Four Zinger Years

This post was written 10 April 2018, but I’m backdating it to Z’s birthday, 8 April.

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April is Autism Awareness Month

Dear Z,

Almost three months ago, you and I got sick with fevers, headaches, and congestion. You and I went to the doctor to see if we had the flu. The doctor sent us somewhere else to get a nasal swab to determine the flu. I’m not sure why he or any of the nurses in the office couldn’t swab us. I still might be a little bitter about it.

The doctor’s office wasn’t entirely clear on where we were supposed to get the swabs: do we get them at the hospital, or at one of the affiliated clinics near the hospital? I should have asked for clarification; part of our long day was that I should have gotten better directions.

We stopped by the hospital first. When we were checking in, the intake lady heard you coughing, handed me a mask, and instructed me to put it on your face. This wasn’t going to happen. I knew you weren’t going to keep the mask on. You sat on the floor, keeping mostly quiet, being very good for a sick 3-year-old.

The intake lady heard you cough again, and she reminded me to put the mask on your face. I didn’t do it, because that was a battle I chose not to fight: I’d rather you quiet than struggle to keep a mask on your face. She double checked our insurance and told us a flu swab wasn’t covered. I was irritated. My head was throbbing. I remember half-heartedly asking about the insurance, and the intake lady answered something. I took your hand and quietly walked away.

We eventually found the place where someone would be able to give us the flu test. We ended up both negative. That was a relief, but we’d spent a lot of the day driving around, feeling like absolute junk. I’m so sorry for dragging you all over Orem and Provo that day.

We both tested negative that grey January day, but I can’t stop thinking about my lingering negative attitude about that experience, especially at the hospital. What I wanted was not to have to explain why you wouldn’t wear the mask. What I resented was the assumption that you would wear a mask at all. Maybe the intake lady trusted that moms know the best approach for putting a mask on their children, since no “normal” sick child would cooperate wearing a mask. I didn’t know how to say I was clueless. What I wanted was an acknowledgement–at least from this healthcare institution, in a state that has a higher population of autistic children–or some sort of effort to accommodate, a simple “if your child has sensory issues, then [here’s an alternative].” That can’t be too much to expect at a hospital that probably sees hundreds of children every day.

But guess what? I figured it out. When we were at another waiting room, the receptionist asked me to take masks for both me and you. You started coughing, and I held a mask up to your mouth. Every time you coughed, I covered your mouth with the mask, and you were actually ok with it. I was so grateful for this!

 

Dadda and I have been your parents for four years now, and we’re still figuring it out. I’m still learning patience, but I’ve appreciated the process of learning to see the world through your eyes. I love how you’re never in a rush. How you give in to adult-perceived distractions, when you’re just enjoying your surroundings. How you run your hands over all surfaces. How sometimes you exercise your curiosity by sticking your tongue on things (which often grosses me out). How you run and laugh and sing–and spin, of course. How you verbalize your feelings even though you don’t have as many words as you’d like.

You’re working on getting more words, though. More skills, more coordination. More understanding. A greater attention span and focus. You’ve developed a liking for coloring and puzzles. You can sit with these activities for at least an hour sometimes. Your teachers have been so impressed with you over the past year. When you began preschool, you weren’t able to sit still, and you had no words. Now look what you can do!

We’ve taught you to repeat simple phrases like, “I’m cool” and “I’m smart”; Lola has taught you, “I’m beautiful,” and on your birthday you’ve been able to repeat, “I’m four.” Four. We can’t believe it.

You are adorable, and everyone loves you. Friends and family, definitely. It’s a little weird when strangers smile at you while we’re out or traveling, but most of the time you’re oblivious and could give zero cares. I need to find a way to live more like you.

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It can be so hard being a kid sometimes. So many rules, so many boundaries. It’s been hard for me to reconcile your supposed limitations with your potential. Just thinking of your immense potential makes my heart full. But to you, you don’t have any limitations, other than your parents’ occasional inability to understand what you want or need. Such understanding often requires words. Which you are acquiring more of every single day. Your language–both jabbering and intelligible words–has expanded our minds and blessed our hearts in so many ways, made us better parents. We’re learning as we go. Just like you, we’re figuring it out. We try our hardest to open up the world to you. No limits, baby girl. No more assumptions.

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We have you as our daughter, and you have brought us more than we could ever imagine. More love. More happiness. More life.

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Happy birthday.

Love, Mom

Christmas 2017 – Papi and Lola’s Visit

When our family got home from church last Sunday, Lola and Papi were already waiting inside. The first thing Z did when she saw Lola was take her hand and lead her downstairs to play.

They have been inseparable for the past nine days. I’ve heard them talking to each other every day: Mom’s gentle voice and Z’s cute jabbering or imitating. These are happy sounds.

There’s this game where Z waits at the top of her slide while Lola counts to five, and then says, “Go!” And then Z goes down the slide.

There have been multiple viewings of Trolls and Moana and Brave and Shrek, but mostly Trolls. That’s what Z has been into lately.

