a day in your life

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

You pop up this morning raring to go, clad in a girls-fit Halloween shirt with sequined jack’o’lantern and your standard track pants. You claim to have brushed your teeth—questionable—but we elect to take your word. Downstairs you and Annie launch a play world, but agree to pause for a waffle and yogurt. While Annie does kindergarten work, you and Dad make paper airplanes.

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Dad drops you at school. You’ve brought the airplanes: one for you and one for friend Shae. At 9:15 Annie joins you after her annual check-up, and at lunch you are dismayed to discover it’s the sandwich which used to be the only thing you liked so we ordered them forever and now you hate them. Ah, life. You’re engaged in some sort of circle game at pick-up.

Home, you bustle in and are delighted to find blackberries on your dinner tray. You trade me five peas for one of mine, and save one tiny seed to plant so we’ll always have plenty. (We do not, alas, actually plant the seed.) Annie invites you to the bathroom to tell you a secret, which pleases you. You finish the fruit parts of dinner and ask to be excused.

It’s time to jump on the couch, which you haven’t done in so long I’d hoped you’d forgotten about it. And of course you need the White Stripes, “side D.” Annie finds some of Dad’s rejected neck gaiters in the give-away pile, and these become costume pieces. You rock out.

Couch jumping evolves into obstacle-course building, which you two collaborate on and lay in a track all the way to the downstairs closet. There you create a nest we will later discover to be a disaster, but keeps you happily entertained for at least 20 minutes. Overheard: “Now I need a TRILLION pillows!!” You emerge and decide it’s time for an airplane ride on my feet, and carefully position me so that, without any risk to my person, you can pretend to knock me backwards from sitting and then launch into the air. “No tickles but high,” you specify. Yes, sir.

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Unfortunately, during the nest-build Annie cuts her foot on something, and screams in fear of the blood. We manage to get it bandaged, and you get in on the post-war-wound soothing video, an episode of Nature Cat via Dad’s phone. Then it’s upstairs. You brush your teeth, really this time, and make it clear you’d much rather be playing with your cars and helicopter than listen to stories. Dad lets you take them into bed while I read and you ignore The Great Kettles. You stay reasonably near bed, though, for the story and then afterwards. You flip through a book about the planets and ask me which planets have rings, and how do they get rings, and could the Earth have rings, which causes me to talk about the moon exploding, and then Annie to ask whether the Earth could explode. “No,” I say firmly, then, “Okay, goodnight, I love you!”

I see you again at 8:45. Annie has accidentally awoken you with some elaborate plans to act as the toothfairy and leave you treats under your pillow. (This is the secret she was telling you earlier.) I soothe you back to bed…and assist her with execution at 9:30.

a day in your life

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

You sleep well and wake up on time, happy it’s your birthday and eager to understand the present-opening schedule. We take care of the basics and head downstairs. You select your first gift: an electric toothbrush with built-in cup and timer, and a unicorn cap. You’re thrilled, having reminded me just yesterday that you wanted an electric toothbrush for your birthday.

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We measure your height against the wall, and you and Paul nibble on breakfast and use your new appliances as tools for all sorts of experiments. At 8, I have a specific gift for you to open: analog wrist watches! Even MORE thrilling! Yours comes with a map of specific places and times at which we have scheduled suprises for the morning. (“I know what surprises mean: you can’t tell me.”) The first is coming up, and at 8:15 you charge into the front yard to find your dear cousins piling out of their car with breakfast tacos for all.

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You spend a joyful 45 minutes playing and showing off your new items and receiving a hand-me-down teddy bear in roller skates from Lyla, who’s excited to bestow it. At 9, we say goodbye and load up for our next stop. Wildflowers? A pond with fishes? Must be the wildflower center! Or, as you recall it, the place you had your 4-year-old birthday party.

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It’s a hopping scene, but we check right in with our reservations and our masks, and meet friends Sage and Silas at the fish pond. You all set off at a run, checking off items on the scavenger hunt and acquiescing to photo ops on the way. We haven’t been here in a year and a half, and the ghosts of younger you and Paul haunt our trip, toddling tediously through terrain you race through now.

