To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 3 months old.
You’re up and playing with Annie around 6, and spying down from the top of the stairs to catch a glimpse of Dad, just back from a few-days trip. At 6:35, you begin your chorus, to the tune of our old lullaby: “The light turned green, and it’s time to wake up! The light turned green, and…” I help you get dressed and brushed, and you charge downstairs for a happy/silly reunion with beloved Dad. He feeds you, and I retrieve your photocopies of Annie’s math homework so you can add up coin values along with her.
You clown your way to school in the chilly morning, give us both a hug, and head off for your day. It’s a good one. It’s a classmate’s birthday (Camilla) and also World Kindness Day, so thats’ gotta be good. But the best thing ever is: you are the very happy recipient of the THUNDERBIRD PRIDE AWARD, a student-of-the-week type recognition for two kids per class, for “doing great all week and trying hard.” It could not have gone to a prouder recipient. Your teacher Mrs. Dunbar sent me a message a few days ago saying she should have given it to you weeks ago, but it had been “such a good motivator for other friends.” You bound out of Creative Action and present it to us. (“Can we fix the spelling of his last name?” asks Dad.)
We head home, lined up in formation according to your directions. When you give us the thumbs up signal, we’re to run. We look super, super cool.
It’s Lego Batman for movie night, which you resist strongly until we turn it on and it is awesome. We pause for a perfectly roasted chicken and potatoes, then it’s back to bat business.
Dad reads you a few pages of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which we rather hope you lose interest in before it gets too grim (fat chance). He wishes you goodnight with encouragement to rest up for a fun weekend.
To Annie, this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 7 months old.
Still adjusting to the time change, you and Paul are awake by 6 and playing happily. I get ready for our day, listening to you in the background, until 6:40. You’re working on a lego village, and I help build a rainforest for the green Hatchimals while gently inserting tooth brushing and dressing into the game. You keep playing while I make breakfast, and come down when I call you at 7.
You dig into your mango smoothie, toast, and math homework, counting by fives to total up nickels, and submit quietly to hair brushing. I have decided to do your hair brushing as long as you’ll let me—I love our gorilla grooming time. You and Paul get shoes, masks, and backpacks with relatively little prodding, and we’re off to school.
Six-and-a-half year old Annie is a delight, and I would happily press pause here for a while. You keep on growing up, though, observing the world around you and developing new interests in things like human evolution. You’ve declared your intention to become a librarian when you grow up.
At school, it’s your third day with a substitute teacher, Miss H, whom you tolerate. She gives you worksheets, it sounds like, which you think are harder than whan Mrs. Nuncio usually has you work on. It’s a music class day, though, and you have a good time playing instruments and a game to the tune of…some song about an apple tree. Paul has the same class, and you sing together and teach me the game after dinner. Creative Action after school is the BEST, with rainbow scratch paper on which you make several solar-system-themed drawings.
I arrive at 5:15 with a baggie of blueberries and dragging feet thanks to my headcold. You and Paul take it pretty easy on me, putting us in a line to march home with all the important roles: line leader, door-holder, and line monitor who assesses and reports on the line quality with a thumbs up, sideways, or down. We get home. I have prepared nothing for dinner, and you announce your devestating hunger. I ask you to choose between corn dogs, dumplings, or a peanut butter sandwich. You select a corn dog as the “least bad” and eat it with ketchup and giant apple slices.
You and Paul do a little swinging in the dark with our backyard lanterns for extra flare, then move it to a “night bath” with lanterns perched above the tub. You declare it a peaceful space, and we all stay quiet and listen to the water.
I need a little time to clean up the house and write this post—Dad’s on a work trip—so I turn on a show. Paul selects Donkey Hodie (get it?), the latest muppet venture from the studio of Mr. Rodgers. Wholesome lessons flow. You climb up into Paul’s bed for a few pages of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which you talked Dad into starting a few nights ago. Mrs. Weasley is upset with your favorites Fred and George for throwing their lives away on dreams of a joke shop. You take it in quietly, and go to sleep quickly. Goodnight, 1st grader.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 2 months old.
You wake up fully clothed, brush your teeth, and slither downstairs to a breakfast of fruit and yogurt. It’s dark and drizzly, and you’re happy to carry a flashlight to school, thrilled with the power of illuminating dark and spooky objects, like tree branches. You spot a snail gliding across our first small bridge, and we all bend over to admire its delicate shell.
