We Went to the Park Today

It’s time to exercise more regularly again. A few weeks ago I fixed the wobble on the jogging stroller and this week I started taking Z on walk-jogs. A 2.5 mile route with a nice park on the way. Heading back home, we stopped by the park and I let her climb down from the stroller and she headed right for the playground. She knew what to do.

Sometimes she feels like crossing the high tunnel, sometimes she doesn’t.

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Last time we went to the park, she got pretty brave with the slides. Last time I forgot a camera. This time I remembered.

Then after about 30-45 minutes, Z decided she was done and walked to her stroller and climbed up to the seat. I strapped her in. A mom and her toddler approached the playground. The little girl looked a few months younger than Z and was wearing shoes that squeaked every time she took a step. As she and her mom passed us, I said, “There’s no sneaking up on me.” The mom laughed and joked that my eardrums might be breaking. I watched the baby get closer to the playground, and I remarked that the baby’s red ruffly shorts were super cute. The mom then said that those shorts made her water break. I must have had a strange look on my face when she said that, because she explained that she was at the store and seeing the shorts made her laugh. And when she laughed her water broke. And then she gave birth to the wearer of the shorts. I laughed while starting to push the stroller toward home; she said goodbye and wished us a good day.

I wonder, though, how they came to own the shorts. Did she buy them at the time her water broke, or did she go back to the store hoping to find the memento of her water breaking? If she went back, when? Was she hoping the shorts would still be there? If she bought them just before delivering her baby, that’s some real clearheadedness there. Or maybe she got someone to buy them for her.

I will think about this forever.

That mom was really friendly and I’m glad that her daughter’s shoes squeaked, because I got to be a smart aleck. I like meeting nice strangers. That’s a good reason to exercise more regularly.

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.

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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.

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.

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Love, Mom

Seven Months

Thanksgiving Point

Dearest Zinger,

The above photo perfectly captures your attitude about life. You’re such an inspiration.

Let me recount a few experiences from the past few weeks.

One day I set you on the living room floor while I cleaned the apartment for a few minutes. I don’t remember if I set you on your back or stomach. Either way, you end up moving across the room and closely studying anything within reach.

I was straightening out your room: sorting clothes that you could still wear, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, making sure there were diapers at your changing table. Doing these types of chores is meditative for me, and I enjoyed being able to find focus on what I was doing.

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During this precious moment of Zen I heard you cry so I walked back to the living room. I found you kneeling next to the ottoman, which you were holding onto with one hand.

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One day I set you in your crib and went to wash the dishes. The hush from the water coming out of faucet cleared my mind as I cleaned your bottles. After a few minutes I heard you crying. I turned off the faucet and walked to your room. You were crying in your crib. Your were hanging onto the top rail of the side of the crib away from the wall. And you were only tall enough to reach the top rail because you were standing up. You used the bars to pull yourself up.

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One day I had set up a play area for you in the hall by the bathroom. This is what I do when I need to take a shower and keep an eye on you at the same time. After showering and getting dressed, I decided to play along with you in the hallway. A blanket was on the ground with some pillows to keep you from hitting your head on any corners. I lay on the floor while you crawled about. You hovered around my head, scooting along, exploring the space. I could hear you babbling, and then the next moment your babbling had somewhat intensified.

I looked up to see you looking down at me. You were holding onto one end of a pillow and standing up.

Sometimes I let you use my body as a jungle gym. Using my bent knees, you’d pull yourself up. Then you’d let go of my knees and just stand there, taking in the view. Or looking at me as if to say, “Hey, look! No hands!”

In the past week I’ve knelt a few feet across from you in the living room. I patted my knees and cheered for you to come to me. You scooted pretty quickly toward me, almost crawling. Who am I kidding, we might as well call it crawling. Once you got to where I was, you put your hands on my knees, then you climbed your way up, legs straightening until your body became completely vertical. Then I pulled you close and told you what a hard worker you are while we hugged.

You’ve done the same for Dadda, too.

What you’ve also quickly learned is how much easier it is to fall once you’re standing. But, Dadda has also observed that you’re becoming a better faller. You know how to fall on your bottom. And you’re also learning ways not to fall. Your reflexes are quickening. Dadda believes you’ll be competing in the Olympics next week. That’s just silly, because everyone knows the next Olympics isn’t until 2016.

Let me tell you something else we discovered this week. Your drool was returned with a vengeance. No mercy. You like to chew on my wallet. Spit strings dangle from your face, and they make me think of spiderwebs. And this past week when you took my finger to chew on, I felt a sharp little edge coming from your bottom gums. So, your drool could trap insects then you could use your emerging teeth to eat them.

