerts is his “fun” job), and how fortunate he’s been to work within different genres. I admit that sounds like a pretty cool job.

Reilly likes this picture of Richard Marx:

Richard Marx jams

Here’s a video of his final encore song, “Right Here Waiting.” It’s 7:00 minutes long. First, I apologize for the shaky camera. I was sitting on the ground and using my knees as a tripod. Then I’d get uncomfortable and try to shift my weight. 1:50 gets bad.  There’s also a point around 2:45 where it looks like I’m just waving the camera around for at least 30 seconds. If you get motion sick, you may want to look away. But at least he still sounds good. Second, I’m sorry that you can totally hear me singing along. Also, his striped shirt and the stage lighting wash out his face and make him look like a French mime. That is not my fault, so I can’t apologize for that.

Here’s a selfie video of Richard Marx thanking Orem for a good concert. He may as well have been talking to me directly. Now he’s talking to you.

That was a really fun concert. I’m glad we decided to go at the last minute in late August 2013, so that we could travel back to those memorable minutes from the ’80s and ’90s and just sway and smile and sing along.