a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 1 month old.

You start the day as usual: with pancakes and Wings of Fire. At 7, we hustle you gently to get ready to walk out the door, and you get your shoes on while I refill your water bottle. We walk to school together, noticing the shortening days. The sun isn’t quite up yet, but the clouds are pink. It’s still hot, but not miserable. The weather is finally changing.

You administer hugs all around at the bridge, and bounce on ahead to enter on your own. As far as we know it’s a good day. You have PE and rack up 10K steps. Your teacher Ms. Pleasants gives you two “on task” points, and I hear no horror stories. You’ve been rowdy in class lately, most recently playing tag with friend Jaden during lessons. Not cool. You’re working on it.

Dad picks you up at the end of the day, and you walk home in the 90-degree temperatures we’re grateful for. Per our new schedule, on Tuesdays you and I hang out. I take you to Cidercade for an hour of skee ball and some sort of  2-player fighter pilot game. You’re basically in heaven.

PXL_20230912_205627513.MP PXL_20230912_214806358.MP PXL_20230912_220053456.MP

Back home, Dad has cooked dinner, and we eat together. Afterward, you and Annie play with silly string in the side yard and clean up all the pieces. You take a bath, which I terminate after you slosh an inordinate quantity of water out of the tub. You and Dad read a book about Zelda lore. I read the first chapter of Winnie the Pooh aloud to both of you, and then a Tinkerbell story (“The Fairy Berry Bake-Off”) at your request. We say goodnight at 7:35. You snuggle up with your lovies and head towards sleep.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 8 years and 5 months old.

Riley slept over last night. At 5:58, someone sneezes, and you’re all up. You seek refuge from the boys in the living room with me, and accept my invitation to read with me in the big chair. You’ve brought the 8th book in the Wings of Fire series. I think it’s the first chapter book you have read voluntarily and with pleasure. Even the escapades of Peril the SkyWing can’t conquer the wiggles, though, and you slide yourself off the chair in several creative ways before requesting pancakes for breakfast.

You dip in and out of the boys’ play, joining their soccer match but resigning over disagreements with the ref (Paul). He widened the goal posts due to your impenetrable goalkeeping. Tears followed on all sides.

Finding an old kit from the hardware store, you propose a project to me: building a birdhouse. Sounds fun! We make it on the porch—you do almost all the work.


I leave for the grocery store while you embark on a next project involving the big truck and a crew of lovies. When I return, you’ve mounted your birdhouse on the balcony. We hang out there for a while, drinking cans of sparkling water and waiting for a bird to move in.


Doug arrives for Riley, but we chat for too long, and they find a really effective hiding place. We adults are about to venture outside, our voices getting increasingly loud and stern. You diffuse the situation by locating the boys using your kid brain. They’ve filed themselves on the shelves of the guest room closet and are ENORMOUSLY proud of fooling us. Doug and Riley depart.

You settle in happily with your Harry Potter audio book (back to #2 I believe), in a little fort made of the piano bench + your lovey truck. It’s a pretty chill afternoon. You’re happy to putter around, reading, listening, engaging in small projects. You plan a class schedule for us on the big chalkboard, requesting sign-ups for various subjects and informing us of their timing.


I brush your hair and inspect it for lice—a letter has gone home from your class, so we are deeply paranoid. Happily, you’re free and clear. We eat nachos for dinner. I’ve attempted to melt the cheese into an approximation of the ballpark-style velveeta you love at school. It’s a goopy mess, but you appreciate my effort. You take a shower and request I take a picture to document your outstanding shampooing.

lice free!
lice free!
and clean
and clean!

All in all, a great day with you, baby.

a day in your life

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

OMG, it is FINALLY here. Your birthday. The greatest day ever anticipated. You’re up at 5:30, not wanting to miss a moment.

Dad runs to HEB to provide you the breakfast of your dreams (bacon is involved). You sit in my lap and think out loud about the amazing day in store while Annie processes her “someone else’s birthday” ennui. At 8:30, Granddad and Susu come over for a first round of present opening. It’s a giant sword from them and a remote-controlled car from Gobka and Gamma. Very on point. Annie has also channeled her angst into crafting and wrapped you a beautiful gift of candy and art.


