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Good Bones
BY MAGGIE SMITH

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Maggie Smith, “Good Bones” from Waxwing. Copyright © 2016 by Maggie Smith.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 8 months old.

You wake up at 6:20 or so, and Dad gives you a bottle. (We might have one more nursing session in us, but that chapter is pretty much closed.) He brings you downstairs to hang out while we do our morning chores. You grab my hair and squirm, and squeal when I toss you in the air. You clutch my fingers and practice taking steps. I read you a board book about sushi; you try to eat it. You sit in your highchair at the counter while Dad reads the paper beside you.

At 7:30, we bust into the room where Annie is just waking up, and she immediately requests that you sit in her crib. You pull yourself up on the bars and get hugged and kissed for a few minutes. While the girls get dressed, you and Dad romp around the floor and do a little playing with the big stuffed longhorn Gobka and Gamma gave Annie for her birthday.

I know---there's a lot going on here.

I know—there’s a lot going on here.

I take off, and Dad hangs out with you until it’s time for your first nap at 8:15. You sleep for two hours, as usual, and then spend the next couple with Charly, reading, playing, screeching with joy, whatnot. You nap again from 12:15-2:15. In the afternoon, you stroll down South Congress, and she reads to you from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

You're really into this table these days.

You’re really into this table these days.

At 4:30, she puts you down again, and you screech in your crib until after 5. At 6, you’re up again, and join  the family for dinner at the table. It’s a bottle of formula and tiny pieces of broccoli and pork chop.

cuddles

cuddles

After dinner, you tail Annie around the house, crawling after her as she races her lawnmower toy across the floor. I decide you crawl like an alligator, limbs wide and belly dragging, but lightning fast. Every time you encounter my legs, you use them to haul yourself up to standing. Safe money is on you walking by the time we’re doing your 10-month log.

Yeah, that's Annie behind you, drinking bath water out of a toy boat.

Yeah, that’s Annie behind you, drinking bath water out of a toy boat.

You enjoy bathtime as usual. Then it’s a clean diaper and time to chew on everything you can get your mitts on in your room, chiefly Duplos. You enjoy a nightcap while playing in the laundry basket.

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You ignore my reading of Brown Bear, but go cheerfully to bed while your dad and I sing a clumsy lullaby duet and put both of you in your sleep sacks. You watch us quietly as we say goodnight, turn out the light, and back out of the door.

 

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years old.

2 year Annie

At 7:30, the family parades into your room. I throw open the window shades and set Paul down by your crib, where he clutches the railing and squeals. You smile and thrash with glee, then request “Missa Paul Annie bed?” Thus invited, he sits in your crib and squeals at you in closer range.

We remind you it’s your birthday and sing the song. “Maybe have cake?” you say. Maybe, indeed! Who knows what the day will bring! Not even us. We’re improvising.

“Annie have bite-en,” you say and stand up.
“Yes, Annie will have a vitamin.” (They’re chewy and sweet—you request one first thing every morning.)
“NO fresh diaper.”
“Yeah, you do need a fresh diaper.”
“NO FRESH DIAPER!” you shriek, collapsing with despair.

You take a few minutes to recover, then Dad helps you execute a couple of front-rolls and scoops you out of the crib while you’re still giggling. We plop Paul on the changing table to keep you cheerful while we change that diaper, give you a toothbrush to chew on, and put on your shoes and socks. Dressed, you head downstairs for your vitamin, then out the door with Dad.

At school, Dad asks Ms. Shanna if she’d mind taking a few mental notes about what you do today to tell us about. She goes above and beyond, and gives us this illustrated record:

Annie paints

Anne started her morning off with a little nature painting. We made trees using our arms and hands then found leaves outside to use to paint grass at the bottom of our tree. After painting Anne decided to join her friends, Byron, Gavin, and Harper, for a little breakfast.

Annie races

Outside Anne challenged her buddies June and Byron to a friendly race… she left them eating dust!

After her race Anne helped water the beans the toddler classes have been tending to in their garden. In the beginning of spring we planted them along with some basil and Anne has enjoyed helping water them and watching them grow. When we came inside we thought it would be fun to paint with bugs since we saw a bunch crawling around outside! Anne picked a lady bug to paint with and we had fun talking about the colors she dipped the lady bug in. All of that hard work in the morning definitely worked up her appetite, so we all sat down to enjoy bbq sandwiches for lunch!

After her race Anne helped water the beans the toddler classes have been tending to in their garden. In the beginning of spring we planted them along with some basil and Anne has enjoyed helping water them and watching them grow. When we came inside we thought it would be fun to paint with bugs since we saw a bunch crawling around outside! Anne picked a lady bug to paint with and we had fun talking about the colors she dipped the lady bug in. All of that hard work in the morning definitely worked up her appetite, so we all sat down to enjoy bbq sandwiches for lunch!

