a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 5 months old.

At 7:05, you parade in cheerfully, and make an announcement: it’s snuggle time. You scooch right into bed between Dad and I and let us both cuddle you close. Annie is still in bed, and you are quite content to have us to yourself. You ask for my help getting dressed, and I bring you clothes and your toothbrush. We head downstairs.

You are determined to prepare breakfast yourself. You hunt for the dried mango in the pantry, stack up mini-pancakes into two towers of four, and carefully punch the microwave buttons to cook them. Triumphant, you tuck in.

Annie joins us and you have seconds. You bop around the house while she listens to her kindergarten teacher on the tablet. When it’s time to load up, you climb the counter to retrieve your daily vitamins and head out to the car with me, declining a jacket. It’s 30 degrees outside. You joke around in the car while I hover at the door, trying to playfully persuade you to sit down so I can I buckle you in. Frost is melting on the roof of the car and dripping onto the back of my neck. We accomplish our mission. Dad drives you to school.

You tell us nothing about your day. Dad picks you up at the end of it, and you and Annie watch 10 minutes of Blippi (Google him) while I finish cooking. Dinner is tortelli, tomatoes, and cheese, and you put it away fast.

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Excused from the table, you launch into solo play, riding your firetruck around the house and talking to yourself. About 10 minutes in, you have crash-landed back by the table. I jot down the following exchange:

Paul: It seems like I’m always sad. I always have a sad face.

Mom: Mmmmm.

Paul: But I don’t know WHY I’m sad.

Mom: Hmm.

Paul: (flipping over and examining the firetruck ladder in your hand) But at least I have this boat!

And the ladder becomes a boat and you are off and running again.

You help me order groceries online from Costco—“of course blackberries”—and then agree to play upstairs. You and Annie start with running camp, doing tight laps around the inside of your room, and then evolve through a few other sports into ballet. Dad arrives. Swan Lake plays.

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Annie assigns you roles as a co-dancer and team doctor, and when our attention wanders from the performance, abruptly announces a game change to garbage trucks + throwing balls at each other. Okay, sure.

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Given that progression, it’s unsurprising that bedtime is a little wild. You sit in my lap for a book despite seditious Annie whispering in your ear that you should come run around with her. Dad has to threaten no story at all to get you in your beds, and after a chapter and a goodnight, you and Annie appear out of bed another time or two with additional demands. One is to hold you and sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, which I’m not unhappy to do, rocking you ineptly while your long legs dangle past my knees.

a day in your life

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

At 6:45, you are crying, loudly. I enter. You are in your sleeping bag on the floor, in a circle with Annie, Eleanor, and Riley, on the morning side of a sleepover. “Eleanor HIT ME,” you confide/accuse, tears in your eyes. “She hit me in the cheek. And she called me STUPID.”

Yikes, brother. I issue the verdict that Eleanor has made a bad choice, and ask you all to use your words and bodies to help each other feel good, not bad, then leave you again to your own devices. You all keep talking and playing. You start crying again, in a more performative tone, and we hear you say, “I’m going to KEEP CRYING until MOM COMES.” I decline to be summoned in this manner. We hear Eleanor apologize to you for unknown infractions. You calm down. The playing continues.

At 7:05 you all burst screaming into our room. The light, it turns out, has turned green. You all work through your short list, then assemble around the dining room table for pancakes and grapes and dried mango. Calories ingested, you get right back to playing, chasing each other around the house, pulling toys off the shelf, loudly denying Riley the right to play with your firetruck—the usual.

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After about an hour of this, we decide the walls can’t take much more bouncing off and launch a walk. You lead the pack down the hill, determined to go all the way to the trail. Fortunately, the empty playground proves a suitable distraction. There’s a man sleeping under a tarp at the entrance to the big slide, but otherwise many possibilities available to you. We head home in time to meet Doug and Kalia with a mess of breakfast biscuit sandwiches, and you fit in one last round of imaginative play, building a dinosaur world with Eleanor and Annie before they depart.

