a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 9 months old.

I climb up into Annie’s bed at 6:40, where the two of you are just waking up. It was a late and active night last night with your new babysitter, 14-year-old Jade. I rub your feet and hear a little bit about it. You consent to pancakes for breakfast and climb down. We make it out the door without too much fuss. It’s ‘bring a toy to school day’ for 1st grade, so of course you bring one, too—the new panda pillow thingy you bought with your allowance. We grab a mulberry on the way and make decent time.

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School is school. Mrs. Dunbar is all over the points today, and awards you some for being responsible, on task, listening, using Spanish, and being SO HELPFUL (literally with the all caps). Your most frequent deductions, for the record, are “Too loud” and “Line trouble.” I don’t personally love the point system, but Mrs. Dunbar seems to, and so do you.

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I see you again at about 5:15, as Creative Action is winding down and I retrieve you from Mr. Dustin’s classroom. We’re finally able to enter the room at pick-up after a year of masks and distance. It feels remarkable just to walk inside.

I brought the car to expedite our trip home. Aunt Camei and friend Sam are over for dinner, and Dad’s wrestling with a chicken. I consent in the car to an episode of Monster School, so you and Annie start there, squashed together in Dad’s desk chair for 10 minutes, and then you emerge and begin to graze on fruit until dinner is ready.

You find paper I don’t need on the printer and threaten to rip it. I tell you you can because I don’t need it. Predictably, you tear it in half, drop it on the ground, and walk away. I pursue you, to discuss the necessity of putting it in the recycling bin. You do not want to hear this and go through all the stages of grief. Denial: Not my paper, you pick up the paper. Anger: NO, I WON’T DO IT. Bargaining: Okay, I’ll pick up half if you pick up half. Depression: (fingers in your ears) Don’t say anything, I don’t want to hear it. Acceptance (sort of): Fine, I’ll pick up the paper, but I’m never snuggling you again.

You do in fact pick up the paper, and relent on the snuggling, too, except for one toe, but you tell me it fell off and you grew a new one that’s cool with snuggles. Phew.

It’s time for dinner. At Annie’s suggestion, we play the animal guessing game. You start. It’s a panda. Dad, Sam, and I take turns. You ask great questions, like “does it walk on four legs?” and “does it like hot weather?” We play 7 or 8 rounds—a flamingo, a hippo, a house cat, a hedgehog. Good times.

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I fill up the bathtub, and you and Annie climb in. Cam and Sam call out their goodbyes, and you lead Annie through a game of Holly Shiftwell and an omnipotent orange cup, weaving through the Arctic snowdrifts. Clean and dry, you pick a book about gemstones to read, and I climb into Annie’s bed with you to get started. I read a couple pages about why gemstones have different colors, and the mythical properties of jade, beryl, and topaz. Amethyst was used as a charm for sleeping, so I retrieve my moon-shaped amethyst necklast and leave it with you and Annie as a sleeping charm as I say goodnight. An hour later, you holler MOM-MY! and prove its futility.

a day in your life

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

You sit down at the breakfast table right on time and chat with us while Dad makes the standard morning pancakes. I cross my fingers in the sign language you invented to inquire whether you would like two ponytails this morning, and you affirm that selection. I gently extract yesterday’s rubberbands, comb out the snarls, and re-tail your hair.

It’s the home stretch of the school year, and you have a daily calendar of special events. Today you are to wear pajamas and bring a favorite book. I make sure you’ve got shorts and a tank on underneath your long-sleeve flannel—it’s going to be in the 90s again.

We walk to school. You and Paul lag behind, heads together in your own world, talking about insects and plants. We find an owl feather as we approach the school. You notice that no one else walking up is wearing pajamas and do some positive self-talk. “Be brave, Annie. This IS pajama day.”

You disappear into the cafeteria as the bell rings, and go on to your day. It IS pajama day, it turns out, and thank goodness, because it means we get a cute class photo from Mrs. Nuncio.

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You all read some of your favorite books to the class. You report you read a full chapter of the 6th-grade-reading-level book Framed. “Are you SUPER impressed, Mom?” Mmm…hmm.

