a day in your life

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

You wake up at seven and emerge with a sweet smile and the knowledge that today, finally, at last, is your birthday. You have been waiting to turn six since your first kindergarten classmate celebrated his birthday last fall. You made a list with me two months ago about the important features of your party (bounce house, giant panda legos), and wrapped yourself presents that we carefully put away until the big day. Which is finally here.

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I make you cinnamon toast and sliced peaches for breakfast, which you are mostly too excited to eat. We decide opening a present or four is just fine, especially since two of them are from you. We start with giant bubble wands, which our California friends introduced us to, and try them out in the backyard. While Annie weeps with jealousy, you open a stuffed panda that repeats back what you say, from Gamma and Gobka, and give it its inevitable name, “Pandy 13.” Some sharing arrangement is reached, and you collaborate happily. (It will take you 10 hours to realize it can also repeat farting noises.)

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It’s the last day of climbing camp at Austin Bouldering Project—one of your favorite camps so far. You receive your last installment in a new wardrobe of camp shirts, and take a group picture. Can you find you?

Dad picks you up at 4, and brings you straight to Travis Heights Elementary, where you meet your teacher and see your first-grade classroom for the first time. Your teacher is Ms. Vasquez, and though best-friend River is not in your class, Jude and Vera and some other of your favorite friends are. You pick out a red backpack, and Dad carries in a box of your school supplies. I see you when you find me at the PTA membership table. You orbit me for a bit and then go get a cup of ice cream on the blacktop.

You head back home, and as a very special birthday present, Dad completes all the boss fights to finish Sack Boy for you. Could anything be better? At the dinner table, you review some other birthday greetings.

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Time for bed. You brush your teeth and climb up without prompting, and I read Doodle Day at your request. I say goodnight, and you and Annie build a castle out of books in the corner of your bed before you finally fall asleep. Happy birthday, kiddo.

a day in your life

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

You have been going to sleep on Pacific Time since we returned from California, so it’s a late morning, too. Fortunately, climbing camp doesn’t start until 9, so there’s plenty of time. You’ve decided you need your own morning-coffee routine, so head for the electric kettle as soon as you rise, and mix yourself a milky cup of instant decaf.

We load up and head out the door. You’ve been enjoying camp this week and have met another old friend from Colibri (Finn) with whom you’ve exchanged numbers and are advocating for a playdate. (I taught you and Paul my phone number while we waited for the ferry on Port Aransas a few weeks ago.) You’ve also befriended a smaller girl named Lucy.

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Camp is presumably fun. I pick you up on the early side, just a half-hour into the extended day. You are in the middle of a dodgeball game. In the car, you apply your raspberry snack to all ten of your fingers, and are devastated when one falls off before I have a chance to photograph you.

Things go downhill from here.
Things go downhill from here.

We are headed to Life Kido, which you started attending in March with best-friend Jade and to which we have recently added Paul as well. Unfortunately, you have forgotten that this is our destination. When we arrive there instead of at home, your misaligned expectations and the aforementioned raspberry tragedy send you into a tailspin. You agree to leave the car, barely, but refuse to participate, and sit next to me in a chair while the rest of the class leaps merrily through a ninja obstacle course and I regret driving across the city for this. (That the rest of the group is all boys, and your friend Jade is absent this week, does not help.)

We go home. You put on your helper face and your apron, to assist Dad with dinner. You also get back to your first ambition for the evening: finishing the friendship bracelet you are making (ed. note – with excellent technique).

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We eat dinner, and you and Paul have a long catch-up call with Gamma and Gobka, sharing stories of California cousin adventures and the latest hijinx of the invisible albino oryx.

We take a swing at a reasonable bedtime, and after a chapter of Winnie the Pooh, in which Kanga and Roo join the forest and endure some light persecution from the other characters, we say goodnight.

a day in your life

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

Bit of a late night last night, so you don’t tumble out of your room until a few minutes after 7. You and Annie are already niblets, and build an elaborate nest under the dining room table that we allow against our better judgment. Dad makes you pancakes while I get ready for work, and drives you down the street for Creative Action camp.

