Carson and Bryson stay home with their moms. Mackenzie goes to child care where mom works.
While Rylan's mom teaches, he attends school-provided child care.
And Shyan's mom has stayed home during her child's youngest years but says she plans to work when her daughter starts school.
The Trib Kids - five East Valley children whose development the Tribune is tracking - are growing up in a range of settings. But their parents all agree: If the family can afford it, mom or dad should make parenting a full-time, stay-at-home job.
“If I had the option of staying home, I would definitely take it,” said Mackenzie's mother, Dawn Butler, 31, of Mesa. “But being single, I have to support myself and my children.”
So she's chosen a career where it's possible to be near her kids and make sure they and other children are getting the nurturing they need: Child care. Butler is a field director for Tots Unlimited, which has several sites in the East Valley.
All three Butler children - Mackenzie, 2; Dallas, 5; and Dylan, 6 - attend Tots Unlimited for part of the day.
“Overall, it's beneficial to them, especially in learning to socialize with other kids,” Butler said.
Being around other children every day has made Mackenzie, who was a shy baby, much more outgoing. Her vocabulary is expanding, partly because her mother works on Mackenzie's language skills at home, and partly, because Mackenzie listens to and mimics other people.
Recently, Mackenzie overheard a child care worker tell another employee to feed the children before they started “freaking out.”
Later that day, the 2-year-old walked up to one of the workers and asked, “Could you give me some carrots so I don't freak out?”
Shyan Tsosie, who turned 5 this month, doesn't attend child care. But in the Family Tree preschool program at Mesa's Lincoln Elementary School, she is learning to socialize with other children and make friends.
Shyan attends the program with her mother, Loretta Tsosie, 40, who is studying to earn a General Educational Development diploma. In Family Tree, children are in preschool while their parents are in the next room receiving parenting classes and adult education.
When Family Tree is over, Shyan and mom go home, where Tsosie reads to her daughter and teaches her about her Navajo heritage.
Tsosie worked in construction when she had her three older children. With Shyan, though, she has stayed home while the girl's father, 30-year-old Brenden Bannon, works for a business that creates designs for sinks, tubs and toilets.
Tsosie is itching to get back to work, so when Shyan goes to kindergarten this fall, Tsosie will look for a job. She has no regrets, however, about being home with Shyan during her youngest years.
“She feels safe, and there's a lot of learning,” Tsosie said.
Four-month-old Rylan Springfield of Scottsdale already goes to school - with his mother. Adrienne Springfield, 31, is a teacher at the private TesseracT school in Paradise Valley, where child care is provided for the school's employees.
Her husband, John Springfield, 34, said they pay about $150 a week for Rylan to be in the school's child care center - a temporary situation until the family can afford for Adrienne to stay at home.
“This has made it possible for her to go back to work for a year so we can take care of some financial stuff,” he said.
Parents, he added, need support. The Springfields draw theirs from a close-knit group of friends who have young children.
They share their joy over the way Rylan can now stand and hold onto the coffee table, the way he follows his parents with his eyes.
“When he's awake and happy, he just smiles and grins at everything,” Springfield said.
Those are the kinds of moments that make stay-at-home mothering worth it for Christine Caccamo, 29, of Chandler, and Shelly Zimmerman, 27, of Gilbert.
Her husband's job in technical sales makes it possible for Caccamo to devote her full attention to sons Carson, 1, and Justin, 4.
And these days, Carson needs his mom's attention more than ever.
“He's running. He's climbing. He's a little monkey,” she said. “He's in trouble all the time now.”
Caccamo and husband Rob were both raised by stay-at-home mothers.
“There was no question I was going to stay home and raise our children,” Caccamo said.
Caccamo realizes her family is fortunate in a way others are not.
“The reality is people have to work,” she said. “Children are expensive.”
Zimmerman learned how to be a mom from her own mother, who stayed at home to raise six children while her husband worked as a firefighter.
“We had special days, and if it was your special day, you had no chores and you could go to the store with mom,” she said.
Now Zimmerman tries to make each day special for her children, Bryson, 11 months; Paige, 3; and Spence, 5; while husband David, 28, works as a physician's assistant. Mother and children read and play together. They go swimming. And as she did with Paige and Spence, Zimmerman is now teaching little Bryson sign language because some research shows signing can be beneficial for young children who don't yet speak.
“He can say ‘more’ in sign language and he's working on ‘drink,’ ‘eat,’ and ‘done,’ ” Zimmerman said.
That's not all Bryson can do. The Gilbert baby is now crawling everywhere and opening cupboards.
“There are times when I do yank my hair out,” Zimmerman said of her full-time job as mom. “But then there are also the times when you rock them to sleep or you hear them say, ‘I love you.’ That's worth all the gray hairs I'm going to get.”