a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years old.

You and Annie come out and tell me it’s my turn to turn off the green light. Thanks, guys. In return, Dad and I share the exciting news that it’s your birthday. You had forgotten.

We have a quick snuggle, and I turn you loose to get ready with Dad. He teaches you how to pee standing up. MILESTONE.

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You get dressed in the greenest shirt that’s still clean, and then switch to a different one, and then switch to your orange tie-dyed Panda shirt, and some camouflage socks because why not. Then it’s downstairs for a pile of blueberries, a peach, and some mini-pancakes—pretty much your perfect breakfast. You finish up, wash your hands unprompted, and ask if you can play for a minute. You race cars around the coffee table while the rest of us finish our preparations. Your special day nets you the privilege of carrying the vitamins out to the car. We pass them out once everyone is buckled in.

On the way to school, Annie asks for a story, and I hem and haw before proposing the one on my mind: how Paul was born. I hit the high points for you and field a number of mechanical questions. You enjoy the story but are disappointed to learn that you will not have a baby in your tummy one day. I feel disappointed, too, on your behalf.

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At school, you open the door by yourself and head inside. You hand over a small baggie of jelly beans that Ms. Natalie will pass out as treats (one each) for your birthday in the afternoon, and tell her about the most important part of your weekend: “Yesterday I had TURTLE CAKE AND TURTLE CUPCAKES.” You say goodbye to us as you pick up a paper towel for second-breakfast. Oranges and cheerios.

It’s a typical day at school, by all accounts, other than welcoming a couple of new Pandas to the class, and of course your jelly bean distribution. You nap with your doggie and eat well. I pick you up at 4:15, and you leap into my arms. On the way to the car, you ask, “Mom, could you hear me talking when you were at work?” I love the stuff I have to explain to you.

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You wear your birthday crown all the way home, and at 4:30 I tell you you’re EXACTLY three. Annie tells you that because you’re three now, she’s going to teach you something new tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Dad scoops you up at home and asks for your consultation on dinner. You decline the pizza restaurant in favor of mac and cheese at home, and when things get a little too rowdy for constructive cooking, take in a few happy episodes of Peppa Pig. At the dinner table, you demolish your mac and cheese and are delighted when I stick candles in your leftover turtle cake, and we sing to you again. You blow out the candles like a pro, have a few nibbles, and ask to save the rest of it for breakfast.

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Afterward, you hustle to the bathroom to wash your hands so you can open your last birthday present—the rest we have trickled out over the prior two days, so you could have them for your pool party and also as motivators for various desired behaviors, SORRY. You are super excited about this one—three construction vehicles you can take apart and put back together with a working drill, nuts, and bolts. Big fun. You execute capably under Dad’s tutelage, and enter another elaborate pretend world with Annie, involving home-building and the cast of Cars.

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Time marches on. It’s time to bathe, and Dad gets you washed pretty cheerfully in a green-tinted (turtle) bath while Annie showers on my watch. I help you into some undies with Cookie Monster on them, but you ask me to pretend it’s really Mater. We read a sweet short book together, Our Car, and then dabble in some baby-book selections while Annie veers into mania. Neither of you want to get in bed, but after a last pee and a countdown from 5, you manage it. I do my best to spread your blanket on you with NO WRINKLES. Dad gives you another rendition of The Tortoise and the Hare and sings you a song about Lightning McQueen. I see you once more about 10 minutes later, when Annie summons me. You tell me you’re almost a grown-up, and when you’re a grown-up, will I still be a grown-up? Yes.

“And Annie?”

“Yes.”

“And Dad?”

“Yes, we’ll all be grown-ups together.”

“But,” adds Annie, “They’ll have lots of wrinkles on their face.”

True enough. Goodnight, kiddo.

a day in your life

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

At 7:05, you come in our room for morning hugs, then make me a pretend smoothie for breakfast and get dressed and ready with Dad. Downstairs, you and I make a real smoothie while Paul stays away to avoid the loud blender noise. We add a side of mini-pancakes, or as you’re calling them today: lion ears. You continue your practice of inhabiting the characters that disturb you, and have been pretending to be a hyena for a week or so now, ever since The Lion King became your go-to movie. (Just to connect the dots in case 4-year-old logic doesn’t translate: Hyenas eat lions, in your mind, hence lion ears for breakfast.)