Dad walks you to the school door, and we say goodbye. You have, I don’t know, a day at school. At our parent-teacher conference yesterday, Mrs. Dunbar told me you and Eric James are her “math boys.” He changes the date on the chart every morning, and your job is to move the counter to show how many days you have all been in kindergarten. You called her over recently to show her how you’d written the number 452, which doesn’t sound like all that much, but I happen to know at this precise moment in my life that reading/writing numbers over 120 is a second-grade skill. She described herself as “blown away.” You have a joy for learning that delights her, and are often the only one enthusiastically engaged when she’s explaining a new concept. You also, ahem, have trouble sitting still on the carpet.
Anyway, you have a day, and tromp home after Creative Action with Dad and Annie. I’ve just put dinner on the table, and you go quiet as you sit down and devour the fruit. We vote as a family to approve your motion to switch a dessert day from Fridays to Tuesdays. Motion passes. You make sweet boba tea for your first Tuesday dessert, and do not like it.
We go to the front yard to build a house for Little Doggy with our big wood blocks and tape. I think it’s our best one yet. The mosquitos drive us inside, and you hover near Annie completing her subtraction worksheet. I lure you upstairs with the promise of together time, and we draw pictures at your desk until it’s time for your bath. We put conditioner in your dry hair, and you make a tremendous number of silly noises.
Clean and dry, you get back to work, making your own darn math worksheet! You head up to Annie’s bed with supplies to continue crafting while Dad reads the beginning of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. He says goodnight, and you keep drawing until an altercation with Annie requires our intervention at about eight. The feelings, OH, the feelings. We get you set up back in your bed, and you blink right out.
To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 and a half years old.
You sleep in until seven, then head downstairs to request and then reject Dad’s made-to-order breakfast tacos. I return from a jog to a display just inside the front door: you have wrapped up a package delivered to me like a present, and arranged fall decorations and a welcoming committee around it.
You I find driving laps in your latest favorite video game. “Annie, stay in the lane, now, stay in the lane,” you coach yourself.
Interested in a project and some Mom-time, you jump at the suggestion to work on invitations for the Halloween party we just decided to throw. You draw tiny versions of every Halloween-y thing we can think of: pumpkins, bats, spiders, zombies, witches hats, candy, a skeleton…then you look to literature for greater inspiration. Something magic like in Harry Potter? No, Dog Man is the place for scary stuff. An evil tadpole who can fly and and move things with her mind joins the illustration mix. The book becomes too compelling to put down, so we read the whole thing.
Paul and Dad return from Costco, laden with groceries and ten giant pumpkins. We pack up and head for a very exciting destination: Lost Pines resort, where Lisa and Lyla have invited us to hang out with them for an afternoon of swimming and cousin fun.
We do a Lazy River lap, and then Paul discovers the water slide and attempts to set the world record (grand total slides = 47). You, Lyla, and I order lunch, and then you girls do a few more laps yourself. You have a blast. Lisa joins us after a therapy session, and we build sand castles. You do another river lap with Lyla and Lisa, and a final one with me. You pretend to fight your way through the fallen pecan leaves in the water: “Punch! Punch! Punch punch!”
We rinse the sand off our feet and make a final stop on our way out at the little arcade room, where dear Lyla spends $7 in quarters trying to grab you a ball.
Back home, you and Paul decompress with half an hour of Harry Potter while I make dinner; then you eat a strange meal of dumplings, corn bread, and tomatoes, with candy vampire teeth for dessert.
It’s bath time, with your weekly hair wash and conditioner slick. I finish up The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, and Dad starts in on Going Solo. We’re scraping the bottom of the Roald Dahl collection. Dad issues his usual threats about sending Paul back to his own bed if you two can’t quiet down and go to sleep. By ten till eight, you do.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 1 month old.
You’re up at 5:45, chatting with Annie and playing, but it’s an hour before you trot out of your room, sing-songing “The light turned green!” You’ve built a tent in the middle of the room with your bed-things, and are interested in flashlights for your camping trip. I deliver them and back out, and you play for another 20 minutes or so.
Ready to come downstair, you scramble into your clothes and give your teeth a cursory brush. You and Annie settle on chocolate chip pancakes as your request for breakfast. I cook while you swing outside, to the tune of Believer and Roar. After breakfast, you assist in construction of a playground in the backyard, dragging all the toys out from under the house and setting them up around the deck. The fun was in the building, though, apparently, because as soon as that’s done, Annie suggests you head back into the house to play Harry Potter, and that’s what you do.