You are interested in a breakfast taco, so we make one together. You carefully tap the eggs to crack them, then squeeze them with your fingers until they explode over the bowl—aside from the mess on your hands, a suprisingly effectively technique. You eat your taco proudly and declare yourself ready for our Saturday morning walk. “FARTHER than Colibri,” and also “to the trail.” With those requirements in mind, we decide on our usual loop in reverse. You are riding your bike, and Annie’s on her scooter. All goes well until the downhill on Bouldin, during which you seem to be having a little too much fun at the expense of safety, cruising across streets without requisite adult accompaniment. At the bottom of the hill, consequences come due, and I basically pry your bike out of your hands. This does not land well. Some time is spent in reconcilliation activities. With assurances of safer practices and listening ears, we agree to another chance. We cross Barton Springs, and you tear off into the park, quickly out of range again. Oy.

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You continue to test the proverbial fence line until we’re nearing the final leg, then surrender your vehicle and ride the rest of the way home in the stroller. Phew. It’s 1:30. We’re beat, and give you over to the embrace of your tablet for an hour or so.

At 3:30, we continue our wildly social day with a masked, backyard playdate with Shae, a new friend of yours from school. Your initial reluctance gives way to great fun swinging and shoveling gravel and chasing each other in circles around the deck. (We enjoy chatting with his parents; his dad is a physical therapist at UT’s medical school, and in line to get the Pfizer vaccine in the coming week.) When you accidentally clobber Shae and retreat under the dining table for a shame spiral, I manage to redirect you with gift-making possibilities, and you reconcile over a handful of balloons.

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We say goodbye to them just before six, and head inside for dinner. While Dad and I dine on a delicious pot roast, you inhale half a cup of refried beans and eat a mango popsicle for dessert.

You sit in my lap for a few pages about road-building in Cars and Trucks and head to bed pretty willingly for the last chapter of Stuart Little. Stuart is driving in his mouse-sized roadster, heading north with a song in his heart. I say goodnight, close the door, and you wink out like a light.

a day in your life

To Anne: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 8 months old.

A good day. You bustle in first thing with news that the ladybug who had been crawling on the ceiling above you last night (and causing some consternation) was STILL THERE. You now seem quite fond of her. Buoyed by the arrival of your new shiny purple cowboy boots, purchased in part with toothfairy funds from your first two lost teeth, you select an outfit, dress quickly, and head downstairs.

Kindergarten today involves recording yourself reading the numbers in Spanish as you connect 22 dots to trace the shape of a gingerbread person. Check, done. You and Paul are extremely excited that Dad has agreed to a long-time request: today you will ride your bike and scooter to school. Oh, the anticipation. We load up the stroller with your large volume of supplies and take off down the street.

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It is extremely important to you that you be in front. Paul allows it. We make it all the way there, with only a few minutes of terror as the cars whiz past us on South 1st street. You glow with pride, and Ms. Patricia is full of praise for your accomplishment on arrival. After the usual safety drill, you disappear into the school and your day. Eleanor is there to play with, and the 2-year-old you have taken under your wing presents you with, as you will tell me later, “The most AMAZING THING EVER.” It’s a Lisa Frank trapper keeper. I have no words.

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After dinner, you invite me upstairs to see if your ladybug friend is still there, and are thrilled to discover she is still roaming your ceiling! You move a plant closer to her in case it provides her some aphids to snack on. Her comfort attended to, you set me to work coloring one of the most beautiful pages in your new coloring pad. “You do it however you want, Mom. It will be better than mine.” Yeah, we’re still working on practice and persistence. You go to take a bath, but I am not reprieved until the picture is finished.

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Afterward, we work on a puzzle with puppies and penguins and polar bear cubs. It’s nice working with you. We talk about getting a gift for Olivia in return, and you decide to pass down your very most precious light-up Elsa shoes. Wow.

Dad reads a chapter of Stuart Little, which you are quite enjoying, and says goodnight. Twenty minutes later, we see you a final time. It’s important. “Mom, I changed my mind. I want to give her my NOT light-up Frozen shoes.” Well, okay then. That’s just fine.

a day in your life

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

For the first time since the time change 10 days ago, you sleep until 7. Accustomed now to half an hour of playtime before you emerge, you and Annie launch into some extended imaginings in your Pinky Store / Turtle Store playscape. You burst in around 7:20 to let us know the light has turned green, and Dad steps in to help with your preparations.

