Annie: Today I learned that you start a sentence with an uppercase letter, and the rest are lowercase, and at the end, there’s a pyramid.
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 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.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 11 months old.
You pop out of bed in your new race car PJs, motivated to get downstairs but unwilling to shed your awesome new outfit. We compromise by letting you keep the shirt on. This breakthrough allows us to get downstairs and begin arguing about breakfast. Chocolate pancakes, no, but mini-waffles with one chocolate chip melted between them? Okay, fine.
We pack a hodgepodge lunch of tortellini and goldfish crackers and a banana and cherries and a little dried fruit bar and—shoot we need some fat and protein—okay, a wheel of cheese. Then it’s vitamins, and you’re off to the car. Annie brings you a puppy lovey, which thrills you. Dad takes you to school, by way of our library branch, to return an overdue book. Annie’s unicorn pushes the book through the return slot.
At Colibri, you tromp out of the car and into your school. We hear stories of your day that include various alliances and assaults (Shae and Archer are on your team, not Annie’s. Eleanor—who’s been in California for a week, for the record—hit you in the face with a suitcase.) Dad picks you up again at 5. You’re in your shark swimsuit, with your shirt backwards, and tearing around through the sprinklers, having a blast. It’s pulling teeth to get you to bring your stuff out from school, but he nets a pile of shoes and gear. You and Annie both refuse to carry any of your things into the house. Your dad is not pleased.
You scarf down apples and sausage slices for dinner, then join your dad for half an hour of Ratchet and Clank before bed. We head upstairs, where you elect to take a bath. You and Annie have a surge of renewed interest in bath toys, probably because I just put them all away, so we get them back out, and you play a long game of making and serving happy meals. Fish stew in a bucket, with breadsticks made of bath crayons. The toy is a spitting cat. Dad and I pretend to slurp it down.
Costco has delivered some basics this evening, and Dad impulse-bought a new Dog Man book. I read you the cast of characters, then pass it to him for the main action line. You sit in his lap and do your best not to interrupt. Time to get in bed, and he asks you sternly whether there is ANYTHING ELSE YOU NEED because GETTING OUT OF BED IS NOT OKAY. You both decide there certainly IS more you need and pack up some drawing supplies and lovies for a long night. When you’re securely in bed, he reads a few pages of Harry Potter 3. The chapter books are beginning to engage you more; you listen more attentively and do less solo play and interrupting during the readings than a few months ago.
There’s a little post bedtime drama when Annie has to poop but is too afraid to use the bathroom by herself, so you summon us with yelling, and Dad yells right back. Hoo. Monday.
To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 3 months old.
We hear you and Paul pop up, and find you in our spots in the bed. You dress, brush, and head downstairs for a light breakfast of frozen mango chunks before we all head to the grocery store. You two tear through Central Market, collecting favorites like yogurt, a selection from the bulk candy section, and—crucially—sausage and cheese kolaches. We run into your friend Olive from Colibri. You pronouce her name like the teachers do, with a perfect Spanish accent.
On the way home, KUTX is playing in the car, and you sing along in your wee sweet voice to Shungudzo’s “It’s a good day (to fight the system).” (“Mom, what does ‘fight the system’ mean?”) Dad and I unload the groceries while you and Paul get busily back to work on coloring pages for Shae’s birthday present, which we’ll give him today. You’ve been on a creative roll lately, and we’ve just purchased a 40-pack of new markers. You color up a storm.
Dad takes you and Paul to Austin Bouldering Project, where you meet up with the Geralds (Shae’s family) for an hour or so of climbing. You head back, eat a bit of lunch, and talk with me about how the year is like a circle. You and Paul snuggle on the couch and watch Dad solve video game puzzles with Ratchet and Clank. Then it’s a little more coloring and creating before we head back to Shae’s and hang out for the afternoon and evening.
You swim lengths of the wading pool and dig through Shae’s toy box. A couple other boys come over, and the 9-year-old directs you all in imaginitive play. You hang with the pack of boys with no trouble at all.
When everyone starts getting cranky, we put on a movie and deliver a stream of toasted waffles with cream cheese to all the kids on the couch (dinner? close enough) while the grown-ups keep chatting in the kitchen. At 7, we pack it in and head home. You want to take a bath, so do, and then climb up to your bed to listen to Dad read some Harry Potter 3. Paul calls for us after bed, so I visit, and find that you’ve slipped into your too-large black shirt with the sleeves sewn shut—our latest idea to help you stop sucking your thumb at night. You’ve arranged your bed tidily in hopes I will come lie down with you after Paul falls asleep. I do not. You do fine.
Bryan: Did you like the kiwi?
Annie: I liked it! I’m just more into chocolate. You know. Kids’ life.