Later in the morning, you’re assembling your slot racing track, and when Dad can’t handle you getting ONE MORE TOY out without putting anything away, he takes you to Costco. You there acquire more things, but they’re mostly edible, so.
Lunch is some quite tasty dumplings from the aforementioned Costco (you prefer the “skin” to the interior), and eventually we make it back out to that rad backyard playground. You race all your cars down the slide, climb up the railing, make an enormous mess eating a smoothie, and play elaborate games with Annie, featuring small plastic figurines in the splashpad.
At 3, we roll over to Shae’s house, and Player 3 enters the game. You’re eager to reacquaint yourself with all of his toys and spaces, and play and fight and reconcile with him with great passion. You even enjoy baby Asher now and then.
We head home at 6:30, and you work in some time with Dreambox (your favorite math learning game) on your school tablet before bed. After a few climbing laps around the beds and a nonsense guessing game with me (“Seven, six…what number?” “Five?” “NO, TWENTY-THREE.”), you head on up so Dad can read the second half of Fantastic Mr. Fox. He says goodnight at 7:35. Thanks to your early morning, you’re quick to sleep.
To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 5 months old.
You wake up with Paul in his bed and get to playing, and are jovially bopping around your room when Dad enters at 6:35. You climb the side of your bed all the way to the bathroom counter to brush your teeth, then grab your dress and head downstairs.
The sight of apple slices on your breakfast plate prompts a now-uncharacteristic shriek lifted straight from age 4: you don’t WANT this for breakfast. Dad and I bark back at you. We make peace over mini-pancakes, and you’re ready to ask nicely to keep reading Harry Potter 3. We’re in the last chapter, having read 50 pages last night of the dramatic conclusion, and you’re anxious to hear the resolution. I read to you at the table while you brush your hair and, lo and behold, eat your apple slices. We also take a page out of your yellow school folder, and you show me how you can read syllables in Spanish. “Ah, ma, sa, la, ta, da, rra…” You are proud and I am too.
It’s 7:10 and time to head out. You select a mask and a hat, because it’s Spirit Week, and today is “thinking cap” day. We head off for our magical daily walk to school. It’s 68 degrees and beautiful.
You and Paul break into a run across the bridge to the school, and we have a “family hug” at Paul’s request before Dad hangs back with Sous and I walk you the rest of the way to the cafeteria door. Mrs. Dunbar, your former and Paul’s current kindergarten teacher, is manning the door today, and she greets you both with big smiles and cheer and Buenos Dias!! You disappear into the cafeteria. As I walk back through the park, I hear the 7:35 bell ring and imagine you walking in a line into your classroom.
Here’s what else I know: breakfast is delivered to you there, and today’s it’s a turkey sausage kolache you’re looking forward to. Lunch is pizza. (These are the important things.) Your teacher Mrs. Nuncio thinks you are working hard and doing well. You visit the library, where you sit by number at tables, next to your friend Jade, and you check out a book for a week and bring it home.
At 3:10, school is dismissed, and you head to Creative Action with another kid from your class named Norman. There’s a girl there named Charlie you like. You and Paul are in the same class and eat your snack (goldfish and a dried fruit bar today), play on the playground, and do art projects until we pick you up. Dad comes today, a little before 5. You and Paul run all the way home, and he trails after you on tired legs that have already done 11 miles today.
The first order of business when you get home is to FINISH HARRY POTTER, so Dad reads you the end of the last chapter, and at long last, you start the movie. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, here we go. Half an hour in, we pause for dinner. You eat basically nothing. Back to the movie. I snuggle next to you, and you scooch in for the part where the dementors come onto the train. “This isn’t going to scare me,” you murmur to yourself.
We get about halfway through by 7:00, then head upstairs, where you and Paul climb laps around the room again as we get ready for bed. (“ONE ‘taking off clothes’ lap, and then one ‘putting clothes on’ lap, and then a FREE lap, and then a toothbrush lap, and then a lap into bed, no TWO laps into bed.”) Phew. Properly calmed, we all climb up into Paul’s bed and read your horrifying Barbie Mermaid library book. It takes about 4 minutes, so we have time for all of Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, a permanent favorite. That Goldbug, you never know where he’ll show up.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years old.