Over breakfast, from the table, you call out to inform me: “Mom, every time I do something, it feels a little harder, so I think I’m flying.” Sounds awesome.

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It’s Saturday, so after breakfast you climb into your stroller and request all three pairs of your sunglasses—which you never wear, but maybe today’s the day. We buckle in and head for the trail, enjoying signs of progress on Little Stacy Park renovation. It’s hot on the trail, and Sous can’t swim thanks to deadly algae, but at least it’s early, and there are a few clouds. You and Paul have saved some toast for the turtles, and we also meet a new family of nutria, our pond’s cutest invasive species.

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You ask for stories, and Dad and I offer the requested plot summaries of The Lion King (you make me tell this twice since I tried the highlights-only version on round one), A Christmas Carol (“why do we only watch that movie at Christmas?), the Boy Who Cried Wolf (we introduced this one for its “stop whining” moral, but you’re clearly just in it for the wolf), and The Tortoise and the Hare. I hold you up to a break in the construction barrier to check out our other playground-in-progress at Butler Park. At the taco truck, you eat in the stroller so you don’t have to put your shoes on.

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You and Paul bomb around the house while Dad works in the yard. We execute a modest art project. At the grocery store, you sip on a half-ounce sample of juice for 15 minutes and help me find supplies for Paul’s birthday cupcakes. From the cart, you load items onto the check-out belt and ask to push the buttons on the credit card machine.

We have a quick lunch—cherries, cheese, corn nuts—and wish Paul a good nap. You and I call Susu to wish her a happy birthday, and you fill her in on all your major news, including receipt of a sweet card and pictures from Auntie Peanut (thank you, Peanut—they loved them!!). Then it’s to work: we have cupcakes to make. You do all the scooping, stirring, and egg cracking—anything I will let you attempt, which means anything not sharp or hot. We make a mess baking and then move onto frosting. Adding the food coloring is big fun.

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I’m beat, so we sit down for one episode of Doc McStuffins before Paul’s up and you’re back at it, racing toy cars around the house and pitching each other ever-evolving pretend scenarios. I dabble but mainly let you run it together. Dad returns from an errand and suggests a visit to the wading pool for 45 minutes before it sinks in. I help you into your suits and wave goodbye.

The pool is crowded, but you are ready to swim. In your goggles, you get your head under water and your feet off the ground and kicking. First swim??? Let’s call it. You’re home an hour later and into dry clothes for a dinner out. I motivate you through the change by offering Paul the chance to open a present before we go. He selects the box that includes a turtle-themed bracelet for you both. You don’t wait for the offer, just pluck yours out of the box and slide it on. We’re out the door.

Tonight we’re trying Matt’s El Rancho, Austin Tex-Mex institution and apparently where to find Republican party members in central Austin. We could have been in MY hometown. But the food is pretty good, and you and Paul are champs in a noisy and hectic environment. I happen to have quarters on me and introduce you to a gumball machine. You chew a giant ball with determination and grit. Paul eats his.

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I teach you how to keep your napkin in your lap and eat your ketchup with a spoon instead of sucking it off your finger. Mother of the Year. You actually really do great. A year ago in this environment you would have gone to pieces; now you’re a pro.

Back home, you and Paul take a shower with Dad, who gets you thoroughly clean. You “teach him” how to scrub the glass, and then diligently wash and rinse a dozen tiny toys. You’re winding up for a frenzy, but we manage to lure you into attention to a couple of books: Your Body Belongs To You (ironic as you had to be manhandled into sitting still for it) and The Grouchy Ladybug. As I tuck you in, you tell me, “The sooner we go to sleep, the sooner it’s Paul’s party!” Dad ends the night with a lively encore of The Tortoise and the Hare. You pop up one more time to pee, and then, the end.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 11 months old.

You and Annie giggle your way into our room at 7:05. No early rising today—you were wide awake in your beds until almost 9 last night. You set up temporary camp in your pillow, wearing your baggy Ninja Turtles underwear and announcing you are a baby pony today. Once Annie is off and running, you consent to take my hand and begin the morning drill, and we go pretty quickly after that.

You’re happy to see a bowl of cold oatmeal with sliced banana for breakfast, eat it all and spend a few minutes with your toy cars before we head for the real one. You conduct your usual traffic inventory on the way to school, spotting police cars, taxis, school buses, and trucks of all sorts.