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It’s a small group at camp—just 8 or 10—so you and Annie are together all day. Dad picks you up at 12:30, finding you jolly and just digging into lunch. You bring the box along for an exciting trip to The Dentist! :D You lay on your exam chairs side-by-side and watch your selected television shows on the ceiling while the kind hygenists clean your teeth. Odd Squad for you, and a clean bill of health. You turn chatty when the dentist arrives, recapping major dental events for him. The x-rays show your top two front teeth ready to descend, and we’re advised to floss between your upper-right where food is stuck. You need an expander as soon as possible. The dentist offers orthadontist recommendations. Cool.

Dad drives you back to camp, and you have a long conversation about road tar. It’s 109 degrees. Back at camp, they confiscate your bouncy ball from the dentist after you bounce it into every nook and cranny of the room. I pick you up at 4:30, and we spend the 3-minute drive home planning the evening. Your request, naturally, is Sack Boy, your latest video game. We discuss habit formation and float a 2-day/week video game policy, on non-dessert nights. It seems like a great idea to all of us, especially since tonight is one of the nights. You and Dad settle in on the couch for a half-hour of silly animated play.

It’s time for dinner, and for us to reap the consequences of our morning niblet-nest building. Before we eat our Homeslice pizza, we must clean it up. You do it, literally kicking and screaming, with the threat of no more video games hanging over your head. Afterward, you retire to the seclusion of the living room, announce you are not eating dinner, and yell that you can’t sit at the table with us because we don’t even like you.

I was just telling Granddad that I couldn’t remember your last tantrum.

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Eventually you make it to the table, and we reassure you that we will always like you AND love you, but you gotta clean up your messes, buddy. You eat a slice of pizza and finish up your game.

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Bedtime is still a looong way away. You play with a toy car and climb into my lap while I idly shop for a new rug for your room. We pick favorites. You ask to look at the world map, and spin it around to see where it’s day and night. You hunt for and find Bergamo on the map, and zoom into see fields in central Brazil. We move to the calendar and add birthdays for all of your little doggies, on every day of March. During bathtime, we plan his party.

You get into fresh clothes and climb into bed. I read Life on Mars and pages from your book on sharks (Tiger Sharks: Fear Factor 10). I say goodnight.

Falling asleep is rocky as Annie is trying to kick her thumb-sucking habit again, and not quietly. You sense I have made her some objectionable promise, like late-night snuggle time, and are determined to wait us out. We all get to sleep in the end.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 3 months old (a montage).

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It’s Sunday. We have a long-anticipated playdate with Mr. Dustin, your afterschool “teaching artist” and his wife and daughter Penny. You and Paul bead them bracelets as a welcome gift, modeled here with your teenager face.

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In the final stages of adjustment after our long trip to Italy, we spend a quiet morning hour in front of Sackboy and Subnautica. Paul is painted like a panda for no particular reason.

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Our guests arrive. You gather 8-year-old Penny into your games, which necessarily involve water given the temperatures over 105.

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You and Mr. Dustin examine a cicada shell.

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We eat crunchy tacos and chat.

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Apparently not yet sweaty enough, we head to the park. You and Penny scamper around the playground in a fantasy land while Paul plays goalie and orders the adults around.

We say goodbye to our guests with hazy plans to do it again sometime. We ready ourselves for another week of camp—back to Creative Action. Summer marches on.

a day in your life

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

You sleep in, thank goodness, catching up after a Saturday shortage. You and Annie start bopping around at maybe 7:30. I leave you to your own devices and meet you in the kitchen around 8. You are ready for all sorts of action. We’ve decided to celebrate Father’s Day a week early since we’ll be jet lag zombies in Italy next Sunday, so while Dad takes a shower, we set up his gifts as a surprise. You are keen on making a paper flower, so I show you the ropes. We hide in the entryway until you hear him coming downstairs, and then we all jump out and yell, “Happy Father’s Day!” Dad is properly delighted.

Dad opens the presents from you simultaneously in a display of non-favoritism.
Dad opens the presents from you simultaneously, in a display of non-favoritism.
Table manners are a work in progress.
Table manners are a work in progress.

You two decide you could go for a breakfast pastry, so Dad walks you and your lovies up to Mañana, and you eat chocolate croissants on the back patio. You head home. There’s a new video game to try: Sackboy: A Big Adventure. It’s more wholesome than it sounds. You excercise your preternatural gaming skills to search for some things and jump on others, until it’s time to eat again.