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Downstairs, you eat buttered toast, dried mangoes, and pear slices for breakfast, then request some sausage rolls that we happen to have left over. Sure. We grab Annie’s kindergarten tablet, and you help her add different numbers up to ten to turn in for her daily attendance; then I read you both a picture book at her request, Salty Dogs.

You LOVE math. And tablets.
You LOVE math. And tablets.

The pirate story, I speculate, inspires your subsequent rowdy behavior. Uncharacteristically, you declare your refusal to go to school and run around the house, squeezing into various hiding places. Under the kitchen desk, you pull the chairs together and tell me your door is locked.

Somehow we lure you out to the car. Dad takes you to school, and you tromp in. Here’s what you tell me about your day: “Shay played with me for the WHOLE day and NEVER stopped.” This is a good thing. “And even wanted to come HOME with me, but, the teachers made him not.” What did you play? “Me and Shay were the flies, and we got caught in a spider web, and the spider wrapped them up, and it ate them.”

You also make a pretty cool orca out of paper plates.

At 5:15, you throw open the front door. Paul is HOME! Dinner is apple, cheese, and some noodles that are flippin delicious. You eat the apple + four tangerines. Sigh.

We’re just finishing up dinner when, surprise! Aunt Camei walks in! You and Annie are thrilled, and immediately incorporate her into your plans to make carpet angels in the TV room, and then show her the deck and the slide and the swings, and then it’s a mandatory tour of The Pinky and Turtle Store(s). You head back downstairs wrapped in blankets: you are, I believe, Baby Prince Snoopy.

You and Annie have a little art time. You write your name on a chalkboard. Names, actually. “My first name was NO,” you tell me. Then, it was “O. M.” Then it was “P Y T,” and now, of course, it’s “P A U L.” Right on, kiddo.

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Bathtime. You’re happy to hop in the tub and show Aunt Camei how you can mix exotic coffee drinks with the colored bath drops. We cap off the night with a little Ruff Ruffman Show, and a few pages from What Do People Do All Day, one of the many fine Richard Scary books beloved by you and gifted to us by Aunt Peanut and Uncle Dan. Into bed, you listen to a chapter of Charlotte’s Web courtesy of Dad, wherein Charlotte weaves the word “Terrific” into her web.

family TV time
family TV time

Another terrific day. Goodnight, Paul!

a day in your life

To Annie: this is what happened the day you turned 5 years and 7 months old.

You wake me out of a dead sleep at 6:23, standing at the bedside to tell me, “My tummy hurts and I think I have to throw up and there’s a hair in my throat.” Paul is on your heels with a, “Me TOO!” I look at you, clearly in the prime of youth and health. I send you back to your room with the suggestion to have a drink of water, and you and Paul start building train tracks.

Ten minutes later you’re back. “Paul made me hit my face on his bed!” you say, and point to your forehead. I retrieve an ice pack for you. Back in your room, it is clear the source of the drama is a conflict between the expansion of the railroad and your elaborate “Pinky Store” industrial complex that covers 100% of the floor space with a meticulous and continually evolving arrangement of pillows, blankets, stools, pathways, nurseries for animal babies, books, and suppplies of various sorts. New train tracks have disrupted your horse’s stable and grazing territory. Story of America. I leave you to broker a peace deal with the offer to come divide the room in half if necessary.

The Pinky Store is a significant factor in all of our lives right now.
The Pinky Store is a significant factor in all of our lives right now.

Ten minutes later, it’s Paul. You have broken his train track, and it’s pretty clear your relationship is over forever. After a great deal of silent contemplation, you agree to relocate several Pinky Store components to make way for the railroad, and Paul returns to the scene with the stipulation that I help him with construction. It is 6:55.

Dad returns from his run and tags in. Plenty of playtime already under your belts, you get dressed and brush teeth quickly, and head downstairs for cereal and to watch me pack your school snacks with great interest. You decline your kindergarten work, and since you’ve been reliably joining your teacher for a lunchtime call and work session, we don’t push it. I help you into some tights, and we load up in the car. Dad drives you to Colibri, and you head through the health checkpoint for a day of enriching activity.