It is your birthday, and you are NOT sleeping in. At 6:15 you’re up and at ‘em, rampaging around the house and refusing a breakfast of mini-pancakes and sprinkles (you do eat all the fruit on offer). We let you watch a little TV so Dad can go on an extra-long run and I can make birthday decorations and pack for our day of adventures. At 9, Uncle George shows up, and we pack into the car for our first stop: race cars.
We walk through the gates at Scandia Fun Park in Fairfield the minute they open, and Dad takes you on two trips around the track in a go-cart. You love it. I redeem our tickets for golf clubs and balls, and we play a fast-and-loose 15-ish holes, where you sort of randomly push your ball toward each hole, picking it up when it’s not behaving.
Outdoor activities accomplished, we venture into the arcade, and you and Dad have fun with some racing games. Annie cashes in the tickets she’s convinced George to win for her, buying you each a jolly rancher, a bouncy ball, and a sparkly ring.
Time for more treats. We drive a couple of miles up the road to Mecca: The Jelly Belly FACTORY. We start off with chicken nuggets shaped like jelly beans in their cafe, then begin our tour. The factory is a bit loud for you, but you enjoy watching the robot arms load bags into boxes, and running from window to window to see the next view. Tour accomplished, we hit the gift shop, and you walk away with arms full of Harry Potter and Frozen-themed treats. On the ride home, you melt a chocolate frog all over yourself and fall asleep.
We drop George at his home and head back to ours. You and Dad go pick out cupcakes from Love at First Bite, where we got cupcakes for our wedding *cough cough* years ago. We enjoy a bit of down-time/play-time/movie-time before another old friend, Laurel, and her 6-year-old Lars arrive. They have brought you a present: a lego race car. “THIS IS EXACTLY THE RACE CAR I WANTED!” you exclaim, and lego-master Lars helps you put it together (with a bit of Dad assistance). Relationship sealed, you splash in the hot tub together while I imagine you with an older brother.
Dinner is served, and it’s all your favorites: chicken legs, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese (in honor of Annie), apple juice boxes we’ve been toting around since our first day here, and plenty of fruit. We sing to you, and you blow out a 5-yo candle on top of a chocolate cupcake.
We say goodbye to our friends and roll you into the tub for a much-needed bath. I read to you for a long time to help you calm down from a very exciting, very excellent birthday.
To Annie: this is what happened the day you turned 6 years and 4 months old.
It is the middle of our second week of California vacation. You and Paul wake up in a king-sized bed in a cheerful room of our midcentury Berkeley Hills wreck. We have a light breakfast of whatever’s left from our last rental house-fridge that we trucked up here in a garbage bag full of ice, plus half of an enormous peach from the Mountain View farmers market. You build robots, rocket ships, and houses with a bag of mega-blocks while Dad goes for a nostalgia run through the campus and our old haunts.
When it’s time for second-breakfast, we head to Fat Apples. You demolish an apple turnover while we tell you about walking puppy-Sous here on Sunday mornings. We pop up to Codornices Park for the hillside slide. You decline to try it, so we stroll around admiring the poodles and tall trees. “That’s a teenager redwood,” you tell me with the confidence of a Muir Woods Junior Ranger. We walk through a tunnel to the Rose Garden, and you ask me to read you all the graffiti, which I do with light edits. When we get to the entrance, you see the sign requiring masks to enter, so refuse to do so without one. We decide to walk back to the rental by ourselves.
You play some tablet games while I dash to the grocery store, and we have bagel bites for lunch. At 1:30, we meet a grad-school friend of mine (Ashley) and her two kids who are about your ages (Gemma and Everett) in Tilden Park to ride the little steam train through the redwoods. You and Paul squeeze into the seat next to me.
Next up is the little farm, where we visit cows and chickens and enormous pigs, and you look for fish in the creek. We decide to ride the merry-go-round before we leave, and you pick out the perfect pony with a long tail of real-fake hair. You lose your nerve when mounted, though, and try a few different animals before settling into a motionless bench and persuading Paul to join you. We spin slowly in circles for three minutes.
You are pretty sure you deserve some junk from the snack bar when we’re done. I refuse, and we enter a stand-off. You crouch on the sidewalk, sucking your thumb, while I head to the car and tell you to join me when you’re ready. About ten minutes later, you come along.
We pick up Dad and head to downtown Berkeley for an early dinner at Jupiter. We sit on the back patio and order you cheese pizza, which you eat happily while Dad and I talk about all the things that haven’t changed.
Back at the pad, we coast in for the finish with a movie (Smallfoot) and another chapter of Harry Potter. Goodnight, kiddo.