I feed you fruit and yogurt for lunch, and you coax me into a game of…hedgehog tag? There are rules, elaborate rules, and they keep changing in your favor. We’re also printed a stream of tiny blue hedgehogs, which you present to me as they multiply, perhaps to console me for my persistent losses. You and Annie go off and play something for a while. You return to us to ask permission for Minecraft, and retreat to the loft when I say yes. I join you and read a book in a beanbag chair while you two discuss your latest building project.

Late in the afternoon, we rally for a trip to a crowded Barton Springs, for a swim and a picnic with another THES parent and her 10-year-old Augustus. You like him a lot. You swim until your body heat runs out, warm up in the 104-degree sunshine, and play some rowdy catch with Augustus. We head outside pool grounds and picnic between the parking lot and the giant drum circle. (Austin can still muster a little weird.) After food and a bit of a lounge, you, Annie, and Augustus go and have the time of your lives on a giant pile of dirt. You come home with some in your nostrils.

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Back home, you pound a push-up pop and hop in the tub. We get the worst of the dirt off. Then it’s fresh clothes and into bed fast, where Dad closes the night with a brief original story about Smaug the dragon. He says goodnight. A few minutes later, you hear him putting out the recycling and wrench the blinds sideways to say hello. He yells at you through the window, and then comes in to apologize. You forgive him and have just a few more ideas for things you might need in bed. He demurs, says goodnight again, and you fall asleep.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 2 months old.

It’s June; school’s out; and we’re in our first summer of stitching camps together for you and Paul. You two sleep in until seven. You wake up and dance around while I pack your lunch and Dad makes a round of chocolate pancakes. I sit next to you to brush your hair and encounter two of the most serious tangles I have seen in some time. We brush and pick and add conditioner—but eventually have to cut them out. You look in the mirror and do it with nail scissors. What with all the sun, chlorine, and hair-twisting, you may end up with a bit of a shag look this summer. We discuss strategies for better hair maintenance while you buckle on your helmet, and I watch, impressed, as you manage to roll your bike down all the back steps and out the gate. I walk with you into the park until you spot Paul and Dad, and you’re off for 20 minutes of riding around the park before it’s time for camp.

You load into the car with Dad, and he drives you to a church on the edge of our neighborhood for Creative Action camp. It’s all sorts of arts. We hear you make a video, and you come home with a wolf mask, and soaking wet from an afternoon of watersliding. We scamper across the hot parking lot (102 today) and head home. You play a few minutes of Minecraft with Paul in the loft. At 5, your best friend Jade arrives for a sleepover. She is wearing a little crop-top/training bra thing. The two of you disappear into your room, and you emerge in your black tank top, hand-cropped.

enjoying popcorn while I sew your "bra"
enjoying popcorn while I sew your “bra”
getting ready to craft
getting ready to craft

We eat quesadillas and fruit for dinner and then put on Harry Potter 3. You and Jade watch half an hour while I sew elastic into your homemade bra, and then adjourn to the craft table to draw black widow spiders and chat.

Jade: Lino was really a jerk to us, right? Remember that time he called us stupid?

Paul, from the couch: LINO is stupid.

Jade: Yeah.

Annie: No, Lino’s not stupid. Sometimes he just can’t control his feelings and says bad things.

7:15 rolls around, and you gleefully set up your bed for company. Elaborate plans are made and executed. We say goodnight. You reappear with further agenda items. Rinse, repeat. My last sighting of you is at 9:15, when the two of you appear at the guest room doorway, where Paul is sleeping. I growl at you. Good night, big kid.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 9 months old.

I climb up into Annie’s bed at 6:40, where the two of you are just waking up. It was a late and active night last night with your new babysitter, 14-year-old Jade. I rub your feet and hear a little bit about it. You consent to pancakes for breakfast and climb down. We make it out the door without too much fuss. It’s ‘bring a toy to school day’ for 1st grade, so of course you bring one, too—the new panda pillow thingy you bought with your allowance. We grab a mulberry on the way and make decent time.