You barely have time to sword fight before it’s time for the main event, your trampoline party! This one deserves a few pictures:

Annie vs Paul
Annie vs Paul
Paul (determined) and BF Jaden (in flight)
Paul (determined) and BF Jaden (in flight)
the head table prepares for pie
the head table prepares for pie (left to right: Jaden, Wyatt, you, Shae, Lino and Pio)

It’s fun to watch you lead a pack of 8 little boys on a rampage. In your generosity, you have allowed invitations also for Annie’s BF Alex, dear family friends Eleanor and Riley, and two girls from school (Vera and Maya), so everyone has someone to play with. Aunt Camei is there; even your first-grade teacher comes.

At 1, just slightly past our time limit, we head home. We have waited to open the gifts from your friends—so now the bonanza begins. You tear into all of them, netting more cars, books, a laser tag set, a Bop It (surprise hit), more weaponry, and a bunch of other stuff.

And then it’s over. There’s nothing left to look forward to, maybe not ever, for the whole rest of your life. OH, the highs are high and the lows are low. “Sometimes,” you reflect, “the stuff that I wanted, when I get it, it’s not that cool.” Truth, my son. The lesson you want to draw is that you need to think harder about what it is you ask for, and maybe get some different stuff. I try to lay some Buddhist wisdom on you about desire and suffering, but you are not having it.

Your spirits lift a bit playing with Dad. At 4:30, you note you are actually really 7 now. We consult your birth certificate to confirm (yes, 4:31). Granddad and Susu join us for another slice of Susu’s lemon pie. They work on assembling Granddad’s new bike while you, Dad, and Annie turn the bike box into a pretty sweet convertible.



Bedtime comes fast and is a blur. We are all so tired. Let’s assume we read a book, and fall asleep gratefully.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 8 years and 4 months old.

It is Thursday, your fourth day this week of no school, no camp, just you at home, making your own day. We dabbled in this earlier in the summer, and you did great, so here we are making a week of it. You’re still doing great. Last time I signed you up for some online classes, and I’d planned to get you back into the one you most enjoyed…but I didn’t. “When is my one and only camp?” you ask me this morning. Oops. Is it okay that I forgot to sign you up? “Oh yeah.”

Unusually, Paul is home too today, skipping half-day soccer camp because his friend Jaden won’t be there. You take him under your wing and play at home all morning while Dad and I work. I think you’re at Hogwarts for a time? There are also cars. Anyway, all going well.

Babysitter Jade comes at noon, to be a playmate/gentle supervisor. I come down in the early afternoon and find you all sitting around the breakfast nook, reading quietly to yourselves. It’s the Wings of Fire graphic novels for you, still going strong after six weeks. I think you like to read things until you have them memorized. Your reading skills have leveled up quite a bit.

The only outdoor activity that makes any sense in the 105-degree heat is swimming. The three of you decide to ride your bikes to Big Stacy pool. It’s a quick trip—you have to get to the orthodontist. (All of this sounds very big-kid to me as I type it.) Dad takes you and will later declare you “a trooper.” You have impressions made for a more serious thumb-sucking deterrent. (Okay, still some little kid in there.) It’s uncomfortable, but you cooperate with everything and leave with new colored bands on your ever-straighter teeth.

Jade stays with you through the evening, playing, chatting, and reading, while we go out for dinner. That’s it, kiddo! Another day down.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 11 months old.

You wake up in a tent, after your very first summer camp overnight, at Bob’s Adventure Camp in Marin Beach, CA. You were very excited about this. You report waking up at 5:45, but everyone has to wait to leave the tents until the counselors are up.

Breakfast is hot chocolate and pancakes (two GIANT blueberry pancakes, in your case). You’ve identified a new best friend named Griffin, and presumably rampaged around the camp, playing sports and games and wading in the creek and raising almost-7-year-old hell. You also helped Bob put away the tents, you are proud to report.

weaving on looms
weaving on looms
living your best life
living your best life

I pick you up at 4. “We get to take home GRAPES!” you brag, as Bob distributes the leftover food to interested families. You and Annie march straight to the car and buckle in. You are filthy and tired and quite happy. During our 20 minute drive back up the coast, you tell me all about the night: how you cooked chicken legs and hot dogs for dinner, and they smelled so good that two off-leash dogs came by and scared the kids. How the older-kid tents stayed up until 10 to see the stars, and how it was cold in the morning but you were fine.