At school, you tell me, you play in the sandbox, log into Kindergarten at nap to learn about farm animals with Mrs. Dunbar in Spanish and English (gavra, burro), and then join virtual art class with Ms. Isolene. Did you do any art? I ask. No. But, “I learned that art is beautiful, even if you mess up.” Excellent.

Dad picks you up and you trot up to the house at 5 or so, finding me sitting on the front porch. You crawl into my lap for a quick cuddle, then ask why I didn’t take your picture—because now you know about the 10th of the month. You give me a quick download of info from school, then pursue your interests inside. “Can I have some apple chips as an appetite?” Appetizer, I help you say, and yes, you may have three. While dinner finishes cooking, you watch an episode of Let’s Go, Luna, learning about pasta and Rome. It’s a good lead-in to our lasagna dinner, which you relish. Paul is having none of it, though, so you do your best to coax him back to the table, telling him it’s made with Snoopy’s secret ingredient. Magic poop.

“I don’t LIKE magic poop.”

“Well, what DO you like?”

 

You lost two teeth in the last month.

We straggle through the end of dinner, and play a game together that involves sending pings through a coordinate plane. Muy educational. It’s 7pm. We head upstairs, and you change clothes, brush your teeth, and bustle around Pinky Shop for a spell. You decline to read a picture book, but we review what happened last night in our chapter of Charlotte’s Web. (Fern and Avery eat blueberry pie, we remember together, and Avery has a frog in his pocket, and they swing on the swing for an hour, and then Fern goes to visit Wilbur, and Avery tries to knock Charlotte out of her web, but he accidentally breaks the rotten goose egg, and it smells so bad that they run away, and then that night Charlotte tears out a big part of her web and starts WORKING ON SOMETHING. And we don’t find out what it is until Dad reads us the chapter tonight, so, Bodies in Bed!)

Dad reads the next chapter. You hang on his words. Some Pig.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 2 months old.

You show up at 7:06, having slept hard and well after our weekend of camping. I offer a cuddle, but you tell us gravely that Annie needs to see us. We head into your bedroom to find her busily minding her “shop” of toys and assorted merchandise. You are her assistant, and taking your duties seriously. You politely request your five little doggies to make into a doggie train and industriously assemble some elaborate Duplo machines. When your doggie train delivers you a toothbrush, you use it, and head downstairs for breakfast.

You and Dad weigh out 25 grams of dried mango strips for breakfast, and then you plow through a few handfuls of frozen pancakes. It’s time for your run: you tell Dad you want to go wherever your toes will take you. Turns out it’s across the newly-renovated “secret bridge” across Blunn Creek. Nature calls halfway through, and you execute a subtle public pee. Good skill to have.

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School time. We load up, and talk on the way about learning to cook our favorite foods. Ms. Patricia meets you and Annie. You put on your mask without prompting and accept a dollop of hand sanitizer. Annie spritzes the bottom of your shoes with disinfectant, and you disappear into school. As usual, you have a morning Mandarin lesson. You later report, “We FINALLY know how to say thirteen. Shir-shan.”

You play and learn and eat and spend time on your tablet rather than napping. Usual day. Dad picks you up a few minutes before five, and I see you when you burst onto the back porch, where I’m paper-macheing a turtle shell for your Halloween costume. You consider helping but opt for the swing. You rejoin me in the kitchen while I finish up dinner, eating blackberries at the counter and posing math challenges for me. “What’s nineteen and eighteen? What’s four and four and four and four and ten?”

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Dinner is served: deep dish pizza, one of our pandemic faves. Annie proposes a dinner tradition like Max and Rose have, so we light a candle and hold hands and talk about something good that happened today. Yours: “I got to play with Shae for NINETY DAYS. No,” you correct yourself, “EIGHTY DAYS.” (Shae is, you told me this weekend, your favorite friend at school.)

Upstairs for a bath to wash the paint off your legs (who knows), and there is just time for an episode of Let’s Go, Luna, another wholesome educational offering from our favorite media outlet ever, PBS Kids.