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School is school. Mrs. Dunbar is all over the points today, and awards you some for being responsible, on task, listening, using Spanish, and being SO HELPFUL (literally with the all caps). Your most frequent deductions, for the record, are “Too loud” and “Line trouble.” I don’t personally love the point system, but Mrs. Dunbar seems to, and so do you.

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I see you again at about 5:15, as Creative Action is winding down and I retrieve you from Mr. Dustin’s classroom. We’re finally able to enter the room at pick-up after a year of masks and distance. It feels remarkable just to walk inside.

I brought the car to expedite our trip home. Aunt Camei and friend Sam are over for dinner, and Dad’s wrestling with a chicken. I consent in the car to an episode of Monster School, so you and Annie start there, squashed together in Dad’s desk chair for 10 minutes, and then you emerge and begin to graze on fruit until dinner is ready.

You find paper I don’t need on the printer and threaten to rip it. I tell you you can because I don’t need it. Predictably, you tear it in half, drop it on the ground, and walk away. I pursue you, to discuss the necessity of putting it in the recycling bin. You do not want to hear this and go through all the stages of grief. Denial: Not my paper, you pick up the paper. Anger: NO, I WON’T DO IT. Bargaining: Okay, I’ll pick up half if you pick up half. Depression: (fingers in your ears) Don’t say anything, I don’t want to hear it. Acceptance (sort of): Fine, I’ll pick up the paper, but I’m never snuggling you again.

You do in fact pick up the paper, and relent on the snuggling, too, except for one toe, but you tell me it fell off and you grew a new one that’s cool with snuggles. Phew.

It’s time for dinner. At Annie’s suggestion, we play the animal guessing game. You start. It’s a panda. Dad, Sam, and I take turns. You ask great questions, like “does it walk on four legs?” and “does it like hot weather?” We play 7 or 8 rounds—a flamingo, a hippo, a house cat, a hedgehog. Good times.

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I fill up the bathtub, and you and Annie climb in. Cam and Sam call out their goodbyes, and you lead Annie through a game of Holly Shiftwell and an omnipotent orange cup, weaving through the Arctic snowdrifts. Clean and dry, you pick a book about gemstones to read, and I climb into Annie’s bed with you to get started. I read a couple pages about why gemstones have different colors, and the mythical properties of jade, beryl, and topaz. Amethyst was used as a charm for sleeping, so I retrieve my moon-shaped amethyst necklast and leave it with you and Annie as a sleeping charm as I say goodnight. An hour later, you holler MOM-MY! and prove its futility.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 1 month old.

You sit down at the breakfast table right on time and chat with us while Dad makes the standard morning pancakes. I cross my fingers in the sign language you invented to inquire whether you would like two ponytails this morning, and you affirm that selection. I gently extract yesterday’s rubberbands, comb out the snarls, and re-tail your hair.

It’s the home stretch of the school year, and you have a daily calendar of special events. Today you are to wear pajamas and bring a favorite book. I make sure you’ve got shorts and a tank on underneath your long-sleeve flannel—it’s going to be in the 90s again.

We walk to school. You and Paul lag behind, heads together in your own world, talking about insects and plants. We find an owl feather as we approach the school. You notice that no one else walking up is wearing pajamas and do some positive self-talk. “Be brave, Annie. This IS pajama day.”

You disappear into the cafeteria as the bell rings, and go on to your day. It IS pajama day, it turns out, and thank goodness, because it means we get a cute class photo from Mrs. Nuncio.

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You all read some of your favorite books to the class. You report you read a full chapter of the 6th-grade-reading-level book Framed. “Are you SUPER impressed, Mom?” Mmm…hmm.

On the way home, you walk with Dad and listen with interest as he tells you about colorblindness, and rods and cones. You catch up with Paul and I as we scavenge mulberries. You both collect as many as you can hold to make potions or paint back at home, and happily engage in mess-making while we pull together dinner.

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We eat a simple dinner, and you politely request 10 minutes of Monster School, an extremely stupid youtube video with Minecraft characters. Blech. Sure, 10 minutes, but clean up your paint potions first. You do.

Bathtime is bubbly, and you and Paul pretend there are sharks and orcas and build Arctic mountains, an ongoing game. Out and dry, you climb up to bed and put on clothes for tomorrow. Dad reads you Fox in Socks—still great—and we say goodnight. Goodnight!