You decline a trip to the beach in favor of playing a little Zelda with Dad. In a lovely surprise, you also get to talk on the phone to your friend Jaden from home. You mainly compare notes on Disneyland, and figure out how to not interrupt each other on a voice-only call. It’s a skill!



I make tortellini for dinner—you eat a lot—and then we soak the mud streaks off you in a long steamy shower. When you and Annie start wrestling, we declare it’s bedtime. Dad reads you Jurrasic Jeff and sits in watch until you go to sleep.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is what you did the day you turned 8 years and 3 months old.

We wake up in a vacation house in Stinson Beach, California. It’s our first morning here. You and Paul join me on the balcony off our bedroom, snuggling in dew-wet adirondack chairs to watch the sky lighten over the ocean. Before long you’ve dragged your duvets out. Somewhere in the neighborhood, a rooster is crowing.


We head down for breakfast bowls of cereal. Shame on me, I let you have a little chocolate because we forgot dessert last night, and pack another square into your lunches. I’m always a pushover on the first day of a new camp. Dad gets back from a run and helps pack your bags. He drives you 20 minutes down Hwy 1 for Bob’s Adventure Camp.

Bob’s Adventure Camp is as wonderful as it is unlicensed. Bob, 75, storied citizen of Mill Valley, has been running this camp for 2 weeks every summer since time immemorial. Advertising is by word of mouth, the treasured opportunity passed from family to family. We heard about it from my friend Heather, who heard about it from a neighbor. Her kids, including 8-year-old Amalia, went last year. Amalia is here again. We signed you up by mailing Bob a 1-page form and a check. (You’ll appreciate how unusual this is when you’re enrolling your own kids in camp.)

Dad pulls in at the Muir Beach Community Services District’s BBQ area, tucked into a nook between mountains and signed with a blue stripe and a kite tacked on the nearest telephone poll. As they approach, Bob greets each camper by name, deducing who they are and putting them at ease. He gives you and Paul something special for coming all the way from Texas. “What is it?” I ask later. “Kind words.” Dad declares Bob a cool person and leaves you in the care of a handful of teenage counselors.

You have the best day ever. I hear about it in the car on the ride home. The morning is different kids of competitions (unspecified). Later, you tie-dye a shirt, a mask, and a piece of cloth. “That’s for you, Mom. For projects.” You play in the creek a lot. You paint your fingernails. You make a journal. You and Amalia renew the friendship you’re pretty sure you’ve always had. At the end of the day, you and your fellow campers break the 17-year speed record for cleaning up the site, and receive two jolly ranchers in acknowledgement. You are pumped to go back tomorrow.

doing your part in the marble races
doing your part in the marble races
painting rocks with Amalia
painting rocks with Amalia
playing in the creek
playing in the creek

(Bob also takes great photos.)

Back home, you call your friend Alex, taking my phone outside for privacy. “First of all, we’re on the move again!” you report as you head up the stairs. (I will leave the rest of your discussion to your own recollection.) When you finish, you return my phone and take your tablet to the balcony to listen to Harry Potter and, perhaps, appreciate the view.



We go out for dinner down in the small town, a few minutes drive down the hill. You select a cheese pizza off the kids menu and play a game of jumbo jenga with me while it cooks. By the time it arrives, it’s our turn for the giant chess set. You and Paul play each other with slices of pizza in your hands. (Fresh off of chess camp and officially MUCH better than I am at the game, Paul advises you on all your moves.) Dad calls an end to the game so the next family can play, and we drive back up the hill.

A lemon popsicle is your dessert selection; you eat it on the balcony again. “You should have a pop, Mom—they’re real good.” We lurch toward bedtime, getting teeth moderately brushed and applying aloe to Paul’s red arms. “I learned that lesson the hard way a few weeks ago,” you share, intending comfort. “The top layer of my skin died.”

I read a book outloud, and then you read yours, a Terry Pratchett offering from George that you seem to be enjoying. Paul curls up in the bottom half of your bed, and we send him out again on the third talking infraction, at 8:45. Bedtime has slipped badly on this grand tour. As the windows finally darken, you go to sleep.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 10 months old.

I meet you on the kitchen floor; you’re contemplating breakfast choices and hugging my legs. “Mommy is the best mommy,” you say in your niblet voice, caressing my calf stubble. I fast-forward you in my imagination so often to 11 or 12; I’m delighted to find you actually still so small.