The entire time we walked around Temple Square to see the lights, Z—in a stroller—looked behind her to make sure Lola was close by.

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Lola has experienced telling Z to stop climbing the kitchen cabinets to get a sucker. She and Papi have taken part of our tradition of Saturday donuts.

If you believe in love languages, one of them is acts of service. My mom speaks this language loud and clear. In addition to being Z’s best friend, Mom has cleaned our house, done many loads of laundry, and cooked various meals for us. She’s done many things that have allowed us to relax. Papi has supported her in this visit and has told good stories and perfectly dry jokes. He is a wonderful man.

On Christmas, we had a fun day of opening presents and going out to breakfast and then spending dinner with Reilly’s family in Payson. Having everyone together heightened our spirits and the love we feel for each other.

A few quotes from the past week:

“You need to wax your moustache.” Mom to me, after looking at my upper lip.

“Ok, Papi, all glued.” Mom to Papi, after putting gel in and styling Papi’s hair.

“Do you sell pancakes here? Just checking.” Papi to the IHOP host, while getting seated for a Christmas breakfast.

“There you go!” Something Z picked up from Lola, when Z said something correctly. Z says this quite often now.

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Enjoying some time by Nana and Papa’s tree in Payson
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Enjoying some final tickles before bedtime and a happy goodbye

Right now, Lola is lying with Z until she falls asleep. They are talking and singing together.

Lola and Papi are driving back to Florida in the morning. They plan on sneaking out while Z is still asleep.

There will still be crying, though.

It is the morning, and Lola and Papi have left. Reilly and I woke up to send them off. During Mom’s tear-ridden, heart-bursting prayer, we heard Z talking to herself in bed. We said our goodbyes and hugged each other. Lola and Papi got into their car, and then they drove away.

We got Z out of bed and gave her some breakfast. We’re watching Shrek now, and Z has said “Ya-ya!” several times, asking for Lola, and I’ve had to explain that Lola went bye-bye.

The house is much quieter now, and I’m still a little teary-eyed. Thanks to Papi and Lola for visiting and giving us memories to reflect upon, their voices echoing in our minds, when the silence is too much to bear.

Three Months

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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

Beach Day

Am I ever going to catch up writing about vacation? Do you ever have the intention of writing deep, soul-searching rambles, letting your mind wander and return refreshed? Would you ever let your mind bend, commit a perambulatory dimension shift, jump up an energy level or two to uncharted parts of the brain?

You would? Good for you. I’m just going to talk about the beach.

We decided to go back where it all began, at Jacksonville Beach, where Reilly proposed to me.

When we got to the parking lot near the pier where we lost Jenny’s keys, it had started to rain. We waited for a little while then headed to a nearby gas station to get something to drink. When we returned to the parking lot, it was raining even harder. Because we are supreme nerds, both of us brought books to read and talk about. We cracked a window and read while it rained.

About 45 minutes later, the rain stopped, and we carried our books, drinks, and towels and found a nice place on the sand. The sky was still overcast, so it wasn’t very hot.

THE pier.

We stayed at the beach for the next two hours. Here is a list of things we did while we were there:

  • Applied sunscreen
  • Read and talked about books
  • Remembered seagulls from our engagement day
  • Drank our drinks
  • Got sandy feet
  • Took photographs
  • Watched people
  • Made fun of people
  • Peed in the ocean

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Still more clouds

We only peed in the ocean because we’d been drinking those drinks from the gas station so we had to go, and the parking lot bathrooms were locked, and we thought it would be sort of fun to pee in the ocean. I mean, let’s be honest. We walked casually enough to the water and allowed enough space between us so that we wouldn’t by grossed out by the each other’s warm current. We walked to where the water was about to our hips. We didn’t talk to each other for a few seconds, then I asked Reilly if he was done. Then we let the ocean gently roll in and rinse us.

But here’s the thing: Do you know what acid rain is? So, because people pee in the ocean, and water from the ocean evaporates and forms clouds, and some of these clouds make rain, I wonder if we often think about how often we pee on ourselves. Despite this, I still and will always love the beach.

After a couple of hours it was lunchtime, and we decided to eat at the Metro Diner. It’s a small Jacksonville chain with some distinct charm. It’s just a few blocks from the beach. If it weren’t for my friend Jenny’s recommendation, we wouldn’t have thought to go there.

Yummy food here

Reilly had a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, and I had an enormous fish sandwich. The staff was really nice, and I took half my sandwich to go.

It was a sunny December afternoon when we got engaged a year and a half ago. As is typical for Florida summer afternoons, it rained on our way back to my parents’ home. But not very much. And maybe we had driven far enough away from the ocean and the wind hadn’t blown the clouds to where the familiar smell in the rain wasn’t my own urine.

Butter Makes Everything Not Related to Racism Better

We look at the menu, but we both order the buffet. This buffet isn’t like Golden Corral with its vast selection of mediocre food; the heated food island at Lady & Sons carries fewer items cooked to perfection. Workers from the kitchen are constantly replacing empty trays with hot full ones with aromatic food vapors rising from them. All the food represents true Southern cooking: barbecue pork, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, black-eyed peas, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, caramelized sweet potatoes. We want to try everything, but we also want to pace ourselves.