 

Anne loved being the center of attention while we sang “Happy Birthday” to her and enjoyed our afternoon snack. Happy second birthday, Anne!! Your teachers, Ms. Shanna and Ms. Maricela, love you very much and enjoy spending time with you and watching you grow and learn. You are a very creative and adventurous little lady and we are so blessed to have you in our class! You will do many great things in your life and we are happy we get to be a chapter on your adventure.

Anne loved being the center of attention while we sang “Happy Birthday” to her and enjoyed our afternoon snack. Happy second birthday, Anne!! Your teachers, Ms. Shanna and Ms. Maricela, love you very much and enjoy spending time with you and watching you grow and learn. You are a very creative and adventurous little lady and we are so blessed to have you in our class! You will do many great things in your life and we are happy we get to be a chapter on your adventure.

Um, amazing, right? Unbelievably, you let Dad pick you up and take you away from this incredible, loving place, at 4:45, as Ms. Maricela reads a book to your small group. He drives you home, and I come out to greet you in the car, where you want to stay and play for a while. You decide to call Granddad and Susu from the backseat, so they send you birthday wishes as you wave the phone around to show them various features of the car, mainly the ceiling.

You eat none of this.

You eat none of this.

We go inside and say hello to Gobka and Gamma, who have stayed with you all weekend and now join us for your birthday dinner. We set the table with scratch-made macaroni and cheese and carefully diced green beans, all of which you decline to eat. But you’re cheerful, and drink probably 12 ounces of milk while we chat. When you declare you’re all done, we persuade you to stay at the table for cake. “Cake, yeah!” you agree. I bring it out with a bright birthday candle, and help you blow it out.

You do eat the cake.

You do eat the cake.

Paul wakes up, and we give him a bottle while you finish your cake, then tromp outside for a family photo in the evening light. Then it’s back inside to open presents. Gamma and Gobka have thoughtfully wrapped theirs in an easy-to-open garbage bag. It’s a giant longhorn. You love it. We have gotten you a bright green scoot bike. You are skeptical.

I think you'll grow into it.

I think you’ll grow into it.

You read books with Gobka and look at pictures on Gamma’s phone. You bounce on the cow and pass out curly ribbons to everyone, but mostly to Paul. The two of you scamper and scoot around on the floor, chasing a balloon. You commandeer an umbrella and swan around the house, bumping into things and playing a clumsy peekaboo game. You adjourn for some private time behind the couch and announce that you’ve pooped. You request that Gamma change your diaper, and I make no argument.

feels like a party

feels like a party

We segue into a quick bath, which you scream through. We say goodbye to Gamma and Gobka as you dry off, and then we have a few quiet minutes with the four of us, reading and romping in your room, before it’s time for a last book (Sesame Street’s ABC Storytime—a favorite) and lullaby. I put Paul in his sleep sack while Dad helps you into yours, and we sing about all the family who will go to sleep.

Night night, birthday girl.

Aside

waking up

Annie is happy to see her dad and I in the morning, but REALLY happy to see Paul. We usually set him down in her crib or just outside, and they screech and smile at each other, and Annie hugs his neck and says adorable things like “Hey-o Missa Paul guh MORning!” It’s the best.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 months old.

At 12:15, you start crying. I hate to include this in your story since it is not at all representative of your nights these days, but facts are facts, the Trump administration notwithstanding. You cry for half an hour while I bury my head under a pillow and your dad watches you on the monitor, then go back to sleep.

At 5:15, you’re at it again, but wait—it’s actually 6:15 thanks to the time change. So I guess you can get up. Your dad picks you up, and you nurse for half an hour. When you’re full, you start making your new favorite noise at me, sort of a labored buzzing noise. You grin when I make it back. Pleasantries exchanged, you move onto romping.

You scuttle across the bed, and when that territory becomes too small, I lower you by the ankles onto the floor. You explore the room fully, including under the bed. When you tire of your solo adventures, I toss you into the air and we make noises at each other. I suspect your diaper is dirty and make the grave mistake of checking it with my finger. I change you. At 8, we head back into your room to say good morning to Annie, and snuggle you down for your first nap.

We see you again at 9:30. You drink a bottle of milk with Dad and then play with Annie.

We love watching you two play together, even though we have to constantly remind Annie not to step on you.

We love watching you two play together, even though we have to constantly remind Annie not to step on you.

Doug and Kalia arrive with Eleanor and Riley, who goes down for a nap while you play with the big kids. Kalia and Doug both spend some time holding you and marveling at how big and strong you are. You poop again. It’s Dad’s turn.

This picture sort of sums up our lives right now.

This picture sort of sums up our lives right now.