After some mango and miniwaffles, it’s off to work. You and Annie have recently acquired two basic laptops, bedecked them with stickers, and learned how to use the printer. This is partially terrifying. You are, however, creating pretty delightful multimedia story collections, such as the epic battle of apple vs. grape. You ask Dad and I comprehension questions and allow us to hone our prediction skills with inquires about the probability each combatant will win.


(My money's on Graps---he looks meaner.)
(My money’s on Graps—he looks meaner.)

At 8:30, we load up and drive to the Scottish Rite Theater for this week’s camp, “Puppets Up!” I get you signed in, and an enthusiastic, 25-yo theater kid cheerleads you back to the group. I don’t hear much about your day, but Shae is there, so I assume there’s some jocular misbehavior along with the arts and crafts. I know what you had for lunch since I packed it: two bean and cheese tacos, frozen corn, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, and 4 tic tacs. I pick you up.

Back home, you’re onto screen number 2, logging your 30 minutes with math game Prodigy, where you achieve your LONG-HELD ASPIRATION of level 99. The word problems you’re doing on your own are at the top end of grade level 2. You’d care about this if we told you, but for now you’re just thrilled to “one shot” defeat your cartoon opponents.

We bought you a cap yesterday and it may be your new look.
We bought you a cap yesterday and it may be your new look.

Friends Elke and Olaf arrive with their mom Ingrid. Olaf is a couple years older, but he’s brought a complicated board game, so you’re clearly going to hit it off. You beg the girls to play with you and harrass them when they don’t. Resigned to fate, the adults make their way to the dining room table and digest the lengthy and specific rules. We play a few rounds, Dad’s advice on refrain: “don’t get too hung up on making all the right choices—we just need to play a bunch of rounds and make mistakes and learn.”


Eventually we eat dinner. You and Olaf take yours at the breakfast table. Game forgotten, you move on after the meal to chasing each other and the girls around the backyard, trying to put handfuls of ice down each others’ pants. Good clean summer fun.

At 7:45 we say goodbye to our friends, do a quick handwash and tooth brush, and you read me a couple letters from The Day the Crayons Quit. Then it’s time for Annie’s choice, a few pages from The Saga of Erik the Viking. Erik outsmarts a troll magician and teaches Thangbrand a lesson in leadership. You adjourn for just one more glass of water. Aware of a thunderstorm in the far distance, you move your lovies to Annie’s bed and hunker down for the night.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 8 years and 2 months old.

At 4am, the thunderstorm starts. I hear it loud and clear through my earplugs, so we’re braced for your visit at any point. You don’t come upstairs for comfort, though. You and Paul instead build a little bunker on the floor, with your hand-me-down nap mats and the dresser drawers pulled out over you to make a roof. You weather the weather here and fall back asleep at maybe 6. We don’t see you until you finally wake up for good at 8:15. Only then do you come upstairs and find me drinking coffee and reading the paper, just like I remember finding my parents. Also like child-me, you climb on in with me and do your own reading: Ramona Quimby, Age 8, which we’ve checked out from the library and downloaded to my kindle. Recent visits by Reading Specialist Amy + the example of your older friend Sage have propelled you into a new phase of reading, and you’re chugging through chapter books now. It’s fun to see.

We’re puttering around deciding what to do next when we encounter the boys, preparing for an ambitious bike ride. Do you want to go? Sure! So we’re in too, and all four of us get sunscreened and helmeted for adventure.


Dad, well past caring what anyone thinks, has the genius idea to blast the Matilda the Musical soundtrack from a speaker on his bike, which tethers you and Paul close to him. We cruise through the first couple miles through the busiest part of the trail and break for a snack at Lou Neff Point.


We continue, Matilda giving way to Annie and other musical classics. You perservere through numb hands and a blister and hill after hill.


The boys peel off for a trip to the donut shop, and you and I head home. We walk in and soak up the AC; the boys show up and distribute breakfast treats. Ready for some sedentary activity, you boot up Minecraft on your new Chromebook and play for, oops, maybe two hours, with the soothing hum of a Harry Potter audiobook in your ear.

Time for more sunscreen and exercise! Dad loads you up for a trip to Mabel Davis, one of our favorite public pools. An ice-cream-truck popsicle fuels you through games of Sharks and Minnows and Marco Polo. Dad estimates he chases you around the fountain 75 times. Everyone has a blast. At four you come home and snuggle on the couch for The Peanuts Movie and popcorn. It’s a big hit.