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You cruise into class with a confident stride, and then, oh my goodness, if it isn’t another line up of cars and trucks. Ms. Natalie has a different cool activity to start every day. You and Annie both admire it as your bagel breakfast gets set up. When I pop back into your class to find my lost car key 10 minutes later, you’re still there.

Thank goodness it’s splash day, because it’s been too hot to go to the playground all week, and you like to MOVE. Your teachers report you have lots of fun. Dad picks you up at 5 and ferries you and Annie to Home Slice for a pizza dinner. (I have decamped to California to celebrate my friend Debbie’s 40th birthday.) You peel off each piece of pepperoni and hold them up for Dad to blow on before you eat them. Then you salt your slice, declare it’s too spicy, and eat no more.

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Back home, bed preparation is accelerated to allow 15 minutes of Cars 2 (Holly Shiftwell! Finn McMissile!). Dad reads you two books (trolls, buses), and wraps up the evening with a story about a chocolate earthquake. Goodnight, goober.

a day in your life

To Annie: This is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 3 months old.

You wake up at 6:15, probably when Sous clatters down the stairs, and I hear Paul tell you, “Dad’s back home!” Which is true, as of five hours ago. Further sleep is out of the question, but you stay in bed for a while, playing, and at 10 till 7 start building a little fort cubby in the nook between your beds. You tumble out the door of your room when the light turns green and report gleefully that you’ve been bunking together on the floor.

You get ready pretty much by yourself, hooray. I clip on your unicorn jewelry, and you bring me a sparkly hair pin to administer. You pull on the new strappy sandals you picked out at Target last weekend because you think they look like “up shoes,” your word for high heels. You and Paul wait for each other like good teammates, and we all go downstairs together.

Breakfast begins with a jelly bean, back-pay for Paul’s potty-poop last night, and I toast waffles while you break in the new giant box in the living room as a playhouse. You eat, briefly, and trade blueberries. Then it’s back to the box, and shortly out to the car. Dad drives you to school, and you merge into the great 4-year-old mass.

I hear the following stories of your day: at nap, Ms. Jolene takes away your unicorn lovey because you’re playing with it disruptively, but Ms. Felicia gives it back later. You learn something at circle time, but you can’t remember what. You eat a popsicle to celebrate Analeeah’s last day, and you make it last by sucking the juice out of it and leaving the white ice. (You are really good at savoring food you love.) At the end of the day, you are having a dance party with the few kids left and pitch a small fit when asked to put on your shoes because THEY ARE NOT DANCING SHOES.

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I pick up Paul first for a change, and find you playing with a gauzy scarf. You are excited to see us and express this by sprinting off down the hall, with scarf, sans shoes. I coax you back into the class and put your shoes on for you. You love them, but they frustrate you. OH, life. Paul and I head out, and you lie on the ground in protest. No, it does not make sense. The helper in your classroom bribes you with a banana in exchange for following us. I do not let you eat it unless you agree to share it with Paul; you decline.

In the car, some indie band is singing about dying, so you ask me for a story about when Elsa died, “and it’s a long one.” So I tell a story about Elsa dying peacefully on her couch at the end of a long and happy life, and all of her friends giving her a nice funeral on her mountain and telling stories about her every year so they never forget her. It is not our first such story. You are rapt.

As we near home, your crankiness emerges and you experiment to achieve the most grating possible whine. I distract you semi-successfully with a discussion of how highways work. We notice the wildflowers on the west side have finally been mowed down for the year, and miss them.

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At home, you help me thaw some bread to add to the delicious braised chicken Dad has made. You eat a whole peach and your hunk of bread, and reject everything else. We linger over dinner and make a quick visit to your new playhouse box before I carry you upstairs to get ready for bed. We reach the end of your daily compliance, and you fight us all the way through bedtime prep. “I don’t know HOW to wash my hands! I don’t know how to do ANY OF IT.” I wish I could put into writing the sound of the drama-sobs, but then again I don’t. Dad finally sets a sand timer to indicate how long you have before we run out of time for a book, and you lose it completely.

Finally we are in bed. You did miss the book, but you’re down for a Mom-original story about all your favorite characters working late in their tower office and watching the fireworks. They all agreed on what to eat for dinner, and Mater went out to get pizza and peas. Elsa froze hers because she likes them cold.

Dad wraps it up with the song about the hole in the ground. The green grass grows all around and around, and the green grass grows all around.