On the way home, you walk with Dad and listen with interest as he tells you about colorblindness, and rods and cones. You catch up with Paul and I as we scavenge mulberries. You both collect as many as you can hold to make potions or paint back at home, and happily engage in mess-making while we pull together dinner.

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We eat a simple dinner, and you politely request 10 minutes of Monster School, an extremely stupid youtube video with Minecraft characters. Blech. Sure, 10 minutes, but clean up your paint potions first. You do.

Bathtime is bubbly, and you and Paul pretend there are sharks and orcas and build Arctic mountains, an ongoing game. Out and dry, you climb up to bed and put on clothes for tomorrow. Dad reads you Fox in Socks—still great—and we say goodnight. Goodnight!

a day in your life

You wake up at 5:30, afraid you’ve overslept and missed the green light. Still got an hour, Dad informs you. When he sees you again, you’re splayed on the ground on your squishmallow and announcing you might vomit. He feels your forehead and decides it merits a thermometer. You clock in at 102.3. So much for school! I head there with a deeply cranky Annie while you snuggle up with Dad and your Minecraft Master Builder book for the better part of an hour, learning how to make roller coasters and laying plans.

The grocery store seems like a good idea, and the car is charging at the old house, so you and Dad walk there, and you reenter for the first time. It’s been a month exactly since we moved. “I have so many memories in this house,” you say. Working it out: “No one lives here now. We live here now. No one lives here now.”

You decide on a little weeding, which excites you until you rediscover some toys in the shed. So Dad weeds. Then it’s off to the grocery store; you snag some mangos, a baguette, salmon, and breakfast kolaches. Back home, it’s time to build those roller coasters. Dad passes me the kid baton, and you give me a demonstration and then embark on a long journey through your realm while I interview someone for a job. It ends in sadness, unfortunately, as get so far from your home you can’t find it again. I set you up in our bed, and you move onto Odd Squad.

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When you burn out on screens, we pursue other projects. You scratch 100% of the black off some rainbow scratch paper while I discuss the PMBOK with some of my staff. Your fever is basically gone, and I’m done with mandatory meetings. What else can we get up to? You wrap little gifts for your best school friends, River and Emmanuel, and also one for Willa, who turns 6 on Friday. And also two for you, because by golly Annie just had a birthday and isn’t it your turn already? We put yours on the high shelf to save for August.

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We explore the backyard a bit and harvest a bamboo shoot that’s rocketing from from the ground. You peel it to feed your panda collection. We all walk to school to liberate Annie early, and you entertain Dad and I with nonsense trivia, delivered with total confidence. “3-D shapes have six dimensions. Earthquakes are the reason for tar. 100 times 100 is 10 billion.”

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You’re flagging by the time we get home, in the 90-degree heat and sun, but perk up for more Minecraft once Annie finishes her homework. She enters your shared world, and you two spend 45 minutes searching for each other, lighting beacons and setting up trails of beds to try to find each other. It doesn’t work. Dad resets the world so you can start again together. You almost immediately fly away from your island. Annie kicks you.

Dinner time! You eat the strawberries off your plate and ask to be excused to start your bath. Sure. After a soak, you get dressed, and we snuggle on the couch and chat for half an hour. It’s awfully nice. “How do you feel?” I ask. “Awesome,” you say.

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It’s just 6:45, but you’re rubbing your eyes, so I suggest we sneak off to your room and read books. I read a couple short ones at your request, and a story at Annie’s, and at 7:05 I’m backing out of the room. You sleep well.

a day in your life

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

You wake up in heaven, i.e. on the sunny side of a sleepover with Eleanor, Riley, and Paul. You get straight to playing, and come down about an hour later for breakfast. We see you at 8:30, and load you up immediately for our first birthday event. Per your request, it is at the Wildflower Center with your sleepover buddies, best friend Jade, and Silas and Sage. The morning is beautiful. You all play together, more or less, and enjoy chocolate chip cookies and crystal light lemonade.

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We boogie back home for lunch and then turn right around for our next adventure: The Lion King at Bass Concert Hall. I got us great tickets in a low-covid buying spree back in the fall, hoping you’d be grown-up enough to enjoy it for your birthday. You are! You find the puppets entrancing. (Paul keeps asking, “is this really happening?” and you answer, “yes, Paul!”)