Oh, heck no.

No Comment

Standing, crawling, teething. Solid foods.

All at the same time? I mean, really? You spent the first six months practicing: tummy time every day, watching people walk, insisting to stand when people wanted you to sit. You seem to have a good grasp on the theory of human movement that you have applied to your daily activities. You are already such a great student.

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People comment all the time how cute and beautiful you are. And there’s no denying that. But Dadda and I also like to call you names that pertain to your personality and things you can do. You’re our little stander. And crawler. And talker. You’re a hard worker, and a good thinker, and we praise the way you figure things out. And just so you don’t get a big head, we also call you our little pooper and little farter. You’re very good at those actions, too.

The pulpit in the chapel of our church was broken last Sunday. The microphone is very high and can’t be lowered. Shorter people have to step onto a box to reach the microphone. I thought about walking up and bearing my testimony and making a joke about being short. Because people find my type of self-deprecation funny. But as I visualized myself approaching the pulpit, the image of using a step to reach the microphone to bear my testimony appeared in my mind, and that image seemed a pretty good metaphor. Stepping up takes work. Bearing witness of the work stepping up takes also requires effort, and neither of these actions are unassisted. So, while Dadda and I are helping you crawl and walk, all your energy and determination and eagerness are an example for us.

So, yes. We are very proud of you. At the end of a long day of standing up and crawling around, I like to hold you to give your muscles a rest. I like to massage your legs and arms to help them recover. To thank you. And as another way to show we love you. Then you get up the next day and do everything even better. And more.

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Smug

Crosseyed

Alpine

Witches

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Cap

Books

Thanks for blowing our minds, little one. We love everything about you and all that you’re growing up to be.

Now it’s time to childproof our home.

Love, Mom

Six Months

Food!

Dear Zinger,

Last week for my informatics class we talked about quantum computing. There are computers capable of factoring a buncha-bunch of numbers at the same time. And this is all for managing and organizing the ever-growing amount of information in the world. I guess in that aspect they work better than the human brain in its current 10% working state. Some people out there can use their 10% a lot better and more efficiently than other people, so maybe I mean the average human brain. Some brains can process math and logic quite well, and others have a greater capacity for emotional intellect. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this about me, but I want my brain to do it all.

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And I want for your brain to do it all. My math abilities are weak, but I can listen and sympathize well. I can do a decent close reading of a text, but I can’t do organic chemistry. I’ve tried a lot of things, and I want you to want to try a lot of things. I don’t know if that’s blatant projection as a parent, but I think it’s a major part of wanting what’s best for you. And I think it boils down to wanting for you to realize your potential.

“Geez, Mom, I’m only six months old.” Yes, I know. But the thing is, I really don’t hear you say that. You know what I hear instead? I hear jabbers and happy squeals and perhaps even some sing-songy coos and sighs. Lots of them. And instead of seeing you roll your eyes I see a lot of diligence and persistence. But we’ll talk about that a little more later.

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I also see increasing curiosity. A pretty smart guy named Albert Einstein said, “Never lose a holy curiosity.” At your age, all curiosity is holy. You want to see and touch and hear and taste everything. If your Dadda and I don’t stop you, you put everything in your mouth. So with your growing wonder, your Dadda and I have to step it up as parents and consciously teach you about the world. Of course we want to let you explore, but there are times when we let you learn from your mistakes as well.

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The other day you were moving — not quite crawling — around the living room floor, and you found your way to the ottoman. The camera was on top of the ottoman, but the camera strap was hanging off the ottoman. I was nearby in the kitchen, fixing lunch or washing dishes. You were in my line of sight, but I turned my head for just a few seconds and then I heard you crying. I walked toward you and saw a classic crime scene: a camera on the floor and a sprawled-out crying baby, also on the floor. Some part of the accessible 10% of my brain deduced what happened, just like Sherlock Holmes. I picked you up and said that you were okay, and after a few seconds, you were back on the floor, on all fours, meandering or doing whatever it is you’re doing that isn’t quite crawling.

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Your curious love for books continues to grow. I look at your face when Dadda or I read books (or magazines, or junk mail) to you, and there’s just something about the way you listen and look at the pictures. Is it our voices? Is it the wonder of language? Is it the way authors and artists present language and art? Is it the way the pages and covers feel against your hands or their salty acidity in your mouth? When you look wide-eyed at whatever we read to you, we share your wonder, and this brings us closer together. I have a feeling you already know this.