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When it wraps, you ride a velociraptor (Dad) to the bedroom. You bounce off the walls for a minute before accepting Annie’s offer of a toothbrush, and to check out a book from the library in her store. Brown Bear, Brown Bear is your selection, an old favorite not tapped in some time. You present it to Dad and settle in. Book concluded, you race a couple of toy cars into your bed, and merrily play and talk to yourself while I read a chapter of a bedtime book. I say goodnight. “But I’m still working on a project!” you tell me. Despite this, I turn down the light and close the door, and Dad and I listen to you clicking Duplo together until you fall asleep. (She wrote, optimistically, ten minutes later.)

a day in your life

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

A few minutes before seven, the sky begins to lighten. Crickets are singing their hearts out, and a jet roars across the sky. We are cozied up in our family tent, at McKinney Falls State Park, site 041. The thrill of this fact ensures you will not drift back to sleep once you’re awake, and you and Paul begin a joyful wrestling match. Time to get up. You put some clothes on and brush your teeth while Dad makes coffee, and then we all tumble out of the tent to breakfast around the picnic table.

We are here with our camping buddies, Silas (4), Sage (7), Amy and Eric (40ish). You and Sage, fast friends, decide to take a walk, so I tail you around the loop of campsites as you run flat out, pretending to be queens.

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Next up is an excursion to the lower falls. Unlike the rest of us, you have the foresight to wear a swimsuit. Aside from a brief tussle over shoe-wearing, we have a ball. You wade with Sage and I across an expanse of slippery limestone, and we peer down at the swimmers at the falls. Back with the rest of our family, you play something make-believe with the rest of the kids until we decide it’s time for lunch.

You and Sous have many tender moments this day.
You and Sous have many tender moments this day.

We head back to the campsite and unfold the chairs into cots for some quiet time. You chill and listen to stories for an hour or so, then bounce back into action. Our camp offers plenty of playscapes for imagined adventures, so we hang out for a couple of hours before gearing up for another swim at 4. Upper falls, this time. It’s an unseasonably hot day, 95 degrees in October, so the cool water feels good. You are ecstatic to be swimming, and Dad and I swing you around in the water and pull you forward to practice your kicking. When the adults retreat to the shore, you kids find a log to serve as your boat and play an elaborate game of mermaids.

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You are determined to take the hardest route back, climbing capably up some steep rocks and leaping across crevices. We buckle in for our 2-minute drive back to the site, and you execute a wardrobe change into your evening wear, handily winning Best Dressed.

Dad builds the fire, and we grill hotdogs. After that, naturally, it’s s’more time. You wave a marshmallow near the fire until the edge turns the barest gold, and then happily squash it between chocolatey graham crackers. After one more marshmallow, you inform me your tummy hurts. I do not doubt it.

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We hustle to the tent for a thorough tooth-brush, and you and Paul, quite exhausted, climb into your sleeping bags in your clothes. I read one chapter of our latest book (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator) and go to rejoin the adults. You blink out like a light.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 1 month old.

You stride into our room at SEVEN ZERO EIGHT, and you and Annie commence a cheerful half-hour of play. We get dressed, and Annie administers a band-aid for your vaguely banged-up elbow. Big plans to make a smoothie break down when Annie instead of you pulls the frozen mango bag from the freezer. We power through your tantrum and make it to the table. Dad pulls the stroller up the front steps, and you hop up to unlock the door for him. “Dada, I love going on runs with you.”

It's 70 degrees, so of course you need a blanket.
It’s 70 degrees, so of course you need a blanket.

We make a nice loop through the neighborhood. Annie sings. “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love Paul, tomorrow. That’s Annie singing,” she clarifies, “but she put a ‘Paul’ in there because she loves him.”

Back home, it’s time for our projects. You’re excited to help Dad with the yardwork, and our tiniest leaf blower suits you just fine. We read some books, and you and Annie play, play, play.

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Dad is heading over to Colibri to spruce up the internet connection, so I let you watch TV for a couple of hours while I make dinner and do boring grown-up things.

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Dad comes home, and it’s time to eat. You put away a huge chunk of salmon and even a few vegetables. It’s a dessert day (!) and I’ve made lemon sherbet, so you eat a little bowl of it on the back deck. Before we know it, bedtime arrives. No bath tonight, just a quick story and a chapter of Charlotte’s Web. Goodnight, my man.