At 11, we’re loading up again. You’re enthusiastically dismantling the sea monkey kit our friends gifted you, and we’re headed to the turtle pond by the UT Tower for our next surprise. “I think we’re meeting more friends,” you guess, “because all the other surprises have been people.” Well-reasoned, my child. We reach the turtle pond and spot another mother-daughter pair on a blanket. It’s June. Your best friend and love of your life ages 2-4, who you have not seen in nearly a year or played with since school was abruptly cancelled last March.

It takes 20 minutes for you to warm up, both clinging to our laps and whispering in our ears about how the other has changed, and how the other must be feeling shy, and whether it might be okay to give her a gift. Finally, she begins hunting acorns, and you volunteer to help. Soon enough, you’re skipping through the grass, running back to me only to confide, “June’s not actually feeling too shy.” Her mother and I enjoy catching up and get a little misty watching you.

We head home. Paul and Dad have had their own special time, and the two of you take turns at video games for a bit. Gobka and Gamma call, and you show off your presents. A teacher at school has gifted you your first eye shadow and two kinds of lip gloss. “Median, I have never had such beautiful things! Thank you!” you call to the sky.

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You do some playing and take Sous for a short walk (your idea). You and Paul start bickering, so we decide it’s movie time, and that you’re ready for the first Harry Potter. You are into it. We watch half, eat dinner, and you start playing again, happily this time, scrubbing the banisters with your new toothbrushes. Sure.

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We head upstairs at 7, and you turn those toothbrushes to their intended use. The timer on the set has you brushing for 10x as long as normal, and you enjoy it so much you do it twice, suds running down your chin. You arrange all your new toys and cosmetics on your bed and paint your whole face and the soles of your feet with lip gloss while I read a chapter of Beezus and Ramona. I say goodnight, and Dad runs interference until you’re asleep. SIX. You’re SIX now.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 7 months old.

You’ve slept well, and emerge into our room still groggy at 7:10. Dad and I take turns snuggling you as you wake up.

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You’re extremely hungry due to rejecting dinner last night, so ask if I can help you with your clothes and teeth so we can get down to breakfast asap. Of course! We dress and descend. You tell me I can pick what’s for breakfast, so it’s sort of the end of a few bags of cereal, mixed up. Yum. Also some yogurt.

You and Annie decided yesterday you want to be the first to school, and everything is smooth sailing, so you depart with Dad at ten till 8 and are delighted to be the second kids there. There’s a fiesta at school today to celebrate the beginning of spring, with Venezuelan-themed snacks. You play and play.

Dad picks you up, too, and at 5 you and Annie ring the doorbell, pretending to be delivering packages. Actually, you are the package, and I sweep you up in a hug, “my favorite delivery of all.”

You’re giddy with the possibilities of home, and bounce around between options for fun (the swings! a new box to play in! painting that box!) before settling on, no surprise, a level of the robot game while dinner finishes cooking.

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At dinner, you turn to me and ask, “Do you know HOW I learned I had super powers?” “No, how??” “I could pick up a WHOLE HOUSE.” “A whole house??” “Yeah, OVER MY HEAD.”

You decamp to the swings with your push-up pops for dessert. Finding an ancient deflated beach ball partially filled with water, you return and ask us to fill it up, all the way, with water. Dad declines and smuggles it to the trash while you return to romping.

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It’s Friday and movie night, so we pop some popcorn and fire up The Incredibles, which you mostly follow. Super heroes, man, they’re all over the place.

During the movie, you turn to me and share: “Mommy, do you know what my car looks like? It’s rainbow polka dot, and it has two projectors on both sides, and a turbo jet on top, AND it can get clean with a lightning bolt. It doesn’t even need to go through a car wash!” Awesome.