Listening to a birthday message from Lisa, Eric, Miles, and Lyla. They're singing to you.
Listening to a birthday message from Lisa, Eric, Miles, and Lyla. They’re singing to you.

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Three hours later, we head home. Gamma slipped your birthday gift to us during our trip to Kerrville, so we video-call them and you open it. It’s a science experiment kit—perfect. We set up in the lab and make emulsions with oil, water, and a series of other ingredients. You carefully log procedures and findings in your lab book.

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Dinner is again your selection: mac and cheese, raspberries, cucumber slices. You’ve decided you don’t like cake, so Dad got you an ice cream cake instead, and you administer your own candles. We sing. You try not to smile. You blow out your candles. “I made a wish,” you declare, “I wished for my family to be happy.” You like knowing the right answers.

We wrap things up with a bath and a story from a book you got today: 5-minute Stories for Fearless Girls. Right up your alley, big kid.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 7 months old.

You get right up and at ’em, bustling into our bedroom and requesting jewelry for a treasure box/dragon’s hoard you’re working on. “I don’t like Minecraft anymore,” you announce. “Actually, I want to play Minecraft right now.” Okay, buddy. Breakfast first. Chocolate pancakes? Sure.

Once you’re fed and watered, we go ahead and authorize Minecraft so we can concentrate on packing for stage 1 of our house move. You start world-building on the couch. “Oh hi, Granddad,” when he arrives, “Want to watch?”

at work on your treasure chest/breakfast
at work on your treasure chest
at work on your lava house
at work on your lava house

I take you and Annie to gymnastics, and you get some wiggles out, tipping over and hamming it up during the stretches. I watch you walk the high beam three times in a row.

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We drive through El Tacorrido for tacos (bean and cheese for you, naturally), and head to the new house. The grown-ups pack and carry and unpack while you eat and play on your tablet until its battery runs out.

Ready to play in the real world, you and Annie set up a store in your room and sell toys for two-finity kajillion dollars. Mardi Gras coins accepted. Your own customers satisfied, you volunteer for a Costco trip with Dad to stock our fridge with the essentials (i.e. ALL the berries). Dad calls halfway through the trip to discuss a special present he’s considering, and we agree it’s appropriate for our first night in the new house: giant Squishmallows. You select a dog, whose given name Gris you pronounce in Spanish and then replace with “Paul,” and later “Gruff.” He is enormous.

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Back dare-I-say home, you unload, eat half a dozen oranges and animal crackers, and snuggle into your Squishmallows to watch some Odd Squad while the moving continues around you. You take a brief break for dinner (mac and cheese) and wrap up the day with more Minecraft.

It’s bedtime, and we’re sleeping in the new house for the first time. Dad and Granddad have brought over the mattresses from your beds, and Annie has made them up nicely with all the right blankets and lovies. I lie down on the twin mattress that came with the house and read you The Jungle Book and Gertrude McFuzz, and Dad tags in for more Dr. Seuss. “Oh my goodness!” you exclaim at the picture of Gertrude’s tail feathers.

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Annie arranges fairy lights “like stars” and we turn the room lights all the way off. You pop out for a quick potty visit, but all is quiet by 8. Did we just move? Yes we did.

a day in your life

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

You wake me up today, strolling in at 6:45 to find me bleary-eyed in bed. You keep me gentle company through my first half-cup of coffee, and we go downstairs as the pancakes are coming out of the pan. I brush and braid your hair while you eat. You put on your socks and read the morning announcements, imitating school:

“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, one nation, under god…I pledge allegiance, to the Texas flag… For lunch today, there will be bean and cheese tacos, and fresh apple slices. Remember to be safe, kind, and respectful.”

One second later, you step on a garter snake. Everyone is fine.
One second later, you step on a garter snake. Everyone is fine.

We walk to school, talking about the value of coins, and which presidents are on which bills, and what they did, and why is it all boys again?? Dad walks you and Paul to the door. The district made masks optional this week: you’re still sporting your N95 while Paul is happily coughing unimpeded on his classmates.

