Just Keep Swimming

I posted this on social media two days ago: Monday, 6/24.

Just keep swimming.

This past Saturday was three weeks since Nana’s passing; two weeks since her funeral. June 22 is Nana and Papa’s wedding anniversary. Z woke up, and she led me through her morning routine. I asked what she wanted for breakfast.

She looked at me and said, “Nemo.”

I very deliberately paused. “You want to watch Nemo? Ok, let’s go turn it on.”

We watched about 30 minutes of the movie when Reilly got home from the gym. After pausing the movie, we went upstairs and started eating the donuts he brought. Then Z headed back downstairs to finish watching. I followed her.

While the movie was playing I had my laptop open, writing and reviewing some personal thoughts. Then I heard Dory sing, “Keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

I stopped typing. This was the motto Nana had applied to her own struggles and afflictions the past couple of years. No matter the procedure, the pain, the fatigue, nausea, heartache: she pushed on. With a smile, even.

As Dory sang, I cried. As Marlin guided her through the swarm of Portuguese Man-o’-Wars stinging her, and Dory fought to stay conscious, she sang: Keep swimming.

After Finding Nemo, Z asked to watch Finding Dory. Young Dory sang “Keep swimming” when a current swept her away from her parents. She sang it throughout her search for her parents. That was how she survived. And succeeded.

I cried again.

It had been a while since Z watched either of these movies, and Reilly suggested she was feeling nostalgic. I agreed, but not just for the movies, but for Nana. I know she misses her.

Z knew what the day was. It wasn’t a coincidence she wanted to watch those movies.

Then while we were in Payson yesterday for dinner, Cousin Jessica made and brought these dogtags for all of us. A reminder of Carla; a talisman for how to live our own lives.

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We’re gonna just keep swimming, Nana. We love you.

A Break for the Tear Ducts

Places I’ve cried in descending order of frequency:

  1. Garden/Flowerbeds
  2. Shower
  3. Work
  4. Car, on the way to/back from work
  5. Talking to Z, tucking her in
  6. In my own bed, trying to fall asleep
  7. Family room

Today might be the first day in over a month I haven’t cried at all.

Weird.

 

It Was A Beautiful Day

June 8, 2019

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This was two weeks ago. I don’t know how that happened, where the time went. Not that it passed particularly quickly or slowly, but that it . . . moved.

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The service at the church was beautiful. Poignant music. Heartfelt words. A lot of tears. Some laughs. Many hugs. There are a million stories that could come from that hour and a half at the church. And a million more that could come from the hour-long viewing beforehand.

Graveside. Sunny, mid-60s.

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Z could not have been been better behaved. She understood the day.

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Carla would have loved these flowers. A coworker relayed that Carla actually chose her spray. Her colleagues were more than eager and happy to oblige her. For this day. This one wish. Something in the way her coworkers regard her is particularly touching to me. They were also her friends, but there was something about their relationship that somehow resounds with me.

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Two weeks sometimes feels like a million years ago. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. These perceived lapses occupy the same space. Or maybe they’re layered on top of each other. Or interwoven. I don’t understand it. Maybe a part of me wants to believe that understanding it will help me feel better. But what I should understand is that I’ll feel better with time. Whether that time is in slow-motion or warp speed.

And “feeling better” isn’t a singular event. I’ve felt pretty darn ok in certain moments. Laughed, even. I’ll take what I can get.

I’ll give what I can, too.

Today is Blake and Carla’s 41st wedding anniversary.

This isn’t an easy month right now.

We’re all going to watch Reilly’s brother play in the Utah Symphony as they accompany a screening of Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire.

Should be fun.

Two Zinger Years

Good morning of 2nd birthday!
Good morning of 2nd birthday!

Winter is finally starting to retreat, and the warm weather calls to you every day. When you lead us to the door to go outside, we are excited to help you put your clothes on and let you roam the great outdoors. Two years ago, you were a little too comfy in Mama’s tummy, and we coaxed you so to join us in this wonderful and crazy world.

Two years later you’re taking it all in.

Last week we were watching The Good Dinosaur, and one particularly sad part made me cry. You came up to me leaned your forehead toward me. You do this when we want you to give us kisses. We say, “Can I have kisses?” and make a kissy face. But I didn’t do this last week. I was crying quietly and wiping away my tears because the dinosaur was saying goodbye to the human. When you gave me kisses with your forehead, it was hard not to cry even harder.

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In the past year while watching movies, you often laughed at sad parts, but now you also get sad, and you scream when the little girl Merida screams. You are developing a sensibility about other people. You are developing empathy.

At the same time, you don’t like being around a lot of people. You’re still unsure of other little kids. You recognize them; you acknowledge their existence, but you’d rather not interact with them. You appreciate the safe place of family and familiar friends. I’m grateful you cherish this, and I hope you continue to do so for as long as you can, because there will be moments when the world seems a little scary, and we won’t be able to hold your hand or pick you up and hold you. We want to teach you how to handle those moments well. We’ll still be there, just not in the same ways we are now. This makes me profoundly sad.

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But I am so exquisitely happy that it’s your birthday. It’s hard to believe two years have already passed, because I was just reminiscing about my constant need to pee, which seems was only yesterday. (Which it wasn’t.) You’re saying a few words here and there. You’re getting stronger and faster. More curious. More mischievous.

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You love light switches and doorknobs. And bubbles. Climbing to higher heights. Sprinting between rooms. Squealing during sacrament meeting. Reading your books. Singing your favorite songs; chilling out on the floor for a few moments before another burst of pure energy. Basking in the sunshine. Giving Mama and Dadda hugs and kisses. And mastering potty-training all the while.

We couldn’t be prouder. Or happier.

This crazy world sure needs more people like you.

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You are a joy and a blessing, dear daughter. Wonderful Z.