Reilly returns from the buffet with a fully loaded plate. We made a reservation that day before, because Lady & Sons often has long lines. Savannah charms with its old houses and trees dressed in Spanish moss, with branches sprawling toward the sky. The town sits along a river with the same name. We had been observing the sauntering citizens and anxious tourists during our walk to the restaurant. It is nice to sit down, and we are starving.

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Everything I try is delicious. Reilly and I go back for a second plate, and we know early on that we’re almost done. The food tastes so good, but we don’t know if our stomachs have any more space. We start to slow down, but we still want to experience all the textures and tastes on our plates.

We have been on vacation for almost a week; we have been indulging for nearly every meal. Our stomachs should have been sufficiently stretched for a good buffet. But I have gotten to the point where I can barely lift my fork, and all I want to do is put my head down on the table or lie on the floor and wait for someone to step on my stomach and make me barf.

At first, I don’t understand why I got so full that quickly, but then it hits me: butter. If you know Paula Deen’s style of cooking, you know that she uses butter in everything. I tasted it in all the food on my plate. Butter makes everything delicious, but it also coats everything. It adds an invisible layer that makes you think you can eat more than your stomach can hold. The next time we eat at a restaurant like Paula Deen’s, I have to remember that food prepared with butter triples the volume of food without butter.

And then there is dessert. I take a tiny taste of the peach cobbler and the banana pudding, and then I’m done. I’m beyond done. I have packed my digestive system to nearly bursting. We take a few pictures outside and shuffle to a nearby square to recuperate and for Reilly to ask John Wesley for forgiveness for eating too much.

Lucky to lift the camera to take this picture.

Forgive us for eating too much, sir.

Sometime in the weeks after we return from Savannah, we hear news of a lawsuit. Headlines are everywhere. There are sexual harassment charges. There is a deposition with racial slurs.  There is vilification and a crumbling empire.

I feel bad for Paula Deen. She built her company from virtually nothing. She’s best known for cooking everything with butter and she was even coming out with her own brand of butter. She’s tackled her diabetes gracefully in the public, and she has all but completely disarmed America with her thick Southern accent, her strong personality, and her delicious food.

It’s a shame that instead of presenting a mighty dynasty before us, she has now reminded us that racism is alive and well in today’s society. It may be that she testified to saying certain things decades ago, and we may argue that because she said those things a long time ago doesn’t mean she’s racist now. And we can’t necessarily know Ms. Deen’s thoughts from moment to moment.

Yet, the instant that people reacted to Paula Deen’s statements or the media’s treatment of her is when the story became bigger than the icon. Racism is bigger than Paula Deen and her apologists.

A few days ago, I read this blog post that uses deposition excerpts to explain how a lot of reactionaries still hold on to a racist mentality. The author makes a good argument for a civil conversation. Like Ms. Deen’s butter-style of cooking, many of her defenders coat current racism in slippery justification that seems more appealing and more palatable. They ingest each dangerous illusion. Their guts fill quickly with these exquisite excuses, but they eat more. And more. Over time they become diabetic, and they lose circulation, then limbs, and ultimately, sight. They don’t see that Paula Deen has become the whipping boy for racism, and they’re going to keep saying and thinking racist thoughts as if it’s not the same.

Or maybe they’ll learn and improve themselves for a change. Maybe they can take an antacid or something and reduce the bloating and the blindness. Let’s hope.

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.

A Few Favorite Photos from 2012

On New Year’s Day, 2013, Reilly is on the floor grading papers and lesson planning. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade plays in the background. It’s one of those cold yet sunny days. I’ve decided to sort through this year’s photos and see which ones I like the most, strike the fondest memories, make me smile a lot. These are in no particular order and only represent a tiny fraction of the photos we have.

When the light is right and when the walls aren’t purple, I still like admiring the engagement/wedding ring.

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Really, one of the funnest days I’ve had.

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Along with this.

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And this.

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I love weddings. I always cry. If not for the actual photographer’s flash in my way, this would be one of my all-time favorites. What a jerk. Still a super cute picture though.

Big screens showed shots of the massive audience. I just say I had a backstage pass.

I never listened to a lot of Iron Maiden, but this concert was a lot of fun.

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I came out of this concert walking on air.

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Free Frontrunner day with one of my favorite families.

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The Alpine Loop in the fall is always pretty. Reilly is always pretty.

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At Rockefeller Center in August. We got some sun, and my hair isn’t horrible here.

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The past, present, and future all here.

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He wears these all the time now.

 

Awesome, right?

The picture’s blurry, but this hike was amazing.

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Labor Day weekend in Moab. Saw good friends for the first time in around five years.

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Simple. I really like it.

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Something magical about the hint of mountains here.

Reilly’s done grading and planning now. So we’re watching Last Crusade with more attention. It’s at the part with the dirigible.

Here’s to another year, more pictures, more memories, ever more happiness.