The main learning activity today is GROUP PROJECTS, creating habitat dioramas. You are working with Asma and Roalbert (my favorite name in your class), building a pond in a shoebox. Your work is not living up to your standards, but you seem to be rolling with it. Each group member has an animal for the habitat: yours is a snapping turtle. You also visit the library, one of your favorite places, and go to music class, where you’re singing about kindness.

In Creative Action, everyone works together to paint a paper mache dragonfly. You tell me later that getting paint on your shirt is the worst part of your day (your “thorn”). I pick you up a bit late, at 5:20, and we drive home to get to our Chinese take-out dinner while it’s hot.

You assign yourself one chunk of rice per math problem completed.
You assign yourself one chunk of rice per math problem completed.

You’re in good spirits through dinner, disemboweling dumplings and refilling their skins with rice. Your auspicious fortune reads, “A happy event will take place in your home.” Never bad news! We work our way through a little homework, and then you announce a Dance Off upstairs, and run off to set the stage.

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There’s not much dancing at the Dance Off, but the instrumentals and the puppet show are fabulous. Paul loses interest and goes to play a mountain biking video game. You invite me to the stage for some yoga moves, and sing me a lullaby. We call Susu to find out the name of an app with peaceful noises. Dad tags in for some shadow puppetry and reads you The Berenstain Bears: The Messy Room.

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You get your teeth brushed and some clothes changed, but aren’t quite ready to climb into bed. You try Paul’s instead. The price of admission is to write a fact on his chalkboard. You write, “I love you, Paul.” He disputes whether this is a fact, and you engage in debate. Finally he issues you a ticket, and I say goodnight as you climb aboard.

Ten minutes later, you’re back in your own bed, calling each other names—in other words, ready to sleep. Goodnight for real!

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 and a half years old.

We stagger into your half-birthday Saturday after a rough night with a stomach bug. You started puking up blueberries at 9pm, and had bouts until 2:30, when you said in your sweet exhausted voice, “The good thing is: my covid test was negative.” A comfort to us all. At 7:30, you begin to stir in your sleeping bag on top of Annie’s bare mattress, and start the day with a soapy bath and a carton of chocolate milk.

Us, two hours before you start vomiting. Let's just say I'm staying hydrated in preparation...
Us, two hours before you start vomiting. Cool cool cool.

We continue our campaign to swab everything with bleach wipes, and Dad mixes up cupcakes under your supervision. Annie declares her intention to give you a present for your half-birthday, and she and I pick through the bags of soft things still in prolonged lice quarantine in the hatch of my car to find her chosen gift. It’s a purse that turns into a cradle, crocheted by my great-aunt 30+ years ago and one of Annie’s favorite lovey-carriers. And now it is yours! A cozy nest for your new collection of bizarre figurines handed down from cousin Miles. Annie seeds it with one named “Blue Eyeball” to give you the idea. You are pleased.

Annie shows you how your new purse works while Blue Eyeball looks on.
Annie shows you how your new purse works while Blue Eyeball looks on.

We decide against gymnastics class, cancel social plans, and suit up for a day of video games on the couch. You wipe down the controller and launch Astro’s Playroom, which you complete, again. “Thanks for all your help, Daddy!” Dad and Annie head to Cruzteca for breakfast tacos and chicken soup; you stick to more chocolate milk.

Your forehead’s hot, so I check your temperature, and get, from various spots on your forehead: 100.4, 101.5, 102, and 104.2. I hate digital thermometers. Anyway, you have a fever. A nap is the thing. You request a pillow fort to sleep in, and curl up while Annie hovers around you, and we make valentines.

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A couple hours later, you rouse and examine our work, interested in the chocolate kisses. We each have one. Let’s see, what utterly effortless activity have we not gotten to yet today? Oh yes, TV. Time for some Odd Squad. I beg you to drink something, and you have a few sips of water and half a dozen strawberries. At least the vomiting didn’t put you off them!

You managed half a bean and cheese taco for dinner, and then we head upstairs for an early bedtime. Dad reads Goodnight Moon with nostalgia and then a few pages of Harry Potter, and says goodnight at 7. You sleep well through the night.