We eat a quick dinner and get ready for bed. You want to read the book tonight and pick The Day the Crayons Quit, an old favorite. You read with emotion, channeling the ennui of beige crayon just right.

You don't read this page, but when I ask to take a photo, you select it to pose with. Green is a favorite color.
You don’t read this page, but when I ask to take a photo, you select it to pose with. Green is a favorite color.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 9 months old.

At 6:30, you join me in the living-room leather chair, dressed and ready for the morning. A glimpse of my computer screen as I close it makes you hungry to browse for toys, $14 in allowance money burning a hole in your pocket. I let you log in. You type “kid toys” into the search window, and then filter for “car,” “white,” and “Target.” Google shopping has clearly conducted user testing with 6-year-olds.

No purchases made, you move onto breakfast of mini-waffles, and then pack a lunch: blueberries, a strawberry jelly sandwich, half a lemon. Done. You attempt to sign-spell a word to me in the stairwell; it’s incomprehensible. “I’ll give you a hint: it’s similar to our relationship.” The answer: snuggles. We have a few and then head out the door.

You're briefly a niblet and leave the house on all fours.
You’re briefly a niblet and leave the house on all fours.

On the way to school we construct persuasive arguments about whether it’s better to live close to the school or close to the playground. No consensus. I charge you up with snuggles at the bridge, and you trot on ahead into school.

Dad and I pick you up together. You burst out of the gym and show us how you can jump off a high sidewalk ledge. When you see your BF’s mom coming, you insist on waiting for Jaden, for one last burst of friend frenzy. Annie and I pull ahead, and you walk home with Dad.

It’s rainy and no one’s at the park, so we do a movie night double feature, with the Muppet Movie (my choice) and Matilda the Musical (yours). You opt for some time in Dreambox, a math app from school, but the movie tractor beam eventually draws you in. When it ends, Dad carries you like a sack of potatoes to the bath.



Warm and clean, you request my least-favorite bedtime book of all time, a graphic novel based in Minecraft world, filled with nothing but battles to the death. “I like action,” you explain to me. Gar.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 8 years and 1 month old.

"Mom, this is just the right amount of orange juice for two little cups."
“Mom, this is just the right amount of orange juice for two little cups.”

You start the morning at the breakfast table, eating cereal and reading DogMan. All is going smoothly, so Dad treats you both to a little Mario on the couch. At 7:10 you lace up your shoes, and we head out on our walk. It’s wet from rain last night, and we pass a few squashed frogs on the road. “Ew.”

You tell me that you know how to make a glue out of primroses (“the ones you call buttercups, Mom”), and make plans to come back to the mulberry tree for a big afternoon harvest. As we approach school, you tell me about your dreams, and we speculate about how maybe, in a few years, there will be a way to tell what people are dreaming when they’re asleep, and how much time is passing in waking life. You give Dad and I a hug, and head into the school.


On the way home from school, you sneak your hand into mine and I wonder how much longer you will do this. You and Paul engage in a lengthy debate about the circumstances under which a classmate of yours is nice. Verdict: only to his boy friends. Then you reflect on your own friends. So many of them are bullies, you fear, like Cruz, who used to be your friend, and like Jade. “I felt like I was her servant.” With Lily and Nikki, you feel nervous that they will stop liking you. You are concerned that you make Alex feel the same way. I feel that words of wisdom are called for, but have none handy, so respond with understanding but no advice. Does this help? I hope so.

At home, you present me with your tablet; I enter the code so you can play Minecraft and listen to Harry Potter. At 4:30 I finish work and pry you away. You and Paul dig a hole for Vinci the guppy, who died 10 days ago and has been chilling in the fridge in a paper clip box, waiting for his funeral service. We’re tamping down the soil as babysitter Jade arrives. She hangs out with you in the backyard, and you play 10 minutes of tennis on the courts, for Paul’s sake. You gather some rocks and paint them for your friends, then enjoy a dinner of mac and cheese. Jade reads to you a bit and says goodnight.

I peek in on you at 8:45. You and Paul are both in your bed, all your stuffed animals massed around you, dividing the space into a little pod for each of you. You look happy and in your element.