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Always observing. Always studying. Always holily curiositing.

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Some days I have to go to work. I’m gone at least eight hours, but when I get home, you smile and kick your feet and wave your arms. And when Dadda gets home from work or class, you do the same thing. It’s one of the biggest thrills we have with you. We wondered how six months into parenthood would greet us, and we really couldn’t be any happier.

The diligence and persistence I mentioned earlier? This is what I mean:

Yesterday was your six-month visit with the doctor. He gave us percentages pertaining to your growth. He said that you are in the 56th percentile of babies for your height and your weight. Maybe that means that out of 100 babies, 44 are taller than you and 55 are shorter; 44 weigh more than you and 55 are lighter.

Does that feel weird, being compared to other babies? Even though this is a way to keep track of your development, and while I’m grateful that you’re growing well, comparing still feels weird. Maybe I should just let it go; if it doesn’t bother you, I shouldn’t let it bother me.

You know what, though. The doctor said the size of your head is in the 79th percentile of babies your age. And of course I immediately thought: BRAINS. You make connections in your brain. As you watch me type this, you know there’s a correlation between the movement of my fingers and what appears on the screen. Your stomach tells your brain you’re hungry. Your bum tells your brain you’re wet or poopy. Your body tells your brain you’re tired. Your heart tells your brain to humor us when we try to make you laugh.

But we all know you’re so much more than your brain. You know this, and it’s not your brain that tells you. You are time. You are complexity, completeness, love. You are what makes our world go ’round in a continuous, paradoxical blur of the single moment that is life. Thanks for an incredible six months so far. We’ve loved every single second.

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Love, Mom

 

 

 

Five Months

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Dear Zinger,

A certain fierceness accompanies motherhood that I have never really experienced before. When family members or friends feel threatened or bullied, I want to defend them. I want to stand up to whatever force is making them feel small. I want to say, “Back off. Now.” I want to write angry letters. I want them to feel how they’re making my loved ones feel.

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This tendency took a while to develop when I was a youngster, because whenever people teased my younger brother – your uncle – I let him take it. If I felt that he really was in danger I probably would have stepped up, but I knew his character enough, and I knew he could fend for himself.

What I feel for you is somewhat different, this maternal indignation. Like, “Get the [bleep] away from my daughter, you [bleep].” I want to rip open a hole in the earth and throw anyone in who gets in the way of you growing into the person you want to be. Who you should be. Who you have the potential of becoming.

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I’ll be the first to admit how protective I am of you. I try to resist watching you constantly. I mean, part of it is making sure I’m there in case you get hurt, but the other part is that you’re just so darn cute. I love how much you enjoy exploring the world around you; I’m already so very proud. You are so alert and observant. I understand why you want to fight naps and bedtime: there’s just so much world to see. So much to learn. So much to understand.

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Part of this vigilance is motherly, but it also comes from what happened to me when I was a little girl. No one should have to go through that experience. And yet it happens all the time to people all around us. It makes me so sad and angry. It took a couple of years in therapy and the atonement of Christ to overcome that part of my childhood. It took me relearning trust in certain relationship systems. It took a while, but I eventually arrived at a place in my life and my heart changed enough to where I could accept love from the man I’d marry and who is now your incredible father. And sometimes I can trust myself enough to give and show love to him, and especially to you.

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I hope you feel how much I love you. I hope you understand that I want to let you grow and learn at your own pace. You already impress me so much every day. I want to brag to everyone how smart you are, how contemplative. But I also don’t want you comparing yourself to others.

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Once in a while I’ll consult the internet to see what milestones I should be watching for, but I don’t ever want you to feel that you’re not measuring up. You already work hard and try new things. You possess a sweetness that’s inspiring.

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I hope I can teach you early on that everyone is different; people’s experiences are unique to them. I hope you can hang on to your innately heightened sensitivity and keep extending kindness to everyone, at least in the form of your soulful eyes and amazing smile. Your existence brings light into the world, and I don’t mind letting people hold you if only to spread your light around.

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Just know that the early tantrums and the persistent crying didn’t always come from you, They helped me learn what kind of mom I should be. They are helping to form the eyes in the back of my head that I’m sure you’ll come to hate. They helped form the closeness we have now.

You continue to be an example of the person I want to be. While five months hardly seems like any time at all, I’d relive the past five months in slow motion with you. With increasing fierceness. Every moment.