We head up to bed at 7. Brush teeth, change clothes, and read the customized books Nanny Charly got for you both years ago. Annie executes a sun salutation with Dad while you and I lie in your bed-tent-cave, and you tell me about our super powers. You are Lightning Storm, who fights storms by creating new suns that pop the clouds. Whoa. I am Superman, you tell me, and I save people from fires. There is a lot more. You could go on. At 7:35, I extract myself, and Dad reads a chapter of DogMan. Spirits remain high. It’s going to be a good weekend.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 11 months old.

You and Paul are up a few minutes before 7, busy with your business, and we speculate that you might dress yourselves this morning. Sure enough, at ten after you emerge in typically creative get-up, wearing striped tights and “Christmas shirts.” Your shirt is a hand-me-down nightgown from Lyla, which you’ve tucked into your tights. You quickly decide this does not meet your standard, and retreat to your room to revise. We give you a few minutes before Dad comes in to try and help select a new top. You reject all proposals.

I tag in and find you in the fetal position. “I pinky-promised Paul we’d both wear Christmas clothes, and I don’t HAVE ANY,” you complain/confide. It is, to be clear, March. I suggest and you reject probably all the same options Dad presented, plus some ideas for Christmas accessories. It’s clear you want to wear another Lyla-sourced item: a lovely dark red sweater with embroidered detail. But the sleeves are too long. Unacceptable. It’s 7:45 and no sign of another exit, so I do some on-the-fly tailoring to bring up the sleeves and attach some additional bling. Finally, we descend.

"No pictures!" you literally say.
“No pictures!” you say as I take this. Sorry, sweetie, you owe me.

Your spirits dramatically improve with a little breakfast. We manage some kindergarten work, sorting coins, while you eat mini-pancakes and dried apple and blow bubbles in your milk. We discuss Thomas Jefferson while you circle nickles. I stick to the basics.

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Dad takes you to school, where you pull on your mask and head for the playground. You’re doing a lot of outdoor play these days after a positive covid case closed the 3-year-old class and spooked all the teachers. Thank goodness most of them are now at least partially vaccinated.

In a surprise to no one, you come home in different clothes. Yours and Paul’s were both soaked while “helping clean up.” Your lovely, hand-tailored sweater with embroidered detail is wadded up in a plastic bag, and also splattered with dark blue paint. Let it go…

Dinner is hot dogs and raw cabbage, which you’ve enjoyed before, but not so much tonight. It’s a dessert night, so we enjoy the pleasure of your company while you carve up an ice cup. We reminesce about splash days at the CDC, and you propose we institute a new Splash Day tradition, at home, on Saturdays. Great plan, we’re in.

back to business
back to business

We clean up from dinner and get back to what matters most: playing the “robot game.” It’s the tutorial for the PS5, and also the first video game either of you have managed to play yourselves. You are obsessed. Paul is allowed a turn to get started, and after that it’s a family affair, with you primarily in the drivers seat. You tag Dad and I in for help as needed. “DAD, I need your help! You know how I feel about gooey things.” This consumes the rest of the evening.

Dad sort of casually defeats the game for the 5th time. He is real tired of it. At seven, we head up for bed. Pretending to be a kitty cat motivates you up the stairs. In your room, you and Paul commence a game of rasperry-blowing, with the primary target of my knees. Oh, it tickles. My insistence on “clean berries” gets you to brush your teeth. You are beginning to settle in for books as Dad arrives, but then the need for a cup of milk has you downstairs again. Dad carries you both back up on his hips—amazing this is still possible—and I pass out toothbrushes again. It’s in bed for a couple chapters of Dogman, and some additional chivvying to stay there. Goodnight, you little goobers. Goodnight.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 and a half!

Today would have been your Friday Valentines party at school, but instead we are enjoying the headwinds of an arctic air mass. The streets are covered in ice, and school is closed. You appreciate this news, and, accustomed to proudly stating your age as “four and a quarter,” you are also keen to hear that today you are four and a half! We celebrate with cupcakes for breakfast. At your request, I make you and Annie ribbons of honor to announce your age to the world. Off to a strong start.

You and Annie jump into some play together: you set up camp in a tent, and she delivers presents to you. This breaks down after about half an hour, and you persuade me to feed you yogurt. With Annie, you embark on a cooking experiment involving water, a cherry, and lots of mashing. It ends messily.