Happy birthday.

Love, Mom

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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

 

 

Eleven Months

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Dear Zinger,

Eleven months. E-leven. E-leaven. Like electronically baking bread. This is blowing my mind. I can’t even wrap my head around next month, when you’ll be a whole year old, so I’ll try my best to focus on this letter.

That sassy expression in the above photo makes Dadda and me laugh a lot. Your personality shines in everything you do. You know how to tease: you hold things out and offer them to us, then you pull them away and don’t let us have them. It’s a fun little game, but where did you learn how to do that? Is that something all babies know?

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You have a favorite kitchen cabinet. You haven’t gotten inside it as much lately, but you do open it a lot and put many of your things in there, from shoes to books to toys. It seems you’re slowly taking over the apartment. You’ve recently learned how to open the broiler part of the oven, and just two days ago I found two of your toys in there. Does this mean that you don’t like those toys and want to broil them, or is that your way of claiming the oven as your property?

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You also like to wait by the bathroom door whenever someone is in there. Sometimes you knock on or scratch at the door while you wait. Once I got out of the shower and found Gina the Giraffe so thoughtfully placed at the door.

The bathroom has greatly interested you these past few weeks.  You enjoy standing by the tub and marveling at its structure. Or maybe you reminisce about bathtime and plan what you’ll do next time you take a bath. You really do like bathtime, with splashing and fun bath toys and trying to play with the faucet. You don’t like water being poured on your head, but you seem to enjoy the shampooing of your hair and scrubbing of your ridiculously soft skin. And when you’re done with a bath, we carry you in a towel to the futon in your room, and you run and jump around while I try to get your diaper on you.

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This past week your turned on the dishwasher. Like it was no big deal. Like it was a chore you’ve been doing since you were born. Of course the dishwasher wasn’t full, and I had to turn the dial all the way around to turn it off, but I was still impressed. Should I have been? I mean, I didn’t shower you with praise, and when it was actually time to run the dishwasher, I called you over and pointed to the dial and you looked at it and did nothing. Like it wasn’t your turn to do that chore. And you looked at me as if to say to me that I should know how to operate the dishwasher so why am I asking you, a mere baby for help. You watched me turn on the dishwasher and gave me an approving look. I was so proud of myself.

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You are learning how glorious sleep is and are steadily sleeping anywhere from eight to ten hours every night. Of course falling asleep is a different story. You still drift off peacefully in Dadda’s arms as he rocks you, but when he lays you in the crib you wake, realize he’s leaving you alone in a dark room, and cry. But then you understand that on the other side of waking is a brand new day of eating, reading, and play. And you finally fall asleep.

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The other day I noticed you standing and spinning in one place. This morning you’re spinning a lot. It might that your head is full of snot and every time you sneeze it’s like Spiderman spraying a sticky, weblike substance, except it’s from your nose and not your wrists. Or it could be because Dadda and I are on our computers. He’s preparing a Sunday School lesson, and I’m writing about you. It’s a few seconds later, and Dadda’s not on his computer anymore, and now you’re playing contentedly by yourself. Interesting how that works.

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Today, we have church from 1-4pm. Staying for the entire three hours has been very challenging for you, but you do a decent job. You sit through most of the first hour, then I let you walk around and give you a snack for the second hour, and sometimes if I’m feeling especially daring, I’ll take you in to Sunday School for the last 10 minutes. Then Dadda has you for the third hour, during which you two usually go for a drive and you get a much-needed nap.

Church is so important, little one. Even though we don’t spend a lot of time in our classes, it’s important that we go and start forming good habits. Fellowshipping isn’t a problem for you. You approach different people and reach out (literally, and point to them), and either give them a sincere, caring look or a great big smile.

About five weeks ago, Lola was called to be the Relief Society President of her ward. Observe the progression of her texts to me.

January 29:

Hi May, Poppi got me this new phone and I’m learning to text. I also have been called to be a relief society president and I’m scared out of my mind so remember me in your prayer. I love you.

February 1:

Hello May, I was sustained and set apart today. I bore my testimony on how Heavenly Father placed people on our path as an answer to prayers. In this I testify that it is true. A testament that our Heavenly Father loves us and will always be there to help us. I have been thinking of you and your little family and how blessed I am. I love you and thank you for being you.

February 17:

Hi May, just thought of you and how Heavenly Father keeps you close to him. He truly loves you with all the tender heart of a father. So very grateful for that knowledge. Now you are a mommy and you will have a glimpse of that kind of love. I guess what I am saying is … I am so happy to see you have happiness and fulfillment. I love you very much. Mom

In each text increased confidence shows in the words of each message, which also indicates to me increasing faith. She’s a very loving and compassionate woman who supports and encourages everyone around her unconditionally. I know this because I am her daughter, and there were times when I made her very mad or disappointed, but she still hugged me and reminded me of my potential. Right now, she lives in a ward with a lot of aging members and a lot of need, and if anything, my stubbornness helped her to develop patience and longsuffering. She’ll be amazing at her calling. You are very blessed to have such a spiritually strong Lola.

She’s right about being a mama. The glimpse I have of the kind of love Heavenly Father has for us is still beyond what my mind can grasp. My heart feels like it could explode all the time. I’m so very lucky to have your endless affection and generosity. May you never lose that.

So this morning, we’ll get ready for church. I will be at church, even though I’m sneezing and my nose itches constantly. I will also try not to fall asleep, and I will remember the example you’re setting for us. You’ll be at church, and I’m grateful it’s not a place you hate. We’ll tell everyone you’re eleven months old, and even though you’re tired, you’ll toddle around and explore the pews and hymnals. Even though you’re sniffly, you’ll smile. Our little sassy, carefree, and caring spirit, you raise us up.

Leaven.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Love, Mom