At 11:15, you’re down for another nap. (This is really a strange day for sleep—normally you do 3 regular naps, 8-10, 12-2, and 4-6. I’d blame the time change, but you shifted in the wrong direction.) At 1, you’re back up. You spend some time in Kalia’s lap while I grocery shop and Dad barbeques ribs. You play on the floor in the living room, and pass Annie again as she wakes up from her nap and you go down for your next one at 3. It’s a shorty: you only sleep till 4. We all load up and head to the playground.

Solid hat.

It’s an eclectic outfit, but I think it works.

Dad wears you around, and the two of you head home early to finish up dinner preparations. You poop a third time. In your highchair for dinner, you eat a whole mess of lima beans and suck on a cheese roll. We put you down for a catnap at 6 and wake you up a few minutes past 7. Dad feeds you a big bottle, and we take turns supervising as you rove around the house, sneeze, clutch the table edge to stand and step, spit up, and put everything you can find into your mouth. We finish the day with three rounds of the Curious George Pat-a-Cake book, and I lullaby you into bed. You grouse and howl off and on but finally fall asleep.

 

 

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 23 months old.

You wake up at 7:15, and the family parades into your room. You start telling us about your sleep sack (“seep sack! seep sack!”), which you have managed to remove in the night. I set Paul on the floor, and he grips the bars of your crib and smiles at you. You squeal with delight and hug his head through the bars. I lift you out of the crib, and you tear around the room, bring Paul assorted toys, and hide in the corner as Dad tries to coax you onto the changing table for a “fresh dopper, tiger dopper.” (Your diapers have tigers on them. Fitting.)

Out of patience, Dad hoists you onto the table and endures your screams as you get changed and dressed. Then it’s “Annie see Mommy?” for a farewell hug, and you’re headed downstairs for a “bah-in” (vitamin, but let’s be real—it’s chewy candy). You leave for school. Dad sings to entertain you in the car, and you say, “Dad STAW-AWP.” When you get to school, “Yay school!”

Ms. Shanna and your classmate Byron are taking down the Egypt decorations from yesterday’s multicultural festival, an elaborate production that we heartlessly skipped. You pitch in and then eat breakfast. The sand on the playground is wet today, and you reportedly get filthy. Back inside for lunch, you relish your mac and cheese and smear it all over your face. You get mopped up and zonk out at nap time once your head hits the pillow.

Ms. Maricela and the book she read to you today

Ms. Maricela, source of my intel about your day, with the book she read to you

After nap, you’re back on the playground. At 4, it’s circle time again, and Ms. Maricela introduces the class to a new book about pirates. You pay attention and chant at all the right parts.

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I see you again at 5. You’re squatting on the floor and putting big plastic coins in a piggy bank, a task so absorbing you barely register my presence, and when you do, instruct me to insert a coin. Coins banked, we head out. Due to a horrific backup in my parking garage, I have walked over to pick you up, so we’ve got a 20-minute journey to the car, at Annie pace. “Ah have Mom purse-y. Ah helping Mom.”—you insist on wearing my backpack, which in no way fits you and is too heavy in any case, so I hold it up behind your back as you walk along. It makes a pretty decent leash, too, as we cross campus.

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We stop on the bridge to check out Waller Creek. “Wadder!” Yes, water.

You say hi to some undergrads and stop to admire the creek and the students playing frisbee. You tackle a tall flight of stairs all by yourself, and we hold hands as we approach the garage. Safely stowed in the car, we begin the second leg of our journey home. I let you keep my bag, and you amuse yourself unzipping pockets, pulling out the contents, and muttering to yourself.

At home, you start to fray as Dad cooks kale and I run to the store for some missing dinner ingredients. You ask for things you already have and come unglued when not immediately presented with more.

You enjoy 8 crackers and a quarter-cup of hummus for dinner. When Paul makes his appearance, you share. We call Granddad and Susu, and you try to hand them crackers through the phone. You get a huge kick out of talking to the t-rex. You offer him a cracker.

After dinner, you make a lap around the living room and then join the family parade up to your room for a bath. We’ve taken to cajoling you into the tub by asking you to help wash Paul. You are not thrilled to find yourself in the tub, but Dad gives you an efficient scrub, and you cheer up when you’re put to work sponging Paul’s head. You move onto playing with a plastic bowl and end up having such a good time you stay until the water is gone. You insist on the tiny baby bunny towel to dry off. I get you into a fresh diaper, and we say goodnight to Dad and Paul.

We play peekaboo in your tent-house. You get dressed. We let you pick pretty much any clothes you want to sleep in, partly to keep you happy and partly for our own amusement. Tonight it’s a dress with black polka dots paired with pink flower pants. You select six finalists for a bedtime story, and once in my lap identify the winner: Pete the Cat. We read it. I pick you up and start the lullaby. You instruct me to put on your sleep sack. I do. “Bye, Mom,” you say from your crib, looking up at me with a smile. “Bye, Annie.”