To get out of the house despite the cold, cold weather, Dad to take you to the grocery store, where you happily procure fruit and tortillas and even more yogurt. Then it’s time for some screen time while both of us are in meetings: your pick is Super Hero Elementary.

A peanut butter and banana sandwich makes a late lunch, and you run back to watch Annie play the Playstation 5 tutorial game, the first video game either of you has shown sustained interest in playing rather than watching. It’s pretty cute. Dad supervises some rowdy play, and helps you both build an art center and a yoga center. Annie persuades you to explain how you do magic (“I poof it out of my hands.”) and your secret recipe for magical things (sugar, water, flour, and grow powder). You are dismayed to have revealed this secret. (“Annie made me say what I didn’t want to say!”)

It’s 4pm, and movie time. You settle in for Tinker Bell, and then we roll right into The Jungle Book for an encore. Dinner is mac and cheese. Dessert is, oh wait, we had dessert for breakfast. But popcorn, we eat that too. And a little bit of Snoopy. Ah, snow days.

We hustle up to bed, and you indulge in a little racing around on your way to bed. I read you I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, and say goodnight.

You and Annie are not quite done. When I peek in on you at 9, I find your campsite. I take a picture, and tiptoe out.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 10 months old.

Paul bursts out of the door when your light turns green, but you stay snuggled in bed. I visit you there, and you toss the blanket over your head. I ask if I can come into your bed fortress, and you wiggle in assent. We play the game where you pretend to sleep while I brush your teeth and pull on your clothes. You roll out of bed and give me a little assist to pick you up (45 pounds now), and I carry your “sleeping” body downstairs for breakfast.

(the clock is wrong)
(the clock is wrong)

Two strawberry muffins later, you’re ready for what kindergarten looks like these days. Your teacher Mrs. Dunbar calls you at 7:45 for a solo chat. We’ve done it before, periodically, and restarted this week after you submitted a heartbreaking answer to a short assignment on Monday, asking you to describe how you feel. “I’m scared to do kindergarten work,” you dictated. So now, private lessons. You are thrilled. I like listening to you talk with your teacher and telling her what’s on your mind.

After some chitchat, she directs you to a video about Ruby Bridges, which you keep watching as she begins letting the other children into the virtual classroom. By 8:15, we’re helping you shimmy into some tights on top of the stretch pants you’re already wearing—it’s a cold day, and getting colder—and loading up in the car.

Dad drops you off, without major incident. The cold keeps you inside all day, which makes you happy about pick-up. Dad mesmerizes you on the way home with a video of…a dad…building something. At home, you sit down to reject a dinner of tomatoes, yogurt, farro (plain), goat cheese, and a mandarin orange. Your mind is on dessert, because it is a dessert day, and you have already decided on a cherry ice cup. Because we have poor boundaries about when exactly dessert starts, you take one bite of everything and then head to the freezer. On the upside, these particular desserts keep you seated at the table, carving away at the ice, for about 20 minutes. We enjoy the time with you.

When you’re finally finished, you and Paul work together to help Dad load the next item for his new toy, a 3-D printer. You two are the primary beneficiaries of this hobby: to add to your collection of tiny trucks that nest in eggs, spinning helicopters, unicorns, robots, and rocketships, he is now making you glow-in-the-dark butterflies.

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It’s bath time. You hop right in and sing to yourself. Black History Month continues at school, clearly: you have watched another video about Martin Luther King Jr. and are desparately curious about the person who killed him. You want to know his name, and see his picture, and want to know HOW he killed him, and how old was Martin Luther King (39!!), and do people really go to jail for their whole lives? and what do you eat in jail? Paul tries desparately to change the subject. Bath ends.

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We’ve promised you the Pinkalicious Valentines Day Special, which is what you are watching as I type this. It lacks the sneaky STEM lessons we count on PBS to provide, but it’s darn wholesome. At 7, we head bedward, and I close the night with a reread of Jack and Annie Book 1. Magic Treehouse time travel to the time of the dinosaurs sends you to sleep.