Love, Mom

Four Months

swirl blur

Dear Zinger,

How much longer is motherhood going to feel surreal? I can feel your breath on my cheek. I can hear your cries getting stronger and your giggles getting more high-pitched. I can see and smell the substance of your diapers. All these things are tangible, but this whole experience still feels like a dream.

Four months ago this world welcomed you, ushered you into my arms. Your father and I watched you carefully the first month. Your breathing, your bathroom behavior, your feeding schedule affected how we slept, when we used the bathroom, when we ate. By the second month you understood that nighttime is for sleeping, and as you sleep, you grow. There were several nights in the past month when you slept 9 or 10 hours straight, and we thought you would make a habit of these longer slumbers, but more than half the time you woke up between 1am and 2am for a snack and to keep me on my toes.

peaceful

I’m proud of you for sleeping, but every morning when I pick you up, your body seems bigger and you feel heavier. Sleep works that way for adults, too. Except when we sleep for 12 hours a day we just end up getting heavier without increasing our height. That’s not exactly healthy. But the sleep you’re getting now is essential to your growth. And are you ever growing. Really, just look at you.

the frog

You may have noticed I cut my hair in the last week, and I do believe you think it’s cute. I appreciate that; I hadn’t cut my hair in nearly a year and a half, and you’re to the point of grabbing a handful of my hair and hanging on for dear life. I have never said “let go” so much as I have in the past month. And whenever I say that, the one song from the movie “Frozen” gets into my head, called “Let It Go.” I don’t think we’ll let you see that movie until you can read and then your father and I will give you our analysis and explain why a lot of the older Disney movies are better.

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You do everything fast and intensely, from the way you turn your head to your desire to get up and move around. We went to the rodeo a few weeks ago, and your eyes darted from side to side while your head shifted in quick, birdlike movements. You watched the horses and bulls and cowboys and cowgirls. You hung out for two hours, so well-behaved and kind, even though the toddler in front of us was trying to hit on you. He pointed at you and smiled while you acted oblivious to it all. I pointed at him and said that you couldn’t date until you turned 27.

Speaking of milestones, you have figured out how to roll over from your back to your stomach. You know how to hold on to your bottle. It’s amazing how you want to do more things by yourself.

You self-soothe by sucking on your fingers. Never have I seen so much saliva, and for a while I thought you might be teething. I check if little white teeth are pushing through your gums, but not yet. You watch me and Dadda eat during meals; you seriously study the way we chew, and you look interested in trying solid foods in the next few months, especially with how you explore textures by putting almost everything in your mouth. Dadda and I now have to keep a closer eye on you.

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Your father taught you how to blow raspberries, so that’s how we’ve been communicating lately. I imagine you like how your tongue vibrates in your mouth and how your silky slobber slides down your chin. It’s been a while since I’ve blown raspberries, but I’ve retrieved that skill so that we can play together, and I can understand why you think it’s so fun. I’ve yet to catch you doing this, so here’s a video of you talking up a storm instead.

That corner in the couch is where your dad could put you in “couch potato” position and you’d stay put. Now he places you there and five seconds later you try standing up. And then you tip over and land on your face. And then you try rolling over or just talk into the couch until I or Dadda picks you up.

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Tummy time continues to impress us as you try to crawl. Like, become mobile. You manage something like an inchworm army crawl; the legs move fast but you end up scooting about an inch every five seconds. All your feet have to do is find a little traction in the carpet and push, and we may have to childproof the apartment a little earlier than we expected.

I don’t know, Zinger. A lot happened in the last month, and I don’t quite know what to think. Maybe everything happening so quickly contributes to this dream state I’m in. So many people say their babies grow up so fast; is parenthood one continuous blur? I have a feeling the answer is yes. This is the best answer.

Yet, your easy smiles and hugs and the smell of your hair; your intent eyes; your unsteady standing at the bedroom window as we watch for Dadda to come home; your hand wrapped around my finger: these are not a dream.

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These past four months with you have taught me that the dream is life, and life could not be more real. The dream is you, an amazing, utterly lovable paradox.

Love, Mom

At 30 Seconds

This is not the first time she’s done this, but it’s the first time she’s done it in front of the camera. She did it twice in a row two days ago, but she was VERY ANGRY while doing so. Like, totally ticked off. Never mind doing it in front of the camera. And she did it for her father yesterday morning, but the camera again wasn’t out. So here’s Little Zinger’s debut of her upcoming mobility. It’s bittersweet imagining her rolling onto her back into the sunset already. Pardon the ESPN in the background, though news of the NBA draft maybe helped her.